Archive for January, 2007

JOE THALMAN, the interview.

January 28, 2007

I heard of Joe Thalman ( a few years back. And although I didn’t truly know his music, or even heard a show of his at that time — I knew the name, and there was a buzz surrounding him (even if he didn’t know it yet). I got to truly experience Joe’s style and gift of music sometime afterword when a friend of mine joined his band. To attend a show (or just give a listen to Joe’s music), it’s nearly impossible to deny he has been blessed with a musical talent for songwriting and play.

Joe Thalman – Tonight

I find Joe’s lyrics and music truly paint a mood. Although that mood may intend to be dark when he first builds a song, there is ‘brightside’ to it that drips through cracks by the time he masters it. No one can listen to “Tonight” and not feel they’ve been in a similar situation. On another extreme, you have “Down” which can bring the ladies out the seat and dancing on the tables. It’s seems to be becoming an instant classic amongst the LA indie rock scene with anyone who takes a listen.

Joe Thalman – Down

As many artist tend to shy away from to much spotlight, Joe is no exception. But I was finally able to track him down and force him to answer a few questions. Minus a few personal notes that Joe dodged, here is what he had to say…

LL: Joe, you recently played a part in the “1st Annual Red Xmas Charity Bash” here in Los Angeles, which benefited St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. Was it a success? How was the night in general, and the vibe of everyone when they know it’s for a good cause?

JT: Our First Annual Red Christmas Charity Bash was a success. This was something I have been wanting to get involved with for awhile now. I along with Nico Stai and Frankel each performed acoustic sets. The total feeling of the room was definitely positive. All the ticket sales and all merch went to the St Judes Children Research Hospital. Its really important to me to try to do a few charities a year to give a little something back. Its easy to live in L.A. and get to play music and take things for granted. Sometimes its necessary to get some perspective on how lucky some of us are and do what we can to help out those less fortunate.

LL: Nico Stai played the show as well. I’ve seen your names listed together many times at various joints… what’s the connection between you two?

JT: Nico Stai is an outstanding musician that I met while living here in L.A. and has become a good friend of mine. I highly recommend everyone to pick up his new record “Park Los Angeles. I havn’t taken it out of my stereo since the first time I’ve heard it. People will be hearing his name alot soon you can bet on that.

LL: Can you tell us a little about your past? I know you just didn’t wake up one day in New Jersey and say ‘I’m moving to LA to be a rock-star’. What has been the journey and the stops along the way?

JT: Yeah, well I eventually made LA my home by way of Nashville, through Philly, before leaving New Jersey. My route had to have been the most indirect way and was completely well beyond my means. But no, I didnt wake up one day and make the decision to move. It took many mornings, after even more sleepless nights to finally wake up and develop, play, and produce my songs. Los Angeles to me was and is the perfect place to do that. Oh and the weather aint too bad either.

LL: Speaking of the LA Indie band scene, how did you meet and form a team with actor-drummer, Tommy Villafranca (your drummer when you play with the 99’s)?

JT: Tommy Villafranca is one of those guys that everyone should have the pleasure to know. He always has a smile on his face and exudes passion and determination in everything his does. I met him shortly after moving to L.A. at some crazy drunken downtown L.A. New Years Eve party. He was the only person other than me wearing cowboy boots…after talking for about 30 seconds I knew he was the drummner I wanted.

LL: The “These Days” EP is great by the way. I recommend it to everyone out there to purchase a copy (available through Are there plans for a full-length album maybe in the next year? What’s your plans for 2007? Do you plan to tour? Is the plan to do more solo or full-band performances?

JT: So far this year has been pretty hectic but right now I have one more show this Tuesday (1/30/07) at the Knittingfactory in L.A. (Hollywood) before I go back in the studio to record my new solo acoustic record with producer Jeaux Messacappa of the band “Lady Sinatra” and formally of the Symptoms fame. I have a new collection of songs that I need to put out there before I can begin the new record with the full band. These songs are extremely personal to me and I found that I cant begin work on a new record with the full band until I put these songs to bed and give them there place.

LL: Sticking with talking about the music for a few minutes. I’ve heard you compared with various alternative, rock, and alt-country bands and names. Who do you see as some of your strongest influences?

JT: There really are an unlimited amount of influences out there that really got to me over the years. Beginning with Motown artists like Wilson Pickett and Sam Cooke, to Bruce Springsteen, to the Cure, all the way up to the Deftones.

LL: Is there a modern day band or two that you find yourself listening to recently? Or who would you go see live if there were in town tomorrow?

JT: Lately I have been into alot of Cat Power…and there’s always time for the Stones, Gram Parsons, and some Whiskeytown. As far as local acts that I am really in to right now…well I have already mentioned Nico Stai. So how could I not mention Fontaine. She is incredible as well. We played a few gigs back in New York and Philly together and continue to play shows out here in L.A. as well. She actually performed vocals on the song “Tonight” off my EP “These Days.” Her record “The Chemistry Between Us” is truely touching and beautiful, a must have.

LL: Last, but not least. We’ve heard rumors of a time when you were living in former Orson Welles’ mansion in the Hollywood Hills. How did you pull that off? Do you have any stories (maybe ghost stories) to go along with amazing parties?

JT: Yeah its true I did live up in Orselle Welles old home in the Hollywood Hills for the majority time that I have been here in L.A. As you can imagine I do have plently of ghost stories. Too much to tell now but defintely for another time. The house is currently owned by a good friend of mine and he took me in as an up and coming songwriter shortly after I moved here. I saw more than my fair share of debauchery over the time there and consequently wrote the majority of the new record while living (recovering) between those walls. If you listen closely to the new songs you just might hear a few ghosts and lost souls coming through… 🙂

LL: Thanks for the time, Joe. We look forward to catching you live again in 2007!

Joe Thalman – 12th & Porter

Hopefully everyone in the Los Angeles area who has a chance, can catch Joe Thalman ( at The Knitting Factory this Tuesday (8:45pm). You won’t be disappointed you did. — fearless23.

Editors Note: Apparently they’ve gone mad over at Stones Throw records, and they’re giving away another free album on their website. Chrome Children vol. 2 just went up last night for free download (That’s the second full album already this year). I haven’t listened to it yet myself but initial reports are telling me it’s niiiiice. Go check it out.


Best of 2006: #5 The Roots – Game Theory

January 22, 2007

Lots of news today… first off, this years Coachella lineup was just announced. I’m was already planning to be there and this years schedule is one of the best, so keep reading for more updates.

WordPress has outdone itself as a blog host. I can now embed a flash player right into the page so it’s now even easier to preview the tracks in our posts. Nialler9 has been doing it for a while now and I was always a fan of it… now The Alternakids have the same capabilities. This post is the trial run of the feature for us, so let us know if there are any bugs.


Now for more hip-hop with the next album in our countdown Game Theory by the Roots:

Full size roots
When hip-hop was started in NYC it was largely derived from the Jamaican soundclash culture (much props to Kool Herc), so from the beginning the music was centered around sampling and the reconstruction of pre-recorded material. For that reason it was always somewhat of a kitschy gimmick for hip-hop acts to perform with live bands. Enter the Roots who not only made it viable for other hip-hop acts to have live back-up bands, but they standout as one of the most technically proficient live acts of any genre out there period.

Keep in mind that the Roots crew are the ones who introduced us to Scott Storch, Bienie Siegal, Eve, OK Player, and quite possibly the whole neo-soul movement. It took me hearing Black Thought talk about how much J-Dilla influenced them that made me realise how influential he actually was. I along with most people credited them with forging the whole neo-soul sound, but looking back I can see how it evolved over the years (btw… this album features a few of those “donut crumbs” I was talking about before).

I lucked out and got to see them perform at an Amoeba records in-store not too long after Game Theory was released. Quite fittingly later on that same day I saw James Brown at the Hollywood Bowl. I say that because in my humble opinion watching Questlove call out cues on the fly from behind his kit is the closest you’ll ever come to witnessing how James used to do it in his heyday… but I’m open to hearing other people’s take on that.

Now let’s talk about this album. A lot of people were worried about how the move to Def Jam would effect the bands sound, but they shushed pretty much all of the naysayers by giving us their best effort since Things Fall Apart.

Check out this medley of album tracks:

Here’s that last track in full:

The Roots – It Don’t Feel Right



One thing The Roots have always excelled at on their albums was sequencing. Each song flows into the next so naturally sometimes you’re halfway into the next track before you realize there’s been a segue-way. Again this is an element that they recreate very well in their live performances keeping the jams coming at you from the moment they hit the stage until the curtain call with very few pauses in the action.

I really wish I could get my hands on a raw version of the masters for this song so I could isolate the tracks and show you everything that’s really going on here, but I guarantee if you hear them play this live you’ll listen to it in a whole new way from then on.

The Roots – Game Theory




This track is what reminded me of why I love Black thought as a lyricist. Everybody talks about how hip-hop is supposed to be the voice of a subculture and I “Clock with no Hands” was the single most relate-able song to me personally that was released this year. Check the second verse:

Yo, I’m like Malcom out the window with the weapon out
Searching for somehow to find a minute or the second now
Precious time is money that I ain’t got to mess about
Need it from the horse’s mouth or from my eye with less account
Lessons with my back to the wall, scoping my session out
Stay a little edgy at times when I ain’t stressing bout
Haters don’t know shit about me, they the ones that talk shit
Those that love me send it out, so I ain’t got to force quit
Cause I’m doing better now, don’t mean I never lost shit
I was married to a state of mind and I divorced it, man
I’m from where brothers moving product from the porches
People locking their doors, clutching to their crosses
The block hot by the law, there ain’t too many choices
So what I do is for y’all, there ain’t too many voices left
I watch my back, and watch my step
And I might forgive, but I will not forget come on

The Roots – Clock With No Hands




I mean how can you go wrong with an album that has a song based around a Radiohead sample? (see Atonement… Actually if you didn’t hear the remix “Nothing in it’s Right Place” you should try to hunt that down right now as well. If you ask nicely I might put it up in a future post) Definitely a worthy comeback, be sure to pick this album up if you get the chance, or better yet catch them out on tour and get the full experience.

In other news, Denny Doherty of The Mama’s and the Papa’s passed away yesterday, so as a bonus today I give you a couple of tracks penned by him and John Phillips for the group.

Denny Doherty

The Mamas and the Papas – Got a Feelin’



The Mamas and the Papas – I Saw Her Again

Best of 2006: #6 Murs – Murray’s Revenge

January 17, 2007

I went on a little bit of a sabbatical to celebrate both my birthday and my 2 year anniversary of moving to LA, but now it’s time to get back to business here.

The blogosphere is all abuzz about what a good year it was for hip-hop in 2006 and looking back I really can’t argue with that. So today I present to you the first of several appearances by stellar hip-hop albums on our countdown.

There’s something to be said for an album that drops in the first quarter of the year and is still quickly recalled to memory when year end lists are calculated. This year there were several albums that fell into that category (and I’m still convinced that the only reason “Donuts” didn’t make this list was because my peers forgot that it actually came out this year instead of last… but I digress).

Full size Murs

What can I say here about Murray’s Revenge that I didn’t already say in my previous post or in the review I wrote for M+ this time last year? This second pairing with 9th Wonder was different on quite a few levels from 3:16. It may take a few listens before you realize that while Murs is flowing with just as much potency and ferocity about the same subject matter as all of his previous efforts, he never once curses or uses the N-word throughout this album. Rumor is he made some kind of deal with mom-dukes for this one in that regard.

Released by Record Collection (a division of Warner Brothers), this not only marks a step out of the underground-independent matrix, but a step into development as Murs now heads up A&R for the hip-hop division of the imprint. All of the press I’ve seen about the deal however distinctly says that Record Collection has the rights to his collaborations with 9th Wonder, so I couldn’t tell you what this means in regards to his standing with Def Jux.

Other power moves made by Murs this year include securing an endorsement deal with Hurley clothing and joining the team of Al Gore’s “Current TV” as a host. With all this stuff going on it’s amazing the man even had time to put a whole album together, yet alone have it be as much of a head nodder as it is.

In honor of the city I’m learning to call home, I present to you the video for the first single, simplistically titled “L.A.”

The album is in and out with only 10 tracks, and I already gave you a preview in the aforementioned post about Murs’ back catalog, but we just wouldn’t be talking about Murs if we didn’t give you a track for the ladies. Here he takes a minute to talk to us about racial identity and the importance of being true to yourself no matter what your background, race, culture, or even your gender may be.

Murs – Dark Skinned White Girls

Check out the whole album and you won’t be disappointed. I can name at least five people I recommended this too back in January and all of them bought it and were pumping it well into the summer months without disappointment.

Best of 2006: #7 CALEXICO – Garden Ruin

January 11, 2007

Garden Ruin

GARDEN RUIN is officially the band’s fifth full-length album. But for those who are fans, we know this is mainly because they like to stay on the road traveling and touring. Thus they have an enormous collection (dating back to 1996) of EP, live, and “tour-only” cd’s that are amazing too. Calexico is known for constant change and surreal sound. I’ve found myself in the past describing their released music as ‘southwest-mex alternative rock sound, that one should listen to while driving through an empty desert.’ But this album is much different, and yet, still brilliant.

Calexico – Bisbee Blue

You’ve heard that ‘Location’ is everything when buying a house or starting a buisness, well maybe the same can be said for creating a musical masterpiece. At the very least, location can bring on inspiration — and Garden Ruin is a reflection of that thought. This album was written in the southeast Arizona Victorian mining town of Bisbee — and recorded in Tucson. Joey Burns (vocals, lead guitar) describes why on the bands website ( , “…it’s always 10 degrees cooler in Bisbee than in Tucson. Our friend… recommended we practice in on an empty fourth floor flat above his friend’s restaurant, Cafe Roka. It proved to be inspiring on many levels. Great food,… down to Earth people, and no working cell phones,… barricaded inside a deep ravine.”

Calexico – Roka

The album opens with “Cruel” (also the first single and video) — which is said to be a reflection on environmental corruption. Ending with the lyrics “Even the horizon is gone/ Weather flees underground/ Future’s left to wallow in fortune’s waste.” Immediately, we see “Burns addressing contemporary America rather than the mythical Americas that were his source of the past.” But there is true definition to this album that many of Calexico’s previous may have not had. At first listen, you might shift in your seat, looking for the rough edges of the other albums. Make no mistake, this album is produced — and produced well by JD Foster.

Calexico – Letter to a Bowie Knife

“Letter to a Bowie Knife” talks about religious fundamentalism, yet political extremism is felt throughout the album, without lacking the musical harmony that Calexico has been known to join from a variety of sounds. This album is one of growth for them. It moves them forward into a new arena of musical genius. Never have they made a more ‘complete’ album. From top to bottom, they provide a sound and mood on this album that translates into immediate satisfaction of one’s inner-being. Just lay back and enjoy it’s soothing, but not smothering, ride into musical bliss.

Calexico – All Systems Red

The eleven song journey on Garden Ruin ends with “All Systems Red.” Which I must say is an amazing song to hear performed live, because it’s Calexico allowing themselves to howl and let it the guitars rock out (in an unusual fashion). The crescendo on the album loses something once you’ve experienced it in concert — but it’s still a treat. With fast-stabbing lyrics of “Everything you hear is distored in your head/ I want to tear it all down and build it up again” and “…words forming barely have a voice/ It’s just your heart breaking without choice.”

Calexico – Nom de Plume

If you don’t have them in your collection, I beg you to give Calexico a chance. And find out why they made The Alternakids top 10 of 2006. You can also vote for them at PLUG: Independent Music Awards for the “Americana Album of the Year” which is richly deserved. They are a blast to hear Live, so I urge you to catch them in concert and give a listen to thier full sound. I leave you with a little video that gives you a piece of Calexico magic live, with there incredible version of “Alone Again Or” (unfortunatly not available on Garden Ruin).

I’ll allow John Convertino (drums, percussion) to give the final word on Garden Ruin with, “There are monsters lurking all over it, even in pretty bits.” Enjoy something new. Happy New Year readers! — fearless23


Best of 2006: #8 Tool – 10,000 Days

January 10, 2007

– by David Schatanoff, Jr.

So the number eight album on the Best of 2006 countdown comes from one of my favorite bands: TOOL. With all the great jazz, classical and rock (and/or roll) offerings from this last year, it was still heads and shoulders above my personal list of top ten albums of ’06. So why number eight? Well, different strokes for different folks and all that… but this album is “what Willis was talkin’ bout“.


Tool has been around for sixteen years and has amassed a fiercely loyal and devoted fan base. I stood in line at the Tower Records on Sunset Blvd for the last Tool album, Lateralus. Much to my dismay (and several other of my Tool Army comrades) we were standing in line for the Weezer in-store performance… We did get to meet Rivers Cuomo but were then allowed to pass the line of screaming fifteen-year-olds to purchase something with a little more meat on it’s bones. This time around, I bypassed the whole “waiting in line at midnight” thing and picked up the album 10,000 Days at the local Best Buy. No screaming Weezer fans, no dragging my ass out of bed for work the next morning; just me, my wallet and my 10,000 Days CD.


Now as most fans know, the music that Tool creates is pretty heavy. I used the word “meat” earlier and meaty is dead on when describing their music. It takes a couple of sittings to fully digest the music on 10,000 Days; and normally, that would be a turn off. But Tool has a way of making things sonically interesting first, and then reels you back for the lyrics. If you notice the lyrics first, you listen again and again to understand what Maynard James Keenan has cooked up for your intellectual appetite; then return to figure out exactly what Danny Carey (drums), Justin Chancellor (bass) and Adam Jones (guitar) have presented sonically. All of this keeping your head moving or your body pulsing.


Alternating 5/4 and 10/8 patterns mixed with 3/4 and 4/4 transitions instantly make the music complex to casual listeners. I don’t know who coined the phrase “Math-Rock”, but I’m sure it was around the time of Yngwie Malmsteen or Dream Theater. And while extreme “Math-Rock” takes on time signatures much more complex than the ones Tool tunes exists in, they have a knack for taking our Buddy Holly, 4/4, lives and making simple, odd time signatures, sound complex. It’s really how the ensemble works together that makes the music dense and multi-layered. It all nicely comes together in the first track on the album – “Vicarious”. Adam and Justin kick things off with the hinting of an incantation, which is revisited in the middle section of the tune. Maynard’s verse phrasing is mesmerizing and the vocals are recorded, futz’d and mixed to perfection. Listen to how drummer Danny Carey plays off of leading patterns from Adam and then Justin in sections of this one. I love the unison sextuplet riff ending; well rehersed and a great way to start off the album.

Tool – Vicarious


Track two on the album keeps things going where the first track ends. There are many notes to be played on this one and it’s a wonder how Tool stays in shape musically to perform their catalog of songs live. Not only are they physically challenging but mentally exhausting to say the least. I’ll let this track speak for itself

Tool – Jambi


My favorite track on the album is titled “The Pot”. It’s the first track from Tool to reach number one on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Track charts, and with good reason. The bass line is driving and catchy; moving from an octave riff to the busy style I love hearing from Justin. If there ever was a song that enjoyed the key of ‘D’, it’s this one. When Justin gets going, Adam reiterates the octave riff and then gets going himself. Danny is rock solid as always on this track. He’s one of the few drummers that never fell out of love with the Simmons Drum sound and has integrated them into his acoustic drum kit. Maynard moves into his head voice for the intro and lets it rip for the rest of the song. The lyrics poke the side of hypocrisy (THE POT calling the kettle black) and, I can only picture an authoritative power puffing away on a joint. Keep an eye out for the video for this tune that is rumored to have been shot at the end of ’06. In the meantime, enjoy the track!

Tool – The Pot

The selections here represent the more sonically agressive tracks on the album. Tool fans and casual listeners alike will enjoy the other tracks for, if nothing else, the musicianship. But those familiar with the last two albums will recognize that 10,000 Days is a culmination of the best of those albums with an identity of its own. For those of you “under the influence“, put the disc in your computer or XBOX 360 and turn on the visualizer and enjoy the track “Viginti Tres”. Trippy

But the album, like the band, represents the best of, and the balance of: technology and organics, numbers and soul, western and eastern sounds; all while staying true to personal convictions and ideals that have grown together to form this “Number Eight” on the Best of 2006 Countdown.

10,000 Days marks Tool’s 5th major release – Opiate (1992), Undertow (1993), AEnima (1996), and Lateralus (2001) are the bands other offerings. Tool is currently on tour in Australia promoting 10,000 Days.

For more information on Tool, please visit their website:

Purchase the full length album 10,000 Days
Purchase Tool Merchandise at the Tool Online Store

More information on Drummer Danny Carey
More information on A Perfect Circle
More information on Pigmy Love Circus