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VENTURA COUNTY WEEKEND | ROCKTALK

Singer Has 8 Albums and a Label to Boot

Ani DiFranco, 25, launched her record company in 1990. She'll perform picks from her latest, 'Dilate,' in Ventura.

May 30, 1996|BILL LOCEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Unless all those quoted in her bio package are lying, which seems unlikely, Ani DiFranco really is a force to be reckoned with. As the owner-operator of her own Righteous Babe Records, DiFranco is on yet another tour, promoting her eighth album, "Dilate," selections from which the New York singer will doubtlessly perform Friday night at the Ventura Theatre.

More popular than the Pillsbury Dough Boy on Cannibal Island, DiFranco inspires a flood of adoring adjectives. These are just a few of the critics' choice words: Distinguished by "lyrical honesty and melodic passion," DiFranco, not so much "an angry puppy-eating militant babe," but more of "a giggly, goofy sort of everyday babe" makes "casual listening impossible" on "songs so frank you'd swear she's been reading your diary."

As musically righteous as the Righteous Brothers, DiFranco, 25, explained the name of her company, of which she is the chief executive officer, during a recent phone interview from Vancouver.

"I dunno, I just thought 'Righteous Babe' was funny. A friend and I used to call each other 'babe' all the time as a joke."

The success of the company is no joke. DiFranco took the Do It Yourself punk attitude and formed Righteous Babe Records in 1990 in her hometown of Buffalo. Her eight albums have sold over 250,000 copies and DiFranco has the major labels salivating, but she continues to turn down their offers. Thus, what is everything to most musicians--getting a deal--is no big deal to DiFranco.

"Maybe they [other musicians] don't realize it as an option. People often ask me what's the magic formula? There isn't any. You just need to go out and do it, go out and get a gig," she said.

"Go down to your neighborhood bar, give them a tape and get a gig. Do this 3,000 times. It's not glamorous. But now for me, I'm my own boss, but I also have to do a lotta stuff I don't wanna do. But it's a worthwhile compromise."

Being the boss allows DiFranco to put out albums as often as she wants to, which thus far, is about one every eight or 10 months, or light years ahead of the Boston and Meatloaf timetables.

"Dilate" follows "Not a Pretty Girl" by just eight months. The new one contains John Newton's 1754 biggie, "Amazing Grace," which is DiFranco's first cover song. The rest of the new album contains intense punk-powered folk rock songs in which DiFranco tells you stuff your parents should have told you but probably didn't.

"Dilate' is different in that it's about relationships," she said. "I guess I'm just excruciatingly, disgustingly sincere, and terribly naive. And people think I'm into this angry woman thing, but I'm really a very nice girl."

Popular, too. As of press time, DiFranco was the only act on the bill. With a rapid following of righteous babes and some righteous dudes too, DiFranco's fans will probably make her Ventura debut a religious revival, a party and a sing-along shrink session. Call 648-1888 for more information concerning this righteous $16.50 show.

*

Nicholby's in Ventura has always been a place where good, new bands without a local following could try their luck. Bands such as Tao Jonz, The Upbeat, The Ziggens, 2 Lane Blacktop, Cocktails From Hell, Flattop Tom & His Jump Cats and Blue By Nature have all played there, some more than once. The latest band with a following someplace else is getting a chance to play the upstairs venue. Zuba is out of Boulder, Colo.

Having Zubified its home state, the quartet is bent on expanding its horizons. The band's third album, "The New Cruelty" is more rock, funk and psychedelia featuring the big vocals of Miss Liza. The band's influences include James Brown, Parliament Funkadelic and Pops Staples.

The Friday $5 show begins around 9:30. Oh, and Zuba? That's a slang word for a job we've all had: waiter. Nicholby's is at 404 E. Main Street. Call them at 653-2320.

*

Back in about 1978, Rockpile, Dave Edmunds and Nick Lowe put out albums--all of them more or less featuring the same musicians.

In a similar vein, Infectious Grooves will be at the Ventura Theatre on Tuesday night and second-billed will be Cyco Miko. Mike Muir, of Suicidal Tendencies fame, is in both bands. Thus, Muir, reportedly a Camarillo local these days, will be sort of opening for himself, so he probably won't complain if the opening act wants too much money, plays too long or drinks all the backstage beer.

Anyway, there's nothing remotely mellow about this $15 show, which will be an opportunity for all the skinheads, skate heads and fin heads to play elbow tag in the mosh pit. All of DiFranco's fans will be home sipping cocoa and comparing notes by the fireplace by then.

*

Brad Nowell, 28, front man of the rock trio Sublime, died of an apparent heroin overdose Saturday in San Francisco. The band was scheduled to perform at Nicholby's in Ventura Sunday night.

It would have been a sure sellout for the 350-seat venue as all but 50 tickets were pre-sold for the show, which was also to include Sublime's Skunk Records label mates, the Ziggens.

"Some unknown person called me Sunday morning with the news and I called Dean Del Ray, the lead singer for 2 Lane Blacktop who lives in the Bay Area, who confirmed it," said Nick Taylor, owner of the venue. "We've refunded about two-thirds of the tickets already. What a bummer."

Sublime, which started playing in 1988, was best known for its song "Date Rape." The band released a pair of albums and an EP that were big sellers to the Southern California skateboard and surfer kids. During the band's last local appearance in November, it sold out the 950-seat Ventura Theatre.

Nowell leaves a wife, Troy Dendekker, and an infant son.

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