ON THE MIC
I was born in the early sixties in Southern California, first son of an unlikely pair: a self-professed Texas cowboy and an immigrant fleeing the poverty and devastation of postwar Europe.
Music was always in our house, but not a lot of Rock n Roll. My dad favored country, with a small dash of early Rock n Roll—a big Johnny Cash fan. Mom couldn't stand the stuff, preferring the soothing sounds of Nat King Cole and Englebert Humperdink—still her favorite! I adore my mom; she is still around and for that I am very grateful. But when it comes to my love of Rock n Roll, well that didn’t come from her.
Looking back decades later, it’s pretty obvious I was waiting for something to come along and hook me. It could have been anything: I’ve always been a very driven, borderline-obsessive kinda guy. Fortunately for me and for everyone else, it was music—Rock n Roll music—that hooked me first and hooked me hardest.
And I am still hooked.
Now I was not born a natural singer and I certainly didn't have any training or experience beyond yelling at the top of my lungs, bouncing on the bed with air guitar in hand. I had drive and attitude, and I had my records. I put in the hours and studied on my own. I listened intently, read voraciously, talked about it constantly. I picked pieces from everyone—Beatles and Stones, Pistols and Ramones. By the time I was eighteen, every square inch of wall and ceiling in my bedroom was covered with pictures of all my musical heroes.
In my twenties I gave it a hell of a run. I sang and played and wrote songs, put together numerous bands—a couple of them were actually pretty good. I did odd jobs, hustled, mooched off my parents and my girlfriends, lived in my car for a while. I sweated out sets on the famous stages of clubland—LA and Hollywood.
But in the end, my talent was limited and the star-maker machinery wasn't interested in what I had to offer. As I said, I gave it a good run.
So I traded in my leather pants and mike stand for a suit and tie, and moved into the tech world. In some ways this still served my artist’s heart. What is a salesman after all: an actor evangelizing his wares, a lead singer egging on the crowd? I can do that, I thought. Sure I can.
And I have been fortunate, I was in the right place and right time. I caught the tech boom on the upswing, and I got out at a good time. I’ve done okay with it, made a few dollars. So even if it was my second choice in life, I won’t put it down. It worked out pretty damn well, really.
Performing music was folded up nicely and put away in a drawer like a cherished concert t-shirt. For over a decade that shirt stayed in the drawer. But it was always there, I always kept it. No longer a starving artist, I could afford to see all the great bands as they came through on the latest tours. I traveled widely, and added new names, new sounds, new places, to my palette of experiences. A different, wider education. My music collection grew enormously.
I found a new and deeper love for the classics of Rock n Roll. I picked through my father’s old records to get to the rockabilly. I found the soul music groove, felt the heartbreak from the singer-songwriters, stayed up late with the artsy angst of the New York scene. One song led to another and another and another.
In early 2004, I was asked to record some new songs with some new friends. I laid claim to having been a singer—once upon a time. So they took me up on it, called me out. Okay.
I was astounded by the leaps technology had made—a home studio that was better than the Record Plant or Olympic or Abbey Road, where my heroes had cut their tracks—all on an inexpensive home computer. I found myself wanting to perform again and one day just decided to just do it, form a band.
I knew a couple of guitar players, we talked about starting a coffee house trio. Within a month that turned into a full-fledged rock band. The first day of rehearsal: July 5th, 2004, fifty years to the day from when Elvis walked into the Memphis Recording Service to record “That's Alright” for Sun Records.
I guess the stars were aligned properly or something, because that band is still going strong 11 years on. And I am still mining the old greats and attempting to learn more of the history of Rock n Roll, seeking ideas and inspiration to incorporate into my stage act.
It’s been great, but I feel like I have more to offer, more to share.
Once again I burn with a desire to share music. Not as a performer this time, but as a fan who wants to share the passion, the power, the art. Find where it fits, feel it and search out the history; describe how it shaped me as a person, how it shapes the world I know.
As 2015 began, I considered possibilities. The one that stuck, the one that seemed most natural, the one that made my heart soar and made me feel alive again was the Rock n Roll Archaeology Project.
In recent years, I have become an ardent fan of the podcast medium. I’m a history buff, and I especially enjoy raconteurs like Dan Carlin or Robin Pierson who offer up deep discussions of history, who have different, unconventional perspectives.
So it wasn’t a big leap for me to wonder, where’s a good podcast about Rock n Roll history? Man, wouldn’t that be great? I looked, I really did. I found lots of good commentary, album reviews, fan podcasts about bands and artists…but who was digging in, really looking at it? Where was the Rock n Roll version of Dan Carlin?
I decided to create it. I pitched the idea of the Rock n Roll Archaeology Project, centered around a podcast, to my longtime friend, Richard Evans. Richard’s a capable writer and all-around thoughtful guy who has always shared my passion for Rock n Roll. He loved the idea, and we started putting it together.
The rest is in the show. We hope you enjoy it.
Christian L Swain
Pacifica, California, October 18, 2015
BEHIND THE WORDS
For some time now I’ve wanted to stretch out a little, write in a different format. A longer, deeper format, with room to tell stories, engage in commentary, and explain some of the technical nuances. So the podcast medium was already on my writing radar.
I’ve always enjoyed writing about rock music. It’s got all these great elements: big themes, rags to riches stories, larger-than-life heroes and villains. All backed up by a killer soundtrack. That last one was a big attraction; I have always tried to pay attention to how my writing sounds.
About a year ago Christian pitched me on the Rock n Roll Archaeology Project, asked me to be the “idea guy” behind it. I was highly intrigued by the topic and format—this was a crystallization of things that had been swirling around in my own mind for a while now.
I started writing. Christian started recording. The rest is Rock n Roll Archaeology.
I enjoy writing for it. I hope you enjoy listening to it.
October 18, 2015 Sacramento, California
ONE MAN BAND
or Network Producer. Doing whatever it takes to make sure our shows, hosts, listeners are happy, engaged and loving their Rockcasts!
Peter Ferioli, Oakland, January 2, 2016
THE AMAZING SOUNDS
Jerry Danielsen, owner of Busy Signal Studios - digs being a digger! In addition to being a huge music fan, Jerry is a producer, composer, filmmaker, performer, educator, poet and sound designer for Rock and Roll Archaeology.
He has extensive experience recording, producing and composing - rock, alternative music, contemporary classical works, jazz, commercial and experimental – music and sound design for film and television and theatre - words and sounds for audio books and more.
Jerry founded Busy Signal Studios decades ago – Just before earning his composition degree from California Institute of the Arts.
For more info, please visit: Busy Signal Studios.
ABOUT ROCK N ROLL ARCHAEOLOGY
CONTACT US HERE
or call us at 650-822-ROCK or email info (at) rocknrollarchaeology.com
ROCK N ROLL LIBRARIAN
I was born in San Francisco, but grew up in Los Angeles. Very early on my parents installed a piano in the house, and the kids took lessons. My dad modeled the joy of music through his trumpet chops in an amateur Dixieland band. As a teen I took up the flute, and enjoyed singing in school groups. But my heart wasn't really in classical music. As soon as I graduated from high school I headed back up to the Bay Area, where I studied at UC Berkeley for my undergraduate and graduate degrees. I changed my musical course, taking up the electric bass because I wanted to experience playing the rock music I loved. I became a librarian at the San Francisco Public Library over 33 years ago, where I continue to enjoy a very interesting career filled with books and open minded comrades. I have been fortunate to see some great musicians in my life and have played music with family and friends from time to time. I'm now learning to play the guitar well enough to support my love of singing. I married a fantastic guitar player and have nearly survived the raising of two teenage sons.
I love reading about the lives of rock musicians as a kind of vicarious thrill! It's exciting to have the opportunity to combine my love of books and music into something new as one of Rock N Roll Archaeology's first diggers!
Shelley Sorenson, San Francisco, February 3, 2016
Disclaimer: The views expressed here by Shelley Sorenson are made in her capacity as a private citizen, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the San Francisco Public Library or the City of San Francisco.
REEL ROCK with ANDY KING
In many respects, I was a Digger long before RNRAP was conceived. I grew up on a small-town farm in North Carolina, and access to awesomeness was hard to come by. One day, when I was 12, I came across a Ramones’ record at a yard sale, and the first time I put in on, I was hooked. I listened to everything I could get my hands on. I read every rock book I could find. But most importantly, I watched every rock film I could. I was enamored by the irreverence, the spectacle, and the passion of Rock and Roll. I am a true believer in the power of Rock and Roll. For me, it was always a safe place to escape to where you could be exactly who you wanted and live how you wanted. As I grew older, I tried my hand at playing guitar in a few punk bands, but as fun as that was, something was missing. I performed standup comedy for a while, but no one got my obscure Led Zeppelin references. When I first heard the RNRAP I was an instant fan, and officially became a Digger.
I had approached the RNRAP think tank with the idea for a show dedicated to Rock movies, and with a little help from my new friends, Reel Rock was born. Reel Rock has given me the chance to blend all of my passions and dissect the Rock and Roll films that we all know and love. My goal with each show is to bring the irreverence, the spectacle, and the passion to film reviews. Sometimes it’s funny, sometimes its philosophical, but it’s never ordinary.
SOCIAL MEDIA MIX MASTER
As a Zeppelin fanatic, metalhead, member of Kiss Army & Elvis fan(naturally), I've gone from storing "useless" & arcane R&R knowledge such as the setlists of Led Zeppelin's five night run at Earl's Court in 1975 to the cheesiest AM top 40 hits of 1977 like "Undercover Angel" (#1 for the week ending 7/9/77 for the record)in my head to now sharing, or some may say, forcing that R&R knowledge on you whether you like it or not. You're welcome.
P.S. I think Van Halen should get Sammy back.