Cover Story: Hanging 10

10 local artists answer 10 questions about the past 10 years of local music

Dale M. Johnson


Carole Walker



CAROLE WALKER, THE WALKER PROJECT
When CityBeat was in its infancy, Carole Walker and her brother/collaborator Chris were winding down their successful run with Heavy Weather, a top-notch Funk/Rock band that had developed a regional fanbase. The siblings are currently creating the more intimate Soul/Pop sounds of The Walker Project and have built a solid local following on the local club front.

CityBeat: What were you doing, musically, in 1995?

Carole Walker: I was hanging out at Ripley's, trying to find a way to get some press in Everybody's News.

CB: How do you think the local music scene has changed in the past 10 years? Or has it changed at all?

CW: I think we have seen the rise and fall of the Jam band. That's a shame. The Jam band crowd had no fear of music and embraced everything. How does that go out of style?

CB: In a more general sense, how do you think the musical world as a whole has changed over the past decade?

CW: The biggest thing that's happened to music was Napster, or whatever CD sharing program you have. Your music can be heard at any time anywhere by anyone.

Big record companies had to start making CDs worth buying — that's up for debate. Indie labels had access to this global word-of-mouth and the phrase "overnight sensation" was an actual probability instead of being this myth with Santa Claus and unicorns. (For the record, I still believe in both.)

CB: Has your approach to your own music changed over the past 10 years?

CW: I would like to think I've matured, which has resulted in me being a lot more honest with my lyrics, music and performance. For the longest time I thought if it was loud then I would be heard. Now I understand the power of a whisper.

CB: Who are some of your favorite local artists of the past decade?

CW: I have to go with my heart and say Heavy Weather (even with all of the member changes, we still got the house jumping), Middlemarch, SHAG, Plow on Boy, Uncle Six, Sleep Theater just off the top of my head.

CB: If you could go back 10 years, would you change anything from a musical standpoint? Are there things you know now that you wished you knew then?

CW: It took me a long time to learn that nothing important can be discussed after midnight while drinking whiskey. With that in mind, I'm so happy now that I can't even imagine changing anything on the path that got me here.

CB: What's your best personal musical memory from the past 10 years?

CW: There were so many great shows at Ripley's, but hands down when we got to open up for Fishbone. It was so hot and smoky in that club, but it was a good hot ... and a very good smoke. After the show we had food and drinks and let Angelo play DJ. Even just remembering that night makes me feel like a kid at the circus.

CB: What's been your personal music high point?

CW: My musical high point was taking the stage with my guitar. I've always been a part of an original music project, but learning how to play and making a name for myself as a songwriter still gets me high.

CB: What was the low point (your worst musical moment from the past decade)?

CW: I think my musical low point came in the months leading up to the "hiatus" of Heavy Weather. (Being) tired, broke, frustrated and bored are great anthems for Blues songs but absolutely heartbreaking things to have in common with your fellow musicians.

CB: In 2014, where do you see yourself? Still playing music? Ever foresee a time when you won't?

CW: I'll still be writing songs. For who and where are not really my call. I can't ever see me not playing music. Chris and I have been in a band since we played violin together in elementary school — we rocked the College Hill Elementary awards night. I got no problem rocking the nursing home!

RANDY CHEEK, THE ASS PONYS
Randy Cheek has been the bassist for The Ass Ponys since the group's formation in 1988. One of Cincinnati's best bands from the past couple of decades, the Ponys had two albums released on A&M Records before returning to their indie label roots for the critically revered Some Stupid With a Flare Gun and Lohio for Checkered Past Records.

CityBeat: What were you doing, musically, in '95?

Randy Cheek: The Ass Ponys.

CB: How do you think the local music scene has changed in the past 10 years? Or has it changed at all?

RC: Ten years ago there were still only a couple of places that were open to bands playing their own songs. Today there are dozens of places you can play for a fraction of the money that a shitty cover band going through the motions, playing for the young Republicans, shaking their tight asses at Main Street nightclubs makes. So I guess it's the same, only more so.

CB: In a more general sense, how do you think the musical world as a whole has changed over the past decade?

RC: It seems to take business and marketing people much less time to take an exciting and fresh type of music, water it down, eliminate the soul and use it to sell Pepsi.

CB: Has your approach to your own music changed over the past 10 years?

RC: We were on tour opening for Throwing Muses and quickly became bored doing the same songs the same way night after night. The mistakes became the most honest and exciting part, so we learned to ride the mistakes out, let the songs open up and see where they'd go. Someone famous called it the "Happy Accident Theory." Sure, it doesn't always work out and sometimes it's a fucking mess, but it's a chance worth taking.

CB: Who are some of your favorite local artists of the past decade?

RC: I'm sure to forget someone, but here goes. In the "bands no longer active" category: Milkmine, Radiolaria, Ditchweed, Schwah, Roundhead, Hogscraper, Brainiac and the Whigs. Bands that are active today: Fairmount Girls, Tigerlilies, Lovely Crash, Stapletons, Culture Queer, Staggering Statistics, Ed Cunningham, Light Wires, Campfire Crush, Pernicious Knifs, wil-o-ee, Heevahava, Chalk, Readymaid, Greenhornes and the greatest band in the world, the Wolverton Brothers!

CB: If you could go back 10 years, would you change anything from a musical standpoint?

RC: No, I wouldn't change a thing. I wish I'd been nicer to that band Goober and the Peas, so I could borrow money from the guy who's in the White Stripes now.

CB: What's your best personal musical memory from the past 10 years?

RC: It's a tie between playing in a generator-powered float in the Northside Fourth of July Parade and playing on the Jon Stewart Show.

CB: What's been your personal music high point?

RC: Pulling into Salt Lake City or some other godforsaken shithole and having people show up who know and care about the band's music. Makes you feel like you must have done something right somehow.

CB: What was the low point?

RC: On a personal level, a real low was watching Stone Phillips interview some VP from Polygram Records on 20/20, who explained that CDs cost so much because popular bands like "The Blues Travelers" had to help pay for unpopular bands like "The Ass Ponys." I was watching the show with my parents, who actually thought I was popular. Bummer.

CB: In 2014, where do you see yourself? Still playing music? Ever foresee a time when you won't?

RC: 2014, Randy Cheek, "Hippie Cult Leader." Music? Like smoking in public and speaking out against the government, it will probably be against the law. And if they outlaw music, only outlaws will make it. Which might be just what's needed.

CHRIS LEE, KATANA/SUDSY MALONE'S/PEACE OR DIE RECORDS
Now known as a hero of the Hard Rock/Metal/Punk scene for his booking work at Sudsy Malone's — revitalizing the storied venue after its early 1990s peak and late '90s demise — Lee was the guitarist for fervently popular AltRock band Snaggletooth when CityBeat debuted. Since then, he's followed his Metal/Punk heart with local bands like 16 Piece Bucket and his current project, Katana. Lee is also a co-founder of the local collaborative label Peace or Die Records.

CityBeat: What were you doing, musically, in 1995?

Chris Lee: The beginning of the year I was in Snaggletooth, who were one of the more successful bands of that time. We broke up in July 1995. After that I formed Horschack.

CB: How do you think the local music scene has changed in the past 10 years?

CL: Bands don't promote as much anymore. They promote on the Internet a lot more, but that just doesn't do it. Bands now think that the Internet is all they need to do. Very few bands do the "street level go around town and hammer the hell out of it"-type fliering that bands in 1995 were doing. Ten years ago, you would drive around and every pole would have bands' fliers all over it. I'm starting to see a resurgence in this way of promoting within the Metal scene though. Expect the Cincinnati Metal scene to blow up big this year and next.

CB: In a more general sense, how do you think the musical world as a whole has changed over the past decade?

CL: Ten years ago I think Grunge and Indie Rock music were the darlings of the musical world and the media. Right now there's no music genre that the musical world centers itself around.

CB: Has your approach to your own music changed over the past 10 years?

CL: My approach hasn't really changed. I write and play what I feel. I'm playing the same guitars through the same amp as I was in 1995. I still sit around on my couch playing my guitar a lot, trying to learn guitar parts by my favorite guitarists or working on my own stuff. I've always tried to better myself as a guitar player, and I'm still always doing that.

CB: Who are some of your favorite local artists of the past decade?

CL: There are too many to single out. Cincinnati is loaded with talent and loaded with a lot of bands I've enjoyed over the past years.

CB: If you could go back 10 years, would you change anything, from a musical standpoint?

CL I wouldn't change a thing. I'm happy where I'm at, so changing something — even one thing — would alter my present state. Everyone has highs and lows in life, but I've been lucky enough to have the highs greatly outweigh the lows.

CB: What's your best personal musical memory from the last 10 years?

CL: I honestly can't pinpoint one best memory. Every band I played in the past 10 years started out with some sort of "high hopes" vision that made that band really fun to be in. The fun might have faded at some point, but they all have at least a few — if not a lot — of really good memories.

CB: What's been your personal music high point?

CL: In Snaggletooth, I accomplished a lot more than I had ever accomplished in a band. We became a band that would draw 200-300 people at our local shows. Our music was getting killer reviews in magazines and fan zines all over the world.

After Snaggletooth, I felt I had gone as far as I would ever go up the music ladder. Then 16 Piece Bucket formed in 2000, and we achieved much of the same success that Snaggletooth achieved. 16 Piece Bucket sold CDs through the mail in Russia, Singapore, Scotland and Belgium, so our music went to places I'd never had music go to before.

CB: What was the low point?

CL: At the time, the breakup of Snaggletooth seemed like a low point. In June 1995, Columbia Records had called me and requested to hear the two latest songs we had just recorded at Backstage Studios. After hearing the songs, the A&R girl told me she totally dug them and would be passing them around to the folks in New York. A month later we were no longer a band. A total high followed by a total low.

CB: In 2014, where do you see yourself? Still playing music?

CL: I've been playing music for most of my life to date, and I don't foresee that ever changing. My daughters have taken a liking to music as well, so watching them learn to play will only fuel my love for playing music even more.

BILL STUART, THE WOLVERTON BROTHERS
The Wols have been at the vanguard of the underground music scene for two decades now, releasing internationally acclaimed albums and singles for labels like SubPop and Chicago's Atavistic Records. Most impressive is the fact that the band continues to innovate, releasing its finest work yet (and the long-awaited follow-up to 1995's Glad) this year.

CityBeat: What were you doing, musically, in 1995?

Bill Stuart: Same ol', same ol', playing guitar with the Wolverton Brothers. We put out Glad on Atavistic that year and played more out-of-town shows. We believed Glad was our most commercial effort to date and if it didn't get us "somewhere" we were going to bag it. Of course "somewhere" never came, and we did bag recording for about nine years.

CB: How do you think the local music scene has changed in the past 10 years?

BS: The biggest change would be the end of the Sudsy's/Shorty's era. It seemed there were more national acts playing here then — or at least more that I liked — which also gave an opening opportunity for the local bands. There seemed to be more excitement in the air back then, like any of us had a chance of "making" it. Local music-wise, there are many more bands here now and more good bands then ever, but even getting a review in a national magazine seems impossible for most. On the other hand, bands like the Greenhornes and Shesus seem to have escaped Cincinnati's gravity field.

CB: In a more general sense, how do you think the musical world as a whole has changed over the past decade?

BS: The digital era has somewhat leveled the playing field for artists and labels, but at the same time recordings seem less valuable and almost disposable. Most of the music I listen to is from one of my computers. I don't like CDs cluttering up my house. But with a click of a button a song, album, band or whole collection could be erased, and of course there's very little artwork with a digital copy. My sense is that there are more and more bands and less and less people to listen to them and radio is worse than ever — and that seemed impossible.

CB: Has your approach to your own music changed over the past 10 years?

BS: Probably not, but I did get a new effect pedal and I've learned to play three frets in a row.

CB: Who are some of your favorite local artists of the past decade?

BS: Culture Queer, Chalk, Pearlene, Greenhornes, Fairmount Girls, Ass Ponys, Radiolaria, Ditchweed.

CB: If you could go back 10 years, would you change anything, from a musical standpoint?

BS: We shouldn't have waited so long for our next release. Nine years seems a little freakish.

CB: What's your best personal musical memory from the last 10 years?

BS: We went on a small trip with the Afghan Whigs. I don't remember what year it was exactly, but it was sometime back then.

CB: What's been your personal music high point?

BS: Winning over a huge crowd in Boston, opening for Helium and Scrawl.

CB: What was the low point?

BS: In 1994, Philadelphia was the first stop of our "tour." We were doing the band-walk to stop in a local record store. We heard our version of "Long Haired Country Boy" floating down the street and thought, "This is going to be one great trip." When we got to the store and said, "Hey, that's us!" The clerk said, "What are you guys doing in town?" Turns out our show was never scheduled. We did get to play acoustically on the street with Sebadoh for about 13 people.

CB: In 2014, where do you see yourself? Still playing music?

BS: They can have my guitar when they pry it from my cold, dead fingers.

RICKY NYE, PIANO GURU
Leaving his Pop/Rock days behind after the end of the Raisins in the 1980s, pianist Ricky Nye has become a fixture on the local Blues scene with solo gigs and performances with his bands the Swingin' Mudbugs and the Red Hots. Specializing in the Boogie Woogie piano style, Nye has become a local ambassador for the sound, collecting like-minded players from around the world annually for his Blues & Boogie Piano summits.

CityBeat: What were you doing, musically, in 1995?

Ricky Nye: My group, Ricky Nye & The Red Hots, was very active. That, solo gigs and recording projects kept me busy.

CB: How do you think the local music scene has changed in the past 10 years?

RN: To me it hasn't changed much. It's still a viable place to work, and there's always been a wealth of outstanding musicians around here.

CB: In a more general sense, how do you think the musical world as a whole has changed over the past decade?

RN: Maybe (there's) more genre-melding, like the pairing of the organic and the technological for example.

CB: Has your approach to your own music changed over the past 10 years?

RN: I've been on a journey to try to become a bona-fide piano player. Give me about 30 more years!

CB: Who are some of your favorite local artists of the past decade?

RN: I'm a big fan of many, many local musicians of disparaging styles, so I really can't say. It'd be a big list!

CB: If you could go back 10 years, would you change anything? Are there things you know now that you wished you knew then?

RN: Yeah sure, but like my mom used to say, "Everything happens for a reason."

CB: What's your best personal musical memory from the last 10 years?

RN: One gig that really sticks in my mind was playing for a group of about six ladies at Corryville Recreation Center at 11 in the morning last winter. I work for an organization and play for older folks at senior centers and nursing facilities. They brought something really special out of me. It was a very memorable and spiritual morning.

CB: What's been your personal music high point?

RN: Performing throughout Europe these past few years. It's always with mutual piano-playing friends and always for enthusiastic audiences. Europe's become a place for me to get recharged musically and emotionally. Also putting on my Blues & Boogie Piano Summit series — the day of the show is always loads of excitement.

CB: What was the low point?

RN: That's hard to say. The low point and the high points can often come within minutes of each other.

CB: In 2014, where do you see yourself? Still playing music?

RN God willing, I'll play music until I drop!

DAN MCCABE, CAMPFIRE CRUSH/ THIGMOTROPE PRODUCTIONS
As a talent booker, Dan McCabe has been an integral part of the local music scene for several years, booking national faves at Sudsy Malone's in the early- to mid-'90s and today at the Southgate House. His Thigmotrope organization has helped keep Cincinnati on the itineraries of some of the best of the Indie world; as a musician, the singer/hornblower has been in the trenches with local groups like Roundhead, Opi Yum Yum and his current crew, Campfire Crush.

CityBeat: What were you doing, musically, in 1995?

Dan McCabe: Building Roundhead's first full-length, Breathe Aim Slack Squeeze, and piling bands and fans into Sudsy Malone's.

CB: How do you think the local music scene has changed in the past 10 years?

DM: The quality of local music is way up, as are the places you can find it.

CB: In a more general sense, how do you think the musical world as a whole has changed over the past decade?

DM: Hope has defeated cynicism. The annihilation of the '90s has faded. The world has survived past the year 2000. There's plenty ahead for us all. I hear that in today's new music. What ever happened to Marylin Manson?

CB: Has your approach to your own music changed over the past 10 years?

DM: I enjoy playing the horn much more and have found a vessel for it in Campfire Crush. I think our music is more uplifting than what I was instigating in the '90s. I've also had a few walls knocked down, which allows me to open up more lyrically.

CB: Who are some of your favorite local artists of the past decade?

DM: The Hairy Patt Band, Ruby Vileos, Lizard 99, Radiolaria, Chalk, wil-o-ee, The Wolverton Brothers, The Light Wires, Ditchweed, Lazy, Culture Queer, The Ass Ponys, Geezer, Heevahava. And I really dug my bandmates in Roundhead: Bill Bullock, Steve Metz, Jim Antonio, Barb Hunter, Kip Roe.

CB: If you could go back 10 years, would you change anything, from a musical standpoint?

DM: I'd play more horn. I wish I could tell my past self that nobody's gonna do it for you and watch out for Tim Shwallie (of BPA/Woverton Brothers fame).

CB: What's your best personal musical memory from the last 10 years?

DM: There was lots of road time that I enjoyed very much. I loved our Ford Econoline and the people it carried.

CB: What's been your personal music high point?

DM: The release of Roundhead's last CD, Creature Comfort. I'm still very proud of that offering. More recently, the birthing of Campfire Crush. I believe it's the best music I've ever been a part of.

CB: What was the low point?

DM: Working at ARC Distributing for minimum wage. I pulled CDs for record stores to sell. I spent a lot of time walking past Roundhead's beautiful final offering. It wasn't on anybody's orders. Nobody heard it, and I got the chance to be reminded of that daily. Damn, that wore me down. That and the concrete floors.

CB: In 2014, where do you see yourself? Still playing music?

DM: Yeah, I'll be in some smoky corner playing a song.

RICK MCCARTY, THISTLE/ TIBERIUS RECORDS
Rick McCarty has played drums with the Indie Rock mainstays Thistle since 1994. The band has logged more touring miles than probably any local band in the area, being less concerned about local success and more interested in spreading the gospel worldwide. The band's Tiberius Records has national distribution and has released albums by several local and regional acts. McCarty also pounds the skins for other local bands like Ampline and The Light Wires.

CityBeat: What were you doing, musically, in 1995?

Rick McCarty: In 1995 I was playing in Thistle, and we were getting the songs together that would become our Tremble Kisser album. We were touring a lot — well, as much as we could at the time, considering we all were full-time college students and had at least one job. At that point in time the band was still trying to find its "sound," I think, so the music we were creating then was all over the place.

CB: How do you think the local music scene has changed in the past 10 years?

RM: The "music scene" tends to be very cyclical like most "trends." I think we're now close to seeing the circle come back around to the time when the local scene was at its zenith, 1988 through 1993. It seems like there were a lot of good bands playing out then, and we're seeing more "good" or "quality" bands now along with a lot of quality venues in the city. All we're waiting for is for the general public to remember how cool it was back in '91 or '93 to go to a club and "see a show" no matter who was playing.

CB: In a more general sense, how do you think the musical world as a whole has changed over the past decade?

RM: There's been a monumental change in the overall music scene/business. When you think about the Internet and how easy it is to now record music, make it into a transferable format — CD, DAT, MP3 — and send it to someone, it's simply amazing how quickly and easily anyone can check out new music. Clearly the technological advance and luxury of people being able to enjoy music (both new and old) in their home, office, car, whatever has made it less "attractive" to folks to go to a club. But I think we'll see a change in that again.

CB: Has your approach to your own music changed over the past 10 years?

RM: I certainly think I'm a much better listener now. Like everything else in life, as you get older and more mature it becomes easier to take your ego out of the equation and do whatever is best for the sake of "the bigger picture."

CB: Who are some of your favorite local artists of the past decade?

RM: The guys who we looked up to when we started were Fatdog, Feeder, Ass Ponys, Sinker, Flowerfist, Signalmen, Snaggletooth, Roundhead, Melvin Speed, Radiolaria, Wolverton Brothers, Tigerlilies. The bands we met once we got started were Filament, The Simpletons, 12 Rods, Rockets To Mars, Moth. Then there are all the bands we've loved in the last several years: Theraphosa, No Good Heroes, East Arcadia, Covington, Readymaid, Keynote Speaker, Hilltop Distillery, Cari Clara, Caterpillar Tracks, Saturday Supercade, Mallory, Abigail, The Scrubs.

CB: If you could go back 10 years, would you change anything, from a musical standpoint?

RM: I don't think about the past like that. I could certainly do some things in a more intelligent way, now that I know so many things I've learned from experience. But it's pointless to think or worry about the past like that, since I probably wouldn't be the person I am now if I didn't have all those experiences.

CB: What's your best personal musical memory from the last 10 years?

RM: Some of the highlights have been seeing the country with my band, playing with so many of our "idols" (Superchunk, J. Mascis, Mike Watt), seeing our record label hit its 10th release last year, getting a tour of the Dischord offices while we were on tour in 2003.

CB: What was the low point?

RM: At around 2 a.m. on Oct. 25, 2003 was absolutely my "lowest" point.

CB: In 2014, where do you see yourself? Still playing music?

RM: It might be a little different for me because I play the drums and it seems to be more like a "physical addiction" to me more than anything else. I actually have gone through spells were I've battled some sort of depression and physical discomfort when I didn't have my instrument as an outlet. So music is pretty much a part of my being. I need help I guess.

JACOB HEINTZ, BUCKRA
When popular locals The Rottweilers imploded around the time CityBeat came into existence, singer Dylan Speeg and guitarist Jacob Heintz bounced right back with Buckra, one of the hardest-working bands on the scene in a long time. With first-rate musicianship, professionalism and promotional acumen, the band has built both a strong local following and an impressive list of accomplishments over the past several years.

CityBeat: What were you doing, musically, in 1995?

Jacob Heintz: That was a rough year for me musically. The Rottweilers were talking to Todd Rundgren about producing our next CD, Sony was interested in releasing it and then the band broke up. Five years of hard work down the drain due to an internal band conflict, and there was nothing I could do about it.

CB: How do you think the local music scene has changed in the past 10 years? Or has it changed at all?

JH: By 1995, the big burst of musical interest brought to town by the Whigs was starting to dry up. Ever since then it has been a vacuum. Lots of great bands have come and gone, and no one noticed. When a band rocks in an empty club, do they make a sound?

CB: In a more general sense, how do you think the musical world as a whole has changed over the past decade?

JH: On a musical level not much has changed, just rehashing of old ideas — boy bands, retro Rock, Bluegrass and C+C Music Factory-type Rap hits. On the technical side there have been major leaps forward: iPods, MP3s, quality digital home studios, CD burners, Clear Channel. The good thing is that the major label stranglehold on the record industry has been loosened; the bad news is that it's getting harder and harder to make a living with music, and the glut of music coming out makes it harder and harder to find music you want to listen to.

CB: Has your approach to your own music changed over the past 10 years?

JH: It hasn't changed much. I still spend most of my free time writing music, practicing, booking shows, networking, driving, recording and advertising.

CB: Who are some of your favorite local artists of the past decade?

JH: 12 Rods, Snaggletooth, Melvin Speed, Hogscraper, Moth, Promenade, Debalto, The Ropers, Rockets To Mars, SHAG, Lizard 99, Grinch, Love America — just to name a few.

CB: If you could go back 10 years, would you change anything, from a musical standpoint?

JH: I'm pretty content with what I've accomplished with my musical compadres. We have never captured the elusive recording contract that we hunted, but at the same time we've been able to travel all over the country, record the music we wanted, rocked in front of hundreds of thousands of people and sold tens of thousands of our CDs. Who needs a record label?

CB: What's your best personal musical memory from the last 10 years?

JH: Getting the phone call that we had won a national VH-1 competition and were getting an all-expenses-paid trip to Las Vegas to open for the Goo Goo Dolls and The Donnas.

CB: What's been your personal music high point?

JH: My musical high point was the 24 hours where we played with the Goo Goo Dolls and The Donnas at The Paris in Vegas and then hopped on a plane back to Cincinnati and arrived in time to headline the WEBN fireworks show.

CB: What was the low point?

JH: Hard to say. The Rottweilers breaking up, being beaten by the Verve Pipe in a national music contest or a few 97xposure finals. All painful, but every defeat just musters up our competitive edge and drives us to the next level.

CB: In 2014, where do you see yourself? Still playing music?

JH: Hopefully I'll be sitting on the beach with Jay Z and Thom Yorke, talking about our glory days and our upcoming reunion tours. I'm sure the day will come when I have to quit, but they're going to have to pry the guitar from my cold, dead hands.

DANA HAMBLEN, THE FAIRMOUNT GIRLS/ CULTURE QUEER
When I'm an old man and think back to this past decade of local music, Dana Hamblen is probably going to be the first person I remember. Her involvement in a multitude of projects on the local Indie scene represents a creative spiritedness that's unparalleled. Her main bands from the past 10 years — Ditchweed, The Fairmount Girls and Culture Queer — have released some of the finest local music of the modern era.

CityBeat: What were you doing, musically, in 1995?

Dana Hamblen: Playing "rock girl" bass in the group Ditchweed. I didn't take up the drums 'til 1996. I was also helping shoot and write the film Grrl Possy, which featured several local Indie Rock superstars.

CB: How do you think the local music scene has changed in the past 10 years?

DH: It has persevered! More venues. Fresh new bands, as always. Good healthy competition. Maybe slightly less camaraderie? I guess I don't really think it's changed all that much. The overall quality of local shows is a bit better.

CB: In a more general sense, how do you think the musical world as a whole has changed over the past decade?

DH: There's less emphasis on the record label. Worth of the product has lessened — you can get anything you want, download it for free. The cost of a CD is pennies. It makes the music disposable. At the same time, because of the Internet you can get your music to anyone instantly. Technology has put the power back in the hands of the artist, not in some record company world mentality.

CB: Has your approach to your own music changed over the past 10 years?

DH: My actual approach hasn't changed — inspiration from the heart, being vulnerable in the moment.

CB: Who are some of your favorite local artists of the past decade?

DH: Brainiac, Radiolaria, Chalk, Milkmine, Wolverton Brothers, Afghan Whigs, Lazy, Ass Ponys, Tigerlilies, Roundhead, Colortest, Throneberry, Hogscraper, Uncle Dave Lewis, Ruby Vileos, Jeff Roberson, Luthor The Geek, Schwah, Greenhornes/Nevada Death Band, Heevahava, The Hairy Patt Band, Snake Punching Contest. Gosh, I could go on and on.

CB: If you could go back 10 years, would you change anything, from a musical standpoint?

DH: I wish I'd picked up on the impact of the computer on music a bit earlier. I wish I'd been easier on my bandmates' feelings and situations. In retrospect, it would have been better to back it off, intensity-wise, but perhaps less intensity would have weakened the music?

CB: What's your best personal musical memory from the past 10 years?

DH: Wow, so many! Getting a kiss from Kim Deal. All those back bends. Moments in the van. Channel 19 in the morning. Out-of-town friendships bound by music.

CB: What's been your personal music high point?

DH: When Ditchweed opened for Guided By Voices and The Breeders and the review of the show began with "Kendall (Davis, Ditchweed drummer) rules." Or when the FGs played CMJ. Or with the White Stripes. Or getting to sing with Tipsy. I don't know, they're all high points in some ways. I even love the awful parts of being in a band.

CB: What was the low point (your worst musical moment from the past decade)?

DH: Every time a batch of songs dies. Losing three members of the Fairmounts in one year. Having a really rough Ditchweed show in the haunted parlour and actually crying onstage from frustration.

CB: In 2014, where do you see yourself? Still playing music? Ever foresee a time when you won't?

DH: I doubt I'll ever stop. Scott from Culture Queer calls me "Big Alice," 'cause I'll probably be some big old lady still rocking out in weird clothes.

CHRIS SHERMAN, FREEKBASS
Chris Sherman was the low-end king of costumed Funk troupe SHAG when CityBeat began. When that group fell apart, he retained the P-Funk direction and musical friendship with Funk legend Bootsy Collins, who gave Sherman his stage name. With his pseudonym-eponymous band, Sherman has released several well-received albums and toured the globe.

CityBeat: What were you doing, musically, in 1995?

Chris Sherman: 1995 was the year SHAG started to get rolling, and it was the year I started to cut my teeth on being on the road with a band. I had just got my first mutron pedal for my bass and was just getting ready to graduate from a 4-track recorder to an 8-track recorder. I could actually record all the instruments without having to bounce tracks, so I was thinking I was in the big time.

CB: How do you think the local music scene has changed in the past 10 years?

CS: The Cincinnati music scene seems more comfortable in its skin nowadays. It seemed like a while back we were always out to prove that we were as big, legit, cool or whatever as New York, L.A., Seattle. Now the scene seems more proud of its history and diversity. I've noticed on the road in the last couple of years that when you say you're from Cincinnati people's curiosity piques and they want to know what it's like being from this musical scene of ours.

CB: In a more general sense, how do you think the musical world as a whole has changed over the past decade?

CS: The musical world is totally different to me now, even than it was five years ago. The Internet is the most obvious change, with independent artists now able to distribute their music worldwide with a press of a button. I remember musicians always used to talk about "getting that record deal" and I don't hear that being a priority anymore. Plus the live music scene has changed radically. When Bonnarroo is one of the most — if not the most — successful music festivals in the last couple of years, comprised mostly of independent artists, that's a pretty good sign.

CB: Has your approach to your own music changed over the past 10 years?

CS: Like I was saying earlier about the Cincinnati music scene being more comfortable in its skin, well, I definitely feel more comfortable in my skin musically now. I understand it's part of the game for people to want to put a label on who you are and what you do musically, and that's fine. But although a lot of folks see me as the over-the-top bassist with an insatiable appetite for the Funk, when I write music now, if I'm feeling like being Willie Nelson one day, David Bowie the next and Sly Stone the next, that's OK. Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to put myself in that league at all. But I'm not caught up in being obvious nowadays.

CB: Who are some of your favorite local artists of the past decade?

CS: My favorite local artists have not necessarily been a single band but certain individuals in the scene here that you're always interested about what they're going to do next. Artists such as Dan McCabe, Chris and Carol Walker, Rob Fetters, Eric Diedrichs and Greg Dulli, to name just a few. It's always a treat to see what direction folks like that are going to take next.

CB: If you could go back 10 years, would you change anything, from a musical standpoint?

CS: You always go back and listen to a CD or recording you did and wish you'd done this or that differently. And because of that there's the tendency to try to record the "perfect performance." One thing I've come to learn when recording music is sometimes the take you did at 4 in the morning in your pajamas that you were just laying down to tape to get the idea down is the best performance.

CB: What's your best personal musical memory from the past 10 years?

CS: Working and writing in the studio with Bootsy. He'd done a lot with SHAG, of course, but when Mr. Freekbass was born and we wrote the song "Freekbass 2YK" together, that was a trip. Bouncing music and lyric ideas off of each other and putting the song together piece by piece was a blueprint in my mind that I'll never forget. It was like Frankenstein being built, and you got to be the one who wore the bolts in your neck. We have done a lot of recording and writing since then, but that first time of watching it all gel is what sticks in my head.

CB: What's been your personal music high point?

CS: That's a hard one to pinpoint. One that comes to mind is playing at South By Southwest in Austin a couple of years ago. We played right before Bernie Worrell and the place was hoppin'. Plus, it helped open some doors for us.

CB: What was the low point?

CS: Me and the fellas had a show in St. Louis two days after 9/11. It felt really uncomfortable, strange and dark being onstage that close to what had just happened. Part of me thought of canceling the show and the other part thought that maybe people did need to escape for a night, so the whole show I kept thinking those conflicting thoughts. Plus there was still that empty shock inside of what had happened to the country and how what I was doing felt pretty darned insignificant.

CB: In 2014, where do you see yourself? Still playing music?

CS: Oh yeah, it's this or McDonald's for me — and I'm a vegetarian, so that's not too good of an option. I figure I'll tour around for the next seven or eight years and then it's on to Vegas to become the Liberace of the bass. ©

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