Archive for April, 2010

Dirty Heads

April 29, 2010

Dirty Heads

I recently interviewed Dustin “Duddy” Bushnell of the Dirty Heads for the cover of a marijuana lifestyle magazine called Culture. This wasn’t the first time.

Allow me to rephrase that. This was my first time interviewing them for Culture magazine, but it wasn’t my first encounter with the little known quintet. In fact, when I first encountered them, I didn’t interview them at all; I co-directed a photo shoot. And they weren’t a quintet; they were a quartet, rounded out by a DJ named Rocky (now they have a full band as opposed to the DJ).

Prior to being listed in Rolling Stone Magazine as one of the “Best New Bands of 2010,” and the release of the heavily rotated single “Lay Me Down” featuring Rome Ramirez, the band was just gaining notoriety. The year was 2007, and if I remember correctly, the track “Stand Tall” had gained some hype and was even being featured at the X Games. I was working as Editor-In-Chief of Skinnie Magazine, and one of our in-house sales associates named Kevin Ashford had brought the Dirty Heads to my attention. Ashford was always very hip to the music and culture indigenous to the surf & skate community, and had relationships with pretty much every action sports oriented brand. He was also apparently a close friend of Braden Asher, who manages the Dirty Heads.

Kevin Ashford told me straight up, “This band will be the next big thing.” Well, all I have to say to that is, good call, Ashford. I seriously should have listened to you more back in the day. While some may contend that the Dirty Heads are not the next big thing just yet, I would like to point out that three years after Kevin’s claim, they are definitely well on their way and have received some rather impressive and credible accolades.

Regardless, at some point in 2007 the Dirty Heads found themselves in some “upscale” nightclub in Costa Mesa, the name of which eludes me at present. They were in the awkward position of being in a fashion shoot for a magazine they were unfamiliar with, being asked to wear clothes they didn’t like from sponsors who did not fit their lifestyle, and ultimately dealing with a club that wasn’t really their scene. And I was in the precarious position of trying to coax them into doing so for the sake of the shoot while making sure the band, the models, the sponsors and the photographer were all happy. Yay me!

In typical Skinnie Magazine style, the products and sponsors were completely mismatched with the models and the venue, thereby making the shoot all the more questionable. But the thing about Skinnie is, in those days, we were troopers, and we would do whatever it took to make things work out. We were the MacGuyvers of print content. You throw a box of matches, a paperclip and a toilet paper roll at MacGuyver and tell him to defuse a bomb, he’ll figure it out. Likewise, if you throw fashion accessories meant for dirt bike riders (the “bro” scene as many like to call it), a band that caters to the surfer and stoner demographic (read: “not bro at all”), a nightclub that has little to do with either (read: “sorry, but we want people with money and nice clothes to come here as opposed to surfers, stoners and bros”) at us and tell us to make a fashion spread with next to no budget… well… you get the idea. We somehow made it work, and that was both the frustration and the excitement of it all. That and bottle service.

To be fair, our greatest strength going into this shoot was probably the fact that we had world-renowned photographer Michael Vincent handling the camera. Michael Vincent is a very well respected fashion photographer who had already shot for the likes of Maxim, FHM and many other lad mags in various countries (he seemed to get booked in South America quite frequently). However, even having a heavy hitter like Michael Vincent on board made the shoot a tad awkward, as Mr. Vincent was at the time accustomed to shooting scenes laden with sex appeal. We had storyboarded this whole concept of the Dirty Heads hanging out at a club, wearing our client’s apparel, partying and drinking with a bunch of hot girls. Seemed simple and reasonable enough, we figured it would make the readers happy, the clients happy, the venue happy, and probably the band happy as well. As it turned out, a couple of the guys in the band had girlfriends, and being photographed with these hot, scantily clad female models draping themselves all over the band members’ laps and posing in questionable positions made the attached members quite nervous and in some instances downright uncomfortable. As for the members who were single, naturally they were fine with the whole situation, but we had not foreseen that two of the members would be involved in a serious relationship, and that there might be a question of moral comfort in having scantily clad women pose with them for a “sexy” fashion shoot.

It’s safe to say that in retrospect, compromises were made and somehow, we pulled off a good shoot. In the end, everybody was happy in spite of the unlikely circumstances. At least, I hope everybody was happy with the end result.

My most recent encounter with the Dirty Heads was considerably less awkward and therefore considerably less humorous, but still memorable nonetheless. After reminiscing about the humorous photo shoot and former band mate Rocky, Duddy and I got into the meat of a solid interview that can be read online here or at any place in So Cal that you can find Culture Magazine.

In a wacky side note, a week prior to being asked to interview the Dirty Heads, I was on assignment at the Cat Club, doing a show review for Music Connection. The boyfriend of the artist I was reviewing was, apparently, a musician, just like everybody in LA. But he wasn’t just any musician – no. He was one of those musicians who was so rich in integrity that he held nothing but contempt for any and all commercially successful artists. Of course, he mentioned the Dirty Heads in conversation and went on and on about how much he hated them and how they pretty much ripped off Sublime. I will say this about that: if you rip on a band in front of me, then odds are I will probably be asked by somebody to interview that same band a week later. At least I think that’s the lesson…

Or maybe that’s not the point really. I want to contend that while it’s obvious the Dirty Heads are influenced by Sublime, the real question is, who isn’t? Every artist is influenced by somebody, and Sublime is one of the most influential bands in recent decades. And to be fair, the Dirty Heads worked their asses off to turn their music into a viable means of income, and it’s working for them. Rather than holding them in contempt for their success, I hold them in esteem for proving that surviving in this industry is still a possibility.

In closing I’d like to thank Braden Asher for making the interview (and photo shoot) possible, Culture editor David Burton for giving me the assignment, and of course, Kevin Ashford, for having introduced me to the Dirty Heads in the first place.

Enjoy!

How I Learned to Like Country

April 12, 2010

The Hopdown Bilby Band

For as long as I can remember having ears, I’ve never liked Country Music.

Well, “never” is an unreasonable quantifier, I suppose. It’s not that I dislike Country music. Perhaps I should clarify: I loathe the twangy, line-dancing stereotype that we collectively associate with Country. However, at the core roots of Country music lies the same blistering swagger that shaped early Rock and Blues (which in turn, influenced all subsequent genres). Like it’s related genres, Country it is a form of human alchemy for translating pain into entertainment, tragedy into enlightenment and guilt into redemption.

For me, the Country artists who defined everything great about the genre are guys like Johnny Cash, Willy Nelson and the Charlie Daniels band. Taking it back further, you have cats like Merle Travis who wrote the timeless “16 Tons,” or Woodie Guthrie, easily Bob Dylan’s biggest influence. But if I were to judge by the radio, TV and most accessible music media, Country artists like this have not existed in a while.

The fact is, Country music, at its core, is exactly like Blues, Rock, Rap, Reggae and even Punk. To simplify my point without digressing too much, it originated as music of the people, the local downtrodden, the wanderers, the socially underprivileged and the working class.

Contemporary Punk artists such as Mike Ness of Social Distortion and Mike Herrera of MxPx have not forgotten the close ties between genres. In fact, if you have a chance to catch Mike Ness’ country set, do it. I regret not having my camera on hand for that show, although I do owe a debt of thanks to Terry Dipple of Ink’d Chronicles for inviting me to that show. The aforementioned Mike Herrera even has a rather rocking Country/Rockabilly side project called Tumbledown.

But what truly opened my mind and heart to country were not the endorsements of punk pioneers (in fact, I don’t really like MxPx at all to be honest, I think Tumbledown is wayyyyy better. No offense, Mike Herrera). Rather, I happened to catch two different shows, within a month of each other, in which an indie Country Artist shared the bill with various Rock and Punk bands.

The first, I had booked the band I manged, Shoppy, at a showcase at the Whiskey A Go Go in Hollywood. At this same Showcase, this band of unlikely-looking individuals took the stage and played some of the rockingest Country that I never even knew existed in this decade.  Yes, “rockingest” is now a word. Try and stop me from using it. The band in question called themselves the Hopdown Bilby Band, and they were lead by a frontman in a ten gallon hat. To his left, a bassist with a nose piercing and an AC/DC shirt, and hippy with an acoustic guitar. To his right, a young lady dressed in her Sunday best and a lead guitarist who looked like he should’ve been in a Metal band. Let’s not even mention the drummer, who reminded me vaguely in appearance of Al Jourgenson of Ministry.

Never mind the eclectic appearance of the sextet; their energy was unbelievable, and everything about their performance was honest and true.

The second occurrence came when Mark Nardone at Music Connection asked me if I would review a show for an artist named Andrew Anderson. I knew nothing about this guy, but since I was going to be in town for that show anyways, and since Mark Nardone is awesome as far as editors go, I took the assignment. Upon arriving at the venue, I met Mr. Anderson and spoke to him briefly, expecting him to have a backing band with him. No backing band. Just an acoustic guitar, a mandolin, and a cowboy hat.

Typically, I don’t enjoy singer songwriters. Just one voice and one instrument and no beat is something of a frustration for me. However, the minute Anderson opened with his song “Necessary Casualties,” a room full of would-be punk rockers found themselves gazing in shock at the stage as this powerhouse of a performer passionately unleashed a fury of lyrical intensity over the accompaniment of his acoustic instruments. It was sweaty, raw and honest.

Andrew Anderson

The Hopdown Bilby Band

I’ve always advocated that music is a universal language, as universal as mathematics. Something as simple as key and rhythm can powerfully communicate any emotional subtlety in the Universe. However, in spite of this view, I have always been somewhat of a music snob. Only in recent times have I been able to thankfully drop some of those pretenses and open my mind up to genres I traditionally hate out of general principle.

While I may have been inspired to re-evaluate a genre, I still loathe line-dancing and that twangy pop shit that passes as Country today. I know music is music… but sincerity goes a long way, and regardless of the genre, when music is honest, it can open doors and minds alike.

The Blog That Almost Wasn’t

April 9, 2010

Everybody has a blog.

Many of these blogs are nothing more than opinionated ramblings.

And generally, the more the blogs have to do with entertainment (e.g. music, film, art, literature, etc.) the more opinionated the ramblings become. Then again, how can one expect objectivity when dealing with something as subjective as the arts?

This is why I didn’t really want to start a blog. Sure, I have opinions, especially on music, the central focus of my professional existence. But who the hell wants to hear them? The internet is inundated with a seemingly endless amount of rhetoric, criticisms and mouse-pad professionals who think they know it all. Why toss pennies into a well already lined with pence? While we’re at it, let’s shine a flashlight on the sun.

As such, I’ve decided to start a blog anyway, and that the goal of said blog is to be both entertaining AND informative; I intend to make it obvious when I am making an objective observation of something in the realm of music and entertainment, and when I am offering up my subjective opinion.

I am not here to be snarky or to ape popular rhetoric. I have experienced the entertainment industry from both the fan perspective and the business perspective, and I know what’s what. Lastly, I am not here to be everything to every music lover. I am not the final word or a one-stop shop of anything and everything. I’m just a really fucking smart guy with a unique perspective, and I will bring you plenty of interesting content involving many fascinating musicians, artists and music professionals, and I will present it to you in the aforementioned “entertaining and informative” manner. Plus, being that it’s MY blog, I anticipate there will be entries that are pretty much just my perspective on an issue or principle relating to music or entertainment. It’s up to you if you like it or not. I know, isn’t freedom neat?

“Well, with that attitude, why would you even start a blog?”

Because, apparently, people enjoy my writing. After all, I get paid for it. In fact many of my friends and colleagues continue to pressure me to write, as apparently, my way with words is somewhat amusing. But – most imporantly – apparently, the very act of me having a blog somehow establishes “writing credibility” in this modern world of web fever. Forget the fact that I was an Editor-In-Chief of a hot regional publication for six years, or my many freelance contributions to publications such as Music Connection or Culture... it’s the blog that makes me credible, modern, and qualified as a writer. None of that actual past experience stuff with the antiquated print medium. Sheesh.

So, go on and behold; I am a credible writer now. Pretty neat, huh?

Yes. Yes it is.