Punk Rock Royalty Handsome Dick Manitoba on His Band ‘Manitoba’

Tonight, I will be DJing at the ever fabulous Yotel for the ever fabulous Mr. Patrick Duffy and his crew. That crew includes Darian Darling, Roxy Cottontail, Mint and Serf, and Henry De La Paz. Patrick always gathers wonderful crews. I will be joined in the booth by DJ Lady Starlight and am honored to be spinning with her. They are even promising a contortionist. The party is called Kung Fu Disco, as everyone is popping on the Chinese New Year. My set, which covers 55 years of rock and roll, leans heavily on the punk era. Handsome Dick Manitoba is punk rock royality. His bands, The Dictators and Manitoba’s Wild Kingdom, rocked my world for decades. Still, though he is a rock star, he is also a saloon keeper, a husband to the insanely beautiful and smart Zoe Hanson, and a father. His bar Manitoba’s is mentioned in way too many of my friends’ sloppy conversations. Tomorrow night, he is offering up his new band Manitoba and I asked him all about it.

When I DJ, I still put on "Stay With Me," a song from your Dictator days. It always delivers. Your new band Manitoba will debut this Thursday, January 26th at The Bowery Electric as part of the birthday celebration for Jesse Malin. Tell me about the new band and how it differs from the Dictators ?
People WANT the Dictators all the time. For 13 years, at my bar, I have listened to people parade in and ask me, "When are The Dictators playing?" Well, Scott is busy with the Del Lords, Andy with his solo project, and Ross The Boss, JP, and I – all Dictators –  were chomping at the bit to get out there and play live. So we got together with Daniel Rey (Ramones, Manitoba’s Wild Kingdom, Ronnie Spector), and this great bass player, Dean "The Dream" Rispler, and decided to "give the people what they want." We are starting out celebrating the rock and roll we have helped to create in the Dictators and Manitoba’s Wild Kingdom. And we are doing some of our favorite covers. Original stuff? Comin’ down the pike in a little while. Why rush now?We just wanna go out and have some fun. If there is ONE thing that clearly differs, there is LESS TENSION (A GOOD THING? A BAD THING? I dunno, you’ll have to let US KNOW!) on stage and at rehearsals.
 
Tell me about the name "Handsome Dick Manitoba." A new generation of punks might not know its origin.
Handsome (because I AM!) taken from Handsome Jimmy Valiant (’70s wrestling tag team, "The Valiant Brothers"), a bad guy or "HEEL" as it’s known in the parlance. My HERO. He always bragged about himself. Dick/Richard is my name. Manitoba?Just "sounded right," better than BLUM, my birth name, for a rock and roll band, anyway!
 
Rock and Roll is still thriving in the cracks.  Is selling records harder than ever and is there more money in touring than before?
Brother, I live "IN THE CRACKS." As Scott "Top Ten" Kempner (Del-Lords, Dictators) once said, "We are not in the record business, we are in the Dictators (NOW MANITOBA) business." Call me romantic, idealistic, or whatever, but I think there is always a spot in people’s hearts, some room, for great live rock and roll.
 
Tell me about the bar you own. You just celebrated –  what was it – 14 or 15 years?
Close enough, Steve. Starting our 14th year. My clubhouse, my hangout. A physical manifestation of keeping alive this great culture from whence I come!
 
What new bands are you into?
NEW???.Some. Here’s what I LOVE at the moment: Butch Walker,Deadbeat Poets, The Biters, Stupidity.  I love The Len Price 3 (LP: Pictures), Palmyra Delran, Make Out, Nick Curran & The Lowlifes, Soundtrack Of Our Lives…jeez, so many great artists, so underappreciated. Lots of stuff we play on my radio program on Little Steven’s Underground Garage, on Sirius XM Radio. LOTS OF STUFF!

Tonight: Robert Aloia’s Art Opening at White Rabbit

I am bedridden so this is going to be sort of left unwritten. Tonight there is yet another 2feet@12inches art opening reception. I DJd the last one of these treats by Robert Aloia and crew and it was sold out, got raided, was the most fun. Tonight’s event is at White Rabbit ‘s White Box at 145 Houston Street. The event – curated by Aloia, Bill Spector, Frankie Cedeno, and Laksmi Hedemark – will be one of those great adult events that we so often long for. I’m DJing from 10pm to 11pm if I can make it out of bed. If Shorty, Small Change, Sal Principato, or Julie Covello/ DJ Shakey won’t cover for me, Jazzy Nice, or Greg Poole surely will. I’m excited to see buzz-band Roma and hang with old friend Dominic Chianese. This shindig starts at 6pm and goes to 2am.

I asked Robert Aloia to tell you all about it. 
 
Why are you curating these shows?
The artists, co-curators, DJs, and performers are all friends and friends-of-friends. Most of them I have worked with in some capacity over the years in nightlife. It’s such an inspiring community of people from all walks of life. Not always smooth-going, but never boring.
 
What is your background? What makes you think the event is worth doing? What drives you.
Growing up, my brother was an artist, and although I couldn’t always understand what he was doing, I saw the dedication and effort he put forth. It gave me a deep respect for those that choose that path because it’s a huge sacrifice. Eventually ,I found myself immersed in the downtown scene and incessantly learning and growing, and accumulating friends, conspirators, connections, and some enemies.
 
Ultimately, where will this lead you?
Coming up in NYC nightlife, I’ve always been surrounded by artists of all types. What we are attempting to do is bridge the party scene and gallery scene, with a heavy nod to old-school NYC.
 
During the first days of setting up a show, I wonder why it is I chose to do this. It’s often excruciating and rarely profitable. But by the end, the gratitude and camaraderie among everyone involved – from artists to attendees – is truly uplifting.
 
Where will this lead me? I’m in a unique place to not have to answer to anybody, while being able to tax my connections to do the impossible. So until the bubble bursts, I’m gonna dream big.

Rocking Out With The Dirty Pearls

The great rocker/poet Neil Young once offered "Hey hey, my my, rock and roll can never die.” And he’s right. Rock hasn’t died after 50 years of rolling around and mayhem and scandal and death and reinvention. It still sells out stadiums with this year’s Rolling Stones and Aerosmith tours leading the way. There might be dozens of rock acts that can sell out a stadium, yet in the most financially successful nightclubs in town, rock is a not the go-to genre. House in the form of electronic dance music, and hip-hop often housed in open format or mash-up DJ sets, are far more common. Pop is king with Rihanna and Adele et. all getting requested more often than a hot dog at Nathan’s Famous. The DJs invariably comply.

A good friend who knows way more than I do about this sort of stuff says there are only two, maybe three, hip-hop artists that can sell out a stadium. Electronic dance music (EDM) has its superstars like Tiesto and Avicii and others who can sell out small European countries, but can just-now attract tens of thousands in the US of A to warm weather festivals and such. EDM is growing exponentially and is heard in all the ginormous Vegas clubs and big-buck NYC joints.

Rock – which is heard everywhere in movies, commercials, and hip boutiques, and fashion events – has few clubs that embrace it because the bottle- buying public is thought to reject it. The DJs say that rock is in their mixes, but it’s offered with a new beat a new remix that doesn’t scratch my itch. It is recognizable beneath the bells and whistles but often just as a sample played by someone who really doesn’t understand it. My rock is sleazier, harder, and meaningful. I find it at Electric Room, The Bowery Electric, Hotel Chantelle, and Lit Lounge whenever I can. Rock scenes sometimes seethe just under the surface of a city. Then all of a sudden there is a sound or a movement, and there’s suddenly a dozen or more great bands getting all sorts of attention. It has happened in Seattle, Portland, Austin, and Athens, Georgia, and in NYC a dozen times.

There is a scene bubbling up now and The Dirty Pearls are poising to break out. They have songs that sound like hits and work tirelessly to break out. Photographer Lela Edgar, who I tasked to shoot this image, spent a day rockin’ and rollin’ with them.  I caught up with Tommy London and Marty E of The Dirty Pearls.

The Dirty Pearls are making a mark. How do you get from where you are now …call it point A to point C, as in “C the money?”
Tommy London: When we started out, we hit the streets passing out flyers, CDs, and preaching the gospel of The Dirty Pearls. Of course we utilized the social networks like everyone else, but we felt that one-on-one meeting with people out and about was most important. The shows got bigger and bigger, from Arlene’s Grocery to Bowery Ballroom to Gramercy to Irving Plaza! It’s been an amazing climb. We then went for the ripple effect, playing everywhere we could outside the perimeter of NYC. Philly, Delaware, New Jersey, Connecticut, Boston, etc…all making our mark with our show and songs. We even took a few trips to the West Coast to show them some NYC rock ‘n’ roll. I knew the buzz was getting really strong when national acts started asking us to open for them in and outside of NYC. Artists such as KISS, Jet, Filter, Bret Michaels, Third Eye Blind, New York Dolls, Andrew WK, and many others have requested The ‘Pearls to open the show!

But now our focus is to take this even bigger! We have been concentrating on playing a lot more regular shows outside of NYC, making high-profile venues, like The Stone Pony in Asbury Park, a new regular home base for The ‘Pearls. We’ve received a lot of great press on our new album "Whether You Like It Or Not" from a ton of major music magazine/blog sites, as well as airplay on local, satellite, and internet radio. Most recently we received an email from a radio station in Italy that has us on regular rotation and asked us to do giveaways since the fans kept calling in and requesting The Dirty Pearls. Last year, the now-defunct WRXP 101.9 here in NYC had us in rotation. They even broadcasted our live concert from Webster Hall during primetime radio hours. DMC (of Run-DMC) came and jammed "Walk This Way" with us on stage. We were the first unsigned band EVER in history to get a commercial-free half-hour to broadcast a live concert on the radio. It was truly a magical night.

And of course all these things lead to point C or as you put it "Point C The Money.” Most recently we’ve had our music featured in various television programs and on the new "Tap Tap" video game for the iPhone/Droid that is due to come out this October. We’ve also received a lot of major interest in our new album "Whether You Like It Or Not,” that we recorded with Grammy Award-winning producer David Kahne.  I’m looking forward to seeing where that leads and what heights it will take us to next.

What should people who don’t know you listen to first, and where is your sound going?
TL: You can hear a few of our songs on our website. But for first listen, I’d say check out "New York City Is A Drug". It represents everything we stand for, feel, and our #1 inspiration for music/lifestyle: New York City.

Marty E: I’d say to look no further than our album "Whether You Like It Or Not,” which you can get via our website…if you want a good sample of what you’ll get from that, check out our video for "Who’s Coming Back To Who" on YouTube.

As for where our sound is going, I’d say that we always strive for bigger hooks, bigger melodies, and bigger beats, while still keeping everything rocking and rolling.

Tell me about the NYC rock scene. Where do people find it…any secret spots?
ME: Well, if it’s a secret, why should we tell?

TL: We actually did this interview in a secret location! Shhhh!

ME: Seriously, there are very few places for rock ‘n’ rollers to hang out. We always go to St. Jerome’s, Three of Cups, Motor City Bar, Welcome to the Johnson’s, Manitoba’s, The Trash Bar in Brooklyn, and of course the big rock party on Thursdays at Hotel Chantelle.

TL: I always say you don’t find the NYC rock scene…it finds you! But all the places Marty mentioned are the places to go to really connect with the right people you can vibe with. The rock scene in NYC is alive and well, more than ever actually. All the bands have come together and have their own sound/style but yet still blend together. It’s really a strong tight-knit community and we are really proud to be a part of it.  But when I say community I don’t just mean musicians; I mean just rock music lovers in general who love to talk, sing, dance, and party to good rock ‘n’ roll.

On stage you are rock stars… I saw you guys at the Gramercy…sold out, adoring fans. Is it 24/7 365, and when you make it will you change?
TL: Yeah, I have to admit we have the best fans. They come to the shows dressed in their Dirty Pearls swag and singing along to every song. It’s such an amazing feeling. Honestly, it’s the fans who make us feel/look like a rock star when we are up on stage. It’s such an amazing high when you give the energy and receive it right back from them. It’s the reason why we do it. As for us changing, I can’t see that ever happening. Our heads are in the clouds but our feet are always on the ground.

ME: I give rock ‘n’ roll 100 percent all the time… whether that makes me a "rock star,” I’m not sure, but I always hope to shine one way or another. I hope that I never change, unless it involves getting better.

You are a top NYC band…who else is likely to break out?
TL: There are so many bands on this scene who have the potential of breaking out. I don’t want to name any names because if I leave one out by mistake I’ll look like an asshole! But I truly believe that as soon as one band breaks through, the rest will funnel through as well. I think the whole scene kind of believes in that philosophy too. There’s a lot of support and love in the NYC rock scene. Friendly competition too, but that’s healthy and keeps you on your toes to always play your "A" game.

ME: What’s great about NYC rock ‘n’ roll is that everyone is doing their own thing and growing in their own ways. The whole point is perseverance and consistency. I’m proud of everything our band and our friends’ bands have accomplished.

How do you market yourselves?
ME: We pounded the pavement from day one, when we handed out fliers on the street, and it really worked. Lately, it’s been more about social networks, I think. Twitter has to be the best marketing tool I’ve ever seen yet. We’re always looking for new ways. Half the battle is getting the word out!

TL: Yeah, we would hit everywhere and just talk with people, give them info on the band and any gig we were playing. We put our stickers anywhere they would stick, and hang posters all around too. When we first started we felt that everyone relied on the internet to just plug, which we did too. But no one was really giving out flyers anymore because it was just easier to post online. We wanted people to go home and wake up the next day with a DP flyer in their pocket or on their dresser. That’s how we originally built the band. Marty and I would go out and pick spots in the scene and spots outside the scene to hit and preach about The ‘Pearls. It worked!

Unlike many bands, you guys have some really great songwriting. Tell me about the process.
TL: Thanks so much for the compliment. I always feel a band is only as good as their songs. I always said to the band, we aren’t the stars of the show…the songs are! As for the process, one of our guitar players (Tommy Mokas & Sunny Climbs) and I will get together, build a strong chorus, work melodies, hooks, and structure.

ME: Then we all roll it and pole it and kick the shit out of it and mark it with a D-P!

TL:‘Nuff Said!

Your new album, "Whether You Like It Or Not" was produced by Grammy Award- winning Producer David Kahne. How did that come about and tell us about the experience.
TL: Our manager had worked with David in the past and sent him our music. He heard the songs and loved them! He reached out and asked if we’d be interested in him producing our album and we were like uhhh…..YEA! I mean David has produced everyone from Sublime to The Strokes to Paul McCartney and more! It was an honor and privilege to work with him and be part of the roster of talent he has worked with. He really brought our songs to life, as well as made us better musicians and songwriters.

ME: Absolutely. Not only did David make us improve ourselves as musicians, but he also made us look at songs and music very differently, especially in terms of arrangements, hooks, melodies, and the way each component of the band contributes to the big machine. It is a very meticulous process, to say the least. I came out of the recording process a much more knowledgeable, well-rounded, and believe it or not, humbled musician.

What’s next for The Dirty Pearls?
ME: The Dirty Pearls are going to save rock n roll and take over the world! So keep checking our website for updates on shows and the latest news on The ‘Pearls!

Ramones Mania: Marky Ramone Performs Sunday, Johnny’s Tome Comes Out Monday

Game of Thrones is just days away. For millions, it will define their Sunday nights. I, alas, will have to TiVo it because I will be swept to The Bell House on a wave of rock and roll nostalgia and friendship. Marky Ramone is in town with his band Blitzkrieg and they will be playing that great Gowanus venue. It will be Ramones’ songs 1-2-3- 4, after each other and it is as close to the real deal as can possibly be. Alas, Joey, Dee Dee, and Johnny have passed on but their legacy will be remembered – Ramone right at this show. Marky is touring and I don’t get to see him much. We are trying to get a dinner in, but it will probably have to wait until he returns from a European tour which will take him and Blitzkrieg to Greece, Romania, Bulgaria, Asia, Spain, Germany, United Kingdom, The Netherlands, and Italy with more dates to be announced. I’m going to catch up with him at the shows and ask him a bunch of questions for Monday’s post.

It’s a very big week for Ramones fans. Johnny Ramone’s posthumous tome Commando: The Autobiography of Johnny Ramone is coming out. Johnny’s wife Linda and pre-Marky drummer and original member Tommy Ramone will be on hand along with John Cafiero (editor and Johnny Ramone autobiography chief-of-staff). It will be at the Tribeca Barnes and Noble (97 Warren Street) on Friday, March 30th where someone, not clear which of them, will be signing books. I will read this book with great interest. Johnny and I were friends for a long while. I got along with Linda just fine when she was Joey’s girlfriend, but things soured (I think) when I was double-dating, with Johnny fixing him up with my friend Lisa. That stuff probably never made the autobiography anyway. It was before I knew about him and Linda. We were hanging at clubs like The Peppermint Lounge. Johnny was very conservative politically and we had many conversations about his right and my left leanings, but we always got along despite that. He was a very sharp guy and, as far as I could tell, the absolute leader of the band. He held them together with his business sense and maniacal devotion to rock and roll.
 
Things got bad when Linda made her shift from Joey to him, but the band played on. The Joey Ramone song "The KKK Took My Baby Away" is thought by some to refer to Johnny stealing Joey’s baby away. I last hung with Johnny a few years ago at the Hudson Hotel Library. He was playing pool with Nicolas Cage, who he had become friends with. Nicolas was really friendly, going out of his way to engage me, but Johnny was quite cold. I questioned him about it as we had never been like that. I was in trouble then and obviously this bothered him, so I bolted. I was surprised when he caught up with me down the long hallway leading to the exit. He wanted to hear my side and I returned with him back to the lounge. We talked frankly, no-holds-barred, as was his norm. It got heated but it was hashed out. We left as friends. I was saddened deeply when he became ill and died. After every show back in the day, I would go backstage and he would turn to me and ask me if it was good and I’d tell him the truth. He knew I would always tell it like it was. He was obsessed with making his fans happy. He was visibly upset when a mistake was made or if he felt one of the other band members had flawed or didn’t share in his enthusiasm. I’m going to pick up a copy of the book but won’t need any signature on it.
 
Domi Dollz
 
In a couple of weeks, on a Thursday before my DJ gig at Hotel Chantelle, I will join the Domi Dollz at the Museum of Sex. They will attempt to teach the sexually needy how to:
create more than just a moment in the bedroom, but an entire experience that will leave your partner begging for more. NYC’s most famed kink experts will explore ideas and techniques from setting the mood, sexy games, and thinking outside the bedroom to the art of the striptease, kinky foreplay, and fantasy scenarios. Enjoy sipping tasty aphrodisiac cocktails while the gorgeous Domi Dollz seduce and inspire you to create your own seduction experience.
OralFix: Aphrodisiac Cafe
Museum of Sex | Lower Level
233 5th Avenue @ 27th St
New York, NY 10016
 
Thurs, April 12th @ 7pm
Admission : $25
Seating is limited
 
The Domi Dollz are simply sexy. They are gorgeous, experienced, intelligent women who talk the talk like they know how to walk the walk. Come, please, please…please.

Weekend Prep: Fuck Buttons’ Laser-Epic ‘The Red Wing’

I thankfully do not live with my parents, but if I did, I know exactly which song I’d be playing at top volume to annoy them this weekend. Bristol duo Fuck Buttons who, unlike many collaborative electronica acts, insist on composing together in the same room, have come roaring back with third album Slow Focus. The first single, “The Red Wing,” should kick off a raucous night.

Initially stomping and beeping like a cross between an eight-bit Nintendo game and the drum circle for a human sacrifice, “The Red Wing” morphs into an industrial shoegaze epic for the ages. Why bother with lyrics when you sound this badass without them? And the best news is this: what you’re hearing is a compressed radio edit—on Slow Focus, due out July 23, this track sprawls almost eight minutes, milking the transition from looped, abrasive, idling noise to soaring synth masterpiece.

Equal parts shimmer and menace, Fuck Buttons still have all the elements in place to convince you that you’re rocketing through deep space. Care to blast off? You’ll have to go to Europe to catch them tour this summer, but that only sweetens the deal, I should think. 

5/31/13 – Optimus Primavera Sound Festival, Porto, PT

6/21/13 – Best Kept Secret Festival, Hilvarenbeek, NL

6/22/13 – Body & Soul Festival, Ballinlough Castle, Co Westmeath, IRL

6/29/13 – Glastonbury Festival, Worthy Farm, Pilton UK

8/15-8/18/13 – Greenman Festival, Black Mountains, Wales

8/31/13 – ArcTangent Festival, Fernhill Farm, Compton Martin, Bristol, UK

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The Mantles Talk Songwriting, Flying Nun, & Famous Neighbors

The Mantles, a quartet out of San Francisco, have given us one seemingly effortless garage-pop nugget after another in their sophomore LP, Long Enough to Leave, which officially drops June 19. But sounding this laid-back takes hard work—and sometimes, a little encouragement from the music icon next door. Below, we ask the band about their roots and where they’re headed, and stream the jangly album closer, “Shadow of Your Step.”

Tell me about a favorite place to practice or jam as a band. For obvious reasons, it’s hard not to picture y’all in a garage.
Virginia: The original incarnation of the band did practice in my garage in the Bayview district of SF. One of the dudes from the Village People lived next door at the time and came out to tell us to "keep up the good work." Honestly doesn’t get much better than that.

In my opinion, Long Enough To Leave is essential listening for Flying Nun acolytes. Which of those bands really click for you?
Matt: Love tons of those bands, but the records I still go back to the most are The Verlaines’ 10 O’Clock in the Afternoon EP and The Doublehappys’ "Needles and Plastic" single.
Virginia: I’ll second the Verlaines, and I have a particular soft spot in my heart for The Bats. We get to play with them for our San Francisco record release show and I am beyond excited.
Michael: I honestly didn’t know about the Flying Nun bands until Matt and Virginia introduced me. I’m really into the Clean now.

What’s the single biggest difference between the new album and your self-titled debut?
Matt: Well, the lineup changed between then and now so that’s going to make it inherently different. Also a few of us were probably still getting our instruments down back then, so maybe it’s a little more assured. It’s definitely more melodic, and we didn’t really bother with trying to ‘rock’ all that much. 

Did any songs fall together almost effortlessly? Was any an ongoing struggle?
Michael: Virginia and I took a guitar to the park and wrote "Raspberry Thighs" and "Long Enough to Leave" in one afternoon, only to awkwardly stop when people hiked by on the trail we were sitting next to. The one that was definitely a struggle was "More That I Pay," which only came together when we were recording it at Kelley Stoltz’ studio.
Virginia: Michael’s impromptu piano part at the end of that song finally brought the whole thing together.

Lastly, which city really rocks hardest, and why?
Matt: Well, our definition of hard-rocking is probably not what you might think. Usually, if we see a bunch of old dudes with grey hair and old band t-shirts, it’s probably going to be a good show. And wherever beer is cheapest and most abundant.

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