Tag Archives: metal

Scrabble-Rousers #8: Nihilism

12 Jul

What Scrabble-Rousers is: A word is chosen at random by blindly flipping the pages and finger-pointing a word/phrase (in this case “nihilism”) from a book also chosen at random (in this case: the I ♥ Huckabees script written by David O. Russell & Jeff Baena).

"Of course not," Gorgias said. "He never existed."

What does nihilism have to do with music? Nothing.

Bad joke.

It’s impossible to talk about punk, rap, goth, metal and a lot of fringe underground music without discussing nihilistic themes. Whether you truly believe the Sex Pistols were sincere enough to be nihilistic (even though contrived controversy to further commercialism seem contrary to the doctrine) doesn’t matter because they were inevitably associated with it.

Sid Vicious was without a doubt a bad, bad nihilistic man – he brutally beat a man with a bicycle chain, blinded a young woman with the throw of a beer bottle, is a legendary bassist despite having been a bad bass player, may or may not have stabbed his girlfriend to death, and died from heroine procured by his mum. If Sid Vicious wasn’t a nihilist, he was “Something Else”:

Stereolab harped on the very roots of nihilism in their song “Nihilistic Assault Group”, questioning morality’s existence as a real human virtue or a contrived shroud. Or something like that. “Nothing” seems to be lost in translation from the group’s French tongue. Regardless, Stereolab summons its most shoegaze sensibilities on this track.

Nihilist Assault Group by Stereolab.

Rancid actually sang about the lure and temptation of nihilism and the supposed liberation (“release me from moral assumption”), while staving off what seems too obvious a pitfall (“nihilistic feelings are moving/if I try real hard, I’ll see right through them.”). They may look the part of nihilistic scum, but Rancid cares. Maybe this helped kill punk.

Or is it better when two actual nihilists watch the same video and critique it:

Mouse on the Keys, a jazzy leader in the world of abstract musical expressionism, hold court by participating in the ongoing nihilistic debate with “Completed Nihilism.” One could guess what completed nihilism is – a past-tense jab on Nietzsche’s thoughts, or something so meaningless it is only perfect? Don’t know, don’t care, because it is a vague introduction piece to Messiean-like expressionism, particularly “Vingt Regard sur L’enfant – Jesus”:

Interview: Chic-A-Go-Go’s Jake Austen

8 Jun

The history behind public-access television is almost as interesting as the content it has spawned. Public-access television was created in the late 1960s as a First Amendment response to the dregs and slants of commercial broadcasting in order to cater to true social needs (The Public Broadcasting System, or PBS, is not public-access as it is funded by public and private entities). One of those needs is education and entertainment for children. Who knew something as awesome as this would evolve:

Chic-A-Go-Go is the brainchild of Jake Austen and Jacqueline Stewart, a couple whose love for Soul Train and Kiddie-A-Go-Go led to the creation of their hit public-access show. Chic-A-Go-Go is billed as “Chicago’s dance show for kids of all ages,” features adolescent puppet rats (Li’l Ratso is the coolest!) interviewing some of the best artists in music. Previous guests include Lemmy, Fugazi, Pere Ubu, Built to Spill, Sonic Youth, Patti Smith, Spoon, The Slits, and the list goes on forever.

Patti Smith being grilled by Ratso

Each episode includes a dance segment while that day’s guest lip-syncs to his or her song. Jake Austen delivers the goods and tells us about the show’s inception, trekking for weird music in Chicago, why we need to let our “freak flags fly,” which legendary musicians were too afraid to talk to a puppet rat, and gives a brief history lesson on black musicians in punk rock.

Q: Talk a little bit about your musical background since your show resonates with adults just as much as children because of your guests.

Jake Austen: I have collected records since I was a little kid, always going for cheap thrift store stuff and always taking chances on unusual stuff based on cover art or odd names, so I always had a wide variety of (often un)popular music in my wheelhouse. I went to  a high school where people mostly listened to black radio music so I listened to that, and when oldies radio started in Chicago in the 80s I listened to that non-stop trying to learn all the old songs (Wax Trax Records, famous for industrial and weirdo stuff, actually carried old pop 45s at the store and I used to take long bus rides to the North Side to get stuff there). So basically, genuinely liking almost everything makes me a good deejay for a show where we play everything for everybody.

Q: Your wife, Jacqueline Stewart, is a highly regarded film scholar. Explain how the two of you came to create Chic-A-Go-Go.

JA: We were always big fans of dance shows, and always wanted to work on cable access (Jacqueline is a film scholar, specializing in the low budget d.i.y. films by early 20th century black filmmakers, and I think the spirit of cable access relates to her work in her mind). After meeting a couple, the Mulqueens, who did a local children’s dance show in Chicago in the 60s called Kiddie-a-Go-Go we realized this was something for us to pursue.

Q: Given that kids are likely being exposed to indie, punk and non-mainstream
music for the first time, what effect do you think the music has on the children?
JA: I think children respond to rhythm and noise and good music pretty naturally, and even if they think it’s weird, lots of stuff is weird to them, so inherently most kids are cool with any kind of music if you create an open, safe, festive environment. What may have more effect on them is seeing the artists lip sync, especially when they are “deviant” (gender bending, odd dressing, lots of body art, extremely eccentric) because they see how comfortable and fun it is to be around “weirdos.” We hope this makes a good impression, and most kids and parents return, often letting their own freak flag fly (as far as attire) on their sophomore trip, so it seems like it’s working.

Shonen Knife making the kids boogie.

Q: Chic-A-Go-Go is a show for kids and kids will dance to pretty much anything. Is that why there is so much freedom in choosing the artists you do?

JA: It’s not total freedom – it has to be dance music. It’s just that we (and kids) consider almost anything dance music.

Q: Do guests come on expecting the show to be a sort of tongue-in-cheek format, only to find out that the sincerity is 100%? Or is it that they are just as down for the cause?
JA: Most of our guests are are familiar with the show, or if not they realize right off that kids and our kid-like adult dancers are not keen on irony (despite the sarcastic tone of dialogue on shows like Hannah Montana and iCarly…but I think that’s faux attitude rather than actual irony).
Q: Guests don’t always seem as comfortable talking to a puppet as they probably imagined. Were there some instances in which a guest was extremely awkward or completely frustrated?
JA: Both Vanilla Ice and Lemmy refused to speak with the puppet, but agreed to get on camera and explain why they felt that way (Lemmy’s bleeped advice for kids: “don’t talk to fucking puppets”). The Streets only got through a few seconds of his interview before getting so freaked out he had to quit. Later a journalist told us he had the next interview and it had to be cancelled because the rapper was so rattled. Speaking of white Brit rhymesayers, Lady Sovereign bailed as soon as she saw the puppet. Some acts, a 90s garage boogie act called Quadrajets comes to mind, can’t fathom that they are supposed to look at the puppet and just look down at the puppeteer.
Q: The guests have been just as notable as the concept. How are you able to pull in such amazing talent?
JA: Many bands ask to play the show because they like it, but any bands that we approach seem to be inclined to say yes because they never get to do things for kids and they never get to work with puppets. And when we can get classic or hot, current acts into the studio they are often excited to lip sync. Who gets to that these days?
Q: You have a music zine called Roctober in which you did a four-part series on blacks in punk? Outside of the fact that it was extremely interesting (I had no idea that Neneh Cherry was in the Slits at one point), why was that important for you?
JA: In the magazine it was a one-part series, online it’s broken down into four pages. The writer whose idea it was is a black rock fan who (like many of the musicians covered) was always suprised he had to explain himself or feel like an outsider when enjoying music created by African AMericans. Showing the lengthy legacy of black punk rockers addresses this.
Q: Who in that group of black punk pioneers do you think has been criminally overlooked?
JA: ONO is beginning to get some acclaim now that they play several times a month in Chicago, but they are true artists and iconoclasts, and no one is weirder or more soulful than they.

ONO

Q: You have a Roctober Hall of Fame, which honors artists wholeheartedly dedicated to entertainment. Wouldn’t you include Chic- A-Go-Go in the Roctober HoF?

JA: It’s more for artists, but Chic-A-Go-Go belongs in the Chicago cable-access dance show hall of fame!

Q: What is your favorite moment to date on Chic-A-Go-Go?
JA: One time a group of actual Hassidic Jewish teens came into the studioand just let loose, mixing traditional Jewish dances with club moves. We didn’t know they were coming and thought it might be a joke (hipsters in costumes, doing schtick) but we soon realized that a great many Hassidic Jewish teens are from…Brooklyn. Meaning they are actually hipsters despite their Orthodox beliefs, and this group had seen the show on video and made a point of coming to the studio during a visit to Chicago.
Q: What was Jacqueline’s favorite moment?
JA: We had one episode where we did all blues music and we had a big group of black adolescents in the studio and they were really into it, totally grooving. It’s often said that black kids of the 2nd or 3rd hip hop generation (or whatever it is now) reject this music, and seeing proof that such belief is fallacy really moved her.

Scrabble-Rousers #7: Burt Reynolds

2 Jun

What Scrabble-Rousers is: A word is chosen at random by blindly flipping the pages and finger-pointing a word/phrase (in this case “Burt Reynolds”) from a book also chosen at random (in this case The Andy Warhol Diaries edited by Pat Hackett).

Having grabbed The Andy Warhol Diaries from the shelf, today’s topic of Scrabble-Rousers had the topic range potential from AIDS and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to Ardehir Zahedi and ZZ Top. And, so, Burt Reynolds related music it is.

Burt

Burt Reynolds is known to inspire a mustache here and there, but inspiring a legitimately good metal guitarist to pursue a life of mock metal? That’s the case with former Byzantine guitarist Skip Cromer, whose current project, The Burt Reynolds Death Metal Experience, is as much hilarious as it is good. And it only makes sense that Cromer has opened for Unknown Hinson.

Cromer’s own video introduction: “Classic vintage music video from 1987. This was Burt Reynolds Death Metal Experiment at its height in popularity.”

Scouring the Burt Reynolds catalog, the list of classic soundtracks and songs that played while the mustache danced for us is impossible to enumerate. This, however, is perhaps the most famous sound in cinematic history:

Burt helped bring disco back for a spell with his appearance as pornman Jack Horner in Boogie Nights. Unfortunately, the soundtrack (which was released in two parts) was nothing more than an expensive version of any other 70s compilation cheapo. The second release did feature Apollo 100’s only hit.  The studio-based group recorded “Joy,” a re-arranged baroque-pop version of J.S. Bach’s “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.”

Smokey and the Bandit and Hooper both played conduit to the pioneering rock and roll of Bill Justis. Justis was an accomplished musician in his own right, but also arranged music for Sam Phillips’ Sun Records, including arrangements for Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis.

“Raunchy” was Justis’ biggest hit:

Reynolds played Quint Asper on the TV show Gunsmoke in the early 60s, which actually began as a radio series. The Dodge City narrative of westward expansion gave way to two theme songs: one without lyrics composed by Rex Koury and one with lyrics written and sung by Tex Ritter, which was never played on either radio or television:

Traditional:

Tex Ritter:

Finally, Burt Reynolds himself performing a Silver Jews-like honky-tonk “Let’s Do Something Cheap and Superficial.”

From Smokey and the Bandit 2:

The Melvins: The Bride Screamed Murder out 6/1

20 May

Above is the cover of the split 12″ that the Melvins and ISIS (who announced their breakup on May 18, but will complete their tour through June 23) will be releasing during their upcoming U.S. tour that begins June 1st, the release date of The Bride Screamed Murder. The Melvins contributed alternate takes of “Pig House” and “I’ll Finish You Off” from the new album, released by Mike Patton’s Ipecac Recordings.

The Melvins tour looks like this:

  • June 1, 2010 – San Diego, CA – The Casbah
  • June 2, 2010 – Tempe, AZ – The Clubhouse
  • June 3, 2010 – Albuquerque, NM – Launch Pad
  • June 5, 2010 – Austin, TX – Emos
  • June 7, 2010 – Houston, TX – Warehouse Live
  • June 8, 2010 – Baton Rouge, LA – Spanish Moon
  • June 9, 2010 – New Orleans, LA – One Eyed Jacks
  • June 10, 2010 – Birmingham, AL – Bottle Tree
  • June 12, 2010 – Manchester, TN – Bonnaroo Festival
  • June 14, 2010 – Athens, GA – 40 Watt Club
  • June 16, 2010 – Washington, DC – 9:30 Club
  • June 17, 2010 – Philadelphia, PA – Theatre Of The Living Arts
  • June 18, 2010 – New York, NY – Webster Hall
  • June 19, 2010 – Brooklyn, NY – Music Hall Of Williamsburg
  • June 20, 2010 – Boston, MA – Paradise
  • June 21, 2010 – Boston, MA – Paradise
  • June 23, 2010 – Cleveland, OH – Grog Shop
  • June 24, 2010 – Detroit, MI – Small’s
  • June 25, 2010 – Chicago, IL – Double Door
  • June 26, 2010 – Madison, WI – High Noon Saloon
  • June 27, 2010 – Des Moines, IA – House Of Bricks
  • June 29, 2010 – Denver, CO – Ogden Theatre
  • July 2, 2010 – Calgary, AB, Canada – Sled Island Festival
  • July 3, 2010 – Calgary, AB, Canada – Sled Island Festival
  • July 5, 2010 – Vancouver, BC, Canada – Rickshaw Theatre
  • July 6, 2010 – Seattle, WA – Showbox At The Market
  • July 7, 2010 – Eugene, OR – John Henry’s
  • July 9, 2010 – San Jose, CA – Blank Club

Enlightening and immensely entertaining interview with Buzz Osbourne at metalsucks.com. Someone finally explains crabcore, “It’s like the [Jane] Fonda workout of pseudo heavy metal.” Thanks, Buzzy.

Scrabble-Rousers #4: Hypocrisy

18 May

Hypocrisy and its bedmates – pretenders, fakes and phonies – have always been a source of consideration for artists. Just as in Eldridge Cleaver’s Soul on Ice where today’s word comes from, musicians have taken aim at social and political hypocrisy as far back as Ludvig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3. In 1804, Beethoven titled his third symphony “Bonaparte” in honor of Napoleon, who then held the title of First Consul. Beethoven cast Napoleon in the same light as great Roman leaders because of their staunch opposition to tyranny and dictatorships. However, Napoleon announced himself “Emperor of the French” which so deeply angered Beethoven that he renamed his third symphony “Sinfonia eroica, composta per festeggiare il sovvenire d’un grand’uomo” (“Heroic symphony, composed to celebrate the memory of a great man.)”

Here is a great Dutch site streaming No. 3 in its entirety.

Folk music is a genre almost exclusive to exposing the hypocrisies of war and oppression. Peter Seeger and Phil Ochs wrote and sang with a purpose and summoned a reckoning.

John Cage just before he went deaf.

Some artists, like composer John Cage, even adapt their sociopolitical ideals to create innovative new forms of music. Cage, of the “purposeful purposelessness” school, was hugely influenced by anarchic writers and created a compositional process based on chance resembling these beliefs.

Rap pioneer Gil Scott-Heron, inspired by watching the moon landing in 1969, called out society for its racial and social inequalities with “Whitey on the Moon.” “Was all the money I made last year/For whitey on the moon?”

The Dead Kennedys and Jello Biafra were masters of finding the hypocrisy in just about everything and releasing it in their famous scathing sarcasm.

Jello Biafra exposes hypocrisy in his own madeup name.

“Holiday in Cambodia” is a perfect example, setting side by side a typical Reagan-era yuppy youth to a Pol Pot-era slave worker to display the West’s blindness and indifference.

This is endless subject and it would be great to hear from others, so please post your thoughts and songs related to “hypocrisy.”

Here are a few noteworthy literal associations of hypocrisy:

“Circle of Hypocrisy” by Napalm Death

“Hypocrite” by The Heptones

“Hypocrite” by Antibalas