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Archive for June, 2014

Interview with Tom Hingley: singer, songwriter, and the true voice of Inspiral Carpets.

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(Hey guys! Today is a big day here at Mixolydian as I have an interview with the one and only Tom Hingley. With Inspiral Carpets, Tom wrote some of the most incredible and genre-defining songs to come out of the Madchester movement…going on to influence countless artists, most notably Oasis as Noel Gallagher was an Inspirals roadie. As a solo artist, he is making amazing music, and on top of this he is a wonderful human being. We discuss his tell-all book “Carpet Burns,” his time with Inspirals and their nasty force-out of Hingley, his music now, and so much more. It is truly an honor and a privilege to bring you this interview. Enjoy.)

Kortepeter: While writing Carpet Burns, was there ever a point where you had to stop yourself and reconsider putting certain things in the book? You share some incredibly personal details which undoubtedly took a certain amount of courage and vulnerability (from your family life to the insane things that happened in your bands).

Hingley: Not really the book had two editors who between them took about 130,000 words out of the original draft , so there was a process of removing most content that would knowingly upset people- but it’s not an exact process so you never going to get it all right.

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Kortepeter: Were you ever worried about any fallout from the details disclosed about your time with Inspirals (or any other major event discussed in the book)? Was there any kickback?

Hingley: I can’t talk about kickback but I didn’t run the book past any of the other band members- once you have committed to spilling the beans on a closed community like a band you are burning the bridges for further involvement with that set up – it’s a one way exit – I knew that when I wrote the book. It’s telling that the band members never refer to the existence of the book as a conscious media strategy, with the intention of preventing the book from getting wider readership and to avoid having to discuss its accuracy have lent it validity (they wouldn’t necessarily agree with my view of things and that’s understandable).

Here’s a recent interview with guitarist Graham Lambert from the Oxford Mail where Graham says he was mystified by my tweet saying the band had split up which is strange because I’m sure he’s read my book which explains my view/motivations at the time in great detail.

(Tom then proceeds to share the following article segment with me. My emphasis is placed on Graham’s statements regarding Hingley.)

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However, one person he hasn’t seen for a while is Hingley, the former Larkmead School pupil who fronted the band during their 1980s and ’90s peaks. “It was a very acrimonious split,” says Graham. “He tweeted that the band had split up. I guess things just weren’t going his way. I’m baffled to this day. There’s no going back from that. I said to the others ‘that’s it’. He clearly wasn’t happy. “I have to write him a cheque now and again. I offer to drop it round, but he always tells me to post it!” Luckily, a replacement wasn’t far away in the form of Graham’s old school friend Holt – who had left the band, in much more amicable circumstances, in 1989. “Our organist Clint Boon said ‘give Steve a ring – he’ll come back’. Clint’s always been cocksure. “I asked Steve if he fancied coming back and he said ‘yes, of course I do’. Everyone’s happier this way round.”

 

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Kortepeter: The fiasco in 2011 (which eventually led to Inspirals forcing you, callously and unjustly, out of the band) was an absolutely heart wrenching event to read about in your book (I honestly had tears in my eyes). The part that really hit me was when the band so swiftly went from Clint’s so-called “brotherhood” to a legal transaction, throwing away any ounce of dignity in how they dealt with you (to top it off with Clint lying to the press saying “We would never sack Tom”). Do you ever think that someone, even just one member of Inspirals, may one day extend an olive branch to you? Would you accept it if it was genuine?

Hingley: I’m sure they feel differently about what happened – I’m sure they felt like they had been rejected by me and my actions. Craig Gill did send me a text the morning after the dismissal – and at the exact time they announced their tour with their new line up – he said I could call him any time, I haven’t done so, but I thought that was a pretty decent thing to do.

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Kortepeter: There is no denying the influence your music had on numerous groups (such as the most obvious Oasis due to Noel Gallagher being your roadie with Inspiral Carpets) in various music scenes (including Madchester, BritPop, and the like). Is there ever a time where you look at the music of today in the U.K. or elsewhere and say to yourself “hey, looks like these folks were influenced by Inspiral Carpets/Too Much Texas etc.?”

Hingley: I think we are all bits of thread in a fabric that constantly is being re-woven. Inspirals were a big band, and yes, you can hear echoes of our music in Kaiser Chiefs, Maximo Park, and the Minx but… we are just one of a million threads.

Kortepeter: Oasis quite unfairly insulted Inspiral Carpets in the press during their rise to fame, which I believe was a spit in the face to the band that paved the way for their music. I know this is rock n’ roll (where feelings often take a backseat) and you say in Carpet Burns that you understood why they were doing it but…has Noel or anyone ever said “sorry that was uncool of us?”

Hingley: I think they probably had to reject Inspirals in order to carve out their distinct image and world view, I don’t blame them for it – I understand it.

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Kortepeter: How would you say that your approach to songwriting has changed throughout the years? With so many projects that span a variety of influences and styles, I would imagine it can sometimes be daunting to switch between song styles (but this is just a guess).

Hingley: I don’t over-analyze the process of song writing, I just do it and see what gets produced …it’s a very natural process for me.

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Kortepeter: So tell me about the current projects you have going on right now? What are you trying to convey to the audience (beyond simply great music)?

Hingley: A new rock band / electric blues band; imaginatively titled “the Tom Hingley band” (check www.facebook.com/tomhingleyband). I’m playing electric guitar – it’s a three piece with ste pearce on bass and malc law on drums …really enjoying it, sounds like 222 20’s mixed with Dr. Feelgood and Hüsker Dü.

Kortepeter: When your audience is present at your shows, what kind of reaction are you looking for? What do you want them to take away from the experience?

Hingley: I want the audience to either love or hate the music; just don’t be unchanged by it. Don’t be bored or unmoved that’s all.

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Kortepeter: Looking back on all of the amazing experiences you have had as a musician, what does music mean to you now? How has your view of it changed throughout your career?

Hingley: Overall I have been incredibly lucky to have played with Inspiral Carpets, very lucky to do what I love doing as a job. I realize these things more and more all the time.

Kortepeter: Towards the end of Carpet Burns you say something that resonates with me, especially as a scholar of hardcore punk in America and lover of the punk genre. The statement is “That’s where it all started for me; feeling an outsider and being misunderstood. Punk is in my bones, it affects the way I see politics, the economy, the media, and childcare. Everything.” Do you think that your audience was ever, or is ever, conscious that what they are really listening to is the message and ethos of punk? Quite a few people I talk with have this image of what punk should personify, and Inspiral Carpets would probably not be what they imagined. I know that, without me being conscious of it at first, the sounds of rebellion were in your music and this probably drew me to it beyond just the amazing tones. I have to wonder if you have ever found people think the same as me on this with regards to your music, people that feel what you feel about punk and its all-encompassing worldview?

Hingley: We ran our band and label in a mostly autonomous fashion; most of the things we produced were done with a sense of humor and awareness of fun. That is as much about the punk ethic as the actual sound you produce – although it obviously informs it too.

Kortepeter: You’ve had the opportunity to play with some incredible musicians throughout your career. Are there any you would like to collaborate with that you haven’t had the chance to yet?

Hingley: Wilko Johnson would be good – I have always loved his music and I know his best tunes already.

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Kortepeter: Any new music in the works or projects in general you would like to undertake?

Hingley: New ep by the Tom Hingley Band to be recorded this summer called “No Peace for the Good-Looking.” Tour with the band in the fall.

Kortepeter: Is there anything else you would like to say before we conclude this interview?

Hingley: Check out music at www.reverbnation.com/tomhingley, Twitter @tomhingleymusic – hang loose x.

(Tom, I want to thank you again for doing this. You’ve made this massive fan of yours pretty stoked because of this interview. I wish you the best in your music and your life. Cheers mate).

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Interview with Tom Ribbat, lead vocalist of Guanajuato, Mexico based metal band Hot Demon Fear

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(Hey everyone! So this awesome band got in touch with me after seeing my interview with the AlleyWays. Naturally, I gave them a listen and was blown away by their kick ass, take-no-prisoners heavy rock/metal sound. These guys are determined to be successful, and I have a strong feeling they will be. Have fun reading.-Derek)

Derek: So tell me how you guys met and started Hot Demon Fear? I also notice that you had numerous lineup changes, how did those impact you as a band?

Tom: Erik and I met through a common friend in Guanajuato during our last high school year; we weren’t on the same school. He already had several years learning and practicing guitar and he was deep into bands like Metallica, Led Zeppelin and The Doors, while I barely knew any of them. He had an unnamed cover band and it turned out that they needed a vocalist, so I decided to try out and see what happened. I had no musical experience of any kind, if only a few people’s opinion that my voice had a “nice” tone to it. The first thing I ever sung with them in rehearsal was “Enter Sandman” and it kicked ass, but I blew my voice completely. I became part of the band with the condition that I was to put my 120% to improve. We called our cover band “Thell” and from then on, we gigged wherever they’d let us (that’s just how it is in Guanajuato, sadly). It was during this five year lapse that we overcame a lot of line-up changes, where only Erik and I remained constant. We don’t think those had a significant impact on the band, given that, at the time, we were just playing cover songs and learning from trial and error; if only, they represented minor setbacks. It wasn’t until last year that we decided to write our own material and take things to another level.

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Derek: Who are some of your musical influences and how do they contribute to the overall sound of your band?

Tom: Each one of us have our own influences when it comes to how we do our thing. Manuel (drums) has a thing for Rush, Avenged Sevenfold and Dream Theater. Bell (bass), unlike the rest of us, is an educated musician and has an affinity for classical music; he loves Megadeth and Tool, though. Erik (guitar) loves Black Label Society, Rainbow, Steel Dragon, well… basically any project with Zakk Wylde in it. I love everything Chris Cornell related, Jeff Buckley and David Gilmour, among others. Collectively, we mainly share a great passion for Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd and Metallica. It all reflects on both each one’s unique input in the writing process and the almost instinctive way we synch up to put it all together, a collective unconscious of sorts. It’s actually hard to explain (laughs).

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Derek: I know that hard rock and metal has a strong following in your native Mexico, so how has your band been received by audiences in your homeland?

Tom: This is actually a delicate topic we find ourselves discussing with fellow musicians over and over. There is an actual very strong and united scene for hard rock and metal in Mexico, like you say, but it’s somewhat of an underground scene. Nowadays, reaching people is a lot easier with social networking websites at everyone’s disposal. Yet, it’s so easy to get one’s project out there for everyone to listen to that there’s thousands of new artists striving for a breakthrough emerging every day doing the same thing, so it’s much harder to pack a real, critical punch. However, we have been fortunate enough to have great gigs with amazing crowds in the course of this year and part of the last, worth mentioning Road to Hell & Heaven 2014: The Competition, in which we reached finals. And there’s many more shows coming…

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Derek: How do you go about writing songs? Is it a collaborative effort or are there main songwriters in the band that everyone else follows?

Tom: For “Triad”, the process was the same with every song. Erik would come with a riff, we all would jam with it so the rest of us would contribute our part for it to become a song. It sounds very simple, but in the beginning it was really difficult to get in synch. It became much easier as we built content for the album further. In my case, I came up with the main vocal line for each song and sang it during rehearsals, but I wrote the lyrics after the main structure of each song was done. However, I always write a couple sentences mid-process for concept purposes, sing those and mumble the rest of the melody. It’s kind of unorthodox, but it works (smiles).

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Derek: I notice a lot of jam session aesthetics in your song structures, are your solo breaks (like for guitar and other stuff) pre-written or just figured out on the spot in the recording studio?

Tom: We have very short experience recording in the studio, just the one time for “Triad”. In that case, we got into the studio with fully written material. Yet, it makes sense that the structure has a jam session feel to it. After all, that’s how the songs were conceived. However, during recording we try hard to stay aware of any and every detail that might not be working out in a particular song, so we can attack it before it’s irreversible. This actually happened during the recording of the “Let Love Die Tonight” lead guitar track. Erik stopped suddenly during the closing solo and just said “This solo isn’t right”. This could have been really nerve-racking, because we only had about three more days to record and we were far from finished, but thanks to our session’s producer Raúl Rueda Alarcón, it wasn’t. Calmly, he invited us all to sit down in a room, he picked a guitar and they both jammed for a couple hours until they got it. The end result was leaps and bounds better than what it was before, and for me, it is the single best guitar piece on the album. So yeah, we might explore a bit of experimenting the next time around.

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Derek: So in our past conversations you have spoken about coming to Los Angeles to start playing clubs here. What brought you as a band to make that decision?

Tom: There’s a number of reasons. As part of what I’ve said before about the hard rock and metal scene in Mexico being an underground one, it is rather difficult to find great diverse venues to play in without touring multiple cities. We’d love to, but being an independent band makes things a lot harder when it comes to expenses. Even if we were to raise enough money to fund a homeland tour, the impact in terms of promotion and fan-base building might not be that good, partially due to our music’s lyrics being entirely in English. Los Angeles is home to bands like Avenged Sevenfold, Buckcherry, The Faceless, Incubus and Jane’s Addiction, to name a few. We’d like to take on the challenge of fitting in such a rich, yet different scene, and be part of an array of outstanding music projects as an equal from a distant land.

Derek: What are you guys trying to say as a band? What is your “mission statement?”

Tom: As a band formed under a huge overwhelming music monopoly that doesn’t speak for us (or any rocker, quite frankly), we decided to stand by what we believe in, to make the music we love in spite of the obstacles, trying different things and experimenting with new sounds but always being authentic and true to ourselves, a theme we sing about in “Wild Things”. Actually, the lyrics to that particular song could very well be our manifest. With that as our main principle, the end result is always going to be pure and raw Hot Demon Fear. That’s what we’re all about.

Derek: When people come to your shows, what do you want them feel when they are there and perhaps when they leave?

Tom: When they’re there, our main drive is to make everyone have a great time, to make them fall back in love with hard rock and metal, to remind everyone that its rhythms and themes can cover every color of emotion. Many times we’ve come across several people who think metal is the spawn of Satan, comprised of only noise and screaming, and that makers and listeners alike are all heretic social rejects. It’s rather nice to hear someone who thinks that way saying “Hey, I actually enjoyed this!” after our show is done. But it’s much nicer to have everyone enjoying the hell out of a gig from the start instead of over-analyzing it. When they leave, the thought “I want more!” rings like an optimal one for me.

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Derek: Any new music in the works that we might get to hear soon?

Tom: Currently and very fortunately, we have our hands full with show dates to promote our first album, mostly covering a group of cities known here in Mexico as “El Bajío”, which includes Jalisco, Michoacán, Queretaro and Aguascalientes, in addition to some dates in Mexico City. Nonetheless, we have several riffs and ideas in our vault we can’t wait to get busy with, not to mention that we’re working in the early stages of our first official video. It’s only the beginning, and we’d love to have you all there with us.

Derek: Is there anything you would like to say before we conclude this interview?

Tom: A big thank you for the interview, cheers to everyone reading. We’d like to invite you check out our album if you haven’t yet. You can do it at – www.reverbnation.com/hotdemonfear and https://soundcloud.com/hotdemonfear – please let us know what you think in our facebook page www.facebook.com/hotdemonfear ! Also, a big thank you to all our fans and supporters. Long live rock n’ roll!

 


Interview with Luca Storari, guitarist of the Milan, Italy punk band AlleyWays

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(Hey guys! This great punk band named AlleyWays from Italy contacted me a while back and I loved their sound. This interview is a good one, gives you some insight into how punk is experienced in countries not known for it. Thanks again Luca!)

Derek Kortepeter: So tell me how you all became a band? How’d you meet and decide on the style of music you wanted to play?

Luca Storari: We met just a few years ago, around September 2010. We all came from previous, different experiences, and we found each other through a website. As soon as we played together the very first time, we realized it was it. Four people with similar music tastes, with a common target: play punk rock covers together and have tons of fun. After a few months we started writing music on our own, and that’s when our first EP “turn it up” was born. Back then we did all that just out of a joke, just to have something of our own and just for our friends. Then we realized that people actually liked what we did, we put everything on the Net and we kept on writing new music.

DK: You are working on a new album, how does it compare to your debut EP release “Turn it Up?”

LS: I think it’s pretty common to say “this work is definitely the best we did so far”, but it is like that, also because if we didn’t think it that way, we wouldn’t invest a lot of time, energy, and money on this project. I think that you can kind of understand our style already in our debut EP, but the new album will finally define our sounds, our style. We’re supposed to be punk rock, which we are, but since we all write both music and lyrics, it is obvious that many songs may sound very different, caused by the different influences we all have. And the new albums has been written by the four of us, almost every single song has its own “story” its own process. The fact that we don’t really belong to one genre of music could either be a good or a bad thing, but I’ve always thought that being able to play different kinds of songs is the proof that you are able to do more than the same thing, same sounds, same riffs over and over. 

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DK: Now punk rock is, as both a musician and music listener, one of my  favorite genres. I notice that a lot of your influences like blink-182, Yellowcard and others are American bands. As an Italian punk band, what has the reception been like to your music by audiences? Are there a lot of punk bands in Italy?

LS: The answer is NOT REALLY (smiles). By that we mean that punk rock is definitely not a popular genre, which is why we had to use a website to find other people of our age, willing to play this kind of music. I was actually really surprised to know that other people knew all the bands i had in my iPod. Just to mention some, Blink, Yellowcard, Fall Out Boy, Sum 41, My Chemical Romance, Millencolin, No Use for a Name, Simple Plan, Bring Me The Horizon and others. The reception of audiences? It’s not easy to play a genre that is not exactly popular, singing in a language that not many actually understand, in a country where the music culture is not exactly groundbreaking. By this I don’t mean that there’s no culture here, on the opposite we had the chance to share the stage with AMAZING musicians, for real, it’s just that here live music and underground bands are not that interesting to people going to clubs/pubs. Long story short, people don’t really want loud music in club or pubs, unless it’s cover bands. We’re already “lucky” to find places that allow us to play although we don’t play covers.

DK: Besides punk bands, do you have any other musical influences?

LS: Obviously we do, all of us listen to many different kinds of music. Wez (the other guitarist and vocals) actually listens to almost anything, from punk to rock to blues. As for me, I’m obviously in love with punk rock, but I also play in a Brit rock/indie rock band, which tells you that I’m not “stuck” in one genre, or our drummer (Federica) is into metal, but also studies music therapy. And the other singer, Dany (bass and vocals) loves punk rock, but plays an undefined number of weird instruments, from classical music to hard rock.

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DK: I notice you choose to sing in English instead of your native Italian, any particular reason for this?

LS: The choice wasn’t even a choice. I mean it was just like this since the very first day. The bands we grew up with sang in English, we didn’t really like the sound of punk rock in Italian, it sounds somehow cheap. Don’t ask me why. I love our language but when it comes to punk rock, English is the choice to make! Plus this ended up to be a very good choice, because this way we have a way bigger cluster of people who can understand and like what we do. Now nearly 50k people listen to us, in Italy it’s probably the 10% of it.

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DK: What themes do you talk about in your songs, personal stuff or other things?

LS: It’s basically personal things, but that really changes from tune to tune. Since, as I told you before, we all write, each one of us has his/her own way of writing. Wez (he wrote Save Me and Last Days of September) is more “poetic”, using metaphors to explain something that happened to him, or even something he felt or imagined. He’s very good at describing feelings, I wouldn’t even know where to start when it comes to explain how I feel about something. I’m more a story teller (I wrote “Old Fox Night”), I always tell a story with a beginning, development and an end, while Dani is more the romantic one (Looking Back).

DK: What would you say is your process of songwriting? Do you get more done in the studio or do individuals members come up with ideas that slowly become a song?

LS: Well, here the answer is “every song comes the way it comes”. This means, it can either be that one comes with a song that is already so perfect (to us) that we don’t really have much to do, but to play it. Some other times it happened that one of us came with an idea and we completely changed it, putting something of each one of us inside, or even that out of the blue, just by fuckin’ around in the studio we wrote a song like that (it happened with the begin for example). As for the new album, it happened the same exact thing: some songs will be just how they were conceived, some other have been turned around and built together.

DK: What kind of experience do you try to give your audience when they come to your shows?

LS: This will be the shortest answer ever: FUN. I know it may sound banal and common, but we want our audience to enjoy the sound (which is supposed to give them some positive, energetic vibes) and possibly relate to some of our songs. This way the connection will be complete. When we see that the audience is really participating, well needless to say that we play like 10 times better than usual.

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DK: Any particular places or venues you’d love to play at that you haven’t yet? Maybe Warped Tour?

LS: Well the Warped Tour as you said is the dream, I think that there wouldn’t be a higher target than that in punk rock. But right now we’re already looking forward to our first European tour, we won’t be playing in big stadiums but even the smallest clubs, filled with our followers and listeners, will mean the whole world to us.

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DK: Anything else you would like to say before we conclude this interview?

LS: I’ll end up saying what I just told my band mate Wez: I don’t really care where this will bring us to, I’m already having a lot of fun. Which is why we started this in the first place. Still, I know that the best is just yet to come.

AlleyWays can be found at:

https://www.facebook.com/AlleyWays.Official

https://twitter.com/_AlleyWays_


Radiohead: From Rock to the Extremes of the Inventive in Jazz

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From the earliest days of jazz, expression has been the core of the music. From the elaborate harmonic progressions of Duke Ellington, to the frantic and virtuosic solo lines of Ornette Coleman, jazz has always been about translating numerous ideas into music. When someone says Radiohead, most think of an “alternative” rock band. The problem with this label is that it excludes every other influence on the band (which makes Radiohead rather difficult to label). The reality is, Radiohead in many ways functions like jazz fusion bands such as the Mahavishnu Orchestra and others, as such their connection to jazz (while not always obvious), is important to explore. In this paper, Radiohead’s vast musical style, and how it ties into jazz (implicitly or explicitly), will be explored by looking at their musical works on the macro level (i.e. over their entire career) as well as the micro level (by focusing specifically on the importance of Radiohead’s albums OK Computer, Kid A,and Amnesiac). Additionally this paper will explore how the jazz world has reacted to Radiohead, namely how the younger generation of jazz musicians have embraced their music.

Radiohead formed in the United Kingdom, specifically at a school in Abingdon, Oxfordshire in 1985. The group has remained the following members from its inception: Colin Greenwood – bass guitar, keyboards;Jonny Greenwood – guitar, keyboards, ondes Martenot, analog synthesizers, miscellaneous instruments;Ed O’Brien – guitar, percussion, backing vocals;Philip Selway – drums, percussion, backing vocals;Thom Yorke – lead vocals, guitar, keyboards, piano. Early sounds of the band, notably found on their debut album Pablo Honey (released in 1993), indicated a strong leaning towards a rock sound (it is indisputable that rock is the foundation of Radiohead. However, as will be shown, this is really the tip of the musical iceberg, as Radiohead will more resemble Miles Davis in his electric period as time progresses instead of a pure rock band). As the band moved onto their second album, My Iron Lung (released 1994), they were already beginning to develop their sound that made nods to ambient, experimental tones (including various jazz artists). When their third album The Bends (released 1995) was released, the ambient nature of their sound was further developed. Nevertheless, the band still had an obvious intention of fitting into the Britpop scene that was sweeping the U.K. at this time (a scene that was led by groups such as Oasis and Blur) (DiMartino). The band, following this release, began looking for a new artistic direction as they simply were not generating a great deal of acclaim (up until this point they had modest success commercially).

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In 1997 Radiohead released the album OK Computer, which in many ways became a turning point in their career (this was also when jazz and Radiohead truly began their symbiotic relationship). Jazz critic George Varga states that Radiohead is “the most daring and successful cutting-edge band in modern rock. But few are aware that this Grammy Award-winning English quintet draws much of its creative inspiration from jazz in general, and the epic music of Miles Davis, Charles Mingus and John and Alice Coltrane and the Art Ensemble of Chicago (Varga).” The lead singer Thom Yorke once talked in an interview about the songwriting process of OK Computer and its connection to Miles Davis saying, “Bitches’ Brew by Miles Davis was the starting point of how things should sound; it’s got this incredibly dense and terrifying sound to it. That’s what I was trying to get–that sound–that was the sound in my head. The only other place I’d heard it was on a Morricone record. I’d never heard it in pop music. I didn’t hear it there. It wasn’t there. It wasn’t like we were being snobs or anything, it was just like, “This is saying the same stuff we want to say (DiMartino).” With regards to OK Computer, Radiohead guitarist Johnny Greenwood openly admitted jazz’s influence on the album. In an interview in London, Greenwood stated that, contrary to comparisons of critics that OK Computer drew on ambient and progressive rock icons Pink Floyd, it instead drew heavily on Miles Davis’ seminal album Bitches Brew. On this, Greenwood says “We love all the atmosphere and chaos on Bitches Brew—the fat, dirty sound of two electric pianos and the [multiple] drummers. That’s why Bitches Brew is so good, beyond just Miles’ trumpet playing. We love how he got together that sense of chaos (Varga).” With OK Computer, that “sense of chaos” is present throughout, fulfilling Greenwood’s statements regarding Davis’ influence on the record (especially his electric period). It is rare for a song on this album to stay in one theme, as each song has its own personality. The entire album bleeds jazz influence, but avant-garde and jazz fusion, not “traditional” big band or bebop sounds. The influence of Bitches’ Brew on OK Computer is not overt (hence why many critics at the time of its release compared the album to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon) (Varga). As such one has to look at the overall feel of the songs on each record, as well as the techniques applied, to find the connection between OK Computer and Bitches Brew.

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The musicians Paul Tanner, Maurice Gerow, and David Megill explained Bitches’ Brew innovations in the following correspondence, “like rock groups, Davis gives the rhythm section a central role in the ensemble’s activities. His use of such a large rhythm section offers the soloists wide but active expanses for their solos. The harmonies used in this recording move very slowly and function modally rather than in a more tonal fashion typical of mainstream jazz…. The static harmonies and rhythm section’s collective embellishment create a very open arena for improvisation. The musical result flows from basic rock patterns to hard bop textures, and at times, even passages that are more characteristic of free jazz (Tanner et. al. 135–136).” Keeping this explanation in mind, OK Computer in many ways emulates these characteristics of Bitches’ Brew. While all songs on OK Computer show the influence of Bitches’ Brew, the song that most completely manifests the “the atmosphere and chaos” described earlier by Johnny Greenwood is the massive hit “Paranoid Android.” Firstly, as with Davis’ album, Radiohead’s rhythm section (especially drummer Phil Selway) on OK Computer plays a massive role in creating the music, rather than simply keeping time. Selway plays with a very relaxed, expressive style, which allows for numerous groove and fill combinations. Take for instance the second track on the record “Paranoid Android.” The piece is essentially reliant on Selway’s syncopated shuffle/bossa nova-esque beats in duple time in the beginning with additional bars in 7/8. The vocals, guitars, keyboards and other instruments beautifully coalesce around the drums and percussion before Selway shifts the feeling monumentally with accented eighth-notes. The first shift is into a hard rock 4/4 section that Phil pushes forward with a heavily accented groove. The second shift is to a slower duple time, with less accents and ambient tones (including eerie background vocals) surrounding Selway’s charge into the experimental. This section does not last long, however, as “Paranoid Android” eventually shifts (with the drums leading the charge) back into the heavily distorted section that is akin to acid rock (with the song finishing in this mood).

Following the success of OK Computer, Radiohead went through a very difficult patch as the lead singer of the group Thom Yorke suffered a creative collapse, resulting in a mental breakdown. Thom Yorke says, in an interview with The Observer on this struggle post-OK Computer, that “I always used to use music as a way of moving on and dealing with things, and I sort of felt like that the thing that helped me deal with things had been sold to the highest bidder and I was simply doing its bidding. And I couldn’t handle that (Smith).” He expands on this in a later interview saying “every time I picked up a guitar I just got the horrors. I would start writing a song, stop after 16 bars, hide it away in a drawer, look at it again, tear it up, destroy it (Smith).” Eventually, in spite of the creative implosion in Yorke’s mind, the band began working on the album Kid A (released in 2000). The album was a strong push away from what OK Computer had done, but nevertheless retained elements of jazz. Amongst the strong push towards electronic sounds influenced by groups such as Aphex Twin and Autechre, Kid A incorporates jazz ideas in numerous tracks, namely from the master jazz bassist and composer Charles Mingus (namely from his work The Complete Town Hall Concert) (“Fitter, Happier, More Productive”). The song where Mingus’ influence is most pronounced on Kid A is “The National Anthem,” which Juice Magazine states is “a track …shot through with chaotic, pulsating energy, the band set up eight brass musicians in the same way as they appear on the Mingus album (“Fitter, Happier, More Productive”).” Thom Yorke spoke of the process creating this work, describing the very Mingus-esque energy stating “”On the day I said to them, ‘You know when you’ve been in a traffic jam for four hours and if someone says the wrong thing to you, you’ll just kill ’em, you’ll f***ing snap and probably throttle them? You’re like this with everybody and any tiny spark and you’re going to go off, and you’re in the midst of two or three hundred other people who are in exactly the same thing. I wanted them to play like that, like, this f***ing close to going off, lynching or killing, it’s like a mob just about to spark off. Jonny and I were conducting it, and we ran through it a few times and people started to get ideas, and it was such a great day! I broke my foot, actually, because I was jumping up and down so much…It was great! The bit at the end was my favourite bit, because they said. ‘Well, what are we going to do at the end?’ And I said, ‘I’ll go, 1-2-3-4 and you just hit whatever note’s in your head as loud as you possibly can.’ And that was just the best sound you’ve ever heard! (“Fitter, Happier, More Productive”).

Following Kid A, in 2001 the band released Amnesiac which was in essence an album made up of songs that were created during the Kid A recording sessions. Amnesiac’s jazz influence, as with Kid A, is very much apparent throughout the work. With regards to the jazz connection on Amnesiac, critic George Varga spoke of two pieces that point to an explicit influence. The first of these songs is “Pyramid Song,” which Varga states that “anchored by a near-swing beat, it was directly modeled on “Freedom,” a composition from the posthumously released 1990 Charles Mingus album, Epitaph. According to Thom Yorke, Radiohead’s singer and creative linchpin, the first version of “Pyramid Song” even sampled the handclaps featured on “Freedom.” (Varga).” “Pyramid Song’s” entire feel is jazz, from the chord progressions which are extended and seventh chords (among others) to singer Thom Yorke’s ballad like melodic lines that are reminiscent of many vocal jazz artists. Varga also points to the jazz influence on the album track “Dollars and Cents” and “Life in a Glass House” stating “Equally notable is Amnesiac’s “Dollars & Cents,” which pays homage to Alice Coltrane’s otherworldly harp-playing on her 1970 album, Journey in Satchidananda. “Life in a Glass House” (also from Amnesiac) employs a brassy, New Orleans-styled funeral march that perfectly mirrors Yorke’s brooding lyrics about death and transcendence (Varga).” I do not totally agree with Varga in this respect, namely with regards to his assertion that the New Orleans-style brass band is a funeral march (a prominent instrument that Varga forgets to mention that is a part of “Life in a Glass House” is a clarinet, which negates the autonomous brass band dynamic). Honestly “Life in a Glass House” is hardly a dirge, as the lyrics themselves are related to living, namely a social commentary on the ills of society (Yorke mentions politics among other concepts). The jazz influence on Amnesiac is present on more tracks (really the entire album in all actuality). Such examples include “You and Whose Army?” which employs the vocal styling of the 1940’s group Ink Spots (although not a jazz group, their singing in many ways was much akin to jazz) (Varga). Finally, jazz influence (namely of John Coltrane’s late works that incorporate various Southeast Asian music) is found within the opening song of Amnesiac, “Packt Like Sardines in a Crushd Tin Box (Varga).”

Following Amnesiac, Radiohead continued to release albums that challenged people’s conception of what a rock band was capable of (the albums were Hail to the Thief (2003), In Rainbows (2007), and the most recent release King of Limbs (2011)). Jazz influences were not as pronounced as the albums previously highlighted, but they were nevertheless there. Undoubtably any creative effort in the future will also contain jazz inspiration. As band member, guitarist Johnny Greenwood, once said in an interview, ““We bring in our favorite jazz albums, and say: We want to do this. And we enjoy the sound of our failing! That’s what we do, and that’s what bands have always done, since the late ’50s—a bunch of guys in England listening to American blues records and copying them. In our case, it’s jazz (Varga).” What this proves is that Radiohead is a rock band that functions musically and philosophically like a jazz band. Radiohead’s enormous success and influence on the music industry as a whole is undeniable, as they have been lauded by critics as the continuous voice for progression in rock music. The jazz world has also been influenced a great deal by the band, as will be explored next.

 

Radiohead’s music has, for many years, had a hold on jazz musicians, especially the younger generation of jazz music performance. For as long as OK Computer has been in existence, jazz musicians have created their own arrangements of Radiohead’s music (notable artists to do this include Brad Mehldau, Jamie Cullum, Chris Potter, Robert Glasper, and the Bad Plus) (Considine). Various jazz musicians and band leaders have explained their own reasons for loving Radiohead so much that they adapt their music into their jazz repertoire. Josh Grossman, the Toronto Jazz Orchestra’s artistic director, states his own personal beliefs on this matter saying, “I think it’s because the music it’s a little more introspective, a little more intense…there’s a lot of thought that goes into it (Considine).” Additionally Don Scott, guitarist for the Canadian jazz quartet Peripheral Vision, states on Radiohead’s jazz appeal “Radiohead appeals to jazz musicians in a big, bad way because the music is more complex than your average rock band” with “more interesting or complex harmony or forms. The phrasing is bizarre…and they also have a sort of brooding darkness to their music that appeals to a lot of jazz musicians (Considine).” Radiohead’s music has not simply had an influence on individual jazz artists, but the academic institutions that train them as well. Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin has established the Radiohead Jazz Project (co-commissioned with Germany’s Frankfurt Radio Bigband) with the intention of actively involving its jazz students with the music of Radiohead in a unique format. As Lawrence University explains it “it was a logical progression to expand jazz solo and small group interpretations of Radiohead tunes to the large jazz ensemble format, and the Radiohead Jazz Project is the first grand scale effort to arrange multiple Radiohead compositions for the jazz big band (“Radiohead Jazz Project”).” The project has had a ripple effect on other academic institutions that teach and perform jazz, as many arrangements from the Radiohead Jazz Project have been played by numerous university and high school jazz bands. Indeed Radiohead’s influence from, and on, the jazz world has come full circle (and will continue for many years into the future).

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Critics and fans agree that Radiohead is truly one of the most innovative bands to ever play rock music. However, as has been demonstrated in this paper, Radiohead is a synthesis of a vast array of many music genres, most of all jazz. Radiohead would, simply put, not exist as it does without the incredible works of Charles Mingus, Miles Davis, and countless other artists. As has been shown, Radiohead has a symbiotic relationship to jazz, as theynot only use jazz to form their unique sound, but the jazz world (both in performance and academics) have incorporated their music en masse to their repertoire. There will never be another band quite like Radiohead, and it shall be interesting to see how much further the band and jazz will intertwine in the years to come.

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Works Cited

Considine, J.D. “In Radiohead, jazz finds a place to rock.” The Globe and Mail. The Globe and Mail Inc., 9 Dec. 2011. Web. 19 May 2014

DiMartino, Dave. “Give Radiohead Your Computer.” Yahoo! Music. Yahoo! Inc., 5 Feb. 1999. Web. 19 May 2014

Radiohead Jazz Project. Lawrence University, 2011. Web. 21 May 2014.

Smith, Andrew. “Sound and fury.” The Observer. Guardian News and Media Ltd., 30 Sep. 2000. Web. 19 May 2014.

Tanner, Paul O. W.; Maurice Gerow; David W. Megill (1988) [1964]. “Crossover — Fusion”. Jazz (6th ed.). Dubuque, IA: William C. Brown, College Division. pp. 135–136.

Varga, George. “Radiohead’s Jazz Frequencies.” JazzTimes. JazzTimes Inc., Nov. 2001. Web. 20 May 2014

Zoric, Lauren. “Fitter, Happier, More Productive.” Juice. Piranha Media GmbH., Oct. 2000. Web. 21 May 2014.