Category Archives: GUEST EDITOR

From The Desk Of Doug Gillard: Take Me Down (To The Record Library)

Doug Gillard is known (rightly so) for his guitar wizardry in bands such as Guided By Voices, Cobra Verde, Death Of Samantha and, for the last few years, Nada Surf, but that notoriety sometimes overshadows the fact that he’s an accomplished solo singer/songwriter. With his third LP, Parade On (Nine Mile), Gillard continues to show off his virtuosity—solos like the one on “On Target” are just ridiculous—as well as his knack for catchy, folk-inflected power pop. Gillard will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our brand new Q&A with him. To see more photos corresponding to these entries, go here

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Gillard: Northeast Ohioans have always been lucky to have tons of great terrestrial radio stations to choose from. Cleveland in particular was an important market for nationwide artists to crack. WMMS and the Agora chain along with the Belkins really promoted new artists and propelled lots of careers. Todd Rundgren comes to mind.

In junior high and into ninth grade, I was in love with all things “new wave.” I even liked some of the commercial stuff like the Vapors and whatnot. I started to delve deeper, though, and found these “college” radio stations at the left end of the dial when I was doing my paper route. When I was visiting my brother Dave in both Alameda, Calif., and in Rhode Island (he was in the Navy), I’d stick a blank cassette in his nice stereo and record the stations I heard there. First hearings of “Warm Leatherette” and X’s “Los Angeles” on the cassettes sunk in. Back to the Cleveland stations—namely WCSB and WRUW. Hours and hours of listening opened my ears up to incredible things. Buzzcocks “I Believe”? Man, I have to get this new album of theirs! On and on. I would then tape the amazing things I heard on the Cleveland college stations. Staying up Saturday nights listening to mind-blowing shows hosted by the likes of Michigan Mom, Mark Edwards (later of MDID) and Larry Collins gave me an education and fueled my desire to be in bands that sounded like this stuff.

Living in a nearby city, we got WOBC, the Oberlin College station in pretty well. Oberlin was 10 miles away, and I heard about applying for a show there, as one did not have to be a student to be on staff. I had just graduated high school, and that summer I had a blast being a DJ. My show was on from 3-6 a.m. Saturday night/Sunday mornings, later moving to a Friday afternoon, where my show followed a young student named Chris Brokaw’s show. I got to meet people from all over the country who were talented musicians, and Chris had his own band on campus, Pay The Man, who in fact ended up playing a show with Death Of Samantha, a band I had just joined in Cleveland that same year as a senior in high school.

That fall, as I moved to Cleveland, I signed up as soon as I could for a show on WCSB. The record libraries of these stations provided one with endless discoveries. The Oberlin station even had the original Warsaw album. At WCSB, I remember looking around in the G section and stumbling onto three LPs by this band Groundhogs. Wow, what the hell is this? I soon knew. Blues filtered through blistering rock and psych played by a U.K. trio in the late 60′s/early 70s. TS McPhee was a monster of a guitarist and writer with a knack for hooks and a unique voice. Anyway, that’s only one example. My show, 20th Century Groove Angel, was a lot of fun, and also a lot of work. Planning out what to play each week was always on my mind, but it was fun to be eclectic and have special tribute shows every so often, etc …

I know I’m not the first to do this, but one week I played the Iggy song “New Values” back to back for the whole two and a half hours. The next year my friend Steve had the slot after me, so we played Iggy’s “Bulldozer” for the combined five hours. Hearing the same song for that long in a row has a sort of speed effect on the mind. It was fun to get creative with your show promos in the production room. We had two Tascam reel-to-reels with splicing gear, and splice I did. I still have one of the promos on a tape cart. (Anyone know where I can access a cart machine?)

Anyone who worked at a station usually got asked to interview a band coming through town to promo their show. A bunch of us lined the hallway, excited to see Tones On Tail come up to the station to be interviewed by our friend before their show. I was charged with interviewing two people from 10,000 Maniacs once during my afternoon show. The guitarist was quite nice and did all the talking, while whatsername faced the corner in her gingham dress with a scowl the entire time. I always did consider her rather talent-free.

WRUW at Case Western Reserve University started a day-long summer outdoor concert event called Studio-A-Rama—an expansion of their Live From Studio A show—around 1980 or so. I attended them since 1982, but in ’85, we got to play it as Death Of Samantha. I remember it being the same day as Live Aid. The tradition continues, and the station still puts on this event each year. One early highlight for me was seeing the band Love Tractor from Athens, Ga., play one of these.

I’ll never forget the times spent as a college radio DJ, nor the friendships I made at all of the NE Ohio stations.

Another photo after the jump.

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From The Desk Of Doug Gillard: Bambi Kino In Hamburg (Part 2)

Doug Gillard is known (rightly so) for his guitar wizardry in bands such as Guided By Voices, Cobra Verde, Death Of Samantha and, for the last few years, Nada Surf, but that notoriety sometimes overshadows the fact that he’s an accomplished solo singer/songwriter. With his third LP, Parade On (Nine Mile), Gillard continues to show off his virtuosity—solos like the one on “On Target” are just ridiculous—as well as his knack for catchy, folk-inflected power pop. Gillard will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our brand new Q&A with him. To see more photos corresponding to these entries, go here

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Gillard: To follow up our successful run at the Indra, Bambi Kino was hired by a guy to come over and play a private party as part of his wife’s 60th birthday celebration. Also on this bill was the U.K.’s answer to Sha Na Na: Showaddywaddy. This was held in a structure inside a beautiful public Hamburg park. Astrid Kircherr’s photos of the early Beatles lined the walls, and the mood was light. We played another show at the Indra to make the most of our time again in Hamburg.

Our label, Tapete Records, happens to be based in Hamburg and helped set up the show at the Indra. They ran a contest for a number of fans to win a tour of the now-defunct Beatlemania Museum with us BK guys along for the ride. Our man Basti at Tapete comes along to assist us on this visit and also the shows.

We go to the Beatlemania Museum on the Reeperbahn and take a tour along with contest winners who want to meet us. It’s a great museum with lots of memorabilia: contracts they signed in Hamburg, recording equipment they used here, etc. Unfortunately, the museum had to close down due to lack of tourist volume. Shame.

Gibson Kemp is a drummer who was in a combo with Klaus Voorman early on, and replaced Ringo Starr in Rory Storm And The Hurricanes when Ringo left them to join the Beatles. Gibson remained in Hamburg, marrying Astrid Kirchherr for a while, and in recent years opened a business, Kemp’s English Pub. To be a musician in Hamburg in the ’60s was to have easy access to the greats who toured through there: Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Gene Vincent, Chuck Berry, etc. Gibson drummed for Chuck Berry on his Just Got Out Of Jail touras well as playing tons of dates in Hamburg in the bands he was in (King Size Taylor, etc.).

He sits down with us after making us bowls of chili on rice and tells us a few Berry and Little Richard stories. At the time, Chuck was “not particularly nice,” and the Little Richard backstage story involved holding the bible with one hand, masturbating with the other and telling Lennon to come over and give him a hand.

Our favorite schnitzel joint is also in St. Pauli: Erika’s Eck. The jagerschnitzel is the thing to get, with mushroom gravy and bratkartoffeln (fried sliced potatoes) underneath.

Back in the states, Bambi Kino likes to play at small Cavern-like clubs in N.Y. such as the Bowery Electric. Once we had a run of “Reeperbahn Nights” there. Every Wednesday for a month, we played as a burlesque troop took turns dancing and stripping onstage. “A Taste Of Honey” was a particularly memorable number, and when Mat Fraser comes out, all bets are off. Look him up. We have played parties in the Hamptons, helped close the legendary Maxwell’s in NJ, and even got asked to play at private New York club the Century Association. We just got our feet wet with the Beatle Fest people, and had a good set a few months back, with Beatle author Mark Lewisohn joining us onstage. We also will record a second album at some point. I want to have us pose with frying pans and call it ‘avin’ a Fry-Up! but I have a feeling that one will be voted way down by the guys.

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From The Desk Of Doug Gillard: Memory Lanes (Mark Edwards And MDID)

Doug Gillard is known (rightly so) for his guitar wizardry in bands such as Guided By Voices, Cobra Verde, Death Of Samantha and, for the last few years, Nada Surf, but that notoriety sometimes overshadows the fact that he’s an accomplished solo singer/songwriter. With his third LP, Parade On (Nine Mile), Gillard continues to show off his virtuosity—solos like the one on “On Target” are just ridiculous—as well as his knack for catchy, folk-inflected power pop. Gillard will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our brand new Q&A with him. To see more photos corresponding to these entries, go here

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Gillard: In Cleveland, Mark Edwards had been a friend of mine and a fellow DJ at WCSB. His radio show exemplified the type of minimalist and dark sounds he would later put into motion as a writer/performer. The Fall, Orange Juice, Josef K and, of course, Joy Division and most of the Factory output were the things he played, along with some U.S. underground brilliance such as the Embarrassment and Tripod Jimmie. He started recording music under the name My Dad Is Dead around 1985. Mark appeared live as a one-man band, using just a guitar and a Roland 808. I accompanied him on additional guitar for one of his early appearances around that time.

Mark released his first album on the Cleveland startup St. Valentine records in 1986, which began a constant and steady stream of creativity. By 1988, like Death Of Samantha and the Reactions, he was signed by NYC’s Homestead Records, eventually releasing the masterpiece The Taller You Are The Shorter You Get.

Mark is a multi-instrumentalist, playing drums, guitars bass, etc., on his records. He had a brilliant method of having a drum machine and real drums alongside each other in the mixes, making for a pretty fat drum sound. He played live as a trio often, using members of Prisonshake—namely Scott Pickering and Beat Farm studio’s Chris Burgess, along with Tim Gilbride and Jeff Curtis. Pickering and Curtis would also go on to serve time in my band Gem in the mid-’90s.

Come 1990, Mark was assembling a band to tour in Europe and asked me if I’d like to be a part of it. Death Of Samantha didn’t have anything booked at the time, so I jumped at the chance! Mark set it up so I would play drums for half the set, while he handled frontman duties on guitar, then we’d switch for the second half and I would just play guitar as Mark sang behind the drum kit. We played concurrent with the Roland drum machine, too, for most of the set, a move I was thankful for, as it certainly kept my timing in check on the drum kit.

First stop was Nijmegen, Netherlands. We had some days off due to cancelled shows, so we got to hang out in Nijmegen and bum around for a couple days.

Many stops in Germany and Switzerland followed, and I seem to remember meeting up with Happy Flowers for a day or two as our paths crossed, and Mark was friends with them. Our driver/tour manager was Kurt, a surly but hilarious German of Turkish descent. We stayed in places of varying quality, from squalid rooms above the Rose Club in Koln to youth hostels in the Swiss Alps. One sort of B&B hotel in Germany had a red curtain just off the breakfast room downstairs. Curious, Tim peeks in to see a one-lane bowling alley! We then joke about the “secret bowling alleys of the S.S.” I thought that Mark’s dark cerebral music would go over perfectly in Germany, but at that time, something else was taking hold, and we started to see people in our crowds wearing Mudhoney T-shirts. They had just toured, and that was really the sound the kids were clamoring for. Still we had fun and had some unforgettable experiences.

We played Berlin just after the wall fell, and we walked beside parts of the crumbling structure. One town we played was Braunschweig, an industrial city not far from the former East Germany. We get to the club, called The Line, and do our soundcheck. I wander up to see where the band hang room is, and I am followed by the hospitality kid working at the club. He is carrying a mirror with yellow crystals chopped up and arranged into rows. He says, “Here, you do.”

I said “Oh, huh? What is it?”

“It eez a-crank”

“Oh, hmmm, well, I … ”

“We have all bands do it who play this club. It is our welcoming. Go ahead.”

“OK then.”

I snort the stuff and am speeding nicely for the next three hours.

“Yez, we are not named ‘The Line’ for nothing, you know?”

On the Swiss motorway en route to a gig in Thun, a rogue stone hits our windscreen, shattering the whole thing to pieces. Having 60 more km to go, we soldier on, with no windshield whatsoever, covering our mouths so we don’t swallow insects. We play the show and at night are led somewhere to stay in dorms in the dark of night. We wake up to see beautiful grounds near a pond and huge jagged snow covered Alps just outside the window. Kurt gets the windscreen replaced, and we get to hang out here until he gets back. It was like being in a beautiful postcard.

The hotel in Amsterdam was known for putting up touring bands and had a little letter board with the names of what bands were staying there, as a sort of “we welcome” statement. I thought it was great we were staying there with the Celibate Rifles and Killing Joke that night, but noticed they had us billed as My Dad Dyed His Head. We told them they got the name wrong, but they said they found the real name too offensive, so they altered it a bit. My Dad Is Dead is offensive and Celibate Rifles is fine? One can only wonder what happened when Butt Trumpet came through town?

We missed the first ferry from Oostende, Belgium, to Dover, U.K., to get to our Peel Session at the BBC, so we got the next one. Arriving two hours late, our engineer for the day, ex-Mott The Hoople drummer Dale “Buffin” Griffin, was none too pleased when we got to Maida Vale. He helped us load in, and we quickly got sounds. We perform the basics for our three songs, then, as is the case at BBC sessions, you are encouraged to do a couple overdubs, such as additional vocals or guitar solos, etc. When we heard the mixed versions, we couldn’t believe the rich warm sounds they got from our scratchy little tracks. Go BBC!

Later that year, Black Francis asks My Dad Is Dead to open shows on the Pixies’ U.S. tour for their new album, Bossanova. I am asked to play on this tour as well. We started in Toronto and went to Boston, New York, Detroit, Chicago, Minneapolis, Omaha and Denver.

It was a treat to see a 90-minute Pixies show every night, and I can’t think of a night where I didn’t go into the crowd to watch.

At First Avenue in Minneapolis, we watch some of the set from the back hallway beside the stage. First Avenue has a sort of balcony level where the audience in a packed crowd can sit and dangle their feet if they so choose. I looked up during “Wave Of Mutilation” to see one exuberant girl in the balcony smiling from ear to ear, legs swinging from between the rails, mouthing the lyrics, except I could see that she was forming the words “wave of jubilation.” Hey, who’s gonna burst that bubble and tell her the real title? She was having a blast.

Charles was extremely nice to us and always tried to make sure we were being treated well. He even took us to dinner in Denver. I seem to remember sharing an enthusiasm for Texas guitarist Lonnie Mack, and he lent me a cassette of a fave of his, Travis Wammack.

Denver was our last show, and the Pixies took off for the West Coast. Mark is in the back hassling with the promoter to get our money, which they were trying to withhold for some reason. He emerges triumphant and we speed off to drive back home.

Mark put out records under the MDID moniker until 2010, when he consciously put the name to bed with a few celebratory final shows. I was honored to be asked to be part of these and also have a chance to play again with my old friends Scott Pickering and Jeff Curtis along the way.

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From The Desk Of Doug Gillard: Bambi Kino In Hamburg (Part 1)

Doug Gillard is known (rightly so) for his guitar wizardry in bands such as Guided By Voices, Cobra Verde, Death Of Samantha and, for the last few years, Nada Surf, but that notoriety sometimes overshadows the fact that he’s an accomplished solo singer/songwriter. With his third LP, Parade On (Nine Mile), Gillard continues to show off his virtuosity—solos like the one on “On Target” are just ridiculous—as well as his knack for catchy, folk-inflected power pop. Gillard will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our brand new Q&A with him. To see more photos corresponding to these entries, go here

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Gillard: Bambi Kino was formed to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ first trip to Hamburg to play in residency at the Indra in 1960. In August 2010, we set out to the Reeperbahn to play four consecutive nights at the original Indra club at 64 Große Freiheit. The band consists of Mark Rozzo (vocals, guitar), Ira Elliot (drums, vocals), Erik Paparozzi (bass, vocals) and myself (guitar, vocals). We all come from well-known indie-rock bands through the years, so, naturally, the Germans wondered, “Who are these Yanks playing the cover the Beatles used to fill their sets with in Hamburg?” Mark and Ira toured through Hamburg in the band Maplewood the previous year and saw that there was nothing planned anywhere to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Fabs’ life-changing first run in Germany. So they brainstormed and came up with the Bambi Kino concept. Let’s play the covers they played in Hamburg, and in their style, nothing written past 1962, and we’ll wear leather jackets and Beatle boots, use period-correct gear and play four sets per night.

Months of rehearsals in New York yielded the resulting set lists. There were the Star Club recordings, BBC sessions and various bootlegs and documentation of the songs they learned for us to go on.

We arrived at our residence: the legendary Hotel Pacific in St. Pauli, and that’s where our Hofner guitars arrived (at “artists” prices). I got a Hofner Verithin, a 335-styled semi-hollow with a super-thin width. Erik got a traditional Violin bass, which serves him well to this day. Ira, the stalwart Nada Surf drummer, made sure his kit was period-correct with thin ’60s stands and Ludwigs with a Ringo-shell finish. His transitioning between Pete Best’s and Ringo’s styles is astonishing. Next door to the Hotel Pacific is the music store Paul got his Hofner bass from; still owned by the same family. Yeah, the Beatles stayed here when they played Hamburg, and the hotel staff were so honored to display our promo poster for the Indra shows, that it is still in the lobby to this day. Horst Fascher claims he once rescued Ringo from a mauling Little Richard when he heard the cries for help.

We were booked into a live afternoon broadcast concert with NDR, the German equivalent of NPR. Lots of older folks attended, and we had an audience with Horst Fascher, the Hamburg bouncer for the Beatles at the Top Ten & Star Club. Horst was the guy who supplied them with the Prellies and general accompaniment during their Hamburg visits. His brother sang Ray Charles’ “Hallelujah, I Love Her So” with them on the Star Club recording, and Horst regaled us with Little Richard stories. (“He had a thing for Ringo becauss of his big nose”).

The first night of our four-night run was filmed for Arte’, the French/German arts TV channel. Tons of cameras and lighting came into the Indra to document this event.

We met an 80-year-old man in a Greek fisherman’s cap who won a dance contest at a 1960 Beatles show in Hamburg, Paul handing him a bottle of champagne as his prize.

Anything on a Beatles Hamburg setlist was fair game, whether it was recorded or not. As long as it was documented, we could do it with a clear conscience.

Duane Eddy’s “Ramrod” & “3:30 Blues,” myriad girl-group songs, cabaret songs such as Louis Prima’s “Sheik Of Araby,” Elvis’ “That’s All Right Mama” and, of course, the skiffle and rock ‘n’ roll songs they are known for: Joe Brown, Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Carl Perkins rockers were all in the mix.

A few obscure originals such as “Cry For A Shadow,” “Catswalk” and “Ask Me Why” rounded out our set.

We played generally from 8 p.m. until 12 a.m., taking short breaks between sets. We tried to fuel ourselves with only Astra beer and pretzel sticks, much the way the guys did back in ’60. Ira even removed the toilet seat in the men’s room and wore it around his neck just like Lennon for our version of “The One After 909.” Hey, we had to “Mach Schau.”

The Indra is very much in the same location, but the club had expanded a bit since 1960. Located across the street was the place where they slept in 1960—the back of a cinema called the Bambi Kino. They showed children’s films (Bambi) by day, and Hamburg promoter Bruno Koschmider convinced the owner to let the guys crash in the rear hallways of the place at night. We were even lucky enough to have our photos taken by Gunter Zint, the Hamburg photographer who took photos of them at the Top Ten Club and, later, great shots of the Rolling Stones, the Animals and striking pictures of Sonny & Cher in Hamburg. Gunter used the same camera to take our LP cover photo that he used for the Beatles!

On the second day of our residency, we set up onstage to record the backing tracks for our first album, Bambi Kino, on Hamburg’s Tapete Records. Our engineer Carsten set up a few mics in the Indra to try and capture our live Cavern-ish sound for 10 songs. We performed the vocals later in NYC, but were pleased with the results we got on the Indra’s stage for the instrumentals.

Another photo after the jump.

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From The Desk Of Doug Gillard: Through The Meadow, Or Post-Briss Brunches

Doug Gillard is known (rightly so) for his guitar wizardry in bands such as Guided By Voices, Cobra Verde, Death Of Samantha and, for the last few years, Nada Surf, but that notoriety sometimes overshadows the fact that he’s an accomplished solo singer/songwriter. With his third LP, Parade On (Nine Mile), Gillard continues to show off his virtuosity—solos like the one on “On Target” are just ridiculous—as well as his knack for catchy, folk-inflected power pop. Gillard will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our brand new Q&A with him. To see more photos corresponding to these entries, go here

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Gillard: In 2006, I recorded on an album with Richard Buckner and went on several U.S. tours with him. It was just the two of us playing guitars, traveling in his pickup truck.

Between our shows in Los Angeles and Visalia, Richard stopped in Bakersfield, Calif. He grew up in various towns in California’s Central Valley, including Bakersfield, and wanted to show me some old haunts.

First stop was Front Porch Music, the only store in the nation that stocks tons of Mosrite guitars and amps from the ’60s and ’70s, though you cannot purchase any of the guitars on the wall. They’re just there to marvel at, and marvel one will.

Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace is a showplace/museum/saloon and shrine to Buck, the Bakersfield sound, built by Buck himself. My father had Buck’s albums when I was growing up, so they were always getting played at home. The Live At Carnegie Hall LP was a favorite, and Buck’s outfit from the LP cover is on display at the Palace. Richard told me that when he was dating, Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace would be a “weed out” place for a first date. If the girl couldn’t hang with the vibe there, he couldn’t go out with her anymore.

Directly across the street from Buck’s is Zingo’s Cafe, a diner and roadhouse popular with the locals. Known for its sausage biscuits and gravy, the older three-pack-a-day waitresses are straight out of a movie or a sitcom. We are starved and have our sights set on a huge breakfast they’re famous for serving. We are greeted and sat in a booth.

As we pick up the menus, a newborn baby starts crying uncontrollably in the booth right behind us. We are empathetic with the little guy, but it’s pretty loud. Richard says “Wanna move? Let’s move.” We get up and head for the other side of the room, and a waitress says, “Oh, ya movin’ hon? Why ya movin’?” Richard: “Oh, there’s a baby cryin’. It’s all right, we just want to move over here if that’s okay.” Waitress: “Well he just got circumcised ta-day! They just came straight from the church.” Richard “Oh, OK.”

We did sit down and went through with our orders, but somehow I think I would have enjoyed the sausage tips in gravy a little more without that new information.

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From The Desk Of Doug Gillard: It’ll Be Such A Thrill

Doug Gillard is known (rightly so) for his guitar wizardry in bands such as Guided By Voices, Cobra Verde, Death Of Samantha and, for the last few years, Nada Surf, but that notoriety sometimes overshadows the fact that he’s an accomplished solo singer/songwriter. With his third LP, Parade On (Nine Mile), Gillard continues to show off his virtuosity—solos like the one on “On Target” are just ridiculous—as well as his knack for catchy, folk-inflected power pop. Gillard will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our brand new Q&A with him. To see more photos corresponding to these entries, go here

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Gillard: Growing up in rural Ohio surrounded by cornfields afforded me a lot of time to hike around the barren fields between growing seasons with my dog and make up songs.

My sister went to live in Germany for three years, so my parents got a reel-to-reel tape recorder from JC Penney to record audio “letters” to send back and forth with my sister.

It didn’t take long for me to want to use it to record music! The first use really was when I was about four and my father played guitar and I sang “Jingle Bells” with him. He had a ’55 Kay Old Kraftsman “Thin Twin” guitar and a ’55 Montgomery Ward amplifier. I still have the amp, but my dad traded in the Kay for my first guitar, a cheap Gibson SG2 from 1972. Oh well—I ended up finding another Kay Thin Twin and bought it in about 1996, using it in the GBV “Bulldog Skin” video.

The first “song” I recorded was “We Love Our Mommies,” singing and just banging on a snare drum. More drum songs followed, even a couple played with drumsticks on a “Hoppity-Hop” (a rubber sphere you sat on and bounced around). It had a great resonant tone when hit. At about age six or so I got a guitar: a plastic one with steel strings from Sears.

I had no idea how to play the correct way, so I made do with open tunings, playing things by ear. I ended up taking lessons at about age eight, but until then, I found tunings that just sounded good to me and messed around on the fretboard. Most of the songs were about animals: “Chinese Dog,” “There’s A Bird On Me,” “My Dog Was Snoopin’ Around One Day,” “Wolf On The Couch,” “The Elephant’s In His Cage,” etc. The music ranged from sort of “rock” (influenced by AM radio and our record collection at home in the early ’70s) to psychedelic, light blues/boogie woogie and a tender ballad (“It’ll Be Such A Thrill”).

As strings broke on the guitar, I would just not replace them, and use what was left. The songs got more sparse as the reel of tape goes on. I made a collection of these songs—from “Jingle Bells” at four on up to about nine years old. When I got my electric guitar, I didn’t tape much anymore, but set to playing as much as I could and taking lessons. In 1990, my friend Robert at Scat Records released the collection on a cassette entitled It’ll Be Such A Thrill. I have since digitized them, and may release them again someday.

Another photo and audio after the jump.

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From The Desk Of Doug Gillard: Speak Kindly Of Your Lifeguards (Ad-Hoc Recording Spaces, Part 2)

Doug Gillard is known (rightly so) for his guitar wizardry in bands such as Guided By Voices, Cobra Verde, Death Of Samantha and, for the last few years, Nada Surf, but that notoriety sometimes overshadows the fact that he’s an accomplished solo singer/songwriter. With his third LP, Parade On (Nine Mile), Gillard continues to show off his virtuosity—solos like the one on “On Target” are just ridiculous—as well as his knack for catchy, folk-inflected power pop. Gillard will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our brand new Q&A with him. To see more photos corresponding to these entries, go here

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Gillard: My last post on this topic concerned the attic of a house, so this one deals with more house, but this time a living-room situation. I had moved in 2000 to a cottage-like rented house on Lake Erie, next to what used to be Euclid Beach Amusement Park. This was a 1903-built mother-in-law house to the big one next door in a large row of turn-of-the-century vacation homes. So, the cliff and the lake were 20 feet outside the door. This meant I could set the drum kit and amps up and play at any volume at any time.

When it came time to do the more proggy collaboration with Mr. Pollard we called Lifeguards, I composed and recorded all the music beds with no clue as to what Bob would sing, so it was always a thrill to get the results back. I was set up in this place by this time, and set to work recording in this small carpeted living room. At least now I had the piano right there, and had just gotten a Roland VS-880 hard-disk eight-track digital recorder. This record was actually split between using the Roland and the four-track cassette, but most were done on the digital machine. “Gift Of The Mountain,” “Starts At The River,” “Shorter Virgins” and “Surgeon Is Complete” were the songs I remember being solely on four-track cassette. I still had the same mics as before, but this time I added a Shure 57 to the collection and a couple stands, so drum miking was easier this time. That record shows I didn’t care about changing the beat-up drum heads so they would sound better or anything. The record shows they took the blows. But, it was another fun venture.

“Surgeon Is Complete” alternates between a stoner-rock riff and bash beat, to a light-jazz shuffle thing in the middle, but the song recorded in real time. I was unable to have a click on that song due to the pregnant pauses I had put into the riff structure at the end. Is there such a thing as Riff Structure? Wait, that was Dave Edmunds’ first band, wasn’t it?

New instruments were part of the mix, such as a terra cotta ocarina in the shape of a turtle that I call Ceramic The Entertainer. I’ve tried to have him make an appearance on most of my solo and Lifeguards records ever since. (He’s on “Society Dome” and “Fether Herd” on Mist King Urth.)

I recorded other things in that room, such as a soundtrack to a short film my friend Michael Nigro was doing. That time I borrowed Mike McDonald’s one-inch eight-track portable Otari machine, which had NKOTB stenciled on it from when it belonged to some New Kids. This same machine was also used to record my Malamute Jute EP and some Gem recordings, and I’m sure other things that Mike worked on for other Cleveland bands.

Anyway, the photos show the cable spaghetti and helter skelter that was always going on in the room, but I made sense of the chaos, highlighted the creation, and the living room was adjacent to the backyard.

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From The Desk Of Doug Gillard: That New Southwind Smell

Doug Gillard is known (rightly so) for his guitar wizardry in bands such as Guided By Voices, Cobra Verde, Death Of Samantha and, for the last few years, Nada Surf, but that notoriety sometimes overshadows the fact that he’s an accomplished solo singer/songwriter. With his third LP, Parade On (Nine Mile), Gillard continues to show off his virtuosity—solos like the one on “On Target” are just ridiculous—as well as his knack for catchy, folk-inflected power pop. Gillard will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our brand new Q&A with him. To see more photos corresponding to these entries, go here

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Gillard: In 1986, Death Of Samantha had been a band for roughly a year and a half, and freshly signed to Homestead Records by one G. Cosloy. Our label for self-releases up until that point was called St. Valentine Records. That August, three Cleveland bands that had releases on the label decided to go on a St. Valentine package tour. The as-yet-unknown kicker being that we did it in an RV rented from U-Haul.

Well, not one, but a succession of three different RV’s. More on that later.

Death Of Samantha, the Reactions and Shadow Of Fear were the bands that packed into the RV and made our way to the East Coast from Cleveland. Death Of Samantha were John Petkovic: leader, vocalist, main songwriter, clarinet, licorice; Steve-O Eierdam: drums, props, frivolity, archivist; David James: bassist, graphic artist; and myself on guitar, vocals, platforms and a bit of songwriting.

Dave Swanson was the drummer and founder of the Reactions, a neo-psychedelic pop trio. (Dave would later join us in DoS on bass, then also Cobra Verde and briefly GBV on drums. He now leads the Get Hip Records band Rainy Day Saints). Shadow Of Fear were progenitors of dark and gothic sounds, led by one Chris Andrews, owner of a series of great Cleveland record stores and later of the Spudmonsters.

First stop was Philadelphia’s Kennel Club, a three-level nightclub/venue where they seemed to worship the sun. No memory of the actual show, but we all walked around after the show with some writer from Option or Sound Choice.

The next morning is a little more vivid, as the RV was sidelined two days into the trip with a broken sewer-waste-tank bracket. We were on the side of some road, heatwaves wafting in the August air, with a hanging sewer tank. The protocol was to call U-Haul, and instead of an on-the-spot repair, they would drive a new RV to you and change it out. OK, no biggie. At least we didn’t DMB any poor pedestrians from some bridge.

Next stop was Washington, D.C., at The Complex. All I really recall is playing to about five people in an empty room while punks walked past us with their skateboards to get out back and hang outside. The hardcore kids were pretty nice to us considering we looked like rag-tag Midwestern glam-punks, goths and paisley-clad power-pop lovers. The Complex must have encouraged a culture of tolerance among genres. Even in ’86, it was all still pretty “alt” and under the same underground umbrella.

Stopped for lunch at a Philly/South Jerz-area Denny’s. All three bands grouped around a huge table. A server asks us if we are the Hooters. We say no; then upon leaving, Chris takes her aside and says, “They really are the Hooters. I’m the tour manager.”

Up to Trenton, N.J., for a show at the infamous City Gardens. I’m very grateful to have played there, albeit it was way too big for our little bands to draw in, but fun nonetheless.

Was this the show our drummer Steve-O ate an entire pizza right before going onstage? I can’t remember. It seems like it was. Played to literally one person that night in that cavernous space.

Weird, wild schtuff.

Stayed overnight at Cheesequake State Park campgrounds. A couple members of Shadow Of Fear walk on fire. Steve-O’s name is invoked in a possible sacrifice.

We originally had a show booked at Pyramid Club in NYC but had that day off due to Pyramid bumping us for Specimen. Well, la-di-da, Pyramid.

Spent the next couple days off in NYC, and I seem to remember walking in the Village area and being accosted by one of the many scam artists, who took a closer look at me and said, “Oh no brother, you look like hell hit you three times!”

Then a friend told me that the black spray on hair color I used for the show the night before was running down my face in the hot sun. Great. Amateur glam boy.

Most of the guys got tickets to a David Letterman taping that day (then at NBC at Rockefeller Center) and a few of us missed out, so, a member of another band was eager to score something, anything, in Times Square. I was left with no choice but to walk there with him and a buddy. “Nothing but vice” doesn’t begin to describe the vibe there—and it’s all gone. 42nd Street and Broadway was teeming with hustlers hawkin’ drugs of all kinds. Theater-marquee lettering blaring out, “Now showing: Anal Spitfire,” everywhere you turn. Band guy goes to the first dude who calls to him. Gets ripped off in a major way. We walk all the way down Broadway to the West Village and sit on a stoop. Band guy smokes the tiny rock he got, laughing nervously. Somehow, we make it back to convene/congeal with the others.

The RV breaks down again. This time it was the solenoid. We were all 18-ish at the time, and thought Solenoid was some Devo song. So that was no help. We are parked at the corner of Canal St and Sixth Avenue in front of the bodega until we can be towed by U-Haul. With time to kill, John and Steve-O get out and busk on the corner; John playing clarinet and Steve-O beating on something or other. John has his clarinet case open and the pair make $20 in an hour. So, off to U-Haul we go, and they replace the RV yet again, and we transfer all the amps and drums, etc., to the new one.

Next, up to Boston to play at T.T. The Bear’s. We would stop on subsequent tours at the Middle East next door, The Rat and Bunratty’s, but T.T.’s was the first. Swan song for the blowup doll that night, as the fratty crowd tossed poor Gertrude around. She deflated, and so did Steve-O’s giant inflatable Genesee Cream Ale bottle, but our set was great.

U-Haul’s amazing Southwind RV breaks down for the third time. The air conditioner malfunctioned, sending water onto the floorboards of the RV, soaking everything touching the carpeted floor.

We were somewhere on 95 I think, at night, and changed out yet another RV, cross-loading amps and drums, licorice and blow-up dolls.

“Hurry—we gotta keep those platforms, feather boas, goth-wear and paisley shirts dry.”

Hoboken, N.J., is next, for our first show ever at Maxwell’s. At Maxwell’s, we are met in the RV by Gerard Cosloy, who has a kid he wants us to meet. He says “This is J. He’s 19 & in a band called Dinosaur.”

J silently looks around the RV, fascinated by the notion that bands actually wanted to tour in this thing, as well he should.

Dinosaur was a Homestead labelmate of ours for a while, and now John Petkovic and J play together in rock’s Sweet Apple. Maxwell’s stage was green at the time with that Reznor heater overhead.

Ira Kaplan was our house sound man here once, but I can’t remember if it was this night or a subsequent visit.

I think this is the show John introduced the blow-up doll and whipped cream to the stage. Not sure. In a picture from the show, my ratty feather boa is on the ground, no doubt doused in whipped cream and a bit of the licorice John used to throw out from the stage. Twizzlers were the “fifth DoS member”. At first fans of things underground and punk, Death Of Samantha began as a sort of rag-tag Americana/garage/post-punk/paisley-underground mashup, spewing Lou Reed/Ian McCullough/Jeffery Lee Pierce-isms over herky-jerky beats, Byrne/Wynn rhythm guitar and Precoda/Ronson/Jones (Mick or Steve) lead-guitar skronk. By 1986, we were changing a bit, getting into different music. I started spending more time with T.Rex and Bowie records and decided I had to have a black Les Paul and a feather boa with platforms. A fateful trip to Trivets Antiques in Cincinnati took care of a lot of that. The basement of this classy thrift store was stocked with unsold merchandise form the ’60s and ’70s, replete with vinyl snakeskin bell bottoms and tons of Elton-worthy platform shoes. The punk in me still wanted to shock a bit, so I decided to lean a little glam. No one was doing retro-glam authentically, really (the burgeoning hair-metal scene didn’t count), except for a few kindreds unbeknownst to me like Redd Kross and Celebrity Skin in L.A. So, for these reasons and the overall look of the band in general, no one knew what to think of DoS, but at least it stood out. Greg Fasolino is one Jersey punk who snapped a few shots that night. Tour is over. Back to Ohio, and back to school.

Photo after the jump.

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From The Desk Of Doug Gillard: Speak Kindly Of Your Lifeguards (Ad-Hoc Recording Spaces, Part 1)

Doug Gillard is known (rightly so) for his guitar wizardry in bands such as Guided By Voices, Cobra Verde, Death Of Samantha and, for the last few years, Nada Surf, but that notoriety sometimes overshadows the fact that he’s an accomplished solo singer/songwriter. With his third LP, Parade On (Nine Mile), Gillard continues to show off his virtuosity—solos like the one on “On Target” are just ridiculous—as well as his knack for catchy, folk-inflected power pop. Gillard will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our brand new Q&A with him. To see more photos corresponding to these entries, go here

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Gillard: The house where I lived in Cleveland had a walk-in attic space with a small six-by-seven carpeted room at the end. For five years this was my space to record and get ideas onto tape.

After joining Guided By Voices in late 1996, this was also where I would put guitar and other ideas onto Robert Pollard’s acoustic demos he gave band members to learn for the upcoming albums. (Some of these treatments ended up on the GBV Suitcase series of releases and also the Human Amusements collection.) Around 1999, he gave me a set of songs to work up any way I liked for a collaboration record wherein I recorded all the music and he wrote and sang all the vocals

This became Speak Kindly Of Your Volunteer Fire Department. His demos were acoustic guitar and vocals, as a guide to work from. Bob wrote both music and lyrics for most of the songs, and I wrote the complete music bed for four of the songs (“Pop Zeus,” “Messiahs,” “Port Authority” and “Larger Massachusetts”) with Bob handling the vocals and lyrics.

This music was all recorded on a Tascam four-track cassette, with lots of track bouncing going on to fit everything in.

I put a metronome as click down on one track first (and ran all tapes at the highest speed), then usually an acoustic or electric guitar track. I had a five-piece drum kit in the tiny room (a Mapex with five-lug drums, old heads and cracked cymbals. Nice!) and miked it with three mics running through a cheap four-channel Boss mixer I found for 10 bucks somewhere, then into one track of the Tascam. When that was done, I think I usually combined the basic guitar track with the drum track, bouncing both down to one track.

None of the electric guitars on Speak Kindly went through an amplifier, all going through a small Korg AXG1 multi-effects pedal. I don’t think I ever used that pedal for anything after that at all, but I was able to do some nifty things with it for that record.

I had three mics in my possession at that time. Two were from Radio Shack: a dynamic and an old metal PZM I bought used, and one was a long condenser mic that I usually used for the snare. A variety of things laying around the room were used on that record; there was a plastic Magnus air-pump chord organ I remember using on the “Slick As Snails” intro, and a small kid’s Casio was used on “Messiahs.” An instrumental I had done a couple years prior to that was submitted but not used on Speak Kindly was done with three tracks of piano, Crumar-made synth pedals (Moog Taurus style) and tapping of pens on a cabasa, along with some guitars and drums. This was later resubmitted for the second Lifeguards album and became “You’re Gonna Need A Mountain.” The piano was an old upright from the late 1800s, and we kept it in the dining room. For Speak Kindly, that was used on “And My Unit Moves,” and I utilized it a lot on the first Lifeguards album and my first two solo LPs. During the course of recording, Bob had agreed to sing on the four music beds I had given him, (“Pop Zeus,” et al.), so I finished those up and had my master cassettes ready to mix to a DAT. (True, a DAT. Ney, get it?) I went to my engineer friend Mike McDonald’s place and mixed the four-track masters to the DAT tape, running it through his expansive graphic EQ unit on the way to the tape.

People sometimes marvel that the record was done on a four-track, but it was really only the music, and Bob then sang over the mixes onto ADAT at a studio in Dayton.

It was fun to do, and I still have Bob’s cassette demos of that record and most albums we did as GBV. I sold the Portastudio that the record was recorded on back in 2005 or so.

Another photo after the jump.

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Q&A With Doug Gillard

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Doug Gillard is known (rightly so) for his guitar wizardry in bands such as Guided By Voices, Cobra Verde, Death Of Samantha and, for the last few years, Nada Surf, but that notoriety sometimes overshadows the fact that he’s an accomplished solo singer/songwriter. With his third LP, Parade On (Nine Mile), Gillard continues to show off his virtuosity—solos like the one on “On Target” are just ridiculous—as well as his knack for catchy, folk-inflected power pop. During some down time in Spain while Nada Surf records new material, Gillard talked about his guitar beginnings, recently joining Guided By Voices onstage and his Nada Surf status. He will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week.

MAGNET: You posted a photo on Facebook of yourself playing guitar at age 13 at your brother’s wedding reception. Was that your first public performance? How did it go?
Gillard: No, it wasn’t. When I was seven, I played snare drum at a talent show in the small town of Norwalk, Ohio. I was taking drum lessons, and my instructor’s wife played piano while I performed this recital piece for solo snare drum. It was simple but incorporated some rudiments and rolls. I won second place. A couple years on, I would play guitar at various school events. One time, a sixth-grade reading class held a classroom talent show. I made a backing track at home for a cover of Kiss’ “Calling Dr. Love,” primitively overdubbing rhythm guitar and drums onto two tracks. Unfortunately, what happened was I played the melody live on guitar instead of singing at all. I didn’t win that competition, either.

When did you start playing guitar? When did you realize you were good?
I was about six and had a Sears Fireball plastic guitar. It came with a guitar-tuning Flexi Disc, and I did tune it by ear to standard, but I had no idea how to form regular chords. So I would just open-tune the strings to chords that sounded good or play one-note lines. There will be an entry on these songs in this guest-editor series coming up. I started taking proper lessons in third grade, for about three years.

By the way, my upcoming guest-editor stories are mostly typically indulgent memories of band and touring life. Not a lot of personal interaction stories, but I also don’t believe in the sort of kiss-and-tell writing style, so any personal tales will be positive. Especially lately, I’ve come to realize how incredibly important friendship is, and to have a friend, you have to be a friend. Maybe the stories aren’t very interesting, either, but music is really all I know anything about. I tried to incorporate the ridiculous together with the sublime. I’m not much of a writer, so don’t expect sentences to be constructed in the best way.

I’m sure we’re all going to enjoy them, so don’t worry. Not to make this all about Facebook, but you also recently posted about meeting the late Tommy Ramone a couple of years ago. What was that like?
He appeared at a screening of End Of The Century for a Q&A. I saw Jon Wurster there, and we sat together. Later, I saw Tommy in the lobby, and he was happy to chat a bit. He was a gracious and humble man and was the one who really put that band together. A revelation to me was that he wrote some of those complex song intros with the math-y timing.

You’re busy playing with bands in addition to creating solo material. How difficult is it for you to balance it all? Do you sometimes feel unable to devote enough time to promoting your own efforts? I ask because you’ve put out these really solid solo LPs that deserve more attention.
It’s getting more difficult. Yes, I do feel unable to devote enough time to promote my solo things at times, but I enjoy all of the projects I’m involved in. Thanks for your compliment, and I agree with you.

Parade On‘s first song is the jaunty, catchy yet lyrically dark “Ready For Death.” Are you OK, Doug?
[Laughs] Yes, I’m OK, but that’s a phrase I tend to think at times when I’m feeling fatigued, ill or foggy. I have some thyroid/adrenal issues that give way to a bit of depression at times, but I’m able to work through it. In fact, working gets me through it; then again, the condition makes me procrastinate the work. It’s a vicious cycle. Basically, I took the phrase and juxtaposed it with happy music. “Ready for death” was the starting theme, but as lyrics developed, I found the song isn’t so much about how I’m feeling physically as it is questioning a belief in deity. I thought it would be fun to create a Harrison-esque sound that instead begs the question, “My sweet lord, do you really exist?”

I interviewed Slim Dunlap years ago, and about Bob Stinson’s guitar skills, he said, “He was capable of things that were just not normal.” I thought of that when I heard the solos on “No Perspective” and “On Target” I don’t really have a question there, just wanted to offer that compliment.
Well, thanks, Matt. Death Of Samantha opened for the Replacements in ’84, and I got to see Bob live. He told me later he liked my playing, too, so I was elated. I think it’s true he did some wild stuff. I’ve always had a thing for taking chances like he and, for instance, Robert Quine did. I try do it in live situations all the time. You shoot for something and you may fail, but you have to try to be chancy. I love seeing others do that, and I think improvisation in rock or punk/indie has all but disappeared. Not so much with drummers, but in the guitar realm for sure.

You recently played a couple of songs with Guided By Voices in New York. How did that go?
It went wonderfully, thanks. I opened for them a few years ago as well. This time I joined them for “Teenage FBI” and “Fair Touching.” The week before, our reunited Death Of Samantha opened two shows for them as well, and that was a blast, too. Cobra Verde and my band Gem opened for GBV in the early ’90s, so we’ve all always been friends through the years with Tobin (Sprout) and Mitch (Mitchell). I was in GBV with Greg Demos as bassist in 1998-99 as well.

How did the Death Of Samantha reunion happen? What are your thoughts on how it went?
We reunited about three years ago now. John (Petkovic) ran into original bassist David James in Cleveland, and they discussed doing the band again. John already knew I was into doing the same. The first reunion show went amazingly well, and we all have so much fun playing as a band. Our double album (If Memory Serves Us Well) came out last year, and we’ve played several shows to support it, with more touring happening sometime in the future.

You’re very active with Nada Surf at this point. In my opinion, you’ve made a fantastic band even better. What has the experience been like?
It’s been really great. I enjoy being in the band because I love being with those guys. We’re all around the same ages, the mood and outlook is always bright, and we share similar influences musically. The touring takes us to some great places, and we have a crew of people who work closely with us in different countries who are now all very close friends of the band. Hell, knowing Ira Elliot got me into Bambi Kino, probably the most fun band I’ve ever been a part of. Plus, I get to be in two bands with Ira on drums—what’s not to like about that?

Is your involvement open-ended? Has there been any discussion of a more permanent role?
Well, no one seems to really be aware of this, but I am an actual member of the band. Whether that means I’ll start to be included in the promo photos now, I have no idea, but I hope so. We’ve started writing and recording a new LP, and it’s very much a collective effort.

—Matt Hickey

 

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