Daydream Believers

Five skeptical spin doctors probe for local music's pulse -- a City Pages roundtable

SULLIVAN: But now the Central's part of the blues walk in Seattle, and the Masquerade is just a big, stupid disco. So, screw them, huh?

CP: When did you become a riot grrl?

BARBERO: I was never a riot grrl.

Daniel Corrigan

CP: How about "riot grrl legends"?

BARBERO: They called us the grandmothers.

SLUG: This is meaningless, because these are only empty terms for the small percentage of us elitist fucks that care. It's just music--either it sounds good or it doesn't. The labeling is done by the people who create music and the people who write about music, but realistically, the average person doesn't give a shit what you call it. If they like it, they buy it; if their girlfriend likes it, they buy it. It's easy to get hung up on what's going on and forget about the fact that this person is dropping the money that they worked for because they want something to listen to in their car or in their home. It's music and they love music.

CP: Kim, what's the story about having a label called No Alternative?

KIM RANDALL: It started out with that whole post-Nirvana thing. And it was partly a pun on what is alternative music now. I think that the term came out used because it was, you know, "alternative to the mainstream." But once it became a label for a genre, it was so absurd that people kept using that term. And so I was trying to think of something that more accurately reflected what was going on in music.

CP: Are there things that guide you in picking bands?

RANDALL: Not really. What I tend to like gets rooted in certain melodies or influences. But I don't go out saying, "I want this kind of band that has to fit in these dimensions to meet the bottom line."

CP: That does lead to a bigger issue we wanted to touch on. You're about to release an album by a local singer-songwriter named Dylan Hicks who's started using samples. And earlier this afternoon some of us were talking about having gone to see Polara, a local alt-rock band who's experimenting with drum 'n' bass and sampling. The opening band that night was Sukpatch--three indie-rock-type guys using hip-hop tracks but not necessarily rapping or even rhyming. Five years ago everyone up there would have been playing guitars. Do you think this plays into the "end of alternative" discussion?

SULLIVAN: Electronic music is something that people are into. It's something to do. It's cool, you know? You get some interesting stuff. What the hell? People have always experimented, right?

CP: What would a rapper think of that show?

SLUG: I wouldn't go so far as to call Sukpatch's tracks hip hop. They're sampling breakbeats. So many people do that now, and I'm sure that it's an extension of hip hop in some weird, bastardized way. I would put them along the same lines as, like, Beck. It's a really danceable and happy...

SULLIVAN: The Beastie Boys' frat years?

SLUG: Well, I wouldn't even categorize Sukpatch guys as hip hop, or even hip-hop influenced.

CP: Whatever you call it, do you think Beck and Sukpatch are good or bad for hip hop? They do seem to have influence, because they make white kids go, "Hey! These beats are funky and fill me with a strange desire to get down on it."

SLUG: Honestly, I don't know if they have too much of an effect either way. Because the kids I sell hip-hop tapes to [at the Electric Fetus] don't even know who the fuck Beck is, and Beck's, like, huge. If I had Beck on the system, I'd have at least three different people come up to me and ask, "Yo! Who is that?" And that would be based on the fact that, yeah, there is a familiar breakbeat being used. Or that Beck is kind of rhyming in his own little way. And so it would probably spark interest, but there are also purists who would be like, "Hey! That's not right for him to do that."

SULLIVAN: Rickie Lee Jones. Didn't she try to rap at her show? Now that is wrong! Come on! That's like your dentist playing Helen Reddy.

CP: There has been a lot of industry talk about dwindling club attendance. Do you think that's actually happening?

SULLIVAN: When it's a show worth seeing they're packed. Whether the weather's bad, whether the weather's good, it doesn't matter. I never buy that "Oh, it's a little cold tonight."

It's more of a saturation thing. You don't want to check out a lot of stuff because almost anybody can get signed. I was at South by Southwest last year. I went to a couple of showcases, and I was like, "Play your fucking guitar! Jeez!" I mean, it was just "plink, plink, plink, plink." What the hell? I've heard better shit around campfires! And these bands are showcased at South by Southwest and people have these $100 passes on and they're watching this, and one record-label guy's going, "What do you think?" and the other guy goes, "Uh, I dunno...What do you think?" And I'm like, "He fucking can't play!"

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