Pearl Jam’s Musician and Activist Eddie Vedder : ‘Black’ + Interview

 

 

Eddie Vedder Talks Music, Activism

Pearl Jam exploded onto the Seattle music scene in 1991 and has been fending off celebrity ever since. The group’s debut album, “Ten,” reached No. 2 on the pop charts and has sold some 12 million copies, but the band shunned endorsements and shied away from almost all self-promotion, even refusing to make videos for a time. Close to two decades later, it’s clear they didn’t need the hype. In a 2005 USA Today readers’ poll, Pearl Jam was voted the greatest American rock band of all time. They’ve managed to take up causes from health care to antitrust, even testifying before Congress in a Justice Department probe into Ticketmaster. Currently at work on their ninth studio album, Pearl Jam is re-releasing “Ten” in four new and expanded editions that include six bonus tracks. Lead singer Eddie Vedder, 44, spoke about the reissue, balancing music with activism, and life as a father of two. Excerpts:

How has Pearl Jam changed in the years since “Ten” was first released?
Eddie Vedder: I think in so many ways we’ve grown up, but I think in music you’re also able to hang on to a part of youth that in a normal job you’d have to surrender. In a way, it was a blessing that we didn’t have families at the time, because we could give everything to the music. But I never thought we’d have to actually look back and answer questions about 20 years ago.

How much of this has become about activism for you, and how much is still about music?
I think it’s always been a balance. I think music is the greatest art form that exists, and I think people listen to music for different reasons, and it serves different purposes. Some of it is background music, and some of it is things that might affect a person’s day, if not their life, or change an attitude. The best songs are the ones that make you feel something. But it’s really a balance, because part of it is just, well, you’re a rock-and-roll band. But what happens is you learn that a rock-and-roll band can be a whole lot of things.

Has the way you pursue activism changed?
Back [in our early days] it was very knee-jerk: You’d want to kick out a stained-glass window to get your point across. Now you try to deliver better business plans to corporate entities so they can still make a profit, but do it without destroying land or culture.

Has having a family changed your views about celebrity?
I don’t really have too many views on it, to be honest. [Laughs] Seattle’s very close-knit, and I don’t feel any different, even though I have a different job than some of the other parents at school. How else do I answer that?

Well, what’s it like to be a rock star?
You know, rock stardom … I have a hard time discussing that because I don’t really accept it. It’s not really that tangible. What’s really bizarre is how it’s used as a thing—you know, “He’s the rock star of politics,” “He’s the rock star of quarterbacks”—like it’s the greatest thing in the world. And it’s not bad, but it’s just different. I don’t understand it. Cause I’m going, “Well—am I that?” I want to be the plumber of rock stars.

How do you keep your music relevant?
I think by pushing the boundaries, by not doing something you’ve already done, and pushing each other as bandmates to create in a new way.

Do you miss that Seattle heyday of the early ’90s at all?
I think what we miss is the bands all showing up at each other’s shows, and five people being up onstage, and then the next night the same people that were up onstage being in the audience and vice versa. Everyone was very supportive of each other. And, you know, there were some great f–king living-room parties as well. And it still happens, it’s just a little less.

Does that community you talk about still exist?
You know, it’s amazing how few bands are able to keep it together. But I’d like to think there’s still a number of us who, for lack of a better word, are slaves to rock and roll. It’s in us and we need it. And I think it’s trickier now because a lot of us have to be a little bit more grown up. We’re parents and we’re figuring out how to do both. Because as much as I would dedicate my life solely to music, I wouldn’t sacrifice the kids’ upbringing to do it.

You recently had a second daughter.
Yep, she’s 4 months old. She was born on Bruce Springsteen’s birthday. So my one kid’s 4, my other kid’s 4 months, I’m 44 —it’s all lining up nicely here.

Do you still wear a lot of flannel?
I’m not wearing one today, but I sure was wearing one yesterday.

 

Beautiful Bossa Nova From Rio’s Seu Jorge – Two short films

Seu Jorge

Seu Jorge

The music of occupies a singular place in today’s Brazil. His songs are widely hailed as a return to the traditional songwriting of Tom Jobim and Caetano Veloso. But his style, and his background, lead many to call Jorge a hero of life on Rio’s streets. It was his history in the slums of Rio de Janeiro that led to bigger things for Jorge, including a high-profile appearance in the 2002 film City of God.

In America, many listeners were first exposed to Jorge’s music in The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou, the Wes Anderson film that featured Jorge as a guitar-playing member of a sea expedition crew. He appeared between narrative sequences, playing intimate versions of classics.

Jorge released Cru, a calmer follow-up to his album Carolina, in 2002. The songs on it mix ballads and bossa nova while helping cement Seu Jorge’s place in the line of great Brazilian songwriters and performers. Hear a few recorded songs from Cru in this session for World Cafe.

seu-jorge-and-almaz-the-model

Seu Jorge and Almaz star in The Model (a short film)

We have a couple of videos for you today from Seu Jorge. Released to promote his album with members of Nacao Zumbi and Antonio Pinto, otherwise known as Seu Jorge and Almaz, these videos make up a short film loosely based around the song “The Model,” featured on the Seu Jorge and Almaz album. The first video takes a more laid-back view on things before Seu takes a hit of paranoia and questions his life. It’s beautifully shot, and features some of the great songs of their recent album, so check them out here:

Part One: The Model – (Chapter One)

Now-Again Records and What Matters Most present two short films based on the recently released Seu Jorge and Almaz album by Brazilian singer and actor Seu Jorge. The films star Jorge and were directed by Kahlil Joseph.

Directed & Edited by Kahlil Joseph
Photography by Bradford Young
Music by Seu Jorge and Almaz
Produced by Omid Fatemi and Daniel Song for What Matters Most
Featuring music from the Now-Again Records album Seu Jorge and Almaz

Part Two: “The Model – Oshun and the Dream”

Now-Again Records and What Matters Most present the second episode of a the two part film based on the recently released Seu Jorge and Almaz album by Brazilian singer and actor Seu Jorge. “The Model: Oshun and the Dream,” stars Jorge as he continues to struggle with this echoing image of “The Model”…

Directed & Edited by Kahlil Joseph
Photography by Bradford Young
Music by Seu Jorge and Almaz
Produced by Omid Fatemi and Daniel Song for What Matters Most
Featuring music from the Now-Again Records album Seu Jorge and Almaz

You can buy the Seu Jorge and Almaz album from Amazon

More info:
http://seujorgealmaz.com/

The Antlers, ‘Doppelganger’ (Live) – favorite NPR sessions

July 14, 2014
The Brooklyn band frequently finds inspiration in dark places: On 2009’s Hospice, singer-guitarist Peter Silberman reflects on terminal illness and emotional abuse, while this year’s Familiars turns the Buddhist notion of bardo, a state of being between incarnations, into the impetus for a dialog about multiple selves.

Whether or not you notice his intentions, it’s hard not to be swept away by The Antlers’ dreamy, ambient pop melodies. Familiars is felt in the heart, not the head. Here, the band performs “Doppelganger” in a gorgeous studio session. Head over to watch three more videos documenting the band’s recent appearance.

Enjoy.

Ed Sheeran, ‘X’

Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Clear Channel

Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Clear Channel

CD Review

Ed Sheeran plays the Xfinity Center Sept. 9.

 

Taylor Swift bestie and duet partner, writer of songs for One Direction, management client of Sir Elton John, British singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran comes into his own on his sophomore album “x” — pronounced “multiply.”

If his slow-burning hit 2011 debut “+” — pronounced “plus” — helped break Sheeran thanks to “The A Team,” a hushed lament about a drug-addled prostitute, “x” will be remembered for the redhead letting loose his inner soulman and MC. It works thanks to his own keening croon and assistance from a wide spectrum of producers known for their work with rock and hip-hop artists, including Rick Rubin and Pharrell.

While many of the spare acoustic tracks creep up on you with their tunefulness a la “The A Team” — including burbling opener “One” and the haunting “Photograph” — others take charge right out of the gate.

“Sing” has a danceable snap similar to producer Pharrell’s own “Happy.” “Bloodstream” is one of several tracks to include an irresistible hum and simultaneous sense of ease and intensity. But “Don’t,” a scathing, cuss-laden takedown of a paramour who betrayed Sheeran while they were staying in the same hotel is his masterstroke, combining a singer-songwriter’s eye with a contemporary groove for lacerating-but-danceable results. (Out now)

 

 

Paul Weller’s retro-Modernists plaster go-faster stripes over Beatles B-side. Watch it now!

Paul Weller

Paul Weller

 

Have you forgotten – if only for a nanosecond – the brilliance of The Jam? Then return with us to 1977, when in the face of punk’s public renunciation of all the music that came before, Woking’s splenetic power trio celebrated the Mod and Motown sounds of some 15 years earlier. In this incandescent clip, Paul Weller, Bruce Foxton, and Rick Buckler tear into the 1958 Larry Williams song popularized by The Beatles on their Long Tall Sally EP (and, in the States, on their Matchbox single) in 1964.

The group’s fusion of vintage sensibility and thrashing punk energy transforms an arguable standard into a veritable explosion. For two minutes The Style Council, even English Rose or Dreams Of Children, seem a universe away.

 

The Dream World of St. Vincent

stvincent600-1403215668

Annie Clark of St. Vincent

It’s thunderstorming in Barcelona, so Annie Clark – who performs as St. Vincent and who “really, really, really” wants to go to the beach – is forced to make other plans. “You visit a lot of museums and aquariums when you’re on tour,” she says, crossing the rain-slicked plaza of the Museu Blau, a natural-history museum overlooking a stretch of the Mediterranean that’s currently the same desolate gray shade as the sky. “I watch a lot of Sex and the City on tour, too,” she adds. “Not that I watch it watch it, but it’s on TBS, so it’s always fucking on.” Clark is all black from the neck down – suede ankle boots, skinny jeans, scoop-neck tee, biker jacket – and polychromatic up top, with huge green eyes and stralavender-blond curls escaping from a cobalt-colored hat, its brim ample enough to keep her cheeks dry. The Blau resembles a vast slab of soil that someone dyed blue, stabbed with shards of broken terrarium and set upon a pedestal. Clark suggested that we come here, but she is unfamiliar with the place. “What kind of museum is this?” she asks. “Oh. OK.” She says she never really went through a science-buff period: “I had a brief shark obsession, but didn’t everybody?”

What about her music, dude?

Inside the permanent exhibit, contemplating some trilobite fossils, Clark says, “It’s crazy to think about the tiny fraction of time that we’ve been on the planet.” She revises that statement: “That we’ve been a pox on it.” We head into a gallery marked Evolución, where a primate skeleton stands beside that of an early man. “I went to the Creation Museum, in Kentucky,” Clark says. She identifies as a “reformed” Catholic and intended the visit as a lark: “I thought it would be a fun adventure, but it kind of darked me out. They tell you the dinosaurs died in the flood.”

One of Clark’s preoccupations on St. Vincent is the persuasive power of cult leaders and how such figures parallel pop performers. “It’s kind of the flip side of the same coin,” she says. Pushing her sound in a more danceable direction, she says, represented an attempt to “democratize” her concerts: If people didn’t move, performances would be incomplete. For the tour, she hired the choreographer Annie-B Parson, who developed a set of mechanistic movements for Clark and her band to perform on cue, in a winking acknowledgment of the artifice that goes into seemingly spontaneous performances. (It’s also, of course, a nice bit of stagecraft.)

What about her music, dude?

Clark moves on to regard a deep-sea spider crab, preserved in a jar. “The thing that really depressed me about the Creation Museum is that the tickets aren’t cheap,” she says. “They’re, like, $25, and yet there were buses pulling up from all over, full of these people who didn’t look like they had $25 just lying around. It seemed predatory to me.” She frowns. “Why would you want to control people like that? Would you even want to? I’ve thought about it a lot, and I wouldn’t. To have people live in this weird little art world you’ve created? Fine. But to make them believe some bullshit and build their lives around it? Unh-unh.”

Religion hangs over St. Vincent’s lyrics, where she pits salvation against desire and divine fervor against earthly love. Its role in her life is similarly spectral. Clark’s grandmother baptized her in a kitchen sink “with a cigarette in one hand and a martini in another,” Clark says, adding that her parents weren’t remotely devout, but “they decided that it meant a lot to her, and it wouldn’t do any harm.” Clark was born in Oklahoma and grew up in the middle-class Dallas suburb of Lake Highlands. Clark’s dad worked in finance; she thinks his job involved “stock-y things,” but isn’t certain. “My parents separated when I was three, so I didn’t really grow up with him as much – just Christmases and summers,” she says. Money was tight: Clark’s mom was a social worker, “supporting three kids on her salary, for a long time,” she says.

Clark’s creative side manifested early. “I remember submitting a comic about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to some contest,” she recalls. (She didn’t win.) She describes herself as a shy child who suffered anxiety attacks, stemming from what she characterizes as profound existential dread at the “vastness” and chaos of the world. “When I was six or seven, I started to have really intense anxiety, and I didn’t have the tools to even know what it was.” Such attacks still overcome her, though less often, and she still finds the sensation hard to articulate: “It’s always been this little buddy of mine; it informed my entire worldview. There’s general anxiety, and then there’s panic attacks, where I have really catastrophic thoughts, where I’m not in control.” This is where art came in. “When you’re forced to deal with something big that you don’t understand, you try to find ways to interpret the universe in a way that can make you feel safer or alleviate that crazy. For me, it was music.”

Clark, 41, is in the middle of a global run of shows that began in February, promoting her fantastic new album, St. Vincent. A few months ago, the surviving members of Nirvana invited her onstage in New York, where she lives, at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony; she played guitar and sang lead on “Lithium.” And last week, she brought her transfixing brand of high-concept, high-energy art rock to the Saturday Night Live season finale, then left the very next day for some Australian gigs. All the trans-hemispheric schlepping has left her severely jet-lagged. “I’m off a 30-hour flight from Sydney,” she says. “I’ve got to be up front with you: My head feels like it’s floating above my body on a thin thread. I don’t even want to pretend to stop and read all the placards and stuff in the exhibits here, because I’m not going to absorb anything. I was listening to a Proust audio book earlier, and I got nothing from it. Nothing. Except that he might be a little hung up on his mother.”

What about her music, Dude?

In conversation, Clark is a good deal like her music: wry, erudite and free-associative. Over the course of her four solo albums and a 2012 collaborative LP with David Byrne, she has gone from a prodigiously talented, occasionally over-precious genre-juggler to an assured pop visionary – establishing herself along the way as a bona fide guitar god capable of wringing both virtuoso jazz phrasings and bracingly atonal disturbances from her instrument. She’s said that St. Vincent, which sold nearly 30,000 copies in its first week, is her first LP that truly “sounds like myself.” Byrne describes her songs the way people describe Talking Heads’: “I find them accessible, but if you look closely, they’re pretty strange,” he says. “There is a nice push and pull, some energizing tension going on there. It takes some skill to keep that balance.”

Too much rhetoric, dude. But no meaningful content.