Author Archives: Toi Brownstone

Secret Santa

Secret Santa has knocked on my door already, and he’s been awesome to me this year.

secret santa 2014

What do you think of this tradition? To be honest, except for the first time I took part of it, when I was 13, I’ve never been too interested, probably due to some frustrating experiences in the past. Sometimes for social reasons people feel forced to be involved in activities just to fit in a group, even they don’t like them, so they don’t feel committed and just try to get through it as quick as possible. In this case, you know who is motivated and who’s not immediately. I wasn’t too lucky in general. Secret Santa at work is usually awful.

It’s been the third year I got involved in this forum’s secret santa thing, and this has been the best year by far, even though I haven’t been able to get my victim’s present yet (sorry! I’m sorting this out this week). The only premise ruled is that it has to be a musical present, either CD, vinyl or cassette. Being a quite active music forum this is a great motivation. People have to do some research on the victim’s tastes, make sure they don’t have the album, and just try to make the other happy. You can make it as personal and unique as you feel like, it just depends on yourself.

My Santa boy came out from the closet on Saturday. He***’s a close friend of mine. We met for a casual coffee in the afternoon so I didn’t suspect anything. He had fooled me about his victim’s identity, telling me he was my last year victim, and I had been giving some advice. Well, he lied, I was the victim. I was so surprised I blushed. Yep, I often blush with surprises, excitement, anger and other intense situations, and it’s impossible I can control such reaction. I couldn’t believe he was my santa! So fuckin’ cool!

Weezer’s album is one of my 2014 favorite releases, and Sonic Highways is the result of Dave Grohl’s series of documentaries on American rock through different cities and scenes, which I’m currently enjoying lots, thus both vinyls were perfect for me. I couldn’t be happier.

Thus, even though I said thanks several times, I reckon a public message to Santa is necessary so, here I go:

Hey Santa! I know you’ll read this at some point. You’ve pushed the boat out with the presents. I’m impressed and completely overwhelmed, and above everything, really really grateful, not only for your generosity but also for giving me the privilege of your friendship. Thanks a lot once again! <3

*** I cannot reveal my santa’s name yet ***

Oh December! You drive me crazy.

It’s December again. Again! The lightspeed of time is starting to scare me. I feel like my days slip away and I’m unable to make them stop.

jack torrance frozen

Perhaps warm weather has also prevented me of realizing at which point in the year I am, but cold has eventually arrived, in a sudden way, and I’m starting assuming it’s less than a month to close another chapter of this shabby book named LIFE.

I have a love/hate relationship with this month. There are moments I truly hate it because of  so many social conventions, yet at the same time the calendar is so full of events I get this dizzy feeling of craziness caused by so much fun, because at the end of the day I try to make the most of them, and seldom get bored or disappointed.

On the other hand it’s time to start making balance of the year. I always try to record the highlights here, but of course there’s the black list I keep for myself of failures and disappointments, and there’s always something there I carry on my back silently that frustrates me somehow.

I cannot be assertive when analyzing the year in general terms, because usually my life is not being the rollercoaster full of exciting things or drama it used to be in the past, which I reckon is good, but there’re people around and things happening to them which can affect my mood too, and it seems that when you grow old things are constantly happening. Not in the mood right now, even though at some point I will have to stop and give it some thought.

December 2014 smells like trouble, but I mean good trouble. Showtime starts tomorrow. This busy 3 days weekend opens with the show of one of the bands which have released one of the finest records this year: Rival Sons. Their album Great Western Valkyrie is brilliant, and I’m really looking forward to seeing these guys on stage, with lots of friends around.

After that there are lots of dinners, concerts, beers, intense Xmas shopping, family, and hometown time ahead.

I know it’s gonna be hard to post very often but will try my best.

Be good to each other, friends, and thanks again for reading my shit ;-)

Black Friday

I always make jokes about having a boyfriend from the States so I could join the traditional celebration of Thanksgiving, even though I don’t eat turkey. Yep, everybody remarks the fact that I’m vegetarian as if the American veggies wouldn’t not fit to traditions because of their choice. Anyway, it’s been another year and I haven’t yet found my man from Wichita. Ha! :-D

Today it’s Friday. As good or bad as any Friday. But in America it’s Black Friday. The starting pistol to Xmas season shopping, marked by a fixed festivity on the fourth week on November. Apparently the term was born in Philly due to a massive traffic mess occurred one Friday, but actually this black means the point in the year when business start getting profit in sales.

Nowadays this day, extended till the end of the week, is marked by massive discounts “intended” to help family economies to face Xmas shopping, although at the end of the day, anyone with a bit of common sense knows that’s a lie, because discount makes people to consume more. And you are aware of it.

black friday

I’m not here to judge this tradition in the States, it’s not my war. For some time I used to think it was right to have sales before Xmas, rather than after, but things changed in my mind when I realized how stupid can be sometimes to spend so much money in Xmas presents. And Black Friday has finally reached Spain just like anything else, and it’s kind of ridiculous.

I buy. I have no problem in admitting it. I BUY A LOT OF SHIT. But I hate to be imposed when  and how to buy, because that means everything is accurately calculated to suck us dry. Plus I hate going shopping to suffer due to so many queues and so many people around it’s impossible to get focused on what you want. Definitely, I am not cattle.

Now, in order to attact those who hate going shopping, an eDay has been created to get discounts on the net. The tentacles of big companies go beyond anything and they’ll get lots of money for sure.

I got paid today. I thought of buying a couple of albums of a band I’m starting to like a lot at a very reasonable price, out of this Black Friday thing. But, I feel bad following the masses and decided I’d get them tomorrow. I’m not supporting any cause but just standing up for my principles, and at least I feel good about it.

You know what I bought today? Beer. And there was no discount  for that. WTF?

And today, there’s a song that’s been repeating in my head, and now I fully understand its message.

Merchandise keeps us in line
Common sense says it’s by design
What could a businessman ever want more
than to have us sucking in his store
We owe you nothing
You have no control
You are not what you own

I’d like to know the opinion of those who criticize Halloween so much about this.

The truth about rock interviews (by a rookie)

After one year and a half as a contributor for RockZone magazine, I still see myself as the rookie of the team. Much stuff yet to learn, and apparently some shit to swallow, according to a couple of fails I’ve gone through.

It’s been a year since I had my first phone interview with great Dave Wyndorf, of Monster Magnet, and the experience was awesome. The fact that he’s an artist I’ve been following for years was an advantage, but also the guy loves talking and interacting, so everything went nice and easy.

I must be humble and confess that I definitely need more experience. I still get sweaty minutes before a  phone call, and if you were listening to the recordings you’d notice I’m nervous for a couple of minutes till I start focusing. Still I’m already able to distinguish between a good and a bad speaker, and it’s very easy to identify their mood, decisive for a successful or terrible interview.

phone

Like I said, I had the best start. I understand it now as the first timer luck, there’s no other explanation. After that, everything’s been a bit more like a rollercoaster, with peaks and fails, and the ugly truth.

Interviews are not like having a beer with a friend, even though there are occasions and people which might make you feel extremely comfortable, but let’s have something clear: an interview is fuckin’ promo, which means the least the interviewee should do is to be polite with the journalist. I’m not saying nice, which also makes things, reviews, and that personal point of view from the interviewer reflected on the text, even better.

What makes an interview worth? Personally speaking I reckon the most interesting stuff has to do with going beyond this promo part. If you have to talk about an album, you better try to get some meaning, find out curiosities and push the interviewee to talk about more personal facts. Everybody is gonna tell you their last album is the best up to date, but you have to understand why. In case promo is to be with an upcoming tour be creative about what we can expect from that, but I guess the best is to make them think. Films, family, influences, science…you name it. Put them in the position they feel like revealing something new and divert from the main path. Readers are eager to read something outstanding, and for that it’s necessary to push the artists.

Months ago I had to interview Ann Wilson of Heart. That interview together with Neko Case’s were the greatest to me, because we dealt with things which didn’t have to do with their music but their experiences and positions on certain issues. With Wilson, as per Jordi’s request, we dug into the Seattle scene back in the early 1990’s and we ended up talking about the loss of Layne Staley. With Neko we dealt with hypersexuality in music and talked about Lady Ga Ga. Believe me, it was awesome, plus it was face to face.

Probably because I’m not very experienced I’ve never had an interview with a young band. I guess it must be tough because of their short career, and you cannot bring out old stuff, so that’d be a challenge.

I haven’t told you about my two last fails. Well, the first was a disaster. I’m not naming the band because I still got hope I will manage to do something with them eventually, but I got very disappointed with the lack of seriousness they showed. I was meant to have a face-to-face interview with them and spent many hours waiting for their call to meet them for the chat. When I arrived, I had to wait for 20 minutes till the singer showed up and explained that they had to eat something first to it will take a little while. Well, I waited on the street for almost 2 hours till I got pissed off and joined some friends for a beer at a bar. When I met them they told me it wasn’t personal and they were too hangover, so we could do a phoner or I could send them the questions via email. By the time I didn’t care anymore. I was the only Spanish journalist willing to have an interview with them, because they aren’t getting press covered properly in this country. I can see why now.

axl and slash interview

For the second, the phone call was agreed at a convenient hour at lunch time so I could make it at the office without interfering in my work. I tried to reach the guy 4 times unsuccessfully, with the fuckin’ answering machine jumping all the time. I had to notify my boss at the mag, send an email to everybody (boss, manager, singer) advising it was impossible to reach him. He replied 4h later apologizing asking if I could do it then. And I did, but I had to ask my real boss for this favor, and luckily he accepted because we’re not too busy these days. Apparently his phone had run out of battery (first world problems). The interview was excellent even though I was a bit stressed with the situation but, how come you let your fuckin’ phone die when you have an interview scheduled, man? Really, I couldn’t believe it.

Thus this is my truth about rock interviews up to date. I hope I improve and don’t have to face many incidences, but to be honest, this is harder than I expected. I only wish they keep coming so I can focus better and learn the most of them.

Farewell Norma Jean

It’s funny I was writing about the end of chapters referring to all the projects in which Omar and Cedric were involved in the past which eventually were necessary to the birth of Antemasque.

And I find it funny because yesterday one of the most remarkable chapters I’ve experienced was also finished. Norma Jean Magazine, the online site I’ve been involved with for the past two years and a half, has been officially closed down, thanks to a wonderful statement Andrea published on the web.

norma-jean-banner

It’s sad we couldn’t face the high demand of contents as a consequence of tough work and really good articles thanks to all the contributors who shared their stories and thoughts with us. For some time we were posting articles on a daily basis. That was insane considering we were only two girls trying to cover editing, writing, recruiting, reading new stuff from people interested in contributing… It was getting hard to keep all things at the same level, having our responsibilities and daytime full time jobs. What started being a hobby, with very pleasant results turn out to be some sort of obligation, and it required lots of time and effort. We handled until we weren’t able to cope with that, and for some time we had the hope that eventually we’d be able to resurrect the magazine. But it was impossible, we weren’t motivated, and we felt constantly frustrated and guilty for not working on it anymore.

I reckon this was the best way to finish it, through a statement. Norma Jean Magazine didn’t deserve to die agonizing, and it’d been agonizing enough already.

nj power

I can’t be but grateful, because this magazine has opened me the doors to other sites, blogs and magazines, it’s been a good opportunity to learn about editing and writing, I’ve met lots of interesting people, and thanks to NJ Andrea is my friend. What else can I ask?

Alpha and Omega. Everything can be summarized this way.

It’s been the end of NJ, but who know what will come next? It’s the end of a magazine, but it doesn’t imply the end of a friendship or the willing to write and communicate. We’ll see…

In the meantime, I’d like to thank all those who stopped by and spent some time reading our articles. I think we did something big, and I’m proud to be part of it.

Farewell Norma Jean! You’ve been good to me.

Album of weeks 44 & 45: ANTEMASQUE

Sometimes I reckon I should share with you a list of those artists I worship as genius for their creative talent, in order to inspire some sort of discussion, get acquainted with your point of view, and discover other musicians worth following for this reason.

antemasque album

It’s already time to talk about Antemasque, the last project of Omar Rodríguez-López and Cedric Bixler-Zavala. I’ve already written about some of their albums as The Mars Volta and At the Drive-In.

 I started to dig into their stuff a bit late for my taste, so I’ve missed the chances to see both bands in action on stage, even though I could attend Omar’s performance a couple of years ago and I thought it was brilliant even though at that moment I wasn’t so involved in his universe. But this time, and since The Mars Volta got me hooked gradually, I won’t miss any of their movements.

On 9th of April, a couple of tweets announced this new project named Antemasque introduced by a new single, ‘4 AM’. It sounded so straight and fresh, it was impossible not to surrender to the piece. Flea was said to be on payroll, but quickly it was confirmed this was only a collaboration, as he let the bass parts recorded at his studio to be used for the album. Several singles followed and the full album was digitally released in July.

In the time we’re currently living it’s curious the huge demand of a physical format from the fans. We all want to have Antemasque on vinyl or CD. Last month it was confirmed the date of release, set for November 10th, this is, on Monday, for CD, and on the 25th for vinyl. It’s definitely worth the wait.

Omar and Cedric have dumped sound density ballast, delivering ten absolutely fresh and straight 3 minute sounds, very easy to listen and to get hooked to, getting back to basics in terms of song structures, with very simple structures and repeated chorus.

In Antemasque you can find punk with ‘I Got No Remorse’ or ‘In the Lurch’, more power pop oriented tracks as ’50,000 kilowatts’, and some acid drops of their taste for psychedelia on ‘Drown All Your Witches’ y ‘Providence’. It’s the simplicity of the songs what makes it huge.

I’m very glad tensions between these two brains were overcome and left aside, and they started focusing on working together to deliver more interesting stuff. I can’t erase from my head the idea that perhaps these are the people who need a breaking point and a new start from time to time to keep their talent alive and dynamic, and the more time passes and the older I get, the more I believe that all chapters must have a beginning and an end for the individuals can improve and evolve at all levels. At The Drive-In wouldn’t be so great if they had continued, the same as The Mars Volta wouldn’t exist in such case consequently. Thus if nothing lasts forever, it’s ok that there are many chapters which occupy the timeline.

antemasque on stage

Let’s see what this Antemasque chapter surprises us with. I’m optimistic.

I’m not a mum, so deal with it.

As you know I’m single and don’t have any kids of my own. At this point in my life I’m 80% sure I will never be a mum. I don’t feel frustrated about that, because considering my terrible love life, I’ve never had the urge to have a baby. It’s not that I didn’t want to, but never been obsessed about looking for life fulfillment through raising one. Never felt this biological call I think. Probably if the chain of events would have been different, I’d be a proud mum nowadays. Who knows… Truth is this has never bothered me at all. I’ve been able to carry out lots of things that, with such huge responsibility, I would have never had the chance, so I don’t regret my current situation at all.

However I’m at this age that many people are new parents. Decades ago, it was at your 20s when you were having babies, and reaching 30 you were considered some sort of outcast or freak if you weren’t living in a couple raising kids. Society has changed, comfort and leisure have won consideration, with people feeling like enjoying travelling, going out or living free without additional burdens, and on the other hand the current expensive way of life, have delayed parenthood to the 30s, the decade I’m about to finish.

Thus let’s say until 2-4 years, I was working with single people, or at least with no kids. Barcelona is said to decrease the birth rate, however I see lots of couples assuming the step in their commitment adding new members to their new and small family. Many of them because they are well settled at work, feeling comfortable enough to assume this new episode. It’s quite reasonable and I feel very proud of my friends in that situation, moreover, I love my friends’ kids.

marge and maggie

I work at an office where most of my colleagues have kids. Well, together with another girl I’m the exception. That wouldn’t be anything extraordinary if I wasn’t starting feeling marginalized.

Long time ago I wrote a piece for Norma Jean Magazine talking about the silent privileges of the parents at work, which made some noise among readers, causing extreme reactions. I was supported by many people and criticized and even insulted by others. The reason was that I affirmed that due to their obligations with kids, parents had some sort of advantage and an off the record law protecting their interest over single or non parent coworkers, especially related to holiday periods, illnesses and leaves. Of course you cannot speak in general, and that wasn’t my target (I didn’t want to offend anyone) at all, but everybody can read what anyone writes from a different point of view, but I hate those people abusing of their status for their benefit.

Leaving all the holidays subject, because at the end of the day I prefer taking days off for attending festivals,  or whatever I want, out of the typical hot season, for the first time in my life, like I’ve advanced, I feel marginalized.

Does parenthood provide you of the ultimate truth and wisdom? Should I be interested in the different textures of poo? Is my life more frivolous because I don’t sacrifice it on behalf of a kid? Let me answer for you: NO, NO and NO.

Everything is based on choices. I chose not to have children because I reckon it’s more serious than we think. I’ve seen women getting pregnant to chase a guy, and live in permanent frustration, with constant problems and difficulties because that love story was a failure, and at the end of the day a kid wasn’t a fixed and unbreakable contract which granted happiness in couple. I don’t want that in my life, and I don’t want to be a bad mother, projecting my shit on my son. My work pals decided the other way. Some were lucky because their relationships are serious, well based on, deep and constant. Some weren’t because everything was just an illusion in the heat of the moment. Everybody has to carry their emotional bags the way they can, but since I don’t judge, I don’t wanna be judged or just categorized as insensitive or selfish.

Sometimes these mums at work make me feel as if I don’t give a shit about kids sick, or learning to walk and talk. As if they thought I don’t belong because I don’t have anything in common with them, or at least as important. I cannot talk about poo, vaccines, kindergarten teachers or meals from my personal experience, obviously, but I listen and learn from what others share with me, so I can give my input, but that is not valid for them because “you don’t really know what this is like”. On the other hand, since their kids have become the center of their lives, the rest doesn’t matter, so at the end of the day they’re basically talking about the same. I’m sorry but it’s boring. If being a mother means I have to give up everything I love, passions and hobbies, and just being focused on a human being, I’m afraid that’s not my war.

I know close friends who are mothers and they are able to converge motherhood, friendship, couple, their personal life, and work, and many other things, and they’re good at everything. They can care for friends and even though there’s a lot of sacrifice and hard work, they don’t feel overwhelmed by their new situation and keep up with their previous life. I feel part of their experience, I fit in without feeling like forcing them to take me in their lives, and they respect and care about me and my stuff.

kid at festival

What the difference between case A and case B mothers? I might sound very harsh right now, but I honestly think the first ones never had a plenty life and raising a kid is some sort of relief for their frustration, with lots of dependence involved, and probably the result will be a disaster when those children grow up, become individuals in possession of their own will, and start feeling detached from their protective wings, because they won’t know what to do with their empty lives.

So dear supermoms at my office, I’m glad you’re leaving me aside because now I know I don’t want, nor won’t be like you, and it’s a huge relief.