We had the chance to ask Josh Haden of Spain about 2016. You can see the results below.
Find out more about Spain here.
What music grabbed you in the last year, can be new or old?
22, A Million by Bon Iver is the best new album I heard in 2016.
Some music I rediscovered this year is the 14-CD box set Sun Ra: The Eternal Myth Revealed, Vol. 1, which was given to me some time ago by my friend, Michael Sheppard. Michael ran a record label here in Los Angeles called Transparency that released this box set and many other incredible albums from overlooked and non-commercial artists. When he died this year it was an incredible loss not only for me personally and for the L.A. music and art community but for the music and cultural world at large. He did so much for talented artists creating real music and he didn’t care about making money. Art came first always for him.
Anything that fell short of expectations?
Not really, but I’m a musician and I support all other musicians regardless of what they’re doing. Just devoting yourself to your craft and getting out there, recording and playing shows is enough work! So kudos and congratulations to everyone out there doing it.
One thing that did disappoint me was the election of Donald Trump. How such a myopic, greedy, selfish, immature, unenlightened, uninformed, uneducated, gullible, racist, sexist, segment of the population could get together and nominate this borderline personality, self-centered, narrow-minded, politically ignorant hypocrite to the U.S. presidency is alarming to me. We are all part of the same world. We all belong to humanity and to participate in human society you have to have an open mind and acceptance of people who are different than you are. That is step number one. Donald Trump and those who voted for him do not view themselves as human beings. They have no intention or desire to be part of humanity. Talking to them is like talking to a wall. If you don’t agree with them they call you a communist and want to spray mace at you. They want one world where everyone looks exactly like them and thinks exactly like they do. They are going to keep fighting and fighting until they reach their goal.
I know there are a lot of great bands out there making really beautiful, quiet, introspective music. I love that stuff, but now’s not the time for beautiful, quiet, introspective music. Now’s the time for loud, scary, and intense. We have to fight back. To slowcore bands it doesn’t mean you have to abandon the slow tempos. Slow can be frightening too.
2016 was a year punctuated by the deaths of significant musical figures (Bowie, Cohen, Lemmy, Prince). Any personal thoughts about this?
It’s always sad when a great artist dies. One thing that all the figures you mentioned had in common was creating art that called upon people to embrace life in all its joys and difficulties. They celebrated life and the human experience with their music and inspired everyone who listened to them to do the same. Even though their bodies are gone we can be happy their music will live on forever.
Have you come across any books or movies or other art forms that excited you in the last 12 months?
I read a lot, and I watch lots of movies. I subscribe to the New York Times, the L.A. Times, the New Yorker Magazine, Biblical Archaeology Review, and McSweeney’s. Reading takes me in and brings me out of the world and brings me back in. I often think that if I could make a living just reading I would do it!
The best novel I read this year is Dave Eggers’ The Circle, which was published in 2013 but I didn’t get around to reading until this year. This is one of the greatest novels written ever, it is a classic in the same way as Brave New World and 1984. It’s about the struggle to remain connected to what makes us human in a world that’s taking us further away from nature and into the digital.
The best movie I saw by far was director Rick Alverson’s Entertainment, starring Gregg Turkington aka Neil Hamburger. It’s similar to The Circle in certain ways, especially in its criticism of popular culture. But I’m a huge Neil Hamburger fan. Neil Hamburger is the only comedian that matters.
Do musical formats (records/CDs/mp3s/streams etc) play a part in your world?
Aside from the recording aspect of music, which deals in lossless formats, I like mp3s with iTunes as my default music player. I have a playlist that contains almost 27,000 songs. I’ve been building it for over ten years. They are songs that have spiritual significance to me and could be anything from Sikh devotional music and Catholic church hymns to the latest Bon Iver or some music from my youth like Black Flag. I’m always adding to it. That’s mostly what I listen to. I almost never listen to music radio. I can’t use Apple Music because I have too many songs in my player. Spotify doesn’t even work on my computer. Pandora is Music Lite. I prefer owning songs and supporting artists directly. I love vinyl but I’m having storage space issues right now so I unfortunately pretty much have a moratorium on that, unless it’s from a band I really love.
Six months on from Carolina, how are you feeling about it? Any plans for 2017?
I think Carolina is the strongest Spain album since 1995’s The Blue Moods Of Spain. I felt that when we finished recording it earlier this year and I still feel that way now, after months of touring and playing weekly gigs in in L.A. for it. I do have plans for a new Spain album in 2017. Subscribe to the Spain music page at https://spaintheband.bandcamp.com and find out before and as it happens. If you find yourself in Los Angeles we play every Tuesday night for free at the Love Song.