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Listen To This: Michael Riesman, 'Dracula Suite: The Castle'

Friday, October 31, 2014

ARTIST: Michael Riesman

LISTEN: 

Michael Riesman, "Dracula Suite: The Castle"  

GIG: Friday night at Morgan Library in Murray Hill

Halloween wouldn’t be Halloween without Dracula, and all subsequent vampires pale in comparison with the old silent film version starring Bela Lugosi. The film is made even creepier when you add Philip Glass’s chilling piano score. 

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Rock 'N' Roll Gives The Devil His Due In 'Season Of The Witch'

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Peter Bebergal's new book is Season of the Witch: How the Occult Saved Rock and Roll.

It's easy to forget today just how threatening rock 'n' roll music was in its infancy. Fed by deep-seated cultural and racial tensions, reactions to rock emphasized its other-ness and manifestation of long-buried and explosive impulses. All of which fed a suspicion that the music belonged to some darker force. It all started when the Mississippi bluesman Robert Johnson "sold his soul" to the devil for fame and fortune.

Writer Peter Bebergal says that without all this soul-selling – or at least the appearance of such -- rock 'n' roll would never have become rock 'n' roll. In his latest book, Season Of The Witch: How the Occult Saved Rock And Roll, Bebergal says that the occult -- and its influence on rock music -- is far more complex than simply biting a head off of a dove or a bat every now and then. 

"The occult imagination includes not just the beliefs and practices people have," Bebergal explains in a conversation with Souncheck host John Schaefer, "but also the way people respond to those beliefs and practices. So, a Christian Fundamentalist that sees a Black Sabbath album as being demonic, that's also part of this occult imagination."

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Interview: George Clinton On A Lifetime Aboard The Mothership

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

George Clinton's new memoir is 'Brothas Be, Yo Like George, Ain't That Funkin' Kinda Hard on You?'

"If it wasn't for flashbacks, I wouldn't have any memory at all," says George Clinton during his interview on Soundcheck.

Over his 50-plus years in the music industry, the funk pioneer best known as the founder and driving creative force of Parliament-Funkadelic, and later, the P-Funk All-Stars, has seen -- and done -- a lot. Clinton started out as a doo-wop singer and and a songwriter in the Brill Building in the 1960s. But his sound quickly evolved into something much more rock -- and, eventually, funk -- oriented. Clinton describes that funky sound as "psychedelic versions of the songs that my mother would listen to." 

"Music from way back up in the woods," he says. "Matter of fact, all the way in the jungle. We wasn't even going back to slavery -- we was going back primal." 

With his '70s and '80s bands -- Parliament and Funkadelic — Clinton achieved four No. 1 R&B hits, including the anthem "One Nation Under A Groove" and "Atomic Dog," which topped the R&B charts for four weeks in 1982. Other songs like "Flash Light," "Give Up The Funk (Tear The Roof Off The Sucker)," "Maggot Brain," and "Mothership Connection," remain indelible, and frequently-sampled classics. And with his exuberant marathon concerts, Clinton and his sprawling, colorful band earned a reputation as one of the most memorable and unpredictable live acts around.

Clinton's winding musical journey -- and his longtime struggles with a crippling crack addiction -- is chronicled in his new memoir, Brothas Be, Yo Like George, Ain't That Funkin' Kinda Hard On You? 

In a conversation with Soundcheck host John Schaefer, Clinton reflects on his early years bridging divided black and white audiences, his musical highs and career lows, and the invention of famous The Mothership.

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Download This: Peliroja, “Bohemio”

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

ARTIST: Peliroja

DOWNLOAD:

Peliroja, "Bohemio"  

GIG: Wednesday night at Joe's Pub

If there’s a “sound of New York,” then you’ll hear it in the work of the band Peliroja. They fuse traditions from locations as far-flung and diverse as Ethiopia, Cuba, the Congo, and the Dominican Republic. It’s as good a melting pot as you’ll find anywhere in the five boroughs.

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George Clinton On A Lifetime Aboard The Mothership; Twin Peaks Plays Live

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

In this episode: The original funk pioneer George Clinton reflects on his decades-long career in his new memoir Brothas Be, Yo Like George, Ain't That Funkin' Kinda Hard on You? The driving force behind the Parliament-Funkadelic collective stops by to talk about his early days as a doo-wop singer in Newark, the evolution of his ultra-funky sound and the time that he landed the Mothership in Times Square.

Plus: Hear the Chicago garage rock band Twin Peaks perform songs from its latest album, Wild Onion, in the Soundcheck studio.

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That Was A Hit?!?: Little Stevie Wonder, 'Fingertips'

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Stevie Wonder has put out his fair share of hits over the years, especially that incredible stretch in the 1970s, when he released many of his best records -- Talking Book (1972), Innervisions (1973), Fulfillingness' First Finale (1974), and Songs In The Key Of Life (1976) -- all in a row. That era yielded big-time singles "Superstition," "You Are the Sunshine of My Life," "You Haven't Done Nothin'," "Sir Duke" and  "I Wish" -- all-time classic songs most know and love.

But fewer people will remember the singer's very first No. 1 single from his earliest Motown years, when he was a 12-years-old child prodigy that went by "Little" Stevie Wonder.

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Moby's Post-Apocalyptic Dream

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

When Moby recorded “The Last Day,” for his 2013 album, Innocents, most didn't take the title literally. Well, as it turns out, it wasn't just a song.

"The Last Day" really did happen, in 2012, and we are now apparently living in a post-apocalyptic world. Moby has the photographs to prove it. His new exhibit of photographs, also called Innocents, is up and running at the Emmanuel Fremin Gallery in New York through Dec. 30.

"If you remember a few years ago, there was supposedly the Mayan apocalypse," Moby says in a conversation with Soundcheck host John Schaefer. "[But] maybe the apocalypse is rather like an unfolding. The more I thought about this, the more I thought there is a lot of evidence to support the idea that there is this benign apocalypse unfolding and we're a part of it. We have a progressive African-American president. Our next president will most likely be a wonderful, progressive woman. The world is generally moving in a more rational direction. And then there is a part of the world moving in a more atavistic, fear-based direction." 

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Listen To This: Boots, "Mercy"

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

ARTIST: Boots

LISTEN:

Boots, "Mercy"  

GIG: Tuesday night at Baby's All Right

When Beyonce dropped a surprise album on the adoring masses at the end of 2013, one of the biggest surprises wasn’t the music itself, but rather a mysterious name that showed up all over the album’s credits. The artist known only as Boots has kept fans guessing: this song, called “Mercy,” is all you’ll find on his website

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Moby's Post-Apocalyptic Photography; That Was A Hit?!? On Little Stevie Wonder; Twin Peaks Plays Live

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

In this episode: Moby has photographic proof that we are now living in a post-apocalyptic world. He’s displaying it in a new exhibit called Innocents, which supposes that the world did in fact end in 2012 – in a “slow” apocalypse. He talks about the exhibit, and about his 2013 record with the same title.

Then: Pop charts analyst Chris Molanphy profiles another unlikely chart-topping success as part of Soundcheck's That Was A Hit?!? series, with the 1963 No. 1 hit, “Fingertips Pt. 1 and 2” by Little Stevie Wonder. It was Stevie’s first No. 1, and amazingly, his only chart-topper of the '60s.

And: Adult Jazz has made one of the most startlingly beautiful and idiosyncratic records of the year with Gist Is. Hear the young quartet from Leeds perform in the Soundcheck studio.

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Jonathan Lethem's 'The Fortress Of Solitude' Is Now a Musical

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Fortress Of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem.

Jonathan Lethem's The Fortress Of Solitude is a coming-of-age saga that follows two teenage friends, Dylan Ebdus and Mingus Rude, as they navigate adolescence, racial tensions and reality in 1970s Brooklyn. Partially an autobiographical story of Lethem's own childhood, the acclaimed 2003 novel explores New York music culture and is packed with references to Lou Reed, The Sugarhill Gang and Brian Eno. Lethem even made a mixtape to accompany the book. 

The saturation of sound in the novel caught the attention of theater director Daniel Aukin, who worked with Michael Friedman -- best known composing the 2010 musical Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson -- to produce a musical adaptation of the book. The show is now running at the Public Theater in New York and has just been extended through Nov. 16. 

In a conversation with Soundcheck host John Schaefer, Jonathan Lethem talks about the book's adaptation, working with Friedman on the musical tone and whether the story has changed after being translated for the stage.

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Five Songs For Dylan Thomas

Monday, October 27, 2014

Today is the 100th anniversary of Dylan Thomas' birthday. If you read any of the Welsh poet's major works, you’ll hear the music of the sea, and the music of the city. And as with any good poet, there is music in his use of language.

No surprise, then, that musicians have been inspired by his poetry since his premature death in 1953. Classical composers, led by Stravinsky, have written pieces dedicated to him or built around his poems. But one of the touches of genius in Dylan Thomas’ writing was the way he combined the formal and literary concerns of classic poetry with a common man’s touch. His work wasn’t aimed at academics or classicists; his work was aimed at Everyman. So here are some of the artists from the wide world of popular music who have drawn inspiration from Dylan Thomas.

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Song Premiere: Wedding Dress, 'Frail Flakes'

Monday, October 27, 2014

When your main gig is with a band known for its technical prowess and meticulously composed, if chaotic pop songs, it makes some sense that you’d want a side project to be something a little more reined in. That seems to be the case with Maps & Atlases guitarist Erin Elders, who started writing and recording simple yet lovely songs on his own between lengthy stretches of touring with the "math pop" band. Soon, once the backbones of those tracks were created, Elders’ solo endeavor grew into a collaboration with Mike Russell and Matt Lemke (Suns), Bobby Burg (Love Of Everything/Joan Of Arc), and Christian Dawson (Gypsyblood).

Elders’ first record under the new moniker Wedding Dress, Desperate Glow, is now set to drop on Nov. 18 -- and judging from the song “Frail Flakes,” the album will be far more restrained and minimal than most of Elders’ work with the “math pop” band, but just as sonically rich.

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Five Female Solo Artists Just Smashed a Billboard Record

Monday, October 27, 2014

Move over, Miley and Katy. There's a new pack of female pop artists on the rise -- and together, they just set a new all-time Billboard record. 

For the first time in Billboard's 56-year history, female solo artists -- led by young singer Meghan Trainor, whose debut single "All About That Bass" has topped singles charts from New Zealand to Croatia -- have occupied the top five spots on the Billboard Hot 100 for a record-breaking seven weeks.

"The last time that there were this many women in the top five for more than one week was in 1999," says music writer Melinda Newman, who recently covered the trend for Billboard magazine. "And that string only lasted four weeks." 

In a conversation with Soundcheck host John Schaefer, Newman talks about whether this female singles chart domination signifies a shift in the typically male-dominated music industry -- and about the relative newcomers (with the exception of pop star Taylor Swift, whose new album 1989 comes out on Monday) who are holding down the top of the chart. 

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Download This: Jennifer O'Connor "When I Grow Up"

Monday, October 27, 2014

ARTIST: Jennifer O'Connor

DOWNLOAD:

Jennifer O'Connor, "When I Grow Up"  

GIG: Monday night at Rough Trade 

Jennifer O’Connor got a songwriter’s dream-boost earlier this year when her song “When I Grow Up” was featured in a lengthy Apple iPhone commercial. Whether or not her forthcoming new album gets a surprise unveiling at the next Apple mega-event, the songs will likely continue to be gorgeous mini-soundtracks.

Jennifer O’Connor is at Rough Trade tonight. 

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Five Women Command The Top Of The Charts; Jonathan Lethem Adapted For Stage; James Plays Live

Monday, October 27, 2014

In this episode: For the first time ever, female solo artists have held all top five spots on the Hot 100 for more than four weeks in a row -- going on seven weeks at this point. Melinda Newman, who recently wrote about this record-breaking trend for Billboard, walks us through each of the five songs.

Then: Author Jonathan Lethem’s 2003 novel Fortress Of Solitude is getting a new musical adaptation. The author talks about the musical DNA of the original story and how it’s being translated to the stage at The Public Theater.

And: The band James became one of the biggest bands in the U.K. in the early 1990’s with massive hits like “Sit Down,” “Sound,” and one of the best songs of all time about sex — “Laid.” After a hiatus in the early 2000’s, James reunited and has released a string of albums, including their latest, La Petite Mort.” Hear James perform new songs and and old favorite in the Soundcheck studio.

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Download This: Soko, "Who Wears The Pants?"

Friday, October 24, 2014

ARTIST: Soko

DOWNLOAD:

Soko, "Who Wears The Pants?"  

GIG: Friday & Saturday night at The United Palace

Soko is a French-born, Los Angeles-based musician and actress. The New York Times said she was "as grave and luminous as a silent film star" in one of her latest film performances. Grave and luminous on-screen – but brash and brassy on record. Here’s her song “Who Wears The Pants?” from her upcoming 2015 album.

Soko is at the United Palace in Washington Heights with Foster The People tonight and tomorrow night.

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Wyatt Cenac, Live In Brooklyn; Russell Simmons On Def Jam At 30; Little May Plays Live

Friday, October 24, 2014

In this episode: Earlier this year at RadioLoveFest at BAM, comedian Wyatt Cenac previewed some of his upcoming comedy album and special called Brooklyn. Well, that special just premiered this week – so we thought we’d revisit some of his hilarious set -- about stinky subway cars, being mistaken for a pothead, and the time he unwillingly babysat a child on the street.

Then: Russell Simmons is the entrepreneur and entertainment mogul who co-founded Def Jam Records among a plethora of other highly successful business ventures. Simmons shares some memories from those early days and reflects on 30 years of Def Jam.

Then: The three Australian women who make up Little May blend folk harmony vocals with a catchy pop sensibility – and maybe something a little subversive and darker. Hear the trio perform in the Soundcheck studio.

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Watch: Twin Peaks, In The Studio

Friday, October 24, 2014

For a band that shares its namesake with a certain influential TV drama, Twin Peaks sounds nothing like the quirky and unsettling moods evoked in the David Lynch and Mark Frost series -- nor the eerie dreamscapes composed by Angelo Badalamenti. Instead, the young Chicago garage rockers simply chose their name because it "sounded cool." It does, certainly, but the band's sneering bursts of feedback and scorching guitar riffs also sound way cool -- especially when cranked up real loud.

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James Brown's Rise Revealed In The Explosive 'Mr. Dynamite'

Thursday, October 23, 2014

"Everybody knows who James Brown is," says filmmaker Alex Gibney. "But I think the impetus here was going back and looking at a couple of things that maybe had been overlooked."

Gibney, whose past documentary work includes Taxi To The Dark Side and Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, chronicles funk pioneer James Brown's early career through the peak of his success in his new documentary, Mr. Dynamite: The Rise of James Brown. And although Brown's life has certainly been studied before, the film, which airs on HBO on Oct. 27, does direct the spotlight onto some areas of his career and work -- from the jazz roots of songs like "Cold Sweat" to Brown's early days impersonating Little Richard on stage -- that perhaps haven't come to light before. 

In a conversation with Soundcheck host John Schaefer, Gibney talks about being approached by producer Mick Jagger to work on the film, and about uncovering layers of the funk star's past. 

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