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October 29, 1990 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1990-10-29

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Monday, October 29, 1990

Page 5

The Michigan Daily

Nice guys in Soul Asylum don't get paid

by Kristin Palm,
Dave Pirner plays his guitar loudly1
because he doesn't know any other1
way. He says his approach to the
instrument stems from his Mid-
western musical upbringing. The
'W Minneapolis-bred and -based guitaristi
and singer says his hometown music
scene exposed him to the kind of+
bands that represent a sound typical
of this part of the United States -
the type of sounds that led to the
creation of Soul Asylum with gui-
tarist and vocalist Dan Murphy, bass
player Karl Mueller and drummer
Grant Young. "It's like a work ethic
in this part of the world," Pirner
says of his band's loud and hard ap-
proach to tunes, crediting Ann Ar-
bor's MC5 as much as Minneapolis
bands for instituting such an ap-
When he was a teenager, Pirner
says, he used to hang out in Min-
neapolis' Loring Park listening to
the punk rock bands that played there
each week. "It was the first time I
realized rock music existed outside
commercial radio," he says. Echoing
the sentiment of anyone who became
interested in underground music be-
fore the age of legal bar entry, Pirner
says the park performances were key
to his underage existence. "I got
thrown out of a lot of clubs," he
says, adding, "I'm still doing that."
Pirner was wrapping up a short
vacation in his hometown. "Three
big days," he says of the hiatus.
"Just enough to kind of fuck up ev-
by Brian Jarvinen
At tfirst the name seems odd for a
rock band; "drivin' n' cryin" sounds
more like the name of an 8-track
tape one would put in after Red So-
vine's Truckers' Favorites or some-
thing. And at times, drivin' n' cryin'
do come off sounding like a country
act, but this band that sings they
"never knew the. lord until they
found a power chord" rocks with the
best of them. They appear in Michi-
gan for the first time.-tonight, open-
ing for Soul Asylum.
The heart of the band is Kevn
Kinney, one of the guitarists, the
vocalist, and, most importantly, the
songwriter. Although the band is
based in Atlanta, Kinney is actually
a cheesehead. (He's originally from
Milwaukee.) He began his recording
career shortly after moving to Geor-
gia, writing, singing and playing
with Frank French on the indepen-
dently released Everything Looks
Better In The Dark. Kinney explains
how' this came about, "I moved
down here about eight or nine years
ago. I called my friend up in Mil-
waukee, I was talking to him and he
said, 'Yeah my friend Frank French
lives down there'; and he gave me
his address. We'd been living two

blocks away for like two years. I
was like well wow, I should go over
and visit him. I went over there and I
was like 'I've got these songs I'd
like to demo, I've been working as a
carpenter for a couple years and I
kind of miss playing music.' He said
to come on by some nights after
work. I'd go over there and lay down
songs and he'd kind of embellish
Kinney explains the less-than-
polished sound of the release. "I

erything that I kind of had resolved
last time I was in town." He was
leaving the next morning at 6 a.m.
for Chicago. As Soul Asylum is no
major label darling, although their
last two albums were released on
A&M, they travel in the over-ro-
manticized fashion of most strug-
gling bands - by van. "Always
driving," Pirner laments of life on
the road.
Life off the road and in the studio
this last time around was enjoyable,
he says. Their studio stay culminated
in the release of Soul Asylum and
the Horse They Rode In On, an al-
bum Pirner says that is a result of a
concertedly nonchalant approach to
recording. "We just played and
played and played and played and
played," he says. "We were trying
really not to be too premeditated
about what we were doing."
"There's a general spirit of, what
would you say, not obnoxiousness
but some bit of a wing-it, kind of
freewheeling attitude or something
that helps because it takes away
from the sterility, the clinical ordeal
of going into a studio and trying to
pick your songs apart and play them
perfectly and this and that."
Now the band is back on the
road, dealing with endless gigs and
promotional appearances. But Pirner
approaches promos good- naturedly
and even takes an artisan's perspec-
tive of a pumpkin carving contest
that he and his fellow band members
are to judge today. "Sometimes
they'll just ask us to go sit in a

record store and sign albums or
something like that and that's much
more embarrassing," he says. "This
way at least it's something that has
some fun value to it outside the fact
that people are going to be thinking,
'Oh, boy, this is really a big deal
that I get to sit here with these
guys.' It gives people something to
do besides sit there and look at us
and expect us to stand on our heads
or something."
"I dig pumpkin carving anyway,
outside it all. I'm a craft guy, right?
I like art and stuff and I think you
can probably get pretty creative with
a pumpkin. I hope that people take
it seriously. I'll be- pretty disap-
pointed if everybody treats it like a
big joke," he continues with a
pleased laugh. "It's very, very in-
tense, serious-ass pumpkin carving.
No half-ass efforts."
Pirner also says he likes the Nec-
tarine Ballroom, the band's desig-
nated venue, despite initial reserva-
tions about the place. "We've played
there a few times," he says. "It's
definitely one of the more unique
clubs that we've played in and when
we first saw it we were scared to
death that we were going to be play-
ing in a disco for people that didn't
like rock music and this and that. It
seems like that might have been
what was going on there at some
time but the couple times we played
there it seemed to work out fine and
to a certain degree it doesn't matter
where you play if the people that are
there are into it, you could be play-

ing in a basement somewhere."
Pirner and the rest of the band
think enough of the place to record
tonight's show along with the
Chicago show, for possible inclu-
sion on a live album. "If it turns out
real good we'll use it for something,
part of a record or something,"
Pirner says. "And if it turns out like
shit we'll have wasted an awful lot
of money. At least it'll be a big
anti-bonus for the band because we'll
have to be that much more nervous
about the gig." Pirner says the ex-
ceptional enthusiasm of the band's
Ann Arbor fans is a major reason
they want to record here.
Soul Asylum has exhibited such
respect for their fans in the past. The
last time they were in town they
threw money to the audience, claim-
ing that the $15 ticket prices "isn't
our fucking fault!" "I always feel a
little embarrassed about being so
blatant about taking people's
money," Pirner says. "It's expen-
sive. I'm sorry it is and I apologize
to anybody who can't afford to pay
that." Pirner notes that he, too, is
struggling to make a living and tries
to scam his way into shows as often
as possible.
It is not just the little people
with whom Pirner sympathizes. In
Spin 's end-of-the-'80s edition, vari-
ous musicians were asked to make
predictions for the '90s. Soul Asy-
lum foresaw the entire country be-
coming obsessed with that bastion
of '70s sitcom humor, Sanford and
See SOUL, Page 7

Soul Asylum sit and smoke in a Midwestern type of scene. They may be
discussing the plight of farmers but they're more likely talking about
power chords.
i eview

In the first movement of his fifth
symphony, Beethoven inserted
within the exact structure of the
piece, an unexpected oboe cadenza.
This rebellious action presented a di-
gression from strict classical form.
The romantic composers took
Beethoven's inspiration further, to
create diversified works that explored
musical forms as well as emotions.
The Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra
performed three great romantic works
this Saturday, showing the audience
a wide range of expression and
unique interpretations of form.
While the three works performed
under music director Carl St. Clair's
baton are well-known, the orches-
tra's rapt attention to St. Clair's
mesmerizing conducting gave the
works a bold freshness.
The concert opened with
Rossini's overture to La Gazza
Ladra. The themes were performed
with a playful lilt. The strings
seemed to tiptoe through certain pas-
sages, only to be interrupted by a
clear and wistful violin solo. The or-
chestra grasped the challenge of this
swift mood change to create a stun-
ning yet natural musical effect.
Following the overture, ac-
claimed Soviet 'pianist Bella Davi-
dovich came on stage, dusted off her
keyboard with a flourish, and pro-
ceeded to capture the audience with
her breathtaking interpretation of
Grieg's Concerto in A Minor. The
work, whose three movements em-
body completely different moods,
started with a bold fanfare which
gave rise to the impressive repartee

between soloist and orchestra. Davi-
dovich's fluid phrasing was taken up
subtly by the orchestra, allowing for
uncommonly smooth transitions.
The hauntingly sweet flute punctua-
tions in the dance tunes of the third
movement showcased the work's
romantic origins. The pianist seemed
to subtly surround the audience with
the melody rather than stating it
overtly. Davidovich's interpretation
of Grieg's celebrated concerto-was
The concert ended triumphantly
with Tchaikovsky's Fifth Sym-
phony. St. Clair developed wthin
the four movements a brilliant ex-
pansion of the theme - described in
the program as "Complete resjgna-
tion before Fate."The famous theme
was introduced in an ominous
marching rhythm and then swept
into a series of arcing peaks andton-
trolled simplicity by the conductor's
passionate interpretation. St. Rlair
demonstrated in this symphog his
talent for conveying the emqtions
that he obviously derives frotI the
music, to his audience.
Leaving the Michigan Theat4r af-
ter the program, I was exhausted.
The music was consuming, and; like
a romantic novel, it continually
brought its audience up and down
with its fluctuations between sinister
drama and sweet lyricism. St. Clair
and Davidovich brought Romantic
ideals to life with their expressive
and highly skilled renderings of, these
three great works.
-Elizabeth Lenhard

There's something about the South that requires sitting on the porch. (Sorry we had no photos with guitarist
Buren Fowler.)

didn't really have anything to do
with mixing it though or putting it
out," he says. "I take no responsibil-
ity for how the sound quality is
'cause I personally don't really like
how it sounds. I had no huge aspira-
tions of the entire country hearing it.
I was twenty-three maybe, I'm
twenty-nine now. It's hard for me to
listen to. If I had an EQ on my
stereo I would listen to it, so I could
boost things on it. It just sounds a
little too thin for me. I'm really
looking forward to recording some of
those songs over again. I'd like to do
'Close the Door' again and I'd like
to do 'Everything Looks Better In
The Dark' again."
The band's first record, Scarred
But Smarter, came out on another
indie label, 688 Records, and caught
the attention of vinyl addict Pete
Buck, among others. A major-label
deal soon followed, and their second
record, The Whisper Tames The
Lion, was released in 1987. Despite
being on a major label, Island, mak-
ing a video for the song "Can't
Promise You The World" and plenty

of incredible jams (like the one
quoted from above, "Powerhouse"),
the record never got that big outside
of the South, where the band can
easily draw 5,000 people.
In fact, I have yet to hear any
drivin' n' cryin' or Kevn Kinney
songs on any radio station around
here, or see them on MTV more
than once. A similar fate befell their
third album, Mystery Road, despite
a video for "Honeysuckle Blue"
which was shown on 120 Minutes
along with all the trendy Manchester
The two drivin' n' cryin' albums
since Scarred but Smarter have been
tasty mashes of turn-it-up power-
rockers and lilting country/ bluegrass
songs featuring steel guitars, dobros
and fiddles. This approach worked
extremely well for Led Zeppelin in
the '70s, particularly on Zep III, but
Kinney blames the band's relative
obscurity nationally on the records'
lack of focus. "The problem with
drivin' n' cryin', I mean our biggest
complaint, is that we're so confus-
ing. The problem with Mystery

Road was people put it on and they
heard "Ain't It Strange" and they
were like 'What?' It's something
I've been doing since Everything
Looks Better In The Dark. To me it
was something unique; I'm not re-
ally hurting anybody. It's so confus-
ing to everybody to do the acoustic
and the electric and all that."
These frustrations led Kinney to
stylistically divide his songs. Earlier
this year Island released MacDougal
Blues, which was credited to Kevn
Kinney alone. "Me and Peter [Buck,
the producer of MacDougal] had
been talking about all these acoustic
songs. On the Mystery Road tour
we did mainly the rock songs and we
didn't do many acoustic songs on
that tour. The next drivin' n' cryin'
record that I wrote was pretty much
ten really rocking songs, electric
songs. I didn't really want to put out
an acoustic drivin' n' cryin' record
See DRIVIN', Page 7


c~x3 F'' F- -hU .N l l c::ciWie IU ::":::>

And they're both repre-
sented by the insignia you wear
as a member of the Army Nurse
Corps. The caduceus on the left


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