Thursday, September 25, 2014

Erica Rivera Profiles BH Button Company


Erica Rivera profiled pocket square maker Sean Besser Hank, a fashion-forward Minnesotan inspired by vintage fabrics and his mother's button collection. Read about his new company BH Button Co. in the October 2014 issue of Minnesota Business.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Erica Rivera Interviews Shonen Knife


Q&A: Shonen Knife

Since Shonen Knife’s first rehearsal in 1981, the Japanese punk trio has endured decades of recording and touring the globe. While the threesome’s lineup has changed over the years, its fun, danceable brand of songs about food (“Banana Chips,” “Broccoli Man”) and cats (“Giant Kitty”) garnered the band a cult following and heavyweight fans like Kurt Cobain of Nirvana and Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth.

Known for its energetic live show, coordinating outfits, and upbeat attitude, Shonen Knife is a shameless aural indulgence. The band’s latest release, this year’s “Overdrive,” was inspired less by punk and more by ‘70s rock but still contains the edible and animal influences that longtime listeners love.

Naoko Yamano, the only remaining member from the original Shonen Knife lineup, spoke to Vita.mn in anticipation of the band’s 1000th performance at the Turf Club.

Q: Shonen Knife has been around for over 30 years. How have you and the music changed over time?

A: I’ve never changed. My ability to play the guitar has progressed. My skill of writing songs has progressed, too. But my spirit, my rogue spirit, is forever the same. I never look back. I just look forward. I can’t believe that so many years have passed.

Q: Did you ever desire to do a solo project?

A: If I had enough time, I’d like to try to do a solo project, but I’m very busy with Shonen Knife and my own life so I can’t do that. Also, I’m very lazy. Shonen Knife is enough.

Q: What kind of music inspires you?

A: At the beginning, I was inspired by late ‘70s pop-punk music like the Ramones or the Buzzcocks, but I like to listen to various music, even death metal or disco or classical music. In the past five, six years, I like to listen to ‘70s American rock or British hard rock like Judas Priest or Black Sabbath. I’m very flexible.

Q: A lot of your songs are about food. What is it about food that you find so fascinating?

A: I just love to eat. I especially like sweets—chocolate or cake. I’m so ashamed to write about love and I think songs about political things are sad or hard. I like to make people happy through our music so I pick happy topics like food or animals.

Q: You seem to have an optimistic outlook. Where does that come from?

A: It’s not conscious. I’m not sure.

Q: What’s your favorite place that you’ve toured?

A: If I pick one city, the other cities will get sad, so I can’t choose.

Q: Okay, then tell me what your favorite thing about living in Japan is.

A: Living in Japan, we have tons of delicious food. Japanese food is very healthy and tasty, very light and not so greasy. Also, living in Osaka, the public transportation is very convenient. We have the subway, and I can go downtown very easily. 

Q: Tell me about the band’s fashion sense. Who decides on the outfits?

A: We always wear matching costumes and our costumes are inspired by ‘60s and ‘70s designers. My younger sister, Atsuko, our original drummer, was a professional clothing designer and designed our stage costumes and made them by herself.

Q: If you hadn’t been a musician, what career would you have pursued?

A: Pro tennis player. [Laughs.] I like to watch tennis. I’m watching the U.S. Open.

Q: What do you foresee as the future of the band? Will you still be playing 30 years from now?

A: As long as I’m alive. I don’t know how long I can keep my health or go abroad but I am fine so far. I cannot imagine but I’d like to keep playing, keep on rocking, as long as I can.

Originally published on Vita.mn in Sept. 2014.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Erica Rivera Interviews The Buzzcocks


Q&A: Buzzcocks

The Buzzcocks are legendary for their role in launching the British punk movement. Formed in 1976, the Manchester foursome’s ageless sound is marked by heavy riffs and classic melodies. Initially independent, the Buzzcocks signed to United Artists in 1977, then promptly incited controversy with the release of their single “Orgasm Addict.” Deemed too explicit for BBC radio, the “godfathers of pop-punk” didn’t let censorship stop them. They’ve since released nine studio albums, inspired bands like REM, Nirvana, and Green Day, and continue to tour the world.

Longtime guitarist and vocalist Steve Diggle spoke to Vita.mn from his room at the Hotel Rouge in Washington D.C.

Q: Your new album “The Way” has been called the Buzzcocks’ “White Album.” How do you feel about that comparison?

A: It kind of makes sense in some ways. It’s a similar theme. Catchy songs but not necessarily “That’s the hit. That’s the album track.” It has that sense of flavor.

Q: How do you think has the punk movement changed since the Buzzcocks started in the ‘70s?

A: Essentially punk was about attitude, so anyone who got into punk rock had the attitude before getting into the songs. When we started, there was The Clash, the Sex Pistols—there were about five bands in England—and in the States there were Talking Heads and Blondie and things. There weren’t that many punk rock bands around in ’76. [Punk is] like the Bible, it’s been interpreted many different ways since when we started.

Q: Isn’t punk also about rebellion? What do you think young people rebel against today?

A: Lots of things, even if they’re rebelling against themselves for not rebelling! That’s part of the job of being young, to question things like that.

It’s difficult in music now because of the financial thing. It’s like anybody coming from the underground don’t get a break like the commercial kind of stuff. The music business is run by accountants now, not artistic people. That’s what ruined it. It’s finance over art. You’re not getting as many wacky or inventive things. You’re getting more conveyor belt stuff that’s going to sell. That’s the whole system of it. That’s the thing to rebel against.

Q: Is there anything you haven’t done yet that you would still like to do, musically?

A: Yes, I feel like I only just started. Always along the way, you’re discovering yourself each day, like we all are, whatever we do. If I knew what there was left to be discovered, there would be no future. I could live my life in 10 minutes. There’s still a lot of spirit inside me that thinks there are things coming around the corner, artistically. It don’t have to be a million miles different, you know?

It’s like having sex. When you’re having sex with someone the first time, it’s great. Then it gets into one phase and another. Then you’ve got to look into taking it to different levels on a daily basis. That’s the kind of thing married people will tell you. [Laughs]

There’s many albums I want to do. I don’t think I’ll live long enough to do so many albums I’d like to do.

Q: Do you have any regrets about your career?

A: No, it’s all been fantastic, really. There probably are bits and pieces you think you’d like to do again, but they’re not really regrets. You can’t go to the grave thinking, “I really should have done this and that.” I’ve been fortunate to be one of those people who figured that out early on and thought, “Jump in and go for it because you might never get a chance to do whatever again.” That goes from songwriting to partying to getting in all kinds of streaks and situations and wild things.

Q: Speaking of wild things, what is touring like now that you’re older?

A: It’s a little bit tamer on the partying front only because the recovery time is harder. After the shows, we used to do a lot of partying. It’s kind of part of it: meeting people and having a few drinks and having crazy bits of fun on the road. But that’s a little bit less now because I kinda like to wake up and make breakfast in the hotel rather than sleep in and miss it all. It’s still great to do the actual shows. We’ve been doing it that long that we are attuned to this way of life, that almighty life of wandering the planet.

There are bands that can’t handle being on the road after a while, dealing with the psychology of living with yourself on the road. There’s a lot of time in hotel rooms when you have to come to terms with yourself. A lot of folks can’t do that. All kinds of things can come into their minds that disrupt them. They have to have escapism. It’s a big problem. That’s why bands split up.

Q: To what do you attribute the Buzzcocks’ longevity?

A: It’s still the songs. They sound like they was made last week. They’re timeless. You always feel current and in the now rather than just playing as if you’re reviving the past.

We stuck to our guns, too. We didn’t play the game of commercialism. We made the songs we wanted to make, songs of realism and the human condition, which people relate to. We ain’t bullshittin’ them. And we ain’t writing songs that we were hoping were going to be hits.

And the pleasure of playing. The band’s just gotten better over the years. The interaction between us, the spirituality of the band, it’s like, “We’re generating electricity up here!” When the crowd comes alive and we come alive, the magic happens in the middle. That’s the whole reason for doing it. 

Originally published on Vita.mn in Sept. 2014.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Erica Rivera Featured in St. Paul Almanac 2015


Erica Rivera's photograph of Adriel Danae singing at the Turf Club is included in the 2015 St. Paul Almanac. The guidebook features stories, poems, photographs, and illustrations from local artists. A reception celebrating the Almanac's release will be held on Thursday, September 11 at 7 p.m. at 308 Prince Street, Saint Paul, MN 55101.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Erica Rivera Profiles The Beez Kneez


Erica Rivera profiled The Beez Kneez, a honey delivery service that also educates about, and advocates on the behalf of, bees. Read the feature in the September issue of Minnesota Business magazine.