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March 04, 1983 - Image 27

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1983-03-04
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Double
pickin
By Joe Hoppe
N ON FICTION. THEY named the
band Non Fiction because the
music is sparse and minimal; to the
point. It fits the mood of the music.
Nonfiction doesn't need to be concer-
ned about fictionalization; their music
is true enough already.
If the music needs to be classified by
type, however, one could say that it is
danceable and new-wavish. It can be
poppy at times. The lyrics are usually
intelligent.
Bill Frank is the dr.ummer, and
fraternal twins Ben and Larry Miller
play the guitars. The pair switch off on
bass and lead duties. Both prefer to
play lead, but switch to avoid having
another musician on bass. Two guitars
would clutter up the band's sound. Ben
and Larry alternate leads with sets;
each playing lead on the songs he has
written.
"Technically, Ben is a better guitar
player," says Larry. "He has a better
grasp on theory.
"It gets to be apples and oranges af-
ter a while, though," says Bill, com-
paring the two brothers. "Larry will
sound different, by virtue of playing up-
side-down (Larry is left-handed). He'll
get a sharper, rougher, more
aggressive sound. Ben will play more
cupped and quiet. More tenseful."
There is a concensus that Non Fiction
is one of the best new, original-material
bands in Ann Arbor. The band mem-
bers feel very good about that, and add
that it is probably true. "It took a long
time," said Larry. A long time is a little
over one year.
Being original and being one of the
best seem to go together for the mem-
bers of Non Fiction.
The originality of their material is a
big reason the members are in the
group. "I think of it as honest music,"
said Larry. "'What we sing about is on
the level and straight ahead."
What they sing about, "more or less,"
says Bill, not wanting to sound preten-
tious, "is a view on the modern world;
modern relationships - not necessarily
between male/female or loving type
relationships - actually rarely about
relationships that involve romance."
For Larry, Non Fiction's main theme
is getting people to think. "I would hope
that some of the music, some of the
lyrics, some of the more adventurous
tunes would make people turn around
and look more at themselves," he said.
But Non Fiction is not taking an in-
tellectual stance. "Actually there is
nothing profound to say except that we
do gut-level sorts of stuff," said Larry.
"We deal with strong feelings, whether
it's anger, or disillusionment, or
alienation. We want to express it
clearly. The music enhances that."
All three of the Nonfictioneers com-
pose, - and each have their different
styles. Bill likes to "take a blatantly
pop idea and try to twist something out
of it." He talks about one song which

0
s
b)
m
O
O0
e)

Larry Miller: Experimental guitar
has two polyrhythmic midsections. "At
first glance it really doesn't go
together," said Bill. "But the way it's
put together and arranged with the ver-
se and chorus you get a pop song with a
really weird twist in it."
Bill is proud of the differences his
music has. He writes the music first,
but has an overall theme for the song as
he arranges it. Lyrics fit the theme and
music; appropriateness is important in
his songs.
One of Bill's best songs is "In-
fatuation," a catchy tune that gets
everyone dancing. It's a song basically
about emotions. Bill developed the idea
when he was "driving down one of those
country roads out here and a town pop-
ped up. I wasn't paying enough atten-
tion," said Bill, "and there's a sing, 55
down to 25. That was interesting." A
parallel to the sudden change became
the idea for the song. Bill related it to
his love life. "I have an affinity for af-
fairs that are reckless and without
reason," he said. "Infatuation" came
from all of that.
Larry uses patterns of three a lot in
his music, instead of the traditional
two, four, or eight sections. It's just the
way he thinks. Maybe it has something
to do with being left-handed.
His songs are easier to explain
lyrically. "A lot of my songs are angry
tunes," said Larry. "They usually at-
tack a social phenomena that's accep-
table." He cites "Domestic Dream,"
which tears apart the notion that you
grow up and get married, you have two
kids, you have a two-car garage, and
everything's peachy keen.",
"Walkie Talkie," the band's
showcase piece (which is on the

"There are times when we wonder what
it would be like to have an extra guitar
or whatever," said Larry, "but it's kind
of a challenge to get as much sound out
of a three-piece. And also to get as little
sound but making the idea minimalistic
- having what little is being played so
potent that we don't have to play a
whole lot."
Ben and Larry grew up in Ann Arbor,
and went to music school in Boston.
They've been in bands since junior high
school, the same time they began
writing their own music. They played
acid rock, psychedelia, and were in one
band that played "Sunshine of Your
Love" often and was aimed at frat men-
talities.
Roger Miller, the twins' older brother
who went East and eventually joined
Mission of Burma, a trendy and fairly
well-known Boston band, played with
Ben and Larry in several of their
groups.
Ben and Larry have been playing
guitars for 16 of their 28 years. They've
been writing since they were 15.
Larry's first big influence was the
Beatles. But now he can identify with
people like Syd Barrett, founder of Pink
Floyd, Jimi Hendrix (because he was
left-handed), Eno, Captain Beefheart,
and Robert Fripp.
Bill likes pre-'71 Miles Davis, the
Kinks, and "mean -looking British In-
vasion and '60s bands, like the Zom-
bies." Bill is 21 and is finishing his last
class at the University. He will be get-
ting a degree in Russian and Eastern
European Studies. However, drum-
ming is what he wants to do with his
life.
Things got easier for Non Fiction after
their Ann Arbor Music Project perfor-
mance at Joe's Star Lounge this fall. A
lot of people saw the band - most of
them became fans, too.
Also taken into account is that Ben
and Larry have started writing more
accessible songs. "We're not as stub-
born as -we used to be," said Larry.
"When we were younger we were self-
righteous. Now we find that we can en-
joy ourselves playing music that is
danceable, and certainly more ac-
cessible, and we still have that original
flair."
The new wave movement has opened
up some doors in people's reception to
bands like Non Fiction Miller is quick to
add, however, that Nonfiction is not
making a conscious effort to be new
wave.
Things are moving fast for NonFiction
nowadays. The band recently signed
P.J. Ryder, owner of P.J.'s Records, as
manager. He will be working on
booking the band in Cleveland, New
York, and Boston by late April. Ryder
has been involved with Prism Produc-
tions, and has also booked the Ur-,
bations for various clubs.
An Epic Records representative has
a "studio-quality" tape of Non Fiction
(the band doesn't want to say any more
about that), and advance people for
several companies will see Non Fiction
perform at the SLK record release par-
ty at the Second Chance March 2.
"I've never felt this feeling before,"
said Larry. "It feels like something is
going to happen."
"Things are getting busier and
busier," said Bill.
Non Fiction will also be performing
Sunday, March 6, at Joe's Star Lounge
in a benefit for better housing.

Prime
Prin~e
)ohn Prine
Unlimited Entertainment
Michigan Theatre
8 p.m. Friday, March 4
By Mark Gindin
WHEN PEOPLE first hear of a
singer they have never heard of
before, they immediately ask, "What
kind of music does he play?" For most
performers, the answer is easy. But for
John Prine, labels just don't fit very
well.
Born amid the mountain music of
western Kentucky, brought up with the
rock and roll of suburban Chicago and
the folk of Bob Dylan and Simon and
Garfunkel, the young John Prine had no
one distinctive style. Perhaps that lack
of a formal style has somewhat preven-
ted the singer-songwriter from
becoming a widespread commercial
success, but Prine evolved a style all
his own that his fans know to be un-
bound by convention.
His closest brush with commercial
acclaim might have been the time he
appeared as a musical guest on the
original Saturday Night Live at the
request of fellow Chicagoan John
Belushi. Prine performed "Hello in
There," a song with an unmistakable
feeling of despair that has been recor-
ded by Joan Baez and Bonnie Raitt,
among others. In describing the life of a
pair of elderly Americans, it notes that
Old people just grow lonesome/

Waiting for someone to say/Hello
in there/Hello.
The words echo in the mind, haun-
tingly portraying characters that seem
to come alive after listening to the song
a couple of times. "Sam Stone," one of
his other better-known tunes, concerns
a Vietnam veteran who returns to his
homeland with a Purple Heart and a
monkey on his back. Now There's a
hole in daddy's arm where all the
money goes/And Jesus Christ died
for nothing, I suppose.
But John Prine isn't all gloom and
doom. There's the song about his
illegally purchased smile, and the time
he went sailing and met Jesus walking
on the water and they had a heart to
heart talk with Jesus doing most of it.
One song is about Dear Abby, and in
another he asks, Please don't bury me
down in that cold, cold ground. I'd
rather have 'em cut me up and pass
me all around..
It's the lyrics that remain after
listening to a John Prine song. The mix-
ture of pathos, humor, despair, hope,
and social consciousness blends in a
sound that is always appropriate and
never overbearing.
Add to that an extra touch of realism
and down-home grittiness and we have
the voice of John Prine. The range is
limited, and the tone sounds a lot like a
dusty record, but we know that the per-
son who wrote the song is singing it. The
feeling comes through.
Speaking during a 5-day vacation in
the Grand Tetons after a 3 week tour
of the Northwest, Prine said last week
that he has no favorite song. "After you
listen to them a couple of times, each
gets its own character. It comes alive.
'Sam Stone' and 'Hello in There' are
good, but there are some that are better
after you listen to them more then on-
ce."
Since a huge commercial success has
eluded him, Prine said he gets most of

John Prine: Plays his own style
his income from touring and royalties.
He said that one day he hopes to
produce other artists' albums as well as
his own. Composing. new material is
high on his list of things to do. "Right
now, I'm a writing fool. I've got 20
songs ready to record, but I haven't had
the time."
He is currently between record
labels. "I want to produce the next
album and get a label to distribute it for
me. Eventually, I want my own label -
Oh Boy! Records and tapes - to be able
to distribute."
His latest album, 1980's Storm Win-
dows, was preceded by Pink Cadillac,
produced by Knox and Jerry Phillips,
sons of Same Phillips, who produced

early El
Johnny C
Prine's
in severa
there was
Leon Red
looking fo
said.
He will.
single gui
The form
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which Pri
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Cruising Ann Arbor compilation
album) is also by Larry.' The song
begins with the Miller brothers
simultaneously talking at a rapid pace,
which quickly grabs one's attention. A
duality of statement/response, or just
parallel vocals keep up through the
song.
In Bill's words, " 'Walkie Talkie' is a
kind of rambling tune about being too
out of it to know what is happening at a
party. The feeling when you're just
walking around in circles." The song is
confusing, but enjoyably so, and very
danceable.
"Too Much Fun," which is about
recreational excess, is one of Ben's
compositions that the other two group
members felt they could talk about.
Larry and Bill called it an exercise in
pop written with a hit in mind. "It's the
catchiest of the catchy," and also has a
nice idea behind it.
Unlike some bands, Non Fiction at
times has too much material. With
everyone in the band writing songs, the
group can afford, to pick and choose
quite a bit. "We try to be fair when it's
time to learn new tunes," said Larry.
Ben writes about 40 percent of the
material, Larry 40 percent, and Bill
the other 20 percent. Nonfiction is con-
stantly trying new stuff, some of which
only lasts three or four months. Other
songs, like "Walkie Talkie," have
lasted three years.
Sometimes one of the band members
will write a song that might need an ex-
tra instrument. When that happens,
they try to pare it down so that the
sound of the song will fit with the band.

Dresden
dolls
Dresden State Orchestra
University Musical Society
Hill Auditorium
8:30 p.m. Sunday, March 6
By George Shepherd
U NLIKE A fading movie actress, a
symphony orchestra is proud of its
great age. And the Dresden State Or-
chestra, which appears this Sunday
night in Hill Auditorium, is the world's
oldest. Founded 1548 years after
Christ's birth and over 200 years before
that of this country, the group has en-
joyed a continuously excellent
reputation. In 1823 Beethoven wrote,
"It is generally said that the court or-
chestra in Dresden is the best in
Europe."
The orchestra is known for its long
tradition of close associations with
major composers, including Mozart,
Beethoven, Weber, Paganini, Berlioz,
Brahms, and Stravinsky. The group's
strongest'links, however, were with
Richard Strauss and Richard Wagner.,

During his 60-year working relationship
with the ensemble, Strauss dedicated
Chamberand orchestral works to it and
chose it, in its position as orchestra of
the Dresden State Opera, to premiere
nine of his operas, including Salome,
Electra, and Der Rosenkavelier. For
Wagner, the orchestra gave first per-
formances of, among other pieces,
Tannhauser and The Flying Dutchman.
The orchestra has been led by many
famous conductors, including Wagner,
Reiner, Boehm, Kempe, von Karajan,
Rozhdestvensky and von Schuch, who
led the Strauss premieres.
Dresden, on the Elbe river, is the
third largest city in East Germany.
Because it is based in a communist bloc
country, the orchestra, in addition to its
purely artistic function, has official and
historical roles. The group is a
showpiece whose accomplishments,
according to its literature, "are ample
proof of the high standards of musical
art in the GDR." The orchestra "has
played its part in the development and
consolidation of the first socialist Ger-
man state." In the opera house, the or-
chestra sees its role as "interpreting
the major works of the past, from the
standpoint of a new social reality."
Continuing a tradition which began
with the group's first tour in .1575, the
present director, Herbert Blomstedt,
has led the orchestra during tours of
much of the world, including its first to
America in 1979. Blomstedt made his
debut with the Stockholm Philharmonic

in 1954 and was conductor of the Danish
Radio. Orchestra before coming to
Dresden.
Musically, the orchestra is noted for
its glorious sound, especially for that of
its brasses, and for its disciplined
precision.
In its Hill Auditorium concert, the or-

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