Monday, February 25, 2013

Exorcism Number Seven: Joe Steinhardt

Hey everyone. It's been a few weeks! Me and Jeff moved so it has been a little crazy! 

Today we have the amazing Joe Steinhardt. Joe is the awesome weirdo who, along with Zach Gajewski, runs Don Giovanni Records. He also played in a little band called For Science, is the main musical dude behind Modern Hut, and has in general been a huge supporter of the music in our area for years. Most importantly, he used to drunk IM me with almost totally unintelligible nonsense. He has come a long way babies. Enjoy.

You are the co-founder of Don Giovanni Records with Zach. When did you met Zach?

I met Zach a few weeks after starting college at BU and seriously thought he was the biggest loser ever because he had hair that looked like Kramer from Seinfeld and a pin of a pair of sunglasses and whatever.  I kept thinking he was a loser for like 2 months until I found out he was into the Beatnik Termites and Sicko.  When I found that out I was like “dude, we should hang out every day from now on” and we pretty much did. 

What made you go into business with him?

It didn’t really feel like we were going into business together or else probably neither of us would have agreed to do it.  We were in this band called Talk Hard together and originally I was just going to release the 7” myself but then Zach wanted to help for some reason so we figured we would go 50/50 on it and then just divide up the money if it came back.  But then by the time it came back some other friends of mine had asked about us releasing their record and Zach and I figured we would just release those and then divide up the money if it comes back or forget about it if it doesn’t.  That’s still kind of our plan. 

Has the label ever affected your friendship?

I think the label has actually had an incredibly positive affect on our friendship.  I feel like Zach and I are a lot closer because we are sort of forced to keep in touch about the label, but its usually just an excuse to talk about whatever else.  I don’t think we’ve ever had a fight or anything about anything related to the label, or anything else actually unless I’m forgetting something.  Were pretty much always on the same page, and if I bring him an idea he hates, I usually know he’s gonna hate it, and vice versa.

What makes you choose bands to be on your label?

They have to either be a big part of our scene or really want to be a part of it for the most part.  Originally our scene seemed to just mean New Brunswick, NJ but it slowly started to mean Brooklyn, and now it seems like there are bands that feel like they are a big part of our scene that live all over the country.  A lot of what seems to really bring a lot of the bands on our label together is having a similar take on what aspects of playing in bands are bullshit and which are important, mostly guided by DIY values etc.

Have you and Zach ever disagreed on a band's involvement?

Yeah, but never in any serious way where its felt like its gonna be the end of the label/friendship.  Usually its just where one of us feels really strongly and the other feels lukewarm.  For me though, if Zach really likes a band, that’s usually enough of a reason to feel like its important to do, and vice versa, unless its something one of us really really hates in which case we won’t do it.   Its really rare, I feel like Zach and I seem to really be on the same page about stuff that should be on the label and shouldn’t, even though we like lots of different things than each other musically.

Where do you think the label will be in 10 years?

Probably still trying to convince you to let us put out the unreleased Hunchback EP and Ugly On The Outside on vinyl.  Predicting the future is impossible, I was just telling Jarrett yesterday that if you asked me 5 years ago to tell you what DG would be like now I would have said that Stupid Party and Bad Blood would be our flagship bands.  Or that Cheeky and Pregnant would be.  Or who knows? I think the reason the label works so well is because instead of trying to predict and conrol whats gonna happen next we just sort of let it happen and be there to help enable it. 

Do you enjoy playing in bands also?

I do when I’m not singing.

Do you get stage fright?

I get more stage fright in a basement or a small show than on an actual stage since there I can see everyone there and they know me.

If you didn't start Don Giovanni would For Science have been more of a priority for you?

I think there was room for both of them honestly, although if For Science had kept going I would probably be dead by now.


What was growing up like for you?

It was really weird, but I think it probably is for everyone right? I feel like im also still doing it kinda.  I feel like I learn more about how the world actually works every day.  As a little kid I was really into baseball.  Ironically I think I got into music originally because I desperately wanted to fit in, which is weird because in the long run I don’t think anything alienated me from my peers more.  But originally I wanted to be able to talk about what was on the radio with people in school who always seemed to know more about music than me and thought I was a loser.  When I realized that they still thought I was a loser even after knew who Blind Melon was or what the new Red Hot Chili Peppers single was it didn’t matter because I actually liked the music and it was a good escape from them.

What was you high school experience?

High school was actually really fun because I moved.  There was a really small number of people who liked me in middle school, and I think even they didn’t wanna admit it to other people.  In high school no one seemed to care that I was weird and in fact seemed to think it was cool.  At the same time though, I feel like I was spending as much time as possible either taking the bus to New Brunswick or leaving school to go to Princeton record exchange, so I never really fully embraced high school.  I know its punk to really hate high school, but I honestly didn’t.  I just didn’t really care about it that much either.

What are your parents like?

They are really smart and really weird.  They are really supportive of some things but not others.  I don’t think they liked that I was into music or film or anything like that and really wanted me to be some kind of a scientist.  If I wanted a $200 calculator they would get it for me, but if I wanted a $50 guitar they wouldn’t.  If I wanted a $100 math textbook they would get it for me but if I wanted a $24.98 Mellon Collie 2xCD I had to get the money myself.  So it was weird.  I’m still not honestly sure how they feel about all the stuff I do with the label and bands, but I think they are proud of the other aspects of my life.  They have always also inspired me.  They have an incredible work ethic and both grew up in very hard financial and family situations and got out of them through their hard work and education.  Their drive is also incredibly inspiring. 

Tell us about your bar mitzvah.

Oh god.  It was at this place called Kahunaville.

Tell us about your siblings.

I have 3.  Charlie is my older brother and lives in Japan.  Will is my younger brother and lives in Boston and shares my dark sense of humor.  Cindy is my sister and just started college at Princeton.

Tell us the weirdest conspiracy theory that you actually believe is real and true.

I don’t think any of these are that weird, but for starters, there is no way OJ Simpson killed his wife and Ron Goldman, there is a ton of evidence to the contrary.  I also think Lance Armstrong was set up by big pharma.  Monti Teo’s girlfriend was real, but he had her killed and this whole thing is a cover up.  I also saw Tupac once in New Orleans a few years ago.  Oh, and there is no fucking way that there is a mars rover.  That is actually the craziest thing the government is trying to get us to believe.  Yes, there was a moon landing, but there is no way there is a robot driving around mars right now. 

Did you ever have a paranormal experience? See a ghost? Get abducted by an alien?

I’ve never been abducted but there was once an extraterrestrial in the corner of my bedroom taking notes when I was younger.  I also saw a UFO once.  I’m still waiting to see my first ghost. 
I also talked to God once.

Thanks Joe!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Exorcism Number Six: Caroline Rue

Welcome back. Please enjoy this interview with one of my heroes, Caroline Rue - Hole's first drummer. This is actually from 2 years ago and was published in Dragana's fanzine, "Night of the Fandom." I was really honored when Caroline got back to me and it was incredibly amazing to read about her involvement in Hole's beginnings. I will share links at the end to my favorite examples of Caroline's drumming and some video too. Thanks for reading.

You have a unique and super heavy drumming style. Who are some of your influences?

Well, thank you, Miranda. My first lesson was from a teenage girl who wore checkered slip on Van's and a ponytail, popping gum. She was classically trained and loved John Bonham. Very heavy foot. That aspect of Bonham I really like. DJ Bonebrake (X), Keith Moon, Stewart Copeland, Rat Scabies (The Damned) for his intensity and the way he would ride the crash to make a driving sizzle sound, Earl Palmer and Hal Blaine for that swinging motown feel. Budgie's (Creatures) work on the Slits album was so inspiring. Todd Barnes from TSOL. I used to watch their practices and wish I could do fills like him.

Were there any drummers before you in hole? How do you feel about the drummers that came after you?

No, I was the first one. The others were Patty and Samantha. I like Patty personally. She's got great style. She told me they made her play some things the way I did, specifically riding the crash for that driving sizzle sound. I never met Samantha but think she's really an amazing player and a great performer.

The evolution of Hole's sound is, in my opinion, extreme. What do you think contributed to the sound/style changes over the years?

Well, first off, Courtney and I were the least skilled musicians and needed time to catch up with Jill and Eric. We hung out, listened to records, and they turned me on to the Pixies, which I had only seen the MTV video for "Here Comes Your Man." We became better players, so we were starting to refine our tool to do what we were intending.

What was the songwriting process like in hole?

It varied. Usually music was written by Eric or Courtney at home, but more often than not it started as a spontaneous noise or strumming between songs or I would start with a drumbeat and Eric would follow it and choose some chords (Dicknail started that way). It allowed me to tap into some very primal experiences and exorcise them. The way we worked was someone just accidentally or intentionally find something and we all put our interpretation in and it went from there. Very organic. Courtney wrote all lyrics. For me, they were so visual and my response to them was pre-verbal, kinda caveman-ish. She was very inspiring and a very hard worker.

What makes a band powerful- both live and in the studio?

Yeah, those are different approaches. PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE. They both require a  deconstructing of the songs. In the studio on our first single, we started bringing in phone conversations, very lo-fi tape recordings morphing into guitar noise or bits of popular songs-- things not meant to be reproduced live. To play live you need stamina and self control, don't sit down at practice! Stand UP! Play through your set repeatedly, make notes to weaknesses. Record practices, listen back and take notes to improve it next chance, like an athlete that watches playbacks of your last game. For live shows, bring everything you've got to the table, even rage. Courtney discovered I played better when angry so she'd find new ways to piss me off before we went on. Don't apologize on stage. EVER. Umm, did I mention PRACTICE?

What bands have you been a part of in your career and what are your favorite musical collaborations?

I joined my first band in 1981 in OC. It was called Sexually Frustrated. I then joined IUD-- all female 4 piece with identical twin, dare I say, borderline midgets. They were rad. We played Camarillo State Hospital with the Omlits, who I joined later that year. We played out a lot in Hollywood and OC, and oddly mental hospitals and men's and women's prisons around L.A. We recorded on Mystic Records comp called "The Sound of Hollywood Girls", Bitchcraft with Rebecca from Frightwig, Travis John Alford, Tiffany Anders in Hot White Noon, Mocket from Olympia on K Records, Echolocate with Mary from Mars Accelerator and The Darklings.

My favorite collaboration was with Hole in the very beginning followed by the Omlits. Another collaboration I really felt a big part of was with Mary in Echolocate. It was guitar and drums. No vocals. I learned a lot about arranging and "making suggestions." My current, band, The Darklings has a violin player, bass, guitar, drums and vocals. They're really passionate about the arranging process, and they give my suggestions a lot of respect and consideration and I'm learning a lot about violins!

And lastly... who are some of your favorite current bands?

The Duke Spirit, White Rose Movement, Cat Power, Elliott Smith, Modest Mouse, Octant, Band of Horses, Beck, Ikara Colt, Sebadoh, CSS.

Thank you so much Caroline!

Here are some links.

Turpentine. (The best Hole song.) 
Burn Black.
Live Dicknail.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Exorcism Number Five: Jarrett Dougherty

HEY. Here's another one. This interview is with Jarrett Dougherty from the Screaming Females. (He's the drummer.) And a nice guy for finding time to answer my questions! Weirdly, I know very little about the Screaming Females and their members. I had fun reading these answers.
 Hope you do too!

How long have you been playing the drums and how did you learn?

2013 is my 20th anniversary of playing drums. I started taking percussion lessons at 9 years of age. I had a fabulous teacher who was a percussionist with the NJ Symphony and now is a director over there. I took lessons with him for 9 years although we actually focused very little on drumset. I learned a whole world of percussion instruments while studying with him. He was a master of mallet instruments and frame drums.

Did you ever take up any other instrument?

I always tell people that learning percussion as opposed to just drumset is like learning a 1000 instruments. Granted, it is easier to master a cowbell than it is a violin but most people don't realize that there are about 1000 ways to play a tambourine. I played alto sax in middle school and trombone in jazz band in high school.

Who are some of your drum idols? Why are they important to you?

The drummers who most influenced me would have to be Brad Wilk of Rage Against The Machine, Billy Martin of Medeski Martin & Wood, Questlove of The Roots, Brendan Canty of Fugazi, and Dave Grohl of Nirvana/Foo Fighters. I was also very influenced by hip hop producers, especially people like RZA, DJ Shadow, and DJ Primer. The thing I have always loved most about drumming is the groove. I find most drummers to be annoying to listen to. Most drummers play too many notes and do too many fills. I often rather listen to a "bad" drummer play than a "good" drummer because the "bad" drummer often supports the song better. Subtle changes in a hi-hat, kick, snare based rhythm are much more interesting to me than flashy fills. All the drummers and producers I mentioned above are known for creating distinctive beats that are an integral piece of the songs they are playing with.

Talk about your recording process and the preparation that goes into it. What are some of your favorite records as afar as drum sound is concerned?

For Screaming Females we always record guitar, bass, and drums together live. That means that we really have to understand each other's parts before we hit the studio because we can't really change things once we get there. Mike and Marissa both play very melodic and rhythmic lines. This means that I often can't just play a straight ahead rock beat and need to figure out exactly which notes they are accenting and create a beat around that. Also, I have a pretty good ear for rhythm and will often pick out trouble spots in riffs or songs. I can identify that something isn't matching up quite right. I will analyze each part. Sometimes I go so far as to write down the rhythms of the guitar, bass, and drums and line them up. That way I can visually identify exactly how the rhythms are interacting. 9 times out of 10 if something feels weird to me and I go through this process I will find one beat where one of us is accenting something slightly differently. Doing all that makes for really solid rhythms and distinct grooves. It all makes recording easier.
My favorite drum sound is on Rage Against The Machine's Evil Empire. The drums sound so tight without just being clicky noises. I hate drums that don't have body and tone (except for Lars, that is just his thing). I also love the drum sound on Pixies' Surfer Rosa and Weezer's Pinkerton. 

In my opinion, you approach the drums very academically. Has this approach always come naturally to you or was there an evolution over time?

As I said earlier, I am a classically trained percussionist. So I can read, write, and understand rhythms very well. But calling it academic makes it sound stuffy. I am going for the exact opposite of that. I want groove. It was the way I was taught to think about music so it is very natural.

How did the Screaming Females get together?

That's boring! Google it. Ha. Via a project my friends put together to get money from Rutgers U to put out CDs, I came into contact with Marissa's music. The only CD that the music label club put out had a song from Noun and Surgery On TV (which Mike was also in). I asked Marissa to hang out and she asked me to join the band. We changed our name to Screaming Females and the rest is history.

Did you always have specific goals set as to how far you wanted to go musically and professionally?

We very specifically have never had any musical goals. The only goal was to do what felt right. As far as "professionally" I would say that I had a very specific goal of releasing a real album. I had known some great bands that only released CD-Rs. It seemed to me that they didn't value what they were doing enough to make a lasting document of it. So in that way Baby Teeth is probably still my greatest personal achievement. I dreamed of being able to play music professionally right from the beginning. I thought that if I put all my focus into the band that I could make it work without needing to sell songs to ads or have a bullshit manager telling us what to do. I thought it was a very cool project to undertake and a place for me to focus at a point in my life when I was otherwise completely lost. SF was my full time profession from fall 2008 until fall 2012. I am now having to figure out what it means to be in a band that isn't a full time job anymore.

You seem to be the organizer of the group. How much time and effort goes into the band on a daily basis and how much has that changed over the years?

From about 2007 through 2012, I did all the emailing, phone calls, paperwork, and finances. I also took care of or was intimately involved with planning all our recording sessions, releases, and touring. From 2008-2012 I would spend about 5-7 hours doing band work most days. Some days there would be no work and other times I would spend 10 hours a day for weeks straight filling out and emailing paperwork. I enjoyed being involved in that way and learned a whole lot by making a bunch of mistakes.

I have stepped back from that role now. Mike and Marissa are handling all the managing duties now. I have had to get a full time job recently and have other projects I am focusing my time on. Mike has more time available to devote to managing the band's affairs and he definitely knows what he is doing.

Was there a moment where you realized that the band had gone from one level to the next in terms of music and fans?

Not really. Opening for The Dead Weather in summer of 2009 was the first time we had been on a stage playing for 1000s of people so that was definitely a milestone. Putting out Power Move with Don Giovanni Records was a big milestone because we were super reluctant to give up any control. It was a good thing we did because it was the first time that we realized that there could be people other than the three of us who had something important to contribute to Screaming Females.

Kind of going with the above question, how important is it that you still are able to go back and play a basement in New Brunswick or wherever?

We have always just wanted to play shows in spaces where the people there cared about what was happening. We want to have the best show possible and put on the best show possible for the people who show up. That type of show doesn't happen in any one particular type of space. Keeping our operation small but on a high and professional level allows us to be versatile. We can get up and play a festival to 6000+ people because we have learned how to do that (while the rest of the bands at those types of shows have crews and buses and shit) but than we can also go and play a great DIY show because our operation is small enough to work in that type of setting too. Being on tour with Ted Leo and Rx really showed me how that is a real possibility. They tour in a van with just the band and one sound man. And I have watched them roll into 1000+ person sold out shows and also into 60+ person DIY shows. 

What is your family like and what was your childhood like? Do you have siblings? What do/did your parents do for a living?

My family is great. I grew up in Montclair, NJ until I was 12. It is a very progressive town with a very diverse population along many lines. I grew up on the border of the "bad" side of town across the street from two abandoned houses. My parents bought that house in foreclosure and spent the next 20 years trying to fix it. I went to one of the few public Montessori schools in the country and was involved in an Orff music program there. It definitely shaped me to grow up in that environment. Then we moved to Pequannock, NJ. Pequannock is a small town full of banks, churches, and split-level homes. There was a lot of racism, homophobia, backyard keggers, and friday night high school football games. I didn't fit in and didn't care to. I was made fun of pretty badly. I left for college and never looked back.

I have a brother who is 12 years younger than myself. My mom is a music therapist and was a long time union leader for AFSCME in North Jersey. My dad was a semi-professional singer-songwriter, a wildlife removal specialist, a music teacher, and a professional sound technician for national and international television. They are both sort of retired but the economic disaster of the last 5 years has made a full retirement pretty much impossible.

Did you always want to play the drums or did you also want to be a hand model or a gym teacher too?

When I was younger I wanted to be a comic book artist. When I started taking drum lessons I stopped drawing. 

What other jobs have you had?

I worked sound for weddings at a church in my town. I worked at a deli (got fired). I worked in a cafe in New York City. I worked on an Organic farm. I worked in the dinning hall at Rutgers. I worked for a year at Starbucks. I worked in a university bookstore. I have done mystery shopping. I have written complete bullshit useless articles about crap for blogs. Probably some other stuff. Most recently I worked at one of the world's most high-end furniture manufacturers in the upholstery department (got laid off after 3 weeks because of Sandy). Currently I work a few days a week in a small kitchen for a cafe and a few days a week as a barista.

Do you have any ghost stories?

A friend of mine lived at a very strange house in New Brunswick, NJ. It was set back from the street but once you noticed it was there, you couldn't help but remark at how different it was from all the other houses in the neighborhood. It didn't match the rest of the city. I can only imagine that it was owned by the last family that wouldn't sell to the new developers who rebuilt the city some time in the early 1900s. It was all red brick with a red brick path to the front door and a red brick patio in the back yard. My friend filled a vacant room in the house and didn't know the other roommates very well. Not long after moving in he began to notice strange things. Every time he would come home his food would be moved around in the kitchen. At first he wanted to blame his new roommates but figured it wasn't worth bringing up. Then he started to notice what he could only describe as whispers when no one else was home. Finally one day he was home alone and distinctly heard the bell noise of the toaster oven being opened. He walked into the kitchen and found that the toaster oven had been opened even though no one was there! At this point he couldn't take it any longer. He got up the guts to mention it to one of the other house mates who replied by saying that he had been thinking the same thing but was too scared to mention it to anyone else!!! My friend stopped sleeping at the house. One day when the land lord stopped by my friend decided that he didn't care if he sounded crazy. He straight up said "I think there is a ghost in the house." To which the land lord replied "Oh, I know." He proceeded to tell him that when he had bought the house a year before that it had been empty for 20 years. He said that the legend goes that a infamous New Brunswick drug dealer had died of an OD in the house in the 60s. After that no one had lived in the house for more than 6 months. That young professors with full time appointments to the university had quit and left town after only a month or two of living in the house. After a few years of this the house had just stayed empty until the new landlord bought the house the year before my friend moved in. Upon hearing the story my friend decided that it all made sense, that the ghost wasn't trying to scare him. The ghost just didn't realize he was dead. He was high in the kitchen trying to make himself some munchies.

Thanks Jarrett. For more info about the Screaming Females GOOGLE IT. Hi-YO!