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SXSW 2017: summary of SXSW Conference sessions starring Nile Rodgers and Darryl “DMC” McDaniels

 
By on Thursday, 23rd March 2017 at 2:00 pm
 

SXSW is never the same from one year to another, so it’s like comparing apples to oranges. That said, this year, we SXSW Conference attendees avoided the craziness of last year’s sessions, marked by a zoo-like atmosphere due to the increased security designed to protect then President of the United States Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. I do wonder if people who had been inconvenienced by the scheduling issues caused by the Obamas in 2016 stayed away this year, because the queues definitely seemed shorter than in any past time I’ve been in Austin for the event. I had no trouble getting into two of the three massive sessions I had earmarked to attend, which was great as a music journalist eager to soak up as many anecdotes and as much advice as possible. However, I did wonder, where is everybody?

I was truly excited for Nile Rodgers’ keynote talk on Wednesday morning. As a longtime Duran Duran fan, I’ve always assumed that their ‘Notorious’ album would have never happened without him. Of course, he worked with artists as varied as David Bowie, Madonna, Daft Punk, Disclosure and Lady Gaga. The man has tons of experience and so many stories he could tell, he could probably have his own documentary running continuously for weeks. (At the start of the talk, a fast-paced, hard to follow who’s who of people he’s worked with and all the work he’s done over the years helped make this a humourous point.) It was, then, disappointing to find out from the first few minutes that the focus of his talk would be music discovery and to some extent, how to write a pop song and promote it. I mean, music discovery is what music editors do with their lives and what makes them tick, right? While Rodgers was as much an engaging speaker as I’ve seen in past documentaries starring him that I’ve watched, I personally didn’t get out of his talk what I had hoped. To make up your own mind, I do invite you to watch the entire keynote speech below. An interview with Rodgers by NPR is also available here.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C4HZz5_IQN0[/youtube]

Darryl “DMC” McDaniels is best known for being in trailblazing hip-hop group Run D.M.C., but his conversation with journalist Nick Huff Barili had many different directions taking off from the music he’s famous for. He was very candid – and very funny! – telling how he unable to play basketball with the public school kids because he felt ‘marked’ by his Catholic school uniform. Until this talk, I had no idea he and his brother were obsessed with comic books as children, and he used them as an escape. The waterworks nearly opened up when he revealed they sold their comics because unlike their peers, they didn’t sell drugs, and how else would they have the money to buy their first turntables and a mixer? It was even more sob-inducing to learn that he had suffered from depression, going through a painful suicidal period in the ‘90s. I had to fight back the tears.

Darryl McDaniels at SXSW 2017

Sometimes, though, the darkest days lead to the brightest, as McDaniels came back with a new outlook and was tapped by friends and acquaintances to help others through similar struggles. Music was important to getting McDaniels the stage from where he can speak about things that have far further reach than music alone can give. In that respect, I found his SXSW Conference talk much more uplifting and relatable than Nile Rodgers’ own: instead of a rock star talking to us from the stage, McDaniels, sat in an armchair, spoke to us as if we were in his living room and among friends. I haven’t seen the video of his talk surface yet, but I hope it does soon, so we can share it with you. Oh, and you know those comic books that he sold off years ago? Well, now he has his own comic book publishing imprint, Darryl Makes Comics. Everything does come full circle.

 

TGTF Guide to SXSW 2017: this year’s Music keynotes and recommended speakers

 
By on Tuesday, 7th March 2017 at 3:00 pm
 

Every year, SXSW has the good fortune to be able to draw incredible speakers involved in tech, film, and of course what we’re interested in, music. This year is no exception. So I’ll be highlighting who I consider the can’t miss recommended speakers of the Music stream of SXSW 2017.

Darryl “DMC” McDaniels (Thursday 17 March, 12:30 PM) – Utter his name and those beats from Run DMC’s version of ‘Walk This Way’ come into your head, don’t they? The thing that fascinates me about people like McDaniels is that you know they could retire on the royalties from songs and projects from so long ago. So why do they keep at it? It’s the passion. McDaniels has another passion besides music, comic books, which he parlayed into a comic book company back in 2014. He’s also a published writer two times over. Certainly a man with a lot to say and considering the current political climate, I am sure he has an opinion on what is going in our country today. Darryl “DMC” McDaniels is a legendary music icon who first impacted the world over 30 years ago. From the first rap group to grace the cover of Rolling Stone to the first to appear on MTV, Grammy nominated Run-DMC changed music, culture, fashion, language and made American history. It would be hard to overstate his influence on popular culture.”

Krist Novoselic (Tuesday 14 March, 3:30 PM) – After Kurt Cobain’s untimely death, history could have been written such that the surviving two members of Nirvana never could overcome the late Cobain’s shadow. We all know what Dave Grohl went on to, but did you know that bassist Krist Novoselic went on to making politics a high priority in his life? From SXSW: “A member of the groundbreaking rock band Nirvana, Krist Novoselic and his bandmates changed the course of music history with their much-acclaimed album Nevermind. Novoselic went on to become one of rock’s most politically-minded musicians and an influential part of the Northwest political scene. He serves as Board chair for FairVote, a non-profit that seeks to make democracy fair.”

Mick Fleetwood (Wednesday 15 March, 5 PM) – His surname is half of the name of one of the greatest rock bands to have come out of the Seventies, so Mick Fleetwood’s place in the history of rock ‘n’ roll is assured. However, music is not the only thing Fleetwood has dabbled in. He owns a highly successful restaurant and bar in his current locale of Maui, Hawaii, and will be trying his hand at writing a chronicle on the band that made him famous. “Mick Fleetwood is a self-taught drummer and a founding member of one of the most successful bands of the last fifty years, Fleetwood Mac. Formed in 1967, their first album Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac came in at no.4 in the UK charts and brought the band overnight success. They went on to release the no.1 hit “Albatross” and a series of critically acclaimed albums, with further hit singles including “Black Magic Woman” and “Need Your Love So Bad.”

Nile Rodgers (Keynote / Wednesday 15 March at 11 AM / pictured at top) – Suffice to say, there are few people who have as many credits to their name, are as well-respected and are still in demand for collaboration and for so many decades as Nile Rodgers. While he’s probably best known as the co-founder and guitarist of disco trailblazers Chic, he’s responsible for countless hits that benefitted from his golden production touch. For myself, my life would never have been the same if he hadn’t been drafted in as a co-producer of Duran Duran’s ‘Notorious’ album. Rodgers is the epitome of cool and a living legend. As much as I’d like to be there for his keynote, to hear the stories he has to share from his many years in the business, something tells me it’s going to be rammed. From SXSW: “Among music legends, Nile Rodgers is truly exceptional. He amplifies his legacy as a multiple Grammy Award-winning composer, producer, arranger, and guitarist. As a cultural icon and music innovator with more than 200 production credits to his name, Nile Rodgers transcends all styles of music across every generation.”

Rachael Ray (Friday 17 March, 12:30 PM) – Her name probably sounds funny on a music speakers list like this, but having watched her cooking shows over the years, sister’s got a good taste in music and loves it. The now national network personality has hosted her own – and mind you, free – curated day of bands in Austin for the last 9 years of SXSW and as an unusual entry among the other Music Influencers, I’d venture to say this could be the most interesting Music Influencers session of them all. From SXSW: “Television host, bestselling author and Austin enthusiast, Rachael Ray, has hosted two annual Feedback food and music events in Austin during SXSW for the last nine years which have played host to the likes of The Districts, J. Roddy Walston & The Business, Shovels & Rope, JEFF The Brotherhood, Blondie, Raekwon and over 150 other acts.”

Zane Lowe (Keynote / Thursday 16 March at 11 AM) – I was never a fan of Zane’s shouty delivery style when he was still the primetime evening presenter on BBC Radio 1 a few years ago. However you feel about him and the music he chooses to tip, it’s undeniable that he is well-respected in the global music community, his finger now on the pulse of things well beyond merely Britain as Creative Director of Beats 1. From SXSW: “Zane’s wealth of music knowledge and creative vision bring personality back to the modern age of music discovery through the human experience. With free-form, cutting-edge programming built purely on taste and passion, Lowe creates a united way for the world to talk about music in a free space. The objective is clear: to break records, to find new music, and to put exciting new artists in front of an audience that wants to hear it.”

As always, the schedule of events at SXSW 2017 is subject to change. For the most up-to-date information about the entire festival, including the music conference and the lineup of showcasing artists, you can consult the official schedule here. TGTF’s ongoing preview coverage of SXSW 2017 is collected here.

 
 
 

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We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

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