San Francisco techno artists Gabriel & Dresden mix and remix tunes until they've foiled tired beats and clichéd synths. And with fourteen No. 1 Billboard dance-chart hits and the release of their debut artist album pending, it's obvious that these DJs deserve all the attention they receive.
B-Sides: You seem to be deeply infused with pop culture from reworking icons' songs to having your remixes featured on TV shows. How'd it all start?
Dave Dresden: We are both deeply rooted in the gothic dance sound of the '80s, like the Cure and Depeche Mode. I was lucky growing up in the New York area, I heard all kinds of crazy music on the radio. In the '80s, New York radio represented what was going on in the clubs and on the streets, so I was lucky to hear what Larry Levan was playing on Saturday night on WBLS on Monday afternoon.
What was your approach to remixing Brokeback Mountain's theme song, "The Wings"?
Josh Gabriel: We got all the instruments in separate sound files and went on a drive listening to each one. It was amazing how each sound was like its own song. Basically our goal going into this remix was to give people on the dance floor a chance to remember how the movie made them feel. It was a very emotional movie, and we like to make emotional dance music.
During the process, did you use the phrase, "I wish I knew how to mix you"?
Dresden: Absolutely, there was definitely a time halfway through the process when we could have used that line. This is definitely one of the most difficult remixes we have done.
Your music has been featured on Nip/Tuck. Do you believe in nipping and/or tucking?
Gabriel: If you're nipping and tucking audio, yes. Skin, no.
You were tapped to remix New Order's "Someone Like You". Don't you think that would have been a better theme for Brokeback Mountain?
Dresden: Aren't they all love songs?
You have your own show on Sirius. Are you fiercely competitive with Howard Stern? How about a dance-off?
Dresden: No, we're not competitive at all.
Gabriel: Does he even know how to dance?
As techno/dance artists, are you guys awesome at Dance Dance Revolution?
Gabriel: No, but we do play a mean game of Twister. Kristyn Pomranz
9 p.m. Saturday, May 20. Dante's, 3221 Olive Boulevard. $10. 314-652-2369.
Though sometimes categorized as a simple nü-metal band, Tool is known for crafting songs about philosophy, mathematics, religion and transcendence through time and space. Each album evolves to a new musical level while also reflecting on progressively higher planes of reality. With that in mind, B-Sides decided to "turn on, tune in and drop out" by comparing the progressive rockers' albums to renowned drug researcher and psychologist Timothy Leary's eight-tiered model of brain consciousness. Each of Leary's stages of brain consciousness relates to an evolutionary stage of brainpower and can be stimulated by specific classes of drugs.
Opiate (1992): Bio-Survival or opioid circuit. This particular circuit is concerned with the most basic of human actions and needs. Album name aside, as Tool's first recording, Opiate is the most primal of the band's albums. Tool's musical talent is evident on this album but not refined. Singer Maynard James Keenan's lyrics relate to basic human survival, particularly in "Sweat."
Undertow (1993): Combines the Emotional (alcohol) and Socio-Sexual (ecstasy) circuits. Pure emotion drives the entire album, expressed through a range of intense screams to melancholy, monk-like chanting. Rage and sexual violence come together in the controversial song "Prison Sex."
Ænima (1996): Neuroelectric or psilocybin circuit. This stage of brain consciousness is concerned with the mind becoming independent of itself and possibly developing telepathic communication. The album, particularly "Ænema," is concerned with shedding the excess baggage of regular life. Tracks like "Forty Six & 2" and "Third Eye" reference human brain evolution through the new formation of chromosomes and awakening of sight through the telepathic third eye.
Lateralus (2001): Neurogenetic or LSD circuit. According to Leary, awakening of this circuit of the brain allows access to collective human consciousness and past-life memories. The time sequence of "Lateralus" follows the Fibonacci sequence of numbers, which is commonly found in nature. The artwork of the album also features levels of anatomy of the human body, ending with the spiritual layer that connects all beings to a higher power.
10,000 Days (2006): Neurosomatic or marijuana circuit. This circuit allows for multi-dimensional awareness with an emphasis on space and time travel. The latest Tool album comes across with a particularly spacey vibe through the band's notoriously epic songs. Musically the instrumentation is not as revolutionary as that on Lateralus, letting many long chords run their course until finally being interrupted by pounding onslaughts of Danny Carey's drums. Keenan's lyrics also seem more grounded as well. In the delicately constructed "Wings for Marie (Pt. 1)" and "10,000 Days (Wings Pt. 2)," Keenan reflects on the death of his mother and the journey of a soul to meet its maker. The conjoined songs are standouts among a collection of heavier songs that dominate the rest of the album. "Right in Two" gives the perspective of looking down on human behavior and violence from above. The last filler track on the album, "Viginti Tres," consists of synthesized breathing that sounds otherworldly altogether. Overall the album focuses on a plane of consciousness that more fans may be able to relate to.
Musicians have long used their celebrity status to raise awareness of injustice such as the Beastie Boys and the Free Tibet movement, or the Live 8 concerts for Africa that took place last summer in cities all over the world. But the latest ongoing cause to rally the musical troops is the West Memphis Three (WM3), three young men from West Memphis, Arkansas, who were convicted in 1994 for murders their supporters say they didn't commit.
Metallica, Henry Rollins, Eddie Vedder and Alkaline Trio have all lent their names and/or tunes to WM3 benefits. But now former Misfits singer Michale Graves has taken the helm of the benefit circuit, touring to raise awareness and garner support for the three men accused (in particular Damien Echols, who was given the death penalty). As a grown man who paints his face like a skeleton and regularly sings about death and dying, Graves may seem like a strange ally to three men accused of violent, ritualistic murders. But it's actually Graves' political stance that has some people pegging him as the oddball.
"This is not something that I would expect [Graves] to be part of, being as politically conservative as he is," says local WM3 benefit organizer Chandra Walden, in reference to Graves' founding of Conservativepunk.com.
Graves has nevertheless made the plight of the WM3 the focus of his Almost Home tour (the title is in reference to the name of Echols' autobiography). In addition to his band's performance at the Creepy Crawl, Graves is also stopping by Vintage Vinyl for an in-store spoken-word appearance (and acoustic set) to promote WM3 Worldwide Awareness Day, which takes place on June 3. Graves has also begun performing songs written by Echols and samples news reports about the murders in his music video for "Butchershop."
Working up to WM3 Awareness Day, area clubs have also become involved. In late April, Lemmons held a screening of Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills and Paradise Lost 2: Revelations, the documentaries produced about the hysteria surrounding the three men on trial. Lemmons and the Hi-Pointe both plan to hold benefit concerts featuring local bands on June 3 to contribute to the defense funds.
In addition, the Tension Head punk and metal boutique sells WM3 merchandise. Owner Sheri Ford says one of her goals for the store is to be profitable enough to be able to contribute ten percent of her profits to the WM3 defense fund. Many supporters of the WM3 such as Walden and Ford say they support the convicted men for what they see as a witch hunt of a conviction.
Writes Ford in an e-mail, "Finding out that one of the pieces of evidence was that a guy had eleven black T-shirts in his wardrobe is so scary. I'd hate to have the judge look at my wardrobe!" Andrea Noble
7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 20. Creepy Crawl, 412 North Tucker Boulevard. $8 to $10. 314-621-9333. Also appearing Saturday at Vintage Vinyl, 6610 Delmar Boulevard, University City. 4 p.m. Free. 314-721-4096.