August 30, 2012

Indefinite Hiatus!

A few people have asked me what is going on with the blog, and the answer is a whole bunch of nothing!  I have had a lot going on lately, including fiction writing, being in a band, and working a day job.  Something had to give, and unfortunately it was this blog.  That doesn’t mean I don’t love you, but much like Sleater-Kinney, I am here to say the blog is on indefinite hiatus!!!

Please continue to support the bands and musicians listed here.  Wussy, Screaming Females, Rebecca Gates, White Mystery , and She Makes War all came out with new albums in 2012.  Go buy them if you haven’t yet.  But most importantly, keep rockin.

P.S.  Here’s a great blog called Underground Bee with a review of Wussy’s recent Chicago show.  Lots of pictures.  Enjoy!

June 8, 2012

Interview With Laura Kidd, aka She Makes War!

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photo by Annie Mole via Flickr

Laura Kidd is a multi-instrumentalist who performs under the moniker She Makes War.  She sings and plays guitar, bass, ukulele, piano, melodica, violin, harp, and recorder.  In addition to being an impressive performer, she’s a DIY producer extraordinaire, recording and promoting her own work.  Her latest album, Little Battles, is available here.

I talked with her in the early Spring.  And here for your reading pleasure is my article with the wonderful She Makes War!

When did you begin playing and why?

I started playing guitar aged 12 because my brother had been given a lovely acoustic by my Uncle and wasn’t using it. I picked it up and started messing about with it, then had a few lessons at school to get the basic root chords and strumming. I just used to play songs from sheet music, like “I’m Not In Love” by 10CC and “Wooden Heart” by Elvis Presley, then had an epiphany a few years later when a boyfriend told me about bar chords and I realised with them I could figure out how to play my favourite songs.

What was your first guitar, and how did you get it?

My first guitar was a very cheap black electric my parents bought for me from a little guitar shop in Bury St Edmunds called Sounds Plus. I don’t remember much more about it, I didn’t play it very much because around the same time I started playing bass in a band and that took up most of my musical time. I actually part exchanged that guitar for some pedals a couple of years later then found a gorgeous green Telecaster in Loot (a listings paper in London) which sadly got taken in a house burglary. I was heartbroken. I called that guitar Basil because it was green and because the day I bought it I attended John Cleese’s birthday breakfast.

What equipment do you prefer now?  Which guitar?  What amps or pedals?  Why?  Has this changed over time?

The guitar I gig with is a Telecaster Thinline 69 with a pedalboard consisting of Boss chorus, delay and compression/sustainer, a Sansamp GT2, Fulltone OCD and Cool Cat Tremolo. I usually play DI-ed because of logistics – I have so much to carry and usually use public transport – hence the GT2, which really improves the sound, but I have a Roland Cube I sometimes take as well. Acoustically I play a Faith Venus and I use a Luna Dolphin ukulele as well, through my Boss RC20XL loop pedal. On the new album I played all the electric stuff on my Peerless Renaissance hollow body because the Tele was super noisy. The Peerless sounded gorgeous!

I’m always interested in improving my general sound but currently have to weigh that up against cost and logistics. I would love to play through a Fender Twin every night but that’s not possible at the moment.

I know you are a multi-instrumentalist.  Can you talk a little about that?

I played classical and woodwind instruments at school – violin then saxophone – but took up the guitar and bass outside of formal musical education and played in bands, mainly on bass. I love trying out new things and on the latest recordings brought in the tenor sax alongside autoharp, melodica and recorders to play with some different textures.

What is your songwriting process like?

It varies. Sometimes I will start with a vocal melody and find the chords that go with it, and other times songs start off with a riff. I’ve experimented very successfully with the Immersion Composition Society’s “20 Song Game” and written songs for both albums that way (‘NIMN’ and ‘Chicken’ off “Disarm” and ‘In This Boat’ and ‘Segue’ off “Little Battles”) and will definitely do that again in the future as I truly believe in the Picasso quote that “inspiration finds you working”. Songs rarely drop out of the sky, and when they do you have to be there to catch them!

You’re also a filmmaker.  Do you consider that a part of your musicianship. or something you do on the side?

I think everything I do feeds in to the She Makes War project, it’s an outlet for all the visual, art and craft experiments I want to do. I just finished making some homemade tour photo books to send to some of my Pledgers (the new album was funded by my fans via Pledge Music last year) and that’s a good example – I’ve been wanting to try making concertina books for a while and this was a great excuse. I also feel that mixing media, whether that’s digital instruments with analogue in a musical recording or digital information with hand crafted souvenirs in the case of my Valentine’s card release of “In This Boat” last month, is important because I want the songs to resonate emotionally in various ways.

What are you working on right now?

At the moment I am focusing on getting my new album “Little Battles” in to the world – it’s out on April 9th and I am organising a big launch gig on 11th (at Herne Hill Half Moon, South London) which will involve about 8 other musicians coming on stage with me, so it’s a lot to pull together!

After that I’m off on a month long tour of the UK, and am working on setting up other musical excursions for later in the year.

I’ve already got a name for my next collection of songs and have started noodling around, I like to keep creative but there’s a lot of other fun stuff to keep me busy for the next few months.

Which artist or artists do you find inspiring?  (It doesn’t have to be a musician.)  Why? 

I find Kristin Hersh endlessly inspiring, she’s a true pioneer both in her musical output and her involvement in CASH Music and flying the flag for the rights of musicians everywhere.

June 8, 2012

Slow Puncture – She Makes War

June 8, 2012

She Makes War Demonstrates Using A Boss Loop

Ok, so Laura Kidd is playing a ukulele here, and not her guitar.  But!  I thought this was just such a great demonstration of how to use the Boss RC-30, I had to post it!

May 6, 2012

Nina Canal Interview!

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Photo by Martin Christgau, courtesy of Nina Canal

Nina Canal is an artist and musician.  She was a member of the seminal No-Wave band Ut (pronounced Oot), and has been name-dropped by such other influential bands as Sonic Youth and Le Tigre.  They were a favorite of John Peel’s, and worked with engineer Steve Albini on their album Griller.  Their list of associations reads like a who’s-who of underground rock.  Canal was also a member of the band The Gynaecologists, and has worked with Rhys Chatham doing both the guitar trio and 100 guitars.

In addition to being a talented guitarist, drummer, and vocalist, Canal is a painter and fashion designer, crossing deftly between different art mediums.  I talked with her over email about her history with Ut, what equipment she uses, and what’s going on in her life artistically at present.

When did you begin playing and why? 

I started to play guitar in NYC in early 1977.  I went to NY from London after  finishing my Fine Art degree.  I had a very good friend from  London, Robert Appleton who had been living there 2 years, and he had met Rhys Chatham, and they had started a band called The Gynaecologists and asked me to play with them.

What was your first guitar, and how did you get it? 

So Robert had a friend Jimmy who worked at a music store in Long Island, he would get me a good deal, so I went out there and bought a beautiful blond Telecaster, pre CBS (just) for something crazy like $250, not sure exactly!

What equipment do you prefer now?  Which guitar?  What amps or pedals?  Why?  Has this changed over time?

Sadly, that Telecaster got stolen in London after a gig in 1986 or so, and not very long before we started working on GRILLER LP, so when I saw Steve Albini he offered to buy me another one in the USA.  However, the prices had gone through the roof, so he suggested a copy made by these guys in Chicago.  They have an outfit called Rubber Ducky Replicas, and they made me a beautiful one.  I was able to ask for a custom colour, hence my trademark bright green telecaster with a mirror scratch board.

I like using  few pedals, I have a Big Muff and mainly  just love the sound of real tube amps, good ones that deliver that wonderful warm yet ripping distortion.

What is your songwriting process like?  I know that when you were with Ut, you and your fellow band members emphasized collaboration and equal exchange.  Have you found that method effective over time, or do you feel more like you’re a solo artist now?

Yes, with Ut we always worked together, in a total collaboration. I have worked on a few collaborations in recent years, in a similar process where everyone has equal say and we go by feel and mutual confidence. I am starting to work on some solo stuff.   It’s not so easy for me.  I always did a little of this even in NY, so yes I am becoming a “solo artist.”

Can you talk a little about your work with Rhys Chatham?  You were in at least one formation of his guitar trio, and participated in 100 guitars.  

Rhys and I were together as a couple at the time he composed Guitar Trio, and I played it with him the very first time and  several other times in NY in those amazing days, and also occasionally in the years between, so it’s a piece you could say I have an intimate connection with.

Yes, I also have played in the 100 guitars, initially at the London performance in 1990 something, and then I was also very briefly a section head for two concerts, one in Nantes, which was a wonderful experience and then we went to Reunion Island with it. That was a particularly incredible  experience.  The volcano erupted while we were there, and we went to see the hot lava jumping into the sea, amazing.

Documentary film maker Laurence Petit Jouve made a film about it, but it has never yet seen the light of day due to lack of finances….

You’re a musician — writing songs, and playing the drums and guitar, but you also paint, and make clothing.  Also, I read an interview where you said you came to rock music from a background in performance art.  Do you feel that your work across mediums informs your perspective as a guitar player?

I am also a painter, fascinated by colour and energy, I got into painting on different textiles, mostly silk and wool or cashmere. I love clothes, and I had started to make my own clothes line in NYC  around 1980 and recently found a lot of photos which I will eventually put up on line.  I need to make a new web site, as mine, although it looks pretty good, is simple and old fashioned www.ninacanal.com.

I studied fine art, and was into performance art yes, of course everything feeds everything.  I do not know how to distinguish in that sense, but that’s for some else to do not me.

What are you working on right now? 

Well, now having moved to Marseille, the Ut re union has taken up a lot of my time. We did some touring last autumn, and are now working on the re issues of our entire back catalogue soon,  starting with Conviction on Reactor records

There’s been a lot to organize to enable this processs to proceed, and I have hardly found the time to paint. I plan to start painting pictures and not on silk anymore.

Which artist or artists do you find inspiring?  Why? 

Well, there are just too many to mention! I can say I recently went to see an astonishing show in London by Grayson Perry at the British Museum and that was inspiring because of the many surprises, but he’s certainly not my only inspiration….

May 6, 2012

Ut – Mosquito Botticello from In Gut’s House

May 6, 2012

Ut Live in Lyon

Ut playing live. Nina Canal on far left of screen playing guitar.

April 5, 2012

Coming up!

Later this week I will be posting interviews with Nina Canal of Ut and Laura Kidd of She Makes War.  But in the meantime, there have been some really nice things happening for lady guitar players in the blogosphere.  Comedian and host Marc Maron interviewed Carrie Brownstein for his WTF podcast.  It’s a great interview, with lots of good guitar talk.  KEXP also posted videos of Wussy playing Mellow Johnny’s Bike Shop during SXSW.  Go now and enjoy.  I’ll talk to you again soon.

April 5, 2012

And Now For Something Completely Different

You may not know this, but in my other life (i.e. my day job) I am a secretary.  And in my other, other life — when I’m not typing things for people or playing cover tunes on the guitar in a mediocre fashion, I am a writer.  I write fiction mostly, but also poetry.  And because I have poetry friends, I participated in a new online poetry project.  So, if you would like to see yours truly in the motion pictures reading a poem by Chuck Bukowski, head over to A Poem From Us and check it out.

March 24, 2012

KEXP’S Wussy Write-up For SXSW

Ok, I’m a punk — I know — and in the bad, group-home living not cleaning up your dirty clothes from the floor, crapping in public kind of way, not the sexy, wearing safety pin-wearing and singing gutturally way. I haven’t been updating the blog, and I totally missed saying anything about SXSW. Would it make you feel any better to know that I’ve been playing a ton? No?

Well…

You know who has been writing? The bloggers over at KEXP.

In fact, here’s a wonderful little piece about your’s truly’s favorite band, Wussy. Just go read it, and you don’t really need me to update the blog.

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