Can Portland's Creative Community Survive Development, Price Surge?
For the print edition profile, we spoke to Perfume Genius' Mike Haderas. He was giving and giggly as we touched on everything from finding solace in music while growing up in the Seattle suburbs, to his struggles creating Too Bright, embracing the roles of both entertainer and gay activist, and from his parents to his oft unseen goofy side, and even his consideration of moving to Portland.
Perfume Genius plays tonight at Mississippi Studios.
MERCURY: Where do we find you today?
MIKE HADERAS: I'm in Philadelphia. I'm just backstage, having a diet Pepsi.
Well, let's start there. What is the ensemble like that you're touring with?
My boyfriend plays synths and sings with me. He always been there, since the beginning. On the second album we added a drummer.
For this tour, because there's a lot of new stuff going on, I asked my friend Tom to play guitar, and bass, and sing too. So it's a lot more of a band kind of thing, because on a lot more of the songs I'm just singing with the band behind me, and I'm kind of behind the piano a lot less. It's really not subdued, it's a lot more, loud, I suppose.
How does it feel to be out from behind the piano?
To be honest it's really weird. But I have been getting super into it. Whereas before, all I really had to do was emote. I was just kind of lost behind the piano. All I had to communicate with was my voice so I didn't really think of it as performance a lot of the time.
The new Cover Oregon spots start airing on your telly-vision today, but they've already made their rounds on the internet. The spots are part of a multimillion dollar state ad campaign to raise awareness for Oregon's new health marketplace—Cover Oregon is the new state facility/agency that allows people to find plans and benefits.
Your opinions about Obamacare aside, what do you think of the ads? The Washington Post calls them "twee" and "seriously could have been pulled straight out of Portlandia." While I think they meant it derogatorily, I think "twee" is a fantastic word to describe them. They're pretty lovable. They're cute. They're catchy. You can watch them more than once without wanting to mash the screen. And they put two of Portland's best local musicians on the TV, which is a great thing.
Wild Ones is coming out with their new album with Party Damage Records on Tuesday, July 9, and they're playing a record release show on Friday, July 5 at Mississippi Studios. We passed around beers, and what I believe was a margarita, and Max showed up late—I added his one quote to the appropriate section.
What musician in the world would you punch?
NICK VICARIO: Myself.
MAX STEIN: Besides Seve? That’s a great question. Who’s that lady? She does that song "You’re So Vain." Fuck her. I don’t know if I want to hit her—because that’s sketch—but fuck her.
SEVE SHELDON: I would punch Danzig, just so I could say I punched Danzig. He’d kick my ass, but at least I would have punched Danzig.
I would punch Justin Bieber.
THOMAS: Nah man.
DANIELLE SULLIVAN: He’s going through a hard time, and I think he’s skipped some developmental stages.
MERCURY: What is the mission of Closer music festival?
MADRID: The mission behind Closer is to bring the Portland electronic music scene together. Similar to Decibel, but focused on Portland. It's run by Portland labels, promoters, DJs, producers, and party people. It's all about providing high quality artists to the masses.
The term EDM gets thrown around a lot. How would you categorize the span of electronic music at this year's Closer fest?
Not EDM. Also, EDM is just a blanket term used to describe music that isn't already an established sub-genre in the electronica genre. The founders have put an emphasis on not using that term to describe any of the music that will be featured. EDM is a subculture and we would like to keep distance from that. We represent these genres: techno, house (deep, tribal, soul, acid, tech), ambient/experimental, DnB, jungle, dub, abstract hiphop, future (bass), and garage. Just like Decibel and Mutek, we don't have anything to do with the big room/dubstep/mega festivals, music, or people. [Closer is] a music festival for music nerds.
Excellent. That's crucial.
The founders are a bit of snobs but for good reason. They both own record labels; different crews represent the different showcases. Their vision is to present diverse musical genres that are cutting edge and yet underground.
As Erik SQUEEEEEEE'd about last week, Justin Timberlake has FINALLY returned to the studio to record some actual goddamn music, and today he debuted his newest song "Suit & Tie" with rapping duties fulfilled by Jay-Z. It's the first single from his upcoming new album The 20/20 Experience to be released later this year. Read more about that here.
But back to "Suit & Tie." Well, of course I like it. It's got shades of Marvin Gaye, R. Kelly, and god knows who else... I'll have to listen to it more. BUT WHAT DO YOU THINK? Check it out, and vote in the legally binding poll over on Blogtown!
Something worth considering before the music industry—or any other creative endeavor—goes on suing their own customers: users of P2P file-sharing networks buy 30% more music than folks who don't share songs online.
Or so says The American Assembly, a think tank tied to Columbia University.
U.S. P2P users have larger collections than non-P2P users (roughly 37% more). And predictably, most of the difference comes from higher levels of ‘downloading for free’ and ‘copying from friends/family.’
But some of it also comes from significantly higher legal purchases of digital music than their non-P2P using peers–around 30% higher among US P2P users. Our data is quite clear on this point and lines up with numerous other studies: The biggest music pirates are also the biggest spenders on recorded music.
H/T: Torrent Freak
Every six months or so I clean off my desk. Time to do something with all those notes, taxes, receipts, ash, batteries, earplugs, breath mints, lighters and the rest. Of the many items that pile up are news clippings I tear for reminder or further review. One such was Marques Toliver, from the New York Times, the week of April 18th, reads as such:
This classically trained violinist from Florida has spent time busking in East London, but he has now shifted his considerable talent to the unusual hybrid of baroque R&B. In his hands, it is fascinating: Mr. Toliver croons fitfully about spirituality over intricate string solos, joking dryly between songs to break up the bleak tension. His debut EP, “Butterflies Are Not Free” (Bella Union), is promising throughout. — STACEY ANDERSON
Which led me to this pair of mesmerizing live performances:
I guess Toliver came to Portland a year ago. Anyone see him?
Prince Rogers Nelson was born today, 54 years ago. He was funky. He maintained that funkiness until the age of seven, at which point it leapt forward along the evolutionary scale in a way the race of man had not seen before, and would not see again until he turned 20 and released For You, his debut album. At that point, Nelson worked tirelessly to hone and refine the funk, his weapon of choice, into an apocalyptic missile of music, deploying multiple payloads upon an unready populace for most of the '80s and '90s.
Unlike most fallouts, this purple precipitation was welcomed as it descended from the clouds, spattering against the barn roof, slicking up the wheels under the little red Corvettes tooling down Alphabet Street. That period is still celebrated, even now: There's The Prince vs. Michael Experience at Ted's on June 9th (by the way, there's no question - Prince wins that fight), and Jackpot Records is screening the ridiculous 1984 comedy/melodrama Purple Rain at the Bagdad Theater on June 15th & 16th.
Of course, in the '90s, dude got super-fucking weird, became kind of a self-parody and fell the fuck off in alarming fashion while stashing a stockpile of tantalizing funk bombs behind the doors of his oft-referred to vault.
But after the jump, we can ignore all that. We can, instead, remember, via the miracle of YouTube, some of his finer moments, at least until his crazy ass orders his army of lawyers to pull any and all evidence of his former majesty from the internet.
In the years since their tragic exit, Portland has seen it's share bands pay homage to the Exploding Hearts' plucky mess of punky glam pop. Most can be discerned by hair cuts alone—long on the sides, bangs cropped caveman short.
The Cry! are no exception, but their Hearts-inspired "Modern Cinderella" is an exceptional tune, an unshakeable mix of hooks and tongue-in-cheek self-depreciation. Can't help but smile when, after love (or lust) goes sour and the overlooked protagonist is "headed home on the bus."
The Cry! - "Modern Cinderella"
I found The Cry! on a mixtape compiled earlier this year by the Mean Jeans' Billy Jeans. As he explains:
Sup? Here’s a mix of my favorite bands that Mean Jeans have toured or played with in the past year or two. Some total punk, some pop, some local Portland bands, whatever; all of these songs rule and they are all bands that are playing and touring now. Hopefully there’s some stuff you’ve never heard, get their records! - Billy Jeans
Indeed, lots of good stuff here. Highlights, besides "Modern Cinderella," include The Barrecuda's "Dog Food," Zulu Peals' "," White Fang's "Alien," and White Wires' "Don't Call Me When You're Ill."
The whole track list is available below the jump. But you can just skip that and download the Billy Jeans' mixtape here.
We'd certainly be remiss in our duties if we failed to hype you on fledgling "record label and fun machine" Beer on the Rug, so here's the gritty: First thing you gotta know about this Midwestern tape outfit is that they deliver 100% on the indulgent party promise of their namesake. This is no-holds-barred, ADD pill-times galore, irretrievably deep down the h-pop k-hole: mulched elevator swag, dorm room synth-dorking, and unapologetic DIY dorkpop. It doesn't get much more zonked than this, folks. And just take a look at that artwork. What you see is definitely what you get—and with BOTR releases, it's always A-OK to judge a record by its cover.
In just 12 months time, the crew over at Beer on the Rug has garnered a lot of buzz with releases by the likes of Laserdisc Visions, CVLTS, and Napolian, but what's got us even more stoked are their stacks of soon-to-be-released titles that I'm not gonna spoil for you just yet. Instead, let's have a look and listen to this superb trio of their newest drops, including the debut LP from local Gnar Tapes/White Fang founder Erik Gage's newest alias, Free Weed.
Free Weed - Beer On The Drugs C19
Gnar mom Erik Gage joins BOTR’s ranks and blasts off axe in hand, shredding already spaced faces to flecks of carbon dust. This spliff riffin’ bong pop is not recommended for consumption by DARE members or the faint of heart. Features rubber burnin’ sensations like “Sci-Fi,” “Friend of the Guitar,” and “Caprica”. Pop this bad boy in your home stereo and blaze loudly for good measure.
Free Weed - "Friend of the Guitar"
The most intentionally weird dude of 2012's first quarter has got to be Mac Demarco. Mac's ADD-aesthetic has shape-shifted enough times in the past couple months that it's impossible to predict what you're gonna get from the guy, and his non-commitment to style is a refreshing take that you don't expect from your typical DIY pop dork. Like I said, the guy's all over the place—just search his name to reveal photo and video of him assuming the costumed personas of imagined AM-dial pop stars, practicing outlandish accents, and sitting on the toilet. Demarco's soon-to-be-released Rock and Roll Night Club is similarly chameleonesque—one minute he's sounding like a sloppy Bowie, the next like some late-to-the-party Brooklyn buzz band, and at times even like (dare I say it?) Ariel Pink. It's disorienting in the coolest way, and overall a rather creative record.
But this video, man... he messed up. It's not a terrible song, but the treatment is pretty much everything wrong with the resurgence of throwaway cable access-style media. Blatant Tim and Eric green-screen posturing, armpit-sniffing, WAY too much air guitar, and some guy faux-masturbating at the end... It's awkwardly immature, screaming out, "Hey, I'm a freak! I'm pretending to not give a shit, please love me!" Give me a break. No, I'm not missing the irony. If you're going to make a bad joke out of your music, at least make it a good bad joke.
Such a shame, too. The trio of tracks uploaded to Bandcamp a couple months ago had me anticipating one of the best (if not strangest) new voices of the year. I'm torn—DeMarco has potential for sure, but I'm hating this latest turn from him. Clearly, I need a little help deciding if this is crap or not.
If you're a band that requires folks—or inquisitive music journalists—to "like" your shit on Facebook before allowing them to listen to your music you can go to straight to PR hell, a place swarming with jacked up marketing gurus where you'll only be treated to marketing speak for the rest eternity and all your ideas are truncated at 140 characters. Burn famewhores, burn!
It's been just over a year since Amanda Brown, co-owner of preeminent outre-psych label Not Not Fun, first launched off to release dance records under the imprint 100% Silk. At that time, NNF was relentlessly saturating the underground market with acclaimed mutations of psych, drone, and trance, but Brown wasn't content to simply ride that wave. She was already busy predating the current vogue in rave and house music, as exemplified first by her collaboration with Matrix Metals' Sam Meringue under the ego LA Vampires, and soon after with the announcement that Silk was to begin curating the releases of like-minded artists. Now, just over a year later, Amanda and 100% Silk are already lining up their 26th release, and the label is one of the fastest-rising on the planet.
For a better idea of what Silk is getting at, peep this bitty from their mission statement: “Making 45 RPM 12 inch singles of diamond-life dance & bliss-disco & basement luxury grooves by friends and lovers from all over the world.” Think of Silk as an auteur of mulched, bedroom casino music, crowned with an aesthetic penchant for over-processed pads and a refreshing absence of exclusivity. Seriously though, don't just take my word for it. Instead, chew on these gum-snapping new drops from Silk (including one from "Prince of Portland" Paul Dickow, AKA Strategy) and make up your own mind.
Strategy - Boxy Music
"Prince of Portland Paul Dickow turns his no-nonsense Nudge-sludge awesomeness into revved-up, avant tech-house arousal as Strategy. The moniker has found Dickow checking out hooks in his Community Library and niche-in’-out nooks on Kranky. With SILK he separates: “Skanking Stabs” stomps with reverb canned-can drums, bouncing in a dancehall vault. “Feel The Earth” is not your daddy’s acid jazz, with its bouncing house arresting piano bar tipped jar. “Starry Day” soft serves up a swirl of 80’s vamp funk, contempo computer chocolate chips, and haywire Cyberdyne scheming sequences. The dueling “Bolly Valve” tracks mix Arabic woodwind skill scales with whisper sizzle clatter data. Limited edition, with hot pink pop art Neu-bout-town jackets designed by the artist. Strategic move for winning your love."
Polysick - Flow FM
"Tune in Tokyo, Rio, Rome, to Flow FM, Polysick’s choppy, blip-bloppy, reality-byting radio station. Channel glide between robotic-chaotic dub, ecstatic acid static, sunny synth sampladelica, Jack-the-Risker groove stabs, Rowdy Rick Dees-sleaze, organ-doning vogue-zoning, crunk color wheelies, sweet jellies and sick jams. And now a word from our SILK Sponsors: Flow FM has the sleekest sounds on the blare-waves."
..when mere hours after someone dies press releases start appearing in your inbox, meticulously packaged and sent bearing starched, meaningless missives and followed promptly by laundry lists of collaboration and production credit.
You are soulless hounds and ye shall not profit!
Then again, I lose no sleep for Whitney Houston. And shame on those who pretend to.
Verbatim, from the mind of Portland newcomer and unconventional sound artist Jason Urick regarding his beguiling new record I Love You for Thrill Jockey:
"This record was recorded and pieced together during a very transitional period of my life. A lot was in flux in regards to location on the planet and people and relationships within said planet. My feeling regarding these changes had a tendency to fluctuate between very excited and confident with uncertainty and alternatingly unsure and nervous, sometimes fluctuating between the two rapidly from second-to-second. I became very hyper aware of the relationships of opposite emotions and started to notice these types of relationships more and more around me. Around this time I was recommended by a friend to watch the movie I Love You by Marco Ferreri. In this movie Christopher Lambert plays a character that falls in love with a talking keychain. More specifically a keychain that only said the words 'I Love You' when whistled at. Around that time I was starting to mold the material that would make up this album into more cohesive pieces. I began to use the phrase 'I Love You' as a mantra of sorts while working on this material. Running the phrase over and over in my head until the words started to break down and render the phrase foreign again. In these meditations I became more at peace with the music making process and more unsure/unfamiliar with it at the same time. This feeling spilled over into my understanding of myself going from feeling very in tune in body and mind to completely adrift in a large universe, again in very rapid succession until all that remained was a vibration. It feels silly and potentially useless to describe such personal and brief experiences in words, however it is my hope that within the record I am able to communicate these ideas/feeling to sound where it might make more sense." -Jason Urick
Thank you, Jason, for sharing. And welcome to Portland.
Below, stream Urick's new video for "Ageless Isms," directed by Portland's own brilliant art freak Ashby Lee Collinson. Collinson's treatment of Urick's noise and manufactured electronic environments succeeds by building upon the music's rapid development and conclusion of motifs in a disorienting, yet sincere and thought-provoking style. It takes a rather delicate touch to balance the organic and synthetic poles of I Love You, a contrast that would surely have splintered in less capable hands. So, if you'd like to get to know Collinson (the mastermind behind Experimental Half Hour's Princess Dies) a little better, you can start by checking out her fund-worthy video project over at Kickstarter. And don't forget to attend an intimate evening with Urick this Sunday, January 22, as he headlines a night of fringe local talent at Valentine's.