Wax-O-Holics 'The Backyard Sessions' with Alex Russi from Hillside Stomp August 22 2014, 0 Comments
I recently had the pleasure to host Alex Russi from Hillside Stomp in our Wax-O-Holics inaugural debut of 'The Backyard Sessions', brought to you from my very own backyard! Be sure to check out this insightful interview, which also features performances of two (as yet) unrecorded tracks, 'Two-Timing' and 'Don't You Know.
Music from their new album 'Eviction Notice' will be broadcast on KKES FM this Sunday at 6pm CST. Tune in online at www.kkesfm.com or listen live on 102.7 FM if you are in the Kansas City area.
'Eviction Notice' is currently available for digital download at hillsidestomp.bandcamp.com.
* If you are a musical artist planning to be in the Denver area and are interested in a Backyard Sessions feature, please contact me for more information.
Wax-O-Holics 'Featured Artist' Spotlight- with Nicholas Gagnon July 16 2014, 0 Comments
We Wax-O-Holics, a cooperative of artists bound together by the love of music, love to foster & support relationships with other creative, like-minded folks. Some of you may remember back in May we debuted our inaugural ‘Featured Artist’ Nicholas Gagnon and his work on this phenomenal screen print.
Nicholas' thought-provoking artwork can be seen via many other noted artists and labels. He has generously agreed to participate in the following Q&A with me, expounding a bit on his work, his preferred mediums and what typically strikes his fancy.
Please take a minute to introduce yourself… Do you prefer Nick or Nicholas? Where are you from? What is your background?
Hello everybody, I’m Nicholas Gagnon. Friends and family call me Nick, but I go by Nicholas on the internet to try and give myself an air of professionalism and/or more Frenchness. I was born in Boulder, Colorado in ‘89 but I grew up in few different places over the years because we moved around a lot. Broomfield, Arvada, Owasso Oklahoma for short time, Boulder during college, and currently live in Parker. Lots of schools, lots of time to myself spent practicing various artistic endeavors. I’ve always been drawing and doing art ever since I can remember actually. Family likes to remind me how my time in t-ball was spent drawing pictures in the dirt while balls would roll past me. I got pizza after the games anyway. Recently graduated with a BFA in Studio Art from CU in 2012 and mounted the piece of paper in a gaudy frame.
For our readers who may not already know, what artists/ promotional pieces have you worked with/ created for?
I am so thankful to work with a number of artists/bands and indie record labels on posters, shirts, cover art, a bust, and even a Kick Starter project. That’s been going on for just about over a year now. Bands include The Capones, Tennessee Jet, White Buffalo Woman, Ferocious Few, Three Cent Queen, Cherry Glazerr, and few I’m not at liberty to say just yet. Big fan of all of them. I’ve also done a bunch of stuff for Jett Plastic Recordings, a Shed House Records logo, and Wax-O-Holics graciously asked me to do their first guest artist screen print design. The Capones first vinyl release on Grimtale was so secret that I wasn’t informed about it until a month before it was announced. Still stunned my cover design has a little reaper on the back corner. We decided to do a small promotional triple-faced Capone bust with their debut CD album limited to 15 pieces. I kept 3 but gave away 2 of them, one to my Grandma who’s my biggest fan and another to master printer Mathias Valdez at Lastleaf Printing who did the first screen print poster for the band. It’s actually quite a strange experience to see people show pictures of physical things I designed on the computer. The first official poster I did was for a Capones show in July of last year. They had photos of it in the background of them playing and I had to show the whole family. Same goes for the all the vinyl art and prints of mine I’ve seen floating around on Facebook. One of the biggest highlights from this past year was being mentioned by Rob Jones on Animal Rummy for a little tear sprite sculpture I made just for him. Rob’s art is what got me into all this.
You market yourself under Obliquitous Art & Design- how did you arrive at that moniker?
Well, I used to do custom action figures all throughout high school and college under the name “The Underground Studio”. Since what I do now was mostly 2D design it seemed time for a new name with the fresh start. While doing the usual looking through the dictionary for interesting names I came across “obliquity” which is used to describe everything from moral deviation, to how much the earth is off kilter, to genetic abnormality. It’s a loaded word. The moral deviation part made me think of how some of my earlier drawings had been dealing with some touchy subject matter for what I thought were the right reasons. That mixed moral subjectivity and the effects it can have interests me. I’ve also always seemed to have trouble keeping things straight while drawing. Everything I do is always a little off to the left or right no matter how hard I try. That and the fact I found it amusing that obliquitous is not recognized as correct spelling, even as an adjective, was enough for me to choose it for my design entity.
Your sculpture pieces are quite impressive- how did you get into making those?
My brother and I used to kit-bash (taking parts from multiple sources and rearranging them into something new) our action figures when we were probably 10-12 years old. We destroyed a bunch of our 90s Kenner/Hasbro Star Wars figures making them into characters you couldn’t buy in the store. Hot knives, scars, super glue, and paint. We even repackaged them on customized blister cards and sold them online. It was interesting to see Hasbro put out a Jango Fett with flames coming out of his jetpack the same year after we had done it. Later we started collecting higher end 12” military figures made in Hong Kong and did the same thing to those. That’s around the time Band of Brothers was on the History Channel so we did characters from that series pretty early on. For certain characters there weren’t any heads or parts to find close enough to use. Around 2004-2005 I started sculpting and sewing to complete figures. My brother lost interest but I kept the practice up, expanding to all sorts of pop-culture characters. Sculpting was a huge challenge to teach myself. There’s a Korean 12” figure artist named Kojun whose head-sculpts I referenced very closely while doing my own. His work is otherworldly but as they say: practice, practice, practice. Over the years I got to the point where I would make entire characters from scratch, using only ready-made bodies to build on. My BFA exhibition piece was a self-portrait of myself in a miniature setting using all the skills learned since childhood. I don’t sculpt very often anymore but it’s like riding a bike when I do.
I also really enjoy the work you’ve done based on old photo prints. When you’re adding/ subtracting pieces to the mix, what generally feeds your overall viewpoint?
Old photos and prints are the most fun to work with, plus the dead aren’t interested in royalties. I always listen to my gut when looking for a picture. If I react to something in it, odds are it will carry through to the finished piece. Sometimes I’ll have a concrete “this is the way it has to look, now go find the parts” idea in my head and other times I’ll let my subconscious take the helm. It can get pretty numbing looking at hundreds of photos, each one with so many possibilities, like staring into infinity. That fatigue instantly goes away once you find “it”. Adding all the pieces in photoshop will bring up another plethora of possibilities but you have to make decisions and trust your gut. It’s a sketching process. Everything always takes at least 2 full edits from what was first called complete, and even then you find something you could have done better.
From busts to bullet-ridden covers, you’ve had quite a hand in shaping the overall image coming out of The Capones camp. How has the creative process for that played out? Did the band have ideas or were you the primary visionary for their single, posters, merch, etc.?
It always goes according to the music and how it speaks to me. It gets played constantly while creating. All the imagery for the band was based on the only 2 songs that were available: "Old Tree" and "Nostalgia & Youth". Darren, who does guitar and vocals for The Capones, usually lets me run wild within reason for all the art. Often he’ll plant the seed though. He saw the fan art I was doing on the White Swirl and contacted me about doing some stuff for his band. I think the logo came first. It was a ready-made font I thought looked like pin-striped suits so I tweaked it a bit into what you see now. Everything possible relating to Al Capone was researched to compliment the visual direction from the songs. The connection between blues music, melancholy, lost love, alcohol, valentine’s day cupids, the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, how Capone was both a villain and a saint at times, his middle name being Gabriel, fallen angels and many other little things all brewed in my brain. It produced a lot of great imagery, mostly violent which reflects the music. Think John William Waterhouse packing heat. One of my favorite concepts was the idea of cupids using tommy guns to blast people with affection. I also saw some significant connections between Al and Lucifer. The album covers for Troubled Me and the singles were inspired by depictions of Lucifer as described in Dante’s Inferno with three faces. A lot of that moral deviance mentioned in why I chose the name Obliquitous is displayed in The Capones artwork.
You collaborated recently with our own Nick ‘Boat’ Lynch and his band Three Cent Queen on their new singles cover and artwork. Again, what guided the overall vision in that process?
Boat is probably one of the most fun people to work with. I was honored that he asked me to do the art for that EP release since his abilities as a visual artist are amazing. Back in January we just started to mess around with imagery in a kind of “anything goes” approach. He’d have some pictures to play with and I’d put my personal touch on them. Skeletons, spiders, and a good dose of The Dead Weather sensibility. Since the band name came from a Canadian 3 cent stamp with Queen Elizabeth II on it, I researched her to influence direction. There were probably half a dozen front and back cover possibilities at least in the end, all some of my favorite pieces. Boat chose the one you see on the EP. Can’t wait for you all to see what else we cooked up.
What do you enjoy most working with smaller Indie labels?
The down to earth good people who love music, and of course, getting to know what is coming out before anyone else does!
If doing something just for yourself, what is your preferred medium?
Digital collage has become something I do for myself to work out my mind when projects are few and far between. There’s a certain flow I experience with it that other mediums don’t do for me.
You’ve hosted several artwork contests via White Swirl, of which your own contributions have been stunning. What have you enjoyed most about conducting those? Did you have your pieces completed prior or were they inspired by the contest itself?
Those art shows were all fun to do. I enjoy the sense of community that exists on the Swirl and people’s reactions to seeing what was whipped up. For the first one, there was so much White Stripes inspired imagery pouring out of my mind at the time I had to do something with it. My stuff in that particular show ended up turning into an homage to Rob Jones. I think they each started with just one piece completed for the announcement poster/image and then just working on as many as I could until deadline. There weren’t many participants in the White Stripes one or the Dead Weather one as it got closer to time, so it became even more of a mission to fill up the show as much as possible. Your “House of Bones” is the highlight of that Dead Weather show by the way.
Nicholas dares to answer The Official Five Wax O’s Gotta Know Questions
1) First vinyl memory
I was in college and the music department had a ton of old records sitting in a box for free. I looked through them sparingly and didn’t care at all. Some of the art kids painted on them.
2) What is an album you regularly spin for your own enjoyment?
My collection is quite small but I regularly spin “Siamese Dream” by The Smashing Pumpkins.
3) What was the last album you added to your collection?
Been buying a lot of 7”s lately but the last album I added was “Don’t Throw Me Away” by The Mumlers.
4) What was your favorite album or new artist from last year?
2013 was a great year. I’d have to say Lees of Memory is my favorite new artist and my favorite album was Hanni El Khatib’s “Head in the Dirt”.
5) What artists are you looking forward to hearing more of this coming year?
The Capones, Tennessee Jet, Ferocious Few, White Buffalo Woman, Three Cent Queen, The Ill Itches, Joel Monroe, Smashing Pumpkins, Hanni El Khatib, The Dead Weather, Lees of Memory, Turbo Fruits, Karen O, Bosnian Rainbows, Willy Moon, KT Tunstall, La Luz, Will Sprott, Brother O Brother
Again, thanks so much to Nicholas for taking the time to participate in this, our first ever 'Featured Artist' Spotlight! We Wax-O-Holics really appreciate all of his great work and look forward to seeing what his creative future has in store.
Wax-O-Holics Musical Artist Spotlight- Dom Flemons The American Songster May 19 2014, 1 Comment
Dom got his start with fellow Carolina Chocolate Drop bandmates after the 2005 Black Banjo Gathering, which was organized to promote awareness of black string band music throughout the African American community in an effort to create cultural unity. I was intrigued to know that prior to that event Dom communicated with many of the attendees via the internet, which draws an interesting correlation to our group of artists (Wax-O-Holics) who primarily met and work via the internet.
In anticipation of his upcoming release Dom has so kindly taken the time to answer a few questions about his past and present.
How did you arrive at the tagline ‘The American Songster’?
I remember reading about the term “songster” in Paul Oliver’s book “Songsters and Saints” and it stuck with me. When I first started I thought of myself as a folksinger. Starting out in the late 1990’s I realized quickly that even the mention of “folk” would have people screaming for the hills. What I liked about songster was that it was open to the performers that wrote their own material and the one who interpreted songs. I have always enjoyed presenting my version of old songs and making my changes here and there to suit me. Some songs I mimic exactly what I heard on the original recording. Those cases are for the songs that don’t need to be improved and tell a statement on their own.
Its important to know that a songster plays music AND sings. I do both and that is my strongest suit. Even though I can get by with one or the other, both parts have always been my focus from the beginning. As for the “American”, I am proud of my country. There are more than enough things I am not proud about it but I try to do my part. I try to present music that is not only entertaining but also educational because I feel that there is so much to be gained by knowing one’s history. I just tell stories. I try to let people fill in the blanks on how it applies to their life. I focus on the American experience and that is why I am “The American Songster”.I’ve read that you initially got into folk music around the age of 16 and that attending the 2005 Black Banjo Gathering was a major turning point for you as a musician. For a kid born & raised in the burbs of Phoenix, what is it about string band music that resonated so much with you?
I wasn’t particularly interested in string band music at all when I was in Phoenix. That wasn’t until I went to NC and began playing with Rhiannon and Justin. The two of them knew more about string band music than me. My knowledge base included folk music from the 40’s to the 70’s, New Orleans Jazz, Jug Band Music, rock ‘n’ roll, doo wop, 60’s pop, country blues, honky-tonk, hillbilly, ragtime and variety of other types of music that were of interest to me. Mike Seeger was a stepping stone for me in terms of thinking about traditional music as a language that I could learn not only how to replicated and but how to create new ways of using it. I did this by understanding several styles of music all at once and being very conscious of the way that I adapted it.
I have always been attracted to voices. If someone has an interesting vocal quality I am drawn to that. This can be sweet and rough it doesn’t matter. When I hear the quality I like I try my best to understand why it appeals to me. In folk music and old-time music there are a lot of interesting voices so its always a treat to listen for that new voice that will move me.
Last year you made the decision to leave the Carolina Chocolate Drops, of which you are a founding member, to pursue your solo aspirations. How do you feel that move has/ will change your musical story or what you are able to communicate to your audience?
When you play in a group, one always has to submerge a part of their own musical personality for the benefit of the group. A group is a team effort and everyone has to work together to make that happen. With that being said, I have played solo for a total of 15 years all learning many things along the way with the group but I have always had a separate repertoire that suited the things that I pursue. Because I never felt comfortable adding my original material to the Carolina Chocolate Drops show knowing that the historical material was the focus of the group, my solo show features a few original numbers that I have written over the past few years.
My style also leads itself more toward country blues, early jazz and country music. While I have added old-time music into my repertoire over the course of the past ten years, most people are not as familiar with the other parts of my repertoire. I am always working on new ideas and I am continuing on my journey as a musician and performer I am really showing my audience my journey so far and letting them know that it is just the beginning.
It seems that your personal interest in American history has been a driving force behind your style. I imagine that must influence your choice of songs to cover but begs the question- what comes first? The Song or The Story? Do you pick your songs or do they pick you?
I always pick the song first. I don’t have to know anything about it. If a song moves me then I try to learn it and play it. I worry about the story afterwards. A long time ago, I decided that the material I perform MUST be material I personally enjoy. I feel this gives me the freedom to perform my material without the any feeling that I am obligated to do it and the audience benefits because they are can see that I am passionate about what I am performing and they can enjoy my performance because of that and also, I would hope, the material itself.
The thing about talking about American is that the history has to mean something to the performer and the audience at the same time and they both need to be able to transcend the history. While the facts are interesting, if they don’t have an impact on the modern world at the time they are shown, who cares? The history never goes anywhere. For example, let’s take a song like Polly Put The Kettle On from my new record Prospect Hill. The fact that Sonny Boy Williamson I the first recorded this number with the pianist Blind John Davis in Chicago and that Sonny Boy Williamson I was a transitional figure in the development of blues harmonica means only that if I can’t play the harmonica at least convincing in that style. The history is interesting and will get people’s attention but if I am not delivering it then I lose the one thing I am trying to do as an interpreter which is make the music feels relevant. If folks walk away saying, “Oh that music is just old” then I really haven’t transcended as a performer on that song. Once you transcend the idea that history is stagnant, you can actually get perspective on it.
You left music for a while in your early twenties to do performance-based art. How did your experience performing slam poetry influence your overall musical style?
It gave me two major things artistically. It made me put my instrument down and perform without hiding behind it. When you have a guitar or any instrument it is so easy to hide behind it as a wall between you are the audience. When I was doing slam poetry, I was talking with an audience directly and saw a different way to interact with them. The other thing that slam helped me with was writing. In my community of writers, we had weekly writing and critiquing session, there was a slam every week, there was a role I played in the community with everyone pushing each other forward. With that, you couldn’t hold back. You had to “Bring It!” every time. Also in slam the judge at each performance all the way up the judges are 5 random people from the bar so you that the judging had no regular criteria just what people in the audience felt.
I learned how to write prose and began performing that and it helped me understand the power of the words when you sing. Many folks tend to sing too much in my opinion and they forget that they are saying a message with words. This also doesn’t particular have to mean that you have to sing any less beautifully to do so. Just understand that you are in front of an audience and you are speaking a message to them. Own that message. I learned that when I was doing slam poetry. I had a lot of wonderful people teach me so much during that time.
I’ve read that your guiding philosophy is to make music you would listen to... which I think is a great philosophy to have! What inspires your writing or creative process?
That is actually my philosophy about recording. When recording, I feel that you must be able to remove yourself from your recording so much that you should listen to it as if you were given an unlabeled CD and knew nothing about the artist. Once you do that, ask yourself, “do I like this?” It is amazing how many times people go into the studio and do not do that then afterwards they think, “oh I shouldn’t have played that or that. What was I thinking?”
I actually saw that in a Bob Dylan quote. When talking about his album Highway 61 Revisited, one of his most famous albums, he commented, “Yeah… that’s a good one. I’d listen to it!” Like you, that idea was very powerful. When you are putting out music its important to think about what you are putting out there. Not so much as to cripple your creative spark. When I put material out there I realize it will be reflected by my past and I try to find the best compromise to honor the past but make room for the future.
My writing process is all over the place. Sometimes I write a title and work from there. Sometimes I meet someone and I make them into a model for a song. Its like a painter painting on a canvas. Other times, I take a song I know and write the words with that song in my head and then make a new melody with a different beat pattern. Other times, I just play great material that I didn’t write. These days I keep it pretty open. Haha!
How does instrument selection for each song come into play? I love your song ‘San Francisco Baby’ that you wrote and performed with Pokey LaFarge accompanying you on guitar. How did that Historic Records Kitchen Session come about?
I usually switch the instrumentation around a few times on each song I do just to get a feel. Each instrument has its own feeling and attack and sometimes it takes a little bit to set in.
As for the Kitchen Songs Session, Jake Book, the fellow who does the videos, and I met in Cincinnati when I was doing an opening set for Rev. Peyton’s Big Damn Band last Fall. The two of us talked a bit and he told me about Kitchen Songs. I was looking to get more videos up on youtube to promote more of my current solo performances and we discussed doing a Kitchen Songs when I was playing with the Chocolate Drops in Knoxville last Dec.
I’ve known Pokey LaFarge since about 2008 when he was solo and the two of us have kept in touch over the years and we had finally gotten to get a double bill together with his group and the Carolina Chocolate Drops. That was a fun tour! Pokey and I have talked about doing something for years and when I mentioned Kitchen Songs to Pokey he was all for it and we recorded one song that I led and one that he led. “San Francisco Baby” was still a very new song at that point and Pokey had heard it at another show we were on so we decided on that one.
This is a perfect example of switching instrumentation on a song. Knowing that guitar is Pokey’s main instrument so I played banjo for that video when I usually play guitar. Its not really a big deal for me to do so but I figured that the combination of guitar and banjo might be better than two guitars. The video turned out well I believe.
How did you get involved with the Music Maker Relief Foundation and can you tell us more about it?
Music Maker Relief Foundation is a non-profit organization that helps out traditional Southern artists with support so that they can continue making the music that makes them a treasure to their community.
I got involved with Music Maker in 2006 when I met Tim Duffy at the Shakori Hills Festival in Silk Hope, NC. The Chocolate Drops had just recorded the songs that would be our first album, Dona Got A Ramblin’ Mind and Tim agreed to put it out. I had actually first heard about Music Maker a few years earlier because some of the more prominent records they had out were in my local library. Once I got to got to know Tim and his wife Denise and see the work they do I couldn’t help but be moved to work with them.
Since starting to work with them, I have done shows with many of the artists including record a CD with Boo Hanks from Buffalo Junction, VA. The experiences I have learned being involved with Music Maker have helped me develop as both a musician and a person.
What does the rest of 2014 have in store for Dom Flemons?
I have a new album coming out in July called Prospect Hill. This will be my third solo album. I will continue making concert appearance throughout the summer including WOMAD in the UK doing a collaborative show with folk singer Martin Simpson. We will be going into the Cecil Sharpe archives in London and re-interpreting song of the old ballads. I will continue to write articles and also try my best to spread around articles I have read through social media. It’s a big world there are a lot of things out there and I can’t wait to dive in head first!
Dom expands a bit on the tracklist for the EP~
These songs are a little taste of the work I’ve done between the years of 2004-2009. If you want to hear more of my work from this period please check out my first two Music Maker album, “Dance Tunes, Ballads and Blues” & “American Songster” www.musicmaker.org.
I hope you enjoy this first vinyl release! All the best to you all and keep on spreading the good music around!
Dom Flemons The American Songster
1. Yonder Comes the Blues
This is a song I first heard from Ma Rainey. I thought back on some of the writings I have read in regarding the way that Charlie Patton arranged her piece “Booze & Blues” into his own “Tom Rushen Blues”. With thought in my head, I decided to make a guitar blues that would show off some of my guitar skills in K.C. Tuning or Open D.
2. Viper Mad
I heard Viper Mad on the sountrack to the Woody Allen film “Sweet & Lowdown”. When I first began playing four-string banjo, I developed a slide guitar style after reading about Gus Cannon playing it on his classic ”Poor Boy, Long Ways From Home”. I play bottleneck style on this piece compared to the Hawaiian style that Gus used (I use that style on Tom Dula on the first CCD album “Dona Got A Ramblin’ Mind”). This piece has been a staple of my repertoire for many years. In case you're wondering who's playing the jug, that's me too.
3. Night Woman Blues
I wrote this song on slide banjo. I got caught up on the riff and began putting the words together to this song. I was listening to a lot of Son House at that time. The “Night Woman” was a beautiful woman I knew back in Flagstaff, AZ when I was in college. She would come and visit me in my apartment after classes and I could always tell when she was coming because she wore these heeled sandals that would click up the stairs and across my tile floor to my room where I would doing my favorite past times: kicking up my feet and listening to records.
This is a composite piece I put together of several versions of Stackalee. I first heard this one from Dave Van Ronk’s version. Van Ronk learned his version from Furry Lewis’ recording. I put a few verses from Mississippi John Hurt as well that made a complete story. This is a quintessential part of Black AND White American folklore. If you want to read more on the subject I would look up Cecil Brown’s book “Stagolee Shot Billy” and The Old Weird America Wordpress Blog exploring Stackalee and old-time songs http://oldweirdamerica.wordpress.com
A Wax-O-Holics 'What's Up?' for 2014 January 07 2014, 2 Comments
2014 is shaping up to bring many exciting things from the Wax-O-Holics front. From merch, to vinyl storage and display solutions, to... what's that? VINYL you say? what????? yup. fundraising in progress y'all! signed artists ready to go!
Until then, our 'Party Foul' regular edition GITD slipmats (limited to 30) will start shipping this week. This was a fun project for us (OK, mainly Boat & JM) to work on and we look forward to bringing more killer designs to our webstore. A few of Painted Vessel's 'Rough Idea' sketches are also still available. Limited to 20, signed and numbered, and printed on fancy-ass card stock by none other than Nicholas 'Boat' Lynch himself, I'd get one while you can. I mean, have you seen Boat's work? (ie slipmat)
Juice will soon have a few variant Mighty Squatch Boxes up for grabs. Hand-crafted by the man (or Squatch) himself, available with or without a Squatch Notch (ya know, for when you're posting in What's Spinning!) these Limited Edition Squatch Boxes will be custom painted by a local Seattle graffiti artist.
Personally, I am still hard at work prepping The Original Display & Play for market. I've had a few set backs but this idea is just too good to not be a real thing! ('I just want these things to exist'). So once again, please stay tuned!
To keep up with our antics, follow us on facebook! You can also find us each at our respective homes on twitter/ instagram (SouthernTracksMedia/ STMPress, NicholasBOATLynch/ Painted Vessel, and DeadWeather Denver) and facebook Broke, Or Made Better.
Thanks again for all of your support!