Thank God for Ty Segall. The San Fran triple threat (singer/guitarist/drummer) makes records in his sleep. This year alone, he’s released Slaughterhouse with his band, Hair (a collaboration with White Fence) and most recently, Twins. Along with four solo albums and a singles compilation, Segall sets the bar high and his contemporaries have noticed. “I love that shit,” said Portugal.the Man bassist Zach Carothers, “I like the more heavy stuff he does.” On Twins, Segall yanks the seams of 60’s psychedelia, heavy garage rock and sews in a patch of punk panache, beautifully distorted in all the right places. He not only stands at the forefront of 60’s psych/rock/grunge revival, but intrepidly adds new meaning to album behavior, shoving into one disc what other musicians tend to eschew. Pay attention. This one’s got “Best Albums of 2012” written all over it.
Immediately, we are hit heavy, where unbridled guitars pierce through and make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, a common result throughout the album. Twins covers plenty of ground relentlessly; it’s rebellious (“Thank God for Sinners”), gets grungy (“Handglams”), and provides a common denominator for generations of rock fans (“The Hill”). On the latter, Segall’s vocals espouse a John Lennon a-la “Tomorrow Never Knows" with Thee Oh See’s darling, Brigid Dawson adding backup. “Would You Be My Love,” is pure sugared pop romance, a bit reminiscent of the Wonders in the film “That Thing You Do,” showcasing Segall’s sweeter side. The rest of the tracks dive into a mix match of jam-heavy, pysch-spitting rock ‘n’ roll that fails to follow any guidebook, “I want to throw people off,” he admits. Vocally, Segall makes you lean, be it his sympathetic croon, screaming eagle, or flirtatious falsetto. Fans of Portugal.the Man will easily gravitate towards the glossy high-pitched vocals of “Love Fuzz.” Lastly, “There Is No Tomorrow” seizes the day with a pair of optimistic eyes Segall was so lucky to have been born with.
With plenty of material in his backlog, Segall is able to dig in a number of pockets, and never come out empty-handed. On stage, his free-for-all madness is a terrifying jolt of life. For validity, watch his recent appearance on “Late Night with David Letterman. ” Earlier this Fall, Segall played two packed-out shows in Brooklyn; after a solid European tour under his belt, expect Webster Hall to sell out well in advance of its scheduled February 1st slot. Across his discography, Segall proves that, no matter which genre he settles in, he sounds as though he’s been there all along. With San Francisco precision, he cuts a thick slab of rock, jagged in all the right places and Twins isnothing short of extraordinary.
Compare music events of the past to those of today and a list of changes unfold. Across the board, from security to production, the tweaks in running major music festivals and one-off concerts have dramatically improved and companies like PonyBoy Production contribute to the progression.
One of the leading touring personnel management hubs, PonyBoy Production, offers a basket of amenities for artists such as Snoop Dogg, Guns ‘n’ Roses, KISS, Limp Bizkit, 311, Hoobastank and Sum 41, just to name a few. Artist and venue clients are offered services which include tour managers, technicians, stage and production managers, backline, security, catering and even wardrobe. Packages are tailor-made depending on the tour, the artist and the budget. Whether an artist is spending a week hitting the festival circuit, or on a three-month European tour, PonyBoy Production’s adept team are on hand. “We hire people who take their jobs and careers really seriously,” said co-founder Joseph Farriella. Overall, PonyBoy Production successfully gets the show on the road with the artist in mind.
“One time, the singer of a band called me and said, ‘We’re going on tour and we don’t have management; we fired our manager. We’re on a budget; can you help us out?’” Happy to oblige, Farriella looked at the bands’ needs and tailor-made a touring bundle within their cost range. “We help them save money on the road” and best of all he’s happy to do so.
PonyBoy Production is about pulling people together who hold their jobs and careers with high regard. As long an applicant has a stellar resume and by no means, any issues with drugs, alcohol or visas, then references are checked and if all looks good, the applicant is able to set up a profile to be entered into the PonyBoy database. From this point, artist management can search anonymously (they don’t have to set-up a profile) for specific crew members for a given tour.
Along with the gig comes huge responsibilities. It may be rock ‘n’ roll, but when it comes to staff, drugs and alcohol are not part of the equation. “We stay as far away from drugs as possible when it comes to our crew” and for good reason. “The second you put a bad egg on tour, it gets around like wild fire,” states co-founder Aubrey Wright, “You don’t want that connected with you.” Farriella and Wright make it their priority to provide the best, “We hire people who we know, who we can trust.”
There are plenty of aggressive crews out there, which roots form the rock scene, but “No one wants to work with a person with dramatic, shitty attitude,” says Farriella, “I don’t look for aggressive, I look for calm.” But the attitudes shift depending on differing camps, “You can’t put a super calm guy on an aggressive tour.” In order to appropriately assign personnel to tour, references are checked. “We make sure tours are supplied; we never hire random people.” Because of its level of professionalism, PonyBoy Production has really come up. “Word started to spread on the company,” admits Wright, “and people started to really know about it. Then management companies started contacting us, then tour managers looking for everything from drum technicians to wardrobe. It’s really come off.”
While most of their clientele is scouted, a chunk of business comes by word-of mouth. Farriella and partner Aubrey Wright have garnered a positive reputation for PonyBoy Production because they are not just professional, but ethical, and that is something you unfortunately do not see everyday in the music biz. The industry is a cut-throat rat race, and Farriella and Wright deviate from its course. For instance, they never take pay-cuts from their crew, because “Nobody would make any money,” plead Wright, “If a drum technician gets hired at $1,500.00 for a week tour and a 5% pay-cut is slapped on, he is going to return home short-handed and that might be his only gig all month.” Generally speaking, this is their job, and they count on their paychecks because job opportunities are not always a guarantee in the touring realm. Therefore, PonyBoy Production makes sure each crew member’s service is fully compensated. “PonyBoy Production is not that kind of business; it’s a friendship business,” smiles Wright, who has “gotten jobs from all of my friends.”
Today, Wright and Farriella, pay it forward by providing job opportunities for those in need. Many road managers and technicians, who have been at the game for the past thirty years are usually with the same artist. When a tour cycle ends, or an artist retires from the road, crew and personnel are often left out of loop as far as new job opportunities are concerned. The reason is that “They’ve been on the road for so many years,” said Farriella. “That’s where PonyBoy Production steps in.” We may be living in a recession, but the brainchild of Farriella and Wright is certainly making its own positive change.
The duo invites those who share similar views to join their team. For individuals just coming up on the scene, PonyBoy Production invites applicants to submit their resumes to email@example.com for an opportunity to be considered for a position in the database. Beginners most likely will not be working for Guns ‘n’ Roses on their first gig, but if a B or C-level tour comes up, that rookie just might be the right guy. “Pay it forward,” advocates Wright, “I wouldn’t be the person I am today without those first tours. So I give those opportunities to others.” Extremely knowledgeable, Farriella and Wright are happy to offer their advice to the novice. “Ask us questions!” Wright exclaimed at the end of our interview. If you’re thinking about a career change or want to know, How do I get started in the music industry?, feel free to contact Joseph Farriella or Aubrey Wright at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The pair’s experience and background is a major contributor to the company’s success. Fariella and Wright’s expertise comes from years spent on the road, from playing in bands, (Farriella is a former Ataris guitarist) working as tour/production managers and equipment technicians. They have learned the ropes, the do’s and especially the don’ts, like don’t lose the band’s $6,000 bass. In order to avoid lost or stolen gear, a tight crew, one which watches an artist’s shit like white on rice is hired by PonyBoy Production. “A good tour manager and production manager will take an inventory of every single thing that is going out on the tour” said Farriella. These are the type of men Farriella and Wright are interested in working with; the type who not only go the extra mile, but have a smile while doing it. When a tour goes overseas, the crew has to be even more critical as to paying attention to all equipment.
While security and production can be controlled, mother nature is her own force, refusing to fit into anybody or anything’s mold. Last year alone, stages at major music festivals collapsed left and right; causing several deaths and dozens of injuries. “You can’t predict weather, but you need to be ready for it,” admits Wright.” A prudent person would attend the safety lectures offered by the Event Safety Alliance. Production Manager, Jim Digby, invites industry leaders to assemble and address the immediate needs of collective safety standards for the production of live events.
No stranger to the festival, Wright has plenty of experience in working major music festivals. At this year’s Coachella, Wright, who acted as tour manager for Sebastian Ingrosso, (one of the three members in Swedish House Mafia), admits the massive stage full of lights was simple to set up. “You have to be organized; we had rehearsals in advance in Vegas. As long as you are ready to go, the event staff at the festival will help you.” Because of it’s level of organization and logistics, Wright admitted, “Coachella has been one of the best festivals I have ever worked. If you step back at the end of the two-week festival and you’re not pulling you’re hair out, it’s been a smooth run.”
Prosperous companies are rooted in good soil with a strong foundation and PonyBoy Production is just that. “We create an all-around positive vibe,” Farriella says with Wright’s acknowledgment. Because they fuel their brainchild with optimism, nurture and devotion, PonyBoy Production is changing the music industry for the better. No matter how successful they become, these humble guys know where they came from, and that is something this biz could use more of. “We wouldn’t be the company we are today without the friendship and support of others.”
For more on Farriella, take a look at my cover story on tour managing in Elmore’s September/October 2011 issue. Also includes the Stones’ TM, Sam Cutler; Led Zeppelin’s TM, Ricchard Cole and a handful of others. Take care!
Just a quick note…Thanks again. I read the 2 issues, and certainly your articles as well. In particular, your article on festivals was really superb. I think of myself as somewhat knowledgeable, and I still learned much from your piece, picked up some resources, and had a much better understanding of the festival scene. You even managed to approach it from a variety of angles and keep it interesting. Thanks again. I’m waiting for the iPad app to be available and will certainly subscribe through that. I really enjoy your approach to a story. It’s a bit unorthodox as you try to straddle the line between neophyte and insider, and you succeed! By the way, the piece on licensing was solid as well, but for me, the later festival piece was a knockout.
a few months back, I ran into Art, a radio DJ for wbcr-97.7 up in berkshire, MA, at webster hall while reviewing these united states. just returning to the east from a road trip out west, he shared stories of adventure and thrill and within two minutes, i was setting my sights on the great wide open. “you wanna hear the best blues and rock goin on? all over texas, there’s these little dive bars playing the best music you’ve ever heard.” we chatted about radio, the magazine, neil young, music fests and parted ways. i promised him i’d send a copy of elmore once my feature was in print and his recent e-mail made my soul smile.
little words of kindness are all i really need. i mean, i don’t write for the money, but if i went around saying that, i wouldn’t be able to afford rent. but in all honesty, i just want people to read my shit. the music journalism is one thing, but the fiction is another. i want people to walk away from my work, pissed off. whether it’s at me for revealing truths, or people in their life who never did. i want them to see what’s wrong with the world. afterall, that’s what all great art is. there are those who find meaning in “precious,” or Fahernheit 451, and then there are those who find it in the Twilight saga. choose your side.
For all aspiring screenwriters, this book is your ticket to ride. Guy Gallo, who has taught for over twenty years at Columbia, NYU and Barnard College, offers his extensive knowledge and guidance in Screenwriter’s Compass: Character as True North. His previous students include James Mangold (Girl Interrupted, Walk the Line) and Greg Mottola (Superbad, Adventureland) and if it weren’t for the student loans that already loom like a dark cloud overhead, I would most certainly enroll in one of his classes. Here, in Screenwriter’s Compass, Gallo pinpoints each and every necessary step in composing a screenplay, which begins with character. He discusses beneficial methods of planning one’s writing, provides tools to help peel away the layers in order to find that distinctive voice and offers advice on how to overcome road blocks that inevitably lay ahead. Through engaging prose, Gallo makes that 120-page script seem like a cinch. Well, almost.
The journey begins with an extensive, but interesting section devoted to Greek plays and the shift screenwriting has taken since the Greek theatre. In the past, character was considered secondary to plot, which, if you think about it, is extremely limiting. Take a look at Oedipus whose main character is motivated by destiny. With a predefined path, the character is forced and that is not appealing. How the writer creates situations that the character must engage or disengage from is what pulls us in. A story only unfolds as characters encounter new situations and make choices and sacrifices. “Watching a character make a decision is inherently dramatic. It generates anticipation. Will the decision pay off? Will it backfire?” questions Gallo, “The audience has become vested in the character’s choice. They are leaning forward.”
“We are not seduced by plot, we are seduced by character.”
While you are creating your character(s), and the choices he or she will make, you must make sure to remain consistent and ask yourself the following questions: “Is what they do consistent with their overarching want?” and “Is every action motivated and linked to an immediate need?” Evenness is vital because it is our job as writers to convince, not please.
Gallo also touches on the idea of spectacle. Often times, writers get carried away with the setting; putting way too much detail and importance on the what surrounds the character. Writers should refrain from this because an audience is not seduced by incident, but the people within that incident. A photo of New Orleans post Katrina might be depressing to look at, but a kid crying on top of a plank of floating wood without anyone else in sight is what twists my heartstrings.
Show Don’t Tell. It is better to enact than to describe in writing, Gallo points out. A good writer avoids the use of the verb “is” because it absolutes meaning (this is called E-Prime). By stating that something “is,” the joy of reading is devoid; we like to discern for ourselves. “Nobody likes to be bullied. And writing that simply tells you information feels bossy. Whereas writing what presents behavior pulls the reader into the scene. I’d much rather be pulled in than pushed forward,” Which sounds better? The explosion is catastrophic. Or Boom. A girder tumbles toward Gladys, narrowly missing her shock of red hair.
Aside from character, Gallo designates a chapter to discuss specific requirements in screenwriting like page orientation, how to include phone conversations, how to vary conflict consisting of valleys and peaks, flashbacks, dreams, sentence structure, verb tenses, character cues, simultaneous dialogue between characters, scene endings, ellipses, line spacing and the list goes on. Numerous examples, comparisons and diagrams make the screenwriting process less intimidating. Snippets of successful films, like Quentin Tarantino’s “Kill Bill: Vol. 1,” are inserted to make specific points. Knowing the process well, Gallo tells you like it is. If you don’t take the time to spell check a printed copy of your work, a producer is going to throw it in the trash because he does not take you seriously. If you are serious about writing for film (T.V., book) then be serious. You are a grammar nazi; always correcting your friends’ double negatives, so carry that same attention to detail in your writing. Don’t throw your opportunity out the window because you used “their” instead of “they’re” in a sentence. However, the writing process is just half of it. So you’ve finished the script, now’s the time to throw it out into the world and hope to god that someone in Hollywood likes it. If you have an original idea, hope even more because Hollywood is afraid of taking chances. Sequels and adaptations do well because they already have a following, which means $$$. Money is a funny thing.
Writing is hard. Often times when I am sitting at my desk, eyes blood-shot, desperately trying to wrap up a 4,000 word feature due in several hours, I wonder why I ever got myself into this field. But something Gallo said struck me and reminded me why I chose writing over teaching:
“Find pride and confidence in the fact that not everyone can do it. Lots of people think because they can compose an e-mail that they are writers. They aren’t. You are. Remember that you love telling stories, that you love putting words on paper. When it works there’s nothing quite like the pleasure of invention and composition.”
So if you are one of those people who not only has a great idea, but finds profound delight in arranging words on a page and spends many late nights awake in bed thinking about characters, then you need this book. Just remember, when your script makes it to the silver screen, be sure to give thanks to Guy Gallo in the credits. Although Screenwriter’s Compass: Character As True North is the roadmap for screenwriting, novelists can benefit as well. A character is universal, no matter the genre.
About the Author: Born and raised in New Orleans, Guy Gallo hit the road shortly after high school. Attending Harvard and Yale, he has learned the craft of both playwriting and screenwriting. His adaptation of Malcolm Lowry’s Under the Volcano has garnered attention as well as his interpretation of Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. When I asked him what his favorite play was and he replied “Long Day’s Journey Into Night,” I admired him that much more.
A literary reference is the first reason I was interested. The second was this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TzbNyYIBBW0. After a P.TM show at Brooklyn Bowl, I met John MacCallum of the Henry Millers, a true talent amongst the litter of musicians residing in williamsburg. His partner in crime is the lovely Katie Schecter, and on stage, the two bring out the best in each other. Katie reminds me of a young Joan Baez from the early folk scene, who performed with Bob Dylan and their friendship is what made their music so powerful (read Positively 4th Street). I’m not comparing the Henry Millers’ sound to Baez or Dylan; they are not folk…just their chemistry. It works and the added bass to this pop rock duo fits in nicely. So, they’ve played down in the Village and and studio of Webster, headlined Piano’s, and impressively performed at Brooklyn Bowl, my favorite NY venue. They are certainly worthy of Deli’s next NYC Artist of the Month award. Go and vote, this way, when the band becomes commercially successful, you can be that guy, or girl who knew about them first.
Each year, the folks at SESAC put together an impressive evening which highlights songwriters, producers and publishers from across the musical gamut. SESAC is committed to compensate such creative individuals whenever their music is performed in public. Those in attendance, walking down the red carpet dressed in their finest threads, included Brooklynite Angela Hunte, songwriter for “Empire State of Mind,” and Rico Love whose produced countless hits with Usher, just to name a few. I was lucky enough to chat with three impressive men whose efforts in the music industry are nothing short of extraordinary.
What are the pros and cons of working with younger artists?
Sometimes you don’t find a lot of art, you find a lot of clones or mimics that want to be like other artists so sometimes you got to really coach what is within the artist, and then you find what’s great about them. And sometimes you gotta dig for that. The positive is that when you work with a newer, younger artist, their slate is clean and there is no box that they are put inside, so it goes both ways
What types of techniques do you use in order to find an artist’s core?
I ask them to define themselves in one sentence. You know, I need to know who their character is, who their person is. If it’s a long explanation, if they do a little bit of this and that, that’s not easy to be identified. I want to narrow it down to that one thing, and then we build upon that once we find what the IT is.
What made you want to be in the position you are in today?
I played violin all the way up until college, so that first year of college, I started going to clubs and I saw a little bit more popular music and I said, “You know what, I want to make this kind of music.” So therefore I just figured out how to make money and kept going.
“I am the producer and songwriter who creates music to reach your heart.”
How did the collaboration with Eric Clapton come about?
I was the senior vice president of Hollywood Records back in the day and there was a movie called “The Runaway Bride” with a Diane Warren song (“Blue Eyes Blue,” which Clapton sings on the soundtrack). So I was the senior VP, but I’m a musician and an arranger and a singer and a writer so they was just like, “Well you would just be great! Come in.” So I met with Dianne Warren and we went to eat and the next thing you know I’m in the studio with Eric Clapton and I’m singing background on the song and I’m playing all of the keys and it was amazing. It was incredible. And Eric you know, he brings his foosball table everywhere he goes and I was told not to play him in foosball because he will slaughter you. So I didn’t. But I really had a great time; he’s probably the most incredible man I have ever met in terms of in the music business. Just an incredible soul and just talent oozing out of him. He’s very inspiring to me and he’s the reason I’m most likely going to put out an album because the when he first heard “Blue Eyes Blue” (which I sang all the vocals on), he thought Baby Face did it and I said, “No it was me!” and he said, “If you don’t put out an album, this is a national travesty.” Eric Clapton said that about me, so I gotta put out a damn record, quick!
Why did Glassnote Records hone in on the alternative scene opposed to any other genre?
Well a lot of the inspiration of Glassnote came from my early years which were spent in the R&B world, dance world, and then the alternative rock world at Chrysalis Records in the 80’s. So we sort of emulate what those days were about, which meant a small, touring, intensive rock roster with edgy bands; sort of left of center bands that don’t really fit a mold or type. So we’re called alternative, although some of our bands actually cross over to the mainstream, but I think it’s an area where I felt really good about, I thought there was a huge void in the market place of taking care of artists that were touring bands and I felt that if we gave them the respect that they deserved and really and truly supported them on the road, and that we were able to get them the exposure with patience and I mean, extreme patience that they deserved, we could actually be very successful.
When we started, it was a time when people said, “Don’t go into the record business,” and it actually inspired me even more by saying that. So we’ve proven, I think, that you can be a successful record company if you’re focused and small and you actually take care of your bands in the proper way. So we have a team of people that I think live the lifestyle of that alternative rock life, which is why the music we choose to associate ourselves with is that way, but the fringes of that can blend into different areas such as Childish Gambino who is hip-hop, yet beautifully produced records; and I love the songs which he puts out. So how does that fit in with Phoenix and Mumford and Sons and Two Door Cinema Club? I actually think it does because when I met childish Gambino, and I really bonded with him, it was actually at Bonnaroo on stage after a Givers show and then a Mumford and Sons show. So he loved our vision and didn’t want to be a stereotypical rapper so it really worked out. That’s how the roster really somehow fits with each other.
Speaking of Bonnaroo, I am very excited for this year, or any music festival for that matter. I wish I could live my life hopping from one to the next. I just got back from Jazz Fest in New Orleans and it gave me a whole new perspective on life.
I was at Jazz Fest, too! It’s hard, I’m a father of three kids and I go to a lot of school board events and people ask me if I am addicted to festivals (laughs). In fact, someone here tonight asked me the same question. Jazz Fest was a new high for me.
How do you define success with your artists?
Success happened recently and I quantify or qualify success differently than my competitors and peers. Attending Givers’ performance at Jazz Fest last week and seeing the owner of the festival, Quint Davis, introduce them, was a very big deal. He sort of put them in the club. Then seeing Feist and Bon Iver with full bands backstage, then coming at night again to One Eyed Jacks, and seeing the glow of the artist community hugging each other and embracing each other and loving the music—that was success to me. So I don’t know if that is success to you?
I would have to agree. It’s admirable to hear that money is not the root.
Being at the Phoenix show when Daft Punk came onstage at MSG; being there in that moment was success. The first time Mumford and Sons played Bonnaroo when everybody got up on stage at the end of the show, Old Crow and Gillian Welch, that was success to me. That’s what makes me feel really, really good. That’s the honest truth, that’s what motivates me. Number one in the charts? Not my thing (laughs).
Kudos to Melissa Caruso for her insightful article on the changing nature and growing popularity of music festivals. She successfully captures the many benefits to artists and promoters as well as music fans. She also details the challenges and inherent risks. It was refreshing to read an insider’s take on the music business, a perspective fans don’t usually see. Hopefully promoters, project managers and stage crews will pay close attention to the safety requirements of stage construction, monitor weather forecasts and have emergency plans in place so that future tragedies can be avoided.
Head over to www.elmoremagazine.com and check out my feature on music festivals. if i could live my life hopping from one fest to the next, i would be complete.
L.A. Woman, the quintessential Doors record, not only highlights the band’s initial quest for jazz, but it stands as the last album the band made with frontman Jim Morrison. In Mr. Mojo Risin’, the Doors’ journey, up until its last breath, is displayed in all of its facets, and then some.
Densmore, Krieger and Manzarek smile in front of the camera and relive the glory days of a once deep blue dream they shared with Mr. Mojo Risin’. Commentary includes L.A. Woman’s engineer and producer providing insight as to why the album, recorded at the Doors’ Santa Monica Boulevard rehearsal space, allowed the band to travel beyond the doors of perception, compared to their previous Sunset Sound sessions. Each track is dissected by those who know the subjects best, including Rolling Stone senior writer David Fricke.
Gems from the vault, like an unreleased “She Smells So Nice” and never-before-seen video footage, provide something for even the most veteran fan. Although Morrison bade farewell to the city and people he loved, especially on the title track, the Doors did not burn out nor did they fade away. They are still on fire and Mr. Mojo Risin’: The Story of L.A. Woman confirms it.