Category Archives: devo
Wrapping things up here on the Robin Renee Blog Tour, and I want to thank everyone involved. Special thanks goes out to all the folks who participated and helped with to tour, including, and not limited to, Shelley Szajner, Marie Gilbert, Becca Butcher, Patti O’Brien, Fran Metzman, Ray Cornwall, Andy Burns, the South Jersey Writers, the GAR! Podcast, Biff Bam Pop!, and especially to Robin Renee herself. You all rock, very hard! Thank you!
Here is a breakdown of the stops on the Blog Tour.
Robin Renee is interviewed by Shelley Szajner here about inspiration, Kirtan, and This..
Marie Gilbert runs down some of the places where Robin can be found on the internet here.
Becca Butcher gives her thoughts on the This. release here.
Here, I give a song by song review of This., along with Robin adding her thoughts and observations as well.
Patti O’Brien talks about Robin’s music, and then interviews her about her travels here.
We return to Welcome to Hell, where guest blogger Fran Metzman interviews Robin about her influences, inspirations, and creative process. See it here.
Over on the South Jersey Writers blog, Marie Gilbert returns to interview Robin about encouragement, inspiration, and the ups and downs of a music career.
Robin was a guest on The GAR! Podcast where discussion included DEVO, David Bowie, Saturday Night Live music moments, and the creative process. You can listen to the episode here.
Thank you, everyone!
Hi folks, it’s been a long journey the past week and a half on the Robin Renee Blog Tour. Tonight, I wanted to share a few odds and ends that had to be edited for space in yesterday’s interview with Robin at Biff Bam Pop!. Here you go, enjoy!
Robin on Covers
We both have a deep love of covers, and I wanted to say that your quiet subtle version of Nick Lowe’s “Cruel to be Kind” is beautiful. What made you decide to do this song?
Robin Renee: Well, there’s a funny story. When I was in junior high school, I had a Ouija board. When my parents found out, they got all mad and took it away, thinking something evil would come through it or something. After that, I was pissed off and determined to have a Ouija board. I decided to make one by writing out all the letters on a chalkboard I had (in heavy pencil or some kind of ink). Next, I needed an indicator. I had the 45 record of “Cruel to be Kind.” I loved that song, but wasn’t crazy about whatever song was on the B-side, so I wound up using the record as the Ouija indicator with the B-side scratching against the board.
Wacky story, right? But unforgettable. So first, “Cruel to be Kind” is just a quintessentially great pop song. I was also a rather precocious person and was a bit interested in BDSM, so I liked the song title for that possible construed meaning. And finally, the song will forever be linked to that funny Ouija board memory for me. I guess when I made the All Six Senses album, it was just time to record a new take on this classic tune.
Robin on Devo Dan
Now you have done other covers of another type. Do you want to talk about Devo Dan?
Robin Renee: Devo Dan… Strange you should ask me about Devo Dan. From time to time, some people have told me I kind of look like him and some think I sound like him. I don’t really get it. But I finally looked him up and I like it a lot! It’s kind of synth pop meets the smooth sounds of the 70’s, or something like that. I found his story here and my favorite Devo Dan song is here.
Robin on the Mutant Mountain Boys
How about the Mutant Mountain Boys?
Robin Renee: I absolutely love being part of the Mutant Mountain Boys! We come from all over the country, so we get together when we can. The band is the brainchild of Samantha, whose musical favorites are Devo and Charlie Poole. She put the two together, added some Church of the Subgenius, and Presto! You’ve got a Devo-gone-bluegrass, SubG gospel band! We have so much fun, and I really hope we can figure out a way to get together and play more often. We need some nerds and geeks to invite us to play their favorite venues and conventions (hint, hint).
Check out “Look Away from the Pinks” and a few other Mutant Mountain Boys tunes.
Robin on the Holidays
You have also released a couple terrific and unique holiday songs over the years, “(Almost Had A) Holiday,” “The Yule Song,” and “Hare Krishna Christmas.” What can you tell us about these great tunes, and especially the video for that last one?
Robin Renee: I know, I didn’t set out to have a tradition of releasing holiday songs, but it seems a trend has started! Who knows – maybe there’ll be a holiday album one of these days that includes the tunes already recorded plus some more from various traditions. “The Yule Song” is to the tune of Adam Sandler’s “The Chanukah Song,” and it kind of serves the same humorous and serious function for those of us who celebrate Yule, or Winter Solstice in the Pagan traditions. “(Almost Had A) Holiday” is actually an original song I first recorded with a band I used to be in called The Loved Ones. It is upbeat, but about planning a perfect holiday with a partner only to have a breakup and wind up somewhere far away. It’s a fairly true-to-life song, and the cool thing about it is it’s come full circle – After many years apart, I have started spending Christmas Eves with that ex and his family. It’s a nice shift.
I wrote “Hare Krishna Christmas” (“Holly Jolly Christmas” parody) around the time I was first getting deeply into kirtan and bhakti. It was Christmastime and I was just in this really intense place of diving into something new while trying to uphold all the traditional stuff and holiday obligations. So, I was kind of laughing at myself and that song just came out while I was doing my holiday decorating. For the video, I asked friends to send me all kinds of holiday pictures, I had a few, and we used some royalty-free images, too, to come up with something kind of funny and also clearly embracing all winter holiday traditions.
Robin on Her Background
If I’m not intruding, could you tell us about your upbringing?
But seriously, folks… you aren’t intruding at all. It is a ginormous question, though. I grew up in Southern New Jersey and I was lucky in that my interest in music showed up pretty early and my parents were very supportive of that. They also encouraged my interest in science and I got to travel since I was fairly young, which I really appreciate. My parents are (were, actually – they are both deceased) my maternal grandmother and her second husband, who raised me from the beginning and adopted me when I was about five. She was black and he was white, so I had a completely biracial upbringing, though it took me a long time to recognize that as a big part of my identity. I’m really happy I understand that now. They had an interracial marriage several years before Loving v. Virginia, and while it was not illegal in New Jersey, I think it was courageous of them and probably wasn’t always easy early on.
There was always a lot of music in the house, and my parents were pretty metaphysical in their outlook. They were Christian, and also into Edgar Cayce, so I learned about meditation and other broad and alternative spiritual perspectives early on. My brother was there, then off at college & other travels, but we grew to have certain things in common like some musical tastes and love of cartoons. My grandmother (i.e. biological great-grandmother) lived with us, too, and she really was the overriding mother figure. I have often reflected that I think my relationship to Grandmom has been the purest of my life – there was just so much love without complication. My mom was pretty political, so I probably inherited the activist gene from her. Of course there is so much more, but I’m not sure what else I could say without writing a book here.
Robin on Wigheads
Tell us about Wigheads.
Robin Renee: I kinda have no idea. I love them. I find mannequins in general to be strangely compelling and beautiful – maybe that’s the New Wave/Gary Wilson aesthetic. Somewhere along the line, something moved me and I discovered that wig display heads are my canvas for now. I love making 3-D collages with them, and as I work it’s as if they start to tell me their story. Songs and other writings do that, too – they change and grow in the process. I’d like to make more wigheads, and to make photographs from them. I have a lot of other practical and artistic projects that seem to be ahead in line, but I haven’t forgotten them. One day, I’d love to do commissioned wighead works, like create them for clubs and other interesting spaces.
More to come!
“Jocko Homo” by DEVO
Over on The GAR! Podcast, as part of the Robin Renee Blog Tour, Ray and I interviewed Robin for about a half-hour or so. One of the things that came up in conversation was transformative moments in music on “Saturday Night Live.”
In those early seasons of the program I was exposed to many new musical experiences that shaped and influenced how I perceived music, and in the growing punk and new wave atmosphere of the late 1970s, “SNL” was full of new musical experiences. Both Robin and I were affected by an appearance by David Bowie. Ray talked about seeing Fishbone, although much later. I remember being amazed by Patti Smith, Elvis Costello, The Specials, The Clash, the B-52s, Gary Numan, and yes, DEVO.
I wouldn’t be as hardcore into the band as I was later in the Freedom of Choice and New Traditionalists years, but the visuals and sounds stayed with me. I was especially drawn to their cover of the Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” and that it did what all covers should seek to do, overtake the original. I still to this day feel the DEVO version is superior to the Stones’.
“Can’t Stand Losing You” by The Police
Back in the days before MTV, or before everyone except me had cable television and MTV, I would seek out every possible avenue to see music videos. Long about 1980, 1981, those avenues were few.
There was a program called “Rockworld” that aired on the pre-Fox channel 29, on the UHF dial for all the old folks reading, and that was one outlet for pre-MTV music videos. It was an hour long and would feature one or two artists or bands per episode, and there really weren’t that many episodes, and they repeated them often. This was where I saw many of the early videos by Adam and the Ants, DEVO, Van Halen, the Pretenders, and The Police.
The Police videos all looked they had been filmed on the same day, and quite possibly with a single budget. Besides “Can’t Stand Losing You,” one of my all-time favorites, there was also “Walking on the Moon,” “Message in a Bottle,” and of course, “Roxanne.”
Yesterday WYSP-FM changed their format and call letters to all sports and WIP-FM. I’m not a big sports fan other than Wings lacrosse and sometimes the Philadelphia Eagles or Dallas Cowboys (you know where to send the hate mail), I think it’s unfair for me to ask why we need another sports station in Philly, but there it is, ya know? It’s not the first time WYSP has changed formats, but never so drastic a change before.
I grew up with WYSP, from when I first became aware of FM radio in the mid-seventies to when I fell away from terrestrial radio a few years back and discovered the more eclectic satellite radio. In the radio wasteland of Philadelphia, WYSP was always the cooler, hipper choice when compared to direct rival WMMR and distant competitor WIOQ. I envisioned stoned ex-hippies at the former and future NPR listeners at the latter, whereas WYSP listeners seemed like either myself, or folks I wanted to hang out with. WYSP always had the new, newer and newest music and trends.
WYSP was originally the FM version of AM pop/rock station WIBG, and its call letters stood for “Your Station in Philadelphia.” It started rocking in the early 1970s and quickly became WMMR’s biggest competition. As I mentioned, WYSP always seemed to have newer music and harder rock than WMMR. Those that listened could usually tell the difference with hearing a DJ or a station ID. WYSP was the first place I heard DEVO, Adam and the Ants, the Sex Pistols, Joan Armatrading, and even Rick Springfield.
When WYSP had news, it was cool news, same with the talk. I remember the Source days with Cyndy Drue, the Dr. Demento show and the Comedy Hour on Sunday nights. I remember the engineer who did the dead-on Mr. Rogers imitation and recorded versions of “Cat Scratch Fever” and “Iron Man.” I remember Ask Anita. I remember listening to “Innerview” with Jim Ladd, as he talked with Roger Waters about what “The Wall” was really about, and when he interviewed Ray Manzarek telling apocryphal tales of the late Jim Morrison. I remember learning of John Lennon’s death from WYSP.
I remember the Howard Stern years, along with the Opie and Anthony years. I remember the two weeks after 9/11 when WYSP was all talk, taking calls from listeners twenty-four hours a day and letting them vent, grieve or just talk. This is not as sad as that, but it like losing a lifetime friend. Even if I haven’t seen you in a while, you were a friend. I will miss you, WYSP, and so will all of Philadelphia and the surrounding area. Goodbye, old friend…