Exclusive Video Interview with Aaron Konkol of Natty Nation

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Natty Nation has been a staple of the Madison reggae music scene since 1995. Unlike classical reggae artists, the band is influenced by rock and hip hop in addition to reggae and dub. Their musical style has been known to evolve over time but never stray too far from the all-original roots-rock-reggae format. The band has been described as Steel Pulse meets Jimi Hendrix. Their messages are positive and often spiritual or political in nature. However, their later albums have shifted away from Rastafari and moved more toward Eastern philosophy.   

Over the past 22 years, Natty has played countless festivals such as SXSW, Summerfest and Freakfest, won numerous awards including 27 Madison Area Music Awards (MAMAS), and toured the U.S. and parts of the Middle East, Africa and East Asia. Not to mention, they have released six studio albums and six live albums.

In this interview, we head to the studio to speak with Aaron Konkol, keyboardist and backup singer for Natty, about their latest release, Divine Spark, which debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard Magazine reggae chart. We also hear about how he wound up joining the band and what it was like touring overseas. Finally, Aaron tells us about some of his most memorable shows with some of reggae and dub’s pioneers.

Stream the video or audio now or continue reading!

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

J: Are you from Madison originally?

A: I was born in Sheboygan, then I moved to Illinois when I was two, and then I moved to Madison when I was eight.

J: When did you enter the Madison music scene?

A: When I was 18, and in college, we started a band called, The Spontaneous Throwdown. It was a funky, jazzy jam band. We were just playing at parties and stuff. Then we got an opportunity to play Tuesday nights at Ken’s Bar. They had what was called dead tape night. We played there every Tuesday for about a year. We even wrote a song called “Tuesday at Ken’s”. So yeah, I guess that would have been 2000 when I officially started playing paying gigs.

J: When and where did you start playing keys?

A: I’ve been playing since I was three. My sister who is five years older than me had been taking lessons. She was eight at the time, and I had shown a lot of interest in doing it. I was fortunate enough to have parents who encouraged that. We did the Suzuki method, which really helped with ear training. I would get the music and plunk through it and figure it out, but I would already know how it was supposed to sound. Once I got the mechanics of it, I would just get rid of the music and memorize really easily, but later in life that became a problem because it was harder to just sight-read.

When I went to UW I went through a whole bunch of different majors, African American studies, social work, psychology, a few other things, but I couldn’t really figure out what I wanted to do. At the time, I was enjoying playing with my band, The Spontaneous Throwdown, so I thought I would try music. I was already taking a couple music classes with Joan Wildman, and she immediately accepted me. We decided to do a jazz studies degree. A couple weeks after that, she let me know she was retiring and there wouldn’t be a jazz piano professor anymore. That summer I got the offer to play with Natty Nation and haven’t gone back to school since.

J: You mentioned that you became a part of Natty Nation in 2002, but when did they first form?

A: 1995. The first album came out in ’96.

J: How many of the original members are in the band?

A: Just the lead singer, Jah Boogie.

J: Who is currently in the band?

A: Chris Di Bernardo on drums, Nick Czarnecki on guitar, [Aaron Konkol on keys and Jah Boogie on vocals] right now that four piece, like the one in the “Vibrate” video that you saw that we recorded down here, that’s the band right now.     

J: Awesome! So beside Natty Nation, what other bands have you been in?

A: I was one of the founding members of dumate. I joined Know Boundaries with Boogie in 2006, then Star Persons after that, and finally Megan Bobo and the Lux.

J: How is it different playing with Natty Nation versus some of the other groups? Did your role change from band to band?

A: With dumate it wasn’t that different. When dumate started it was just Natty Nation plus Laduma, so my role carried over, as did everybody’s. We just added a rapper. With Know Boundaries, it was kind of the same thing, but I was coming in as the new guy. It was just a different dynamic, different people, personalities. Things change in every scenario. Then in Star Persons, I really didn’t write that much at all. It was mainly based on recorded material that we recreated live, but I helped a lot with orchestrating that and turning it into something that was living and breathing on its own. You were there!

*we laugh*

J: With Natty Nation you have done some big tours. Who are some of the people that you’ve played with? What were some of your most memorable shows?

A: Opening for Toots Hibbert, Toots and the Maytals at the Minneapolis Zoo. That was awesome. Have you ever been to those shows there?

J: No.

A: It’s really amazing. It’s like you’re in the middle of a rain forest, just this really nice amphitheater. Toots was credited with coining the term “reggae”. He was still just as good of a performer. He knocks it out of the park every time, especially that time. I don’t know how old he is, probably in his 70’s, but he’s loaded with energy. His voice sounds exactly the same as it did back in the day. Then backing up Lee Scratch Perry was probably the other super memorable one, who along with King Tubby, invented Dub.

J: Ziggy, Stephen, Damien Marley?

A: Yes, I was there for none of those. *laughs* Unfortunately.

J: Oh OK. Those were before your time.

A: Yeah, but we opened up for Steel Pulse, one of my favorite reggae bands from that era, late 70’s early 80’s.

J: You also played at a military base right?

A: A bunch of military bases.

J: Tell us about that experience.

A: The first time was in 2008, right after we dropped Reincarnation. We almost immediately got the call from Armed Forces Entertainment, which is the non-profit arm of the entertainment arm of the military. Unlike the USO, those people get paid. Armed Forces Entertainment is all volunteer. You get a small premium per day. We got the offer to fly into Kazakhstan and then go play at this base in Kyrgyzstan. From there, we dropped off about 180 troops in Afghanistan. We were riding with these 18, 19 year old kids with M-16’s. Everything they had on their body was all they were going to have for the next 18 months of active duty. We were grown men looking at them like, so you’re really going to do this huh? They were like, yeah. Some people were super jovial and messing around, some were tripping hard! That was heavy. There was a reporter from CNN on the plane with us as well, a giant C-17 that tanks could fit in. There were about 150 people on that giant thing. We were sitting on the ground in a bunch of bucket seats. I found out after the fact that when we were flying out of Afghanistan we took some shots. I was glad I didn’t know that at the time. *laughs* Then we dropped down in Kuwait, and I forget the order after that, but we hit United Arab Emirates, Dubai, Qatar, Bahrain, Djibouti and then back to Kyrgyzstan. So we got back from the first one and a year later we got asked to go back, but instead we went to Japan, the Marshall Islands and Guam. On that tour we didn’t have to bring our own PA, so it was way less stressful. The first tour, people hadn’t seen entertainment in so long. I think the shortest autograph signing was like half an hour. In Qatar everybody on the base was lined up to get an autograph. There were like 4000 people on the base!

J: Divine Spark is the latest Natty Nation album. What was the creation process like?

A:  Some of the songs were really old. We had written them in 2003, right after Inatty in Jah Music had come out. They were recorded two weeks after I had joined the band. By that time, we had already started dumate, which premiered in 2004. We were making a whole bunch of music then. Some of it never got recorded until Divine Spark. “Suffice” I think was the only one. We released that as a single in 2010. But then the album Divine Spark didn’t come out until 2016. We had a whole bunch of ups and downs with personnel, recording waxing and waning, motivation, and you know, studio time and money and everything else, personal things in life. But then it kind of came together when I happened to meet Errol Brown, who is Bob Marley’s engineer.

I sent him the mix we had for “Meditation”, and he wrote back immediately. He said, “it sounds good, could use some Ska piano on it but yeah, let’s go.”

I was like really? Okay. I was like oh my god Errol Brown is totally down to work with us!  So then he ended up mixing the whole album in the back of Revolutions’ tour bus. They were pretty popular at the time, more popular now. They had a tour bus for the crew and a tour bus for the band, so he took over the whole back of one of the buses and turned it into a mobile studio. He mixed the whole album there and on headphones. And then the plan was to do a final mixdown at a studio. It ended up taking him a lot longer because he is super particular about drum and bass, especially drums. He kind of revolutionized recording drums. He uses a mic on the rim of the snare. He was the first person to do that I think. With reggae there are a lot of issues with the drums, so he wanted to go through and replace them. He didn’t trust Drumagog or BFD, or any of those other programs to help with replacement, so he went through every single drum hit and found a version he had recorded. The final product sounded exactly like a drummer had played it.

J: I listened to the whole album and wow! The sound quality is amazing. I wasn’t actually expecting it to sound that good. We use a Sonos player at Murfie, so I was like, is the Sonos player making this sound better? You know how Beats by Dre make things sound better. Was that what was happening? Because this sounds really good!

*we laugh*

A: I’m glad to hear that.

J: What format is Divine Spark available in?

A: We’ve got vinyl for the first time, and CD, and digital.

J: Digital everything, Amazon, iTunes, Google Play?

A: Yeah, Symphonic Distribution is awesome.

J: I’m not familiar with that. Is that similar to Tunecore or CD Baby?

A: Yeah.

J: How do you feel about physical media over digital?

A: I like the convenience of digital a lot, but what I really miss and what I am sad about for future generations is liner notes. When I was a kid, if I wanted to go buy some jazz records, I would have to go into the basement area of The Exclusive Company, where they were kept. I would have to ask the snobby clerk, hey, do you know where the Herbie Hancock is? They would bring you somewhere and say, “This is probably the one you want, Headhunters.”

So I had to push through that like I really wanted it. When I bought records, I’d take them home, put them on and listen to them front to back. I would read the liner notes and essays like oh, okay, this trumpet player on here is awesome. I need to go check him out and then go back. After awhile you’re asking the right questions and the guy behind the counter is like oh, this kid is cool. He knows what’s up. There was no CD burning. You had to buy this thing, and when you get it, there is a package. You didn’t have to read it, but it was there, and so if you cared, you’d be able to. That’s the saddest part to me about streaming. You have everything available to you at any moment so nothing is special. Before you had to go searching and searching to find a specific album. Trying to find Prince’s Black Album, that’s why it was a thing. It was impossible to find. Now you can get it wherever. Everything is available any time you want it.

J: How important is merchandise at your shows?

A: It’s super important. We’re making moves to go on longer tours out to the coast right now. We’re also working on Europe. I think when you’re on a longer tour merchandise can really help. The income is just immediate and it can help put money in the gas tank. I do all the design work for it. I do all the ordering as well, but I’m trying to delegate it to somebody else. *laughs* I didn’t start writing songs just to decide how many smalls to order of a certain design. We have a lot of merch and people like it a lot. So my thing is, you want to have quality merch. Of course, it’s going to cost you more. It costs us $13 for our cheapest shirt, but it’s a nice American Apparel shirt that people love, and therefore, they are going to wear it more often with your band name on it. More people are going to see it, and that is the main thing for me. CD’s are probably the best way to make money. Beyond the initial production cost of making an album, it costs you one or two bucks per CD. You sell em for 10 bucks for a 10, 12 song CD. That is an 80 percent mark-up. That is pretty good, but for a t-shirt that is 13 bucks, you can’t really charge more than 20 unless you’re a bigger name band.

J: Who shot the “Meditation” music video?

A: It was shot by Harvest Walker and Joe Ramos. Joe filmed a bunch of it in Boogie’s basement. That’s where we were rehearsing at the time. And then Harvest came and filmed a bunch at the Jam for Jam festival in 2015. He rented a $20,000 camera to take a bunch of slow motion shots. I think that added a lot to the video. He also did all the narrative parts with the girls having a bad day, and then meditating and doing yoga. It went through a bunch of incarnations because we initially started doing it in 2012, right around the time we started tracking for most of the album, and then the album kept getting pushed back. We needed to prioritize that immediately. Four years later, when the album came out, it was like oh, yeah, we might as well finish this thing and get it done. Joe Ramos then picked it up at that point and knocked it out. He did a few revisions with me and I was super happy with how it turned out. That was our first official music video.

J: Are you working on any other projects currently?

A: Yes, but they are top secret. The world will know soon.

J: Ok… Is it related to Natty Nation or something else?

A: That is also top secret. Everything is top secret about it. Don’t take that as it being yes, but also don’t take it as being no. *laughs* But yeah, there are lots of things in the works so stay tuned.

What did you think of this interview? Feel free to leave a comment below.

Want to hear more music from Natty Nation? Check out the Murfie shop for previous releases. Want to purchase merch or the latest album, Divine Spark, from Natty Nation? Check out their Bandcamp.

Stay tuned for more interviews like this one!

Exclusive Podcast: Katie Scullin Talks About Her Latest Release, ‘Pieces’ and More…

dream awake still

Katie Scullin is a talented singer/songwriter who’s been performing around the Madison area for over a decade. She’s played countless bars and cafes throughout Wisconsin as well as a number of large festivals such as Summerfest. She’s been a part of several bands over the years, including Rivalry, a band named for her relationship with her brother and bandmate, D.J. Scullin. She’s also played with Star Persons, an electronic/hip hop group similar to The Black Eyed Peas, and currently, The Katie Scullin Band, which she jokingly calls a “revolving door band” because the members tend to come and go.

Her accolades include being nominated for and winning multiple Madison Area Music Awards (MAMAS) for her role as front woman in Star Persons, as well as “Best Alternative Artist” in 2011. She was also crowned Best Singer/Songwriter by 105.5 Triple M’s Project M Competition and Best Local Musician in the Jefferson County Daily Poll for the release of her EP “She Smiled,” in 2013.

Katie recently released an album titled, Pieces, a blend of tracks written over the last couple years that deal with personal growth, sudden life changes and deep introspection, possibly even a little frustration. She writes from the heart, making it easy to be drawn into her world: one filled with rocky roads and arduous climbs opposite still lakes and silent, snow-covered forests. Her music is a way to escape the distractions of everyday life and the disquiet of unwelcome thoughts, not only for herself, but for her audience as well. Her song titled, “Whitney,” is evidence of her desire to relate to any kindred spirits out there who share her points of view.

In this in-depth interview with Katie, we talk about her latest music video “Dream Awake,” and the story behind it. We also get her thoughts on Pieces as a whole and learn about her writing process. What’s more, she tells us about her Kickstarter campaign that raised a whopping $21,000 from supporters! She also explains her struggle as an independent artist and the challenges she has faced while raising a family and trying to make a decent living from music.

Listen to the podcast here:

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

J: How is your son (Mason) doing?

K: He’s awesome! Very good! He’s going to turn six in a couple weeks!

J: Six already?!

K: I know! He’s a lot of fun. He loves playing the drums which is very, very cool. He’s getting into singing. His dad likes metal, so for a while there he thought that singing was screaming. I’m trying to wean him down a little bit and be like, “Oh, but you also have to be good at singing like this too.”

J: I’m sure he’s you heard you sing plenty of times though right?

K: Oh yeah. Sometimes he tells me to stop singing.

*we chuckle*

J: I think the last time I saw him you were living in Stoughton.   

K: Uh-huh

J: He was just a little baby.

K: Oh was that at Joe Ramos’ (a mutual friend of ours)?

J: Yeah. He’s grown! I saw the clips in your video “Dream Awake,” from when you first had him.

K: Oh yeah.

J: That was really cool.

K: Thank you.            

J: So, tell us about “Dream Awake.” What’s your take on the song?

K: When I started writing it I was living in the basement of a couple’s home, and they lived up on a hill overlooking a lake. I had a really awesome view from up there. The weather that day was crazy. It was like Mother Nature was almost bipolar. There was a snowstorm with twisting winds and all of a sudden the clouds would part and it was sunny out, like a spring day. The water had this crazy, blue hue to it. I was at a point where I wasn’t sure what direction I wanted to go in life. I was sort of reflecting, thinking about the turns my life took, not expecting what had happened to happen.

I think it’s really about painting a picture of your own life. You have control of your own thoughts and how you react to things, whether or not it’s going to be a cloudy, crappy, stormy day or it’s going to be sunny and beautiful. We do have some control of how we react to things.

The music video was interesting. The director took a turn with it bringing Mason into the picture. I thought it was really cool because he interpreted the story differently. His wife had a similar story to mine where she was about to go to Africa to do an anthropology project and she ended up getting pregnant. Her whole life changed at that point and she had to rebuild her life. It was neat that the director had that story in common about his wife and what she went through. I wasn’t expecting to have a child. It was amazing at first but then I realized music was going to have to sit on the back burner a bit.

J: Well, I’m glad you have stuck with it. It was exciting reading your article in Maximum Ink about your Kickstarter campaign. I can’t believe it! You raised $21,000? Tell us about that experience.

K: Yeah. It was a huge decision and really scary because I didn’t want people to know that I was struggling, but I came to the realization that I either needed to ask people to help me out or I wasn’t going to be able to do it anymore. I planned a lot for it because I knew I was going to need a good chunk of change to put together a polished product. I felt like there were so many artists around me doing the same thing and all of them including myself were struggling.

Every time I would do a show I never had anything to sell because I didn’t have the money up front for it. I had this little five song demo that I put together for $1200, and we did it in like three weeks time. It was never mastered. The volumes were really low. We didn’t spend a whole lot of time on it. I just felt like I didn’t have anything to show for as many years as I had been doing music. I thought I had to do a Kickstarter and I saw a lot of people who were really successful with it, so I pushed aside those self-defeating thoughts that I might fail. I might not make it. I planned a lot and had a lot of help from my family who gave me ideas on how to reach an audience aside from online. Because a lot of people who donated were not online and wouldn’t have known it was even happening. I was a basket case for a month.   

J: Did you do any shows beforehand to get people interested in what you were doing?

K: Yes. I talked about it a lot before I even launched it. Where I bartend and at my shows I spoke about it just to let people know I was going to be doing something. I put together a little two song demo with what I had done already. I had started the album previously and realized I couldn’t finish it without financial backing, so the two songs I had already finished I gave away. I printed 200 copies. Every single person that I gave it to I asked them to check out what I was up to and if they liked it and people felt like donating, they could. So that was a way to reach people. I also had a fundraising party where we had computers set up and my band came and played.

J: Awesome! And the name of the album is Pieces? And it’s available on your website?

K: Correct.

J: Is it available anywhere else?

K: iTunes, Spotify and Google Play I believe.

J: So, you were talking about merch and how important it was to have that. Why do you feel it’s important? Do you notice a difference in response from the crowd at your shows when you do have merchandise?

K: Yes. Definitely. People are intrigued by it because I have stuff that looks good now. It looks professional. Sometimes I do shows and nobody buys anything, but then there are shows where people buy a ton of stuff. It definitely helps because people come up and look at it and it starts a conversation. People love t-shirts. I made some handmade coasters, and I’ve got stickers and stuff. It’s extra revenue on top of the performance. It helps get the word out when people have your stuff and they’re wearing it.

J: So in terms of physical CDs would you say you’ve sold more physical copies than digital?

K: Yeah, I think so. You know with streaming these days it’s hard to say. You get less than a penny per stream. With digital downloads where people have actually paid for the album, yeah, I think I have still sold more physical copies.

You know as much as people are into digital downloads and having everything on their phone… I’m old school. I think there is something cool about getting something tangible in your hands, being able to look at the artwork and read about it. A lot of other people still feel that way. They like to have something, but a lot of vehicles don’t even have CD players anymore.

J: What was your inspiration for the songs on Pieces?

K: Some of them were songs I had written in previous years. One of them was with my band Rivalry, which originated from Sibling Rivalry with my brother. Another song I had half written, and I went down to Nashville and worked with a songwriter by the name of Carey Ott. He’s really amazing at what he does. He’s like a music mentor now. I was having writer’s block and he kind of helped me finish it and pull out the good stuff. But the idea for the album came from the first song on the album which was “Whitney,” not really named for any particular reason. It was the working title, and we just left it. I felt like maybe there was some Whitney out there who might think the song was written for them and maybe it would help them in some way. But I was at a low point. I didn’t know how I was going to continue doing music as a career because it’s hard. It’s really, really hard as you know. I just felt this urge while writing the song to just keep reminding myself or reminding whoever is going to hear this song and feel inspired not to give up. You don’t have to have it all figured out right then and there. It’s a journey. You’re going to figure it out as you go, and that is what it all came down to. I didn’t have it all figured out when I started. I just knew I wanted to do something bigger than what I was doing. As things developed, “pieces” were falling into place. It was like a puzzle, picking from different parts of my life, different pieces in the song, bringing it all in and figuring out exactly what it was. It was a reflection of where I was in my life. I was in a broken place and I needed to make something of myself from that broken place.

J: Where did you record the album?

K: We started recording it up at my parent’s cabin. We did an experimental project and filmed the video “The Walrus,” which is on YouTube. We played a gig up there and used the money to rent the rest of the equipment we would need to start recording. I thought that we would record the whole album that weekend but that was not the case. It took another two years to finish. But I had all these pieces from there and then we went to DNA Music Labs with Mark Whitcomb, and I did some stuff in my kitchen. Paul Schluter, from Megatone Studios, also helped produce the album. He took all these pieces and kind of mapped it out and we recorded the rest of it there.

J: What is your writing process like? How do you go about writing a song?

K: I usually start with the guitar and I will just start humming. It’s almost like I am talking in a different language, like speaking in tongues. *laughs* I just start these melodies and then a line will come out and I will be inspired by that, and then I figure out, okay where did that come from? What is the subject right there? And then build off of that, and it kind of just develops from there. And then sometimes I will write a poem and just start singing pieces of the poem and begin rearranging it if it doesn’t quite work with the guitar, or if the melody and consonants don’t fall into place.

J: When did you start to feel comfortable being on stage?

K: Right after high school I auditioned for a play called “Tick Tick Boom,” and I got a pretty good part. I practiced and practiced. I don’t know what it was but I built up a confidence to keep those nerves at bay. It felt really good. I felt like my voice was getting stronger. I still get nervous but it’s controllable I guess. Knock on wood. I’m opening for Jay Leno on Friday (May 19th, 2017).

J: I was going to ask you about that! How did you get hooked up with that show?

K: A friend of mine is their main booking person now. He’s been helping me out with shows here and there since I got into the Madison music scene. He does the main booking for Brat Fest. Do you know Michael Alexander?

J: I don’t know him personally but I’ve heard the name.

K: Yeah, so he took over that job and asked me if I wanted to open for Jay Leno. I was like, “what?!” I think I’ll pass on that.

J: But you decided to do it anyway?

K: Oh yeah. It wasn’t for sure I was going to get it. He had to personally approve it, so I quickly went online and dolled up my website. In the top corner I put a “Hi Jay!” with a little smiley face.

J: Do you do your booking personally or do you normally have someone book for you?

K: It’s a mixture. I have two different booking agents that help me out.

J: As a singer/songwriter would you say it’s pretty easy to get shows in Madison?

K: Yeah, but I do 50/50 covers and original material. People always want to hear covers. I’m trying to get away from that and do more original stuff. I’ve been trying to get more into the listening room type venues which is more difficult than booking at a restaurant/bar and being the background music. I can do the Tracy Chapman or whatever songs people want, but then I’m not really doing my own art. It isn’t as rewarding as booking a coffeehouse where people pay $5 or $10 and are really engaging and listening to the music. Playing a bar sometimes is easier. You get paid a flat fee, but you don’t really gain as much in terms of fans.

J: So other than Star Persons and Rivalry you have the Katie Scullin Band. Who is in that band?

K: I like to call it “the revolving door band.” There have been so many people in it. My original drummer is Travis Drumm. He recently moved out to California. He was in a lot of different projects so I would have several other people fill in for him. The original bassist stepped away for awhile so Nate Wiswal took over. Nate is on 8 or 9 of the 11 songs on the album. He also got a really good job out in California and moved out there so Jacob Bare is playing bass with me again. My brother has always been my number one guitar player. He has a newborn now and is married and has a really great job, so he doesn’t do all of the shows. My boyfriend, my baby’s daddy, Darren, is also my guitar player, but sometimes it’s hard getting a babysitter so I’ve had Paul Schluter play guitar for me before. And then my new drummer, his name is Bruce Root, filling in for Travis. I don’t know how long he will be in California… You should play!

J: It would probably be good for me to play! I rarely play live, but I want to get to the point that I feel comfortable doing it. So are you thinking about writing a new album?

K: Yes I am. I worked on Pieces for so long that within the last 6 to 8 months I probably wrote a whole other album worth of songs. I learned a lot this time around and think things will go easier next time, knock on wood.

J: Well I’m down to help on production.

K: That would be awesome!

We hope you enjoyed this interview. Check out some of Katie’s other videos on her YouTube page. To purchase a copy of her latest album Pieces, click here.

Want to see Katie Scullin live? Click here for her tour schedule.

Exclusive Podcast Interview: Josh Rip Talks About His Upcoming Album Trinity and More…

joshrip

Josh Mallett (aka RIP), has been making music for the past 17 years. In that time he has aspired to become a well known local DJ, producer and filmmaker. His passion for music and video production can easily be measured by the amount of energy and focus he puts into every project. He is canny in his decision making when it comes to producing big sounding records with cinema quality music videos on a limited budget. Of course, he would tell you that his friends and family are the real reason he has achieved what he has. Not only because they (and God) inspire him to make the music he does, but also because they often play significant roles in his songs and videos.

We sat down with Josh and spoke to him about his upcoming album, Trinity, set to be released on May 19th, 2017. It’s coincidentally the third album in a series of releases which have spanned from 2010 until now, the previous albums titled, Fashionably Late and Sellout.

In addition, we talk a bit about the music industry and get the scoop on his coming of age story, a testament to the evolution of a striving artist who started from the ground up.

Josh Rip, originally based out of Northern Chicago, has now been a Madison-based artist for a number of years. Since his arrival he has managed to win five Madison Hip Hop Awards, an achievement very few can say they have accomplished. His last two albums were huge successes in the Madison hip hop community, and no doubt the third will be as well.

Note: This interview has been edited for clarity. 

J: So we are chilling in the studio with Josh Rip. 

R: What’s going on?

J: It’s going pretty good. How are you?

R: Excellent man!

J: So, when and where did you start making music?

R: Man, this is throwing it back. This is going to date me, but I started making music in the 90’s in my bedroom. I had started DJing at 14 years old back home in Waukegan, Illinois.

J: What type of music gear did you start with?

S: Meow?

Sammie, Josh’s cat just jumped up on Josh’s lap. 

R: Welcome, cat, Sammie. *chuckles*

J: That is a really cool cat. Is she a tortoiseshell?

sammie
Sammie

R: I’m not really sure.

J: She looks like a tortoiseshell. They have a lot of personality.

R: She loves attention, that’s for sure!

*We laugh*

J: So, anyway. Back to the question. What type of music gear did you start with?

R: I started with a Radio Shack mixer, turntable, cassette player and CD player. I would record music on my computer before digital work stations like FL Studio were popular. This was back when Cool Edit Pro existed, which is now Adobe Audition. I would record instrumentals through my analog mixer into a program called N-Track Studio. That was when I got my first taste of really being able to record stuff digitally. I was 14 then and couldn’t afford to go to a recording studio… and then I got into producing with FL Studio right around 2001-2002. It was called Fruity Loops at the time.

J: What gear do you use today?

R: I have a home studio in my basement. I have a TASCAM 8-track digital audio workstation and a MIDI controller. I use a lot of software. I have a couple racks and a compressor for my vocals. It’s pretty much all software though. I use Adobe Creative Cloud, Adobe Audition, After Effects and Premier. And I still rock FL Studio.

J: So I see you have a platinum record on your wall. What is that for? 

R: It’s a certification for Twista’s Kamikaze album. Back in the early 2000’s I created a website for Twista which later became his official website. I had been making my own websites on sites like Angelfire since the late 90’s and started my own official website rip-records.com in March of 2000. Being from Chicago, Twista was one of my major influences but he didn’t have a fan page back then, so I built one for fun and that hobby kind of turned into something. The website was going strong with hundreds of thousands of views per month during the time when Twista was in between labels. The site helped his career by showing Atlantic Records that he had a huge core following, and because of that, they gave me a platinum plaque.

J: That’s awesome! So what projects are you currently working on?

R: My current project is called, Trinity. It’s my third studio album, hence the name, but there are other reasons for that too. It’s a new direction, a new phase in my life. Sellout was released 5 years ago and in that time I grew a lot. I matured and came to a point where my new music was leaning on my faith. I wouldn’t put the album in a box calling it Christian hip hop though. I think it’s got its own lane.

riptrinity
Trinity image from whoisrip.com

J: How is this new project different from previous records you’ve made?

R: Like I said, this album is more faith based. It deals with my struggles and addictions, issues with my family. I wouldn’t say it has a darker vibe to it but it’s more vulnerable. On my last two albums I took a more commercial approach. They were feel good albums. I geared them toward radio play. This new album is me, the real me. This is who I am and you can’t use it against me. I put all my faults out there for the world, to let people know I am still accepted by God despite my flaws. That is the message I am trying to convey on the album.

J: What makes this project stand out from the other records you have made?

R: What makes this album special to me personally is I feel God really had his hand on this album, especially lyrically. There were some lyrics where I thought wow, this is something I never could have come up with on my own.  Everyone has their own beliefs. I believe our talents were given to us by God.

J: What artists did you work with on your latest project?

R: The artists I worked with on this album were artists I have worked with on previous projects. My guy Billy, aka Sincere, I worked with him on my last album. He is a real talented dude. My homie, ANT da Hopeboy, he blessed me with some vocals. He and I actually won collaboration of the year in 2013 at the Madison Hip Hop Awards. A new vocalist I featured on this album was Katie Scullen. I actually had recorded something with her for my last album but the song didn’t make the cut. I love her voice. She has a distinct soulful voice. She has a passion. Even when we shot the video for the single she came out and got her feet dirty out in the swampy grass. She is an artist in every form.

J: Who are your musical influences?

R: Early on, early 90’s I listened to a lot of Chicago rap, artists like Twista, Crucial Conflict and Do or Die, but also Warren G and Dr. Dre. And then I got out of that phase and I started becoming influenced by everything. I became more influenced by pop culture and even country music.

J: How do you connect with your fan base?

R: Through social media and live shows mostly. I get a lot of response on Facebook. I also love to perform live. My CD release party will be held at Lucky’s 1313 Brew Pub, Wednesday May 17th, 2017. I will also be performing May 27th, 2017 at Brat Fest. I love my supporters though. I don’t even like the word fan because that just sounds like we are on two different levels. One of my favorite lyrics is that “I was given a platform but never a pedestal.” I don’t like being put on that level where people feel like they can’t reach out to me.

RElease-Party-FB-Header-1100x615

J: I totally agree. So how do you feel about the music industry? 

R: Bittersweet. We are in a different era from when I started making music. I feel like the industry is over-saturated. Anybody can record music or film a video and put it on YouTube and consider themselves an artist, which is great, but it’s also a double-edged sword. It’s harder to get music on blogs. It’s harder to get noticed. At the same time there are a lot of self made musicians who are making it without a record label. Back in the day you needed a record label to help get your music out. Today, if you can get an organic following of supporters you might not need a record label because you have so many supporters and so much muscle already behind you.

J: Do you feel the digital age has helped or hurt artists sell albums? 

R: I feel like the digital age has helped and hurt. I read somewhere that they are really starting to crack down on piracy, which I feel is a good thing. It seems like people are starting to accept paying for music online. At first they didn’t want to, but now it seems people are coming around… I believe digital is the future though. I knew that back before mp3’s were even popular. I was already streaming music from my website in the late 90’s. It’s a good thing. It gives people a platform to promote their music and get recognized across the world. Traditionally, I wouldn’t have been able to get my music out to people from other countries very easily.

J: Would you be upset if people pirated your music?

R: My music has been pirated. Fashionably Late, I think I’ve seen it on the Pirate Bay. I wouldn’t be upset. I see it like people want my music and they will get it by any means necessary. I appreciate it. At the end of the day, people who are going to buy music will buy it, and people who are going to pirate it will pirate it. There is no stopping it, but I prefer people purchase my music since it helps me continue doing what I am doing.

J: In what formats do you release your music?

R: I typically release my music in two formats, on CD and digitally (iTunes, Spotify etc.). When I released Fashionably Late in 2010, I thought that would be the last CD I ever pressed up, but the funny thing is I’m still pressing up CD’s. I like to have a hard copy.

J: Do you feel physical media is still relevant?

R: Physical media is still important. You get things with it you don’t get with digital media. Interacting with fans and giving them something personal that they can take with them is important. I remember buying Vanilla Ice’s To The Extreme on cassette which had a booklet of pictures and all the lyrics, and for some reason I really liked that. Being an aspiring rapper, I wanted to get to know the artist. When you search for lyrics online they are often wrong. So having something official from the artist is a good thing, credits, who produced what tracks, I love that. It’s an art form in and of itself.

J: How do you feel about streaming services like Spotify?

R: It’s the future. It’s what people are using to listen to music. Trinity has been distributed on Spotify as well as my last two albums. I am open to having my album on all platforms, whether they pay full price on iTunes or stream through services like Spotify where I get pennies on the dollar per stream, if that, or whether people pirate it, as long as my music is getting out there that’s all that matters to me honestly. This latest album especially is not about the money. This album is about evangelizing and ministry. God has blessed me with the things he has and so the money I make is a blessing from God from Him. He will take care of me.

J: How do you finance the production of your album and your videos then?

R: I pour a lot of my own personal money into my music, income I make DJing and producing videos for other people on the side. My music career is not funding itself. But even if I made a million dollars I would put 60% of that back into the music. It’s a never ending investment. You have to invest in yourself. I feel that is why people have taken me seriously for this long because I am constantly investing in myself. I cut a lot of costs by producing my own videos, recording my own music. I am a very frugal guy not just in my music career but in my personal life. I cut out middlemen and get the best prices I can on resources. But it still gets expensive. You have to pay for help, for visual effects, sub contractors etc. There are a lot of talented people out there but they are not going anywhere because they don’t invest in themselves.

J: Your music videos look amazing by the way. What gear do you use to make them? 

R: I shot on a Canon T2i for a couple of years which was a DSLR. Then I upgraded to a Panasonic GH4 which was a DSLM. It was mirrorless, so it wasn’t a DSLR, but it was a camera. And then I just recently upgraded to a film camera, the Black Magic Ursa Mini 4.6k which was a big step for me, but it was something I needed to get to take things to the next level.

J: When and where can we purchase your next album?

R: Trinity will be available on my website, whoisrip.com. You will be able to order the CD from there. The CD is great. It has a booklet with all of the lyrics to the songs as well as a bunch of pictures. It will also be available at all digital retailers.

J: Anything else you want the readers to know?

R: I want to thank everyone for reading. I want to thank Murfie for interviewing me. I want to thank everyone who helped out with my album. My homie, Memory, lent me some dope production. He is a great guitarist and producer. I recommend him to everyone. DJ Pain 1 lent some percussive production on the album. Katie Scullen, ANT and my homie Sincere, you guys are awesome. I appreciate all the supporters who are still rocking with me with this new album, new sound and new direction. I love you guys.

Listen to the full RIP interview on Audiomack: 

Check out more of Rip’s latest music videos from his upcoming album Trinity

Music by RIP

Rip SelloutRip Fashionably Late

Exclusive: DJ Pain 1 Demystifies Sample Clearance, Copyright and Publishing

djpain1-5_out
Photo courtesy of UCAN

Madison native, DJ Pain 1, is well known as a DJ and hip-hop producer who has worked with an inexhaustible list of popular artists including: Young Jeezy, Ludacris, 50 Cent and Public Enemy. He is a pillar of the Madison hip-hop community and has been a source of inspiration for many artists worldwide.

Pain 1, also known as Pacal Bayley, has earned his stripes not only as a platinum selling artist and dope producer but as an educator as well. Since having graduated from UW-Madison with a BA in secondary education and an MA in linguistics, Bayley has worked to create a successful non-profit organization known as UCAN (Urban Community Arts Network), along with community leaders, Karen Reece and Mark “Shah” Evans, in order to teach youth about the music industry and give them opportunities to perfect their art through local performance.

In addition to helping artists locally, Bayley has invested a great deal of time researching the music industry and informing the artist community via social media. His YouTube channel contains a compendium of information regarding selling beats, sample clearance, copyright, publishing and theft protection.

In this interview, we talk with DJ Pain 1 in hopes of unraveling some of the folklore that permeates hip-hop producer culture. We hope you enjoy!

J: We’ve noticed you have a lot of videos on YouTube that focus on beat making and music business strategies. What prompted you to start making these videos?

P: I started making production tutorials for my students back when I was teaching multimedia through the Information Technology Academy at UW-Madison. Eventually, a lot of producers were releasing tutorials on production, so I figured I’d start sharing some lesser known strategies– marketing, business, etc. Because we as producers really need to have more of a business foundation to survive and thrive in our careers.

J: In many of your videos you talk about sample clearance. As a hip hop producer is clearing samples something you have to deal with on a regular basis?

P: It’s not really something I have to deal with period, but I do have to deal with questions about sample clearance. There’s so much misinformation about sampling out there and some of it has become almost folklore in the producer community. For example, the idea that a sample doesn’t need to be cleared if it’s under 6 seconds– That’s a myth that so many of us believe. So there’s a need for that information.

J: How has sample clearing affected you as a producer today vs. in the past?

P: Since I’ve started making beats, the sampling laws haven’t changed. But what is new is that musicians are now creating collections of music that sound like vintage soul or progressive rock, the stuff producers love to sample, and selling them or giving them to producers to use in their beats. Guys like Frank Dukes and GKoop are doing this and creating some amazing records.

J: What advice do you give to other producers about sample clearance?

P: To stop worrying so much about it because it’s likely never going to be your responsibility to go through the process… But learn what that process involves.

J: What are some common misconceptions about clearing samples that you have had to tirelessly argue over?

P: People think producers clear samples before selling beats, for example. That’s the number 1 misconception I hear. And it doesn’t make sense because if an artist is being sampled, they will more likely object to the lyrics in the song than the beat itself, which is to say that the entire song has to be cleared. That’s one reason why labels and not producers take charge on sample clearance.

J: How does sample clearance affect advances and royalties?

P: It depends. But usually, a sample costs a few thousand to clear. So any money owed to the producer from their album sales royalties will cover that clearance fee. And sampling can affect your publishing splits, so you may not get any performance royalties from a song you produced if it contains a sample.

J: Who deals with clearing a sample at the Major Label level?

P: The label and possibly a third party sample clearance specialist.

J: In one of your videos you talk about the word “publish”. What is the confusion artists seem to have with that word?

P: I wish I knew so I could end the conversation. I guess people don’t realize that “publishing” literally just means “to make public.” So when a person steals a song or a beat and puts it on Soundcloud or YouTube without permission, they’re violating the law.  They’re publishing the intellectual property of others. This isn’t to be confused with publishing as in performing rights organizations. That’s a source of some conflation and confusion as well I imagine.

J: What is the difference between copyrighting and publishing?

P: Copyright has to do with legal ownership of a master recording whereas publishing has to do with ownership of the musical components– lyrics, melodies, notes– of a song.

J: When is copyrighting your music important?

P: Copyrighting music protects you from being liable for certain legal fees if somebody steals your music and you sue them. So it really depends.

J: What steps can an artist take to protect their music from theft?

P: I think preparedness is the best method. Theft can’t be prevented these days, but you can file DMCA claims easily when your music is published without your consent, for example.

J: How much should someone pay for a beat? What if it contains a sample?

P: They should pay a lot. The sample shouldn’t affect the price of the beat. I mean, honestly, I think all parties should be reasonable and meet one another halfway. A producer who made their first beat shouldn’t ask for $1500 from a local artist and an accomplished producer shouldn’t expect an unsigned artist to give them a huge advance.  But nobody should be devalued either.

J: How much do you charge for a beat? (major label vs. independent / leases vs. ownership)

P: It depends, but I’ll say this: There’s a HUGE difference between what a major label pays me and what an unsigned artist pays me. I’m realistic.

J: Is it important to have an entertainment lawyer?

P: Absolutely. People are out here signing all types of crazy contracts that really hurt them in the long run. They need somebody who can explain it all to them.

J: Has it become commonplace for producers to undercut each other? Do you believe undercutting has affected your sales as a producer?

P: Where there’s free market capitalism, there’s undercutting and throat cutting and cost cutting. It has affected us all– it leads to a race to the bottom in terms of market value.  We have to take advantages of so many other revenue streams to survive because beat prices are going down every time we blink. There’s no regulation or standard.

J: How do you feel about streaming services? (iTunes, Spotify, Amazon etc.)

P: They’re the present and the future, but physical media isn’t dead and I don’t imagine it will ever be truly irrelevant to all consumers.

J: Do you feel they pay the artists fairly?

P: When I finally get paid by one, I’ll let you know. I sort of like content ID money at the moment though. I don’t know if that’s considered a streaming royalty.

J: What do you feel are their advantages vs. disadvantages in this day and age?

P: The advantages are that people are discovering new music again. Streaming services make that possible for certain artists. It’s how Ted Park and I were able to hit Billboard’s top 10 and sign a record deal with Capitol. But radio and television pay more to artists and streaming platforms have become the predominant way people consume music. So that could be seen as a disadvantage.

J: Digitalmusicnews.com had a recent blog post about streaming and stated that a certain band made an average of .004891 cents per stream. This means, if my calculations are correct, that it would take over 2000 streams to equal the cost of one purchased CD. How do you feel about that?

P: I feel depressed. Thanks.

J: What is the best way for an artist to sell their albums in your opinion?

P: Every way. You never know how your fans want to consume your music until you try them out. Some musicians are selling tapes these days. Sole and I sell a lot of vinyl and cds still, but we also make a few dollars here and there from digital sales. I prefer to explore my options before limiting myself.

J: Do you believe physical media is still relevant? If so, how?

P: Because I’m still selling physical media. People can’t hold or trade or frame a stream.  We as humans like having stuff– records, shirts, tour posters– from the musicians we love.

J: Which has been more lucrative for you, physical media or streaming sales?

P: Physical, no contest.

J: What is your next project release and how do you intend to sell it?

P: I just released a project with J Tek titled “Lost” that was all digital. But I’ll be releasing an all digital free instrumental album, Undressed Instrumentals 5, very soon.

J: You recently performed in SXSW. What was your experience like? Do you think SXSW is a good place for artist exposure?

P: It’s a great place for artists who already have fans to meet their fans. It’s hard to gain exposure as a new artist in that arena. There are so many artists there competing for the attention of potential fans. You have to start local/regional in my opinion.

J: Thank you so much for your thoughts. We appreciate you taking the time to talk with us about music and hope your future projects are a success!

P: Anytime! Thank you.

Albums involving DJ Pain 1

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Lior Ben-Hur Interview

Time to send some new music your way, Murfie friends! Lior Ben-Hur is a reggae musician currently residing in the city of San Francisco, California. His band goes by the same name. Lior is from Jerusalem originally, and has seen a lot of different countries—which is why his reggae tunes are infused with an infectious “world” sound. His EP is currently available on Murfie, and it has contributions from musician Marcus Urani of Groundation.

I was lucky enough to chat with him the other day! Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.


Lior Ben-HurK: Thank you so much for calling in, how’s everything going?

L: Everything is great, and you?

K: It’s great! Where are you calling from today?

L: From San Francisco.

K: Ah, love it. You know, San Francisco—I feel like people have been talking lately about how expensive it’s getting to live there. Do you find it’s hard to keep a band in that city?

L: Very hard, and the city has been changing a lot—especially where I live, which is the Mission District. The city used to be a good place for artists when I moved into this neighborhood about 10 years ago, but it’s been taken over by high tech people with good income, and good paychecks, which makes the landlords raise the rent a lot. I think in the last three years probably most of the rent around me has been raised almost 100%, which means the artists are leaving the city. The art scene is not really here as much anymore. There are still some people, like myself and the band, but still it’s kind of hard because things are changing.

K: You spend a lot of time touring with the band and traveling, which seems to be the way musicians survive nowadays. And you’re from Jerusalem originally, so you’ve seen a lot of different countries. What types of music have stood out as your favorite?

L: Well I’ve been traveling a lot, and music that I’m really inspired by is Latin music and Caribbean music. I’ve spent some time in Columbia, and this summer we toured there a little bit, and it was really great to hear the music over there. Obviously I’m really inspired by Cuban music, Jamaican music, and the Caribbean style, and also Latin music as a whole. I’ve also traveled in southeast Asia, so I spent a lot of time in India. I’m not very knowledgeable about their music, but I’m inspired by their culture—their way of seeing musicians, and their place in the culture and society.

K: Do you like any other US-based bands that are considered “world” bands, like yours?

L: There are a few bands in San Francisco. We do kind of world reggae stuff, so the idea is to take a lot of inspiration from reggae and bring a new twist to it. There’s a great world reggae band in Israel, in Tel Aviv—their name is Zvuloon Dub System, and they combine Ethiopian music with roots reggae. Being here in California, one of my biggest influences is Groundation, and their take on reggae with their jazz and other influences. There are also bands here that are more on the world side and Latin side, especially in the Bay Area. It’s very inspiring for me and for the band.

Harrison and Marcus from Groundation on Kayla's radio show!
Harrison and Marcus from Groundation on Kayla’s radio show!

K: I love Groundation! They’ve come here to Madison and I’ve seen them play. Marcus Urani from Groundation, who played on your EP, played on my radio show as well. How did you link up with him?

L: Groundation has been a great influence in my personal journey into reggae and live music. I’ve seen them live in San Francisco many many times. The first time was about eight or nine years ago, and when I saw them live, they kind of blew my mind. I took a lot of inspiration and vision from seeing what they do. For example, the instrumentation—they have a vocal section and horn section. That always was my dream to do a full band. I’ve been lucky to get connected with them just by being around the Bay Area, and I reached out to Marcus and Jim Fox, who is the guy who mixes their albums, and the one who mixed the EP. So I reached out to Marcus, and he was very nice and generous, and offered to help out. He came to the studio and helped out, and we really formed a relationship. He is a great guy. We connected in not only music but on a personal level, and since then we’ve been friends. Of course they tour a lot, so it’s hard to see him because most of the year they’re gone. But actually, we’re going to get in the studio this month in California and record the new album. He’ll be helping engineer and produce it.

K: That’s awesome news! Do you have any new directions planned for this album, or will it be a continuation of what’s on the EP?

L: There is a concept and a direction. The EP is a reggae EP—we’ve done a lot of music throughout the year, a lot of world music, and the idea with the EP is just to bring our take on reggae. There is some in English and some in Hebrew, which are both the languages that I speak fluently and sing. The new album is going to connect a little bit of my Israel and Jerusalem roots to this musical experience, and tell the journey of coming from Jerusalem to Israel in the lyrics, in the message, and also in the music components.

K: Great. Well I’m excited to see what you come up with! Thanks so much for taking time to talk today—keep us posted about all the things you have going on in the future!

L: Sure thing, thank you for the time.


Kayla Liederbach
@djkaylakush

Kayla manages social media and customer support at Murfie. You can hear her on the radio hosting U DUB, the reggae show, Wednesdays on WSUM. She enjoys hosting the Murfie podcast, cooking, traveling, going to concerts, and snuggling with kittycats.

Interview with The People Brothers Band [Podcast]

Positivity. Good vibes. Great people. Fun music. These are just a few things that immediately come to mind when I think of The People Brothers Band—a Madison-based “rhythm & soul” group known for their uplifting live shows. We had the pleasure of having two PBB members, Teresa and Greg, in the Murfie office recently. They had a lot of great things to say about the Midwest scene, and People Fest, which is happening this weekend in Hillsboro, Wisconsin!

Here’s a transcript of our interview, along with the Soundcloud link below for your listening pleasure.

People Brothers Band Middle of the In BetweenWho: Teresa Marie and Greg Schmitt; interviewed by Kayla Liederbach
Where: Murfie HQ, Madison, WI
When: Monday, July 20th, 2015
How: Recorded by Kayla Liederbach

Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 


K: I’m here at the Murfie office with Greg and Teresa from The People Brothers Band, so big welcome.

G: Hello!

T: Hello hello, thank you for having us!

K: Yes. I’m glad you guys dig Murfie, and the concept.

G: Absolutely.

T: This is super cool. Blows my mind a little bit. More people need to know about Murfie.

K: Yes, and it’s local…slash national. But yeah, it’s a lot of fun to be part of it. And we were also just mentioning the MAMAs—Madison Area Music Awards—which were a ton of fun. You guys won top Pop/R&B Album of the Year, Middle of the in Between. So what do you guys think about the MAMA award system and everything?

T: I think every year they’re increasingly doing way cooler things, and this year they definitely put on a show. And I really encourage the musicians in Madison to get out and know more about it, because I think that’s what it lacks, is us being more involved in it. But it’s a really cool way to get recognition and to be appreciated.

G: I think it’s a really cool thing because every time, every year you get to see all these cool new bands. We all run in different circles, and it’s finally cool to see all these people come together. It’s fun for me because when I get to go in and vote, all of a sudden you get to listen to these bands that, you see their names in The Isthmus but you don’t always get to go out to the shows, because you’re playing on the weekends. So it’s fun, because it kind of like gives you a good reason to check out all these great bands. And then it’s fun because it kind of gets everybody in one place, you get to see all these different people that you didn’t know about.

K: I would agree with that 100%. And its enough rotation every year to keep it interesting. Some people are repeat winners but it’s good to see it cycle through like that. During your speech Teresa you had a message to musicians, telling them they had the opportunity to spread positivity through doing this. I thought that was great, can you elaborate on that a little bit?

T: Absolutely, that’s really cool that you even…that means a lot! I guess at the end of the day, I think most people are doing music for the love of it, and the way that you feel when you’re playing music, when you’re doing music, when the people are watching you the way they’re receiving it—if you could just spread that feeling throughout the community for other things. And I think that we can, I think that when you feel that kind of passion and that kind of love coming from people, you can’t help but want to do good things with it. That’s what we do at People Fest, I know that.

K: Yes, tell me about People Fest!

T: August 6th, 7th and 8th. And I will say more than once that it’s not just some of the most fun you’re gonna have this summer, it’s some of the best memories you can make in your life. And that’s a true story. There’s so much love flowing through those driftless hills, it doesn’t make any sense.

481065_556687791009906_323876588_nK: Love it. What town is it in?

G: Hillsboro, Wisconsin. It’s over by Wildcat Mountain. It’s an awesome drive out there, it’s on 300 acres of amazing land out there. We’ve got horses running around…

T: Alpacas…

G: We’ve got a couple llamas and a miniature donkey. And it’s all family friendly. We’ve got 53 bands playing.

T: Three stages, camping, family camping.

Continue reading Interview with The People Brothers Band [Podcast]

Interview with Ha Ha Tonka [Podcast]

Ha Ha Tonka is a rock band from Missouri with a sound influenced by life in the Ozarks. We recently had guitarist and vocalist Brian Roberts on the phone for an interview, because we wanted to find out his thoughts on Bloodshot Records, the value of buying music, and getting through a personal run-in with cancer and the American healthcare system.

Here’s a transcript of our interview, along with the Soundcloud link below for your listening pleasure.

438958-largeWho: Brian Roberts; interviewed by Kayla Liederbach
When: Thursday July 16th, 2015
How: via phone

Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

K:  So Brian, how do you like being part of Bloodshot Records and that family over there?

B: Well I’m glad you used the word family. That’s basically what it is. I mean really we’ve been with Bloodshot since we started doing this professionally, since 2007. So yeah, we love all those guys. They’re the smartest people in the industry and just a great label to be a part of. We’ve been really fortunate to grow our band with them as our main supporters.

K: Are there any other bands on their client list that you’re following pretty closely?

B: Yeah, the Banditos are really having a great year. They’ve had such great acts in the past, like you know some of our favorite records, and I think can speak collectively for the band too. Ryan AdamsHeartbreaker came out on Bloodshot, and I wore that album out listening to it so many times. Justin Townes Earle was on the label recently and put out a couple great records. Of course the Old 97’s earlier on. They’ve had so many good acts, I could just talk about them all day. Bobby Bare, Jr. There’s some phenomenal acts on Bloodshot.

K: Cool. Well you’re in good company. You know the music business is an interesting thing, it’s always changing. I was wondering what your thoughts are on some of the recent trends in the music business, including the infinite access to music that people have.

B: Well you know I don’t…obviously it would be great if people still bought records the way they did in the 90’s or anytime prior to that. I don’t hold out any hope that that will come back. So I am thankful that we are a touring band, and the touring side of things hasn’t changed. We generate most of our income from the touring side of what we do. When it comes to the debate over streaming services or digital downloads, or any of the Napster or post-Napster stuff that’s gone on, really that’s just technology. And I don’t know if the music industry was ready for the onslaught like some of the other digital industries were, whether that be gaming or movies or the film industry. I don’t know. I don’t really know how to talk about it in a way that doesn’t make me sound like an asshole. I love that people can go online and check out a band—check out our band—and not have to pay for it right away. But the problem I think comes into the fact that people then never pay for your music. Or rarely do. Or there’s probably a whole generation that doesn’t think that music costs anything. And I think Bloodshot’s tried to educate people, Nan Warshaw has spoke on it several times about how not buying a record from a band like the Banditos or the 97’s 25 years or 20 years ago would have meant they got less money for next time they want to make a record. Less tour support. They get less of everything.

K: Yeah I agree with some of the things you pointed out, especially I believe that maybe the next generation of music consumers doesn’t even expect to pay for music.

B: Right, what does that mean?

Continue reading Interview with Ha Ha Tonka [Podcast]