Mike on keyboard and guitar with Joe Satriani (plus Bryan and Marco)! Details here.
Keneally.com The Mike Keneally Website
Updated Mon, May 20, 2013
Bryan, Marco, Mike & Joe On Tour!
How are you doing, dear friends?
Presently I prepare, mentally and materially, for the upcoming many months of Joe Satrianitouring. The band will consist of Joe, myself, Bryan Beller and Marco Minnemann. Yes, it’s Joe plus KMB. See the photo of us above, taken by Arthur Rosato. Today was day six of rehearsals and things are coming together how do they say? Swimmingly. That’s how they say! We’re doing two months in Europe starting in a few days, then we take six weeks off, and then there’s another two months of touring the US starting in late August. You will find in this missive all the information we have about the dates that have been announced thus far; some more US dates will be announced soon. We are thrilled with how it’s sounding and absolutely buzzing to bring this tour to you, which will present a huge amount of new material from Joe’s new album Unstoppable Momentum. (We recorded that album in January, and it features Vinnie Colaiuta on drums and Chris Chaney on bass; it came out on May 7). It is a fun freaking record.
On the first day of rehearsal, we practiced for hours, then went to see Marco play his last show (for the moment) with Steven Wilson at the Fillmore in San Francisco. Great gosh almighty, what a beautiful show that was. So much respect to Steven, he’s doing wonderful things. Here's a photo taken by Gretchen Menn after the show which hopefully captures the glowing post-gig vibe. (L to R: Nick Beggs, Bryan Beller, Steven Wilson, Theo Travis, Adam Holzman, MK, Guthrie Govan, Marco Minnemann.)
It contains some very toothsome remixes of Wing Beat Fanastic material, some original Keneally/Partridge demos recorded in Andy’s shed (including a version of "Your House" mostly warbled by Andy a healing balm for those listeners who felt somehow betrayed or injured that Andy did not sing on the WBF album), and some unreleased instrumental music from the Fantastic recording sessions. This album snuck up on us unexpectedly, and I am really happy with it, I think it’s great fun, and we can always use some great fun. Available on CD, FLAC and mp3, or any combination thereof.
Here! Here, you can enjoy a video for "I’m Raining Here, Inside (Chatfield/Harris Slight Return Mix)," filmed from the perspective of Bennett the dog, who was seen only as a bit player in the original "Raining Here" video. This video, directed and edited by Scott Chatfield, recontextualizes (did I spell that right? Microsoft Word has an issue with the word "recontextualizes." Screw off, Microsoft Word! But let me finish this Keneallist first) the concept of the original video, in a fashion similar to how the remix deals with the original song. Watch! Woof!
I’m afraid that I’m now sitting here having very damn fond recollections of the Keneally Band/Godsticks UK/Europe tour of but a few weeks ago. Seventy-six huge thanks to everyone who came to the shows and helped put them on, and eighty more special thanks to Godsticks and Rhiannon Jenkins for making the tour happen so fiercely and enjoyably. Bad weather, illness and general human frailty breathed down our necks the entire time, but we still made it work every night. So much special love from me to Bryan Beller, Joe Travers and Rick Musallam for making me happy every night with the power and passion they bring to my songs. You do me proud, gentlemen.
There is a European booking agent who wants us to send him some YouTube links from the tour, whichever ones we consider to be the best of the performances available online. I am VERY OPEN to input regarding what the best performances available online actually are, so if you have any personal favorite YouTube links from the tour, please send your suggestions to us. Thank you!
We also hope to stage the mighty return of the Mike Keneally Band/Godsticks double bill in the United States next year, and are currently working with our booking agency, Blue Mouth Promotions, LLC (BMP), to make that thing happen. Blue Mouth booked the Keneally/Musallam duo tour last year, they handle the US touring for The Aristocrats, Morglbl, Freak Kitchen and a bunch of other great acts, and they want to get an idea from you, our fans, about the best places for bands to play in your area. This doesn’t guarantee we’ll be playing in your backyard next time we’re out, but if we can help BMP identify some great venues and contacts, they’ll have the potential to send some fantastic bands your way.
Here’s what Blue Mouth is looking for:
1. Venues with approximately 150-400 person capacity (U.S. only for now please!)
2. Great sound system and sound guy
3. THE place to play in your town, even if it’s not quite as described above
4. Links and contact person/number at the venue if you know anyone there
5. City and State of venue
In closing I’d like to remind you that www.radiokeneally.com is still out here, playing my music day and night, waiting to brighten your day like a big bright thing. All the new Wing Beat Elastic music has just been added to the playlist. We are currently juicing up the technology behind Radio Keneally and want to send special thanks to Bill Beardsley, who is our RK pal who listens all the time and lets us know if there are any issues thank you Ben!
I think these are enough "things," "items," or "stuff fragments" for now. Be well, tie your shoes, and don’t forget anything!
All we are saying is give cheese some pants,
Joe Satriani on his new album, Mike Keneally and more:
WING BEAT ELASTIC
Remixes, Demos and Unheard Music
(Variations on Wing Beat Fantastic: Songs Written By Mike Keneally & Andy Partridge)
1. I'm Raining Here, Inside (Chatfield/Harris Slight Return Mix) DOWNLOAD THIS SONG FREE HERE!
2. Wing Beat Fantastic (Mark Vidler Psychedelic Respray)
3. Bobeau (Keneally Laptopian Remix)
4. You Kill Me (Keneally/Partridge Original Demo)
5. Miracle Woman And Man (Chatfield/Harris No Agenda Mix)
6. Corn (Unreleased track)
7. Your House (Keneally/Partridge demo Keneally vocal on 1st verse, Partridge vocal on the rest of the song)
8. Bobo (Keneally/Partridge instrumental demo)
9. Land With No Name (Chatfield/Harris Isle of Rachmaninoff Mix)
10-13. Wingbeat Fantasia (Unreleased instrumental suite in four parts):
I. A Respectful Pause
II. Bobolink Wing
III. Out In The Wet
IV. I'm Into It
14. Wing Beat Fantastic (Chatfield/Harris Venusian Single Mix)
Notes from Mike:
In May 2012, as the Wing Beat Fantastic album hovered tantalizingly near completion, Exowax CEO Scott Chatfield (who's spent decades doing work with audio, producing countless hours of programming during his days in classic rock radio in San Diego) started to do some experimenting with the multi-tracks for the song "Wing Beat Fantastic," while engineer Mike Harris and I weren't around. He got partway into a very rhythm-section oriented remix, and then life and work intervened and the mix sat unfinished for a while.
A bit later, shortly after the release of Wing Beat Fantastic, Andy Partridge encouraged me to let UK producer/musician Mark Vidler try his hand at remixing one of the tracks on the album. Vidler had done some transformative work on some of Andy's music and Andy, not the easiest gentleman to impress, was delighted with the results, and eager to see what he might do with a WBF track. Vidler and I got in touch with each other and he was given the go-ahead to work with the title track.
There was a "remix mindset" forming around the WBF project simultaneously on two different continents, without prior planning or forethought. Spontaneously, a seed had been planted that would eventually blossom into Wing Beat Elastic.
I thought Vidler's vision of "Wing Beat" the song was pretty fantastic. I appreciated the thoughtfulness with which he re-contextualized the melody harmonically, and loved all the psychedelic touches he imposed. All he used from my original recordings were vocal tracks and some of my guitars in a couple of sections, and he built a completely valid alternate view of the song around them. Job well done!
What best to do with it?, we wondered.
Later in 2012, while I was on the road with Joe Satriani and Dethklok, Scott's mind drifted back to his own unfinished "Wing Beat Fantastic" remix. Now joining forces with Mike Harris, they completed it, approaching the original song entirely differently than Vidler had, then went on to do additional deconstructive/reconstructive work on some other WBF tunes while I was still traveling (while the cat is away…).
These wouldn't be the sort of radical re-castings of the basic song material that Vidler had done, but largely instrumentally-oriented mixes working near-exclusively with the actual tracks that I originally recorded, with a focus on shining a spotlight on some individual instrumental parts which were underplayed (or nearly entirely obscured) in the final mixes for the Wing Beat Fantastic album.
They eventually worked with five songs: "I'm Raining Here, Inside," "Miracle Woman and Man," "Wing Beat Fantastic," and most radically, they created a blend using the songs "That's Why I Have No Name" and "Land," eventually titling the resulting mélange "Land With No Name."
Even though Scott was generally nearby while work on the Wing Beat Fantatsic album was underway (keeping an ear on things while working in his office down the hall), and Mike Harris was of course constantly there with me during the original tracking sessions, there were still little audio doodads lurking in the multi-tracks for the songs which were surprising and fun for them to discover and work with in their new mixes.
They sent me audio files of their mixes in progress while I was on the road, and I was ferociously entertained. Somehow freeing the instrumental parts which had previously played a support role to a vocal section, and allowing them to stand on their own, gave a great, round lushness to them the sound of the rhythm section in "Raining Here" and "Wing Beat," the acoustic guitars in "Miracle Woman," etc. suddenly achieved a tremendous heft which was really satisfying for me to hear. Scott and Mike H. highlighted instrumental parts that even I had forgotten I'd recorded; when I heard them they felt like little pals I used to hang out with, and was delighted to be re-introduced to.
Most moving to me was "Land With No Name," the two-song combination they put together. In a way I could never have done on my own (being too close to the two constituent songs to ever achieve the proper distance), they found emotional common ground between "Land" and "That's Why I Have No Name," laying the groundwork for several moments of serendipity where a part from one song worked perfectly with a part from the other when layered together - as though the two songs were always meant to occupy the same space. I was floored when I heard it - still am.
(I offered a few finishing-touch suggestions to the Chatfield/Harris mixes once I was off the road, but the vast majority of the work on the four tracks was theirs, and truly fine work it is!)
Once I heard what those guys were getting up to, I was fired up to do some messing around on my own.
While in Northern California in January 2013 working on the next Joe Satriani album, I did after-hours work on a "Bobeau" remix on a laptop in my hotel room. The basic concept was to take Marco Minnemann's drum track, and offset it rhythmically from the other instruments in the song, so that all the instruments were synched but Marco's performance fell on a different downbeat from the other sounds, creating a new groove which I fell in love with. That was the approach for the first half; in the second half I had fun taking vocals from one part of the song and placing them elsewhere in particular, taking the vocals from the middle section of the song and putting them over the groove from the ending, which worked, harmonically, way better than it had any right to. I love it when that kind of stuff happens.
This collection of remixes was really starting to have something going for it, and I thought it would be nice to combine them with some of the original demos that Andy and I recorded in his Swindon shed during our songwriting sessions in 2006 and 2008. Eventually we settled on three of them: the acoustic-guitar based "You Kill Me" demo (in a completely different key from the final track, with very different lyrics no Taliban yet - and an entirely different song structure), an excerpt from the original instrumental "Bobeau" demo (from back when it was still spelled "Bobo"), and a "Your House" demo, which has a few placeholder lyrics which we knew from the outset needed changing, but more significantly has Andy Partridge trying his hand at the lead vocal for the majority of the song you'll hear my voice on the first verse, but for the remaining verses and bridge you'll hear Andy singing (and we thank Andy for his permission to issue this performance).
Completing the Elastic picture are some instrumental pieces that were originally created as possible links between Wing Beat Fantastic songs, but ultimately were not used on that album:
The short piece "Corn" reclaims an acoustic guitar part, buried in the mix in one section of a song called "Cornbread Crumb" (which was slated to be on WBF for a while), and clothes it in some moody, liquid synthesizer. (As for "Cornbread Crumb" and some other songs you don't know about yet we'll get to that at another time.)
Regarding the previously unreleased four-part instrumental suite called "Wingbeat Fantasia": during the lengthy gestation period of Wing Beat Fantastic, many different approaches to the pacing and content of the album were considered. One of them involved taking themes from songs on the album and doing short re-orchestrations of them based around acoustic piano, and linking the main songs with them. I went to Griff Peters' Hilltop Frog recording studio, where he has a lovely old grand piano bursting with personality, and recorded a series of improvisations based around various themes from the album. Back at Chatfield Manor, I edited the improvisations ruthlessly and overdubbed guitars, bass, April West's trombone and various keyboards and effects onto the piano recordings.
Ultimately, it was clear that these link pieces had a distinctly melancholy character that seemed at odds with what Wing Beat Fantastic was fast turning into. The piano pieces were set aside while WBF made its way towards completion.
Later I got the idea that these overdubbed piano pieces, somewhat similar in character, could be combined into a suite. I made two or three attempts at creating it, recombining things and trying different sequences, and never quite nailing it. But early this year, once we had all the other pieces of Wing Beat Elastic in place, I took one more shot at it, and over a couple of days of working with Mike Harris in February of this year, finally arrived at a form that felt coherent to me. It somehow lost a good amount of that melancholy that had earlier exiled the piano link pieces, and achieved a flow that was highly pleasing to me. (In addition to the overdubbed piano themes from the Hilltop Frog session, I also included for contrast in one section part of an unused song idea from the demo sessions at Andy's, an uptempo groove piece called "I'm Into It" which features layered guitars over a Partridge drum loop - an anachronistic insertion which makes me smile.) "Wingbeat Fantasia" emerged whole at last.
We'd originally thought that Wing Beat Elastic might be a download-only collection, a low-profile side dish to Wing Beat Fantastic, but after arriving at the song sequence and listening to it a lot, we came to love it and wanted to give it a full CD release treatment. We still love making physical products and I think we always will. (Wing Beat Elastic is available for download as well, in FLAC and mp3 formats, both including the full artwork and liner notes from the CD package.) Atticus Wolrab has created a beautiful digipak design that accurately reflects, in its color and mood, how this album relates to Wing Beat Fantastic and fits into the WBF universe.
I think that the 53-minute Wing Beat Elastic: Remixes, Demos & Unheard Music is a beautiful listen, and seems to work equally well in headphones and in cars, and in its full glory on elaborate home stereo systems (some people still have those, yeah?). We hope that, if you enjoyed Wing Beat Fantastic, you'll also enjoy this probe into the layers of that album's songs, be interested to hear some of the demos I did with Andy, and appreciate the chance to hear some unreleased music from the sessions as well.
We very happily present Wing Beat Elastic!
Mike Keneally Band European Tour Triumph!
The first-ever Mike Keneally Band tour of the U.K. and Europe came to a delightful end in Nancy, France on Thursday, April 4. Still vertical are (l. to r.) MKB's Joe Travers, Rick Musallam, Mike Keneally and Bryan Beller, plus Darran Charles, Steve Roberts and Dan Nelson of support band Godsticks, and tour coordinator Rhiannon Charles. Make no mistake, without the Godsticks folks, this tour would not have happened. Thanks to the hundreds of fans who enjoyed these historical shows!
Wing Beat-ing in Nashville
Mike and Rick were joined by Bryan Beller on bass and Eric Nelson on drums for their rollicking concert at Nashville's World Music on Friday, September 7. (Photos by Jason Sheesley)
MIKE ON WING BEAT FANTASTIC:
WBF is a 12-song album, eight songs of which were co-written by myself and Andy (while either stuffed into his tiny backyard shed studio, or sprawled around his large old wooden dining room table. Or seated at the piano in his front room). We had two separate one-week writing sessions, in 2006 and 2008, and I recorded the final versions of the songs in San Diego, mostly in 2011 and 2012.
We’re REALLY happy about this one.
This is a nebulous term, but to me it really feels like an album, probably more than anything of mine since Wooden Smoke (which some people feel this album at least tangentially resembles). Like that album, there is a good amount of acoustic playing on this record - but a lot of electric as well, in a lot of styles and tones. And a lot of other stuff. But really this album is about songs, and about a collaboration that was years in coming... I first met Andy, whose music I frankly idolized throughout the '80s, after he and fellow XTC member Dave Gregory came out to a Frank Zappa concert in 1988 (at Scott Thunes’ bold and blissfully successful invitation: he was as devoted an XTC fan as I was, and when the Zappa Band came to play in the UK on our ’88 tour, Scott had the majestic brainstorm to leave a message with XTC’s record label inviting the band to our Birmingham show and Dave and Andy accepted the invitation. It felt like a miracle). Scott and I were flies on the wall during the recording of XTC’s Oranges And Lemons in Los Angeles in 1988. I’ve been friends with Dave and Andy in the years since. A beautiful situation, the whole shebang is.
I was rocked and delighted a few years ago when Andy suggested we try a songwriting collaboration. We decided to write some songs just to see what would result, we didn’t necessarily know that it would result in an album, but happily, it has.
(In anticipatory response to a rather frequently asked question, Andy himself doesn’t sing or play on the album. He did provide some percussion sequences on a couple of songs. Some people have asked me if it was my idea that Andy shouldn’t perform on this album…Please! Trust me, I would have been more than happy for Andy to contribute some performances and I gently prodded him to do so on occasion but he felt strongly that keeping his voice off of the album would allow it to exist more fully as a Keneally record. Oh, OK Andy. I think his impulse was probably correct, and it definitely sounds like a Keneally album, but man, Andy’s DNA is strong on this thing as is the sound of his home studio, because in some cases I wove elements of the demos we made in his shed into the final mixes. If you love his music and have been waiting patiently for years for some new Partridge tunes, I think you will be very happy with this. And if you’ve been waiting for an unashamedly accessible and melodic pop-rock album from me, you’ve now got it in spades. Although it still goes through a lot of shifts of mood and texture etc. etc. soncially, it’s a really adventurous record I think. Amazing engineering by Mike Harris. Oh, and glorious artwork from Atticus Wolrab. Everyone was on their game for this record.)
Here’s the names of the songs:
1. The Ineffable Oomph of Everything, Part One (Keneally)
2. I’m Raining Here, Inside (Keneally/Partridge)
3. Wing Beat Fantastic (Keneally/Partridge)
4. The Ineffable Oomph of Everything, Part Two (Keneally)
5. You Kill Me (Keneally/Partridge)
6. Friend Of A Friend (Keneally/Partridge)
7. That’s Why I Have No Name (Keneally)
8. Your House (Keneally/Partridge)
9. Miracle Woman And Man (Keneally/Partridge)
10. Inglow (Keneally/Partridge)
11. Bobeau (Keneally/Partridge)
12. Land (Keneally)
I play a lot of the instruments and sing a lot of the voices. Other musicians and singers who perform on the album include Marco Minnemann, Nick D’Virgilio, Rick Musallam (on drums!), Bryan Beller, Evan Francis, Matt Resnicoff, Allen Whitman (on vocals!) and April West on trombone.
Depending on how things go, if you pre-order now you might very well receive your copy a little bit prior to the official release date of July 24.
Thanks for everything and for sharing this moment this album is a dream come true for me and I’m really, really freakin’ happy to offer it to the world.
Listen to Mike unveil WBF on Holland's CoLive radio program (Segment begins two hours into the broadcast)
Andy Partridge speaking about Wing Beat Fantastic:
How does he do it? When Mike took away the demo we made for a freshly co-written song "You Kill Me," he had in his hands a rather lumpen campfire strum on acoustic guitars. What came back to my ears sometime later was a totally pulled apart, beautifully arranged mini-film for the ears, flowing like sonic liquid from one section to another, effortlessly moving from one time signature to the next. He'd made a tiny symphony, turning a bitter little protest tune into a well-crafted, cool, gliding, chrome...well...big protest song! Mike, what is your secret?
I didn't know how any of the tunes we'd agreed to write together were going to come out, but I know one thing, SO musical is this man that him just sitting with a guitar across his lap or perched at a keyboard pulled things from me that I can honestly say "I don't know where they came from."
One such piece was "Your House." One morning I said "give me a chord," he did, and another..."go up this time," and he did. Suddenly the basis for a whole bittersweet tale flew out. This is tough to talk about as I'm internally fighting the anti-vanity police writing this, but Mike and I wrestled from nowhere as beautiful a song as my best XTC work. Sat in my microscopic garden shed studio, I was privileged to be part of some rare magic that day. His inherent musicality set something off in me that was like a lovely bomb. No wonder Frank Zappa wanted to work with this man. When he sent me my copy of the finished album, and I got to this song, I couldn't hold back the tears. Thank you Mike, there are not many pieces of music that can do that to me.
Love all the short between-song vignettes that Mike includes on the album. Sometimes commenting on the song past, sometimes lifting motifs from a forthcoming piece. Like scenes in a film, a prequel of what you are about to hear, bending the timeline of the whole album to his musical will. This is filmic sense Mike, who taught you that, show me?
Sat at my kitchen table wrestling out the words to title track "Wing Beat Fantastic" was a bit of a roller coaster thrill ride. Don't think I've been head to head with such a sharp mind. I'd come up with a good line, he'd come up with better, I just HAD to beat it with a better one yet...or he's not leaving this table. A privilege to be goaded by you, man, good results.
[Three and a half stars] "Guitar wizards often pay more attention to their six-string wizardry than to the music as a whole but not this Mike Keneally fellow. While he’s made his rep with Frank Zappa’s later bands (playing guitar and keys), Keneally has carved out a nice niche in the progressive rock sphere (on his own, with Steve Vai, and Henry Kaiser). Yet, Wing Beat Fantastic is as far away from that as Mitt Romney is from a mop. Collaborating with XTC’s Andy Partridge in a songwriting capacity (AP doesn’t perform herein, except for a drum loop), Wing Beat is full of dreamy, luxuriant art-pop a la XTC (surprise) circa Skylarking, Traffic, and the Beatles in “ornate” mode circa White Album/Abbey Road. Keneally’s singing is amiably wry, vulnerable, occasionally impish, and rather Partridge-like. He forgoes guitar heroics/histrionics for tastefully quirky, richly orchestrated textures and a winsome, somewhat contemplative ambiance."
"Each time I hit the play button and dive back into its splendor I find this record’s charms to be nearly mystical. WBF establishes a tone and sustains it with all of the child-like wonder and masterful flair that has inspired me to declare repeatedly that Mike Keneally is a musical genius. His instinctive grasp of what makes a song work along with a Herculean ability to play a score of instruments makes comparisons to Stevie Wonder or (especially) Todd Rundgren extremely apt when discussing his all-around gifts as a musician, because the dude really can play anything."
Talk about a marriage made in heaven. Wing Beat Fantastic finds former Zappa guitarist/ keyboardist Mike Keneally in fruitful songwriting collaboration with XTC lynchpin Andy Partridge. While this may not be a marriage in the biblical sense one shouldn’t imagine they’ll be choosing curtains together any time soon the heavenly part of the deal is more than taken care of.
Inevitably, what ensues is highly-evolved contemporary music with a melodic and lyrical sophistication that’s entire galaxies beyond the capabilities of the workaday herd. The darkly attractive internal workings of "Miracle Woman And Man," for example, or "Inglow" a swaying seduction of snowflake subtlety are essentially unrelatable to any pop-rock archetype or sub-species, and are all the better for it. Crucially, however, Wing Beat Fantastic still remains hugely accessible. Keneally’s titanic musicianship and guileless tenor voice are discreetly and song-servingly deployed throughout, particularly on "I’m Raining Here, Inside" so gracefully, preternaturally perfect as to make Steely Dan and Jason Falkner crumble to dust. Acolytes of the latter-day XTC, meanwhile, will find much to rhapsodise about in the stricken candour of the luminous "Your House," the luscious metaphor maze of the title track and the tumbling astringency of "You Kill Me.""
Guitar Techniques (UK):
[Four Stars] "Guitarists will be aware of multi-instrumentalist Mike Keneally via his work with Frank Zappa and as sideman to Steve Vai. Under normal circumstances, a Keneally solo album is a quirky and unashamedly individual mix of eccentric pop and zany instrumentals covering subject matter from the outré to the avant garde. On Wing Beat Fantastic he has teamed up with XTC master tunesmith Andy Partridge to produce an album of superb offbeat pop. Allegedly the reclusive Mr. Partridge had to be coaxed back to the recording studio we last heard from him back in 2000. He tells us that Keneally took some of his "lumpen campfire strums" and turned them into "tiny symphonies" and that's pretty much our impression, too!
Never one to submit to easy categorization, Keneally has crafted the 12 songs on Wing Beat Fantastic into standalone pop masterpieces without sacrificing any of his otherworldly take on modern music; the result is sure to thrill both his own and Andy Partridge's fans alike."
Simon Bradley, Guitarist (UK):
"Ex-Zappa man joins forces with XTC's Andy Partridge [Four and 1/2 Stars]
The concept of one of Frank Zappa's most frighteningly capable guitar players working with one of England's finest songwriters was a mouth-watering one, and we're glad to report the results live up to expectations. Ex-Vai man Keneally has little to prove in the technique department, and there is much sublime guitar work to enjoy. The meticulously constructed electric solo during "I'm Raining Here, Inside" is impossibly melodic, while the gorgeous acoustic intro to "The Ineffable Oomph of Everything" is a master class in how to build harmonies. From the upbeat "You Kill Me" to the wonderful "Your House" and more, this'll push buttons for fans of offbeat, expertly crafted guitar music. Standout track: "Your House. For fans of: Jakko Jakszyk, Pearl Jam, Frank Zappa."
[Listen to Mike and Rick perform three songs live and acoustic in the KDHX studios, "Frozen Beef," "Wing Beat Fantastic," and "The Wreckage Was Large."]: "Considered "the leading progressive genius of the post-Zappa era" (Allmusic), Keneally is definitely not tied to that genre. Mike has played with or produced many bands to showcase his multi-instrumentalist skills. He has released 13 albums of his own music since 1992, the most recent a collaboration with XTC's Andy Partridge called "Wing Beat Fantastic." With this release Keneally has exposed the most pop-centric music of his career.
On this visit to the 88.1 KDHX studio, Mike is joined by longtime collaborator Rick Musallam on guitar and vocals. This session shares songs going back to the beginning of Keneally's career."
[From the introduction to his interview with Mike:] "The spirit of Frank Zappa permeates Mike Keneally’s recorded oeuvre, and that’s hardly surprising as Keneally toured with Zappa and played on five of his albums. Keneally has also released a dozen solo albums of unique and often experimental music, and he's featured on albums by Beer For Dolphins and The Mistakes. On the new Wing Beat Fantastic, Keneally collaborates with XTC’s Andy Partridge to create a set of quirky, melodic songs that manage to sound catchy while remaining unflinchingly adventurous."
[Mike speaking, from the interview:] "When I heard XTC’s music, I felt a direct connection to the Beatles stuff I loved as a kid, just in terms of the feel of it and also the high, high quality of the writing and the invention that you could hear in the production and how it’s performed.
I just thought it was miraculously good and I remember reading interviews with Andy Partridge at the time where he specifically said he was trying to make records so good that it hurt to listen to them and I related to that so strongly and that’s what I wanted to do with my life I wanted to do the exact same thing."
"Few will deny the instrumental dexterity that Zappa espoused and demanded of his players, and Mike Keneally, his former "stunt guitarist" (so called for his superhuman ability), has made his name as a go-to sideman for the likes of Steve Vai and Metalocalypse's cartoon band Dethklok. But his latest solo record shows little of the psych-rock excursions that made him an underground legend Wing Beat Fantastic was written with XTC's Andy Partridge, and that bittersweet melodic rock that made Partridge's name is now broadcast through Keneally's own formidable chops."
"As singular a mind as XTC’s Andy Partridge… yes, Wing Beat Fantastic is a singular delight. If you love power-pop, psych-jazz or just the joyous riot of art at play, you will love the work of these two mothers of invention. I couldn’t recommend it more highly."
[From the introduction to his interview with Mike:] "As a long standing XTC fan, I was fascinated to hear the sound that Mike and Andy had produced and I was certainly not to be disappointed. Whilst having a mellow, almost acoustic feel to it at times, there [is] no doubting the underlying power of the songs, the strength of the lyrics and the ease with which the melodies settle on you after the first listen. Mike kindly agreed to speak to LTW about his influences, career and the process of creation of Wing Beat Fantastic."
"On first play, "You Kill Me" was the stand-out track, with its catchy chorus and stick-it-to-the-man lyrics. But then "I’m Raining Here, Inside" and the title tracks reeled me in…and then! And then! AND THEN!"
"Fans of this virtuoso's serpentine electric lines will find plenty to celebrate here. His jangly acoustic chording and crisp flat-picking get plenty of airtime, but it's his arranging that will keep you mesmerized. Richly layered parts unfold in startling ways: Guitars seamlessly morph into voices or horns, and synth pads mutate into backward 6-string riffage. Kudos to Mike Harris for mixing a perfect album to explore with headphones late at night."
"...It’s all lovely, wonderful and even at times psychedelic (gasp!) sounding round and full even on CD. Keneally has already released a great video for the hauntingly beautiful "I'm Raining Here, Inside.” Essential for XTC fans for sure, and for anyone who likes great pop music with an edge."
"It seems to me that this must have seemed like the most amazing opportunity in the world, similar to a scenario where Lennon and McCartney said “here, take these songs, we can’t be bothered to record them YOU DO IT” and Keneally not only rises to the challenge…he hits the ball out of the park."
[9+ out of 10] "Is Mike Keneally prog? Should Wing Beat Fantastic be placed along side prog album[s]? Honest answer? I couldn't give a expletive deleted - without a shadow of a doubt, it would take Gentle Giant to reform and release a new album that was better than all of their other albums combined to prevent Wing Beat Fantastic-- this is my album of the year!"
[Four stars] "Wing Beat Fantastic is a lush album with richly layered vocals (sometimes with effects) that lend a dreamlike quality. ...[It] is certainly Keneally's most pop-oriented project to date and quite possibly his most accessible as well. Be careful: you'll find some of these songs sticking in your head in a most insistent way."
[Four stars] "...[The album] does have one great, gentle joke: the political diatribe "You Kill Me." The lyrics are comprised of fairly standard liberalisms: "You kill me with your 'praise the Lord' and your waterboard..." But they're made funny by the bright, brittle guitar parts and chugging beat. Keneally needles the song's repetitious foundation with an endless barrage of ornamental noodles; any of the little note clusters he twangs out could be conceivably expanded into separate compositions, but he opts instead to pile them up to a dense and delirious five minutes. With each repeated listen, I hear a new little mini-symphony whistling out of the upper reaches of Keneally's guitar neck."
"By turns angular, poetic, experimental and gorgeously intelligent, Mike Keneally’s new collaboration with Andy Partridge more fully explores the lesser-known impact of XTC in his sound. But even here, in the song-focused environment of Wing Beat Fantastic, Keneally’s memorable stint as a sideman with Frank Zappa looms large. Keneally, in this latest SER Sitdown, talks frankly about both influences, chuckles over initially turning down an audition for Zappa in favor of a previously scheduled gig with his old band, digs further back into his earliest experiences with progressive rock, and looks ahead to his next project." [DeRiso continues his interview with Mike here.]
"About halfway through the album Wing Beat Fantastic, you would almost swear Andy Partridge was singing. And in a way, he is. The song this occurs in, "You Kill Me," is one of the more immediately arresting works on an album largely co-written by Mike Keneally, guitar stylist and all-around pop scholar, and Partridge, chieftain of the long dormant British post-punk pop troupe XTC."
"...A consistently engaging work by two very simpatico musicians. Keneally and Partridge’s distinctive artistic approaches mesh together so well, in fact, that neophyte listeners might think Wing Beat Fantastic is their fourth or fifth album together, not their first. The intricate yet inviting music they created together seamlessly blends art-rock, psychedelia, prog and more into an enticing whole. A key case in point is "You Kill Me," an ingeniously layered pop-rock gem that deserves to become a staple on enlightened radio playlists everywhere, but probably won't, simply because it's too subtle and sophisticated."
"Wing Beat Fantastic represents a peak in Keneally’s career, one that has had a pretty good share of peaks in different forms, if they’ve sadly gone unrecognized by the general music world. Maybe pairing up with the XTC frontman wasn’t the best idea to right that wrong, as that band has, aside from a few key singles, gone almost as ignored as Keneally. But artistically speaking, this is a meeting of the minds that results in something fans of both artists are going to cherish for ages."
[Four stars] "The descriptive “genius” gets tossed around a bit too casually, but “Wing Beat Fantastic” is suffused with as much throughout its deliciously rich 40 minutes. Fans of prime XTC, Keneally, early Todd Rundgren, and “Smile”-era Brian Wilson, you owe it to yourselves to wrap your mitts, your hearts, and your ears around this album."
[Four stars] "If you are looking for an album filled with catchy tunes, and superb yet understated instrumentation, then make sure you check out Wing Beat Fantastic. Keneally has found a perfect writing partner in Partridge, and fans of XTC who have always loved that bands penchant for catchy pop & rock tunes will love what's on display here."
This magical new album from composer/producer/multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Mike Keneally is the highly anticipated result of a songwriting union between the famed rock experimentalist and legendary XTC tunesmith Andy Partridge.
Their collaboration produced eight new songs, combining Partridge's innate sense of angular pop melody and beautifully intelligent poeticism with Keneally's experimental bent and surrealist tendencies. For Partridge fanatics, the album will be a trove of rare new material from a songwriter who's released precious little new work over the past decade. For Keneally enthusiasts, Wing Beat Fantastic represents his most melodic and pop-oriented release ever, while still maintaining the rich, detail-studded arrangements, love of sonic adventurism and superb musicianship for which he is renowned. More than any other Keneally album, Wing Beat Fantastic has an emotional resonance that engages the heart as adeptly as it does the mind.
A fairly breathtaking range of styles is presented, from the psychedelic pop sweep of the title song to the uptempo layered rock of "You Kill Me," a scathing look of modern hypocrisy in its many forms. "I'm Raining Here, Inside" kicks off the album with a ferociously infectious groove, indelible vocal melody and rippling guitars and keyboards. "That's Why I Have No Name" is a mid-tempo, brooding meditation with a driving piano and all manner of mind-bending effects gently whizzing throughout. "Your House" is an affecting ballad of unrequited love, almost shockingly accessible coming from an artist with Keneally's Zappa-related pedigree. "Bobeau" dances along on the infectious groove of Marco Minnemann's drums like the old-fashioned Steely Dan groove of everyone's dreams with an embarrassingly rich tapestry of keys, guitars, trombones and voices layered over the top.
And on Wing Beat Fantastic goes, one of the most nutritious and obsessively playable art-pop albums to be released in years.
"The chance to work with Andy was absolutely a mind-blower," recounts Mike. "He's a true songwriting hero of mine, and during the '80s he demonstrated that there was still a place for truly high-quality writing in pop music. His songwriting gift is still as strong as ever, and I'm fiercely grateful to be able to help bring new Andy Partridge music into the world."
Andy Partridge was equally inspired by Mike: "I didn't know how any of the tunes we'd agreed to write together were going to come out, but I know one thing, so musical is this man that him just sitting with a guitar across his lap or perched at a keyboard pulled things from me that I can honestly say 'I don't know where they came from.'"
"One such piece was 'Your House.' One morning I said 'give me a chord,' he did, and another... 'go up this time,' and he did. Suddenly the basis for a whole bittersweet tale flew out. This is tough to talk about as I'm internally fighting the anti-vanity police writing this, but Mike and I wrestled from nowhere as beautiful a song as my best XTC work. Sat in my microscopic garden shed studio, I was privileged to be part of some rare magic that day. His inherent musicality set something off in me that was like a lovely bomb. No wonder Frank Zappa wanted to work with this man. When he sent me my copy of the finished album, and I got to this song, I couldn't hold back the tears. Thank you Mike, there are not many pieces of music that can do that to me."
Wing Beat Fantastic's songs:
The Ineffable Oomph of Everything, Part One
I'm Raining Here, Inside
Wing Beat Fantastic
The Ineffable Oomph of Everything, Part Two
You Kill Me
Friend of a Friend
That's Why I Have No Name
Miracle Woman and Man
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