Music Issue 2007: That sound you hear is innovation (pt 4)

Jul 24, 2007 at 8:15 pm

Singer: Emanuel
Ahem: Matt Breen

Straight outta western Ky.: Kentucky Prophet.: Photo by Dana Kingsbury
Straight outta western Ky.: Kentucky Prophet.: Photo by Dana Kingsbury
Do we know you? The 22-year-old has been singing/screaming his lungs out for Emanuel for almost 10 years.
Road warriors: You’ve gotta respect the band’s work ethic. The eight-month break that Emanuel took to write Black Earth Tiger (the follow-up to 2004’s Soundtrack to a Headrush, due out Aug. 28 on Vagrant) “was the longest I had been home since I was 19,” Breen says.

“It’s hard to explain. We were gone for so long. When we were getting back from Warped Tour last summer … it wasn’t that we were jaded, it’s that our whole situation was kinda fucked. ‘I’m 22 years old and I’m pretty much sick of playing music.’ There we’re so many times we were just like, ‘Fuck it, let’s go home.’”
Persistence pays: Breen soldiered on, though. When he wasn’t watching “Cops,” he was meddling with an acoustic, and Tiger was born. “Every time I’ve thought, ‘This is it,’ you just have a few beers and you stumble on something.”

Puzzling: “A lot of the lyrics on the new record are really cryptic,” he says. “Each song is its own thing. With this album, we were really trying to write a record we wanted to hear.”
Raves: Smashing Pumpkins’ Siamese Dream, “Take on Me” by A-ha and The Clash’s London Calling. “When you’re 13 years old, it’s really believable.” —M.H.

Junior partner: Production Simple LLC
How did you get involved in the concert planning/promotion side of the music business?

Looking back, it’s kind of a blur. At the time, I was talking to a friend of mine who thought it was something I might be in to … fast forward about eight years, and here I am with a great company and great business partners. When we started the company three years ago, we had agreed to a certain way things would run. We wanted to keep things simple, and I think we are lucky enough between the four of us to not only have 30-plus years of experience, but to bring something unique to the table.

What was the first Louisville show that you went to?

If I remember correctly, it was Erchint at The Zodiac Club (on Main Street). Don’t quote me, but I think it was when they spelled their name with a U.

Favorite restaurant and why?
To be honest, I have a few. As of late, it’s been a draw between Bourbons Bistro (2255 Frankfort Ave.) and Maido (1758 Frankfort Ave.). It is so great to live in a neighborhood with such cool places to eat. The atmosphere is relaxing and the people (staff and patrons) are really cool to hang out with. Oh, and if you are ever Philly-bound, my favorite there is Amada: the best Spanish tapas ever!

What challenges do you face as a promoter?

There are a lot of good bands out there that lots of people want to see. Therefore, you end up with most promoters wanting to work with these acts and, unfortunately, because of routing dates, sometimes our market ends up oversaturated, which in the long run affects everybody involved, right down to the fans.

What do you do to unwind?

Unwind, what’s that? This line of work keeps you going all the time, but when I can, I usually go out to dinner with my friends, or I sit on my deck and read.

Which Louisville band would you like to see reunite and why?
Well … the one I never saw live before already did. Slint is amazing. Otherwise, I might have to go back to my high school days and go with … um … Endpoint. That could be interesting. —M.H.

How did you land an opening slot with Frank Black (The Pixies)?

I used to be a roadie of his. I lived in L.A. for a while, and I met him in L.A. because his ex-wife at the time was performing at a comedy club that I was studying improv at, the L.A. Connection.
It’s one of the most gratifying things I’ve ever done. They took me in as one of their own. That was important, because if they hadn’t done that, it would’ve been a lot lonelier for me. I would’ve hung out in my dressing room, lonely, isolated and just waiting to go on stage.

J.K. McKnight
J.K. McKnight
Why did you decide to move to Cali?
I went out there to see if I could make it in music, and that didn’t work out so well. I had more luck with TV. I played five or six shows while I was out there, and that wasn’t very much.
I was out there for almost two years, and it was a very frustrating period. I wasn’t getting very far with music. I just had a hard time keeping a job, had a hard time getting a job. It was a very bad time for me. The only things that really came out of it that were any good were the people I met. The people who ended up producing (my record) — DJ Cappel and Smitty, those are guys in L.A., neighbors in my apartment complex. If it weren’t for them, there probably wouldn’t have been a Kentucky Prophet. I would’ve been just some crazy guy trying to rap.

What do you love about hip hop?

I love basically the fact that there is a lot more freedom to write. The typical rock ’n’ roll song — I got burned out on it. Most rock ’n’ roll verses are four lines or eight lines, whereas in hip hop, you can write a 16-line verse.
I love the beats. You don’t need a garage to do it. If you’ve got a drum machine, a sampler, a keyboard — you’ve got all you need to make the music. You can do it any way you want. If you want to be The Roots, if you want to sample stuff, that’s cool, too. There’s a lot of ways to arrive at that final conclusion.

How did you start incorporating comedy in your live show?
I’ve always tried to be funny and entertaining. I wanted to be one of the popular kids. Not being particularly cute or good at sports, I had to find a way to get people to notice me. Humor was definitely a way to do it. Using comedy as a way to get in there.

What comedians do you admire?

Bill Hicks. He’s very important to me. It wasn’t just a matter of going out and telling jokes for him, he had to go out and deliver a message; he was trying to save the world one comedy club at a time. Part of me identifies with that. “It’s just a ride.”
I look at our pop culture and go, “Ah, why hasn’t there been a violent bloody coup of the E! network? Why haven’t people tried to take over MTV? Why don’t you justify your existence? There can be a lot more happening in the world if we stop focusing on surface BS. —M.H.

Founder: Forecastle Festival
When did the environment become an issue for you personally?

I’ve had a fascination with marine biology and anything oceanic/aquatic from the time I was born. I’m not sure if it comes from being an Aquarius, but I seem to fit all the personality traits. I was a swimmer, diver, I loved surf fishing and all outdoor sports. I’ll never forget the (one) year my parents couldn’t afford to take us to the beach for our annual family vacation in South Carolina. I spent weeks going through old vacation albums on our living room couch, begging and pleading. I can still remember, vividly, sitting there, staring. It was like part of me was missing.

When I was 13, I began a series of correspondences between myself and then-Vice President Al Gore’s office regarding rain forest protection in Brazil, and how private citizens could acquire or invest in individual acres and hectares. They put me in touch with the U.S. ambassador to Brazil, and I wrote him two or three times before I finally got a letter back six months later. Rain forest protection and coral reef issues (anything tropical) were the main things I wanted to confront. I joined the Nature Conservancy and World Wildlife Fund when I was 15 to learn more about what could be done.

It’s one thing to come up with an idea for a festival, quite another to actually pull it off. How were you able to make the leap?
Through discipline, hard work, vision and will power. There are four quotes that have hung above my bed for the past three years, which pretty much sum up the way I try to lead my life:
“Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.” —Ghandi
“Courage means to keep working a relationship, to continue seeking solutions to difficult problems, and to stay focused during stressful periods.” —Denis Waitley
“Discipline is the soul of an army. It makes small numbers formidable; procures success to the weak, and esteem to all.” —George Washington
“Honesty is the single most important factor in having a direct bearing on the final success of an individual, corporation or product.” —Ed McMahon

What observations have you made about the regional music scene — not just Kentucky, but Tennessee, Indiana and Ohio, etc. — in promoting Forecastle?
Great question. We just got back from Nashville and Murfreesboro (Tenn.) last week, and the reaction down there was on par, if not better, than Louisville. We visited two universities and over 100 businesses, distributing 110 posters and 4,200 handbills. We were able to get a presence in 90 percent of the places we visited. For an out-of-state festival, that’s pretty remarkable. But people are seeing that this festival isn’t cut across state lines. It’s a new Midwest conference, where each city and state is represented equally.

Do you drive a car?

When I have to. I live in the center of the Highlands, so biking makes more sense. But we are traveling a lot, promoting. We had a van donated to the festival recently. I had it painted by Sean Griffin and plan to convert it to bio-diesel after Forecastle. I have a pretty amazing modification plan that also includes an array of interior/exterior adjustments; I just (need) some time to do it.

Do you think light rail, or any sort of substantial, mass-transit train system, will ever come to fruition in Louisville?
We’re going need something with the arena and re-birth of East Main, Market, Fourth Street and surrounding areas. Light rail is an interesting concept, but it’s been questionable in the markets it’s been placed in. I would recommend a train system similar to San Diego’s. It would accomplish the same goal at a much smaller price tag. —M.H.