Blogs The Green Room Paul Schmelzer

Nine-year editor of Walker magazine (1998-2007), Paul returned to the Walker as web editor in September 2011. A freelance writer and blogger, he writes on art, media, and activism for publications including Adbusters, Artforum.com, Ode, Utne, Cabinet, Raw Vision and at his personal site, Eyeteeth. Award-winning former editor of the Minnesota Independent, his interviews with architect Cameron Sinclair, artist Rirkrit Tiravanija and activist Winona La Duke appear in the book Land, Art: A Cultural Ecology Handbook (Royal Society of Arts). @iteeth

Exclusive Video: Dessa’s “Fighting Fish” as Remixed by The Hood Internet

For a woman bringing a distinctive voice to the male-dominated world of hip hop, Dessa says it was both “brain-scrambling” and grafifying to hear herself as a man—or, more accurately, to witness her voice slowed down so much that it sounded like that of a male rapper. That’s what Chicago’s The Hood Internet did with […]

Dessa. Photo: Hannah Hofmann

Dessa. Photo: Hannah Hofmann

For a woman bringing a distinctive voice to the male-dominated world of hip hop, Dessa says it was both “brain-scrambling” and grafifying to hear herself as a man—or, more accurately, to witness her voice slowed down so much that it sounded like that of a male rapper. That’s what Chicago’s The Hood Internet did with her single “Fighting Fish”: for an album released this June, the Minneapolis poet, writer, and Doomtree emcee shared the vocal tracks from her 2013 release Parts of Speech with other musicians and producers for reimagining. Offering The Green Room‘s readers an exclusive first look at the new video for the “Fighting Fish” remix—alongside the original—Dessa shares her thoughts, both on the remix project and on that first time listening to her voice slowed to man-like levels:

The beat for the original “Fighting Fish” was produced by my labelmate, Lazerbeak. It’s got a driving, aggressive sound; the lyrics I wrote for it are about going for the big win, even against long odds (music career, anyone?). In the Midwest, bold ambitions are often perceived as presumptuous: Who are you to think you can do or be something special? This song swims against that current.

We released “Fighting Fish” on my album Parts of Speech last year. This summer Doomtree released a remix project: we sent a cappella versions of the songs to producers around the country and asked them to build new production around the vocals. My favorite remix came from the The Hood Internet, based in Chicago. The remixed version of “Fighting Fish” is chopped and screwed, the vocals slowed down enough to sound as if they were recorded by a male artist. When I first received the file, I listened to it on repeat in my one-bedroom apartment, stunned. The new version seemed to change the emotional center of the song completely–more melancholic, an added gravitas. To hear my lyrics delivered in a man’s voice was brain-scrambling. The male voice is the featured instrument in most rap music; it’s the instrument to which I’m most accustomed as a listener and a fan. The transposition was at once gratifying (I sound like the artists I like!) and sobering as potential evidence of my own ingrained sexism (Do I grant male voices an authority that I don’t grant female voices–including my own?) After all the sociopolitical considerations subsided, however, I continue to love this remix because it kicks ass musically and it’s a big, bold departure from the original.

We recorded a music video for each version of the song. Both were directed by the team Isaac Gale and David Jensen. A big thanks to those two and to all the artists that contributed on this project. Hope you dig it, too.

Dessa, “Fighting Fish (The Hood Internet Remix)”

Dessa, “Fighting Fish” (Original)

For more from Dessa at the Walker, watch her perform “Bangarang” with Doomtree at Rock the Garden 2012; view the Rock the Garden 2014 time-lapse; see video of the October 2013 reading/book-launch party for her poetry chapbook, A Pound of Steam; or read “2013: The Year According to Dessa.” To see Dessa live, check her out on tour, starting later this week, or at Minneapolis’ Orchestra Hall, where she’ll make her choral debut in October.

2013: The Year According to Dessa

Dessa. Photo: Bill Phelps To commemorate the year that was, we invited artists, designers, and thinkers across disciplines — from interdisciplinary artist Ralph Lemon and ebook publishers Badlands Unlimited to design firm Experimental Jetset and musician Greg Tate — to share a list of their most noteworthy ideas, events, and objects of 2013. See the […]

Dessa Diamonds photo credit Bill Phelps

Dessa. Photo: Bill Phelps

To commemorate the year that was, we invited artists, designers, and thinkers across disciplines — from interdisciplinary artist Ralph Lemon and ebook publishers Badlands Unlimited to design firm Experimental Jetset and musician Greg Tate — to share a list of their most noteworthy ideas, events, and objects of 2013. See the entire series 2013: The Year According to                                 .

As her bio says, Dessa has been described as “Mos Def plus Dorothy Parker.” As her lyrics say, she’s “half Dorothy Parker, half April O’Neil” (a nod to the famed poet and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ truth-seeking sidekick, respectively). However you categorize her — scrappy, rappy, or writerly — the Minneapolis-based emcee, poet, writer, activist, and veteran member of the hip hop collective Doomtree is busy. In the last year, she’s published a chapbook of poetry (launched at the Walker in October), released the solo album Parts of Speech, performed an NPR Tiny Desk concert, performed in the ninth annual Doomtree Blowout, published the “miniature book” Are You Handsome?, conducted some excellent interviews on music and food for the beer magazine The Growler and gave some excellent interviews on topics from homophobia to humanism, toured the country with her band, and got going on a new project, a collaboration with classical composer Jocelyn Hagen: commissioned by Minneapolis Public Schools, it’ll be performed in April by a student choir and orchestra. To name a few.

Given the nature of the work she did last year, Dessa — aka @dessadarling on Twitter — offers a fittingly diverse best-of-2013, covering her favorites in religion and TV, politics and hip hop.

1

Marriage Equality in Minnesota

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Margaret Miles and Cathy ten Broeke, the first same-sex couple in Minnesota to marry, with their son Louie and Minneapolis Mayor RT Rybak (right), who officiated, on Aug. 1, 2013. Photo: Governor Dayton’s Office, Flickr

I spent much of 2013 in a Ford van nicknamed MOUNTAIN, touring the country with my band. During the long drives, I usually work on my laptop,  Joey plays video games, Aby dons headphones to read her book, and the driver enjoys DJ privileges. On the day that Minnesota announced the official legalization of gay marriage, however, we all leaned forward in our seats to be a bit closer to the pair of working speakers. Everyone stayed still and silent as we listened to a streaming feed of MPR.  I remember wiping my eyes with my sleeve, and making happy eyes at all my friends reflected in the rearview.

2

The “Control” Verse 

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Photo: Merlijn Hoek, Wikipedia

Kendrick Lamar wrote a guest verse on a Big Sean track and sent the question “Did you hear it yet?” ringing ’round the world. In this verse Kendrick challenges the rap community, even calling out good friends by name, to up the bar. His contemporaries scrambled to write responses and recorded them before morning; veterans spoke of a healthy jolt to the system. Rap is a contact art.

3

Pope Francis

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Photo: Catholic Church of England and Wales, used under Creative Commons license

I left the Catholic Church pretty early, but it’s been heartening to watch the first few months of Pope Francis’ term. (Term? Appointment? Reign? I dunno. I left early.) He declined the opulent papal apartment, skipped the gold ring, and emphasizes the centrality of mercy, compassion, and humility — big things. (Though of course Pope Francis would not have been with me making ‘happy eyes’ in the van.) Plus, we all got to watch CNN cover smoke signals.

4

Breaking Bad

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Bryan Cranston as Walter White in Breaking Bad. Photo: AMC

The hype. It’s for real.

5

Malala Yousafzai’s Nobel Peace Prize Nomination

Malala_Yousafzai

Malala Yousafzai addresses United Nations Youth Assembly, July 12, 2013. Photo: YouTube

It’s tempting to reduce Malala to an archetype, a Joan of Arc. That archetype is enticing because the weakest societal players (females, children) prove capable of prevailing over the strongest. Most of us identify, at least privately, with the underdog, so it comes as welcome news that the meek might not have to wait until the end of the Earth to inherit it. But try as I might to caution myself against undue romanticism, dammit, this girl is a Joan of Arc. She’s fearless and kind and she makes me want to be a better person.

6

Kanye West BBC  Interview 

He’s a megalomaniac, yes, of course. He also makes some strong, smart arguments about race in America. (The interviewer Zane Lowe, however, may be irredeemable.)

7

Washington Initiative 522 
500x500-Avatar-FoodMichael Pollan’s book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, got me by the gills. I started that book with some interest in the environment; I finished it with a lot of interest in how the business of food affects the distribution of power in this country. Since reading it, I’ve interviewed small farmers, market directors, organizers, and activists. It’s complicated stuff, and I’ve reconsidered several long-held positions. My ears perked up in the autumn of 2013 when Washington state held a vote on whether or not companies should be required to label genetically modified food. The initiative did not pass, but I have a feeling that the conversation is just beginning.

8

Lady Lamb the Beekeeper


This recording artist has been active for years, but I only discovered her in 2013. Her song “Between Two Trees” and the one-take video that accompanies it reminds me how well rules can be broken.

9

Mac Miller Settlement with Lord Finesse 
Mac-Miller-Kickin-Incredibly-Dope-Shit-Front-CoverHip hop production has historically been a collage art, at least in part. Producers use snippets of other musical works to assemble a new song, and in doing so they create a a genre with a rich subtext of references and cross-references. Finding a new, unusual context for a particular riff or drum beat is part of the skill of production. So, how do you make room for this recombinant form while still making sure the original, sampled musicians get compensated? We have no blessed idea. And when Mac Miller settled with Lord Finesse last year, it seemed to emphasize how far we are from a solution. The short story: Mac sampled one of Finesse’s songs from the ’90s to create a track that Mac posted online, for free. This was a big deal; most producers thought that free, non-commercial downloads would not be vulnerable to sample suit. Some news sources said the case signaled the death of the mixtape. Congress is now in the midst of reviewing US copyright law.

10

Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela (ANC) Addresses Special Committee Against ApartheidRest in peace.

2013: The Year According to Ralph Lemon

To commemorate the year that was, we invited artists, designers, and thinkers across disciplines — from photographer JoAnn Verburg and design firm Experimental Jetset to writer Greg Allen and “conceptual entrepreneur” Martine Syms — to share their most noteworthy ideas, events, and objects of 2013. See the entire series 2013: The Year According to     […]

photo (2)To commemorate the year that was, we invited artists, designers, and thinkers across disciplines — from photographer JoAnn Verburg and design firm Experimental Jetset to writer Greg Allen and “conceptual entrepreneur” Martine Syms — to share their most noteworthy ideas, events, and objects of 2013. See the entire series 2013: The Year According to                                 . 

During a 2010 visit to the Walker, Ralph Lemon told us of his future plans: “Going forward, I’m looking at the meaning of being an artist, and what might be my place in that.” The notion of constantly redefining what a performing artist is and does has been consistent throughout Lemon’s nearly 40-year career. Starting out in Minneapolis in the mid-1970s, he danced with Nancy Hauser and helped co-found Mixed Blood Theatre. After a stint working with Meredith Monk in New York, he founded his celebrated eponymous dance company — only to disband it at the height of its critical success. At that point he went “enthusiastically into freefall,” as Marcia Siegal wrote in 2000: “Concerned about the way technology had been reconfiguring American art, he set out to look at alternative practices in other parts of the world; he wanted to see how his own artmaking — as dancer, writer, photographer and graphic artist — would evolve if he played by different rules. Soon he became involved in a web of people and projects that could be easily modified to accommodate his agile and curiously moral imagination.”‘

Lemon’s projects since the have been increasingly more global and interdisciplinary, involving collaborators met during his decade of travel and media including text, dance, video, visual art installations (including a set design by Nari Ward), and music (with artists as diverse as Christian Marclay, Tracy Morris, DJ Spooky, and a group of Chinese folk musicians). Like his ambitious ten-year Geography Trilogy, all three parts of which were presented at the Walker, his more recent works have pushed boundaries of both form and content. In recent years, his diverse activities have ranged from curating a performance series at MoMA to collaborating with Jim Findlay on the two-channel video installation, Meditation (acquired for the Walker collection in 2012)and publishing three books on the Geography Trilogy, among many other projects.

In September 2014, Lemon returns to the Walker for a residency concluding with the world premiere of what may be his boldest experiment yet:  Scaffold Room. Using a two-story structure erected in Burnet Gallery, this live multimedia performance installation will explore ideas of contemporary performance through archetypal black female personae in American culture. 

For his best-of-2013 list, Lemon chooses a fittingly diverse array of works, books, and ideas from across disciplines.

1

Paul McCarthy at Park Avenue Armory

WS, Paul McCarthy

Photo: James Ewing, courtesy Park Avenue Armory

The exhibition WS was emphatic, vast, brilliant, puerile, perverse, beautiful, funny, and, from what I’ve heard, very very expensive to put together.

2

Night Stand

paxton_full_3The US premiere of Lisa Nelson and Steve Paxton’s Night Stand at Dia Art Foundation took me away. The wide wide world of Paxton and Nelson: Beckett, Faulkner, Fassbinder, Ono, Laurel and Hardy, Fred and Ginger…

3

Thomas Hirschhorn’s Gramsci Monument

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Thomas Hirschhorn’s Gramsci Monument. Photo: Andrew Russeth

I thought I would hate it. A very famous (and very good) Swiss artist, who lives and works in Paris, goes to the South Bronx, with major support from Dia Art Foundation and does what? Well, the Monument, its specific functionality, became a vital and inspired gathering place, and a good part of the community bought into it and everyone involved seemed grateful for the life of it. Too bad it was primarily a temporary art piece (Gramsci, who?). From the outside it seemed like it belonged there.

4

Boris Charmatz at MoMA

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Boris, the “prince of French dance,” his exuberant (and privileged) generosity. A kind and generous event, dance. His Levée des conflits extended felt infinite. Perfect in the vastness of the Atrium.

5

Now Dig This!
Installation view of Now Dig This! Art and Black Los Angeles 1960–1980 at MoMA PS1, 2012. © MoMA PS1; photo: Matthew Septimus.

Photo: Matthew Septimus, © MoMA PS1

Now Dig This! Art and Black Los Angeles 1960-1980, MoMA PS1:  A most elegant curation. (I also had fun at Blues for Smoke at theWhitney Museum of American Art.)

6

Rick Owens’ Spring Show


The video and online buzz of Rick Owens’ Paris Spring 2014 show, with choreography by Lauretta and Leeanet Noble and danced by members of Soul Steps and Momentum, of NYC, and the Washington Divas and the Zetas from the D.C. area: Oh gosh! I loved how little of what I loved about the buzz and the video had to do with fashion.

7

Sonali Deraniyagala’s Wave

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Devastating. A true story that couldn’t be true.

8

The Grey Album

the-grey-album-lgKevin Young’s The Grey Album: On the Blackness of Blackness is smart, poetic and vibrantly apocalyptic. Pop culture, a (fantastic) (decorative) snake forever eating its tail.

9

Obamacare

Screen shot 2014-01-14 at 2.42.15 PMAmerica cares.

10

Whistle-blower Edward Snowden

SnowdenEverybody cares. (I hope)

Honorable mentions

 

In memoriam: Sage Cowles. Lou Reed.

valentinaIn birth: My daughter, Valentina Ruth.

Listen: “Calm It Down,” by Sisyphus (Sufjan Stevens, Serengeti, Son Lux)

As we announced this morning, the trio S/S/S — comprised of singer/songwriter Sufjan Stevens, rapper Serengeti, and producer/composer Son Lux — is putting out a full-length, self-titled LP in February and taking on a new name: Sisyphus. (As Stevens told us, the new name speaks to both the the nature of collaborative music-making and to the […]

Sisyphus (Son Lux, Serengeti, Sufjan Stevens). Photo: John Ciambriello

Sisyphus (Son Lux, Serengeti, Sufjan Stevens). Photo: John Ciambriello

As we announced this morning, the trio S/S/S — comprised of singer/songwriter Sufjan Stevens, rapper Serengeti, and producer/composer Son Lux — is putting out a full-length, self-titled LP in February and taking on a new name: Sisyphus. (As Stevens told us, the new name speaks to both the the nature of collaborative music-making and to the art of Jim Hodges, which inspired the name change. Also, “S/S/S started to sound like the Nazi Schutzstaffel with a lisp, so we had to change it. Eff those Nazis.”)

Commissioned by the Walker Art Center and The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra’s Liquid Music series, Sisyphus will available on limited-edition vinyl exclusively at the Walker Shop on February 14, coinciding with the opening of the exhibition Jim Hodges: Give More Than You Take. It goes into wide release (CD/LP/digital download) on March 18. In anticipation of its release, here’s the first track from the new recording, “Calm It Down”:

You can download it here:

In 2014, Rock the Garden Expands to a Two-Day Festival

A rain delay that turned into an impromptu parking-ramp rave with Dan Deacon. Low’s now-infamous 27-minute, one-song, “drone-not-drones” set. A homecoming for former Hüsker Dü front man Bob Mould. After Rock the Garden 2013, it’s hard to imagine the event getting any more memorable. But next June, we’ll try: In 2014, the Walker and 89.3 […]

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A rain delay that turned into an impromptu parking-ramp rave with Dan Deacon. Low’s now-infamous 27-minute, one-song, “drone-not-drones” set. A homecoming for former Hüsker Dü front man Bob Mould. After Rock the Garden 2013, it’s hard to imagine the event getting any more memorable. But next June, we’ll try:

In 2014, the Walker and 89.3 The Current are expanding Rock the Garden to a two-day festival for the first time in the event’s history. Mark your calendar for Saturday, June 21 and Sunday, June 22, 2014.

Held nearly every summer since 1998, Rock the Garden has welcomed a diverse array of bands to its stage. including David Byrne, Stereolab, Sonic Youth, Wilco, Bon Iver, Doomtree, Trampled by Turtles, and the New Pornographers, to name a few. Be the first to get the announcement this spring about the on-sale date and lineup for 2014’s two-day festival by following Rock the Garden on Facebook and Twitter. Or sign up to receive Cross Currents, The Current’s weekly newsletter, and Walker emails.

Tickets to the two-day event will be available to Walker Art Center and MPR members first, with an exclusive pre-sale to be announced at a later date. To purchase Walker memberships visit http://www.walkerart.org/membership; The Current/MPR memberships can be purchased at mpr.org/support.

“Ecstatic Music Love Fest”: Poliça’s Channy Leaneagh Interviews Jherek Bischoff

Assembling an international all-star cast for his October 18 concert Jherek Bischoff: Composed, Bischoff tapped musicians at the top of their form, from Icelandic vocalist Ólöf Arnalds to Bay Area drummer Greg Saunier (Deerhoof), Norwegian singer-songwriter Sondre Lerche to the Twin Cities’ own Channy Leaneagh. Performing with Bischoff just days before her own nationally acclaimed […]

Jherek Bischoff. Photo: Angel Ceballos

Jherek Bischoff. Photo: Angel Ceballos

Assembling an international all-star cast for his October 18 concert Jherek Bischoff: Composed, Bischoff tapped musicians at the top of their form, from Icelandic vocalist Ólöf Arnalds to Bay Area drummer Greg Saunier (Deerhoof), Norwegian singer-songwriter Sondre Lerche to the Twin Cities’ own Channy Leaneagh. Performing with Bischoff just days before her own nationally acclaimed band, Poliça, releases its sophomore album, Leanagh agreed to lead an email conversation with Bischoff. Their casual exchange hit topics from the nature of collaboration to musical inspirations, nervous nail-biting to bedtime music.

Channy Leaneagh: I’ll start.

Jherek Bischoff: Oh good! Starting is always the hardest part! Thank you.

Leaneagh: Hello, Jherek,

Bischoff: Ahoy, Channy!

Leaneagh: I’m biting my nails at the thought of interviewing another musician because it’s my least favorite part of this line of work.

Bischoff: I feel you! I every once in awhile say yes to a thing and then realize it’s pretty far out of my comfort zone, and then I freak out a little bit. Funny about biting your nails. Do you really do that? I do. It’s a disgusting habit. I have quit several times and then something really intense happens, like a big show or something, and I go back to it. Yuck! Darn!

Leaneagh: Ha, yes I do bite my nails. Thought I’d quit, but this relaxed interview seems to have brought it out in me again! My hands were well washed and my nails will grow back, so no harm done really. Now, let’s get on with this. You did a beautiful piece for the Kronos Quartet this past July called A Semiperfect Number. Did you have any specific imagery or story behind the composition?

Bischoff: Were you there!? Man, if you were I wish we would have hung!

Leaneagh: I wasn’t there, but thanks to the Internet I have been able to watch and listen to it a bunch.

Bischoff: Well, thanks for the nice words. A Semiperfect Number is another one of these tunes that has been kind of floating around my head for a long time. The song is sort of like two songs with a little connecty bit. The first half of the tune is the part that has been stewing. I wrote it, like a lot of my tunes, on ukulele! The second part came to me a couple days before my deadline. I wrote that part on violin and cello.

The name of the tune refers to the number 40. We played the piece at Lincoln Center in celebration of their 40th anniversary. I was truly hoping people were not going to think I was referring to my own piece… I thought that could sound pretty egotistical! No one said anything…

It’s funny that you mention imagery. This, like most of my music, sounds pretty cinematic, but I rarely have a connection to anything visual until long after I write a piece. I’m not a visual person at all. I am just a feel or mood kind of music maker. My orchestral writing is certainly informed by soundtracks more than classical music so a lot of people mention getting pictures in their heads when listening to my music.

Leaneagh: I’ve been enjoying your collaboration with David Byrne on “Eyes” and Soko and Zac Pennington on “Young & Lovely.” When you are entering into collaboration do you usually work with people you know or have met before, starting the collaboration out of friendship, or do you seek people out from afar and then get to know them through the collaboration?

Bischoff: I love to do a lot of both! Zac and Soko are both friends of mine, and we have a long history of collaborating with each other, but in the case of David Byrne, I had never met him. My big influences as a collaborator are Björk, Duke Ellington, and Mingus. These people could put together these monster bands and utilize people with extremely different backgrounds and musical vocabularies, yet at the end of the day it still sounded like a Mingus composition or a Björk song. So when I set out to collaborate, I do it in basically two ways.

Channy Leanagh. Photo: Cameron Wittig

Channy Leaneagh. Photo: Cameron Wittig

1. I write some material, and then I try to imagine the absolute perfect person to sing the song. Then I reach out to them and cross my fingers that they’ll give me the time of day. This has worked really well for me, and I think it is the fact that I am asking these people to do what they are great at. I’m not asking David Byrne to sing in a strange octave or to bust out an oboe solo or something. I am asking him to do something that I know that he is totally awesome at. So, when people have listened to the tunes and heard what I have to say, I think it feels natural for them to say yes.

2. Sometimes I play a show at a festival or something and I have an opportunity to have a guest vocalist that has a voice that I am not entirely familiar with, but they seem like rad folks, or they are friends or friends of friends. In this case, I will listen to some of their recordings and really try to think of things in my repertoire where I think they could really feel natural. I also, most of the time, will arrange a tune or two for the ensemble so that they can get in their comfort zone and have fun with it. That way they can sing some of their own music in a new way and sing a new tune!

So I do both in hopes that it will lead to longer relationships and friendships. I just try to be around awesome people and I try to make it really easy and fun for them!

We haven’t met yet! But I’m listening to your music and getting a feel for your range and the sound of your voice so I can try to have an informed idea of what is going to work best for us. I am excited about it. I like your voice!

Leaneagh: I agree with that sentiment: “Try to be around awesome people and make it really easy and fun for them.” It’s a beautiful way to go about most things.

How will you go about the Liquid Music Series collaboration? Are you building pieces around specific musicians in the group or will each piece involve all the musicians?

Bischoff: Well, most of the ensemble members I don’t know and will probably not get the chance to become familiar with, besides Greg Saunier, who will be playing drums. I am extremely familiar with that wild man! He is one of my favorite musicians on the planet, and he always just makes stuff sound like real music.

Most of the pieces will involve all of the musicians and one singer at a time. I try to write my arrangements to leave a lot of room for individuals to express themselves if they want to. We usually discuss at rehearsal and decide who is excited about playing a certain solo and stuff. It’s just like how I work with the singers. I would never ask a person to shred an atonal, disgusting-sounding solo if they were not excited about doing it, because then it’s just going to sound stupid. So, I try to identify who in the group is the goofball, who’s the improviser, who’s the shy one, etc. Then we decide together to make everyone comfortable and excited! It’s a lot of little decisions, but when you try to stay on your toes and use your knowledge and experience, all of those decisions can really result in an ecstatic music love fest.

I am really excited about the vocalists for this show! I feel like they each bring something totally different to the table and everyone is a total one of a kind voice and personality. That is always super exciting to me! I will be doing some arrangements of the singers own tunes and they will sing a tune of mine. It’s super fun to get my hands on other peoples songs and arrange for them. Even though each singers project is vastly different, because I am doing the arranging for a specific ensemble, it all becomes very cohesive and it works really well together.

Leaneagh: So glad we did this interview, in fact, because now I am less nervous and way more excited for the show. Are there questions you wish interviewers would ask you, but never do, in relation to your music?

Bischoff: What was your favorite music in 8th grade? Cannibal Corpse and John Coltrane. You?

Leaneagh: There isn’t really a question I wish for but I am always happy to hear a new question.

Last question: Do you listen to music when you are going to sleep? What is the most soothing music to you these days?

Bischoff: I used to all the time. Do you?

Leaneagh: The producer of Poliça, Ryan Olson, turned me on to listening to [NASA's] The Symphonies of the Planets while going to sleep. It’s really helpful on the road to make any place feel like home.

Bischoff: I honestly don’t listen to a ton of music. I work on music all day and all night, so lately I just like silence. On tour I listen to a lot more music and a lot when I go to bed. That is because it’s really hard for me to write or get work done on tour, so I use that as my time to soak in new. I am pretty into ambient music in general. I like Colleen, William Basinski, Eno, all that type of stuff.

Jherek Bischoff: Composed – copresented with the SPCO’s Liquid Music series and in association with the American Swedish Institute and Minnesota Public Radio — takes place Friday, October 18, 2013, at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul. 

“Drone, not Drones”: Behind the Slogan that Capped Low’s Infamous 27-Minute Set

Arguably the most buzzworthy moment of Rock the Garden this year — competing with Dan Deacon’s parking ramp rave and a homecoming set by native son (of sorts) Bob Mould — was a controversy-stirring performance by Low. Instead of giving an audio tour of its latest release, The Invisible Way (Sub Pop), the Duluth indie […]

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Arguably the most buzzworthy moment of Rock the Garden this year — competing with Dan Deacon’s parking ramp rave and a homecoming set by native son (of sorts) Bob Mould — was a controversy-stirring performance by Low. Instead of giving an audio tour of its latest release, The Invisible Way (Sub Pop), the Duluth indie trio filled its entire 27-minute set with one song, expanding the 14-minute 1996 tune “Do You Know How to Waltz?” by nearly double. As if by way of explanation, Low front man Alan Sparhawk concluded the set with three now-infamous words: “Drone, not drones.” Asked about it later that night, he told journalist Chris Riemenschneider, simply, “I got it off a friend’s bumper-sticker, and thought it was fitting.” Now that the dust has settled, we got in touch with that friend — Minneapolis’ Luke Heiken — to hear more.

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A fixture in the Twin Cities music scene for years, Heiken ran ScheduleTwo.com, a site (and record label) that up until mid-2008 livestreamed concerts from local music venues. One day in February, Heiken was playing around with an industrial sticker maker and came up with a phrase he liked: “Drone, not drones.” That same night, Sparhawk tweeted, “Mim sez these drones are bullshit. That’s all I gotta know. #potus” — presumably a response to news of a leaked white paper on the Obama administration’s justification for “targeted killings” using unmanned aerial vehicles. Heiken tweeted back, sharing his slogan and, the next day, an image of his sticker. He liked the phrase so much he bought the URL dronenotdrones.com and hatched a plan to do something with it — a benefit show or compilation album to raise funds for groups working to help the innocent victims of the war on terror. On June 12, he tweeted to Low, asking if the band might be interested in such a project.

Fastforward three days, when Sparhawk on stage “dropped that #TruthBomb on #rockthegarden,” as Heiken put it on Twitter. He wasn’t in the crowd, but Sparhawk’s words — which he later credited to Heiken — prompted action: “I really need to get on it now that Al has forced my hand by tipping it.”

“I was inspired by people caring about the message and wanted to strike while the iron was hot, so knowing releasing music would take a while to put together, I made the t-shirts,” he says. Proceeds from the shirts, as well as the compilation and benefit concert he’s hoping to pull off, will go to either Doctors Without Borders or the Red Crescent, or both. With bands and labels approaching him, he’s making good progress towards his dreamed-of Drone Not Drones recording, which, like the benefit show, he hopes to see released this winter. He’s hoping it’ll be released on vinyl, but acknowledges it may have to be a digital release instead. He’s already confirmed the participation of Twin Cities artists Take Acre, Paul Metzger, and Peace Drone (a side project by members of Flavor Crystals and Magic Castles), German musician/sound artist Stephan Mathieu, and Sparkhawk himself, and he hopes to have more confirmed bands to announce soon.

While Heiken’s stance on drones is nuanced — his personal view isn’t as bumpersticker-ready as the slogan on his t-shirts — his take on the mini-controversy over Low’s Rock the Garden set isn’t.

“I’m told [drones] are important to track down terrorists and to keep me and my family safe,” he says. “But there is a line crossed when we fly these things into sovereign nations and use explosives to kill people, without a trial, who are believed to be present and write off the loss of life and limb for any people caught in the blast.” He takes issue with the lack of clear governance of drone use. While manned flights are heavily regulated, he says it’s the “wild west” where drones are concerned.

Low's Alan Sparhawk at Rock the Garden 2013. Photo: Amy Fox

Low’s Alan Sparhawk at Rock the Garden 2013. Photo: Amy Fox

He calls the flap over Low’s droning set, however, purely “ridiculous.”

“If I got on the Internet every time I saw a band I was bored by,” he says of the online furor, before trailing off. “This shouldn’t be a tragedy. People creating Twitter accounts for it? I’ve never seen people dislike a set so much they’d go out of their way to do that.”

Heiken has seen Low perform “Do You Know How to Waltz?” before. “It’s one of my favorite musical memories: sitting with my now-wife under a blanket in the dark listening to that song. It’s ridiculous that so many are complaining about that at a modern art museum. Even without that, if Low played their normal set, the squares would’ve been turned off. Nothing they could’ve done would’ve made people who where there for Metric or Dan Deacon happy. But it made lots of Low fans happy.”

Magnetic Force: Remembering Tim Carr

Record label exec and music curator Tim Carr’s successes on the national level are well known: as an A&R rep for Capitol, Warner Bros., and Dreamworks he worked with bands from David Byrne to Megadeth to Cibo Matto, and, most famously, he’s credited with signing the Beastie Boys to Capitol. But news of Carr’s death in […]

Tim Carr, circa 1979, wearing his M-80 t-shirt. Photo: Greg Helgeson

Tim Carr, circa 1979, wearing his M-80 t-shirt. Photo: Greg Helgeson

Record label exec and music curator Tim Carr’s successes on the national level are well known: as an A&R rep for Capitol, Warner Bros., and Dreamworks he worked with bands from David Byrne to Megadeth to Cibo Matto, and, most famously, he’s credited with signing the Beastie Boys to Capitol. But news of Carr’s death in Thailand last week at age 57 hit us closer to home: Carr got his start in the Twin Cities, including a stint at the Walker Art Center from 1978 to 1981, during which he produced the M-80 festival, widely noted as a key moment in Minneapolis’ rise as a music mecca.

Raised in Hopkins, Carr started out as a music critic for the Minneapolis Tribune in the late ’70s, before coming to the Walker as associate director of Performing Arts. He worked on programs still talked about today, including projects with Brian Eno, David Byrne, and the Art Ensemble of Chicago. But he’s perhaps best remembered for his role as organizer of M-80 (Marathon ’80: A New-No-Now Festival). Music writer Jim Walsh recently reflected on the Walker-sponsored festival, which was held at the University of Minnesota Fieldhouse on September 22 and 23, 1979:

With the scent of sawdust permeating the airplane hangar-size barn, the weekend served to simultaneously bid adieu to the ’70s and light the fuse on the ’80s with performances from new music pioneers the Contortions, DEVO (performing as DOVE), the Fleshtones, the Suburbs, NNB, the Girls, the Commandos, the dB’s, Fingerprints, Monochrome Set, and many more, all joined under the same flag of raw, no frills, forward-pushing rock-as-art.

The festival was hugely influential for a generation of musicians, notes Walsh, including Hüsker Dü’s Bob Mould, who said it felt like “something historic was happening.” Mould wrote: “In my mind, it was equal to Woodstock or Altamont or the Beatles at Shea Stadium. There was a great scene building in the Twin Cities.”

A focus on that scene and the artists at the center of it are what Chuck Helm remembers of his time working at the Walker with Carr. Now director of Performing Arts at the Wexner Center for the Arts, Helm is the former technical director for Walker Performing Arts (and, later, music consultant). “As an A&R rep, Tim could hustle with the best of them anywhere, anytime but also champion the artists he cared so deeply about with a passion few could match,” he recalled. “He was a fun-loving force, always with his finger firmly on the pulse of what was happening and with an incredible entrepreneurial flair for spreading his enthusiasm to others.

“He stirred up action at the Walker as well as all around the Twin Cities where his presence at the Longhorn or First Avenue meant that the party was truly on. As fantastic as his knack was for what was breaking in the world of music, Tim was equally at home with artists in all fields like Cindy Sherman and Bill T. Jones, among many others, who all greatly respected his spirit and skills.”

Carr in his office at the Walker. Photo: Margy Ligon

Carr in his office at the Walker. Photo: Margy Ligon, via the Tim Carr Memorial Page, Facebook

After moving to New York in the early ’80s, Carr stayed connected to the Minnesota music scene, including through his work with Minneapolis-based alt-rock band Babes In Toyland. Drummer Lori Barbero recalls that Carr, who signed the band to Reprise, was friends with many contemporary artists, eventually introducing the band to Cindy Sherman, who appeared in a Babes video and whose photographs appear on the covers of two albums.

Philip Bither, the Walker’s Senior Curator of Performing Arts, didn’t overlap with Carr at the Walker, but he’s long admired him, both in Bither’s pre-Walker years as associate director/music curator at Brooklyn Academy of Music and after Carr moved to New York. “He had a real impact both as a music curator in the not-for-profit world and in the commercial recording business, not easy worlds to straddle,” he said. “He kind of defined the free-wheeling, deal-making, fiercely independent A&R guy, but one who retained a very strong artistic sensibility and a deep love for vanguard music and art makers.”

Carr’s career saw diverse music projects, from a few music programs he curated at BAM before Bither’s stint there to, most recently, Ramakien, a “rak opera” directed by Rirkrit Tiravanija that Carr ultimately produced at the Lincoln Center Festival (with Festival Director Nigel Redden, for whom he had curated a number of music events when Nigel was the Walker’s director of Performing Arts).

“Tim was a force and an intriguing, magnetic presence,” Bither said. “He made a lot of great things happen for musicians and artists, especially from the ’70s through the ‘9os. He will be missed.”

Where (Sō Percussion) Lives

In its newest performance, Where (We) Live, Brooklyn-based Sō Percussion gets personal, looking at the physcial, emotional, and symbolic manifestations of “home.” As the chamber quartet (Eric Beach, Josh Quillen, Adam Sliwinski, and Jason Treuting) writes on its website, “Using our studio in Brooklyn as a laboratory, we often create music that is about ‘place:’ […]

In its newest performance, Where (We) Live, Brooklyn-based Sō Percussion gets personal, looking at the physcial, emotional, and symbolic manifestations of “home.” As the chamber quartet (Eric Beach, Josh Quillen, Adam Sliwinski, and Jason Treuting) writes on its website, “Using our studio in Brooklyn as a laboratory, we often create music that is about ‘place:’ a city, our immediate sonic environment, even how the past resonates where we are today.” In advance of Friday and Saturday’s world-premiere performances of the Walker-commissioned piece (and Thursday night’s artist’s talk with the group), Sō’s Adam Sliwinski invites us into the intimacy of the Sō Percussion studio and shares snapshots of the objects there and the stories they tell.

I bought these shelves a few years ago. Every once in a while, we become completely overloaded with gear. The place is a gigantic mess most of the time, no matter how much we organize it.  So like all New Yorkers, vertical storage is the name of the game. Top shelf is a lovely assortment of tin cans; next down are old planks from Reich’s Music for Pieces of Wood and [David] Lang’s The So-Called Laws of Nature. They really come in handy. After that are almglocken and glass bottles, and finally a cymbal rack.

Eric’s table setup. When So creates music together from scratch, each of us fills our tables with stuff that interests us. Then, as the occasion arises, we fit it in to the music that’s congealing. Inevitably, each of us needs to have a little spread of toys handy. The keyboard here is from an insane piece that Dan Trueman wrote for us. He started the laptop orchestra at Princeton. Eric has been delving into Ableton Live within our pieces.

Toy piano from my setup. I have a little woodblock there for one of the songs in particular. I found myself coming back to the sound of the toy piano over and over again during this project. There’s something naïve about the instrument, but it also creates this perfectly percussive color.

Josh’s table setup. I wouldn’t say that Josh is a “hoarder,” but let’s just say that he has a certain obsession with collecting and placing bits of gear in his setup. As I understand it, these pedals chain to each other in a gnarly flow of causality. On the left is a little notebook that he’s been keeping since the beginning of the project: every sketch, every little experiment is in there. I, on the other hand, am lucky to have the same music in my hand from last week.


Jason’s table setup. Jason is the Paganini of the deskbells. Some days, equal parts Brooklyn coffee and Sweet Action beer are required to get through.

A door. Jason makes really beautiful Rauschenberg-esque collages and objects. We’ve been using this door as a projection surface for the videos in Where (we) Live. Jason once made a collage for Merce Cunningham as a gift that Merce placed in John Cage’s rock garden in their apartment. Also, we visited Robert Rauschenberg’s younger sister in Louisiana.  Her husband is a big game hunter, so their walls are decorated equally with priceless works of art and giant bear heads.

A view out of our window in the studio. That’s the Empire State Building. When we first moved into this space, I set my desk up with this view and stared out the window, especially at nighttime. I grew up in the South and the Midwest, and the idea that the Empire State Building might be outside the window of my own percussion studio where I made this amazing music was beyond my capacity to imagine. It still strains it.

Introducing The Green Room

It’s been seven years since we launched the Walker Blogs, and with the release of our new homepage back in December we thought it was finally time for a refresh. You’ll notice that the design has changed to align with our new website, and we’ve used the opportunity to rebrand each of our core blogs, […]

It’s been seven years since we launched the Walker Blogs, and with the release of our new homepage back in December we thought it was finally time for a refresh. You’ll notice that the design has changed to align with our new website, and we’ve used the opportunity to rebrand each of our core blogs, focus our offerings, and give readers a better sense of what they’ll find inside. Don’t worry though, the name might have changed, but this is still the blog of the Performing Arts department. And as such, we remain committed to bringing you views of Walker performance and performers, both onstage and backstage, plus the space for community discussion through our ongoing series of overnight reviews penned by Twin Cities artists and critics. We hope you like the new look and come back to see what we’re up to!

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