Nakedly Examined Music is a podcast about making music: Why do we do it? Why do we do it the way we do it? Mark Linsenmayer interviews songwriters and composers famous and otherwise about specific recordings, which are presented in full on the podcast.

NEM #29: Jason Seed’s “Stringtet”

Jason fattens out his eclectic guitar pieces by writing string and horn parts, and The Jason Seed Stringtet includes members of the Chicago Symphony sawing away furiously. Hear more at jasonseedmusic.com.

We’ll discuss “Ishtar,” a Bulgarian/Latin-inflected piece from In the Gallery (2013), “Any Night Now” a more traditional chamber jazz number from 2015, and “Mammoth” from the Jason Seed Exlier Ensemble’s album 3 (2008). We’ll wrap up by listening to “Pinch” from the Stringtet’s The Escapist (2010). Intro music: “Invocation” from In the Gallery.

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NEM #28: Jill Freeman on Fairy Tales and Psychological Truth

Jill was part of a 3-woman vocal band in the ’80s called The Life is Grand Band, and then in 1995 released Songs About Sex & Depression, and only in 2015 unveiled her long-awaited study of the dark psychology of fairy tales, A Handmade Life.

We focus on this most recent project, discussing “Letters from Murdertown” and “Eyes of Fire,” and playing at the end “Walking on Glass.” Our third discussion song goes back to the previous album with “Everything Makes Me Cry.” Opening music is The Life Is Grand Band’s “Harry’s Song” from Feel Like Makin’ Art (1989).

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NEM #27: Peter Knight (Steeleye Span): Free Fiddlin’ in the Face of Death

Peter’s violin was a key part of Steeleye Span’s updating of traditional folk songs from 1971–2013. His original songs were among the group’s most heartfelt. We talk about being creative with traditional music, authenticity, and finally getting the hang of songwriting late in his career.

We discuss “We Shall Wear Midnight” from Steeleye Span’s Wintersmith (2013 with Terry Pratchett), “Bows of London” from Gigspanner’s Layers of Ages (2015), and “From a Lullaby Kiss” (2014 solo). End song: “Who Told the Butcher” from Bedlam Born (2000 Steeleye); intro: “The Butterfly” from Lipreading the Poet (2008 Gigspanner).

For more info, see peterknight.net and gigspanner.com.

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NEM #25: Bill Bruford: Drumming Matters

Bill was the original drummer for Yes, a default member of King Crimson, and briefly played with Genesis and the late ’70s supergroup U.K., but most of his output has been with his own jazz-inflected Earthworks and Bruford, as rock proved too confining for his rhythmic and tonal creativity.

We discuss King Crimson’s “One more Red Nightmare” from Red (1974), “Thistledown” from If Summer Had Its Ghosts by Bill Bruford, Eddie Gomez and Ralph Towner (1992), and “The 16 Kingdoms of the 5 Barbarians” from Every Step a Dance, Every Word a Song by Bill Bruford/Michiel Borstlap (2004). We also hear “Hell’s Bells” and the title track of One of a Kind by Bruford (1979), plus “Five Per Cent for Nothing” from Fragile (1972) by Yes.

Learn more at billbruford.com. Hear more Nakedly Examined Music.

NEM #24: Tyler Hislop (Sacrifice): Copious Rhymes

Tyler (editor of this podcast!) can rap endlessly, and has filled up ten albums with his machine-gun musings on life and politics. A great intro to indie hip-hop for the ignorant (like me)!

Songs: “Negative Space,” “Long Way Down,” and “Ciphers” (feat Grimm) from Long Way Down (2015), and “Kids of the Earth” from Quest for Meaning (2008).

Hear more at soundcloud.com/sacrifice.

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NEM #23: Sean Beeson’s Two-Minute Hi-Tech Symphonies

Sean writes music for video games. He uses five computers, with massively realistic orchestra sounds, and he performs every part with a breath controller for expression.

We discuss “Beyond the Desert” (from Empires Apart), “Mega Adventure Time” (from Adventure Time: Magic Man’s Head Game for Gear VR), and “Celestial Light” (from Stellar Wanderer).

We conclude by listening to a non-video-game tune, “Salve Regina” featuring Fr. Gabriel. Opening music is “Dr. Evil’s Lair of Doom.”

Hear more at seanbeeson.com. Hear more Nakedly Examined Music.

NEM #22: Jon Langford (Mekons) on “Natural” Art

Jon has been a key member of art collective The Mekons since 1977, injecting country/folk/reggae/etc. influences into a seminal punk band to create an inimitable melange that has put out 19 albums, plus he puts out solo albums and is involved with many side projects including the country-punk Waco Brothers.

We discuss “Lil’ Ray O’ Light” from his solo album Here Be Monsters (2014) and two Mekons songs: “This Funeral Is for the Wrong Corpose” recorded in 1991 and released on I Have Been to Heaven and Back: Hen’s Teeth and Other Lost Fragments of Un-Popular Culture, Volume 1 in 1999, and “Cockermouth” from Natural (2007).

We conclude by listening to the title track from the 2016 Waco Brothers album Going Down in History. Intro/outro music is from “Mephis Egypt” from The Mekons Rock ‘n’ Roll (1989).

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NEM #21: Trey Gunn and the Discipline of Tap Guitar

Trey is master of a many-stringed type of guitar that you play by tapping with both hands at the same time. His mentor was Robert Fripp, with whom he played in the seminal progressive rock band King Crimson. He has also released over a dozen exploratory solo albums. Learn more at treygunn.com.

We talked about “Kuma” from his solo album The Third Star (1996), “Level Five” from King Crimson’s The Power to Believe, and “God’s Monkey” from the David Sylvian/Robert Fripp album The First Day (1993).

We conclude by listening to Trey’s current touring group The Security Project, as they play the Peter Gabriel classic “No Self Control” from Live 1 (2016). Beginning and end music is from Trey’s Live and Hugo House EP (2015).

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NEM #20: Dave Nachmanoff Crafts Specific Yet Universal Stories

Dave is a consummate craftsman in the acoustic singer-songwriter vein, but with the added bonus that he’s an amazing guitar player, who for 15 years or so has acted as sideman for ’70s Brit-legend Al Stewart, i.e., filling in the entirety of the musical palette apart from Al’s singing and strumming. And Dave has a philosophy Ph.D., and put that to use in crafting his most recent album Spinoza’s Dream (2016), where each song reflects a particular philosopher.

We talk about the title track from that album, plus two songs from Step Up (2011): “Sheila Won’t Be Coming Home” (a duet with Al Stewart) and “Descartes in Amsterdam” (originally written and recorded in 1997). We finish by listening to “All Good” from the new album. The opening music is Dave’s instrumental version of Al’s hit “Year of the Cat” from Wordless Rhymes (2005).

Learn more at davenachmanoff.com.

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NEM #19: Chad Clark (Beauty Pill): Smart Went Electro-Soundscapey

Chad’s 2015 album Beauty Pill Describes Things As They Are has received heaps of nice reviews, with its carefully crafted, groove-oriented soundscapes and cinematic lyrics. We discuss “Afrikaner Barista” and “Steven & Tiwonge,” and then go back to Beauty Pill’s first release with “The Idiot Heart” from the Cigarette Girl from the Future EP (2001).

We close by listening to “The Prize,” a cover of an Arto Lindsay song. The opening music is “A Good Day” by Chad’s previous band, Smart Went Crazy, from Con Art (1997). Learn more at www.beautypill.com.

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NEM#18: Jill Sobule Takes America Back

Jill is a big personality, rivaling Elvis Costello in the creation of acerbic, stylistically varied singer-songwriter material, and shes been putting out tuneful, story-laden albums since 1990. Visit jillsobule.com.

We discuss “Jetpack” from Underdog Victorious (2004) and get to meet her frequent co-writer Robin Eaton, “Empty Glass” (co-written with Elise Thoron) from The California Years (2009), and “Pilar (Things Here Are Different)” from Things Here Are Different (1990). Finally, we hear a new recording of her political manifesto “America Back.” The intro/outro music is “Supermodel” from her 1995 self-titled album.

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NEM#17: Carrie Akre’s Different Ways of Fronting

Carrie fronted Seattle grunge favorite Hammerbox in the early ’90s, then moved to the more poppy guitar rock band Goodness for the latter part of the decade, and released three solo albums in the ’00s. The overall movement is from harsh exuberance to quiet reflectivity, and Carrie’s role evolved with her starting off as new newbie to rock bands singing over already-composed music and ending up in a much more controlling position, as she experiments with different musicians to get deep textures.

We discuss “No” from Hammerbox’s Numb (1993), “Cozy” from Goodness’s Anthem (1998), and “Reflection” from her solo album Home (2000). We also listen to “Coat of Arms” from the Rockfords’ self-titled 2000 album (a band that features members of Goodness as well as Mike McCready from Pearl Jam), and the opening music is Hammerbox’s single “When 3 is 2,” also from No.

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NEM#16. Narada Michael Walden Funks the Moment

Narada started as a fusion drummer in the ’70s (with Mahavishnu Orchestra, Jeff Beck, etc.) then released numerous solo albums and produced and wrote for artists like Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Aretha Franklin, and many more. He believes in working fast: creating a mood and getting the most out of it.

We discuss “Freedom” (written by Richie Havens) from Evolution (2015), “I Shoulda Loved Ya” from The Dance of Life (1979), and the title track from Garden of Love Light (1976). We also listen to “Billionaire on Soul Street,” also from Evolution. The opening music is from “Freeway of Love” which Narada wrote and produced for Aretha Franklin, and the outro music is from “How Will I Know?” which Narada produced and wrote the verses to for Whitey Houston.

Learn more about Narada at naradamichaelwalden.com.

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NEM#15. Craig Wedren’s Non-Linear Clarity

Craig led Shudder to Think from 1986 to 1998 and has since had a solo career and done soundtrack work. Shudder to Think was a band that started as part of Washington DC’s “hardcore” scene, but challenged musical conventions to try to achieve U2-level success with Captain-Beefheart-level weirdness (they failed). We discuss their song “Pebbles” from Get Your Goat (1992), then go post-Shudder to “Show Down” by Craig’s short-lived pop-dance band, Craig Wedren & Baby. Then we talk about working on assignment on “I Am the Wolf, You Are the Moon,” for Wet, Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp. We also listen to “Heaven Sent” from Crag’s album Wand (2011).

The opening music is “X-French Tee Shirt” from Pony Express Record (1994) and the closing music is the theme from The State. Learn more at craigwedren.com.

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NEM#14. Jonathan Donahue (Mercury Rev): Mountain Man of Subtlety

After serving a stint with the Flaming Lips, Jonathan has been putting out albums with Mercury Rev since 1991. Over time, their music has shifted from noisy alternative rock to symphonic, soundtrack pop songs… still psychedelic, but now with an unapologetically Disneyesque influence, with the magic of nature swirling out through harp glissandos and french horns, all standing behind a simple, stark melody delivered by Jonathan’s high, Neil-Youngesque voice, which sings of nature and things more abstract.

We discuss “Autumn’s in the Air” from The Light In You (2015), “Holes” from Deserter’s Songs (1998), and “Empire State (Son House in Excelsis)” from See You on the Other Side (1995). We also listen to “Central Park East” also from the new album and intro music is “Car Wash Hair” from Yerself Is Steam (1991).

Learn more about Mercury Rev at mercuryrev.com.

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NEM#13. Beth Kille Rocks and Leads Others to Rock

Beth fronted Clear Blue Betty from 2000–2007, then in 2009 became a solo artist, co-founding Madison’s Girl’s Rock camp and letting music consume all of her professional life. She’s a classic singer-songwriter whose mission is to help others unlock their creative rockery.

We talk about “Wrong Side of Gone” from the Beth Kille Band’s 2015 EP Stark Raving Songbird, “Dead Man in a Dream” from Dust (2012), and “Through the Walls” from the EP of that name by Clear Blue Betty (2007). Plus, “Little Bit Drunk” from Beth Kille’s Ready(2010). The intro music is “Go Back” from Clear Blue Betty’s Never Been a Rebel (2004).

Learn and hear more at bethkille.com. Hear more Nakedly Examined Music.

NEM#12. John Philip Shenale: String Arranger, Composer, Producer

Phil is the long-time string arranger for Tori Amos and has done a heap more production, arrangement, and keyboard work. He has a very deliberate production style, carefully crafting a very natural-sounding theatrical background using both cutting-edge and very old tools.

We talk about “Cross the Channel” from the Brik & Shenale EP (2012), Phil’s arrangement and production of “Stars that Speak” by Willie Deville from Pistola (2008), and “Pornokiss” from a project Phil initiated called The Royal Macadamians from their album Experiments in Terror (1990).

We also listen to a brand-new Shenale instrumental “Gautama in Love.” The opening music is from “Yes, Anastasia” by Tori Amos from Under the Pink (1994). Learn more about Phil at johnphilipshenale.com.

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NEM#11. Bob Manor: No Alt-Country for Old Men

Bob leads the Madison, WI band The Getaway Drivers; he shares the vocal duties with his wife Shiela Shigley. Though Bob has displayed a lot of affection toward old-timey, world-weary music since starting off his major songwriting efforts around 2000 at the ripe age of 28ish, The Getaway Drivers’ new album Bellatopia is a conscious attempt to break with that, though Bob still likes telling stories informed by nostalgia for a long-gone past.

We discuss “Suburban Summer Shine” and “Signs” from the new album, as well as “Stuck” from the Bob Manor 2005 album Ghosts of Yesterday. We end by listening to “Stay” from The Getaway Drivers (2006). The opening/end music is from “A Call Out” from the new album.

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NEM#10. Nick Eede (Cutting Crew): Escape from the ’80s

In 1986 Nick van Eede released a song (“I Just Died in Your Arms”) that will be played long after we are all dead. But he’s got a lot more going on than that, and on his new album (still under the moniker “Cutting Crew”) he’s recorded his best songs from the last decade without regard for continuity with the sound that made him famous.

We discuss “Reach for the Sky” from The Scattering (1989), “Berlin in Winter” from Add to Favourites, “Frigid as England” from Compus Mentus (1992), and wrap up by listening to “Looking for a Friend,” also from the new album. Learn more at cuttingcrew.biz.

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