Interview: John Lydon

John Lydon

By: Nick Stropko

John Lydon is crass. At this point in his 40ish-year-old career, he’s developed a reputation for being unfriendly to press. And politicians. And, well, a lot of people. He tends to offend wherever he goes. He even made it a point to belch loudly during the middle of my interview (“practicing my jazz chords,” as he described it to me, the host of a jazz radio show, for christsakes).

This off-putting demeanor, however, belies an undeniable intelligence. Controversial positions he has long and ardently held, ranging from his omnivorous taste in music to many of his political and social beliefs, are now commonplace, while Sex Pistols’ sneer and Public Image Ltd.’s post-punk discord have long been held as prescient, influential, or both.

So where does this leave Lydon in today’s music landscape? Per John, “I’m quite happy here on the outskirts, doing what I want, and not getting dragged into cliques or categories anymore…And I think these last two albums we’ve put out are probably the best music in my entire career.” Yes, it’s easy to roll your eyes at any musician pushing 60 who claims to be putting out their best work–or really anything short of an outright cash grab (notable exceptions: Gira, Michael, and Bowie, David). And sure, some of his opinions fit quite comfortably within an irrelevant, crotchety old man archetype (rejection of technology, disinterest in any contemporary music). But given his track record, I’m willing to hear him out. The rigors of age and his smoking habit have seemingly done nothing to extinguish that singular, shrill voice that set the world on fire in ‘76, and he seems as pissed off as ever. Not to mention, the new record really isn’t half bad.

Public Image Ltd. is on tour through November. Dates are here. An excerpt from my interview with John is after the break–if it somehow isn’t long enough for you, click here for the full transcript.

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Sounds of South City: An Introduction to St. Louis DIY


Veil  –  Photo by Austin Roberts

—   by Allison Durham

There’s an undeniable Midwestern spirit. It is modest, unassuming, and devoid of pretension. Whatever music scenes exist in the cities of the nation’s heartland are homegrown- made by deep-rooted communities of musicians and artists who’ve planted themselves in the location or perhaps never left in the first place. These are not the cities people flock to because they are recognized as “cool”. Compared to the coasts, there is little national attention on Midwestern culture, and it seems its inhabitants are content this way; when national attention is garnered, it’s appreciated, but still becomes the subject of jokes. At least this seems to be true for the DIY music scene of St. Louis, Missouri. A place with a blend of Midwestern charm all its own and situated just west of the muddy Mississippi River, St. Louis is a brick city where baseball and beer reign supreme. But when the game’s turned off, fans of a different sort come together. In the bowels of South City there lies a proud community of musicians, punks, and other freaks who together make up an invaluable piece of the city’s creative heart. Whether people care or not, the South St. Louis DIY scene is alive and kicking, with longtime residents continuing to contribute to their scene while fostering the growth of new bands and new blood.


Q  –  Photo by Allison Durham

As a St. Louisan, I like to think that the music that comes out of the city reflects its underdog reputation, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. To get a sense of the town is to get a sense of the music that, if out for a walk on the streets of South City, might just be heard seeping through the brick walls of buildings passed. The list provided below exhibits just 10 of the many St. Louis acts helping to keep the scene strong.

Trauma Harness – Trauma Harness’s music emits sincerity while evoking a sense of twisted reality- think 80’s B-horror films or your favorite episode of Goosebumps. Trauma Harness is the soundtrack to such stories, representative of both their most triumphant and suspenseful moments.

Swear Beam – Debuting this summer, Swear Beam made an instant impression, filling an undeniable void in the city’s musical landscape with carefully crafted walls of melodic fuzz. Beam me up!

Black James – Experimental electronic rich with both minimalist sonic arrangements as well as complex structures sprinkled with hints of dissonance. Get down to it, freaked by it, or both.

Little Big Bangs – Bringing a blend of punk and garage, Little Big Bangs stay accessible while keeping listeners on the edge of explosive moments, performing noisy instrumental breaks and moving straight into irresistibly catchy melodies.

Veil – The dark imagery associated with Veil is representative of their distinctively grave sound; they are a warning of approaching danger, yet also a walk through a dimly lit neighborhood late at night.

Skin Tags – Driving guitar lines accompany a thrashing rhythm section and ferocious vocals. Skin Tags is awesomely abrasive while still maintaining a controlled delivery.

Q – Pounding drums propel crunchy hardcore riffs as unforgiving vocals tear through the foreground. Includes bass breakdowns best for slow-mo stomping and slinkin’ around.

The Brainstems – Indisputably timeless garage rock with ripping solos and attitude, The Brainstems are a St. Louis rock n’ roll mainstay.

Rüz – Agitated vocals, piercing drums and splitting guitar placed between shrouds of feedback tell the audience something is very wrong, but listening feels very right.

Hylidae – Hylidae is ambient electronic with direction, transporting the listener to another place where layers of aural peculiarities fill the air.

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Show Preview: Wild Child @ Union Transfer 11/14



by Maren Larsen

Wild Child, an indie pop six-piece with folky origins from the coolest city in Texas, is coming to Philly’s Union Transfer this Saturday.

When they first entered the music scene in Austin in 2010, Wild Child was all sugar and no spice. The band’s self-released first album, Pillow Talk, was bouncy and sweet—pleasant in the way that coffee with too much sugar is nice until about halfway through. The album blurred together into a stream of harmonized melancholy lyrics and toe-tapping guitar riffs.

But with their Kickstarter-funded second album, The Runaround, the band started to take on more wit and grit. My intro to the band came here, with “Crazy Bird,” the song they took to the stage of The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. The Runaround experimented with more melodic diversity and some slightly edgier lyrics, propelling the band beyond the Austin scene.

Wild Child is currently on tour for their latest (and best) album, Fools, which hit the Internet October 2. Read the description for their newfound label, Duotone Records, and you’ll find it’s a match made in Americana-folk-indie-pop heaven. The title track gets the album off the ground with a more rock-influenced vibe than the band’s previous work—a welcome addition. The album then follows a long and enjoyable slide back to a soulful vibe that takes full advantage of lead singer Kelsey Wilson’s nostalgia-inducing pipes, though it often sidelines co-lead singer and baritone ukulele player Alexander Beggins to background vocals. But she shines, and she brings it home, backed up by some badass baritone ‘lele.

So tap your toes. Go to the show. I’ll see you there.

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Photo by Andrew Piccone

Photo by Andrew Piccone

by Shannen Gaffney + Kirsten Becker

Ben Hopkins and Liv Bruce, New York’s dynamic garage glam duo of PWR BTTM chatted with us about the things that matter: gender fluidity, their recent discovery of Bethany Cosentino, and their favorite carbs. If you’re lucky enough to have gotten a ticket in time, we’ll see you at their PhilaMOCA show tonight (they open for the very talented <3 MITSKI <3 )

So congrats on your first album, Ugly Cherries, we love it so much!
LIV: Thank you! We had a really good time making it.

Where did you record it?
BEN: We recorded in in New Paltz, New York, which is near Hudson, New York, which is where I was living, with a guy named Chris Daly who made a bunch of great records. He made a record with our friends in Diet Cig and we met him upstate. We didn’t really know if he was a good engineer or not but he was a cool guy that wanted to do our record and he’s like a genius, he’s amazing, he makes like all our merch and stuff, he fixes my guitar, he’s just this incredible, great friend.
LIV: He holds me when I cry. Just kidding, I’ve never cried.
BEN: Liv never cries, he can’t really spare the moisture. But yeah, his wife and I did the album art together.
LIV: PWR BTTM would be dead in the water without him.

So you both went to Bard, did you find a supportive scene there?
LIV: Absolutely, I started playing in the Bard scene in another band. The Bard scene is amazing because there’s two venues that are pretty much entirely run by students and they have the power to book bands outside of the school. So your favorite bands will be coming through the area and they’ll play Bard and you can start a band with your friends and have your first show be opening for a huge band.
BEN: Yeah our second show we opened for Upset and Potty Mouth.
LIV: There was just always people starting bands and doing incredible things. I really miss it actually. Obviously I love the scene here, but sometimes I’ll be on Facebook and see friends who are still there at Bard and seeing what bands they are starting every week and being like, “Ugh I wish I was still able to see those shows!”

What did you study at Bard?
LIV: I, for most of my time at Bard, was a double major in Computer Science and Dance. And then in my last semester after my Computer Science thesis, I had one more class to take and I just didn’t have the room in my schedule, partially because of PWR BTTM, so I ended up dropping the major after finishing my thesis and graduating with a degree just in the Dance Department. Which, it feels weird to say just the dance department because Bard’s dance department is like incredible. I learned so many things just about everything being there.
BEN: (In between bites of blueberry scone) I studied Theater, it was awesome.

We had another question relating to scones: What is your favorite carb?
BEN: Oh my God, the question we love to answer. I’m really, really feeling chocolate croissants right now. I work at a coffee shop and I have to come in to work at 6 AM and the first thing I do is kick that door open and fuck up one of the deliveries.
LIV: I’m really feeling my mom’s spaghetti and meatballs. I saw her yesterday and I was thinking about the stuff that she makes. I like everything she makes, but spaghetti and meatballs specifically.
BEN: Liv’s mom throws down.

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Show Preview: Sinkane @ Johnny Brenda’s 11/10


By: Nick Stropko

I see it as a positive sign when a label I like signs a band outside their wheelhouse. Deerhunter on Kranky. Nick Cave and Liars on Mute. When a label with a well-established niche gives a group that significant of a vote of confidence, the results are often excellent.

This was part of what initially drew me to Sinkane, whose first album with the label, Mars, is a relative outlier in DFA’s relatively consistent dance sound (sure, they signed Black Dice, but many of the label’s acts are instantly identifiable). Mars runs the gamut from jazz, to krautrock, to funk in a strikingly elegant way–much like label mastermind James Murphy’s LCD Soundsystem, Sinkane synthesizes his influences in a way that feels less derivative, and more like original expression thorugh existing sonic templates.

His more recent effort, Mean Love, dials back the eclecticism a bit. While I prefer the more free-wheeling Mars, Sinkane’s restraint is not without its merits. The record is packed with slinky, funky jams, packed with the attention to detail one might expect from a studio rat multi-instrumentalist (he has previously worked with Yeasayer, Caribou, and of Montreal, among others).

Sinkane will be playing at Johnny Brenda’s on Tuesday, and I’d highly advise checking it out. The dude can play, and I’m sure his band will have chops to spare as well. Get more info and tickets here.

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Josh Wink talks work/life balance, Philly nightlife history

Ovum's Very Own, Josh Wink

Ovum’s Very Own, Josh Wink

It’s a brisk fall afternoon when I meet up with Josh Wink at Northern Liberties record store Profond Music N Art. Josh has just arrived back from finishing an acclaimed summer residency in Ibiza and is helping organize his son’s birthday party before heading out to Amsterdam the next night.

“My son is four, so I’m still new to being a parent, and there’s all these things I try to balance: being a father and a partner to my wife, being ‘just Josh’ to the people I know from the neighborhood and community gardens, and then being Josh Wink the artist. Finding time to do other things is difficult, but there’s something nice and humble about being here in Philly. I like riding my bike places, I don’t have a car.”

This year marks the twentieth anniversary of Josh’s game-changing anthem “Higher State of Consciousness”, the first instrumental record to ever enter the UK’s top 15 national chart twice in one year. The track burst him onto the international scene and became heavily engrained with the first wave of pre-EDM stadium-packing electronic music that took the US and Europe by storm in the ‘90s.

Josh co-hosted a show on WKDU in the 90s called Rave FM, so you know we had to get him to do a station ID for us!

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Telekinesis plays Philly tonight, chases 80’s vibes on new album

by Shannen Gaffney

Photo from With Guitars

Photo from With Guitars

Telekinesis, the moniker used by Michael Benjamin Lerner, (also the superpower which allows superheroes to move objects with their minds) has released a new album this September on Merge Records called Ad Infinitum. On tour with Say Hi, he plays Johnny Brenda’s tonight and spoke to us about finding new influences and staying inspired on the road.

On facing writer’s block while working on the new record Lerner said, “I tried to play the guitar but just didn’t want to do it, it was very uninspiring to me at the time. So I just put the guitar away and then tried to learn a bunch of other instruments. I didn’t really understand how drum machines and synthesizers worked before… it sort of came out of boredom in a way.” Continue reading

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