Monday, April 14, 2014

Yani Martinelli: Smellicopter Major Players Interviews with Scott Brookman

It  is hard to say just how much I appreciate and adore Yani Martinelli. Like Roland, she is a huge talent who can play just about any instrument, and her musical instincts in writing and arranging perfectly compliment my songs. She knows exactly what to do any time I call for her help. For years now, we’ve also added to each others’ knowledge of pop music history. Together, we have explored the obscurer realms of acid folk and the cross over into pop via deceased blogs. Almost inviarably what she likes, I like. And don’t get me started on the beauty of her voice (more on that below). Of all the people I’ve met on the Internet over the decades, Yani is the one I most wish lived next door!

“Yani” is clearly a nickname. What is your gloriously long full name, please, madam, if that is not too intrusive?

My name is Yanara (Venezuelan natives’ indigenous name, which means “the messenger for love and friendship”) People find it really hard to pronounce so I had to shorten it to “Yani.” 

Please tell us where you were born and spent most of your youngest years. What was the city like to live in as a kid? What did you like doing most as a kid there?  Was there lots of local music? To what extent did this influence you and your eventual songwriting?

I was born in Caracas, Venezuela. I spent my childhood in a gorgeous house with a big garden full of tropical vegetation.  I loved climbing up mango trees and building houses on them! We also had many dogs and cats, always my best friends. Caracas was definitely a better place than what it is today, there was less delinquency and crime in the streets than today.
Mum and Dad were both active musicians at the time and we three sang in a choir of classical music and Venezuelan folkloric music.  My Aunt Silvia also is a great pianist, she was my piano teacher when I was a child and also I assisted to a lot of her concerts. Dad taught me to play the guitar and the cuatro (the Venezuelan ukelele) when I was 10 years old, and from that moment I began to write my own songs on guitar and cuatro. 

I know your family is quite musical. Could you please tell the readers all about them and their various talents? What is your earliest musical memory?

My Mother was (and still is) a piano teacher and singer and my Dad sang and played cuatro really well.Earliest musical memory? Possibly, it was in my baby cradle listening to the national anthem loudly played at the school next to our house (in Venezuela the national anthem is played every morning at schools). I [stood] on my feet and began moving my arms and hands like an orchestra conductor.  I must have had like 2 years.

One of the many things you and I share in our songwriting is a reliance on nostalgic memories of the past. You’ve written more about family than I have, but we both write about the friends we had as kids and specific memories. Why do you think that is? Is this a strength in songwriting?  What if we run out of childhood stories? What will we do? Your song “La Casa” is a perfect example and a perfect set of lyrics, by the way.

Yes, childhood is definitely a subject that gives me strength and inspiration for songwriting.  I think we both appeal to it in our songs  because it represents the purest part of us and our lives, full of innocence, imagination and protection that we won’t lose or forget, so we need to put it in our songs to make it last… and sometimes shine a little light for an escapade.

In your writing, that gorgeous, wistful love of the past is comforting.  I am one of the lucky recipients of the limited edition cd release of Bubble Station. It may surprise you to know that for quite a few of my darkest nights last summer, up late trying to distract myself from the anxieties of divorce and separation, I listened to your album, and slowly, slowly drifted off to your beautiful voice.  Listening on headphones in the dark it was almost as if you were there singing to me alone.  A huge part of the charm of your voice is that it is absolutely unaffected as well as being musically accurate. It sounds like a real individual person. Not many singers have that. What do you think of your own voice?

My voice and way to sing has been changing with the years… I sing more natural and unaffected now than before when I was singing in bands many years ago when I felt a little lost. I guess that is because now I feel happier with myself.  I accept the “real me” and that includes my real voice. Glad to hear my music could help you to feel better in the dark times.

Not unlike Roland Wolff, you seem to be able to play just about any instrument. You are most comfortable on classical guitar and ukelele, but what accounts for this ability to play so many different instruments? Has it always been this way for you? Did you have a good musical education as a kid? Could you always get music out of most anything you picked up?

Yes, playing different instruments and is quite a challenge and also very fun. I first started playing the piano, being very young. I went to piano lessons with my Aunt for a few years. But it was with the cuatro and the nylon string guitar when I got really hooked about figuring out songs by ear and writing little songs.In my teens I felt curiosity for the drums so I took some lessons. I loved it.  Now days I teach drums to young children.

I know that at some point you lived in Los Angeles briefly and then you and your mother moved to Madrid, where you live now. What was it like to deal with those changes, which to me seem enormous?

It was San Francisco… and I left my heart there!Yes, the change was huge. SF was wonderful, we lived almost in front of the sea… We spent almost a year living there. It was the mid-90’s and I was a teenager. But soon my Mum’s husband at the time got a new job in Madrid, so we moved here… I always dream of getting back there someday!

I know you were in at least one band in Madrid before you struck out on your own. Tell us about the music you made before Nonna in the Garden and Bubble Station.

When I came to Madrid in 1998, I soon started building a band with some guys I met at the music school (where I went for drum lessons). We became a 4 piece band called The Seasongs. I played the drums and the electric guitar sometimes.  We played Garage-Power Pop! Can you imagine! We were so loud and chaotic… It was fun. We recorded a few demos, and after 4 years playing at many dark venues in Madrid I left the band and soon formed Navy Blue, a Beach Boys-Supertramp influenced three or four piece band where I sang and played the keyboards. We recorded an album titled “At Home” and played at IPO Liverpool at the Cavern Club in 2009.

Whenever I write to you online your life seems pretty hectic. Please tell our readers what sorts of things you might be doing during an average week. Also please characterize your living situation with your mother and the cats and your various jobs at the moment.

I’m a drums teacher and a music teacher for young children (3-4 year olds) at a school and at private lessons.
I’m also very involved (along with my Mother) in cat rescuing and animal right activities in Madrid. I’m so sorry to say this is one of the cruelest countries [toward] animals. So many horrendous traditions, so much ignorance.  I feel my commitment to be strong every day to keep fighting for the ones who [don’t] have a voice.

If I remember correctly at first you felt out of place playing solo gigs in Madrid, but these days you seem more and more confident and to have a better time performing there. What has changed?

I still feel out of place playing solo, most of the time. At some shows, for some reason, I feel blocked and sad. But things change for the better when I play in company of my two friends Carmen Ros (backing vocals) and Julio García (acoustic guitar), they really cheer me up and I feel protected and happy when I play with them.

Other than recording, what have been your most memorable musical moments?

Definitely playing live with my favorite band The High Llamas. Doing the sound check together on stage, playing   “Checking in, checking out”, I was playing the bass on that song and when we finished it, Sean O’Hagan seemed so happy, he looked at me and said it was great! :D

Do you recall how and when you and I “met” online? It must’ve been on MySpace, right?

Yes, that’s right, MySpace. Probably spring of 2009… I immediately fell for your music!

What do recall about the time in which you were working on the Smellicopter songs? What was going on in your life at the time?  Were you working on Nonna in the Garden at the same time?

Yes, I think so. I was in the process of recording songs for NITG. Working on your songs really encouraged me to work with mine as well.  By that time I think I worked at looking after a young girl who loved Disney Channel’s teenage singers.  Also I was busy at rescuing-fostering cats, as always.

You play bass on the Roland-heavy “To Find Your Happiness,” and (oops) you weren’t credited in the liners for your harmonica and uke on “Inspected by Curly.” Sorry about that. My mistake. You added much more significantly to three other songs: “Delmarva Way, ““Maybe Then” and “Weirdos” are transformed by your presence. Your ukulele begins the final mix of “Delmarva Way” and you and Chas Lee Violet sing beautifully and snap fingers. Your electric guitar adds significantly to all three songs.  I credit you with rescuing “Maybe Then” from my archive. You created your own vocal harmony lines on it and play the two electric guitar lines in the middle (a formula repeated in “Weirdos”) and added gorgeous acoustic guitars to the verses. Our voices sound so great together on this song, as they do on the final collaboration, “Weirdos.” I remember being in Palmer’s control room when he and Jack Shannon first heard your harmony with me. Jaws dropped.  The ukulele tracks are also delightful.  And you play a little piano, too, right? (Also uncredited. I really ripped you off on the credits. I am so sorry. Maybe in the 25 anniversary Deluxe Edition double disc set we can correct all my crediting mistakes).

Whew! Having said all that, what are your recollections of recording for Smellicopter? If I recall correctly, a pot-smoking neighbor helped with the recording. What was his name and a little about him, please. What stands out for you from that time? Are there particular tracks you are proud of?

Working on your Smellicopter songs was a source of positive energy, a disconnection from my daily routine. It was really fun and challenging to find arrangements with different instruments for your songs.
My neighbor Javier (AKA Angus 7) helped me to record the first vocal tracks for your songs, because at that time I didn’t have a microphone at home. He is a huge heavy metal music fan, he has a band called Chamán where he is the songwriter and guitarist. He’s such a character in the good sense, a really fun and talented fellow.
Ah, yes, I’m very proud of my electric guitar solo for Maybe Then

Also around this time, we recorded an as yet unreleased 70’s-style pop classic of yours called, “In My School.” We both put a lot of work into it, but it just did not fit stylistically at all with Bubble Station. What will become of it? I am certainly proud of my work for it and listen to it now and again. (I have it on my SoundCloud…is it okay if I embed it on this blog?)

Yes, sure. I love “In My School”, too. I always think we should make and release an album (or EP) together and include that song on it.

You’ve played a good number of gigs over the past six months or so, but, like me haven’t gotten back to recording until just recently. You’ve contributed some tracks to my five plus minute piece, “Self-Starter Suite.” What’s next for us as collaborators? Any idea what your next album will be like? I only hope you’ll continue working on my music and I hope I can help with yours in return.

Yes, I will continue making music ... (that includes writing, recording, collaborating with you) I need to.I’ve got enough songs for a next album, which I think is going to be quite in the same line of Bubble Station.  I want to start recording them soon. I want to sing and play on your songs. I only need one thing: two or three extra hours a day!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Early 80's Archival Photos from the Collection of Travis Ballou

L to R: Gary Hall, Travis "Kim" Ballou, Ashley Bell (in tree), Scott Brookman.

The original membership of my best known early band*, the Poisonous Sewer Fish, included Joey Cheatham (who wrote most of the originals, played guitar, and snarled his vocals), myself, Ashley Bell (at first on an early monophonic Roland, i.e. no chords, only single notes. See photo below), and usually two drummers: Gary Hall and Roger Lawrence. There was no bass player. It was very, very loud.   *there were earlier iterations with me, Joey and Roger only under a different name.

This week Travis Ballou unearthed two photos of the next version of the Poisonous Sewer Fish. We might call it PSF MK II. Joey left, or was more likely thrown out, I guess Roger lost interest, and we became a more normal line-up adding Travis on bass. I guess that made me principal songwriter. Maybe. I think the loud experimental stuff probably continued as did the random covers. Both versions of this band mostly practiced. The very few gigs may have been years apart. There were and are a lot of recordings, though.

Below I've adapted email between Travis and myself earlier this week into a Q and A, or an S and T.

S: Wow. I have copies of these myself somewhere. Is this a post-Joey edition of the Poisonous Sewer Fish, or were we called something else?
T: I was hoping you would know. I think it was the PSF post Joe. I seem to remember that we stopped playing after the photo. Go figure?
S: I don't think we stopped playing then. And this dates from ca. early to mid 80's, right?
T:  '80 or '81 I'm sure. It does not show in the digital images but by handling the actual prints (paper type) and the contrast I can tell I processed them at college. Judging by the lack of foliage it was the fall of '80 or the spring/fall of 81.
S: These will go on my blog very soon, sir. Thank you sincerely. Got any more? Of any band from that era.
T: I found these while going through the correspondence I inherited from my Father. Nothing else that I know of from that era but if I find anything of interest I'll post it to you.
S: They can always go on the Chuck blog if I'm not involved.Pocket Fishermen? Dumbsters?
T: Pocket Fishemen, cool name, escapes my memory: The Dumbsters - That was me, Joe and Kent (Musselman). Don't think we ever played out. The Dumbsters was an evolution of The X Fish which was Joe and I getting together on summer break, writing songs and getting Kent to drum. Around '83  Joe, Ashley, Kent and myself formed Holy Moly. An ambitious concept of a ska band in the Roanoke Valley. We did play out in a club in Cave Spring. No photos that I know of. I did have a cassette of The X Fish (basement mix) and Holy Moly live! Unfortunately, I think it self-destructed the last time I tried to play it.
S:This is why I haven't put Troy is Queer online for purchase at Bandcamp. I am afraid the tape will unspool and crinkle as I play it. Too bad because that one was really Joey's masterpiece, his meisterwerk in the area of his layered tape sound and absolute obnoxiousness. 
Same day in 1980 or 1981. The Bell family backyard in Salem. The bridge crosses a little creek. The open field behind us has a delightful pool in it now. Yes, I am holding a Rickenbacker. It sucked. 

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Roland Wolff: Smellicopter Major Players Interviews with Scott Brookman

Roland, along with Yani Martinelli, are my new collaborators on Smellicopter. Each is a huge  reason this album is likely my best. Roland's contributions came first chronologically, but I've already forgotten specific dates. He turned a simple folk tune, "Tim E. Redmond," into a full-blown country pop masterpiece with little input from me, contributed heavily to the Wilson sound on "Summer's Two Weeks Notice" and provided significant parts for three other songs. Let's hear what he has to say for and about himself in the following interview. 

First, let’s have a little recap of your musical career. What have been the high points so far? 
The success we had with Riviera (his excellent pop duo with sister Julia) was a high point. I remember I was on an all time low in 2000, nothing happened, I quit my studies at University and stayed in bed until noon when Julia jumped into my room to tell me that there’s a Japanese label that wants to offer us a 3 album record deal.

Another highlight was singing "Love & Mercy" with Brian Wilson at the encores of a show in Mainz. Probyn and Billy (Hinsche) brought me on stage. The sound was horrible and I remember Probyn saying:"just sing whatever comes to your mind. It will be alright!"

When did Riviera really take off? 

That was in 2001 when we signed that 3 album deal with Philter, a small indie label with Sony Music as distributor.

I remember a point at which you were “treated like rock stars” in Japan. Was there Roland Wolff music before Riviera?

Sure there was. Me and my sister Julia played in a brit-pop band called My Flavour Jasmine. Our highlight was a UK tour in 1993. But we never signed with a label. 

What has come after? 

I have a new band "The Riviera Brothers". It’s more Brit style, guitar driven pop music.

 Where do you live?

I live in Moenchengladbach, a smaller city in Germany, mostly famous for its glorious football (soccer) team.

Do you have a job that involves music? 

Yes, I teach music at a music school.

Where do you record? 

I have my own studio.

When did you first become aware of your musical talent and do you come from a musical family? 

I was always aware of my musical talent. In our family, music was crucial. We played a lot together. My parents gave house concerts, my dad played the organ, my mom used to be a great singer.

Would you say your hometown is musical? 

When I was a kid I remember that there were lots of activities in our hometown. Many bigger names played here. Due to my parents activities I was always part of the musical scene. I also had great music teachers at school. Our hometown, Huckelhoven, was a coal mining city, very working class.

I think you and I “met” on MySpace and shared a kindred spirit of having both recorded our first albums on ADAT-XTs. Is that right or am I misremembering? 

That’s correct, sir. I used to record on 7-track ADAT (one track was broken and I never got it fixed).

What do you recall about the time during which you were laying down tracks for the Smellicopter album? 

I don't have too fond memories of that time. We got dropped by our Japanese label after our latest album bombed. Julia [had]  just recently moved to LA. I didn't really know what to do. Kinda clueless about the next step.

What other projects were you working on at the time?

I can't really remember. I always work on some songs and decide later what to do with them. I have tons of stuff on my hard disk that never got released.

 What was going on in your life? 

Two trips to LA. A dear friend died and left us in a state of shock. A lot of every day routine, working in the studio, trying to be inventive.

What do you recall about your role as arranger of “Tim E. Redmond”? 

Although I felt our career was at a full stop I still received big pay checks from our publisher. I bought a lot of gear and instruments. Tim E. Redmond is full of that new stuff, Baritone guitar and banjo.

Most of the released version is actually you. I play a usually inaudible guide track acoustic guitar and sing lead, with some harmony vocals. The simple piano lines are me. Everything else, other than drums, is you. My own recollection of writing the song is of a miserable time, our very worst trip to the beach as a family. Lots of slamming and yelling. I remember sketching out this amazingly simple tune about a real kid I remembered and finishing the words later. You really transformed the song. Do you recall anything about your process of contributing so much to it? For instance, did one part occur to your first? 

I loved the lyrics, those stories inspire me. I pictured this scenery, early 70ies, that kid Tim stealing all these vintage bikes. The station wagon with the fake wooden panels. All that kinda stuff.

Did the simpleness of my song help or hinder your process?

It definitely helped.

Mixing “Summer’s Two Weeks Notice” held up the Smellicopter release for some time. This was very frustrating for me and there are still unresolved issues in the released version. I’m not sure who we actually hear on drums in the released mix, but other than my piano, lead vocals and one of the electric guitar riffs, the rest is, again, you. The glorious pile of vocals at the end is all you, in fact. What do you recall about working on this song?

I could comprehend the vibe of the song. It’s pure summer, with a little twist that only a grown-up could think of. It’s like a tongue-in-cheek Beach Boys tune. I laid down most of the tracks in a few hours. Everything was obvious; there was no pondering or doubt about parts. I remember that you had problems with the drums. They could swing a little more, right?

I remember your initial enthusiasm about working on such a Wilsonian number. What are you proudest of here and are there any regrets? 

I love the bass sound, I loved my recorder and the backing vocals at the ad libs. I also loved your little guitar lick in the verse. You can be very proud of that idea, Scott. Overall, I was happy that I could do the Pet Sounds thing all over a track. 

You did so many tracks on the first two songs, we agreed that you’d be listed as arranger. Your other contributions to Smellicopter (“Daisy Von Zeppelin,” “Iceberglar” and “To Find Your Happiness”) are very important, but more along the lines of standard collaboration. Listening back now, what are the favorite moments of your input on these songs?

I liked that prep[ared]-piano part that should be reminiscent of "Curb Your Enthusiasm", I liked that guitar solo that was a little tacky. I played cornet or french horn on one of those songs although I can’t play that instrument at all. I was having a tough time learning how to play those 4 notes and then gave the instrument to my brother in law Probyn.

I learned a lot in recording this album. For instance, I relearned that less is more. I had worked out all these fancy piano arrangements for the three songs above and had to abandon them all when it came time to record using Palmer Wilkins’ upright.It’s not that I couldn’t play the parts, it just became obvious that each part was too busy, too in the way. We did take after take, and each time I subtracted notes and played on fewer and fewer beats. I forget which song, but I remember laying on his couch in the control room and getting really mad at myself, letting out a big sigh, and saying, “Okay, scrap all that. I know what to do.” The result is leaner and better. Did you learn anything in doing this project? 
Recording is a constant process of learning. Sorry that sounds like Chinese cookie wisdom but it’s true. Chinese cookies for musicians, we should bridge that gap in the market, Scott! Can you smell the bucks? [You know I can!]

And to close out what projects are you working on these days? 

I am working on new Riviera stuff, editing a video clip for Riviera, and my band The Riviera Brothers is going to tour this spring, so we rehearse a lot. I am also working on some friends’ songs, very sweet Carpenters like material! Ah - and I will release a solo album. Besides that….nothing special.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

At Last: The Christine Hoffman Interview!

Nationally certified music instructor and friend, Christine de Santis Hoffman, conducted an email interview with me circa July 2013. Its about time it appeared on my blog I think. It's one of my most articulate.Thanks to Christine for taking the time to come  up with a few questions.

Are the characters you create (such as Daisy Von Zeppelin) truly imaginary or are they exaggerated versions of traits of people you know? Alternatively, where do the imagined characters come from? I'd like to imagine that you opened a box with a slip of paper that said "Inspected by Curly" and went from there . . .

I was handed a slip of paper with the words “Inspected by Curly,” actually. It was a real clothing inspector slip (now taped in one of my song books) and I did take it from there. It’s not a really detailed portrait of a guy. The silly subject doesn’t require it. I just thought of a vague sort of person working on the assembly line checking for defective underwear. However one does that on a busy shop floor.

My own childhood is still a major source for song ideas. Real life people and things that happened end up chronicled, and that’s a good thing for me and the cosmos I think. All these happenings could just vanish otherwise. I could be wrong but I think usually I sing about them in a deadpan way. There’s no sneering or sarcasm. If there’s comedy it’s typically from the vocal delivery, the subject, or the descriptive words, but rarely is it mockery. The real life Tim E. Redmond, for instance, really did steal bikes. That’s a fact. It’s the core of the story and the song. It’s all very matter-of-fact. There’s no hate or resentment. The childhood songs are mostly reporting. Some of the childhood songs are me trying to recollect what happened. Examples of these include “Mike Ives” and “Did It Happen at the 7-11?”

Sometimes I think of a ridiculous character name (like Daisy Von Zeppelin and her predecessor, Charmion Chandler Cheese, both sort of stereotypical 20’s debs) and work from there to flesh out something, using, as you say exaggerated traits of others. In these cases, I am never aware of writing about a particular real life person when it comes to traits or emotions, however. There are songs on Smellicopter that sound as though they might be about the things I’m going through these days in real life. However, these were all written long ago. All “relationship” type lyrics in my songs are just the product of watching many, many movies and tv shows over the decades. It is not completely honest, deeply felt work. What I’ve done many times is to take warmed over emotions and scenarios and, hopefully, recreated them a bit as my own. Often I envision a scene or situation and the words come to describe what I can “see.” But, again, these are not from my own life. I don’t know where they are from.

On Smellicopter, the one honest song that is emotionally real is “I Could Use Some New Friends.” That one is about me. I do find it hard to make friends. As in the song, people have insincerely said they’d like to get together. I’ve done it, too. It’s a hard thing about living. There’s a lot of regret, loneliness and desire for change in the song. And a masterful rip-off of the creepy vocal swell in 10cc’s “I’m Not in Love.”

Like most songwriters there are observational pieces as well. Every person in “Weirdos” is absolutely real. A few I got the merest glimpse of in traffic, the others were neighbors.

To start a song I must have an “instigating phrase” of some kind.

What instrument would you like to learn how to play?

I’d like to fully grasp jazz, r&b and gospel styles of piano playing.

What is your greatest regret as a musician?

Not playing live. On the one hand, there’s only so much time available to us all. Maybe not playing live enabled me to do a better job of writing. Who can say? I have allowed that fear of mine to dictate part of what it means to be a musician.

How do you collaborate with musicians in other countries? Skype? Video files? Email? Phone calls?

I use FB or email and ask first if this talented foreign national would like to collaborate. It’s always someone I already know. If the answer is “yes,” I make several quick mixes of my own demo: one with a click track throughout, one without. I try to mix so that it would be comfortable in the person’s headphones. Usually, I have no particular prescribed thing I want the collaborator to do; that way I get something that I would never have thought of myself, which is the whole point. Typically, I send the several mixes as 24-bit Waves files via a service like WeTransfer, Dropbox or YouSendIt. The only technical issue that arises sometimes is keeping things in sync. By patient dragging of the audio file, though, we prevail. I love to do this because not only are the musical ideas increased, but the sound of another world slips in there: a room in another country, different software, mics and instruments.

No ownership of this image claimed

What do you think would happen to you if you stopped writing songs? I know the process weighs on you, but it seems like you are driven by a need to create.

If I didn’t write songs lo the mighty rivers would flow backward. I’ve written so many, honestly, that if no more came along I could record the leftovers (many of which are at least as good as those that have been properly released) and have decades of releases left in me. The musical work would become reconstructing and rearranging older material, rather than writing. I’ve long passed the age when I could write 20+ fine songs each year, which I used to do.

These days the “visitation” of a musical idea is rare. I sit at the keyboard and hope that a useable mistake will happen, mistakenly going to an unusual chord, a slightly different progression. If I sing or whistle a melody line over it, then I know I have something to work with. Probably I have at least one line of lyrics to use, an instigating phrase. When all that does happen I play it over and over and then write it in a song notebook AND record it as MIDI if time allows at the moment. That part of the creative process feels good. Something is happening and there is the dizzying hope that in the session you’ll have enough to say “I wrote a song today.” There’s a desperate and exhausting panicky feeling, too, as I hope that the flow—wherever it is coming from—won’t stop until enough is written. And, frankly, there’s a post-writing let down, at least a slight visit from old man depression. I actually don’t think non-creative people miss out on any happiness. Quite to the contrary.

The rest of the words and the final arrangement, of course, can take years to complete. Revisiting the song fragment and trying to extend it is typically frustrating. If you look at a lot of my lyrics on paper, there’s nothing all that special there. I have to go with whatever sounds best being sung. If that includes a few trite rhymes, so be it. That said a lot of effort goes into the words.

The only new piece from this year I would call a proper “song fragment” is called “Snow Day.” It has a verse and chorus, meaning chords, melody and probably two lines of lyrics. A few days later it snowed.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Famous Smellicopter Scrolls

As a way of keeping track of a multi-year, multi-continent, multi-player project, I thought of something I'd encourage others to do. Using cut sheets from a kid easel paper roll, I thumbtacked the sheets to a wall in my studio space. Each sheet contains details (mostly file name differences for Apple v. Windows, tempos, who played what) for several songs. The fun part was drawing the titles and coloring them. The era of Smellicopter is over, the paper is turning brown and its time to take them all down and pack them away with the archived discs.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Piggledy Pop blog's review of Smellicopter

French music blogger, Marie-Agnes Halle has the signal honor of writing the first full-length published review of Smellicopter. The following is copied directly from her blog, Piggledy Pop.

Je voue une réelle admiration pour Scott Brookman que je connais depuis des années et dont je peux dire que l’artiste constant et émouvant dans ses productions, l’est aussi sur le plan humain. Adepte de la pop sixties, surement un des ambassadeurs les plus actifs de la sunshine pop, professionnel et passionné il compose tel un prodige et écrit, arrange avec du style. Les Beach Boys et Burt Bacharach coulent dans ses veines et leur aura resplendit au bout ses doigts. Il nous comble depuis des années avec son inspiration. Généreux et curieux, il fleurit ses compositions de nombreuses collaborations avec d’autres artistes et explore, invente, en variant les instrumentations. La pop de Scott est joyeuse, chaleureuse et élégante à l’image de son auteur. 

Lycéen dans les années 80, Scott gagne une expérience scènique avec son premier groupe Poisonous Sewer Fish qui joue essentiellement des reprises et se distingue très vite en écrivant et composant des mélopées dans une veine mélodique hautement pop sixties chez lui, en Virginie. De manière artisanale, dans sa salle de bain ou son garage, sur un quatre piste, avec un kit de batterie, le multi-instrumentiste expérimente les sons de sa guitare acoustique, de sa fender, de son clavier yamaha sur différents micros et en sort une série de cassettes magistrale : Bonaparte, Hot Enough to Fry Your Dog's Brain, frozenrawheadless, In My Own Backyard, Tool for the Man, It's More Than a Hobby et A National Treasure. Dans les années 90, Scott Brookman signe un premier Ep vinyle, The Busy World of Scott Brookman, sur le label Twee Kitten Records qui précède The Man From Operations, quatre titres extraordinaires, sorti en 1998, puis le 13 titres de 1999, For Those Who Like dix ans plus tard, l’album sophomore A Song for Me, A Song for You

En 2009, Scott évoquait déjà son interet pour le cyclisme dans le titre A sinister Cyclist et réitère sur son dernier album sorti en juin 2013 avec la première plage de Smellicopter qui rend hommage à Tim E. Redmond, un type qui volait des vélos dans le voisinage quand Scott était enfant. Le superbe album que nous propose Scott Brookman contient son humour dans les textes et toujours cette dextérité pour arranger ses chansons de manière alternative, lumineuse et intelligente. Pour couronner le tout, il s’entoure d’excellence avec la présence du multi-instrumentiste Roland Wolff de Riviera, du français Mathieu Bournazel de Purple Submarine Orchestra qui taquine la basse avec brio, chante et arrange Very Anne, du guitariste Jack Shannon, ses amies Yani qui chante sur Weirdos et Violetta, qui signent le titre Delmarva Way, Nathan Goodwyn et Anthony Allen qui jouent du cor, Jimmy Ghaphery du saxophone sur I Could Use Some New Friends. L’ensemble des titres montrent le talent infini de Scott Brookman.

Après le succulent opening Tim E. Redmond et les claviers, le sonnette de vélo et bruit de roue libre, piano et basse admirables, glockenspiel, ses choeurs lumineux, on retrouve la voix pop, délicate et eurythmique qui ensoleille Summer's Two Weeks Notice, beachboysienne et diablement allègre. Dans une fine logique sonore suit To Find Your Happiness, qui swingue, où le banjo fait danser les cordes du piano, de la guitare, de la basse dans un accord parfait. Puis la touche frenchy sur Very Anne grâce au savoir faire du maestro Mathieu Bournazel à la basse et au chant embrase le tempo, en enchainant sur cette irrépressible envie de danser avec Inspected by Curly et sa guitare electro-acoustique espiègle. Puis la balade Iceberglar apporte de la douceur, des notes suaves en milieu d’écoute pour laisser place au galopant et psychédélique Delmarva Way. L’album jusqu’ici reussi et fort abouti continue avec des titres incroyablement bons, I Could Use Some New Friends avec ses cuivres rutilants, Maybe Then et la voix de Scott savoureuse dans la veine de Scott Walker voltige légère et harmonieuse, voix qui nous cueille sans résistance sur Daisy Von Zeppelin où la basse, le piano, banjo et claviers sont euphoriques. Enfin, Weirdos boucle l’écoute toute en émotion, prestance et subtilité, ce qui définit et représente bien l’artiste.
Evidemment Piggledy Pop conseille le sublime Smellicopter à déguster et le génie de Scott Brookman à découvrir .