The Doc Jeffurious Interview
Many words come to mind when talking about Chris Harford. His music has been described as “dark and rocking”, but always brilliant and widely dynamic. There is no denying his reputation in many circles as sort of a singer-songwriter’s, singer-songwriter.
His first major record release occurred back in the early 1990s, predates Nirvana’s first hit record and included an impressive plethora of guest musicians. A veteran performer in every sense of the term. He has since released several acclaimed albums, one of which ‘Looking Out For Number 6’ was produced by Dean Ween, who also contributed some guitar and percussion work to the record.
A true renaissance man, Chris Harford has many things going on and you can bet than they are all terrific. I had the pleasure of sharing a bit of time with him recently and faithfully submit the following — Doc Jeffurious
Doc Jeffurious: Where did you get your start? What artists influenced your music?
Chris Harford: I was weaned on The Beatles. They kickstarted everything for me. I’m the youngest of four. My brother’s and sister’s record collection was key…vital. From The Beatles I moved on to Neil Young and the Rolling Stones. Then through middle school and high school it was the whole Southern rock thing, Allman Brother’s and Lynyrd Skynyrd. And then I got into Elvis Costello, The Specials and English Beat, ska music…XTC in my later teens.
DJH: Where were you when the alternative music and grunge thing took off in the early 1990s?
CH: I got signed to Elektra Records in 1992, right when grunge was hitting. I had an album out (Be Headed) on a major label which they let me produce. I had Ween guys on it and some guys from high school. But also Richard Thompson, Loudon Wainwright, The Proclaimers and Toshi Reagon. I had a bunch of people on that record. I was right there when grunge was happening. It think Nirvana‘s “Nevermind” came out a month after my record.
DJH: You are a very well known artist, but have a sort of underground, word of mouth fame. I think that a lot of artists that achieve that kind of success have this unique perspective of being on the outside of the traditional business of music looking in. How do you think music has changed over the years since you began as far as people getting into it? Is it less organic in many corners because it has become more digital? Is that the future of music?
CH: That’s a good question. It seems to be a lot about word of mouth. Like how you heard about my music through Adam Egert, even though it was through social media, it’s still word of mouth. It’s all about a person turning another person onto new music. You know? I still think that it’s best way to know about new music. Word of mouth is the most key way to learn.
DJH: You travel with The Band of Changes, which is an ever evolving and revolving sort of music project. How many shows a year do you perform with The Band Of Changes?
CH: It varies and probably slowed down as I age into an ancient human being but I’d say as much as possible. Lately it averages out to once a month now. But it can vary if take mini tours. In 2008, I took off on a 12 or 14 day tour around Europe which was really cool. I’ve opened up for Ween around the country way back in the day too.
DJH: How do you think your performances over the years have changed?
CH: Something that has happened over the years is how busy everyone has gotten. Unless it was some special occasion, we stopped rehearsing and often musicians would meet each other for the first time on stage. It’s been really interesting to see how it’s evolved spontaneously in the live setting. Almost like jazz musicians and improvisational jam bands. So there is a lot of just give and take. Depending on personalities of the band that evening and what they are bringing to it. And I’d say that has evolved over time because once you’ve played with the same people for two or three decades and the newer players come in and meet them, it becomes this sort of mix which is really fun for me. It keeps it fresh and the songs alive and different arrangements from the record keeps it fun.
DJH: Ok. Finally, I have heard that you maybe have a new release coming out?
CH: I am working on a couple different things. There are no dates set yet but I have been in the studio working on several different projects with several different people. So, there are things in the works. I finally got to invest in a home recording situation. I’m excited about that, too.
DJH: Well, Chris, I appreciate the time you have taken to spend with me today, man. I will keep my ear out for any new projects to be released.
CH: Fantastic! Well, thanks for helping to spread the music. And if you haven’t already heard it, ‘Horn of Plenty’ would have been my last record that I did. Check it out and several of my others at the website and we’ll be in touch. Thanks for reaching out, Doc.
By: Doc Jeffurious Higgason
Artist: Thurston Moore
Album: Rock N Roll Consciousness
There exists a universe in which music stills flows organically from the hands of the creator into the waiting ears of fans. A place where music is still intrinsically a language that can not only be spoken but also unspoken by all and more or less universally understood. There is a place where music is ingested not only through a pair of ears, but also through the heart and soul. Occasionally “messages” will escape from this realm and will punch through the encircling mundane boundaries of our own as a reminder that music in essence is a cosmic magic and not some sort of frivolous novelty. I am very happy to tell you that Thurston Moore’s Rock N Roll Consciousness has arrived from that place.
On Rock N Roll Consciousness, Moore once again confirms his place within the pool of talent that made up the NYC “No Wave” art and indie rock scene of the early 1980s alongside Kim Gordon, Lee Renaldo and Steve Shelley as the seminal indie darlings Sonic Youth. It also demonstrates why exactly he is one of the forebears of the grunge and alternative music scenes of the 1990s. While Sonic Youth is still officially on hiatus, Thurston Moore has still been writing and recording.
Guitarist James Sedwards, My Bloody Valentine bassist Debbie Googe, and Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley return from 2014’s The Best Day to provide a brilliant supporting foundation for Moore’s passive-aggressive trippy bliss on Rock N Roll Consciousness. The opening track “Exalted” spreads out the light of the entire album in a sort of Genesis-type (Genesis as in,”In the beginning, not the band) sunrise; the guitars join in arpeggio and then unfold into a stoner rock Raga out of the fifth-dimension as Moore sings in his trademark single tonal voice.
“She is the future and a prophetess…”
The song “Cusp” feels like a rapid rover ride across an dusty alien landscape to leave to you in the capable embrace of fluctuating and dynamic “Turn On”, where Moore tunes in upon your particular frequency and tells you about it.
“I come believing in your light. A sweet receiver in your mind. I turn it up all the way. To hear you come and save the day.”
“Turn On” recalls a taste of Sonic Youth but maintains itself as it’s own engine inside this machine, it is also my favorite track, as it exudes so many of the flavors in music that I love to lick on. A simple, steady, yet expansive jam. Insightful and mellow lyrics and a hint of Lou Reed! “Turn On” is the point in the album by which the listener is yanked across the transom into the pining love letter to New York City in the song “Smoke of Dreams”.
The concentrated power of Rock N Roll Consciousness concludes with the song “Aphrodite”, it closes the album as a wonderful example of how Moore and Sedwards explore parallel tonal dimensions on guitar respectfully as pilot and co-pilot; the final measures of the song playfully dance themselves away from you to the end, leaving the impression firmly intact. Rock N Roll Consciousness is an essential astral journey across Thurston Moore’s multifaceted musical universe.
by: Kidman J. Williams
This is the world premiere of Billy Momo’s newest video and song, “Following Me Following You,” off of their third album “Seven Rivers Run Wild.” They may not be a household name, yet, but you may have heard their song “Wishing Ain’t No Sin,” that was featured in the trailer of the hit TV show “Better Call Saul” on AMC.
This seven piece out of Sweden has a unique sound that you will find hard to pinpoint. You can’t say that it is just rock music or folk. You can’t say it is blues or pop. The music of Billy Momo blurs the line of rock and vaudevillian slant.
This new offering from the Swedish seven is just as filled with talent, fun quirkiness, and a catchy and hypnotic beat.
The band said that “The song is our comment on the current state of the world, where increasing polarization makes people stop listening to one another. All different fractions cling to their own views of the world, never question themselves, but everyone else. Even a voice of reason will be misinterpreted and twisted into different meanings by different people. This is a very serioius matter, but in this video we have tried to illustrate the point with a sense of humor. Hope you enjoy it!”
I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
by: Kidman J. Williams
Chris Cornell was on tour with Soundgarden when he died suddenly late on Wednesday night. Though the details are not clear yet as to what killed him, police who are investigating are saying a possible suicide, although not confirmed.
According to the AP News, Detroit police spokesman Michael Woody had said that he couldn’t release any details about why the police are looking into this tragedy as a possible suicide, Woody only noted that there were “basic things observed at the scene.”
“His wife, Vicky, and family were shocked to learn of his sudden and unexpected passing, and they will be working closely with the medical examiner to determine the cause,” Bumbery said in an email. “They would like to thank his fans for their continuous love and loyalty.”
Woody had also added that a family friend had found him dead on the bathroom floor in his room at the MGM Grand Detroit Hotel.
Cornell and his music meant a lot to many different people over the decades prompting many celebrities and by now plenty of real people from the real world to speak up about their feelings on the news of Cornell’s passing.
Dave Navarro (Jane’s Addiction) tweeted “SO SO stunned to hear about Chris Cornell! Such a terrible and sad loss! Thinking of his family tonight! RIP.”
Billy Idol had said in a tweet, “Sad 2 hear of Chris Cornell passing..great singer and artist…another blow…RIP.”
Even the great Jimmy Page jumped to the Twitter nation, “RIP Chris Cornell. Incredibly Talented. Incredibly Young. Incredibly Missed.”
A Personal Look Back at
I heard the news on my clock radio when it went off at 8:30 in the morning. The no personality having DJ from 98 Rock in Tampa came on and broke the news,
“Singer Chris Cornell was found dead in his hotel room in Detroit while on tour with Soundgarden. Cornell was just 52 year old.”
My heart sank and all I wanted to do was go back to sleep at all costs.
Like the majority of the people I wasn’t introduced to Cornell’s music until Temple of the Dog (1991) and of course the Soundgarden album, “Badmotorfinger” (1991). I was all of 12 years old and not even in full swing of my puberty.
I had just been forming my own tastes, likes, dislikes, and acquiring a bad attitude formed by an arrogantly young and narrow view of what I wanted my world to be and what I thought it was. Grunge music was the perfect soundtrack for that blind dismal view of life in the early 90’s.
Back then, we all thought we were being led into some kind of insider information and voices like Cornell’s, Kurt Cobain, Layne Staley, Shannon Hoon, and Eddie Vedder were our prophets giving us a peak into the beauty and Hell that was life.
After the majority of the people I listed off were in a tailspin of self-destruction, Cornell kept working, creating, and producing great music, even after the ugly breakup of Soundgarden in 1997.
In 1997, shortly after Soundgarden disbanded he recorded “Ave Maria” with Eleven for a Christmas album, “A Very Special Christmas 3.”
I didn’t hear the track until 1999 while I was working as a telemarketer for a shop at home food service, but when I did, it was like an angel hit me with an encyclopedia spine first. Nothing showed the soul and beauty of Cornell like hearing him sing that song.
Like many others around the world, news of Cornell teaming up with members of Rage Against the Machine to form a supergroup were tantalizing. Audioslave hit the scene with their debut in 2001. I could say that time stood still, but it didn’t. It was like a fast rush through time and you were dancing, crying, and loving through the whole thing.
Cornell’s voice was distinctive despite generic people trying to box him in with the likes of Vedder and Staley and the whole Grunge sound.
There was something Earth shattering and touching about Cornell when he sang. When he sang, it was like he was only singing to you.
The good thing about Cornell, is that he left us no shortage of great music to continue listening to and for future generations to enjoy. You will be missed. Rest in Peace.
by Kyle K. Mann
“I remember exactly when I first wanted to become a musician,” Mary Harris says firmly. “It was when I was four years old and saw the Beatles on Ed Sullivan sing ‘She Loves You, yeah yeah yeah.'”
“For me it was seeing John Lennon sing ‘Twist and Shout,’ Burleigh Drummond grins. “That’s what I remember.”
We are seated on couches in their beautiful Southern California home, armed with refreshing beverages. I’m taking notes, having decided it’s the most casual way to interview the two.
Neither look old enough to have seen the Beatles on Sullivan, that iconic moment that changed a generation and reverberates to this day. When I comment on their youthful appearance, they laugh. “I get up and run every morning,” Mary exclaims.
“I’m up at dawn doing yoga,” Burleigh adds. “The other thing that made me want to be a musician,” he continues, “was watching Turkish cymbal-makers at work. I can still see them spinning the shiny gold, spinning, making…”
Burleigh Drummond lived in various worldwide spots as a child, due to his father’s career as a full Colonel in the U.S. Army, and Burleigh discusses him. “He wrote speeches for JFK!” Burleigh’s grin is large, and I admit that blows my mind. I reflect as we sip our drinks, thinking about that. Yow, JFK! Could talk for a long time about just that. But, back to the music.
Mary Harris and Burleigh Drummond are current members of the rock group Ambrosia, founded in 1970 by drummer Burleigh, bassist Joe Puerta, keyboardist Chris North and guitarist David Pack. All sang with the group, with Puerta and Pack handling most of the lead vocals.
Ambrosia had their fair share of hits, several of which are still widely played. Pack left the group in 2000, which was when Mary performed with them for the first time onstage, eventually becoming a full member in 2012. The band also currently features their longtime guitarist Doug Jackson and guitarist/lead vocalist Ken Stacey, and their blazing live show tours widely, playing their hits and complex progressive rock album tracks, as well as new original songs.
“How many major bands do you know that have husband and wife teams?” I ask.
Mary and Burleigh look at each other. “Well, there’s Pat Benatar and Neil Geraldo,” Mary answers slowly. A pause.
I nod. It’s pretty darn rare. There’s a lot more on my mind about Ambrosia, including the Ralph Steadman cover, but I want to go to Mary’s years on the road with Jimmy Buffett, which included her being credited as the Vocal Arranger. I ask how she became a member of the infamous Coral Reefer Band.
“My friend Brie Howard was in the band, playing percussion and singing. She called and said he was looking for another singer to join up. I remember going to a place in Malibu, singing, and that was that… the easiest audition I ever did. Afterward we sat and Jimmy told me what was important to him: good singing, good personalities, and good camaraderie.”
Mary pauses, thinking back to the early 90’s. “Jimmy said something I’ve never forgotten. ‘I may not be the best guitar player or singer, but I’m a great Jimmy Buffett.'” We laugh, it is indeed a quality line.
Burleigh chimes in, “Mary was under a lot of pressure. She lost 15 pounds and didn’t sleep for a week.”
“At first,” she continues, “I was expected to dance with the two other singers on the left. But I had almost always played keyboards on stage with my singing. That first week of rehearsals…” Mary sighs. “Charlie the tour manager, finally had me move over with Brie, and sing and play percussion with her. Then, we did a live album with [noted engineer and producer] Elliot Scheiner. Those two singers got canned. Elliot pushed me, and became a friend. I became the Vocal Arranger on the next 4 albums.”
But, how exactly did that happen?
“I just became the Vocal Arranger.” She smiles. “I don’t remember how it happened.”
I look over to Burleigh. “Was there any chance of you joining the band?”
He gets a prankish look. “The only way I would join Buffett’s band…” He pauses for effect. “…is if he asked me.” I laugh.
“Jimmy’s drummer has been with him forever,” Mary explains.
I ask what her reaction to playing in a big-time band for the first time was, but Mary shakes her head. ”I had been in ‘Animal Logic’ with [ex-Police drummer] Stewart Copeland, [jazz bassist] Stanley Clarke, [guitarist] Michael Thompson… that was pretty big, and before that I was in [the early all-girl group] Red Shoes, we played the Roxy, we were on TV, so I was used to being on stage.”
Then there is Pink Floyd, who Mary has recorded with. I ask her to elaborate. “Its backing vocals on a couple live videos, not on the record. We just saw [Pink Floyd longtime engineer] James Guthrie and we asked him about it. One was “Dogs of War” and the other…”
I lean forward.
“I can’t remember.”
I lean back. It flabberghasts me that Mary can’t remember. Pink Floyd is only one of the biggest groups in music history. Later, I listen to the video track on Youtube. Yep there she is. Wow.
Well, onward. What stories she can tell me about the Coral Reefer Band? The ones she can tell? She grins.
“We used to do “bus theater” where the two tour busses would pull up alongside, and people would act stories out through the windows. It would start that way, and, people would get crazy, mooning each other… of course, I didn’t do that. Our bus usually won.”
“You were with Buffett for years… why would you leave such a gig?”
“I needed to spend more time with [their son, and now touring musician] Micky… it was hard being away so much.”
I nod, marveling, but happy that it has all worked out. “Let’s go back to Ambrosia. How often are you doing gigs currently?’
Burleigh looks at me alertly. “60 to 70 gigs a year, and we want to get that up to 100.”
“You book the gigs, at present?”
Burleigh nods. “About 60 % of the dates, yeah.”
“You have an all-new album in the works?”
Mary brightens. “There are a lot of song possibilities!”
“Mary wants to focus on Ambrosia,” Burleigh notes. “The new album… let’s really do what we’ve been promising the fans for years. Our last album of new material was 1982.”
“Our new songs are written by all members,” Mary says seriously.
Clearly there is a lot of creativity going on with Ambrosia!
The band live is outstanding, being tight, in tune, and enormously laden with vocal and instrumental talent. I can attest to that having seen them play venues in multiple states in this decade, in a wide variety of venues. With a fresh album of new material coming, the nearly 50-year-old group are at the top of their field. My mind turns to the origins, and I ask Burleigh how he came to join the Los Angeles-area band. He laughs.
“I was studying drums at Drum City. Musician’s Contact Service… I saw a 3×5 card from the rest of the band so I replied. They liked my name!”
At about this point the vodka kicks in, and I lose focus momentarily. Burleigh says something about his VW van being a factor, that the band liked that they could carry their equipment in it. And something about a “goatee down to your bongos.”
I snap out of it and resume taking coherent notes. “When we met up, we all talked for hours every day. You know, when you’re 18 or 20, you play records for each other, you’re excited.” He smiles at the memory, and I ask if he remembers the first time he heard Ambrosia on the radio.
“Holdin’ on [to Yesterday]… no, I don’t remember. But, I do remember we all gave 100% to do what we had to do.” He frowns. “Our manager was taking 100% of our publishing. I wrote 80% of the lyrics to ‘Make Us All Aware.’
“That’s a great prog song,” Mary comments. (Later when I get home I give it a listen. What an outstanding tune. Crazy difficult and utterly beautiful. I’m stunned and numbed.) Mary continues, “It’s one of the most creative piano parts [performed by Chris North] possible.”
Burleigh picks up the story. “So money was a huge issue. Everybody was scrambling for the scraps. By the time you get to the third album, Chris couldn’t hang. He left because the money, it wasn’t worth anything. I knew if I didn’t write anything I would suffer the fate of Chris.”
Ok, wow. I’m shaking my head, and ask Burleigh about the last album with the Ralph Steadman cover, titled ‘Road Island.’
“We created that album to return to our prog roots. We were fans of ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,’ we loved the book. Warners was happy with us, we had had some hits… Steadman hung out in the studio with us. We went to lunch and got shitfaced trying to keep up with him. He did caricatures of us all. Kinda struck a nerve, exaggerating some aspect of you that was not public but he made it public.”
Now we are listening carefully, this is intense.
“We took a train ride up to Ralph’s house. His studio was this huge room with tons of stuff in it. I looked up to see this thing spiked up on the wall. I kept looking and realized it was the hugest rat I’d ever seen, decomposing. Ralph said he was drawing it at different stages…”
We all have a sip of our drinks, and Burleigh continues “I think the cover of that musician screaming… it was some kind of primal scream. Everybody was unhappy. We were trying to break away from our manager. We all had angst, we were all accused of selling out.”
And the last single? “‘Feelin’ Alive Again.’ That’s David Pack trying to write a hit single.”
Which went nowhere. But there was a minor hit… Burleigh speaks. “‘How Can You Love Me.’ That one always bugged me, I didn’t like the first drum track. At one point I threatened to burn the master tape in the studio with a lighter if we didn’t re-cut it.”
Listening to the track back home, I am impressed. Solid tune! I carefully pay attention to the drums… seems pretty dang good to me. Also, that YouTube video of the band kicks my butt.
So, what are hard parts of being on the road, the terrible road?
“Burleigh gets more sleep on the road than home!” Mary says.
“Six [hours] if I’m lucky,” he counters.
We talk about hotels, hotel beds, hotel food… some better than others, of course. Airports, flying, riding… the numerous inconveniences. Then I turn to my favorite band of all time, Mary and Burleigh’s ‘Tin Drum.’
The super short version is that Mary and Burleigh’s family band is special, and has yet to gain wide recognition despite 3 stellar CD releases. “I still get inquires,” says Burleigh. “We had opportunities… I had a guy call me up when we had [their evocative ballad] ‘Surrender’ and say we could break the tune wide open, but it would take a million dollars.”
Mary: “We spent a lot of money on Tin Drum…”
I bring up the original five person band, featuring Brie Howard, bassist Marco Mendoza and guitarist Mike Hoffman. Burleigh just sighs. “I let go of this amazing thing.”
“Ambrosia has the clout,” Mary adds.
After seeing Ambrosia packing ’em in, with long lines of fans waiting after concerts to get their old legacy albums signed, I can’t disagree. But something tells me it’s not over yet, for the Tin Drum configuration of tunes and energy. For one thing, Mary and Burleigh’s talented children, Micky aka Burleigh and daughter Sierra, both incredible musicians, have played in the band in recent years. It’s very cool, and practically beyond description to see the kids and parents playing music onstage. In whatever configuration you see them, the entire Harris/Drummond family have an outstanding, unique chemistry.
Yep, as I make my goodbyes and head out the door it seems to me that, for these veteran musicians, who just happen to be married to each other and play in the same band, that the best is yet to come!