Hello, good afternoon, and welcome to another entry of the Phile. It seems like forever since I posted the last entry. We have to start off with something very tragic... I am of course talking about Kelly Clarkson getting engaged. I have a hall pass, does she? Grrrrr. Kelly, if you're reading this you need to come on the Phile. Yeah, like she knows anything about the Phile. Seriously, I have to mention the Newtown, Connecticut shootings. The NRA will say the shooting was caused by rap music, heavy metal, Marilyn Manson, Howard Stern, video games, violence on TV/films, Janet Jackson's tit, President Obama, Al Qaeda, gay rights, pot being legalized in Colorado and Washington. Mike Huckabee blamed God being removed from public schools. You know, in Iran this is how they protect children.
We protect them over here with condoms. Okay, enough of this. Let's talk about other stuff. Al-Qaida's number two man has been killed by an American drone in Pakistan. In a related story, today al-Qaida's number three man announced he's stepping down to spend more time with his family. Texas Governor Rick Perry announced he's taking steps to run for president once again. He says he's seeking the presidency for three reasons. He can remember only two of them, but he is seeking it. More problems for Lindsay Lohan. Apparently she can’t pay her $8,000-a-month rent on her Beverly Hills mansion. Lindsay doesn't want to move because it's the perfect location. It's between two liquor stores, a bail bondsman, and an auto body shop. Honey Boo Boo was among Barbara Walters' "10 Most Fascinating People of 2012." In a related story, today Barbara was named one of the "10 most easily fascinated people of 2012." According to the latest census poll, a large number of Californians are moving out of state and going to places like Texas and Nevada. Look, I know you lot are disgusted with the Lakers, but that's no reason... The Lakers are so bad, when Mitt Romney talks about the 47 percent, he means Dwight Howard's free throw shooting. It is so bad, Lakers fans are referring to last year's NBA lockout as the good old days. The Army has started kicking out overweight soldiers, and they're refusing to admit recruits that are obese. That shows you how times have changed. Back in the '60s, you had to go to Canada to stay out of the Army. Now, you just have to go to McDonald's. The Golden Globe nominations were announced. Golden Globes are given out by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. The entertainment journalists are from tiny foreign newspapers like the Luxembourg Pennysaver, the Oslo Tattler, and the Rotterdam Bugler. The favorite in the comedy/musical category is Les Misérables. Because what's funnier or catchier than prison breaks, poverty, and the guillotine? Speaking of movies, who saw The Hobbit? I haven't yet, but I am glad they released a Hobbit inspired inspirational poster.
So, the other day I was watching the Charlie Brown Christmas special on TV and I noticed they updated it. And boy, do I like the update.
I was at the store the other day and I don't know if it was the meds tricking my mind, or what, but check this out.
Number one, where is Superman, and number two... Shrek?! Well, Christmas time is around the corner. and if you don't want to get the Superman Big Alliance set for anybody, I might have another gift suggestion. Yes, I'm here to help. So, once again, it's time for...
In some ways, corn dogs are the ultimate food: they provide the basic carbs and proteins needed to fill up and get back to work. Unfortunately, the deep frying in oil part makes them impractical to cook at home on a regular basis. With the Corn Dog Maker though, a cleverly designed mold replaces the need for hot oil, making them easier to cook and a lot healthier. The only thing that could make this cooking device any better would be redesigning it to work with a USB port. You can buy it here: amazon.com/Smart-Planet-CDM-1-Corn-Maker/dp/B002MVOIP8.
There wasn't a Phile entry on Wednesday so I couldn't talk about football with my good friend Jeff. But today I can.
Me: Hey, Jeff, welcome back. So, what week are we on? I'm so confused.
Jeff: This is week 15 in the NFL season. No need to be confused. I have the answers you are looking for.
Me: Great, so what's the latest NFL news? Wasn't there so drama with a member of the Cowboys?
Jeff: Unfortunately a Dallas Cowboy went drunk driving and killed a member of the team's practice squad. They played on the same college team as well. Other then that, just a lot of good games including rookie QB Nick Foles leading his team to victory on the last play and ending an eight game losing streak. The playoffs are looming and some teams clinched a spot while others were eliminated.
Me: Okay, you're winning by ten points, Jeff. Did I catch up? How did we do?
Jeff: I went in with a ten point lead. But I went 0-3 with Steeler a lose. You went 2-1 with a Giants lose. I only lead by 3 points now!
Me: Yeah, I might still win. Alright, this weeks picks... I say Green Bay by five, Cleveland by 9 and this kills me as I hate the Dolphins, but the Dolphins by 10. What do you say?
Jeff: I say Seattle by 7, Oakland by 3 and Denver by 3 as well. Good luck!
Me: Thanks, Jeff. Good job. Alright, next Wednesday I'll have you back. Rock on.
So, I am loosing by seven again. Not bad. well, after what happened in Connecticut... oh, Jeff is from there, I should've got his reaction. Maybe next Wednesday if I remember. Anyway, after what happened in Connecticut a friend of the Phile has a very important message message, so I thought I would have him back on. You know him and love him... he's a singer, surfer, patriot, renaissance man, and good phriend of the Phile. Please welcome back... Laird Jim.
Once again a tortured human decides to take the lives of innocent children. My thoughts are with the families of the 26... 20 of them children. I wish the shooter would have lived... so that someone such as I could have looked him in the eye and snuff out his light. I have a 12 year old son and 3 small grandchildren from my oldest son... this affects me on a primal level. I need to settle down, breathe this fire from my lungs for a bit. Go home today and hug your children, my freaky little darlings... they're going to have questions for you... Just spoke with my 3 year old granddaughter, Olivia. She asked me, "Pop-Pop, when I get bigger and go to school, will you come and protect me?" I haven't stopped crying since I hung up the phone with her. So much anger in my heart right now... so much pain in my soul. What kind of fucking world are we living in? Enough with the news, back to Christmas music.
Laird, everybody. Laird, that was well said, my friend. And now for other sad news though...
April 7, 1920 - Dec 11, 2012
Everyone knows it: sitar players get ALL the chicks.
Today's pheatured guest is the lead singer and founder of the The Silver Snails, an indie pop music project based in the Medieval Wine Country of Romagna, Italy. Their fantastic debut CD "The 7 Melodies" is now available on iTunes. Please welcome to the Phile... Lucas Ward.
Me: Ciao, welcome to the Phile, Lucas. That's hello in Italian I think. Are you guys from Italy?
Lucas: Hi, Jason, I was born in SF, raised in Portland, Oregon. My wife, Elisa is from Cesena, Italy.
Me: Where in Italy do you live? I have never been there but my wife wants to go really bad.
Lucas: We live in the country near the village of Bertinoro, near Cesena in Romagna. You should come visit us. You'd have a great time.
Me: How far are you from Venice?
Lucas: Two hour train ride south of Venice.
Me: So, who is in The Silver Snails?
Lucas: The key elements are myself (lead singer and composer, musician) and Elisa Fantini (singer and director of video and costumes). The kids are a spice, included as much as they want to be. I have a number of musical collaborators, no fixed back-up.
Me: Where did the name come from?
Lucas: We live in a rural valley on 6 acres which is chock full of snails. I got the idea from photographing them during an April rain. I wanted an animal totem, as many of my favorite bands seem to have, and came to deeply appreciate the character and symbolism surrounding snails. There are a number of musicians using the snail, but nobody major yet.
Me: I interviewed a lot of musicians who are in bands with some relation or another, which I cannot understand. My wife and I could never work together. How do you two do it?
Lucas: We have spent years in close quarters and thus developed a (hard-won) tolerance. As parents with small kids, the decision to make the group a family band was a way to give the band the maximum space to exist: co-opting family life, as it were. Also, Elisa has tremendous personal charisma and creative energy. She attracts all kinds of people to the project, and has been fundamental to helping us get this far.
Me: So, what came first, marriage of The Silver Snails?
Lucas: We've been married 14 years, and the Silver Snails were conceived in 2009. Essentially, the band is our third child (after Jasmine and Celeste).
Me: Have you both been musicians for a long time?
Lucas: I started playing piano at 4, took lessons from age 10, went to an arts High School in Portland, studied jazz piano in college, played after college, took up guitar and singing as a teenager, also play drums and these days focus on voice and composition. Elisa started studying voice in Italy six years ago.
Me: Lucas, you play piano and guitar, right? Does Elisa play any instruments?
Lucas: Keys, guitar, bass, voice, drums. Elisa: voice.
Me: Who does most of the songwriting in the band?
Lucas: Me 95% though Elisa has written a few tunes for other bands in Italy. We are working on one of her tunes for the next record.
Me: Let's talk about your music, I love, love, love the song "Dancing With the Stars". What a pretty but catchy song. Are all the songs on the new CD "The 7 Melodies" like that?
Lucas: Thank you for the kudos. "The 7 Melodies" are intended as a concept album, but with huge stylistic and linguistic variation from song to song. "Dancing with the Stars" is the "poppiest". The unifying element among all but "Foulard" is the use of melodic vocals, blended male and female (though in "Waltz for 2 Moons", I did all the vocals).
Me: There's songs sung in English, Italian and French, right? What do you prefer?
Lucas: I prefer to write in English, my native language, but also enjoyed the artistic challenge of writing in Italian, French and Mandarin, as well as the challenge of integrating 2 languages (e.g. English and Italian in "Beatrice Russo", or English and Mandarin in "The Sundance"). I intend to do more of this, especially with Mandarin and Italian. The idea is to evoke emotion with language, celebrate the beauty of other languages, as well as reach out to a global audience by singing to them in their languages.
Me: Apart from Mandarin there's also Sanskrit songs. First of, how many languages do you know? Second, what is Sanskrit?
Lucas: I learned Mandarin fluently in college and still speak it fluently. I'm also fluent in Italian. I'm proficient in Cantonese, and Spanish, and studied Japanese and French in school. Sanskrit is the ancient Indian language in which important Hindu scriptures are composed (like Latin), including the jewel of Indian sacred texts, The Bhagavad Gita. I am in no way learned in Sanskrit or Hinduism. Like many non Hindus, I found deep inspiration reading the Gita in translation. For the song, "Ave Maria a Zio Virgilio", I chose my 3 favorite verses and learned them phoenetically in Sanskrit from the site bhagavad-gita.org. I felt the messages in these verses were appropriate for the spirit of the tune, a requiem for Elisa's uncle Virgilio, who happened to be a devout follower of Mother Mary.
Me: Who are your influences music, wise?
Lucas: I am a voracious listener so the list is long. Starting with classic rock and pop: The Beatles (including their solo work), the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Cat Stevens, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Donovan, the Kinks, David Bowie, Bob Marley, Supertramp, Simon & Garfunkel, Elton John, CCR, Rickie Lee Jones, Prince, James Brown, Jimi Hendrix, many others. Through studying classical piano I developed affinity for Beethoven, Bach, Debussy, Satie. I have studied and listened to a lot of jazz, and my favorites include Chick Corea, Ahmad Jamal, John Coltrane, Pat Metheny, Michel Camillo, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Bill Evans, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Ornette Coleman, Miles Davis, Keith Jarrett, Nina Simone. Many of these I have seen live. I also love African, Indian, and South America music with favorites including King Sunny Ade, Manu Chao, Jobim, Joao Gilberto, Thomas Mapfumo, Hamza El Din, Ali Farka Toure, Toure Kunda, Grupo Niche, Cubanismo, Cachao, the late Ravi Shankhar and especially Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, the late great Kawaali singer. I was conceived in Hawaii and have a special place in my heart for slack key, especially Keola Beamer. In electronica, I like Boards of Canada, Gotan Project, Teebs, Triosk, Vangelis, Marter, Talvin Singh, Buddha Bar, Enigma, Cheb i Sabbah and many others. My strongest inspirations currently are contemporary Indie Pop/Alt Rock folks, especially the Flaming Lips, also DCFC, Band of Horses, The Shins, Sigur Ros,The Sea and Cake, Field Music, Grandaddy, Metric, Animal Collective, Foals, Idaho, M. Ward, Starfucker, Modest Mouse, Smashing Pumpkins, and many more. Elliott Smith deserves special mention as he was a close friend of mine in high school, and his musical path and charisma influenced me deeply to write songs.
Me: Shit, have those people you mentioned I never heard of. All those bands and stuff and you didn't mention Foghat. Everyone I ask that question pretty much says The Beatles. Lucas.
Lucas: I remember that feeling of falling in love that the Beatles music invoked in me around the age of 10, especially "Sgt Pepper", but also the "White Album" and "Abbey Road". I got sick of them eventually, but then re-engaged in my 30s, hearing them almost anew as I studied their song craft. I consider the Beatles the most important group in pop because they effectively invented the language which we use today. That being said, I don't necessarily listen to the Beatles all the time, and am selective when I do, prefering their studio albums and solo stuff.
Me: What is your favorite Beatles song?
Lucas: "Here Comes the Sun", "Hey Jude", "Ob-la-di-bla-da", "Blackbird", "Across the Universe", "Norwegian Wood", "With a Little Help From My Friends". I like even more a few of their solo tunes, especially "Real Love" by John Lennon, "Maybe I'm Amazed" by Paul, and "My Sweet Lord" by George Harrison.
Me: I have to ask you about "The 7 Melodies"... where did that name come from? I counted at least 18 in the song "Dancing With the Stars". Well, that's not true, I didn't count, but I am sure there's more than seven in that one song.
Lucas: Yes, we are using melody as a euphimism for song. I gave Elisa authority to shape our first CD, selecting songs, providing artistic direction (e.g. 'do this one in French', 'put two accordions in this one', etc). She came up with the idea of 7 melodies (songs). I looked up 7 and found it represents perfection (literally 7 was used as a glyph for 'perfection'), as well as the 7 colors of the rainbow, 7 sins, 7 virtues, and many other things. It's a magic number.
Me: Yeah, and next month is the Phile's 7th anniversary. How did "The 7 Melodies" get to be the album title?
Lucas: My wife is a visionary, and she intuited it.
Me: I watched the video for "Dancing With the Stars". Are the little girls in the video your daughters?
Lucas: The girls in white are our daughters, Jasmine and Celeste at ages 7 and 3. The song was inspired by Jasmine and is intended to express a father's amazement at the miracle of children, like "Isn't She Lovely" by Stevie Wonder. The other 3 girls are children of friends/relatives.
Me: I have a picture from the video right here, Lucas.
Me: They must really enjoyed dressing up and everything. You all dressed up very nice. Did you come up with the look of the band?
Lucas: I came up with the purple and silver baroque costume for me, bought the material while visiting my folks in Portland. Elisa came up with everything else and had it all made for us by hand by a seamstress in Italy. We have 3 other videos in production, and each one has a different look and setting, though the glam look of "Dancing with the Stars" works great for me with regards to live shows for the time being.
Me: Who are the children that sing on the track?
Lucas: Jasmine sings the "Lai lai lai".
Me: Where was the video filmed, Lucas? I didn't know Italy had beaches. Well, I guess it does, it is surrounded pretty much by water.
Lucas: We are in the hills, 30 minutes from the beach at Cesenatico (Adriatic). We filmed the video during two consecutive nights in October. The first night was in the field on our land, the second night was on the beach in Cesenatico. We covered our Kawaii piano with shiny decals and moved down to our field with our tractor for the video.
Me: And were those real snails in the video? They look creepy.
Lucas: Yeah, real snails, not digital. Our land is so full of them that local farmers come around to harvest them. I chase them away politely explaining that they are my animal totem. We have other wild game where we live, especially pheasants, deer, wild rabbits, and javelina.
Me: I saw a video on Youtube of you playing live and up on stage there's a fire juggler or some kinda dancer. Is that normal for all your shows?
Lucas: We network a lot with other artists, performers, musicians, rope in a lot of people for our videos. I see us collaborating with other performers to make shows more exciting. I'm also dreaming of organizing a big festival on our land to be titled Snailstock.
Me: Do you play live often and how often do you play outside Italy?
Lucas: We just launched the project in June and played our first two shows in July. We are getting a ton of requests and will be heading to Rome in a week to play live. I'm attempting to sow the seeds online for US shows as soon as we can get it together. I travel to Portland and California a lot, see us playing in US festivals in 2013. I'm also laying the groundwork to do shows in the UK and China, where we have a lot of contacts.
Me: Lucas, thanks so much for being on the Phile. Please come back sometime. I am sure I have more questions about your music and Italy. Actually, I do have a question about Italy. It is known for wine, but do you know any good Italian beers I should try?
Lucas: For beer, I recommend Belgian. Italy is great for wine, and we in fact make our own, about 2000 bottles a year of San Giovese (the main variety in Bertinoro), Barbera, and Albana. Please come visit and I'll show you what I'm talking about.
Me: Great, I'll be on the plane tomorrow. LOL. Thanks again, Lucas. Go ahead and mention your website. I hope this was fun. Please come back soon.
Lucas: Thanks a ton, Jason. I really appreciate your interest! thesilversnails.com.
Well, that about does it for this entry. Thanks to Laird Jim, Jeff Trelewicz and of course Lucas Ward. The Phile will be back tomorrow with Justin Jones, the lead singer for the band The Mahlors. Spread the word, not the turd, don't let snakes and alligators bite you. Bye, love you, bye.