Monthly Archives: September 2010



acclaimed San Diego
duo don’t need no steenkin’ compasses – just your trust in them.




Crocodiles are one of those outfits that have amassed a lot
of buzz their initial step out. Once their critically-acclaimed Fat Possum Records debut album, Summer of Hate, hit the store shelves and Infobahn last year, blogs
and major media outlets were ablaze, with Rolling
even proclaiming them stewards of “the art-punk renaissance.”  It was an ambitious and obscure first-time effort
from two music veterans that, with its reverb fervor and dusky murmurs, ended
up turning noise-pop on its ear.


So how does the duo – ex-The Plot to Blow Up the Eiffel
Tower’s Brandon Welchez and Charles Rowell – live up to that applause with
their follow-up, Sleep Forever (released earlier this month on Fat Possum)?
They don’t. Instead, they reach beyond it, hoping that their latest alms
“eclipses” the first.


“Like with anything Brandon
and I do, I’m only interested in what we’re doing right now, so I definitely
think this is better and it’s a progression,” says Rowell, a former member of
the hardcore collective Some Girls, and who met his bandmate/best friend at a San Diego political
meeting in 1999 when they were teenagers. “I hope that people celebrate it even
more than they did the last record.”


Recorded at a home studio in Joshua Tree, CA, a dozy,
outlying town in the Mojave Desert, Sleep
is an abraded, kaleidoscopic collection of fuzzy noise and abstracted
vocal layers that are blistering and transfixing, lending itself to desolation
that traverses an illimitable soundscape. It’s a somewhat responsive
bewilderment to the recording location, chosen by Simian Mobile Disco founder
and Sleep Forever producer James Ford
(Arctic Monkeys, Klaxons, Florence and the
Machine), that Rowell dubs as “somewhat spiritual.” While neither Rowell
nor Welchez ever visited Joshua Tree, they found the idea of being sequestered
in the desert for the duration of recording “really, really enticing.”


“James seemed pretty confident that it was gonna be good,”
says Rowell, “It wasn’t our choice but it was definitely the right choice.”


According to the Crocodiles half, the geographical setting
did have a significant influence in how Sleep
went directionally and how its songs manifested. It’s also due in
large part to the fact that, going into the recording process, the duo didn’t
“map out” their album. Despite what Rowell calls an “overall umbrella” of
emotions to the material and a desire to write superior, versatile songs based
on the illustrious songwriting they hold in high regard, Crocodiles were steeped
in vagueness. And even though Rowell offers that maybe, subconsciously, they
did, they were “in no way… discussing [that] it was gonna be crowdy and dubby.”


Still, it was an ambiguity of circumstance that benefited the
San Diego-based outfit in the end. According to Rowell, it was only until the
completion of the aptly titled Sleep
– a phrase, he says, that epitomizes the vibe evoked in Joshua Tree
– when the “spirit of it” was realized. “It truly came to life [after the three
of us] put it together. It completely 100 percent conjures up the memories of
being in the desert, creating it. It was the ideal place to do it because the
album has a lot to do with isolation and reacting to your environment.”


As with the record’s trajectory, the number of songs that
ultimately made up Sleep Forever were
also not premeditated. Instead, they were chosen by synergy and, to the pair,
those were the eight that, not only were the best written, but also “fit
perfectly,” and if another one was added, it wouldn’t have the same magnetic
effect. “They’re panoramic. They’re big songs that have life to them and they
have detail,” Rowell urges, his voice betraying a genuine artistic passion.
“They flow into each other and they’re dynamic. We really didn’t think about
whether we needed 9 or 10 or 12. You should never overstay, overextend


As for Sleep Forever’s music, Rowell wants it to stand on it
on its own two feet, never defined by influences that the pair bonded over as teens.
And while it may seem suitable to draw comparisons to other artists, like the
Velvet Underground or the Jesus & Mary Chain (as their debut album did), it
would be confining to place Crocodiles in such an easy box. Or, at least,
that’s the way he sees it.


It’s like this: To be an artist, says Rowell, and have what
you’ve produced feel crafted and run the “gamut of emotions” experienced while
piecing it together labeled as sounding, upon release, like this or that band
is stifling – offensive even. “I would hope that most musicians like to think
that they’re doing something that’s their own, that’s original but you just
can’t escape it,” he says, noting that “nowadays, everyone’s a music critic. If
that’s how a reviewer wants their work to come across, then so be it. If I was
a reviewer, I think I’d be ashamed of myself.”


But, for Crocodiles, such makeshift appraisals, while
disappointing, aren’t their end all, be all. They’re going to continuing
shaping material that’s “better, more original and more interesting music” that
they, and they alone, are satisfied with.


“We’re always gonna be [moving] in a new direction and in no
way is our compass some other band’s album,” he concludes, firmly.


[Photo credit: Alex Kacha]


Crocodiles begin a UK tour this week and then commence
a North American leg in late October. Full litinerary at their MySpace page.

THEY MEANT IT, MAAAN… REDUX: Jon Savage’s England’s Dreaming Tapes


Originally published
in Britain
in 2009, the punk chronicle now gets a Stateside airing. It’s still an
essential read.




It’s been almost two decades since
the publication of England‘s Dreaming, Jon Savage’s brilliantly
historicized magnum opus on British punk’s roots, genesis and its all-too-brief
genuinely vital phase in 1976 and 1977. Contextualizing his subject matter in
cultural, economic and political terms, Savage focused primarily on London and
the rise and fall of the Sex Pistols, tracing the repercussions around the UK
and beyond as this initially localized, underground scene quickly turned into
tabloid fodder – its anti-establishment sounds co-opted by the record industry
and its DIY clothing and accessories packaged as weekend fashion items.


Punk would become, arguably,
Britain’s most significant post-war pop culture event, exerting a
paradigm-shifting influence on style, attitudes, art, music and media, and
Savage’s groundbreaking book treated this epochal moment with the seriousness
it demanded. For all its depth and analytical rigor, however, England‘s Dreaming never lost sight of the fact
that punk spoke directly to young people on a gut level: Savage examined the
aesthetic and intellectual motivations of punk’s founding ideologists and
architects but always communicated the excitement, chaos and irreverence of the
period and its music.


Although it’s not necessary
actually to have lived through a historical moment to write about it
authoritatively and insightfully, Savage did witness punk’s emergence in London, documenting it in his fanzine London‘s Outrage and as a journalist for Sounds. But while his credentials as
the author of England’s Dreaming were
unimpeachable, that book’s success owed much to the contributions of others:
alongside his own perspective, both from old diary excerpts and his incisive
theorizing of punk, Savage incorporated – from interviews conducted in 1988 and
1989 – the perspectives of 100 or so diverse
characters who were also immediately involved (the musicians themselves,
producers, fellow journalists, assorted band and club managers, record label
employees, graphic artists, designers, DJs, photographers and filmmakers). This
eclectic gallery of voices was absolutely central to the success of England‘s Dreaming as a vibrant archaeology of
the punk era.


The England’s Dreaming Tapes – published in Britain in 2009 by Faber & Faber and
now available stateside via the University of Minnesota Press – compiles the
complete transcripts (“edited for sense and libel”) of over half the
interviews conducted for England’s
They’re grouped in chapters covering the disparate sites where punk happened: either literal locations or
events or clusters of people (for instance, Malcolm McLaren’s King’s Road
store, SEX, subsequently renamed Seditionaries; the music press; London’s Roxy Club; the
Sex Pistols management team).


The book opens, appropriately
enough, with a look at McLaren, his art-school background and his store, as
told by McLaren himself, by people who knew him in the ’60s and early ’70s and
by those who worked and hung out in SEX; the closing chapter, featuring a grim
interview with Sid Vicious’ mother Anne Beverley, focuses on her iconic son,
whose death symbolized one of punk’s many possible endings. Savage also speaks
to each of the original Sex Pistols (even erstwhile guitarist Warwick
Nightingale, their own Pete Best) and to members of all the major bands to come
out of London
in ’76 and ’77. Nevertheless, while an emphasis on the London scene, the
Pistols and their elite orbit is inevitable – since the activities of McLaren
and co. were undeniably British punk’s immediate catalyst – some of the book’s
more interesting accounts of punk are told by those who were, geographically or
philosophically, on the periphery of that scene and, in several cases, at a
considerable distance from it.


The Pistols played some of their
early gigs on the outskirts of London
and outside the capital as McLaren sought to develop the band away from the
media. Consequently, they garnered a hard-core following that wasn’t from the
city proper. Take members of the so-called Bromley Contingent (such as Siouxsie
Sioux), who, in spite of strong connections with the Pistols, recount a
suburban experience of punk. At a greater geographical remove, Pete Shelley,
Howard Devoto, Tony Wilson and Buzzcocks manager Richard Boon present the view
from the northwest of England,
which, in turn, would spawn some of the post-punk era’s most creative artists.
Savage looks even further afield, sampling American – specifically New York – perspectives on British punk: for example,
Heartbreakers manager Leee Black Childers, who found himself in the UK in December ’76, accompanying Johnny Thunders
on the Anarchy Tour, and the photographer Joe Stevens, who documented the early
goings-on in Britain and
also witnessed the Pistols’ ill-fated 1978 US odyssey.


Wire’s Graham Lewis and Bruce
Gilbert offer a particularly interesting point of view, their distance from
punk an intellectual matter rather than a fact of geography. Despite drawing
early inspiration from the Pistols and gigging at the Roxy (the capital’s only
dedicated punk rock club at the time), Wire consciously separated themselves
from London’s burgeoning scene: as Lewis and Gilbert explain, they had no
desire to be part of an increasingly orthodox, stylistically homogeneous
movement, preferring to approach their work with a conceptual, arty orientation
that set them apart from their contemporaries.


One of the most compelling aspects
of England’s Dreaming was Savage’s
close attention to the important structures and discourses surrounding the
music itself: that is, the activities of filmmakers, photographers, management
personnel, designers and journalists – those who were engaged in framing punk
in different ways as it was unfolding, playing leading roles in constructing
the spectacle of punk and perceptions of it. In The England’s
Dreaming Tapes
, Savage talks to a number of these individuals. Especially
noteworthy are the parts played by journalists like Neil Spencer (responsible
for the first published piece on the Sex Pistols in February 1976 – an NME review of a gig at the Marquee Club)
and Jonh Ingham of Sounds (who wrote
the first feature on the band in April that year). They reflect on the
once-in-a-lifetime experience of observing a pop culture revolution at close
quarters and on their process of negotiating how to convey that revolution to
readers. The significance of this early press coverage is highlighted by
several interviewees whose introduction to punk came via the music weeklies. TV
Smith of the Adverts, Howard Devoto, Pete Shelley and Penetration’s Pauline
Murray all remember the catalyzing effect of Spencer’s article, which ended
with the now-legendary Steve Jones quotation, “We’re not into music, we’re
into chaos.” Their imaginations fired, Shelley and Devoto trekked from Manchester to High Wycombe the following week to see the
Pistols play; Murray came down from Newcastle, making
McLaren’s King’s Road store her first stop.


Jonh Ingham’s memories home in on
a watershed moment in British music journalism, when a new breed of writer
began to spring up, inspired precisely by the developments of punk. For Ingham,
the Sex Pistols gig at the Nashville Rooms on April 23rd, 1976, was an epiphany
as it dawned on him that it was futile to write objectively and analytically
about this music. Convinced of the enormous cultural importance of what he was
witnessing and believing punk rock was an absolute necessity – something that
young people had to know about – he
felt his role should be that of a fervent advocate, not a disinterested
observer: “That was the point…where I said to myself…the point is to
encourage this, because we need it….I saw it as propaganda, far more than
analysis.” Shortly after, he quit journalism to manage Generation X.


Another of the discourses crucial
to punk’s impact on the British consciousness was the unique visual language of
its clothing, record sleeves, poster art and band logos. Against the grain of
progressively more glossy, epic and overblown ’70s artwork, punk’s graphic
artists ran with the DIY ethic: immediacy, rough edges, recycling and collage
replaced craft, sophistication, slickness and high production values; genuinely
provocative and unsettling imagery replaced traditional rock and pop
titillation. Linder Sterling in Manchester
(creator of the Buzzcocks’ notorious “Orgasm Addict” photomontage,
among others) and Pistols designer Jamie Reid are two of Savage’s interviewees.
Reid, punk’s most iconic graphic artist, stresses that he considered it
completely unnecessary to present images of the band on his record covers –
after all, the tabloid press was providing that kind of exposure in abundance.
Rather, he believed his work’s purpose was to encapsulate the band’s attitude
and to represent visually what the
songs were about.


The visual language of fashion
also helped create punk’s scandalous, confrontational spectacle, and SEX employees Alan Jones and Jordan recall
what it was like to be among the first people to wear Vivienne Westwood and
McLaren’s clothing and accessories around town: bondage trousers; PVC, leather
and rubber fetish gear; dog collars; garments adorned with highly charged
symbols, provocative wording and obscene images (such as shirts depicting the Cambridge Rapist or featuring a Tom of
Finland drawing of two trouserless cowboys).
All of this was immensely shocking in mid-’70s London and outraged reactions
were common on the street; Alan Jones was even arrested and convicted of gross
indecency for sporting the lewd cowboys shirt in central London.


A significant aspect of punk,
underscored by Savage’s oral history, is the fact that just a relative handful
of like-minded people were responsible for launching and shaping this
phenomenon in the UK: punk definitely embodied and articulated what thousands
of teenagers were feeling, but it’s no exaggeration to suggest that its British
origins really can be traced to the activities of certain individuals and to
specific sites. This is emphasized by numerous interviewees’ Damascene moments
in relation to the Pistols and their entourage: Derek Jarman, director of the first and greatest British
punk film, 1977’s Jubilee, encountering an outrageously attired Jordan for the first time at Victoria
station in 1975 (she was wearing a transparent miniskirt); Devoto et al. reading Neil Spencer’s review; Joe Strummer watching the
Pistols open for his pub-rock group, the 101ers, at the Nashville Rooms in
April ’76 and deciding, there and then, that it was time to find a new band;
Tony Wilson attending the mythic June ’76 Pistols gig at the Lesser Free Trade
Hall; X-Ray Spex’s Poly Styrene seeing the band open for Welsh heavy rockers
Budgie at the Hastings Pier Pavilion a month later; and so on.


While The England’s Dreaming Tapes makes
it clear that a comparatively small group of people set everything in motion,
the book also covers some of the peripheral figures who have frequently been
overlooked in accounts of British punk. For example, lip service is often paid to the movement’s alignment with
reggae, but beyond the oft-repeated assertion of an alliance between punks and
Rastas in popular narratives – and outside of academically oriented writing
like Dick Hebdige’s Subculture: The
Meaning of Style
– there’s been little substantive coverage of Black
experiences of punk. Savage redresses the balance somewhat by having
photographer Dennis Morris and Roxy Club DJ Don Letts tell their stories.
Similarly, although there was a pronounced camp flavor to British punk, few
histories have adequately accommodated gay perspectives. Savage pays attention
to this lacuna by including the voices of Berlin (of the Bromley Contingent) and Alan


For all of punk’s apparent
accommodation of difference and outsider-ness, the display of Nazi symbols by
Sid Vicious and others has always been a fraught issue. Savage doesn’t shy away
from the subject in these interviews, broaching it with Siouxsie and Jordan,
for instance, both of whom infamously wore swastikas. Speaking to Savage more
than a decade later, they might be expected to take the opportunity to distance
themselves from their earlier, highly dubious choice of fashion accessories.
Disappointingly, they fail to take that opportunity, maintaining that their
appropriation of Nazi iconography had nothing to do with fascism and functioned
simply as a means of generational antagonism, with no other negative
resonances. Jordan
digs a deeper hole for herself, praising some of the Nazi artifacts she owned
as “beautifully made” and describing Hitler as a “genius.”
(Not that it helps much but, in the same breath, she also characterizes him as
a “loony.”) Also disappointing is the response of Alan Jones, who was
once physically attacked by a stranger who objected to his swastika armband.
Asked if he has any regrets, he naively persists: “No, no not all. It
didn’t bother me. I saw it as a fashion. I never saw it as making a statement
for or against anything.”


Just as there’s no such thing as a
definitive historical narrative compiled by a single author, an oral history is
no less problematic. It’s not a simple, unmediated account of events: it’s
shaped by the interviewer’s own interests and by the questions he/she chooses
to ask, as well as by the interlocutors’ agendas and their possibly flawed or
deliberately selective memories. An oral history of this magnitude is all the
more tricky: the range of different sources and viewpoints might be greater,
but then so are the witnesses’ biases and blind spots, their differences of
opinion and their competing versions of events. Still, neither in England‘s Dreaming nor in The England’s
Dreaming Tapes
does Savage entertain the illusion of narrative closure – on
the contrary, he gives his work over to the complexities and contradictions, to
the anarchy of the moment: the “chaos” that Steve Jones famously
identified as punk’s essence.


The England‘s Dreaming Tapes is undoubtedly the
best interview-based book on British punk published thus far. It’s an
indispensable documentary resource that offers panoramic insight into UK punk’s
most innovative and influential stage; it manages to immerse the reader in the
visceral rush and the sheer creative energy of the period at the same time as
it provides measured, perceptive commentary on that period.


By way of a footnote, it’s important
to recognize that The England’s Dreaming
demonstrates how great writing is often grounded in extensive,
painstaking research: as a prequel of sorts to England’s Dreaming, the present volume lays bare the foundations of
Savage’s earlier book, in terms of the extraordinary amount of raw material he
assembled and the particular questions and ideas he pursued throughout these



HELLO DADA! Allan Sherman


Some jokes never get old: John F. Kennedy,
Dr. Demento, Weird Al and Glenn Danzig were among the late singer-comedian’s fans.




In a remarkable
example of marketing chutzpah,
Collector’s Choice rereleased Allan Sherman’s eight Warner Brothers albums on
the day before Rosh Hashanah, September 7. The start of the Jewish New Year served
as a perfect time to rediscover Sherman’s
song parodies, many of which incorporated Jewish humor into their subject
matter and delivery. But now, as much as they did at the time of their release
in the early to mid ’60s, albums like My
Son, the Folk Singer
can strike a chord with goyim listeners as well.


a former television writer who had never performed in public prior to making
the records, displayed a sharp satirical wit and utilized top shelf
arrangements that changed the face of musical comedy albums from novelties with
limited appeal and frequently blue humor into million selling radio hits. “The
lyrics were well constructed,” says Barry “Dr. Demento” Hansen, who wrote the
liner notes on the new releases. “Many of them were kind of timeless. And that
shower room baritone that he had was something. His voice certainly wasn’t well
trained but it wasn’t bad either.”


Sherman had written song parodies as far as back
as college in the 1940s, he never tried to channel it into a second career
until he was encouraged by some Hollywood
bigwigs. He came to Los Angeles from New York City to write
for a game show and later The Steve Allen
, from which he was fired. While all this was happening his next door
neighbor Harpo Marx began inviting Sherman
to parties where the bespectacled writer slayed the guests with his songs.
Among the invited was Bullets Durgom, a legendary Hollywood manager who had
worked for Jackie Gleason (for whom Sherman
had written jokes, briefly) and Mickey Rooney.


went over to my father and basically said, ‘If you can sing these songs onto an
album, I think I can get you a record contract,'” says Sherman’s son Robert. “And my father half
said, ‘Yes,’ and half thought [Durgom] was joking or crazy or drunk. A few days
later there was a call back saying there was a tentative deal set up with
Warner Brothers.”


My Son the Folk Singer,
recorded in 1962 and released before the year’s end, recreated the aura of the
Harpo parties in the recording studio, where 100 invited guests had drinks and
snacks while Sherman and a band took aim at traditional folk songs. Among the
brilliant turns: “The Ballad of Harry Lewis” which makes “Battle Hymn of the
Republic” into a salute to a tailor who died in a factory fire, with the
refrain “Glory, glory Harry Lewis,” sung with deadpan sincerity by the six-voice
chorus; the western “Streets of Laredo” becomes “The Streets of Miami,” with a
thick Yiddish dialect; and “Sarah Jackman,” a New Yawk phone conversation set
to the tune of “Frere Jacques.” The album sold so rapidly in 1962 that Warner
Brothers Records had to sell copies without completed album covers.


sophomore My Son The Celebrity quickly
followed, sustaining the wit, most significantly with “Harvey and Sheila,” a
tale of an upwardly mobile young Jewish couple, this time sung to the melody of
“Hava Nagila.” Littered with popular acronyms and initials of businesses, the audience’s
biggest laugh comes when Sherman
sings that the couple, “switched to the G.O.P./ that’s the way things go.”


the Jewish family permeates his early work, it isn’t presented in a way that
would exclude or alienate Gentile listeners. Even President John Kennedy,
himself a Catholic, was once heard singing “Sarah Jackman” in a hotel lobby. “He
really changed the impression – that a Jew is not just, at that point, doing the
Yiddish jokes on Ed Sullivan that the
other people couldn’t really understand but were laughing at,” Robert Sherman
says. “People began to realize that the Jewish immigrant experience was similar
to the Irish experience or similar to the black experience or similar to the
Italian in that it was just a different version of what everybody’s crazy
relatives were.”


Sherman’s most
enduring songs came on album number three, My
Son the Nut
. This time, he appropriated the melody of Ponchielli’s
classical piece “Dance of the Hours,” to create “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh!,”
a tragicomic letter detailing a kid’s misfortunes at summer camp. It became his
biggest hit single and has been appropriated in television commercials in
recent times for everything from fabric softener to flea and tick medicine for
pets. “Rat Fink,” a spoof of the 1950s novelty tune “Rag Mop” – with lyrics
that do little more than spell and sing the title – was the flip side of the
single and appeared on the album. The younger Sherman says with some amusement that the
song has gone on to become “a punk rock anthem” having been covered by both the
Undead and the Misfits. It was also used in Tales
of the Rat Fink
, a documentary about illustrator Ed “Big Daddy” Roth, who
drew the character named Rat Fink. “As far as I know, other than the recording
session, he only performed it once in his life, on a TV show,” Sherman says. “And I don’t think he ever did
it in his nightclub act or concerts.”


albums included brilliant titles like “When I’m in the Mood for Love (You’re in
the Mood for Herring),” some then-current social commentary (“Dodgin’ the
Draft,” “The Drop-Outs March”) and spoofs of current pop hits like “Westchester
Hadassah,” (on the equally novel “Winchester Cathedral”). But none had the
runaway success of his early releases. After being dropped by Warner Brothers
in 1967, Sherman
wrote an autobiography (A Gift of Laugher)
and a collection of essays (Rape of the
before dying due to complications from poor health in 1973.


More than
four decades after his debut, Sherman’s
legacy continues, most clearly through Weird Al Yankovic, who took his cue for
his predecessor. But the albums still retain their lyrical zing. This staying
power would have surprised Sherman, who put a lot of effort into writing and
arranging (with help from musical director Lou Busch) but didn’t expect the
tunes to have any longevity. “He always thought that [the songs] were basically
disposable, that he was writing them for himself,” says Robert Sherman. His father
thought “he would get four or five years out of them if he was lucky.”


younger Sherman
discovered quite the opposite a few years ago during an afternoon screening of
the Disney classic Fantasia. When the
hippopotami began pirouetting to “Dance of the Hours,” most of the children in
the audience began singing “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh!” “When you stop and
think, these kids’ parents weren’t
even born when that came out,” he says with a laugh. “How do these kids all
know that song so much that they will start singing it out loud in a movie


jokes never get old.



[Photo courtesy Robert Sherman]



Hey-ho, let’s go! The Artist Previously Known
As Kate Rambeau – Riff Randall’s sexy science nerd buddy, natch – talks
Ramones, Riff, and more.





There is no denying
the sheer trashy brilliance of B-movie mogul Roger Corman’s 1979 teen film
parody Rock ‘n’ Roll High School.


Directed by cult
film director Allan Arkush (in clearly his finest moment in celluloid,
considering he would go on to helm such Hollywood pabulum as 1981’s big-budget
napalm bomb Heartbeeps and 1988’s
unwatchable Caddyshack II), who
originally prepped the film as Disco High to go with the times of the late seventies dance trend before co-collaborator
and future Gremlins director Joe
Dante stepped in to set him straight, RnRHS centers around the happenings going down at Vince Lombardi High in 1980. As the
story goes, various principals are continuously being sent to the psychiatric
ward because they can’t seem to get control of the unruly, rebellious student
body, led by No. 1 Ramones fan Riff Randall (portrayed by a very adult-looking PJ
Soles, who was nearing 30 at the time of the movie’s theatrical release).


That is, of course,
until the school hires fascist disciplinarian Miss Togar (deliciously played with
maximum camp by former Warhol superstar Mary Woronov) as the new school
principal, and she and her two lackey hall monitors do everything in their
power to keep rock music out of the school and prevent Riff from meeting her
heroes The Ramones (and in turn getting the song she wrote specifically for
them in the hands of lead singer Joey Ramone). 
But in pure punk fashion, the band and the student body team up to
overtake Togar’s gulag regime with (literally) explosive results. And there is
nothing more joyful than watching the orgiastic glory of this film – a
zeitgeist combination of ‘50s juvenile delinquent shock films, Zabriskie Point, Grease and The Ramones’
legendary residencies at CBGB – that has since become as ubiquitous a flagpost
of late ‘70s teen culture as The
Blackboard Jungle
was for the Eisenhower era.


In conjunction with
the film’s recently passed 30th anniversary, Shout! Factory has
released a special edition of Rock ‘n’
Roll High School
on both DVD and Blu-Ray loaded with a ton of goodies,
including an interview with producer Corman conducted by popular American film
critic Leonard Maltin and new featurettes with appearances by Arkush, Dante,
Soles, surviving band member Marky Ramone and co-star Vincent Van Patten
(sadly, the great Clint Howard, who played Vince Lombardi High’s resident
Ferris Bueller, the mysterious Eaglebauer, is nowhere to be found here). There
are also audio outtakes from the Ramones’ riotous show at The Roxy in Los
Angeles featured in the movie’s climax; original TV and radio spots as well as
the theatrical trailer (complete with audio commentary from modern-day horror
auteur Eli Roth); and a 22-page booklet complete with all kinds of cool ephemera including essays and interviews
culled from the original press kit.
Watching this film now is like opening up a time capsule that will instantly
transport you back to the days of shopping at Korvette’s and Record World, Kramer vs. Kramer, Three Mile Island,
the Iran hostage crisis and Jimmy Carter getting attacked by a swamp rabbit.


BLURT recently had the opportunity to chat with actress-turned-renowned
sculptor Dey Young, who portrayed Riff Randall’s best friend, sexy science nerd
Kate Rambeau and whose presence is prominently featured in the extras of this
special edition of Rock ‘n’ Roll High
. She talked about working on the film, hanging with out the Ramones,
and if she gets recognized more as Kate or the snobby sales associate from Pretty Woman.




BLURT: How did you wind up getting the part of
Kate Rambeau?

literally was the last one they saw. I was cast on a Thursday and started work
on the following Monday. I had just gotten to town after finishing LAMDA and
was staying with my sister. I happened to meet the casting director who
immediately submitted me. It was a stroke of luck!


In the film, Kate gives off this amazingly
subtle sexiness. Was that intended for the character vs. the more rough-edged
Riff? Would you consider Kate to be the feminine epicenter of Rock ‘n’ Roll High School?

I never thought of
her as anything but the innocent, naïve one who inherently was the protector of
Riff. I imaged they had been best friends forever and Riff got into rock ‘n’ roll
and Kate got into science. I approached her very simply as me and if I was
giving off any sexiness that was unintended but thank you for seeing that


What was your first impression of the Ramones
when you first met them on-set and why?

Oh, my first
impression was that they were aliens and addicted to pizza. They probably
looked at me the same way, although I preferred salads and Tab.


Were you a fan of The Ramones before filming
Rock ‘n’ Roll High School?

I had never even
heard of the Ramones, let alone punk rock so that was a huge eye opening
experience for me. I had been in London in a professional drama school and
other than frequenting the popular Hard Rock Café where all sorts of music was
played, it was all a novelty for me.


Please share some details about the filming of Rock ‘n’ Roll High School nobody has
heard of yet.

Well, in the dance
sequence at the end when we are all dancing in the school halls, Vince Van
Patton struggles to lift me up and my pants split in the back. It was a very
embarrassing situation, but I finished out the number, as gracefully as

Also, in the concert
scene at the Roxy, we used a real punk audience and it got a bit hostile and
scary as the night progressed and we had to keep stopping to contain the
audience because they were pushing on the actors pretty aggressively.


Did you make friends with The Ramones after the
film wrapped? Did you stay in touch with them through the years, or at least
until the untimely passings of Joey, Johnny and Dee Dee?

No, our lives just
didn’t line up. However, in the last number of years there is a charity event
for prostrate cancer in honor of Johnny held at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery
where the cast will show up to sign autographs and introduce the movie before
it is projected on the mausoleum wall. Johnny’s wife, Linda, organizes it. So
that has been the cast’s way of staying touch with them and their legacy.


Who was your favorite Ramone to work with?

Well Johnny was the
most talkative and engaging. He was very smart. The others were more shy and
harder to talk to.


Do you stay in touch with any of the other cast

I see P.J. on
occasion at different publicity functions for the movie and also Mary Woronov.
I used to run into Clint Howard on film auditions, although not for the same
role! I am most in contact with the director, Allan Arkush, who is very busy in
the television world.


Did you ever attend a Midnight Madness viewing
of Rock ‘n’ Roll High School?

I did go to one
midnight showing in West LA and it was a hoot… everyone dressed up very punk
and was singing and cheering. It was really cool and it gave me an opportunity
to see how the movie lives on with an avid following.


When people pass you on the street, who do you
get recognized more for: Kate or the snobby saleswoman in Pretty Woman?

I think Kate because
she is most like how I look in everyday life and I associate with her more.
Only when I mention to someone about the snobby saleswoman is there some
recognition. I like to think that it’s because I am such a nice person and no
one would ever associate me as a snob!

        I have two rewarding recognition
moments for me as Kate. First, when I had just finished the movie and I was standing
in line at Wells Fargo writing out a check and the writer/director Bill Condon was indiscreetly peering
over my shoulder… I was forced to turn around and he asked me if I was Dey
Young from Rock ‘n’ Roll High School?
He went on to tell me how much he loved Kate and had written me a movie role.
It was his first script, Strange Behavior (aka Dead Kids) and I was off to New
Zealand working in my second movie within the month. I have gone on to work
with him three other times and he is a dear friend.

        The other time is more recent. I was
standing at a coffee shop with my daughter, Shane, at her college in Savannah,
GA. And a very punk group of students made a fuss over the movie and me. My daughter
was beaming. She was very impressed and, believe me, a mother eats up those
opportunities to be admired by her kid!


Dey Young’s official website (where you can
view examples of her sculpture) can be found at – for her
extensive filmography, consult


TOUCH ME I’M SICK Tesco Vee & Touch And Go


The godlike genius of
the legendary Michigan
punk zine, revisited. Plus: an extended cameo by its clam-crazed (and
Meatmen-fronting) co-founder.




And on the seventh day, God did not rest; he fuckin’ rocked.
And it was good – at least according to punk scene chronicle Touch And Go, which over the course of
its four years and 22 issues documented pretty much every punk god that


Straight outta Lansing, Mich.
(so-close-and-yet-so-culturally-far-from Detroit and other Midwest rock ‘n’
roll epicenters it might as well have been Wasilla), the fanzine was the
radioactive-fetus brainchild a pair of acerbic wannabe scribes, Tesco Vee (nee Bob Vermeulen; future frontman for
scatological punks the Meatmen and, in 2010, heading up Tesco Vee’s Hate
Police) and Dave Stimson. If you wanted to get the straight dope on the
underground bands of the day – from U.S. outfits like Black Flag, Minutemen,
Necros, Cramps, Negative Approach and Minor Threat to the British wing as
epitomized by 999, Undertones, Fall, Skids and, er, Simple Minds (ahem!) – along
with a healthy dose of ‘tude, dork-baiting, random images of genitalia, and
punk cartoonist John Crawford’s “Baboon Dooley: Rock Critic” comic strip, well,
sir, Touch And Go was the place to


Yours truly, in fact, was sequestered at the time across the
country, down below the Mason-Dixon line and
doing a punk zine of my own (the significantly lower-on-the-radar Biohazard Informae), per the editorial
custom of the day, we swapped copies via mail, and T&G was hugely influential on moi. So the Wayback Machine effect of glomming the massive, 546-page
collection Touch And Go: The Complete
Hardcore Punk Zine ’79-’83
(Bazillion Points Books), which comes complete with
colorful essays from the two principals plus editor Steve Miller, Henry
Rollins, Keith Morris, Byron Coley, Corey Rusk and others, is like getting a
handjob from an old girlfriend: bittersweet and tinged with nostalgia, but
something you enthusiastically succumb to once you get started. And kids,
decades before “WordPress” was even a compound word, T&G was mashing things up via purloined artwork, typewriter
paper, scissors, glue, and commandeered photocopiers. Amid myriad record
reviews, beery post-gig interviews, dubious editorial assertions and out-and-out
screeds, the zine often managed to say more on a single 8 ½” by 11″ sheet of
smudged paper than a blog and its accumulated comments section can muster


Need more proof? The rag also gave birth to one of the great
indie labels, Touch And Go Records. Godlike genius, indeed.


We requested an audience with the hardcore godfather, and
received one. In between bites of richly-seasoned calamari and gulps of fine
Italian red wine (or so one imagines; it was an email interview, so we’re going
for effect here), Mr. Vee held forth on all things T&G.




BLURT: What prompted
you and Dave to start the fanzine in the first place?

TESCO VEE: Dave and I differ a bit on our primary
motivation. I like to romanticize it a bit and say it was a message from above
from the literary gods that we were placed on the earth to extol virtue on the
chosen ones and heap scorn on those deemed musically unworthy-Dave’s take is he
was just doing it for his one amusement and to score a few free platters. We
just got together for the first time in 26 years and shared remembrances. It
was great – this whole book release thing has been great! – it’s like most of
this stuff was locked in Al Capone’s Vault.. We had no idea if the critics
would love it or say it was much ado about nothing [but] happily for us it has
been the former! People think we were Hardcore homies, but we were all over the
place: Echo & The Bunnymen, Ruts, Throbbing Gristle, Gang of Four, The Pop
Group, The Cure all got glowing reviews. Overall a very positive vibe to the
magazines from two guys who shared a passion for the music.


Biggest highs for you
over the course of the 22 issues? Biggest lows?

Biggest high was getting a postcard from Claude Bessey – Kickboy
Face – from Slash [legendary L.A. punk magazine]. It’s reprinted in the book. We worshipped
Slash and emulated it for T&G. Just getting the mail was an
adventure: “Oh, look it’s the new Minutemen 7” with a note from D Boon, and The
Plugz Electrify Me LP…” Dave reminded
me that it was after a review from Slash that our mailbox really started filling up with platters.

Simple Minds? Visage? Some misguided synth pop tastes, but hey, I was 24 and
the chicks dug it. You get more clam at an Ultravox show than you would at a
Johnny Thunders gig. At least they smell better!


Which particular
issue(s) of the magazine stand out for you?

We were really in our wheelhouse once the domestic stuff
kicked into high gear and I’ll say the last 10 issues though the last 6 I did
solo. The UK stuff we worshipped from afar; the American musclehead stuff was
much closer to home and you can feel the heartfelt nature of all of that
worship; DC, Boston, LA, SF – and don’t forget the Midwest, the Pagans from
Cleveland really lit a fire under all of us to go out and make some noise.


T&G staged a full assault on complacency and I’d imagine your
take no prisoners style made you a few enemies along the way – among them,
TSOL, who you guys called out. Did any of the beefs ever turn blatantly

There is a great Ian Mackaye anecdote about the TSOL thing
in the book. I got some hostile mail, oh ya, but not enough. Wish it had been
more. Never feared for my safety, though I never went to see TSOL play either!


How did Touch and Go
Records come about?

We loved The Fix and Necros so much we just knew they hadda
get a record released and who else would do it? Those guys were buddies and
bitter rivals but we didn’t choose sides – now those two sell for big bucks! (The
Fix $4,200 last week.) Then Corey Rusk approached me and we did some jointly,
with him eventually taking over the reins. Obviously he took off and did some
great things with the label. We started the label so we could not only promote
bands but send out promos to labels and get more stuff to review! Vinyl addictions
were running rampant. Dave and I were going through dusty back rooms of record
stores trying to unearth the next obscurity to review. Then we popped our some
of our own!


After you formed the
Meatmen, did being in a band materially change the way you viewed the scene
you’d previously been mainly observing and reporting on?

No, I don’t think so. I tried to keep the two separate and
not blatantly self promote. I guess it made me a part of what I was covering,
but didn’t think putting a bunch of Meat reviews in the mag was kosher for
obvious reasons.


Lastly, tell our
readers everything you’ve done of note (or of infamy) since moving to D.C. in
’82 and relinquishing T&G.

Hmmm that’s a lot of stuff! Released a bunch of records… played a bunch of shows… took a lot of breaks… collected
toys, motorcycles… had 2 kids and moved back to Michigan in 1999. I had my own Bobblehead,
and released my moronic musical manifesto Touch
and Go

     Pinch me, cuz
after five years the book is finally out and whether or not you hate me and my
band [Tesco Vee’s Hate Police], the import of this tome is not to be denied!
Sure to supplant the Uncle Johns Bathroom
on every toilet tank in the world! Four years of our life went into
this brick: find out how it all went down. Buy one, ya, cockbags!




America’s greatest
rock band bridges the cultural chasm while confronting the Arizona immigration




It’s been nearly 36 years since just another band from East
L.A., otherwise known as Los Lobos, played their first gig on Thanksgiving
night, 1974, and in the years since, they’ve championed a style that’s merged
the folk music traditions derived from their Mexican heritage with the forward
thrust of modern rock. The band that originally consisted of David Hidalgo
(singer, guitarist, accordion player and occasional violin), Louie Perez
(guitar, drums, vocals) Cesar Rojas (guitar, vocals) and Conrad Lozano (bass,
vocals) was later joined by its only non-Hispanic member, Steve Berlin
(saxophone, keyboards), in 1984 after he made the transition from another
seminal L.A. outfit, the Blasters. Although the line-up hasn’t wavered since,
they have managed to broaden their palette, incorporating covers, country,
blues, experimental music, soundtracks, and even a children’s album along the


Not surprisingly then, Los Lobos’ superb new album, Tin Can Trust (Shout! Factory) finds
them fusing a number of disparate elements, from the riveting opening track
“Burn It Down” and the bluesy sway of “On Main Street” to another revisit to
the Grateful Dead canon via “West L.A. Fadeaway.” It also offers a pair of
traditional sounding songs sung in Spanish (“Yo Canto” and “Mujer Ingrata”), a
tactic they’ve employed since the very beginning.


Berlin acknowledges the band’s reverence for its roots, but
also dismisses any suggestion that Los Lobos choose to trumpet the fact that
they’ve helped advance Latino music into the American mainstream. “It’s not one
of those things we think about, ever,” he insists. “We know we’re here and what
we’ve done. I guess on some level we feel like we’re making a statement every
time we make a record, but we don’t think of what we do in terms of that. This
sounds silly, but by humbly going about our business, I think that’s as much a
statement as if we were out there waving a flag and saying, ‘Hey, isn’t it cool
we’re doing this.’ We’re just not that kind of people. We’re not flashy or
showy on any level, so it’s us just keeping our heads down and trying to make
good music and carry on.”


Regardless, the choice to sometimes sing in Spanish does
show Los Lobos has never been reticent to imbue authenticity in their sound, a
fact Berlin is quick to affirm. “Those elements are in there. Obviously they’re
built in. Obviously we are playing Latin music and we are a Latin band, so it’s
not like that’s going to change or that that’s not as important to us ongoing
as it is. It’s just that in terms of our place in the bigger picture, we’re
simply happy to be in there somewhere.”


Nevertheless, this past June, the Grammy-winning group was
compelled to take a stand when they opted to protest to Arizona’s controversial
immigration bill SB1070 by canceling a scheduled stop in the state. They
subsequently issued a statement that read, “We support the boycott of Arizona.
The new law will inevitably lead to unfair racial profiling and possible abuse
of people who just happen to look Latino. As a result, in good conscience, we
could not see ourselves performing in Arizona. We regret the inconvenience this
may have caused… but we feel strongly that it is the right thing to do.”


“Clearly we had to say something,” Berlin reflects. “This
notion that somehow immigrants are the cause of all our problems is just beyond
belief. A nation of immigrants acting that way? I just think there’s a virus
loose in America and hopefully somebody’s going to find the cure pretty soon,
because there’s some really incredibly stupid things being said, particularly
by the Republican party these days.”


For Berlin, whose relatives endured the Holocaust, the issue
takes on a special resonance. “There’s an utter moral corruption of that point
of view,” he continues. This is a very time honored tradition. Look at Germany
in the ‘30s, and when the Irish came to New York in the teens. We blame all
these economic problems on whoever looks and acts and talks different. Not too
many politicians have lost money by pushing that agenda. But to take it as far
as Arizona did is clearly a step beyond, and we’re clearly not going to stand
idly by. The state needs to come to its senses and the whole country needs to
come to its senses about it. It’s clearly not a black and white issue. It’s not
something that’s going to go away by that basic concentration camp type


For a band that usually goes about its business and avoids
making headlines, Los Lobos suddenly found themselves thrust into the
spotlight. Not surprisingly then, Berlin is especially adamant when discussing
the polarizing political climate that surrounds debate on the immigration
issue. “We got a lot of pro and con as you might imagine,” he says. “The most
con, unfortunately, was [when] some idiot got our road manager’s telephone
number and posted it on some right wing website, so he had to endure this
insane stupidity these people came up with. I’d say it’s hard to believe, but
then turn on Fox News any night, every night and you’ll see the same stupidity.
What the right wing calls discourse is pretty scary to people like us, and to
me, whose family lived through another kind of holocaust. Where they’re going
with this is beyond belief.”


Los Lobos’ North
American tour starts this week – tour dates at their official website.


[Photo Credit: Drew Reynolds]




in the rhythms of birth and renewal, the beloved indie rockers’ latest album
shifts towards newness while retaining a satisfying familiarity.




A little over two years have elapsed since Cloud Cult
entered 2008’s Feel Good Ghosts
(Tea-Partying Through Tornadoes)
into the ecumenical musical library, and
almost a year since they’ve performed live. This may not seem like a mammoth
deal in the grand scheme of things but, when it comes to a band that’s released
nearly an album per year since unleashing their official debut, Who Killed Puck?, in 2001, and has hit
the pavement roughly non-stop for six, you can’t help but wonder what’s up.


“We had a baby and moved the Earthology farm to [Viroqua, Wisconsin],”
says Craig Minowa.


The outfit’s lead singer and chief architect is, of course, referring
to the October 2009 birth of his second child, Nova, with Cloud Cult’s visual
artist Connie Minowa, and the relocation of their small, organic homestead,
which houses their not-for-profit environmental organization, Earthology,
established in 1999. He publicized the pregnancy during the chamber-pop
collective’s stint at the 2009 Coachella festival, with the eight-piece – now
comprising the Minowas, Arlen Peiffer (drums), Sarah Young (cello), Shannon
Frid (violin), Shawn Neary (bass/trombone), Sarah Elhardt (keyboard/French
horn) and Scott West (visual artist/trumpet) – touring close to Connie’s due
date. After welcoming their new youngster to the family last fall, Cloud Cult
took a reprieve from the road, affording Craig time to focus on what is now
their eight studio full-length, Light
which arrived earlier this month on their Earthology imprint,
Earthology Records (over the two years, Cloud Cult released a full-length DVD
on the band, No One Said It Would Be Easy and reissued 2003’s They Live on the Sun and 2004’s Aurora Borealis as a double-disc in
December 2009).


Written through
both the childbearing and early childrearing stages, Light Chasers signals a notable
shift from anatomizing life’s master plan and coping with grief – the unforeseen
2002 death of the Minowa’s two-year-old son Kaidin informed both They Live on the Sun and Aurora Borealis – to chronicling the
voyage of embracing new life while, as Craig puts it, “keeping close attention
on those that are chasing the light as the deceased.” There were countless
nights, admits Craig, when he composed while pacing in the dark, trying to soothe
their baby to sleep, and other times, he mentally pieced arrangements together because
his studio access was limited during the move. “In having a new baby and a
second chance at being parents, there was a lot of inner work going on during
the pregnancy, and I’ve always used music as a self-help and spiritual tool,”
says Craig, who started Cloud Cult as a solo studio project in 1995. “Cloud
Cult’s music has always been really motivated by the spiritual journey of our
current lives, so the birth of our new baby was a huge influence on this


At its heart, the overall crux of Light Chasers stands as a highly wrought epistle exploring concepts
of joy and rebirth. And, like the releases that preceded it, this latest
addendum to the Cloud Cult index reassuringly channels the organic rhythms the group
is known for and has featured on Weather Channel’s Forecast Earth, on The CW’s Gossip
, and in an Esurance TV campaign. “We’re woodsy, earthy people,” says
the frontman, who also composes music for National Geographic’s Expedition Grizzly series. “My church is
in the woods and under the stars. And music is very spiritual and sacred to me,
as a tool to get in touch with something bigger, so that natural theme will
always be there.”


Considering Cloud Cult’s ecological background and where Light Chasers manifested – on the
Minowa’s Midwestern farm-home, surrounded by hushed wilderness, powered by
geothermal energy and partially constructed from recycled plastic and reclaimed
wood – it’s almost a given that such lofty and transcendental diapasons are
instinctive for the Cloud Cult engineer. It’s an inmost connection that bodes
well for the band, and makes listening to Light
and all of Cloud Cult’s excursions, a more gratifying, if not intimate, experience.


You can say that’s somewhat necessary for an album that
spans 56 minutes and is devoid of any audio breaks. Structured “like a book”
(as Craig puts it), with each track flowing seamlessly into the next, Light Chasers is meant to be absorbed as
a whole, rather than consumed as singular refrains, which he equates with
“catching a chapter.” “A lot of music critics have claimed the album is dead,”
he adds. “Most people listen to one or two songs off an album or listen to a
random mix of songs on their iPods. I think that’s great, but I also think
there’s something to be said about the full album experience.


“I just really personally enjoy the amount of artistic space
a full hour of music can give you. It lets me take one central concept that is
key in my life and spend a couple of years really trying to figure it out. I
like the process of trying to see how all the songs play with each other into
one large piece. I think it’s probably the classical background I have.”


While this isn’t the only musical work crafted by Minowa
during a pregnancy (he wrote Who Killed
when Connie was carrying Kaidin), it is contradistinctive to who he and Cloud Cult were nearly a decade
ago. According to Minowa, their first official studio album was fashioned with
the idea that “no one would really care to listen to it,” other than family and
friends, since Cloud Cult’s recognition was nil at that point. In other words: It
was a labor of love made by someone who loves to write and record music. But, with
Light Chasers, he was aware of Cloud
Cult’s fanbase, something he tried overlooking because he didn’t “want to write
to try to fit whatever might be considered hip for the moment.”


But it’s much more than the record’s execution that’s divergent.
“I’m a totally different person than I was 15 years ago,” says Minowa, who,
with the other members, will head out on a Stateside tour in late October in support
of Light Chasers. “The band has
changed a lot of faces over time, but I think it really has gradually just come
into its being, and now we’re here. This is a very orchestral album. I spent a
lot of time composing. I spent four years on Who Killed Puck?, so that’s the closest album I can think of that
came close to this. But even that was a different type of composing.


“This was a much more spiritual experience.”





It’s officially
an Epitaph for Rivers Cuomo & Co.




Having signed to stalwart California punk label Epitaph Records for
their eighth full-length – Hurley, released
last week and featuring Lost star
Jorge Garcia on the cover no less – Weezer officially joins the ranks of
indiedom following a lengthy run in the majors. (Read the BLURT review of the
album here.) We exchanged electronic transmissions with enigmatic frontman
Rivers Cuomo about the new record, the deluxe edition reissue of 1996’s Pinkerton and more. While a number of
his responses were clearly crafted on autopilot (leading up to the Hurley release, Cuomo did a slew of
interviews via email, often echoing comments from one session in another), he
did offer a few candid peeks at the inner workings of his band – and his brain.




BLURT: The news of you guys recording an album and jumping
from Geffen to Epitaph was kept under wraps quite well. How did
you guys pull
that off in this day and age?
got all kinds of secrets up our sleeves.  We know our fans love to be
surprised from time to time with good news.


What was the reason behind making the move to Epitaph?
They offered us an incredible record deal, and we felt that Brett
Gurewitz was somebody who really appreciated alternative rock, and that it
would be a good match culturally.


What are some of the key differences behind making this new
record at Epitaph vs. recording for Geffen?
We had a smaller budget to record but weezer doesn’t need a ton of
money to sound great.


How did you guys go about approaching this new record in
comparison to how you wrote and recorded your last couple of albums?
previous response…Let’s leave this one unanswered.
Rather than repeat the same answer to the same question in every interview it
is probably better to leave it out of some.


Did working on this deluxe edition reissue of Pinkerton harbor any kind of inspiration
sonically for the new record?
when we were working on the bonus material for the Pinkerton Deluxe Edition, I got to go in and listen to those
sessions, those multitrack sessions, and it was really inspiring to hear that
kind of energy and emotion, and how beautiful it can sound when it’s just the
band running through the song in the studio, and we couldn’t help but be
reminded of how great that can be.


What are your thoughts on Pinkerton 15 years later? How has your perception of it changed?
I think it’s a totally brilliant and super strong unique personal statement,
which is exactly how I felt about when we made it.


In going through the Pinkerton outtakes, was there anything left off the original LP that you felt should
have made the cut?
one song called “Tragic Girl” that is as good as any song on Pinkerton, and better than quite a few
of them.  It certainly could have earned a spot on the record.  I was
unsure about a few details in the song, and getting away from it for many years
and coming back to it in the studio recently, I was able to hear clearly how
those details should be resolved. I took care of it, and now it finally
gets to be released.

Did you guys collaborate with Matt Sharp at all on the Pinkerton reissue? [Founding member and bassist
Sharp left the band following the release of and subsequent tour for


What kinds of stuff can we expect on your forthcoming Odds & Ends b-sides compilation?
first of all, it’s been officially titled now:  Death to False Metal.  And these are the oddest songs that Weezer
has ever recorded. Either too weird, too quirky, too heavy metal, too pop, or
too something-or-other to have made the cut for any of Weezer’s seven Geffen
records.  So it’s fitting that now they all have a home together.


What is your all-time favorite punk album on Epitaph and
Smash by The Offspring.  

INSIDE THE JOINT: Ethan Lipton & His Orchestra


maverick musician assembles his orchestra and together they give the skinny on
their new album




Ethan: I write songs in my head, usually on the go,
riding my bike around town or walking the dogs. When I started out, I wouldn’t
write anything down until the song was complete in my brain. It was a challenge
to myself: If I couldn’t remember the lyric and melody, I thought it wasn’t
worth remembering. These days I’m less brave, so I often jot down snippets or
record pieces of melody on my computer, to be sure not to lose them. Still,
most of the best songs are worked on in my head until they’re near done.


I don’t play
any instruments. That’s an obvious handicap, but I think it’s been a stroke of
good luck, because my songwriting has never been limited to what I can play.
Basically, if I can sing it, I can put it in a song.


Of course, part
of why I can get away with that is because I have my bandmates (the most
killingest trio ever) to bring the songs to life: Eben Levy (guitar), Ian M.
Riggs (bass) and Vito Dieterle (sax). I’ve been playing with them for almost
seven years.


First we get
together in Vito’s apartment, where we rehearse. I’ll sing the new song to the
band as they sit there, two feet away from me, snacking on whatever Vito has
around while drinking the cheap beer I’ve brought over. Hands down, this is the
most nerve-wracking performance of the tune I’ll give. I’m not worried about me
remembering the song; I’m worried about the guys thinking the song is crap.


If all systems
are go — and they’re willing to give just about any song a chance — we’ll
start to break the tune down. I’ll sing it again and again until Ian, who’s ear
is most like mine, gets a bead on what chords and key we’re working with. All I
can do at this point is keep singing, and let them know when I hear something
that’s right or wrong. Mostly I’m just trying to stay out of the way and let
them find their own voices within the song. 

I’ll let the
guys describe the rest of the process:


Ian: When I first became aware of Ethan, he was singing
almost totally a cappella. The first time I went to hear him I was prepared for
it to suck and to experience a newfound level of collective embarrassment. Boy,
did it not suck. He had me, and the entire audience, on every word, and loving
all the space and time in between. I delight in hearing the new songs in
rehearsal because it reminds me of those early days. 


I work under
the belief that the song as he sings it that first time is a completed version;
it stands by itself and could be performed just like that, and to great effect.
So my instinct is to learn what’s there already and build on that. When we’re
done with it, it’s often a different thing, but hopefully with the original
kernels intact.


As the three of
us start to learn the song, Eben quickly plunges deep into working on a guitar
part and overall approach. Vito listens to everything happening in the room,
adds thoughts about the chords and melody and begins his own explorations. It
can be hard to hear Ethan over Eben at this point, but I’ve learned to try to
let Eben go as much as possible because he’s usually onto something. Eben works
quickly and with full concentration. Getting his attention while he’s focused
like this can be like trying to wake someone from a deep sleep (Eb… Eb… Um…
Eb?). When he resurfaces, he usually has a great part and approach. Then we
start mixing all our ideas together.


Eben:  One
thing about the history of the group: we all sort of talked Ethan into needing
us up on the bandstand with him. Me: “Ethan, this thing is great. You totally
(I know, I say “totally”) need a guitarist up there with you and I’m your man.”
Vito: “Ethan, I’m hearing sax in there, for reals (Vito does not say “for
reals” outside of my dramatic reenactments). Et cetera. I bring all this up
because it really did started with one lone homeboy rocking the mica solo, was
briefly an awesome duo with Ethan and Mike Stumm (ukulele player who talked Ethan
into needing ukulele) and has since turned into a bona fide band. That’s my
favorite thing about the project. Lots of groups aren’t really bands, like
“hey, did you get new socks, those are all right” kinds of bands. When we’re
cooking, we’re greater than the sum of our rickety parts. And we’re a
band, even when we’re sucking.


So anyway, after Ethan
sings us his bullshit songs and Ian comes up with incorrect chord changes, I
save the day with invincible and heart-wrenching guitar work. Then Vito fucks it
all up again with his jazz bullshit.


I’m beginning to think I’m the serious one in the group. Maybe
sensitive is the word? Perhaps a little too much of whatever I am? Or maybe
just the right amount. In fact we are all just the right amount of ourselves. That’s
the essential element to our success, I think, why we’ve worked together
so well for so long. There’s a symbiotic nature to what we do that I find
intoxicating. Each member has an uncanny ability to check his ego at
the door and play his role within this space. To quote a line from a
recent ELO composition … “never forget who you are.” 


we think differently. We have all disagreed! But for some strange reason,
although we are four neurotic, proud, egomaniacs, we know when to shut the fuck
up. Musically, anyway. This is a quality I find to be as rare as a five-leaf


Ethan: I have so much admiration
for these guys. For their musicianship and the quality of their ideas. I’m
still amazed that I get to play with them, and that they keep answering my
emails. Despite all of us getting older and taking on bigger responsibilities
in our lives, the project continues to grow in ways that are really lovely to
me. I should add that we are fortunate enough to have a great relationship with
our audience. Because the songs are built around the lyrics, it’s an intensive
listening experience; the crowd has to work to enjoy our tunes, and when they
do, there are few things more satisfying to behold. But I would play with these
guys even if the crowd wasn’t there. Whatever anyone else gets out of listening
to our music, I get a balm for my soul out of making it with them.


Lipton on the web:


Website –




Hey hey hey HEY! From
Thee Hypnotics and Black Moses to his current incarnation as Little
Richard’s heir, the hyperactive vocalist always delivers the goddam goods.




If the name “Jim Jones” triggers memories of the heaving,
throbbing, skronking rawk machine
that was UK
outfit Thee Hypnotics and not the
cult leader who orchestrated a mass suicide-by-poisoned-Koolaid in 1978 at
Jonestown, then you’ve come to the right rock magazine, pal. BLURT don’t fuck


And neither does Jim Jones.


Starting in the late ‘80s and enjoying a decade-plus run on
such labels as Sub Pop, Beggars Banquet and Rick Rubin’s American Recordings,
Jones and Thee Hypnotics were viewed by many as direct heirs to the vaunted
Motor City tradition – Stooges, MC5, et
. And not without justification. Although it must be noted that in Jones’
aggro snarl and bluesy wail one could easily detect several decades’ worth of
primal puh stretching back to the
early days of rock ‘n’ roll. Pertinent to precisely that: hanging out with him
backstage in 1990 after a show on Thee Hypnotics’ first full U.S. tour, I was
struck by the fact that Jones was far more interested in talking about older
artists, some which even I had forgotten, than about the contemporary British
psych and shoegaze scene that spawned his band. In retrospect, his sporting a
John Lee Hooker teeshirt was a signpost of affiliation and not a hipster
affectation (as I probably imagined at the time). “Authenticity” is, admittedly
a nebulous concept, and it’s always filtered by context; but as you’ll soon
read, this cat had the rock ‘n’ roll valves turned on at an early age and from
there it was no looking back.


Following Thee Hypnotics’ demise, Jones formed the funkier,
more R&B-tilting – though no less high-energy – Black Moses, releasing a
couple of albums (recommended: 2004’s Royal
) and touring primarily around the U.K. along with selected
appearances on these shores. It was at the 2005 SXSW in Austin, in fact, that I
wandered into a men’s loo and who should be standing there beside me, pissing
heartily, but the good Mr. Jones, in town for a showcase with Black Moses, and
we instantly picked up where we’d left off, comparing notes on bands and
records as lifelong music obsessives are wont to do. His band’s subsequent set,
which left festival punters gobsmacked and begging for more, simply
re-confirmed, for me, that last sentence in the preceding paragraph.


Cut to 2010: Jones is back, treading the boards once again,
this time with another combo, the sensibly-named The Jim Jones Revue. He
assembled the band a couple of years ago after Black Moses shuddered to a halt,
and this time around he’s hell-bent on a mission to reinvigorate rock in its
most primordial form – Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis Presley, and the
like. On the group’s 2008 debut The Jim
Jones Revue
, which was finally released in America a couple of months ago,
you get a synapse-poppin’ riot of pounding ivories, slashing guitars,
backbeat-boogie bass ‘n’ drums, and Jones’ gulping, chortling, leering wail.
(Don’t take my word for it – read the BLURT reviews here as well as a review of the band’s singles collection Here to Save Your Soul here). And that’s just the
beginning, as the Revue has since polished off sophomore effort Burning Your House Down with Bad
Seeds/Grinderman honcho Jim Sclavunos producing; it’s out now in the UK and plans
are for US release later this year. The group’s high-octane, frenzied
performances are already becoming the stuff of legend; in March at SXSW, avowed
JJR converts included Lenny Kaye and Syl Sylvain. So all you have to do is
Google up a few YouTube videos of the band (keywords: rock; riot; awesome) if you need any further
convincing about that.


The band: Jones, vocals/guitar; Rupert Orton, guitar;
Elliott Mortimer, piano; Gavin Jay, bass; and Nick Jones, drums. Jones and his
Revue kicked off a 10-day American tour this week that will culminate in a
high-profile performance next weekend at the Ponderosa Stomp (dates here).
Meanwhile, back in July the band popped over to the States to do a handful of
shows in the NYC area as well as some preemptive promotional duties. Jones rang
up BLURT en route to a show to fill us in on how the band got started and where
it’s going, as well as sundry observations on his earlier groups and his
formative influences as a kid.




BLURT: If memory
serves, the last time we talked we were standing next to one another in a
bathroom in 2005, peeing…

JIM JONES: In Texas,
yeah, I remember [laughs] – South By


So you’re back in the
States now – and you’re packing in a lot of promotion in a short period of
time. How was your show last night?

Back in the fray, that’s right – we’re on our way to Hoboken to do a radio
show, and then a show at Maxwell’s tonight. Last night went pretty good! A few
faces we recognized – Bob Gruen was there, Mick Rock came out. We did some
photos with him earlier in the day yesterday too. This is good. We’re all quite
well adjusted for the gladiatorial sport that is touring.


I recall when Thee
Hypnotics came to Charlotte,
NC, in 1990, on tour with your
Sub Pop bandmates Tad.  There was lots of
booze, a notorious local groupie called the Dragon Lady, and a drunken
interview at an all-night diner. Are your memories of that band good? I was
never totally clear on why you broke up.

Well, we never really had a proper sort of manager. And we
didn’t know anything about the business. We just loved rock ‘n’ roll and wanted
to play. But there was no guiding hand there, and we were this force that
didn’t have a direction to move in. So in the end we just burnt out, I suppose.
It always seemed to be a band where there were possibilities endlessly on the
horizon: “Oh, you guys might get this,” or, “You might do this,” or, “These
guys might want to work with you.” And more often than not it never came to
fruition. But we just kept going out of sheer belligerence, really, and when it
was done it was done.

   In terms of good or
bad memories, well… it was my life, for 15-odd years, so they are my memories
be they good or bad, and there’s plenty of good ones and some bad ones. Lost a
few friends from overindulgence. The usual rock ‘n’ roll stories. Me and Phil
[Smith; drums; currently working on a Thee Hypnotics documentary] talk about it
a lot, and that’s why he wanted to make a film. We’d sit and talk: “There’s at
least a book in here, or maybe a film…” So he just decided he’d put it


How did Thee
Hypnotics wind down and how long did it take for you to start up Black Moses?

About a month! [laughs]
The attitude in the band was just bad. We were doing a few shows, and a couple
of the guys were like, “Ah, I don’t wanna drive to Glasgow…” The attitude was only wanting to do
what was convenient. And I had just had a kid [in 1997] at the time, and I
wanted to know, are we working or are we not? I don’t have time for just
drifting. The band finally bit the dust in 1998.

        Within a month
I was crawling the walls and realizing I had to do something in music. It’s
part of what defines me, who I am, and I was losing touch with myself. And one
of the last things we’d done in Thee Hypnotics was going to Bristol and rerecording our song “Earth
Blues” with these guys who had a studio there. They had a band called The Heads,
a stoner rock band from Bristol.
After that I went back to do the mixing, and I’d met the bass player and
drummer who said if I ever wanted to start a project…So there I was, wanting
something to do, so I called them up and started going over to Bristol working
on ideas for songs I had.

        We did that
for six months or more, then someone asked if I wanted to do a show. I had been
adding extra guitar parts, so I got in touch with another guitar player, and
old friend called Graeme Flynn, and he came down to play extra guitar. That was
the beginning of Black Moses. Some of the songs from that period went on the
first Black Moses CD; me and Graeme just started working together, almost a
year of just woodshedding, swapping ideas. We went through quite a few
drummers, too.


 The lineup I saw in Austin was a powerful one. It was interesting
seeing how you were approaching things differently yet still with a clear
connection to what you’d done with Thee Hypnotics.

Yeah, and it was great working with Graeme as well. He was
into a lot of things I was into that didn’t fit with Thee Hypnotics, so it was
a chance to spread those wings – the more funky and black side of the music.
Like, the Meters were one of our big influences. Sly and the Family Stone, good
grooves. Graeme was also into Krautrock and more esoteric types of art-rock

        The band was a
very good unit. But for various personal reasons, Graeme didn’t want to stay
doing that. That’s the kind of person he is, always doing “projects” and going
through stages, and if he’s not constantly working on new stuff he gets bored
very quickly. And that’s the nature of touring; you have to go out and play the
same stuff again and again and again every night. I think for him he got bored


 Then how did Black Moses evolve into The Jim
Jones Revue?

Another bass player came in after Graeme, a lovely guy,
brilliant, but whose main skill was getting wasted. He was in the top ten of
getting wasted. And I was trying to drive the thing forward but he was there
mostly to party. So the band ran its course. But towards the end, looking
around for places to play, I got in touch with this promoter, Rupert Orton [of
Punk Rock Blues promotions], who was putting on the best stuff. People like
Honeyboy Edwards, T-Model Ford, Scott Byron, just good shit always going on. So
we’d hang out between soundcheck and the gig talking and watching these bands
play, the opening acts, and Rupert would say to me, “It’s incredible that these
guys who are in their ‘90s have more charisma than these younger kids…” And
he was right. The way these guys would put the show over and the effort they
put in. And one of the things I would talk about was how wouldn’t it be great
to go back to the mid ‘50s and see Little Richard in his early days, in one of
those clubs in New Orleans. With both of us, that image, and some of the other
things we were talking about – Jerry Lee Lewis, the Killer; young Elvis
Presley, when DJ Fontana first joined the band and it really became rock ‘n’
roll instead of rockabilly – just seemed very exciting but it was like they’d
been discarded, that particular part of it.

        So around that
time I met Elliott Mortimer through Ray [Hanson, Thee Hypnotics guitarist] who
said, “Yeah, he’s a great keyboardist, a piano player.” And he is amazing, like
some sort of time bomb. So Black Moses did one final show that Rupert had
organized, one where the bass player was passing out, and I just said, “I can’t
do this anymore. It’s too draining. It’s like pushing a rock up a mountain.” After
that show Rupert asked me, “What do you think you’re going to do now?” And I
said, “Well, maybe it’s time to work on that rock ‘n’ roll project!”

        Over the
course of the next few weeks I got in touch with Elliott, and Rupert already
knew this drummer, Nick, who played with Heavy Stereo, because they’d been
jamming together for a couple of years. And Gavin, the bass player, we’d seen
him in bands around town, so we kind of headhunted him. “Right, let’s book a rehearsal room and see what happens.”

        And the first
song was like our blueprint, Little Richard’s “Hey Hey Hey Hey.” That seemed to
embody all the things we’d been talking about, in terms of the excitement, and
the punk rock attack that early rock ‘n’ roll had – and also with a swing to it
so the girls could dance to it. Literally, by the time we were about halfway
through the first verse, we were looking around at each other: “It’s working.” It was like getting on a
runaway train.

        With “rock
music” you can kind of thrash, or you can groove and just let it sort of hang.
But with that old school rock ‘n’ roll, they have those boogie beats and you
have to choke it back to make it move in that way. You have to work it. But
once you nail it, it really runs away. It’s like having a tiger by the tail. We
had that rehearsal and I recorded it on a small disc player then played it for
a few friends. One of them has a little club in east London, and he said, “Right. You’re playing
next weekend at my club!” The guy had thrown down the gauntlet. So we got a few
songs together, and we played, and the crowd loved it! The great thing was that
the girls were properly dancing: jiving and boogieing and loving it. It was
once again like being in the rehearsal room; it was like catching something by
the tail and going with it.

        That analogy pretty much follows through with
what has happened with this group since then. We’re literally trying to hang on
and keep up with what’s going on, and the offers and our situation keeps
getting better, and our profile is going up – and we’re still hanging on! [laughs] Just seeing where the tiger is
going to take us next.


 Are people who know you primarily from Thee
Hypnotics – Stooges, MC5, psychedelia – surprised when they hear you come out
now and sound like Little Richard and Jerry Lee?

No one seems to have any problem with it! And there seem to
be Thee Hypnotics fans all over the world. People are always very
congratulatory: “It’s great that you’re still rocking.” And I feel great I’m
still rocking. It really is a second chance. I was talking to someone the other
day and I was saying, “Yeah, Thee Hypnotics, we were young, had a lot of luck.
This time me and the rest of the guys know what we’re doing and it’s a lot of
hard work but we know what we’ve got to do.” We’ve got a sound that works so
we’ve just got to get our heads down and dig.

         It’s nice to
know we can get all ages at our shows. We can play for a more “nuevo” audience,
if you’ll excuse the term, and then also be appreciated by all these roots
guys. We had these guys from France
come to our show who saw Little Richard way back then, the first time around,
and saying to us, “You got it.” So it’s nice to have that vindication from
those guys and at the same time having these young kids getting into it.


You recently cut your
second full-length in London
with Jim Sclavunos, right?

Right. We were talking about what we wanted to do on our
next album. Talked to people like Jon Spencer about it. He had said he was up
for producing it maybe. His first question was, “Well, where do you want to go
with it? You’ve already gone about as saturated and distorted as you could
possibly go. Where do you want to take it from here?” So one of the things
people had told us was that they loved the [first] album, but in a club when
they tried to put it on and turn it up, once you got past a certain volume it
just became white noise. So we wanted to make something that had the same
energy and drive to it, but you could turn it up louder so people could enjoy
it and dance to it in the club.

        Jim Sclavunos was around, and you know, he’s
played in a lot of bands – the Cramps, Gun Club, Sonic Youth, Panther Burns,
not to mention Grinderman and the Bad Seeds. One of the things I like about all
those groups is that they take music that could be perceived as quite “trad,” a
traditional music style, but with a real twist on it that makes it seem fresh
and new again. That’s what we wanted on our record, because we’re in a music
territory where if you’re not careful you can slip into being just a bar band.
We thought he could be the man to keep us from slipping into that rut, you
know? So it was an interesting way to work.


“White noise” in an
apt way to describe that overdriven sound you got on the first record.

The first album was just sort of blood and guts. For a two
day period we’d just go in and play, play again, okay, move on to the next song.
That’s how that album was recorded. Then I mixed it. In my head I knew we
couldn’t afford a really great producer, and I could try and tidy up the sound
but that would end up just making it mediocre, so I went for all-out brutal
sound. And to our surprise, people really picked up on it. I remember mixing the
song “Rock ‘n’ Roll Psychosis” and giggling to myself during this guitar part
where it just goes into white noise for a few seconds. Next thing I know it’s
being played on the BBC! You know how it is with radio: people spend more and
more money to get this nice sound, and here’s this thing that was recorded in a
couple of days and then brutalized in the mix. And people were raving about it.


 It probably stood out from everything else
that was being played.

Totally. I was doing an interview with this radio DJ and he
said, “We usually have to turn the CDS we play up about 2 db – with yours we
have to turn it down 10 db!” I think
people felt like it was a breath of fresh air.


 The record’s been out for awhile now in England. Is it
strange having to sell it all over again in America?

Well, like I said, we’re a pretty well-drilled machine now,
so when we get off on the road, we turn up and deliver. That’s another thing
about Thee Hypnotics; it was kind of hit and miss, what mood the band was in.
But with this band, we can pretty much guarantee you a good show every night. I
think everyone in the band gets off on that too, knowing we can do that. It’s a
nice feeling.

        Syl Sylvain
came up to us after our gig in Austin
at South By Southwest this year and he said, “You’re playing real rock ‘n’
roll!” That was a real vindication. Here’s one of these guys you sort of spend
your teenage years looking at the liner notes of the albums, and then here he
is standing there and telling you you’re doing the real thing.


When I saw you in
1990 you were wearing a John Lee Hooker teeshirt. So now, with the musical
influences you’re talking about in your new band, it’s not that hard to trace a
consistent line between your tastes over the years.

That’s true. I really feel like I’ve come full circle with
this band. I think the first time music sort of opened up for me was when I was
a kid and my mom and dad, sometime in the ‘70s, they got their first “music
system,” as it was called – one unit, with the cassette player and the radio
and the record deck. So I inherited the old clunker, this portable thing that
had the arm that went across the top of the record to drop the records down,
and if you leave the arm up the record repeats. 

        So me and my
sister also inherited all these old singles of my dad’s. Some of them were shit
but some of them were really good. I remember there was a 78 of “Great Balls of
Fire,” and some Little Richard, some Elvis, some Larry Williams. I remember
“Short Fat Fanny” was sort of my favorite. Me and my sister used to try to work
out all the lyrics and of course we got them wrong! “Short Fat Fanny is a horse’s eye!” Well, of course it’s
actually, “…my heart’s desire.” [Sings a
half-verse of the song.
] But anyway, that music was the thing that really
made me go, “AHHH! This is music and it’s great!” So you’d leave the arm up and
have the songs play again and again and again and you’d sort of dance around.

         That was the
first time the music really went into me, and it opened a valve. So with this
project now, going back to that music, it’s like over all the years it was
still in there, and it was almost like a sort of genetic recognition. It’s
really natural to play it, really easy, yet there’s also a wealth of ideas of
how to tap into it and then drag it through the collective influences of the
band while trying to keep that original energy.

         You take that
image of Little Richard going, “Hey Hey Hey Hey.” It’s like there’s a pearl in
there. It’s not the nostalgia of it. It’s an energy that you can hear through
all these groups over the years – the Birthday Party and Sonic Youth; to the
MC5 and to the Sonics and back to Little Richard. You can join the dots and
find this flow of energy.

         And all we’re
trying to do is just join on the end of that line and let the energy flow again
and be the new vessel. Everything is good in The Jim Jones Revue world at the