The InsiderOne Daily Report

  Monday, January 22, 2001

Conjuring Up The Red House Painters

InsiderOne's Michael Goldberg writes: It's cause for celebration that the Red House Painters, one of the most important bands to emerge in the '90s, have regrouped. Their new album, Old Ramon (Sub Pop), is due in April, and they're planning to tour the world. Last year bandleader Mark Kozelek released a solo EP, "Rock 'N' Roll Singer," that found him at the top of his form, and it's truly wonderful that he is once again working with most of the original bandmembers, who helped him create the stunning body of work representing the Red House Painters' legacy. I first heard the band in 1991, when I was starting an indie label, National Records, and looking for talent. At the time I approached Mark Eitzel of the American Music Club about recording a solo album. He suggested I check out a new band, the Red House Painters, who he felt were among the best in San Francisco. I went to see them at a bar, Hotel Utah, which had a small room where bands performed — occupied that day by perhaps 10 other people besides me. I brought along a portable DAT recorder and taped what was one of the most extraordinary musical performances I've ever seen. The band — bassist Jerry Vessel, drummer Anthony Koutsos and guitarist Gorden Mack — created an almost ambient, atmospheric audio environment through which leader/singer/songwriter/ guitarist Mark Kozelek delivered his words of longing, heartbreak and tragedy. The band's presence was almost an anti-presence: they hardly moved. Kozelek just stood before the microphone and sang. His voice made you want to cry, it could be so sad. And the music was like a whisper, a shadow, a light texture that enveloped and consumed you. Before I could really explore the idea of doing something with the Red House Painters on my new label, Koutsos told me that 4AD were talking to them; a deal was imminent. I reported this in a column I wrote at the time for Rolling Stone and was later told that the mention helped the group get a better deal. Good for them! I never played the DAT I made for anyone other than myself — it remains an amazing document, although when I gave a copy to Kozelek years later, he didn't find it as enchanting as I did (and still do). If you never had a chance to see the Red House Painters live, you can hear what I'm talking about in their recordings, the best of which is the incredible Red House Painters (with the rollercoaster photo on the cover), an expansive two-record set released by 4AD in 1993. As soon as their debut, the six-song EP Down Colorful Hill, was released the English press began comparing Kozelek favorably to Nick Drake, Tim Buckley and Leonard Cohen. Today, a decade later, those comparisons still hold, and time has only added to the mystery and legend of a group that was never embraced in America. That's going to change. I think this is exactly the right time for the band to return to action. With popular music at an all-time low and with extreme right-wing fanatics moving into the White House, the mood of this country is right for great underground artists. Music fans who have already been finding music they want on indie labels will welcome the art of the Red House Painters. Welcome back, guys. You've been missed!

Datastream: The ninth annual Noise Pop fest will take place February 27–March 4 in San Francisco. As usual, the lineup is amazing. Among the groups and solo artists on board: Beulah, Grandaddy, Superchunk, Mark Eitzel, Girls Against Boys, Creeper Lagoon, Minus 5, Spoon, Bright Eyes, The White Stripes, Young Fresh Fellows, 764-Hero, Oranger, Zen Guerrilla, and the Fastbacks. Shows will take place at such clubs as Bimbo's 365, the Great American Music Hall, Slim's, the Bottom of the Hill, and Café du Nord. In addition to the music performances, this will be the second year of the Noise Pop Film Festival (yep, music documentaries, features and shorts) and there will be Sunday-afternoon discussions led by musicians and biz types. ...Calling All Kings & Queens is an excellent compilation album due from Mr. Lady March 6. This 18-song collection includes a live version of "Ballad of a Ladyman" by Sleater-Kinney, Le Tigre's "Sweetie," a live version of "Disco" by the Butchies, plus solid tracks from California Lightening, Darien Brahms, Heart Beats Red, the Crowns, Shelly Doty and others. But what will likely get the most attention is a live version of Amy Ray's "Lucy Stoners," in which the Indigo Girl takes shots at Rolling Stone magazine and its owner, Jann Wenner.

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Michael Goldberg is the president of He founded Addicted To Noise in 1994.

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