He's Gonna Make It All OK: An Oral History Of Elliott Smith's Darkly Beautiful Self-Titled Album

Elliott Smith

Photo by JJ Gonson


He's Gonna Make It All OK: An Oral History Of Elliott Smith's Darkly Beautiful Self-Titled Album

To honor the 25th anniversary re-release of 'Elliott Smith,' archivist Larry Crane and photographer JJ Gonson reflect on Smith’s impact on their lives—and ours

GRAMMYs/Aug 28, 2020 - 08:00 pm

The longer Elliott Smith has been gone, the closer his listeners have felt to him. Since his untimely death at 34 years old in 2003, Smith's closest friends and family have seen his masterfully empathic songwriting give that intimate companionship to countless fans. The 25th anniversary reissue of his self-titled album, due Aug. 28th via Kill Rock Stars, aims to bridge that gap. The expanded release allows those closest to Smith to share intimate memories and experiences with fans, and for fans to understand the real person behind the music.

Released in 1995, Elliott Smith found the songwriter gaining an increasing profile in the Portland, Oregon, scene and far afield. Smith mined his darkness and exposed it for the world, redoubling Heatmiser’s cleverly twisted songwriting and Roman Candle's homemade flame.

The reissue is a document of Smith's heart and mind, but also of the tight-knit community surrounding him. The remastered take on the record itself was overseen by producer/engineer Larry Crane, a friend and collaborator of Smith's who has since become the official archivist for the Smith family. The reissue also includes Live at Umbra Penumbra, the earliest known live recording of Smith performing as a solo act. Not only does the bonus disc share an up close and personal account of Smith at his rawest, but Crane's experience at the venue and deft hand editing the original cassette tape bring the man behind the legend closer into focus. The package also includes a coffee table book full of handwritten lyrics, notes written by peers about the album's creation and a series of previously never-before-seen pictures by the artist behind the cover image—another close friend of Smith's, JJ Gonson. Her kinetic photographs have been beloved the world over for their ability to document an entire world; these are not pictures of an artist, but rather a life story of the emotions, experiences and memories of the moment.

To honor the duality of image and sound that comprises the 25th anniversary re-release of Elliott Smith, Crane and Gonson reflect on their relationships with the songwriter, the record’s origins, the process of assembling the anniversary edition and Smith’s impact on their lives—and ours.


"We were kids not doing our jobs"

JJ Gonson: We were all very tight. Elliott and Neil [Gust, Heatmiser guitarist/vocalist], when they first came from college, would come in and sit at the coffee bar where I was a baker, and we would just all hang out because we were kids not doing our jobs. There probably wasn't much to do. The muffins were made. And we'd sit there and talk about music and art.

Larry Crane: I wasn't even friends with Elliott at that point. I didn't know him, but I would see him around. I'd see JJ around, with her blue hair. Even when I first moved to town in ‘93, I remember being at parties with my roommates. We'd be at some party and they'd be like, "Oh, Neil Gust from Heatmiser is here." It used to be you’d go downtown or to a few places on the East side to see shows and there weren't even that many bars or pubs that weren't working class, blue collar, working dude bars. So we’d all end up in the same places, hanging out and the same venues, seeing the same kind of underground music.

I saw Heatmiser play a few times when I moved to town, but I’ve got to admit, I wasn't that interested. In fact, I think I even wrote a review of Yellow No. 5 for a little magazine called Snipe Hunt that was going then. But I remember seeing Heatmiser and thinking, "Oh gosh, another guitar band. Who cares?" When grunge hit and ruined Seattle, it didn't initially really affect Portland much and everyone would start bands here that were unique, like Crackerbash, Calamity Jane, Sprinkler, and the Spinanes.

Roman Candle came out on Cavity Search Records, which our friends Denny [Swofford] and Christopher [Cooper] ran. JJ is the one that instigated all that, of course. It got a fair amount of attention. I was working in a pub at that time, and we always had a budget to buy CDs to play at the pub. My manager bought Elliott's album, and I was like, "Oh, it kind of sounds like Nick Drake or something." It was cool and moody. But at that point, I don't think Elliott played any shows solo, or at least I don't have any record of it. So [the recordings on the bonus disc] are really the start of him playing out live, one of his earliest shows. But he had already written a lot of the stuff that would be the second album.

The two songs that people always react to are "Needle in the Hay" and "Christian Brothers." Technically, [Elliott Smith] is not the best-sounding thing. It's all self-recorded, basically, with a little bit of help from Tony Lash [Heatmiser drummer] and Leslie Uppinghouse. Leslie doesn't really get the proper credit. The record was tracked on 8-track, reel-to-reel, and then mixed. It started at Tony's with two songs and the rest in Leslie's spare room. Then it was taken back over to Tony's and mixed down through a pretty inexpensive Mackie console and a DAT machine, which if it's running well, pretty much what you put in is what you get back. But it's a little bit lossy, not the best sound quality. Tony assembled it, but he didn't really master it, apply much EQ, or do any limiting. He just kind of got the songs in the right levels and structured the album. Tony Lash is a fantastic guy and an amazing engineer and drummer. But back at that time when CDs first came out, especially for independent artists, it was really confusing what the mastering process was supposed to be. Finishing vinyl was a manufacturing process: you send the lacquer to a place that would make the negative, and then they would press the vinyl and you’d need to check it out to make sure it sounds right. With CDs, you’d basically send them a digital audio file and they’d make something. Small labels like this just weren't prepared for mastering CDs in a flattering way.

Gonson: I was just capturing what he was doing. It wasn't that I picked up the camera and he started goofing around. There’s a picture of him with the Mickey Mouse glasses, we were out with friends. I was just documenting the whole experience. The one where he's tuning his guitar in L.A. has been a really important photo in my life. That photo and then also the cover of Roman Candle are very popular. But that photo, it could be anybody sitting there tuning and I would still love that picture. The hair, the shape of the body—he really is listening. For years I saw that picture as a little bit dark and gloomy. But then a few years ago, I started seeing it as very positive because his body language is attentive, not depressed. And he's listening to this instrument. He loves the guitar and he's really in this moment of preparing. It just says, "I'm in a punk club getting ready to go on stage.”

I'm going to be really precocious at the moment, and I’m sure some people are going to be like, "I hate her," but one really big part of my reconciling sharing [my photos from that time] was that Elliott loved my photography. I took all of Heatmiser's promo photos and he used my pictures on the covers of two records, a single, and back covers. I feel that he would be okay with my showing my work because he really loved it. He made music and I made pictures, and that's why there are so many pictures...God, I hope he didn't write "Pictures of Me" about that. I don't think he did. I have given a lot of my memory, but the biggest thing about the photos really has to do with feeling like it was okay. And I actually did talk to his sister about it. She’s a dear friend, a wonderful human being, and a brilliant, amazing person.

"I want to make a thing that the people who love him want to have"

Crane: My role is to make sure everything's cataloged and stored properly and backed up digitally. And if any release or remaster is coming out, I supervise it and work on it. I'm not really a mastering engineer, so in cases like this I go through all the different sources and choose the best [recordings]. I went to different digital audio tapes it was mixed to and listened to them all back to back against each other. In some cases, even as these are digital tapes, they transferred differently and were recorded differently somehow. And you just have to find the one that sounds the clearest and the best. And then I would prep the files before mastering, cleaning up the subsonic information, removing tape hiss.

I always felt that it was a beautiful record, but that it sounded a little rough. If you really examine "Needle in the Hay," there were these huge low-end bumps, sub-sonic information on the master tapes. Tony and I have tried to figure out what it is, but it wasn't musical information. It was almost random sound. So being able to go in and surgically remove that with the tools that are available digitally opens up more room for the music to sound better. It takes away this incorrect information. Songs like "Satellite" were really buried in tape hiss at points. I would also clean up really loud guitar scrapes when he was going between chords or really popped P's or S's that were causing a bit of distortion. And then I would go attend sessions with Adam Gonsalves, who's the actual mastering engineer, and we'd spend a few days doing the mastering work as far as EQ'ing and limiting. We would go back and forth, listening to the original album, my raw files, and what he'd done and make little adjustments.

Gonson: Putting out a book is major, major, major for a photographer. I have been taking pictures since I was five, since I was old enough to point and think about what I'm doing. As much as that kid who picks up Rolling Stone magazine and wants to be a guitar player or a drummer, I read Aperture magazine and wanted to be a successful photographer. I shot punk rock and the second wave of hardcore from ‘85 to ‘90 in Boston and New York, so that could be another book. But this one is very much a gift to his fans from me and his label. When Portia [Sabin, Kill Rock Stars president] approached me about doing this project, she said, "I want to make a thing that the people who love him want to have." She was very clear that she wanted to make a beautiful thing and that it was going to be very special.

Crane: Every time you remaster or reapproach an album like this, some people just will not like any change whatsoever. So, some fans are going to say, "That's not what he intended. It just sounds louder and brighter," or something. Most people aren't really equipped to do incredibly deep, critical listening. Some people are going to say they don't like it as much, and to them I say: hang onto your original copy. But when a remaster of an album is done well, you open up just a little more detail and a little more depth. My goal is always to make it something where you're hearing a little bit more of what was intended. I studied filmmaking and I always equate it with a good transfer of a film, where you don't see the hairs caught in the frames, and there's not jumps where the reels change. You take all the garbage out that you don't need and clean it up so it's more emotionally involving. I hope that people will hear it and say, "It affected me more."

I try to keep everything that you're used to hearing. There are noises at the beginning of "Coming Up Roses," a bunch of rustling. I wouldn't take that out. And I would certainly never auto-tune or pitch correct his lead vocals. You couldn't really slick up this record or do too much to it. We don’t have multitracks for half of the record. There's a missing reel somehow. It's one of the few cases where we just don't have the masters. I just try to present it in a similar way to the way he was mixing his stuff. I go with certain panning schemes and certain affects usage that made sense to the way Elliott worked. He wasn't someone who was super communicative all the time, but I watched him work on XO and he would just be matter of fact and move forward.

Gonson: The [book] designer I worked with was so talented that I very easily downloaded from my brain into his what my dream was of how this would look. He totally nailed it immediately. I went to a very conventional fine arts school as a really fringy person and learned that photography is called bottom weighted. It's not quite in the center of the page; it's a little bit to the top. It has a black line around it, and it's on a white page.

This work has never been seen, and I'm not just someone who happened to be on the spot with a quick camera. I'm a trained photographer and photojournalist. So some of them are candid, but they're still photography. They're not just what I call happy snaps—though those do still have a lot of merit. But these are very satisfying to me because they're actually portraits. I have thousands and thousands of pictures and these are the ones that I selected out to share. Editing is the bugbear of the artist. It's hard to know when to stop. Gratefully, I did a lot of critique in art school, and I was taught to have a discerning eye. So, I can go from 200 pictures down to 40 pretty easily. But it's that last 40 that are painful. In this case, there were very, very strict criteria: no photos of Heatmiser, and only pictures from a certain couple of years.

Photo by JJ Gonson

"That picture is a story...a portrait of 1994 in Portland"

Gonson: There are always my favorite pictures, a lot of which have never been seen. There are ones that I find the most dear, like the photo of Elliott with blue hair and he's doing the devil horns and he's holding a cup of coffee. That photo is that it is a portrait of 1994 in Portland, Oregon. That picture is a story. You've got the wet streets. The cars give you the time period. And then his growing out, faded, dyed blue hair and the ironic cat's eye glasses, the ironic jacket—it was all about being ironic, because it was grunge. I look at that picture and I'm like, "That's ‘93, ‘94 Portland, Oregon." Another one that I find very satisfying as a picture is of Elliott playing guitar with our friend, Chris. That tells another story that's very important: everybody sitting around, playing constantly. I think they're in front of a shower curtain that we were using to divide a room because somebody was sleeping in the other part of the room. It was a house full of 20-year-olds, whatever we were, post-college youngsters with bad jobs or no jobs.

The thing that was the most difficult was not being able to lay a bunch of pictures out together on a table. You really can't in this process. That makes it very hard to do the color balance, because they all have to be contiguous. You can't have one be shockingly blue, and the next one be suddenly shockingly yellow or your brain will just go, "This looks like shit." So they all have to be color balanced and the blacks and whites had to be adjusted to suit each other. And that's probably the thing that the designer, Rob Jones, and I spent the most time doing. I actually went to Portland so we were looking at the same screen and I was like, "A little bluer..." And then we scrolled through them really fast before taking a day off and coming back to it with fresh eyes. Making this book was like mixing a record—mastering, mixing, all of it.

"There’s a whole person there"

Crane: The live album that comes with it was very difficult. I'd drive around town, borrowing four-track cassette players from different people and doing different passes with noise reduction on and noise reduction off. The masters for the album were easier to deal with than this cassette recording because with an analog master, like these cassettes, you can keep messing with it and pulling more information out of the ether, out of the tape hiss. If you get a slightly better tape head or a tape player, maybe the tape player plays the tape more steadily and there's less flutter. Or maybe the different brands of four-track cassette recorders have slightly different gaps between the tracks on the heads, so they follow it differently. There are a million things, so that was frustrating as heck.

I feel we always end up saying, "There's a whole person there. There's a whole breadth of emotion, personality behind this music. Don't take it at a shallow base value." And I think when something like this live concert comes out, people are able to hear he was very casual with his shows. He would stop and start songs and chat with the audience. He would sound nervous to some people, but honestly, I don't really think he was. He was just up there, like, "What do you want?" It's a tiny venue. I remember seeing him play here once. It was a little coffee shop. The tiny crowd is probably sitting on the floor. You can hear Sean Croghan and Neil Gust and Joanna Bolme and a few of our other friends talking in the background. He plays "Half Right" with Neil, which had just been written. And we're lucky that Casey Crynes made this little live cassette. I wasn't there for this show, but I saw shows there later, so I know what the space felt. It's important to understand those things.

"Everyone knew that what he was doing was pretty damn good"

Crane: I'm pretty sure I met Elliott in ‘96 through Joanna Bolme. They were dating at the time and she worked at a venue called La Luna as a bartender. If you listen to "New Monkey," it actually refers to that. My friend was the bar manager there, so when I went to La Luna to see shows, I usually got on the guest list and they'd give me free beers. That's how I met Joanna and how Elliott ended up hanging out at our house.

Summer of ‘96, we talked at a party, and then I recorded the vocals on "Pictures of Me" for him at my house. I remember saying, "Do you really have to double everything? Do you have to put so many vocals on here?" He did six tracks of vocals. I was kinda like, "That seems excessive, but this reminds me of the Left Banke." And he goes, "You like the Left Banke?" It sparked this conversation where we discovered we both liked a lot of the same stuff, more nuanced, older music and Baroque pop. In the winter of ‘96/’97, we went and found a space and opened up Jackpot. But when he was recording Either/Or, he did a lot of the recording at JJ's office space. I was working at a record distributor that was on the other side of the wall from where he was playing drums. We'd hear Elliott in there banging around and we knew he was making a new record. And then when we opened the studio, we spent weeks building the walls and wiring things up. It was my business, but I told him if he wanted to bring gear down and help me build the studio, he could work out of here for a small fee. It was really fun building the studio with him. We'd listened to CDs all day, lots of Beatles, Zombies, and the Kinks. There was always Dylan hovering in the background. I think I tortured him with Petula Clark one time. He went out one day and came back with a CD of Pat Boone's In a Metal Mood. It's pretty hilarious. Not really something you want to listen to.

I was not putting Elliott on any sort of pedestal at that point, just because he was in our friend group. Everyone knew that what he was doing was pretty damn good. But at the same time, everybody was falling all over themselves about Everclear and the Dandy Warhols. The Dandy Warhols are fun, but it's just lightweight, fluff music. And Everclear are just flat-out shitty. It's an old guy writing songs for teenagers. It's bullshit music. It's as bad as listening to Foreigner or something.

"It's my life"

Gonson: I didn't listen to his music at all [while making the book]. I don't need to. I watched it being written. I think he's brilliant, but I don't necessarily dig back into old favorites and that's what that would be. I don't need to be triggered into that. It's my life.

Crane: If you went to my mom and gave her a two-inch reel of my old band or something, she'd go, "What do I have to do with that?" I remember in the middle of working on New Moon, I met with Elliott’s dad, Gary, and he goes, "I got this box of stuff. Do you want to look at it?" And there was a whole bunch of digital audio tapes. We put it in the archive, but I don't think he even quite knew what they were. He was like, "Are these something?" I'm like, "Oh, majorly. Yes. But we need to get those backed up now." I'm really honored that they trust me and it really helps to be in a position to help them. I'm in a wonderful position because I know Rob Schnapf and Joanna [Bolme] and most of the guys that were in Heatmiser. I'm still in touch with Neil [Gust]. I can drop a line to anybody and say, "Hey, I've got a question" and they're happy to talk to me about it. They trust me. If I was some stranger that was just hired because he had the technical expertise, they might be nervous about this person. We can all confer and make sure that things feel okay.

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Rotimi On Performing At ESSENCE Fest, Growing Up African-American & More



Rotimi On Performing At ESSENCE Fest, Growing Up African-American & More

The Nigerian-American singer and actor sat down with the Recording Academy to talk about what inspired his latest album, 'Walk With Me'

GRAMMYs/Jul 8, 2019 - 10:04 pm

In 2015, Rotimi stepped into the New Orleans Superdome for the first time to experience the magic of ESSENCE Fest. Four years later, in 2019, the "Love Riddim" singer returned to the celebration as a performer, something he said was spoken into existence.

"Last year me and my manager had a conversation and I said, 'Listen, I'm going to be on the [ESSENCE] mainstage this year. 365 days later, we did it," Rotimi told the Recording Academy at the 25th annual ESSENCE Fest.

Rotimi, also an actor on Starz' "Power," has evolved since his last album, 2017's Jeep Music, Vol.1. The singer said he really hit home with its follow-up, the recently released Walk With Me, a project he worked hard for, putting in hours in the studio after filming on set.

"Walk With Me is the first time I actually felt like I was giving myself as an artist, and personally I feel like with everything else I have going on I wanted to show people that this is really what I do," he said. "I wanted people to understand who Rotimi is, who Rotimi was before, who I want to be and just understand my growth and the journey and my passion for what I do."

Part of why the album felt like such a representation of him is because it embodies beats of his African roots, something he said was very present growing up Nigerian-American. 

"I grew up with a lot of Fela Kuti and I grew up with Bob Marley," he said of his musical roots. "But I also grew up with Carl Thomas and Genuine and Usher, so there was a genuine mixture of who I am and what I've grown up to listen to. The actual Walk With Me project was a mixture of influences of Akon and Craig David."

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Quarantine Diaries: Joan As Police Woman Is Bike Riding, Book Reading & Strumming D'Angelo

Joan as Police Woman


Quarantine Diaries: Joan As Police Woman Is Bike Riding, Book Reading & Strumming D'Angelo

As the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic continues to rock the music industry, the Recording Academy reached out to a few musicians to see how they were spending their days indoors

GRAMMYs/Apr 7, 2020 - 07:21 pm

As the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic continues to rock the music industry, the Recording Academy reached out to a few musicians to see how they were spending their days indoors. Today, singer/songwriter Joan Wasser of Joan as Police Woman, whose forthcoming covers album, COVER TWO, includes tracks by The Strokes, Prince, Talk Talk, and more, shares her Quarantine Diary.

Thursday, April 2

[10 a.m.-12 p.m.] Went to bed at 4 a.m. last night after getting drawn into working on a song. Put on the kettle to make hot coffee while enjoying an iced coffee I made the day before. Double coffee is my jam. Read the news, which does not do much for my mood. Catch up with a few friends, which does a lot of good for my mood. Glad it goes in this order.

[12 p.m.-2 p.m.] Make steel cut oats with blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, fresh ginger, fresh turmeric, a sprinkling of cinnamon and cardamom, and of course, coconut butter to melt on top. If you’re not into coconut butter (sometimes marketed as coconut "manna"), I’d suggest just going for it and getting it (or ordering it) and putting it on your sweet potatoes, your oats, anywhere you’d put butter. I’m not vegan but I do enjoy hearing the tiny scream uttered by a strawberry as I cut into it. 

Contemplate some yoga. Contamplate meditating. Do neither. Resume work on the song I want to finish and send today. I have a home studio and I spend a lot of my time working on music here. The song is a collboration sent to me from Rodrigo D’Erasmo in Milano that will benefit the folks who work behind the scenes in the music touring system in Italy. 

[2 p.m.-4 p.m.] I traded in a guitar for a baritone guitar right before all this craziness hit but hadn’t had the time to get it out until now. I put on some D’Angelo, plugged into my amp and played along as if I were in his band. Micahel Archer, If you’re reading this, I hope you are safe and sound and thank you immensely for all the music you've given us always. 

[4 p.m.-6 p.m.] Bike repair shops have been deemed "necessary," thank goodness, because biking is the primary way I get around and I need a small repair. I hit up my neighborhood shop and they get my bike in and out in 10 minutes, enough time to feel the sun for a moment. 

I ride fast and hard down to the water's edge and take in a view of the East River from Brooklyn. There are a few people out getting their de-stress walks but it is mostly deserted on the usually packed streets.

[6 p.m.-8 p.m.] Practice Bach piano invention no. 4 in Dm very, very, very slowly. I never studied piano but I’m trying to hone some skills. Realize I’m ravenous. Eat chicken stew with wild mushrooms I made in the slow cooker yesterday. It’s always better the second day.

[8 p.m.-10 p.m.] Get on a zoom chat with a bunch of women friends on both coasts. We basically shoot the sh*t and make each other laugh. 

Afterwards I still feel like I ate a school bus so I give into yoga. I feel great afterwards. This photo proves I have a foot. 

[10 p.m.-12 a.m.] Record a podcast for Stereo Embers in anticipation of my new release on May 1, a second record of covers, inventively named COVER TWO. Continue to work on music (it’s a theme).

[12 a.m.-2 p.m.] Tell myself I should think about bed. Ignore myself and confinue to work on music. 

[2 a.m.-4 a.m.] Force myself into bed where I have many books to choose from. This is what I’m reading presently, depending on my mood. Finally I listen to Nick Hakim’s new song, "Qadir," and am taken by its beauty and grace. Good night. 

If you wish to support our efforts to assist music professionals in need, learn more about the Recording Academy's and MusiCares COVID-19 Relief Fund.

If you are a member of the music industry in need of assistance, visit the MusiCares website

Report: Music & Culture Infrastructure Can Create Better "Future Cities"

Hero The Band perform at the Recording Academy Atlanta Chapter Annual Membership Celebration
Photo: Marcus Ingram/WireImage


Report: Music & Culture Infrastructure Can Create Better "Future Cities"

How sound planning for a creative future in our urban areas makes all the difference for artists and musicians

GRAMMYs/Oct 24, 2019 - 01:27 am

The future, as they say, is now. And for music makers around the world, building a future for themselves often starts at home, in their local creative community and in the city where they live. While technology has expanded communication and made the world smaller, cities continue to grow, making planning for the future a critical cultural mission of the present.

To that end, a new report by global organization Sound Diplomacy titled "This Must Be The Place" examines, "The role of music and cultural infrastructure in creating better future cities for all of us." The 37-page deep dive into community planning and development highlights the importance of creative culture in what it calls "Future Cities."

"The government defines ‘Future Cities’ as 'a term used to imagine what cities themselves will be like," the report states, "how they will operate, what systems will orchestrate them and how they will relate to their stakeholders (citizens, governments, businesses, investors, and others),'"

According to the report, only three global cities or states currently have cultural infrastructure plans: London, Amsterdam and New South Wales. This fact may be surprising considering how city planning and sustainability have become part of the discussion on development of urban areas, where the UN estimates 68 percent of people will live by 2050.

"Our future places must look at music and culture ecologically. Much like the way a building is an ecosystem, so is a community of creators, makers, consumers and disseminators," the report says. "The manner in which we understand how to maintain a building is not translated to protecting, preserving and promoting music and culture in communities."

The comparison and interaction between the intangibility of culture and the presence of physical space is an ongoing theme throughout the report. For instance, one section of the report outlines how buildings can and should be designed to fit the cultural needs of the neighborhoods they populate, as too often, use of a commercial space is considered during the leasing process, not the construction process, leading to costly renovations.

"All future cities are creative cities. All future cities are music cities."

On the residential side, as cities grow denser, the need increases for thoughtful acoustic design and sufficient sound isolation. Future cities can and should be places where people congregate

"If we don’t design and build our future cities to facilitate and welcome music and experience, we lose what makes them worth living in."

For musicians and artists of all mediums, the answer to making—and keeping—their cities worth living in boils down to considering their needs, impact and value more carefully and sooner in the planning process.

"The report argues that property is no longer an asset business, but one built on facilitating platforms for congregation, community and cohesion," it says. "By using music and culture at the beginning of the development process and incorporating it across the value chain from bid to design, meanwhile to construction, activation to commercialisation, this thinking and practice will result in better places."

The report offers examples of how planners and leaders are handling this from around the world. For instance, the Mayor Of London Night Czar, who helps ensure safety and nighttime infrastructure for venues toward the Mayor's Vision for London as a 24-hour city. Stateside, Pittsburgh, Penn., also has a Night Mayor in place to support and inform the growth of its creative class.

Diversity, inclusion, health and well-being also factor into the reports comprehensive look at how music and culture are every bit as important as conventional business, ergonomic and environmental considerations in Future Cites. Using the Queensland Chamber of Arts and Culture as a reference, it declared, "A Chamber of Culture is as important as a Chamber of Commerce."

In the end, the report serves as a beacon of light for governments, organizations, businesses and individuals involved in planning and developing future cities. Its core principals lay out guideposts for building friendly places to music and culture and are backed with case studies and recommendations. But perhaps the key to this progress is in changing how we approach the use of space itself, as the answer to supporting music may be found in how we look at the spaces we inhabit.

"To develop better cities, towns and places, we must alter the way we think about development, and place music and culture alongside design, viability, construction and customer experience," it says. "Buildings must be treated as platforms, not assets. We must explore mixed‑use within mixed‑use, so a floor of a building, or a lesser‑value ground floor unit can have multiple solutions for multiple communities."

Be Like Björk: Iceland Unveils New 'Record In Iceland' Initiative

Nearly 30 Years After Their Debut, Body Count's 'Carnivore' Is The Thrash-Metal Band's Most Fully Realized Album

Ice-T In 1993

Photo by David Corio/Redferns


Nearly 30 Years After Their Debut, Body Count's 'Carnivore' Is The Thrash-Metal Band's Most Fully Realized Album

Led by iconic rapper Ice-T, the L.A.-based seven-piece keep their socially conscious themes consistent and the music louder than ever on their seventh studio album

GRAMMYs/Mar 10, 2020 - 10:06 pm

In early 1992 Ernie Cunnigan visited the Burbank office of Howie Klein. The guitarist (who goes by Ernie C.) and the then-president of Reprise/Warner Bros. Records were listening to the upcoming self-titled debut from Cunnigan’s band, Body Count, fronted by his Crenshaw High School buddy Tracy Marrow, already famous as rapper Ice-T. Ice, with the savvy creative connectivity that guides his multi-hyphenate media career to this day, introduced his forthcoming metal band in 1991 via tracks on O.G. Original Gangster, his fourth album.

It's not unusual for high school pals to form a band. What was unusual, though, was that Body Count was a hardcore thrash metal band comprised of all-black musicians, with point-blank lyrics that were both insightful and incite-ful concerning racial and social inequities and the climate of America. Listening to the 18-track debut, Klein praised it, while voicing concern about the lyrics of "Momma's Gotta Die Tonight," a song about the matricide and dismemberment of a racist parent. Turns out it was the last track, a ditty called "Cop Killer," that should have given the executive pause. 

While Klein was and remains stridently opposed to censorship and is a dedicated free speech advocate, Body Count, per the era, was released with a parental advisory sticker (as was Original Gangster). Less than two months after Body Count dropped, Los Angeles exploded in fiery violence in reaction to the acquittal of four policemen in the beating of Rodney King, as well as the shooting death of black teenager Latasha Harlins by a Korean grocer. (The grocer was given only probation.) It was the worst possible climate for "Cop Killer," with lyrics including "Fk the police, yeah!" and shout-outs to then L.A.P.D. chief Daryl Gates, Ice's "dead homies" and King. The blowback went all the way up to then-President George Bush, and though Time Warner supported Ice-T in his fight against the song's opponents, he eventually pulled the cut from new pressings of the album.

Currently, streaming services including Spotify and Apple Music offer the version sans the group's most (in)famous song, replacing "Cop Killer" with "Freedom Of Speech" from Ice's 1989 solo album, The Iceberg/Freedom of Speech...Just Watch What You Say, edited to add samples of Jimi Hendrix's "Foxy Lady" and the voice of political punker Jello Biafra. On YouTube, "Cop Killer" has more than 1.5 million views, with most of the comments thoughtful and positive, understanding the intentionally incendiary messages Body Count was delivering. Ultimately, if Body Count isn’t a classic record in the way that critics consider Nirvana’s Nevermind or Public Enemy's It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back to be, it’s an important and groundbreaking one. As Ice-T has said, Body Count is: "a protest record,” not the norm in the metal world, but still the way BC's songs operate today.

Indeed, 28 years later, things haven’t changed. Biafra is also on Body Count's powerful new album, Carnivore. Police actions like "stop and frisk" (the NYC law enforcement program that was proven to disproportionally target black and Latino men) wasn’t legally discredited until 2014. Body Count’s one-time bassist, Lloyd "Mooseman" Roberts III, was murdered in South Central Los Angeles in 2001 in an accidental drive-by; in the last 12 months, 126 black men were killed by guns in L.A. County, as opposed to 23 white men. And Ice-T and Body Count are still raging against the machine.

Ice-T enjoys pushing buttons lyrically, and if they’ve sometimes been heavy-handed or misguided ("KKK Bitch" or "Bitch In The Pit"), Ice-T is a politically eloquent, passionate and personal songwriter, which can be too easily overlooked given Body Count's volume-heavy metal chops and Ice's delivery, a speedy vocal style that’s been traditionally more aggro-rapping than melodic singing.  

That said, Carnivore is Body Count’s best album to date; it’s the most fully realized musically, and there’s a cohesion to the vocals and music that led Body Count bassist Vincent Price to lay out the band’s growth in a Metallica timeline: "Manslaughter [2014] was basically Kill ‘Em All; Bloodlust [2017] was our Ride The Lightningand Carnivore’s our Master Of Puppets."

He's not wrong, and though Ice-T’s more than 20-year stint as detective Odafin "Fin" Tutuola on Law and Order: Special Victims Unit has precluded lengthy Body Count tours, the buzz is loud for this seventh album.

Ice-T may be the original gangster, yet he’s patient, articulate and fervent in explaining songs and motivations to audiences and the press alike. "When I'm Gone," featuring Amy Lee of Evanescence, was inspired by the killing of Nipsey Hussle. It’s a reminder, as he says in the tune, to "tell the people that you love, that you love them now. … Don't wait; tomorrow may be too fking late."

His prolific musical social criticism and seemingly left-leaning views are thoughtful and targeted, despite the vitriol of so many Body Count songs. In the nearly 30 years since founding his revolutionary band, Ice-T observes, "I think you’ve got less racism; less people, but more avid racism. It’s unnerving to think that we’ve come so far but there’s still so far to go." As he advised in a 2017 interview, "Don’t just be angry. Know what you’re talking about so you don’t alienate someone who should be an ally."