Monthly Archives: June 2011

Happy Rock Dads’ Day Part 2

Welcome back to Part II of my Rock Dad’s Day interviews. I’m catching up with three musician Dads – Kevin, Tyler and Bill – to get their views on music and parenting.

That's Kevin playing bass - and rocking the dance floor - on the right


Kevin lives in Hong Kong and plays bass in a couple of bands – Transnoodle and New Tonic Press. Tyler also plays bass and sings for San Saba County, an Austin band. And Bill lives in Paris and plays guitar for a cover band called The Outliers.

How do you think your child’s experience with music will be different from your own?

Bill: They are starting to learn music at an earlier age than I did and have a good chance to become much more accomplished musicians. They both can now read music and they both have exhibited an impressive willingness to slog forward learning piano (Felix) and guitar (Louis). They are getting skills that today’s technology will only amplify.

Bill - the man in black - performing at a cafe in Paris

As such, I think that today’s technology will make music-making a more integrated part of their overall relationship with music than it was for me. The I-pad has an amazing application that allows you to compose, sample and mix music in a completely intuitive fashion. Felix’s keyboard includes all sorts of rhythms and other capabilities. I have amps and guitars that are accessible to Louis. With their emerging skills as musicians, this will blur the line between the act of listening and the act of music-making. It kind of becomes all the same thing.

Kevin: I’m afraid we won’t be sharing as much music, since now my library sits as a four-month long brick of data in my computer and most listening happens with headphones on. No more albums for him to rifle through and sneak out of my room. I look forward to when he can come see me play — the bands I’m in are too loud for him now. But he’ll have much more resources at his command for learning and playing command — watching tutorials on YouTube or doing home recordings on Pro Tools rather than cassettes.

Tyler: Technology will make her music experience much different than mine as a child. Everything is instant nowadays from buying, downloading, fast forward/rewinding, It’s all at the touch of a button. The record stores are all online so she will most likely never save up her allowance and spend the day at the mall at Musicland to spend every penny on a record, cassette or CD then race home to read the liner notes and lyrics. But it’s ever changing so who knows what she’ll experience.

Are there any artists you absolutely love but your kid(s) detest?

Bill: Nothing offhand. They haven’t gotten into jazz yet, but I don’t expect it. I had hoped they would like They Might Be Giants a bit more, but I picked up a copy of their kids’ record and DVD “This is Science” this week in Boston and the boys and I are all over it.

Tyler: This doesn’t really apply to me yet but she definitely does not like the volume in which I listen to music. Neither does her mother for that matter.

Kevin: So far Jonah hasn’t turned his nose up at any of my music. Actually, he’s probably turned me on to more music thanks to Barney, Fireman Sam, and forgotten/never knew nursery rhymes (especially living in Hong Kong, I get a healthy dose of Brit rhymes I’d never heard).

Tyler, imagine that your daughter is 18. If she were to bring home the 19-year old incarnation of one of the following – Jimi Hendrix, Neil Young, Morrissey, Kanye West or Johnny Cash – which one would you choose/approve of and why?

Tyler: She’s going to bring someone home eventually, isn’t she? Damn. Well, if she brings home any one of those whether it be a guitar guru, master songwriter, rapper or just a badass then he’ll be more of a musician than I’ll ever be so I’ll probably welcome him in to learn some new tricks. That doesn’t mean I have to like him.

Tyler, far right, and San Saba County, a cool Texas band

For Kevin and Bill – when your son(s) is 18, what if he were to bring home the 18-year old incarnation of one of the following – Grace Slick, Olivia Newton-John, Chrissie Hynde, Beyonce or Loretta Lynn – which one would you choose/approve of and why?

Bill: Chrissie Hynde — she’s a nut today but when she hit the scene she was a rock journalist who became a great artist and a truly original female rock icon. Of course, two members of her band died, which is a negative, but I think she (along with Loretta) is genuine in the way the others don’t seem to be.

Kevin: Loretta — although she was married at 13 and had four kids by the time she was 19. But by far the most talented, headstrong and put together of the bunch. Beyonce would break his heart, Grace Slick would weird us out (and “We Built This City (on Rock and Roll)” is unforgivable). Chrissie would be too angry, Olivia Newton-John too forgettable.

Finally, what’s your perfect lullaby?

Tyler: I let Christie handle the lullabys, but I do sing her a song by My Morning Jacket called “Evelyn”.

Kevin: I whistled “Simple Song” from Bernstein’s “Mass” when he was an infant, which seemed to do the trick. “Brahm’s Lullaby” when he was a toddler (I know, it’s the “Stairway to Heaven” of lullabies. But what can I say — it worked.)

Bill: Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence” was the most played and most requested lullaby when they were little. I will always associate this song now with my boys aged three-four.

Thanks again to these Rock Dads for their thoughtful and funny answers. And though I’ve never been a fan of They Might Be Giants (do they have any female fans?), I’ll close, on Bill’s suggestion, with a video from their latest release, Here Comes Science. This clip is called “I Am A Paleontologist”. Gather the kids round the computer screen and enjoy!

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Happy Rock Dads’ Day!

Father’s Day is this Sunday, so in honor of rock Dads everywhere I thought I’d talk to some actual musician Dads and get their take on music and parenting. I sent them some questions and was amused, surprised and most of all honored by their heartfelt answers. My guests are from all over the world, but briefly I’d like to welcome:

San Saba County, a gem of a band from Austin. That's Tyler second from right.

Tyler lives in Austin, but hails from Moscow, Idaho. He plays bass and sings for a band called San Saba County. I’d call them a very Texas band; they use the term: post-alt-country. You can check them out on their MySpace page. Tyler’s daughter, Evie, is almost two, and she’s the cutest thing you’ve ever seen. Tyler’s married to my good pal, Christie, whom I’ve mentioned before as one of my main music-loving resources.

Click here for San Saba County’s website.

Kevin lives in Hong Kong, but is originally from the U.S. His son, Jonah, will be three years old in July. By day, Kevin works as Asia Business Editor for CNN.com International and at night he plays bass in a couple of local bands, including Transnoodle. He describes their music as “original ska, punk, funk, Russian folk music “. For proof, you can check them out on YouTube:

and

Kevin also plays with the trio New Tonic Press, featuring singer-songwriter Sue Shearman. You can listen to New Tonic Press at:

And last but not least is Bill, my brother, who lives in Paris and has twin boys – Felix and Louis – aged eight. Bill works a very white-collar job as a management consultant but also plays guitar in a cover band called The Outliers. He’s as fanatical about music as I am. And he’ll be pleased to know that after many years, I finally have a keen appreciation for Paul Simon.

That's my brother on the right. Kind of a continental T-Bone Burnett, n'est pas?

There were so many interesting and honest answers to my questions that I’m going to post this in two installments. So read on for Part I of my Q&A with some way cool RockDads:

Do you have any specific memories of what music your parents listened to?

Tyler: There are three bands that stand out from my childhood and they all were mostly played on a cassette boombox on the beach during our summer camping trips: ZZ Top, Huey Lewis and The News and John “Cougar” Mellencamp. My parents were always music listeners but not music lovers and I would never say they had a taste of their own. It was always whatever was American Top 40. They divorced when I was around seven, and I remember soon after the divorce my dad buying me John Cougar’s “Scarecrow” album. He looked me in the eye, handed me the cassette and said, “Listen to this, son,” as if it held the answers of the world. I’ll admit that I have tapped my foot to one or two of the ‘Coug’s’ songs.

Kevin: My parents were teenagers on the wrong side of the 50s — Dad listened to classical and Perry Como, Mom liked easy listening, so the radio was often tuned to muzak. That changed for me when John Lennon died when I was 12 and suddenly all the stations were playing The Beatles: I had heard every song before in lame elevator form, but never actually heard them do it. I listened to the Beatles non-stop for a full year. My dad and I connected more on music in high school when I studied music and he was surprised to hear Aaron Copland’s “Appalachian Spring” on my stereo.

Bill: I have many, many memories of Dad’s music: Herb Alpert’s “Whipped Cream and Other Delights” and the other Tijuana Brass LP with the airplane are primal memories because of the A&M Records logo. Dad was keen on the 50’s-60’s white jazz guys like Dave Brubeck, Cal Tjader, Stan Getz and the funky instrumental space age bachelor pad records he had. Later, when I began playing saxophone and got serious about jazz, he would bring home bargain records of these guys that he remembered from his college days. He got me Dave Brubeck’s Greatest Hits (with Dave in the world’s greatest horn-rimmed glasses), which has been a very important record to me. He got me an obscure Bud Shank record that I played to death. All sorts of curious things. He also got me my first Charlie Parker record (a Verve collection), which opened up a world that has been absolutely fundamental to who I am.

What’s funny is that I don’t recall him listening to many of these albums in his free time. I don’t know that he really connected to this music in the way you and I have connected to our music. My memory is of TV at home and talk radio in the car.

Who are the top three artists you want your children to know/listen to?

Kevin: Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix and John Coltrane — great composers (though John and Jimi were also virtuosos). Listening to them at 18 is different than listening to them at 42, but somehow the music grows with you. It’s music we could listen to together.

Bill: I am very, very proud that Louis and Felix have a) responded so well to music I love and b) have surprised me by exercising their own judgment on what makes their bedroom playlist. They are huge Beatles fans and love “Help!”, “Rubber Soul” and “Revolver”. They could stop there and I would feel my work is done. But Lo! and Behold! they have jumped on my copy of Earth, Wind and Fire’s “Greatest Hits Vol. 1”, my Buddy Holly collection, Lemonheads “It’s a Shame about Ray”, REM “Green” and all sorts of things. They are only eight years old but they already have their own tastes and their own agendas in terms of why they listen to music. Louis is very rhythm-oriented, likes to dance and wants a physical rush from his music. He instantly connected to the opening riff in The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army”. Felix also likes a good hook, but is more sentimental and lyric driven. He is the frustrated romantic who needs another to sing his heart. He’ll be living with The Beatles all his life and will no doubt be passionate for bands that “stand for something” — a U2 or REM ten years from now.

So, to answer your question, here is the list:
1) The Beatles — check
2) American R&B and Blues — they’re deep into Motown already and I am optimistic that this will lead to blues and the rest of that wonderful world of black music that I believe is their best anchor to American culture.
3) Miles Davis, specifically “Kind of Blue”.

Tyler: In a perfect world, my little girl will like every band that I push onto her. I do know that this will never be the case. I would hope that she could at least respect bands like Wilco, My Morning Jacket and Neko Case for their classic guitar and vocal-driven song craft.

Performing in bands can offer all kinds of temptations that go hand-in-hand with a late-night lifestyle. Would you encourage your child to pursue rock-n-roll? Why or why not?

Kevin: I’ve gone down that road and did a U-turn. I quit drinking a week before I learned I was going to be a father. For me, the partying part of music just became boring, depressing and dangerous. Still spend time in bars, but it’s Coke (Coca-Cola, that is) for me now. If my son picks up the guitar I’m sure I’ll worry, then remind myself what I was doing when I was his age. Then worry even more.

But I met my wife by playing music — she asked me out after seeing me at a gig. So in a way, Jonah owes his existence to my nightlife pursuits. I suppose I’ll need to give him room to make his own mistakes. I mean, really — do I have a choice? But if he falls into that trap, at least I’m better equipped now to help him get back.

Tyler: If you’re referring to drinking, smoking and the like, I cannot condone it but I know what kids will do. I’m still a kid myself. But playing music is much more than getting loaded and banging on an instrument. It’s the one constant in my life that I will always love and never quit so if my kid can have a focus like that in her life I will never stand in her way.

Bill: I would encourage them to pursue rock-n-roll. Drugs scare me, but they will pass that gauntlet no matter what. What’s important is that they have something meaningful and enriching to their self-esteem. Plus, it may help them get girls to a degree that I could only dream of as an adolescent.

Stay tuned for Part II where we hear the Rock Dads talk about their favorite lullaby’s, how listening to music will be different for their kids, and what they would do if their son brought home the 18-year old incarnation of Chrissie Hynde.

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