So you’re sitting around with some folks discussing musical tastes. One says he’s into the Who and glammy rock. The other likes psychedelia.  A third mentions his fascination with death metal, but he also appreciates Britney Spears.  That third person doesn’t exist, does he?

He does if he happens to be Mark Brooks.

When I first read The New York Times write-up “Fiona Apple Faces Outwards”, I am struck by how deeply her transformation over the past seven years from big-eyed girl-woman to gaunt and isolated artist has affected me. Apple was always talented, but this write-up of The Idler Wheel encapsulates how Apple has transcended the fleeting pop stardom that is often offered to young, attractive female artists and has instead become a full-fledged musical auteur.

Please explain what just happened.

I woke up in the forest, then I was on a boat, now I’m in Virginia at a gas station in the township of Chilhowie. Like a boss…


What was your earliest memory?

When I was a little kid, my great grandma bundled my little brother and I up in our snowsuits, and the three of us trudged through a blizzard to go to a flea market. Imagine this little old white-haired grandma with two kids on some kind of vision quest through three-foot snow drifts to get nicknacks at a discount. That’s my childhood in a nutshell.

Michael Kardos is one of those great, nice guys who doesn’t piss people off and doesn’t behave like some chest-inflating, flea-bitten ape. So it’s not surprising that he wrote a book about a great, nice guy who, in general, doesn’t piss people off or act like some loamy-smelling jungle animal. The great guy in Mike’s book, however, gets into a whole lot of trouble—more trouble than you and I, hopefully, will ever have. The Three-Day Affair earned starred reviews in Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews, and Publishers Weekly, which named it one of the best books of Fall 2012.

Here are six questions for Michael Kardos:

Last Days Here, directed by Don Argott and Demian Fenton, opens with a frazzled, fifty-four-year-old Bobby Liebling on the sofa, living in his parent’s sub-basement, tugging on bandages that wrap open sores, and reflecting on the only things he knows how to do: rock-n-roll and drugs.  Liebling’s band, Pentagram, had been in the early seventies an even grittier, American answer to the likes of Black Sabbath, but botched auditions, ever-evolving line-ups, and Liebling’s drug-abuse had derailed Pentagram’s career.  Enter fan Sean “Pellet” Pelletier to nudge Liebling toward sobriety and back onto stage for a Pentagram revival.  There are moves, a girlfriend, prison, Fig Newtons, deals, paisley shirts, and marvels beyond the fact that Liebling has made it to fifty-four.  But mostly there’s the music.  I recently asked Pelletier about Last Days Here, Liebling, and life after the documentary’s release.

Please explain what just happened.

I just finished my album Magic City!


What is your earliest memory?

I was about seven years old, and I used to record myself on this karaoke machine. I would play a tape and record myself in layers with all the harmonies. Some songs were made up. Some songs were covers. And then I would host my own music countdown show. The songs would be in order of which songs I thought were hot at the moment, and I would make my little brother and sisters listen to me and be the audience as I hosted. I was always at the top of the countdown. I’m sure it was really annoying for them, but even back then it’s what I wanted to do.


If you weren’t a musician, what other profession would you choose?

I always wanted to be a news anchor. In high school I was really into television production. I was the sports anchor on the daily school news broadcast. The short time I went to college that was my major.

This cuts like a knife, but that’s cliché, so it cuts like some specific knife: one that your grandfather gave to your father and that he gave to your brother, and that you stole from your brother when you went to college because you were worried you might need to use it. But then, when you got to college you met a man: not a college boy, a real man. And he was the kindest man you had ever known; suddenly, your father was a shadow, and this new man, he was how you measured men. You slept with him, and you ate with him, and every moment was him, just like a lovely cliché. This secret man sang songs for you; he added your name to the lyrics to make you smile, and it worked. Sometimes he would play songs in public: in coffeehouses and bars, and only you knew that those were your songs. Sometimes that man would make you breakfast or fix you a drink, and always he would call you by your name, which you loved. You don’t know that man anymore, but that’s okay: he kept you from needing a knife—he taught you how to ache on the inside.

Universal query: How long can
we hang on to this life before we embark
on the next? God covers his mouth, giggles.
No answer there. When we grasp transience,
we cry. The tears choke our every nuance.

(Verse 1)



They don’t understand.

You swirl and twirl in your world.

I want to hold your hand.

One day.

You know why you don’t see any heavy metal acts on American Idol or X Factor? Because metal doesn’t sell shampoo. Fresh-faced, heroin-free go-getters who look good in J. Crew? They sell the shit out of shampoo, but metal…not so much. When Five Finger Death Punch’s third album, American Capitalist, entered the charts at number 3 last fall (behind the Midas-throated Adele and pop-goth idols Evanescence), the Vegas-based quintet slapped the music industry into the realization that the thirst for heavy music in this country is far more profound than anyone had understood.

In addition to getting people laid and enhancing training montages in boxing movies, music has long salved the festering emotional wounds of humanity. Who among us has never crawled into a weepy ballad when life laid a bag of flaming dog shit at our front door, rang the doorbell and ran away?

At the very least, music soothes our savage breast; in its greater moments, music has accomplished much more. Or have you forgotten the powers of the pre-Psychic Network Dionne Warwick?

The latest round of TNB Music Staff Picks. Dig it, baby…



Stunningly complex atmospherics from an unlikely legend

When Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo recently talked to TNB Music about his three-piece side project Philm (with guitarist/vocalist Gerry Nestler and bassist Pancho Tomaselli), he gamely addressed the various sounds the band have incorporated into their forthcoming debut: “heavy,” “bluesy” and “diverse.” Having finally sat down with that record, Harmonic, we realize that words cannot begin to approach the spectacular brew of genius, madness, terror and ecstasy that fuel one of the more fascinating releases of 2012. Harmonic is a relentless 15-song campaign that storms through the fields of Coltrane, Santana, Gilmour and Hanneman, and while attempting to identify a singular sound is a fool’s errand, punk vocals, jazzy dissonance and of course, masterful drumming appear in ample doses.

Scott Timberg, writing for Salon, with a compelling essay on the financial struggles of America’s creative class:

Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen write anthems about the travails of the working man; we line up for the revival of “Death of a Salesman.” John Mellencamp and Willie Nelson hold festivals and fundraisers when farmers suffer. Taxpayers bail out the auto industry and Wall Street and the banks. There’s a sense that manufacturing, or the agrarian economy, is what this country is really about. But culture was, for a while, what America did best: We produce and export creativity around the world. So why aren’t we lamenting the plight of its practitioners? Bureau of Labor Statistics confirm that creative industries have been some of the hardest hit during the Bush years and the Great Recession. But  when someone employed in the world of culture loses a job, he or she feels easier to sneer at than a steel worker or auto worker.