ASKED & ANSWERED: A BRIEF CHAT WITH DR. JOHN

Last February, I sent some questions via email to Dr. John‘s publicist in order to help promote his show at The Wilbur in Boston. Unfortunately, I did not get the answers back until the afternoon of the day of the concert. Since he is returning to the same venue tonight (Wednesday, 2/28) to promote his new album Ske-Dat-De-Dat: The Spirit of Satch, I figured that I would post the interview today.

Enjoy!

A_Dr_John_Photographs__Bruce_Weber_2014

Photo by Bruce Weber.

Q: If I were to have you as my guide on my first trip to New Orleans (I have never been
there), what would I see that the typical tourist would not?
A: I would take you too see Jaegers restaurant in Jefferson Parish as well
as Joseph Segereto’s restaurant Eleven 79 on Annunciation Street.

Q: Do you still have any of the Ivory Soap boxes that you were featured
on as a child?
A: No I do not.

Q: In 1971, Mick Jagger and Eric Clapton played on The Sun, Moon & Herbs.
In the early 90s, PM Dawn and Beck each sampled “I Walk On Gilded
Splinters.” In 2012, Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys produced and played
on Locked Down. How does it feel to have fans with such cred and/or high
profiles?
A: It’s oaks. [i.e., “Oaks and Herbs, my Nerbs,” i.e., “okay,” as in “cool.”]

Q: Is the crawfish beignet the greatest food you have ever tasted?
A: There once was a time I could eat shellfish but now I can’t.

Q: What is some of the paraphernalia that you have on your cane and around
your neck?
A: A lot of spiritual things.

Q: How do you feel about the depiction of New Orleans and Louisiana on
television shows like True Blood, Treme, and American Horror Story: Coven?
A: I don’t watch TV but I did get to see the first Treme of the series and
I thought it was cool.

Q: How many credits did you have as Mac Rebennack before you became Dr. John?
A: A gang and a half of them.

Q: In putting together a setlist for a show, do you aim for continuity or a
theme, or do you just pick whatever you feel like playing on a given
night?
A: I pick what I feel.

Q: Is Hurricane Katrina something from which your beloved hometown will
forever be recovering?
A: New Orleans will always be recovering  from Katrina as well as the NO [New Orleans] oil spill.

DrJohn_Satch_Cover

THROWBACK: MEAT IS MURDER

I posted this review on Amazon.com on March 11, 2007, exactly seven years and 11 months ago. Today, on this, the day of the 30th anniversary of its release (February 11, 1985), I repost it here on BlakeMadsBlog.

The Smiths’ second album of new material is essential listening for an unlikely reason: it contains some the band’s most mediocre songs. Now, “mediocre” is a relative term of course, considering that we are talking about the greatest band to emerge in the last quarter-century, i.e., since The Jam broke up in ’82. It isn’t that Morrissey’s voice sounds bad (how could it?), or that Johnny Marr’s guitar playing is less than tasteful. It’s just that somehow the words and the music just aren’t as great as one would expect.

Most of the tracks on this album are not particularly well-known ones. However, “How Soon Is Now?” pops up in the middle of the American issue. This is one of the band’s best-known and best-loved songs. It is not, however, one my personal favorites, if for no other reason than it is over six-and-a-half minutes long. For a group whose music is informed by classic pop ideals, The Smiths sure have a tendency to let their songs run a bit too long. This is especially to the detriment of the closing tracks. The nearly 7-minute “Barbarism Begins at Home” is quite good, as is the title track (even if it is a bit, dare I say, ham-fisted), but they just go on forever, and therefore lose some of their impact in the process.

Other than “How Soon Is Now?”, the only song that will be familiar to neophyte Smiths fans is the excellent single “That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore”, which includes the fathomlessly clever line “It was dark as I drove the point home.”

Not surprisingly, The Smiths are more successful with shorter songs. “What She Said,” “Nowhere Fast,” and “Well I Wonder” are the album’s best songs. “I Want the One I Can’t Have,”on the other hand, expresses what was even by this point in his career a pretty trite Morrissey sentiment. And I still haven’t mentioned the opening tracks, “The Headmaster Ritual” and “Rusholme Ruffians.” Sadly, there isn’t really much to say about them, apart from that they sound a bit juvenile and uninspired. (Although the “Marie’s the Name of His Latest Flame” riff on the latter is a nice touch).

Given the excitement that had built up around The Smiths by 1985, it is not surprising that Meat Is Murder entered the UK album chart at #1. Fans were certainly justified in their expectations for the album, and were right to rush out and by it. Unfortunately, the material on the album proved to be disappointing by any standards. Fortunately, it was not enough to bring down the band’s hopes, as they re-emerged in the finest form of their career with their next release (The Queen Is Dead). While Meat Is Murder is not essential in the all-embracing sense of the term, it is worth hearing for that very reason. After all, every great band has at least one album that demonstrates what they sound like at their not-so-great. In the case of The Smiths, that album is Meat Is Murder.

ASKED & ANSWERED: NATE WILSON OF GHOSTS OF JUPITER

This originally ran on DigBoston.com in early May 2014. Since Ghosts of Jupiter are currently doing a Thursday night residency at the Lizard Lounge in Cambridge, I figured that I would repost the interview that I did with lead singer Nate Wilson here on my blog.

ME: Was Homer Simpson correct when he said, “Everyone knows rock attained perfection in 1974. It’s a scientific fact”?

NATE WILSON: I’d say it was probably closer to 1972 but yeah, I think he was on the right track. At the same time I think it’s kind of closed-minded to be one of those people who always says “I don’t listen to anything that was recorded after 1972…..blah blah blah.” I like a lot of contemporary bands and I’m always searching around for new shit to get into. It just so happens that all the new stuff I’m into SOUNDS like it was recorded in the 70’s. So to clarify, I don’t listen to anything that SOUNDS like it was recorded after 1972.

ME: Whichever year it was, which albums, artists, and songs contributed to the molding of said perfection?

NATE WILSON: There are a ton. Big ones for me are Jethro Tull‘s Thick as a Brick, [Yes’s] The Yes Album, Captain Beyond [self-titled debut], Meddle [Pink Floyd], [Traffic’s] The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys….

ME: When did it reach its nadir, or are we still awaiting it?

NATE WILSON: I have to admit that I had to Google nadir. I thought it was a Spanish verb.

But it’s really tough to pick out some low-point in music. Again, it’s easy to complain that there’s no good music and everything was better way back when. But there’s always been some good music out there, and there’s always been a ton of garbage, too. I remember that time period just before the Internet changed everything as being particularly shitty. It just seemed like major labels and MTV had so much power and control over the pipeline and it was basically musical fast food. Now, at least as a music fan, there’s a whole new universe available to discover things you never would have heard of in the past.

ME: Fill in the blank: “I wish that I were half the singer-songwriter/musician that _______________ is?”

NATE WILSON: Gustav Ejstes (Dungen)

ME: What is your favorite rock ‘n’ roll documentary?

NATE WILSON: Off the top of my head probably Dig! about the Brian Jonestown Massacre. I like their music but I love the train wreck even more! Honorable mentions are Last Days Here and that newish one about Ginger Baker [Beware of Mr. Baker]. OK—those are all train wreck movies I guess!

ME: Did transitioning from the Nate Wilson Group to Ghosts of Jupiter consist of anything other than a change in name (e.g., line-up changes, relocation)?

NATE WILSON: We had a few different bassists when we were Nate Wilson Group, and when we solidified the line-up and added our second guitarist I think we figured it was time to have a proper name. I did move to Worcester, but that’s incidental.

ME: How do you draw on your training at the New England Conservatory when composing music? Which field is your University of New Hampshire degree in?

NATE WILSON: My degree from UNH is in music performance. I always draw on my musical training, although the stuff I studied in school is fairly different from what the band sounds like. But studying music in an academic setting I think just broadens your awareness of sound in general. You don’t always use everything you learned in classical music or jazz within the setting of a rock band, but that awareness helps your creative process.

ME: How did the Museum of Science show come about and how long did that run?

NATE WILSON: It ran for over a year which was pretty amazing. The idea came from our friend Phil Stepanian, who has helped us with a bunch of management stuff over the years. He just beat some doors down for us over there and they thought it was an interesting enough idea to give us a shot at it.

ME: If Ghosts of Jupiter were to do an album of covers, what would you offer (2 or 3 songs/artists) and what would you expect each of your bandmates to propose?

NATE WILSON: Man, that’s a tough one. I’d love to cover a bunch of Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd, but I don’t know if recording it would make much sense. My take on it would be to re-create it EXACTLY the way it sounded on those records ‘cause its fucking awesome. So what would be the point of that really I guess…..

ME: How widely has the band toured and what is the largest audience for which you have performed?

NATE WILSON: We’ve stayed pretty close to the Northeast for the most part. We did a tour out to the Midwest with our friends the Buffalo Killers a few years back, and we did a few tours in the US Virgin Islands, but those were really just glorified vacations. The biggest crowd we’ve played for was probably at the Hatch Shell in Boston where we opened for Blue Oyster Cult.

ME: What is the plan for the next Ghosts of Jupiter recording?

NATE WILSON: We’re already recording it. We’ve cobbled together our own little recording rig and lately have been of the mind to forgo recording in studios. It’s freed us up financially to experiment a whole lot more. We recently rented a house in Vermont and did some tracking there. We recorded most of the keyboards at my home. I don’t know if we’ll do the entire project on our own, but so far it’s been a lot more fruitful to be off the clock.

Ghosts of Jupiter are at the Lizard Lounge (1667 Mass Ave, Cambridge) on February 12, 19, and 26. Two sets: 8:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. Tickets for the February 12 show may be purchased here for $12.