Friday, July 03, 2020

John Zorn's jazz-metal multiverse

Here is a long story I recently published on John Zorn. It focuses on his many projects over the years that have blended jazz/improv with metal/hardcore — from Spy vs. Spy through Naked City, Painkiller and others, on up to the currently active Simulacrum — and the considerable influence these endeavors have had on both communities. It's based on new interviews with John and around 20 of his collaborators, from Joey Baron and Bill Frisell to Mike Patton and Mick Harris. This was a lot of fun to work on and I hope you'll give it a read.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Heavy Metal Bebop Podcast: Jack DeJohnette

Honored to present this conversation with a true legend (recorded last summer, well before COVID-19). Listen via Apple Podcasts, Spotify or Podbean. Enjoy!

Sunday, May 03, 2020

DFSBP lives

Hello, you may have noticed that DFSBP* is somewhat (OK, far...) less active than it's been in the past. This is mainly due to the fact that much of my writing now takes place via Rolling Stone. I still post here occasionally, though, so I hope you will check back as you're able and take some time to browse the archives.

Speaking of which, here are some past posts that I like:

-Interviews: Astral Weeks producer Lewis Merenstein, vibraphone magician Walt Dickerson.

-Spontaneous subgenre surveys: “math rock”, major-label post-hardcore of the 1990s.

-Remembrances: Cecil Taylor, Cleve Pozar, Charlie Haden.

-Impressions of live shows: Brötzmann/Leigh, Taylor/Oxley.

-Impromptu deep dives into this or that body of work or musical avenue: the compositions of Cecil Taylor (noticing a theme?); Paul Motian; Tim Berne’s early Snakoil records; death-metal conservatism.

-Reflections on the act of writing-about-music and why I’m uneasy with the idea of “criticism”: Kamasi Washington, Frank Ocean

And you'll find year-end top 10 lists dating back to 2005 here.

If you ever come across a dead link here or have questions or comments about a given post, don't hesitate to drop me a line. Thanks as always for reading. -HS

*If you’re curious where the name came from, have a look at this post.

Monday, March 09, 2020

Heavy Metal Bebop Podcast: Defeated Sanity

I've wanted to interview Lille Gruber, drummer, co-founder and mastermind of German death-metal masters Defeated Sanity, for a long time now. So happy that it finally came to pass — during a recent visit to New York by Lille and bassist Jacob Schmidt — and I hope you enjoy the results. Some context for those who might not be familiar: Lille actually started Defeated Sanity with his father, Wolfgang Teske, a fusion musician who learned about metal through his son. Wolfgang, who had introduced his son to Mahavishnu Orchestra, Return to Forever and other jazz-rock staples early on, remained part of the group from its 1993 inception through 2008; sadly he died two years later.

In this episode of the Heavy Metal Bebop Podcast, Lille delves deep into that father-son collaboration and much more, and the episode also includes an interview with Jacob. Thanks for listening!




Friday, March 06, 2020


Update, 3/9/20: One more for McCoy and the quartet.

I'm no expert on his vast catalog, but the records I do know — mainly the Coltranes, the Blue Notes and a few of the Milestones — have brought me so much enjoyment. I tried to link to as many primary/authoritative sources as I could in this Rolling Stone obit. He was such a great talker (e.g., "I like to go on an adventure when I play," from Innerviews) so the quotes carry the day.

I have no good excuse for only having seen him play one full live set — I believe I caught other briefer appearances here and there — but at least I have that one memory. As far as the recorded legacy, Phil Freeman's deep dive into his '70s discography is a helpful guide to an overlooked period.

RIP, McCoy Tyner. He was one of the last remaining giants of those glorious 1960s that we'll obsess over forever.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Sultans of swing

Happy belated 50th to one of the best bands, full stop. I took the opportunity to delve into the jazz roots and swing tendencies of Black Sabbath, with help from Bill Ward, Henry Rollins and others. This one was part of a mini Sabbath bonanza of sorts over at RS, for which my friend and colleague Kory Grow, a true black-belt Sabbathologist, went all out, shedding new light on the circumstances of the iconic debut and the heretofore mysterious cover art. Hope you dig.

Thank you as always for visiting and reading. More soon!

PS: For anyone keeping track, the Heavy Metal Bebop Podcast is not defunct, just on a little break. In the meantime, please check out the 2019 backlog if you haven't already.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Sunday, January 12, 2020

A farewell to the king: Goodbye, Neil Peart

Sure, I've put together a top 10 list or two in my day. But the practice of ranking and quantifying artists and artworks is generally not something I place much stock in. Let's just say, though, that someone were to ask me to name my favorite band. I've answered craw in the past, and I take nothing away from their towering significance within my personal pantheon. But if we're talking about the one whose music I've spent more time with than any other, whose output has provided me with the greatest amount of spirit food for the longest span of time, it has to be Rush and no other.

They've been my happy place for so long, I can't even remember a time before. Just about every album. (Honestly, the self-titled debut might be the only one I don't adore.) Nearly every song. Throughout all those records, there are maybe four or five tracks I don't outright love. (Strangely, two of them, "Chemistry" and "Countdown," happen to be on the same LP, Signals, which is otherwise maybe my favorite Rush album.) All the DVDs and live albums, which in recent years, I've gone back to as much if not more than the studio records. Five live shows, stretching back to April of '94, when I had my mind blown by the Counterparts tour, and including the Snakes and Arrows tour in 2007, the Time Machine run in 2010 (Moving Pictures front to back), the Clockwork Angels tour in 2012 and the phenomenal R40 in 2015.

But also, like, two half-marathons completed with predominantly Rush blasting in my headphones. Runs, walks, subway rides. Moments of hazy pre-sleep consciousness with Rush playing on the stereo or in my ears. A very fragmentary "Xanadu" cover learned with my friends and bandmates. The big "Tom Sawyer" fill, a good chunk of "Subdivisions" and a few other choice bits labored over and sketchily reproduced in the practice room. Countless nerdy conversations. Innumerable air-drum sessions. Recently, fledgling attempts to play a bit of "Limelight" on guitar. Just, like, a life with this music as the backdrop or, not all that infrequently, the central focus. The impact is indescribable, the debt unrepayable.

There is so much more to say, but here's what I pulled together in tribute to the great man on the occasion of his passing, inspired in part by this ancient DFSBP riff on the "Subdivisions" drum part.

Thank you for everything, and farewell.