Closing the Distance: Marianne Dissard

Marianne Dissard 01Closing the Distance is a new series in which we try to expose artists with desert roots who have since moved to other locales. Let’s bring this community a little closer together.

by Mark Anderson
Senior Editor

Is it fair to call Marianne Dissard an “International Jet Setter”? Why not?

Having toured the world extensively whether by foot, or donkey, or Trans-Siberian Rail (I’m sincerely hoping jalopy, junk boat, and helicopter too), playing her unique “baroque desert noir chanson” music to thousands of fans, it’s easy to think that the title might apply.

I think I prefer “Adventurer” or “Explorer”. Something more along the lines of Jeanne Baré, Isabelle Eberhardt, Nellie Bly or… Tintin. Forging her own path and creating her own destiny.

When she sent us news about her latest release, Cibola Gold: Best of 2008 – 2015, calling it, “my closing statement as a​ the odd​ ​chanteuse ​out ​in Arizona…a farewell to my beloved Tucson” including a new 24-page booklet of photos and musings she herself designed, I had to take the opportunity to ask some questions about life in Europe, the musical process, and what’s next for Dissard.

Mark Anderson for YabYum: Where in Europe do you currently reside? Please tell us all that you do there.

Marianne Dissard: ​I left Arizona almost three years ago. I first aimed at living in Sicily (Palermo) but wound up spending a year in Paris teaching yoga, on a sabbatical from performing and making my own music. Then I spent a year in a small Italian town called Matera (in the small, quiet region of Basilicata) to write a book of memoirs about my return to Europe. I’ve since been bouncing from Italy to Berlin and London, and Paris depending on where I have shows.

Marianne Dissard 02What were your thoughts on the Tucson/Arizona music scene when you moved in 2013? Did anything in particular prompt the move to Europe? I know you’ve toured there often…

MD: ​I was born in France but left with my parents for Mesa when I was a teenager (yes, I went to school at Dobson High ;). After studying film in LA at USC, I went to Tucson in 1994 to make a film on Giant Sand. I didn’t leave for two decades, sucked in by the music scene down there. I owe it all I’ve become. My collaborations with Tucson musicians – mostly those orbiting around Calexico and Giant Sand – has made my music what it is but it was time to move. I’d been more and more inspired and drawn to scenes beyond Tucson after meeting by chance a DJ from Minneapolis’ Rhymesayers label. This led to collaborations with BK-One and Budo, and a desire to experiment further with my own work.

I’ve heard from various folks that live music seems to be appreciated more in Europe. Would you agree with this? If so, why do you suppose that is?

MD: ​Live music is appreciated differently in Europe than in the States, as is food or coffee. For the kind of music I do, I would say there are more state subsidies and institutionalized support, as well as maybe more affluent fans.

Marianne Dissard 03Please tell us about Cibola Gold. Why did you want to release this collection now?

MD: ​I like to round things up nicely, for my own sake as well as that of my current or future fans and a “Best Of” is a way of guiding them through my work.​ My albums have evolved in style from the first, a more folky, Calexico-tinged venture to the darker, Nick Cav-ish sounds of the latest. It might feel complex to sum it up and it is. BK-One says it best in the essay he wrote for Cibola Gold’s booklet: “Marianne’s music plays effortlessly with contradictions. Tender, yet abrasive. Melodramatic, but vulnerable. Comical and heartbreaking.​”

How and where did you meet Yan Péchin? Please tell us about him. Are they any other members of your band at this time you’d care to tell us about?

MD: ​Blessed in Tucson with such fabulous backup tour musicians​​​ (Sergio Mendoza, Brian Lopez, Gabriel Sullivan…), I was under the gun to come up with European players who could bring the same energy and passion to ​the live shows. I remembered this French guitar player I had seen in 2001 in Paris – and whose skills and style became the benchmark for any guitarists I worked with from that day. I called him up a couple of years ago and we started touring Europe as a duo mostly. He’s just about as dramatic as I get on stage, with expressionistic pedal work I’ve only ever witnessed from Tucson maestro Connor Gallaher.

Being a world-traveler, please relate a favorite place to play that you have experienced. What made it so special?

​MD: A favorite place? Maybe the poolside show I did in 2011 at the Great Wall near Beijing? ​Or the benefit show in Christchurch’s tiny port town (reminded me of Bisbee!) after the major earthquake that wiped its venues? And definitely the shows on my Pyrénées walking tour, when, alongside my gear-carrying donkey, I went from small town to villages of my home region.

Marianne Dissard 04Living in Europe right now, is there a heightened sense of fear or alarm due to terrorism that you yourself notice? I imagine it could be similar to the U.S. where it always “looms in the distance” but perhaps it’s more direct over there. Do you feel as comfortable as in the past traveling the countryside?

MD: ​Yes, I feel safer than in Arizona, less paranoid about walking into a restaurant where a gun-toting madman is eating his tots. I was in Paris when the November attacks happened. The next day’s sounds (helicopters, sirens) reminded me of the sounds of my neighborhood in Tucson and the people’s attitudes for a few weeks following (kinder, calmer) also reminded me that there is another way to live than this stressful, neighbor-hating survival mode we take for normal here – and everywhere. I am spending this month volunteering in Calais, France at the service of the migrants of the Jungle camp. What I’m seeing there is a dream in action, from all the volunteers on the ground, of what Europe could be: open, tolerant, curious, loving. The borders are alike everywhere, from Calais to Nogales. Our responsibilities are the same.

What is in the works for Marianne Dissard? More music videos? New singles? Parts of the world to visit?

MD: ​I’m writing a book (due sometime late this year), will be recording a new album in Paris with producer Budo. I’m also producing an album myself for this great Franco-american artist, Allyson Ezell. And yes, more videos, always. They’re little bits of comic reliefs in my life that I truly enjoy crafting.

~

Preview Cibola Gold: Best of 2008 – 2015 below. I strongly recommend purchasing the Signed Deluxe Edition CD available through her Bandcamp page which includes the aforementioned 24 page booklet – along with the music, the visual stimuli and prose found within imbue a sense totality for the listener. For more info on Marianne Dissard, visit her website.

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The Redemptions: Broken Hearts and Shattered Glass

redemptions 01by Chris Nunley
Staff Writer

When an album comes into my possession for consideration of a review, I give it a series of “endurance” tests.

The first is probably the most critical…the highway test. If I can’t even tolerate it in my car, then it doesn’t see the light of day on my home stereo. Instead, it’s chucked out the window to shatter in glorious iridescent fashion like Mark Ruffalo trying to find the next great artist…”GET THE FUCK OUTTA MY CAR!”

In the case of Broken Hearts And Shattered Glass, the debut release from Phoenix quintet, The Redemptions, the CD hasn’t even left my car. No broken hearts or shattered anything will be found here. This is just good music, plain and simple.

From the first run through, the formula gels between the band members and their respective choice of instrumentation. Anthony Fama plays the role of rockabilly crooner and lead guitarist, while bassist Paul Balazs lays down groovy bass lines in tandem. Add in a trio of percussionists with Spencer Ferrarin, Woodworks alum Konstantin Bosch and Solo Lounsbury, and you’ve got yourself a gang bonded with Gorilla glue. The combination of this stellar cast along with infectious harmonies and a myriad of percussive textures really make this release stand out and pop.

The opening track “Stay” is a warm cup of Joe with a little cream and sugar for flavor, sure to brighten up anybody having a case of the Moan-days. Not wanting to sing the catchy chorus “I’m hoping that you’ll ask me to stay” over and over will prove to be a legit challenge for anyone.

Slowing things down with sprinkles of empty water tank percussion and bright tinkering bells is the endearing “There With You”. The harmonies on this track are perfectly balanced between three men and a lady, while Fama pleads his yearning for a better half that he may’ve lost.

“Walls” keeps things on a simple down-low, building tension with haunting “oohs” and “aahs” underneath a rockier guitar, punishing drums and desperate lyrics. “Seventeen” is probably my favorite song on the album, oozing with house party energy and a clever FX track added sparsely for an effective ambience.

“Secret” sounds like a hyper experiment in the limitations of tape saturation, but brilliantly goes crystal clear at the bridge with Lounsbury’s warm “whoas” weaving in and out of the subtly repeated “You run-run-run-run…run so far far away.”

Final verdict, this is a solid five-course meal of an EP, complete with all the fixin’s to put you in a musical coma. Heck, even the multi-colored “threat level” cover art adds a nice touch. A tip of the cap goes to Ari Leopold for recording and production duties as well. 😉 I’m expecting great things (and potentially a full-length, hint hint) from Fama & Co. in the future.

The cd is available for purchase at both Stinkweeds and Revolver Records in Tempe.

~

Preview Broken Hearts and Shattered Glass by The Redemptions below. For more info, head to the ‘Book.

For the Record: The Blank Waves

blank wavesby Lenore LaNova
Senior Editor

The three-piece psychedelic outfit known as The Blank Waves are getting ready to release their debut s/t album later this week at The Trunk Space downtown. I had a chance to preview the release and I must say I was more than pleasantly surprised by the richly layered tracks that floated out of my speakers the minute I hit play.

“Song for Syd” opens the EP with its circus-laced sounds and submerges the listener into an all-encompassing aural experience before giving way to the dreamy “Changing Sun”, the second track on the album. An interlude breaks up the EP without causing a flutter in the cohesive, but not homogenized, sound that will have you feeling like you’ve drifted into a Mary Poppins’ chalk drawing.

What strikes me most about The Blank Waves music is its fluidity. Tracks meld together in a Strawberry Jam-style stew of colors and textures. Cody Hazelle, Ninos Karaman, and Max Modeen make up the holy trinity of The Blank Waves. Together, they are crafting what just might be my favorite local electronica which the band describes as “Psychedelic Lo-Fi Vibes”.

Perhaps, I shouldn’t say “band” either. The trio disdains the title. Instead, according to their Facebook page, “The Blank waves are a medium by which psychedelic forces are manifested; a link between the physical and metaphysical. It is through these relentless meat packages that one may experience an inspiration of oceanic proportions.”

“Why You Fight It” ups the energy while its repetition serves to reinforce the existential anxiety tucked away in its lyrics. “Loony Bin” closes the album, pushing the energy and dissonance to its furthest point without ever going too far for my radio-raised ears.

I recently had a chance to ask The Blank Waves players a few questions about the new album and the impending release.

Lenore LaNova for YabYum: First, let’s talk about the nitty gritty… Where did you record the new album? How long has it been “in the works”?

Cody: We’ve recorded the album ourselves in our own home over the last 6 months, with some breaks and distractions in between. The songs are representative of the last year or so of our band. “Changing Sun” and “Let it Breathe” are our oldest outings on this album. Probably close to a year and a half old at this point.

Tell me a little big about The Blank Waves. How did the band come into being?

Cody: The three of us have been playing music together for more than 3 years now, in various incarnations. Before this group we were known as Creosote Mantra where we had a fifth member in our band and put out an EP under that name. The first Blank Waves show was in January 2014 and, at the time, we were a four-piece rock band. We’ve since then morphed into the three-piece we are today by being inspired by lots of music and art as well as learning new things.

I noticed that the band members “don’t play a real instrument”. Is this true? Do you rely solely on electronic instrumentation for both recording and performing?

Max: We like to poke fun at the fact we only “push buttons” and “don’t play real instruments” because when we play live there are no guitars, bass, drums, etc. Actually we capture a lot of sounds; acoustic and electronic at our home and bring them to our shows with compact performance samplers. Cody and I also play synths and our setup is always changing. Who knows what the future holds?

The album is a pretty eclectic mix of instruments. A lot of keys and synthesizers, real drum sets and drum machines, and if you listen carefully there are even a few guitars hidden in the mix. But a really important aspect of our music is the various found sounds we like to manipulate and use in our tunes. Might be our friend’s piano, nature sounds, Cody’s baby nephew, audio books we like, etc. We then take these recorded sounds, chords, melodies, what have you, and put them on our samplers in order to utilize as many instruments and textures as we can in the live setting.

Of course we like to tweak them beyond recognition into something other worldly. That’s one of the most fun things for us.

With songs like “Why You Fight It” and “Looney Bin” it seems like the debut release is all about embracing the inner insanity. Am I totally off-point or are you actively encouraging your fans to go crazy?

Max: I like to think our music reflects some aspects of being a person and experiencing your life. We have a lot of calming and peaceful stuff that reminds me of the good times. But there is always an underlying darkness or craziness that can rear its ugly head at any moment. Just like life!

Ninos: “Looney Bin” definitely carries a heavy theme of insanity but I wouldn’t say it’s encouraging people to go crazy in anyway. “Looney Bin” reflects frantic anxieties about how we are being perceived by other people and its influence on our ability to be who we are.

Cody: “Why You Fight It” is more about the American Dream and what we’re told growing up. I guess maybe more my attitudes toward the “default” way of American living and expectations. “Money, family and working are very good for you. You know it’s true. So why do you fight it?” The other half of the song expresses a different feeling of what the American Dream can mean to an individual and how free and lofty that particular feeling can be.

Any additional 2016 plans to follow up the release? Local events? Tours? Music Videos?

Cody: Yeah! We have a music video coming out shortly, probably later in the month, for a song that didn’t make it on the EP. We’ll be playing a 4/20 show at the Trunk Space with completely different material and some local friends of ours. The details of that are still tbd… We’re also playing Indie 500 on Saturday 4/23 (the third annual and final event at the venue – eds.). Lastly, we hope to do a mini tour to California or something during the summer. It’ll be our first outing so we want to keep it easy!

 

The Blank Waves will be releasing their debut album on March 30th at The Trunk Space with Waytansea Point, Amadoo’s Crew, and Eli Kluger. More information on that event can be found here.

Additional Links for The Blank Waves:

Facebook

Soundcloud

YabYum Seven: John Randall Nelson

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Requiem for Trayvon, 22″ x 17″. Photos courtesy of John Randall Nelson

1. Who are you and what do you do?

I am John Randall Nelson, Bobo Johns, Merry Murphy, Nelso Phoenicio and Jim Dandy, pretty much in that order.

I’m also a Dad, a husband, a sculptor, a painter, a candlestick maker, and maybe ADHD.

2. How did you get your start?

Very slowly, one small step at a time. In relationship to Art, I pretty much snuck in through the backdoor.

3. What inspires you?

I’ve been fascinated with illustration and painting for as long as I can remember, but I didn’t get around to making much of anything until I was well into my twenties. What really started the juices flowing was the gallery scene in Chicago. Google Jim Nutt and Roger Brown … kick ass artists. Their sort of irreverent funky imagery started my addiction to image making.

John Randall Nelson 01
John Randall Nelson

4. What do you like about Arizona?

The summers are especially nice.

5. Where can we see you(r) work?

Gebert Contemporary in Scottsdale and FP Contemporary in LA are two of the galleries that represent my work.

I’m also at whonelson.com and bobojohns.com … or just google John Randall Nelson or Bobo Johns.

6. What would you like to accomplish before you die?

I would like to do a Public Art commission in Arizona that has a 1,000,000.00 budget …seriously.

7. What’s your mantra?

I can’t say my mantra out loud. I thought everybody knew that. You can’t uncover the seed once it is planted … that’s how it was explained to me. Besides, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi would turn over in his grave and I’d probably lose both my hard won enlightenment and my ability to levitate.

I do like what Bobo Johns keeps telling me, “No masterpiece was ever created by a lazy artist”.

~

John Randall Nelson 01
“Don’t Shoot”, 72″ x 54″ x 12″
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“Sylph Like”, 60″ x 44″
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“Jambo Burka”, 15″ x 17″ x 5″
John Randall Nelson 08
“Be Okay”
John Randall Nelson 09
“Completely Healed”
John Randall Nelson 05
“Melange”
John Randall Nelson 055
“Chasing Zoe”

John Randall Nelson 10

Radio Phoenix Podcast: The Blood Feud Family Singers

bffs

Daryl Scherrer and Marc Oxborrow of The Blood Feud Family Singers joined us live on the air for another installment of Rise! on Radio Phoenix. Good tunes and good times abounded. The podcast can be found here along with the complete playlist (below).

Complete Playlist:

The Blood Feud Family Singers “All The Angry Angels”

Rising Sun Daughter “Sea & Stir”

The Haymarket Squares “Gritty City”

The Riveras “The Road”

You Are Plural “Cut Along the Line”

The Blood Feud Family Singers “Lay Me Down, Let Me Down”

Travis James & The Acrimonious Assembly of Arsonists “Everybody Dies (The Night I Almost Died)”

Monster May I “Black the Blue”

Steel Pole Bath Tub “I Am Sam I Am”

The Haymarket Squares “Let’s Start A Riot”

The Blood Feud Family Singers “Lonely Night”

Recorded live on February 17, 2016.

I Am Hologram: Rejecting The Program

i am hologram 01by Chris Nunley
Staff Writer

Sometime ago, after one of my previous reviews, I received a message with a Batman meme that read “You are the hero that we need”. I guess I said what they (and many others) wanted to say, but couldn’t out of fear of consequence.

I responded in turn with gratitude, but informed the reader that I’m more partial to The Joker. It’s true. He’s my favorite villain of all time. I’ll choose chaos over order any day. This made me think back to the pivotal interrogation scene from The Dark Knight– brute physical strength versus impenetrable mental toughness. It’s a cinematic testament to the delicate forces in the universe…the Yin and the Yang.

However, for his debut album Rejecting The Program, hybrid musician I.Am.Hologram takes on the role of both hero and villain a la Two Face. Nudging the tectonic plates of these forces, this one man band creates seismic imbalances while battling inner demons on a shroom-induced sonic vision quest.

In an attempt to capture the same raw energy as one of his live performances, Rejecting is essentially a live album recorded in a controlled environment…sort of. The “yin” of Rejecting is the fact that it was tracked in the dead of August heat in a cinder block rehearsal facility with zero air conditioning. Add in a bountiful of room mics with that heat, and you got yourself reflecting waves du jour, my friends. It’s chaos in all directions. The “yang” to this process is that it gives the album at times a very “People Are People” boom-y feel to it, picking up room noise as well as the PA monitors. Ambient noises like the clicking of foot pedals and loose power connections adds another level of humanity to the record, eliminating any preconceived notions of a perfectly polished production. Genius? Maybe. Madness? Possibly. Unorthodox? Absolutely.

My only strike against this album is the order of the tracks impeding on maximum impact and flow. Instead of the cliché “kick’em in the balls” opener to grab attention, listeners are bogged down to the shuffling morphine drip on “The Kid Just Died.” But it’s here that Hologram lets you know his intentions and vision. Using oddly tuned acoustic guitars noodling over droning bass lines and slurred vocals, the drum machine maintains perfect order in a world of imperfection.

From here, it seems to makes sense to have “House Of Dreams” follow with its “finally coming out of my shell” feel (“I’ve been hiding forever / With no guide to follow”) and cross-country gabber-esque tempo. “Phantom Tree,” an obvious choice for a lead-off single, is sure to resonate with many who’ve had trouble letting go of the one that could always get under your skin. Hologram’s songwriting prowess takes center stage with the chorus: “It’s gonna take a freight train to make me cry / And a satellite to get me high / Just to act like I ache for you no more”. Makes me wonder where this woman placed on his ‘Desert Island All-Time Top 5 Most Memorable Break-Ups’ list?

The next two songs on Rejecting give me goose bumps just writing about them. “Meta”, an instrumental track, puts the acoustic guitar front and center while his signature tweaking of delay pedal parameters emulates a machine powering down, or in this case, altering the program. This track is reminiscent of a suicidal Martin Briggs having a cocked 9mm in his mouth while mourning the death of his wife. Real moody, cheery shit…I know. In spite of that, it sets the tone for what could arguably be Hologram’s crowning achievement.

From the opening strum to the echoing ending, “All The Lonely People” is a raw masterpiece in writing, (“I guess I’ll be hiding in my sleep / I guess I’m not good enough to keep”) powered with angst, and driven by heartbreak. The chord progressions are beautifully woven while his staple whole-note bass lines add a rising tension approaching the chorus. I mean, fuck me…THIS is a great track. It would’ve been great to have this song slowly fade out while “Awaken The Androids,” another instrumental, slowly faded in as a sort of reprise to “Meta,” closing the chapter on a great section of the album.

A slinky blues stomp takes form on the ambiguous “The Dancer And The Arsonist,” an honest track that makes me question whether or not strippers have a heart or just enjoy playing with ours. I can’t decide if the protagonist is actually living with the dancer or is just a repeat customer. “You say the damnedest things / at the damnedest times / in the damnedest situations / And that’s why I love all of you” could throw the listener for a loop. Is her routine so arousing to the point that it could go further for the right price? Is he in a loveless relationship, seeking an escape from the monotony of his own life? Or possibly a lovers’ quarrel before she disappears into the night to shake the goods in front of other men? I dunno…and dammit I love it. Keeps me guessing with every listen and should be on repeat at your favorite cabaret.

Crossing over to darker territories, “Frequency 540” finds our hero speaking in indecipherable tongues and meditative tones over a single sine wave. The frenetic and subtle guitar patterns are almost played in a certain cypher, unlocking the Ninth Gate. If that’s the case, “When The Devil Is Near” is the crossing of the threshold, even altering the timbre of his vocals like a man possessed (“When the devil is near, and the devil is here”). Strange things have reportedly taken place when performing this song in the past…as if it’s not supposed to be played. Bad Ju-Ju all around, my friends.

Finally, a cathartic call-out concludes this musical masterstroke on “Osiris (Remind Us)”, emphatically declaring “Everything you say I will hold against you / Everything you do I will fight against you / I’ll survive you too.” But it just wouldn’t be yin-yang without the line, “I feel so fake yet so unreal when I’m with you” for one last twist.

Rejecting The Program: perfect by design, flawed in nature, turbulent in presentation. I believe in Hologram. But is he the hero we need, or merely an agent of chaos? Flip a coin.

~

Listen to Rejecting The Program below. For more information on I.Am.Hologram visit his website.

Why You Should Listen: Sundressed

sundressed 01by Frank Ippolito
Associate Editor

I almost feel bad writing about Sundressed and their newest release, The Same Condition, mainly because it’s because it’s like writing about my favorite Unicorn Snuggie. I mean, I love that thing and I couldn’t possibly say something bad about it.

Backstory: I’ve been on the Sundressed emo train since their first release and I’ve interviewed guitarist/vocalist Trevor Hedges and have written about them several times…anyway…my love for pop punk is well documented so I won’t go into the details of our relationship, but man, there’s just something about this band that I can’t get over.

And here’s why I can’t get over these guys. First, Hedges’ vocals. They are simply dripping with emotion. I mean, here’s a guy that has gone to hell and back, so it’s no wonder his lyrics really hit home with my former high school sophomore self who just got dumped by the girl who never spoke to him.

Like I said, been there from the beginning, and I can safely say that this is by far their most mature record to date. Which brings me to a very important notice:

Dear Sundressed,

We’ve been through a lot, and you know how much I dig your music, and I pray to the sweet baby emo Jesus that you don’t go the way of all those other pop punk bands that went all mature. Because if that happens I don’t think we can be together anymore.

Sincerely, Frank

Why you should listen: Because Pop Punk. And, quite frankly, these guys do it really really well.

What you should listen for: I think Hedges has a real gift for summoning up all his emotions and penning some really great lyrics.

What they sound like: They sound like fun. Even though their hearts are dripping blood all over their sleeves.

Perfect listening for: You just broke up over text.

My favorite part: The song, “Beck and Call”. But, alas, while I dug whole EP, but I do think pounding out that last chord on the last song was a bit much. (Uh, oh, did I just go crazy negative there?)

This just in: Hedges just dropped me a note, quite by happy accident, and he told me that him and the boys are recording 12 more new tracks, so we have that to look forward to in the coming year.

~

Listen to The Same Condition below. For more info on Sundressed, hit up their Facebook page.

An Insider’s Introduction: Orin Portnoy

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All photos courtesy of Orin Portnoy

by Mark Anderson
Senior Editor

Orin Portnoy is a mystery man to me.

I only say this because he fits the definition perfectly: “A man about whom little or nothing is known”. And while it may be true that every person I don’t know is a “mystery” person,” the idea of the term is a sense that deep down, you know, something much bigger resides within them.

I’d hear things, tales and stories from different folks that knew him better than I, and I began to put some of the pieces together. I didn’t even realize he was in bands that I had seen before! Finally, I had to find out more about him so I asked if he would like to answer some questions so I could try to get to the bottom of all that mystery.

YabYum: How long have you lived in Phoenix-area? Did you join the Phoenix music scene right away or was there a certain amount of “feeling it out” before joining a group?

Orin Portnoy: I moved to the Phoenix area in 2001 not knowing anything about the music scene or knowing anyone here so I answered an ad looking for a guitar player. The band was The Half Empties (this is where I met Wes of Big Vinny). After a period of time I left the band and started to put my own bands together.

I met Ward Reeder (of Shovel) through Craigslist and we started to make music together. After going through a few members we found Ryan O’Sullivan (of The Wipers and Garage Shock) and started The Automatic Erasers. When the Automatic Erasers disbanded, Ward and I started The Odds and Sods.

The Odds and Sods eventually disbanded and then I started playing with ex-members of Death Takes a Holiday, Andy and Richie, as well as Eric Guthrie from Fluidrive and Pinky. We called ourselves HI FI LO. About a year ago we also disbanded so Eric and I started a new band with Michael Parkin from Blanche Davidian, we are called Skink.

Skink is currently active with me singing and playing guitar, Michael on bass and Eric on drums.

orin portnoy 02How did U.S. Depressed come about? Could you name the other members of the band and what each of you play?

OP: U.S. Depressed arrived when Pete Hinz (of JJCNV) posted on Facebook looking for “High” Men! Immediately Mike Dee (of French Girls) and I thought we fit that description. Pete plays guitar and sings, Mike plays bass, noise and sings, I play drums and sing.

Could you describe what the New York City garage/punk scene was like in the early/mid 80’s from your perspective? It’s just such a glamorized time, both good and bad, I’m sure many of us are interested…

OP: This was fantastic time in both music and in my life I was just becoming a teen and started to get involved in music both watching it and playing it. I have seen some of the greats – The Ramones, The Cramps, all in the late 70’s and early 80’s. I remember once going to see Johnny Thunders and he was so messed up he fell off the stage on me! My friends and I helped him back up on the stage. New York was alive! There was always something to do; it was 24 hours 7 days. That is good and bad! For instance, I remember being at dumpy bar in the East Village and my friend said, “See that drunk passed out at the end of the bar?” I said “Yes.” “He is Wayne Kramer [of Detroit rock group MC5].” Of course we bought him a beer.

How did the scene there progress (regress?) going into the 90’s?

OP: I was born and raised in NYC. There was great music that came out of NYC in the 90’s, just like the 80’s. There has always been great music happening no matter where or when you live it may just not be recognized by the masses, bands like The Devil Dogs and The Sea Monkeys were thriving in NYC in the 90’s.

What do you make of the Arizona/valley music scene now? It seems like this scene is always growing and getting better and you can try new and different things because there are no set parameters, but I could be way off from your point of view.

OP: The Arizona music scene is great. There are so many great bands and so many great musicians to collaborate with; unlike bigger cities there is a real willingness to create something new instead of trying to fit in with what is in vogue.

How has your songwriting process changed over the years? Or has it?

OP: I have always and still consider myself a band member no matter what instrument I play, be it bass, drums, guitar or vocals. I believe that every member is equal to each and everyone brings something to the table and the more the other members feel this way the better the band is and the more prolific I am.

What’s upcoming for U.S. Depressed? Any show dates? How ’bout a music video?

OP: Our first record will be released in March we do hope that it will go platinum or at least tin foil, we will hopefully be playing shows in the year to come.

~

Listen to U.S. Depressed below. You can also keep up with Skink and U.S. Depressed on Facebook. For a more complete understanding on what Orin has been a part of and played on over the years, check out his Discgos page.

orin portnoy 01