Author Archives: normanbradio

The Girl To City Conversation With Amy Rigby

When I lived on East 4th Street, the staircase had been clogged twice a month with tenants waiting for the mailman to bring disability and welfare checks. My 14th Street neighbors were more of a mix of writers and musicians, the employed and the unemployable. Above and below and on either side of me, people were reading books, painting, making clothes. I also saw a lot of them hustling to the subway or bus in the morning dressed in business attire, off to do their day jobs. I won’t be like that, I thought. I’m only tempting until I’m successful at music. Then I won’t have to work another job.

Amy Rigby, Girl To City – A Memoir – Summer Of My Wasted Youth

In this short, brilliantly written example from Amy Rigby’s memoir, you cannot ignore her raw honesty. Even describing humdrum, day-to-day scenarios she doesn’t wander off into fanciful wordplay. Instead, Amy has a marvelous knack for not only conjuring up the scene but also her feelings at that moment. It’s a powerful skill, she modestly acknowledges. “I write better than I say it.” She announces with a slight giggle. Conversing with Amy is always a treat because you never know what tangent you’ll go in. Reading Girl To City is not unlike having a private conversation with the acclaimed singer-songwriter. She speaks directly to you, sometimes wistfully:

He wore a tank top in winter and summer.
But I loved him.
He gave me a crash course in art and film history.
He also gave me crabs, gonorrhea and herpes.
But I loved him.

Amy Rigby, Norman B & Eric Goulden, Hudson NY, 2016

And she always speaks with a wink in her eye. Never jaded, often knowing and occasionally with a tartness that catches the reader by surprise. Her memoir is packed full of information, details, names, cultural references, a history of rock and roll as seen through Amy’s almost always bright-eyed vision. There have been a lot of memoirs from the rock fraternity, Girl To City deserves its own unique category, as Lenny Kaye says, “Amy Rigby writes the way she performs and sings, laced with insight, humor, self-awareness, and above all, heart”.

During the conversation, Norman B asked Amy to select some music to play during the show. She decided on two cuts from A One Way Ticket To My Life, a companion album to her book, Girl To City, featuring unreleased tracks and demos. Plus she requested we play, the Summer Of My Wasted Youth from her 1998 album, Middlescence.

Life Elsewhere Music Vol 152

  

The Assange Problem

What will happen to Julian Assange if he is extradited to the US? In the event of that happening, the future looks dire for the Wikileaks founder, says Dr. Binoy Kampmark in his recent Counterpunch piece titled, Dangerous Detention: Julian Assange in Belmarsh Prison. As if Assange’s present situation were not awful enough, being held in solitary confinement in Britain’s notorious Belmarsh Prison, after seeking refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for over seven years. Assange had exercised his rights to asylum, based on a genuine, and now proven fear, that he could be extradited to the United States to face charges with a cumulative prison time of 175 years. Dr. Kampmark broadens the conversation to include commentary on the troubled governments of Donald Trump and Boris Johnson. Julian Assange is crucially important to both countries and no matter what happens next, he will remain a problem. We always look forward to the often alternate, but well-considered opinions of Binoy, a frequent contributor to Life Elsewhere.

Also in this edition, we pose the question, “What Do You Do” to Ray Roa, editor-in-chief of Creative Loafing in Tampa Bay. Until just recently, Roa was the music editor of the weekly paper. As with many cities across the USA, Creative Loafing is available for free each week, providing a rundown of upcoming entertainment attractions, including music, movies, theater, dance, galleries, food, and drink. Local, social and political issues are also covered, but the vast majority of the paper features advertising for bars, clubs, restaurants, tattoo parlors, dating sites and all of the periphery of modern, urban living. We ask Ray about his job and what it entails. The editing process for selecting stories on music and how much his personal taste matters. And, how much input do advertisers have on the paper’s content? One topic that comes out loud and clear in our conversation is how much the new editor-in-chief is focussed on promoting the local scene.  

Illustration by Nathaniel St. Clair

Show #344

A Conversation With Martin Metcalfe Of Goodbye Mr. Mackenzie

As you listen to Martin Metcalfe talk, you soon learn that beneath his charming, if not, exotic Scottish brogue, an engaging storyteller dwells. On any topic or question, Martin seamlessly unravels his perspective. With a certain wit and honesty, the frontman of Goodby Mr. Mackenzie doesn’t hesitate to announce he had issues with drugs and alcohol, “Some people are more susceptible,” he notes. Then, on his thoughts about the success of one-time bandmate, Shirley Manson of Garbage, he offers unabashed praise, pausing to acknowledge that he could sound a wee bit disingenuous. “But, I’m not, I mean it, I’m pleased for all the success Shirley has had.” 

Goodbye Mr. MacKenzie released their first album, Good Deeds and Dirty Rags, in 1989. It entered the UK charts at No.16 and the band quickly attracted a large, loyal support north of the border. Incredible live shows and singles like the top 40 hit The Rattler, in particular, further cemented a fond place in many a Scottish heart. A colorful and varied career followed that involved amongst other things, releasing 2 more major-label albums, further UK singles chart positions, working and recording with Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz of the Talking Heads, and touring and playing with bands like Blondie, The Ramones, Afghan Whigs, etc.

Currently, on their 30th-anniversary tour, Goodbye Mr. Mackenzie are set to reissue Good Deeds and Dirty Rags, remastered and with previously unreleased bonus tracks. Martin Metcalfe took time out from his busy schedule to chat with Norman B about the history of Goodbye Mr. Mackenzie, life on the road, the music biz, Scotland and why the band are back together again.

Show # 343

Angry, Yet Scathingly Funny

“If you have a President who comes from reality TV, why would anyone be surprised there would be a specious relationship with the truth?” Asks Jarett Kobek in our conversation about his latest novel, Only American Burn In Hell. Truth and reality versus lies and fantasy criss-cross in Mr. Kobek’s vision of the current state of our world. The present occupant of the White House is omnipresent in Jarett’s novel as his foul tentacles and clawing apologists clog the air of every landscape on every page. What if your country had elected as its leader a shameless millionaire who was stealing your money, your democracy, and your dignity? What if the media were owned by filthy-rich men who didn’t give two shits about any of it as long as it continued to make them filthy rich? Wouldn’t it be enough to send you certifiably insane? To make you write a novel about an immortal lesbian fairy that mimicked the conventions of movies like Wonder Woman but became an accidental allegory for #MeToo? To write a savage death wail of a satire about how the rich stole everything from us?

The delight of conversing with Jarett Kobek is the tangents you can go to, just like his writing. Does he commit rock ’n’ roll blasphemy by relating incredible details about the unrelated track, “Doing’ The Dookie” from Lou Reed’s Berlin sessions? His pastiche of Reed’s austere lyrics is masterful.

Show #342

A Conversation With David J On His Most Personal Album, Yet

“It’s descriptive of a period of time, the last five years in my life.”
“A journey I’ve been on.”
“The whole thing is a love letter.”
“I dedicated it to my wife.”
“It’s all there in the lyrics.”
“The most personal recording I’ve made.”

Gather together these small fragments David J allows himself to say about his forthcoming double album and very quickly you’ll feel as if you’ve been granted a peek into the man’s heart and soul. Listen to all sixteen tracks from
Missive To An Angel From The Halls Of Infamy & Allure for confirmation. With a celebrated heritage beginning with Bauhaus, then Love & Rockets and a vast catalog of his solo work, you may believe David has poured his heart out in the studio at least a couple of times. There can be no doubt he has on occasion suggested to the listener that his emotions were on display in his music. The boldness of the title for his latest release could be a warning. Don’t expect a collection of neo-BowieSylvian maudlin-style odes to unrequited love. The opening cut, Mosaic tells of a jaded rock star’s cocaine-fueled fractured life, complete with an exotic violin refrain. A simple-sing-along Blues Eyes In A Green Room underplays the serious lyrics as the seeming laissez-faire snare drum gives space for the pristine piano leading the melody. David’s only cover on the album of the late Peter Laughner’s Baudelaire is both poignant and reverent, while he manages to craft what essentially could be mistaken as his own composition. “Like a kid in a candy store, I want to lick what I like”, sings David in I Don’t Want To Destroy Our Beautiful Thing. Self-confession and reflection while away from home. There is an unnerving wavering quality to his voice on this cut. How many takes? Was this the first and last? Lovelorn comes next. Surprisingly jaunty albeit with a raw biting story.

At this point in listening to the record, an overwhelming thought sweeps in – how come we don’t listen to whole albums from start to finish anymore? The accordion(?), then the strummed acoustic guitar, the up-close vocals, the piano, and the plaintive violin all deliver Clandestine Valentine as if as a familiar song. And, that’s a good thing. With references to Pasolini and arty-farty girls, you know you’re in for a “triple X” adventure as David says in Purgatory and Perfume, masquerading as Blood On The Tracks era Dylan. The story behind the evolution of Migena And The Frozen Roses is best told by David J, which he does in our conversation. The collaboration with The Brian Jonestown Massacre frontman, Anton Newcombe and actress Asia Argento on this song is indicative of the brilliance of David’s ability to co-opt the talents of other artists to accomplish an exceptional body of work. Oh, and yes, this is the song that unabashedly explains so much about this double album. In No Floods Can Drown, an honest statement, simply presented. “Morning wood” may not be your typical idea of love. Yet, David does suggest it’s all part of thinking about love, a Pre-Existing Condition. “She bats her lashes and a hurricane starts in China. You’re on your knees at the vestibule of vagina.” Sings David J in Copper Level 7. The power of a woman who uses hair color apparently. Rhyming China with vagina is just part of his flavorful word-play – “She slips on her stockings and initiates a coup d’etat.” The tune breaks down halfway through into a mock ragtime interlude before easing back into the original melody. The positively-poppy tone of (I Walked Away From) The Girl In Yellow disguises Mr. J’s self-questioning or is it congratulation of being able to avoid getting into trouble. Beginning with a quasi-western guitar sound, Best Western Blues proves how smart David J’s writing can be. In the end, he is still checking in to find love as the song closes with an electronic wind sound, the ascending violin(s) and the clippity-clopping beat. The sound of rain recorded on David J’s iPhone begins the title cut Missive To An Angel From The Halls Of Infamy & Allure. The somber violin coming to the fore as an acoustic guitar strums behind compliments David’s woeful but assured voice. Is this the album’s tour de force? I would argue that it could well be, yet David gives us two more tracks to contemplate. The Auteur (Redux / The Starlet’s Cut), an older song from his library of work has been revisited adding the voice of actress and activist, Rose McGowan. It’s a haunting song, disturbing in that Ms. McGowan has featured at the forefront of the #MeToo movement and David has not shied away from exposing his interaction with women. Finally, the beautiful voice of Emily Jane White joins David on I Hear Only Silence. Listen carefully to the words and reflect on what you have heard already on this album. A simple piano coda plays and the quietness, the vulnerability comes scorching through with the two voices.

In the next edition of Life Elsewhere, David J talks openly about Missive To An Angel From The Halls Of Infamy & Allure with Norman B. Plus you’ll hear a Life Elsewhere exclusive, a world-wide premiere of the title cut.

Show #341

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