The Best Stephen Hawking Book March 14 2018, 45 Comments
a hero of mine, Stephen Hawking, has passed away. 😢
Stephen was a theoretical physicist and cosmologist with a knack for explaining advanced science in a way that people like me could understand!!!
if you aren't yet familiar with his brilliant work, there is only one place to start: A Brief History Of Time. this is the definitive Hawking book that helps us understand the Big Bang Theory, Eienstein's relativity and the relationship between time and space. you can grab it off Amazon here.
THANK YOU STEVEN!
may you ride the cosmos 'til the end of time... 🌌🌠
Adam Green March 04 2018, 54 Comments
BEST FRIENDS episode #4
NAME: Adam Green
CATEGORY: Songwriter, Sculptor, Director
last week, when i told you about Guster (episode #3), it got me thinking a lot about the beginning of my solo career. about all the fateful encounters and cool characters that were instrumental in my success early on in New York City. i had two buckets of influencers from that time. Bucket 1 contained the mama/papa birds - the experienced ones who took me under their wings. artists like Evan Dando, Juliana Hatfield, Jeff Tweedy, Eels, The Black Crowes… Bucket 2 contained the sister/brother birds - the up-and-comers that held my hand as we both jumped out of the nest together. artists like Ben Lee, Conor Oberst, Bright Eyes, Kings of Leon, Tim Fite, The Strokes, My Morning Jacket, Death Cab For Cutie, and this week’s main attraction: ADAM GREEN.
*side note you might know Adam’s work with Kimya Dawson and their band, The Moldy Peaches. if not, you'd probably recognize a song or two since their music pretty much makes up the entire Juno soundtrack!
i basically met Adam as a result of those aforementioned buckets pouring into one another. most of the connections i made in those days can be traced back to the one and only Evan Dando of The Lemonheads. me meeting adam was no different. here's the lineage: Evan discovered me, took me out on tour and told Juliana Hatfield about me. Juliana took me out on tour and we played NYC’s legendary, Mercury Lounge. i had two items at the Merch booth. a DIY, puffy paint T that Lizzy and i made back on Smith Street, and a homemade CD called Freak Out It’s… Ben Kweller. Juliana had local merch sellers in each market and tonight's seller was a young, artsy singer named Kimya. she had a huge afro and a huge heart. she was telling me all about her new band, The Moldy Peaches. as we got to know each other, she finally said, "DUDE, you have to meet my friend Adam! He’s the other singer in The Moldy Peaches. You guys are like two peas in a pod!" and with that, Kimya left to make a phone call...
*side note Kimya Dawson is the one singing all those Sha-Shaaas and Sha-Dooooos with me in the old-school jam, “How it Should Be (Sha Sha)”... check it out here!
back at the Mercury Lounge doors hadn’t opened. Kimya goes over and let's some dude in the club. he's wearing ratty bell bottoms, a red blazer and a black fedora a’la Rancid’s alleged “Time Bomb”. she introduces us. "Ben? Adam... Adam? Ben..."
there we were.
standing at this makeshift merch booth.
all of a sudden Adam whips his out.
so i whip mine out!
we stare at each other's things and revel in the similarities!
i'm not talkin' private parts brooooo,
i'm talking album art yooooo!
see for yerself belowwwww...
we were both like “Holy calzone! Seriously?" we swapped CD’s and numbers and that was the beginning of our lifelong friendship.
music ain't Adam’s only creative outlet neither… he’s penned fanzines and books... acted in movies, written and directed movies. he's created sculptures and paintings that are collected by people around the world... he even had a hit blog before blogs were a hit. basically, he's a creator in every sense of the word. a true legend, a true artist.
*fun fact: Adam Green is Dorian Kweller's godfather. here they are together on the set of Adam Green's Aladdin. the two don't see each other much since Dorian has lived in Austin for 10 of his 11 years, but, Dorian being the creative soul that he is, loves knowing that somewhere up in New york City lives his eccentric godfather who will no doubt one day lend some wisdom-filled godfatherly advice on subjects ranging from creativity to the human condish.
the full Aladdin film is now available for free!!! see below.
i’ve traveled to more far-off lands and performed more far-out shows with Adam than any other artist. we’ve celebrated many occasions together and written many a silly song together. like Tim from Ash (episode #1), our collaborations have yet to be recorded or released. hopefully the day will come...
<== come to think of it, there is one AGBK collab that is available on the open market, albeit, in limited quantities… talkin' 'bout our famous cover of the underrated but always enjoyed, Beach Boys classic, “Kokomo”! Adam and i used to perform "Kokomo" together live in concert and it became a fan favorite. we finally recorded it an slapped it on Adam's Jessica EP!! if you're lucky you might be able to grab a copy here.
us at a comedy show, Pianos, NYC.
i've always loved his skull-faced stick 'n' poke tattoo.
the day i found some Adam Green snipes in NYC.
his album, Friends of Mine, had just come out.
(note the Dashboard snipes to the right!)
**if you can only buy 1 Adam Green album, then buy Friends of Mine!
the songs are killer, the vocal performances are killer.
#toteskiller. get it.**
Sha Sha road crew in the dugout at Wrigley Field. From L-R: me, Josh Lattanzi (Bass), John Biondolillo (ATO Records), Mike Stroud (Guitar), Fred Eltringham (Drums), Adam Green (Show opener)
this one says it all....
i love you Adam!
Guster February 25 2018, 61 Comments
BEST FRIENDS episode #3
Liz and i moved to the Cobble Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY in 1999. 228 Smith Street, between Butler and Douglas, to be precise. one of the first social gatherings we attended, was a party hosted by legendary engineer/producer, John Siket (Sonic Youth, Yo La Tengo). Siket had taken an old movie theatre on Attorney Street and turned it into a recording studio. the room was packed and we didn’t know anyone except Brooklyn power couple, Bryce Goggin and Lee Solomon. Bryce produced Radish's final album, Discount Fireworx, as well as my favorite Pavement and Lemonheads music. His wife, Lee, saw me awkwardly standing around and saved me by introducing me to a similar looking fish-out-of-water named Ryan Miller. Ryan and i immediately connected and realized we had commonalities that were almost too much to handle from the get-go... Two Jewish boys from Texas, making the pilgrimage to the big Apple, equipped with music in their hearts and the latest technology in their pockets.
..ahem.. that would be Palm, inc.’s PALM PILOT. That’s right folks. Nerd central. Pre-smartphone. RM & BK in full effect, BFF, FFL, yeah… another shoutout to the Goggin/Solomon household for turning me onto those sweet PDAs (that's 90's speak for Personal Digital Assistant). i'm pretty sure Bryce had the one with the antenna so you could get a little piece of the internet somehow...
*Dork alert: does anyone know how to open .PDB files on mac os? If so lemme know.
at that time, Ryan was paying $800/month to sleep under the staircase of a millionaire’s incredibly dope apartment in The Rutherford which was an old Manhattan birthing hospital on 2nd Ave between 17th and 18th. this place was sick… the millionaire was never home so i’d come over and we’d listen to music, talk about music, talk about Dallas, talk about performing, recording, talk about our goals as artists. Ryan was a mentor of mine and he didn’t even know it. he had his shit together more than any other musician i knew at that point. he made me realize (without saying it) that really we’re entrepreneurs whose main venture happens to be music. his band was insulated by an incredible fanbase they’d cultivated through years of touring colleges. in addition, Guster were very much ahead of their time when it came to communicating with their audience. they took a transparent, “we’re no different than you” approach to fan interaction and it resonated in a deeper way than pop radio or MTV ever could. as for me, Radish had broken up, i was no longer on a major label and basically had nothing going on except the recordings i was making in my apt back on Smith Street. Guster on the other hand, were building something organic and big without a big machine behind them. they were the machine. i was taking note.
Guster's classic, Lost And Gone Forever, was the album that was out when we met. grab it on vinyl here.
*Dork Alert: i gotta pause for a sec for all you young musicians reading this. it was Ryan Miller who introduced me to a book called, All You Need to Know About the Music Business. this book is the holy grail of music business education. it taught me so much about our industry and how it operates. by the time Ry showed me this book in that millionaire’s apartment, i’d already signed a major record deal, a major publishing deal and toured the world multiple times with Radish. yet, i knew nothing about the contracts i was signing or the business principles behind them. alas, it’s better late than never. so if you’re an artist, manager, or anyone considering a career in the music biz, or you have a loved one in the music biz, YOU/THEY MUST READ THIS BOOK!!! looks like there’s a new 9th edition out now, get it here. this is required reading kidz... now back to Guster.
in what seemed like only days after becoming friends, Ryan and i booked a show together at the gone-but-not-forgotten, Wetlands Preserve. we intermixed our own originals along with covers. a young, up and coming photographer named Alyssa Scheinson happened to be on site for this one-off show and captured the relics below. Alyssa went on to become one of NYC's great music photographers. learn more about Alyssa here.
in early 2000, Guster invited me to open up for them on tour. this was my first run as a solo artist. i was rocking it solo acoustic as i did all the time back in those days. Guster let me travel with them on their bus which was my first time on a bus since Radish never graduated from van and trailer. These were big milestones for me and my solo career. I was playing music in front of 1,000 diehard Guster fans every night. Lizzy and I were making BK swag with white T’s and puffy paint. Life was sooooooo good.
lo and behold, it turned out that Guster’s drummer/percussionist, Brian Rosenworcel, the Thundergod himself, lived a few blocks away for me and Liz. he was over there on Baltic Street between Clinton and Henry. he had his own private roof deck where many great parties were had and many close friendships were made. Bri, Lizzy and i often frequented our local Puerto Rican restaurants and compared notes on which joint had the best pollo con arroz. these culinary convos led to the formation of the esteemed - Kweller, Smith, Rosenworcel, and Partners, a company which was going to dominate the food critic world through a smashing new website called Gobblehill.com, whereby the three of us would travel up and down Court and Smith streets, trying all the amazing food Cobble Hill had to offer. we bought the domain and everything but never followed through. for sentimental reasons, we held onto the domain way longer than we should’ve. a few years after letting go of the domain, we noticed some people launched gobblehill.com and were doing exactly what we set out to do! as i’m writing this, i quickly opened a tab to check on their site. sadly, it looks like gobblehill.com is dead once again.
from late 2000 to early 2003, the Guster boys had a rehearsal space on Bergen street between Smith and Court. It was actually a ballet studio with great wood floors, wall to wall mirrors, handrails, the whole shebang…
Every month or so, Guster threw these jam sessions where people’d come and go, pick up random instruments, and just let the music flow. It was a really fun scene that i miss. On one of these fabled nights, we were so caught up in our own jam vibes, that when we looked up we realized everyone was gone except Ryan, Brian, Adam and me. Adam and I were playing guitars, Bri was on drums, and Ry was on bass. We kinda giggled for a minute thinking “HOLY SHIT! everyone straight-up left! guess we scared ‘em off! hahaha!” all of a sudden, Ryan drops this bass lick up high, ending on the perfect note down lowwwww. He’s now looping it over ‘n’ over... i start doing this drony single-string thing on the 9th fret, Adam responds by chiming these open chords down low, Bri comes in with sweet super-slack-feel, and now we’re sailin’!!! i started freestyling words (as i do) and we all landed on a big fat F chord. right then i sang “iiiiiiiii hope tomorrow! is like todaaaaaaaay!” Ryan and Adam immediately harmonized in unison and our classic jam was born. a few months later, we recorded “I Hope Tomorrow Is Like Today” in upstate New York at an incredible studio called Allaire.
the song appears on Guster’s 4th full-length LP, Keep it Together, which you can listen to and purchase here.
it's also featured in the hilarious, Vince Vaughn/Owen Wilson film, Wedding Crashers. Surely you’ve seen it by now… but if not, it's worth the watch beyond the fact that me and Guster will serenade you during the long, sad montage, three-quarters the way through the film.
the Guster boys and i have shared many stages together. concert stages and stages of life. weddings, birthdays, actual births, nonsensical titles (Fa Fa/Sha Sha), album releases, emotional releases, press releases… in a lotta ways we grew up together as artists and i owe a lot to them. Ryan, Brian and Adam are among my earliest comrades in New York City. they gave me hope that i could go out as a solo artist, be my true, authentic self, and build something like they were building. because of their support and encouragement, i did go out and built something! no doubt some of you reading this have been with me ever since... it’s clear now, when i think back on that 3AM jam sesh on Bergen street, that my internal-stream-of-consciousness-lyric-machine was putting it all out there. no hold-backs. tomorrow would've certainly been a new crazy day in the city for all 4 of us, but in that moment, making real music with real friends, how can anything get better than that? all i could hope is that it would never end... xoBK
below are two of my favorite Guster T's.
it’s a proven fact your life will be “happier” when wearing said T's.
last note for all you Gusterrhoids out there, the band wanted you to explicitly know that they love you and they are in the studio now working on their 8th full-length album!!!!!
CURRENT MEMBERS: Ryan Miller (vocals, guitar, bass), Adam Gardner (vocals, guitar, bass), Brian Rosenworcel (drums, percussion), Luke Reynolds (vocals, bass, keyboards, lap steel) PAST MEMBERS: Joe Pisapia (guitar, vocals, lap steel, keyboards) OFFICIAL WEBSITE: www.guster.com
Shaun White February 19 2018, 49 Comments
BEST FRIENDS episode #2
NAME: Shaun White
CATEGORY: Athlete & Musician
if you haven't been watching the 2018 Winter Olympics, just know that my brother-from-another-mother crushed the half-pipe and took another gold. i'm talking about a dude that has inspired me to be the best i can be.... a dude who explained to me that i skate "mongo" which is horribly wack and only reconfirms that i will never be a good skateboarder. for these things i am eternally grateful. i'm talking about the one and only, Shaun White!
i always wanted to be a skateboarder. my mom bought me the dopest Santa Cruz deck when i was 9 years old. it had a scary skull and hot pink grip tape. there was no YouTube to teach me how to ollie and no skate community in Greenville, TX. there was a skate show that aired with random frequency on Nickelodeon but no DVR to guarantee my viewership. most importantly, i had no natural talent. shit… i was doomed. i sucked so bad that i purposefully scuffed up my trucks to look like i knew how to grind. even if i could grind, there was nary a rail to grind in Greenville, TX. i was a total poser. then one day i wiped out sooo hard. busted my knee. splat. i swear there’s still gravel in my knee from that fall. that was the exact moment that playing guitar and devoting my life to Rock 'n' Roll was a decidedly better choice than continuing my life of skateboarding. guitar seemed equally as cool but with a lot less pain and suffering (at least physically speaking).
fast forward 20 years, i’m at home in Austin. Lizzy and i cuddled up on the couch watching the 2010 Winter Olympics, laying witness to this Shaun White dude and his freakish skills on the half-pipe. with a huuuuuge straight air into massive double corks and a backside 900, this dude lands gold. it was such a cool moment to watch and as he’s doing an interview, Liz casually says, “you and Shaun need to meet one day. Seems like you’d really hit it off. you’re like long lost brothers or something.” this wasn't the first time Liz Kweller had premonitions.
it turns out though, unbeknownst to all of us, there was already a twinsie phenomenon happening in the underbelly of the Googlewebs going all the way back 16 years!!
whomever posted the above vintage nugget couldn’t have even known that i too in fact have the same exact tuxedo shirt… i do. it's true.
moving right along… 2011. i met Shaun and his sister Kari at the Wiltern in LA. i was on tour with Pete Yorn doing my solo acoustic thing, armed with my trusty Ratón of course...
we hung backstage and became fast friends geeking out about Les Paul's, Independent Trucks, old cars and how hard it is to find cool, guys clothes.
Shaun has so many qualities that have inspired me over the years. his athleticism is unreal and work ethic is like a diesel engine. he's charismatic, stylish and beyond generous. i love his unique blend of humility and confidence. he's determined to be the best he can be whether he’s snowboarding or skating or playing guitar. he’s gonna go out there and go all out and it’s gonna rule and he's gonna be a nice guy throughout it, which brings me to my favorite point: Shaun KEEPS. IT. REAL.
despite all the fame and all the drama that comes along with all the fame, Shaun has made a point to keep family close, stay humble and keep those two feet on the ground. this is something we can all learn from and strive for no matter where we are in life...
in 2012, we made a redicu-spoof with Jason Schwartzman as part of the Go Fly A Kite album roll-out. you can check out that fine piece of cinema below.
as i alluded to earlier, Shaun not only shreds the halfpipe, but he shreds the fretboard too. if you haven't checked 'em yet, Bad Things were a really cool band that featured Shaun on lead guitar. they made one cracking eponymous album back in 2014 and broke up. the following tracks are two of my faves...
a few years ago, Shaun took over the much loved Air+Style festival which combines music, skating, snowboarding, fashion, and art. sounds perfect right? well it is. tickets are on sale now for Los Angeles - March 3rd and 4th, 2018. the lineup is sickkkkkk: Zedd, Phoenix, Gucci Mane, Phantogram, Cut Copy and others... grab tickets by clicking the graphic below.
for those of you that want to learn more about Shaun, check him out at the links above. i'll see you guys next Monday for another episode of Best Friends.
Tim Wheeler and the band Ash February 12 2018, 53 Comments
BEST FRIENDS episode #1
first time i heard about Ash was in 1996 when i went to see Weezer on their Pinkerton tour. Holy shit whadda show that wuz… took place at one of my favorite Dallas venues - the fabled, Deep Ellum Live.
Deep Ellum Live was the “big” venue in Deep Ellum. capacity of about 1,000 which means it was pretty much reserved for the big national touring acts or the elite few breakouts like the Toadies and Tripping Daisy… i was 15 and couldn’t drive so my dad, Big-H (also an avid =W= fan) took me to the show. we showed up early, got in line, as soon as doors opened, i rushed the stage. DUH…. it's what you dooooo. now, i’ll do a Best Friends on Weezer at some point and elaborate on their performance, but this week is all about the opening act....
i'm up against the barricade, slightly stage-left, out walk three lads from northern Ireland. singer had long, beautiful, dark hair, holding a slightly more beautiful Gretsch Silver Jet guitar!! if you don’t know the Silver Jet, it’s a must check-out… single cutaway, ridiculous finish and similar to the Gretsch that ACDC’s Malcolm Young (RIP!) utilized… anywhoooo, these three dudes walk out and unleash one of the coolest blends of weird-chord-proggressioned sparkle-rock that I’d ever heard.
a year later, my band Radish was signed to Mercury Records and thrust into the music biz and into the fast-paced life I’ve been accustomed to for the past 20+ years. Radish found ourselves at the Kerrang Awards, 1997, London England, where a million things happened that i wont get into now, but it was there that i briefly met Tim, Mark and Rick… ASH!
fast-forward five years… Radish is broken up, i’m now a solo artist living with Lizzy in NYC. my debut, Sha Sha is released and we’re touring the world. next stop: Reading Festival 2002. Ash is on the bill. i run into Tim in the artist area, we hug, swap numbers, and that’s really where our friendship takes off.
at some point that same year, Mark started directing a horror movie called Slashed. One night in NYC, he asked if I'd do a cameo for the movie.
“Well, HELL FUCKIN’ YEAH!!!” I proclaimed (or some such similar response). Done. we shoot a scene in some hotel... something to do with an axe murderer, or an.... Ash murderer. mmmwwaaaHaHaHaHa!
aaaaand the thing never gets released.
BUT alas!!!! footage was edited together recently and released as a music video for their song “Binary”. "Binary" features famous detectives, Chris Martin and Jonny Buckland, of the band Coldplay. Video below. BK cameo is cued up…
before Tim moved to the states, Lizzy and i had him over for his very first all-American Thanksgiving. we stayed up all night writing songs in the basement. (one day we'll share those songs with you o' great Kwellerheadz... promise!!!) over the years, Tim and i have confided in each other on matters of business and on matters of the heart... we've inspired each other to reach further as artists and to never forget why we both became rockers at such young ages -- BECAUSE IT'S FUCKING FUN THAT'S WHY!
in closing, if you don't know Ash, you need to now. they're one of the great happiness makers. loud guitars, great melodies, chord structures that keep you guessing, and the perfect dose of 90's grunge, 90's angst. plussss, if you ever come across 'em in the flesh, you'll find that they're some of the nicest peeps ever and that includes Charrr who once rocked 2nd guitarrr!
If you only buy 1 album by Ash, get this one: 1977!!CHECK OUT: “Goldfinger”, “Oh Yeah”, "Shining Light", and "Girl From Mars"
CURRENT MEMBERS: Tim Wheeler (Vocals & Guitar), Mark Hamilton (Bass), Rick McMurray (Drums) PAST MEMBERS: Charlotte Hatherley (Guitar & Vocals) OFFICIAL WEBSITE: www.ash-official.com
if you dig Ash, than you should 100% totally pre-order their new album Islands by clicking THIS LINK. See you guys next Monday, right here for another episode of Best Friends.
Coolest Beats Of All Time: "Be My Baby" by The Ronettes February 08 2018, 44 Comments
By Ben Kweller
When i was a little boy, we had a big old upright piano. it was out of tune and clunky, but I loved it! As music became a serious addiction for me, my parents decided to buy a better quality instrument to hone my skills on, so they gave the upright away. In the summer of 2005 my mom and dad surprised me with a gift. it was the old upright!!! They'd tracked it down through different friends in town and put it on the porch of their lake cabin up in east Texas. It was around this time of year, July 4th, when I started writing "Run" on that old piano. It was a serious rush to be reacquainted with an instrument I hadn't played in 20 years. It was so nostalgic and freeing. The song "Run" mirrors that exact feeling - The freedom to move forward while remembering your roots. "Be My Baby" is like that to. it make you feel happy but can also bring a tear to your eye. The first piece of music I wrote for "Run" was the piano intro. I instantly heard the "Be My Baby" beat under the riff. Sometimes beats are like that. They just work... The "We Will Rock You" beat is like that... so simple. so big. so perfect when combined with the right tune. I rarely think a beat makes the song. "Be My Baby" is a masterpiece with or without drums! It's a perfect song. BUT! When you have a perfect song and combine it with the right elements - beats, harmonies, etc... that's when you peak into the world of incredible production. When it comes to big, California hi-fi awesomeness (AKA the wall of sound), it begins with Phil Spector. This is a man who inspired a Beatle (John) and a Beach Boy (Brian). So I finished writing "Run" at the lake and headed back to NYC to begin pre-production on the album. I would be working with a legendary producer in his own right, Gil Norton. We set up at the Magic Shop with all the instruments in a big circle. I played every instrument on the album so we didn't have to worry about bleed. I would start with drums, lay those down, hop on the piano, overdub some guitars, glockenspiel, organ, whatever the song needed... After I sang all the vocals, Gil and I knew there was only one thing missing. Tambourines! Lots of 'em! The more the better! With the snare! Only on 4! Here we go!!!
Billboard Magazine ran an article in July 2017 about this exact subject. A lot of what I've said here is in the article as well as prospectives of other artists that have a similar love for the Ronettes and their classic drumbeat. If you wanna read more you can find the article here.
New Forum Finally Here - Let's Talk! February 07 2018, 23 Comments
By Ben Kweller
The wait is over!!!!
we have an official Ben Kweller Message Board again.
joining the Kwellerhead community is as easy as 1, 2, 3...
1: click the forum link
2: create an account
3: start posting
i'll be checking in every day to answer questions and shoot the 💩 with my peeps whom i love so much.
I Had To Take A Break December 30 2017, 3 Comments
the end of 2017 is now.
i want to say i love you.
i know i haven't been posting blogs, releasing music, tweeting, touring, singing and all the things you've come to expect from your ragged kid BK. I want to let you know that i've received (and loved reading) all your notes asking why i've been n hiding since 2013. The quick answer is that something happened to me. sounds horrible i know but im generally ok now so hang in there. breathe...I had to take a break from touring, recording everything... for reasons beyond my control. I will fill you guys in when the time is right. Just know that i'm still here. i'm slowly crawling out of the cave to catch some rayz and hopefully bring you more lovely musik in 2018.
Ben Kweller sings backing vocals on new Foo Fighters EP November 23 2015, 0 Comments
The Foo Fighters just released a brand new EP that was recorded in Austin, TX in October 2015. The band set up a makeshift recording studio at Hotel Saint Cecilia and pounded out the 5-song jam over 2 weekends. Ben sings backing vocals on the title track, "Saint Cecilia". You can download the EP for free and in various formats. You can also pre-order from a limited run of vinyl that will feature photos from the sessions and liner notes from Dave Grohl.
Get Saint Cecilia vinyl HERE.
Download Saint Cecilia digital HERE.
Read a letter from Dave BELOW...
19 November 2015
Tonight, Let me begin with a preface to a letter I wrote a few weeks ago from my hotel room in Berlin while on our final tour for this album. I felt the need to write this foreword in light of the heartbreaking tragedies of Nov. 13th, as this project has now taken on an entirely different tone. As has everything, it seems...
The Saint Cecilia EP was put into motion back in October of this year as a celebration of life and music. The concept being that, as our world tour drew to a close this week, we wanted to share our love of both with you in return for everything you have given us.
Now, there is a new, hopeful intention that, even in the smallest way, perhaps these songs can bring a little light into this sometimes dark world. To remind us that music is life, and that hope and healing go hand in hand with song. That much can never be taken away.
To all who were affected by the atrocities in Paris, loved ones and friends, our hearts go out to you and your families. We will return and celebrate life and love with you once again someday with our music. As it should be done.
8 November 2015
It was in Austin, Texas March 14th, 2013, at the last show of the “Sound City Players” when I was given a small, but very relevant and perhaps prophetic gift from my Sound City movie producers Jim Rota and John Ramsay. An empty journal, with a note that said something along the lines of, “Congratulations on everything Sound City.....now get to work on the next project!” It was the most beautiful way to end something that I wanted so badly to last forever: with a new beginning.
The basic concept of the Sonic Highways album and series was born right then and there, in a small backstage room surrounded by mountains of Lone Star beer and Stubbs BBQ. 8 songs, 8 cities, 8 studios, and a musical road trip of a lifetime. Removing the Foo Fighters from our comfort zone and challenging the process from top to bottom, it breathed new life into the band, and set us on a journey that unquestionably exceeded any of our simple expectations. And now it has led us here. To another beautiful ending.
So, where do I begin?
We owe it all to Mexico City.
Unbeknownst to them, the people who attended those two concerts back in December, 2013 at Foro Sol stadium helped fund the filming and recording of the bulk of the Sonic Highways project. They were the fuse that lit this little firecracker, baby. Without those gigs, many may have never heard the incredible and truly inspiring life stories of Buddy Guy, Steve Albini, Ian Mackaye, Tony Joe White, Zac Brown, Dolly Parton, Roky Erickson, Gary Clark Jr, Bruce Pavitt, Fred Drake, Terry Lickona, Joan Jett, Steve Rosenthal, Nora Guthrie......a list too long to share here. But, beyond giving our band the equivalent of a rock and roll university year abroad, they gave the entire world the most priceless gift: Inspiration. So....Gracias a todos, Mexico....we couldn’t have done it without you.
Before long, our rag tag crew of ne’er-do-wells was stumbling from city to city, coast to coast, taking in every drop (!) of 100 proof American culture we could squeeze. Dancing in a New Orleans second line parade, laying under the desert stars in Joshua Tree, walking the streets of Chicago in -30 degree weather...it was an American dream come true. Our only responsibility was to share it with you, and the brave people of HBO trusted us with that much. (very freely, I might add.) Blind faith? Perhaps. But, without Nina Rosenstein, we would not be the people who we are today. Looking back, she gave us something immeasurably generous: some of the greatest memories of our lives. These people and places that we experienced have filled our hearts...and ultimately our songs. So, thank you, Nina. We are yours. But, focused on the moment, we never in our wildest dreams could have imagined the whirlwind 23 months that lay ahead of us. We just put one foot in front of the other, and kept moving....
I must admit, I never looked at our schedule. I was too scared. I knew that this was it. This was the big one. There was talk of stadiums, and anniversaries, and TV shows. South Africa, Korea, Colombia. Letterman and Glastonbury. It all seemed too good to be true! But, as always, we kept our heads down and tried to appreciate every single moment as it fled. Because, you realize, none of this was ever supposed to happen. Ever. As we approached our twentieth anniversary, it was hard not to look back on all of those years and smile while shaking our heads in wonder and disbelief. From the Mike Watt van tour of 1995, to RFK stadium in Washington DC (my hometown gig) July 4th, 2015...those dots don’t necessarily connect in real life, you know? It still boggles the mind. But, the spoils of these blessings are not lost upon us. We count every last one.
Even the disasters.
A lucky break? Yeah, you could call it that. Gothenburg was a swift reminder that life is short, and that we’re all here to live it together, no matter what adversity you’re faced with. (Music! The perfect remedy!) Sure, weeks and weeks of shuffling around hotel rooms on my butt with a cast on my leg, trying to pack my suitcase alone before lobby call got pretty fucking stale pretty fucking quick. But, as always, I just put one foot in front of......well, the same one for a while there...
And then everything changed. The energy. The atmosphere. THE THRONE. I was no longer afraid to look at the schedule, I was glued to it. The challenge that we faced from there on out became more of a mission, or a dare, if you will. And it showed. Pat’s smile got even wider (an infallible barometer of all things), Chris’s solos got even faster (thank God someone knows what they’re doing up there), Nate’s stage moves more daring (I once noticed him just to the left of me) and Taylor’s drum set....well....it got pinker. But not without the help of scores of hardworking bad asses that some might call the Foo Fighters road crew (we like refer to them as family, in a very Manson Family kind of way...) They ultimately deserve the lion’s share of credit for keeping this old circus tent erect for the past 6 months. So, let’s all have a nice, warm diet Coke for them tonight. They’re the hardest working motherfuckers in the business. Cheers.
And so we trudged on. Any fatigue was met with an explosion of energy once the curtain went up. Any pain was met with the adrenaline of thousands of voices singing along. Every one of you kept us alive for a while there. One night, at a point where I felt like I was at the end of my rope, it came to me that these few hours we have together every night were something like a heavy blanket to retreat under. I could always rely on our time together to get me to the next stop. Again, and again. From Chicago to Cesena.
That being said....we’ve always been pretty good at knowing when to call it a day. You just....know. You get that feeling that, if you’re not careful, you’ll run out of bread crumbs to find your way home and be lost in the woods forever. It hit me a few months back, crept up on me and tapped me on the shoulder as if to say “Hey...don’t spend it all in one place, asshole.” A sobering reminder that all good things must come to an end. Of course...we could keep going. After all, we’d made it this far, right? What’s another 20 years?
Around that time we arrived in Austin, Texas for the Austin City Limits festival. A massive gig, two weekends and hundreds of acts, it was to be some of our final American performances for this album. There’s a certain bittersweet relief to that. On one hand, you’re carrying these monumental experiences under your wing as you anticipate life outside of a tour bus. On the other hand, you fear that the thrill and joy of sharing music with people all over the world will leave you like an empty shell when it’s gone. It becomes your everything. And that’s terrifying.
The Saint Cecilia Hotel, named after the patroness saint of music, is known as “A lush retreat from the world”. And, believe me, that it is! 14 rooms and a small bar, it’s tucked away in the trees within a bustling, Austin neighborhood. As our van pulled up in the wee hours of September 30th, 2015, I was struck with a rather impulsive idea: to record some songs on our days off to give to the world as a “thank you” for the last 2 years. Though there’s a world class recording studio just on the other side of the fence (Arlyn Studios, look it up.), the hotel manager, Jenny offered that we record in the hotel. A most generous, but unrealistic offer. Though, after rolling it around in my head a few times, it made perfect sense! Returning to the city where the entire Sonic Highways concept was born, loading in one last time to a room that was never designed to be a recording studio a la Sonic Highways, and making some music! Fate? Destiny? I was too tired to figure that kind of shit out, so I hit the sack, woke up the next morning and started making some calls...
By 6 pm the next day, the office was transformed into a control room and the bar was littered with microphones and cables. Amps were in the kitchen. Drums in front of the fireplace. Instant studio, courtesy of the legendary Kevin Szymanski! (Those fancy computer things are pretty convenient! More on that another time....) Margaritas were made, friends came to visit, the sun went down, and before long we started making enough noise to drive the neighbors to start drinking along with us. Riffs and ideas were thrown around, songs that were lost in the shuffle over the years, songs that were left unfinished. Like a musical retrospective, we were going through decades of songs no one has ever heard, pieces left on the cutting room floor from every album. Our own sonic scrapbook. (The Neverending Sigh is 20 years old! Was once called 7 corners for all you die hards out there...) Without the usual pressure or expectation of making an “album”, we sat happy and relaxed as we played. A virtual “This Is Your Life” of the Foo Fighters. It was so good, but again, bittersweet knowing that it was all soon coming to an end.
By midnight, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band had arrived, and the “session” turned into a full on party. Guitars were abandoned for horns and the room started swinging (spinning?). People danced between the cables and microphones, dancing behind the bar, strumming acoustic guitars on the patio. Danny Clinch did what Danny Clinch does, capturing the moments in his beautiful pictures between cocktails. Gary Clark Jr. sat on the patio in the candlelight, jamming along with friends from a couch. As the hours passed, the atmosphere had reached exactly what every recording experience should be: A celebration. “Always record! Always record!” said Jack Black in that infamous Tenacious D episode from years ago. Truer words have never been spoken. Because you just might miss something that you’ll never get back again. Moments that happen once in a lifetime. By the time that weekend was over, we had recorded 5 songs in that tiny room.
Weekend two was spent recording vocals and guitars in my bedroom, room 4. More friends, more margaritas, a fire in the fire pit. The most fabulous Cambria Harkey floated in, slinging her camera to insure that this wasn’t all just a dream. The porch was buzzing with activity as I did vocals in my bathroom, stepping in and out to listen to the previous takes. The coffee table became a pile of guitar pedals and scribbled lyrics, beer bottles and ashtrays. At one point, a familiar face walked in and said, “Dave.....it’s Ben Kweller.....” It had been years! Such a talented young man. We hugged, hit play to listen to the last vocal take, and he instinctively started singing the perfect harmony to my line. Without hesitation, I immediately said, “Get your ass in there and sing it right now.” So he picked up the coffee stained piece of hotel stationary with my lyrics penciled on it and banged out his part in two glorious takes. Always record, ladies and gentlemen. Always record. The night faded, friends and family scattered, and I fell asleep with my still glowing amp at the foot of my bed.
It was heartbreaking to leave that place, to say the least. I honestly feel like we left a piece of our band there as we were being torn away from it. The perfect unity of life, and love, and music is something that only comes around so often and in certain circumstances. When you feel it coming on, you have to take hold of it. That place and those people made it possible for our band to take one, big final breath before the curtain closes. Thankfully, we have evidence of this in these songs that we’re giving to you today. Thank you, Saint Cecilia. You made us feel right at home.
And, the music? Maybe these songs are the breadcrumbs that will help us find our way back when it’s time. We could use a nice wander through the woods right about now. Another empty journal, another tap on the shoulder...those things are never far behind. It’s what lies ahead in those woods that excites me now....
So tonight, as I sit in my Berlin hotel room on our final tour for this album, counting down the days until we return home, I can’t help but wonder when we will see each other again. Who knows? But, with everything Foo Fighter related, it will only be when it feels right. And that’s a feeling that’s easy to feel.
To each and every one of you that made the past few years the best our band has ever had, thank you. You have all given us so much, and we are eternally grateful.
One foot in front of the other....
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