Video Interview: Edmonton Folk Festival

I didn’t think twice when I was asked to cover the Edmonton Folk Festival earlier this month. Although this wasn’t my first time in Edmonton – I had spent a summer there a year ago working – it was my first experience with the festival itself and I would certainly return given the chance. For a four-day event run entirely by volunteers and drawing nearly 2,500 people, I was amazed at how smoothly everything went as well as the kindness of the people there. It was one of the most enjoyable music festivals I’ve ever attended.

Thanks to Kendra Hart for shooting and editing, Jordan Delic for producing and Jocelynn Rennie for her coordinating expertise and being a great impromptu sound person.

Video Interview: Warped Tour 2011

I covered Warped Tour when it passed through Toronto last month for AUX. Although many of the bands/artists performing are not what I’d normally listen to, it was still interesting to meet and chat with them as well as those who travel with the tour as vendors like Jac Vanek or non-profit movements such as To Write Love on Her Arms.

Thanks to Clem Lush and Brendon Timmings for shooting and coordinating the interviews.

Video Interview: Glasvegas

Scottish band Glasvegas has just put out a new album called Euphoric Heartbreak and I interviewed them when they stopped in Toronto during their North American tour in support of it. Guitarist Rab Allen is by far the tallest Scottish person I’ve met and along with bassist Paul Donoghue, the band was a pleasure to chat with.

Thanks to Rick Thompson for shooting and Tristan Moran for editing the final piece.

Black Lips detail how to use a human skull as a reverb chamber

Interviewing Black Lips was pretty cool. They’ve always been one of my favorite bands and with a new record set to come out (Arabia Mountain), I was eager to chat with a couple of the guys. They used an actual human skull as a reverberation chamber in some of their new songs and I wrote a story about how they did it as well as a few other details about the album. Read it on AUX.

Five of the Best Thrid Albums

*Written and published for AUX

Awhile back we posted about bands overcoming the ‘sophomore slump.’ In most cases their second albums proved they were professional musicians with more than a dozen or so good licks. The third album however is probably as tricky as the second and truly shows what they’re made of and what they have to offer. We’ve seen third albums flop, but those unmentionables are for another day. Today rather we highlight the best and what turned out to be most groundbreaking third album releases that ultimately put the band’s name on the lips and in the ears of everyone across the globe.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs – It’s Blitz! (2009)

For those only familiar with the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s through their song “Maps,” one of the greatest alternative rock love songs, all they saw in It’s Blitz! was a hand crushing an egg. That’s before taking a listen obviously. Following 2006’s LP Show Your Bones and the EP Is Is, released a year later, Yeah Yeah Yeahs catapulted themselves to the big screen, or big stage, with 10 songs and four acoustic takes. The sound on It’s Blitz! is nothing revolutionary and is unsurprising for fans of the band as the edgy rock/synth combo is still present. If anything singer Karen O’s shows off some vocal skill, especially on the acoustic takes, and the band as a whole reveal they are not limited to explicit in-your-face alternative rock like on their previous albums.

Radiohead – OK Computer (1997)

It’s difficult to think of third albums and have Radiohead’s OK Computer slip your mind. Numerous articles, chapters of books and people in general have devoted themselves to just less than 60 minutes of music created by four English lads from Oxford. The animated video for the album’s lead single “Paranoid Android,” directed by Magnus Carlsson, is a staple for the ‘90s and the song itself is memorable for everyone growing up during that time. We can talk about how many bands were influenced by this album till the next decade and that’s what makes this music so worthy of being dubbed one of the best alternative rock albums ever. It was the first step in the long musical journey Radiohead as a band would pursue in terms of sound. With its politically driven lyrics and collection of creative images, the album is responsible for part of the success the band has today.

Metric – Live It Out (2005)

“Bam-chick-a-bam, chick-a-boom-boom-boom, sha-lang-sha-lang-boom.” Technically the third although released as their second, their first album Grow Up and Blow Away was re-released in 2007, Metric’s Live It Out stands alone as one of the best Canadian indie rock albums of the last decade. After a long eerie intro and soft vocals from singer Emily Haines, “Empty,” the album’s opening song launches you into a heavy guitar/drums assault. The rest of the disc goes back and forth between chilled out and hard rocking snyth tracks that, although done by so many other bands around this time, remain both original and memorable.

Hole – Celebrity Skin (1998)

Call Courtney Love what you want, perhaps Courtney Michelle, but there was once a time when her band Hole was one of the best female fronted alternative rock bands on the planet and even received Grammy nominations. Could you imagine Courtney Love going up and collecting a Grammy Award? Musically this album marked a slight change for Hole as they adopted a more polished version of their previous raw grungy take on alternative rock. Love herself had a transformation around this time as she started to shape up her image and landed roles in the movies, The People vs. Larry Flint and 200 Cigarettes. Whether their latest, Nobody’s Daughter lives up to this album is undecided, although we’re pretty sure it won’t as we sadly watch the reformed Hole, or Courtney Love, getting up on stage trying to get back the musical prowess she once had.

Blink 182 – Enema of the State (1999)

With lyrics like, “I’d ditch my lecture to watch the girls play soccer, is my picture still hanging in her locker?” Blink 182’s Enema of the State solidified the new wave of pop punk and set a precursor for the legions of bands to follow. It was the first album with drummer Travis Barker and was Blink’s first popular album. For those who had known the band in their Cheshire Cat, Dude Ranch days, this album was nothing knew as they once again took on writing upbeat tunes based on love lost and jacking off in weird places. To accompany their witty, but most of the time immature themes, the band captured their thoughts through music videos by running naked through the streets or imitating current boy bands like the Backstreet Boys and what not.

Alice in Chains at the Sound Academy

New photos posted on Flickr.

Review written and published for AUX.

Former Alice in Chains singer and songwriter Layne Staley died in 2002. A few years later the band reformed with new member William DuVall, a black afro haired singer who befriended guitarist Jerry Cantrell earlier on in the decade. Last night, March 17, 2010, Alice in Chains, fronted by DuVall, who may not look or have the same vocal style as Staley, played at the Sound Academy in Toronto to a sold out audience.

Playing mostly new material from their latest album, Black Gives Way to Blue, released last year, Alice in Chains ripped up the stage and showed no remorse for people with glow sticks. Midway through their set, which also included older Alice songs such as “Them Bones,” “Down in a Hole,” “Angry Chair,” and “Man in the Box,” an audience member threw a glow stick onstage. Using the opportunity to catch their breath the band, consisting of other original member Sean Kinney on drums and bassist Mike Inez who replaced former bassist Mike Starr in 1993, went back to their metal influenced alternative rock tunes, a staple of the band since the early days. The performance of the track “Your Decision” featuring DuVall on acoustic guitar certainly gave the enthusiastic crowd some respite before launching into the hard rock favourite “We Die Young” off Facelift, the band’s first album after changing their name from Sleeze.

Ending the set with “Man in the Box” where for once the crowd’s vocals outsoared DuVall’s take on Staley, the band returned for a three song encore and played “No Excuses,” “Would” and “Rooster,” all songs off previous albums. The last song, written by Cantrell and said to be about his father who served in Vietnam, truly ended the night with both the band and crowd harmonizing on the intro and outro.

Despite losing Staley, Alice in Chains have done what so many other bands couldn’t do. They have put out a fresh batch of new tunes fans of old love containing the loud ‘90s rock aesthetic. The band has also attracted newcomers to the sound to explore the band’s current and past catalogue. In a way it’s refreshing to see older bands still playing hard rocking music without the use of electronic equipment. They reinforce the idea that songs from early ‘90s Seattle bands are timeless pieces of art made by those who struggled with no money and crappy weather. Hearing the songs live, even with DuVall instead of Staley, is a thrilling experience that any fan or appreciator of alternative rock and its roots should not overlook.