Tag Archives: books

Everybody Loves Our Town

mark yarm

I’m a 90s child, or better said a 90s teenager. It’s impossible that someone who is acquainted with me has any doubt about it. Not that I got stuck in this decade, but in many ways it was the most defining in terms of music and personality. 2000 could be acknowledged as the settlement time, of what I started experiencing and discovering in the nineties.

This been said, you should also know by now, I’m deep into 90’s music. Not all the genres, that’s for sure, as it’s impossible, at least for me, to cover all the styles, and also because there was lots of crap too. I never dug into industrial music, although I’m currently interested in NIN, and enjoyed Marilyn Manson lots, but Fear Factory and other currents never caught my interest, same as nu metal and those guys in Adidas trackies. Never cared about The Deftones or Korn, and BritPop was something I was punished to listen to with when I was working at the laundry factory in Essex, so even though I enjoy listening to Suede nowadays, I wasn’t a diehard fan of Pulp, Oasis or Blur.

Anyway, I don’t think at this point I have to justify and give explanations on why I don’t have any CDs of this or that band. You just can’t cope with everything if you have a “normal” life.

What I do reckon is that grunge, I prefer to call it Seattle sound even though isn’t still very accurate, crossed my life when I was 14-15, and hundreds of stories of bands immediately were part of my life. Thus, when I heard of Mark Yarm’s Seattle oral history was available, I knew I had to read it as soon as I had the chance. Thanks Mr Benavides for discovering this treasure to me.

This book is a compilation of interviews the author made to around 200 people: musicians, producers, sound engineers, managers, record companies A&Rs… basically people who had been involved with the several bands which propelled the ignored Northwest area of the States, and Seattle in particular, to be a huge worldwide attraction, thanks to the scene created  throughout the years, since the early 80s to late 90s. It’d be a huge mistake if only the most prominent bands, you know, Nirvana, Pearl Jam Alice In Chains and Soundgarden, would have been covered, but luckily all the different bands previous to those, and many other such as Melvins, Mudhoney, TAD, 7-Year Bitch or even Candlebox, are also included.

Seattle scene

Many stories, different confronted opinions, and people’s feelings are reflected, respecting a very well structured timeline, showing a family tree whose branches extend to many bands with different projection and fate. Of course, there are certain key figures which are never to be forgotten, which are pillars, or even breaking points at certain times, to situations and changes of events, such as the deaths of Andrew Wood, Mia Zapata, Kurt Cobain or Layne Staley. Addictions and substance abuse are too present, excess and delusions of grandeur can be found in many stories, ambition, friendship, hard work, love, disasters and drama, and most of all talent, are part of this big cocktail, and lots of stories, I used to listen thanks to overseas magazines and the damned MTV, are now told in first person.

For all these reasons and more, Everybody Loves Our Town, immediately has become a must read for all the music lovers, and those who used to wear flannel and Doc Martens, no mattered what their parents or people at their high schools could think of their appearance, trying to emulate their music heroes, which in the end were human beings.

One last thing, not trying to spoil anything: COURTNEY LOVE is even more asshole than I thought.

NEAL CASAL BROUGHT ME RYAN ADAMS & THE CARDINALS TO THE HELLHOUSE

I haven’t talked about live music photography yet, and to be honest, if I had to choose a field to develop my poor skills in, or focus my work onto, live performances and street art would be my main targets.

I find really difficult to capture those intense moments coming from the spontaneity of the band members, the feelings, the passion, and the workspace  is usually terrible. Lights, shades, angles, jacks, annoying mic stands, and even these mobile video units. Now I’m thinking of a picture of Nicke Royale with Imperial State Electric, which could have been awesome but it was completely ruined because of this huge  video mobile arm. It was one of these “Fuck My Life” moments, believe me.

I will refer to outstanding photographers covering this field very soon, but now I’d like to talk about something more special and intimate, Neal Casal achieved through hundreds of pictures, many of them included in his book Ryan Adams & The Cardinals: A View of Other Windows.

This compilation of pictures means trespassing the threshold into the inner world of one of my favorite artists, Ryan Adams, and the band he formed and fronted for approximately 5 years, The Cardinals, which Neal Casal joined in 2005.

Their world, including the writing and recording processes and methods, the band on the road, the relationship among members, the good and bad moments, from happiness to exhaustion, euphoria and solitude, is beautifully reflected here, in a humble way, with no ambitious aspirations but to catch and keep part of their lives and experiences for good.

I’ve always thought Neal Casal is a very emotional artist, with a taste for the beauty in a discrete manner. Whenever I listen to his solo stuff it evokes me some kind of peace. The tandem formed between Neal and Ryan is really complementary, as if the second provided the passion and the guitarist was there to balance and keep things under control.

The fans know by know about Adams’ shyness and mood swings, he’s quite a borderline personality, in my opinion essential to be the genius he is. Casal, seems to be the witness of all his extreme behavior, close enough as not to disturb him either, which hasn’t to be very easy.

The relationship among the members of the band is also interesting. So far, so close, everything changes depending on the circumstances. Being part of a band which spends long time on the road must be rough and strenuous. We have no idea of what two hours show means in terms of effort, work and sacrifice. It’s like a family but implying a responsibility towards a different audience every night, and bread on your table. Your working day doesn’t mean 8h at the office, or the factory, but playing eating, travelling, sleeping…

Adams appreciated the talent of Casal right away, and the covers of Easy Tiger and Follow the Lights Ep are credited to him, together with the albums artwork featuring some of the pictures.

I have to remark another personal issue which makes this book more special, and it’s the fact that there are plenty of pix referring to the European tour in 2007. I was lucky to attend to one of the shows in November 2007, a thrilling and absolutely wonderful night, in which I signed not only a peace agreement with Adams, my filthy hair boy, but also my unconditional love for the rest of my life.

Ryan Adams and The Cardinals split ways in 2009, for many reasons, among others, Adams’ retirement announcement caused by the Ménière’s disease, and later on,  the loss of the bassist Chris Feinstein.

Neal Casal has just released a beautiful album named Sweeten the Distance, keeps on taking pictures which have been published in many established magazines, and nowadays he’s part of Chris Robinson’s Brotherhood. Let’s cross fingers and wait if he manages to let us into this family through his lens.