Saturday, November 26, 2011

Dear Michele

By Greg Maniha

Dear Michele,

I wish to make it clear that I am in no way attempting to “apologize” on behalf of The Roots or ?uestlove. The Roots have more than earned their artistic credibility and as such, they have no reason to explain themselves to the likes of me, or some network president for that matter. For Iladelph Halflife alone, The Roots have secured their place in music history, but of course, there is far more within their body of work that makes love to the ears and the soul. Great, so now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s focus on the task at hand, shall we?

I originally thought about focusing this piece on the blatant double standard dominating conservative media that Michele Bachman ran crying like a baby to once she discovered The Roots were actually making fun of her. It seemed like a good idea at the time to discuss the sudden awareness on the part of Fox News for the treatment of women in the professional world that was suspiciously absent when Herman Cain’s professional conduct was at issue. I had every intention of shedding light on the fact that conservative public figures whether candidates or media personalities have no issue dishing out the nasty comments to the other side yet when the other side bites back, they suddenly reveal their thin skin and cry like babies, but then I remembered how aware of this the majority of us are and figured, “where’s the fun in that?” Indeed, the very thought of The Roots playing Fishbone’s “Lyin Ass Bitch” for the intro music of Michele Bachman during her appearance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon was in and of itself, “fun.” It was right then and there that I knew I needed to keep the “fun” going myself!

Dearest Michele, I know the chances of you reading this will be slim to none, still, in the interest of feeding the sense of entitlement you possess, you deserve nothing less than some helpful suggestions for intro music should you ever be invited back to the medium that is late night television. Granted, if I had to guess, I would say the house bands on pretty much any late night program wouldn’t take kindly towards any attempt on your part to take possession of their artistic control, but hey, you seem to have a desire to be in charge of everything else for the benefit of you and you alone, so why not give it a shot? If nothing else, you might get a smile when you’re told where to go or when you’re told to shut that hole you eat pie with. Since you love smiling as you demonize the gay community, the African-American community, and children that suffer from constant bullying, I already know you’ll feel right at home with this kind of response. Just as a little caveat before we continue, my suggestions will range from your “psychological stability” to the “beacon of tolerance” that is Michele and Marcus Bachman, so, without further delay, here are my suggestions to you.

-Psycho Killer – Talking Heads – This, Michele Bachman, quite frankly, would be a perfect song for you. I’m sure it wasn’t written about you, but my god, it should have been. There are both individual lines and entire verses that seriously speak volumes to you. The opening line alone of “I can’t seem to face up to the facts” simply speaks volumes in your direction. If that’s not enough, “ you start a conversation, you can’t even finish it. You’re talking a lot, but you’re not saying anything. When I have nothing to say, my lips are sealed. Say something once, why say it again?” is a verse that describes you to the letter!

-You’re Crazy – Guns N’ Roses – In continuing with the topic of rock solid “psychological stability,” when you change one word from “boy” to girl, we end up with yet another picture perfect description of you. It’s like a gift that keeps on giving. Here, read this and see what you think! “Say girl where you’re coming from, Where’d you get that point of view, When I was younger, I knew a motherfucker like you.” Yet again, it’s like the song jumped out and wrote itself for you!

-They’re Coming To Take Me Away – Napoleon XIV – Okay, perhaps this song represents wishful thinking on my part (I KID YOU MICHELE, ERR, UH, HONEST!) but I promise this will be the final installment that centers around “psychological stability.”

-Boom Bye Bye – Buju Banton – Michele, I had to think carefully about this and it is with hesitation that I included it. On the one hand, I know it’s perfect for your penchant towards tolerance of the gay community. Indeed, Jamaican dancehall offerings are loaded with like-minded feelings towards our gay brothers and sisters. Take this little line from “Boom Bye Bye” as an example, “(Two Man) hitch up on and rub up on, An lay down inna bed, Hug up on another, Anna feel up leg, Send fi di matic an di uzi instead.” This song says, I am Michele Bachman and I love the gay community…oh wait, it doesn’t say that at all! It actually says, I am Michele Bachman and I would love nothing more than to kill the gay community, which is pretty much the message you’ve sent. You’re most likely wondering why I hesitated to include this suggestion and the answer, Michele Bachman, is actually a very simple one. I started to feel sympathy for poor Marcus. Should you decide to choose this song as your intro music, little miss Marcus would be afraid to come home. Without Marcus by your side, what would become of all those lovely garden parties and not to mention, that fabulous dance he did on camera revealing his preference to the world. I am not a proponent of demonizing the fabulous Miss Marcus Bachman even if he wishes to demonize all others like himself. I’m “behind” him all the way. Because I don’t wish to strike fear into the heart of Miss Bachman the way he has with so many, I decided the only remedy was to include this song for you and dedicate my next one to him. So, Michele Bachman, if you want the lovely garden party upon returning home from your next late night appearance, might I suggest this next title as your intro music.

-If You Were Gay – Avenue Q- This, Michele Bachman, is dedicated exclusively to Miss Marcus because we want her, uh, I mean, him to feel safe and unthreatened when you come home to him. The last thing I wish to see happen is for Miss Bachman to get so upset that he cries and never dances on camera at a state fair ever again. My god, watching that disappear from our eyes doesn’t even bear thinking about. Still, be careful with this one because at the same time, the last thing you wish to do is even come close to showing the slightest bit of tolerance for our gay brothers and sisters. What would you do with one less segment of the population to demonize? That would be even scarier than Miss Bachman crying over a Buju Banton song.

-Strange Fruit – Billie Holiday – While we’re on the subject of tolerance, Michele Bachman, this was the first song I thought of when you signed that Christian conservative pledge that stated our African American brothers and sisters were better off during slavery. “Southern trees bear strange fruit, Blood on the leaves and blood at the root, Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze, Strange fruit hanging from the popular trees” might be an appropriate intro for you, but be warned, Billie Holiday intended for this to be an anti lynching and anti racist song, so perhaps a Johnny Rebel song might be more appropriate for you. I won’t recommend it myself because, well, I find his work revolting, but you might like it.

-Don’t Dream It’s Over – Crowded House – One line says it all, “Hey Now, hey now, don’t dream it’s over!”

-Running On Empty – Jackson Browne – Just in case you’re not quite ready to accept certain realities from the previous recommendation, you could always fall back on this Jackson Browne classic.

-Stay – Otis Redding – I’ll include this but I’m kind of yanking it at the same time because the last thing I would ever wish to do is mislead you. The promoter DOES MIND, and the union DOES MIND if you stay, so it wouldn’t be fair to recommend this title to you. Still, what a great song it is! I have both Otis and the prior suggestion to thank for even considering it. Oh well, if unions liked you I guess it might have worked for a second the same way it worked for both Otis Redding when he first released it and Jackson Browne on that history making day he performed it at Merriweather Post Pavilion as the encore, but I guess that’s not quite you now, is it!

-It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue – Bob Dylan – I think, Michele Bachman, we have a winner here with old Zimmerman! This doesn’t so much express you as much as it expresses the general feeling of the majority of the nation. I know what you’re thinking, “but the people elected me to the House Of Representatives!” Am I right? Well, fair enough, but that’s just one district in a nation of 350 million. It’s fair to say that the majority of America is getting kind of annoyed with your style of demonizing and dividing as a method of propelling yourself into the spotlight. There are many lines in this song, but I will cite only one, “Strike another match, girl, start anew, and it’s all over now baby blue.” PERFECT!

In closing, Michele Bachman, perhaps it would have been best to either keep your mouth shut and get through the experience the way our far more classy Michelle (that would be Michelle Obama) handled a group of idiots booing her when she appeared at a NASCAR event with a decorated veteran and children to get things started. Clearly that wasn’t possible for you and look what happened. We’re only laughing harder now at the whining by the original mean girl of presidential politics. As for me, I’m really nowhere near as good at this as The Roots are. They are, in fact, much better at what they do than you are at what you do (what exactly do you do?) Perhaps it might be a good idea to take a cue from one of their song titles. “Never do, what they do” because you kinda suck at it. In the future, if The Roots or anybody else decides to play “Lyin Ass Bitch” by Fishbone as your intro music, take it as a compliment that you’re worthy of even being associated with Fishbone. Though I do have one tiny little suggestion for our iconic hip-hop legends. Imagine how funny it would have been had The Roots decided at the last second to accompany your introduction with Lily Allen’s “Fuck You.” That, Michele Bachman, would have been unbeatable! As a matter of fact, I would guess there’s a greater chance you would have known that song immediately which means we would have actually been able to witness your hissy fit, but once again, The Roots are better at this than I am and as such, they understood the art of subtlety. Oh well, you fantasize about being the president and we fantasize about watching you make a complete ass of yourself. It’s pretty safe to say we get what we want far more often than you get what you want. I wish you the best of luck with the remainder of your campaign and will miss your leading lady Marcus when you’re gone. Seriously, that dance and that wave were beyond priceless! Take good care now!

Greg Maniha


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

PAUL MOTIAN 1931-2011

The IRT mourns the passing of one of the greatest jazz drummers to slap a trap, Mr. Paul Motian, who died in his beloved Manhattan on Tuesday November 22, 2011 from complications surrounding the rare blood and bone marrow disorder called myelodysplastic syndrome.

Please visit the Columbia University campus radio station today, WKCR-FM, as they are playing a 24-hour long tribute to Motian by digging deep into the crates for some of his greatest performances of the last 50 years as both a bandleader and a sideman for such talents as Bill Evans, Thelonious Monk, Paul Bley, Keith Jarrett, Arlo Guthrie, Don Cherry, Bill Frisell, Lee Konitz and Charlie Haden to name but a few.

His drum work in the piano trio setting with Evans and Jarrett, however, is some of the greatest rhythmic intimacy you will ever hear in your life, and one needs to look no further than The Bill Evans Trio's essential 1961 recording Sunday at the Village Vanguard and Keith Jarrett's 1968 classic Somewhere Before for proof of that statement.

For more information regarding the passing of this great scion of the snare, read Ben Ratliff's eloquent obituary in The New York Times.

And make sure to check out one of Motian's finest and final performances on acetate by picking up the outstanding 2011 ECM release Live at Birdland featuring Paul with Konitz, Haden and Brad Mehldau.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

3:33 The IRT Interview

Story by Ron Hart

If you've ever stumbled upon Infowars, the aggregate news website run by Texas conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, there is a guaranteed chance you've heard about Bohemian Grove, a campground located in Monte Rio, California that hosts a two-week, three-weekend encampment of some of the most powerful men in the world every July. The strange dalliances practiced by this clandestine society of one percenters is said to be so bizarre they could never be accurately interpreted by mere words. However, the unabashed creep factor of this retreat is perfectly suited for the otherwordly instrumental hip-hop of 3:33, a mysterious collective helping to keep the East Coast rap scene's toes in the avant-garde with a unique offshoot of beatmaking you can call "hiss-hop". Live from the Grove is their third full-length, and exhibits everything that makes these cats such a unique entity in its art form. IRT recently had the opportunity to speak with two of the members of the group (who wish to remain anonymous) over the Internets. Here's what went down.

And oh yeah, do yourself a favor and dive headfirst into the cosmic crunk of the 3:33 catalog if the more abstract aspects of Brainfeeder and the late, great Def Jux are your bag.

IRT: What is the significance of the time 3:33 in the context of the group's name?

Member 1:
It's not exactly about the time 3:33 but what that small group of numbers meant for us. We started working on material a few years ago without a group name. As we got deeper into the recording process the numbers felt like that were following us.

Member 2: That time and the number 333 was something that kept popping up in a very synchronized and coincidental way. It just made sense for us to call the group that when that number was a big part of the reason we even started making this music the way that we did. I still haven't come to any conclusions as to what it might mean, but there is definitely something strange going on. If I had to guess I would say that the number is an easily identifiable symbol that is being used to communicate something?

IRT: What initially piqued your interest in Bohemian Grove?

Member 1:
Its the veil of mystery that surrounds the grove. The stories, and theories that the grove conjures up. A lot of people are familiar with the conspiracy theories surrounding the Bohemian Grove Club and its further embellishment by guys like Alex Jones. Don't get me wrong, there is a elite group of men that gather there once a year for their little political pow wow, but what attracted us is the air of mystery in those woods and the sense of anxiousness it creates. For that reason we decided to record the album out there.

Member 2: When we were working on our first material someone brought an owl into the basement we were in and decapitated it. Not a real owl but a statue. We took pictures of different areas of the room we were in and incorporated it into our artwork. The owl was a symbol used for the Bohemian Club and has been spotted on the dollar bill and other places in relation to secret society's and things of that nature. Once the connection was made we thought it would be the perfect venue for 3:33 to perform so we did the closest thing possible; we went out there and recorded an album.

IRT: What are your thoughts on the layout of the 2012 presidential election as it stands today?

Member 1:
It’s a tough one for sure. I almost feel bad for Obama, because he was put in power after terrible 8 years under Bush’s rule, right at that tipping point. With the rise of the tea party, the collapse of the western world's economies, this upcoming election will be important. But lately I have been questioning how far our individual votes really go.

Member 2: I haven't payed too much attention. I have never exercised my right to vote and I am not convinced that the president is as important as they are made out to be. What business does he have doing commercial cameo's for George Lopez? In addition, I don't think anybody really knows what is going on or how to solve the nation's problems, assuming that they want to. On a whole, I think the American government has deviated drastically from its original purpose and people have been convinced that our form of "capitalism" equals freedom...You need a lot of money to run for president. I don't like politics. You don't know who you can trust...I usually look to Noam Chomsky for some insight. He doesn't seem to have an agenda and is both very informed and intelligent.

IRT: Who were some hip-hop producers that inspired you guys to go in a more beat-oriented direction? Did you guys always start out making beats or did your music evolve from another style?

Member 1:
Hip-Hop is always going to be the foundation for our records, and the majority of that influence comes from, Pete Rock, RZA, Prince Paul, Havoc, Godfather Don; mostly NY producers from the mid to early 90’s. In terms of sounds, we try to bridge the gap between earlier NY hip-hop, and incorporate the soundscape of John Cage, Pierre Schaeffer and the their school of Musqiue Concrete, and meld it with Tangerine Dream, David Axelrod & the Mahavishnu Orchestra.

Member 2:
There are a lot of hip-hop producers that inspire me, i would have to say RZA is probably the most influential. He did the 'Ghost Dog' score which was beat-oriented and showed the ability for hip-hop to be more than just the type of beats to party and rhyme to. Also, a producer named Sift I met in like 2002. Sampling in general is one of my biggest inspirations and artists like DJ Krush and DJ Spooky have done some really good stuff. I started off playing an instrument then messing around with a cheap keyboard and cutting my own tape loops. Eventually I bought some samplers and sequencers. Experimenting with sounds and electronics and developing my own style or styles. 3:33 has evolved out of a lot of different musical influences but is really something inspired by real life experiences and is intended to be a reflection of that. I just try to make the music I wish someone else was making.

IRT: What aspect of John Cage's music theory most informs your method of creation?

Member 1:
We almost take the approach of his famous piece 4”33”. We obviously agree with him about the importance of listening in particular to every detail of the track. Which is why the most important part of our tracks involves the sound design and sequencing. Knowing which frequencies work with each other. The balancing act of creating something experimental and something easy to listen to.

Member 2: I would say his experimentation, but even more so, his use of the I-Ching and chance best reflect the process of 3:33.

IRT: What prompted you guys to remix Company Flow's Krazy Kings III? How did the mix come about? How about Cannibal Ox?

Member 2:
I really wanted to hear Vordul and Bigg Jus over our music. Those are two of the most innovative emcees that came out around their time. The Cold Vein and Funcrusher Plus are two of my favorite hip-hop albums. Once we had the acapellas, we had to mess around with them. They both have done some really dope solo stuff since then...I would really like to work with both of them.

IRT: Are you cognizant of whether or not El-P has heard the remixes?

Member 1:
I know the label emailed him the mixes and got at him via Twitter and such. I'm sure he has his Google alerts on, and has seen the remixes. Whether he bothered to give them a spin I don't know.

Member 2: I assume he has. It would be interesting to know what he thought.

IRT: Do you have any other remix ideas in the pipeline? Have you guys ever thought of doing an entire mixtape?

Member 1:
There are a few more remixes planned, the next one is a one for G-Side. We will probably knock out a few more and release them together with the instrumentals on cassette tape next year. We are just floating around titles and concepts for the project. We actually remixed the majority of the Cold Vein, but don’t have any immediate plans to release it.

IRT: The artwork to your records is phenomenal. Given that, are you guys still positive that physical product will win out over the digital medium in the end? Or at least keep its head above water? Why or why not?

Member 1:
Thanks, all of our artwork is created by Kevin Vitella, who is too talented. I believe that the physical medium will always exist in one form or another. The reassurance in vinyl and cassette tapes is further proof of its longevity. I eventually think CD's will go the same route and remain popular in the collector market. The digital format scares me though, because it is eliminating so much. Look no further than what the kindle/e-readers are doing to print. Books are slowly joining the ranks of vinyl as the new member of the niche collector market.

Member 2:
I think physical product will always be around. I would never pay for a computer file. If I want to pay and have MP3s, I would rather just buy the CD and have both...On the other side digital sales are a good way for artists to make money without paying for the cost of physical products. But, I prefer physical over digital. It is almost as much a part of the music to me as the music itself.

IRT: What is the significance of the owl as your logo?

Member 2: Going back to question 2, the owl was something that just happened to be there during the recording when we took that picture. If it wasn’t down there at that time, I highly doubt it would have been in our artwork. The owl began manifesting itself elsewhere which led to further developments in our forthcoming projects. i think its significance is something we have continued to find out about ourselves after we made it our "logo". Everything involved in 3:33 almost feels as if its being controlled by external forces.

IRT: Have you guys toyed with the idea of adding any kind of MC element to your music or is that a slippery slope on which you wish not to travel?

Member 2:
I think the purpose of our music is better conveyed without that. I still would like to do something with Vordul, Bigg Jus and a small handful of other artists. Most of our stuff is made to be instrumental, but I like hearing certain artists on top of it. Parallel Thought presented us with the remix idea from the song they did with MF Doom, and that spawned a series...

Member 1:
Out of that came the idea to do these remixes we have been releasing. We aren’t opposed to the idea of a vocalist on our albums, but as it stands now, they work much better as instrumental records.

IRT: What is your favorite conspiracy theory and how invested in its believability are you?

Member 1: There are so many from the classic William Cooper, to the laughable but highly enjoyable, David Icke. I enjoy the NASA conspiracies, not just the moon landing stuff, or the man on mars. Supposedly, NASA was or still could be activating “Project Blue Beam”. Which is a multi-step worldwide project. The first step involves NASA causing planned earthquakes around the world. Destroying key geographical points, bringing about “new world discoveries” Proving all religions wrong and basically breaking apart our belief systems. What they would discover, I don’t know. The next phase is a sort of fireworks display in the sky. NASA is going to project holographic images across the globe to match different religious faiths, and speak directly to us. At the same time that is going on, we are going to see massive lights, beams, lasers, an all out intense visionary & auditory experience. There's a lot more to the project that I won't go into to. I want to believe in it.

Member 2: The Lincoln and Kennedy parallels are interesting. One that I don't hear much about is that people involved with Haliburton blew up the levees when Katrina hit. I don't necessarily believe any conspiracy's that I have heard, I haven't discounted many either though. But anything involving 2Pac's death and the 7 Day Theory might be my favorite if that count's. I think the most "believable" theories involve population control and monetary policy. I also have a few of my own theories that I find very believable that I would rather not share at the moment.

IRT: If you could exhume a president from history to run in the 2012 election, who would it be and why?

Member 1: William Taft, a former Bonesman and member of the Bohemian Grove. Before he entered the White House, he was part of “The Brotherhood of Death” , ran with the numbers 322 and worshiped the goddess Eulogia. It would be interesting to see his reaction to the world about eighty years after his death.

Member 2: JFK. He didn't get his full four years and he probably would have went another four. I wouldn't mind seeing what he would do today.

IRT: What annoys you most about the current state of hip-hop and why?

Member 2: When artists say their album has no samples and call it Hip-hop. The word itself has been given a new meaning i.e. "hip-hop dance classes". Hip-hop is about DJ's, B-Boys, Emcees & Writers, sampling, breaking, rhyming and bombing. There should be a new genre called pop-hop. It is deprived of originality. There are always exceptions but it just lacks the raw energy and creativeness it used to have. Now a lot of older guys are trying to fit in with the younger crowd. There is a big disconnect between generations and everyone wants to make money and play dress-up. To be an artist and make a living off of music is a huge blessing. Anyone who makes art and thinks they deserve money is not a true artist at all. Kool Herc and Coke la Rock didn't put their time and energy into Hip-hop to make money. Now we have no talent over night gimmicks making money while the pioneers have been left with basically nothing. Hip-hop has lost its craftsmanship. A lot of the better artists around now are not reaching their potential because they are compromising with the current state of hip-hop. Most of the people that i have met that have their heart and mind the right place in terms of the culture tend to make pretty bland music. I am also annoyed at people quoting Lil Wayne as the best rapper alive, or even that he is considered in the discussion, especially when people like Rakim, Kool G Rap, Nas, Black Thought, etc. etc. etc. are all still alive and well.

Member 1:
The cheap production/engineering that artists are getting away with. The majority of this new music sounds so disorganized and sloppy.

IRT: Who are some of your favorite new acts that people should get up on?

Member 2: I'm not sure about new but as far as Hip-hop goes Roc Marciano for sure, Gene the Southern Child, Curren$y, Loer Velocity, Ekundayo and one of my personal favorites Megalon a.k.a. Tommy Gunn. I also like this artist Htrspltn out of Russia who does illbient experimental type stuff. I've mostly been listening to older stuff recently like Master P's 'Toon Killaz', Kool G Rap '4,5,6' The Roots 'Illadelph Halflife', Scienz of Life 'Forthcoming by Day' album, CNN, Do or Die, etc.

Member 1: Both of Andy Stott’s new records are amazing. I’m enjoying the majority of music from Tri Angle records, particularly Holy Other. King Midas Sound, Black Chow, basically anything The Bug is involved in. I also have been enjoying new records from HTRK, Gang Dance, Raime, 2562, Falty DL, Zomby, Thundercat and anything coming out on Not Not Fun & 100% Silk. The Numero Group have been on point this year with Stone Coal White. Fathers Children & their amazing record store day title Pressed At Boddie. Hip-Hop on the other hand has been pretty boring save for Roc Marciano, Action Bronson, Currency & Danny Brown.


Tuesday, November 1, 2011


The old Titus Oaks Record Exchange on Old Country Road in Hicksville, NY, is the very first independent record shop I set foot in over 25 years ago, sending me on my way for a quarter century of crate digging to which I still cite as my primary leisure of choice.

And it is with a heavy heart that I bring the news of the passing of Alan Meltzer, the man who opened up the first Titus Oaks in Brooklyn back in the late 60s before launching CD One Stop, one of the largest wholesale distributors of CDs back in the 80s and 90s before starting Wind-Up Records, a label responsible for both one of the best groups of the last 20 years in The Wrens and the absolute worst band quite possibly in American rock history in Creed. Nevertheless, the man was a pioneer of the independent record store template that is slowly growing extinct as the digital format continues to eat through the viability of tangible music goods like CDs and vinyl like MRSA. It was recently announced, however, that American Idol Season 10 finalist James Durbin, the kid responsible for introducing Judas Priest and Zakk Wylde to the Tweeting tweens the world over, signed with Wind-Up for a multi-album deal.

I had the opportunity to speak with Alan about 10 years ago when I was writing a story for SHOUT Magazine about the endangerment of indie record shops and he was as gracious as he was cantankerous and I am very sorry to hear of his passing.

For more information on the death of Alan Meltzer, please check out Matthew Perpetua's piece in Rolling Stone. -Ed.