Monday, December 22, 2014

MOVIE MONDAYS: Jake Hellman talks Christmas Movies and More!

Pictured Above: Jake Hellman, the newest weirdo/writer for Never Nervous
Jake Hellman is a hell of a guy. Over the years we've watched bands together, played in bands together, laughed and cried together, and most recently, written for Never Nervous together. If you haven't noticed, Jake is a new writer here, and a damned good one at that. Wouldn't you like to get to know him a little more by reading his answers to movie-related questions? Of course you would! After all, IT'S MONDAY!

NN: First, talk about your favorite movie from 2014. What was so good about it?

JH: X-Men: Days of Future Past was the shiznittle-bam-snip-snap-sack! The last X-Men movie pretty much sucked. It sucked a big one. So I didn’t watch this one until it was shown on a plane on my way to Puerto Rico. I couldn’t believe I waited to watch it. I came home and watched it again. What really made this movie were the new young actors that were involved. It made all the difference.

Never Nervous: Considering that Christmas is right around the corner, tell us about your favorite Christmas movie.

Jake Hellman: National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation is one of my favorite movies period. For me, Christmas (the holiday) is really just an excuse to watch this movie. Why do I love this movie so much? I used to sell and set up Christmas trees every year, sometimes with Mr. Olympia himself. Nothing is more fun than quoting “Christmas Vacation” while you are setting up a Christmas tree in some stranger's house. The movie is full of one-liners like “Lotta sap in here.” and “Bend over and I’ll show ya!

In my family, even though I’m not an uncle to many, I’m kind of like that drunk uncle that makes cheesy, inappropriate one-line jokes. I’m like that dumbass uncle that has to yell out “Shitter’s full” every year. If you don’t like Christmas Vacation then all I can say is “Merry Christmas. Kiss my ass. Kiss his ass. Kiss your ass. Happy Hanukah.”

NN: Do you have a favorite Christmas Related horror movie?

JH: I don’t know if this actually counts as horror, but I’m going with Scrooged. It’s got ghosts and shit. Bill Murray is in my top five actors. This isn’t one of my top Bill Murray movies, but if you look at the list of horror-related Christmas movies, there isn’t much worth watching. I’ve watched Jack Frost, and Silent Night, Deadly Night, but the only other Christmas horror that comes close to “Scrooged” is Gremlins. I’m not even sure “Gremlins” is horror… next question.

NN: Is there a movie that you love, but seemingly everyone you know hates?

JH: I know everyone says the plot of Godzilla had more holes than a golf course. The biggest hole in the movie is that there are three giant fucking monsters fighting and that’s not possible. I don’t care about plot holes with the Godzilla franchise. I care about giant fucking monsters fighting. This isn’t the best Godzilla movie, but it came out in 2014 and it didn’t suck.

NN: Do you have a favorite Christmas movie soundtrack?

JH: This one is a toss-up for me. I love both The Nightmare Before Christmas soundtrack and The Vince Guaraldi Trio’s A Charlie Brown Christmas. I think I have to give the edge to Nightmare on this one. It’s just more entertaining. A Charlie Brown Christmas is a beautiful soundtrack to relax to. Nightmare is good for a laugh. I always give the edge to laughing.

NN: Lastly, how much did you love or hate the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special?

JH: I’m leaning toward hate. Normally I’m the weird guy who likes this type of thing because it’s ridiculous. However, the older I get I tend to agree with one of my favorite comedians, Mike Lawrence, more and more: “Star Wars” is just an unfunny “Spaceballs.”

Saturday, December 20, 2014

WATCH: 1200 Slay Hard at the Hip-Hop Derby!

What you'll see here is exhibit A as to why I'm an abject failure for missing last nights hip-hop show at Headliners. Do I feel bad exclusively for missing 1200? No. I feel like an asshole for missing out on Touch AC, Skyscraper Stereo, Dr. Dundiff, and Jalin Roze/Bird Zoo; this should definitely be a BECAUSE YOU MISSED IT," if anyone here had the sense/time/ability to come out. And yes, I have a great excuse (Dad Business, cousin), but that doesn't mean that I regret or at least wish that I'd made it out. This 1200 video is definitely proof too.

Just look at this magnificent shit . Rapper Jecorey Arthur brings his A-game in front of a fucking choir and string section, laying it down like it's his goddamned job to bring the hype. Which it is, and he's good at it. In fact, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that Arthur is absolutely subscribing to a core tenet of scene etiquette, which is by our standards here mission critical. If you don't feel like reading that link, let me summarize by reemphasizing how important it is to play for the people in the back every time you perform, and Arthur and crew were clearly doing so last night. I feel like jerk for missing out even more now.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

WATCH: Kogan Dumb Presents - MP3 Zoo

Kogan Dumb, aka Lamar Kendrick, is a badass. With this quiet, unassuming documentary, Kendrick interviews three producers of local hip-hop, the dexterous Dr. Dundiff, the talented TinyForest, and the wonderful William Hines, giving each in turn their opportunity to explain their craft. And yes, I had to have all that alliteration in the last sentence. It's an interesting cross section of producers, and a very overlooked corner of the hip-hop world, since producers seldom get the spotlight that they may deserve. I want to go on record and say that a) I think this is an important cultural document to the Louisville Hip-Hop scene that everyone should watch, and b) Kendrick needs to make this a regular, or at least semi-regular series. 

I almost referred to this as a film, although at this point that phrase seems anachronistic, given how infrequent things are likely shot on film. I have no doubt this was a digital production, although a fine one at that. Kendrick's direction is on point; simple and elegant, but focused on the interviews at hand. The graphics work was equally simplistic, but in a way that at least by my standards, implied that he was aware of his technological limitations and worked with them, kind of like if you're a singer and can't hit a note, so you substitute it for something similar or in a different octave. But don't take that to mean anything negative at all, or to imply that the quality is bad: unlike other lo-fi, DIY film projects I've seen, Kendrick is great with making his work look professional. This is definitely a must watch, and again we should all hop for more in what is hopefully a series from Kendrick. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

LISTEN: Duncan Barlow Cleans Out His Closets and We All Win!

Pictured above: Cat Duncan Barlow meditates on his complex relationship with nachos.
I can't lie and say that I've kept up with everything Duncan Barlow has created since leaving Louisville some ten or twelve years ago, but I can say that I've always been intrigued by his recorded output. Perhaps best known for his tenure in Endpoint or By the Grace of God, Barlow has done all sorts of interesting projects that have spanned a wide variety of genres and styles, and which all merit your attention. I was an enormous fan of his The Aasee Lake (featured here for sure), as well as Guilt and LG&E, neither of which managed to make the cut. Yet.

So if you're bored this afternoon, please check this stuff out. And as Barlow pointed out on his Facebook page, donate something. These pieces took time and dedication, and he needs a golden porsche. I mean, he didn't say that last part, but I think that's the subtext we all got. Seriously though, places like bandcamp are fantastic in allowing you access to the material, and a means of directly benefitting the artist. You can check it all out here, and thank yourself later for doing so. Be the hero you want in others (or something).

Monday, December 15, 2014

MOVIE MONDAYS: Nick Sturtzel Lowers Himself Into The Steel of your Heart!

Pictured above: Nick Sturtzel moments prior to passing out from paint fumes.
If you've heard anything with a bleep blop in it lately in town, chances are that Nick Sturtzel was involved or at least there. In association with Chris Cprek, Sturtzel recently started City State Tapes, which saw it's first release with Exacta Cube, which features Sturtzel and Dennis Stein of Introvert/Karass. Sturtzel is also one half of Norrin Radd, his electro-pop duo that makes clicks, pops, and drones sound practically radio friendly. In his spare time, he cohosts a show on ArtxFM with Lindsay Sant called Alien Jingles that explores his fractured and disparate musical tastes in one two hour block. Sturtzel had all sorts of fun things to say about movies, but I won't spoil that here, because I'm a goddamned hero. You have to read the rest to find out, hi-yo!

Never Nervous: What is your favorite holiday movie and why?

Nick Sturtzel: It has to be Die Hard. How could it be anything else?

NN: Follow up to that, what is your favorite death scene in any movie and why? I mean there are usually death scenes in holiday movies, amirite?

NS: Yes, in mine there are quite a few death scenes, but none quite as good as Alan Rickman's. I recently read, in one of those silly listicle things, that Mr. Rickman's reaction to falling was legitimate: they dropped him early in the count intentionally.

Arnold's classic "Thumbs Up" at the end of Terminator 2 will always hold a special place in my heart. If we expand the category from exclusively movies to "on-screen" then there is a certain Game of Thrones death that achieves a satisfaction level that few others reach.

NN: If you were going to make a holiday movie, what would the basic plot be and why? What would your score be like, because I know you would score your own movie?

NS: It would have to be a gritty reboot of the Santa Claus story emphasizing the pagan roots of Christmas. Krampus would play a big role. The why of it all is simple: if anything needs a gritty reboot it's Christmas.

The score would have a constant synth drone that would slowly modulate, with additional tones and textures building the size and presence as necessary. No melodies I think. It would have to be loud, like really loud, otherwise the score would have no point.

NN: Tell me about the best score you’ve ever heard. What gives it that edge for you?

NS: I've been really interested in the work that Trent Reznor has been doing recently. The Social Network and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo would both have been much worse films if he wasn't involved.

I also really enjoyed the score to Under The Skin.

Basically I like scores that cater to my interest in synthesizers and ambience.

NN: What is the best movie you saw in 2014 and why? What are you most looking forward to in 2015 and why?

NS: I don't know if it's "the best," but I was looking forward to Guardians of the Galaxy for a while and it pretty much lived up to my expectations. Great popcorn movie filled with characters I never thought would be seen outside of the pages of a comic book, much less as a huge blockbuster.

I'm not sure what's on my list for 2015 yet other than the movies that came out this year that I still need to see. Those are: Interstellar, Birdman, Inherent Vice comes out soon I think?, and the last of the Hobbits.  Thinking about it more there's tons of fluffy stuff I'm ready for in 2015: Avengers, Jurassic World, Mad Max, Star Wars. I'm really skeptical about the new Terminator movie, the trailer makes it look like it's going to be a huge mess of continuity. An aside, what fucking year is it that all of those franchises have movies coming out?

The two that I'm most interested in are CHAPPIE (where Die Antwoord hang out with a robot) and EX Machina. They both look like they are going to deal with artificial intelligence in different ways and I think that's a pretty cool trend in film making. I'm happy to see Hollywood embracing speculative fiction.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

REVIEW: Fast Friends - "Forever, Forever"

Fast Friends
Forever, Forever
Little Heart Records

Need a refresher course on what quality emotional pop punk is supposed to sound like? Look no further than the latest release from Fast Friends titled Forever, Forever. While I don't pay too much attention to this kind of music anymore, I can't deny how much I would have loved Fast Friends while in high school in the late 90's.

That's not to say I don't think the music on Forever, Forever is good, because it's probably the best of its kind to come out of Louisville in a long, long time.  I'm also not implying that I wouldn't listen to it in 2014.  I'm only suggesting that this genre has seemingly been done to death for decades now, making it hard for these types of bands to stand out without being stale, or even boring.  I'm happy to report that Fast Friends are good at keeping this shit fresh.

The song I keep finding myself going back to is the second track called "Good As Gold." For me, it pretty much sums up what Fast Friends are really good at, which is making perfectly executed catchy pop punk songs. Another standout is the acoustic guitar driven closer "Nightjar" which features brilliant guest vocals from Lacey Guthrie of Twin Limb

Sure, Forever, Forever is about 15 years late, but damn it sure is finely crafted. Fans of bands like Saves The Day and The Get Up Kids will certainly get a kick out of this album. If you decide you don't like the music presented here, the reason can only be that you don't care for the genre because Fast Friends have seemingly perfected it.

 Listen to the opening track "The Game" below:

Thursday, December 11, 2014

INTERVIEW: Greg Morris on Drumming, Session Work, and Solving the Eternal Debate of Predator Vs. Iron Sheik!

Pictured here: Greg Morris (in the background) finally discovers the brown note.
One of Louisville's most prolific drummers, Greg Morris has done it all. Or so it would seem. With a resume that includes The Glasspack, Mr. Panic Button, The Blue Goat War, and Parlour, to name but a few, Morris has proven that he's not only a talented player capable of performing with various sorts of acts, but that he's sought after to do so. It also illustrates just how adventurous he is as a musician, that he has explored such a disparate collection of genres, which he continues to do. His most recent project, QEN, features drums and jazz guitar for a final product that is really transcendent, like Nels Cline filtered through Fripp and Eno. You can catch them this Saturday at The New Vintage with Black Birds of Paradise and The Charles Rivera Ensemble, a fundraiser for the Star Duck Charities 2014 Christmas Party for the kids at St. Joseph Orphanage. We asked Morris some questions and he was kind of enough to answer them with words, but not sounds (this is the internet after all).

Never Nervous: Tell us about QEN. How did it start? How has it changed since then?

Greg Morris: I met Charles Rivera through Noah Barker during a period when Noah and I were playing a monthly Wednesday night at Decca. Once Noah left for graduate school in New York, Charlie and I tried to continue as a duo. It became quickly obvious that our strength was playing something other than jazz standards. He had been working up solo sets that used looping effects and I basically fell into playing behind him. The music we play is the place where our experiences and talents meet up.

NN: I understand that you live in different cities. How does that work out? Do you all actively collaborate when you’re apart?

GM: Our music depends on each us bringing our perspective to the table and seeing how the two blend together in that specific time and place.  We don’t really collaborate during the times apart but stay connected. That connection is ultimately the source of the music.

NN: Relative to that, how important is collaboration in this band or any other? How has your personal relationship as a collaborator changed over the years and why?

GM: Having the ability to collaborate means fostering your own ideas and honing your instincts. I’ve developed this through years of listening to the world around me. In that time, I’ve learned that you must able to say what you think in a way that doesn’t shut the other parties involved down. It’s a delicate balance not often achieved, although that doesn’t apply to QEN.

NN: What is the name QEN about? How important is a good name one way or another?

GM: At the time of the recording, my day job involved mailing out the COBRA qualifying event notifications to employees that had recently lost their benefits. There was just so much sadness in those packets, mixed with the extreme pressure to get each packet out on time. I don’t remember the specifics, but they were on my mind when the recording engineer asked me what he should label the tracks. The name has stuck due to neither of us taking the time to come up with something better.

As far as band names, I feel like there two types; bad names and not bad names. For me, QEN falls into the not bad category, which is why it has stuck around. Bad names must be corrected, no matter how long they have been around.

NN: What initially drew you to drums? How do you feel like you’ve grown as a drummer over the years?

GM: I was a kid that beat out rhythms on the table before I knew what the drums were. It’s just something that chose me. In the twenty years of playing seriously, I’ve grown as drummer by playing fewer notes, specifically leaving space to build anticipation or to allow other parts to be heard without the clutter. The time should be always implied, so there’s no need to be constantly playing.

NN: Are there any qualities you look for in other drummers? What makes you admire someone’s playing?

GM: The main quality I look for in a drummer is how much they are contributing to the song compared to them just playing.  Charlie Watts, Steve Shelley and Sara Lund are three perfect examples of this.

NN: What are some of the best songs you’ve played on over the years and why? What constitutes a good song, or at least one that sticks with you?

GM: I love the material I recorded with the Dubious Duos (Joel McDonald, Kerry Atkins and Aaron May) out at Rove Studio in Shelbyville. Of that group of songs, Pillow particular stands out in my mind. It tells the story of an enabler taking care of a drunk from the drunk’s perspective in a way that makes you feel for both characters without judgment of the situation.

As far as what constitutes a good song, it’s all about the melody. Where does it take you? Can you feel the heartbreak when it takes a turn down? There’s certain melodic intervals that cut through my defenses and lead me to another place. That’s what I’m looking for in a song.

NN: You do a lot of session work. How did that start? What are some of the choice gigs you’ve played?

GM: Off the top of my head, the one that sticks out in my head was a double header. The early show was Glasspack playing the VFW on Preston. Right before the show, the bass player quit and we were down to a trio. To make up for the missing piece (and being an all-ages show), I was pushing myself to play as hard and loud as I could. Just as we started to really hit a moment, my bass drum started to drift. This strikes fear in the heart of any drummer. You can’t stop playing and are forced to watch your kit slowing drift apart. Right at the point where it was going to be too far for me to keep going, Tony Bailey emerged out of the crowd and pushed it back into place. At the end of the set, I had to quickly pack up and drive out to Willow Lake Tavern for a couple of sets of country music with Johnny Berry. I never got the chance to thank Tony for saving the set. There were probably better ones, but I tend to not hang on to particular nights.

The session work has always been scattered and random. I’d really like to do more of it.

NN: For that matter, what makes for a good show and why? Does that answer differ from the perspective of audience member or performer? If so, why and how?

GM: The performers must make something special happen in that moment for it to be a good show, and that doesn’t necessarily mean playing their best. When it happens, there’s an energy released that you can’t experience from watching it on YouTube. It’s the same for me on and off the stage. The amount of people in the room makes no difference.

NN: What advice would you give to younger musicians starting out?

GM: Here’s my top five:
  1. You don’t need good equipment to sound good.
  2. Getting people to come see you play music can be a popularity contest. If you aren’t the life of the party, make sure to have somebody in the band that is.
  3. Don’t ever feel defeated if no one comes to a show. Use it as practice time for when they do. 
  4. If you play a melodic instrument, focus on writing new material more than learning other people’s material. If you’re a drummer, only play with people that focus on writing new material.
  5. If you think you only play well or have good ideas when you are altered, you need to sober up and learn to rock with a clear mind. 
NN: What are some of the difficulties in balancing a musical life and family?

GM: Mental focus is tough for me. The reality of being present in the moment while I am reading to my kid at night instead of thinking about playing is not easy.  Scheduling can also be a nightmare when more than one person in the band is a parent. That being said, the musical life has been the lifeboat to save me from drowning in a sea of the everyday struggles that make up being a parent.

NN: Who would win in a fight between Predator and the Iron Sheik? Be specific in your answer.

GM: If you mean the Predator that lives in the jungle and has those goggles that detect heat, it would always win. I never bought that Arnold Schwarzenegger could have killed it, and the Iron Sheik never looked to be in the best shape.

NN: What do you think Bobby Brown is doing right now?

GM: Getting high.

NN: What non-musical things have inspired you lately and why?

GM: I got a buck stove installed in my house last winter and building fires is something I do for fun. It makes the caveman inside of me so happy. I also went deer hunting for the first time recently, which was much more of a mind trip than I expected.

NN: What music have you been listening to lately and why?

GM: Eno’s ambient work is a constant companion. I just got Ambient 3, which is a departure from the rest of the series. It features Laraaji playing a hammer dulcimer and zither. The music strikes the perfect balance of repetition for me. Electric Wizard put out a new record this year that’s satisfying my itch for Doom. I saw that set of American Lesion doing Out. songs and have been jamming Out. Chad Donnelly’s voice haunts me.  I read Waylon’s book over the summer and have been learning his country funk. My musical taste is all ADD, all the time.
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