Friday, December 2, 2016

A DOCUMENT OF THE MADMAN'S ACTIONS IN THE WILDERNESS

Somewhere this week I caught word that some oompa loompa had pulled the old flag debate out of the freezer and had stuck it in the microwave so I thought it was time to unleash Josie.
         Josie is a secondary character in this novel-or-novella-thing I've had going called DOO-DAH DAYS IN MAMMON. He's a schizophrenic homeless guy who complains to the narrator about having ridden around town on buses all day with a turd in him, only to be turned out of City Hall at 5 PM when he's trying to use their restroom. That, for Josie, defines Politics. Fun and laffs for the whole family ensue.
It was a crisp September morning---a Saturday---When Josie wandered into the square in front of City Hall and dropped his drawers in front of God and everybody.
“I’m gonna take a shit,” he roared.
There was immediate motion in the crowd, like the scrambling chaos of the Zapruder film. Mothers shielding children's eyes. Some of the more erudite men in the crowd, who still had composure, were heard to cry, “no! Please don't do that!”
Josie eyed them resolutely and they could see, as he squatted, that he meant this more than he had ever meant anything in his life. More than when he stood on Main Street screaming at the traffic, more than when he told me he had spent six days inside The Dog. Government to Josie was a cold, impersonal, arbitrarily meaningless control over his bowels and this was his ultimate act of defiance.
It was Josie's defining moment, and it became the defining (and in some cases, dividing) moment of everyone in town.
Josie strained for a moment and then the steaming cascade came forth.
“It had little bits of red and green in it,” cracked Othmar later, “it was festive. Kinda like an early Christmas present to the world.”
“There was nothing funny about it,” griped one Earth Mama, her voice trembling. “My children saw shit. My children saw shit. That's not what I wanted for them....that's not how I raised them!”
The event was forever referred to in the newspapers, with no small amount of derision, as “Satyrday”. Much of that reference hinged upon Josie’s unkempt appearance.
Presumably if he'd been clean-shaven and well-dressed, the whole incident might have been forgotten in a week. But it was Josie, crazed Josie, unwashed Josie, Josie who collected a crazy check, got his meds (on the occasions when he was on his meds) at Community Council, Josie who screamed at traffic on main street, Josie who frightened small children and (perhaps more importantly) their parents, Josie who was fragrant in the Summer, Josie who just didn't look good in anyone's Campaign Commercial.
“I was there,” shuddered the Pillar of the Community. “I mean, I was at the Farmer's Market, buying some fresh kale, and I was close enough to smell him. It goes to show....you know, we say the Public is Welcome, but then maybe most of us agree that we need to draw some lines in the sand when we talk about who the 'Public' consists of!”
The beatdown wasn't immediate, but it wasn't long in coming, either. Josie, unfortunately, had a way of hanging around and glorying in every small victory----which is what made it devolve from a victory to a debacle in a matter of minutes. It wasn't like the Rodney King beatdown---no one filmed it or went racing to his defense...first of all because Josie made them all feel uncomfortable, also because Josie smelled bad, he used a lot of foul language and a lot of women on hand felt like he might rape them.
“It was at the Farmer's Market,” cried Emily. “The Farmer's Market! I just don't feel safe anymore....”
Few could argue that justice was dispensed.
“I wasn't there, but I heard all about it,” said Joe the Republican. “That's a good use of the taxpayers' dollars! You don't mess with those police! These freaks think they can expose their dirty assholes and take a shit in front of everyone, including the kids----ah-aaahhhh....bad move!!! Let me tell ya something....I wish I'd have been there to kick that guy's ass myself! This guy's got long hair, right? This is the way we used to do 'em in Lowell! The guy's got this ponytail, right? And you grab him by the ponytail and you jerk his head back and you take turns grinding out cigarettes on his chin! Yeah! That's how we handled 'em in Lowell!”
Our new Mayor didn't miss a trick-----within two weeks, eighty-six separate ordinances were written and approved by the City Council....it was a victory for those who claimed his predecessor hadn't authored nearly enough ordinances....there were ordinances about decorum and conduct at the Farmer's Market---ordinances about maintaining the freshness of the kale and other vegetables, ordinances about bodily fluids, ordinances about how they should or should not be dispensed. No concessions were made about people riding the bus all day with a turd in them. There were ordinances about proper attire at the Farmer's Market and what that attire might or might not consist of. There were ordinances about mental stability and what the criterea for that would be at the Farmer's Market. There were ordinances regarding the definition of “Citizen”---who fit the definition and who didn't. Who was permitted to buy, sell, or even show up at the town square at any time, for any reason. There were endless ordinances about personhood----who qualified as a “Person” at the Framer's Market and who didn't. There were titanic legal fracases (with multiple lawyers present) over the definition of the word, “Is”.
The newspapers ran sprawling articles on Josie---who he was, how he came to the point he had, why he was in jail, a laundry list of past sins. I read all of this. He was a child genius, a math prodigy who'd been accepted to the University at age 13. He cracked in his senior year and spent five years in and out of the looney bin. Four suicide attempts, numerous incarcerations for disorderly conduct.
None of these articles were written with any degree of empathy, at least as far as I could see---it was all a case of “what kind of psychopaths the universities were opening themselves up to if they continued following this bleeding heart agenda”.
Lots of cautionary tales. You know, in mathematics, there are no absolutes----that will turn your children to crime and drugs.
Josie was raped five times in the county lockup; The third time he was held for sixteen hours----forced to drink urine, sodomized with a toothbrush and then forced to brush his teeth with said utensil. The fifth time he had all his teeth knocked out. A fellow prisoner was quoted as saying it would “help him give better head”. In the end he had his face kicked in and spent the final six weeks of his sentence in the hospital.
People shrugged, laughed and forgot the whole thing. Most of the new-agey liberal types said they hoped he had “learned the right lessons” from the experience. 

Copyright 2014 C.F. Roberts/2016 Molotov Editions 

THIS WEEK'S PLAYLIST:

HUSKER DU-"Zen Arcade"
PUBLIC IMAGE LTD.-"First Issue"
IRON MAIDEN-First album



Wednesday, November 16, 2016

(An) AMBULATORY DUST BOWL

We're bombing down Mission Avenue when the tarp flaps on the little truck in front of us, kicking up gusts of its chalky discharge on us. And doesn't it just bring light to the self-inflicted stigma of going around acting like we're the Joads or something?
“Wooo!” She howls, “welcome to the rolling dust cloud a-go-go!”
“Yeah, home of the mouthful of dirt,” I add. “Future home of Little Burning Man, wherein I will open the festival with a set by my impending side band, Half Chub!”
And yes, if my ongoing duties for the S.E. Apocalypse Krew and 90 Lb. Tumor ever allow, Half Chub will conquer Little Burning Man and other questionable events, as well. We're going to play a lot of covers. What's that one band----that pseudo-ska band with the guy who died? Santeria? No----Sublime. We're gonna do lots of Sublime covers-----mental, free-form fusion jazz versions of Sublime tunes. Them and Saccharine Trust. Probably more Saccharine Trust than Sublime. I actually don't like Sublime all that much.
Wait 'til you see us. Half Chub, man....we're phenomenal. If only we could play....
Later, in an unguarded moment, I'm asked what inspired me to name a band Half Chub.
“Whaddya think?!” I guffaw.
In the ensuing hours we ghost around the main drag like sad detectives trying to find the dividing line between Burning Man Corner (or The Littlest Drainbows, as I like to call them) and Crime TeamTM. We're still not sure where it is.
       Why's it every time someone finds a weird item around here, everyone thinks it belongs to me?

                                                               ##############

       On a more serious note, after a river of time, I have an art show happening:

        That's right-----first solo show ever, in Rogers. Been unable to get a single foot in the door in Fayetteville, but Benton County has always been pretty good to me. They're lookin' better and better to me these days...
      More when I get a sec.

THIS WEEK'S PLAYLIST:
GARY NUMAN-SPLINTER
THE REPLACEMENTS-TIM
THE REPLACEMENTS-HOOTENANY
HUSKER DU-NEW DAY RISING



Thursday, September 8, 2016

THREATS AND WARNINGS

After a month where I could barely get around to refilling my meds, breathing room is in sight. This past weekend I've talked a lot about having to “reconstruct meaning” for myself, which might sound a lot larger than it should. In short I'm having to re-teach myself to write and paint after being endlessly, relentlessly hampered for a while.
“Threats and Warnings” (new-ish one on cardboard) might not be the very LAST painting in the Apocalypse Series but it might be the last major one as I draw the whole thing to a close. Two series will continue----abstracts as part of a current series called “The Random” and a new series called “Hot Garbage”. The Purgatory and Apocalypse series were more based around symbolism and mythmaking----Hot Garbage will largely be figurative art (or my permutation thereof) for its own sake. All or most of the paintings in the series will be titled, “Hot Garbage”. Stay tuned. 

DISASSOCIATION AND THE APOCALYPSE

I've always glommed onto graffiti---I like the look of it---I like the coded history of layers of vandalistic scrawlings. One sure sign that I'm about done with the Ozark Experience is that the Army Corps of Engineers have done the dumbest thing on earth by fencing off the ruins of the hotel at Monte Ne...that, to me, was possibly the last holy or sacred place left in this region. Someone asked us a while ago what we found sacred about that place, and would we find it more sacred if preservationists fixed it up. My answer was more or less “no”. I like Coin Harvey's ruin for what it's become—--a hollowed-out hulk covered with the graffiti of the ages----a witchy mecca which we've celebrated in image and noise....



In the late 50s/early 60s you have this young hood who scrawls “Vic + Shelly” on those sodden walls....15 years later his disgrace of a longhaired son is partying at the same site and maybe he draws a pot leaf and/or some slogan on the wall......a few layers of vandalism have emerged since then---maybe he can see “Vic + Shelly”, maybe he can't. He has no idea that was left by his Dad, who he can't stand.....15 to 20 years down the road our stoner has cut his hair and moved on to a corporate job....his son, who's a wannabe gangsta, has now tagged the wall.....three generations of hooliganism in layers. Boggles the mind, huh?
Being autistic, I'm naturally riveted by this stuff and I can kind of get lost in it. Urban/public art enthralls me, but I have no head for it....these days if you gave me a couple of spraycans and said, “go!” I'd have no idea what to put on a wall or why.
These days, though, a part of my autism that's become more pronounced is just an increasing inability to fit my brain into any kind of linear communication----visual or non-visual. People talk like a bunch of goddamned chattering monkeys, I get tired of hearing them talk and I get tired of hearing myself talk and I just stop talking---don't even know what to say.
That level of disassociation fits pretty beautifully into the ethos of the Apocalypse, though. Mike McAdam and I developed this weird style of sloganeering, lexicon and cartoon art with the Apocalypse Krew---we had an identity forming even before we developed musically. It was an incoherent smear of smiley faces, frowney faces, suicidal dreg figures, recurring images and phrases that would dribble off from militant ravings to primal, screaming nonsense words that mostly were comprised of bunched-together, incompatible consonants. Sometimes I sqwzaaaazzztptgh. That still makes sense to me. It really made sense to me in my early-to-mid 20s when I went around in a state of constant angst and agitation and wanted to put my fist through everything.
That level of primal disassociation makes its way into much of the Apocalypse Series, and this painting as well. The heyday of my vandalism was probably as a teen or a young adult and most of it
  revolved around whatever bands I was listening to, which devolved into arguments (on the walls) about the merits of said bands. Pretty meat-and-potatoes. Basquiats, we were not. Banksy, we were not. We were not Banos, Iz the Wiz, Dondi or Lee.
Stylistically, that's the path I follow, here and elsewhere. As the painting is based around one of our songs, snippets of the song's lyrics appear, buried and obscured in layers and layers, as if some janitor keeps painting over the bad kids' etchings----the bad kids keep building a wall of written or drawn entropy as if to tell the hypothetical janitor, “nice try----paint again, Frank!” There is no concrete crystallization of the lyrical content in the space of the painting---just layers of obscured messages, none of which you'll ever get the entirety of. As we come to the surface, you'll see quotes from the Bible (that bit from Matthew about “render unto Caesar that which belongs to Caesar”) accompanied by the quote from Vonnegut's fictional “Messiah”, Bokonon (“pay no attention to Caesar. Caesar doesn't have the slightest idea what's really going on.”---words to live by!!!)----those are also obscured and marred. No thought completed. Or codified. Or anything.

It's a way of life. It's a way of life for more people than will probably admit to it.
MAKING IT WITCHY

Why use the Manson family as Icons?
Without condoning any of their crimes, the chaos of what they brought to the world is a deeply ingrained part of the geography of my youth. Think of them less as Icons or people to be admired---more as signposts. This is the kind of ride you're in for. It'll get ugly----it'll get bloody. There will be taboos----there will be loud, gibbering, scary madness.

Flashback to 1998 or so: My roommate and I are at a Rave. Mostly we're there to hawk our hallucinogenic videos to a DJ (which winds up being a fruitless endeavor) but we're also ripped and trying to have a good time. I had dreadlocks at the time-----some raver kid walks up to us and starts asking us, “are you peaceful hippies, or are you the other kind?” I think we were taken aback by the question----what the hell did that mean? We tried to assure him that we were “peaceful”----I don't know---maybe he was intimidated and thinking we were redneck bikers who were going to kick his ecstasy-gobbling ass. But a part of me kind of enjoys the fact that we might have been the “Other” kind of Hippie. And his worst nightmare.
At another time several of us went out on a Sunday (early evening) to a Chinese Buffet that we used to frequent back in the day....I think it was one of those lost weekends where we all got pretty blasted. We were probably all pretty bedraggled----again, I had the dreads, which were probably down to my knees by this time---one friend of mine was wearing a tie-dyed shirt, a pair of really gnarly sunglasses and a pentagram necklace---and no, I don't mean a pentacle----I mean A PENTAGRAM----upside down, evil, Satan, yadda yadda yadda. Stoner Metal bands like Queens of the Stone Age, Acid King, Fu Manchu and Monster Magnet were burgeoning at the time and it all kind of made sense to me.
The late church crowd was probably in effect (Sunday in the Ozarks, after all) but I'll tell you this: At least one table in our general vicinity cleared----they asked to be seated elsewhere. The population cleared FAST.
That turned me on.....it still kind of does, to be honest.
Our public access show, “The Abbey of the Lemur”, really played into the same impulse, of course. Dark Counterculture. Think the MC5 and the White Panthers----that was us. In the late 90s/early 2000s.
I was never a Peace, Love and Flowers guy. I mean, I am----ultimately that's what I want for everyone----flowers optional----but I've known people over the years who were of the school of “you can't get mad...anger is WRONG! Anger is BAD!” Thing about a lot of those people is, I watched them go crazy. BAD crazy. MEAN crazy. HARMFUL TO THOSE AROUND THEM crazy. And the most sanctimonious people I knew became the most horrible people I ever met.
Anger's fine....anger helps bring about justice. Anger is an energy. You want to be able to work past that anger and get yourself to a healthy, sane place....but anger, in and of itself, is a good thing to stay in touch with. Anger helps you get shit done. 
Anyway, the Apocalypse Series has about run its course. By the time our album comes out I probably will have moved past it to something new.....things will get different but the piss and vinegar remains.


THIS WEEK'S PLAYLIST:

ANTHRAX-Among the Living
PUBLIC IMAGE LIMITED-First Issue
PUBLIC IMAGE LIMITED-Second Edition/Metal Box
THE VELVET UNDERGROUND-White Light/White Heat

copyright 2016 Molotov Editions



Saturday, August 20, 2016

HELLO, UGLY---ANOTHER EXCERPT






Once again I'm working the screenplay for a film version of my first novel, HELLO, UGLY. This first pass at a new draft has been fruitful---I've gotten the damn thing's length down to somewhere in the “Star Wars” ballpark. As the drafting continues, I'm sure it'll get tighter, me being the chronic revisionist that I am.
One bit that won't make the cut is this nugget of dialogue between Jack and his Mom. And I love this scene, but for the screenplay, it's going 'bye-bye.


Serving me a tuna melt, my Mother says, “you look awful, Jack.” It's just the two of us for supper tonight. The old man's taking care of his own business. Dad's running away from his dead son. Daddy's little dead boy.
I mumble thanks to my Mother for the sandwich, Mrs. Congeniality who yelled at me from the window of a strange house and I start hating myself. Jesus Christ, I think, it was a dream, a dream, just a dream, but I'm scared and I don't feel too guilty for thinking that because deep down I know it really went down.
“What happened to you?” She asks. It's the tenth time she's asked me. She's asking again because I didn't say anything the other nine times. “How did your clothes get so dirty?”
“Fell,” I mutter. It's a lie, but hopefully it'll shut her up.
“Where did you fall?”
“School.”
“When?”
“On my way out. I was going to the, uh, the student parking lot.” I can't think. What do I want to say? Words are all jammed up in my throat.
“And...?”
“Uh....I don't know. I slipped on the wet grass and I fell down a slope. I landed in the mud.”
“Did anyone see you?”
“Yeah, sure. I guess lots of people saw me.”
“Well, did they help you?” She asks.
“No.”
“Why not?”
Shrugging my shoulders and reaching for the Pepsi bottle, “why should they? None of their business.”
“Well, Jack, I find it hard to believe that all those people saw you fall and none of them helped you.”
“Why?”
“I know if I saw anyone fall down the way you did, I'd help them,” she offers and I smile but I think she's lying. I mean, she's told me before that she was a member of the Varsity Club when she was in school and I know none of those people would ever pick me up if I fell. And then there's the whole dream thing where she shouted at me. Anyone who would do that wouldn't help me if I fell in a mud puddle. But I know it was just a dream. No, it wasn't. Yes, it was.
“Not everyone's like you, Mom,” I reassure her.
“Oh, well, Jack, come on! I don't think that everyone's that bad, do you?”
“Yes.”
“Oh, Jack.”
“You can ignore it if you want,” I tell her, “but people prove it to me every day.”
“Oh, Jack.”
Oh, Jack, oh, Jack. “Oh, Mom.”
“Pass the chips,” and I fork her over the bag of Ruffles.
“You know what Anne Frank said,” she informs me as she digs into the bag, “in the middle of the Holocaust, hiding from the Nazis, she said that she still believed people were basically good inside.”
“Anne Frank is a lampshade.”
“My God, Jack!”
“S'true!”
She pauses for a minute to rethink her strategy. “Zoe would have helped you,” she finally says.
“Yeah, well,” I deadpan and don't look at her. She's quiet for a minute and I think she's gotten the hint not to go there.
We sit in hair-trigger silence. Eating our sandwiches. Crunching our chips. Drinking our drinks. Thinking our fear.
She breaks the ice with a new subject. “Jack,” she says, “do you know a boy at your school named Billy Arsenault?”
I stop, mid-munch. “Who?”
“Billy Arsenault.”
Punch in the face, notebook over the head, oh, Jackie, Jackie, suck my left nut just once, “yeah, I know him.”
“Do you know his mother's in the hospital?”
Raising my eyebrows, “that right?”
“Yes,” she says with some kind of childlike concern eclipsing her face.
“What happened?”
“I guess she suffered a stroke. She was tending to the flowers in her garden and it started to rain. She was gathering up her gardening tools and then she clutched her head and fell down. She's in the hospital, now, and I hear she's in serious condition. They say she might not live through the night.”
“How did you find this out?"
“I was talking on the phone earlier with Shirley Eagen. You remember Shirley. She lives next door to the Arsenaults.”
“Huh.”
“Isn't that awful? Imagine how Billy must feel.”
I munch on my sandwich and I mull it over for a minute. The first thing I think of is my childhood. Going to the beach with Mom. Collecting seashells and getting a sunburn. Her rubbing ointment on my sore, red arms and back. Mom telling me stories, reading me books. Mom and Grandma taking me to movies. I wonder if Arsenault has a lot of memories like these. I bet he does. I bet this situation's rough on him. I try to imagine what it must be like, going through this kind of shit with his mother. I think and I think and I stare at the neglected bread crust on my plate.
“Good,” I say.


Copyright 1990 C.F. Roberts/2016 Molotov Editions

*****

I was contemplating the irony of this scene today---the story is about at its tipping point and the cheese is really sliding off Jack's cracker. He doesn't trust his mother, mostly due to delusional notions, but he enters into this debate with her about the ethics of helping people who've fallen into mud puddles and the fact is, this did not happen. He's lying through his teeth about the entire story. So who, here, is untrustworthy? Sadly, Jack himself isn't even sure what the truth is.

THIS WEEK'S PLAYLIST:

THE TUBES-Now
THE TUBES-Love Bomb
THE SCORPIONS-Fly to the Rainbow

Monday, August 8, 2016

DENTISTRY IN NEW KOWLOON

Snubby Schwartz says to me, “you got that twenty you owe Slick?”
Because it's Snubby and because his teeth are two rows of stainless steel hooks and slightly curved nails, it sounds more like, “wooat vat venny yo Vick?”
After a while you get used to it and you start adapting to Snubby-speak.
I fork over the twenty without a word. There's no better convincer in the world than to have Snubby standing there staring balefully at you like some hideous deep sea creature. But it's what makes him the best bill collector in New Kowloon----that winning smile.
He eyes the bill almost absentmindedly, half-whispering to himself, “Varevarevareware.....” He does this a lot---probably reveling in the fact that he's still capable of speech. “Varewareware.....” He recedes back into the teeming Friday night crowd.
He's a New Kowloon success story, Snubby is----he came here with dreams of anarchy and endless free trim, nothing but the shirt on his back and no marketable skills. One bad run-in with the Red Dragons and cheap New Kowloon dentistry did the rest.
Anyone's welcome to come in and mind their own business, of course----but when they settled here, the clarion call went up; New Kowloon needs doctors, scientist, civil engineers. Yes, in spite of all your dirtiest, most pessimistic hopes, anarchy needs doers. Cops. Psychologists. IT guys. Dentists.
Some have the good economical sense to play it cheap and work with what they have. They don't get to cush it in the upper strata of the city, but they get lots of customers, they get a loyal base and goddammit, they never go hungry. If they don't get paid in legal tender(or whatever passes for it----bitcoin? Hell Money?) then they're awash in dope, guns, pussy, dick, macaroni art or whateverthehell else you can use.
He's a libertarian hero, you know, like a bottomfeeding George Washington. There's a hierarchy of dentistry here in New Kowloon. See, if you were a Trust Fund Baby who rolled in here, you'd have it made. Can you get guns? Drugs? Women? A private army? You can probably get a nice set of pearly whites installed in your yammering craw. Snubby, for one, was not so lucky----all he came here with was a hope in his heart and a willingness to raise some hell.
It's not a pretty thing.
Some of us Americans grew up on tales of George Washington and his wooden teeth....the truth, sadly, was way past those fabled cherry trees and a whole lot else besides. Wooden teeth? Shit. Try nails, screws, chunks of plywood, monopoly game pieces, chunks of particle board from Ikea and even wads of paper. It was a septic hellhole that would scare the living piss out of a Komodo Dragon....that was the mouth of the Father of Our Country......
Father of my FORMER Country. When you hit New Kowloon you renounce citizenship everywhere. You're given the flag of the city and you're told you can pledge allegiance to it if you wish or desecrate it if you don't. It's no big deal.
But I digress.
Snubby's network of gnarled appliances aren't about to make anyone comfortable. It's a selling point for his services as a collector. I find myself wondering whether he ever gets any. As is a big edict in New Kowloon, my big inclination is MYOB. He's no fun to be around, but where there's a will in New Kowloon there's a way. Once he got the new oral setup and went to work for the big boys, the core members of the Red Dragons started turning up dead. The shadow of the Dragons that are left pretty much operate under some big dog's thumb, which was definitely not the case back in the day. Me, I turn a blind eye. MYOB. Something tells me whoever's buttering Snubby's bread , he's doing alright for himself.


      from DISPATCHES FROM NEW KOWLOON, a work in progress
copyright 2016 C.F. Roberts/ Molotov Editions 


THIS WEEK'S PLAYLIST:
THE BUTTHOLE SURFERS-Rembrandt Pussyhorse/Cream Corn
TYPE O NEGATIVE-Life is Killing Me
BUTTER 08-Self-Titled 

Thursday, July 28, 2016

THURSDAY

So outside the bug zapper is popping and snapping and naturally I'm thinking about ice cream. I guess it's what they call a “trigger” these days----not necessarily in a bad way...Dad always took us out for ice cream as kids, and hey, that was good.....
Bending down and picking up pieces of flotsam in the blue of the bug light.....what about you, you poor, brittle bastard? Did you used to be my tooth?
I know one of these sons of bitches must be...
Hard to see in the blue of the bug light. Every now and then there's a long crackle, things brighten up and something big is dying.....a moth or a mayfly or something....
I worked 15 years in the food industry....customers complained about the buglight then, too. Unsanitary, they said. Hey, you think the buglight's bad, maybe you oughtta see the flies.....
Snap. Crackle.
At least for tonight I give up on the tooth. I stumble around 'til my ass finds the chair.
That's middle American Dentistry, kids.....we lose our goddamned teeth. We lose a lot of things.
Unsanitary, shit.
Little lives are ending to save you and your ice cream, and I don't wanna be like Bruce Springsteen and preach at you, but it does sorta mean something. A moment of silence for the eternal rat race of the cosmos? Something. Whatever. I'm drunk.
That's the trouble in this goddamned town, though----nobody understands the gravity of the little things. People have teeth and they lose teeth and these bugs who are minding their own business run into the worst day of their lives so you can have your ice cream, pure, free and unmolested.
Yesterday I was in the IGA parking lot and I saw this half-eaten corndog lying in the carriage stall. Might have been the saddest, loneliest sight I'd ever seen. People fought secret wars in Central America, precisely for that corndog. Jesus died so you kids could all twerk to your Beyonce music.
Screw it.
I've gotta find that tooth one of these days......
Snap. Crackle. Pop, fizzz.....
Peppermint Stick----that was my favorite.
Goddamn fuckin' town....

copyright 2015/2016 Molotov Editions

THIS WEEK'S PLAYLIST:

BLUE OYSTER CULT-Spectres
AEROSMITH-Get Your Wings
AEROSMITH-Rock in a Hard Place
RESearch Incredibly Strange Music Vol. 1 & 2
 

 

Monday, July 11, 2016

APOCALYPSE NOTES: WRAPPING IT UP

“It's all over but the shouting”
---VAN HALEN
“I am now in control of all things”
---Allegedly written by the Zodiac Killer

We were done at North Main Music. We grabbed a little lunch and then I got to meet, ever-so-fleetingly, the lovely Robyn Neville.....maybe we'll get to hang out more next time I'm in town. After that it was off to Mike's house to record the one last song.
Upon my arrival at Chez McAdam Mike had to give me that Shadow Protocol----which is to say the drill involved in dealing with his dog, Shadow. Shadow's a good dog and an exceptional watchdog. Once we'd gotten through that it was a trip upstairs to deal with the final bit of recorded fun. And “fun” was the operative word.
The setup was pretty simple: Mike and me mic'd up and just going for it raw, him on acoustic guitar and me vocalizing. Past all the rave-ups, all the screaming and yelling and all the sturm und drang it was down to a goofy, folky protest song to wrap the whole package up in a big, sarcastic bow.
My intial vision for “The Candidate's a Religious Man” was actually similar to some of the binaural recordings Lou Reed did with Richard Robinson in the mid 70s (“Kicks” and “All through the Night” being my favorite examples)----the folk song itself would loop in and out of ambient noise and vacuous conversations that might take place at a party or an intimate gathering .
We didn't have any of that going on, although I secretly found myself wishing Shadow might be looking out the window and start barking at the UPS guy or the Roto Rooter truck. YAY SPONTENAEITY!!! Didn't happen, though.




ONE LAST THING: “THE CANDIDATE'S A RELIGIOUS MAN TALKING BLUES”

“Ah, but I've grown older and wiser
and that's why I'm turning you in”
---PHIL OCHS


I had endless trouble with being tight throughout the recording session, but with “Candidiate” it was just going to be loose city, no matter how you sliced it. That wasn't really a detriment (I don't think so, anyway)----the song just lends itself to that. We had multiple start-overs and do-overs and it was different every time we did it. It was really just one riff running through the whole thing and so there was a lot of ample space for us to play around and have fun.
In the intro I rechristened the song “The Candidate's a Religious Man Talking Blues”, almost trying to lend it a kind of faux-Robert-Johnson-cum-Bob-Dylan style gravitas.
Some verses remained the same....

“The Candidate's a religious Man
so let's catch him in a place of worship
Tell that old lady praying in front of him
to stop looking at the camera

The Candidate's a religious man
so let him spew some dogma from a soapbox
Up those credibility points!
Break out that makeup, our boy is for sale!

The Candidate's a Religious Man
So let's plug his kids with sedatives
Show all those viewers they're well-behaved
True offspring of a pillar of the community

The Candidate's a religious man
So let's cover up his booze problem
Break out that mouthwash quick!
Try to hide that whole thing about rehab”

When we wrote this song it was a reaction to the likes of Bush I, Bill Clinton, Al and Tipper Gore, et. al, but from there you add a few new verses to update it and you could drop in Hillary, The Donald, Ted Cruz and whoever. It's a hop, a skip and a jump just to bring it forward....

“The Candidate's a religious man
let's make sure he's Christian
not one of those weird, obscure sects
It's gotta be one that looks good in public opinion polls

The Candidate's a religious man
a star in the 24 hour news cycle
run his speeches past those focus groups
get those spin doctors to nip and tuck his opinions”

The last verse originally had this line that Mike and I crooned together, “so put away his Quaaludes!” I felt like I had to update that a little, since Quaaludes aren't really a thing anymore....what was a trendy drug that gets abused these days. I vacillated between Adderol and Oxycontin...in the end it became “put away his Oxy” because it just sings better.
By and large I've stuck to my guns on the fact that the S.E. Apocalypse Krew's politics are BROAD, because I hate all these fascist fuckers. Republicans, Democrats, I don't give a shit-----they're all dirty and corrupt and they'll probably end up getting our asses killed in the long run. “Candidate” is a number that stays pretty relevant, and 25 years after we wrote this thing it just gets better as the political climate gets stranger and more ridiculous.
We bounced it around several times before we finally got a good take. It sounded fun and we got a laugh out of it. It was easily one of the simpler recordings we did, but hopefully an amusing little slice of intimacy in the midst of the roaring din.....

It was a wrap.



Sunday, June 19, 2016

APOCALYPSE NOTES: EXPLODING

“Hello.....is it me you're looking for?”
---Lionel Ritchie


One thing Mike and I carped constantly about back in the early days of the Apocalypse Krew was asinine, sappy love songs. Part of it was a bad case of Serious Young Man's disease; the rest of it I'll just chalk up to the songs' fault. Yeah---I'm magnanimous like that. Whatevs. A lot of my issues were that I felt a lot of these songs were disingenuous. When Eric Carmen sings “turn the radio on for that sweet sound....make me lose control”----what the hell's he talking about? ! What, exactly is “losing control”? Is it dangerous to do while you're driving? Let's just call a duck a duck, okay? He's basically saying, “make me come”. I guess there's the list of words you can't say on the radio, but to me, it boiled down to how it's inappropriate to lay the cards on the table and just say, “hey, baby, let's fuck!” And at that point in my life I had no patience with what I saw as a very calculated, cynical form of insincerity. To me, it was the closest legitization of date rape to ever be applauded by the masses.
So we'd go 'round and 'round about our mutual disgust with stuff like that.
We were working in this hotel at the time---we were dishwashers, with occasional forays into floor cleaning and food prep....I was sweeping down the floor around the salad bar when Mike walked up to me and showed me a piece of paper....on it were the lyrics to “First Stare”.
“Chuck---check this out----I wrote a song,” he said.
The lyric on the sheet of paper started off innocently (and innocuously) enough....”I love you/ if you don't say you love me I just don't know what I'll do”...” 'Cause tonight's the night I love you/ and tonight's the night I care/ and I knew it was gonna be this way/ from our very first stare”....
 
So far, so (deliberately) mediocre.....but things got weird quick...the next lyrical passage went

(Revolting)---as if this were a musical notation----
“ AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHGGHHHH!!!!!!!

If you don't fuckin' love me I'm gonna shred you to little pieces
If you don't scream for me I'm gonna make you wish you were still alive
Bleed for me!!!!”

Yeah----we were on to some next-level shit, here, as the kids say these days....

Then came the chorus:

“EXPLODE! EXPLODE! EXPLODE! EXPLODE!”

At this point, there between the cook's line and the salad bar, I was doubled over in front of God and everybody, howling with laughter. I knew exactly what Mike was going for, and it was absolutely slaying me.
It was the antidote to every inane, patronizing top-40 romantic ballad making the rounds. And who could beat a chorus that was just repeated screams of “EXPLODE!!!!!”?
I went out and got a tee-shirt made (they used to have these stores that customized tee-shirts back in the day)----a red shirt with the word “EXPLODE” printed in Old English lettering...I still have it. It no longer fits---my wife sometimes wears it.
“First Stare” kinda nominally kicked around our repertoire for years...we never recorded a formal demo of it. We played around with a version that barely came together....my take on the song was that you'd always have this poppy intro but then it would turn into a brutal thrash metal rave-up wherein the song would basically see the various members racing each other to the end of the song while I screamed my fool brains out....
When Mike and I first started talking about recording the old stuff I expressed a lot of interest in finally recording “First Stare”---it'd be the ultimate “fuck you” to the top 40 popsters. Mike confessed to me that his vision for the song was always that there was no real song, per se---it would just be noise. That wasn't ever really my vision for the song, but we were talkin' “First Stare”, here, and I was willing to compromise.
The ideas changed as we went along. At one point, Mike sent me a bare-bones track that was intended for the “fast” part....the track was actually based on an earlier number that fell by the wayside called “Black Harvest”. “Black Harvest” was an anti-nuclear war song that was really cut out of the same cloth as “Black”---it was a moody, dark song that started off acoustic and turned into an angry rave-up. I never thought of “Black Harvest” as a backbone for “First Stare”, but hell if it didn't work.
Later on I was on the phone with Mike and he expressed the further view to me that he had ideas about the track turning into “twenty pounds of shit in a five pound bag”----he recommended “Shine” by Todd Rundgren as a big illustration of what he was talking about. Rundgren, of course, even when he was slinging chaos, was much more subtle than anything the Apocalypse Krew was doing, but I saw the parallel and it intrigued me.
Flash forward to the recording session. I finally got a picture of the monster that “First Stare” would turn into. It sat on the timeline in a multitude of layers that looked to me like a lot of the timelines I did late in the day for “The Abbey of the Lemur”. It was immense---there were layers and layers and layers of audio.
What Mike had laid down was this insane mishmash of the “Black Harvest” riff snarled up with a montage of a lot of our stranger old recorded moments----synthesizer wreckage, demented lo-fi soundscapes, spoken word snippets, me beating on a Baldwin Organ, insane jabbering and distorted racket.
“First Stare” had become a Burroughs-style cut up!!!!! I was absolutely floored. This shit was insane!
We jumped into the ballad-part. I was never sure how to tackle this and we ran through it a few times.....Mike told me after a couple of takes that he thought the best way to tackle the vocal would be just to Lou Reed the fuck out of it and bang out the most insincere delivery I could.
(And yeah, in case it just blew by you, I used “Lou Reed” as a Verb.)
Which works, since our entire genre spoof was on songs we were completely skeptical toward. As I said before, I felt as though the sappy MOR love song was the most cynical, vapid, dishonest form out there, so taking the piss felt like the way to go.
When we got past the intro, Mike told me we were going to approach the main body of the song a little differently. “I want you to do the vocal for this without the music.”
Huh?
OKAY.
So in keeping with the cut-up nature of the beast----I went into the booth and yelled the lyric minus any musical accompaniment----let the chips fall where they may. I added a few weird ad libs----passages from “Chapel of Love” and Sinatra's “All the Way”, with the same leather-lunged delivery.
I had also expressed interest in playing a guitar track quite some time beforehand. Mike asked me if I still wanted to do it. I had this thought that we wouldn't have time for that, but this was looking good----we'd knocked everything out reasonably early. He pulled out the guitar, and BAM!!! It was happening. I was hooked up top a howling sonic monster, and I just went apeshit, throwing in some whammy bar racket, some Greg Ginn fingers-caught-in-the-strings shit and, more frequently than not, long, caterwauling drones and blasts of feedback right up the Velvet Underground/”European Son” Alley.
This went on for about ten minutes....Mike, at one point, had departed to take care of one thing or another. I figured he could just throw it into the horrendous stewing pot and fade it in and out as he saw fit. I have no idea what the final result will be, but Mike's playing with a pretty insane arsenal of crap. I have no doubt it will be epic and unprecedented.
We were done at the studios at North Main Music. But one more song remained.

Friday, June 3, 2016

APOCALYPSE NOTES: GOING BIG

As I wrote previously, I didn't know what Mike was going to be bringing to the table with “Black”---I was actually not even sure we'd be recording a new version, as I hadn't received a new recording through Dropbox.
With “Black”, we'd recorded two separate and distinct versions---one 4-Track cut in the late '80s and later on 8-Track in the early '90s....both had a more or less similar lyric but they were very different from one another as far as arrangement and structure went....the first was a gloomy, ominous doom rocker that's probably unlistenable considering the technology we were working with at the time...I can tell you there was a pretty good guitar solo and that shortly after the recording Mike had no idea what he'd done to get the bizarro sound he got, but it was pretty one-of-a-kind.
My template for the song as far as what I wanted to get out of it was actually the Swans' “Blind Love” from the CHILDREN OF GOD album....that's not to say that's what it wound up sounding like but think epic and unnerving----at least as epic and unnerving two guys with a 4-Track recorder and a windup toy of a drum machine were going to get....the song came to a literally-apocalyptic end with crashing chords, thundering windup toy rhythms and me on top of all the din, bellowing, “BLAAAAACK!!!! BLAAAAACK!!!!!! BLAAAAAAAACK!!!!!!” Over and over....it was tracks like this I played at Heather early on in our courtship that prompted her to crack, “aawwww----did somebody need a hug?”
And actually, yeah---I could have used a hug back at that time.
“Black II” had the added bonus of four extra tracks and it was a helluva lot better, production-wise...we were more on top of our game by then. Structurally it was probably more of what they called a “power ballad”----I loathe that term and, generally speaking, I don't have much use for the form. It starts off very quiet, with me whispering, muttering and crooning....I even do backup vocals that aren't particularly good, but they're drenched in reverb so, y'know....the desired effect. “Black II” is probably the best of our old demos and I was of the opinion that, if we wanted to cut corners we could actually stick that on the CD and no harm would be done.
As it turned out, there WAS a new cut of “Black”.

PLEASE GRANT ME THE SERENITY: RECORDING “BLACK”

There's no sign of the morning coming; You've been left on your own”

----Ronnie James Dio


Giving the track a listen, I discovered that it essentially followed the structure of “Black II”, and that was a plus...it was a nice, Godzillian jam and Mike had totally brought the Rocket Sauce. One thing I was very taken aback by was that the original track had a fairly standard bassline....on the new version, Mike had really jazzed it up! And I mean “Jazz”, literally! Very tasty jazz-bass stylings that were almost a direct contradiction underpinning the big, moody grog-metal.
This was gonna be fun.
It was another game of “finding the arrangement”.....the structure was very similar to the old “Black II” but I was going to have to go through it a few times to learn how my ballpark rewrite was going to fit.
Much like the old recording it starts off slow, quiet and eerie and what I was singing was more or less spoken.

“ Every day the struggle to get out of bed and walk out that door is a more and more insurmountable task
I don't belong here and I never did.
I can no longer stand seeing things and people I can't deal with
I'm through---finished----through.”

Then the main riff---clean tone----kicks in.

“Lying in a pit of garbage and lies
It's a world that's run by politicians and whores
Color it all black, now, 'cause it's more than I can stand
I don't want to see it anymore”

Lyrically you could probably draw a parallel to “Paint it Black” by the Rolling Stones, although that song is about a guy who's mourning a dead lover and he can't get a grip on life anymore. With “Black” there's no tangible catalyst for the speaker's misery; he just can't get a grip on life, period.

I am the other planet man
I don't know what I'm doing here
I don't know what I'm here for
let me out”

And this is where the song just blows open and starts raging.

“Color my world, my world black
Decided I wanna be blind forever
Deliver me from this world of lies
I just wanna shut it out altogether

CHORUS:
COLOR MY WORLD, MY WORLD BLACK (x4)

Let it all stop, let it end now
I can't take it, I don't know how
Need someone to shut off my mind
I'd be happier if I were struck blind

Holy Pilgrim, I went hunting
I came back with a fistful of nothing
Living on this planet though I'm not of this earth
I take a look around
and see that it ain't worth shit”

Melodramatic, or WHAT? There was a whole litany in early versions of the song where the speaker lists off a laundry list of everything that's pushed him to the brink, and it goes something to the effect of “a man in a caddilac/ dead babies on my TV/ a government that doesn't care/ millions of people happier than me/EVERYTHING/YOU!!!!!”
That's right----he's blaming YOU. PERSONALLY. YOU!
Yeah----YOU, Bucko!!!!!
We had this drummer at the time---he wasn't with us all that long but he was our longest-running bandmate and we hung onto him for dear life because he had a basement we could practice in. I remember during practice one night he picked the lyric apart and goofed on it----”okay---so this guy walks down the street and he sees all this stuff going on that he doesn't like....so what does he do?! He freaks out and he yells and then he goes back home??? I don't know where that's goin'----sixties are over, man....”
Not real sure what my autistic angst had to do with the sixties.....still and all, he took me down a peg or three or five and I rode home all butt hurt over it. Mike tried to play it down a sensible middle---we needed the guy, at least at that point...he'd had experience playing out in bands, he knew music theory, and, shit, maybe we could learn from the guy.
I was very tunnelvisioned by my own ego, though, which might go as far as to say I needed a pin stuck in it. You only need to take one or two steps outside your situation to see the humor in it.
Following the template of “Black II”, though, I eschewed the laundry list in favor of ominously intoning, twice, as the song drew to a close, a line from the AA “Serenity” prayer:
“Please grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.”

 
This last bit is crucial----the reason it's important to the song (and to the Apocalypse Krew in general) is that it's a direct contradiction of the band's entire existence. We are classically the LEAST serene entity alive. There's not an iota of serenity in the song, or in the character's head.
With this line of the poem the Drunk (hypothetical or universal) is asking God (however you want to define “God”) to help him/her cut his/her losses and move on, and how to have the wisdom to know how to pick their battles.
The entire ethos of the Apocalypse Krew is based around an inability to accept the things you can't change...the Dreg has no idea how to pick his battles. He's hellbent on running directly into a wall.
Not the smartest way to go through life, but who hasn't gone through that at one time or another? Who hasn't failed to see a way out?

THE NEW STUFF, PART TWO:“FEAR AND HATE”

 
The idea had been growing in my mind for some time----true force. All the King's Men cannot put it together again.”

----Travis Bickle, TAXI DRIVER

By the time I actually sat down to WRITE “Fear and Hate”, I'd realized I really painted myself into a corner with “Rise”----It was a busy lyric that followed a busy rhythm and sought to cover damn near every note of that rhythm. I wasn't going to make that same mistake with “Fear”---as frantic a number as it was I knew I was going to need to put every ounce of gusto I had into it and it would be a good idea, given the confines I was in, to let the song “breathe” a little more. And let myself breathe a little more.
I wanted to do “Fear and Hate” from the moment Mike brought it to the table....it clocks in at just over two minutes and it's both furious and abrupt. Hammering, thrashing riffs, very fast and dense, with this layered, atonal, descending chord structure on the chorus that defied anything I think I'd ever heard in straightforward rock music at that time.
Mike gave me the music template back in the '90s...the chorus was, “You gave me the look of fear and hate”. The lyric I wound up writing was couched in the paranoia and isolation I had that last year in Nashua, the year I was living alone in that slum on Pine Street. To my recollection it was another one of those crazy, busy lyrics and would be like algebra to try and tackle.
The way I finally structured “Fear and Hate” was that each individual line would take up two bars...the line itself was essentially over by the end of the first bar, but it would trail over the second, allowing more room for the vocal to breathe and for the riffs to get some naked space.
I decided it would be an anti-bullying song. Bullying has been a big issue for me and mine for years----most incidents of school or workplace violence are the result of one or another form of bullying, and such incidents are bound to continue as long as we, as a collective mass continue to turn a blind eye to the pecking order. I've done my dead best to talk distraught kids out of pulling a Columbine---but I understand the rage that motivates them.
So this was going to go out to everyone who got beaten up, threatened, raped, had their shit stolen or who was otherwise put in a corner...it was also a shot across the bough to anyone who was in the upper strata of whatever food chain----hey, buddy---you know when you do that shit? Here's how that person feels about you. Does that make you nervous? GOOD----keep feeling nervous.
It didn't rhyme. It wasn't stylish. It wasn't witty or hip. It wasn't cute, clever, politically correct or kind.
The whole thing was designed as a scream of impotent rage. One of my favorite old jokes was, Q. How did Helen Keller break her fingers? A. Screaming for help when she fell down a well.
So my aim with this lyric is it was Helen Keller breaking her fingers screaming for help.
For the first time anywhere, “Fear and Hate”.

“Why did you back me into a wall?
I was just minding my own business
back a coward into a wall
you never know what he'll do to get out
I'm afraid to wake up anymore
it's your world, I'm forced to live in it

CHORUS:
YOU GAVE ME THE LOOK OF FEAR AND HATE

This is your world, this is your toilet
I have to live with your gun in my mouth
I can't take it one more minute
you've been on top too fuckin' long
people like you should be raped by livestock
people like you should be shot in the face

CHORUS X2

I can't make it out of your cesspool
so I'm calling in the airstrike
shit can't continue as it is
people like you need your dicks cut off
now's the time for fucking justice
hurt me, motherfucker, I'll make you pay

CHORUS x 5”

Strong statement, I'll admit----not exactly coherent, either....but what right do you have to ask coherence out of someone who's trapped in a well? Or someone who's trying to tell you that your house is burning down around you?
It's the most direct line to the sense of violation that goes on in the brain of a bullying victim all the time. And I'm sure there are all those handwringing PC-types who are frightened by this level of expression, saying it encourages violence. I'd tell them that zeitgeist prevails with or without the song, so rather than look for a scapegoat, why not address the real problem? And I'm certain a few of them might say the real problem is too big. Well, maybe you're too small. Or are you PART of the problem? See, that's half the problem—--those who in some way, shape or form, benefit from the existence of a pecking order can't imagine life without it.
Well then, don't come cryin' to me....
“Fear and Hate” was going to be a rip-roaring screamer. I was prepared to put more into this than any other song we'd done so far. This was not going to sound “cool”----it wasn't going to sound “rock star” in any way, shape or form. My best reference for what I was going for is, if you listen to some really stellar hardcore, like, say, “Pride”, by Husker Du, off their great album, ZEN ARCADE, there's nothing about Bob Mould's delivery that sounds “cool”...he sounds like he's having a goddamned conniption, and I have to listen to that every fucking time---there's something so liberating about hearing this guy---and you're not listening to a “singer”, per se---just this regular guy that could be you or me, losing his shit.
There's little to no acceleration in this song---there's a drum cue and then you're in it. DEEP in it. Guitar, drums, bass, vocal, the whole blood vessel-busting enchilada, and before you've acclimated yourself to it it's rolled right over you and left you for roadkill.
I basically screamed the whole thing, spastic voice cracks and all, like a distraught stockbroker getting ready to jump off a building on Black Friday 1927. I wanted to sound like a man whose world was ending. At one point in the third verse we had to stop and do it over because, headset and all, I couldn't get my cue....I couldn't hear the music over my own screaming.
There was a bridge section where, if I'd had more time to mess with it, might have used some vocals---realistically, throughout the recording sessions there were moments where I went sparse where under more ideal circumstances I wouldn't have. But I figured giving Mike more blank canvas to have fun with wasn't necessarily a bad thing.
Mike perused the result on the timeline and assessed it as “definitely the most ferocious song in our repertoire...”
MONEY!!!!

 
THE BOUNCY ONE: “OUTSIDER”

 
There's a man outside....he wants to come in.”
----Henry Rollins


“Outsider” was the next logical one to tackle....we were in the home stretch at this point.
If “Fear and Hate” is our most ferocious song then “Outsider” is one of our catchiest. Tement he riff is instantly memorable---it would be cool to hear a swing band play this. Mike and I have joked around a long time about doing a big band arrangement for it.
Rhythmically it bounces along in a manner similar to Cheap Trick's “Southern Girls”, with this huge, heavy boogie riff topping everything off. In approach it would be similar to “Black” or maybe “Time Bomb”----more a matter of showing off the song rather than letting loose.
There was an extraneous riff dropped from the old demo, but other than that the song hadn't changed much and it would probably fit the lyrics I had cobbled together without much of a problem.
I tried to approach the vocal with a degree of ease; when we talk about ease, it's not to be said there isn't work put into it---rather it's to say the listener shouldn't hear much labor. Much in the vein of Bukowski----the reader shouldn't have his or her attention drawn to the nuts and bolts of the effort...it should just come off as a smooth, organic whole.

“Residing in your cozy little house
unsuspecting, happy as a church mouse
I'm looking in on your measly little life
I wanna intrude on your measly little life”

The whole genesis of “Outsider” to me....did you ever see “Fatal Attraction”? Remember the scene where Glenn Close is spying on Michael Douglas and his family through their picture window, and she's so disgusted and envious of what they have that she literally vomits? That's the kind of spirit I'm going for.
It's classic American Have-Not-ism.

“Standing in the shadows and I'm looking in
standing in the shadows and I'm looking in
lurking in the peripheries and I want in
I am the Outsider
I am the Outsider
and I want in....I want in...I want in...

Laugh and yawn and take it all for granted
don't appreciate the silver spoon you were handed
you should be destroyed, you should be replaced
standing on your lawn and I'm looking at your window
I don't like what I see, I see a room full of people
happy, happy, happy
a room full of people all happy except me”

Here's the self-contradictory nature of the politically correct---x number of people are going to knee-jerk at our songs and argue that we're insensitive, or they're going to take everything out of context and say we're sexist, racist, advocate violence and so on and so forth....chances are no one's going to tell us we're anti-homeowner, though. Guess they'll conveniently miss the memo on that one.
That happens with extreme idealogues, though----with an old episode of “The Abbey of the Lemur” one of my castmates was wearing a very funny tee shirt that had a fake Coca Cola logo, except it read, “things go better with Satan”. And the local right wing bullet head who was very locked into literalistic thinking was alarmed by this. And our performer was up there cracking jokes about sacrificing children and I put a lower third up in front of her identifying her as a “local cult leader”----and this guy's complaint against us took that and ran wild with it....”this person----this cult leader....” meanwhile, in the same show we had a lower third graphic that identified me as a “local chimney sweep”. He never took me to task for that. Did he believe I was a chimney sweep? Did he just not care? I guess chimney sweeps didn't jibe with his agenda, or his sense of moral outrage. If it were me watching at home, I would've been enthralled---I would have been waiting to see if this guy would start dancing around on rooftops singing “Chim-chimeny-chim-chimeny chim-chim-cheree”....but no. Selective reasoning. Or non reasoning. But I digress. Back to the song.

“I'm knocking on your door
you don't know what's in store
it's the end of your rainbow when your wife starts screaming
you don't know what to do
and I'm staring in your window

I want in!
I want in!
I want in!
I want in!
I want you---and everything you own

You people shut me out and made my life miserable
Flaunt your happiness like a diamond ring”

A little note, here, on the humorous irrationality of the S.E. Apocalypse Krew....nobody actively shut this guy out of ANYTHING. His quarries----the homeowner and his family----probably have no idea who this nut staring in their window is. This shambling pile of crazy takes other peoples' happiness as a personal affront.

“I want to eliminate you
I want to exterminate you
I want to decimate you
I want to eradicate you
I want to reduce you
I want to subtract you from the equation
I want to erase you
I want to erase you
I want to erase you
I want to replace you”

Back in the day Mike and I thought that if we ever did the whole MTV/music video-thing “Outsider” was our first candidate as far as a video we'd like to do, and we figured it could even be done cheaply. The affluent family sit at their dining table and engage in niceties while I, as the crazy, stand at their window in a blizzard, ranting and raving....the band are behind me, all bundled up by a trashcan fire, attempting to play their instruments in the driving snow (obviously fake confetti snow). Eventually as the song hits its peak I crash in through the window, jump up on the dining room table and begin threatening the family, specifically the patriarch, whose position I'm envious of. At one point between lines I lean down, pick up a turkey leg and start noshing on it.
The last image in the video would be a family photo---the patriarch disappears and I fade in in his place. As though I'm a member of the family, replacing him as Dad/Husband/etc. Kinda similar, maybe, to Jack Nicholson appearing in an old-timey photo in the Overlook, I appear in some Olan Mills monstrosity as if I had been the patriarch of this family the entire time. The original family man is lost to the ages.
We banged “Outsider” off without a lot of excessive effort. I felt like I did alright. We were on the home stretch, now...eventually, we would leave North Main Music and hit Mike's home studio to knock out our last number, “The Candidate's a Religious Man”.....but there was one more song we had to tackle beforehand.

NEXT: EXPLODING

Sunday, May 29, 2016

APOCALYPSE NOTES: HARDBALLIN'

So I was up, wide-eyed and bushytailed for day two of our recording session.....my brother had gotten back to the motel room very late and I was reluctant to wake him up with so little sleep but I was up and around and he got up and around...taxi driver body clock, I guess.
We piled out of the motel and I probably owe him a lifetime of fruitbaskets for actually carting me around Nashua for the purpose of the Apocalypse Krew. He needed some sleep.
We puttered around South Nashua for a while and at this juncture I have to go off on a tangient regarding the ubiquity of chains.
At this point (as previously stated) it had been ten years since I'd been in that part of the country...and my last trip to New England had largely seen me hanging around in Mass. My brother and I were both hankering for Breakfast....back in the day I would have probably opted for something greasy at Bickford's. Now, there IS actually still a Bickford's in (I think) Acton, MA, but the two stores in Nashua had shuffled off this mortal coil a long time ago. The South End Bickford's had been replaced, unceremoniously, by Walgreen's, which I believe, though I could be wrong, had a CVS across the street from it. (Seems to be the case in many locations---I imagine Pharmacy Gangbangers engaged in drive-by shootings, but that's just my funny way of seeing things)
Shit, man....you could get me going off in a hundred different ways about the closing of the map---I look around Nashua and then I look around Fayetteville-----what used to be Lechmere is now Target and I'm like, yeah----we've got one of those, too. Bickford's is now Walgreen's, and of course, you can't get away from those. Panera? Yeah, yeah, yeah, we've got one of those, too.
At least there's still a goddamned Barnes and Noble. It's nice to know folks in either town are still reading....don't even get me started on the incremental death of record and video stores unless you want an all-day screaming tirade.
We initially opted for IHOP and discovered in fairly short order that they weren't even open. Chris disclosed to me that they might not be open some days because they were having a hard time “hiring cooks”.
Oh. Wow.
Maybe time to start treating your workers better, IHOP?
In the end we opted for drive through action. Hey----I got a large coffee...I was good to go.
The slow, creeping erasure of localism is always a bone of contention with me...Mike and I would later have a conversation regarding this----he espoused the notion that we might all see accents going bye-bye in the next decade or so.
He might be on to something. When Heather and I first got engaged she and my brother wound up on the phone together---he asked her if she'd been born in California.
Now, Heather was actually born and bred in Arkansas. You'd never know it talking to her...if you talk to her Mom, she's about as Southern as anyone you've ever heard....but you'd never guess it talking to my wife.
So...food for thought....fuel for nightmares. Do with it what you will.
By the time we showed up at North Main Music Mike was already there and we were ready to continue.
PIG”: THE HATE AND THE HILARITY

We opted to start with “Pig” on day two....it would require a lot of screaming and yelling, so there was no getting one's feet wet---I was jumping right in.
As stated in a previous installment, if I wanted to give anyone a quick, hard, uncomplicated dose of what the S.E. Apocalypse Krew were about it would be three songs: “Threats and Warnings”, “Kid Eternity” and “Pig”.
“Pig” was unquestionably the most brutal of the triumvurate----a fast, deliberately obnoxious blast of pure, non-diluted hostility for hostility's own sake.
I think I'd written the lyric (or a rough approximation of it) in the mid-80s...pre-Apocalypse Krew, around the time I'd gotten into hardcore punk---it was a great vehicle for a lot of my frustration, issues with authority and what have you. By the time Mike and I had formed the band it became a natural keeper....we had a lot of rage to get out of our systems.

“I don't like you, I don't like you
You talk too much, you stab my back
Ask too many questions I don't wanna answer
Your values suck, you'd better change your act

I hate your guts, I hate your guts
You badmouth everybody, I hope you die

CHORUS:

YOU'RE A PIG (x4)”
What no one—especially in this politically dainty day and age----will ever under understand is how much fun we had with this song, or how uproariously funny we always found it.
There was never any finesse to this...we didn't revisit it with an iota of new maturity----pure fury, rage and stupidity and precious little else. I screamed the damned thing like a wounded warthog and the Krew rampaged along as per usual----short, fast and blunt.

“Fry your ass, fry your ass
You make me puke, you make me ill
I'd rather die than talk to you
Go back to your hole, die in the grass
I hope you scream forever in hell”

JESUS CHRIST!!!! How much do you have to dislike someone in order to want them to “scream forever in hell”?! Again, no one will probably ever understand how much we bust up over this ridiculous song.
BUT THERE'S MORE!!!!! I initially considered this particular take of “Pig” much longer than the original demos (and it may still be) and so I actually took it upon myself to write additional verses for the new cut. In the end I thought it was all too much and decided to let the song “breathe”---maybe give Mike more room for some guitar fireworks----and just go with the original words.
But in case you were wondering, there are other lyrics, now, for “Pig”, which were not recorded. So here, on my stoopid blog, for the first (and probably LAST) time ever, here are the newish and unrecorded additional lyrics for “Pig”. Enjoy.
“I want you dead, you fucking prick
I promise it's not me, it's you
I can't live another minute with you on this planet.
Motherfucker, you make me spew

Hate's a many splendored thing
I'm sorry for this little tiff
The world's too small for you and me
I wanna push you off a cliff

Suck my dick, suck my dick
I'm sure you'll let me know who's boss
You make me puke, you make me sick
I wanna nail you to a cross”

Fun, or what? No?
How much must you dislike someone to want to nail them to a cross?!!!
Mike had added a new treat to the end of “Pig”---as the song screeches to an abrupt halt a little loop of silly, sampled ragtime music plays the track out. Impeccable? Nay, PERFECT, sez I!!!! I loved it! It was the icing on the volatile cake, the Porky Pig stuttering “that's all, folks!” On top of our mini-symphony of primal scream nuttiness.

And so day two was officially underway.


THE NEW STUFF, PART ONE: “RISE”

“Rise” was “newer” than some of the other tracks we were recording....which is to say its genesis might have been early-to-mid-90s.
One or two instrumental demos may have floated around at one point or another but I never added a vocal to it----Mike was getting busy with Tristan Park and a lot of my attention at the time was going into writing and/or zining. The Apocalypse Krew was more or less over at that point, though there were still these loose ends...I think there may have been an initial lyric for it, but it was another “lost” lyric like “Fear and Hate”----I was going to need to rewrite it.
Fortunately, unlike “Fear and Hate”, I'd actually gotten a recording of “Rise” to work from, so I'd actually managed, with some difficulty, to crank out a lyric.
This was a fucking HARD one and I'd labored over it off and on for months. What I wanted to do, in a lot of respects, was write an S.E. Apocalypse Krew song that would ride along with the old stuff but in a lot of ways be more representative of “now”, mid-2010s. If I had an audience listening to old songs of ours like “Pig”, “Threats and Warnings”, “23” et. al., what would I want to tell them now that I thought was important?
We took the title, “Rise”, from a legend scrawled in blood at the LaBianca murder site by the Manson family---we had thought of making it our first album title and it fit in very well with songs like “Threats and Warnings”. Musically, the song was an aggressive piece of work that was like falling down a flight of stairs with no end in sight---glorious main riff and then a rough-ass chorus that was like a car crash----there was this weird mid-section that almost went into what felt like waltz-time before ripping back into the main section. I love this fucking tune.
In some ways, “Rise” wasn't going to be that demanding a track on my voice because I was almost going to speak-sing a lot of it. The chorus would require some leather-lunged yelling, but other than that---not much wear-and-tear.
In other respects it dawned on me, very late, that this was going to be very difficult. The lyrical structure of “Rise” was DENSE. Rhythmically, it was similar to Black Flag's “In my Head”(albeit a lot meaner)---a busy song with a busy, bunched-up lyric that went along with it and precious little room to breathe.
It was going to be very difficult to get this thing out of my mouth onto a recording....it was going to be very difficult to jump from one line to another---let alone from one verse to the next.
This is me at age 54, with no practice and no practice space, having not really sung in any capacity in about 20-plus years. If the circumstances were different it might have been another story, but the blessing of this whole digital recording thing they do now is we could tackle the song line by line...
The choruses were easy in that it was just me screaming “IIIII WIIIIILL RIIIIIIIIIIIIISE!!!!!!” over and over. The rest wasn't too demanding on my larynx but they were a tongue twister and I would have to hit one line at a time.

“This is your window so listen up now
I ain't got the time to be misunderstood
I've got no compunctions 'bout hammering down
Don't tell me you wouldn't if you knew you could

You can't get no traction and so little action
with the victim mentality holding you down”

This borders on a direct contradiction of stuff I wrote in the '80s like “Kid Eternity” where people were telling me “life is what you make it” and I felt like some kind of a victim---and yeah, phrases like that still feel like a dismissive tactic to me, but if old geezer me was to tell anyone listening to our music right now anything it would be don't play victim, don't act like a victim and don't trust those who do---be a goddamn warrior!!!!! Don't knuckle under to anyone and don't let 'em play you for a chump.

“Losers and squids blow away like debris
Nothing can stop my apocalypse now

Everyone's doggin' it, teeming around
leading to nowhere and no one knows when
What would they do if it all came down now?
We're bringing it down so it's a blessed event”

Here I'm copping some rhetoric from my public access show, “The Abbey of the Lemur”, more or less verbatim. Our original “schtick” on the show was that we were a loveable death cult and the audience could come along and laugh along with our quest for world domination and generalized subversion.

“swim with the tide and you just might survive”

A tip of the hat to New Age author Shakti Gawain, here. Which would probably horrify her.

“You can cover your ass or be crushed by the wave
A nation of numbskulls can't hold us back”

And a tip of the hat to Public Enemy.

“If you've got a problem get out of the way

“Dregs of the world your wakeup call's here
If they side-eye you tell them you're no one they know”

We had this surly saying in the Apocalypse Krew anytime anyone looked at us askance or with any kind of curiosity----”no one you know....no one you like....no one cute....” defiance and resentment.

“If they give you an attitude death from above
You give them fair warning saying look out below
You can't run the ratrace when the rats always win
Now is the time to let it explode”

And of course, “Explode” is a BIG Apocalypse Krew self-reference. Yeah, we're cheeky.....we're witty....
Two down, several others to go.....