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DJ Rock

Ride 'em, Smog boy: Bill Callahan hits the Valley on Monday.

Much of the discussion surrounding the growth of DJ culture had focused on the myriad subgenres and styles that have exploded in recent years. From drum 'n' bass, house and jungle to techno, trance and acid jazz, it seems that each season brings with it a new prevailing trend.

But here in the Valley, one of the fastest growing (and largely unheralded) segments of the DJ population are those turntablists who spin non-dance-oriented vinyl. Among the most notable up-and-comers are a phalanx of East Valley retro and trash-rock exponents like the Destroy Your Generation DJ, Vil Vodka, and DJs Chad and No Cover. While these folks don't claim to be masters of body tricks or beat juggling, they have managed to carve out a respectable niche within the local club circuit -- especially at venues like Cannery Row and Jugheads.

The latest among these new names is a decidedly more indie-rocking collective known as Signal/Noise.

This week the group began a Tuesday night residency at Mickey's Hangover, located in the nightclub district of Scottsdale's Fifth Street. (Don't let the address put you off; Mickey's offers a far more laid-back and less testosterone-dominated environment than the neighboring meat market watering holes).

Signal/Noise features a quartet of record spinners led by Modified impresario and former Half Visconte front man Scott Tennent, as well as . . . and guppies eat their young bassist Lindsay Cates (see the story on page 92). Rounding out the lineup are King of the Monsters label honcho Mike Genz and former Tellers guitarist Brandon Capps.

The crew is expected to carry crates filled with a diverse selection of material that will bounce between a variety of styles. Though focused primarily on indie and post-rock, the sets will also include liberal doses of post-punk, New Wave and pop as well as some electronic and i.d.m.

Signal/Noise happens every Tuesday at Mickey's Hangover in Scottsdale from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m.

Wild Bill: We had originally anticipated leading this week's music section with a feature on Smog and its leader (and only permanent member) Bill Callahan. Over the course of a dozen years, 10 albums and a handful of EPs, the Chicago-based Callahan has helped define underground rock with a succession of home-recorded masterpieces. Based on his work, we expected Callahan's personality to be much like his music -- quiet, gloomy and shot through with an understated sense of humor and irony.

Instead of the usual telephone interview, Callahan's publicist at Drag City Records suggested we contact him via e-mail because "he prefers it like that." Fair enough. After all, if he's more comfortable doing it that way, he'll probably be more responsive -- or so we mistakenly thought.

While our questions were both brilliantly penetrating and supremely well-researched, the bulk of Callahan's responses were, um, weird, to say the least. Replies ranged from a curt "I can't answer this" to similarly uninsightful explanations on how his work has evolved over the years, such as: "The songs start and end in the same way as ever before, that is: they just appear without thought."

More peculiar highlights from our conversation included Callahan playing possum in response to a query about his role as a pioneer of "lo-fi" recording: "I don't know what lo-fi is. You seem to be saying it's converse to being 'instrumentally involved,' so that would mean that the early records were not instrumentally involved. But instruments were definitely involved in the early records. I distinctly remember holding a guitar at one point, and I'm almost positive I pressed a piano key."

Taking the point about "lo-fi" music even further, Callahan noted his disdain for the way people tend to label things: "I don't embrace any terms. Terms are what has ruined us. Naming things is bad. Animals, bands, penises."

Though we assured Callahan that we had no intention of naming his penis (or anybody else's, for that matter), the songwriter still refused to open up, preferring to keep tongue planted firmly in cheek with each successive answer.

Asked for his impression of Smog's most recent release, 2000's sprawling double disc Dongs of Sevotion, he came up with this nugget: "The last record reminded me of a press kit that talked about Dylan. I like Benny Hill's impersonation of Dylan. But I'm no Benny Hill."

Um, okay.

Questioned about the sometimes humorous quality of his lyrics, Callahan once again demurred in his own inimitable fashion. "I don't know that there is much to say about humor. Explaining a joke ruins it, etc. Much time in the studio is spent laughing. A chuckle mostly. The best music makes me laugh, but not in an expected way necessarily. In the studio it's the laughter of Steve McQueen in his bathrobe after a brisk cash bath in The Thomas Crown Affair."  

Uh, of course.

Sensing that things had already gone horribly awry, we figured we had nothing to lose and decided to lob Callahan a Baba Wawa-type softball, asking him about his "connection" to his audience. "I'm not sure what a connection to the audience is. Music is heard in all different ways. So it is not just one thing, like 'this is confessional' or 'attention: this is black humor.' Everyone focuses on different aspects, and interprets them further based on their own experience. This is how music is like silence. It gives you the space to think, and the hook to hang something on. Sometimes your self."

Benny Hill doing an impersonation of Bob Dylan? Steve McQueen taking a brisk cash bath? Music is like silence? Christ, after this surreal barrage, we were ready to hang ourselves from the nearest hook we could find. Which just goes to show that sometimes the most entertaining interviews are also the most frustrating.

Despite our rather odd exchange, Bash & Pop will still be front and center to catch Smog, as the -- and we know how much you hate "terms," Billy, but there's just one word for you -- inscrutable Mr. Callahan performs this Monday, June 18, at Nita's Hideaway in Tempe. Showtime is 9 p.m.

Bob's Yer Uncle: The last time Dayton's Guided by Voices performed in the Valley -- back in early April -- the band's backstage contingent included what seemed like the bulk of group leader Bob Pollard's extended family, including his parents and an army of drinking buddies.

The band began its marathon outdoor session with a take of "Titus and Strident Wet Nurse" (a cut from the newly released concept comp Colonel Jeffery Pumpernickel), ran through about 40 or so numbers from the GbV catalogue and ended in a flurry of encores which included covers of the Who and David Bowie (sadly, GbV classics "A Salty Salute" and "Big School" were absent from the set). Having enjoyed the show under the optimum conditions -- drunk with head pressed against the speaker tower -- we came to a handful of conclusions:

No one else -- and this includes the reunited Who -- should ever perform "Baba O'Riley" again, as GbV's version simply obliterates anyone else's pathetic attempts to capture the spirit, force and volume of the song.

GbV axmen Doug Gillard and Nate Farley are the most exciting guitar tandem working in music today -- a pair of windmilling, Jack Daniel's-swigging powerhouses who work together like a Keith and Ronnie for the new millennium.

Southpaw drummer Jon McCann and bassist Tim Tobias are as rock solid a rhythm section as there is. Plus, if you throw a beer can at Tobias, he will "come out there and kick your ass."

Oh yeah, Guided by Voices is the greatest rock 'n' roll band in the world.

While the group continues to find success with the recently released Isolation Drills, the latest bit of GbV news surrounds the première of a new video -- the band's first in nearly five years. The trippy clip for the album's second single, the bouncy "Glad Girls," was created by director Noel Honig, utilizing a new digital method that recalls the paintings of photorealist Chuck Close and the vibrant colorscapes of the Beatles' Yellow Submarine.

The video has aired infrequently on MTV and MTV2, but fans will probably have a better shot of catching it online at the band's official Web site (www.gbv.com).

And while we usually try to refrain from overly hyperbolic concert recommendations, we'll make an exception in the case of GbV and simply say that if you miss the group's upcoming show, you're a damn fool and should be stripped naked, strapped to a chair and forced to spend eternity braiding Justin Timberlake's hair into cornrows while the extended dance remix of 'N SYNC's "Pop" plays at levels so intense as to make your ears bleed.

Guided by Voices performs at Nita's Hideaway on Tuesday, June 19, with Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. Showtime is 9 p.m.

Release Me: This week's local concert calendar includes a pair of CD release celebrations. The first is from Tempe indie-poppers the Loud Americans (who will be the subject of an in-depth feature in the coming weeks). The band will be performing as part of a five-way package along with This Bike Is a Pipe Bomb, the Devil Is Electric, the Bananas, and Thee Apologies this Saturday, June 16, at Modified. Available at the show will be copies of the Loud Americans' fine self-titled debut album. The eight-song disc (highlighted by the Replacements-meets-Superchunk word play of "Sentimental Heart") will be on sale for $5.  

The week's second disc comes from outlaw bluegrass outfit Crooked County. Though not technically a Valley band -- the group actually hails from the wilds of Indiana -- Crooked County is releasing its sophomore album, Drunkard's Lament (following on the heels of last year's Whiskey Bums -- you see a pattern?), on local twang imprint Rustic Records.

The group will mark the occasion with a performance this Saturday, June 16, at Nita's Hideaway in Tempe. Rustic Records mates the Trophy Husbands and Moon Valley country merchants the Cartwheels will also perform. Showtime is 9 p.m.


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