Jeff Parker and Steve Gunn at Terminal West. Wed., Dec. 8.

Jeff Parker (left) and Steve Gunn at Terminal West. Photo by Chad Radford

Jeff Parker walked onto the stage at Terminal West on Wed., Dec. 8, to polite applause followed by silence — the kind of explosive silence that’s felt just seconds before an orchestra strikes up and fills a symphony hall with its opening salvo.

Parker drew out the silence, and communed with the quiet tension before tangling his fingers around the neck of his guitar and slowly unwinding them along the fretboard. The guitarist and co-founder of Chicago’s post-rock luminaries Tortoise, stands atop a body of solo recordings and collaborations that traverse everything from mutant funk and hip-hop beats to skronking free jazz, minimalism, and drones. 

At first, the sounds he created seemed ill-shaped. But loops were being created, and within moments notes percolated and collided into one another as Parker’s singular musical style revealed itself in tones and textures that were instantly familiar, yet guided by wholly new, next-level composition.

Jeff Parker. Photo by Chad Radford

Much (if not all) of the material he played throughout the night comes from his latest solo guitar album, Forfolks (International Anthem Recording Co.). But this was a solid three days before the album was released. As such, Parker offered a preview into one of the most pleasantly challenging chapters of his career. Smoke machines  hissed quietly somewhere in the darkness. The slow rumble of a train rolling along the tracks behind Terminal West almost felt scripted, as Parker created long, sustained tones that rung out for so long they started rattle, revealing the intricacies inside the sounds of his amplified steel strings. When rhythm and melody are taken away — acoustic feedback is a beautiful thing.


In the midst of his deep dive into the avant-garde, Parker subtly weaved in the melody of “Jetty” from Tortoise’s 1996 masterpiece, TNT. This reimagined take on the song appears on Forfolks under the name “La Jetée.” 

Steve Gunn. Photo By Chad Radford

Steve Gunn joined Parker for a short collaboration before closing out the night with a solo set. Gunn offered a cover of British folk singer and guitarist Michael Chapman’s “Among The Trees” before delving into a stripped down rendition of “Way Out Weather,” the title cut from Gunn’s 2014 album, which set the tone for his performance. Gunn leaned into “Fulton,” “Good Wind,” “Morning River,” and “On the Way” from his 2021 release, Other You (Matador).


On record, these songs are the backbone of Gunn’s most ambitious work to date. On stage, they flowed with the cool quietude of the seemingly effortless Zen-like vibe that has come to define his strongest songwriting. It was also a grounding agent that balanced out an evening of acoustic, psychedelic, and forward-thinking music.

This review was first printed by Record Plug Magazine.

If you have enjoyed reading this review, please consider making a donation to RadATL.

Donate with PayPal

The Horror! Q&A with Entertainment’s Trey Ehart

ENTERTAINMENT: Bari Donovan (left), Trey Ehart, and Jim Groff. Photo by Will Weems.

In September, Atlanta post-punk outfit Entertainment released Horror Part 1, the first of a two-part EP that finds the group returning from more than a decade between releases. Founding members Trey Ehart (vocals, guitar, bass, and synthesizer) and Bari Donovan (drums and percussion), convened with newer members Jim Groff (synth), and Henry Jack (bass) over a few years to chop, layer, and hack a new body of dark and abstract post-punk into being.

In keeping with its title, the Horror Part 1 EP’s four songs create austere, intense, and icey cold ebb and flow. The music is loosely thematic, drawing out those deeply buried childhood memories of dread and despair that came along with watching horror movies on late-night cable back in the ‘80s. It’s a singularly abstract and powerful approach to songwriting that resonates in a deeper, dark part of the subconscious that more traditional songwriting does not reach.

Ehart took a few minutes to talk about how the music came into being, and what’s in store with Horror Part 2.


Listening to The Horror puts me in an October/November kind of mood. I’ve found myself looking up quotes from movies like Chopping Mall and Sleepaway Camp as I’ve been listening. This is being released by BatCave and Stickfigure, correct?

Those are both great movies! We may have a quote from Night of the Demons on Horror Part 2, it depends on if I feel like it’s too on the nose or not. I always liked the way The Smiths/Morrissey and the Chameleons used TV and movie quotes in their songs, it added a really bittersweet layer to me.

We’re self-releasing Horror Parts 1 & 2, digital only, through Bandcamp. Stickfigure is releasing vinyl of both parts together in 2022, doing all the PR, and handling the streaming services. BatCave Productions is releasing a CD in Europe that combines both parts with all the singles and remixes in early 2022.

For what song are you making a video?

We’re finishing a video for “Voyeur” right now. It should have been out with the single last March but we had to move it from the first person we hired over to John from Hip to Death. We wanted the visuals to match the current sound of the band as much as possible, and John’s aesthetic lines up perfectly with the kind of psychedelic, dark, dream-like layers of sound. John also did the video for “Maggot Church” that we released in late 2020.

Tell me a little bit about the concepts you’re working with in the song and the video?

Conceptually it was originally more like the mimed performances you’d see on ‘80s TV, in front of green screens with a nod to Japan. We hired a model, shot through blinds, making it much more literal to the idea of enticement and voyeurism.

We tend to hide ourselves, or obscure who we are visually, and for this we really wanted to try and push ourselves up front. But when it was put together it was just too sterile for the track. The painterly quality of the music wasn’t coming through. Layers and layers of information, the kind of desperate sound wasn’t coming through.

The cover art effectively projects a sense of cold, dark isolation. What is the idea that’s at work here?

We struggled with how to visually represent what we sound like right now, and with the fact that Gender had such an iconic cover, how do we keep that visual strength going, but move forward?

After talking about it we decided the best way to represent these songs was through the idea of layers of paint on a canvas. As a reference to how some artists can never finish, like Edvard Munch, who would constantly print and paint the same image and theme over and over, seemingly never satisfied, often painting over his own images, leaving canvas outside to rot in the elements then coming back to them, or scraping the paint off a nearly finished piece and starting over. Similar to the writing process for these songs.

So if you look at the covers of all the singles we released leading up to the EP you’ll see a similar obscure bleakness, layers of different paintings overlapping and overwriting each other. I also wanted to make the obvious reference to the Horror sticker from VHS stores, as well as overlaying a torn plastic wrapping to each cover, since these will probably never be physical, it’s the ephemera, the fake idea of a lost reality.

That’s what you see in the cover, layers of paint, fake plastic wrap, and then some neon lights thrown on top, the spark of nostalgic light piercing the dark, or just sinking into it.

It’s also probably another Japan rip off …

The music itself can be described using similar painterly terms. The sounds of the instruments and the vocals feel like big swathes of paint that collide and blend into each other. Can you talk a little bit about this?

It’s hard for me to approach music in terms of traditional means most of the time, I don’t know if I have a mild form of synesthesia, but I’m never happy with a piece of music until I can’t hear myself in it, I don’t know how it was formed, and it comes back to me as something alien of the speakers. I want the sounds to affect the listener in an emotional or psychedelic way. Putting you in a world all its own, appealing but revolting at the same time. To get there I’m constantly layering and revising in overdubs, leaving phantom chords and impressions of sound and texture, unrefined and wild. Kind of merging an artistic approach with a raw punk ethos, and Brian Eno’s “generative music” theory and Oblique Strategies.

The treatment of the sound draws out a more mysterious atmosphere than a lot of more straight-ahead Songwriting with a capital S. There’s an element of abstraction here that puts the imagination into overdrive. Has this presented any obstacles in terms of how the music is perceived, or does it seem like listeners are open to the music?

It’s definitely turned some people away, especially with how at odds we are with modern, sterile production, some people just shut down right away, some are immediately pulled in.

We used to say we wanted our records to infect and ruin every other record in your collection, so you never hear music the same. But maybe that’s a cover up for not being able to write in a pop structure yet… I love the mental space our records put the listener in, but I definitely needed guidance in not taking it too far for this release, reining it in, learning the “correct way,” which I really want as we come back and move forward.

Live, we’re a different beast, more minimal but impactful, deliberate, we’re often told it’s “powerful and sexy,” which makes me a little uncomfortable, but I think it’s a reaction to our rhythm section taking over, the bass lines and beats really shining through.

We accept it, next year we’re going into the studio with Tom Ashton — finally — to re-record a lot of these tracks and make them bigger, more palatable to a wider audience, maybe shed some of the deathrock for more traditional post-punk sounds… whatever that means for us. Tom hears potential in our sounds that I’m really excited about.

If you have enjoyed reading this interview, please consider making a donation to RadATL.

Donate with PayPal

Q&A: Gentleman Jesse loses everything …

Gentleman Jesse. Photo by Riley McBride

When Gentleman Jesse Smith released his second album, Leaving Atlanta in 2012, the lauded local songwriter had gained a reputation as something of a power pop savant, crafting songs steeped in garage-punk minimalism and tales of heartbreak. Over the last decade, Smith has spent much of his time working as co-owner of seafood restaurants Watchman’s in Krog Market and Decatur’s Kimball House. Shiny Dimes Oyster Farm will open in Florida this year as well. Music, however, did not fall by the wayside. In December, Gentleman Jesse released Lose Everything, a 10-song return that finds him singing and playing every instrument — organ, keyboard, guitar, bass, drums, melodica, etc. — while eschewing the pop reductionism to embrace a layered and sophisticated approach to songwriting. On the heels of the album’s arrival, Smith took a few minutes to talk about how the songs have taken shape. 


Nearly 10 years have passed since you released Leaving Atlanta. Did you reach a point where Lose Everything felt like it was too much to make happen?

Yeah, after the first day of recording! I can play the drums but I’m not a drummer. I practiced a ton, and if I played a show you might think, “Jesse’s not bad …” But recording drums is a whole different beast than playing drums in front of people. The consistency of your snare hit will affect the way it’s recorded.

We recorded at Notch 8. Andrew Wiggins and Ryan Bell have a control room there, but because other bands had to practice and use the space, we had to record the drums in one day. So I recorded for 13 hours. By the end, I was just done. There are songs that just aren’t great performances because I was like, “I used to have the ability to play a song this way, but because I’ve been playing for 13 hours my hip hurts. I can’t do it anymore.”

You get through an entire day of that, and you’ve spent so much of your own personal income to do it, and then you hear the results, and you’re like, “Fuck it, we tried …”

Ryan talked me off the ledge by saying things like, “You gotta understand that we’ll layer things. We’ll mix the drums, the things that bother you will start to disappear.” I know every missed hit and and fucked up thing about the record. But you can sweeten the sound, and once you add bass, guitar, keyboards, and vocals it’s less distracting.

I often wonder if it’s a burden for musicians to bear — listening to music and focusing on the snare, the bass, etc., and not just hearing the mass. 

There are two different ways to listen to music: There’s the bird’s eye view, and there’s focusing on every little nuance. If you watch the Paul McCartney and Rick Rubin thing, one of the best things about it is a moment where they pull out one specific vocal track and play it by itself. One of their voices cracks, or gets a little gruff, and you’re like that’s the Beatles! So you realize that things can go away with a little mixing magic.

Stylistically speaking, the songs on Lose Everything are about as far removed from what’s on your previous two albums as you can get while maintaining a connection. 

That’s partially by design, but what you might not realize is that I’ve been sitting on the riff for the title track since Leaving Atlanta. Same with the intro riff from “Dead May Rest.” I’ve had that riff for a long time, but thought it was too indie-sounding for Gentleman Jesse.

Fun fact: You’re hanging out at a party during SXSW, talking with your musician buddies that you don’t get to see all that much. I was at a party with Jay Reatard and we talked about collaborating. He wanted to do one-off collaboration records and stuff like that. So I was saving that riff for Jay, but then I finished it. There are things that are stylistically different, but I’ve been incubating them for a long time. “God Is Blind” is one that I’d been working on for nine years. I finally finished it but a lot of the stuff would have been on the record if it had come out two years after. 

The second to last song on the album, “The Line,” is the only song that I wrote during the pandemic.

What is that song about? 

It’s about a lot of different things: It’s about a person’s connection with the place where they live. It’s about an idea of nature reclaiming man-made structures, and what the world would look like if we disappeared — how quickly our mark would go away.

Is the cover art a representation of that idea? 

That image is something that I drive by every day on my way to work. Specifically, I know the person whose house is where you would see it. I shucked oysters and worked an event at his house. I saw it out there and knew that it would be the cover. The original idea was going to be a burned out house. Lose Everything is a record about loss in all different forms, and I was going to take a photograph of myself standing in the rubble. Sort of like Leaving Atlanta style, but it’s just Gentleman Jesse loses everything. I think this is more tasteful. 

When I think of what you’ve accomplished since Leaving Atlanta — opening two restaurants — calling the album Lose Everything feels like the stakes are high.

That’s one way to look at it. The title track deals with the idea that no one is anything, everyone can be whatever they want. We’re learning that more and more. But the idea is that you can change anything — whether it’s your opinions, or anything about your nature. You can lose the identity that you’ve created. You can shed that into whatever you want at any given moment. I thought this was a good way to wrap that idea. 

That song kind of sums up everything, and  brings everything together after all these other ideas are explored — losing a loved one, or losing your direction. The album is bookended with “Become Nothing” and “Lose Everything.”

I’ve been searching for a lyric in “Lose Everything” that ties it all together.

That song deals with abstraction, and it’s not something you can put your finger on. “Dead May Rest” has a lyric that sums up the idea of not being sure of anything — nothing is concrete. And that’s the line about whether or not destiny exists: “Scholars have wondered throughout the centuries if mankind was bound to destiny, and if so, why freedom of the will while we dance in circles ever still.”

Ultimately, we know nothing and we’re a blip in time. So none of this really matters all too much. 

The long, slow fade out in “Become Nothing” projects a lot of what you’re talking about. 

Yeah, and there’s a moment where I pulled a This Heat trick, and as the song fades out, I fade into the demo version of the song. So the audio changes to something of lesser quality.

Post-modern! A reference to a reference to a reference!

See! I’m not as one-dimensional as I painted myself to be with my first couple of records.

Has finishing and releasing the record lit a fire under you to continue with the next record?

Yes! Part of the reason I forced myself to do it all by myself is because I wanted to get this one out of the way so that I can work on more. I feel like I have a new angle, and I’m comfortable putting out more music as Gentleman Jesse.

This interview also appears in the January issue of Record Plug Magazine.

If you have enjoyed reading this interview, please consider making a donation to RadATL.

Donate with PayPal

Brann Dailor of Mastodon on the ideas and imagery behind the new album, ‘Hushed and Grim’

MASTODON: Bill Kelliher (left), Troy Sanders, Brann Dailor, and Brent Hinds. Photo by Clay Patrick McBride


On Halloween eve, Mastodon unleashed its 8th proper studio album, Hushed and Grim (Reprise). The album’s sprawling 15-songs distill the group’s legacy as the pride of Atlanta metal, and a force of nature the world over, into a punishing, real-time reflection on death, sorrow, and reclamation.

From the moment the album’s first single, “Pushing the Tides” arrived, the brutal power on display made it clear that Mastodon was coming out of the gate strong. Guitar players Bill Kelliher and Brent Hinds, drummer Brann Dailor, and bass player Troy Sanders channeled their anguish over the loss of their friend and former manager Nick John, who died from cancer in 2018, into a serpentine musical saga.

Within weeks, “Pushing the Tides” was nominated for a “Best Metal Performance” Grammy. In the meantime, the group has remained on the road playing shows across the U.S.

Dailor took a few minutes between tour stops to talk about how the ideas and imagery behind Hushed and Grim came together to form an emotionally hefty and gorgeously articulated new chapter for Mastodon.

Over the years we’ve had conversations about each new Mastodon album, and there’s often an element of the band confronting death—losing someone close—and dealing with it in a real-time kind of way. I recognize this in Hushed and Grim, but the album also feels empowered.

When you start writing an album, maybe you find out that you have less control than you imagined you did. It just starts to unfold, and maybe in the back of your head you’re thinking, “We need to be heavier, faster, and crazier.” Then the things that you naturally gravitate toward are slower, darker, and deeper. Then you think, “Maybe this is actually the vibe.”

It starts to reveal itself, and it really is the manifestation of what we’re going through during that moment in time. Nothing happens in a vacuum. When you’re creating something, the emotions that you’re experiencing with whatever you’re dealing with in life will ride in tandem with that.

Going into Hushed and Grim, We weren’t feeling too good as a group. So during the writing process, wallowing in those feelings led to what the album sounds like. Anything that sounded remotely happy was kicked out immediately. It was like, “No! I’m not happy. Get rid of that.”

Maybe by the end of the album it becomes empowered — it gets there eventually. For me, it’s a tough listen. It puts me back in these places that weren’t fun to go through, but it was necessary to get through it.

I don’t know what’s going on with us, but for the last bunch of albums, I don’t know if we’re cursed or something … I don’t believe in curses, but I’ll just say it to be fun. From Crack the Skye on, it seems like every time we go into the writing process somebody close to us fucking dies. So word to the wise, don’t be close friends with anyone in Mastodon.

In that pure songwriterly way, Hushed and Grim has multiple meanings. I first saw it as a pandemic reference. … In the early days of the pandemic I even heard someone describe Atlanta’s streets as “hushed and grim.”

Actually, I stole it from Gone With the Wind. I’ve had the title in the back of my head for a long time.

Gone With the Wind was my sister’s favorite movie, and we used to watch it every time it came on. I just really liked that phrase. It’s on a title card halfway through the film, after Sherman burns Atlanta to the ground. You see this massive crane shot over downtown Atlanta, and you see thousands of dead soldiers. Scarlett is running around tending to the wounded that are lying in the street.

Sometimes when a tragedy takes place it’s not people running around screaming. It’s quiet and there’s this acceptance that something terrible is happening, and it’s quiet. When our former manager Nick John had gone into home hospice care we all flew to L.A. to see him one last time, and to say goodbye. He was asleep in a hospital bed, his mom was there, his sister, his wife and some close friends. “Hushed and grim” was the perfect phrase to explain the feeling in that house that day.

So the Atlanta connection, the connection to Nick John in that specific circumstance, and the fact that I felt like it encapsulated the sound of the album being quieter, melancholy, and more sparse really resonated with me. … At least it’s more sparse than maybe we’ve ever been. We’ve hinted at it over the years, but this one really goes in on that slower, more methodical, take-our-time kind of thing.

From the beginning, when I was first hearing the riffs, writing the stuff with the guys, and putting it together, I had this black and gray color palette that I felt was lending itself to the album. I could see black and gray with a touch of gold. That’s the initial conversation I had with Paul Romano about doing the cover. I didn’t have anything else but the color palette.


Song-for-song, the variety goes beyond a lot of what Mastodon has done in the past. Was it your intention to make an album that’s a little more complex?

No, I think that’s the result of having more time to work on it. There was no tour looming. In the past, there’s always something we have to go and do. I don’t want to say that it rushes things, because early on we wrote Leviathan in like three months. But we had a lot of time with this one. We worked on it, and kept coming back to our garden of songs and watering them and watering them. We poured over these things like a barista in a San Francisco coffee shop [laughs]. We really took our time making sure certain parts are what we wanted them to be, building on bridges, and getting into the nooks and crannies that maybe we wouldn’t have discovered if there was a hard time constraint.

Even during Crack The Skye, it was like, “Ok, we need to go play Bonnaroo now.” It’s a mind shift to go from writing and pouring over new songs to practicing “Crystal Skull” and “Blood and Thunder.” So it’s the result of being able to stay in writing mode longer, without any hope of going on tour, ‘cause that wasn’t happening! It was like, “In fact, your industry will be the last one to come back. So now, we’re out here trying to figure it out while staying safe and making sure that our tour can happen. Just yesterday we had a scare with a false positive. This could all be taken down so easily, and everybody goes back home and loses hundreds of thousands of dollars.

That’s the general mood everywhere right now.

Yeah, it’s all hanging on by a thread, but we’re hoping for the best. Getting back to your question, we’re probably most known for complex arrangements. Anytime we come up with something that’s lesser than, people are surprised. But if a simple song reveals itself and we dig it, we’ll go for it. We don’t put on the idea that we have to be proggy all the time, or that every song has to have a thousand riffs, and within those riffs there are hundreds of little riffs. A lot of the time we’re taking stuff away, saying to ourselves, “My God, this song has five bridges. What is going on here?”

It also feels like the band has mastered working at West End Sound and Ember City Studio. Emperor Of Sand through Hushed and Grim encapsulates an era for Mastodon’s sound that has developed since the studio was built. You know how to get the best possible results out of that room.

Yeah, we’re comfy-cozy in there. And if we didn’t have the studio we wouldn’t have been able to make the record. We couldn’t fly to L.A. or anywhere else to record because of the pandemic. Getting David Bottrill to say yes and come to Atlanta and live there for three months while we worked on it was paramount.


The album’s cover is a departure for Mastodon, both in color and orientation — it’s kind of a landscape image.

Yeah, it has Nick John as the Green Man in the middle of the tree. It is expansive; that’s the middle panel of a nine-panel piece by Paul. We were both on the same page as far as having a twisted tree be the main focus, and that it would reveal the seasons as you go around. So the panels are the different seasons. And there are all sorts of Easter eggs in there that Paul takes from the lyrics and song titles, and whatever any of the band members offer. He always fits everything in somewhere. There’s a reference to Jakuchu’s “Elephant and Whale” diptych in there. There’s all sorts of fun stuff in there. I wanted the fan base to know when they saw the cover art that, at least in my perception, they were getting something different. So we wanted it to be a departure, and to look different from the rest of the album covers, while reflecting the mood of the album.

Nick John as the Green Man: I tend to think of the Green Man mythology as being about regeneration, or it being about a new beginning. Is that part of what you are projecting with the artwork?

My whole made up afterlife mythology was that your soul enters the heart of a living tree. In order to say goodbye, it lives there for a whole calendar year, and experiences the seasons to reflect on the life that you had. And that’s how you’re able to say goodbye to the natural world.

… As if we needed any more afterlife mythologies, here’s one more for you! [laughs]

If you have enjoyed reading this interview, please consider making a donation to RadATL.

Donate with PayPal

Tom Ashton of the March Violets on the goth and post-punk legacy behind SubVon Studio

Tom Ashton at SubVon Studio. Photo by Mike White

In December of 1981, guitarist Tom Ashton co-founded the gothic and post-punk outfit The March Violets while attending Jacob Kramer College of Art in Leeds, U.K. Throughout the ‘80s, the band landed several singles on the U.K. indie and club charts, including goth classics such as “Snake Dance,” “Walk Into the Sun,” “Crow Baby,” and “Turn to the Sky.” The latter number earned The March Violets a cameo appearance in the 1987 film “Some Kind of Wonderful,” written by John Hughes. Over the years Ashton has also done stints playing guitar with equally lauded acts Clan of Xymox and The Danse Society, and most recently filled in on bass with Athens’ rising goth luminaries Vision Video. Ashton has called Athens home since 2001. Recently, a new generation of post-punk, gothic, and otherwise darkwave bands have all released music bearing the mark of Ashton’s SubVon Studio, where he’s also found a niche composing scores for various independent films.

What brought you to Athens from the U.K.?

I met my wonderful wife of 29 years, Rachel, an Athens local, whilst touring the US, playing guitar with the Dutch gothic rock band Clan of Xymox — or Xymox as they were known at the time. We met when the band was prepping for our tour at The 40 Watt, supporting the album called Phoenix on Mercury Records. I originally came from Scotland, where I grew up in a small town called Alva in an area called the Hillfoots. From there I moved to Leeds to play music. Years later, I moved to London for nine years before making the move to Athens in 2001.

When did you start recording at SubVon Studio?

SubVon kinda started around 2012-2014. I was recording March Violets stuff and working on a bunch of film scores for people up in Michigan and in Los Angeles. I built a room in our basement purely as a production suite, but when we later finished building out the rest of the area I realized there was room to fit in a whole band with a full kit. After a month or so I started mentioning the space to anyone who might be interested in coming in and joining the experiment. It was christened on January 1, 2018. The name just kind of popped out from nowhere, although the word Von is a nickname for Andrew Eldritch from The Sisters of Mercy, so maybe it’s a play on that for some reason.

The March Violets in 1983: Simon Denbigh (from left), Cleo Murray, Tom Ashton, Loz Elliott

Andrew Eldritch’s Merciful Release label released The March Violets’ “Grooving in Green” and “Religious as Hell” 7-inches. Did you ever join The Sisters of Mercy?

At one point in ’81, Andrew did try to filch me from the Violets, and I did play one show with them playing guitar. It was a great time, and later he said, “If you want it, it’s yours.” I would have loved to do both but I felt I couldn’t do it under the circumstances. I had moved from Scotland to play music with my best mates, and I didn’t want to screw them over. At the time, we were all good mates — I was mates with Craig Adams and Gary Marx from the Sisters. We used to all hang out at Andrew’s house. He was the only person that any of us knew who had a VCR, so we’d all get high and watch “Alien” over and over again.

There is an identifiable scene emerging around your studio work. Bands like Tears for the Dying, Hip To Death, Entertainment, and Vision Video come to mind. What’s the underlying thread that connects them all?

This scene kind of reminds me of the special time back in Leeds and West Yorkshire in ‘81-’82. Bands like Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, The Sisters of Mercy, Danse Society, Southern Death Cult, Skeletal Family, and The March Violets all combined and developed our own take on punk, post-punk, and goth. Most importantly, we had our own way of doing it. I am lucky to be in the right place at the right time not only once but twice. And I would certainly add We Hunt Kings — Henry from Entertainment’s project — to that list. Pale Pose’s Doorways; The Exiter is another notable album which I mixed and mastered, definitely some dark and beautiful poetry there. And although not strictly gothic in nature, T.T. Mahony sometimes enters some very dark territory with his French People album which I mixed last year.

I think sometimes it all comes down to a quirk of timing and geographical location. The law of averages dictates that at one place and time a similarly minded group of people will cascade together and feed each other their energy and ideas. Once it’s realized it becomes acted upon and is further enhanced. Leeds circa 1982 felt like this, and to me, now Athens and Atlanta have a similar sense of purpose and amount of talent to throw it out to the rest of the world successfully.

Aesthetically speaking, I’d say there is a wide range of styles and influences in the mixing cauldron of these bands, and I see it as my job to capture and collate, collaborating in a way that enhances each individual voice.

Do you have creative input when it comes to the musical choices that these bands are making?

Yes, but it can vary quite a bit according to each individual track. Sometimes a reimagined backing vocal, or subtle orchestrations in the background. I’m very much an ears-and-mind-are-open kind of producer, and I’ll never get in the way of someone else’s vision. I’m just there to help it flow and wrap it in the sheen I always like to hear.

VISION VIDEO: Dusty Gannon (left) with Jason Fusco (drums) and Tom Ashton filling in playing guitar during Historic Athens Porchfest on October 10, 2021. Photo by Mike White

How did you start working with Vision Video?

Ashton: In pre-COVID days, Dusty Gannon ran — and will again no doubt — a fantastic night called Make America Goth Again. I was there one night when Dusty was DJing. We’d never met before. He played “Snake Dance,” and a mutual friend pulled us together and said, “This is the guy who plays guitar on this song!” We hit it off, and he sent me some music he was working on in 2018, I think. I loved it! Even back then it sounded like Vision Video. The track was called “Organized Murder.” Basically we just hit it off with too many similar interests to count and hung out a lot and got drunk!

Are you currently working on any projects with any of these groups?

Dusty from Vision Video is already sending me some wonderful sketches for the next album, and we are discussing ideas and approaches on how the progression will go. I’m still in the middle of mixing We Hunt Kings. Tears for the Dying has a new lineup and are sending me the demos for their next album which sounds fab too.

What’s next for you?

I’m currently working on various masters for a March Violets CD box set for release in the near future through the U.K. label Jungle Records. There will be never-before-heard material included, and some classic Violets tracks that never had a proper release. Vision Video will be in to record the next record in January or February, and Tears for the Dying start recording their next release with me in mid-December. Until recently I was working on a score for a film called Dwarfhammer by a Michigan-based director named Daniel E. Falicki. I also recently began mixing and remixing tracks for Tennessee-based band Palm Ghost. I’m really looking forward to getting my teeth into the future!

Read the print version of this story in the December issue of Record Plug Magazine.

If you have enjoyed reading this interview, please consider making a donation to RadATL.

Donate with PayPal

Jeffrey Bützer and the art of simplicity

MERRY CHRISTMAS, CHARLIE BROWN! Jeffrey Bützer. Photo by Ken Lackner

Both stylish and whimsical, Jeffrey Bützer’s latest album, Soldaderas, is an abstract score for a film of the imagination. Over the course of 10 instrumental numbers, the album paints a picture of a day in the life of the female militias that played an integral role in winning the Mexican Revolution of 1910-1917, ultimately transforming the Mexican government and the culture at large.

Of course, telling such an epic tale through music is no small feat to accomplish, especially when there are no lyrical cues to guide the story. Throughout Soldaderas, in songs with titles such as “Guns of Morelos” and “A Woman in Trouble,” as well as in the album’s title track, moments of intense drama, fluttering beauty, and guitar noise gravitate toward the most romantic aspects of a traditional Spaghetti Western ambiance. But spacious, open-ended arrangements carved out by Bützer’s signature brittle piano and accordion touches, and an emphasis on sonic texture leave plenty of room for the imagery to unfold.


“I have always been a big fan of Spaghetti Westerns, and there’s a whole genre of Spaghetti Westerns that are Zapata films,” Bützer says. “That is where all of my knowledge of the Mexican Revolution comes from. I read a book about these female militias. I’m always dabbling with twangy guitars, but I’d never leaned too heavily into doing something in a straight-up Spaghetti Western style. So I decided to try it.” He goes on to say, “The concept of the album being about these militias just became a fun idea to work with and tie it all together.”

More than that, Soldaderas is Bützer’s third album released between August 23 and October 3, 2021 — less than two months time — following The Singing Bird’s Soft Trap and The Peripatetic. Recorded and released in quick succession amid the COVID-19 pandemic, these albums take shape as the culmination of a shift in Bützer’s songwriting.

Beginning with his 2006 debut album, She Traded Her Leg, Bützer laid the blueprint for a highly structured musical style. His music, composed largely on a toy piano at the time, was guided by precise notes and minimal arrangements where every sound was specifically placed in each song. Over time, his emphasis has moved increasingly away from melody and more toward embracing texture, improvisation, and single-take recordings with minimal overdubs to carry his songs and ideas.

“At some point, I had a moment where I said to myself, ‘Man, I don’t want to plan out what I’m doing anymore, I kind of just want to just make noise,’” Bützer says. “One of my favorite albums that I listened to is Neil Young’s Dead Man soundtrack, which is mostly just a guitar. There’s an organ in there, too, but it’s mostly just him improvising on a guitar. It feels like one long take. I love listening to music like that, So I figure if I like listening to albums like that, there has to be at least two or three other people out there who might want to hear this.”

THE COMPARTMENTALIZATIONALISTS: Mitch Laue (from left), Sean Zearfoss, and Jeffrey Bützer. Photo by David Batterman.

Even though he’s adopted this stripped-down approach to music, there’s still an element of complexity at work in Bützer’s body of work. In conversation, it’s impossible to talk about his surf rock group the Compartmentalizationalists, or the more pop-oriented group the Bicycle Eaters, without slowing down to pronounce every syllable. Even the title of his album The Peripatetic is a bit of a verbal speed bump.

“None of that is ever really done by design,” Bützer says. “I just don’t like band names. At first we had Midwives, and quickly I did not like that. Then it became Bicycle Eaters and I really didn’t like that… This is why I can never get a tattoo.”

The name, the Compartmentalizationalists, was initially planned to be used for just one recorded project that wasn’t supposed to ever play live. However, plans changed. “It’s all just aesthetic,” he says. “I’ve always been obsessed with the absurd, surrealism, David Lynch, and really, I just liked the way the name looked when I saw it written out.”

Every December, Bützer switches gears to play drums with pianist T.T. Mahoney, leading an ensemble through jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi’s 1965 score to the animated TV special “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” The lineup is filled out by bass player Mike Beshera and vocalists Kelly Winn and Audrey Gámez.

This December marks the 14th year the group has brought “A Charlie Brown Christmas” to the stage. Despite his penchant for stripping things down, Guaraldi’s songs are anything but easy to perform live. As Bützer explains, “It’s pretty much the best Christmas album ever.” It’s also a spectacle that’s as whimsical and no less stylish than a parable about the women who helped win the Mexican Revolution, and it’s become an Atlanta holiday tradition.

This year the group performsA Charlie Brown Christmas” three nights in Atlanta at The EARL, December 10-12. The following weekend, the group will travel up Highway 316 for a night at The 40 Watt on December 16.

Read the print version of this story in the December issue of Record Plug Magazine.

If you have enjoyed reading this interview, please consider making a donation to RadATL.

Donate with PayPal

Claire Lodge & Tom Cheshire: A chance meeting in the produce department at Kroger on Buford Highway

Claire Lodge

I first heard about Claire Lodge on a Tom Waits message board about 10 years ago. Everyone was fascinated, but no one seemed to know much about her. Then somehow we linked up online through an old musician friend. For years we’ve shared ideas and filthy jokes and suggested books and music and films to watch, without ever meeting in person. That all ended last week, when I was at a grocery store on Buford Highway in Atlanta. 

We both tried to grab the same piece of fruit. She looked at me and said “You’re Tom Cheshire, I’m embarrassed I’m in my pajamas.” I responded saying “that’s OK I’m in my rain boots.” So there we were, finally face to face. We put our groceries in our cars and went and had a cup of coffee. 

Three hours later and a lot of laughs a real friendship was born. We managed to squeeze out an interview and we are talking about doing an EP. 

Here you go, I hope you enjoy.


Tom Cheshire: The first time I saw you live was in New York City, It was with Compartmentalizationalists. You had two drummers and a bassist.

Claire Lodge: Yeah, I co-write in that band. We have made three albums.

The Fainting Couch is your first solo album, do you approach your solo music differently?

With Comparts, most of the tunes have a set structure, even if we improvise within that structure. When I play solo, It’s almost all by feel. Some tunes will be two minutes one night, and eight the next. Life has enough structure, I like freedom. I like that in the artists I go see live too. If you are a rock band that plays everything the same way every time I see it, I get bored. I love people like PJ Harvey, Andrew Bird, Tom Waits. I like the element of surprise.

Did you set out to make it with just guitars? Did you try playing with a band first?

I set out to make it with just guitars. I love solo guitar albums. Bill Frisell’s In Line, Marc Ribot’s Saints, Masada Guitars, Sharrock’s Guitar, Etta Baker’s Railroad Bill, the list goes on. I like the intimacy of one person with one instrument.

The songs on the album have no titles. And it is an album, not a record. And where did the name come from?

They have titles. “Part 1,” “Part 2,” and so on. I want people to listen to the entire album, like you would watch a film. And no, no vinyl. They sell records at Target. So I hope I’m ahead of the curve on the comeback of CDs. As far as the title goes, I have always liked the words “Fainting Couch,” it sounds like it could mean several things.

Tom Cheshire: What is the first song you remember hearing?

Probably “Happy Birthday.” My parents didn’t listen to any vocal music growing up. I don’t remember hearing anyone sing until I was 10.

How old were you when you wrote your first song? What was it called? 

When I was 12 or 13 I got serious about guitar. I wrote a song called “Cincinnati String Bean.” It was a banger… I have never sung in my life. 

Where were you born? Where did you grow up and where is home now?

I was born in London. I have lived all over. Mainly London and Atlanta. I went to school at Stanford.

Have you ever stolen a car?

Never. I can barely drive.

What is the best cross country driving record?

Oh man, probably Francoise Hardy. Anything by her. Or Pink Flag on repeat.

Who is your biggest influence as a guitar player?

I heard the song “Apache” by the Shadows and wanted to learn it. While I was learning guitar we were living in Italy and my teacher introduced me to Tom Waits’ music and I fell in love with Marc Ribot’s playing. Then when I heard Sonny Sharrock my life was forever changed. I wish I had a cool story about discovering him, but it was on Space Ghost.


Who is your biggest influence as a piano player?

First off, I can barely play piano. But I like to listen to this dude Francois Couturier a lot. Nina Simone, Monk.

What is your favorite film score?

A Zed & Two Noughts by Michael Nyman. It is insane and perfect. In the past 20 years, I also really liked Johnny Greenwood’s The Master.

Do you see colors when you hear music? Do you see colors or visuals when you write music?

My images are almost always black and white.

How long should a film be? What is too long?

90 minutes if you have children. Up to 2.5 hours if not. I hope Bella Tarr doesn’t read this. 

What do you look for in a song?

Texture.

Your favorite city/country to perform in?

Poland. I have been going there for the past eight or nine years and it has been a blast. That’s what pushed me into recording my tunes.

Your favorite food on the road?

Red licorice.

Mexican vs Chinese. Your thoughts? That’s on food.

I hate goddamn cheese, so Chinese. Chinese food is awesome.

Go-to snack food?

Ice cream. Any kind, anywhere.

Guilty pleasure music?

I rarely feel guilty. I guess I will go with Poppy Family, Ace of Base. At this point… Nick Cave. 

Favorite member of Wu-Tang Clan?

Inspectah Deck. He is the man. He has the best verses and he needs the publicity.

Who is your favorite comedian?

Living or dead? George Carlin might be the best ever. But I love so many. Chris Rock, Chris Elliott, Norm Macdonald, Louie, Pryor … Why didn’t he make a record called Pryor Convictions? Wait, did he? 

Would you date a man who drives a Corvette?

Only if it was stolen. Jesus … I sound like Lana Del Rey.


Who would you like to work with, write with? Dream collaboration?

Chris Gaines. We could talk shit about Garth Brooks. I bet he sniffs glue. I should go easy on him. He survived tragedies. 

But really, Tom Cheshire. Let’s make that happen.

Please say me, and do you want to put out a record together? If so, let’s do this.

Oh… I didn’t even read ahead. Yes! Let’s do eet. 

Will we get a Claire Lodge U.S. tour soon?

I don’t think so. I play secret shows in Atlanta and New York a few times a year, but can’t hit the road anymore. 

Last but not least, your thoughts on sandals? I personally can’t stand them.

Is Sandals a show on CBS? It should be.

Thank you so much for your time, Claire. 

If you have enjoyed reading this interview, please consider making a donation to RadATL.

Donate with PayPal

Three on the Ones and Twos ep. 16: Bauhaus: ‘Burning From the Inside’

Burning From the Inside has always held something of a mystery simmering just beneath the surface of every note and every lyrical phrase. Bauhaus’ final album (the first time around) perfectly distilled the band’s black-clad post-punk and proto-goth traipse into an enigmatic final act. Like the arrows of chaos, seminal recordings by Love and Rockets, Peter Murphy, Tones On Tail, David J, Daniel Ash, Dali’s Car, and Poptone all fired off in every direction shortly after its arrival.

I’m not sure if there’s a literal code to crack here, but nods to Italian Futurism in “Who Killed Mr. Moonlight” take shape as a poignant snapshot of a group that has already pulled itself apart at the seams. “Antonin Artaud” pushes that tension to an ecstatic state, “King Volcano,” “Slice Of Life,” and the album’s title track are monster cuts—quintessential Bauhaus. “Hope” brings it all to a warm and psychedelic landing, hinting at what the future holds in store. But it’s difficult to see the forest for the trees, maybe that’s what the cover art is all about. All meaning is shrouded in layers upon layers of cinematic imagery here. Nearly 40 years after its arrival, Burning From the Inside still reveals all sorts of insight into the band’s history and legacy. I was thrilled when Cassy, Tom, and James invited me on the show to talk about it all.

You can also listen to our conversation on Spotify.

If you have enjoyed reading this post, please consider making a donation to RadATL.

Donate with PayPal

4 1/2 Grizzes with David Bair of New Bedlam

David Bair of New Bedlam. Photo by Chad Radford


At the top of the year, New Bedlam went into Maze Studios with Ben Etter to record a new EP titled Steady Diet of Bullshit (released June 18). Later, singer and guitar player David Bair, bass player Tyler Davis, drummer Mike Walden, and guitarist Michael Parrish returned to the studio to film live performances of each of the EP’s five songs.

Recently, Bair and I made our way to El Myr in Little Five Points to talk about the group and the latest EP while knocking back a few Grizzes — four and-a-half Grizzes each, to be exact. What’s a Grizz, you ask? It’s a pony-sized bottle of Corona with a shot of well Tequila dropped in, and a lime placed atop so you don’t spill too much on the way back to your table.

This is part 1 of our conversation. Keep an eye out for part 2 coming soon.

What brought you to Atlanta?

Me and our bass player Tyler were in a band called Bully Pulpit. We moved here from Charleston in 2016. Danny, the kitchen manager here at El Myr, was the frontman for that band.

We were touring up and down the East Coast, putting out records, and bought a van. Charleston just wasn’t a good place for our headquarters. We had some homies living here, so we moved. … Moving four guys into a house, who didn’t have jobs, and had never really lived with anyone else before … It fell apart pretty quickly. Me and Danny and Tyler stayed. We put a lot of time and money and energy into this band, and that’s what pushed me to pick up the guitar again and start writing music with a new band. Nothing will happen if you don’t try.

It’s taken three years to get the word out about New Bedlam. The songs are there, the sound is there, now we just need to get it into peoples’ ears.

Having some professionalism in our work ethic, staying on peoples’ asses, doing the live videos on Youtube is only going to help us.

The new EP is called Steady Diet of Bullshit … Clearly a Fugazi reference?

Yes! Tyler is a Fugazi nut. Originally, jokingly, we were going to call it Steady Diet Of Pizza, but that was too much. Obviously, Fugazi is a huge influence on us and we’ve covered “Merchandise” before. It’s that DIY ethic: If anyone’s ever seen a Fugazi show in person or on the internet, you’re going to church. You connect with it immediately when you’re watching those motherfuckers play. So the title was a clever way to give them a nod, and to signify that if you come to one of our shows, you’re going to leave with something new in your life.

I’m not on stage just because we’re some band on a bill. I’m here because we’ve culminated this with our homies, and wrote these songs to hopefully send you home in a way more positive mood than what you showed up with. We want it to be something that’s fun and exciting, something you hadn’t experienced before.

Let’s talk about some songs — “End Transmission”.

We had a bunch of songs in the can and everyone was like, “fuck it, let’s go record them.” At first, it didn’t make any sense to me when we recorded. But now, hearing them together, whatever the songs mean to the user makes sense. They all mean different things to me, they mean different things to the boys and the band. “End Transmission” is more personal. To me it’s about parents and childhood and shit like that.

The idea with Steady Diet Of Bullshit is something that me and you deal with every day. Something that everyone in Atlanta deals with everyday — the mound of bullshit you are constantly navigating to be happy, or to have a positive mental attitude, or just to keep your  bills paid. People relate to that because it’s everyday life.

“Lurch” is a heavier song. Some of the other songs on the record are more punk oriented. “Lurch” has got more atmosphere, but when we hit the chorus it still punches you in the gut. It’s about how we’re always trying to move forward so fast — society, technology. But my personal experience is that we’re just lurching in one way or another, trying to get through whatever.

As much as I love Fugazi, I never detected much of a sense of humor in the music. A lot of bands wear the Fugazi influence on their sleeve, but calling the album Steady Diet of Bullshit is a new approach … And it’s a funny way to pay homage.

Yes! And even with our other EPs, there’s always a cynical quality to the music. You could take some of the lyrics seriously, or not. There’s always a light side of me saying some pretty heavy shit. So naming it Steady Diet of Bullshit is my way, and the band’s way, of bringing humility to the music. We’re all pretty humble people, but we’re still vulnerable.

It’s refreshing to be in Atlanta, and to hear this level of anger in a newer band. Atlanta is the music scene that you’re part of, but these songs resonate with a bigger picture that’s aligned with Melvins or Unsane.

We were learning “Scrape” not too long ago, just to have a fun cover to play! Dude, that kind of feeling that you get from listening to Unsane is what we want — that’s us in a nutshell. The way it makes you feel when you listen to it — that nasty, knee-buckling shit — when you hear it, however you relate it to your world, we’re in the same boat. 100%

New Bedlam is (from left) Tyler Davis, Mike Walden, David Bair, and Michael Parrish. Photo by DJ Bing.

Part 2 of our conversation is coming soon.

If you have enjoyed reading this article, please consider making a donation to RadATL.

Donate with PayPal

Record Plug: Warm Red

When you’re out and about this weekend, hitting up records stores, coffee shops, or just grabbing a beer somewhere, be sure to pick up a copy of the September issue of Record Plug Magazine.

For this issue, I had the chance to catch up with Warm Red before their show at the Earl a little earlier this month, and to talk about their debut album, Decades of Breakfast (State Laughter). Press play below.

Also, this issues features cool write ups on AthFest (Sept. 24-26), Skin Jobs, Entertainment, the upcoming Southern Surf Stompfest (Oct. 2), and a whole lot more.

The website is here, but print is where all of the stories live, and copies are strategically placed all around metro Atlanta and Athens. … I grabbed my copy at Drip Coffee in Hapeville, but I saw it at Wax-n-Facts and Wuxtry as well.

Keeping scrolling downward to read my Warm Red feature story, and check out those killer live shots courtesy of Mike White at Dead Designs photography.


If you have enjoyed reading this article, please consider making a donation to RadATL.

Donate with PayPal