Monthly Archives: October 2012

THE PERFECT BEAT: A Halloween Fable

WWPD? (What would Poe do?) Sticky bud, rare vinyl – and the haunting breakbeat that will not be silenced.

 

BY MITCH MYERS

 

It was the tail end of 1994
and noted hip-hop producer Amon Tillado was living the high life and running
out of money. Tillado once ruled the airwaves, but hadn’t produced a memorable
recording in years. He was desperate for a hit but he’d burnt through his
relationships with several beat-merchants and now had a shady reputation,
notorious for skewed publishing deals and withheld royalties.

 

Kid Fortunate was peddling
old vinyl at the Roosevelt Hotel on East 45th Street when he first
met Tillado. Seeing him at the Roosevelt record show a couple more times, the
Kid eventually played some rare forgotten breakbeats for the famous producer.
One particular old funk beat captured Tillado’s imagination – he knew it could
be used for something really big. The vintage beat was perfect and Amon was
willing to pay good money for it, even promising an album credit to Fortunate
if the beat was used.

 

Despite Amon’s hard sell, Kid
Fortunate smugly refused the deal, insisting that he’d promised the perfect
beat to Prince Be from PM Dawn-who was still flush with cash from the triumph
of “Set Adrift On Memory Bliss.” Kid Fortunate was also dismissive of Amon’s
status as a producer, which displeased Tillado more than anything else.

 

It was true he hadn’t
produced any important recordings for a long time, but Tillado was still a
popular, well-connected guy. Hell, Amon was the only person to attend Willie
Nelson’s Farm Aid and the recording sessions for Dr. Dre’s debut solo album The Chronic that same year – he liked to
think that he still knew what was happening.

 

The DJ had spurned his offer
and insulted him, but Amon showed no sign of taking umbrage. Rather, he kept
schmoozing Kid Fortunate that whole week right up to New Year’s Eve. He also
learned that Fortunate had one particular soft spot – not only did the DJ
consider himself an expert on old soul, funk and jazz recordings, he also fancied
himself a true connoisseur of the finest marijuana.

 

It was late afternoon on
December 31st and the two had bumped into each other on the street
in Midtown. After discussing their respective plans for that evening’s
celebration-Fortunate on his way to spin records in the East Village, Tillado
committed to an elite party on the Upper West Side – Amon casually offered to
give the Kid some really high-grade smoke, some “Willie Nelson shit”…his Most
Salacious weed…to help usher in the New Year. 

 

Intrigued, Kid Fortunate
agreed to a quick visit of Tillado’s three-story brownstone on West 58th. As a
bachelor, Amon occupied the entire building and had live-in help. When they
arrived Amon mentioned that he’d given the butler and his wife the week off for
the holiday. Kid Fortunate was openly sarcastic about Tillado having a butler,
but the producer acted as if he hadn’t noticed the snide remarks.

 

Had all this occurred due to
simple coincidence or by virtue of careful planning? A fair question, as it was
only after Amon became satisfied that no one else knew Kid Fortunate was at his
home – and learned the DJ had yet to play the perfect beat for PM Dawn – that
he decided to punish the Kid for his impudence.

 

 

 

 

Amon insisted on giving Kid
Fortunate a tour of his beloved brownstone, where each level’s décor was done
up in a different color. Starting at the amazing library on the top floor – aptly
dubbed the Green Room – Tillado pulled out a long glass pipe filled with some
super sticky Sensimilla, which when ignited set off a huge coughing fit on the
part of Kid Fortunate. The Kid’s eyes were watering and bloodshot and he kept
on hacking for several minutes until he was able to down a glass of orange
juice.

 

When Kid Fortunate had
finally recovered from his encounter with the sticky Sensimilla, Amon led him
down a narrow stairway onto the second floor, which was tastefully decorated in
pure azure blue. There they settled in Tillado’s blue-hued study, where the
producer prepped a large Graffix Bong with fresh ice and loaded the bowl with
some knee-buckling AK-47 that had been smuggled in from the Netherlands just
the week before.

 

Amon noted how wasteful Kid
Fortunate was as the young DJ torched the bong’s contents, greedily inhaling it
all in one massive hit before inevitably exploding into another series of
horrifying coughs. Tillado chided the Kid, gently suggesting that he go home
and rest up before the evening, and perhaps the Most Salacious might be too
much for him to handle.

 

Dismissing the producer’s
warning, Kid Fortunate asserted that the cough was a mere nothing and he was
ready to sample all the weed Tillado had to offer, especially the Most
Salacious. Despite his protestations, Kid Fortunate was becoming increasingly
unsteady and wasted to the point of fatigue. Thoroughly self-absorbed, he
showed no patience for Tillado’s anecdotes about the talents of yesteryear and
was oblivious to the memorabilia scattered throughout the grand blue room.

 

Forging ahead at Kid
Fortunate’s insistence, they stumbled down the stairway and came out on the
magnificent main floor, which was bathed in a dark ruby red. The pair sank into
a massive couch in the front room as Amon brandished a bag of clustered buds
(replete with fine red hairs that matched the room’s décor) he called “Master
Kush.” Tillado quickly twisted the pungent buds into a modest-looking joint,
pushed a makeshift filter into one end, and handed it to his guest.

 

Although Kid Fortunate
thought he was prepared to inhale the Kush, he was mistaken. After just one
toke he was overwhelmed by another coughing fit of serious proportions. With
more liquids on hand and Amon offering throat lozenges, Fortunate collected
himself as quickly as he could and then added to his fading bravado by
insisting they sample the Most Salacious before it got too late. He also made
sure to convey that he was still expecting some salacious buds to take home
with him as Tillado had promised.  

 

Amon diplomatically reminded
Kid Fortunate that the smoke didn’t seem to be going down very easily that day,
and offered him a rain check on their burning adventure should he like to take
a pass. But Fortunate was adamant about proceeding, and urged his host to
continue the tour and produce the Most Salacious before his time ran out. “As
you wish,” said Amon, “there’s not much further to go.”

 

Leading Kid Fortunate down to
the basement, Amon explained how the space had once been used as a wine cellar
but he was now converting it into his very own home studio. To Kid Fortunate’s
tired eyes, the room was unimpressive. The dank area was only half constructed
with one wall still exposed. There were splattered dropcloths covering audio
equipment, building materials stacked on top of furniture, and the ceiling
sported an uneven coat of bland white primer.   

 

Then Kid Fortunate’s attitude
caught up with him. He’d been clutching his saddlebag of old LPs throughout his
tour of the brownstone, mostly rare vinyl he’d planned to use that night,
including the album with Tillado’s “perfect beat.” Noticing a turntable amid
the equipment, he momentarily forgot about the Most Salacious and decided to
play the track so coveted by his host. As he cued up the rare record, Fortunate
let it be known that he’d promised the breakbeat to PM Dawn unheard, but wasn’t
likely to see him any time soon.

 

 

 

 

 

In his stoned condition, Kid
Fortunate expected Amon Tillado to at least double his previous offer for the
recording, but the producer merely smiled and bid him to sit in front of the
mixing console to fiddle with the breakbeat himself. This was a gesture the Kid
could not refuse. In a matter of moments he’d isolated the perfect beat, slowed
it down a bit and added a slight echo, making the rhythm feel even more
elemental and seductive than before.  

 

With his eyes closed, Kid
Fortunate was absolutely rhapsodic. He was immersed in the music and just about
to press his host for the Most Salacious when Amon came up from behind him and
wrapped a sheet of plastic around his face, holding him down and suffocating
the DJ while the beat played on. Kid Fortunate struggled wildly but was unable
to escape Tillado’s deadly grasp. The producer noted ironically how Fortunate’s
fading heart had perfectly matched the beat before his life essence was
extinguished. 

 

Amon wrapped the body in
sheets of plastic and insulation. He wrapped and he wrapped and he wrapped
until he could wrap no more. Then he pushed the sealed corpse into the studio’s
unfinished wall. “The ultimate in soundproofing,” he thought to himself.

 

After making a brief
appearance at the New Year’s Eve party on the Upper West Side Tillado returned
home and spent the next three weeks working alone on his studio. He even
covered the walls with some acoustic tile that had been part of the original
Sun Studio in Memphis. By February he was finished, and no one had even asked
him once about poor Kid Fortunate.

 

It seemed the city had
forgotten that Kid Fortunate ever existed. A couple of the Kid’s friends were
concerned when he hadn’t shown up to spin records on New Year’s Eve, but the consensus
was that he must have gone home for the holidays and would turn up again
eventually. There was a bit of a fuss when Fortunate’s landlady put all of his
belongings out on the street, but the record hounds on his block grabbed up
everything of value before a single night fell.

 

In the springtime, Amon could
contain himself no longer. Arranging a gig at his home studio with an
up-and-coming rapper was no trouble, and after securing substantial co-writing
royalties and additional points for producing, Tillado dropped a sampled loop
of the perfect beat – just the way Kid Fortunate had mixed it – right onto the
record’s most infectious track.

 

To say the track was
successful would be an understatement. Amon’s sage instincts had been right
about the perfect beat and the song stayed high on the charts for months.
Accolades and money came streaming in from every direction. The beat became
ubiquitous and the song was even licensed for a car commercial. Other DJs were
sampling Tillado’s beat as well the original recording, which shot up in value
before being reissued and made available on CD or vinyl for about twelve
bucks. 

 

By winter Tillado was
wealthier than ever, and more popular too. He already had plenty of high-priced
gigs lined up for the following year and formed his own record label in the
interim. Everyone was saying that Amon, the rapper, and their smash track were
a sure bet for multiple GRAMMY awards. So it was with nothing less than
audacious confidence that he decided to celebrate his good fortune by throwing
a little party, at his home, on New Year’s Eve. 

 

All sorts of characters came
to the bash. This included the rapper and his crew, music industry honchos,
over a dozen beautiful young women, two movie stars and Tillado’s attorney.
They were partying on every floor but most of the action was down in his plush
basement studio. Almost everybody was jammed in the playback room drinking
Cristal, snorting cocaine and smoking huge blunts. As the New Year loomed Amon
turned down the music for the countdown. The clock struck twelve, and there was
much kissing and hugging and high fives all around.

 

Amon had saved his own party
favor for the midnight hour. As a treat he lit up an entire joint of the Most
Salacious all for himself. Puffing extravagantly on his salacious weed, he
suddenly heard the music come back on and became angry, demanding to know who
was messing with his sound system.

 

Then Amon recognized that it
was the perfect beat that he was hearing. At first he thought it was just
another remix of his celebrated track someone had slipped onto the stereo, but
it was clearly the original breakbeat – echoing, elemental, electronic and
stripped bare – looping over and over and reverberating in his ears.

 

The volume, however, was
still turned down and the sound system remained untouched. Amon began to shout
and swear, insisting that someone must stop the pulsing beat immediately.
Everyone in the room just turned and stared. No one else had heard anything at
all and they assumed Amon was just stoned and clowning around.

 

Then Amon started smashing up
the place, trying vainly to eliminate the source of the haunting breakbeat. The
party broke up in a hurry after he destroyed the mixing console and began
breaking into the studio’s beautifully tiled walls.  And they say that Amon Tillado was still
raving, drooling and muttering about the perfect beat when the authorities
finally showed up a little while later.

 

 

 

 

(With apologies to E. A. Poe… Mitch
Myers is a freelance writer, radio commentator, curator of the Silverstein
Archive in Chicago and author of
The Boy Who Cried Freebird: Rock & Roll
Fables and Sonic Storytelling.)

 

 

 Additional reading:

The Masque Of The Red Death  

 

 

The Cask Of Amontillado 

 

 

The Tell-Tale Heart 

 

 

 

 

STRIKING THE PERFECT BALANCE Moogfest 2012

October 26 & 27
brought the third annual gathering of the tribes. We were there, natch. (See also:
our exclusive photo gallery from this year’s event.)

 

BY JORDAN LAWRENCE

 

Unlike its peers on the nation’s festival scene, Moogfest
will always be judged by one very specific criterion: How true is it to the
legacy of Bob Moog? The late synthesizer pioneer founded Moog Music and
contributed innovations that have impacted every musical genre that doesn’t
exclusively rely on acoustic instruments. Since relocating from New York to
Asheville, N.C. three years ago, the festival has juggled this high-minded
curatorial responsibility with the necessity of booking the kind of
high-profile acts that can sustain a multi-day festival that includes venues
with capacities of 7,700 (ExploreAsheville.com Arena, aka the former Asheville
Civic Center), 2,400 (Thomas Wolfe Auditorium) and 1,050 (Orange Peel).

 

Ashley Capps, the head of AC Entertainment, the promotion
company behind the fest, spoke to the challenge of representing Moog at a
pre-festival press conference, calling it “the thread around which the festival
is made,” adding: “We try to keep it from being a box.”

 

At its best, the festival explores the boundary between the
popular and the experimental, offering accessible samples of electronic styles
and arresting artists making waves in the indie music realm. Reduced to two
days after a pair of three-day events, this year’s Moogfest lacked some of the
star power enjoyed by its first Asheville
outings, but the line-up was tight and meaty, rich with acts who stretched the
Moog thread in intriguing ways. Leveraging its Halloween-adjacent weekend, the
event retained the party-hardy atmosphere of years past, drunk kids in costumes
vibing to unexpected soundtracks.

 

 

 

 

 

Friday night was the more adventurous of the two sessions,
using Moog’s broad influence as the connective tissue uniting an array of
diverse and vital performers. German electronic innovator Pantha Du Prince
started things off at the arena, and his set played out like a microcosm of the
diverse styles Moogfest manages to draw together. His lush electronic
landscapes united throbbing house beats with delicate techno flourishes and
moments of harsh distortion sourced from experimental rock. The results percolated
patiently only to suddenly lunge forward, a marvel of mood management and
rhythmic acumen.

 

Later, a pair of high-profile rappers offered wonderfully
contrasting sets, a welcome improvement over last year’s scant hip-hop
programming. Nas (pictured above), performing
with a live band that played various Moog instruments, rocked the arena with
his provocative lyrics and steely flow. Bolstered by the band’s muscular,
understated funk inflections, classics like Illmatic‘s
“The World is Yours” impressed with robust beats matched by potent melodic
counterpoints, often in the form of pristine trumpet fills. With a beloved star
daring to try a new approach, Nas’ set took Moog’s mission of innovation to
heart.

 

A few hours later at the Orange Peel, GZA, the Wu-Tang
Clan’s resident “Genius” offered one of the most charismatic rap sets you’ll
ever see. Showcasing an intuitive connection with his DJ, what started as a
performance of GZA’s 1995 landmark, Liquid
Swords
, became a wowing journey through Wu-Tang history. He offered
performances of hallmarks such as “Clan in the Front” and went a cappella to
recite a verse by late Wu-Tang member Ol’ Dirty Bastard. The latter was one of
many moments made possible by GZA and his DJ’s unparalleled chemistry, beats
dropping out and bouncing back with perfect timing, complementing the rapper’s
sly, gravelly delivery. It wasn’t the full-album performance that festival
goers were promised, but GZA proved himself to be a consummate entertainer and
an artist fully in command of his craft.

 

There were missteps, notably headliner Primus, whose
uninventive combination of Tom Waits-isms and maddeningly busy bass and guitar
fills was in no way helped by the gimmicky 3D projections that accompanied it.
But every sour note was answered with a sweet one, in this case the free
jazz-inflected art rock of Asheville’s
own Ahleuchatistas. Shane Perlowin’s dizzying guitar lines swung from
blistering bop permutations to crushing semi-metal riffs and on to intricate,
Oriental-leaning patterns. Drummer Ryan Oslance added complex clamor, working
through swift, ever-changing progressions and adding creative embellishments,
at one point dropping chains on his tom to create a brutal, leaden stomp.

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday began with a slate of performers flush with indie
buzz. Divine Fits (pictured above)
a supergroup comprising Spoon leader Britt Daniel, Wolf Parade/Handsome Furs
alum Dan Boeckner, and New Bomb Turks drummer Sam Brown — started the night
off at the arena. They united Spoon’s kraut-ish throb with stylish synths,
creating relentless, elongated grooves that drove forth with veteran swagger.
Santigold followed, her lyrical, melody-driven style of hip-hop assisted by the
robotic choreography of two female dancers and myriad costume changes. With
theatrical elements such as a two-man horse — played by her bassist and
drummer — striding onto the stage to a clippity-clopping beat, her set
utilized spectacle to enhance her already catchy songs.

 

Better still was Death Grips, who brought their brash,
noise-inflected hip-hop to the Orange Peel. The beats came by way of harshly
distorted synth lines pulsing from a backstage laptop
and the enraged volleys of drummer Zach Hill. As the incredible volume shook
the Peel to its foundations, Stefan
“MC Ride” Burnett unleashed his rhymes in guttural shouts. Shirtless
and ripped, he gyrated and flexed, roaring at the crowd silhouetted by
blood-red spotlights. It was a jarring and transfixing display, intense
electronic sounds powering some of the most visceral hip-hop around.

 

Saturday’s second half
was an onslaught of top-flight electronic music: ambient duos, eclectic DJs and
energetic EDM. Tim Hecker and Daniel Lopatin (Oneohtrix Point Never, Ford &
Lopatin) induced trances with a powerfully understated wash of serene synths
and ethereal noise. The English EDM pioneers in Orbital led Moogfest’s biggest
party down at the arena, masterfully controlling momentum and unifying zombies,
Trekkies, Muppets and more in movement to their kinetic beats.

 

But none of this topped
Four Tet, who closed down Thomas Wolfe much like Pantha had started things at
the arena one night earlier, with a uniquely diversified electronica display.
Dense dub beats met prickling notes from samples and synths and an undercurrent
of ambient noise, The resulting loop-heavy expenses were at once mentally
immersive and danceable, a potent reminder that forward-thinking music can be
enjoyed with the body as well as the mind. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moogfest was
established to honor the contributions of one of the world’s most important
sonic innovators. This year’s event lived up to that mission, emphasizing
artists who are exploring the possibilities of sound while also creating work
that is intrinsically accessible. It’s a balance that Moogfest has spent three
years refining. This year, they got closer than ever to perfecting it.

 

 

[Photo credits: Margaret
Hester
(top); Jordan Lawrence (other 3)]

 

 

Additional Moogfest
coverage:

 

Moogfest
2011

 

Moogfest
2010

 

The
Legacy of Bob Moog

 

ROCK ‘N’ ROLL LIFERS Wreckless Eric & Amy Rigby

From the former’s lineage stretching back to ground zero punk to the latter’s
career as a thoroughly mod(ern) housewife, they ain’t just your everyday
musical stiffs.

 

BY MARY LEARY

 

Figuratively speaking, my jaw’s dropping open. I keep
cocking my head toward the speakers, with widening eyes. I’m wondering why I
haven’t kept up with the career of
Wreckless Eric.

 

Of course, I already know one answer to that question. That
would be the utter fool I made of myself many years ago, when I was supposed to
be interviewing Wreckless Eric (nee Eric Goulden) in the green room of the Bayou in Washington, D.C.
Instead, a friend caught a picture of me leaning on his shoulder, blind drunk,
close to passing out.

 

To his credit, Goulden looks bemused; nonjudgmental. And
oblivion frequently hovered around the pre-AIDs, halcyon milieu of the New
Wave. I’ll never forget the night some barely-of-age Maryland yahoos showed up
to see my fave band, the Razz, then spent a good part of the evening with their
heads pushed into the band’s Marshall speakers (when they weren’t trying to
climb them). It’s the kind of thing you remember, along with the reaction of
those of us who, that night, were just having a few beers, smoking joints
during intermissions, and maybe doing a bit of the nitrate spirited over by one
of the strippers who worked two doors over. 
Our reaction? “That’s kind of dumb… but we can relate. You never know
what’ll happen next, at one of these shows.”

 

So, no, that night at the Bayou, if anyone judged my shift
from music journalist to out-of-control party girl, they didn’t say anything,
and may have forgotten it by the next day. For me, especially in light of what
happened in the six hours that followed, it was an embarrassing, depressing
turning point. But that’s another story.

 

 

 

 

 

Wreckless Eric came into semi-public view in 1977, as part
of Stiff Records’ Barnum and Bailey-like array of iconoclasts and oddballs, a
short list of which includes Ian Dury, Rachel Sweet, Lew Lewis, Plummet
Airlines, Mickey Jupp, Dave Edmunds, Graham Parker, Devo, Jona Lewie, Madness,
the Tyla Gang, the Bongos, Yachts, the Pink Fairies, Wazmo Nariz, Lene Lovich,
and Elvis Costello. Was Goulden’s work compelling enough to cut through that of
the label’s packed tent of side show personalities? For me, at the time, the
answer remained as vague as my experience of seeing him, and not interviewing
him, from the vortex of a blackout.

 

Listening to Amy Rigby and Goulden’s third album, A Working Museum (Southern Domestic),
I’m amazed. One of the elements that unified the disparate artistry lumped
under the New Wave umbrella is unusually prominent. That’s Goulden/Rigby’s
maximization of every crumb of conceptual
inspiration and musical ability they have… into something bigger. A Working
Museum
may not be marked by much in the way of advanced musical technique.
But for its creative abandon, and courage, it towers above a hill of output by
younger musicians, as well as some of Goulden’s better-established
contemporaries. There’s a nearly uniform freshness to the album’s colorful
ruminations on “everyday” topics. Another magnet is provided by the frequent
shift from Goulden to Rigby at the lead vocal mic.

 

A passionate commitment to honesty flares on the album’s
opener, “A Darker Shade of Brown,” which features Goulden ranting about
striving to maintain optimism in the
face of “sanitized sex” and other modern horrors. “Safe sex” is just one aspect
of modern life that can be troubling to anyone who’s been of age when the word
freedom meant…  freedom. In a fell swoop,
Eric articulates something that’s seemed sort of bad form, or politically incorrect
(to talk about), which might have remained indefinitely unspoken. The
experiential and artistic triumphs in the song’s transmutation of its lament
about the difficulty of navigating an increasingly categorized, confined
society into a buoyant commitment to uncovering new possibilities (“Let’s
pretend that we can’t swim – let’s drown/But at least let’s paint this town/a
darker shade of brown.”)

 

Some tracks, such as the Byrds-y “Rebel Girl Rebel Girl,”
are based in a clear admiration for seminal folk-rock. As was the case with
Eric’s earlier work, the injection of his sensibilities into that form yields a
heady product slightly similar to Billy Bragg’s. The mellow wheezings of
“Sombreros in the Airport” (how the hell can you fit them in the overheads?)
are captivating enough that I don’t
think to check the title until it escapes the couple’s lips. Several
melody-strong tracks also underscore Goulden/Rigby’s familiarity with ‘60s
sounds. “The Doubt,” for one, takes a progression that could have happened with
the Grassroots into a place that’s sublimely surprising.

 

“Tropical Fish” is an almost unbearably orgiastic flush of
guitar effects and up-close vocals. Peppered by striking pop culture
references, it implies the insanity of the latter’s taking up space in anyone’s
head. Another especially noteworthy track is the dreamy “Valley Liquors.” From
many contemporary, twenty/thirty-something “dream pop” or “psych. rock”
musicians, it might be marketed as a freshly minted, just slightly
retro-derivative creation.

 

From Rigby/Goulden, though, it testifies to the hard-earned
fruits of lifer artists’ lives.


 

MY SYMBIOTIC RELATIONSHIP WITH… GWAR

“Like a growth on the Cuttlefish of Cthulhu’s testicle”: a horror
comedy in several acts.

 

BY MICHAEL G. PLUMIDES, JR.

 

GWAR and I go all the way back to 1990 – but I knew of the
band before then. We had a copy of Hell-o on file at WUSC-FM.  A high school friend
of mine, Emily, went to Virginia
Commonwealth University,
so she was primarily responsible for turning me on to the gory theatrical
outfit circa December 1987.  GWAR
was among her favorite RVA punk acts alongside Death Piggy, Mudd Helmut, The
X-Cops, and the Alter Natives. Little did I know?

 

I promoted my first GWAR show at the 4808 Club’s second and
most viable incarnation on 7th Street in Uptown Charlotte on March 3, 1990, drawing several
hundred people to their parody of torment supporting the release of their
punk-metal aural assault, Scumdogs of the Universe.  The 4808 was shut down a month later
after a L.A. Guns show on Easter Sunday, due to fire code
infractions.  Subsequently, I was forced
out of that building; a historic old textile warehouse that has now been
leveled to put up another parking lot. 

 

But being the stubborn, idiotic, glutton for punishment that
I was, I opened a new club on 5th Street three months later in another old
warehouse, also now leveled.  Paramount
had just shot some scenes from Jerry Bruckheimer’s dog shit racing film, Days of Thunder starring Tom Cruise, at that location
(who incidentally, I met at a college party in Wilmington in 1986 – as throngs of
poodle-haired Eastern North
Carolina females stood in cue to offer Cruise
lip service while a stoned Emilio Estevez looked on).  I couldn’t wait to destroy the leftover set
and use the building material for the new and soon-to-be
ill-fated, 4808.  I hated that dumb
fucking movie, anyway – it represented everything I despised about the “World
Class” shit hole that was my locale.

 

I had spent somewhere around sixty-thousand dollars
up-fitting the new 4808 Club due to code enforcement – they were really up my
ass with a magnifying glass, Sherlock Holmes-style, making sure I was in
compliance.  When I finally got the doors
open, I was flat broke, writing bad checks for beer and hiding my Jeep Cherokee
in the weeds from the repo man.  So when I wrestled GWAR away from a rival
club owner, I felt like a bandy rooster – it was going to be the show that
bailed me out, or at least that’s what I hoped. 

 

The GWAR crew was dirty when they arrived on Tuesday, September 18, 1990.  As they loaded in blood
spattered amp crates, and costumes covered in end trails, it occurred to
me that I was in for a long night. My sound crew painstakingly covered all of
the equipment with plastic. The stench of the stage props was inescapable as
filthy, Bohemian art school weirdos prepared their alchemy. That night, the
club was at capacity. I wanted a big crowd. Be careful what you wish for.

 

On stage, GWAR looked and sounded like something conjured
right out of an H.P. Lovecraft novel. Oderus Urungus, the lead singer, (aka
David Brockie) had the most vivid costume, vile yet brilliant. With a demon’s
face, spiked shoulder pads, body paint, monster feet and hands, netted
stockings, and a big fish like penis hanging from his groin he called “The
Cuttlefish of Cthulhu” with a three-testicle scrotum sac suspended between
his legs, Oderus’ “Omni-sexual” character was festering and oozing with
presence.

 

The other members of GWAR consisted of: “Balsac, The Jaws of
Death” with cloven hooves and a metal bear-trap face, on guitar; “Beefcake the
Mighty” dressed as an oversize breast-plated Macedonia warrior, on bass;
“Jizmak, the Gusher” a Neanderthal, on drums, and “Flattus Maximus,” a
primitive Viking on guitar (the legendary ax-man character now memorialized and
retired after the tragic death of long-time GWAR guitarist, Cory Smoot) and, of
course, there’s the slaves who do the band’s dirty work during the performance.
By this time, I was over capacity and absolutely slammed.  Between keeping up with crowd control, door
money, and bar money, I missed a lot of the show.

 

Sometime during the performance, Oderus had sodomized a
Catholic priest, and then shoved a giant crucifix in his sphincter. That was a
big mistake. None of it was real, and was all part of GWAR’s twisted, yet
comical and debauched spectacle. I didn’t see it. Had I witnessed the event, I
probably would have had a stroke, like my dad. But the show was also chocked
full of satire and social commentary, no matter how grotesque, not to be taken
literally. Try selling that to bunch of redneck cops. At the end of GWAR’s
performance, Oderus sprayed a milky load on the crowd with the Cuttlefish of
Cthulhu. The Urban Dictionary describes the stage prop as
“Oderus’ sexual reproductive organ” resembling “a huge slug” with lips, which
“spurts when excited.” Spurt it did, sealing my fate.  As I counted the
door money in my office, the club was raided. I had spied a couple of
out-of-place mustaches in the crowd, a little too eager with their Nikons. 

 

 

***

 

Daniel Sellers, Chief Alcohol Law Enforcement Detective,
raided my office while I counted door receipts.
Upon Sellers’ request, while in handcuffs, I lead him back to the dressing room
where the band had just finished their encore and were taking off their
costumes. The dressing room was steamy, close, and uncomfortable. Sellers spoke
with authority, “Which one of ya’ll is the lead singer? Brockie, still in
costume from the waist down, said indignantly, as if answering to roll call,
“I’m the lead slave!” Sellers responded, “Well son, you’re under arrest for an
obscene performance under North Carolina law.”

 

Brockie bent over to take off his monster feet and the
Cuttlefish, aiming his blood-crusted bare butt cheeks toward Sellers where the
Detective then commented, “I could have gone all night without seeing that.”

 

“Confiscate that fish, or penis, or whatever the hell it
is.” Brockie interjected, “It’s the Cuttlefish of…” Sellers spat, “Put a plug
in it, boy.”  The policeman then asked
me, “You got somethin’ we could put this thang in?” The Cuttlefish of Cthulhu
was covered in fake blood and still dripping. One of my bartenders offered an
old rusted mop pail. The police confiscated the stage prop carting “The
Cuttlefish” and us out with it.

 

The cops were all chuckling among themselves, as if they
were a bunch of kids who had just peed the pool. Brockie wasn’t surprised. His
brand of sarcastic, sadistic mayhem was bound and determined to eventually piss
the wrong folks off somewhere in the South. It was only a matter of time before
some “Bible-Belt” yokels caught wind of GWAR’s theatrics, and these cops were
ready to kick both of our asses up around our shoulder blades, especially after
the national attention on the 2 Live Crew Nasty
as They Wanna Be
record store arrest in Florida.

 

When Brockie and I were led out onto the street in
handcuffs, the crowd was in an uproar. The scene was chaotic outside the 4808
Club, awash in punk rockers soaked in sweat and fake blood, blue-clad
constables brandishing their nightsticks, and of course, the media, ready to
report the whole scene as inaccurately as possible. A column of police cars
were lined up outside the club blocking Fifth Street. 
And to add insult to injury, a police helicopter
was hovering overhead with a spotlight to arrest me, Brockie, and a rubber
fish. The crowd became riotous, chanting anti-fascist slogans, and pushing up
against the squad cars, resulting in a few more arrests.   Brockie and I were then muscled into a
squad car.

 

“What am I charged with?” Brockie was a Canadian National
and nervous about possible deportation. 
Detective J.H. Hurd of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Vice Squad, pulled a
small pad out of his back pocket, and read him the charges:

 

“Violating North Carolina Felony Criminal Statutes, more
specifically, you’ve been charged with ‘Disseminating Obscenity,’ by simulating
ejaculation with a two-and-a-half- foot latex penis, simulating sodomy, and
eating feces, along with other misdemeanors.” Brockie pondered the charges for
a moment, and queried, “You mean you can’t do that in North Carolina?”
It was a night filled with cruel jokes.

 

Needless to say, the club was shut down and Brockie and I
went to jail for the night during the moral hysteria of the PMRC years.  I
didn’t really know Dave all that well, and the first time we ever had any
conversation was in an 8 x 10 holding cell as I stared at the back of his
shaved head noticing the boot scars.  And what circumvented us from
getting to know each other then was a grunting homeless man who
had defecated down his pant legs sitting three feet away. 
The Sheriff’s office thought it funny to put us all in there together – a
small cinder block room with a metal door and little ventilation.  One officer was kind enough to come in and
spray Lysol, holding a towel over his own face, giggling, while the excrement oozed
down this vagrant’s shoe.  It was a
blatant human rights violation. Dave and I certainly were in “a world of shit”
that night. No question about it.

 

 “Raunchy Singing Act
hits Wrong Note with Police,” was the headline. Nice. Catchy.  Thanks, Charlotte Observer.  The incident
made MTV Music News, Billboard, Rolling Stone (alongside Dee Dee Ramone’s pot
bust) Detroit Alternative Press, and
the Associated Press picked it up
too.  It was one of those weird, water
cooler stories – I didn’t leave my house for weeks. But it was the end,
beautiful friend.  It was the end of the 4808 Club, and GWAR was banned
from North Carolina for a year. So, I left Charlotte and its aftermath behind
and went where all the criminals go: Myrtle Beach, SC – the town that Kenny
Powers made famous. 

 

The incident did, however, spark international stardom, to a
degree, for GWAR.  The Charlotte arrests were the springboard Dave needed
to get to his band to next level, later making appearances on Joan Rivers, and Jerry Springer,
among other TV and talk shows, and would eventually become favorites of Mike
Judge’s Beavis and Butthead and MTV’s Headbangers Ball also darlings of Lonn Friend’s RIP Magazine. Later they would make the hour-long video based on the arrests, the
confiscation, and the summary execution of said Cuttlefish; the
Grammy-nominated Phallus in Wonderland – right down to a cartoon version of Judge Richard Boner, who coincidentally
couldn’t stop laughing at the pictures of Dave in costume. The family of
midgets in the courthouse pew didn’t help much either.

 

Dave’s remark to The
Charlotte Observer
regarding the band’s ouster was, “Judge Boner handed
down a pretty stiff decision today.”
In a recent interview with Fred Mills – who in 1990 was the music editor for
Charlotte weekly Creative Loafing,
which covered the GWAR bust in great detail – he was reminiscent: “Loafing expressed outrage and dismay at the
actions of the ALE agents, especially because they arrested the 4808 Club
owner, Michael Plumides, along with Brockie. We already knew that Plumides had
rubbed the authorities the wrong way by booking all the ‘unsafe’-type acts that
other clubs wouldn’t book [metal, rap, hardcore punk], so our feeling was that
he had been in their crosshairs for some time and the GWAR bust was a thinly
veiled form of legal harassment.”

 

“We were kind of asked
by the club to tone things down before the show, but of course we ignored
them,” Brockie recalls today. “We were trying to provoke the
situation. Why would you create a band like GWAR if you’re not trying to provoke
people?”

 

Brockie went on to say, “The
legacy of the incident has definitely endured over the years and it’s one of
the strongest GWAR legends,” admitting that, “getting arrested for making
art is pretty funny. The weirdest part about it to me is that somewhere in
Charlotte, in some lockup facility, there is the Cuttlefish of Cthulhu – the
offending member, if you will – sitting in an evidence box.”

 

 

***

 

I hadn’t spoken to Brockie in a long time – I think it was
the horn section on This Toilet Earth that deterred me from the band around the time I was listening to a lot of
Kyuss, Catherine Wheel, Consolidated, and Meat Beat Manifesto.  I always had a soft spot in my heart for America Must Be Destroyed, because it
was personal to me.  I’d
occasionally go and see the band and Dave would always put me on the list but
we would never have time to talk, or I would leave early.  Let’s be honest, I don’t often stay for the
bands that I really do like.  

 

After a series of ill-advised relationships, and personal
failures spanning almost a decade, I had lost my direction.  Starting with
my father’s death in 1995, and never living anywhere more than a year or
two,  I grew this nomadic sense of
boredom, malaise, and self-deprecation infused with a debaucher’s lifestyle.   And the Georgia Board of Bar Examiners held
up my application for so long, due to the GWAR incident among other things, by
the time they allowed me to sit, I had forgotten everything.   So I left
Atlanta, and made my homecoming back to the Queen City.

 

After several months back, my Jack Russell Terrier,
Tyberius, was hit by a car. I knew it was coming.  That fucking dog had a death wish. He’d been
attempting to get himself killed for eleven years. But, he was the last
beautiful thing left in my life, and now he was gone.  By then, I had almost lost all hope. I
was riddled with guilt, and felt indefinitely consigned to the tree of woe.

 

But they say, “A man has to lose everything before he is
truly free to be anything.”  That’s when
an idea popped into my head. I thought to myself, “Wait a second.  I was
part of a glorious time in music: The stuff of legend.  I wasn’t just some
shoe-gazing moron.”  It was then I
decided I would write about the 4808 Club. The tale needed to be told the best
way I knew how to tell it:  raw and real. The era was highly
under-documented.  So, I set a schedule
for myself. It was the first time in my life I actually had a schedule. And
I would dedicate my book to Tyberius. 
Tyberius was my best friend and saw me through the tough times – he was
a good boy.  I owed him that.

 

When I started writing KILL
THE MUSIC
, I found Brockie’s email address and let him know I
was writing a book and a screenplay.  He was receptive.  We chatted a
little about a warehouse in Richmond that he wanted to buy, and he committed to
a film if I could get one made. I had already written a few short stories about
Megadeth, Jane’s Addiction, Danzig, and Soundgarden so I weaved those together
and expanded them a little. Once released, I began working on the KILL THE MUSIC screenplay; I was also
attaching as many folks as I could to raise interest.  Dave didn’t like it
when I mentioned the prospect of John Rocker, the infamous Atlanta Braves
baseball player, appearing in the film as a character based on Ric
Flair.  Brockie said of Rocker, “I don’t want anything to do with your
film if that racist asshole is gonna be in it. That guy is a fucking pig.”

 

My response was, “Rocker’s not that much of a racist.
 Rocker’s actually a pretty good guy once you get to know him.   And
besides, Dave, you’re in the most offensive rock band in the Universe, and
write songs like ‘Hard for a Tard’ and ‘Chinese Don’t Eat Cheese’…  ‘Rock-
n-Roll Never Felt So Good’ is about having sex with a girl with no arms or
legs!  The lyrics say you’re gonna fuck “her asshole with a piece of
frozen shit.’  I won’t even mention, GWAR’s ‘Black and Huge’ – so you need
to lighten up.” Then Dave said, “I’ve read everything you’ve sent me and it all
sucks!  Maybe you should consider taking some writing courses at your
local fucking community college.”  He was in what I refer to as
“Oderus-mode” when the unbridled caricature of Dave without his morning coffee
comes out. Then we didn’t speak for a while, even after the book was
released, and I was depending on him to be behind it – but Dave pulled a no
show.

 

After reading KILL
THE MUSIC
, Greg Green, General Manager at the Masquerade in
Atlanta, called me in the fall of 2009 and told me how much he enjoyed the book
and asked if he could do anything.  I suggested maybe he could host a book
signing at his club. Greg replied, “I’ve got GWAR here in October. Consider it
done.”  So we had a guerilla book signing
at Masquerade without telling the band, and Greg put Dave and me back together
for a photo op.  I gave Dave and the band
copies of the first edition, (a rush job – rife with errors but we couldn’t
have a release party earlier that year without books so our hands were forced
to release it prematurely).  Dave told me
later how much the band loved KILL THE
MUSIC
, despite the errors, and they thought it was clever and
hilarious.  I had never penned a book
before, and the band’s praise was positive – Dave said Jizmak liked it,
especially, and he couldn’t stop talking about it.  (The second edition is absolutely flawless…
well, almost, available on Amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/Kill-Music-chronicle-idealists-censorship/dp/1439234477).

 

The following year I covered GWAR at Bonnaroo in June of
2010 for Blurt.  A note about Bonnaroo –
that shit is for the young unless, of course, you have a hotel room close to
the KOA back gate and a “Guest Parking Pass”. 
Write that down.  So Dave and I
got together again twenty years later in Manchester, Tennessee for the South’s
biggest music festival.  Anne and I got
the last motel room at the Scottish Inn, owned by the Patel’s directly across
from a Best Western with a bombed-out meth lab in it and police tape on the
perimeter. We didn’t mind that there was a chalk line on the floor in our motel
room.  The air-conditioning blew cold and
offered a well-needed respite to that one hundred degree heat.

 

Dave was enjoying some revitalized notoriety in the role as
“Intergalactic Correspondent” on Greg Gutfield’s Red Eye program on FOX NEWS, which I always thought was
ironic.  The same right-wingers trying to
put GWAR’s lights out decades ago, are now embracing them? Fancy that? I was
fucking jealous that he was getting off light. 
I was also curious to see how long it would last. Dave said of the
experience, “Greg’s great and it’s a ton of fun
being on the show. I am part of the Red
Eye
 family and it’s really
cool. They love GWAR and I don’t give a shit that it’s on Fox News.  Most
people end up watching the clips on YouTube anyway. But I would say this is a
good example of us being good businessmen for once. We took a one-shot deal and
turned it into a recurring thing. I hope I am on Red Eye forever as long as I get my own show
at some point.”

 

A year later, Dave made his last appearance
on Red Eye.  Rumor had it that the Red Eye staff was constantly hiding Dave from Bill O’Reilly –
afraid that Oderus, sans pants, would impale “Mr. Fair and Balanced” with his
monster of cock by accident as he turned the corner.  Truth of the matter was, Vice-Presidential
nominee, Sarah Palin caught wind of her likeness’ nightly decapitation and
disembowelment on stage, while GWAR toured. 
The band was celebrating their 25th anniversary with the Lust in Space release on Metal Blade
reuniting with the label after a twenty year hiatus.  The Alaskan Governor and Fox News political pundit had a little problem with Oderus playing
politics with her corpse; so did a lot of people at Fox.  It was almost like
Gutfield’s time slot of 4 AM hid Greg’s pension for alternative programming
from the red eye of Soron until the joke wore a little too thin among the early
rising wing-tipped types and aged, angry veteran viewership begging for the
Cold War era to return – you know, the ones who call Obama “That Muslim”.

 

Meanwhile, the release of my memoir was
“well-received” according to my fair-weather friends at The Charlotte Observer, to some decent reviews.  Of course, there were a few jerk off
reviewers who took offense to the sexual content.  I believe that resentment stemmed from a fan
boy mentality – guys who never lived in the era of “Sex, Drugs, and
Rock-n-Roll” – so they had no point of reference because they were too
preoccupied with Todd McFarlane’s Spawn while
they listened to GWAR, to notice girls. 

 

Devin Grant of the Charleston Post and Courier wrote, “…If
you’re just looking for a good read about the weird, wild world of the music
business, then KILL THE MUSIC is
highly recommended.”  John Gary
Nettles, long-time Athens, GA fixture at The
Flagpole
wrote, “As a manifesto against censorship, KILL THE MUSIC, fails completely. As a
chronicle of the ’80’s alternative scene it’s no PARTY OUT OF BOUNDS, but it serves. But as a memoir of someone who
did something you and I will never be able to do, it works…” John B.
Moore, writer at InnocentWords.com called it, “… possibly the best memoir
written this year by a guy you’ve never heard of.”  It was safe to say that KILL THE MUSIC was a punk rock underground hit and although
self-publishing at the time was considered “vanity press”, I still got my name
out there in the stream of commerce without Simon and Shuster.

 

There were some rumors floating
around that I hired a “Ghost Writer”. When I heard that, it made me want to
write something original, and as there was no money in self-publishing, I
turned to screenwriting.  And I milked those photos of Dave and me to death on Facebook
to support sales of KILL THE MUSIC
which, coincidentally did well on both Kindle and Amazon for a time in 2010 and
early 2011, making a number of “Top 20” categories in “censorship”, “rock”,
“punk” “metal” and “memoirs”.  I always
wanted to make a KILL THE MUSIC film.  I thought what better way to fund
it than make a successful horror franchise.

 

 

 

 

By this time I was deep in the throes of
developing GHOST TREK [see poster, above], a horror-comedy concept sprung forth from the head of Zeus after
watching marathon episodes of paranormal reality shows.  In late 2009, I
absorbed myself in Ghost AdventuresParanormal State and Ghost
Hunters International
. In one particular episode, a team was looking for
the “Ghost of Robin Hood”- who is a fictional character for the most part – and
I thought that was so stupid. Although the investigators use a number of
electronic devices to detect these supposed entities, there’s no valid
scientific approach. A lot of it is based on personal experiences like a ‘cold
spot’ or an unintelligible ‘EVP’ (Electronic Voice Phenomena). They basically
created their own mythology regarding how the research is conducted, almost
like in Ghostbusters, and viewers are fascinated by it.

 

Some of the investigators even incorporate what
I call “Guerrilla Ghost Hunting Tactics” to provoke the spirits into
materializing when they lock themselves in old prisons or sanitariums for
optimum effect. I think people want to believe in the paranormal so much, they
throw reason out the window. 

 

On Ghost Adventures, a muscled Zak
Bagans, the lead investigator, flexed his arm in camera view and said, “Look at
the goose bumps on my arm, dude.” I laughed to myself – it was really more
about Zak’s muscle than it was about the paranormal. What Bagans was really
saying was, “Check out the goose bumps on my guns, dude”.  I wrote an entire feature script around that
line, entitled Ghost Trek: Confederate
Ghouls
, a story about a ghost hunt at an old house adjacent to a
Confederate cemetery in South Carolina where the restless spirits of
Confederate soldiers are antagonized and rise from the grave to kill the
investigators. How utterly hilarious would that be?

 

The script was funny and the
characters were all founded in paranormal reality TV. There’s a good-looking
lead investigator (who’s an ex-chiropractor), his ex-girlfriend is the
showrunner, there’s a security team called the “Goon Squad”, there’s a
flamboyant psychic, a couple of stoner tech specialists, and a cute, bubbly,
investigator-in-training. I felt it had to be character driven and familiar,
but more like Clerks or Entourage meets Scooby Doo than Ghost Hunters.

 

In case I couldn’t get the feature made, I wrote
six television episodes to keep my options open, the first being loosely based
on the JonBenet Ramsey case, entitled, Ghost Trek: The Kinsey Report,
where the Paranormal Underworld Detective Society (PUDS) travel to Aspen,
Colorado to investigate a supposedly ‘cursed’ house where a young pageant girl
was strangled with a jump rope.  Another
episode investigates the “Ghost of Ike Clanton” in Tombstone’s Not A
Pizza
, a third where a rapper is resurrected by a voodoo priestess after he
is shot in a drive-by entitled, Zombie Straight Outta Compton, and
one based on the bizarre New York mortuary case called The Goomba Body
Snatchers
. After all, the tagline is “paranormal research with an emphasis
on bad taste”.

 

We shot the pilot in December of 2010, with some
additional footage in March of 2011, and completed the final edit by May, just
in time to screen at the summer horror conventions. I hand-picked most of the cast from local indie film screenings. As
there were certain budgetary constraints and I couldn’t afford to do a
SAG/AFTRA film, we had little choice other than to use unknowns, reality stars
and wrestlers. We had some preliminary casting calls in the summer of 2010 for
the feature. I did pick one rising young starlight, Julia Bullock (recently
featured on X-Factor singing “Pumped Up Kicks”) who was in high
school at the time, for the role of our cute college newbie Jules Partridge.

 

 

 

Robert Filion, my co-director
and producer [pictured above, with Plumides],
had a guy he used occasionally, a full-time cop and part-time thespian, Michael
Melendez, I hired for the lead role of ‘Dr. Zeke Wallace’. Another great
comedic actor, Brett Gentile (Seeking Justice, You Are Here) I hired
as Guy Swisher, the psychic. Glenn Gilbertti, otherwise known as the wrestler
Disco Inferno, was a friend of mine and he agreed to be in the pilot. After
seeing a post on Glenn’s page, I was hit up on Facebook by Jonny Fairplay (Survivor)
inquiring “What is Ghost Trek and can
I be in it?” I hired Fairplay as one of the “stoner tech specialists” and he
brought on his Survivor associate, Mike Bortone, wrestler Colt
Cabana, and Gia Allemand (The Bachelor).

 

I cast Zeke’s side love
interest, model Cora Deitz (K-Swiss ads with Danny McBride) as Svetlana, actor
Kevin Johnson as Weasel, the kleptomaniac cameraman, Christy Johnson (Tobe
Hooper’s Mortuary
) as the ‘Living-Dead Roller Girl’ case manager called
Scary Carrie Carmichael and lastly, Addy Miller (the iconic “Little Zombie
Girl” from The Walking Dead)
as the ghostly pageant princess Tyler Rae Kinsey. When I saw Addy in the
opening scene of Dead, I knew we had
to get her – I thought she would be the next Linda Blair. I was right. Addy now
has her own Halloween “TWD Animatronic” for sale in all Spirit Halloween and
Party City stores.

 

I was convinced horror-comedy
was the untapped commodity that TV needed. 
I did so much research on horror-comedy I knew everything there was to
know: Who was doing it, where they lived, and what they ate. I’m tenacious like
that. I first heard that David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express) had acquired the rights to the 80’s art slasher
film, Suspiria. Then I heard about
Ghostbusters 3
stallingThen I heard about this guy, Adam Green (Hatchet, Frozen), who was originally
optioned by Comedy Central for a show called Holliston which was now at FEARnet, about a couple of cable access
horror show guys played by Green with his partner, Joe Lynch. And guess who
plays Green’s imaginary friend who lives in his closet? Dave Brockie – AKA
Oderus Urungus.  No shit.  We’re both doing horror-comedy now. Well,
Dave was always doing horror-comedy but it was normal to me because I’ve been an interested party for two decades.

 

Coincidentally, GWAR released
their new album, Bloody Pit of Horror – their last album with the aforementioned Cory Smoot, AKA Flattus Maximus, who
died on the band’s tour bus en route to Canada in 2011.  The incident made national news and sent Dave
into a tailspin.  As I examined his
photos on line I could see he was drastically losing weight. When I asked him
about it, he said, “Dude, if you had the year I had, you’d be either skinny or
dead.”  No thanks.  I felt sorry for him. Dave had already told
me the Canadian authorities had a file on him and it was a pain in the ass to
renew his passport. Imagine showing up on the border with the corpse of your
friend discovered by the patrol officers. 
I’m sure Dave had a lot of explaining to do.  But the outcry of the fans in support of the
band was overwhelming, and people came out to the shows en masse.  I’m sure that was gratifying to an extent for
Dave. There were also rumors of the bands ultimate demise – but I knew
Dave.  He wasn’t quitting.  Dave would resiliently rebound as he’s done
countless times before.

 

 

 

(above: Oderus with author Plumides)

I wrote, produced, and
co-directed, GHOST TREK: THE KINSEY
REPORT
and won “Best Comedy” at Fright Night Film Fest – believe me, I
wasn’t expecting it. The horror folks really embraced the concept. We also won
a “2011 Silver Addy Award” for “Best
Film Presentation Package”, a “Daily Deviant” from www.deviantart.com for a promotional photo designed by Associate
Producer, Justin Kates, and lastly we won the “Viewer’s Choice Award” at Mad
Monster Party 2012 and hosted a make-up exhibition with Conor McCullagh from SyFy’s Face Off, which was a huge
success.    I put it all together from
scratch and I promoted the shit out of it, grass roots, treating Ghost Trek like it was an indie band on
the road, driving to horror conventions and stirring up fan interest. Fuck, if
I could put on rock-n-roll shows nightly, for years, I figured I could make a
movie, and promote it.

 

Now we’re enjoying some
notoriety on www.dreadcentral.com,
as our very popular webisode presentations have been airing for the month of
October to rave reviews – with the fourth episode of the award-winning GHOST TREK: THE KINSEY REPORT having it’s finale’ on Monday, October 29th.

 

Go here to catch up on our webisodes:
http://www.dreadcentral.com/ghost-trek.
Described by Fearnet.com as “Haunted hilarity…” and by FilmThreat.com as
“Ridiculously entertaining…” we’ll also premiere GHOST TREK on October 29th in its entirety at Crownpoint
Cinema in Charlotte, NC for the first time – in high definition, no less, along
with the Canadian indie darling hit, A
LITTLE BIT ZOMBIE
for a “Double Creature Feature” and our next screening
will be in Los Angeles in mid-to-late November. 

 

 

 

 

Holliston [above] ran its first season to favorable reviews among the horror
faithful, on Fearnet, and the series was optioned for a second season. My
buddies at Dread Central call the show, “laugh out loud funny” as a “twisted
mash up of situation comedy, horror fan hijinks, and heavy metal attitude.”  The Holliston Complete First Season on
Blu-Ray was just released, said to create, “…a new raucous band of humor that’s
unlike anything seen before.” The sitcom comes equipped with 70’s style canned
laughter, which is a little irritating at times but is entertaining, over all.

 

Joe’s Lynch’s “adorably demented girlfriend”
Laura (Laura Ortiz, The Hills Have Eyes)
joins Adam’s ex – and greatest heartbreak of his life – Corri (Corri English, Unrest) in rounding out an ensemble cast
of this hilariously original and offbeat re-imagining of the traditional
American sitcom that has comedy and horror fans loving its hard hitting laughs,
tremendous heart, and slapstick violence.

 

Co-starring Twisted Sister lead singer Dee
Snider as the glam rock loving boss “Lance Rockett” and Dave Brockie,
Holliston: The Complete First Season is filled with cool and crazy cameos and
wickedly sly inside jokes – it’s a bloody good time!

 

In a recent chat with Dave Brockie on Legendary Rock Interviews, he was quick
to say about his Holliston experience, “It was pretty amazing to be involved in. Adam Green is the
director and creator of the series, along with Joe Lynch. I was a fan of
“Hatchet” and knew of him through his body of work but also through Kelli
Malella at Metal Blade Records. Adam, I feel so bad for him, he was so pathetic
as a child. He used to set up all of his action figures like they were a fake
audience and he would play air guitar for them and he’d always play the GWAR
song, “The Road Behind”. They used the song in Holliston. I gotta give him credit for that. It was a ballad, but
it’s a great song and he had a pathetic crush on a girl at the time. I met him
through Kelli at our label and he came to see us when we’d play L.A. and he
kept coming to see us and we kept having dinner before the shows and we ended
up talking about this show he had.”

 

Dave went on to say, “Oh, cool, Oderus in the
closet, giving advice, he’s like the fucking Great Gazoo off The Flintstones, that’s fuckin great.”
Then I kind of filed it away.  Adam came
back later with a guy named Peter Block who was the president of Fearnet and
that was when I could really tell that something was definitely happening.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Monday, October 22nd, GWAR [see live photos, above] played in Charlotte, NC with
DevilDriver, and I was there, mostly to see Dave and for us to get one of our
many photo ops – but also to pick his brain a little. Just fresh from Rock and
Shock, where they shoved Danny Trejo, and Bill Moseley in a meat grinder for
the horror fans, the band was on tour to also debut their Flattus replacement,
“Pustulus Maximus” – the latest addition to the GWAR menagerie. 

 

In full costume Dave hugged me for a moment, and
said, “Dude, what you’ve been doing is amazing – getting your name out
there.  I’ve been keeping up with all of
your shit, with Ghost Trek and the
magazine. I even answered one of your posts on Fearnet about Holliston. The stuff on Dread Central is
awesome.  I applaud all of your efforts.
I read about everything you do.  Please
don’t leave, Mike.  Hang out after the
show. We really need to talk.” We got off a few photos and then the band
started.  During the set, I was actually
surprised and even more excited to hear them play, “Rock-N-Roll Never Felt So Good“.

 

After the show, Dave invited me up to Richmond
in January. He also invited me to produce on a project he has in mind, and he’s
expressed interest in furthering my efforts with a Kill the Music film.  In a
weird way, Dave and I are like family, who don’t necessarily see each other
that much, but pick right up where we left off – what Dave referred to as
“Kindred Spirits”. When I asked Dave to help me get my book adaptation made,
Dave replied, “When have I ever turned you down?”  My response? 
“John Rocker.”

 

Dave quipped, “Oh, we’ll that’s
understandable.” But when I told Dave that John Rocker had lost much
of his fortune recently and is now living with his African-American girlfriend,
Dave’s gleefully responded, “Wow, that’s ironic.”

 

It seems like GWAR has “…been in my life
for so long, I don’t know anything else,” as Ellen Ripley once said of the Alien.  I am tethered to GWAR, to the point
I feel like a growth on the Cuttlefish of Cthulhu’s testicle… and that, in
itself, is strangely validating.

 

 

***

 

Michael G. Plumides, Jr. is the author of Kill the Music,
creator and intellectual property holder of Ghost Trek and Psychic Brats, also
a Creative Consultant on Clive Barker’s Nightbreed Television Series in
development at Morgan Creek Productions. 
For further information, please visit
www.michaelplumides.wordpress.com, https://www.facebook.com/michaelplumides, or  http://michaelplumides.tumblr.com/

HIS COMPASS IS TRUE Henry Rollins

As he tours the
country this election year, the punk legend and pundit par excellence stays the
course.

 

BY RANDY HARWARD

 

When you have at least six jobs and one is trying to change
the world, do you sleep? “At least five hours,” says Henry Rollins. “That’s
kind of what you get during the work week. But if you keep the nutrition up,
you can get by on that.”

 

Oh, and he has time to eat right? It’s no big deal, on top of being a publisher, writing
books/blogs/articles, doing spoken-word tours, acting, hosting a radio show,
and fighting for civil rights. And that list once included hosting his own IFC
talk show and fronting Black Flag and The Rollins Band. He’s a machine.

 

“I’d rather sleep longer.” But he likes working late;
creativity hits between midnight
and four. And when he’s off the road his office opens at 8:45. “There are a lot of obligations.”

 

It’s almost the average grind; he works for the weekend.
“Friday is my big night to howl… But I’m an incredibly boring person. I go
out and get coffee and write in my notebook, then I listen to records at home.
It’s not a bad way to spend the night.”

 

Boring? Riiiight.
Ripped, with hair shorn tight and penetrating drill sergeant’s gaze, Rollins is
an intense presence. The well-read auto-didact commands respect, speaking with
a deep-seated conviction he’s honed since grade school in Washington, D.C.

 

Born in D.C. in 1961, by the late 1960s he was neck-deep in
racial turmoil on his grade-school playground, where he was routinely shoved
around for being white. “I was fairly terrified; it doesn’t take much for a
seven-year-old kid to cry. When you don’t understand racism, you don’t
understand what you’ve done to deserve that.”

            “It never
made me want to be racist; it made me want to push against it. What politicized
me was seeing the disparity between classes of people up close.”

 

Rollins’ current spoken-word tour “CAPITALISM” confronts
similar inequities. “Capitalism is out of control. It’s unregulated. People
won’t play on a level playing field. They hire lobbyists to go in and regulate
and screw people. Like the Koch brothers; that’s the kind of capitalism that
gets people killed.

 

“Capitalism is rope;
you can build a bridge with it or you can hang yourself. I live in a capitalist
society, a consumer-driven economy. People buy my books, and I can pay my
bills. So I don’t have a problem with capitalism until these sons of bitches
come in and rip people’s heads off with it.

            “There’s something to be said for
moral rectitude, having a civic and a moral compass.”

 

Morality is Rollins’ M.O. When his call-waiting beep announces
his next interview, he has to go. Now. No final question; he has an obligation.
He’s already given a meaty interview, so it’s totally cool. But 30 minutes later,
his manager emails. “Henry just shot me an email asking me to let you know that
he’d be happy to answer a few questions if you had more.”

 

His compass is true.

 

***

 

BLURT: Sometimes it
feels like we’ll always be under the two party system and corporate influence,
and suffering from a malignant apathy. What keeps you fighting?

ROLLINS: Because I think that the good overshadows the bad
and that change is possible. Look at who your president is. When I was in high
school, I don’t think it would have been possible in America to elect someone like Mr.
Obama. So, in my lifetime, substantial change has happened. Perhaps before I am
gone another Amendment will be added to the Constitution. I can’t afford the
luxury of apathy.

 

Once in a while, you
get a win, like with the West Memphis
3. Are you still in touch with them?

I am somewhat in touch with Damien. I just read his book and
did a thing for the back cover. Hell of a story. I am glad they are out of
course but have a problem with the conditions by which they were released.
Since I believe in their innocence, that means I still think the killer or
killers are at large. What Arkansas
wants to do about that, I don’t know. I am not sure what Jessie and Jason are
up to. Damien, I think, is having quite an interesting time of things at
present. 

 

You’ve said you may
have said all you had to say musically. But doesn’t an inner folkie lurk within
you? The idea of acoustic Rollins music isn’t so far-fetched; you have plenty
to say, and it’d be an entirely new context.

Thanks for the interest. If only I thought lyrically. I don’t
any more. The song is no longer a form that I have anything for. If you asked
me to write a song right now, I would be unable, unless I did it mechanically –
that is to say, make words rhyme when they should, if they should, et cetera.
But is there anything on my mind I want to put into a song? No. I just don’t
think in that way any more. That’s why I stopped doing music. I didn’t want to
fake it and I didn’t want to be onstage singing ancient music. That, to me, is
almost cheating. It is resting on your laurels artistically. I can’t do that. I
would rather go forward and fail than live in the past and rely on what I did
many years ago. That’s not facing the facts enough for me. 

 

 

Fight the power:
Rollins tour dates are at his official website.

 

 

[Photo Credit: Heidi May]

THE A.G. (AVANT GUARDIAN) OF TV Ernie Kovacs

A crazy-quilt of
skits, musical numbers, audience participation and general kookiness – that was
brainy, brash television pioneer Kovacs in a nutshell.

 

BY MICHAEL BERICK

 

Ernie Kovacs. The name might not ring bells with today’s
audiences as he has been dead for 50 years, but anyone who has watched modern
sketch comedies or late night talk shows has seen the influence that Kovacs had
on today’s comedians. As Letterman co-creator Merrill Markoe mentions during a Museum of Broadcasting
Kovacs tribute – included in the new 3-DVD box The Ernie Kovacs Collection Volume 2 (Shout! Factory) that they studied tapes of old Kovacs shows before launching
Letterman’s morning, and later, late night, shows.

 

While his 1962 death in a car accident put a tragic, and
abrupt, end to Kovacs’ career, he
was a very busy man between 1950 (when he started out on Philadelphia TV) until
his death.  Shout! Factory’s 2010’s
acclaimed, 6-disc Ernie Kovacs Collection boxset did a great job chronicling his career. This follow-up set spotlights
Kovacs’ 1956 NBC morning show (that served as an obvious Letterman inspiration)
as well as his twisted game show Take A
Good Look
.

 

The Ernie Kovacs Show is unlike anything you’ll see on morning TV. This half-hour comedy program
plays more like the first half-hour of late night talk shows – it’s a
crazy-quilt of skits, musical numbers, audience participation and general
kookiness. Kovacs’ interest in satirizing television, even in its then-early
form, is in full force. He parodies interview segments (guests often don’t know
their own story), puppet shows (the oddball but hilarious “The Kapusta Kid In
Outer Space”), and game shows (The What’s
My Line
satire Take A Good Look makes more fun of the format than Groucho Marx’s You Bet Your Life). Even the standard “talk to the audience”
segments were far from standard in Kovacs’ hands. In one episode, he exchanges
places with the audiences – taking a seat in the audience bleachers while he
coercing audience members to go on stage and urging them to perform.

 

***

 

Watch clips from the
Kovacs colletion:

 

Clip One

 

Clip Two

 

Clip Three

 

Clip Four

 

Clip Five

 

 

***

 

Kovacs, with his trademark thick moustache and always-present
cigar, made fun of television as well as toying with its possibilities. His
sketches had premises involving “lost audio” and “crossed audio” (the latter
skit, in a rather absurdist/avant garde touch, made the wrong audio to the
visual image).  While it may seem simple
and primitive nowadays, Kovacs was doing this in the mid-Fifties when
straight-laced variety shows like the Ed Sullivan Show or Jack Benny Show were popular.

 

Kovacs also did all of his magic with rather low budgets,
which make these programs look like today’s cable access shows than a network
production. He used his micro-budget to his advantage, however. One reoccurring
comedy bit involved his reactions to just off-screen sound effects. His live
show’s wonderfully unpredictable quality is something mostly absent in today’s
more regimented television environment.

 

Kovacs fans will recognize many of his familiar characters,
like the effete poet Percy Dovetonsils, the Nairobi Trio and the now very
un-P.C. Charlie Chan take-off Charlie Clod. Fans will also recognize Kovacs’
wife Edie Adams (whose work here serves as a reminder on what a talented singer
and skilled comedienne she was) and Bill Wendell (who was Kovacs’ announcer and
actor, and later was Letterman’s announcer).

 

The third disc on this marvelous collection contains a
couple special rarities. One is the 1962 CBS pilot Medicine Man that Kovacs starred in with Buster Keaton as his
Indian sidekick. While it can’t be called a “lost classic,” the show has its
amusing moments, and makes one wonder what Kovacs and Keaton might have cooked
up if this had become a series. Also interesting is a rare, sit-down interview
Kovacs did for Canadian TV program. It reveals that Kovacs was more of a
cerebral comic thinker and a constant wisecracker. Watching both his morning
show and game show, viewers also get to see Kovacs’ gentler side, where he
displays crafts that viewers sent in or get embarrassed when Adams
talks about how great the show’s ratings have been.

 

This wildly entertaining DVD set continues to demonstrate
what a comic genius Kovacs was. The approximately 9 hours of material here
showcase Kovacs’ unique comic mind, which created such an innovative and
influential body of work and elevated him to a revered spot in American
television and comedy history.

 

 

 


 

CLEVO HEROES Rainy Day Saints

From
the Reactions and Death of Samantha to Cobra Verde and Guided by Voices,
musical savant Dave Swanson has rarely been idle. His current ensemble’s a
labor of love, too.

 

BY GREG BEETS

 

You don’t have to listen to the Rainy Day Saints for long to
surmise that their heady amalgam of psychedelia, garage punk, pure pop and
prog-rock is the product of astute music fandom. Multi-instrumentalist
bandleader Dave Swanson is quick to confirm it.

 

“I love many different styles,” Swanson says. “It’s like…
ABBA, Motörhead and Kraftwerk walk into a bar… that’s not a joke… that’s a great bar. There is something to be
learned from all genres.”

 

The Cleveland-based confederation’s fourth album, All
These Strange Ghosts
(Get Hip), is a rabbit hole of far-reaching influences
and strong songwriting. Though grounded in the garage, Swanson and company are
quick to bust out of the subgenre’s straightjacket. Lead track “Where Are You?”
opens on a fuzzed-out space rock pulse that wouldn’t be out of place on a Can
album. Then Marianne Friend’s saxophone blasts forth from out of nowhere. It’s
the last thing you’re expecting to hear, which makes it all the more powerful.

 

“I think sax can be misused for sure, when it’s made all
glossy and smarmy sounding, but Marianne has a real attack to her style, which
suits us perfectly,” Swanson says. “It’s all about Hawkwind or Roxy Music as a
reference point, as opposed to, say, Springsteen or Steely Dan.”

 

 


Rainy Day Saints – Memories by Radio Hannibal

 

 

 

From there, it’s onward to the flowery, folk-tinged lilt of
“Underneath the Dreamer’s Moon,” the straight-up garage growl of “Memories” and
the ghoulish, Bo Diddley beat of the title track. Menagerie is the operative term here.

 

“I think the whole ‘garage’ thing got lame sometime in the
‘90s when it adopted this generic,
moronic bonehead vibe, what I call the ‘Crypt’
mentality,” Swanson asserts. “That whole idea that the only good music was made
between 1956 and 1966 and then again in 1977. Boring!”

 

If Swanson sounds eager to tweak with expectations, perhaps
it’s because he’s been doing this awhile. Growing up in the Cleveland suburb of Lakewood, Ohio
during the ‘60s and ‘70s, he first connected with rock music by watching the
Monkees on TV. For further confirmation of his continued fealty to the Pre-Fab
Four, consider the lyrical reference to “Shades of Gray” on “Where I Stand” and
the fact that Swanson’s calls his home recording lair Circle Sky Studio.

 

“I have been a Monkees fan since I was four years old and
yes, still very much am,” Swanson says. “I bought all the records when they
were new, watched all the TV shows and allowed them to warp my existence. As
far as a favorite album, Headquarters was always my favorite, even as a
kid. There were no hits on it, but there was just something about it. As a kid,
I was always fascinated by the pictures of them in the studio on the back
cover.”  

 

Swanson’s first crack at Midwestern rock prominence came in
the early ‘80s as drummer for the Reactions. He describes the punk-infused
power pop trio as a cross between the Jam and Agent Orange. In 1985, the
Reactions released two singles on St. Valentine, a label Swanson co-founded
with Death of Samantha vocalist John Petkovic. One of these singles made it to Pittsburgh, where it came to the attention of Cynics
guitarist and Get Hip Recordings owner Gregg Kostelich. Kostelich raved about
the Reactions, Swanson got the Cynics a gig in Cleveland,
and a lifelong friendship was born. Get Hip has since released all four Rainy
Day Saints albums.

 

“I occasionally fill in as the Cynics drummer when I get the
call for rock and roll duty!” Swanson says. “I love that band.”  

 

The Reactions disbanded not long after Homestead released their 1986 EP, Cracked Marbles,
but bassist Brian P. McCafferty would ultimately rejoin Swanson in the Rainy
Day Saints. Swanson then started drumming for the New Salem Witch Hunters, who
became Cleveland’s foremost
purveyors of psychotronic garage noise.

 

Concurrently, he played bass alongside Petkovic in Death of
Samantha from 1986 through 1990. Releasing three albums on Homestead, the band amassed underground acclaim and
college airplay with their jagged, Pere Ubu-inspired post-punk. They even
placed a song (“Coca-Cola & Licorice”) on 2000’s unlikely K-Tel
retrospective compilation, Gimme Indie Rock.

 

Not long after Death of Samantha split in 1990, Swanson,
Petkovic and guitarist Doug Gillard regrouped in Cobra Verde. Swanson moved
back to drums and future Rainy Day Saints co-producer/utility man Don Depew
took over on bass.

 

Cobra Verde’s artful mix of avant noise and punk venom fit
nicely alongside contemporary fellow Ohioans like Brainiac and Guided by
Voices. Swanson left the band in the late ‘90s, but not before Cobra Verde was
drafted en masse into GBV to back Robert Pollard from 1996 through 1997.
That’s them on Mag Earwig!                

 

“Doing the whole GBV thing was great fun all in all,”
Swanson says.

 

After leaving Cobra Verde, Swanson was ready to do his own
thing. He doesn’t remember the exact origin of “Rainy Day Saints” as a moniker,
but it came about on the eve of his ostensible 2003 “solo” debut, Saturday’s
Haze
.

 

“At the time, I thought I just didn’t want to put out a
record under my name. I thought it would be better to give it a band name of
sorts, even though for the most part, it’s just me on that album.”

 

The psych-pop overtones of Saturday’s Haze were
augmented by West Coast jangle on 2006’s Diamond
Star Highway
, which also features a slowed-down but
highly effective hometown hero cover of “Sonic Reducer” by the Dead Boys. All
These Strange Ghosts
picks up the tasteful covers motif with a revved-up
version of the Teardrop Explodes’ “Reward.”

 

“I replaced the use of horns with more guitars and made it a
more straight ahead, harder rock kind of thing,” Swanson says. “I think it
works that way. I don’t see the point of doing a cover if you are just doing it
by numbers. You’ve got to make it your own.”

 

Swanson’s penchant for late ‘60s/early ‘70s prog-rock became
more pronounced on 2009’s Reflected. Despite coming of age in the
post-punk era, he never had much use for the reactionary rejection of anything
over three minutes.

 

“Even during the punk era, I hung onto my Genesis, Yes and
King Crimson records, which I still love,” he explains. “I think it (prog-rock)
got a bad rap over the years, somewhat deservedly so when you bring up the more
overblown nonsense, but a lot of it had a real magic to it. Bands were testing
the limits of what they could do. Genesis wrote great songs, some of them
happened to be 22 minutes long, but I don’t see that as pretentious, I see it
as adventurous. Crimson and Van Der Graaf Generator were as aggressive as you
can get and made some of the most incredible music ever.”

 

Although Swanson still writes the songs and does the bulk of
recording on his own, the Rainy Day Saints are very much a band now. Friend,
McCafferty, lead guitarist Keith Pickering and drummer Scott Pickering have
been playing alongside Swanson since Diamond Star Highway. With
potential Next Big Thingdom now a thing of the past, the focus is squarely on
enjoying the ride. 

 

“We are all coming from the, shall we say,
music-from-the-elders role of things,” Swanson says. “We’ve all been around the
block…or two…and still love doing music. That’s what keeps it going. Boring
perhaps, but it’s true. If we were still doing this thinking fame and fortune
was around the next corner, we should have our heads examined. There is no
fame, and there certainly is no fortune!”

 

 

[Photo
Credit: Joe Friend. Below, listen to a radio special featuring Dave Swanson,
from the WQ4D internet station, the “Outsight Radio Hours” hosted by DJ Tom
Schulte]

 

 


Outsight Radio Hours: Rainy Day Saints by WQ4DRadio

FITS AND STARTS Divine Fits

More than a bromance,
and more than a love story, too: the reluctant supergroup launches a debut that
lives up to the hype.

 

BY ALLI MARSHALL

 

Divine Fits – the indie rock trifecta of Spoon
vocalist/guitarist Britt Daniel, Wolf Parade/Handsome Furs vocalist/guitarist
Dan Boeckner and New Bomb Turks drummer Sam Brown (with Alex Fischel, from
Papa, added more recently on keys) – is a far cry from a bunch of upstarts. The
term “supergroup” has been tossed around, though Divine Fits can take it or
leave it. “There are worse names to be called,” says Daniel.

 

            Really, the
band is less about an industry dream lineup and more about a bromance. “With
Dan, I was such a fan of his voice and his records and what he’s like onstage,”
says Daniel. The two started out by trading tracks, and then they holed up in
Daniel’s L.A. home (Canadian-born Boeckner lives in the same town) to write
songs.

 

            There’s an
immediacy to the band’s debut, A Thing
called Divine Fits
(released at the end of August on Merge), that suggests
a passion project long in the works – though Daniel insists that wasn’t the
case.

 

            “I think
the furthest I got was thinking, ‘I’d love to be in a band with Dan.’ When he
said one of his bands was winding down, it immediately became a thing that
could be a reality.” Quickly, Boeckner and Daniel realized that, though they’re
very different musicians, they’re a well-matched songwriting team.

 

            The songs
marry Daniel’s bombastic rocker inclinations with Boeckner’s swagger and
emotion with an itchy, staticy, adrenaline-fueled urgency from start to finish.
“Baby Get Worse” (written by Boeckner) is a feverish distillation of ‘80s-era
synths, kick drum pummel and real-time anguish.

 

            The angst
and dark romance that runs like a thread throughout the album were likely born,
at least in part, from Boeckner’s frame of mind. “I had kind of a rough eight
months, emotionally, while we were recording,” he says. (During that time he
announced that Handsome Furs, his project with his wife, was calling it quits.)
“I did have a couple of songs that were kicking around and then I kind of
scrapped them without ever bringing them to Britt. I felt like anything I was
writing, if it was going it to be honest, it had to come from that place.”

 

            Boeckner’s
“For Your Heart” is a raw howl against a velvety backdrop of synths and murky
guitars. But Daniel’s hand-clappy, jittery “Flaggin a Ride” also thumps and
creeps as his voice hits that signature ragged edge.

 

 

            Daniel
isn’t as forthcoming about his emotional state during the writing and recording
process (though, just as Boeckner started fresh with his material, Daniel says
that none of the songs he contributed
to A Thing called Divine Fits were
written for or during the last Spoon album). But songs like “Neopolitans” – a
lushly-layered, slow burn at the end of the 11-track album – are both
experimental and fully-realized. That particular offering crackles with coiled
energy, Daniel’s voice a husky rasp.

 

            “Unless you
get really lucky, and sometimes you do, it’s never easy to write really good
songs,” says Daniel. Perhaps surprising: “My only design for the band at all
was to be in a band where I wasn’t the only guy writing and singing,” Daniel
says. That sounds like a lot of relinquishing of control for someone who has
held down the front man role for two decades: “Maybe it wouldn’t have worked if
it wasn’t with someone as great as Dan,” he admits.

 

             Daniel goes on to point out that, because the
lineup includes people on his wavelength, getting Divine Fits off the grounds
has been a lot easier than starting out with Spoon back in the early ‘90s.

 

            Brown came
into the group when Daniel described his ideal drummer to Spoon producer Mike
McCarthy, who immediately recommended the New Bomb Turks percussionist. “I
already kind of knew the guys I was getting together with would be great,” says
Daniel.

 

            One thing
about putting together a supergroup (whether or not it’s called that) is the
immediate sense of trust, both from the audience and among the musicians.
Daniel says that, because everyone involved has put out records and done a lot
of touring, “We know what we’re doing and people are kind of interested in what
we do, which is a fortunate position to be in.”

 

            This is how
interested people are: “There’s a band website that basically ripped audio from
different YouTube performances, matched the lyrics with the track listing that
was available on the internet and cobbled together a live album,” says
Boeckner. “That people care that much – who wouldn’t feel good about that?”

 

             “It’s just all fallen together, really,” he
continues. “And when things fall together, it’s the best way. It’s the most
natural way.”

 

            For Divine
Fits, the natural way was sort of backwards. First they recorded their album,
and then, along with making their introduction to the world, the band announced
a tour. The first handful of shows included home turf appearances (Austin,
Texas for Daniel; Montreal, Quebec for Boeckner; and Columbus, Ohio for Brown)
plus Chicago, Illinois for Lollapalooza and the Twilight Concert Series in Salt
Lake City, Utah. For a band that had yet to release more than a single (the
twitchy, flirty, fuzzed-out, “My Love Is Real”), they were, just out of the
gate, playing both to rooms of 300 and festival crowds of 25,000.

 

            “What kid
who ever picked up a guitar or a keyboard or a sampler never dreamt of playing
in front of a lot of people outside?” Boeckner says. “It makes me happy. It’s
nerve wracking, but it’s good.”

 

            He adds, “To
be totally honest, I don’t think you can replace the feeling of playing in a
small, packed, sweaty club. I think that’s something totally special. That
venue kind of has the advantage to me.”

 

            Both Wolf
Parade and Spoon grew beyond 300-cap venues a long time ago, but Daniel agrees
with Boeckner: “It’s so much easier for us to get feedback from the audience,
and for us to hear ourselves in a way that feels great, and for the audience to
feel like it’s an intimate experience,” he says. “It’s always going to be
better playing smaller shows.”

 

            That’s the
way this band likes it. And Divine Fits is all about doing what makes them
happy. Which is why this is more than a bromance. More than a love story. It’s
full-blown love at first sight: a hot, heady whirlwind that’s shaping up to be
the real thing. Early concert reviews have been positive and what was,
initially, just a handful of shows has already expanded across the country and
well into the fall. And the band is only just hitting its stride.

 

            Says
Boeckner, “I’ve been able to do stuff – aesthetics, sounds and structures –
that wouldn’t have worked with either of the other bands I was in. It feels
good, especially, to be on stage and flex those muscles.”

 

 

Divine Fits are
currently on a U.S. tour – which includes a stop at Moogfest this coming
weekend – and you can view the itinerary at their official website.

 

 

[Photo Credit: Pamela Littky]

SEERS OF DESTINY Swans

Founder
Michael Gira goes up the country and emerges with his most vital,
uncompromising Swans vision ever.

 

BY RON HART

 

“New York City has lost
its romance for me a long time ago,” explains Lower East Side industrial
music titan Michael Gira, fearless leader of the recently resurrected Swans,
from the comfort of his property near Woodstock
in beautiful Ulster County, a hair under 90 minutes away from the Alphabet City digs from where he walked away.
“I was happy to leave, cuz I’d been there for a long time and I started to
feel like a trapped rat, so I’m glad to be gone. I can’t even go to my old
neighborhood anymore; it’s just so noisy and tourist-y and full of drunk jocks
at night.”

 

But while the current state of post-gentrification Lower
Manhattan is indeed sickening enough to drive any sane man towards the
Shawangunk Mountains, as a matter of fact, one of the key songs from Swans’
mesmerizing new double-LP The Seer is named after his old address – that
being “93 Ave. B Blues,” though he admits no kinship between the two
besides their shared name.

“It was a title that just came out of the air,” he explains. “It
was an improvisational thing that we started doing live on the last tour as an
encore, and then we would just stop it abruptly
and go into an a capella version of “Little Mouth” from the previous
album (2010’s My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky) and we just
kept the improvisation and put it on
[The Seer]. It was a real vague effort to do [a version] of ‘L.A.
Blues,’ one of my favorite Stooges songs.”

 

Yet while he does enjoy the ruralism of his new upstate
digs, don’t expect to catch Gira at your neighborhood watering hole any time
soon. There might be a rare sighting of him at Rhino Records in downtown New
Paltz combing through the classical racks if you’re lucky, however.

 

“The guy there, Rick, he steered me towards Mozart’s
Requiem,” he recalls. “That’s a great store. And they’re thriving,
which is unusual.”

Just don’t expect to catch him perusing the new release shelf of Rhino nor
Jack’s Rhythms across the street anytime soon. While he does cite such modern
acts as Lykke Li, The Knife, Cold Specks and Liturgy amongst the music he’s
been digging lately, Gira isn’t much for keeping up with the sonic Joneses
these days.

 

“I don’t have the mental capacity to listen to a lot of
contemporary music because I started getting involved in it in my mind
critically and it’s just a diversion,” he explains. “Right now I
spend so much time on what I’m doin’. Any music I listen to has to be from
another era or something, like when Nina Simone comes on the radio, or even Led
Zeppelin.”

 

Wait… Led Zeppelin, you say? Hard to imagine a man who’s
created music so heavy it was known to cause instances of vomiting in the
audiences of early Swans concerts to be such a big fan of the English hard rock
titans. But Gira, who cites Houses of the
Holy
as his favorite Zep LP, speaks as passionately about them as he would
early experimental composer La Monte Young.

 

“Jimmy Page is just the utmost in rock-god-dom,”
Gira gushes. “He’s such a lyrical, beautiful guitar player. People that
have tried to imitate Zeppelin later in those horrible bands missed the point
entirely, because his guitar playing is incredibly melodic, it’s like stinging.
He’s so connected to his instrument, it’s like he doesn’t have to look at it.
His work as a producer is just out of this world as well. The Lucifer Rising soundtrack is just
phenomenal.”

 

He’s also into Pink Floyd as well, having recently name-checked
their avant-psych masterpiece Ummagumma in
an interview with Pitchfork.

 

“It’s the one that has a resonance for me, because I saw
that version of Pink Floyd as a kid,” Gira reveals. “I was a runaway
kid in Europe and I saw them at a festival with the Art Ensemble of Chicago,
Yes, The Pretty Things, The Nice and a few others, I don’t remember the name of
it, in Belgium
back in 1969. I was fifteen. It was free somehow and I was traveling with some
older hippies and I just went along for the ride with the aid of various
substances.”

 

***

 

But to digress: when Gira does leave his land, he is
generally holed up in Marcata Studio, the white hot destination recording space
in nearby Gardiner run by engineer extraordinaire Kevin McMahon.

 

“I pretty much stay in the studio and sleep in the
studio and work until I drop and then the engineer drives home and comes back
and I just stay there,” he muses. “I’m just kind of a troll that’s
inhabiting the studio for a series of four months.”

 

Like Rope before it, Marcata was where he conspired
the massive Seer, considered by the artist himself as “the
culmination of every previous Swans album as well as any other music I’ve ever
made, been involved in or imagined.” And to see this
30-years-in-the-making vision through, the 58-year-old Los Angeles native
reached out to a bevy of friends, lovers, apprentices and collaborators for
assistance, including Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker of Low, longtime Swans muse
Jarboe, Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, violinist Eszter Balint, former
Ministry/KMFDM/R.E.M. drummer Bill Rieflin and members of Akron/Family to name
just a few.  Yet while he is more than
happy to work with an army of pals on his own creations, Gira believes his days
as a sort of Dumbledore of drone for new generations of young underground
upstarts are behind him, though memories of nurturing the likes of freak-folk
icon Devendra Banhart linger fondly in his psyche.

 

“It was a great experience helping younger people to
find their way in this perilous enterprise of the music business,” he
recalls. “Working with Devendra was really a magical experience. It was
one of the best musical experiences I ever had. He was such a luminous genius
at the time, just a kid, too. It was a very tense relationship right away,
because I subconsciously assumed this father figure thing where I was telling
him what to do. And naturally he rebelled, which was cool. And we got some good
music out of it and hopefully I showed him how to navigate his way. I remember
when we first met he didn’t even know what a monitor was. He was playing live
and I said to him, ‘Devendra if you put the microphone too close to that
monitor it’s gonna feed back’ and he said, ‘What’s a monitor?'”(laughs)

As Gira winds up for Swans’ upcoming return to the road in the coming months [subsequent to this interview the band
embarked on an extensive North American tour that is still in progress; view
itinerary here
], he promises that
such Seer sirens as the aforementioned “Blues” and the 23
minute drone epic “The Apostate” will continue to expand and evolve
in the live setting. 

 

 

the apostate (edit) from Marco Porsia on Vimeo.

 

 

“A lot of the stuff just came from working, from playing,” he states.
“It’s not really about improvisation, it’s more about being able to
subsume yourself in the sound and let it take you someplace. I always want
things to be changing, to be sort of on the edge of the cliff.

 

“It will be a rather interesting concert; we’ll see if we
survive.”

 

 

[Photo Credit: Jennifer Church]

 

 


Swans – ‘The Seer’ by selftitledmag

PEELING BACK LAYERS Todd Gautreau

The Sonogram/Crushed
Stars/Tear Ceremony musician stares at his arm for a really long time. The
music world’s the better for it.

 

BY MARY LEARY

 

Why does “The Knack and How to Get It” feel so good? Is it
the way the track’s energy mounts, then resolves? The key the song’s in? Some
sort of subliminal trickery?

 

Had I anything like definitive answers to those questions, I
might be able to give Todd Gautreau a run for the modest pile of dollars he
says he accumulates for electronically-informed sound creation. Gautreau’s work
(as Sonogram or as the somewhat more pop-oriented Crushed Stars – his earlier
project was Tear Ceremony) tends to build and inhabit a precariously-maintained
universe. It’s a place where intellectual stimulation meets spiritual and/or
emotional solace. The world created through Sonogram, in particular, is not one
given to easy or simplistic answers.

Still, the gateway provided by Apparent
Microdots: An Introduction to Sonogram
, reaffirms something I’ve felt about
Gautreau all along – that his love of lyricism at least equals his entrancement
with digital possibilities. A heart beats clearly through nearly everything he
does. It’s part of what makes Sonogram recommended listening for connoisseurs
of fine melodies, immersive textures, and masterful electronica – with this
disclaimer: once submerged in Gautreau’s addicting world, it can be hard to
disengage.

 

Among this two-CD set’s revelations is a marvel of  jazzy atmospherics, “Mute Pixel,” and a
bright percolator called “Blinker and Star” (both originally on Pixels). Gautreau’s dry humor is evident
on the latter and in “Mood Ring,” from Arrival
Lounge
. Others, such as the Tear Ceremony track “Sleep in the Eyes,” elicit
giggles simply through consideration of their names next to the sounds that
follow.  I’m thoroughly absorbed by the
title track from Heartbeat Submarines,
which commences with a woman’s sensual murmurs, gives a little nod to the
Beatles’ “Revolution 9,” and peels back layers varied and thick enough to
fascinate a Jungian psychologist.

 

For anyone who likes to cook up a few mushrooms or brownies
before donning headphones, tracks such as “Departure Lounge” aren’t just
whistling “Dixie.” Taken from the album of the
same name, the first few bars (well-spaced, funky keyboards with opening trills
signaling tension) of “Arrival Lounge” could shadow a ‘70s Blaxploitation flick
sequence. Gradually, other sounds join or replace the basic motif.
Higher-pitched notes convey motion – then, a few minutes further in, imply the
passage of bodies, or aircraft, that then trail away. Hints of emotion are
overcome by a sort of sterile abstraction.

Life can be full of irony. I have a lot of questions for and about Todd
Gautreau’s work – too many, really, for the stilted, almost tentative interview
I can only do, at the moment, through machines.

 

Sonogram: “Soul
Brother”

 

 

 

 

 

 

BLURT:  Why are you putting Apparent Microdots: An Introduction to Sonogram out now?
TODD GAUTREAU: There are a number of reasons, really. The unexpected success of
“Soul Brother,” and “Anise Gumdrops,” from last year’s Cubists, brought a number of new fans who hadn’t heard the five
earlier records. Since a couple of those are out of print or generally hard to
find, I thought it would be a good time to assemble a collection to make it easier
to navigate the back catalog. I also have a much better studio than I did in
the early days, so many of the tracks were remixed. And everything was
remastered for better sound quality.

 

How did you choose
the tracks for the anthology?

I wanted to include not only the best-known, but also some
of the more obscure/ambient stuff, which is why we had to do two discs. I
wanted to show the more experimental side of Sonogram to those who only know
the more beat-oriented tracks. Some songs are there because I felt they really
deserved another chance to be heard. A few others were included mainly because
people will expect them to be. And there are probably lots of Crushed Stars
fans who are still unaware of Sonogram – another reason to put out this compilation.

        Since there
probably won’t be a Tear Ceremony anthology, I thought it would interesting to
include a couple of TC tracks – either to confuse people or provide a bread
crumb to lead them to the Tear Ceremony records. “Sleep in the Eyes” and “Brill Building,
4 AM” are two of my favorite TC tracks. “Sleep in the Eyes” was actually one of
the first things I ever recorded on four-track, many years ago. I think it’s
just two guitars and a delay pedal, because that’s about all I had at the time,
but it creates a nice, otherworldly atmosphere with very little.

Which tracks deserve another chance to
be heard, and why?

I think “Mute Pixel” was one that needed another chance – that’s one of my
favorites. Also, “The Knack and How to Get It” –  this mix features a new piano part. Another
would be the cover of “Someone to Watch Over Me,” which is the only
Sonogram track to ever feature a vocal. I thought that one had a lot of potential.
It came about when an agent alerted me to an opportunity for a Mad Men remix project. We were given a
list of songs to choose from and this was the one that I thought I could do the
most with. I had never done a remix before, and generally don’t like them, so
it was a challenge. But I thought the results were interesting. The song made
it to the final cut, but apparently the project lost its funding. Since I could
no longer use any elements of the original recording, I stripped those out,
leaving just my own instrumentation, and had a new vocalist sing it; turning it
into a cover.

Why are you especially fond of “Mute
Pixel” and your other favorites?

“Mute Pixel” was approached differently from the way I
usually work. It combined elements from a number of different sources and I
thought the result was surprisingly cohesive. It starts rather ambient, then
goes to a jazz drum beat – then, later, the drums get glitchy and keep things
interesting. I think it’s one of the longest Sonogram tracks, as well.

        My favorites
tend to change depending on my mood. “Certainly Obscured” is a favorite. It’s a
track I barely remember composing. When I played it back a few days later I had
no memory of working on it or where it had come from. I only remembered playing
the synth line. So it’s nice when these mysterious things happen. “This Place
Has No Memories” is an early track which has always resonated deeply for some
reason. Sometimes the simplest tracks are the most effective. Other tracks,
like “Soul Brother,” I like because they were more challenging to create, and
took me out of my comfort zone.

 

Re: “having no
memory of working on it or where it came from,” do you tend to pull long
shifts, and/or end up working into the wee hours?

I used to work late into the evening, for eight hours or so. Lately, I tend to
work earlier in the evening, and for shorter periods – maybe four hours. But I
think “Certainly Obscured” must have come about when I took a break from
working on another piece. Sometimes when I am looking for sounds for one track
I will stumble upon a new melody and record a brief portion to come back to
later.

 

Do you work best on
coffee, alcohol, herbal substances, or some combination?

I usually work with nothing – maybe a little coffee
beforehand. Then, if things are going well, I forget to eat –  but usually drink afterwards. I don’t think I
have ever recorded under the influence of anything, although that can influence
the writing.

What about your location (Dallas, Texas)
adds or doesn’t add to your artistic process?

I used to think a different location would have its advantages, but now I don’t
think it’s as relevant. I stay in most of the time now anyway, so I don’t get
exposed to many local influences, but I don’t really need much in the way of
outside stimulus. Just being in the studio is all I need to come up with
something.

 

Do you go out and see
live music? If so, what have you seen in the last year or so that you’ve liked?

I only see a couple of shows a year, usually a road show. The last one was
Joseph Arthur. It was really impressive the way he worked with loops alone on
stage.

What are you listening to lately, in
terms of music by others? And of those, do you think any are going to stand the
test of time?

I find it harder finding new things I am interested in. I think Daughn Gibson
is very interesting and original. But some of the younger bands I listen to I
recognize are very derivative, so, no, I don’t think those will stand the test
of time. Lately I have been listening to the obscure R&B of the Numero
label, which is totally unrelated to my own work. Most of what I buy is stuff I
missed earlier, like Can, Kevin Ayers, Felt, Dave Kusworth, Dusty Springfield,
Neu… just filling in the gaps of my record collection with records that used to
be difficult to find but which, of course, you can now download.

 

Do you have other
creative interests or pursuits? Do you feel that they affect the sounds you
make?

My degree is in literature, so I read a lot for inspiration.
But it all manifests itself in music. And I’ve done a few Crushed Stars videos,
which are fun, but I have limited skills and resources to pursue that much
further. Sometimes the world of a book or a film will provide a grain of
inspiration. Jean Cocteau and the films of Ingmar Bergman were a big influence
early on, but I have probably exhausted that influence by now.

 

How did you determine
track placement for the anthology?

I deliberated quite a bit on that. The temptation was to do
it chronologically, but that would have put the stronger, more recent material
last – and people have short attention spans these days. So the first disc
pulls heavily from the last two records (Cubists and Pixels), and tends to be more
upbeat. Disc Two delves further into the back catalog. It is almost a backwards
chronology, but there are exceptions to keep things interesting. And sometimes
a song will make it onto a record to balance it out. “Anise Gumdrops” is an
example. I felt Cubists just needed a
little lift towards the end, so that track served that purpose. Ironically, it
was the track that got the most airplay. For the compilation, it was more
important to provide a broad overview, showing an overall trajectory over a
span of time. So it was like working with larger blocks.

 

When you mention
listeners who’re new to your work, you’re talking about satellite radio, yes?

Satellite radio has been the most influential. Sirius XM
airplay has brought Sonogram more exposure than anything else has.

 

Which music has been
getting the most airplay?

“Soul Brother” and “Anise Gumdrops” from Cubists have received the most airplay.
From the previous record, Pixels,
it’s been “Beatnik” and “Wayfare.”

 

While airplay helps
get your work out, do you notice it contributing to sales?

It influences sales slightly, but not nearly as much as one might think. It
hasn’t led to a significant increase in record sales, but it certainly has
brought a new level of awareness. And those royalties will make the cost of the
next couple of records easier to absorb. Sonogram doesn’t get as much press as
Crushed Stars, but record sales are comparable. The iTunes generation tends to
cherry-pick, buying the songs they are familiar with instead of experiencing
the entire album as a whole. It’s unfortunate for the album as an art form, but
it is how most people experience music now.

 

Have any of the
tracks for which you wanted more exposure turned out to be radio hits?

The more beat-oriented ones seem to get the most airplay. And I tend to be more
partial to the moodier ones, which don’t get as much airplay. But there are
also radio-friendly tracks, like “The Knack and How to Get It,” and
“Lift,” that I expected would get more airplay and did not.

 

Is new Sonogram
material in the offing?

There is a new Sonogram, which is pretty much finished – it
just needs to be mixed. The plan was to put the compilation out earlier this
year, and the new one, later this year. The compilation took a little longer
than planned so the new one will probably be out around March. It’s on its
third working title, which is currently “How We Saw Tomorrow,” loosely based on
the concept of how we once imagined the future would be versus how things have
turned out. There are fewer beats and more textures. It’s a very
organic-sounding record, with fewer synths, and more low frequency loops
including some field recordings. The percussion is glitchier, or just a minimal
pulse instead of a drum machine or drum loops. I’m excited about it. I think
it’s a leap forward.

 

Anything else you’d
like to tell BLURT’s readers?

I will start working on the next Crushed Stars record early next year. As most
people know, it is a difficult time for small labels and indie artists. We have
taken quite a hit from people streaming music instead of purchasing it. The
revenue from streaming is virtually non-existent, so we keep our records
off  Spotify. I encourage people to limit
their reliance on streaming and YouTube and to support the indie artists they
listen to by actually buying their music. It can literally determine whether
some artists will be able to afford to make their next record.

 

I have one more
question. As a former fan of 
hallucinogenics, I could probably answer “What are microdots?” myself.
And “apparent microdots” has a nice assonance. But what are they, to you? And
why did you choose that name, one that you apparently liked enough to use for
both the original album of that name and the anthology?

Your first guess is correct. I also like it because it has other meanings. For me,
it implies a number of pieces coming together in unison, like this compilation. But it
also reminds me of this thing I used to do as a kid where I would push my eyes
against my forearm really hard until all I could see was gray, then slowly
these tiny colored dots would appear as I became dizzy.
Plus I just liked the way the words sounded – and it lent itself to a nice
graphic design concept.

 

 

Apparent Microdots: An
Introduction to Sonogram
was released on October 2, by Gautreau’s label,
Simulacra Records: www.simulacrarecords.com