Wednesday, November 19, 2008

billy beta brockali

In the November issue of Spin, I delve into the weird world of the Rock-a-Fire Explosion and the grown-ass men who still pretend they are at their seventh birthday pizza party at Showbiz, gnoshing on pepperoni-flavored cardboard and jumping in ball pits. There's this weird "fight club" thing going on, with secret video sites that I can't put on the record, some copyright-slap fights, not to mention disquieting 'furby' imagery. But I'll be damned if anyone ever tops the "Love in the Club" video though. Chris Thrash (pictured above in his Billy Bob Brockali cypher) is straight genius of love on that one.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

greta jones

No amount of emails to Grace Jones' PR lackeys sprung me to a dream interview with the lady. Guess invoking things like Vibe, Spin, Paste (jk), or The Believer (the thought of Charles Burns drawing her portrait made my editor and me giddy) don't mean a thing when you refuse to do US press. B-b-b-but Obama. Come back, Grace!

I haven't even heard her latest. Well, the delectable mathematics of Mrs. Jones plus Aeroplane has been heard and savored, though Mark E.'s edit of "La Vie en Rose" hasn't. (Anyone?) So instead I'll keep my musings about her genius to myself.

I do know that at least three of her records always have a permanent place in my heart crate. As I mentioned somewhere else, nothing allows you to make improbably broad leaps between funk, dub reggae, disco, or twitchy weird rock during a DJ set than Grace. And I do know that the woman remains a superlative interpreter of "the songbook" (which somehow includes The Normal, Bill Withers, Astor Piazzolla, Roxy Music, Tom Petty, Piaf, etc). And that the genius of her interpretation of Smokey Robinson's "The Hunter Gets Captured By the Game" lies in how her panther-muscled singing gives it another layer. And that her photo shoot with Chris Cunningham got me off of meat.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


In the newest issue of Yeti, my interview with Rub-n-Tug's Thom Bullock about the return of disco appears. You may remember it from when it appeared here. The CD included also has a track from Thom (as Way of the Ancients), which the blurb notes is "a lengthy tribute to 'Set Your Controls for the Heart of the Sun.'" Y'mean it's a tribute to Om? Were that not enough, I'm pretty taken with Thom's new studio projects, be they with the son of a Pop art master or as part of a veritable supergroup.

But all week long, post-election, we had been fiending to hear Parliament's "Chocolate City" (cue low gravelly voice: "Someone told me we got LA"). So imagine how stoked we were when Rub-n-Tug took to the decks on Saturday night and greet us with: "What's happening CC? They still call it the White House, but that's a temporary condition, too. Can you dig it, CC?" That three note piano descent and back again. Over and over and over and over and over again. An auspicious start to the night.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

beLA 3

Halloween night, I wound up catching the world premiere of the Norwegian black metal documentary, Until the Light Takes Us, with a friend whose music coincidentally appears in the film (and I also heard a Black Dice jam on the soundtrack). It was one of those instances where I realized there would've been corpse-painted faces in the crowd no matter the holiday.

By no means am I an expert on black metal, nor was I ever much of a metal head (even when flashing other hesher tendencies in high school), so I was excited to catch the doc and hopefully learn a bit more about what makes black metal such a fascinating sub-genre. So it was frustrating to be plunged into the documentary expecting to already be intimately familiar with the subjects Darkthrone and Burzum and why they are important (and I would argue that they aren't important in the grand scheme of things).

For a good twenty minutes, I was uncertain just why we were following around these dudes named Fenriz and Varg. One struts around a purgatorial Oslo in black leather, the other is in a maximum security prison. Not once does the film attempt to frame the Norwegian scene for outsiders and I myself (though having heard epochal albums Transilvanian Hunger and Burzum's solo works) felt clueless. Instead, we get talking heads about why Mayhem's Dead rubbing on corpse paint was "important." As if the Misfits, KISS, The Crow or Phantom of the Paradise had never happened. Yes, perhaps in the late 80s, no teens in Oslo who were in shitty metal bands were doing it, but does that make it important on any scale greater than basement shows?

The other detraction is the music itself. Too often, we have discussions about black metal, but only scant instances of hearing the actual raw stuff. Instead, the soundtrack abounds with bleepy, dated early 2000s electronica from múm, Boards of Canada, and the like. Perhaps such sound selections would work in another story, but when they rub against the actual black metal tracks, it's painfully out of place. The instances of Darkthrone and Burzum music is fucking intense that I found myself longing to hear more of that music.

It's a shame that Until the Lights Takes Us doesn't do much to shape or frame these stories a bit better, as there's some fascinating stuff in the film. Varg Vikernes remains one of the most intense figures in underground music. How he explains the motives behind the church burnings sets the controversial incidents in a new light (no pun intended), arguing that it was a move to reclaim his Nordic pagan culture from the clutches of Christianity, Americanization and monoculture. It's fascinating how the press then distorted such acts for their own sensationalist ends, twisting it into acts of Satanism. Which in turn spawned copycat vandalism, now festooned with 666s and upside-down crosses, generating even more press coverage, fear, and misrepresentation.

For all that misguided sensationalism, it was this distorting of truth that catapulted Norwegian black metal to the forefront of musical imaginations around the world. Equally deplorable is how this deeply personal expression of music now gets exploited by high-minded artists as well. The footage of Harmony Korine tapdancing like a jackass in a gallery (in minstrelsy black metal face) or Bjarne Melgaard's clueless cash-in conceptual paintings on the subject would make anyone want to take a battleaxe to their false-metal asses.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

beLA 2

Recounting my story of that epic Halloween traffic jam to LAXers past and present elicits only a "meh" response.
But when I mention that it rained while I was in LA, they go "Holy shit! It rained?!!"

Traffic jam jams:

Animal Collective: "My Girls" "For Rev. Green" "Summertime Clothes" "Grass" "Brother Sport"
Gloria Taylor: random mp3s courtesy of Dave
Everly Brothers: Stories We Could Tell
Arthur Russell: "Habit of You"
Al Green: "Georgia Boy"
La Dusseldorf: "Cha Cha 2000"
Grace Jones: "La Vie en Rose"
Boney M: "Dancing in the Streets"
Tim Buckley: Happy Sad
The Millennium: Begin
Fleetwood Mac: "You Make Lovin' Fun"
Joni Mitchell: "Conversation"
Studio: "Life's a Beach"
Nilsson: "Drivin' Along"
Judee Sill: "The Kiss"
Yaz: "Situation" (US 12" mix)

Jams to be jammed:

Bill Withers: Still Bill
Musique: Keep on Jumpin'
France Joli: "Come to Me"
Jessi Colter: I'm Jessi Colter, Mirriam
Carrie Lucas: "Dance With You"
Freddy Fender: Are You Ready for Freddy?
Elizabeth Barraclough: Hi
Claire: "High on Love"
Travis Wammack: s/t
Ennio Morricone: Exorcist II The Heretic OST
Taana Gardner: "Heartbeat"
Joe Tex: Bumps & Bruises, I Gotcha
Sylvester: Stars, M-1015
Chicago: "Street Player"
Bohannon: "Cut Loose"
Isley Brothers: "Rockin' With Fire"
Alisha: "All Night Passion"

Saturday, November 01, 2008


So I'm out in LA this week. It's my first time out here since 1991 --seventeen years ago!-- when I came out for a drama club field trip with my high school. Our club went to see Michael Crawford in Phantom of the Opera, a bunch of people in furry tights for Cats, Lily Tomlin in Search for Intelligent Signs of Life in the Universe, and I fell asleep during each show, thus ending my fixation on theatre.

By far the best thing I did out here last time was go to Universal Studios to see the Miami Vice Stunt Spectacular. Upon developing my photos from the trip, I realized I had some 50 pics of exploding speedboats and stunt guys in white suits flying through mid-air, shot from a distance of 200 ft. or something. So this trip couldn't possibly top the awesomeness of that, but I'm trying. I have already had a quintessential LA experience though: last night I sat in a traffic jam for 5 1/2 hours!