Logo

My buddy and all around design genius Mike Johnson, put this logo together for H for Hombre.

My band and my website have a logo. Now, I just need something to put on my cape.

The show’s next Friday at the Elbo Room, we go on at midnight.  Hopefully the cops will let us finish this one.

Bending Steel and Ripping Phonebooks: An Interview with Josh Hanagarne World’s Strongest Librarian (Part 2 of 2)

In this second part of my interview with Josh Hanagarne we talk about Josh’s Blog, bending steel and being in control of ones body.

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This is the second part of my interview with Josh Hanagarne.  The first, longer installment is available here. Josh talks about how he is not only able to live with Tourette’s but how “picking his own battle field”  has allowed him to flourish.

Living with Tourette’s Syndrome: An Interview with Josh Hanagarne World’s Strongest Librarian (Part 1 of 2)

Josh Hanagarne has a blog, bends steal, and works as a librarian, but most importantly (to me) Josh writes about all of these things in a passionate, simple, and immediate way.

I couldn’t wait to interview Josh there was way too much good material.  So, I broke the interview in to two sections by subject.  This podcast concerns living with Tourette’s Syndrome the second podcast concerns bending steal, band books, and Josh’s upcoming memoir.

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Notes: 1. I should mention that because of Josh’s Tourette’s you may hear a couple outburst during the podcast.  This is a tick and not something to worry you. 2. This interview was conducted over skype and the sound quality is poor, my apologies.

About Josh: Josh Hanagarne writes World’s Strongest Librarian, a blog with advice about coping with Tourette’s Syndrome, book recommendations, buying pants when you’re 6’8”, old-time strongman training, and so much more. Please subscribe to Josh’s RSS Update to stay in touch.

Is It Moral To Be a Football Fan?

A few years ago my cousin Alex decided to quit his high school football team and I was relieved.  I wanted him to pursue athletics, he is one of the few in the Brazeal family who had any talent for it, and I was proud of his success, but from the minute I knew he was putting on pads, I was always afraid of some terrible injury.

But, I love football.  I watch college and pro games every weekend during the season.  I could spend hours talking about minutia, analyzing the strategies, watching and re-watching slow motion highlight reels or big hits.

If I support football, but wouldn’t participate or want my loved ones involved in it, does that make me a hypocrite?  What about boxing, MMA or Nascar? Does being a fan make you a de facto supporter of dangerous sports?

I never played football.  I never went to a school with a team.  I don’t know that I would have played if I could of.  But, I always played on the playground.  One Thanksgiving I broke my jaw playing with the guys in the park.  It made for a tough winter but it certainly wasn’t life changing.

Dangerous sports never seriously affected the lives of people I love and I’d like to keep it that way.

This idea began to trouble my thoughts after my interview with Elias about the rules of MMA fighting.  When he said “we can’t suddenly pretend to be concerned with the safety of athletes.”  I felt the sting of that comment.  I am a fan of Football, Boxing and MMA.  I probably have a couple hundred discussions and arguments about each of them every year.  Few, if any, of those conversations are about the health and safety of the players.

If my money is supporting these sports, how responsible should I feel for the people involved?  Its often said that these men and women understand the risks involved in their sports when they undertake them.  I think this is more or less true.  Still, if there were not fans supporting these boxing there would not be a profession for young women to aspire to, if people didn’t pay attention to football young men couldn’t hope for the fame of being a football star.

What is the fan’s responsibility to the athletes she watches?

We regularly hear athletes thank fans for supporting them.  We are expected to support in good times and maybe in bad.  But should that be enough?  This is an idea that fascinates me and I would love to hear from you.  So please leave your thoughts in the comments, and if you feel passionately about this write me an email at Northandclark@gmail.com I might feature your guest post here.

Kicks to the Head of a Downed Opponent, Mixed Martial Arts and Rules for Pro-Fighters

In this interview Elias Cepeda argues that Mixed Martial Arts is unique in sport, because it more accurately simulates combat than any other form of fight sport.  For years, he argues, students of fighting styles like kickboxing, boxing, and jujitsu have competed only against other students in their own disciplines.  What is exciting about Mixed Martial Arts (from here on referred to as MMA) is seeing all of these styles tested in an environment where all are welcome to compete.  By taking out a lot of the rules MMA has made a more real, and Elias would argue better, fighting scenario.

But, even mixed martial arts has rules.  What rules are good rules? Elias argues that fighters should be allowed to strike each other with elbows anywhere, kick downed opponents and strikes to the groin among other things.

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This may sound like a fantastic series of claims, but Elias has well-considered arguments in support of each of them. I have my own opinion on this but, I’d ask you to listen to his interview and draw your own conclusions.

Elias Cepeda is a journalist for Inside Fighting and a friend of mine.  Elias has covered boxing and Mixed Martial arts for UFC.com, Fox Sports on MSN, and numerous other publications.

photo credit: MartialUniversity.org

Halloween Playlist (No Monster Mash)

1) Thriller – Michael Jackson

You will probably hear this song six times on Halloween.  Not because DJs can be lazy, because this is what you need to hear.  There is a reason this won best music video for years on end.  There’s a reason even children in rural Indonesia know this dance.  Its one of the greatest songs of all time and on Halloween it gets its due.

2) I Put A Spell on You – Screaming Jay Hawkins

While a fine musician, it’s rare that you get the chance to play Screaming Jay Hawkins at a party. There’s a reason for that too, but relish this chance.  I put a spell on you has been done by Nina Simone, Credence Clearwater Revival, and Better Midler, but the Hawkins version is the weirdest. On Halloween weirdest should win.

3) Run – Gnarles Barkley

This song is like being in a horror movie with a fantastic DJ.  There is something about songs with up, happy beats and scary words that always gets me.  Cee-lo’s voice is soaring and strange. He’s trained enough to have a killer range and command of songs and distinctive enough to immediately recognizable.  This might be my favorite song on this list and I still haven’t talked about the amazing organ lick yet.

4) Skeletons – Lifesavas

I always thought pastors and priests were the best at telling ghost stories.  They are invested in trying to scare you straight from the first time they talk to you.  So when lifsavas, a hip hop group with Christian themes say get your skeletons out of your closet or else, that or else carries the weight of the hell fires. It’s not just the children’s choir sample that makes this song freaky, or the weird half harpsichord half organ sounding beat. It’s the possibility of a Night on Bald Mountain style eternal damnation.

5) The Horror – RJD2

There are a lot of techno or hip hop producers that sample movies.  It’s the rare producer who can turn those samples into its own moody and gripping narrative.  RJD2 “The Horror” is spooky but more importantly its funky.

6) Psycho Killer – Talking Heads

This is another example of contrasting lyrics to melody and beat. There is no reason this song should be about a Psycho Killer.  If you didn’t speak English you wouldn’t know this song was about a murderer. The only thing you would have to clue you in would be that menacing baseline that starts the song out.

7) Sky is Falling – Blackalicious

You know what’s scary?  The Coming Apocolypse.  There are not enough hip hop songs about this.  Busta Rhymes and Blackalicious might have the market cornered on this topic, if so its in good hands.

8) Ghost of Steven Foster – Squirrel Nut Zippers

The vocal quality of this song is enough to give me the creeps.  Even when I am listening to this crooner take on love songs I can get spooked out.  I loved this song as a kid for its strange lyrics and spooky tune.  I still love it now and when I listen to it I can get sent back to that time.

9) Everyone’s Got em’ – White Ghost Shivers

Any White Ghost Shivers song could have gone on this list.  So I just picked my favorite. If you don’t know the Shivers you need to make a trip down to Austin and see them play, or join me in begging them to play in Chicago.

10) I Turned into a Martian – The Misfits

The obvious choice here would have been Halloween.  But I like I turned into a martian better.  It’s more like the kind of song I would have written when I was on a six grade sugar rush.  Sadly in the six grade I hadn’t yet formed a horror punk band.

11) Devil’s Pie – D’Angelo

If anyone is qualified to write about the fearsome nature of money success and fame its D’Angelo.  Here’s a man who could of had as much pie and cake as he could stomach and walked away from it. The world loved him for his song about the corrupting power of money and fame.  But after releasing the album that featured this song he stepped out of the spotlight.  “I ain’t going out for a slice of the Devil’s Pie”

12) Chase the Devil – Lee “Scratch” Perry

I might have said that preachers tell the best ghost stories but that’s not true.  Mad men tell the best ghost stories, and Lee Perry had to be at least a little crazy to invent scratching records and burn down his legendary recording studio.  But this song isn’t about being scared.  Its about getting that evil bastard once and for all.  “When I catch him my lance in hand/ And if him slip I’m gone with his hand.” How do you like that Devil? Shoe’s on the other foot.

Happy Halloween folks

My Band Finally Has a Gig Worth Talking About on the Internet!

Friday October 23 H for Hombre Will Play The Elbo Room

This is a big deal, to me because this is my band.  We’re playing the best venue we have ever been booked at on the biggest night of the week. So, in honor of Hombre headlining the Friday show at the Elbo Room I am gonna feature the story of Tom and I, the first Hombres.

Tom and Casey

Tommy and I have been buddies since we were 12, but we haven’t always been band mates. Tom has always had bands, lessons and drive to play. I saw every incarnation of those bands.  I often tried to write songs and never finished them. Tom wrote hundreds of songs played by a number of bands. I wrote melodies and lyrics without knowing what key they were in or how they would ever get played. While Tom played his songs at school assemblies I sang mine in the shower, where most of them lived and died.

But, every once in a while I would take one of my songs to Tom, and that’s awesome for me. Tom is a top notch guitar player with plenty of his own songs, so when I took him my songs he not only translated my melodies into notes he also wrote hooks and transitions, changed verses and added bridges. He took tunes for humming and made them into playable music.

I always looked forward to taking Tom whatever new songs I had.  Hearing these songs with instrumentation translated them from musical sketches or tunes in my head to real songs. Arranging the songs was more than enough to make me happy for years.

Playing Gigs

Recently we have started picking up enough collaborators to have a proper band.  With a committed drummer and bassist (Amanda and Cool Keith) our band finally has the muscle and sound to gig out.  A rhythm section in a song that always wanted to make you dance but never could is water in the desert. Songs without a rhythm section need an audiences attention songs with a good rhythm section demand it. All of the sudden the songs started to bloom.

elbo roomWe have started playing a smattering of small gigs. Then two weeks Tom used his credibility as a member of Cobalt and the Hired Guns to get us this gig at the Elbo Room.  Its a big enough gig that we called in an extra Amanda to play her horn for us.

So, If you want to see the Hombres play the biggest gig we’ve ever had come out to the Elbo Room Friday the 23rd.  Its a show a decade in the making.

“My Managers Found Me on Myspace”

IJ Quinn is an up and coming singer songwriter playing in Chicago’s music scene.

In today’s post IJ talks about playing, writing, and moving to the big city.  We did this interview and a few minutes and later I shot video of him playing some of his songs. He’s an animated interview and an agreable sort.  The audio is worth checking out just to her his Carolina twang.

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I had the pleasure of seeing IJ play to his very dedicated fan base at the Tonic Room on Halsted last night and he is a treat to see live. You can check him out on his website.

Mutual: A Song from IJ Quinn

Today’s post is a video preview of the music of IJ Quinn.

IJ Quinn is a Chicago based songwriter with the range to sing Michael Jackson and the writing chops to sell his songs to major recording artists.  I heard IJ play at Schuba’s and I knew I wanted to get this man on the blog.  After doing the interview IJ was kind enough to shoot a live recording for the blog.  We took this video a few days ago in my apartment, I hope you liked it.

Our full interview will be available tomorrow.  If you want to check out IJ’s great studio recordings you can check out his website.

Weird Enough to Remember, Lady Gaga, The Rings of Saturn and Standing out in the Crowd

Last night the musical guest on Saturday Night Live was Lady Gaga and she crystallized something that I had been thinking about for a long time.  You don’t get attention and fame from being the same as everyone else you get it from being different.

Lady Gaga dominated the show.   At least two of the sketches were about her or the preposterous clothes that she wears.  Even though she was not the special guest, she was at the center of most of the memorable scenes.

But, the real show stopper was her second performance.  After a first song that featured the catchy dance pop and strange clothes that I expected from her, she totally shifted gears.  First, a spotlight shines down on Lady Gaga in a bunch of metal rings that are so big and impractical they make it difficult for her to move.  She sings a few bars with her band then shuffles over to a piano, she really did have to shuffle to get there, the costume was that constricting.   After sitting down Lady Gaga is totally unable to get her mouth the right distance from the microphone because of the metallic rings floating in front of her face.  She has so much trouble negotiating the suit that she clearly misses her vocal cue.

Then things get really weird.

She starts singing a Billy Joel style piano ballad that is a tribute to growing up in New York.  I could not have been more surprised or transfixed.  Most of last night’s show has already faded from my mind, but I can still remember the majority of the words to that strange song about being a waitress in New York and eating hot dogs from vendors.

Her set was not the best live musical performance I have seen or seen on Saturday night live.  Nor was it the best song I have seen recently on TV.  But, seeing this electronic dance icon surprise the studio audience, the people I was watching with and me over and over made it one of the most memorable musical acts I have seen in a long time.

As someone who is largely ignorant of Lady Gaga’s genre of music I know little about her.  I had seen pictures of her strange outfits, but really didn’t know who she was.  There is no way I am gonna forget her now.

Before last nights show none of her songs ever grabbed me.  I realized after the show that they have been playing in the background and I had heard them enough times to learn them without realizing. All that exposure wasn’t enough to make me care about Lady Gaga (much less write a post about her).   She was in the category of things that I am so used to and not interested in that I automatically tune them out, like pop up ads or publisher’s clearing house letters. There is a certain kind of pop music that I either let float past or toss in the bin and Lady Gaga is right in the middle of that genre.

But, by being surprising she grabbed me.

Much is said about how pop music seems so processed and the same.  Up and coming artist will often complain that if you don’t have a sound that is exactly like everyone else or exactly what people are expecting you can’t get an audience.  There may be cases where that is true, but this Lady Gaga performance stands in sharp contrast to that entire notion.

I think anyone trying to get people’s attention, be noticed, or remembered should take note of this performance.  Lady Gaga’s piano crooning in a suit that looked like the rings of Saturn was a Seth Godin Purple Cow.  No matter what you are trying to be noticed for: selling a product, making music or writing a blog — it pays to be different.  Don’t be good enough to pass up, be weird enough to remember.

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