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Vinyl Emergency

Musicians, record label owners, visual artists and beyond describe how the influential medium of vinyl has shaped their lives and careers.
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Vinyl Emergency
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Now displaying: 2023
Dec 12, 2023
"If Nevermind was a peek into Kurt (Cobain)'s psychological/emotional world, then In Utero was a wide-open window.” This comes from today’s episode with author Michael Azerrad (Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground, 1981-1991), who definitively knew better than most. Having extensive access to Nirvana between those two albums, Michael documented their rise for the best-selling 1993 biography Come As You Are: The Story of Nirvana, released just weeks before In Utero. Michael remembers today that Kurt's instructions to him in originally penning the book were fairly simple: "Just tell the truth. That will be better than anything else that's been written about me." And as In Utero recently got its own deluxe reissue to celebrate its three decades of influence, Michael's book has gotten a similar update: The Amplified Come As You Are is a heavily-annotated and must-own look back on the most examined band of the 90's. With thirty years of hindsight, Michael clarifies, expounds upon and extends the original story, making it a needed compendium to Nirvana's discography. Follow @michaelazerrad on Twitter, and purchase the book wherever you find literature. PLUS, enjoy exclusive performances of In Utero material this week by cellist Gordon Withers!
Nov 28, 2023

Starting as an NBC page in the mid-80’s, Jim Pitt eventually landed a dream job, for many: music booker for Saturday Night Live. From Nirvana’s debut on network television to Sinead O’Connor’s impactful and headline-making performance, Pitt booked it all starting in 1990, including mega-star appearances from Whitney Houston, Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young. Three years in, Pitt took his talents to David Letterman’s replacement at Late Night, a young upstart named Conan O’Brien. There, not only would Pitt give future Rock Hall inductees like Radiohead, Green Day and Sheryl Crow their first-ever US TV performances, but O’Brien’s unique wit often led to household names like David Bowie and U2 participating in hilariously scripted bits. On today’s show, Pitt recalls all of this and more, walking us through decades of amazing television memories, as well as his move from Conan to Jimmy Kimmel Live! in 2017, and when exactly hosts began holding up vinyl again for the home audience, versus compact discs. Follow Jim on Instagram @jimpitt13, and watch Jimmy Kimmel Live! on your local ABC affiliate.

Nov 7, 2023

Logistically and artistically, R.E.M.'s 1998 album Up marked a fork in the road for their trajectory: Prior to its recording, drummer and founding member Bill Berry had amicably left the band, having suffered a brain aneurysm while on stage three years earlier, leading the remaining trio of Michael Stipe, Mike Mills and Peter Buck -- for the first time in their career -- to create without a key piece of their dynamic. In the end, Up didn't sound like any of the group's previous eras, using keyboards, electronics, chamber-pop and white noise as a backdrop for some of the band's sweetest melodies and Stipe's most direct lyrics to date, the latter of which were finally printed for fans to comb over -- a first for any previous R.E.M. project, after ten albums of ambiguity. This week, we celebrate the 25th anniversary reissue of Up (available this Friday, November 10th) with returning guest Josh Modell (formerly of the AV Club, now of the Talkhouse Podcast Network) who wrote the package's liner notes. Together we examine how R.E.M.'s existential crisis without Berry, according to Modell, "gave everything (on the album) an undercarriage of vulnerability, sadness, and edge," making it Modell's favorite album in the group's catalog. Purchase the Up reissue at remhq.com or wherever you find music, and catch Modell moderating a live Q&A with Wilco's Jeff Tweedy in Milwaukee on Saturday, November 11th, with tickets available here.

Oct 24, 2023

North Carolina-based label Merge Records, inarguably one of America's most influential and prolific purveyors of indie-rock, is on the cusp of turning 35 -- a landmark that co-founders Laura Ballance and Mac McCaughan likely couldn't fathom when they started the label in 1989. Then, Merge was simply a DIY avenue to release tunes by their scrappy quartet Superchunk. But along the way, as the band's jangly but caffeinated power-pop caught on with an international audience, Merge evolved from a modest method of putting out music by Mac and Laura's friends into the beloved home of cult acts like Neutral Milk Hotel, Spoon, The Magnetic Fields and countless others, eventually becoming the first indie label to garner an Album of the Year Grammy, for Arcade Fire's 'The Suburbs' in 2011. On this week's show, Mac reflects on Merge's early years, the label's new vinyl-centric web series Digging For Something, as well as Superchunk's latest compilation of singles, demos and other oddities dropping this week, titled 'Misfits & Mistakes.' Visit mergerecords.com to shop for your favorite releases, and follow @macsuperchunk or @mergerecords on Instagram.

Sep 12, 2023
Since his first book twenty years ago, musician/author (and all-around music appreciator) Warren Zanes has deftly chronicled what it means to be a rock star without a road map. His acclaimed 2015 authorized biography on Tom Petty -- released just two years prior to his death -- gave readers an engrossing glimpse into the mind of one of rock's great everymen, and this year, Zanes has released a more granular look into arguably the darkest hour of perhaps rock's greatest everyman. 'Deliver Me From Nowhere: The Making of Bruce Springsteen's Nebraska' is a jaw-dropping read front-to-back, taking readers into the modest bedroom where the Boss recorded his most mysterious and talked-about work. From exclusive interviews with Springsteen, Steve Earle, Rosanne Cash and more, Zanes proves that what makes Nebraska so intriguing is not just the complete left-turn that it is musically, but how it's sandwiched between two career highs: His first number one album with The River in 1980, and the superstardom that Born in the U.S.A. would bring him in 1984.
 
On this week's episode, Zanes tackles Springsteen and Petty’s similarities and differences, the hurdle of getting Springsteen's humble Nebraska demo tape transferred for vinyl and CD duplication, and the album’s lasting impact over the last four decades. Visit warren-zanes.com for socials and other info. Plus, this episode features covers of Nebraska songs by Aoife O'Donovan. Click here to purchase them as a Bandcamp download. 
Aug 29, 2023
As bassist Mike Mills tells it, on the cusp of their formation in 1980, he and his fellow Athens, GA bandmates had a simple goal: To make a cool, 45 RPM single with a picture sleeve -- the kind they grew up on. And, if anything else (or nothing else) were to come of their band, so be it. What Mike along with guitarist Peter Buck, drummer Bill Berry and enigmatic vocalist Michael Stipe couldn't have predicted was how that single ("Radio Free Europe") and the many that followed through the next three decades on both indie and major labels ("Fall On Me," "Losing My Religion," "What's the Frequency, Kenneth?" and beyond) would shape the sound of American music.
 
R.E.M. inarguably created a foundation for what we now loosely call "indie rock," often buoyed by Mills' supreme knack for harmony vocals against Stipe's dramatic delivery. 
 
On today's show, Mike discusses his latest LP as a member of the Baseball Project, the hours of airbrushing needed for one particular R.E.M. album cover, and his love for an Atlanta institution known only as "The Freeze." R.E.M.’s last four proper albums — which cover their final decade as a unit — were reissued on vinyl this summer. Visit remhq.com and baseballproject.net for more info on those releases.
Aug 1, 2023

The two sounds Tommy Prine says he remembers most growing up were having the AM radio on or his father (renowned singer/songwriter John Prine) workshopping tunes at the kitchen table. Journeying through adolescence, his eclecticism later manifested through acts like Outkast and System of a Down. But now, on the heels of This Far South — his debut album that dropped earlier this summer — Tommy has found his own unique voice that marries his mom’s Irish wisdom and his dad’s dry Midwestern/Southern wit. On today’s show, Tommy shares why Radiohead’s “Videotape” speaks to him, his experiences working with Nashville talents Ruston Kelly and Gena Johnson on This Far South, and how the artwork for this album feels like both an ending and a beginning. Visit tommyprine.com for your dates, socials and more.

Jul 18, 2023

In her family, Louise Post says that there have been three usual career paths: Join the clergy, practice medicine or become an artist. Thankfully she followed the latter. In 1992, Louise co-founded Veruca Salt with fellow vocalist/songwriter Nina Gordon, and the quartet became one of Chicago's biggest exports of the alternative-rock era. The duo's buzzsaw guitars pushed hit singles like "Seether," "All Hail Me" and "Volcano Girls" into the stratosphere, and despite some years apart, the full original lineup reunited for the much-heralded 2015 full-length Ghost Notes. This week, currently on tour promoting her new solo album Sleepwalker, Louise talks about harmonizing with her dad growing up, gravitating toward the women in her favorite bands, why she continually has "dreams of songs," and the inspiration for Veruca Salt's ode to vinyl, "Victrola." Stop by LouisePost.com for more info on Sleepwalker, social media and more.

Jul 4, 2023
From making multitrack recordings as a kid to DJ’ing at her high school radio station to fixing turntables for her college dormmates in the 80’s, Lisa Loeb has always been wired for sound. She made music history in the next decade, when her mega-hit “Stay (I Missed You)” became the first song by an artist without a record label to go #1. The song’s unique structure — bookending stretches of non-rhyming prose with an instantly recognizable chorus — still remains a marvel a generation later, with artists like Taylor Swift citing “Stay” as a gigantic inspiration for their own wordplay, musicality and poetic honesty. On today’s episode, Lisa remembers trading 7” singles with friends growing up, and how the real-life antagonist in “Stay” was right there in the studio when it was recorded. Plus, from her own collection, Lisa shares one of the coolest and rarest pieces of vinyl ever discussed on the show! Visit lisaloeb.com for tour dates, socials and more. SiriusXM users can find her program Where They Are Now — where Lisa chats with fellow 90’s-era stars — via the SiriusXM app.
Jun 13, 2023

As a child of the 1970's, vinyl records were intrinsic to Ben Harper's understanding of and approach to music. “If somebody came to the house and said 'We're gonna repossess either your refrigerator or your turntable,'" he states today, "they would've been hauling out the fridge.” Growing up, the 3x Grammy-winner and heralded lap steel guitarist/vocalist's taste jumped from Ozzy Osbourne to Robert Johnson to Funkadelic to Jackson Browne on any given day. To get to those places, he points to varied avenues of discovery, from the underground world of skateboarding to his family’s folk music shop and museum. That same diverse recipe eventually led to an equally unique list of collaborators over the years, including Ringo Starr, Eddie Vedder, Harry Styles, Natalie Maines and The Blind Boys of Alabama. On today’s program, Ben recounts an emotional day spent with soul legend Solomon Burke, finding the blues buried in hip-hop, and the importance of communicating with our former selves. Ben's latest album Wide Open Light is out now, wherever you get physical or digital music. Visit benharper.com for tour dates, socials and more.

May 30, 2023

Prior to releasing some of the most memorable songs to come out of the 90’s, San Francisco’s Counting Crows were subject to a major-label bidding war, thanks in part to something rather unheard of in the industry: a massive, 15-song demo tape. Not only did this show a deep well for vocalist and lead songwriter Adam Duritz to pull from, but this prototype already came with early versions of future bonafide hits like "Mr. Jones" and "Round Here." To an alt-rock audience who didn't necessarily grow up with Van Morrison, The Band or R.E.M., Adam and company filled that void and then some, with their first three albums selling over 10 million copies between them. Today, Adam spills why their upcoming co-headlining tour with Dashboard Confessional has been 20 years in the making, which records he spun every morning while recording the band's landmark debut album August and Everything After, and how that title track (which never made the original 1993 release) is now finally available, specifically for vinyl lovers. Counting Crows' latest -- Butter Miracle: Suite One -- is available wherever you find music. Visit countingcrows.com for live dates, socials and more. 

May 16, 2023

On his second album released earlier this year, Love You Anyway, Grammy-nominated and Nashville-based R&B artist Devon Gilfillian sets today's political activism against a backdrop of stunning soul music that finds inspiration both from the past and the future. Having gained acclaim touring with a genre-spanning list of icons (from Mavis Staples to Michael McDonald), he recently told NPR that his music could be viewed as "a pill wrapped in peanut butter": Sneaking in a message, while calling everyone out to the dancefloor. Before hitting the road this month on separate tours with My Morning Jacket, Grace Potter and Trombone Shorty, Devon spends today discussing his obsession with Pharrell's production work, why his love for vinyl flourished in his teens, and his recent performance in support of the Tennessee Three, on the steps of the state capitol. We also learn how a conversation with Chaka Khan led to him recording Marvin Gaye's legendary album What's Going On front-to-back, for a special vinyl-only release. You can find Love You Anyway wherever you get music, and visit devongilfillion.com for tour dates, socials and more.

May 2, 2023

Whether you hailed from Gainesville, Grand Forks or Green Bay in the late 90's, it wasn't rare to hear criss-crossing vocal shouts, razor-sharp guitars and drums with jazz-like precision, all blasting out of your local VFW hall. That's partly thanks to Braid, four modest Midwesterners who funneled their obsessions with Fugazi, Jawbox and Gauge through a roulette wheel of glorious rhythmic shifts and six-string swan dives. During their original run, the quartet were known to be workhorses, releasing new songs as immediately as they wrote them, and putting thousands of tour miles on the odometer. The culmination of these efforts took the shape of Frame & Canvas, their third album, released in 1998. Recorded and mixed in just five days, it became much more than a benchmark for Braid's then brethren; these twelve tracks grew to influence each punk rock generation (and variation) that followed, with Rolling Stone even listing it as one of the top five emo albums of all-time. On today's show, returning guests Bob Nanna (vocalist/guitarist), J. Robbins (engineer/producer) and Polyvinyl Records co-founder Matt Lunsford discuss the album sessions and original release, as well as the new 25th anniversary remix and remaster, along with mastering engineer Dan Coutant of Sun Room Audio. For social media, upcoming F&C anniversary tour dates, and to purchase this latest reissue, visit polyvinylrecords.com/artist/braid.

Apr 18, 2023
Releasing nearly 20 albums over 15 years, singer/songwriter Jason Molina penned "bruised and barren songs of longing and lost salvation" (NPR). Delivered with a soul-cutting, unadorned tenor, his discography continues to connect with a devoted fan base through varied incarnations -- whether in a group dynamic as Magnolia Electric Co. under his first solo moniker, Songs: Ohia or his own birthname -- despite his death in 2013, at the age of 39.
 
A particularly prolific period in the mid-00's saw the release of the 4-CD Magnolia box set Sojourner, encompassing full-band recordings with Steve Albini in Chicago, an alternate line-up in Virginia with Cracker frontman David Lowery producing, an EP's worth of tracks from Memphis' legendary Sun Studio, and Molina solo tapes from home. If the wide-range of performances weren't enough, Molina wanted to double-down on his mythological side by adding a ouija board and real chicken bones to the screen-printed wooden box. Eventually, label and artist settled on a celestial map and Magnolia medallion. They also put out a truncated version of this massive collection as the 10-track single LP, Fading Trails in 2006.
 
Today, former Magnolia bandmate Jason Evans Groth and Secretly Canadian label co-founder Ben Swanson discuss their memories of the sessions that make up Sojourner, the journey this project has taken to get to vinyl (released earlier this month, available via secretlystore.com), and how artists today continue to spread the gospel of Molina's canon a decade after his passing. Follow @jasonamolina on Instagram for archival content, and join the Molina fan community via staticanddistance.substack.com.
 
Secretly Canadian is also auctioning off vinyl test pressings of Molina's work and more via eBay, linked here. All proceeds are donated to housing non-profit New Hope for Families.
Apr 4, 2023
It would be tough to say any vinyl collector started out earlier than Jordan Kurland. Having already accumulated every Kiss album by age 6, he became an obsessive fan of The Who just four years later, and eventually parlayed his love of music into a career in large-scale event production — for example, the Noise Pop festival rung in its 30th birthday in February — and championing musicians on a professional level. While the likes of Pup, Toro Y Moi and Real Estate currently fall under Jordan's umbrella at Brilliant Corners Artist Management (which he co-founded in 2017), this year will see an unprecedented joint tour from a pair of the agency's largest draws: The Postal Service and Death Cab for Cutie, performing two of the most influential records of the 21st century in full (Give Up and Transatlanticism, respectively). Prior to that jaunt, Jordan discusses his favorite San Francisco record stores, Give Up’s specific cultural impact, riding both the digital age and the vinyl resurgence from a business perspective, and the two major ways he's chosen to honor jazz legend Thelonious Monk. Find Jordan's social media and more at jordankurland.net.
Mar 21, 2023

Ahead of the March 31st release of their latest record -- Continue as a Guest -- New Pornographers ringleader and vocalist/songwriter A.C. Newman talks about imposter syndrome, finally putting out an album with the much-beloved Merge label, why his songwriting approach lies somewhere between The Pixies and Burt Bacharach, and how one particular garage sale set the stage for their critically-acclaimed debut LP, Mass Romantic. Follow @acnewman on Twitter and Instagram, and visit thenewpornographers.com for tour dates, music and more.

Mar 7, 2023

If any band personified a record collection with ADHD, it was The Dismemberment Plan. Connecting the dots between soul, post-punk and experimentalism, the quartet also brought dark humor, deep grooves and an appreciation for music history to the forefront, over five albums and millions of miles on the road. On today's show, vocalist Travis Morrison delves into the go-go scene of Washington DC, the artists that influenced his improvisational nature on stage, and a long-lost reel-to-reel that connected Travis' parents during the Vietnam War. The Dismemberment Plan's 2001 album Change will be reissued on sky blue vinyl for this year's Record Store Day, April 22nd. Follow both @travismmorrison and @thedplan on Instagram, and visit recordstoreday.com for more details.

Feb 14, 2023

NPR has separately crowned both Jaimee Harris and Mary Gauthier with some well-deserved accolades over the last few years: The former was recently referred to as "the next queen of Americana-folk" (thanks to a new album, Boomerang Town, dropping on February 17th), while the latter's "The War After The War" (from her record Rifles & Rosary Beads, co-written entirely with U.S. veterans and their families) won the organization's coveted Song of the Year prize in 2018. Together, they've forged an artistic and romantic relationship that has helped their individual careers thrive. On this episode, the pair discuss their appreciation for vinyl, supporting each other in sobriety, and how artificial intelligence will change the future of songwriting. 

Jan 31, 2023

After a number of years in small-market television journalism, 7x Emmy-winner Anthony Mason joined CBS News in 1986 and has quite literally done it all: from being a chief correspondent in London and Moscow, to handling Q&A's with American presidents. But maybe most notably, Anthony has now become a go-to confidant for musicians of all stripes. Carving his own path on the network thanks to a lifelong passion for songwriting, he's profiled legends like Elton John, Mick Jagger, Patti Smith, Joni Mitchell and Aretha Franklin. Plus, for up-and-comers seeking credibility, an interview with Anthony can rival a glowing review from Pitchfork or Rolling Stone, so non-household names like Charley Crockett and King Princess are given a new, nationwide audience courtesy of a conversation with today's guest. On this episode, Anthonly divulges how UPS once lost his entire record collection, what momento he took from a then-shuttering Tower Records in the late 2000's, and how he's navigated some incredibly personal moments with the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Neil Diamond and John Mellancamp. Follow @anthonymasoncbs on Twitter and Instagram. 

Jan 17, 2023

With razor-sharp guitars, breakneck rhythms, unrivaled harmonies and a socio-political worldview that disavows much of punk rock's anarchistic nature, Bad Religion has inspired countless bands over their 40+ year existence. Even their iconic logo, known by fans worldwide as "the cross-buster," has become synonymous with the genre itself. This is all without mentioning the inspirational trajectory of vocalist/songwriter Greg Graffin, who is seen as one of the genre's most vibrant and educated minds, earning a PhD in zoology from Cornell University and having written multiple books on evolution and theology. On this episode, Greg discusses the influence of his parents' divorced record collections, refining his vocal delivery over the years, and why he classifies his latest book, Punk Paradox: A Memoir (available now, wherever you get literature) as a "novelistic biography." The band also released their own collaborative autobiography, Do What You Want, in 2020.

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