Posts Tagged With: Skillet Gilmore

Whiskeytown: Still clearing the room

Jeff Wall calls himself BigDumbHick — and while he may be large and rurally inclined, I’m here to tell you that he sure as hell ain’t dumb. Jeff is a right fine singer/songwriter as well as an enjoyably thoughtful presence on social media, whether holding forth about music or the hard-headed dumbassery running amok in America these days. And last night, he checked in with a fairly hilarious audition recap that sounds like a scene straight out of “Losering.” Part of that is below.

Good to see that, two decades later, Whiskeytown’s wild and crazy mythology lives on.

 

JWallWT.jpg

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Whiskeytown don’t need no stinkin’ badges

WTNYEHere’s something that turned up recently, a long-ago token I’d forgotten all about. It’s a laminate designed by Whiskeytown drummer/noted graphic artist Skillet Gilmore, and it dates back to the band’s interminable period of limbo in 1999 after recording what eventually came out as the album Pneumonia in 2001 (more about that time is in “Losering” — Chapter 11, fittingly enough).

While the band waited around for its fate to be decided after the Universal/PolyGram merger vaporized its label Outpost Records, Ryan Adams played a solo tour that included a handful of epic Triangle shows in the fall of ’99. Whiskeytown was winding down and becoming less and less of a going concern as the stalemate dragged on; but the band was booked into Cat’s Cradle nightclub in Carrboro for a New Year’s Eve show on Dec. 31, 1999.

Even with Y2K paranoia in the air, a full house turned out that night hoping to hear some of the new songs from Pneumonia. None were in the setlist, but it was a fine evening nevertheless. What I remember most about the show was Ryan serenading Skillet and his fiance Caitlin Cary with the Faithless Street song “Matrimony,” singing it in his best Jagger-esque cockney yowl after introducing it with a disclaimer: “Alanis Morissette is not ironic; this is ironic.”

Whiskeytown hadn’t played a local show in a while, and this one was deemed to be enough of a big deal for the band to do up a few of these “LIMITED PRESS ACCESS” laminates. They were kind enough to give me one, although all these years later I cannot recall what access it granted. But I’m glad to still have it.

 

 

 

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Covering Whiskeytown seems like the least Taylor Swift could do…

Yesterday, Ryan Adams’ long-ago bandmate Skillet Gilmore posted on Facebook that he and Caitlin Cary were “assuming that Taylor Swift is holed up right now learning all of Faithless Street” — and it’s definitely hilarious to imagine Swift returning Ryan’s 1989 favor by recording Whiskeytown’s ragged-but-right 1996 alt-country classic as immaculate pop. But this morning, Skillet took it to the next level by posting the picture below on Instagram, with shout-outs to @misterryanadams and @taylorswift.

Come on, Taylor, make this wildest dream come true! Phil Wandscher might appreciate it, too!

TSFS

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Smashing the state

ChrisClemmonsA few years back, when I was doing research for “Losering,” I interviewed a lot of people — around 40, not all of whom were quoted in the final manuscript because I only had 50,000 words, and there were probably at least that many I spoke to informally or for background. But I still didn’t even come close to getting around to everyone, which means there are still plenty of interesting, amusing, horrifying and even all-of-the-above Ryan Adams stories floating around Raleigh.

One person I didn’t get to in time was Chris Clemmons, a longtime member of the Triangle music community and a bandmate of Sara Bell’s in various groups including Regina Hexaphone (Chris was also the source of the party flyer referenced in this post, which is one of many cool artifacts in his archive). When he was between bands 20-some years ago, Chris informally auditioned as bassist for what eventually became Whiskeytown. At the time, he was living in the Boylan Heights district of downtown Raleigh, in a bungalow apartment upstairs from Caitlin Cary.

His memories of the experience:

I joined them down in Caitlin’s living room one time, we set up and played a few songs. Ryan and Skillet (Gilmore) were both there, too. They probably only had four or five songs at that time, and it went okay until Ryan said we were going to “smash the state.” I think that was his punk-rock ethos because it’s what all the punk bands wanted to go out and do — but this would be a COUNTRY band doing it. Anyway, I said, “I work for the state,” and the conversation did not go so well after that. But I’ve worked in human resources for the state for about 25 years now.

Anyway, Steve (Grothmann) was in the graduate program with Caitlin at NC State. So they knew each other and Caitlin told me they were looking for someone who played standup bass, which he did. I don’t know if he ever actually played standup in Whiskeytown, but he wound up there. I never really knew Ryan and that may have been the first and last conversation I ever had with him. And Whiskeytown broke up in 2000, but I’m still working for the state. I still think about that story now and then.

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Caitlin and Skillet: Married to the Music

CaitlinSkilletCaitlin Cary and Skillet Gilmore used to be Ryan Adams’ bandmates as two-fifths of Whiskeytown’s lineup during the band’s mid-1990s salad days. But nowadays, they’re one of Raleigh’s coolest music-and-arts power couples. They’ll be on the radio together Thursday night, holding forth on Raleigh’s online station Little Raleigh Radio to present “Married to the Music” on the LRR program “Under The Influence.” Based on what they’ve been posting about disagreements over the playlist (Fugazi, y’all?), it’s sure to be hilarious.

“Married to the Music” airs from 9 to 10 p.m. Eastern Time on Thursday, and you can listen here. And in further news from their respective musical orbits, the first Tres Chicas show in many moons happens April 24 at the Cary Theatre; while Skillet plays with Patty Hurst Shifter March 29 at Slim’s.


UPDATE (2/19/15) — The playlist, interspersed with much good-natured banter and laughter, went like this:

Tres Chicas, “Desire”
Verbena, “Hey, Come On”
X, “Around My Heart”
Sam Cooke, “Jesus Gave Me Water”
Mountain, “Mississippi Queen”
T.Rex, “Lean Woman Blues”
Van Halen, “Jamie’s Crying”
Dirty Little Heaters, “Mexico Way”
Finger, “Shipwreck Dress”
Goner, “Battleground Park”
Ace Frehley, “New York Groove”
Geraldine Fibbers, “Jolene”
Firehose, “In Memory of Elizabeth Cotton”
Elizabeth Cotton, “Freight Train”
Ray Charles, “What Would I Do Without You”
Neko Case, “Calling Cards”
Pretenders, “2000 Miles”

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Take your beer to Whiskeytown

WhiskeybeerJust in time for the holidays, here’s another super-cool Whiskeytown token that might be even rarer than the old Strangers Almanac whiskey bottlesWhiskeytown Beer, the entire 120-bottle run of which might already be sold out by the time you read this. It’s the work of Chapel Hill’s Starpoint Brewing, brewed by Tim Harper and Chris Baker. And if the name Tim Harper rings a bell, it should.

Long before he ever started brewing beer, Tim was an old studio hand in North Carolina for a couple of decades. Whiskeytown figures prominently on his resume. Tim engineered and Chris Stamey produced the 1996 “Baseball Park Sessions”  that got Whiskeytown its deal with Outpost Records, and those two also oversaw the remix of Whiskeytown’s Faithless Street album that was reissued in 1998.

The road to Whiskeytown Beer started a few months back when Baker come up with a beer recipe involving whiskey, wood, chocolate and coffee, and enlisted Harper to brew it at at his brewery. First came the beer, then came the name.

“Nobody could come up with one,” said Tim. “I’d already started naming beers for bands I’ve worked with over the years, like a ’74-’75 Oktoberfest for the Connells. Sooner or later, I’ll do a Let’s Active beer. Stamey-Holsapple, I don’t know how I’ll work that out. But anyway, ‘Whiskeytown’ came to me in a flash one night for this one because of the whiskey barrels. We used Jack Daniels barrels to brew it.”

Before printing up the label, Tim got approval from multiple sources in Whiskeytown’s orbit, including the photographer who took the picture of Ryan (also seen on Whiskeytown’s Wikipedia entry), Caitlin Cary, Skillet Gilmore, lawyer Josh Grier — and yes, Ryan himself.

“What Ryan said was, ‘Tim, that sounds awesome,'” Tim said with a laugh. “And we found the photographer, got his approval, too. Caitlin and Skillet and Josh, even though Josh informed me that Whiskeytown did not have a trademark for food and beverage. So I didn’t even have to ask him, but I thought it’d be rude if I didn’t. Anyway, I asked everybody and they all said yes.”

Once he was done brewing, Tim bottled 10 cases to sell and put the rest into draft kegs. Those 120 bottles are going fast, but fear not: More is on the way.

“I’m working on a new batch,” Tim says. “It should be available in a couple of months, late February or early March.”

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Stories of the departed: Ian McLagan

KimIanThe past few days, social media has been awash in tributes to the late great  Ian McLagan, the legendary Small Faces keyboardist, who died on Wednesday of complications from a stroke at age 69. Mac was a wonderful all-around chap, dynamite musician and one of the funniest raconteurs of all time (for proof, just check his hilarious and no-holds-barred 2000 memoir “All The Rage: A Riotous Romp Through Rock & Roll History”). I got to interview Mac a few times over the years, including one especially memorable 2009 chat that involved equal amounts of tears and laughter once we got to talking about all the songs he’d written about his late wife Kim.

Pretty much everyone in the roots-rock world who’s played the club circuit over the past few decades has a McLagan anecdote or two, including various members of Whiskeytown. The one from Ryan Adams, which you can listen to here, dates back to when Ryan was bottoming out while making his Love Is Hell album, on which Mac played; and it’s funny, but pretty much a standard excessive-drinking tale. Ryan’s old bandmate Skillet Gilmore has a better story, from his post-Whiskeytown days in Patty Hurst Shifter — in part because he can boast of having been given a nickname by Mac.

Dude, I’m jealous.

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Whiskeytown’s dollars and cents — but really just cents

By some accounts, Whiskeytown alumnus Ryan Adams has done well enough in the music business to amass a sizable fortune. But just in case you’re under the impression that playing in a rock band is a path to riches for everyone, check out the Facebook post that Whiskeytown drummer Skillet Gilmore put up yesterday, concerning his latest earnings for “Midway Park” (one of Whiskeytown’s best songs, and kickoff track to the 1996 full-length debut Faithless Street):

MidwayPark$

This is, alas, a common experience for musicians who have discovered that the internet has not exactly leveled the playing field financially (and I’m here to tell ya that the world of online music has some distressing similarities to what happens with books). But since Gilmore is married to another former Whiskeytown member, I couldn’t resist pointing out that at least he gets an extra share of last quarter’s “Midway Park” loot. Skillet being Skillet, his reply was, of course, priceless:

MidwayPark$Response

 

 

 

 

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Photoshopped spaghetti in the mirror

BSfotoshopI’m in the midst of a hectic stretch right now, but I wanted to share a couple of quick Ryan Adams/Whiskeytown-related tidbits that turned up this week. First up is a poetry blog called Tweetspeak, which publishes a monthly musical playlist as a thematic poetry-writing prompt. June’s theme is “Mirror, Mirror” — and the song of the same name from Whiskeytown’s 2001 Pneumona album is the first of eight tracks listed alongside mirror-titled songs by Death Cab For Cutie, Bright Eyes, RJD2 and others. Some of the poetry this prompted is truly beautiful and inspired, too, well worth checking out.

Speaking of inspirational, dig the cool little piece of genius on the right here. Bloodshot Records (former label home of Ryan’s still-out-of-print 2000 album Heartbreaker) is conducting The Eddie Spaghetti Photoshopped Into Anything Challenge; and this is Whiskeytown’s drummer-turned-artist Skillet Gilmore’s entry, featuring the one and only Chip Robinson. The contest deadline is next Friday, June 14, with Supersuckers frontman Spaghetti himself selecting one winner and fans selecting the other via “Like” votes.

If anyone other than Skillet wins this thing, I’ll be stunned…

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Further artifacts from long ago: The 1995 “Star Watch”

WtownEarlyWhen I was researching and reporting “Losering,” I went looking for every word I’d ever written about Ryan Adams and Whiskeytown over the previous decade and a half, and I thought I’d found everything — until now. While looking up Chapel Hill native Michelle Dorrance in the newspaper’s archives the other day, I happened across a little blurb I’d forgotten all about. It was in a Sunday feature called “Star Watch” from April 1995, in which the News & Observer’s seven arts critics (oh, those were the days) spotlighted up-and-coming local artists and performers we thought were worth watching.

The list included a few folks who would go on to legitimate national careers, including tap dancer Dorrance, who will be receiving a major award next month; Ben Folds Five, then a couple of months away from releasing their first album; singer/actress Lauren Kennedy, who has had a very successful Broadway career; and, four months before the first time I met and interviewed Ryan, “Whiskey Town” (which is how the band’s name appeared in the credits of that spring’s Who The Hell compilation). Here’s how it read:

Whiskey Town

The Band: Ryan Adams, guitar and vocals; Skillet Gilmore, drums; Phil Wandscher, guitar; Caitlin Cary, violin; Steve Grothmann, bass

The big deal: Why did these ex-punks start playing country music? As Adams puts it in one Whiskey Town song, “So I started this damn country band/’Cause punk rock was too hard to sing.” For a demonstration, check out their brilliant deconstruction of “Blank Generation” on the new Richard Hell tribute album “Who the Hell.”

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