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Interviews
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Chunklet 17

Pay to Not Play

Ask Andrew WK!

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Fred Armisen

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Roger Miller/Mission of Burma

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Dave Attell

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Peter Prescott/Mission of Burma

Bob Weston/Mission of Burma

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Patton Oswalt

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Robert Smigel

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Four Movies About Stand-Up Comedy

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Rock Show Sabotage!

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Jaded Robot

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Crossword Puzzle answers!

Bands vs. Geography

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An Open Love Letter to Kylie Minogue

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AC/DC Board Meeting

Out-of-Town Sleep Over!

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Jokes

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Show Reviews

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Top 10 Reasons Why Henry Will Enjoy Being Fat Again

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My Disturbing Affinity For Roadhouse

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118 Acts That Will Never Become Retro-Hip

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25 Suggested Names For Bands In Search of One

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David Yow Joke Corner

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Filled with love. Filled with hate. Extensive (perhaps exhaustive is a better word) feature with Mission of Burma, lengthy Mr Show tour diary piece and interviews with Robert Smigel (Triumph the Insult Comic Dog), Dave Attell (Insomniac), Patton Oswalt (King of Queens), Fred Armisen (SNL) and Neal Pollack (McSweeney’s). The usual array of idiocy is also included at no extra charge. Don’t you just itch for the chance to read it?

Upon having his remarkably catchy songs burned into our collective consciousness at Chunklet, we decided that there’d be nobody better to ask to be our love advice columnist for this issue than the beefy-t’d Andrew WK.

Although his two tour managers (!?!) were of zero help at either getting us in to the venue or assisting us with an interview during Ozzfest, once we met up with Andrew he was signing autographs for the fourth hour in a row under a baking Georgia sun. Upon mentioning the interview, he was more hospitable and friendly than we’d expected – he proceeded to ask us to write the questions down and promised to e-mail his responses within two days which are featured below.

All you playa hatas out there can say what you will, but the man keeps his word and it doesn’t hurt that he rocks really, really hard. So without further ado, let’s get this party started!

Dear Andrew WK,

I was dating a girl and thought everything was fine. One day I decided to prank call her. The call involved vandalizing her car, and both Taz and the Taco Bell dog being airbrushed on the hood of her car. I should also mention that she’s a nuclear biologist. After the prank call, I never heard from her again. What did I do wrong?*

If this girl didn’t know you too well then it’s possible you could’ve scared her away. Maybe she thought that the prank call was real, or she might have figured out it was you who did it, especially if she didn’t give you any reason to think otherwise. From what you’ve described here, you placed the call, and ever since you’ve never head back from her. Have you tried to call her? She might not be interested in the same type of humor as you. Her being a nuclear biologist should have nothing to do with it. I mean, maybe she’s more of the serious type and this really upset her, but I doubt it. If she’s a nuclear biologist she’s got to be smart, and maybe she decided that this prank call was not cool. I don’t know. The only thing that you seem to have done wrong is to not have called her back. You should apologize, unless you did, and she never answered your calls, or returned your messages. Who knows? I guess you did nothing wrong, and neither did she. Maybe she has caller I.D.???

Dear Andrew WK,

I am dating an amazing girl, compatible with me in every way – except one. She’s incredibly jealous of any time I spend with my friends. How should I deal with it?

Two people who are compatible with each other share more than strong feelings of love and affection. They also can share interests and ideas and feelings about all kinds of different stuff. But, compatibility is not only about what you share and agree on, it’s also about accepting what you don’t agree on. You know? It’s about supporting each other through all the different directions that your individual lives will take you. It’s about being gentle and careful about each other’s feelings when you do disagree. It’s about understanding each other. My Mom has a little metal button that she keeps above the sink in the kitchen and it says “Being a friend is a fine art.” I have read this scentence [sic] for many years, every time I was doing dishes or washing my hands, but it wasn’t until the other day when she explained it to me that I truly understood. Love, in all it’s different forms, whether it’s romantic, friendship, or family, is all based on compassion and acceptance. While this is very simple and easy to imagine, it is one of the hardest and most difficult things to actually do. To accept someone, for everything they are and are not, for everything they can and can’t do, for everything they like and don’t like, and to have compassion for what makes them the way they are, to understand them – that is to truly love them… and that is not easy. Being a lover and a friend is very hard.

“If this girl you are seeing considers herself a friend of yours, then how could she ever give you a hard time for spending time with other’s who are also your friends? She needs to accept that these other people make you happy, and if she truly believes that you love her, she should not be threatened by it. At the same time, maybe she’s not receiving enough from you in some way, and that’s leading her to feel less important than your friends. You should talk to her about this. Ask her how she feels, and be sensitive. Tell her why you like your friends and why they make you happy. If you really get along with this girl you should just talk with her, it’s bound to get figured out somehow. Communicating is not overrated. You know?”

Dear Andrew WK,

I have a serious dilemma. I’m a pretty confident and successful guy, but I have a supremely difficult time talking to girls. Or rather, introducing myself. I just hate the cheesy pick up line crap and don’t want to get grouped in with these assholes. What should I do?

I can completely relate to your problem. This whole topic is very vast and really complex. You’re wondering how a nice guy is supposed to meet a nice girl. There is no easy answer there. You’ve also pointed out that there’s a difference between being bad with girls and being bad with meeting girls. From your own self description it sounds like shyness is not your problem. You say you’re held back by the fear of making a bad first impression. Like most people, I have had to wrestle with shyness, and often in dealing with my own fears I would make up reasons to absolve myself from trying to talk to anyone, let alone a pretty girl. We should be sure that our fear of the bad first impression isn’t just shyness in disguise. If you are confident then you should also be confident, or at least hopeful, that the girl you meet will see you as you truly are. The risk of being ‘grouped in with these assholes’ is up to your real personality, and her own. And while you can’t completely influence what someone thinks of you, you can be honest and straightforward and kind, and I don’t see why anyone would think you were an asshole, and if they did, would you really want to talk to them anyway? You know? It’s easy to think in terms of “me” and “them”, but there can be times where your own fear of being perseved [sic] as “them” can stop you from even just being yourself. I don’t know… I would take a deep breath and gather up all my spirit and talk the girl if I wanted to talk to her. Put the best of what you have out for her to see. You don’t need to impress her or sweep her off her feet with one sentence, just talk to her. I know that’s easier to say than to do, but just say something, even if it’s as simple as, “Hello, my name is… and I really wanted to meet you.”‘ Let her do some of the work too. Who knows? We’re all running around looking for something, and we’ve got to try and find it. Life is short.

Dear Andrew WK,

I am so in love with my current girlfriend. More in love than ever in my life. Yet this passion is countered by an equal vengeance when things are going badly. If I love her so much, how can I hate her so much?

Wow, this sounds intense. You say that you hate her when things are going badly – do you mean when your own life is going bad, or when your life with her is going bad? Even if your relationship was having it’s worst day, are you really feeling hateful feelings towards her? True love and acceptance for someone leaves no room for true hatred, so I’m assuming that you’re just very angry or frustrated. Maybe you love the relationship more than you love her, and when she threatens the relationship you get mad. Maybe you’re attached to her more than you actually truly love her. Maybe you have become dependent on the day to day ups and downs that the relationship brings – from the amazing highs, to the hateful lows – and maybe you’re amplifying your emotions to offset how happy you are. Maybe you need to even out, so that when you are feeling so much love on the good days it doesn’t need to be countered with hate and rage on the bad days. Also, your feelings of anger could be justified and you should look at why you love her in the first place, and what makes you loose those feelings so quickly? How is your temper normally? Do you feel a lot of hate to other people too? Do you hate your friends? Do you hate your family? Do you have a love/hate relationship with the things that you’re passionate about? Sometimes your life takes your emotions to extremes, and if it’s hurting you and others, maybe you need to change. Just take a good long look at the whole thing. With a wide crystal eye.

FOOTNOTE*This question was rather abbreviated given the amount of space and energy I had to devote while roasting to exhaustion under the less-than-hospitable Georgia heat lamps. The more accurate story is a bit more complex. This past May, I reacquainted myself with a girl that I knew from my tempestuous summer of ’96 which was punctuated with me losing my posh university job, breaking up with my long-term girlfriend, sleeping on the Olivia Tremor Control’s floor, and touring the United States for two solid months with a band of robots. Needless to say, I was emotionally unable to invest in shit at that point, but when I saw her again at the 40 Watt this past spring, it was like the six years since the last time I saw her never even happened. Without going into terribly great detail about how awkward our initial make-out sesh in her car went, things started off on the right foot. Hell, she gave me the number to her laboratory which I still think was a rather significant step in our relationship at the time. So, after going out on three progressively awesome dates with this girl, I decided it was time to issue a prank call on her. After giving my immediate counsel a call – Mssr. G. Johnson, Esq. – he gave my plan-of-attack his unquestioned blessing.

It was a Wednesday afternoon, sometime after lunch, and the call went a little something like this… Me (in the thickest Andy Griffith-esque Southern accent I could muster): “Can I speak to a Jennifer Halston (this wasn’t her real name, duh), please?” Her: “This is she.” Me: “Miss Halston, this is Darrel Howell with the University of Georgia Police Departme’nt. I’m down here in the parking lot with your car and we have ourselves a bit of a problem on our hands that I need to tell y’bout before you come downstairs.” Her: “Oh no, what happened?” Me: “Well, we caught a gentleman in the midst of vandalizing your car.” Her: “Oh no.” Me: “Yes, ma’am, it appears as if the suspect was airbrushing a giant Taco Bell dog across the hood of your car.” Her: “Oh no (she’s muttering to herself).” Me: “We caught the gentleman as he was almost finished writing “Drop The Chalupa” across the bottom of the painting.” Her: “Well, how big is it?” Me: “Oh, it’s huge. I’d venture to say it’s about five feet wide. The painting actually goes off the sides of the car.” Her: (muttering) Me: “Now that’s the bad news. The good news is that he is willing to paint over it free of charge in return for you not pressing charges against him. And well, the guys at the precinct and I are looking at the hood of your car and we’re thinking that Taz….busting through the Taco Bell dog would look particularly nice.” She: “I’ll be right down.” Me: “Jennifer, it’s Henry.” So at this point we both start laughing, but I quickly sense that she’s got to get back to work (unlike me) and we agree that she’ll call me when she gets off work later that night. Anticipating her call that night, I never hear from her again. Now, although every friend of mine (and many who barely know me) thought this was the mother of all prank calls, only Ted Rall stood out to say that I’m too old to be doing prank calls period. Regardless, I didn’t want to be known as ‘that guy’ who just wouldn’t let her be, so I only called her once again about 2 weeks later, left a message on her machine, and most obviously, never heard from her. As lame, and as mildly irritating, as it felt at the time, I still really, really enjoy retelling this prank call.

Really Really Really Up Close With Fred Armisen

Fred may be his proper name, but it’s his characters more than anything else that have made him recognized.

It all started initially a mere four years ago at the annual South By Southwest Conference in Austin, Texas. Fred Armisen who was there to play drums with a band, decided to bring a video camera (manned by then-girlfriend Sally Timms from The Mekons) and then let loose upon the schmoozers with no other agenda than to entertain himself while he was in town. Shortly afterwards, once his footage was edited and then shown from coast to coast, his star began to rise with alarming velocity. The video tape ” Fred Armisen’s Guide to Music and South by Southwest ’98 ” began to circulate quickly among all lovers of mockery. His interviews with John Hiatt, Siouxsie Sioux, Southern Culture On The Skids and others were both irreverent and hysterical as he would go from character to character be they a German journalist, deaf (or even blind) magazine interviewer or even in once instance, the booking agent for the Knitting Factory in New York. Egos that were on display on the many circle-jerk panels were easy pickins for Armisen as he cut them down within seconds. The subsequent buzz surrounding the videotape, along with Armisen’s bottomless bag of characters have jettisoned him into the big leagues (read: appearances on Conan O’Brien and VH1 among others). He also recently contributed to a pilot spearheaded by Mr. Show’s Bob Odenkirk entitled Next. Since this interview took place, Fred’s gone major league. Three weeks prior to their new season, he was invited to become a performer on Saturday Night Live. He accepted, moved to New York and is now a face that is broadcast into suburban America. Not bad for a drummer, huh? The subverse has now gone mainstream, ladies and gentlemen.

This interview was conducted during All Tomorrow’s Parties in Camber Sands, England this past spring as Fred emceed the three day event. We sat in his bungalow for over an hour early Sunday morning drifting in and out of various strains of conversation while the musicians and festival-goers alike were busy shaking off hangovers and walking around looking for a half decent breakfast in preparation for their day ahead.

armisen_titlepage
photo by Marina Chavez

Did you grow up in Chicago?
No, I grew up in New York. I’m originally from New York, and I met some people there and I formed a band called Trenchmouth. We moved to Chicago in 1988. We toured a lot, and that’s all I did was music. The band broke up in 1996, and then I played drums for Blue Man Group, and that was the last I did with music, like all I did was music my whole life, and then it wasn’t until that SXSW tape that I started doing comedy.

What brought that about?
Boredom. It just happened, I can’t even explain. All I know is that I was going down to SXSW playing drums with some bands, and it seemed like it was gonna be kinda dull because when I saw the booklet on all the different panels, I just thought, “I’m gonna bring a video camera and I’m just gonna fuck with people,” and that’s what I did that whole weekend.

I had a friend edit it, put it together, and I got more press than I ever did from being in a band. After that, there were times when people hadn’t even seen the tape and they were excited about it. Ever since then, it’s been one success after another. From there, I got to show that tape at clubs in Chicago, LA, San Francisco, New York, and I could feel already that people were just more excited than when I was in a band, and also I made more money doing it! Then, I got a gig with HBO. They hired me on to do stuff, and then because of that I realized I didn’t have to live in Chicago anymore, so I picked my favorite city in the whole world, and I moved to Los Angeles in January of 2000. And even from that, every door just swung open for me, from me doing characters and goofing around. So for me it’s more fun than anything else, and it’s turned into work, in a good way.

You had never done anything involving comedy prior to SXSW?
No, besides goofing around with my band when we were in the van, besides talking onstage in the band, and besides generally just fucking around. I always turned every situation into some kind of goof around, and I say ‘goof around’ as a noun. Most importantly, I had no aspirations to do it. All I ever wanted to do was be famous and I thought music might be a way to do it, but little did I know that I just needed to find the right path to get to where I was going. The whole thing was an accident. It just came out, and then all of a sudden, then I was supposed to do a lot of stage stuff, people said well do you do any stand-up, and all I could think about was like well, I’d like to teach a self defense class, and then I wrote that whole piece, and then I just started coming up with more and more characters to do.

So you’re always coming up with more characters?
All the time, yeah.

So it’s just a limit of how many costumes you can find?
Yeah. Or how many I can bring over to Europe, like there was a lot to bring. The self defense guy was the first one and then Fericito, the Latin percussionist- I mean a lot of these characters I totally take from TV, like the self defense guy is a guy I saw on “Oprah” once who was telling people how to behave wherever they are. He was teaching women how to hold their purses, and what he did was he went out into the streets of Chicago, stopped women and grabbed their purse and asked “Is that how you carry your purse?” and then he’d correct them on the way to do it. Or he’d go up to the driver’s side of a car in traffic and pull the door open, and say “Do you always keep your door unlocked?” And Fericito’s just Tito Puente. That’s all that is.

I do a guy called Niles Covington, who is a fusion jazz professional musicologist. He’s really into music, and body music, kind of like Bobby McFerrin. He’s just very condescending; he’s the kind of guy who won’t let you enjoy music. He’s the kind of guy if you’re listening to a record, will say “You hear the bass line? You hear the drumming right there? You hear where the one is?” And meanwhile you’re just wanting to enjoy the song, but he breaks it down for you. He’s a combination of Nile Rodgers, Prince and Bobby McFerrin.

Do you find that your background in music helps you come up with more believable characters?
Definitely. It gives them a reason to be onstage with other musicians, to be part of a music festival. If they come from music at least they’re part of the same world, as opposed to being something so alien that it’s like what are you doing here?

Is Niles Covington the one with the bad curly wig?
Yes. And I take offense to you calling it a bad curly wig. They’re just braids. (laughs) And I don’t mean to make a big deal out of all the stuff that I do. And when I say all these things, I don’t mean to make it sound like I think I’m great. I’m just as surprised as anybody that I make even a nickel from doing comedy. And these characters are just stuff to fuck around with, it’s not like I consider them these “creations” that are the most important thing in the world. It gets me more attention, and that’s what’s most important to me.

You’re crawling all the way to the top.
Yeah! (laughs)

Back to SXSW, did you know anybody that you were interviewing on that tape?
The people who ran panels, no. Steve Albini, yes. Bob from Pavement I did not know, and he was fooled. I did the deaf guy with him, but I think he said he was drunk. Everyone has been really nice about it. Who else is there? Janeane Garofalo, Siouxie Sioux I did not know. This guy John Hiatt I kind of knew. Do you remember the part where it’s the guy from Geffen and the editor of Rolling Stone [David Fricke] and I tell them to kiss each other? The editor from Rolling Stone is the only person from that tape who hassled me about it. He was upset. I got his number, and I called him to give him a tape. I was, I really, to me the whole thing was fun and I was like, “Hey, man, I’ve got you on tape and it’s really funny, I wanna send it to you,” and he’s the only person who did scold me. He said I messed up the whole thing. He was the only person that got really upset about the whole thing. The guy from the Knitting Factory turned out to be really cool although on the tape it looks like he is kind of impatient. He’s the one who switched badges with me. So it’s good, that tape has brought me so much happiness because people tell me that they’ve seen it.

I saw the pilot for ‘Next’.
You did?

Yeah, my friend Chris was doing the opening title sequence. Anyway, when you sent me the tape with the security guy on it, I had already seen that on the pilot.
Airport security? Yes. But it was a little more developed.

How did it come about that you met Bob Odenkirk?
Just from LA. I was doing some stand-up, and sometimes you meet somebody and you know it’s going to work out, and you kind of have the same sensibility, and I think he’s so brilliant. He’s the tippety top. We just kind of got to know each other, and then little by little he’d ask me to do stuff. Something with him onstage, a little magazine article or something and then the next thing I knew he just said “Hey, I’m doing this pilot, do you want to be in it?” And it was great because I didn’t have to audition, and all of a sudden I was doing this pilot with him.

You haven’t had to audition since you’ve been in LA?
I’ve auditioned for stuff I didn’t get. But all the stuff I’ve ever gotten, I didn’t audition for.

What do you think about the whole procedure of auditioning?
I think that it doesn’t get you to where you want to go. I do it because you never know. And if I’m not doing anything else that day, I’m like well, at least I’ll be good at memorizing some lines, or I’ll meet somebody. But it seems to me that if somebody wants you for something, they’re just going to find you. And that’s just the only way it’s gonna happen. That’s how it’s been for me. It’s like Bob’s case: if he sees what you do and that’s how he values you, then that’s how it’s gonna work out. It’s always been just all of a sudden one day, someone calls and says, “Hey, will you do this for me?” It’s fucked up. Auditioning is a really, really weird thing.

What are your ambitions now that you’re in LA? Is it going to be the same thing as it’s been all along? Do you want to do movies?
Yeah, I wanna do everything and I want to be a figure. I want to be what Peter Sellers was, I wanna be what Andy Kaufman was. I just wanna create enough awkward situations and moments with audiences that it’s memorable. So, when I’m really old I just wanna have this huge body of work that’s really varied and insane. That’s how I would be happiest. I am so happy whenever I’m doing something for television. It’s like when your brain functions at full capacity, when someone turns to you and says, ‘What do you think would be funny in this part?’ and then you just think of what funny situation would be for some TV show, and it’s really utilizing what you have. I remember when I was on Conan, I was thinking “this is such a great moment in my life.”

What was your first real appreciation of comedy?
Benny Hill, Monty Python. Saturday Night Live when it first started…


Fred with Bob from Pavement

Your humor is much more cerebral though, than physical…
Yeah… as pretentious as this sounds, I don’t even know if it’s even really comedy? It’s more like, just weird or- I’m just trying to fool people for a couple minutes so that they go, “Is that guy really this jazz guy?” and that’s it. I don’t even know if it’s necessarily humor. I’ve never seen anyone- piss themselves laughing whenever I’m doing it or anything.

Yeah, it’s very sublime. I think that’s what sets it apart. It’s like Andy Kaufman in a great way. Do you want to do a record?
I haven’t even thought about it. That would be kind of cool, I wonder if you need the visuals for it. Maybe.

But you don’t work with anybody?
No.

Do you write it all down, or do you improvise?
I memorize it, and then right before I go on I write it down. It’s funny, because coming from music, I always write like a little set list. I just think of really lame things that people say, and then I apply it to the set.

Like Miles Covington, the jazz guy. He’ll say (in a drippy accent) “Music defines our emotions. Trip on that. Trip on that idea.” And then I thought “trip on that” is such a weird thing to say. Or, self defense guy saying “I don’ wantchoo to be a victim,” because I do see those words a lot on TV” “Don’t be a victim.” Or Fericito, every time he does a punch line, he says “I’m just keeeeding!!!”

Were your pieces at all improvised this weekend?
Just barely. I fed off of what the audience was doing. Then when I ran out of jokes I just started improvising a little bit. Everyone’s been really cool here, but the audiences have been great. It’s weird. I’ve never done comedy before in England, so it’s my first time.

What have you done as far as performance in front of crowds? Before being on television, had you ever done stand-up?
Just barely. There’s a Chicago comedy festival, somebody asked me to perform there. There was a cabaret show in New York someone asked me to do. And even now I don’t do that much of it. A little bit. Only clubs that I really know and that I really like. But I’m, I don’t get up there- I mean, all of my friends in LA now are comedians, and they go up as much as they can. Every open mic- they really work at it, which is great. I envy that. But, um, I don’t really do that. I just do like once a month at this club called Largo- and then also, I’ll open up for bands when they come to town.

How does it feel to have all your friends be comedians?
Great, because it can get really intense because sometimes we’re all hanging out and all everyone wants to do is make each other laugh, and they all make me laugh really hard. So it’s great. They’re really intelligent people too, and it feels good to be around people like that. And then you feel a bond with them, because you know that we were all the weirdos, we were all the misfits.

That’s usually how comedy is born anyway. Yeah. I’ve got some pretty angry people [for friends]. It’s weird, all the comedians I know are really funny, but some are a little troubled. There’s such a blackness to them, which I really like too. They’re not clowns goofing around all the time, they’re just twisted. So it’s good to be with twisted people.

Roger Miller is a remarkably good-natured gent for someone whose 30-plus years of being a musician will forever be reduced to what he did for the forty months in Burma that ended in early 1982. The headphones he has to wear onstage during the open-ended Mission of Burma reunion still look totally retarded. But all of us should be half as cool as he is when we’re 50. I interviewed the Alloy Orchestra/Mission of Burma/No Man/Sproton Layer/Birdsongs of the Mesozoic/Binary System/Destroy All Monsters guitarist/pianist/ bassist/drummer (please, we’re exhausted, can we stop now?) over the phone while Mr. Miller sipped beer from the local growler. I was left in a good enough mood by the end that I didn’t much care that Roger was unable to aid me in my decade-plus quest to divine Clint Conley’s lyrics to “Dirt.”

How’re the ears?
Oh, you know, they’re ringing more than they were. I can still hear fine, and all that shit. I can feel the wear, but the positive side is that {Mission of Burma] really don’t do very much. All of the stuff I do, even the Alloy Orchestra, probably wears me out a little bit, but compared to Burma, it’s absolutely nothing. But, I mean, the good thing about the band is we do three shows and then we don’t do anything for four months. We rehearse three or four times, and then we play. So, I guess what I’m getting at here is that I know it’s affecting my ears but the payback is worth it. That’s what it boils down to. When we quit, we were playing all the time. Every single day, almost, and nobody gave a shit.

I’m looking at this Sproton Layer CD [Miller’s first band, the posthumous With Magnetic Fields Disrupted released on New Alliance].
I was just discussing that. I just sent a copy of that to a friend of mine that I met in Minneapolis with Alloy Orchestra last year, and he used to smoke weed with me and my brothers in high school. I wrote the songs while I was 17 and 18. And my brothers are two years younger than me.

Were you guys playing out?
We played about 15 shows in a year and a half. Most of them were parties, and we actually played a few shows. We did a show with Carnal Kitchen which was the saxophone player that played on LA Blues. And then we played a couple of shows at the Big Steel Ballroom which [is where] I saw the MC5. But, we never really garnered a lot of attention. We didn’t have that kind of super raw energy, like the MC5 or the Stooges. We were a little bit more English, more Syd Barrett-oriented. More intellectual or something. It wasn’t easily apparent that we belonged anywhere.

But this was in a place where underground music was fairly big. Did you guys have any sense that there was there any place for you guys to latch on to?
I didn’t know shit. My brothers were 15 and 16, and I was 17 and 18. I thought I could make a record then be set for life; that’s what I thought. (laughs) I didn’t really know very much about it. We had a frat band too, that just did all covers. We had hip shit those days. Airplane, Hendrix, Blue Cheer…

Yeah. I have a friend who insists that people forget what a force AM radio was. Blue Cheer was getting played on AM radio.
Right, right. That was the equivalent of underground rock, and you could play that at frat parties. Or, you made certain you played “Rolling on a River” by Creedence, but then you could get away with some wacko shit.

What were you doing before Sproton Layer?
Well, when I was six I took piano lessons. My dad was a zoologist, but he was very musically oriented, so I happened to be good at the piano. I wasn’t great or anything, but it was obvious that I had some kind of a knack for it. By fifth grade, I was starting to lose interest, and then the British Invasion hit in sixth grade, and that was the end of my life, basically. The end of my old life and the beginning of my real life.

Come to Jesus.
Yeah, I saw the Beatles when I was little. It’s only people my age that can say that. Anybody who was interested in rock music watched The Ed Sullivan Show for the two songs that a rock band would play. There was nothing else anywhere available, whatsoever.

How old are you now?
I’m 50. I graduated from high school in 1970. Then between ninth and tenth grade had a band with my two brothers and some others. We did Yardbirds, Zappa, Elevators. Pretty cool shit, Hendrix and stuff.

At that point, did you have a sense that some of this was the rock establishment? And then this was the weird stuff? Was there this sense of division?
It wasn’t divided like that. There’s a lot of these moments, but I can remember when I was in Yellowstone Park with my family the very first time I heard “Somebody to Love.” I heard that guitar solo and the sky just opened. And that was Top 40. The most progressive shit was Top 40. The division later on, which happened towards the end of the ‘60’s and early ‘70’s was a bad thing. The main people never heard this other shit. And then pretty soon AOR turned into classic rock, and you had to go to college radio, and Top 40 just turned into absolute tripe. They’ll fuck with anything you can come up with, you know? The corporate reality will just drive it into the dirt because they can.

Why did Sproton Layer break up and when?
Sproton Layer started in March of ‘69, and ended in the fall of ‘70. I think we did a reunion a year later . It was all instrumental because we didn’t have a PA. It was quite silly.

What were you doing post-Sproton Layer, pre-Burma?
There’s two main threads of what I was interested in after the psychedelic rock. By 1970, rock was getting real conservative; by ‘73, I had lost touch with rock, and I was already a free-form improviser, and started getting into free jazz —Art Ensemble, Cecil Taylor. I went to college in the middle of Michigan, then I went to California Institute of the Arts. Very briefly. So, my two main post-rock threads were free jazz, free improv, written music, and 20th century composition.

What sort of 20th century stuff?
Bartok, Stockhausen, Oliver Messian, and there’s Edgar Varèse, Xenakis…

How did you end up in Boston?
I studied composition stupidly at the University of Michigan [which signalled] the end of my school career. By then, punk rock started to materialize. [My brothers] Larry and Ben were in the band Destroy All Monsters with Ron Asheton [from the Stooges]. I did everything I could with that band. If they needed a drummer, I played drums. If they needed a bass player… When they filled all of those slots, I didn’t play. This was fucking punk rock. It was the rebirth of life.

I’m having a hard time imagining your clean-cut brothers on the back of this CD with Ron Asheton.
Oh, they aren’t. That’s just ‘cuz they were 15. I think my brother Larry was described in one review as a cross between Ted Nugent and an electrician. (laughs) We all looked pretty crazy.

In retrospect, how did Destroy All Monsters strike you?
I was only peripherally involved with the real early stuff. This was ‘77. It was Cary Loren’s band at that point. He just did these simple songs with Niagara, and then me and Larry and Ben would fill in. It was just so outlandish. Niagara could not sing for shit, but she had the presence, and Cary had this kind of vision without any ability in the traditional sense. It was just so inspiring to see things that were barely songs, but people felt this energy. It was completely contrary to rock fusion where you show off chops. It was the essence of punk rock.

Were people coming out to see it?
It was pretty small at first, but people started to show up. They’d open up for the Ramones. Sonics Rendezvous Band. It was the happening thing in town, so I was just so happy to be involved with it. I had my own band that I tried to get together, and nothing worked out. I actually developed tinnitus in Ann Arbor, so I quit playing rock music entirely. I played with a saxophone and drum duo. Free improv. I was a pianist. It’d been almost like an avant-garde fusion band. Then it went into free improv. And then it turned into a rock band. That’s when I developed my first form of tinnitus. After that, I was just so freaked out that I went into the piano and saxophone free improv. And then I just gave up entirely, just said, “Well, I’m gonna move to Boston and become a piano technician.”

Why Boston?
My brothers had been out there. And there was a piano technician school there. And I thought maybe I should move to New York and become a session musician. I could play all of these different instruments, so it could have worked. But, New York was just a little bit too big, and I thought Boston’s a bigger city than Ann Arbor, and it’s halfway between Ann Arbor and New York. So it seemed logical.

And then you go out and get sidetracked from all that.
(laughs) “Fuck this!” What I was planning to do was interesting. It predates a lot of my looping in Birdsongs of the Mesozoic and Maximum Electric Piano. I had a Fender Rhodes, and I had a tape loops. I was going to loop my ostinatos and improvise over it. So, in a way, it was like a looping system, except you had to pre-make the loops.

Did you ever perform that?
No, it was just an idea. Then I saw this ad in the paper for The Moving Parts. It said, “Punk rock band, but you must be able to read music.” So I auditioned for them, and, at the same time, I saw a change-your-life concert. It was The Girls, Live Fast and Human Sexual Response in February of ‘78.

And hadn’t you just moved there a month before?

Yeah, I moved there in January, between the two big blizzards.* The band that blew my mind was The Girls. When I saw that, I knew I came to the right town. They were just nuts. (laughs) They merged the punk rock aesthetic with art. There was just nothing like The Girls. I made The Moving Parts go see them the next time they played.

I’ve never heard The Moving Parts stuff.

The Moving Parts was Erik Lindgren’s band. He graduated from music school, and I had mercifully dropped out. (laughs) While I like Erik very much, he’s not fundamentally a rock musician. I became the guitarist, and he would write the chords out for me. With rock music, you don’t look at paper and figure shit out. Somebody shows you and you fuck around until you get it. It felt music school-ish. This isn’t to say that the band wasn’t good on and off, but Erik’s side would be like that, and my songs were [future Burma songs] “Max Ernst,” “Anti-Aircraft Warning,” and “Manic Incarnation.”

How long did you last with them?

I joined them in March ‘78, and then the band folded in December. Clint wasn’t writing at that point, but just by talking to him, there was an aesthetic that began to be established.

Can you unpack that a little?

Well, when I showed up to the first rehearsal, I opened the door and the Ramones were on, and I started dancing this funny dance when I walked in the door, and Clint came out of the kitchen doing the same dance. That was the first time I ever saw him. So it was basically a beaming from the beginning. And both of us just hitting the E chord. That leads directly into Mission of Burma. These one-chord rockers, like “Secrets.” “New Disco,” “All World Cowboy Romance.” I can’t put it into words any better than that. When Moving Parts broke up, it was just obvious that we were gonna form a new band. It was minimalism that Clint was way into, perhaps into that more than I was. And that helped pull me out of those vestiges of music school. When you look at a song like “Manic Incarnation,” it’s a pretty good song, but there’s just too many chords.

The formation of Burma’s been pretty well covered, but it’s been written in a bunch of places that you tried out Peter three times.

That’s what I keep reading.
(laughs) Yes, it is true.

Why do you feel it took three times to figure it out?
I have no idea. I just remember we tried out different drummers. I can’t remember if Clint first liked Pete, and I didn’t, and then I liked Pete and Clint didn’t, and then we both did. You know, I can’t explain it. He’s the only guy we played with more than once.

Missionofburma.com lists every Burma gig. It looked like you guys were playing a really stupendous amount in Boston. Like, several times a week.
At The Rat or Cantone’s we would play a Thursday and a Friday, or a Saturday and a Sunday. You would always play twice, two nights in a row. I think we played too much in Boston, and that was the problem. We were always opening up for the British rock bands like The Fall so people always saw us, but we really weren’t very popular right off the bat. We were “critics’ choice,” and “musicians’ choice,” and then there were some just die-hard, maniacally insane fans, but the rest of the world just couldn’t really comprehend it.

But Burma was doing this when there were far fewer bands. Did you have any sense of sort of extended “scene” is not the word, but…
Right. We really liked Pylon, Gang of Four, The Fall. When we heard Minor Threat or the Minutemen it was, like, “Yeah!” We liked Black Flag. Technically, there was very little similarity between the two bands, but we played with them in New York.

How did that go over?
Pretty good. Though later on we played with some hardcore bands in LA, and they did not like us at all. Both Clint and Peter liked the hardcore stuff. And honestly, I thought most of it was shit. It was very closed-minded, but I liked some bands. You couldn’t help but like Black Flag and Minor Threat. I was slower than Clint and Peter on that.

Compositionally, was there any way you approached writing for Burma that may have been different?
I don’t know how I approach things! It was a matter of stuff coming out. Before Mission of Burma formed, I remember I had just discovered the chords for “Einstein’s Day.” I knew that Clint would go bonkers when he heard the chords. I waited ‘til he was in the room, and Clint’s head just goes, “What was that riff?” I knew that would get him. Our writing styles differ. Mine was more convoluted and his had more of a pop leaning.

The stuff with the tinnitus has been pretty well documented and everyone knows how loud Burma was. Was this an issue all along?
I knew I had tinnitus when I joined the band. And in the back of my mind, I knew that someday I would have to stop playing because of it. But ever since I saw the Beatles on Ed Sullivan, this was what I’d wanted to do — make an impact playing rock music. When Moving Parts broke up, it was when Clint was still drinking plenty, and we’d just play guitars for three hours the basement. We wouldn’t talk; we’d just make this ungodly drone-ish racket which “All World Cowboy Romance” came out of. And…shit, what was the question?

I don’t remember.
Oh, yeah. It was the first time I’d ever really woodsheded with a band. All of my other bands you’d come in with some material and say, “I’m going to do this.” This was just me and Clint saying, “What are we gonna do?” We didn’t really know. The first wave of punk rock had hit, we knew we wanted to clean shit away, and so we just made this racket. And while we were doing that, I don’t know if I really knew-that this was what I was supposed to be doing. It didn’t mean that we were going to be big. It just meant that I was going to fulfill something that I had to do which was: discover something new in rock music. “New” in quotation marks. Try some “new” territory. We started with my Moving Parts songs, basically. I thought even at that phase of the game, “OK, there’s gonna be a lot more guitar solos, and I’m gonna really lead this.” And then Clint pulls out “Peking Spring” [which was the] first song he ever wrote. Then, a lot of the guitar solos got whittled down, it was obvious that something was going on. From our very first show, which was April Fools’ Day ‘79, it was a show of brand new bands.

Here was the reformation. So, in those days, the people that were into the scene were deep into it. This was a theatre, and there were 150 or 200 people.** It was clear the minute we walked on, we just thought we were gonna kick ass. So, we got a buzz immediately.

What was in that first set?
We ended with “Cowboy.” “Max Ernst” Mostly my tunes. I think “Peking” might have been the only song Clint had written at that point. “OK/No Way” was pretty early. I don’t think we had “Academy” yet, but we were still doing stuff like “Smoldering Fuselage.”

Going way forward—you come to a point where you realize “My ears are incredibly fucked up, and I’ve gotta end this.”
It wasn’t a sense of relief. The way it got there was when we recorded Vs. Oh, boy, the headphones. You can hear me at the end of “New Nails.” My headphones were so loud I couldn’t tell if the fuzztone was on. The engineer for that session was not very good, and it was after that that I noticed that ringing really was much worse. Before that, I just kind of ignored it. I was always around loud shows, but then after we did Vs. it got worse. And then all that summer [of 1982] it got worse regularly. I could feel it going down month by month. Different tones appearing. I tried to ignore it, but by the end of the summer I was thinking this can’t continue. When I brought it up to the other guys later in the fall, both Martin and Clint didn’t seem to be that bothered by it. It bothered Pete, and I don’t blame him. I mean, everybody should’ve just kicked the shit out of me. But, people didn’t really care that much about us. Sometimes they did, but we weren’t going to get signed by any majors. We couldn’t make all that much money. The third Wire album, 154? That’s because they played 154 gigs on their third album. Our first album would’ve been called 300. So our third album would’ve been 900. You know, six times as much. That’s partly why my ears are ringing to oblivion.

How did you transition out of writing Burma stuff to…

Birdsongs*** was just there. In the fall of 1982, we’d already recorded Vs., and I didn’t think we were going to continue, so I just quit writing for Burma, and started writing more for Birdsongs. I was relieved when the band was done. I like to leave things and start new things. I didn’t give a shit about Burma for a couple of years. And Birdsongs actually did a few interesting things. I won’t stand behind all of it, but it’s the very fact that we would go out to the clubs and do whatever it is that we did.

I went to college in the late ‘80’s, so Burma’s sound was pretty much everywhere. It was very graspable. But Birdsongs was something else entirely, clearly.
Yeah. But, we opened up for Siouxsie and the Banshees at the Orpheum, and people really, really dug us. It was like, “Goddamn!”

How do you view Burma with all of the other stuff you’ve done? I mean, Birdsongs, Maximum Electric Piano, No Man, Alloy Orchestra, the general sort of tape loop kind of shows I’ve seen you do here and there? I’m probably forgetting, like, ten projects.
Yeah, well, the Binary System is the band that I’ve actually done longer than any other band. I think the thing about Burma is that it was the most fulfilled of all the projects I’ve done. Actually, some of the stuff out of the Binary System is completely fulfilled. But on Vs., Burma fulfilled the vision in completeness. Everything was there. Whereas Birdsongs, we had a really good start, and then it never really got to where I wanted it to go. Maximum Electric Piano was really interesting, and some of the recordings are good, but it was just a solo project. Despite the fact that I kind of created a whole ensemble unto itself. But there were unfulfilling qualities to them whereas The Binary System is different. We just played a festival in Atlanta over the summer. There were 500 people, and they just went nuts. They went completely nuts for The Binary System. We’re extremely unorthodox.

You said you didn’t really pay much attention to Burma for a couple of years thereafter.
Yeah, it took a while for me to care. Though to be honest, I knew when we folded we were going to get bigger. I didn’t realize it was going to be quite like this, but I knew.

Why?
I just knew it. We were driving back from our last show [with Public Image in New York], a show I did not want to play. It sucked. It was a disaster, and I was pretty bummed. I didn’t want our last show to be this, just because we were playing with PiL in New York. They weren’t any good at that point. We were driving back, and I was talking to Dredd Foole, and I said to him, “Down the road, we’re going to be called the Velvet Underground of the ‘80’s.” And he looked at me, like, “You fucking asshole!” And I went, “Dredd, don’t look at me like that. I didn’t say, ‘I think we are the Velvet Underground of the ‘80’s.’ I said, ‘People will call us that.’” He couldn’t quite fathom that. You can talk to him and find out. but a few years later, I saw in print, “Mission of Burma was the Velvet Underground of the ‘80’s.” I knew we were going to get bigger over time because it was too perfect. We were ahead of our time, we weren’t appreciated in general, we were critics’ choice, we died in a really funny fashion. Perfect way to die. It suited me to a T. Just as we’re about to be big, we vanish, and that’s just great!

Of all your projects over the years, which ones are you least proud of?
No Man [which had records on SST in the ‘80’s]. The guitar-guitar and rhythm machine thing. They’re really flawed. I was trying to play rock music without volume. That’s why I used the rhythm machine. It was all utterly absurd things, and I’m trying to pretend that these are a drum kit, you know? I mean, it was just ridiculous. But some of the songs are good, like “Wounded World.” [Which has since resurfaced on Burma set lists this past year.] And some of the Birdsongs stuff I’ve liked quite a bit, but then some of it just never quite broke this barrier. It got off to a good start, and then I just couldn’t push it in the direction I wanted it to go. That’s why I started doing Maximum Electric Piano.

I went to school outside of Cleveland, and I saw you open for Hüsker Dü on one of their late tours.
Yeah, that’s Maximum Electric Piano. As I recall, that night was scary. We played four shows with them. I remember feeling nervous there and in Chicago. It felt really scary. People didn’t want to see me. They didn’t want to see this crazy guy with a piano opening up for Hüsker Dü. Not live. I went into Wax Trax [in Chicago] the next day to see if any of my records were there. I said, “Yeah, I opened up for Hüsker Dü last night.” And they said, “You were that guy?” I thought, “Oh, I shouldn’t have opened my mouth!”

Were you thinking, “those guys totally ripped off my old band, did you know that?”
I just shut up and walked out the door.

Why He Loves Midgets And Hates Magicians

With a Tom Waits–inspired theme song sung by a modern-day Dean Martin, Dave Attell begins his third season as host of Comedy Central’s Insomniac. For those who haven’t seen the first two seasons, each episode of Insomniac opens with some cleaned-up highlights from Attell’s stand-up act. His performance is delivered with a dry, sardonic wit combined with the musical ability to use the word “dick” as both a verb and a noun. After the set Dave takes us on a hedonistic, all-night-drinking-‘til-self-deprecation tour of America’s favorite cities, stopping only to pay homage to graveyard shifts and greasy street food. The more you watch Dave Attell swim through sin, like Dante meandering through hell, the more empathy you have for his plight. No matter what city or state of mind he is in he seems to always be sacrificing himself for the entertainment audience. Whether he’s at a thong contest or sewage treatment plant, Dave somehow manages to get his hands dirty.

Originally I had hoped to speak to Dave under the guise of health, either inside New York’s famous Russian & Turkish Baths, or from underneath the soft pricking of an acupuncturist’s needle. The interview might have been more difficult (what with the sweating or the pinching), but the pictures would have been great. Because of certain health codes, time constraints, the fact that the invitation came off as kind of creepy, and finally because I later realized that he had washed his yen for novelty off already, we met at an empty tourist café in Times Square. Dave arrived wearing his signature unassuming jeans and gray garb, three-day-old beard and haircut, and a genuine, down-to-earth approach to life.

So how did the whole show start? Was it your pitch or did they come to you?
It was my pitch, and it came to me in a drunken dream. I originally pitched them a game show and had this show as a backup. My backup was all about the comic lifestyle, how after a set you go out, since comics don’t sleep; they just go out till 6AM. And what was the game show, you ask? “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?”

You are in another city every week. Does the traveling get to you?
I hate the traveling, I like the getting there. Sometimes you are lucky; there is a little refrigerator or a little coffee pot, so you can be like a widower. An old man making sad meals. If you treat yourself you can make oatmeal with a Mr. Coffee and that really helps you out, and it’s good for your heart.

Are you worried about flying these days?
It’s scary out there. I’ve been pulled off planes. The Security really wears you out, but I’m glad it’s there. I’m more worried about the jet engine mechanic who has been up all night and forgot to twist a knob. I’d hate death by bolt, like somebody left a bolt out or a bolt fell out.
We usually go out to nine cities and then do one show in New York, where we are based, which is like the “coming back home” show. This is the third season, and we went everywhere. We’re going to Alaska now, and we did Portland, Albuquerque, and Myrtle Beach, where we caught the beginning of Bike Week, which was pretty good.

Are you going to the Burning Man gathering?
I rather go to something like the Hobo convention, do you know that? It’s where hobos gather from all over the country for three days. They all hang out, tell stories, play the harmonica, and get into fights. They have their own contests.

Like how to shave without using a razor.
Or best dog with a bandana around the neck. Hopefully we’ll get into event-oriented stuff, kind of like the ugly version of “Wild” on E!

What is so appealing about the ugly side of life?
It’s not like we are hanging out with people breaking laws or bleeding, per se. We try and find people who are working the harder life, a lot of blue-collar people doing dirty, grungy jobs that no one knows about. It’s cool going into the big factories at night seeing these people pulling the third shift. I like the ugly side because I’m ugly. If I looked like Matt Damon I’d probably like the other side.

Now that the show is a success and your celebrity status is growing, are you going to believe the lackey who says you are the most beautiful man alive?
No. Show business does have a lot of smiles though. Show business is all about “You are great!” and then “You’re fired!” It’s not like regular jobs where you can slowly decline. I could give a shit about all that. I want to get back to doing my road stand-up. On the show I have to be out all night, drink and make sense. If I am just doing my act, I can just do the act and get drunk, and not have to talk to anyone.

How do you manage being drunk and doing the show?
I am really drinking, and I am really good at it. I do get drunk sometimes and I hate that point because I will sit there frozen at three in the morning while the crew breaks for a meal. We do get a lot of people while we are working who are drunk and want to buy me drinks. Sometimes I can’t drink with them and I feel bad about that because I don’t want to be the pussy who turns down a shot. So I end up doing a lot of guilt shots. That’s bad self esteem. If I played sports I would have built up the confidence to fight that kind of peer pressure.

Do you have a hangover ritual?
The thing I like to do when I am really drunk is get up at seven in the morning. This must be an old habit from when I used to work a regular job and call in sick. Now I just stay up until ten, eat something and go back to bed. The second sleep is really important because it burns off the sugar. I’m a really bad drunk, I won’t hook up with a girl, but I will hook up with a McDLT. I’ll see half of it lying next to me when I wake up in the morning. It’s a different type of shame.

What about women on the road? Do you have one in every port?
Doing the show it is almost impossible. We get done at eight in the morning and you don’t want what is still hanging around then. I am always looking for the guys on the show to get laid, I always tell the PAs “Hey, you should talk to that girl,” or “That girl wants you.” I have to keep it on the up and up because I have to back to the town to do stand-up. When there are no cameras around, it is a lot easier to get punched in the face. Johnny Knoxville and those guys can do whatever they want but I have to go back there next week.

Are you getting better gigs now?
I’m getting more people coming to see them. It’s not the old people and the free pass people; it’s people who have seen the show and know it’s not the nice boy comedy.

Is there ever going to be a show where you go to an AA meeting?
I was thinking that we should go to a rehab just to end the show on a high note. Sometimes I feel as if I could use a couple of weeks of down time.

Would that break the third wall?
Sure. I think that drinking responsibly is really hard to do. It’s not drinking alone that causes trouble, it is always drinks and something else. Drinking and driving, drinking and karaoke, drinking and shooting guns. But drinking and watching porn is OK.

Where is the best spot for comedy in the US?
Usually when you think of comedy you think of LA or New York and maybe San Francisco. There are comedy hubs all over the country no one knows about. Minneapolis, Houston, Austin, even in Alaska. People should really get into their town’s comedy scene and check out their local comic. I’ve gone to these open band nights, where the bands suck but they have their girlfriends there and their friends and all this support. But these poor loser comics got nothing except for the alcohol.

Do you ever invite your family to the shows?
No I never would. I hate family coming in. I’m not like a Carrot Top, or an adorable comic. I wouldn’t like my mom to hear about me fucking a midget. I think it’s assumed that I don’t want her to hear the gritty details.

You were born in Long Island; did you go to school here?
I went to NYU film, but I knew immediately that I didn’t want to be there. I’m not really good at working with other people, I’m more of the lonely type. Comedy was the only way I could do that. With film you have to set everything up, it takes hours to get somebody to walk through a door. I don’t have the patience for that. I’m not going to say I won’t do a movie—I’d like to write one and have some other guy do it.

Are you going to try to put the stand-up into a script?
Stand-up is what I do. Unfortunately with stand-up, it’s a lot of fun when you are twenty-seven, it’s pretty cool when you are thirty-seven, but by the time I’m forty-seven I think I’ll be kind of sad.

By that time you can get the suite in Vegas.
I’m hoping. People see the Vegas acts as has-beens; I think that’s the sweetest gig you can get.

Have you done a show there?
Not yet. We try to go to all the unexpected towns. Like Reno, Nevada—we went there two weeks after Christmas during a terror alert. It was like that Charleston Heston movie The Omega Man. It was all going on in the casinos but the streets were dead.

You didn’t try to sneak in?
That’s the thing, we only go where we are allowed. It’s not like Tom Green, who I think is really funny, but we are altar boys when it comes to permission. We only want to talk to people who want to talk to us. We’re not into exposing anything, nobody’s screaming “Oh my god there’s cockfighting going on!”

Are you political?
No, I do vote though. I am what you might call magazine educated. By the time it hits the stands the issue is already over. I cried when I saw Band Of Brothers, does that make me political? I am for the union. I’m pro anything that gives more music to Bruce Springsteen.

What makes you laugh?
It’s been so long since I was an audience member. The kind of stuff I usually laugh at are the really well-crafted jokes. For example, Chris Rock is a great joke writer: he’ll usually say the thing that everybody is thinking in the back of their mind but they haven’t processed it. It’s just common sense that he does in a funny way. Then there are comics who really think outside of the box like George Carlin. But I grew up on the whole Sam Kinison, angry-white-dude comedy. He’s mad at his girlfriend, mad at his job. I like that too.

How would you describe your comedy?
My comedy has been mostly shaped by going on last at the Comedy Cellar and other clubs in New York for years and years. In the beginning of the night people are into political comedy and nice comedy. Then comes the power guys with sex talk and dating. Then I would come on and it’s really hard to hit on a topic that no one has touched. There are only so many jokes on Bush you can do.

And by that time everyone who was on a date has left to have sex.
Right, it was mostly the real loser types and the comics who are angry because they didn’t get on last. I was never stressed because I didn’t get any laughs or if I sucked. I was never a child entertainer, and my parents never took me to River Dance classes. I came to this later in life, mostly because I couldn’t do anything in life. I couldn’t really hold a regular job, and I really didn’t have any other skills.

Do you think you’ll settle down and have kids?
I want to have kids but I don’t want them to be comics. I think the lifestyle is so bad and so miserable. I would want them to be writers. If you are a writer on a network sitcom you just sit around all day say a couple of things, write a couple of things, and then you are constantly looking for free stuff. ‘Oh bagels! I’ll take one’ even though you’re making five grand a week. ‘Hey we’re all going down to get free sneakers. Really?’ That’s what I want for my kids—I want them to be like a leech.

What happened on the episode when you were in Miami at the sex club, was it weird being in there or did you get into it?
What was weird about it was that there was very little going on. A lot of people don’t want to be on TV even though they all had web sites and were into it. It was funny because we talked to them and it was kind of tame and lame, then I would look over and the guy’s wife was on the bar and he’s eating her out.

Any last words?
To sum up I am not afraid of terror, I am afraid of street magicians. These guys are out there, and nobody knows exactly where they are, or what they are doing, they might be stuck in ice or on a pole captivating all of us, distracting us from what really matters, like porn.

Insomniac is on Sunday nights on Comedy Central—check your local listing, or just watch TV all day to figure out when it is on.

Is it odd to be getting all this attention for your music after the fact?
Yes. It’s totally weird. None of us never expected to be doing this. It wasn’t even a possibility and it just happened to come up and fall into place at a perfect time for everybody; that’s all I can say. We all said “Why not?” That said, it remains a pretty twisted thing. I think we got used to not expecting anyone to notice what we did and the fact that people have is gravy. All pleasant.

In the tour diary you did for the Boston Globe, you wrote that at one point in the UK you actually cried. It was very touching…

(laughs) Well, that’s because it was! It’s not like being in a band when you’re 20. The feelings that came up were different; they were deeper, there’s not doubt about it. I’ve been in both places. I’m still, probably more than Roger and Clint, a punk rocker. I will be when I’m 72, you know? I’m more of grumpy old man now, but I still have that Why? impulse to question authority and such, but I think that all this time gave me an interesting perspective I couldn’t have had when I was younger. So when I was watching Clint’s band (Consonant), something happened and all this emotion just gushed out. It was bizarre. It was a similar thing in the brunch show we did in Boston. People in the audience were teary-eyed and I was so happy that I was involved in this thing that could still affected them so many years after the fact. It was cool.

How have you changed from your early days in Burma as The Kid, to the leader of your own bands, to now?
A year or two ago I got really tired. I was starting not to like the whole activity. I’d always loved playing in a band because you get to interact musically with these other people, and the great thing about bands is that most of the time you can’t predict what the three or four or five people will produce. It’s a being unto itself, but the more boring, irritating, antagonizing side of music was starting to get to me. When the Peer Group broke up I was thinking, “Well, maybe this is a good thing.” Then the Burma opportunity came along and it seemed natural to be part of this thing I always loved. I must admit, there’s a lazy side to it. I don’t have to worry about things so much, though I didn’t expect to be playing the drums—and now I’m totally loving that. Fortunately, playing behind that Plexiglas frame hasn’t been bad. I’d kind of like to able to see them both, but I’m happy to do it if it makes it workable for those guys. I hadn’t even touched my drums in a long time, but I didn’t notice because I’d been writing songs on guitar and playing with other drummers for so long I’d almost forgotten. It was fun, too, for awhile.
I’ve always been into the whole idea of a band dynamic, but I just kept falling into that role. And so many people came through Volcano Suns that after a while it kind of became my expression. Then it became a farm team for all these other bands, but that was just the way it went. The two times where it was really cool—the second version with John and Jeff that did the first two records—I thought that was a great band. We drove each other insane, though. It was pure chaos, musically and emotionally. Then later with Bob and Dave, that was one of my favorite experiences ever playing music. Those guys were always just total fun.
The Peer Group was similar to the Suns in that it went through all these phases. We were almost kind of 60’s-ish at first, then we had this sort of song-ish middle that was more like the Volcano Suns. Towards the end, we had this really repetitive rock thing that I really liked. We recorded a bunch of stuff that never came out and everyone was getting pulled in different directions, so that fell apart. By that point, it seemed like more strain than fun. And a lot of that has to do with age and what’s going on in your life. It wasn’t just the musical aspect of it, it just seemed like being in a band didn’t fit. I never thought I wouldn’t play music again, but I figured I’d leave it alone for a while. Then bammo! This comes along, and it was perfect. It was a wonderful thing to reconvene.
I was especially hardcore about doing the Burma shows the right way. I’d seen too many band reform and just be depressing. I didn’t want to depress anyone…especially me. They were all on board for that. We were all into keeping them very low key, but also putting the hammer down… hard. That’s why we only did a few shows. You get older and it’s hard to play those songs you played when you were 20 with the same kind of conviction. We’re a picky audience ourselves. We like to see people go out on a limb and do it well, so we made sure that critical eye was applied to ourselves.

Did the shows get you excited about playing music again in general, or just with Clint and Roger?
Both, really. It just opened my eyes to the fact that there are different ways to play music that are legitimate. On another level, I got to to admit that the way Clint, Roger and I play off each other… well, this whole thing made me remember how much I was into that.

Flashback to 1991. That whole “Year Punk Broke” garbage. How did you react to it then, and how do you see it now that that kind of music is a commercial given?
(laughs) I felt a little out of it when all that stuff was going on. I liked plenty of the music from the 1990’s, but it really wasn’t a decade I felt at home in musically. I don’t know how to explain that, but it was a weird time. Everyone thinks of the ‘80s as being kind of shitty, but I liked that time. There were some ‘90’s bands I loved — My Bloody Valentine, Stereolab, The Jesus Lizard that were absolutely great rock bands, but I always felt a little out of the loop until the past couple of years or so. Now it feels like something’s starting to bubble, but I can’t really put my finger on it. Something will come out of these imitators and it will be good.

Speaking of which, what’s your take on the whole ‘80s Gang of Four/Joy Division trend in a lot of East Coast — especially New York — bands?
Well, I try to keep my older perspective in mind, but it’s hard to check yourself in the moment and say, “Wait a minute. They didn’t grow up with Gang of Four.” Experience can be a great thing or a curse for a rock group. I notice it a lot when I hear bands now and they may be pretty good at what they do, but I know the precedent so well that it ruins it for me. Our generation of bands heard the Stooges, Love and Bowie and whatever came before us and we sort of turned them into this stew that produced a lot of cool-sounding stuff. I guess maybe it’s tougher because the influences nowadays don’t seem as assimilated as they used to 20 years ago. It seems the influences always seem to stick right out. Again, that could be half my perspective and half the fact that maybe people don’t feel it’s really necessary to create something from the ground up anymore. Someone told me they just saw Interpol and that they sounded exactly like Joy Division meets Echo and the Bunnymen. And, I guess those are better influences than Poison, but still, it’s just too apparent. Maybe it’s just harder to develop your own voice right now. I don’t know.
I used to love it when I’d get a new record — like a new Joy Division record — put it on right away and play it through twice. And I’ve actually done that recently with a few things. I really like Le Tigre and I fucking love Andrew WK. So that kind of gives me a little hope, feeling a little more connected to music. Sometimes it’s good to immerse yourself in records that were only released pre-1975. And I’d recommend a lot of 22-year-olds in bands now do that. There’s just an incredible bank of stuff you can rip off instead of just one sub-genre, and no one will know! Plus, it may actually end up sounding like something completely different and that’s when things get good. I think that used to be such an organic process, but today there’s so much music out there, it just blows my mind! Sometimes I think there is so much more music produced than people to listen to it. The amount of it is just staggering. As a listener, you can’t take in everything.
Right now I’m really into the idea of repetitive music, but repetitive rock music. There are really conflicting impulses when you want to make droney rock. Rock is supposed to be agitated and loose, which goes against the idea of the drone, but there are a few bands that have figured out a way around that: Gang of Four, Joy Division did it. Shellac does it. They use these real repetitive figures, but the arrangements are just fucked up. Sometimes just where they chose to pull stuff out makes the thing a song instead of just a collection of sounds or parts. We can play Neu! grooves ‘til the cows come home—they’re wonderful—but where’s the tension? That’s what we were running into in the Peer Group: How do you make those grooves into songs and when does the “song” aspect detract from the hypno thing? It’s weird.

Will there be any new recorded Mission Of Burma stuff? Fake Blood, perhaps? 
We keep writing songs. I think we’ll be doing a few more new ones, but I don’t know if we want to record or release any of them. And, oddly enough, we haven’t really discussed it. We’re just letting the issue lie there. As inactive as I am outside of the Burma thing, they’re both very active—Clint with Consonant and Roger with his Binary Group. So we’ll see what happens with that.

How did you initially find out about Mission of Burma?
My best friend in high school was a guy named Steve Connors. I used to sort of play music with him, and his deaf neighbor let us play in his living room. (laughs) I was sitting in his living room once, and Steve’s brother had a big stack of records by the stereo, and that’s where I saw a Mission of Burma record, and I really liked the record cover. And then I never listened to it for years. I almost went to their final show just because I heard it was going to be cool, but I didn’t go because I only knew “Revolver.” I wouldn’tve appreciated it. I would’ve had zero memory of it. When I graduated from high school I probably saw that record and thought it looked cool, and recognized the name from the radio in Boston, but had no idea anything about them. And then in college I became a Volcano Suns fan and found out that Peter used to be in Mission of Burma. Then I bought Mission of Burma records after they’d been gone for three years. The Volcano Suns were my favorite band in the world, and then I was dying for someone to quit that band. Sure enough, two guys quit, and I joined up. I got to join my favorite band. It was very cool.

So the Suns broke up in ‘91, and you and Peter kept in touch?
Yeah, it wasn’t a bad breakup. After a show in Ohio somewhere, the last show on the tour, we were in the van driving to Boston, and we all said, “So, I guess that’s the last show, huh?” (laughs)Or David or Peter said that, and the other two guys said, “Yeah, I guess so.” (laughs)

Did you know Clint or Roger along the way?
Yeah, I knew both of those guys from the very beginning of the Volcano Suns. On one of the first Volcano Suns tours, we toured with Roger. I think Roger was touring as No Man. Roger would mix the Volcano Suns sound, and he would open for us, and I’d played trumpet for Roger on a couple of his records. I met Clint at early Volcano Suns shows that I played at in Boston. Also, whenever the Suns’d go on tour, I’d borrow the Burma bass as my backup bass.

So would you consider yourself a huge Mission of Burma fan?
Oh, yeah. Mission of Burma is probably my favorite band of all time. Maybe number one or number two. Vs. is one of the best records ever.

How did you get chosen to be the honorary fourth member?
I’m not quite sure. I think I was just in the right place at the right time, in that Clint had contacted me over last summer about recording his new band, and during our emailing back and forth about that, he just happened to drop that Burma was going to play some shows in January. I immediately wrote back, saying “If you need any help with anything, I’m there.” Or, “I’m there regardless—tell me the dates so that I can buy my plane tickets.”
I then asked if Martin was going to be involved because I knew he lived in Hawaii. When he said he wouldn’t be involved, I wrote back offering my services as the sound guy. I don’t know if they had anyone else in mind, but after a couple of days, they decided to take me up on my offer.

For fear of sounding trite, how does it feel to be a member of your favorite band?
I don’t know, it keeps happening to me! It’s pretty unbelievable. I would’ve been happy just to see them. I’m honored, what can I say? It’s totally blowing me away that I get to do the sound for them. I’ve always loved doing sound for bands that I like, because whenever I’m in the audience, I’m always bummed out that it doesn’t sound good. That’s why I always wanted to be a sound guy in the first place — so I could make it sound the way I wanted it to hear it.
I guess they trusted that I might be able to pull it off without having to take tons of explicit directions from them. They knew that I had a pretty good grip on what was supposed to happen, in terms of the tape loops. As opposed to an employee, I’d be more like a contributing member a little bit. So with a bunch of help from them, I sort of figured out what to do. I went back and listened to the records closer, a lot closer (laughs), to hear what I thought Martin was doing, and I had an email correspondence going with Roger. He would tell me things that I had never even imagined were tape loops. So that was kind of cool, to figure out what they were doing. I would do stuff on my own, too; try my own things and see if they liked it at the shows.

I remember a couple of them distinctly. They made me laugh.

Yeah, it’s kind of tough. I had one sort of practice with them, to get the whole methodology on how to use the particular tape recorder I found to get my particular system down. How to get the stuff quickly onto tape and quickly moving because it all happens live and really fast, so it’s more like learning how to play that particular tape recorder. It took a little while to get used to it.

Did you learn as you were going along, or were your years in the studio a great primer for what you were to be doing with the loops?
When I imagined how I thought Martin did the loops, I imagined that he would do what you would do in a studio if you were making a loop, in that you would record something you wanted to loop, then you would listen to it back, mark it with a grease pencil where you wanted the loop to start and end, cut it, splice it, put it back on the machine. Then you’d have to set up some kind of additional rollers or pulleys or a mike stand to get the right length of tape and the right tape tension, and then play it back. And that’s a lot to do in the amount of time you have to do it, and I couldn’t quite figure out how he was doing it until Roger (laughs) explained that Martin just had a bunch of already cut loops that were all the same length — pre-cut, pre-glued, pre-spliced — and he would just randomly throw it on there, and whatever he ended up with was what would happen live. The length of the loop was pretty much the same for all of the songs. The loops on the records are a more perfected version of the loops, but I guess the loops live were never quite as good? If “good” is the right word. According to the people who saw it live, they were never exactly the same, they were different every time. The loops were a real Dada aspect of the band which they were really into.
I was a little nervous, because I figured people who had only heard the records would expect the loops to be exactly perfect and just like on the records, but I knew what the band wanted and the way it used to be was to be a lot more loose and random. So I was going more for the random, except on a couple of songs where there’s a real specific part that has to happen. Like on “Red,” there’s that “Whoo-oo whoo-oo whoo-oo-oo-oo.” And on “Trem Two,” there’s a real specific guitar part that Roger has me loop and then play at half speed throughout the song — it’s like a second guitar part, down an octave from the first guitar part.

How stressful was it the first time that you performed with them?
The first time I was completely freaking out. (laughs) Pretty much every time I’ve done it. There’s not once where I felt calm about it because not only am I trying to do the loops, but I’m trying to do a decent job at mixing the live sound, too.
I would never want to dis Martin — I knew Martin and I think he’s an excellent guy — but some of the reports were that the live sound part of the show wasn’t always his priority. He was definitely more interested in working with the loops. So once he got some sort of sound going, I don’t think he paid as much attention to the sound as he did to the loops, which is awesome, but sometimes the live sound might have suffered. I felt like I was hired first as a sound man, and more secondarily as, “Well, and if you can find a way to fit the loops in, go ahead.”

You ever just want to pinch yourself thinking, “I can’t believe I’m doing this?”
Every time. It’s awesome. I get to hear these songs, and it’s so great to hear them. It is pretty amazing. I feel extra lucky, because if I wasn’t doing the sound, I doubt I would be able to go to every single reunion show. This way I’m getting to see every single one which is pretty cool, but I don’t get to go up to the front of the stage, which would be really fun.

Has Martin Swope made any comments about the reunion?
Roger and Clint were both in email contact with him beforehand. They got his blessing to do the shows, then they also got his blessing to have someone do the loops. I’m not sure if they told him it was me, but I’m sure if they did, he probably would have been a little bit relieved that it was someone he knew.

Do you know what Martin’s doing in Hawaii?
Nope. I know that Birdsongs of the Mesozoic did some shows there, he fell in love with a woman, and just moved there. That was a long time ago, so I don’t really know what happened with him since then.

His loss, your gain.
Yeah, frankly I’d rather see Burma with Martin doing it, but if he can’t do it, I’m happy to.

There’s little doubt that the sharpest knives on the stand-up butcher block belong to Patton Oswalt.
Although known by mainstream America as a regular cast member of the television show King of Queens, nothing can really prepare the uninitiated for Patton’s wickedly insightful stand-up commentary that has secured him a place in the Comedy Hall of Fame™ alongside such unconventional titans as Lenny Bruce and Bill Hicks. What clearly sets him apart from most in his field currently is his ability to shift gears casually and steer clear from such routine, bland patter as the difference between black guys and white guys and why women like it when the toilet seat is down. Instead, Patton has honed his sights on the dark and/or esoteric in contemporary society. Bits about hippie parents, steakhouses and Stella d’Oro breakfast treats are woven together with others about Robert Evans and Nick Nolte with effortless aplomb. Incidental name-drops about The Shaggs and artist Frank Frazetta are hinted with subtlety that you’re almost shaking your head wondering who gave the dork on stage a microphone.
Before the interview, a bit of background.This was originally attempted by another contributor back in April with less than stellar results. As you’ll see, Patton and I discuss this halfway through the interview. Furthermore, Patton spent a weekend this past summer in Atlanta along with former roommate and long-time associate Brian Posehn as they co-headlined a sold-out Punchline where they were awkwardly billed as “Sitcom Geeks” which I thought would be great fodder for my first question…

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photos by Chris Bilheimer

Is there a difference between a geek, a nerd and a dork?
No. That’s a thesaurus list of the same thing. Geek, nerd, dork, spaz, dweeb.
I always thought “nerd” as a realized version of a geek. Like a nerd is one who knows they’re a geek.
I don’t really think of myself as a geek so much as an enthusiast. By definitions of those terms, an alcoholic is a booze geek. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you are a geek. I try to be as well rounded as I can, but there are certain esoteric things that fascinate me. It’s what makes life worth living, man! All the culture, the films, the books, stuff like that. They are like a drug and you’re hoping for an altered state of consciousness from them.

What are the things that you geek out about?
Films, film noir, early ‘60’s garage band stuff, travel…

What is it exactly about travel that you geek out about?
Trying to do as much as I can, and it also alters your state of consciousness about where you live, and what is and isn’t important. It’s amazing. When you get back from traveling, and you get back in your life, wherever it is you’re living is so much more manageable. Much more fun.
I have two real warring factors. I’m very, very much a homebody. I like order and neatness and quiet, but then I’m also drawn to chaos, disorder, and, stuff possibly going very, very wrong. So those have always been the two things that have been tugging at me.

It seemed like you worked the entire time you were here except for a maybe couple hours when we went and ate meat.
I’ve been really, really looking at this lately. Sometimes I do think that I use my work and my workaholic tendencies to avoid the chaos of just going out and living and doing stuff. It’s very much a part of “Well, I’d like to get up tomorrow morning and be on top of things,” so that’s why I was avoiding going out at night [in Atlanta]. It’s very rare that I go out and think I’ll keep going ‘til I drop. That’s probably because I did so much of that throughout college, and then my early years living in San Francisco in very druggy chaos. Maybe it’s in my genetic makeup, but I feel like I have a limited amount of time on the planet, and there’s certain things I would really, really like to do. But at the same time, I am fascinated by the unstructured life. The unstructured, rolling-disaster kind of existence is just fucking amazing. I love that.

Even though it doesn’t seem like you have much of that incorporated in your life?
No, even though I have none of that incorporated in my life, and even though I kind of shun that in a lot of ways. But the fucking Keith Moon biography that you gave me was fascinating! I do subscribe to the idea that everything happens at parties where people are more vulnerable, or they’re more excited, or they’re in a closer state of actually being alive. Whereas when you’re alone and quiet and orderly, then you are already doing what you know you have scheduled in your head to do. You’re probably not going to surprise yourself all that much. Who are the figures we read about in history? The fucking hard partiers. The only people we read about that weren’t hard partiers are Newton, Einstein or…

Michelangelo.
People like that were the ones that were so committed in the other direction of, “Well, I don’t really go out, but the shit that I produce is gonna blow people’s asses out.” James Elroy — very few friends, not very social. He makes up for it with books that are fragmentation grenades. So I don’t think I’ve really made that decision yet in my life of which way I want to go. That’s what a lot of people grapple with. Do you live the nice normal life? What’s more important? It’s two-sided both ways. If you’re living this crazy fucking life, where you’re doing these insane things that everyone talks about and remembers, then you’re living for history by living in the now. Then if you’re living this quiet, normal, orderly life, you’re probably not going to get remembered, but in a way, aren’t you better embracing who you are, and living in the now? Like, which one is which? I know it seems like a garbled paradox. It is.
The entertainment business lately, is turning into a fucking ingrown hair. It used to observe life and then give it back to us, but now it’s just absurd. It’s self existing. It’s now all biography shows, reality shows, a TV show about the history of a TV show. “Behind The Story Of Cheers!” They’ll do a “Behind the story” of shows that are already on the air. It’s almost like…

There’s no sense of history? Everything’s being analyzed as it happens?
Yeah, and there’s also no sense of forward motion. Instead of just stopping and analyzing what the fuck you do, just keep moving forward. I don’t keep any press clippings of myself, pictures of myself, mementos of my career. I don’t have a single laminate, I don’t have a single videotape of myself doing anything. I send it all off to either relatives or my management, because otherwise I’ll just sit and dwell on it, and it stops you from moving forward and doing the next thing. I visit some people, and their houses are little museums of themselves. Doesn’t that eventually stop you in your tracks? I don’t believe in owning anything of myself to hang on my wall or have in a scrapbook or anything like that. I just think that slows you down when you’ve got a shelf full of videotapes of, “Here, I did all that.” That just tends to freeze me up.

The one thing that I marveled at during your seven shows [at The Punchline], is the fact that every show you did was different. Do you do that to keep yourself from getting bored?
I do that to keep myself from getting bored, but I also do that because, for the first time in my career, there are people coming out specifically to see me. I’m so flattered by that, and I think I have such an ego about that now, that I want them to always go, “Gosh, his set’s really good. He did this bit that I loved, but then there’s always surprises.” Whereas, I think that if people love you, then they come back, and you’re still doing the same set, they’ll come back a couple of times, and then they’ll just go, “Yeah, I’ve seen him.” However, if you’re in the habit of making each set a little different, then that’s how you get your repeat fans. That’s why Bill Hicks had so many repeat fans, because he was constantly generating material. So, I do it out of ego, but I also do it out of gratitude.

Your ability to work with the crowd I just found remarkable. Do you think that a lot of comedians are pretty set in their ways, and is that why you want to change things up?

Yeah, there are other comedians that try their best to change it up like Dave Attell and Dave Chappelle. Most comedians though go on stage and get super-fucking self-indulgent. It drives me crazy when comedians get hour specials on HBO, and they do material that they’ve done on other shows. That drives me insane. We have such a fucking fun job, why would you get that fucking bored with what you do that you don’t want to do fucking new shit? You’ve been given an uncensored hour on HBO, and you didn’t bother to go out and really generate something new? They’re just so fucking lazy. The last one that did his hour right was Chris Rock. There’ve been some people that I’ve really liked that have just pissed their hours away. So, if I ever get that chance, I want to be ready. I don’t want to use a term like “samurai training,” but samurais just sit around and practice with that goddamn sword to the point of autism, so when the shit does come down, they can cut flies out of the air. [It’s like] fucking music fans. Do you want to watch an exciting performer, like Prince or the Ramones, that’s up there giving a billion percent, or are you gonna go see these bloated, I-could-give-a-fuck performers? Which one is going to be more captivating and vital? They just go up and play just for their audience, when they have the audience already. How can you take any risks?
That’s kind of the fun of being in clubs. There’s still that risk of people getting a little pissed off. I’m glad that I have fans coming to see me, but that’s a tiny section of the audience. The rest of the sections have either just come to the comedy club to see a comedian or they’ve seen me on King of Queens, so they have a very false expectation. There’s nothing more powerful that that moment when you win people over to your viewpoint when they weren’t agreeing with you before. It’s hard enough to get one person, but when you get a whole room that’s the fucking best. Hard to do, you know. That’s why I like the clubs, but eventually, I have to step up and do my own thing. Up to this point in my career, it’s all been shit that other people have given me. “Comedy Central’s gonna give you a half hour.” “HBO’s gonna give you a half hour.” “Conan O’Brien’s gonna put you on his show.” “They’re gonna cast you in this movie.” “They’re gonna put you on this sitcom.” There has to come a moment when I do something.

Would you want to do that with a television show?
I don’t know yet. I just haven’t figured it out. I’ve been very soft and very comfortable for too long. It’s moving me away.

Almost like you need to initiate a little bit of chaos into your life?
Yeah, or a little bit of opposition. Or a little bit of something that I could do that, if it fails, it’s on me for once, rather than, “Well, I was in this shitty movie, but I didn’t write it, I didn’t direct it, so it doesn’t matter. It’s bad, but it’s not my fault.” That’s the fucking thrill of life. It’s so easy just to coast. There’s nothing wrong with coasting, but it just doesn’t feel like life after a while. It’s just kind of, “Blecch.” I want to fuck up. I want to do something where that possibility is there. There’s something exhilarating about failure because for a second, you were shooting for just that. How fucking thrilling can it be when you get the biggest fucking star, and you get the easiest, most appealing script, and you get a massive fucking campaign behind the movie, and then it makes $100 million? Ultimately, how satisfying can that feel? It can only feel so satisfying if you keep stacking everything in its favor. How satisfying could ‘N Sync’s success have truly been? I’m not begrudging their success, but with all they had stacked in their favor? Tweaking the market toward them? What dice did they really roll?

What would you be doing if you weren’t doing stand-up?
Writing, I guess? I hope. God, fuck, I don’t know what I would be doing, man! I don’t know what I’d be doing. Hoo boy!

When was the last time you had a job interview?
Never. I always took crappy retail jobs. Or I worked for two summers at my mom’s law firm where she was a secretary.

If you had your druthers, what questions would be stricken from an interviewer’s vernacular for comedians?
“Were you always funny?” “What’s it like being funny?” “Who are your favorite comedians?” “Are there any subjects you think are taboo?” “Do you want to do a sitcom?” That kind of stuff where a guy working at a fucking gas station wants to do a sitcom. Answering that question doesn’t reveal anything about anybody. Even if they say they don’t want to do a sitcom, that doesn’t reveal anything.

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I’ve gotta say that comedians have a hell of a lot more to say than musicians. Musicians should not be interviewed. Period.
No, because it’s a non-vocal vocation. It’s like photographers and cinematographers are such blanks because their minds think visually, not verbally. I just shot a commercial out in Dallas, and we’re hanging out, and Brian [Posehn] and I are cracking up, making jokes, and there was this one cinematographer there… he was a nice guy, but he kept staring at us, and you could tell he was trying to say something, and then the next day, he was saying, “How do you guys, like, um, say things? Like, when you’re just sitting there, and you don’t know what the person’s gonna say to you? But it almost seems like you had a response ready for them. But there was no way you could’ve known that she was going to say this, or that, or this. But, I mean, how do you have things to say?” Like, he was speaking in this weird, halting way. And I’m like, “Well, because that’s all we do is talk, but you’re a visual guy. I wouldn’t know how to shoot something, and I wouldn’t know the specific point to shoot something at so that, ‘OK, that’s what it is.’ I don’t think visually. I think verbally.” So, it’s just different thinking. Musicians think audibly. They think in terms of sounds, rather than visuals. That’s why whenever musicians direct something — like when you see a video directed by Michael Stipe — it’s fucking horrible. So, it all depends on the medium that you’re working with.
It’s also the fact that, even though right now we’re living in the most tumultuous time in history, the evening news used to come on for half an hour, once a day, and that was it. Now it’s on all day, and not that much shit happens. If 90% of everything is crap — 90% of music, books, TV — that also means that 90% of human experience is ultimately meaningless. Look at the timelines of history, and reams of stuff are left out because in the end, it wasn’t really that important. It didn’t really change the world. Remember how the Spice Girls dominated the news two years ago? They were on the news. Now [they’re] forgotten and it had no effect on anything. The Twin Towers would still have collapsed, Bush still would have robbed the White House, we still would be on the brink of oblivion. That’s a really sobering thought that I think is really shaking people up now, is everyone gets to be a celebrity for 15 minutes, but only a tiny portion of them get to have an impact, and that’s a hard pill to swallow. Talk to MC Hammer about how that’s gotta feel. Or talk to Marilyn Manson. They all have just no fucking impact. Ultimately, no impact. Didn’t change anything. I heard this in a documentary about GG Allin — “If you’re not helping, you’re not hurting.” You’re not doing anything. To me, that is the worst thing that you can do. You’re not helping, you’re not hurting; you just are. You’re just a fucking spectacle, and it’s ultimately useless. That’s gotta fucking hurt. Fame without talent is a very dangerous thing, because fame is addictive. It’s like being on crack but you’re broke because someone’s given you freebies for a little bit, but now you can’t afford it, and you’ve gotta have it. That’s the cost of fame. Ultimately, the cost of the same fame is to have creativity, and to keep producing new stuff. Longevity, like Dylan or Springsteen or Neil Young. Even Madonna, her talent is keeping herself famous. She wrote the book on that, but that just takes energy that most people just don’t fucking have. They either don’t have the energy of creativity, which is sad enough, or worse yet, they don’t have the creativity to keep themselves out there, which is really bad news. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens to this generation of glimpse culture babies when their fame goes away. There’s gonna be quite a segment of the population needing a fame fix really bad, and it’s gonna be interesting to see what they do to keep themselves out there. You might see some really fucked up shit, but it’s also going to be interesting.
I was reading this the other day about the way that Ecstasy works is that it fires endorphins off in your brain. That’s great, but when it fires off all of those endorphins, it destroys the mechanisms that release them. So, the more you take Ecstasy, you are shutting off the potential for yourself to feel joy. And they’re just starting to see the very first wave of these cases of people who are now clinically depressed, that no chemical will cure. If you let someone go on saying, “I need my nails fucking trimmed,” but their hands have been cut off, there’s no way to treat it.

You never see the true results until about ten or fifteen years later.
Yeah, it’s always an embarrassing, regretful kickback to it. It’s like, “Oh, God, if I’d only known.”

Almost like tattoo culture.
Exactly. And that, too, will come back and bite people on the ass really hard.

Yeah, tattoos don’t age gracefully.
No. That’s gonna age really badly. Sometimes I feel like I’ve gone back to the late ‘70’s, and I’m sitting there watching people snort coke. Have a little for breakfast, have a little for dinner, you’re fine, and you’re going, “What?”

It’s such a bummer.
What’s also really sad is cocaine somehow has come back. There’s people that I know that you would think would know better; comedians that used to make fun of that whole culture. The whole young comedian generation that came up going, “Oh, these fucking old ‘80’s assholes.” And now they’re all doing coke. It’s like, “What the fuck are you doing? You know, didn’t you used to make fun of people like that?” It’s so depressing.

I think we’re both very similar in the fact, that we’re enthusiastic about what we like, but we’re also very productive. I don’t think that there are many of those left. People say I work a lot, but hell, a lot of people don’t even try at all!
Exactly. Yeah. Well, because success just means more work. Success doesn’t mean things are easier for you; success means you gotta work harder. And some people realize that early on and go, “I don’t want success.” That was what divided me from a lot of the when I was living in San Francisco. We were all kind of at the same level, and then some people started to realize as we all started to rise a little bit, some people just started to realize that, “Oh, if I get successful, I can’t just sit at the Java Source all day and bitch about how crappy showbiz is. I gotta actually get up and work.” And for some people it’s more comfortable to fail. Failure is very comfortable. A lot more comfortable than success. So, do you pick comfort or do you pick growth? Comfort is very seductive, and I always go for comfort, but lately I’m trying to go for growth.

patton1

Say his name at party, and somebody might sock you in the gut. But then again, probably not. 

However, it’s next to impossible to casually discuss popular contemporary comedy without mention of Robert Smigel by name. Triumph The Insult Comic Dog, the Ambiguously Gay Duo, The Ex-Presidents, TV Funhouse and a coterie of other late-night superstars all originated from Smigel’s noggin which are only a few of the outstanding examples showcasing why his work has secured him a place in the pantheon of American comedy writers alongside such titans as Michael O’Donoghue, Doug Kenney and Buck Henry. Don’t know who any of those are? My point exactly. Comedy writing isn’t exactly the quickest way to become famous or to get laid for that matter.
What follows are nine questions asked of Mr. Smigel by contemporary, and former colleague on Conan O’Brien and Saturday Night Live, Bob Odenkirk from HBO’s Mr. Show. Don’t know who Jacques Tati is? Just Another Saturday Night a mystery to you? That’s why there’s an internet. Check it out, Bilbo.

smigel
intro & photo by Henry H. Owings

How is it that the Franken and Davis movie Just Another Saturday Night was the best thing that ever happened to everyone?
If you’re saying that it’s the best thing that ever happened to everyone because it led to me getting hired for Saturday Night Live, why, then I’m touched. Now, I don’t think it’s the best thing that ever happened to everyone. I would put it far behind creation, the polio vaccine, the Miracle Mets, and my parents meeting each other. But it’s always flattering to hear, anyway. You want to hear the story of how? Well, okay. Franken and Davis were in Chicago making their long-awaited “vehicle” movie, One More Saturday Night (I assume you were kidding when you got it wrong), just when I was in Chicago performing in a sketch comedy group called “All You Can Eat”, which I did not name. They hired my group-mate Dave Reynolds…let’s call it troupe-mate, which sounds slightly less gay, ironically so, as I previously chose “group” over “troupe” because “group” sounds less gay. Homophobia is hard work. Anyway, they caught our show and really liked it, and a few weeks later, we read in TV Guide that Lorne Michaels was returning to SNL and hiring Franken and Davis to be producers. It was the closest I’ve ever come to realizing the expression “he hit the ceiling”.

What’s your favorite scene in the movie Just Another Saturday Night?
You’re not gonna get me to bash Franken and Davis. They were the Bob and Ray of the 70’s and 80’s and that’s no small compliment if you’ve ever heard Bob and Ray. Alright, one bash…only because you’re persistent. My favorite scene is when they sing. They play rock singers, you see, and they sing, and I’ve been mean enough now, and I’m done.

What bands can we expect to see in their own cartoon on the revived TV Funhouse? (like ‘Black Sabbath’ – it was one of my favorite things on the show)
I am chomping at the bit to do “Ladysmith Black Mumbazo in Outer Space.” The time is now.

How ‘bout a TV Funhouse DVD already?
How ‘bout getting off my fucking back, mom? If we’re talking about TVF the cable show, forget it, nothing soon. If we mean a DVD of the SNL cartoons, yes, you will be getting these within the year, the full collection, including the many that do not hold up.

Is it true you’re a big fan of Jacques Tati?
That guy had hits and misses, but the bottom line is, he was astonishingly original, visually brilliant, and one of the first great detached comic minds. Watching his movies, you feel like they’re directed by someone from a superior planet who regards us as cattle. And he makes a really funny and credible case that we are indeed cattle. If you’ve never seen one, all you need to know is that even though they’re in French, there are no subtitles because the dialogue is essentially inconsequential. So the answer is yes, I was obsessed with his stuff when I was in college and in my 20’s, and I still think he’s zee shit.

Who was the worst famous comedian of all time?
Why with the negatives? On whom would [you] like me to shit, monsieur? if I say Gallagher, I’m a bigger hack than he is. Carrottop is the other other wacky-named sitting duck…comedy writers love to hate the Comic Relief triumverate, Robin, Billy, Whoopi…it’s all been done. Just to be original, I’m going to say Jack Benny…that fake cheap, slow- taking, face-fingering fuck. And, yes, I mean it.
Wait…is Triumph famous enough yet to be the worst?

We both know how likable and funny Doug Dale (the host of the first season of TV Funhouse) is. But not everybody dug the scenario. Is that evolving?
It’s evolving, all right. The network has a big red boner for Doug (that’s professional talk for they hate him). They originally loved him, but then he tested badly. So now they hate. It’s just like high school. Some comics are funny but they just don’t test well. Some people are an acquired taste. NBC could’ve bailed on Conan and Andy and they’d be stains on Jay Leno’s wall. But they trusted their instincts…either that or nobody they went after wanted that time slot. Doug Dale is a funny kid with lots of fans (Will Ferrel, for one, worships the guy) who was asked to be a straight man to puppets. He did it well, but of course, 20 kids in a room aren’t gonna say Doug’s the best part of a show with puppets and cartoons. I told the network people, you could’ve tested Abbott and Costello and come away with, “geez, everyone likes Costello best. Maybe we should get rid of the Abbott guy. All he does is talk to Costello, Costello gets all the laughs. If we lost the guy who just talks, we’d have wall-to-wall laughs.”

You’re from New York, but you started your comedy career in Chicago. Tell everyone how great Chicago is for comedy. It’s better than New York, isn’t it?
Chicago is better for everything, but maybe that’s just me. The beauty of Chicago is, the downtown area is kind of lame. I mean, it’s pretty and clean and nice to go to sometimes, but the coolest areas are spread around beautiful neighborhoods where you can live in a nice brownstone or two level house. And it’s easy to drive around because you don’t have to go downtown. In New York you can live outside Manhattan but you still have to deal with it a lot…and it can be oppressive. Although, I live in the Village now and I love it…it’s way calmer and friendlier than New York above, say, 28th Street.
As far as comedy, Chicago has a great sketch comedy community…it’s easy to meet tons of great people there…it’s also a cheaper place to get started. New York’s improv community has grown a lot since UCB started a school and all, but the sketch form is still a lot of pervasive and embraced in Chicago. I assume it’s still a better place to find your way.

You must have watched a lot of TV as a kid. Did you?
A TV fell on my head when I was four. I was pulling the cord and a 21 inch ‘60s RCA color behemoth knocked me out cold. I think I wanted to kiss Flipper.

Punchline (1988) – An uninviting vortex of despair. Two losers shuck real life and moonlight at a comedy club (‘The Gas Station’), fail miserably, fall for each other, and then fulfill a suicide pact onstage in front of the club’s eight regular patrons. Figuratively and unwittingly, of course – best stated before you go get any ideas that I’m playing Choose Your Own Adventure with this delicate piece of horseshit. This is a Tom Hanks/Sally Field vehicle, and that should speak volumes. Sally Field is good at one thing: Playing a gum-smacking highway hussy opposite Burt Reynolds. She does not do that here. Tom Hanks has aspired and achieved the position of the consummate ham and egger, and this film is a good peak into the nascent stages of his journey.

The King Of Comedy – “It’s a real kick in the beardsplitter that this movie is not mentioned in the same context as Scorcesse’s “classics.” You “post” or “anti” comedy experts should take a look at this – arguably one of Gregg Turkington’s templates for the creation of the Neil Hamburger persona. Pauline Kael, though one of my favorite ranters stylistically, hated this film, proving that she was often full of shit1. De Niro’s Rupert Pupkin is a real character in an unreal shell. His stand-up act that closes the film is Hamburger All The Way, diverting your attention from the fact that you just saw Sandra Bernhard in her underwear. The mere fact that Sandra Bernhard is allowed to prance around in her underwear should’ve resulted in non-rated status. The DVD should be NC-17, and there should be an entire cut WITHOUT Sandra Bernhard in her underwear as a bonus to those of us who don’t enjoy bleeding from the eye-sockets. I know what willed that horrible disease upon Jerry Lewis, I forget which disease, but the medication required has caused his head to enlarge greatly. But anyway, I know what caused it: Take after take after take after take of being gagged and tied to a chair while Sandra Bernhard In Her Underwear runs around within his field of vision. Thanks, Sandra, for taking Jerry away from us, as if your doglike grill hasn’t been enough over the past two decades. Should I say that you aren’t a “film person”” unless you’ve seen this? Yes, I should.

The Dark Backwards (1991) – Shit and water-stained, garbage-strewn film about a stand-up comedian who gets exploited and ‘becomes funnier’ once a third arm starts growing out of his back. Surprising cast (Judd Nelson, Wayne Newton, Bill Paxton, and James Caan), considering that Clint Howard would have probably turned down this script. Total lunacy that will (and probably does) appeal to David Lynch fanatics, but since those people are largely uncouth sloths, I wouldn’t know. Bill Paxton is Bill Paxton to the tenth degree, and despite being a great actor, he will be too much for the rational person to stomach. The scene in which he has sex with two mole-covered behemoths is tough to take, but not quite as tough as Sandra Bernhard In Her Underwear.

Funny Bones (1996) – Strongly recommended sleeper. Unconventional subject matter. An Oliver Platt performance that won’t make you return another movie unfinished. Mimes. Dark undercurrent. Eccentrics by the dozen. Weird heroin scene. Jerry Lewis is good again. Hilarious intro. Oliver Reed in the same movie as Jerry Lewis. Oliver Reed and Jerry Lewis staring at each other in a way that didn’t seem scripted. An outsider semi-gem of a film.

Honorable mention: Night Patrol (1984) – read about it inChunklet 16.

1 Look, she’s the reason that I rented Mike’s Murder.

35 surefire ways to ruin a show for the suckers who actually paid to get in.

Entirely conceived (and partially attempted) by Henry Owings & Brian Teasley

1.  De-tune heads while band is eating dinner.

2.  Hit power breaker during band’s set. [Classic]

3.  Find out guitar player’s girlfriend’s name and yell that she gives good head between songs.

4.  Find out guitar player’s mother’s name and yell that she gives good head between songs.

5.  Cover back of guitar neck with Vaseline.

6.  Throw (lit or unlit) fireworks on stage.

7.  Fake a fight with a friend during a ballad.

8.  O pen jar of deer hunting urine musk on stage seconds before the band performs (note: also yell “Looks like the rut is starting early this year” during set).

9.  Bee’s nest inside kick drum microphone hole.

10.  Pay ten girls to chant “Rapist!” at the lead singer.

11.  Be in the opening band and play the headlining band’s set before them.

12.  Get a job as the house sound guy and put flange on everything. After the band’s set, tell them you used to be Tears for Fears touring sound guy.

13.  Bring a megaphone and repeat all the band’s in between song chatter.

14.  Convince local Nazi organizations that the band features former members of Skrewdriver.

15.  Two words: Pepper Spray.

16.  Hide an amp near the stage and play along in the bathroom via a wireless unit.

17.  Spike band’s water with LSD or Ecstasy.

18.  Glue all the picks to the stage floor.

19.  Throw $10,000 of fake money into the crowd seconds before the band’s encore.

20.  Set fire to a bag of leaves (or hair) and throw it on the soundboard.

21.  Get a photo pass for the show, and bring an 1890’s era (read: pull the hood over your head to take the picture) camera which must be set on stage in order for it to work.

22.  Call all local radio stations and tell them the show is cancelled. (extra points for rescheduling show for the next week at the local humane shelter and/or rival club)

23.  Hire a professional wrestler to challenge the singer to a match.

24.  Help band load in early, telling the band you’re part of the club staff. Then fifteen minutes into their set, give them the “pointing-at-your-watch-pissed-off” face, mouthing that they have one more song left.

25.  Get all of your friend’s to help throw 5,000 teabags at the drummer throughout the entire show. (Bonus: try to hit his water cup and make actual tea!)

26.  Make fictitious pornographic video tape boxes featuring the band’s logo and their faces on the actors/actresses. When the merch guy is gone for even a second, stuff the video tapes in the t-shirt box. Immediately call the cops and inform them that the band is distributing pornographic material to minors. Stand back and watch the drama unfold.

27.  Lock band in dressing room as the crowd chants for an encore. [Classic]

28.  Hook a CD player in the soundboard and play studio versions of the band’s songs over the PA while they perform the exact same songs live.

29.  Bring your dog to the show where the guitarist jumps into the crowd (e.g. The Mooney Suzuki) and claim he kicked your dog. Cause as much of a ruckus as you can.

30.  Put cooking grease on the stage prior to performance.

31.  Pull fire alarm during band’s set. [Classic]

32.  Tell the soundman you’re there from a dot com fanzine to record the show, and run an auxiliary out of the vocals to a harmonizer allowing you to detune anything in any fashion you see fit.

33.  Have a banner rigged at the back of the stage that you can control to have pulled down and at height of performance, trigger the release of the “We Suck Dick For Crack” banner.

34.  Pay the local pregnant crack whore to claim the bass player got her pregnant for “His Mama’s Baby.”

35.  Just let the band suck on their own.

SWEDEN
And its recent rise to notoriety.
Whatever. I liked what Sweden was doing back when it and Norway were still joined by land bridges, but then Sweden started doing the tectonic shift thing, which was such an obvious bite off what Spain and Morocco did on the African plate. This was like 185 or 186 million years ago. And The Hives just suck. If I really need to see a band wear ties I’ll watch the new Hard Days Night DVD. I didn’t buy it or anything, but my friend works at Fader and she got a free copy and was like “Do you want this?” and I was like “Yeah” because I like some of George Harrison’s stuff and I wanted to hear what his old band was like. Whatever.

INTERPOL
On Matador’s “newest” “discovery” and stuff…
Whatever. At least with all the Saddle Creek music there is a song in there somewhere. I have Joy Division records too. So, if they’re a Joy Division clone, then which one will commit suicide? I am waiting. Whatever.

BROOKLYN
Whatever. I lived in the warehouse in Williamsburg where the drum machine was invented, and we would program these crazy dance beats into it, and run it through a bass amp, and get drunk, and dance in the middle of the night, and it was loud as hell, but the cops never came because the warehouse was right in the middle of this really bad ghetto and no one lived anywhere around it. This was like, ’77, ’78… Whatever.

JIM O’ROURKE
And his photo on the newest Sonic Youth record.
Whatever. So I own Pierre Henry and Stockhausen records, too, but there’s not enough of them pressed to make up for the fact that there’s a Diet Coke can in the picture with Jim on that last Sonic Youth record. The Walls Have Ears LP is pretty okay. Whatever.

THE VINES
Whatever. I was kind of seeing this girl ‘ we hadn’t made out yet or anything, but I made her a mix tape (fuck cd’s) and I put it in while I was driving her to this really great thrift store in this total baltimore ghetto that I went to once with the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s on Halloween because they were playing in Baltimore that night and needed costumes (Karen ended up being Stevie Nicks, but no one at the party got it. Typical.) and when the mix tape was over I ejected it and between the time I ejected the mix tape and put in a This Heat tape, we heard a few seconds of that Vines song. I don’t know what it’s called, but it’s the one that’s on the radio. And the girl is like “oh, why did you put that tape in, I like that song.” And then she starts singing the chorus! So we go to the thrift store, but then it’s just kind of weird. I called her a few days later, and she said she really likes the tape, but i can’t understand how anyone that would like my mix tape could also like that stupid Vines song. Girls are crazy. Whatever.

ELECTRO-CLASH
The trademarked ‘movement’ that’ll be more dated than Elephant Six by year’s end.
Whatever. There is not a vintage clothing store made or a hair stylist born that can salvage this fashion casualty nightmare. It’s lame and half baked even by New Yorker’s standards. Remember that Malcolm McClaren was a bozo, too. Whatever.

Chunklet 20

Lots of groups are named after places on the map, but how often do they live up to the reputation of the places they’re named for? Chunklet took a look at 26 “geographical” bands and sized them up against their namesakes…

The Band Berlin. Early ‘80s synth-pop outfit whose sultry song “Sex” gave me and every other 13-year old boy at the time a boner. Plus points: singer Terri Nunn is listed in album credits as “Vocals, BJs.” Minus points: the men in the band wore cosmetics and satin trousers.

The Place Berlin, Germany. Yes, yes – the seat of the nasty Third Reich, but also the home of Europe’s avant garde in the 1920s and an emerging metropolis in its own right today.

The Winner Berlin, the city, because it does not appear on the Top Gun
soundtrack.

The Band Texas. Country-flavored band from Scotland with a sweet honey-pot of a singer.

The Place Texas. Man, where to start? They should quit threatening and just
secede already.

The Winner Texas, the band, by a Cadillac-convertible-with-steer-horns-on-the- hood’s length.

The Band Chicago. Used to be known as the Chicago Transit Authority, but not enough people were mad at them apparently. The first record is actually pretty good, then the quality of their music falls off precipitously. Original singer reputedly killed himself playing Russian roulette.

The Place Chicago, Illinois. Fantastic architecture, wonderful literary and music traditions, cool neighborhoods, one of the finest cities in America.

The Winner Two words: Peter Cetera. Chicago, the city.

The Band Rome. An ambient, instrumental group from Chicago. Imagine that.

The Place Rome, Italy. Breathtaking monuments, amazing food, stylish people; few places combine the old and the new in such a savvy way.

The Winner Come on, this is the Eternal City we’re talking about here! Sorry, Thrill
Jockey.

The Band Kansas. Hirsute ‘70s rockers who made you laugh at “Carry on My Wayward Son” and made you cry at “Dust in the Wind.”

The Place Kansas. Dear lord…. that endless stretch of Interstate 70. We should be grateful for corn and wheat fields, but no one wants to look at them for ten hours straight. Lawrence is an okay town, Topeka sucks balls.

The Winner Kansas, the band, but only because the state is, improbably, even
more dreadful.

The Band Barcelona. Wimpy europop.

The Place Barcelona, Spain. A popular tourist destination with good reason; one of the jewels of the Mediterranean.

The Winner Barcelona, the city. Stereolab has the market cornered on this
sound.

The Band Flin Flon. One of Mark Robinson’s post-Unrest projects, with a really stripped-down sound and song titles that are all, inexplicably, named after towns in Canada.

The Place Flin Flon, Manitoba. A frozen mining village in the far north near the border of Saskatchewan.

The Winner Flin Flon, the town. Both are pretty barren, but a number of famous hockey players came from the town (most notably Bobby Clarke), whereas Robinson has only dreamed of being a hockey player.

The Band Calexico. An atmospheric, mariachi-tinged group from the southwest that has released several fine albums on Quarterstick.

The Place Calexico, California. Scrubby border town in California whose Mexican counterpart, imaginatively, is named Mexicali.

The Winner Calexico, the band. Though, unfortunately, more people seek refuge in the town than at the band’s shows.

The Band Danzig. Okay, granted, the band is named after lead singer Glenn Danzig and not the Prussian port city on the Baltic Sea, but it still counts.

The Place Danzig, Poland. A major shipbuilding town known by the Poles as Gdansk, site of the Solidarity labor union uprising in 1980 that presaged the fall of communism.

The Winner Danzig, Poland. Any man who has pects bigger than most women’s’ breasts gets no credit as an artist.

The Band Tel Aviv. Quiet, unheralded Oberlin-based group that was on Teen Beat for a while.

The Place Tel Aviv, Israel. A surprisingly cosmopolitan city with superb weather and a diverse population. Not one of the safest places to be right now, however.

The Winner Tie. Think any Hassids come to their shows hoping for Klezmer music?

The Band Alabama. One of the biggest country acts in the world in the ‘80s; they had beards and longish, parted-in-the-middle hair with those feathery wings on the sides.

The Place Alabama. Many people there still look like that.

The Winner Alabama, the state, but only by a hair. Ha ha.

The Band Ivory Coast. Bland, generic indie rock band in the vein of Sebadoh after they’d long ceased to be interesting.

The Place Ivory Coast. A small country on the west coast of Africa—now known by its French name, Cote D’Ivoire.

The Winner Ivory Coast, the country. The government may be corrupt and the people may be poor, but they’re very nice and they have lovely beaches.

The Band Monaco. As reported in the last issue of Chunklet, this is New Order bassist Peter Hook’s side project and, like most side projects, it’s a self- indulgent, experimental mess that would get no attention were it not for the fact that the guy is in another famous band already.

The Place Monaco. Less an independent country and more a tax haven principality that exists only at the largesse of France (which surrounds it), it may be the only place in the world too expensive for even Scandinavians and the Swiss to visit. Plus points: Grace Kelly’s son, Prince so-and-so, forty-something and with a big fat gut, piloted the country’s four-man bobsled at the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, presumably because he had nothing better to do.

The Winner Monaco, the country. He nearly drove the sled right off the course, wiping out halfway down the hill.

The Band Boston. Set the benchmark for overproduced guitar rock in the 1970s. Sold millions of their debut album, went into the studio to record a follow up and stayed there for…ever.

The Place Boston, Massachusetts. The winters are awful and the driving is some of the worst in the nation, but there are so many good things to redeem this town that it’s not even a contest.

The Winner Boston, the city, by a lahge mahgin.

The Band Chilliwack. One-hit Canuck wonder in the ‘80s (they had that song: “Gone, gone, gone, she been gone so long…”)

The Place Chilliwack, British Columbia. An unassuming mountain burg about an hour east of Vancouver that is famous for absolutely nothing, other than the band it spawned.

The Winner Chilliwack, the town, only because it came first chronologically.

The Band Portishead. Wonderful trip-hop band who, along with Massive Attack, defined the genre.

The Place Portishead, England. A small town near Bristol, apparently, but very difficult to find in an atlas.

The Winner Portishead, the band. It’s a horrible name for either a band or a town, as it sounds like a toilet that can be easily moved from place to place, but the band gets the nod here.

The Band Romania. Cheesy new wave band along the lines of Soft Cell, Kajagoogoo, and Berlin whose members wore cosmetics and satin
trousers.

The Place Romania. Formerly the “breadbasket of Europe” until decades of mismanagement by the government of despot Nicolae Ceaucescu pushed the nation to the brink of famine. The people repaid him on Christmas morning of 1989 by putting him in front of a firing squad on live television.

The Winner Tie. Both are too dismal to rate positively on any level.

The Band Camden. Some indie rock band.

The Place Camden, New Jersey. Look in the dictionary under “urban blight” and find a map of this decrepit Philly suburb.

The Winner Camden, the band. They can’t possibly be any worse than the city.

The Band Laibach. Weird industrial band that played on fascist themes and had a minor hit with the fatalist anthem, “Life is Life.”

The Place Laibach, Slovenia. German name for the city (now known as Ljubljana) when it was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Ljubljana is said to be a very hip and beautiful city much in the same way Prague was before it was set upon by American college students, Pizza Huts, and KFCs.

The Winner Laibach, the city. Whatever happened to industrial music anyway?

The Band San Lorenzo. Obscure rock band from Scotland.

The Place San Lorenzo. There’s one in Argentina and another in Italy, plus probably ten more around the world.

The Winner San Lorenzo, the town. How many bands from Argentina and Italy are named after Scottish towns?

The Band Asia. Proggy English wankers along the lines of Yes and Emerson, Lake, and Palmer who had a small hit in 1982 with “Heat of the Moment.”

The Place Asia. Pros: rock gardens in Japan, the Great Wall of China, the mighty Himalayas, Thai food. Cons: The Vietnam War, Muslim extremists,
squalor and misery like nowhere else in the world.

The Winner Asia, the continent. What chutzpah it takes to name yourself after something so vast and varied as the largest landmass on Earth.

The Band America. Speaking of chutzpah!

The Place America. Has a great number of problems, some of which are infuriating because they could be easily solved; but on the whole it’s not that bad a place. Could be better though.

The Winner America, the country. “In the desert you can’t remember your name, ‘cause there ain’t no one for to give you no name.”

The Band Europe. ‘80s hair band from Sweden whose sole hit was the anthemic “Final Countdown,” now played only in the waning seconds of sporting events.

The Place Europe. Has a great number of problems, some of which are infuriating because they could be easily solved; but on the whole it’s not that bad a place. Could be better though.

The Winner Hmm. This is a toughie. Europe, the continent.

The Band St. Etienne. Frou-frou, lounge internationale, British pop group.

The Place St. Etienne, France. A rather ordinary large town near Lyon.

The Winner St. Etienne, the city. Even the most bland French town beats phony, uninspired music made for posh girls.

The Band Peru. Quirky indie-pop band that has been compared to
Dismemberment Plan.

The Place Peru. Impoverished South American nation struggling with uneven development and guerrillas hiding in the rainforests.

The Winner Peru, the country. They’ve got the Macchu Picchu ruins and a desert where it hasn’t rained in 400 years.

The Band Nazareth. Glammy ‘70s classic rock band known for their plodding hit “Love Hurts.”

The Place Nazareth, Israel. A rather unremarkable outpost in the northern part of the country.

The Winner It’s Jesus’ hometown, so we’d better not rip on it.

Almost, but not quite: Sun City Girls, Of Montreal, Utah Saints, Nashville Pussy, Boards of Canada, The Oak Ridge Boys, L.A. Guns, Mission of Burma, The Mekons, Tahiti 80, Sorry About Dresden, North of America, Kingston Trio, Buffalo Daughter/Tom/Springfield, Uncle Tupelo, Jets to Brazil, Angry Samoans, The Fly Seville, Time in Malta, Future Sound of London, Hanoi Rocks, Manhattan Transfer, Black Oak Arkansas, The Delaware Destroyers, China Crisis, The New York Dolls, Mannheim Steamroller, Salem 66, Miami Sound Machine, Ohio Players, Georgia Satellites, Kentucky Headhunters, Long Beach Dub All-Stars, Atlanta Rhythm Section, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Afrikaa Baambata…..

I hold this letter in my hand
A plea, a petition, a kind of prayer
I hope it does as I have planned…
A handful of hopeful words
I love her and I always will
Nick Cave

Kylie, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul.

Ky-lie Min-ogue: The tip of the tongue taking a trip of two steps down the palate to tap, at two, on the teeth. Ky. Lie.

As I type, my palms sweat at the very thought of you, dearest Kylie. At thirty-four years of age, I find I can still have butterflies in my stomach, thanks to you.

Once again, I’m an awkward teenager flushed with feelings of a massive crush. Yet, how best to travel down the arduous road of creating written words of love—that is the task at hand. Truth is, I am no Vladimir Nabokov or Nick Cave. My muse is not easily found. Nonetheless, I endeavor to create eloquent prose in your honor. I attempt, futile as it may be, to match words with your beauty, lovely Kylie.

Before continuing, an embarrassing confession must occur. I must admit I have not known of you for very long. I am rather clueless in terms of commercially successful pop music. I simply do not follow it. It wasn’t until 1996, the year the Bad Seeds put out Murder Ballads, that I became aware of you. Still, I did not truly comprehend your beauty, let alone celebrate it. Sure, I noticed you were good looking. I didn’t fully understand just how good looking. In 2002, your video “Can’t Get You Out of My Head” set me straight. Please forgive me.

I have always had a special place in my heart for musically inclined women. The sex appeal of women in music is second to no other profession. It’s not easy to explain. There is just a special allure a woman has while singing or playing an instrument. I my case, I also must respect the music to fully appreciate the beauty.

Through the years, crushes have come and gone. Sure, there were the handful of crushes when I was very young. There was Debby Harry, forever fixed in my mind in that sexy white dress. Anne and Nancy Wilson of Heart also intrigued my young thoughts.

In middle school, I discovered Chrissie Hynde. I loved to gaze at the cover of Pretenders II, with Chrissie in the forefront in that smart, white outfit. Around 1981, the Go-Go’s hit the charts in a big way, thanks in part to the lovely Belinda Carlisle, whose sex appeal continued to grow with each record, not to mention the shedding of each additional pound. And still, there was my crush on Debbie Harry.

When I was in high school in 1985, Lone Justice emerged and so did my hots for Maria McKee. I also fell in love with X and, specifically, Exene. She looked amazing in the picture accompanying Under The Big Black Sun. And there was still Debby Harry.

Finally, the years from college to present saw no lack of new women to admire. Boss Hog’s Cold Hands cover art caught my eye vis-à-vis Christina. Tuscadero’s women, Margaret McCartney and Melissa Farris, were easy on the eyes. The Mekons’ Sally Timms and Susie Honeyman were equally breathtaking. Sally’s angelic voice made her all the sexier. Joan Jett, after years of healthy living and obvious exercise, looked better than ever. The Geraldine Fibber’s violinist, Jessy Greene, was spellbinding, especially live. Larissa Strickland, the Laughing Hyenas’ guitarist, had that unexplainable magnetism. There were also a handful of oldies but goodies that I discovered: Nancy Sinatra, Wanda Jackson, and Jeannie C. Riley . And yes, there was–and always will be– my fascination with Debby Harry.

Kylie, I realize mentioning other women in a love letter is an obvious taboo. It’s just that all of these past crushes mean nothing to me now. Currently, there is only you. Well, and Debby. Then again, I hope you realize I never ever wrote a love letter to Debby. Well, perhaps in 1978, had I been thirty-four, I may well have considered it. The point is, Kylie, currently you are it. You are numero uno.

Perhaps it is time I told you a bit about myself. In my heart, I believe we are destined to be together. You don’t know it yet, but we do have a good deal of things in common.

For example, we were born in the same month of the same year. I am exactly three weeks older than you. (I can only hope you don’t mind seeing an older man.) In your honor, however, I wish May 28th were my birthday. Instead, I share the same birthday with Traci Lords, May 7, 1968. Sure, your average guy might think this is rather neat. Not me, Kylie. I think it is despicable sharing the same birthday with a hot and slutty ex-porn star-turned-actress. Why me?

We both have Nick Cave in common. You have worked with him and I rather worship him. So we both got that going for us as well.

You like to dance, and I like to watch you dance.

You eat food, and I eat food.

You are from Australia and I am from Wisconsin, but I’d like to visit Australia.

One cannot obsess over common interests, so I will stop. I do want to tell you there is nothing in the world I would not do for you, especially if we were together romantically. Let me give you one example. I drink copious amounts of beer or liquor virtually every day or night of any given week. If, however, you did not exactly look favorably on said saucing, I would be willing to cut back to say, six days a week rather than seven. Concessions can be made.

Furthermore, if we ever had children, I would be willing to give up my job in order to stay home with the nannies and the kids. Sacrifice is my middle name.

Not sure what else to say, really. Oh, I do want to add this fact: should a human being, upon dying, actually be reincarnated as an inanimate object, I would choose to be the silver dress you wore in the video “Can’t Get You Out of My Head.” Or, I’d choose to be your bathroom’s toilet seat. It’s a toss up. Either way, I’d hope you would utilize me often.

Please allow me to list some of my other hobbies and interests before signing off. Perhaps we have some other things in common. I enjoy taking long walks, seeing movies, drinking good coffee, reading literature, listening to music, playing cribbage, hanging with my cats, throwing shoes on telephone wires, carving your name in my arms, torturing small insects, staring at your face for hours on my computer screen, collecting dead birds, watching the WWF, polishing my guns, mutilating my fingers, spying on female neighbors getting dressed , watching snuff films, reenacting the Battle of the Bulge with myself while dressed in women’s clothes, attempting to discover the cure for cancer on my 99-cent calculator, collecting antique Nazi attire, and finally, throwing horseshoes while inebriated on Boone’s Farm.

Gosh, what else is there to say, Kylie? I really hope to hear from you. I would love to get together. Maybe we can catch a movie and a bite to eat. If you are not into that, we could always grab a plethora of Foster’s beer and hang out in my one-bedroom apartment. To top off the evening, I could play you some of your fellow Aussies’ music. Nothing like flying three sheets to the wind while listening to Radio Birdman, Scientists, The Birthday Party, or The Saints. Sound like fun? I look forward to meeting you. Contact me via Chunklet.

Love,
Mark Stelmach

THE MEMBERS OF AC/DC CONVENE TO CREATE SONG TITLES FOR A NEW ALBUM
8 a.m., January 2, 2001
Band headquarters, boardroom

Angus: Well then, I see that everyone is here. Shall we get started?
Brian: Might we call the roll, at least for the sake of the minutes?
Angus: Good point, Brian. Malcolm?
Malcolm: Oh, that’s right. I’m secretary this fiscal year, aren’t I? All right, then. Angus Young?
Angus: Present.
Malcolm: Brian Johnson?
Brian: Present.
Malcolm: Phil Rudd?
Phil: Here.
Malcolm: Cliff Williams?
Cliff: Present.
Angus: Thank you, Malcolm. Now, as I’m sure you all know from reading the meeting notice e-mailed to you a few weeks ago, we’re meeting to begin conceiving our next album. Our latest, Stiff Upper Lip, is still selling quite well. That and touring should carry us through to the end of fiscal 2001. However, our back catalog sales—which really carried us through the mid- to late-90s thanks to some reissues and our boxed set—are waning a bit. We need new product to assure continued growth through fiscal 2002.
Cliff: Angus, if I might interject—
Angus: Yes, Cliff, this would be a good time for your budget presentation. If the rest of you don’t mind—
All: Go ahead.
Cliff: Thank you. Gentlemen, while the AC/DC brand name is as solid as ever, our record sales are slipping. Why? It’s a lack of new product. Through the 70s and 80s we released an album an average of every two years. That and the resulting tours kept our name in the marketplace. The 90s are a different story. Three albums, that’s it. We offered interview discs, live collections and boxed sets, and while each made money, they were signs of a brand treading water. To interest today’s buyer, we need more consistent production. No longer can an established brand rest on the laurels of past success.
Angus: Thank you, Cliff. Sorry for letting the agenda get out of order, but it seemed like that was the best time for Cliff’s presentation. Malcolm, where are we now?
Malcolm: Well, we can either go back to review and approve minutes from the last meeting, or move forward to item no. 4, “Brainstorming new song titles.”
Angus: Let’s not mess with Robert’s Rules. Has everyone had a chance to review the minutes?
All: Yes.
Angus: Then if there is no further discussion, can I get a motion to approve and file said minutes?
Phil: So moved.
Brian: Second.
Malcolm: I believe we can do this on a voice vote. All in favor?
All: Aye.
Angus: Great. Does anyone need a break, or should we move on?
Brian: Can we break for a few minutes? I need to check in with the nanny to see that the kids got off to school alright.
Angus: Does that sound good to everyone? OK, let’s meet back here in 10 minutes.

[10-minute recess]

Angus: Now remember, the only bad idea is one that isn’t shared. Remember Ballbreaker? In my wildest dreams I wouldn’t have believed we had never used that as an album title, but there it was—1995, and it was fresh as ever. Or how about “You Can’t Stop Rock ‘n’ Roll?” That’s a classic AC/DC title, yet it didn’t reveal itself until just this past year.
Brian: That was a nice one, Phil.
Phil: Thanks.
Angus: All right. Let’s get started. Don’t be shy; just throw them out there.
Brian: Well, I’ve been toying around with something called “Flirt in a Skirt.”
Phil: I like it! That’s a keeper.
Cliff: How about “Snowball?”
Brian: That’s a good one, but we already went in that direction with “Snowballed” from For Those About to Rock.
Cliff: I should have known it was too good to be true.
Brian: That’s OK. It’s a good reminder for us to do our homework before we come to these sessions.
Angus: What do you guys think of “Pole Position”?
Brian: That I can work with.
Angus: Malcolm, what are you giggling about? Do you want to share it with the group?
Malcolm: Yeah. “Put Your Glove on My Love.”
Phil: Boys, we might as well pack up and go home. We’re not going to do better than that.
Cliff: A title like that will definitely help bolster our bottom line.
Angus: Malcolm, this may be inappropriate, but I’m going to hug you.

[Unidentified rustling sound on tape]

Angus (to Malcolm): Yes, I know I wrinkled your suit coat. I’ll pay for the dry cleaning. (To the group) OK, that one is going to get the juices flowing. Does anybody—
Phil: Angus, pardon the interruption, but what about that?
Angus: Phil, you’ve lost me. What do you—
Brian: He’s right. “Got My Juices Flowing.” Is that what you were getting at, Phil?
Phil: Exactly.
Angus: Wow. See how valuable it is for us to get together like this? That’s great. I was going to say, before I was so productively interrupted, that I had an idea. What would you say about “Wired for Rock”?
Cliff: I’d say Malcolm isn’t the only Young with a good head on his shoulders. Kudos.
Angus: OK, we’re halfway there. Five more and we’re done.
Brian: I notice we haven’t dealt much with liquor yet. I love the sex-based titles, but we need a bit of variety. I’ve been bouncing around the word “jigger,” which I know is ripe with possibilities, but I can’t seem to do much with it.
Malcolm: We could do something like “Two Jiggers of Love,” but then that just adds to the sex thing.
Angus: But we could address that in the lyrics, juxtaposing images of alcohol with those of sex, a compare/contrast sort of thing.
Brian: Give me some time and I think I can make that work.
Angus: OK, moving along… Phil, is that a list you have there?
Phil: Yes. I did some brainstorming myself before coming down. Let me see what else is here… Oh, what about “Factor of One (Differential Equation mix)”?
Malcolm: What?
Phil: Oops. Wrong list. That’s a little something I cooked up for my techno side project, PR2k.
Angus: Okay… anyone else? Brian, you’re unusually quiet.
Brian: Well, I wanted to give the other guys a chance. It helps give us better variety.
Angus: Agreed. But we need to keep on schedule.
Brian: All right. How about “Depth Charge,” “Rocket Launcher,” “Smell of Love” and “Eat My Fist”?
Cliff: I’d say we have an album. I move that we accept this slate of ten titles for our next album.
Brian: Second.
Malcolm: All in favor?
All: Aye.
Angus: This is excellent. I know we are in a volatile marketplace, but I think it’s safe to say that fiscal 2002 is going to be a good year for AC/DC. I know we had planned to meet next month to begin the songwriting process, but I brought a handful of new riffs with me. If you’d like, we can hold an informal session this evening at my house.
Brian: Sounds great. I move that we adjourn.
Cliff: Second.
Malcolm: All in favor?
All: Aye.

25 ways to make a touring band’s stay at your house much more memorable. 

We’ve all been in the position at some show where a band is desperate for a place to stay. Sometimes you end up being the guy the offers and sometimes you’re the guy who gets volunteered for the job. This has happened to me a number of times which inspired me to recommend a list of things you could do to a band that you don’t particularly like, but somehow end up hosting.

1.   Tell them they have to sleep in your yard because you already promised another band your living room.
2.   Offer them dog food in an attractive serving dish.
3.   Play a copy of their record repeatedly at a really loud volume.
4.   Send them out to get beer, then turn all the lights out, lock the doors and go to bed.
5.   Set up an easel and draw each member of the band in a really insulting fashion and then insist that they buy the drawings.
6.   Walk around naked.
7.   Walk around naked with a gun.
8.   Walk around naked with a gun and a bottle of whiskey.
9.   Walk around naked with a gun and a bottle of whiskey and ask them why they don’t like to party.
10.   Leave the show before they can and give them directions to someone else’s house, like a cop.
11.   Don’t be afraid to show off your interpretive dance routine, especially when they’re trying to sleep.
12.   Tell them that you’re sleeping in the van tonight.
13.   If the band is Seam, tell them your girlfriend is coming over after work and she likes to get freaky.
14.   Have their van towed from your house while they’re sleeping.
15.   Insist on jamming with them regardless of your total lack of musical talent.
16.   Fake Tourette’s syndrome.
17.   Tear your house apart “looking for something,” but do this in total silence.
18.   Hold your index fingers straight up while holding your thumbs toward each other so your hands resemble what a movie director sees. Film the band through you fingers and thumbs and remain absolutely silent. Do this for a minimum of an hour.
19.   Invite a member to try your very own homemade vodka. If you don’t have any, use mustard.
20.   Block their van in your driveway and deny any knowledge of whose car it is.
21.   Steal their van’s license plate to put on another band’s van later.
22.   Call the police and tell them you had a party and some sketchy uninvited guests showed up and won’t leave.
23.   Accuse them of being racists because of arty lyrics.
24.   Order more pizza than any of you could possibly consume under the name of one of the band members.
25.   Have a friend call your house to harass them or as a promoter calling to cancel the show in the next town.

Some Jokes That Will Make You The Big Hit At The Next (And Last) Industry Schmoozefest You’ll Attend

What does At The Drive-In have in common with the MC5?
Nothing.

What does Robert Pollard have in common with your high school wrestling coach?
Everything.

What is exactly like throwing a hot dog down a hallway?
Fucking Corey Parks [formerly of Nashville Pussy].

What’s pink, smudged in brown and never bigger than a snail?
G.G. Allin’s dick.

What do you get when the surviving members of the Monks gang-bang the keyboard player from Prince and the Revolution?
Clinic.

What’s the difference between Willie Mays and Stephen Malkmus?
Willie Mays was the greatest center fielder of all time, and Stephen Malkmus fucks little boys.

What’s the difference between Sub Pop and the Titanic?
At least the Titanic had a decent band when it was going under.
(or, at least the Titanic had a band that would stay together.)

What steals from The Make*Up just like the Refused stole from Nation of Ulysses?
International Noise Conspiracy

What looks like an extra from Welcome Back, Kotter and plays drums like your mother?
The drummer from the Strokes.

What has just gotten out of puberty and has better chops than Tortoise?
Any suburban high school jazz band.

What is the only thing that does more photo shoots than Neko Case?
A backdrop at Olan Mills.

What has sixteen legs, is covered in hair spray and sounds half as good as Spacemen 3?

The Warlocks.

What’s one phrase you’ll never hear in a record store?
“Hey, have you heard the new Agenda record?”

What do The Ex and Cheeseballs have in common?
They’re both smelly and Dutch.

What hangs out with Catholics and expands in waist inversely proportional to hair growth?
Frank Black.

What got dropped just like pins in P.E. juggling class?
95% of indie bands that signed to major labels in ‘96.

How do you stop the spread of AIDS?
Get it signed to Velocette.

What has horn-rimmed glasses and knows less about music than a human vegetable hooked up on life support?
An (insert local record store here) employee.

The Sultans / The Explosion
Middle East Upstairs
Cambridge
19 January 02

The most pleasant surprise of the Burma reunion shows was running into John, Andy and the rest of The Sultans who were not only there for the same reason as Ballard and me (with considerably more frequent flyer miles than we accrued) but were also able to combine a one-off performance on that Sunday. Regrettably, their show was booked before the two Paradise shows were added leaving them to dread going up against, of all bands, Mission of Burma. Oh, the pressure. Ballard and I left the second show at the Paradise a bit early in order to see The Sultans and although Ballard spent the majority of time at the Middle East drinking, we were both witness to a helluva great racket. After having to take the stage after the entire a-side to some Stevie Ray Vaughn record, John started the show off with a collective crowd hug and then crooned over 15 or so songs while not lugging a guitar on stage. What an unusual sight. All that being considered, they were quite tremendous. John’s been on quite a roll as of recent (don’t even get me started on the goddamned brilliant Hot Snakes show in Atlanta this summer!) so it was definitely maintaining a high degree of quality control.

Moe Tucker / Vic Chesnutt / Jonathan Richman
40 Watt
Athens
14 February 02

Yet another prime example showing how the night can get progressively dire when things start off with such a pronounced bang. Moe Tucker took the night off from the WalMart to show how her talent hasn’t diminished in the slightest since before I was even born in a manner that would make Bo Diddley’s heart flutter. The tapering of quality started early with Vic, but not in a disparaging reflection towards him. I just get this uneasy feeling that he’s either bored or depressed or both which leaves me feeling the same way. Mr. Richman on the other hand was just downright dull. His ‘routine’, which I’ve not seen fluctuate in the ten years I’ve seen him (coincidentally all shows have been at the 40 Watt) was as consistently flat and dry as I’ve come to expect. And not even a derivation off course on Valentine’s Day? Bummer.

And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead
Cotton Club
Atlanta
5 March 02

When I originally wrote this review, I went into great detail about how I was escorted out of the show by club security while I was talking to TOD’s drummer, but I don’t have the energy to go into it any more. I had a particularly witty discourse about how the band sports Locust Hair™ and performed every song like it was the end of a particularly good Who song. I also delved into how an incidental miscommunication was blown way out of proportion between myself and the venue’s manager, but given the fact that it happened over eight months ago, I could give a shit. Just let it be known that I was a) sober, b) attending the show at the request of the label and c) sent a clear signal that I should never come back to the venue. Will I go again? Oh, you bet.

Clinic
Echo Lounge
Atlanta
13 March 02
After what had amounted to about three years of solid anticipation to see Liverpool’s current top-drawer varsity player, I was not even slightly disappointed. The turnout (at least to me) was rather shocking, but not entirely unwelcome, considering that this was a) their first appearance in the South and b) not exactly the most buzz-worthy band in the new arrivals bin. But well, so much for that. Packed, packed. The opening bands were mediocre, but what do you expect? Clinic had zero interaction with the crowd and a stage presence that can best be described as cold. Judging from their clinical (pun!) approach to their set, I bet their song list for the tour (including the requisite encore) didn’t fluctuate at all. All that notwithstanding though, there was a distinct feeling that this was what it must’ve been like to see The Pixies in ‘87 or the Happy Mondays in ‘89 in an age before the rest of the world caught on. Regardless, a uniquely cherished and rare evening, for sure.

Acid Mothers Temple / Major Stars
Eyedrum
Atlanta
18 March 02

Two really peculiar things happened during this show that should be noted. First off, Major Stars (the underdogs) unquestionably blew Acid Mothers Temple (the flavor of the week) off the stage. Denser, looser and featuring two of the most complimentary guitar voices in modern rock – Wayne Rogers and Kate Biggar. It’s not that I wasn’t entirely enraptured by AMT, but Major Stars won by half a length judging by my estimation. Secondly, and of much more significance, there was a spontaneous fireworks display (not from Turner Field, but rather the West End, ironically enough) that went off during AMT’s set. Japan’s greatest rock export of the moment remains the King Brothers.

Sonic Youth / Erase Errata
Athens
40 Watt
6 August 02

In the last couple of years, I’ve been fortunate enough to see some truly historic shows (Cheap Trick, Iggy Pop) at the 40 Watt which have made me sentimental over my first couple of shows (Nirvana, My Bloody Valentine) that I saw when I moved to Athens in 1991. I had been anxiously anticipating this show for no other reason than hoping that since Da Yoof were playing in a shoebox of a venue (for them at least) that they’d let loose a bit more than I had seen them fail to do the past four or five times I’ve seen them. Maybe I was just too anxiously anticipating seeing a ‘return to form’ (if you will) instead of what was little more than a warming over of their material. Nothing that could be categorized as either ‘fierce’ or even ‘unhinged’ but at the end of the day, I still think it takes a particular brand of modern-day fossil to keep it up for as long as they have, so a mild round of golf applause is in order. ° As the case has been for the past 10 years, Sonic Youth’s choice of openers have far exceeded their own ability to soar into the nether-regions that I equated with them when my SY cherry was popped back in the late 80’s. Erase Errata — who earlier in the year played a kitchen in my neighborhood — won the award for the best attraction of the nite. Very spazzy and herky-jerky which I’ve been told seems to be all the rage this year with the kids.

Andrew WK
40 Watt
Athens
10 September 02

About two years ago, I DJ’ed every Monday night at a club here in town and tried to keep the resident scenester alcoholics happy by playing a non-offensive mixture of old school butt rock combined with bland proto-math rock and a few oddities thrown in to stave off my boredom around three in the morning. Every once in a while when I had a wild hair up my ass, I’d unleash Andrew WK’s first EP (Girl’s Own Juice), and without fail, I’d get at least two of the jaded throng coming up asking who it was. Without fail. That meant one thing, and one thing only — his next record was bound to be a bona-fide crossover smash. Upon his major label debut, it was striking to see how the underground failed to embrace Andrew, and instead entirely turned their back on him for no other reason than it was supposedly ‘mainstream.’ Never made a lick of sense to me. But hey, to think that a hipster can actually govern his or her own taste is almost too much to ask for, now isn’t it? ° Other than the rather clusterfucked show at OzzFest earlier in the summer, this was the first legit chance to see Andrew in what could very well be the hardest room to win over irony-laden townies. Although I was truly expecting to witness a lot of tongues planted firmly in cheek with the audience, it became evident quite early on that the crowd and the band were going to be getting along just fine. Swimmingly, even. ° The show was punctuated by a number of things that I don’t often see at even the most ‘rock’ of shows: Cheek-splitting smiles, clenched fists, sweat-soaked bear hugs, and an audience that frequently outnumbered the band on stage. Coming from somebody that’s seen the most extreme of hardcore shows in the 80’s and the overtly-genteel nature of shows in the 90’s, this show was more a re-affirmation of rock and a celebration of life than a by-the-books gig. Audience members were encouraged to get on stage during the entire show and would often hoist Andrew onto their shoulders or sing songs with their arms warmly wrapped around him. The more violent of shows I’ve been to in all my years of seeing shows, I can honestly say I’d never seen anything like it in my entire life. Those who tow the jaded party line and hate him can eat a dick. For me, I can’t wait to see him again in all his stripped-down, genuinely-enthusiastic glory.

Saharahotnights / The Mooney Suzuki
Salt Lake City
Liquid Joe’s
2 October 02

For as grueling as a trip from Minneapolis to Los Angeles can be, Brian and I sure saw an awful lot of shows in those four days. At the end of our third day of driving which ended in Utah, we happened to run into Seth Losier who’s been the Suzuki’s merch stooge for a year or so after a great run with Man or Astroman? and a shitty run with Smog. But I digress. The venue where The Mooney Suzuki was playing was decent enough and we arrived just in time for what I thought was going to be another ‘smashingly underwhelming’ Jetset Records band, Saharahotnights. Although I was preparing to hate them at the offset, in all candor, they were clearly more rock than I was anticipating. Oh sure, the second you see four girls on stage The Runaways come to mind, but hell, they’re from Sweden and we all know that anything from there is BOUND to be at least a mediocre clone of something in the States. But my misconceptions aside, they had the moves and the (forgive the word) chops that weren’t entirely anticipated. The deal breaker for me with all-female bands is the drummer and if they’re any worse than say the girl from The Donnas, I usually write them off, but hell, she pounded the skins really fucking hard. So hard, in fact, that for the last 20 or so minutes of their set, her skills actually impressed me. For a pig like myself, that’s a good sign. ° Of an entirely less favorable sign were the Mooney Suzuki and their shamleless, if not entirely unimaginative, aping of about ten different recent 60’s-garage/70’s AOR revivalist artists (check more recent portions of the Estrus, Gearhead and In The Red catalogs for reference to marginally more respectable clones) with tasteless results. Okay, so holy shit, here’s a big pet peeve amplified ten trillion times. Now, a ‘lead’ guy is more than welcome to wear eyeglasses on stage, but where anybody other than the Velvets got off starting the sunglass schtick is well beyond me, and the one fella in the Mooney Suzuki was wearing Ray Ban’s which was only mitigated by the glaring fact that he was using Croakies to keep them on! Sure, try to pass yourself off as too cool for school, but have the precautionary foresight of a lifeguard? Please. Unrelenting heckles of “Croakies!” between songs did nothing but make his droll in-between song patter get more abbreviated as their set progressed. I have a great idea, how about we give those faggy Croakies a well deserved rest and staple those sunglasses on, and keep that shit on real snug, rockstar?

10.  Burly Bear is developing a “Welcome Back, Henry” series for him.
9.  He’s now big enough to be distributed by Touch & Go.
8.  In spite of popular consensus, being thin sucked.
7.  In response to his weight gain, Urban Outfitters sales staff begin asking customers if they’d like to “Supersize” their purchases.
6.  A large man is much harder to pin down and teabag.
5.  Spin announces a “new movement” every time Henry enters the john.
4.  Pere Ubu’s David Thomas confides in an interview with Magnet that “Henry is the only one who understands me.” While Thomas is much-loved by all, Owings reluctantly admits that nobody understands a word the man says.
3.  Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board Alan Greenspan took one look at the rotund young publisher from the normally ignored underground and declared that the economy was clearly on the rebound. Analysts from MIT to 60 Minutes declare the new millennium the era of the indie and once again shine the heat lamp on the underground, only this time, we remember what happened last time and no one signs a deal with a major (except the Fastbacks who receive an unprecedented non-recoupable advance). With more publicity coming in than any advance from a pathetic tech start-up, Matador opens its first retail location in Times Square, Canadian Neko Case sings the “Star Spangled Banner” at the World Series, NBC debuts its first twelve episodes of a new Saturday morning cartoon “Team Emo,” meatheads and front-wipers across the country stop exercising and sunbathing in order to pick-up the “Bill Callahan” look, New Wave girls finally break-up with Punk Rock guys, an unprecedented level of modesty overtakes contemporary hip-hop, GSL buys EMI, Absolutely Kosher signs Al Green and the USPS issues a stamp featuring the mug of big, fat Henry Owings.
2.  So he can watch this writer eat awkward crow for ever writing the Top 10 Reasons Henry Owings Will Miss Being Fat after he’d already gotten fat again.
1.  The ladies love a man of girth.

They Thought He’d Be Bigger…

It probably skittered along these lines:
ME: “Hey Henry, can I do a movie review section again?”
HENRY: “Of course, Andy.”
ME: “Ok, well, I only want to write about one movie. You should call the section “Movie Reviews,” but I only want to cover one movie. That will be semi-funny, maybe, which is good, ‘cuz I don’t think any other part of this section is going to be very funny.”
HENRY: “What movie?”
ME: “Road House. But wait, before you say anything, check out these selling points…”
Thus began my explanation as to why I should be granted a treatise on director Rowdy Herrington’s 1989 action crack-up, Road House.

Like most cinematic themes, the “Pensive New Ass-Kicker In Town With A Secret Past” genre was tattered territory by the late 80’s. So what is a loony director (the man’s name is “Rowdy”) to do in order to keep things fresh? Well, none other than confuse the living shit out of the audience! Road House has everything you need! Here are just a handful of the things that this sloppy-ass script attempts to string together:

Monster Trucks
One of Ben Gazarra’s (“Brad Wesley” – head villain, see below) henchmen owns a member of the Bigfoot fleet as a daily driver. Watch and giggle as he, in several scenes, pulls into parking lots and casually hops out of the novelty vehicle and into various ass-whomping scenarios.

Kelly Lynch
One leading lady that makes me shiver. Ewww…….

“Cooler” & Popularization Of Said Term
A “cooler” is the head bouncer. I have no idea whether this word was/is used in tough-and-rough shitholes around the country, but wouldn’t life be so much more fun if it was fabricated for the purpose of this film?

“Dalton” and his attributes
The ‘Swayze’s character. This “cooler” has it all: the bod, the brains, the mentor (see below), the wordless nature, the checkered past that he is running from, the degree in philosophy from NYU (see below), and the folk-hero reputation that has permeated many state lines. Related or not, the character owns the distinction of possessing a baby name very popular with spurned single mothers, as in “Dalton won’t stop cryin’, even when I gave him his favorite for lunch…Andy Capp’s Hot Fries floatin’ in chocolate milk.”

“Wade Garrett,” the mentor
And the mentor void is filled!! This slurring, limping legend character is phoned in nicely by Sam Elliot, version: Wiry Bear Fantasy. Like the ‘Swayze, Elliot is a master of unintentionally (?) homoerotic leading roles. The proof is a big bushy mustache away: Lifeguard (1976), Shakedown, AKA Blue Jean Cop (1988), and a bare-ass scene in the forgotten horror footnote, The Legacy (1979). There exists a book called Shirtless! The Hollywood Male Physique, and within this tome, Sam is regarded as a “super bod,” thus deserving in his full-page spread from Lifeguard.
Like most mentors, Wade is killed by the baddies in order to fuel the good-guy rage needed to justify the film’s finale.

“Brad Wesley,” the evil real-estate kingpin
Ben Gazzara, the one cast member you’d expect to totally sleepwalk through his obligations, belies his credible stature and pulls some scene-chewing greatness out of that bitter ass. Usually a brilliant performer, Gazzara doesn’t let us down, and a lot of the lines seem improvised. I can almost envision Gazzara telling director Rowdy Herrington, “These are my fucking lines. Deal with it, Rowdy.”
Brad Wesley exerts his power over the community when a lull in the screenplay pops up. When a local business neglects to pay extortion fees, they fall under the wrath of Brad and his posse of henchmen. For example, when Jasper’s Ford dealer (played by stuntman Jon Paul Jones) gets uppity (we never see how or why; the movie abruptly cuts to this scene), he has his stock squashed by the above-mentioned Bigfoot monster truck. The viewer once again finds him or herself in the common position of asking, “Where are the cops?”

Dalton’s Educational Background
Graduated from NYU with a degree in philosophy. When asked by soon-to-be love interest Kelly Lynch to elaborate on his degree, Dalton replies, “You know, just searching for the meaning of life, you know, shit like that.”

The Film’s Homoerotic Overtones
Aside from a large part of the male cast informing Dalton that they “thought he’d be bigger,” Road House also doles out lengthy scenes of shirtless Tai Chi practice, male-fighting, extended eye-to-eye contact between male cast members, and general male comradeship that virtually snuffs out any and all major female dialogue, roles, or character development.

The Jeff Healey Band
House band at the Double Deuce. He’s blind, so he must be good. Jeff Healey is awarded quite a few non-performance scenes with a number of lines, and much like his ability to, say, drive a car… Of course, his character “Cody” is somehow acquainted with Dalton from “way back.”

I am constantly astounded by what passes for cool in the ironic indie sandbox in which we play. Every year, some emerging, faddish rock subculture generates renewed interest in another set of ghastly, washed-up groups from decades past. Never did I think I’d overhear some Terrastock casualty espousing the virtues of Hot Tuna and Moby Grape bootlegs. Or watch an idiot stoner-dude comb eBay for Uriah Heep and Budgie albums. Or punch out a post-rocking Trans Am fanboy for trying to convince me of the merits of Ultravox and Dokken. Or endure the complete Walker Brothers catalog while brutally skullfucking a trio of malnourished, lollipop-licking Belle and Sebastian chicks. (Their androgynous boyfriends are away “on holiday” in the U.K., shopping for Momus imports and daydreaming of being sodomized by Nick Drake’s corpse.) Christ, even emocore has made a comeback! Spare me.
In 2002, all of the aforementioned performers still suck. And they will always suck, no matter how many times they fall in and out of fashion. Miraculously, we are living in an age when ABBA, Wings, Van Halen, Zapp, Gary Numan, OMD and the Carpenters are all respected names again—even considered goddamn classics in certain circles! But never fear, my misanthropic friend, the untouchable bands and solo artists listed below will never fetch collector prices at the local snippy record boutique. Today’s brightest stars will not drop their names as influences. Odious critics will not “rediscover” their “lost classics” from the cutout bins. Their songs will continue to spell nothing but disgust, bewilderment and misfortune for you and your precious peer group.
True iconoclasts must now embrace, worship and emulate the following 118 wretched relics, no matter how horrible their music may be. Open wide, hipster, and remember, shit smells rank no matter how much of it your friends enjoy eating.

Giuffrea
GTR
SWA
The Jets
Glass Tiger
Pond
Starship
Sheriff
Device
Goldfinger
DeBarge
Blodwyn Pig
Eddie Money
Ritual Tension
Gene Loves Jezebel
Always August
Collective Soul
Lone Justice
K7
Transvision Vamp
Flesh for Lulu
Shalamar
Mama’s Pride
Ugly Kid Joe
Brand X
Jackyl
Nudeswirl
Moxy
McRad
Ambrosia
Vanilla Trainwreck
Bogshed
Little Caesar
The Toadies
Pig Bros
Dayglo Abortions
Roachford
Chokebore
Get Smart!
Al B. Sure!
Elvin Bishop
BoDeans
Killer Dwarfs
Blues Image
Arzachel
Hipsway
Point Blank
Blues Magoos
Wishbone Ash
Webb Wilder
Naked Eyes
Robbie Neville
Pablo Cruise
Starcastle
Mr. Mister
PMS
L’Trimm
Charlie
Jermaine Stewart
Tonio K
Tora Tora
Great White
Curved Air
Exile
Jobriath
Keith
Lindisfarne
Klaatu
Civ
Mr. Big
Winter Hours
Musical Youth
Nelson
Kathy Mattea
Wet Wet Wet
Bang Tango
MC 900 Ft. Jesus
The Christians
Blood Circus
Loose Ends
Stikky
Shai
Nektar
Level 42
Eddie Rabbit
Johnny Hates Jazz
The Woodentops
The Blue Nile
Kixx
Tangier
U.K.
Gut Bank
Shirts
Spoiler
Camel
Stinky Toys
Stigmata A Go Go
Phillip Michael Thomas
Ready for the World
Melissa Manchester
Asleep at the Wheel
Disneyland After Dark
An Emotional Fish
Life, Sex, and Death
The Brooklyn Bridge
Boris Grebenshikov
Green Jello/Green Jelly
Urban Dance Squad
Jason and the Scorchers
Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler
Freaky Fuckin’ Weirdos
Green Apple Quickstep
The Marshall Tucker Band
Fearless Iranians from Hell
World Domination Enterprises
The Jump in the Saddle Band
My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult
John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band

25 SUGGESTED NAMES FOR BANDS IN SEARCH OF ONE, ALL BEING ACTUAL SLUG LINES FOR STORIES ON THE ASSOCIATED PRESS WIRE.

Airport Gridlock
Asia Haze
Atlanta Probe
Auction House Suits
Baby Product War
Bajak Appointment
Brain Growth
Bush*
Cops Under Fire
Court Crisis
Cyber Pagans
Czech Movies
Exit Poll
Female Bishop
Flu Season
Football Melee
Gas Tax
Gay Benefits
Hacker Arrest
Highway Pileup
Hip Hop Exhibit
Homeless Smugglers
Horses Shot
Independent Counsel
Internet Crime
Latin Quarter
Midwest Wine
Military Gays
Millennium Sunrise
Minimum Wage
Money Chase
Mozambique
Music Band
Olympic Drugs
Planes Collide
Prison Guards
Rejected Sitcom
Rocket Tahiti
Seattle Shooting
Selma
Sharpton Protest
Smart Pumps
Soybean Harvest
Talk Show Politics
Texas Drought
The World, Briefly
Tire Deaths
Too Many Crops
Video Caesar
Women Work

*We might be wrong, but this name might already be in use.

We asked the premier front man of the 1990’s — namely one David Lambeth Yow from the woefully missed band The Jesus Lizard — to dust off his hope chest of comedy that he routinely unleased the unsuspected during the tuning portions of their performances. More is forthcoming. David just needs to sober up. A bit.

yow
Yow and my hat. 1990, I think.

1. Early in the morning one of the penguins got up and went into town to visit the local Ace Hardware. There he bought a variety of colored electrical tape. Red, blue, green, yellow, black, orange and white. After thanking the helpful man, he headed back home and fashioned a mask out of the tape which looked exactly like the town faggot. A few hours later, while wearing the mask he had made, he went back into town and ass raped all the young boys who lived there. Later that evening when the beautiful news reporter asked him why he had done such a thing, he said, “I never had the tape before.”

2. I’ve decided to stop eating shit cause it really makes my vomit stink.

3. I woke up this morning with a booger so big I had to eat it with a knife and fork.

4. Q: What two Chicago streets rhyme with vagina?  A: Paulina and Lunt.