Anton Newcombe talks about the new Brian Jonestown Massacre record – Aufheben [Listen 31'17"] S02 Ep05 Living in a reverse world
Interview Date: April 13, 2012 @10:30am EDT
Special Guest (Audio) - Mr. Anton Alfred Newcombe is a free thinking intellect, passionate communicator, and singer-songwriter & multi-instrumentalist for the band The Brian Jonestown Massacre. I contacted him by phone at his residence in Germany and got to have one of the most interesting and intense conversations I've had with an artist yet.
We talk about religion/spirituality, pitfalls of the music industry, the vinyl record industry, and topics from Rev. Jim Jones, to popular culture and onwards. He talks about his new album, Aufheben, the concept behind destroying something in order to preserve it and he even gives me a perfect example (Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel's use of the term.) He's an amazing guest, great musician, and fascinating interview.
More videos, links and info at the end of the written interview with Gerard Rejskind.
Special guest (Print) (part 1 of 3) – Gerard Rejskind is a High-end stereo/Audiophile expert and the chief editor of UHF Magazine. With over 30 years of experience behind him, Mr.Rejskind has also taken his knowledge and written three books of particular interest to the industry. In addition to this, what he is probably most famous for are his "State of the Art” columns at the back of his magazine; which, in my opinion, is a wellspring of audiophile knowledge. He was nice enough to answer some stereo and turntable questions that I asked on behalf of our fans, fans of High-end, and those who are just getting into vinyl and High-end audio.
UHF website, or to order your subscription HERE.
GoingThruVinyl's Interview with UHF Magazine's Chief Editor Gerard Rejskind
The audio world is filled with heated debate, with passionate adherents to one particular label, technology, format, class, and the debates are often filled with jargon and technical figures. Can you lend your expertise to simplify the debates and jargon to include the budding vinyl aficionado reading this?
GTV - When did you first get into High-end Stereos and what made you want to start UHF magazine?
GR - I would have been in my early teens. A local doctor was the first in town with a hi-fi system, complete with folded corner horn, and when I first heard it (on a piece of lieder, then unfamiliar to me), I got goose bump. I badgered my parents to buy me my own hi-fi, and the doctor would then let me borrow his records, after showing me how to handle them safely. My own hi-fi was not very good, and I began modifying it, which meant I needed to learn how to solder. I learned a lot more once I was in university, in physics and math. In my 20's, I began designing my own electronics, and started a small company to market my amplifiers, preamplifiers, and even a tape recorder. At one point I also spent time as chief engineer of an FM station, whose sound I improved radically.
I didn't actually start the magazine, though I was the original editor. It was started by Michel Prin, who then ran a successful French-language magazine called Son Hi-Fi. I later bought what was then called Hi-Fi Sound, and was to become UHF.
GR - Whenever possible we prefer to choose products we have heard and liked. We have been known to say awful things about products, but we can review only a limited range of products, and I think people would rather read about what they should listen to rather than what they shouldn't. We mostly insist on products having a certain distribution, which means saying no to products that look promising but are not actually available anywhere. As for the cover, we tend to choose products that look good and sound good as well. Advertisers my get priority on the cover, though not in the actual reviews.
GTV - I thought it might be interesting to get into the history of “breakthrough" Hi-Fi stereo equipment (for home use) circa mid/late 60’s. In the Mid-Sixties, there was, as I understand, a shift in the everyday music fan’s expectation in sound reproduction, began to be dissatisfied with what was widely available, and started asking for, and steering the market towards better quality sound production. Am I correct? Was this more particular to the classical music fan?
GR - I would say it was particular to people who enjoyed acoustic music, which was not itself amplified. Classical music buffs probably latched onto hi-fi first, and discovered that a good playback system could be advantageous even if you were going to play Elvis, or certainly the Beatles. Through the years, hi-fi has appealed most to those listening to recordings that were meant to be reproductions of a live event, rather than a studio creation. That said, hi-fi, like fine wine, makes everything taste better.
GTV - There was a bunch of shifts that happened around this time, but probably the biggest shift was when the industry went from Mono to Stereo. We often think of “progress in technology” in terms of sequential advancement, but this was not always the case at the beginning. Why was this transition from Mono to Stereo so difficult for the industry?
GR – When you look back, it actually arrived pretty fast. It was in 1941 that Alan Blumlein proposed his stereo microphone setup. Despite the interruption of the War, by 1954 you could buy open-reel stereo tapes, and in 1958, the 45-45 stereo LP was launched. It did, however, take a while for everyone to switch over. Stereo records were only partly compatible with existing systems, and the industry actually produced a double inventory of mono and stereo records for years. There was some resistance from consumers, too, with some suspicion that stereo was a plot by speaker manufacturers to double their sales. Finally, if one speaker was difficult to place in a typical home, adding a second speaker didn't make decorating any easier.
GTV - Another huge shift was the transition from tube amps to transistor (or solid-state) amps. The transistor itself was treated as a technological breakthrough. Can you speak on the importance of this introduction? What was the quality of these early solid-state amps like?
GR - Oh, it was dreadful. The first transistors deemed suitable for hi-fi had poor bandwidth, and suffered from slew rate distortion, also known as transient intermodulation distortion. TID didn't show up in standard equipment tests, because it had the greatest impact on low-level signal, and audio labs were used to testing at maximum level. The makers of these amps defended their creations with the argument that we just weren't used to hearing music so pure and undistorted. If that sounds familiar, it's because the argument was dusted off when the Compact Disc showed up.
GTV - I remember reading in one of your back issues that you are (like myself) an Arturo Toscanini fan and that you prefer some mono recordings over some stereo ones. Can you tell me some Mono recordings that stand out as still being audiophile worthy?
GR - Yes. At UHF we've always insisted that the source was the most important part of a system, and the real source is the musical performance. Many of Toscanini's recordings sound dull and even muffled, thanks to the dreadful acoustics of NBC's Studio H. However I'd recommend his recording of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, one of the best recordings ever made. His recording of Wagner overtures is worth seeking out as well. In other music genres too, there are treasures to be had. That includes popular music, and of course jazz.
GTV - As I understand, the major companies got into something of a price war to one up another to deliver components of great quality for good value, and led to a focus on producing a piece to topple another company's major seller. What was the first real stand-out piece of equipment for the masses around the mid-sixties era? Other notables?
GR -That's not quite how I remember it. There was indeed a price war, but if there's one thing we've learned from more recent events, it's that price wars are more often a race to the bottom than a catalyst for producing quality. The price war was actually in the hands of Japanese companies like Pioneer and Sony, whose products were both more affordable and better made than those of American and European manufacturers. They didn't sound as good, though, and the hi-fi wave was started by people who quit their jobs in mass-market stores and started their own stores, with listening rooms that would allow them to demonstrate the difference.
GTV - This price war "golden era" was brought down by a recession in the early eighties and the decision of companies to make smaller, lighter components to reduce the company's cost of shipping and thus lower the final sticker price (which also negatively affected the quality by using lighter, cheaper quality.) Has this pendulum swing normalized?
GR - No. Large companies competed to make their products just a little cheaper, and then cheaper still. Since these inferior products could not be used for true appreciation of musical performance, there was no down side to making them a little cheaper still. A "mini-system" used to cost $700, but today it costs perhaps $150. Spend $100 more, and you've got a surround sound system! This sort of commoditization happen in all consumer goods, not just audio. One of the few companies swimming upstream in this race to the bottom is Apple, and look how often they get criticized for their "overpriced" products!
GTV - What are other landmarks in the industry's history?
GR - Oh, there have been lots, not always happy ones. You've already mentioned solid-state amplification. The CD is another, a potentially good technology that was inferior because it was launched prematurely. More recently, we've seen the computer emerge as a genuine high end source which has pretty much eclipsed the CD player. In between, there have been many mini revolutions, such as better turntables from the 1970's on, David Hafler's superior phono preamplifiers. At one time amplifiers were very large and speakers very inefficient. The AR2 and AR3 were examples, and they allowed terrific bass from small enclosures. More recently, speakers have become much more efficient, and some tube amplifiers are low-powered. In record playback, we've seen the modern development of the moving coil pickup, and since then the (relatively) low-inductance moving magnet pickup. I would consider the line contact stylus to be a major development.
Come back next week for part 2 of our 3 part written interview with UHF Magazine Editor and Audiophile expert Gerard Rejskind.
Aufheben the new Brian Jonestown Massacre album
From the Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy by Simon Blackwell – Aufheben (German, to supersede, to cancel) In the philosophy of Hegel, dialectical progress occurs when each of a thesis and its antithesis are aufgehoben, or overcome by a synthesis that builds only on the good bits of each. Often used as a knowing way of presenting a theory that overcomes and abolishes previous dualities or dichotomies.
Tracks are as follows:
- Panic in Babylon (4:39)
- Viholliseni Maalla(4:45)
- Gaz Hilarant(2:43)
- I Wanna Hold Your Other Hand(4:31)
- Face Down on the Moon(5:12)
- Clouds Are Lies(3:25)
- Stairway to the Best Party(4:25)
- Seven Kinds of Wonderful(5:23)
- Waking Up to Hand Grenades(5:40)
- Blue Order New Monday(7:16)
listen to “I Want to Hold Your Other Hand” here: http://soundcloud.com/cargorecords/05-i-wanna-hold-your-other/s-HFbh6
Brian Jonestown Massacre
Anton Newcombe – Guitars, Vocals, Bass, Keyboards, Drums & Electronics
Will Carruthers - Bass & Backing Vocals
Matt Hollywood - Guitar
Constantine Karlis - Drums
Hallberg Daði Hallbergsson - Guitar
Hakon Adalsteinsson - Guitar
Eliza Karmasalo – Vocals on Viho
Friederike Bienert – Flute
Thibault Pesenti - Vocals on Illuminomi
Fab Leseure – Keyboards & Electronica
GTV would like to thank Colorado Record Crates for donating their Beautiful Record Crates - Do you have a diverse and interesting record collection? Why not show them off that way with a Colorado Record Crate. They are hand made to order and coming a variety of environmentally friendly stains and finishes:
I thought I might start off with showing you the video that Anton and I talk about "Waking up to Hand Grenades":
You can check out all the tracks and his cool mashed together videos on YouTube:
Or here at his DeadTV station:
Another thing that gets brought up in the interview is Jacques Brel's 1961 song "Le Moribond" and the 1974 cover version "Season's in the Sun" by Terry Jacks; which version is your favorite?
On a separate topic Mickey Hart (formally of the Grateful Dead) has a new album just out ("Mysterium Tremendum"). I've listened to it and I have to say that I think is really great:
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- Ron Carter Interview (Part 1 of 2) [Listen 22:25] Hooking Up A Nice New Turntable S04 Ep10
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