Herb Sundays 28: Liz Warner
The Detroit producer, writer, host, DJ, etc. wraps up Herb Sundays Season 2 with a meditation on artist collaboration.
Herb Sundays 28: Liz Warner
Editor’s Note: This is the season finale of Herb Sundays season 2. A huge thanks to everyone involved and those who’ve listened to any of the 28 playlists I posted this year. Special thanks to Cina who kept the graphix growing. Hope you found a song or two that made it into your own playlists. See you soon. - Sam
Liz Warner (aka Liz Copeland) has been a friend and personal musical inspiration for 2 decades. Both her and her partner Clark Warner have been involved in Ghostly since the beginning (literally the first party at Detroit club Motor we threw featured the two of them on the decks).
Liz has carved out a singular space for herself in music as an adventurer in the spaces around sound. She started in Detroit as a live radio producer and host, which quickly lead to music writer and editor, voice over actor, audio feature producer, television host, event and exhibition curator, live event presenter and DJ.
As the daughter of an aluminum radio tower designer and manufacturer, she has viewed the world through the lens of sound from an early age. She’s known for her voice, which cooled the late-nite FM radio shift at NPR-affiliated Detroit public radio station WDET starting in 1995. She’s interviews folks like Drexciya (must listen) and has always brought her same level of inquisitiveness and character to her work. Her work has been recently honored by the National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Awards, the Southern California Journalism Awards and the Los Angeles Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.
When the Warners moved west for a stint, she brought her talents as a resident DJ for beloved Los Angeles broadcaster dublab with her show Alternate Take. Recent projects include hosting and hosting of the global music video series Border Blaster produced by Dublab on KCETLink, which completed six seasons.
It was a must to have Liz lay down her Herb game and Liz, ever the researcher, delivered a strong conceptual Herbal mix. I’ll turn the floor over to her to expand on the playlist and its theme:
“This playlist honors those moments when artists look outside of their own body of work to create new, unexpected moments.
When Amanda Colbenson at Ghostly asked me to moderate an upcoming Ghostly Knowledge Share (see photo above), I quickly realized the topic of collaboration was the one for me. There’s so much to learn when artists defy their comfort zones in order to find new approaches. By going deep into the bodies of work from each participant, I was able to intricately note how the process of looking outside one’s boundaries concretely changed each artist.
I also realized that looking at collaborations is another way to think about connections. In many ways, it's is an extension of what I’ve been doing all along, which is to think way too much about the creative process and how sound evolves, where it comes from, and where it goes — sometimes against all odds.
Each collaboration on this playlist tells its own story, but I will delve into at least a few moments here:
I am fascinated by Prince's work with Kate Bush, a very unexpected turn. I learned of Kate’s fierce dedication to discovery, and I learned of Prince’s gentle hand-off to marry his unmistakeable sensibilities so completely yet humbly with hers.
While Tyler, The Creator’s IGOR embraces the pop aesthetic more than any other of his works, it’s also one that goes deep in collaboration. At times, it is in the form of samples or covers, and at other times, it’s straight good choices. “I Think” features Solange with perfectly-placed vocals that become indispensable to the overall effect.
When David Sylvian made the album (and song) “Brilliant Trees,” it was a turning point in his freshly-minted solo path that transformed his approach to music. The song features the now late trumpeter Jon Hassell with his otherworldly and perfectly placed playing and composition. Ryuichi Sakamoto also plays on the cut with subtle brilliance.
Charlie Haden thrived in moments of collaboration. His album, Closeness, features the stunning “For Turiya" with Alice Coltrane on harp. It perfectly showcases Alice’s cosmic reaches along with Charlie's humility as a player, and the mutual understanding between them.
Rhythm & Sound give a super-sonic, big-system-ready update to dub, while also acknowledging its roots with “King in My Empire.” I prefer the versions with Tikiman’s vocals, which are the perfect bridge to emphasize the point.
It was a brilliant turn for Jason Pierce to conclude Spiritualized's Royal Albert Hall set with “Oh Happy Day” by The Edwin Hawkins Singers. He’s never been one to minimize a live set-up, and this gospel twist (complete with gospel choir) lends itself perfectly to Pierce’s wistful and long-suffering demeanor. It makes you realize how closely the ideas of hope, God and love — any kind of love — have always worked together.
You might have noticed Sparks appear on two occasions. First, as an inspiration for the title of this playlist. Next, the playlist closes with their collaboration with none other than producer Giorgio Moroder. “No 1 in Heaven” has been around since 1979, but feels like the world’s best kept secret. The record marks one of several twists in their storied history, told spectacularly in the recent documentary by Edgar Wright (a must-watch!).
Kraftwerk and Detroit techno have long had a long-distance respect for one another, but it became formal when Underground Resistance put their stamp on “Expo 2000.” It’s both unmistakably Kraftwerk and UR at the same time, one of those moments when a remix transcends into the space of collaboration.
My hope is that this playlist acts as a jump-off point for listeners to dig even more deeply into their own collections and expectations, with the idea of being prepared to have previously conceived ideas turned on edge. Music is, after all, the work of artists, and it is here to be discovered. It might even change your mind.”
bonus snaps by Doug Coombe: Liz and Clark Warner DJ at Ghostly’s Chapter I: Appearance event in Detroit, October 2001: