inkwell.vue.164 : Stew, "Welcome Black"
permalink #51 of 338: Alan L. Chamberlain (axon) Fri 25 Oct 02 18:15
>your accusations of similarities are highly bogus

Okay, first off, I'm not *accusing* you in any way.  I thought I made
it clear that I knew you weren't copping anyone else's shit.  But "Bong
Song" put me in mind of A2A.  I'm not saying it's a ripoff or anything
similar.  I'm saying I picked up a resonance from a similar device in
the Bowie tune.  I'm not reaching; I just thought "hey that sounds like
that Bowie tune!" when I heard it.  Just an impression.

With "Is This The Single?" I was banging my head against the desk,
trying to figure out where I'd heard that figure.  Then I was in the
car and I just started singing along "save it for later", etc.  Again,
just my impression.  And I wanted to know whether it was conscious or
unconscious or just a weird coicidence in my perception.

So I asked.  And I learned that you're engaged in a dialog with music
from the past.  Interesting.  Didn't know that before.  The blessings
of dialog, even filtered through misunderstanding and projections of
bad faith, are manifold.

Anyway, I'm certainly *not* trying to be "confrontational".  I
encountered this material, largely as a deliberate critical exercise
(and maybe that's not a good approach, but hey, those are the cards I
was dealt on this one).  I write, play, and record music, myself.  I'm
always on the lookout for quirky stuff I can do in my bossa act.  So
here's this guy with all sorts of great buzz, not at all mainstream,
willing to talk about the work, so okay let's give it a listen and
maybe figure out what he's doing by *asking*.  That's all I'm trying to
do here.  Call and response.  Inquiry and narrative.  Analysis and
synthesis.  Science and art.
inkwell.vue.164 : Stew, "Welcome Black"
permalink #52 of 338: Dennis Donley (dennisd) Fri 25 Oct 02 18:37

and, when you have the time, how about some reflections on touring with
Arthur Lee and Love.
inkwell.vue.164 : Stew, "Welcome Black"
permalink #53 of 338: gone (scraps) Fri 25 Oct 02 18:40

Thanks for coming here, Stew.

Two trivial questions and one more serious one:

Any chance you'll play "Any One But You" live?  I love the Kristian 
Hoffman album, and listening to that song was the first I really realized 
hom much I like your singing, even apart from your songwriting.

Are you familiar with songwriters Scott Miller and Franklin Bruno?  They 
often get accused of being more cerebral than emotional (or soulful, or 
sexual, or glandular, or whatever).  There's obviously a more than 
ordinary amount of craftsmanship that goes into your work than most 
songwriters; have you been hit with the "too cerebral" brickbat?  If so, 
what do (would) you say to that?
inkwell.vue.164 : Stew, "Welcome Black"
permalink #54 of 338: Stew (blackstew) Fri 25 Oct 02 19:00
ok axon,
we are straight. i see where you are coming from and maybe you see me
a bit clearer too. 

>I encountered this material, largely as a deliberate critical 
>exercise (and maybe that's not a good approach

i think you hit the nail on the head. thats the vibe that was bugging
me. but again, i'm cool with you now and quite frankly you must be
alright cuz i think alot of BLT myself. 
inkwell.vue.164 : Stew, "Welcome Black"
permalink #55 of 338: Stew (blackstew) Fri 25 Oct 02 19:21
regarding touring with Love, lemme get to that another day. theres
alot to say about it. for now, lemme say touring the UK with someone as
revered as Arthur is over there, whose music I happen to worship, and
being accepted so sweetly by his audience...well, the phrase "dream
come true" is overused but it sho nuff applies in this instance. 

As for singing that Hoffman tune onstage you mean by my self?  hmmm i
doubt it. Its too high for me anyway. I'm sure i'll get around to
singing it live with Mr Hoffman soon enough.

I'm a big Scott Miller fan and he has been generously turning what
seems like thousands of people on to me for years now. Aint a corner of
this nation that I dont meet someone who says Miller turned them on.
The guy is a sweetheart and an amazing writer. 
Bruno i've heard of but never heard his stuff.

I dont think i've ever been accused of being too cerebral. I think
every record i've ever done has strong evidence to the contrary! I
think there are more songs on my records about sex, interesting women
and drugs than there are about "heavy" issues. I dont know if I even
have any heavy issue songs. From a musical point of view sure, i know
there are folks who can't stand the baroque nature of some of the

if someone told me they didnt get Scott's music, for instance, cuz it
was too "cerebral" i'd just say say "Yo, yer too stupid to realize how
soulful the guy's music really is." 

I'm very wary of how terms like "soul music" get bandied about. There
is a white liberal illusion that soul singers, for instance, just go
into the studio and "let it all hang out" while white musicians tend to
tinker. Few know however that Al Green was an overdubbing fiend who
was an absolute genius at making his vocals SEEM spontaneous in the
studio when actually he would do take after take to get those "off the
cuff" yelps and moans just right.
inkwell.vue.164 : Stew, "Welcome Black"
permalink #56 of 338: something named (stdale) Fri 25 Oct 02 20:04
I'm about to turn this infernal machine off and leave the office, but I did
want to jump in and say how glad I am to see you here, Stew.  (this is Shaun
from Cosmik Debris in Seattle).
inkwell.vue.164 : Stew, "Welcome Black"
permalink #57 of 338: OZRO W. CHILDS (oz) Fri 25 Oct 02 21:43
You know, I wouldn't ask Hunter what his songs for the Dead meant, and Lord
knows no one can ask Dylan what *his* songs meant without ending up sounding
like a fool.  If they hook you so much you internalize the lyrics, they can
have a deep meaning for you; if not, not.  But I do love it when songwriters
can talk, free-form, about what interests them in relation to their music
and life, so this has been a great experience so far.  Welcome, Stew!
inkwell.vue.164 : Stew, "Welcome Black"
permalink #58 of 338: Laura Proctor (proctor) Fri 25 Oct 02 22:04
I'm catching up here, and glad to hear that you're a Chocolate Genius fan. I
heard him recently in concert with Ben Folds and Stephin Merritt; i had never
heard him before but came away a fan. Unfortunately, the consensus among a lot of
people who had heard him before seemed to be that his work was, shall we say, on
the monochromatic side.

Anyway, I told a friend of mine that you were hanging out in inkwell, and he
asked me to forward this question:

"Hi, Stew--One of the things I like most about your songs is that they often
seem highly character-driven. In particular, the character sketches in your
songs remind me a lot of a bunch of really great novels that Gavin Lambert
wrote in the 1960s and '70s. I guess there's not really much more to it than
the LA connection, and a feeling that your characters and his characters
are often emotionally adrift or caught up in fringe-y environments, but I'll
ask if you've read him anyway, and recommend him if you haven't."
inkwell.vue.164 : Stew, "Welcome Black"
permalink #59 of 338: Kosher Swan (shmo) Fri 25 Oct 02 23:05

Among Stew's panoply of gifts as a songwriter is his ability to evoke the
sensation of driving through/around Los Angeles. Perhaps the ONLY way to
understand L.A. is driving through it. Stew's songs capture that indefinable
experience, via the point-of-view of someone in a car or a bus, and so his
chronicles become a kind of sensual/spiritual atlas of the behemouth
megalopolis. Very few composers/artists have been able to grab hold of the
beast in just this way. It's way more than simply listing place names. The
Beach Boys, for example, or more specifically Brian Wilson, don't really do
it. They have a sound that has come to be associated with SoCal, yes, but
it's so very tied to the whole coastal scene, which is but a fragment of the
Los Angeles organism. The Eagles, too, have been ascribed this L.A.-vibe,
but they also function more as a media-hyped "Industry" version of the town.

The Stew canon is about the most successfully comprehensive conduit I can
think of for this elusive feeling. And I say this as one who grew up here in
the city and one who has spent a goodly portion of my life driving its
streets and alleys.

Love's "Forever Changes" nails that vibe. So does Spirit's "12 Dreams of Dr.
Sardonicus." In a slightly different way so does Jackson Browne's first
record, sometimes called "Saturate Before Using" and sometimes just called
"Jackson Browne." Beyond those three, there's really only Stew's oeuvre. At
least to this Angeleno. Others have attempted it, but without much success,
as far as I'm concerned.

Stew, perhaps you'll comment on tapping into the Pueblo de Los Angeles muse?
She's a lady who has inspired you and repelled you and sticks to your music
like a photochemical residue. Does it have anything to do with this being
the birthplace of your imagination?
inkwell.vue.164 : Stew, "Welcome Black"
permalink #60 of 338: Stew (blackstew) Sat 26 Oct 02 01:40
Hi Shaun! 

>so this has been a great experience so far.  Welcome, Stew!

thanks OZ. its been a cool experience for me as well.

>Gavin Lambert

never heard of him but i'm going to look out for him. i'm at a point
in my life where i'm trying to ease my way back into reading fiction.
generally, a tight essay or a long, intense, well written report from
some faraway land is more my speed. Harpers and The New Yorker tend to
rule my little reading world. Along with the odd musician bio. as far
as characters caught up in fringy environments, yeah, that sounds like
my world alright. 

>Stew, perhaps you'll comment on tapping into the Pueblo de Los
>Angeles muse? She's a lady who has inspired you and repelled you and
>sticks to your music like a photochemical residue. Does it have
>anything to do with this being the birthplace of your imagination?

were it not so late i'd actually like to address why i'm so deeply
uncomfortable with the idea of a sexualized muse! this is not a
feminist issue with me but rather an attempt to think clearly about the
creative process...(something i NEVER think about, by the way). 

i know its off the subject but i've always wanted to mention that muse
thing. Anyway...

I think being born in the home of the dream factory made me happily
and comfortably cynical and thus CONSTANTLY aware of the fact that
NOTHING was as it seemed. When i began to contrast my world view with
folks from all over the world i started to see how fucked and blessed i
was to be born here. A line i always carry in my head is one spoken by
either gerard melanga or warhol who said after visiting LA that LA was
far more decadant than NY because in NY everything was out in the open
but in LA some house with a white picket fence could be shooting porno
behind the door.

i'm paraphrasing but you get the drift. 

i think my songs are often about that house.
inkwell.vue.164 : Stew, "Welcome Black"
permalink #61 of 338: Berliner (captward) Sat 26 Oct 02 02:14
Well, I can see that we're off to a good start here. 

I'd somehow taken the LA connection for granted, but yes, that's
definitely something that stands out about your stuff: it couldn't have
come from anyone from anywhere else. The knowing remake of Mc Arthur
Park certainly proves that, but there are thousands of other details
that just say LA: the story in "Re-Hab," for one, would have played out
way differently had it happened in New York. 

And, of course, one of the signature LA musicians in your story has to
be Arthur Lee. Once you're refreshed, I'd love for you to share a
couple of things about him. First, what your discovery of his work
meant to you when it happened (and when *did* it happen? Probably not
as he was creating it) and second, what it was like touring with him.
The "Invisible Jukebox" feature that ran in The Wire magazine a couple
of months ago made him seem rather odd and disconnected, but that could
have been t heir fault as much as his. Did you find yourself
connecting with him on any personal or professional level, or did you
just find yourself sitting there night after night going Damn! 
inkwell.vue.164 : Stew, "Welcome Black"
permalink #62 of 338: Betsy Schwartz (betsys) Sat 26 Oct 02 08:59
There are some tantalizing snippets of sound at:,,649933,00.html
inkwell.vue.164 : Stew, "Welcome Black"
permalink #63 of 338: Ashby de la Zouch (ormus) Sat 26 Oct 02 10:43
Yo Stew, hier ist deined Freund aus Los Angeles, Bruce Hollihan.
Give my regards to Chuck Pagano and Andy Sykora.
-Bruce (now residing in Seattle)
inkwell.vue.164 : Stew, "Welcome Black"
permalink #64 of 338: Stew (blackstew) Sat 26 Oct 02 11:23
i discovered arthur's work when the only music that really meant
anything to me was punk rock and james brown. i actually met arthur at
a party, didnt know who he was and laughed as only a 17 yr old punk
rocker can laugh when told he was in a band called LOVE. i literally
snickered thru the whole meeting. ah, the arrogance of youth. two weeks
later i copped forever changes for 49 cents took to my friend's house
who also had met arthur and put it on. We sat in silence for the
entirety of side one. Then the record was turne
d over also with neither of us saying a word. After the record was
done i said "I cant believe we were just in the same room with this

After dealing with all the narrow minded ill informed folks who were
continually freaked out by black people (read: me and my friends)
playing rock music, hearing Arthur was pretty much the "fuck you and go
do your homework" kiss-off i'd been waiting to give them. So now, if
Hendrix wrote the rock guitar vocabulary and Arthur basically invented
psychedelic pop and Tom Wilson produced Dylan, the Mothers the Velvets
and also changed the direction of popular music by throwing drums onto
"Sounds of Silence" then how is this not black music? Or better, how
can you put a color on it?

On touring with Arthur - one thing Rodewald and I are good at is not
making pests of ourselves in the midst of big rock stars. The whole
schmoozy "lets get personal" aspect of the backstage music world is
kinda off putting to us. And I think this is why Arthur liked us so
much. We actually let him come to us. And he did. Most people hound

Everytime we talked he was always a complete gentleman and extremely
complimentary. The main thing about Arthur that is probably impossible
to convey via the written word is that he is EXTREMELY funny. But his
humor has a very sharp edge. One time he came into our dressing room
and we started to engage in some jokey chatter and he was in rare form.
Now like most black americans, Arthur is bi-lingual and the more we
joked the more "ghetto" the exchange became. But while I was laughing
my ass off i also sensed no one else around was laughing. 
I have a feeling he gets into that situation alot.

I guess the ice was broken early in the tour when he sent for me in
his dressing room and told me how much he liked "Re-Hab." the song, i
mean. And during the american tour he'd often come out and listen to
our set which really meant alot to Rodewald and I.
inkwell.vue.164 : Stew, "Welcome Black"
permalink #65 of 338: Stew (blackstew) Sat 26 Oct 02 11:25
>Bruce Hollihan.

Hey Bruce. Nice to know yer here.
inkwell.vue.164 : Stew, "Welcome Black"
permalink #66 of 338: Scott Underwood (esau) Sat 26 Oct 02 11:27
Do you have any connection with -- or see any value in -- the Black Rock
inkwell.vue.164 : Stew, "Welcome Black"
permalink #67 of 338: Berliner (captward) Sat 26 Oct 02 11:36
Shit, Stew, you want to talk about black rock and roll, I have two
words for you: Earl Palmer. I could get all technical about the
difference between a swing beat and a rock and roll beat, but you can
hear him invent the shit in the sessions for "Tutti Frutti" there in
New Orleans. So it goes back even before Tom Wilson. 

But you knew that. 

And...good question about the Black Rock Coalition. I was gonna ask it
inkwell.vue.164 : Stew, "Welcome Black"
permalink #68 of 338: Stew (blackstew) Sat 26 Oct 02 11:50
I'm a member of the Black Rock Coalition. In all honesty my record
company at the time signed me up back in 2000. The New York chapter has
been amazingly supportive of me and they are a very motivated group of
folks. They do incredible work. 
They sponsor alot of cool shows and have an amazing electronic
newsletter. Oddly enough I've never had any dealings with the LA
I definitely see value in it. I think every group thats trying to do
something/anything should concentrate on institution building. 
And in my case BRC is very helpful cuz it hooks me up with a group of
like minded (or at least "like-experienced") folks who get what I'm
going thru. 
I just taped a BET thing called "Lyric Lounge." Whether it gets
broadcast or not is another story but its a joy for me to play to
audiences outside the indie-rock sphere. 
inkwell.vue.164 : Stew, "Welcome Black"
permalink #69 of 338: Berliner (captward) Sat 26 Oct 02 11:52
I've heard two weird things about some future plans of yours.

One is some American Songwriters festival at...Carnegie Hall?
April, I think.

The other is that you're collaborating with Robert Wilson? 

Huh? Care to comment? 
inkwell.vue.164 : Stew, "Welcome Black"
permalink #70 of 338: Stew (blackstew) Sat 26 Oct 02 12:03
speaking of Earl Palmer, maybe thats why after hearing most overplayed
50's tunes i'm a little bored but those Little Richard sides always
make me feel like i'm hearing them for the first time. 

But Ed, i hear what yer saying but you've got to see that the whole
"Black Presence in Rock History" wasnt the issue when I was growing up.
Everybody was aware of that. It was more a question of blacks staying
in  there musical place. So it was ok to be bluesy but it wasnt ok to
like Sparks. Some of Arthur's music had a fey aspect to it which, by
stereotypical american macho standards, was not "black." If your
diction was good you were singing "white." 
inkwell.vue.164 : Stew, "Welcome Black"
permalink #71 of 338: Stew (blackstew) Sat 26 Oct 02 12:08
>One is some American Songwriters festival at...Carnegie Hall?
>April, I think.
>The other is that you're collaborating with Robert Wilson? 

Whoa Nellie!!! me and Wilson are just talking. no plans or anything.
lets not start any rumours. he likes the music and thats it for now.

Yeah, this American Songwriters thing is at Lincoln Center.
April 3rd. I really dont know much about it yet so i cant say
inkwell.vue.164 : Stew, "Welcome Black"
permalink #72 of 338: Berliner (captward) Sat 26 Oct 02 12:19
Fair enough, and yeah, you're right about staying over on your part of
town, musically speaking. I forget sometimes that you're a bit younger
than me...a good bit! 

When do you suppose this musical segregation really started, anyway? I
mean, it's always been there in that there's been a "Rhythm and Blues"
and a "Pop" chart, and those who made it from the former to the latter
were "crossover" artists, but when do you think it was the audience --
those kids who laughed at you for liking Sparks -- finally bought into
inkwell.vue.164 : Stew, "Welcome Black"
permalink #73 of 338: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sat 26 Oct 02 15:04
An aside - love was my favorite rock band through Love Four Sail, at least... 
but I remember when the first album came out, and Da Capo, I kept looking at 
those photos of Arthur and trying to figure out whether he was black, because 
he didn't write or sound black. I think that was when I realized how deep the 
ruts were in my head, even then.
inkwell.vue.164 : Stew, "Welcome Black"
permalink #74 of 338: Stew (blackstew) Sat 26 Oct 02 15:43
>when do you think it was the audience --
>those kids who laughed at you for liking Sparks -- finally bought

i dont really know. my memories of those days are rather hazy.
i suppose the racial divide within life itself eventually inched its
way into the music. But thats really not my area of expertise.
i do remember listening to Abbey Road the week it was released in a
bedroom with about five serious teenage fellows all of whom looked like
they were in the Black Panthers (one of them was my 16 year old
cousin) who listened with an instensity that seemed to convey we were
all receiving a serious communique from some psychedelic crypto-marxist
front line, awaiting orders of some sort. I also remember the air
being thick with the fragrance of something quite unlike the smell of
my father's Camels.

Five or so years later I suggested to a girl at my school that if she
liked Bowie's "Fame" single so much she should pick up the Young
Americans record. She looked at me as if i had advised her to wear a
glazed donut as a hat. The idea of buying a "white" record was
completely absurd to her -- EVEN THOUGH SHE ADORED THE SINGLE! Go
figure that out! 

come to think of it, while its true that most folks bought into the
racial division of music, the people that really influenced me never
did. Music geeks, be they black or white, always find each other. Its a
radar thang. 
inkwell.vue.164 : Stew, "Welcome Black"
permalink #75 of 338: Dan Levy (danlevy) Sat 26 Oct 02 16:06

The flipside to that is that around the Rhino Records store on Westwood
Blvd. there was a lot of cognitive dissonance around the release of
"Young Americans."  

Rhino was the local coolboy record store for my scene (Uni Hi '75) and 
one of the epicenters of the "Disco Sucks" movement.  It was also, of course,
a major hotbed of Bowie cognoscenti, so Bowie's foray into black music
(and let's face it, the Disco Sucks movement had strong racist overtones,)
was viewed with derision.  The problem was that "Young Americans" was a 
kickass album, and much disco music was marvellous, and the gang of musos
who hung out at Rhino was polarized between those who knew all these things
and could bask in the contradictions and those for whom it took a few years
to accept what Bowie was doing (approximately until "More Songs About
Buildings and Food" came out, I'd reckon.)

Anyway, hi, Stew.


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