Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Main Stage

Three years since the Autumn Defense’s self-titled album, John Stirratt and Pat Sansone return with the band’s latest Once Around (Yep Roc). The two Wilco members continue to dig deep into the West Coast well of 70s era smooth rock, but Once Around comes off as something Paul McCartney’s Wings might have produced. While there are quiet flourishes of electric guitars (“Back Of My Mind”), the group maintains the acoustic drive throughout its fourth album that has been a staple to its sound for close to ten years. One of the album’s true highlights is the vocal work done by Stirratt and Sansone. The more soulful elements of Wilco’s past two albums, Sky Blue Sky and Wilco (The Album), certainly show their influence on Once Around. The Autumn Defense continues to succeed by building on the simple formula of good songwriting mixed with thoughtful arrangements.

The Autumn Defense @ Lincoln Hall (11/20) w/Sarah Lee & Johnny

Photo Courtesy of The Autumn Defense

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Main Stage

Continuing the tradition of bands never staying broken up…here comes Guided By Voices. Nearly six years since lead singer Robert Pollard and company said good-bye at Metro on New Year’s Eve, the Ohio group returns in the form of its’93-‘96 lineup.

Tobin Sprout, Mitch Mitchell, Greg Demos, Kevin Fennell and Pollard will dust off the beer bottles and bring back some GBV gems to the stage. After selling out the Vic Theatre in less than ten minutes, high ticket demand moved the show to the Riviera Theatre. Whether or not the GBV banner will wave again after this reunion tour is uncertain. For now, the indie rock elders are posting sell-out dates on its “Hallway of Shatterproof Glass” tour. For some fans, this might not be the GBV you don’t remember passing out to during a show, but GBV 1996 is better than no GBV at all in 2010.

Guided By Voices @ Riviera Theatre (10/13/10) - SOLD OUT

Photo Courtesy Of (Old)

Extra! Extra!

The October issue of Chicago Innerview is now available online. For this month's issue, I contributed a feature on Teenage Fanclub.

For the article, click the link below:

Teenage Fanclub


Monday, August 02, 2010

Extra! Extra!

The August issue of Chicago Innerview is now available online. This month's issue showcases the upcoming Lollapalooza festival (August 6-8) in Grant Park and provides a guide through each day's lineup.

For anyone attending the festival, print copies will be available onsite and around the city. For this issue, I contributed write-ups on The New Pornographers, Mavis Staples and Stars.

Click on the links below for the page for:

The New Pornographers

Mavis Staples


*You may have to scroll down on certain pages to locate the write-up.


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Extra! Extra!

Lumino Magazine added my Playboy review as a late addition. Included with the article are some additional photos from the event held at The Venue on June 10th:

Lumino Magazine - Playboy Party Review


Monday, June 14, 2010

The Futureheads @ Lincoln Hall (6/12/10)

The Futureheads concluded its first U.S. tour in four years with a blasting show at Lincoln Hall in support of their fourth album The Chaos. The quartet hammered out a set that delivered song after song at a breakneck pace that left the crowd little time to catch its breath. It was a night of catching up with the band from Sunderland, England rather than becoming reacquainted after so long. The band and its fans were certainly happy to see each other again.

Having gone through the down time caused by singer/guitarist Barry Hyde’s tendonitis, which led to the band pulling its U.S. tour in 2006, and the eventual split from its record label, 679 Recordings, The Futureheads walked on stage with confidence and joy. There was a sense that this band, still relatively young in its career, had a strong grasp of its identity and direction.

Launching into songs like “Walking Backwards” and “Heartbeat Song,” the band left no note unturned. The jittering stop-start motion of the songs immediately captured the crowd as their bodies matched each tempo. The floor of Lincoln Hall resembled ocean waves crashing into one another. The level of fun the band was having on stage wore off on the crowd more and more throughout the night. Ross Millard wrestled and steered his guitar like a wild bull while pounding out chords that sounded like one hundred buzz saws. Drummer Dave Hyde and bassist David “Jaff” Craig kept the band’s high speed attack on course, creating an underlying weight that added to the songs’ punch.

Barry Hyde’s charisma behind the microphone showed how far he had become as a frontman while still maintaining some fun on stage. His constant engagement with the crowd broke down the stereotypical wall that sets the band apart from the audience, reducing the fans to mere spectators and not participates in the music. The Futureheads concentrated heavily on the latest album while spreading out much of its backlog like “Back To The Sea” from News & Tributes and “Carnival Kids” from the self-titled debut.

From the first second the band produced a note to the final fading sounds of feedback, The Futureheads’ energy on stage never let up. What was equally impressive was the musical progression the band showed in its latest songs. Although speed still plays a part in their music, The Futureheads have learned how to build the substance behind the mad rush. In the songs “Sun Goes Down” and “Jupiter,” mood and structure showed new dimensions in the band’s sound that perhaps some never thought the band could achieve. The performance at Lincoln Hall was by no means a pivotal moment in the band’s career, nor was it a turning point in gaining a larger audience in the U.S. The performance was simply a band doing what it continues to do best…play music.

As The Futureheads bashed out an extended encore that included “Le Garage” and “The Connector,” the crowd had found its stamina to keep up with the varied marathon speeds of the songs. The final show on the band’s return to the U.S. ended with smiles and hugs. If there was only one statement to take after the show, it would be that The Futureheads are back in gear.

Photo Courtesy of The Futureheads/MySpace Page

Saturday, June 12, 2010

50 Years of The Bunny & The Party

Hugh Hefner celebrated the 50th anniversary of his beloved Playboy Club the only way he could possibly do it…with a party. But having one party is like committing to one woman to Hefner. On June 10, fifty parties were held in fifty cities across the world to honor the half century mark of the club. So, why was I in Hammond, IN?

Ever since the first published issue of Playboy hit the newsstands in 1953 with Marilyn Monroe on the cover, Chicago has been the magazine’s home. “I think it’s an amazing thing that a guy took his dreams and made them into an amazing business, a global business,” said James Heeren (Madison, WI) of James Todd Productions, who still owns his copy of the very first issue.

As the founder, Hefner could have easily packed up Playboy and based it solely in the two media pillars of this country: Los Angeles and New York. Instead, the Midwest guy didn’t ignore his Midwest roots and allowed his business to stay centralized in the city where he was born. By 1960, the first Playboy Club opened in Chicago and lasted another twenty-six years before the last Bunny hopped along.

That said…the designated Chicago party was held at the Horseshoe Casino in Hammond, IN (or Whiting, IN). Now, being from the very edge of the southeast side of Chicago (literally a 5 minute drive to the casino), it was somewhat surreal to have an event such as the Playboy party just minutes from such area highlights like the vast industrial grave yard that was once Wisconsin Steel Mill, gangs, semi-cheap gas on the Illinois/Indiana border, and the fantastically named Big, Cheap, Bombs storefront (which actually blew up some time ago and is now open again adjoined to a Shell gas station).

Based inside Horseshoe’s new Venue, the often concert tailored facility was transformed into a club setting. The main floor was sandwiched between the main stage and the VIP lounge. The chosen few to be a Playboy Bunny for the night walked the grounds, posing for photos or occasionally showing off a dance move to the ultra bassed-up beats provided by DJ OB-One.

Attendees ranged from the club hopper to the khaki short wearing guy just interested in trying to cop a feel or two, often making the females working as Bunnies a tad uncomfortable. The main video screen would flash images of past Playboy Bunnies along with video from the Playboy Club days. I wondered how many of the men present would have even been allowed to look at the front door of the old Playboy Club. Certainly, fifty years hadn’t really changed the urges of the male species.

The evening’s main event was the final result of who would be named the winner of Playboy’s Chicagoland Bunny search. The final ten contestants, all chosen from various night clubs in the area, worked the crowd for cheers and votes (tallied by text messages). The emcee was Q101 DJ Steve Tingle, and he was joined by a panel of judges, which included Bridget Marquardt and Bears linebacker Lance Briggs (good to see he was enjoying his off season). In addition to Marquardt, the other Playmates in attendance were Crystal McCahill of River Forest, IL (Miss May 2009), Ida Ljungvist (Miss March 2008, Playmate of the Year 2009), and Candace Collins Jordan (Miss December 1979, Playboy Bunny of the Year 1976).

It wasn’t until well past midnight that the winner, Stephanie Miceli of V Live in Chicago, was announced to the crowd. Miceli earned the chance to be featured among other winners on Her photos will also go through a review process with Hefner for possible entry into a future issue of the magazine. As another Bunny earns her cottontail, another face is added to the Playboy Club history…fifty years and still going.

Photos By: James Heeren

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Extra! Extra!

The June issue of Chicago Innerview has been published online. In this month's issue, I contributed a feature article on The Futureheads. A direct link is below:

Chicago Innerview - The Futureheads Feature


Thursday, May 20, 2010

Extra! Extra!

Lumino Magazine has posted my feature article on Verbow. The article also includes a review of the band's reunion show at Schubas last week Saturday. About a week before the show, I was able to interview singer/guitarist Jason Narducy, cellist Alison Chesley and Bob Mould, producer of Verbow's 1997 debut album [Chronicles].

Lumino Magazine - Verbow Feature


Saturday, May 15, 2010

Extra! Extra!

Lumino Magazine just posted my concert review of Pearl Jam's recent show in Indianapolis. Click the link below to be directed to the article:

Lumino Magazine - Pearl Jam Concert Review


Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Extra! Extra!

Some late additions to Lumino Magazine were just posted on the website.

A few weeks ago, I had the chance to cover Mission of Burma at Double Door and Ok Go at Metro. Links to those reviews are below:

Lumino Magazine - Mission of Burma Review

Lumino Magazine - Ok Go Review


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Extra! Extra!

In honor of the recently past Record Store Day, I contributed a feature article to Lumino Magazine about my first job as a record store employee at Hegewisch Records in Calumet City, IL.

Lumino Magazine - Record Store Day Feature

Along with the article are two photos taken at the store. Spacing didn't allow for photo descriptions, so, here's what I can provide:

Main Header Photo (l to r) - Chris Castaneda and William Mason (Fall '99)

Side Bar Photo (l to r) - Chris Castaneda and Mike Kristovic (Winter '99)


Friday, April 02, 2010

Extra! Extra!

The April issue of Chicago Innerview is now available online. In this month's issue, I contributed a write-up on Joanna Newsom:

Chicago Innerview - Joanna Newsom


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Extra! Extra!

My recent contribution to Lumino Magazine was just published. Over the weekend, I attended Jeff Tweedy's charity shows at the Vic Theatre:

Lumino Magazine - Jeff Tweedy Review


Friday, March 12, 2010

Extra! Extra!

My latest contributions to Lumino Magazine are now available on the site. This past week I was able to catch the Soundtrack of Our Lives and Robyn Hitchcock:

Lumino Magazine - TSOOL Review

Lumino Magazine - Robyn Hitchcock Review


Saturday, February 27, 2010

Extra! Extra!

On February 15, I had the opportunity to speak with 3 members of The Soundtrack of Our Lives. The feature recently was published by Lumino Magazine. Check out the link below for the complete article:

Lumino Magazine - The Soundtrack of Our Lives

A review of the band's show at Lincoln Hall in Chicago will be coming soon.


Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Main Stage

Scott Lucas, the pride of Zion, Illinois, is deserving of the recognition as one of the great singer/songwriters of recent time, if not in the country then at least in the Midwest, along with the likes of Rick Nielsen, Jeff Tweedy and Robert Pollard.

His latest project, Scott Lucas and The Married Men, is evidence enough that behind the venomous screams of Local H lies a musician with the drive to constantly explore and dare to take the unpopular road.

To any true fan of Lucas, this musical move away from the thunderous pop of Local H comes as no surprise. With over twenty years experience making music, picking up an acoustic guitar is the most refreshing sound to hear from Lucas in a long time. The sextet’s debut, George Lassos the Moon, might peg Lucas has going soft as he approaches 40, but don’t bet against Lucas.

George Lassos the Moon (G&P Records)
Release Date: 2/16/10 

Scott Lucas and The Married Men @ Schubas (2/20/10)
Scott Lucas and The Married Men @ Reckless Records/Milwaukee Store (2/20/10)

Photo By: Audrey Keller

Extra! Extra!

The February issue of Chicago Innerview in now published online. Click on the link below to read my feature piece on the band Editors.

Chicago Innerview FEB 2010 - Editors

*Please Note - As of January 2010, Chicago Innerview is no longer published in print form.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Extra! Extra!

My review of the 4th Annual Len & Bob Bash has been posted on Lumino Magazine. Please click on the link below:


A Conversation With...Scott McCaughey

I first met Scott McCaughey on June 2, 1995 when I was 14.

That's to say I first saw Scott McCaughey from across a stage with 18,000+ people around me for the first of three concerts at the Rosemont Horizon on R.E.M.'s Monster tour. It was the night before my 8th Grade graduation and my first concert.

Fast forward to April 5, 2002, I'm now 21 and for the first time meet Scott after a performance at Schubas in Chicago. Scott had just wrapped up a show with his (now) ex-wife Christy McWilson. In attendance were the new four-piece Wilco (Jeff Tweedy, Leroy Bach, John Stirratt and Glenn Kotche). This was also my first time meeting Kotche, who had just completed his first full year with the band (I had just started writing for my college newspaper and said to Kotche, "I'd love to interview you some time," to which he gleefully responded, "And I'd love to be interviewed by you!").

Missing from the evening was Peter Buck of R.E.M., who (like McCaughey) played on McWilson's 2002 album Bed of Roses and was scheduled to perform with the band that night. Thousands of miles across the Atlantic in London, Buck had just been acquitted of air-rage charges filed against him during a British Airways flight on April 21, 2001. The court ruling came on the 22nd anniversary of R.E.M.'s first ever performance as a band. Thinking back to that night, now, all I can say is...fuck...a lot sure happened!

I landed an interview with Scott--my first with him--in 2003 for DePaul's newspaper, The DePaulia, after he completed work with Wilco for the latest Minus 5 album, Down With Wilco. Whether it's been on a journalistic basis or just after a show, it's always a fun time to chat with Scott. As I did with my 2006 interview for Chicago Innerview, I am sharing my entire interview with Scott from 12/21/2009 here on Getting In Tune, highlighting the latest R.E.M. live album, Live At The Olympia, The Baseball Project and much more that didn't appear in my recent feature piece in Lumino Magazine. Scott and I began by discussing Live At The Olympia:

CC: Do you remember the earliest conversations of this idea (a live album) being proposed?

SM: I don’t remember exactly when. I guess we were working on the record (Accelerate) in Vancouver. I don’t know if it was planned all along. I think it might have been, even before we started the record; it might have been in everybody’s head to go out and play the songs before the record was actually finished so we could test run them and see if there were things we discovered about them by playing them live. That definitely happened. Some of them didn’t change at all after playing them for the five nights in Dublin. Some changed quite a bit, and, on other ones we were able to fine tune them; we were able to kind of figure out what wasn’t working, maybe, by playing those nights.

I think it was kind of in the plan all along when we were making that record. I could be wrong, but that’s the way I remember it.

CC: At the time Accelerate came out, a lot of the interviews that Mike (Mills), Peter (Buck) and Michael (Stipe) had done really gave me this impression that the post-thinking about Around the Sun was less than desirable. What was it like having gone through that recording process to now take a different turn, incorporate live performance and hit the refresh button?

SM: Since Bill (Berry) quit the band, we’ve made three records that were all real studio records, and that’s not a bad thing. We were having a really great time. Each one kind of got, maybe, a little more convoluted and a little more drawn out. By the time Around the Sun got finished, I think we were kind of done with that process for a while (laughs). Peter, especially, was like, “I never want to make a record that takes that long, again.” I think he felt like that record was better after we had just gone in and played the songs in the studio before they got as much window dressing as they got. Some of the guitars got lost in the process.

We were pretty much determined to make a record where there was no possibility that could happen. Really, that meant mostly just playing songs with two guitars, bass and drums; play them live in the studio and not do a whole lot of overdubbing. So, it fit in perfectly to go and play them live with that kind of material. A lot of the Around the Sun songs ended up sounding—when we played them live—probably a lot better; a little more direct, a little more guitar oriented and stuff. That tends to happen with some of the studio stuff, anyway. It gets simplified when you play it live. With the Minus 5 it’s always like that. Most of the songs that we record that are piano songs we end up playing on guitar, ya know? Two guitars, bass, drums and let it fall where it may.

This time it just made sense for us to make a record that was not going to be as labored over and can just be really fun, bash it out live and not get hung up in the process of making a record. By playing the songs live as part of the process of the record, it really helped fulfill that ambition.

CC: In listening to everything that you’re saying, it seems like Accelerate kind of tied back to, in some ways, how New Adventures In Hi-Fi was made. A little bit.

SM: Yeah, that’s true to a degree. The difference with New Adventures was mostly songs that were being developed as we were actually touring. There were a few things from Accelerate that had probably gotten developed on the tour before that, things we played at soundchecks and stuff. Yeah, there’s similarities to the approach.

CC: Now, looking over the track listing for Live At The Olympia, I wasn’t really disappointed, but I was kind surprised that there wasn’t very much information given as to what songs came from what nights, but, that’s just geeky me.

SM: Right. I have no idea either. There’s a couple things where Michael says, “This is our second night,” or whatever. Who knows! (laughs). I don’t have any idea which songs came from which night either. It was a couple years ago, so, I don’t have a clue. Probably the only people who know are Garret (Jacknife Lee) and Sam (Bell), the guys who mixed it.

CC: What were your feelings as you were walking out on stage for the first of the five nights? I assume Peter still does the setlist. So, once the setlist was written up and you guys were ready to go, what do you remember back then?

SM: It was kind of frantic. Besides the fact that we’re playing all these new songs that we never played before live, we kept adding, everyday during a two hour soundcheck, other songs to play. Most of those other ones that I played live I’d never really played before; we did a lot of really old songs, and I just never really played most of those. Neither had Bill (Rieflin)! We were learning songs for hours at soundcheck before each night, as well as going over the new stuff. Then we’d have about an hour or two off and then play the show. It was pretty hardcore. It was a full day’s work, everyday, and, after soundcheck, I’d be cramming and trying to remember how to play “Little America” or something like that that I’d never played before, so, it was actually really intense. Once we got on stage, they were super fun. I had a great time. I didn’t worry too much about playing everything perfectly. I tried, of course, but I’m sure I failed on occasion (laughs).

It’s kind amazing how great it sounds. I know that Jacknife didn’t fix a lot of stuff or anything. He just kind of found the best takes. You can tell there’s rough edges to it, but that’s cool.

CC: And it keeps in spirit of what the whole project was all about.

SM: Yeah. It’s kind of a great record though. I like the pacing and sequencing. It’s just such a bizarre huge grouping of songs. The focus of it is really early stuff and then the really new stuff. R.E.M.’s most famous and biggest songs are totally unrepresented. Their biggest records, Automatic for the People and Out of Time, aren’t there at all…I think “Drive” was played. It’s pretty cool. I like the selection of songs. We were just picking them each day. They were just coming out of nowhere. It wasn’t like we had this big masterplan. We didn’t (laughs).

CC: From the musician standpoint, I know most of these songs, the older material, have popped up here and there—not very often—since the Monster tour. Thinking about songs from Fables of the Reconstruction or Chronic Town, what did you appreciate about those songs and the work that was originally done on them once you got to play them? For how old some of those songs are, they still sound great…

SM: Because they’re really weird songs (laughs). Musically, stuff like “Little America,” “Wolves, Lower,” and “Carnival of Sorts,” I’m like, “What the hell were you guys doing? How do write songs like that?” You can tell they’re songs that are written by a band and not by one guy sitting around with a guitar. They’re not singer/songwriter songs, which is kind of what I’m used to. There’s a different logic to the way they’re constructed. They’re a little tricky for me to get my head around. Peter’s guitar playing is so individual and so precise. A lot of the songs, I just wanted to stay out of his way. I had to figure out things that I could play that wouldn’t muddle up the songs but add a little force to them. I think it worked out well. They sound really loud and trashy. It’s kind of cool to hear them sounding a little differently than they do on the original record. Peter’s got a heavier guitar sound, and you can actually hear the lyrics (laughs). You start realizing songs like “Second Guessing” have basically one verse sung over and over again (laughs). It works somehow. They’re very strange songs, and it was really interesting to play them, for me, because it’s a whole different style of songwriting than what I’m used to.

CC: Did you get any impression from Rieflin? I would have loved to ask Bill this, about taking on Berry’s early work. ’95 was the only time I ever saw Bill Berry with the band. But to hear Chronic Town songs and hear how much is going on with the drums, however direct, there’s still a lot of presence there. Did he (Rieflin) share any thoughts of what it was like to perform that work?

SM: I think there were times when he was definitely really, really impressed with how cool the drum parts were, and, other times, he was probably slightly amused because Bill’s (Berry) drum parts are really cool and really unusual. A lot of people don’t give him the credit that he should get. Bill Berry was a pretty amazing drummer, and he wasn’t really playing like anybody else back then. Rieflin did an amazing job at being faithful to those parts, not slavishly, but they kind of have to be there to make the songs work the way they did because they’re pretty intricate and precise kind of songs. I think Bill really appreciated Bill Berry’s drumming and really nailed it. The thing that I was most impressed about on the record was listening to Bill’s drumming. I just think he’s so awesome on this, and the drums sound really amazing, too. They’re super powerful and really rock. Hats off to Rieflin.

CC: It was definitely cool to hear him on songs like “Wolves, Lower” or “Circus Envy.” I remember e-mailing you the night after you guys performed that song, and I think I found a YouTube video that same night. I was just excited to hear the band fuzz it up, again.

SM: (Laughs). Yeah, I was pretty excited that we did “Circus Envy.” I’m always pushing for that one. It just got in there that day.

CC: Now, I never knew this, but, the Young Fresh Fellows did a cover of “Circus Envy”?

SM: We did. It’s on a record that came out in Spain in 1996 or 1997. It’s a pretty weird, little cool version of it (from 1999’s Tribute to Music, released only in Spain) . I like it a lot. It’s a little more Gang of Four or something. I love that song, and I think the lyrics are awesome.

CC: This is the second live album from the band that for many years said it was never interested in doing a live album. Oddly enough, both live albums are from the same city, two years apart. Do you have any sense of why in recent years there’s been more of a willingness to share more of a live document of the band’s stage performance? I was just thinking about this…the last U.S. related R.E.M. live release was the concert DVD Road Movie, filmed over the course of the final nights of the Monster tour in Atlanta. Since then, it’s been mostly European cities getting the luck of being displayed in full R.E.M. glory.

SM: I don’t know. It’s not like we went and said, “Hey, we’re going to record a live album.” We never really did that. You do all these shows that people want to record or film, say, for MTV Europe or management will say, “You’re doing two nights in Dublin. It might be a good time to film the band and record it just in case we might want to use it sometime.” You record these things for posterity and occasionally you say, “Hey, that’s really good. Let’s release it.” That’s really all it is…I think. The reason we were recording those shows is because we thought there might be the chance we play one of the songs from the album better than the studio version. So, that’s kind of why we were recording them. Maybe “Living Well Is The Best Revenge” live will be better than the version we record in the studio. As it stands, they’re basically almost the same because we had that song so down. Probably listening to the songs and going through it, everybody thought, “This is really cool. We should put this out.” I think it’s that more than anything. It’s not like a contractual obligation or that they wanted to make a live record. It’s just that we recorded something really cool.

It’s always weird when you plan on making a live record. The Fellows have done that. In Spain, they say, “We’re going to record the good show and release that as a live record.” And that always ends up being the worst show of the tour. We did that with R.E.M. They said, “We’re going to film one show of the tour to release as a DVD.” That was Wiesbaden, Germany (show date 7/19/03, as seen on the Perfect Square DVD). Everybody thought, in the band, that was the worst show of the tour. The audience thought it was great. You watch the DVD, and it’s really good. But we knew that we played better other nights. So, the reason you play better is because you’re not thinking about being on camera. That’s just kind of typical the way that goes. I don’t know if The Who would say that Live at Leeds was the worst show of that tour. I’d like to think it wasn’t, but did they record twenty shows and that was the best one? Or did they kind of get lucky and record one that happen to be fucking amazing? Or did they all think that they did other nights of the tour that were better than that but that was the one that was recorded and, so, that’s the one they released? Who knows (laughs).

My experience, often, has been when you know you’re recording something you end up not having the best show. With this “This Is Not A Show” thing…we knew we were doing five nights, we knew we were kind of messing around and experimenting—it wasn’t supposed to be a live record—we were all really loose and having fun. We were working and trying hard, pushing ourselves by playing so many different songs over the five nights. We didn’t have the pressure of thinking each night would be released as a live album. That wasn’t in our heads at all, which is probably why it’s so fucking good.

CC: I guess I just wish there were more U.S. shows getting the live album treatment.

SM: Well, the thing is, that tour in ’95 was sort of our peak in America, and we’ve probably gotten down in America since then, and, yet that was when is started really picking up in Europe. We’ve just gotten more and more popular in Europe. I think it was ’95 or ’99 and we played Dublin at Lansdowne Road stadium (show date 7/16/99); it was like 40,000 people there. The crowd was just insane. We just started realizing that we’ve really got it going here in Ireland. People really liked us a lot (laughs). Certainly that’s part of the reason we ended up doing these five nights in Dublin. We were going to record at Grouse Lodge (Studios) directly following the shows. And we all like Dublin a lot. It just made perfect sense.

It’s one of the only places where if I’m walking around in the streets of Dublin, people recognize me from R.E.M., not from the Fellows or the Minus 5. If I walk around in Portland or Seattle, I might get occasionally recognized for that. If I walk around Dublin, people recognize me as being a guy from R.E.M., and they know my name. They even know how to say it, even though it’s pronounced differently in Ireland.

CC: And then it’s followed by the offer of a beer.

SM: Yes (laughs). That does occasionally happen.

CC: So, what’s currently happening in R.E.M. land? You guys were down in New Orleans doing some recording.

SM: We did three weeks of work and tracked a bunch of new songs. Michael sang on about half of them, probably. So, we got a really good start on the next record.

CC: Are there other locales in mind for recording, like Vancouver?

SM: We’re not going to Vancouver. We’ve got a couple more stops in mind. I don’t think they’re exactly nailed down, yet. We’ll do two more three week stays, but the next one probably isn’t going to be until April into May. So, there’s a lot of time right now to sit around and ruminate on the songs or come up with new stuff; mostly for Michael to work on lyrics, melody and stuff. He’ll probably end up doing something before the rest of us get back. He might just go somewhere with Jacknife and record some more vocals. He’s got some great stuff. We got a really good start. The tracks all sound amazing, and the stuff that Michael has come up with are super cool, too. I’m pretty excited about it.

Right now, I’m not thinking about it for a little while. I’m going to let it go a bit and then get back to it, but I’m really happy with the stuff we did in New Orleans.

CC: And that was pretty much the first session?

SM: Yes. This was the first real session where we started getting ideas for the record.

CC: This next record will be Rieflin’s third with R.E.M., and it will be your sixth since New Adventures In Hi-Fi. How do you feel your role and Bill’s role has developed with the recording process?

SM: Now, it feels like we’re a regular rock band. The last record and most of the next record are going to tend to be two guitars, bass and drums songs. We’re all really comfortable with our roles. Bill came in on Around the Sun, and that was the first thing he did with the band. He just came into the studio and just tried to play along to see how it went. Obviously, Peter and I knew that we played great with Bill because we had been playing with him for four-five years at that point. We knew it was going to be great, but we had to see how it would work with everybody, which they all liked him immediately. All his first work was really just studio stuff. So, that’s different when you go out touring, but, of course, Bill is awesome every night on tour. We’ve played together now for years with this group. It just feels really normal.

My role has probably changed a little bit. Whereas I used to filled in stuff off the records, keyboards, bass or whatever that needed to be fleshed out live—I was kind of more a jack-of-all trades—but now I’m sort of the second guitarist. Peter plays his super distinctive stuff, and then it’s my job to play something that’s really different from what he’s playing. So, I don’t get in his way, but I don’t really play rhythm guitar. I kind of come up with parts that will compliment what Peter’s doing and what Mike’s doing. It’s fun for me to really concentrate on playing guitar because I don’t get to do that that much. I don’t even think about playing guitar when I’m singing, and it probably shows (laughs).

CC: In your Roger Daltrey mode…

SM: Yeah (laughs). But we’re a pretty solid rock band that’s played a lot of shows together and done a lot of recording together with this lineup. It feels great.

CC: So, what’s currently on deck—no pun intended—with the Baseball Project?

SM: We started recording a new record. We had a couple days off on our last tour with the Baseball Project, Minus 5 and Steve Wynn. In Portland for two days, we tracked twelve songs, all live. Peter was there for the session this time, which was great, because he just did overdubs on the last record. So, we had the full on four-piece going to track all these songs, which was great.

We were going to try and get it out for the next baseball season, but it seems like it would have been a little bit of too much of a push. We want to try and do some different things with this record. I think we’re going to take our time and finish it over the first half of 2010 and probably not release it until just before spring training 2011. So, it’ll be over a year old by the time it actually comes out, but that gives us time to work on it. We have a few more songs we want to record, and we haven’t done any overdubs on it. We’ll get other people to play on it, too. We’re going to take our time. That’s ok. Steve, Peter and I are all usually bash something out-release it. I think Yep Roc wants to really make something happen with the record. So, if it’s good for them to have more set up time, then we can deal with it.

I’m going to have R.E.M. duty in 2010. I haven’t really thought much about the Fellows or the Minus 5. I should probably think about that, too. There’s a Robyn Hitchcock and the Venus 3 record coming out (titled Propellor Time) in March (3/22/10 - U.S. Release 4/6/10). Hopefully, we’ll do some dates on that. I don’t know how much time we’ll have. Hopefully Bill, Peter and I will be able to devote a little time to that as well. I’d like to get the Minus 5/Baseball Project/Steve Wynn thing over to Europe, too, but it’s all a matter of timing if we can do it.

CC: Now, at least tell me there’s some consideration within the Baseball Project that there will be a song based on Nolan Ryan (Texas Rangers) beating the shit out of Robin Ventura (Chicago White Sox) on the mound (8/4/93).

SM: (Laughs) Yeah, I don’t know if there’s going to be a song about that, but I certainly enjoy watching footage of that. It’s pretty awesome. I saw his last game ever pitched at the Kingdome in Seattle (9/22/93). He pitched to four batters. The first two batters got on and the fourth batter hit a grand slam, then he walked off the mound. His arm just totally went. It was sad because he’d been great up to then. He never pitched again…of course he was 90 years old (laughs). Nah..he was 46 or something. He was so good.

R.E.M. – Live At The Olympia (Warner Bros.)
Released October 27, 2009 (U.S.)
Recorded at Olympia Theatre (Dublin, Ireland) on 6/30, 7/1, 7/3-5, 2007

Disc One
Living Well Is The Best Revenge (7/4/07)
Second Guessing (6/30/07)
Letter Never Sent (6/30/07)
Staring Down The Barrel of the Middle Distance (7/5/07)
Disturbance at the Heron House (7/1/07)
Mr. Richards (7/4/07)
Houston (7/5/07)
New Test Leper (6/30/07)
Cuyahoga (7/5/07)
Electrolite (6/30/07)
Man-Sized Wreath (7/4/07)
So. Central Rain (7/3/07)
On The Fly (7/5/07)
Maps and Legends (6/30/07)
Sitting Still (7/1/07)
Driver 8 (7/3/07)
Horse to Water (7/4/07)
I'm Gonna DJ (7/1/07)
Circus Envy (7/4/07)
These Days (7/1/07)

Disc Two
Drive (7/1/07)
Feeling Gravitys Pull (7/3/07)
Until The Day Is Done (7/1/07)
Accelerate (7/4/07)
Auctioneer (Another Engine) (7/5/07)
Little America (6/30/07)
1,000,000 (7/4/07)
Disguised (aka Supernatural Superserious) (7/5/07)
The Worst Joke Ever (7/5/07)
Welcome to the Occupation (7/5/07)
Carnival of Sorts (Box Cars) (7/4/07)
Harborcoat (7/4/07)
Wolves, Lower (7/4/07)
I've Been High (7/1/07)
Kohoutek (7/3/07)
West of the Fields (7/4/07)
Pretty Persuasion (7/5/07)
Romance (7/5/07)
Gardening at Night (7/5/07)

*Special thanks to Jill Hollywood at Big Life Management, Darryl White's fantastic site, The R.E.M. Timeline - The Complete R.E.M. Concert Chronology, and engineer Sam Bell for helping fill in the gaps of source information on songs appearing on Live At The Olympia.

Darryl White's site can be found at:

Photo By: Marty Perez at House of Blues (Chicago) on 1/14/10

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Extra! Extra!

About three weeks ago, I had the chance to speak with Scott McCaughey (R.E.M., The Minus 5, Young Fresh Fellows, The Baseball Project). This was the first time since November 8, 2006 that I had the opportunity to conduct an interview with Scott, the night Robyn Hitchcock & The Venus 3 performed at Metro in Chicago. I should dig that interview out sometime!

A feature article was published today on Lumino Magazine of my recent interview with Scott as a spotlight on the upcoming performance by The Baseball Project at the 4th Annual Len & Bob Bash for Chicago Cubs Charities. The event takes place tomorrow night at the House of Blues. The Baseball Project are the openers.

The complete interview with Scott will be posted on Friday. For now, enjoy this piece: