Tag Archives: Violent Femmes

Wisconsin Sound #8

DEAD HORSES ON THE ROAD

At the end of September the Oshkosh-born/Milwaukee-based acoustic folk band Dead Horses released their new album Cartoon Moon. The beautiful and thoughtful 10-track project was recorded at Cartoon Moon Studios in Nashville with former Wilco and Uncle Tupelo drummer Ken Coomer. Last month they hit the road on a 10-state, 14-date tour in support of Mandolin Orange. I spoke with lead singer Sarah Vos during the band’s day off in Charleston, South Carolina.

Dead Horses
Dead Horses

VOS
We are going to go to the beach and see the ocean today. I haven’t seen the Atlantic for quite some time so I’m pretty excited.

WiG
How has the road been?

VOS
It’s awesome because we’re playing all these new cities and they’re pretty nice rooms, and really, really receptive crowds. So it’s been a blast.

WiG
How was it returning to Nashville where the new album was recorded?

VOS
There was a cool coming around with that it being almost exactly a year later. It was really fun. Our producer Ken Coomer came out to the show with his wife and his son and we got to hang out with him backstage. It felt very special. I’m a big fan of Nashville. It’s going to be a main stop for us for touring in the future. We’ve started to make friends down there.

WiG
It was a good show?

VOS
It was a great show, one of our best in Nashville. We’ve done the Americana Music Festival in Nashville, so that was pretty cool. We got to play at The Station Inn,  which is kind of a historic bluegrass venue.  To do that as part of the festival was really neat. You have all these dreams and goals, as soon as you reach one goal you kind of got your eye on the next one and you never quite make it to the horizon. But I always try to remind the guys in the band that we should be celebrating because we are very blessed.

WiG
I read that Cartoon Moon is the record that you really want people to hear. What sets it apart and what makes it so special for you?

VOS
I think it’s a patient record. It shows how we have matured through the years. I feel that it’s crafted a lot more, it’s more deliberate than other things we’ve done. That’s something that I want to continue to do as we keep making records. Because you know in the industry they talk about how bands don’t make as much money from records anymore.

But when I look at the way music has affected me and the reasons that I even wanted to be a musician, it was growing up and listening to records. To this day I’m always searching for new things to listen to and I love that. Recording it was one of the most fun things I’ve ever done. I love having this very focused project that was collaboration between the members of the band and the producer and the sound engineer.  

WiG
Have you been writing new songs while you’ve been on tour or performing any new material?

Dead Horses live at Anodyne Coffee. [PHOTO - DeWook Photography]
Dead Horses live at Anodyne Coffee. [PHOTO – DeWook Photography]
VOS
Usually when I write it’s pretty private, at least when I start the songs. But at the Nashville show I was very inspired by all the things that we’ve seen touring and the people we’ve met. Traveling right now across the country during such a crazy time in politics and things that are happening in the country, I’ve been telling the audiences at every show that I think regardless of where you stand, a lot of people feel pretty disheartened by the state of things. But we’ve been meeting such compassionate and wonderful people everywhere. So I’ve been trying to remind people at all the shows that it’s going to be ok. Don’t lose hope because things are going to work out.

But yeah, I always write a lot, I journal a lot, and a lot of times I just write down little snippets of things. Or even just word combinations that strike my fancy. As far as actual songs I’m not sure exactly how the new record that we’re beginning to dream up is going to go, but I just feel very confident that everything that we need is already there. I can’t wait to make another one.

Click here to listen to Dead Horses on WUWM.

B-FREE’S NEW ALBUM & POWERFUL PERFORMANCES

In the fall of 2004 I saw Jill Scott in concert at the Chicago Theatre. That performance remains the most emotionally resonant live music experience of my life. The songstress regaled us with poignant stories in between beautiful songs performed with a full band and mini orchestra. My friend and I were brought to tears and compelled to call our loved ones immediately after the show.

'Ode 2 a Luv Affair' artwork
‘Ode 2 a Luv Affair’ artwork

Listening to the latest record by Milwaukee R&B singer B~Free (Britney Farr-Freeman) reminds me of that autumn night in Chicago. Ode 2 A Luv Affair is B-Free’s second studio album. It takes listeners on a journey through the trials and tribulations of love. The recording process was challenging for a couple of reasons. Freeman, who also works as an educator, contracted a throat illness from one of her students that required surgery.

“It was difficult for me to allow myself to be as comfortable in that space as I once was. There were a lot of moments of rawness and vulnerability that I wasn’t quite ready to deal with. For example, when I was recording ‘The Vow’ I was pretty much crying the whole time,” Freeman tells me.

I first saw B~Free at Linneman’s Riverwest Inn last year when she shared a bill with Klassik, who was being backed by Foreign Goods. Freeman is now a member of Foreign Goods, which she credits with allowing her to be more comfortable collaborating and playing in front of larger audiences. Last week she was joined by her bandmates at Turner Hall to see Esperanza Spalding, an experience as affecting for her as the Jill Scott concert was for me in 2004.

B-Free [PHOTO - Mahdi Gransberry]
B-Free [PHOTO – Mahdi Gransberry]
“It was absolutely phenomenal,” says Freeman. “I was so inspired and moved emotionally and musically. It made me sincerely question my own existence. It was so deep without even trying to be. She conveys such a strong message about finding your own path and putting everything that you’ve been taught or forced to believe to the wayside. That’s always something that I’ve been aiming towards in my own life and artistry. I want to be able to wield that same power with whatever I put out into the world.”

The response to Ode 2 A Luv Affair has been positive, albeit a few detailed critiques on the album’s iTunes page. She is in the early stages of developing her next record, but before that she will go into the studio with Foreign Goods to record their first album this winter.

“It’s our goal to have it be a project that highlights everyone’s talents. There will definitely be some rap on there, some jazz, some harmonies, vocals, R&B, just a mixture of everything that we do. So we’re excited and we’re gearing up for the process,” says Freeman.

Tonight you can see B~Free with Foreign Goods for free at Club Garibaldi for a live broadcast of 91.7 WMSE’s Local/Live. Erin Wolf and Cal Roach will talk to B~Free and take audience questions in between a live performance. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. and the segment runs from 6 to 7 p.m. If you can’t make the show you can tune in at 91.7FM or go online wmse.org.

THE JAZZ ESTATE REOPENS BETTER THAN EVER

Unbeknownst to many Wisconsin music fans, Milwaukee has a storied jazz history. The scene has gone through its ups and downs and is currently experiencing a resurgence. One of those reasons was the temporary closing of the Jazz Estate.

Jazz Estate exterior
Jazz Estate exterior

The historic East Side haunt became the focal point of the Milwaukee jazz scene in the 2000s. When it closed its doors last year a few venues began hosting live jazz. After much anticipation and a few delays, the Estate officially reopens tonight.

In November 2015 the Jazz Estate was sold to John Dye, owner and operator of Bryant’s Cocktail Lounge since 2008. I spoke with Dye at his acclaimed South Side lounge while they were hosting a Jazz Estate cocktail preview.

“It’s always been one of the places in Milwaukee that I’ve been interested in, but they approached me,” says Dye of his new business venture.

“We’re going to do some really nice versions of classic cocktails from the ‘70s and ‘80s, ones that nobody really touches. They’re good drinks, but they’re just a little uninspired,” says Dye. You might say he’s done the same thing with the Estate.

Opened in 1977, the building fell into disrepair over the years. The Estate’s reopening was originally slated for July, but more renovations were required than anticipated. Given his dedication to preserving history, Dye took his time to do it right. Last week I attended the club’s soft opening and I’m happy to report he’s done just that.

Jazz Estate interior
Jazz Estate interior

As soon as I walked into the Estate there was a “new club smell.” It’s as if Dye’s team polished every inch of the club and then added a few of their own flourishes, like the tin ceiling in the front room and the house drum kit. The vintage looking lights and register give the bar a Bryant’s vibe. The seating and sightlines in the back area are improved as well. And the acoustics are excellent.

The Jazz Estate will feature live music on Thursdays and Saturdays from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m., with cover ranging from $5 to $12 in the first month. There is no cover for the grand opening Thursday night. DJs and pre-recorded old school soul and jazz will play the other nights at the Estate, which is better than ever.Click here for more information and to view their calendar.

SOUL LOW COVERS FEMMES, NEW RIO TURBO & UPCOMING DANCE PARTY

Soul Low at Cactus Club
Soul Low at Cactus Club

In my second feature for WiG I wrote about the young Milwaukee pop rockers of Soul Low. The success of their debut record (Uneasy) and acclaim for their latest effort (Nosebleeds) has put them in an exclusive category of Wisconsin music, alongside only a few other bands. One of those is The Violent Femmes. With lead singer Jake Balistreri’s quivering falsetto so similar to the Femme’s Gordon Gano, it was just a matter of time before the Soul Low boys paid homage to their Milwaukee music ancestors by covering “Blister in the Sun,” the Femmes’ biggest hit. I had heard the song was in Soul Low’s repertoire, but hadn’t experienced it live until last Friday night at Cactus Club. It was Night One of Gloss Records’ Halloween Spooktacular. Soul Low — half of whom were dressed as Power Rangers — closed their set with the rollicking, fine-tuned cover.

161027_vddp_posterPerforming right before Soul Low at Cactus Club  was Rio Turbo, Milwaukee’s premier trash pop dance party. Joey Turbo  dressed in neon orange hunter regalia — and his Turbette dancers debuted three new songs to kick off their set. “No He Can’t” is an instant hit, with a driving beat that my feet couldn’t deny. “Ballad” is a trippy, airy track that made me think of The Flaming Lips, with Turbo sounding a bit like Wayne Coyne. Rio Turbo also debuted their sick new neon sign, which sat on the table in front of DJ SPACE BAR, the latest edition to the Turbo lineup.

Also on Friday I announced the Beyonce + Jay Z vs. Rihanna + Drake dance party at Company Brewing on Saturday, November 26. I’m producing this event with my girlfriend and visual artist Kristina Rolander, which Rio Turbo will be making a special appearance at. The event also includes an all-star lineup of DJs (Bizzon, Annalog, Optimist, Turtle Sooup), host Lex Allen, cocktail specials and an original photo backdrop by Kristina.  Click here for more information and to RSVP.

NEW MUSIC FROM WEBSTERX, BO TRIPLEX & HIS BEAUTIFUL BAND, AUTOMATIC

Artwork by Janice Vogt
Artwork by Janice Vogt

Experimental hip-hop artist WebsterX has released his first song of the year, “Blue Streak.” Since putting out his debut project Desperate Youth in 2013, the most high profile member of the New Age Narcissism collective released some major “loosies” (singles not attached to a larger project) with 2014’s “doomsday (feat. siren),” 2015’s “Lately” and “Kinfolk (feat. Allan Kingdom).” Not to mention, last fall’s excellent 3-track, Radiohead-inspired collaboration with Q the Sun entitled KidX.

Thankfully for fans, the Four Giants produced “Blue Streak” does not continue the “loosie” trend. It is the first single from what will be WebsterX’s debut studio album. Upon the song’s release WebsterX also announced that he agreed to a distribution deal with Chicago-based label Closed Sessions. The outfit was responsible for helping the early career development of Chicago rappers like Vic Mensa and Chance the Rapper. WebsterX will maintain 100% ownership of his masters and will benefit from the label’s influence and reach. Click here to listen to “Blue Streak.”

"Hold Me Down" artwork by Jessica Yimenez
“Hold Me Down” artwork by Jessica Yimenez

Milwaukee bassist, New Age Narcissism member and music scene all-star Bo Triplex released a new single as part of the Nightmare on Center Street II playlist. “Hold Me Down” is from Bo Triplex and His Beautiful Band’s forthcoming EP deux, which has an early February release date. Bo says of the track, “‘Hold Me Down’ is a clash of worlds. Bo has been captured by those he came to defeat and though they taunt him so he refuses to give up. For he knows y’all are holding him down. Special thanks to Beathouse Music Inc. and Yessica Jimenez for the art.” Click here to listen to “Hold Me Down.”

“For the 3rd single from their upcoming full length, Marathon (11.11.16), smooth hip-hop group AUTOMatic brings the classic early 90’s R&B vibes with their certified slow jam, “You Don’t Love Me.” Emcee APRIME explores what it’s like to be caught in the trap of a love/hate relationship – something all of us have been in at least once in our life. Producer Trellmatic’s production is top notch and he adds updated drums to the retro groove. This one is for everybody that grew up with the Quiet Storm radio show playing in the background, late at night.” Click here to listen to “You Don’t Love Me.”

NEW VIDEOS FROM ISHDARR, HOT COFFIN, THE RECORD COMPANY, NO NO YEAH OKAY

Last WiG issue’s featured artist IshDARR released the first video (“Locals” directed by Damien Blue) from his latest project Broken Hearts & Bankrolls, which has received over 4 million streams in its first 3 weeks. Metal band Hot Coffin spent a late night making a freaky video in The Oriental Theatre for their song “Whistle, Hawk & Spit,” which was directed and edited by Jed Schlegelmilch. Burlington-native Chris Vos’ wildly successful LA-based blues rock band The Record Company released a lighthearted, hula hoop-centric video for their hit “Rita Mae Young.” Also, local chill wave rockers No No Yeah Okay put out an eerie Ryan Bilinski directed video for “Great Scott” from their debut EP Dual.

Once-local acts return for Summerfest 2016

Every musician’s dream is to be part of a headlining act performing before large crowds — and Summerfest offers ample opportunities through its grounds stages for headliners to perform before some of the summer’s largest, most enthusiastic audiences.

This year, sandwiched in between legends like Willie Nelson and The Commodores are several local — or at least, formerly local — bands that have reached headliner status. If you are Summerfest-bound this year, here are some former area acts you won’t want to miss.

The BoDeans

9:45 p.m. July 3, BMO Harris Pavilion

images - wigout - 063016 - SFBoDeans

Emerging from Waukesha in 1983, roots rockers The BoDeans built its fan base around the sweet harmonies of Waukesha South High School classmates Kurt Neumann and Sammy Llanas. Opinions differ on the source of the band’s name, but popular legend says that it came from Jethro Bodine, the character played by Max Baer Jr. on the 1960s TV sitcom The Beverly Hillbillies.

The BoDeans grew in popularity due to the band’s signature sound, earning the top slot as Best New American Band in a 1987 Rolling Stone readers poll. The band toured with U2, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty and other artists.

Working with producer T-Bone Burnett, the BoDeans produced their breakthrough hit “Closer to Free,” which became the theme song to the hit TV series Party of Five. Life, as they say, was good.

But nothing ever lasts, and by 2011 Llanas, citing artistic differences, failed to show up for several Colorado concert dates and later that year resigned from the band he helped found.

Neumann heads the current iteration of the BoDeans, which now operates from his home studio near Austin, Texas. He and Llanas may still be locked in litigation over song ownership, but the current BoDeans has lost none of its verve as one of America’s top roots rockers.

You can catch a separate set by Sammy Llanas at 6 p.m. July 1 at the Harley-Davidson Roadhouse.

Garbage

9:30 p.m. July 6, Harley-Davidson Roadhouse

Photo: Joseph Cultice.
Photo: Joseph Cultice.

Long before Madison musicians Butch Vig and Steve Marker formed the alt-rock band Garbage, the pair owned and operated Smart Studios, established in 1983 to record the music of Madison-area bands.

It wasn’t long before word of the studio’s technical capabilities and Vig’s prowess as producer got around. Bands like The Smashing Pumpkins, Death Cab for Cutie and Nirvana recorded albums there. Produced by Vig, Nirvana’s Nevermind achieved diamond status with more than 10 million copies sold.

Fast-forward to 1995, when Vig and Marker were joined by Madison musician Duke Erikson and Scottish-born vocalist Shirley Manson to record Garbage, their inaugural album, which eventually went double platinum in sales. The band’s pop sound, melded with grunge, electronica and other formats, made Garbage unique in the musical world.

The band’s crossover characteristics are the result of all four musicians participating in the writing, recording and production of each album. Admittedly, those albums are few and far between, with the band members taking long breaks between its recording and touring schedules. The band’s soon-to-be-released sixth album, Strange Little Birds, follows close on the heels Not Your Kind of People, with only a four-year hiatus in between. In the world of Garbage, that’s no time at all.

Only Erikson still lives in Madison. Vig and Manson live in the Los Angeles area to be closer to the music scene, while Marker has escaped to the Colorado Rockies. When they do come together, as they will at Summerfest, something musically remarkable usually happens.

Cheap Trick

9:45 p.m. July 7, BMO Harris Pavilion

images - wigout - 063016 - SFCheapTrick

Fans have to reach way back to 1970 to find the origins of Cheap Trick. That’s when Rick Nielsen, Robin Zander, Tom Petersson and Bun E. Carlos left their other respective Rockford, Illinois, groups to became Cheap Trick, a band once known in Japan as the “American Beatles.”

Early on, Cheap Trick tapped Madison music producer Ken Adamany for representation, making them a “local” group. The musicians labored during their early years, finally striking gold — or, rather, triple platinum — in 1979 with Cheap Trick at Budokan, a live album recorded in Japan, where the band was already wildly popular.

The hits followed, including “I Want You to Want Me,” “Dream Police,” “Surrender” and other rockers. Cheap Trick’s full-throttle, raucous style makes it a band best heard live. The band has toured continuously over the past 40 years and logged some 5,000 performances.

Drummer Carlos, still a part of the group, no longer tours or records with the band, and has been replaced by Rick Nielsen’s son Daxx Nielsen. On April 8 this year, Cheap Trick was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The band also was asked to play at the upcoming 2016 Republican National Convention, but turned the offer down according to a report in The Guardian. “We had second thoughts,” Zander was quoted as saying. “Maybe we should have accepted it, but we all would have got swastika guitars made.”

Violent Femmes

9:45 p.m. July 7, Harley-Davidson Roadhouse

Photo: Ebru Yildiz.
Photo: Ebru Yildiz.

Milwaukee’s music scene would have been incomplete without a punk band. That’s where the on-again off-again Violent Femmes fit in.

Formed in 1980 by guitarist and vocalist Gordon Gano, bassist Brian Ritchie and drummer Victor DeLorenzo, the Femmes arrived on the scene after punk music began to wane. Legend has it that the band was discovered in 1981 by James Honeyman-Scott, guitarist for The Pretenders, while busking outside of Milwaukee’s Oriental Theatre prior to a Pretenders concert and was invited onstage by the largely English band to perform a brief acoustic opening set.

Punk’s demise allowed the trio to create its own sound instead. The trio incorporated elements of folk, country and even a brass section called “Horns of Dilemma” into its act. The combination worked, and the band’s 1983 debut album Violent Femmes, went platinum. The band was on its way.

But the Femmes hit some significant rough patches during its career, with DeLorenzo leaving and then returning several times. The most significant stumble occurred when Gano, who usually claimed sole songwriting credit, agreed to sell the rights to the band’s hit “Blister in the Sun” to the burger chain Wendy’s in 2007. Ritchie was furious and sued Gano, seeking half-ownership of the band’s music and access to song royalty accounting. The suit brought the Femmes to an end in 2009.

But you can’t keep a good band down, and the Femmes reunited in 2013 to play several festival dates, including Summerfest. Gano and Ritchie still form the band’s core, but DeLorenzo permanently exited the scene. He was replaced by a series of drummers, most recently John Sparrow, who played cajon in the Femmes’ former horn section.

In March, the Femmes released a new album, We Can Do Anything, which will be liberally tapped during this year’s Summerfest set. When the band plays “Blister in the Sun,” as it inevitably will, try not to think of hamburgers.

Music reviews: Gwen Stefani, Violent Femmes, Pete Yorn

GwenStefani Gwen Stefani :: ‘This Is What the Truth Feels Like’

Gwen Stefani’s new solo album is fun and catchy, with cute hooks, hopping beats and a a calm, cool voice. But after listening to it, you’re on to the next album.

This Is What the Truth Feels Like, Stefani’s first solo album in 10 years, isn’t memorable or distinctive — an only-OK batch of pop tunes that don’t reveal much about Stefani.

Though the lyrical content of some of the songs is deep, the album sounds tailor-made for radio, and the songs lack in emotion, originality and personality — usually a specialty of Stefani’s. For all the talk that the album delves into her personal life, it’s hard to tell. The content, even when it’s about heartbreak and ex-husband Gavin Rossdale, has a bubble-gum feel. It’s as if Stefani’s hiding behind the songs’ beat and hook, and her vocal tonality is on cruise control throughout.

The project does have some highlights: “Send Me a Picture,” likely about boyfriend Blake Shelton, sounds more experimental. “Red Flags” and “Asking 4 It,” which features rapper Fetty Wap, are high points, too. But songs like “Naughty” and the singles “Used to Love You” and “Make Me Like You” sound as if another pop star could sing the tracks and you wouldn’t notice the difference. Holla back girl when you make your next album. (Mesfin Fekadu)

ViolentFemmesViolent Femmes :: ‘We Can Do Anything’

The Violent Femmes often sound like their old selves on We Can Do Anything, their ninth studio album and first since 2000. Singer/guitarist Gordon Gano and acoustic bass guitarist Brian Ritchie reunited in 2013 for a Coachella performance of their self-titled debut on the 30th anniversary of its release, having put aside the long feud sparked by Gano’s decision to allow the use of their biggest hit “Blister in the Sun” in a fast food commercial.

Habitual alternation between aggression and vulnerability is a hallmark of the local group’s sound as well as their personalities, and it’s on display frequently in We Can Do Anything. “What You Really Mean” is a real standout, a tender tune about commitment written by Gano’s sister, Cynthia Gayneau. “Holy Ghost” could have fit on the band’s classic debut and sounds like Lou Reed dropped by to sing lead.

Not everything gels. The accordion-driven “I Could Be Anything” is goofy and “Issues” may be too overwrought even for those with an “it’s complicated” relationship status.

Despite three co-writes (rare for Gano), and songs rescued after the long hiatus from decades-old demo cassettes, We Can Do Anything lasts just 31 minutes. It’s quality time. Hopefully the Femmes will be back with another, even better encore. (Pablo Gorodni)

PeteYornPete Yorn :: ‘ArrangingTime’

Pete Yorn returns after an extended hiatus with ArrangingTime, his sixth and lushest solo studio album since his 2001 debut. ArrangingTime shares more than just space bar anemia with his debut, musicforthemorningafter. Meticulous producer R. Walt Vincent is back on half of the 12 tracks, and helps out on a wide range of instruments.

Lyrically, there’s a lot of angst, hardly a healthy relationship in sight and the unease can be overwhelming. The melodies are sweet but it’s a bitter delicacy. “Halifax” begins like early R.E.M., “Lost Weekend” has an 80’s synth bass, the melody soars on “In Your Head” and “Screaming at the Setting Sun” is practically danceable, as is “Tomorrow.”

ArrangingTime is Yorn’s debut for Capitol Records, though in this age of hyper-consolidation among labels that may not mean as much as before. What matters more is that Yorn still writes splendid songs, even when his characters are miserable. (Pablo Gorondi)

Author/musician Peter Roller explains how Milwaukee rocks

Peter Roller, an associate professor of music at Alverno College, is the author of “Milwaukee Garage Bands: Generations of Grassroots Rock.” Spanning more than 50 years of music in Milwaukee, the book features local rock heroes such as The Mustard Men (led by Warren Wiegratz), as well as bands who broke out on a national level, including Milwaukee’s Violent Femmes. Written in a style that’s appealing to both musical novices and aficionados, “Milwaukee Garage Bands” should inspire readers to track down recordings by the bands mentioned in the book – or even to start their own garage bands to perpetuate Milwaukee’s contribution to the genre.

I spoke with Peter Roller prior to his book’s publication. 

Peter, as an East Coast native, what brought you to Milwaukee?

I grew up in the New Jersey suburb of Summit. My wife grew up in Milwaukee, and even though we met in the Twin Cities and lived in various places, by the time we had our first kid we felt like coming back to her home … in the mid-1980s. 

How did “Milwaukee Garage Bands” come about?

I studied in the field of ethnomusicology, which is often called “world music.” I went from a lot of knowledge about American music styles – my own origins, like a lot of Baby Boomers, (was) in a garage band – to learning about all these different world music styles. After years of that came time for my own Ph.D. dissertation, and I did what Dorothy did and I decided it was time to go back home to where I started. I was shocked to find that no one in rock writing had written about absolutely amateur groups. They’d always written about people who had one-hit-wonder records or star careers. I did an oral history of the Milwaukee area to basically prove that there have always been low-level beginning garage bands – and not just in the ’60s, which gets all the attention.

What was involved in the process of selecting and tracking down the bands you wrote about?

It was over many years. It was challenging. Rather than just take the 1960s and try to do every band I possibly could in the Milwaukee area from that time, I was doing samplings so I could represent different time periods and different areas in the region. 

Something that really stands out in the book is the enthusiasm of your interview subjects. 

Most definitely! They (were) excited about my basic thesis, which is being in garage bands is not a vain first step in trying to be a star. It’s something that you do with your peers or even your closest buddies. It just feels good to be down in the basement, doing it, making those loud sounds together. Proving to yourself that you can make music when, really, people don’t know anything (about music) and they teach themselves in most cases. 

Were you surprised about the intersection of garage bands and LGBT culture? 

I was pleased and impressed by it, because it’s just another dimension of teens making their own statement on various fronts and on their own turf. This basement show, like a number of them, was right in the basement space where Half Fare, Jake Cohen’s band, would always practice. Basically it was a space for teens, by teens and one dimension of it was he was collaborating with his younger sister Zoe Cohen, who is credited with helping me find some of the pictures in the book. … Zoe was probably by the door with a little table with various things on it, including a flier in support of gay rights and National Coming Out Day. 

Why didn’t you cover well-known bands from outside of Madison, such as Violent Femmes, the BoDeans and FireTown (with Butch Vig) fitting into the garage rock spectrum?

I had to define my turf, because there are so many garage bands, and I did not include Waukesha. The two guys from the BoDeans are very much from Waukesha. It was just a turf matter. I would’ve covered them, probably, if they had been more from the east or south side of Milwaukee or something, but they weren’t. Butch Vig is from the Madison area, and that wasn’t going to be part of my Milwaukee turf. But I’ll just say bands that are rooted in a place like Wisconsin and then sometimes … go beyond their original area – (they) sometimes carry with them parts of their localness. I would say with the BoDeans, they made their band name when they were still amateurs, out of an inside joke about Jethro Bodean, a character on “The Beverly Hillbillies.” My inference is that they were basically making fun of the fact that they were hicks from the hinterlands of Wisconsin, and they were being proud of that at the same time. With Butch Vig, and where he’s gone with his career, I was very proud of the fact that he could run this whole recording studio scene and still play in bands before he went national out of Madison. 

Warren Wiegratz, one of the performers you write about in the book, is performing on Valentine’s Day in Milwaukee. What do you think that says about his staying power?

I tried to put as much as possible (in the book) in people’s words and he said probably the best statement about that. He said, “I formed my band with a bunch of guys from this particular neighborhood in Elm Grove, which was kind of the last working-class corner of what would be a much more wealthy Brookfield suburban area. In addition to us having this sort of common coming-from-the-wrong-side-of-the-tracks feeling when we went to high school together, we also were really into music and crossed both school music and being in a band with being into rock and soul music.” Basically they set a really high bar trying to achieve a lot with their garage band. They were doing really complex Motown and soul songs as well as Beach Boys songs (which are pretty hard to sing), as well as simpler garage rock songs. At the time of the interview, (Warren) was the bandleader for the Milwaukee Bucks house band, playing everything from contemporary R&B to oldies. He was basically able to become who he is at age 16. I think he was really thankful for that. So when he goes into The Domes, he’ll be playing an enjoyable variety repertoire, just like he started doing back in Elm Grove in the early ’60s.

To purchase the book from Amazon, click here.