The seasoned folk icon Greg Brown tells it like it is
Greg Brown has got grit. Symbolized by his trademark coarse vocals, that sentiment holds true in how he’s become an underground icon without the commercial success.
Michael Franti talks about Power To The Peaceful, performing in Iraq, wanting to dance, and Obama as President
Michael Franti is one fierce yogi. A decade ago, the dynamically outspoken muscle behind hip hop’s eclectic Spearhead started the 911 Power To The Peaceful festival—a free park concert in his native San Francisco to raise political and social awareness through peaceful activism. That first attempt drew 6,000 people. It currently draws upwards of 60,000 and now features collective yoga practices for the masses before and after the music. Coinciding with this year’s 10th Annual event, his latest album hits stands this week. For All Rebel Rockers, Franti made a concerted effort to infuse vibrant, booty shakin’ beats in his mission to uplift people through dance, after he did just that during a visit to Iraq. Though images of him are often stern and militant, in the following conversation he is humble and poignantly expressive. Preparing for PTTP and his upcoming performance in Santa Cruz on Sept. 18, Franti gives GT insights into the evolution of the festival and the protest icon’s music through his years of international experience.
Israel Vibration’s Lascelle “Wiss” Bulgin gives GT a shot of positive energy
I’m talking with one of the most respected reggae artists alive … and I can’t understand a word he’s saying. Between Israel Vibration vocalist Lascelle “Wiss” Bulgin’s thick Jamaican accent, a fuzzy cell phone reception, and the din of a lively entourage in the background, what we’re getting here does not resemble “information” in the conventional sense. As far as sonic Rorschach tests go, though, it’s first-rate stuff.
Social Distortion’s Mike Ness flies his country flag high on his latest solo tour
If you’re someone who only knows Mike Ness through surly Social Distortion anthems like “Ball and Chain” and “Mommy’s Little Monster,” you might be surprised to punch up this 46-year-old punk rock icon’s MySpace page and find that he describes his solo material with a single word: country. Not cowpunk, mind you, nor even rockabilly, but straight-up, truck stop-ready country music. As Ness’ stauncher fans will tell you, the man’s fondness for twang has been evident since Social D’s sophomore album, 1988’s Prison Bound, but the southern accent is all the stronger in his solo work, which casts Ness as a star-crossed troubadour in the tradition of Johnny Cash or Hank Williams. And hey, let’s face it: With his well-documented history of drug addiction, incarceration, violence and alcoholism, Ness is more than qualified to portray himself as a hard-livin’ man of constant sorrow.
Who knew 311’s Nick Hexum had a spiritual side?
For us MTV-generation types, it’s almost impossible to hear “Down”—the tune that propelled the Omaha rap/reggae/funk/rock group 311 to chart-dominating, triple-platinum-selling glory in the mid-’90s—without picturing the most striking image from that song’s video: the band’s members meditating at the feet of a levitating, Sumo-esque spiritual master. Unforgettable as that scene was, though, it seemed slightly at odds with the band’s urban look and aggressive sound; you had to wonder if meditation was really a part of these guys’ regimens, or if they were just a bunch of street kids wearing spirituality like a trendy henna tattoo.
GT goes back to the future with former Bauhaus/Love and Rockets bassist David JThroughout his years as bassist for the late ’70s/early ’80s English art rock band Bauhaus, David J maintained a somewhat spectral presence, shrouded in tonal murk, his eyes constantly eclipsed by a pair of shades. But when he emerged from the shadows as a member of Love and Rockets, the light of day revealed him to be one of alternative rock’s most likeable characters, sporting an alien hipness, vaguely C-3PO-ish features and an Alan Watts-like blend of wisdom and intellect. Songs like “Kundalini Express” and “No New Tale to Tell” were clearly the products of a lysergically expanded mind, but this wasn’t your mother’s psychedelia—J’s version of transcendentalism sounded not just cutting-edge, but often futuristic.
Deftones’ Abe Cunningham on the art of stayin’ alive
When you’ve been playing music with the same band for almost 20 years, conflict is inevitable. No one knows this better than Abe Cunningham, drummer for the platinum-selling Sacramento alternative hard rock outfit known as Deftones. Severe internal turmoil recently brought this group perilously close to flatlining—which probably explains why Cunningham sounds so fired up to be on the road with his longtime bandmates, killing some time before a gig in Chicago by telling GT about an especially inventive method the Deftones have found for settling their differences.
It’s been more than an hour since I’ve been on the phone with singer Cyndi Lauper for more than an hour. And I’m wondering: “Am I open? Am I standing in the center of the rhythm? Am I allowing myself to be the channel for which creativity can pass through me? Is my head clear?” Lauper’s self-reflexive joi de vivre is better than therapy and definitely less expensive. In fact, the musical stormtrooper who triumphed in the ’80s with her rainbow’d tresses and the hit singles “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” “She Bop” and “Time After Time” is deep and real, raw and edgy, and just as outspoken as you’d imagine her to be. On the eve of her upcoming appearance at Saratoga’s Mountain Winery, Lauper, now 50, attempted to answer questions about her marriage, being a mother to her 6-year-old son, living in Connecticut, touring with Cher and last year’s debut of At Last, an array of cabaret standards and pop classics, her first major-label recording since 1998. I say attempted, because the more one gives Lauper room to speak, the more opportunity there is to listen to her reflect on life, and living, and being a human being. Somehow, all the questions get answered—just not at the moment they’re asked ...
The Beats Go On At Mountain Winery
I had a Falcon Crest flashback as my friend and I drove up the scenic windy road leading us to Saratoga’s Mountain Winery last weekend. All those vines. All the grapes. All that wine. Fortunately, the only thing dramatic that night was the view—well that, and the stellar B-52’s show we experienced in the venue’s remarkable outdoor theater. And, as concerts go, this could not have been a better setting.
Music’s Dana Glover keeps getting flooded with attention. So why is she gripping a Hoover and wondering whether her clothes are folded?
Dana Glover stands off to the side of a not-at-all glossy gas station somewhere on the road to Hartford, Conn. with her finger plugging one ear, her cell phone digging into the other. She watches an 18-wheeler roar by and turns around to find her brother fueling up the car with some regular unleaded. It’s about the only “regular” thing being injected into Glover’s life at the moment, which becomes blatantly evident in the 25 minutes it takes for the North Carolina-born model-turned-up-and-rising music icon to wax philosophical about how ironic things have become—she craves slow “journeys” but can’t help but be surprised at how her music career is suddenly racing along at break-neck speed.
And, when it comes to music, her lips aren’t sealed
Vacation may have been all she’s ever wanted—from slick record industry execs that is—but now that Belinda Carlisle has nurtured the celebrity hangover of her ’80s Go-Go’s fame and has basked in the afterglow of her own smashing solo career in the ’90s, the one-time “Dottie Danger” has a lot to be jazzed about. For starters, she’s just launched a 15-city American tour, her first since the early ’90s. Carlisle hits the stage locally in Redwood City's Fox Theate, where