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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.

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/

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?