F79 NewMusic featured

[Philip Glass photo by Gabriele Stabile for The Fader]

I interviewed Philip Glass for the current issue of Fader magazine. You can read it here. We talked at length about the importance of artistic & economic independence, ideas on digital language underpinning his work, driving a cab to cover health care for his collaborators, and how many hours of sitting-at-the-piano composing constitute a good day for him. What can I say? The man is an inspiration.

Philip is the coverboy for this, the Icon issue, so Glass fans will find a lot more in the magazine — but even if you’re not familiar with his music, the interview shares some powerful insights about autonomy & integrity, especially in wake of May Day #OWS.


Dressed in a long sleeve black T-shirt and blue jeans, Philip Glass eases onto a couch in a corner room of his spacious Dunvagen studio. A few blocks away are the SoHo buildings where, nearly 50 years ago, Glass staged concerts in derelict lofts to air his maddeningly beautiful ideas about sound and rhythm. His venues have grown but still there’s a feisty independence and curiosity about him.

Running a hand through his trademark rebellious curls, Glass says, “We’re stealing this office for the afternoon. But it’s okay. I pay the rent.” The joke rings true: Glass is the boss around here, he just doesn’t act like one. The soft-spoken composer often slips from “I” to “we” while talking, the habit of a lifelong team player. Listening to him feels like hearing a cabbie hold court—naturally social, disarmingly unpretentious, happy to share observations on a pathway that is more important than the destination.

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How many hours a day do you work on music?

Well, it depends. A good day for me is eight to ten hours. An excellent day for me is 11 hours. A bad day is three hours. My bad days are most people’s good days. I go much further than them. Like, I was up this morning early, I took my kids to school, I spent two hours working, I’m talking to you, I’m going to go home, I have another meeting, then I’m going to work probably three to six, then I’ll be up to five hours, and then it’s six o’clock, then after dinner I’ll work another two or three hours. So this will be a seven or eight hour day.

As things become more financially difficult for someone of your stature, how applicable is your pathway for a younger generation?

In terms of the physical ways of working, there are a lot of new things that have happened in my lifetime. I’m talking about the digital technology that is available. I’m still writing with pencil and paper, let’s put it that way. A lot of composers are now working directly with computers. There’s a big change, both in music and in other areas too: in photography, projection, performance. We’re living in a digital world. However there are many things I do which are applicable. For one thing, develop an independence of work. I’m not connected to institutions, I’m connected to live performance and to working collectively. This is very much a part of my generation. We were not what you call “the establishment.” This independence made it possible for me ?to do things that were unusual, that people hadn’t done before. The idealism that was part of the way I worked—working really and truly for the development of a new language of performance, of music, without regards to a successful career or a commercial career of any kind—you can still do that!

I had wonderful parents. My mother was a school-teacher and my father had a small music shop—he didn’t make any money. So I didn’t have a family fortune behind me. I had my energy, and I had other people. When young people today ask, “How do we get started?” I say, Look around and find people your own age. Work with your own generation. Make alliances among artists of your own time and these will be the people that you’ll work with. Don’t expect help from the older ones, they’re not interested.


[photo by Alex Welsh for The Fader]

If I start writing (again) about my time in Jamaica it could take up the better part of this morning. So let’s keep it simple: in late December I journeyed to Jamaica to report on the collaboration between iconic roots reggae group The Congos, and L.A. experimentalists Sun Araw and M Geddes Gengras for The Fader. It was an intense time down there in the lion’s den, adjusting my internal clock from NYC-breathless to Rasta time-management systems, entirely immersed in perhaps the strongest musical culture I’ve ever experienced, plus Ashanti Roy’s crazed grandchildren as sunrise alarm clocks, fish tea, George Michael with lasers, a minor yet disturbing horse-trampling, lots of Symbolic Murals, the melodious span and flexibility of patois, and so much more.

[photo by Alex Welsh for The Fader]

The article is now online, accompanied by several photos from Alex Welsh. Writing for The Fader spoils you — it makes me want to travel everywhere with top-notch photographers ready to dig deep and go after the spirit of the thing.

[photo by Alex Welsh for The Fader]


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[crowd at ArcoIris, Monterrey MX, photo by John Francis Peters for The Fader]

“While the mainstream media’s narrative for Monterrey tells of a formerly safe city ravaged by encroaching drug wars (nearly 300 people were killed there this year), tribal guarachero’s potency and exuberance tells the other story: irrepressible youth culture sweating it out in a healthy scene so hype that they barely have time to realize what’s being created.” – Jace Clayton ‘Siempre y Para Siempre’ from Fader issue 69

This is the short version. My feature on Tribal Guarachero in Monterrey Mexico, originally published in the Fader’s fall 2010 issue, is now available online. Read it here, as accompanied by some of John Francis Peters’ photographs from our trip.

Today we up an exclusive mix of 3BALL MTY from Chico Sonido which includes outtakes from my interview with him. Enjoy!

There’s a long version of this post coming soon…


más y más

cumbia outtake main

[Pablo Lescano / Damas Gratis.]

Slow Burn, my cumbia feature for the July/August issue of The Fader magazine, is now available online (albeit without the lush full-page photo spreads). Several years of listening and research followed by a whirlwind week running around Buenos Aires gave rise to this article, I hope you enjoy.

To accompany the essay, I did a cumbia mix for Eddie Stats’ weekly column, Ghetto Palms.

Click here to find the downloadable mix along with my tracklist & some notes about what’s what. (and if you facebook or whatever, this page has the mix in its embeddable internest-y glory.)

Y si lees castellaño, aquí tenemos un artículo bastante académico sobre cumbia villera. [spanish-language cumbia villera article, thanks W&W]

[RIP IMEEN – this is where the IMEEN player went]




it’s out! The Fader’s summer issue (F55) is in stores now and sports a lengthy article on CUMBIA by yours truly, along with AMAZING IMAGES from photojournalist Gabriele Stabile.

How awesome is Gabriele? Consider the following: Fader sent us to Argentina for a week – during this time he lost his only jacket, almost broke a rib, was unsuccessfully mugged (thank you, taxi driver!), stepped in dog poop like 3 times, was buzzed by armed youth on a motorbike and nearly shot at (twice, technically), was denied return passage to America (he made it out a few days later, only hours before the airport was closed due to brush fire), and still managed to take a thousand or more photographs (on actual film no less!). It was an honor to roll with someone so dedicated.


the magazine is available as free PDF download (45MB); our piece begins on page 59, but you should seek out the print version, if only to do justice to luscious, intense, Gursky-eat-yr-cold-and-sterile-heart-out centerfold photos like this one, taken at a Damas Gratis show. Yes, they are moshing. to slow keytar-driven cumbia:




el guincho

[El Guincho in his BCN apartment with girlfriend, Fader 54]

A feature article I wrote on Spanish musician El Guincho is in the current issue of Fader magazine – look for Aaliyah gracing the cover.

It’s downloadable (Fader 54 – PDF, my piece starts on page 57), but I encourage you to seek out the print version, as your computer monitor can’t do justice to the photography therein…

Shout to D.Watts, our Canary Islands pointman, who tipped me off about the Guinch waaay before everybody, and hats off to Fader familia, who gave me the go-ahead to write a (lengthy) piece on him well before the interwebs hype (or XL signing!!) happened.

& then there’s Aaliyah.. aah! We breathe a collective sigh.

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