Man, some people REALLY can’t take a joke and this issue was the first to prove that point conclusively. Some of our best interviews…. A smart, thought-out discussion with our buddy Will Hart from the Olivia Tremor Control. An interview I had always wanted to read with John Reis (Rocket From The Crypt/Drive Like Jehu/Hot Snakes) so I just went and did it myself. David Cross sat and talked with us way before every magazine blew coke up his butthole. But then again, the big cornerstone of the issue is an exhaustive listing of the biggest assholes in rock. Do we regret it? Of course not.
As much as I continue to hear people aimlessly bitch about what kind of an asshole Steve Albini is, mostly by people who have never met the guy let alone had any meaningful interaction with him, I can honestly say that in all of my various dealings with Steve which have spanned almost 10 years now, I’ve rarely met someone that is as generous, humorous and honest as he’s been to me.
Although this interview was conducted in less than ideal circumstances (after a rock show, outside a food hall in Princeton, New Jersey while he was busy ordering, paying, momentarily sitting in, then subsequently eating pizzas), his demeanor towards me – as I have come to expect from him – was forthright and candid. As with many people that were nominated to the top 100 assholes (none of whom I personally nominated, for the record), I have had nothing but positive experiences with them. And therein lies the joke behind the entire idea which I know more than a few dimwits will be able to comprehend. Not that it shocks me in the least.
Be that as it may, I was supposed to follow up this interview the following week (after he was to finish a session with Wire, if you can believe it), but I felt that I was able to get to the heart of this discussion quickly and a follow-up would just muddy things up. So before you read this interview, let it be known that no one at Chunklet regards Steve Albini as an asshole, but as is often the case with somebody in his situation, possibly misunderstood. However, as you’ll read, it’s rather apparent how Steve feels about that.
I’m not sure what you possibly heard, but the new issue of Chunklet has the 100 biggest assholes of rock…
I’ve heard that much…
Are you at all surprised to hear that you made the list?
I wouldn’t be surprised if the list was drawn up by someone with no direct experience with me. But I’ve always sort of prided myself on being square and regular with people, and I feel like the asshole jacket should be worn by people who are sort of unnecessarily mean to other people or people who are, in one manner or the other, unfair. I don’t think I qualify, but I’d have to say that it’s stretching things to say that I give a shit whether I’m called an asshole or not. I totally disagree.
Why do you think people would get this impression?
Because in any conversation about anything or anyone, there’s someone that feels left out, and he wants to join the conversation, so he will repeat some nonsense or he will make something up in order to be part of the conversation. Those reiterated things eventually develop a weight of their own, a creditability through repetition. And all the thousand unnameable sorts of normal, decent interactions that people have with each other are unremarkable so nobody remarks about them. Nobody makes any mention of them. But, the few awkward moments in somebody’s life, if those are the only things that anyone has to add to a conversation, become magnified because they are the only points of interest. It’s of no interest to say that someone is a regular person. It’s interesting if you can invent or repeat an anecdote that shows them in some unfavorable way.
Do you ever feel like you push people’s buttons?
Nope. Not intentionally. I just feel like people set themselves up in a very broad manner. People will step out on a limb in a way that makes them look foolish, but most of the time it goes unsaid. If someone ever acknowledges the obvious, it makes everyone uncomfortable, and I just don’t have the time to separate observations that are gentile and observations that are sort of… I’m not articulating it particularly well, but I feel like straight talk is valuable in itself, and sometimes straight talk is unflattering. I very seldom try to needle anybody, and if I do needle somebody, I usually feel like it’s for cause, like there’s a reason to needle somebody.
Do you ever think that you leave yourself open for criticism that could, in turn, be misleading?
Whatever. It’s not my concern. If other people want to spend their time and energy talking about me then God bless ’em.
Compared to when you used to write for Forced Exposure back in the ’80s, do you see the underground music scene having less of a sense of humor than it did back then?
On all fronts I see people are inching towards careerisms in everything. That makes bands more sensitive about their image, and makes writers more circumspect about what they say. Fewer and fewer people are doing things in a carefree manner; fewer and fewer people are doing things purely for fan-enthusiasm. Like a fanzine now is just a magazine in training. And propriety is given far, far too much consideration. People are now concerned about how they are perceived by others far more than they used to be. Part of being in a band used to be that you were self-defining, and now it seems like there’s much more emphasis on being part of an economic base and part of a scene or a movement or whatever. That makes people sensitive to what other people have to say about them. People see this as sort of a career path and want to maintain a profile within that community. There are fucking punk rock publicists now. People whose job it is to call fanzines and magazines and badger them into writing articles about bands. And not bands that they think are good, but bands that have paid them money. It’s an absurdity. It’s just a different color of normal music business, and the normal music business is what drove people like me out, and into an underground culture where that would be considered ridiculous, and now they are not considered ridiculous. People expect to have professional publicity agents work on their behalf, and writers expect to be contacted by these people. They want to stay on their good graces so that they keep getting free stuff and that they keep getting access to people.
But you definitely feel like people have lost their sense of humor?
Well, not everybody. There’s still high points and low points. It just seems like anyone I knew that was in a band in the late 70’s and in the 80’s, none of them took themselves terribly seriously. They didn’t mind being made fun of, and they appreciated when other people were light hearted about the whole thing. Humor was a really big part of almost everything. Obviously, there are still people who are inspirational in that regard, but it just seems like the whole point of the underground music scene was not to do business the way the mainstream music business did, but to make it irrelevant. And bit by bit it’s becoming like a bush-league version of the mainstream music business with magazines and publicists and booking agents and lawyers and managers. It’s a load of crap. There’s no advantage to working with people who are going to behave like normal industry scum when the only supposed advantage they can offer you is that they’re inexperienced. I’m opposed to this careerist attitude. I’m totally opposed to it. I think that it’s detrimental to everything. Makes everybody be concerned with the profit motive. Makes everybody be concerned about the bottom line. Makes everybody be concerned about longevity. Fewer things are done for their own sake. Fewer things are done for the moment.
So you’ve never been on CMJ panels or anything like that?
The very first New Music Seminar asked me, Corey Rusk [owner of Touch & Go Records], Rick Rubin [owner of Def American Recordings] and somebody else to be on a panel. The panel was like “Young People’s Perspective” or something like that. We were the youngest people that anyone knew who were doing things seriously.
And when was this?
Must have been like ’84, ’83, whenever the very first New Music Seminar was. Then there was another, it might have been the CMJ, the following year that I was invited to. I was on a panel with that, but this one was weird. I was on a panel with Bob Mould, Phranc the lesbian folk singer, and I believe Dwight Yokam. Oh, and Lydia Lunch and the Beastie Boys. That was a very strange panel, and it was a similar sort of thing. Young people, or outsider perspectives, or something like that. I really didn’t have a conception as to what a trade show would be like, but that’s what they were. Both of those things creeped me out, and I haven’t participated in any of them since. I was asked to speak at South by Southwest last year. There’s this guy named Fred Armistan in Chicago who does these sort of guerrilla video pieces where he turns up at things and crashes them. I really wanted to send Fred as me to this thing. I thought it would be really funny and then I started to think, well, wait a minute. If their going to send me a plane ticket and all that sort of stuff, they’re spending money and that constitutes fraud. I didn’t want to get Fred in trouble more than anything else, and I talked it over with Fred and he sort of agreed that it wouldn’t be worth risking it. That would have been funny.
So you’re anti-industry?
It depends on how you are using that word. If you mean industry as in the noun form of industrious, then no. I admire people who are industrious. What I’m opposed to is weighing commercial considerations in the balance of what should be an aesthetic enterprise, or a creative enterprise. It just seems that if what you really want to do is this, but you’re not doing that because of some commercial consideration, then you are not being legitimate to the artistic impulse. You’re not being legitimate to the creative impulse. I think that’s weak. I can’t really think of any other way to describe it. Compromising for the sake of commercial concerns, I think is just fundamentally wrong.
Okay, I’m going to try and follow up this interview later this week. I just wanted to get your initial response to the whole asshole thing.
The short version is that I could care less. You know, people are going to call me names. When I was in grade school, people called me “Bino” because that was the rudest thing they could come up with out of Albini. “Bino.” Whatever. That didn’t affect me, and being called an asshole by a bunch of internet geeks or whatever doesn’t bother me in the slightest.
Do you ever feel that you’re upbringing when you were made fun of, do you ever feel that smart-assedness, the sort of sharp tongue might have been your defense mechanism because you couldn’t fight back?
No, I remember pretty distinctly the moment that what anyone else thought about me meant nothing. I remember quite distinctly when I was 10 or 12 years old, I remember it used to really bother me that other people didn’t, that there would be people at school who disliked me, or thought that I was a weirdo. I felt like that belittled me somehow, that people wouldn’t like me and I remember it dawned on me one day that it didn’t matter, that it meant nothing. If someone else’s opinion of me would only affect my life to the extent that I allowed it to. Like if I allowed that to change my behavior, then they would be affecting my life. They would win in a sense. If I chose not to care, then they would have no affect on me, and I mean, literally, no effect. That realization was a really powerful one, and from that moment on, I really genuinely did not give a shit, do not give a shit what people think of me. There are people that I admire and respect and it’s always flattering when those people appreciate what you do. There are people that I think know me intimately and have a pretty good read on me as a person, and if those people feel or have a perspective on something that I’ve done or I’ve said, then I might listen to that perspective because it’s not an ignorant one. It’s someone that I feel knows me intimately and has purpose to make that sort of a comment, but kibitzing from the great unwashed as it were, I could care less.
No Head Shots
David Cross is a name that might not be entirely familiar to much of mainstream America, but his impact on stage and television has been – and for at least a while will continue to be – profound.
As co-creator of the HBO series Mr. Show, David’s modest beginnings were here in Georgia. Not coincidentally, he’s one of those characters that I’ve seen out at clubs infrequently when he’s in town visiting family. Back in March, I ran into David at the Star Bar when he was in town scouting locations for the upcoming movie that he’s written with Mr. Show associate Bob Odenkirk. Shockingly enough, he was familiar with Chunklet, and agreed to do an interview later that week. After a rally of phone tag, we met at the Carroll Street Bakery in Cabbagetown late one afternoon. David was massively hung over (as you’ll gather), and was going on five hours of sleep. As an aside, I feel that this interview might not go down on record as one of David’s best. That notwithstanding, I was able to get some information that you won’t see in any boring Entertainment Weekly article.
Tell me a little bit about your background. You’re from Atlanta?
I was born here, I moved six months later. Lived three places in Florida, two places in Connecticut, and three places in New York and then moved back her shortly before my tenth birthday, and lived here till I was 19.
Were your parents in the carnival?
No my dad just got fired a lot. But yeah, lived in Roswell for 9 1/2 years. Then I moved up to Boston to go to school, dropped out quickly, stayed in Boston, made a lot of friends, and started doing stand-up again, which I had been doing here in high school at the Punchline and the Comedy Spot. My first paid gig ever was at a place called The Nightery over on Ponce de Leon, which was a weird gay, transvestite bar.
Oh, and it was like punk-rockish too. I remember hearing about Ignition playing a show over there.
Yeah, that was my first paid gig ever. I had to lie about my age because I was underage. Got back into stand up in Boston and, like I said, made a lot of friends who were supportive. With the creative community, it was a very good time to be there. Then I moved out to LA in ’93, and I’ve been there ever since.
So what kind of kid were you growing up?
I was annoyingly sensitive. A very sensitive, intelligent kid who was very angry. Still to this day I feel I know that I placed too much importance by being accepted by groups of people, like the cool kids, and that’s kind of depressing that I still feel like that. I still place value in other people’s acceptance of liking of me, even though I have contempt at the same time for that kind of attitude. It’s very hypocritical. But were you a popular kid? And when I say kid, I mean high school. It seems like everything changes once you get to high school. I was not that popular. Also, I was kind of a freak. When I moved back here, I was in Roswell in the 70’s. I was a Yankee Jew, so I might have been from an Italian carnival. I was a freak. I was really different. Strange. I cussed a lot, and people didn’t really swear a lot. There were some freaky rednecky kids that I couldn’t relate to, and that were really strange to me and that were guys named Scooter, Travis who then kicked the shit out of me a lot. I was a good student in New York, and I when I moved down here I started getting D’s and F’s. I just had battles with the teachers constantly. What was encouraged or considered precocious or curious when I moved here was discouraged and disciplined. Yeah, I got kicked out a lot. It was pretty fucked up. And a lot of anti-Semitism too. It was strange to deal with.
Were you still pretty much the same when you went into high school?
Well, I went to two high schools. One was Crestfield in Roswell. I went there. And then we moved in closer to the city so that we could go to the school of the arts. That school kind of saved my life. It turned me around and gave me a place, it gave me like-minded people to hang out with. I didn’t have to take gym or P.E. anymore because it was a school of the arts, so you’d concentrate on painting or theatre, or whatever you were in. It was great. It totally made all the difference. Friends that I made in that school, I still have today. That really took me out of this all-white Baptist suburban upper middle class way of thinking. I was in the city, and culturally there was a lot more going on, and I got to learn about plays and how to act.
So your parents were very supportive of this?
Well, my dad split when I was a kid. Before I was 10. I haven’t talked to him since I was 18. He’s a fucking prick. He’s just a fucking douche bag. My mom was very supportive. We moved into the city so that we could go to this school. She knew that it was really important to us. And we were all pretty miserable kids. We were really poor, extremely poor with years of welfare and Medicare, and being assigned doctors that didn’t give a shit about you. And when you’re a kid, you sense it. You sense that something’s wrong.
And how old are you?
Were there any comedians that you appreciated growing up?
Oh yeah, very much. My mom turned me onto Lenny Bruce. And then Andy Kaufman quickly became a big hero and they were the two big ones. Then when I got to Boston, my peers were very encouraging and everybody felt kind of obligated to push the limits, challenge themselves comedically. You know, people like Janeanne Garofalo, and Louis C. K., and Mark Marron. Just a bunch of people that would all perform in front of each other. And you know, these people have all seen you do the same shit, so you have to be funny. Those guys were probably the biggest influence on me comedically.
And they were all going to MIT or something?
No, I don’t think anyone was going to college. I think Mark Marron went to BU, and Jeanne quit Providence College.
Where did you go?
Emerson, which had a lot people at it too. I met Laura Kightlinger there. For some reason it’s a college that a lot of comedians come out of. Very strange. But I dropped out of there pretty quickly, after failing and getting incompletes, and being so far behind.
Was Emerson a liberal arts school?
Yeah, like mass communications, liberal arts. It’s also the only place I got accepted, and then I fucked around at graduation and didn’t get my transcripts, but I was already accepted at Emerson so I just went there. I was thinking of going to NYU or trying to get into there, but my high school wouldn’t release my transcripts until I did community service. I wanted to get out of Atlanta as soon as I could. I was desperate to get out of Atlanta. I wanted to go to UGA because that’s where all my friends were going, and I didn’t get accepted there either.
(sarcastically) Wow, that must have been back when the bar was set pretty high.
(laughs) Yeah, well, Herschel Walker took my spot.
Did you ever see the Mr. Show episode with the Moe Phelps character who’s a guidance counselor? Bob plays him, and says “What are you going to be acting for? All that is is jumping up and down on stage and yelling and screaming.” That is a quote from the dean of admissions at UGA, because I made an appointment and went up to go talk to him, and I said “Hey man, I don’t get it. My SAT scores are good enough and my GPA is good, why did you turn me down?” And then he asked me what I wanted to major in, and I said theatre and that quote was from him. To this day I really remember it. That was his name, Moe Phelps, and that got on the show because that’s a story that goes – You’ve got to be shitting me? The Dean of Admissions said that to you? That’s a man whose sole job – his job description – is screening people to admit them into a large state university, and he actually said to an applicant that basically my intended major was a bunch of crap.
That’s great. He chose the right profession.
That’s a good one.
So what were you listening to back then?
Well, in 10th grade, I got turned onto punk and new wave. And that made a huge difference, too. I worked at Tower Place MovieTheatres, and this guy was older, and I was 15 or 16. And this guy used to listen to this stuff and he made me a compilation tape and it had Dead Kennedys, and all kinds of shit, X, and he gave me this tape, and I was like “this is great.” And I went from listening to prog rock, ELP, shit like that, to punk, new wave. And I had a friend who worked the door at 688 and I had a fake ID made, and I would just go to 688 or Bistro. I remember I had a real big crush on Vanessa from Pylon, and I used to see Pylon all the time. I was a really geeky 16-year-old kid. I’d bring a whistle….
To do the “M-Train” song?
Yeah, the “M-Train” song. Crap like that. Also there was this band called The Now Explosion, and I had a crush on one of the girls. That’s what I was listening to as I got older.
As a quick side note – I’ve been in 3 fan clubs my entire life: the Andy Griffith fanclub, the Henry Winkler fan club, and the Pylon fan club. I was a huge fan. So, anyway, if you were seeing Pylon, that was back in ’83?
No, this was like ’80 to ’83.
It’s kind of funny, I’m 4 years younger than you, but I distinctly remember going to punk shows and there was a legitimate sense of danger. Unlike now, where it’s very calculated. I can genuinely remember being terrified for my life when I saw Circle Jerks.
Yes, absolutely. Yeah, Dead Kennedys played 688 and it was really scary. There was a really strange vibe, and I was in the back by the bar because I was too freaked out to go up to the floor. I think a lot of it was unfounded, but yeah, there was a much more dangerous feeling. The only thing I can sort of relate it to is when I saw Tool in Tijuana a couple years ago. That was a really strange, mean, creepy vibe. I felt these guys in the pit really wanted to hurt people.
So you went to 688 and then you went up to Boston. Did you get into that scene? Like Volcano Suns and La Peste?
I was more into the power pop scene, like the Cavedogs, Scruffy the Cat…
I hated O-Positive. They were terrible. That was a little too pussy rock for me. Buffalo Tom, I really liked that kind of stuff. Just going to TT the Bears, or The Rat.
What about LA. Do you think there anything musically valid going on?
Yeah, I don’t think it’s as good, it’s not my particular tastes, but there are a lot of bands that are kind of mainstays there that are starting to become more popular – The Negro Problem, and Sissy Bar, and Beachwood Sparks, and Whiskey Biscuit. It’s also about the clique-est scene I’ve ever seen. I don’t know, maybe because I’m not really inside it and I just have less time now. I used to drink every night, and get up and do my shitty little messenger job that didn’t require me to be sober and just go see bands. I don’t really do that anymore now that I’m working for The Man. At least it seems like the comedy scene in LA is extremely lively. Oh it is. There’s a lot of really talented, funny people who are doing different things for comedy. Some people are more personal, more theatrical minded, and some people are throwbacks to the old dying idea of just writing really good jokes. But they’re fucking funny and smart and there are a lot of places to perform. It’s a really creative, supportive community. Just a lot of shit going on. Everybody utilizes each other… Yeah. It always seems like at one point or the other, everyone has the same sort of musical, I don’t know, ya’ll seem all listen to the same music… We all share the same CD. There’s only one CD that all of us have. And we just pass it around.
Who got it last?
I think Margaret Cho has it now. She’s going to be in town tonight, so I’ll grab it from her.
It seems like you aren’t very industry about everything. Would you describe it that way? It seems like everybody, although everybody’s projects are done on a corporate level, it seems like an underlying sort of…
What do you mean, everything’s done on a corporate level?
It’s like you’re doing shows on HBO, you’re dealing with the big bucks. But by the same token, you also seem to have…
Well, let me correct you. First of all, we’re not dealing with big bucks. The difference between doing something on paid cable and a network is as big a difference as not doing anything at all. It’s fast. It’s not the same thing by any stretch.
But who’s doing your movie?
Well that’s definitely the next level. New Line Cinema’s doing it, and we got our budget knocked back by $5 million, so we are actually going to have to rewrite it a bit. I found this out just about an hour and a half ago. We have to disappointingly rewrite it so that we can make it for less money.
Did you have to do the whole pitch thing?
Yeah, but it was easy. Bob and I walked into this guy’s office and told him the story. It took us a while to write the script, nine different versions, and then they bought the script, and said okay, make it for X amount of money and then we are just going to have to bust our ass to make it for a relatively small amount of money.
So not many characters are going to be morphing into…
No morphing. There’s actually a couple of really funny things that we’re going to have to lose because we can’t afford it. They’re being very adamant about it, because they see this movie as not having the potential to make a lot of money I guess.
So is it going to be a movie that looks like Shakes The Clown, or The Hollywood Shuffle?
Oh no, I wouldn’t do that. Yeah, but those look cheap. We don’t want this to look like we had no money. We want it to look like a real film. And I don’t want people to be distracted when they are watching the film going “Wow, that’s cool. They did this for no money” and I don’t want that to enter there mind. I just want it to be a funny movie. And it is a funny movie. Bob and I are funny in it.
It’s already written?
Oh yeah, it’s all written and sold, and being scheduled, and the cast and all that. And hopefully we’ll shoot it here.
So do you like Hollywood?
No, no, I don’t. I don’t hate it, but I don’t buy into that trite kind of complaint that everyone has “Oh, it’s bullshit, it’s plastic.” I don’t hate it, I just would rather be here, rather be in New York, rather be in Seattle, there’s a lot of places I rather be than in LA. But I don’t hate it there. I have a very good quality of life. I have a lot of friends, I have places I can perform, really good music scene, and that’s where the work is. So I’ll be there for a little while I guess.
Oh man, I’m drunk. More than hungover. I’m just in a fog. But you know what, it’s weird, and I was driving around over there near GSU and I did a play there when I was 15. And I was on the street where the theatre was and I was like “Oh man, there’s 20-year-olds who weren’t alive when I was walking up the street to do this play.” And It’s been freaking me out. I was here scouting and I was up in Roswell two days ago, and passing all these places: “Oh God, that’s where I got my first blow-job,” and “That’s where I got hit by that guy on the bike,” and “That’s where I bought that big dumb-ass belt buckle,” just passing all these places, and like “Wow! That’s where I first started dipping tobacco,” and “I remember that place over there. I threw up over there.” Its kind of fun to come back here, but every time I come back here I get depressed and confused.
I don’t know. I don’t know. It’s weird, I always have a good time, but afterwards I’m vaguely depressed, confused and…
Is it because you come here or is it because you have to be here?
No, it’s usually the result of having a really great time the night before and coming home at like nine in the morning. I think it’s a lot of drugs mixed with the anti-depressants, and it leaves me kind of unsure of what I want and what makes me happy and then I get confused. But that’ll dissipate as the evening progresses and I start drinking again.
Drown your sorrows?
Well, they’re not sorrows. It’s just a very vague feeling, unsettled confusion, and slight depression. You don’t know why you’re depressed, but it goes away.
What medication are you on?
Zoloft. I’ve tried to go off it a couple times, but it’s a bad idea. It’s great. I hate that I have to take it, I hate the idea, but thank God. They’re great. They’ve helped me quite a bit.
How long have you been on them?
Over 2 years. I’ve tried to go off, I didn’t want to be a slave to this pill, but it’s just that every time I do it’s a bad idea. So I just gave up. Half a year ago, I said “Alright, I give up. You win.” The pills win. They are undefeated, but they’re good. They were recommended to me by a therapist who said “Hey, I think you should see this guy and talk to him about this stuff.” I fought it. I was very reluctant to try this stuff, but glad they’re around.
But you like coming to Atlanta?
That’s what kind of interview this will be. It will be snaking, like Chutes and Ladders. It’ll start over here, and snake around and it’s not going to have any finite path to it.
Oh that’s fine. That’s why I edit. You know all about writing and rewrites. So who is funding the movie? Warner Brothers?
When I got the Mad Magazine letter from their lawyers, at the bottom it had the Time-Warner logo on it. I’m convinced that everything is Time-Warner.
You know what’s weird? I’m so hung-over that I’ve showered already and I feel like I need another shower.
It’s pretty scary that you’re doing any drugs that are put in front of you.
Oh, I’m always doing that which is why it’s such a danger whenever I come to Atlanta. Something fucked up always happens. I’m so bored in life that I just do whatever is put in front of me.
Why are you bored? It seems that you have life by the balls?
I don’t think life has any balls. I think the balls were ripped off long before I got there.
Why are you bored?
I’m just bored. I’m bored with me. I’ve known me for 35 years now, and I’m boring and predictable to myself. If I take drugs, I can alter that, and then perhaps do something I wouldn’t normally do, and create a catalyst for a chain of events that I normally wouldn’t be a part of. Then it’s not boring. Know what I mean? I like the challenge.
Trying to overcome the drug before it overcomes you?
The other thing is that when I’m working, I try to be as professional as possible. If I need to be sharp, then I can’t really drink or do drugs. Then, I have months at a time that I’m not doing any drugs, and when I’m not working, I make up for it.
So when you were doing TV show what would you do?
Just drink, if anything. Maybe get high a little bit. If I had to work early, then I wouldn’t drink because I had to be 100% for the shoot. But if I’ve got no reason to be sober, then I’ll be unsober, which is more fun, or I wouldn’t do it. All those clich?s are true. I’m more social, I’m a good drunk, not a bad drunk. I tend to get very happy and chatty, and I meet people I wouldn’t normally meet. If I’m just stewing in my own depression, I’m not going to go over there and talk to people, but if I can… this fruit is good. Shit, I want to live here man. I don’t want to go back home to LA.
Well, let’s go hit the bars.
(laughs loud) Man, this interview is going to be weird because I’m going to forget all about this. As soon as I leave here, I’ll forget.
Thanks a lot.
It’s true. That’s another problem I have is that shit goes through me and nothing really sticks. Then I’ll get this, and you’ll send me a copy of this in a couple of months.
Oh, absolutely not. If you’re going to sue me… have your lawyers draft a letter…
Cease and Desist.
Remember, any press is good press.
Do you have any other questions for me?
Wow, that was quick.
More than anything I wanted to steer clear of anything dealing with the television show.
It like you see Mr. Show, and it’s awesome, but I am sure that many interviewers dwell on it.
(David’s cellphone rings. Interview ends.)
RULE NUMBER ONE: If you have the word “Rock” in the name of your band, you’d better fucking be able to. That was the second thing I said about Rocket from the Crypt when I first heard of the band back in ’91. The first thing I thought – ironically enough – was why somebody would misappropriate the moniker from the first incarnation for Pere Ubu (which was called Rocket From The Tombs). But in very short order, my hang-ups were left aside as I was eating my words as I put Rocket’s first LP Paint As A Fragrance (Cargo) on the turntable during my radio shift. My jaw dropped.
Since that introduction to the band almost ten years ago, I have become widely familiar with the works of the man behind Rocket – John Reis. In the 80’s, John started off in any one of a number of different hardcore bands in his home of San Diego, later forming Pitchfork before going on to pull double duty in two bands – Rocket from the Crypt and Drive Like Jehu.
The original idea was for John to flip back and forth between the two bands which was done successfully until about 1994 when (from what I gather) John’s interest in Rocket grew too big for Jehu to take a back seat or vice versa. Since then, Rocket has released countless records, toured constantly and – for a little while – almost entertained the notion of (at least in the UK) becoming the next Nirvana.
What is most infectious with John (aka Speedo) is his wide-eyed, almost childlike, love of rock music. A love which has spawned two notable records in recent months. First is the Back Off Cupids whose first (and probably only) full length CD has just seen the light of day on Drunken Fish, and can best be described as John’s 4-track home recording project from ’94. Second is the debut release by Hot Snakes (whose live incarnation features Rick from Jehu, Jason from the Delta 72 and Gar from Tanner) entitled Automatic Midnight on John’s newly formed label Swami.
When I caught wind of Hot Snakes actually playing some shows, I bought a plane ticket and went to see them play in Philadelphia and DC this past April. Subsequently, I figured that it was about time for me to sit down with John and conduct the official Chunklet interview to find out answers to all of the questions I’ve always been curious to have him answer. I’m not entirely sure whether John’s demeanor – warm, frank, talkative with a permanently joyful smirk on his face – comes across accurately in the following pages, but allow me to say that it would’ve been as easy to print another 20 pages of this interview, but was able to whittle it down to seven.
Are you a record collector?
No, definitely not…
Not at all?
Well, I think I have lots of records, but then I go to other people’s houses, and their collections totally dwarf mine. I’m not a collector. I’m psyched to have something on cassette if I really want it. I don’t necessarily have to have the original pressing on blue wax. I’m not like that at all. I buy lots of CDs to tell you the truth, because if you want to find the final version you have to find the original, which has probably been out of print for like twenty or thirty years. It’s just finding that stuff is really hard. When you find it, it’s cool, but if you find it, it’s going to be expensive. A lot of times I just want the music, so I’m not a record collector, no. I love music, I’m always buying records, and stuff like that, but it’s definitely not from a completest kind of mentality. It’s more of just wanting to get cool stuff.
Has anything with any of your bands ever pandered to the record collector market?
Well, when we first started, like with any band, not a lot of people know who you are. Therefore, the amount of records that you press is reflective of the amount you think you can sell. Then when those are gone, you have a scenario where there’s a demand for that out-of-print release. It’s kind of weird. It’s just what happens: you start a band, you make two to three thousand copies of a seven inch, you take a year to get rid of them all, but once they are gone, a year after that you see them sold for lots of money. I don’t think we do anything for record collectors, but I think we do cool stuff with packaging. But that’s not just for record collectors. It’s fun to get records that have been constructed and put together creatively. It’s more of a mentality of the way we make music and package our records. The whole presentation of Rocket is from a mind set where it’s just like doing things the way we appreciate when other bands do it. Maybe we will end up selling a couple of extra copies because someone is going to buy two copies, one that they are going to cut and one that they are just going to file away. But that’s not why it was done. That’s pretty obvious it wasn’t done for those reasons.
But then why does it seem like everything varies a little, like the singles compilations. It seems like there’s different remixes, everything sounds just a hair different. Is that intentional?
Because a lot of times I don’t have the actual version that was used, or maybe I have a different mix that no one has heard. It’s more or less just stuff that hasn’t come out before; we’ve never been a band that does remixes or remixed stuff. That’s never been anything that’s really appealed to us, but it is neat to have different versions. We got a lot of material. We got a lot of songs. We write tons of songs that no one’s even heard, and they’re not all good, or even great, or even mediocre. Some of them are pretty bad, but a lot of them find their way somewhere just because it seems like we put out so much stuff. It’s fun to record, it’s fun to put out records. That’s why I think that we tend to be characterized as prolific. Why are we prolific? Because we like to do this and we do it often? That’s not prolific.
It seemed like Jehu wasn’t that way…
Well, it took a lot longer to write Jehu songs. The second Jehu record took a long time to write. It took a lot of the fun out of it for everyone because it was completely doused in tedium just trying to get the songs together. The first record wasn’t like that at all.
How would you characterize your leadership style in the bands? Would you say that you’re like a benevolent dictator, or a kind of Robin Hood, all for one, one for all. You’re the leader of the merry men…
I don’t know. I think it’s kind of changed over the years. I think if anything, things within Rocket have gotten more democratic over the years. All the things I wanted to achieve right off the bat were achieved. The initial goal was starting a band, going on tour, putting out a record. But that was happening quick, and after it was just like “oh shit, what are we going to do next?” That’s a question you probably better ask somebody else, just because you aren’t going to hear the truth out of me because I’m too close to the matter.
The only reason I say this is because there’s always something in either the records or something that it always comes out that you’re the mouthpiece for the band.
A lot of the guys don’t feel comfortable doing that kind of stuff, because they don’t feel very good at it or they don’t have really anything to say or they like the way I say it better. A lot of times that happens, and I think a lot of the ideas are mine, and a lot of the initial bursts of enthusiasm seem to come from me throwing out a bunch of ideas. Everyone seems to go from there. But yeah, you’d probably be better off asking someone else. And sometimes when Rocket plays, I get really emotional over the stupid little fuck-ups. It’s just weird. You have so much adrenaline running through you, and you have so many things running through your head and underneath it all. All I really want is just to be the best. I just want to be really fucking shit hot on fire. And everybody in the band wants that. But sometimes I just get too wrapped up in wanting things to be a certain way that I’ve had to take a step back. Because in a band, that’s all about having fun. It’s no fun having someone whipping you over the back because you flubbed a little part here or there. So I think within like the last year, year and a half, I’ve gotten a better grasp over what my role in the band is. The band has been around for ten years. Ten years!
That’s an awesome feat. How would you characterize your time when you’re not recording or on the road?
It’s just writing songs, it’s weird. Rocket from the Crypt takes up every fucking waking minute of my day. I think about it all the time, and I’m constantly being inspired by things that I want to bring into the band, trying to pull certain things into the mix. It’s definitely a full-time endeavor. I shouldn’t use the word “job,” because it’s not a job although sometimes it does pay enough to pay the rent. I think the reason why the band has been able to stay together this long is because we all realize that if being in a band is your job, and you’re doing it for those reasons alone, then you’re really not going to be able to do it for very long. You’ve got to just love to do it. I’m more blown away by bands like Dead Moon or The Lazy Cowgirls who are lifers. And that’s the way I want to be seen as – just a life-long rock-n-roll guy, as someone who is just going to do it even if there’s four people coming out, and has got to figure out ways to still be able to do it because I have to do it because that’s what I do.
I’m going to come back to that in a second, but what was the flash point for you?
Like in wanting to be in specifically punk rock or music or…
Was it a record? Was it a moment in time at a club? Was it the first time you picked up a guitar?
It’s really weird because I always thought I wanted to be a herpetologist, but I always played music. I used to like to sit with a chopstick looking at my wall blasting classical music when I was a little kid, pretending to conduct something. Music has always really completely been so important with everything I did. In the car as a kid blasting the fucking AM radio, everything just had to be loud, and intense. It seemed like I got a lot out of it at a really young age, and it was never a decision to play music. It was never: “I’m going to play music,” it always seemed like something I should be doing. But specifically for the guitar? Guitar is rock and roll, and I want to play rock and roll. I should just play rock and roll. I got a Sears guitar for Christmas in the sixth grade and that was it. Didn’t take any lessons for a long time and just kind of taught myself. Later I took some lessons, only to find out that the lessons were just bullshit. Just terrible. But I wish I could say that there’s been moments that the whole like, wanting to start a band and play was definitely, like, I was already playing guitar, but having a band like the Batallion of Saints, that were from San Diego and seeing them play with whoever. And Negative Approach were in town and they played with them and the English bands like GBH and Discharge were really into Batallion of Saints. They would wear their shirts, and had stickers and were really respected within that more Brit punk thing, and they would play with all these bands and blow everyone off the stage. It was really cool to have this thing from San Diego. I was biased too, because these were the hometown heroes. They were better than everyone they played with. Seeing them was fully realizing that I wanted to be in a punk band. Same thing with Black Flag. It’s just different for everybody, but seeing even the Dead Kennedys. They were the weirdest, most fucked-up thing I’ve ever heard and that was just so exciting. I don’t mean to get nostalgic, but you know those tape recorders where the buttons are all on the side, and the speakers on that side? I would be playing Black Flag on one of those, and playing it quiet because I felt like if other people heard it, they’d like call the cops on me. That’s how underground and taboo this stuff was. I always felt just like there was something mystical about it, yet liberating. It was like, man, I want to be crazy just like this guy.
Are you parents supportive of you?
Oh yeah, they are ridiculously supportive of me to the point where they probably shouldn’tbe so supportive of me. They bought me my first guitar.
What are they doing in San Diego?
My dad is a retired tuna fisherman who, after I was two or three, got into real estate. He does property management and real estate broker. My mom works with him in the business [and] does interior design as well.
Getting back to what I was talking about Rocket and the prodigiousness of the band. It seems like either there is a genuine love, or you just can’t find enough people to play with. From my count I can think of four groups that you’ve either released or have been you for the most part. How do you explain it? Do you just have that many ideas that you need to commit?
I don’t know. I don’t think so. I just like to play. When I like popsicles, I eat a fucking bag of popsicles and buy another bag and eat ’em. And when I play music, I fucking stay up all night and write songs and record ’em and play ’em. And when I’m in a band, I go out and tour the fucking country 400 days a year. I just do things full-on. That’s the way I am with everything. I just do things full-on. And I think that’s why [Hot Snakes] even exists, because I was inspired to do something that I felt was different enough than Rocket. I wanted to play with Jason [Kourkounis from the Delta 72]. It was like, put this song on tape, and Rick [Froberg, Hot Snakes, formerly of Drive Like Jehu] came aboard and it was just like, let’s do it. Let’s fucking do it. Let’s not have this thing be only in existence in cyberspace. It’s not so much that I feel like everything I do is sacred, and needs to be put to tape and shared with the world. It’s just that I like to do it, and I fucking go for it. If no one buys the fucking record, it’s not going to break my heart. [pause] But it will break my heart if they compare anything I do with Korn.
[laughs] I remember the one show in Atlanta you actually singled out that anybody wearing a Korn t-shirt was a fucking asshole.
I don’t know why I hate them so much, but they make me so mad.
Is it Korn as a band, or that entire asshole rock genre?
It’s the Korn generation.
Why is that?
Because they look stupid, they like fucking lame music, and they are a bunch of fucking assholes. I don’t like posing either, and they are posers. It’s all macho bullshit. It’s not heavy, it’s not manly, it’s all basically going on the set of some Western where all the buildings look neat, and you go behind them and there’s nothing there.
This is entirely off the subject, but that’s what top 40 radio is. It’s just garbage. It’s just a face, some beats, get a good A&R publicist shyster person behind them. That’s just top 40 in general.
So? That doesn’t mean that I can’t hate it. That doesn’t mean that I can’t still despise that whole side of the music business. It’s good for me to hate that. It makes me want to play good music. It keeps me in check.
Do you still find that you love new music?
Yeah, totally. I thought that band The Rapture the other night [who opened for Hot Snakes in Philadelphia] were amazing. I don’t know if you dug them at all, but I thought they were great. Quintron, Blonde Redhead…I like ’em. That what I like I champion, and that what I don’t like, I spit on and kick. I am very polar.
Not to sound dismal, but in say five, ten, twenty years, when the bones start to creak, and you can’t rock anymore, what do you think you’ll do?
I am who I am. What I will be then is something different than what I am now probably. So who knows?
Fugazi seems to be getting along pretty good. Bob Mould seems to be getting around pretty good.
Nah, I don’t think so. We were just talking about Husker Du today. I will go on record saying that I really didn’t think they were that great of a band, totally overrated. They kind of got shot down by a couple of the other people who thought Metal Circus was just a masterpiece. I was always more of a Replacements, Soul Asylum guy as far as Minneapolis went. I think Squirrel Bait blew all of them away.
They were a pretty singular moment for me, too.
Yeah, I put on Skag Heaven, and it puts me right back in high school. I remember we were talking once about Honor Role and how you used to write Pen [Rollings, Honor Role guitarist, later went on to form Butterglove and Breadwinner] and had a correspondence with him.
Did you ever do that with Squirrel Bait?
No, I never wrote them a letter.
What were other bands you did that with?
Dag Nasty. I wrote Brian Baker [Dag Nasty guitarist] a letter because I wanted to buy a guitar amp and I didn’t have very much money. I didn’t want to make a wrong purchase, and I really like the sounds on their first record. I wanted to get something like that. I wrote him a letter, enclosed a pencil and a self-addressed stamp envelope and mailed the letter and he wrote me back in like a month. He invited me to the show and let me play on his gear before the show and it was completely cool. He gave me a bunch of suggestions. You always hear all these stories about what a dick he is and everything, and he very well may be, but he was very nice to me and totally pointed me in the right direction. He was really nice to do that. I went out and got a Marshall the next week. Before then, I was playing on a Randall [which was] not a good choice on my behalf. There should be something for punkers out there who want to buy gear, because you get ripped off when you’re a kid because you don’t know what you’re doing. You bust your ass for a paper route or delivering pizzas, and you just drop down what you can afford instead of saving a couple hundred more bucks and getting something you aren’t going to hate in a week.
What’s it like recording other bands that aren’t yours?
I fully control it. I’m not a control freak, but I just think I always know the best. I always feel that my tastes are better than other people’s. So when I’m recording a band, and I have ideas, I sometimes take an old-school approach to production, where it’s like “you should put this part in” or “don’t do the bridge there, go do the verse again and tag the bridge after the second chorus.” Maybe I start suggesting things that bands aren’t comfortable with because they’re like “hey, can’t you just press play and record and get good punchy-warm sounds for me?” I’m like “Fuck the sounds, let’s get a good song!” That’s where I’m coming from. Who cares if its heavy? Heavy isn’t shit if you don’t got a good song. Some of my favorite songs are just the most crudely recorded things. So I like to work with bands that are totally into that or collaborating on that level. The last thing I did was this band called the Cowpers [from Japan], and that was really fun because that was one of those times where I was totally responsible for a lot of things, and they said “go ahead, go for it.” But a lot of other stuff I’ve done, when you have three days to do a record, it doesn’t matter what kind of producer approach you take, three days ain’t shit. You just go in, and basically do what you can do. It’s not enough time to really leave any kind of imprint when you are working on the punk rock budget. You are just trying to do it as cheap as possible, and you take more of a straight-ahead approach: “Let’s just do the songs and then we’ll go from there.” I really dig a lot of bands that are being known as using the studio as another instrument. Royal Trux immediately comes to mind. I think their records are just so fun to listen to, but it all comes back to the fact that they have good songs. They have really great songs. I like a lot of stuff that might be similar to that, but a lot of times recording becomes an indulgence. People record and they are so amazed by their own devices that they become trapped in them, and that they never do anything beyond that. For instance, a band that has a string arrangement. They are so psyched that they have this string arrangement that they figure they have to use it and make the part really long, and be very obvious about stuff and the focus becomes the recording as opposed to the song. I really do believe it’s about the song, about what’s best for the song. I admit [that] I’ve gone overboard in the past, but you have to go to the point of no return in order to know what your limitations are.
What would be an example of you going overboard?
I think having an orchestra do interludes between every song on Scream, Dracula, Scream! and then not using it. I was 25 at the time with no comprehension of musical theory or orchestration or arrangements and telling these seasoned veterans “do this” or “do that,” and kind of orchestrating this thing. It came out pretty good, but the fact that we didn’t use it tells you something. Probably could have saved a couple of thousand bucks by not doing that.
And this leaves me my final question – Swami. Why did you start the record label?
The label started because it’s something I wanted to do for ten or fifteen years. I always had the opportunity, but never really had the time or the resources to do it. With Swami, it’s myself and Long Gone John [from Sympathy for the Record Industry]. Having him a partner enables me to learn the ropes without making the mistakes, along with the resources of very good distribution and really cool people who know what I do makes sense and I can then get it into the right places. So, I don’t have to start from scratch in that regard. Long Gone John has a very unique outlook on the way he puts out records. He really has this very, very romantic idealistic regard for bands and their music. He truly is a patron of the arts. He is just one of those rare individuals who gets a lot of joy out of music and art, but also contributes and does what he can. He has totally created this monument of a label and a personality. The guy is larger than life, and he’s gone to different ways of expressing himself by using other people’s music. It’s a really cool thing, and he is a music fiend. We are doing this new thing called the Sultans, and he has all these really cool ideas about how to market it, and how we are going to try and get it in stores. We are going to try to do a CD single and sell it for like a buck, and do this really cool Swami cut-out that will be on all the store’s counters, almost like a bubble-gum kind of thing. It’s just really funny because he’s a pop fan. He might not like current pop music, but a lot of his stuff is like 50’s, 60’s, even 70’s pop. So it is really fun working with someone like that because I am a really big pop fan, but when it comes to the actual presentation of it, I really don’t give a fuck because once it’s done, and once I’m excited by the final product, I really don’t care how many people hear it. As long as my friends kind of get copies, that’s what’s important to me. Putting out the Hot Snakes record, but didn’t really go for college radio, and it’s like “oh well.” I don’t really have to answer to anyone, but the three other people and myself. Because I’ve done so many records, I feel I have a grasp of what it takes to sell records. I think the most valuable thing you could ever have is people telling other people to go buy it. Word of mouth. In the end, I think that’s what’s sold the majority of anything I’ve ever played on. Not sucking dick at college radio, not slipping people $100 bills in envelopes to radio programmers, or whatever kind of seedy tactics tried by Interscope. Not even playing shows for the most part. The majority is just that network of friends that talk to each other and say “Hey this is cool, check it out.” Nothing works better than that.
And that’s what you’re hoping for with Swami? That people get in tune with it?
Eventually. I’m going to have to answer to bands, and I’m going to have bands on the label that I don’t want to go elsewhere, so I’m going to have to cater to their wants and needs in order to make them feel loved.
But it’s not meant to be a vanity label? You want to commit to these bands?
Yeah, definitely. There’s this band Tourets LaTrec that I’m going to be doing a record with, and they are a band that will definitely be going on the road and playing. I want to do the bands right, but my limitations are obvious, and everything’s right up front on the table. No contracts, no anything. I know I might seem naive,but if [contracts are] the kind of thing I have to do, I rather not do it at all. If that’s what it takes to run a label, screwing your friends over, then count me out. I know what it’s like to be in a band, and now I’m finding out what it’s like running a label, and all my criticisms of people putting out a record in the past are completely valid because its not brain surgery. It’s easy; it takes money and time. That’s it. Whereas making good music takes a lot more than money and time. It takes the unknown element – creativity. I’m not saying running a label isn’t a creative thing. It is. You can be very creative, but it’s not like writing music or being in a band. It’s a completely different thing. It’s so stupid that any label would ever take a stance that they are above their bands. No matter what label it is, they are nothing without the bands that are on them. Consider yourself lucky to be able to work with bands that you like. That’s my attitude. I consider myself completely lucky that I can do a record with who I consider to be the most important rock and roll bands playing right now. I consider myself totally lucky, and I think that’s what the label should be. If you are lucky enough that a decent band wants to work with you, consider yourself lucky.
Would you say that you looked at the two labels that you have dealt with – Cargo and Interscope – on how to know right from wrong?
They both have something very much in common, and that is their root inherent problems. They’re run by people who know nothing about good music. That’s basically where the problems start right from the get-go.
The only reason I brought that up is because the labels are on different scales; one is independent and one is massively corporate.
But they are both businesses. They’re both run like a business, and they’re both run by business men. They are not run by musical fanatics. I have nothing bad to say about Cargo. I have nothing bad to say about Interscope.
On the record…
No, I mean, I really don’t. I’m just better off doing something different. It’s so easy to come off as bitter like the world owes you something. But it’s like, fuck that stuff. Get back up on the horse. Rock and Roll, shut up. Get up there and play, you know what I’m saying? Who wants to hear your problems? People don’t pay money to hear your problems. People don’t buy a magazine just to read about how you’ve been dicked over. My story is similar to a lot of people’s stories.
Malcolm Riviera, webmaster of “8-Track Heaven”, ex-Gumball, and ancient Chunklet contributor, recently interviewed Simeon of Silver Apples about the 8-track releases of the first two SA albums.
How did you happen to run across the Silver Apples 8-track listing on 8-Track Heaven?
I periodically surf’n’search for whatever is being said about me, and one of the search engines turned up 8-Track Heaven.
What was your reaction to seeing Silver Apples on a page devoted to 8-track tapes?
It was a real curiosity, because I was unaware of their existence. [And since] there is so much bootleg material of Silver Apples, my first thoughts were in that direction. I was really surprised when you pointed out the KAPP logo and the legit manufacturer. I had no idea they had done that. Our relationship with KAPP wasn’t such that they were telling us everything they were doing.
Who do you think might have been purchasing Silver Apples on 8-track format in those days?
I knew several guys who had 8-tracks in their cars, and I have a girlfriend who had (and still has) one in her home. So, I guess it was: Guys with Cars, and Girls with Houses.
Do know if Silver Apples was ever released on other formats, such as reel-to-reel or cassette?
Yes, I have seen cassettes.
Do you see any parallels between the renewed interest in Silver Apples and the 8-track tape revival, two otherwise unrelated phenomena?
There’s also a renewed interest in the automobiles, clothes, toasters and whatever of the 60’s and 70’s. It was a very definitive era, and will have ongoing cyclical appeal. The music, and its cultural aspects were certainly a huge part of it. I can imagine folks in 2136 driving carefully preserved Mustangs, playing Silver Apples and others on their 8-tracks, and talking about the 8-Track Heaven that used to exist on that old obsolete thing they called the “internet,” and how cool it is to go to the virtual museum and look at it.
Simeon, what is your favorite 8-track memory?
That would be a tie between Eileen on 88th Street and Peg in Carmine’s LTD.
Interview Dustin Donaldson
Transcription Dustin and Robin “Cup” Iwata
Introduction and photo Henry H. Owings
Will Hart is probably one of the most special people I’ve had the pleasure of knowing. Years ago, when Athens was at its musical low point (‘91-’95), we ran in the same circles. His band at the time, Synthetic Flying Machine, played regularly at such familiar stomping grounds as the Downstairs, Frijoleros and Club Fred as well as the Hoyt Street North on Tuesday nights to a handful of people (usually friends) followed by scurrying back to their run down house at 210 Sunset. This was when I started getting to know all three of them. Around 1995, those three — Bill Doss, Jeff Mangum and Will — left Athens and went their separate ways, but Synthetic Flying Machine eventually split into two bands which would eventually make up The Olivia Tremor Control and Neutral Milk Hotel. About a year later, I ran into Will and Bill in front of the 40 Watt while they were on tour (this time as the Olivia Tremor Control) opening up for Chocolate USA. They anxiously gave me a copy of their first single which they had recently put out themselves. After listening to the single, I knew they were destined for greater things than any of us could ever realize. Will and Bill eventually moved back to Athens living over on Peter Street where we spent countless afternoons and evenings together listening to records, talking, laughing and eventually, becoming close friends. For the record, and please don’t laugh, let it be known that they were both responsible for getting me high for the first time. Also, there have been more than a couple of “old school” Chunklet assembly parties where they’d help me collate and staple issues together, to eventually take with them on tour. They’ve always been such attentive, warm and genuine people, that when success came knocking on their door, no one was cheering them on louder than myself. With that said, this interview was conducted by a more recently made acquaintance — Dustin Donaldson. Dustin has any one of a number of different hats that he wears, but for the sake of this interview, let it be known that he’s the pivotal “benevolent leader” of I Am Spoonbender. When he suggested interviewing Will, I said go for it, but he wanted me to do the introduction. So as cheesy and/or sappy as it was, there it is. And now without further ado….
What can you tell me about your secret metal past?
Nothing really… I can’t tell you much.
You mean you won’t tell me much? Henry Owings tells me about a picture of you with feathered hair…
(laughs) I mean… I loved it.
What were you into?
Iron Maiden, W.A.S.P., Mötley Crüe,… You know, the usual suspects.
That’s totally brilliant.
I had no idea that you were at all ever into metal.
Yeah, I loved it.
And then I got into sort of the post-punk thing. Somebody turned me onto hardcore. I was interested, but it didn’t quite grab my interest. I liked some of it, but I wasn’t into the political aspect of hardcore.
So this was ‘84?
Yeah, I was like…fourteen.
What do you mean by the “post-punk” stuff?
Sonic Youth. But I wasn’t there for their first album. I was there for Sister. I liked Butthole Surfers. I wasn’t like an Agnostic Front type guy.
Did you ever get into “thrash metal”? Slayer, Metallica?
I caught the cusp of that. Metallica. But I thought hardcore was a lot more interesting. I loved the Minutemen. They were always my favorite band. Something very real and beautiful about the Minutemen. Even though they were political.
For me a lot of the sound [of punk/ hardcore] was sacrificed for lyrical subject matter. The lyrics seemed to be worked on more than the sound. The thing that I like about metal is the sound.
Exactly, absolutely. Growing up, what I liked was “sound” kind of stuff. When I was little I liked E.L.O…. Shit that had space noises in it, to be honest with you. I heard Pink Floyd way before I heard The Beatles, which is a strange thing.
Yeah, that’s really strange for me and it seems like an uncommon experience. We’re talking about sound itself — is the sound the song?
I want to be an ass and say “the song is the song.” But for me, I guess, yeah, because for me it is. But for some people, they want to hear it on acoustic guitar.
There is this whole critical thing about “songs.” You see reviews that say “there are no songs here.” For example, certain records are obviously not about some Beatle-esque song structure. They’re about the sound itself, not necessarily based around some sort of melodic progression, interesting note sequence and/or structure that traditionally signifies “pop song”.
Or that if it’s instrumental, “it goes nowhere…” I still see it. I see it in every indie magazine.
Especially in the British press. They’re really about “the song.”
Digital versus analog — Is it a worthwhile debate?
I love them both. I seriously do. For manipulating purposes, each one has a different quality. For me it’s not even a debate. I’ve got both. I use 4-track cassette and I use digital. I’m not even a reel-to-reel guy, I somehow bypassed that. I’ve always liked my cassette.
Do you think that sonically the difference affects people psychologically?
I think it’s… possible. I do think it’s possible, but at the same time everything ends up on CD. It’s all the same once it’s on disc. whether it’s Duke Ellington, Satchmo or, for instance, your record — I mean if you’re going to have the Duke Ellington pressed onto some pristine virgin vinyl on this nice turntable with some warm amp with warm tubes in it… fuck it, I like it all. I think we’ve come to a point in sound evolution where we can mix and match. Each one does something to the sound, and once you learn your tools you can get what you want out of your project.
Exactly. The nice thing about analog, of course, is its elements of seeming randomness, and it does seem to contain, especially in psychedelic and altered states, more information somehow.
Definitely. Because I grew up using the 4-track, there’s something about it for me that feels classic about analog. I swear to God, I perform better on the cassette!
You mean when tape is rolling?
Yeah, for some reason, I think I just work a little bit better knowing it’s rolling. Weird.
What’s the worst record that you own… and enjoy? Based on what you think other people might think is embarrassing.
Is it W.A.S.P.’s “Animal (I Fuck Like A Beast)” buzzsaw-shaped picture disc?
How about Wings’ At The Speed Of Sound?
That’s a great record!
It’s an awful record! It’s a terrible fucking record!
Okay… Is all rock/pop music after 1970 just a footnote to the Beatles? Structurally and harmonically it seems they set up archetypes that are still being followed: Nurse With Wound just made ten albums of “Revolution 9,” “Helter Skelter” is hard rock/heavy metal, “Polythene Pam” is Stooges/punk, and, of course, the pop song archetype.
I disagree. I thought that for a while — I mean they did a nice job of jumbling it up for everyone.
I don’t mean that they invented it all, more that they were a conduit. All of their influences [Stockhausen, Pierre Henry, ragtime, rhythm and blues] got bottlenecked and shot out and it seems people are still using their blueprints. The first real split I’ve seen [in popular music] in this idea is in drum & bass.
I agree. I didn’t realize that was what you were asking. I think it was a weird strange revolution in the history of music. I forget that most people don’t sit around listening to noises. In our world, yeah. But say, the average people in England want “a song”.
They don’t sit around and consciously realize they’re listening to noises. Everything is a beep and a click or a whirrr now.
Yeah. In fact, absolutely. But I mean, they’re not enjoying it maybe… Well, they’re not not enjoying it. I don’t know what they’re doing (laughs).
It seems that people don’t notice the connections — like finding a rhythmic process in the washing machine when it’s happening as opposed to just hearing it as noise. Or maybe finding a way of enjoying that. To me that’s sort of a surrealist idea. Do you feel that dada, surrealism, Fluxus, situationism, et al. have become the dominant artistic language of the 20th century?
Do you mean, do we see it a lot and assimilate it into our culture?
Umm… Has it actually triumphed in that you can’t find an absence of it in our culture?
I don’t know. That’s a good question. One thing I have noticed, on TV for instance — which I don’t see much — are the editing techniques that they’ve lifted from the art films of the ‘50s and ‘60s. They’re trying to use every technique: fast edits are a common occurrence, where they weren’t before.
Yeah, for example, a current commercial on television: you see a child running, he falls in a mud puddle, the next shot is of clothing in a washing machine, and then a smiling woman is holding TIDE. Well, that’s not a linear development, that’s a dream logic. Your mind makes the connection between the events, as opposed to in 1890 when people rioted in a theater to get away from an unedited film of a train coming into a station. They thought the train was going to come through the wall!…
…We can’t imagine it now, but that’s because we’re familiar with the language of cut-ups. In the larger picture, with more and more information, things moving faster all the time, do you think the fast edits are possibly a mechanism — a subconscious manifestation of human desire to speed things up, and, therefore as things speed up they vibrate at a faster rate, and therefore change consciousness?
What do you think of the theory that the drug experience is solely about being freed from the concept of time?
Who said that?
Say it again. I like it.
Up until [relatively] recently, time was just broken up in two – day and night. Then hours got introduced. Then minutes got introduced. Then seconds got introduced. It’s really only been in the 20th century that we’ve dealt with the concept of the second. And then we got the atomic clock — milliseconds. Now we’re to nanoseconds. As a species, we are slowly breaking ‘time’ into smaller and smaller increments. As musicians, you and I deal with the concept of the second constantly. It appears that smaller and smaller amounts of time are meaning more and more, but we’re actually cutting time up, destroying it in some way, and I think that it’s altering consciousness. I think that drugs are almost solely about just being free from ‘time’. The only time I am ever actually free from ‘time’ is when I’m on caffeine, LSD, ecstacy, or some other chemical. Sleep is also that. It’s the only instance that you can ever not be consciously bound by ‘time.’
Hmm, that’s a good point… (introspectively) Well now, it’s kind of fitting in some of the things I’ve been thinking about lately. I’m glad you answered some of my own personal questions (laughter). It’s really strange, I’ve been addressing this a lot lately, writing about it.
Just at different points, it seems more obvious to you that time is… I don’t know how to put it. I feel it more in a “collective unconscious” way. Time has been something that I’ve been focusing on. I find it interesting that you say that — one of the things that keeps coming out is “there’s no time.”
Do you mean that literally? That there is no such thing as time – that it’s just a construct that we’ve come up with to explain events from A to B?
I think that it is the biggest problem that human beings face. For example, time is completely related to death which is the only reason anybody’s worried about anything. If you didn’t have to worry about the length of time that you’re alive, then you’d be free to do anything you wanted. Because we have a limit set up for ourselves the moment, we’re aware of time and death. So time is woven into everything we do. This conversation: I have a cassette with a 45-minute time limit.
And you had to call at a certain time to catch me.
Sound and music is almost solely about events that exist in time. The duration of a note, the attack… which is of course how quickly the note comes into existence.
That’s some of the stuff I’ve been addressing. The idea that you can put a song on repeat, and you just never know where it’s at, and it doesn’t really matter.
That’s an explicit time-kill wish.
Time needs to disappear, it’s holding humans back. Maybe that’s why we alter consciousness through whatever means, and every race and civilization does it.
I think you’ve got a great point… Honest to God. The LSD experience is a perfect example.
It’s the ultimate time removal machine. Time becomes completely amorphous and free. I don’t do it anymore. I just did it too much.
Me too. How long ago did you stop doing it?
About four years ago. I found there wasn’t any surprise in it anymore.
I didn’t mind that it took me to the same place. A zone that I quite liked.
Have you done ecstacy?
Yeah, I love it as well. I’m still down with it, but I have to watch it. It takes a toll on my body. I can do X and get a cold the next day. I’ll be sick for weeks.
Is it because of a behavior that you indulge in while you’re on X?
Oh no, I don’t think so. I’ll just be sitting and painting, but I do love these things because time stands still… or is no more. You know, I don’t think that I think about things as intellectually as some people do… I don’t stop to consciously think about things, I just explore them in painting and what-not, the things I do.
In the e-mail environment, I’ve noticed words are getting crunched. The whole ‘dot com’ thing. Words are being illogically abbreviated. For example, instead of having to say “theoliviatremorcontrol@blahblah”, it could just be “olvtrmctrl@blahblah”, and we would probably understand. Everything is being compressed…
Exactly. And the view becomes larger even though the thing you’re looking at is a smaller slice of something.
That blows my mind. Where’s it going? I don’t know. You sound like you want this whole thing — the concept — to go somewhere more interesting. My thing with the computer… I was fascinated with working with all that stuff in the beginning. I thought it was going to have applications like what can be done with analog tape, but I don’t feel like anyone has really touched down on it yet… On what could be done. Something really insane. Using it on a super experimental level — feeding sounds in and having some randomly generated program create like milliseconds… Some crazy… Basically, ‘Williams Mix’ for the computer. Something so insane, like cutting tape for a year into super small bits… Pure stupidity. Beautiful. I wanted to see something like that happen with computers which is why I got the thing. I wanted to do something really stupid. You know, apply every ill effect within milliseconds in some composition. I started applying it and it just didn’t sound like what I imagined it would sound like… I thought it would be breathtaking, but I’m not a computer programmer.
It never ends up seeming very musical.
The way I’m putting it sounds kind of trite, like someone needs to be the next innovator, and I don’t mean that exactly — like somebody needs to top what’s come before. I don’t feel that way about the guitar. I think it used to be that way, like there was a race to be “the next person” like… “Okay cool, I’ll piss in this thing and shoot myself in the arm” (laughter). And I feel now people are like “I’ll create something beautiful if I can”. Things don’t seem quite as far out anymore, they seem quite normal. Most things have been assimilated.
But, of course, that’s only relative to the world that you and I live in. I imagine that it’s a different headspace than the ‘Average American’ lives in. I mean, you and I will stand and listen to the washing machine on spin cycle and go “wow!”
Yeah, I guess I forget that.
What one song describes you best?
Dave Clifford, The Slaves: Three way tie: “Garbageman” by the Cramps (sexual obsession). “The Thrill of it All” by Roxy Music (indefatigable energy). “Lightning Strikes” by Lou Christie (compulsion).
Justin Pearson, The Locust: Let’s see… “Suck My Ass It Smells” by G.G. Allin. Well, actually to be a bit more serious, “Mongoloid” by Devo.
Kim Thompson, Skull Kontrol: I don’t get it- favorite song, song I’ve written, someone else has written? Sorry, I can’t think of anything, I can think of songs I like but none that really describe me. Sorry.
Quentin Stoltzfus/MAZARIN: “I am a scientist”
Graham Smith, Kleenex Girl Wonder: “Bling Bling” by B.G.
Nat Fowler, Oxes: I rarely end up listening to lyrics and I am never paying attention to the names of songs, so I’m really unqualified to answer this, unless it was some generic sentimental answer like “Dirty Deeds” or something; so I’ll go with an instrumental song that I named: “Dear Spirit, I’m In France.” It’s autobiographical, baby!!
Syd Butler, Les Savy Fav: “Ice Hockey”
What is heaven?
DC: For a culture of servants, it’s the intangible and unattainable.
JP: I’m really not sure since they don’t exist, but in literal terms, I guess heaven could be eternal pokez (sp?) Mexican food. Hell, could be anything to do with Roger Hedgecock.
KT: Relaxing with nothing to do in a beautiful setting after going on a hike.
GS: A chocolate house!
NF: All the manic with none of the depression.
SB: Summer, at dusk in the ocean watching the sky turn into night with your favorite people around you, (and the first bite of a great dinner).
What is hell?
DC: It “Ain’t a Bad Place To Be.”
JP: See #2.
KT: Completing my dissertation.
QS: Waking up.
GS: I don’t believe in heaven, because I’m living in hell.
NF: Dealing socially with girls in relationships.
SB: Slow death of a loved one. A rock and a hard place. Sometimes being on tour in the central west.
Who is your all-time hero?
DC: The closest anyone has come to being a hero: Friedrich Neitzsche, Anton LaVey, Aliester Crowley, Carl Panzram, Joe Coleman, Boyd Rice, Elvis Presley, Charles Manson, Antonin Artaud, Jimmy Page, Georges Bataille and Gilles Deleuze.
JP: John Lydon.
KT: My husband.
QS: I don’t really have an all time hero. But if I’d have to pick one I’d say Henry Owings and then Bucky Fuller comes a close second (at least today).
GS: A.J. Benza.
NF: Well, I don’t believe in hero worsh— oh wait, I’m not a pretentious rocker, I forgot. My favorite heroes are Jello Biafra and East Bay Ray for getting me to really care about music.
What’s the worst trouble you’ve been in?
JP: Probably one of two situations… 1. When I was 16 I was kicked out of my house. My mom and her boyfriend pretty much hated me and threw me out. I guess the trouble came into place when I had to figure out where to live, how to eat and how to stay in high school. I pulled it off but it was pretty hard at the young age of 16. 2. I was at this Gulf War protest wearing a “burn baby, burn” shirt with the American flag on it. A group of skinheads approached me and proceeded to ruff me up. After a couple of hits I was out for the count. When I came to I was bloody and sore, but now that I think about it, I remember laughing about the skinheads later because I keyed their car on the way to get some medical attention. So I’ll go with 1.
KT: I plead the fifth
QS: Speeding ticket?
GS: When I beat the shit out of Wade Boggs.
NF: In elementary school, on our report card there was a section for behavior, with 13 different things you could get a “slash” next to. If you got more than a few “slashes” you were a bad kid. Things like “Does not pay attention in class” and “Does not wait to be called on” and “Does not stay seated.” In 4th grade I hit an all time high of 11 slashes. My dad spanked me 11 times and I got grounded for an entire quarter.
SB: Not getting caught for lying or cheating.
Who was the first love of your life?
DC: I guess it must’ve been shitting myself and having someone else clean up the mess.
JP: Jesse Roach.
KT: 7th grade- Adam Spiegal aka Spike Jonz, then 8th grade John Taylor from Duran Duran.
QS: Allison Beall, 3rd Grade.
NF: Jessica Hunter, May ‘92-October ‘94. Three years ago she moved to Accident (a town in the western hill(billy)s of Maryland, way past Burkettsville) opened a hunting store and married a guy who she had known since she was three. She dumped me at my all time low, took half our record collection with her, and she eventually found herself after moving all over the place and dropping out of two colleges. It took me four years to stop thinking about her. But at least I can look back now and remember her crotch smelled bad.
SB: Dabney Doswell.
What is your greatest talent?
DC: See above.
KT: Being a good friend.
QS: I can do a handstand from the sitting position.
GS: Musical talent.
NF: Spitting distance and musical originality.
SB: Still trying to figure it out.
Upon whom would you most like to exact revenge? Why? How?
DC: Every last fucking one of them.
JP: Well, The Man, of course. Why? Because of the crimes against humanity. How? Through music.
KT: No one is worth revenge. I think people get what they deserve without my help sooner or later.
QS: I’m not a very vengeful person.
GS: Frank Langelo. He annoys me. Drowning.
NF: This fucker who keyed my car and did lots of other nasty unmentionable things and lies, all in the name of his obsession over his ex-girlfriend whom I was dating. I won’t mention his name because he’s way bigger than me, and he’s a loose cannon; who knows what would happen to me if he were printed in Chunklet! I think I’d do the revenge thing by assassinating Morissey and his sister, his only true loves.
SB: I always think about taking revenge out on bouncers at clubs. But then It goes away when I realize where I am and where they are. Unnecessary testosterone.
What’s your most treasured possession?
DC: Your soul.
JP: I guess as lame as it sounds, my life. If it has to be some stupid material possession I guess it would be my Boba Fett in the original packaging from the 70’s.
KT: Photo albums, first editions of the WPA books written about each of the states that existed at the time, my box of letters from people I love, art my friends have done.
QS: Either my lighted globe or my fuzzy slippers.
GS: My gun.
NF: My Laserdisc copy of How to Get Ahead in Advertising.
SB: My bass.
What have you most regretted doing while drunk?
DC: Or, is that “who…?”, (ba-dum-pum) har, har…But, seriously folks…
JP: Well, I don’t get drunk too often, but when I do I’m very responsible. So nothing.
KT: I have no regrets.
QS: I don’t remember, you should ask my friends.
GS: A foiled attempt to unearth the bones of Andrew Carnegie.
NF: The crazier I end up being while drunk the better I feel the quality and variety of my life is, but any time I end up saying something to the audience that’s really dumb and unfunny while I’m drunk, I regret opening my mouth.
SB: Making out with…
What can you cook?
DC: Tar heroin…but, I wouldn’t recommend it.
JP: All kinds of stuff.
KT: Anything in the world, you name it i can cook it.
NF: Is this supposed to reveal something about me or is it just a silly random question zine nerds like to ask? Lots of chicken dishes, spicy tomato sauce, corn bread, yellow cake, all the food you’d find on a diner menu, filet minion, chateau brignon, roast turkey, and lots of things I just whip up mixing different veggies, spices, garlic, and a meat or two.
SB: Most foods, but only OK.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?
DC: Quit pickin’ at it.
JP: ”Love is like setting yourself on fire and hoping you don’t get burned”.
KT: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
QS: With respect to writing music: “Don’t judge yourself, let other people worry about that.”
GS: “Don’t let your lustful desire to unearth the bones of Andrew Carnegie get in the way of your dream to beat up and then make out with Wade Boggs.”
NF: “Who cares if they’re mad, they’re just your parents.” A very powerful statement to an only child.
SB: “The harder you work, the luckier you get.”
If you were invisible for a day, what would you do?
DC: Try to fit in.
JP: Spy on everyone i could come in contact with. I’d either laugh my ass off or be so freaked out, but I’d have to write a book about it. I’d love to do that sometime. I could “hide the duke” in the craziest places and I could introduce super glue to people and objects around them.
KT: Sneak on a jet and go somewhere exotic.
QS: First I’d go grocery shopping (because it would be free, right?), then I’d entertain myself by going for a drive and watching people’s reactions when they notice that no one is in the driver’s seat. Next I’d walk around and give random bear hugs to people whilst licking their faces, and then I’d go to church and make things appear to float around, then I’d finish the day with a visit to UPenn’s metaphysics or optics department to figure out how the hell I became invisible.
GS: Hang out in the Best Buy break room.
NF: Go to New York City and visit the showers in that gym in lower east Manhattan where all the supermodels go to exercise…
SB: Everything I possibly could.
What are your final three wishes?
DC: 1) That I knew then what I know now. 2) That there were more than 24 hours in a day. 3) Oh, and, fame and fortune.
JP: 3 wishes is silly. I’d just wish for unlimited wishes. I’d be set for life. I’d hook so many people up, just to show I’m not such an asshole like everyone likes to think.
KT: To have any bad blood with others eliminated to look over my life and feel that I’ve made the world a better place, to be surrounded by friends.
QS: I wish to be happy most of the time, to travel often, and to die painlessly.
GS: 1. Meet God, 2. See the world, 3. Sleep with the president.
NF: 1) Every crazy thing that happens to my friends when I’m not around to happen only when I’m around. 2) WTO and all other bad political things I don’t know enough about to crumble and never resurface again. 3) a babelfish or something that would enable people to realize that I’m always joking and really it’s just that I am a really good actor and have a really good poker face and that’s why I come off as an asshole when I say sarcastic stuff.
SB: To continue to make them happen. Thanks.
There are many different ways that people made their way onto the Asshole Top 100. As is the case with most on the Drag City roster, it boils down to being social misfits. With the folks in Uncle Tupelo, it’s a more fundamental stumbling block in their psyche. With folks like Steven Abbot, the general “music industry weasel” tag seems to fit appropriately. And critics? Well, critics will always be spineless, ass-kissing weasels by their very nature.
But what really brings those into the top of the hundred is a truly perfecting touch to their asshole-dom. This, of course, brings us to the artists who came in at number one this year – The Butthole Surfers. What has separated the Buttholes from the rest of their asshole bretheren is a trait inherent in the music industry – greed.
In March 2000, the Chicago Court of Appeals upheld the Buttholes’ right to end their handshake deal with Touch & Go, who had released six of the band’s early recordings. The releases in question had a 50/50 royalty rate which is approximately four times that of any given on a major label, and has, over the course of the past couple decades, become standard operating procedure on the independent level with some notable examples being labels that fall under the Touch & Go P&D umbrella – Drag City, Merge, Estrus, Thrill Jockey, and ironically, King Coffey from the Butthole’s Trance Syndicate label. This agreed upon royalty rate had been based entirely on Rusk’s honor, along with an agreement that Touch & Go would be given the right to release these records as long as they could keep them on store shelves. And after ten years of working on this agreement, the Buttholes deemed this unfit, and subsequently took Touch & Go to court to gain the rights to these records. This greedy move – albeit from the mainstream’s perspective a simple matter of self-preservation – has served as a wake-up call for indie labels (and bands alike) that have always held their word as their honor.
After the settlement, Rusk paid the band, and (as part of the agreement) had to video tape the destruction of the remaining copies of Buttholes records at Touch & Go, which were destroyed in the back of a dumptruck. Rusk has gone on record as saying that the hassles with the Buttholes is a remote incident, but it’s led him to be more cautious. However if an occurence like this happens again, as he stated in the Chicago Reader, he would “have to think again about whether there was still a need for a company that operates the way we do.” Way to go, Buttholes! – Much of this information was collected from an article written by Josh Goldfein for the Chicago Reader.
I think it all started back in 1979…my first images of this rounded box with two dials mixed with some phony wood paneling. I was captivated by it. All of my other siblings were stuck to it like a magnet on a refrigerator. What was this? Why was it making this “blip….blip” sound? I needed a closer look, but it was going to be tough. I remember the day my oldest brother was in the middle of a “session” and was interrupted by the call of nature. He got up, walked to the bathroom, and warned me not to touch the little box. He walked out of the room, and I just stared at it. I looked at the screen and saw this ball going back and forth. The blip sound made more sense, and I began to sweat. I could feel my little hand yearning to touch the dial. I closed my eyes to concentrate on not upsetting my older brother but the power was too damn strong. I couldn’t do it. I took a deep breath then I hurled my little body to the box and I place my hands on the dials and I twisted and turned them, and the bleeping got faster and faster. I was so nervous, yet turned on, but the feeling that ran through my body was exhilarating. Finally, the bleeping started to get out of hand and I couldn’t control it any longer and that is when my brother walked back in and shouted at me “What are you doing? I told you not to…” I couldn’t hear the rest of the sentence, I was too exhausted, this was a new feeling that I had never felt before. I was so young and naive. I scurried back to my room, closed the door, jumped onto my bed and contemplated the universe. That day I became a man, and the girl responsible for this was the Coleco TeleStar…. What a beauty!
That was my first, and as time went on there were others, but I’d be a self-centered bastard to not give them credit. How could I anyhow? I’m a passionate man.
The real story of my obsession dates back to 1972 in Sunnyvale, California. A man by the name of Nolan Bushnell got the patent for two coin-operated vending games. The first was a game called “Computer Space.” He took it to a few locations and it had moderate success, but not the success to make his company the landmark, household-name-gettin’-laid-by-all-the-chicks-kinda-company that he wanted it to be. That was not to happen until he unleashed Pong on the public. Obviously, that was the big step that Nolan needed to put his small company named Atari on the map. It was the same step needed to get young impressionable girls into his VW bus. Nonetheless, Pong swept our great nation like a janitor after a Bulls game, and every bar had a new money making device in the back corner. Pretty soon Atari combined forces with the Sears-Roebuck Company and began developing home versions of the stand-up classic under the name “Telegames.” Other companies tried to imitate the home version of Pong, but it was Atari that set the trend for years to come.
As I grew older and longed for that nurturing feeling that my Coleco TeleStar had once given me, I began hanging out in thrift stores. I wouldn’t go there for the clothes, but for the electronics. There was a time I went to a Value Village and found an original Sears Telegames version of Pong just lying there. I remember saying to myself “oh, you poor thing…” It looked so cute and vulnerable with its little cord all wrapped up. I brought it home, and it blipped for me, so I twisted its little soft dials. We both stayed up well into the early morning just a’twisting and a’blipping. I’d like to say I’m an honest man, but I must confess that I slipped into a few infidelities along the way. A few months later, I found myself in Baltimore recording with my band. We took a short break and went to yet another Value Village. I think you can guess what happened next….but I’ll tell you anyway. I was thumbing through some old records and I was contemplating purchasing that Born In The USA LP until I spotted ‘It’ across the shelf. There, sleeping in it original styrofoam bed, lay this small, petite, little Pong-style game called a “Bentley.” What can I say? I’m human, just like the rest of you. I walked over, picked it up, and I was in love. I said to myself “you have to come home with me…” and that was that. I laid the money down on the counter, and after I returned from my trip from Baltimore, my Bentley and I got better acquainted. I plugged it up to my TV. It had these little paddles that were connected by that tiny headphone wire. The dials on the paddles were very tight as if they had never been played before. Being the gentleman that I am, I went very easy on the Bentley. I have to say the Bentley was one of the most unique and modest Pong systems I have ever come across. I never thought I had been so lucky to find a love like that until I got a call from my brother…
I remember him telling me about having an early morning and stumbling into Goodwill. He spotted this box, walked over, opened the box, and received a slap on the face. He knew right away he found “the one” for me. A red Magnavox Odyssey Pong game. The most aerodynamic shape, beautiful controls and decals, complete with instructions and box. I remember sneaking out of town for a rendezvous with this quality piece of electronic brilliance. But as the saying goes, “you play with fire, you get burned.” I picked the little “Odyssey” up and took her back to my place. She looked great, shiny and red, great box! I slowly pulled out her power cord and seductively plugged it in. I grazed my hand across its surface slow touching both dials. I was nervous and anxious at the same time. That’s when I did it…I reached for the ol’ power button. I touched it. Then I flicked it on. But, nothing…just silence. No red light, no sweet sounds of “blip” no nothing. I unplugged her and put her back in the box. I felt betrayed and foolish but I guess that’s what happens to guys like me. I think that’s when I learned my lesson. Shortly afterward I stopped messing with games like that…give or take a few.
Christmas 1981 – My family received the $149.99 gift that apparently kept on giving…the Atari 2600. I’m shivering as I type this. The Coleco Telestar may have given me the first glimpse of manhood, but the 2600 gave me the tough love I deserved. The 2600 was like a boy going off to college not knowing of the coed hi-jinx in store for him. There I was holding that tough black rubber-like skin of the joystick, just moving my “Combat” tank around. Oh, and the graphics, all of the colors, the sounds, I had never seen anything like it! I remember every one of my five sibling’s birthdays as an event because all of us would ask for cartridges. I remember kids from the neighborhood coming over the day “Pitfall” came out and talking about the graphics being the best available. And for that week, they were right. The hysteria of Atari was something that only the Beatles could relate to. Trading cartridges in grade school were some of the fondest coming of age memories I have. My first kiss in grade school happened to be the same day I traded “Spiderman” for the “Adventures of Tron.” I guess bold transactions like that can make a school girl weak, and I can sympathize. As the years moved on and the Atari catalog got bigger the competition got tougher. Companies like Coleco and Mattel started to get into the race. But, Nolan Bushnell’s little company continued to flourish to become the Microsoft of the early 80’s. Now, I must give credit to both the ColecoVision and Intellivision for great game development. Hell, I’ll even admit that the ColecoVision had better graphics than the 2600, but Atari had the monopoly on games. As for me, I stayed true to 2600 until about 1983. This is when Atari unleashed the 5200 on an unsuspecting public. At this time, Intellivision had made many adaptable parts to there home system such as a computer keyboard and a voice module for games that could “talk.” On the other hand, ColecoVision made the Coleco Gemini, a scaled down version of the Atari 2600 made to play 2600 games. Atari caught wind of this new product and filed a lawsuit against Coleco and by the end of 1983, Atari nudged ColecoVision almost entirely off the map.By this time, though, it was almost too late. Atari’s 5200 had been in production for several months and a majority of the public who had purchased them began to realize that the graphics were great but, the controllers stopped working. This would be one of the biggest flaws in home video game production. Never get a guy to design a controller who has never designed one before let alone worked for a game company. But for me and Nolan, we both took chances. Unfortunately, his resulted into the great “Video Game Crash of ’84.” But, I will give credit where it is due. The 5200 did have a modest catalog of games, but there were some great ones there: RealSports Baseball, Tennis, and Soccer, Countermeasure, Pitfall, Pitfall II, Joust, Robotron, the list goes on. As of today I own about 45 5200 cartridges out of the 75+ cartridges available. When you take that number and compare it to the 2600’s 450+ games available you realize the tragic life of 5200.
Shortly after the fall of his video game empire, Nolan Bushnell sold Atari and started a restaurant chain called “Chuck E. Cheese.” Atari struggled to stay afloat after that.
Somewhere in the mid-to-late 90’s, I found myself in a pretty low state of mind. I had a few of these relationships with some pong games and that was good, but my self esteem was low and I needed something to help ease the pain. Every one I knew had Play Stations and Nintendo 64’s and, previously to that, had Sega Genesis’ and Super Nintendo’s…but that wasn’t for me. What can I say? I was a romantic.
I had read somewhere that Atari was still kicking around on its deathbed with its latest (and last) game system – the Jaguar. After a failed attempt at the title in 1987 with the 7800 (the rival to the first Nintendo home system), and the Atari Lynx, the first hand held system to hit the market – COLOR – a portable game system (pre-dating the Game Boy) which is still one of the most beautiful pieces of electronic wizardry ever made. Atari came out with the first 64-bit game system in 1995. By the time I had caught wind of the Jaguar, it was considered a failed system. I had read up on it and looked over the internet, and I guess you could say I developed some sort of crush on the old system. I finally broke down and found myself in a Kay Bee Toys eyeing the red and black box. I asked the young salesman to grab it for me. As he lowered the box from the shelf to my hands I could feel my heartbeat increasing. My hand gripped the box and I honestly felt nervous. It felt like my first time, but I was a seasoned professional. I eyed the box up and down, checked all screen shots for the available games, and then the price…a whopping $17.98! I laid out a crisp $20 bill on the counter. The young store clerk said to me, “Hey man, are you sure you wanna buy this…I mean it kinda sucks!” I assured him that I had done this sort of thing before, and I knew what I was doing. Afterwards, I went across the hall to Electronic Boutique, and then purchased some discounted Jaguar games. Finally, in ten seconds flat, I was out in the parking lot climbing into my van. I sat in the driver seat, and laid my head on the head rest. I closed my eyes and felt that feeling come over me. It was that old familiar feeling. The smell of the shopping bags reminded me of my old excursions to thrift stores. I opened my eyes and looked down to the bag lying on my lap. I slowly reached my hand into the bag and felt around for the edges of the box. I began to pull it out slowly as I breathed deeply. I delicately opened up the box making sure I wouldn’t tear the soft cardboard shell. Then I slid the system out. Never had I seen a sight so beautiful in all of my life. I wanted to cry, the feeling was just so overpowering. Then it came to me – the same sensation that I had felt when I first touched the Coleco TeleStar, the magic that the Bentley had brought to me years earlier. It all made sense. I knew at that very moment when I laid eyes on my lady Jaguar that I was in love. I realized that my lap was no place for such a precious piece of Americana. I laid her on the passenger seat, and buckled her safety belt. I then reached in my other shopping bag and pulled out the games. They looked great. I couldn’t wait to take them all home, back to my room where I could lock my door and relive old memories and create new ones. The thing that really excited me about the games was the Mortal Kombat rip-off game called Kasumi Ninja. I liked this game because it came with a “Ninja”-style headband which I put directly on my head and wore with pride for a whole 10 minutes.
After driving back to my home and locking myself away for several hours with my passionate young love, it became apparent to me why the Atari Jaguar was considered dead on arrival. But you see, that didn’t matter. I was comfortable with her flaws, and she was comfortable with mine. We found a medium and we worked with it. It was a give and take relationship and it felt great. My friends would say, “you know, I’ve never seen Jason happier…” They were right. Shortly after I purchased my lady Jaguar, Atari was purchased by the JTS Corporation, and then later sold to Hasbro. Unfortunately, Hasbro has not done anything interesting with the rights to Atari other than make poor “3D” versions of classic games like Q-bert and Frogger. As somebody in my family might have said, “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it,” but I guess that sort of thing happens all the time. As for me and my lady, I have managed to treat her well. I purchased her a CD component, some extra controllers, and we’re only twelve games shy of the whole Jaguar catalog. We decided that we wanted to start a family so I went to my parents house and brought back the majority of my old systems and games. I even managed to pick up some more along the way, and just last year we opened an arcade together called ROM, but it was too much pressure for us. We closed it earlier this year, but the memories were great!!
The new album (Dischord)
Whatever. All their albums sound the same anyway. I saw Nation of Ulysses at a house show in ’90 before 13 Point Plan To Destroy America came out and it was amazing. I used to think the Make-Up was cool, then I just got some old James Brown albums. That whole “soul” thing is played out anyway. Whatever.
“A practice tape of Slint playing a version of an Aerial M song I found when I moved into Dave Pajo’s house in Louisville after he moved to Chicago to record the album Millions Now Living Will Never Die with Tortoise.”
Whatever. This is pretty cool. I like the Aerial M version better, but I don’t really listen to much indie rock. Whatever.
Instrument home video (Dischord)
Whatever. I was at most of the shows they used for the movie, but Fugazi suck now anyway. Ian gave me a test pressing of his Egg Hunt single and that’s pretty cool. Whatever.
“A new song I heard them practicing while I was hanging out with my friends who work at Electrical Audio.”
Whatever. This song is very typical of their new stuff. I was hanging out at Steve’s old house the night they wrote “Wingwalker” and that was pretty cool. Whatever.
A new single (Not released yet, but Modest Mouse played their tape copy of it for me when they slept at my house on tour.)
Whatever. I can’t remember what this record was like, because when they played it for me I was reading the liner notes to Stereolab’s Dots And Loops LP. Whatever.
Athens, GA – Sept. 2011
FOR THE FEW THAT SURVIVED TO see the second decade of the new millennium, indie rock began to finally pay dividends!
It was, unsurprisingly, Beck who laid the groundwork for indie-rock’s belated profitability, when, in May of 1999, he performed at the Tropicana Casino and Resort in sunny Las Vegas.
Until this watershed moment, making indie rock entertaining had been the exclusive reserve of theoretical postulation.
But it was too little, too late. A month later, the seminal article “Rockerdammerung” by Mike O’Flaherty appeared in Baffler #12. His article summarized the accomplishments and failures of indie rock, concluding with dire proclamations regarding its future. The Baffler’s predilection for self-fulfilling prophecy didn’t disappoint.
Matador had run out of money to run out of – for the last time. Pavement was sounding more and more like the Eagles. Superchunk was turning into the Carpenters. Drag City was finding new ways to alienate longtime fans. Added to these infrastructure problems was a fierce shortage of decent band names. The final nail in the coffin was the release of “Gimme Indie Rock Volume One” on the K-Tel label, forcing once great bands to readjust to life in the under-underground once again.
But amazingly enough, the hibernation did the genre well. The spring of 2010 – nearly 20 years after the release of Pavement’sSlanted and Enchanted – became the year that indie rock broke. Just as punk was “discovered” through the likes of Green Day and Offspring 20 years after the Sex Pistols, indie rock exploded with the success of Supergroup (a trio composed of Francis Bean Cobain, Coco Hayley Gordon Moore and Jon Spencer’s son).
[Momentum was aided immensely by the DVD release of theDecline of Western Civilization Part Four – a documentary that provided both a fascinating look at the indie rock scene of the early 1990’s and a step-by-step guide to understanding its intricacies. The now infamous hockey game style play-by-play description of an Archers of Loaf concert circa 1993 helped people understand the 1950s glasses and the thrift store clothing and the seeming paradox of an audience that acted bored yet enjoyed the proceedings immensely.]
The enforced indie-rock moratorium had given the movement time to forget prickly issues like community and ideals – although, ironically enough, the new lease on life allowed it to preserve both far better than it ever did during its hey-day. Attempts at selling-out during the 1990s were inconclusive experiments at best. But with the resurgent popularity of indie rock, the main factions, proponents and labels sat down in a small, windowless room and argued pointlessly for hour upon hour before finally deciding to learn from the Beck lesson and create an indie-rock version of Branson, Missouri. If putting a bunch of has-been country stars in one place could work, why not do the same with indie rock? Lollapalooza had had the right idea, but most of the aging indie rock illuminati were no longer interested in lengthy and painful tours. It was time for the fans to come to them.
The biggest stumbling block was quickly overcome with the signing of the strategic “big hits” agreement of June, 2010. This document guaranteed that indier-than-thou posturing was illegal within city limits, and any band that refused to play their hit song(s) each night would be given one warning before being banned for life. News spread quickly and the old-guard was soon summoned. Robert Pollard, who was eventually located (drunk) on a tramp steamer near Istanbul, was ecstatic to hear the news about Indie Rock Branson (IRB).
For an era that had been defined by irony, IRB was a triple-shot of ironic espresso. Since opening its doors in September of 2010, IRB has been doing stellar business. For those who haven’t had a chance to yet visit this paradise, Chunklet has put together a brief history and highlights package to celebrate IRB’s one-year anniversary.
Some bands seemed suited to the IRB since inception. Frank Black, also known as the Don Ho of IRB, adapted quickly and quietly. Joey Santiago and David Loveri ng were also rapid converts to the isle of rock, (despite the incredibly awesome success of their band the Martinis) but Kim Deal repeatedly turned down six-figure offers to rejoin the band. Kelly Deal was less difficult to convince. (Make your own joke about being paid with heroin here). Things went swimmingly until the spring of 2011, when the Breeders played a show in an adjacent room of the Hangwire Club, due to an incomprehensible error in scheduling. Repeatedly knocking on the walls separating the two noble foes in an attempt to get Frank to turn his wall of amps down a notch, Kim eventually kicked a hole through the drywall (a la Run DMC) and decided to join the Pixies for a spirited version of “Gigantic.” Flushed with nostalgia, Kim decided to rejoin the Pixies. Kelly, meanwhile, took control of The Breeders’ rudder and nobody has really much noticed or cared since. Some artists, such as Jon Spencer, took to the situation almost too well. Since mid-1997 Spencer had been pretending to be Elvis, and with his decision to join IRB, he ostensibly became Elvis – at least in his own, voluminous mind. The less said about his series of terrible B-movies, the better (although Beach Party Blues Explosion did feature his wife Christina Martinez in a bikini, which is never all bad). Unfortunately, despite aping every other Elvis convention and signature, he has as of yet failed to flatter through imitation by overdosing on a toilet.
Others let what little resurgent fame that occurred go to their heads. High maintenance “artists” like Veruca Salt, Afghan Whigs and Helmet continue to battle over whose music is more pointless, and Liz Phair and Cat Power continue a fruitless contest to discover who we care less about. The Boredoms are surprisingly popular in IRB and the number of fans attending their shows have doubled in only one year. At the current rate, they could be playing to a crowd of 30 people by the year 2015. Down at Chapel Hill Hall, Superchunk has decided to combine indie rock with unintentional dinner theatre, as almost every night ends up producing an emotional exchange between Mac and Laura. Their version of the Taming of the Shrew is a sight to behold. Not to be outdone, Rocket From the Crypt mounted a production of Oklahoma! and Built to Spill turned Death of a Salesman into a musical that continues to pack ’em in.
In The Laboratory, bands like Stereolab and Tortoise were given an opportunity to search for the perfect note. In June of 2011 they found it, and haven’t stopped playing it since.
Belle and Sebastian have become the Siegfried and Roy of IRB, minus most of the tigers. The other comparison points seem fairly apt however. After numerous dumptrucks full of money, Bob Mould was eventually convinced to reform Sugar. Unfortunately, it was not to last. After three fun-filled weeks, Bob decided to go acoustic, and was booed off the stage. He never returned. (Weezer was also booed off the stage, but for far, far different reasons.)
An equal opportunity employer, IRB welcomed the seemingly retarded (Jad Fair and Modest Mouse) along with the real deal (Daniel Johnston, Wesley Willis). And milder forms of psychosis also abound, including depression-weary favorites Smog, Will Oldham and the Magnetic Fields. And no one’s quite sure exactly what’s wrong with the Mountain Goats and The Olivia Tremor Control.
Some bands never quite managed to rekindle much interest. As per Steve Albini’s famous prediction, the members of Urge Overkill are now indeed “sucking dicks for loose change in bus stations.” What Albini didn’t predict, however, was that he, along with Fugazi would be slapped with a restraining order that keeps them a minimum of 500 miles away from IRB, an honor they earned for spreading counter-revolutionary rhetoric and agit-prop during their brief sojourn there. While Ian MacKaye and crew were marched out of the city at gunpoint, Albini was offered a pardon if he agreed to community service – namely, becoming IRB’s official village idiot. As it turned out, it was a job he was vastly overqualified for. Beck was elected mayor in July 2011, narrowly beating out Calvin Johnson. (Voter turnout was low, despite the Indie Rock the Vote campaign). Beck recently chose Sebadoh’s song “Gimme Indie Rock” as the official town anthem, a song with a distinct inability to improve with repeated listens. He also enacted a by-law that makes the murder of anyone caught stealing music gear “legal.” Meanwhile, Calvin was appointed alderman of the Olympia/Seattle borough of IRB, where he rules benevolently over minor subjects like Kicking Giant and Bikini Kill and those court jesters par excellence: Sleater-Kinney and Elliot Smith.
[With money usually comes drugs, but IRB has taken numerous steps to curb substance abuse. The Royal Trux Clinic has recently been established to ensure that bands like Nashville Pussy and the Murder City Devils avoid unnecessary pharmaceutical excess. This straight-edge policy hasn’t improved either band’s music, but science can only do so much.]
While the “Big Hits” agreement ensured happy crowds, there were more than a few bands that fell through the cracks – those that had only one song worth performing to begin with. Never one to underestimate nostalgia, IRB created the One-Hit Wonder Alt.Rock Parade, which delivered in spades.
The 90 minute revue was like watching your favorite mix tape brought to life! It featured songs that you couldn’t stop humming by bands that did. But while the idea sounded good on paper – get a cover band, make some costume changes, use lots of smoke machines and an energetic show would ensue – there were problems. Many of the audience enjoyed the show ironically, and had great difficulty holding back laughter during performances of Whale’s “Homo Humping Slo-Mo Babe” or Nada Surf’s “Popular,” or that song that Nerf Herder wrote about Van Halen. It was embarrassing to think that one once enjoyed these songs and laughter seemed the only way to deal with the situation. Needless to say, despite the high pay, the cover band did not enjoy being laughed at – after all they were only human.
So, taking a cue from Devo and Kraftwerk – bands that featured humans acting like robots – IRB took things to the next logical step. Combining high end work stations and animatronic technology, the show was retooled to feature androids – the 2’st century version of the Cantina in Star Wars. True robot rock was a smash, especially after the club was retrofitted with video games and VDTs, giving the experience all the kitsch value of a trip to Chuck E. Cheese. Animatronic rock provides many exciting opportunities: pay $20 and control your favorite musician via joystick for one song. Or throw beer bottles without guilt. Or enter a shooting range and try and knock picks and drumsticks out of performer’s hands.
Amazingly, no one seems to be complaining about the thousands of compromises necessary to stage and house such an immersive and authentic environment. Like the hippies before them, indie rock fans have mellowed with age, and are so happy to hear “Teenage Riot” one last time that they’re forgiven and forgotten. And who can blame them? From the Franklin Mint collector plates in the gift shops, to the indie rock themed hotels, everything about IRB has been well-planned and well-executed. If you’re going to sell out, at least make it entertaining. So if you’ll excuse this humble reporter, it’s time to grab a few pre-show drinks at the Pavement Palace – they just hired a cute bartender who likes mixing cocktails with a plastic tipped cigar.
The Hilarious Years (1969-1999)
A cursory overview of the robotic ass-kicker’s 2nd and 3rd wave of films
I suppose that a brief introduction is in order. In January of 1999, to the delight of several viewers, a piece of blindfolded uber-crap entitled Family Of Cops III aired on prime time TV. Like most made-for-TV action movies, this one would have no cultural impact whatsoever, except for the fact that it would mark the last ever film appearance of Charles Bronson. Born Charles Buchinski on Nov. 2nd, 1921, this “actor” would enjoy a fairly legitimate career throughout the 50’s and 60’s, starring in such high profile films as The Dirty Dozen, The Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape, and The Battle Of The Bulge. That era is what I have dubbed ‘st wave Bronson, and it is perhaps of interest to someone besides myself. Most of his films were of Italian origin as the 70’s approached, and while enjoying only mild popularity in the states, he was the number one box office draw in Europe. This was also the point in which the typecast would emerge, you know, the “ass-stomping-wooden-statue” typecast that would be utilized until his day of retirement (January 22, 1999). Make no mistake, this man was/is a very, very bad actor, but that’s the beauty of it all. From 1970 until 1974, this was the formula: Throw the man in a three-piece suit, give him a sidekick (like Jan-Michael Vincent, for instance) and a weak-ass, faux-stylish crime-based plot, and let him do his stuff, whatever that was. I use 1974 as a boundary because that’s when the world was given Death Wish, which made Charles a worldwide superstar at the tender age of 53. This movie both solidified and broke down the aforementioned typecast that had been gestating for about five years. On one hand, it opened him up for more varied roles in tamer action/adventure flicks (until the close of the 70’s). These opportunities weren’t due to his improved acting, because it didn’t improve, they happened because of his newly acquired top o’ the world status. On the opposing appendage, not only was Death Wish responsible for a bevy of absurd sequels, it also spawned the ultimate, yes this is possible, dumbing down of Bronson.
So basically, we’re going to look at a selection of films from Bronson’s 2nd wave (1969 – 1980) and last wave (1980 – 1999). The 2nd wave was typified by films of the “silent shit-kicker” variety and films that were toned down with pathetic attempts at style, social commentary, and “comedy.” Aside from The Indian Runner, the 3rd wave is a flawlessly bad, two-decade stint in the realm of adventure romps, utter action/horror depravity, Tuesday night TV cop stories, and weakass morality messages. To help with this read, I have included some helpful facts following each review. “Bronson’s dwellings” – a quick explanation of what the director thought would serve as an appropriate living space. “Jill Ireland?” – did he or did he not star alongside his spouse of 22 years (she succumbed to cancer in 1990) “Bronson kills” – number of bad guys that fall under his wrath during the film in question. “Acting effort” – this is a 1 – 10 rating on how badly he slept through this role. A ’10’ being a genuinely acted, colorful role, and ‘1’ being something that resembles lines left on the TJ Hooker cutting room floor. “Notable one-liner” – self-explanatory. “Hilarious movie title?” – does this movie sound ridiculous when you name off your choice of evening rentals? And lastly, “Bronson’s actual age upon film’s release” – A lot of times, this little tidbit will be mind-blowing, trust me.
Also, it will appear immediately obvious that I have left out a “significant” portion of this man’s post-1969 career. This is due to my lack of patience and my local video store’s lack of stock. Hey, there is a point when it’s no longer entertaining.
Lola (1969) dir. Richard Donner
I have never seen this film, but I know enough to justify it’s inclusion. Brace yourself. Charles plays a 38 year-old (he was actually 48!!!) porno writer, Susan George plays a 16 year-old nymphet, and I’ll let you guess what the plot consists of. You may remember George as the infuriating problem causer in Straw Dogs. Lola was originally known as Twinky or A Statutory Affair in the UK, but the title was changed for American release – presumably so that it would be associated with Kubrick’s wildly popular predecessor. David Dunlap Jr. doesn’t believe that this film exists, simply because, and I quote, “I don’t believe that Charles Bronson plays any kind of a writer in a film.” Now, go change your drawers. Richard Donner’s amazing directorial resume includes The Fugitive, The Banana Splits Adventure Hour, Cannon, Kojak, The Six Million Dollar Man, Sarah T: Portrait Of A Teenage Alcoholic, and that’s just TV! He’s also responsible for The Omen, Superman I – II, The Toy, The Goonies, Lethal Weapon I – IV, and fucking Ladyhawke. Bronson’s dwellings: Dunno Jill Ireland? No Bronson kills: Yeah, the viewer. Acting effort: Mmm…I’m guessing a “4” – not quite bad, but depressing at the least. Notable one-liner: I wish I knew. Let’s make one up: “Hey, we have a lot in common!!” Hilarious movie title? Kind of, if you know the story. Bronson’s actual age upon release of film: 48
Cold Sweat (1971) dir. Terence Young
Not exactly your run’o the mill Bronson vehicle, well, not overall. There is a fair amount of over-confident ass-whompin’, and the expected absence of acting is in full effect. What makes it different is the somewhat old school, military-themed plot centered around a past war crime (WWII) that our #1 robot emerged scott free from, while his buddies rotted in jail. I won’t go into detail, simply because it’s not that interesting, but the crime began small (some kind of escape plan) and escalated when a German soldier is stabbed by one of Bronson’s cronnies. Bronson runs, changes his name, sweeps his past underneath the rug, and all the sudden we’re in France 1971, chartering boats for the local spit mouths. As you can probably guess in your sleep, the gang gets out of jail and comes lookin’ for retribution – retribution in the form of using Bronson’s boat to go out to sea and pick up a big load of “the brown stuff.” Did I mention that one of the war criminals is way overplayed by James Mason? It seems as though Jill Ireland was written into the flick at the last moment, as she bursts onto the screen playing some kind of full-on boardroom created “hippie” character, complete with acoustic guitar and perpetual joint in hand. She is extremely successful at irritating the fuck out of me during this particular film. Bronson’s dwellings: A seaside villa Jill Ireland? Yes Bronson kills: 3 Acting effort: ‘5’ Notable one-liner: Not really Hilarious movie title? Yes Bronson’s actual age upon release of film: 50
The Mechanic (1972) dir. Michael Winner
Aging hit man trains up and comer Jan-Michael Vincent on the tools of the killing trade. Has one really good counter-culture scene in which both men watch Vincent’s hippie girlfriend attempt suicide via slit-wrists, and wait until absolutely the last minute before contacting an ambulance. Tries and fails at being stylish. Contains a mildly entertaining twist at the end. Some consider this to be the best of the Michael Winner non-Death Wish movies. Some people are wrong. Bronson’s dwellings: Massive hillside mansion Jill Ireland? Yes Bronson kills: A whopping 24 Acting effort: ‘4’ Notable one-liner: Not really Hilarious movie title? Most definitely Bronson’s actual age upon release of film: 51
The Stone Killer (1973) dir. Michael Winner
Also stars Normon Fell and Martin Balsam – This hackwork is basically a two hour episode of Mannix, except there’s a little more blood and, well, there’s Bronsy at the helm. Not without plenty of comedy, this film features some great “counterculture” scenes in which Bronson (Lt. Tory) searches for clues amidst “the underground.” Of course, Bronson is the only cop on the force that’s “down with the Black Panthers,” which results in a race riot when an unfamiliar cop is sent into the projects to nab someone for questioning. Discontentwith said situation results in Bronson screaming, “You sent that cracker to the projects?!?!?” Though Bronson’s character projects a streetwise, liberal aesthetic, he does threaten the hippie owner of a hippie deli with “a roughing up courtesy of the Vice Squad” if she doesn’t relinquish the information that he needs. Soon after, he interrupts a rural commune for the purpose of questioning a female peace-bear suspect. She predictably offers him sex (I’ve never done it with The Man before), and he predictably declines, stating “another time, another place, another cop.” About that time, and for no apparent reason, the entire area erupts into a hilarious acid-rock hoe-down. Hippies falling all over the place and a “band” cranking out some spur-of-the-moment, 9th rate Hot Tuna causes Bronson to vacate the area before he dirties up his three-piece suit. The rest is run of the mill street cop fare. Bronson’s dwellings: An apartment Jill Ireland? No Bronson kills: 10 Acting effort: ‘7’ Notable one-liner: “another time, another place, another cop” Hilarious movie title? Maybe Bronson’s actual age upon release of film: 52
Chino (1973) dir. John Sturges
Note: John Sturges directed Gunfight At The O.K. Corral, The Magnificent Seven, etc. Bronson is a “half-breed” that raises horses and teaches Leif Garrett lookalikes in the ways of whoopin’ ass. Plot: Chino has to fight for his land, falls for evil landowner’s sister (Jill Ireland), trains boy to tend horses, drags ass, drags ass, drags ass, drags ass, drags ass. Ireland, though breathtakingly gorgeous once again, seems to enjoy embarrassing herself with very fake British accents and very real sub-local-weatherman acting. Avoid. Bronson’s dwellings: The “frontier” Jill Ireland? Yes Bronson kills: 2 Acting effort: ‘3’ Notable one-liner: “I just want a bottle of whisky!” Hilarious movie title? Nope Bronson’s actual age upon release of movie: 52
The Death Wish Quintology
Death Wish (1974) dir. Michael Winner
So the saga begins. This is probably Bronson’s best-known and most credible post-1970 film. It differs from the sequels in that Bronson’s sequel-famous Paul Kersey (bleeding-heart liberal architect) is vulnerable and very human in comparison with his other action roles. At the beginning of the film, he frowns upon a co-workers suggestion to “put muggers and rapists in concentration camps.” This was probably my father’s favorite movie of all time, and I have fond adolescent memories of being banned from the room during the assault scene. Perhaps you know the drill: Bronson’s liberal viewpoints on crime are altered somewhat when his wife is killed and his daughter raped by three muggers. Our three assailants are straight out of an early 70’s Sociology textbook – they hoot and holler through the grocery store, they knock over merchandise, one of them actually wears a “Jughead” style hat, and one purchases a can of spray paint while flaunting it to the checkout girl in a “yeah, look what I just bought” fashion. Oh yeah, one of them is Jeff Goldblum in his first ever movie role. The attack is quick, but still effectively disturbing. Movie scenes that involve someone getting kicked in the head, repeatedly, are not my cup of tea. Confusingly, Jeff Goldblum either urinates on the daughter or forces her to perform fellatio, it’s very hard to discern. Weaponless attackers should know better than to stick their members in the victim’s faces, as I’m sure cries of “BITE IT OFF!!!!” were heard around the globe during this movies theatrical premiere. Since we never see these particular criminals again, the tagging of “revenge movie” is questionable, because Charles takes out his slooooowly (but realistically) built aggressions out on every form of street thug he approaches. Before utilizing real weaponry, Kersey goes to the bank and changes a twenty-dollar bill for two quarter rolls. These are placed inside of a sock so that they may be placed upside the head of Paul’s first attacker. He’s shaking so violently after this victory that he can barely fix his scotch and water upon returning home.In case you were wondering, he purposely walks around shady areas in order to provoke crimes against himself. Jesus, I guess that it’s about halfway through the flick before he gets a damn pistol and starts delivering the junkie/mugger justice. City wide vigilante fever ensues, and the bronchitis-inflicted police chief must do something. Very funny faux news footage of the New York citizens fighting back – probably one of few laugh generators to be found here. Famous soft-hearted ending will have your elderly relatives fisting the air 60 Minutes style. Bronson’s dwellings: Posh, high-rise apartment Jill Ireland? No Bronson kills: 10 Acting effort: ‘6’ Notable one-liner: “Hey, what am I supposed to do, mope around all the time?” Hilarious movie title? Not anymore Bronson’s actual age upon release of film: 53
Death Wish II (1981) dir. Michael Winner
My pick of the litter for sheer weirdness, violence, and imagery. Because the 70’s weren’t that sequel-friendly, everyone had to wait 7 years for a second installment of Paul Kersey’s patented vigilante justice, even though this one is supposed to be set only 4 years after the original. This time around, Paul gets pick-pocketed and the “street trash” responsible show up at his house a little later. Paul’s busy trying to spend quality time with his catatonic daughter (yes, a result of Jeff Goldblum’s advances in the first film, though this is a different actress playing Carol Kersey), but all of this comes to a halt when he arrives home to find the housekeeper raped, and a gang of street thugs waiting for him. They beat his ass and kidnap his daughter, who is later raped and impaled on a wrought-iron fence after a failed escape attempt. AND SO BEGINS THE JUSTICE. Let me add that his girlfriend (Jill Ireland) is a radio news announcer who firmly believes in criminal rehabilitation. He rents a cheap room in the “bad area” of town and buys some black clothing from a thrift shop. His room serves as a kind of “vigilante HQ” for weapons storage, street prowlage, wound dressing, etc. He has his locks changed so that Ireland can’t enter the apartment and notice his nightly absence. Two great pre-killing statements include: “Do you believe in Jesus? Well, you’re about to meet him” and “Goodbye.” Despite critical nay-saying, this film allegedly grossed an insane amount at the box office. Bronson’s dwellings: Nondescript suburban home, cheap hotel Jill Ireland? Yes Bronson kills: 10 Acting effort: ‘4’ Notable one-liner: “Do you believe in Jesus? Well, you’re about to meet him.” Hilarious movie title? Nah Bronson’s actual age upon release of film: 60
Death Wish 3 (1985) dir. Michael Winner
This is simply a remarkable example of comic genius. You can’t beat this level of ludicrousness with a pimp stick. The acting appears almost improvised, well, improvised by drunks or lobotomy recipients. But we are dealing with actors here, the most notable being Martin Balsam (you know, the guy that you always confuse with Ernest Borgnine) and the screen debut of Alex Winter (‘Bill’ from Bill and Teds……). Oh yeah, Ed Lauter is the police chief (a role that he has played in at least 20 films, you may not know the name, but the face is unmistakable) who initially gives Paul a hard time, but teams up with him in the end to blow away street scum. Never seen that one before. Basically, Paul starts to protect an apartment building from the street gang that runs the neighborhood. Sounds simple, but the demographics make no sense whatsoever. The building tenants are all very moral, old, and aside from a Hispanic couple, white. The exterior of the building looks like a housing project, but the interiors of the individual apartments are quite nice, much nicer than my apartment at least. This plot flaw is much funnier than it sounds, trust me. The street gang hoots and hollers at all hours, right outside the building, as if this is some bad stage play that lacks the room to film what they need to. Bronson invites himself to dinner with the old Jewish couple on the first floor, because they’re having boiled cabbage and it “smelled so good out in the hall” (obviously losing his sense of smell if he thinks boiled cabbage smells like anything other than hot, festering garbage), then he momentarily excuses himself from the table to shoot two hoodlums dead in the street. Albeit they were trying to steal his car, but it’s still a priceless scene. In the final, 20 minute full-on riot scene, Bronson uses a 40-caliber machine gun and an anti-tank rocket launcher against his enemies. A laugh-a-fucking-minute! Don’t miss it!!! Bronson’s dwellings: Inhabits home of recently killed, elderly “war buddy” Jill Ireland? No Bronson kills: 55!!! Acting effort: ‘2’ Notable one-liner: (silence) Hilarious movie title? Getting there Bronson’s actual age upon release of film: 64
Death Wish IV: The Crackdown (1987) dir. J Lee Thompson
“Bronson verses cocaine” is exactly what it sounds like: A plot shat directly from comedy heaven. Has a lot of the Reagan era, drugs are killing the children dogma common to this type of flick, but how many of those movies have a 66 year old man throwing kilos of coke around a room whilst screaming “How many kids have you killed with this shit!!!!!” We are jettisoned into a fantasy land where one elderly man can take an AK-47 to a fully staffed, fully armed cocaine warehouse, then blow up the entire compound!!! Why is he so pissed? Well, his girlfriend’s daughter died of a coke overdose, dummy!!! He is then hired by a mysterious man to pit two rival drug gangs against each other, which is a set-up of course, dummy!!! There’s a ten minute scene during which he fashions a bomb out of a wine bottle!!! He poses as a wine dealer and blows up a table of goons, not to mention an innocent bartender!!! You may ask, “What doth thou Paul Kersey useth to flatten the loftiest of villains in thee finale?” A rocket launcher, dummy!!!! Bronson’s dwellings: Posh suburban home Jill Ireland? No Bronson kills: 41 Acting effort: ‘1’ Notable one-liner: “How many children have you killed with this shit?!?!?!?!?” Hilarious movie title? Finally, YES!!! Bronson’s actual age upon release of film: 66
Death Wish V: The Face Of Death (1994) dir. Allen A. Goldstein
This shouldn’t really be classified as a vigilante movie per se, as Charles fights the mob in this, the last of the sequels. Multi-ethnic street gangs and knife-wielding members of The Exploited = entertainment. Catoonish mobs (“Ehhhhhhh Toooony, looks like someone needs to go swimmin’ heh, heh, heh, heh, heh,”) DO NOT. Our hero was 73 three years old when this film was released straight to video. I lasted long enough to see that Saul Rubinek (very common sub-star) was granted a role in this tedious piece of shit. Bronson’s dwellings: Same as above Bronson kills: 8 Acting effort: Borders on nothing Notable one-liner: “Hey, I’m an architect.” Hilarious movie title? Maybe Bronson’s actual age upon release of film: 73
Mr. Majestyk (1974) dir. Richard Fliescher
It really wasn’t my intention to dwell on Bronson vehicles that I actually regard as genuinely great in a non-ironic fashion, but I’ll do my best to make this an entertaining read. It’s hard to go wrong with a solid Elmore Leonard screenplay, namely one about pushing a honest hard-luck case too far. I guess that there’s a vigilante air about it, but aside from some blatant action scenes, everything here is believable for a fucking change. As I said above, it’s basically your 70’s “push a man too far” story done really well, with characters that breathe personality and look great. Bronson plays a tough watermelon farmer with a heart of…well….sugar or something. He avoids cracking a lot of jokes, or skulls for that matter, saving the good ass-whompings and above-average dialogue (meaning, it transcends the Dr. Who style he so favors) for when they’re needed. Al Lettieri is fantastic as the big-time hit man that Bronson somewhat inadvertently pisses off. Pretty violent for a PG flick, but that comes with the decade in question. As far as this genre goes, it’s not as creepy or moving as Night Moves, but that’s because it’s a Charles Bronson movie – still a good little slice of, shall we say, “bubblegum noir.” Highly recommended. Bronson’s dwellings: A watermelon farm Jill Ireland? No Bronson kills: 6 Acting effort: ‘8’ Notable one-liner: “You gonna eat your breakfast?” Hilarious movie title? Uh…I’d say so Bronson’s actual age upon release of film: 53 *(who also directed Soylent Green!!!)
Breakout (1975) dir. Tom Gries
(directed the I Spy, Mission:Impossible, and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. television shows) This was Bronson’s next movie after Death Wish, so I guess that explains why his role is “lightened up” a bit. Let’s just call that a bad move, ok? He spits out bad one liner after bad one liner and he never fires a gun once. So, as you may have ascertained, this one bites. Jill Ireland hires Charles to rescue her framed husband (Robert Duvall, who does absolutely nothing throughout the entire film) from a Mexican prison. Randy Quaid always sucks, so it doesn’t help that he plays Bronson’s dumbass sidekick. Nobody acts worth a shit in this film, not even John Huston, who has a minor role. Don’t even give this five minutes if it’s on TV, unless it’s to gaze at Jill Ireland, who retained her beauty well into the 70’s. Bronson’s dwellings: An airstrip Jill Ireland? Yep Bronson kills: no one Acting effort: A very grating ‘3’ Notable one-liner: None Hilarious movie title? No Bronson’s actual age upon release of film: 54
St. Ives (1976) dir. J. Lee Thompson
A Columbo-styled, made-for-TV street yarn that wasn’t made-for-TV, St. Ives fluctuates between hilarious and boring as all hell. Bronson plays Raymond St. Ives, an unsuccessful novelist and former crime columnist who (second one I know of where he plays a writer – RIGHT!!!) fancies the “jack-of-all-trades” lifestyle. The “jack-of-all-trades” lifestyle is a product of Hollywood in which a well-known man about town gets to sleep all day and be offered certain “jobs” by important people with lots of money and favors to ask. Ray gambles constantly, has a troublesome ex-wife, a stressed out lawyer/keeper, a high-rise efficiency apartment, a sporty Jaguar, and is always cool-headed (i.e. badly acted). The story? Who cares when you have a sublimely hack cast? John Houseman as the millionaire “genius” of crime who is constantly screening old films (the movie’s most blatant example of unoriginality). Daniel J. Travanti (the poor man’s Roy Schieder) runs a stolen car ring, or something like that, and Jaqueline Bissett (the female Michael Caine) is the sex interest. Bronson’s dwellings: High-rise efficiency Jill Ireland? No Bronson kills: 1 Acting effort: ‘5’ Notable one-liner: “Yeah I’m worried about health, your health.” Hilarious movie title? Very much so Bronson’s actual age upon release of film: 55
Telefon (1977) dir. Don Siegal (of Dirty Harry fame)
Let’s face the facts, most actors of Bronson’s caliber and era where required to stop WWIII at least once during their careers. The “Telefon” mind-control project consists of 55 Russians transplanted in America shortly after the Korean War and brainwashed into believing that they are American citizens (this part is predictably foggy). If they hear a particular line to a Robert Frost poem, they immediately (in a laughable Zombie-like fashion) dig out some conveniently stored away explosives and head to the nearest government facility to blow shit apart. The KGB wisely scrapped the project years ago, along with the names and addresses of the stateside subjects. Too bad a rogue agent (Donald Pleasance) has found the info, popped over to the States, and has kicked off his own little poetry slams via the telephone. This movie furthers my belief in the “Donald Pleasance Thespian School Of British Whore Actors,” of which Michael Caine is in the first graduating class. This society of weak-ass Shakespearean dipshits relying on their accents has infiltrated the world of film to a horrifying degree, and must be stopped at all levels. Pleasance’s characteristic “eyes-about-to-pop-out-shifty-paranoia” shtick is non-stop in this vehicle, in case for some reason you can’t get enough of that. As far as Bronson is concerned, Mr “I’m an expensive actor now” doesn’t appear on screen until 22 minutes have passed, then it’s as a KGB agent with a perfect American accent. Well, to tell you the truth, all of the KGB agents in this movie have perfect American accents. But don’t look overseas for the comedy, the U.S. government officials portrayed here speak exclusively on red telephones, and one of them is a very irritating Tyne Daly. She’s obsessed with statistics, and statistics are produced by computers (the room-filling, monochrome display variety), so her role is to rattle off at the mouth until one of her superiors puts down the receiver to his red telephone and interrupts her. Repeat this scene about 27 times. Charles has a photographic memory, so he’s sent to the States to stop Pleasance, who is spelling his surname across the country via phonecall induced bombings. This era marked the heyday of violence in PG-rated movies (if you disagree, think Jaws, The Deep, Badlands, and the formerly reviewed Mr. Majestyk) and Telefon delivers two splattering headwounds and a live rattlesnake getting blown to pieces (a scene that really bothered me as a child). Worth seeing on cable, if only for the comedy. Bronson’s dwellings: Somewhere in Russia Jill Ireland? No Bronson kills: 4 Acting effort: ‘6’ Notable one-liner: “Don’t make me kill you” Hilarious movie title? Absolutely Bronson’s actual age upon release of film: 56
Borderline (1980) dir. – Ed Harris’ debut?
Well, he debuts by blowing a mammoth hole in Wilfred Brimley with a sawed-off shotgun. Ed’s been smugglin’ illegal aliens across the border for extra pocket coin. Bronson’s the border cop that’s going to track down the killer and stop the smugglin’. Wilfred was in TV’s Our House, and he eats a whole lot of oatmeal. I am a Kids, Don’t Talk To Strangers cartoon chinchilla. Congratulations, you’ve just won tickets to attend a concert performance by Carrot Top, the funniest man on earth. Bronson’s dwellings: Depressing apartment Jill Ireland? No Bronson kills: 2 Acting effort: ‘4’ Notable one-liner: not really Hilarious movie title? No Bronson’s actual age upon release of film: 59
10 ’til Midnight (1983) dir. J. Lee Thompson
Wow. Not even the high-school-film-project quality of the gore and acting make this even slightly entertaining. This is a very, very bad “tough cop after a serial killer” movie that reveals who the killer is within the first five minutes. Of course, Bronson knows all along, but he gets kicked off the case when he beats some suspect ass in the interrogation room. Lucky for our hero, his daughter is in danger, so that problem eventually leads to him shooting the killer square in the forehead in front of the entire police force. With Wilford Brimley as the obligatorily fat police chief. This is a very, very bad movie. Bronson’s dwellings: “divorced” style apartment Jill Ireland? No Bronson kills: 1 Acting effort: Please Notable one-liner: After interrogating and beating the crap out of a suspect at “the station”, Bronson pulls some “evidence” (a battery-powered vagina) out of a bag and screams: “WHAT IS THIS?????? YOU USE IT TO JERK OFF?!?!?!?!?!?” Hilarious movie title? No Bronson’s actual age upon release of film: Please add the phrase “62 years of age” with the above one-liner for instant laughs.
The Evil That Men Do (1984) dir. J. Lee Thompson
A fairly exploitive effort that’s redeemable only for the unpredictable killings and very odd sexual overtones (for a Bronson flick). Charles plays Holland, a retired hitman who jumps back in the game to stop the sadistic doctor that killed an old buddy. That’s really all you need to know. Actually, it’s very violent, with death by electrocution (electrodes are attached to a man’s nipples and scrotum), a very slow knife in the throat scene, and for the eye-catching: A man is pushed out of a high rise window with a fire hose tied around his neck. We also get to listen to Bronson discuss having a threesome with a HUGE black man and a tiny Hispanic lady (who poses as his wife). “Me and Nancy here are into all kinds of things.” When a massive tough guy hits on his wife in the same bar, Bronson causes him to pass out from pain by nearly ripping the man’s dick off. In another ridiculous scene, he gets stuck underneath the bed that two women are having congress on. Absurd, but not recommended. Bronson’s dwellings: A tropical island Jill Ireland? No Bronson kills: 9 Acting effort: ‘3’ Notable one-liner: “Ah Hector, like I told George, I’m retired. Look!” – right before being talked into “helping out” Hilarious movie title? No Bronson’s actual age upon release of film: 63
Murphy’s Law (1986) dir. J. Lee Thompson
In quite the surprise role, Chuck plays the manager of a subpar Long Island punk rock band. He enjoys filling their contemporaries with buckshot. or….. A full year before Swimming To Cambodia, Bronson breaks ground by sitting in a room for two hours and quoting from the Murphy’s Law “humor” book series, appending his own witticisms to each passage: “Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong, or I can simply attack you with a crossbow.” “If you think that it’s bad, it probably is. This is because I’m going to kick your ass up and down the street.” and so on….. or….. Bronson is an alcoholic detective (YES!!!!) who gets framed for murder. He escapes hand cuffed to a foul-mouthed tart and precedes to straighten his situation. Boring as all hell. Bronson’s dwellings: The slammer Jill Ireland? No Bronson kills: 5 Acting effort: ‘5’ Notable one-liner: “Nobody fucks with Jack Murphy!!!” Hilarious movie title? Could be Bronson’s actual age upon release of film: 650
WHAT HATH BRONSON WROUGHT?
Death Wish single-handedly spawned a “vigilante” sub-genre of film that lasted well into the 90’s. Here is a far from complete overview of some classics:
Vigilante Force (1976)
With Jan Michael Vincent and Kris Kristofferson. Holds true to the Vietnam Vet Vigilante motif common to most of these films. This features hilarious costumes (the final shootout has the opposing forces wearing coon-skin caps), Kristofferson breaking up a cockfight by shooting the chickens, protagonist brother to antagonist brother conflict – it’s a winner!!!!
Another one with Jan Michael Vincent. He fights a Hispanic street gang, and things predictably heat up after they kill his elderly buddy Abe (Art Carney). It seems as though the villains always have to off a septuagenarian in order to instigate some serious ass kicking in these movies. Also with Danny Aiello, who probably plays a storeowner or something, I don’t quite remember.
The Exterminator (1980) and The Exterminator II
The first one is unbelievable. To spend time on it in these pages would only serve to jeopardize the already questionable integrity of this piece. Let’s just say that we have another Vietnam vet, yes, but this one uses a flame-thrower to kill his adversaries!!!!! A very over-the-top flick. Never seen the sequel.
Fighting Back (1982)
Have I seen this? Hell no, but at least I’m admitting it – the rest of this damn piece remains a guessing game FOR YOU. It’s got Tom Skerrit and Yaphet Koto, so it’s highly recommended, sight unseen.
From what can gather, we get a Death Wish-style plot (family or loved ones attacked) and not much else. With Robert Forster, who you may remember as “Max Cherry” from Jackie Brown (1997), or the main guy in Alligator (1980). However, you probably do not remember him from Kinky Koaches The Pom Pom Pussycats (1980), Point Of Seduction: Body Chemistry III (1994), or Scanner Cop II (1995).
The Star Chamber (1983)
A little headier than most vigilante films, this stars Michael Douglas, which doesn’t matter one bit. What does matter is that Hal Holbrook and Yaphet Koto also star, and they always make much more interesting screen figures. Plot involves a frustrated judge who joins up with a secret vigilante society. Great name one, this one.
REASONS WHY CHUCK BRONSON HAS MORE INTEGRITY THAN CHUCK NORRIS
Chuck Norris’ first major role didn’t occur until 1977, when he starred in Breaker Breaker – a movie that nonsensically combined martial arts and truck driving.
Bronson never materialized out of nowhere in order to teach a child martial arts (Sidekicks 1992). Charles Bronson didn’t give a fuck about the children, except when they do something important to the plot, like OD on cocaine.
Charles Bronson never needed a schtick, such as Kung Fu. He favored the more realistic and manly route of guns, knives, and his bare hands. Bronson was better dressed.
Chuck Norris starred in Invasion U.S.A. (1995), Delta Force (1996), and Delta Force II: Operation Stranglehold. All are pro-U.S.A. terrorists-paranoia flicks in which Norris offs about 450 people of middle-eastern descent per movie. Bronson never quite sunk to this level. Charles Bronson is not an honorary D.E.A agent
Bronson was too old to play a Vietnam vet. Norris however, starred in all three Missing In Action films. These wouldn’t have been made had there not been a massive contingent of fat, white, commie-hatin’, fantasy-believin’, Coors swillin’ Lazy-Boy tumors shitting their trousers every time a skinny-white dude busted out of the jungle unloading an anti-helicopter machine gun and simultaneously killing corrupt government officials with his mind.
Charles Bronson never starred opposite a fucking dog in a police buddy movie (Top Dog, 1995).
An elderly fan willed Bronson, a man that she had never met, her life savings.
Ah, from the mouths of babes….
The following is a list of notable quotables from two very different sources. First is the New York Yankees catcher who probably received more than a couple bats to the side of the head, Yogi Berra. Second is my four year old neice Mary Elizabeth who I’ve come to find has a knack for coming up with the most remarkably Yogi Berra-esque sayings. See if you can pick who is who!
1. “You gotta buy what you pay for.”
2. “You got to be very careful if you don’t know where you’re going, because you might not get there.”
3. “You better cut the pizza in four pieces because I’m not hungry enough to eat six.”
4.“When asked what time is was, you mean now?”
5. “When you come to a fork in the road….Take it.”
6. “When I wake up it will be tomorrow.”
7. “The future ain’t what it used to be.”
8. “I usually take a two hour nap from one to four.”
9. “When you get little like me you can do it too!”
10. “It’s pretty far, but it doesn’t seem like it.”
11. “Truth is truth.”
12. “If you can you can, if you can’t you can’t.”
13. “You can observe a lot just by watchin’.”
14. “I didn’t really say everything I said.”
15. “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.”
16. “It gets late early out here.”
17. “Never answer an anonymous letter.”
18. “If you’re a cow, you don’t eat soup with a spoon.”
19. “It’s dejá vu all over again.”
20. “Cats wear naked clothes.”
21. “I know what I know.”
22. “If you spill water, it’s wet.”
23. “If the world were perfect, it wouldn’t be.”
24. “Let’s go buy some money!”
MARY: 1, 6, 9, 11, 12, 18, 20, 21, 22, 24
YOGI: 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 10, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 19, 23
Well, I did it. I succumbed to the computer generation and bought one-I am such a sell out. It was pure comedy listening and watching as the computer pimps (my brother calls them that) tried to pawn off their crap at the computer store.
It was very much like buying a car. The salespeople (all male, of course) flaunt their testosterone by acting like they know everything under the sun about cars and thus, life. I feel like saying to arrogant retards like that, “If you’re so bloody smart, why the hell are you a sales clerk at Circuit City making $6.00 an hour?” Of course I don’t, I am compelled to bat my eyes and act like they are the smartest people I have ever encountered. I hate feeling helpless like that. Knowledge is power and these guys take what little they have and use it to make you feel like such an idiot just because you aren’t a specialist in their particular “expertise.” Let’s just forget about the fact that I am probably older than they are, make three times as much money, have a Masters degree from Johns Hopkins University and have been to almost every continent in the world. I get into those situations where I feel like a mother of 12 on welfare who just got my GED and needs a computer for night school and welfare has agreed to pick up the computer tab. (Nothing against those women who were probably abused and forced into a life of poverty…that’s another tangent though…)
One guy was following me around when I went back in the second time. He was such a sleazeball. The guy followed me around and commented on my smile, my shoes, my computer, and anything else he could think of. Finally, he asked me where I was from and I told him I had been living in Seoul, Korea. Well, big mistake because he had been to Seoul for three weeks when he was in the Army, thus the resident expert and conversationalist. Of course, he was probably some enlisted stiff in the common corp and one of the first to be sent to the frontlines as “expendable.” Capitalizing on my lack of military knowledge or so he thought, he waxed on about how he was in Intelligence (Yeah, right!) and was on a special mission investigating the North Koreans. I am thinking to myself, “Again, why the hell are you working at Circuit City in York, Pennsylvania? I am really sure you had your finger on the button, so just stop with the I am best friends with Colin Powell and Schwartzkopf crap.” Do I look stupid? Luckily, this guy’s shift ended. I was rescued from this pathetic guy’s attempts to wow me with his world travels and illuminating life philosophies, no doubt influenced by Howard Stern’s morning show.
All of this is to say, I bought a computer…a Packard Bell with lots of power, a CD-ROM and fully loaded. Heck, I could have bought an old mainframe with a typewriter as a keyboard and I wouldn’t know. It allows me to access e-mail though, plays my music, looks really pretty and my brother said that I got a good deal so I guess I am ok. It’s one of those purchases that 3 minutes after you have signed your financial life away, some retard tells you how he got the same computer for $5.00 down the street at Value City. I love sensitive people who feel they are doing me the big favor sharing bargain hunting tidbits. Thanks a hell of a lot buddy, you really helped me feel better.
I also bought a workstation with “some assembly required.” Well, that was the biggest lie I have ever heard, next to loser Circuit City boy. Granted, he technically lied, but gets off for stupid since it was not premeditated and he wasn’t smart enough to know the difference between “people who are important” and “people who think they are important.” There is a difference you know — maybe I’ll start giving seminars on that. The first hour of the seminar I could go around the room, and ask people to tell a little about themselves. After an hour of tired stories of ordinariness, I could ask, “Now, how many of you think you are important?” Of course, all of them would dutifully raise their hands since they are actually in the seminar, and being an expert on the subject, I would say, “Okay people! Okay people! Work with me! This is going to hurt a little but you came here for a reason and I have to do my job even if in the short term it stings. Brace yourselves, because I am going to tell you something you have denied for a long time…let it sink in…give it time to permeate your existence… Ready? (said very matter of factly and looking your patients straight in the eye) None of you are important, and by the end of this two day seminar, you will realize this.” The participants would then break for a fifteen minute coffee break. I would then start the 24-hour A&E Biography Marathon in which they would watch truly important people and recognize/identify their accomplishments. After this “tough love therapy,” I would spend the remaining hours comparing and contrasting until finally they realize they aren’t going to be on Biography anytime soon, and thus, are as unimportant as any other stiff who works at Circuit City.
After reading the preceding article you may be a bit confused as to whether you fit into the category of people I am targeting my seminars. I understand some of you might be saying, “She’s talking about the Circuit City guy, not me. I don’t make $5.25 an hour.” In that my article is a public service announcement of sorts, I have gone a step further and have actually detailed a process whereby folks who are confused about whether they need my tough love could get the help they truly deserve. By completing the following survey, you are taking a baby step to a healthier personal inventory.
Answer yes or no to any of the following questions (complete honesty is needed for this exercise so that it is something of value):
1) Is there a building named after you? (A building named after your grandfather/grandmother or father/mother or any other family member does not count, that’s stealing.)
2) Have you created anything of substance like a light bulb, a theory of gravity, a rocket? (This theory/object/thing of substance must be recognized as a meaningful contribution by society as a whole, not just your mom. In other words, things held up by a magnet on your mom’s fridge don’t count!)
3) Have you ever had someone stand outside your house waiting for you to give him or her an autograph? Has the paparazzi ever hounded you so they could sneak a glimpse of your private life? (Actually, if you have ever used the words “private life” about yourself, you may want to edit this question so it doesn’t read paparazzi and so that you make the cut.)
4) Is there a monument anywhere with your name intentionally on it? (This excludes items like league trophies and your bronzed baby shoes)
5) Has the President of the US (or any other country in the world for that matter) ever called you for advice on anything? (This can truly be on anything…you have a little latitude with this one)
6) Are you cited in history books or designated as someone to be studied in any social studies curriculum anywhere, in any country?
7) Has the show Biography begun to interview your friends for an upcoming documentary on your life?
8) Has Barbara Tuchman or any other recognized historian ever called you to make sure they have the story straight? (“Recognized” is the key word in this question)
9) Have you ever been awarded income from an organization like the United Nations, the Nobel Prize Commission, the Pulitzer Prize Commission, the Emmys, the Grammy’s, etc?
10) Have you ever taken the subway or any other means of public transportation and ever worried that someone might recognize you?
11) When you go to a restaurant, does the maitr’d ever insist that you have the best table? (Food critics are not allowed to answer this question)
12) In all seriousness, has anyone ever uttered the command, “remember the little people” to you?
If you have answered yes to any of the preceding questions, I stand corrected, you may be important. Further research must be conducted however, and if you fax/email your name and a little bit about yourself, I will volunteer to actually do the research for any final conclusions. If you answered “no” to all of the above, continue on with the survey.
1) Do you know exactly when and how many times your paycheck is deposited each month?
2) Do you need to ask permission from anyone if you can take a vacation?
3) Does your hourly wage end in .25? Do you receive an hourly wage?
4) Have you ever clipped a coupon or woken up early to go to a garage sale?
5) Do you regularly stand in lines at the grocery store or Movie Theater or anywhere for that matter?
6) If you have a beeper, cell phone, or other mobile device, does anyone ever call you on it besides your mom, girlfriend, boss or friends?
7) Do you cut your own lawn?
If you answered yes to any of the above questions, you, in fact, are unimportant. For those of you who already knew this, I am sorry for wasting your time. For those of you who still feel a bit of angst or outrage at this notion, a seminar (or two) might be just the thing you need to come to grips with life’s mediocrity. Embrace your feelings of grandeur and come out on the other side knowing that you have done the world a service by admitting your own limitations. If you act now, you can get this tough love therapy for three installments of $149.95. I am here to help.
I sympathize with those who are average Joe’s and deal with incommensurate egos. My sister tells the story of when I was ten, shooting up out of bed, standing erect and proceeding to give my inaugural address, “As Vice President of the United States, I…..” And falling right back asleep. Believe or not, I think I too struggle with feelings of importance when in fact Geraldine Ferraro, Elizabeth Dole, and my own skeletons have ruined any chance of me ever making such a leap in my career progression. In fact, I answer yes to every one of the questions in the second set of questions. However, it’s those individuals who are surprised by their unimportance that plague the nation. It’s this kind of individual that makes buying a computer a hazardous task. It’s a power struggle and we need to make a united front, raise the level of consciousness against those who have undeservedly taken their slice of the “power pie.” With a little bit of self assessment and three easy installments of $149.95 for the seminar we may begin to take the necessary baby steps to rid Circuit City of these pariahs.n
Coming soon! Seminars for people who cc: e-mails, collect Beanie Babies or say the following phrase, “What you should have done….”
I defy you to find me a subgenre of independent rock more disgusting than emo — that chipper, little pop-punk dingleberry embraced by only the very wussiest of high school rejects. Punk is lame enough; you’re a loser, so you dye your hair magenta, pierce your dick and pretend to like the Clash in a contrived, self-loathing effort to get chicks and/or belong to some sort of fashion movement. But emo? Come on. You cut your hair like some closet-case, butt-plundering marine, dress like a 12-year old, grow sideburns that would embarrass Engelbert Humperdinck and wear glasses left over from shop class. And for what? To appear “sensitive” and “non-threatening,” yet “rebellious” enough to impress slightly overweight indie girls? Pathetic. Listening to bands like the Promise Ring, Hot Water Music and Braid means that you’re even too much of a pussy for punk rock. Not only are you a sheep, but you’re a boring, whiny, petulant brat, to boot. The fact that most emo bands don’t like to be labeled as such should tell you something; they, themselves, lack pride in their pose. When these groups are interviewed and faced with the question of musical categorization, they try to make excuses along the lines of “oh, we’re not emo, we’re just a rock band.” Why? Because emo bands themselves are visibly embarrassed by their own existence. And they’re the ones who are making money off the movement (if you can call it that).
The phenomena began innocently enough. In the mid-to-late-80’s, a group of mostly DC-area bands (e.g. Rites Of Spring, Soulside, Embrace, Ignition, latter day Government Issue, etc.) tried to make hardcore less dogmatic and more personal by slowing down the form, focusing on dynamics instead of on speed, and tempering the music’s then cliché-ridden, metal-leaning aggression with slightly more complex and thoughtful (though occasionally ludicrous) lyrics. Most of these groups were somewhat naïve in their efforts, but on occasion, some of them, such as Happy Go Licky, managed to make great music of lasting impact. Almost 15 years after the so-called “Revolution Summer” of 1985, a half-dozen or so okay bands are still performing songs that uphold or fuck with this tradition. The work of Lungfish and select tracks by Drive Like Jehu and Seaweed come to mind. Unfairly, these worthy acts get grouped into what is known today as “emo,” an otherwise worthless pigeonhole that has come to mean something entirely different from what “emocore” meant 10 years ago. It could be said that “emocore” entered the modern era (and began to suck balls) when its moniker became truncated. In the ‘80s, “emocore” was simply a catch-all term used to describe a sound — emotional post-punk, an umbrella that could cover such decidedly non-emo entities as Honor Role or Squirrel Bait — but in recent years, “emo” has come to mean much more: a lifestyle choice, a style of dress, and a pop-sensitized, wholly accessible, watered-down take on the values and musical approaches of veteran “emocore” acts like Fugazi. Confused? Let’s simplify. Modern emo is a lowest-common-denominator bastardization of the Dischord roster circa 1987. The music tends to exaggerate the weaker tendencies of early emocore (dumb, earnest lyrics, annoying vocals, power pop fixations) while ignoring the form’s worthier traits (dynamics, noise, intellectual maturity). “Emo” is about as relevant to “emocore” as Green Day is to the Stooges. Most of its ‘90s practitioners sound more like the goddamn Pixies than anything Ian MacKaye ever did. And despite their melodic aspirations, this current crop of psuedo-sincere, fresh-faced men lacks anything resembling actual songwriting skills. I mean really, the average emo tune is just not good pop. Or, more accurately, it’s not quite pop. The music approximates poppiness rather than achieving it. Those junior-league hooks are half-assed and wholly inconsequential. Thus, emo is a training-wheels subgenre, representing the worst of both worlds by grafting pop’s sugary opportunism onto punk’s didactic stupidity.
The time has come for the great emo backlash. K-fucking-Tel’s recent release of the compilation Nowcore!, unironically subtitled The Punk Rock Evolution, will be the music’s death blow. Who would have ever guessed that one day, a compendium of safe, melodic post-hardcore would be released by a company known for using late night TV to crassly market fifth-rate disco and novelty collections? This mediocre anthology of homoerotic boy bands features such bed-wetters as the Dismemberment Plan, Modest Mouse and Texas Is The Reason alongside many of the aforementioned dorks. What, they couldn’t get the licensing rights to Sunny Day Real Estate? Speaking of that scrappy, slappy Jesus-core unit, SDRE is pretty much responsible for the absolute inanity of most of these sissies. Many of the groups on the record probably grew up listening to those mama’s boys — that was their idea of hardcore. These souls were too young, sensitive and stupid to ever understand or discover the likes of Black Flag, the Germs, Drunks With Guns, Bad Brains, Flipper, or in some cases I’d bet, even Minor Threat. Actually, they probably weren’t even cool enough to like crap like Reagan Youth or Slapshot. Maybe they got into 7 Seconds thanks to their “cool” older brother.
There’s nothing remotely punk or hardcore about most of the acts on Nowcore!. Just listen to the singer in At The Drive In. His voice sounds like that of some cast-off from a high school musical, a glee club goon who was weaned on Standing On the Edge-era Cheap Trick. The music is just so professional, so blandly competent. One listen, and you know that emo is indeed a genre that grew up taking music lessons and playing shiny, new guitars into big, fancy Marshalls paid for by mommy and daddy. Maybe some of the hipper groups bought expensive vintage equipment. They could probably afford to be tech nerds. But it’s extra sad that some of these bands (Burning Airlines, especially) aren’t kids at all. Many of them went to high school a very, very long time ago. You’d think that they were old enough to know better. Is J. Robbins ever gonna get a real job? God, I mean, how far can one man take his late-period, bass-playing experience in GI?
But emo was offensive well before K-Tel ever pie-charted its earning potential. On his band’s truly lousy, 1991-released pop-punk retch-fest, Unfun, Blake Schwarzenbach (nice name, asshole), then of Jawbreaker, now of the ghastly Jets To Brazil, sang some of the most cringe-worthy, suspended-adolescence lyrics known to man. Along with his successors in SDRE, he helped pave the way for an emerging generation of chowderhead boys, who internalized his sappy, melodramatic lines like “I’m lying naked at your feet/Don’t crush the heart that bleeds/Take me at my word/It may sound absurd/But I want you.” Meanwhile, ugly, skanky punker chicks, many of whom were alienated by 10 years’ worth of HC boy’s club stupidity, began to swoon over such sentiments — no doubt pleased that they could now kick the asses of their newly emo-fied boyfriends, whose limp-wristed musical tastes made it okay to cry and wear really ugly high-water pants. Emo has effectively neutered the punk rock male, turning him into a blow pop-sucking, neurotic toddler. But it’s a double-edged blow pop. Wanna know why emo attracts more tail than any other form of “underground” music? It’s because the movement’s wuss pose is totally deliberate. When he wrote those lyrics, the ever-liberated Schwartzenblech was probably envisioning a whole harem’s worth of pierced labias and sagging thighs. Warning, girls: These emo guys are pretty sensitive and wimpy, but they’re just as sexist the rest of us. And they masturbate a whole lot more often.
Emo thrives on gullibility. Its fans are so quick to identify with, emulate and worship any form of stumbling, fake sincerity. An emo crowd will fall for and buy just about anything in the name of “supporting the scene.” A friend of mine once made the mistake of attending a very early Jets To Brazil show, the group’s first appearance in the Atlanta area. Nobody even knew what the band sounded like yet, but the venue was totally packed with folks who were gullible enough to attend the function because of the mere presence of Schwartzenschmuck, their king-shit emo hero. It’s fairly natural to be curious about somebody’s new band, therefore it’s excusable that so many people came out to see the show. But it’s more than a little ridiculous that roughly 20 or 30 of those in attendance rushed the merchandise booth and blindly shelled-out for loads of Jets-related product — before the group had even taken the stage! Prior to having any idea what Jets To Brazil sounded like — prior to knowing whether or not the band sucked — the puppies at this function threw away their own hard-earned cash (or at least greenbacks skimmed from trust funds and allowances) to buy records, t-shirts and stickers, all purchased on the mere assumption that the entertainers would just have to be as “good” as Jawbreaker, that Blake wouldn’t let them down, and that the show would be yet another cookie-cutter emo love-fest. Fuck that. If Schwartzenfelcher had an ounce of sense, he’d form a fucking satanic black metal band just to test these cuddly sycophants’ loyalty and/or make them feel stupid for having spent their money so freely. Think they’d fall for it?
Emo bands make their livings off merch, which comes as no surprise; the groups’ appeal has nothing to do with music, anyway. Emo is a movement of clones, of retarded, often suburban fashion victims. You’ve seen the backpacks, the sweaters and those totally fucking inexplicable patches. You’ve seen the homogenous look of emo records, released by labels like Deep Elm, De Soto and the ever-loathsome Jade Tree. A creepy facelessness inhabits the discs’ uniform layout and design, carried out by such scene-approved typesetters as Andy Mueller of Ohio Girl, and the Collection Agency, the graphics company behind Punk Planet, emo’s very own Bible (or at least its very own No Depression).
I say, stamp out any and all emo at a grassroots level. Don’t review emo records in your fanzine. Start a petition that seeks to ban emo from college radio and local venues. Outlaw the sale and distribution of all patches. If you see any emaciated boys on the street wearing horn-rimmed specs, undersize v-necks and barrettes, beat them till they bleed. If you know girls who go out with emo guys, suggest that they have their tubes tied. I’ve done my part. I wrote this article. In addition, when I was looking to share my apartment, I once turned down a potential roommate simply because of his alarming argyle socks, polyester button-up and fondness for the Get Up Kids. During our interview, when the conversation turned to music, I said “thank you, that’s enough” and sent him on his merry way. No way would I share my living quarters with anyone who enjoys listening to a band called Knapsack. Hopefully, this poor sap is now homeless, subsisting on garbage-can iceberg lettuce and his own fingernails. Actually, the twerp is probably living the high life, having returned to his parents’ house in Connecticut or Orange County or wherever the hell he’s from.
If you don’t take drastic action against the emo blight, there is an alternative. Let the movement come to a slower and altogether more painful end. If you’re patient and/or nonviolent, just sit back and wait for the movement to naturally kill itself. Five years from now, the entire emo posse will have wisely forgotten everything it once stood for; the basis for these chumps’ current existence is just too musically insubstantial, wholly transient and completely temporal to survive. After all, that damn record is called Nowcore!, with an emphasis on the “now.” Emo will go the way of the equally frustrating Riot Grrrl, only it will have been even less politically and culturally significant. Historically, perhaps it will have become the ‘90s’ American equivalent of such short-lived ‘80s English musical fads as “batcave,” “grebo” or “shamble pop.” Remember those bygone buzzwords? Didn’t think so. In the near future, former emo advocates will be seen slumping, resting their grown-out heads of hair in their hands, wondering, “What were we thinking?”
The sad truth and the answer, my friends, is quite simple.
You weren’t thinking at all.
When it comes to getting their records played on the airwaves, some publicists will do anything (and we mean ANYTHING) to get their job done….
The relationship between the college music director and the promoter is an almost symbiotic relationship, where both sides need one another to sustain longevity and purpose.
The promoter counts on the MD to play their records, and the MD requires the musical material from the promoter’s label. One would think that this process is more or less cut and dry, but most people know that the music director seems to “wear the pants” in this relationship. After all, it’s the music director that ultimately decides what they want their radio station to play, and whether they choose to get their materials free or not. Most promoters can’t afford to sever ties with radio stations, even if it means they have to lick the rim of some 21 year old cardigan-jocker who’s 2 most important things in life is their inability to grow facial hair and their Sunny Day Real Estate bootleg collection. And most music directors cannot bear boozing it up with the Gazooks-loving, pharmaceutical drug toting promoter to talk about how their new release from Band A is “really solid, man.” Either way, I’m sure there have been many-a-story from either side of the coin. Being a music director myself and having talked to other music directors, most MD’s in this world claim to have had more lines, catch-phrases, and kitchsy promotional items shoved down their throat than they can count on an abacus. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. I’ve decided to gather the opinions of music directors from college radio stations all over the country to ask them some of the highlights and lowlights of the “job.” What were some of the one-liners you’ve received? What do you think of promoters that have a “schtick”? What about promoters claiming to have no “schtick,” and is having no “schtick” really their “schtick”? And is the real question in every MD’s mind being “where’s my free shit?” These were real quotes taken from actual music directors, and I’m not giving names out, because I love to taunt you all.
“My mother absolutely loves this record. You aren’t going to let my mother down, are you?”
“Well, my bosses are wondering why I can’t get my albums played on your station. I keep telling them that it’s just been bad luck, please don’t let me tell them you’re a whore.”
“This is a record that Bob Marley would be so proud of. I bet you he’s in Heaven right now, smoking a phat blunt and saying ‘Hey man…you’re ruining my buzz by not liking this album.“
“I can’t believe you don’t like this! You are gently tugging at my balls, you know that?”
“This album sounds like the Grateful Dead, it’s so good! Even if you don’t like the Dead, it sounds like anything you like at the moment.”
“Hey Buddy (substitute chief, champ, pal or the like), so ah, I can get you any ten records on our label if ah, you chart/add this record. You like the Yankees, box seats? C’mon lets make a deal!”
“You don’t like this album? I can’t believe it, I think I just threw up in my own mouth!”
“This is as indie as it gets. It doesn’t get more indie than this!”
“He’s not a rock star! He may be from the biggest band in England, but he’s really indie rock.”
“They’re totally Elephant Six. I mean, they’re not officially part of that whole crowd, but I can always put a call through, you know.”
“Are you not adding this because Jim O’Rourke is nowhere on this album?”
“The music might not be all that unique, but their image is what’s going to take them to the top!”
“You don’t like it? Well, did you check out the amazing artwork in the sleeve?”
“Why don’t you just take the spins that this one album is getting and give them to to the new album I’m promoting. They are both on the same record label, so it won’t hurt anyone.”
“I sent you a nice window plant…now chart my stuff.”
“I’ve got to try to beat this other promotions team for the top add this week, won’t you just chart my album so I can just win this whole fucking thing?”
“I know you have a crush on the lead singer, I can give him your number if you want, we’re great pals.”
“Everyone in the band wears track pants. And they’re in different colors! (later in the conversation) They are, I think, just as influential as Sonic Youth!”
THE DOWNRIGHT PATHETIC
“Dude, I’ll do anything for you to play this album…dude, I even know the chick from Ally McBeal!”
(In a pleading voice) “I’m gonna lose my job if this record doesn’t do well.”
“My bosses told me that a fry-cook off the street can get you to add this record…that really hurts my feelings, you know?”
“This is amazing…they all wear matching gold lamé shirts? How cool is that?”
“They are loved in Norway, they’re like the Beatles of Norway.”
“Our artist is coming for you. He’s giving you subliminal brain messages to play his album.”
NOW, OFF THE DEEP END…
“A promo person once told me that the band he was promoting was his little brother’s favorite band. He also mentioned that his brother had a terminal illness and that he wanted this band to be the ‘best band in the world’ before he passed away. I started laughing because I totally thought he was joking, but then he said in a serious tone, ‘don’t laugh man, it’s not funny.’”
“After this incident, one rep in particular became a fave of mine. Making chummy small talk, he asked what else I did besides radio. I admitted to him that I’d been dancing to put myself thru college. He naively thought I meant ballet, but alas, no. Having a real live stripper on the phone with no choice but to be nice to him must have set his hormones into overdrive, because the conversation got naughtier. During the next phone call he asked for my home number, and from that point on [we] had these hot conversations several times a week with more privacy. He switched labels and had a brief vacation during that period. I moved out of my dorm without hearing from him one last time. But, wonder of all wonders, I re-discovered him on a college radio discussion list, and my phone’s been ringing non-stop!”
“I went to a party where a label rep was about a week before his supposed ‘big album’ went for adds. He was begging me to get wasted, and even went as far as to beg me to do keg stands and shit. At the end of the night, he was totally wasted and I was still a little sober. He ended up locking me in the bathroom with him and told me how everything in his life was really awful and that he needed this record to do well so he could have ‘something to live for.’ As he was telling me about the album, he puked all over himself!! I ran out of the bathroom at that point, and we’ve talked only a couple of times since. I never charted his album.”
“Well, this is actually a suggestion I made to a label in order for them to help promote. I sent them an email and told them to create “promotional toilet seats and covers of their artists,” They actually took me serious and sent a letter back asking if I was seriously inquiring.”
I don’t consider myself the tidiest person in the world, but when it comes to collecting clutter, the only place it’s allowed is on my bulletin board. And, of course, every time I have visitors, they’re inexorably drawn to this seemingly endless wall of junk. So I was thinking, “What the hell?” and had its photograph taken this last fall and below is my own personal narraration for each individual item. Try not to nod off, please…
1. Metal die-This was the die used for the vinyl version of the I Am Spoonbender record I released in the spring of ‘00. The embossing part wasn’t that tough, but I will say that of the 20 or so records I’ve released, this was thee biggest pain in the ass I’ve ever had. Most problems of which stemmed from the mastering of the record. Please, oh please, don’t get me started.
2. 8 track tape-Sent in by Jay Spiegel (aka The Rummager – formerly of The Velvet Monkeys, BALL and Gumball) for submission to the Bank of Indie Cred. Track listing: Urinals-I’m A Bug, Government Issue-Teenager In A Box, No Trend-Fashion Tips for the 80’s, Mortal Micronotz-You Don’t Say, Pussy Galore-Damaged II, Jad Fair/Phonocomb-In A Haunted House, Cell-Never Too High, Number One Cup-Dive Bomb, Nebula-Vulcan Bomber, Stilleto Boys-Attitude Adjuster, Buzzcocks-Why She’s a Girl From A Chain Store, Pylon-M Train, Brainiac-Go Freaks Go, Stiff Little Fingers-Suspect Device, Blag Dahlia-Let’s Take a Ride, New Bomb Turks-Got No Proof, Evil Stig-Bob (Cousin O), Sentridoh-Losercore, Sonic Youth-Teenage Riot, The Make Up-We’re Having A Baby, Ben Lee-Pop Queen, Action Swingers-Kicked In The Head. Massive points chalked up, Jay. Your card is in the mail.
3 & 4. Postcard & 8 track tape-Sent by Birdstuff while on tour in Bellingham, Washington in appreciation for helping with a couple of t-shirt designs and a picture disk design that will probably never come out. That’s the story of my life. Inscription: “H2O-Thanks for helping our lame space asses-BT.” Tape: Captain Beefheart-Trout Mask Replica. Note to self: buy an 8-track player, or better yet, just ask Malcolm to send me one. He’s probably stumbling over like 10 of them at his place.
5. Astroman Genome Pack-My only memento from this played out “concept”. I’ve seen this on e-bay for $5.
6. Kinder Egg Prize-Kinder Eggs are the ultimate in toy prizes and quickly make the schwag included with Cracker Jack look like garbage even quicker. I’m surprised that these aren’t available in the States, but is probably due to morons like the old lady that spilled hot coffee on her crotch at McDonalds. Hollow chocolate eggs with a considerable prize inside. How can you complain about that? Thanks to Curt for getting this for me when he was in Canada.
7. Ticket Stub-My only memento from my one-and-a-half day journey to the Merge 10th anniversary show reviewed elsewhere in this issue. Humiliatingly enough, I drove past the Chapel Hill exit by 30 miles on the way there. You think I would’ve remembered something as simple as that which I’ve done probably 50 times.
8. Chunklet Review-A very flattering review from the Maryland based zine Held Like Sound. Calls Chunklet “an event as much as it is a magazine,”and “an inspiration.” Only if other people only knew how much time this summbitch takes….
9. Chunklet #6-About four years ago, I thought it’d be hilarious to have an issue of Chunklet (which was still only one page at the time) which would be handed outlike those junky Gideon bibles. Cranked it out at work (when I could still goof off on the University payroll) and then made at BelJean across the street, I then handed these out as party favors for the legendary Man or Astro-Man?/Tar weekend in Athens and Atlanta back in ‘94 and the Derby Weekend in Louisville at the Rocket House where Rodan and Ruby Falls played. In the ensuing break up with my then girlfriend, she pitched the remaining copies of every past issue of the magazine, so until recently, I didn’t have a copy of this. Stuart gave me this copy which I now cherish. Some people still think the magazine is that tiny size.
10. Photograph-A promo photo of the massive Godspeed You Black Emperor! which was sent to the club I used to book. I swiped it the second I saw it. Fortunate enough to have seen these folks twice and they are worthy of the hype — even though they’re Canadian.
11. Photograph-The photo used for the front cover of the first Purkinje Shift CD, and one of the first records I ever designed. I still love looking at this picture.
12. Button-Although diminished with age, I’m still an enormous Pylon fan who were, undoubtedly one of the best bands ever to come out of Athens. Funny tidbit: I’ve been in three fan clubs in my life-The Andy Griffith Fan Club, Henry Winkler Fan Club (the Fonz, I mean come on!) and the Pylon Fan Club. I was able to Jedi-mind-trick Man or Astroman? into covering “Italian Movie Theme” (from Pylon’s Chomp LP) on the UFO single they did for me a couple of years back and it does the original quite a bit of justice. Speaking of old Athens bands, any one know where I can get my hands on some Limbo District tapes?
13. Postcard-From Stuart when he was enjoying (or suffering as the case may be) his final days on the road with the Astromen. Postcard is from the International Bowling Museum and Hall of Fame in St. Louis, MO. Stuart complains of needing more sleep. What’s new?
14. Ticket Stub-What did you do on September 9, 1999? You know 9/9/99? I tagged along with Macha over to Birmingham, Alabama where they played with the Olivias at the Sloss Furnaces which are, indeed, an actual iron furnace. It was like some state monument to the jerk-water, backward thinking, robber baron past of the state. Although the plant was not in use any more, it’s now open to the public to climb all over. Went to the very top of the furnaces (which was easily 10 to 12 stories high) up a precariously welded together ladder and took photos of the opposing smoke stacks as the sun set. Also, the bands were playing beneath a water tower which was right in front of me. Yes, it was that high up that I saw the top of the water tower. Great night, and I took some impromptu Macha photos inside a convenience store in Buttfuck, Alabama on the way back to Georgia where an employee asked if I was in a band. Aw, how cute.
15. Card-Christmas card from one of my heroes and role models Ted Rall. Inscription reads: “Thanks for telling me that genital warts aren’t that big a deal! You’re so cool! Merry Christmas!”. The outside cartoon has a guy sitting down at a desk telling somebody on the other side of the desk: “As you know, you’ll qualify for your year-end bonus later this week. Obviously, you’re fired.” Ted, you rock my sack.
16. Photograph-When I worked out of the print shop where the magazine was printed, I was able to weasel this photograph out of my dear buddy Bruce. Photo was taken in ‘91 or so and is quite special to me. Left to right is Keith Kortmeyer, Jerry Fuchs and Kyle Spence. Keith was then bass player of The Martians and later of a couple watered down bar-rock bands and co-owner a big coffee joint in Athens. Jerry, who has contributed his illustration talents to Chunklet in the past, was also in the Martians, but then went on to be in Vineland (with that silly Jon Fine fella) and now drums for the quite impressive Turing Machine. Kyle was then in Fiddlehead, broke them up, went on to also be in the Martians (taking Jerry’s place), broke them up, joined Harvey Milk, broke them up, and is now pinch hitting in any one of a number of groups hoping to break up. He’s also playing with Preston Long who we can only hope actually does break up.
17. Ticket Stub-A pair of tickets from the semi-tragic New Year’s show pairing up Don Caballero and Railroad Jerk in ‘98. I mean, granted, Railroad Jerk are great and everything, but having them play after The Don was a big mistake in Atlanta. Everybody left after Don Cab tore everything all the hell up, leaving the Jerk to play to the club staff and Ultrababyfat. There is no worse realm of Dante’s Inferno for a band than a fate such as that.
18. Chunklet Review-Clipping from Heather Lyons at Vice Magazine. Met Heather when she was back in Minneapolis at AmRep, and I was on tour with Servotron. What can I say? She took a liking to the magazine. Great review. Says “if more indie rock norts read Chunklet, the scene might actually be fun again.” Now, Heather, why would we want to tug those norts away from their mommy’s apron?
19. Letter-Friendly note from Darin who does the fascinating zine Shark Fear, Shark Awareness. Says he’s moving to Antartica, and recommends that I see John Carpenter’s The Thing to get an idea of what it’s like where he’s going. Also states: “The ‘Shotgun Rules’ [from issue 14] is a timeless document that should be printed next to the Constitution in school books.” Darin, I couldn’t agree more, good man.
20. Chunklet Review-The only official press write up Chunklet has ever received from The Flagpole which is, in a roundabout way, the reason this magazine was started in the first place. Richard, who has since wised up and gotten the hell out of the maddening treadmill that is The Flagpole, has the nerve to call me an ass-kisser to which I present my tongue stuck out at him. Nyah!
21. Postcard-Postmarked Seattle in May ‘99 from contributor Mark Stelmach suggesting that we interview Michael Moore. Apart from being too busy trying to track down Don Novello, I wouldn’t know the first place to look for this guy. But man, it was truly priceless to see him playing Rick Neilsen’s personal guitar in The Big One.
22. Chunklet Review-Todd at Flipside said we’re “high on wit, and low on shit.” Wow, and to think that Maximum Rock and Spew won’t even review us. They’re all about wit, aren’t they?
23. Photograph-Christmas-time photo of my buddy Tim trying on his new racing helmet/present from his girlfriend. Man, how romantic is that?
24. Receipt-Consignment ticket for issue 12 at Wuxtry in Atlanta. Not only have they refused to pay me for the copies they’ve sold, but to add insult to injury, they insist on keeping the same four people on the payroll for over 10 years. The same surly looks from the same dour dipshits over and over who look down their nose at you if you buy a Thin Lizzy record. Thanks assholes. And ironically enough, the Wuxtry in Athens suffers from the same lack of employee turnover. Look, if I wanted that kind of attitude, I’d go to Other Music and get shit from retail employees with some shred of taste.
25. Plane Ticket-This is a funny story. Got a panicked call from Rob Sieracki (via Jon Solomon, booking agent for Uzeda) at Touch and Go one February afternoon asking me if I knew anybody who could drive a van from Atlanta to Chicago for Uzeda to use on their upcoming tour. Oh, and they needed it by tomorrow. Like all of a sudden, every van in Chicago was used up and the next closest one was in Atlanta? Give me a break! So on three hours notice (along with a couple of quick calls to a friend who hooked me up with a cheap round-trip ticket), I high-tailed it to Chicago in an Econoline hopped up on crank and caffienated chewing gum. Showed up to the Touch & Go offices around noon at which point Rob took me to a Mongolian Bar-B-Que joint which knocked me off my socks. Then went to Albini’s new studio to meet up with Uzeda where we then went to dinner with Corey Rusk and Bob Weston at this Southern-type cuisine place. Got back to the T&G offices (the third floor of which is Corey’s bachelor pad), and slept on a sofa there because I was allergic to Corey’s cats upstairs. Woke up at 4am, got a cab to Midway, and returned to Atlanta by 7am. This is the one way return ticket to Chicago that I’ve yet to use. Total time elapsed from start to finish: 32 hours. Thank you. Thank you very much. The real rub was the fact that the person whose ass I was bailing out (Jon Solomon) never bothered to come and say thanks while I was there in town. I guess he’s used to having people bail his ass out of sticky situations like that. Tool.
26. Chunklet Review-One and only review of the quickie number 13 issue from somebody who I can’t remember right now.
27. Postcard-One of the true Cinderella stories from Athens, ladies and gents, please give it up for…Jucifer! Now let’s hope that Capricorn (home to such brilliant shit merchants as 311, and the same schmucks who’ve now signed Hayride for the second time!) doesn’t fuck this potential goldmine up.
28. Letter-Note from Libby Lampert who runs Glovebox distro thanking me for issue 14. The best part is the stationery which is of the ultra-cool Japanese variety with the transparent envelope and swankily illustrated insides.
29. Elf Power Reviews-The only two known reviews (one from Alternative Press, another from The Bee’s Knees) of the “Come On” EP I released last year which are courtesy of the fine folks at Autotonic (R.I.P.). The release wasn’t meant necessarily as critic fodder, but still, it’s nice to know that people (even if calling ‘critics’ people is a stretch) are listening to records I put out all the same.
30. Postcard-Promotional flyer for Belle and Sebastian video superstar Chris Bilheimer’s ‘other’ work (yes, ladies, he’s not just a sex object) as a graphic designer. Lucky bastard has designed records for Green Day and Neutral Milk Hotel (or any other band worth mentioning from Athens, for that matter), along with the covers for the past two issues. Apart from Ted Rall, he’s my other hero and role model.
31. Wedding Invitation-Exquisitely packaged invite from my long time friend (and Chunklet contributor) Doug Ahern who, on a whim a couple of years ago, went to Monterrey, Mexico for the weekend. Met the girl of his dreams (who was from Mexico and a lawyer to boot) and just recently got married to her. Some guys have all the luck. I wish I had a romantic anecdote that could match that. Okay, I just wish I had one romantic anecdote.
32. Flyer-Invitation to the “Anti-Climax” Y2K celebration held in Athens which I was unable to attend, but still admire the invitation’s beauty which, of course, Bilheimer designed. Bastard.
33. Postcard-Postmarked Memphis, TN from Chunklet contributor Ian Fitzpatrick. In it’s entirety: “Top Ten Reasons Memphis is Stuck in 1990: 1. Mystery Train 2. The Firm 3. The Grifters 4. 2 Live Crew-inspired hip hop 5. ‘Cybil Sheperd lives here’ major civic attraction 6. Al Green-as-retro-hip figure 7. Kiss T-shirts still ironic 8. Penny Hardaway trade is front-page news 9. Alex Chilton still a significant draw 10. Jerry Lawler running for mayor.”
34. Postcard-Another postcard from Mark in Seattle. Tells me he’s going to write an article about a photo dumpster dive, but this was back in ‘98 and I just don’t think he’ll be getting around to it. Still, when you’re dealing with a rabid Nick Cave fan, you cut ‘em some slack.
35. Postcard-Christmas card from Alicja Trout from the Clears. Great illustration.
36. Postcard-From a reader named Melanie Brinkman in South River, New Jersey. We don’t get many postcards (worth mentioning, that is) from fans, but the ones that are really clever make the wall.
37.Photograph-Got an email from The Button in The Causey Way asking me (King Causey) to have my photo taken at one of those booths that cost two bucks for their then upcoming CD on Alternative Tentacles. My only instruction: Look like you’re being detained. So I wore my Causey outfit (not much of a stretch for me), went to the Star Bar and did two takes. This was the one that I didn’t send. Regardless, one instruction that I wasn’t told was that the picture needed a white background, so the photos weren’t used. Not the first (or last) time the Causey Way had me spin my wheels for them.
38. Button-From my Y2K New Year’s Eve which was spent in the upper scale burbs of Reisterstown, Maryland. Low key affair with surf-and-turf and more great food than I could ever possibly consume. Not a big New Year’s guy anyway, all it does is bring out the amateurs/hacks that don’t know how to drink. Not that I’m one to talk.
39. Chunklet Review-From the Willamette Weekly, Portland, Oregon. Pretty plain review, and says that I employed a ‘tired tactic’ of parodying Mad Magazine. Funny, we couldn’t think of another example of it when we were coming up with the idea. Critics….
40. Photograph-Picture of me with my sister at Little Round Top on the Gettysburg Battlefield, Pennsylvania. Took my sister, her friend, and my mom on a quick tour of the battlefield back in ‘98 and wowed them with my knowledge of this battle. You wouldn’t know it, but I’m a military history freak. Corner me sometime, I’ll tell you all about it.
41. Postcard-One of a number of pieces of correspondence from the mastermind behind the near brilliant Temple of Bon Matin, Ed Wilcox. This note was included with a tape of Keith Tippet’s record Centipede which was an astounding ride through freak out noise. Ed has also sent me some of his wood cut prints which now hang proudly on my walls. He’s a really underappreciated artist and musician.
42. Badge-One of a million different mementos given to me by the reigning comic store guru of Athens, Devlin Thompson. Although he’s promised to contribute a couple of different times to the magazine, he’s been too busy sorting through mounds of Star Wars figurines and cellophane bags. The man stands in a league of his own.
43. Card-Another note from Ed Wilcox. This was the first note I ever received from him when I first asked if I could put something out by The Temple of Bon Matin after seeing them blast away to five or six people at Dottie’s. I was in very good company, though, seeing as half of The Swans were in the audience.
44. Card-A calendar/business card from the rotodesign.com website. Although this guy is totally a new school designer, he’s got a very tasteful sense of old school aesthetics (think Art Chantry, but being a tad less grizzled). Check it out.
45. Postcard-When Macha went over to Taiwan last fall, I asked them to send me a postcard from there. Although they forgot to mail it from over there, Kai handed this to me when I met up with them to go to Birmingham. The inscription reads: “Celebrate the new Hello Kitty xo Macha.”
46. Postcard-From CMJ (and Chunklet) scribe Jordan Mamone when he went to Japan earlier this year. Describing Tokyo: “It is a vast, fun, neon hell.” Said he hung out with guys from High Rise and YBO2 and got plastered on sake. Lucky duck. Or should I say, rucky duck?
47. Button-The front part to a Man or Astro-Man? button which has been used as a tack for its entire career.
48. Postcard-From Brian Teasley who was on tour in Brazil. Said that he got his monkey on, whatever that means.
49. Postcard-From Lisa (worked at the Echo Lounge) who was on her honeymoon in London. Hoped that my ‘voyage of self-discovery’ (which was in September ‘99, ask me about it some time) went well. It did, thanks for asking.
50. Chunklet Review-From Nothing Left fanzine. Very flattering and actually mentions that ‘sarcasm drips from every page.’ Wow. Who knew?
51. Postcard-Incredibly cheesy (yet still appreciated) postcard of a double-decker bus from my buddy Julie when she was visiting London last fall. Usual postcard banter. blah blah blah
52. Photograph-Given to me by Jim Marrer of Zero Return when I drove over with Curt to pick up a tape machine back in November. I didn’t realize this at the time, but a tape machine weighs over 600 pounds which is no wonder I was asked to go along. Anyway, Jim takes photographs with an old time (as in the ones that you drape a curtain over your head) plate camera. This photo is from his considerable portfolio which, from what I gathered, has been a long standing hobby of his.
53. Chunklet Review-A review sent in by Chart Magazine out of Canada. Incorrectly calls Ted Rall’s cartoon “Domo Spy vs. Spy,” but other than that is pretty cool, I guess. I mean, for Canadians.
54. Note-Written by Kip Thomas (who did the wildly popular review of Of Montreal in the last issue) and states, I quote: “I, Kip Thomas, no longer smoke the shit called pot ever ever ever again. Amen.” He got stoned less than one week later. So much for written promises.
55. Chunklet Review-Sent to me by Mary Wyninger from the Courier-Journal, Louisville, Kentucky. Pretty meat-and-potatoes review. Nothing really to report here.
56. Photograph-Mailed to me by the folks in Mogwai a while back and the picture still makes me laugh. Painted and hand written note (“Kill You Later, Too Baked Now”) aside, they’re the only band I really wish that I put out something by before they were all popular with sweatered dweebs across the country. I’m kickin’ myself….
57. Postcard-Postmarked Bilbao, Portugal from Birdstuff. States that he’s bummed that he can’t find anybody to translate the phrase “You got to get in on some of this!” into Portuguese. I guess nobody there is down with low-brow Drivin N Cryin road stories…
58. Photograph-Picture of a painting done by Marc in the band Bright. It’s the cover for their third full length on Ba Da Bing!. Can’t say I was a big fan of their live show, but their records are pretty impressive in a low-strung sort of way.
59. Receipt-Not many denegrating stories of my time as booking agent, but this one definitely tops the list. First off, I’ll refrain from naming names to avoid any and all further humiliation of the people involved. Last summer, I went to the Grit for lunch by myself. I ordered, ate, and asked for a refill of sweet tea a couple of times. My waiter was pretty short with me, but I didn’t think anything of it. I mean, hey, it’s Athens! Attitude central, right? When he came to bring me my check, he placed it on the table and walked away, and there was his band’s name and telephone number hand written on my bill! I shit you not! No “Hey, I’m in a band” or nothing. Just that. Just so people would believe me, I asked the guy who rang me up to allow me to keep the receipt as proof. And so now, I show it to the world. Like I give a shit. He’ll probably spit in my food now.
60. Postcard-Postmarked Milan, Italy from pals Gary and Amy. They mailed the postcard to themselves because they couldn’t find my mailing address, but all the same, they note that they saw monkeys grinding sidewalk organs. I think that’s good enough for me.
61. Buttons-Entire set of buttons from local band The Plastic Plan. In case anybody has wondered what former Chunklet ad rep extraordinare Ashley Moody has been doing here in Atlanta, she’s been playing keyboards for, what could easily be called, one of the best and most original bands in town. The button thing has been played out, but the band is still aces in my book.
62. Postcard-Yet another (of many) postcard from Ed Wilcox. This one is from his stay with Rat Bastard (from To Live And Shave in LA) in Miami while he was recording the CD I put out.
63. Button-A saved memento from my neice’s second birthday party. Simply says: “I’m 2.” I’ve worn it out on occassion to have people say that I’m overshooting my age. They’re just jealous.
64. Postcard-Postcard number two from Stuart this time from some city in Brazil with a bunch of squiggles in its name. Wish you were here, blah dee blah dee blah….
65. Card-Give it up again for Mr. Ed Wilcox. This was the second letter I ever received from him, and in an age of everything being reduced to a series of ones and zeros, I relish correspondence (and, of course, I respond in kind) from folks like Ed. Being old fashioned isn’t always square, kids.
66. Keychain-Stolen from one of my nephew’s Happy Meals. I had two, and gave one away to a friend as a present. It’s definitely not going to be on my keychain, but it looks pretty nifty by itself on the bulletin board.
67. Ticket Stub-For two of their three nights at Chastain Park, I swallowed my pride and doled out $40 (per night!) to see REM, but more importantly to see their opening acts who were near and dear to my heart. First night was Elf Power, but I arrived late and only got to see them load their gear off the stage. The third night was The Olivia Tremor Control who had to put up with me standing at the foot of the stage making goofy faces at them. At one point, I turned around to see just how big this place was that they were playing, and let me tell ya, they’ve come a long way from house parties on a Wednesday night in Athens. Thanks to Chris for the killer seats.
68. Ticket Stub-Got a tip from a friend of mine that the June Carter Cash show at the Cotton Club back in August would be one that I would definitely not want to miss. And sure enough, the Man in Black was in the house. Although I heard that his health has been deteriorating, Johnny Cash came out for the better part of a half hour to a crowd that (as I can best put it) were enraptured née spellbound, to be in the same room with him and his wife. Before this show, I’d never been to a show at the Cotton Club where the crowd didn’t move for the better part of an hour, didn’t talk during the songs, and gave applause that was more like a thunderous eruption. This was probably one of the most memorable evenings I’ve spent since my stay in Atlanta.
69. Button-Given to me by the guys in the band 90 Day Men. Was able to have them open up for Don Caballero the first week the club was open. The band they were touring with (Collasamite) destroyed a monitor and got paid like $20 after all expenses were settled.
70. Button-Rocket from the Crypt button that was given out at their last show in Atlanta. Best part of that night was finding that John and I were both big Honor Role fans at a party afterwards. Who’da thunk?
71. Buttons-Every package I’ve received from I Am Spoonbender has included about 10 of these buttons and I’ve given them out generously trying to spread the word. Order a Spoonbender record from me and get one for free. Wow, what a deal!
72. Illustration-Given to me by Larry Tenner who drew me for a piece I did for the Flagpole about the wildly under-rated (I’m being totally serious, here) Spice World flick/comedy. It’s almost a fairly representative drawing if I must say so myself.
73. Letter-Note included with a box sent to me by Dan from the band Knodel. Inside the box was a battery powered band of plastic frogs (kind of like those dancing Coke cans) that would move when they’d hear noise. Dan wrote: “Here’s my new favorite band, if you scream at them, they will dance. They’re really hot. Sometimes when you turn them on, they freak out and dance for no reason.”
74. Photograph-Promotional photo of Fugazi. I usually pitch this junk when it arrives in the mail, but hey, what band are we talking about here?
75. Coaster-A super nifty Stereolab jigsaw-puzzle/coaster sent to me by my dear friend Pete in England. I wouldn’t dare actually use it. What? And ruin it!? Hell no!
76. Set List-Melt Banana’s set list from when they played the Cotton Club back in the Fall opening for Melvins. During their set, I hollered over to Buzz and said “How the hell can you follow this?” Of course, then he made me eat my words by blasting thru 4 Marshall stacks (Van Halen? Hello?) and decimating any and all concerns about who was headlining the show. Too bad the person I came with wanted to leave early. Darn.
77. Bulletin Board-A present from my sister when she used to live in Seoul, South Korea. It’s called “The Red Pants Uncle” and whether it has some deeper Asian subtext, I don’t know. It’s still cool to look at.
78. Pogs-Yet another gift from Pete in England. This time it’s the entire set of Rocket from the Crypt pogs which were originally available only thru the repressed Boychukker single. Said he bought them when he was in San Diego. Figures.
79. Button-Promotional item from Atavistic when The Swans were closing up shop. Says “Swans Are Dead.” Too bad their remaining side projects aren’t as well.
80. Pins-Pins included with the Red Pants Uncle bulletin board. One of those pins fell out once and stabbed my foot really deep. Always happens when you’re going to take a leak at 4 in the morning.
81. Photograph-My buddy Gary took this photo at Alleykatz (what an atrocious name) in Richmond, Virginia as Les Savy Fav, and Gary’s band The Purkinje Shift were opening up for Man or Astro-Man?. Birdstuff (affectionately called “Teabag” from that night onward for some strange reason) went up and sang vocals on “Blackouts,” their last song.
82. Painting-Given to me by my ex-roommate Sean Murray. It’s color-by-numbers, I think.
Got a band? Want to join the NeMocore?
First thing you need to do is kill your drummer. Whack the singer, too. Get rid of all your songs. You won’t need them. And cancel practice. In fact, if you want to be NeMo, forget everything you know about music, rock n roll, noise, electronica, punk rock, whatever. NeMo is the soundtrack for the real 2001, the year HAL takes over our bank accounts and trades our balls to the aliens for a peek behind the Wizard’s curtain. Confused? Let me back up a bit. NeMo, which stands for Neo-Modern, emerged from New York City’s dirty old Canal Street in the late 1990’s as a reaction to the putrid alternative-rock driven airways of America and the homogenized techno-spew from across the Atlantic known as “electronica.” Conflicting accounts abound, but my sources tell me that the first ever NeMo gig took place at Jimbo’s Pad, a Canal Street practice space and flophouse for New York’s deranged electric elite. One summer night a few years back, the bored musicians hanging out at the Pad plugged in and began playing the collection of vintage synths, stomp boxes, and guitars that Jimbo keeps on hand. What happened next was straight from Hammer of the Gods: the room just exploded. It was magic. They recorded the whole mess, snapped a few Polaroids, and called it Zaubermittel. They never performed again. But this simple gathering spawned a whole nasty NeMo army: My Fork, Turbulance (and Turbulence), Bus, The Dolmen, 3-Way Split, and the current kings of neo-noise: FOOT. Foot is something of a NeMo supergroup, incorporating mega-producer Don Fleming, Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore, and the Pad’s namesake Jim Dunbar (formerly of DC glam-punk luminaries She).
NeMos tend to prefer older, analog gear run through mounds of stomp boxes. Jimbo explains, “I play the CAT synth (mid-70’s analog synthesizer) live at gigs because it gives me a lot of options for one box. But when we’re jamming at Jimbo’s Pad I play all sorts of instruments. A new piece I recently picked up that I will add to the live rig is a Moogerfooger ring modulator. This little box rules. I’m too lazy to bring all my shit with me. I’m also wary: I fell down some stairs moving my gear after a gig and busted out three teeth and took 20 stitches. A while back Foot did a gig with MSBR and Government Alpha. They can put all their gear into one carry-on bag. I’d like to go in that direction— just a bunch of little boxes that you can take anywhere. No more having to borrow a car just to move all our shit to a gig and no more falling down the stairs.”
Foot’s live shows are legendary for their intensity and implosive unpredictability. Dunbar describes a recent Foot performance with To Live and Die in L.A. at the Cooler in New York: “When we went on we were joined by Bebe Buell (70’s Playmate and rock chick extraordinaire) who wailed á la Yoko for about 5 minutes and then split ‘cause the band was freaking her out too much. She told me the next day that she went home and hid under the covers of her bed until the Zoloft kicked in. We soldiered on without her and at a certain point I tried to get audience members to join us on stage. As I walked to the edge of the stage and tried to motion people to join us they just backed away from me like I was holding some big old bloody carving knife. One kid did sit on the end of the stage and noodled with Don’s Arp. He sent me an e-mail later saying that he has founded the first NeMocore band in Philly. The rat bastard played my Cat for a minute but it was way too intense for him to hang. We pretty much cleared the club and my ears were ringing for a couple of days after the fact.”
Most NeMo sessions are quickly arranged and furiously performed, and everything is taped. For a while, the recordings were available on cassette through the NeMo website (www.malco.net/NeMocore) but they sold out quickly and the catalog was closed. Shortly after that, FOOT cut a deal with Dave Barker’s God Bless Records in England and released their eponymous CD to the unsuspecting public. “The Wire” magazine described the CD as “eerie swooping sounds that suggest that the musicians are being mobbed by a flock of cybernetic seagulls which they attempt to drive off with water-cooled high speed drills.” The three cacophonous tunes on this disc churn, yearn, and howl … and they stand up to many listenings before revealing the subtle layers of beauty behind those screaming Arps and Cats. Fleming also recorded a NeMo effort called JoJo ASSERUnne, which is bit more melodic but equally as intense (and just as NeMo) as the Foot release. Both CDs were issued by the now defunct God Bless, but are again available through Don’s Instant Mayhem Records (www.instantmayhem.com), where you can also find MP3s and RealAudio soundbites of NeMocore.
About those drums: why none? According to Dunbar, “you put a drummer in a jam situation and they try to force everybody to play the blues. It goes back to this notion of time: that there must be a beginning, middle and end to a piece of music, that music is for dancing, etc. We reject these tribalistic assumptions. A ‘rhythm’ does develop between the players, but it comes naturally; never forced. Drum loops are even more fucked than a live drummer because there is never any human variation to the beat. That’s the main thing about NeMocore: no beats. Or as I like to say, ‘beets are for making borscht’.”
NeMos are also known for their anti music-establishment stance. On their web site (www.malco.net/NeMocore) you’ll find a document called “The NeMo Manifesto” that declares:
“The vegetating music press, record labels and show-biz scum act as snares for youth and art alike. These hotbeds of impotence, illustrious deficients, perpetuate traditionalism and combat any effort to widen the musical field. The result is prudent repression and restriction of any free and daring tendency; constant mortification of impetuous intelligence; unconditioned propping-up of imitative and incestuous mediocrity; prostitution of the great glories of the music of the past, used as insidious arms of offence against budding talent.”
The newest development in the NeMocore movement is their record label NeMolodia. The label has already reissued the FOOT and JoJo ASSRUnne CDs, as mentioned earlier, but the most exciting item in the catalog is the NeMolodia sampler called This is NeMocore. The disc is your best bet for getting a taste of their neo-modern electronic gruel. Twelve NeMocore groups are seamlessly merged into one 41:14 minute cut that brings the sound of NeMo right into your Bose clock radio. The release is currently available through Fleming’s Instant Mayhem website. When asked about the bands on the sampler, Fleming said that “all of the bands are the result of spontaneous recording sessions. Some people appear in several bands, while others only appear once. Foot is the only band so far that has played outside of Jimbo’s Pad.”
NeMocore has been compared to the 60’s Fluxus movement (see www.fluxus.org), pioneered by Beck’s grandfather Al Hansen. I asked Foot’s Thurston Moore to tell us a little about Fluxus and it’s kinship to NeMocore:
“Look in the mirror, smash it with yr fist, paint yr eyebrows with chocolate, pick up the mirror shards. Put each one in an envelope and send them all to Mariah Carey with a return address of Suzy Quatro. This is Fluxus activity — actually it’s not but that’s what makes it Fluxus? Did? Me neither. Fluxus was an anti-art(ist) pronouncement instigated by Lithuanian Trotskyite momma’s-boy 60’s genius funnyman/impossible person George Maciunas who created texts, actions, tours, ideas along w/ like-minded and other-worldly individuals like Yoko Ono, Dick Higgins, Emmett Williams, Jonas Mekas et al to underscore the vapidity of ‘professional’ art and the beauty of common existence and unbounded intellectualism. FOOT is an acronym for Fluxus Oriented Oscillating Tones. We (Foot – not to be confused with the inconsequential Texas lounge band w/ like name) are New York dwellers who continue to follow the strictures of Maciunas’ Fluxus call. This was ably proven at the NYC Fluxus event of 1998 organized around Beck and his Fluxus member late grandpa Al Hansen. Only Foot was noted (in the New York Times) as being TRUE to the actions that are FLUXUS. And we continue to. We use no drums or other organic matters to present ‘music’ — we use electricity — it’s what separates us from the apes.”
One of the newest NeMocore outfits is not from NYC at all, but is holed up in the hills of Western North Carolina. Bastard Trout have been cranking out their BBQ-flavored NeMo for over a year. The group features your humble writer as well as two local musicians, Michael Ray & Derek Warren, veterans of NC’s 1990’s grunge wars and proprietors of EarthTones Studios (named for the shade of carpet found in the abandoned farm house used as their first practice space). The Trout ventured out of their mountain digs last June to headline Washington, DC’s NeMoFest ‘99, an event organized by Vinnie Van Go-Gogh of Rake, Northern Virginia’s czars of world skronk. Vinnie is also credited with creating the NeMo Oath, which can be found on his website at www.oastem.com/NeMo/NeMo.html. “I drew upon the ideals set forth in the manifestos of Russian Futurism, and tailored them to the world of NeMo,” explains Vinnie. “NeMoFest ‘99 was a showcase of DC/NC talent that proved to be a strong testament to the health of NeMocore in the Nation’s Capitol Capt. SKB! [from Rake/Doldrums] was the first act to play that evening. His electro-Indian guitar stylings and electronic loops were sell-suited to the event, despite his “unofficial” alliance with the NeMo movement. Bastard Trout’s two-and-a-half hour performance sent the crowd into a deep trance of sonic bliss. Unexpectedly, the reactions to NeMoFest ‘99 were so positive and enthusiastic that it struck even me by surprise.”
Back in New York, I asked Jimbo about the current state of NeMo. “The movement is gaining strength,” sez Jim. “More and more musicians are discovering the pure joy that is music without syncopation.” Fleming went on to say that “we have a lot of the original [Jimbo’s Pad] sessions that we want to add to the releases. Most of the bands that appear on the NeMocore sampler have full length CDs ready to go; we also have two sessions yet to be mixed that includes Jim O’Rourke and DJ Olive. Upcoming sessions are never planned, but there are several contenders. There has been a groundswell of new NeMo influenced bands from other cities that have been contacting us and sending us their music. We welcome them all and plan on creating more networking with said bands.”
In closing, I asked Jimbo, “if you want to start your own NeMo band, are there any guidelines or restrictions? Do I need to be sanctioned by the NeMocore or can I just go it on my own?”
“Do it on your own.” answered Dunbar. “Just don’t let anyone play the drums. If you feel the need to be sanctioned, just send me 20 bucks and I’ll make it official.”n
NeMocore home page:
In the beginning, I thought it would be really clever to go through the nightmarish roommates I’ve had since I’ve moved to Atlanta, but a couple of e-mails later, I found out that I was really quite lucky in comparison with some of my friends. After collecting the following accounts, I contacted one of my only ex-roommates that I still talk with [we both went to grad school together] to give an account of what it was like having me as a roommate, but all he could muster was the above photograph. What can I say? I used to drink back then. I’m not going to take sides on the stories that follow, but I will say that I now fully appreciate the merits of living alone.
I met Chris when we were in college together. He and I and this other guy Dan all got expelled from Columbia at the same time during the same semester due to completely unrelated issues. Chris was for grades, Dan was for discipline and lack of payment and in my case it was just bad grades and also just general all-around pranksterism. It was the mid-80’s so real estate prices were out of control and we ended up getting a two bedroom apartment and shared it three ways with Dan sleeping in the living room and Chris and I each getting a bedroom. The story was that Chris was always sort of a pothead ever since I met him even in college, but once we started living together, his whole life started falling apart, and his pot smoking got worse and worse. We didn’t know at the time that he had a very obsessive compulsive personality. He was the kind of guy that if he did something, he would do it to the nth degree. No one would chop potatoes like he did. He would make the best macaroni and cheese ever. He was a very manic compulsive pothead. He would wake up in the morning on his back after not moving all night long (we knew because we’d watch him all night). He’d get up like Christopher Lee in one of those vampire movies, and turn oddly and mechanically to the right, reach over and grab his three foot bong, and light up. He’d smoke up while taking a shit, he’d smoke pot in the shower. He was a classic example of using pot as a gateway drug, because, of course, when you smoke that much pot, he was going through three to four nickel bags a day. He was getting to the point where he needed something more and of course, he did cocaine and he became more and more violent as a result of that. So his personality kept changing more and more and he got to the point where he became the worse roommate you could possibly have. We did the rotating dishes thing where I’d eat a meal and clean the dishes, then Dan, then Chris. Dan would let it go for two or three meals, but Chris would literally let it go for weeks at a time and then finally we’d get sick of it and just do the dishes. That was Chris’ thing, he’d just avoid doing anything and he figured that if he’d do nothing, because if he waited long enough, somebody would do it for him. Similarly, he would never ever buy toilet paper. So Dan and I would buy toilet paper and Chris refused to buy it. We got sick of the fact that Chris refused to buy it and thought it was perfectly okay to use ours. So we started locking it in a trunk, and Chris was so stubborn, although he paid more money than Dan and I combined, that he’d walk to the diner which was a full mile and a half away in the freezing cold in New York to take a shit even in the wee hours of the morning. It was the most bizarre thing in the world. We’d say “Chris, you can buy four rolls of toilet paper for $1.19. $0.89 if you get the single ply.” He refused to do that. The dishes thing got worse and worse. Finally, one day, we just decided not to do them any more and we let Chris’ dishes go undone. That was in May and by September, they still hadn’t been done and bear in mind we lived in a non-air conditioned apartment in the middle of one of the hottest summers in New York. Naturally, the dishes got worse. First, a cloud of gnats formed that never went away, then the dishes developed a turd like sludge and it literally looked and smelled like shit. It got so out of control that there were no dishes to use. So even if you wanted to stir your coffee, every last item was used. Pens were used to stir coffee, even every little measuring spoon was used.
Finally, in September, things had gone far enough and I had a hot date and I was bringing her back to the apartment. So I went to Chris and said “Look asshole, this isn’t a fucking motel. Do your fucking dishes.” As usual, in his manic compulsive style, he decided he was really going to do the dishes. But of course, it’s also true that he couldn’t use just normal cleansers because the dishes had gone too far so he had to boil each dish individually to get the sludge off of it. He did this for three hours and finally they were all done. So the next meal we cooked, I did the dishes the meal after that, Dan did the dishes and the next meal after that, yep, you guessed it, Chris didn’t do the dishes. And it started all over again. So finally, he let this go on for several weeks and then we waited for Chris to have a hot date which didn’t happen often, but every now and then it would. The nights we knew he’d be bringing his dates back drunk at two in the morning, we put all the dirty dishes in his bed and covered them with a blanket. That got him really pissed off. Just to give you an idea what kind of guy he was, let’s say I bought a six-pack, and we’re not sharing food, and he would drink five of the six beers and then I’d come home and he’d be like “What?” when you’d confront him about it. And it wasn’t really so much about the money, although we were all poor, but it was really about going to the store to get them because we lived in a six floor walk up and it’s a pain in the ass to get groceries. And the thing is, he’d never drink one, everything was done in excess no matter what it was. Finally, there was a time Chris and I went on a little road trip to Massachusetts. We were on our way to Cape Cod and stopped in this little bunghole town late at night and I was pulled over by the cops because I pulled out of a motel parking lot and forgot to flip on my lights right away. So Chris is carrying a hoard of pot and his three foot bong in his bag. We got thrown in jail overnight and I told Chris he’d have to admit the goods were his because I wasn’t going to take the fall for him. So he did, to his credit, but it was always one thing after another. Finally, by the time I moved out, (the lease was in my name) he owed thousands of dollars in back rent and we were ultimately evicted by the city marshall, but I still owed the money and they took me to course and got a judgement against me, and I started paying them off. Well, years passed and Chris called to catch up telling me about his new girlfriend, new apartment, he just bought a car, he got a Harmon-Kardon stereo system, and I was like “What the fuck?! Where’s my money?!” He said “you can never prove I lived there.” So I took him to small claims court, and he showed up in court with all of his so-called records literally on the back of matchbooks, and I’ve got everything carefully prepared. Naturally, I destroyed him and won. Chris’ defense was that he never lived there, and even if he did there they were letting me live there for free. So you have thirty days to remit the judgement in New York. On day 29, Chris asks if he can pay me $100 per month and I just laughed at him. He asked what I was going to do and I said that I was going to come over to his house the next week with the City Marshall and take his stereo and car. With that, I received a money order from him by 5p.m. the next day at my office. I didn’t hear from him again for another couple of years until I get a call at six in the morning from the city bailiff in lower Manhattan and says “I’m calling on behalf of Chris [name withheld]. He says he wants you to bail him out.” Bail was $100. I asked what he did and she was very careful in her choice of words, but she said “possession of narcotics with intent to distribute.” I said “He’s guilty, leave him in there, let him rot!” I haven’t heard from him since.
It was a difficult day at work and I walked back to my apartment through a viscous, bitter wind that came off the East river. Just in sight of my apartment I caught a whiff of the most foul chemical stench this side of the Domino Sugar Factory. The stench got worse as I approached.
The smell in the house was something I can only describe as the inside of Patrick Ewing’s armpit. I admit, I didn’t see the fire at first. The first thing I saw was the cat who had taken it upon herself to dissect a neglected newspaper into little shreds. Paper pieces lined the floor. You can’t blame the cat, it doesn’t pay rent. I noticed that there was smoke and a bit of flame coming from my couch, the same couch that I had just carried home and built.
After I put out the fire I went into the big room to confront my roommate who was on the phone.
“Did you notice that the couch was on fire?”
“Oh, I thought I put that out.” he said. “You know the same thing happened to me before, I just left the lamp on the couch for like ten minutes and bam!”
He then proceeded to take the smoldering cushion and stuff it into the air-conditioner caddy directly outside our window. After some yelling he put it on the street. For weeks the smell of chemical death lingered.
(Dr. Jonathan Waks)
I once had these roommates in university when I subleted an apartment for just a semester. They went to a different school. They were scammin’, track-pant wearin’ loafy white-trash chicks that were sure to go on to boring lives. I tried to be friendly to them, but somehow we never warmed up to each other. Anyway, we had this aging “progressive” couple as landlords who lived in the attached house. He was a homeopathic doctor who slightly resembled Ghandi, she had suffered from a stroke and drooled a bit. They had these clean-cut homeopathic disciples who were over a lot, these two guys were strong, sensitive types seemed to cling to each other a bit and they were one big weird happy family. The landlords wanted to have a hostel concept to the place, but my roommates just wanted to be left alone. During the semester, the landlords’ friendliness became quite overbearing in the eyes of my roommates, and they began to complain viciously about the big bags of organically grown carrots and potatoes we’d find in our kitchen, thinking that this guy had no right coming into our apartment. The two women who I lived with hated their guts and were always slagging the landlords, they also enlisted their boyfriends in the battle of words. They even got the mellow guy who we lived with to turn on them (even though he was always over at his girlfriend’s place and we never saw him). I was indifferent, I didn’t mind going over and eating the landlord’s cookies and drink his tea and listen to his wacky stories. Seems like in the Sixties, they were motorcycling through Yemen and the landlord got a look from one of the tribal girls that almost bound him in marriage to her. I forgot how they got out of that pickle. Apparently the landlord, who was dark and looked Indian, had once been as white as Leo Dicaprio – his skin had turned dark after an encounter with some sort of a magnetic field! The wife, a little batty after her stroke, was raving on and on about the Jewish Conspiracy. It was a little weird. Back on the other side, the girls were getting even more freaked out, thinking about getting a court order to keep the landlord out. One of them threatened the landlord, saying that she could get her biker friends to beat him up. She must have felt very threatened by this wizened old man. I minded my own business and ate the carrots and potatoes. I’m allergic to stupidity, so I was pretty glad to leave there after a mere four months.
(Peter Brian Maxim)
From 1992-93 I shared a house in Fernbank with my girlfriend Christine and another woman named Anjali. Both Christine and Anjali were graduate students at Emory, Christine in French and Anjali in English. They had met at school and became fast friends. Christine offered Anj the room in our house, and since I didn’t really know her at that time except as a friend of Christine’s I trusted her judgement and agreed. D’oh!
Anjali was from a blueblood Indian family in Bombay. Both of her parents were ambassadors to the United Nations but now resided chiefly in London. Anjali had a pronounced formal British accent, as she had been sent to the finest English boarding schools, though I never knew which ones. She had had a limousine driver for most of her childhood. She had a brother who lived in London, and a boyfriend there as well, sadly named “Knobby.” Anjali and the Knobster would have whispery long-distance phone calls at night and she would openly miss him and proclaim her passion for him to us, though she never went to visit him. There was also the issue of the hole in her heart. Now and then she would stay home from class because the medication for the hole in her heart was making her nauseous. She complained about it a lot. She had been born with the heart-hole.
By far Anjali’s most distinctive feature was how much she disliked me. At the time I was fairly sure it was a response to the fact that I had done a bad job of hiding how much I detested her. Anjali thought my friends were idiots, and would rarely engage any of them in conversation. She also hated my cats, and I was vindicated when in the summer of ‘93 we had a flea infestation that almost caused her to move out. I have never been so happy to see fleas in my life. One time I had to ask her to help me give one of the cats a flea bath, and that was a joke. She stood by with her nose wrinkled, and laughed as my cat Finster tore the shower curtain to ribbons and ran out of the bathroom and out of the house while still covered with flea shampoo.
One of the capper moments was when I was toasting a bagel one Saturday morning, and with my back turned she came in and took the bagel and ate it. It was the only time I ever yelled at her. To this day it is the only time I have ever threatened anyone. If I’m threatening someone over a goddamned bagel, there have to be deeper waters of strife running there.
Christine’s graduate program at Emory folded in the Spring of ‘93, and oddly enough our relationship did too. She decided to transfer to Princeton to finish her degree, and I decided to stay in Atlanta. Anjali transferred out of her program, and into another one at UPenn. They both moved out of the house the same day, and I remember Anjali crying at having to leave Christine, and grunting a goodbye to me. Christine and I e-mailed a bit after she moved, and sometime in 1995 I got a mail relating this: Anjali was in a hospital in Philadelphia, where she had ended up after having a near-psychotic episode. Her friends had checked her in. She had been stalking a classmate of hers for weeks, leaving her threatening messages and becoming increasingly more erratic. Apparently Anjali was in love with her. While in the hospital, Anjali confessed to Christine that there were some things about her that weren’t strictly true. Like, her family wasn’t aristocratic at all, they were not ambassadors, and they were not rich. She had not attended any boarding schools, had never been to Oxford as she claimed, and had no brother or boyfriend named Knobby. There was no hole in her heart, and she had never had a limo driver.
Christine never talked to her or heard from her again, and neither did I.
1. You wave at the bouncer instead of showing I.D.
2. You hug the bouncer.
3. You bum cigarettes off the bouncer.
4. You wave at the doorgirl instead of checking in on the guest list or (god forbid), paying to get in.
5. You hug the doorgirl.
6. You know the doorgirl’s little brother.
7. You walk to the bar and half of your Guiness is already poured.
8. You hug the bartender.
9. You ask the bartender how his/her band is doing.
10. You feel at home enough to bring food in from the outside and eat it at the bar.
11. You have ever: a)read a zine/newspaper at the bar or b)done your homework at the bar.
12. People mistake you for the waitress/waiter.
13. People mistake you for the bouncer.
14. You know where to get more toilet paper if the bathroom is out.
15. People ask you where you were if you miss one event/show.
16. You have a “normal spot” that you stand in at shows.
17. You have dated more than one employee at the club.
18. You are allowed to use the backstage bathroom.
19. You cut out the venue’s ad out of the newspaper and plan your life accordingly.
20. You get the new schedule of who is playing the club mailed to your home address or e-mailed directly to you from the booking agent.
21. The booking agent asks your advice when trying to match up an opening act with a headliner.
22. You hug the booking agent.
23. You have “tagged” any place in the club.
24. You are allowed to use the “office phone”.
25. Employees know your last name.
26. You get invited to the parties that the club employees have at their homes.
27. You are in more than just one photo in the collage behind the bar.
28. The bartender remembers your credit card number.
29. Your friends always ask you to get them drinks for them from the bar because you either get them: a)free, b) discounted or c)before anyone else standing around waiting does.
30. You know how to adjust the A/C if it gets too hot.
31. The doorgirl holds your sweater for you if it is too hot.
32. The doorgirl asks you to watch the money while she goes to the bathroom.
33. You could get the club stamp tattooed on your hand to save the bouncer time.
34. Just when the entrance stamp starts to wear off a few days later you are back at the club getting another stamp.
35. You have a pile of matching wristbands in the floorboard of your car.
36. The parking lot attendant lets you park for free.
37. You have dated the parking attendant.
38. You have a “parking space”.
39. When you go to your car after a show, there are never any flyers on your car because the flyer people think that your car never moves or is abandoned.
40. You know which employee got fired and why.
41. You find out that the employee was let go before they do.
42. You get to make requests or bring a CD from home for the soundman to play between bands.
43. You hug the soundman.
44. People gossip about you at the club.
45. You notice that they re-painted the walls/floor/bathroom.
46. You hug the hired police officer.
47. You have seen the same opening act 3 times in one month.
48. You recall the first time (insert band name here) played the venue and how many people showed up.
49. Any one of the employees knows how to get to your house if they end up taking you home because you are too drunk to drive.
50. At the end of the evening, you know how many people paid to get in and how much the club took it up the ass that night. o
In the everlasting pursuit of escape, few options can outlast the power of music. It keeps you hungering for answers to the unanswerable questions it asks. In an instant, it can make light of all your hang-ups — your dead-end job, your confused relationships, your squalid apartment. In your hands, a Walkman can become a teleportation device — delivering you from the abuses of everyday life. Here are 10 more ways out. Ten tickets to places that welcome a wayward traveller. Ten recommended slices from the vast diversity of Indonesian music. Five from the more well-known forms, which are guaranteed to please even the worst xenophobe, and five from the rich Smithsonian Folkways Series, for the more adventurous. Strap on that Walkman, armed with any one of these, and marvel at the traffic jam stretched out before you. Re-examine shopping at the mall for socks. Dunk your donuts to the sound of gamelan. Not so bad after all.
Euis Komariah with Jugala Orchestra
Jaipongan Java Globestyle Records (UK)
Euis Komariah is one of the most prominent singers in modern Indonesian music. From the Sunda culture of West Java, she has made countless recordings in various styles. Her voice is intoxicating and delicate, and she is backed up by the fantastic ensembles organized by her husband, composer/arranger/indie label-owner Gugum Gumbira. You can find cassettes from Gugum’s label, Jugala, all over Indonesia, which impressed me as shops usually stock the musics that are indigenous to their own cultural regions. This particular record is in the style called Jaipongan. This is a hybrid-style basically invented by Gugum in the early 70’s. It has its main roots in somewhat controversial music from the Sunda tradition of seductive singer-dancers that perform at wine-houses. In the Islamic climate, the racy frank sensuality surrounding this music was frowned upon by society. But Gugum took the ingredients: love songs, ancient Sunda drumming traditions, and the central female singer, and fashioned an infectious gamelan-pop with broader appeal, and more refined lyrics. The fire is still there, 200%. This is the ultimate bedroom disc, with its controlled accelerations, and lilting quiet sections. It was always the high point of a visit to a Java disco when the DJ would switch from the standard techno to Jaipongan. Suddenly everyone on the dance floor would grow serpent-arms, and move in unison, like a hundred-arm disco-God.
If you can’t find this one, a comparable alternate is Idjah Hadidjah’s “Tonggeret” Elektra/Nonesuch Explorer Series 9 79173-1.
Elektra/Nonesuch Explorer Series
Compilations like this one make for a great overview. This is a rich collection of Balinese traditions, loaded with unique forms. The Balinese gamelan is generally a more fiery and acrobatic style, but this disc highlights some quieter forms as well.
Gamelan Suling is an ensemble made up entirely of bamboo flutes. Hearing the complex, interlocking cycles of gamelan counterpoint played on the transparent, cool timbres of bamboo flutes is reason enough to pick this record up.
Cut 4, recorded in the small central Bali village, Batuan, is called ‘Lagukodok’ or ‘Frog Song.’ Here, a group of players blow on small bamboo pieces about the size of half a popsicle stick, called enggung. The Enggung has a tongue carved out in the middle, which when blown, produces a sound identical to the ‘bark’ that tree-frogs make. Check this out if you’ve ever wondered what tree-frogs sound like when barking perfectly tight gamelan rhythms.
These beautiful analog recordings were made by David Lewiston in 1987. More gamelan recordings by David Lewiston can be found on Elektra/Nonesuch titles “Music from the Morning of the World,” and “Jasmine Isle: Javanese Gamelan Music.”
E. Koestyara and Group Gapura Icon Records
Here is a lovely sampling of an immensely popular West Java style called Degung. Degung has its roots in the court music of the old Sundanese kingdoms, dating back to the 14th century. The kids love it — even today.
This is the stuff they play near sunset in all the tourist traps — it’s an instant chill-out on par with the finest Sumatran green. It’s so sweet you feel a little guilty indulging in it at first, but you come back to your senses and are reminded that it’s from a society that doesn’t have a built-in gloom quotient in its aesthetics. This music mirrors the innate joyfulness and sensuality of the Indonesian people.
A Degung group uses most of the same instruments as you find in small gamelans, but the distinctive feature is the freestyling suling, the bamboo flute. High and bird-like, its fluttering phrases give flutes a good name. The Indonesian government needs a dose of this….
*If this one’s out-of-print (it’s from 1985), there is a Degung record featuring my favorite, Evis Komariah (with Yus Wiradiredja) on Globestyle (UK), which should be in print.
Street Music of Java
Various artists Original Music
I include this one as a wild card. I’m sure this record is not for everyone, but it’s one of my favorites. Completely heart-breaking on its best cuts, this is the sound of the bittersweet life of street-players. The more out-of-tune it gets the more I’m hooked. It features soloists and smaller groups, and the more ‘pop’ genres of dangdut and kroncong. Dangdut is heavily influenced by Indian music — especially the bouncy film-soundtrack styles. Kroncong is influenced by European (especially Portuguese) old-time parlor-music, and has more Western instruments added. The best way I can describe this record is ‘The Island Sound.’ You can get a more revealing taste of the Indonesian peoples’ easy-going ‘Islander’ disposition (which is less evident in the refined grace of gamelan).
When you’re a descendant of a long line of generations living in a tropical paradise, life looks sweet. But then the migration to the big city (in this case Jakarta), is where the bitter taste comes in. Even sadder is that these 1970’s recordings are partially of a day gone by, before the importation of American rock and dance music was in full swing.
My only copy of this is from a cassette a friend made, so if anyone reading this comes across a copy, please consider passing it my way for a trade or something. I’ve never seen the LP or CD out there anywhere, and I’ll trade handsomely for it.
*If you are interested in hearing this kind of stuff, and never find this particular record, there are two related (though less magical) collections in the Smithsonian Folkways Music of Indonesia series: Indonesian Guitars (series #20) and Indonesian Popular Music (Series #?).
Saron of Singapadu, Bali
King Records (Japan)
And for those of you who are just looking for a trance, here’s a fine example of the slower forms of gamelan.
King Records is a Japanese label that has an amazing series called World Music Library. The library has over 150 titles, including a number of excellent Indonesian ones.
What you’ll find on this one is a particularly fluid, serene set of three long pieces. This style is not what you hear performed very often, probably due to its links with certain rituals. I’ve heard this music performed in Java, at the former Sultan’s palace in Jogjakarta, and I would almost swear that this recording was mistakenly labeled as being from Bali, for two reasons: first, the musicians who perform together at the palace are usually much older than average, and thus the playing tends to be extra gentle, with a looser more ‘floating’ touch. Second, the palace pavilions have a beautiful natural reverb to them, which makes for an even more enveloping effect on the gamelan. The low gongs on this recording will make your room vibrate, and my other recordings from the palace are sonically identical.
If you can’t find this one, try the ‘Nice Price’ Nonesuch Explorer CD “Javanese Court Gamelan.”
The Smithsonian Folkways label has been releasing the 20 volume Music of Indonesia Series over the last ten years. It’s the culmination of a massive recording project, covering many of the cultural regions of the 3,000 islands that make up the Indonesian nation. Ethnomusicologist Philip Yampolsky worked in conjunction with the Indonesian Society for the Performing Arts to bring some of the less-documented corners of the archipelago to Western ears. Rarely heard musics of the islands East of Bali are given extensive coverage, providing a more realistic picture of the Indonesian world beyond the comforts of tourist parts.
These field recordings are more raw, and in many cases, more intimate than the other five recordings I’ve recommended. So I suggest approaching these as the ‘roughing it’ part of your arm-chair travels. They may make you itch a little bit, but you’re guaranteed a new perspective if you can hang long enough.
Music from the Outskirts of Jakarta: Gambang Kromong SF40057
Here is a sampling of some older musicians playing in more subdued, delicate styles than what you find these days in the buzzing megapolis of Jakarta. There are some strange hybrid styles included here as well — with elements of Chinese, European and even American Dixieland surfacing in the mix. Oddly familiar ingredients mixing with the percolating groove of the gamelan instruments.
Melayu Music of Sumatra and the Rian Islands: Zapin, Mak Yong, Mendu, Ronggeng SF40427
Here is a taste of the Malaysian influence present in Indonesia’s history. The most prominent quality is the Middle Eastern overtones, especially in the oud-like gambus. These are songs designed for dance halls and more refined theatre music.
Music from the Southeast: Sumbawa, Sumba, Timor SFW40443
This disc offers both ritual music and music for social settings. Like the best of Yampolsky’s compilations, the variety keeps this one exciting from start to finish. Violin and vocal pieces, down-home mountain blues-sounding songs, and some darker, more hypnotic nipplegong rhythms.
Kalimantan: Dayak Ritual & Festival Music SFW40444
Kalimantan, the large, wild island most of us know as ‘Borneo,’ has a crossroads position between Indonesia and the Philippines. You’ll find here a musical view of the crossover of styles. The nipplegong selections are buoyant and varied. Highlights are the choral pieces, gently yearning at times, and deeply somber at others. This one is nicely sequenced to feel like a larger-forum composition.
Music of Maluku: Halmahera, Buru, Kei SFW40446
This next-to-last disc of the series presents the previously hard-to-find music of the large province of islands known as Maluku, (or “The Molucca’s”). The selections from the three islands represented here move from small instrumental groups and intimate solo and duo vocal pieces to larger choral groups with percussion. There are some sublime jew’s-harp pieces, which reward the listener who knows what to listen for in the higher frequency range where the melody hides. Vol. 19 is loaded with vocals, which can be a caveat for you, if you’re not a fan of raw, rhythmic singing. I’m a big fan of the unadorned voice, so I preach the gospel of this disc. This one sounds about as far from the Javanese gamelan as it gets, sometimes sounding almost African or Native-American. The closing cuts get mystical,with 3 recordings of large trance-rituals derived from Sufi origins. Here, the dancers stab themselves with iron awls, but remain unharmed under the protection of their trance. Keep the Walkman cued up to these pieces whenever you’re performing the hazardous rituals of chemical mind-expansion.
A compilation of worn-out record review references, ideas and phrases
by Jordan N. Mamone and Sean Howe
– sonics (as a noun)
– sonic (as an adj; of course it’s sonic, it’s a fucking record)
– hip (and, of course, überhip)
– sound (as in a band’s…)
– stoner rock
– deliver (bands are not mailmen; they do not deliver music)
– here (as in “here, Ricky Martin melds spicy Latin rhythms and ska-influenced horns”’; a record is not a place, asshole)
– serve up
– Elder Statesman
– godfather of
– gettin’ jiggy wit
– Nick Drake
– Beach Boys
– Pet Sounds
– Elephant 6
– incorporate (especially incorrectly, without the word ”into” ex: Tricky incorporates hip-hop, guitars and anal sex on his new album)
– offer (as ad-speak for SELL; or ex.: “The Get Up Kids offer a new twist on the emo formula” – Offer? Like you’re benefiting?)
– guitar lines (we’re doing coke?)
– brew (we’re making beer?)
– elements (ex: “incorporates elements of punk and jazz”; leave it to the weatherman to mess with the elements)
– anything “millennium” or “Y2K”-related
– effect (i.e. “to dizzying effect”, “to dazzling effect”)
– knack (or penchant)
– prove (ex.: “Suicaine Gratification proves that growing old doesn’t have to mean growing up”)
– abstract (duh!)
– ambient (duh! duh!)
– a sound all their own
– reviews that tell you how loud you should play the album
– reviews that guarantee that you’ll cry. like they fuckin’ know what makes you tear up.
– reviews that guarantee that you will get up and dance. like most people dance when they listen to records alone.
– the early ‘90s
– ass, or kicking it
– anything with ”ear”
– references to musicians’ record
– drop (as in “drop beats” or “drop jams”)
– in a big way
– croon (which everyone inexplicable uses as a synonym for sing — you probably ain’t crooning unless you’re effing Bing Crosby — which would hurt quite a bit)
– junkie blues
– references to enjoyment of beverage while listening to album
– turntable (what is this, Stereo Review? you don’t read film critics going on about the film projector)
– smooth jams
– smooth grooves
– keeping it real
– great for listening to in the car in summer with the top down, etc.
– anything by Dan Aquilante
This memo was found in the garbage outside of Disney Headquarters in Orlando, Florida 2/2/00, sent from the desk of Herbert Q. Firkin- Head of International Marketing and Development for Disney Corp.
H. Firkin- Marketing & Development; I. Bottoms- Firkin’s Assistant; E. Ottawa- Bottom’s Assistant; V. DePressio- Sales & Development; I. Peters- Research & Development; L. Crystal- Production Assistant
(Synopsis of speech) by Firkin: Addresses attendees — some by name, others just by hair style. Reading of the last minutes. “Looking forward we need to make money. Lot’s of it. Haul it in with great expediency and urgency, droves of the stuff in big bags with those dollar signs on them. We have to do everything we possibly can to increase our revenue; this includes working on the weekends and removing any semblance of life outside this office. We are a family. Let us all fight together, laugh together, and earn together!”
(Attendees huddled and gave the corporate chant).
L. Crystal makes joke at I. Bottom’s expense and is fired.
Meeting interrupted by Head of Security D. Dale. L. Crystal leaves meeting.
Presentation of Films in Progress:
Tentatively titled – Camp Loosealot or Fat Camp
Scenes to include: * Boy eats peanut butter, girl eats chocolate – then Kiss (Note tie in with Reese’s) * Evil Counselor stealing from the kitchen and forcing the kids to eat gruel * “Sharky” the demented head cook * The rival military school contest * Check Fred Savage as Head Counselor “Freddy” * Dancing Scene must include passing gas * Check Blues Traveler for soundtrack
The Bubble Family
(Whole family has to live in a Bubble); Robin Williams to play Bubble
(The sequel to Dumbo)
Scenes to include
* Mouse has to die, find three rare even funnier animals * Dumbo loves Dimbo the female elephant with elephantitus of the trunk (Long nose) * Dance contest * Dance scene must include passing gas * Dimbo kidnapped by evil circus * Dumbo and three animal friends fly to the rescue * Dimbo helps by using her enormous member to reach keys (Firkin excited about this scene)
World’s Craziest Switcheroo- Or Student Bodies2- Or Don’t Tell Your Parents!
(Whole class switches bodies with their teachers in a botched field trip to the nuclear lab. The teachers need to keep it from large and dangerous parents.) * Possible Ted Danson/ Fred Savage * Dance Contest (Sin gas) * Crazy Bus driver named “Shaky” or “Mongo”
Lunch was ordered
Lunch was sent back
L. Crystal was invited back in the meeting and re-hired so long as he was able to bring lunch by 2:00
Doors held shut by I. Bottoms.
Lunch Served. L. Crystal escorted out of the building by Security officers D. Dale and C. Mingus.
Final note to secure the license to the following titles for future use:
* Mr. Bungle Movie (Possible Sandler Deal) * Flag Day * Town in a Bottle * Lunch Special #4 * The Neatest Bunk in the Army (First all gay platoon) (Save for lawsuit season) * Gator Goes North * Penguin Goes South * Soapbox Derby * Earnest Goes to Heaven * In Search of Earnest * The Next Earnest * Earnest Is Back
Bottoms chosen to eliminate the Crystal situation
Meeting disbands with corporate chant, oath of allegiance, and retinal scan.