Valentina Lisitsa: Interview & Upcoming WVSO Performance!

Valentina Lisitsa will return to perform with the WV Symphony in January. If her 2010 WVSO guest appearance was any indication, it should be a great concert. In the meantime, you can download and listen to an interview with Valentina by celebrated music critic and author Norman Lebrecht at the following link:

Valentina Lisitsa Interview (download page)

Interview with Man of Steel Singer Allison Crowe

We here at Muruch first broke the news of Canadian singer-songwriter Allison Crowe’s involvement in the new Superman movie, Man of Steel, last month and, since the movie’s release, were able to reveal a few more details about her role. Allison Crowe took a break from her increasingly busy schedule to follow up our 2008 interview with her and share her thoughts on her Man of Steel experience as well as her upcoming album…

So….what was it like appearing in your first film?!

“It was amazing – unlike anything I’ve ever experienced – and the some of the most fun I’ve ever had!”

Did you get to meet any of the other actors? If so, any anecdotes to share?

“Close-up, I got to meet everyone in the bar scene I was in that day of filming on Vancouver Island – and everyone was fantastic! Zack and Debbie, (the Snyders, director and producer, respectively), are just amazing people and Henry (Cavill aka Superman), is a lovely and down-to-earth guy. It was a ton of fun. Many cast and crew members were from Vancouver, Canada and worked together before. Howard Siegel, Carmen Lavigne, Nicole Rockmann and others in the scene are the nicest people as well as talents. Ian Tracey is just right in his role and very funny. Juniper Watters in the sound dept. is also a great musician. Co-producer Wes Coller, Misha Bukowski, assistant director, alongside all the production coordinators, assistants – how they work is inspiring. Actors, wardrobe, make-up, props people, directors, producers… each individual in every aspect of the production – they are all remarkable. Together, they’re super. True pros!

My Mom and I also got to visit the movie set on the mainland and met actors there, fabulous costume designer Michael Wilkinson – and so many people I could also mention. We were treated so well by publicist Lee Anne Muldoon. And on!

Then at the recent movie premiere/ after-party in NYC I met so many people as well from the US side of things – Hans Zimmer, Michael Kelly, everyone was great. :)

Myself and Hans Zimmer even took a selfie! hehe Relaxing with Karyn and Michael Kelly, meeting Debbie’s parents… truly special.”

How did you first get involved in the movie?

“Well, Zack and Debbie had wanted to use my version of “Hallelujah” in the Watchmen, (they had seen it on YouTube!), and then didn’t end up using it, (Zack said it was too beautiful, which is a pretty fantastic thing to say, if you ask me!). A couple of years later, they were in touch again to possibly have a song by me in Sucker Punch. That movie, too, went in a different direction. Then, they actually asked to have me physically singing in this movie – Man of Steel – and it was so much fun.”

Like you, a once up and coming singer named Madonna made a cameo as a bar singer in a movie (Vision Quest) that turned out to be one of the launching pads to her mainstream fame. Did you have that kind of catapult to fame in mind when you took the role? If so, did it cause you to feel any hesitation before you said yes or was it a motivating factor?

“You know, I think all of that crosses your mind – this is a huge movie, and tons of people who haven’t seen me before will, and that’s really really amazing – but really, just working on the movie itself is an exciting thing. Anything else that comes with it is sort of like the proverbial icing on the cake. I’ve always wanted to do something like this – and I was given this wonderful opportunity – and that is awesome. I would do it again in a heart-beat.”

Man of Steel was a huge box office success its opening weekend alone. Is it affecting your career yet?

“It’s definitely been a very busy time, so I think I’d have to say yes, for sure. I do know a lot of people have been tremendously supportive and enthusiastic and kind to me this whole time – and it does seem as though more people are starting to find me online and listen to my music – and that’s pretty fantastic!”

Do you plan to act in the future? If so, do you have any dream (or even reality-based:) projects in mind?

“I would absolutely love to act in film and theatre in the future. I’d be happy to be in anything Zack makes – I am a huge fan of his anyways, and he was so amazing to work with, I’d jump at the chance to do this again!

I’m also a huge fan of a lot of very varied TV shows (Sons of Anarchy would be an awesome show to be on!! ) (just putting that out there). And I know Battlestar Gallactica isn’t being made anymore, but… that would be a dream project! I love that show.

I also love comedy, and I like to hope, (not think, but hope), that I can be pretty hilarious sometimes – if regularly laughing at your own jokes counts. Which it probably doesn’t. But I try.

I’m also a huge fan of video games, and I’d love to voice one one day – ie. in Bioshock Infinite there were some amazing parts for singing, too! And they had different versions of all these songs throughout different eras… it’s so cool. I found myself singing along to a lot of it. (there’s a version of “Fortunate Son” that is SO GOOD)

Also if they ever did a re-make of the original The Little Mermaid, I’d love to be Ariel. hehe

Essentially – I am open to any possibilities! I love creating and I love art and performance – and I love watching TV and Movies and playing video games.”

Did you have a hand in selecting “Ring of Fire” for your performance in the film?

“We knew the song would be a Johnny Cash song for sure, then it was just a task of figuring out which one! As part of my process, I went through and listened to every song in his repertoire – from early recordings like “Cry,Cry, Cry” to his last. We’re all Trent Reznor fans, so, even, “Hurt,” a song with strong associations, came up as an idea. In the end, Zack and his creative team decided on “Ring of Fire” – and we decided on guitar (rather than piano) for the scene – and I then recorded a few different versions with varying tempos and approaches so that we could settle on one version. We sent them back and forth and I found what feels most natural to me for the song. Zack felt the same way as me, and that’s what ends up in the filmed performance.”

Johnny Cash is one of many legendary artists whose songs you have covered. Were you intimidated taking on the Man in Black?

“I think it’s always a little intimidating taking on the songs of such iconic artists – but that’s half the fun of it – trying to find a way to pay homage to the artist and the song respectfully while being able to put your own spin on things.”

Since the cover doesn’t appear on the movie’s soundtrack, do you plan to include it on a future release of your own?

“There are no plans as of yet – but you never know what the future holds! :)”

Tell us about your upcoming album, Newfoundland Vinyl. Will it be a big departure stylistically from your previous releases?

“This actually will be a lot different to previous releases! First off, this will be my first Vinyl release. (It will also be released digitally/online.) This is also my first album that is ALL guitar – and that’s pretty exciting! Finally, this will be the first time I’ve done an album of Newfoundland music – and I find the songs to be so real and the stories within them to be so brilliantly told. From the heart-wrenching to the hilarious – there is such a wealth of beautiful music to come out of NL.

The idea for this album comes from a musical theatre production I worked on last Summer. The title comes from Jeff Pitcher, the writer and director of that show – Newfoundland Vinyl. It’s a collection of songs that are part of peoples’ lives in this region, and that all gained popularity in days when vinyl records were the main format for music. This Summer I’m working on a sequel, Newfoundland Vinyl: The Flipside, again as musical director, and production begins on the same day as the LP’s release (June 25). I can’t wait to get started working with the extremely talented and fun people in TNL (Theatre Newfoundland and Labrador).

Due to possible ADR or other work on Man of Steel, there was a chance I may not have been able to make it to the Gros Morne Theatre Festival to be musical director this year, or that I may have to miss a day or two here or there – so I decided to record what ends up being basically half of the songs in this year’s show, just so that there’d be arrangements in case I wasn’t able to physically make it to rehearsal!

Now it turns out I’ll be there in Gros Morne the entire time of the show rehearsals – and I have an album to release!”

Allison’s manager, Adrian, adds the following:

“What’s it like? A dream come true, honestly.

Since the release of Man of Steel we’ve experienced the highest-ever number of daily visitors to Allison’s own music website. That’s one response – from the audience. What I see as a profound impact of working with Zack and Debbie Snyder and everyone on the Superman movie, right now, (and, earlier, Watchmen and Sucker Punch), is the inspiration and motivation it brings Allison, as an artist and person, to grow. When people you respect are doing great things, and they feel the same about you and what you do, this is fuel. It feeds body and mind and fires the soul.

With respect to “Ring of Fire,” naturally, only a segment of Allison’s performance appears in MoS. We’ll learn over coming months whatever Warner Bros. and partners have in mind for any fuller audio/video. I’m grateful to Darren Higman, WB’s Executive VP of Music, and his assistant, Kari Miazek, for facilitating so much over the years.

And, like Alley, there’s many, many, people I’d mention as being so good to us personally and professionally. Together with the Snyders, there’s co-producer Wesley Coller, producer Chuck Roven and… well, a look at the IMDb credits tells how long should be this list :)”

Editor’s Note: At this point, I feel I should be honest: I have not seen Man of Steel myself yet and don’t know that I will since so many reviews describe it as “grim and violent*” (exactly what I don’t want in a movie) and Allison’s role was cut to a cameo. My intention, as always, is to support Allison Crowe, not to endorse the film. Nevertheless, I still hope the success of the movie brings more attention to Allison’s music. Allison Crowe is such an extraordinarily talented artist, everyone in the world should hear her music any way they can.

Interview: Bing Satellites

Guest Post By: Brendan

Editor’s Note: I was skeptical about the so-called “ambient” genre, but was very impressed when Brendan played me the instrumental music of Bing Satellites. It’s beautiful, unusual and cinematic.

In my quest for new music in recent weeks, I have been trawling Noisetrade and Bandcamp for free Electronica albums. I waded through a lot of bad material before stumbling upon the ambient sounds of Bing Satellites, but the quest was worth it. There is something about this guy’s music with which I connect deeply.

My first experience with his music was the Mostly Ambient Radio Sessions from October 17th. Like most of the music of Bing Satellites, it’s a flowing soundscape of guitar, synth, nature sounds and much more.

The man behind the name is Brin, who also records under other monikers, most notably The Ambient Visitor, and The Lovely Moon. You can read more about him here.

The wealth of music available is somewhat daunting – I have removed a lot of favorites from my ipod to make room for more than 48 hours of material created by Brin. If, like me, you feel compelled to download a lot of his music, the easiest way to do so is to click on the album covers on this page. I was so excited about immersing myself in his ambient music that I decided to attempt my first Muruch interview!

Q. How did you get started making music?

At school, aged maybe 13, I was encouraged by my music teacher to try various instruments. He wanted a oboe or clarinet player for the orchestra but I really wanted to play AC/DC songs so took up the bass, drums and eventually electric guitar. I got my first electric guitar through my school. It is the one I still use today, 28 years later!

Q. You describe your studio setup on the ‘about’ page, but are there a few instruments/devices you would use more than others?

I tend to go through phases. At the moment, I am using the aforementioned guitar through a load of pedals – mainly chorus, delay and reverb. The main thing though is Reason – a really great piece of software. It is easy to manipulate and create new sounds with Reason. Most synth or piano sounds in my music are from that.

Q. Who/what are your influences (besides Brian Eno)?

Thomas Fehlmann, Ulrich Schnauss and Harold Budd. When I first heard the music of each of these people it was a revelation. They each do something that no one else comes close too – and many have tried! I think though, there is common ground between what they all do – there is beauty and space in their music.

Q. Is this a hobby for you or do you make a living off it? If not, do you envision a path to that point?

I’m not sure hobby covers it. An obsession maybe. I do it because I love it and because I have to – I think my head would explode if I didn’t. It is a totally personal thing but one that, luckily for me, other people enjoy too. The fact there is any money in this still amazes me. Who knows what the future holds but it seems pretty positive at the moment.

Q. What are the challenges and benefits to being an independent music producer?

Well, I’m independent in many ways – I release most of music myself or on my netlabel BFW recordings. It does mean that I do almost everything myself but also that I have no boundaries, either to what sort of music I release or how much I can put out.

Q. Do you like ambient music more than other forms of music, and why? What would you say to encourage an audience unfamiliar with the style to give it a try?

Not at all. I listen to all kinds of things (from, as they say, ABBA to Zappa) but ambient music is what I naturally create. Ambient nowadays is a coverall term for a wide range of music, and not all good. I’m drawn to music that is honest and beautiful. For that, Harold Budd is a good place to start, especially any of his collaborations with Robin Guthrie.

Q. Are there other artists you recommend?

SineRider is a genius. A young guy from the US who makes lots of music of varying genres from ambient to IDM to post rock, but whatever the style, he ends up creating something wonderful. And what’s more you can pay what you like to download much of his music. Please do check it out at Bandcamp.

Q. You release a mind-blowing amount of material – how much time goes into a particular project before it’s released?

Much of my music is improvised and recorded live. My studio set up makes this very easy. I have a bank of sounds I can use from synths, computer, guitar and other instruments. All I need to do is switch on and press record. Some of my music (especially performing as The Lovely Moon or The Ambient Visitor) is generative or system based – the music is created mathematically – so these can happen very quickly or take a lot of time. For example, I have been working on the next The Lovely Moon album for a year and it is still not finished but my album Landscape & Drift was recorded in one week. Once I start something, I tend to keep going until I’m finished. I work very quickly too – quite frenzied considering how calm the music often is.

Q. I love your use of nature sounds – can you disclose the source for the samples you use?

They come from all over the place. Some are recordings I have made, others are from various sources online. I use very long echoes and lots of wide reverb which can make these sounds much richer.

Q. Do you have any thoughts about sampling licensed material?

As I see it, nothing is really original in music. What we play is our take on what we have already heard. I see no problem in sampling a piece of music and making something new out of it, as long as it is actually something new. Be inspired, don’t just copy.

Q. How do collaborations work – is there a web service you use to work on something simultaneously or do you each record pieces and then splice them together?

I’ve been lucky enough to meet some very talented musicians in person or online through my music, so finding people to collaborate with isn’t difficult. Sometimes, one person starts a song and sends it to the other to finish. It can create results that neither party expected. It also means you can work with someone on the other side of the world. There are a few ongoing collaborations I am involved with that should produce some interesting results over the next few months.

Q. Considering the wealth of material you have generously made available for no cost, which album would you like us to feature on this post?

I have two suggestions.

The first is actually my first CD release, Visions & Memories.

The second is Soothing Images 1-15, which is a free/name-your-price
download. It is an album of mainly quite improvised piano songs. Each song is accompanied by a suitable photograph. Some of the music on this album is featured in the new coming of age horror movie Found.

Big Satellites Official Site

Forever from bing satellites on Vimeo.

Ask Janelle Monae a Question!

Janelle Monáe will participate in a live-streaming interview on November 3rd at 4:00 p.m. EST, and you Muruch readers have been given the opportunity to submit the questions she’ll answer first!

The live interview will celebrate the launch of Levi’s® new online community for women Shape What’s to Come. Janelle will answer questions from fans all around the world, and you Muruch readers are among the first in line…

If you could ask Janelle Monáe anything, what would it be? Comment to this post with your questions for Janelle.

I will submit your five best questions to Janelle’s agent this Friday, October 29th. Her agent will then choose the top three questions from Muruch and other music blogs to be read to Janelle during the live interview. Even if we don’t make the final cut, Muruch will get a shout-out at the end of the livecast just for our participation.

You can read my rave review of Janelle Monáe’s magnificent album The ArchAndroid by clicking here.

Interview: Allison Crowe

Allison Crowe was kind enough to spare some time from her busy tour schedule to answer some questions regarding her career, interests, and her latest release Little Light. You can read my review of the CD here and the email interview with Allison is below.

Photo By Billie Woods

What is the first song you remember singing?

The first song that I can remember singing was either Fading Like a Flower by Roxette, or, A Part of Your World from The Little Mermaid.Both of these would have been to myself, or in my parents’ car.

Tell us about your new album, Little Light. Any specific song inspirations or other back stories that you’d like to share (from this CD or any previous release)? In particular, what fueled the lyrics of “Disease”?

Disease was fueled by my own experience with eating disorders and feeling the pressure to be “perfect” in some sort of bizarre societal standard. The song used to sound a lot different, too! The way I play it now was fuelled by some irritation at one of the shows I did a few tours ago, and it really worked out, so that’s how you hear it today! hehe

Was there a particular direction or style you were aiming for with this album and if so, do you feel that you achieved it?

I dont think there was a particular style or anything for this album in mind that I was shooting for before I got going with it, but in the end, it made a nice mix of new songs, slightly older songs, and live tracks along with the rest of the album. I knew that I wanted to put a collection of songs together and was trying to think of how to do that when I realized that the songs were already there! :o)

What is the songwriting process like for you? Do the lyrics and music come to your separately or as a whole? Do you tool with songs over time or feel you shouldn’t mess with your initial inspiration?

The songwriting process for me is ever-changing. Sometimes I have words that I want to put to music, sometimes I have melodies that I want to add words to, sometimes I have a bit of both that I put together and then change accordingly, or not. And sometimes I write something and come back to it much later to finish. I guess it just goes differently each time! There’s no constant element apart from inspiration -whenever it comes.

Are your songs mostly fictional or autobiographical?

I’d say they’re mostly autobiographical, a bit non-fiction, and occasionally a bit of fiction, and maybe a bit of documentary :) hehe

What is your favourite song that you have written?

Hmmm… hard to say. I dont really think of my own songs in those terms! :) Lately I am enjoying playing a song called “Happy People”. “Disease” is a lot of fun to play for the piano part, for sure.. My song choice is another thing that is ever-changing it seems!

Who were your musical inspirations, and how have their influenced you as a singer and musician?

Pearl Jam, Counting Crows, Ani DiFranco, Tori Amos, all sorts of Jazz including Chet Baker and Nina Simone, Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, my family (extended and immediate), Beethoven, my teachers, more recently Edith Piaf… they’ve each influenced and inspired me in some way :)

You are probably best known for your cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”. Have you received feedback from any of the artists whose songs you’ve covered?

I haven’t had direct artist feedback so far on any of the covers, but that would definitely be cool! Matt Good’s Mom I believe liked my cover of Running For Home.. let me double check that one with Adrian!

From Allison’s manager, Adrian: “Matthew Good’s Mom had some very kind words of appreciation: ‘What a beautiful voice..Allison brings a refreshing interpretation of one of my favorite songs, made my heart ache.’ And, there has been word from folks who work with the artists being covered. We did hear from Leonard Cohen’s manager – when Allison first released her Tidings recording. Alley’s cover had found its way back to Leonard Cohen’s circle via a Finnish based website that is really the best resource online for all things LC. It was really wonderful and inspiring at the time, as his “people” stepped in to make it possible for Allison to perform “Hallelujah” live for a tv special – that, actually, begat the Tidings DVD. (Now, sadly, since those days, we’ve learned of mismanagement and malfeasance in that same camp – which has resulted in losses to Mr. Cohen in the millions of dollars.) The Canadian agent/booker for Pearl Jam has also let his feelings be known to Allison about how he hears her and EV as coming from the same place. Such words are deeply appreciated. Counting Crows management at one point also let me know they dig Allison’s covers – but, no Adam Duritz or other artist direct email yet…”

(back to Allison…)

What song would you love to cover that you haven’t already?

There are so many songs it’s hard to pick just one! There’s a really cool new song by Counting Crows called le Ballet d’or… Milord by Edith Piaf!

What is your favorite song of all time?

I can’t really pick one song, there are so many for so many different reasons!, but one of my favourite albums at this moment (and maybe because I saw his solo concert, too, recently) is the Into the Wild soundtrack by Eddie Vedder.

From Allison’s manager: “There’s also some songs Allison has identified in the past as being favourites in specific genres or sounds/styles – in the classic rock vein, she tapped “The Ocean” by Led Zeppelin, “Me and Bobby McGee” and “Piece of My Heart”, Janis Joplin, “The Weight” by The Band, and “All Along the Watchtower” – the Jimi Hendrix version. When it comes to jazz, she’s no narrower than picking albums – topped by “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)” by Aretha Franklin, several albums by Chet Baker, and others that include Nina Simone’s take on “My Baby Just Cares for Me” and Gabrielle Goodman’s “In Love in Vain”.”

(back to Allison…)

When performing in front of an audience, do you feel more comfortable performing covers or your own songs?

I think this depends on the audience… sometimes people prefer covers, sometimes originals, sometimes both! Personally I like to perform ANYTHING.

You successfully tackled Aretha’s “I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You)” on This Little Bird. Any chance you’ll delve into more soul, blues and R&B music in the future? What other styles or genres would you like to explore?

I would definitely love to do some more soul or blues! Maybe a bit of jazz in the future, too. Last night, in Vienna, I sang God Bless the Child with a jazz band. I really love bluegrass but have never tried it.

What current singers and bands do you like, and who would you like to collaborate or duet with?

Eddie Vedder, Glen Hansard, Tori Amos, Ani DiFranco (some repeats here!), Ray Lamontagne, Ryan Adams, the Scissor Sisters, Counting Crows… the list goes on, and is pretty random! I’d love to duet with Eddie Vedder. He’s about to be in the next question.

Who performed at the first concert you attended, and what was your best concert experience?

My FIRST first concert I believe was Ray Charles in Nanaimo, B.C. at the Civic Arena and my favourite concert so far was sitting up front at Eddie Vedder’s solo show (the tour launch in Vancouver last month). Have I mentioned Eddie Vedder? hehe

What is your favourite book? Film? Television show? Work of art? Website?

I love the Avalon series of books by Marion Zimmer Bradley. I love movies based on comic books, one of my favourite recent-ish movies though was the Painted Veil. I love ALL the Lord of the Rings movies and have watched them in regular and extended versions too many times. My favourite tv shows are 24 and CSI (the original CSI!). I love the print/lithograph Tourneé du Chat Noir. My favourite website changes pretty regularly! MySpace is fun, of course!

The plethora of mp3s available for download on your own site seems to indicate that you are a supporter of file sharing. Do you think artists and/or labels should have a say in where their songs are posted online, or do you think all music should be public domain?

I think artists should have a say in EVERYTHING that they do, personally. If they want their songs online as MP3s, I say they should be allowed to have them up, and if they don’t, then vice versa. I support my own being out there for sure, because it helps get the music into the world!

After so many years of releasing music through your own independent label, would you consider signing with a major label now if you were offered a recording contract?

I’ve had a few different offers and experiences, and independent is the way I choose to go because of the freedom it offers in so many ways. It’s a lot of hard work but at the end of the day, what I choose to do is what I choose to do. If some sort of opportunity that made a perfect fit for what I wanted to do came along with another label then that would be one thing, but until or unless that time comes, I remain as I am! :o)

Do you have any plans to sign other artists to Rubenesque Records?

Not as of yet! :o) But again, these things can always happen.

Did you always want to be a musician or did you have another career in mind? Do you have any other hobbies or talents you’d like to share?

I love being on stage in general so I always wanted to either be in music, in theater, or in musical theater. Not very broad I suppose, but I knew what I wanted to do! When I was very little I thought I might want to be a dentist or a vet, though, I would have probably annoyed people by constantly singing at the offices soooo this was probably the best choice.

What is one thing you would like people to know about you as a person? As a musician?

I guess that I’m just a person, really! I still get nervous around people I look up to, and I can be really REALLY akward, and then I act out, often loudly. And that’s how I ended up doing what I do.

What was the weirdest or funniest experience you’ve had on tour?

This one question could fill up an entire novel. The craziest time was on my first national tour and sharing a motorhome with 8 people in the middle of summer. Hilarity essentially ensued as we trucked it all the way across Canada and back from Vancouver Island, and there was actually suprisingly little cabin fever! At one point, though, a tire blew and ruptured something in the plumbing… a couple days later we all felt very ill and eventually realized that the sewage and air-conditioning lines had crossed. And in the 40 degree heat the waste in the tank had converted in to something of methane gas. Good times.

What are your plans for the future?

To keep playing music! And, clearly, to sing with Eddie Vedder. :o) LOL Oh you mean real plans… well, to keep playing music everywhere that I can!

Little Light Review
Allison Crowe Official Site