Guest Spots: The Melvins relive the highlights of the Endless Residency Tour

Melvins: The Bride Screamed MurderMelvins: The Bride Screamed Murder (Ipecac, 6/1/10)

Melvins: “The Water Glass”

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Last year, sludge-rock band the Melvins released its 20th album (and third since linking up with Big Business members Jared Warren and Coady Willis). That album, entitled The Bride Screamed Murder, is emblematic of what the band has done its whole career: tweak its signature sound — part anthemic classic rock, part avant-garde heaviness — to present something entirely new yet quintessentially Melvins. That willingness to shake things up has been a major factor in the band’s longevity.

After last year’s release, the band undertook a tour in early 2011, playing a different album from its back catalog each night. As the saying goes, you get what you give, and in this case, the Melvins’ 30-year history of experimentation has continually rewarded the band with new experiences. Dale Crover, drummer and founding member, recounts the band’s some of the most memorable recent experiences below.

Endless Residency Tour
by Dale Crover

The Melvins did a residency every Friday night last January in Los Angeles. To make each show unique, we decided to play a different record from our ever-growing catalog of releases. It seemed to go over really well, and since we took the time to learn all these records, we decided to take it on the road. Here are some highlights from the “Endless Residency” tour.

Austin Texas: Austin shows are always great, except for the heat. It’s 100 degrees out, and of course we’re playing outside! The show goes well, but by the end, the “costume” that I’m  wearing feels like a soaking-wet sleeping bag. The next day we meet up with our friends from the band Honky to get lunch. Everyone I know that lives in Austin says that the BBQ downtown is average, and they know where the best is. We drive miles out of town to a place in Spicewood, Texas, called Opie’s BBQ. We’re greeted by a guy who opens a large trough with 10 different kinds of smoked meat. We let the Honky boys order for us, then sit down to stuff our faces. It was certainly worth the trip, and I highly recommend the spicy corn! After the feast, we stop by Willie Nelson‘s recording studio. Honky just recorded there. No Willie, but we  got the full tour, including seeing the tape vault with Red Headed Stranger master tapes! I was also highly impressed by the nine-hole golf course next door. Maybe we’ll do our next record there!


Guest Spots: Ancestors explains the fundamental choice that all bands make

Ancestors: Invisible WhiteAncestorsInvisible White EP (Tee Pee, 6/28/11)

Ancestors: “Dust”

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With its latest record, a three-track EP entitled Invisible White, LA-based quintet Ancestors shifted its focus from stoner metal to more experimental psych/classic-rock territory. The band didn’t miss a step in the transition, garnering a This Week’s Best Albums nod from us (read here).

It’s a move that many bands contemplate after establishing a signature sound with which its fans become familiar. Do you play it safe and make the record everyone expects and will undoubtedly enjoy? Do you shoot for a hit record in hopes of gaining wealth and fame? Or do you push yourself to explore new territory without worrying about the response? Below, lead vocalist / guitarist Justin Maranga explains Ancestors’ internal debate.

The Three Ways to Make Music
by Justin Maranga

There comes a time in the career of every band or musician when they have to make a choice. It is a choice that will heavily affect the future of their career. At this point, you may ask yourself what that choice is or find yourself trying to guess the possible options. Or perhaps you’re thinking, “Just get to the point already.” Well, as musicians, that’s precisely what we have to figure out. What is the point? What we as musicians must do is decide why we’re doing this and for whom we’re doing it.

So the way I see it, there are three ways we can go. The first option is that we’re doing it for ourselves; the second is that we’re doing it for the fans; and the third is that we’re doing it to attract as broad an audience as possible and hopefully will make enough money to survive (or more). Unfortunately, there is no right answer to these questions, and no matter what we choose, there are things to be lost and things to be gained. So let’s look at that, shall we?

It’s important to note that as artists, we stand to face criticism for our choice, no matter which way we go. So should we choose option number one, which is to make music for ourselves, the criticism is obvious. We may very well become the target of one of the music critic’s favorite phrases: “self-indulgent.” Dun dun dun! The hardest part of any form of art is trying to please yourself while simultaneously pleasing your audience. Of course, if you can weather the storm of criticism from fans, critics, and casual listeners who occasionally (or frequently) don’t understand what you’re trying to do, this choice undoubtedly promises to be the most personally fulfilling. And perhaps if you’re lucky, what resonates with you will resonate with listeners and it will prove to be financially fulfilling as well.


Guest Spots: Rabbits’ rat-filled allegory of cooperation

Rabbits: Lower FormsRabbits: Lower Forms (Relapse, 2/15/11)

Rabbits: “Duck The Pigs”

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Portland, Oregon-based sludge-rock trio Rabbits isn’t big on accessibility. Its music — heavily distorted, brutally noisy — is polarizing, as the extensive catalog of reviews on the band’s website reveals. Its name — generally stylized in all caps — is topped off with an inverted R on the cover of its newest record, Lower Forms. There’s not much of a back story or many illuminating interviews, so a lot of people don’t seem to “get” Rabbits. If you’re in the camp that believes you don’t really need to know the drummer’s dog’s name to enjoy its music, read on, and see what Rabbits and rats have in common.

Why Rat?
by Rabbits

Rabbits sings songs about science. Science, like philosophy (the two are difficult to disentangle and once were one in the same), is about explaining what goes on in the world. How do we explain Rabbits?  Tricky. We can tell you this: you would not even be reading about Rabbits right now were it not for cooperation that goes on in the Portland punk and metal scene. All for one and one for all. Why do you think Portland has such a long tradition of sick, heavy, scuzzy, musical weirdos? Cooperation. And science has a lot to say about cooperation.

Once upon a time, a man named Axelrod hosted a contest in a computer. You could send in a strategy to play a game called The Prisoners’ Dilemma.  The game is this: Two prisoners arrested for the same crime must each decide whether or not to rat the other out…without knowing what the other will do.  The smartest thing to do is rat if you don’t want to get totally fucked, so both should rat.  But it certainly would be a whole lot cooler if both kept their stupid mouths shut instead of both being good-for-nothing rats.

Sharon Van Etten

Guest Spots: Sharon Van Etten’s ideal drinking partners

Sharon Van Etten: EpicSharon Van Etten: Epic (Ba Da Bing, 9/21/10)

Sharon Van Etten: “Don’t Do It”

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Sharon Van Etten was on the road to becoming a full-blown wine snob. After discovering its magic as a high-school exchange student in Spain, she worked for a time in a wine store and even took classes to increase her vino know-how. Eventually, she decided to pursue music full time instead. The folk singer/songwriter released her second full-length, Epic, late last year. Here, she addresses her passion for wine and explains the five people with which she’d want to share a bottle.

Five People (Living or Dead) I Would Love to Share a Bottle of Wine with and Why
by Sharon Van Etten

The Five People:  Anaïs Nin, Woody Allen, Bill Murray, PJ Harvey, and Rainer Maria Rilke.

The Wine:  A red wine from Bandol in Southeast France. The Mourvèdre grape adds body and spice; the wine embodies the garrigue landscape aromas of lavender, rosemary, licorice, and thyme. Paired with garlic-based dishes such as aioli. Known as one of the five noble wines. France is a country of passion, expression, and class, as are my five guests.

The Bad Plus

Guest Spots: The Bad Plus’ pinewood derby

The Bad Plus: Never StopThe Bad Plus: Never Stop (E1, 9/14/10)

The Bad Plus: “My Friend Metatron”

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Jazz trio The Bad Plus has made a name for itself by reinterpreting popular rock songs and jazz standards in addition to hammering out energetic originals. Unlike its earlier albums, the band’s most recent full-length, Never Stop, consists entirely of Bad Plus compositions. Its unorthodox, avant-garde approach to creative endeavors can be traced back as far as grade school, as this story from drummer Dave King demonstrates.

The Pine Wood Derby
by Dave King of The Bad Plus

In the autumn of 1981, I participated in a Cub Scout event horizon called the Pinewood Derby. Little cars made of pine that had to be assembled from a kit by you alone, not you and your dad.

You were given a block of pine about the size of a walkie-talkie and wheels. You had to carve it in a shape that would allow the car to go fast down a track. You also had to paint it and detail it with racing stripes or personal flair concepts.

I believe there was a manual that was handed out to guide you in the possibly unfamiliar discipline of aerospace engineering. I didn’t read it because I don’t think it actually existed, and my dad refused to help me because he FOLLOWED THE RULES. I pleaded to my parents that I was sure kids were receiving help on the design and carving front because, like any awkward kid, you are aware that your peers that sort of “have it together” are receiving mysterious guidance and LOVE from many sources not as readily available to you. The Cub Scouts is actually an organization wholly devoted to shining a bright light on these deficiencies and dispensing the insecurity thusly.


Guest Spots: Thursday’s list of 10 absurd/wonderful Beatles songs

Thursday: No DevoluciónThursday: No Devolución (Epitaph, 4/12/11)

Thursday: “Magnets Caught in a Metal Heart”

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New Jersey-based post-hardcore band Thursday just released No Devolución, its sixth full-length album and second on Epitaph. The band’s lead singer, Geoff Rickly, is also involved in a side project called United Nations, in which he’s the only officially listed member, due to its various members’ contractual obligations. The music occupies the same hardcore-punk territory as Thursday and features comedic lyrical contributions from Daily Show correspondent Kristen Schaal. Before it was turned away by multiple retailers, its self-titled debut from 2008 originally featured a modified version of The BeatlesAbbey Road cover art. Here, Rickly explains his longtime interest in the Fab Four.

Ten Absurd and Wonderful Songs by The Beatles
by Geoff Rickly

When I was just a boy, my mother would sometimes drop me off at my Nana’s house in Connecticut, kiss me goodbye, and rush off to work.  It was one of my favorite places in the world: the way the sun came through the porch and made patterns on the curtains, the way there were treats of every possible variety (coffee cake, waffles, bacon, etc.), and, most of all, the way that my Nana had no regard for material things like money, possessions, security, or savings accounts.  She would often say to my mother, “Enjoy it, Patty, you can’t take it with you.”

Case in point: my mother’s complete collection of The Beatles’ records.  My Nana saw no harm in letting me play whatever record I wanted on my cheap, blue-and-yellow plastic Fischer Price record player.  It completely broke my Mom’s heart that I ruined those records, but I think she was able to laugh about it proudly when it became clear, many years later, that I was devoting my life to a passion for music.  A passion that started with destroying those records.

Being that I started my love for The Beatles at the age of four, I’ve always been drawn to the most absurd, childlike, and wondrous tracks by the Fab Four.  Here are my favorites.

1. “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!”

Nothing conjures the joy and mania of a grand circus like the multi-ring narrative of “Mr. Kite.”  The wide cast of mysterious characters like Mr. K, Mr. H, Henry the Horse, and the Hendersons dances, sings, and spins its way through Bishop’s gate and hoops of fire, while the band cartwheels through the pomp of a traveling circus band.  The crowning achievement of the song is John Lennon announcing the proceedings in the disaffected eloquence of a tired but consummately professional carnival barker.

Fang Island

Guest Spots: Fang Island on Teenar, Girl Guitar

Fang Island - s/tFang Island: s/t (Sargent House, 2/23/10)

Fang Island: “Sideswiper”

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Fang Island, with its three-guitar attack and lightning-fast riffs, knows a few things about shredding. Logic dictates that it also knows a fair amount about guitars. For guitarist Nicholas Sadler, there’s one axe in particular that stands out: a weirdly human girl-guitar of mysterious origins. In this piece penned for ALARM, Sadler laments the fact that he didn’t conceive of the musical mannequin first and goes on to explain what exactly makes Teenar so magical.

I Wish I Had Thought of This First: Teenar, Girl Guitar
By Nick Andrew Sadler

Teenar, Girl Guitar

My name is Nick Sadler, and though I hate guitar players, I love guitars. This one is a work of mad genius. Here is Teenar, my dream guitar, at what could be a middle-school, father-daughter dance with her pervert-savant creator / daddy,  “Sunset” Lou Reimuller. I am absolutely enamored with Teenar, and I really wish that I had thought of this first.

Teenar is totally baller, outfitted from head to toe in vintage clothing, without arms, ahead of her time with a set of fiery Beavis-legs, and sporting a smart, belly-thru-body guitar that peeks out from behind her bodacious, above-the-knee, low-cut denim skirt. Cute! Teenar, Girl Guitar also has 21 frets on a beautiful blond neck that has been carefully integrated into her never-developing torso, two skin-colored, single-coil pickups that straddle her rock-hard bellybutton, and a fleshy six-string, yummy-tummy bridge, just like the one that my big sis got when she moved out of the house and began dating [Mikey] “Bug” [Cox] from Coal Chamber.


Guest Spots: Implodes’ sonic-phenomena counterparts

Implodes: Black Earth Implodes: Black Earth (Kranky, 4/20/11)

Implodes: “Marker”

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According to Chicago-based drone-rock band Implodes, its new album, Black Earth, is inspired by a “haunted and magical place,” where “there’s an old barn there with many rooms and a silo that’s filled with dead insects.” With a wealth of slow-moving melodies and dark guitar murmuring tangled in a web of reverb, it’s an aptly creepy description. The Psycho-esque cover art does an equally effective job of communicating the record’s paradoxical beauty and gloom.

All four members of the band answered this question for ALARM: what natural sonic phenomenon best describes your role in Implodes?

Implodes’ Sonic-Phenomena Counterparts
by Implodes

Emily Elhaj:

Naturally, I would hope my sound could be likened to an avalanche. The indistinct rumble of packed snow sliding down a mountain’s façade seems to complement the booming nature and tone of my playing. The sounds are heavy yet mobile.

Justin Rathell:

The world around me has a remarkable way of translating very easily into percussive rhythms, tapping on my ears, begging me to follow along. Playing in Implodes often reminds me of just a couple of choice moments, much darker moments in my times experimenting with hallucinogens.  Times where I was stricken with such overwhelming paranoia that I found myself focusing on the quietest, most isolated sounds.  Sounds that began to grow louder and louder, drowning out other foreground noise that, in reality, was much more prominent. Sometimes, I was hearing the pulse in my neck or the beat of my own heart.  It sounded like drums to me.  It was somehow comforting. Everything else, even my other senses would dull.  Except I think I could see my pulse; it would move the air.

The One AM Radio

Guest Spots: The One AM Radio on self-portraiture

The One AM Radio: Heaven is Attached by a Slender ThreadThe One AM Radio: Heaven Is Attached By A Slender Thread (Dangerbird, 4/12/11)

The One AM Radio: “Sunlight”

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LA-based multi-instrumentalist Hrishikesh Hirway is the force behind dream-pop band The One AM Radio. On the day before his new album, Heaven Is Attached By A Slender Thread, is released to the world, Hirway took the chance to get introspective with ALARM. Below, he explores the alignment (or misalignment) of various expectations and realities, including those of his own songwriting process, through the lens of self-portraiture.

On Self-Portraiture
by Hrishikesh Hirway (The One AM Radio)

Everyone confronts this question every day: how do I present myself to the world? This process is so ubiquitous and so fundamental that it often goes unnoticed, a blip in the subconscious. But when dealing with any work that’s declared to be a self-portrait, the process of figuring out who you think you are, and how you want to reveal that to others, becomes paramount.

For my new record, I wanted to make a conscious effort to step away from the adjectives that were often used to describe my music: somber, melancholy, introspective, East Coast. I thought, “I’d like to make something buoyant, happy, fun, LA. Dance music.” When the record was done, I realized that I hadn’t accomplished that at all. There was a huge divide between what I thought I could make and what actually came out.


Guest Spots: Fredrik’s exotic botanical tour

Fredrik: FloraFredrik: Flora (The Kora, 4/12/11)

Fredrik: “Rites of Spring”

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Fredrik is an experimental folk-pop band from Malmö, Sweden. On its newest album, the simply titled, elegantly crafted Flora, layers of organic instrumentation meet dark, thundering electronic elements. As its name alludes, it was recorded in the band’s own “ramshackle garden studio.” In this piece for ALARM, the band decided to go to an eccentric local flower store to explore the theme of its new album.

The Flowers of Flora
by Fredrik

As you may or may not know, we are Fredrik, a band from Sweden. We’ll be releasing our third album soon called Flora. People have started describing it as being about “things that grow.” Fair enough. But we always start out building on dream stuff and freewheeling association. So when a music journalist recently asked us, “Dewds, which flower is this record about?” we sort of didn’t agree.

One of us said, “All of them.” The other person said, “The ones that grow in darkness.” Third person said, “It isn’t.” So, to settle the confusion, we figured that we’d find out for real. In our neighbourhood in Malmö, there’s a really old, strange flower store that literally has 10,000 varieties of exotic plants (allegedly the biggest collection in the whole of Europe). So we headed there, intent on finding the all-star representative of this album’s alt-conscious musical theme. Here’s the top 15.

The Flower Store

The store entrance

15. Some damn orchid

Some damn orchid

Okay. Thank you. Nice. But here’s one for the record: orchids are for wimps.


Guest Spots: Antonionian’s top forthcoming film scores

Antonionian: AntonionianAntonionian: Antonionian (Anticon, 3/15/11)

Antonionian: “Into the Night”

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Antonionian, a.k.a. Anticon affiliate and multi-instrumentalist Jordan Dalyrmple, is known for his drumming and production work with Subtle, General Elektriks, and 13 & God. His solo-project name, Antonionian, is inspired by Italian cinema auteur Michelangelo Antonioni. In this piece, penned exclusively for ALARM, Dalrymple picks four upcoming film releases to watch and, more specifically, hear.

Four Forthcoming Film Scores
by Antonionian

1. Cosmopolis by Howard Shore

The general public might know him from the Lord of the Rings movies or, more recently, the Twilight series, but to me, Howard Shore‘s most compelling work has been in collaboration with director David Cronenberg. Starting with The Brood in 1979, Shore helped introduce the “body horror” genre with his dissonant orchestration and spooky synth washes. Videodrome and Naked Lunch wouldn’t be the surreal classics they have become without his otherworldly aural vision. I’m very interested to hear and see what the duo does with a Don Delillo adaptation. Info at


Guest Spots: Disappears explains its key components

Disappears: GuiderDisappears: Guider (Kranky, 1/17/11)

Disappears: “Halo”

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Chicago-based rock band Disappears feels pigeonholed. After having just released its second album, Guider, in January, the same words seem to keep popping up like shampoo instructions in various descriptions of its music: echo, fuzz, psych, kraut. The terms aren’t off base, but the band would like to think that it has a few different tricks up its sleeve. Here to address this limited vocabulary, vocalist Brian Case (formerly of The Ponys and 90 Day Men) breaks down the most recycled lingo while explaining the band’s key elements.

The Basic Elements of Disappears’ Music
by Disappears

Roland Space Echo

Used by everyone from King Tubby to KISS, the Roland Space Echo (specifically the RE-201) is a not-so-secret weapon for us. Every vocal track this band has ever recorded has been run through one of these — as well as every instruments on our recordings at one point or another. The RE-201 is a simple system in which a small loop of tape records an incoming signal and immediately plays the recorded sound back over a couple playback heads before being erased over by new incoming audio. Being an analog-tape effect, the results are usually unpredictable. It’s the cool sounds you hear on dub records and the crazy sci-fi sounds in Twilight Zone episodes. We try and tastefully split the difference, although I really want our next record to be super dubbed out, so we’ll see.