On the road with Jackal Onasis

I’m in a moving van with six other people, headed towards Mahall’s near Cleveland to play a show tonight. I’ve been on tour filling in on bass for Jackal Onasis, touring with fellow Exploding in Sound band Ovlov. I would have shared the dates sooner but oh well. Trying to keep writing to this blog no matter how boring my posts may be. Tour was great and I’ll be doing more of this later this year. Thanks to all the friendly folks who have supported us and taken care of us on this trip!

BHM: Belton Sutherland

February came and went, and I managed a few posts about some of the Black American artists I love and have been inspired by, but there are so many more. Black Americans in general deserve greater recognition for their contributions to this country’s abundant wealth and culture, so Black History Month continues for me.

I discovered Belton Sutherland, a generally unknown blues player, in the music documentary The Land Where Blues Began (1979, dir Alan Lomax) (watch it here for free). I bought a DVD of it after seeing that my great blues idol RL Burnside had a few performances in it.

All of the performances in the film by various artists are remarkable in their own way, but something about Belton stirred me deeply. He was not a professional artist, just a man hardened by a punishing existence, expressing some dark and heavy blues — maybe the heaviest I have ever heard from a country blues performer. His lyrics are brutal — “Kill that old gray mule / burn that white man’s barn / I didn’t mean no trouble, I didn’t mean no harm”. This is folk music of a systematically oppressed and impoverished person.

He looked so badass too, with a cigarette barely hanging off his lip and his cold stare. Back in 2010-2011 when I was just starting to learn to play and sing in a country blues style, I dreamed that I could be that bad some day. So, I ended up buying a 1938 Gibson L-50 archtop guitar on eBay that looked just like his, and that’s the main acoustic guitar I still use today. I am still nowhere near as bad as he was though, and will probably never be (I’m cool with that).

Yazan hits the internet radio waves

I’ve been busy the past few weeks finding new ways to express myself, and after a really fun interview with Sheri Barclay at KPISS.FM a few weeks back, I realized that I can talk about any subject for any amount of time. So, I decided to start not just one, but two radio programs, and they are both launching today.

Wednesdays 6-7PM EST on kpiss.fm I’ll be hosting Post Trash Radio, with your occasional co-host Dan Goldin (founder of Post Trash and Exploding in Sound Records). He’ll be missing this week since he’s busy packing and mailing new PILE records, but I hope he’ll be able to join me regularly. We’ll be playing lots of new music and occasionally sitting down with performers for interviews and acoustic performances too!

Immediately flowing from Post Trash Radio will be Radio Yazan from 7-8PM on Wednesdays. I’ll be focusing on culture in general, talking about ideas I’ve been developing that I consider critical in light of the cultural blight America is facing. My guest this week will be Alex Molini (Jackal Onasis, Stove, ex-Dirty Dishes), and we’ll be talking plenty of shit about all kinds of stuff, and maybe playing some of his tunes too.

We’ll get these episodes up as a podcast eventually. For now, it’ll be live on Wednesdays and archived on the KPISS Mixcloud page. You can get in the chat room at kpiss.fm during the show and make requests or ask questions too! Tune in and please check it out!
LISTEN TO KPISS is on Mixlr

BHM: James Brown

James Brown is the greatest performer of his generation: energetic, theatrical, uniquely idiosyncratic, and musically groundbreaking. I got obsessed in high school with his music, though it was only after YouTube that I got to really check out what one of his performances (and interviews) was like. The only performer in my mind to take it to the next level was Prince — more on him from me this week.

BHM: Blind Willie Johnson

Even though he recorded only about 30 songs in his life, he was the first preacher to make blues records and influenced everyone to come along afterwards. Years ago, I spent a whole drive from Asheville, NC to Memphis, TN singing along to this song to try to learn how to inflect like he does. I’m still working on it…

Interview with Sheri at KPISS FM

I walked miles through the snow today to be interviewed by the very real and very gracious Sheri Barclay. “The things I’ll do for self-promotion!” We also premiere one of my yet unheard, unreleased tracks, called “Do You Wanna Go?” Listen here:

BHM: Eddie Hazel

Back in summer 2004, I was in an office working for the City of New York, and I remember sitting on my chair at my desk, under a blanket trying to insulate from the extreme air conditioning in the building, and this tune came on in my headphones and it was the first time I’d really listened closely to the singing towards the end of the tune, and I just started crying uncontrollably, right there in front of everyone. I still get choked up listening to Eddie’s beautiful voice.

BHM: Son House

Son House is a country blues player whose slide playing style I have ripped off plenty, but so did Robert Johnson and just about everyone else since who plays slide guitar.

BHM: Sly Stone

The musical mind of Sly Stone demonstrates a beautiful balance. His monstrous band serves music that is harmonically rich and supremely funky at the same time. The diversity of his material and his band are hugely inspirational — someday when I have a family band, my kids and I will be singing “Thank You” in harmony. Sly was marginalized after succumbing to addiction, but he has recovered somewhat, and is still alive and has wisdom to offer — check out his more recent interviews on YouTube. Thank YOU Sly Stone!


This post is part of a series where I pay tribute to the numerous Black American artists that have inspired and influenced me over the years.