Category: '90s nostalgia

Flipping digitally through John Peel's record collection

In the end, isn't this what everyone who's ever collected anything wants: to have the world see what they did with their lives, what great taste they had, and how responsibly they cared for their possessions? If so, English DJ John Peel, whose BBC program was one of the most important and innovative popular music shows on British radio for nearly four decades, is living the dream from the great beyond.

After he died in 2004, Peel's voluminous record collection was left intact, and it is now being cataloged and displayed online as part of a far-reaching archival project called the Space, funded by the BBC and the British Arts Council. As part of the John Peel Archive, a chunk of Peel's roughly 25,000-piece vinyl obsession is being gradually revealed one alphabetical letter at a time in a section called Peel's Record Shelf. The unveiling could bring a better understanding of not only the music that he liked but also how an old-school curator did his job and cataloged his tunes before the drag-and-drop world of MP3s miniaturized music into data crumbs. 

For geeks interested in music, the chance to compare notes on -- and judge -- another person's collection, to flip through each piece one by one and absorb the information, inspires a certain giddiness, especially when that person's aesthetic, knowledge and curatorial skills are as fascinating as Peel's.

The first hundred records in the A section were uploaded this week, and they proved to be a combination of classics, one-hit wonders, private press curios and some bafflers that, like any true obsessive, he probably hadn't listened to in years. So what's in there so far? 

Honestly, to peruse the first batch -- The A's through Adam and the Ants -- is to wonder about what's to come, because this isn't nearly a big enough sampling to make any sort of snobby judgments, note any glaring omissions or wonder what the hell Peel was thinking. After all, one of the world's most famous DJs is going to have ABBA records, and as an avowed reggae fan, he'd have held onto his Abyssinians albums. As someone who was down with the New York post-rock/no wave movement of the '80s, Peel's affection for the Action Swingers' underappreciated albums is pretty cool -- but he was playing those records when they were coming out, so of course he'd hold onto them.

As the weeks and months progress and the collection continues to be revealed -- the first 100 records from each letter of the alphabet -- more evidence of his passions and oversights will no doubt show (though everyone who ever caught his show knew that he never held back on his opinions). 

The suspense will no doubt build: Which Black Flag albums did he keep? Did he have any Clash acetates? How many albums by his favorite band, the Fall, did he have?

For some of us, a new ritual is going to be checking in weekly to see what's up. And for a select few others of us, we now have a new stipulation to add to our will: The collection is to remain intact, and to be published as an online archive within a year of death. How else will others know of our secret passion for early Boogie Down Productions 12-inches, and mad obsession with both the Flying Lizards and the Lounge Lizards?

Oh, and it's worth noting that Peel didn't have any Roy Acuff records. What kind of collector doesn't have any Acuff records!? Oh wait. Yes he does. Never mind. Nice one.


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-- Randall Roberts @liledit

 Photo: Screen shot of Peel's Record Shelf. Credit:

Coachella 2012: The Skyy Coconut Escape pool party keeps it cool

Skyy pool party

How I came to be the official Coachella pool party beat reporter is still somewhat of a mystery to me. Perhaps because I love pools. And vodka. But for whatever reason, for six years running now I have faithfully represented the L.A. Times at various hedonistic enterprises in the desert involving water, beach balls and copious amounts of alcohol.

The second weekend of Coachella -- although much, much hotter (think of crawling into your oven wearing a sleeping bag and you'll get the idea) -- boasted fewer pool parties. The cruel irony! However, Skyy vodka and Spin magazine represented with one of the weekend's largest offerings at the lush Renaissance Esmeralda Indian Wells Resort & Spa.

The Esmeralda, as it is lovingly referred to by its guests (many of whom are artists playing at Coachella), is a fantastic location for a pool party. It has waterfalls and an honest-to-god sand beach. Skyy poured stiff drinks, infused with (you guessed it) all kinds of coconut water. The vodka company knows that getting your electrolytes while simultaneously depleting them is essential to a quality afternoon.

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Chris Cornell muses on Soundgarden, 'Avengers' and 'Sesame Street'

It's been a decade and a half since Soundgarden released a wholly new song. A first song from the reunited act's recent recording session was unveiled this week, and the hard-rock vets had a little help getting the word out. Soundgarden attached itself to  Marvel super-hero vehicle "The Avengers," and leader Chris Cornell said aligning with the likes of Iron Man and the Incredible Hulk was something of a necessity. 

"In the grand scheme of things, the record business is completely different than it was when we last put out a record," Cornell told Pop & Hiss. That was the pre-Napster days of 1996, and the band's "Down on the Upside" was following its 1994 chart-topping blockbuster "Superunknown," an album that brought '70s-inspired metal ferocity and somber melodic intricacy to the grunge era. 

"In other words," Cornell said, "there needs to be some tie-in [today]. Without one, it’s great that you made a record and recorded a song, but no one’s going to hear it -- have a nice day. The problem, really, isn’t so much as finding a tie-in, but finding one you can get behind, where you can feel 100 percent comfortable that there is a partner." 

Linking with "The Avengers" was a simple decision for the band, Cornell said. Though Cornell is no comic geek, guitarist Kim Thayil is, said Cornell, who described his bandmate as someone who "knows every detail of every character and when they were conceived and what metamorphosis they went through."

For his part, Cornell said past Marvel films such as "Iron Man" rank as high with him as the works of digital animation house Pixar, as he praised the Robert Downey Jr. hit for its blend of comedy and action. "The Avengers" will be released May 4, and the soundtrack, dubbed "Avengers Assemble," will be released May 1.

"A lot of the other tie-ins that someone may propose to a band sitting in the room are not so great," Cornell said. "They don’t ring so well in your ears, especially if you’re a rock band that started as an indie band and you’ve been around for over 25 years. It takes some getting used to, some of these concepts, like you go out on and tour and they try to put a banner from a cellphone company somewhere near your stage.

"So this," continued Cornell, "was the best possible result of having a partnership. This is a movie that’s part of a series that we all like, and part of a history of Marvel that we all like."

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Boy band mania: 98 Degrees plotting a comeback?

With One Direction, the Wanted, Big Time Rush and Mindless Behavior leading the crest of a new boy band wave, it’s no surprise that the Internet is heating up with rumors that one of the most successful groups of the mid-'90s boom of pop groups is possibly plotting a return. And, no, it’s still not that long-awaited 'N Sync reunion.

98 Degrees, the quartet that harnessed the four-part R&B/soul harmonies of groups such as Boyz II Men and Jodeci to mega pop success, is on the verge of a comeback, at least judging from a few not-so-cryptic clues.

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Quick Chat: John McCrea of Cake

Cake new !

Cake's members have always considered themselves a band of pop music outsiders. Formed in the early '90s amid the backdrop of the Seattle explosion, the horns, hooks and dry wit of songs like “The Distance” and the Gloria Gaynor cover “I Will Survive” were a comically offbeat answer to the bombast of grunge. After seven years between albums, the band got another bite at the mainstream when their 2011 album “Showroom of Compassion” (recorded independently at their solar-powered studio in Sacramento) debuted at No.1 on the Billboard 200 despite selling only 44,000 copies in its first week.

At the time it was the lowest-selling No. 1 album in SoundScan history. But for a band that still operates under the pop-culture radar, they see it as a major win for the little guy. Stopping in L.A. at the Palladium for the first time in several years, frontman John McCrea talked to Pop & Hiss about Cake’s recent success.

Who is your audience these days?

It’s weird. I thought that it would just be a lot of older, Generation X people, but on the road each year we get more people that haven’t heard us before that are all ages. We get a lot of high school kids, even some seniors dig us.

Any opinion on the fact that your latest record debuted as the lowest-selling No. 1 album on the charts, ever?

In a period of precipitous decline in the record business, we’ve looked at it pretty positively. Cake’s not a band that’s supposed to be No. 1 on any charts. So it definitely stretched our imaginations to be No. 1, even fleetingly. We sold about the same amount of copies that we did for our previous album, which was seven years earlier. So it seems like we’ve built a pretty trusted relationship with our fans.

What’s been the best part of releasing your new music independently?

It’s clean, it’s a feeling of self-reliance — that we’re investing in ourselves. Between recording the album in a solar-powered studio and self-releasing our album, it’s part of the general inclination on Cake’s part to become more self-reliant and less dependent on what I think are failing infrastructures.

You’re well-known for launching participatory contests with your fans. Any new ones on the horizon?

We are doing this contest where our trumpet player Vince DiFiore scored our song “Federal Funding” for marching bands and so a lot of high school and college marching bands are entering a contest where they learn that song, play it and send in a video. We’re gonna choose one of them as a grand prize winner. I think we’ll end up putting them in a new Cake video.


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— Nate Jackson

Photo: Frontman John McCrea, far right, with Cake band mates, from left, Paulo Baldi, Vince DiFiore, Xan McCurdy and Gabe Nelson. Credit: Robert McKnight.

Lecture series hosts De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest members

Red bull1!

The Red Bull Music Academy is residing in New York this year, but the traveling music workshop is giving L.A. artists a sample of its uber-exclusive program of lectures and seminars Saturday at downtown L.A.'s Ultra Lounge. Every year, the RBMA chooses musicians from all over the world to travel to select locations and meet and learn from a group of heavy hitters in the music industry. Past celebrity lecturers includes funketeer bassist Bootsy Collins and psychedelic soulstress Erykah Badu.

Hoping to whet the appetite of future applicants to the academy’s annual 14-day musician’s boot camp, the event — happening from 4 to 7 p.m. — features two hour-long lectures lead by hip-hop heroes Maseo of De La Soul and Ali Saheed Muhammad of A Tribe Called Quest, respectively. New York natives themselves, both rappers will discuss how their neighborhoods shaped their music careers and their early days at the forefront of the '90s hip-hop movement often dubbed the “Golden Era.” Each of the moderated discussions will end with an audience Q&A session.

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Karp documentary premieres tonight at the Silent Theatre in L.A.

In the shadow of Seattle’s grunge explosion, Karp — a post-hard-core band from tiny Tumwater, Wash. — didn’t manage to survive, let alone grace the frequencies of your local rock radio station.

Karp’s legacy, though brief, was influential enough for director Bill Badgely (of rock band Federation X) to make a documentary about the band. The 2009 film "Kill All Rednick Pricks: A Documentary About a Band Called Karp")" finally makes its L.A. premiere Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at the Silent Movie Theatre, presented by CineFamily and Sean Carnage, event programmer for Echo Park venue Pehrspace.

Founded by bassist Jared Warren (of Big Business and the Melvins), guitarist Chris Smith and drummer Scott Jernigan, the band melded violently distorted fuzz rock with hard-core and catchy, shouted vocals that seared itself into the underground hard rock scene between 1990 and 1998.

Karp's deal with Olympia, Wash.-based label K Records spanned only three albums before the band spilt and its members went on to play with a handful of other groups, including Tight Bros From Way Back When, the Whip and Dead Air Fresheners. Jernigan died in a boating incident in 2003. Warren went on to form the band Big Business with drummer Coady Willis. Both Warren and Willis went on join the Melvins in 2006.

In addition to the band’s creation story and tons of rare concert footage, the film features interviews with Kathleen Hanna (Bikini Kill), Justin Trosper (Unwound), Calvin Johnson (K Records), Joe Preston (Melvins), members of Tight Bros From Way Back When and more.

The screening will also feature a Q&A with Badgley after the film. Check out a trailer of the film below.


"Kill All Redneck Pricks" (trailer) from CineFamily on Vimeo.

"Kill All Redneck Pricks: A Documentary About a Band Called Karp" premieres Jan. 17 at the Silent Movie Theatre. 611 N. Faifax Ave. Los Angeles. 7: 30 p.m. $10 (free for movie theater members).

Photo: The band Karp -- Scott Jernigan, left, Chris Smith and Jarren Warren. Credit: Courtesy of

Latest Radiohead demo is a hoax; real songwriter pops up on CNN

The buzz behind the old Radiohead demo that created a frenzy in the blogosphere last week was deflated Friday as news quickly spread that the song "How Do You Sit Still/ Putting Ketchup in the Fridge" was not actually recorded by the band.

Canadian musician/baker Christopher Stopa appeared on CNN on Friday morning with anchor Erin Burrnett to confirm that the track, originally called "Sit Still," was actually his creation. Stopa says that the Internet buzz over the new track caught him by surprise, especially since he didn't post the song and claims to have no idea who did.

"What started coming out my speakers sounded extremely familiar and after a couple seconds, well wait a second, this is my song," Stopa told CNN. "My first thought was to think somehow I had hit play on my iTunes."

Considering that the song was originally pegged as a buried gem from Radiohead's early '90s material a la "Pablo Honey" or "The Bends," it was surprising to hear that Stopa recorded the song in 2001 with a band he had at the time. It's been over a year since Stopa recorded or played any music, opting to get into the bakery business with a friend after his music career began to stall. Since news of the song spread last week, it's garnered over 96,000 views on You Tube.

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Peanut Butter Wolf talks 15th anniversary of Stones Throw Records

Peanut Butter Wolf
Those who try to pigeonhole Stones Throw Records' catalog are almost guaranteed to get it wrong. Even at Stones Throw's inception, DJ and label boss Peanut Butter Wolf (born Chris Manak) probably wouldn’t have guessed that a tiny hip-hop label born in the Bay Area a decade and a half ago could become a tastemaker, risk taker and archaeological site for genres that included shoegaze, soul and psychedelia. From innovative MCs and producers such as Madlib to retro-styled newcomers such as the Stepkids, no two artists here sound alike.

What started as a means of releasing  Peanut Butter Wolf’s now-classic debut album with the late MC  Charles Hicks (a.k.a Charizma), Stones Throw has grown into a multigeneration, multiracial underground powerhouse prospecting envelope-pushing artists that use classic music from the past, reformatted and twisted to fit the present.

As Peanut Butter Wolf sits down with Pop & Hiss before Stones Throw’s 15-year anniversary party at Exchange L.A. on Thursday, it’s clear that his mission to mine and release the music he loves has been harder -- and more rewarding -- than he'd ever imagined.

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'Yo! MTV Raps' retrospective to run after Sucka Free Awards

Credit an undying lust for pop culture nostalgia or the insufferable glut of reality TV, but there’s no denying that MTV’s pining for the good ol' days. Along with the recent relaunch of '90s gems such as "Beavis and Butt-Head" and alt-rock bonanza "120 Minutes," the network recently announced the brief return of golden era hip-hop tastemaker "Yo! MTV Raps." It'll be broadcast at 11 p.m. Dec. 4 after the first Sucker Free Awards.

Framed as a 30–minute retrospective titled “Yo! MTV Raps Classic Cuts," the show will profile three classic tracks highlighting the East Coast (A Tribe Called Quests’ “Scenario”), the Dirty South (Geto Boys’ “Mind Playing Tricks on Me”) and the Westside (Ice Cube’s “It Was a Good Day”). Aside from their mass appeal, these videos highlight the relevance MTV had on the hip-hop world, even though the network was slow to fully embrace the genre in its early days.

“Often, the first time anyone saw a hip-hop video it was on 'Yo! MTV raps,' ” said Craig Marks, editor-in-chief of the music blog Popdust and co-author of "I Want My MTV:  The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution." "They want to let people know that they were part of the hip-hop explosion. And it’s a reasonable case for them to make."

In between videos, the "Yo!" special features discussions with former hosts Fab 5  Freddy, Ed Lover and Dr. Dre and a roster of other hip-hop heavyweights and current stars ranging from Wiz Khalifa to Common.

Initially, "Yo!" co-producer Ted Demme was told that the show, which debuted in 1988, would be a flop. The ratings, however, turned out to be huge. Though it carried on until 1999 -- by then, simply titled "Yo!" -- the show was eventually relegated to the hip-hop graveyard. Despite its demise, it remains one of MTV's most popular and respected franchises.

So, it makes sense that the network would look to "Yo!" at a time when pregnant teens and club rats from Jersey have made it near impossible to find actual music videos on MTV. And though it’s only a one-night retrospective, it could go a long way in reminding MTV audiences what the “M” is supposed to stand for.

“Its good in a token  sort of way,” Marks said.  “MTV is smart. They dip their toe in the water and see what the reaction is and maybe they can cash in on a late '80s, early '90s nostalgia.”


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-- Nate Jackson


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