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Oct 7

Peter Gabriel, White Mountain, a Pack of Wolves, and Me

Posted on Monday, October 7, 2013 in Music, Short Stories and Poems, Writing and Writers

I came to Genesis kind of late in their game and in a way that other hardcore Genesis fans may scoff at - I first fell in love with the Phil Collins song ‘I Don’t Care Anymore’, and that led to me really liking the later Genesis song, ‘Mama.’ That meant that my first real exposure to Genesis was the 1983 album titled Genesis - pretty much the last thing they did before spiraling into pop music banality. There were a few really good songs on their biggest album, 1986’s Invisible Touch, but let’s face it - as much as I loved that record when I was 16, it’s mostly crap.

Fortunately, I loved Genesis so much, and I’m so much a completist, that I had to have every song they made in my library. I also had to have everything by Genesis’s original frontman, Peter Gabriel. And now, almost 30 years later, I truly believe that Peter Gabriel’s music has enriched my life and affected me more than any other artist from any other artistic medium, ever. As much as I love reading, and as much as I love movies, I don’t have a favorite author or director who’s impacted me as much as Peter Gabriel has.

I think that his power over me comes from the transcendent nature of his musical moods and his lyrics. That’s why he’s my favorite artist. Even though I only dabble in playing music, a musician is one of my chief influences.

Peter Gabriel’s songs are cinematic in scope - I think that’s why they appear so often in movies and television shows. (See Birdy, Wall-E, Gangs of New York, Red Planet, Waking The Dead, Babe: Pig In The City, City of Angels, The Craft, Natural Born Killers, Strange Days, Angus, Philadelphia, The Last Temptation of Christ,  and Say Anything.) And for me at least, his lyrics have demonstrated that music can tell engaging, inspirational, even rapturous stories.

One of the earliest examples of Peter Gabriel’s genius came at the beginning of his tenure with Genesis. More hypercritical people have said that early Genesis was pompous, overblown, and pretentious. I’ve read those critics. And while I do agree that Peter Gabriel’s theatrical posturing at early Genesis concerts might have been a tad on the gimmicky side, when I listen to the music, it blows me away that songs of this level of complexity and magnitude were written by a bunch of kids barely out of high school, barely out of their teens. Early Genesis songs were, with few exceptions, nothing short of epic. It’s because of early Genesis that my favorite music these days comes from bands like Tool and Elbow and Mastodon. Give me epic over catchy any day.

At the same time, Peter Gabriel’s lyrics were chock full of literary references and adaptations of existing stories which made me have to go to my mythology and history textbooks again and again. My love for referential literature, like that of John Ashbery, T.S. Eliot, and Ezra Pound, came from the referential lyrics of one Master Peter Gabriel of Surrey, England.

The influence of Peter Gabriel on me is so high, in fact, that I actually concocted an entire novella based on the lyrics to one of Genesis’s earliest recordings.

In late 1970, when I was just over a month old, Genesis released a 6-song album called Trespass. The second song on it, ‘White Mountain’, was a 7-minute opus about a pack of wolves chasing a lone traitor to their pack across a frozen wasteland atop a snow-blasted mountain. The song may or may not reference Jack London’s novel White Fang, which has characters in it with names similar to those in the song.

‘White Mountain’, along with most of Trespass, had lackluster sales and got low marks from critics.

Except in Belgium. Go figure.

But to a teenage boy coming to the music a decade and a half after it was written, ‘White Mountain’ was an effective and haunting fable which would stay with him for many years, until he became an artist in his own right.

Sometime after that, he’d sit down and write a 10,000-word treatment of the story, fleshing out the background of the anthropomorphic wolves involved, elaborating on their relationships, and giving their story new life. Then, a few years after he wrote the story, a small press would be willing to e-publish the novella. Novellas are notoriously difficult to publish in traditional paper form, but the advent of e-books makes them more attractive and feasible.

So here it comes - The Three Trespasses, Part One, the story of a family of wolves living on the White Mountain, a story first imagined by one of my musical and artistic heroes, Peter Gabriel.

Feb 12

This Is What Happens…

Posted on Tuesday, February 12, 2013 in Music, Ramblings

… when you’re bored, and listening to random 80s songs on Spotify, and reading analytical psychology excerpts for no reason.

carl-jung

Mar 16

The Possumdiva

Posted on Wednesday, March 16, 2011 in Featured Friends of Will, Music

You know me. Every once in a while, I like to give a shout out to my good friends who, like me, are trying to entertain, educate, or inspire you. Here’s another one.

When I first met Heather Luttrell, she was slinging whiskey and beer at the East Point Corner Tavern, my absolute favorite place to put back a few. In fact, over the past few years, Heather’s slung quite a few whiskeys and beers at me. Heather was and is one of the reasons I like the place so much. She’s a sassy little ninny, but she’s genuine, and she’s always been really good to me.

Come to find out, Heather’s also a mega-talented songstress, an ambitious young lady who’s busted her ass to make the headway she’s made in the music world. Someone I can relate to in a lot of ways.

Recently, Heather asked if I’d help her rewrite her bio, and of course I said yes. It follows, and in reading it, you, too, will get to know Heather Luttrell (nicknamed The Possumdiva) a little bit as well.

Heather Luttrell

If you’re like us, you prefer your music home grown, and not manufactured.

Well, musicians don’t get much more home grown than Heather Luttrell, who grew up traveling the country with her father’s band. Music began as a vital part of her childhood; it eventually became an integral part of her soul.

For nearly a decade now, Heather has dedicated her life to sowing her music among the masses, cultivating a dedicated following from the ground up. In 2002, she released the live solo album, Drive Like You Stole It, and in 2005 she followed Drive… up with the full length studio album, Grits n’ Pulp. She toured extensively to support both releases, surrounding herself with a host of award-winning musicians (her rhythm section won the International Blues Challenge in 2003) and opening for the likes of Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Marshall Tucker Band, The GA Satellites, The Zach Brown Band, Dave Mason, Johnette Napolitano, Shawn Mullins, Alana Davis, Tift Merrit, Jakob Dylan, Over the Rhine, Angie Aparo, Amos Lee, Ryan Adams, Elton John, The Jon Butler Trio, Delbert McClinton, Richard Thompson, Brandi Carlille, Bain Mattox, Melissa Ferrick, and Eyes Adrift.

In 2005, Heather became a contestant on Rock Star: INXS, an international reality show in which a variety of singers vied to become frontman (or frontwoman) for the seminal Australia-based rock and pop band. Heather made it to the top 15, but was eliminated in the middle rounds of the televised contest. While INXS’s music didn’t reflect the sentiment and sensibility of Heather’s own music, she chalks it up as a life-changing learning experience. The show also exposed Heather to an even broader fan base – it was like fertilizer on an already fertile field.

Most recently, Heather has thrown herself headlong into touring in support of her studio EP, Pomegranate, and another full length live recording, Live from the Kirkwood Public House. Some of the highlights of Heather’s latest flurry of touring has been her spots on the Lynyrd Skynyrd Cruise, the Kid Rock Cruise, and the Cayamo Cruise, where she played the same stage as Lyle Lovett, Patty Griffin, Darrell Scott, Buddy Miller, and The Indigo Girls.

For more information on what Heather’s up to and where she’s playing next, visit http://heatherluttrell.com/

Dec 1

15 Things I’m Thankful For, Part Two

Posted on Wednesday, December 1, 2010 in Featured Friends of Will, Music, Ramblings, Reviews

Ok. So it’s a day late. Whatever. Here is a continuation of that which I am into right now. In other words, that which I am grateful for (other than the “usual” stuff, like my family, and bunnies).

Movies and Television

10) Those who know me well, know that I love zombies. And not in a kissy-face way, no sir. If I saw a zombie, I’d pop it a good one in the head like I’m supposed to. But I love watching movies about them. I love reading about them. I think Romero is a genius. And so is Robert Kirkman, who has taken the zombie apocalypse to a whole new level with his comic book series The Walking Dead.

Walking Dead follows a group of survivors for not just days, or months, after the apocalypse destroys life as we know it. If I understand Kirkman’s intent, he means to keep his tale of survival and mayhem in the ruins of Earth going for years and years and years. And years. And now, AMC has picked up his comic as an ongoing series. We’re five episodes in as of this writing, and the show is getting all the praise it deserves. Those who know me well also know that I am NOT an avid television viewer. But you can find me every Sunday night, planted in front of the TV, watching the dead walk and cheering on the living.

It’s also awesome that the comic and the TV show are based in and around Atlanta.

11) Lost haters can kiss my ass. A host shows on pay cable (The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, Californication, The Wire, etc. ) brought the dregs of television programming up a level, and showed us that viewers COULD indeed follow a storyline - that each episode did NOT have to be self-contained. (Although it IS true that TiVo, DVRs, and DVD releases did make it safer for programmers to take a chance on certain shows, and made it easier for us to “catch up” if we missed an episode.) They showed us that our depth of perception extended beyond the cultural references of the Simpsons and the tear-jerking homiles of Touched By an Angel.

Still, ONE show brought that level of storytelling to primetime non-cable programming, and that show was Lost. Sure, it broke down a little toward the end. Sure, the first 6 or 7 episodes of Season 3 were disappointing. Sure, they killed Ecko senselessly and that really pissed me off. Regardless, Lost was and still is the pinnacle of anything I’ve seen or heard of on the major networks. Fox had a few gems, but they foolishly cancelled them. ABC had the good sense to let Lost run its course, and television is all the better for it.

12) Joss Whedon also had a lot to do with the improvement of television. Still, for me his crowning achievements were not Buffy and Firefly (although Firefly was remarkable - thanks again, Fox, for cancelling it). Instead, I was awed by his run on the Astonishing X-men a few years back, and every time I see Dr. Horrible’s Sing-A-Long, I sit for a few minutes and wait for the tears in my eyes to dry. Seriously. I cry because the ending is so perfect and horrible at the same time (and I mean horrible in a good way), and I cry because it simply blows me away that a fucking musical can be so simultaneously hilarious, fascinating, and elaborate.

Gotta give credit where credit is due: Joss Whedon had a lot of writing help from his brothers Zack and Jed, as well as actress Maurissa Tancharoen. And Neil Patrick Harris made the show, just like he made the one episode of How I Met Your Mother that I saw palatable.

Declaration! Doogie Howser is dead, and you have to see Dr. Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog!

Balls.

Music

When I decided to share a little bit of what I’m listening to, I realized that I haven’t bought a CD in years. At least not a “proper” one. I download my music now, and if I want to take it in my car, which doesn’t have an MP3 player (yet), I just burn it to a disk that may or may not survive.

Again, those who know me know that I have a highly varied taste in music. I listen to just about everything except popular country and anything in the Jonas Brothers/Hannah Montana/Justin Bieber vein. I have my favorites, sure, but even those are all over the place. And with my love for Rock Band and my passion for Pandora and Blip.fm, I’m always listening to things outside of my comfort zone.

I settled on a few old favorites to suggest to you, because I know they’re all releasing new material next year, and I want you to do what I’m gonna do and get their new stuff. I started listening to each musical act during a different era of my life, but I’ve remained faithful to all. And why? Because they’re gooooood.

13) I started listening to Peter Gabriel when I started listening to Genesis sometime in the early 1980s. Genesis quit making good records shortly after that, but Peter Gabriel kept making really excellent ones. His latest is actually a remake album - he took a baker’s dozen of songs from a variety of acts and redid them using only keys, strings, and his own strange and wonderful voice. It’s called Scratch My Back, and with the exception of the Radiohead remake - which I think sucks - he made a masterpiece. The idea is that all the artists he covered will reciprocate and cover one of his songs, and the resulting album will be called I’ll Scratch Yours. Hopefully, it’ll come together next year, and we’ll get a complete record with some amazing interpretations of some of my favorite songs on it.

14) I started listening to Tool in college, and I still do. Because of the intricate nature of each of their songs, and the fact that every member of Tool pursues outside interests (not necessarily musical), years typically go by between Tool albums. I kind of like that - taking your time usually means the end product will be better than a rush job. Unless you’re Axel Rose or Robert Jordan, that is. Tool’s last record was 10, 000 Days, released in 2006. Most of the band, and the band’s record company, have said they’re working on something new. So I’m hoping that by next Christmas, I’ll be once again deciphering Maynard James Keenan’s provocative lyrics and Adam Jones’s massive guitar riffs.

15) I only started listening to Elbow back in 2001 or 2002, as a result of them popping up on a Pandora station I’d created. They are a perfect example of fantastic music that has never been commercially viable here in the United States. Guy Garvey’s evocative voice reminds me of Peter Gabriel and Morrissey, and his lyrics blow me away with their wit and poeticism. The music is basically synth pop updated to 21st century standards. It reminds me of old David Bowie, New Order, and The Cure. Elbow has tentatively announced a new release in 2011, and if you like any of the acts I’ve compared Elbow to, then you should check them out.

And… that’s it. That’s what I’m into at the moment. Now, things change, and this post and the one before it will probably go out of date in a month or two. Will I still like the things I’ve listed here? Probably. Will there be more things to like? Also probably. If you’re interested, I’ll share those things with you at some date in the future.

Hell, I’ll probably share with you anyway, whether you’re interested or not.

May 26

The End Of ‘Lost’, How Writing On The Internet Sometimes Sucks, and My Apology To Chris Cornell


I watched The End last night. The end of Lost, that is, which was appropriately titled… ‘The End’. I tend to watch television either by streaming it (like I did Lost, like I do The Office), or by watching it when it comes out on DVD. I can’t commit to sitting in front of a television for any length of time, so that’s just how I do things.

I tell you that because searching the Internet for ABC’s site last night was how I ran across a review of the Lost series finale which prompted me to write this response.

As tempted as I am, I’m not gonna cite the web site which posted this review, because the critic there doesn’t deserve any attention via a link from me. Basically, his review sucked - in a highly ironic sort of way, as I’ll explain - and hopefully, if he doesn’t get attention, he’ll just dry up and go away. That level of uninspired hyperbolic rhetoric is exactly the sort of thing which gives writers on the Internet a bad rap - people see garbage like that and can then rightfully say that the web is full of basement-dwelling hacks. And it’s critics like this guy that make it difficult for people to sieve through all the nonsense and find the cream of what the Internet can offer.

Why was his review ironic? Because he claimed that the last episode of Lost was “lazy writing.”

Now, I’m not going to say that it was the most inspired final episode of a TV series ever - I’m gonna go with the majority of critics and say the last episode of Newhart holds that distinction (with St. Elsewhere pulling in a close second). And I’m not gonna say that it was the most heart-wrenching one either - that belongs to Six Feet Under and maybe M*A*S*H. But it was damned good, bringing together all sorts of disparate elements in a satisfying and (almost) complete way. It left me speculating about what each of the survivors (and yes, there were some - exactly 14 by my count) would do after he or she got back to civilization. Or didn’t, considering that Hurley, Ben, Bernard, Rose, and Vincent the dog probably stayed behind.

The irony here, of course, is that the review by the critic in question was indeed… lazy writing.

He kept telling us that the episode was “anticlimactic” and “bad storytelling” without tangibly demonstrating what he meant. He kept insisting that there were soooo many questions still unanswered - enough to fill pages, in fact. But he did not offer a single example. And he cited the demise of this season’s main antagonist (Locke/The Smoke Monster/The Man In Black) as being contrived - although if you were paying attention, you knew that when the “light” was out, the powers that kept Smokey and Jacob alive all those millenia were rendered inert. So not only is our reviewer’s writing “lazy”, he’s also quite possibly a lazy viewer. Since Lost was a show which demanded a lot from its viewership, it becomes apparent how this critic might still have questions.

Finally, a bit more irony to close out this post: I’m sitting here, a basement-dwelling hack (OK, I’m not in a basement; I’m in my office) criticizing a critic for something that I have been guilty of myself. That’s why right now I’m compelled to apologize to Chris Cornell, lead singer of Soundgarden and Audioslave.

In 1999, Cornell released a solo album called Euphoria Morning. About that time, I was writing for a little Atlanta rag called The Atlanta Press (formerly called Poets, Artists and Madmen), and I was asked to write a music review of Cornell’s solo effort. I blasted it.

Well, not quite. But you couldn’t say my review was glowing, and although I can’t say that my review is the reason the album had somewhat lackluster sales, I feel really bad because A) most critics really liked the album and B) the reason they liked it was because it’s fucking good. At the time, though, I wasn’t impressed, and I was lazy - I didn’t take the time to listen closely enough to it to notice the Jeff Buckley influences, or Cornell’s genuine efforts to separate his sound from Soundgarden’s.

In the ensuing years, I’ve given Euphoria Morning a few more spins - including one last Monday as I was driving my son to his grandparents’ - and I am increasingly impressed by the both the music and the lyrics Cornell penned. And so it is, I hang my heavy head in shame and I offer a sincere apology to him. Chris, I’m sorry. Your solo record is really quite excellent, and I was wrong to be so lukewarm to it 10 years ago.

Now, if only the Lost critic would follow my example.

Mar 26

The Story of Gomez and Will (music fan serendipity)

Posted on Thursday, March 26, 2009 in Music

This one's my favorite!

This one's my favorite!

I stumbled across Gomez a few years back completely by accident, and it was one of those serendipitous occurrences which sublimely alter the very substance of the universe itself.

I was playing games with a friend of mine, and he was wearing a T-shirt from ANOTHER obscure band with a funky name which also starts with a G. I commented on the shirt, and he told me that he knew the guys in the band personally, and we left it at that.

Months later, I’m in a Barnes & Noble, checking out the overpriced CDs there, and I see a new release from Gomez – Split The Difference, I think. I look at it, read about them, and I’m suddenly intrigued. I’m thinking, “Slack KNOWS these guys? Wow!” Of course, he doesn’t – he knows the guys in another band. I don’t think Slack could ever get turned on to Gomez.

Now, about that time, I was also on a Napster kick, trying to discover some new music, because Tool, Radiohead, and Nine Inch Nails just aren’t that prolific. I’d already found Death Cab, Godspeed You Black Emperor!, Mono, Elbow, and several others which are in regular rotation on my stereo now. Napster was great – I even tried the pay version for a while before my computer died and I lost the software. So when I got home from Barnes & Noble (having not bought anything except a coffee in the Café), I spun up a little Gomez on Napster, and I liked what I heard.

The song was “Get Miles,” off of their debut album, Bring It On. The slow build, layered guitar textures, and Ben Ottewell’s gravelly voice made me an immediate fan. I downloaded everything I could from Napster, burned it onto a CD, and took it to Freitag. He listened, gave it his thumbs up of approval, and he and I became two of only a handful of people living in Atlanta who knew who Gomez were.

New in March 2009

New in March 2009

I had to go to Criminal Records to find more stuff by the band – the CD that Barnes & Noble had in stock went into overstock, I’m pretty sure, and, well, Criminal is a good place to find a wide variety of low-priced CDs by smaller-name bands.

Things stayed that way for a few years, and then The Fray came to town – with Gomez and Eisley opening. And thus for the first time, I got to see Gomez live. Freitag went with me, and we parked our shiny asses on the lawn at Lakewood, watched the tail end of Eisley and all of Gomez, then left as The Fray roadies started setting up. History, BTW, will relegate The Fray to obscurity soon enough.

In the meantime, Gomez is building it repertoire and its following. I don’t think they sold out the 1100-capacity Center Stage Tuesday night, but they came close, and those of us lucky enough to catch them got a great set. Highlights for those who know Gomez: “Get Myself Arrested”, “Detroit Swing 66″,” Notice”,” How We Operate”.

I really dig the new single, “Airstream Driver”.

Perhaps the biggest indicator of Gomez’s growing success is one typical of many bands like them: whenever an eclectic British indie pop band has “obnoxious frat boy guy with the white man’s overbite and the feathered sweep across the forehead a la Sean Hannity haircut” in attendance, you know they’re on the verge. The presence of such a person means that the band’s influence has crept into the very fringes of our society.

I’m not a particularly violent guy, and fraternus obnoxicus wasn’t actually doing anyone any harm (except probably thinking about voting Republican again in the fall), but there was a moment during “Get Myself Arrested” when I thought it’d be serendipitous for me to do something that would result in just that.

The moment passed, however, and the universe was not changed.

Or was it?