Sunday, May 3, 2015

Tony Iglio - Drugstore (1971/2015)

TONY IGLIO 'Drugstore'
Original press: TRY Records TLP 1101 (Year: 1971)
Reprint by: CINEDELIC Format LP (CNLP39) + Free CD 500 copies / CD (CNCD39)

Tony Iglio, born in 1932, has been one of the most po­pular orchestral arrangers of RAI (Italian National Te­levision) and has composed over 1500 songs. Son of art, over the years he has played with and for the most important figures of the last century in Italy.

I have deep love for various of "library" LPs, that were mostly recorded in the '70s. That's why I managed to interview Sven Libaek (interview here), Bernard Fevre (interview here) and Janko Nilovic (interview here). There are a ton of other composers, that recorded wonderful LPs inside the genre and among them is Tony Iglio. He made only one LP entitled Drugstore, which isn't your typical "library" album, but has a deep jazz undertone and a lot of space for experimentation. 
Full spacious jazzy oriented sound, that I would consider among the best "library" LPs I heard lately. Tony Iglio would be impossible to find, but wonderful Cinedelic Records from Italy found him and made a reissue which will come out in matters of few days. Preorder already available. If you're a fan of exploitation albums please do yourself a favour and visit Cinedelic Records.
They helped us out to talk with Mr. Iglio. Enjoy reading how this album came to realization. 

Before Drugstore I was involved with arranging and directing orchestras in a hundreds of recordings for various singers in pop and traditional Neapolitan music.This was my first LP under my name and was made for television and radio synchronizations and documentaries soundtracks. I composed and arranged all the tracks, playing also keyboard and sax. It was  recorded in full artistic freedom in one of the most important Italian studios, the Phonotype Records of Naples that exists since 1903. The musicians were all professionals, some taught at prestigious conservatories. Trumpet player Eddie Caruso helped me the most; he played with me in RAI (Italian national TV) and later became the first trumpet player in the RSI orchestra of Lugano for over 10 years.

The LP was pressed in 1971. I remember it because in the same year I was working also for Peppino Di Capri, and was presented live at the Teatro San Carlo in Naples, February 6, 1972; it was not an easy drive to chew but played live aroused much interest, especially for the technical skills of the musicians and originality.

The first printing of the LP made very few copies and were simply shades of brown with green writes on the back; later was realized, in no more than 200 copies, in black and red version. Between the two versions, there was a change in the title of the first track on side B. "Menage" became "Velvet".
Albums that I realized later, were more in the commercial side, where I re-arranged famous themes, from bossa nova, jazz, soundtracks, plus some of my original compositions. 

Honestly I have not done other album free as Drugstore, where we had a lot of fun experimenting, shouting and trying out new effects.

Tony Iglio in the centre.

Article made by Klemen Breznikar/2015
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Saturday, May 2, 2015

Lloyd Cole - Standards (2013) review

Lloyd Cole "Standards" (Tapete Records, 2013)
Lloyd Cole, a British musician, seems to have disappeared into America for the last few years, doing occasional shows for his die-hard fans, though no longer on the charts of even the public radio stations.  That being said, he’s still very active, and like Jeff Tweedy of Wilco, he’s put out an acoustic set of classic songs with his son Will, created the unexpected Selected Studies Volume One with Hans-Joachim Roedelius, and on his blog, suggests that he has several other ideas rolling around in his head, besides improving his golf game.

Standards, must be said with tongue in cheek, because it is hardly a set of standards, and has me questioning why it’s taken so long for this album to be released in the States, as it’s been available in Europe since 2013.  With Lloyd older now, he seems to be disenchanted with the recording industry, with this album being financed through the raising of funds through fans, though he has suggested that this may be his last formal album.

Having never mentioned the internet before in any of my reviews, an idea that was supposed to bring the world together, I must say that for all it is or isn’t, the internet seems to have torn down the music scene nearly overnight, making the release of an album for a literary artist like Lloyd Cole almost a cottage industry ... where an outing like Standards is rather obscure, and nearly impossible for those of us who thrive on physical product to find.  Meaning that when we are able to find it, we’re forced to make the purchase from some Record Store Day clown has bought up all the copies, and is making ten times the amount Lloyd Cole made on a single slab of plastic.  Even artists like Bob Dylan make their money from their back catalog, and not from his newer material, leaving artists without huge catalogs forced to tour relentlessly in order to make a living and break even.

And since mentioning Dylan, it was Bob’s 2012 release of Tempest that inspired Lloyd to create Standards, an album that is [shall we say] less age appropriate, being more electric oriented, and less acoustically quiet as his previous albums have been ... featuring a fine lineup, including Fred Maher [who worked with Lou Reed] on drums, Matthew Sweet on bass, Joan Wasser on piano, and several of the members of this old band The Commotions.  Many of the songs are delightfully just what you’d expect and hoped for, while others are out of the box, though all are very literary, filled with stories, insights, and a bit of the cleverness that has always been Lloyd Cole’s mainstay. 

Trust me, if you’ve forgotten about Lloyd Cole and The Commotions over the years, Standards will flashback the memories, and instantly create new ones.

Review made by Jenell Kesler/2015
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Friday, May 1, 2015

John Moules interview

You're best known for being the visual artist for Hawkwind. That's quite a job! How long have you been working with them, and how did you land the gig?

I've been part of the Hawkwind family since 2002. I started helping out a couple of friends (Neil Ward and Marie Jenkinson) in the mid 90's doing shows for Hawkwind's ex bassist/vocalist Alan Davey's band, Bedouin, and their current vocalist Mr Dibs' band Spacehead before getting the call from Hawkwind.

Can you explain how you design your projections, and how you work them live?

I use a program called Adobe After Effects to create new graphics and a program called Arkaos Grand VJ to run them live, which gives me the freedom to use the effects in live time. 

What inspires your visuals?

The work and discoveries of Albert Hoffman is a huge influence. 

Do you analyse the lyrics of a song when creating the visuals, or do you focus more on the music itself?

Both inspire me but the tempo and feel of the music is the main thing I try to concentrate on.

Do the artists have much input on your light show, or do you design it all yourself?

I design the Hawkwind show myself; they have had a little input in the past but it's generally left down to me. The other bands I work for have had a lot more input, i.e. they provide the clips they want to use and I put them together.

How long does it take to design the visuals to each song?

Wow – how long is a piece of string? Haha, seriously though, sometimes it's a matter of minutes, other times it takes days depending on if I'm on a creative streak or not.

Are you influenced by anyone else in the world of lighting and projections?

I guess the work that Optikinetics do creating the old school projection effects was/is still a big influence on what I do nowadays. My first influence I guess was the work Marie and Neil were doing when I first got involved in the graphics side of things.

What equipment do you take on the road with you?

Up until a few years ago we used to tour with the oldschool opti projectors Solar 575's and Opti K4's etc, and a video projector. It used to fill a Transit sized van. Nowadays I generally tour with just a projector and laptop – technology has come on in leaps and bounds nowadays so it makes it a lot easier to do what we used to do with less equipment.

You're also doing the light show for Electric Wizard these days, how did that come about?

It was a case of knowing someone who knew someone who knew me haha. They wanted to create a new depth to their live shows and decided on a trippy doom graphics show. Their tour manager at the time knew a mutual friend called Keith Barton, who was at the time Dave Brock's (Hawkwind) guitar tech, who put them in touch with us.

Both Hawkwind and Electric Wizard are associated with certain 'drug cultures'. Do you think people need to be high, or tripping, to get the most out of the audio-visual experience when watching these bands live?

I guess it helps. It certainly worked for me when I used to go and see them live before I got involved with working for them.

Whereas Hawkwind have more of a peaceful 'good trip' vibe about them, Electric Wizard represent the bad trip, utilising your projections to convey the aesthetic of horror. How do you go about creating such contrasting effects for different bands? 

Haha peace n' love man (what's that all about then?!!!). I guess we all need a little lightness and darkness in our life, the Yin Yang philosophy. I guess their music dictates what sort of atmosphere is created. In my own mind and imagination there is very much a light and dark side so it's pretty easy for me to transcend into both worlds.

What's YOUR favourite Hawkwind song? 

That's a hard one. My favourite years are the mid 70's with Lemmy and the early 90's when it was the trio of Dave (Brock), Richard (Chadwick – drums) and Alan (Davey – bass). So I guess from the 70's it'll have to be Kings of Speed and from the 90's it's got to be LSD.

You've worked a lot of tours and shows all over the world. What have been your career highlights?  

Each and every show is a highlight. There was a show in the south of Spain which will probably be a personal highlight for me haha, but I feel blessed to have experienced some wonderful shows and festivals in my career.

As well as Hawkwind and Electric Wizard, you've worked lightshows for avente garde metallers Arcturus and more recently, ambient house pioneers The Orb. Are there any other bands you'd like to work for?

I'd love to do some graphics work for Monster Magnet. I'd also like to experience what life on the road with Rammstein would be like (I used to work for a local band in the 80's using pyro), so would love to play with Rammstein's fire and pyro show haha.  

Is there anything you'd like to say to fans of your lightshow, or anyone aspiring to get involved in chaos of  psychedelic visuals?

DON'T DO IT! No, seriously, I just do what I feel like doing for the shows; your imagination is your only barrier. If you think it looks good then other people probably do too. 

To all the folk out there who enjoy what I do... thanks for your support and I'm glad you like my psychedelic warped imagination.

Interview made by Haz Wheaton/2015
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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Volta Sound - My All American Girl (2002) review

Volta Sound - My All American Girl (Orange Sky, 2002)

Volta Sound [with the name being taken from the Italian physicist, who in 1800 invented the voltaic pile, which was the first source of continuous electric current. The volt unit of electromotive force is named for him.  Thus Volta Sound, being an electric sound ...] is an etherial semi translucent band hailing from Cleveland, Ohio, who’s members are shared by other bands, coming together in 2000 to form a loose knit collective of kindred spirits, who’s influences can be traced to Spacemen 3, Brian Jonestown Massacre, The Dandy Warhols, certainly early Pink Floyd, and elements of The Beatles’ “Within You Without You,” along with Donovan’s “Sand & Foam.” 

The songs have a definite lo-fi sonic presentation, and at times some of the longer songs are so lo-fi and drawn out that I for one find myself moving to the next track before I fall asleep ... and to that end, I’d like to discuss their total body of work, rather than settling on one album, with My All American Girl being their most tight concise accessible and stringent album to date.  All and all you’ll be impressed and presented with something in the neighborhood of 125 songs, and of those, I’ve pared their collective body of work down to an elemental 28 that the neo-psychedelic world can not do without.  I don’t want you to think that I don’t dig all of their music, it’s just that I know what sits well with me, and when the band sets foot into the Hawkwind realm, I step out.  So, if you’re adventurous enough, you might select a grouping of songs that was completely filtered by my radar, and be jettisoned onto a spacerock journey from which you’re likely never to return.

Had I not been traveling this wayward psychedelic road for so many lightyears with the likes of Spacemen 3, Pink Floyd, and BJM being part of the lexicon of my musical life, I think I might be much more impressed with the band ... though as I said, the 28 songs I’ve chosen to keep from their collection, are songs I don’t think I could do without.  

Those being: Zen Is Everywhere, You're Nobody's Girlfriend, My All American Girl, Sunshine, No Control, Deep, Right Up To You, We Have Voices, Everything's Alright, (My All American) Girl, There Is No Question, Take Yer Sweet Time, Girls & Tambourines, Goldilocks, Gracious Guru, Good Lookin' Out, Ya'll, Familiarity, Get In Yr Noose, Let The Robots In, Go Straight Ahead, When It Works, Meditation Station, Dog, Ten Minutes, We'll Be Fine, Everything's Alright, Endorphin Deliriums, and #1.

Review made by Jenell Kesler/2015
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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Greek Theatre - Lost Out At Sea (2015) review

Greek Theatre 'Lost Out At Sea' (Sugarbush Records, 2015)

This is one of these albums that's been hanging around a few months now and in the process getting a lot of rave notices from hither and thon in the process and it's relatively easy to see why too, as given the chance and the exposure, it thoroughly gets under your skin.
Greek Theatre hail from Sweden and here take us on a questing voyage of discovery where we find meandering vestiges of psychedelic country type songs - the kind found on vintage classics such as "Notorious Byrd Brothers", "The New Tweedy Brothers" and one or two others of a similar ilk, that appear to melt icy meadows down into free-flowing rivers of gold, and into flowering fields of sun-washed purple. It's that kind of feeling! The various sound components can also spread their tentacles outwards and beyond into hushed murmurs that often recall some of the languid musings of 'Summer '68'-like Floydness. With such titles as 'Frozen Highway', 'Was It A Dream' and 'Mountains Meet Ocean Sand' the group seamlessly glides upon gossamer-delicate lyrical tapestries which shimmer and sparkle with each passing breath, everything flourishing in a fluid, diamond sharp wash of post-everything newness. And as they ride their dream-craft through the endless ebb and flow of constantly flowing waters they - as the musician navigators - appear to be in complete control. It is luxuriously dreamy, and even a little somnambulistic too at times yet the sonic splendour of such reverie is never complacent; the breezy buzz of clarinet and flute, alongside comforting undulations of pedal steel are aurally comforting, but lest we get too relaxed, are occasionally pierced and sometimes shattered by shards of invidious, brittle fuzztone. 
The Greek Theatre guys are clearly in the zone throughout, led by Sven Froberg and Fredrik Persson, with an able host of cohorts ... including Ken Stringfellow (the Posies) who assists on keyboards during the excellent 'Frozen Highway'. With two or three selections at least, more even, having that natural ability to sound something more than they are - by this I mean that they can really lift off and in doing so completely take your breath away - "Lost Out At Sea" is quite the modern revelatory spin, a sweet platter, expertly created and generously packed with softly glowing psyched-out reverberations.

Review made by Lenny Helsing/2015
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Sunday, April 26, 2015

Music Emporium - An interview with William Cosby

Welcome!  Before we begin, I know you would like to make some introductory comments about both yourself and Music Emporium.

Thanks for the opportunity to share some of my memories about Music Emporium.  Music Emporium has always been somewhat of an enigma to me, and this may well be one of my last opportunities to tell some things about Music Emporium that have remained in obscurity.  

However, it is difficult to talk about Music Emporium without first putting it in context with other major parts of my life.  My musical roots were as a concert accordionist.  Then there was a 23-year tenure at the United States Military Academy, West Point, where I was the music director and conductor of the West Point Glee Club.  In contrast, I finished my work career with the Department of Defense and US Department of Transportation in the field of traffic safety with a specialty in motorcycles.  Ironically, some urban legend about Music Emporium includes stories of my death in a motorcycle crash.  I have also composed throughout my career. 

I told my story with the accordion with, “I Brought My Accordion to the Party, but No One Asked Me to Play” and “Saved Rounds”.  I am working on a series of video interviews that cover my time at West Point.  But from my standpoint, the story of Music Emporium remains untold.  

There was nothing typical about Music Emporium.  Three of the members were classically trained with no background in rock, but we all developed an irrepressible passion for Los Angeles underground rock.  For me, that rock music influenced everything about every other type of music I was involved with.  

Personally, the music gave more to me than I was ever able to give to the music.  

Promo photo of Bill (William) Cosby.

So where do you want to start with Music Emporium?

Maybe we should start with a flashback.

It was about 2000.  I wandering about on Ebay when I first discovered there were bootleg copies of the album for sale and the listings told of the absurd amounts of money original copies would bring.  What gives?  Without knowing who I was, I asked the Ebay seller if the attraction was the rarity of the album or the music.  He replied it was the music.  That was a big surprise. 

Why would you be surprised? 

From the time the group that ultimately became Music Emporium began, it was doomed.  It would be hard to imagine a more perfect storm of situations that would grind the band into absolute oblivion.  

Those are pretty strong observations, where do they come from?

First was the recording.  The demo that ultimately became the album was completed in a few hours.  Dave Padwin, our guitarist, had only been with the group a very short time when we started recording.  Dave was a monster player, one of the finest musicians I have ever known.  He changed everything about the band, but that transition was only starting when we recorded that demo.  Dave provided the synergy that we so desperately needed.  The album is the only remaining tangible representation of Music Emporium.  And that picture of the band does not do justice to Dave.

The production of the album was the second disaster, and in this regard, there are parallels to countless aspiring rock bands.  

It started off well enough as Music Emporium was ‘touched’ by some of the industry’s top talent.  It started with Armin Steiner, who recorded my first accordion album.  Armin was both a brilliant violinist and recording engineer.  He saw my interest in recording and invited me to various sessions, often patiently explaining things like microphone placement, phasing distortion, and mixing.  Do a google search sometime on Armin.  

For the second accordion album, Armin was too overwhelmed with work and he introduced me to Alan Emig.  Alan had been a recording engineer at Capitol Records in the 1950’s and later become the head of West Coast recording operations for Columbia.  When I met Alan, he was working at Kent Records.  Alan was one of the most talented people I have ever met, though he was jaded from a lot years in the business.  He shared a lot with me.  During the time I knew Alan he went on to design Elektra’s studios in Hollywood, Hawaii, and New York.  

Bill Lazerus was working with Alan at Kent when I met him but soon relocated to Sunset Sound Recorders as a staff engineer.  It was Bill who recorded the demo and later worked his magic on the album.  Even by today’s standards I am still impressed at how well he recorded the group.  It was the early days of 8-track and we were in the new ‘front’ studio.  He was also an accomplished musician and enjoyed a long and successful career as a recording engineer.  We had a great fun working with him on the demo.  There are some real benefits having the same person ‘produce’ and ‘mix’.  In this regard, there couldn’t have been a better choice. 

So now you have a demo – what next?
So we now have our demo, so what to do with it?  I played the rough mixes for Alan and he was not impressed. There were too many things that needed to be fixed.  Nonetheless, he took a copy to Paul Rothchild at Elektra.  Paul told Alan they would buy it, but they wouldn’t do anything with it.  It would be a matter of culling out the competition.

Bill Lazerus was nervously sitting on a $2,000 bill for recording time with Sunset Sound when Jack Ames came into the picture. As Bill explained to us, Jack was the co-founder of Liberty Records where he had enjoyed great success.  He knew the record business.  But for now, he was a man recently ousted from his record company.  It might be better to go with someone who would exclusively work for us rather than a larger label where we would most likely be lost in the flood.  Jack was personable and well-received by the members of the group.  But then came the question of finance – and in that regard, I don’t think there was much depth, or at a minimum, much control!

Jack lived with his new wife, Lola, in a home on La Cienega, a few houses down from the Sunset Strip.  From the start, Lola made no pretense about liking the album.  She hated it and would anxiously tell anyone or everyone her views.  Lola considered herself an expert on all things rock, though I doubt her background was more than osmosis from being around Jack.  But she was either the person with the money, or at a minimum she was the person controlling the money, so the squeeze was on.

Jack suggested I ask my father if he would buy into the project, offering his personal Ampex 351-2 Professional Recording as an incentive.  From day one, my father hated the group and rock music in general.  That was not going to happen.  But somehow Jack finally came up enough money to finish the demo and move forward.

Some have said the jacket was ahead of its time.  Your thoughts?

I called on Stephen Rustad and Michael Higgins Hall, two friends from UCLA who came up with the cover design and the concept of the die-cut ‘uni-pack’ album.  Some people felt the album was the best and most well-thought-out part of the project.  I doubt that Stephen and Michael were ever paid.  The insert picture was taken atop a mountain in Palos Verdes and the rocking chair came from my grandparent’s back yard.  I still remember that day well.  

But there were two critical events that preceded the album jacket.  The first was the name of the group.  

Jack did not like the name Cage, and whereas Jack had a background in pop records, he didn’t know much about underground LA Rock.  The only time I remember him listening to us play ‘live’ he looked very uncomfortable.  Jack felt ‘Music Emporium’ would translate to a wider potential audience.  It was ‘softer’ than Cage.  In our exuberance to somehow get started, we made this concession.  

Second was my name.  He said there could be problems with the Musician’s Union using Bill Cosby given possible confusion with comedian.  We considered a lot of names. The name I wanted to use was John St. Vrain, after a lost relative on my mother’s side.  But it became W. Casey Cosby.  Somehow I thought I should be driving a train and wearing some corny blue and white engineer’s cap.  To this date I still hate ‘cutsie’.

So Music Emporium was about to be launched?

We signed contracts with great aplomb, no doubt left-over templates from Liberty Records.  The music company was to be Maxim, though I have no idea where that came from.  There was great discussion on the benefits of ASCAP vs. BMI.  Jack never followed through on anything in regard the publishing, and I retained all the rights.

And once completed, what about the promotion of the album?

As far as promotion and distribution, I don’t think anything of substance ever happened.  As for air play, promos of the 45 were produced, but I only remember hearing about the album being played one time.  We were done before we even started.  And in fairness to Jack, he didn’t know what our future might be.  Ironically, during my years at West Point I actually had more time to pursue musical quests and had access to countless new musical resources.

So did Lola ever come around in her views about the group?

No.  In fact, when I completed Army basic training 8 weeks after Music Emporium had been disbanded, Carolyn and I drove up to La Cienega to visit Jack.  He wasn’t there, but Lola greeted us.  She again repeated her dislike of both the album and the group.  She said that in desperation, to get rid of the albums cluttering up her garage, she had insisted they be given away to the prisoners where her son had been incarcerated.  I have no idea if this was true.  I never saw Jack again and it was many years later until I again spoke with Lola.

Bill (William) Army ID Photo.

I understand you also had an interesting experience with a manager.

If there are two things a young aspiring group thinks they need, one would be a recording contract, and the other would be a manager.  We knew there wasn’t much happening on the Jack Ames front, so we looked for a manager.

I don’t remember the name of the agency, but I do remember Vince.  Let me call him Vince D.  He was enthusiastic.  He could solve all our problems.  He could get us exposure.  He had an impressive office in a suite on Santa Monica Boulevard.  

The first thing he wanted to do was break the contract with Sentinel.  The next was selling some of our excess equipment to one of the other bands he had signed.  Of course they would need to pay installments, but he would co-sign the note.

Then Vince disappeared.  The management of the company didn’t want any association with anything he had done and unceremoniously handed us back our contracts.  He was nowhere to be found, as was our equipment. For the next year my father followed the band to their various performances and finally collected the money.  

But there was one story about Vince D that has never failed to amuse me.  Vince was another person that I was convinced had never actually heard a rock band.  He was convinced we were too loud, and after we had started one of our performances, he came on stage and started adjusting volume levels on the amplifiers. Not a good idea.  Dave was first in line and I don’t think he fully understood the potential consequence of getting smacked in the head with the business end of a Les Paul.  What an idiot.

So with everything going on and the move to the East Coast, Music Emporium became a fading memory.  

So when did Music Emporium remerge in your life??

Through the years I heard rumors that the album had a cult following, and on a couple occasions young kids would show up at my home in Cornwall on Hudson, NY looking for copies.  I had a few and had literally given them away.  I had no idea of the value.

But as I mentioned at the start of the interview, I came across a bootleg copy of the album on Ebay and decided to bid on it.  When the bids went far above what I was willing to pay, I became even more curious.  Without identifying myself, I started asking the seller questions.  He told me the urban legend of Music Emporium.  How Cosby had been killed in a motorcycle crash, and how valuable original copies of the record were.  He then mentioned that a company in upstate New York was planning a reissue of the album.  

I got the name, Sundazed from him and sent them an Email, saying that I did not know the status of ownership for the album, but I considered myself owner of the musical rights.

And that is when you came in contact with Sundazed?

Bob Irwin from Sundazed contacted me immediately, saying they had located and purchased the rights to the original masters which had been a five-year process.  They were planning a reissue.  He said they had been trying to find me for years, and it was quite ironic that I lived only an hour or so from their headquarters in Coxsackie.  

But back to Lola.

The internet has reduced the size of the world to a computer screen, and surprisingly I found that Lola now lived close to Roanoke, Virginia.  By now I was living in Norfolk.  She did not know of my conversations with Sundazed when I talked with her.  The first thing out of her mouth was how much she had always disliked the group, but was quick to move on to possible ways to for financial gain for both her son and me. I don’t know how her son fit into all this.  With no particular fondness for Lola and her expressed 40-year dislike of the band, I reaffirmed with Bob that he had fully secured his new ownership to the album.  Thanks to the professionalism and integrity of Sundazed, Lola was once and for all completely out of the picture.  That particular albatross had finally been removed from the band’s neck.

And what about the rights to the music?

It was somewhat of a mess, but Sundazed guided me in sorting it out.  Every part of it.  

And what are your thoughts on their ‘first’ authorized reissue?

Had I made a list of everything I could have imagined in a reissue, it would have been short of the final product.  Whatever future Music Emporium might have, it is a direct result of Sundazed’s efforts.  I am sure much of Bob’s success in re-mastering and oversight of a final production are largely due to his competence as a musician.  He translated the original sound from the master tapes over to the CD, a process that is not always successful.  He also re-mastered the vinyl.  I even like what he did with the bonus tracks.  I must say that sometimes I enjoy hearing the songs without the vocals.

Why would you say that?

Because in my opinion, the vocals are the single weakest part of Music Emporium.  But before we get into that, please allow me to backtrack a bit, back to my progression into rock.

I started playing music when I was 7 years old.  In the 1950’s the accordion was ‘the’ instrument to play. I continued with accordion, venturing into a split between classical, there actually is such a thing on accordion, and jazz.  UCLA obviously did not have an accordion major but I was totally accepted there.  In my junior year I was one of the original winners of the Frank Sinatra Musical Performance Awards Competition – the only accordionist ever to participate in the competition.  We were presented by Frank Sinatra in concert and had many doors opened to studio gigs in Los Angeles.
Up until my third year of college I had been quite involved with jazz, even accumulating national recognition.  But for me there was something missing, and to be honest, I really wasn’t that good at it.  So it wasn’t until my third year in college that I ever even listened to rock music.  But now I was ready and rock was one of the greatest discoveries of my life and influenced everything about music.  There was a passion, a raw edge, sexuality, honesty, and everything else, especially in what I have always called underground Los Angeles rock.  I wanted to be part of it, experience it.  Then I wanted to see how I could put all that passion and energy into everything I did in music.  It opened up something inside.  Music now had a new meaning, a new purpose.

Bill (William) at Sinatra Competition Photo Session.

The Los Angeles rock scene in the 1960’s, I am envious.

In the 1960s, Los Angeles was a great place to ‘discover’ rock.  On any given night you could hear a wide variety of artists.  The first groups I ever heard were Strawberry Alarm Clock and Merry-go-Round in a concert on the top level of Parking Structures 8 at UCLA.  Then there were the Doors, Iron Butterfly, Canned Heat, Sly, Illinois Speed Press, CTA, Bob Seger, Jimi, Janis Joplin, and Rhinoceros.  It was in clubs like the Kaleidoscope, Cheetah, or Pasadena Civic.  You could go to the Troubadour, the Whiskey, the Bear in Huntington Beach, and later the Bank in Torrance.  There are really just too many to remember.  Often the price of admission was $3.50 on a week night with three different bands.    

So how did you start actually playing?

I first started ‘jamming’ with my life-long friend, Dora Wahl.  Then I was an instrumental, accordion, soloist with the UCLA Men’s Glee Club.  But as we started doing more high school assemblies, I hooked up with Thom Wade and Steve Rustad, two fellow glee-clubbers, doing original music as a trio.  I wrote the music and the accordion was replaced with my original combo organ.  Thom was the lyricist, sang, and played a Rickenbacker 12-string.  Many of the songs later sung by Carolyn were sung by Thom who had a great tenor range, truly the voice of an angel in classic St Olaf tradition.  
We called ourselves Gentle Thursday and even printed some green business cards.  Thom introduced me to Love, which has always remained one of my all-time favorite groups.  We tried to never miss one of their performances.  There was a magic in everything about them, something I still find difficult to describe.  It was a level of honesty that defined 1960s rock music, and perhaps it was this honesty that best defined Love to me.  I felt an enormous loss when I heard of Arthur Lee’s passing, a great sadness. I would say that if someone really wanted to understand the true genesis of Music Emporium they should talk with Thom and listen to Love.
Then things started evolving.  I went through nearly 20 different players until finally arriving at the final musicians who comprised Music Emporium.  Thom bowed out as he felt he couldn’t keep up with the group as the guitar player.  Gentle Thursday evolved into ‘Cage’, and in hindsight I wish we would have kept that name as it better described the band.  Music Emporium was more of a cutsie bullshit moniker added by Jack Ames who thought ‘Cage’ was too rough.  I was also pushed into using W. Casey Cosby vs. William Cosby so as not to conflict with the comedian.   
With the arrival of Dora Wahl and Carolyn Lee, three of the group’s four members were classically trained.  In addition to being a brilliant drummer, Dora’s training went beyond a trap drum set.  She is also one of the finest people I have ever known.  We literally grew up one street apart.  Carolyn was an equally impressive musician, being equally proficient on double bass, fretted and non-fretted bass guitar, piano and vocal. Carolyn is still active teaching piano and playing in a symphony orchestra. Dora, Carolyn and I discovered rock together.  Dave Padwin was the only real rocker, and provided the needed synergy for the group.  

Gentle Thursday.

With three classically trained musicians, how did you meet Dave?

I met Dave in the Guitar Center’s original store in Hollywood where he was working as a salesman.  It was a quiet week-day morning and he was sitting there playing a guitar.  He had recently arrived from Chicago and I immediately invited him to jam with us.  
Music Emporium worked as a group.  We could discuss a song before a performance and walk on stage and perform it without rehearsal.  With few exceptions, each performance was different.  When we did the occasional ‘cover’ it took on an entirely new character.  

And back to your comment on the vocals, what’s the story there?

It ended up being Carolyn and me – which I feel is an important part of this topic.  

I am not, and have never pretended to be a vocalist.  As I mentioned, the original group, Gentle Thursday, evolved from performances of the UCLA Men’s Glee Club.  The original songs which migrated to Cage and finally to Music Emporium, Gentle Thursday, Velvet Sunsets, Winds Have Changed, and Nam Myo Ho Renge Kyo were sung by Thom. Thom had magnetism on stage.  It wouldn’t have mattered what he did, the high school girls adored him.  

After Thom we had a short tenure with Steve Chase as lead singer.  Steve was another student from UCLA. Steve had a different kind of energy and a lot of talent, but.  something wasn’t right and it ultimately created friction that would have caused everything to self-destruct.  The day before an important performance, I kicked Steve out of the band.  What remained was a group of equals on every level, and we all respected and genuinely cared for each other.  That made everything fall into place.

However, I was now the primary lead singer.  Whereas Thom and Steve had enormous charisma on stage, I didn’t.  People wouldn’t come near me.  Friends have often told me that before they really knew me they always felt that I was someone that they should not come near.  There was a barrier, and they felt it best not to cross it.  

But understanding all this helped me realize some critical things about being a musician.  You can’t be an artist without opening up at various levels.  Whether you intend to do so or not, it will happen.  And should you actually achieve some success at performance while hiding whatever keeps you from sharing yourself, you will come off as dishonest.  This is something and audience, especially a young rock audience will immediately recognize.  

I knew I was a poor vocalist.  Even if I were to open up, I was too aware of what was there.  I knew my shortcomings.  When I play or when I conduct I have confidence in what I want to do musically.  I am not afraid to share my vision with an ensemble, be it an instrumental group or vocal chorus.  Rock let me release the passion inside myself,  the sexuality, power, control, vulnerability.  All that can come forward when I conduct, be it Mozart of Wagner, and I am not afraid to share it.  But not when I sing.

And Carolyn?

Carolyn had a beautifully trained voice, but not what would be appropriate for a uber hard-rock group with a message such as that demanded by Music Emporium.  I always felt it was a deceit by both of us, a fraud to both the genre and the group.   The things required to be an extraordinary musician were there, but not as rock vocalists.

So you say vocals are part of it – what about the other part?

The songs themselves.  Though I have composed quite a bit, I have never been a good ‘song’ writer.  I have friends who can turn out wonderful songs one-after-the-other.  

The writing for Music Emporium, at least from my part, was more about form and structure.  Whereas there are genres of music that can thrive with a foundation in form, like J.S. Bach, I don’t think rock is one of them, even with people like Frank Zappa.

But bottom line, Music Emporium was missing a vocalist.  We were also theatrical, but unfortunately we were theatrical without actors.

Maybe that is why I am still sometimes curious on why the group has achieved posthumous success.  But there have been those who have remained excited about the group.

So in the day, where did you play?  Did you enjoy success?

Unfortunately, about the time Music Emporium began to musically ‘evolve’ my date with the US Army was approaching, so the total number of performances was limited.  We were disastrous in clubs where bands would be expected to play top 40.  There were several instances where we were told to ‘get the %^$# out’, leave before we had finished our first set.  
The exceptions were the clubs that encouraged original music.  In those venues we sometimes fared much better.  One club in particular was the Odyssey on Pacific Coast Highway in Hermosa Beach.  The Odyssey had been a supermarket that was converted to a rock club, complete with the biology-slide lights, nothing to sit on but the floor, and no alcohol.  California always had a 21-year-old liquor law.  Serving liquor would have eliminated a large percentage of the audience.  We became somewhat of a local draw and even developed a following.  The promoters cited the Odyssey as a place for kids to go rather than hang out on the streets.  Unfortunately some of the city elders did not see it in the same light and eventually forced it to close.  Some of the regulars at the Odyssey were Smokestack Lightning, Weeds Own, and Straight Jacket.
We played at the Bank in Torrance, a huge industrial building turned rock club.  Two groups in particular that I remember were Fair be Fall and Black Pearl.  The management at the Bank was a strange form of passive-aggressive band promotion and we didn’t fit into their agenda.
One of my favorite performances was at a private home that at one time housed the mayor of Hollywood.  It was on a hill that overlooked the Hollywood Bowl and you accessed it by taking an elevator that ascended into a medieval-spiral-tower and then walked across a catwalk and finally down a path to the house.  Two very influential people with Music Emporium that are seldom mentioned are Mike Higgins Hall and Steven Rustad, and somehow they were part of the group from one of UCLA’s ‘media’ schools that had rented this house for the semester.  It was a huge party, the kind depicted in 1960’s movies.  That night it was Die Hard Trippers, down from San Francisco, Music Emporium and Iron Butterfly.  Finding the elevator was hard, finding parking in the hills of Hollywood was even harder, so the first three hours were a particularly memorable jam of those who found it.        

Fort Ord Danny Raspante (room mate) and Bill (William).

And what about the actual music?

I first wrote rock music with Thom Wade.  The first song was Gentle Thursday.  We were touring Hawaii and seen one of the national cemeteries.  Viet Nam was in full rage and ultimately we came to lose too many friends, and some who came back were never the same.  It was a view of the aftermath that was unfolding with Viet Nam, but unlike World War II, too often those who returned were scorned, treated as outcasts.  Even in these early days, Thom’s answer was in the folk-music culture.  Mine was more in the anger and rage often a part of underground Los Angeles rock groups.  
One thing throughout all the iterations of Music Emporium that we were all consistent about was in our genuine detest of what we called ‘bubble gum’ 60’s pop music.  Even today, when I listen to a program of 60’s rock I will find myself grumbling when people relate the 60’s to the banal, insipid ‘bubble-gum’ pop stuff, with absolutely no comprehension of the other side.

How were the songs for the albums’ single “Nam Myo Ho Renge Kyo” c/w “Times Like This” selected?  

We thought Nam Myo Ho Renge Kyo was our strongest song, and best represented Music Emporium.  We thought that Times Like this provided a contrast, would be something to show versatility. 

Was there any discussion about a second album? Any unreleased material? 

I had developed the concept for a second album and toward the end we performed several of the songs.  The title would have been, “Multiple Choice, Everyone’s Almost There”.  “Let It Be Today” and “Beware” and “He is Standing There” were written by me.  Other songs included “Pretty Woman” and “Man Without a Name” written by Milt Bulian.  Many years later with the advent of midi I put down some of the charts as I remembered them, but I always knew something would be lost in the translation.  

How did critics receive the album?  Did it break in any markets?

I specifically remember two reading two reviews of the group ‘the morning after’.  Both were from the same performance.  One loved us.  We were visionary, ahead of our time.  The second claimed we were the second worst group they had ever heard, second only to Smokestack Lightning.  When we were loud, the noise was akin to an electronically amplified garbage disposal.  
We did not break in any markets.

What type of gear did you use? We're impressed with ideas behind your organ playing.

Ah, one of my favorite topics.  I have always loved technology and noise.  In my experience, bands in Los Angeles in the 1960s played louder than any place else in the world.  There was even talk at one time that liability concerns were going to force a limit in the volume levels in clubs and concerts.  In those days you did it with instrument amplifiers, vocals were left to fend on their own.    
In the group I started with a small General Electro Music combo organ and later migrated to a larger GEM organ, then to a pair of Vox Continentals, and ultimately B-3 with two Lesbian speakers.  I played the GEM and Vox Organs through a pair of Vox Amp heads with multiple bottoms.  I used both a Super Beatle solid state head and a Jennings A100 EL-34 tube head.  From the start I vowed I would never be overpowered by the guitar and in reality it took all this to compete with Dave playing through a Fender Showman single-15” JBL speaker driven with by a small amp.  
With my background on accordion and later on classical piano and organ I had solid keyboard technique, and ideas came primarily from classical music, sources as diverse as baroque music to works like the Widor organ toccata to the Saint Seans Organ Concerto.

Bill (William) with Organ.

Would you share your insight on the albums’ tracks?

Nam Myo Renge Kyo 
With a the proofing and everything else, somehow the ‘Ho’ was left out of Nam Myo Ho Renge Kyo, however it was correct on the single.  The suggestion for use of the Buddhist chant as well as the lyrics came from Thom Wade.  

Velvet Sunsets 
Velvet Sunsets was one of three songs inspired from our visit to the National Memorial Cemetery in Hawaii.  We lost too many friends to Viet Nam and the impending reality of the draft and the war was in the constant thoughts of every young man of draft age.  It is sometimes misquoted that Carolyn was the sole vocalist for the song.  Actually the first two verses were sung by me, the final by Carolyn.  Again, lyrics came from Thom.

Prelude was a transitional work for Cage, written by me.  In performance it was an extended work – much longer than the recorded version.  Dave’s role in the song increased dramatically during his tenure with the group.  The words show the change from Thom’s vision to mine in the progression of the group.  The protest is shouted rather than spoken, and with far less eloquence.  I have almost total auditory recall of many performances of Prelude and several years ago tried to illustrate how the song would have been structured in one of our live performances, and much closer to how it would have been recorded at a later date.  A midi-inspired version where I am playing all the instruments can never compete with the original, but it might give a more accurate idea of what the final structure of more mature performance.  

Catatonic Variations 
My music is often considered ‘dark’.  Years later in working on the music for The Little Boy Who Lived with the Dragons with Lauren Michaels I felt that I had released some of that blackness, until Lauren made the comment, “that is the darkest music I have ever heard in my life.”  
We talked through Catatonic Variations at Sunset Sound shortly before recording it – taking only enough time to work through the basic riffs.  After that performance, both Dora and Carolyn refused to ever play the song again.
I guess I might say that Catatonic Variations is my ultimate description of depression and futility in life.

Times Like This 
Milt Bulian wrote Times Like This for Carolyn.  A fellow student from California State College, Long Beach, Milt was one of her close friends and became a good friend of all the band members.  Milt generally accompanied himself on guitar and my preference would have been for him to sing the song for the recording.  But with time constraints and schedules, it didn’t happen.  If there was a crossover song on the album it was Times Like This.  My parents even liked it.

Gentle Thursday 
The original song – the song that defined the group, Gentle Thursday.  This is one place where I think the sound most typically associated with the small combo organs of the day had a particularly nice musical effect.  As I listen to Gentle Thursday I can still see the endless rows of graves in the warm Hawaiian sun.  “Someday, when wars are in men’s minds, Gentle Thursday comes again.”  I can also still hear Thom singing it.  Consider for a moment the Pie Jesu from the Faure Requiem being sung by a well-trained soprano, effective.  Consider the same being sung by a boy soprano.  Paralyzing.

Winds Have Changed 
Winds Have Changed is another of Thom’s lyrics.  It was also the piece from the original oeuvre that changed the most with the transition to Dave Padwin.  Through Dave we were able to add more contrast and dynamic range without jeopardizing the original piece.  Thom and I sang this as a duet, then later it was Carolyn and I.  

Carolyn and Bill (William), 1969.

If life is ultimately about procreation, Cage is my realization of how man ultimately tries to control all parts of it – always in search of that ultimate climax. However, often without realizing it, the more one tries to control and exert power, the more one is enslaved as a helpless prisoner of his own making.  Expectations surpass reality.  That which is controlled controls.  The need for new conquests becomes the opiate with an insatiable appetite. 
If there was a theme for the group and for the album this was it.  In the session, Cage was an extended work, and in live performances even more extended.  One thing that is lost in the recording is the tremendous dynamic range of the group.  In rock, ballads are often at a higher volume than up-tempo works which has never made any sense to me.  When we were soft, like in the center part of Cage, we were very soft.  You could almost whisper over it.  When we were loud, there weren’t too many groups who were louder.  

Sun Never Shines 
As we recorded Music Emporium, we thought that we needed at least one ‘traditional’ rock piece.  It was Dave’s creation and perhaps provides the closet look at his capabilities as a guitarist.  Limited studio time didn’t facilitate over-dubs, he had to do it all.  Someone came up with the idea for the 3-part background vocals that were unfortunately dreadfully out of tune – but the magic Bill Lazerus created with the rolling reverb over Dora’s 16th-note drumming was a great effect.  

Day of Wrath
A different example of Music Emporium’s improvisational skills.  Discuss the basics, and go.  Based on a Gregorian chant from one of the hours and the Dies Irae.  Not a lot of preparation, probably only one take.  Maybe like the days of live television – it is what it is.

Many have applied the term ‘psychedelic’ to Music Emporium.   Did psychoactive or hallucinogenic drugs play a role in the songwriting, recording or performance processes?

We never applied the term psychedelic to what we did.  Though the term was certainly around describing what was later called a movement, we didn’t look at it that way.  To us, we were an underground Los Angeles Rock Group.  
Anyway, I have often been asked that question, and the answer is a surprise to most who don’t know us.  And without any judgement to whatever flights others may have taken on recreational pharmaceuticals, that answer is no.  
We didn’t have time.  Carolyn, Dora and I were all full-time college students.  I was maintaining a concert schedule on accordion.  Dora was teaching a full slate of private students, in addition to working with her mother attending to the needs of her father who was suffering with a terminal illness. To this day I don’t know how she ever did all of it.  She was also an uber-athlete. Dave was as conscientious as they came.  A glass of wine was almost as rare as actually sitting down to eat a meal.  Though occasionally we did enjoy an occasional Harvey Wallbanger at Dora’s house.
But in my experience, the craziest people I have known are often people who have never touched a drop of alcohol let alone any drugs.  A few who came in contact with Music Emporium fit into that category.  You wished they would get drunk or stoned so there would be at least some kind of excuse for their actions.  

To what do you attribute the album continuing to be held in such high esteem among music collectors?

I wish I could answer that, but I can’t.  I have personally never held the album in high esteem as it was a short-sell to the musical and personal excellence of all those involved, and I would have to take personal responsibility for much of that short-sell.
If I had high personal expectations for Music Emporium, I was quick to realize we would never reach them.  However, I can’t judge other’s expectations or reactions.  And I also feel it might be better to just accept them for whatever they mean to that individual.  
In the 1960’s we couldn’t give the album away.  

Bill (William) Conducting Dallas Symphony.

Would you discuss some of your most memorable moments in Music Emporium and what made them so?  

I have one story that has always been my favorite, and that involved Dora.  We were playing at Kaleidoscope a particularly good-looking young man approached Dora during one of the breaks.  One of his trademarks was long hair that was to the middle of his back.  
I wish there were videos of Dora playing as her visual movement was stunning.  Many rock drummers bang really hard, which is their shtick.  But Dora knew how to tune her drums, and she also had incredible technique.  Add that to the strength of an athlete combined with long, flowing hair, and it was sensual as well as being impressive.  Anyway, he approached her and she sort of blew him off.  Dora wasn’t in the least bit arrogant, and was most likely more worried about the performance.
The next night the young man appeared again, this time offering Dora a ball which had been made from his freshly cut hair.  It was a great gesture, but perhaps a bit too weird for Dora.  But that was the effect she had on an audience.  


Thank you so much for sharing your story with us. 

nam myoho renge kyo

William Cosby Today.

Additional files
- Two songs from Cosby's solo project from the '90s.
- Two songs, that would appear on their second album - Multiple Choice, Everyone’s Almost There.
- Document with Multiple Choice, Everyone’s Almost There lyrics.
- Cosby's comment on Sundazed reissue.
And some other goodies too, like "Dies Irae" and "Last Flight" from 'Little Boy Who Flew with the Dragons'.

Conducted for Psychedelic Baby Magazine by James Pollara. Interview edited for content by Klemen Breznikar.

Interview made by James Pollara, curated by Klemen Breznikar/2015
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Saturday, April 25, 2015

JAZZ CORNER Presents: Steven Walcott's introductory column

First off I wanted to thank Klemen for giving me some space on his psychedelic music magazine to write about improvised music/jazz, the most ignored and the least popular musical genre in America.

I will mostly be writing about Free Jazz which is the ugly stepchild of Jazz, making it the least popular branch of the least popular musical genre in America.

I'm sure 99.9% of this magazine's readers have listened to little or no jazz. Maybe you've heard it at the holidays when they wheel out the corpse of Smooth Jazz for Christ's birthday. There are fireballing, trippy jazz musicians out there, but their profile is low which is why I'm here.

Maybe you've asked yourself in total disbelief: how did Miley Cyrus' song "Wrecking Ball" get 758 million hits on Youtube? If half of everybody of that tuned in did so just to watch her swing back and forth naked on the wrecking ball, that still leaves a lot of people who think it's a good song. Or a lot of people tuned in to watch her lick a sledgehammer. I watched her lick it, it's weird. Even if 95% of folks tuned in just to get their perv on, that still leaves almost 38 million people who think that's an awesome tune. Breathtaking.

Popularity (and profitability thereof) is not an indicator of quality and Jazz doesn't suck because it's not huge like Indie Rock. There's an argument to be made that hugeness produces more sucking -- Wilco, for example.

There is also a misconception that you need to know a lot to understand and enjoy Jazz. The same can be said of wine but a good buzz is a good buzz even if i am a low IQ achiever.

I wanted to start this column off with what I consider a straight up Free Jazz/Punk Rock banger from Don Cherry's record "mu" first part. Ed Blackwell, the drummer on this track with Don Cherry, tears up the drum kit while incorporating African rhythms and music from New Orleans, where he grew up. And Don Cherry is right on in his trumpet playing. Hopefully you'll check it out and just listen to how these guys play and work their way through a tune by listening to each other.

p.s Jazz is a mostly acoustic music and it doesn't really make the journey through google's bullshit mono bandwidth unscathed so maybe you might want a streaming service. And I know the streaming stores suck, (I fucking hate spotify) but it is a way to check out music that I will be talking about. I use beats, which has the best audio quality, but it has no free version.

p.p.s. There is also a stereotype that Jazz listeners are pretentious douchebags. I'm not going to deny that I have met ill douchebags in Jazz, but I have seen no proof that the douche ratio in Jazz is any higher than the douche ratio in Hip Hop (Kanye!) or heavy metal (lead singer of Metallica?). I will confess that I have been called a douchebag probably every two weeks or so over the course of my life, but i'm not pretentious.

p.p.p.s. Finally, I want to recommend a couple records from genres outside of jazz to show that I know my records. Maybe you've checked out Pig Destroyer's 2012 record Book Burner. Oh my, that will get your blood pressure going. Or Jeri Jeri's 2013 record 800% Ndagga -- that's an obscure one, but that's some heavy African music.  

Column made by Steven Walcott/2015
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