Monday, March 31, 2008

The Orange Spotlight

G. Emil Reutter Broken Shells & Hope ( Publishing, Feb 2008)

"He had learned years ago to escape to the shore and let the calm water and sunshine of the bay take reality away." from Fast Food

There is an old saying, 'You can't judge a book by its cover', and that is honestly the first thought that came my mind when I pull the latest collection from Pennsylvania writer G. Emil Reutter from its envelope. Lately I have been thinking a lot about the appearance of books, the thought, the colors, the image, the font, the overall style, and I believe that all of these factors directly impact your impression of the text, at least initially. You see if I hadn't already been a fan of Reutter's work, I may not have picked up this book. It would have been a shame, too because this collection is quite good.

Containing pieces of fiction ranging in length from a paragraph to four or five pages, Broken Shells & Hope is a collection of stories and poems of the everyday and the not-so-everyday alike. A few of the topics include mass murder, romance, loneliness, kindness, death, a blonde being held at knife point while in a shower, love, hole diggers, and much more. There are twists, and comical endings around every corner, and always an interesting story to read. For someone living a hectic, project filled life, Broken Shells makes perfect sense.

For more information on G. Emil Reutter visit his website or his blog, and to purchase his latest collection visit

The Sword Gods of the Earth (Kemado Records, 4/1/08)

There is an old saying, 'You can't judge a book by its cover', and on Gods of the Earth, The Sword, prove that saying dead wrong. This cover is classic heavy metal, with the lightening bolt, storm filled sky, symbolically arranged tree stumps, and of course the hand of a earth breaking through the ground holding a colossal sword. One look and you know exactly what to expect. On opening the cover you see an all black CD with only a circle of swords shining through. Hardcore all the way, there is no other way to look at it. You put the cd in your player, and really only except to hear one thing, ROCK!

The album opens with "The Sundering", and a few gentle acoustic guitar strums, rhythmic but quiet. This may have been deceptive if I had never heard a heavy metal album before. At 0:31 it explodes, and the album doesn't let all from that point on. Guitars soar and roar and growl, as The Sword tell tales with their aggressive sonic explosions. If you are looking for something to listen to pre or post-Guitar Hero, get the air guitar ready, get your fist pumping, and crank up THE SWORD!

Gods of the Earth
The Sundering/The Frost-Giant's Daughter/How Heavy the Axe/Lords/Fire Lances of the Ancient Hyperzephyrians (mp3)/To Take The Black/Maiden, Mother and Crone/Under the Boughs/The Black River/The White Sea

Paint the Town Orange

March 27th, 2008 - Music Hall of Williamsburg - Brooklyn, NY - Caribou w/ F**k Buttons and Dan Friel
Images and Review by Dominick Mastrangelo

I've been fixated on drummers recently. I used to think that if I could be a drummer in a band I'd like it to be in the French electronic outfit M83. But lately, the list has grown larger. First there was Say Hi, then there was Longwave and last Thursday night at the Music Hall in Williamsburg was Caribou. Playing before a packed house, Daniel Snaith and Co. rolled through a selection of songs from last year's lovely psych-pop record, Andorra, as well as selections from earlier material. Yet, the best moments occurred when Snaith slid out of his guitar and sat down at the drums opposite Brad Weber's kit. The two hammered away in unison, lost in the beat on tracks like "Sandy" and "Sundialing"; the double shot of percussion showcased even more by the unique setup of having both kits front and center while bassist Andy Lloyd and guitarist Ryan Smith were set at the back of the stage.

Also playing up the psychedelic feel were the constant flashing and swirling of projected patterns, colors and grids blanketing the band as it fell along the white backdrop. The melancholy pop ballad, "She's The One" (with Lloyd given Snaith's lead vocal turn), and "Eli," a Magical Mystery Tour-era number (and two of the highlights from the new record) were respectively beautiful and trippy. But the drums, oh, those drums, stole the set at every turn.

F**k Buttons, the British duo with the jarring name and thumping, electronic (dance?) music opened. Having spun their new record, Street Horrrsing, I wasn't sure what to think about seeing these songs - which sound much more suited for some secret, underground dance party - performed in a live situation. Yet, taken in a live context, the Buttons have something going for them. There was Benjamin John Power's tribal drumming as Andrew Hung danced in and out of a lone spotlight while supplying eerie shrieks to "Ribs Out." There was the white noise and dissonance via laptops and the indecipherable screams into a toy microphone by Power (who often would simply hold the plastic mic in his mouth) on several tracks including the hypnotic "Bright Tomorrows." (mp3) I realized quickly that nothing this duo does is by accident. And it was nice to see how they achieved their sound. But live, just as on the record, the tracks run a straight line with no variation in beat or tempo. Just the occasional addition or subtraction of keyboards, synth, noise or fuzzed out screams. I kept hoping for a warm melody to swoop in and rescue me. I had to wait until Caribou took the stage before that happened.

Remaining Tour Dates:
March 31 – Satellite Ballroom - Charlottesville, VA
April 01 – Cat’s Cradle - Carrboro, NC
April 02 – 40 Watt Club - Athens, GA
April 03 – Common Grounds - Gainesville, FL
April 04 – The Social - Orlando, FL
April 05 – Culture Room - Fort Lauderdale, FL
April 06 – Crowbar - Tampa, FL
April 07 – Club Downunder - Tallahassee, FL
April 08 – Mercy Lounge - Nashville, TN
April 09 – Wexner Center - Columbus, OH
April 10 – Illini Union Courtyard Café - Urbana, IL
April 11 – Empty Bottle - Chicago, IL
April 12 – Triple Rock Club - Minneapolis, MN
April 13 – Royal Albert Arms - Winnipeg, Manitoba
April 14 – Amigos - Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
April 15 – Starlite Room - Edmonton, Alberta
April 16 – Grand Theatre - Calgary, Alberta
April 18 – Biltmore Cabaret (two shows) - Vancouver, British Columbia
April 19 – Sugar - Victoria, British Columbia
April 20 – Chop Suey - Seattle, WA
April 21 – Doug Fir Lounge - Portland, OR
April 23 – The Independent - San Francisco, CA
April 24 – El Rey Theatre - Los Angeles, CA
April 25 – Plush - Tucson, AZ
April 26 – Club 101 - El Paso, TX
April 27 – Emo’s - Austin, TX
April 28 – Palladium Loft - Dallas, TX
April 29 – The Continental - Tulsa, OK
April 30 – The Record Bar - Kansas City, MO
May 01 – The Bilken Club - St. Louis, MO
May 02 – Waldron Auditorium - Bloomington, IN
May 03 – Oberlin College - Oberlin, OH
May 04 – Big Orbit’s Soundlab - Buffalo, NY

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Orange Alert's Music Minute

Bell has been the topic of many conversations over the last several weeks, and it all started with their appearance at SXSW earlier this month. Now they have released their debut ep, surprisingly titled EP, and are popping up all over the place. One very fitting place you can find Bell will be on Stereogum's Tribute to Bjork's Post album (going live tomorrow). Olga Bell and her band will be performing "It's Oh So Quiet", and I am sure she will nail it. You see, Bell has sound that is very similar to that of Bjork. I am not going to say they are trying to be Bjork, but their are very few distinctions. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Listen to: Echinacea (mp3)

I don't know if I really want to discuss men without pants, I mean I am in favor of all men wearing pants, seriously... keep them on! Ok, Men Without Pants is actually the new project from Russell Simins (Jon Spencer Blues Explosion) and Dan The Automator (you know who he is!), and their first album, Naturally, it is set for release late spring/early summer. Featuring contributions from Sean Lennon, Cibo Matto, members of The Mooney Suzuki, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and a few special guests to be announced this album is sure to be an electro-funk, beat filled, good time.

Listen to: And The Girls Go (mp3)

Los Angeles band Lucky Dragons have been together since 2000, and on May 6th they will release their 18th album. That's right 18 albums of genre bending futuristic music. It is as if they are searching for a sound that has not been discovered yet, and through combinations, explorations, finally they have discovered "Dream Island Laughing Language". Maybe they have created a new language, maybe not, but they have created a new way to play music. Just take a look at the instruments involved:
sarah rara - - singing, rocks, hands, flutes, mbira, poppies, mini bongos
luke fischbeck - - singing, rocks, rubber bands, mini dulcimer, flutes, bells, bowls, hands, mbira, poppies, necklaces, cassettes, piano, editing
tom van buskirk - - rocks, tambourine (on "free guys by the sea")
annelise grimm - - rocks (on "free guys by the sea")

Listen to: Morning Ritual (mp3)

Alaska In Winter came about when art student Brandon Bethancourt spent a semester recording music in an isolated cabin on the south coast of Alaska. Upon arrival back in New Mexico, he teamed up with Zach Condon of Beirut, Heather Trost of A Hawk And A Hacksaw and other friends, and thus began work on his album. Brandon, the group’s songwriter, takes much of his influence from his early years of growing up in the American Southwest, immersed in the musical low-rider culture of Santa Fe, New Mexico, as well as slight Arabian influence on the part of his parents and their Byzantine church music.

Dance Party in the Balkans is a rich album with various musical colors. He started programming using the recording software “Audacity” and managed to get a hold of a keyboard and started recording a lo-fi pop album in his tiny cabin out in the middle of nowhere Alaska, during the winter, and thus the project, “Alaska In Winter” was created. Dance Party in the Balkans is a beautiful downtempo ballad where subtle programming marries itself with live Eastern European musical elements. This musical experimentation came to fruition after Brandon took a five-week trip to Eastern Europe to experience local dance parties.

Listen to: A mini-mix of Alaska In Winter's debut (mp3)

Minnesota's Martin Dosh plays with a sense of freedom and long list of talented friends on his fourth studio album, Wolves and Wishes. To be released on May 13th, the album features appearances by Andrew Bird, Bonnie 'Prince' Billy, and more.

Listen to: If you want to, you have to (mp3)

Swedish band Robert Church and The Holy Community play quick and quirky little pop songs that float along almost with out notice. However, if you enjoy pop that clocks in a 1:50, or need a song to squeeze onto the end of that mixtape you should give them a listen.

Listen to: Sunday Love (mp3)

The Peel Back: Steinski What Does it All Mean 1983-2006 (Illegal Art, May 2008)

This is not your typical peel back because this album will not be released until May 27th, but Steinski is a legend and this 42 track, 2 disc retrospective is long over due. Steve Stein is one of the most influential producers in hiphop, sampling, and cut & paste. Better known by his nom-de-tune Steinski, his legendary Tommy Boy Records releases known as “The Lessons” are cited as definitive influences by DJ Shadow, Cut Chemist and Fatboy Slim, among others. Steinski, along with partner Double Dee (Douglas DiFranco) co-produced the series of records known as “The Lessons,” “The Payoff Mix” (MP3), “Lesson 2 (The James Brown Mix)”, and “Lesson 3 (The History Of Hiphop)” for the Tommy Boy label in the early 1980’s. The first lesson won a nationwide remix contest run by Tommy Boy Records and judged by Afrika Bambaataa, Shep Pettibone, Jellybean Benitez and Arthur Baker. The record subsequently became a Top 10 request on urban radio nationwide. These analog tape cut-and-paste collages, still widely bootlegged (and wildly illegal), are generally acknowledged as three of the most influential works in the world of hiphop and dance music production.
The tracks in this 2-disc release are too numerous to list, but you will know his work when you hear it. You can hear more at his myspace page.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Watch List

1. The Box Social: Clean cut indie rock from the land of cheese. They will be in Chicago on April 19th at Elbo Room. Listen to: Big T (mp3)
2. Evan Voytas: 24 yrs old and swirling electronics like a young James Murphy. Evan Voytas has mastered the blend of rock and electro and added lazy harmonies for good luck. He released his debut ep this past week, and has big plans for 2008. Listen to: The Yellow World of '83 (mp3)
3. Oh! Cluster: This band sent me a cluster of song a little over a week ago and they have been drifting through my head ever since. Listen to: Post (mp3)

1. "Lopped Off" by Robert Repino: What if you could control what you dream about?
2. "Staring Down a White-Tailed Doe" by Aleathia Drehmer: A tale of rural American glory.
3. "The Center of the Universe" by Tony Bonds: I haven't had a good nectarine in years.
4. "A 1980's Teen Sex Comedy Becomes Politically Uncomfortable" by Andrew Golden: Weird Science meets Hard Ball.
5. "Maybe Love Can Do That Too" by Nick Ostdick: Who doesn't like the term "Manifest Destiny".
6. "Enough Said" by Amy Havel: All the things women want to hear, but guys never say.
7. "A Little Money Down" by Doug Milam: There is also an interview Doug available at THE2NDHAND.
8. "Duel" by Jason Jordan: Jason will be in Chicago on April 26th for the next RAGAD reading.

1. "Owl Activist" by Mark Penxa: Available through P is for Panda "Eat People not Animals" is a classic! $10
2. Full 2008 Subscription to Ugly Duckling Presse: Full Presse subscriptions include all UDP books and chapbooks and some other productions (postcards, 6x6 magazine, New York Nights, selected broadsides and ephemera). $80/$125

1. Map Issue #4: Music meets art... what a wonderful collision.
2. MP3 Goodies: Metro Station - Control (Weird Science Remix) (mp3), Panda Bear - Comfy in Nautica (XXXChange Remix) (mp3), Longhorne Slim - Rebel Side of Heaven (mp3), and Unwed Sailor - Aurora (mp3)

1. Vegemite Queen by Steph Chard: Steph is a great young artist who just happened to have painted a portrait in Vegemite. More on Steph in the week's to come...
2. "Enough Isn't Enough" by Fake Fictions: Chic-A-Go-Go is strange and the Fake Fictions Rock! 3. "Modern Drummer" by Ungdomskulen: Speaking of strange... I am oddly drawn to this video.
4. Man Bartlett Artist Statement

Friday, March 28, 2008

Band of the Week

James Eric

DIY is not a spirit, it is not a sound, it is not a style... DIY is something that burns inside the musician or artist or writer. It is the fuel for the sleepless nights, it is the fuel for that project when the money gone and it feels that no one is listening. DIY equals passion. Of course, no one can do it completely on their own. No matter how solitary the process feels there is always a community out there waiting to help, to promote, and to share.

Independent Chicago musician James Eric knows the meaning of DIY and he understands the need for community. He also knows the meaning of the word perseverance. In 1996 he contracted a life-threatening bacterial infection called Blastomycosis which left him in the hospital for over two months. He eventually overcame the illness and became determined to acquire a sense of "self-evolution" ever since. It is that same passion and strength that James brings to his music, his performances, and his friendships.

Recently, James was kind enough to answer a few of my questions.

Orange Alert (OA): You recently complied a Magnetic Fields Tribute album which features covers several independent musicians, and two incredible pieces of cover art. Why Magnetic Fields and how did you select the musicians that would appear on the album?
James Eric (JE): For the past year, I've wanted to compile a musical project that involved my friends and the Internet in some kind of collaborative process. Since I'm a huge fan of cover songs, I came up with a list of bands that I thought would be good to cover, but it always came back to The Magnetic Fields since they are my favorite band. I go back and forth between them and Wilco, but when you hear listen to any of their records, you are caught in a web of child-like playfulness combined with sardonic, cynical, yet heartfelt bruised romanticism that can speak to anyone that's dealt with the ups and downs of love. I think if you're going to make a record like 69 Love Songs, you're automatically going to be a hit with me because my favorite type of song is a love song. Stephen Merritt is right up there with guys like Roy Orbison and Leonard Cohen. I think the desire to create can stem from a desire to prolong or immortalize a feeling of closeness that you feel with a person so in essence - a song is an extension of unconditional love. Most of the musicians on the record are folks I've met at shows and have become friends with, but it was as easy as posting a MySpace bulletin and watching the buzz build gradually. Friends of friends were talking about it, and I got submissions from musicians that I've never heard before but grateful to have discovered. I thought that 21 Love Songs was a solid number to pin down as the final track listing. Even if I had to make a few cuts, I still post up any and all Magnetic Fields covers at The digital version can probably go on forever, but the CD version is set-in-stone, and I couldn't be more proud of the compilation. I hope people listen to it to discover some amazing new musicians, the same way i did.

OA: You seem to be a part of a small community of musicians, many of whom I have highlighted in the past (i.e. tinyfolk, Real Live Tigers, redbear., Dustin & The Furniture, etc), who all excel in producing quality DIY releases. What role did "new media" (i.e. myspace, CLLCT, blogs, youtube, etc) play in bring this group together? How has new media affected your career, and, in your opinion, independent music in general?
JE: It's definitely a six degrees of separation factor that has played into how I've stumbled into this wonderful group of people. Meeting Tony Presley (Real Live Tigers) in 2004 and witnessing his perseverance played a huge role in why I do what I do now. And then seeing what Pat (Redbear.) has done in the southwest suburbs of Illinois really added fuel to the fire. Through people like them, I've met a lot bands that have become some of my favorite live acts to see when they come through town. New media has a lot to do with the way we keep in touch for sure. But it has more to do with booking and playing shows with amazing musicians like the ones you've mentioned. We're all different types of musicians but with the same mindset that art shouldn't become a commodity and we do this for fun and probably for catharsis as well. The only time I think music should be sold is while on tour, to get you enough gas money to get to the next show and that's why the 001 Collective/CLLCT was erected to give fans and friends a place to download records for free. I haven't been able to tour as much as everyone else, but the fact is, because we're all so passionate about artistic expression, we've become close without living in the same city. And when you talk to these people and see not only how talented they are, but how nice and selfless they are, it gives you the impetus to keep going, but to give back to the community you're apart of as well. I honestly don't think anyone would've probably heard my songs if it wasn't for the MySpace revolution. But record labels like Plan-it-X have laid down the foundation about how to do things right when it comes to DIY tours and record releases. Message boards makes things easier for everyone to book tours, and YouTube has allowed video nerds like me to capture moments in live shows for archival purposes. I also started a podcast called Ear Drugs that does interviews with a lot of musicians I adore, but sometimes technology is faulty or I get too swamped to maintain a weekly show like I promised initially. Music blogs are essentially evolving into what Rolling Stone and MTV once was (sources to discover and read about new music). But I also feel that it's imperative that there is face-to-face interaction, especially if it's just once a year to support your friends when they come through town.

OA: Speaking of CLLCT, these sites allow you to release your music for free. What are your hopes when placing your music on these sites? Is it to gain a wider audience? Is it to share your passion with your friends? Is it to gain label recognition?
JE: It's definitely to gain a wider audience and to share records with friends more than anything else. I guess back in the heyday of grunge and being in a high school band, I had this idealized notion that being signed to a record label would be the ultimate goal, but over time, that doesn't seem necessary any more. I think with things like Last.FM, it's nice just knowing that people occasionally listen to my music on their IPODs rather than making a lot of money or hearing my song on the radio. It'd be nice to acquire management to help out with marketing, but there's a greater sense of satisfaction and accomplishment by doing things yourself. Luke (Secret Owl Society) came up with the 001 Collective/CLLCT, and did the design for the site, and I couldn't be happier with his efforts, and to be a part of this organization that is all about archiving and not about the dollar bill. I feel good knowing that it's easy to get a hold of a song or a cover of mine especially if I'm unable to visit their town any time soon. My role in all this is to provide good songs but more importantly, to get more exposure for my friends' music because they deserve to be heard more than myself :)

OA: I love DIY productions, I enjoy receiving the CD-R in the cardboard sleeve with a handmade image or carefully selected picture taped to the front. For me, it is what keeps music alive. Your products come through as more polished productions, but independent nonetheless. With the availability of resources like cd baby, paypal, itunes, etc., are record labels necessary?
JE: I would say that most of my future products probably won't be as polished as they once were. I still really believe in the 'album' but I'm also aware that most folks will probably just download a song or two of mine that they like and put in their IPOD more than anything. I use to go all out with packaging and utilizing CDBaby, but it's difficult to even afford a pressing of 100 professional discs. So I'm now relegated to plastic sleeves and homemade art copied at a printing press. There are some record labels out there who are catching up with the times and realizing that the digital revolution has changed the way people discover music. Those are the ones that will acquire longevity. Record labels might still be necessary for those who want to turn music into a full-fledged career. I'm not averse to that, but I'm also weary of fame and fortune. I'd rather make just enough money to get by, and rely on music as therapy to deal with a lot of the heavy thoughts that I deal with. I really do empathize with guys like Daniel Johnston and Roky Erickson who struggle with self-esteem, mental instability and social anxiety. But they use music as an outlet to say things that aren't always easy to say and to deal with the demons that plague them. I think music should be emotionally confrontational at times, in addition to being an entertainment when performed live. Musicians have to make money on the road without question, so if a record label can help make booking a tour go more smoothly, then I'm all for their existence. Record labels have to meet a quota more often than not, but a lot of indie labels do put the artist first and roll with the times. Those are the ones that will prevail.

OA: What is the James Eric experience like live? Do you enjoy touring?
JE: I always enjoyed it when I'd see a band perform a song from their CD entirely different in a live setting. For right now, it's just me and a guitar with the occasional old-school Yahama keyboard thrown in for good measure. I think the sure-fire reason to come see me perform live, is that my singing is a lot stronger than it is on records. It's always fun to see how long I can hold notes, and when I tell the story of why I only have one lung, it's definitely interesting to watch a crowd react to the tale of my near-death experience which is chronicled in the song "Daddy Don't Cry," off my latest album. Ideally, I'd like to play with a violinist on occasion. I really do enjoy touring if I play mostly house shows. People are more responsive in someone's basement or garage rather than a coffeehouse or bar where it's easier to just ignore the music and let it serve as background noise. I'm worried about gas prices playing a factor in whether I can continue to tour, but with my schedule, I can only go on one 3-week tour, once a year.

OA: What's next for James Eric?
JE: I plan to play locally throughout most of the summer, and then hopefully go on a 2-week tour in the fall with Real Live Tigers from Chicago to the East Coast, possibly passing through Canada. After that and I say this every year, I'd like to take some time off from writing and recording until the spring of next year. I guess my biggest priority would be to get a three-piece band together when the holidays roll around to play through the catalog of songs I've built over the years because I have a good lot of strong songs. I'm of the opinion that I will always be writing new songs, but I'd like to hold off on recording them for awhile. I've put a lot into music that I feel it's also time to focus on helping friends, family, and going on long bike rides through forest preserves. I'd like to cook more, read, and keep myself healthy.

Sexyback (JT Cover)

Bonus Questions:
Coffee? If yes, what is your favorite type of coffee and where is your favorite coffee spot?
JE: I'll pretty much go to any diner to try a good cup of coffee. It's hard to choose just one so I'll cheat and say three all here in Chicago: Pick-Me-Up Cafe, Intelligentsia Coffee and Tea, Inc, and Uncommon Ground.

OA: What was the last great book you have read?
JE: I go through phases where I read a lot, but then decide to watch a lot of movies instead. Over the winter I read about four great books in a row, but the most recent read that has really invaded my psyche is VALIS by Philip K. Dick. I'm really interested in books that dip into the "why" of everything, particularly with an existentialist viewpoint. I like his ideas because they're always trying to get to the bottom of nature, consciousness and divinity. I want to read every word that man has written because I love the feeling of having my brain blow up and seeing the world through a whole new light.

Upcoming Tour Dates:
Apr 5 2008 6:00P The Church Of Rock w/The Pharmacy, Arkansas, more TBA Western Springs, Illinois
Apr 8 2008 7:00P
The Radish Patch w/ Jon Crocker + others! Chicago, Illinois
Apr 19 2008 7:00P
House Show w/Morgan Orion, others?! Champaign, Illinois
Apr 20 2008 2:00P
The Backyard Show w/ The GoodKnights, Toby Foster, Shotgun Clash, Justin Boerema Oak Lawn, Illinois
Apr 25 2008 7:00P
House Show w/ Toby Foster, Redbear? Valparaiso, Indiana
Apr 26 2008 8:00P
Andrew’s Basement Cleveland, Ohio
Apr 27 2008 8:00P
The Lilypad Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

For more information of James Eric please visit his website, and to download many of his albums for free visit CLLCT.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Reader Meet Author

Robert Duffer

Things are always more complicated then they seem, and in the world of publishing complication leads to delay. Was there ever a time or will there ever be a time when a writer writes a novel has it printed and sends it off to his or her readers? The world of big time advances, book store window displays, national advertising campaigns has made it nearly impossible for the new writer to find an outlet for their work. It takes dedication, confidence, and a lot of sleepless nights rewriting and editing to see your dreams come to life.

Chicago writer Robert Duffer is accomplished in many aspects of his life, as a father, a husband, a teacher, a freelance writer, and a published short story writer. He has taught in the Creative Writing Department at Columbia College Chicago, where he earned his MFA, since 2004. However, he has been working on getting his debut novel, A Place to Call Home, published for the last three years. There has been a few revision, and now he is ready to put this project behind him, share this story with the world and move on.

Recently, Robert was kind enough to answer a few of my questions.

Orange Alert (OA): Excerpts from your novel, A Place To Call Home, have been printed in various location, but the entire book remains homeless. What can you tell us about your novel?
Robert Duffer (RD): 22-year old Tom Macklin wanders around the country by foot and by car, picking up jobs and using people when necessary. A chance call to his brother uncovers that his siblings are selling the house they grew up in, the house their mother died in one year ago. He promises to return and face his past, his family, and who he is now. The road becomes increasingly hostile and Tom is running out of money, means, and options.

An excerpt is due out in Annalemma and other excerpts are under consideration elsewhere.

What I can tell you is that I've been working on it for too damn long, on and off, in fits and starts. I suppose it's encouraging that it—and my writing—has gotten much better. When I finished the first draft, three years ago, I sent it out prematurely to agents who responded appropriately. After another rewrite, I was about to send it out again, sure that it was the best book it could be. Then I started reading it to my wife. It was clunky. She reminded me to be patient, I said it's been seven years. I'm going through it again and I love it like I hate it. This is the most confident I've been with it and the most exhausted.

I've started two other novel-length projects that I'm eager to get back to, as well as tending to my freelancing, essays, short stories, parenting, teaching, and husbanding.

OA: With advancement in technology and the availability of print-on-demand capabilities, and the easy-of-use of paypal, etsy, and lulu, is there still a need for publishers?
RD: Publishers will always be around and will be the biggest impediment to print-on-demand. I love the idea of an independent bookstore being able to print off copies of any book but I can't fathom the rights issues and how everyone involved will get their cut. The current publishing/distribution model is broken. In what other industry can a retailer return the product it doesn't sell? The big publishers pay big dollars to promote its books at the front of the big bookstores. Print-on-demand will give the reader more options but those options will be so muddled by all the available titles. There will always be a need for marketing books and getting them in the hands of readers.

The publishing industry technologically operates a century behind other industries but with the popularity of hand-held readers and print-on-demand technology, they will soon be forced to catch up with what readers demand. It'll take a pioneering Net-Flix type publishing equivalent to force the industry to catch on. Maybe its up to the writers to cut out all the middlemen.

OA: What are your thoughts on the writer as self-promoter? How far is too far when trying to make a name for yourself?
RD: It has to be done, as in any other profession. If you're not promoting yourself, who will? Uncle Bob? It's the writer's job to make people care about what you're saying—that includes self-promotion. Signing with an independent publisher will require a lot of self-promotion. A big publisher may be releasing your book along with 400 other titles in the same month so you may have more success with Uncle Bob.

James Frey is too far. If no one will publish your fiction, you can't just call it nonfiction to sell it. I don't blame him as much as the idiot editor, though. You've gone too far if you wake up naked in a hotel lobby with pig tattoos on your nipples.

OA: You have several other projects going on, how did you get involved with 848 and what has that experience been like for you?
RD: I got in the car Monday night and I was on the radio. I cringe a lot less when I hear my voice now. The experience has been enlightening. That short form of 500 words—the emphasis on word choice, concision, slashing good phrases that don't necessarily serve the piece—all of it is great exercise to take into longer forms.

The first few pieces I submitted didn't warrant even a courtesy rejection. There was nothing. Then one piece landed and now, if the executive producer likes it, I'll record it the next day in a couple takes and its broadcast. That's the most gratifying part: the turn around from writing to broadcasting—it can be a matter of days. That's another reason why I like freelancing. Pitch it, write it, send it, print it. It's done.

OA: Do you feel that there is an emerging Chicago Literary Scene? What are your thoughts on the current opportunities out there for Chicago writers?
RD: Opportunities abound if you're willing to put yourself out there. The writer-as-lone-wolf stereotype doesn't apply to what happens after you're done writing something. Writing is easy; publishing is hard. Getting involved in the community—hell, creating a community, makes it a lot easier.

I encourage anyone curious about writing to attend any of the dozen readings that happen every week in Chicago, crash book release parties, dare yourself at open mics, be vulnerable and be willing to learn. And my goodness, read what your local writers are writing.

The Chicago literary scene is solid: there's a handful of indie book publishers, newbies like featherproof books and OV books, and established ones like ACM and Lake Claremont Press. What it lacks in a publishing industry network of editors, agents and publishers, like New York or even Minneapolis, it makes up for in writers writing and performing.

OA: What's next for Robert Duffer?
RD: RUI (reading under the influence) is the first Wednesday of every month.
The sun is out. I'm getting beer.

Bonus Questions:

OA: Coffee? If yes, what is your favorite type of coffee and where is your favorite coffee spot?
RD: I never drank coffee—always tea—until I had kids. It started with espresso. I still prefer tea but sometimes there's no substitute for coffee. I drink it neat like whiskey. McDonalds has better coffee than the coffee chains.

OA: What type of music do you enjoy and who are a few of your favorites?
RD: I'm embarrassingly out of the loop. I need to check out some of the musicians on your site. Recent listens are The Killers, The Redwalls new one, Wilco's Sky Blue Sky is one of the best full albums I've heard in years. Other than that it's the theme song to Thomas the Tank Engine and the Wiggleworms.

For more information on Robert Duffer and to read an excerpt from his novel please visit his website.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Artist of the Week

Jasmine Justice

The word abstract by definition has no real definition. In the art world the word has come mean something that does not represent reality, or something that does not depict an object. The problem or limitations in using this word lay simply with the idea that a human can create something that is not is someway connected to reality. Even the most far reaching chapters of Science fiction can in some way be tied back to reality. So then, how can a painting not represent some remote slice or small extraction of reality. At least this is the theory of Brooklyn artist, Jasmine Justice.

Jasmine utilizes vibrant colors to capture small fragments of the world around her. Through these cross-sections she allows color to mix freely, lines to jet in all directions, and natural patterns to form. She is not creating something abstract, she is taking known parts and inventing something entirely new.

Orange Alert (OA): In a recent interview with Wendy White, you referred to your work as "extractions-inventions" as opposed to abstractions. This statement turns the "abstract" painting into something completely different. Do you see your work as mirco-extractions
of reality, and not abstract (not representing or imitating external reality or the objects of
Jasmine Justice (JJ): Yes, that's pretty much what I meant by that, if you could consider the "reality" party of that in a hyper flexible fashion. The way we use the word abstract is often so inappropriate and general as to render it meaningless. In the strictest sense, abstract art has
to do, I think, with re-interpreting specific visible situations. I really love abstract painters like Emily Carr, Arthur Dove and Marsden Hartley. I don't think too many artists work this way any more. Then there are artists who are semi-rooted in abstraction, such as Thomas Nozkowski, Joanne Greenbaum and Carrie Moyer, who abstract visual scenarios in the real world but also involve evolving personal languages with deeply creative imaginary components, utilizing and
combining fiction, memory, time and the out of body.

I feel inspired and influenced by them, but see what I do as slightly less rooted in representational situations.

OA: There was a recent "discussion" about art over at another blog where your work was posted. In your opinion, what is common goal of art? Is it to speak to someone or some thing, entertain, decorate, illuminate, or simply just be?
JJ: I'm glad the goals of artists are as varied as the types of artists who are out there. They can be personal and/or secret about broadcasting information to the widest audience imaginable. I'm all for freedom and diversity when it comes to art purposes. I don't think there is a common goal and am happy about that.

OA: You have been involved in both solo and group shows. Does your process for selecting pieces to show differ based on who else is involved? How do you decide what pieces to put in a group show, as opposed to a solo show?
JJ: I was just in a really fun group show at Thrust Projects in Manhattan, and am now in a group show in Brooklyn, curated by Jon Lutz. I leave it to the curator to pick what goes in, usually hoping they will pick whatever I'm most excited about, which is usually whatever is most recent.
OA: How do you decide on a title for a given piece? Do you feel titles add to the overall presentation of a painting?
JJ: Titles are really important I feel, especially as my work gets more poetic. I think they can really contribute to the tone of a piece, especially if it's a little humorous. Usually they just come to me but sometimes I try to get my friends to help me with them if I'm stumped.

OA: I love your use of vibrant color. Do you feel that you have a set color pallet? Do you use color to evoke a particular emotion in the viewer of a piece?
JJ: Thanks! I don't really have a set palette. I've been using a lot of metallic paint lately because I like how it can be earthy, industrial and glamorous, sometimes all at the same time. I seem to be getting more romantic with my use of color, perhaps using it more metaphorically, whereas earlier I was more interested in thwarting any psychological connotations it might have had.

OA: What's next for Jasmine Justice?
JJ: Right now I'm working on a 26' wall piece for a museum in Amsterdam, W139. It will be part of a traveling group show I'm in, curated by the painter Leo de Goede, called Unlikely. I'm working on a film with my husband, Jesse Farber, that we're hoping to screen in May in Amsterdam, as part of Unlikely.

Bonus Questions:
OA: Coffee? If yes, what is your favorite type of coffee and where is your favorite coffee spot?
JJ: I live/work near Gimme Coffee on Lorimer, in Brooklyn. They have seriously excellent coffee and the best espresso I've had outside of Seattle. It's roasted in NY and always super fresh. My drink of choice is the small cappuccino but I also love plain old drip coffee.

OA: Do you listen to music while painting? Who are few of your favorites and does their music ever inform your work in any way?
JJ: I usually do listen to music while I work. I think it can impart certain kinds of energies or moods. I've been really addicted to Cheap Trick lately, but I like all different kinds of music. I'm really lucky because my husband is my personal dj, since we share workspace. He had radio shows in Boston at WZBC and some other stations and has a vast amount of music knowledge/interest. Lately, he's been on a late 70s-80s power pop kick, most of which I really like. Sometimes I listen to audio books too.

For more information on Jasmine Justice please visit her website.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Paint the Town Orange

March 22nd, 2008 - Mercury Lounge - New York, NY - Longwave
Review and images by Dominck Mastrangelo

Longwave have a new record due this year. "For better or worse," said lead singer Steve Schiltz between songs at Saturday night's sold-out show at the Mercury Lounge. With a set list consisting of material slated for the new, as yet unnamed record, and 2003's excellent The Strangest Things one might forget that in between they released another record, There's A Fire (2005). It wasn't until Schiltz mentioned that record prior to playing the album's closing track "Underneath You Know The Names" for the encore that I realized they hadn't played one song from it.

The record probably doesn't deserve to be dismissed as it was upon release or how Schiltz dismissed it on Saturday night, but weaving their stellar new songs with those from Strangest Things, Longwave did well to repress that record even further. New song "Satellites" allowed guitarist Shannon Ferguson to exercise the sea of pedals before him. With a high, siren-like shrill alternating with a hard-charging rock groove during the verse, the sounds that both Ferguson and Schiltz create with their guitars (and is signature to the band's sound) is dizzying at times. The decks of pedals laid out between the two is simply unreal.

The band worked in classics like "Tidal Wave" and "Wake Me When It's Over" from The Strangest Things and closed with a new/old song "Life Is Wrong." (The song resided on the band's MySpace page for almost 18 months.) A five-minute assault of thumping bass, drummer Jason Molina hammering away on his cymbals, and soaring, shimmering guitars. The song lets up for the first two lines of the second verse before it explodes again headlong toward a breathtaking finish. You'll go to a lot of concerts before you experience something as arresting as this song performed live.

For more information on Longwave visit their website or check out their myspace page.

New Release Tuesday

Head of Femur - Great Plains Listen to: Jetway Junior (mp3)
De Novo Dahl - Move Every Muscle, Make Every Sound (stream)
Counting Crows - Saturday Nights & Sunday Morning Listen to: When I Dream of Michelangelo (mp3)
Excepter - Debt Dept Listen to: Kill People (mp3)
Morgan Page - Elevate
Alone At 3AM - City Out of Luck
The B-52's - Funplex


Monday, March 24, 2008

The Orange Spotlight

Bess Rogers Decisions Based on Information (Self-Released, 4/8/2008)

Everyday we are faced with decisions, some are major and life-changing and others, like how many instruments to fill your album with, are in comparison minor. When faced with either decision the best way to address a decision is to first gather information then analyze said information until a logical decision can be made. Let's examine our second example, when asking the questions should I make music that is simply guitar, drums, and bass, or should I add violin, french horn, pirate drum, vibes, marimba, accordion, and so on? Now, I am not suggesting that exciting music can not be made using drum, guitar and bass, but the music of Bess Rogers is a carnival of sound, filled with thought, information, adventure. It is clear that this Brooklyn resident has done her homework and clearly made the right decisions.
Bess Rogers was born into music, her father built harpsichords and her mother played those harpsichords. She has a Master's Degree in Studio Composition and began recording this, her debut, album in 2006. She record most of these tracks with her good friend Dan Romer. Even though her debut album took two years to complete, you quickly get the feeling that is only the begin for Bess Rogers.

You and Me/I Would Never/Modern Man/Undone/Sunday (mp3)/Only One/Earthquake/Waltz me/Notice/See Me? See You!

MK Chavez Visitation (Kendra Steiner Editions, March 2008)

"It's better to die."

One of the hardest decisions a family has to make is how to care for their elderly. Do you care for them at home or do you put them in a home and promise to visit. Throughout my life I have had the unfortunate opportunity to visit a relative in a care facility, and there are several things that you will never forget about these visitations. The smells, the sights, the odd almost frightening encounters, the entire experience is tragic. Visitations begin to decrease in frequency, and in cases stop all together. There is an obligation, but there is dread and fear attached to each visit.

Visitations is the latest chapbook from MK Chavez, and it follows who the reader believes is a young boy visiting his Grandma. This eight part poem delves deep into mind and emotion of the journey and thought of visitation day.

There were only 77 copies of this chapbook printed, and I sit here pondering #22. To order your copy visit Kendra Steiner Editions, $4.

Paint the Town Orange

March 19th, 2008 - The House Cafe - DeKalb, IL - Crystal Castles w/ Health, Heart Shaped Hate, and Eyes
Review and Images by Chris Szostek

We trekked out to DeKalb on the 19th to hit "The House", a decent sized coffee house in the land of NIU that has shows. Tonight it was a hell of a line up, Heart Shaped Hate/ Health/ & Crystal Castles. Heart Shaped Hate, if you don't know them, are Natali Wiseman on vocals and synthesizers, and Jenna Horwath on drums. Natali's voice reminds me of Kathleen Hanna with more screaming. I'd never heard of this band before and was immediately hooked. You can check them out here.

Next up was Health. Health, holy hell let me tell you again. THIER NAME IS HEALTH (find them here). This is a noise band out of L.A. that sounds like the Liars (the good stuff, threw us in a trench era) mixed with some Sonic Youth + a little Radiohead. I'm really big on percussion so
this band hit me in the good spot. The show opened all nice and quiet, a little vocalization with some guitar action. It was a bit mellow, I was getting impressed and took some pics. Then, the singer disappears for a few seconds, and there is an explosion of sound accosting me. Oh, and the rest of the band decided to rise above the crowd so the rest of us could see them. What followed was an energetic showcase of insanity and talent on stage. Listen to crimewave (mp3), check the drum at 00:01:40.

Headlining was Crystal Castles (a.k.a multi-instrumentalist Ethan Kath and vocalist Alice Glass.)

The lights are turned off and nothing happens for awhile, out of nowhere we get some nice danceable beats and a flash of light. The source of light is the pixie sized Alice with her strobe light jumping about the stage and causing havoc.

Crystal Castles is Atari + Blondie + daft punk + the good parts of music in the 80's (good doesn't mean chart topping). Crystal Castles is the rainbow bright doll you found in the street on the way back to your car after a show. Crystal Castles is why the original white casiotone is a collectors item. You really can't explain them, they just exist. To see Crystal Castles is to see an epileptic dance troupe directed by herzog. Castles is conceptual, creative, and innovative.
Listen to Magic Spells at the 3:00 mark and you might get it. Crystal Castles put on an amazing show that I am happy to have been given the chance to witness.

Check them out here. I recommend "courtship dating" and listen to the last bit of "airwar davidwolfremix" Listen to: Magic Spells (mp3)

Next up on Paint the Town Orange: A review the March 22nd Longwave show at the Mercury Lounge (to be posted tomorrow, 3/25)

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Orange Alert's Music Minute

"We are a fuzz-pop band from Chicago". Fuzz-pop, I wasn't sure what to except, I mean I have heard the term before, but what exactly is fuzz-pop? Well, in the case of the Fake Fictions, this means gritty, near surf rock guitars, aggressive drums, and lo-fi recording. However, what truly makes this band band something special is the interplay of the vocals of Nick and Sarah.

On April 18th, Comptroller Records will release Krakatoa, Fake Fictions latest album.

Listen to: (Don't Drink the) Office Coffee (mp3)

To say a band has a sound all their is own to almost say nothing at all, but in the case of the newest addition to the Hometapes family, Stars Like Fleas, this is mostly true. Their music rests somewhere in the space between country music, atmospherics, the haze of Grizzly Bear. These Brooklyn boys really blend it all together nicely, and on their third studio album The Ken Burns Effect, Stars Like Fleas will really surprise a lot of people.

Listen to: I Was Only Dancing (mp3)

From the swampy depths of the Floridian Everglades, raised by an Amish Menonite Family comes Bluegrass Blues Punk Tour de Force Konrad Wert a.k.a. POSSESSED BY PAUL JAMES. Bearing that name in honour of his father and grandfather and armed with nothing but fiddle, banjo, guitar and a battered suitcase Possessed by Paul James sings, growls and hollers songs of love and loss and exorcises his demons live on stage - and now also on VOODOO RHYTHM RECORDS’ brand spanking new release COLD & BLIND. Having established himself as a local hero in Austin, Texas Wert did not waste time and quickly converted European audiences into disciples of his unique and infectious blend of fire and brimstone hollering and subtle Old Time Love Ballads. In spite of being a man of the earth and playing “good ‘ol time” instruments POSSESSED BY PAUL JAMES is not mimicking the past. To the contrary, his raw and desperate sound is the ideal soundtrack for uncertain times where questions outweigh the answers - a shot of untarnished wild human emotion to soothe our aching souls.

This is an intense blend of blood, sweat, and bluegrass!
Listen to: Love's Disease (mp3)

If you think this cover art insane you should listen to the first track of Awesome Color's second album, Electric Aborigines (out April 29th on Ecstatic Peace). The layers of sound relentlessly build to the point of near chaos, while the calming vocals of Derek Stanton float above the rhythmic and inviting noise. The way this trio attacks music is brutal, but it is a fair and needed dissection of the traditional. Awesome Derek, Awesome Allison, and Awesome Michael will be on tour this summer in Europe and may even have a few dates with the awesome Dinosaur Jr. To sum it all up in one word... Awesome!

Listen to: Eyes of Light (mp3)

Eric Avery was the original bassist an obscure band called Jane's Addiction. On April 8th he will release his debut solo effort, Help Wanted (Dangerbird Records), but it does seem like Eric wants the type of "help" most doctors are prescribing.

"Take him newborn from a shell/teach him how to buy and sell/ kill with a pill all of the dreams he lights/ his dark room by each night" from "Beside the Fire"

This album has one central focus lyrically, the evils of prescription medication. The album art follows suit while equating drugs to alien ship dumping blue and white liquid on the masses.
Musically, Eric combines traditional rock with every popular electronics. The true adventure lies in his stories of illness, dependency and destruction. The answers can be found at 866-929-4918.

Listen to: All Remote and No Control (mp3)

The Peel Back: Cibo Matto "Viva! La Woman" (Warner Bros., 1996)
The translation of the Italian phrase Cibo Matto is 'Crazy Food', and the debut full-length album Viva! La Women was filled with food. This album was released the year I graduate high school, and that summer I spent sometime a writing camp at Denison University. It was an incredible time spent learning and sharing with other writers. There were kids from all over the country, and all over the map creatively as well. My roommates name was Brian, and he was wildly original in every way (at least in my eyes), and I was drawn to his style and music collection. Sounds I had never heard before would soar through his stereo daily, and I took notes and tried not to sleep. On a day trip into the big city (Columbus, OH) we stumbled upon a tiny music store that carried used cds. We scoured the racks and stacks and walked away with Cibo Matto in hand.

This album combines food with hip-hop and electronic music to create something fun and addictive.

Apple/Beef Jerky/Sugar Water/White Pepper Ice Cream/Birthday Cake (mp3)/Know Your Chicken (mp3)/Theme/The Candy Man/Le Pain Perdu/Artichoke/Jive

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Watch List

1. Eyes: You need to listen to this one twice, or at least I had to. This past week I saw Eyes open for The Crystal Castles, and they were not on top of their game, honestly it wasn't good. However, I did enjoy the crazy electronic sounds, and I felt there might be potential. After the show they handed my a cd, and all was forgiven. Programmed beats, electric guitar, and wild talked/screamed vocals, this Chicago band is truly one to watch. Listen to: Catch a Charge (mp3)
2. Organ Wolf: Chicago boys making progressive atmospheric rock... This music sounds as through a very talented wolf sat down and tried to play the keyboard. Plenty of organ, plenty of synth, plenty of fun! Listen to: Candy Factory (mp3)
3. Marcus Coloma: Los Angeles pop singer (that's right, pop) combines grit with melody, and wears nice sunglasses. He's the ex bassist of Big Japan and is looking at releasing his solo album later this year. Listen to: Dropped (mp3)

1. A Place to Call Home, Chapter One by Robert Duffer: This is the first chapter of Chicago writer Robert Duffer's yet to be published novel. There is more on Mr. Duffer coming soon.
2. "Spring" by Regina McGrew: Six Sentences has been around for a couple of years, but it was just discovered by yours truly. I am now hooked!
3. "When I Was Air" by Deborah McCarroll: There are just certain memories that remain clearer then others.
4. "We Sing To Each Other" by Corey Messler: The way men communicate has always fascinated me.
5. "No Future" by Wayne Mason: I've seen that look before.
6. "Morning Light" by Jason Fisk: I have been looking for a Chicago Poet, and I do believe I just found one.

1. "A Lifetime of Mondays" by Wayne Mason: Speaking of Wayne Mason, this is his third chapbook. I really enjoy Wayne working class venom and boredom mix. $6
2. Dream That Would Drown Most Men by John Dorsey & Amanda Oaks: Published by Rose of Sharon Press and designed by S.A. Griffin, this book (not chap, full book) is limited to 50 copies, all signed. Payable to S.A. Griffin Rose of Sharon Press P.O. Box 29171 Los Angeles, CA 90027-0171 $20pp
3. "Mississippi" by Jennifer Davis: Tiny Showcase announced their Spring Print collection, and I was pleased to find a print from Jennifer Davis amoung the other great prints. $30
4. Slack Art Stickers + Pins: Only 70 packs were made, so get one before they are gone. $9.50

1. Woosta Issue #1: It seems like every more there is a new art mag, but they are all great.
2. MP3 Goodies: Meho Plaza - Love Plus One (Haircut 100 cover) (mp3) Newton Faulkner - Dream Catch Me (mp3)

1. F*** Buttons "Bright Tomorrow": Great video from an oddly titled band.
2. A Faulty Chromosome "Jackie O": Sun drenched and ready for the summer!
3. James Eric "Could've Been Like Ben": A look a things to come... very good questions, James.
4. The Exploring the Drawing World of Ria Brodell: Ria is an incredible artist who has been on my list for a while now. This video is really a neat concept.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Band of the Week

The Sapiens

When I say Chicago music scene what is the first thing that comes to mind? I suppose it would depend on your age, but for me the early 90's were not as much about Seattle as they were about Chicago. There were about a couple of bald headed guys (Billy Corgan & Josh Caterer), Certain Distant Suns, Jesus Lizard, Veruca Salt, and so on. Today the scene is much more eclectic, when critics compile their lists of bands to watch in Chicago they may include a few hip hop acts, or an r&b singer, or a hazy folk singer, but there are a few bands in this city who still hold dear the sounds that made Chicago the place to be. These bands, like The Sapiens, acknowledge their roots, but move forward in style and sound.

The Sapiens are a young band from Chicago who recently released their latest ep, Vs. The Hornet. The play straight rock 'n roll, and play it fashion. The suits that they wear add an extra touch of class to this up-and-coming band.

Recently, Charlie and Evan of The Sapiens were kind enough to answer a few of my questions.

Orange Alert (OA): You were recently named one of the "10 new Chicago acts that should be heard", what are your thoughts on the Chicago current Chicago music scene? I'm mean the venues are still here, but will we always be living in the shadow of the '90's?
Charlie: Probably, but I think I'm okay with that as long as the bands in the 2010's are living in the shadow of the 2000's. Also, I still haven't figured out how to refer to these decades.
Evan: I suppose to some people, everything was better "back in the day." For some things, yes- such as Pizza Hut's "Bigfoot" pizza, or maybe my beloved Oldsmobile Delta 88 (RIP), those will always be better than their modern counterparts. As far as Chicago music goes, it seems like we have a bunch of small scenes within the big picture, much like the neighborhoods of our city. I think if more music lovers came out to support and cross-pollinate the individual scenes, we could have a real community here. The artists are ready for it.

OA: Is there a "Chicago Sound"?
Evan: Yeah it sounds like: "Bing-Bong! Doors Closing."
Charlie: I think if you look at the bands making noise in Chicago and tried to find the "Chicago Sound" your head would hurt.

OA: You recently self-released your second ep, Vs. The Hornet. Is the band looking for a label, or has the process of self-releasing and power that new technologies and "new media" made the small indie label obsolete?
Evan: We are not actively seeking out label representation at this time. I'm not sure if the indie label is obsolete, but I will agree that the power of new technology is the reason why The Sapiens and bands like us have been able to do what we do.

OA: Is there a full-length album planned for the near future?
Evan: We are very close to wrapping up the writing stages of our first full-length album and hope to release it near the end of the year.
Charlie: We're really excited to get back into the studio with the new material. This album should show some new dimensions of The Sapiens. Some sexy dimensions.

OA: You have a show coming up on 4/3 at The Note, what can people except from The Sapiens live performance? Do you always were suits?
Evan: People can always expect a very energetic show. That, along with the suits, is something that we've always done since Day One. The suits have seen various stages of refinement -- now we're rockin' vests with ties -- but the live show is always a good time for us, and that feeds the audience.
Charlie: Our live performance is what we really pride ourselves on. We always make it fun to watch what's happening on stage.

OA: What's next for The Sapiens?
Evan: Aside from working on the new album, we are continually on the lookout for someone who will drive the van for free.
Charlie: More mini tours. Less van-breaking-downs.

Bonus Questions:
OA: Coffee? If yes, what is your favorite type of coffee and where is your favorite coffee spot?
Charlie: Yes. Intelligentsia. Lots of it.
Evan: Barely ever.

OA: What was the last great book you read?
Evan: Re-read Lord of the Flies. Awesome. Currently reading Chuck Klosterman "V."
Charlie: The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen

Vs. The Hornet
Push Me/Void/Every Corner (mp3)/Cry/Desperate Measures/Waitress, Waitress (mp3)

For more information on The Sapiens please visit their website and don't forget to check out their myspace page. To order your copy of Vs. The Hornet visit CDBaby or itunes.

Reader Meet Author

David Blaine

Does being a published poet change the value of your work, and what is meant by value? Basically, the value of a poem rests solely with the reader. The poet places thought and perception on a page, but it is the audience that adds the value. This may or may not be monetary value, this may be the value of understanding, this may be the value of awareness and communication. In order for a poet to be heard he or she must first find an audience. This applies to all art forms, even if it is the soiled alley cat behind the building or the homeless man who believes you are Walt Whitman (he also believes he is Walt Whitman), the ones who hear and spread the word are priceless. The poet does gain monetary wealth, he or she gains respect and well-deserved attention.

One poet who deserves respect is Michigan's David Blaine. His work has been widely published in print and on-line, but more importantly he continues to care for his craft and respects the word. He is happily involved with The Guild of the Outsider Writers, and he also conducts workshops and readings on a regular basis in the community.

Recently, David was kind enough to answer a few of my questions.

Orange Alert (OA): On your blog you list two chapbooks ( "A Fine Feathered Faith" and "The View From Here") available for purchase through paypal. Are they self-released? What can you tell us about each of them?
David Blaine (DB): Yes, they are both self-published. Faith came out in 2005 because so many people, on and off line, had asked if I was going to publish a book. I laid out the manuscript myself in Microsoft Publisher, composed the cover image, and had fifty copies run off at a local print shop. They sold out within a couple of months. I mailed copies around the world. Some people bought three or four at a time to give as gifts.

The poems in Faith are faith-based poems, but not what I’d call religious. With titles like “God Explains How It’s Supposed to Work” and “God Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” well, you do the math.

View came about because I’d grown disillusioned with my earlier work. I think a lot of poets experience this. I’m now disillusioned with most of the work in View as well. But I realize that all these poems still continue to find an audience. John G Hall just wrote me yesterday to say that he’d really enjoyed Shadow Life. He’d just read A Fine Feathered Faith for the first time.

When I self-published that first book I was naïve. I didn’t realize the stigma attached to self-publishing. But when I produced View, well, a lot of those poems had already been published in print and e-zines, so I felt somewhat validated by that. Someone besides my mother thought I didn’t suck. But I also didn’t care what traditional writers and publishers thought. No one is going to pay me for my work either way, and I’m not paying to enter a “contest” to win a book deal. It’s not that important to me. I have received an inquiry of interest from a young publishing company this past year though. Perhaps I’m about to leave the self-published realm without jumping through anyone’s hoops.

OA: You are a supporter of The Guild of the Outsider Writers. What are your thoughts on the community feel of poetry, a solitary craft, fostered by groups like OW and the Guerilla Poetics Project?
DB: There was a time back after the Civil War (Just Kidding!) when they didn’t have the internet. Writers were influenced by regional schools (with an “h”) and movements.

That was interesting, past tense. Now we can be influenced by a wider variety of writers from all over the globe. Writing is a solitary endeavor. We don’t create art by consensus. But true constructive criticism from a wide variety of skilled writers can be invaluable. And it’s important to read widely and deeply. Something aided, again, by the online community.

OW and GP are doing good work by showcasing poets who have been disenfranchised by the academy. I don’t hate the academy, but I don’t support it either.

A few privileged people shouldn’t be the only ones to declare who gets showcased.

I really enjoy the people I work with at OW. They reflect a wide variety of ages, locales, educations and tastes. And their editing bears the fruit of that diversity.

OA: Is poetry meant to be a product? If so, how can we make poetry and the poet more marketable?
DB: Is love meant to be a product? The first poet probably wrote the first poem on the back of a bar napkin, trying to get a young woman to go home with him. Seriously, it was probably to entertain his village. It was to express himself. Art has always been something supported by patrons, not purchased by customers. Even now, if you want to buy an autographed first edition of Carl Sandburg’s poetry, you’ll be shelling out major coin, but if you’ll accept a used library copy, it’s almost free. So what are people paying for? Collectibles, not art.

If you want to make poetry marketable, in my opinion, change the format. Put poems in a cookbook. Have spoken word tracks in between songs on a CD. Sell poems on bumper stickers. Wait, you’re doing that now, aren’t you?

OA: How has "new media" (i.e. blogs, myspace, etsy, lulu) affected you as a writer? What do you think the future holds for new media and poetry?
DB: Well, the chance to read the work of new writers from around the world has been fabulous. But it’s too easy to waste time online. Sites like Facebook are getting so silly with the polls and add-on’s they put in front of you. Online is frosting on the cake. The cake is hard work. The cake is reading, writing and getting out in public to recite. After all these years I’m starting to get local recognition. People stop me on the street and ask if I’ve written anything new. They want impromptu readings. Of course, being a ham, I oblige.

In non-literary ways, the “new media” has had more of an impact. I stopped subscribing to the newspaper. There’s little in there that I haven’t already read online. And the net is great for research. Who said, “Those who forget history are destined to repeat it?” Just Google and you’ll know.

If you want to be on the bleeding edge of new media, put your work out as podcasts and get it up on Bittorrent. But that’s not going to earn you a paycheck.

OA: Has teaching poetry to the next generation changed the way you view your own work in any way? What is one thing you have learned from teaching others?
DB: What I’ve learned is people are desperate for celebrity. It is embarrassing to be introduced as “a published poet.” As if that was something. It’s caused me to come up with a new term, a practicing poet. Imagine, David Blaine, L.P.P. (Licensed Practical Poet). Sounds good, eh? I thought about it. I spend a lot of time studying the art and craft, reading the masters, the avant garde, writing my own work, brainstorming with other poets, going to readings, open mics, and now, conducting workshops. It’s an amalgamation of activity centered around poetry, and I love it.

And I’ve learned that the next generation is so much like every other generation. Full of adolescent angst, dreaming of becoming a literary rock star, assuming if they published a book people would beat down their door. (Sigh…)

OA: What's next for David Blaine?
DB: My wife and I are going to the UK and Ireland on Easter Sunday. I don’t know if I’ll get a chance to recite in public there, nothing is planned, but if anyone asks, I’ve always got a handful of pieces on the tip of my tongue. I go up without a net, hands empty, no paper.

As for the rest, I’ll keep working at what I love and let the future run its course. When I feel like I can’t do anything to further my own work, I like to help other writers. I’ve produced chapbooks for other poets, and of course I help at The Guild of Outsider Writers.

Bonus Questions:
OA: I recently read a cigar review you had written. What is your favorite cigar and what is the most poetic aspect of the cigar?
DB: The best cigar I’ve smoked so far is a Cohiba Black, which my son bought for me as a gift. I can’t afford those though, so there was just the one. A good cigar strikes me differently on different days. My pallet has to be in tune for it, and when that happens, even a moderately priced cigar can become a religious experience. I’d say the same thing about a glass of red wine. And maybe both of those are like poetry, because when I’m distracted, worried, and aggravated, I just can’t appreciate poetry. The “pallet” has to be in tune there as well.

OA: Many believe that music, specifically jazz, and poetry are somehow connected. What is your favorite type of music, and do you ever listen music while you write?
DB: I have very eclectic taste in music, although I rarely listen to Polka. Jazz and Chicago style blues are among my favorites though. I think musical compositions imply and infer things without using words, and poems do the same type of thing with the connotations of their words. I don’t listen to music when I write though, I don’t even keep the TV on. I am an auditory learner, and I listen to my words as I type them. (I almost always compose at the keyboard.) Music might inspire a poem, but when it’s time to write it, the music gets turned off.

For more information on David Blaine, please visit his website.