Marc Jonson answers a few questions about TURNING ON THE CENTURY, a record he and Ramirez Exposures made.

How did Turning on The Century Vol 1 come about?

Victor Ramirez heard of me via Spanish radio. He took a liking to a song of mine called SUDDENLY SUNSHINE which he then recorded himself with Ken Stringfellow from the Posies … this led to me producing an album for Ramirez Exposure called YOUNG IS THE NEW OLD. Since then, we have toured Spain together twice, the second time Richard Lloyd was with us. It seemed like a good idea to make an album together and contribute to each other’s songs, adding harmonies and whatnot … it’s inspiring to work with another talent in this way.

Victor and you make beautiful songs. At what moments does the collaboration blossom for you?

Once we have found a mix we both like and we call it finished, we move on to the next song … one at a time … a musical narrative begins to appear between both our efforts…

When you’ve written so many beautiful songs, how and when do you know you’ve got one good enough to record or release?

That’s the secret, all right … when we hear each other’s latest new song it provides a necessary inspiration … you want the entire album to be as good as it can be and it keeps us on our toes to be sharp …

Success is a strange concept. When would Turning on the Century be a success for you?

It’s a success when we have decided it’s complicated… that’s one hump … then if reviewers and the fans respond favorably and can see your vision that’s another hump … if the album get’s talked about in music circles as being a good record, then I for one feel grateful.

Those magic moments in the studio. Which moment of this production will stay with you the most?

When you get the right vibe for each song … it’s trying lots of ideas and then slowly one by one eliminating them to make room for the song to breath … the strongest hooks stay and the clutter is eliminated …

Greg Pope – Rise of the Mythical Creatures (Q&A)

Rise of the Mythical Creatures gets rave reviews. That’s not surprising because Greg Pope’s latest contains ten perfect songs. Power Pop with a little bit of Prog, to keep things exciting.

Rise of the Mythical Creatures gets a lot of positive reviews. It won’t surprise you because you must have noticed somewhere during the creative process that you were fabricating something special, or is that assumption too easy?

I’m very grateful when a good review pops up, but I never assume anything. There have been plenty of times when I worked really hard on something, and then no one seemed to care about it that much (except me, haha). I try not to worry too much about what anyone will think of what I’m working on. I don’t think that’s good for any creative endeavor. I just try to make stuff that I want to hear and hope others will want to listen to it too.

The title suggests that it is a concept album, correct?

Actually no. Album artwork and album titles never seem to come easy for me, and this one was no exception. I probably had 10 or 12 album titles and designs, all suggested by the songs and lyrics. But none of them felt right. One night my two young sons and I sat down to watch 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954), and shortly after, I came up with the title and artwork.

I’ve always been intrigued by mysterious creatures like the giant squid. And I love old etchings and illustrations like the ones on the cover, some of which are by French painter Alphonse de Neuville for the 1869 serialized version of 20,000 Leagues. I thought the title sounded like an old fantasy novel, so I tried to give the artwork the vibe of a book cover.

The world has changed between the release of your previous album, Wishing on a Dark Star in 2020, and Rise of the Mythical Creatures. Did that affect the way the new album came about?

This album came about pretty much the same way they all do. This past Spring, I had a few songs that I felt might be worthy of putting out there, so I started kicking around the idea of releasing something in the Fall. I started recording it in May and just worked on it here and there over the Summer.

My past few albums have featured some playing and co-writing with my older kids, but this time, it didn’t work out that way for whatever reason. I run a fairly busy freelance business, so I had less time to focus on music. So I found it more efficient to just play and sing everything myself whenever I had a few hours to spare.

The Spotify algorithm decides to play Tommy Keene’s Places That Are Gone for me when Rise of the Mythical Creatures is over. Pretty cool, right?

Totally cool!! Though I might have preferred Songs From the Film because “I Don’t Feel Right At All” is on it, which is my fav song by Tommy Keene.

When I hear Words No One Can Say, I regularly take my Iron Maiden pose. I wouldn’t be surprised if you also like to listen to Metal?

To be honest, I’m more drawn to blues-based hard rock than Metal, though I have a healthy respect for that genre. I have pretty eclectic tastes. I grew up listening to a lot of 70s radio pop. Then I went through a pretty intense progressive rock phase. Then moved on to more singer-songwriter and guitar-driven stuff. These days I’m kind of all over the place as far as what I like to listen to. But my favorite band of all time is still The Police. When I put on Outlandos D’amour, the energy I felt listening to those songs as a 14-year-old kid is still very much there.

Grand Drifter – Only Child (Q&A)

I feel comfortable showing my emotions. I transpose my emotions into any of my songs. They’re the key to a melody.’, says Andrea Calvo. You immediately feel what he means when you listen to ‘Only Child’, Grand Drifter’s latest release. You hear ten sweet jangly tunes without any fuss, words, and melodies; nowhere to hide, soft and brave.

How did this record come together?

I immediately thought of “Only Child” as a different chapter from my first album, “Lost Spring Songs” (2018), of which I chose to focus on some aspects, moving toward playing electric, getting a sound perhaps more immediate, and Pop. Compared to the first album -a spurious collection of songs- the big difference is that “Only Child” revolves more around the idea of making a precise sequence of songs, which was defined right from the start. Another choice was playing everything like a full band would; just one song is my guitar and voice alone. The recording sessions began in the late Spring of 2020 and proceeded quickly, but the pandemic slowed everything down. Not an easy time. For this record, I had the honor of having many friends featured, such as the band Yo Yo Mundi in its full line-up or Michele Sarda and Hamilton Santià of Smile (now The Wends). We both have been released on Subjangle (UK / South Africa).

The meaning of success has changed over the years. What would success look like for the new record?

I always think that “success” must be related to one’s life purposes, wishes, and attitudes. My point of view is quite simple. Real success is when I can compose music, put together an album, and release it at my own pace. It’s a huge strive, therefore a great goal to achieve. This is a success. Then when my music gets some recognition is a big success. And if people buy the album I’m at the top of the success. From this perspective of endless personal improvement making music still has a lot to say. It’s the little-big footprint you leave on this planet. The new album “Only Child” got some extremely excellent reviews, from all over the world, and a lot of positive feedback. Things in the music business have changed a lot, even in the last 3 or 4 years. Physical copies seem to be so old-fashioned nowadays but the CD edition sold out in a few days, while the vinyl has sold more than 4/5 of the 150 copies available. So, it’s been successful. I’m extremely grateful for that and I couldn’t ask for more.

How great is the urge to stay creative? To keep writing songs and lyrics?

Bob Dylan once said that the world is full of great songs, so why write more? I agree, even if many of those songs turn out to be him’s. I chose to write only if it is pretty necessary for me. Anyway, it is always something so challenging and worth striving for.

Simply, the best things come out if you feel you have something to say. Sometimes you have it, sometimes or most of the time no. It happens often and you do not have to worry about it, just take a break and do something else. You have a whole life to live. When you’re at peace with the world you can redirect your soul to an idea of music, then to a melody. And then you find out a word, a phrase, and some lyrics happen then. And you have a new song. It’s a matter of balance of feelings. I just do everything at my own pace. Now I have around 8-9 new songs ready on my notebooks. When I feel ready I’ll start doing some acceptable demos, then I’ll think about releasing a third album.

As an artist, you choose to show your emotions to the world. Is it always comfortable to do so?

Probably showing feelings is also the only way I know to write a song, I write music to express emotions. I’m not able to write narrative lyrics or a protest song, to say. So, even if I consider myself introverted, I feel comfortable showing my emotions. I transpose my emotions into any of my songs. They’re the key to a melody.

Suppose you were to introduce your music to new listeners through three songs. Which songs would those be and why?

“The Balloon’s Boy” (from “Lost Spring Songs, 2018). This is the album’s opening track and I consider it the most harmonically complex song I’ve ever written. I wanted to open the album gently, thinking that kindness could resonate more than opening a door with a kick. There’s a kind of classical music feel to the chord progression, that took me a lot of hard work to get finalized. It’s my own little “Strawberry Fields Forever”. Very proud of it.

“A Deal with the Rain” (from “Only Child”, 2021). Another opening track. That song marks a new chapter in my songwriting. The music is in C major, with a kind of Blueboy and Sarah Records feeling in it. It’s about making peace with the things we experienced but have no control over. I finally made my deal with the rain, as everyone should do.

“Diary of Sorts” (from “Only Child”, 2021). This song came out when the recording sessions were almost over. I wrote it quickly, having some Belle and Sebastian and maybe The Smiths in mind. Then we went to record it. Few take, then the song was ready. I like a lot this song: G major, few chords, evocative lyrics, and a simple 12-string Rickenbacker riff. Always been my favorite.

What compliment you once received will you never forget?

I admit I received much positive feedback I didn’t expect, and my cheeks still terribly blush anytime that one quotes some artists I regard as masters, such as the Go-Betweens or Paul Simon to say. But the biggest compliment you can get is when people write you telling you about what a song means to them, opening their hearts to you. And I discover things in my music I didn’t realize before. A friend once told me that being able to share your music with the world is a blessing. I agree.


LIBRARIANS WITH HICKEYS themselves call HANDCLAPS & TAMBOURINES ‘the perfect album for your next rock-and-roll book club meeting’, even though I didn’t specifically ask RAY CARMEN and MIKE CROOKER what they meant by this, I understood at the end of the interview.

Release date: October 14, 2022


RAY CARMEN: It depends on the song. There is a lot of space in songs like I See You and When We Were Young, whereas a song like Lady Overdrive is all about the noise–wah wah guitars, feedback, and Stonesy-sounding backing vocals…!

MIKE CROOKER: From a production standpoint, we were already dealing with recording four guys in separate home studios. It’s my job in mixing to make it all sound cohesive, and much of that is finding space within songs so you can hear every instrument, backing vocal, handclap and yes, tambourine. Part of that remit is building a “universe” that each song lives & breathes within. To echo what Ray said though, the approach does depends on the song and what we’re trying to put across. I’m a big fan of layering things that you might not hear the first four or five times around, but eventually it may become your favorite little bit within the song.


RAY: It affected my lyric writing for sure. Our single from last year, I Can’t Stop Thinking About You b/w Stumbling Down Memory Lane, was directly influenced by the pandemic. I Can’t Stop is, underneath the surface, ultimately about the possibility of losing touch with family, friends, and bandmates for long periods of time. Stumbling is about the passing of people like Prince and David Bowie, and about getting older in a troubled world. There’s also a little bit of my daughter going off to college in there, as well.

MIKE: You can’t escape the elephant in the room, and as I said, it definitely affected how we did things with all the recording done apart from each other. We started right after LONG OVERDUE finished its run around October 2020 and made pretty good progress, but we ended up taking a step back in the middle of the process and re-evaluated some of the 30 or so songs that were under consideration. In the end, the 12 that ended up on HANDCLAPS & TAMBOURINES are not the same group of tracks that would have come out had we finished in 2021. The good news is there’s plenty of material to work on that will surface in the future!


RAY: Well, we each have our own influences. My influences are bands like the Beatles and the Monkees, which is pretty obvious. I also love Martin Newell, who we’ve covered, and R. Stevie Moore, who I’ve worked with. Mike and I also love Queen, and bands like the Church, who we often get compared to–which is OK with us! Mike and Rob Crossley, our drummer, both love early industrial bands, and Drew Wilco, our bassist, loves bands like Rush and the Police. But we all love three minute pop songs with catchy choruses, great harmonies, and guitar riffs. As for modern influences, Drew sent me a YouTube link to a song by beabadoobee a while back, and we’ve both been huge fans of hers ever since. She’s just a great songwriter.

MIKE: That’s a great point – many reviewers haven’t really pinpointed much in the way about modern influences – I mean, there must be, we don’t live in a vacuum – but the four of us have deep record collections We’re all students of music in many different forms, as Ray mentioned, and eventually some of that seeps into what we’re doing, whether it’s a guitar chord voicing from a Church song, or a rhythm pattern from The Pretenders or a lyric fragment nicked from psychologist William James, somehow, inexplicably, it all comes out sounding like a power pop band from Akron!


RAY: We realized the songs were good early on. It was just a matter of getting a satisfactory recording and mix for each song. Mike and I both co-produced the album, but Mike does the mixing, because he will notice things in the mix that I don’t. I told him the other day that our songs sound both modern and from the past–like AM radio, but in stereo!

MIKE: Sometimes, you can tell early on that you’ve got a good one, and the trick is to not mess it up! Once we figured out what direction the album was headed in, the songs really took care of themselves, we just need to capture that essence. That’s the happy fun part, but easier said than done! There were nights sitting in bed falling asleep with headphones on and listening to whatever song we were working on a loop,. I’d wake up at 3:30am and finally hear the thing that needed fixing – usually subtracting –  to tighten the song up. There’s really no wasted action in any of these songs – get in, hit the hook, get out and hopefully end up with a great song between 3:02 and 3:30.

There’s enough little weird time signatures (much to our drummer Rob’s frustration) that make things interesting. I’m not saying it’s like Rush or even Burt Bacharach time signatures, but somewhere in between to keep us all on our toes! 😉


RAY: Not really. When Mike and I were putting the track list in order, we had two different ways of looking at it. Mike looked at it as if it was a set list for a live gig. I looked at it as if it was a vinyl record: side one and side two. It just seemed to make sense to put those four songs last. Initially I thought the album should end with When We Were Young, and Mike thought it should end with Over You. Mike decided to move Over You up into more or less the middle of the album, and I thought it would be nice to end it with Me And My Big Mouth, which is musically more upbeat.

Mike made a comment to me the other day that Handclaps And Tambourines is very nostalgic-sounding–and he’s right, it is. A pandemic-induced lockdown will do that. Plus, at our age, you inevitably start looking back at some point. But the thing is, you can’t spend too much time doing that, or you’ll get stuck in rewind. The next album will be more forward-looking.

MIKE: The whole album has a nostalgic flavor, but it doesn’t live there full time. We did move Over You up to follow I See You & I Can’t Stop Thinking About You as sort of a trilogy of “You” songs. That meant the end of the record naturally gears down a bit before sticking the landing with Me And My Big Mouth.

Podcast – The Emerald Street episode

CLICK THE IMAGE and LISTEN to this SweetSweetMusicblog Podcast.

Emerald Street is an LA band, you will hear about how they look at playing the Viper Room, translating raw emotions into lyrics and their place in the LA entertainment business. And you will hear 5 beautiful songs of their new record Torrid Bliss.