WEATHER »

Michael Baker

Almost Independent writing contest


Michael was voted off Almost Independent island after the June 18 polls closed.

By Paul Wellman

Michael Baker
Michael is a 22-year-old UCSB student who moved to Santa Barbara to study English and philosophy. He has been playing guitar for 12 years, and since then has been in a few overly serious alt-rock bands. His favorite movies of all time are Back to the Future parts I, II, and III, all in a tie.

IN-PRINT SAMPLE #1 (from Sound & Fury, Independent vol. 74)

Satellite Party, Ultra Payloaded

The debut from Perry Farrell’s latest band, Satellite Party, is as unique as anyone would expect from the former Jane’s Addiction and Porno for Pyros frontman. With contributions from Fergie and Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Flea and John Frusciante, Ultra Payloaded is a concept album that fuses dance beats and rock. Farrell’s howling voice keeps things upbeat, although the final track, “Woman in the Window,” which samples vocals from Jim Morrison, is the real highlight. There are definitely weaknesses (most notably the drab ballad “Awesome,” which just feels out of place), but they’re easily lost and forgotten amongst wonderfully chaotic high points. It’s Farrell’s best project since Jane’s Addiction, and it’s a real party.

ONLINE ESSAY #1: Why I want to be a Music Writer

Put simply, I want to be a music writer because of two great interests: music and writing.

My earliest memory of an interest in music can be traced back to a Best of the Beatles tape that would play in an endless cycle in the cassette deck of my dad’s car. A fan of the Fab Four, The Byrds, and Aretha Franklin, my father was my first musical influence.

As compact discs ended the era of cassettes, I became focused on ‘90s alternative rock. Beck, Smashing Pumpkins, and Radiohead are still among my favorites. When I was ten years old, Green Day influenced me to learn guitar and start my first band with friends.

In high school, I expanded my horizons and became more familiar with indie and classic rock. I also developed a lasting infatuation with attending live shows. I have since put together an extensive list of the live acts that I’ve seen, and, music nerd that I am, ranked them on a 1 to 10 scale (Sonic Youth remains my only perfect 10).

An interest in writing has dominated my academic pursuits, particularly since I have been in college. My reason for choosing to major in English was made largely because no major in Writing is offered. I have enhanced my skills as a writer, and developed an interest in the writing profession. To gain experience as a music writer would be the ideal way of merging these two interests.

IN-PRINT SAMPLE #2 (from Positively State Street, Independent vol. 75)

SOhO GOES POP: Chris Barron has come a long way since bursting onto the mainstream music scene in the early ‘90s as the lead singer of Spin Doctors. From being nominated for a Grammy and gracing the cover of Rolling Stone to overcoming a vocal paralysis that threatened to end his singing career, Barron has truly seen all that rock stardom has to offer. Now he’s bringing his mature brand of pop rock to Santa Barbara as a solo artist, performing along with Hollywood-based indie singer/songwriter Curtis Peoples. Influenced by John Mayer, Matchbox Twenty, and Pearl Jam, Peoples delivers an upbeat, acoustic-driven rock sound. Both musicians, along with folk rocker Skyler Stonestreet, will perform at SOhO on Tuesday, June 19 at 7:30 pm.

ONLINE ESSAY #2: My first concert experience

The first concert that I ever attended was one of the final shows ever played by the Smashing Pumpkins, (that is, before their recent “reunion”). I was fourteen years old, and nearing the end of my middle-school career. I went with two of my best friends. All of us would be moving on to different high schools, and it was the final “first” that we would share.

The band had already lost one original member and played a set consisting largely of the artsy goth rock that was characteristic of Billy Corgan’s later song writing. They bore little resemblance to the young idealistic alt rock band that had won me over as a grade-schooler. None of that mattered. Maybe it was because it was my first time seeing one of my favorite bands in the flesh, or because I had no idea what to expect as I stood waiting for the concert to begin, but it was a night that showed me a sort of excitement I hadn’t known before.

I have since gone to tons of concerts. Some have been better than I ever could have hoped for back then, but it’s true what they say: you never forget your first time.

IN-PRINT SAMPLE #3 (from Positively State Street, Independent vol. 76)

CULTURE ROCK: North Carolina might seem an unlikely place to find one of the leaders in cultural fusion, but Toubab Krewe has been rocking with a West African influence since its formation in 2005. The Asheville, North Carolina-based instrumental group mixes rock ‘n’ roll with styles picked up on trips to Guinea, Ivory Coast, and Mali. The resulting sound has been enough to earn the band appearances at the Bonaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tennessee, in 2006 and at the remote Festival in the Desert in Essakane, Mali, in 2007. They’ll take the stage at SOhO on June 24 at 8:30 p.m.

ONLINE ESSAY #3: My dream interview

If you could interview anyone in music, living or dead, who would it be? This is the kind of question that music fans don’t need to be prompted to think about. Countless times I’ve thought about the artists I wish I could have had the chance to meet. What would they be like in person? What would I ask if I only had a few minutes with them? One figure in the history of popular music seems like the obvious choice for me: Bob Dylan.

When it comes to discussions of music, you needn’t make mention of his full name. Just Dylan, or simply Bob will be understood. He’s been an influential part of American music for over forty years. He’s been the voice of political movements and the mouthpiece of a generation. His expansive collection of albums has ranged from classic to the quickly (and happily) forgotten. And yet, there seems to be no other person who has been such an active and significant part of the music scene while speaking so little about it.

Truly, Dylan has chosen to let his music speak for itself. He seldom gives interviews, and when he does, he tends to shy away from giving any real insight. For me, this is what makes the idea of interviewing him so appealing. These are the questions I would ask:

1. What music have you been listening to lately?

2. What do you think of the state of modern music?

3. In your own view, what has been the influence you’ve made to songwriting?

4. How has the idea of writing political music and the role that it plays changed over the course of your career?

5. Is retirement from writing, recording new music, or performing in sight for you?

To submit a comment on this article, email letters@independent.com or visit our Facebook page. To submit information to a reporter, email tips@independent.com.



Be succinct, constructive, and relevant to the story. Leaving a comment means you agree to our Discussion Guidelines. We like civilized discourse. We don't like spam, lying, profanity, harassment or personal attacks.

comments powered by Disqus
event calendar sponsored by:

Sansum Clinic Offers New Way to Access Medical Data

iPhone app can organize multiple records, results, notifications.

Santa Barbara Gives! Features 55 Nonprofits

Community members are invited to donate to their favorite causes via SBGives.org.

Woman Killed by Train in Montecito

She was struck Friday morning near Olive Mill Road.

La Cumbre Sears Set for Closure

Liquidation sale begins this week.

City Council Approves Fee Allocation for Branch Libraries

The topic goes next to potential Goleta branch library cities.