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Thursday, June 02, 2005

Local Heroes Everywhere

The Pizazz, originally uploaded by Theresa K.

Some of the best music and scenes are happening under the radar. You always knew that. It doesn't have to have national attention to be good.

These fresh faces are The Pizzaz from Detroit. I saw them at Small's in Hamtramck this past January. They reminded me of the Modern Lovers or Talking Heads. It occured to me that I should send their demo to Jerry Harrison, but thought that might be too obvious.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, a band carrying on with the blatant sexuality of The Slits and the early punk version of the Go Go's (the ones we saw before they were signed and dolled up) are The Demands, which used to be two gals and two guys, as pictured here:

The Demands

Now, they're three, with Jahna (in the red t-shirt) fronting this band that boasts of lust, mayhem and really loud guitars. That's pretty punk...

Do you remember the British pub rock scene that preceded the onslaught of great punk records? The scene that gave us Nick Lowe, Dave Edmunds (though he had been around and already had a swell pedigree with Love Scuplture), Eddie & the Hot Rods, Brinsley Schwartz, Ian Dury, and Elvis Costello. When those blokes weren't discovering The Pretenders and stuff, they were making music that would influence a generation that was still in the cradle when they were in the studio.

Meet the Boss Martians, from Seattle.

Boss Martians

The line up has changed, but this band, fronted by Evan Foster (again, the red t-shirt takes it. Let this be a hint to front people. Red T-Shirt...) is versed in the British school of pub rock as well as vintage Seattle garage and surf punk. The first time I saw the Boss Martians, I immediately thought of 1975 London.... then they covered a Small Faces song. I was convinced. Evan Foster is one of Seattle's finest coffee achievers. The prolific musician released an instrumental record recently in addition to his work with the band.

Music's best kept secret (and it is a crime that this band is a secret) is The Witches, a Detroit supergroup who rarely play or tour because its members are much in-demand players for other bands. But take my word for it, Witches are Real. Unlike vampires, you can photograph them.

Witches are Real

Johnnny Na$hinal on guitar is the 21st century's Jimmy Page. He moonlights in the Electric Six and records his own compositions as well. The epitome of "strong but silent," Na$h is anything but silent on a stage. Together with Troy Gregory, Na$h and them Witches brew up a kind of music that defies categorization and is influenced only by itself. That's Troy in the blurry background of the photo, and here with his drummer from The Step Sisters, Noelle-Christine.

The urban detritus of Detroit is fertile ground for rock n roll. There are three men in Detroit you must go to if you want a great sounding record - a record that sounds like you do live, a record that sounds warm and surrounds you, and a record that pulls out the very best in your songs. Those three men are pictured below.

Meet Matthew Smith.
Matthew Smith

The first thing about Matthew Smith that got my attention is that he was completely 100% familiar with The Quick, an early LA punk-power-pop band fronted by singer Danny Wilde, who would ultimately go on to form The Rembrandts, who performed the theme song to the "Friends" television series. Prior to that, Danny did things like write songs with Robert Palmer. I loved the Quick so much that I booked them to play Casino Night at my dorm at UCLA. My fellow LA photographer Brad Elterman went to high school with them. Anyway.... it was all pretty far away from Detroit - so that Matt Smith knew this band.... I was convinced. He has produced records by his own Outrageous Cherry, Volebeats, and prog band, THTX as well as The Cuts, Denise James, and The Go, which is just the tip of the production credits iceberg for him.

Then there's one of my all time favorite men.

Mick Collins. You know him from The Dirtbombs and The Gories. His musical knowledge and record collection are vast. His prowess as a performer is unrivaled. Why is this man not a huge star?

Finally there's the man whose name lends credibility and the imprimatur scores of young bands want. Jim Diamond, proprietor of Ghetto Recorders in Detroit.

Jim Diamond

He's the producer who gave the world the first and/or best recordings by The White Stripes, Von Bondies, The Go, Hentchmen, Mooney Suzuki, Clone Defects, New Bomb Turks, Mystery Girls, Ponys, Singles, Electric Six, Witches, Bantam Rooster, Compulsive Gamblers, and the list keeps going. I've been in the studio with Jim while he's producing. He's cool, calm and thoroughly expert. You hardly know he's working... he makes it look easy, but just try to do what he does. You can't. He's simply the best. You've seen him play bass in The Dirtbombs, and he produced all their records with Mick Collins.

Local radio heroes abound.

I have a favorite radio show in Detroit. Radio Fever, hosted by Greg Siemasz and Chris Handyside. Here's the Greg Siemasz Experience, as I call it -- you can call it "bumping into Greg on a winter morning." He's the one in the center.

The Greg Siemasz Experience

In Memphis, they have a great radio station WEVL and one of my favorite people in the world - great musician/singer/all around cool dude, Jeremy Scott, an original member of the Reigning Sound spins a shift on Sunday nights.

He's even wearing the station's t-shirt!

In the NY/NJ area, you can't go wrong with listener-supported free form WFMU. They support indie bands, the local scene and their jocks are the coolest people on and off the air. In alphabetical order, I salute Joe Belock, Evan Davies, Terre T., Brian Turner and all the rest of WFMU's crack staff. Thanks for keeping the airwaves safe for the likes of me. Where ELSE could I hear the Witches? The Cheater Slicks? The Pandoras? and everyone else I love?

Before I sign off, I just want to draw your attention to the Record Store links on the right side of this page. People who operate local indie record stores are the best local heroes. Buy your records from them if you can! Most of them do mail order and they won't look at you like you have three heads if you're asking for the new Mumps or the new Deadly Snakes. They will not redirect you to a pharmacy or a pet store. They'll grab your records for you with a smile!

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