Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Fleshtones: The Well-Rounded Radio Interview

The Fleshtones have been making amazing music for more than thirty years, starting off amid the CBGB's scene of the mid 70s in New York City (with the Talking Heads, Blondie, Patti Smith, The Ramones, Richard Hell and The Voidoids, Television, etc.), starting as a garage band with a lot of soul and ultimately merging into a sound they call Super Rock, which they describe as “a greasy ball of sonic and cultural influences ranging in feel from R&B, disco, and Lost In Space to garage, frat rock, and Mexican horror flicks.”

The current band members include Ken Fox on bass and vocals, Bill Milhizer on drums and vocals, Keith Streng on guitar and vocals, and Peter Zaremba on lead vocals, harmonica, and organ. The Fleshtones were also recently immortalized in print with the release of Sweat: The Story of the Fleshtones, America’s Garage Band (Continuum Books, 2007) by Joe Bonomo. The book is a fascinating read about The Fleshtones, taking you from their origins in Whitestone, New York in the 1970s through a variety of members who have played in the band, countless tours and albums, and up to the present. So, if you want the full story, do yourself a favor and read this book.

I saw The Fleshtones dozens of times while growing up in New York and every show was a blast. Suffice to say, The Fleshtones should have been huge (and still should), but they’ve had their share of bad breaks and ill timing (i.e., not playing whatever’s in vogue at the moment…they play timeless rock and roll instead with great songs to boot!). Fleshtones fans are rabid though, and that should tell you something about their power to connect once you do get turned on to their music and live shows. As their press release says, “They survived punk rock, new wave, no wave, neo garage, post-punk, grunge, and more neo garage, never succumbing to temporary trendiness, scornful laughter, or non-alcoholic beer.”

Vindicated! A Tribute to The Fleshtones was released in the fall of 2007 on vinyl by Larsen Records (France) and on CD by Dirty Water Records (U.K.). The album features 22 international bands (including Hoodoo Gurus, the Nomads & Handsome Dick Manitoba, the Slickee Boys, the Woggles, the Swingin' Neckbreakers, Richard Mazda, and others) covering songs spanning the Fleshtones' career.

The band has more than twenty albums to their name, and every one is a keeper. Some of my favorites include Roman Gods (1982, IRS Records), Hexbreaker (1983, IRS Records), Beautiful Light (1994, Naked Language/Ichiban Records), Laboratory of Sound (1995, Ichiban Records) to the more recent Do You Swing? and Beachhead (2003 and 2006 respectively, both on YepRoc Records). For a full discography, visit their Wikipedia page.

Their new album, Take a Good Look!, was released in late January 2008 and is also on YepRoc Records. Recorded with Jim Diamond (White Stripes, The Mooney Suzuki) at Ghetto Recorder in Detroit and in the New York City’s Lower East Side at Ivan Julian’s (guitarist/bassist in Richard Hell and The Voidoids, Isley Brothers, Matthew Sweet, Shriekback) N.Y. Hed studio.

Zaremba explains the new album’s title: “’Take a good look!’ was one of Gordon Spaeth’s favorite tag lines whenever the Fleshtones were attracting unwanted (but usually warranted) attention, which was often!” Spaeth played sax in the band for years, but passed away in 2005. Per the band, "his mock-serious, cocksure attitude is alive and well in the 21st century, as The Fleshtones offer a dozen all-original tunes testifying to pride, perseverance, and sweaty good times."

The band is out on tour, with stops in March in New Haven, Boston, Providence, Baton Rouge, San Antonio, Austin, Houston, and New Orleans and in May in France, Germany, Italy, and Holland. Check out some live songs and videos of the band including Soul City, American Beat, American Beat video (from the movie Bachelor Party), Shadowline, Teenage Zombie, Right Side of a Good Thing, Hexbreaker + The Theme from the Vindicators, Jump, Jive, and Harmonize, Let's Go, Take a Walk with The Fleshtones, Accelerated Emotion, Beautiful Light, Hitsburg USA, Hard Lovin' Man, Push Up Man, The Theme From The Vindicators, Let's Get Serious, Double Dip, and a behind the scenes on the new CD, Take a Good Look.

The band also released a live DVD of a Paris performance Brooklyn à Paris! Live at La Maroquinerie DVD (Big Enough) in 2006.

I recently met with Zaremba in Brooklyn, New York to discuss:
* what it is that keeps the band going strong, 30+ years in
* how their new CD, Take a Good Luck!, was recorded and what sets it apart from many of their past albums
* how the band has responded to the various garage band revivals over the years

Photo by Anne Streng

Peter recommends The 45s, The Cynics, The Sons of Hercules, The Ugly Beats, The Maggots, The Nomads, and The Hoodoo Gurus.

Well-Rounded Radio recommends Karmafan, Tourfilter, and audio and video podcasts and webcasts from The Future of Music Coalition.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Well-Rounded Radio Mix 006

Happy February, everyone...

Well-Rounded Radio sixth Mix show includes Bedouin Soundclash, Ronnda Cadle, The Dave Kain Group, Ecce Hobo, Caitlin Frame, Gillian Grassie, Marco Mahler, Anne Roos, Post Oak Savannah, Eli “Paperboy” Reed, The Silver Lining, Devon Sproule, Stepladder, and The United Steelworkers of Montreal.

For all 15 artists on this show who wanted to share their music with you, consider buying their music, whether it’s on a shiny piece of plastic or as a digital file. Buy a t-shirt or a hat or whatever schwag they’re selling. Go see them live or make friends with them at myspace and last.fm or mog.com or wherever. Tell a friend about them and share your good taste in music. Sign up to their email list or subscribe to an RSS feed. And tell them Well-Rounded Radio sent you if you can. The way the music business works is changing drastically by the day. Support the music you like and love and help change it.

Well-Rounded Radio recommends checking out Karmafan and Tourfilter.com.

1) Stephan Catenacci’s Helga's Song is a beautiful piece of acoustic music in the spirit of John Fahey or Leo Kottke, but some of the other music on his CD Anubis 2 includes some more progressive and psychedelic sounds than you might expect after hearing this track.

2) Eli Paperboy Reed releases his second album, Roll with You on Q Division Records in March 2008 and this track is It's Easier. We'll have an interview with Reed on Well-Rounded Radio when its released and you can hear how this artist in his early 20s has absorbed so much about the blues and soul and is making a splash with his music that echos back to an earlier era.

3) The Silver Lining were produced by Tony Goddess of Papa Fritas fame and is also in The Rudds, who I interviewed here on Well-Rounded Radio. Their album Well Dressed Blues has a wonderful sound that makes me think of The Mamas and the Papas, Fairport Convention, or the soundtrack from Hair. This song is In the Future.

4) Stepladder's debut album is Nice Guys Finish and this song is Balance Beam. Stepladder is a Boston band featuring Aaron Belyea on guitars and vocals, Chris Burns on drums, and Bill Fallon on bass. The CD also is a who's who of Boston musicians who also contributed to the release of well-crafted power pop.

5) Post Oak Savannah is from Powderly, Texas and their track Sixteen Miles is a great5 example of their sound from their debut, meshing the sounds of country, Americana, and rock.

6) Devon Sproule album is Keep Your Silver Shined and co-released by Brooklyn's City Salvage Records and Chicago's Waterbug Records. It's a strong album throughout.

8) Marco Mahler's Design in Quick Rotation is also very strong album, much of which was written while he was also working on revitalizing a log cabin in the Appalachian foothills. This song is called Study Airports.

9) Ronnda Cadle is from Decatur, Georgia and The River Run is a strong album of guitar instrumentals in the spirit of John Fahey.

10) Caitlin Frame's Give In comes from The Basic EP. Frame is a Boston artist who taught herself guitar, drums, and piano as a teen and later attended Berklee School of Music in Boston, MA.

11) Ann Roos's Who Can Sail Without the Wind? is from her Mermaids and Mariners CD, which spotlights her beautiful Celtic harp playing and Dorothy Hawkinson's fiddle playing.

12) The Dave Kain Group's A Moment in Time reflects this jazz quartet's sound from the album Citizen Kane. The group is from the New York area and Dave Kain fronts the group on guitar.

13) Bedouin Soundclash's 12:59 Lullaby is a beautiful track from the band's album Street Gospel, which was released by Side One Dummy Records. The album was recorded in Toronto by bass player Darryl Jenifer of the Bad Brains and mixed by Paul Kolderie.

14) United Steel Workers of Montreals' Kerosene and Coal was released by Weewerk Records in Canada and this track of wonderful old timey music is called Enile Bertrand.

15) Gillian Grassie also plays harp, infusing some other modern trip-hop sounds into her songs, on her EP To An Unwitting Muse, which I think is a most promising release. This track is The Surface.

16) Ecce Hobo is from the Seattle, Washington area and this song is Calling My Own Name. Where the Devil Dances is another impressive album and the band cites its influences as The Kinks, Brian Eno, Syd Barrett, and Roxy Music.