RETRO REVIEW: THE QUIET ONE: Have You Seen the Bass Player Standing in the Shadows?

Posted on: Jul 5th, 2019 By:

By Ray Dafrico
Contributing Writer

THE QUIET ONE (2019); Dir. Oliver Murray; Documentary about Bill Wyman featuring Eric Clapton, Bob Geldof, Andrew Oldham, Glyn Johns; Opens Friday, July 5 at the Landmark’s Midtown Art Cinema; Trailer here.

Upfront, a disclaimer of sorts, I am a huge Rolling Stones fan. As a rock and roll musician myself, I believe them to be archetypal band, from the quintessential, charismatic front man Mick Jagger; the effortlessly cool, eternal Keith Richards; to the diverse, multitalented abilities of Brian Jones, Mick Taylor and Ron Wood. Ultimately however the band was always at its heart a rhythm and blues band, with its foundation in the rhythm section of Charlie Watts and Bill Wyman, the subject of a new documentary THE QUIET ONE.

The film, directed by Oliver Murray, features commentary from Eric Clapton, Bob Geldof, Andrew Oldham, Glyn Johns and others. Wyman was the Stone who never received the attention that some of his bandmates did,  but amongst musicians, he is considered one of the world’s best bass players. Non-musicians and casual fans probably don’t know that much about him as he was content to stand stoic and mysteriously to the side and back of the stage, being the glue, holding down a machine firing on all cylinders. As Wyman himself says in the film: “We could blown any band off a stage.”

The film begins with Wyman recalling his earliest memories. Born as Bill Perks on October 24, 1936, Wyman recalls the bombings during World War II and how deeply this experience affected him. He could remember classmates suddenly not showing up for school after a bombing raid due to the fact that they had been killed.  The film then reveals Wyman’s relationship, or rather lack of one, with his parents. He was alienated from them and felt closest with his grandmother through whom he discovered collecting and documenting things—something that Wyman, along with photography and music, would continue to do extensively for the rest of his life.  He would become the unofficial archivist for The Rolling Stones, and part of this film’s attraction is its unseen footage from Wyman’s own collection. The death of his grandmother when Wyman was still a child devastated him. His father then pulled him out of school and forced him to work as a bet collector in a local pub. Not unlike a Dickens novel, you feel the pain of this childhood.

Bill Wyman in the Studio. Photo credit: Bent Rej Photography. Used with permission.

Tired of living in dangerous working class Penge, England, Wyman, then still named Bill Perks (which he hated), joined the British armed forces in the late 1950s and ended up stationed in Germany where he discovered rock and roll via Armed Forces Radio and records which American GIs had. He also befriended a man named “Gordon Lee Wyman,” who Wyman describes as “quite a character.” Young Bill Perks was impressed enough to change his name legally to Bill Wyman. Soon after, and under the spell of rock ’n’ roll, Wyman modified his first bass by hand and started his first band The Cliftons.

Upon his return to England he went to an audition that a friend had told him about that would lead to Wyman joining the soon-to-be Greatest Rock and Roll Band in the World. At this point, Wyman’s life accelerates at warp speed—constant touring, fame, riots, rebellion, arrests, sex, and, for most of the band, drugs. Wyman never had any interest in the latter. However, he does describe smoking a joint that was laced with animal tranquilizer and said, “ I don’t need this.”

The Rolling Stones on tour in North America. Photo credit: Bob Bonis Archives Inc./Promotone. Used with permission.

The 1960s were a cultural phenomenon, and The Rolling Stones were front and center. Although the Stones were reaching incredible artistic heights at the time, authorities targeted the band as a threat to society. “It was really us vs. them” is how Wyman describes it, and he then goes on to talk about the deterioration and eventual death of bands founder Brian Jones, in 1969.  Despite a momentous concert in London’s Hyde Park and a very successful US tour, the dark times would continue later that year at the free concert at Altamont, California, where a man was stabbed to death directly in front of the stage while they played. Wyman says he doesn’t like to talk about it because it was so horrible.

The 1970s saw the Stones having to flee the U.K for France because they were so far in debt and British taxes were so high. Wyman dreaded leaving and recalls the madness of recording EXILE ON MAIN STREET in the basement of Keith Richard’s villa in Villefranche-sur-mer. What he would discover was he really liked France and struck up friendships with the likes of Marc Chagall and James Baldwin. Wyman would end up keeping a home there to this day. The Stones continued to tour and record throughout the ’70s, but Wyman felt the need to express himself creatively and was the first member of the band to release a solo LP, MONKEY GRIP, in 1974, followed by “STONE ALONE” in 1976. While these records were mostly just side projects for Wyman, he scored a worldwide hit in 1981 with the song “(Si Si) Je Suis un Rock Star.”

Production Still – Bill Wyman working in his archive. Photo credit: Luke Varley. Copyright: The Quiet Ones Ltd./Promotone. Used with Permission.

While he never fell for drugs, sex, however, was Wyman’s vice, and he explains that his loneliness was probably the cause of  it. Hearing  this in context with his childhood, it is easy to imagine how he could feel this way. Combined with the isolation that fame can bring, it is also easy to understand when Wyman states that it was “sometimes very difficult to keep one’s sanity.” He was first married in the late 1950s to Diane Cory, and they had a child, Stephen from the marriage. When the couple divorced, he felt his son should stay with his mother as he was constantly working and touring. He later found that his son was miserable, sick, and not even being fed. He won custody, and Stephen lived with him from then on. Swedish model Astrid Lundstrom was Wyman’s companion throughout most of the 1970s.

The Rolling Stones were never a band without controversy and Wyman would receive his share when he fell in love with and then married 18-year-old Mandy Smith on June 2, 1989. The tabloids had a field day. In the film Wyman, who was 51 at the time, reflects upon what a mistake it was. He would later go on to meet and marry his current wife, Suzanne Accosta in April 1993. Wyman officially left The Rolling Stones in January 1993 after the very successful STEEL WHEELS comeback tour. He says wanted to leave on a high note and felt that was the time. Wyman talks of his life after The Stones playing with his band The Rhythm Kings, and in the film’s conclusion he tells a wonderful story about a meeting with Ray Charles.

A line from the film that struck me was Wyman saying that all of his heroes were “the little guys.” Director Oliver Murray successfully takes us through Wyman’s journey of a somewhat reluctant rock star’s life. THE QUIET ONE is a surprisingly touching film that speaks from the heart and one which I would highly recommend regardless if you are a Rolling Stones fan or not.

Contributing Writer Ray Dafrico is a guitarist, singer/songwriter and founding member of The Nightporters and Kathleen Turner Overdrive.

 

Category: Features, Retro Review | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Kool Kat of the Week: It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll But Ray Dafrico Likes It

Posted on: Jul 21st, 2015 By:

raydafricoDon’t expect any S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y N-I-G-H-T choruses at the Ray City Rollers‘ gig on July 24 at Steve’s Live Music. Not only is it Friday but Ray Dafrico‘s latest band owes more to The Kinks, The Who and The Stones, although despite his many years toughed out in a black leather jacket, he does admit an affection for the bubblegum rock of the ’60s and ’70s.

Ray is no stranger to Atlanta’s music scene. The last time we talked to the singer/songwriter/guitarist, he’d finished up a documentary,THE NIGHTPORTERS: TELL IT LIKE IT IS, about the early 1980s legendary Atlanta punk-alternative band which he cofounded. Born in New York City, Ray’s family moved around a lot, finally ending up in Roswell. Suburban boredom nurtured a restless among high school friends/musicians which spawned The Nightporters. They moved intown to Pershing Point, a now-demolished decrepit apartment building where Atlanta’s punk rock scene lodged and practiced, got their start at the notorious Blue Rat Gallery and became regulars at 688. They then proceeded to tour widely, including many New York gigs and opening for myriad alt-rock headliners from The Replacements, who became friends and slept on Ray’s floor, to The Clash‘s riotous concert at The Fox Theatre. This Friday’s show will reunite Dafrico with Nightporters drummer Paul Lenz, who has joined the Rollers and also has drummed for Drivin’ N Cryin’. Ray also played in Kathleen Turner Overdrive.

In other words, Ray’s one Kool Kat of the Week that’s way, way overdue. Because that was then and this is now, we concentrated on his current band, but we couldn’t resist the urge to ask him about what’s spinning on his turntable. Yeah, turntable.

ATLRetro: Your new band is the Ray City Rollers. What’s your secret origin story?

Ray Dafrico: Well, my solo bands have kind of been like the same band with different people. I have this pet peeve that you have to change the band name if someone leaves unlike most people who fight to keep using a name even though it’s not really the same band like So and So starring but only one of the original members. In my mind, I’m a purist not a tourist, so my bands, Shades of Shame, Kickstand, Soulfinger, etc., are really one band with different names. The Ray City Rollers were named so because I was going to just call it Ray Dafrico like a solo act with a band. But nobody can pronounce my last name right, so in the tradition of Kathleen Turner Overdrive – another band name I thought up – I just created some goofy name that I thought was hilarious. The only problem is people think it’s some kind of tribute band! I’ve actually had people say to me,”oh yeah, I remember you guys,”  and I have to say, no, it’s not the BAY City Rollers! Sometimes I don’t say anything to make them think I’m some rock star or something.

Ray Cirty Rollers copy 2So how important were the Bay City Rollers to your life?

I actually saw The Rollers in 1976. I thought they were great. I think I was the only guy there not wearing tartan and screaming. (laughs) Everybody says S-a-t-u-r, which I loved but “Money Honey” and “Rock and Roll Love Letter” were right up there. Woody had a punky shag and played a Telecaster, so what’s not to like? Not sure if a lot of people know The Ramones were also influenced by them and were trying to sound like them.

OK, really, you’re known for punk rock but you talk a lot about The Kinks, The Who, The Stones. Why the staying power for those bands for you? Was it a moment in time or are there any bands out there today who come close?

Well, after The Partridge Family and Bay City Rollers, those were the bands that I really go into. They took it up a level, quite a few levels actually. The combination of songs, image and raw energy by those ’60s English bands kinda defines Rock ‘n’ Roll to me. I was always an Anglophile even as a little kid. I used to watch THE THUNDERBIRDS, CAPTAIN SCARLET and THE DOUBLE DECKERS, so the bands were an extension of that, I think. Then I saw QUADROPHENIA and became a Mod when I was 17. Once you’re a Mod, you’re a Mod for life. I was into punk rock but always hated hardcore and all that Oi/Mohawk crap. Punk to me was ’70s style which was more like a Powerpop/Chuck Berry kinda thing.

Ray Double zero011As far as new bands, I try not to be a crotchety old man and say “all new music is crap” – which I do say from time to time (laughs) – but it is difficult to find music that really moves me. Fountains of Wayne are one of those bands. I like The Wonder StuffSpiritualized, Beth Orton, The Strypes, JET, The Mooney Suzuki, April March, Black Joe Lewis, etc. I’m pretty open-minded so I like all kinds of styles of music, but at the same time I know what I like when I hear it and instantly know when I don’t like it. Occasionally something will grow on me over time like any new Stones record. I won’t like it when it comes out, and then five years later it’s one of my faves!

How does the Ray City Rollers differ from your previous bands like The Nightporters and Kathleen Turner Overdrive? Do you have a musical manifesto?

Well, I was co-writer in the Porters and wrote half the songs in KTO. But with The Rollers and my other bands, it’s more focused and closer to how I hear the music in my head and I have more say as to how  to make it happen. My musical manifesto is a quote from Mike Campbell: “Don’t bore us, get to the chorus”!

Ray City Rollers’ first album BABYLON BLUES (released in 2014) got a warm critical reception. Are you working on any new songs? A new album?

Yeah, it did. We didn’t press that many, although we’ve just made more. The feedback it received was great. It got a lot of online airplay, not sure about who else was playing it on the radio. I think it’s the best recording I’ve done so far, and I’m my worst critic so that’s saying something! I have a backlog of about three CDs worth of material, so I am always writing, but it’s difficult because you have to show the songs to the people who are playing with you. So they are new songs to them, but for me they feel ancient. When I play with new people, it’s great because I am reminded of how good they are, and they change depending on who I am playing them with.

raycity1You have been doing some covers also, at least at past gigs. What criteria do you have for the covers you play?

 I like to do obscure covers to test to see if people know its a cover or not. (laughs) I just do ones that I think are cool and are fairly easy to learn. We were doing stuff like “Come on Down to My Boat” by Every Mother’s Son and “Things Get Better” by Eddie Floyd. I really love Stax/Volt soul stuff and bubblegum pop

You’ve been touring a bit–California last year and you were recently in NC. Good to see you back in Atlanta. Any special plans for your gig the Steve’s Live Music?

Yeah, Steve’s will be Paul’s first Atlanta show with us and his birthday! We will also have Dave Biemiller on keyboards. I’ve been looking forever for a good keyboard player and I think I’ve found him. My songs are written with keys in mind, and the sound I’ve been trying to get for The Rollers is original with textures a la The Small Faces, The Attractions and The Band. The funny thing is Dave is my daughter’s boyfriend’s Dad. It’s small world after all. Maybe we should cover that.

nightportersThe Nightporters reunited for a benefit concert for Kat Peters last winter at The Star Bar. What’s it like playing with Paul again and any plans for another reunion show?

Playing with Paul is great. It’s like riding a bike with us. Telepathic in fact because the Nightporters played so much back then. We were also Michelle Malone‘s rhyhm section in the first Drag The River. Paul’s style and and energy has added a lot to the band. The other thing is we understand each others’ jokes and sense of humor and that is important. The door is always open for Porters shows, we had a good time and sounded great at the benefit, so if something comes up and schedules permit, we could do more shows.

Are you up to anything else? Solo projects? Any more film work to follow-up on your Nightporters documentary?

I always have multiple creative things going on but try to focus on one thing at a time. I need to revisit The Porters movie and do an edit and distribution at some point. I’m always doing photography, film/video stuff  and always thinking about doing solo acoustic shows, but I prefer with a band so I tend to talk more about that than actually doing it! Another thing I’ve been considering is DJing or doing a radio or podcast show.

rayd-laundryWhat are you listening to right now?

Well, Julie London on youtube; she’s a sultry dish! I have an addiction to thrift stores and try my best not to go to them, but wind up going in and buying a stack of LPs. Currently on my turntable: Soundtracks to THE IPCRESS FILE (1965), LADY IN CEMENT (1968) and THE GIRL FROM U.N.C.L.E. TV series, The Osmonds’ PHASE IIITHE COUNTRY SIDE OF JIM REEVES, Mott the Hoople‘s first, Richard Pryor, BAD LUCK STREAK IN DANCING SCHOOL by Warren Zevon and GERRI MULLIGAN MEETS STAN GETZ. 

Facebook Event Page for Friday July 24 show here

All photographs are courtesy of Ray Dafrico and used with permission.

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Kool Kat of the Week: SEX BBQ’s Kate Jan Gets Scandalous Turning Up the Heat With a Debut Album, SEX NOIR CITY, and a Saucy Shindig at the Drunken Unicorn

Posted on: Apr 1st, 2015 By:
sbbq live 003

Photo courtesy of SEX BBQ

by Melanie Crew
Managing Editor

Kate Jan, New York transplant and guitar slingin’ skateboarding badass punk rocker chick and her beloved debaucherous band and partners in crime, SEX BBQ [current lineup: Kate Jan (vocals/guitar); Steve LaBate (guitar); Rob Bellury (bass); Steve Brown (drums); and Steve Albertson (everything else)] will be shakin’ a tail feather this Saturday, April 4, at the Drunken Unicorn, with Young Rapids and MammaBear to boot! So, come on down and have a smut slingin’ hell-raisin’ ruckus with SEX BBQ at the Drunken Unicorn this Saturday at 9pm!

Kate, not your typical psych-punk space cowgirl, has been slingin’ her guitar and writing music since childhood, major influences including Riot Grrrl punk rockers, Bikini Kill, as well as the Breeders, ‘90s skate thrash punk and even Chuck Berry. In 2012, Kate voyaged to the southern underground to continue her Neuropsychology education and decided to add a little rockin’ debauchery to the mix! SEX BBQ formed shortly thereafter and have shared bills with Hospitality, Single Mothers, Beach Day, Little Tybee, Concord America, Belle & Sebastian and Warehouse, just to name a few. They’ve also been featured in several national music outlets [PunkNews.org; Under the Gun Review; Speakers in Code; and Magnet Magazine]. SEX BBQ’s first single “Locus of Control” b/w “Wake Up” was recorded by Ed Rawls and Justin McNeight (The Black Lips; The Coathangers; Those Darlins) in the summer of 2012, with both tracks appearing on their new album, SEX NOIR CITY, debuting this spring. The album’s nine new tracks, recorded by Damon Moon [Rrest; Iron Jayne] in East Atlanta, are chock full of surf riffs and garage punk elements, destined to satisfy the retro rockers in us all!

ATLRetro caught up with Kate for a quick interview about SEX BBQ’s debut album, SEX NOIR CITY; her New York City underground roots; and her take on the band being described as “garage, surf, psych, prog, metal, dream pop, indie rock, Tom Waits-style junkyard blues, B-52s-esque, Spaghetti Western weirdness!” And while you’re checking at our little Q&A with Kate, get an earful of SEX BBQ’s vintage, noir rock ‘n’ roll sound, here!

SEX BBQ  murder by T.O. Lawrence

Photo Credit: T.O. Lawrence

ATLRetro: What a cool name for a band! Sex BBQ! Can you fill our readers in on the funky story behind the name and how you got together?

Kate Jan: Thanks! Steve L. and I started playing songs together in my apartment in Atl – we just started writing, playing and having fun. We gradually found Steve #2 (drums), Steve #3 (keys and percussion), Laura Palmer (vocals and organ) and Everett (bass) through friends. The extremely talented and creative Laura Palmer introduced the name SEX BBQ to our vernacular from a satirical guide to decoding your teen’s text lingo (SBBQ). After briefly entertaining and then ignoring the possibility that we’d be set aside as a joke band or a frat-rock dad-rock sextet, we embraced it as the best combination of all words ever. And so SEX BBQ was birthed.

As a skateboarding, guitar-slingin’ neuropsychologist and rockin’ New Yorker chick to boot, what brought you to The Dirty Dirty?

I came for a Neuropsychology Post-Doctoral Fellowship at Emory after getting my PhD, and stayed for the medium bowl at the Old 4th Ward Skatepark.

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Photo courtesy of SEX BBQ

The band’s sound has been described as having a “garage, surf, psych, prog, metal, dream pop, indie rock, Tom Waits-style junkyard blues, B-52s-esque, Spaghetti Western weirdness,” which of course sounds like a helluva good time! How would you describe your sound and your live show?

That pretty much nails our sound. Thankfully we’ve got tapes and records now! Our live show is a party all around. We don’t mess around with stage banter but we play, dance and mingle while we sling those axes and sing our hearts out.

We see that you picked up a guitar pretty early on. Can you tell our readers a story about how you got started playing music?

I got two stories. My mother was a huge Joni Mitchell fan and played acoustic guitar. She played and sang for me. My Dad played piano and actually now plays church organ, which is kind of weird because we are Jewish. But, you know, when music calls it calls. When I was 6, I picked up a guitar and wrote her a song for Mother’s Day. It went something like “I Love You. You’re My Mom.”

I took a few lessons when I was 12 or so, and learned the basics, you know – songs by The Muffs, Seven Year Bitch and most of THE CROW (1994) soundtrack. After that, lying on my floor devouring mid-90s punk and – after Kurt Cobain died – listening to Nirvana day & night went hand in hand with writing my own songs.

Album cover by Steve AlbertsonYour top retro influences are listed as the B-52s, Bikini Kill, the Pixies, Pink Floyd, and even film composer, Morricone, famous for so much, including his Spaghetti Western film scores. What influenced you the most with regards to such a wide-variety of music makers?

It’s a collective list from our variety of band members. I don’t even know who Morricone is, and I always liked the Breeders WAY better than the Pixies. I cried when they broke up way back when. Like bawled.  My major influences are Bikini Kill, Blake Babies and all of 1990s’ skate and thrash punk and NY Hardcore. Recently, I’ve been heavily influenced by The Delmonas, Chuck Berry (at least I hope) and Grace Slick.

As a musician coming from New York, the metropolis of underground music, how would you rate Atlanta and its rockin’ underground music scene? And who are some of your favorite local bands?

My favorite Athens band is straight-up grit-dirty garage party rock trio Free Associates. They rock my world. In Atlanta I really dig Concord America, Todaythemoon, Tomorrowthesun and Jungol. I spent my teenage years going to CBGB, ABC No Rio and Tramps seeing bands like The Skabs, L.E.S. Stitches, Agnostic Front, Bouncing Souls and my friends’ bands. It was just way easier then – there was still punk and hardcore. I think all those clubs are closed now.  While living in Queens in the 2000s, I honestly couldn’t afford to go out. To be verrrrry honest, I spent lots of time writing electronic music on Reason in my tiny apartment. I was dating a hip-hop producer for awhile – shout out to Beatnik & K-Salaam – and got to go to shows and meet people like Talib Kweli, M1 from Dead Prez, Pharaoh Monch and Wordsworth. I almost bowled with Talib Kweli when Brooklyn Bowl first opened. I also hung out with a metal engineering crew and got to see and chill with Lamb of God and my favorite indulgence, nu metal stylies Killswitch Engage. If I had lived in Brooklyn it would have been different in terms of exploring underground/indie music, but holy rent!!

SEX BBQ sacrifice by T.O. Lawrence

Photo Credit: T.O. Lawrence

If you could put together a dream line-up of bands to play with [still around or not], who would it be and why?

Free Associates, Gun Party, Blake Babies, The Delmonas, Jefferson Airplane, Sick of it All, H2O and The Black Lips. Because they all have unique ways of playing energetic shows and they’re all really great. And the Descendents.

You’re touring in support of your debut album, SEX NOIR CITY. Can you tell our readers a little about it?

We haven’t released tour dates for this spring and summer. We are playing April 4th at the Drunken Unicorn and that’s all I can reveal now. Tehee!

Anything scandalous planned for your shakin’ shindig happening this Saturday at the Drunken Unicorn?

I could tell you, but then I’d have to involve you in our Master Plan and you might get in deep, deep shit. Seriously though, once, during a Drunken Unicorn show we created our own micro-economy by distributing SEX Bar-B-Bucks. It was the genesis of the sharing economy and our gateway to taking over the world. It was Everett and Laura Palmer’s idea. In sum, expect wizardry.

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Photo courtesy of SEX BBQ

What’s next for Kate Jan and Sex BBQ?

We are SO STOKED for our release of SEX NOIR CITY, and we will have tapes and a limited run of white vinyls with hand-painted jackets for sale. I think we are even more excited about the new music that we’ve been writing in the meantime. I have a jam space and recording studio in my basement so I think we’re going to record an LP there soon in a collaboration with Jones Maintenance Revue.

Can you tell our readers something you’d like folks to know that they don’t know already?

Music and medicine are both great, but growing flowers and raising a puppy rock too.

What question do you wish somebody would ask you and what’s the answer?

Q: What does your wisest and oldest mentor say about SEX BBQ?
A:  My grandfather is 94, fought in the Royal Air Force as a pilot after escaping Poland, is wildly into classical music, and recently discovered the genius of Brian Jones and the Rolling Stones:  “Keep enjoying, Katie, the world of music, which adds a disproportionally large percentage to human happiness on this earth.”

SEX BBQ playing cards by T.O. Lawrence

Photo Credit: T.O. Lawrence

 

All photos courtesy of SEX BBQ and used with permission.

Category: Kool Kat of the Week | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Tell It Like It Is: Ray Dafrico Remembers a Special Time in the Atlanta Music Scene and a Band Named the Nightporters

Posted on: Jun 11th, 2013 By:

In late April, when THE NIGHTPORTERS: TELL IT LIKE IT IS premiered at The Plaza Theatre, it wasn’t your typical movie screening but a reunion. The crowd was mostly in their 40s and 50s. Many of these folks had families and didn’t stay out late any more. But that didn’t mean they never did and some still had the leather jackets to show for it. When they come out in Atlanta, you know you’re in for a special evening.

If you are old enough to have been part of the early ’80s nascent punk/new wave scene that revolved around the now-legendary 688 Club, you remember a handful of local bands that stood out. You never missed any of their shows, and they played all the time. Perhaps the coolest and most memorable of these bands was The Nightporters. That’s not to say they never had any crappy drunken gigs. They had plenty, but when they were at their best, they were as good as any band that topped the college alternative charts and many that made it big when real punk had faded into a careless memory.

Guitarist/singer/songwriter Ray Dafrico started with some raw found footage of the Nightporters performing, mostly at the Blue Rat Gallery, a notorious art space in the now-demolished Pershing Point Apartments which was ground zero for housing starving punk rockers back in the day. To that, he added interviews with band members and other key members of the scene such as Peter Buck (R.E.M.) and Rick Richards (Georgia Satellites). The end result is a time capsule not just of a band but of the clubs and people that made that period in Atlanta rock history so unique and a frozen moment in time when it seemed like music not just mattered but meant…well…everything.

With the movie now available on DVD, ATLRetro recently sat down with Ray to find out more about the genesis of this home-grown rockumentary, as well as what was so special, as the subtitle states, about “a time, a place and a band.”

ATLRetro: How did the idea of a Nightporters documentary get started?

Ray Dafrico: I got hold of some early footage a couple of years ago by a guy named James Farmer, who was one of the Blue Rat’s artists. There was footage of us that I had never seen. I thought it was really amazing and somebody should make a film and add some interviews. I didn’t know anyone else that would do it so I took it upon myself to start making it.

There really seemed to be a special quality about the early ‘80s music scene in Atlanta. What do you think made that time so special?

I just think it was creative and kind of more innocent in a way. Maybe it was because we were so young that it all seemed new and fresh. Punk rock was fairly new. I was into music, but it seemed inaccessible. With punk rock, you could prove you could do stuff yourself. Once we started doing that, we had a small circle of people that just started growing. Atlanta was really small at the time. There were maybe 10 bands and everyone knew each other. Everybody pulled for each other for the most part and would come to each other’s shows. There was some competition between bands that played in midtown and bands that mostly played like in Buckhead, but eventually we got friendly with most of the bands in town. Nowadays it seems so competitive. There are so many bands. It seems like everybody’s out for themselves.

The Nightporters definitely had that punk rock spirit, but you had other influences, too. 

We were influenced by punk rock, and we kind of sounded like punk rock, but the Sex Pistols just proved that you could go against the system and the corporate  music of the 1970s. But the thing that brought the Nightporters together was more the ‘60s punk bands. Originally the Rolling Stones, but we really liked the more obscure bands that had one-hit wonders like The Count Five. So you’re right, we weren’t directly the late ‘70s kind of punk rock. We were sort influenced by it, but it was an enabling thing than anything else. Our sound was sort of garage mod rock with elements of glam, folk, country, ska and reggae.

How important was 688?

Very important at the time. They just booked some amazing bands. At first, we were underage and we couldn’t get in. It was the same with the Agora Ballroom. It was like we would go down there every weekend and try to get in. There was this long-haired guy at the door. He would call us “weekend anarchists” and kick us out. We tried to see the Plasmatics and all these bands. Finally he let us in to see the Ramones. We had borrowed fake IDs from Marines that didn’t look anything like us. By coming down and trying to get in there for six months, we earned our way in. But yeah, there were [a few] other clubs to go to, like The Bistro, Moonshadow, Metroplex and Rumors, but 688 had the great bands, $1.50 beer  and a lot of cool diverse people would go there. We used to go to this place every Sunday called Margaritaville on Spring and 14th St. We were there so much we talked them into letting us play and turned it into our own club. It soon turned into its own little scene.

Part of it was the clubs, like 688, were more into promoting local music. They were as creative as the bands and at least more willing to experiment. I know [clubs] are about making money because they took a lot of ours, but it just seemed more laidback. They were having fun just like the bands were. It seemed that way anyway.

When did the Nightporters first get together and perform?

We were still in high school, I think, in 1981-82. I was going to say this in the movie, but it was a big deal for us to get from the suburbs to downtown Atlanta. We thought playing Tuesday nights at the Bistro was success. We had started at high school parties playing our punk rock/’60s songs. We would play to rednecks and jocks, and they were always trying to beat us up. Tim [Neilson] and Andy [Browne] and I were all transplanted Yankees, and there was still a lot of hostility towards outsiders in Atlanta especially in the suburbs.We got really tough because we were always having to mentally and physically fight with these people. We thought by the time we got to the cool new wave/punk clubs that we had made it. Anything beyond that was easy for us. I think that kind of shows because we were a really rough band. We earned that.

Can you talk a little about the Blue Rat?

Well, we all lived in the Pershing Point Apartments at 17th and Peachtree Street, that are all torn down now. Andy and I had an apartment there. We didn’t know anybody initially. It was across from the art school I was going to. I dropped out of art school like every good rock guitarist and pursue the Nightporters full time. We were so poor we lived off of hefty bags of popcorn because we knew someone that worked at a movie theatre. It was that and egg rolls from the Chinese grocery on the corner. We rehearsed in our kitchen which we didn’t dare eat in as there were giant cockroaches everywhere! It wasn’t a matter of time before we met two guys named Clark Brown and Chick Lockerman. They were the artists who set up the Blue Rat Gallery in their apartment. They asked us to play one of their openings. A huge crowd came out to see us of really crazy and eclectic people. Like Andy said in the movie, it was like Andy Warhol’s Factory. There were tons of drugs and everyone was just crazy and doing whatever they wanted.

So we became kind of the house band at the Blue Rat. We would rather play there than a club because it was more fun. We didn’t even charge any money.

How well, or should we say “shitty,” were you paid back in those days?

Once we got better known, we started playing colleges. That’s where the money was. We actually had contracts, not that that means a whole lot. Sometimes people would stiff us even with a contract, but we could get $1000 to play a college frat or something. Even when we were fairly well known, there was one incident in south Georgia where the club owner pulled a gun on us and refused to pay us. I had driven straight back from California to play that show! It showed my dedication, but maybe my stupidity, too. We never made any significant money, partly because we never got a record deal.

But the Nightporters toured a lot, including a lot of gigs in New York.

Yeah, we toured a lot. We went to the northeast a lot and played New York all the time and Boston. We opened for all kinds of people, like Bo Diddley.

Do you have a favorite performer or band you opened for?

We had some good times with Cheetah Chrome and the Dead Boys. Jason and the Scorchers were always fun. We played with The Replacements a lot, but there was a lot of tension there because we were so similar that it was like a competition. They were fun to watch, but they had their good nights and their drunken nights similar to us. Opening for The Clash was fun, even if Mick [Jones], my favorite in the band, wasn’t in the band at the time.

Was that the time when the Clash played the Fox Theatre and there was a riot on Peachtree?

That was actually the time before that the Clash played Atlanta. But I was in the riot. We were in the front row. When we came out, there was literally a riot starting. Chris Wood of The Restraints was in the front with an American flag protesting their communist views or some crap. Somehow a fight started and police cars came from every direction. Everyone was so amped up from the Clash show that they were literally fighting with the cops. It was a blast. It was kind of scary, but it didn’t last long.

We played with them a year or two after that. I had gone to Nashville and met Joe Strummer and got us the show. I just gave them a demo tape because I knew they got local bands to open. We got the show a day or two later.

How close did the Nightporters come to cutting a full LP and getting a recording contract with a record label?

We did make a few records, but we never made a whole album. We did two singles on our own and an EP on Safety Net Records called OUTSIDE, LOOKING IN [1986]. We had a lot of material, but we didn’t have a vehicle to release stuff. Andy and I would go up to record company offices in Manhattan, and they would just look at our clothes like “you’re not Scritti Politti or Duran Duran or whatever was selling then.” They didn’t know what to make of us. We were just way too real for a big label to consider investing in us. That’s my theory anyway.

How hard was it to assemble everyone whom you interviewed in the movie?

The hardest person was our drummer, who I never did get in the movie. It was easier to get Peter Buck from R.E.M. than our drummer. Other than that, I just told people to come down to The Majestic [Diner]. I asked a series of five questions and listened to whatever anyone had to say. The idea for the movie was to try and make it a cross between a Jim Jarmusch-type film like CIGARETTES AND COFFEE or something and a little bit of Spinal Tap and The Rutles. I was trying to keep it real, but light-hearted and funny because that was the way the Nightporters were. On one hand, we really took things very seriously. On the other hand, we didn’t take it serious at all. It wasn’t too hard. The most difficult part for me was editing the four hours of footage.

Do you consider the cut you showed at The Plaza the final cut, or will you still be editing some more?

I wanted to tell the whole story. That’s why it’s two hours long, but some people said it could have been shorter. It’s hard for me because it’s so personal. I think I had to include certain parts, and I guess if I’m going to get it distributed, I am going to have to cut it to half the time. I’m kind of dreading that because by now I’ve seen it so many times.

Are there any outtakes or a blooper reel that could be extras for a commercial DVD?

Yes, there is enough for a blooper reel, which is way funnier than the movie.  I kept interrupting everyone during the interviews saying things like, “I remember that”! It took a long time to cut all that out of the film. So I learned to just keep my mouth shut. It’s my first movie, and I had a lot of fun just doing it. That’s the best part – trying to shoot things 10 times because you’re laughing so hard.

Do you have any regrets that the band didn’t go further on a national scale?

Yes, I definitely regret us not staying together longer. I think we could have been huge, seeing what happened with the Black Crowes after us. Our songs are a lot more original and catchier. They have a lot more hooks. Like I said, we were a real kind of band that fought a lot, and we had a lot of problems. It was extremely difficult to get through even the three or four years together that we were.

Any chance of another Nightporters reunion?

Oh, yeah. Maybe. Definitely maybe. But I don’t really know. That’s not up to me—one person out of the four—to say. Andy and I have talked about it. We both have our own lives now and live in different cities, which makes it all the more difficult. We had enough trouble agreeing on things when we lived in the same apartment. We’re working on it, but sometimes I think we have two different visions of what the band could be.

Plus we all have KIDS! Mine is 18 now so I have a bit of free time, but Andy has two little ones.

What else are you up to? 

I still write tons of songs. I don’t always do a lot with them, but I’m always writing them. I have been playing under my own name with different musicians—whoever is available. That’s the thing now. I’m 49. It’s not like I’m 20 anymore so it’s hard to pull people together for any reason, much less to do a show. All those years of rocking out have really done a number on us as well; we’re now paying the price. We survived but are not by any means very healthy!  I’ve been working on this movie for the past year. Actually I’d like to make more films. I like editing. It puts all the things I like such as art and photography—I do photography—all in one form. I’m trying to juggle all those things really and start playing out again soon.

DVD Copies of THE NIGHTPORTERS: TELL IT LIKE IT IS are available for purchase for $15, payable directly to Ray Dafrico’s PayPal account at Rockandrollray@yahoo.com and eventually also will be available through Ray’s ReverbNation store link.

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Kool Kat of the Week: Like a Jagged Stone: Keef Richards Gets What He Needs Paying Tribute to a Guitar Legend and Rocks Around the Christmas Tree Sat. Dec. 1

Posted on: Nov 28th, 2012 By:

Barry Zion, aka "Keef Richards," of The Jagged Stones.

Forget the Elvis impersonators. The Rocking Around the Christmas Tree benefit on Sat. Dec. 1 at 7 p.m. treats you to a rarer form of superstar tribute and a delightfully different holiday party courtesy of Nine Inch Neils, who channel Neil Diamond in his ‘70s heyday, and Jagged Stones, whose name should give away the act they idolize that also came of age in the late ’60s/’70s. In addition to two rockin’ fun bands, a humble suggested donation of $10 (kids free) serves up pizza from Mellow Mushroom Decatur, two glasses of beer or wine, free sodas and a dessert bar. There’s also a silent auction including some cool items like a signed movie poster from the TWILIGHT series and an original POWERPUFF GIRLS animation cell from Cartoon Network. Proceeds support the House of the Rock (also the site of the party; 731 Peachtree St., NE, corner of 4th Street) and Lutheran Community Food Ministries, which do amazing work feeding Midtown’s homeless. So if you can, also bring some cans to benefit the food ministry. And parking is free, too.

Last year ATLRetro interviewing Cage, lead singer of Nine Inch Neils, to find out what made him and the band a believer in Neil Diamond. This year, we decided we wouldn’t get no seasonal satisfaction without catching up with Barry Zion, aka Keef Richards, of The Jagged Stones.

ATLRetro: When’s the first time you heard the Rolling Stones and was it love at first listen?

Keef: When I was 13 years old, my older brother turned me onto the GET YER YA-YA’S OUT live album. I had been taking some bass lessons, and the guitar work on that album immediately grabbed me. I can remember playing the Chuck Berry cover “Carol,” about 200 times a day until I developed the strength to do that Keith Richards rhythm. It’s quite a physically challenging thing when you are first learning as it takes all of your fingers, barre technique, pinky strength and solid rhythm with the right hand, plus the added handicap of playing on a $20 acoustic guitar with string height action that was measured in feet rather than millimeters. But thanks to that, it helped me develop some very strong muscles in my left hand. After that it allowed me to focus on the other songs and I wore out that album.

It wasn’t until I was older that I mastered Keith’s tunings and techniques and got closer to his sound, and Mick Taylor‘s fluid lead playing was something that took me years to even understand and is something I am still working on today. Mick Taylor is in my opinion, the most under-rated guitarist in rock, and his time in the Stones is clearly the era that grabbed me the most and that I try to emulate in my playing.

There’s got to be a great story about how you all came together to found a Rolling Stones tribute band?

I had recently relocated to Atlanta from NY/NJ/PA, and I had been frequenting the Atlanta jam scene and been known as “that Allman Brothers guy, that did some Stones too.” Duane Allman and Dickey Betts are other influences on my playing. I was not really interested in being in a band for the usual reasons – low pay, long hours, lots of competition, playing songs you don’t like, smoky bars, etc. One of my jam friends saw on Craigslist an ad for an open audition for a Rolling Stones tribute band, and he dragged me to the tryout. Well, of course, everybody want’s to be Keith, and when I got there, the audition coordinator asked me if I wanted to take the lead guitar spot for the audition. Since I planned on trying out for Mick Taylor’s spot, I quickly set up. I think the first song we played was “Wild Horses,” and I guess I nailed it pretty good and stayed close to the album. Then while another Keith was setting up, Skip [Stephen Skipper, aka Mick Jagger in the band] and I were sitting around, and I started playing “Love In Vain.” The two of us just clicked, and from then on Skip put the pressure on me to be in the band.

Funny we clicked so well, that he asked me which of the Keiths I liked the best, and I told him, that I thought I could do a better Keith than any of the guys that had auditioned. Skip didn’t want to lose me as Mick Taylor, but I assured him that I could backfill a lead guitarist for my slot (Yeah, even back then I had Eddie Brodeur, our current guitarist in mind) and that it was more important to have a strong Keith guitarist in the band. Well, with some hesitation, Skip let me try it, and I guess I did pretty good during that audition and have been Keef ever since then.

Since then Skip and I have become “Soul Brothers,” and we share the same vision on where the band is going. All the guys in the band are the top musicians that I had met from the jam scene.  Dave Lang (keyboard/vocals/guitar/harmonica/kitchen sink) and I had met a few months before that at a Kennesaw jam. About a year before that, Eddie Brodeur (lead guitar/Ronnie Woods) and I had met  at a Southern Rock theme night jam where without a rehearsal we absolutely clicked. It’s a really rare thing to have two lead guitarists that can leave space for each other and have styles that are different enough yet similar enough for the magic to happen. Eddie is that guy for me. The bass player and drummer took a while to settle in, but Joel Edwards (bass) is one of the most sought after bass players in Atlanta, and he’s a scary good musician that can play just about any style, and also plays drums, keyboard and guitar very well. Frankly I was shocked that he wanted to play in The Jagged Stones. He has, in my opinion, solidified us and carried us over that hump of trying to establish a new band.   Martin Abbot was the drummer that same night I played with Eddie at the theme night, and I knew that day that he would be the rock steady drummer to anchor the rhythm section.

Keef Richards (Barry Zion) and Mick (Stephen Skipper) of The Jagged Stones.

How many Rolling Stones tribute bands are out there and where do The Jagged Stones fit in?

We definitely have some competition and that keeps us always trying to improve. I really love The Glimmer Twins from Philadelphia. I’ve seen them  on visits I make up north, and they are a vintage 70s Stones band. I think because we are a bit older, we are more of the recent Stones tribute, probably 90s/2000s. The GTs don’t travel much down here, and we don’t travel up there, so I like to think that we are mutually supportive of our respective bands, and territories. Their Mick (Keith Call) and Keith (Bernie Bollendorf) are masters at their craft, and they have a great supporting cast behind them and have been at it for quite some time and are successful at it.  I really respect Bernie and the attention he pays to the tunings and the version of the songs they play. I think what sets us apart from the other tributes, is that Skip nails the look and sound of Mick Jagger whereas most of the other tribute bands have a Mick Jagger lookalike, but they don’t sound much like him.

This is your second year doing the Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree show at the House of the Rock with the Nine Inch Neils, right? How did you get involved?

Cage (Neil Diamond from the Nine Inch Neils) was instrumental in getting Skip to go from a karaoke singer to a front man for The Jagged Stones. Last year’s event was really our first “real gig,” and thanks to Cage, we got that gig and met Jon Waterhouse and Pastor Matt. Jon has been a key to our success, and without his support and guidance we would probably not be together, so anything that we can do to help Jon out including playing his charity events we try to do. For me, once I saw what was going on at The HOTR last year, I was just really moved by the people that are involved with the church and the event. It was a real special event for me, and one that I will always remember. I think this year will be even better, as we are now more seasoned, and our current lineup is firing on all cylinders.  People have told me that they can see that we all have fun playing the music and that it carries over to the audience.

What can audiences expect from the Jagged Stones at Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree this Saturday? Holiday favorites? Greatest hits?

We always put a lot of thought into our setlist and tailor it to each show.  Dave Lang works hard on that and takes in all the parameters of the venue. You will definitely hear all the familiar Stones hits and a few deeper cuts for the Stones aficionado. They have such a vast catalog of hits, [so] it becomes challenging to try and cram them all into the time we have allotted.

Some people might think the event can’t be hip, because it’s at a church. But to us this just tells us the House of the Rock is mighty hip. Tell them why they’re wrong.

As I said above, the event was an incredibly moving experience for me last year. I was surprised that the Church has a state-of-the-art sound system, lighting and a nice size stage for Skip to strut his stuff on. The people who organize and staff the event are cool cats and chicks and are more of the hippie generation, and certainly not that image I had of little old church ladies pulling bingo balls. Pastor Matt is quite a musician himself and has a pretty good band that plays regularly at the HOTR. I live close by and it truly touched me how they are helping the hungry in downtown Atlanta. I have been shopping the whole week for canned food to bring with me and encouraging all our friends to go above the ‘suggested one can of food. Also it’s such a bargain at $10 for two excellent bands, let alone Mellow Mushroom Pizza and two drinks. You’d be hard pressed to find that anywhere around Atlanta.

What’s gives you the most satisfaction about being a Rolling Stone impersonator?

Well if you look up the definition of ‘Rock & Roll’ in a dictionary, there should only be a picture of Keith Richards there. He is Rock & Roll, and what better character could anybody want to portray then Keith?! Lots of people think Keith is not a very good guitar player, but he finished in the #10 spot in Rolling Stone Magazine’s Top 100 Greatest Guitarists of all time. I think it’s easy to take him for granted as he is not flashy or incredibly fast or a very innovative kead player. However he is the riff-master. There are only a handful of guitarists that you can identify by their tone, and Keith’s tone is one of those. It doesn’t take more than a few notes to identify a Rolling Stones song on the radio. I try really hard to reproduce the subtleties of his tone by using his tunings, instruments, attack and, of course, dressing up like him and moving around like him.

What’s next for you and the Jagged Stones in terms of gigs? Any recordings?

Recordings are not something I have given much thought to, but Skip has been in the studio recently recording some corporate stuff that needed some Jagger-like vocals. We love playing live and thrive at auditoriums and festivals. Skip has a knack of working a big stage and reaching a big crowd. In addition to the HOTR show, we are really looking forward to our New Years Eve show at The Strand.

What do you do when you are not a Jagged Stone?

Besides sleeping? For fun, I like to take long walks in dimly lit cemetaries. Seriously I enjoy the jam scene around Atlanta, and have a day job that keeps me pretty busy. The joke I have is that I am an “Antique Consultant,” which has its origin in women giving me the usual interrogation to assess my datability quotient:

Woman: What’s your name?
Me: Barry
Woman: What do you do?
Me (over loud music): IT Consulting,
Woman, yelling: Wow that’s so interesting. Have you ever been on ANTIQUES ROADSHOW???
Me: No, not antiques. IT like computers.
Woman:  Oh ok, cya.

So I learned to just go with the antiques and say I speacialize in Queen Anne chairs, and the interrogation proceeds a few more questions, before the woman leaves.

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Kool Kat of the Week: Getting the Third Degree from The District Attorneys’ Drew Beskin on Their First Album and Their Next Gig with Modern Skirts and Tedo Stone at The Earl This Saturday Jan. 14

Posted on: Jan 10th, 2012 By:

The District Attorneys. Photo courtesy of Drew Beskin.

The temps are supposed to be dropping again by the weekend. So when we heard several reviewers peg The District Attorneys’ sound as summery and that they were opening for Modern Skirts along with Tedo Stone at The Earl this Saturday Jan. 14, it was easy to warm us up to interrogating lead singer/guitarist Drew Beskin as the first Kool Kat of 2012.

True, the Athens-based quintet only have been around since 2009, but they’ve been turning a lot of heads and getting some rave reviews for their first two EPs. Atlanta Music Guide’s Eileen Tilson even suggested that the seven songs on their debut EP, ORDER FROM (2010), “would easily make them an appropriate opener for The Rolling Stones circa 1963.” As for WAITING ON THE CALM DOWN:THE BASEMENT SESSIONS (2011), Eric Chavez, also in Atlanta Music Guide, effused that “With southern rock riffs mixed in with some dreamy pedal steel and a touch of surfer vibes soaked in reverb, these guys make you want to chillax on the porch with an ice cold Lone Star and reminisce about the good ‘ole days.” The District Attorneys also just finished recording their first full LP produced by Drew Vandenberg (The Whigs, Drive By Truckers, Deerhunter, Futurebirds, Modern Skirts), due out around March. And hey, Drew lists The Replacements, Jesus and Mary Chain and The Smiths as the band’s biggest influences.

Enough back story already. Download their first two EPs for free here, and while you’re chilling and listening, let Drew fill you in on how the DAs got started, some more 20th century musicians he and the band dig and why you need to come out to The Earl Saturday!

What’s the secret origin story of The District Attorneys and what’s in the name?

The band started when me and Chris (Wilson, drummer) decided to form a band after I graduated and he was still at UGA. After that, we acquired a few friends to play with us until it became the line-up that it is today. The District Attorneys became something real when we discovered Frank Keith IV (bass) who is basically Love Potion #9 in human form and has been the main reason we’ve been able to get cool shows to play on. The band name is a tribute to the Bob Dylan song “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” as well as a love for bands like Interpol and The Police.

Your Facebook page describes your sound as Americana and rock, and reviewers have likened you to California country rock and described your EPs as summer music. How would you describe your sound to someone who’s never heard you and what song should they listen to first?

I would def be confident in my answer if the new record was already out. The first two EPs were just as much about finding out our strengths and weaknesses as well as rushing to get something out there to show people we have our own original material that isn’t awful. I’m cool with the summer music vibe, but I think one of my favorite things about this band is that our songs are starting to get very different with each song. Some are fast and rockin’ 2-minute pop songs and some are like the California summer rock stuff. I think if you check out “California Fire” and “Slowburner” from the most recent EP of demos (WAITING ON THE CALM DOWN: THE BASEMENT SESSIONS), you can hear a big difference in style. I always really liked “Sweetheart All Reckless And Humble” from the first EP as well, which reminds me more of a Cure/Jesus and Mary Chain song than anything else.

Can you name a few 20th century musicians who have been key influences and inspirations for you and the band, and why?

I’ll just mention the first few that come to me…um…I always say The Replacements, The Jesus and Mary Chain and The Smiths. I probably say that because I love their guitar tones and how soundtrack-like they sound. I love those bands and I def try to add some of that to our stuff. I will always be obsessed with Elton John and Prince, but I don’t think I have found a good way to showcase those influences in the band…yet.

How do you approach songwriting and select which tunes make it onto your recordings?

I don’t really have a formula for songwriting. It happens differently every time, but I have noticed that it’s usually not the stereotypical sitting down at the keyboard or guitar and writing. I usually come up with something in [my] head or the start of something in my head, and then I bring it to an instrument to accompany whatever new random idea I might have. When bringing new songs to band, I like to play two or three of them at a time and then have the band pick which one they are most eager to add their own ideas to. If it sucks, we can just move on to another one. The new record started out as an 18-song record, but after some options were thrown out, we recorded 14 good songs but ended up ditching two of them because they didn’t fit the vibe we were going for.

What can you tell us about your first full-length album and when will it be available?

The album will be 12 tracks. We are close to deciding what the name of the record will be ,so I don’t want to say just yet. It was produced by Drew Vandenberg at Chase Park Transduction in Athens and will be released hopefully in March, if not a little sooner. We will be releasing it through This is American Music which is a label that houses one of our favorite artists ever, Glossary.

Will we hear any of those new cuts at the Earl on Saturday night?

I’m pretty confident that 97% of the material we play on Saturday will be from the new record. We have been living with these songs for the album for a good while now so we actually are pretty eager to start bringing out some brand new and unrecorded material. But we will try and wait a little bit before we do that.

What else can you tell us about the show and playing alongside the Modern Skirts and Tedo Stone?

The Earl is one of my favorite venues to see shows at. I’ve seen The Tallest Man on Earth, AA Bondy and most recently the Diamond Rugs show [there], which was an eye-opening experience. The venue and all the bands playing this Saturday night will make it a very fulfilling night of music. Modern Skirts are incredible, and we are so excited to share the stage with them. Tedo Stone is a pretty new band with some of the best music I have heard in awhile.

How did you first get into making music? Is this a passion that goes back to when you were a kid?

I always wanted to be a drummer, but I was given a guitar at age 13 because drums would have been too noisy for my rents. At first I just wanted to learn the riffs to “Day Tripper,” “Crazy Train” and “Heartbreaker,” and then I wanted to get all the way through “All Apologies.” After about three years of that, I wanted to start writing my own songs to see what I could come up with.

What did you do musically before the DAs?

Everyone in the band has a colorful musical past, but before The DAs I spent most of my time writing songs by myself, occasionally playing open mic nights in Bloomington, Indiana, when I was at Indiana University. I also played bass for a local art-punk band while I was up there, but mainly I just wanted to work on my songwriting and demo as much as possible.

What do you do when you’re not writing and/or playing music?

We are all working or in school at the moment so whenever we aren’t focusing on The DAs or other musical projects we are busy with that not-so-fun stuff.

Any other news you’d like to share about what’s coming up in 2012 for the District Attorneys?

We are hoping to get to Austin for SXSW and tour more behind this record and hopefully get it in the ears of many new listeners. We have some exciting local shows coming up and hopefully a CD release gig sometime in the spring. We can’t wait for everyone to hear the record, and then we can’t wait to start working on the next one and any EPs in-between.

What question do you wish a reporter would ask you but they never do? And what is the answer? 

Let’s see, no one ever asks me what my favorite John Travolta/Nicolas Cage movie is. It is FACE/OFF (1997). Thanks for asking finally!

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Kool Kat of the Week: Nine Inch Neils’ Cage Loves Like Diamond and Hopes to Give You a Holly Holy Dream of a Time Rocking Around the Christmas Tree This Saturday Night

Posted on: Dec 15th, 2011 By:

Cage. Photo courtesy of Nine Inch Neils.

Forget the Elvis impersonators. The Rocking Around the Christmas Tree benefit on Sat. Dec. 17 treats you to a rarer form of superstar tribute and a delightfully different holiday party courtesy of Nine Inch Neils, who channel Neil Diamond in his ‘70s heyday, and Jagged Stones, whose name should give away the act they idolize that also came of age in the late ’60s/’70s. In addition to two rockin’ fun bands, a humble cover charge of just $7 and one can of food entitles each guest to one complimentary Chick-fil-A sandwich, unlimited sodas and a free dessert bar. Those 21 and older can enjoy up to two glasses of complimentary beer or wine. Such a deal! Proceeds benefit the House of the Rock (also the site of the party;731 Peachtree St., NE) and Lutheran Community Food Ministries, which do amazing work feeding Midtown’s homeless five days a week.

ATLRetro caught up with Cage, lead singer of Nine Inch Neils, to find out what made him and the band a believer in Neil Diamond, where Neil fits in the wacky world of rock tribute bands and what they have planned when they rock around the Christmas tree this Saturday night.

ATLRetro: When’s the first time you heard Neil Diamond and was it love at first listen?

Cage: I think it was “Love On the Rocks” and yes. I remember seeing it performed as well in some GLEE-like show and thinking, “I can do that song. …It’s in my range.” And his voice has a kind of a growl to it unlike the pop icons of that era. While the other songs on the radio at the time were all for tenors, that was something I could sing.

There’s got to be a great story about how you came to found a Neil Diamond tribute band?

It is a long story, but it starts with a picture in some magazine of this ’60s pop star playing a small club in England. He was dressed to the nines in his glitter and glam, but his back-up band at that particular gig were punk rockers with the spiked hair and dressed in all leather. The picture was priceless.

Cage performs with Nine Inch Neils. Photo courtesy of Nine Inch Neils.

What about the name, Nine Inch Neils? Goth-industrial doesn’t seem very Neil, or do you ever perform Diamond songs with a Reznor edge?

Guitarist 211 came up with that name after we decided to change the band’s name from Hot August Knights. There is a Neil Diamond tribute band in Canada that took that name this year, so there is no going back. It was funny at the time, and you have to admit it’s catchy. It also gets us gigs at some rock clubs who otherwise would snub their noses at a Neil Diamond tribute no matter how much it rocks. Our renditions don’t go the Goth way. It has the edge of the classic rock gods of the ’70s.

How many Neil Diamond bands are out there and where do you fit in?

In a quick estimation, there are about a dozen bands here inAmericaand others abroad and maybe 50 individuals using background tracks. The well-known acts are traditional acts that use the synthesizers and female singers and everyone knows what to expect. There are very few, if any, that do it the way we do. I think that with exposure on a wider level, we could be one of the top.

What can audiences expect from Nine Inch Neils at Rocking Around the Christmas Tree? Diamond holiday favorites? Greatest hits?

We’ll perform two sets. The hits, of course, gems as always and a couple of new songs for us as a band not covered on any of Neil’s albums. They were popularized by the Monkees but written by Neil Diamond. “Look Out, Here Comes Tomorrow” and “A Little Bit Me, a Little Bit You.” We “Neil” them up, and rock them out. We haven’t found the right holiday song to perform. Maybe next year.

Some people might think the event can’t be hip, because it’s at a church. But to us this just tells us the House of the Rock is mighty hip. Tell them why they’re wrong.

The House of the Rock is a great venue. It is set up for live music. The sound will be amazing, plus it’s smoke free and clean! I hope they keep having shows there. Give it a chance. You won’t be disappointed.

What do you do beyond the music to perfect your Diamond impression?

I honestly don’t think of it as an impression. I do what music and lyrics move me to do. Beyond the music I draw inspiration from some great picture books of early Neil Diamond at live shows. The photographers seem to capture the emotion on his face and passion in his contorted body in those still shots. I listen to early live recordings and imagine what was happening on stage, what he was doing, feeling and thinking. I read and listen to interviews he’s done in the past and research the meanings and inspiration of the lyrics. It’s like an actor studying a role. The good ones embody the spirit of the person they portray.

What’s the coolest part about being a Neil Diamond impersonator?

The hair.

What’s next for you and the Nine Inch Neils in terms of gigs? Any recordings?

Cage. Photo credit: Lindsay Appel.

We hope to record something in the near future to give to fans. Nothing over-produced, just a live studio session. There will be a few festivals and events in the coming year along with some local bar gigs. We will keep you posted on facebook/nineinchneils.

What do you do when you’re not impersonating Neil Diamond?

I like to DJ weddings, mix music, run sound for bands at private events, and encourage my talented friends to pursue their dreams.

Category: Kool Kat of the Week | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Kool Kat Of The Week: Ben Ruder Smuggles Some Contraband Cinema into The Plaza

Posted on: Oct 4th, 2011 By:

Plaza Manager/Projectionist Ben Ruder loves film so much it even tastes good.

By Philip Nutman
Contributing Writer

Ben Ruder is one of the unsung heroes of Atlanta.

As chief projectionist and manager of The Plaza Theatre, he’s a cinephile who keeps the art and pleasure of movie-going alive in an era of digital downloads, streaming and DVD boredom. You can train a monkey to run the 16 digital projectors at a chain-run multiplex; but knowing how to repair an actual film print, especially an old one, and project it properly is a skill that’s sadly coming to the end of the reel. Ruder is one of that dying breed – a real projectionist who cares about the experience patrons have when they see a movie at The Plaza. Now, along with other like-minded lovers of celluloid, he’s starting to program CONTRABAND CINEMA, an ongoing, eclectic selection of rare films in a variety of formats (Super-8, 16mm; everything from avant garde to rare, archival, educational films, and personal Underground artistic expressions). The first show is this Thursday, October 6 at 8 p.m. at The Plaza – and that’s why he’s our Kool Kat of the Week.

Ben took time out from his busy schedule to share the details on what promises to be a fascinating kick-off for a series of eye-treats for Atlantans who are tired of the same old Studio produced rubbish cluttering up area multiplexes. He also shared a little bit about his company RUDERMEDIA, his personal love affair with film on film and why helping owners Jonathan and Gayle Rej to preserve the Plaza is such a passion.

ATLRetro: How did CONTRABAND CINEMA evolve?

BEN: Contraband Cinema is an Atlanta-based micro-cinema safehouse based on, inspired by and executed under the guidance of Craig Baldwin‘s Other Cinema in San Francisco – an ongoing series of experimental film, video and performance. Contraband Cinema strives to select the best work locally and around the world, transplant it to the south, and nurture it through close collaboration with regional filmmakers, curators and established film institutions.

Contraband Cinema is operated by Marcus Rosentrater and Gideon Kennedy. Marcus and I have talked about doing something together for a while, as he is a regular volunteer for us at the Plaza. We are both big fans of the medium of film and wanted to share hard-to-obtain materials with other cinephiles. Through my company RUDERMEDIA, I am assisting Marcus with locations, equipment, and providing “Film Education” programming which takes a look at educational shorts shown in the classroom, as well as teaching the attendees lessons on how 16mm projection works as well as what goes into film preservation and restoration. I secured The Plaza for this first event, but we’ll be in several nontraditional screening spaces for future shows.

This month we’ll also have a “photobooth” set up in the lobby before and after the screening where you get 5 seconds of time in front of a Super 8mm camera which will be screened at a future event, as well as posted online after processing.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Life Goes On for Murray Attaway as Guadalcanal Diary Rises Again 30 Years Later at Smith’s Olde Bar

Posted on: Jun 30th, 2011 By:

Photo courtesy of Guadalcanal Diary.

I see life like a mirror
And I see life so much clearer

We move so quickly
Who knows where the time goes
Where does this road lead?
No one knows, no one knows

-Excerpted lyrics from “Litany” by Guadalcanal Diary (2 x 4, 1987)

Back in the early ‘80s when alt-rock was still called post-punk or new wave and relegated to the ghetto of college radio, Athens seemed to grab all the cutting edge music glory in Georgia. While many music critics liked to insist Guadalcanal Diary came from that scene (their first LP was on Danny Beard’s DB Records, which while based in Atlanta, was known for breaking out The B-52s), the band actually hailed from Marietta, proving something much more innovative than the Big Chicken could hatch out of what’s often thought of as Atlanta’s most white-bread suburb.

It doesn’t seem like it could possibly have been three decades ago when they first got together to play a friend’s backyard wedding, but it’s mighty good to hear that Guadalcanal Diary, who broke up in 1987, are back and performing live, if only for two shows. The first was at AthFest last weekend, and rumor has it that the second at Smith’s Olde Bar is already sold out. Yeah, it seems like there are plenty of folks who miss hearing the voodoo jangly twang with an offbeat sense of humor of “Watusi Rodeo”—the name of their first EP released in 1983 (Entertainment on Disk) and later a song on the WALKING IN THE SHADOW OF THE BIG MAN LP (1984) released on DB Records and produced by Don Dixon (REM, Smithereens). Back then MTV’s CUTTING EDGE, the go-to late night show for progressive content, named the video for “Watusi Rodeo” its video of the year. They’d go on to cut three more albums, and even after they broke up, thankfully they’d occasionally reunite every once in a while for a show and even cut a live CD, GUADALCANAL DIARY AT YOUR BIRTHDAY PARTY, in 1998.

In more recent years, lead singer/guitarist Murray Attaway recorded a memorable solo album, IN THRALL, and lately he’s been performing again with Guadalcanal Diary guitarist and oft co-composer Jeff Walls in Bomber City. Walls has popped up in a variety of bands including Hillbilly Frankenstein, Dash Rip Rock, Southern Culture on the Skids, Man or Astro-Man? and The Woggles. ATLRetro caught up with Murray to find out why Guadalcanal Diary decided to regroup this summer and what’s ahead for him, Walls and the band…

You were one of the bands that converted me to a whole different way of looking at music, listening to WRAS in the early 1980s. It’s great to hear you guys playing again. What inspired you to bring the band back this summer?

That is very kind of you. The advent of social networking had a hand in the reunion. I had quite a number of music people, promoters and such contact me over the last few years asking if I had plans to do any more music. This led directly to Jeff and I starting Bomber City. As 2011 drew near, Jeff, Rhett, John and I began to discuss the possibility of doing a few Guadal shows to commemorate our 30th anniversary. And here we are.

Is it the whole original line-up—you, Jeff Walls, John Poe, Rhett Crowe?

Yes, we’d never consider it otherwise.

For those too young to remember, briefly how did Guadalcanal Diary get started and why the name?

Jeff and I had been writing songs together on and off for years, and we wanted to play them live. We both had been in a band called Strictly American with Rhett’s brother Curtis Crowe of Pylon, and John and Jeff were in a couple of bands together as well, The Motive and The Rooms. Rhett and I were a couple at the time and she wanted to learn to play bass, which Jeff taught her. The original idea involved doing a number of Civil War ballads all rocked up, but, thankfully, our originals sunk that idea. The name, taken from the Richard Tregaskis novel, seemed ambiguous enough to work creatively under. Plus, it sounds like water.

Who were your early influences? In an old Spin interview, you mention XTC, Bowie, Velvet Underground, Roxy Music but also old country like George Jones?

Yes, there are quite a few older country artists I like: Hank Sr., Johnny Horton, Buck Owens. Big list. Also Yes, Tull, Eno, Beatles, Stones, Miles Davis, Wynonie Harris. This could take days…

“Watusi Rodeo” is your best-known song, but what’s your personal favorite and why?

I like that song. I also like “Litany,” “Trail of Tears,” “Ghost on the Road,” “Vista” and “Pretty Is As Pretty Does.” “Litany” came along at a very happy time in my life, and I think the song reflects it. I hope.

In an interview from 1993, you were asked whether you had any regrets about breaking up in 1989 but you said that while you were possibly poised for the kind of mainstream success that Soul Asylum had, you were happy the band didn’t push it until you were burnt out and no longer friends. How do you feel about that now, or are you sick of answering that question?

Did the interviewer ask me specifically about Soul Asylum? I was only peripherally aware of them, so I’d be surprised to know that I compared Guadal to them. I am still happy that things turned out the way that they did. I don’t like the idea of comparing one group’s success to another’s. Guadalcanal Diary’s original goal was to be able to headline 688 on a Friday night. We went a little further, happily. I’m pleased with the body of work we left. I’m even more pleased that we are still good friends.

You’re often more associated with Athens than Marietta. Was the gig at AthFest a bit of a coming home?

Yes indeed. No matter how much we may have bitched early on about differentiating between us and Athens, Athens became Guadalcanal Diary’s home. So Athfest was great, certainly a homecoming.

Any special plans for the Smith’s Olde Bar show?

Yes, to top the performance at Athfest.

When will we hear Guadalcanal Diary live again or a new recording?

No plans, but either is possible.

What’s up with Bomber City and are you collaborating with Jeff on anything else?

After a personnel change last year, we’ve been rehearsing steadily and are ready to play live again. First show is July 30 at The Melting Point in Athens.

Are you up to any more solo work or anything else musically right now?

Between Guadal and Bomber City, and a startup company that I’m a partner in, my hands are full. Jeff’s the one who’s in four bands at a time, plus producing. I think he takes lots of vitamins.

What’s your favorite Atlanta used record store and why?

Wax n’ Facts.  Danny Beard put out our first LP, and he’s also a relative by marriage. Plus great selection.

What question do you wish someone would ask you but they never do, and what’s the answer?

I wish someone would ask me why I like peanut butter and dill pickle sandwiches. Because they’re crunchy, sweet and sour.

 

Category: Features | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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