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Local Music Notebook: Albini In Toyland

"Honestly, the biggest problem with music has always been the encroachment of outside industry into what functions best as a self-sufficient community, and that hasn't changed," Steve Albini tells Maureen Herman in a fresh interview this month at Boing Boing.

The difference is that now the record business is only a small influence relative to the corporate influence over live venues, ticket sales, merchandising and sponsorship.

To the extent bands keep their shit together and manage their own affairs, now is a better time than ever to be in a band.

You can record really efficiently, put a video on YouTube, release albums on Bandcamp, sell your merchandise using PayPal, fund bigger projects on Kickstarter, press up your own albums, book your own tours and keep all the money. It's totally conceivable to run a band as a small business now, and that's a new and radical development.

Anybody complaining about the new paradigm has simply refused to take advantage of it, and for a street-level musician the change in the industry has been fantastic.

Whenever I see some industry dinosaur pining for the old days of the sharecropper system the big labels operated on I feel about the same way I did watching the Quincy episode about punk rock.

Bitching about how different things are now betrays a profound and malignant kind of stupid.

I highly recommend reading the entire interview.


"Maureen Herman is a writer and executive director of Project Noise, a nonprofit that serves to amplify the impact of nonprofits and raise awareness about critical social issues.

"She is the former bassist of Reprise/Warner Bros. recording artists Babes in Toyland and was previously Associate Editor of Musician magazine.

"She lives in Los Angeles with her Awesome and Adorable daughter."


From Neal Karlen's pretty awesome Babes in Toyland: The Making and Selling of a Rock and Roll Band:

By day, Maureen Herman worked as a secretary to the chairman of the English department at Chicago's Columbia College and tutored students in the college computer lab. By night she played bass guitar in a bar band called Cherry Rodriguez and studied for her degree in film.

Maureen had gotten to know Babes in Toyland when she'd lived in Minneapolis a year or two before and attended the University of Minnesota. Her boyfriends there were big shots on the local music scene. Mo never played an instrument, she just hung around with the handsome men who did. Though always very talented and relatively successful, these boyfriends, unfortunately, were still musicians.

And then, while coed Mo was living with a leader of the Minneapolis punk kings the Cows, it hit her. She didn't want to live any longer off the rock-and-roll glow generated by these egomaniacal puds. Shy Mo, in the most daring act of her life, went out and bought a guitar. No one noticed on the local music scene, because she was a girl, and because she was Maureen, the girlfriend.

In time she joined a Minneapolis bar band, but she ultimately decided to move home to Chicago because she hated the heroin scene then enveloping the Minneapolis music community.

Despite her day job in academe, Maureen just seemed like a bass player. Like the archetypal bass players, the Rolling Stones' Bill Wyman and the Who's John Entwistle, Maureen was tall, laconic, and reserved, a musician who preferred to hang on the side of the stage while her band mates showed off.

Maureen was quiet, but she was also blazingly funny. Her humor translated best on paper, and she delighted in writing satires and parodies for her writing classes. Growing up as the second youngest child of a schoolteacher and a corporate executive, she hung out in high school with the literary crowd, and, like [original Babes bassist] Michelle Leon, had fancied herself a junior anarchist. Back then she'd busied herself writing incendiary editorials for the school newspaper and short stories for herself.

Lori [Barbero] and Kat [Bjelland] invited Maureen up to Minneapolis for an audition; after playing for them once, she was offered the job as bass player for Babes in Toyland. Yes, Maureen said, she wanted in.

I highly recommend the book.

Loopy Lupe
"The U.S. national team is set to receive an injection of hip-hop beats and a lyrical hype ahead of next month's World Cup in Brazil."


"U.S. Soccer announced on Tuesday the signing of Grammy Award-winning recording artist Lupe Fiasco as music director for the USMNT's run through the upcoming Send-Off Series and 2014 World Cup.

"Building on the One Nation. One Team. theme, Fiasco will collaborate with U.S. Soccer in a variety of areas over the next six weeks. He will also create a public Spotify playlist and handle in-game music programming during the Send-Off Series,"

Oh, good; I know I couldn't get properly psyched over the next six weeks without a public Spotify playlist as my soundtrack.


Here's what Michael Hann of the Guardian had to say about it:

It being the United States, they don't have pre-World Cup friendlies, they have the "Send-off Series," with Google+ Hangouts with players, public training sessions, invitations to the public to share messages of support via social media, an intriguing event called "Men in Blazers at the Town Hall," and - lest we forget - three games, against Azerbaijan, Turkey and Nigeria. Naturally, that needs a music director.

And who better than Chicago MC Lupe Fiasco, who "will be creating Spotify playlists, in collaboration with his DJ group the SNDCLSH, and handle in-game music programming during the Send-off Series."

Because, as everyone who's ever been to a football match knows, the best part of the experience is the music that gets played over the PA at half-time, the crowd sitting in rapt silence (though there's a fighting chance Lupe might buck the trend and play neither Tina Turner's "The Best" nor the Fratellis' "Chelsea Dagger").

But what else will he do? "Fiasco will appear in Times Square, in New York, during Fan Appreciation Day on 30 May, and he will hold a music set in Chicago at the U.S. Soccer Fan fest prior to the USA's match against Ghana on 16 June."

But for all this work, what does the poor man get out of it for himself? How selfless must he be? "U.S. Soccer is working to promote Fiasco's new single, "Mission," during the Send-off Series." Ah, as you were/

To be fair, "Mission" is a song designed to boost cancer research, though I liked Lupe better before he (seemingly) swore off real politics.


See also: The Ghosts Of Lupe Fiasco's West Side.

Who Is Little Miss Cornshucks?
"A rustle of paper as the sleeve is removed. A clunk and click as the needle arm is swung across. The needle hits the vinyl, bringing it to life. At first there's a lot of crackling in the ether. Then at last the music begins. A sultry saxophone. A few notes on the guitar, slow, low and relaxed. At last the voice enters.

"It's not at all what you would expect from that swing band opening. The voice is strong, unmelodic, harsh almost, but so passionate you're drawn in straight away. We're told it's Little Miss Cornshucks. She's singing a version of 'Try A Little Tenderness' that sounds just as good, if not better, than Otis Redding's amazing version from 1966.

Who is she? You might well ask. Salena Godden went in search of her and ended up in Chicago, as we found out on Tuesday morning on Radio 4 in Try a Little Tenderness: The Lost Legacy of Little Miss Cornshucks."

You'll have to click through to follow the journey.

Golden Eagle
Some Marquette students made a video/short film about one of their alums - veteran Tribune rock critic Greg Kot. Check out the record stacks he has in his home.


Comments welcome.


Posted on May 22, 2014

MUSIC - Britney's IUD.
TV - Vizio's Best Product Is You.
POLITICS - Climate Deniers' 4 Top Scare Tactics.
SPORTS - The McEnroes In Antarctica.

BOOKS - Foxconned.


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