Category Archives: interview

10 questions (via e-mail) with Baby Dayliner

My first impressions of Baby Dayliner probably were not unlike those of most first-timers. We saw him open for the National in Los Angeles a few months ago. As fans slowly filtered in, Baby Dayliner coolly took the stage in a button-down shirt and his styled pompadour, drawing inquisitive looks across the venue.

If I was a skeptic then, I’m sold now. At the least, he piqued my curiosity at that show. But having absorbed his latest LP, Critics Pass Away, I can safely call myself a fan. Critics is an addictive mix of slick production, lounge cool and inspired crooning. On stage, as well as on record, Baby Dayliner carries the bravado of a great pop vocalist – just a hint of swagger that blunts the skeptics.

On the heels of a May release for Critics Pass Away (on Brassland), Baby Dayliner (born Ethan Marunas) took time to answer 10 questions via e-mail for us.

Once you’re convinced, buy Critics at Insound for a chance to be entered in a great contest.

[mp3] Baby Dayliner | At Least
Baby Dayliner | The Way You Look Tonight

1. We’ll start with an easy one: Who do you consider primary influences?
Baby Dayliner: There’s really so much. Lately I’ve been listening to The Cocteau Twins and The Walker Brothers. I like a lot of 50s and 60s pop music.

2. In a lot of your press clippings, writers seem very intent on trying to draw comparisons between you and just about anybody (Ian Curtis, Frank Sinatra, David Bowie, etc.). Are the comparisons flattering or do they become a burden? In other words, is it difficult to shed any preconceived notions writers or fans may have?
BD: Writers, for the most part, can’t help making comparisons. Writers also never have time to truly absorb albums because of the hundreds of discs on their desks that they’re expected to review quickly. They say this, they say that, but finally there’s some element in my music that always doesn’t quite agree with their comparisons. Whatever it is they can’t define is probably what I would call my “style.”

3. I’ve read that you’ve played in bands. So what led you to go solo?
BD: I was in a band that split up because they couldn’t get along. I didn’t want to wait around for more personnel, so I just programmed a bunch of my songs into a synth/sequencer and started performing alone. It’s come a long way since then.

4. Can you walk us through your writing/recording process? Are you writing lyrics first or creating/producing music before any writing is done?
BD: I usually make a piece of music first. If it really grabs me I’ll then elaborate on it, and register how I react to it emotionally. From there I sculpt the song.

5. When I saw you open for the National in Los Angeles, some people in the crowd (myself included) didn’t quite know what to make of you or your show right off the bat. Does that happen a lot for people unfamiliar with your work?
BD: New crowds can be tough. The people who dislike me are ones who feel I’m trying to con them or something. Because I have no band, they feel like it’s not real music, they feel I’m wasting their time. These people are also often uncomfortable seeing only one guy emoting. If only they could get over that hump, they might see me.

6. In one interview I read, you said that some people in the first couple songs of a set might see you as a phony of some sort. Why do you think people might think that? And do you feel like you have to somehow work harder to convince them otherwise, or does that just happen naturally?
BD: I think I might have just answered the first half of this question. There’s nothing extra I do for a new crowd. If they’re gonna like me, it happens naturally, a few songs into the set.

7. One of my favorite tracks on the new album is Breezy, which has a bit of a hip-hop vibe. And I know you’ve done a little production work for the great hip-hop label Definitive Jux. Are there hip-hop artists out there that inspire your production work?
BD: I grew up listening to hip-hop, and I’m always aware of it. Even top 40 crap. Hip-hop is a big part of my dictionary but I’m not a real thorough fan of it. Certain albums stick out. Nas’ first album. Common’s Resurrection. The first couple De La albums. The first couple Tribe albums. Jay-Z’s whole library, for the most part. I listen to Aesop Rock and Blockhead, who are friends from way back. The new Ghostface album is solid. Gnarls Barkley sounds cool. Dr. Octagon. Big Daddy Kane. Jungle Bros.

8. Unlike a singer in a band, you’re up there by yourself when you perform live. Is it a little unsettling or have you become comfortable when all eyes are on you?
BD: I’m long past the fear. In fact, it’s when I’m looking into everyone’s eyes that I get bolder and less timid.

9. When I saw you in LA, I couldn’t quite make out what you brought on stage — a suitcase of some sort, I think. I’m guessing you’ve got prerecorded loops/beats that accompany your singing in there?
BD: Yeah, the suitcase has all the requisite gear to put on the show. My mic, my set list, and my hurdy-gurdy are all within.

10. What does the title of the new album, Critics Pass Away, mean to you?
BD: Critics Pass Away is about overcoming adversity and making the best of a bad situation, and about trying to live in the moment. It’s about finding meaning inside our heads and through our craft, even if our physical circumstances are not the desired ones.

10 questions (via e-mail) with RJD2

Already, 2006 is shaping up as a prolific year for RJD2, the sound-collage king from Columbus, Ohio. He accompanied LA underground legend Aceyalone on Magnificent City and manned the decks for Soul Position’s Things Go Better With RJ and Al, his collaboration with Rhymesayers emcee Blueprint. This week saw the release of Magnificent Instrumentals.

Lest we forget, RJ’s solo work – Deadringer and Since We Last Spoke – has been hailed as “21st century soul.”

[mp3] Soul Position Keep it Hot for Daddy

RJ is in Tempe, Ariz., tonight with Blueprint and he was kind enough to answer 10 quick questions via e-mail in which he discusses “junk” records, this year’s projects and we discover he’s just like you and me – he likes (who else?) Sufjan Stevens:

1. It’s been a busy year for you with the Aceyalone and Soul Position projects. Have you had much time to think about or set out a blueprint (so to speak) for your next solo project?
RJ: Yea, im getting that thing going. i dont want to talk about it right now much, though, if thats ok. alot is up in the air.

2. How does your mind-set differ when you’re gathering samples and creating music for a collaborative project as opposed to your solo works (if at all)?
RJ: the things that i end up keeping for myself are usually things that have the potential to be developed into something bigger. i see the production work i do for other people as something that should have a different feel than my solo records.

3. When you do two projects like Magnificent City and Things Go Better with two different MCs do you tailor the production beats to each MC’s style? In other words, do you have the MC in mind when you’re making the music?
RJ: no. when im working with a rapper, i try to send them as much variety as possible, within the confines of something that could be rapped on. i have learned that sending a particular sound to people can leave out things they might want to work with.

4. Can you discuss similarities or differences in working with Aceyalone and Blueprint?
RJ: the new sp (Soul Position) album, to me, is a very stylized affair. i think it is mostly a soul/funk oriented record, sonically. the acey album is all over the place, in my eyes. acey wanted me to do whatever i wanted, and really trusted my vision for the record. blueprint has always been more hands on, but he’s also a producer, so that probably makes him more picky.

5. Let’s get a handle on your vinyl collection: How many LPs/45s would you say you own — and, as a follow-up, what’s your most prized or sentimental piece?
RJ: off the top of my head, i would have to say any of the columbus rock or soul records i have, or one of the few new things i have that sampled an rjd2 record.

6.When you go digging/shopping for vinyl, are you looking for albums that have potential in terms of samples or are you simply looking for good albums? (A side question: Where do you do a majority of your vinyl buying — thrift stores, garage sales?)
RJ: honestly, i havent been hyper-obsessed with records for the last two years or so, because my focus has moved over to gear, but in general, the challenge of sampling for me has always been to make something better, or make something good out of bad source material. so i have a lot of “junk” records, things you probably wouldnt want.

7. There seemed to be a phase for a few years where scratch-heavy “turntablism” was all the rage. With guys like yourself, Shadow, Z-Trip, Cut Chemist, etc., how do you see the art of DJing progressing?
RJ: i dont know. i guess it seems like there are a lot of different approaches to djing, producing, making electronic music, or hiphop, and they all seem to cross-pollinate every year or so. now, im just thinking in terms of music. i want to make something someday that will stand up next to “real” music, so im not just keeping my eyes on my peers, if you will.

8. In most reviews and stories, writers are quick to call your music “cut-and-paste.” That seems like a major oversimplifcation. Are you at all offended by that term?
RJ: no. i think that, or collage music, is an accurate term for the records i have done in the past. id like to think im moving more towards a more cohesive sound, but i think its accurate for my solo albums. really, any other kind of record is made very similarly-you cut the rhythm section, send the session down to another studio to get the strings done, the singer comes in two weeks later to record the vocals. my records are done just like that, except i end up pulling the source material from whatever i can find in my home.

9. The Brainfreeze project by Cut Chemist and Shadow seemed to spark interest in the original source material and artists they sampled. Is that an intended goal when you’re producing music, to perhaps uncover or reintroduce a long-lost artist/album to the public?
RJ: no. like i said before, one of my underlying goals is to not use good music as source material.

10. Finally, what artists, bands or musicians are inspiring your work — past and present?
RJ: right now, im into dungen, sufjan stevens, ELO, the teeth, dead sea.

RJD2′s catalog, including Magnificent City and Things Go Better, is available at eMusic.

Last night …

Saw John Vanderslice with Laura Veirs at Modified. John freaking Vanderslice. Played an hour and half and at least 20 songs, probably more. I won’t bore you with some full-blown concert review. I strongly recommend you see him as the chemistry with this band is unreal. Also, he’s selling John Vanderslice pillowcases. Seriously. (But do yourself a favor and spend the 12 bucks on a CD.)

If you didn’t see him on this tour (and there are only three dates left), maybe you should click here and download an entire live set that JV graciously provides on his Web site. And he did say that Phoenix (specifically Modified) was his favorite place to play in the country. Boo ya!

JV songs that zoomed to top of my rotation after last night:

  • Up Above the Sea: The keyboard/bass action is so menacing live.
  • Continuation: The opening few measures with that drum beat are begging to be sampled somewhere.
  • Time Travel is Lonely: Just listen. Dear lord.

Q&A with Doodlebug of Digable Planets

OK, so I’ve had this one in the bag for a while, and I’ve been really excited to post it. After I posted on the Procussions (who opened for Digable Planets last year), I was contacted about an opportunity to interview Doodlebug (aka Cee Knowledge), one-third of the fantastic Digable Planets. Yeah, like I was going to say no to that.

The DPs, as many of you know, reunited last year after 10 years apart. I’m excited about the potential that Doodle, Butterfly and Ladybug can recapture. Even if it feels a bit nostalgic, there’s still a market eager for what the DPs offered in their heyday.

For me, any conversation of hip-hop includes Digable, who blended the cool-cat vibes of jazz with laid-back beats to create a chilled vibe. It’s almost surreal that they reformed, but hip-hop is better for it:

How’s the touring?
“It’s good. … We’ve been touring all of 2005 up until the end of January. Now we’re gonna take a break. I’m gonna start working on a solo project. … I have a new mixtape out called the Cosmic Funk Essentials. Around April we’ll start working to record a new Digable Planets album.”

(mp3) Cee Knowledge (with Giant) | Jazz Is

What kinda people are you seeing at shows?
“I’m seeing a lot of young cats, so they obviously couldn’t have been big fans when we were first out … they’d have been too young. After shows, I’m talking to people that say they’ve been down with us for so long and they went to shows. There’s also cats that are in college that heard about us and liked our music and never had a chance to see us perform and they were excited because they never thought they’d have a chance to see us perform. … I think it’s a mixture of old and new.”

What’s the response been like?
“Yeah, it’s real great. After such a long break, for them to have all those people come out and show support with no new record out … that was awesome, man.”

What sort of response where you expecting?
“I really didn’t know what to expect. You always hope for the best, but I didn’t know what to expect. It’s a blessing that after all this time, we’re still … in some people’s minds. They wanted to come out and pay their hard-earned money to see us.”

What can we expect on a new album?
“I really don’t know … it’s gonna be 10 years’ experience traveling the world, meeting new people. I think we all grew as artists, as producers, as people and producers. That growth should be shown on a new album.”

What led to you guys splitting apart?
“There’s a lot of different things. It would take too long to go into them all. I’m not trying to air no dirty laundry. It boiled down to us being young, rebellious and not really understanding the business. Our record label was starting to fall apart around the time we broke up. Our management company wasn’t together right. A lot of things that were going on, plus personal issues that kinda put us in a corner. … We got into this for fun. And when it stopped being fun, we decided to walk away. ”

Was there regret?
“Most definitely. I can only speak for myself … I didn’t think it was a good idea. But it was the best thing to do at the time. After a couple of years I definitely regretted it, and I stayed in touch with the other two. I did some solo stuff and Ladybug would come in and help me out on some things. Butterfly came in on a show I did in Philadelphia.

“But it took awhile for everybody to get over whatever the issues we had to get over. Finally we were mature enough to talk about those issues. I had an opportunity to do a tour in Europe last February and I thought it might be a good chance to get everyone back together again. And if it didn’t’ work out and if everyone wasn’t feeling it anymore, it would have just been a nostalgia thing, it woulda been over. Halfway through the tour everybody was coming up to me telling me how much they loved it and how they wanted to keep it movin’.”

Was it ever a thought before the tour that you should get back together?
“We had some legal issues that we had to handle that we all had to come together again for. … But that didn’t really need us to be in the same city again. A couple of months after that, I kept in Ladybug’s ear and Butterfly’s ear. Eventually, we got to a point where we sat down and decided after a couple of talks on the phone to sit down in September 2004. We had a meeting for a couple of hours, and at end of the meeting, we decided, let’s try it.

“We hired a booking agent. We were booked up for an entire year. It was amazing that people actually wanted to book us. It was exciting, it was a real exciting time, man.”

What was it like the first time back on stage?
“The first time was kinda nerve-racking a little bit. I wasn’t sure what to expect, I didn’t know what to do. It had been 10 years or more since we were on the stage together. But at the same time, we were all professionals. Individually, we maintained a stage presence doing our solo projects. I was nervous all the way up to the time we hit the stage, but once we hit the stage all the nervousness died away. We just flowed. The first show (in Vienna) was hot. It was real hot. It was real tight.”

What do you think has changed from time you split up to now?
“The music, the artists, the culture that surrounds the artists and the recording. That hasn’t really changed. But the way they market and way record labels are involved, their level of involvement is a lot different than 10 to 12 years ago. They’re willing to put up bigger budgets. Marketing campaigns are outrageous. People are getting a lot more money than back when we were doing it. … The focus in terms of market has changed. The mainstream market is really more focused on the pop, that gangsta rap. It’s different. We’re a little older. I think there’s a market for everything. Going out and doing these shows has really proved it to me. With no record out and not too much publicicty, these shows are packed, people were out there and they were interested. They knew the songs and they would sing along with us. These are songs out in ’94, ’95. So I’m like, ‘Damn!’ There’s definitely still a market for this.”

It shows people are starving for good hip-hop.
“There’s still good music. It’s just that the mainstream doesn’t always seem to focus on the good stuff. Underground has held down a lot of great artists. They just might not have right outlet or right situation that it takes to get there. It’s also a lot of luck.”

Are you nervous that you’ve lost a portion of your fan base?
“It’s probably gonna show in terms of record sales. That’s where there the pressure is more on us. It’s pressure because you have to find a label that’s willing to do it. But as long as you do your thing and be yourself … at the time we did our first album, nobody thought we would have commercial success. Everybody looked at us as group that would be college radio group. A&R signed us took a chance with us. All meetings were concentrated on college marketing. Then the single (Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat) ) came out and it somehow hit a nerve with the fan base. And it went way past their expectations. I don’t think they were even ready for what came with that song.

“As long as you stay true to yourself as an artist and a person and do your thing and do the best you can do, you never know. There’s no guarantee people are going to like you, as long as we do our best I’m happy with that. … I know there’s a fan base that’s going to follow us and grow with us.

“We’re gonna grow. We’re not gonna be the same. There’s gonna be a fan base that’s gonna want to hear to hear another Cool Like Dat. But that might not be something that’s going to come out of us. I don’t know what’s going to come out of us. But whatever it is, it’s going to be real, it’s going to be natural and it’s going to be fly.

You’ve got so many people caught up in nostalgia. There’s got to be a fine line, catering to fans that were with you back in the day but also moving forward.
“Yeah, that is true. The position we’ve been put in, it’s been so long, people didn’t even think we were gonna come back. And now they’ve solidified their ideas of what we’re supposed to sound like. ‘Cause all they had to listen to was the first two albums. They weren’t with us when we grew as individuals when we were apart for those 10 years. So the dynamic of all three of us together, it’s going to be different for all of us … us and our fan base.

“Hopefully it’ll work out. I’m confident that it will, just from energy of the live shows. That was the key to whether or not we were going to be able to do this. After 10 years, you have to regain that vibe and that trust as performers. And on stage, I think we reclaimed that.”

Ian Love interview / CD giveaway

I’m excited to present this blog’s inaugural Q&A, with singer/songwriter Ian Love, whose self-titled debut (released Feb. 21 on Limekiln Records) is a moving and introspective work of acoustic beauty, not to mention a solid entry for my favorites of 2006. (Hear Butterfly now.)

Quick background: From New York, Ian (yeah, we’re a first-name basis) played in popular bands Rival Schools and Cardia. His affiliation to Rival Schools (a personal fave of mine) drew me to his solo work, which is a pretty stark departure from the post-punk/hardcore New York style.

In a brief (30 minutes or so) interview with a total stranger, Ian – 30 years old and living in Brooklyn – was kind enough to open up about his music, being a new father and husband to Jennifer, his longtime girlfriend and now wife of four years, and his years of struggling with a drug addiction that landed him in rehab at 23 years old.

(Let me say this: Ian couldn’t have been nicer on the phone and through e-mail in setting up our chat on the phone; he pretty much cut out the middle man (record label reps) and scheduled the interview with me himself – which he conducted while his 8-month-old daughter, Abigail, was taking a nap … multitasking! It’s always a relief to discover that artists you admire are really great people, to boot.)

We’re giving away at least one copy (and possibly two) of his CD. Info for that giveaway is at the end of the interview. Hope you enjoy:

Does it help as an independent artist with all the Internet attention?
“Totally. I’m not like that up on how people find out about new music or where to download music from. I didn’t realize the whole blogging thing was so big. I had no idea. In that respect, it’s amazing. And MySpace. For an independent guy recording everything in his house in Brooklyn, it’s very gratifying to be able to do something and have such instant positive stuff come back. You spend so much time creating something and you hope that once in awhile someone hears it and says they like it, but that’s mostly at shows. Now you can put something up on MySpace or someone puts up a blog about it, and immediately you get comments or e-mail. It’s pretty cool.”

When did you start writing songs for this album? Did you always have a solo project in mind?
“I put out a record with Cardia, which was more space-rockey stuff. We did a lot of touring. And I had a studio and I’d just record songs as they came along. … In the meantime, guy that does my booking, he always saying, ‘If you wanna do solo shows, we can definitely get you some.’ So I started doing that, playing Cardia songs by myself. I really enjoyed that and started writing some stuff that ended up being on this record that didn’t fit with the band stuff.”

There’s definitely a mellower vibe to this album as opposed to Rival Schools or Cardia. Do you attribute that to settling in with a family or was it always something you had in mind?
“It wasn’t a conscious thing. It sort of started as … the booking agent was having a hard time getting shows for the band. He had some shows I could do by myself opening up for people. Once I started doing that I realized I kind of enjoyed it. I go through different weird inspirations of what I like doing.

“But by the end of recording the record, my daughter was born so everything had to be real nice and quiet, having to sort of be quiet in the house. I did a lot of rhythm stuff, like tapping on the guitar for the rhythm, on the body of it … it’s nice and quiet.”

What where you listening to as inspirtation?
“The last two Wilco records … the simplicity of those. And the weirdness and sparseness of those.”

How tough is the balance now with the baby between music and family?
“When she was first born, I was trying to finish up the recording of the record. Luckily the past few months there hasn’t been much to do as far as playing. … Everything sort of goes down to three-hour blocks of time now. Doing stuff in between her naps (laughs). Her bedroom is right next to the studio.”

Was some of the writing for the record done about your time in rehab?
“A lot of it was definitely about that stuff. All the stuff was written within the past year, after the fact. It’s a big part of my growing up and my life. It definitely goes into songwriting. It’s stuff that once you go through it it’s hard to forget about it. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.”

Is it therapeutic?
“Well … I see a therapist (laughs). So on top of that being therapeutic, it’s definitely therapeutic. It’s one of those things I can’t just ignore it. It’s a big part of who I am and who I’ll always be. It doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. If I totally forget about it, it’s more likely it’ll end up that I’ll be doing drugs again. So it’s better that I deal with it now.”

How long was rehab?
“A little over a month. I’d been using heavily since I was 16 or so. I tried other ways. My family sent me to therapists. Or you can get on opiate blockers that a therapist will give you. … I’d gotten clean a few times here and there but would always end up using again. The last time worked for whatever reason.

“I was at this point where I just knew … I was just ready to get better.”

You must have a very strong wife.
“Oh man, I couldn’t even imagine what it’s like for her. We were just dating at the time. I tried to hide it the best I could. But eventually she just confronted me on it which led me to going into rehab the next morning.

“I was so isolated and didn’t have anyone in my life other than her. For me, it wasn’t partying or anything. It was just waking up every day or every two days … I’d be up for days at a time, using drugs every few hours and having brief periods of crashing out and doing it again and trying to find money to keep doing it and selling stuff. There was nobody in my life. And I hated it. I absolutely hated doing what I was doing. And I didn’t want to be doing what I was doing. But you get to this point where, you’re spending hundreds of dollars a day on drugs. You just don’t think you can stop even as much as you want to. And I just didn’t know any way to … when she finaly confronted me, it was like I was waiting for someone to do that.

“I didn’t even think about rehab, it didn’t even enter my mind. Just got lucky really. Didn’t have insurance, didn’t have any money. I somehow found rehab in Long Island that has this affiliation with this thing called Musicians Assistance Program. And they ended up paying for the rehab. I got lucky.”

Are you nervous going out on tour … are there temptations for you?
“With Rival Schools I had been clean the whole time and for a few years at that point. We toured a lot. I’ve just been really good with it. I definitely don’t get temptations. I’ve been in so many rock clubs where I go to bathrooms and there’s still coke on the toilet. I don’t have a desire to drink or do drugs.

“My first year clean … I got a job to pay rent. I went to southeast Asia and Japan and spent a summer there traveling by myself. If I wanted to use drugs it would have been a good time to do it. I didn’t. Something happened. I got clean. It just really set me in a good direction.”

Were there feelings of guilt on your part when you were trying to hide it?
“Totally. It was terrible. That was the hardest part: trying to live a somewhat normal life. When you’re caught up in it, you think things are OK and normal. You get to a point where the drugs aren’t affecting you really that much. You still function on a somewhat normal level.

“Leading up to that, I spent the year before that shooting heroin with needles. Everyone in my life knew that because it’s very obvious. I stopped using for a few months, so when I started again I really wanted to hide it. So I started sniffing drugs, somehow thinking that would be better for me, it would be easier to hide. I guess in some ways it was easier to hide. She’d (Jennifer) be in one room and I’d be in the other room sniffing a bunch of heroin as I’m flushing the toilet to try to hide it. So in that respect it was so emotionally draining.”

What are your feelings when you look back at that and verbalize it?
“It’s very overwhelming and emotional. Being in recovery is a big part of my life. I deal with it on a daily basis. … So I’m used to talking about it at this point. It’s a little easier to talk about it. I’ve done a lot of work on it.”

Would you say there’s a song on album that best reflects that time in our life?
“It was all written in retrospect. But Old Enough, Turn Off (40-second clip) or Black Diamonds (50-second clip) or It’s Not Over. Those are definitely the battles of even being clean. If you’re an addict or an alcoholic, even if there’s a time you haven’t used, it’s still just a part of you. Part of you still feels like that same person even if it’s been a long time since. … Emotionally, a lot of that stuff just stays there.”

I’d just like to thank Ian again for his time and honesty … and that CD.

Speaking of, here’s the deal. I’ve got one copy to give away and Limekiln should be sending one or two more to pass out. This should be fun and straightforward, and Ian himself is going to help pick the winner(s).

I love the artwork (done by Erica Harris) on the CD cover:

What TWO WORDS do you think of when you examine the art?
Leave your answer and e-mail address in the comment section. I’ll harass Ian to pick a winner by the end of the week!