Music’s “biggest night” continues to let viewers down

Words by Augusta Battoclette | Illustration by Maryrose Ceccarelli

It is no secret that the Grammys are controversial, with critics claiming they box black artists into the rap category and refuse to nominate women in the “big four” categories: album of the year, record of the year, song of the year and best new artist. 

This year, the show was filled with controversy, not only because many believed Billie Eilish should not have won so many awards, but because less than a month before the Grammys were set to air, the CEO of the Recording Academy was ousted from her position. Deborah Dugan was placed on administrative leave just 10 days before the ceremony after she claimed the awards show was rigged in many ways. Dugan mentioned how artists like Beyoncé, Kanye West, Mariah Carey and Frank Ocean have been snubbed in previous years, due to the Academy wanting the biggest awards to go to rock, country and pop artists.

The voting process sounds simple: every member of the Academy votes on submissions for the awards, then the top 20 entries are reviewed by smaller more specific committees dedicated to each category. Dugan claims this process is not all it’s cracked up to be. According to her, the committees favor artists they have special relationships with and “manipulate the nominations process” to include songs that Grammys producer Ken Ehrlich wants to be performed live during the show.

In an interview on “Good Morning America,” Dugan says, “I’m saying that the system should be transparent and there are instances of conflicts of interest that have tainted the results.”

Dugan also accused the Academy’s lawyer, Joel Katz, of improperly propositioning her during a work dinner. 

“Under the guise of a work dinner, I was propositioned by the general counsel entertainment lawyer—an enormous power in the industry,” Dugan explained on GMA. “Starting with calling me ‘babe’ and telling me how attractive I was and how pretty I was. All the way through I felt like I was being tested. I feel that was a power-setting move as soon as I was coming onto the committee.”

This new controversy only adds to the dark clouds hovering over the Recording Academy. Former CEO Neil Portnow stepped down last year after he allegedly raped a recording artist and Academy member.

In the end, the Grammys are not indicative of the general public’s viewpoint anymore. Instead, the show has become a business opportunity for whichever artist can influence the most Academy members into voting for their work.

In 2018, Alessia Cara won Best New Artist and was the only woman to win an award during the televised part of the show. Lorde, a pop singer, was the only female nominated for Album of the Year that year. Ehrlich did not want her to perform that night. The Annenberg Inclusion Initiative conducted a study in 2018 that found only 9.3% of the nominees for the “big four” and Producer of the Year had been women since 2013. 

Music today is more diverse, creative and intersectional than ever before, and it will only continue to get even better. Yet, the Grammys are stuck in an antiquated and exclusionary mindset while struggling to stay culturally relevant. What does this tell us? The Recording Academy needs to do better.

Speakeasy Sounds #1

Words by Terry Lee III

Hello y’all! Welcome to Speakeasy Sounds. In this blog, I am going to (hopefully) introduce you to new music. Speakeasy Sounds features artists that do not necessarily fit within pop culture. These artists will probably never find pop culture’s spotlight; nevertheless, they deserve it. Thus, these artists remain …Speakeasy Sounds.

I ask that you open your minds to new music with me. I like to think of finding new music almost as if you have not even heard your favorite band of all time yet. This is to keep you always searching and ready for your next favorite band!

Whether you like rap, rock, country, grunge, hip-hop, thrash, dream wave, shoegaze, freeform jazz or afrobeat, I have something for you. I will be providing you with a little background on the artists, similar artists for your reference and my favorite album or song by the artist.

With that said, let’s get into it!

Leikeli47 (rap/hip hop)

Let’s start with rap, specifically Leikeli47. Leikeli47 is a New York based masked rapper with true bars. She makes her own easily recognizable beats with a fluent and distinctive rapping style. Leikeli47 means to show you that not only can she run with the boys in the rap game, she “runs these streets.” You can catch Leikeli47 on NPR’s “Tiny Desk Sessions” if you want to see her perform live.

Leikeli47’s album “Acrylic” is a must. The album has my two favorite songs by her: “Let’s Go Get Stoned (Portier’s Vibe),” (a cover) and “Girl Blunt.”

Kate Bush (experimental pop)

For fans of David Bowie, Björk or the general ‘80s fanatic in all of us, we find Kate Bush. I would compareBush’s vibe to that of “dream wave.” One of Bush’s most known songs would be “Wuthering Heights,” based on the book with the same name by Emily Brontë. “Wuthering Heights” gives a different flavor to what you might taste on my favorite album by Kate Bush, “The Hounds of Love.”

“The Hounds of Love” will deliver this dreamy-synthetic-bass-driven trance that will satisfy the nostalgic and the retro-lovers. On “Hounds of Love,” be sure to listen to my favorite track “Mother Stands for Comfort.”

I asked you to keep an open mind, and now I hold you to it.

Pete Drake (country/blues)

Do you like country? Do you like background singers? Do you love steel guitars? Well, it doesn’t matter because with Pete Drake you will be surprised that you love all of these things even if you did not before. Drake started as a studio musician, recording for bigger country bands who needed a great steel guitar player. From there, Drake began holding a tube connecting from his steel guitar to his mouth to create the sound/illusion of a talking steel guitar.

I am asking you to give Drake’s “Forever” album a chance. This is my favorite album and holds my two absolute favorite songs: “Forever” and “Sleepwalk.” If you come away not caring for it, at least you got your feet wet and jumped into the deep end.

Her’s (dream pop)

If you don’t already know them, I am going to introduce y’all to Her’s. I would recommend this band if you listen to bands like MGMT, Unknown Mortal Orchestra or Tame Impala.

Her’s was an English-based, two-piece, dream-pop band that started to blur the boundaries between pop culture and the underdogs. Unfortunately the duo, along with their bus driver, died in a head-on collision in 2019 in Arizona while on tour in America. The band’s life and music career was very short-lived. While they were alive, they became relatively famous for their signature sound.

For this listen, I recommend “Harvey” on their album “Invitation to Her’s.” The whole album will give you a lucid-dreaming state. This would be their last album, as Her’s released it within months of their deaths.

King Missile (art rock)

Last but not least for this week, we have King Missile. King Missile is considered by most to be  “art rock.”

For those unfamiliar, art rock is a very experimental form of rock ‘n’ roll that employs strong deviations from your average rock song. These deviations include things like offbeat tempos, droning sounds and/or sporadic vocal tones. Art rock could describe King Crimson, Talking Heads or Pink Floyd. You might also call this psychedelic rock.

King Missile might not become your new favorite band, but it will refine your music taste. If you look up King Missile, you will most likely find their song “Detachable Penis.” This is a very dry (humored?) song that definitely shows you what to expect next. If you made it this far, then take it one step further and listen to King Missile’s “Jesus Was Way Cool” and “Cheesecake Truck.” I do not have a favorite album of theirs. King Missile’s albums are inconsistent and all over the place … in a good way.

Thanks for jumping into the rabbit hole with me, y’all! Let me know how you feel about these listens. If you like an artist that you feel deserves more recognition, send them to me and I will give them a listen. Contact me via email: tlee32@kent.edu or Insta: iamterryterryiam

I am also planning on doing a local artist edition in the future. If you know of rad local bands or you are in one, send me your stuff. Let me know when the show is, and you could end up featured in Speakeasy Sounds!

100th Anniversary of Harlem Renaissance

With a month down in the new decade, it’s a time of reflection upon the past. When choosing my subject for this piece, I was originally gonna do the roaring twenties as a whole. But one, that’s been done to death and I didn’t want to follow tradition in beating that dead horse. Two, it didn’t seem like an interesting way to analyze the culture of a hundred years ago that would seem still relevant to our modern culture. So, I decided to cover the period of music known as the Harlem Renaissance, which was one of the first popular African American artistic movements.

The Harlem Renaissance was a cultural and artistic movement that took place within the Harlem neighborhood of New York City from the early 1920s’ to the mid-30s’. It began after another movement called “The Great Migration” which is when approximately six million African Americans migrated from the Southern, rural states to the more urbanized cities. The Harlem neighborhood in Manhattan became one of these hubs where people flocked to, creating a vibrant, creative culture within those five blocks. While there are several art mediums that were touched by this group, today, we’ll be focusing on the musical contributions.

Jazz was still fresh and controversial during the beginning of the twenties, but the Jazz that came out of Harlem sounded much different than anything F. Scott Fitzgerald would’ve placed under West Egg. Before the 20s’, with their all brass instruments and taboo-breaking, Jazz was looked down upon by the upper crust and white society. However, the invention of the “Harlem Stride Style”, which added a piano to jazz elevated the status of Jazz from the seedier scene to the socially acceptable mainstream culture. Despite these groups of musicians being tied with the overall Roaring 20s’ as a decade, they still carved out their own unique and timeless identity. One of these musicians was the “Hi Di Ho” Man himself, Cab Calloway.

Calloway gave birth to one of the most enduring tropes in musical culture, the charismatic frontman, taking the audience by the collar and throwing them into the performance instead of passively listening to them play. His voice, his signature Hi Di Ho’s and smooth vibrato make your bones rattle with how crisp yet shaky it was. In his knee-length jackets and loose pants, he was as if the music itself had taken human shape and was shooting off rythems in all directions. This can also be tied to his signature dancing style. Calloway spun in circles, moved his arms as if he was caught in a windstorm, and his signature move of bending low on both knees. They even rotoscoped him into a Betty Boop cartoon in 1933.

It’s very fitting because Calloway was basically a Fleisher Cartoon come to life, in looks and attitude. While not in the rockstar hall of fame, Calloway definitely inspired some of the early rock n rollers, Little Richard is one of the most obvious with the outlandish clothes and yelps with falsetto.

Two of the most legendary voices that came out of this scene are arguably the most unusual and distinct voices, Louis Armstrong and Billie Holliday. These two are legends who’s lives have been documented, biographed, and adapted into plays and movies. However, their music still stays relevant and part of the modern American songbook. Armstrong (a.k.a Satchmo, Pops, many other nicknames) was an already established musician by the time the Harlem Renaissance rolled around and Holliday was just getting started at the beginning of this scene, performing around Harlem in her early teenage years. While they were both at different places individually, they both shared two unique vocal stylings that would come to define jazz as a whole. Armstrong, much like Tom Waits, objectively doesn’t have a good voice. It’s hoarse, weak and a bit awkward to listen to at first. Armstrong still has a magic charisma that flows into his performances, my personal favorite being his cover of La Vie En Rose.

His trumpet playing is spectacular, but his gravely harmonies still find their way into my heart every time I hear this version.

Same with Lady Day as well, who’s voice still has raspy qualities to it but definitely more easy on the ears. Her voice, with such graceful and powerful presence, is so captivating in both audio and actually watching her perform. My favorite of hers is probably her performance of Gloomy Sunday, a song that’s a legend in and of itself, but a total somber yet beautiful performance in her hands. You can almost see her with that iconic gardinia and stage presence, singing to you.

Another runner up would be her version of I love you Porgy from Porgy and Bess, a cute, sweet version of a Broadway staple.

It’s hard to do the entire Harlem Renaissance justice in just one article since it had such a deep impact on musical culture and African American history as well. But below, I’ve compiled a playlist of some of the best cuts in my opinion that can create a great jumping-off point to exploring more music, which is my job.

Featured image: Louis Armstrong playing the trumpet, courtesy of the United States Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs division.

Playlist: Teen Angst Tunes

Words by Augusta Battoclette / Cover Art by Sarah Riedlinger

“Canyon Moon” by Harry Styles

To start off a playlist with all my current favorite tunes, I included the best song off Harry Styles’ sophomore album. While others might opt to keep “Cherry” or “She” on repeat, my choice of poison is “Canyon Moon” because of its unique folk sound. None of the other songs on “Fine Line” have this same sound, which makes it stand out to me.

“SUGAR” by BROCKHAMPTON

If I am being completely honest, despite being fully aware of BROCKHAMPTON before hearing this song, the first time I heard this song was on TikTok. Featuring Ryan Beatty’s vocals, this song is the perfect thing to play when you are trying to lull yourself to sleep. Or you can listen to it on TikTok as you mindlessly scroll through videos for hours upon hours.

 “Fire, Ready, Aim” by Green Day

At first listen, this song might seem to be about the band’s political stances, but, while that may play a part, it is actually about the NHL. As funny as it sounds, Green Day recently entered into a partnership with the NHL and “Fire, Ready, Aim” is the opening theme song for NBCSN’s Wednesday Night Hockey. Basically, this song combines my love for Green Day and hockey into one fiercely poetic jam.

“Dennis” by Roy Blair

This song is the perfect song for college students because Roy is struggling with maintaining relationships while coping with depression as his life is rapidly changing. He worries the person he is talking to will not stay long enough for him to get out of his depressive state. I love this song because it has a deep message hidden behind a pop-dance track.

“Coffee Talk” by Broadside

Taking it back to 2015 with this rock anthem, “Coffee Talk” is sort of the polar opposite of “Dennis.” With the crooning rock vocals of singer Oliver Baxxter, this song reflects on the best parts of relationships—“Lately, all I wanna do / Is lie around with you / And complain about the youth / How we’ll never leave your room /Tell me everything that bothers you.”

“Love Will Tear Us Apart” by Joy Division

“Love Will Tear Us Apart” can be interpreted in many different ways, but I like to think of this song as a reminder that people grow apart and relationships change. While our careers and ambitions pull us away from the ones we love, we must either adapt to the change or fight back and write our own future.

“In Repeat” by Wanderwild

Wanderwild is a small indie rock band from Georgia that is carving out a new sound for themselves. “In Repeat” is the exact kind of song I imagine playing in an ‘80s coming-of-age film, and the guitar riffs make me want to jump on my bed like when I was a rowdy kid who did not want to go to sleep.

“Liability” by Lorde

This song is a soothing lullaby, perfect for playing at bedtime. It is no secret that Lorde is an amazing singer-songwriter, but this song really proved that “Melodrama,” could hold its own against her debut album, “Pure Heroine,” which was arguably one of the biggest generation-defining works of art.

“Dance, Baby!” by boy pablo

This song is about being lonely, and nothing in it is more telling than the line “Faking a smile now / Been here for a while now” which, if you listen closely, is a play on the part from Colbie Caillet’s “Bubbly”: ‘It starts in my toes and I crinkle my nose / Wherever it goes I always know / That you make me smile, please, stay for a while now.’

“I Wish” by Hayley Kiyoko

I will be the first to admit that I loved Hayley Kiyoko since she was in Disney Channel’s “Wizards of Waverly Place” and “Lemonade Mouth,” but in the last couple of years, she has shown that she can also take over the music industry. Her latest album release, “I’m Too Sensitive For This Sh*t,” proves just that, and “I Wish” is the standout song in my eyes.

“Ain’t Together” by King Princess

Mikaela Straus, stage name King Princess, is no stranger to hit songs, as “1950” was played on the radio every day for weeks on end last summer. “Ain’t Together” is perfect for every situation. Straus says it herself, describing the song as “cute and sad, perfect for any occasion. Wedding, funeral, corporate function, lesbian séance.” Catch her opening for Harry Styles on the European leg of his world tour this summer (finally!).

“Hot Rod” by Dayglow

Dayglow is the product of 20-year-old Sloan Struble and, while Dayglow literally does not have a bad song, “Hot Rod” is by far my favorite. It is the perfect groovy indie song and radiates happiness, making you feel warm and fuzzy inside. That being said, it is very fitting that the album’s name is “Fuzzybrain.”

“Something For Your M.I.N.D” by Superorganism

Superorganism is a chill electronic DIY group, and this song is a trippy mashup of many different sounds. It is a fizzy and refreshingly futuristic take on electronic music. If this song is not your new favorite song now, I must be doing something wrong.

“Anarchist – Unplugged” by YUNGBLUD

YUNGBLUD is known for his intense, head-thrashing songs, but the unplugged versions offer a special look into the lyrics and the meaning behind the beat. Especially with the song “Anarchist,” the unplugged version gives you a look at how dangerous drug addiction is and how it makes you undeniably delirious. 

“play the part” by ROLE MODEL

This song talks about fake friends and not knowing whether people’s intentions toward you are good. Brooding singer-songwriter Tucker Pillsbury is a unique gem in the music industry, and his newest project “oh, how perfect” will inspire you to become the most honest version of yourself possible.

Louis Tomlinson proves he is a true artist in new single “Walls”

Louis Tomlinson first emerged into the public’s eye in the manufactured boyband One Direction. While all the members of the band contributed to writing various songs, Tomlinson wrote the ones with arguably the most poetic lyrics and best sentiments. Now, a couple of years into the band’s indefinite hiatus, he is gearing up to release his debut solo album, “Walls,” and the title track was released last week.

“Walls” starts with a classic piano/guitar combination and a retro vocal sound. As the chorus comes in the instruments swell into a rich orchestral sound. The elegant yet simplistic sound sneaks up on you while you are listening.

“It really hit home when I was in the studio to hear the strings being recorded,” Tomlinson said in a statement. “There must have been 25 musicians in there, all for my song. It was a proper tear-jerking moment already and I’ve never felt a shiver like it.”

Tomlinson has an array of different sounds and genres under his belt, which can be attributed to all the music he has released since One Direction went on hiatus. 

His first single “Just Hold On” came out in 2016 right around the time his mother passed away. 

“Back to You,” “Just Like You” and “Miss You” all came out in 2017. Another single, “Two of Us”, came out in 2019 right before one of his sisters also passed away, and “Kill My Mind,” “We Made It” and “Don’t Let It Break Your Heart” all came out in 2019 to promote the album. 

While “Walls” is a power ballad, “Kill My Mind” is a dynamic rock song, “We Made It” a tender indie number and “Don’t Let It Break Your Heart” an 80s pop-rock track.

Tomlinson’s lyrics are just as powerful as the music. The opening line in “Walls,” nothing wakes you up like waking up alone,” is a raw feeling that everyone can relate to sometimes. While the beginning of the song is quiet, the lyrics are melancholy, as Tomlinson is missing a person who left him behind. Then as the music picks up, the message does too: “These high walls, they came up short / Now I stand taller than them all / These high walls never broke my soul.” He is resilient and fighting through whatever life throws at him. The high walls are barriers in his life that were put up to stop him and make him lose hope, but his strength and love are enough to power through them.

Youtube: Louis Tomlinson VEVO

The song ends the same way it started, with “nothing wakes you up like waking up alone.” It highlights that allowing yourself to process all your emotions, the good and the bad, can help you make peace with your past and move forward. The message I got from the song is that it is far better to have loved and lost than to never have even tried to love.

Tomlinson is not just a performer or a singer. He is a songwriter, a lyricist and a poet. “Walls” only further proves my point, and I am beyond excited for the album to grace our ears.

Louis Tomlinson’s debut album is out January 31, 2020 and you can pre-order it here. Watch the music video for “Walls” now.

THERE’S SHOW PLACE LIKE HOME

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As music venues in Kent disappear, students turn to house shows like the Hoe Garden for performances that are enjoyable and cost-effective.

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Words by Collin Cunningham | Photos by Adrian Leuthauser

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[dropcap]S[/dropcap]ituated on Columbus Street, just behind Kent’s courthouse, the Hoe Garden is the first home you’re going to notice on the block. As you get closer, you see the wide front porch crammed with bodies smoking cigarettes between a set, while the side and back yards are bordered by overgrown foliage. In the back, there’s another entrance and occasional spot for guests to go pee. Folks are wearing a lot of denim, that’s for sure, but there are also people hanging out in khakis and jerseys. They all seem to be having a good time, maybe locked in conversation, maybe just staring of into space.

Inside, attendees are congregated in the two-story’s kitchen and living room or waiting in line for the bathroom upstairs. The walls are arranged with all manner of decorations: On one shelf in the living room sits a prize machine filled with plushies that resident Erin Dovishaw created for an art project. On another sits a neon sign that reads “Hoegaarden,” the name of a Belgian wheat beer which served as the inspiration for the venue’s iconic name, a gift from Dovishaw’s parents for Valentine’s Day in 2016.

When you have music scenes as large and boisterous as the ones in Cleveland and Akron, it’s only natural some of that enthusiasm for good live performances leaks into the surrounding areas. Kent especially has long been saturated with a rotating crew of active bands. Devo was the town’s standout act of the ‘70s, and venues such as JB’s Brewhouse and The Stone Tavern were the places to go to see touring acts from Ohio and the rest of the country for years.

Since then, things have changed. The Stone Tavern shuttered its doors in 2016, to be followed by a venue known only by its address: 425 Gougler Avenue. The other spaces in town are mostly being used as bars. Instead, people who want to see bands for cheap will now turn to house shows — literally homemade venues in basements where bands and artists come to perform. Even more than some of the bands themselves, these residences have become staples of the Kent music scene, serving as the background for excellent performances — or just enjoyable Friday nights. Simply ask Dani Bennett, who currently resides at the Hoe Garden, one of the few remaining house show locations in Kent.

“I’ve heard people say things like, ‘I didn’t even like Kent before I came here,’” Bennett, a senior majoring in fashion design, says. One of the latent functions of these house venues is they also serve as relaxed hangouts, and many use the Hoe Garden to make new friends.

“I’ve met the most beautiful souls here,” says Dovishaw, one of the Hoe Garden’s current co-owners along with Bennett, Nina Bianco and Ella Foley. Dovishaw is a junior, dual-majoring in jewelry/metal and sculpture. “Seriously, I might’ve just seen them in passing or something, and then they come here and I sit (on a couch near the house’s first-floor entrance) usually, but, as the show’s starting, I love just meeting people. I love it so much. It makes me so happy.”

The house tends to get pretty messy after every show, but the residents don’t seem to mind. A giant support beam divides the entire room in half, leading to some interesting movements and interactions between guests during every performance. With this atmosphere and set of traits, it’s easy to believe people who have trouble fitting in elsewhere can find shelter in the Hoe Garden.

Jeff Atkinson, a sophomore studying human resources management, frequently visits the Hoe Garden when it has its Friday or Saturday shows. “It’s a fairly nice, older house to begin with,” he says. “There’s a lot of people there. It’s usually a pretty cool party, even when you’re not watching the shows.”

 

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Bennett says she’s happy people can feel welcome enough at the Hoe to bring their friends along, but it can lead to some difficulties when people wander in of the street.

Some people have come to look at houses like the Hoe Garden more as places to party and drink than live music venues, which often leads to people overstepping their boundaries with the girls’ property.

“We’re definitely trying to bring it back to what we’re used to because it has kind of gotten out of hand, unfortunately,” Dovishaw says. “It becomes unpleasant for us. It’s not like we don’t have a good time regardless, but when I walk into my bedroom, I don’t want random people to be in there.”

This lack of respect for the venue’s owners and noise complaints from their neighbors bother the Hoe’s residents, but they shoulder the burden. In fact, they’re effectively the only house having shows in Kent right now. Previously, other shows were held at two punk-flavored venues named The Workshoppe and Bum House. While the Hoe Garden is a haven for indie or jazz acts, the other two served up more hardcore music.

Garet Greitzer is a freshman studying visual communication design whose parents own the Workshoppe, a standalone garage spot in which his dad often does work for the house. Except the Workshoppe hasn’t had a show since October of 2017after repeated noise complaints from neighbors.

Visitors access the Workshoppe simply by walking down the hill into Greitzer’s backyard on the corner of Williams and Depeyster Street. The interior sports an industrial setting, which works well whether a sweaty moshpit has developed in the center of the room or people are leaning against the walls and enjoying softer music.

The only signs that bands play are a small stage set up in the corner and a banner hanging from the ceiling, while the rest of the place is occupied by miscellaneous tools and building materials. During shows, the wide-open garage allows people to see and hear the acts no matter where they’re standing, harsh sounds from the guitars and drums clashing perfectly with the sight of the random instruments scattered about.

Greitzer doesn’t intend to have any shows soon, but he understands Kent’s independent music scene would be different if his venue had never existed. “I definitely feel like there would be less cohesiveness between everybody because there are so many people I’ve met through the Workshoppe,” he says. “And now, even though the Workshoppe is gone, we still have this hub of people, and it expanded more into people in the university or people who live in town.”

Greitzer says having house shows isn’t just about clearing your basement and setting up a public address system; you also have to consider how to get the word out.

“It goes a lot beyond doing the show itself, organizing it on Facebook and stuff,” Greitzer says. “We had 1,000 likes on the Facebook page, and it really showed that the word was coming around Ohio, and even other states because touring bands were coming through.”

One of the comforting aspects of house shows is that things aren’t always regulated. It’s difficult to get down the stairs at the Hoe Garden, for example. The steps leading to the cellar leave a bit of head room to be desired, and you might have to brush past a few people to reach the music.

The walls of the Hoe’s basement are covered in a swirling tapestry of graffiti. IPA cans from the most recent show are spread about the floor. At first, it might look like a battlefield, if a hardcore band has taken the stage. Or perhaps a cult engaging in ritualistic dancing on jazz night. (They have a lot of jazz nights — Bennett really likes jazz.) But after a few songs, you really start to get into the music, and you realize you’re going to want to come back.

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HIGH FIDELITY

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Ohioans share how music aids recovery from opioid addiction

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Words by Valerie Royzman| Photos by Jana Life

 

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AMY, RECOVERING ADDICT

[dropcap]A [/dropcap]year from now, Amy sticks the key in the ignition. She turns the volume up a few notches, spins the dial to 91.3, a new favorite on nights like this. Ringo Starr’s voice fills the car: “Sometimes this world can be a hard place / We wonder where we go from here.” As she speeds through the beat-up Akron roads, she hums along; her body radiates with warmth. As Starr belts out from the scratchy radio, “Give more love / It’s what we know we need more of,” she glides into an empty parking lot, listening to the beat, reflecting on how far she’s come.

She taps fingertips across her tattoos — from large lips spill musical notes, flowing across her arm, along with the words “Music is the sound of life,” — in rhythm with the beat. An indescribable feeling of euphoria fills her body. This time, the feel-good sensation isn’t from snorting heroin. It’s from the music.

Amy says she was addicted to heroin “for a long time.” She’s buried the memories no longer worth remembering. But she’s been clean since 2015. The ride wasn’t smooth.

Amy left the Akron-area Oriana House Residential Correctional Center in late March. She was directly sentenced to the halfway house as part of her recovery from heroin and Percocet. After a life-saving arrest sent her to prison for six weeks, she set out to get clean all on her own — she remained drug-free for 11 months before her relapse on Percocet.

Without the daily fix, she risked feeling dope sick, an ugly sensation she describes as aches all through the body and painful nausea. She moved out of the home she shared with her mother, got high with friends, stopped working and quit her greatest passion since childhood: basketball.

She chased dope because it practically became her lifeline. Amy says while addicted to heroin, she needed it just to feel normal.

“I didn’t feel good if I didn’t get high, honestly,” she says.

When her life spun out of control after heroin became a daily part of her routine, she says she felt terrible keeping it from her mother, and admits she put her through a real-life hell.

“I was pretty good at keeping it from her,” she says. “I felt terrible because I was so good and successful at a young age. I felt like I let my mom down. Who wants to tell their mom you’re a heroin addict?”

Unfortunately, Amy’s story isn’t unlike many others grappling with the fast-growing national epidemic.

According to data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in March, overall emergency department visits for suspected opioid overdoses increased 30 percent in the U.S., from July 2016 to September 2017. During that same time, the Midwest took the hardest hit, with overdoses surging by 70 percent.

For Amy, music clears her head and helps re-prioritize her goals in life. Before, as soon as she opened her eyes in the morning, her agenda was to get high.

“With the heroin, I had to do it, or I didn’t even get out of bed, pretty much,” she says. “I got up out of bed to go get it. And I knew when I was going to get it. … I knew already in my head I was starting to feel better.”

Like a broken record, she started her recovery once again, this time with help, but says she’s proud of the difficult journey and how far she’s come in her 34 years.

Music wasn’t the only solution in her road to recovery, though it’s been her favorite. She is currently participating in the Vivitrol program, used as part of treatment for drug- or alcohol-dependent individuals. The prescription allows Amy an injection once a month, aimed at preventing relapse when she made the decision to stop using, a sudden shock for her body.

Amy calls the non-addictive injection her safety blanket, mostly because it protects her from spiraling back into a destructive lifestyle. She says she hasn’t thought about using again since her last injection one month ago.

Though music can trigger bad memories, Amy has learned to avoid songs that spark unwelcome memories, and instead focus on tunes she calls “booty-popping” anthems because they brighten her mood. Right now, it’s DJ Khaled’s “Do You Mind.”

 

 

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JESSICA YODER, TREATMENT COUNSELOR AT ORIANA HOUSE

Jessica Yoder, a treatment counselor at Oriana House’s chemical dependency treatment center, met Amy during the first phase of the intensive outpatient program (IOP) part of her recovery, where Yoder works with clients from all walks of life in the world of opiates to identify coping techniques and kick-start their new road to restoration.

Yoder sees a wide range of drug abuse from clients. From meth to heroin, drugs considered a better “bang for your buck,” and even pills, she’s seen it all. Lately, she says fentanyl seems to be coming up frequently, and a lot of the time users don’t even realize their drugs are laced with it.

“I do see people who have been introduced to this epidemic through a prescription that they got from a doctor and became addicted through that,” Yoder says. “Sometimes they’re buying pills of the street. Sometimes they’re using heroin because it’s financially more viable for them.”

Yoder says Vivitrol is essentially an opiate blocker that deters cravings for their problem drug.

“It binds to the receptors in your brain so if somebody on it did decide to use an opiate, they would feel no euphoric effect from it,” Yoder says.

Although the injection may cause physical discomfort at first, the mental reaction turns people away because the injection inhibits the effects of opiates. Yoder praises the program, which includes a three-month, therapy-driven transition for clients when they feel ready to halt injections, but mentions the negatives too.

If clients aren’t careful, there’s a greater chance of overdose “because they feel like they aren’t getting high, so they do more and more, and it’ll overtake [their] heart or nervous system.”

During someone’s time with IOP, Yoder talks to clients a lot about the different aspects of their addiction, detailing the difference between biological, psychological and mental health-related parts.

Yoder says the process needs to feel holistic, though, and sometimes other more personal tools are useful – like music. While she hopes clients will utilize the cognitive behavioral therapy skills she teaches during IOP, she believes there are other methods clients may be more inclined to apply, especially in the beginning.

“If they have a tough day or we talk about a tough topic in treatment, they can go back to the facility and [music’s] something they can do,” Yoder says. “They can put in their headphones; they can have quiet time; they can reflect.”

With Amy, Yoder notices music plays a key role in preventing her recovery from veering of course. Discussing social skills and having interventions on the whiteboard is required and beneficial, but in her short time at Oriana House, Yoder has noticed music comes up frequently in conversations with her clients.

Yoder says it’s important to show her clients “you don’t always have to do these very clinical things.”

While Yoder works with clients in phase one IOP and after-treatment, part of phase three, she suggests they listen to Rock and Recovery, a regular nighttime show on 91.3 “The Summit,” an Akron radio station. The show is targeted toward helping anyone in recovery from an addiction, from opiates and alcohol to gambling and sex.

Rock and Recovery partners with the Summit County Recovery Court and Oriana House, where judges assign clients to programs such as counselors like Yoder, who can only recommend the radio show as a complementary piece to clinical treatment.

The reason? Not every client has access to radio. Amy, for example, isn’t allowed a phone or access to social media during her time at the correctional facility. She is only given a player and headphones with limited access. While music is a saving grace for her in the facility, which she says feels a bit like jail because of the strict rules, she can’t gain access to the radio show until after she leaves.

For other patients, some living at home and attending IOP meetings in group and individual settings with Yoder, a more versatile variety of music is available.

Though Yoder is sad to say it, relapse is all too common among those trying to turn their lives around after opiate addictions.

It’s a true reward to witness recovered clients visit her, but a lot of the time, people re-enter the world just to be sucked back into the gripping epidemic. She recalls a trip to New York City in July 2016. As she walks through Times Square, she sees a headline flash, revealing the number of overdose deaths in Northeast Ohio from opiates.

“I just remember standing there, and the person I was with … they were like, ‘What’s wrong?’ and I just looked at the TV and I said, ‘That is like a half-hour from where I grew up,’” says Yoder, a Cleveland native.

Not unaware of the power opiates possess over individuals, Yoder still never could’ve predicted the crisis would’ve gotten this harrowing – and it isn’t over yet.

In 2016, more than 63,600 died of a drug overdose in the U.S., according to the CDC. The Ohio Department of Health reports the unintentional deaths claimed 4,050 lives in Ohio, a 32.8 percent spike from 2015, some of these lives being Amy’s own friends.

Though music isn’t the end-all solution to dissolving an addiction, those in recovery, like Amy, along with counselors and mentors like Yoder, are realizing its potential in taming the monsters lurking over the nation.

Yoder says while enduring a crisis like this, people want to feel supported and connected to something, whether it’s knowing people recognize that an addict is struggling or someone is acknowledging their family member is having a hard time — that’s a really key part of it.

“People want to listen to music to have some sort of emotional identification with it, and I think that having this radio program definitely helps with that, that sense of wanting to feel connected to something outside of yourself,” Yoder says.

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GARRETT HART, PROGRAM DIRECTOR AND CREATOR OF ROCK AND RECOVERY

Garrett Hart settles down in his safe place, headphones on and head perfectly cocked, ready to go on air. This is where he finds his bliss.

“From Akron, Ohio, the birthplace of modern addiction treatment, this is Rock and Recovery,” the show’s introduction echoes through the radio. “Recovery rocks.”

Bruno Mars’ sugar-sweet voice harmonizes: “If you ever find yourself stuck in the middle of the sea, / I’ll sail the world to find you,” transitioning into the chorus, “You can count on me like 1, 2, 3 / I’ll be there.”

After the song plays, positive messages like, “Take a break from stress; let it go” and, “No one heals themselves by wounding another” follow suit. The show features interviews and further encouragement from figures sharing their stories of recovery, including musicians, athletes, therapists and case workers.

Hart, program director and creator of Rock and Recovery, noticed a serious spike in listeners as the opioid epidemic grew bigger and more frightening than itself. He says when he signed on in 2011, he was aware of the problem, and his goal was to try to make it better the only way he knew how — through radio.

“We had no idea it was going to engulf the entire country in this incredible tragedy that involves so much death and so much loss,” Hart says. “It’s not just the addict’s life who is disrupted but everyone who loves that person — people who are related to them, their friends, their co-workers — everybody is affected by this tremendous burden, this tremendous problem.”

The show plays a 300-song list ranging from classic rock, country, R&B and some modern-day pop, which has grown through the years. Tunes are carefully selected to convey positivity for listeners, most of whom are recovering addicts. Others are parents and siblings holding on to the harmony of hope while their loved ones bear the brunt of the crisis.

Hart acknowledges the show isn’t going to necessarily empty a detox bed or cure someone of their cocaine addiction, but if it can provide a sense of relief in the next five minutes and help the listener feel better about themselves, he’s doing exactly what he set out to do, and calls it “the most rewarding work” he’s done in his 44 year-long broadcasting career.

He says the show meets people where they are, and unlike people, music doesn’t have the predisposition or judgement to present to listeners.

“The idea is that with the music and the messaging, we are positive but not preachy,” he says. “We’re inspirational but not religious. … We allow them to listen and take from the experience which is gonna be helpful to them.”

JUDY K., SPOUSE OF RECOVERING ADDICT

Through email and one-on-one interaction at community events in Northeast Ohio, Hart hears from devoted listeners like Judy K., whose name has been modified to ensure privacy. Judy herself isn’t an addict; however, she is the spouse of one, who heavily relied on meth for 25 years.

Her husband attends Narcotics Anonymous meetings, for addicts, while she’s involved with NarAnon, an organization specifically created for family members. Here, she frequents events and sets up information tables to raise awareness on addiction and break the stigma associated with it. Judy and her husband, now 21 years sober, keep their recovery separate to maintain a strong relationship, though the one thing they bond over is listening to Rock and Recovery together. For him, recovery is a matter of life and death, but for her, it’s more for maintaining her health and sanity.

“We listen to the songs together and just think about our roads and our different paths that we each have, and what we’re trying to do individually and as a couple,” Judy says.

She says the realization that her husband had to clean up his past, meaning his recovery was top priority over their love, was painful at times. In the beginning of their marriage, she was bothered when he told her his sobriety was his number one priority, and she would always come second. Through the years, she’s made peace with it.

“I learned that if I said, ‘No, you have to stay with me,’ or ‘You have to put me on top priority’ or whatever, instead of staying clean and sober … I learned after a while our relationship would’ve never worked,” she says. “Because I cannot stay with an active addict. I can’t. As a spouse, I know our finances would drain and I know that I cannot watch somebody die.”

Outside her marital ties to addiction, Judy mentions her 70-year-old brother is a Vietnam veteran and alcoholic who refuses to get sober, and several members at NarAnon have recently lost family to heroin — the first time she’s witnessed this after attending for 14 years.

Rock and Recovery holds a place in this daunting epidemic though, and it feels like it was made for Ohio communities, she says. Individuals in recovery of any kind often feel isolated from the world, practically writing their own elegies, and the show reassures listeners they aren’t alone in this.

“I think that to have a radio station that will play something to the community is showing that ‘We are there for you,’” she says. “‘We understand what you’re going through. We understand that there’s an epidemic. We understand that maybe a song that we play can help put your mind at ease, can help you get through this next 24 hours.”

THE POWER OF MUSIC

The epidemic is like an utterly terrifying symphony that never seems to end, luring people in and consuming them whole as they drift between addicted, sober and sometimes dead. Through this chaos, Judy says it’s important to fight, even when society is quick to judge.

DJ Khaled on full blast wherever she goes, Amy now works at Burger King and visits her mother as she tries to stay as far away as possible from heroin, “the devil.”

Hart has found success in his show, reaching listeners not only in different states, but on an international level, too. He is currently negotiating the broadcast of Rock and Recovery on terrestrial radio stations across the country, expanding from his local roots.

Yoder left her life in Boston to come back to the Buckeye State, inspired by the novel “Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic” to aid addicts in recovery. She’s been with Oriana House since 2017.

Judy continues to break the barriers surrounding addiction in the community, sharing the radio show with everyone she encounters who is struggling. Frustrated by the embarrassment surrounding addiction, she hopes one day the nation organizes marches or falls into a movement to end the stigma.

If you haven’t been an addict yourself or been cursed with a firsthand experience of a loved one, you can’t relate, all these voices seem to echo. It’s vital to remember there’s nobody to blame, Judy says, and no fingers to point when someone is aching with addiction.

“You’ve gotta remember that there’s nothing wrong with being an addict,” she says. “It’s the way that person is. And all you can do is love an addict.”

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Giving up

Words by Kathryn Monsewicz 

Have you ever wanted to give up on something? Be it the first time your toddler toes touched the water and you were scared to swim, or you’ve listened to your professor ramble on enough you don’t think the notes are worth it anymore. Maybe you gave up on your boyfriend of six months because things didn’t “click” anymore, or you consider that promotion at work to be way out of your league.

I’ve given up before. Whether it was ballet class, karate, baton twirling, playing the piano, playing the violin, trying to score higher than a B in geometry class; bottom line, it is human to want to give up when things get tough or when you don’t “feel” it anymore. That’s what I was told, at least.

“If you don’t feel it, don’t do it,” Brian says. Brian is a local musician who comes into the grocery store I work at every day to buy cheap cans of Honey Brown booze and occasionally some discount, $4.99 cigarettes. He’s 51 years old, has been playing music since age 16, writes the music and leads the guitar for his band and refuses to play anything other than his own pieces.

I’ve never before been told to give up, that it was okay if you didn’t think you were able to accomplish something because you could just give up. But there’s a second meaning to what Brian says. Sure, if something doesn’t settle right with your abilities, then giving up is an option. But giving up so you can foster the skills in what you’re truly good at is not quite giving up.

Rewind to my first week in microeconomics class: opportunity costs, when you give up one opportunity for another.

This opportunity cost to Brian, his playing only original work instead of practicing the pieces of the music masters before him, was his decision. He abandoned his music theory class in school, snatched up a recording contract, but seems to be stuck shoveling snow in the winter and buying cheap booze and stale cigarettes every day of the week.

He believes that if you don’t feel it in your gut, if you don’t love and cherish the work you are doing, then give up on it and make room for what you do love. Sure, he shovels snow or mows lawns as a season-specified job, but that is not his career. Music is his career as much as writing is mine. My job is customer service at a grocery store, but my career is built by the keyboard keys I’m tap-tap-tapping on right now.

Imagine for a minute the life you want for yourself. What future are you thinking about? Are you in love with your spouse, your family, your career? Do all these things make you feel happy? They should. And if they don’t, there’s a sign that maybe somewhere along the way you should have given up. You should have given up the idea for the ideal.

Kent Keyboard Series: A Shining Season of Artistry with Guest Artist Eduardus Halim (REVIEW)

Words and photo by Ashlynn Thompson

The Facts

Performance: Kent Keyboard Series: A shining season of artistry
Guest Artist: Eduardus Halim
Venue: Carl F. W. Ludwig Recital Hall, Center for Performing Arts
Presenter: Hugh A. Glauser School of Music
Performance Dates: April 9
Runtime: 1 hour 30 minutes

Summary

Renown pianist Eduardus Halim performs in the finale of the 2016-2017 Kent Keyboard Series.  He was a piano prodigy and studied at the Juilliard School and under many mentors, including the legendary classical pianist Vladimir Horowitz.  In this performance, Halim plays works by celebrated composer Frédéric Chopin with vigor and passion.  These works include Polonaise, Opus 26, No. 2, Nocturne, Op. 48, No. 1, Nocturne, Op. 55, No. 2, Études, Op. 10, No. 1-12 and Études, Op. 25, No. 1-12.  One notices the urgency, sorrow, joy and other myriad of emotions expressed in this stunning performance by Halim.

Why this is worth seeing … or not

This can be a very emotional experience.  The way in which Halim masterfully varies his intensity on the keys, from soft and melancholy to loud and urgent, not to mention the genius compositions by Chopin, leaves one feeling a mix of intense emotions.  Arguably, the best performances make an audience feel something deeply, which is why this performance is definitely worth seeing.  However, it is quite long and could have been an hour and still achieved the same effect.

Musical compositions

The production is very wide-ranging. No piece has the same intensity or feeling, which allows the audience to experience a diverse body of work by Chopin.  The performance begins with a gentle playing of the keys only to grow louder and more aggressive as it progresses.  The intensity fluctuates like this throughout the performance.  One’s mind could wander whilst listening to a softly played melody only to be jolted back to reality with a loud and demanding note.  The diversity of the musical compositions effectively makes the audience listen and feel the emotions of the melodies in every piece.

The pianist

An audience member can notice right away the passion Eduardus Halim brings when he touches the keys.  His hands fly across the length of the keyboard with deft mastery and he plays with exaggerated movements as his fingers vigorously hit every key, something singular to great pianists.  Unbelievably, he played the entire performance without the aid of sheet music.  Memorizing and performing 27 pieces made me have even more respect for this incredible artist.

Final Thoughts

For those wanting to experience the passion that Eduardus Halim brings to music and the beautiful pieces by Frédéric Chopin, you will not be disappointed.  While it was a little too long to sit through, it was worth it to hear these two virtuosos.  I challenge my readers to have the emotional experience that comes with professional live music, which makes its audience feel without the aid of speaking or flashy elements of production that usually accompanies more popular plays and musicals.

Ashlynn Thompson is a freshman majoring in fashion merchandising and minoring in French in Kent State’s Honors College. She has a passion for the performing arts and has acted for years.  In 2016, she directed the play “The Matchmaker” and also plotted the lighting, scenic and costume design.  In addition to writing performing arts reviews for The Burr, Thompson interns for the fashion blog website CollegeFashionista, participates on the Programming Board for Black United Students and will serve as Secretary for the Fashion Student Organization for the 2017/18 school year. Thompson looks forward to bringing her critical eye to the Kent State performing arts scene.   

Keep it simple, stupid: An interview with Peter Kratcoski

Words and interview by Evan Harms

Peter Kratcoski is a lifelong Kent resident and a current Kent State student studying graphic design. He also plays drums in SAP, Cool Dads and is filling in briefly for Speedfreak. In our conversation, we addressed the way visual art, music and growing up in a Midwestern college town all intersect and create some sort of meaning.

 

Evan Harms: Can you run me through a day in the life? I know you’re a busy guy.

Peter Kratcoski: Yeah, it’s pretty much just constant stress from waking up to going to bed, which is personally inflicted. But, probably wake up around 9 a.m. or 10 a.m., that’s because I’m up late the night before (which we’ll get to later), go to class, check my emails at least, like, 18 times and definitely miss something …  that’s important … to someone. I like to say that I balance my clients and classwork, but at some points I’ll just do five straight hours of one project, tunnel vision it out. And then that’s like 11 [a.m.] to 2 [p.m.] Or 10 [a.m.]. Or 9 [a.m.]. Whatever it takes. That’s what a day in the life is, whatever it takes.

Evan Harms: So how do you make time for “fun” things then?

PK: I think I don’t. I think I was talking to someone about this yesterday, that’s one of the reasons we chose the majors that we did, and you can probably relate to that. It is fun, you wanna do something for the rest of your life that’s interesting, it’s a hobby of yours, and oftentimes, if that’s something fun for you, usually it’s pretty challenging. For a lot of people, there usually has to be a challenge and fun. That’s where, like, a balance comes in. With choosing illustration or journalism or photography as a major. The hardest challenge is to major in it.

EH: Yeah that’s true. Sometimes with [journalism], it’s like “I have to go out and do a project,” but for this interview it’s tight because of your background. At the same time, I have to take time out of my day, I gotta do a project.

PK: Exactly. I think the answer to that is finding fun in the thing you have to do.

EH: Let’s talk about your art and graphic design a little bit now. It’s pretty minimalist, usually geometric, just little kind of goofy but meaningful fliers, clothes, those animated fliers — how did that kind of “get got?”

PK: I appreciate that. It “got get” by seeing that a lot of art is overcompensating. In illustration especially, people that work with minimal line and flat design, you find out that they can crazy render. You know? They’ll draw a sunset like nothing with a mechanical pencil. That’s what I think is kind of my process. When anybody gets started with art or anything, you want to make it everything. Because you want to capture yourself, and that’s hard to do. You can’t put every emotion and every facet of you into a flier. I just noticed artists using a bare minimum of tools and making something incredible out of it, and making an incredible amount of money. You know, [Mark] Rothko is a big example of that for me. I think my history teacher, Mr. Yanko had [Rothko’s] “Orange, [Red], Yellow” hanging up, and he told us that it was a famous painting worth millions of dollars, and I thought that was insane and really inspiring. And that goes out to music, too. You know Daniel Johnston, he was a real early influence. I think that’s part of illustration, too. [Most illustrations] aren’t in museums, they’re in magazines, or on t-shirts and fliers. You don’t really need to put a bunch of work into it, because sometimes that can just turn into a lot of noise. If you’re scrolling through your Twitter feed or walking downtown, and you walk  past a bulletin board of busily designed stuff, and I think the thing that speaks the loudest is a three-color, two-line drawing of a dog. Why spend a lot of time rendering a mountainscape, when in reality that might just get swept under the rug?

EH: Yeah, I like the minimalism thing. It’s kind of hard to compare that to writing.

PK: Oh, it could.

EH: It’s kind of the “keep it simple, stupid.”

PK: Doug Green was the first person to ever say that. *laughs* He’s working on a zine right now about that.

EH: You want to talk about that? Let’s talk about it.

PK: Yeah! Is it just the two of you?

EH: I don’t know, he’s mainly in charge of it and he asked me to do a couple of [album] reviews.

PK: Oh yeah, the ten words or less! … Those are cool. His illustrations are wild!

EH: Yeah! Now, back to business: Do you see any kind of crossover between your making music with Cool Dads and SAP and with your visual art?

PK: Yeah. I guess I would. I guess one of the tenets of that is just making do with what you got. Cool Dads doesn’t have a lot of money or sound equipment, but we have a lot of friends. And I think that while I want to express myself and create music that evokes a certain feeling or portrays a certain thing about me, one of my larger goals is to make other people happy. I think that the audience is at the heart of any artistic endeavor. And with Cool Dads, our number one priority is to make sure people are having fun — no, it’s to make sure that we’re having fun. If you rely [too much] on other people it’s stressful. We have fun, they have fun, and after that is that we’re expressing something or making good music. That’s part of the reason I’m in illustration rather than art. Although I’m expressing myself, working for a client is more interesting for me. I don’t think people care about the stories I have to tell about my internal battles, I think there’s enough of that. I think there should be more, for sure.

EH: Right, it’s still important to communicate that stuff.

PK: Oh yeah, very important, but I’m not the person who’s going to make money off it, if that makes any sense. I think it’s an interesting challenge to meet a band, meet a company or it could be a book, and say you have to use visual tools to express this audio, or these words, or this feeling, this article. It’s a really fun challenge to read an article or listen to a band and come up with a way they’re going to be perceived, and come up with a way to attract people to this event with a flier.

EH: Right, certainly within our DIY circuit, we kind of do goofy random shit–it doesn’t matter that much. But, in a more professional context you have to really think about how other people will perceive this, like normies and whoever.

PK: Well that’s why money’s involved, that’s where the line gets drawn. Fun and money.

EH: The normies got the money.

PK: The normies got the money. Fun and money. That’s it. K.A.S.S. — I mean K.I.S.S., keep it simple, stupid. [laughing]

EH: Keep It Simple Stupid [laughs]. So here’s another music question: how do you deal with the diversity of being in, now you’re in three bands, SAP, which is anarcho-peace-punk crusty loudness; Cool Dads, goofy surf-jazz.

PK: Noise.

EH: Noise, and then SPEEDFREAK which is just garbage.

PK: [laughs] I like how you did that to your band, not mine.

EH: [laughs] Yeah, well. So, I know that you don’t have a playing style that you’ve honed in on over the years, you’re not Neil Peart.

PK: That’s right, I’m not.

EH: So how do you do drumming for each band, are there similar approaches for each band or do you have to diversify?

PK: Absolutely similar approaches. The pretty simple answer is that on one, I’m not singing. So I don’t have to devote half of my energy to windpipes and that part of my body, so I can devote more energy to, you know, the drums. Outside of that, I have a pretty consistent way of approaching everything. And you can attest to that, drumming in Cool Dads is pretty similar to drumming in SAP. I’m just trying to be Zach Hill [the drummer from Death Grips] [laughs]. One time someone told me that I was like him and I don’t know why I’m still in this band, because that’s all I wanted. I’m sure you have a similar approach to journalism and your radio show. Those are two different voices but you have a pretty consistent style that you apply to both of those.

EH: Oh yeah, definitely. I’d never really thought about it. So, do you wanna talk about your drumming technique at all?

PK: I don’t think there is much of it, to be honest.

EH: Yeah, I mean that’s what makes it sick to me. Because I go to some shows, like Often, their drummer is insane.

PK: Wild.

EH: Warming up all the time, like [intense air-drumming]. Holy crap, he’s really good, and it works with their sound. But you, again going back to Keep It Simple Stupid, you’re just wailing on it and it makes perfect contextual sense.

PK: Yeah, well thank you. I would say it’s the only area of my life where I’m really able to express myself, by hitting stuff really hard. I used to get yelled at for that–the way I learned drums was steel drums in high school–and I got yelled at for playing too hard and too fast. It’s kinda the only time in my life that I say “I can’t help it,” it’s just what comes naturally. I can pretty much suppress most parts of myself in every other aspect, but that’s the one part. So I guess I’m exactly what I’m not I said I was in the beginning of this. I’m the Mark Rothko of hitting stuff.

Both: [laughing]

PK: Please cut that out. [laughs] That’s pretentious as hell.

EH: So you grew up [in Kent, Ohio]? Or your parents worked here?

PK: Yeah, pretty much. I went to grade school here and then we moved here when I started high school in Akron.

EH: Where are you originally from?

PK: Munroe Falls, but commuted to Kent every day, spent time in Kent.

EH: Does growing up in that kind of Midwestern college town have any impact on who you are today?

PK: Absolutely, this city specifically. Especially because when I was little, this city used to be so much more, not even liberal, but downright hippy. There used to be three tattoo shops on Main Street, three record stores and three art galleries. That was pretty much all of Main Street. There was also some place that sold sandwiches or something. Going to grade school pretty much right next-door to that was like I think the first time I ever saw anyone “knit-bomb,” I think that’s the correct term for someone crocheting around a tree. The first time I ever saw that, I was blown away. I said, “Why would anybody do that?”

EH: Yeah, killing a tree.

PK: Yeah, and what a waste of time. Not a waste of time because it affected the heck out of me. Seeing that stuff, and seeing these people, and being around art and music. You couldn’t hide from it, you still kinda can’t hide from it. And also seeing how it changes. How fast the place you grew up becomes unrecognizable.

EH: Mm.

PK: Definitely lately, that’s something that has been hitting me really hard. And I think Garet [Greitzer] too, he has some lines about it in Speedfreak.

EH: I wish I knew the lyrics to our stuff in that band.

PK: Same!

EH: Because I’m interested in what he’s saying. I hear him saying goofy stuff sometimes, but like you were saying earlier, that’s him expressing his “I’m a fuck-up”  mentality, that’s powerful.

PK: And that’s the teenage mentality too, you know, because he’s not a fuck up.

EH: Right, he’s like one of the most successful high schoolers I’ve ever known.

PK: Right! But he has that one where he says “I watch the city the change before my eyes.” I was listening to that in the car the other day, and was like, “Wow,” I kind of tried to forget about, but that is true. And I’m not the person to draw a larger lesson from it, but there’s definitely a lot to think about it in terms of capitalism and small towns and internet communities and, and how value and profit can change all those things pretty fast.

EH: Mhm.

Both: [Silence for a little bit]

EH: So I guess you would consider Kent to be a pretty big part of your identity.

PK: Absolutely. Absolutely.

EH: “Personal brand” is such a goofy thing to say, but I’ve only been here … six months?

PK: It changes you.

EH: I like it, I love this place.

PK: It’s still great, it’s still really, really great. My dad, he told me if I had told him I wanted to go to Kent six years ago, he would’ve told me “don’t.” But that’s probably the reason I remember it so fondly, is because I was a child. And I didn’t value things like excitement and large groups of people. It was probably pretty dead back then to be honest, but to be like a 9 year old and be like: “This place sells giant CDs,” that’s enough [to] just say [whispers] wow.

EH: So as far as eventually graduating and getting a “real” job, if that’s even what you’re going to end up doing, do you think you’re going to leave Kent, do you think that will affect you? Can you talk about that at all?

PK: I don’t know, I guess it’s just like — I think about that all the time. It’s one of those things where you don’t know and don’t have any answers. You just walk away with nothing…It’s tough to be able to make money off of doing simple drawings, but you can work remotely. I’ve always thought about Cleveland, it’s nice.

EH: Yeah, that’s where I grew up.

PK: Oh nice, which part?

EH: Not Cleveland proper, way out on the Northwest corner of Cuyahoga County. Bay Village. Very upper-middle class, white people, you know. But I’ve been all around the city as a youth and as an adult. It’s similar — it’s not quite as artistic, hippy artistic.

PK: Less Bohemian.

EH: Right, but similar mentality, I think, as far as creative culture goes.

PK: So maybe, we’ll see. It depends on how everything changes in the next five years.

EH: So what are you working on right now?

PK: Speedfreak T-shirt. I used to try to do a lot of self-exploratory, like “this is me” indie comics and stuff, but like I said, that’s a lot of pressure, so I’m kind of backed away from that. I wanna start making videos for Cool Dads because I’m really into motion-design, but comics too. I’ve seen a lot of comics recently that have been very interesting and very prominent as a way of cataloging the scene. Comics that are drawn in a humorous way, but there’s no slapstick, there’s no bit. There’s no comedic pacing, it’s just literally a biography. There’s one on Silver Sprocket, I just read that one, it was about the guys from Lemuria, they were playing this show in Europe and all these Nazis showed up.

EH: Oh! Yeah, Scotty [McMaster] was talking about that.

PK: It’s a wild comic.

EH: There’s a 45” Lemuria put out, and the insert is that comic.

PK: Oh, that’s really cool. But yeah, I was kind of waiting for a joke because you get in that formula.

EH: Yeah, that very realist-not realist, but documentarian, almost journalistic.

PK: Almost journalistic! Yeah, exactly. I’ve read a lot of comics and have been inspired by a lot of great comics. The writing is so good, the character development is so good, the aesthetic, the way it enhances the storyline is so good and powerful. There’s a lot of pressure to do that when you’re 20. So Scotty, he just did that one for Maximum Rock’n’Roll that’s just about his life, his week.

EH: And Scotty naturally has that little bit, that humor and personality, but he’s still talking about the same stuff.

PK: Right, “Here’s my friend, this is the show we went to,” just for the sake of being on paper. I never thought about that before until this interview, this is helpful. I learned a lot about myself.

EH: Me too!