Brian Cullman, Veteran NY Music Scenester/Journalist/Producer, Shares His Tunes and Musings About Death: Nakedly Examined Music Podcast #137

Brian started as a teen music enthusiast and journalist as early as 1970, running into folks like Jim Morrison and Nico and making connections with every musician he could lay eyes on. He leveraged this effort into finding vehicles for his songs, first with OK Savant (ca. 1990), a band that frequented CBGBs and then broke up right as it was signed to a major label. After some false starts and life changes, he likewise used his network to support his creation of three and half solo albums starting in 2008. He has also been an active producer and collaborator for artists like Ollabelle, Lucinda Williams & Taj Mahal, and several international musicians.

Each episode of the Nakedly Examined Music podcast involves picking three recordings from an artist’s catalog to play in full and discuss in detail. Your host Mark Linsenmayer here engages Brian about “Killing The Dead” (and we listen to “Wrong Birthday” at the end; see the video below) from Winter Clothes (2020, written with now-deceased Ollabelle guitarist Jimi Zhivago), “And She Said” from The Opposite of Time (2016), and “The Promise” from All Fires The Fire (2008). Intro: “The Book of Sleep” by OK Savant, recorded live at CBGBs in 1990. For more, see briancullman.com.

Watch Brian live (with Jimi Zhivago and others) in 2016. Another new, colorfully animated video is for the bluesy “Walk the Dog Before I Sleep.” One from his previous album is “Everything That Rises.” Hear the full, remastered recording of “The Book of Sleep.” Hear the song he wrong for Nick Drake (whom he opened for in 1970). Hear one of the tunes he did for Rua Das Pretas.

The bass player on Brian’s albums is Byron Isaacs (also of Ollabelle), whom Nakedly Examined Music interviewed for episode #82.

This episode includes bonus discussion and another song, available to Nakedly Examined Music Patreon supporters.

Photo by Bill Flicker.

Nakedly Examined Music is a podcast hosted by Mark Linsenmayer, who also hosts The Partially Examined Life Philosophy Podcast and Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast. He releases music under the name Mark Lint.

Pop Songs with Narrative: Pretty Much Pop (#69) Discusses Tunes Ranging from Bob Dylan’s “Hurricane” to “The Pina Colada Song” with Songwriter/Author Rod Picott

Plenty of songs purport to tell stories, and the narrative ballad of course has a long enough history that the two forms certainly aren’t alien. But how do our listening practices conditioned by pop music jibe with recognizing and understanding narrative?

Singer/songwriter and short story author Rod Picott joins your hosts Mark Linsenmayer, Erica Spyres, and Brian Hirt to talk about classics by writers like Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash, formative nightmares like “Leader of the Pack” and “Escape (The Pina Colada Song), borderline cases like “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and more. We also consider how this form relates to musical theater, music videos, soundtracks, and commercials.

We tried to stick to popular songs, but most of us are pretty old. You can listen and read the lyrics if you’re not following:

Why these songs? Well, we found a few lists online:

Hear Mark interview Rod on Nakedly Examined Music. Learn more at rodpicott.com.

Hear more of this podcast at prettymuchpop.com. This episode includes bonus discussion you can access by supporting the podcast at patreon.com/prettymuchpop. This time, an update on Rod’s music plus political discussion and more.

This podcast is part of the Partially Examined Life podcast network.

Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast is the first podcast curated by Open Culture. Browse all Pretty Much Pop posts.

Peter Milton Walsh of The Apartments Rejects Assembly-Line Recording: A Nakedly Examined Music Conversation (#135)

Australian singer-songwriter Peter Milton Walsh started The Apartments in the late ’70s, and our interview begins with a snippet of the opening track from, “Help” from his 1979 Return of the Hypnotist EP. He also around this time played with the Go Betweens and other groups, and released The Apartments’ first LP, The Evening Visits…and Stays for Years, in 1985, a heart-wrenching affair which made it onto the New Music Express “albums of the year” list. This led to some singles, one of which–“The Shyest Time“–made it onto the soundtrack of the 1987 John Hughes film Some Kind of Wonderful.

The band had all the moody jangling of early REM, the Smiths, and The Psychedelic Furs, with a unique front man, strong melodies, and the mood of the moment? So why (presumably) have you not heard of this group? Their 1993 album drift (the first full album since their debut) was apparently a big hit in France, but none of their work sold particularly well in the English-speaking world. As Peter reveals on this episode of Nakedly Examined Music, he didn’t much like high-pressure studio recording, resulting in whole eras of his songwriting left largely undocumented.

Personal tragedy also derailed his career from the late ’90s until the late ’00s when he returned to live performing and eventually released a couple of really devastating albums, including 2015’s No Song, No Spell, No Madrigal and the newly released In and Out of the Light.

On each episode of the Nakedly Examined Music Podcast, host Mark Linsenmayer plays four of an artist’s songs in full and discusses them with the songwriter at length. Here Mark and Peter discuss the structure and recording of two songs off the new album: “What’s Beauty to Do?” and “Where You Used to Be.” They then look back to the middle of The Apartments’ ’90s output with “Sunset Hotel” from Fête Foraine (1996), a song capturing his observations of a group of heroin addicts. Finally you’ll hear “Looking for Another Town” from that 2015 come-back album.

For more Apartments: The first come-back song was really 2011’s “Black Ribbon,” which you can watch him play solo. Perhaps my favorite song he’s done is the doom-epic “What’s Left of Your Nerve” from drift. You can watch a recent live version of “Sunset Hotel” and catch the official video for “What’s Beauty to Do.” More at theapartmentsmusic.com.

Nakedly Examined Music is a podcast hosted by Mark Linsenmayer, who also hosts The Partially Examined Life Philosophy Podcast and Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast. He releases music under the name Mark Lint.

Jazz-Zither-Piano-Man Laraaji Discusses His Decades of Meditative Improvisations: A Nakedly Examined Music Podcast Conversation (#134)

Jazz multi-instrumentalist Edward Larry Gordon Jr. became Laraaji around the same time he started releasing meditative zither music in the late 70s and was then discovered by Brian Eno, who produced “The Dance No. 1” from  Ambient 3: Day of Radiance (1980). Laraaji has since had around 40 releases of largely improvised music, and this interview (below) explores his approach toward improvisation on numerous instruments, playing “functional” music intended to aid meditation and reflection, and the evolution of Laraaji’s unique musical vision.

Each episode of Nakedly Examined Music features full-length presentations of four recordings discussed by the artist with your host Mark Linsenmayer. Here we present “Hold on to the Vision” and “Shenandoah” from Laraaji’s latest release, Sun Piano (2020), the single edit of “Introspection” from Bring On the Sun (2017), and “All of a Sudden,” a 1986 vocal tune released on Vision Songs, Vol. 1 (2017). Get more information at laraaji.blogspot.com.

Want more? Hear all of “The Dance No. 1.” Watch the live TV version of “All of a Sudden” we discuss, as well another episode of Celestrana featuring Dr. Love the puppet. Watch a similar, recent isolation stream also featuring Dr. Love and much more. Listen to the full glory of “Introspection” and the trip that is “Sun Gong.” Check out some live gong playing. Here’s a remix of “Introspection” by Dntel.

Find the archive of songwriter interviews at nakedlyexaminedmusic.com or get the ad-free feed at patreon.com/nakedlyexaminedmusic. This podcast is part of the Partially Examined Life podcast network.

Nakedly Examined Music is a podcast. Mark Linsenmayer also hosts The Partially Examined Life Philosophy Podcast and Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast, and releases music under the name Mark Lint.

Chris Frantz Breaks Down How He Crafted Songs for Talking Heads & Tom Tom Club: A Nakedly Examined Music Interview

Chris founded Talking Heads in the early ’70s with his wife Tina Weymouth and David Byrne, and he focuses heavily on these early years of his career in his new memoir Remain in Love, describing it as very much a group effort, even though they intentionally put the spotlight on David, who in turn pretty early on announced that he had to write all the lyrics, that he couldn’t sing other people’s songs.

On the Nakedly Examined Music Podcast, Mark Linsenmayer interviews songwriters about their creative decision-making, and in this interview, Chris tells how he and Tina and David collaborated on lyrics for their early single “Psycho Killer,” and then how Chris’ lyrics were used for “Warning Sign,” a song (played in full as part of the podcast) that appeared on the Heads’ second album, 1978’s More Songs About Buildings and Food.

Also surprising is that Chris and Tina’s spin-off band, Tom Tom Club, formed in an interval when both David and the Heads’ lead guitarist Jerry Harrison wanted to pause Talking Heads to record solo albums, actually had its best-selling single, “Genius of Love,” prior to the Talking Heads real financial success with hits like “Burning Down the House” and “And She Was.”

The interview includes a detailed treatment of the composition and arrangement of two Tom Tom Club songs that are also played in full: “Bamboo Town,” a reggae-inspired track from their second album Close to the Bone (1983); and “Who Feelin’ It,” a dance track replete with record scratch percussion from The Good the Bad and the Funky (2000). This song was later remixed by The interview concludes with a song that Chris sings: the title track from Tom Tom Club’s most recent release, Downtown Rockers (2012).

Both these last two tracks have as their main lyrics lists of artists that Chris and Tina wanted to pay tribute to, both in influencing their musical sensibilities and/or playing shows with them at CBGB’s during their formative years as Talking Heads in New York City. Chris’ book gives us a vivid glimpse of that scene, as well as the excitement of their first album, working with Brian Eno, their first European tour, and other milestones all the way up to their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002, which was their first time playing together since the group’s split in 1991.

For more Nakedly Examined Music in-depth interviews about songwriting, arrangement, and the musical life, visit nakedlyexaminedmusic.com.

Mark Linsenmayer is also the host of The Partially Examined Life Philosophy Podcast and Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast. He releases music under the name Mark Lint.

 

Conversation with a Swiftie: Pretty Much Pop #58 Addresses the Taylor Swift Phenomenon

Prompted by the release of new album Folklore and the 2020 documentary Miss Americana, your hosts Mark Linsenmayer, Erica Spyres, and Brian Hirt speak with guest Amber Padgett about her love of Taylor, ranking the albums/eras, Taylor as songwriter/puppetmaster, why the hate, weird levels of fan engagement, double standards in expectations for female artists, and more. Like all of our discussions, this one is should be interesting to fans, haters, and folks who’re just curious as to what all the fuss is about.

A few of the sources we scanned to prepare:

Amber recommends Taylor’s Tiny Desk Concert. Watch Erica and Drew cover “Exile.” Here’s that album of Ryan Adams’ 1989 covers that Erica mentions. And yes, we’re open to a comparable Beyoncé episode if we can find a guest super-fan and listeners want more of this kind of thing.

Learn more at prettymuchpop.com. This episode includes bonus discussion that you can only hear by supporting the podcast at patreon.com/prettymuchpop. This podcast is part of the Partially Examined Life podcast network.

Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast is the first podcast curated by Open Culture. Browse all Pretty Much Pop posts.

The Singer or the Song? Ken Stringfellow (Posies, R.E.M., Big Star) and Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #23 Discuss

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What’s your relationship to music? Do you just embrace the pure sound, or do you care about who made that sound? One way of seeing where you fall on this issue is whether you care more for singles or to whole albums or careers by artists.

Ken Stringfellow, who co-fronts The Posies and was a member of R.E.M. and Big Star, joins Mark Linsenmayer, Erica Spyres, and Brian Hirt to talk about what actually grabs us about music, whether being a musician yourself is a key factor in whether you pay attention to the context of a song, how music gets to your ears, singers vs. songwriters, what we think about the notion of “genius,” and how this artist vs. song conflict relates to how we take in other media (e.g. favorite film directors).

The ideas for this discussion mostly came from reflecting on our own experiences and habits, but we did some warm-up research into:

Listen to Mark interview Ken on Nakedly Examined Music, presenting specifically some of his solo, Posies, and Big Star songs. After that was recording, Ken sang some harmonies on a tune on Mark’s last album, Mark Lint’s Dry Folk.

Other references: “Midnight Confessions” by The Grass Roots, Lil Peep, Tom Waits’s most popular album, Lou Reed is not a one-hit wonder, the scene in Slacker with a fan getting Madonna’s pubic hair, Damien Rice is still working, the band Live reunited, REM on Sesame Street (no, Ken is not on camera), Ken being “world music” by playing solo in foreign countries.

This episode includes bonus discussion that you can only hear by supporting the podcast at patreon.com/prettymuchpop. This podcast is part of the Partially Examined Life podcast network.

Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast is the first podcast curated by Open Culture. Browse all Pretty Much Pop posts or start with the first episode.

Is the Live Music Experience Irreplaceable? Pretty Much Pop #11

Surely technological advances have made it unnecessary to ever leave the house, right? Is there still a point in seeing live people actually doing things right in front of you?

Dave Hamilton (Host of Gig GabMac Geek Gab) joins Mark Linsenmayer, Erica Spyres, and Brian Hirt to discuss what’s so damn cool about live music (and theater), the alternatives (live-streamed-to-theaters or devices, recorded for TV, VR), why tickets are so expensive, whether tribute bands fulfill our needs, the connection between live music and drugs, singing along to the band, and more.

We touch on Rush (and their tribute Lotus Land), Damien Rice, Todd Rundgren, The Who, Cop RockBat out of Hell: The MusicalHedwig and the Angry Inch, the filmed Shrek The Musical, and Rifftrax Live.

We used some articles to feed this episode, though we didn’t really bring them up:

You know Mark also runs a music podcast, right? Check out Erica doin’ her fiddlin’ and singin’. Listen to Mark’s mass of tunes. Here’s Dave singing and drumming some Badfinger live with his band Fling, and here’s Mark live singing “The Grinch.”

This episode includes bonus discussion that you can only hear by supporting the podcast at patreon.com/prettymuchpop. This podcast is part of the Partially Examined Life podcast network.

Pretty Much Pop is the first podcast curated by Open Culture. Browse all Pretty Much Pop posts or start with the first episode.

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.