Arctic Drones’ tribute to Explosions In The Sky – The Earth Is Not a Cold Dead Place

Explosions In The Sky The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place
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We are honoured to be included in a piece that David Zeidler has put together to celebrate the thirteenth anniversary of Explosions In The Sky’s seminal third album, The Earth Is Not a Cold Dead Place. Joseph’s snippet features alongside a great many other musicians, designers and writers involved in the wider post-rock scene, all reflecting on the EITS album and how it has influenced them.

The Blaze and the Bloom: Explosions in the Sky’s The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place and its Integral Duality

David (who organised the Arctic Drones article) had also teamed up with our own writer CJ Blessum to organise the incredible international post-rock compilation Open Language, released earlier this year.

Thanks to David Zeidler and Arctic Drones for involving Will Not Fade in your work!

20 Years On: Tool – Ænima

Tool Aenima album cover holographic
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When I lived at home my family used to throw the best barbecues over summer. We had a big two-story villa with a generous backyard to match. Our parents would decide on a date and then we would invite all our friends. There would be kids swinging on the climbing frame and kicking balls at their parents, young children tormenting our dog, the blokes would stand ‘round the BBQ talking crap and the ladies would sit around in deck chairs catching up on the latest gossip and telling embarrassing stories about their children. The wheelbarrows were full of ice and there was any drink you could care to name. And more sausages, chops, steaks, salads, chips and dips than anyone could handle.

And the music. That was usually my highlight. When I was 17, my Dad and I built a stage on our roof to host some live bands. As you can imagine, I thought it was pretty damn cool to say that my band headlined a gig atop the roof of my house. We were told that the music was loud enough that it disrupted Saturday evening mass at the local church a block away. But for the sake of this story, I’m going to move on from the live bands to focus on our stereo that provided the music for most of the other barbecues.

This stereo was the stuff of legends. My mum had owned it since well before I was born and it has always made me wonder about her past. How did my gentle mother, the social worker who runs the women’s church group and does sewing in her spare time, come to acquire such a kickass stereo? And, to make it even more intriguing, we discovered some old Kiss and Led Zepplin cassettes that belonged to her. Anyway, regardless of my mother’s questionable history, that stereo pumped out some serious volume.

Dad had a worker called Tony at the time. He had been a lithographer before he decided to switch to building and he’d also had a background in the military. He was a Wellington bogan from way back who had been there when Shihad and Head Like a Hole were starting out. I always liked Tony. He treated me with respect and had taken it upon himself to educate me in the way of music. I used to help out on the construction sites during school holidays and Tony controlled the worksite radio. For the most part we listened to The Rock, but sometimes Tony would put on Solid Gold to mix it up, much to our horror. Every time a song would play Tony would quiz me about the band name and song title, and would feed me bits of trivia about the band.

So when we had our barbecues Tony always came. He would bring his little chilly bin containing bottles of vodka and mixers, and a supermarket bag full of CDs. He would control the party playlist, handing me a CD and telling me to put in on. Often he would say “Hey Joseph, you may want to skip this track – it’s a bit rude!” I remember him selecting Shihad, Rolling Stones, HLAH (Tony loved HLAH. It was a few years before I made the connection that HLAH and Head Like a Hole were one in the same.) And Tool.

Tool really stuck in my mind. Tony asked my dad if he could show me the CD cover for Ænima and then did so once he’d obtained permission. The artwork was really cool for the album. The images moved when seen from different angles. There was the box with the flames around it that flickered at different angles and the “third eye” with the two pupils that move. Under the disc was an image of the California coast disappearing into the sea. But the image that stuck in my head was a contortionist doing naughty things to himself. If you ever want to capture the imagination of a teenage boy showing him something like that is certainly one way to do it.

Fast forward a few months and I’m browsing through the albums at the local CD store, Everyman Records. Then I see it, that same Tool album, with the lenticular jewel case. Oh man! I bought it straight away and went home to listen to it. At the time I didn’t know how twisted the lyrics were for most of the songs, but I did know that I didn’t want my parents finding out that I owned the album.

They obviously found out soon enough. It’s not like I was subtle showing my newfound love for the band. My best friend Tom and I both bought matching “third eye” tshirts, much to both of our mothers disgust. And looking back, I can see why they weren’t too keen on their children listening to songs with titles like “Hooker With A Penis”…

But appropriate or not (OK, there’s no room for argument here – it’s definitely inappropriate), there was undeniable talent that went into the production of this album. Like 10,000 Days, and Lateralus – two albums that we also discovered soon after – the artwork and packaging was pretty awesome. I struggle to think of many other albums that impress me as much as the lenticular Ænima case, or the stereoscopic 10,000 Days case.

And the music was right up our alley. We were angsty teenagers wanting to rebel against the world with no reason to justify those feelings. What better way to showcase our misplaced emotions than to listen to subversive music like Tool? And we were in total awe of the musicianship that went into that album. The odd time signatures, the amazing tones, the monstrous drumming, the subtle layering. Maynard’s hypnotic singing, along with the whispers and screams and howls.

And the sheer weirdness of it all. Those filler tracks are so odd… The circus organ interlude, the recording of a needle skipping on a CD, the static and the baby cries, the cookie recipe made to sound like a Nazi rally… It added a twisted element of intrigue and humour to it all. It’s intellegent art-rock that outright snobs it’s listeners. System of a Down was the only other band I can think of that we were listening to at the time that made a  deliberate point of being so unusual.

It’s now been 20 years since Ænima was released. I’ve seen Tool play live twice (Big Day Out 2011, and Vector Arena 2013), and am among the devoted fan base who cling onto hope for another Tool album. It’s been a decade since their last, and although the rumours arise every year, we still cross or fingers and think: this year may be the one!

Until then I’ll can live with the six releases that the band has already given us.

 

Joseph James

Here for a moment… A Tribute To Maybeshewill

Maybeshewill
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Leicester post-rockers Maybeshewill just played their last ever show at KOKO in London, supported by worriedaboutsatan and You Slut! [who reformed especially for the show].

I couldn’t make it. Sadly that means I will never see them play live. It’s understandable, seeing as I live on the opposite side of the world. I honestly think that I will miss the band though.

Like I mentioned in my review of their final albumI discovered Maybeshewill through a sampler attached to Rock Sound magazine. The song had a risqué title, and being a teenage boy, I was terrified that my parents would stumble upon the song that I had ripped to the family computer. I wonder what would have been worse – my mum finding a file named “The Paris Hilton Sex Tape”, or the also rudely named “C.N.T.R.C.K.T” from the same album?

I think Maybeshewill were the band that I joined Bandcamp for, so that I could purchase their live album Live At The Y Theatre. It included a link to download the video of the show, but I never actually downloaded it because the file size was 2 gigabytes, and my bloody flatmates always used up the internet bandwidth allowance, meaning that the download was nigh on impossible on the capped speeds once we had exceeded our limits. I’ll upgrade to unlimited internet someday…

As well as loving the band for their music, I also admire them for their DIY ethic. They started their own record label/collective, Robot Needs Home, to launch their own debut EP. I don’t think they ever anticipated growing to the size they are now.

This blogpost from guitarist John Helps aligned so well with my ideals about authenticity, resourcefulness and community. In the liner notes of Not For Want Of Trying they write “this record was performed, recorded, mixed, and mastered by Maybeshewill at various locations throughout 2007. It cost us nothing. DIY FTW”. They proceed to thank friends and family who helped them with the process, stating that “we owe more to these people than we owe to the bank”, and “this record is as much yours as it is ours”. There seems to be more integrity in any artistic project when it is independently run, because the artist needn’t compromise their values to appease any external figures. I try to run my blog by those principles, and consider my work a success, despite never having spent any money on it.

The band’s final album, Fair Youth, was released just as I started this blog. I enthusiastically reviewed it, and although it was not my best piece of writing (being among my first), it taught me a lot about what it takes to write for a music blog (including don’t let your dad leave comments that people will laugh about on the internet!). I stand by what I wrote back then – it is a good album, and one the band can be proud to leave as a parting gift.

Maybeshewill will always be important to me. They were one of the bands that started me on a journey of discovering post-rock. They showed me that music can be exciting without vocals. They combined electronica, samples and brilliant musicianship. They made brilliant music using an indie model.

To quote one of their song titles : “Our History Will Be What We Make of It”. Maybeshewill made a legacy worth remembering

Joseph James

2015 in Review: Music Releases at Will Not Fade

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It has been a great year for music, and I’ve struggled to keep up with everything around work and study, but I’ve settled on the follow as my top three musical releases of 2015:

Toe Hear You coverToe – Hear You 

The perfect album for almost any occasion. It’s light and summery with great instrumentation. Brilliant instrumental music that stands out from the rest of the crowd.

 

Koji_-_Fury_EPKoji – Fury 

This infectious EP that had me hooked from the moment I heard it. Koji’s new shoegazy sound really works for him. I can’t wait for more.

 

Gary Clark Jr Story Sonny Boy Sim cover artGary Clark Jr. – The story of Sonny Boy Slim.

Clark was stunning when he played Wellington in May. He previewed a few new tracks that had me excited for the forthcoming album. and the wait was worth it. Clark made this album on his own terms, and you can hear the difference when you compare it to his promising, yet lacking, début album. The album presentation is also stunning, including a cool etching on side D of the gatefold 2LP vinyl edition.

 

I didn’t make time to review these, but the following three are also well worth a listen

 

caspian-dust-and-disquietCaspian – Dust and Disquiet.

Post-rockers Caspian were once one of those bands that started quiet and slowly built up throughout the song. They have really turned it up a notch with Dust and Disquiet, with heavier songs that demand attention.

 

refusedRefused – Freedom.

The hardcore legends have made a comeback. It’s not Shape of Punk to Come, but it’s still awesome. They’re due to play in Wellington, and in Auckland at Westfest next year, and I really hope that this still happens in light of the Australian Soundwave Festival cancellations.

third-eye-blind-dopamine-artworkThird Eye Blind – Dopamine.

One of the quintessential 90’s bands prove that they’re still current with this upbeat rock album.

 

 

Of course, there were many more albums and EPs that deserve a mention. Have a browse through our album reviews to see what else Will Not fade covered this year. Which albums did you listen to the most this year?

Joseph James

2015 in Review – Live Music at Will Not Fade

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What a year it has been! We’ve been blessed to have so many amazing bands to come to our shores this year, and we are just as lucky to have strong local talent that we can depend on seeing throughout the year as well. I’ve summarised below some of the highlights and letdowns of my year, concluding with a discussion of the live music scene.

The best shows of 2015

Jurassic 5 blew me away with their incredibly fun and interactive show. Great music, great showmanship.

Frank Turner has been one of my favourite artists for years now. There’s no way that I could see him play his rousing music and it not be a highlight of my year. It was a cool bonus to meet him and have a chat outside the venue after the show as well. His new album, released a few months later, was also excellent.

Image: Fergus Cunningham

This Will Destroy You. Image: Fergus Cunningham

I actually thought that Australian post-rockers sleepmakeswaves put on a far better set than the more established headliners This Will Destroy You. There was so much energy and joy on stage. Many post-rock acts just let their music do the talking, but sleepmakeswaves put on a show as well as playing great music.

Most insane show award would go to either powermetal lords Dragonforce or mathcore act Dillinger Escape Plan. Although both could be classed as metal bands, they are at different (extreme) ends of the spectrum. Both played at a packed out Valhalla, and both bands featured musicians who were ridiculously proficient at their instruments.

I finally got to see what I consider an original hardcore/punk band this year. I’ve seen OFF!, Misfits and Corrosion of Conformity in the past, but they may as well be covers band,featuring more ring-ins than original members. A group of us hired a van and drove up to Auckland to see Gorilla Biscuits play at The Kings Arms. I think it is as close as I’ll ever get to seeing one of those pioneering punk/hardcore groups live, and it was great. Such a fun and positive band.

It is always a pleasure seeing perennial local heroes Jakob and Beastwars (the two bands toured as a double bill), and I managed to see my favourites Shihad play three times this year (at Homegrown and AC/DC).

The set that Shihad played both nights. They also played the song "Pacifier" for the encore on Sunday.

The set that Shihad played both nights of Homegrown. They also played the song “Pacifier” for the encore on Sunday.

My last highlight was Declaration AD, although I say this with a hint of sadness. They released their final album (Sometimes It’s Us) earlier on in the year, along with the announcement that their time as a band was coming to an end. The lineup for their final show at Zeal included some of the best current punk/hardcore/metal acts in New Zealand.  Declaration played a mammoth 16 songs and finished on a high. They made a big impact, not only in Wellington, but also in the wider New Zealand hardcore scene.

Disappointments

Every show I attended in Auckland this year left me feeling disappointed.

It started off with Foo Fighters cancelling their intimate Town Hall show because a truck with their gear had en route, leaving them without the equipment they needed. My friends and I took the opportunity to see American rapper Freddie Gibbs  instead. Gibbs was brilliant, but making fans wait for hours just to see a short 40 minute set was disrespectful to those who paid good money to see him perform.

The following night wasn’t much better. The Foo Fighters weren’t bad, but it was nothing compared to their previous few NZ concerts. They had stopped trying, choosing instead to rest on their laurels. They included a handful of covers throughout the set that dragged, and I was bored and ready to go home well before they had finished. I was glad to see that Rise Against were on form though. I didn’t think much of their latest album, and their opening set wasn’t very long, but it was actually one of the better sets I’ve seen them play.

A month later I was up in Auckland again for Westfest. I was most excited to see grunge icons Soundgarden. They started off with my favourite song of theirs, “Spoonman”, and it sounded terrible. Frontman Chris Cornell’s voice sounded strained and the band couldn’t keep energy up. I ended up leaving halfway through their set, because a free ride back to where we were staying was more attractive than seeing one of my favourite bands struggling onstage. Thankfully my other drawcard, Faith No More, were great, and metal pioneers Judas Priest put on an outstanding show earlier in the day, making Westfest worth attending overall. Cornell came back to New Zealand at the end of the year and all the reviews I read were glowing, but I couldn’t bring myself to buy a ticket to attend after he had put on such a dismal display at Westfest.

Faith No More playing at Westfest in Auckland. Photo taken from Faith No More's Facebook page

Faith No More playing at Westfest in Auckland. Photo taken from Faith No More’s Facebook page

Wellington venues

Venue Shed 6 has been refurbished as an alternative to the infamous TSB Arena that it sits beside. I saw both Gary Clark Jr and Jurassic 5 both play there, and had no complaints either time. It’s a versatile space and I hope that it gets utilised more in the future.

I attended two concerts at the Westpac Arena this year, and I would hesitate to attend another there. I have no issue with Elton John’s show, but his fans were totally ripped off, being charged extortionate fees for limited visibility. Likewise, AC/DC put on a brilliant show, but when 40 minute delays left fans exposed in the cold wind and rain I doubt many present were happy about the choice of venue. Sound and visibility issues coupled with overpriced tickets and cramped seating do little to suggest value for money.

Robbie Williams played a successful show at the Basin Reserve in October, indicating that the Basin could be a better alternative as Wellington’s primary outdoor venue.

Image: Bradley Garner Photography.

Mogwai at James Cabaret. Image: Bradley Garner Photography.

At one time Wellington’s best live venue, James Cabaret really let things slip. Lack of adequate air conditioning and no passouts made it hard to cope with the hot overcrowded conditions, especially when shows ran later than advertised. It was a real let down during Nas and Run The Jewels. And I don’t know if it was the venue’s fault, but there were complaints made about the excessive noise levels at Mogwai. After a handful of bad experiences I was seriously considering if I ever wanted to attend the venue again. And then without warning, the venue closed. Gorillaz Sound System had been booked to play James Cabaret, but got switched to Bodega last-minute. That was the last I ever heard of the venue.

We still have the trusty old bars Bodega and San Fran, who tend to get most bands. Meow has also been hosting more big bands this year. I’m embarrassed to admit that I still haven’t been to the new venue MOON in Newtown yet. I hope that the Town Hall will get revived one day, but from what I hear about the costs of earthquake restrengthening, it is too costly to be considered viable.

The festival scene

The established staples in the festival scene seem to be surviving. Homegrown promises to be exactly the same as it has always been. It’s almost the musical equivalent to the 7’s rugby tournament. Hipsterfest Laneway is potentially expanding next year. Raggamuffin promises to be a hit, with Wu Tang Clan announced as headliners.

Trusty old Big Day Out has experienced a rocky past few years, and has since been re-branded as Auckland City Limits, with affiliations to the similarly named Austin festival. It will be interesting to see how well ACL fares. Headliner Kendrick Lamar will be a major drawcard, and it is held later in the year, so won’t be competing against other festivals and events to the same degree.

It’s a risky time for promoters at the moment. Soulfest was cancelled last-minute due to poor ticket sales. New festival Mclaren Falls had to change venues due to complaints from locals. After the change of location they renamed as Echofest. And Echofest also cancelled and announced liquidation, leaving ticket holders potentially unable to get refunds.

Westfest16

The future of Westfest 16 is up in the air. NOFX have confirmed that they will not be coming.

Somewhat related, Australian festival Soundwave has ended. Promoter AJ Maddah has a history of dodgy dealings, and it sounds like the responsibility for the festival can be shared between Maddah and ticketing agency Eventopia. Fans are understandably upset, especially because neither party are willing to refund ticket holders. This has wider implications for live music in Austalasia, because it has undermined concertgoers faith in promoters and ticketing outlets. There is no way that Soundwave’s cancellation is a good thing, although some people are trying to crowdfund a Soundwave replacement called Legion.

It also places the future of Auckland heavy music festival Westfest in question. Westfest has ridden on the coattails of Soundwave for a few years now, offering very similar lineups. Westfest 14 and 15 both ran at a loss, and Westfest 16 had a noticably smaller lineup, reflecting and foreshadowing Soundwave’s issues. With many bands no longer travelling to Australia for Soundwave, it remains uncertain if they will travel further to New Zealand. However, despite being unprofitable, Westfest has done wonders to boost ODR Productions’ profile, and I have faith that whether they retain their festival or not, ODR will continue to organise most of the best shows for heavy music fans in New Zealand.

2016

2016 still looks bright. Wellington is offering their bi-annual Arts Festival, with acts like Sufjan Stevens and Death Cab For Cutie attending. I’m sure that we will have plenty of sideshows from Laneway and Byron Bays Bluesfest to look forward to as well.

Iron Maiden Book of Souls tour

David Dallas is playing at Victoria University O Week, and although I expect that will be awesome, I’m apprehensive about going to a gig that will likely feature a crowd of 17-year-old drunk first year students (probably dressed in togas as well). I’m also looking forward to seeing Iron Maiden play in Christchurch in April, and comedy/percussion show Blue Man Group in June.

 

What were the best shows you attended in 2015? And which ones are you looking forward to attending next year?

 

Joseph James

2015 In Review: Films at Will Not Fade

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I go to the movies probably more than I can afford to, but I seldom review them because nobody wants to read a review written about a movie after it has already been out for a week. I’ll try to sum up my opinion of some of the movies that I’ve watched this year.


Top 5

Deathgasm was by far the best film of thedeathgasm-poster_1444064580
year. A perfect blend of action, horror and comedy with soundtrack that referenced metal from local and international bands. I also saw Turbo Kid (also produced by Ant Timpson) during the film festival  and it was similar in many ways. Hilarious, gratuitous, and with a kickass 80’s sounding soundtrack. It makes me proud that despite the increasing influence of Hollywood over our local industry, New Zealand can still churn out some brilliant films.

Mad Max: Fury Road is the obvious runner up for film of the year. Full on action the whole way through, without most of the annoying clichés and tropes that you’d associate with a gasoline fueled blockbuster like this.

mad-max-fury-road-poster2And it may be because I only saw it a few days ago, butStar Wars: The Force Awakens gets my vote for third place. I can’t deny being a Star Wars nerd, and I’m glad the new entry does justice to the series. Just as the prequel trilogy mirrored the originals, the new episode mirrors earlier films in a way that feels familiar, whilst still introducing new characters and possibilities. JJ Abrams was a smart choice for director, having revived the Star Trek franchise in recent years.

My other faves were The Martian and Everest. I was worried that The Martian would be a drawn out snoozefest like Interstellar (both films stared Matt Damon and were set in space), but The Martian held up as an entertaining and clever sci-fi. I was also pleased to see that Everest lived up to my expectations. I had met Jan Arnold, the wife of lead character Rob Hall, in highschool. Their tragic story was brought to life tastefully, while still retaining essential elements of good cinema.

Children’s films

As a teacher, keeping up with the latest children’s filmsis part of my job. Surprisingly though, I can only think of two that came out this year. Inside Out was a great exploration into human emotion, but was perhaps too mature for its child audience (not that this prevented the children who saw it enjoying themselves). Minions was annoying, and it is a shame that Despicable Me has stooped to such levels. Children loved it though, so it doesn’t matter what I think of it.

HorrorStar_Wars_Episode_VII_The_Force_Awakens

I don’t watch as many horrors as I used to, but I still enjoy them. Deathgasm was the best I saw this year, as I stated above. It Follows was a horror that garnered universal critical acclaim. I have mixed feelings about it. I do feel that it was over-rated, but the weird premise did have me thinking about it for days afterwards. I won’t ruin the plot, you’ll just have to find out for yourself if it lived up to the hype.

Cooties was a deliciously fun low-grade horror boasting big name actors (Elijah Wood, Alison Pill, Rainn Wilson). Contaminated chicken nuggets turn children at a primary school into prepubescent zombies, with the teachers resorting to whatever extreme measures they deem necessary for survival.

Music

I was pretty excited when I first heard about Straight Outta Compton, the NWA biopic. I enjoyed watching it, but it was so long that it started to lose impact as it progressed. There has been lots of litigation and controversy surrounding the film, with certain parties claiming that their role has been downplayed (MC Ren), or depicted in defamatory light (Suge Knight – Death Row Records co-founder, and Jerry Heller – former NWA manager). It will be interesting to see how follow up films pan out – a biopic focusing on the following wave of rappers like Snoop Dogg and Tupac is currently in the works.

One heartwarming documartian-gallery3-gallery-imagementary I saw was called Landfill Harmonic, about a village in Paraguay where children form an orchestra in which they play instruments made from rubbish found in the landfill that many of them live on. It’s one of those underdog tales that show how people can rise from poverty to achieve something great.

The big films.

Star Wars is looking to break all kinds of box office records at the moment, but
it seems that the same could have been said by every major blockbuster that came out this year. Many films were guaranteed to sell just because they were part of a successful series. It helps that Star Wars is actually worth seeing, but let’s be honest, we were all going to go see it regardless. Take the following examples:

Spectre, the latest James Bond film (with the same plot as Mission Impossible: Rouge Nation), was ok, but not great. But you have to see it, simply because it’s Jame Bond. Same goes with any Marvel film. People watch them, regardless of how good they are. I thought that the second Avengers film was better than the first, but it was still forgettable. Jurassic World was an uninspired modern rehash of the original. Some up-to-date CGI wasn’t enough to disguise unlikable actors presenting thEverest-filme same plot as the earlier films, but despite this, dinosaurs still had pulling power to make Jurassic World millions of dollars.

Furious 7 , Terminator: Genysis and Hunger Games: Mockingjay pt 2 were some of the few major blockbusters from established series that I’d consider recommending (other than Star Wars and Mad Max, that I’ve already mentioned).

There were other films that I saw that aren’t worth mentioning, and likely many that I missed that are. What were your top movies of 2015? What ones did I miss that I really need to see? Or which ones do you think I need to reevaluate?

Joseph James