Archive for October, 2009

Portugal. The Man interview (2)

October 6, 2009

Source: Absolutepunk.net

An album a year is quite a task, but when each album brings something new to the table, and each one having its own stellar sound, it’s crazy to think that Portugal. The Man are already on their fourth. While out on tour supporting The Satanic Satanist, vocalist/guitarist John Gourley took time out to do an e-mailer for us, and he discusses his influences, fans, and insane packaging.

The last time we talked, you seemed really adamant about making an album like The Beatles’ Abbey Road. How close do you think you got to do doing that this time?

Well, coming off of Censored Colors I actually wanted to avoid it to an extent. We had already pushed for that with the second half of that album by blending songs and pairing moods and parts. Censored Colors more than anything gave me a better understanding of our songwriting as well as a slight confidence boost in writing with major scales as opposed to minors. With The Satanic Satanist I really wanted to focus that and really write something with substance, something that had really shaped me and, as always, something that represented where I come from and the communities we were raised in. It has brought us closer to the song. The basics of everything and gave me a much bigger respect for what it is to pick and choose and really perfect each piece. There is a definite science and formula to songwriting that you almost have to remove yourself from for it to really make sense. The Beatles did that in the most massive ways. I’m not sure if that makes sense…

There also is a Motown and Stax Records feel to the album. Explanation?

Oldies radio. That is all we had growing up. It was family, and it was pure happiness. I wouldn’t say I had any real specifics in mind while writing. It is just what happens when you put a groove behind a song and really have fun with it. It’s all about the movement.

The Satanic Satanist has a stronger cohesive vibe than the band’s last album, Censored Colors, which was the best flowing piece of work in the band’s catalog thus far. Did the songs shape up that way, or were they created separate, or did the flow of the album come after the track listing was finalized?

There was always a finished piece in mind. The idea was to write a “pop” album in every sense. Be sure of lyrical and subject flow from song to song and to maintain the same sonically. I really hate that “pop” has such a bad rap, but I do see where it comes from. It is the science. It’s the formula. The lack of soul. As I mentioned earlier, the idea was to forget the formula and do what felt best and write about what we know. That is where the Beatles had it made. They really lived it no matter how sappy or how dark…. I also really hate talking about the Beatles right now with that Rock Band shit being out. I hear them everywhere. I also hate that I really love the remastered versions. They sound amazing.

Who had the idea of The Majestic Majesty? Was there just rollover studio time, or did you feel that those songs deserved a strip down feel? In all honesty, I’d like to see an acoustic version of the entire P.TM catalog.

Our manager had been talking about doing that for a long time. We have been doing acoustic videos with Graham Baclagon for the past 3 albums and have plans to continue on into the future of the band. It really just made sense. My favorite part of the Majestic Majesty is that we honestly just went in and did it. We booked time with Casey Bates and spent a few hours there just jamming it out. We had never played them acoustic, or electric for that matter, together.

Could we see a compilation of all the band’s live acoustic videos in the future, especially all the songs shot in Europe for Censored Colors?

We are always planning ahead. I’m sure Rich (manager) has plenty of ideas on that, but he is all about patience. Keeping me grounded on all that when I constantly want to record and release. It will take some time. How much better would it be in three years with four more albums worth done in the same style? Could be cool.

With the band’s impressive vinyl catalog, both domestic and import, can we expect to see a limited pressing of The Majestic Majesty?

There are no plans at the moment for that. May be another thing for the distant future. I assume we will do a few more and possibly do a series for it or package them all together. Given pace continues, we will have plenty to work with down the road.

The tangible design for the record is incredible. Was this something you’ve been itching to do because of how well the packaging for Censored Colors came out? Where did the inspiration come from to put it together, or was it directly related to your art?

The idea had been around for a while and was something I have been throwing at Austin Sellers for the past few albums. It was always just so out of reach financially. We really had to sit down and find ways to cut corners and make it work. Austin deserves all the credit for that. I just had an idea but he is the one who executed that plan. He is a great partner in all of this and he and I work great together.

Last month you gave away the raw files to the artwork of the album and told people to come up with their own works, a remix if you will. What has been the response to this? Anything inspire you yet, or simply blew you away?

Always. I really love to see what others would do and it has had a great response. Good work!

Your words about the leak of TSS were great. After posting them, was there any personal backlash toward you or the band, or was it overwhelmingly positive?

The people that support this band are of the best, and I feel like they truly understand why we do this and that we love music in every way. In the end there really can’t be a backlash. It is our personal feelings and choices and opinions on the subject. No matter what this band does it will always be for the greater good of the band and we choose to share ourselves with everyone and anyone who cares to be a part of this. Music is my life. It is what I live for and you can expect that I will personally do what is best for this band and my friends and the people around us. I truly appreciate all we have been given and understand how these things come off when bands speak out. Thank you all. You are so very appreciated.

The limited deluxe pre-order sold out though. Does that create a warm feeling for the band to know there exist at least 150 die-hard fans out there?

It is amazing and they are very fun to put together. It is something limited to those who really want them. I felt bad we made so few, due to the quick response, but these things are so much better to keep small. Really great.

The band’s live shows are incredible. Can we expect some more covers for the upcoming tour? Thanks for the “Helter Skelter” cover in New Orleans by the way.

First of all, thank you! Very kind words. We have been doing “Moonage Daydream” by David Bowie as well as a couple other surprises. Little reference points here and there, and fun for us to play. Some spaced out jams as well. We just do what we do.

Anything else you’d like to say to the readers of AP.net? Bands to watch out for?

You have all done so much for us and have always been there. Thank you for that. Drug Rug is amazing, listen to them. Hello Electric is amazing, listen to them. Fever Ray, The Flaming Lips, Menomena… The Flaming Lips are quickly becoming my favorite band of all time. If it weren’t for Pink Floyd and The Beatles they would be a sure bet. Just fun.

Andrew McMahon (Jack’s Mannequin) interview

October 6, 2009

Source: Absolutepunk.net

In about a month, Andrew McMahon will release “Dear Jack,” a documentary featuring raw footage shot during his fight with Acute Lymphatic Leukemia. McMahon recently talked about seeing the footage for the first time, his struggle with getting back on stage, and possible Something Corporate reunion shows in the future. As a Leukemia survivor myself, we talked a bit about our similar treatments.

You told Paul Tao back at the end of 2007 that the footage (that would become Dear Jack) was just shot to be shot, and that it was initially hard to watch. With the release coming up in a month, are you hesitant, whatsoever, to finally surface this footage?

I have mixed feelings about it…I’m proud of it on a couple of levels. It came together from a lot of people around me, and the filmmakers who put their time in and worked on edits for a couple of years now. I think it’s a really good movie [Laughs] you know, I mean, it’s a little bit easier to be objective with some time behind me – these guys have just done a really amazing job telling the story. I feel like a part of me is a pretty private person. I say a lot in my songs, and I’ve been pretty forthcoming since the experience and being in the hospital, but I still consider myself as a pretty private guy. I think that [the DVD] really shows how I live, or how I lived, and how I got through this in such a personal way – really just my personal home movies. Yeah, there’s a part of me that gets nervous putting that much of myself out there. I try and hold true to the tenants of why we started the private movie in the first place. One, to show people the reality and, I think, the truth of what it’s like to be in that situation from a very personal angle, and also the idea that it would instill some hope in people, that there is something positive and wonderful on the other side, that if you keep your head in it and do everything to get yourself better.

When was the first time you sat down and plugged the camera in and watched the footage? Looking back at the footage on Dear Jack, was it hard?

The first time I saw…well…we saw an initial, very rough edit, you know, that’s just catalog footage essentially. It was sort of scatterbrained enough that I was like, “Wow, I can’t believe I shot that,” but it hadn’t really been woven together in a story at that point. The first time I really saw it, I can’t even pinpoint the date, but I want to say it was sometime in early 2007, I remember we went to [director] Corey Moss’ house…a bunch of us went over there and watched it at his house. It wasn’t finished…I remember sitting there and watching it, and it was pretty intense, and it sort of put me in a pretty strange head space. It was kind of the first time seeing all the stuff pieced together…I shot most of the footage myself, and so much of it was my perspective. I remember I woke up the following morning sick [Laughs], well not actually sick, but in a psychosomatic kind of way. My body felt like it was back in that time and place, and it sort of spoke of the power of the footage, just seeing things through my own eyes again really kind of put me back there.That said, a couple years have passed. Now I see it and appreciate it for how well it was put together and what it represents.

Have you watched it with family, and if so, what was their reaction?

My wife has seen it, and at this point, that is it. The last week that we were editing and putting together the last cuts. I’ve been pretty guarded about not showing this to anybody until it’s finished. They’re having a lot of edits, and they’re having a lot of different versions come out, timing the one we’re really happy with it. So I think in the next week or so I will distribute it out to my family and some of my close friends for them to see.

How did Tommy Lee get picked to narrate the movie?

There’s a lot of reasons. When we went and looked back at a lot of the footage…to be clear, the way this whole thing happened, it spun out, [was that] we got a camera during the making of the [Everything in] Transit sessions. Six months before, when we looked back at a lot of the footage, we were working a lot at the time, both on his record and on mine, he was in a lot of the footage. [Laughs] He was sort of a big part of that period of time in my life. In some ways I think he represented a symbol of that period of time. I was going out with him fairly regularly, I was spending a lot of time in the studio with him, and I was just partying and having an amazing time. That was sort of the backdrop for when I got pulled off the road all of a sudden. We saw him in a lot of the footage, and we knew we needed a narrator, and it was kind of like, “Do we go hunting down a guy to do voice over work?” or, you know, we got a buddy that happens to be a big celebrity who actually was really involved and really a part of this period of time in our lives and also happens to have a very cool, recognizable voice. So it was like, Tommy Lee is like our Morgan Freeman. He’s the dude who will hopefully bring a little bit of celebrity in the story – maybe perks up a couple of people’s ears who don’t necessarily know what we’re about, but checks us out because Tommy is involved – you know, he’s a good friend.

I’m a Leukemia survivor as well, but with my condition, I had ALA Leukemia, essentially spawning defective white blood cells, but you had a strand called Acute Lymphoblasic Leukemia, or ALL. Medical jargon aside, can you explain what was going on with your body?

Effectively, my body was taken over by cancer cells that were, to my understanding, I had defective bone marrow. Your bone marrow is where you process a lot of cells and shoots those cells out to the body. What happened to me, or how it lays out on paper, if you were to look at a score of my blood counts, from hemoglobin to – sorry to get technical, but all the different components of blood – everything was being processed through a cancerous organism apparently. All of my blood counts were going down to nothing…Every component of my blood was effected because all the cancer cells completely destroyed all the blood in my body. The treatment that I had with Leukemia is to essentially kill all the cancerous blood cells so you can generate new ones, but because it’s in the bone marrow, you have to fix the problem at the source…so that’s why we chose to do the transplant.

I had a transplant as well, and several spinal taps too. I take it you went through the same radiation?

When I started the [the treatment of possible prolonged chemotherapy to eventually get into remission], what ended up happening is that I that I had a match, and my doctor felt my odds for survival would be better should I be able to get through the process of the transplant, so we went for that. The preparation for that is pretty huge amounts of radiation, brain radiation, body radiation for several days, and I did really heavy, high doses of chemotherapy that just kills everything in your body, and then sort of brings you back to life. You know, you’ve been through it. I got that really specialized ass kicking from the docs, because that’s what you have to do to prepare for the transplant.

Was there any point in that time where you felt like, “Why did this happen to me?” or “How could this have happened?” or was it always a positive uphill battle with yourself and your friends and family?

Definitely. There were definitely moments when you have questions. I think i was able to make peace with it quickly. I don’t know if the “Why me?” thing really came into play during my illness as much as “Why do I hurt so bad?” [Laughs] And I mean, I think there was a part of me that felt upset that I couldn’t be out, and I got plucked, if felt like, at a certain important time in my life. There was a point that, even really more after the fact, and after the recovery. During it, there was sort of this, bizarre coincidence. So many things happened at the period of time that I found out I was sick, that I seemed to weave this whole picture together. I looked back at [Everything in Transit], I think I was living, at that period of time in my life, in a very serendipitous kind of way. There were so many things were just coming together for me and the world was just working, and I was listening to the universe, I was just trying to follow the path that would lead me to the best music, but you know I felt so tied in and keyed into the universe, that when I got sick, in a strange way, that’s just what was supposed to happen. Listening back to the album, and hearing all those references to hospitals and being sick, I think there was a lot of serendipity in a way that I found out I was sick. You almost felt like it was meant to happen. Something about it felt like, “I’m the guy for this,” like it was just meant to happen – not something out of anger, like I was meant to be punished – but something about it felt like, “I’m the guy for this, this is what I have to deal with now.” So I did, and I dealt with it peacefully. You have these moments where you feel worried you’re going to die, then you really get scared. Those moments are hard to be consoled, even if you are treating yourself in a positive way.

Looking back on those years, I know it’s cliche, but do you feel stronger because of it? Did it give you a fresh look on life that carried over into your song writing?

It’s not to say that I don’t feel like a stronger person. I feel as my life continues on, this will have made me stronger inherently. The couple years following my recovery, I felt anything but strong, I think I felt really fragile, kind of like I was drifting a little bit, even into the making of [The Glass] Passenger. [That album] really came about the struggle to find my confidence as a musician again. The struggle to find my confidence as a writer and as an artist. I think the cancer stripped a lot of that away from me. I think the follow-up to this, [besides] my struggle with Leukemia, is my struggle to get back to that place where I felt like I was working with the world around me, making songs. I finally feel like I’m there. I think making Passenger and getting this documentary done and doing all these things are really an influential stepping stone in getting back to this place where I can put all this shit behind me and move along. I think I’m finally at that place…I think it took a lot away from me in some respects. I think all the things I’ve replaced are better, stronger parts and are slowly coming back. Most of my “Why me?” and most of my anger about being sick happened in the years following [my remission].

How has The Dear Jack Foundation been going? What’s been the feedback?

It’s been great. We’ve been able to fund a lot of big research…We’ve raised about $200,000 if not more than that at this point, going towards various research projects. Medical research is a tricky thing. We’re not going to be able to sit there and quantify every sucess. In general, having your money go towards these doctors that are spending day in and day out to get to the bottom of things, you might fund research that didn’t work, and that’s a part of what they found out. This doesn’t work, then you go on to the next one. Our goal is to continue to fund that research, and help supporting doctors, so they can find cures. It’s been a great success. I feel it has really roused a lot of people together in a name of a great cause. We’re a little foundation. We don’t generate millions of dollars, but you know, we’ve made a few hundred thousand dollars in the course of a few years, and I feel really proud to do my part.

Going out on tour for the first time after the recovery, what was your initial feeling? How long did it take for someone who went through the same thing to come up to you, and what was your response? Was it overwhelming?

The first time I talked to another person, a fan, it was probably a few months following the transplant. I started to feel better enough to do these kind of “incubated” shows, kind of acoustic, kind of things to give me hope, give me something to train for, get my body back, get my health back, kind of working with the transplant to feel better. That’s when I started to see people reaching out. It’s intense. It’s sort of a weird responsibility to council somebody who is sick, or is in a dangerous spot in their own life. I think that’s something where there’s a feeling to look after other people who don’t feel well after you’ve gone through something like that. You sort of are happy to step in and say, “Well, this worked for me, and try to stay positive,” and I sort of think that’s the natural response to recovery is to reach out to those who are in the process themselves. So it happened pretty early. Playing those initial shows, there were mix feelings. A lot of it came with nerves, because you were wondering if you would get sick before you do the show, or if my voice would hold – those kinds of things. I think if I’d recover, my performance would recover too. I didn’t think I’d come out swinging, jumping on the piano [Laughs] and waving my body for the first several months down the road, but you can certainly chart my progress physically through my shows in a lot of respects. You would probably see my shows getting a lot more active as I recovered.

If there’s one thing you specifically learned from your experience, that you would want to pass down onto all your fans, what would it be?

Not to say I am any sort of authority. A lot of people have idealized my situation, because I play music and am somewhat of a public figure. If I could say anything, if I’ve learned anything from it – you never know what’s coming for you. I don’t say that to instill any sort of paranoia, but the point being, you don’t’ know that you might not wake up tomorrow, and it’s you or your friend, or some other possible road block that you might not know happen. You try and make sure that your day to day that you’re living, not to that you are prepared for something like that, but you’re living in a way that would make you okay with it. That could mean a lot of different things to a lot of people. For me, it’s as simple as trying to live a life as a kind person, and doing things that I’m proud of, and looking after the people that I love in my life, and being as connected to the things and people that hold you in and are special to me. Trying to live a life that you’re psyched on. Know that it’s not always going to be around, so you might as well enjoy yourself. That you might as well be in a place where you reconcile enough that you can enjoy life a little, because none of us know what’s happening next. Just live in the moment, that’s all I can say. Try to be present in the moment, because the past and the future really don’t exist.

Oh yeah, and I’m sure people are wondering, any new Something Corporate news, or do some of us just need to move on?

[Laughs] I think everyone should move on with their lives, because we shouldn’t get hung up on a rock band. [Laughs] The only way to answer that question is to be as cautious as possible, because I’ve definitely gotten myself in trouble both in Something Corporate world and Jack’s Mannequin world by thinking I know what’s coming next. It almost speaks in some way to the last question you asked me, which is the past and the future don’t exist. I don’t know what my tomorrow is going to bring. At the moment, in my head, I think it’s a realistic possibility that we will go out and play some shows. When I say some, I doubt it will be a full scale tour. In the interest of living my life in the moment, I have to be open to just writing new songs, and being around a lot of what inspires me artistically. That said, the Something Corporate guys are my close, close friends. We still have maintained a very close friendship even though we’ve moved on with other things in our lives. I think, because we have moved on to other things in our lives, the idea of getting together and getting on a stage and playing music does not seem far fetched to us. I will not anticipate that anything that happens, whether we play a few shows or whatever, is going to indicate us making new music. If I could suggest moving on from that head space, I would move on. If people want to see Something Corporate and check out a few shows, I think it is highly possible. I can’t say when, because it’s not on the books. There are discussions, but they’re not on the books. I’m just going to have to wait until the dates show up to talk about it. So bare with me. [Laughs]

Chad Johnson (Come&Live! Records) interview

October 6, 2009

Source: Absolutepunk.net

For anyone who doesn’t know of your resume, can you run down a brief history of how you got started in the business, and your time with Tooth and Nail Records, up until Come&Live! Records?

Sure. My career in the music business started a long way from anything glorious or exciting. I was fresh out of college, newly married, and decided I’d use some of our wedding money to print up a thousand 7″ vinyl records for a band that was no longer even together (bad move # 1). I was working for a moving company, where I daily dreamt of doing something with music. I started a small distro (Slacker66) on the side where I began selling records at various local shows. Eventually Slacker66 became an actual storefront that served as a record store, skateboard shop and live music venue. Out of that venue came multiple “finds,” including Underoath. One of my fondest memories from the Slacker-era was the Jimmy Eat World/At The Drive-In/Twothirtyeight show. JEW were touring on “Clarity” and a whopping 90 kids showed up, I recall a couple of them having laptops (which was HUGE back then), and they gave me a copy of the first edition Clarity release on vinyl. I had launched Takehold Records by this time and was beginning to face the many challenges of single-handedly trying to run a record label, sans any music or business experience. Takehold survived nearly 3 years before I found myself in nearly $115,000 worth of credit debt. I had released 30 different albums and none of them were selling much more than a couple thousand copies, at the most. The first Underoath release sold about 3,000 copies with the second selling nearly 4,000, never would I have guessed their future success. Reality set in, and I knew there was no hope of digging myself out of the huge pit of debt I was in. My wife and I literally got down on our knees and asked God for a miracle. That prayer was answered – within a week – in the form of a miracle by the name of Brandon Ebel. We began talking about the idea of Takehold being purchased by Tooth and Nail/SolidState, and then moving my family and I up to Seattle. I fondly remember those early conversations as he began to realize what kind of a mess I was in. I still consider it a total miracle of God’s grace that six months later I was able to pay off all my debt and begin working a job in Seattle.

The opportunity Brandon and the T&N team gave me was the wind I had been waiting for. What began as a collage of roles being played at the Nail, quickly turned the corner towards a more direct focus on A&R (Artists&Repertoire/Airplanes&Restaurants). Underoath, twothirtyeight, and fewleftstanding had come along with me from the Takehold days. None of them were initially taking off, and due to a variety of circumstances, I soon found myself working with my old friends in Further Seems Forever and mewithoutYou. It wasn’t long before I had my hands full in the A&R world. The team at T&N began to grow, and Brandon brought in a few key players that really made it their passion to help develop all these 2nd wave artists. T&N began to see great success as countless bands were beginning to explode. The highlight for me came in early 2004 when I first heard 9 demos that Underoath had recorded with Matt Goldman. As soon as I heard those songs I knew something big was about to happen but I certainly did not expect the enormous growth that took place once They’re Only Chasing Safety was released.

I was with T&N nearly 7 years when I began to lose my passion for working with artists under the existing business model. It was becoming increasingly difficult to “break” bands, and it seemed expectations on the part of the artists were at an all-time high as they were still looking at all our past success and wondering why the same was not happening for them. Beyond the business challenge, I had been enduring a mental/spiritual battle over where I was in life. I was making great money, had a nice home, wonderful family, awesome job, and very few worries. But, in the midst of it, I felt a deep calling that I had not felt since I was in college. I grew up in a Christian family but walked away from faith in Jesus for a few years before dropping to my knees and admitting I needed help. At the height of my career with T&N I was also reading a couple of books (“Irresistible Revolution” by Shane Claiborne and “Don’t Waste Your Life” by John Piper) that really challenged my pre-conceived notion of Christianity and further highlighted a growing emptiness I was feeling. I want to be extremely careful in how I say this because I have a deep gratitude for everything T&N has done for me. I was not a disheveled employee who felt he had deserved more, nor did I feel any animosity towards the Nail. If anything, T&N deserved more by way of an employee that still felt the passion I had early on. But something was missing inside me. The workload was very demanding and I found that I had very little time to do what I was most excited about – encouraging/challenging (on a spiritual level) the bands I was working with. The question was posed to me back on Sept. 14th of 2008, “Are you really creating disciples out of these bands?” For those of you who may not profess Christ Jesus as Savior of the world, I’ll help clarify that statement and why it meant so much to me. As Christians, Jesus taught us that we (His hands and feet on Earth) were to go and make disciples all through-out the world by loving and serving others, showing them by our actions that the love of Jesus was a genuine experience to be had. I already knew the answer to this question. I had tried to live a great example of Jesus at the label, but deep down I knew that I had not been able to pour into these artists in the way Jesus would have. In less than a week I emailed Brandon and let him know that I felt God calling me into full-time ministry. That decision has been the best, but also the most challenging one I could have made.

What inspired you to come up with a business model like Come&Live! Records?

The example that I found in the Biblical and historical Jesus is what caused me to question the current model and to begin seeking out something very different. Specifically: Jesus’ teachings on generosity and on the love that His followers should have towards others (specifically what He defined as the first and most important commandments – loving God with EVERYTHING you have and loving neighbor as yourself – Mark 12:30&31). I began wondering what it might look like to fashion a music model on the real principles that Christ taught. The first thing that would have to change is the focus from financial PROFIT as the top priority for a business, to the needs of everyday PEOPLE as priority number one. Jesus gave us the story that He was the good shepherd, of the kind that would leave behind the majority (99) to pursue the minority (one sheep who had lost it’s way). I’m most interested in pursuing those who have lost their way in the world by providing the best example of Jesus that I can. Come&Live! was birthed when I began taking the words of the New Testament seriously and applying them literally to a music concept.

What problems, if any, have you run into with the beginning stages of this idea? How are you overcoming them?

Without a doubt, the greatest hurdle has been on the financial end. It’s a horrible economic time to try and start a business of any kind, yet alone for a radical idea that emphasizes, “giving as better than receiving”. I walked away from T&N totally unprepared. I was not ready (financially) for the move, and yet I felt the peace of God going with me and ahead of me. I knew that if I didn’t follow-through with the decision to jump ship when I did, I probably never would. It has been an absolute miracle to see how many friends have come alongside this vision and are willing to sacrifice their own dreams/financial status/desires just to follow God’s leading and help see this through. It is truly humbling to have had hundreds of artists come our way who have expressed interest in this idea. We are still operating on a bare bones budget, but we’ve been trusting God over the past nine months and as much as I’ve prayed that He would open the doors for a job that actually paid the bills, I’ve felt such a joy in my heart that this is my job, regardless of what I’m paid. I can say that although this move has been very challenging and very difficult on numerous levels, my family and I have not gone without food, shelter, clothing, or any other basic need – not once. It truly astounds me that God has continually provided for our every need, just as He promises in Scripture (see Matthew Chapter 6: 25-34).

Can you explain the idea of “musicianaries” and how it relates to the label and its artists?

The idea is really simple. It just combines two key words, the first being “musicians” and the second being “missionaries.” Everyone reading this will be well aware of the first word, but the second may need a little explaining. The word “mission” is derived from the Latin missioninimus, meaning “act of sending” or, literally meaning “to send” or “to dispatch.” Jesus said it this way in the book of Matthew, Chapter 28: “….”All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

In other words, our focus is not just to raise artists to a place of success defined only in worldly terms, but we want them to consider the impact they have on every single person they encounter – that impact lasting forever, being eternal, and extending for all time. If a Christian (artist or not) just took note of the massive opportunity they have to love even just one person in the way Jesus loves, everything would change for them. That’s the road I’ve been walking down. Learning to discover what it means to love the way Jesus loves: genuine, pure, honest, real love.

Who were the first “musicianaries” to be signed to C&L!, and what was their reaction to this new venture?

The Ember Days from Auckland, New Zealand were the first band that felt God stirring them to come on board. They called me and said, “Man, this is crazy stuff, but in the kind of crazy that would please Jesus.” I literally had a period of about three months where a whole slew of bands began approaching me. Out of those bands, I had originally asked God for twelve (to represent the twelve apostles). I couldn’t stop at twelve and ended up deciding on fifteen.

On the donation page of the website, your statement reads, “100% of our profits are contributed towards the needs of other charities and individuals as the Lord directs.” Does this mean that your artists only make money on merchandise and touring? How does their music ownership/publishing rights work/recoup?

Our ultimate goal is to give every penny of profit right back to needs of others around the world; to help those who are less fortunate than us and who need to experience a tangible expression of God’s mercy and love. We feel God has called us to radical generosity as He Himself has radically provided us with generosity beyond anything we deserve.

None of our releases are currently being distributed nationally or internationally, but all of them are being set up to be given away purely “as a gift” on our website. Our intention is to always provide 100% free, no-strings-attached, no registration required, downloads for each of our artists via our website. It’s one of the smaller ways we can think of spelling out the word “love.” The idea is that anyone can access the music without any required financial obligation – but that they’ll also be able to purchase the titles if they so choose. We do intend to eventually distribute (and sell) physical and digital CD’s through regular outlets, but that’s not a top priority right now. The strength of this model is that Come&Live! acts more like a management firm, and less like a conventional record label. Our artists own all the rights to their music. This allows each artist the freedom to seek out other partners if they feel that’s what is best for them, and still allows us to play a vital role in their spiritual and career development. We want to be in this for the long haul, truly looking towards the best interest of the artist in a career perspective on both sides of the fence – business and even more importantly, spiritual success.

What charities is C&L! already working with?

Most recently we’ve really been impressed by a group out of Texarkana, AR that are truly loving their neighbors in a radical sense of the word. They’re called, “I Love Evelyn”, check them out at http://www.iloveevelyn.org. Some of the other orgs are Global Support Mission (http://www.globalsupportmission.com), Amor Ministries (http://www.amor.org), Preemptive Love Coalition (http://www.preemptivelove.org), XXXChurch (http://www.xxxchurch.com), Faceless International (http://www.faceless.org), DesiringGod (http://www.desiringGod.org) and The Love Alliance (http://www.thelovealliance.net).

What about “I Am Living! Volume One,” what are some of the responses you have been getting from it so far?

The response has been really strong, especially considering we haven’t spent a dollar in conventional marketing to spread the word about the sampler (or the site); it’s all just been viral word of mouth. In the first week we had already given away thousands of samplers, and we’ve received a wonderful response to it. It excites us to be able to start giving away full album downloads in the coming weeks. Our plan is to begin giving a free album download (per week) once the website is fully launched (mid-October).

Even though the organization is in its early stages, how much of a response have you gotten from other upcoming artists to join onto this idea and business model?

This has probably been the wildest realization for us thus far. We’ve had a couple hundred artists reach out to us at this point, showing interest in wanting to join up with us. We’ve got a healthy amount of work to do before we’re able to open the doors to a next phase of artists, but it’s truly humbling to see the level of interest we’ve received.

C&L! is definitely a Christian label, backed by Christian ideas. What do you feel about that factor, and the success that bands like UnderOath, Norma Jean, Emery, among others, have had over the past few years with an audience that might not hold the same beliefs, but are supporting these artists’ creative efforts? What do you feel about the successful “Christian rock/hardcore” scene in general?

One of the things that we feel strongly about is the fact that Jesus associated with everyone, regardless of belief, social, or political systems. He especially loved those that the conventional “church,” at the time, would not. It was very encouraging to see “Christian” artists being so well received by a “secular or mainstream” crowd, though I personally wonder whether part of that acceptance is due to such a low Jesus-saturation in many of today’s “Christian rock/hardcore” bands. I’m certainly not trying to point the finger at my fellow brothers and sisters, because I’m sure as soon as I do, I’ll be knocking people down with the 2×4 plank coming out of my eye. But Jesus was explicitly clear that our job (as those who profess Him as Savior) was to bear fruit – fruit that would last forever (John 15). The question I have to ask myself daily is, “Am I bearing fruit in my thoughts, in my motives, and in my actions?” It’s a question we all should be asking as Christians in the “scene.” If we are not pointing others back to the total perfection of Jesus, and modeling that both on, and especially off stage, we are missing the point. It might be easier than it seems to love the Lord our God with everything that we are and to love our neighbor as ourselves, but it’s the challenge every Christians needs and we’re promised that God’s “power is made perfect in our weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9).

If you could sum up the mission statement for Come&Live!, pertaining both to its mission statement as a label and mission of changing the elder business model, what would it be?

Four simple tenants would sum it up: Give – Our art as a digital gift. 100% Free. No Strings. No sign-up. No obligations. Love – Train, equip, and mentor artists to live intentional as “musicianaries,” spreading the Gospel of Jesus through the demonstration of His power in their own lives. Share – 100% of the profits that C&L! makes go right back out to supply for the needs of the less fortunate. Challenging a generation to “live simply to give generously.” Revive – We pray daily that God would use our efforts to revive the hearts of those who desperately need Him, ourselves included.

Shawn Stern (BYO Records/Youth Brigade) interview

October 6, 2009

Source: Absolutepunk.net

In 1982, BYO Records was born not as an idea of making money and marketing bands, but as a way to release music that brothers, and bandmates, Shawn and Mark Stern thought was not only good, but contained a spirit opposite of the stereotypical mindset most had of the “then” punk scene. Now, 25+ years later, BYO is celebrating with a book, a movie and a music compilation documenting their legacy not only in the L.A. punk scene, but the general one. Shawn Stern took some time to answer an e-mailer about the huge anniversary documentation and where the ideals of BYO stand today.

First off, for anyone who doesn’t know the 25+ year legacy of BYO Records, can you run down a brief history of how the idea came about between you two brothers, and if there was any early doubts or initial problems you guys ran into starting up the imprint, and how you got past them?

Well, we didn’t really start out to do anything other than try to promote the positive aspects of punk rock, because we felt we were portrayed as mindless morons in the media. In the beginning, we started promoting shows and eventually we decided to put out a record for Youth Brigade, but came up with the idea of releasing the Someone Got Their Head Kicked In compilation. We never thought, “Let’s start a record company,” any more than we thought, “Let’s promote shows.” It was more of a necessity. We were in a band. We had lots of friends in bands and bands we liked who we were friends with, so it seemed natural to put on shows, and later to put out records. The only problems we had were that we were kids, 18-19 [years old] when we started, so we didn’t really know what we were doing and there was no map or formula, no book or person to tell us what to do. You couldn’t “Google” your questions, as the Internet didn’t exist. [There were] no cell phones to book a tour. So we just pounded the pavement, asked questions and eventually figured it out by doing it.

BYO is a political movement, but a positive one at that. It’s seen a few Presidents, and been through almost three decades of governmental up’s and down’s. Even with the change in power, ethics, ideas, and constant political progression, forward or back (depending on how you view it), do you think the ideals that started BYO have carried over the 25+ years of the label’s existence, and in Youth Brigade’s work as well?

I don’t think we are necessarily a “political movement,” because I don’t believe in “politics” in the traditional Democrat/Republican rivalry we have in our system that is controlled by moneyed interests. I think our ideals, of thinking for yourself, questioning everything and trying to make positive change in the world, transcend the mundane and fairly corrupt politics in this country. And yes, I think it has worked in helping to inspire people that we can’t expect change to come from the government, because in a true democracy, which is something I think most people in this country yearn for, the people change things in spite of the government.

Besides Youth Brigade, 7 Seconds and SNFU were two of the first signings to BYO Records. What about these two bands made you two decide to sign them on to the imprint? What, do you feel they brought, not only to the ideals of BYO, but the ideals of the positive movement in the punk scene BYO wanted to push? What do you think of their impact, and how they still hold water decades later with you guys?

Our guiding principle for working with bands is that we like their music. We believe they have something important to say. We like the people and think we can help them. I think both 7 Seconds and SNFU were, and continue to be, great bands that wrote amazing songs [and] are very good people [that] have something to say that we helped them with. I think the records they recorded with BYO are still as relevant today as the day they recorded them.

Who had the early idea to do the documentary “Let Them Know”? How did Jeff Alulis get signed on?

[My brother] Mark [Stern] and I came up with the idea to do a documentary together. We were trying to decide on what to do to commemorate our 25-year anniversary besides the compilation, and thought a movie would be great. We had met [producer/director] Jeff [Allulis] and [producer] Ryan [Harlin] when we did interviews for the [Do You Remember?: Fifteen Years of the Bouncing Souls] DVD that they made, and I think they did a remarkable job on a long and difficult project [with this documentary].

Are you happy with the way it came out? Are you more excited that there now exist some sort of documentation of the beginnings and influences that have come out of BYO for past and future generations?

I’m very happy with the movie and compilation and the book. It was the biggest project we’ve ever done, and I think it came out fantastic. Everyone that has seen it has loved it, and I really think people can’t really grasp the scope of it until they actually hold it in their hands and watch the movie, read the book and listen to the music. I think it’s a great document of the band, the label, my brothers and I and our part in L.A. punk rock history.

For the CD/LP, how were the bands/songs picked for the process? Which covers stood out to you?

We always work with bands we like and are friends with, so that’s who we asked. The bands picked the songs themselves. They are all really great: NOFX doing Battalion of Saints, Pennywise covering 7 Seconds, Dropkick Murphys covering Youth Brigade, 7 Seconds covering Youth Brigade – just so many good songs! One that stands out is the cover by Young Governor & Marvelous Mark of the Youth, Youth, Youth song “Domination.”

The BYO Split series is a well-known staple for punk music fans, and vinyl nuts. How did that idea initially come about, and why haven’t we seen the next installment in the past few years, or is there one coming soon?

The idea came about when Hot Water Music called us and said they wanted to tour with Leatherface in the states. [Singer/guitarist] Frankie Stubbs (of Leatherface) told them to call BYO cause that [was their] label – which was news to us, albeit good news. So I talked to Frankie about doing a record before the tour, he said he only had enough songs for an EP. Mark suggested we do a split with another band. We figured let’s ask HWM since they are going to tour together, and the split series was born. Mark [Stern] had the idea to do the graphics for the cover along the line of the old Blue Note Jazz releases. We’ve wanted to do more and have many bands interested but it just hasn’t worked out. Hopefully another one soon, we’re working on it.

BYO stands for Better Youth Organization (for readers who didn’t know). Looking at the “punk” scene, or “underground” scene, or whatever you want to label it these days, what have you seen carried over from those three words since?

The belief that punk rock is, for me, about thinking for yourself, questioning everything and trying to change what’s wrong in this world. And we all know there is a lot that’s wrong in this world.

What are your thoughts on the current state of music? What’s missing, what’s going right?

I think there are lots of great bands out there, but it’s really easy to record music these days with digital recording, so there are many bands and many records, and that makes for a lot of mediocrity. Add to that the advent of “computer” music and video games like rock band and guitar hero, and we’ve got a lot of “virtual” musicians. I think kids should learn to play instruments, not pretend to play on a video game or computer. Good music, like good art or any good craft, comes through learning over time; how to take your innate creativity and artistic talent to make great music, art or whatever it is that you make. Short cuts [and] quick fixes, none of that will work, despite the virtual reality world that we see on television, where people become famous for being talentless nobodies that are willing to “act” like they have talent or skill. Wow, does that sound bitter? Haha!

BYO has had a list of artists hold down the idea of punk, but also sounding different musically through that idea. If you could sum up the word “punk” and what it means to you, BYO, and as a general idea (outside any preconceived notions or stereotypes), what would it convey?

Well, people say, “Aren’t you too old to be Youth Brigade these days?” and I tell them that I believe youth is an attitude, not an age. I think everyone has the responsibility to continue learning throughout their lives and to try and change what they feel needs changing in the world. That is what punk rock is to me, always has been and always will. DIY – think and do for yourself.

Final words on your legacy thus far?

Just a huge thanks to everyone that has supported us and [supported] punk rock in general…We’re really lucky to be able to do what we love and we know that without your support, we couldn’t have lasted all these years.

Maniac interview

October 6, 2009

Source: Absolutepunk.net

All we’ve heard from Maniac, former Matches frontman Shawn Harris’ collaboration with Something with Numbers’ Jake Grigg, is a bunch of covers. Harris recently answered some questions about the original material to come, how he’s handling the collaboration with an ocean between his musical partner, and how they chose Taylor Swift’s Video Music Award win and how they put it together for an online win.

Before moving on with your new project, do you believe you achieved everything you creatively wanted to with The Matches?

The Matches achieved more than we ever believed we would, and it was a head spinning education.

How did Maniac come about? Was it before the initial “hiatus” of The Matches, or did it happen as soon as the band’s disbandment?

I met Jake Grigg of Maniac about four years ago. We were the last to know that we’d be starting a group together. It was obvious to everyone on tour with Something With Numbers and The Matches at the time. We’d either start making music together, or get thrown in a ward together. There was a moment when I joined Jake on stage with SWN on Bondi Beach in Sydney, and we ended up duct taped together on the roof of the stage. There was a moment with just the two of us up there, feeling like gypsy kings on top of Everest. We wrote our first song on the way to the grocery store after that, and on a whim, I stayed in Australia on Jake’s couch for a couple weeks after The Matches tour ended.

Do you think Maniac will catch some Matches’ fans off guard, though The Matches’ catalog has always been laced with a bit of pop, but it’s just that Maniac seems a bit more concentrated?

Note that the covers we’re doing on our blog are a lark to entertain ourselves and to keep in touch with fans in an amusing way. We haven’t put up any original songs yet. Maniac is the most ballsy music I’ve ever made. It isn’t cymbals and guitar fuzz — it’s melody — and it seems to me that bands are more afraid of that than anything. Pop is polluted, rock music is dead, punk committed suicide, and indie was stillborn from the start. Maniac will catch EVERYONE off guard.

Do you sometimes think it’s a bit crazy that technology allows you to work with Jake Grigg across an ocean? Does it make for an interesting creative collaboration?

The Pacific Ocean is but a puddle. I step across again tomorrow.

Do you feel you and Jake differ a bit in styles and influences, or are you both on the same concrete page?

Maybe like negative and positively charged magnets we differ, sure. We push one another over limits, and that is what our collaboration has been all about. When Jake is in left brain mode, my right switches on, and vice-versa. I can do a baritone Bowie while Jake turns on a June Cash-Carter, but at the same time, we can double each other seamlessly. He has better rhythm, and I write a funkier bass line.

The Taylor Swift cover and video. Whose idea was it to cover that one, and how long did it take you to put together that video? Does the collaboration between you and Jake usually happen over Skype?

The collaboration on the covers happens over our blog for all to see, and through Sendspace. The fun of that is blindly sending files back and forth, and getting them returned with new parts and harmonies. We just eyeball the bpm, and film ourselves playing the parts to sew together in final cut.

Since the original material is under wraps, who decides on the covers at the moment, or is the decision more sporadic than we may think?

Billboard.com decides on the covers. Whatever is #1. It’s out of our hands completely.

It’s been mentioned that Maniac will see some non-cover material sometime next year. Can you tell us about how much material you have completed, in at least demo stages, and which songs you’re most excited to reveal?

24 songs tracked. We’re engineering our demos in a room called the Island in Sydney. It’s an office boardroom we’re borrowing, with sharpie’d lyrics all over the walls. Here are some lyrics to one of my favorites called “Die Rad”: I was never one to hold my tongue / no cat’s ever got this one / straight from a fucking tiger’s lung i sing ….come on! radical we die.

Speaking of demos and unreleased material, it was a kind gesture to release your final album to the public — handing over the lost pages of the novel to your fans. Was this decided rather quickly due to the “hiatus,” or had it been something you guys wanted to do, and the timing was just right?

I had a dream last night, that it was a double album, and we kept putting out material for the next ten years without reforming. Like Tupac or something… We decided to put this out very quickly as a response to the message board pleading with us to give them the unreleased song demos we’d been playing live during the later shows. It was one of the few times we made a spur of the moment decision, and I’m glad we were able to give people what they wanted, and let the songs see some love, because we really did put heart into writing them.

Many fans on the site want to know, over The Matches’ history, what song were you most proud of penning, and is this just a side road for you guys, and The Matches’ book is not over, just set aside on the shelf to possibly be written more in the future?

The Matches have been writ. We remain friends, but the days of recording and touring together are over. I’m proud of what we achieved, and am happy to leave that untainted for us and the fans. “Salty Eyes” [off Decomposer] will always be my favorite Matches tune. It sums up the whole of my experience touring with those guys. A best of times/ worst of times kind of lament. These days, I have had tears for happiness more than hurt. There are tears for every emotion — it’s wild. I was born when The Matches ended. Maniac is me naked and howling out of the womb. I promise this and more at our live show. See you guys soon.