Saturday, December 31, 2011
You can judge me if you want, but I'll admit that the last two times I was in Hong Kong on New Year's Eve I was in a bar (the same bar both times, actually).
The thing you can chastise me for, however, is not seeing the fireworks over the HK skyline.
This year, I hit the bars and then we hoofed it over to near the expo centre to watch the fireworks explode over the harbour.
I had been having some doubts about my move -- I know it's only been 2 days but I'm The King of Worry, really -- but at that moment, I felt like I had made the right decision.
This is where I need to be.
We hoofed it over to the harbour area near the expo centre...
Crowd gets ready...
That's on the TST side of the harbour...
Christmas goes up in a hail of fireworks...
Video of the countdown...
Fireworks on the Island side...
After nearly two days of airport and airline food -- with a late night McDonald's stop here in HK -- I needed a real meal.
So I went back to Mang Ambo's in Wanchai.
There have been times in my life when I've toyed with the idea of going vegetarian. I actually ordered the veggie meal on the flight this time around since the "meat" in those Cathay Pacific meals has a strange smell and consistency to me. Just thinking about that chicken gives me the shivers.
And I love the vegetarian Indian restaurants -- most of my favorite dishes are southern Indian ones.
But, I would take a ball peen hammer to Porky Pig himself if it ensured that that Looney Tunes icon could be turned into lechon as delicious as what I had today!
"That's all folks!" The piggy is in the middle, to paraphrase The Rutles...
I call this picture "Glenn's First Heart Attack (Waiting To Happen...)" Seriously, I ate almost everything on that plate but, hey, that's my breakfast and lunch today and probably my dinner as I don't think I'll be hungry anytime soon...
Tang Wei, Rene Liu, and Cecilia Cheung promote Speed Angels (2011). It's going to be very cool to see this in a Hong Kong cinema. Glad I made it back while Ceci's comeback was still underway. Cheng Pei-Pei is in this too!
Eason Chan promotes something...
Twins get ready for New Year...
Friday, December 30, 2011
I really need to travel more if I'm so perplexed by a hotel room window.
Okay, in the interest of comedy here's what happened: I woke up after sleeping the sleep of the dead -- a row to myself or not, flying for 16 hours from NYC is a rough ride -- and opened my eyes on my first morning in Hong Kong to see the skyline.
Yes, I briefly thought I was hallucinating.
Turns out there is a window in this room. It's covered by two panels, one see-through and one solid that looks just like the wallpaper. I now see the cords for them but I have no idea how the one went up by itself overnight. Maybe it was light-senstive.
The door was double-bolted and I was alone so it seemed like magic to me.
Like I said, I really need to travel more.
(Yes, I'm watching "The King of Queens" while I get dressed for a late breakfast/lunch...)
The flight was pretty good; I picked the back aisle seat and, unlike in June when I was next to a supermodel, this time I was next to a woman who could only be described as Bethany Frankel's lovechild.
I strolled back there and saw this fake tan-sporting lady already spread out on both seats -- it's a 2-seat row -- with the blanket over her legs. She blanched when I approached. I'm sure I looked like a sweating Grimace as I hoofed it back there.
She raised hell, not with me but with the air crew. Apparently, she had bought her ticket on the assumption that my seat had been "blocked off" -- whatever that means.
A few seconds of her in the back of the plane yelling -- and nearly crying -- to the staff had me shuffled forward. The very gracious Cathay Pacific stewardess said I could have seat A, B, or C in an empty forward row and -- you guessed it -- I took all three!
Well, I started in the aisle one but quickly kicked off my shoes and stretched out under a blanket while leaning up against the window. I'm sure it looked like the aftermath of a keg party in that row.
I toyed with the idea of cranking Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) simultaneously on all 3 screens in that row but thought better of it.
I watched the film -- my 4th viewing of it -- as we neared Hong Kong.
If it's possible to feel both patriotic and relieved to be outside of America for the time being, I felt that way.
This is the first flight in my life where I can say that I slept quite a bit, thanks to having that room to stretch out.
It was never a restful sleep, however, so I'm still exhausted; more than 26 hours since I left home yesterday, and I'm getting fuzzy.
I'm not going to name my hotel but it's my usual one -- at least until 13 January -- and while they upgraded me to a nicer "executive" room, it's without a window!
After the wait at the check-in here, I was too tired to say anything.
And the room, for once, bears no trace of a previous smoking occupant as do some rooms here.
Okay, more later...
Wednesday, December 28, 2011
No Matter What Band I'm In, It's A Punk Band: An Interview With Danny Ingram (Youth Brigade, The Untouchables, Iron Cross, radioblue, Swervedriver, Dot Dash)
Until I put this interview together, I didn't realize that I had walked past Danny Ingram's picture for a year on an old job.
When I worked at The Record and Tape Exchange in College Park, Maryland, from 1987 to 1988, I didn't pay too much attention to vinyl anymore as I'd already made the switch to cassettes and CDs, but it was hard to miss all the Dischord vinyl we had for sale in the shop.
There was a series of Dischord records on a rack that circled the store near the top of the walls in the front room. We had the stuff in there on consignment and those Dischord kids would roll in every few weeks to drop off more vinyl and talk with the owner.
When I started to compile this piece, I found some images online and immediately recognized this compilation's cover as one I had looked at almost everyday on the job back then.
I might not have warmed to the Dischord stuff right away but just seeing that cover does make me nostalgic for my first record store job in an era when I was more eager about finding new bands to get into.
Danny's current band, Dot Dash, is playing D.C.'s Black Cat soon -- details here -- and they'll be opening for Baltimore's Grey March, and History Repeated featuring Government Issue's John Stabb.
I started out with the intentions of doing an interview with Dot Dash's drummer in the style of my interview with frontman Terry Banks, but this interview is really about more than Danny Ingram's impressive musical resume.
No, this is really a sort of abbreviated overview of D.C. rock history. Danny's stories provide reminders of the different genres that dominated the nation's capital in the past. But his comments also illustrate the surprising blurring of the lines between that Dischord scene and the punks' poppier rivals from the suburbs.
Even if, like me, you might not be familiar with every one of these bands, this should be a pleasure to read for any fan of D.C. rock.
So let's count it off and dive in...
KENIXFAN: How did you meet Joe Strummer in 1979? Please tell us that whole story.
DANNY INGRAM: At the time, The Clash were my favorite band –- so I went down to the Ontario Theatre around 3:00 PM to see if could meet them during load in. They were fairly busy at the time and couldn't talk, but invited me to come backstage after the show (which was incredible, by the way).
The "dressing room" was this long, narrow corridor with a bench on either side. People were packed in pretty tightly. I was crammed in a seat on the bench between Joe Strummer and Paul Simonon. Mick Jones was sitting across from me. It was pretty comical at first –- because I was having a tough time sorting out Paul's thick accent and Mick and Joe kept having to translate for me. My confusion was compounded by the noise and beer, and spliffs that were getting passed back and forth throughout the dressing room. Eventually I gave up trying to talk with Paul and turned my attention to Joe and Mick. We talked about music –- I'd been to London a few months before and had seen quite a few bands -– we talked a bit about the “scene” in Washington...which was just beginning to explode thanks to a handful of bands like the Bad Brains, Teen Idles and Untouchables. Joe asked me if I played in a band. I told him my best friend (Nathan Strejcek of the Teen Idles) was in a band –- but that I was not. He acted shocked.
"You've got to get in a band, mate!" he admonished. "Get off the sidelines and do something, create something."
Needless to say, when one of your heroes encourages you to do something, it carries quite a bit of weight. I think by the end of the night I'd promised him (and myself) that I would. He didn't care that I didn't know an instrument –- at that time, it was more about energy and commitment and passion anyway. Instruments could be learned; the rest had to come from inside.
Shortly thereafter, I volunteered my drumming services to The Untouchables when their drummer (Richard Moore) left for college. They didn't seem bothered that I couldn't play either. I think we played our first show in Norfolk a few weeks after I picked up my first pair of drum sticks...and I haven't looked back (much) since.
Oddly enough –- I've run into Mick Jones a few times in London (usually as he was trading in records at the Notting Hill Record and Tape exchange) –- he always acted as if he remembered me from that show in D.C., though I doubt he did. But the few times we talked after that he was really quite friendly. Never met Joe Strummer again, but he looms large for me as an example of the power of words –- particularly encouraging words.
KENIXFAN: You started out in an era when D.C. hardcore was defining a certain sound and attitude in this city. Did you feel part of something larger or were you just a D.C. area kid playing in bands? Was there a sense of the impact D.C. hardcore was having outside of D.C.?
DANNY INGRAM: That's an interesting question and something that I think about a lot. At the time, I think I took the D.C. hardcore scene for granted. The "something larger" that I felt a part of was the whole punk scene –- not necessarily the bourgeoning harDCore crowd that was coming to define the area.
Nathan and I were among the first kids around here to chop off our long hair, ditch our old vines and rush headlong into punk rock. It was an amazing time -– something that has stuck with me forever. But it wasn't until I was much older that I really came to appreciate what happened here, in my own backyard, with the rise of Dischord and the impact of the bands from D.C. For the longest time, I was just enjoying myself...like a surfer on a long wave: I was caught up in the thrill of it all...and it wasn't 'til much later that I could look back with some pride about what had happened here. Though to be honest, my contributions were quite meager in comparison to others. People like Ian [Mackaye] and Jeff [Nelson] really grasped what was happening at the time and helped to build it into something memorable.
At the end of the day –- the "something larger" that sticks with me, that impresses me most about the D.C. scene isn't the music we all created but the friendships that we made, and that have lasted throughout the decades. I can't stress this enough –- because there was a lot that divided people throughout the years –- but there were also these incredible bonds that withstood the nihilistic ravages of time...so that when you run into your old mates after many years…there is still (for me) this great affection…and (for me) a greater appreciation of what we've all been through. Many of us are parents now, have demanding jobs, but at the end of the day...we are still very much those same kids whose eyes, ears and minds were so widely opened by being a part of the D.C. punk scene.
KENIXFAN: After playing in those punk bands, you branched out quite a bit. Did you ever feel a backlash for not sticking to one genre (punk)?
DANNY INGRAM: I've always said this: no matter what band I'm in, it's a punk band. Just because the tempo or the themes of the music changed over the years, it didn't change who I was. To this day, I still feel every bit as identified with the punk scene as I did 34 years ago.
Yeah, there was a backlash -– the scene had become quite large, but most of the backlash came from people in the scene who had a myopic view of punk rock. It's easy to say now that I wasn't really bothered by it, but it was a challenge. My heart was always in the punk scene...but as it got larger, it did get a bit uglier. I had developed a bit of a reputation (on many fronts) and one was that I had a bit of a temper. So most of the nonsense I heard about was second hand. When it did cross the line –- I usually acted upon it. An example would be the Circle Jerks show at Wilson Center -– some "skins" were taunting Monica while we were on stage...and I jumped down into the crowd (mid-song) and challenged them to fight. Needless to say, they were all talk and no trousers. My wife, Sally, accuses me of having a Lancelot complex. I'm assuming she is referring to the knight in shining armor, not the chimp. But I took the insults quite personally. It's tough to be attacked from within. As great as the scene was from a 20,000 foot view, when you are in the middle of it you know that it was just as likely to be rife with high school drama at times. It did get quite petty at times...and it was that element that made it quite easy to branch out and do my own thing.
KENIXFAN: And, on that note, as a musician how much do you have to alter your style when you play in so many different bands? I guess what I'm getting at is what is our preferred style to play? Where do you feel most at home as a drummer?
DANNY INGRAM: Oddly enough, where I feel most at home would probably be playing either Al Green-like soul music or the sort of early 90's indie stuff I did (Ultracherry Violet or Swervedriver). In the case of the former, I've never really had the opportunity to do it but it's something that really resonates with me musically. As for the latter, I think that is what comes most easily to me. I've mostly enjoyed the bands and styles I've been in...but some have been a challenge.
Nathan tried to convince Bert and I do to a Youth Brigade reunion recently. The prospect of that was downright frightening. I don't think I could possible play at that pace any more. It would likely land me in a hospital if I tried. The biggest adjustments for me, as a drummer, were going from punk/hardcore into the Madhouse/Strange Boutique thing. And also doing the straighter pop stuff like radioblue or some of the early Dot Dash songs. I tend to be a bit of a thumper on the drums; it takes quite a bit of self control for me to reign in my natural instincts to punish my drum heads.
KENIXFAN: What's next for Dot Dash?
DANNY INGRAM: If all goes well, we will start working on a new album in April. We have about ten new songs and the band's identity is really solidifying. We have a show coming up January 5th at Black Cat with my old band mate John Stabb (History Repeated) and the recently reformed Grey March.
We will also be doing a live performance on WMUC radio in February.
KENIXFAN: So here are Danny's thoughts on most of the bands in his impressive CV as a musician...
DANNY INGRAM: My first band! This started what was to be a recurring trend throughout my drumming life: jumping into a band to rescue them when their previous drummer pulled a Spinal Tap. The story for this was short and sweet: we were all hanging out at Roy Rogers on Wisconsin Ave. in Georgetown (across from the old Record and Tape Ltd.). Alec and Bert were lamenting the fact that Richard had chosen college over punk rock (fucked up priorities…I know). I immediately offered my services. They said “Great!!” -– which caused me to immediately back-pedal. I explained that I didn't know how to play, didn't have a kit, etc.
They didn't care. They seemed genuinely enthusiastic to have me join…and that helped give me the confidence to give it a go. We only played a handful of shows, but some were quite memorable. Like all the bands at that time, we did our version of "(I'm Not Your) Stepping Stone" but we also did [Sham 69's] "If The kids Are United” which was a lot fun.
DANNY INGRAM: The Teen Idles had recently broken up...and as Nathan was/is my best friend...it was impossible to say “No” when he asked me to start a band with him. I've always regarded YB somewhat bemusedly. Naturally, you think you are great at the time...but it was at this point that I realized the limitations of my musical ability…and the emerging gap in talent between some of the bands that were starting up.
It was fun...but other bands, like Government Issue, Minor Threat, the Bad Brains were so musically superior that I started to feel a bit self-conscious about my drumming...and had realized that YB had gone about as far as it could go. I'm grateful that Ian [Mackaye] and Jeff [Nelson] decided to release the single and put us on Flex Your Head. It helped establish the band as one of the progenitors of the nascent Dischord scene...but our musical contributions were quite modest.
DANNY INGRAM: Peer Pressure was the first band to challenge me musically. Dave Beyers (R.I.P.) and Tony Young (R.I.P.) were both quite accomplished musicians. I had a great deal of fun playing with them –- and with Tom Berard who sang in the band for a short time.
The band was short lived -– as were many of the bands then –- but we did manage to go up to NY and record some rough demos at Studio 1-A (I think that is what it was called) with the Bad Brains (who had invited us up). I met the Beastie Boys there –- they gave me a copy of Polly Wog Stew. I remember listening to it and thinking “What crap! They will never go anywhere!” I've always had an oracle-like eye for predicting the future!
Ultimately, the band imploded because Tony wouldn't cave in to Dave's demands to be a bit more...er...intimate.
DANNY INGRAM: Over the years, one thing that emerges is the friendships you build through being in bands…and as is the case with almost all the bands I've been in...I'm proud that I'm still friends with these guys. Social Suicide were most definitely a punk band...but not cut from the Dischord cloth. I think Brian, Joe and Ben knew each other from American University, which was where Monica was going at the time, and how I hooked up with them. They, too, lost a drummer and I happily volunteered to hop on board. The only recorded output for this band was the Mixed Nuts Don't Crack compilation. While the band never really developed a following…we played some great shows, including with Minor Threat and other seminal bands from that time.
DANNY INGRAM: Peer Pressure had given me the (perhaps mistaken) notion that I could branch out and do something more than straight hardcore drumming. I'd always loved the whole spectrum of punk music, but at that time was really into the wave of bands that included Magazine, Siouxsie and The Banshees, The Cure, Punilux, Killing Joke, etc.
Monica and I had been dating for a while and it just seemed natural to try and start a band together. Madhouse were doomed from the outset: we wanted to create music that was somewhat antithetical to the scene of which we were a part. It made us outsiders. There were some who supported us –- HR in particular was very helpful. But at the end of the day we were a band with mixed identities and the song writing reflected that. We were getting shows with bands that I still loved, like the UK Subs, Circle Jerks, Bad Brains, etc., but we weren't getting any traction.
Toward the end, as we released the "Mecca" single, we were just starting to develop an identity. It was a mix of punk and goth that predated what would later become a fairly big goth sub-genre. But like all kids who dream of being in truly "popular bands" we knew we had limitations. We decided to blow up Madhouse and start over as Strange Boutique.
Oddly enough, Prince -- the purple one -- formed a band of poncy mock jazz by the same name and we were able to successfully sue him for copyright infringement. We didn't get much out of it (that's what you get for working with a pro-bono lawyer) but it was enough to buy a van and some gear!
At the end of the day, Madhouse did one 8-song LP/EP and a 45. I don't think I've listened to either in 25 years. Perhaps one day.
DANNY INGRAM: After Madhouse, Monica and I enlisted the services of Fred Smith on guitar to start our new band. He had worked with Monica and I at a store in Georgetown.
He was the most gregarious person I'd ever met. He was also an incredibly talented guitarist. He'd been playing a sort of funk/punk hybrid in the Dischord band, Beefeater. Even though this was a huge departure for him musically, he embraced it immediately and really helped create a unique sound for that band.
After we secured Steve Willet on bass, we set off to try and carve out our own niche in D.C. It wasn't easy, but over time the band developed a small, loyal following. We played some great shows at DC Space, 9:30, in NYC, and at SXSW. We also developed a friendship with Killing Joke and supported them for a few shows in the U.S. and U.K. We played with loads of great bands: P.i.L., Billy Bragg, The Fall, etc. Those were some amazing times but I really think I took it all for granted. I never really appreciated then that we had this great opportunity. For various reasons, I became complacent as a drummer. I wasn't doing anything to get any better and didn't realize the importance of always trying to grow.
At this point in time, the Dischord scene was huge. Dominant, in fact. And we were very much on the outside of that. But the scene itself was finally becoming big enough and open minded enough to embrace a variety of bands...so SB managed to sustain what was, at the time, a pretty lengthy run. I hadn't listened to the band in nearly 20 years…but my oldest son, Sam, became quite curious about the bands I'd been in. He immediately liked SB...and played them quite a bit in the house (much to his mother's consternation). Looking back...there were some nice songs in there, though I think the band actually got better after I left!! After a while, though, I grew a bit weary of the goth thing and started getting antsy to branch out.
DANNY INGRAM: I don't know if Sab actually considers me an official member of Iron Cross...but it wasn't from lack of trying!! I helped them out for a while after they lost their drummer (again with a recurring theme). We did some really fun shows. I remember Mike Dolfi was in that line-up...I have fond memories of it...but when I started I made it clear that it was just to help out temporarily. I was doing Strange Boutique at the time and didn't have the temporal freedom to pursue both.
[KENIXFAN: Readers, be sure to check out my lengthy interview with Danny and the other 3 members of radioblue for more on these D.C. legends.]
DANNY INGRAM: As I mentioned, I'd been getting a bit antsy with the goth thing. I enjoyed being in Strange Boutique but wanted to try something new. We had played a few times with radioblue -– who were more of a Buzzcocks-inspired Britpop band (before there was such a thing as a Britpop scene). They wanted to go out to L.A. to seek fame and fortune...but their drummer wasn't "all in." When they asked if I would hop on board...I asked Monica's permission and started rehearsing with them. I'd now gone from punk/hardcore/goth...to pop punk. This was a pretty easy transition because the previous drummer had created some nice easy patterns that worked well with James' and Mark's songs. Oddly enough, I found myself, once again, in a band that was firmly on the outside looking in as far as the D.C. punk scene goes. I think they were also viewed as being somewhat traitorous for trying to "make it big" elsewhere. But I wasn't bothered. Radioblue had a pretty loyal following...but it was mostly the college kids from American University, Georgetown, etc. L.A. was an eye-opener. We had some great shows out there…played at many of the great L.A. clubs (Coconut Teaser, The Whisky, etc.)...but the labels weren't interested. They liked the music…but I don't think we had a marketable "image" –- something that we never really cared about.
By the time I left, we had recorded an EP -– one that I'm quite fond of -- but the band had pretty much run its course. We'd come back to DC and were back doing shows at 9:30 but I got the sense that it was as far as things would go.
DANNY INGRAM: One Sunday night in 1992, I was at my Rockville home watching "The Simpsons" with Monica and two friends (Dan and Kate Marx) when I got a phone call. It was Phil Ames, the tour manager for Swervedriver. I had met Phil in the 80s when Strange Boutique opened for The Fall at 9:30. We became friends…and we later called on him to help us when we went to Manchester to play with Killing Joke. Phil was in a bind because the Swervies had just started into their first lengthy tour of the U.S. -– and their drummer had gone AWOL at the Canadian border. He asked if I could be in Vancouver within 24 hours for a show that Tuesday night. I quickly talked it over with Monica…and we both agreed this was too much of an opportunity to pass up. The only record I had by Swervedriver was the Son of Mustang Ford EP. But I loved it. At the time, it was my absolute favorite song. I rushed over to Yesterday and Today (where I was working at the time) and picked up the Raise LP and put it on tape so that I could listen to it on the plane ride out West.
That first night in Vancouver was an absolute nightmare! We had no rehearsal and no sound check to speak of. The mix in my monitors was so loud that I couldn't discern what Adi was playing on bass, making it impossible to follow the songs. It was so bad that I got completely lost in "Rave Down" and had to stop mid-song. A cardinal sin. I was sure that was going to be my one-and-only performance with them. The next day, they booked a rehearsal studio.
Drummers from all over Vancouver were popping out of the woodwork, as word traveled "Swervedriver were auditioning drummers."
Happily, they decided to stick with me.Our next show was in Seattle. Rumor had it that guys from Mudhoney and other great bands from that area were going to be in attendance. When we arrived, after sound check, I took my cassette of Raise and wandered the streets around the area of the club. I found a diner and went in to grab a bite and focus on the songs. That night's show went really well (all things considered). Afterwards, the guys from Mudhoney said that they couldn't believe this was just my second night with the band. That helped give me the confidence to carry on.
After about two months on the road in the U.S., we did a couple of weeks in Japan. I have some AMAZING memories of those shows...but too much to enumerate here. At the end of the Japanese tour, it was understood that I would go back to D.C. and they would return to London to set about finding a permanent replacement for Graham.
Shortly thereafter, however, I got another call from the Swervies. They had another tour of the U.S. set up (with Soundgarden), as well as a tour of the U.K. and Europe. I think they were comfortable with me and I'd built a friendship with them all so they asked me to move to London for the duration. The only recorded thing that I am on with the Swervies was a video for "Never Lose That Feeling." That was a blast, and something that my kids are quite proud of. OK. So am I! Still –- at the time -- I was taking it all for granted. It was this amazing rollercoaster ride and I didn't think it would end. But after a year, it did.
Swervedriver - "Never Lose That Feeling"
While it was definitely the highlight of my musical life (so far) and the only thing that really comes close to being my 15 minutes, I wish I'd documented every minute of it. There were some really great moments and funny stories. I have to add this: Adam [Franklin] is, without a doubt, the greatest songwriter and musician with which I've ever worked. To this day, I think everything he touches is gold.
DANNY INGRAM: After returning from the U.K., Monica and I split up. I poured all of my energy and emotion into my next band, Emma Peel. I love this band. It was getting me back to my punk roots. It featured Steve Hansgen on bass (ex-Minor Threat) and John Stabb on vocals (ex-Government Issue) as well as Rob Frankle, a crazy-good guitarist. We only released one single "Avenging Punk Rock Godfather" on Tragic Life Records, but it was a lot of fun.
Ultimately, many in the band, including me, were coping with demons and pressures that wound up making us implode. I've always wondered what could have become of that band if we had stuck together. I've never had a better musical relationship with a bass player than the one I had with Steve. He is an amazingly talented musician and one of the truly underappreciated gems of the D.C. scene. At the end of the day, I made some great long-lasting friendships from this band. And to me, that's what it's all about.
DANNY INGRAM: I started playing in Ultracherry Violet with my friends Dan Marx and Dugan Broadhurst shortly after the demise of Emma Peel. I loved this band. It was very much an extension of the sort of shoegaze thing that I'd been doing in Swervedriver and it was very much in my musical wheelhouse. I really thought that we had some great, original songs. But I quickly became really frustrated that the band was gaining no traction. It was either late '93 or early '94 and we were playing a show at The Black Cat. I think there were maybe 30 or so people in attendance. My frustration reached critical mass and I pulled a Keith Moon on stage. Throwing my drums at Nick P., the sound man, and threatening bodily harm to anyone who came near me. I'd had it with drumming. I made up my mind that night that I was done with it. And to make sure I would have no second thoughts, I did my best to demolish my poor, beautiful Gretsch drum kit. I was convinced that was it. I was in a new relationship, my life was starting to turn around in different ways, and I wanted to make a break with the past.
That lasted about a year. I didn't touch my drums from that night until about 11 months later. Steve Willet called -– he had taken over Bedazzled records (the label that Monica and I started to release Strange Boutique music). He decided he wanted to release a CD of Ultracherry Violet. I'd mellowed out quite a bit in the intervening time, thanks to my new partner and future wife, Sally. Dan, Dugan, and I talked it over and decided to do it. We lugged our gear up to a dilapidated warehouse in a run-down part of Baltimore to record our CD. It had been so long since I'd played that my hands quickly blistered and started bleeding. I polished off nearly 3/4ths a bottle of Jack Daniels to try and steady my nerves and dull the pain of holding the sticks. We recorded all the songs in one day, but by the time we got to the last two -- "Mexico Song" in particular -- I could barely grip the sticks. My blisters kept bleeding and they kept slipping out of my hands. Still, we did all the songs in one take. There are 3 or 4 songs on that CD of which I'm really, really proud. The production is all over the place, but you can really tell that Dugan wrote some great songs...and Dan was really imaginative on the bass.
DANNY INGRAM: Mark Helm quit radioblue and decided to start a band as the primary singer and songwriter. Mark is really quite talented and I've always had a soft spot for his pop sensibilities. I also feel like my style fit well with him. Our personalities often clashed, but at the end of the day, he's still my brother.
While Super 8 never released anything, the songs ultimately wound up on his solo album and I played on 3 or 4 of those tracks.
DANNY INGRAM: As noted above, this was an offshoot of Super 8. I'm quite pleased with the tracks I put down on this CD. After 25 years, I think I was finally starting to improve as a drummer!
DANNY INGRAM: After recording with Mark Helm, I made good on my earlier threat/promise to take some time off. I stopped playing for about two years and took up hockey as my primary hobby. One night, Sally and I were hosting a cocktail party and my old radioblue bandmates, James and Steve, were there. After a few drinks we talked about possibly getting back together strictly as a basement/hobby-type thing. They had been playing in a band but lost their drummer (sound familiar?).
We moved our gear into the basement of my Silver Spring home and started rehearsing. After a while, we "became" a band –- King Mixer –- and actually started playing a few shows here and there. Around that time, a friend of ours (my old Ultracherry Violet band mate Dan Marx) was going through a divorce. I know how upsetting that can be and how much my earlier bands had helped me get through that stretch. We invited Dan into the fold and started playing off-and-on for several years. We still get together to rehearse a few times a month, but it is more of a social situation than anything. They are good friends and I enjoy spending time with them.
These days, we are lucky if we play out as much as once a year. We recorded a CD's worth of music at my old Madhouse mate Norman's bedroom studio a few years ago and we have quite a lot of good songs aching to be recorded so hopefully we will get those down for posterity at some point.
About a year and a half ago, Neal Augenstein (D.C. mod god and the singer/songwriting icon of Modest Proposal) asked if I'd be willing to drum in a 25th anniversary reunion show for the band at Comet Ping Pong. I'd always had a soft spot for MP –- particularly because my old friend Steve Hansgen had played with them.
Initially, I'm not sure if Steve had been in Bill Crandall (the band's primary guitarist) and Neal's plans, but I pushed for it...and ultimately it all came together quite nicely. There are some really nice demos that Steve recorded at his place floating around somewhere.
Anyway, we did the show, it was a blast, and it helped to reestablish some old friendships.
About two years ago, I had gone to see Adam Franklin's band, Magnetic Morning, at the Rock and Roll Hotel. Julie Ocean were supposed to be the supporting act for that show and for a handful of shows on the East Coast. As it happened, their drummer bailed. That night, Terry and Hunter asked if I'd be willing to step in. Not for the tour, mind you, but to take over the drums in a new project.
I told them I'd love to but that I wasn't able to start for a few months. Work obligations had me traveling to China, Korea, Japan, Lebanon, Mexico, Brazil, and Europe and I couldn't commit to anything until I'd had these projects wrapped up. I think Terry was impatient to get rolling and so he said that they were going to proceed without me.
I figured that was the end of it. But then they contacted me in early 2010 and said they were ready to start over. I'd been a big fan of Julie Ocean so I jumped at a chance to work with Terry. He is a great writer who is singularly driven to crafting perfect punk/pop songs. From the outset, Terry was intent on getting Bill Crandall to come out of retirement on guitar. It took a wee bit of coaxing but it all came together pretty quickly.
Oddly enough, of all the local bands I've ever played in, this is the first one that seems to be gaining some traction from the outset. Reviews and critical praise have been plentiful and enthusiastic.
Ironically, it comes at a time when music has finally taken a back seat to other priorities: my two sons, Sam (9) and Noah (5), the two great loves of my life.
But it is because of them that I carry on playing and why I finally no longer take what I'm doing for granted. For a change, I'm really locked in the moment and committed to being the best I can be and getting the most out of it, recognizing that this will be the last project I do. After this, it will be up to Sam and Noah to carry on. And I'll be glad for it when it happens...as long as they don't follow too closely in their father's footsteps!!
Follow Danny Ingram's current band, Dot Dash, via the links below:
Dot Dash's Facebook page.
Dot Dash are playing D.C.'s Black Cat on January 5, 2012, along with ex-Government Issue John Stabb's History Repeated, and Grey March.
You can buy the album, Spark>Flame>Ember>Ash, from Dot Dash, as a download via Amazon.com.
You can also get Spark>Flame>Ember>Ash, from Dot Dash, via iTunes in the US here.
And the physical CD is available from TheBeautifulMusic.com.
Monday, December 26, 2011
Needless to say, I've got more important things on my mind than the exploits of the Fantastic Four but I had to dip my toes back into those multi-colored waters today thanks to the bargain bin at the awesome Capital Comics in downtown Annapolis.
This was after a lovely lunch at Carpaccio where I had risotto for the first time.
I got it with clams, mussels, and all sorts of creatures of the sea -- and my asthma didn't even kick in!
In case anyone was wondering, I controlled myself at the comics shop and only grabbed a few recent back issues from the bargain bin.
Maybe I'll read these on the plane?
Sunday, December 25, 2011
Without a doubt, the album that gave me the most pleasure this year -- and the one I certainly played the most -- was Program 91 from Norway's Razika.
The 4 gals have now covered "Jag Kommer" by Swedish popstar Veronica Maggio.
The live cut is great and the sound of Razika is augmented by a few additional onstage players. The familiar Razika vibe is still there but there's the hint of a slightly different direction in the way the song bounces forward with a tiny bit of restraint.
You can watch the video here.
Here's a live acoustic version I found on YouTube -- audio only:
Friday, December 16, 2011
When I was a teenager getting into new wave -- that's what us old folks called it back then! -- it never felt quite like Christmas until I heard "Christmas Wrapping" by The Waitresses on the late, lamented WHFS radio station here in the D.C. area.
I am not feeling too Christmas-y at the moment but I am now as my favorite new duo of Alex and Jade -- better known as Oh My! -- have just released a cover of that song today!
The gals are in the midst of their tour of the UK where they are opening up for The Saturdays at some big venues!
To get the song as a free download, simply head over to their official Facebook page here, and sign-up for the mailing list, confirm your e-mail address, and the MP3 will be sent to your inbox!
Thank you to Alex and Jade!
I feel a tiny bit more in the holiday spirit thanks to Oh My!
Follow Oh My! on their official Tumblr page:
I don't know how he does it, frankly.
Ash Cooke, one-time leader of Derrero, now records from his home as Pulco, and he manages to find tunes seemingly with ease at a fairly rapid pace.
He makes this look effortless, really.
And in a year where's he's given listeners a great album in Small Thoughts, and another delightful EP in Sketchbook Season, Ash has now gifted us with yet another batch of free tunes in Bear Bones.
These 4 songs, recorded on the Dictaphone(!), are pretty strong. They're a touch more folky than some bits on those other releases and they work despite the limitations of the recording method.
To get your copy of the free Bear Bones EP from Pulco, head over to the spiffy new Pulco website:
And be sure to follow Ash and Pulco on Folkwit Records here.
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Thanks to some very nice people at The Travel Channel, I was able to see the Hong Kong episode of Anthony Bourdain's new show "The Layover" in advance.
I've actually had this episode on DVD for more than a month but I wanted to wait to post about it closer to the actual air date. This episode of Anthony Bourdain's "The Layover" premieres at 9:00 PM EST, Monday, December 19, 2011.
That's only a week away so let's dive in.
I'm happy to say that the Hong Kong episode of "The Layover" is much better than the "No Reservations" episode set in the same city. I just think that this episode gives a viewer a better idea of what Hong Kong is like than that episode of his other series did.
As I'm about to move to the city after 5 visits there since 2009, the episode worked -- for me, at least -- as a sort of reminder of some of the things I like about the place.
The gimmick of the show -- Bourdain has just 48 hours in each city he visits during the series -- is a good one as it forces him to focus as he ambles around. Frankly, there seemed to be more information on Hong Kong food in this episode than in the "No Reservations" Hong Kong one.
Rather than dissect every scene, I'm just going to highlight the bits I particularly enjoyed. To see the full episode, be sure to tune in at 9:00 PM EST on Monday, December 19, 2011 for "The Layover: Hong Kong" on The Travel Channel.
A visit to Tim Ho Wan managed to highlight a must eat when in Hong Kong item -- dim sum -- as well as illustrate a larger point: Hong Kong has some of the best food in the world and it's easy to find it at a reasonable price.
I'm glad that Tony found his way to Hui Lau Shan as I make sure to hit this place on each trip. I should add that the shops are small and never as empty -- certainly not in summer! -- as it looked when Bourdain visited.
A few sessions with Matt Walsh are quite good. This is the sort of stuff Bourdain should have included on the Hong Kong episode of "No Reservations" back in 2007. Tony seems a bit more subdued in these scenes and Matt provides some needed background on Hong Kong and Chinese culture.
I think these bits provide a nice contrast to the usual hustle-and-bustle shots we see of Hong Kong. Yes, it's an incredibly crowded city in some spots but there are places where one can unwind and appreciate the spectacular vista of the city skyline.
There's also a too quick visit to Mido Cafe on Temple Street. Bourdain doesn't mention any of the history of the place. If you want to learn that stuff, check out these links on Phil's site. I made a brief visit to Mido Cafe back in June and the place has certainly got the kind of ambiance that a lot of tourists would enjoy. And the food was good and cheap too.
An obligatory visit to Lan Kwai Fong at night -- I guess Wan Chai after dark was too much for Tony? -- is made a bit more palatable by a stop at Racks M.D.B. and some games of pool with owner Simon Yin. The sequence is laid-back and enjoyable and it manages to highlight an obvious draw for the young and beautiful (Lan Kwai Fong), but also show a less glitzy side of Hong Kong nightlife.
I met Simon Yin briefly back in June during my first visit to the Happy Valley Race Track. And while he might not remember me, I do recall that he was more or less like the guy you see in this episode. Frankly, I think The Travel Channel should consider hooking up Simon with a show; the Hong Kong adventures of an Asian-American dude who grew up in Georgia sounds like a winner to me!
Here's a picture I took back in June. Left to right in the front: That's photographer extraordinaire Derrick Fong, Simon Yin, musician Ryan Hui, and Scott Hui (brother of Ryan; their dad is Sam Hui and one of their uncles is Michael Hui and another was the late, great Ricky Hui). The tall guy in the back is esteemed film scholar, professor, and Jason and the Scorchers associate, Sean Tierney...
I was thrilled that Bourdain ended this episode of "The Layover" with a visit to Lamma Island -- complete with the obligatory nap on the ferry. Sometimes it seems as if people only highlight the hectic, neon-lit side of HK, but it's nice to remember that a quick, 30-minute ferry ride can take you to this car-less, dog-overrun little place.
And the food's great there too!
I've been there a few times, and I've blogged about it in the past, so it was pretty cool to see Bourdain, Simon Yin, and the rest of their crew sitting at a restaurant table I had actually sat at before. They ordered all the good stuff too: razor clams, prawns, and so on.
This sequence is one of the best in the episode. It provides the obligatory final wrap-up section of an episode where Tony has a family meal, or the equivalent of one, and it highlights a less obvious part of Hong Kong.
I think with this episode of "The Layover" that Anthony Bourdain has really given viewers a feel of the place. It seems like I've mentioned a lot about this one, but I've barely covered the pleasures of this episode of "The Layover" with Anthony Bourdain.
For those of you who like my blog posts from Hong Kong, and for those of you who want to know why I love the place so much that I'm willing to quit my job here and move there, please watch the Hong Kong episode of "The Layover" on Monday, December 19, 2011 at 9:00 PM EST on The Travel Channel.
Check your local TV or cable listings!