Pop Quiz: Steve Aoki on embracing hip-hop, standing up for the disenfranchised


As one of the most celebrated figures of the electronic dance music world, Steve Aoki plays some 250 shows a year. Known for hurling sheet cake at his fans, surfing over crowds on an inflatable raft and tweaking beloved rock hits with booming beats, the 40-year-old DJ holds more than one Guinness World Record for being the most-traveled musician in one year. It’s no wonder the title of his Grammy-nominated 2016 documentary, which also delved into his life as the son of Benihana founder Rocky Aoki, was “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead.” The Chronicle caught Aoki ahead of the tour for his most recent album “Kolony,” which features collaborations with rappers like Gucci Mane, Migos, Lil Yachty and T-Pain.

Q: You already had a good thing going with EDM. What made you want to change it up by throwing hip-hop into the mix?

A: You know, my whole life is based on flow. When I’m in the studio, I work with artists from all genres — everything from K-Pop to rock to hip-hop. When I was in the studio at the inception of “Kolony,” I was just making music with hip-hop artists and getting into a vibe. And sometimes the vibe turns into a project because the vibe is so strong.

Q: Does it feel like a natural progression for you?

A: These hip-hop artists weren’t just jumping on EDM beats. It was like, let’s just make the best songs that we can. It’s very much a reflection of American culture. This is the voice of youth culture: Hip-hop and EDM. It’s what the youth experience when they go the festivals, when they go to parties, hang out with all their friends, the clothes they wear, the dances that they do, the artists they listen to. When I play “Kolony” in other countries and I see kids singing along — in a country where English is not spoken — it really speaks to my heart.

Q: In the documentary “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead,” you talk about the challenges of growing up in a predominately white neighborhood in California. When you see what’s going on in the country now, how do you get up on stage every night and let it go?

A: At the end of the day, this is the time when the immigrants’ voice — the people who are disenfranchised, the people who are underrepresented — this is the time we need to stand up and speak louder than we’ve ever spoken before. In times of comfort and in times of safety and security, you’re not challenged. We don’t have a choice. We can’t sit on the fence anymore in a time like this, in a regime like this. Sometimes you think, “Well, the president doesn’t affect my life.” Well, it’s affecting millions and millions of lives. You can’t just sit idly by and watch this whole place burn down when there’s so much progress being made to represent all people. At this time, we got to be even louder. I’m definitely not known to sit on the sidelines.

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Pop Quiz: Country star Anderson East is ready for his ‘Encore’


The pressure is on for Anderson East. Having just played “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” and racked up reams of glowing reviews for “Encore,” his bluesy, soulful new record, East (who has also drawn a fair share of tabloid attention for his high-profile relationship with countrystar Miranda Lambert) is on the road to visit fans and promote the album, the follow-up to his acclaimed 2015 release “Delilah.” Recorded in Music City’s famed Studio A with producer Dave Cobb, the Alabama singer-songwriter’s album also features appearances by Ed Sheeran, Avicii and Ryan Adams. East checked in from his home in Nashville.

Q: So you’re the guy redefining the sound of Nashville?

A: I think Jason Isbell did that. That’s his job. I’m just trying to figure out my own sound, man.

Q: There was no pressure when you made “Delilah.” Does it feel unnerving to have all this scrutiny around “Encore”?

A: I don’t really pay much attention. That’s not what I signed up for. I just want to play music. If people are talking about the record and the music, that’s all I care about.

Q: Was there a more concerted effort at capturing the energy of the live show in the studio?

A: That’s definitely where the album title came from. Just talking to Dave Cobb about it, I said, “I want every song to be played as an encore!” I still wanted to cherish the fact that it’s a recorded piece of music and have it be well thought out, but still human and rough around the edges. But, yeah, I think we just wanted to enhance the live show and have a great time playing these songs for a long time.

Q: How many of them have actually made it into the encore?

A: So far, we’ve been out for about a month now and we’ve tried three of them as the encore.

Q: Well done! Was there a moment after “Delilah” came out that you felt like, “OK, people are here for this”?

A: I can’t pinpoint a moment. Coming up and traveling around in my old station wagon, playing shows years ago, your biggest fear is nobody is going to show up. There were ample times where it was me and four people — and two of them were the bartenders. After a while, it was like, I didn’t have to worry anymore. That’s what that record did. It just astounded me. Every day, I’m more and more grateful for people taking a chance to come see us for the first time or people who drive eight hours to see us for the 20th time.

Q: You’re playing some pretty amazing rooms on this tour. Have you learned how to maintain that connection you have with your audiences in bigger spaces?

A: Yeah, we cut our teeth pretty well. We were on the road with the Stapletons. We did a Dixie Chicks tour. We definitely figured out how to bring people in and bring people along with us. It’s pretty much second nature. A stage is a stage. We’re the same group of guys on it, no matter where we’re at.

Q: Apart from being the only musician who worked with both Avicii and Chris Stapleton this year, you also collaborated with Ed Sheeran and Ryan Adams on this album. How did that happen?

A: Honestly, I have no earthly idea. I just woke up one day and they asked if I wanted to write with Aviici. I was like, “Yeah, of course!” I love writing songs, and being in Nashville as long as I have, you get set up on a lot of first dates. We turned what was supposed to be a writing appointment into a recording session. “Girlfriend” came out of that evening. Somebody like Ryan, I’ve been a huge fan for ages and ages. I had been listening to Ryan’s latest record; I can’t remember what track it was, but it had the kind of tone I was hearing for the song. Instead of trying to imitate it, I went right to the source.

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Pop Quiz: Bananarama on its reunion tour, scrappy dancing abilities


Aidin Vaziri | Everything is going Bananarama. Last year, the insouciant British pop trio’s original lineup — Sara Dallin, Keren Woodward and Siobhan Fahey — reunited after nearly three decades apart. Now the group is gearing up for its first tour together. With its jubiliant ’80s synth-pop hits like “Cruel Summer,” “Robert De Niro’s Waiting” and “Venus,” the band not only offered a respite from the endless procession of men in the early days of MTV but inspired countless other female artists, from the Spice Girls to Gwen Stefani. Dallin checked in from rehearsals in London.

Q: It feels like the chemistry is right back with the three of you. Does it feel like no time has passed?

A: Well, you say no time has passed, but in fact 29 years has passed. Siobhan left in ’88. She never toured with us. Keren and I tour every year, doing these festivals and all kinds of things. It took some getting used to having a third person standing to my left. When you meet somebody when you’re really young, they feel like family. When they come back, for whatever reason things have gone wrong before, they’re still part of your family.

Q: How ambitious were you when Bananarama started?

A: Keren and I were teenagers when we started. We loved music. We loved fashion. We were going out to clubs. As teenagers, I don’t think you care whether it lasts two minutes or two years or, in mine and Keren’s case, over 30 years. It was just something that was fun.

Q: There weren’t many girl groups around when you were coming up — you look at the Band Aid photo and it’s just the three of you in a sea of men. Did that make things difficult?

A: It is a male-dominated business. I’m sure along the way, things happened where maybe men were paid more and got more for shows. I don’t know. We certainly went hell for leather after everything we wanted. We were tough.

Q: You started out as a punk band. Do you still have a bit of that in you?

A: People always say they were terrified of us. I don’t know what that is. We were so shy and we always moved together as one person. If one person went to the bathroom, all three of us went to the bathroom. If there was a big sofa and chairs in the room we would all squash on the sofa together. It wasn’t that we were hard, it was just that we knew what we wanted.

Q: You also opened the door for a lot of female artists.

A: That would be very nice if that’s true. I know the Spice Girls were modeled on us when they were put together. People who don’t care about the group or music might think, “Oh, it’s just three pretty girls doing other people’s songs. Someone’s putting them on tour. Someone’s dressing them up.” That’s not the case. We’ve always had as much in common with a male band as we have with female artists.

Q: The scrappiness of Bananarama was always part of the group’s charm. Is it hard to maintain that after doing this for more than 30 years?

A: We’re not a dance group. We’re not about to start throwing down great choreographed moves. It’s more of a — not rock show, but more authentic and less of a dance troupe kind of a thing. We’re no more polished now than we were then. Probably more confident, but that’s about all.

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Outlaw biker and counterculture artist Allan “Gut” Terk dies


Aidin Vaziri | Allan “Gut” Terk was a key figure on the California counterculture scene in the 1960s. He rode with the Hells Angels. He made album covers, T-shirts and posters for psychedelic rock bands like Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead. And he provided the retina-searing paint job for Ken Kesey’s Furthur bus, an acid lab on wheels that carried the Merry Pranksters across the country spreading the gospel of LSD.

His head shop in San Francisco’s Mission District, Joynt Ventures, doubled as a rehearsal studio for local bands. In a brief attempt to go legitimate in 1968, Terk took on a gig managing one of them, the proto-heavy-metal outfit Blue Cheer. During his tenure with the group, Terk helped navigate the band’s debut album, “Vincebus Eruptum,” into the upper reaches of the Billboard album chart (it peaked at No. 11).

In the post-Summer of Love era, when cultural divides were clearly cast, the charming 6-foot-something Terk easily straddled scenes and classifications, befriending outlaws, icons and weirdos.

Terk died on Jan. 18, from organ failure caused by cancer, at his home outside of Reno, his daughter Aura Winarick, said. He was 78.

“He hit that whole scene full on,” said Winarick. “Everywhere he went, he was the center of attention. He was this big person with a big personality.”

But Terk’s creative potential was inevitably sidelined by his dependence on opiates. Shortly after he burst on the scene, bridging the vast chasm between bikers and beatniks, he all but disappeared.

“There’s a whole missing decade or two in there,” Winarick said.

He spent much of the 1970s and ’80s directionless, living on the streets of San Francisco, out of touch with his old friends and family. Winarick, 48, lost contact with her dad throughout her teenage years until he landed on her doorstep in New York in the late ’80s.

“He was strung out and looking for help,” she said. “But in a very charming sort of way.”

Winarick checked her father into a Veterans Affairs hospital in New York, where he detoxed. He lived for a while in a men’s shelter in the Bowery, running an art program, before he relapsed and made his way back to San Francisco.

Through the assistance of the Rev. Cecil Williams’ Glide Memorial Church, Terk cleaned up again and, in 1992, reinvented himself as a ranch hand, vowing to make a break from his past life.

Famous for designing coveted psychedelic rock posters for Big Brother and the Holding Company at Sokol Hall and the Trips Festival at Longshoreman’s Hall, he applied his creative skills to crafting ranch tools like knives, belt buckles and sheaths.

Terk was born in Concord on Aug. 1, 1939. His mother was Elma Kirschhofer and his father, Allan Carson Terk, was a descendant of the American frontiersman Kit Carson.

Out of high school, Terk served in the Navy as a submarine sonar specialist. He also joined the Hell Bent for Glory Motorcycle Club, which included several future members of the Hells Angels. He earned the nickname “Gut” due to his insatiable appetite.

Terk married his first wife, Jan Codorniz-Fridrich, at 18. They separated a year later.

Terk followed the Hells Angels from Sacramento to San Bernardino (where he served as the club’s president), before settling in with the Oakland chapter. There he formed a relationship with author Ken Kesey, who had scored big with his 1962 novel “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” Terk joined him at his ranch in La Honda for parties where a group of Kesey’s friends, known as the Merry Pranksters, would experiment with psychedelic drugs such as LSD, which was legal at the time.

In 1964, to celebrate the publication of Kesey’s second novel, “Sometimes a Great Notion,” the Pranksters set off on a road trip to New York using a 25-year-old International Harvester school bus, which had been converted into a camper. Terk painted the psychedelic bus, and it was christened Furthur (sometimes Further).

Over the years, it became one of the prime symbols of the acid-laced ’60s in Northern California. The bus was immortalized in Tom Wolfe’s 1968 best-seller “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test,” described as “glowing orange, green, magenta, lavender, chlorine blue, every fluorescent pastel imaginable in thousands of designs, large and small, like a cross between Fernand Léger and Dr. Strange, roaring together and vibrating off each other as if somebody had given Hieronymus Bosch 50 buckets of Day-Glo paint and a 1939 International Harvester school bus and told him to go to it.”

Terk also worked as a graphic artist, creating the original lettering and T-shirt designs for the Grateful Dead, as well as the group’s first bumper sticker. He created the album art for Jefferson Airplane’s 1969 album “Volunteers,” released the year Winarick was born.

He was married to Winarick’s mother and his second wife, Nancy Winarick, for five years, although no one can remember the exact dates.

“He cut ties with everything and everybody, including his family. He was no longer Gut,” said his daugther. “He literally picked up a phonebook, flipped to the page that said ‘horses’ and pointed at some ad, called them up and said, ‘I need a job and someplace to live.’”

Terk eventually found work at a ranch in Richmond in 1992; and followed the same family to another ranch in Antelope Valley in 2002, where he settled in an RV.

It wasn’t until 2015, when he was first diagnosed with cancer, that Terk reconnected with his daughter and past life.

At the urging of the Outlaw Archive curator Bo Bushnell, Terk made a return to graphic arts the same year to design the cover art for the book “Halfway to Berdoo,” a chronicle of the early days of motorcycle clubs by Marilyn Ruthe Foster.

Before his death, Terk donated his Acid Test Diploma, along with a few of his other personal items from the Summer of Love era, to the Oakland Museum of California.

As well as Aura Winarick, his survivors include his granddaughter, Ruby Yassen, brothers, Ray Terk and Bill Irvin, and sister Susan Irvin.

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Pop Quiz: Tune-Yards grapples with race, self identity and deep grooves on latest


Aidin Vaziri |Like most of us, Merrill Garbus had a lot of questions about the state of the nation following the 2016 presidential election. But in the months since then, as things took more surreal turns almost daily, the driving force behind the eclectic indie-pop act Tune-Yards started to look inward.

As she started work on the group’s fourth and most recent album, “I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life,” the Oakland musician and her longtime collaborator Nate Brenne thought of ways to elevate their own work. Garbus, 38, booked a weekly gig as a DJ in a bar near her house, taught herself how to program a drum machine and, critically, participated in a six-month workshop on race at the East Bay Meditation Center with the explicit mission of exploring her own white privilege.

When Tune-Yards performs at the Noise Pop Festival on Friday, Feb. 23, Garbus will bring her genre-bending songs, like “Colonizer” and “ABC 123,” that not only bluntly explore self-identity but do it with an irresistible groove.

The Chronicle spoke to her during a tour break at a Los Angeles laundromat.

Q: Have you been rabidly reading everything people write about the album or trying to avoid it all?

 A: I have not read anything. I read a headline that felt really wrong — that was like a week ago. I thought, “OK, it’s going to be a lot of stuff that feels OK, and a lot of stuff that feels really hard to know how to process.” I usually make the decision not to read any press and figure that people tell me if there’s something I need to address.

Q: The concepts around this album seem more complicated than ever. It’s probably for the best that you avert your eyes.

A: At a certain point, the music is what the music is. This stuff is so subtle and very new for me to talk about. I often don’t know if I would be able to articulate myself. I know there’s a way things are framed like, “White musician listens to Kendrick album, takes a workshop and writes this album on whiteness.” That kind of oversimplification is par for the course. I’m to blame as much as anyone else because I’m trying to sell art. I also think that part of this is knowing it’s going to be really wrong and flawed in a lot of ways.

Q: Your best response in the interviews I have read so far is, “I don’t know.”

A: Oh yeah. Totally. With a lot of the teachers I’ve had in my life and the teachers I’ve had recently around whiteness, that is such a brilliant takeaway: I don’t know. I’m not supposed to know. The whole idea is, there’s no language for this. That’s intentional. It’s just the way it is. It’s ingenious the way that it’s set up — and sickening. People look to musicians and public figures to have it all figured out. That’s so dangerous. It’s kind of why we’re in the political situation we’re in now. People want one person to have all the answers instead of being like, “I have no clue!” It’s pretty complicated.

Q: Do you feel like there’s a risk that with all the serious messages in the verses that people might miss the humor and sense of fun in the music?

A: There’s that Emma Goldman quote: “If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution.” It’s the sense of, “What are we doing this for?” What we’re working toward is to feel this joy of freedom. It’s difficult to express that. In fact, I didn’t know how to express that. Like the song “Colonizer,” we went back and forth on that whole production. There’s an inappropriate amount of celebration and joy in a song about rape and injustice. Yet, where are the moments where we can find that? I think there are lots of examples of that. I often cite Fela Kuti for music where the topics are greed and political and intense: yet there’s so much joy in the music and a propulsion toward dance.

Q: Your sound is so unconventional. Do you ever consider how it will be received by the public?

A: No, not anymore. I’m older now. People have been telling me for years and years and years that you have to honor your own vision; you can’t do what other people want you to do. I’m finding it to be more true. There’s a lot of trust, blind faith in the fact. The thing that’s really weird about the album coming out now is that this felt — and god, I may have dug my own grave with the title — this is my private life. And we kept it really private. Nate and I worked on music really privately. Maybe we had a couple people involved along the way, but we really dug into trying to bring ourselves up to another level to work as musicians. I took a lot of voice lessons. We learned new software, new drum machines and synthesizers. We just brought our skill level up. For the longest time, that was all we were doing all the time. I think we did a really good job of protecting that creative process. It is very shocking to bring it out, to have people listen to it. This past week has been an unreal amount of attention. I guess what I mean is that a little bit to a fault, I forgot that people are listening.

Q: What happens when you get in front of people to play live?

A: That’s where I know that I’m telling the most truth. It’s not about the words. It’s not about how I perceive myself or present myself to you or anybody else. I trust that when I’m onstage I’m accessing a deeper truth in myself and I’m inviting others to access that in themselves. It’s really moving.

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Justin Timberlake goes glamping on ‘Man of the Woods’


Justin Timberlake has taken to wearing flannel shirts and having himself photographed in the middle of streams to get the word out on his fifth studio album, “Man of the Woods.” But those expecting a Bon Iver-style musical makeover from the multi-hyphenated star will be let down. Timberlake, 37, is a crowd-pleaser at heart and “Man of the Woods” hardly finds him swerving from his mission. Working once again with his most trusted platinum-certified collaborators — Timbaland, Danja and the Neptunes — the Memphis native offers a grab bag of styles, from country and funk to, er, country-funk with his increasingly breathless falsetto front and center on standout tracks like “Midnight Summer’s Jam” and “Supplies.” It’s everything you want from Timberlake, minus the beard. — Aidin Vaziri

The Killers, ‘Wonderful, Wonderful’


Aidin Vaziri | With “Wonderful, Wonderful,” the Killers aim for reinvention and renewed relevance. The Las Vegas group’s fifth studio album — its first in five years — finds the band scaling back the Bruce Springsteen-scale pomposity that hampered 2012’s “Battle Born” and aiming for a dark pop vibe more in line with its breakthrough debut, 2004’s “Hot Fuss.” Sometimes it works. Songs like “The Man” and “Out of My Mind” are driven by sleek synthesizer melodies, while “Tyson vs. Douglas” swaggers forward on one of the band’s signature shout-along hooks. Sometimes, not so much. The actor Woody Harrelson reads Bible verses for the intro to “The Calling,” a Depeche Mode-lite stomper; while the closing ballad, “Have All the Songs Been Written,” finds singer Brandon Flowers contemplating life, “Send In the Clowns” style: “Has every ship gone sailing?/ Has every heart gone blue?”