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WHITE HASSLE
The Death of Song >>> CD

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Life is Still Sweet >>> CD EP

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[ You can download the .mp3 file to your computer immediately ]
BIO
WHITE HASSLE is back. The band's latest CD, "The Death of Song," was released in France and Japan in early 2003 (www.fargorecords.com, www.mazri.com). Matt Oliverio left the band in July of 2003. In November White Hassle embarked on a 17-city European tour with guest guitarist, Chris Maxwell (formerly of Skeleton Key, currently of the Gleaners. www.eleganttoo.com). After writing, recording, and partying like there was no tomorrow; the band is back in the forefront of the music scene. What was the hold up? Your mama. Now, get ready for the latest in white hasslery: "The Death of Song." This 13 (or 14) song cd is jam-packed with songs! Yes, you guessed it, this is a "song-oriented" album by a "song-oriented" band and a "singer-songwritery" songwriter in a "song-oriented" era. Move over White Stripes; move over Barry White; move over Great White; roll over Beethoven; This WHITE HASSLE.

WHITE HASSLE is the premiere junk folk pop 80's rock electro-blues scratch cum country band of today. You don't need a back porch to groove to what rock writer, Gabe Soria (Blender), has coined "back porch funk." And WHITE HASSLE does it with unabashed abashedness. So kick off your dancing shoes and put on your listening cap. Sit down and set a while while WHITE HASSLE kicks your white ass
.

From the scorching leads of guest guitarist, Chris Maxwell, to the pounding skins of skin pounder, Dave Varenka, to the screeching vocals of harmonica player, Marcellus Hall, and the dopest beats of guest DJ, Atsushi Numata; you won't find a band the world over that does WHITE HASSLE like WHITE HASSLE does WHITE HASSLE. Nosiree, this is the real stuff. If you want butt-kicking, hard stomping, good old-fashioned bluesy gut-wrenching good-timey house-of-blues rip-offs... Go somewhere else! This is WHITE HASSLE.

The boys have been criss-crossing Manhattan over the last few years on a relentless tour to promote this long-awaited release. Needless to say, the fans are primed and waiting. Marcellus's rumored dalliance with actress, Winona Ryder, now behind them, the band is raring to go.
With a 3 week tour of Europe booked and the CD out on Mazri Records in Japan and Fargo Records in Europe, WHITE HASSLE is poised to conquer.

Drawing by Marcellus Hall (White Hassle)
Did someone say "regime change"?

If you're into The Modern Lovers, Randy Newman, Muddy
Waters, Johnny Cash, or The Fall; look no further. Your car is waiting. WHITE HASSLE are in the driver's seat and you're in the back. Sit back and enjoy the color tv, the biatches, the jacuzzi, and whatnot; because, in the words of WHITE HASSLE, "you ain't nothing, 'til you're somethin'!" The "Death of Song" has finally arrived and you just read about it...

White Hassle has played with Pavement, Johnathan Fire*Eater, They Might Be Giants, Delta 72, Skeleton Key, The Melvins, Speedball Baby, Chavez, Rex, Hasil Adkins, The Chrome Cranks, Catpower, Come, Fuck, Cash Money (Cash Audio), The Country Teasers, and Boss Hog.

Plaese check out the Marcellus Hall website, featuring his illustrations and artwork.
UPDATES / NEWS
>>> White Hassle have finished recording their next album - as yet untitled.

>>> White Hassle mentioned in Rolling Stone interview with Modest Mouse...
"Brock pinpoints his change in attitude to a song he heard as Modest Mouse were bottoming out, called "Life Is Still Sweet," by the New York band White Hassle. "When I heard it, I thought, 'This is nice. This is actually an unsarcastically positive song.' I was like, 'Let's fuck this doom-and- gloom bullshit.' It was a really good thing to get reminded of, you know?" One night in El Paso, Texas, Brock got drunk and tattooed life is still sweet on his own forearm. He says, laying his arm on the bar to show the thick, shaky lines of black ink, "I made up my mind that things were going to be better." ...full story

>>> White Hassle to play with Modest Mouse:
Lou Reed and The Cramps have joined the bill for the next installment of All Tomorrow's Parties Pacific Edition 2004, curated by Modest Mouse and being held Nov. 6-7 at the Queen Mary in Long Beach, CA. Modest Mouse will headline Saturday night's show, while The Flaming Lips will be top billed Sunday, on a line-up featuring The Shins. Other confirmed acts include: The Black Heart Procession, Built To Spill, Eagles of Death Metal (featuring Josh Homme), Explosions in the Sky, Love as Laughter, Lungfish, Willy Mason, Radar Brothers, Sufjan Stevens, The Walkmen, White Hassle, White Magic and Wolf Parade. Additional performers will be announced in the coming weeks. (9/15p)
RECOMMENDED LISTENING
If you dig White Hassle... You might want to check out Them Wranch or Ultrbabyfat.
REVIEWS
Emmet Matheson - The Leader Post / TOP 10 of 2004:
WHITE HASSLE #2. The Death of Song, White Hassle: Though I?m tempted to dock marks for making us wait seven years between albums, NYC?s White Hassle finally delivers the goods with a collection of songs that masterfully blend country, blues, indie rock, hip hop and classic pop elements to their fullest potential. There?s not a bum track among them, but you?ve absolutely got to hear the seething ?I Can?t Imagine (That You?re Happy)? and the exquisitely heart-breaking ?2 By Sea.?

>>> White Hassle mentioned in Rolling Stone interview with Modest Mouse...
"Brock pinpoints his change in attitude to a song he heard as Modest Mouse were bottoming out, called "Life Is Still Sweet," by the New York band White Hassle. "When I heard it, I thought, 'This is nice. This is actually an unsarcastically positive song.' I was like, 'Let's fuck this doom-and- gloom bullshit.' It was a really good thing to get reminded of, you know?" One night in El Paso, Texas, Brock got drunk and tattooed life is still sweet on his own forearm. He says, laying his arm on the bar to show the thick, shaky lines of black ink, "I made up my mind that things were going to be better." ...full story

THE LEADER POST
CANADA - The Death of Song / White Hassle
4.5 stars (out of five)

There?s a lot to be said for base emotions. They?re the ones that get us into trouble, and often, they?re the ones that inspire the best music.
On their first full-length album in seven years (though their 2000 EP Life Is Still Sweet should not be overlooked merely because of its lack of duration), White Hassle gets petty. On ?I Can?t Imagine (That You?re Happy),? singer and guitarist Marcellus Hall wallows in denial and bitterness at seeing an ex-girlfriend on the street with her new beau. Hall sneers, ?You were holding his hand/like he?d fall if you weren?t/You picked out his clothes didn?t you?? Later on, covering George Jones?s ?My Favorite Lies,? he deepens the self-delusion, ?I?d be lonely, if I could find the time.?
On the bare-bones final cut, which happens to be the title track, Hall cuttingly sings, affecting his best Woody Guthrie, ?Thank God for the death of song/so long to a pain in the ear.?
But it?s not all contempt and bubbling rage. In fact most of the songs deal with more positive, but nonetheless primal, emotions. There?s exquisite longing on ?2 By Sea? and sincere devotion on ?I Will Be Thine.? There?s even a trace of self-actualization on ?Jealousy (Will Get You).?
Of course, subject matter is but one aspect of WhiteHassle?s brilliance. Sure the songs are full of life-affirming, street-level feelings, but they alsosound great. Dave Varenka?s drumming is inventive and inspired, and his vocal harmonies with Hall are second to none. Guitarist Matt Oliverio (a relatively recent addition) gives White Hassle a fuller sound than on their previous recordings, bringing them out of the lo-fi basement with a more mature classic pop sound. Above all, however, there?s an undeniable humanity to all of the songs on The Death of Song. As with the writings of Hubert Selby, Jr. or Richard Meltzer, it?s rarely humanity at its shining best that White Hassle presents. Instead, it?s life-as-lived humanity: flawed, frought, recognizable, and, inevitably, wondrous. - Emmet Matheson

BLUES MATTERS REVIEW
USA - WHITE HASSLE: "The Death Of Song"

Basic band is Marcellus Hall (gtr/vcl/harp) with Dave Varenka (drs/vcl) and Matt Oliviero (gtr) but with contributions from others on violin, keys, vocals, turntable. As for their sound...a relentless garage-bandish rock with declamatory vocals and no obvious debt to other acts. So no Strat & Hat stuff here or (thankfully) no contemporary - Detroit untogether drumming. Strangely there's the odd hint of Velvet Underground in the clipped guitar strumming, but Lou Reed's crew (quite deliberately) eschewed anything to do with The Blues as perceived by their contemporaries and White Hassle's occasional wheezy harmonica and slide has you fumbling for other reference points. The song titles don't give much away - 'Health Food Store', 'Sandlot Shuffle', 'The Indiana Sun'. It's refreshing not to have superslick lead guitar sprayed over everything, or machine beats, or 'Ma Woman Left Me' bellowing or giant drum kit posturing. All the players are capable, driven even BUT this crew don't seem to want to take on the Stadium Bluesers. Those crazy Yanks-in-Paris John Doe that promoter Pete Feenstra turned me onto have found their own individual take on blues rock and it seems White Hassle have taken the folksy backroads to their own stylistic values. And here we're spared the posturing of Fun Loving Criminals as this outfit don't seem to be bothered with conventional self-promotion. So this ain't for everyone by any means, but the scruffy rant at an ex that is 'I Can't Imagine(That You're Happy)' entertains this reviewer as its steam engine drumming and headshaking vocal spin a tale of barely-contained jealousy. - Pete Sargeant

Q: Do you still live in the East Village? Is it hard to make ramshackle noisy music in the neighborhood now that there's a Starbucks or a Gap on every corner?
A: YES, I LIVE IN THE EAST VILLAGE. UM, NO - GAPS AND STARBUCKS DON'T AFFECT ME TOO MUCH. I HAVEN'T BOUGHT ANYTHING AT THE GAP YET, BUT I BOUGHT A TEA ONCE AT STARBUCKS. OUR MUSIC ISN'T TOO NOISY ANYWAYS; THAT'S JUST A MYTH.

Q: The EP, "Life is Still Sweet" is out, and there's a full-length on the way. Is this one of those EPs that's sort of a teaser from the album, and has a few album tracks on it, or is it it's own record entirely. Or, put another way, does the EP give us an idea of what to expect from the album, or will the album surprise us?
A: PEOPLE WILL HAVE TO SETTLE FOR THE EP AS IT IS FOR NOW. BECAUSE, EVEN THOUGH THE ALBUM IS IN THE WORKS, THERE IS STILL NO DEAL INKED YET, NOR IS THERE MONEY AVAILABLE TO FLESH IT OUT. AND AS MUCH AS WE'D LIKE TO HAVE IT OUT SOON, WE HAVE TO WAIT UNTIL THINGS FALL INTO PLACE. WE HAVE A LOT OF SONGS, A LOT OF IDEAS, AND SOME MOMENTUM, BUT FEW BACKERS. THE EP MIGHT SUGGEST WHAT'S TO COME ON THE ALBUM.

Q: How did White Hassle go from being a duo to a group? Besides Matt signing on, I know you've had a bunch of different people join your live shows...
A: MATT OLIVERIO WAS A GOOD FRIEND OF OURS AND A GOOD GUITARIST. WE ENJOY'D HIS COMPANY AND HIS GUITAR PLAYING. IT JUST SEEM'D NATURAL TO SIGN HIM ON. NO ONE THINKS THE MUSIC HAS BEEN COMPROMISED AS A RESULT. THE IDEA IS TO KEEP A CORE WHITE HASSLE SOUND INTACT AND TO ADD GUESTS AS WE SEE FIT, KIND OF LIKE DECORATIONS ON A CHRISTMAS TREE. THIS PLAN HAS MADE OUR SHOWS MOREINCLUSIVE AND FUN.

Q: Is it harder writing and recording with more instruments involved than just you and a drummer? It seems like you can be a little more
spontaneous if you're the only one who has to worry about chord changes, etc.

A: IT MIGHT BE HARD IF DAVE VARENKA OR MATT OLIVERIO WEREN'T SUCH GOOD MUSICIANS. THEY BOTH ARE VERY INTUITIVE AND RECEPTIVE.

Q: Where do things stand with Rail Road Jerk since the split with Matador?
A: RAILROAD JERK HAS BEEN DORMANT FOR A WHILE. THERE WILL BE A RRJ "SINGLE OF THE MONTH" ON SUBPOP EARLY NEXT YEAR. BUT FOR THE MOST PART, RRJ IS UP ON THE SHELF.

Q: You're in two bands with Dave Varenka... do you ever just get sick of the guy?
A: NOT YET.

Q: What made WH decide to cover "Let It Be Me?"
A: IT WAS DAVE VARENKA'S IDEA. WE HAD ALREADY DONE TWO EVERLY BROTHER SONGS (OH, WHAT A FEELING AND LEAVE MY WOMAN ALONE ON THE MATADOR LP, NATIONAL CHAIN) AS A WAY TO DO MORE HARMONY SINGING, AND THEN DAVE VARENKA SUGGESTED LET IT BE ME. WE PUSHED IT FURTHER BY HAVING ATSUSHI NUMATA PROVIDE THE BEAT WITH HIS TURNTABLE. HE JOINS US LIVE SOMETIMES.

Q: You once boasted that White Hassle can cover any song. Yo La Tengo does a show every New Years' on WFMU where people phone in and play Stump the Band, and they just cover whatever songs people ask for. Do you think WH could pull off the same thing?
A: NO. WE DON'T KNOW EVERY SONG LIKE SOME BANDS DO. BUT WE CAN PLAY ANY SONG WITH THE BASIC WHITE HASSLE CONFIGURATION - WHICH IS MATT OLIVERIO ON GUITAR, ME WITH MY GUITAR STRINGS MUTED AND WITH MY HARMONICA, AND DAVE VARENKA WITH HIS MAKESHIFT KITCHEN SINK DRUM KIT AND HIS BACKGROUND VOCALS - AND IT WILL SOUND GOOD. IT'S THE WHITE HASSLE PRINCIPLE THAT WE CAN TAKE ANY SONG AND MAKE IT OUR OWN. WE WHIP IT INTO OUR OWN FROTH AND SERVE IT. SOME PEOPLE THINK YOU NEED THIS OR THAT TO MAKE SUCH AND SUCH A SONG. WE DON'T BELIEVE THAT. IT'S ALL COMES DOWN TO THE BASICS BEING MOST IMPORTANT. LIKE IF YOU WERE A GREAT ARTIST BUT ALL YOU HAD WAS A GREEN CRAYON. DO YOU THINK THAT ARTIST COULD MAKE GREAT ART WITH JUST THE GREEN CRAYON? WE THINK SO.

Q: More of a Marcellus question than a band question: are you still illustrating for New York Press? I know they cut down on art a lot after they got rid of Mike Gentile, and I haven't seen anything of yours the few times I've picked up the paper lately.
A: YES, I DO WEEKLY BLACK AND WHITE DRAWINGS FOR THE NEW YORK PRESS. THEY'RE THE WORST PAYING GIG FOR ILLUSTRATION IN NEW YORK, BUT THE PAPER IS SEEN BY PEOPLE ON THE STREET, WHICH I LIKE. I GET MORE LUCRATIVE ASSIGNMENTS FROM MAGAZINES LIKE THE NEW YORKER OR NEW YORK MAGAZINE. I WAS OUT OF TOWN A FEW TIMES THIS SUMMER AND MAYBE DIDN'T DO A DRAWING FOR NEW YORK PRESS THE FEW TIMES YOU PICKED IT UP.

Review of record release show 8.12
"White Hassle's Tin Pan Dance Party"
by Gabe Soria

Over a noisy midnight dinner, the members of White Hassle are discussing the dancing phenomena at their shows (people actually dance- that's the phenomena), and the role their stripped-down sound plays in it: Dave Varenka (funky drummer, soup-pot percussionist): "We enjoy playing to make people move their butts and feel a little soul." Matt Oliverio (focused guitar Buddha): "Fuck yeah. I think that things have become way too plush and lush, and things need to be counter pointed by that. People want to hear what was good about rock music in the first place. It?s almost like de-evolution. Maybe back to basics is better right now." And finally, Marcellus Hall (arch vocals, scratch guitar, Stevie Wonder-harmonica): "By no means would I agree that's the absolute right direction. It's just a pendulum swinging in another direction. Just because people are tired of angst-ridden grunge music doesn't mean that sexy, funky music is the answer. I don't wave the flag one way or the other." It's a comment you can't really classify (is Hall downplaying one of his band's strengths--their uncanny ability to play sexy, funky music with spot-on skill--or is he commenting on trend-hopping?), but that's White Hassle all over. Sardonic without being superior and smug and a bit hard to pin down, these are guys who appreciate both a good joke and getting on the good foot. Together since '96 and staffed by half of the currently inactive industrial-blues outfit Railroad Jerk (Hall and Varenka) and the semi-recent recruitment of Oliverio (Varenka quips, "His parents have a really good basement and they have a van."), they're New York's premiere Dance-Folk (or is that Back Porch Funk?) band. White Hassle fuses together John Mayall-esque harmonica riffs, loopy punk guitar-craft and rump-shaking backbeats (and the occasional guest spot by a turntable specialist, sax and trumpet players, violin, organ and backup singers) into an unexpectedly badass rusty 'n creaky Frankenstein's monster of soul. As Matt says, "People have got to realize that good beats are good beats, no matter where they're from." And White Hassle's new EP, Life Is Still Sweet (Orange Recordings) upholds that credo. It's a weird record; listening to it, you?re struck by the notion that it's multi-purpose: couples can screw to it, strippers can dance to it, but if you want to, you can sit around the house and drink beer to it. What else do you need? A little irony? Marcellus earnestly/sarcastically chimes in, referring to the EP's title, "We were a little bit worried at first because there wasn't enough irony [in the title], but we went for it, we took the plunge. All human beings have a moment, once or twice in their week, their daily lives, when they aren't ironic and I think we wanted to indulge in that." Live, there's no room or need for irony. White Hassle is hair-raisingly good on stage, so good that they wipe your memory clean of a million drearily competent shows you've been to, when all you could do was cross your arms and think, "This is all right, but Jesus, I could be at home watching television right now." The boys fulfill the promises they make on their records with obvious pleasure, as witnessed at their recent record release gig. The moment the show begins, you know that you're in for something special. The audience actually moves to the front of the stage, unashamed for once, not afraid to let their standing room only neighbor know that moving is not only an option, it's an imperative. Hall flails around on stage like a punk rock student of James Brown, Little Walter and Prince, dropping to his knees when necessary, then springing back up as if on strings, blowing his harp and playing his six-string with grinning abandon. Varenka's ramshackle drum kit (traditional hardware mixed with odds and ends from the junkyard) is pushed to the fore of the stage, and he shares the spotlight with Hall, ripping it up and hollering along. Oliverio focuses on his guitar, studious, looking up occasionally to throw a goofy-happy grin at his band mates or the onlookers. They're having the time of their lives, testifying to what a blessing it is to be playing a good set of dance music to a diggin' it crowd on a Saturday night. By the time they get rolling on their closing number, the colossal harmonica/big beat instrumental workout "Futura Trance" from the EP, the crowd is thoroughly worked over and won over. If they wore choir robes, played tent revival shows and passed the hat around, White Hassle would be Baptist millionaires. They also have a knack for choosing imaginative and surprising cover songs that they don?t simply play, but also take out for a drink and respectfully reinterpret (heard recently: the aforementioned Stevie Wonder's "Signed, Sealed, Delivered", BTO's anthem (and Homer Simpson favorite) "Takin' Care of Business", Lulu's "To Sir, With Love" and the Everly Brother's weep-fest, "Let it Be Me"). To explain their gleeful raiding and reworking of songs they love, Hall puts a (mock?) swaggering tone into his voice lays it down, "We were going to cover "Darling Nikki". We talked about it. Fucking White Hassle, we can cover anything, that's the credo we live by. It's part of the idea. We can strip down any song and do it." Dave and Matt sip their beers and nod their agreement, as if already figuring out how to best arrange the song for two guitars, harmonica and trash can lid. Their version will probably give someone a heart attack in the best way possible.


The Carillon interview
by Emmet Matheson

Between 1990 and 1997, New York musician Marcellus Hall showed up everywhere. Aside from albums and 7" singles with his own two bands, Railroad Jerk and White Hassle, he frequently guested on albums by groups like the Workdogs, the Honeymoon Killers, and Six Finger Satellite. But shortly after the release of White Hassle's '97 debut LP, National Chain, Hall seemed to disappear completely. Then this past July he re-emerged. Low-key Chicago label Orange Recordings released Life Is Still Sweet, a six track EP by White Hassle. Three years is a long time between releases. Some wondered if White Hassle and Railroad Jerk had been dissolved altogether. "We didn't have a label. That was it," Hall explains from his Manhattan home. "Otherwise we would have done it [released more albums]. We've been going strong all this time. Railroad Jerk didn't have a label, but White Hassle really took hold and we kept doing it, and then we finally got a bite from Orange in Chicago." The past few years have seen a lot of indie bands lose their record deals. A sudden right turn in the music industry left any band not able to sell upwards of a million copies cast adrift. "We were sort of lost in the wake of that," says Hall. "[Labels] were trying to gauge potential sales and they didn't see it. It was a conservative period and maybe it still is. It seems like it." Hall is sketchy on the future of Railroad Jerk. Though they will release an already recorded single on Sub Pop in the new year, Hall says there is nothing in the works for RRJerk in the foreseeable future. "My heart is now with pursuing this White Hassle thing at the moment," he says, "It's become very liberating, because there's nothing to live up to or to live down to, as the case may be. White Hassle has been a chance to start fresh and that grew more appealing as we did it. We're having fun now." Until recently, White Hassle consisted solely of Hall (voice, guitar, and harmonica) and percussionist Dave Varenka (also from Railroad Jerk), but this year saw a third member, Matt Oliverio, join on guitar. "He only plays on song on the new CD, but he's a full-fledged member now," says Hall, "It was interesting to bring in a third member in terms of personality dynamics. "You have a table with two legs and it stands up -- well, I guess a table with two legs wouldn't stand up -- but Dave and I stood up on our own as a band. When we brought in a third member it was interesting to notice how we stood as a band then. It's good. Musically, Matt's added all the little things that we thought he could add." Though White Hassle is made up of only three people, they frequently bring in guests to perform with them for both live shows and recordings. "It's really fun," says Hall. "We've had a violinist and a DJ and a trumpet and for our last show we had a saxophonist and back-up singers. And I've got a kazoo now." White Hassle has also been venturing into building the spectacle of their live show, from putting flashing bicycle lights on their amps to rigging up an entire lighting system that Dave Varenka controls with foot pedals. These homemade elements are compatible with the lo-fi feel of Hall's muted guitar and Varenka's pots and pans drum kit. "There's a certain creative innocence that I want to maintain. I don't know if it makes sense, but the idea that we can do anything without feeling silly about it is liberating to me. "I mean we have a kazoo and I think there's a lot of bands that would just cringe out of embarrassment to use a kazoo. To me, the simplicity of music often gets lost and I just love keeping it minimal." There's always this fear of becoming BIG sounding. I don't wanna have a fat sound, I love the idea of a thin sound -- I mean fat with an 'f' not a 'ph.' I mean we're still dope. We're fresh and dope." While White Hassle has no plans to tour beyond the American east coast, they have just recorded ten new tracks that they're shopping around to labels. "You might want to write that any label who wants to sign us can call us," Hall half-jokes. "I know it's backwards, usually you record after you get the money, but that's a philosophy of independence we've been forced into. Other bands might be in the position where they'd be sheepish about this, but we know we're good. We deserve to be signed and we need to get this music out. We're not suffering from any inferiority complex because we don't have a label, in fact it's kind of liberating, but at the same time we recognize the need to get this stuff out."