January 2012 - Hello! Thank you for visiting this site... a rather rag-tag batch of writing and rambling.
I'm hoping to use this “Public Noise” site for some random expression and freak-outs. It will also collect short articles and reviews I've written for the LEO city paper, Magnet & other publications. Thank you to all the folks who agreed to be interviewed over the last few years - and the editors that have given me a chance to contribute. All the best – JN

PS: I've been in a cancer treatment program since August 2009 and my wife and I have shared some of that story at this address: http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/jasonnoble/


Monday, June 4, 2012

Interview by Jason Noble

Published on the Tape Op website (May 2012)
http://www.tapeop.com/articles/89/kevin-ratterman/ Kevin Ratterman is a musician and engineer living in Louisville, Kentucky. He played drums in the psychedelic rock trio Wax Fang, and was a member of the well-loved punk band Elliott. For the last decade he's been recording bands and currently runs The Funeral Home studio. In keeping with Louisville's morbid charm the studio really does occupy the top two floors of a working funeral home. Ratterman recently worked with the bands Coliseum, Parlour and California Guitar Trio, and co-engineered the acclaimed My Morning Jacket album "Circuital" (with producers Tucker Martine and Jim James). He recorded the blistering new album "In And Out Of Youth And Lightness" by Young Widows and is currently mixing a project with Joan Shelley (produced by Daniel Martin Moore). Ratterman doesn't have many days off, but he generously shared his time to talk about his working process. We were joined by Evan Patterson from Young Widows. (Interview conducted in April 2011)
JN: How many albums have you worked on in 2011? Kevin Ratterman: It's April 12th and so far, 15. What bands are you working with in the next few months? K: Mostly it's amazing Louisville projects - Another 7 Astronauts, Cheyenne Mize, Liberation Prophecy, Sandpaper Dolls, Seluah. Can we talk gear for a little while? When did you install the new mixing console? K: I installed the Trident in October of 2009. Before the TSM I had a DDA DRM12 - which I sold to another great local studio. You've been using a combination of digital and analog formats for a while now - can you describe your process? K: I usually track everything live - straight to the 2" machine. I try to get the sound as good as I humanly can so the live tracks are all usable. I'm happy to overdub and replace all day long - but I resonate the most with the live takes. The analog tracks are transferred into Pro Tools at 96k at 24 bit - which seems to capture the recorded tape magic pretty well. I have 32 analog outputs from Pro Tools flying back to the Trident console to mix. What about final mixes? K: Mixes are printed to the 1/4" machine with the repro heads on. I capture the final stereo mix back into Pro Tools through the Burl B2 - an awesome 2 channel converter [Tape Op #79]. Sometimes I go from the Trident (using the B2) straight to a digital file. If a song is really complex I'll mix it in sections and assemble it later in Wavelab. You just installed a new digital master clock and found that it greatly improved the quality of sound. This seems to be a slightly controversial issue. K:Controversial to say the least! I try to not get caught up in all that - I'm just curious about how things sound. I reluctantly allowed my pro audio dealer to send me the Antelope Trinity clock [Tape Op #68] and the difference was absolutely awesome. The sound was immediately better - but I wish it wasn't! I would have rather bought an EMT 140 and a BX20 [Vintage plate and spring reverbs]. What are the main changes you noticed? K:A solid amount of new clarity opened up in the lows and mids - which is where my heart lives. I really do feel like I can pop my head inside the mix - it's more three-dimensional. Maybe I'm a sucker though? You've become very proficient in the PC audio platform Nuendo/Cubase. What led you to switch to Pro Tools recently? K: I changed after a lot of long conversations with folks I respect. I have no allegiances except to the almighty music gods! [laughter] With the way records are being made these days (partly in studio, partly at home) having Pro Tools makes the process run smoother. I still have the Nuendo system so I can work on whatever comes my way - I have tons of love for the diehards out there and their chosen platforms. Go for it! Do what makes you feel good! Pro Tools is more aesthetically pleasing to sit in front of all day, but I miss the MIDI in Nuendo quite a bit. Pro Tools MIDI has a lot to learn from Steinberg! When did you start using the 2" tape machine as the master multitrack? K: The 2" gets lots of love. What it does to cymbals and transients is a wonder. I've used tape on every session since I installed the Studer three years ago. Before that, I had an MCI that was beautiful sounding - but it was not dependable enough (especially without a proper studio tech here in Louisville). Do the bands you work with appreciate why you're adding the analog step in the process? K: I definitely think so. When you go to any studio and see people really caring about the end result - not just trying to get your business and move on to the next thing - I think bands appreciate that. I think it gets everyone excited - just physically seeing this giant - heavy - tape spinning. It adds a wonderful nostalgia that you simply can't get watching the light on a hard drive blink! That may sound trivial but it gets me every time. But are you still friends with digital? K: Really, I don't think we're too far from absolutely amazing sounding digital recording. I couldn't be more excited about the next ten years. The last Portishead album [Third] sounds phenomenal - that was all digital. "I'm an optimist at heart. I want to embrace new technology and use it for a greater good. Most of the time I find fighting it is just ideological non-action." How often do bands take the session files and work on them at home? Is that becoming common practice - making USB copies and burning data discs? K: It's certainly more common - and it's totally awesome. The idea excites me, though I do have concern for its obvious downsides. Lets face it - we're all struggling and its harder and harder to make any money selling recorded music. Recording budgets are at a minimum. But I certainly have no interest in trying to rush a three week recording project into 10 days. If it makes sense to come in and cut basics - then have the artist take it home and light it on fire and dance around it - I'm totally down! Do what needs to be done, then bring it back to do the final mix. It's a way to give the artist more control. Does it ever compromise the audio quality? K: Fortunately, most of the folks I work with are quite competent as engineers and know what sounds good. I'm always happy to lend out mics and preamps if they need them. Nine times out of ten it works out great. How often do you work with a mastering engineer? K: I've been working a lot lately with Shelley Anderson (at Georgetown Masters in Nashville). Her dedication to making the end result perfect for the client is unmatched. And - she is t-h-o-r-o-u-g-h! She knows what I like - and she tells me when I'm crazy! Just curious, when you have long sessions - how do you protect your ears? K: The sweet sounds of NPR! Unfortunately, I'm not very good at maintaining my ears and need to get better. Any advice is great appreciated. I love listening to music and I love listening to it loud - and I'm a drummer in a loud rock band! I'm doomed. I think about it often, though. I mix at a very moderate volume - only because I know it will make a better end result. There can be a lot of doom and gloom about new technology - concerns about people choosing low resolution formats like MP3 and the myriad of piracy issues. What new tech developments are you excited about? K: Well, I'm an optimist at heart. I want to embrace new technology and use it for a greater good. Most of the time I find fighting it is just ideological non-action. We have an obligation to be responsible and positive if we can. Creativity can always transcend any sort of tool. What concerns me the most is being responsible - considering how technology affects us communally and environmentally. Do I want my things made with slave labor - something carted irresponsibly all over the planet before it reaches my doorstep? Certainly not. Embrace what you can - have fun with it. I actually can't wait to get an iPad and make some new sounds. 2.

"When I was starting out - I thought there was so much I didn't know. Now I've realized that it's much simpler than that. Everything is as simple as, 'Does this sound good or not? Is it too hard? Is it too soft? Too bright? Too muddy? Is it exciting enough?'" [We're joined by Evan Patterson from the band Young Widows] After working on so many different projects, do you feel like your process has changed? K: Definitely. The technology has forced me to learn more ways of operating. The dangerous thing about now - you can record it all live or you can sample every quarter note and assemble it. It's important to be prepared - so you're not sitting there reading the manual! E: That's the great thing about recording with you. You're comfortable with different ways of working. People can become set in their ways? E: Yeah, they can. I've recorded with people that have a very minimal approach to recording or they are super high-tech. There's not a whole lot in-between. All of the Young Widows records have been recorded by musicians. Chris Owens [from the band Lords], Kurt Ballou [of Converge, Tape Op #76] and Kevin are all touring musicians - and engineers. E: Yeah, being a musician lead to the desire to engineer their own records. K: That's one thing about tour - you get sadistically addicted to the suffering [laughter] - the blood-letting that goes on! After that, when you make records with people, you're able to get in the trenches with them. It's not a big deal to work fifteen hour days. E: Sitting around some venue for seven or eight hours can be very similar to sitting around the studio! K: But there's also the excitement of being in a band. When things are brewing - when you're in the middle of creating something. It's such a rewarding, exciting feeling. There are amazing records that were made in three days and amazing records that took two years. Is it hard to say "that's it" - to take your hands off the mix? K: Definitely. E: But having too much freedom - artistically - can be disastrous. K: Especially in the time we live in - where everything is a possibility - when you can do anything. You have to set limitations. When you no longer have track limits and all that? K: You don't have to set limitations but it's interesting creatively to do so. If you're a live band making a record - you may decide to go into the studio and capture that live sound. You may decide that you want to run into the studio with nothing - that you're going to sample everything and assemble it - that's awesome too. But if you're a live band and you go into the studio and you start working - and then you say "actually let's do a studio album" - that's when you get off track. That's when the messy shit happens. I think it's a matter of staying on point with your creative process. E: It is. Do you think it's hard for bands that tour a lot, that have their own internal balance - to involve a new creative person? Suddenly the engineer is making song decisions. K: As an engineer, you really do have to become a member of the band - but it's hard. I think it's an important thing to truly put your ego aside. I want my vision to be based on your vision. I want to somehow - just be your computer! If you want the record to sound like... E: Rumours? K: Yeah! [laughter] Exactly! Is that why the first song ["Young Rivers"] on the new Young Widows record sounds so skeletal and crisp? It's because of Rumours? E: Yeah! We referenced Fleetwood Mac a couple times. We wanted it to be shimmering. [laughter] Kevin, has your ability to interpret what the band is asking for improved? K: With anything - with painting or washing your car - you hope that the more you do it the better you get. E: You know, the first time I recorded with Kevin I was 15. Was it with National Acrobat? [A ferocious band from the 90s featuring Evan and his brother Ryan Patterson from the band Coliseum] E: Yes. Recorded at the Clay Street warehouse. K: I feel like I'm better now, but I'm still learning. I still have to grow. If a band said, "I want it to sound like this" ten years ago - I'd say, "I get what you're saying but I don't know how to get there!" E: But now you know where to start. K: Yes, so we don't waste time. So we don't spend three hours just trying to get a guitar sound. Was your approach completely different in 1998? K: I think my approach is still the same. When I was starting out - I thought there was so much I didn't know. Now I've realized that it's much simpler than that. Everything is as simple as, "Does this sound good or not? Is it too hard? Is it too soft? Too bright? Too muddy? Is it exciting enough?" Making those immediate decisions. Before - everything was, "I just don't understand this yet." E: You were just struggling to find out. K: Everything was a big question mark. All these things about EQ that you just don't know yet. Thinking your ears aren't trained enough or you just don't have the right equipment. I think my approach has become more direct. There's less thinking about things technically - more using my gut. Have you found yourself in the position - either of you - where you had a strong difference of opinion with someone about recording? K: Oh, absolutely. Did you guys just roll with it? E: Sometimes you can have a massive issue over a simple idea - just wanting to do an overdub - or changing the tone of a song. K: That's the worst thing you can do to someone. I think everything needs to be heard. E: Why not just try it and see? K: I really learned that lesson from Jim James [of My Morning Jacket]. He can have a total vision of what he wants a song to sound like - but if someone comes in and says, "I've got an idea" - he'll spend hours on it. Then the band will decide if it was better the other way or not - and move on and have no problem with the time spent. Sometimes it's great and sometimes it's not - but it makes everyone in the room feel like they're part of what's going on. That's the most important thing. You often work on two records in the same day, pulling a full day shift then starting again. E: I find that so interesting - that Kevin can move so quickly between projects and still have such a fresh and different approach to each recording. K: You know why, honestly? This is the best fucking job in the world! [laughter] I mean, what is there to complain about? "I've got to go get some killer guitar tones and play with a drum machine?" What is there not to like? It can be a grind, though - for anybody doing technical work. K: Sure, it's stressful. People talk of the "Louisville Sound" - which they associate with a fairly small number of bands. The biggest strength of this city for me is that there's so much totally different music happening. And people really support each other. K: The thing that's been so awesome about Louisville is that you're encouraged to do what's natural. You get positive reinforcement to make something honest - not just cool. E: It's interesting in Louisville. Our influences - our history, all comes from a similar place - whether you're playing folk music or heavy rock - or even more mainstream stuff. We all come back to the same point - ten of fifteen years ago - when we were all going to the same shows - long before we totally focused on a certain style. As adults we're all doing our own thing, but it all spawned from the same place - I think that's beautiful, man. K: Sometimes I get worried that we grew up in this special time for Louisville music that kind of blessed us (and it's gone). There were so many venues and shows and bands - it really pushed all of us in this direction. But I've been recording a lot of younger bands lately - people in their early 20s doing the same thing - but without the structure that we had - and that is really cool. I wanted to bring up the notion of documenting Louisville's history. Some cities have amazing archives of their music scene because of a local engineer or studio. There are engineers like Don Zientara, Jay Robbins, Bob Weston, Steve Albini and Christina Files - people that capture a certain city's identity - and I think you've done that here. You've worked on well over a hundred records by now. You've enabled projects that may not of happened otherwise. K: I'm so honored to hear you say that. It's been a very specific goal of mine for the past ten years. I wanted to create a place in Louisville where people could afford to make records - where people could come in and feel comfortable and it didn't have a sterile studio vibe. I want to make records that don't just sound decent, but sound killer. [laughter] Records that can stand up to everything else that's out there - and I'm still getting there, for sure. My goal has always been to elevate what's going on here. I love this city - and this city has done so much for me. (* Kevin is currently building a brand new 6,000 sq. foot facility in Louisville to permanently move THE FUNERAL HOME, to be completed in Fall 2012) _________________ My Morning Jacket Circuital was released on May 31st. http://thefuneralhomestudio.blogspot.com/ Kevin Ratterman - pinkmoongonnagetyou@gmail.com Young Widows - http://www.youngwidows.net/ Many thanks to Kristin Furnish for copy editing and good will.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

May 9, 2012   LEO COLUMN #12


Every once in a while, a movie comes along that manages to contain almost every story element or scenario you love. I had that feeling recently, watching the new genre-defying comedy/horror film “The Cabin in the Woods.” It’s led me to a reminiscence about the 1984 cult fave/scruffy masterpiece “Repo Man.”
Acerbic and often hilarious director Alex Cox seems to have had no hesitation in throwing everything on his mind into the mix for his first feature (perhaps inspired by the comedy series “Elephant Parts,” produced by Michael Nesmith of The Monkees). The film contains, but is not limited to: aliens, a 1964 Chevy Malibu, L.A. noir, ultraviolent teens, mohawks, supermarkets, crazed scientists, slamdancing, aliens in cars, government conspiracies, rival repo teams, a phenomenal Harry Dean Stanton, generically labeled food and canned goods, illegal surveillance, burning corpses, hippie parents, televangelists, modern art, uptight security guards, hot coffee in the face, car wrecks, car chases, spontaneous evaporation/disintegration, an excellent Emilio Estevez (as the story’s reluctant hero Otto Maddox), and the amazing actor Tracey Walter’s legendary “plate of shrimp/lattice of coincidence” monologue.
Want more? As with other midnight favorites like “Liquid Sky” and “The Wall,” “Repo Man” is driven by its soundtrack. It became one of the great punk-rock compilation albums of the decade, and, for me, a kind of primer for many bands I didn’t know but wanted to. It managed to be chaotic enough to incorporate raging guitars, soul music and even a beautiful instrumental. I absolutely wore out the tape in my 1980 Corolla Wagon — so I was really stoked to stumble on a new copy recently.
The album opens with a hooky hell-riff delivered by guitarist Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols, with Iggy Pop letting his ferocious intelligence run free in the lyrics:
I’m looking for the joke with a microscope / my muscle’s twitching on your words / if you’re on the streets you lose your nerves / divinity throws you a curve / sticks you and then you go berserk / abhorring no inspiration.
Nice start! Then we dive into punk classics like Black Flag’s “TV Party,” Suicidal Tendencies’ “Institutionalized,” Circle Jerks’ “Coup d’etat,” and Fear’s “Let’s Have a War.” We get a great version of Jonathan Richman’s hilarious “Pablo Picasso” from Burning Sensations, and the threatening funk of “Bad Man” by Juicy Bananas, featuring the epically cool repo-man Lite (played by Sy Richardson) listing his “rules” and other important life lessons.
There are great score moments from The Plugz, including a cover (in Spanish) of “Secret Agent Man,” and the Area 51-inspired epic “Reel Ten,” with its twangy desert guitar and triumphant Space Mountain keyboards.
The soundtrack was enough of a hit to help get the film screened in more venues, but it slowly reached its devoted cult audience largely in the new home video market. Despite the film’s meager budget and nearly non-existent marketing (it played in something like three cities upon its initial release), it really does get better with age and repeat viewings, much like “The Big Lebowski.” It was a midnight movie staple for many a night at the beloved Vogue Theater in St. Matthews (rest in peace), and it seemed perfectly made to fill that midnight movie slot we so desperately craved at 16 years old.
Director Alex Cox continued to make music central to his films, with “Straight to Hell” (with a cast including Joe Strummer and The Pogues) and the controversial critical hit “Sid & Nancy” (based on the life of Sid Vicious). After his next film, “Walker,” Cox became disillusioned with anything resembling Hollywood; in recent years, he’s resurfaced with “microcinema” projects — films made for under $200,000 and created without typical commercial pressures.
In 2009, he premiered “Repo Chick,” the semi-official sequel to “Repo Man.” The actors (an almost entirely new cast) were filmed entirely against a green screen, with exaggerated composite backgrounds added later. The trailer for “Repo Chick” has a ragged, brightly colored kid’s show quality, totally crazy and inventive. The new film recalls a little 1984 anarchy in its subversive refusal to remake the original.

March 28, 2012     LEO COLUMN #10


Can we talk about collaboration? Specifically, the great duets and recorded pairings that yield an unexpected result? It may be a crossover (country with R&B, a mash-up punk anthem vs. a hip-hop track), but, more often, it’s about human connections. What made Hall & Oates the powerhouse they were, or Simon & Garfunkel? What makes the talents of Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton seize our hearts with “Islands in the Stream”? When major stars make a duet together, like “Ebony & Ivory,” “The Girl Is Mine,” or Taylor Swift’s recent collaboration with The Civil Wars, “Safe & Sound,” people listen. But I think truly great duets are a mix of personality, songwriting and good luck.
Donny Hathaway & Roberta Flack
A classic example of two incredible voices, they created a series of lovely singles in the 1970s until Hathaway’s untimely death in ’79. These Howard University classmates had an incredible intuition for ballads, with songs like “Where Is the Love?” and “The Closer I Get to You” reaching the deepest parts of our souls. Their cover of “You’ve Got a Friend” will make you smile. It’s more than slick marketing or talent — it’s the sound of friendship, empathy and balance.
Run-D.M.C. & Aerosmith
When the anarchic, hilarious video and faux-documentary for “Walk This Way” hit the airwaves in 1986, I was hooked. I just couldn’t get enough. I didn’t realize that Run-D.M.C. was one of the most trailblazing artists in early hip-hop. Even though the serpentine Aerosmith had already had a huge hit with the song in 1975, the Run-D.M.C. version reached a massive audience. It also helped Aerosmith breathe new life into their careers.
The video is still wildly entertaining. “Accidentally” forced to rehearse next to each other, the bands negotiate their flimsy practice space walls (to hell with ’em!), resulting in a hulk-tastic Steven Tyler busting a hole in one … just in time to belt out his verses. Joe Perry savagely chimes in with the epic guitar line. Run-D.M.C. returns the favor by joining them on stage (which mysteriously appears, as does the audience) to triumphantly finish the song. Many great rock/rap collaborations would follow, but “Walk This Way” was first.
It’s important to note that the legendary Rick Rubin produced this song. It would take a huge amount of space to list his accomplishments; Rubin is one of the most sought-after producers in the world. His early work with LL Cool J, Public Enemy and Slayer showed an unusual breadth of style, and his work with Tom Petty, Red Hot Chili Peppers, even Adele, have all yielded great albums. This also brings us to one of the most intuitive and satisfying team-ups in music history … the American Recordings.
Johnny Cash, Rick Rubin & Will Oldham
Johnny Cash joined forces with Rubin in hopes of moving away from current trends in pop-country music. Largely recorded with a single guitar in Rubin’s living room, the LP was a huge success and Grammy winner. They would continue this healthy collaboration for seven albums, featuring dozens of cover versions of their favorite artists. On the third outing, American III: Solitary Man, they worked with Louisville’s Will Oldham (aka Bonnie “Prince” Billy) on a cover of his song “I See a Darkness.” Whenever luck/planning makes songs like these come to life, we can see the weird workings of the musical universe. In 2006, Oldham, working with Chicago’s excellent Tortoise, released a great album of covers called The Brave and the Bold, which includes songs by Elton John, Devo, and Lungfish.
Pluramon & Julee Cruise
Pluramon, the ongoing digital “band” curated by Marcus Schmickler, harnesses tons of creative potential and the free-flow of ideas. Working with experimenters like Jaki Liebezeit from Can and Matmos, Pluramon makes music that sounds almost like a band. Recently, Pluramon has released two albums with Julee Cruise (best known for her work on the “Twin Peaks” soundtracks). It was a pleasant discovery to find “The Monstrous Surplus,” a blitzed-out blast of beautiful noise and saturated guitars. Highly recommended.
Feel free to email your favorite team-ups. I’d love to hear them … and to share them in a future column.

April 25, 2012   LEO COLUMN #11

PUBLIC NOISE PRIVATE NOISE: So fresh, and so clean

Radio is one medium that has continued to thrive despite the huge changes in our music-consumption habits. We’ve been very lucky to have DJ-driven shows on Louisville’s WFPK like “World Force Reggae,” “Roots ’N’ Boots,” “Woody’s Roadhouse,” “Relics,” and “The Weekly Feed.” Many of you already know DJ Matt Anthony, with his classic radio voice and gift for digging through record crates to assemble the perfect playlist. Matt hosts “The Friday Night Sound-Clash” Fridays at 8 p.m. and “Jazz Pulse” Sundays at 1 p.m.
“Sound-Clash” has presented major shows on the history of sampling, retrospectives of R&B and soul artists, and the music of the Civil Rights movement, plus guest spots with numerous local musicians. Matt also co-hosts the live “Meat on Mondays” (at Meat), “Girls vs. Boys” (bi-monthly at the Monkey Wrench) and “Rock Star DeeJays” (monthly at the Mag Bar).
LEO: How would you define the new “Jazz Pulse” show?
Matt Anthony: My major was in history, and I’ve heard jazz referenced as museum music. But I love museums — I travel great lengths for exhibits. There really isn’t anything that regularly showcases the last full century of recorded jazz. Great music is timeless — Billie Holiday and Charlie Parker will never sound passé. I like to play stuff from the ’20s and this millennium, or Africa and Brazil in the same show; interconnectedness is a running theme in both shows. It’s had me really explore jazz.
(Hip-hop) is the evolution of the jazz movement and explorations in rhythm, kind of reducing music. James Brown basically stripped Western music of its melody and concentrated fully on rhythm. That’s the heart of funk music. And rap got into stripping it down. You think about music — most lyrics rhyme, so rapping is basically just rhythmic singing. Plus, when you strip melody away from music, it gets real danceable.
LEO: Absolutely.
MA: So funk is also dance music. That evolved into disco, which was too monotonous, so the rappers started to further explore funk, and rhythm, polyrhythms. Latin musicians know all this stuff. In the early ’80s, New York public school funding for instruments dropped, music programs got cut during the time of Reaganomics. These New York kids didn’t get horns at 10 years old, or saxophones at schools. So they just developed music with what was around them — turntables and a microphone. They were doing it with vinyl records, then they began to do it with keyboards and drum machines and utilizing all the new technology. That was what all brewed into early hip-hop. And this was done by primarily the children of Caribbean immigrants. I like to explore all this on “Sound-Clash.”
LEO: To be a good DJ, you have to be able to appreciate all kinds of things. So, a whole new generation of people discovers Ornette Coleman or something new to them. A lot of pop music culture likes to pretend like it has no background, but with hip-hop, there’s a level of respect, a knowledge of history.
MA: That’s why I go back to the exploration of rhythm. That’s what the DJs would do. They would take anything, whether it be rock, jazz, and find the tightest rhythm, the tightest hook in it, and then play it into the ground. What Grandmaster Flash and Afrika Bambaattaa were doing with early samples was stripping everything else out of the music to find something new. Run-D.M.C. probably spelled it out most succinctly … Everyone knew “Walk This Way,” but if you took that first riff and repeated it, it just got crazier, people got more amped. When the early digital samplers/keyboards were created, they found new rhythms everywhere. Look at the samples on LPs by A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul. I mean, they found the funk in Hall and Oates! They could find the funk anywhere (laughs). Don’t leave any funk on the ground ’cause a hip-hop sampler will find it and make a song out of it!
Jason Noble is a Louisville musician who has performed with the bands Shipping News and Rachel’s, among others.

Thursday, February 16, 2012



Published: February 15, 2012


Bats: one of the most misunderstood creatures on the planet. While they protect us from insect-related diseases and provide essential pollination for fruits and flowers, they still get a bad rap for drinking virgin blood and other jugular infractions. Sure, they look scary, and it’s weird how they can turn into mist and paralyze you with their eyes, but these nocturnal mammals have spawned whole genres of music (examples: Beck’s 2005 album Guero and Louisville Slugger-themed hits).

Let’s start with Meat Loaf’s legendary album Bat Out of Hell. You probably know the singles “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” and “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad” by heart, or by classic rock radio. Meat Loaf was the perfect vocalist to make Jim Steinman’s songs soar. Add in producer Todd Rundgren, and you have more than 40 million copies sold. You say it can’t get more epic? Along comes Bat Out of Hell II: Back To Hell. While most sequels fall flat, this album yielded a mega No. 1 single with “I Would Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That).”

A quick glance at the record shelves show that bats are still inspiring us. LEO’s batcomputer yielded more than 200 hundred songs with the title “Dracula,” ranging from Desmond Dekker to Kronos Quartet and Medeski, Martin & Wood. There’s Bat For Lashes, whose 2009 album Two Suns resonated with powerful art-pop. Or the Fruit Bats, with their scientific album title Echolocation (another name for our furry friends’ “sonar” hearing).

Part 2: Disk-Winged, Leaf-Nosed and Vampire Bats

Goth struck a defiant sonic chord, borrowing iconic images from film and expressionist art. Bauhaus became a semi-reluctant spokesperson for the scene with their classic “Bela Lugosi’s Dead,” a brilliant mix of creepy guitar atmospheres and dub music with a slightly camp lyric and overall sense of bloody cool. Tony Scott’s film “The Hunger” shocked audiences with the deadly (and beautiful) vampire couple David Bowie and Catherine Deneuve casually night-stalking artist/musician Ann Magnuson. Of course, the film wisely cut back and forth to Bauhaus frontman Peter Murphy performing in a smoky-neon-punk dungeon during these dark deeds, capturing an incredible tension. The soundtrack also featured new wave synths, a Bach cello suite and the beautiful “Flower Duet” from Leo Delibes’ opera “Lakmé.”

Part 3: Shadow of the Bat

Prince had a major hit with his 1989 LP Batman, the musical response/soundtrack to Tim Burton’s film (not to ignore Danny Elfman’s unforgettable orchestral score). Folks were quickly hooked by the quirky track “Batdance” and propelled the album to almost 3 million sales.

Honestly, is there any TV theme song greater than Neil Hefti’s 1966 “Batman” score? How many times have you hummed this tune in your life: “Da Da Da Da Da Da Da Da ... BATMAN!”? Not convinced? Here’s a list of artists who have performed the bat-rock classic: The Who, R.E.M., The Ventures, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, The Flaming Lips, Alien Sex Fiend, 50 Cent …

Jumping ahead three decades, we saw the magnificent live orchestra score for “Batman: The Animated Series” by composer Shirley Walker. “BTAS” received serious critical praise for its moody jazz-influenced score. Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard teamed up to score Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight,” creating an orchestral suite fused with digital samples, keyboards and musique concrète (which won them a Grammy for Best Score).

Part 4: Bat Bites!

OK, I’ve been saving the best for last: the ultimate musical tribute to the more than 1,200 species of bats living around the globe … The Birthday Party’s “Release the Bats.” This 1981 single has everything Nick Cave and friends do so well — blistering guitars, galloping hell bass, thunderous drums, epic/hilarious lyrics and … bat bites.

So now, as the sun casts long lines and shadows draw closer, take a moment to appreciate these wonderful, misunderstood creatures. Don’t be afraid. Slightly crack your bedroom window. Yes, that’s perfect. Lay your head down on this soft pillow. Easy. It’s easy. What was that sound? Nothing. Just close your eyes.

The United Nations has declared 2011-2012 the International Year of the Bat. To learn more, visit batcon.org

Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Artwork: From the MOONSHAKE LP/CD "The Sound Your Eyes Can Follow" (1994)

Published January 18, 2012


At the multiplex, there was an encouraging diversity of styles. “Captain America” cleverly included a 1940s USO musical number that was hilarious (and heartfelt) by songsmiths Alan Menken and David Zippel. Herzog’s surprise 3-D crowd-pleaser “Cave of Forgotten Dreams” featured a wonderfully weird score by Dutch cellist Ernist Reijseger. Terrence Malick, a director with a history of great soundtracks, brought us “The Tree of Life,” which requested audiences to enter a poetic world of sounds and images. Its composer, Alexandre Desplat, has a growing list of inventive scores from “Birth” to the Harry Potter finale.

A strange companion to “Tree” is Lars Von Trier’s “Melancholia,” which feels like its darker twin with a similarly oblique vision. “Melancholia” presented one of the most shocking and beautiful moments in many years, scored by Richard Wagner’s prelude to “Tristan und Isolde.” Keeping with his provocative tendencies, the director then almost punishingly repeats this lovely music. Thanks, Lars.

Michael Giacchino continued his prolific partnership with J.J. Abrams on “Super 8” (a robust homage to Spielberg’s films and John Williams’ music) and created the rousing orchestral tribute to Lalo Schifrin for Brad Bird’s super fun “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol.” The most overlooked action masterpiece of 2011? Joe Wright’s “Hanna” featured a brilliant score by The Chemical Brothers, full of dreamlike collages and distorted beats.

Many independent or low-budget films had incredible music, often utilizing the filmmaker’s talent for digging up the perfect track. Joe Cornish’s “Attack the Block” was the surprise of the year, fusing an awesome premise with humor and social commentary. It worked in classic beats from KRS-One, Basement Jaxx and Richie Spice, and orchestral dubstep by Steven Price. “Drive” perfectly blended Euro-pop songs (eerily sounding like actual 1980s recordings) with Cliff Martinez’s synthesizer atmospheres. Martinez found the perfect tone for Steven Soderbergh’s “Contagion” (avoiding melodrama and apocalyptic bombast). The pulsating rhythms propelled the film without emotional tricks, accompanying dedicated scientists fighting to save the world.

“Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” featured a masterfully paranoid suite from Alberto Iglesias. “Win Win” scored with fuzzy jambox rock and a new song by The National. “Beginners,” an absolute triumph for actor Christopher Plummer, had the best use of “house music” as a story moment and featured sweet selections like Hoagy Carmichael’s “Stardust.” As for “A Dangerous Method” (score by Howard Shore), “The Muppets” (songs by Brett McKenzie of “Flight of the Conchords”) and “War Horse” (music by the innovative John Williams), I can’t wait to see them. “The Artist,” “Pina” and “Tin Tin,” too.

Versatile and intense actor Michael Fassbender arrived in several great films. “Jane Eyre” had elegant string arrangements by Dario Marianelli, while “X-Men: First Class” rocked a retro/spy feel. Steve McQueen’s unsettling and powerful “Shame” mixed NY nocturnal pop and aching modernist classical. Weirdly, both “X-Men” and “Shame” borrowed from Hans Zimmer’s “The Thin Red Line” soundtrack. “Take Shelter” examined ordinary life and 21st century dread, with a song by Ben Nichols of Lucero and creepy ambience by David Wingo. “The Descendants” captured family drama in beautiful, painful detail, and its Hawaiian setting inspired songs by many celebrated local musicians. Martin Scorsese’s sweet and wonderful “Hugo” showed the whimsical side of radical composer Howard Shore. Scorsese also released the George Harrison documentary “Living in the Material World.”

What will 2012 sound like? While I’m brutally excited for “Prometheus” and certain Dark Knight and Avengers films, it’s also great to imagine the emerging young directors and composers. With new films by Mary Harron, Wes Anderson, Alfonso Cuaron, Genndy Tartakovsky and John Hillcoat, we’re in for a damn good year.


P.S.: Thanks to Moonshake for this column's title, and Ryan Patterson for movie research.

Thursday, January 26, 2012