Feedback wasn’t sure what to expect when we rolled up to the grand opening of Steelheart Studios, the newest place for musicians to capture the great sound waves that are always bouncing around this town. The studio, located on E. Market Street, is owned by Miljenko "Mili" Matijevic and is named after Steelheart, Matijevic’s metal band, which has been through a couple different incarnations since its beginnings in 1990. The group began that decade with chart hits "She’s Gone" and "I’ll Never Let You Go (Angel Eyes)," but things came to an untimely end after a 1000-pound light rig collapsed on Matijevic at a show in Denver, causing him serious head injury and memory loss. Though recovering from his injuries wasn’t easy, Matijevic made it back to music, reforming Steelheart with new members in 1996 for the album Wait, providing the vocals for Mark Wahlberg‘s character in the 2001 film, Rock Star, and putting together his personal Steelheart studio in Charlottesville when he moved here three years ago to get away from the hustle and bustle of L.A.
Miljenko "Mili" Matijevic demonstrates his mixing console at the grand opening of Steelheart Studios.
What we’re listening to
"Faeries Wear Boots," by Black Sabbath (from Paranoid)—Black Sabbath created a nation of headbangers with this album, but with this shrieking pile drive of a song set the bar impossibly high for all to follow, including themselves.
"1999," by Dump (from That Skinny Motherfucker with the High Voice?) —Yo La Tengo‘s James McNew makes a pristine and beautifully warped version of Prince’s apocalyptic party jam.
"A Man Needs A Maid/Heart Of Gold Suite," by Neil Young (from Live at Massey Hall)
"Tentative Decisions," by Talking Heads, (from 77)
"Out of Nowhere," by Mark Lanegan (from Bubblegum)
We stepped into the unassuming warehouse space, and—boom!—we were suddenly in a stylishly designed and remarkably intimate recording facility. Matijevic greeted us warmly and showed us around. The large main room features a slew of top-notch gear and instruments, including a pristine grand piano and a jaw-droppingly massive PA system ("I got that from AC/DC," Matijevic told us). A flight of stairs leads up to the control room, where Matijevic played us a few new tracks that he recorded in the studio for the new Steelheart album, Samurai, set to be released this spring.
The studio has a very cozy and relaxed feel, and that makes perfect sense, as Matijevic designed the place as his own personal recording pad. However, with plans for a Steelheart world tour in the works, he decided to open the facility to the public so that it can be put to use in his absence.
As the grand opening party progressed, more people showed up, and Feedback bumped into a wide array of Charlottesville music characters, including the boys from 6 Day Bender, members of Accordion Death Squad, producer/musician/C-fest mastermind Lance Brenner, a girl we met at 214 Community Arts‘ old time jam and Satellite Ballroom soundman Andy Gems.
Matijevic has obviously gotten into the mix of the Charlottesville music scene, and his studio looks like it will be a nice place for a band to lay down some tracks in a comfortable setting without venturing too far from Downtown. And if Matijevic and company are half as hospitable and fun as they were for the grand opening, we’re sure that Steelheart Studios will be a great addition to Charlottesville’s recording options.
We heart audio
As a lover of odd, experimental noises, Feedback was thrilled to hear that the Bridge/ Progressive Arts Initiative has dedicated the month of January to these sorts of sounds with a series of events aptly titled "Audio January." The series’ opening reception on January 4 will feature performers from Richmond collective 804noise, local Charlottesville noisemakers Grand Banks, electronic musician Josh Van Horne and more.
From there, unique sounds will just keep coming. On January 9, former Charlottesvillians The Extraordinaires and Jesse Dukes, radio host of "With Good Reason," will host a storytelling night. Then the Bridge will kick off their Winter Film Series on January 10, with films that feature soundtracks by experimental composers such as Terry Riley, John Cale and Steve Reich. On the 12th, Van Horne, Adam Rogers and others will host a workshop on circuit bending (it’s like a DIY "Pimp My Ride," but with keyboards and other electronic toys instead of cars—bring along that old Casio and trick it out to make weird noises). The 16th will be a night of experimental dance music; UVA music professor Ted Coffey will have a performance and installation on the 20th; and grad student Peter Traub will present his Internet sound installation ItSpace on the 25th along with electro acoustic improvisation from the Pinko Communoids and others.
Finally, the series will come to a spectacular conclusion on January 26 with "Ambient Pancakes," an all-night marathon of ambient sounds and performers, with a vegan pancake breakfast at dawn.
We don’t quite know how we can express our excitement for this event, but we recommend you mark your calendars and check it out for yourself. Visit thebridgepai.com soon for the "Audio January" calendar.
Over our shoulders
2007 offered a whopping 365 days of great music in Charlottesville, so we asked some musicians to relate the moments that they enjoyed seeing the most during the past year.
Sons of Bill’s Seth Green remembered the all-star line up of the Charlottesville Music Showcase’s Halloween show at Orbit, which featured Freddy Krueger Mellencamp, Six Feet Underground (Six Day Bender doing Velvet Underground songs) and a Ziggy Stardust cover band, about whom Green pondered “how this band actually got David Bowie to sit in with them.”
Sons of Bill performing "Texas" at now-defunct Starr Hill Music Hall.
The Rogan Brothers enjoyed joining up with other bands to kick off two first-time local festivals, the Crozet Music Festival and Noble Savages, as well as seeing Wilco’s Pavilion show and The Falsies at Carter Mountain.
Highlights from the Noble Savages festival.
Alex Caton enjoyed the versatile guitar/mandolin/banjo/stand-up comedy of Orrin Starr at the 214 Community Arts Center, but laments the fact that, come summer, such magic will no longer happen in the long-running space, as it’ll be closing down.
|Take a listen to Horsefang‘s "Plaguebreaker":
“Boris just ascended and transcended a couple dimensions whilst also employing a gong and smoke machine in a rock-legend capacity,” says Horsefang’s Nicholas Liivak of the Japanese band’s Satellite Ballroom show.
Billy Joel’s trip to town was a highlight for Greg Allen, singer-songwriter and founder of the nonprofit SongSharing, especially since Joel autographed an LP of Glass House and a Baldwin piano that will be auctioned to raise funds for SongSharing.
|Take a listen to "Long Time Since" by Sweetbriar:
Jonathan Drolshagen of Sweetbriar enjoyed Robert Randolph’s free global warming awareness gig at the Pavilion and was happy when Randolph gave a shout out to Five Guys as the best restaurant in town (Drolshagen manages the three Charlottesville burger joints).
“I’ve never seen anybody play like Sonny [Landreth],” says Paul Curreri, referring to when he and Devon Sproule saw the blues guitarist at Gravity Lounge. He and Sproule kept trying to see if he was using pedals to create his sounds, but “all that kaleidoscopic pyro-guitar was shooting from the same guitar setting.”
Knoxville’s RobinElla wowed Jay Pun at Gravity (“When listening to her you can feel the fire, intensity and sweetness that she naturally gives when she sings,” he says).
Pinback’s Satellite show topped the list for John Gulino (aka Doofgoblin). “From the Captain Beefheart blasting from the PA as the band set up (they always crank the Beefheart) to The Residents references, for that hour or so I felt like I could’ve been in a club back in my beloved Oakland,” he says.
Doofgoblin performing at the Tea Bazaar.
University Singers conductor Michael Slon enjoyed The Police and Billy Joel, but was also excited to step on stage with Bobby McFerrin and his Voicestra when he performed at the Paramount. “No one has the ability Bobby does to sense the spirit of the moment and convey it musically in his improvised songs,” Slon says.
The University Singers rehearsing for their performance of Carmina Burana.
And, bringing things full circle, Peyton Tocherman was “continually amazed” by Sons of Bill. “Mixing pop country with the guitar playing of Sam Wilson has left that band in a great place to write and perform some amazing music in 2008,” he observes.
We agree, Peyton. Sons of Bill and many other local bands (including Tochterman’s own High Society) are primed to make the most of 2008, and we’re excited about everything that’s going to happen. Now, let’s get this party started.
Peyton Tochterman performing "Personals" at the Charlottesville Music Showcase.
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