Bill Murray por Presidente
I am lucky to have had two opportunities working as Scott Weiland's Personal Assistant, the first in 2007 with Velvet Revolver and again in 2008 for the Stone Temple Pilots reunion tour.
Scott Weiland is the reason I love rock n' roll and the reason I started playing the guitar and writing rock tunes.
My earliest musical memories, as for many of us, are from our parent's influences (My Dad's Yacht Rock mixed with Mom's Classical). Hey, it was the 80s. I'll freely admit my first love was always rap music, followed by R&B. The first cassette tape I purchased was a Slick Rick album in 1988 and when I graduated high school in 1997, Tupac's "All Eyez on Me" album was a fixture in my car's CD player.
Fast forward to 2007, I was working an administrative position at a highly reputable music studio in Hollywood and after five years, I yearned for a new, more challenging position. A change. Anything a step up would have been fine for me within the music industry. Working at the studio also allowed me to learn the technical sides of recording music, so I began producing my own Hip Hop recordings, quite crappy ones at that, but I absolutely loved it and still am obsessed with creating music.
Like all musicians, I became a pro at sifting through daily Craigslist ads for two things: music gear and job opportunities. If you've never had the pleasure of experiencing it, Craigslist is known for its flaky, unreliable connections, but sometimes, just sometimes, you can actually find a diamond in the rough.
In May 2007, I applied to a Craigslist job ad with the following heading: "Personal Assistant to Celebrity Musician". I thought, at the very least, it would be interesting to know who the musician would be, so I applied instantly. For some reason, I imagined the celebrity being somebody in the "Pop music" domain, maybe a Britney Spears or some Boy Band member. I just pictured a bougie-esque person (a la Mariah Carey), the type that might require masterful tasks such as picking out all of the yellow peanut M&Ms from a crystal bowl and having rare sparkling water at exactly 68 degrees as part of their tour rider. About 30 minutes after e-mailing my resume, I received a response, offering an interview with musician, "Scott Weiland of Velvet Revolver/Stone Temple Pilots". Yes, Craigslist.
Scott Weiland? No bell went off in my head. No sense of excitement, rather an investigative feeling of unknown. Let me say it clearly, I didn't know who Scott Weiland was. If you would have asked me if I had heard of Stone Temple Pilots, sure I had, but I wouldn't have been able to connect Scott's name or face to either band. So after Youtubing, Wiki-briefing, and Googling all I could, I came to realize two things: Scott was notoriously successful, and the only songs from his catalog familiar to me were "Plush" and "Creep", both off STP's 1992 debut album "Core". Remember, at the time, I was severely rock trivia deprived.
Without hesitation, I accepted the offer to interview with Scott, setting up the meeting at a swanky West Hollywood Hotel in a few days. To be honest, I was more intrigued by the possibility of meeting Slash (Lead Guitarist, Velvet Revolver/Guns N' Roses) as in my eyes, he was iconic. I remember watching the premier of the GNR "November Rain" video after an episode of the Simpsons when I was 12. I had no clue how Scott Weiland would come to influence me.
The night before the interview, Velvet Revolver appeared as the musical guest on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, performing "She Builds Quick Machines", the first single off the new "Libertad" album. I was impressed with the band as a whole, almost intimidated for the next day's meeting. I arrived to the Hotel early and noticed the band was also there for a press junket. In walks Scott, hands full of bags, papers, books etc. I introduced myself, offered a hand with his luggage and let him know I was there to interview for his Assistant position. The interview itself was maybe 15 minutes of casual conversation, with most of the time spent chatting about college football, to which we were both fans. Scott briefed me on what the gig entailed and basically offered me the position on the spot. I was nervous to have been hired so easily, which lead me to wonder, maybe he runs through Assistants constantly and to him it's no big deal? To me it was a huge deal as I would be leaving a solid and safe industry position for an unknown massive rock n' roll tour. I was all in. My studio gig gave me the greatest experiences of meeting just about every major or legendary artist in the business, but nothing was more exhilarating than what I was going to experience.
For obvious legal reasons and out of respect for Scott and his family, I will never and have never disclosed personal information from my short time with Scott, but I will give my subjective opinion of what I came away with and how it influenced me as a now superfan of Scott Weiland and as an aspiring musician.
I'll never forget the first show of the tour, Baltimore's "Virgin Fest", playing to 60,000 fans is where I first witnessed the energy created between performers and audience. It's a completely different experience from the vantage point of the performer versus standing in the crowd. We arrived a day early and Scott invited me to check out a few bands. That entailed Scott introducing me to both The Smashing Pumkins and The Police just before each went on stage. Incredible. Especially to read Billy Corgan's eulogy for Scott in Rolling Stone. Ironically, The Pumpkins longtime tour manager, "Gooch", would later lead us out for STP's reunion tour. I enjoyed reading Corgan's acknowledgement of being "critical" of STP at first as they were accused of being a "derivative of Pearl Jam", but later becoming a fan by STP's third album (Tiny Music...Songs From the Vatican Gift Shop), also including Scott with Layne Staley and Kurt Cobain as "the great voices of our generation".
Working for Scott motivated me to become a quick study in the 90s alternative/grunge era. STP took a lot of heat for their comparisons to Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains (who would open for VR in North America), especially Scott for the closeness in sound to each aforementioned band's vocalists. I would always joke with Scott that he was a genius style-biter. In my own opinion, from time to time, Scott included certain catch phrases or styles from legends of the past. Examples of my theory: Velvet Revolver's "Let it Roll" (Jim Morrison), STP's "Big Bang Baby" ("it's a gas gas gas/Mick Jagger), "Atlanta" (Jim Morrison), Scott Weiland Solo's "Paralysis" (David Bowie), "Tangle With Your Mind" (Bob Dylan). These musical influences are so subtle, but if noticed, provide an insight into true musical genius.
While singing along to Scott's solo album rendition of The Smiths "Reel Around the Fountain", Scott once told me, "dude, you've got a great voice". I never thought so, but it was that compliment from my boss that catapulted me into this dream obsession with writing rock tunes, with Weiland being my greatest influence. Before shows, I would help tape the wire of Scott's in ear monitors to his back so it was secure when he'd peel off his shirt. About half the time Scott would say, "dude, you don't need to tape those tonight, it's not going to be a full on rock show". Full on rock show meant starting in a three piece suit and stripping down to no shirt. I would always laugh when he said this because no matter what, it was ALWAYS going to be a full on rock show because Scott Weiland only knew how to do it one way- full on rock n' roll.
Before shoving off on the 2008 STP reunion tour, I remember Rolling Stone coming to interview the band and watch them play a tune at an L.A. rehearsal spot. The tune they played that day was "Big Empty". I'll never forget the feeling I had when I realized that "Big Empty" was theirs. I had no clue. I had always fancied the tune in the early 90s but never knew who it was. This was a great moment of realization for me.
Witnessing the dynamics between Scott and both VR and STP respectively was so different, yet so very much inspiring. When each unit was dialed in for these bands, they were unstoppable and that is why I fell in love with live music. There is so much emotion that can be lost in a recording that only comes across in a live performance. Scott would often be criticized for his slithery dance moves, it reminded me of that old saying, "dance like no one is watching". He was into it, giving it his all as he would describe that energy between himself and the crowd a "give and take" effect.
My favorite Scott Weiland tune, is STP's "Wonderful", primarily for the lyrical content but also Scott's great abilities to create multi-track harmonies, which he was always proud of.
Another important experience for me was watching Scott record his second solo album, "Happy in Galoshes". A couple songs were recorded at famed Producer, Steve Albini's Electrical Audio in Chicago. Albini notable for producing Nirvana's final studio album "In Utero". Albini and his staff were the greatest around and those sessions included Adrian Young (No Doubt) on drums on "Paralysis" also produced by Tony Kanal (No Doubt).
Among others, Scott really dug Keith Richards for his swagger, so I ended up calling him "Chief Richards", which would make him laugh. Scott is the one who personally turned me onto Radiohead, The Smiths, David Bowie, The Flaming Lips, and The Rolling Stones. Scott showed me how to pull off both a quirky and dapper sense of fashion. And most importantly, Scott Weiland showed me how to not give a fuck about people's negative opinions.
I feel extremely lucky to have witnessed Scott's greatness while he was still on top of his game. As they say, the music never dies and I'm thankful for that. Let's remember Scott Weiland for all his accomplishments, and not his failures. I have enough stories to last a lifetime and wish they could be shared, but that's the nature of the gig. Besides, it's only Rock n' Roll...
After a week of memes and Meek Mill putting Drake on front street for allegedly using a ghostwriter for his lyrics, Drake has been crowned the winner of the rap battle. Meek recently dropped his second retaliation diss on Drake during the opening of his set on “The Prinkprint Tour” show in Charlotte, NC tonight. Meek's first response "Wanna Know" took a while for him to get it together and was piss poor at best. Drake dropped two disses in total, the first four days after the feud began, “Charged Up”, a mellow indirect attack on Meek Mill, followed by “Back to Back”, a more upbeat diss track questioning Meek’s masculinity while he’s on his “girl’s tour”. Meek Mill definitely delivered more intensity, in classic Tupac diss fashion, rapping, “Everybody catching bullet holes including Drake and the whole OVO” and “What’s Drake gonna do when he see Milly?” Drake definitely had the last laugh by continuing to obliterate Meek Mill, most recently at his annual OVO Fest in Toronto, performing both diss tracks live.
In comparing the back and forth, Drake clearly has a stronger fan base and popularity in both the rap and pop domains which actually ended up hurting Meek Mill in the long run, even with his debut album “Dreams Worth More Than Money”, reaching number one on the Billboard 200 chart.
What I find most interesting is how fans don’t care that Drake did in fact have a ghostwriter in Quentin Miller, though credited throughout Drake’s successful mixtape “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late”. I’ve read OVO crew members arguing that since Quentin Miller is credited, he’s not a ghostwriter. Drake has yet to publicly address the accusations, but if you listen to the demo version of “10 Bands” that was dropped by Funkmaster Flex on his Hot 97 show, the flow is identical to Drake’s on the album version. That’s all I needed to hear and I have to admit I was a little disappointed at first but then I realized that the music game is a powerful force to reckon with. Check out the first verses of Quentin Miller's then Drake's "10 Bands" below.
When you have as much success as Drake, you get to a certain plateau that you literally pick and choose your hits. Everything you drop needs to be fire and since you’ve already made it to superstardom, you have the luxury of having people write lyrics for you. I’ve always seen Drake as an R&B rapper, just as I view Chris Brown as a Hip Hop Singer. The former rap sings and the latter sing raps and both equal pop music and major revenue. Just like I said about Iggy Azalea not writing her own lyrics, nobody cares, they just want to hear good music. If Quentin Miller dropped that same single, nobody would be feeling it, because it’s Drake’s voice and delivery that makes him the artist he is.
If you’re not familiar with mega hitmaker Max Martin. Click here to look him up. He’s written more modern pop hits than anyone and nobody is ever knocking the major artists that sing his tunes, you know why? Because it’s pop music! The main issue is that the hip hop genre is a culture about realness and rap spins off of that but the truth is rap is not the same genre I grew up with in the 90s. What’s considered today’s “rap music” is still pop to me and that’s why Drake gets a pass, he’s a pop artist and a good one at that.
Meek Mill has no play but to get gangster and try to bully Drake, but guess what, Drake is no gangster, just like Bow Wow, nobody from the OVO Crew is shooting anybody, let’s be real. If I were Meek Mill, I would stop now before Nicky Minaj is forced to choose Drake over him because she’s all about the business and glowing in the limelight. I think the real reason this whole thing started is Nicki Minaj had to come clean before they got married that she hooked up with Drake twenty seven times and Meek Mill just lost his shit. TKO Drizzy....AND STILL!
Lebron James was always going to be something special in the NBA. Just like Shaquille O'Neal, James holds God-given physical attributes comparable to that of Greek Gods. Granted you can't just be 6'8" 250 pounds and expect to be an NBA All-Star, as a ton of skill goes into being a dominant force in the league. Stats speak for themselves, as do highlights, which leads us to media hype. Media is a demigod in its own rite, which can further add to the explosive over-hype of up and comers.
With the recent start of the NBA season and his return to Cleveland, I was thinking about Lebron's NBA debut as an 18 year old, fresh faced kid from Akron, Ohio. Can you remember 11 years back? I know, kinda hard for me too. James posted a highlight-laden first game with 25 points and showed all the naysayers that his decision to forgo college was the right one.
As with many young and talented superstars, we as fans like to see the dunks, the lifestyles, the Nike commercials. But at some point, maybe a few years of honeymooning, we care about one thing: winning. Fast forward to present day, Lebron is a two-time NBA champion, more impressively, arriving to the Finals in each of the last four years, winning back to back in 2012 and 2013, but losing to a "mature" San Antonio Spurs last season.
I grew up watching Michael Jordan on television and remember two things always grabbing my attention to the point of dropping my pizza on the floor: 1) if MJ missed a jump shot, period. 2) if Mike didn't swish a free-throw. I can recall the feeling like two seconds ago. "Wow, he actually missed a shot?" Jordan was that good. Kobe Bryant's affect on me was a little different, but in the same vein, Kobe made a high percentage of his shots, but most importantly, made the clutch shots, almost, every...single...time. The ferocity that Kobe carried during his heyday is second to none, other than Jordan himself. When there was time for one shot left and we cut to a TV timeout, these two guys not only wanted the shot, they demanded it. Defending teams knew the ball was going to either Jordan or Kobe and they still would drill the game winner, because they had the killer confidence the entire time.
Lebron James doesn't have this same scent of killer. Not even close. James could win 7 championships (surpassing Jordan's 6 and Bryant's 5) and I still wouldn't agree, especially because I believe he has begun his decent as a player. My Dad is a boxing fanatic. He thinks he knows everything about fighting, and he does know a great deal, somethings we disagree on. One of Dad's favorite riffs is " you can always tell if a fighter is scared by looking at his eyes". I couldn't agree with this more in all forms of competition. Especially basketball. Lebron may think he wants the ball down the stretch, but deep down I believe he subconsciously isn't sure he can make the shot. I could go on about how Dwayne Wade and company's presence was instrumental in Lebron's two rings and the same could be said about Shaq and Kobe, but this is not the point. Ultimately, the point is you can be a heralded, championship winning NBA superstar without being able to knockdown that crucial free-throw, jump shot, or make that once in a lifetime play. Lebron James has done this in his career, but he will never be at the level of a Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant.
Who do I envision when I hear the word "clutch"? Just off the top of my head, it has been Jordan, Magic, Kobe, D. Fisher, Robert Horry, Allen Iverson, and Timmy Duncan? I know this could make for a great debate and an on going list. This definitely begs a totally different topical question: where does the will to be psychologically a PIMP in sports originate? We're all human, we all practice (not as much as Kobe Bryant), but there is more to it than confidence. Is it our emotional background or the baggage we carry? Whatever it is, Lebron is lacking it, though I will acknowledge it has somewhat improved over the years.
Lebron, no hard feelings buddy, you've been pretty awesome for the past decade, I'm just thinking I'd rather have Kevin Love take the game winning shot than you.
Ramen, not Top Ramen, douchebag. Not the same thing. Not even close. What is this craze that is suddenly filling up Ventura Boulevard's hottest real estate? It's still unclear, though most of historians say the Chinese originally invented the wheat-noodle soup, usually served with meat in a fish, miso or soy based broth. The Japanese made it their own around the early 20th century, with "ramen" being the Japanese pronounciation of the Chinese "iamian".
Either way, I'm so down for ramen, not only because I'm happa, or half-Japanese, but because it's one of those foods that does it for me. The kind of food that has you magically reciting Pharrell's "Happy" song in your head. The kind of meal you can grab with a few friends to experience some culture. The kind of meal that won't cost you an arm or a leg and in my opinion, gives the Vietnamese "Pho" a run for their money.
Since the 1950's there has been a plethora of "instant" noodles introduced to the market and unfortunately, this gives the authentic ramen a bad reputation. If you youtube the phrase, "ramen digestion", it will take you to various videos of processed instant ramen being poorly digested in a human's GI system. Something not pretty. This is a GMO boner of press, but again, is bad for the real thing. It's like going to McDonald's for a burger when you could go to, I don't know, In n' Out? LOL.
I'm writing this article to urge you to try the real ramen and leave all of your stoner university experiences of Top Ramen behind as you owe it to yourself to not be cheated in life over and over again.
I like my ramen with "chashu" or pork in a soy based broth. There have become so many variations of ramen, there should be a type for everyone to love, just like the specialty sushi rolls that caters to a mexican's spicy satisfactions. If you're not into ramen and have tried it, it's cool, we can talk about politics. But, if you're living in a desert or a rural part of the country, especially a place where it snows, open yourself a ramenya, aka, a ramen shop and you'll be ballin' out of control to the point of, well I don't know, maybe being able to carry the ramen torch to more great citizens of this nation. Until then, ramen-up!
I've got a beef to pick with the Iggy Azalea haters that are constantly trying to bring her down. The three Hot 100 Iggy Azalea hit records speak for themselves ("Fancy", "Black Widow", "Work").
Let's get one thing straight. A hit record is a hit record, no matter who wrote the piece or who performs it. Everyone involved is getting paid and building their celebrity, unless you've totally been screwed by bad contracts (very possible).
In today's overly saturated market, there are tons of upcoming artists trying to get their fifteen minutes of the limelight. There are three different types of musical artists: singers, songwriters and singer/songwriters. Any of the aforementioned can garner much respect in the music industry for their role in creating music that brings out emotion. Iggy Azalea is an entertainer and if she didn't write a single word on her record, shouldn't she get a little respect for both being able to perform these lyrics live and to track these vocals with such swagger?
From the moment I heard Iggy Azalea, I said this sounds like Tip wrote it and didn't give two shits otherwise. Iggy is getting flack for not rapping in her native Australian accent. Who wants to hear that? The female rap game is hurting, especially since Nicki Minaj's butt photo incident, which reminded me, of two things: one, there couldn't possibly be a god given backside that magnificent, and two, there really is no Santa Claus. I truly believe the questioning of Nicki Minaj's booty authenticity is hurting her overall image. Granted, Minaj is a talented rapper, butt (LOL), as you can see in Iggy's case, it does help if you are a beautiful white model that can spit like a southern trap star.
Did you ever noticed after Dr. Dre signed Marshall Mathers, his much improved verses began sounding quite Eminem-esque? How about Neyo being the original writer to Beyonce's smash hit, "Irreplaceable"? The list goes on. Chris Brown, Rhianna, and company admittedly do not write their new mega hits because they don't have to. They've "arrived" and have the ability to pick and choose their next move. So why should it be any different for a new foreign white female rapper?
What are we really talking about here? Dear Nicki Minaj, you get kudos for writing your own rhymes, as do you Rah Digga' or whoever you were, but please, recognize a banger when you hear one and stop crying.
Have you ever tried to be a rap coach to someone?! I have and let me tell you, it absolutely sucks, especially if they have zero talent, let alone rhythm and swag. Again, singer, songwriter or singer/songwriter? Iggy Azalea is the singer in this pre-school level puzzle.
Iggy Azalea is just what the lady rap game needs: beauty, wit and talent. No need to write your lyrics Iggy Azalea, just keep doing you, er, Tip or whomever is ghost writing your shit because at the end of the day, it's still a foreign white girl doing her trap thang'. Haters gon' hate, potatoes gon' potate!