Category: Nosaj Thing

Blonde Redhead on new tour, Nosaj Thing and a Japan relief album

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In the last decade or so, shoe-gazing sweetness has become the main weapon in Blonde Redhead's indie rock arsenal. Following the three-piece down their rabbit hole of sweeping melodies and demure and ambient vocals mixed with pinprick dissonance is a lesson in the many layers of distorted dream pop.

That they’ve been experimenting there for almost two decades speaks more to their ability to draw people into their music than hit them over the head with it. On their latest LP, “Penny Sparkle,” released in September, the band’s quiet tones transform sterile electro into the soundtrack for sensual exploration.

Last weekend, vocalist/guitarist Kazu Makino and Amedeo and Simone Pace rolled through the L.A. leg of their North American tour, stopping at the monthly Check Yo Ponytail 2 night at the Echoplex presented by I Heart Comix and Media Contender. We recently caught up with Makino via phone to talk about the band's tour thus far, a collaboration with L.A. artist Nosaj Thing and a forthcoming compilation album with proceeds benefiting Japan's earthquake and tsunami relief efforts.

Pop & Hiss: In addition to playing venues in cities you’ve never played before, you’ve also done a few dates with L.A. DJ Nosaj Thing. Had you known much about him or worked with him before the tour?

 Yes, I worked on a song with him for his new album, so it was nice to see him again on tour. It was really amazing. I was quite shocked that he gave me such great music to work with as a vocalist. It took me a while to come up with the melody and sing on it. I didn’t want to do any wrong. So I kind of tiptoed around it and was trying not to add too much over the music. I spent a few months working on it.

And he came to New York to perform recently and we had a chance to work on it together for a whole day. I think it was the first time he worked with a vocalist, so it was a new thing to be working on a song so intensely and for a very long time. After I’d been working on the vocal ideas for months we ended up having to finalize the song in one day, which was very intense. Since we recorded the song he’s been playing it live without me at his shows and just sampling my voice, I’m not exactly sure what the title is yet.

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Coachella 2011: L.A. versus London -- Nosaj Thing, Magnetic Man, and Skrillex

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I wasn't sure who Skrillex was. I'm sure you could chalk this up to some massive music writing oversight, but I'd prefer to think of it as spinning in different circles. Judging from the scene at the Sahara Tent on Friday night, I was the only one who didn't know the deal.

Thanks to the great Google gods, I now know that Skrillex is a former hardcore metal dude turned dubstep DJ. All I knew at the time was that he had divined the magic alchemy to turn a room of teenagers and post-teens into a tsunami.

They were insane. Crazier than Odd Future who followed them. More euphoric than any other set all day. I have no idea what percentage of the audience was chemically medicated, but in 15 minutes, I was propositioned for ecstasy once and marijuana twice. I suspect this means I need a haircut.

Images from the 2011 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival

I won't place value judgements other than to say that this isn't my chamber. I was in the minority. Apparently, the formula du jour is to mix massive low-end bass with rave synths and ogre drums. Mix in a little Jackson 5 and pop staples. Then, at the proper moment, ask the crowd's males to "put your girls on your shoulders. But do it respectfully."

If there is a popular face of dubstep in America it's probably someone like Skrillex -- the definition of bro-step working the Bro-chella set to massive success. After all, every generation needs a Venga Boy or two.

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