All posts by Tommy Johnson

Deep in the heart of the city of Birmingham, Alabama, Nerves Baddington are prepping to release their debut album Dopamine Decoder Ring. Being one of the few hip-hop acts in town, Ryan Howell, John Mcnaughton and Cameron Johnson have a sharp focus on documenting life in America in the south, fraught with creativity, angst, and new-found sobriety.

Today, Ghettoblaster is proud to premiere the video for the single “Let It Bang”.

We also caught up with the trio to learn more about them, how Howell’s time in prison opened his eyes in the world, and how life changed after the runaway success of the hit “Addict” surfaced. Here’s what they said.

What was about hip hop that intrigued the band so much?

Hip-Hop has always been an integral part of my identity. The first cassette tape I ever bought was Dr. Dre’s “The Chronic” when I was in the 8th grade. I’ve been fascinated by beats and rhymes ever since. Later in my teens I found myself surrounded by DJs, bboys and graffiti writers and really started learning about Hip-Hop as a culture. Something just clicked for me and the rest is history.

When did it ignite in your minds that you wanted to put your name into hip hop scene?

I’ve always admired the way a message is delivered via Hip-Hop. It’s just so direct. Clear and concise. I started freestyling for fun at house parties or just hanging out with friends. That continued for a while until I heard Outkast’s “Aquemini”. That’s when I knew I wanted to rap for real. My homeboy and I would call each other everyday like “Check out this verse I wrote!” Then we found a local bi-weekly open mic night called The Eargasm and we’d show up every other week jumping in cyphers, battling…you name it. I cut my proverbial teeth on the mic by being a cocky knucklehead thinking I had something to prove. A lot has changed since then but that’s how it started.

Howell-you spend some time in prison, a time that you say changed you. What was it that you saw that made you start thinking that way?

I spent 42 months in the Alabama Department of Corrections and it definitely changed me. I witnessed the racially charged power-tripping of correctional officers. I witnessed riots and stabbings. I witnessed privilege and classism and I started to understand what the system is really designed for; to keep poor people poor and to keep them from having a decent shot at life, especially poor people of color. Life’s bigger picture became more clear and I realized it’s much bigger than myself and my personal problems.

Howell-you had the U.S. Marshals come after you over a weed charge. How big was the felony that you had the government after you?

It’s a rather long and complicated story but the original charge was Trafficking Marijuana.

Why do you think that there’s still a large portion of America that views recreational marijuana use to be so horrible?

Because of lobbyists fighting alongside pharmaceutical companies and private prisons making a ton of money off of incarcerations mixed with the demonized idea of weed being a “gateway drug” and plain old ignorance. I think some people, especially in the south, just don’t like to admit when they’re wrong.

Howell-how bad did it get during peaks of your abuse with substances?

There were times when I was supporting a gram a day heroin habit. The worst it got was while living on the run. I feel like it was mainly me trying to escape the reality I created by choosing to run in the first place. Turns out I was running from so much more than just prison time.

McNaughton-how did you get to know Howell?

He and Shane were looking for a bass player back around 95 or 96. Ryan and I had a mutual friend who introduced us. If memory serves, I met with Ryan and Shane in a grocery store break room (where they were working at the time). We hit it off and I started playing bass for what would become Valerie #4.

The single and video to “Addict” was been a huge success. Would you say that the one of the main reasons for that could be listeners connecting to it personally?

Absolutely. “Addict” was my humble attempt to shake the stigma that comes with addiction. The relatability of the lyrics was important while I was writing. I actually wrote the lyrics while in prison so witnessing the stronghold of even the simplest of routines while doing time was rather eye opening.

Johnson-when and how did you get involved with Nerves Baddington?

I’ve been with them for about a year now, had to go through some pretty heavy hazing but I believe it’s a great fit. They were looking to add live drums to their sound and I was already a big fan – so the rest just fell into place!

What was the vision behind Dopamine Decoder Ring?

As we were writing and compiling the songs that would eventually become DDR, the vision developed itself. There seemed to be a consistent theme of self acceptance and powering through the low points in life. It’s about finding your reason to live for in the least likely of places. All 3 of us have a similar past of struggling with substance abuse and finding a way to replenish our Dopamine is the key to health, happiness and ultimately success.

How was the process like recording the new album?

The process tends to vary from song to song. One of the many perks of modern recoding technology is having the ability to move from studio to studio. The most important constant within the DDR process was certainly Jason Hamric. He and I produced the record together and have developed a unique chemistry in the studio.

Reading about your shows, the band approaches the sets with a DIY-aesthetic vibe. How important was for that mentality to still live within the show?

I’d say the DIY mentality is important because that’s what we come from. It’s what we’re used to. It’s all just been natural progression through and through and having drive and hard work ethic stems from having to do it ourselves.

We got the new album coming out, so what are looking with a possible tour?

We are working on setting all of that up now, look for us in your town soon. In the meantime we hope you enjoy the record!

Nerves Baddington’s debut LP Dopamine Decoder Ring is set for release on July 28.

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Oozing with more creativity than what most could only dream of having, Jordan Galland continues to navigate his career in various areas. Case in point-his most recent voyage into film. His first feature, Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Undead, premiered at the Slamdance Film Festival in 2009 and was released theatrically by Indican Pictures. His second film, Alter Egos, premiered at the Fantasia Film Festival in 2012 and was released by Kevin Smith’s Smodcast label through Phase 4 Films.  Galland’s most recent film was the 2016 release Ava’s Possessions.

As much spotlight has been put on Galland’s budding film career, we shouldn’t forget his notoriety within the music world. Fronting the late ’90s act Dopo Yume, Galland has had the distinct pleasure of opening for Sean Lennon and Rufus Wainwright. Galland has also collaborated with musician Mark Ronson on various projects, which includes Galland and his friend Domino Kirke’s band Domino’s Adults Only in 2008.

On July 14th, Galland will be releasing his latest EP Manhattan. Having grown up within the area, The woozy synth-pop Manhattan is being dubbed as a “bittersweet lament of homage to Galland’s home town, written from the rare perspective of someone who’s never known a home other than the teeming metropolis”.

Ghettoblaster is proud to premiere the video for the single “Adaption”.

Here’s Galland on the video:

“The Adaptation video is kind of a metaphor for growing pains, how awkward those moments are when we’re in the midst of transformation, whether we’re going through a break up or just growing up. On the immediate level, the drawings are clearly motionless images, flickering into motion, hovering on the brink of being animated and coming to life, but always remaining on the threshold, so the movement is half-realized.

The pictures themselves are like snap shots from different stories, asking what came before or what will come after, whether it’s a monster appearing by a girl playing solitaire in the dark, or an older man whispering into a younger woman’s ear or a cowboy with a burning town behind him, it’s meant to evoke the feeling of being at a turning point. There’s probably no going back, but what lies ahead is unknown. I think that’s a feeling the whole world can relate to, especially America, and especially right now.

I wanted the drawings to feel familiar, like they’re made with some household markers and pens, or drawn on a notebook after class, copied from some familiar movies or photographs or other old comics, and tweaked slightly so it’s not clear where it’s from. Because it’s in those types of sketches and drawings that we often sense the subconscious at work, the force steering us towards that transformation. Some of the humans in the drawings have turned into animal-hybrid creatures, literally playing with the idea of adapting to their environment. The song itself was born of such familiar phrases turning the other way, zigging when they would normally zag.

I would expect the lyric to be something like: “Let go of your fear. Don’t be afraid, I’m here with you.” So instead I wanted to flip it: “Let go of your fearlessness, be afraid with me.” It’s telling you on the one hand that it’s ok to feel fear, but it’s also trying to seduce you into being afraid, and settle into that as a normal condition. In that reversal of what one might expect, there’s a whole range of emotions. It’s funny, sad, seductive, dark… My aim is always to tell a whole story in a song or video, or explore moments that imply a larger story at work, that started before and continues after the song is done playing.”

Manhattan will be available July 14th via Slush Puppy Music.  To pre-order the album, click here.

Photo credit: Heidi Hartwig

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Having recently released their third full-length album under the moniker The Chain Gang of 1974 FELT, Kamtin Mohager never ceases to amaze music lovers and fans all around the world. The project’s synth-heavy surrealism has evolved over the years, which allows Mohager to continue finding new ways to keep us entertained.

Today, Ghettoblaster is excited to premiere The Chain Gang of 1974’s sleek remix of the single “Wallflowers”.

We caught up with Monhager recently to discuss his inspiration to get into music, how the process of FELT came along, among other topics. Here’s what he had to say.

Tears for Fears single “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” ultimately pushed you to go into music. What was so influential about the song?

To simply put it…It’s the greatest song ever written.

While touring with The Naked and Famous back in 2015, you and Powers connected over a sense of “artistic uncertainty”. What did you mean by that?

Thom and I are both passionate people. At the time of him and I really becoming friends, I was in the middle of a major falling out with a girl who I really wasn’t supposed to have relations with. For the one time in my life, I was “The Other Guy.” And I was t happy about that and myself. Those feelings ultimately led me to having the desire to find myself. I know that sounds a bit cliche, but it helped me to ask myself certain questions about my songwriting. Thom was also going through some personal things in his life at that time. I think the creation of FELT was a good push in the right direction for us both. Our lives needed that.

Working with Powers, what did you learn about yourself?

Thom is in a league of his own. Talk about a true professional. I have had my own way of writing songs for so long, and my stubbornness prevented me from wanting to learn new ways. Between the time of supporting my album Daydream Forever to the start of the writing process for FELT, I began working in the writing world. I ended writing and releasing songs for more Pop oriented artists. I feel like I really learned a lot during that time, and it allowed me to be prepared for writing with Thom. My experience with him only helped my craft.

The overall process when putting FELT was rather exhausting for the band. Why was it more difficult than previous releases?

The actual process wasn’t too exhausting. It did take longer, but that was only due to schedules. The process itself was quite refreshing and entertaining. The reason why it took so long to see the light of day was because we had to find a new record label. My past effort was released via Warner Bros., and we had a big falling out. They weren’t the best label to be signed to, so I fought to get out of the deal. My team and I knew we didn’t want to have another experience with this new record, so we took our time finding the right partner.

With the lyrical content of FELT centering the constant evolution of yourself, did you find it easier to allow yourself to be more open?

My lyrics have always been extremely open. Sometimes I feel a bit insecure about that. Like, maybe I had given away too much? For FELT I had new experiences to talk about. I have always been drawn to bands who have brutally honest lyrics. So perhaps I take a lot of influence from them.

The video for “Wallflowers” is a beautifully-made documentary of two young lovers that face adversity. How did this concept come about?

I made the decision to be more unattached from the treatment. I felt that it could be healthy for me to allow someone to take over the artistic vision of the video. I have been friends with the director Isaac Ravishankara for many years and we have always wanted to do something together. Thought I may not have been 100% comfortable with the idea at first, I was drawn to the originality of the concept. At the end of the day, I’m happy that we got away with doing something different.

Are you wanting to do more videos like “Wallflower” in the future?

I’m not too sure. I am a fan of the performance videos, so that may have been a one time thing for me.

Wallflowers (MONSOONS Remix)” offers listeners a much breezier sound than the original. Why do an alternate version of the deeply moving song?

Different perspective. That’s the beautiful thing about music. I may hear it one way in my head, but someone else can hear and create it in a completely different way.

I saw that the band doesn’t have any tour dates coming up. What’s the future looking like for you?

The future is unpredictable and I find that beautiful. As of right now, touring is not a priority for this band. I’m sure some shows will pop up here and there, but being home and working on music seems to be making my heart very happy.

FELT is available now via Caroline Records.

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Having recently graced the cover of our print edition (Issue 45- which you can order here) and receiving several outlets naming FLOTUS Album of the Year, Lambchop have announced the release of their 12-inch single, being released on August 8.  The single will contain a new version of “The Hustle” entitled “The Hustle Unlimited” along with a cover of Prince’s “When You Were Mine”.

Here’s Lambchop’s own Kurt Wagner on “The Hustle Unlimited”:

“Sometimes things can get out of control, an impromptu idea is presented, and you take that idea to a logical conclusion to see where it goes. In this case, Tony Crow [piano] came up with a rather ‘Love Unlimited Orchestra’ take on ‘The Hustle’ during a rehearsal with Andy Stack [drums, Wye Oak]. It seemed nuts at the time, but being rather nuts ourselves, I thought we should try recording it and taking it all the way to full realization. Plus, it was a great way to capture Andy’s tenure with us in the studio.”

Lambchop have also announced a tour of Europe and the UK that will span all the way throughout August:

Jul 30 Loerrach, DE – Stimmen Festival
Aug 01 Hamburg, DE – Sommer in Altona
Aug 02 Kassel, DE – Kulturzelt
Aug 03 Würzburg, DE – Hafensommer
Aug 04 Reutingen, DE – Burning Eagle Festival
Aug 05 Karlsruhe, DE – Kulturzelt
Aug 08 Leeds, UK – Brudenell Social Club
Aug 09 Glasgow, UK – Saint Luke’s
Aug 10 Newcastle, UK – Riverside
Aug 11 Manchester, UK – Gorilla
Aug 12 Leamington, UK – The Assembly
Aug 13 Nottingham, UK – Rescue Rooms
Aug 14 Norwich, UK – Waterfront
Aug 16 Exeter, UK – Phoenix
Aug 17 Bristol, UK – Trinity
Aug 18 Bexhill-on-Sea, UK – De La Warr Pavilion
Aug 19 Crickhowell, UK – Green Man Festival
Aug 20 London, UK – Islington Assembly Hall
Aug 22 Heerlen, NL – Cultura Nova
Aug 23 Bochum, DE – Ruhrtriennale
Aug 25 Prague, CZ – Strings of Autumn Festival

To pre-order the 12-inch single of “The Hustle Unlimited”/“When You Were Mine” via Merge Records, click here.

Since the year 2000, Ghettoblaster has been putting out a quarterly print magazine. For Ghettoblast from the Past, we look back at the bands and artists that were showcased within these pages.

From Issue 24, Don Giovanni Records own Black Wine.  Words by Jim Testa.  Photo by Toni Skotcher.

Black Wine

To subscribe to Ghettoblaster Magazine or to pick up this issue, head over to our In Print page.

Since the year 2000, Ghettoblaster has been putting out a quarterly print magazine. For Ghettoblast from the Past, we look back at the bands and artists that were showcased within these pages.

From Issue 18, Super Secret Records own The Faceless Werewolves.  Words by Terry Sawyer.  Photo by Aubrey Edwards.

The Howling

To subscribe to Ghettoblaster Magazine or to pick up this issue, head over to our In Print page.