Our weekly two hour show on SIRIUS/XMU, channel 35, can be heard twice, every Friday – Noon EST with an encore broadcast at Midnight EST.

SIRIUS 409: Intro ++ The Tomko’s – The Spook ++The Blue Echoes – It’s Witchcraft ++ The Gories – Casting My Spell ++ The A-Bones – Mum’s The Word ++ Elvira – End of Side One ++ Screaming Lord Sutch – She’s Fallen In Love With A Monster Man ++ Baron Daemon & Vampires – Ghost Guitars ++ Frankenstein – This Is The Fiend ++ Ronnie Cook & The Gaylads – Goo Goo Muck ++ Donovan – Wild Witch Lady ++ The Frantics – Werewolf ++ Radio Spot – I Was A Teenage Werewolf ++ The One Way Streets – Jack The Ripper ++ The Swamp Rats – Louie Louie ++ 5 Blobs – The Blob ++ Charles Bernstein – Jail Cell ++ Radio Spot – The Vault of Horror ++ Steve King – Satan Is Her Name ++ Lee Kristofferson – Night of The Werewolf ++ Evariste – Connais Tu L’animal Qui Inventa Le Calcul Intégral ++ Donovan – Hurdy Gurdy Man ++ Kip Tyler – She’s My Witch ++ Red River Dave – California Hippie Murders ++ Lou Reed – Halloween Parade ++ Red River Dave – California Hippie Murders ++ The Cramps – I Was A Teenage Werewolf ++ Os Rocks – I Put A Spell On You ++ Sonics – Psycho ++ RichardSwift – Drakula (Hey Man!) ++ Otis Redding – Trick Or Treat ++ Lori Burton – Nightmare ++ Don Hinson & The Rigamorticians – Riboflavin-Flavored, Non-Carbonated, Polyunsaturated Blood ++ The Madmen – Haunted ++ The Misfits – Horror Business ++ The Ramones – I Don’t Wanna Go Down To The Basement ++ Monsters Crash The Pajama Party ++ Joy Division – Day Of The Lords Broadcast – A Seancing Song ++ David Lynch – Dark Night Of The Soul ++ Dead Mans Bones – Lose Your Soul ++ Jay Reatard – Nightmares ++ Siouxsie And The Banshees – Halloween ++ The Cure – Fear Of Ghosts ++ Maniacs Are Loose ++ The Velvet Underground – Venus In Furs ++ Destroy All Monsters – Vampire ++ Fang – Diary Of A Mad Werewolf ++ Wade Denning & Kay Lande – Halloween

*You can listen, for free, online with the SIRIUS three day trial — just submit an email address and they will send you a password.

(Welcome to Videodrome. A monthly column plumbing the depths of vintage underground cinema — from cult, exploitation, trash and grindhouse to sci-fi, horror, noir and beyond.)

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Another October, another opportunity to discuss horror films in detail and be taken semi-seriously. Halloween is a time to feel comfortable speaking in public about otherwise obscure subgenres, such as evil Christmas and campfire slaughter. Above all, it’s the best time of year for exploring the world of B-movie creativity, as so many strange and wonderful masterpiece portraits were painted when budgets were tight and competition for dime store cinema attention was fierce and nasty. This Halloween as you’re winding down the hours of the wolf, dim the lights and tear into some of these devilish delights.

Slashers – Bay of Blood (1971)

Mario Bava’s chaotic festival of body dismemberment could be said to have launched Italian splatter horror to new heights (or contemptible lows, depending on your perspective). Genre masters such as Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci were forced to up their game from standard Giallo suspense to darker, bloodier and more disturbing forays after witnessing this chop shop. Released in America variously as Bay of Blood, Carnage and—most illustratively—Twitch of the Death Nerve, the plot is utterly preposterous and difficult to follow, but it has something to do with a bunch of opportunistic murderers killing each other over the rights to inherit a large bayside estate. It’s clear that Bava placed all his energy on shoring up the details in each of multiple graphic killings at the expense of screenwriting. Despite its exploitative and vicious nature, there is a certain artistry about this film, manifested in the range of camera angles, colorful set design and visual detail.

Ghouls – The Gates of Hell Trilogy – City of the Living Dead (1980); The Beyond (1981); The House by the Cemetery (1981)

Speaking of Italian nutballs making mayhem on movie screens, one would be hard pressed to find a more colorful collection of spectacular horror effects and otherworldly demonic extremes then what is stuffed into these three loosely-related supernatural freak shows from Godfather of Gore Lucio Fulci. Only considered a trilogy because all three pictures revolve around the inadvertent opening of a portal into hell, the litany of evil that forces its way into our world here encompasses zombies, arachnids, cannibals, maggots, mutants, possessed priests, backwoods lynch mobs, witches, devils, and a veritable smorgasbord of walking, spattered flesh slop. In other words, these are absolute must-see cinematic operations. The number and sheer diversity of creative killings is a wonder of the horror movie world. Fulci with his mixed background in art history and medicine hews close to the typical Italian mold, wielding technocratic expertise and genius onscreen inventiveness, even as the plot and acting in many of his films has ceased to matter. Pick any one of these three, or watch ‘em all in succession. Just don’t eat too much candy beforehand.


Aliens – Galaxy of Terror (1981)

This is a despicable film, in a very good way. Despite possessing all of the elements necessary to be considered an exploitation flick, including grindhouse guru Roger Corman producing, it still manages to outdo itself, pushing the boundaries of what might have been considered acceptable camp horror at the time. The plot is a mix of derivative sci-fi cliché and incomprehensible mythological drivel, where a crew of space travelers fly to the far side of the galaxy in search of another crew of space travelers who have gone missing. Then slimy, grotesque alien monsters, demonic worms and dinosaurian evil of all stripes begin to terrify, butcher and even rape this ill-prepared intergalactic rescue party. Likely intending to capitalize on the popularity of space killing started by Ridley Scott’s Alien, Galaxy of Terror deserves points for fantastic low budget effects and the appearance of Robert Englund of Freddy Krueger fame. It also launched the career of an unknown production designer named James Cameron. Great, gory stuff.

Tramps – Le Frisson Des Vampires (1971)

Jean Rollin was a prolific independent filmmaker who created more than 50 highly inventive and aesthetically beautiful films, most of which were either horror movies or unadulterated hardcore pornography. Obviously he was French. Les Frisson, known stateside as The Shiver of the Vampire, is one of his more ambient and erotic horror pictures, featuring a groovy soundtrack from Acanthus (you can rock it here) and exquisite set pieces, costumes and camera takes. The acting and plot is about what you would expect from a film made by a career porn maven, but the dreamlike sequences and new age displays of occult sex and ritual violence have a creepy charm. This is the kind of movie you can just play in the background on Halloween night while entertaining guests who still think you’re normal.

Vamps – Martin (1977)

Allegedly one of George Romero’s favorite films to make—odd seeing as how it’s not a zombie movie—Martin is an unconventional vampire film. Following Romero’s rubric of skewering societal norms behind slapstick gore, the story of pale, sickly blood-sucking Martin is perhaps an allegory on homosexuality or the state of being a social outcast. Lacking the super powers of traditional Gothic vampires, the titular character is both a misanthropic monster and a victim of his condition, which forces him to stalk his victims and inject them with sedatives before feasting on their veins. The syringe-happy hunting scenes and ensuing ambush kills are reminiscent of TV’s Dexter, as is the antisocial nature of the hero-villain. The end result is an original and at times thought-provoking spin on the typical undead formula and keeps in form with Romero’s 1970s golden age during which he wrote, directed, edited and produced nearly everything he touched.

Thugs – Assault on Precinct 13 (1976)

Despite having its reputation sullied by the subpar 2005 remake, Assault on Precinct 13 remains an underground classic and one of cinema’s most chilling portrayals of the breakdown of law and order. An early showcase of the versatile filmmaking abilities of John Carpenter, the story follows its title to a tee. A gang of ruthless criminals lays siege to an urban police precinct, methodically surrounding it before quietly killing off everyone inside, one by one. Carpenter is a master of the high concept thriller. His entire filmography is rooted in dark, speculative adventures that begin with the question “what if?” Aided by the creep-tastic synthesized music scored by Carpenter himself, Precinct 13 matches brooding suspense with senseless acts of brutality that at once shock and disturb the viewer. Though not a horror film in the typical sense, this is a dark and scary picture.

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GhostsThe Tenant (1976)

Roman Polanski’s story of a nervous apartment dweller and his gradual psychological breakdown, ostensibly at the hands of the building itself, is one of many “the house is evil” ghost stories that dominated the horror genre in the late 70s. But few of them—The Amityville Horror, The Sentinel—come close to matching the sense of impending doom and paranoia that permeates this psycho brood fest. Add to that the skilled touch of a genius moviemaker in his prime and The Tenant emerges as a near masterpiece of dark, Hitchcockian suspense with a dash of Euro-weirdness. Polanski himself plays the lead, a regular guy who rents a Parisian flat where the previous tenant went suicidal, and before long he’s following in her depressed, hallucinating, self-loathing footsteps. Top notch work from one of the all-time greats, The Tenant holds up today and still creeps you to the core.

Creatures – Eaten Alive (1977)

It’s amazing that Tobe Hooper was able to reign himself in once and create a polished, well-paced and skillfully directed horror classic called Poltergeist. It probably helped to have Steven Spielberg write and produce, but nonetheless that one remains a pearl of the genre. Otherwise this man is a freak, and the rest of his directorial collection is almost uniformly terrible. Composed of exhibitions of wanton cruelty and violence, most of his films are rooted in an inane plot concept, including winning ideas such as a killer laundry machine and a murderous red dress. But no one makes exploitative horror more fun than Hooper, as evidenced by his debut The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and eagerly-awaited yet horrendous follow up Eaten Alive. The first line of the movie is “my name’s Buck and I’m here to fuck”—later ripped by Quentin Tarantino in Kill Bill—and silliness follows accordingly. Here is the gist: mad racist redneck hotelier delights in terrorizing his clientele by feeding them to the gigantic plastic alligator that lives in the swamp outside. Why people would continue to check in at such an establishment when every hotel guest that comes on screen buys the farm is the wrong question to be asking. But they do, and thank god for that. It gives us the chance to witness the artistic manifestation of a disturbed young mind (Hooper), obviously enabled by too much Hollywood establishment praise. The moments of unintentional comedy are many, and the sheer goofiness and constant fog make this a memorable drive-in style jaunt. The alligator is so pathetic it makes you wonder if this entire project was an elaborate performance joke. Big fun.

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MutantsThe Burning (1981)

A camp caretaker starts offing frisky adolescents to exact vengeance for the cruel acts that long ago left him burned and disfigured. The plot of The Burning is so similar to that of Friday the 13th it begs the question of why and how it was ever green lighted in the first place. But pound for pound this one might be a superior film to the first chapter in Jason Voorhees’ multi-generational saga. For one thing, it had some really nice fundamentals going for it. This was the first official film from Miramax, the super successful production outfit started by Bob and Harvey Weinstein, who were heavily involved in writing and producing on the project. Second, the cast is not half bad and features early roles by Jason Alexander (yes, that Jason Alexander) and Holly Hunter. But most importantly to horror fans, special effects on The Burning were handled by the legendary Tom Savini, and his unmistakable gifts are evident throughout. The villain Cropsy—named after a common New York urban legend at the time—cuts a terrifying image of a mutant madman and his kill scenes, often conducted with a trimming shears, offer tremendous, flesh-reaving gore. Overshadowed by more popular slasher films of the time, The Burning never received much attention. But it’s a surprisingly effective campfire massacre yarn that holds up well compared with the rest of the bloated slate of early 80s killer-on-the-loose flicks.

PsychosMadhouse (1974)

What’s a horror movie listicle without Vincent Price? Madhouse serves as a bit of an homage to its star, as the plot revolves around an aging horror movie icon (played by aging horror movie icon Price), who gets thrown in an insane asylum after witnessing (or committing?) the murder of his fiancé. Upon his return from the nuthouse he’s given one more chance to play the role of infamous Dr. Death, but when bodies start turning up in ways that mimic kill scenes from his most popular movies, he’s not sure of what’s real and what’s nightmare. This is vintage British mystery-terror, with good scripting and predictably strong if unspectacular performances from Price and rival goth-legend Peter Cushing. Madhouse was one of the last horror movies made by Amicus Films, known for decades as a top notch horror production company that reliably pumped out monster movies and not-so-subtle terror yarns that were just mainstream enough to stay off of England’s notorious “video nasty” censorship list. Offers enough suspense, cheap thrills and cheesy costumes to keep you on your witching hour toes.

DevilsPossession (1981)

Billed with the slug “the darkness is forever,” Possession is a bizarre and mysterious examination of the slow disintegration of a marriage that pivots midway through and starts a descent into supernatural evil. It’s also the rare horror film that received artistic acclaim from Western intelligentsia, as lead Isabelle Adjani won a Best Actress at Cannes Film Festival. Made in the mold of avant-garde films reminiscent of more recent works by Gaspar Noe and Lars Von Trier, the chaotic story follows the marital infidelities of a spy and his wife, the collateral damage on their young son, and the metastasizing effects of their strange, unstable behaviors on a cast of surrounding players. Directed by Polish provocateur Andrzej Zuławski and shot in early 80s Berlin, the film has a distinctly dark Cold War vibe underlying its mystic elements and scenes of hysterical violence. With excellent visual effects, strong lead performances and gritty camera work, this is a deeply disturbing but enjoyable journey into madness. As a bonus, it features the incubation of a chained, humanoid demon beast. words / j campbell

Previously: Videodrome: Ghouls, Grind, Gothic & Gore: A Halloween Helper

WhiteOutNels_BrickWall_LighterLin Culbertson and Tom Surgal, known to experimental music fans as New York City improv duo White Out, have a long, extensive list of collaborators, including Jim O’Rourke, Mike Watt, Thurston Moore, Carlos Giffoni, and C Spencer Yeh. Collaboration is a key component of the group’s discography, spread out over the last 20 years. For much of that time, Culbertson and Surgal have improvised live with guitarist Nels Cline, though it’s only now, 15 years into their time together, that the trio have released a proper record, Accidental Sky on Northern Spy Records.

The album benefits from the trio’s long time together. Recorded live and completely improvised in Culbertson and Surgal’s apartment, the album finds them locked in and zoned out. They clearly speak the same language, continuing a musical conversation that began in Los Angeles in the early 2000s, when Surgal met Cline at the now defunct Alligator Lounge.

White Out with Nels Cline :: Sirius Is Missing

“Every Monday night, he’d be playing at one of the greatest cultural attractions of that era,” Surgal says. His parents lived in the city, so he became acquainted with Cline while visiting them. Soon, White Out began performing with Cline. “We started playing pretty regularly at this club called Spaceland, which is now the Satellite, in Silver Lake.”

White Out quickly recognized Cline’s simpatico style. “He’s a jazz musician, but he’s a very free player,” Culbertson says. “He’s really able to go into sonic territory outside of particular musical parameters.”

The respect was mutual, Cline says. No stranger to collaborative efforts himself — including work with Carla Bozulich, Wilco, Mike Watt, Charlie Haden, Julian Lage, and dozens more — he says that his work with White Out offers a unique arrangement.

“There’s something about what Lin does, and I don’t know if she would agree with this or where a lot of this stuff is derived from, but there’s something, a zone she goes into that makes me feel like I’m in the middle of a Sun Ra record, like Heliocentric Worlds or something,” Cline says. “I love that…She has this intuitive approach. Though I know she’s musically trained, she’s very free, making a kind of cool space music. And Tom’s very well schooled in free jazz, drawing inspiration from people like Rashied Ali, “Beaver” Harris, Jerome Cooper, or Milford Graves…He reminds me in that way of someone like Sunny Murray, or a contemporary guy like Chris Corsano. The combination creates a kind of cosmic freedom, which is great to create in. I find myself able to go to that zone, happily.”

Each member of the group keeps coming back to that word, “freedom,” and Accidental Sky revels in it. Opening on a skittering, percussive soundscape called “Imperative,” its modes can be frantic, like on the swarming “Sirius Is Missing,” but also grooving, evidenced by the brooding “Exaltation By Proxy.” To close the record, the trio chose a lilting, beautiful number called “Soft Nameless Absolute,” which finds Cline strumming shimmering chords under melodic keyboard fragments from Culbertson.

“It was like a musical coda to all the wildness we’d laid down during the day, this euphonious ballad to end on,” Surgal says of the song. “It might have been when the cognac kicked in, too,” Culbertson adds.

“It’s not about showing off your technique,” Cline says. “It’s really about surrendering to sound. Even if Tom and Lin, don’t necessarily focus on the possibility of drama as I do, when improvising, there is a kind of subtle drama that can emerge in our collaborations I find really surprising and pleasing. There’s something kind of restrained about it that’s different than what I do with other people.” words / j woodbury

Pharoah Sanders with accompaniment via Paul Asrlanian, on harmonium, in an Abandoned Tunnel. San Francisco (Marin Headlands – close to the Golden Gate Bridge), 1982.

god-less-america-countryIt’s late October, and we’re breathing chill, autumnal air, damp with death and lit by the blood moon. During these darkest of nights we while away our witching hours and pay homage to our devils. We reflect on fear itself, and what we realize to be the most frightening is not the bogeys, demons, and monsters outside—it’s the monsters on the inside. In other words, the ideal subject material for real country music.

Many moons ago, we parted the dark skies of time to feature a now infamous compilation of honky-tonk Apocrypha by Crypt Records called God Less America: Country & Western fer all ye Sinners’ n’ Sufferers 1955-1966. The guys who wrote these tunes busted out of Porter Wagoner’s “Rubber Room” and lit off to wide open nowheres where you can’t see the stars at night because the neon’s too bright. Harry Johnston, Eddie Noack, and Arkey Blue are the best of this Godless bunch, and it pays to follow their tracks out past the edge of town.

“It’s Nothing To Me” is this comp’s most arresting track. A propulsive beat, screaming fuzz, and booming baritone guitar provides the powderkeg score for some fatal barroom tension: “Oh well that’s life, or it was… It’s nothing to Me.” Harry Johnston is a name that is enshrouded in mystery, but the production on this song may sound familiar. That’s because the man behind the boards was Lee Hazlewood, and Johnston is a nom de plume for Sanford Clark. Hazlewood was still a DJ in Phoenix, Arizona when he met Clark through their mutual friend, guitarist, and future member of the Wrecking Crew, Al Casey. In 1956, Sanford Clark scored a breakout hit with one of Lee Hazlewood’s early songs, “The Fool.” He toured with Ray Price and Ray Orbison, but his sound fell into the genre-netherworld between country and pop rock and his career stalled. By the late ‘60s, Hazlewood was an established producer with a distinctive sound, and he signed Clark to his LHI label as a country act. These sessions yielded “It’s Nothing To Me,” which sounds like its psychedelic edge stems from choking down some strange desert plant rather than acid.

Sanford Clark :: It’s Nothing To Me

eddie noackLee Hazlewood’s history with this song runs deep, and several of the artists he produced recorded it. First came Loy Clingman in 1957, then Buddy Long in 1959, then Sanford Clark in 1967, and finally Lee himself sang it on his final album, Cake or Death, in 2007. The songwriter is listed as “Pat Patterson,” which is an alias for Leon Payne, the blind singer-songwriter from San Antonio, Texas who wrote some of the great songs in country music like “Lost Highway” and “I Love You Because.” Leon Payne shares some history with another from the Godless gang, Eddie Noack. A great if overlooked songwriter himself, Noack also came from Texas, and in the 50’s, he recorded for the great Texas labels Starday and Pappy Daily’s D Records. Hank Snow and Johnny Cash recorded his music (“These Hands”), as did George Jones (“Barbara Joy”). Since he quit performing in 1959 and recorded for some 17 different labels throughout his career, Noack is hard to put a finger on. God Less America features “Dolores,” a cut from Noack’s late 60’s stint at K-Ark Records. Based in Nashville, K-Ark was primarily a vanity press, and Noack’s output here reflects a macabre sensibility. He was a heavy drinker, and by this time his career was in a slump, so it’s going without saying the strange, fear-mongering songs like “Dolores” and “Barbara Joy” didn’t light up the charts. However, it’s one of these K-Ark singles that later became Noack’s most famous song, and it was penned by none other than Leon Payne.

Eddie Noack :: Psycho

Eddie Noack’s “Psycho” is one of the strangest specimens of country music ever recorded. It’s a grisly ballad from the perspective of a serial killer with schizoid shifts in rhythm that vacillate between a warped funerary dirge and an upbeat, hillbilly take of rocksteady. Noack’s stone cold vocals suggest a man who’s torn up in the head, and the overall effect is captivating. So much so that the tune’s grim reputation grew over the years and has been covered (and butchered) by all sorts. Tall tales sprang up about how Payne wrote the song about the 1966 shootings at the University of Texas in Austin, and that the God-fearing songster was too creeped out by his own creation that he forbid anyone to record it until after he passed away. Randy Fox of The Nashville Scene debunked such rumors in an excellent interview with Payne’s daughter, Myrtie Le. She claims Payne was chatting with his steel guitar player, Jackie White, about Richard Speck, who murdered 8 student nurses in 1966, which led to talk about other infamous serial killers like Mary Bell and Albert Fish. This conversation sparked the song, the line “Can Mary fry some fish, mama?” as well as a shoutout to old Jackie White. Payne most likely wrote the song for Noack, who recorded his unparalleled rendition in 1968, while Payne was still alive. The two were old friends from Texas and both men cut records for Starday and D. In the comments of that Nashville Scene article, Myrtie Le chimes in that she has the original demo that Payne recorded in his den on reel-to-reel tape. Wouldn’t we love to hear that one?

Arkey Blue :: Daddy’s Sick Again
Arkey Blue :: Too Many Pills

Arkey Blue’s “Too Many Pills” is the other honky tonk knockout on God Less America. Per that title, Arkey doesn’t sugar coat the dark stuff, and most of his songs are similarly cynical and wry. He doesn’t have anything to do with Leon Payne, but he is a bona fide Texan with serious horror cache. He’s the owner of the Silver Dollar Saloon in Bandera, Texas, a town in the hill country that claims to be the “cowboy capital of the world.” “Daddy’s Sick Again,” his song about a drunk pops coming home to his kid was featured in the soundtrack to the OG Texas slasher flick, Texas Chainsaw Massacre! Although Arkey and his Blue Cowboys are a live fixture in Bandera, the recordings of these songs are quite hard to find, as Arkey mostly released 45s on local labels like Hacienda, Tonka, and Grande. Arkey had a cameo in another horror film in 1975, Race with the Devil, starring Peter Fonda, Warren Oates, Loretta Swift, and Lara Parker as two couples roadtripping from Texas to Colorado in an RV. On the run from hill country Occultists, the couples stop into a saloon to lay low. Arkey—suited up in some cobalt duds—and his Blue Cowboys provide some diegetic entertainment, performing the b-side to “Too Many Pills,” “Living on Credit,” as well as “”Misty Hours of Daylight” during a barfight. The whole while, Arkey’s pedal steel player gives the travelers a soul-piercing stare down. words / a spoto

Arkey Blue :: Living On Credit


Nearly two decades into their career, it makes sense that Drive-by Truckers would be releasing another live album, their first since 2000’s Alabama Ass Whuppin’. Given that their catalog has grown to ten studio albums, there’s a wealth of material to pull from. But 2015 has been an interesting year for Patterson Hood of DBT as well. He penned a well-regarded editorial for the New York Times over the summer in response to the church shootings in Charleston, South Carolina that gave the band a new bit of attention not seen before. Ahead of the release of their new live album It’s Great to Be Alive this Friday, Patterson Hood sat down with Aquarium Drunkard to discuss the various versions of the band, the fine details of planning a live album, recording in the historic Filmore in San Francisco, his article for the Times and how a flag with Hank Williams Sr. on it may not be such a bad idea after all.

Aquarium Drunkard: You talked in the press release for this album about how much you love this version of the band. And as a fan of the band, given the member turnover, I think of this as Drive-by Truckers Mach 4.0. So how would you compare this version of the band to earlier iterations?

Patterson Hood: It’s got a great chemistry, and the individual parts are all great, but it’s got a really good chemistry. There’s a lot of camaraderie, really close. It’s like when you’re in high school and you play in rock bands and you have this idealized version of how you think it ought to be. It’s kind of the closest I’ve ever had to that band. Everybody is just smokin’ good in the band. We actually enjoy hanging out and that’s cool.

I guess, Mach 1 of the band – which honestly was kind of Mach 2 – but the first lineup that really toured, when we finally gelled into something we could take on the road, in 1998, ’99, it was a four-piece version of the band. There were some elements of that band that I always really loved, and that I kind of missed in the later incarnations because we were stripped down, it was pretty lean and mean. We were out there in the van playing 250 shows one of those years – just a ridiculous number of shows and working really hard. But there was a good camaraderie about that. And when we did the reissue of Alabama Ass Whuppin’ the other year, I was really loving just how stripped down and rockin’ the arrangements were. It was really pretty primal and pretty fun. I think in later incarnations we’d gotten away from that for awhile. Everything got real crazy.

We had the line-up of the band with Jason [Isbell] which was a great version of the band and a very successful version of the band. It’s the version that made a couple of our best records and really hit a lot of ground. But it also was a turbulent time. We had a hard time in that era – not just with him, but with life in general. That’s when it became pretty serious and became kind of a business and we had to adjust to working with things like management and record labels and shit like that. All these things that take away time from the creative part of it. You kind of have to learn to navigate and not let it drive you crazy. And the era after that was the band trying to rebuild and become good again after losing as vital a part of the band as Jason was. And there were a lot of difficulties in that era. But we kind of landed on this and it’s the best of a lot of different worlds. Everyone is really tight. It’s corresponded with a time in our life that’s a lot better, too. We’re happy with our record deal. We have great management, a great booking agent. All the different moving parts work well. So, we’re able to really focus on the good stuff, you know – being creative and writing and trying to make as good a record as we can without all the distractions. It’s a pretty good time for it all.

Phil Cook.

On Southland Mission, Phil Cook has hit his stride. The record, which found him weeping upon listening back to demos alone in a cabin in Gailax, VA is a testament to the community of inspiring and talented individuals Phil has reveled in and continues to give back to. After serving as musical director on I’ll Find A Way with longtime heroes The Blind Boys of Alabama, Phil had a revelation — one that that has since provided the inspiration for a record that is pure in every sense of the word.

Speaking with Cook during a European tour opening for The Tallest Man on Earth, he speaks of nothing but gratitude for the team effort Southland has been. He tells us this record made life easier, clearer for him. Phil if you’re reading this, the feeling is mutual.

Aquarium Drunkard: Is this the first run of dates in Europe for the new record?

Phil Cook: I did some shows when I was opening for Hiss Golden Messenger. I was opening the show and then playing in his band in February. Doing these tunes, but the record wasn’t out, I was just like hey just so you know, I got a record coming out this fall. This is the first time I got to have the thing for sale, and playing the tunes and talking about the record and it’s really exciting.

AD: How has the response been over there?

Phil Cook: I love it so much. It’s been so fun. Tallest Man’s fans are fans of good music. They love what he does and I think they are coming out and have been really appreciative and kind and listening. They’re open to shit. I just want people to be relaxed and be themselves and have a good time. I try to make people feel comfortable right away. There’s no mystery to what I’m doing.

AD: It seems like you value the idea of building a certain degree of trust with your audience.

Phil Cook: Luckily, the door that I’ve found into music was so pure. I feel lucky that it was just a love of the music itself. It was never, not once about getting chicks. It was never about that or magazines or pictures and posters. It’s just about records. I get older and I kind of meet more people from that funky old tribe of dudes where it really is just about the music. Music has given me my best friends in the entire world. It’s brought me all over the place. It introduced me to places and people. I have nothing to feel but grateful at the end of the day.


You may never have heard the name Labi Siffre before but you’ve definitely heard his music. One of London’s unsung musical heroes, Siffre was born in Hammersmith in 1945 and, between 1970 and 1975, released some of the most expertly mixed blends of funk-jazz-soul-folk you’ll ever experience this side of Bill Withers. In fact, you have heard—consider, first, the fact that the slinky instrumental break from Siffre’s ‘I Got the…’ provided the hook on Eminem’s “My Name Is” (let’s, for the moment, leave to one side the fact that it has also helped shape songs by Primal Scream and Miguel). Next, consider the fact that “It Must Be Love,” yes that song everyone thinks Madness wrote, was actually written by the same guy. Here we have a stretch, a spectrum of music-making perhaps unequaled by anyone but those we deem The Greats. See the genre-busting of Curtis Mayfield. See the crossovers of Carole King and Laura Nyro. Before his retirement at the end of the 70’s (and a brief resurgence, post-Madness) Siffre was a master of the same flexibility.

Which of course, made his albums hard to pigeonhole (and perhaps harder to promote). Bill Withers, of course, always had gospel underpinning his acoustic leanings—it was detectable and it had a category. Siffre, oftentimes underpinned his songs with English folk, cabaret, show tunes, a little jazzy Van Morrison, a little Cat Stevens. In 1972, a breezy proto-Paul Weller song like “Cannock Chase” just wasn’t going to fit comfortably on an R&B chart anymore than a Pop Chart (unless said chart was in an already kaleidoscopic musical landscape in, say, Holland). But damn if it wasn’t the airwaves’ loss.

Labi Siffre :: Give Me Just A Little More Line

Less to do with cocaine than a lover’s sense of autonomy, Siffre’s “Give Me Just a Little More Line” is the quintessence of his leftfield stance as a singer-songwriter. A majestic, melancholy blues chant that makes you want to weep with sympathy within the first few measures. A high-flying voice that shares as much with Peter Gabriel as Mayfield. The horns don’t punch, they underpin. At the forefront instead is a silky string section, sweeping up the emotional register of the song, making it pine even harder for that titular line to be loosened up.

Siffre also had the ability to pare things back even further, and one of the delights of listening to his albums is how quick he is to follow a killer groove (see “The Vulture”) with the lightest of touches. Sometimes it can be a little coy, sometimes cheekily camp, but mostly these hot-cold tendencies settle into their own laidback acoustic languor. If you can imagine Janis Ian, Joan Armtrading, and Tracy Chapman all getting together for drinks, at least one of them would have to have a Labi Siffre record close to hand. It’s also saying something that you can look through the man’s back catalog and find songs taken up (not only by Eminem and Madness) but Kelis, Kanye, and Kenny Rogers.


Lagniappe (la·gniappe) noun ˈlan-ˌyap,’ – 1. An extra or unexpected gift or benefit. 2. Something given or obtained as a gratuity or bonus.

Diane Coffee (née Shaun Felming) returned to the fray earlier this year with his second full-length, Everybody’s A Good Dog, following up his 2013 self-recorded solo debut. Like pals and bandmates Foxygen, Coffee’s brand of psych-pop deftly mines the past, usually with a knowing nod and wink. Here, Coffee re-imagines post-Barlow Dinosaur Jr. and ’80s Giorgio Moroder produced top 40 —  Berlin’s “No More Words“.

Diane Coffee :: Get Me (Dinosaur Jr.)
Diane Coffee :: No More Words (Berlin)

Notes: I chose these artists because they create music that is so completely different then what I do, yet are still musicians I draw inspiration from. With recording these songs I was able to push myself to rearrange the sounds and the formats. My favorite covers are the ones that sound nothing like the original.

Lagniappe Sessions Archives / imagery via d norsen.