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MJ Dardar

Eleven miles from the head of passes on the Mississippi River, Michael Dardar grew up in the small fishing community of Venice, Louisiana with one older sister always by his side. In his house could be heard a wide variety of sounds, as his mother was a Barbara Striesand and Frank Sanatra fan, while his father loved listening to The Eagles, The Allman Brothers, Boston, and Foghat. His first live musical experiences came from the local church, where his mother was a leader in the church choir. Gazing across such contrasting soundscapes, he would ultimately gravitate toward his father’s tastes. And around fifteen or sixteen years of age, he began to experiment with the idea of writing and making music along with a childhood friend. “You know the Fischer Price microphone things? We would go in there; we’d put these little cassette tapes in there and we’d put the scotch tape on top of them. And we would basically tape songs on a different stereo, whether it would be a Beatles tape or something like that. And we would overdub our own lyrics and melodies on top of the tapes.” Looking back, he laughs at the thought of his father popping in one of his favorite tapes only to find his own voice beaming from the speakers. Years of this would eventually culminate in his first album, Rust, recorded in April on 2021.

From his days of experimenting with recordings of his own, the allure of one day making the transition into live performances seeded deep within him. And it never left. And although he rounded up a talented bunch of musicians to pull off the album, his only experience performing it came as an acoustic set with friend and co-writer, Jerry Martin. The two would eventually translate the work into an all-inclusive performance, implementing more band members and instrumental elements to his act. Gradually, guys like Mark Kryvanick and Tim Belanger would join them on bass and drums respectively. And he would implement a rotating roster of guys like Tillis Verdin, Brett Guillory, Teddy Baudoin, and Travis Thibodeaux on keys. Larger shows would even see a horn section taking to the stage. Adding the horns to his live performances, MJ feels, really resonated with himself as well as the crowd. “Adding that horn section is kind of the big one. The last time we did it was an album release party which was early May, May 6th I believe. And every song on our last album had full horn sections. And so, to be able to perform them that way, with the actual horn lines as opposed to transposing keyboard parts and things like that… it’s so much better and is really able to translate what we recorded into the live performance.” These elements were a refreshing change from the previous acoustic performances which had eventually become stale in his eyes. As Jerry Martin points out, “There’s nights, as an acoustic gig, where you’re struggling to hear yourself (above the crowd).”

With Houma and Lafayette being mainstays for the MJ Dardar band, the Tasting Room and Howlin’ Wolf in New Orleans have also played host. But Houma has always marked home base for MJ. Enlisting a full-time manager and maintaining a strong online presence has enabled him to broaden his reach, which he hopes will eventually lead to a venture outside of normal boundaries. Finding value in this, MJ has been sure to engage with fans and followers in the thousands across multiple platforms. I, for one, have enjoyed the personal aspect in videos where he sits down in front the camera, playing acoustic guitar and singing. This ability to connect with his audience was instrumental during the height of Covid back in April of 2020. Along with Jerry Martin and other band mates, he committed to remotely filming forty-one full request, multi-track videos in thirty days. It was through this personal challenge and the resulting encouragement of online audiences that the genesis of the Rust record took hold.

At their core, the songs on Rust feel good. The rhythm guitar strums, tambourines, and shakers keep you in the groove while story lines originate from the heart. And bringing in that brass section gives it a feint departure from your typical country sound. Hammond and reed organ contributions back MJ’s soulful vocals nicely. And he’s got just enough grit in his voice, like the perfect mix of sweet and savory. Track “Leaver” pulls us away from this rural soundscape completely, delivering a surprising R&B plunge. Softer rhodes and sustained piano take the edge off as MJ sings about the value of his family as a child. The overall quality of these recordings is unquestionable. And this is important to point out because it doesn’t take much to pull a listener outside of an enveloping experience due to a distractive distortion or overwhelming level. It’s a delicate balance that MJ and the band maintain very well. And their ability to cross over from country to R&B seems completely natural.

MJ recorded his debut album at Audiosmith Studio in Prairieville, Louisiana under the guidance of owner Robbie Smith, a long-time friend and associate of his band mate Jerry Martin. As luck would have it, this would give way to a host of opportunities for him. Not long after completing his album, Robbie would go on to help form Redstick Records, a label out of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. And he asked if MJ would be interested in signing a recording contract with the label. Travis Thibodeaux, whom I mentioned earlier, would also do work for the studio on keys. Bringing his experience as the keyboard player and vocalist for Journey, and writing credits for “Take My Hand” recorded by Grammy winner Wayne Toups, Travis would prove a valuable asset. Through Redstick Records, MJ would have the pleasure of working with Brignac Lane Studios in Saint Amant, Louisiana while still reaping the benefits of Robbie’s production skills. He would also go onto be featured in several works by Jambon and Company, a band that had also recorded at Audiosmith Studio. Taylor Nauta, another artist on the Redstick roster, recorded guitar on MJ’s upcoming record “Caught Up In The Middle Of The Rain”. And Deanna Scott, MJ’s manager, would be taken on as Artist Management at Redstick Records. Being within this circle of musicians, recording studios, and labels has enabled MJ to implement things like strings into his work. The extension has also accommodated him in his quest to expand across country, blues, R&B, and pop genres. And being in the room with some of his personal heroes while soaking in the camaraderie and confidence of others has really inspired him to push the envelope.

With album number two, “The Reason Why”, nearly complete. And his third album taking shape, MJ am Jerry still intend to release stripped down, acoustic versions in the midst. The impact of growth through their journey, first with Robbie Smith of Audiosmith Studio, then Redstick Records and manager Deanna Scott continues to propel the two forward. Over 100 shows this past year and so much time logged in the studio is proof positive of their drive. I couldn’t be more delighted to have the privilege of sitting down with MJ and his team, and discussing how things took shape as well as where the band hopes to find themselves in the future. Below you will find relevant links to the players mentioned in this article. The full interview can be found on our podcast where MJ, Jerry, and myself go on to discuss navigating festivals and venues, chord structures and story lines of previous albums versus upcoming ones, and much more. Special thanks goes out to Kevin Sevin in Houma, Louisiana for the use of his beautiful home during the filming of this interview, which you will soon be able to see on our youtube channel by subscribing today.

https://mjdardarmusic.com

https://www.audiosmithstudio.com

https://redstickrecords.com

Author: David Trahan

Neworleansmusicians.com

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The Indelible Robert Snow

Childhood memories are of such a profound permanence. Not only are they the antecedents of our future existence. But they play an integral part in shaping who we become in this world. Whether it be parallel of or contrary to, those closest to us in the beginning are the means from which we model ourselves. For Robert, growing up amongst musicians exposed him to the many sides of music at an early age. His father, Sidney Snow, was playing bass and guitar professionally in various bands since 1957. And both his cousin and uncle were musicians as well. Answering the house phone sometimes meant hearing the voice of someone like Eartha Kitt on the other end. And before Robert would go on to choose his own path in life, he witnessed his father successfully support a family performing with people like Dr. John and Teddy Riley. Celebrity may not quite register in the minds of children. But hearing his father play guitar on the radio most definitely did. And knowing his dad played the guitar in Angel Baby may not have struck a chord with a young Robert. But he knew who the Beatles were. And hearing John Lennon compliment the guitar piece in that very song by Rosie and the Originals certainly resonated with Robert.  

As fate would have it, by the time he was at Mcmain Magnet High School in New Orleans, he was playing second chair coronet. It was here that Robert spent some time picking up on music theory and a deeper appreciation for jazz. He would later make the move to Chalmette High where he was selected for all-state in the school band. For his exceptional talent, he was awarded several scholarships. But playing jazz in a school band wasn’t something that he took all too seriously. Many of us have a time in life that we can look back on where we chose desire over opportunity. For Robert, this would be one of those times. The transitional period from adolescence to manhood swayed Robert more toward his girlfriend and less toward the out-of-state scholarships. Combining this factor with the hold early eighties metal had taken on him, playing coronet away from home in a College jazz band just didn’t appeal to him. Still, the fact that playing music had become elemental in Robert’s landscape was clear, no matter the course.

As with many musicians coming out of high school, the need for cash landed him at various jobs and further away from any consideration of a career in music. A tinge of rebellion had seeded within him though. And it manifested itself in Robert trying out anything other than music as a profession. Life sent Robert through a myriad of jobs, from washing dishes to construction. And by the mid-eighties, he had moved on to casually playing bass in metal bands while making ends meet through a roofing job. While his metal roots took hold and felt right, his band practiced more than they gigged. Sweating atop a roof in Algiers one day, he stared at the skyline of downtown New Orleans across the Mississippi River. He recalls thinking, “my daddy’s over there making money man… playing music. I can play bass!” The thought became the catalyst for Robert quitting his job and vowing to make it in life as a career musician. Well, maybe not THE catalyst. We can’t leave out the persuasive impact he felt the time he fell off a roof while on the job (pun intended). Either way, his mind was made up. And he sought guidance from his father for his next steps.

“My old man helped me out to get some gigs. And it took me about four or five years to really get a repertoire of songs in my head”, Robert explained. And as he pointed out, most people don’t realize what it takes to ingrain such a sizable collection of songs in one’s memory. But through determination and repetition, he was able to build and retain a catalog in the hundreds over time. The first gig Robert’s father was able to book for him wasn’t for coronet. The music director had too many trumpet players already. And it wasn’t for the electric bass he had been playing in rock bands. Out of necessity, Robert was thrown in the bullpen clinging to an upright bass with a jazz band. Robert recalled, “Oh God that was painful. Because I was an electric bass player and I didn’t have the chops. It’s a different animal too. It is bass. But you got to know intonation ‘cause there’s no frets. So, there’s nothing to guide you. There’s no dots. So, it takes a little while. But after maybe four or five months of me doing it, I finally got to where I knew my intonation; where everything should be. I could here if I was out of tune. The cool thing about upright bass is you can slide into tune. You might hit the wrong ones but you can fudge it a little bit.”  One might say that the upright bass that landed in his lap basically outlined his life up until this point. He was slapping notes and making sounds. But he wasn’t quite in tune with where he should’ve been. Over time, he slid into his groove and true tones came ringing.

For decades Robert played in countless bands like King James & the Special Men, The New Orleans Jazz Vipers, The Abitals, and Three Piece Mix to name a few. He built his repertoire, sharpened his skills on the upright bass and electric bass. And he is still very much involved in music today. He currently occupies the roster with bands like The New Orleans Cotton Mouth Kings, The Melatauns, Little Freddie King, Franklin Avenue Overpass, and The Smokehouse Brown Trio. As he pointed out, this month (October), he’s got 32 gigs in 31 days. And I’m willing to bet he’s the only man in New Orleans that could pull off a two-fingered death punch with those well-earned callouses. Along the way, there have been certain times in life where he’s had to make decisions concerning his path in the performing arts. One can choose to go with the flow so-to-speak and feel or appear to be progressing. As long as your band keeps getting gigs, things are going as they should, right?

Ever present in the back of Robert’s mind existed this aversion. It was based on his antipathy for being confined to one genre. I’ll be the first one to tell you that stagnation is death. And I would imagine this rigor set in over time with him. For example, while playing with King James and the Special Men, all seemed fine. Things were better than fine as a matter of fact. That band became largely popular in the New Orleans area circa 2010-2020. And with them he enjoyed a ten-year run in front of packed houses. But that aversion started to set in, and through it he came to realize that the band had missed its mark. In his opinion, they should have peaked years before and made it big. And despite their successes and camaraderie, he felt it was time to move on. It was right about this time that Little Freddie King came calling. Freddie had parted ways with his bass player and was in search of fresh talent. He was acquainted with Robert through their mutual gig spot, BJ’s in the Bywater. And both Freddie and his drummer, Wacko Wade, knew Robert’s father Sidney. Now, at the time Robert received the call, he told Freddie that due to his current involvement in so many bands, he wasn’t sure he could commit. But the two agreed that Robert would play with King James and the Special Men that night and talk to Freddie the next day. So, Robert played with the band that night at their regular gig, The Saturn Bar on St. Claude. The next morning, before he spoke with Freddie, Jimmy from King James and the Special Men called him. He explained to Robert that he was moving in a different direction with the band and would be laying off Robert, along with a guitar player and a sax player. The parting was, and still is, looked back upon as amicable between the two. And Robert acknowledges that this experience truly helped him shed his skin. Not ten minutes later came the call from Freddie King. And to Robert’s confirmation that he was ready to make the move came Freddie’s quick response, “Ok great. We’ve got a gig in two days… Bayou Bugaloo.” Almost immediately, Robert had gone from packed houses to a three-day outdoor festival event that sees attendance in the tens of thousands. Making Little Freddie King his main gig, he’s stuck by Freddie’s side ever since. And he was even able to enjoy work through the pandemic because of this turn of events. And this is no surprise given Freddie’s prominence. Little Freddie King’s gut-bucket style blues has carried him through fourty-two years of appearances at The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, an induction into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame, and the achievement of Blues Performer of the Year three times. He took home Best Blues Album at the 12th Annual Independent Music Awards for his 2012 album, Chasing tha Blues, and has appeared in countless publications. And he has fourteen albums on the books.  

Another band Robert plays with, his baby as he calls it, is The Melatauns. He’s published seven albums with this band, one that he founded with a buddy from high school, Pat Ricks. True to form, they’ve always written and recorded original songs. And you never know what genre they’re coming from next. Their first two albums were heavy metal. From there they moved to an all original album of latin and swing music. And the prefix to The Melatauns name would change with the tone. The first two albums being heavy metal found them as The Mighty Melatauns. For the next, they were The Swinging Melatauns. And so on. Their singer Pat has always been able to keep pace with Robert’s constant quest for the next genre, despite his modest beginnings in a church choir. Robert describes his tone as “blue-eyed soul”. And the keyboard player for The Melatauns can also play accordion. Which also contributes to their diversity amongst the genres. On their albums, Robert would use a rotating roster of about twenty different guys. And live, you could find five or six guys on stage covering guitar, drums, keys, and horns with Robert on bass.

A recent development in Robert’s life has been the formation of the Smokehouse Brown Trio. Smokehouse plays with the band Johnny Mastro and Mama’s Boys, a blues band based out of New Orleans that travels all over the world. And somewhere around April of ’22, Smoke called drummer Chris Davis, also known as “Cakewalk” to discuss Smoke’s interest in forming his own band. He was particularly hopeful in snagging a few of the guys from the old group King James and the Special Men. So, on Mardi Gras night, they all got together and opened for C.C. Adcock. “We were under the impression that we were gonna go into the Special Men kind of bag. And it wound up not being that. So, three of the Special Men quit and me and Chris stayed. So, we wound up being The Smokehouse Brown Trio.” They now perform every Monday night from 9 p.m. until 11 p.m. at BJ’s in the Bywater. And as Robert describes it, it’s really hardcore Chicago style blues with a rock and roll feel. You’ll see Robert on both upright and electric bass for this arrangement. And if you’re lucky, other musicians will sit in on the session as they sometimes do. Harmonica player Andy J. Forest is one of them. Bobby Lewis, also a harmonica player, from Little Freddie King is another. As for now, they are considered the house band at BJ’s. And the band isn’t sure if they’re going to start pushing their music out into other areas. But there is a possible album on the horizon. Robert couldn’t give up the name at the time. But a notable blues label out of Chicago is interested in the trio to re-record a record that was made in the 60’s. We went on to discuss his education in copyrighting and sync licensing, as well as his delving into writing scores for movies. And you’ll be able to hear about that on our Youtube Channel. If you click subscribe, you’ll be notified when this interview publishes. Or you can click your favorite streaming platform below and catch the podcast.

Not remaining in any single genre has been a common theme throughout Robert’s life. His innate desire in the beginning to explore the many facets of music and be a part of them all plotted his course to success later on in life. Through it, he’s met and worked with too many musicians to name. And he’s performed in so many places. He was even able to land a gig in Italy because of it, expanding his contact list while there. And there’s a bit of irony here in that, in the beginning, he didn’t want to entertain the idea of his father’s intentions for him as a musician. That adolescent, rebellious nature came calling as it does in so many of us. And during that time, Robert questioned the notion of ever becoming a professional musician at all. Nowadays, being well versed in so many styles of music, he frequently borrows from one genre to experiment with in other genres. And as he affirms, everything is related to the blues. “Rock and roll is related to the blues. I mean, listen to Led Zeppelin. Listen to any great rock band. They were all into the blues. Same thing in swing. They use blues progressions. Not all of ‘em. But a lot of ‘em, they use blues progressions. Listen to the Saints (When the Saints Go Marching In). It moves to a blues progression. So, I think a unifying genre that unifies all of them would be the blues. And it’s rooted in gospel.” In some ways, one might say that Robert became his father’s likeness, sliding into genres just as he would slide in tune on his upright bass. You can find Robert’s music under the many monikers above at Louisiana Music Factory on Frenchman Street, as well as Spotify and Neworleansmusicians.com.

Author: David Trahan

Neworleansmusicians.com

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Picture Perfect

Charles Dye was always drawn to the creative arts, trying his hand at painting, drawing, and sculpting in college. But he would ultimately gravitate to photography, a hobby he picked up in high school. Back then, he lived on the Mississippi gulf coast. So, there were plenty of grand old houses and wildlife on which to focus. Elements of natural photography were appealing to him because his subjects were active and unaware. And like the old houses, their true beauty was revealed in the imperfect details. While he did snap the occasional photo of a venue for its visual appeal, the thought of capturing the performances within them had not crossed his mind. And the irony lies in that Charles was a big fan of music. Nearby had always been the Mississippi Gulf Coast Coliseum, a place where he frequented whenever there was a live show. 

Throughout college, Charles’ affinity for photography never left him. But as with any college exodus, it was time to get out and earn a living. He attempted to remain in the realm, serving for years as a photographer at weddings and other family functions. And although it did pay the bills, more and more he found it mundane. Settings and emotions felt contrived. All the posturing turned him away. He longed for the days of his youth when he would wander aimlessly, camera in hand, capturing the unexpected. To him, this felt more like art unrestrained.

Later in life, he made the move to Louisiana. And once COVID hit, weddings were no longer an option. Public functions came to a halt. And what once left something to be desired now left nothing. This became the catalyst for the merger of his two favorite things in life, music and photography. As Charles explained, “New Orleans’ musicians struggled. They had nowhere to play. They had no venues to go to. They had no outlet. So, in their downtime, I started contacting a few of them and said, ‘hey, would you be interested?’” Charles began meeting with musicians at small gigs and family get-togethers. And as word-of-mouth accelerated his demand, a new found craft reignited the passions he had as an adolescent.

With a camera always close by, Charles noticed how people were drawn to the lens. Random people would frequently ask him to take their picture. Common to this exchange, the resulting photo was theirs to keep. Being that this hobby brought him joy, he carried this ideal into the music photography world. While he realized that this would become, in effect, a business exchange. His “business” model remained something of an anomaly. Charles never charged for his work. And he still feels that what he captures belongs to the subject. Being that he now finds himself in a more professional world, he respects the ideal that these musicians are professionals. And they expect professional results. But his pursuit of the perfect shot as a hobby has made easy his transition into the professional world. And exceeding the standard has become effortless. Due to the nature of the art itself, photography provides a differing perspective simply because each photographer possesses a viewpoint that is solely their own. But the results of still photography in a moving landscape preserve the atmosphere unlike any other medium. And in doing so, provide the subject with a truly unique, singular moment in time. Being that so much occurs simultaneously during the chaotic endeavor of performing live, many voids in time are seemingly created. The ability to give that back to the musician is what’s at the core of Charles’ fixation on this art form. The results are indelible, unable to be recreated, and so, in his mind, priceless. His motives are sentimental and his work, evocative. And in my opinion, “professional” as a metric of quality, holds no court with emotion; never mind the standard. 

In fulfilling the visual desires of others, Charles has found himself opening one door after the next. He’s enjoyed the opportunity to work with many in the ranks of Louisiana’s music royalty. Members of Down and Crowbar, Rockin’ Dopsie, Grammy Nominated Corey Ledet, Papa Mali, Galactic, Jonathan “Boogie” Long, and Dash Rip Rock are a few in his catalog of talent. And he’s always made sure to extend the same courtesies to the lesser known up-and-comers in our state. Given his appreciation for multiple genres, Charles remains receptive to all prospective music experiences. Never quite finding his own musical talent has always seeded within him a deep respect for live performers. His own lively attire, as well as his intimate involvement with the experiences he captures makes him feel a part of the spotlight. And leaving behind the doldrums of matrimonial subject matter for this excitement makes him feel free.

Whether it be zydeco, heavy metal, or good ol’ southern rock, Charles finds himself drawn to it all. And you can bet his camera is right there with him. As long as its good music from a talented musician, he’s focused. With the variety of genres comes a variety in atmospheres. Some encounters entail low light, small bar settings. And others may occur at an outdoor festival, sunshine and all. Being from an era where people developed their own film and you weren’t sure exactly what you captured until that moment, the digital age has only increased his reach. When he began his hobby in photography, the highest ISO rating was approximately 1,600. This rating referred to the sensitivity or light gathering ability of the physical film. Fast forward to the digital age, and this ISO rating now refers to the sensitivity of the camera’s sensor. Which has increased exponentially to a whopping 52,000! It is these leaps in capability that have allowed him to navigate in a world of darkness and arrive at enough light to capture the moment. And as he pointed out, stage lighting technology has advanced equally as fast. The locations where high watt bulbs served as the maximum source of light on a stage now house packs of intensely colored LED’s. This has made for some incredibly striking imagery in his line of work. For all my techies out there, he ran down specifically what he uses to accomplish his goal. He really enjoys the Canon R Series gear. His go-to set ups consist of either the Canon R or R5, both of which are mirrorless DSLRs, coupled with one of the following lenses: Canon 70-200 2.8, 24-70 2.8, or an 80mm 1.8 (all Canon R mount). For software, he sticks with Adobe products, Photoshop and Lightroom. Which, as he explains, are industry standards. While Photoshop does have the ability to completely alter an image, one of the selling points of Lightroom is that it’s “non-destructive”. Which means it does not alter the original pixels in the image. This aligns perfectly with Charles’ efforts because although he may sharpen the image a bit or change colors for a band’s desired effect, he prefers to keep modifications to a minimum.

In closing, Charles left us with an instance he observed while at a live show following the height of COVID. “They finished their first set. Everybody stood up and started applauding. This woman started crying, just because of the sound of the applause after two years of not hearing anything. You know, and being there to capture that on film, or in pictures, that’s what turned me on to all this; just capturing that emotion that music can bring out in people. The reason we listen to music is it makes us feel a certain way. No matter what type of music you listen to… To be able to capture that for somebody to be able to look at later, that’s what I’m all about.”

N.O.M. provides free business pages for those that are of use to musicians, such as photographers like Charles. Should you be so inclined, you can find Charles Dye Photography on our website at https://neworleansmusicians.com/vendor/39.

Author: David Trahan

Neworleansmusicians.com

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1016

I caught back up with Levi Clark (Misled, Southern Brutality, 1016) after hearing about several new developments with his new band, 1016. You may remember him from our previous interview earlier this year. As it turns out, what I had been hearing was true. Things were falling apart, things were being rebuilt, and the promise of his long-awaited EP was back under the microscope. In this visit, we took apart the constructs, the destructs, and the changes in scope that occurred as a result. And I think you’ll find the new developments intriguing and the ongoing project showing more promise. 

Now, I know Levi personally. And if I had to name him in a nutshell, I’d say he’s a beautiful tragedy. “Tragedy” in the cinematic sense, where the viewer follows the main character through several hardships, some of them self-imposed. He’s the kind of person that will give you the shirt off his back, and doesn’t conceal his own flaws. Which makes him beautiful in my eyes. And though at times in valleys, he is persistent in his pursuit of the mountain top. During the first interview earlier this year, I got to hear a demo of an exciting new single, Gettysburg. This song was inspired by time Levi spent cleaning and reconstructing the tomb of a soldier from the Civil War. Happening upon a small booklet inside the structure, he was able to craft a song from words on the pages of this long-since forgotten soldier’s diary. On that demo, Tiger Agnelly sang vocals and Brian Ardoyne (Dang Bruh Y?, Blackwater Canal) was on drums. Since that time, both were now out of the picture. A fact for which Levi took blame. “By this time my friends probably think they are looking at my delusion. But it’s not my delusion. But I’m going to go a little bit back in time. I fucked up. I had two of the greatest musicians I ever could’ve had the chance of working with. Tiger Agnelly and Brian Ordoyne. Brian was our drummer. Still my brother, still my best friend. Tiger, incredible singer. But yours truly, I’m human, and I have a pattern of fucking up. It is what it is. And I apologize for it. So, the band all but dissolved.”

Next on the chopping block came their singer, Ms. Jennifer Leech. Though they were revealed reluctantly, creative differences became obvious between her and Levi. And in the end, she too was out. Last came Trey Heflin (Genocide). Through a series of… we’ll just call them “mishaps” that occurred on a short tour with Southern Brutality among other things, Trey found himself on the other side of the stage from what was left of 1016. Jamie Clouatre (13 Below, Cut Throat), the bassist for 1016, is still on board and aside from Levi is the only remaining original member. And as if I had to say it, that about does it for the “destruct” portion of the tour.

Now, onto a more positive aspect of this business called show! The “construct” began with vocals. Levi wouldn’t name the new singer outright. Apparently, she has a sibling that is an accomplished singer, musician, and performing artist and wishes to remain anonymous until 1016’s EP release performance. But this person has a background in opera. And to hear Levi tell it, during practice she pulled a vocal range out of her diaphragm which resembled that of Ella Fitzgerald and stopped the drummer mid-stroke. Often times, when a director writes a part in a movie, they write the part with a certain actor in mind. Likewise, recognizing the sharp contrast between his previous singer and the new one, Levi has gone back over some of his songs and rewritten them in order to showcase the new singer’s style and capability. “She and I would converse over the phone and she would ask me to give her a backstory about the songs; about the mood. I know where she’s at, and she knows where I’m at. Now we’re working. But she says she’s not much of a lyricist. So, I’m going to draft out lyrics of what the song should be saying. And she can put it in her own words. We’ll just take it from there. And that’s called collaboration.”

Hailing from Kennabra (Kenner, La. to those out the loop) William Shiver slid into place as the new drummer for 1016. His past bands include Execution, and Suture. And he also did a little bit of work in projects for bands Guilt Trip and Gutter Sludge. He’s spent most of his music career dwelling in heavy, technical death metal bands, with a little bit of doom and sludge metal peppered in between. And he feels as though 1016’s southern blues emphasis will be a nice change. One thing about him that will definitely not go unnoticed is his mammoth drum set. I couldn’t begin to aptly describe this thing… no one could. I had to include a picture of it below to stand in for my lack of descriptives. Personally, I can’t wait to see this fella bang something out on this monstrosity! And for it, 1016 will become an interesting dynamic. Because Levi is currently the drummer for another band he is in, Southern Brutality. We should be hearing this thing smash and crash soon, as their single is slated for August of this year (2022). And Levi is aiming for an EP release after Mardi Gras the following year.

And now for the third and final leg of our tour kiddies, the changes in scope! Now you might ask, huh? What’s left? We broke the whole thing apart and rebuilt it. Well, in the process, we brought in a drastically differing vocal element. While all of this was occurring, Levi was still writing. A change in singers further changed the direction of this process as we discussed earlier. But Levi also added other tools to his box. One of which was Martin Felix. Now we have all seen several different versions of the band supporter. Someone wears your T-shirt. Someone else might help you sell tickets for your next show. And so on. But Martin is a bit of a music scene anomaly. You see, Martin is a 65-year-old staunch local heavy metal music scene supporter. And in his capacity as both a scene supporter and a personal friend, he upped the studio cash to get Levi and 1016 further down the road to EP success. When asked about Levi and this generous contribution, he had this to say. “Brother… I’ve enjoyed seeing him on drums. I’ve enjoyed seeing him with Southern Brutality, Misled, Cain, and jamming with Twelve Years Driven. I’ve enjoyed seeing him learn the guitar and seeing him bust his ass for the desire of his dream.” For Levi, the arrival of good fortune has been accompanied by the rigors of a prescribed deadline. To squander such opportunity, in his own eyes, is to do the unthinkable. So, through disagreements, differences, and fall-outs, he has pressed on.

We’ve all had these experiences in life. So, I realize some, at this point, may wonder what is so notable about his struggles; notable enough to base an article on. And I’ll confidently say it’s the result that lies in waiting. I heard the unreleased demo for one of his singles, Gettysburg. And I can’t help but praise him for not only the body of work, but for the article from which the concept was born; a dead man’s lament before days of battle. Levi is no stranger to the sentiment of historical piety. To the contrary, it’s in his veins. When speaking on the blues and its heritage, he frequently draws attention to Robert Johnson. If you don’t know who that is, it’s ok. It’ll be our little secret. Just tuck this in your back pocket. Robert Johnson was one of the most influential songwriters and blues musicians to have ever strummed six strings. Back in the 30’s, he sat for two recording sessions, producing twenty-nine songs. With only that and three known photographs, this title of “most influential” has been affirmed by countless blues and rock gods over the past seven decades. So, yeah, now you know who Robert Johnson is.

Levi paired his love for Robert Johnson with his own strange twist on the song Hell Hound. When asked about this particular song, Levi had this to say. “So, Robert says, ‘You gotta keep movin on. You gotta keep movin on’, right? The dog will be like, ‘so you thought you could keep moving on.’ I’m writing from the hound’s perspective.” For this and other tracks included on the EP, Levi chose Last Exit Studios in Hollygrove. It’s owned by Eric Reed, drummer for Dead Machine Theory. Levi added, “I know Duane Simoneaux (OCD Recordings) is probably reading this saying ‘you should have come to me!’ But Duane and Eric are two different breeds. When I’m doing my drums, I have to go to Duane. I have to. Duane knows my drumming style. But Duane as a producer, he wreaks havoc on guitars. And I’m not that guy. We’re bluesed out. He is a guitarist. And as a guitarist Duane would intimidate me more.” (Neworleansmusicians.com actually did an interview on Duane and OCD recently. You can get a feel for what Levi’s talking about in that article on our blog page.) Levi also cites the studio’s location as an inspiration in itself. “It’s right where it needs to be. It’s in a home in Hollygrove, one of the roughest neighborhoods in the city. It’s in a neighborhood that just exudes the blues man’s energy. And that’s what I’m going for.” Ever the altruist, his quest to honor the forefathers of the blues has led him through some interesting doors. For one song, he implemented the use of what others might rightfully call junk. “It’s called 1016 the Blues Child. We set up the mics like cans; Like Robert Johnson singing through a can. And I literally went in there with a guitar with a cracked neck. You couldn’t tune it worth a shit. The strings were old. I drop tuned it and it just came out. It just had that guttural feel to it.” In knowing Levi, one could easily tell that he absolutely lives for music. Before being laid to rest in a pine box, Johnson’s final words were, “I pray that my redeemer will come and take me from my grave.” And though our old friend Martin Felix may not have changed the scope of this 1016 project, he may have changed Levi’s destination.

Author: David Trahan

Neworleansmusicians.com

Neworleansmusicians.com Podcast can be found on these platforms.

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Jimmy’s Music Club

Nearing the end of 1944 Roosevelt was in office. And the United States, fueled by a recent victory over the Nazi’s in north-western France, was still entrenched in World War II. Back home in New Orleans, though the city had struggled through a depression and rationing of resources, many locals enjoyed full-time employment at military bases and factories in the area. On the heels of a successful career in boxing, James Anselmo Sr. was there to serve these men and women. He ran The Little Blue Room on Bienville Street and The Jimmy King’s Mardi Gras Lounge on Bourbon Street. And on September 19th of that same year, ”he” became “we” when James and Mary gave birth to James (Jimmy) Anselmo Jr.

As a child Jimmy Jr. was always by his father’s side. One of Jimmy’s earliest memories with his father was at the Mardi Gras Lounge. At age five he can recall crawling up on the band stand to play with the drum sticks. His father would exclaim, “If that drummer sees you up there, he’ll kick your ass boy!” Entering his teenage years, Jimmy could still be found close by. He would work as a delivery boy at his father’s restaurant, The King’s Barbeque, also on Bourbon Street. This was a fun time for Jimmy because at the age of 14, he was able to walk inside places most kids could not. The classmates at his school would beg for a job with him upon hearing tales of what he saw delivering sandwiches to businesses like a local strip club. This would mark the first time Jimmy met Mac Rebbenack, a.k.a. Dr. John. But more on that later.

As did many kids of the time, Jimmy would attend dances at places like Sacred Heart and Germania Hall. Armed with a fake I.D., money from wages, and a car gifted to him by his father, Jimmy was able to see many live music acts at these places as well as local bars in New Orleans. With so much at his fingertips Jimmy was still able to remain a grounded, responsible young man. He joined the Navy Reserves when he was just a Junior in high school. And in following through with his commitment, found himself aboard the U.S.S. Saratoga directly after his graduation from Francis T. Nichols High School in 1963. Working the flight deck in and out of ports, this was his chance to see the world; France, Spain, Italy, Greece… making friends and memories along the way.

Following his time in the Navy Jimmy returned to New Orleans and began working for his brother-in-law Bobby Blanchard at a club called Papa Joes. He would bar tend during the jam sessions by a house band. Freddy Fender was on bass, Little Joe Lambert on drums, Joey Long on guitar, and Skip Esterland on the Hammond B-3. With good wages and great music, and the ability to now get his first apartment and a new car, Jimmy was at a good place in his life. It was at this time in 1967 Jimmy got married and bought his first club in Uptown New Orleans called Co-eds. With this night club he was able to get his feet wet as an independent business owner. And within five years, he was ready to expand. In 1972 Jimmy had his eye on an empty space just a block away and decided to build another night club, naming it Quasimodo’s.

Outside Quasimodo’s, 1973.

The next four years would treat Jimmy well. And although capacity at both locations was limited, both night clubs were successful in gaining quite a following. There was one customer in particular that would stop in Quasimodo’s from time to time, Al. He was the owner of Al Pelligrini’s Pool Hall over on Willow St. Uptown. The two would talk and the notion that Al was interested in selling would come up. As Jimmy explains, “I was successful there (at Co-eds and Quasimodo’s) but I wouldn’t have the success that I would have at Jimmy’s Music Club. I was limited in what I could do because capacity might be 100 at each place. So, I was getting anxious and I wanted to move on. I told myself; where are you gonna be in the next five years?” Between Jimmy’s current success and his ever-present ambition, he decided to seize this opportunity and take Al up on his offer. Al’s pool hall was somewhat of an ailing operation at the time. The building it was housed in was built circa 1915 and the business had become a local destination for run off from the methadone clinic nearby. But Jimmy had visions of turning things around and opening a music venue. So, in September of 1976 he bought Al Pelligrini’s Pool Hall, closing it down just two weeks later. 

At this point in time, he hadn’t even thought of a name for his new club. One possible name that stuck with him was The Depot, being that it was across the street from the street car station. But in pursuit of something greater, closing the pool hall would mark the start of an almost two-year renovation process. The sale of Co-eds and Quasimodo’s helped fund this enormous undertaking. In order to achieve the vision Jimmy had in mind, it was going to take more financing. He would approach three banks, being turned down each time, before finding hope through the Small Business Administration. Initially he was even turned down there. He was able to resubmit his original proposal at a lower cost, choosing to eliminate the kitchen from his plans. And luckily his mother, Mary, was able to secure a loan to show the SBA Jimmy had the necessary funds in his account. In the end, all of the effort paid off! Plumbers, electricians and carpenters were all put to work on this extensive project. And on April 8th 1978, Jimmy’s Music Club was opened for business. But not before his mother lent him the money to put in the registers. Things were that tight! His first act was Little Queenie and the Percolators. The following weekend, The Neville Brothers took the stage and would be no stranger to the budding venue in the future.

Throughout the years owning Jimmy’s Music Club, he didn’t always have success. For instance, the money he made from his first and second weekends with Little Queenie and The Neville Brothers was lost on his third weekend with a jazz act that flopped. Unless he knew for sure they could draw a large crowd, jazz acts wouldn’t be found at Jimmy’s too often due to this. But he learned a lot and pivoted when counted. At the outset he knew he couldn’t afford the up-front money national acts required. And although some local acts in New Orleans were of national quality in their own right, they were a necessity in order for this music club to survive. Looking back, the relationship Jimmy shared with his performers was both beautiful and mutualistic if you think about it. His first national act was Asleep at the Wheel who performed there on May 27th, 1978. Admittedly booking a national act this soon after opening was a big gamble for Jimmy. But it shouldn’t have happened in the first place. While the band was requesting the deposit, Jimmy was stalling for time. Yet they showed up on that night and rocked the crowd. Some other things he did to save money was to come in and bartend, not carry an extensive selection of liquors, and always negotiate a lower asking price for bands. He even put a trailer out back and lived in it at one time. Jimmy recalls a time in 1984 when he was approached by agents for Gregg Allman just before New Year’s. They were asking for $14,000 to do a show. But relying on leverage due to the recent closure of Tipitina’s, Jimmy’s main competitor, Jimmy stood tall and refused the offer, explaining he didn’t give guarantees (flat rates). Now mind you, this is Gregg Allman of the Allman Brothers, the same Allman Brothers that had performed at the opening of the Superdome. And the agents would remind Jimmy of who he was dealing with throughout negotiations. As Gregg was, at this point in time, very much enjoying immense success with his solo career. The two negotiated back and forth until alas, on Friday December 30th of ’84, Gregg Allman performed for just a percentage of the door, still raking in more than his initial demand. Between Jimmy’s business savvy and his venue’s growing reputation, he was able to play host to many bands throughout the years on his own terms. Countless New Orleanians came to see bands like The Gaboans Gang featuring Ziggy “Zigaboo” Modeliste (founding member of The Meters), The Neville Brothers, The Sheiks, The Cold, Professor Longhair and his Scholars, James Booker, Rickie Lee Jones, Brad Orgeron, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Joan Baez, The Raffeys, Ernie K-Doe, Wayward Youth, The Red Rockers, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Dr. John, Muddy Waters, Black Flag, The Psychedelic Furs, Huey Lewis and the News and the list went on.

The Wayward Youth, across the street from Jimmy’s at the street car depot. Photo credit Edward Kalil.

From the start Jimmy didn’t just open a music venue to expand commerce. True enough, the end result was a consolidation from two smaller clubs to one large club with greater capacity. And he couldn’t help but notice the opening of other music venues in New Orleans over the years. But he had a love of music and wanted to learn the business. This is why at his own club you could find him behind the bar, or behind a desk booking bands himself. You might find him running sound or moving tables and chairs out back along-side his employees. He implemented little things like an ATM as opposed to a credit card machine because, at the time, it slowed business down. And the tables and chairs went out back to fit more people. His aim was to be the quickest, most efficient venue in town. Over the years his passion for excellence and his ability to succeed gained him a reputation, such to where national acts came calling, as opposed to the other way around. His love of music also compelled him to form long lasting relationships with these artists. He would hire a car and driver to cart performers like Dr. John around town. He befriended their families. He employed people to cook southern style meals for them as a show of hospitality. Most people loved him for it. But surprisingly he added, David Allen Coe didn’t exactly take to that last gesture. The man spent so much time in jail he refused the New Orleans dishes, instead requesting some “prison food”. So, Jimmy took him down the street to a pharmacy where he bought David a frozen Salisbury Steak meal. If that’s not passion, I don’t know what is.

There was a scuffle in downtown New Orleans that made the paper back in July of 1940 in which James Anselmo Sr was involved along with two n’er-do-wells. When all was said and done, he was still standing. And at least one of the aggressors would not live to see another day. Like his father, for his country and in business Jimmy Anselmo Jr. had guts. He knew an opportunity when he saw one and he never let it get away. In being this, he not only preserved our precious New Orleans music culture; he gave it a place to grow.  

Author: David Trahan

Neworleansmusicians.com

Neworleansmusicians.com Podcast can be found on these platforms.

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The What is the Why

      So, maybe you saw us online. Or maybe you heard about us by word of mouth. But seriously, what is Neworleansmusicians.com, or NOM as it’s sometimes called? And what are they doing that can’t already be done on Facebook, or Reverbnation, or any other website with bands on it? I’m glad you asked. First let’s look into the good stuff… what can they do for my band? Here’s the breakdown:

NOM’s podcast home page

Podcast feature – NOM publishes regularly on all podcast platforms (Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, etc.). The content is music based and covers bands and the music business in Louisiana. When you register on the site, you automatically get dibs on a slot on the show. It starts with a mention, filling listeners in about your band. And being a site member, you are part of a pool of members that is used to select actual future guests.

NOM’s streaming platform presence
  • Playlist feature – NOM has set up its own public playlists on all the major streaming platforms. They are organized by genre, 16 in total, and correspond to the genres you select from when uploading music to their website. If you have any music on streaming platforms when you register with NOM, they find you, pick one of your tracks and add it to their playlists. Pretty cool huh? Good luck trying to get placement on some of these “Hot Summer Mix” type playlists elsewhere! It’s not magic. It’s NOM’s indie artist promo strategies at work for you.
NOM’s blog home page
  • Article feature – NOM has its own blog. The blog is centered around the music scene in Louisiana. It has its own domain but is also accessible through the website’s main menu. The blog uses an effective approach at SEO optimizations and the articles go in depth about everything from “this one time the band almost died” to “acoustics were drafted forty years ago by the same guy that engineered Electric Lady Studios for Hendrix…”. When you register with NOM, you are also placed in a pool the site picks from for band write-ups and interviews. Given the way internet articles are reposted these days, this is an important opportunity that you don’t want to miss out on. You never know who could pick up your piece.
NOM’s videos home page
  • Video placement – On the sites Video Page, if you upload media like your latest music video or footage of your band on stage, it posts on the website as well as on NOM’s Youtube Channel. There’s no limit to how many videos you can post. And the value here, like in the previous examples, is that Youtube communities aren’t always the same crowd as social media followers, or podcast listeners for that matter. Exposure, exposure, exposure.
NOM’s artist of the month section
  • Artist of the Month – On the main page of the website, at the very top, is a collection of three different band profiles. This is the Artist of the Month section. It’s another way NOM encourages traffic to find your music. It features your profile image and leads browsers to your page on the site where people can hear your music and see your band’s vital information like label and management stats, etc for the business minded. Oh, and the site also features a Music page where casual listeners can stream music from Louisiana by genre. So, when you register with NOM, any music you upload is automatically inserted here as well.
NOM’s store
  • 10% off everything in the store – As a little “thank you”, NOM gives all new members a one-time 10% off code. It can be used for everything in the store which includes backpacks and gig bags, as well as men’s and women’s clothing and accessories. New items are added to the store often. So be sure to have a look around a few times before pulling the trigger.
NOM’s innovative promotional strategies
  • Promotion – When you register with NOM, you instantly begin benefitting from this site’s aggressive promotional efforts. It’s got its hands in many different places all at once. And each one of the perks discussed places its members on multiple platforms in audio, video and written formats. It employs many promotional tactics specific to each of these, driving traffic to the site and to all the other places it can be found; which is where you could be found if you register.  

     So basically, WHAT they do is WHY you should join. But there IS a catch. And please understand that this is probably the most important part of the whole article. NOM only accepts registrations from bands in Louisiana. This is huge! This is why it isn’t like Facebook or Reverbnation. By design, NOM has eliminated the distractive trolling you see on Facebook. It has eliminated hundreds of thousands of other bands that you contend with on sites like Reverbnation. Part of the core concept of Neworleansmusicians.com is that when musicians across our state come together under one umbrella, they become THE source for music in our state. Coupled with NOM’s growing network, this assembly of bands becomes leverage for each band on the site. You become part of a reputable brand and a trusted resource for music industry professionals. So, take a look for yourself. See how the site is structured to serve your band’s needs, because there are more features than what we’ve covered here. At absolutely zero cost to you, I think you’ll find this site a powerful networking tool for the band serious about its music business.

Author: David Trahan

Neworleansmusicians.com

Neworleansmusicians.com Podcast can be found on these platforms.

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Rabadash Studios

North of Lake Pontchartrain off of Hwy 59 in Mandeville, Louisiana sits a fine example of acoustic perfection. And nestled within its walls lies both a rich history and a promising future for the world of music. I am talking about Rabadash Studios, home to Rabadash Records, owned by John Autin. But in order to properly acquaint you with these elements I must first take you back some fifty-three years to a building located at 52 W 8th Street in New York’s Greenwich Village that would come to be known as Electric Lady Studios.

Working for an architect firm by day and playing in a band by night, a man by the name of John Storyk decided to take a volunteer position as a carpenter converting a loft in SoHo to a bohemian theater of a club known as Cerebrum back in 1969. His work caught the eye of the one and only Jimi Hendrix who hired John to build a club just like it. But Hendrix would quickly pivot from building a club similar to Cerebrum, to building a recording studio. It would be the only artist-owned recording studio in existence at the time. And this became the famous Electric Lady Studios, cementing Storyk’s place in history as one of the greatest acousticians of our time.

Fast forward to the year 2005. Hurricane Katrina had hit the Gulf Coast and a guy by the name of Dave Fortman, former guitarist for Ugly Kid Joe, was in search of a new home for his own Balance Studios. Years before, and for years to come, Balance Studios produced and engineered for such groups as Down, Superjoint Ritual, Evanescence, Slipknot and Eyehategod to name a few. Fortman found his new headquarters in an empty 4,000 sq. ft. building in Mandeville, Louisiana. He enlisted the services of John Storyk to design his new studio whom by now with his firm, Walters-Storyk Design Group, had designed and built studios for such artists as Alecia Keys, Bob Marley, Jay-Z, and Whitney Houston. Construction began and as fate would have it, even the contractor hired to build this studio was himself a musician. Doesn’t this all feel so good already? 

As warm and fuzzy as this all may feel, Balance Studios would only reside there for a year or so. But this building would still play host to a different recording studio for nearly two decades. And THAT, if you’re still with me boys and girls, is the chronological spaghetti that leads us to the spicy meatball on our plate known as Rabadash Studios. The legacy continues to this day within that building, and the Chef du Jour is John Autin.

From the street one would never guess the precise architecture contained within its outer shell. For all intents and purposes, it looks like a plain warehouse. And prior to John being able to secure the building, it was actually slated to be gutted and used as storage space for a lighting company. But luckily, before this travesty could ensue, the building owner’s son Nick LaRocca, who was also a musician, walked through and recognized its original purpose and future potential. You might say the vibe from this building has resonated with musicians since day one. Because even the LaRoccas are a musical family that are very important historically in New Orleans. Nick was named for his father’s uncle, who recorded the very first jazz record with the original Dixie Land Jazz Band back in 1917.

Even just past its skin, this unassuming warehouse is made with nine insulative layers. Torrential downpours do not faze the acoustic integrity within. Every single piece of wood, every single piece of fabric, every piece of glass was placed just so by Storyk himself. The spacious live room is optimized sonically, providing an intimate setting ideal for tracking and overdubbing drums, horn sections, strings ensembles or vocalists. The wood floors and trim throughout are absolutely gorgeous. Large fabric panels and track lighting accentuate the area.

Through triple glass, the control room looks directly into this space and is flanked on either side by isolation booths. The monitoring system is custom designed by Dynaudio. Near fields, midfields, and large built-in natural wood faced monitors give arguably the best mixing environment in Louisiana. The back wall of this space ship is an architectural masterpiece where Storyk intended sound to be deposited, never to be heard from again. Twenty years ago, this concoction totaled over four million dollars. But as I stood there that day setting up for our interview, I couldn’t help but feel it was priceless.

Before the interview with John began, he was kind enough to give me a tour of the facility. Beyond the front door and past the foyer, there is a long open-area workspace. An antique organ caught my eye as John turned my attention to the full kitchen. The building sleeps six for out-of-town bands on a budget, and even has a full bath and shower upstairs. The second level housed a sound board, monitors, and screens dedicated to his newly launched Rabadash Radio. It is currently streaming online and you can find that link below along with a link to our interview footage.

In our interview, John outlined what he expected of artists interested in recording at his studio, as well as what they can expect from him. He stressed the importance of artistic freedom “almost to a fault” as he put it and touched on his methods for focusing on the artist’s strengths, allowing those elements to shine through in his mix. His decades of experience in the music business are further fortified by Platinum Record award winning engineer/ producer Marc Hewitt. Marc has been involved in the music business since 1981 and in his capacity as a sound engineer, producer, and musician has worked with such artists as Aaron Neville, Art Neville, Allen Toussaint, Fats Domino among many others.

John’s presence was a comfort. And combined with the spacious, relaxed atmosphere, I could see how an artist would feel free to create in this realm. From a business standpoint, recording here would be an intelligent move as well, both for the many years of experience John and his staff have, and the fact that Rabadash Records has been in business as a label for over forty years. I enjoyed my time at Rabadash Studios with John Autin. And I hope that the musicians out there reading this will consider recording their next project there.

John Autin Interview on our Youtube

John Autin Interview on our Podcast

Rabadash Studios website

Rabadash Records website

Neworleansmusicians.com Podcast can be found on these platforms.

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New Here? Welcome!

“N.O.M. was built for Louisiana musicians only, distinguishing your band from the masses. And it was built to serve you at no cost.”

David Trahan

Too many… 20,000 to 30,000 songs are uploaded to streaming platforms daily. Yeah, that’s right, daily! And while the term “music business” may seem as though it contains polar opposites, the fact is that the business end determines how well the music is received. As an independent musician, the most powerful way to combat these overwhelming odds is to become a part of something greater. In 2022, Neworleansmusicians.com will become that something. Being newly launched, our goal for this year is to onboard 300 bands from Louisiana. Once we do that we will hire a marketing firm to fill our worldwide venue, label, producer, etc. directories further empowering you. The end game is a platform where you can contact these companies directly, booking your own shows, scheduling interviews, lodging, or recording sessions anywhere in the world. If you become part of this network you bypass conventional means, getting to the source for success. N.O.M. was built for Louisiana musicians only, distinguishing your band from the masses. And it was built to serve you at no cost.

And hey, if your business serves the music industry, don’t worry. You’re in the right place! On NOM, you are classified as a vendor and can choose your specific service(s) from the drop down menu. Registering with us will put you in front of the musicians that need services like yours.

Curious, but don’t have the time? Leave your info and we’ll shoot you a link later. Ready to jump right in? Click REGISTER, and become part of something greater!

Be sure to check your spam folder, as this form does not retain your email until you confirm in your inbox.

Neworleansmusicians.com Podcast can be found on these platforms.

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This Guy Levi

“I got inside of it (the tomb)… I dug down a little further, and it was about the size of a cigarette pack. It looked like the little bible you get from Sunday school. And I knew immediately what it was… I could barely read any of the words. It was weathered and in bad shape. But I read those words, that poem, and it hit me what this guy was going through.” What Levi held in his hands was actually a diary containing the last words of a man headed off to battle in the Civil War. He would go on to include this in his upcoming EP, Gettysburg.

Levi Clark grew up in Metairie, Louisiana in typical American hard-working household. They built cars, they played football, they worked on dead people, and they played music. Okay, maybe not entirely typical. But they were close knit and full of life. The youngest of five children, he began to gravitate toward music at a very early age. And there was certainly a wide variety where he was raised. Levi remembers, “My brothers were listening to Sly and the Family Stone, Jimi Hendrix, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin; there was Woodstock basically in that room. And my sisters listened to LTD, Earth, Wind and Fire, and Peabo Bryson. Mom had Coltrane and Billy Holiday. Dad had Willie Dixon, Robert Johnson, ZZ Hill, Muddy Waters.” His first experience making music was on his brother Avery’s drum set. At the age of six, he snuck into his brother’s room with the intention of figuring out what drums were all about. But with no drum sticks in site, he proceeded to break a drum head using a brush and a comb. Being a percussionist, part of the discipline his father handed down was playing Led Zeppelin IV over and over, and making Levi learn how to play the proper way, this time with actual drum sticks. “Every time I made a mistake, I got popped with a drumstick. And when this (interview) comes out, my brother Avery will find out how I learned that because he has no idea that I got my ass tore up for breaking his drum”, Levi recalled.

            At family gatherings, the Clarks didn’t break out the radio. The family would bring their instruments and a live session would serve as entertainment for the occasion. With his brother Avery on drums, his other brother Ronald on bass, his step-brother Donald on keys, and his cousin Wade on guitar, the gatherings became real events. “They were kids, barely in their 20’s! And they’re back there playing Hendrix. And they’re back there playing Muddy Waters, and Sly and the Family Stone” Levi exclaimed. Music would always be a huge influence in Levi’s world as a child and even to this day. At the young age of five, he got a chance to see his father DJ at a dinner reception for his brother. And one could argue that this experience forever changed his life. The place was packed, everyone was on the dance floor. And to close out the night, his father played Who’s Loving You by the Jackson 5. Levi explained, “I had already known that Michael was my age when he sang that. And I’m watching these grown, drunk ass men belt out the words being sung by a 5-year-old. At that point it became my disease. I thought, I wish I could create something that made people move the way I saw those people move.”

            With an ear for the drums, Levi would spend the rest of his life in pursuit of his new found passion. Though his first band was known by the name of Never Fall, his first gig was a sold-out show at the municipal auditorium with a band by the name of House of Dread. He was just sixteen years old. Accompanied by his two cousins, he showed up with all his gear only to find out that, unbeknownst to him, the band had hired a guy named Kufaru to replace him. Yet he didn’t cower, nor did he break. Wounded, betrayed, and dressed to the nines, Levi got on stage anyway. “It’s a live gig man”, said Levi. “Shit’s gonna happen that’s out of your control. Not everything is going to go the way you want it to happen. You just have to duck and cover and move forward.” With a hard lesson learned, he went back to playing with Never Fall which, according to Levi was a three-piece progressive rock band influenced by bands like Rush and Saga. And oddly enough, he would be using his brother Avery’s drum kit. On the bill with Big Sum, Exhibit A, and Dead Eye Dick, Levi recalls one night playing at Muddy Waters, in Uptown New Orleans. “So I’m on stage during our last song doing my Neil Peart thing, my big rock thing (insert mouth drum sounds here), you know. I hit the last note and found out that someone had put a door behind the drum riser. When I hit this last note, the centrifugal force threw me back and through the door to the outside. I had to run back inside and up on stage to close out the set.”

As Levi was well aware, paying dues came with the territory. But the common goal was always to make it to the big leagues. One time at practice, he found himself face to face with an A&R for Sony Music Group. The only thing more they wanted was a bassist and a rhythm guitar player to make the outfit complete. At the time, Levi was occasionally jamming with another band by the name of Sobriquet. From that experience, he was able to call on some friends. As Levi explained, “I contacted Michael Prado and a guy by the name of Brad Richoux. They were ready but Adam and John decided that school was more important. And they were right. John went on to be a banker or some shit but Adam went on to do work for Steve Vai.” Always moving forward, Levi would form his new band Cain immediately following.

            Cain would start out playing at The Abstract on Magazine Street, and even got an opportunity to Play with Green Day before they made it big. To hear him paint the picture, Levi described The Abstract as the CBGB’s of New Orleans. “They had Dang Bruh WhY, Cain, Apostacy, Abuse played there. One of Philip Anselmo’s projects called The Satanic had played there. It was a shithole. But it was the best shithole. It was the atmosphere, the ambiance. To get any further underground you’d have to go to Haiti. But it grew. It grew like an oak.”

            I wanted to shift focus a bit so I inquired about a bar in Fat City that so many people of that era used to frequent. Arguably, it was one of the most important bars for the metal scene in the greater New Orleans area. This gem was known as Zeppelin’s. With bands like Crowbar, Sevendust, Morbid Angel, Sepultura, Obituary, Anal Cunt and countess others, and often for as cheap as five bucks, you couldn’t find a better place to go see live rock music. Alongside this hotbed of talent came networking and opportunity. And Levi with his band Cain was eager to come up. He thought back to one such fortunate night playing at Zeppelin’s where his band scored a chance to perform on tour with Sevendust. “We showed up that night, played our asses off, and hit it off pretty well with Lajon. We threw all our shit in a minivan and followed them.”

            Remembering a time after a particularly rough day on the job at the funeral home, Levi told me how he came to meet his now guitarist and closest friend, Trey Heflin, at the Ski Lodge in Fat City. “I drive up with my entire 10-piece drum kit packed into my Nissan Pulsar, don’t ask me how. But I get in there and standing on the bar, smoking, drinking, doing shots is Trey Heflin. We had played with his band called Genocide at the time. And about a month after that gig we got a call from The Abstract to go do a gig at the New Orleans Music Hall. (We played with) MeJack, Gwar, and Rawg. That was insane. Genocide would end up being Cain’s brother band. We would play around town with them. I haven’t left that dude’s side since.”

            Albeit small, the metal scene was very interconnected at the time. Sometimes, the same guys you heard on the local radio station that day were the same guys you saw in the bar that night. And Levi’s experiences were no exception. “I was at Last Stop one night when I actually got a chance to hear the Down’s album NOLA record demo there. Philip (Anselmo) had gone in there some time after midnight when the crowd had thinned. I heard Temptations Wing, Underneath Everything, and Eyes of the South. I said to Philip, ‘man I don’t know if you know it man but that’s some bad ass shit.’ That was the first time I actually saw Last Stop…. Stop.”

            As a current member of not one but two bands, Misled and Southern Brutality, he’s somehow found time to cultivate a new sonic venture. Levi’s latest project, 1016, is named for the address of the house he grew up in, where his love and obsession for music began. Resonating an influence of blues from his mother and his father, he maintains that 1016’s style is raw, uncontrived and unpretentious. His vision is to see it fester into a disease that will infect as many people as possible. (That ought to trip a few Covid algorithms) Following 1016’s eminent EP, Gettysburg, their first album will come. And they hope to spawn a tour shortly thereafter. When asked about his vision for the band, he cited no one particular direction, literally. “I’ll put it to you like this. The same vision that Robert Johnson had, the same vision Leadbelly had; they had no vision. They just did it.”

            Whether it be visions or messages, both can be found hidden in the sounds coming through your speakers. Levi pointed out one such message conveyed through the power in 1016’s melodies. “The reason why we’re tuned to C and still playing the blues shit is to show people you don’t have to be blast heavy. The technique I’m using is a blues technique; the call and response technique. And the reason I do it tuned like this is to get rid of that whole death core, metal core, blues core… whatever you want to call that shit. It’s called Rock and Roll man.”

You can find footage of an interview with Levi on our videos page here or on our YouTube Channel.

BAND RUNDOWN

Jennifer Leach on vocals

Levi Clark on guitar

Trey Heflin on guitar

Jamie Clouatre on bass

Drummer TBA

The upcoming EP Gettysburg features Tiger Agnelly on vocals and Brian Ordoyne playing drums.

Author: David Trahan

Neworleansmusicians.com

Neworleansmusicians.com Podcast can be found on these platforms.

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The Best Unknown Gallery in New Orleans

Day breaks, and the landscape has changed. Anonymous, sub-cultural ambassadors left calling cards ten feet wide in the middle of the night. Seldom seen in the act, their swagger reads on walls like the proclamation of a boss. And any place can get it. Mops, rattle cans, even backloaded extinguishers; the top dog figures out a way. You can miss them slipping through fences and scaling walls in the strangest of places. One such place, the Market Street Power Plant, is a stunning example. Built in 1905, and abandoned in 1973, this steel mammoth has become the best unknown gallery in New Orleans. A multitude of graffiti styles cover nearly every surface within it. COUCH, ESCAPE, EKSA, YESAH, BEANO, GEYETTO, HYPHE, KELTR, REZNOR, ENOK, DUKY, KONQR, HOER…. These kids get up. And regardless of your overall stance on graffiti, you can’t help but respect the craft.

Within earshot of the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, the building was purchased for $10 million back in 2007. From there it was tied up in litigation and sold again in 2015. Between the two properties, a 47-acre development has heavy machinery scraping the earth clean by day to prepare for a 1,200-room hotel, 1,400 residential units, and various tourist attractions. You wouldn’t know it by its appearance, but the area known as the Trade District is apparently worth something.

Definitive monetary value is not hard to arrive at when dealing with commodities that are accepted in society. “Experts” in the field establish a bar, and everyone else presumes it to be fact. Words and phrases are repeated, becoming trends, and the sheep will follow. I once saw a program where ten art experts were called in to interpret and rate various works of art by artists whose names would not be revealed to them. The experts spent some time discussing their interpretation of each piece and placing a value on them one by one. The majority were impressed by these works. In the end, it was revealed that every work before them was created by a kindergartener. I could not have been more pleased.

Art is such a personal experience. The artist reveals his or her thoughts and feelings visually. Emotions are conveyed on another plane, through a different language. At the Market Street Power Plant, graffiti artists have graced forgotten halls with secluded synapse. Ten dollars or ten million, the structure itself is a display of how what is accepted and established in society can, and will inevitably be, absolute. In all its magnificence it is still finite. But the culture of graffiti art will never die. And challenging the system is this culture’s life blood. How apropos it is that you find fresh thoughts and feelings plastered across the face of such degraded majesty.

I feel fortunate to have been able to capture these images with R504 and share my experience with you. And to those graffiti artists who were kind enough to bomb this shack, THANK YOU!! Neworleansmusicians.com supports you. If any bands out there want a bad ass backdrop for their next music video, contact us and we may be able to put you in touch.  And if any of you graffiti artists ever want to do an interview, anonymously of course, e-mail us at neworleansmusicians@yahoo.com.

David Trahan

President

Neworleansmusicians.com

Local Podcast Reloaded504’s coverage of the powerplant.

Neworleansmusicians.com Podcast can be found on these platforms.