10 Questions with Chris Picciuolo of The Uncle Steves

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one small dreamchris
1: How would you characterize your music?

C: I would say my music is quite simply a bunch of sounds and melodies patched together during desperate times.

2: What is one early music experience that made a deep impression on you//made you rethink what music can sound like//has helped shape the music you make today?

C: My first music experience was when I would play these weird little tunes at on the piano at my Grandparent’s house. I was a sensitive kid, probably 6 years old. I remember my Grandpa sitting in his chair just listening, and when I was done, he told me that I sounded alright but I could use some lessons. For some reason, that always struck a chord with me, and he very well could have meant it in a positive way. But I took it hard. I don’t think I played piano again for a long time. I got my first snare drum, rented from the Catholic School I was attending. I had a couple of lessons in the convent basement, but I did poorly and remember feeling like I wish I could take off the sound pad on top of the snare. I wanted to really hit that thing. The nuns didn’t like that. I think what helped shape my music is that need to do the opposite of what people always told me to do. I never got piano or drum lessons, and I took each instrument up by ear over the years, starting in my mid-teens. I know that sounds stubborn and it probably is. But that stubbornness really is the main driving force behind the music I make.

3. What is usually your process when creating//writing a new song?

C: It can vary on the day, really. It all depends on if I have the will to record at any given moment. The only time I plan to record is during short spurts of house-sitting for a friend, in his basement. Other than that, I will usually just have to want to make time to set up the microphone on my computer and pull out an acoustic guitar and whatever random percussion I have sitting around.

4. Where can we find your music//what have you done to make your music available?

C: I have my music available to purchase on theunclesteves.bandcamp.com

I’ve made a handful of music videos that I directed that are up on Youtube. I think the name is, “TheUncleSteves” on there. So, youtube.com/TheUncleSteves
I’ve tried selling my albums online but after the first album or two, I declined in the amount of people buying. It started to only be acquaintances, close friends, or family who would buy.

5. What is a recent musician//band//music that you are excited about?

C: Well, they’re not recent-recent. But I am pretty excited about Dr. Dog and Hacienda. Those are some talented fellows.

6. How would you describe the music climate in your home when you were a child?

C: Not very many instruments until I got my first drum set at 15. It was a Royce kit, pretty cheap. But there was always a cassette in the house playing The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Willie Nelson, Peter Paul and Mary, etc. A bunch of different artists from that era.

7. Is style//image important to you and if so what//who do you consider cool in music?

C: I think an honest style and image is important. If wearing traffic cones on your head works for you, do it. As long as you carry it well. I consider bands like Little Dragon and Black Moth Super Rainbow to be pretty damn cool, especially when it comes to style and image, from album covers to live performances to press photos. I really connect to their imagery.

8. What song do you want playing at your funeral?

C: I’ve never really thought about this one. I’m not sure of an exact song, maybe the whole White Album or a collection of old blues tunes from the 1920’s. Maybe some Spice Girls. I want to make it a weird one.

9. Why music and why do you make it?

C: Music is the one thing that has consistently kept me looking forward to life over the years. I make it because I have to. If I’m not making music, I feel like that’s one less collection of sounds I can throw out into the universe and I want to do as much music as possible before I die.

10. If I should listen to one undiscovered musician//song today who//what should I check out?

C: Possessed by Paul James is up there, although he has had some mild success lately. It helps to be backed by a label, as small as the label might be. Pocket Vinyl is another one that comes to mind, Husband and wife duo. He plays keys and sings while she paints lovely pieces on stage. Check out their record, “Death Anxiety” Great stuff.

Visit The Uncle Steves at:

10 Questions with Clara Engel

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ashes & tangerines

1. How would you characterize your music?

C: I might call it aquamarine, formally-ambivalent, feeling music.

2. What is one early music experience that made a deep impression on you//made you rethink what music can sound like//has helped shape the music you make today?

C: When I was a teenager and I first heard CAN, Jacques Brel, and Patti Smith, (all around the same time), it collapsed the divides between poet/musician/artist. I realized I could embrace all of those ways of making work at once.

3. What is usually your process when creating//writing a new song?

C: It mostly begins with words. I write fragments and phrases in notebooks — often phrases I overhear or that pop out at me from something I’m reading, and then songs kind of sprout from them over time, over the course of many re-writes. It’s a fairly rigorous but also unselfconscious process so I can’t dissect it — or maybe I’m afraid to.

4. Where can we find your music//what have you done to make your music available?

C: The best place to find my music is on Bandcamp, if you want to get it directly from me. In terms of physical albums: I have a vinyl release with Vox Humana Records (UK), and another one with Backwards Records (IT). Unperceived Records (DE) will be releasing a new EP of mine on CD in 2015. Wyrd Distro still has a few cassette tapes left from a release I did this past year with TO label, Arachnidiscs Recordings. I have done quite a few small-run releases with boutique labels.

5. What is a recent musician//band//music that you are excited about?

C: I just discovered the music of Tara Jane O’Neil — she’s been making work for a long time, but it’s new to me. I’m listening to “After A Dark Seven” right now. Her guitar playing is wonderful.

6. How would you describe the music climate in your home when you were a child?

C: When I was really young my dad would play the guitar and sing with me, and I preferred the long and (in my mind) more serious folk songs. There was a lot of classical piano music in the background too for most of my childhood. I was never drawn to the piano. I tried to sneakily borrow cassette tapes from my older sister, Nirvana’s “Nevermind” in sixth grade is the one I remember most vividly.

7. Is style//image important to you and if so what//who do you consider cool in music?

C: The conflation of image and music (or of artist and persona) frustrates me. I think the work needs to come first for me to be interested in what someone is doing. We’re being manipulated pretty heavily when we start basing our opinions of art and music on how “cool” someone appears or how compelling or valuable their personality is made out to be via publicity. Also, high school sucked way too much for me to seek out that social dynamic ever again in my lifetime. Not that I don’t appreciate an original look or a sharp outfit, but costume and compelling-personality-narrative just doesn’t make the music itself more interesting to me. I kind of envy authors a bit because they don’t seem to be expected to perform a persona as much as musicians are… its seems like it’s more optional for them.

8. What song do you want playing at your funeral?

C: Funerals are more for the benefit of the people who love you who are left living — so they can pick.

9. Why music and why do you make it?

C: I don’t know why I need to do it, but I do, or I am a wreck. I think I am a person who needs a practice of some sort to make life seem less formless and chaotic. I’ve never had a religion, so I don’t know what that’s like — but creating songs is the closest thing I have to a spiritual practice; it transcends the pettier aspects of my life and my character, and it’s also how I make sense of the world. It’s been a way of salvaging something from painful experiences.

10. If I should listen to one undiscovered musician//song today who//what should I check out?

C: Check out Tsinder Ash. He has a fantastically singular approach to songwriting and singing… very earthy and otherworldly at the same time. He has one album up on Bandcamp, and has a new release coming out in 2015.


Visit Clara Engel at:

http://claraengel.net/

http://claraengel.bandcamp.com/


10 Questions with Verena von Horsten

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verena

1. How would you characterize your music?

V: Rock with a lot of old synthesizer sounds and heavy drum beats. For several years I played the piano until I was fed up with its sounds. A friend of mine gave me an old synthesizer, a Juno 109, and voila there was a whole album… Along with heavy drum beats the songs contain a lot emotions and sometimes they can be dark too.

2. What is one early music experience that made a deep impression on you//made you rethink what music can sound like//has helped shape the music you make today?

V: Live records of Leonard Cohen and Bob Marley on tapes. Listening to these live songs -as I was a child- was mind blowing to me. The sound was so full of life and freedom. I pictured a wide horizon that made me feel I could fly. And classical music by Russian composers: Most of these compositions are wild, honest, deep,dark and free.

But I guess the most important fact that shaped my music was the way I was raised up: both of my parents are very much messed up. I had to follow their madness every second without saying a word. As a child I could not raise my voice against them. This led to a bunch a really sick problems that I only was able to express or somehow able to deal with doing music. There I found my voice and to say things out loud and at the same time the courage to show my vulnerability.

3. What is usually your process when creating//writing a new song?

V: For 3 years I was working on my upcoming record! Not only that I recorded and produced myself but most importantly every time I was trying to write a song I began to cry. Every single note I played made me remember my brother who died 2 years ago of suicide. I do not say he commit suicide. I say he died of suicide, like to die of cancer.. It’s still hard to write songs. I considered myself as a daily writer. I was writing songs, playing the piano and I sang just because I loved it. My heart was always open so I could let things come out of me. But when my brother died and even a year before he died, when he had his first attempt, tears, sorrow and helplessness always overcame me. I could not feel these sentiments every day! So I stopped doing music. Sometimes for several months.. At the beginning I thought I will will be able to do any music again. But one day I went to a medium. She told me a lot about my brother. And that he wishes I would do more music. I guess I would feel the same way if I was dead. I would not want people to stop their life just because I am dead. I would wish they had a happy and fulfilling life… After many dark moments and grief things are getting slowly better and I am able to release this record…and yes it will be about grief, crisis, death but as well how we can find the way out of the darkness and learn that these dark moments are there to teach us something.

4. Where can we find your music//what have you done to make your music available?

V: Uff, too many places: Youtube, Itunes, Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Spotify, Facebook, Homepage blablabla.. I feel like I want to do a lot more concerts. That’s where the music really happens and comes alive. My last concerts where in New York which were a blast! They gave me much and I felt that my music could give people a lot too.

5. What is a recent musician//band//music that you are excited about?

V: Prince Rama. They are signed to Animal Collectives Label,.They’re from Brooklyn. And: they are really crazy. I like crazy people. People who are kinda on the edge of something I call “out of order”. Our world becomes more and more organized and controlled and we follow unsaid rules. i.e. do we have a respected profession, do we wear the latest fashion, shoes, do we have a cool bike, nail polish, money, the latest iphone, a car, do we eat healthy food, work out, be skinny, maybe have a house…I mean we all do those things. Even I do. I buy clothes that I like to express my personality – if I can afford them. I work out, I dance and jump around in my apartment. But those things should not affect your self confidence or even worse, DEFINE you. Your self confidence should not be defined by those things! And you shouldn’t feel less worth if you can’t live your life this or that way .. Many of us, me too, we feel good only if we have certain things in our life that are unconsciously considered as “good”. i.e. as a musician I only feel good if I write a spectacular song, or if I can do a show at this or that venue. Or if I sell enough records. Or if I get good press reviews.Or if I get signed to an awesome label.. We feel good if we achieved something, if we can afford to buy things or get the success people are proud or jealous of…. But doing so we are only obeying. We don’t choose freely what kind of things in life makes us happy. No. We let people, society tell us what makes us happy in life. Or lets put it that way: We THINK this is how everybody does it so it must be right. We don’t even know what other people really think. But we act as if we know. Because we are told, educated and raised that way. But do this kind of system really makes us happy?

I think we somehow feel that these kind of things are not truly the ones that makes us happy. Therefore we try harder and harder in achieving and getting more and more. And it still doesn’t make us happy. Some people get burnout or are suffering from depression or the really worst case, they die of suicide. It’s a vicious circle. It’s as Albert Einstein said: Madness is if you repeat doing things the same way by expecting a new result. I do think we all are very mad nowadays. Which actually is a good sign. Nothing is normal. But we want things to be normal. We can’t stand the madness. People with a approach to mad things, people who dare to be mad might understand and have the courage and the faith to do the things they really love. If we do so, if we do things we really love ,then we might have a chance to experience a moment of wholeness. A moment where you don’t need nothing more but yourself. A moment in which you feel whole. I wish that many more people had that chance. that we as a society would give every human being the chance to feel such moments in their life. And to share them with other people. As an artist you let the art speek through yourself. Music can make you forget things around you. And can make you experiencing what life could be all about.

6. How would you describe the music climate in your home when you were a child?

V: Very diverse. My mother is Turkish. I only spent 10 years with her. Then my parents get divorced. Until then I was listening to the Beatles, Elvis Presley but as well, Turkish folk music, Greek folk Music and Reggae. After the divorce of my parents me and my brother stayed with our father and he married a Colombian woman. I then experienced a lot of other music like Mercedes Sosa, Pablo Neruda, Maria Callas, Pink Floyd.. As you can see i came in touch with a bunch of different music. It all helped me to understand that music is freedom. And that I can do whatever I want in music. Even more, I think it’s the most important thing if you are an artist maybe even as a human being: Do what comes from within. Experience that unique thing that is yourself and train it, do the best out of it and people will understand that your art is not to impress others or to follow a given image but to show how we can liberate ourselves.

7. Is style//image important to you and if so what//who do you consider cool in music?

V: Style can help people to understand your image. And your image should express your personality. If style is simply used to be stylish in the sense of being fashionable, I don’t like it. Then it’s boring to me. But if I see that your style is reflecting your personality then it’s interesting to me.

8. What song do you want playing at your funeral?

V: Never thought of that. My brother wanted Amazing Graze to be sang at his funeral. I sang it for him and to him. But before that I did some research on the internet. I wanted to understand why he choosed that song. Because he surely looked it up! I learned that the song was written by John Newton, a captain involved in atlantic slave trade. His ship was hit by a violent storm one day, so he begged for mercy. The ship and the crew as well the slaves survived the storm and Newton thought that god have given him a second chance. He then gave up trade with slavery and became part of the fight against slavery.

..I assume that my brother felt very guilty for a lot of things and might have thought that death could bring him freedom and redemption. I don’t agree with my brother regarding his feelings that he needed to be forgiven but I agree with the message of the song, that every person can be forgiven regardless of what he or she did when that person is ready to take the responsibility for his action. By the way I don’t think suicide need to be forgiven at all or is a selfish action. And now I quote somebody from Facebook: “I often wonder how many suicides could be avoided if we as a society decided to treat mental health with the same serious nature that we address our physical health. Somewhere along the way we became uncomfortable talking about it. We decided that people who commit suicide are selfish — that they didn’t love those closest to them because SURELY they wouldn’t want to put them through that heartache. I can’t believe that for a second. These are beautiful people that bring a lot of joy to those in their life.”

I don’t think death is the end at all. I believe in a sort of afterlife and that we all are still alive after being dead. I sometime even speak to my brother – mad I know! But I got a slight impression he likes to talk to me too. And he compares those conversation with as if you would call somebody on the phone. You don’t see each other, you can’t touch the other person but you know the person is there cause you are talking to her, right?

9. Why music and why do you make it?

V: First it was the only place where I felt totally free. It was the place I experienced freedom and the only place where I truly felt like me. But now life becomes freer and freer to me. And music becomes the place where I can put these experiences I have in my life in and share them with people.

10. If I should listen to one unknown musician//song today who//what should I check out?

V: Unfortunately the song of the woman I wanted to share with you is not available because she does not want to share it..yet. So I suggest you to follow this blog about humans of New York on Facebook. Reading the posts AND the comments help me learn a lot about people and their life:
https://www.facebook.com/humansofnewyork?fref=ts

Humans of New York


Visit at:

http://www.verenavonhorsten.com


Songs from Verena von Horsten’s upcoming album

10 Questions with Zachary Friederich

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zachary friederich

1. How would you characterize your music?

Z: It all feels like Pop to me. Like most people, I’m influenced by all kinds of things and they’re just put in a kind of songwriting blender and mixed up and poured out. I tend to hop around genres. I guess one thing that I tend to focus on is storytelling.

2. What is one early music experience that made a deep impression on you//made you rethink what music can sound like//has helped shape the music you make today?

Z: One of the earliest things I remember is taking my parents Beatles LPs and recording them onto blank cassettes so I could listen to them over and over. I also remember that my older brother had the first Violent Femmes album and I would take that tape and listen to it every night as I fell asleep. I was in like fourth grade, I think. I couldn’t have possibly related to the subject matter but it really drew me in. And I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I thought Marty McFly was supercool when he played “Johnny B Goode.”

3. What is usually your process when creating//writing a new song?

Z: Well, I try to be open to anything that comes. A lot of times with the music, I noodle around until I find something catchy and then build from there. Lyrically, I guess it’s kind of the same, but I’ll have this inner voice or muse or whatever you want to call it. It will lead me in a direction and I just try to follow it. A lot of the times it will tell me what happens in a story and I’ll just take the characters from point A to point B in the verse lines. Sometimes, if I’m lucky, I’ll stumble onto some kind of truth about life or love or whatever.

4. Where can we find your music//what have you done to make your music available?

Z: All of my music is available as free downloads at https://soundcloud.com/zacharyfriederich

5. What is a recent musician//band//music that you are excited about?

Z: Most of the new music I listen to is on Soundcloud. A couple of my favorites are Naked House, dubious rothchild, Nicholas Burke. There are so many talented people just releasing their stuff DIY.

6. How would you describe the music climate in your home when you were a child?

Z: No one in my family was a musician but they were all music lovers. My parents listened to a lot of classic rock and so I didn’t have to go far to discover The Stones and Led Zeppelin and most importantly, The Beatles, which is the music that really made me want to do this. My older brother listened to a lot of what they called back then “College Rock,” so that’s where I heard The Pixies for the first time and they were a pretty big influence.

7. Is style//image important to you and if so what//who do you consider cool in music?

Z: It’s not that important to me. I mean, I think 1966 Bob Dylan looks really cool but that’s not the reason I think he’s great. He’s great because “Visions Of Johanna” is a breathtaking piece of art. I think style is a great way to sell things to the masses but it certainly doesn’t dictate talent. The thing in music that I’ve always thought was the coolest was smart lyric writing. When I think about the music that has influenced me most, Dylan, The Beatles, The Clash, The Pixies, that’s the thread that ties them together.

8. What song do you want playing at your funeral?

Z: One of mine, I guess. I mean, it’s my funeral. Luckily, I will get to dodge the task of being funeral DJ.

9. Why music and why do you make it?

Z: I don’t know. I have these songs in me and I have to get them out. It’s just what I do. I have to.

10. If I should listen to one undiscovered musician//song today who//what should I check out?

Z: If you want to hear a great song go check out “My Scarlet Black” by Black Hole Future. Just awesome. https://soundcloud.com/black-hole-future/my-scarlet-black