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Julien Baker

Julien Baker - FRZN Fest 2016

An interview with FRZN Fest 2016 performer Julien Baker
by John Noyd
December 2015

Held in the depths of winter, FRZN Fest 2016 presents a dozen hot bands that are anything but frozen. Whether erupting within dynamic songs or evolving as artists fusing genres, this year’s three-day explosion contains a fiery blend of underground favorites and rising newbies covering indie-folk, alt-rock, electro-psychedelics and punk-pop. In its fifth year hosted by Madison’s High Noon Saloon FRZN Fest highlights include cyclonic TORRES, who opened up for Garbage this past tour, headlining January 14th, crackling psychedelic blues-rockers ALL THEM WITCHES the 15th and Minnesotan folkie slash beat-pop troubadour JOHN MARK NELSON on the 16th. A frequent visitor Nelson looks forward to returning to Madison. “There is a life and energy to that place that always makes it stick in my mind,” he says, ” every time we have played there, we have been greeted by enthusiastic and sincere listeners, which is a rare and beautiful thing.”

A showcase for emerging acts, this year brings an extra buzz when the final night opens with nineteen year-old folk-rocker JULIEN BAKER, whose, “Sprained Ankle,” has generated interest for its arresting restlessness pitching perceptive sentiments. Ms. Baker was kind enough to answer a few questions to help Madison prepare for her Wisconsin debut.

MAXIMUM INK: A sensitive, articulate college-aged artist, you seem custom-made for Madison. Do you identify with your generation? Is it strange to be thought of as a Voice representing anyone other than yourself?

JULIEN BAKER: I do identify with my own generation; I think it is impossible not to associate oneself with whatever cultural or generational context they exist within, and as an artist that probably is reflected in my work to some degree. I don’t often think of myself as a “voice” necessarily—I am afraid it might be presumptuous to say I speak on behalf of any particular demographic. Perhaps it is better to just say that whatever personal experiences I am candid about in my music might be relatable to other people around my age group, or might touch on issues that other people face. I think as a musician my goal is not to create a specific platform, but just to create relationships and be open about those experiences so that they can be discussed and shared

MI: Did you always want to be a musician?

JB: Absolutely, from when I started playing music in middle school I knew I would want to do it for the rest of my life, whether that meant being in cover-bands at bars or my living room or a stadium. 

MI: Having lived in and around Virginia and Tennessee, are you prepare to head north in the middle of winter?

JB: I think I am prepared this time; the first time I went up north through Wisconsin it was last year on a little DIY tour with my friend Ryan Azada. I had never been up North, and I found myself in Ann Arbor, MI in January trudging through snow in only Vans sneakers. We even played a show in Detroit where the venue had no heat, I could barely feel my fingers! I had only toured the south and was not at all accustomed to the weather. But I learned my lesson. This time I am making sure to pack enough warm garments, socks, and boots, haha. 

MI: What are your impressions of Madison or Wisconsin in general?

JB: I have never been to Madison, though I have driven through Wisconsin and thought it was beautiful scenery-wise, fields of wheat and corn and the like. That stretch of road gave me a very “American Heartland” vibe, which was nice. As far as Madison in particular, I don’t know much, so I am excited to visit a new city with no existing impressions!

MI: On tour, what’s the first thing you seek out in a town you’ve never been before?

JB: Every time I show up in a new town, I make a beeline for the best coffee - I will have to consult some locals about the best place upon arrival!

Visit www.frznfest.com for more information, including run-downs on psycho-digitbots TOBACCO, six-string minx PALEHOUND, bop-robbers CHARLY BLISS and Anglo-jangle transplants AMERICAN WRESTLERS, among other jaw-dropping acts.


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Ellen Kempner of Palehound

Palehound

An Interview with songwriter Ellen Kempner of Palehound
by John Noyd
October 2015

Outspoken and perceptive with a razor-sharp wit, Boston songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Ellen Kempner is the creative captain of the gale-force musical cruiser, PALEHOUND. Boundless disregard for tradition turns her recent, “Dry Food,” into a cornucopia of rock and roll riches mixed in a refreshing blend of cut-throat poetry, elliptical guitar and storm-trooper grooves. Out on the road, Ms. Kempner drops into Madison’s The Frequency November 18th along with indie renegade MITSKI and punk-rockers PWR BTTM. We caught Ellen just before her tour and asked her a few questions to prepare for her visit.

MAXIMUM INK: As a female songwriter who plays a mean rock guitar who can I compare you to that would make you blush and who would make you scowl?

ELLEN KEMPNER: Well there are plenty of people you could compare me to that would make me blush, like Albert King, Annie Clark, Matt Sweeney etc.. Honestly, I feel that anyone who plays a “mean rock guitar” has qualities that I don’t feel fit enough to judge to the point of scowling!

MI: Your new album, “Dry Food,” is full of shifting rhythms and unpredictable dynamics. Do songs come to you with these ideas from the start, get worked out in the writing process, in the studio or the stage?

EK: I never perform anything in the studio or on stage until I’m completely confident in what I’ve written, partially because I’m an anxious perfectionist. As far as dynamics go, that’s usually something that comes to me from the start of a song, whereas shifting rhythms tends to be part of the editing/writing process.

MI: Having started out as a solo artist who played most of her instruments what is it like to relinquish control to three other people? What prompted you to make that leap?

EK: I still for the most part consider myself a solo artist actually, because through lineup changes I have retained the majority of creative control. I usually write a song and then demo out all the instruments myself and then leave it to my bandmates to play them better than I can (i.e. Drums haha)

MI: “Dry Food,” seems to speak from the heart, have you ever started a song based on a feeling you since felt was misplaced or trite?

EK: I’ve definitely started plenty of songs that way but those are the ones I tend to discard. Total, I wrote probably at least 40 songs leading up to Dry Food but picked those eight because they seemed the most genuine and expressed what I wanted to express most clearly. 

MI: Your lyrics show an appreciation for language’s playful nature, are there any specific books from your childhood still informing your current aesthetic?

EK: Really funny you would ask that because I was just looking over some books in my childhood bedroom last week. I can’t say that I’m directly inspired by those books today but looking back on them I was actually surprised to see how much of the language and strange weirdo plot lines seemed to have stuck with me through the years. The ones that stood out in particular were Caps For Sale, A Bad Case of the Stripes, and The Giant Jam Sandwich.


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Lion's Mouth

Lion’s Mouth

An interview with Lion's Mouth's singer-guitarist Chelsea Z.
by John Noyd
August 2015

Like a modern Horatio Alger times two, the musical duo LION’S MOUTH embodied the American Dream, heading West from their Wisconsin home to seek not gold but a golden dream of making music full-time. Equipped with ferocious talent and unflappable attitude, guitarist Chelsea Z. and percussionist Sara Wexler took on the challenge of making their mark in the L.A. music scene and in doing so found themselves releasing a strong self-titled debut they are happily bringing with them on their first national tour that takes them back home. Aptly titled, “The Coming Home Tour,” they play Madison’s The Frequency September 6th with area favorites HEAVY LOOKS, THE MILLENIUM and KAREN WHEELOCK. Before heading on tour, Chelsea was kind enough to talk with MAXIMUM INK about their experience in L.A. and how the move affected their music.

MAXIMUM INK: What were your notions about L.A. before you headed out there and how did they change once you got there?

CHELSEA Z.: We had heard that Los Angeles is full of beautiful, shallow people and that we’d love the weather. Though we found some people to be vapid and self-centered, we also found people who are caring and passionate about what they do. (We also thought we’d be the frumpiest and worst dressed, and that has proven to be correct). The weather is beautiful all year, but as Midwesterners we found ourselves missing a cloudy day. We were also cautioned to not get our hopes up because everyone in L.A. is trying to “make it”. At times we felt overwhelmed by the competitive, individualistic nature of the city, but despite all the negative things we had heard, we found a lot of opportunities. We landed a commercial agent who got us several auditions, we’ve met a lot of talented musicians and played great shows in a lot of famous venues.

M.I.: Did you write the album while you were out there?

C.Z.: The songs on our self-titled album were actually written about two years prior to us moving out to Los Angeles. We have another album’s worth of material that we wrote before and during our time here.

M.I.: Did being in a new stimulating environment change the way you wrote songs?

C.Z.: The songwriting since our debut has become much more collaborative. We definitely honed our sound and how we work together. We think about the structure and impact of the arrangement more than we ever have and we have both become better musicians. Our performances are tighter and our songs are riskier.

M.I. Changes can inspire but also challenge.

C.Z.: We’ve been so busy that starting and finishing songs has taken longer. We had a bumpy start and ended up moving several times before we landed in the place we are now. Because of that our practices had to become more deliberate, “what are we playing at the show?” kind of practices whereas before we would jam a lot more. For a while survival was our number one priority.


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The Orange Peels

The Orange Peels

An interview with The Orange Peels leader Allen Clapp
by John Noyd
June 2015

As the mastermind behind California pop-rockers THE ORANGE PEELS, guitarist-songwriter ALLEN CLAPP works magic within classic formulas, sorting and transporting pre-assigned designs into unforeseen regions populated in bracing ocean-sprayed melodies atop beautiful six-string maneuvers and electric kinetic harmonies. With Clapp and his musical companions touring the Midwest with alt-rock troubadour MATTHEW SWEET promoting their sixth studio album, the refreshingly fetching, “Begin the Begone,” MAXIMUM INK had the opportunity to toss Allen a few questions in anticipation of The Orange Peels landing in Madison for the very first-time, July 12th at the High Noon Saloon.

MAXIMUM INK: What originally drew you to your particular musical style?

ALLEN CLAPP: I suppose the framework for my idealized version of a pop group came out of the bands in the mid-1980s who were navigating this massive push forward in technology while still being influenced by the melodic dominance 60s and 70s radio. Bands like the Three O’Clock, Camper van Beethoven, XTC, and REM definitely had a foot in both realities, and sort of became templates for how you could put a band together that could evolve and still hold on to your melodic roots. The other thing is, as a child of the 70s, I’ll always remember listening to Top-40 radio on my transistor radio and the feeling of freedom that gave me. I guess it’s a combination of music that frees you somehow, along with being able to evolve.

MI: As a songwriter/pop artist is there a life-long search for hooks, rhymes or harmonies?

AC: Oh, sure! And I’m grateful when those things just fall out of the sky into my path. I’m not very intentional about trying to make those kinds of things happen, and I realize that if I tried harder on that front, I might write more songs. I’ve always had people try to get me into these exercises where you write a song a day, or force yourself to do something creative every day, and I just don’t actually come up with anything good under those circumstances. I have to wait for hooks, rhymes and harmonies to find me, and you never really know when that’s gonna happen, unfortunately.

MI: What is your holy grail in song-writing, the most elusive element in the process for you?

AC: Lyrics take me forever to write. A melody can just hit me on the head and be written in a few moments, but the lyrics always keep me guessing. In the case of our last two albums, we’ve written most of the music together at the house—just stuff that came up in the moment that we crafted into verses, choruses, and bridges—and then I sit with the music for a while until some idea springs to life. On, “Begin the Begone,” I remember having the words to, “Satellite Song,” “Wintergreen,” and, “9,” come rather quickly, while others like, “New Moon,” “Fleeing the Scene,” and, “Embers,” weren’t finished until early last fall. Sometimes it helps to see the direction an album is taking. Late last summer, I already could tell the kind of album this was going to be, so it kind of gave me permission to fill in some of the blanks with these ideas of starting over, escaping some past situation or coming to some sort of realization.

MI: The new album came together after a near fatal car accident, did your survival bring on a life re-evaluation? What surprised you the most in its aftermath?

AC: Yeah, there was a pretty major life re-evaluation in the months following that accident. There are a lot of things we’d been wanting to change, but life’s momentum was just kind of keeping us in our old patterns. Jill and I had been talking about moving to the Santa Cruz Mountains for years, and we’d also been thinking about trying to disengage from our careers a little bit so we could spend more time on creative endeavors. Getting out of Silicon Valley was a way to do both. So we sold our place in Sunnyvale and bought a hexagonal house in Boulder Creek on a couple acres. At the time, I couldn’t believe we were actually doing it, and then when we had to actually put our house on the market and move all our stuff, it was pretty overwhelming. I think surviving the accident kind of empowered us to get through it.


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July explodes with musical options this year

July’s Live Music Overload

A Brief Overlook of Live Music Options this July
by John Noyd
June 2015

July lights up its musical skies with fireworks all month long as festivals, free shows and rare appearances fill the month with incredible choices. Halfway through July, the 17th fires up three festivals within a few hundred miles of each other. Eaux Claires’ inaugural festival features an impressive line-up ranging from world-class acts SPOON, SUFJAN STEVENS and THE NATIONAL to regional heroes BON IVER, PHOX and FIELD REPORT. Highland WI’s second annual Bluelight Festival focuses on local experimental musicians such as JULIAN LYNCH, TAR PET and NEENS as well as touring bands SCAMMERS and CROWN LARK. Finally, Chicago’s long-established hipster haunt Pitchfork Festival scores appearances from established acts like WILCO and SLEATER-KINNEY plus rising stars such as punk-busker COURTNEY BARNETT and blistering Canadians VIET CONG.

If festivals aren’t your scene, fear not, the assembling festivals mean Madison catches fabulous acts stopping in as they pass through. Club dates for radioactive-crackerjacks MELT-BANANA, precious folk-messenger JESSICA PRATT, feisty feminists EX HEX, indie-folk pioneers INDIGO GIRLS and sultry singer-songsmith NATALIE PRASS orbit various festival schedules. Bargain-hunters should delight in several free shows from mega-spectacular pop-robbers THE NEW PORNOGRAPHERS and ferocious alt-rockers BULLY taking over downtown to all-star powerhouse NO BS! BRASS BAND, indie-disco brainchild SHAMIR and bedroom-soul patrollers MR TWIN SISTER lighting up campus.

If only the weeks before or after allowed any down-time. As Milwaukee’s Summerfest winds down, the first half of July has Stoughton’s Catfish River Music Festival heating up with Madison’s Le Fete du Marquette hosting slide-bluesman SONNY LANDRETH along with Cajun party-king CJ CHENIER and swamp-stompers THE REVIVALISTS. The last half presents folk-maelstrom LADY LAMB on campus, lofty pop-sophists SAN FERMIN and CLOUD CULT Live on King Street, Nashville blues-rockers SIMO playing Atwood Fest, Cambodian-fronted psycho-surfers DENGUE FEVER at Olbrich Park and country-rock doctors THE MASCOT THEORY at High Noon’s Summer Patio.

The already overstuffed month brings two anniversary tours to Madison; post-rock apostles THE APPLESEED CAST celebrates the fifteenth anniversary and vinyl reissue of their classic, “Mare Vitalis,” while alt-pop iconoclasts CLAP YOUR HANDS AND SAY YEAH revisit their pivotal self-titled debut from ten years ago. The month also sees rare sightings of California power-pop dreamers THE ORANGE PEELS, psychotropic guitar-rock prophets LAZYEYES and rainbow-pop Aussie LENKA while returning conquerors MATTHEW SWEET, DICK DALE and THE MELVINS also manage to find suitable venues. Sorry all we overlooked, but rock on, it will be over before you know it.


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Royal Blood

Royal Blood

An Interview with bassist Mike Kerr
by John Noyd
May 2015

Brighton, England’s two-piece blues-rock monster ROYAL BLOOD have been making waves ever since their self-titled debut came out last August. As perpetrators of rafter-rattling grooves whose ferocious approach to tight-knitted riffs trip in head-banging bliss, bassist Mike Kerr and drummer Ben Thatcher have spread their particularly heavy brand of cosmic gospel around the world, including a jaw-dropping stop in Madison last fall. Circling back around with a headline gig at Madison’s High Noon Saloon May 31st, MAXIMUM INK was fortunate enough to ask hard-wired squire Mike Kerr a few questions before their arrival.

MAXIMUM INK: A lot of accolades came your way since you were last here opening up for the Pixies. Has it been great, a distraction, weird or no big deal?
ROYAL BLOOD:
It’s been great, it’s always nice to have people saying complimentary things, especially peers and people that have influenced you and inspired you. At the same time, you don’t dwell on it, you just carry on doing what you’re doing.

MI: You’ve covered The Police’s, “Roxanne,” and Pharrell’s, “Happy.” Is there any song that Royal Blood cannot take on?
RB:
Haha – I’ll let you in on a secret, it was a kind of backs against the wall scenario with those covers. But they came off well(just about!), not necessarily our number one choice of covers. It’s difficult to choose songs to cover, you’re programmed to create new music so it’s testing to deviate and then to cover someone else’s music!

MI: Have you ever refused a musical challenge?
RB:
Never. As I said above, doing the covers were a musical challenge, but they allowed us to bring our own musical style to it, so it all worked out in the end.


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Ben Chasny

Six Organs of Admittance

Ben Chasny discusses his new album and musical strategy
by John Noyd
March 2015

It is helpful to have an open mind when encountering Six Organs of Admittance’s driving force, guitar-strategist Ben Chasny. Through a career that is as prolific as it is eclectic, Chasny’s teen-age folk roots carried him through a labyrinth of styles, from hyperbolic-baroque to psychedelic wrecking-balls gnarled in cosmic jazz. From Brit-folk dream-weaver Nick Drake to free-jazz action-guitarist Rudolph Grey his influences tend towards the daring and his ability to synthesize these experimental elements into intriguing treats is the cornerstone of his revered standing among the adventurous. A restless spirit through and through Chasny has written for underground films and audiobooks, banded together with like-minded players from sonic noise-makers Comets on Fire to the recent jangle-folk poets The New Bums and forged a fondness for left-hand turns and abstract catastrophes into a solid body of trail-blazing amplified six-string bewilderment.

When reviewing his musical wanderlust in a phone conversation, a modest Chasny admitted to MAXIMUM INK he feels super-lucky to have been granted a life that nurtures his curiosity as well as provide him with so many talented friends. Although he also admitted his latest experiment became a Six Organs project somewhat by default when some of his friends declined to answer the emails he sent discussing his musical theories regarding computation science, game theory and paradigm shifts. Others of course were intrigued. Setting a deadline to transform his Hexadic pre-compositions into recorded songs, proactive procrastinator Chasny tackled this challenge enlisting drummer Noel Von Harmononson as what he called the signal-giver, and bassists Rob Fisk and Charlie Saufley. A behemoth work, the resulting whale-swallowing album will not surprise long-time fans who appreciate Chasny’s meta tendencies, but still manages to open up new abstract territories.

Citing the Surrealist parlor games of unmediated chance from the twenties as inspiration, Chasny invented a means to randomly assign tonal fields and intervals using an ordinary deck of playing cards to outline what notes were fair game and in what time span they could be played. As the cards were dealt into six sections he called it the Hexadic System and assembled thirty or so song ideas over several years. Chasny refers to the system as a contemplative exercise that blossoms under scrutiny and takes on different lives depending on the individual player. When asked whether the System helped break writer’s block he said he’s never really had a problem creating new music, but was looking to shake things up and discover combinations a conscious approach would never have unveiled.

Whereas the system’s guiding rules still allowed for major interpretation, the Hexadic album employs the initial event as a compositional launch-pad that could be ridden in any number of directions. While his original demos were acoustic in nature Chasny was interested in swinging these sounds into rawer, more electric realms. Chasny clarifies, “this recording was as much about pushing things out of their comfort zone as writing charts based on a game.”  The resulting effort is a spiraling ride through amorphous textures, deep-sixing roaring distortion inside intergalactic atmospheres; unpredictable and challenging, but oddly alluring and endless fascinating.

Touring the country to bring, “Hexadic,” on stage, Chasny plans to deliver a live version of the studio recording along with songs from, “Ascent,” but isn’t interested in bringing out the playing cards for live demonstrations. The finished product, he emphasizes, came from concerted interpretations of his acoustic demos. Crediting each player for their contributions Chasny is very happy with the results and is eager to work the material live. Never one to rest on their laurels, the barrier-breaking Six Organs of Admittance play Madison’s The Frequency April 22nd.


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Joshua Garner's Quietrise

Quietrise

This month digital magician Joshua Garner talks about some of his favorite things
by John Noyd
February 2015

A primal intelligence haunts knob-twiddling riddler Joshua Garner’s ambient loops, introspective lyrics and home-built samples. Supporting soul-searching moods among left-field grooves, Garner’s slippery cyber-folk fusions transport outstanding mechanical insanity into enlightened nightmare-pop armories whose rambling phantoms surf electric byways littered in sonic mysteries. As Quietrise, Joshua is a prolific manipulator of sound and scene, with last year’s, “Anhedoniac,” aptly capturing sharp, subterranean beats reaching beneath bubbling hypno-cathartic starkness to conjure entrancing alien landscapes shaped by random humanity. Joshua was kind enough to set aside some time to answer this month’s five favorites.
MAXIMUM INK: Who’s your favorite “out there” artist and why?
JOSHUA GARNER: It would have to be Richard D. James, better known as Aphex Twin. His material is so complex and deliberate. You can listen to Selected Ambient Works volume 2 in the background for almost any occasion, as long as its chill. You then have to take a sharp left hand turn to get the complexities of Drukqs and put up with a little noise, but understand that he placed the notes just so. You have the great listen-ability of tracks like Windowlicker and Come to Daddy…and most recently Minipops 67 from Syro. Then you have Rubber Johnny, which is an amazing little music video/film in and of itself. You have the great piano pieces peppered throughout his works. He releases tracks from his storehouse on soundcloud in an almost overwhelming flood-like way, and at the same time an ALMOST ALBUM surfaces from the early 2000’s with Caustic Window LP. This guy just keeps us guessing. I truly believe that RDJ’s “b” material could outperform most electronic music today. And this guy doesn’t make much “b” material.

MI: Do you have a favorite film that puts into images what you try to put into sounds?

JG: “Waking Life” is a fantastic journey into the world of dreams. Its philosophy meets cell shading meets the odd cameo. It tries to get into the heart of dreams and lucid dreamers, and it does an amazing job for only being an hour and a half long. I feel that the way this film approaches life….by stripping away the realities like layers of an onion…it tries to make sense of the nonsensical. The musings of the protagonist as he weaves his way through the dream state are like my musings on life in the relationship sense. I like to focus on relationships, not just romantic ones, but those are especially good cannon fodder for the writing process. This movie connects us as a people on a whole new level, and I try to do the same with my music.

MI: What’s your favorite line when people ask you how you ended up in Wisconsin from Pennsylvania?

JG: I was looking for a better audience for my electro-folk music, and I had heard of “Reverence” the electronic music festival, held annually here in Madison, so I thought this area would be a good fit. But really, it’s all about the cheese curds, Badgers, and lots of water sports!

MI: What’s that favorite piece of gear you just can’t do without?

JG: My Roland SP-555 sampler, it is the heart of my rig and is so versatile. From live looping, to programming patterns, and effects on the fly it has been a workhorse. I actually bought 2 at one point to act as a turntable mixing back and forth setup. I keep finding new ways to utilize this beast.

MI: Have you found a favorite place to refuel your creative juices?

JG: My wife and I are big on camping, kayaking, and hiking and so we have begun to explore the state during the warmer months. Lake Geneva was quite a wonderful experience, Devils Lake is always nice, but you just can’t beat Lake Wingra for a smooth and close place to mellow out. I like to just let my hands drift in the water with the sun on my face and inside my head I am composing bleeps and bloops galore!

Joshua’s electronic alter-ego Quietrise play Mother Fool’s Coffeeshop March 27th


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The Reverend Eddie Danger

Five Favorites: Eddie Danger

One-man band Reverend Eddie Danger tackles the Five Favorites challenge
by John Noyd
January 2015

Carefree and upbeat, the chipper singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, live looper and ordained minister Eddie Danger is a constant beacon of entertaining goodwill on the Midwest folk circuit. A grade-school sax player who got kicked out of his high school jazz band, the Reverend reintroduced himself to music when he attended a Grateful Dead concert at eighteen and started participating in drum circles. Decades into his journey, the sunshine shaman has amassed an eclectic collection of international instruments and a lifetime’s worth of tall tales. A creative dynamo, Danger’s eleventh studio effort, last year’s naturally affable, “If and When,” showcases his versatility at various strings, keyboards, percussion and woodwinds; peppering his casual folk-blues ballads with colorful characters and true-life experiences to conjure a friendly intimacy that bolsters the spirit and warms the soul. We caught up with the mellow minstrel and asked him about a few of his favorite things.

MAXIMUM INK: Do you have a favorite album from your childhood?
EDDIE DANGER: The first cassette tape I owned was the Ghostbusters soundtrack. I was really into They Might Be Giants in my younger days. I grew up in the birthplace of emo music and never really fit in there.

MI: What’s your favorite local venue that no longer exists?
ED: Feel Good Music & Art Festival in Amherst, WI from 2004-2010.

MI: What’s your favorite cookie and why?
ED: Gluten free pot cookies… but only one. Too much pot food makes me freak out!

MI: Do you have a favorite author whose voice has informed your songs?
ED: Reading is one of my biggest sources for lyrical content. I’m currently reading Occult Science by Rudolf Steiner (the father of Waldorf Education & Biodynamic Farming). I just wrote a song that was inspired by my evolutionary astrology report from Ryan Evans. My song “Shipwrecked” was written after I read the book Life of Pi.

MI: Where’s your favorite place to get away from it all?
ED: I practice Kriya Yoga and Meditation twice a day. The best escape is to still your mind and stretch your spine. Meditation allows me to dial into the creative energy flowing everywhere.

Catch Eddie in February where he wraps up dates with the Steel City Jug Slammer Tour, plays The Root Note in LaCrosse on the 11th, a Mardi Gras show at Madison’s Up North Pub on the 17th and finishes up the month at the Historic Trempealeau Hotel on the 28th. For more information click onto www.eddiedanger.com


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Karen Wheelock

Karen Wheelock

Singer-Songwriter Karen Wheelock takes Center Stage with new EP
by John Noyd
January 2015

With bold, genuine statements like, “Music is my life,” followed by a half-embarrassed laugh, Madison singer-songwriter Karen Wheelock exudes a warm and bubbly authenticity. Casually sincere while stylishly attired, Wheelock’s sweet demeanor hides a driving thirst to experience life whole-heartedly; reaping a rich resume that includes on-line magazine editor, half of an acoustic duo, coordinating a benefit album, singing at nursing homes and tackling other musician’s promotion duties. A shy person who blossoms on record and stage, she is a hard-worker behind the scenes who recently managed to write and produce a showcase EP, “Imaginary Girl.” Full of heartfelt writing and a strong voice that trails easily off into a whisper or blossom into robust proportions, “Imaginary,” reflects Karen’s all-in aspirations, sentimental melancholy and eager self-reflection.

Grit and determination comes naturally to Karen, who grew up working the 240 acre family farm, but patience and compassion grew after encountering Alzheimer’s through her grandmother and mother. A demure dynamo that started public singing in kindergarten choirs and continued throughout college, Wheelock always was a team-player who, “likes to keep it real.” A childhood dream of becoming a back-up singer took a pragmatic turn when Karen became a Theater and Communications major at Beloit College, but as she branched out into playing guitar, recording her performances for YouTube and exploring her feelings through song-writing, the solo route seemed a natural next step. That it at times took the form of music therapy was unexpectedly fitting for someone with Ms. Wheelock’s community spirit.

A Lords of Trident pin tacked onto her guitar strap and a Leonard Cohen song on her lips, Karen is a ravenous music fan with tastes ranging from punk to folk. She says she likes, “honest music,” and can often be found hugging the stage and chatting with the bands after their set. She solicited advice from indie-rocker Cary Brothers and even struck up a correspondence with art-pop singer Meiko, whose introspective odes and DIY lifestyle matches Wheelock’s positive outlook and gung-ho attitude. Encouraged to express herself in song, Karen’s first attempts were less than spectacular, particularly when a love song she wrote for her college guitar-playing boyfriend was met by a luke-warm response that inspired her to break off the relationship but also challenged her to write more, better songs.

Ever the explorer, Karen has learned a lot playing solo, but yearns to be a part of a band. “I think the whole purpose of sharing music with each other is to connect and relate to each other,” she says, “and besides, it just feels nice to be onstage with other people!” She wants to sharpen her song-writing and expand into piano, admitting she tends to sing sad songs despite her cherry exterior. Finally, Karen would like to meet Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters; an ardent admirer half her life, she likes to dream big and, like the songs she chases, she likes to keeps things interesting, focused and full of feeling. For more information, check out www.reverbnation.com/karenwheelock.


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