Bruce Dickinson isn’t through just yet. It is the end of a 12-hour press day where the Iron Maiden vocalist has been answering a multitude of questions, most concerning the iconic heavy metal band’s 16th full-length album, The Book of Souls. It is a task that requires a kind of Zen-like patience, yet the 57-year-old is noticeably unfazed, excited to spend the better part of an hour talking about his passion for music — and for life. Since 1981, when Dickinson joined Maiden, he and his bandmates have crafted an inimitable style of heavy metal, revolving primarily around themes of the battle between life and death.
Whereas their forebears in Black Sabbath engaged the subject of mortality with low and slow misanthropy, Iron Maiden tackled it on frenetically paced, epically rendered cautionary tales, heralded by Dickinson playing the part of a maniacal prophet. The result has been one of metal’s most celebrated legacies, exuding a notion of the very glory and immortality the band’s songs depicted. Yet recently, Maiden’s lyrical themes, and that of many of their influential peers, have manifested as an unavoidable
Mac Miller met us in LA, which he had recently left. Ali and Mac have known each other for some time, so this interview was a chance for them to reconnect on the other side of some months of internal turmoil and growth the Pittsburgh rapper had to get through. We spoke about fame, performance and wading through other people’s prejudice when you’re a rapper who’s white.
ALI SHAHEED MUHAMMAD: Mac Miller in the building. What’s happening?
MILLER: Oh, you know, just glad to be back. Very excited. I couldn’t even sleep last night.
MUHAMMAD: You mean back in L.A.?
MILLER: Yeah. Back on the road. Back doing music professionally.
MUHAMMAD: How’s it feel to be back?
MILLER: It’s good. It was a little scary at first, but that’s —
MUHAMMAD: Is it like Cheers when Norm walks in? It’s like, he walks in; he’s back. It’s like, “Norm!”
MILLER: Yeah. I never watched Cheers actually.
MUHAMMAD: Sorry. I’m dating myself right there. Doggonit.
MILLER: No, you know what it’s like? You just jump, and then everything’s good. It’s been great. Just releasing an album. There’s no better feeling in the world. You
King Mez doesn’t smoke loud, sip lean or drink alcohol. He doesn’t care about Audemar watches or oversized chains with icy pendants. Dude spends his off days piecing together 500-part Gundam Wing robots while learning to write and speak Japanese. You might not be down with him yet. The 25-year-old Raleigh native blasted out of left field with not one, not two, but three significant features on Dr. Dre’s highly anticipated Compton album this August, in an era when we never thought we’d get another Dre album.
For days after Compton dropped, I had @s and tweets from a rack of dudes on my timeline, like, “Who that cat King Mez? He go in!” And rightly deserved. King Mez’s verses are sharp and delivered with a thick, rich, fried-grits-and-gravy country voice that’s distinctive to his southern roots –– it perfectly syrups on to that west coast sound that Dre created. You catch it when he speaks, but when his accent blends with tracks it thickens, even enhances, the beat, and it’s been impressing new listeners. But I’ve known for a while now;
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“Perfect” advances after the first full week of activity following its Oct. 16 release, in which several Twitter users speculated the song is a veiled reference to Taylor Swift (a former girlfriend of One Direction’s Harry Styles). The single’s arrival prompted 1.6 million Twitter mentions for the week ending Oct. 18, according to Next Big Sound, a climb of 456 percent. Actually, the reason of One Direction Perfect’s lies in various: the high quality of the song itself; hot topics of One Direction as the winner of the BEST POP on 2015 MTV EMA, and the coincidence (maybe not) with Taylor Swift “Style”. Anyway, One Direction Perfect download is definitely the most urgently situation to have an overview of this song.
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Guitarist and singer Carrie Brownstein is known for her defiant, kinetic performances in the band Sleater-Kinney. But she tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross that it was vulnerability that initially drew her to the music world.
“When people grow up with a family characterized by chaos and uncertainty and fragility, you look for a substitution for that,” she says. “Music was a means through which I could meet people and sort of begin the process of exploring who I was or who I could be.”
The child of an anorexic mother and a father who came out as gay in his 50s, Brownstein was an anxious, uncertain youth. She describes her search for identity and the sense of belonging she found in music in her new memoir, Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl.
“It took a while, but just even listening to music with a group of people and going to shows, that really was a pathway towards getting out of some of that darkness,” she says. “All of the elements of my life that couldn’t be explained, that I didn’t have the words for, were suddenly given a shape. … I had a soundtrack.”
On her mother’s anorexia
Over in London, the Independent‘s arts editor, David Lister, recently published a scathing commentary about the paucity of valuable or even interesting information in artist biographies. He wrote it in a fury after paying £4 to obtain the program for a Proms concert he attended, featuring the excellent German violinist Julia Fischer. (Yes, one pays for the privilege of reading about programs and performers at various international halls.)
What did he find? “A mine of useless information,” he says — a list of where Fischer had played in recent seasons, where she going to be performing over the next several months and a list of her recordings.
Sound familiar? It should. A whole lot of biographies provided by artists and their teams read exactly that way. And in the aftermath of Lister’s commentary, quite a lot of lively conversation has erupted online about his complaints, both on Facebook and Twitter.
To me, it’s not just an issue of trite phrasing or poor grammar, though those problems exist. It’s a larger matter of conception and approach. Even soloists and groups who go to great lengths to project a bleeding edge artistic image fall, all too often, into the tropes Lister mentions. Here’s a typical
Years ago, who would’ve predicted that Tyler, the Creator and A$AP Rocky—two Internet-borne yet ostensibly opposite rap stars—would be touring together?
A little background: In 2011, they were the future, representing youth movements as progressive as they were nostalgic. Tyler made waves for reinvigorating the transgressive shock-rap of MCs like Eminem, yet also drew strongly from Pharrell’s harmonically sophisticated productions with the Neptunes. Rocky fused styles in a way that seemed to make the regionalism that had segmented rap for decades seem irrelevant, yet did so by drawing distinctly from predecessors in his home of Harlem (like Cam’ron) and his spiritual home of Houston (like the Screwed Up Click). Both artists fronted big crews—Rocky’s A$AP Mob and Tyler’s Odd Future—which were more like syndicates, of capable (if not superior) rappers, harkening back to a somewhat bygone era of rap posses such as Dipset and Wu-Tang. And both were stylistically distinct and youthful compared to everyone else. Yet despite the similarities, their futures were distinctly different and seemed unlikely to overlap. Tyler’s audience worshipped him as an alternative to the normative conventions of mainstream rap; Rocky’s loved him for his ability to make those old things seem new again.
Another memory of 2011:
Perhaps the least surprising thing a popular musician can do in 2015 is to interrupt the flow of her own work with a left-field cover song. It’s been nearly three decades since art rockers Sonic Youth briefly refashioned itself as a Madonna tribute band, and even longer since those slaphappy nights on the college-bar touring circuit when the Replacements would pull out forbidden gems by KISS and Aerosmith. Those moves said something about indie music’s tendency to self-limit: they revealed the snobbery inherent in subcultural opposition and questioned the scene’s authenticity-fetishizing judgments against female-driven mainstream pop or showy classic rock. Risking a reinterpretation of “Into the Groove” or “Black Diamond,” these groups reminded young aesthetes that pop pleasure can be as freeing, in its own way, as underground discernment.
Now, pop is critically cool, the mainstream music industry has flattened, and artists use whimsical covers as branding devices, not bold statements. It happens in every corner: country star Sam Hunt covers Mariah Carey to prove his ’90s R&B bona fides; divo Sam Smith dares a little Whitney Houston to cement his reputation as a vocal powerhouse. A firmly indie artist like Empress Of turns to Katy Perry’s oeuvre, not as a
Kevin Sylvester says that when most people see a 6-foot-2-inch, 260-pound black man, they don’t expect him to also be a classically trained violinist. A recent exchange with a woman in an elevator, when he happened to have his instrument with him in its case, drove that point home.
“She’s like, ‘What do you play?’ ” he recalls. “I’m like, ‘I’m a violinist.’ And she was like, ‘Well, obviously you don’t play classical, so what kind of style do you play?’ ”
Sylvester says he explained that while he does have a degree in classical music, he plays all kinds of styles. “She didn’t mean it maliciously,” he says, “but I hope she gets to see us in concert and we can change her perception.”
Moments like this inspired Sylvester and his partner, violist Wilner Baptiste, to call their new album Stereotypes. It’s the latest release by their duo Black Violin, whose seeds were planted years ago when the two met as high school students in Florida.
Both men say that when they were kids, studying stringed instruments wasn’t exactly Plan A. Sylvester was nudged into music classes by his mother in fifth grade, and grew to like the violin despite initially dismissing it
Grammy award-winning singer-songwriter Jill Scott’s new album Woman takes a deep dive into what it means to love.
“It’s kind of the study of a human being and what I find is we’re more alike than we are different,” Scott tells NPR’s Arun Rath.
Woman is her fifth album, and her first since The Light of the Sun in 2011. For insight and inspiration, Scott says she started by looking at her own past.
“I started journaling when I was 12. You know, there were so many new nuances to my existence,” she says. “My body was changing. Friendships were changing. Lots of things were happening and I wanted to document them in a sense, and I’m older, lots older now, and I’ve just been going back to see where … I’ve been. And that was the beginning of this record.”
From there, she built songs like “Fool’s Gold,” which Scott describes as “waking up, looking around and saying I was believing things that were false,” and the retro-sounding “Run Run Run,” with influences from the Beach Boys and Aretha Franklin.
“I’ve been doing a lot of stewing,” she says. “I’ve been making stews out of music, and ‘Run Run Run’ definitely felt like one
A big-budget Iranian biopic depicting the childhood of the Prophet Muhammad has already faced a fair amount of backlash. But now the film’s director and its composer — the hugely popular Indian musician A.R. Rahman — have had a fatwa, or religious edict, issued against them by the Raza Academy, a Mumbai-based Sunni Muslim organization.
The director of Muhammad: The Messenger of God is Iran’s Majid Majidi, who has released this as the first in a planned trilogy chronicling Muhammad’s life. According to the BBC, the Raza Academy has also asked the Indian government to ban the film, which cost a reported $40 million to make. It was released in Iran and was screened at the Montreal World Film Festival in August.
In its fatwa, the Raza Academy says that both Majidi and Rahman must recite the kalimas, or professions of Muslim belief, and repeat their marriage ceremonies — in essence, reestablish themselves as Muslims. The film project has also been denounced by Al-Azhar University in Cairo, according to the Guardian in the U.K.
Outside the Muslim world, a fatwa is often misinterpreted as a threat of violence, particularly after the infamous fatwa issued against author Salman Rushdie following the publication of his
Chris Cornell will never not be that guy from Soundgarden — and, consequently, his name will always evoke that messy, surreal and biting rock ‘n’ sound that band helped define. But three decades after stoking the flame that would become Seattle grunge, Cornell is at a different place in his life, and his own music has followed suit.
The singer and songwriter’s latest project is a solo album called Higher Truth. He joined NPR’s Rachel Martin to talk about it.
There is a kind of intimacy embedded in these songs that I don’t think we’ve seen from you before. Tell me about the song “Let Your Eyes Wander,” which is mainly just your voice and acoustic guitar.
What makes that song, I think, is how stark it is. I said, “Let’s take everything out and hear what it sounds like with just guitar and singing.” And that was it. It never really got any better than that. Sometimes, if a song is written, in essence, to be that stripped down, it’s very touchy when you start adding things, because even the smallest thing can have a huge impact. Somebody has to make the decision that there’s a better song in there if there’s
In a town known for “keeping it weird,” the Crystal Ballroom in Portland, Ore., doesn’t immediately stand out. But it’s got plenty of character below the surface.
The interior of this 100-year-old brick building is striking — high ceilings are accented by two gorgeous antique chandeliers, and massive arched windows line the walls. But ask concertgoers what they think the most interesting feature is and one always stands out: “I hate to say it, but the flooring,” Katy Stellern says, laughing.
When the music and dancing start, the floor bounces. A lot. Zachary Carroll says he loves the sensation.
“It’s like springs or tennis balls,” he says. “I don’t know how they make it.”
It’s not tennis balls or springs. Walking across the maple planking, Jack Headinger, the construction superintendent who supervised the building’s restoration, describes what’s underneath.
“I’m going to call it rocking-chair-type members,” Headinger says. “And so when you step on one part of it, it’ll go down and the other part will go up. So it gives you this feeling of walking on a mattress, you might say. And then, when you get 1,500 people in here dancing, this whole place starts moving.”
Floating dance floors were fairly common during the early part
An American punk drummer has become an unlikely historian of the Armenian community in Aleppo, Syria. And he’s recently released a recording of their religious music — just as the city is crumbling during Syria’s ongoing civil war.
Jason Hamacher doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who would be drawn to a place like Syria.
“I am the son of a Southern Baptist minister,” he says. “I was born in Texas, I have no cultural ties or blood ties whatsoever to the Middle East, or to the populations that inhabit the Middle East.”
Back in the early 2000s, Hamacher was a punk drummer in Washington, D.C., playing in several hardcore bands. A little musical competition between friends changed the direction of his whole life.
“We each challenged ourselves, saying each person has to find something online that we could write music to, and report back to each other,” he says. “So a couple of days later, a friend of mine calls, and said, ‘Hey. I found this really amazing chant from Serbia that you should check out.’ It was a bad phone connection, and I completely misunderstood him and thought he said ‘Syria.'”
He wasn’t a trained musicologist or photographer. But beginning in 2006,