Blasphemous Rumors
Let’s just get right to it
By David Holthouse

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Rumor(s): The Gin Blossoms have broken up; the Gin Blossoms have decided to release one more album and then break up; the Gin Blossoms will never play in public again.

True or false: Tough call. Several Tempe sources close to the band say consistently that the Gin Blossoms are together for now, but have decided that the next album will be their last. Those sources also said the band will play shows between now and the release of that record, but will not tour in support of it.

Blossoms front man Robin Wilson did not respond to requests for an interview, but Dead Hot Workshop drummer Curtis Grippe said last Friday afternoon that he had just spoken to Wilson, and that “Robin wants to put to rest the rumor that they’ve broken up. It’s untrue. Right now, [the Gin Blossoms] are preparing to make another record.” Grippe said he hadn’t spoken with Wilson about the GBs’ plans after that album.

Here’s what the band’s spokesperson at A&M Records had to say when initially contacted on September 27: “Last week, I asked the band pointblank if they were breaking up, and they said no, there will be a third record,” said Steve Karas. “If they had broken up, I would know.”

Karas said the likely source of the rumor was an onstage announcement Wilson made at a recent concert in L.A., where the Blossoms opened for Neil Young and Patti Smith at the Forum. According to Karas and Liz Morentin, an A&M publicist in Los Angeles, Wilson told the crowd, “This is our last show.”

“What he meant was, that was their last show on the tour,” says Morentin. “Not ‘this is our last show ever.’”

Asked specifically if the band would break up after the release of a third record, Karas said he would check with the band’s management and call back. He did. This is what he said: “Well, it wouldn’t be safe to say at this point that definitively that’s going to happen. I think it’s a crazy idea. Right now, they’re still a band and there will be a third record. But it’s a long way off from this moment, and who’s to say what’s going to happen next year sometime. That’s just playing prophecy.”

Rumor: The Meat Puppets have broken up, and Curt Kirkwood is pursuing a solo career.
True or false: False, according to Kirkwood.

Reached just as he left for a weekend camping trip, Kirkwood said through a friend that the Meat Puppets have no intention of breaking up, ever. A source close to the band says Curt is working on solo material at his home in Los Angeles, “. . . but with those guys, it could just as easily wind up on the next Meat Puppets record.” The source also said the Puppets haven’t been playing shows or working full-time on a new record because of a serious illness in the Kirkwood family, not any form of internal band strife.

Rumor: Dead Hot Workshop just got dropped from Atlantic Records.

True or false: False, says drummer Curtis Grippe--Dead Hot quit the bastards. “We went in a little naive,” says Grippe, “. . . and it turned into your typical record-company nightmare.” About a year after Dead Hot inked a deal with the New York indie label Tag Records in early 1994, Atlantic snapped up the label and turned Tag--and all Tag bands--into a subsidiary.

“They basically set it up to grab a bunch of bands, throw ’em all against the wall and see if any stuck,” says Grippe. “We were told we would be one of three bands on the label--we turned out to be one of 20. [Atlantic] went with the cheapest operation possible. The A&R guy who originally signed us left, and he was replaced with this guy just out of rehab. They had two guys working radio for 20 bands.

“The worst thing was, we’d be out on tour and we’d go into record stores and our record wouldn’t even be there. That is the most frustrating thing for a band you can imagine.”

Grippe says Dead Hot’s debut album for Atlantic, 1001, sold well in Phoenix; Minneapolis; and Charleston, South Carolina; but barely made a dent elsewhere. Other promising Tag bands--including Rusty, the Bottle Rockets and Madder Rose--have fared no better. “It’s a dead-end label,” says Grippe. “It was like playing for the Arizona Cardinals. How good you are as an individual doesn’t matter, because the organization as a whole is not going to win a championship.”

The one good thing Grippe does have to say about Atlantic is that the president of the label honored a verbal agreement to release the band on request if it wasn’t happy a year after Tag was sold.

Meanwhile, Grippe says Dead Hot is shopping demos to several labels--“I’d rather not say who, because I don’t want to jinx it.” The band also recently finished mixing a second album--New Favorites and Old Ones, Too--due to be self-released on October 8.

Rumor: The Smithereens lead singer/songwriter Pat DiNizio was recently in town to work with the Chimeras on songs for their debut record.

True or false: True, says Chimeras guitarist Mark Zubia. DiNizio was in Tempe for a Sunday-through-Thursday stretch at the request of Hollywood Records to co-write material for the Tempe band’s upcoming album (the Chimeras are slated to start recording in Los Angeles on November 4).

Zubia says he and DiNizio finished two songs in four days--“Somehow, Someway (It’s Easy Once You Play the Game)” and “Nothing Lasts Forever.” Then they cut demos of the tracks at the Gin Blossoms’ Mayberry studio and sent them to the Hollywood offices for approval. “They liked them, so they will be on the record,” says Zubia.

The Chimeras are also changing their name before that album is released--turns out there’s a band in Ireland with dibs on the mythical creature.

“We’re thinking about having a name-the-band contest, where the winner would get to be there while me mix the album or something,” says Zubia. “But I don’t know--I’m a little worried about who we could wind up sitting in the studio with.”

311 101

“Lots of people been talkin’ shit about the Junkeez lately,” front man Joey Valiente told a crowd of 16,000 at the Edge Fest, where the Phunk Junkeez supported 311 in their first hometown gig after booting Valiente’s longtime partner and co-MC Kirk Reznik from the band in late August. “We’ve just got one thing to say: It’s on!”

So were the Junkeez, the band I love to hate. Valiente may be a cocky little fiend, but he can still move a crowd, and you have to give props where props are due. When the pressure was on--and for the Edge Fest show, it was on high--Valiente, DJ Roach Clip and the rest of the Phunk Junkeez did what they had to. They didn’t suck without Kirk.

Roach Clip, who stepped out from behind his tables to rap Reznik’s former parts, proved he could handle a mike (dare we say, his flow is even smoother than Valiente’s? Yes, we do). However, the Junkeez’s new, funked-up material (Reznik was kicked out of the band in part because he didn’t want to go there) was received with notably less enthusiasm than the rest of its set, which was heavy on more hard-core-driven PJ standards like “Goin’ Down to Buckeye,” “Chuck,” and the pro-female protest anthem “Devil Woman.”

Jazz on la Rocas

It’s hard to complain about a jazz festival set in a natural amphitheatre surrounded by red rock on a sunny fall day in Sedona, but I’ve got a few complaints anyway about the 15th annual Sedona Jazz on the Rocks.

First, there was Arte Johnson, master of ceremonies. A former sportscaster, General Hospital actor and Laugh-In star, Johnson provided a torturous running commentary on the minutiae of piano tuning between one set, and gave pianist Diana Krall this no-brainer introduction:

“Now please welcome Diana Krall, the pretty lady with the sunglasses, and her wonderful, marvelous trio. She makes up one of the trio.”

Thanks, Arte.

Second, there was the sound. If you didn’t get to the festival by nine in the morning, and most of the 5,000 ticketbuyers didn’t, you were shut out of the first tier of seats, the only section to enjoy the kind of dynamic live-sound quality you should expect for a $40 ticket price. By the time the sound reached the second tier, it was thin and merely serviceable, and for the several hundred stragglers crammed onto two grass wedges back by the food booths, the music was cut in half by the occasional strong breeze.

That’s weak for a festival of this stature, and an easy problem to fix with just a few remote speakers.

I know, I know. I’m a Scrooge. Maybe I was just in a bad mood because the best band of the day--Jerry Gonzalez and the Fort Apache Band--came on at 10 a.m., right after the Sedona Jazz on the Rocks Youth Band (this was no fault of the festival’s--the band had to drive to Phoenix and catch a plane right after the set to make a club gig in New York the same night).

Gonzalez’s sextet laid aggressive jazz over intricate, serrano hot Afro-Cuban rhythms. Diana Krall was far less adventuresome, but her languid voice was a pleasure to hear. The Canadian pianist stuck close to tradition, playing mostly standards by artists like Oscar Peterson and Nat King Cole, but the highlight of her set was a from-nowhere blues jam by guitarist Russell Malone.

T.S. Monk (son of Thelonious) made a decent MC Hammer impersonator in his stylin’ vest (no shirt, buff arms), black fedora and shades (to say nothing of his self-aggrandizing stage announcements), but his band put a quick end to any confusion with its inspired take on Clifford Jordan’s “The Highest Mountain.” Monk’s usual six-piece band was bolstered for the Sedona festival by notable sax man Don Braden, whose presence more than compensated for several tepid solos by trumpet player Don Sickler.

End Notes

Two quick congrats--the first to The Headquarters for eight years in the head-shop business, and a nice little soiree at Gibson’s on September 27 to celebrate the same. Fred Green headlined (oh, surprise). Those guys should think about sending Primus and the Red Hot Chili Peppers thank-you notes, but they can lay down a mighty groove.

Lastly, props to Rhythm Room manager Bob Corritore for using his 40th-birthday party as an excuse to bring in Chicago piano man Henry Gray to cut a live blues album at the Room with Chico Chism’s Chicago Blues Band, also on September 27. The vibe there was purely pleasant, and Corritore busted out on the harmonica for the last set of the night, wailing over the top of Chico’s outfit and Gray’s barrel-house piano. Judging by a quick listen to the raw tape after the show, Corritore has some sweet material to work with.

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