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Achtung Kultur! Shirley Manson teaches tots about the musik of Germany

In 2004 Scott Stuckey, of the Stuckey restaurant family, started a cable access show in the Washington, DC, area to answer the question, “What would Sesame Street look like if most of the guests were indie rockers?” The show is called Pancake Mountain. This year the Sesame Street connection became stronger when it was announced that PBS would start licensing new episodes of the show.

In this clip, Shirley Manson of 1990s Wisconsin rock heroes Garbage appears in a segment called “Around the World with Shirley Manson” in which she explains the German music scene to an obstreperous canine puppet. Wearing a rather fetching flight attendant-style getup, Manson does a more than creditable job of presenting the breadth of German music, from the masterpieces of Beethoven and Bach to Volkslieder (which means folk songs; here it’s yodeling) to the groundbreaking 20th-century music of Can, Neu!, Kraftwerk, and well, Scorpions.

This was evidently supposed to be a series—Manson filmed five of the segments—but Stuckey and producer J.J. Abrams canceled the show in 2011 before they could be aired. However, as already mentioned, PBS has agreed to license some new episodes. The Germany segment is the only one of Manson’s “Around the World” series to trickle out to the public as yet. You can get Pancake Mountain DVDs on Amazon; on Disc 1 you can see bands like Thievery Corporation, Steel Pulse, Vic Chesnutt, and The Evens. Disc 2 seems decidedly more promising, featuring Arcade Fire, Henry Rollins, The Fiery Furnaces, George Clinton, and the Scissor Sisters. A few months ago my estimable colleague Ron Kretsch posted some marvelous footage of David Yow of the Jesus Lizard on Pancake Mountain discoursing on the culinary arts.
The video of the skit is “autostart” which means we can’t embed it here, but you can see it on this page. Here’s an associated clip in which Manson sings an original song in a kind of groovy go-go style that covers much of the same material as the skit with the puppet.

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Slayer, Pixies, Garbage, Insane Clown Posse and more, interviewed by 7th graders

Interviews with musicians can be really, really boring. It’s not a defect of the artists or the interviewers, it’s just that their content is so damned predictable because the occasion for an interview is the same most of the time—a new release and/or a tour. The newest album is always “the best we’ve done yet,” and everyone’s invariably “really excited” for the upcoming tour. NO KIDDING. Artists tend to favor their newest work, and even when they know it pales, they’re often obligated by label and PR contracts to hump it for the media. Plus, artists spend all day on the phone with interviewers, repeatedly answering the same questions. That’s got to be a brain-meltingly tedious chore, so moments of refreshing insight can be rare. So I was delighted to get hipped to the untrammeled awesomeness of Kids Interview Bands.

Kids Interview Bands is a video interview series hosted by 7th graders Olivia and Connie.

The site launched in August 2012 and the girls have done over 100 interviews with touring bands passing through the Columbus, Ohio area including some of their favorites (Neon Trees, Imagine Dragons, Phillip Phillips, Walk the Moon, Tegan & Sara, Matt & Kim).

Both girls are active in sports and other activities that typical 7th graders enjoy. They aren’t sure if they want to make a living interviewing bands but they are having a lot of fun getting the chance to talk to all the great artists who have agreed to sit down and chat with them.

If you’re following music that’s Pitchforkishly trendy at the moment, you’ll already know a lot of the bands that Olivia and Connie have spoken with. But while there are a lot of here-today-gone-tomorrow festival circuit hopefuls to be found in the dozens upon dozens of video interviews the pair have posted, they’ve also landed some marquee names. There are some truly wonderful interviews in the bunch, where the musicians don’t merely humor the kids, but let their guard down and have fun along with them. For example, I’ve never been much of a Garbage fan, but I LOVE this:

Insane Clown Posse have become a great American cultural punching bag, and for good reason, but they’re natural, forthright and even a bit illuminating here. Shamefully, they blew a huge opportunity when they were asked what subject they should have given more attention in school—staying awake through science might have clued them in on FUCKING MAGNETS.

Some of the questions lobbed at Queens of the Stone Age are genuinely tough. I harbor serious doubts that if I were put on the spot I could pick a favorite Muppet.

Here’s the Pixies’ Joey Santiago, probably enjoying the hell out of the one interview in which he doesn’t have to talk about Indie Cindy.

Mastodon’s drummer Brann Dailor is kinda my new hero. He’s really great here. In two words: headbanging lessons.

All of these are terrific questions, are they not? I wish the kids had had the chance to ask Lou Reed stuff like this. (Or better still, G.G. Allin., though it probably would have been inadvisable to let 7th grade girls anywhere near him.) But here’s their big coup—the most virally popular of all the kids’ interviews, and justifiably so—a friendly chat with the mild-mannered, upbeat, and almost Santa Claus-ishly genial Tom Araya, lead singer of Slayer.

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
The return of Garbage: Live rehearsal footage of a song from their new album

Seven years is a long time in rock and roll, particularly nowadays, and that’s how long it’s been since Garbage released their last album. As a big fan of the band, I’m excited by the thought of being able to listen to 11 new Garbage tracks when their new album, Not Your Kind of People, hits the streets on May 14. Yes!

Here’s Garbage rehearsing “Battle in Me” from Not Your Kind of People. My kind of trash.

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment