Keith Levene Interview (Part 2 of 2) [Listen 37:11] – Doing An Event With But Never Getting Hired by Keith Levene S03 Ep08
Special Guest: Keith Levene is a punk rock icon. He started off his career as one of the founding members of the Clash – helping write some of the bands early songs like "What's My Name", only to leave before they recorded their first album. His next project was another short lived but significant band, The Flowers of Romance, which consisted of Sid Vicious (pre Sex Pistols days) as well as Palmolive and Viv Albertine just before they formed the Slits. But Keith Levene is probably most famous for his unique guitar style and his powerful song writing skills in the band, Public Image Limited, which included the lead singer of the recently defunct Sex Pistols, Johnny Rotten, a.k.a. John Lydon as well as a then unknown bass player by the name of Jah Wobble. PiL as they became to be known changed the direction of punk for good taking it away from the pre-packaged punk music created by people like Malcolm McLaren and veering into completely uncharted territories with albums like First Edition, The Flowers of Romance, and their landmark album Metal Box (or known in the states as Second Edition). Keith Levene recently teamed up with his old bandmate, Jah Wobble, and have a new album titled Yin and Yang out on Cherry Red Records.
In this Podcast Keith Levene and I talk about The Clash and what early Clash songs he contributed to, we discuss what Johnny Lydon was/is really like, the band PiL and the behind the scenes band politics, his friend Sid Vicous and what he was like behind all the hype. I ask him about Bernie Rhodes and Malcolm McLaren, the time he started playing with Fishbone, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, how flea inspired him to play again, and what the future holds for Jah Wobble and Keith Levene.
Enough Is Enough
It has been proven. Now is a time when pop music is becoming the same. The same to each other, and the same in itself. The same to each other, that is, that there is less differentiation from one pop song to the next, and same in itself as in there's less changes, less of a dynamic range in pop songs these days. One can follow this progression through to the point where all pop songs will become a constant drone with a steady beat of 120 bpm and an autotuned vocal track that wavers only between two pitches of a short range. Ok, actually, that sounds strangely interesting to me, and I'm reducing the problem to the absurd, but the problem is legitimate. Pop music is becoming too much the same.
The point I want to make, is that music is losing something. It's losing it's flavour, the personality. While some may say that pop music never had that much substance to begin with, and that's not it's particular aim, a quick introduction into the history of pop music will show that there was much more there in the early days of the 20'th century. Love and loss, the subjects weren't that broad or deep, but the personality of the performers shone through. And now there's a homogenization taking place, and it's going on under the noses of people perhaps too pacified already to take notice and speak out for their own benefit.
The unfortunate thing is that the music is being packaged and sold in pretty, glittery packages that dazzle the eye of the consumers. The rate of exchange comes so quick that there isn't enough time to discover the ruse before the public is dazzled by the next latest offering. It's more about production and advertizing. Much like the days that punk emerged. Punk emerged out of an era of over-produced music. Music that had gotten outside of itself and into the hands of heavy-handed producers and laden glitter and dazzle. It became less about the music and more about the show. I'm afraid that this is the result when music becomes too much an industry and follows a formula, and too far removed as an art form.
In the late seventies, this was, by large, what you had to choose form: music that had lost sight of itself. It's true that there was always music of integrity, if you had the paitience and dedication to search for it, but what was being marketed was filler. Punk was the anti-movement, the reaction. Then, of course, the terrible inevitable happened. Punk became too big and itself became manipulated, watered down and over produced with an eye for marketing and turning a buck. The answer: Post-punk. Steering the reins away from the managers and advertisers once again and making music for music's sake. For the joy of music. The need to make a sound. A tribal gathering, not an event just to fill a stadium and line pockets.
This is what's missing today; the reaction. The backlash. The anti-movement to the mind-numbing consumer fad and conformity.
How it'll come, I don't know, perhaps the seeds are sprouting right now. But I believe it will, and it'll have the impact that punk had on the scene in the late seventies. The blank canvas is prepared. It'll come, and I'm waiting for it in anticipation. Most likely, once again, it'll come on the heels of the disaffected youth sick of the pablum they've been force fed for so long. Keith Levene might be the best one to ask, he was on the punk & post-punk scene, in nearly every scene that mattered. He never seemed to carve his place in one particular band, not in those turbulent and visionary times, but he was the journeyman, coming in and seeding his influence then kicked out or moved on to the next scene.
Keep in mind, as Benjamin Franklin said, “If everyone is thinking alike, then no one is thinking.” There is at some point when someone realizes that and decides to act against conformity and produces a profound and worthwhile change fueled with exuberance and exhilaration. Every great epoch of music is hinged on it. I'm waiting.
-- Guthrie Alan Corwin
Keith Levene Interview (Part 1 of 2) [Listen 37:10 min]- Slashing Through The Rules With Keith Levene S03 Ep08
Special Guest: Keith Levene is a punk rock icon. He started off his career as one of the founding members of the Clash – helping write some of the bands' early songs like "What's My Name", only to leave before they recorded their first album. His next project was another short lived but significant band, The Flowers of Romance, which consisted of Sid Vicious (pre Sex Pistols days) as well as Palmolive and Viv Albertine just before they formed the Slits. But Keith Levene is probably most famous for his unique guitar style and his powerful song writing skills in the band, Public Image Limited, which included the lead singer of the recently defunct Sex Pistols, Johnny Rotten, a.k.a. John Lydon as well as a then unknown bass player by the name of Jah Wobble. PiL, as they became to be known changed the direction of punk for good taking it away from the pre-packaged punk music created by people like Malcolm McLaren and veering into completely uncharted territories with classic albums like First Edition, The Flowers of Romance, and their landmark album, Metal Box (or known in the states as Second Edition). Keith Levene recently teamed up with his old bandmate, Jah Wobble, and have a new album titled Yin and Yang out on Cherry Red Records.
In this podcast, we talk about his guitar style, the newish album Yin and Yang and some of the songs and concepts on the album, we touch upon drugs and his experiences and thoughts, the Beatles, what dub music was like growing up and he gives a shout out to Dub Gabriel.
BTW since the recording of this interview (back on December 6) Keith Levene has released a new album titled Search4AbsoluteZero that I think will be one of the best releases of 2013.
Buy it here: http://keithlevene.com/
Whether you're a fan of the British punk/post-punk scene or not, the influence that just a few individuals had upon the world's music scene is monumental. Really, for what impact they've made, they simply aren't famous enough. The tangents and avenues opened up from this scene (small as it was in the beginning) has had a profound and lasting effect on music that still reverberates today, and I'm not simply speaking of punk music/genre itself and all the off-shoots, but of contemporary music in general. Punk got in there and wormed it's influence into whatever music wanted to be seen as contemporary, somewhere, at some point. Enough credit isn't paid to the originators. And the originators really come down to just a small collection of people. If you want to go by today's measure of whether music is good by judging the degree of separation to Brian Eno, then Levene and the crew are in very good standing. One doesn't have to look far for that connection. I'm sure that some people who know the dub and ambient type of work Eno & Wobble produced would say that it's a far cry from punk for there to be an influence, but I'm saying that there is a punk influence there; and to prove otherwise, one would really have to go to the source and ask them specifically. I'm betting that they'd say that punk has an influence in whatever they do at least to some degree. Really, the argument could be made that punk imparts itself despite whatever they would say. To be involved in the formation of a scene, and such a shift from the current scene, and at such a impressionable time in one's age has to have a lasting effect in the foundation of a person's being, especially a scene that attracted so much attention, fury, and controversy.
Even the formation of punk itself has its controversy; some say that it all was a manufactured orchestration from Malcolm McLaren, but we'll leave that debate as it is and focus more on Keith Levine.
One could say that Levene has had his hand in the punk/post-punk cookie jar more than any others through being involved with Public Image Limited (PiL), The Clash, the short lived, but notable band, Flowers of Romance, and not forgetting Pigface, (although nearly everyone in a band is a member of Pigface, and probably even you) plus his courtship with the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Fishbone, and not only with his physical presence, but his playing style has had a far reaching influence; The Edge from U2 gets referenced most often, but there are many more that owe a great deal to his style, many probably don't know it, but his influence has spread far and shaped so much, and he doesn't get his due credit, and that's really a shame.
All this, ironically, comes from someone who first stepped into the music scene by becoming a roadie for the very non-punk, but progressive, and symphonic band "Yes." Ironic because punk is supposed to be the kick-in-the-teeth counter-action to the music and bands that had grown to such a degree to be something in awe of its own manifestation. Strangely, Levene doesn't classify himself as a punk, rather he calls himself a hippie. One has to wonder now, why it is that of any musicians that have been interviewed here on Going Thru Vinyl, that it's the musicians that call themselves hippies but play music far outside the "hippie" spectrum that seem to be the happiest with where they are today with their music (ref. John McLaughlin). In fact, when Levene talks of leaving the Clash, he says that the parting wasn't on bad terms at all, but that he simply said that the music just wasn't for him. His departure from PiL wasn't the same by any means, (he was a founding member, and spent 5 years within the band, plus was a profound influence in their sound), but those were different days, and his departure was under different circumstances. The truth of the matter is hidden behind great clashing egos. Unfortunately, his departure came just before PiL's tour in Japan. It's clear, from listening to Levene in the interview, what an impact this split from PiL had on him, and still does to this day. It's clear when he speaks of his ambition to play Tokyo in 2013.
Levene labels himself a hippie, but speaks not in idealisms, but with candour, pragmatism, and ingtegrity. His views on heroin use are particularly poignant.
Considering their experiences, one could forgive them all for being road weary, yet, they're at it again - producing music, releasing albums, and touring. Levene most recently with his own release "Search 4 Absolute Zero", Wobble with Levene - "Yin & Yang", and John Lydon with another manifestation of PiL, "This is PiL". And one has to wonder why, for being as old as they are, and all that they've been through, for all to be producing music so far above expectation. Judging against their peers, one has to think that maybe they had the right idea at the beginning - an ethos of being and of music as an anti-production, but simply of being, despite convention and politeness for the sake of the status quo. It's unfortunate that something was too passionate and honest that it become the cause of it's own destruction, but these men still carry the glowing embers that once sparked a revolution.
- Guthrie Alan Corwin
As you probably know David Bowie is bringing out an new album (The Next Day) due out in March. I thought I would remind our listeners that we have two Bowie related podcasts already up and hope to have a few new ones by the time the album comes out. Also I thought I would give a shout-out to a fellow Bowie fan Adam Dean (of Bowie Downunder) who has probably the most up-to-date unofficial Bowie website out there. So here`s a link to that: http://www.bowiedownunder.com/
Lastly, we are really excited to announce that Dub Gabriel has agreed to come on the show! We highly recommend him and his music and think you should check him out. Here is a link to his site: http://destroyallconcepts.bandzoogle.com/home.cfm
- Andrea Bocelli
- Brett Anderson
- Brian Jonestown Massacre - Anton Newcombe
- Christian Wolff
- Daniel B
- Daniel Bressanutti
- David J
- Dub Gabriel
- Earl Slick
- Francois Eckert
- Gentle Giant - Derek Shulman
- Gentle Giant - Malcolm Mortimore
- Gerard Rejskind - UHF Magazine
- Gerry Leonard
- Gong - Daevid Allen
- Harold Budd
- Heinz Rohrer - Thorens Turntables
- Jim Wilson
- Jimmy Scott
- Joey DeFrancesco
- Joey DeFrancesco - Complete Live Concert
- John McLaughlin
- Johnny Winter
- Keith Levene
- Leafcutter John
- Lynyrd Skynyrd - Johnny Van Zant
- Mickey Hart
- Mike Garson
- Mira Calix
- Miracle Condition - Complete Live Concert
- Mouse On Mars - Jan St.Werner
- Percy Sledge
- Ray Price
- Sly Dunbar
- Steve Albini
- Syl Johnson
- The Damned - Captain Sensible
- The Dandy Warhols - Zia McCabe
- The Doors - John Densmore
- The Fall - Mark E. Smith
- The Isley Brothers - Ernie Isley
- The Orb - Alex Paterson
- The Searchers - John McNally
- The Supremes - Mary Wilson
- Tortoise (Band) - Complete Live Concert
- Tortoise - Doug McCombs
- Vladimir Ashkenazy
- Wanda Jackson
- DJ and Dance
- Editors Choice
- Electronica DJ and Dance
- Funk Blues R&B and Gospel
- Metal and Punk
- Misc Soundtracks Children's Comedy and Bizarre
- Reggae Ethnic and World
- Season 01
- Season 02
- Season 03
- Season 04
- Thrash Metal and Punk
- Jan St. Werner of Mouse On Mars Interview (Part 1 of 2) [Listen 30:15] Getting My Disorder Assessed By Jan St. Werner S04 Ep07
- Aiming for the Simple and Innocent Things with Alex Paterson of The Orb (2 of 2) [Listen 22:37] S04 Ep06
- The Orb Interview (Part 1 of 2) [Listen 21:00] Finding Out Who You Are With Alex Paterson S04 Ep06
- Daniel B. of Nothing But Noise Interview (Part 2 of 2) [Listen 21:45] Dropping the needle anywhere with Daniel B S04 Ep05[21:45]
- Daniel B. of Nothing But Noise Interview (Part 1 of 2) [Listen 21:34] Looking at sounds and images for meaning with Daniel B S04 Ep05