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The Making Of Kathy Griffin's Calm Down Gurrl
Kathy Griffin

Photo: Michael Buckner/WireImage.com

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The Making Of Kathy Griffin's Calm Down Gurrl

First-time GRAMMY winner details the improvisational spirit behind the recording of her Best Comedy Album-winning Calm Down Gurrl

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 05:06 am

(The Making Of GRAMMY-Winning Recordings … series presents firsthand accounts of the creative process behind some of music's biggest recordings. The series' current installments present in-depth insight and details about recordings that won 56th GRAMMY Awards.)

(As told to Chuck Crisafulli)

The title came to me just looking at everything going on this year — all kinds of nonsense in the news and political weirdness and celebrities not being able to control themselves. I found myself hollering back at my TV, "Calm down, gurrl," whether it was to a government official or a celebrity, male or female, young or old. "Calm down" is actually a terrible thing to say to us women when we're upset. However, I feel that collectively as a nation we all needed to hear it. You've got the government shutdown, global warming deniers, Justin Bieber drag racing. OK everybody, take a deep breath. Keep the government running. If you need to urinate, use a urinal. That's what the "calm down, gurrl" is for.

As for the album, this was a recording of one of my Bravo specials, and I'd like to tell you that when I record a concert I'm presenting a perfectly crafted monologue and that I know where every joke is going to land — but none of that is true. This was recorded at a beautiful theater in Santa Rosa, California, and a lot of it was improvised. I went in to this recording very well-intentioned; I felt prepared. I thought I had it together. I put together what I call a "set list" — though honestly, it's just a notebook from Rite Aid that looks like an angry 7-year-old has been scribbling in it. But whenever I start taping it's really a matter of the audience's energy and which direction they want to go. Certain audiences want the really outrageous out-there stuff, others just want celebrity stories, and others can't hear enough about my 93-year-old alcoholic mother and her box of wine.

With Calm Down Gurrl the crowd was so great and supportive that I found myself saying a lot of stuff that I had never even practiced before. At the end of the night I wasn't even sure what I'd covered — hearing the final edit of the album was like hearing it for the first time.

Once I have a bit recorded, I lay it to rest. I'm just about to start a tour, but I won't be doing any of the material from my "GRAMMY-winning album." I may hit the same topics, but it'll have to be a different story.

The last thing I should mention, because I know GRAMMY.com readers will be interested, is a description of what the Calm Down Gurrl post-taping after-party was like. It involved a tuna melt, curly fries, a diet soda, and me watching Suze Orman until 5 a.m. Wild. I defy any of the other winners to keep up with that.

(At the 56th GRAMMY Awards, Kathy Griffin won Best Comedy Album for Calm Down Gurrl, marking the first GRAMMY win of her career. She had previously received five consecutive nominations for Best Comedy Album. Griffin will kick off her latest comedy tour March 15 in Las Vegas, with dates scheduled through June.)

(Chuck Crisafulli is an L.A.-based journalist and author whose most recent works include Go To Hell: A Heated History Of The Underworld, Me And A Guy Named Elvis and Elvis: My Best Man.)

 

The Making Of Black Sabbath's "God Is Dead?"
Black Sabbath's Tony Iommi, Ozzy Osbourne and Geezer Butler

Photo: Steve Granitz/WireImage.com

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The Making Of Black Sabbath's "God Is Dead?"

Bassist Geezer Butler reveals the genesis behind the band's GRAMMY-winning song

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 05:06 am

(The Making Of GRAMMY-Winning Recordings … series presents firsthand accounts of the creative process behind some of music's biggest recordings. The series' current installments present in-depth insight and details about recordings that won 56th GRAMMY Awards.)

(As told to Bryan Reesman)

It's really weird with this band. Time just seems to fly and you don't really notice the parts in between. We're always keeping in touch with each other, so when we got together to [record 13] it felt like a natural thing to do. We tried to do it in 2001, but it felt forced and we abandoned it back then. This time it was a now or never kind of thing, and we just got on with it.

Tony [Iommi] came up with most of the music, and then we all worked together to arrange it. Ozzy [Osbourne] always jams along to us, and he came up with the title "God Is Dead?" He remembered the [1966] Time magazine [cover story titled] "Is God Dead?" — but he remembered it as "God Is Dead." I had a mini-argument with him about it. I looked it up online and showed him that it was "Is God Dead?" Then I read the Nietzsche philosophy about it. [Editor's note: "God is dead" is a widely quoted statement by German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche.]

I wrote it about a person who thought it was completely revolting to think that somebody would say that, and it sticks in his head and he keeps hearing it in his mind. So he turns violent in the end and sets out to murder everybody. It was also inspired by the shootings that were going on at the time in the States. People were saying that "God told them to do it," and stuff like that.

That was one of the first songs we started writing together, so that probably took the longest to [finish]. There was a lot of work before we got to the studio, and we knew that was a good song. The lyrics were written the night before recording them. The only lyrics that I had written [prior to recording] were "Dear Father" like a year before we went into the studio, and that was because of all the priests being exposed, no pun intended, on the news.

The trouble with me is if you give me a year to do something, I'll do it on the 364th day. That's the way I work. The more pressure, the more I come out with. If you give me loads of time to do something, I can't do it. If it wasn't for [producer] Rick Rubin insisting that I do the lyrics, I probably wouldn't have done them anyway.

Rick Rubin brought [Rage Against The Machine/The Last Internationale drummer] Brad Wilk in to do the album. I thought he was great. He auditioned for like a week, and at first we thought he wasn't going to work. We did a couple of old [Black] Sabbath [songs] like "War Pigs" and "Iron Man," and he just gradually fell into it. He was really nervous at first, and we really didn't communicate that much with him. We said, "Rick, you picked him so you bloody get him up to speed." So he did. He went in and guided him on what direction to do the drumming.

It was really unexpected [to win a GRAMMY] because when you're doing an album you don't think about awards, especially our band. It was a good surprise.

(At the 56th GRAMMY Awards, Black Sabbath won Best Metal Performance for "God Is Dead?" — marking the second win for the band in that category. Co-written by Geezer Butler, Tony Iommi and Ozzy Osbourne, the song also earned a nomination for Best Rock Song. It's featured on the band's 2013 album 13, which peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and earned a nomination for Best Rock Album.)

(Lifelong metal fan Bryan Reesman wrote the liner notes for the 2008 reissue of Black Sabbath's 1981 album Mob Rules. He contributes to GRAMMY.com, Playboy, Inked, American Way, and The Costco Connection, among other outlets.)

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The Making Of Daft Punk's Random Access Memories

GRAMMY winner Paul Williams details his trip into the beyond on Daft Punk's Album Of The Year-winning Random Access Memories

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 05:06 am

(The Making Of GRAMMY-Winning Recordings … series presents firsthand accounts of the creative process behind some of music's biggest recordings. The series' current installments present in-depth insight and details about recordings that won 56th GRAMMY Awards.)

(As told to Roy Trakin)

For a 73-year-old, the GRAMMYs was more than a helluva evening … it was a bloody miracle. Daft Punk asked me to write lyrics for the album because of a movie I made in 1974, Brian De Palma's Phantom Of The Paradise. They saw it more than 20 times in Paris, one of only two cities — the other was Winnipeg — where it was a hit. It played there for years.

What I loved about [Random Access Memories] was they didn't come with a finished house and ask if I'd put up some wallpaper. [Producer] Thomas [Bangalter] handed me a book that was probably 20–30 years old, on life after death experiences — people who had died and come back. I had read it maybe 15 years ago. We never identified the person who would be singing "Touch." Is it somebody coming out of a coma? The lyrics are almost childlike: "Kiss, suddenly alive/Happiness arrive." Not "arrives." It sounds like somebody who isn't familiar with the language. Maybe a space traveler who's been in an induced cybersleep so they can be awakened upon landing, or even a robot who longs to be touched.

The task was organic. What did I hear in the music? They played these two beautiful melodies that I wrote lyrics for, and then surprised me by asking if I'd sing "Touch." "Beyond" talks about these accelerated emotions: "Dream beyond dreams/Beyond life/You will find your song."

In many ways, the lyrical content of the album is very spiritual and celebratory of that fact. In the old days, we used to listen to records from beginning to end, pointing the speakers at our ears. It's a wonder I can even hear at this point. From the very start, this album is like a time-travel trip back to the '70s. But then they do things that project into the future: "You are the end and the beginning/A world where time is not allowed."

Compound that with the fact [we were] in studio A at what was A&M Records, listening to my singing on an album produced by two robots. I turned to the guys and pointed out a second-story office. "That's where I wrote 'We've Only Just Begun,' 'An Old Fashioned Love Song' and 'Rainy Days And Mondays.' Over there is Brian Henson's office, where I met with him for The Muppet Christmas Carol movie." It was a physical location that had been a part of my life two or three different times. Listening to the album was almost like the ending of 2001: A Space Odyssey, where Keir Dullea looks at an older version of himself, and becomes that version. For me, the album was like that, but in reverse. It was a wonderful, creative experience.

One of the things I love about Daft Punk is their anonymity; what they do is more important than having the audience recognize and become enraptured with who they are. They took a chance to sail into waters with a little more emotional depth on this album. I can't say enough about their generosity of spirit.

(At the 56th GRAMMY Awards, Paul Williams won for Album Of The Year as a featured artist on Daft Punk's Random Access Memories. Williams co-wrote two tracks on the album, "Touch" and “Beyond," in addition to singing vocals on the former. Williams won two prior GRAMMYs, including Song Of The Year with Barbra Streisand in 1977 for "Love Theme From A Star Is Born (Evergreen)." He is the current president and chairman of the board of ASCAP.)

(Roy Trakin, a senior editor for HITS magazine, has written for every rock publication that ever mattered, some that didn't, and got paid by most of them.)

 

'Def Comedy 25': Dave Chappelle, Martin Lawrence, Kevin Hart & More

Martin Lawrence

Photo: Jason Squires/Getty Images

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'Def Comedy 25': Dave Chappelle, Martin Lawrence, Kevin Hart & More

A quarter century after its inception, the HBO hit comedy series enlists big names for Netflix anniversary special

GRAMMYs/Aug 25, 2017 - 04:33 am

Netflix has announced a reboot of HBO's Def Comedy Jam in celebration of the show's 25th anniversary.

According to a new trailer, the program will be at no shortage of star power and jokes, as the lineup includes comedians Dave Chappelle, Tracy Morgan, Kevin Hart, Katt Williams, Tiffany Haddish, Mike Epps, and Martin Lawrence, who earned a GRAMMY nomination for 1995 for his hit comedy album, Funk It!

Created by music industry icon Russell Simmons, "Def Comedy Jam" is known for edgy comedy specials, as well as launching the careers of Chappelle, Morgan and Bernie Mac, among others. Def Comedy Jam 25 hits Netflix this fall.

Read More: New Doc To Go Deep On Legendary Rapper Notorious B.I.G.

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Place Your Bids

GRAMMY Charity Online Auctions offer three-day VIP experience on the Vans Warped Tour, autographed guitars, exclusive music memorabilia, and official autographed GRAMMY merchandise

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 05:06 am

In celebration of the 54th Annual GRAMMY Awards, the GRAMMY Charity Online Auctions are open now through Feb. 23. Presented in partnership with Kompolt, the auctions provide bidders an opportunity to bid on approximately 100 exclusive items, including once-in-a-lifetime VIP experiences, memorabilia from world-renowned celebrities, and official GRAMMY merchandise autographed by artists during GRAMMY Week.

Featured items will be available for bid in two cycles, including a 2012 Vans Warped Tour three-day/three-city VIP experience, including the chance to ride on the official tour bus; private guitar lessons with Phil Collen of Def Leppard and Manraze, and Diamond Rio's Jimmy Olander; and official GRAMMY merchandise autographed backstage at the 54th GRAMMY Awards rehearsals and telecast by celebrity participants. This year's performers include Foo Fighters, Paul McCartney, Nicki Minaj, Rihanna, Bruce Springsteen, and Taylor Swift, among others.

Additional auction items include VIP concert and meet-and-greet experiences with Kathy Griffin and Portugal. The Man; VIP lounge tickets to the Coachella and Stagecoach music festivals; guitars autographed by Jeff Beck, Coldplay, Katy Perry, Tom Petty, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Slash, among others; and music memorabilia autographed by Adele, Jason Aldean, Jay-Z, Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, Dolly Parton, Barbra Streisand, Usher, and Eddie Vedder, among others.

To place your bid on items featured in the GRAMMY Charity Online Auctions, visit www.ebay.com/grammy. All proceeds will benefit MusiCares and the GRAMMY Foundation.

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