Sunday, November 19, 2017

Local musician Greg Boerner releasing fifth album, will perform at Kiss The Sky in Batavia

Photo by Chuck Bennorth
By ERIC SCHELKOPF

On his fifth album, "Solid Sender," local musician and Aurora resident Greg Boerner veers in a slightly new direction.

While his past albums have been somewhat sparse musically, he opted for a fuller sound on his latest CD. Boerner will celebrate the release of the album – as well as his 50th birthday – by performing at 7 p.m. Nov. 29 at Kiss The Sky record store, 180 W. First St. in downtown Batavia. Joining Boerner on stage will be Patrick Moynihan on upright bass, Justin O'Connell on drums and Mary Lou O'Brien on vocals.

I had the chance to talk to Boerner about the new CD.


Q – You produced "Solid Sender" with Patrick Moynihan and recorded, mixed and mastered the CD at his Waveform studio in Batavia. What was the process like working with him? 

Boerner – I am not a big fan of the studio. I enjoy playing live and I enjoy the freedom of that. The studio is a little bit of a chore to me, because I'm pretty critical of what I'm doing.

I like it when it's all done. I love listening to the results, particularly if I think I've done a really great job. Patrick was great in the studio as far as keeping it loose and keeping it fun.

He was a great cheerleader, to keep me going and to keep me feeling good about what I was doing. And that's hard, because there are times where you can easily get down on yourself. It's nice to have someone in your corner rooting for you.

He was just as invested in this CD as I was, and that's a beautiful thing. Most engineers and producers and that kind of thing are not always as invested. How can they be? 

Q – I understand that with this CD, you were trying to create more of a fuller sound. 

Boerner – I've always had those ideas, but with this one in particular. I wanted to add stand up bass, and I wanted to add some background vocals that I didn't really have before.

I didn't want rock drums, but I wanted somebody on brushes or something similar, kind of moving the songs along but not overtaking the songs. And then Patrick had a Fender Rhodes electric piano from the '70s era. 

I love that sound, and it really fit on a couple of my tunes. We picked our moments.

I don't need a Fender Rhodes electric piano on every song. I didn't need extra guitars on every song.

But some songs just seemed to beg for it, and others seemed to say, "Nope, live me alone. This needs to be a solo piece."

So there's a nice mix. There's about seven tunes with certain accompaniment, either full or slightly augmented, and then there's like four that really don't have anything. It's just me and the guitar.

Q – The CD does seem like a good mix of folk and blues and a little jazz too. 

Boerner – Yes, it's kind of all those things. The new catchall word is Americana. If someone asks me what my genre, that's what I would say. 

Q – So you will be moving to Nashville soon. 

Boerner – In the middle of January, I'm moving to Nashville. And it's nothing really to do with music. 

I reconnected with my friend, Annie. We had always been friends, nothing more, and romance blossomed over the phone.

And she says, "I need you here in Nashville." And I said, "I'm on my way." It's as simple as that. 

Q – You will have to come back for the Blues on the Fox festival in Aurora. 

Boerner – My plan is to come back kind of every three to four months. I planning on coming back because I do have gigs here and let's face it, I don't know about making a living in Nashville. I don't know how that's going to go. We'll see.

I will feel the need to come back here and reconnect with fans, people who are interested in what I do, and also make a little bit of money. I think it might be a better thing, because if you are here in the Fox Valley area and you're playing every weekend, people tend to kind of take that for granted.

They don't come out to see you because they can always see me the next weekend. But if I'm gone and four months later, I come back for one night, I'm hoping that maybe people will think that's a bit more of a special thing and will show up for that.

That's what I hope.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

"Unplugged: A Survivor's Story in Scenes & Songs" to be presented at City Winery Chicago


By ERIC SCHELKOPF

In an all too familiar story, "Unplugged: A Survivor's Story in Scenes & Songs" tells the tale of a 27-year-old rock star struggling with depression and post-traumatic stress in the wake of childhood sexual abuse.


The musical, based on a novel written by Evanston author/performer Paul McComas, will be presented Oct. 22 at City Winery Chicago, 1200 W. Randolph St., Chicago. Doors open at noon and the show starts at 1 p.m.

Tickets are $10 in advance, $15 the day of the show, available by going to www.citywinery.com.  Eighty-five percent of proceeds from ticket sales will benefit RAINN (the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network)’s National Sexual Assault Hotline, and The Kennedy Forum, which works to eliminate the stigma around mental illness and enforce parity for behavioral healthcare.

Playing the part of lead character Dayna Clay is co-creator Maya Kuper. The album is being released on CAUDog Records, a label connected to Chicago Acoustic Underground.

I had the chance to talk to Paul and Maya about the project.
 

Q – Do you feel yourself identifying with this character?
 
Maya – I have found myself identifying more and more with this character. I didn't at first, and I've been working on this character for a few years now. 
 
Dayna Clay has some pretty serious mental health issues, and she's also a trauma survivor. She was a survivor of childhood rape. What I've learned from working on this character is that there are parts of her experience that I can relate to. 
 
The idea of being in a relationship where you are not treated with respect is something that many, many people can relate with. It doesn't have to domestic abuse or sexual violence, but emotional abuse is I think way more common than a lot of people realize because it's enough not talked about. 
 
And a lot of times people don't realize it's happening to them. And so, that part of Dayna is something that I relate to. And the parts of Dayna that I don't have experience with, like the fact that she's suicidal and is dealing with serious post traumatic stress, those are things that I've learned a lot about from working on this character.




I lost a friend to suicide a few years ago. I almost feel like everyone knows someone or has someone in their circle – a family member, a friend, a colleague, who either has been suicidal or they lost somebody to suicide.

And it's often not talked about. It's often swept under the rug. There's the fear that talking about it can actually push somebody over the edge.

But in my opinion, we need to talk about it more. Because if it's true that one in five Americans deals with a mental health issue in any given year, than it's an epidemic.

And it's something we need to talk about more and more. Because the only way we are going to reduce that stigma is by speaking about it out loud.

And so the more we talk about it, the more we make it OK to talk about.




Q How did the death of Kurt Cobain affect you and inspire you?

Paul – I was a fan of the man and of the music. There seemed to be a lot of talk about the heroin abuse, as if he had died of an overdose. He put a gun to his head. The heroin abuse was a symptom of the depression that killed him.

I founded this music project called Rock Against Depression with some other musician friends. We all felt like honoring Kurt while at the same time trying to steer young fans away from the path that he took.

Halfway through the five-year run of this project, it occurred to me that I was addressing these issues through someone else's work, but haven't done so through my own writing and music and performing. And that was sort of the genesis of "Unplugged." 

Q Is Dayna Clay supposed to be a female version of Kurt Cobain?

Paul – Not really. She's supposed to be her own person, and she is.

But Kurt was definitely an inspiration, and you can see the elements, I think, of him in her, in terms of attitude and excessive empathy regarding the pain of other people, which is a classic symptom for some people struggling with depression. I say this as someone who does struggle with depression. I say this as a depression survivor myself.


After I had recovered from depression, I started working on the novel. His death was a major inspiration for writing the book.

I wanted to write about someone similar, not the same but similar, who was able to step back from the brink in a way that he was not permitted to do. She has an opportunity that he does not get.

Q – As far as putting the novel to music, did you always envision that you would be putting on a show like this?

Paul – Maya was the one who said she always wanted to write a musical. I was working on a song in this character's voice while I was working on the novel. 

I didn't have in mind a full-fledged 90-minute two act musical. This is a whole other animal, what we're going here and now.

Maya – I would say that it started out as what you might call a song cycle, with songs that were written in the voice of the character. When I started working with Paul on this material about four years ago, I had this rich novel of source material to draw from and these ideas to fill in the blanks.

Q – Even though there is a 20-year age difference between the two of you, it seems like you guys have a musical kinship. Is that right?

Paul – She's my kid sister that I never had. I was the youngest of four and I always wanted a kid sister. It took a while, but I finally got one nine years ago.

Maya – Brother and sister is a good way to describe it, because we do pick fights all the time. He has things that I wouldn't have thought of, and I have things that he wouldn't have thought of, and that's why it's a good collaboration. We feel in the blanks for each other.

Q – What would you like people to get out of the project?

Maya – What I want people to get out of this show is that it is OK to talk about mental health issues, it's OK to talk about traumatic events in your past. And what's more, it's good to talk about them. It's healing to talk about them.

It's necessary to talk about them in order to reduce the stigma and raise awareness. We'll never get better if we do not speak out loud.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Chicago band The Obleeks releases debut album, will perform Oct. 23 at Schubas


By ERIC SCHELKOPF

You can call The Obleeks' debut album a happy accident.

The Chicago power-pop band didn't set out to record an album when it contacted Amos Pitsch of the Wisconsin band Tenement to record a few songs. Pitsch ended up recording, mixing and recording the album at his Crutch of Memory studio in Appleton, Wis. He also also designed the cover and all of the artwork for the album.

To celebrate the release of the new self-titled album, The Obleeks will perform Oct. 23 at Schubas Tavern, 3159 N. Southport Ave., Chicago.

Also on the bill are Terriers and Dan Durley. The free show starts at 8 p.m.

The band is comprised of brothers Andy and Lee Ketch along with Nick Harris. I had the chance to talk to the Andy and Lee about the new album.

 

Q – Great talking to you. In sitting down to make the album, what were your goals and do you think you accomplished them?

Andy – This album came about very strange way. There was never a moment when we decided that we were going to record an album.
 



It came about very incidentally. Originally, we contacted Amos to record a few songs to test if we wanted to record at Crutch of Memory for an album with a different band the three of us are in, Mooner.

On talking about it more, we realized the Crutch of Memory sound wasn’t quite right for Mooner, but since Amos had agreed, we decided to record four songs for The Obleeks over a weekend, not sure what we were going to do with them.



They turned out really well, and so a couple of months later we went back up to Appleton to record five more songs.
 


The only thing we had in mind for the record was that we wanted to record in a way we never have before. When we would go up there, we would record basics for two songs the first day, basics for another two or three songs the second day, and then all of the vocals/overdubs on the third day.
 


I have been personally inspired by albums like "In the City" by The Jam, and "L.A.M.F." by The Heartbreakers, and always wanted to make a record like that – very stripped down and recorded as fast as possible. I think we all saw this as our opportunity to do that, in a way.
 


Q – How did you hook up with Good Land Records? How do you think you fit in with the other artists on the label? It seems like the majority of the acts on the label can be described as power pop bands.

Andy – Amos got us in contact with them! We have never, ever had any luck with labels, but he finally broke us through into the big time.

We’ve always been a fan of a lot of their artists (Dwight Twilley, Midnight Reruns, Tim Schweiger). We had a chance to play with Tim when we went up to Green Bay last year, and had a great time.
 


We are very lucky to have a relationship with some bands in Milwaukee and throughout Wisconsin, and actually are pretty envious of what they have going on up there. I would say we fit right in without doing anything special.

Q – What was it like working with your brother on the album? Do you a share a musical kinship?

Andy – I loved it. As Lee’s younger brother, he greatly influenced my musical tastes growing up (introducing me to Wilco, Big Star, etc.), and so we end up thinking about music in similar ways.

My favorite thing about sharing a foundation is that we both have built off of it in different ways – I gravitate more toward the punk side of things, while Lee is more interested in songwriting and production, which I think are the essences of power-pop.
 


I think the result is a record which stays in the realm of power-pop, but has enough variations within that genre that (I hope) the listener can appreciate.
 


Also, Nick Harris, the bassist/songwriter/singer, was indispensable for the album. He brought a lot of the poppiest stuff to the record (and the best song), and was very much an integral part to the whole process.

This was very much a surprise, because Lee and I are very much nepotistic when it comes to music, and we both were very happy to find we could share a kind of deep music kinship with someone outside of the family (but we have since married him into the family for the sake of nepotism).

Lee – It was great. Whenever Andy wouldn’t play a drum fill, I would just noogie him into submission. Less luck with Nick.

Q – Will you be touring to support the new album? Is there a meaning behind the band's name?

Andy – Uh, we hope so. We very much want to go up to Wisconsin, Ohio, and Nashville, but no concrete plans as of yet.
 


It looks like it will be mainly long-weekend mini-tours for us.

Nope, but I suspect Lee wanted to sneak his name in there somehow.
 


Q – Do you see The Obleeks as being a one-time project or would you like to make more records with the band as well as tour?

Andy – We absolutely want to keep making more records and play more shows. It is a great outlet for us.

But, like every other band out there, we’re just fitting it into our schedules with work and what not.

Q – What do you think of the Chicago music scene and how do you see The Obleeks fitting into it?

Andy – We love it. This album wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the DIY scene here. We had a lot of encouragement from them, and playing our first shows at places like Club Soda and Auxiliary helped us feel much better about what we were doing.

Lee – Our first show was at a show space called the Auxiliary in Avondale. The music room is heavily carpeted. Right after we went on a crust punk band called The Fuckers played and their fans poured dozens of beers onto the carpet, making for a very squishy show.
 


Andy – The Fuckers were great and scared me a lot.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Chicago musician Dan Rico injecting freshness, energy into local music scene





By ERIC SCHELKOPF 

On his new single "Flesh and Bone," Chicago musician Dan Rico updates the rawness and energy of '70s glam rock for a new generation.

Rico will celebrate the release of the single with a show on Oct. 14 at the Cafe Mustache, 2313 N Milwaukee Ave., Chicago. Shenandoah Davis also is on the bill, and the music starts at 9 p.m.

I had the chance to talk to Rico about the new single and how he sees himself fitting into the Chicago music scene.

Q – Great talking to you. You have a new single, "Flesh and Bone." In sitting down to make the song, what were your goals and do you think you accomplished them? Is there a story behind the song's name?

The main riff and most of the lyrics to “Flesh and Bone” I’d been sitting on for a number of years. I actually have an older recording of this song that almost went on my first album, "Endless Love," that’s a little sludgier and more intense.


I’m a huge T-Rex fan and eventually just decided to embrace the T-Rexness of this track and try to reproduce some of the tropes I love about their songs.



I think there’s a very fine line between rip-off and homage, and I’m very interested in the history of rock music and recycling/redefining old ideas the way you see commonly with sampling in hip hop, etc. This particular track is one of my first endeavors into this field, with more to come. 

The title itself, “Flesh and Bone,” takes the attitude that though the narrator may be hurt or slighted by a romantic encounter, experiences of pain confirm our very humanity. And it’s good to be human. 
 

Q – How did you hook up with Shit in Can Records and how do you yourself fitting on the label?

Shit in Can found me on a music blog and contacted me about releasing some music. I think the punk roots of the music put me in their wheelhouse, and the songwriting got me on the roster.

Q – I understand that your two favorite producers are Prince and David Bowie. What did you learn from them? How have you been influenced by their music?  

Both were just filled with ideas. On the one hand there’s the idea that you should be able to dance to guitar music. They really embrace the dance qualities of rock and pop music. 


Prince specifically has some really cool guitar solos and isn’t afraid to take some of the arrangements to the extreme. David Bowie had a unique take on background vocals and arrangements that I found really accessible as a rock producer.

Q - There is a freshness and energy to glam rock and garage rock that other genres lack. What drew you to the genres and how have you tried to incorporate them in your music?

I like that glam rock is theatrical. In a sort of post-grunge-indie era when bands are still wearing t-shirts and flannel to perform, I like the imaginative costumes and grandiose bandstand stage set-ups; the idea that rock musicians can be larger than life.


Now that the (rock) genre is so oversaturated and in decline in mainstream popularity, I think it’s beneficial as an artist to celebrate its finer points and what originally made it so impressive and charming. 

Q – What do you think of the Chicago music scene and how do you see yourself fitting into it?

The Chicago music scene has thousands of artists and bands. Many of these can be stratified geographically into different scenes.


I operate in a part of the city called Logan Square and play there frequently. In Logan, there’s a big rock/garage scene and I definitely grew up in and fall within that category. 


Like the city of Chicago itself, the sad truth is that the music scene has a strong racial segregation. It wasn’t until I spent a lot of time in southern cities like New Orleans and Atlanta that I realized how different Chicago is in this way.

Once you begin to notice that almost all the audience for any rock show is white it’s hard to un-notice. A lot of people have a “that’s just the way it is” attitude.

My hope in the future is to evolve beyond these barriers, to create music that all different people - white, black, brown, yellow, young, old, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, atheist - can enjoy and get down to.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Paramount Theatre produces electrifying version of "Million Dollar Quartet," show runs through Oct. 29

Photo by Liz Lauren

Paramount Theatre’s 2017-18 Broadway Series opener "Million Dollar Quartet" stars, from left, Gavin Rohrer as Jerry Lee Lewis, Bill Scott Sheets as Johnny Cash, Kavan Hashemian as Elvis Presley and Adam Wesley Brown as Carl Perkins. The show will run through Oct. 29 at the Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Blvd. in downtown Aurora.


By ERIC SCHELKOPF

There aren't many musical moments bigger than the one that occurred on Dec. 4, 1956, when Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Elvis Presley – who were all in their early 20s at the time – came together for a jam session at Sun Studio in Memphis, Tennessee.

The Paramount Theatre, located at 23 East Galena Blvd. in downtown Aurora, recreates that night in electrifying fashion in its joyful version of "Million Dollar Quartet," which runs through Oct. 29. Thanks to an immensely talented cast, it doesn't take long for the audience to be pulled into the magic that is being made on stage. 

The audience is made to feel like they are part of that moment through the interaction the cast members have with the audience. Standout performances abound, including that of Gavin Rohrer, who is making his Paramount debut in the role of Lewis. He brought the energy early with a unrestrained version of "Wild One."


Rohrer is dazzling behind the piano and and is just as impressive in imitating Lewis' frantic stage antics. Kavan Hashemian's dead-on performance as Presley shows he studied Presley's concert footage in order to give a performance as authentic as possible. Not surprisingly, he was named "The World's #1 Rock 'N Roll Elvis by the BBC in a television competition filmed in London.

But standing taller than even their performances is Bill Scott Sheets' take on Cash. He embodies the sound and spirit of Cash, right down to his rich bass-baritone voice.


Apart from the music, it is the interaction between the characters that makes this production so entertaining. Because most of us have only seen these musicians perform on their own, it is interesting to see how they got along with each other (or didn't, in some cases.)

The Paramount Theatre produces another win with its version of "Million Dollar Quartet." Tickets are available by calling the Paramount at 630-896-6666 or visiting its website, www.paramountaurora.com.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Chicago musician Chip Ratliff takes funk, soul to new heights on new album, "Resilient"


By ERIC SCHELKOPF

Chicago musician Chip Ratliff is dedicated to taking funk and soul to new heights. He takes another step in that direction on his new album "Resilient," his first full-length album in more than 10 years. 

He will celebrate the release of the album by performing at 7 p.m. Aug. 26 at Shorefront Legacy Center, 2214 Ridge Ave., Evanston. There is a $20 donation.

I had the chance to talk to him about the new album:
 
Q – Great talking to you. "Resilient" is your first full-length album release in more than 10 years. Have you been writing these songs for a while? Was this just the right time to release a new CD?

Thank you for having me! A lot of the tunes on “Resilient” are songs that have been in the hopper for a while. A couple are brand new.


For instance, the dance tune “DirtyBlu” was actually the first song I wrote after Prince’s death. It was the first groove I played when I picked up my bass.



After going through a lot of challenges the past few years, I really felt that it was time to share my gifts and make sure I leave some kind of legacy. I really felt it was time to put something out that reflected my love of funk and my blues roots. 

Q – Do you see the album as a natural progression from your last album, "Electric Chittlin' Stew"?

Not so much a natural progression from the last album, but more of a natural progression for me personally and as an artist.  When I did “Electric Chittlin’ Stew” I felt the need to be everything to everybody, which is why it has such a broad range of material: funk, R&B, rock, Santana style Latin-rock… a little bit of everything, like a stew! “Resilient,” on the other hand, is more of me having a great time being me! I wanted to put together an album that if you came out to a Chip Ratliff show, this is what you would hear.




Q – What would you like people to get out of the album? I understand that the album's title refers to overcoming any obstacles and challenges in one's way. Have you had to do that in your own musical career?

I’m hoping that it not only entertains, but also inspires. [I hope that it] inspires people to keep moving forward, regardless of the obstacles that are in front of them.


The title “Resilient” actually comes from something one of my doctor’s said to me on a follow up visit. He said, “Mr. Ratliff, you are one of the most resilient patients I have ever seen!”

It is a testament to God and the strength that he gives me. As I say in the title track, “The Creator is brilliant…through Him, I am resilient!”

Q - You come from a musically rich family, including being the cousin of Chicago blues singer and guitarist Lefty Dizz (I watched a YouTube video of one of his shows at the Checkerboard Lounge and he put on quite an energetic show), along with the fact that your grandfather, Herman Ratliff Sr., played guitar in Memphis clubs with legends B.B. King and Muddy Waters in the 1940s. Was it inevitable that you would become a musician? What kind of support did you get from your family?

Yeah, entertainment is definitely in my DNA! I’ve actually been entertaining all my life, in one way or another.


I was the kid who would get up at the drop of a dime and do my spot-on Michael Jackson or Elvis (yes…I was an Elvis fanatic!) impersonation for the entire family...or whoever wanted to watch! I actually call myself the first Michael Jackson impersonator!

But as for my family, yes, music and entertainers were all around me. My uncle Fernando (Jones) and I would play our instruments (me on bass, him on guitar) in his mom’s (my grandmother’s) living room all day on Sunday afternoons!

His brother, my other uncle Greg, would teach us songs that he liked. Then we would play them all afternoon!

The only reason that no one stopped us was because we sounded pretty good! So, yeah, it was pretty inevitable. 

Q - You shared the stage with Lefty, along with your uncle, Fernando Jones, Buddy Guy, Willie Dixon and others. What did you learn from playing with musicians of this caliber? What advice did they give you?

Playing with those guys allowed me to sit at the feet of some of the greatest musicians and performers of all time and learn! I learned about showmanship, timing and, most of all, TO BE YOURSELF!



One of the best pieces of advice I got was from Fernando. He said, in so many words, that the way you make people remember you is to be yourself. Be genuine.

Q - I understand you wrote your first song when you were 5, a duet with Jones (who was 6 at the time) called "Get Out Of Here." Does writing songs come easy for you?

One thing I’ve found is that you constantly have to keep practicing and honing your craft. I always say that songwriters “tune in” to the gazillions of songs that are out there in the air.


Not everyone can hear them…but they’re there. Now…I don’t mean to be all deep, but the more you stay in tune, the less difficult it becomes to channel the songs.
  
Q – You are president of the board of directors for Shorefront. Is it an honor to be associated with such an organization?

It is an amazing honor to be the President of the Shorefront. Shorefront is a non-profit organization that collects, preserves, and educates about Black history on Chicago’s suburban Northshore.


I have learned so much about Black history in general, and the importance of preserving heritage and using it as a foundation to move our community into the future.

Q - What do you think of the Chicago music scene and how do you think you fit into it?

The Chicago music scene is not as open to new, original music as I and others would like for it to be. Even with that said, it is a major city, and it affords opportunities to create your own opportunities.


That’s what I’m trying to do…not just sit and wait for things to happen. Make them happen! Create opportunities for myself and others!

Q – What is on your plate for the rest of the year?

Well, more live performances to celebrate the release of the new album. I’m looking to get my music heard by as many people, not only locally but nationally and internationally, [as possible].




I’m also looking to my move forward with the “Practice Your Purpose™” initiative. The mission is to inspire the global audience to find and practice their purpose on a daily basis. 

Leave your legacy!

Friday, August 18, 2017

Clinard Dance Theatre to present Flamenco Quartet Project


By ERIC SCHELKOPF

Ever since forming Clinard Dance Theatre in 1999, Wendy Clinard has been pushing flamenco in a new and fresh direction.

Clinard Dance will present an afternoon of flamenco featuring the Flamenco Quartet Project at 3 p.m. Aug. 20 at the National Museum of Mexican Art, 1852 W. 19th St. Chicago. Tickets are $25 for general seating, available at www.brownpapertickets.com.

I had the chance to talk to Clinard about the upcoming show.

 
Q - Great talking to you again. So what is the concept behind the Flamenco Quartet Project and what should people expect from the show?
 
This project is dedicated to exploring new exponents of flamenco. Led by an open minded spirit, our ensemble seeks to engage with contemporary culture through vibrant performances that honor traditional flamenco and our shared passion for music and dance discovery.



People can expect to see/hear flamenco in the traditional sense but notice unique instrumentation and world-informed influences. What is important is to note that this is not a “fusion” project; the inventions are born from a deep understanding of how traditional flamenco functions.

Q - Violinist Steve Gibons, guitarist Marija Temo and percussionist Javier Saume also are part of the show. What do you think they bring to the show?
 
Steve and Marija have composed original pieces for the Quartet. Marija has an extensive background in Classical Spanish and Steve has an extensive background in Balkan forms as well as American jazz (including his amazing improvisation sensibility).


Javier draws on classical and world-form, as well.

Q - You created Clinard Dance in 1999. How did you think your group has brought flamenco dancing in the spotlight? Where do you think flamenco dancing has to go from here?
 
Our work is rooted in flamenco and understanding the unique way the guitar, song and dance interplay (otherwise known as flamenco structure). We lift this structure to play with unique instrumentation and/or devise original departures from this structure.



We also extract the universal qualities –the rhythmic /percussive nature, call and response, isolations in the flamenco body so that the participants can join in with whatever the “theme or story” of a given project directs. Repurposing flamenco to find the live qualities of a particular time and place (i.e. 2017 in Chicago,) is what is fundamentally and historically “flamenco” and it holds the potential for growth in the form.

Sincerity to place, person and the moment are of upmost importance to how flamenco became an art form and how it will continue to grow.

Q - What projects are you most proud of? Where do you see Clinard Dance going from here?

I’m most connected to our original works like "From the Arctic to the Middle East" and "Chicago’s Watershed: A 156-Mile Choreography." The heart of these works are dedicated to people’s place and their sense of belonging and our artistic disciplines are used to serve that inquiry.



The story that emerges aims to rally the human spirit. Where do I see Clinard Dance going from here is rooted in a long term dedication to art and flamenco; we’re in it for the long haul, large and small projects alike.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Chicago musician Ryan Joseph Anderson releases second album, will perform at The Hideout




By ERIC SCHELKOPF

Chicago musician Ryan Joseph Anderson wears his heart on his sleeve.

That is evident on his sophomore album, the passion-filled "City of Vines," which was released on June 30. To celebrate the release of the album, Anderson will perform Aug. 4 at The Hideout, 1354 West Wabansia Ave., Chicago.

The show starts at 9 p.m. and tickets are $10, available at www.ticketfly.com. I had the chance to talk to Anderson about the new album:


Q - Great talking to you again. "City of Vines" is your sophomore album. Did you feel any pressure in following up your first album, "The Weaver's Broom"? What were your goals for the album and do you think you accomplished them?

I didn't really feel any pressure, but it did take some time to get all of the songs together. "The Weaver's Broom" was made up of a lot of story songs...that's an element of this record too, but "City of Vines" is more personal than anything I've made before.




I spent a lot of time tweaking the lyrics. Other than that, I wanted a bigger sound: more layers, more electric guitar, horns, etc. I definitely think we accomplished that. 

Q - You released the album on three different formats – vinyl, CD and digital streaming. It seems like many artists are following that route these days. Which format do you like the best?

Definitely vinyl. I've been collecting since I was a kid and have a pretty big soft spot for records. I like everything about the format: how it looks, how it sounds, and how it demands attention.


I know that if somebody buys a vinyl they are going to sit with it. CDs are becoming more and more obsolete and digital doesn't seem as tangible.
 
Q - How did you go about choosing the musicians on the album?

I've been playing with the core band on this record since 2014. They're some of my favorite players in Chicago.


When I was writing for "City of Vines," I was writing with them in mind: Brian Morrissey (guitar), Dan Ingenthron (bass, keys), and Mike Holtz (drums). Dan and I have played in a ton of projects together (including my old band Go Long Mule) and he's easily one of  the best musician I know. He can play anything.

Brian Morrissey is an amazing guitar player and songwriter in his own right, and Mike Holtz seems to always play the perfect part on drums...he's super creative. Nick Broste put the horn section together and arranged the parts.

Chicago legend Gary Scheppers came in to play some tuba. Gabriel Stutz put down some beautiful pedal steel and my partner-in-crime Jen Donahue sang harmonies.

It was really just a great collection of friends working on this together. It was a ton of fun to make.

Q - You produced "City of Vines" with Brian Morrissey, who also plays on the album. What do you think he brings to the table?

Brian has a great ear for production and is a killer songwriter...he really knows how to make production serve the song. For me, it was really important to have somebody to bounce ideas off of and vice-versa.


I like hearing different ideas and trying different approaches. The song "Diamonds" is a really good example of what Brian brought to the table. The feel changes significantly from verse to verse, while the chords and melody stay the same. That was Brian's idea.

Then, along with the band and the wizard like skills of Nick Broste, we figured out how to make it work . Brian and Nick really helped me get the sound that was in my head out. I can hear their contributions in every song and feel really luck to have had them working on this. 
 
Q - You will be actively touring around the country in the fall, including playing several dates in Oregon. Are there any areas of the country you like playing the best? What do you think of the Chicago music scene and how do you think you fit into it?

I'm pretty excited to get back to the northwest. We have some great friends out there and it's always a blast. Honestly, I really like touring around the Midwest.


There are a ton of surprising things happening around this region of the country - a lot of people are starting venues or festivals, and truly supportive musical communities are popping up where there used to be none.



As for Chicago, there's so much talent here it's mind-numbing. I think my favorite thing about this scene is how collaborative it is.

Also, Chicago musicians love taking risks. It's great to be surrounded by that kind of community.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Chicago singer-songwriter Sacha Mullin expands his musical vision with new album, "Duplex"



By ERIC SCHELKOPF 

Musically adventurous singer-songwriter Sacha Mullin will celebrate the release of his solo album "Duplex" with a show on July 15 at Cafe Mustache, 2313 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago. 

I had the chance to talk to him about the new album.

Q: Great talking to you. Your solo release, "Duplex," is being released this month. In sitting down to make the album, what were your goals and do you think you accomplished them?



Thanks for having me, Eric. My only real goal was to make a record I was completely proud of, and that certainly happened!

Q: Did you set about to do something different than your past efforts?

Yeah, I’d say so. You never really want to admit during any promotional stuff that you were unhappy with what you’re schilling, but I had so many hang-ups doing the making of my debut record, "Whelm." Promoting that record felt like torture. 

First, let me say that one of my favorite things to do is be a backing singer. It’s a supportive, thoughtful art, and a real thrill when your voice resonates with someone else’s.

The music industry is essentially the opposite of those qualities, whether you take that literally or figuratively. "Whelm" was plagued with marketing, production, and general record label issues, and there I was, not really able to talk about that.




It’s so strange making such a thematically personal record, and feeling like you’re making it for the whims of other people. By the end of it, I bought the rights back, tried to salvage what I could, and ended up just wanting it over with. I felt isolated and fatigued.

I know fans get frustrated when they see artists dismiss their work. I want to clarify that I’m not dismissing my debut at all.

I really like "Whelm." I really love the songs, and I think there are a lot of good ideas — but maybe my ambitions got the best of me at points? I was stressed out, not realising that I was probably trying to do too much. I remember Todd [Rittmann] calling it “overwrought."

I made it my charge that if I was going to do the “solo thing” again, that I would do it with both a better head space, and on my own terms. I wouldn’t need to compromise my ideas, just learn to execute them better. So here we are with "Duplex," and I couldn’t be happier.

Q: The album was produced by Todd Rittmann. How did you hook up with him and what do you think he brought to the table?

I’ve known Todd for a while, and I’m lucky to call him my friend. We first worked together when he was producing stuff for Lovely Little Girls and Cheer-Accident, and we built a good rapport.

Both of us have similarly adventurous tastes in music, and love the same kinds of jokes. But otherwise, we’re really different people. I mean, he’s really cool, whereas I’m pretentious (laughs). What I think really brings us together is a mutual respect for each others’ work, and a fearless honesty.


Todd and I have had a lot of really good conversations over the years, and when it came time to sort my songs out, he was the first person I thought of. He's like an ambassador with sounds: he understands how to blend various competing elements to sound like they belong together.

Moreover, it's hard to articulate, but Todd knows how to find the darkness hidden beneath something in the most stunning way. You can really hear what I mean his Dead Rider material, and on Evelyn Davis’s "The Wit of the Staircase." Those are polar opposite projects, and yet there's his unmistakable sensitivity.

Working on "Duplex" specifically, he brought that all of that usual, uh, Toddness, plus some much needed patience, cheerleading, and a janky coffee machine with some Folgers.

Q: You have been a talent scout/casting assistant for the television show "America's Got Talent." What did you learn from that experience? Were you surprised at all by any of the acts trying to make it on the show?

Oh, lord. That part of my life was so long ago that it almost feels like another life. I got into that world through a friend.

We would scout various clubs at all times of the night. It was so surreal. It’s funny, actually, I was just going through a box and found my old “staff” shirt. 

I loved that job and the people I worked with very much. But I’d always been a bit cynical on talent competitions. I mean, you see the same swooping, sparkly crane shots, the contestant’s struggles that are milked for ratings, and then just a general appraisal for the mediocre.

All the while you see supernaturally talented people that you scouted get turned away. I have a lot of conjecture about why that was a common thing, but that aside, I got so drained from seeing so many broken hearts.

That’s probably why I turned my focus towards education, so I could directly develop what it is that I saw in certain people. 

What I learned most from that job was how to handle professional crises in a calm, timely manner. Oh, and that Sharon Osborne only likes “non-chain Italian food”. That’s important, right? (laughs)

Q - You are also a voice and talent instructor. What are some of the things that you try to convey to your students?

How to be a critical thinker. How to figure out the emotional rationale between theory and technique. 

How to be kind to yourself. How to respect others time.

How to actually listen. A lot of general life skills that seem to get amplified when it comes to performing, really.

Q - What do you think of the Chicago music scene and how do you think you fit into it?

I fit in? When did this happen? This is a thing that has happened? (laughs)

Honestly, it’s really interesting, and I have to think about this a lot. I grew up in the Minneapolis scene, where shows are basically a kamikaze Whitman’s Sampler of genres, and I barely fit in there!

As an observation, I’ve found that I'm either too much or not enough of one thing for a lot of people. 

I swear I’m not consciously aiming to be outside the box or whatever, I just have a lot of really disparate influences.


My former voice teacher Judi [Donaghy-Vinar] introduced one of my recitals by saying that I “liked the box OK." I still find pretty amusing. 

After many years, I still don't really have a clear grasp on the scene here. Like, I get the politics of it, and the attitudes, but there's still a lot of mystery for me to uncover.

That said, moving to Chicago was really important for me. It’s here that I was able to grow into my own, work diligently, and collaborate with others who also liked just doing their thing.

The camaraderie I've found here has been inspiring.