The Return Of The Skyt Muties

SKYT MUTIES STORM THE BARRICADES

 

Skyt Muties have their roots in the alternative music scene of Joburg in the late 80s, and consist of Andrew Kay on bass and vocals, Dave Pickover on drums and Charles Grass on guitar.

 

The band formed in the wake left by the demise of Andrew’s glam-rock trash band the Party Dolls following a near-fatal motorbike accident that put him in hospital and  left him out of action for a few months.  Once he was back on his feet he worked in the props department on the Bles Bridges movie, and soon after, was approached by Dave Pickover and Stephen de Swardt to form a band. They used as their base of operations Stephen’s house on a farm outside Potchefstroom, where they would jam on weekends, and turn the volume up to 11.

“The Muties always had a BIG sound, as Stephen was partially deaf, so in order for him to hear anything we had to play really loud.  Add to this Dave is a big lad, who knew only one way to play drums, and that was to pound the skins with all his might.  Stephen was also in the business of making PA speakers, so we had an inside track to getting the gear we needed to play at top volume. I wanted our music to have a hard, industrial edge, which I felt should reflect the state of the nation at the time. Fashionable music had become soft, and I had this vision of a musical explosion in my head.”

 

Thus the Muties were born, the name taken from a character in 2000 AD, the pooular sci-fi comic that was best known for creating the character of Judge Dredd.  The comic had at its core a humorously apocalyptic vision, and in one of the stories a mutant called Feral (half dog half human), a particularly rebellious mutant youth, had emblazoned on his T-shirt “Skate Muties” as he was a skater.  Andrew adapted the name to take on the meaning of Skyt, as in a low-class South African male of questionable character.  Andrew’s vision of SA was tempered by the vision in the comic, and this influenced the writing and early sound of the Muties.  Andrew was also heavily influenced by the writing and songs of Jonathan Handley of the Radio Rats. In songs like 9mil, which have survived to this day and remain a firm crowd favourite, a gritty sci-fi edge posits the anti-hero in an uber violent, sexist and racist context, a comic-book portrayal of characters that were all too real in South Africa at the time, and naturally who remain so in the new, Democratic dispensation.

 

The Muties literally exploded onto the Joburg scene with a triumphant show at one of the Merv the Swerv events at Jamesons in 1989, that had on its bill the Genuines, the Dyslexics and the Unhinged, as well as many other great bands on the scene at the time.

“For some reason the Genuines decided to play a jazzy set that was laid back, and when we hit the stage, all hell literally broke loose,” remembers Kay.  “It was incredible, chairs flying and a mosh pit that included the whole club, this mass of heaving humanity, sort of all screaming together as the Muties provided the soundtrack to a catharsis that was evidently in great need by the audience at the time.  I’ve never experienced anything quite like it before or since.”

 

Sadly, The Muties disbanded on Andrew’s artistic exile to Britian in the early 90s. “I had to leave as everything was freaking me out, I couldn’t take the hatred and violence anymore, and although our songs were violent, the Muties were definitely a peaceable band.  We incorporated aspects of flower power into our apocalyptic vision, if you can picture such a thing.”

 

One could argue an early and tenuous link to sci-fi films such as District 9 and naturally the phenomenon that is Die Antwoord, who have expanded on the theme to a far greater depth. The Muties never limited themselves to the sci-fi angle, though and on Andrew’s return to the Beloved Country in the mid 90s The Muties reformed briefly.  Andrew had taken up musical studies full time at the Wits School of Music, and had signed to peermusic SA, who fronted the money for a recording that became “unto Thine Own Self Be Cool”, five tracks recorded at Willem Moller’s Sharp Street studios. The writing is upbeat, melodic, catchy and carefree, a world away from the apocalyptic vision that was 9 mil, and also is a testament to the times in as much as the New SA was itself going through a honeymoon period of transformation during which so many positives seemed possible.

 

Gallo records showed interest in signing the band on the strength of the EP, and began negotiating on a deal with the Muties, which for various reasons never materialised, not the least being the band disbanded once more. Just before that happened though,  the Muties recorded a number of tracks at Sharp Street with Willem Moller once again at the helm.  Andrew is in contact with Willem at the present time, and who has so far unearthed a total of seven Muties tracks from the vaults, which will become the backbone of that first Muties album.

 

In the meantime Stephen de Swardt has tragically passed away, but after Dave contacted Andrew in 2012 and posted Unto Thine Own Self Be Cool on Youtube, it was decided to reform the Muties once more, and rope in the services of Charles Grass, with whom Andrew had worked in 2012 under the name AK and the 47s.

 

The Muties’ first gig is happening in Joburg on the 31st of October, literally 13 days before Andrew’s 50th birthday.  The band is rehearsing the material off the EP, including 9 mil, and will showcase some more recent material that is more acoustically oriented, but which contains the characteristic bite and melody of the Muties of old.  Thus far the Muties are also booked to be performing a New Year’s Eve bash in Estcourt, organised by Andi Grannersberger, a long-time friend of the Muties, and who recently pulled off a great musical weekend at Zingela Lodge.

 

For more info contact Andrew Kay on 082 456 2726, or email him at andrewkay97@yahoo.com  Google Skyt Muties Unto Thine Own Self Be Cool to listen to those earlier Muties tracks.

 

You can hear tracks from Skyt Muties and a rare Party Dolls track on the NBTMusicRadio all over the 24 hour stream but specially during the 7 PM and 11 PM Berlin time slots

 

http://nbtmusicradio.playtheradio.com/
TuneIn (for blackberry and android):NBTMusicRadio

iTunes: Click on ‘Advanced’ then ‘Open Stream’

and paste: http://listen.radionomy.com/nbtmusicradio.m3u

stream thru your Media Player: http://listen.radionomy.com/nbtmusicradio.m3u

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The NBT Review 59

Between Customers – Matt Keating (Red Parlor Records)

Keating constructs his songs like sketches that the artist keeps returning to,  adding details and colour and mood until the picture before you is a personal memoir, the simple perfect lines that tell all, recalling ‘’Darkness On The Edge Of Town’’ era Springsteen;  that fine balance between studio mastery and narrative grit.

He loves his characters, no matter how broken and flawed they may appear, affection and empathy shown in the turn of a verse and the way the strings slide comfortably to (old blanket on a cold night like)tangle delicate into some of the songs.

No scene is overstated, no drama played for giddy dramatics, there is craft here on display, as he strips away what does not need to be said and keeps the core, the finite details of what really matters.

There is steel in the sensitive, and yes the tunes are so damn pretty, but there is no impression of weakness, no concession to safety, no desire for blandness. If the songs soothe it is because they sing true not because they play nice.

Keating distills the world into intimate bulletins so the storm becomes the sigh in a fractured relationship; he makes the immeasurable understandable, touchable, he revives the art of telling just enough and telling all you need to know.

 Subtly descriptive in the way Don MacLean and few since have managed he brings the little bits of what he sees, (wherever he is) to us, making the telling of these tales seem effortless and the listening to them valuable.

Listen here:

http://www.mattkeating.com

Catch songs from this album on the NBT Podcasts going out on the 30th April,  13th and 20th May

http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com/

Matt will also be playing concerts in Vienna with NBT favourites Richard Kapp and Cassis.. check the website for details.

The NBT Wonderful Ones 2009 Part 2

Part Two

Part One Can Be Found Here:

https://nbtmusic.wordpress.com/2009/12/18/the-nbt-wonderful-ones-2009-part-1/

 You can see pictures of Most of the artists mentioned year on our special visual page

http://nbtmusic.jalbum.net/NBTWonderfulOnes2009/

And of course HEAR them on the NBT Podcast, talking and singing rare tracks, cool festive ditties and songs not yet released. That goes out on the 21st Dec09.

http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com

Richard Kapp

The Austrian piano man, the song and dance magician, the elegant performer of those wicked sly fragile pop things. Richard conjured up a sublime David Sylvian like tune to my raggedy words and a new theme for NBT was born

Richard Kapp in his own words:

2009 was a wonderful year for me and my band. Not only did I finally find a band name for my band (It’s “Richard Kapp & The Gowns”), we also finished our second album “Lunchbox” just in time. I think that this is my best album yet and I am very excited. Also, magical things have happened through NBT. Last year when I was listening to the show “The Wonderful Ones” on NBT I stumbled upon the fantastic UK band BirdEatsBaby and sent them a message that I really enjoyed their music. The lead singer, Mishkin Mullaly replied and told me that she also liked my stuff. So we send a message here and there and finally thought that it might be a cool idea to share stage in Vienna. They were about to start their european tour at that time and as they already had a gig in Germany it was not that a long way to travel to Austria. First I was not really sure if this will work out, but it did. We had two gigs here together and especially one show was so great (what a frenetic audience!) that BirdEatsBaby told me after the show that this was their best gig of the whole tour. I felt reliefed and very proud on that night. They stayed at my place for five days and we had such a good time. There also was Joe Black, a superb musician, a real master of bizarre art. We enjoyed sharing stage so much that we decided to do it again in 2010, this time in UK. We are all looking forward to this a lot. This would not have happened without NBT and that’s why I want to thank Martin for all his hard work and support. I think that great things are ahead in 2010 and I hope that my new album “Lunchbox” will reach lots of people. Also, we produced a very cool musicvideo which will be released in January, 2010.  For more info have a look at my homepage http://www.richardkapp.com… you will be able to wach it there first. Another highlight for me was that BBC 6 music played a song of my album “Asterisk”. So, I can really say t hat 2009 was a successful year for me and my band and I hope it was the same for you. I wish everyone at NBT and all the wonderful artists that have been featured on the show a nonchalant christmas time and lots of success with their art in 2010!

http://www.richardkapp.com/                                             

 Trey Green

In these oh so serious times a bit of comic relief goes down a treat, backed with a genuine grasp of what works in a rock n roll song, Trey Green serves up the perfect antidote to the credit crunch angst.

 Trey Green in his own words:

2009 was a huge year – videos, recording with Tenacious D, recording a whole second album, some great live shows – but only after a very rough start.  Exactly one year ago today, I broke my hand very, very badly.  A Dutch girl kicked me at the party – we were all drunk as hell.  My fingers broke in half, all the way onto the back of my hand.  How was I to know that she was a competitive kick-boxer?  I literally couldn’t hold a guitar for six months.  At the time, I was getting spins on college radio all over the US, and some in Germany and England. DJ’s were asking for shows, asking about tour dates…everything for which a musician would hope, but I couldn’t even hold my guitar.  So the first half of 2009 was pretty frustrating.

We made two huge music videos in New York City in the summer with Cynthia Kirchner, the Revlon/Guess?/Victoria’s Secret supermodel.   One for Mad Crush, which is filmed in a single shot, and one for Smooth Breakdancin’ Guy, which has been playing on TV in the US, or so I’m told.  Even Cynthia dances in the video – she even did the splits…on concrete. 

In September, I met the guys from Bad Religion backstage at a Pearl Jam concert in Chicago and ended up working with their drummer, Brooks Wackerman, who is also the drummer for Tenacious D, one of my favorite bands.  Brooks plays on my new album, which we recorded in Tenacious D’s private studio in LA, North Hollywood (porn capital of the world), with John Spiker of Filter and Tenacious D on bass.  Got to hang out with John Koneski, aka Kones, Tenacious D’s lead guitarist, and Kyle Gass, who, of course, is Jack Black’s partner in the band.  What a great, hilarious guy!  Finished the vocals and guitar in New York this month – the new album should be out this winter.  Great year, fired up for 2010: new album, more videos, more shows.

Ka-blamo,

http://www.treygreenmusic.com/

Barbara Gilles

In 2009 Barbara gave birth to a soulful EP of heavenly  yet gritty jazz, and then just a week or so ago a baby boy named Juan Martin. AND still found time to send NBT a beautiful lullabye for the end of year show!!!  In may we called her EP with the Favoriti Quartet ..‘‘ An escape. A rescue, a sometimes sly often sensual deliverance, almost 22 minutes of beauty.’’  Seven months later it sounds and feels even more so.

http://www.barbaragilles.com.ar/

Lisa Bianco

In the year of the manufactured pop starlet, when all was artifice and sexploitation thank the bubblegum goddess for Lisa’s take on new wave and perky punk pop with true heart

 Lisa Bianco in her own words:

2009.  Released my album “Post Data”.  CMJ showcase.  New fans. OId fans. Rocked the stages of NYC/NJ/CT/PA including a haunted brewery twice (!).  Busted my van into a parking lot beam 12 AM.  3 Parking tickets.  Writing new songs.   Gave into getting a Facebook account. Finally got T-shirts. Finally got a Mac. Life experience priceless.

 2010.  The bubble finally bursts and music is real again (in the mass media psyche).  More and more touring.  Hit the studio for a new album.  Positive thinking. Enlighten the world.

http://www.lisabianco.net/

 BirdEatsBaby

 Bringing a delightfully skewed take on the dark heart and bright grin of theatre , glam and rolling rock, this most visual of the artists played on NBT are also one of the very few to make it onto the wonderful ones two years in a row!

 BirdEatsBaby in their own words:

Looking back on 2009, it was a big year for us. We released our first full album, Here She Comes A-Tumblin’, at the start of the summer. Then came our first tour, through the U.K. and Europe, playing to some very enthusiastic crowds. We organized the whole thing ourselves, it was a lot of hard work, and we loved every minute. We also released music videos for two of our songs on the album, The Trouble… and I Always Hang Myself With The Same Rope. Not forgetting playing with some great bands in the U.K., like the World Inferno Friendship Society and Belladonna.

                Next year will be bigger and better. We have another video scheduled for release in January, then we get started recording album no. 2. It will be called Feast Of Hammers, and we can’t wait for people to hear it. And hopefully another tour a little later on in the year. Meanwhile, we will continue to perform all over the U.K. throughout the year. We want more of everything next year, more shows, more music, more fun…bring on 2010!

http://www.birdeatsbaby.co.uk     

 Dune Tran

 The delicate sound of the internal, perfectly judged not too sweet pop sighs. Her music makes me think of the ocean and lonely beaches at the very heart of 3 am.

 Dune Tran in her own words:

I’d like to report that 2009 has been a Tran-tastic year filled with plenty of learning experiences and adventures!  I made my debut into the music community this year with my first album, “Heart Anchors”, a huge accomplishment for me and a dream come true.  This past year I focused on developing myself as a live performer because apart from a handful of open mic performances, I had never played any solo shows to showcase my own music.  I pushed myself to play as many gigs around the bay area as possible.  I’ve overcome obstacles such as finding band members, rehearsal spaces, learning about how to set up a PA, booking gigs, juggling schedules and last but not least, I worked on battling that old stage fright that has haunted me for some time.  The most adventure filled night was when I showed up to a wine bar with all my equipment and found that I had no microphone. The opening act and I raced to the nearest Guitar Center which fortunately was only 2 blocks away.  It turned out to be a fun night regardless.  I performed a total of 15 gigs this past year at venues which varied from dive bar to wine bar and coffee shop to fine restaurant. It’s been an amazing year for me!  I’m grateful to have the opportunity to pursue my dream to share my music and hopefully touch and inspire the lives of others through music.
 
I’ve also invested a lot of time into researching outlets for exposing my music.  I’ve learned a lot about the music business aspects of the industry, such as promotion, licensing, copyrighting, publishing, and distribution.  I know that there’s plenty more to learn.  Several huge successes in my books are making it into the Top 30 chart at CIUT, a radio station at the University of Toronto and getting asked to do an interview for a piece in a local paper, The Daily News, which was published just in time to promote my last gig of the year.  This has been a thrilling year!  I’m so honored to be included among NBT’s best of the year.  Yet another success!  Thank you Martin!
 
For 2010, I plan to focus on writing and evolving and hopefully becoming a better musician and songwriter.   I also want to venture into less familiar territories, whether it is touring outside of the bay area or making a music video or finding a place for my music in TV or movies.  Although there are plenty of obstacles ahead, I’m still ready to face my fears and pursue my dream of making music.

 http://www.dunetran.com/

 Doug Folkins

 Skillful writing and a rock heart swagger, and a keen eye for detail made Folkins the pub folkie of choice this year.

 Doug Folkins in his own words:

 2009 Challenges and Triumphs:

What a year!  In March I released my 5th Indie CD titled “Another Last Call” which was supported by an intense publicity campaign with Cyber PR (Ariel Hyatt) from New York.  I learned all kinds of new words like; podcast, blog, twitter, tweet, friend, social media, etc…  It has been intense, often frustrating but immensely rewarding.  The CD has garnered critical review all from Europe and North America and my songs are more widely played than I could have imagined.  Podcast and internet radio play has exposed my tunes to many people and I have meet some new great fans through these mediums.  Also my single “Calico Girl” charted 5 straight weeks on the Top 100 European Country Music Association charts peaking at #71.  I am still not sure “Calico Girl” is a country song.

 Looking into 2010:

For the year ahead, I am continuing to support my CD with live shows and festival bookings.  I will also continue pursing music publishing deals for my catalogue of over 55 recorded songs.  While I don’t have a new release scheduled for 2010, I hope to record a few tracks for singles and publishing as well as reworking instrumental versions of my previous releases.

http://www.dougfolkins.com/      

 Citizen K

2009 was the year we were welcomed into the dreamlike state of Citizen K. A Personal Favourite for NBT where songs gave up their secrets reluctantly then stuck around to chat and seduce.

Citizen K in his own words:

2009 according to Citizen K

 Well, it’s been a great year. After some hard work, we managed to get the album out in September and the response that followed has been overwhelming. Since I had no expectations what so ever as far as sales were concerned, every unit sold is a maracle. :-)…

 Challenges? Well, some minor health problems I don’t want to get into here, especially since I’m fully recovered now. And, optimistic by nature as I’ve always been, the good events always seem to overshadow the bad ones, by far.

2010 around the corner

 I don’t know what to expect. I’m a bore when it comes to revealing future plans. I know I’ll do some studio work next year, though. I have tuns of ideas for songs and I prefer to just go on and on and on.

http://www.paraplyrecords.se/

 Elika

 Constantly surprising, constantly thoughtful, we called Elika: Madonna fronted by the Pixies, and that was really only a third of the story!

Elika in their own words:

 To be honest, 2009 has been very difficult for us personally, so let’s just forget that one happened. 🙂

We are looking forward to releasing a lot of new material in 2010. Our new ep, “There Was No Summer” will be released this January by Chat Blanc records. It has 5 new songs and is the perfect companion to cold weather. Also, our next full length will be released in 2010. We’ve been working really hard on it and are putting the finishing touches on the mixes. Hopefully, it will be out by Spring/Summer. We think it is by far our best work yet!

http://www.elikamusic.com/ 

 Beth Wimmer

Mixing country earthy with folk sensitive, Ms Wimmer found her way back to the chaos of the NBT fold with a lovely collection of uncluttered honest songs.

Beth Wimmer in her own words:

 Thanks to this wonderful blog and podcast from NBT and to a few other terrific, online outlets for indie-musicians, my “2009: Year of Adaptation” has flowed with a bit more ease. The ‘adaptation’ has been my adjustment to the most monumental change in my life to date: from a busy, energetic life working three part-time jobs to make ends meet and support my music career in warm, sunny Southern California, USA to… living in the crisp, snow-kissed Alps of Europe, working solely as a musician, singing late into the smoky nights, sleeping away the mornings… and learning another language – German!

And if that weren’t enough of a huge change, well, my relationship status went from single (however creatively inspired by the elusive LOVE) to involved; in a deep, growing and soul-satisfying love relationship with a wonderful man. The only challenge that this has presented is that in my present, contented and peaceful state of heart and mind, I am not writing as many songs… seems the fire and feelings of love in turmoil had presented more muse for my songwriting. 

But I’m working on this. 😉 I’m letting the beauty and humor of this new, fulfilling love, along with the more-crucial-than-ever news of the world provide inspiration and depth for my new songs. This past year I’ve enjoyed lots of positive play and attention for my ‘Miracle Girl’ CD, and so in 2010 watch for a new Beth Wimmer CD! i plan to record in summer with a charismatic and highly talented group of musicians from Italy that I had the delight and privilege of playing with in 2009!

Thanks for reading… I wish you all Love, Creativity, Balance and Sweet Music in your hearts,

http://www.bethwimmer.com/    

 Broken Keys

 This mood and sound artist really clicked into the idea of NBT being music tourism. With tracks from his collection ‘’the sounds of the 504’’ he created movies in the mind of all the places he knows and cherishes.

 Broken Keys in his own words:

 Despite all challenges that I’ve experienced this year, 2009 has been a very productive year for me as an Independent composer/producer/artist. In hindsight, I’m always down for a challenge anyway. I have accomplished more this year than any other year that I’ve been involved with making music.  I have been granted the opportunity to sign with popular music licensing company’s such as PUMP AUDIO, MUSICDEALERS.COM, MATCHLESS MUSIC, MUSICSUPERVISOR.COM, GAMECUES, and more. I have also upgraded my equipment and sounds and am looking forward to putting these to use to come up with even more creative different styles of music.

 

In 2010, my focus will be to literally make a living doing what I love to and am addicted to the most…music. I have the making the music part down packed. Now it’s time to do more on the business end and make money. Make money without compromising my art that is. My main goal is to break out of my comfort zone and be more of people person and network. I’m sort of an introvert so this will be a task but, it’s necessary. In conclusion, I will continue to make music for the love of it. I feel like I have definitely paid my dues and look forward to big things happening. And one more thing, I will be putting out a Hip Hop album next year. It’s going to be something very special. Look out!!

http://amiestreet.com/music/broken-keys/sounds-of-the-504/

The Hit and Mrs

The off shoot turned ON, “Ashes Of Bridges‘‘  was the ever Multi-tasking Heise Brothers‘ most focused release so far. Showcasing a darkness and a melodic vulnerabilty the collection of outsider observations aimed straight for the listener’s heart.

The Hit and Mrs in their own words:

We, The Hit & Mrs., had a nice 2009. We released the album “Ashes of Bridges” and Nelly ventured out into the solo star arena with his alter-ego Jebediah Goodthrust and released the self-titled album. Other than that the year was rather uneventful. Nelly and Bubba played a handful of acoustic shows and were showered with mixed reviews (some people have no taste). V. Stak’s graphic design empire Starch continues to grow and just revealed the new Hit & Mrs.’s website (www.thehitandmrs.com). As usual, 2010 will probably bring a new album from the members of The Hit & Mrs. in one form or another. Thanks for the support and have some happy holidays.

– Nelly, Bubba and V. Stak.

http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/hitmrs2

Stacie Rose

Flying, darting from the tension of the real, into the stillness of the dream, she draws it in, rocks it out.

Stacie Rose in her own words:

Had an incredible 2009 working hard on my upcoming release “The Alter-Ego EP’s.” They will be like sweet & savory, ying & yang, vanilla & chocolate, thunder & lightning…You get the point!

Been fixin to do something like this for awhile. I’m not leaving my singer-songwriter roots behind…ooh no! Just doing some much needed artistic dabbling. My adventures in genre-bending have been well received (thank you, people!) and my fun-loving lust for collaboration has led me to this place.

I raised over $5,500 to help create “The Alter-Ego EP’s” this year with the help of Pledge Music, Skope Magazine and all my fans!
I won an honorable mention for my song HOPE in the 2009 New York Songwriters Circle Contest.

I also have a song placement in two films on the 2009 festival circuit: Dead End Falls and Pornography: A Thriller.

My newest music video for Love Saves was released this year. It was extremely well-received! Please view here: http://www.youtube.com/stacierose
“The Alter-Ego EP’s” will be released in early 2010! Thank you to Next Big Thing and all my supporters that help me to keep creating my beautiful music

The Amchitka Concert 1970

From the Greenpeace Canada website

‘’The two-disc CD takes you back to October 16th 1970, when 10,000 people gathered in the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver to hear Joni Mitchell, James Taylor and Phil Ochs and support the very first Greenpeace action ever taken – the legendary voyage to Amchitka to protest nuclear bomb testing.’’

The Protest was unsuccessful and the testing went ahead, But the War was far from lost and Greenpeace went on to become an extremely powerful Voice for those who cared about the Earth and Environment and against those politicians and business men who through action and inaction threatened the delicate balance of true nature.

NBT is proud to have been given a chance to interview Barbara Stowe, daughter of Irving Stowe, one of the founders of Greenpeace. She is author of the insightful and touching liner notes for the ‘Amchitka 1970’ CD.

NBT: Why the release NOW, why wasn’t this put out in the weeks, months, years after the actual concert, did it have to do with technical problems or getting the release of the Artist’s music from their record companies and so on?

In the beginning, Greenpeace was a local organization consisting of at most a couple of dozen volunteers, and the time and energy needed to see such a project through would have been overwhelming. We were too busy trying to stop nuclear testing worldwide!  My father would have been the logical person to consider such a thing, given his passion for music, chutzpah and his legal background.  But he got cancer and died in 1974.

My family has always hoped that Greenpeace would be able to get permissions and release this music, but just to get the ear of busy artists like Joni and James was a daunting prospect.  In 2003 my brother got the ball rolling by transferring the music to CD, and he presented my mother and myself with a CD each as Christmas presents.  He is a meticulous person and he’d timed each song and crafted a few paragraphs about the concert and the technical recording details.  He even used photos of the artists taken at the concert for the covers.  He realized he’d created something Greenpeace could use as a prototype to seek permissions, so he proposed the project to Greenpeace.  When they sent John Timmins out to Vancouver, I knew they’d found exactly the right person.  John is a founding member of the Cowboy Junkies — a renowned Canadian band — and also a Foundations Officer for Greenpeace, and given his passion for the project, his background as a professional musician, and his experience in activism, he was perfect, and we were very excited.  That was two and a half years ago.

NBT: Have you ever visited Amchitka?

Yes. I was part of the “Bering Witness” campaign in the summer of 2007, when the Greenpeace ship Esperanza sailed to Amchitka.  The whole trip totally blew my mind.

NBT: World Powers are always wanting to re-activate Nuclear Testing, in your opinion is there a solution to this problem, or will Greenpeace and others still be fighting the ‘good fight’ 20 years from now?

The solution is clear.  Nuclear weapons threaten us all, and should be eradicated from the face of the earth.  But I’m not naïve.  I suspect Greenpeace may still be fighting to end nuclear testing in 20 years time.  Nonetheless I refuse to relinquish hope, and I’m glad that leaders like President Obama and Russian President Medvedev are talking about denuclearization. Greenpeace can help hold their feet to the fire and push them to make good on their promises.

NBT: The 3 artists perform and create in ways that are very different to one another, how did this change in styles go down with the audience of the time?

There was tension because everyone wanted to hear their favorite artists, and this electricity was intensified by the fact that it was one of the most politically charged days in Canadian history.  Martial law had been declared at 4 o’clock that morning, in an attempt to quell terrorism in Quebec.  So when Phil Ochs, who is a fervent activist, got onstage and started to play, the mood was heightened. Someone put up a banner about the War Measures Act (martial law) and someone else tore it down.  And you can hear Phil on the CD, saying “I never played in a police state before”.

But people were ultimately respectful, and in this sense, the whole concert became a kind of visceral metaphor for peace.  Because there could have been real trouble, but there wasn’t.  I mean, there was zero security!  All the ushers that night were volunteers who had no experience, and everyone just sat wherever they liked…you can see in the photo, look at the floor, there are no aisles, the whole floor is covered with people sitting on every inch of it!

Part of the reason there was no trouble was respect for the cause, and part of it is down to Chilliwack, who played this brilliant set that got us on our feet dancing for joy.  I’d never heard Chilliwack live and it was a revelation.  Recently I asked Bill Henderson, the lead singer, how they did it, because one song seemed to segue magically into another, I can’t even remember any separation.  He said that the way they were playing then was to start with quiet sounds that served to ground both themselves and the audience, and then gradually develop those sounds into melodies and rhythms, and eventually find a way into one of their songs, and then into another, and so on.  It takes a lot of trust and vulnerability to do that and I think the audience really responded in kind, so that a special bond developped between performer and audience. And then, James further chilled out the crowd, I’m still amazed at how he did that, it felt like we were almost hypnotized with bliss.  He was singing us lullabies, you know, “Sweet Baby James”…”won’t you let me go down in your dreams…and rockabye sweet baby James”.  And Joni, she just let her lyrics speak: “bombers turning into butterflies above our nation”.  It was really beautiful.  I sound like I’m back in the Seventies now, don’t I?

NBT: Did you get to meet the singers? Offstage what were they like?

Phil Ochs came to our house for dinner before the concert.  He was outraged that we were under marital law. Canada was considered such a benign country, a peaceable kingdom. But Phil kept his fury in check when it came to personal relations.  He gave my brother a cigar from Cuba, which Bobby treasured for years.

When Phil came back to our house several years later on another tour I had the impression of a gentle and deeply tormented man.  He was so depressed that when I later heard of his suicide I was very much saddened but not really surprised.

I didn’t get to meet Joni, but my brother did.  He went to the airport with my father to pick them up.  He told me there was only room for one other person in the car besides my father, and that was him, and I had to go to school!  And I did!  I’m still kicking myself.  But people at school were psyched about the concert, so that was pretty cool.  My brother saw Joni and James kissing in the back seat of the limo, they were in love.

I met James backstage on a later tour. He invited us into his dressing room and he had that Southern charm.  He was extremely cool and good looking and I’m sure I blushed to the roots of my hair!

NBT: You mentioned your Dad’s love of all forms of music, in 1970 what were the Teenagers such as yourself listening to?

Some of the favorites for my crowd were Joni Mitchell; The Beatles; Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young; Leonard Cohen; Laura Nyro; Jefferson Airplane and Simon & Garfunkel.  We also loved Chilliwack and Small Faces, and until the concert, I hadn’t heard James Taylor, but after I heard him I became a big fan.

NBT: Why is Chilliwack not on the CD?

What happened was, during the concert, my father saw a tape recorder under the stage, and he went to the sound engineer and said, “Dave, I see you’re taping this.”  Dave said yes, I always tape my concerts for technical reasons, and Dad said, I want a copy.  Then he went to the artists’ managers and asked for permission to keep the tape for personal use.  All the managers agreed, except Chilliwack’s. So the copy that my family had all these years never had Chilliwack on it.  During the past year, Bill Henderson launched a valiant search to find the master tape which might have still had Chilliwack’s portion on it, but he couldn’t find it.

NBT: The proceeds of this release, what will Greenpeace use the money for?

To support Greenpeace campaigns: climate change, forests, oceans toxics, sustainable agriculture, disarmament and peace.

NBT: In your opinion: Were the 70s more optimistic/hopeful than this day and age, could this concert have happened in 2009? This release must bring many bitter sweet memories to you; tell us how you see the Political world, the music world. Are there still free world activists willing to risk life and limb to change the status quo? 

Oh, why not ask me some hard questions, Martin? Ha ha ha ha!  Actually I love questions like this that make me think.  To answer your first question:  Was the 70’s a more optimistic and hopeful time?  It was in some ways.  Many people believed that existing power structures and institutions had to be smashed and a new way of living had to be created. In this sense the ‘70’s was more optimistic because people really believed that a more utopian, peaceful existence was possible. And the social revolutions of the Sixties and ‘70’s, the Civil Rights, Women’s Rights and Gay Rights movements did so much to further change.   But these movements were driven by historic tragedy as well as hope, they were driven by anger, and by a willingness to die for a cause.  So while there was optimism, there was also this dark underside of rage and the struggle for freedom was fierce and painful.  Then there was the Vietnam War which literally tore American families apart. And the music of the day, which can’t be separated from the times, was driven by this darkness and a soul-searching at the deepest level, as well as a corresponding and opposite belief in love and hope, peace and change.  You can hear the music reflect all this, whether it’s Phil Ochs raging “I’m Not Marching Anymore” or Joni’s bombers turning into butterflies, in “Woodstock”. 

Your second question, could this concert have happened in 2009?  I don’t know.  I think great musicians like Joni, James, Phil and Chilliwack, who have so much heart and soul, will always respond to an appeal as urgent as the one to stop nuclear testing on Amchitka.  U2 is a modern example of artists responding to urgent need, on both anti-poverty campaigns and environmental campaigns.  Which, incidentally, thankfully, no longer have to be considered separate campaigns, now that anti-poverty activist Kumi Naidoo has been appointed head of Greenpeace International.  But I digress.  To get back to the point:  I believe great artists will always commit for a worthy cause, but as for the nature of the thing, that is a concert with no backup musicians, no visuals, no big screens, just one musician and a guitar commanding a huge arena?  I don’t know.

Also there is something magical in the spontaneity of these performances, perhaps because the artists didn’t know they were being recorded, which is ironic given that we’re so glad now that it was recorded.  The instant musicians step onstage nowadays a million iphones capture their every breath.  There’s something sad about that, because when you’re recording, you’re not present. It breaks the intimate connection between performer and audience, and that changes the performance.

As for the third question, how do I see the music world and the political world?  Well in terms of music I’m overwhelmed by the wealth of music now available to us! It’s wonderful, but also I think today it’s more difficult for artists because the bigger the talent pool, the more they have to fight for attention, and art and public relations don’t go together. I’d like to see artists more nurtured and respected and the almighty buck take a back seat.  When commerce takes precedence it weakens us culturally and lessens our humanity. Phil Ochs says it pretty clearly in “Chords of Fame”.

As for politics…it’s easy to live in fear and anger — the Bush Administration was driven by it — but I think the brave thing to do is to try to live in hope, no matter how difficult things become, and we couldn’t be facing greater challenges than we are in this millennium.

And as for whether there are still free world activists willing to risk life and limb to change the status quo?  Absolutely!  I saw them on the Esperanza.  Greenpeace is full of activists who are utterly committed to peaceful non-violent action.  It inspires me and gives me hope.

You will be able to hear Barbara herself say a few words and listen to trax from the CD on the NBT ‘best of 2009`Special 21st December 09

http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com/

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