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Clip: Steve Wynn Wall Street Journal

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  • Barry Mazor
    (From one of my competitors for stories at the WSJ. But I figured this lis= t will be interested -Barry MRock s Steve Wynn Defies the Laws Of
    Message 1 of 10 , May 5, 2004
      (From one of my competitors for stories at the WSJ. But I figured this lis=
      t will
      be interested <g> -Barry M


      Rock's Steve Wynn
      Defies the Laws
      Of (Musical) Nature

      By LUKE TORN
      May 5, 2004

      It's not supposed to happen this way. Rock 'n' rollers whose moment has pas=
      sed
      -- at least according to the dictates of mainstream tastes and marketplace =
      --
      are supposed to either ride the money-go-round on the nostalgia circuit or =
      fade
      into a kind of cultish obscurity. But in the case of Steve Wynn, an archite=
      ct of
      1980s punk and underground rock, an unlikely artistic rebirth in the past c=
      ouple
      of years has led to the most daring, explosive and soul-challenging music o=
      f his
      career.

      "There's this idea that after you pass a certain age or a certain point in =
      your
      career, you're supposed to get mellow or sophisticated or restrained or dig=
      nified,
      and I just don't see it that way," says Mr. Wynn. "This is the music I love=
      . It's the
      same thrill as riding a roller coaster or driving a car 100 miles per hour =
      or falling
      in love."

      As leader of underground sensations the Dream Syndicate in the early 1980s,=

      Mr. Wynn was submerged in dank, distorted, feedback-drenched rock 'n' roll =
      at a
      time when the medium was heading off into the glitz and image-consciousness=

      required by MTV. Mr. Wynn and his bandmates (especially unsung guitarist Ka=
      rl
      Precoda) were chasing the soul and the ghosts of rock's less-celebrated pas=
      t --
      cult artists like the Modern Lovers, Big Star and, especially, The Velvet
      Underground -- but were plugged right into Los Angeles's contemporary rock =

      renaissance that included kindred 1960s spirits like the Bangles and the Lo=
      ng
      Ryders.

      The group released five albums, including one as part of an ill-fated stint=
      with
      major label A&M, before imploding in 1989. Its first, 1982's "The Days of W=
      ine
      and Roses" (reissued in 2001 in an expanded edition by Rhino Records), fill=
      ed with
      smart, coruscating songs that revealed a poetic bitterness, remains a sonic=

      landmark more than two decades later, a beacon to latter-day rockers from
      Nirvana to the White Stripes. Much like its equally powerful second cousin,=

      Television's 1978 album "Marquee Moon," "The Days of Wine and Roses" contin=
      ues
      to inspire and mystify.

      "On a lot of the songs on 'The Days of Wine and Roses,' I was writing about=
      being
      world-weary, jaded," Mr. Wynn says. "All the things you're supposed to feel=
      when
      you're older, I was writing about when I was 20, and the funny thing is tha=
      t I feel
      less that way now that I am older."

      Indeed, in the 15 years since the Dream Syndicate's demise, Mr. Wynn has co=
      me
      full circle. After experiments with both a more ornamental sound (1992's
      "Dazzling Display") and quieter, folk-style material (1993's "Fluorescent")=
      , he's
      produced a trilogy that reconnects the kind of visceral guitar rock of his =
      past
      with more literary lyrical sensibilities: "My Midnight" (1999), "Here Come =
      the
      Miracles" (2001), and "Static Transmission" (2003). Though Mr. Wynn's stead=
      y
      post-Syndicate career has produced its share of highlights, these three alb=
      ums,
      dark with noirish sensibilities and sharply drawn, downwardly spiraling
      characters, burn with a lyrical intensity and musical abandon that most art=
      ists
      have a hard time rekindling after their initial flashpoint.

      "Two things helped focus what I was doing," says Mr. Wynn, a lifelong Angel=
      eno,
      about his songwriting renaissance. One was moving to New York, "a city that=
      has
      so much energy and inspiration. The other was playing with Gutterball [his =

      indie-rock supergroup, which also included the Long Ryders' Stephen McCarth=
      y] in
      the mid-1990s. That really was so important -- it freed me up and took me b=
      ack
      to the earliest excitement I had about just making music that thrilled me."=


      On "Here Come the Miracles," Mr. Wynn dove headlong into the apocalypse,
      California style. Populated by crazed killers, twisted psychodrama, and a
      plethora of ghosts from Charles Manson to a gallery of two-bit losers, it's=
      an
      epic, kaleidoscopic work. It's as if moving cross-country provided Mr. Wynn=
      the
      kind of perspective necessary to give his native land the madcap, indeed
      terrifying, tenor it deserved.

      "'Miracles' was such a dark, but also uplifting, confident swaggering kind =
      of
      record," says Mr. Wynn, and indeed the music press as well as Mr. Wynn's lo=
      yal
      constituency hailed the disc as his masterpiece, on par with iconic ancesto=
      rs like
      the Rolling Stones' "Exile on Main Street" and the Clash's "London Calling.=
      " "It was
      just one of those years where every decision and choice was the right one,"=
      he
      says.

      On each of his past three albums though, Mr. Wynn's songwriting has taken a=

      hardboiled turn, influenced by novelists like Jim Thompson, James Ellroy an=
      d his
      friend George Pelecanos as much as by like-minded songwriters like Tom Wait=
      s
      or Warren Zevon.

      "Integrating that whole hardboiled Raymond Chandler, James Cain, Ross McDon=
      ald
      thing into rock music, which is something Zevon did really well, is not wha=
      t many
      writers do," opines Mr. Wynn. "That kind of language and sensibility works =
      so well
      for lyric writing because it's short and terse and conversational, and myth=
      ical,
      too. That hardboiled stuff was so real that it was unreal."

      When it came time to record the follow-up, "Static Transmission," Mr. Wynn =

      found that the raucous chemistry underlying "Miracles" could not be recaptu=
      red.
      "In a way, going to the next record, I was thinking I'm just gonna do anoth=
      er
      record, a similar kind of thing," says Mr. Wynn. Yet the emerging feel of t=
      he
      sessions was both more solemn and schizophrenic.

      "What Comes After," the record's somber opening track, is a moving elegy th=
      at
      alludes to the shattering realities of 9/11, yet it's slippery enough to wa=
      rrant
      other interpretations. "To think that such a day would once terrify/I can't=

      believe it now," Mr. Wynn sings wearily.

      "When people say that this album was influenced by 9/11, it automatically o=
      pens
      up this can of worms," says Mr. Wynn. "It's a hard thing for a lot of write=
      rs,
      because you can't really write about it. But there's no avoiding it either.=
      And
      without being too heavy-handed, the way I just dealt with it was to write a=
      bout
      the feelings and how it made people feel."

      "I think sometimes you write something, and it's weird, but years later you=

      understand it," Mr. Wynn continues, reflecting on old songs that suddenly t=
      ook on
      new luster post-9/11. "You wrote it, your toured it, you've played it a mil=
      lion
      times, and you feel it, and, at some point, you really understand it. And I=
      don't
      know why that is; I think it's just that writing, you're tapping in to some=
      thing
      deeper than surface everyday feelings. It can be something that's inside yo=
      u, but
      it hasn't really come to the surface yet. And when it does, you say 'oh tha=
      t's
      what I was talking about.' I do my best writing when I'm actively taking in=
      a lot of
      stuff, a lot of reading, a lot of movie-watching. You can sit inside all da=
      y and try
      to write or you can go out and experience things, see things, and that'll f=
      uel the
      writing. I just take a character situation and follow it and pursue it to a=
      logical or
      illogical conclusion sometimes."

      A case in point is the high-wire act that is "Amphetamine," a driving, hypn=
      otic cut
      that is clearly the central track on "Static Transmission." In it, the prot=
      agonist,
      his head wrenched with meditations on fear, regret and mortality, heads out=
      on
      the highway for a glimpse of salvation. "I let go of the wheel and I flew i=
      nto the
      night," he blurts, as the song's trash-can rhythm and caged-tiger guitars a=
      rrive
      to kick the whole thing into overdrive.

      "I don't write about winners," Mr. Wynn says with a laugh. "I try to give t=
      hem
      advice, I try to help them through. But they just don't listen."

      Mr. Torn last wrote for the Journal on the Bob Dylan reissue series.
    • Carl Zimring
      Nice clip, thanks! Some good stuff on the context for Wynn s current career peak, including the on-the-money bit about Gutterball I clipped below. If the
      Message 2 of 10 , May 6, 2004
        Nice clip, thanks! Some good stuff on the context for Wynn's current
        career peak, including the on-the-money bit about Gutterball I clipped
        below. If the WSJ's editorial policy didn't make me ill at the thought of
        giving them money, I'd subscribe for acticles like this one.

        Carl Z.

        --On Wednesday, May 5, 2004 1:57 PM +0000 Barry Mazor <brmaz@...>
        wrote:

        > "Two things helped focus what I was doing," says Mr. Wynn, a lifelong
        > Angel=
        >
        > eno,
        > about his songwriting renaissance. One was moving to New York, "a city
        > that=
        >
        > has
        > so much energy and inspiration. The other was playing with Gutterball
        > [his =
        >
        >
        > indie-rock supergroup, which also included the Long Ryders' Stephen
        > McCarth=
        >
        > y] in
        > the mid-1990s. That really was so important -- it freed me up and took me
        > b=
        >
        > ack
        > to the earliest excitement I had about just making music that thrilled
        > me."=
      • Barry Mazor
        - If the WSJ s editorial policy didn t make me ill at the thought of ... Well, it s cheaper to get the online edition, not teven hat expensive. And
        Message 3 of 10 , May 6, 2004
          - If the WSJ's editorial policy didn't make me ill at the thought of
          > giving them money, I'd subscribe for acticles like this one.
          >
          > Carl Z.
          >
          Well, it's cheaper to get the online edition, not teven hat expensive. And
          listen--there's terrific reporting in there, for people who Need to Know. Online,
          you don't even SEE the editorials--and they generally don't let any of THAT
          infect the reporting or very much of the cultural stuff at all. I certainly have had
          no problem along those lines.

          And hey, while we're at it-ya get to read my stuff in there too every now in
          then. I had a piece on the Elijah Wald Robert Johnson book in there last week,
          and one on the "Night Train to Nashville" exhibitton at the Country Music Hall of
          Fame, rumor has it, will be appearing soon.

          But you could always check them out at-- a library?

          Barry M
        • Bob Soron
          ... I don t know if they include the WSJ -- they re mostly for free sites -- but you might keep tabs on bugmenot.com, a database of logins for various sites
          Message 4 of 10 , May 6, 2004
            > - If the WSJ's editorial policy didn't make me ill at the thought of
            > giving them money, I'd subscribe for acticles like this one.

            I don't know if they include the WSJ -- they're mostly for free sites --
            but you might keep tabs on bugmenot.com, a database of logins for
            various sites that require registration.

            Also keep in mind that much of the WSJ's content is carried by the Dow
            Jones Newswire -- if you can find a news source that includes them
            (maybe by searching Google News or Yahoo News), or search those sites
            for likely keywords in an article, it might turn up.

            Bob
          • Barry Mazor
            ... Not, as far as I know, leisure/arts features, Bob. But if I m wrong--clue me in! -Barry
            Message 5 of 10 , May 6, 2004
              --- In fearnwhiskey@yahoogroups.com, Bob Soron <bobsoron@t...> wrote:
              > > keep in mind that much of the WSJ's content is carried by the Dow
              > Jones Newswire --

              Not, as far as I know, leisure/arts features, Bob. But if I'm wrong--clue me in!

              -Barry
            • Bob Soron
              ... I bow to your first-hand knowledge -- especially since we have a free account at the office that gets both the Web and the DJNS feed, so it s all
              Message 6 of 10 , May 6, 2004
                On Thu, 6 May 2004 11:41pm, Barry Mazor wrote:
                > --- In fearnwhiskey@yahoogroups.com, Bob Soron <bobsoron@t...> wrote:
                >> > keep in mind that much of the WSJ's content is carried by the Dow
                >> Jones Newswire --
                >
                > Not, as far as I know, leisure/arts features, Bob. But if I'm
                > wrong--clue me in!

                I bow to your first-hand knowledge <g> -- especially since we have a
                free account at the office that gets both the Web and the DJNS feed, so
                it's all lumped together.

                Freeloader Bob
              • Barry Mazor
                Speaking of Steve Wynn--he s co-writer of a number of songs on a new--and dang good--CD from Louisiana twang/blues singer Mary McBride, who s these days an NYC
                Message 7 of 10 , May 7, 2004
                  Speaking of Steve Wynn--he's co-writer of a number of songs on a new--and dang
                  good--CD from Louisiana twang/blues singer Mary McBride, who's these days an
                  NYC resident. Her oncoming CD "By Any Other name," which was produced by
                  Mr. Lou Whitney is a 2004 winner, I say. (Folks like Drew Glackin of the Silos and
                  Tandy on lap steel and Delbert McClinton on harp and some back-up vocals) add
                  to the mix.

                  Don't know where I might or might not be reviewing this--but I wanted to bring it
                  up. McBride's sometimes compared to Lucinda, which is only rue to a point--but
                  it's definitley to a good side of Lucinda that she can be compared..

                  I'm looking forward to seieng this act at the Radio Cafe here in Nashville on May
                  25.. Th see her self-named website or Reality Entertainment.

                  Barry M
                • Carl Zimring
                  --On Friday, May 7, 2004 4:14 AM +0000 Barry Mazor ... Doesn t look like it -- I ll have to find my WSJ arts features at the library. Carl
                  Message 8 of 10 , May 7, 2004
                    --On Friday, May 7, 2004 4:14 AM +0000 Barry Mazor <brmaz@...>
                    wrote:

                    > --- In fearnwhiskey@yahoogroups.com, Bob Soron <bobsoron@t...> wrote:
                    >> > keep in mind that much of the WSJ's content is carried by the Dow
                    >> Jones Newswire --
                    >
                    > Not, as far as I know, leisure/arts features, Bob. But if I'm
                    > wrong--clue me in!

                    Doesn't look like it -- I'll have to find my WSJ arts features at the
                    library.

                    Carl Z.
                  • Carl Zimring
                    --On Friday, May 7, 2004 1:20 PM +0000 Barry Mazor ... Quite a mix of talent! Do you know a release date, Barry? Carl Z.
                    Message 9 of 10 , May 7, 2004
                      --On Friday, May 7, 2004 1:20 PM +0000 Barry Mazor <brmaz@...>
                      wrote:

                      > Speaking of Steve Wynn--he's co-writer of a number of songs on a new--and
                      > dang good--CD from Louisiana twang/blues singer Mary McBride, who's
                      > these days an NYC resident. Her oncoming CD "By Any Other name," which
                      > was produced by Mr. Lou Whitney is a 2004 winner, I say. (Folks like
                      > Drew Glackin of the Silos and Tandy on lap steel and Delbert McClinton
                      > on harp and some back-up vocals) add to the mix.

                      Quite a mix of talent! Do you know a release date, Barry?

                      Carl Z.
                    • Barry Mazor
                      ... Yeah--and I realize I forgot to mention that her elad guitarist is Dan Baird, who also cowrites some songs with her. ... now are selling it on the
                      Message 10 of 10 , May 7, 2004
                        --- In fearnwhiskey@yahoogroups.com, Carl Zimring <cz28@a...> wrote:
                        > Quite a mix of talent! Do you know a release date, Barry?

                        Yeah--and I realize I forgot to mention that her elad guitarist is Dan Baird, who
                        also cowrites some songs with her.


                        > WThe CD was out l in stores that still sell CDs <g> last week, and I believe it's
                        now are selling it on the marymcbride.com website, along with some samples.

                        Barry M.
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