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INTERVIEW: Miriam German of Miriams Well  
By
Cyrus Rhodes

 

"a grand slam"

 

"amazing music out of Portland"

- INDIE MUSIC DIGEST:-

 

 

 

 

 

www.miriamswellmusic.com

 

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I recently had the privilege of listening to the latest release by Mariams Well entitled Indians and Clowns From start to finish it's hard to find any weaknesses on “Indians and Clowns”, some truly amazing music out of Portland. It's an impressive catalogue of music that's easy to groove to, highly original, uplifting, & extremely entertaining. Note for note, song for song there isn’t a weak piece on this entire 9 song catalogue. All pieces are short & sweet musical experiences, each one possessing its own signature groove, & musical personality to call its own. The writing & playing abilities of this band are rock solid, & the melodies & harmonies are well crafted, The lyrical content is mesmerizing, & last but not least the vocal presence of Mir German is amazing. Like the aforementioned I really enjoyed some of the low end blues/rock grooves presented on the CD. I guess I could go on all night about Miriams Well, you have simply got to get your hands on some of their music. You should start with “Indians and Clowns” It’s pretty much a grand slam.

 

 

Read the CD Review

 

 

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IMD Tell us a bit about the band name. 

MW  The name Miriams Well surfaced one day while recording my first EP at Falcon Studios in Portland. I was commenting on how many amazing players had come through the door to work with me. My comment was, “who’s gonna rise up from the well next?”  We realized that that would be the name of the band and those players were the first incarnation of MW.

IMD How’s the Music Scene in Portland these days?

MW The music scene is a very busy place here in Portland. This city is a great music town! Having spent time in all the major music scenes except Nashville, we find we can make a living – almost. Portland is the next best thing to the music centers such as New York or LA (where we spend a bit of time these days). It’s all about live music. The musicianship and performing abilities here are top notch. You have to come to the stage with your A game in this town. In the past few years, Portland has been on the national map with the Chamber Folk/Pop movement centered on bands such as The Decemberists, The Shins, Loch Lomond, Laura Gibson and local labels such as Hush Records and recording studios such as Type Foundry and Supernatural Sound studios. But in the true DIY spirit, Portland is actually many different genre based scenes. You’ve got the young all ages punkers/electro poppers centered around clubs like Satyricon and Holocene, the chamber folk bands at The Woods and The Alberta Rose Theatre. Then there is the thriving Jazz, R&B and Blues scenes centered around Jimmy Mak’s down in Portland’s Pearl district. Indie bands tend to show up at places like the Doug Fir Lounge and the always-changing underground house show circuit. On any given night, there are between 30 and 50+ shows all over the city!

IMD I really enjoyed the Blues-Rock vibe when listening to your CD. Who are some of those bands that have influenced you both over the years?

MW  (Mir) A few of the most influential bands for me were the Allman Brothers, Big Brother and the Holding Company with Janis, The Band, Traffic, The Beatles, George Harrison solo. I dug Richie Havens a lot too as well as CSNY and Crazy Horse.  Most of these bands had that bluesy vibe that made their brand of rock what it was.

MW (Mark) There is so much to choose from but, first, I love rock from 67-74. In no particular order: Jimmy Miller era Rolling Stones (Sticky Fingers and Exile…), Eric Clapton (Derek And The Dominos, Blind Faith), later period Beatles (White Album, Abbey Road, Let It Be), middle period Who (Tommy, Who’s Next, Quadrophenia), early solo Rod Stewart (Every Picture Tells A Story, Never A Dull Moment, as well as his work with Long John Baldry), post Frampton Humble Pie (just listen to Smokin’ with Hot N Nasty and 30 Days In The Hole), Savoy Brown, Ten Years After, the first four Led Zep albums (especially number 3, there’s a certain blues/folk mystery to that record…), Rory Gallagher. Joe Cocker, Traffic  On the American side of the pond, we had The Beach Boys with Pet Sounds (1966) and Smiley Smile, Sly and The Family Stone, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Rare Earth, Three Dog Night (think Randy Newman and Laura Nyro), Stax artists such as Booker T. and The Staple Singers, Curtis Mayfield, Neil Young and Crazy Horse, The Band, The Allman Brothers (Fillmore East, Eat A Peach), Johnny Winter, James Gang. There are many newer artists such as The Black Crowes and Grace Potter, but they are too numerous too mention!

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"Janis was real too. She never put it on. She lived it. She gave it.

I live it. I give it."

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IMD  (For vocalist Mir German) Listening to your vocal style I keep hearing Janis Joplin, am I off the mark there?

MW Well, yeah I think so. I hear this a lot but I know and you know that I don’t sound a thing like Janis . No one does. No one can and to try is …why try? She’s already perfected perfect. What I’ve come to realize is that I remind people of Janis because I don’t fake it or put on what I do. I live my songs when I’m singing them to you.  It’s a reality, a paradigm, that is different from what we’re used to seeing in so many contemporary performers…that staged or canned performance where the chat is the same at every show, where the tunes are played the same at every show. I can’t relate to that paradigm. People have expressed to me at shows that what they witnessed from our performance, (their words), was REAL. Well, Janis was real too. She never put it on. She lived it. She gave it.  I live it. I give it.  In that way, we are definitely similar. When Mark is wailing on his guitar, he’s breathing life into me. Same with the organ. And on and on. My experience is so high on stage, so that’s what you get from me. You get my high and I, in turn, receive yours. People apparently are asking if I’m wasted on stage. Not wasted, just really high!

IMD Tell us who have been some of your top vocal influences over the years?

MW In no particular order, Ricki Lee Jones comes to mind.  Her tone, her cadence, her rhythms…she uses her vocals like a T.S. Elliot poem or like something William S. Burroughs wrote. That’s beautiful. When it’s not just about your “voice” but your inner voice…how it breaks out of you and enables you as the singer to express so much more about your meaning, your song. Another was Joan Armatrading. A voice rich like mangoes and papayas blanketing you in warmth and in tears. Janis was influential not so much because of her voice,(but of course because of her voice!) but because she gave you the honesty of her experience with it, more so than anyone else. I appreciate voices like Christina Aguilera’s - A lot.  But I love raw vocals more.

IMD (For Guitarist Mark Bowden) I really enjoyed some of the solo guitar work, who are some of top musical influences?

MW Easily picked out from my album list above!  I love Eric Clapton (more for his song structure and chord work than solos), Jimmy Page (for everything he does!) John Paul Jones (I started on bass), Ron Wood (for all his work on the early solo Stewart records – just a great raggedy sound), George Harrison (the slide work especially), Pete Townshend (I am a chord junkie – and for his passion in all that he does), Keith Richards and Mick Taylor (Sticky Fingers is an all time fav’ of mine), Steve Marriot (his voice – and John Fogerty had that voice as well), Alvin Lee, Duane Allman, Rory G.

MW ome modern players would be, Rich Robinson, Jeff Trott (the Sheryl Crow), John Shanks (his production skills), Jon Leventhal (Shawn Colvin) , James Honeyman-Scott (Pretenders) , Mike Wanchic (John Mellencamp), Doug Pettibone (Lucinda Williams), Mark Knopfler, 

IMD What is the best concert you each have been to over the years?

MW Most recently, a Thievery Corporation show in Portland. It was amazing.  Bowie was awesome. Shit, the Doobie Brothers was a killer show. Meeting Stevie Wonder and hangin for the show was pretty great, especially the part where he did a tribute to Lee Garrett, our mutual co-writer.  I turned around to fans around us and told them that this guy dancing with me was Lee Garrett. It was exciting. People were freaking out. A nice memory.

MW (Mark) So many! The Talking Heads - Stop Making Sense Tour, the last big Who Stadium Tour (in the 90’s),  Rory Gallagher at The Paradise in Boston, Echo and the Bunnymen at the same venue, X at The Channel in Boston (they ripped the roof off!), Jerry Lee Lewis at that same venue, The Clash (two nights of Combat Rock at the Orpheum in Boston). The Pretenders (at that same venue for their first record). I loved the big stadium shows with all the spectacle, but the club shows were always where the real magic happened!

IMD I especially enjoyed the piece ‘Waiting on a Plane” can you tell us about that particular piece, what inspired that one?

MW I was following what was going on in Darfur w/ all the tribal killings, the rape and torture and how those who made it out alive were starving, unable to get food. I was thinking about how our government was too chicken shit to take a stand, to go where it actually counts in order to help people out by having our forces in the right place. So what we do in these regions is do airplane food drops. Food drops. With blankets.  From the sky. There’s no solution there. It just begets more problems and solves nothing.  We don’t create housing for people, give them medical attention, provide the means to grow food in order to be self-sufficient. Right, but we’ll just hang out in Iraq where we helped to create a crooked gov’t and we’ll hang out in Afghanistan pretending it’s not about drugs and money, and we’ll continue to pretend that we are the most humane country because… we do food drops. That’s exactly what Waiting On A Plane is about.

IMD How about “Diamonds” could you tell us more about those songs?

MW  Sure. Diamonds is a 2 part explanation.  I’ve told relatives of mine that I don’t want their diamonds after they die. I don’t like where they came from as far as destroying the earth to mine them and I sure don’t like the death and abuse of the young and poor people who do the extraction from those mines. It’s like honoring people who kill and mistreat others, for me. I honestly don’t know why anyone can wear them, let alone flaunt them. But to everyone, their own state of denial. The second part is that Diamonds is a love story. It’s about the what-ifs of taking that step, of falling in love and having it change your world. I love that part. It’s exciting. It’s scary.  And it’s definitely an unknown.  In the song I say that I don’t need diamonds, maybe some flowers, but the meaning is that love is beautiful…you don’t have to spend money in order to get it, and you sure don’t kill for it.

IMD What’s next for Miriams Well?

MW National college radio on 8/17! Touring in the fall. Working on record number two in the spare time between the other two. Recording more songs in the remaining cracks in our schedule, and casual world domination between now and early 2012. At which point the world most likely ends and this will all have been for naught! Want to listen to the music even more. 

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interview conducted by Cyrus Rhodes. Property of Indie Music Media LLC.

Copyright © 2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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