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Thursday, Jun 28, 2012
Brendan Benson is a musician a lot of history behind him and was more than willing to speak to PopMatters about his roots and his early influences, and how they progressed:

Brendan Benson has had a fascinating career, moving from relative unknown, to local legend, to renowned songwriter, to co-frontman alongside Jack White in a supergroup called the Raconteurs. All the while he’s grown in popularity and learned enough to become a more-than-seasoned veteran songwriter. To put it mildly, he’s a musician with a lot of history behind him and was more than willing to speak about his roots and his early influences, and how they progressed: “I think I was about 14 or 15 and started getting into punk rock, specifically DC hardcore.  I realized that the bands were my age and it kind of gave me the courage to try it myself.  I got interested in songwriting so I ventured out and studied Wings and the Zombies and Todd Rundgren.  I guess it just kind of continued to evolve and still does to this day.”

Recently Benson launched Readymade Records, which has gotten off to a quick start and features a promising talent in the form of emerging artist Young Hines. When asked about the decision to launch the label and why Hines was the first artist he signed, Benson responded, “I produced six albums in a year, including my own; so it just made sense to release them under the same family.  Especially since we were playing all over each other tracks as well, it’s fun and makes sense.  Young [Hines] was first, actually, as I know my manager was really blown away with his music and that kind of lit the fire on what has evolved into what will be five full-length releases and an EP with Eric Burdon and the Greenhornes for this year.” Then he added simply, “Fun stuff.”

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Thursday, May 24, 2012
Upon the release of Hell in a Handbasket, the classic rock icon opens up about fame, faith, and his fears about the world.

Meat Loaf named his most recent album Hell in a Handbasket because that’s where the ‘70s rock icon—who now prefers to be known simply as “Meat”—feels the world is headed. 

“I keep hearing these stories about selfishness and ‘me, me, me, me, what I believe and all of you can just go to Hell’”, he said in a recent PopMatters interview. He heard a student sued a high school to remove a prayer that was on a wall. “It cost the school money and I’m saying to myself, ‘The money could have been better used in the school district by teaching students, helping students, supporting art programs’,” he said. “‘Go down and volunteer at the homeless shelter. Go to the Ronald McDonald House. Go to the kids’ hospital. Volunteer to help the homeless. Go do anything. Don’t just make it about me, me, me, me, me and this is my belief and I believe that I am right.’” 

For Meat, Hell in a Handbasket is about humanity, compassion, dignity, and being truthful. Meat says this is his most personal record ever:  “I want everyone to know who I am”, he says, projecting a straightforward, confessional honesty. In the first song, “All of Me”, Meat sings: “I caught a glimpse of myself today / It wasn’t a pretty picture /  I must say / This is my anger /  This is my shame. / These are my insecurities that I can’t explain”.

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Tuesday, Apr 10, 2012
When not visiting the Church of Bob Pollard, Unicycle Loves You's Jim Carroll takes pleasure in rewriting the garage-pop rulebook, conquering SXSW, and releasing his band's best album to date. Now, he tells PopMatters all about it.

Unicycle Loves You remains a bit of a pop-rock enigma.

For starters, the band started out as a project of just one person alone: singer/songwriter Jim Carroll. Ever since moving to Chicago in 2005 (a transplant from Poughkeepsie, NY), Carroll has been slowly carving out his niche as one of the foremost garage-pop songwriters of his day. Raised on a steady diet of Sebadoh and Superchunk (with good healthy portions of Guided by Voices to be served up as a main course), Carroll doesn’t as much revive the glorious days of ‘90s indie rock as he does synthesize it into his own gloriously warped vision of what guitar-pop was always meant to sound like. Now, with the assistance of drummer J.T. Baker and bassist Nicole Vitale, it seems that Carroll has found the perfect people to help his vision come into being.

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Tuesday, Mar 13, 2012
Following the devastating tsunami that ravaged Japan last year, Blonde Redhead's Kazu Makino wanted to do something about it, rounding up in-progress, yet-to-be-finished works by many of her famous musician friends and releasing the whole thing as a charity album. She tells PopMatters all about it.

One year after the earthquake and tsunami that devastated the Tokohu coastal region, the people of Japan have made significant progress in rebuilding both their buildings and their communities. However, experts estimate that longer-term recovery may take five years or more. In response to this situation, Kazu Makino, the Japanese-born frontwoman of the band Blonde Redhead, put together We Are the Works in Progress, a benefit album that was released earlier this year.

We Are the Works in Progress is unique both creatively and as disaster-relief effort. All of the tracks are either rough or even incomplete cuts. Also, both of the non-profit organizations receiving proceeds from the album have an eye to the future: The Japan Society currently uses it’s Japan Earthquake Relief Fund to the address country’s long-term humanitarian and economic needs, and Architecture for Humanity works to provide sustainable, design-oriented responses to disasters and social problems.

Kazu recently sat down with PopMatters to talk about We Are the Works in Progress. In the process, we also discussed Japan, the musical process, what’s in store for Blonde Redhead, and more ...

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Tuesday, Feb 14, 2012
She's a pianist, a singer, and a part-time punk bandleader who managed to garner interest from the likes of P. Diddy and more on her quest for true soulfulness. Sitting down with PopMatters, Brown tells us all about her journey towards getting here.

British singer V.V. Brown has gone through a lot to get to the release of her sophomore album, Lollipops and Politics. It’s the second offering of what she refers to as “odd pop”, which is a mighty declaration coming from a Northamptonshire girl who studied piano, violin, and classical voice training prior to joining punk bands creating a unique hybrid sound that has gained her worldwide attention. It was surprising to learn that one of the secret ingredients in her odd pop sound is her strong church-singing background and her affinity for gospel singers.  This time around, V.V. is moving away from the retro sound and is exploring all that her voice and look can create, sitting down with PopMatters to tell us all about it ...

* * *

How would you describe the sound of Lollipops and Politics?

I find it really difficult to describe my music. I’m just a real lover of things. I think my trademark sound is based on my consumption. It’s just the fusing of so many things. That’s why I call my music “odd pop” because I can’t quite explain the sound. Even though this album sounds quite a bit different from [debut album] Traveling Like the Light, the one consistent thing I have been saying is that it is quite an odd fusion. So that’s the one thing that I would say, this album remains to be odd pop.

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