The 9th Annual Craft Lake City DIY Festival®, in its second three-day incarnation, takes place at the Gallivan Center on Friday, Aug. 11, from 5–10 p.m.; Saturday, Aug. 12, from 12–10 p.m.; and Sunday, Aug. 13, from 12–7 p.m. The festival continues its celebration of local makers, builders and dreamers, and Craft Lake City’s mission to elevate Utah’s creative culture through science, technology and art resonates with SLUG Magazine. You can view the full list of participants and other festival details on craftlakecity.com. Meanwhile, we continue our conversation with performers, craft foodies, DIY engineers, artisans and vintage vendors in the vignettes that follow.
For those of us that are stuck in the daily routines of working for the man, it’s time to lift our heads, take a sigh of relief, and break from that ball and chain. The Compliance Tour, featuring Australian-based SNOG and their support The Labrynth, will revive your passion for life more than a 15-minute break or 30-minute lunch as it stops at Area 51 on Wednesday, April 6. It is a night to skip those meds Big Pharma has you hooked on and come get a dose of music instead. Say no to the urge to impulse buy and defy the advertisements for just a few hours and rebel from what the government expects from you. SLUG had the opportunity to communicate about anti-consumerism with SNOG frontman David Thrussell, revealing what inspired his in-your-face musical project, and ideas on other conspiracy theories.
SLUG: What inspired you to get into creating music?
David Thrussell: Life. It’s hard to answer more succinctly. I guess in retrospect I had some things to say. Still do. I’ve taken a lot of inspiration from music in life and felt that I should give back. Also, at its best, music (and art, literature, etc.) can be a kind of underground communications medium. There are many great ideas “hidden” in music/art.
SLUG: What music do you listen to when you are not creating it?
Thrussell: A wide range of things I guess, but certainly a lot of hillbilly music and European avant-garde music of the ’60s/’70s. Perhaps an odd combination for some, but it works for me.
SLUG: What current projects are you working on?
Thrussell: Well, things have been busy. There is a new SNOG album obviously, and three new Black Lung albums in the last 18 months (including a German Top Ten album). Also, just put out an LP of delirious hillbilly tunes called Hillbillies In Hell and am working on an LP of private press JFK assassination songs.
SLUG: Do you still have your country music label?
Thrussell: Yes, we have been busy doing odd things and also reissuing avant-garde Italian library music from the ’70s.
SLUG: Was there a specific event that triggered your thoughts on consumerism?
Thrussell: Not sure. Possibly, but I can’t recall what it is. The creeping malaise of consumerism has certainly distressed me a great deal.
SLUG: In 1998 you referred to the U.S. as “Satan” in an interview. Do you think the consumerism and capitalism here has changed at all in the last in two decades?
Thrussell: The entire population of the Western world appears to be trapped like the fly in the spider’s web. Mesmerized and brutalised into compliance silence.
SLUG: What are your thoughts on Marxism or a socialist type of community?
Thrussell: Marxism appears to be a useful analysis of capitalism to a point. But I’m not a Marxist myself; I’m too suspicious of bureaucracies and the dependence/compliance loop created by the welfare state and centralisation. Historically, centralisation does seem to lead to totalitarianism sooner or later. Paradoxically, where we come from (Australia) I think most people favour some type of simple socialism, yet we seem to live in a bizarre hybrid society—a muted, bleak socialism for some and a hyper-ventilating hyper-capitalism for others.
SLUG: What inspired you to create “The Plastic Wars?”
Thrussell: A number of things. One of which was reading years ago about pseudo-estrogens and what they were doing to the gender of frogs.
SLUG: How did you meet Pieter Bourke?
Thrussell: I used to go see his first band (Eden) a lot and we became friends. And then his house burnt down one night and at 4 a.m. that morning we became housemates.
SLUG: Do you direct your own videos?
Thrussell: Sometimes, but not always. It’s a time consume ring activity.
SLUG: Has your work ever been censored?
Thrussell: Yes, quite a few times in various ways/places. You get used to it.
SLUG: What is your favorite cocktail?
Thrussell: Don’t really drink any more, but it used to be a Japanese Slipper.
SLUG: Do you like to surf?
Thrussell: Never done it.
SLUG: Do you believe in UFO’s and extraterrestrial life?
Thrussell: Yes and no. It’s a big topic.
SLUG: What is on the horizon for SNOG?
Thrussell: Salt Lake City!
Rich Wilson is a name you might have heard in various bars and comedy clubs in Utah. He’s a guy who mostly hangs out in the shadows, does his five minutes of stage time and doesn’t get into fights with hecklers. However, hidden in that quietly humble façade is a comedic talent bursting at the seams in multiple formats and outlets. If you haven’t caught a glimpse of the Aussie born Utah transplant, you should get to know him by the fruits of his labor: his brilliant and hilarious local YouTube phenomenon, Comedians in Cars Eating Vegemite. After a pretty low-key open mic night in the heart of Downtown Salt Lake, Wilson took a few minutes to chat about what really goes on inside the mind of a creative.
Wilson’s story starts during his teenage years, when his family moved to Utah from the suburbs of Sydney, Australia. You can still hear little clues of where he’s from in his speech, but Wilson now claims Utah as his home. “I can’t really claim that I’m from Australia, since I’ve lost my accent,” he says. As an adult, he moved to Bountiful, got married, had kids and settled down. He didn’t have much culture shock in Utah, and coming from an entirely different country had its ups and downs. “The accent really buys you a lot of friends, but it gets you friends you don’t really want,” he says. “A lot of girls like you for just superficial reasons, like he’s got an accent’, but they quickly find out that you’re just a nerdy kid who likes Star Wars and skateboarding, and they quickly leave.”
He entered into the comedy world about five years ago, when he went looking for something new to try. “When I turned 30,” he says, “I tried a Wiseguys open mic for the first time, and I did really bad, but it kind of planted a little seed. It really felt like that scene, that crowd, those kinds of people, were really where I felt comfortable. I felt like I wanted to be in that environment.” At the time, he needed a new creative outlet, something that would provide more instant gratification. “I live in the Davis County suburbs,” he says. “Everyone’s got their houses; everyone reads Pottery Barn catalogs, has granite counter tops and stainless steel—It’s all about that kind of lifestyle, which is fun for a little bit, but I just need a creative outlet.” He felt liberated by the comedy community at large, and has no intention of ever making this a full-time paid gig. “You just kind of have that need,” he says.
Once involved in the comedy scene, Wilson decided to use his outlet to bring even more of a creative element to the table on the side. “I originally wanted to start a podcast just interviewing comedians in town, but so many people have podcasts,” he says. “But also, I’m not very good one-on-one with people.” He decided to make it a short YouTube show instead, kind of in the vein of Jerry Seinfeld‘s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, but with an added Australian element: the staple spread, Vegemite. His main goal was to pull comedians out of their comfort zones. “Since they are all naturally funny people, you’ll get funny responses and reactions from eating Vegemite, plus a fun conversation to go along with it,” he says. It’s a simple concept—“I’m gonna drive around in my car, eating Vegemite, and I’ll film you,” he says—with results that are mixed but never dull. At first, Wilson just recruited comedians who were at the open mic nights. The plan involved Wilson driving, with the camera fixed on the guest comedian. Local comedian Alex Velluto was the first participant along with Jordan Makin. Wilson figured it would be a better show with a better story if he just let the two comedians drive the conversation and banter together. He then edited the completely unscripted footage and added visuals and music.
Last October, I had the pleasure of reviewing PWR BTTM’s most recent album, Ugly Cherries. I was entranced by the New York band’s ability to create a sonically complex sound with only two members—vocalist/guitarist Ben Hopkins and vocalist/drummer Liv Bruce—and their dedication to addressing queerness and gender identity with absolute frankness and a certain amount of humor. I have kept my eyes on them ever since. Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with Hopkins about BDSM Magazines, drag queens, certain concerning mentalities in Alabama and bitchy cats, among many other things. And here I stand, much better for wear.
SLUG: What was the first moment that music meant something to you?
Hopkins: My first memory with music was sitting in a car seat listening to “Walkin’ After Midnight” by Patsy Cline and thinking it was the most beautiful sound I had ever heard. I will always think of that song in the most dramatic way.
And, I saw The Blues Brothers (1980) when I was six. I remember being like, “Is that what it means to be in a band”’—it’s funny and it’s a band and it’s cool and they travel around and do all this crazy shit. They break out of jail, Ray Charles shows up, Aretha Franklin—holy shit! What a good time! It has the best car-chase scene in any movie. They pile up like 50 cop cars. It’s just amazing. Yeah, The Blues Brothers really opened it up for me.
SLUG: How did you and drummer Liv Bruce meet?
Hopkins: Liv and I met in college. One day they just walked into my house, the first weekend of my sophomore year of college. I was standing there drinking a beer, and they thought I was having a party. They took some BDSM magazines that I had found in a dumpster and asked if they could have them. I said they could have one, and then they left. We’ve had a very similar relationship ever since.
SLUG: How did PWR BTTM get started?
Hopkins: We didn’t start playing music until the second semester of my senior year at Bard College, which was like two years ago. There was a queer music showcase that was supposed to be happening at Bard’s, and Liv was like, “Oh yeah, I want to start a band for that,” and someone told Liv to ask me. Even though I didn’t really know how to play guitar, I used to tell everyone that I did, then Liv asked me to be in the band, I taught myself how to play guitar, we wrote some songs and started PWR BTTM.
SLUG: Can you tell me a little about your local music scene? Favorite bands back home?
Hopkins: We came up in Upstate New York and lived around there. So we met a lot of our really good friends, like Diet Cig, who are another two-piece from Upstate New York. The scene at Bard’s is amazing because there are two student DIY spaces there where bands would come through and play. I saw the band Porches like 10 times in college—it was amazing. But then, in New York City, our scene there is the DIY scene that we’ve moved more and more into since last year.
In terms of the bands from New York, all the members of The Epoch are incredible, T-Rextasy—their record [Jurassic Punk] is gonna make everyone shit themselves because it’s so fucking fantastic—and Attic Abasement from Rochester, New York. Because we travel so much, now it’s kind of like our scene is on the road. I feel like all my favorite bands are from all over the country. The scene is our fucking mini-van.
SLUG: You are currently touring in support of your recent release, Ugly Cherries, and even stopped into SXSW. What has been your most eye opening experience on tour thus far?
Hopkins: Touring everyday is a crazy privilege. But there are a lot of really crappy geographical biases in the world, like, “No one listens to PWR BTTM in Alabama.” Listen, queer people [listen to PWR BTTM], straight people listen to PWR BTTM, people listen to PWR BTTM. But the people often [make] is “There are no queer people in Alabama.” So it’s amazing for us to play in Alabama. When you’re queer, you are instantly a part of a community just by virtue of existing in this way publicly. There are queer people in every single city in every country on earth. So don’t be a dick, people—just [know] there are queer people everywhere. If you want an eye-opening experience, that’s what it was.
Tucked in on the corner of 1300 S. and 900 E., Albatross Recordings & Ephemera announces itself in a mid-Century style font across the glass door of its brand-new location. Inside, the shop’s owner and sole collector, Timo Hatziathanasiou (who’s also a SLUG contributing writer) can likely be found listening to one of his many idiosyncratic records and casually chatting with local patrons. “I’ve been excited to see the reactions people are having to the new place,” says Hatziathanasiou. “I’m happy with how it’s turned out so far.”
The new spot marks the third—and likely permanent—transition for Albatross after a six-month stint with Diabolical Records in 2014 and a 14-month stay at the recently departed 9th and 9th building. Now, as Hatziathanasiou settles in at the cusp of Downtown, Sugarhouse and South Salt Lake, he’s optimistic at the chance to interact more with the creative community.
In only a few short years, Hatziathanasiou has earned a local reputation (such as “Best Eccentric Nostalgia” by City Weekly) for his assemblage of offbeat recordings and strange but alluring pieces of art. “People have described the selections as more niche, but I don’t really know how to describe it,” says Hatziathanasiou. “I think that the initial idea for starting this was just [my] wanting to be surrounded by all the things I like in one place … If I were to go into a store, what would I want to see?”
Though stated fairly simply, the result of Hatziathanasiou’s intuition has created a kaleidoscope of artistic commodities that wouldn’t likely be sold together in another shop. In part, this could have something to do with his growing up in a diverse musical background among family and friends. “I got into it pretty early,” he says. “My uncle owned [Sound Off Records] at one point, so I was around them and … in my dad’s case, it was Greek rebetika; in my mom’s case, it was jazz fusion … and my older cousins were all over with early ‘90s alt-rock or whatever else they had sitting around. If I was over at a friend’s house, I would usually pick something up [from them] and listen to it later.”
Though Hatziathanasiou has been on the lookout for new piques of interest for most of his life, his personal library shrunk significantly after moving to Queens, New York, for school in 2003, and he had sold most of his collection before his return to Salt Lake City in 2010. When he decided to start up Albatross a few years later, he had to start a new collection almost entirely from scratch. “It was kind of cool starting again … [however,] it’s frustrating to see how some things that had been easier to find or affordable are pretty much out of range for a lot of people nowadays. For example, when I was back East, I was able to get Prince’s Sign o’ the Times on the sidewalk.”
Despite recent changes in the market, the rising interest in analog music reception has proven to be a positive movement for Hatziathanasiou as more people share his preference for vinyl. Though he believes that personal listening styles are completely subjective, his personal love for the medium is rooted in the form’s physicality. “There’s a tactile quality to vinyl: The larger jacket, it’s like opening a present every time. It’s something you can hold and feel and touch,” he says. “Just working with the machines is a pleasant experience. It can be tedious to dial something in. It takes a little patience to get everything in the right place, but once it’s done, it’s worth it.”
In the new location, you can hear this conviction for yourself as Hatziathanasiou’s impressive setup sends waves across the store. Now that all of the materials are on the same level, as opposed to the 9th and 9th location arrangement, patrons are free to ask questions directly about music suggestions, new material or just shoot the shit while they’re browsing. The goal of Albatross is both to offer a comfortable space and to encourage any music listener’s desire for finding new treasures. “The back room is all the $5 and under, and that seems to lead to the most discovery,” says Hatziathanasiou. “A lot of the time, there’s more excitement when you come across something that you didn’t know you were looking for.”
If this is the kind of experience you are seeking, then Albatross offers plenty of opportunities. Though music is the main focus of the shop, Hatziathanasiou also holds ephemera such as books, zines, pins, figurines, paintings and other collectibles that reflect the personality of their finder. Oftentimes, these are pieces that are purchased directly from the artists themselves, and Albatross can be a great way for locals to become involved as well. “I’m always open to people bringing their stuff in,” he says. “I’ve got some good art from those who relate to the store in some way and decide to bring their own works in.”
In spirit, Albatross models itself similarly to other community-centered businesses that thrive in environments where people participate and share interests with one another. If you’re in the area or just want a break from the digital music world, stop by and visit. You’ll surely find something you never knew existed.
The SLUG Localized concert series is back in the hip-hop game with yet another joint at Urban Lounge, and it promises to be lit. The April 21 show will take place at 8 p.m., featuring headliners Swell Merchants and supported by VilleAge veteran Cig Burna and Poet. The show is free of charge, thanks to our sponsors at KRCL 90.9 FM, Split Ink SLC and the Uinta Brewing Company.
West Valley’s own Cig Burna, of the group VilleAge, will bless the Localized stage for the first time on April 21 at Urban Lounge. Although this is Cig’s first time rapping for SLUG’s Localized platform, he is no stranger to spitting rhymes at Urban Lounge, having opened for Mobb Deep and performed at several different shows over the years. Recognition has come slowly, but it seems to be picking up with the Aug. 2015 release of Cig’s second album, Devil’s Food.
If you are a fan of Utah rap music and you haven’t heard of VilleAge, you need to stop pressing the snooze button. VilleAge consists of Cig Burna, Lefty 2 Guns, producer Brisk One (also known as Brisk or BriskOner) and the recently departed Yung Rip. Brisk has produced beats for underground Utah acts to industry giants like KRS-One. His studio, affectionately named Ghost Recon, is a shrine of hip-hop that contains every ingredient needed to create good music: mixing boards, microphones, a booth, hip-hop comics and baseball cards, concert flyers and tons of vinyl. It’s like a hip-hop museum—just the place you’d think would manufacture Cig’s classic hip-hop sound with a Wasatch twist.
Sonically, it’s hard to put a label on Cig Burna, Brisk and the VilleAge camp because of BriskOne’s versatility. “If I could say anything, it’s across the board,” says Cig. “When I say that, I mean like, what do you want? Do you want some classic shit, or some straight hip-hop shit? Do you want some R&B music, do you want some salsa music, or do you want some off-the-wall commercial weirdness? That’s the dopest thing about Brisk being a tastemaker—he can produce anything. We can [easily] go from making a hard trap song or a drill song to making some straight hip-hop to making something that’s R&B-ish.”
Influences from the West Coast, East Coast and the dirty South have seeped into the consciousness of contemporary artists, so categorizing a sound that’s not from places like New York, Los Angeles or Atlanta becomes difficult because the borders of hip-hop have been taken down with the advent of the Internet and increased accessibility to hardware and music programs. Cig Burna and BriskOne are taking on the arduous task of creating a sound for the Valley while still staying true themselves. “We’ve never been competing with locals,” says Cig. “Not saying we are better—I don’t wanna compete with my home team. I wanna compete with those people out there in the world who don’t know about us.”
Lyrically, Cig Burna’s qualities are apparent. “He’s just a natural writer, a natural wordsmith,” Brisk says, “but it’s not so much being a natural writer. There are a lot of people who are natural writers and are able to put words together and rap. I think it’s his life experience that gives the music an authenticity—it’s not contrived.”
You would think that there would be a specific formula or ritual to making music by the second album, but the songs are created organically in sessions between three friends who enjoy making music in each other’s company. (You can’t forget crew member Asian Steve, the manager, promoter and documenter who lent his voice on Track 8 on Devil’s Food.)
So what qualities does it take to be invited to Ghost Recon? According to Brisk, poignant lyrics, meaningful choruses and vivid stories are key tools in a rapper’s toolbox—being able to write material quickly helps as well. Even then, breaking big in the music industry is not an easy task, but Cig Burna is making headway. The title track off of Devil’s Food has been played on U92, something that is uncommon for Utah rap acts. “It feels good to have my music out there in the world,” says Cig, when talking about hearing his songs on platforms like Microsoft music, Sirius XM and broadcast radio, “but at the same time, I paid my dues for it to be there.”
Now that they’ve gotten the Beehive buzzing, Cig’s next move is to make more money to invest in collabs and larger venues and shows. “Our next step is major radio play besides just a few radio spins here and there,” Cig says.
No matter how hardcore or independent a musician is, they are still artists, and artistry inherently requires support. For entertainers to come out of Utah, we have to support local talent—unless you want to wait for a TV show to do it for us again. Come support Utah hip-hop at Urban Lounge.
Owned and managed by New York natives, spouses Pam Lancaster and Michael Maccarrone, and established at the end of 2015, Sound & Vision Vinyl is the gem you may not have heard of and, after visiting, won’t forget. During my visit, I was treated to a typical day at the office: interacting with the frequent stream of curious and knowing customers, listening to passionate conversations about the best pizza place in New York (unequivocally, Little Vincent’s Pizza), and discovering (through hearsay, of course) the former pleasures of peeing in the halls of CBGB. With Lancaster in Holland mining for vinyl gold, Maccarrone took me aside, sat me on a Union Jack upholstered couch, and told me everything there is to know about his Sound & Vision.
SLUG: What brought you to Utah?
Maccarrone: Pam. I met Pam in a punk rock bar in 1980. [She] was MTV’s head of fashion and makeup from about ’85–’91. She did [David] Bowie’s makeup, Siouxsie’s, Blondie’s, Guns N’ Roses’. We never dated or anything, [but] every night I would kiss her “hello” at the bar. One night, the kiss lasted for about 40 seconds, and we both just kinda looked at each other. … Pam took a leave of absence from MTV—with her boyfriend at that time—to open a business [in Salt Lake]. … Flash-forward: [We] reconnected … She came out to visit me and we knew we were supposed to be together. [Eventually,] I came [to Utah] and fell in love with [Salt Lake]. We were able to open up the store about six months ago.
SLUG: What led you to open Sound & Vision Vinyl?
Maccarrone: I’m a record collector, and this is what I know and love. I started working in record stores when I was 16. I used to leave school at 11 o’clock in the morning go to open up the store. It was great. I’ve been trying to open up a record store since [then], and was never able to—but we’ve been fortunate. Pam handles the business end, and I work as the manager. I think opening this store, in this time of my life, is perfect. If I had had Sound & Vision at a younger age, I don’t think I would have had [enough] knowledge.
SLUG: What was your earliest experience with music?
Maccarrone: The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show, Feb. 9, 1964. I remember watching it with my mom and dad. I sat there [thinking,] “This is cool! These guys are having fun! I think I want to be a Beatle.” My father had about 150 45s, and I remember sitting in the house [listening to] doo-wop from the ’50s—Eddie Cochran, Buddy Holly.
SLUG: I heard you have a story about The Cure staying at your buddy’s house?
Maccarrone: A friend of mine, Greg. Greg made bootleg silk-screen T-shirts. He went and saw The Cure playing in a small bar, about ’81 or ’82. He made them a shirt, and they said, “This is fucking cool, dude! Come hang out with us.” [Greg] had a horror movie video collection of like 400 films, and Robert Smith was a huge horror movie fanatic. Greg brought them back to his house, and they were there for three days [watching movies]. Finally Greg was like, “I got a job; I got a life. Get the fuck out!” and threw them out of the house.
SLUG: Why are records coming back into the public’s eye?
Maccarrone: Records have come back because anyone born after 1980 was born with CDs and downloads. They never had the experiences we had with records. Kids are starting to discover [that] there is nothing like the experience of vinyl. The only reason [vinyl] stopped [being made] is because the record companies wanted to sell CDs, and they forced it upon the public. When you put a record on a turntable, it’s an experience. Vinyl should have never left, and I’m glad that it’s back.
SLUG: What is Sound & Vision adding to the local record scene?
Maccarrone: What I want to create here is a home away from home, a place to really enjoy music—to be able to come in and have the availability of new and classic stuff, but also to have someone who has got stories and knowledge and makes you feel welcome. It’s not just a record store. It’s like having that house that everybody wants to hang out at. That’s what [Sound & Vision] is about.
With Record Store Day plans still in the works, Michael is looking forward to the growth of Sound & Vision, along with all the new faces he hopes to see. Before I left, I was treated to a listening of a rare bootleg cover of The Beatles’ “Penny Lane” by David Bowie—pleasures previously unknown and now insurmountable.
Sound & Vision Vinyl is located on 3444 S. Main St. and online at soundandvisionvinyl.com.
Photo: Sandy Carson
Scott H. Biram is simply unstoppable. If I believed in a god, I would wholeheartedly believe that he put Scott H. Biram on this earth to be the dirty-ol’ one-man band that he is and to be playing the disorderly blues and country music that he creates so well. If you’re not familiar with Biram, he is a roots musician who forwent a backing band, choosing instead to rely on his guitar prowess and supply his own percussion by pounding his foot on a homemade pedal board. He’s the singer-songwriter from Hell that wouldn’t be caught dead at a coffeehouse on open-mic night, but he will be taking his live performance to Metro Bar on April 23.
SLUG: What was your music career like before you decided to be a one-man band?
Scott H. Biram: Growing up in Texas, every kid learns to play blues guitar. I was in all sorts of punk and metal bands, and even a psychedelic metal band for a while called The Things. When I hit my early 20s, I rediscovered Doc Watson and bluegrass music and started playing in bluegrass bands, and that’s when I first started touring. Then all the bands I was playing in broke up, but I wanted to keep touring and playing. I had dabbled with playing solo before, but I knew I didn’t want to do the coffeehouses. I wanted to get into the rock clubs, so I started experimenting with different speakers and stomping my foot on shit, and that just kind of turned into the one-man band.
SLUG: Was there anyone else you knew of doing a one-man band?
Biram: I knew of other guys that had done it, like Bob Log III and Hasil Adkins, but I wouldn’t necessarily say they were big influences. I was more influenced by blues players like Lightnin’ Hopkins and guys that would play like they were playing out on the porch, and once I started drawing good crowds and I didn’t have to split the money with anybody, it just seemed like the smart way to do it.
SLUG: Is it hard to be out onstage alone every night?
Biram: My crew is like my band, so if I can make eye contact with my sound guy or my merch guy, then it’s like we can laugh about something I said or some story I told, but I still think about putting a whole band together. My sound guy is a great drummer, so maybe, one day, we’ll put together a trio, but I’m so busy, I just can’t put the time into doing it.
SLUG: You are able to combine so many genres in your music. Is that intentional?
Biram: I was an art major in college, and what I mostly did was collages, and that’s how I think of my records. I try to fit everything I can by combining blues, country, Americana, and even punk and metal—so it’s just me putting myself out there, and that’s all part of my musical makeup, so that’s just what I naturally put out.
SLUG: What has your experience been with Bloodshot Records?
Biram: They’ve been great and have brought a ton fans, and it’s been great to work with them. It’s funny because I like to think I was a turning point for them because, before me, they only had alt-country and Americana artists, and here I am: the foul-mouth, black-sheep blues rocker. After me, they started signing some other rock bands, so I think I’ve influenced them a little. I remember stopping in at the label before I got signed, and I saw on their website, they said, “We don’t sign metal bands, and you’re not the exception,” so I went in there and handed Robbie (the owner) my tape and said, “Hey, I heard you don’t sign metal bands, but I’m the exception,” and they called me a few days later.
SLUG: Who’s the typical Scott H. Biram fan?
Biram: Generally, I hear from people that I helped them get through a breakup [laughs]. I don’t know. I play a lot of songs in minor key and a lot of murder ballads, so maybe it’s that. I get the good-ol’ boys in the trucker hats, I get the blues connoisseurs who were seeing all my heroes in the ’60s and then all kinds of people in between, so I can’t say why they are into what I do, but I’m happy that they are there.
Any fan of music has seen bands and different acts live, but I can guarantee that you haven’t seen anything like Scott H. Biram. The intensity, the sorrow and even the joy that he can control a room with are things that few can even come close to. Biram will be playing the Metro Bar on April 23 with Supersuckers and Jesse Dayton.
Photos: John Barkiple
For most of the music industry, the idea of cassette tape production is outdated and antiquated. Many artists these days seem hesitant to even release hard copies of albums at all, preferring to sell downloads on iTunes, Bandcamp or music-streaming services. We have entered an era where music has become almost completely virtual: growing, blooming and dying solely online. However, for Jack Murphey and Eric Delgado of Luxury Sky District, the art of the cassette tape is not dead, but something that should be celebrated.
Luxury Sky District began in August 2015 as the brainchild of Murphey, a local Salt Lake City musician and lover of the electronic music genre vaporwave. Originating online in early 2010, vaporwave music uses slowed, deconstructed 1980s synth sounds and samples, combined with modern drumbeats and bass. Although it has been slow to gain popularity, there has been more and more interest in the vaporwave genre and aesthetic in the past year. Commenting on how vaporwave music has changed as of late, Murphey says, “I’ve noticed it start to step away from the computer screen, which is good, because it’s almost been entirely virtual until now.”
According to Murphey, vaporwave music as a whole “has a sense of nostalgia, but still has a sense of the present,” which mirrors the unique way that LSDistrict is releasing music today. Every single artist’s work that LSDistrict releases is available on a handmade cassette, which Murphey and Delgado record and mix. Unlike digital music, which can be copied in a matter of seconds, the cassette production done by LSDistrict is done in real time. “We record our tapes one by one,” Delgado says. “Say we do a release and we have to do 50 cassettes: That’s 50 hours that we have to spend recording.”
Although the release of cassette tapes is laborious and time-consuming, Murphey says that it is worth the effort. “Tapes are a lot more personal than CDs,” he says, “and [they] appeal to a wide range of audiences.” From older music listeners who feel a certain nostalgia for cassettes to younger people looking to purchase something that is more gratifying than a download, the formatting of tapes does not seem to be thought of as “old.” Rather, they treasure the process of creating tapes—taking the time to record a tape, choosing the color scheme and making cover art. Murphey and Delgado work hard to create original Vaporwave-style cover art, including old-school 3D imagery, bright neon colors and Japanese Kanji lettering, bringing back the idea that people are paying for something that is tangible. Like painters and other artists, Murphey and Delgado are able to shape their vision through their own unique medium.
For Murphey, the goal for LSDistrict is to produce higher-quality tapes for lesser known artists and to give back to independent producers who would not usually make much money or be recognized. “I wanted to create an atmosphere where I could help people get their music out, aside from just on their computer,” he says. “I wanted to help them get a physical copy of their goods.” To Murphey and Delgado, the work does not go unnoticed. “Some of the messages I’ve gotten back about how it’s made people feel is heartwarming,” says Murphey. “The stuff people will write you makes it worth it. “
Although LSDistrict is based in Salt Lake City, most of the actual orders placed and artists featured on the label are from other countries. “I have hundreds of followers from all over the globe,” Murphey says. “I’ve shipped to Japan; I’ve shipped to Ukraine, to Brazil, Australia. I think the only two continents I’ve never hit are Africa and Antarctica.”
As far as doing local shows and featuring local artists, LSDistrict is moving forward—cautiously. Currently, there are only two other local musicians other than Murphey and Delgado that are featured or signed to LSDistrict. When asked if he would ever do a show as his musical alias, Wolf Smoothie, Delgado says, “We’re still trying to figure out how people would react to it, because it’s such a new genre. Here in Salt Lake City, we would have to feel it out and see if there would be an audience.”
Wolf Smoothie most definitely stands out within the typical electronic music scene. “When I joined LSDistrict, I felt like it was a good way to do my own thing,” Delgado says. “I’ve been producing music for seven years now, and I’ve always tried to get into these cliques. It’s been hard to meet people who have similar interests to what I want to do.” Collaborations are on the way with more artists in the local Salt Lake area, but both Delgado and Murphey seem content with doing their own thing and paving their own way for the time being. “In Salt Lake, everybody tries to stay in one little box,” Delgado says. Luxury Sky District, however, is breaking down those boxes, one tape at a time.
To listen to LSDistrict’s releases, visit lsdistrict.bandcamp.com.
One wouldn’t expect a blog that highlights women motorcycle riders to be called The Flying Frenchman, but this is something that founder Michelle Boucher is completely comfortable with. Her site, ffmotolife.com, is so named after her grandfather, Butch Boucher, who raced jalopies and was given the nickname by his peers. She says that his example of living without fear lends well to her mission, which is to represent women riders in a positive and empowering way. She created her blog a little over a year ago as an avenue to highlight the fact that—contrary to what old-school motorcycle magazines tell us with their endless photos of scantily clad women hanging off of gleaming bikes—women like to ride motorcycles. “I just kind of got tired of women being portrayed that way,” says Boucher, “because there are women like me who actually ride—and I don’t ride in a bikini, and I don’t ride in high heels.”
Boucher acknowledges that some people enjoy those types of photos, and she doesn’t seek to change anyone else’s behavior. She wants to promote the fact that women can ride motorcycles and that there are more today than ever before. “The women’s motorcycle market is the fastest-growing demographic within the motorcycle community, and I just felt like there needed to be something to support women,” says Boucher. Her frustration eventually turned to action, and she decided to create FFMoto. She had seen other women riders like her on social media—some outside of Salt Lake City—and decided to reach out to them. “I just started to focus on contacting women via Instagram and collecting their stories, finding women artists that are within the community—whether they paint tanks or they do leather craft—or even men that portray women that ride in a positive light,” she says.
With an influx of new riders, motorcycle culture has undergone many changes in the past few years. Boucher acknowledges that some people are hesitant to accept new female riders. “There’s been quite a bit of hate or degradation towards women that ride,” says Boucher. “Men usually never really have to deal with that. They say things like either we’re not smart enough or not strong enough to handle a motorcycle—or it’s just a trend.” The reality is that there are likely more women riders than in the past. Boucher is not the only woman seeking to encourage women who own and ride motorcycles. Local motorcycle collective The Litas was founded in Salt Lake City and has since spread worldwide with groups in 12 countries and 55 cities. One of Boucher’s personal contributions to the movement is dedicating a section of her website to showcasing individual women riders and highlighting the many diverse stories and backgrounds of women motorcyclists in Utah and beyond. For instance, Boucher featured local rider Felicia Baca. Readers might have seen Baca playing bass for local band Color Animal, but might be unaware that she rides a black Bonneville and has been riding for 12 years. Also featured was local Riley Ridd, who rode countless miles through the Baja California Peninsula and can be seen riding locally on her Enduro adventure bike.
In addition to running her website, Boucher works as a wardrobe stylist in the fashion and movie industries. Her studio is filled with fascinating handmade outfits and costumes, including medieval knight’s armor and what looks like something that Edward Scissorhand’s girlfriend might wear on a night out. “I’ve been doing styling and custom design for about 12 years, and I still do it on occasion—I’m just really choosy with what I do,” says Boucher. She started FFMoto with the intention of designing riding apparel especially for women, though she has put that on the backburner for the time being—more than one to-be-continued, motorcycle-inspired piece, however, can be espied on mannequins in her studio, which is located near Publik Coffee Roasters.
Boucher first started riding after traveling in 2007 with her husband, Andrew Carruthers, to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota, a large annual gathering of motorcyclists with an average attendee count of over 500,000 people. “We were cruising through the middle of nowhere in Wyoming, and Andrew leaned forward to stretch his back,” says Boucher. “The wind just hit me in the chest, and I smiled. I was screaming in my helmet, ‘This is what you get to feel?!’ Being in Sturgis, you’re surrounded by bikes everywhere—[with] men and women [riders]. That was when I was like, ‘OK, next year, by April, I will have a motorcycle.’”
Boucher recommends that women who are interested in riding explore safety and education courses available through Harley-Davidson, as well as the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF). She is a staunch believer in wearing a full-face helmet and gear, which, she declares, allows for more time to enjoy motorcycles. “A lot of motorcycling is freedom,” says Boucher. “A lot of it is because [riders] can. Some of it’s for a cause. Some of it’s finding strength because they just came out of turmoil and this was a way to kind of add strength to their lives. It’s all very different, but the common thread is the motorcycle—it’s the two wheels that are binding us all together and connecting us.”