Friday, February 27, 2015

INTERVIEW: Drew Miller on the History of Saxophones, Nick Cave and Riff Raff, and the Hardest Video Games!

Pictured above: Drew Miller is an international playboy with loads of sax appeal.
Just glancing at Drew Miller's resume tells you that he's a talented musician. A veteran of band like Starting with Lucky Pineapple, Miller moved on to collaborate or freelance with a number of acts ranging from Wanda Jackson, Spoon, or the 23 String Band. Currently Miller performs with D'Arkestra, the Junk Yard Dogs, and A7A, where he plies his trade on the alto sax, and occasionally as a vocalist. And while I had an idea of how many acts Miller had played out with, I had no concept that it was just so high, albeit I am not especially surprised to learn as much. You can catch him tonight performing with D'Arkestra featuring Cheyene Mize and Meg Samples in the Beck cover band Midnight Vultures at The Nach Bar. We sat down with Miller to ask him about his musical history, cover songs, and the existence of God.

Never Nervous: Tell us how you got into music. Were you always interested or was there some inciting incident at some point?

Drew Miller: I first became interested in music via my parents record collection and their listening habits. Through them I was introduced to bands/artists like Hendrix, Rolling Stones, The Doors, The BOSS, Steely Dan, Sade, Led Zeppelin, Aretha, Marvin Gaye, Allman Brothers…the list could go on. I was presented with the opportunity to play an instrument in the 4th grade. I chose the saxophone and started taking lessons and practicing.

NN: How have you evolved as a musician from when you began?

DM: For a long time it was a really casual sort of activity. A solitary activity. Many hours playing etudes, scales and exercises designed to foster a technical proficiency. It takes a long time to even be able to get good sound on a saxophone. So much of it depends on your biology and how much you can control it. It's not like playing guitar or keyboard, where you can immediately get TONE. I started to get serious in high school. I had a great teacher named Curtis Essig who helped me find things I was passionate about. So from then on I really started to explore what it meant to be something other than an orchestral musician. I started buying jazz and what would become post-rock records and going to all ages shows. This was 96', so it was the Cherokee,Twice Told, Mercury Paw, Legion Halls and VA posts. I loved the energy of what was going on, but as a saxophonist I didn't really see where I could fit into it on the creative side. I ended pursuing a music degree in college and through a myriad of experiences, both good and bad I discovered what I really wanted to do, and the path that I wanted to travel as a musician.

"It takes a long time to even be able to get good sound on a saxophone. So much of it depends on your biology and how much you can control it. It's not like playing guitar or keyboard, where you can immediately get TONE."

NN: You play saxophone, right? I know it’s a horn, but I confuse a few of them (pardon my ignorance… seriously I feel dumb asking). Was it always a non-traditional instrument, or did it evolve into that? (editor's note: I meant to ask, "Did you always intend to play a non-traditional instrument?" As you can see, I beefed that question royally, but Miller's response was so awesome that it just had to stay.)

DM: The saxophone was created in 1840 by Adolphe Sax who sought to make a powerful, more vocal woodwind instrument. What he ended up with is really a cross between a woodwind and brass instrument. Early on it was used a lot in military bands and was treated as the bastard child in classical music settings. In the early 1900's new orleans musicians used the saxophone in what would become jazz and dixieland music. Over the years, visionaries continue to redefine what we should expect from such a versatile instrument. It is a monophonic instrument in most applications..and it is very difficult to accompany yourself. So for the most part the saxophone has remained an accompanying instrument.

NN: What is your musical resume? What was your first band, and what have you done since then?

DM: When I was in college I got to study with and play with some amazing musicians. I learned so much hanging with the older teaching assistants.  A lot of my gigs in those days were pick up gigs, playing songs from the standard repertoire of jazz songs and such. It was mostly restaurant gigs… wallpaper music, or private events.  I even got to tour Brazil for three weeks playing big band music.
When I got out of school I got recommended to play with the (in)famous Jerry Green who was and still is a soul singer, bandleader and club owner. I was pretty green myself…wet behind the ears. It was a huge learning experience for me. A lot of crazy shit happened the 9 months I managed to survive playing 9-330 on fri/sat nights!  And I only got arrested once!

The first "REAL" band that I played in, one where we played original music, practiced a bunch, played shows, toured and actually tried to do something was Lucky Pineapple. I was brought in right as they were re-releasing "BUBBLE" and was a contributor from then until we disbanded about two years later. And through my relationship with JC in LP…I was asked to participate in the magic that is Another 7 Astronauts.

Since then I've played with Wanda Jackson and Spoon and have participated in some recordings with bands like with 23 String Band, Ladybirds, Wax Fang, Cheyenne Mize, Another 7 Astronauts.….and have played what feels like a million other gigs freelancing with cover bands, jazz bands, rock bands..soul bands. I'm involved in a lot of musical circles.

My main things these days are D'Arkestra, Junk Yard Dogs and A7A.

NN: I read that you studied jazz in college. How has a technical understanding of music impacted your collaboration with people that may not have the same background?

DM: The biggest thing about collaborating is the ability to exchange ideas, and those collaborative situations are often the most rewarding. Having technical understanding has just given me another way to communicate orally about what is happening aurally.  The bandstand is the ultimate equalizer. Its all perspective.

NN: Do you prefer writing alone or collaboration? What’s your perfect scenario for composition and why?

DM: I like both. But as I have grown older and feel more comfortable with myself and what I am doing artistically, collaboration has been my preference. It can be challenging but in the end you know everyone is invested in what is going on. The key to co-creating is having a common goal. Imagine if for some reason Nick Cave and Riff Raff were handcuffed together and thrown into a studio in a weirdo SAW type situation…. I think Nick Cave would gnaw his arm off before releasing a song that he co-produced with RR… I could be wrong though.

"Imagine if for some reason Nick Cave and Riff Raff were handcuffed together and thrown into a studio in a weirdo SAW type situation…. I think Nick Cave would gnaw his arm off before releasing a song that he co-produced with RR… I could be wrong though."

When writing for D'Arkestra, the songs that seem to move fastest  and end up strongest are brought to the group partially finished. This allows for everyone to have input on an actual coherent musical idea or expression, where the true magic happens in refining and adding to it. Trying to come up with something from scratch with 7 people is usually not productive and ends up sounding heady and forced.

NN: How did D’Arkestra form? How has it differentiated from your other projects and why?

DM: I was really inspired by the large ensemble format of Lucky Pineapple and when that was over I started writing songs that were horn heavy and heavily orchestrated. This was my first really big compositional project. Even though the early stuff was heavily arranged and employed some of the harmonic characteristics of jazz it was really leaning towards the rock end of the spectrum. The process was new to me as well because a lot of those songs started as bass riffs and there was a lot of odd meter and numerically odd structures. This was all a subconscious effect from playing all that crazy beautiful Lucky Pineapple music. Once I got some music together I got a band together. We've been at it roughly 3 years now and  it has become an increasingly collaborative process between all of us.

NN: Why Midnight Vultures? What about that particular album merits special consideration?

DM: Well, we aren't playing the Album Midnight Vultures……I must clarify…we are performing AS "the Midnight Vultures" with Cheyenne Mize, Meg Samples and Mick Sullivan. We are playing songs from a bunch of different albums.

NN: Relative to that, how important is it to cover a song (or album) exactly as is? Or should it be different? What value is in either and why?

DM: Both approaches have value. In this instance we wanted to get close to the recorded album versions. Some of the sounds are hard to match but we are getting close! If I were to cover a song for an album I would try and put my juju on it for sure.

NN: What did you think about Beck and Kanye West at the Grammy’s? For that matter, what do you think about award’s shows as a whole?

DM: I feel like it's really hard to know exactly what is going on. At that level of the biz its all a big facade…a put on. So what is real? The only reality is that Dr. Luke and Max Martin and whoever else ghost writes all this shit  make so much money selling misogyny, consumerism,stereotypes and so many other destructive ideas and values.  Does Kanye really think Beck didn't deserve the Grammy or was he trying to get his big head on TV and get everybody to keep talking about him. I'm glad Beck got some recognition. Morning Phase is such a great sounding record.

"I feel like it's really hard to know exactly what is going on. At that level of the biz its all a big facade…a put on. So what is real? The only reality is that Dr. Luke and Max Martin and whoever else ghost writes all this shit  make so much money selling misogyny, consumerism,stereotypes and so many other destructive ideas and values."

NN: What videogame have you never beaten that you wish you could? Have you ever played a game so frustrating you wanted to throw the controller? I’m looking at you Mega Man.

DM: The one that sticks out in my memory is Ninja Gaiden. I think I did eventually beat it, but it took a long, long time. This of course was 89' or 91', the age before internet and all the help from online discussion or accessible cheat codes. We did have Nintendo magazine though.

NN: Is there a God? If so, what does that entity look like in your mind? If not, why?

DM: I would imagine that she looks like Halle Berry playing storm in the X-Men movies.

NN: What are your non-musical interests lately and why? What are you reading, watching, eating, or drinking that’s most getting your skis shined up, and why?

DM: My ongoing non-musical interests are bourbon, Steigle Raddlers + tequila……Also I've been doing a lot of collage lately. There's something about telling a story with images that has grabbed me.

Here are some stop motion collages that I have made as videos for D'Arkestra:



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

DM: I recently bought a live Samba record from 75' carnival and a non-descript Steel drum record that have been on heavy rotation.  The energy and rhythms just make me feel good. It is also something different for my ears, and that is really refreshing. I've also been on a Beck binge in preparation for our show.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

REVIEW: William Bryan Ragland and Yoko Molotov - "Wolv"


One of the most prolific artists in town, William Ragland continues to release a string of interesting collaborations this time with musician in Sweatermeat/Spoopy and comic book artist Yoko Molotov. Per usual, Ragland curates a sort of music that has a particular weight to it, although in the context of music writing, I hesitate to say heavy. To be fair, this is especially heavy music, albeit in a bleak, soul-crushing sort of way, like Sunn O))) sans the mountains of distortion. Instead, Ragland and company seem to create music at the bottom of the deepest void, a symphony made in a cavern at the bottom of the Earth, all rumbling bass and reverb so viscous as almost fluid. So when I write that this is heavy, I mean that this is like a condensed audio version of only the most Satanic bits of Milton's Paradise Lost, and as such elicits that same kind of study.

It goes without saying that Wolv is a an especially dark affair, bleak but not stark; there is far to much movement here for it to evoke a barren landscape. What propels the opening movement, Eyes Like Moons Teeth Like Pearls, is a choral bass melody played at a glacial speed. There is a meditative quality to the music that allows you to zone out, despite the haunting tonal elements of the composition, making this a particularly difficult thing to place.

Perhaps even more difficult to place is the second half of the release, A Coat as Black as Soil and Heavy with Brine. Here, any and all ruminative passages, no matter how dark, are replaced instead with a cacophony of metal clangs and howled vocals. This isn't to say that the two tracks are disjointed from one another, as there is a clear relationship between the two tonally speak, but that dynamically they couldn't be more disparate.

What do you do with this music? I present this not as a disparaging comment, but as a challenge. As I get older, I often have to dig to find the utility in music, be that in terms of a narrative journey, or it's logistical function as a study aid or exercise primer. Wolv fits none of these categories; the meditative qualities are offset by the gloom found therein, a particularly difficult chasm to vault over when trying to maintain focus, and the clanging madness of the second track is at times an endurance test. This isn't to say that anything found therein is bad or even uninteresting as a subject of study. In fact, what Wolv -and all of Ragland's music- does so well, is to serve as a reminder that music and art are one and the same. This doesn't need to exist in any place other than the critical space that it creates, a thing to behold and consider, and if you're like me, to serve as the soundtrack to your next nightmare.

You can listen to the album below:

REVIEW: Plastic Bubble - "Big Day Parade"


Plastic Bubble
Big Day Parade
Jigsaw Records / Hope For The Tape Deck

Plastic Bubble’s sophomore release Big Day Parade is a psychedelic joyride. While I sit in my living room looking at a foot of snow, this album has me dreaming of being dressed in white, in a field, mid-spring...no allergies. This album is truly a pleasing escape from reality.

Big Day Parade was cool before it ever came through my headphones based on the album art alone. The cover is a dreamworld of bird monarchs and mice drummers. The type of stuff that you might have read about in The Neverending Story. It only gets better from there.

Lyrically, Plastic Bubble are simple and captivating, while involving a level of fantasy that isn’t explored enough in music. Why don’t more people sing about Neanderthals? I guess it’s hard to rhyme something with “Neanderthal” until you hear “We’ve got big skulls.” While we’re on the topic of “Neanderthal Song,” it’s accompanied by a fucking fabulous video starring Will Oldham, which is certainly worth your time.

Every song on Big Day Parade is a gem on it’s own. This can be attributed to great songwriting alongside a plethora of excellent musicians. Every song could be the basis for a new album and I wouldn’t be upset with that. That being said, what unites the record is a pop sensibility that never passes the three minute mark.

If one track is going to decide if this is something you might be interested in, listen to “Sol Invictus.” I can’t get this shit out of my head. I wake up in the morning and think, “Good morning sunshiiiiine!” As I mentioned earlier there’s a foot of snow in my yard; I haven’t felt the sun in weeks.

Here's one last line to talk you into this album, this one taken from the song "Respectable Establishment": “Flintstone’s chewables and a PBR, cigarette is on the VCR. ‘Baby on Board’ in a muscle car, yea it’s scary to know that we’re grown.” Who can’t relate to that?

Listen to Big Day Parade below, then buy it here! It’s totally worth it.

WATCH: Coliseum Releases Music Video For "We Are The Water"


Hardcore punk aficionados Coliseum have a new record coming out soon called Anxiety's Kiss, which will be the band's first full-length release since their brilliant effort Sister Faith hit the streets in 2013. The new album will be available May 5 via Deathwish Inc. and will boast 10 brand spankin' new songs.

To promote the release, a music video was created featuring their song "We Are The Water." The video is cool but isn't earth shattering, as it mostly just showcases the band performing in what seems to be a frigid warehouse with random white sheets blowing in the wind. The song, however is pretty damned good. "We Are The Water" is infectious an upbeat; stripped down it almost serves as more of a catchy pop song than a head-banging thrasher. Check it out for yourself:

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

WATCH: Lamar Kendrick Releases the Yen AM Dollar Sign Lookbook


When this was brought to my attention, I felt like an old man; what the fuck is a LookBook? Unlike every other crusty Luddite, I Googled the answer and learned that it's the Apple version of a photography book, which, you know, makes sense given the name. What does this mean to you, that Lamar Kendrick -aka Kogan Dumb- just released a Lookbook called Yen AM Dollar Sign? I'm not sure exactly, is this Lookbook it's own thing, or is it meant to correspond with Kendrick's amazing EP of the same name? Regardless, it certainly though it serves as further proof that Kendrick's multitude of talent, from being one of the most righteous emcees in town, to what I've heard of his beat production, to his more recent work with video; now we can add some truly beautiful photography to the mix. You can peep this on iTunes and, I believe, download it for free. I might be wrong, but if you have to pay something, get over yourself and just do it, and know that you're supporting local art done by a true talent.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

LISTEN: City State Tapes Volume 1 is here!


Not having enough bleep blops, avant garde tunes, or drone tracks in your life? City State Tapes is here to fill that cold, cold void in your soul, with the release of the majority of their volume one catalog, which dropped over the weekend in correspondence to their release party. What the label does or at least what it has so far, is to curate the best of the weirdest in town. This is your home for odd sounds and things that make you go "hmmm," although it's neither this nor that to which I refer. It's a pretty diverse label too. This batch sees the release of Visage by Introvert, the glitched out nightmare of a post-human Terminator only future; Plod and Play by Shedding, a pastiche of tiny synth sounds that coalesce into a pleasing whole; Breccia by Connor Waldman, a warbly, synth heavy sheen of drone sounds; the enigmatic ÇPR, the only album as yet to be released, and vehicle for label cofounder Chris Cprek; and Stick Solos by S. Soltau, which is a musique concrete exploration of sounds made on a violin.

This is definitely some heady stuff here, but definitely worthy of attention. That it's so thoroughly curated, a cross section of the more abstract elements of our local scene certainly holds plenty of appeal to me. I was corrected in referring to this scene, one in which I ascribe to, as nascent, as it has existed for some time, and always will. But burgeoning it is, and long may it flourish, an example of our local culture's widening sonic tastes and interests. Is it the internet that has broadened our approach of the world, or is it something in the zeitgeist that just wants to do something a bit more extraordinary to the norm? I can't say, and I don't mean to imply that there is anything here without precedent, but rather that City State Tapes and it's constituency is helping to cultivate an musical environment that rewards experimentation, however that may be defined.

You can check out what they have to offer here, and I heartily recommend that you do so.

INTERVIEW: Mark Evans of Holy Carp Productions Talks Aboutthe Ups and Downs of Booking and Promoting Shows For a Living

Pictured Above: Mark Evans, the man behind Holy Carp Productions
Over the years, Louisville has continued to play host to great shows almost daily, featuring music from bands/artists from all over the world embracing every kind of genre imaginable. While this city has it's share of venues and promoters, one that we are incredibly appreciative of is the one and only Mark Evans of Holy Carp Productions. For a while now, he has been behind some of the most notable shows in town.  If you've been to a show at Zanzabar, you've more than likely been to one of his events. He's also been the man behind some pretty dope shows at Headliners, too. Check out Zanzabar's show calendar to stay hip to what's on the horizon, and keep up with show announcements by liking the Holy Carp Facebook page.

So what's it like booking and promoting shows for a living?  Mark was kind enough to answer a few questions about his production company, Louisville's music scene, and more...

Never Nervous: When did you start actively booking shows, and what was the initial motivation behind it?

Mark Evans: I guess I really got started full time when the bar I worked at in Lexington decided to move across the street into a venue space. I had no idea what I was doing but was always active in the local music scene and thought it would be fun to contribute on a larger scale. That was the summer of 2009.

NN: What was the first show you ever booked? Would you consider it a success?

ME: The first show I ever booked that wasn't local was Green Jello in 2008. I booked them one night in Lexington and one night in Louisville. The Lexington show went great, but I really had no clue what I was doing outside of my home market, so the Louisville show was a complete bust. I think eight people came to see them at Lisa's Oak Street Lounge. All eight were old friends, so I guess the show drew zero people.

"The first show I ever booked that wasn't local was Green Jello in 2008. I booked them one night in Lexington and one night in Louisville. The Lexington show went great, but I really had no clue what I was doing outside of my home market, so the Louisville show was a complete bust. I think eight people came to see them at Lisa's Oak Street Lounge. All eight were old friends, so I guess the show drew zero people."

NN: Is there a show you've put on in the past that you'd consider to be your crowning achievement? One with your favorite band or something?

ME: Man, that's a tough one. There are many shows I've put on that I love equally but for different reasons. I grew up a Ween fan, so booking Gene Ween and having him play with my band was very special, but that was fairly early in my career and a lot of various events pop in my head when I think of crowning achievements. Booking Mike Watt of the Minutemen always makes me feel good because he is probably the coolest person on the planet. Also, having 300+ kids turn out for White Reaper at Headliner's was very fulfilling. Seeing a local act bring such strong numbers means a lot and being able to cater to a younger audience that is hungry for live shows really makes the job worth doing.

NN: Have you had any show-booking disasters?

ME: Too many to count. Any time turnout is poor for an artist that deserves better is heart wrenching. An overwhelming sense of guilt washes over me when I see someone performing to an empty room. It's inevitable sometimes though.

Aside from that, as far as actual disasters are concerned, maybe Mike Doughty stopping his set to leave stage and kick an obnoxious patron out. Or the time those rappers that sing about Pizza Hut/Taco Bell decided to break up after their show at my venue. Or when Coheed and Cambria's digital lighting console got fried by dirty power at the theatre I booked them in. The list goes on. And on. And on.

NN: I know this might sound like a pretty general question, but what could consider to be the "secret ingredient" behind every good show? Is there anything in particular you aim to have at every event Holy Carp is behind?

ME: It's pretty crucial to always make sure that the artists are comfortable and having a good time, first and foremost. I also think it's very important to consider the comfort and happiness of the attendees as well. If everyone feels good and is having a good time then there is good energy. Not much more you can ask for than that......I'd say that would be what I aim to have at every event, vibes and energy.

"It's pretty crucial to always make sure that the artists are comfortable and having a good time, first and foremost. I also think it's very important to consider the comfort and happiness of the attendees as well. If everyone feels good and is having a good time then there is good energy. Not much more you can ask for than that......I'd say that would be what I aim to have at every event, vibes and energy."

NN: How many bands on one bill is too many? Do you have a cut-off?

ME: I think 3 is a solid number. It depends on the room, but in most cases.....3.

NN: What does the name "Holy Carp" mean?

ME: I don't know. I think I just like the idea of a sad looking carp in a fancy bedazzled pope hat.

NN: Talk about a few homegrown Louisville bands that have been getting your attention lately.

ME: Well...man. So many. I've only lived here for a little over two years so everything is still relatively new. I really dig Young Widows and Graffiti currently. I love me some White Reaper, too. I can't wait to hear their new album.

NN: Tell us about the best Louisville show you went to in 2014 that you didn't book.

ME: Easy. Dent May at Haymarket. They played "Shakedown Street." Don't tell me this town ain't got no heart.

NN: Now that Wild & Woolly is closing, can you think of a particular movie that the staff recommended that ended up being one of your personal favorites?

ME: Grizzly was the most recent, but I have to give W&W credit for their Troma collection that I religiously rented from them the first time I lived in Louisville in 2000. Toxic Avenger, Surf Nazi's Must Die, etc.

NN: Before you go, tell us about the best music you've heard in 2015 so far, whether it be new or old.

ME: I'm really digging that Viet Cong album but I pretty much only listen to Timber Timbre.
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