Koster’s indie cred is permanently cemented with his involvement in the band Neutral Milk Hotel. His current project The Music Tapes has been around for awhile, incorporating Koster’s immediately identifiable ‘singing saw’ on most tunes. They were opening for fellow Elephant 6 cohorts Olivia Tremor Control on this night and as I mentioned in September, I wasn’t expecting too much from the set. What we did get was music, magic, storytelling, jokes and audience participation that just totally suckered me in. I really loved it. A friend of mine who was there actually couldn’t stand it. He is dumbfounded that I could even sit through the set let alone include it as one of my favorites of the year. Goes to show how polarizing music can be. I want to thank Julian for the show and for taking a few minutes to participate in this edition of First/Last.
The first album you ever bought?
I got my Grandfather to buy me an album called Elvis’s Gold Records when I was a little boy. I bought it because I thought the album would actually be gold like the one pictured on the cover. I was bitterly disappointed.
Your last album bought?
Meet the R. Stevie Moore. I cannot believe how wonderful this collection of pop songs is.
Favorite album of all time?
I have too many to print here. But a couple: Ray Kinney and his Coral Islanders (Decca – 1932). A Hawaiian bandleader, born on the Islands to an Irish father and a Hawaiian mother, he worked through the 1930’s at the ballroom of the Lexington Hotel in New York City. His arrangements, his band, his voice and those of the Mullen Sisters, and the recording itself, are all about as perfect as something can get to me. Ukrainian Christmas Songs (field recorded by Laura Boulton for Folkways). Though Kolyadas are Christmas songs in the Ukraine, a lot of them actually predated Christianity there. And in any event, it’s music I listen to very happily, often, and all year around.
Least favorite/most disappointing album?
Everybody loves some things and dislikes others. Some people love tomatoes, other people hate them. But to be honest, it makes me uncomfortable to write about music I do not like, because I find the music I DO like is much more important to me. And surely, I understand it better.
First concert attended?
Simon and Garfunkel’s famous free concert in Central Park (NYC). My dad took me there.
The Sun Ra Arkestra in a tiny little place in NYC led by Marshal Allen on his 80th birthday. It was exactly what I hope music to be: Something that transcends space, and time, and the notes, and our bodies even, and delivers us something far greater that comes both from outside us and within.
Favorite concert ever?
So many…too many. A few: The Sun Ra Arkestra in NYC. Television in Athens, GA, a long, long, time ago. Negativland back in Athens. Half Japanese at the old Knitting Factory in NYC. Jonathan Richman in Athens right after Vic Chesnutt died…
Least favorite concert?
Sorry sir, see above.
Any thoughts, experiences about Pittsburgh?
I like it and have some nice memories there. I love how hilly it is, and it seems like every time we play there we have a nice adventure of some sort.
Thanks Julian. I totally respect your answer on the ‘Least Favorite/Most Disappointed’ questions. I am not trying to be negative about certain music, it’s just that to me, as a human being, not all experiences are positive. Your answers concerning the topic are cool.
I wasn’t expecting much from this set. Knowing that the band was essentially Julian from Neutral Milk Hotel and that his ‘solo’ stuff was experimental, minimalist, Eastern European folk, my intent was to get a few shots and patiently wait for openers The Olivia Tremor Control. What an absolute surprise to be wanting more after a quick hour of the trio’s wistful, endearing and more than anything funny ‘performance’. Incorporating music, abstract storytelling, and even an audience participation ‘magic’ trick, it was more absurdest theater than a concert. I for one was game. In case you couldn’t tell, I loved it!
Several times throughout the night, among the many instruments Julian was playing, was his signature ‘singing saw’. I can’t remember ever seeing someone playing one seriously, if at all. He definitely could play it and quite well I might add. The texture he added to the tunes with the saw was both odd and beautiful at the same time, which is an apt description of the entire concept of the show, the bands , and the night itself. Watching him perform with Scott Spillane in the middle of the crowd was a wonderful moment. This whole shebang was the brainchild of organizer Julian Koster. My only prior knowledge of him was his being a member of Neutral Milk Hotel.
My mistake. His energy, enthusiasm, and ultimately performance was so damned endearing, I have quickly become a fan of his ‘other’ work. More Julian tomorrow.Below is the version from Boston