Friday, May 29, Eagle Rock: BRIGHTBLACK MORNING LIGHT (all ages welcome)

brightblackweb

Friday, May 29th
Brightblack Morning Light
Rio En Medio
William Fowler Collins
@ the Center for Arts, Eagle Rock
2225 Colorado Blvd
LA, CA 90041
$12 / 8:00pm / All Ages
Advance ticket link: http://bit.ly/HghCW

Brightblack Morning Light were interviewed by Trinie Dalton in Arthur No. 31 (Oct 2008), with photographs by Lisa Law. The magazine is available for $10 from the Arthur store. The article is available online here.

Brightblack were also interviewed by Daniel Chamberlin in Arthur No. 23 (July 2006), with photography by Eden Batki. Were almost out of copies of that issue, so it’s going for $100 from the Arthur store.

How to Get Into the Grateful Dead (Arthur, 2005)

LISTEN TO THE DEAD

Originally published in Arthur No. 18 (Sept 2005)

Dear Arthur,
Okay, so a lot of people in Arthur have been coming out of the Deadhead closet lately [cf. “Uncle Skullfucker’s Band”, Arthur No. 11]. Someone, maybe Bastet, maybe someone else, should put out a mix CD or two of some of the Dead’s material that might be most likely to impress the contemporary drone/noise/psych/improv and/or free(k) folk scene(s). I have enjoyed a very small percentage of the G.D. that I have heard, and have been unwilling to delve through the catalog in search of the gems. I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, and would like to hear a carefully selected mix made by discerning ears. Example: Garcia solo piece on Zabriskie Point soundtrack.
Rick Swan
via email

Dear Rick,
There are over 2,800 Grateful Dead shows available for free download at archive.org, and depending on who you talk to at least a half-dozen studio albums worth checking out. That’s a lot of music to sort through, even if you can get your hands on most of it without laying down any cash. We convened a conclave of reconstructed Deadheads in order to help you and any other greenhorn seekers of the Dead find your way around. The Knights present for this meeting were:

Geologist, a member of Animal Collective, that incredible international post-hippie string band.
N. Shineywater, of Alabama’s creamiest slow-folk practitioners, Brightblack Morning Light. It is worth nothing that Brightblack’s cover of “Brokedown Palace” with Will Oldham on vocals makes us weep.
Ethan Miller, of the mighty Comets on Fire.
Daniel Chamberlin, a contributing editor at Arthur, and the author of “Uncle Skullfucker’s Band” (Arthur No. 11) about life as a closet Deadhead.
Denise DiVitto & Brant Bjork: Owner-operators of Duna Records, which releases records by Mr. Bjork (co-founder of Kyuss) and other worthy artists. Two mellow souls who hang in the desert.
Erik Davis, Arthur contributor, native Californian and the author of Techgnosis: Myth, Magic and Mysticism in the Age of Information.
Barry Smolin, the host of the essential “The Music Never Stops” Dead showcase on Los Angeles’s KPFK, 90.7 FM.
Michael Simmons, a contributing editor to Arthur.
The Seth Man, a/k/a The Seth Man, editor of FUZ and author of “The Book of Seth” on Julian Cope’s website.

PART ONE

GEOLOGIST (Animal Collective)
The birth of my father was a mistake; an unplanned pregnancy in the 1950s. As a result, his brothers, and my cousins, are much older. During the ’80s, my cousin Adam was my idol. I was in grade school, he was in high school and later went to college in Athens, GA. The guy was all about “rock & roll.” He had Live…Like A Suicide by Guns N’ Roses on vinyl in 1986. He predicted the worldwide stardom of REM and the B-52’s as far back as I can remember. But his first musical love was, and as far as I know, still is The Grateful Dead. By the end of the ’80s he had been to over 100 shows.

As I got older and began to hunger for more music than what was being fed to me on MTV, I of course turned to him. Like any true Deadhead, my cousin immediately pushed me towards their live material. His Dead collection was just a box of tapes with dates written on them; I don’t really remember seeing any albums. It is to this aspect of the Dead’s output that I would direct any new fan. I listen to the ’66-’74 era, pretty much exclusively. An easy place to start is the live albums released during this period, specifically Live/Dead (from ’69) and Europe ’72. The former has my all-time favorite Dead jam, “Dark Star” into “St. Stephen,” and the latter contains my second favorite, “China Cat Sunflower” into “I Know You Rider” (affectionately known to Dead fans as “China Rider”). In addition, there is a killer CD release of a Fillmore East show from 2/11/69, which has some of the same tunes. And for 1974, the Winterland shows from February of that year totally rule, even though you have to endure the awful background singing of Donna Godchaux.

I certainly don’t mean to discount the worth of their studio albums, because there is no denying the greatness of Anthem Of The Sun, Aoxomoxoa and American Beauty. I love them all and listen to them frequently, but I still lean towards the live stuff. The reason for this is simply “good times.” I recently got into an argument at a bar about whether or not you can give credit to someone for nothing more than “good times.” I say you totally can. Why not? Isn’t that pretty much what most of us want on a day-to-day basis? I was fortunate enough to see the Dead on one of their last tours in 1994. I was 15 years old, and had moved from Philly to Baltimore, where I was in the early stages of becoming best friends with the dudes I still consider my closest friends in the world. At the time, however, I dearly missed my old friends from middle school. They managed to get tickets to the Dead show at the Philly Spectrum, and my parents, being the wonderful folks they are, let me skip school for three days and hop on the train to catch the show. Jerry may have been old and forgotten some lyrics here and there, but man, good times were had by all. I’ve never since been in an environment as positive as that concert. As people who are passionate about music, especially music that is outside of the mainstream, we sometimes get caught up in our own brand of snobbery. But when I catch myself acting like a dick, I try and think back to that night wandering around the burrito stands and hacky-sack circles in that parking lot. If people continue to care about the music we make and continue to come see us play, I really hope our parking lots will look and feel like that one day. Good times.

N. SHINEYWATER (Brightblack Morning Light)
Early-era Dead songs resonate with me, so I would maybe dig a collection of songs featuring Pig Pen. The first recording I heard by Grateful Dead also served as a successful backdrop to a good time. It involved my native Alabama woods, an old Jeep chasing another old Jeep through the mud, and the constant doobie. The friend of mine who was driving the jeep let The Dead’s American Beauty repeat over and over … Somehow a very long early-version of the song “Dark Star” appeared on the homemade cassette, and when this came on we had just taken a doobie break. One friendly sister starting throwing mud at me so I threw mud back at her and the next thing I saw was this dancing grey mud flying and hitting smiling bodies of friends.

One time this same Jeep-friend has to drive across the country in a new Ford van. He happened to know he was going to be using reefer along the way. The van had only one sticker, plain in style, that read, “GOOD OL” really large, followed very small by “GRATEFUL DEAD.” It wasn’t the kind with little orange bears; it was red, white and blue. He chose this plain sticker to avoid attracting the Man. Yet he knew that he wanted to share his love of Grateful Dead music. It was a risk he didn’t mind taking.

Later in life he led a Greenpeace effort to successfully lower himself and a few others over the side of the Mitsubishi building in Oregon with banners that read, “BOYCOTT MITSUBISHI, MITSUBISHI DESTROYS RAINFORESTS.” The last I heard of him he became a river guide.

ETHAN MILLER (Comets On Fire)
First off, I also loved that article by Daniel Chamberlin in the July 2004 Arthur also and found it very inspiring to try and track down the more extreme avant-garde Dead stuff that the author of that piece talks about being fooled that it was Dead C. or Sonic Youth or whatever.

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DREAMTIME: Brightblack Morning Light opening for My Bloody Valentine!

ZOUNDS!

Here’s the BBML dates off the Matador Records site:

Friday, April 24: Denver, CO The Fillmore Auditorium w/My Bloody Valentine

Monday, April 27: Seattle, WA Wamu Theatre w/My Bloody Valentine

Thursday, May 21Flagstaff, AZ Mia’s Lounge w/Rio En Medio

Friday, May 22: Phoenix, AZ Modified w/Rio En Medio

Sunday, May 24: Tucson, AZ Solar Culture w/Rio En Medio

Wednesday, May 27: Santa Ana, CA Yost Theatre w/Rio En Medio

Wed June 10: New York, NY Webster Hall w/My Bloody Valentine

Thu June 11: Brooklyn, NY Studio B

“KEEPING IT LOCAL”: Trinie Dalton visits BRIGHTBLACK MORNING LIGHT (Arthur, 2008)

trinienabob.jpg

Nabob, photographed by Trinie Dalton

KEEPING IT LOCAL
Two transplants from the Heart of Dixie who went west to the land of mesas, pueblos and geodesic domes, Rachael Hughes and Nathan Shineywater have found a way to thrive beyond society’s mad dash to survive. Trinie Dalton travels to New Mexico to meet BRIGHTBLACK MORNING LIGHT, and hear their stunning new album in the pair’s natural habitat.

originally published in Arthur No. 31 (Oct 2008), with photographs by Lisa Law

Leaving Brightblack Morning Light’s northern New Mexico deep wilderness enclave, I finally get their obsession with the local AM radio. The daily monsoon moves in as I fly down the hill from their town in my red rental car. Mexican cumbia, a variation of the upbeat Colombian pop music, sounds interplanetary crackling through the fuzzy AM distance. I imagine it transmitting from some far off Mexican star, a star I’d like to visit. Crank the cumbia, see what it can do in a storm. Brightblack Morning Light’s Nabob Shineywater says AM is like Sun Ra. Yesterday morning, just after I’d arrived, we were hiking up a wash and Nabob asked, “Who are we to say Sun Ra wasn’t from another planet?”

The sky gets dark as wind kicks up. With the first lightning crackle and boom, the radio shorts and cumbia cuts out—quiet for a moment, then back up, hissing, scratched, and damaged. Have I blown the speakers? Has the radio station’s tower been struck? Each lightning bolt slicing vertically down the flat horizon causes more disruption. Nabob also mentioned that in Los Alamos, scientists recently disproved Einstein’s theory that light travels fastest. Radio waves now win that contest. Two days after the anniversary of the Pueblo Revolt of 1860—a big deal in these parts—thunder means the obliteration of human sounds. Recognizable dance beats are exchanged for something Frankenstein-ish: a live, electric orchestration so weird and marvelous it could only have been invented by Nature, the omnipresent force in this sandy region.

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Arthur feature in The Nation

Arthur: The Little Magazine That Could

You thought Arthur was gone for good? The indie magazine beloved for its music coverage and antiwar politics will resume publishing this summer.

by KEVIN MCCARTHY

THE NATION — July 16, 2007 issue

In 2002 a free counterculture music magazine, Arthur, came onto the underground scene and won readers in just about every city where young people (and some older ones) still flouted local noise ordinances. Edited by LA-based music journalist Jay Babcock and published by Philadelphia-based independent media veteran Laris Kreslins, it was distributed by volunteers across the nation who delivered issues to coffee shops, record stores and bookstores. With contributors like Thurston Moore of the legendary punk/noise band Sonic Youth; T-Model Ford, the elder blues statesman and Arthur advice columnist; and writer Trinie Dalton, the magazine specialized in long stories and interviews on wide-ranging subjects, from ’60s “White Panther” leader and MC5 manager John Sinclair, to ambient music pioneer Brian Eno, to novelist J.G. Ballard, to contemporary folk musician Devendra Banhart–each representing a segment of the counterculture.

Arthur’s music coverage has been among the most influential of its era, but the magazine was never just about music–it was from the beginning fiercely political. Babcock, who studied political science at UCLA, had at one time worked for Congressman Henry Waxman and drafted Waxman’s anti-NAFTA position paper. As the magazine was launching, the war in Iraq was being sold, and Arthur defined itself as a virulently antiwar publication; the magazine dedicated its fifth issue to a critique of the war. (The cover of that issue depicted comedian David Cross as a soccer mom cheerleading the war surrounded by the words “Hooray for Empire” and “USA #1 with a Bullet.”) The editors never stopped questioning the war and military recruitment. In 2004 Arthur teamed with the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) to run a PSA for antirecruitment campaigns in its pages. Then in May 2006, in an issue of Arthur, Babcock challenged Sully Erna of the rock band Godsmack for licensing his music to the military for use in recruitment ads and for using military images at concerts. The magazine’s pages were a regular space for artists and writers like Talking Heads frontman David Byrne and Kyp Malone, of the indie band TV on the Radio, to speak out against the war and President Bush.

Earlier this year, Arthur announced that it would no longer continue printing. Not long after, however, Babcock reached a deal with Kreslins and is about to relaunch the magazine as its editor and publisher. The next issue will arrive in record stores sometime in August. The Nation recently spoke to Babcock by phone about publishing a counterculture magazine in the current economic and political environment.

What drove you to start Arthur?

[As a culture/arts journalist] I grew more and more frustrated with the limitation of subject matter, technique and the length of story available to me in the outlets that existed. I realized that many other writers were feeling the same way. I thought the only way to do what I wanted to do was instead of campaigning for somebody to come to their senses, I would start my own magazine.

How did you get the magazine going?

I didn’t come from money, and I didn’t have any money. Laris didn’t come from money. So we pooled our credit cards and were able to start to pay the printer and so forth. The publishing situation in the United States has gotten to the point where you really do have to be wealthy in order to publish. Everyone can have access to a printing press, but hardly anyone outside the wealthy has access to the newsstands. It requires a huge amount of capital to start up a magazine and print it, and then convince the distributors that it deserves to distributed, and then be able to wait for them to pay you. The newsstand distribution system in this country is notoriously inefficient and corrupt…. That wasn’t an option for us. So what we did was, we created essentially an underground, alternate form of distribution.

What is the vision behind Arthur?

The biggest underlying idea is that the culture drives everything else. Culture creates the metaphors and the landscape on which politics and economics and so forth take place. And so then you ask: What kind of culture are you making, or taking part in, or helping to exist? Our idea was to do what all the other underground magazines or publications in America have done over the last 200 years or whatever, which was to attempt to infuse into the culture at large all of the liberatory, progressive and expansive ideas of freedom and values from the traditional underground, and to celebrate them, propagandize for them and push them.

What were your models?

We want to be in the tradition of the American underground press. Especially the twentieth-century underground press. Whether it’s the punk magazines, or the rave magazines, or the amazing underground press that was happening in the late ’60s and early ’70s, or the mimeo scene before that in the ’60s and ’50s, with the Beats and the whole literary poetic scene–there’s a whole tradition you can go back to: anarchist magazines, Wobbly magazines and so forth. And there’s always been artists and poets, and the serious ones have always been political, engaged and very far to the left.

Arthur grew more and more political. The fifth issue is dedicated almost entirely to looking at American imperialism. How did that political consciousness develop?

By the second issue the war stuff was starting to happen, and by coincidence we had a section about [civil rights and antiwar protest photographer] Charles Brittin. We found out that he had a photo of a parade of veterans against the Vietnam War that happened in LA in the late ’60s. It’s an incredible photo from the corner of Wilshire and Vermont that was just mind-blowing for those of us who live here in LA, to see this familiar landscape filled not with cars and billboards but with ex-soldiers protesting the war as far as the eye could see. So we elected to make that a centerfold.

For the third issue we did a back page that said “What War Looks Like,” and it was a picture from a book by [LA punk musician] Exene Cervenka, a photograph of an Iraqi soldier, dead, from the first Gulf War, with parts of his body blown off. It’s an extremely gruesome black-and-white photo that says all sorts of things about what war is, what it does to people, what people who kill have to look at. And you look at what the soldier was wearing–he’s wearing dress shoes, which shows how mighty the Iraqi army was that we were so afraid of. It was nothing–they didn’t even have boots.

And by the time we got to the fifth issue the war had started already and it was getting worse. We went all the way. We solicited special advertising saying we were doing an emergency issue of Arthur. We assembled it in just four weeks. Arthur isn’t exactly the biggest megaphone–but the megaphone that we did have was very carefully directed at this cultural class where things develop and bubble up occasionally into the mainstream consciousness. We wanted to be an incubator space. No other pop culture or culture magazine was taking any stand like that. We did it and we didn’t think we’d have much effect, but we did think we would be a comfort and an aid to those people in the culture who were doing good work but who needed to know that they weren’t the only ones out there, which would allow them to go on with what they were doing and to feel that what they were doing was worthwhile.

You mention in the editor’s notes in a later issue that you got a lot of mail about the fifth issue, some supportive and some very critical.

When you’re a small magazine, you need every issue that you put out to say the same thing over and over about what you’re doing, so that people who see it for the first time can get an idea about what it is you do. So it was very dangerous for us to completely depart from any music coverage, any arts coverage, and devote almost an entire issue to a radical political position stated in pretty blunt terms. We thought, Are we endangering our relationship with our advertisers? But because what we had done was something no one else was doing, it worked in our favor as a business. It won us a good amount of readers who were just shocked that there was this publication in record stores and coffeehouses for free, where you’re usually supposed to find pretty superficial status quo stuff—instead you’re finding this radical, impassioned and very smart talk about what was going on that you couldn’t find elsewhere. That a tiny magazine, with no budget and no capital, could put that together and nobody else could do that with their vast hundreds of millions of dollars, while the Hollywood liberals were all wringing their hands–that says something, not about how great we were but about how awful everybody else was.

Whom were you trying to reach?

We were very conscious that our audiences, our people, were artists themselves, musicians themselves, the record store clerks of America, and we wanted to remind them that they’re being told to shut up and not have an opinion and not state your opinion unless you are a politician or a Middle East expert. And we wanted to remind them that actually the voice of the poet, and the artist, and the musician is often where the deeper wisdom comes from. Those voices have always been heard, have always needed to be present and have always played a role.

By the time you get to the ninth issue [of Arthur], every artist we’re covering is talking out loud about what’s up. In that issue we ran a whole page put together in conjunction with the AFSC about how to counter military recruitment on campuses, in high schools and colleges. We’d already moved to the next part–you can’t have a war unless you have soldiers, so let’s try to convince kids not to be soldiers. That’s something everybody can do in their own neighborhood. Anywhere you live in America there is a high school.

You got a lot of attention for your interview with Sully Erna of Godsmack, in which you confronted him for allowing the military to use his band’s music in its recruitment ads and for using military images at concerts. That seemed to me to be kind of a cultural turning point–after years of hearing people called traitors and such for speaking out against the war, here’s someone challenged to explain why he supported it, and in the end he tried to distance himself from Bush and the war.

I conducted that interview over the telephone just a couple days after Stephen Colbert did his speech at the White House Correspondents Dinner. I believe that was the real turning point. At the time, the mainstream media didn’t pick up on it. It took a few days before they realized that it was the hottest thing on YouTube. The cultural press had figured out that it was the real story, not George Bush and his doppelgänger doing a comedy routine. Colbert had done something absolutely heroic. And Neil Young was just about to come out with his Living With War record. So there was this sort of surge that happened, and the interview with Godsmack happened right in there. I’d been waiting to talk with that guy for years. When that invitation to interview him arrived in the mail, it was like a gift.

So you had been following him?

Oh, I’d been following him for years. I keep files. I do my best to do what Ed Sanders does–to keep files, and wait and wait. It’s the only way to be a journalist and advocate sometimes–keep track of stuff the best you can, and when the moment happens, seize it. To me it’s fair game to ask someone why they’re licensing their music to a certain cause. I would be derelict in my duty as a journalist to not talk about that in a time of war. When someone’s doing live concerts that are essentially war rallies, that naturally should be a subject of conversation with that person.

In a later issue, you talked to Kyp Malone, from the band TV on the Radio, about his experiences playing shows where the promoter had allowed military recruiters in to sign up kids against the band’s contract. Is this something you’ve seen a lot of with the artists you cover?

Kyp was the main one who would talk about that, but there have been other things that had happened. [The country-soul band] Brightblack Morning Light had some trouble in Tucson, because they have it in their rider that they don’t want recruiting to go on at their concerts. It’s kind of ridiculous that you’d have to say that…. But if word gets out that that’s in your rider…that was a problem for them.

Have you noticed artists that you cover becoming more radical or speaking out on politics or against the war?

I think that most musicians in the underground tend to be antiwar, peace people, and some of them are more open about it than others. Some of them feel more confident about it and have figured out a way to deal with it onstage or in the press in a way that they think is going to get across something valuable. Devendra [Banhart] didn’t have antiwar songs on his early records, but he did on his last album, and that’s clearly because of what’s been going on and because the situation keeps getting worse and worse.

Do we have someone just churning out the anthems like John Lennon was doing? He was writing song after song over a few months that would go from his guitar to being sung by people in protests. There is nobody doing that right now. I think there are people that are capable of doing it, but they’re not high-enough profile yet.


Without roofs, without lightbulbs…

from Nabob Shineywater of Brightblack Morning Light:

MARCH 12th 2007

“Well in Santa Cruz somehow BRIGHTBLACK MORNING LIGHT’s show aligned with an art opening for the artist who did Neil Young’s ZUMA cover, with our Warm Inventions friend, Colm O’Coesig churning treble for that live BRIGHTBLACK MORNING LIGHT, but before that in Davis we were allowed to do our own sound in a sweet, small rasta-ital cafe….called Delta of Venus.

We’re not living in a tent right now, but you should know our Matador Records long play debut was written/recorded entirely sleeping under the sky without walls or roofs. We were already living in tents so it wasn’t a deliberate act. How did we end up in a tent? Well, we didn’t have anywhere else to go, Alabama was far away & Northern California is pricey…. We had read that most folks live over half their lives underneath lightbulbs, so we wondered if that would be our legacy…. always underneath a lightbulb. We appreciate light and want to know more about it. How does artificial light shape your daily mood? How does natural light make you feel? Living in a tent by a stream, we listened to endangered coho salmon swimming upstream when dozing off. A reclamation of what you react to helps to shape your life. If you live in a city, you will react to the design of that city. If you live rurally you are still reacting to some human designs, but they are limited. If you roll a doobie, then you react to a doobie….”