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Albert Hammond Jr. Talks New LP, Songcraft, Strokes
"When you feel like you're doing something over again, it gets stale. And nobody has fun and bad stuff starts to happen, like fights and things like that."

Photo by Valerie Jodoin-Keaton

With his band the Strokes on the back burner for the moment, guitarist Albert Hammond Jr. has been keeping plenty busy. His solo debut, Yours to Keep, is barely a year old (and only hit the States this March), but Albert's already played-- by his count-- 128 gigs to support the record. And in October, he hit the boards to lay down its as-yet-untitled follow-up, tentatively due in the spring. Yesterday, we checked in with Albert in the studio as he prepared to mix the tracks he'd spent the last month or so perfecting. We spoke about his swift return to the recording booth, letting others make the tough decisions, and what's going on with the Strokes.

Pitchfork: So what's the status of this new solo album?

Albert Hammond Jr.: We just finished five weeks of recording and now we've got to mix it. So about another week and a half of mixing and then mastering on January 8th and then we'll be done.

Pitchfork: You set a five-week deadline for yourself for recording the album. Was there any particular reason for that?

AHJ: Well, the first record, we didn't even know we were making a record until the end when the songs came together. It was done a day here, three months off, a day here. So it was nice that we were going to be able to go in for a chunk. And so I figured all these songs-- we recorded like 16 songs-- I thought three weeks would be too short. Four is probably right, but five just seems like a nice round-off kind of number. And it was cool. We had a lot of different challenges to do. We had strings on this one, some weird long songs to do. So I just thought five weeks seemed appropriate.

Pitchfork: Do you feel that you got everything accomplished that you needed to at this stage?

: Well, you always want to do a little more, but I couldn't be happier with what we did get. We got 16 very different songs and we were able to get everything we wanted. So I can't complain. But I feel like you're always shooting for more.

Pitchfork: Tell me a little bit about how it came together.

AHJ: I have a studio at home, so I did a lot of pre-production at home with an engineer I work with, Gus Oberg, and we did quite a lot there. [Drummer] Matt [Romano] would come and lay down drums on MIDI, so we still have a lot of problems there, but the songs range from an eight-minute instrumental to a two-minute-30-second pop song to... You know, the biggest difference, I'm thinking about it now, is just the different extremes that we didn't really have on the first record. Just from the softest thing I think I've ever written to the hardest thing I think I've ever written, to everywhere in the middle. That's kind of why we went in to record so many songs-- we didn't know which direction the album was going to go in. And now we have to sit down and pick which ones really fit the record. Maybe all of them, maybe ten. [MORE...]


Lupe Fiasco Talks The Cool, Cheeseburgers, Retirement
"I'm in a dark, melancholy mood. I'm not a happy camper right now."

Lupe Fiasco's got a mind that runs a mile a minute, and a mouth that can keep up with it. The sharp-tongued Chicago MC will follow-up last year's well-received Lupe Fiasco's Food & Liquor with Lupe Fiasco's The Cool, due December 18 from 1st & 15th/Atlantic. We phoned Lupe and did our best to keep up as he talked about the character-based concept behind The Cool, the album's darker hues, the infamous cheeseburger track, radio and comic book spin-offs, Child Rebel Soldiers, Cornel West, and his plans to "retire" after his third album.

There's a lot going on on The Cool, but the basic idea revolves around three previously mentioned characters-- what Lupe calls his "three evil angels"-- depicted in symbol form on the record's cryptogram cover. The first character, the Cool, is a zombie hustler of sorts based on the Food & Liquor song of the same name.

"I expand on the story," Lupe explained. "I introduce two other characters, the Game and the Streets. The Streets is a female. She's like the action personification of the streets, the street life, the call of the streets. The Game is the same way. The Game is the personification of the game. The pimp's game, the hustler's game, the con man's game, whatever."

He continued: "Then they've got supernatural characteristics. Like the Cool, his right hand is rotted away. The only thing that rotted away was his right hand. It represents the rotting away of his righteousness, of his good. And the Streets and the Cool kind of have a love affair going on. So she's represented by this locket. And the locket has a key and it's on fire. And as a gift to the Cool on his rise to fame, she gave him the key. And the key represents the key to the Streets. So she wears a locket around her neck at all times.

"And the way the story goes, she has given that key to tons of people throughout time. Al Capone, Alexander the Great, whatever. She's giving them the key to the Streets. Fame and fortune-- but also the prices.

"The Game, he's represented by a stripped-down skull, a skull with dice in his eyes and smoke coming out of his mouth. The billowing smoke is actually crack smoke."

"It's not a full concept album; it's more spread over like five [tracks], really abstractly."

It's also apparently going to spawn a franchise. According to Fiasco, there are plans afoot to spin The Cool into a horror-themed radio program, complete with Vincent Price-inspired voice-overs. "To really tell it," says Lupe. "Because I think it would be corny to try to be spooky on a hip-hop record. We're actually going to tell it as it is, like a horror psycho-thriller kind of situation."

Indeed, folks will notice a less-than-sunny vibe to the new disc on the whole. "This album was influenced more from the dark side. It's more because of the loss I experienced at the beginning of the year," Lupe explains, referring to the deaths of several loved ones. "I'm in a dark, melancholy mood. I'm not a happy camper right now."

After the radio show, according to Lupe, "we're going to do a comic book." [MORE...]

Ellen Page Talks Juno Soundtrack, Kimya Dawson

As the titular character in upcoming indie-friendly comedy Juno, Ellen Page plays another smart young woman in a line of smart-young-woman roles for her. Except this time, instead of a child abuse victim or a pedophile-torturer, she's an overwhelmed high schooler facing her unplanned pregnancy by a guy named Bleeker, played by the hilarious Michael Cera ("Arrested Development", Superbad).

As an indie-friendly comedy, Juno has a soundtrack comprised of tunes by the Kinks, Belle & Sebastian, Sonic Youth, Cat Power, Mott the Hoople, and Kimya Dawson in various guises (solo and as part of the Moldy Peaches and Antsy Pants).

Page had a hand in selecting Dawson's music for a good chunk of the movie's soundtrack, which Rhino will release digitally on December 11 and physically on January 15. Juno itself hits select theaters on December 5, so we caught up with Page by phone to talk about matters of music and movies.

Pitchfork: Is it true that you chose a lot of the Kimya Dawson songs on the soundtrack yourself?

Ellen Page: [Juno director] Jason Reitman and I were meeting for maybe the second or third time and he simply said, "Well, what do you think Juno would listen to?" Immediately I said the Moldy Peaches, and he, I guess, wasn't familiar with their work, so I hopped on his computer and I played the Moldy Peaches for him. The next thing I knew he'd fallen in love-- rightfully so, they're awesome-- and he was in contact with Kimya Dawson, who is the female in the band, and he added the song at the end of the film, which is a Moldy Peaches song. That song's been in my life for years, actually; there's a lot of sentimental value there. And the next thing we know Kimya Dawson is doing the music for the film. It was really incredible how that all worked out because it just feels perfect.

Pitchfork: What about Kimya Dawson and the Moldy Peaches makes you think Juno would listen to them?

EP: Well the Moldy Peaches' music is very humorous. I mean, it has a hint of novelty, but it is full of so much heart and so much simplicity and it's so genuine. It's really unique and it's quirky and all of those things, but it has heart to balance that. And that's one of the reasons why I always loved their music. I loved how it was just bare-boned, and I feel like that is similar to Juno, the film in general and the character. She has a sarcastic wit that she hides behind, but she's also just an extremely genuine, honest, says-what-she-thinks human being, and I feel the film's like that as well. It has that tone. [MORE...]


Michael Showalter Talks Sandwiches, State Reunion
"I think within the next two years, you will be hearing about a State movie. In the vein of a Monty Python film, which is to say a sketch comedy film. Like The Meaning of Life or something."

To promote the release of his very first comedy album, Sandwiches & Cats, Michael Showalter recently took to a handful of blogs and started writing. One of his juicier posts appeared on My Old Kentucky Blog, where he revealed that his mid-90s sketch comedy group the State, they of the beloved MTV show of the same name, "is reuniting (though in truth we never broke up) to make a sketch comedy movie. All I can say about it is that we're back together after a brief ten-year break, and it's going to be about the history of our country. Hopefully, funny."

Pitchfork's (and a whole bunch of other people's) interest piqued, I called Showalter to talk to him about the reunion and all of the other things he has on his plate at the moment. In addition to the obvious stuff (the reunion, his album, his tour with fellow State member and frequent collaborator Michael Ian Black), we talked about hecklers, the Writers Guild of America strike, and his relationship with Sandwiches producer and former Shudder to Think frontman Craig Wedren. And yeah, sue me, I talked to yet another person about baseball.

Pitchfork: Are you and Michael [Ian Black] performing on stage together at all on this tour?

Michael Showalter: No, no. Not really. We're traveling together, but we're not performing together.

Have you influenced each other's sets indirectly in any way? Any sabotage, intentional or unintentional?

MS: I think so. No sabotage, but I think we feed off of each other in certain ways.

What sorts of ways?

MS: Mostly we eat food off of each other's stomachs and stuff like that.

Do you clean it up before you go on stage, or do you just leave it on your stomachs?

MS: We try to, but sometimes there's no time.

Pitchfork: So you gotta work on the fly?

MS: Yeah. And I go up first, so I'm usually a little messier.

Pitchfork: You go up first?

MS: Yeah. I open.

How was that decided?

MS: Well, Mike is sort of the headliner because he's more famous than me. He just has a lot more exposure than I do. He's a more recognizable face than I am. So like, when I'm traveling with Michael, I would say that for every ten people [who recognize] Michael, eight of them also [know] who I [am].

Pitchfork: So it's like he is 25% more popular than you, is what you're saying?

MS: He is probably a little bit more like-- and popular is also not the right word. He's just more famous. He's probably 30% more famous than me. [MORE...]

Sigur Ros' Jonsi Birgisson Talks Plans, Interviews
"I think definitely we'd make different music probably if we grew up in Jamaica or something."

Photo by Chris Owyoung

Some bands love to talk. And some bands like to let the music do the talking. You may have seen the somewhat (okay, totally) excruciating video of Icelandic gorgeous-core act Sigur Rós dodging the questions of NPR's Bryant Park Project left and right early last month. However, Pitchfork's interview with singer Jón "Jónsi" Þór Birgisson wasn't quite so disastrous. Birgisson was friendly and understanding through a spate of sound problems, even laughing while telling me one of my questions was on his "hate list." But he's certainly not going to win any prizes for chattiness, and the talk did end with an abrupt hang-up. It's okay though, we were pretty much done at that point anyway.

Pitchfork spoke with Birgisson in the middle of a whirlwind North American trek to promote the band's stunning new live DVD Heima and lovely rarities/acoustic LP Hvarf/Heim. (Heima comes out in North America on November 20; Hvarf/Heim is out now on XL.) We talked the productive year his band is about to wrap, their plans for the immediate future, and exactly what happened in that other interview.

Pitchfork: Back in April, you posted a long list on your website of everything the band planned to do this year. It was quite a docket of stuff, and with the release of Hvarf/Heim, you've completed just about everything on it. Do you feel a sense of accomplishment at this point?

Birgisson: Yeah, definitely. I mean, we've been touring for a long time, so I think that's really good. Because when you're touring, you can't do anything else. You can't do a lot of things while in motion.

Pitchfork: Do you feel as though you've been working especially hard this year?

Birgisson: I think I've been working hard. You're always leaving a lot of stuff unfinished. But when you're touring and stuff, it seems like much, much harder work. All the traveling is ruthless, and always going from place to place. But this year, we could sit at home. We haven't actually done a lot of the things before, too. Later in the year-- the end of the month, actually-- we're going back into the studio. We have a lot of ideas. And songs. We have some songs written and some ideas.

Pitchfork: Will that be for a proper album?

Birgisson: Yeah, what we're going to do now in November is going to be a full-length album.

Pitchfork: You've performed acoustically before some screenings of the film, and Heim is all acoustic. What was behind the decision to focus on acoustic music this year?

Birgisson: When we were touring in Iceland, for about two weeks excepting one concert in the Highlands, it was only acoustic performances for the whole time. We only played the acoustic songs, and it was a little bit of an eye-opener. We had never done that before. I kind of liked it, to hear the songs really raw and naked. It was really hard to play them. They're so naked! It kind of helped me at the same time, I was just learning sort of how to do it. I think that's why I wanted to make an album like that. We had decided that it would be a more exciting thing to do than a live album. We kind of didn't like the idea of a live album, how to display the songs from your last album, because the songs could end up sounding worse.

Pitchfork: Certainly you've seen many beautiful locations all over the world, but you chose to shoot all of Heima in Iceland. Other than the fact that you're from there, is there something about Iceland that ties in with the music that you make?

Birgisson: We have got this question so many times-- it's just one of the questions on the hate list [laughs]. Maybe it is. Maybe, I don't know. Of course, like you said, you are from there, you grow up there, you are raised there, so definitely I think in some ways. Maybe it's just more unconsciously than something planned. It's kind of hard to say, but I think definitely we'd make different music probably if we grew up in Jamaica or something [laughs]. [MORE...]

Tapes 'n Tapes' Grier Checks in From the Studio
Band recording sophmore album with Dave Fridmann

Tapes 'n Tapes with Dave Fridmann. [Photos by Liz Hart]

To follow up a debut record like the The Loon-- a rickety, rambling rave-up indomitably awash in influence and promise-- takes focus, pluck, and one hell of a good drum mic. With all that (and a boatload of affability to boot) in their corner, Tapes 'n Tapes hunkered down in esteemed producer Dave Fridmann's Tarbox Road Studios in Cassadaga, New York to record their second album.

Pitchfork got Josh "Tapes 1" Grier on the phone from Tarbox to chat about the recording process, the new tunes, and, of course, blogging.

Fans can get a taste of the new material when Tapes 'n Tapes play their only scheduled show at the moment: November 30 at the Triple Rock in their hometown of Minneapolis.

Pitchfork: So what's the biggest difference between the recording of this album and the last one?

Grier: The last one we recorded in a friend of ours' unfinished basement studio, and this one we're recording in a proper studio. I guess that's the biggest difference.

Pitchfork: Does that lend a certain professionalism to the proceedings?

Grier: It's cool to be able to be at a studio where you're living there and work on stuff all day and mess around with it and work on stuff all night if you want to. But after the first couple weeks of doing it, I was definitely ready to be done in the studio for a little bit. I was like, "How many more times can we go through these songs and mess around with stuff?"

Jeremy Hanson hits the synthesizers


Rakim Talks New Album, Tour, History Lessons
"When they created jazz years ago it was the best thing to happen since fried ice cream. But then you look at it now-- it's not so popular... The same thing can happen in hip-hop if we take it for granted and don't cherish it."

Photo by William Kirk

Rakim is back, or at least he's on his way. It's been eight years since he released his second solo album, The Master, and aside from rumors surrounding his signing to and subsequent drop from Dr. Dre's Aftermath label and some reissues, he's been relatively quiet since then.

In the last couple of years, he's taken to playing shows again, and over the course of this year, it came out that he was working on a new album called The Seventh Seal. The record is finally nearing completion, and it will likely hit stores early next year.

Though not a concept album, The Seventh Seal focuses on the theme of tearing hip-hop down to its essentials and building it back up to previously unknown heights. Rakim's done a little non-musical building as well, establishing his own Ra Records, which will not only release The Seventh Seal but also provide a label home, management company, and distribution for other artists.

Before the record comes out, Rakim will release a concert DVD titled The R-kives: Live Lost and Found. The DVD features performances from two shows at NYC's B.B. King Blues Club interspersed with interviews, backstage and tour bus footage, and a few other performances from around the U.S. It will also come with an enhanced CD featuring previously unreleased new material from the God MC.

Finally, Rakim has a previously reported tour coming up where he, Ghostface, and Brother Ali will front live band Rhythm Roots Allstars.

In the midst of all this activity, we spoke to Rakim about process, his return to recording and performing, and his role as an educator in hip-hop.

Pitchfork: What made you decide it was time to starting playing shows and recording an album again?

Rakim: Well, I've always been the type that didn't like to wear out my welcome mat, and I haven't dropped anything new, you know what I mean? But at the same time, you don't want to wait too long. You want to get out there, get your feet wet, test the waters, and reassure within yourself and with the crowd that it's time to do what you do. You get that cool sound from the crowd, and it puts everything in perspective. If I wouldn't have felt the response that I got, then I would've said, "I'm not going to do an album" or "I'm not gonna go on tour. I'd rather drop the album before I try to come out on tour." But the response was real good, and that's what I was speaking on as far as confirming with myself and with the crowd. Because as the artist, I'm modest, man. I don't take anything for granted, and my thing is if I get the welcome mat, then I do what I do. If I don't get the welcome mat, then I either got work to do or it's time to just fall back. I use my experiences as learning experiences.

Pitchfork: How are you rehearsing for your tour with Rhythm Roots Allstars, a live band? Do you work on your parts separately from the band of with them?

We're going to sit down and have a few rehearsals so we can give a real good show. I want it to be tight, and I want to make sure that our chemistry is there. The last show that we did in Texas [at SXSW 2007], it was funny because I was supposed to get out there a little early, but I got out there late and we didn't have time to practice. They knew the songs, but we never got a chance to sit there and mesh, so we went on stage that day and winged it. But they're so professional in what they do, and they're so tight that at the end of the day it's just like having a DJ put on a record: You can get up there and kick your verse, and you can turn around and wave your hand and they're going to stop just as a DJ would. So everything worked out perfect, and hopefully too many people didn't realize that we didn't practice. I was surprised everything went real good, so that's another reason why I'm looking forward to this tour. I'm going to be able to do some things that I normally wouldn't be able to do.

Pitchfork: What kinds of things?

Rakim: Just show the power of live music and explain to the crowd and almost teach them the reason why we sampled records. We're going to have a little fun up there. We're going to learn a little something, and we're going to hear some real good music.

Pitchfork: Do you feel like it's your responsibility to teach people about the origins of hip-hop?

Rakim: At this point in hip-hop, [the history] definitely needs to be expressed a little more and put in front of their faces so that they won't forget where the essence of hip-hop came from. If I'm one of the artists that knows about it then yeah, I'm responsible to keep that alive and keep it in the listeners' faces and give them access to it. So hopefully I can do that. To me, at the end of the day, it's just doing my job. If this was something political or something dealing with the world and there was something that I knew, I would feel obligated to inform people. This music thing, there's a lot to know about it. And we're definitely going to have fun with it, but at the same time, we have to keep it alive. This hip-hop thing-- if we don't do it, it will die out. So definitely, I want to do my job.

I think it's important that we cherish this right here. It belongs to the youth. It belongs to the older people who were brought up on hip-hop. It's not just a young music. We created this in the suburbs and the cities and around the parks, and what we have to understand is that that's big. You look at jazz. When they created jazz years ago it was the best thing to happen since fried ice cream. But then you look at it now-- it's not so popular as far as [being] universal. The jazz lovers still support their music, but when you look at it on the wide span it went from being the only thing to one of the many. The same thing can happen in hip-hop if we take it for granted and don't cherish it. We've got to understand that it's that first impression that made hip-hop take the world by storm. And once we start forgetting those recipes, after awhile they're going to look at it like just another music. And not just them. Us. We're going to look at it like it's not special; it's not going to have that same appeal that it had. So of course we've got to understand the root before we start picking from the tree. [MORE...]


Nas Reveals Greatest Hits, Talks Controversial LP Title
No, it's not just Illmatic with "Ether" stuck at the end

Until he finally made nice with Jay-Z and found himself in the Def Jam fold for Hip Hop Is Dead, Nas was a Columbia man. The ace MC's former label has compiled a dozen of Nas' pre-Dead "greatest hits," tacked on two bonus cuts, named it Greatest Hits, and pressed the collection for release on November 6. Not surprisingly, the set leans heavily on Illmatic, with a few highlights from the rest of Nas' Columbia catalogue thrown in for good measure.

There's a pair of new tracks, too, sort of: the Cee-Lo laced "Less Than an Hour", which first appeared on this summer's Rush Hour 3 soundtrack, and opener "Surviving the Times", which appears here for the first time anywhere.

And, as any frequent peruser of the world wide interweb is no doubt aware by now, Nas has stirred up quite some controversy with the title he's chosen for his next LP of new material: Nigger. Nas stood by his choice in a recent interview with, however, concluding "We're taking power from that word." It's well worth reading the whole interview; at the very least, check out the portion excerpted here:
"I'm a street disciple. I'm talking to the streets. Stay out of our business. You ain't got no business worrying about what the word 'nigger' is or acting like you know what my album is about without talking to me. Whether you in the NAACP or you Jesse Jackson. I respect all of them...I just want them to know: Never fall victim to Fox. Never fall victim to the shit they do. What they do is try to hurry up and get you on the phone and try to get you to talk about something you might not know about yet.

"If Cornell West was making an album called Nigger, they would know he's got something intellectual to say. To think I'm gonna say something that's not intellectual is calling me a nigger, and to be called a nigger by Jesse Jackson and the NAACP is counterproductive, counter-revolutionary.

"I wanna make the word easy on muthafuckas' ears. You see how white boys ain't mad at 'cracker' 'cause it don't have the same [sting] as 'nigger'? I want 'nigger' to have less meaning [than] 'cracker.' With all the bullshit that's going on in the world, racism is at its peak. I wanna do the shit that's not being done. I wanna be the artist who ain't out. I wanna make the music I wanna hear.

"We're taking power from the word. No disrespect to none of them who were part of the civil-rights movement, but some of my niggas in the streets don't know who [civil-rights activist] Medgar Evers was. I love Medgar Evers, but some of the niggas in the streets don't know Medgar Evers, they know who Nas is. And to my older people who don't know who Nas is and who don't know what a street disciple is, stay outta this muthafuckin' conversation. We'll talk to you when we're ready. Right now, we're on a whole new movement. We're taking power from that word."

The LP is due December 11 via Def Jam and is expected to feature production work from Diddy, Jermaine Dupri, DJ Toomp, and long-time Nas associate Salaam Remi, according to MTV.

Though Nas' tour itinerary-- like that of most rappers-- is a little tough to pin down, he's got a few Australian shows lined up in the weeks to come. Hip-hop may be dead, but those frequent flyer miles don't expire until the new year. [MORE...]

Enon's Schmersal Explains Taco Bell Contest Entry
"It's not really an endorsement or anything. I sign up for free contests all the time."

Photo by John Ray Fuller

Last week, we ran two stories about a contest called "Feed the Beat", in which 50 bands were each awarded $500 in food from Taco Bell. The first story revealed the winners of the contest to include Girl Talk, Blitzen Trapper, Panthers, White Rabbits, Enon, and Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, among others. The second story was about how Ted Leo, a vegan, was unwittingly entered in the contest as a prank.

That second story included the following line: "(For the record, Ted Leo's Touch and Go labelmates Enon did, in fact, enter the contest knowingly.)"

To clarify, we didn't mean to imply anything whatsoever about any of the winning bands' political stances or feelings about Taco Bell, the Pepsi corporation, or corporations in general. We also weren't accusing any of these bands of selling out. Personally, I'm more of a Chipotle guy, but I've got nothing against Taco Bell. Nonetheless, Enon's John Schmersal had a few things to say in explanation of his participation in the contest. We called him up for an interview, and what follows is the insight he gave us into the situation.

"It's not really an endorsement or anything. I sign up for free contests all the time. It's not a big deal to me, and I thought it was funny when I won. I don't buy lottery tickets; I don't spend my money gambling on sports or anything like that, because that's a waste of money. But this is something free to do, and I'd never really won anything in my life, so I was happy when I won. One time I did win some goldfish at an outdoor festival, but they died, like, a week later. That's the only other thing I can think of that I've ever won.

"I don't really have any use for Taco Bell myself. To tell you the truth, I ate a lot of Taco Bell in the 90s, but that was just because I was younger and I didn't care as much about what I ate every day as I did about buying records. So I would buy a bean burrito on tour. I got a five-dollar-a-day per diem, and basically every two days I would buy records and eat Taco Bell. But that's not really what I'm about. The band doesn't really eat fast food at all on the road."

Schmersal heard about the contest "through our publicist," and emphasized, "I was the one who entered this contest and not my band, and I feel bad for my band members for feeling complicit in this. It was something I did; it wasn't necessarily supposed to represent my band on any larger scale or anything like that.

"I don't feel as strongly about it as Ted [Leo]. I feel like I won something that was free, and I can use it as a gift. I can give it to homeless people if I want. I thought it would be a great opportunity to be a party-bringer to people. You stay at kids' houses, and they love Taco Bell. And it's a way to feed the poor, not necessarily a great way to feed them, but I've given people my leftovers and stuff [before]."

Since Schmersal has yet to receive the prize, he doesn't know exactly what form it will take. But assuming it's a certificate of some sort or another, he plans to redeem it mostly as a gift for others:

"I'm certainly not going to set up shop at a soup kitchen or anything with it. But if I'm in an area where there's a Taco Bell and homeless people, fuck yes I'm going to give them some Taco Bell, if they want it. Whether it is the homeless or whatever, anybody who's putting us up on tour-- with a snap of fingers, I can make a hot fucking salsa party."

Enon begin a big tour in New York City at CMJ tomorrow (October 18). Their new album, Grass Geysers...Carbon Clouds, is out on Touch and Go now. [MORE...]


Hot Chip's Taylor Talks LP, Alicia Keys, Rilo Remixes
"A lot of the songs have been inspired by Black Dice... There are also two mentions of Willie Nelson on this record to look out for."

For the second time in six months, we spoke to Hot Chip co-frontman Alexis Taylor about a new record from his band. Last time, it was their DJ Kicks mix. This time, it's an honest-to-goodness full-length follow-up to last year's The Warning, titled Made in the Dark and due on Astralwerks tentatively on February 4 in the UK and February 5 in the U.S.

The record's release will make three LPs for the band, and Taylor was kind enough to expound upon the musical changes it marks for Hot Chip. In the process, he also revealed the band's (fake) collaborations with Phil Collins and Peter Gabriel, (real) remixes for Alicia Keys and Rilo Kiley, and just how deeply ingrained their eclecticism is. Oh, and he wants more people to buy Gang Gang Dance records.

Pitchfork: Why did you chose to call the album Made in the Dark instead of some of the other titles you were throwing around, like Shot Down in Flames and IV?

Alexis Taylor: There's always someone in our band-- always a different person-- to veto any of the names [that could] be taken not too seriously. IV was definitely my favorite. It could've worked. There's a great Fucking Champs album called IV, there's Black Sabbath's Vol. 4. This is our third record, so calling it IV was good. Shot Down in Flames-- Felix [Martin] was worried it sounded too much like a name the Beta Band might have come up with, so we went with the other name. "Made in the Dark" is the name of one of my favorite songs on the new record. I like its open-endedness, and it's nice to sometimes name an album after one of the sadder, more thoughtful songs rather than it just being like Coming on Strong, The Warning, and then Shot Down in Flames: big, slightly jokey, macho phrases.

Is not being taken seriously a fear you guys have?

AT: I kind of like giving people the wrong impression all the time, so I'm happy if the album's called IV and people are annoyed that it's just a stupid joke. That doesn't bother me at all, but I don't think calling the album Made in the Dark was an attempt to be any more serious; it was just a phrase that is from one of the songs and everyone agreed on it. There's not really a fear...I think if people would see us, meet us, see us play live, hear our records, if they give us any time they would see that we're very serious about comedy and very serious about serious things as well.

The press release describes the new album as "faster and rockier." Is that true, and was it an intentional move?

AT: Yeah, some of it is rockier, and there are moments that you could detect a bit of a heavy metal influence.

Pitchfork: Are there less electronic elements?

AT: No, no. Unfortunately, we never do things by adding one thing and taking something else away. We just throw everything into the mix, so it's just as much electronic stuff and just as much live stuff. There isn't really one thing gone to make room for something else.

Does that mean it's going to sound bigger and more maximalist, maybe, than previous records?

AT: Yeah, some of it is. And other tracks are much more minimalist, so if the press release says it's faster and rockier it doesn't account for that fact that there are more ballads on this record than any other record.

Pitchfork: So it's more of everything: more slow, more fast...

AT: More of everything, yeah, more of everything is probably the easiest way to describe it. That way it could be read as more of the good things, more of the bad things, more of the okay things, just more. Excessive no no, it's not really [laughs]. Quite a lot of strength in certain tracks, and quite a lot of overloading in other ones.

Pitchfork: Other than the heavy metal influences that you mentioned earlier, are there any new directions or left turns that people might not be expecting?

AT: There's one that is kind of wrestling with the idea of making an R. Kelly kind of slick r&b number, but it maybe ends up sounding more like Randy Newman's "Short People". Maybe that's the strange turn. [MORE...]


John Pugh Talks !!! Departure, Free Blood
"We encourage people to give away our singles as Halloween treats to the trick-or-treaters."

If you've seen !!! recently and were wondering why there was only one tall crazy guy jumping around (that would be Nic Offer) instead of the usual two, well, that's because the onomatopoeic party-starters have been playing with a man down (and, as it happens, a lady up).

Percussionist and sometime vocalist John Pugh (depicted here singing lead on "Dear Can") has officially left the group, as reported last week, in order to kick his Free Blood project up to full throttle. That project will unveil its debut offering, the "Quick & Painful" single, next week in the UK via Adventures Close to Home. U.S. releases are expected to follow via Rong Music.

We caught up with Pugh to get his take on the split split split, and to learn what else the world can expect from Free Blood.

The duo of Pugh and friend Madeline Davy, Free Blood began as an attempt to merge two worlds of revelry. Explained Pugh, "In New York you [used to have] two kinds of parties: a Manhattan party and a Brooklyn party.

"A Manhattan party was usually at a really fancy club with bottle service, but the music was always pretty amazing. They'd just have top-notch DJs, and you would go there and kind of get an education in the history of New York dance music. But the thing is, there was a dress code and this feeling that if you showed up without having coated yourself in cologne you were kind of a black sheep, so you left feeling kind of bummed out.

"But then you go to a Brooklyn party and it was at the other end of the spectrum; you would have this anything-goes attitude, and everyone would be sweaty and hadn't bathed in weeks. It was really fun, except the sound system was always busted and the music was kind of on fire-- people would just be playing 'Another One Bites the Dust' over and over again and getting totally shit-faced.

"So, when we started throwing parties at our place, we wanted to be kind of a marriage of the two ideas. And when I first started writing songs for Free Blood, I was thinking of this marriage."

Uniting two worlds proved a heady task, and eventually Pugh was forced to choose between this undertaking and his work in !!!. As he told it, "I officially quit at the end of July. We had pretty much been on tour since February and I had reached my limit. And it wasn't any surprise to anyone I think; I think everyone understood my reasons for leaving.

"It was a long tour of duty for me, like eight years. And they're still going at it. I don't think it really broke their stride much, so I'm happy about that, that they kept going and doing their thing." [MORE...]

Black Mountain Discuss the Future
"This was like 14 days straight, eating and sleeping in the studio, not bathing for a week at a time..."

Before switching on the recorder, I watched as the five members of Black Mountain rolled on and off the stage of Chicago's Empty Bottle, put through the wringer by the Bottle's charmingly particular soundman. Vocalist Amber Webber and I discussed the soy content of Morningstar Farms vegetarian products. There was talk of the weather. More than a few beers were emptied.

Point is, Black Mountain-- Webber, frontman Stephen McBean, bassist Matt Camirand, drummer Joshua Wells, and keyboardist Jeremy Schmidt-- got all the pleasantries out of the way before we went on record. So you'll have to excuse the businesslike nature of the following proceedings... well, it's as businesslike as a scuzzy, good timin' band like Black Mountain gets after a round or two of Coronas. But we had business to discuss: In the Future, the band's second LP and first in nearly three years, drops January 22 from Jagjaguwar.

In the interest of getting down to business, one question was, naturally, at the forefront.

So is it better than the last one?

Matt Camirand: Much better than the last one.

Josh Wells: It has more songs.

Camirand: Three more.

Ha, that's something.

Camirand: I don't think I've ever been so excited about anything that we've ever recorded. I don't generally listen to the records we make after the mix is done, but I can still listen to this one and get excited about it. So that's a good sign. [MORE...]

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