ROLI has launched a new tech music product called Roli Blocks, a scalable music creation system that operates by touch through a cell phone app called Noise.
ROLI BLOCKS is a modular music “studio” that opens up the world of music-making to everyone. Each individual block offers unique capabilities that let people create music in simple but scalable ways.
The Blocks connect together to create customizable kits that suit any skill level, and musical style. With a click of magnetic connectors, music makers can now build their instruments as they go.
The company says artists including Grimes, Steve Aoki, and RZA are making music on Blocks and creating signature soundpacks for BLOCKS musicians. Grimes said: “Roli Blocks will democratize music production. It’s so intuitive and versatile. I’m always on the go, and Blocks is the most powerful mobile production tool I’ve ever used.”
Three Blocks launched today. The Lightpad Block features a tactile, glowing surface that lets people shape music through presses, glides, and other natural gestures. The Live Block and Loop Block have controls that make it even easier to perform and produce in real time. Blocks is powered by Noise, a free music app for iPhone and iPad that is now available at the App Store. Noise connects to Blocks wirelessly over Bluetooth, becoming the system’s sound engine as well as a standalone app.
The Search for ‘Elusive Tones’ Brought Sphere Here
Mixing Cartographer with Mr. Phil English – Photo courtesy of Francesco Cameli
By DONNA BALANCIA – Francesco Cameli wanted a change. So he created it.
Francesco is the founder of Sphere Studios, which has been up and running for six months. Already the heavy hitters are coming to his Magnolia Boulevard location in North Hollywood to make award-winning recordings.
“When I was playing sessions for people I was the guy in the band who took an interest in what the engineers were doing,” Cameli said. “I was drawn into my profession.”
A Different Idea
Cameli said he didn’t plan his career, but it developed out of a passion.
“Originally I wanted to be a professional bass player,” he said. “But I found I was always searching for elusive tones and I enjoyed the manipulation of sound.”
He left London to pursue his passion here in Los Angeles, where he could really make beautiful music.
“I’m enjoying the different attitude about making music here, I thinenjoying a bigger music community. There’s a lot of talent here ” Francesco said. “That’s what drew me to Los Angeles. There’s an honesty to the music. When musicians here sing you a song, it’s real. I like proper music.”
Cameli with Animals as Leaders – Photo courtesy Francesco Cameli
Among some of the artists with whom Francesco works are: Shinedown; Flyleaf, Korn and Animals as Leaders, among others.
It all started when Francesco came to Los Angeles on a vacation.
“We went to a little bar in Santa Monica and it was a cover band playing, but they were very good,” he said. “Then we went to another bar and there was another band, and they were great as well. Everything here seemed to be less fussy and a better show.”
Capturing the Vision
Francesco says it’s the magic that comes from inspiration that he aims for.
“My goal has been to create studio spaces that inspire real musicians who appreciate the nuances,” he said.
It’s a competitive field, but Francesco says the response to challenge is simply to do the best you can.
“You do the best job you know how to do, and you hope that people will gravitate to you,” he said. “We are humbled by the talent of the musicians and we want to help them do what they do to the best of their ability.
“Your job as an engineer, is to capture what the musicians do. You have to be good at taking a vision and capturing it. We’re not magicians.”
Working Towards the Goal
Sphere Studios in Burbank – Photo courtesy Francesco Cameli
Sphere Studios only opened six months ago, but having achieved a high standard in the UK, Francesco knew he couldn’t spare any expense in setting up the L.A. studios. The studio is bigger than the UK space and Francesco shipped over his entire backline, vintage mic and outboard collection from there, including Pultecs, Fairchilds, UREIs and U 47s, 67s, and Elam 251s.
“We’re gathering momentum and we have to make sure the building keeps busy,” he said. “I’m anxious to make sure the studio takes off.”
As for his short-term goals?
“In one year’s time I’d like to be considered one of the best studios in LA.”
LOS ANGELES – Iggy Pop wrapped the U.S. segment of his Post Pop Depression tour at The Greek Theatre with a few more fans than he had — and maybe that was the simple idea.
Iggy is a master of appearance and that 69-year-old appearance is holding up well. He has the stance of a confident but undervalued pugilist who has paid the price for his uncompromising artistry.
But these days, his signature has been teaming with younger rockers to keep current, keep himself in the press and to stay sharp.
He’s learned a thing or two after being knocked around on the ground. And maybe his time has finally come.
“I love Iggy, he really won me over,” said a 20-something fan who was among the thousands at The Greek Theatre Thursday night. It was a sold-out last night of the Post Pop Depression tour he’s shared with prominent band mates Josh Homme, Matt Helders and Dean Fertita, Troy Van Leeuwen and Matt Sweeney. Now it’s on to Europe.
These days Iggy’s goals are not as lofty as they were when he started a music revolution in the early 1970s. The excesses of success are for those younger than him, he’s accumulated a great deal of wealth and he has a beautiful wife and home life in Miami. He doesn’t party and he sticks to a regimen to make it through at least this one last big push on touring. And he could always use a few more fans.
It’s no coincidence Iggy’s band mates are at least 30 years younger than he is. The prolific punk rock progenitor was looking for a shot in the arm and just maybe a new raison d’etre. Yes he’s been doing an amazing job as D.J. on BBC6 with insightful thoughts about a range of music. And he’s been going through the catalogues of others.
But since the death of former collaborator David Bowie, Iggy has dusted off the classics from The Idiot and Lust For Life, which Bowie produced for him. While most Pop fans know “The Passenger,” his beautiful tunes “Everything Will Be Alright Tonight,” “Here Comes Success,” and his own, less well-known rendition of “China Girl” have long been overlooked by the masses. These are songs that have gotten a lot of us through the tough times for a long time. So hearing them live is a treat; it’s remarkable that Iggy is singing those songs in concert only now that Bowie is gone, and there is probably a reason.
During the days leading up to his outstanding show at The Greek, Iggy must have been overbooked as he made a harried appearance at Mr. Musichead art gallery in Hollywood, across the street from Guitar Center and the Sunset Grill. Many people arrived before the 6 p.m. start date for the showing of American Valhalla, the photos of Post Pop Depression.
Around 70 percent of the people who bought the $30-something ticket were disappointed to find out that by the time they walked through the gallery doors, Iggy, his wife, Nina, and Josh and his family had vamoosed out the back. After all, how much mugging for the cell phone camera can a guy do. He had to have had 22 different two- or three-word conversations with those in line, after all.
We didn’t have the heart to stand there and stare and bother him with questions, seeing how Iggy looked a little drained from the experience. When we offered him some water, he responded with a decidedly polite “No thank you.”
Then came the “How much longer?” to his manager.
And with that, the group was gone from the makeshift tent that held a range of black and white photos of Iggy in his Post Pop desert days with Homme boy and pals. The photos are lovely but clearly Iggy was the attraction here.
Connie, a friend of Iggy from the old days, said she wanted to see Iggy and didn’t get the emailed update that came to ticketholders warning them if they wanted to catch a glimpse of King Pop, they had better arrive at 5:45 p.m. The email said Iggy and his team would be leaving for The GRAMMY Museum precisely at 7 “for a nomination.”
And yes, while deserving of a nomination, we’re not so sure that was entirely accurate. We’re not aware The GRAMMY Museum gives out nominations for anything. Nonetheless, those who bought tickets to the gallery showing were bummed when Iggy and crew were not there. It’s free admission to Mr. Musichead on any normal day.
A major positive: At Mr. Musichead, we got to have a good heart-to-heart with Wayne Kramer, founder of MC5 and that made the event well worthwhile. MC5 was the “big brother” band to The Stooges back in the 1960s Detroit. Wayne is a gem, who spoke to us at length about his charity work.
He’s truly got a big heart and he’s a remarkably humble guy, especially since Wayne and MC5 are arguably the true creators of that Detroit punk sound, as “Kick Out The Jams,” is still the battlecry of every garage rock punk rocker wannabe, or never was, and even a dead music superstar or two.
Iggy and his crew piled into their black SUVs and jammed on out of the gallery. It’s probably not Iggy’s fault he was over boooked and that he and his crew tried to grab as much gusto from the Post Pop Depression tour push and the merch and monetizing opportunities. After all, Iggy came right out and said this would most likely be his last tour ever and possibly last album as well.
Iggy’s not an easy one to get along with, say his pals. He’s a perfectionist and a little hard-headed — possibly even a – gasp – Republican. Except for the Republican part, his idiosyncracies all probably come as a result of many years of leaping off the stage and sometimes not getting caught. He innovated an entire niche of rock music in the 1970s that those hippies and others just didn’t understand. And it took a gargantuan effort to get where he is today.
We’re talking about a guy whose first claim to fame was walking on the audience like Jesus walked on the water, and smearing himself with peanut butter. Even his bandmates, Ron and Scott Asheton and Dave Alexander, didn’t see the peanut butter coming.
Iggy Pop walking on the crowds and innovative use of peanut butter among memorable practices – Photo courtesy Midsummer Rock TV
Iggy Pop, Gadget User
Iggy has come a long way from recording vacuum cleaners and blenders for that authentic sound of Detroit, from whence he hails. And The Greek Theatre is just about as far away as any performer could get from Detroit, on many levels.
You hear stories of rock stars and celebs donating money secretly to charities in their home towns, only to find out their benevolence upon their death.
Something tells us this will likely not be the case for Iggy, but he has definitely left an undeniable legacy of music.
“Iggy Pop feels underappreciated,” said one longtime acquaintance. “People are coming to his shows now and that’s wonderful. But even when ‘The Passenger’ had a modicum of success on the radio, Iggy couldn’t grow the fan base. Maybe it was the marketing or something. I never thought the Halloween-style drip-letter posters at The Ritz that said ‘Come see the Bizarre Iggy Pop’ were going to draw them in. Especially when The Clash were playing up the street. It’s like even though Iggy’s one of the best performers in the world — and he was back then too of course — he couldn’t reach the audience that today has come to appreciate him the most — and that’s those people who are in their 50s now.”
But Iggy Pop is certainly making up for lost time.
In the last 10 years, Iggy has done more to promote himself to the mainstream than he did collectively over the course of his life.
He’s headlined a record number of music festivals. He’s a perfume model.
He was a pitch guy for a British insurance company teaming with a puppet that bears his name — a gig that brought him a hefty dose of ridicule but lots of money. Iggy’s done voiceovers on kids cartoons and he even made then-judge Jennifer Lopez gaze admiringly when he performed on “American Idol.”
Then there’s the music. The classic “Search and Destroy,” the anthem of every punker that ever lived, written by Iggy with longtime collaborator James Williamson has been featured in several movies including “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou,” several TV shows including “Lost,” and “Dexter,” video games like “Guitar Hero,” and “Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland,” as well as the the new ad campaign for the Audi A4.
Iggy has some hi-falootin’ famous friends, and hangs around with Henry, Johnny and Jim. Kings and queens. He even sat down for a meal with Tony Bourdain, who now uses “The Passenger” as the theme to his CNN show “Parts Unknown.”
Iggy and Tony – Courtesy Anthony Bourdain
Iggy Pop and His People
Iggy said one of the reasons he likes to team with young people is because it keeps him fresh but he also said that when he partners with people like Kesha or Best Coast, he also gets a bit of free recording time also. But the Post Pop Depression album is by all accounts a self-funded project produced by the likeable desert rat Homme, who cuts a striking if not gigantic appearance, particularly when holding hands with the 5-foot-something-inch Iggy.
Iggy apparently doesn’t discard his friends for no good reason, as at The Greek we ran into several old pals of his whom he’d invited to attend.
Mike Watt said he was honored to appear at The Greek, “Iggy asked me to come,” Watt said.
One of the guys who have been there the whole time, Watt is a humble sort who simply loves the music. And he misses The Stooges. “I loved that band,” Watt said emotionally.
Meanwhile, Iggy’s new band is sharp, young and extremely cool, looking dapper in lounge jackets and dancing around him on stage. Successful musicians in their own right, the guys clearly enjoy reciprocal benefit of touring with the veteran Iggy.
Tossing the Mic
On stage at The Greek, Iggy still showed with great bravado the shades of the anger issues that got him here in the first place. With his advanced age, they come across as funny and cute today compared to the days when he really was an angry young man with issues and wild performance antics.
Anger issues; Iggy beats up on the mic stand at the Greek – Photo 2016 Donna Balancia
During the triumphant performance at The Greek last Thursday — a show that was completely entertaining and gave hints of what it must have been like to see him at The Ritz in the old days — he dropped F-bombs, shoved his hand down his pants, jumped into the crowd and beat up a microphone stand. Then a song or two later, he went and brought it back and cursed at it. When he stood it upright, it was bent in the middle and that got a laugh from the adoring crowds.
And maybe through his fits of celebrity, Iggy feels vindicated for all those years of starving, sleeping on other peoples floors and living a hard life — the most difficult life: That of an artist who won’t compromise his work. On to Europe and a hearty Bravo to our own truly and uniquely American musician, and nevermore to be known as “The World’s Forgotten Boy.”
Peelander Z, interplanetary purveyors of everything fun, happy, and crazy have landed on earth to make it make a better place and to put a smile on our face, so they say.
They came all the way from the “Z” area of planet Peelander to embark on a tour in support of their new documentary “Mad Tiger.” They touched down in Santa Ana at The Frida Theatre to put us under their spell for 90 minutes of all around insanity and foolish behavior.
Opening the evening was one of my personal favorites The Radioactive Chicken Heads. These punks of poultry contaminated us with their songs and on stage antics. I was clucking right along by the second song “Atom the Amazing Zombie Killer”. They had a guest appearance from Chuck E Cheese during a song called “Pest Control” and visit from an evil bunny on “Bad Bunny”. These mutant birds of madness were the perfect fit for what was about to come.
After a short intermission and the trailer for “Mad Tiger” Peelander Z was ready for their invasion. Peelander Yellow immediately gathered the audience from the back and sides and brought them down front to be as close to the stage as possible. It was not an option not to be part of this show. Once they started we realized there was no escape as we were all under the spell of Peelander Z. In the next hour or so I witnessed more intense audience participation than the Price is Right.
Each band member is color coded and each seem to have different power and energy. The ringmaster Peelander Yellow shares his energy with the band and the audience and believe me we felt it. They ran thru all their hits like “Mad Tiger” which had us all banging on pots and pans that were distributed to the audience. We all got a workout during the bands punk rock take on “Old MacDonald” called “E-I-E-I-O” where Peelander Yellow jumped up on the PA and lead us all in singing and waiving our arms around like we were all in an alien aerobics class.
He sang a song about one of his favorite foods “Taco, Taco, Tacos.” Before I could catch my breath a long rope was spread across the seats and the whole theatre was doing the limbo. Peelander Yellow, Green and Purple all change costumes (they call it their skin) and even dress the audience up in monster outfits and headdresses. Their message is to spread happiness thru their songs and their energy.
As I looked around all I could see were happy faces all fully engaged in this sonic madness. Before every song a sign is held up with the song title on it. At one point a sign was held up that read “Need new guitar player” and just then Peelander Yellow took off his guitar and strapped it on to some young dude in the front who started jamming, later the bass player and drummer were replaced by audience members.
The band became the audience and the audience became the band. This gave the band time to do some Human Bowling. They set up bowling pins and flung themselves into them. Peelander Yellow was then crowd surfing all the way to the back of the theatre. By the time all was said and done we were all sweating, happy and blown away. Tonight was a rare occasion where the entire family can rock out and have a good time.
Peelander Z conquered the Frida in this unbelievable inter active rock and roll show. I never had so much fun as I felt like I was one of them. This was a night of high energy rock and roll from these rockers from another planet. Let’s hope Peelander Z stays here on Earth for a long time.
The following night we came back for the screening of “Mad Tiger” a documentary that follows the relationship between Peelander Yellow and Red. They have been best friends, business partners and band mates for over 15 years. When Red decides to quit, their relationship is tested by life that goes beyond the band. It is a look into what the band was and has become. It comes down to friendships, foregiveness and the sacrifices people have to make for their art.
“Taco Taco Tacos” video courtesy of Zack Oberlander
“Music heard so deeply that it is not heard at all, but you are the music while the music lasts” — T.S. Eliot
By CRAIG HAMMONS
The mighty and majestic trio known as The Residents opened the first show of their Shadowland North American Film and Concert Tour at the Regent Theatre in Los Angeles.
These legends of the bizarre offered us a unique opening act, a screening of their new film Theory of Obscurity: A Film about The Residents later followed by a live performance covering a wide span of their 40 years together.
Under cloudy skies the dedicated fans and followers of these men of mystery started arriving and lining up for a show of a lifetime as The Residents don’t perform that often.
Once the doors opened at the old renovated downtown movie theatre, we all came together as one happy family ready to welcome Randy, Chuck and Bob (who has since retired and has been replaced by his brother Ricco) — otherwise known as The Residents.
The movie The Theory of Obscurity: A film about The Residents is a history of the band from their inception until the present day. We follow them as they head to San Francisco to begin their distinctive and original art and music career. The history of The Residents is unique in the sense that the details surrounding the group have always remained a secret. We didn’t even know their names until recently.
I love the fact that The Residents have always done things their way to make their original musical world of art rock. The film is full of fun and facts, good music and crazy imagery. The movie weaves the tale of The Residents by vintage footage and interviews from many fans including Jerry Harrison, Penn Jillette, Jerry Casale and their biggest fan Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons.
One thing I learned is how they got their name. They were living in a pad in San Francisco and got some mail one day that was addressed to “Resident.” “They must be talking about us,” they said, and adopted the name at once.
Once the movie was over there was a 30-minute intermission prior to these lads of weirdness taking the stage. As no two tours or shows are ever the same, we didn’t know what to expect.
The lights dimmed and it was time for Shadowland Part III of the Randy, Chuck and Bob show. We were ready for the unpredictable and got it.
The Residents have a vast catalog of songs to choose from. Shadowland included some of their classic songs such as “Harold the Head,” “Constantinople” and “Easter Woman.” The crowd was in heaven as they ran thru these classics.
Randy came out dressed like a tired old man in a muscle body suit with a pot belly, checkered speedo, tails and shoes 20 times two big. He prowled the stage like a drunk grandpa dancing at his daughter’s wedding. Chuck dressed like a reggae creature from outer space with a nice white suit and let his guitar speak for him. Ricco looked like Chuck’s pregnant bastard son in a prison suit manning the keyboards with grace and wizardry.
During the show there was a giant ball on a pedestal that showed clips that referred to the next set of songs. After opening with Rabbit Habit the first movie in the ball was “The Butcher” which showcased Benny (The Bouncing Bump), next was “The Libertine”, “The Garbage Man,” “The Diver” and “The Engineer Movie.” They seemed to reinvent some of the older songs and gave them a new twist.
Don’t let anybody tell you The Residents don’t know how to play their instruments. These guys may play experimental music but they don’t miss a note.
Chuck shreds on guitar getting sounds you would never expect plus he plays a mean slide. All these pieces came together for a well-rounded show to satisfy all your senses.
They ended the show with “Ship of Fools” and this offbeat trio of guitar, keyboards and vocals captured our mind as well as our souls. We all left happy and glad we got to spend some time in the wonderful world of The Residents.
SET LIST – The Regent, Los Angeles,
April 9, 2016
The Rabbit Habit
Herman, the Human Mole
Harry the Head
Benny (the Bouncing Bump)
They Are All Meat
Is He Really Bringing Roses
Weight Lifting Lulu
Constantinople (Randy parading around the stage with big bass drum)
“It blows my mind to be mentioned in the same breath as Les Paul,” said Was, who gave a speech from the heart, thanking his family and the artists with whom he has created top-selling records. “Les Paul melded technology with music and we are all deeply in his debt,” Was said.
“So let’s Kick Out The Jams,” he said before performing with Dr. Lonnie Smith and then with members of Was Not Was who performed “Walk The Dinosaur,” a crowd favorite.
A video was created for the occasion that showed interviews with various coworkers of Was throughout the years, and showed photographs of Was with famous friends from Donna Summer to Rod Stewart and other well-known artists.
Was is well respected and well-liked by everyone — not only the flashy LA crowd, but particularly to his pals from Detroit, several of whom came to honor him.
Host Sinbad is an old hand at this event and his jokes were well-honed to the techie crowd and were genuinely and straight-to-the-point funny. His routine on customer service touched on the frustration consumers feel in dealing with large corporations and his barbs were not lost on the audience.