Sunday, December 10, 2017

Some favourite vulgar novelty tunes

So I'm teaching ESL again, and looking for songs with references to the family - to practice family vocabulary (Aunt, Uncle), but also personal pronouns ("my," "your," etc). There are some good ones, but not all of them are level-appropriate. I tried Randy Newman's "My Country," but the humour there is a bit sophisticated for ESL students: Newman follows in the steps of the great Ray Davies, piling on both affection and scorn, making a "my country right or wrong, but mostly wrong" kind of song, mocking America and yet identifying as an American at the same time. I actually tried it, and can't say I got the response I'd hoped (though the pronouns were useful).

Since traditional versus non-traditional families are a topic of conversation, I considered MDC's "My Family is a Little Weird" (rhymes with "Daddy wears a dress and Mommy grows a beard"), but it probably has some bad language in it, and it's a little, uh, fast.

Dar Williams' "The Christians and the Pagans" is a great song, with lots of family vocabulary, lots of pronouns, lots of interesting themes, and - because it is about an unconventional, cross-faith, reconciliatory Christmas dinner, quite seasonally and cross-culturally appropriate, revealing things about the values of our inclusive current society - except the sentiments in the song are so touching that I can't help but weep like a baby when I play it. I am going to use it, but I am making it an optional homework assignment, so the students don't see me cryin': I've directed them to the song, removed the pronouns and family nouns from a transcription of the lyrics, and provided a few multiple choice comprehension questions to boot.  

In the back of my head all along, however, humming rudely, is Mojo Nixon's "Tie My Pecker to My Leg." It's a post-Skid Roper gem, off Mojo's underappreciated Whereabouts Unknown. It has, uh, plenty of family vocabulary. Unfortunately, it's all themed around barnyard incest (with a bit of bestiality and coprophagia thrown in for good measure). And Mojo tends to drop his pronouns, treating family nouns as names ("sister.") It's completely unusable in class, but it gets stuck in my head, and I find myself singing along with it despite myself. My wife hates it when it's been coming up on my playlist, because I'm walking around singing snatches of THIS to myself:
"Tie My Pecker to My Leg," by Mojo Nixon 
Me your momma and some other whore
Floating down the river on a shithouse door
Gonna tie my pecker to my leg, to my leg
Gonna tie my pecker to my leg 
Dad's going steady with a pig in a barn
Grandma's getting down with an ear of corn
Tie my pecker to my leg, to my leg
Gonna tie my pecker to my leg 
Watching mom shave her pussy really gets the kids hard
Grandpa's trying to fuck something in the front yard
Tie my pecker to my leg...
Sister is getting rich on her 900 number
Four dime diddly bop given her best dog a hummer
Tie my pecker to my leg... 
Reddog (Solo) 
Well I'm a big dick daddy and a fuckin' fool
Eleven years old and I went to pussy school
Tie my pecker to my leg... 
Yeah, her asshole is tighter then a steel drum
Hell I'd eat a yard of her shit to watch her cum
Gonna tie my pecker to my leg... 
Ah, Simon (Solo) - put your headphones on boy! 
You only live once, so off with them pants
Hell ain't for sure, it's only a chance
Gonna tie my pecker to my leg... 
Yeah, my gal's so fine, wanna suck her daddy's dick
If you saw my poontang's face, you wouldn't give me no lip
Gonna tie my pecker to my leg... 
Woke up this morning with a case of stinky finger (belch)
Last night I must have been the designated drinker
Gonna tie my pecker to my leg... 
I need a woman, six foot ten
She's gotta be that tall so I could get it all in
Tie my pecker to my leg... 
Everybody solo...!
Yeah, me your momma and some other whore... 
Anyhow, Mojo got me thinking: what are my favourite other rude ditties? The ones so catchy that they get me singing the lyrics for a few days afterwards? Erika sure knows the next one: "Blinded by Turds," as recorded by Oscar Brand, found on more than one of his many "Bawdy" novelty albums. Also not usable in class! (I will use none of this in class. I swear!).


Incidentally, I first heard this song covered live on a DVD by the Meat Puppets (as "Wonderful Song").

"Blinded by Turds" by Oscar Brand 
There was an old lady who lived on Lint Street
Her passage was blocked up from too much to eat
She took stomach pills without reading the box
Before she could strip, turds were flying like rocks. 
Chorus:
Toorala, tooralay
A rolling stone gathers no moss, so they say
Sing along with the birds
It's a wonderful song but it's all about turds. 
She ran to the window, stuck out her ass
Just at that moment a cowhand did pass
He heard the strange noise, so he gazed up on high
A mighty big turd hit him right in the eye. 
Oh he ran to the east and the west
When a further consignment arrived on his chest
He fled to the north and he fled to the south
When a bloody big turd hit him right in the mouth. 
The next time you walk over Flatriver Bridge
Look out for a cowhand asleep on the ridge
His chest bears a placard, whereon are these words:
"Be kind to a cowboy who's blinded by turds."

It's pretty innocent (and hell, it is almost Chaucerian!), and it touches on folk traditions like rugby songs and rude sing-alongs, usually as practiced as a bonding exercise by groups of men - but there's certainly nothing seasonal about it. I bring it up just as a rude song that I'm fond of - but you would figure there would be more vulgar Christmas ditties out there! 

What about my friend David M. (of NO FUN's) "Christmas is a Sad and Lonely Time?" I was singing it to myself all through my wife's office Christmas party last night. But only when no one was in earshot!
"Christmas is a Sad and Lonely Time," by David M. 
Christmas is a sad and lonely time
So you better drink your Christmas wine
Grab a razorblade and chop a line
Of hokey cokey from Peru 
Hire a prostitute and do not pay
Thank her for the complimentary lay
If you're still alive on Boxing Day
Bang a hooker in your room 
(Repeat, but slower - ideal for a listening exercise!)
(Then repeat again!) 
(Alternate verse on The Five Wenceslases)
Christmas is a sad and lonely time
Eat your Oxycontin, you'll be fine
Use them useless tears of salty brine
Come and urinate and poo
Take a dump atop your Christmas tree
Dream about the penitentiary
If the pigs don't come and you're still free
Let's be lights against the gloom
Sad and lonely folks like you and me
Bangin' hookers
(A cranberry-saucy turkey hooker with no dressing at all!)
In your sad and lonely, sad and lonely Christmas room...
Definitely gets in your head. Even Erika was humming it a little last night (which she never does with "Tie My Pecker to My Leg" or "Blinded by Turds." She just rolls her eyes and remembers being single when I get those songs stuck in my head).  I like that it speaks to the experience of being isolated during the Christmas season, too. David has suggested he MIGHT NOT DO a Christmas show this year, but I hope he's just teasing. 

The final favourite vulgar tune of mine is a recent discovery. With apologies to the Dayglo Abortions' "My Shit Stinks" and Ween's "Piss Up a Rope" (and the Fugs' great "Wet Dream"), I think if I was going to pick one other vulgar, funny tune, only recently discovered by me (and as far as I know never officially released, though it does circulate online), it would be Victoria band the Salty Seamen's "I Shit My Pants." It does speak, alas, to what I believe is a universal experience, albeit one seldom discussed in public (which, you know, is kind of a criteria of a great song, one that captures an experience you can identify with, that no one else has ever sung about quite exactly the same way before). I imagine someone with more trouble with incontinence than I have would not find this funny (it is a rare day indeed when I crap myself - often involving stomach flu and an ill-timed fart/ sneeze combination - for which I am truly grateful).

"I Shit My Pants" by the Salty Seamen (NOT the Fugs, as has been mis-stated). 
(Fart sounds)
I overdosed on flakes of bran
And now I couldn't get (fit?) into the can  
I shit my pants
I shit my pants
First the gas, then the pain
Now the spreading chocolate stain
I shit my pants
I shit my pants
I felt a surge down in my bowels
I'll wipe my ass on your brand-new towels
I shit my pants
I shit my pants 
I got constipated so I took Ex-Lax
And blew some crap into my slacks
I shit my pants
I shit my pants 
Ahhh...
I shit in my pants
I shit in my pants
I said I shit, I shit right in my pants
Yeah 
I ate some cheese as a last resort
It left a skidmark in my shorts
I shit my pants
I shit my pants 
I'm so embarrassed, everybody knows
I never take in my own clothes
I shit my pants
I shit my pants
I shit my pants
I shit my pants...
The quest for usable family-centered songs continues... meantime I leave these here for whatever vulgar amusement y'all might get out of them. 

Monday, December 04, 2017

God's Own Country at the Vancity Theatre


There's not much I can do to link the default passions of this blog - punk rock and horror movies - to the upcoming film God's Own Country. There is some mention of Bradford - the home of English punk band the New Model Army - so I guess I could try to draw some tenuous parallels between "Green and Grey" and the landscapes of the film (beautiful and lush and expansive, but nonetheless at times quite bleak). But there's no punk rock of any sort in this film, and while there's occasional mention of going to Bradford for a night out, it never actually happens: the characters stray no further from the farm than whatever their rural village is called, which is even more smalltownish than Bradford (the subject, I assume, of another great New Model Army song, "Smalltown England").

Boy I love the New Model Army. I hope they tour this way again... Umm...

...but all the same, I really enjoyed God's Own Country. It tells a very simple story, but there are complex emotions running deep in its characters: primarily a young man who has been fitted with the unwelcome mantle of maintaining his father's sheep-and-cow farm as his Dad's health gets increasingly worse. The kid is filled with a quiet, mostly self-directed hate - for his life, for the burden of the work, for his own loneliness. He gets staggeringly drunk on a pretty regular basis at a pub not too far away; when we first see him, he's puking away the night before in the toilet. Occasionally he has furtive sex with a beautiful local boy, but he wants nothing to do with him besides the odd bit of bum, even though the kid seems friendly enough. Mostly he just works the farm and tries, it seems, to choke down (or drink down) any emotions that might take him away from his unwanted, but unavoidable duties. His father and grandmother don't really say much of anything to thank him, because he's a bit of a bastard most of the time, and he doesn't try to ease up on them either, because for anyone to be kind to anyone would crack the seal on vulnerabilities that could sabotage the whole dysfunctional arrangement.

The cast of the film is great. The main character, Johnny Saxby, is played by Josh O'Connor - an actor I don't know, presumably in one of his first roles, but he does a great job. The whole cast does, with un-faked real farm chores (birthing lambs, or sticking your gloved hand into a cow's vagina to check a calf) and a bit of sheepshit on the ass during an outdoor sex scene to lend authenticity to the performances. The only name I recognized when the credits rolled was that of Gemma Jones, who does a fair bit of work in film and television, but who I needed to look up on Google to see why her name was familiar.



...but even a direct link to Ken Russell's The Devils is not really enough to bring this film into my wheelhouse. Doesn't matter. This is a pretty sincere and moving love story about what happens when a Romanian farmhand comes to the farm and begins a relationship with the main character, at first rooted in sex, but slowly expanding until things get complicated. There is some rather hot, if slightly muddy, sex; there are some emotional hurdles; and there have been comparisons - including in the Vancity Theatre program guide - to Brokeback Mountain, without the cheesy slash fiction aspect. (I love David Ehrenstein's putdowns of that movie, which I valued and believed far less than God's Own Country).

I don't think saying more about God's Own Country will profit readers, but it is emotionally engaging, believable, and intense, and you will find yourself feeling quite a bit for its protagonist, fucked up as he is. It would be unfair to reveal the ending of the film, but I will say that I found myself surprised to be thinking of Five Easy Pieces at a certain point, when some character's emotional walls start to break down. It's a moving film. If you like the country around Yorkshire... if you like stories about young men struggling with their emotions... if you'd like to see a fairly positive an reasonably un-falsified representation of queer romance (or at least sex), this might be a worthy experience, even without any vomiting naked nuns to spice things up. Vancity Theatre showtimes here - I believe it opens Dec. 8th.

Oh, David Ehrenstein in that essay gives a reference to one of the first pieces of queer cinema I ever found myself liking, the Merchant/ Ivory film Maurice... looks like that's coming up at the Vancity too, along with other Merchant/ Ivory films... Hmmm...

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Slow!


Slow by bev davies, at the Thunderbird Arena in 1986; not to be re-used without permission

Slow in 2017 is better than Slow in 1986.

I am serious. Slow in 1986 were inspired as hell, a great debut, a ferocious burst of youthful energy and a force to be reckoned with, keeping the spirit of punk alive when the best of the first-gen punk survivors were faltering with the possibility of getting on the radio or getting signed to a major label ("if we just make it slightly more approachable..."). I bought their first (and only) single when it first came out, off Grant at Collectors' RPM, and loved it. Against the Glass - which came out just a year after DOA's terminally overproduced record, Let's Wreck the Party, if you want a study in contrasts - was also in my collection from the week of its release, and I maybe have even in owned it in two versions (because, as I recall, there was a slightly different mastering job on the second pressing). I am very glad to have seen them live: it was one of my first-ever punk concerts, Slow opening for the Cramps at the Thunderbird Arena, on a  rare blessed night, where, as a non-driving teen from Maple Ridge, years before there was even BAD bus service back to the 'burbs, I actually managed to get a ride into the city and a place to sleep, with a bunch of anarchists, lesbians, and members of the Animal Slaves at a house off Victoria (I got to meet Rachel Melas and admire her hairy legs while they all sat around a kitchen table making Seussian jokes with rhymes like "I like dykes." I never got to see the Animal Slaves perform but it was pretty fun eavesdropping on that conversation). There were kittens, too, who licked the sweat off me as I tried to sleep on the couch afterwards, which was memorable in a different way.

And I saw someone attempt to pierce her own nose, badly, that night. And saw my only UFO, later on, lying on the grass at the UBC bus loop, watching a meandering dot among the stars that no one else could be made to see  (but it was there!). It's the ephiphenomenon around that night that I remember most clearly. Some of you have heard the story about a big-haired Goth girl who came up to us before the show to chat, and my big-haired Goth female friend commented, "You're so pale, it's disgusting!" - then failed to notice as this newcomer's face fell and she struggled with hurt and distress, until I, seeing this all and understanding, reassured her: "she means she's jealous."

She was so relieved!

Tom Anselmi came up to talk to us somewhere before the show, too, asking us, in the parking lot, if we had seen a guy with a silver (or golden?) beard around, who he had to talk to. I had no idea at the time that he was my age then. but jeez he looked young.At 18, Tom Anselmi was WAYYYY cooler than I was. I was kinda in awe. I didn't say anything to him, though. (He was probably more interested in the girls I was with, anyhow).

For those curious about my first five punk shows, they were: #1: Dead Kennedys with Jim Cummins, House of Commons and the Bill of Rights, at the New York Theatre in 198...5? I think. The Fall of Canada tour, the night the Crucifucks DIDN'T play. Neil S. Emery keeps posting photos of the show, that include audience shots, and there is one guy whose back of the head might actually be mine, except I don't really remember what I looked like back when I had hair. Jim - who I saw take a beer bottle or can to the head and keep playing without, as I recall it, missing a chord - was at the show last night, too.

#2 was some mix-and-match festival of local punk bands where I am pretty sure I saw the Spores and Death Sentence, and definitely saw the Haters, whom I hated, and who now - in their black hoods, with their power tools, making an ungodly noise on the stage - are the only band who stands out even vaguely in my memory. (Danny of the Spores was at the show last night, too, quipping, "I don't even like Slow!" at first, then later recanting). Then there was the Cut-the-Crap-Clash with Phil Smith and Corsage opening (little did I know the backup singers were the Dishrags!), which I think was the first ever show I was at where bev davies was also present and taking photos. I was up in the nosebleeds, though, among those being mocked by Joe from the stage: he said we didn't understand, were mere spectators for not being willing to come down and join the party on the floor, but I had a rare DOA EP with me, my first-ever Triumph of the Ignoroids, with the uncensored cover, which I had scored FOR A MERE TEN BUCKS at D&G Collectors' Records before the show, and was in no way willing to take down into the mosh pit, no matter how much Joe exhorted us. I remembered the mosh pit from the DK's show all too well (I lost my shoe in it and had to retrieve it).

I am not sure if any of the members of the Dishrags or Corsage were at the show on Friday, but I wouldn't be surprised.

And then there was Slow opening for the Cramps, in their bloody nurses' uniforms, with (again, unbeknownst to me) Mary of the Modernettes doing some backup vocals, leggy and sexy and kinda shy off to the side of the stage, with another gal or two, too). I barely remember the Cramps' set, gather that they were in a bad mood, with Lux pissed off by some pig's blood that got onto their equipment, maybe annoyed that the audience was chanting "STRIP!" at him (his previous striptease in Vancouver had been mentioned on the radio earlier that day). I recall reading in Discorder that after the show he smashed some hapless journalist's tape recorder when a question aggravated him. The Cramps who I had THOUGHT I was going to see - the madman-fronted unit I had seen in Urgh! A Music War - were nowhere present that night, and Slow totally upstaged the headliners, doing their classics, plus a cover of "Gimme Shelter," and a song that for years I thought was an ode to masturbation called "Beat the Creature" that Tom now tells me, some thirty years later, was actually "Meet the Preacher," and written about Ken Lester (!). I loved it all, and was more impressed by their anarchy and energy than I was BY THE CRAMPS', which says something -

- but holy fuck, it was a mess! It was one of the first and biggest lessons that I ever got taught that a band live MAY NOT SOUND LIKE THEY DO ON RECORD. Slow live in 1986 (or was it 1985?) sounded kinda like... well, wait a sec, have you  heard their live cover of Nazareth's "Hair of the Dog?" It's hilarious, it WORKS, it is REAL ROCK AND ROLL, by all means ("and Hamm says..."), but it - what's that line from Dylan - "fall[s] apart all over the place?"

Slow, opening for the Cramps, fell apart all over the place. I don't know if they were stoned or drunk, but they were definitely teenagers and relatively new to music. It was real fun, and they deserve every bit of their legendary status, but... 31 years later, these guys are a BAND. These guys can PLAY. These guys have the discipline and confidence and chops that they lacked back then. They may have been legendary in 1986, but they're GREAT in 2017. And if what I heard of their new material on Friday night was any indication, they've also developed and evolved as songwriters over the years, because -

- hold on. I must not disparage Against the Glass (or "I Broke the Circle"). (Though I will ignore "The Night Before").  The problem, though, with those original Slow compositions is that they've been all the Slow the world has HAD, these past thirty years. Even if Slow haven't done them to death - even if they might actually still be fresh and fun for the band to play, which is what it seemed like on Friday - for those of us who have had no other Slow to listen to for 30 years, you know, we kinda KNOW these songs already, eh? They're great - especially "Lookin' for Something Clean" and "Against the Glass" and "Bad Man" and "I Broke the Circle" and... well, I could rank them in order, and all the way down to "Out of the Cold" (the song above "The Night Before") they're all great... but there's still only so long you can listen to even great songs before you have to put away the album before you kill your ability to enjoy it. I don't spin X's More Fun in the New World very much. I don't spin the Clash' London Calling very much, or the Stooges' Fun House. And I don't spin Slow's Against the Glass very much, either (at least it's in good company). Because I don't ever want to find myself going, "yeah, yeah, you have not been the same. We get it."You have to eventually stop listening to an album before you ruin it for yourself, you know?

But hey, what's this "Asphalt Plane" thing about?


Slow Dec 1 2017, by bev davies, not to be reused without permission.

The new Slow songs were AMAZING. Both "Nothing to Use" and "Polaroid Queen" - uploaded to Youtube with great audio, unlike my clips - reminded me more of Copyright's classic "Circle C" album that got kinda shitcanned by Geffen - an album EVERYONE SHOULD BUY IF THEY SEE IT, one of greatest rock albums to come out of Vancouver ever. "Asphalt Plane" sounded a bit darker and more menacing, a bit more like Copyright's The Hidden World, also an unsung local gem, that even some Copyright fans can be heard to disparage occasionally (I never knew why; while there are some weaker tunes on the album, mebbe, like the single "Into the Light," there are also some fuckin' EPIC MONSTER ROCKERS, like the sexy/ horny, and brilliantly anthemic "Mother Nature" - which, I'm just sayin' - could easily be incorporated into a Slow set). Tom, Hamm, and the boys can't help but have learned and grown from their decades in rock. There might still have been some LOOSENESS to what they did on Friday, some CHAOS - and, I mean, who wants to see covers of "No Fun" and "Pills" and "Chinese Rocks" and covers-of-covers like "Brand New Cadillac" and "Somethin' Else" WITHOUT them being loose and chaotic? Loose and chaotic is the whole POINT of those songs. But the looseness and chaos of a seasoned skilled player is still of a different order than the looseness and chaos of an 18 year old dude with his hormones exploding out of his nurse's uniform.

Slow in 2017 is BETTER than Slow in 1986. I cannot WAIT to hear their new album, or new EP, or whatever it may be. I had such a good time at the show that I completely forgave them for starting at 12:30, even though it meant I only got less than four and a half hours sleep before my first day of work at a new job (I got home after 2:30 and was up at 7am). It was great to be standing next to Bev and sharing notes, talking about call-out culture, confessing my own occasional "fuck and run" period to her, having her tell me her own "me, too" story, and debating what to do about artists who have misbehaved. Bev, like me, is a big Roman Polanski fan, and gave what I think is the most intelligent and provocative summation of the whole sorry situation: "Would you rather see a really shitty movie made by a really nice person, or a great movie made by a shitty person?"

Yep.

Anyhoo, besides Bev, it was nice to see a whole bunch of people I knew, some of whom I said hi to, starting with Jim Cummins, who didn't know that he was on the cover of the new and, I believe, final issue of BC Musician magazine until I gave him a copy (there was a stack of them inside the door). Then there was Danny of the Spores, who had some cool news re: his career as a cinematographer, and whose Lon Chaney Sr. tattoo is apparently all finished (it is super fucking cool and you should ask to see it if you run into him - I'd post a pic but all I have is the unfinished version). There was Al Mader, who wouldn't have been there if I hadn't told him that it was starting late and tickets were available, who could be seen dancin' to the right of the stage (and who you see in his hat in one of my pics below, with Kevin James "Sipreano" Howes - whom I briefly forgot knew me, and almost walked by!). Sipreano  did an insipred deejay set just before Slow took the stage, which morphed at one point from the Nihilist Spasm Band's "No Canada" to Willie Dunn and Jerry Saddleback's "Peruvian Dream," and included the Painted Ship's "She Said Yes" - which Bev didn't recognize, even though she had LIVED with the Painted Ship for a time when she'd just arrived in Vancouver (!). The previous DJ (DJ Paisley EVA?) had done a great job of providing a grrrls' only opening set, with lots of songs I didn't know ("Is this Kathleen Hannah?") and plenty I did (stuff by Nina Hagen or Kim Gordon). Nardwuar was there but I leave Nardwuar alone, since I figure he must surely prefer that. Doug Smith was there. At least one dude from the Tranzmitors was there. I didn't see Dave Bowes, or Adrian Mack, or Mike Usinger, but I gather they were there, some with their wives. Ed Hurrell was there and said hi to me... Gerry Jenn Wilson was there and said hi to Bev, but she doesn't know me... Lotta people out, in any case. There was even a guy with a chihuahua or something.

Who brings chihuahuas to punk shows?

The Orange Kyte had the single most entertaining fan, a young (drunk?) girl who kept shouting variants on "I think you guys are an awesome band!" - which led to the singer responding "I think you're an awesome audience member," at one point. But so much vocal praise seemed a bit uncomfortable for them, since she wouldn't let up. I liked them, tho'. They kinda made me think of what the Jolts would have sounded like if they had been influenced by the Kinks instead of the Ramones.

I miss the Jolts.

Then there was the Prettys, who suffered a little bit from "waiting for Slow to take the stage" fatigue, on my part; they delivered - with three different vocalists, including a charismatic little Lester Bangs-type on lead guitar who jumped around onstage a ton while soloing. I had enjoyed them the last time I saw'm a bit MORE, to be honest, when they cooked up the Smilin' Buddha ahead of the Furies a year or two ago, in a slightly different lineup, but it was gettin' late and I was ready for Slow.

Then Slow came on. Tom had expressive hands, reaching out into the audience in a way that reminded me of that fucking AMAZING Nick Cave show a few years ago at the Vogue. His lower lip curled troublingly downwards as  he sang - a lip filled with menace and disdain - but he managed to roar just fine (one slight voicebreak at the start of "Lookin' for Something Clean" aside - I mean, he really does ROAR on that EP, in a way he never did with Copyright, but he's still got it in him, turns out). Christian was staid and stoic and the best dressed; Ziggy brought the most chaos; Hamm, as always, seemed to be having the most fun, and Terry Russell - whom I don't think I've seen onstage SINCE that 1980's Slow concert, unlike most of the rest of the band - apparently hasn't lost a beat, so to speak (HAS he been drumming all this while? Wasn't he doing podcasts with Hamm for a bit, there? Erika and I won a Dehli-to-Dublin ticket off him once...).

Tom mostly was self-affacing when he gave the odd between-song comment, saying he never knows what to say at such times, but he did comment, "Where were you in 1986?" at one point to the cheering, packed house.

For the record, that was me who shouted "Thunderbird Arena!"

I'll let the photos speak for me for the rest. Though I should add that while the most entertaining rendition of "No Fun" I ever saw in my life was a DOA-led all star jam at the Vancouver Complication gig, with Randy Rampage on lead vocals, Slow do an AMAZING "No Fun" themselves, and both versions were wayyy more entertaining than watching Iggy and the Stooges do the song in Seattle (!), somewhat to my surprise.

All photos above by bev davies; all photos below by Allan MacInnis. Slow goes on at the Fox at 4:30 this afternoon, if you missed them. It's not too late. I am half tempted to go again myself...!



























Thursday, November 30, 2017

Thoughts on and for David Thomas

The short version: Whatever else I might say about him - he's a blue butterfly, whatever - I actually think I LIKE David Thomas as a human being. He's kind of a heroic figure, really. 20 Years in a Montana Missile Silo is small fuckin' potatoes compared to 40+ years fronting an underground rock band, dealing with weird-ass fans like me, being paid far too little, and surviving the discomforts and indignities of life on the road for so long, when there are doubtlessly so many more lucrative things he might have done. Mr. Thomas has my deep respect, gratitude, and well-wishings, whatever should come to pass; if he can't complete the tour, he's done enough, it's fine, and it's AMAZING that Ubu should have put out so many great albums and played so many great shows over the years (I got to see three of them!). If the new album should prove to be the last one,  it's amazing and delightful to end on so high a note, a full-circle return to guitar driven proto-punk with a weird-ass edge. I sincerely love it. And if he CAN complete the tour, WHOO! I will still go. I hope he recovers from his illness. I send utter love at him, and gratitude, and fondness. Never mind the rest.

Pere Ubu by Bob Hanham, Dec. 2 2016, not to be reused without permission 

The long version: 

I gotta say a few things here about David Thomas. Totally hoping he's going to be all right, and totally bummed about Pere Ubu having to cancel the show tonight (and, I gather, the rest of the West Coast tour, seven dates in all, though that's not on the Official Ubu FB page as yet, or wasn't last I looked). I very much hope that it gets rescheduled, when he is feeling better. But I gather things are pretty serious, so it might not, folks. Remains to be seen!

Lotta complex feelings are provoked.

1. With apologies to wendythirteen, I am flat-out-fuckin' GLAD I went to see Pere Ubu at the Cobalt last December. It might, indeed, prove to be my last time seeing Ubu. Fact is, after I broke the seal on that contested, sadly-storied venue (which some die hard supporters of Wendy like Billy Hopeless and Clay Holmes still will not go into, since she was booted out), I felt a bit guilty, when it turned out I was going to get a chance to go to the Rickshaw, my favourite venue in town, and see them AGAIN not a year later. I was going to be be proven wrong in my past justification for my "disloyalty" last year. I had said that "it might be my last time seeing Pere Ubu," and now, look, I was wrong.

But wait: no, I was right.  So: I am flat-out-fuckin' GLAD I went, and I said it. (I haven't been back but I got no regrets: sorry, Wendy, Billy, Clay, and the five or ten other people locally that this is actually an issue for).

2. I loved that show. Even some of the more off-colour notes, I took as part and parcel of the "theatre" of Ubu: David checking his timepiece as the crowd cheered for an encore, to determine if he had fulfilled his obligations (Ubuprojex had announced an exact set length and he was gonna stick to it!)... Or, say, his giving very, very transparently indulgent and insincere grins as he signed stuff at the merch table with his deliberately illegible scrawl, as if to communicate a) Yes I will sign stuff but b) I won't actually sign it in a way you can read and c) even though I am signing it and grinning and doing what is expected I would really rather be having a hot bath at the hotel right now. He could have been holding that on a sign above his head, it was so transparent. But it was a strange thing, because here he is smilin' at me like the whole transaction is absurd, and here I am recognizing it, and kinda conceding the point to myself, and not blaming him at all for wanting to be somewhere else... and yet here I am, still getting his signature! "Yep, this is ridiculous. Yep, I can see you don't want to do this. Nope, I don't blame you. But, uh, would you sign here anyhow even though I won't be able to make any sense of it at all?" (David scribbles something and gives a big indulgent grin.) "THANK YOU!"

I mean, this is a guy who has been playing and touring in an underground rock band, with tons of respect from a devoted cult, but little in the way of financial recompense, for OVER 40 YEARS! 40 YEARS! He's never stopped! Even though he's some sort of free market capitalist, who believes that if art has value, people will PAY for it, he hasn't gone after anything "easy," financially; it's not in his nature (and you know what, though I didn't dig them at the time, even the couple of "commercial compromise" albums he made with Fontana were pretty weird). He has spent OVER 40 YEARS in service to his weirdo fans like me, without ever to my knowledge playing the "retirement" game; his work ethic is immense, obviously. And here he is, 63 years old - as of Dec. 2016; I believe he's 64 now - and he's got multiple health issues, and yet he's still recording, still touring, playing the fucking Cobalt, to a few hundred fans?! I mean, who else in modern underground rock has served his cult so devotedly for so long? This is fucking HEROISM. And I mean, if you still don't get it - THIS IS THE MAN WHO WROTE THE LYRICS TO "SONIC REDUCER," FOR CHRISSAKE. If he wants to make a face while signing and sign his signature in a way I can't read? I'll TAKE IT! Someday I'll show it off to my friends: "This is the illegible scrawl David Thomas made on my Rocket From the Tombs poster, and THIS is the illegible scrawl he made on my Lady From Shanghai album, and when I asked him about it, he said, 'I just sign everything with an indecipherable squiggle. Sorry.'").

(Though I absolutely love that my friend Judith Beeman made him print his name in block letters beneath his squiggle when she got him to sign something to her at the Biltmore show, and to his great credit - this is a VERY smart guy - I bet he got a kick out of it, too).

3. And I fucking LOVED his between song stories that night at the Cobalt. I actually wondered if he'd read my pre-show piece, praising Ubu's uniqueness, because I had situated the Velvet Underground among beatniks at one point in that, maybe considering contesting their sainted status (but never Ubu's). And David's between song-stories began with a narrative about Nico touring in a van with hippies! ("Imagine that, Nico with hippies!"). He might have been chastening me a little, and maybe I deserved it, but I was rapt and flattered to feel myself addressed in some way. I wish I had a recording of the whole show (I did shoot one Youtube clip). And being able to watch Robert Wheeler rock his Theremin, which I couldn't even SEE the last time they'd played Vancouver, at the Biltmore, was fascinating. That Youtube clip reveals some of it.

4. And I really, really mean him no disrespect, ever. Like, there's a lot of discussion about separating the artist from his art right now, and I don't know how far I think being an artist excuses bad behaviour: it sure seems like a lot of people have been abusing their power and influence, taking advantage of their celebrity to do gross things. But while I have seen David a) drink kinda a lot on stage sometimes; b) get kinda cranky with his band onstage; c) get a bit derisive - at the Biltmore show, say - with his audience; and while d) he has occasionally lost his patience with me as an interviewer (more to come on that), none of what he has done has remotely affected my being a Pere Ubu fan, or a David Thomas fan, or...

Case in point: during one of my last email exchanges with him, apropos of an interview - some of which has seen print, but some of which hasn't, I tried a total cop-out move; I got LAZY and tried to just ask him to give me snapshots of his songwriting process at different phases, how it had changed over the years. He had already patiently answered several questions, but that was the breaking point. His response was, "This really is tiresome. I think about what I do. I don't have to talk about it also."

Eek! End interview quickly. I apologized for stretching his patience and suggested we pick things up at a later date, to which he replied:

"Your questions are very good and deserve to be answered. It's simply that you have the misfortune to ask them at a time that I no longer feel like using my time to answer questions. Also, being good, and requiring time and thought to answer, I tire of answering too many such questions in a row."
The upshot of which is, THIS IS A CLASSY GUY. He might have his eccentricities - at the Biltmore piece he'd joked a bit bitterly about some writer (I think me) typifying him as a "grouchy weirdo," I believe was the phrase - but even though he let me KNOW he was tiring of my questions, he did so in an entirely conciliatory, even complimentary manner (at least in his follow up). Nothing that grouchy or weird AT ALL, there. His music is weird, natch, as strange at the rock of the Residents or Captain Beefheart or so forth, and maybe even STRANGER, since he's coming from a vastly more conservative background (my understanding is, he was raised Jehovah's Witness, which might inform his work ethic and his value of capitalism; I have no idea if he's still part of the church now, but there are stories about him telling Alex Varty and Nathan Holiday in an interview about how this-and-that lyric were inspired by things he'd read in Watchtower. I have no idea what to make of it, but it makes him, and the music he's chosen to make, MORE interesting and remarkable, not less). All the same...

And here we return to the "short version" statement I started this with.

Whatever else I might say about him - he's a blue butterfly, whatever - I actually think I LIKE David Thomas as a human being. He's kind of a heroic figure, really. 20 Years in a Montana Missile Silo is small fuckin' potatoes compared to 40+ years fronting an underground rock band, dealing with weird-ass fans like me, being paid far too little, and surviving the discomforts and indignities of life on the road for so long, when there are doubtlessly so many more lucrative things he might have done. Mr. Thomas has my deep respect, gratitude, and well-wishings, whatever should come to pass; if he can't complete the tour, he's done enough, it's fine, and it's AMAZING that Ubu should have put out so many great albums and played so many great shows over the years (I got to see three of them!). If the new album should prove to be the last one,  it's amazing and delightful to end on so high a note, a full-circle return to guitar driven proto-punk with a weird-ass edge. I sincerely love it. And if he CAN complete the tour, WHOO! I will still go. I hope he recovers from his illness. I send utter love at him, and gratitude, and fondness. Never mind the rest.

Please get better, Mr. Thomas (and please don't even CONSIDER returning to the road until you are, work ethic be damned!).

Sunday, November 26, 2017

David Thomas is a blue butterfly: a Steve Mehlman interview!


Pere Ubu at the Cobalt, Nov. 2016, photo by Bob Hanham, not to be reused without permission

IMPORTANT NOTE! THE PERE UBU (OFFICIAL) FACEBOOK PAGE AND MO AT THE RICKSHAW CONFIRM: TOMORROW'S SHOW HAS BEEN CANCELLED (apparently due to a medical emergency). My best wishes to David Thomas and hope for a speedy recovery! Hope to see you again! (Hope you don't mind that I called you a blue butterfly!). By the way, since this was posted on the Ubu official FB page yesterday, the article has gotten over 1,200 views! (The remainder of the article below is unchanged!


(Note: the following is Allan speaking; we'll get to Pere Ubu/ Rocket From the Tombs drummer Steve Mehlman presently).

You know that Leonard Cohen poem where one of the links in his armour - he says a chain, but you imagine chain mail - is a blue butterfly? And people who want to attack him (or his third-person character in the poem) keep aiming for the blue butterfly, and failing, because it happens to be his most fortified spot? It's called "Nothing Has Been Broken" and can be read, maybe even heard, here; I won't repost it in full, but the last lines say, "A thrust at any link/ might have brought him down/ but each of you aimed at the blue butterfly."

Well - I'm not trying to bring anyone down, here, or even make an attack, but somewhere back there I got to thinking that David Thomas is Pere Ubu's blue butterfly. By which I mean, as the frontperson and the sole constant member since the band's founding in 1975, he's the link in the chain that is going to draw all the attention and interest, not just from the audience, but especially from journalists, trying to pry into the various mysteries of Ubu (a mysterious band indeed; who among us can truthfully claim they REALLY understand them?). There might be other exceptional elements to the chain (ANYONE who has been playing in Pere Ubu for some 20 years, as is the case of Robert Wheeler, Michelle Temple, and Steve Mehlman, is bound to be an interesting person), but he's the one people are going to notice and have questions of.


Pere Ubu at the Cobalt, Nov. 2016, photo by Bob Hanham, not to be reused without permission

That makes him a somewhat daunting interview, because before you even interact with him, you know he's heard it all before, been asked it all before. And he's got a pretty interesting philosophy that raises the bar even higher. When I HAVE interviewed him, in the past, he's said - when I asked him about my impression that he was disinclined to explain his songs - that "if the 'meaning' of a song can be condensed into a few sentences then what is the point of making a song?"

Which is a really fair point, actually - to borrow a different metaphor, I prefer humour to dead frogs, myself. But it brings me to a full stop as an interviewer, where I have to admit that I kind of like the inexplicable nature of Pere Ubu, enjoy their strangeness, would rather interpret their music in my own way than pester him to explain lyrics to me.

All of which I'm fine with, but what the hell else am I going to ask him about? Having interviewed him a couple of times over the years - straining and occasionally failing to make it interesting for him, too - I decided, last time the band came to town, that I had run out of ideas; that I would rather give him a break, and find out about OTHER members of the band.


Pere Ubu at the Cobalt, Nov. 2016, photo by Bob Hanham, not to be reused without permission

I mean no censure of David Thomas here, note. I gather that he had a very convivial and charming conversation with the Vancouver Sun recently. But not aiming at the blue butterfly seems like a possibly fruitful strategy. It worked pretty well with Robert Wheeler, last year, when Pere Ubu played a very memorable, tight set at the Cobalt. And this year - apropos of their November 30th show at the Rickshaw - I decided to aim at long-time Ubu and RFTT drummer (and Ubu merch table man) Steve Mehlman, who exudes a bit of a pranksterish charm onstage, and is a personable enough fellow when you talk with him at the table.

Plus on all the internet (in English, anyways!) there appear to be only one or two interviews with Mr. Mehlman - here, for instance - so, you know, you don't have to be too afraid of boring the guy. I sent Steve a bunch of questions about his history with drumming and with the Cleveland music scene - including Pere Ubu. I asked about his role with the merch (both on the Ubuprojex website and at merch tables). And I asked about Pere Ubu's new album 20 Years in a Montana Missile Silo - a very pleasntly ROCKIN' album, far more guitar-driven and straightforward than their last few records; aspects of it seem practically RFTT in their drive (check the lead single, "Monkey Biznis," say; that's one driving rock song for Pere Ubu to do). I didn't even realize that he'd written most of my favourite songs on the album when I pitched the interview! (The album just says "all songs written by Pere Ubu"). Steve elected to not respond in a question-and-answer fashion, but wrote a sort of autobiographical essay in response. There are a couple of places where you might infer that there's an absent question that he's responding to, but rather than track down what I think he's answering, or fake a question, I think this just works pretty well as a story (a pretty funny one, too) - you may have to ride past a couple transitions, but I think it works. (He also mentioned a video for his old band Sissy doing the Birthday Party's "Sonny's Burning," but there was no link, so...)

Anyhow, that's about it for me. Folks, if you haven't seen Pere Ubu before - it will be hard for them to top their show at the Cobalt last year, but if that gig and the strength of 20 Years in a Montana Missile Silo are any indication, Thursday's show is not to be missed. Rickshaw proprietor Mo Tarmohamed has been talking about Ubu being on his bucket list for bands he's wanted to book since I first interviewed him, and I'm very excited at the opportunity to see one of my favourite bands at my favourite local music venue. Never did I imagine I'd get to see Pere Ubu four times in my life. I figured when I caught them on the Tenement Year tour at Club Soda, with John Cale opening, it would be my only chance to see them... how wrong I was.

Thanks to Steve Mehlman for doing this! 


Pere Ubu at the Cobalt, Nov. 2016, photo by Bob Hanham, not to be reused without permission

Steve Mehlman writes:

When I was a little kid, like maybe six or seven or so, my cousin Tom had a big drum set and I was fascinated by it and I loved watching him play. Shortly after that, while living with my Dad, the next-door neighbor's son Mark, who was a little older than me and my brother, had this cool room in the garage which included a drum set and lots of records. I used to sit and watch him play all the time, he played me weird shit I'd never heard of and lots of backwards masking stuff. Eventually, when I was nine my dad got a drum set for my brother. I probably played it more than he did, but about four months after "we" got it some girl that went by the name of "moose" pushed him out of a tree and he smashed his elbow in a million places… And then I just kept playing.

It was halfway through fourth grade when I moved back to Cleveland with my Mom (my Mom had to put up with most of the noise and visits from the police for being too loud, but she was super patient and both of my parents are really supportive). We had a neighbor that lived behind us named Jeff that played guitar, and I used to go over and watch him play all the time. He was a shredder and played a bunch of metal stuff. We would jam together a lot. He was only a year older than me, but he was way better than I was, so it was probably a little bit boring for him but fun nonetheless 'cause neither one of us had anyone else to play with except for some older kind of weird dude with a curly mullet whose name I can't remember that played bass. I do remember that we played a lot of Van Halen because the huge talent gap between Eddie and Alex fit our needs.

I also had these twin friends, Derrick and Danielle, who had an older brother named Mike. When I was in sixth grade and Mike was in ninth grade, he and some of his older friends had a sort of band and they asked me to play with them. I thought it was the coolest thing ever because I was like 11 years old hanging out with these 15 and 16-year-olds. The only songs I remember playing were "Living After Midnight," some other Judas Priest song. and "Am I Evil"... we were called Rotted Goat... that was my first band. I think the chalk graffiti of a goat head and a pentagram are still on the wall in my childhood bedroom...

I had a couple junior high/high school bands after that- at my eighth grade dance, two of my friends and I played like three or four songs, but the only one I remember playing was "Mony Mony." We got unplugged and yelled at because of that little added lyric that I have no idea where it came from that we weren't even singing... but everyone else was ("here she comes now sayin' in Mony Mony. Hey! Hey what? Get laid get fucked..." Don't ask me).

When I was in ninth grade my friend Steve and I played in a band with a bunch of seniors and kids that just graduated doing a bunch of covers for a Catholic school carnival… My first paying gig.
I had a band at the the last couple years of high school with a couple of younger friends. The beginning of the year right after I graduated we played some pep rally thing and got shut down because we had a smoke machine and pretty much filled the place. I yelled and threw shit and we knocked all our stuff over... The best part was that a bunch of teachers came up and apologized to me afterwards…weird. This was also the first band I played in a club with.

So, in The summer of 1990 my grandmother (my mom's mother) passed and left me enough money to buy a new drum kit. I still use that same drum kit today...almost every day. I'd give you the specs on it, but really who cares, unless somebody has a Yamaha rock tour custom kit for sale for a reasonable price...?

I went to college for a minute and that is where I meant the legendary Lamont BIM Thomas of The Bassholes, This Moment in Black History and OBNOX. I have been playing with OBNOX for the past couple years or so. He puts out more material than Jo-Ann Fabrics. In October we released a record called Murder Radio, his second full length of the year and the first record he's put up with a different drummer other than himself (we will be doing some touring next year). Anyway, I dropped out and joined a cover band. I learned like 60 songs in a couple weeks- all kind of alt rock type of stuff from Love and Rockets and REM to Jane's Addiction and Nirvana and so on. They were all good guys, but they didn't really pay me anything because they had so much debt on all the gear and the box truck that they bought years earlier… I don't know what they paid themselves or if they ever even paid that shit off. Nonetheless, they are all all off doing great things now.

Shortly after that in the summer of '91 I was at my friend Dean's little brother's graduation party. I had rainbow hair, a red beret and painted nails and shit, and a bunch of us were screwing around in the backyard. My friend's mom and some friend of hers were hanging out up on the patio when they called me over. My friend's mom introduced me to her friend and said that her daughter had a band that needed a drummer. So, Sally Martello introduced me to her daughter Rae, and I joined the Vivians… I think they tried a couple other people out, but ended up with me. This is where I met Michele Temple (at that time she played guitar and like no one I'd ever heard before, or since really). I remember during practices with them, we would finish a song and she'd say "that was great, but can we do it again a little faster and a little louder?" So we do it again and she'd go "that was better can you do it again a little faster and a little louder?" so we would and so on. So I became a basher pretty early on.

At that point Stewart Copeland (The Police), Matt Cameron (Soundgarden), Hugo Burnham (Gang of Four) and Mike Bordin (Faith No More) were (and still are) my favorite drummers, but the Vivians turned me onto Mac McNeilly from The Jesus Lizard who I thought to some extent kind of combined my favorite parts of all of them. But I was also into a lot of goth and industrial, so I really liked Bauhaus, The Sisters of Mercy, Einstürzende Neubaten, Skinny Puppy and Nine Inch Nails and so on- a lot of that was because I was enamored with the older brother (Danny, also a drummer) of one of my best friends at the time (Dean C, the guitar player/singer of my high school band) and that was all shit that he listened to. When we were most definitely not old enough to be at bars we would sneak in to watch his brother's bands play.

I think it was in 1993 that Michele got into Pere Ubu when Tony Maimone left to play with They Might be Giants and Bob Mould and start his own studio and...probably a whole lot of other things… I think it was later that year there was a Pere Ubu tribute album (Ubu Dance Party, which was finally released in 1996) that was going to be put out and they had asked the Vivians to do a song for it. From just having been around the music scene in Cleveland I had heard of Pere Ubu, but I didn't really know anything by them despite probably having heard it in the background many times. Anyway Michele offered me five songs to pick from. I think my first two choices were "Final Solution" and "Humor Me," but she said by the time we got to it that those were not options anymore, and we ended up doing Codex. I thought it came out pretty sweet. We even had David come up and sing it with us on stage at a Vivians show at the old Grog Shop, where I also worked picking up pieces of broken toilets and mopping the carpet.

Pere Ubu was on some bigger label that I can't remember right now and doing some package tour and the rest of the Vivians and a couple friends went up to The Metro in Chicago to see them play. The show was pretty amazing, they had Garo Yellin playing cello and David played what I later found out was Robert Wheeler's 10th grade electronics project - his homemade Theremin that he got a C on because he couldn't play "America the Beautiful," or something like that. But David was quirky and captivating.

SO, in 1995, Scott Krauss quit Pere Ubu for the, I think, third and final time. I don't know exactly how this goes, but they were recording Ray Gun Suitcase and I believe they did everything to a click track. Michele got the original Vivians' drummer Scott Benedict, who is a total beast of a drummer, and he came in and blasted through the whole album. When it came time to tour however, because he had a business and a new child, he wasn't able to make that commitment so Michele asked if I wanted to. I said yes. And that was the end of the audition.

I was given a list of about 25 songs to learn and told when to show up for four days of rehearsals before an eight week tour… That was probably less than a month before the tour started, but I was really good at learning and memorizing songs, so it didn't really seem like that big of a deal to me. I was aware of the legendary status of the band and that the original guitar player, Tom Herman, was returning as well.

Now, this is hearsay, but I heard it from Tom and David; it certainly sounds right enough but I don't remember it exactly. They said that I showed up with long blue hair and painted fingernails, shit tied around my arms, a shredded shirt, boots and a skirt, and they looked at each other, eyes wide as if to say "what the fuck did we get ourselves into?"

Well, since I had done my homework confidently without any real problems I basically walked in thinking "what are these old men gonna tell me that I don't already know? It's not whether or not I can play the songs, it's whether or not they can keep up with me..."And what did those old men have to tell me? Mostly to play quieter... Also, I am now older than they were when I started in the band.

The rest is, well, still happening…

We did a bunch of cool shit with a bunch of cool people - we did a couple of shows where we had Wayne Kramer from the MC5 play guitar for us at the Knitting Factory NY. There have been a lot of people that have shown up to shows that I wish I would've met, and many that I actually did talk to - the last Ubu tour I met one of my favorite guitar players when we were in Seattle, Kim Thayil from Soundgarden. He was super nice and appreciative, and he assured me that Matt Cameron would love my drumming (I'll take that!). Rocket From the Tombs played a show in DC and before the show this woman came up to me and introduced herself as Ian McKaye's sister; she said a lot of her family was there. After the show while David and I were selling merch, Ian came up and introduced himself and my jaw just dropped and of course I said "I know exactly who you are." Then David asked me to go get change for him and Ian immediately offered to do it for me! What a sweetheart and goddamn, sometimes you meet your idols and they're as cool as you want them to be.

We did lots of little tours and one-offs with Ubu and RFTT here and there in between the bigger tours for the albums but never more than a couple to five weeks at a time. There were a few years in between each of the few first few records I was on and in 1996 I started college... but it still took me five years and taking classes every summer to get my chemistry degree because I kept having to take semesters off to do tours. A couple of times I just skipped Friday classes, flew to somewhere in Europe and got back in time for Monday classes. In 1999 when we went to Japan, Australia and New Zealand I had to bring my chemistry, calculus and physics books with me so I wouldn't be too far behind when I got back after missing the first two weeks of classes. I got a job as a research chemist immediately after graduating, got laid off a little less than two years later and never looked back... mostly because having a full-time job would interfere with my ability to tour. Two weeks of vacation a year will not do it.

In 2003 David decided he was going to put Rocket from the Tombs back together for a weekend festival at UCLA called Disastodrome. I don't know the whole story, but he couldn't get ahold of the old drummer or whatever, so he asked me to do it. and I thought yeah, more touring (maybe) with heavier songs! It was at that festival where I saw one of the weirdest combinations of people backstage. I'm sure I was staring and giggling while I watched Stan Ridgway, Frank Black and George Wendt talk about...who cares what; it was weird enough just seeing them. I didn't need to know that they were trading cooking tips or whatever. That's also where I met Georgia and Ira from Yo La Tengo, two of the nicest people you'll ever meet.

Rocket From the Tombs have recorded two records of new material. The most recent one being the Black Record which I am very proud of, and also I finally contributed another song, "I've Got a File On You," that I am really proud of- made it up on the spot, taught it to the guitar player, recorded it on his iPhone gave it to David and it ended up on the record just like that. I think i'm now on 3 RFTT records and 8 Ubu records, the newest being 20 Years in a Montana Missile Silo


I think the first song that I actually submitted to the band is on Saint Arkansas called "Steve." There was also a song that David and I recorded in his hotel room in Lisbon called...? Yup, "Lisbon."

What seems to have happened in the past is that David would ask people to start giving him songs. Sometime after that we would either get together or get some demos to learn or write parts to and then we would go into the studio maybe all at once, but rarely recording more than one instrument at a time. As of the last several recordings, it's usually just me, David and Paul and a click track or a demo (it is Ubu law that all demos are recorded to a click track) and I have the structure of the song written out to keep track of where I am.

I have been made to do some very odd things in the studio; I often record my parts to nothing but a click track, but sometimes I have to do everything separately (one pass of kick drum, one pass of the rest of the drums and one pass of cymbals...). I've been asked to sing back ups for songs I don't know the lyrics to and apparently sometimes I'm just not allowed to know. The weirdest one was doing hand claps for a song that I think was on Saint Arkansas. First they made me do "analog panning" (two mics set up, one to the left and one to the right and I had to sway back-and-forth the clapping in to each one), but they could hear my shirt rubbing against itself so I had to take my shirt off. Then David decided the clapping didn't sound wet enough so I had to cover my hands in Vaseline. Then, because it was the middle of summer, I was sweating and they said they could hear my armpits sloshing, so I had to towel them off and get as far as I could before they started hearing it again, stop the tape, dry off my armpits and then continue recording...

So, a couple years ago we were playing a show in Poland and staying in some hotel that Hitler used to use… I was in my big ass fancy room that I clearly didn't deserve, trying to book a bus ticket for when I returned to Brighton to go up to Manchester to see my girlfriend. After trying and failing several times because it kept denying my credit card and then blocked me from making any further attempts, I killed my phone. major-league-baseball-pitch-style, against a stone wall... I hate phones. Nonetheless, a week later I got home and about a week after that I went and bought a new phone. It had Garageband already installed on it, so rather than dicking around on Facebook or playing video games or using it as a communication device, I started writing songs. Between July 2015 and January 2016 I sent about three dozen unsolicited songs to David. they were all "complete" songs in that there were drums, guitar and bass, some with multiple guitar lines, some with keyboards, solos etc. several of them I suspected would work for Rocket from the Tombs several of them I thought would work for Ubu, but there were a bunch I knew he wouldn't be interested in but I sent them anyway. Well, five of the first nine songs that I sent to him ended up on the new record ("Toe to Toe," "Monkey Bizness," "Red Eye Blues," "Howl," "Cold Sweat"), none of which were songs that I thought he would pick. Again, I'm really proud of how they all came out, the entire album is, dare I say, stunning.

As far as playing in other bands, I've gotten to the point where I'm limiting how thin I will spread myself, so it's just Ubu and OBNOX. However, I have been in a ton of bands and have a lot of recordings but I don't know how many of them are even available. One of my favorites is the Terminal Lovers album Drama Pit, later released as Drama Pit and Loan. Me and my friend Dave Cintron who also did a couple of tours with Ubu several years ago worked on a bunch of songs in my girlfriend's basement and we ran in the studio and recorded a pretty blistering album… If he's still got copies, you should get one from him. Another one I'm really pretty happy with is a 10 inch EP I did with Roué called Totally Fucking Totally. It's four songs of chaotic mindfuck rock - I know there are still copies available but I have no idea how to get them. One last band I will mention is Mofos. That is the band of Gary Siperko, who I got to replace the lead guitarist of RFTT and later just to fill in for Ubu guitar player Keith Moliné when we could not get a visa for him. Gary wrote a few songs on Rockets' Black Record and a couple songs on the new Ubu record as well.

There's probably stuff from all of my bands, including cover bands available on YouTube... I have a basement recording from about eight or so years ago of a punk band i was in called The Plain Dealers (after the Cleveland newspaper, The Plain Dealer) with Cheetah Chrome's replacement in RFTT, Buddy Akita. I'd love to release some of that one day... but I'm just going to give you a few with me and Gary from the one Mofos show that i did with him:

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=rb0dCwBuU-s

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=QvzTy6mTpAw

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=FpsRi7YBvUs

...and here is a Terminal Lovers video that a friend of ours made and submitted to a Godzilla video contest… and he won!

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=lh0JuiPoLPI

...fuck it, here's some Roué:
https://m.youtube.com/watch?
list=PL09637171357CE505¶ms=OAFIAVgB&v=k7msKFNCCMk&mode=NORMAL

I've already sent 12 more songs to David for consideration for the next album, so with any luck that will be underway in the relatively near future. If you want dirt and gritty details you're going to have to wait for my biography that I'm never going to write... but ply me with enough alcohol...
 

Pere Ubu at the Biltmore, by Bev Davies, not to be reused without permission

Cousin Harley after-show report, plus Stephen Nikleva, Big Top, and the Rocket Revellers

Last night at the Rickshaw rocked! A reasonable crowd, and probably three great bands, only two of which I can vouch for (missed the Wheelgrinders entirely). I am glad I worked references to Jimmy Roy and Stephen Nikleva into the long version of my Paul Pigat piece for the Straight, but am kicking myself a bit that I didn't double check to see if they were on the bill - which they indeed were, in the lineup of the Rocket Revellers, featuring the Revel Room's Dennis Brock on vocals. He looks sufficiently like Billy Bones of the Vicious Cycles that I wondered if they were the same guy, though his vocals are a bit cleaner, so I'm guessing not. The Revellers also included former Trespassers' piano player Mike Van Eyes, whom I haven't seen in some time, since the Japanese Earthquake Relief show at the Venue almost ten years ago. He's a helluva showman - it was fun watching Erika trying to get a shot or a video clip of him using his feet to add flourishes to his piano playing, but he never did it when she had her phone out. I had a little conversation with Mike afterwards about the possibility of Trespassers material coming to light; but his responses should probably remain confidential for now. It would be wonderful indeed to hear some of that material on record, though, especially now that frontman Howard Rix and bassist Brian Goble have both passed on; Rix was, I gather, one heck of a songwriter (I only ever caught him live that night, and during a brief Iggy-channelling appearance with Rude Norton at the Cobalt, but he was real impressive both times).

Oh, and Jimmy Roy announced from the stage during the Rocket Revellers set that Petunia and the Vipers will be opening for the Flesh Eaters - my favourite Los Angeles punk band of yore, in a classic lineup featuring members of X, the Blasters, and Los Lobos - which is just great. That's January 25th; there will be more to come, but you can get a taste of my old interview with frontman Chris D. here.

As for Stephen Nikleva, of course I'm champing at the bit to hear the new Red Herring album (no idea how long until that sees the light), and have put up live video clips of a few of their newer songs - like "The Monkey Song" - contemplating the servitude and loss of freedom of a lab animal from the animal's (tragically quite forgiving) point of view - and Erika's fave, the Latin-inflected "Consuela" - but in the meantime, his own unit, which cross-pollinates Eastern European folk jazz with surf, lounge exotica, and maybe a small smidgen of psychobilly, has been added to the bill as an opener for a "Big Top sings" show at the Anza Club on December 21st. Nikleva's solo CD, Square Moon, appeals to Erika so much that I've just surrendered it to her car. I may buy a second copy for myself...

Big Top, meanwhile - fronted by guitarist Scott McLeod - is kinda the next local band I want to write about,\ though their inter-categorical instrumental music - sort of a reflective, atmospheric, even at times slightly Lynchian surf carnival - is kinda daunting to approach; I've had their CD, Jo Jo the Dog Faced Boy, since it came out, maybe five years ago (I lived in Maple Ridge at the time), but have never known quite what the hell to say; seeing them live since has helped me to understand their music, and Jo Jo has certainly grown on me, but like all music that slips between categories, it may take awhile to warm to its brilliance. Their show on the 21st will add vocalists to the mix, including the Judys' Dennis Mills, the inimitable Ana Bon Bon, and Al Mader, the Minimalist Jug Band. I've been hearing some inside deets from Al about that but don't know which of them are printable as yet, or relevant to the show, but it sounds like this is going to be a great night.   

Of course, they also have Big Top Tuesdays at the Libra Room but I haven't made it out to one of those shows yet. 

Still - nice that the local scene has so much great stuff happening. And Slow is this coming weekend! I was very happy to see Tom checkin' in to make sure I have tickets. It will be my second time seeing Slow, after their legendary opening set for the Cramps some 30 years ago! (Tom also informed me on Facebook that the song they played that night, an awesome, unrecorded mid-tempo number that I always took to be titled "Beat the Creature," was in fact called "Meet the Preacher," and was written about Ken Lester. Somehow I was disappointed to learn this!

Meantime, here are some photos from last night's Cousin Harley show. I shot video of  the band doing Johnny Horton's "I'm Coming Home" and Merle Travis' "Re-Enlistment Blues," enjoyed the heck out of the song "Yonder Comes a Sucker," which I'd never heard before, and got a 7" of the same, which was being given away free with CD purchases (they were more-or-less unreleased rarities that got damaged in a flood in Cousin Harley's manager's basement). Paul also covered Ray Condo's "Hadicillin Boogie," which was a real treat, and a Tennessee Ernie Ford song that he'd only recently discovered, "You Don't Have to Be a Baby to Cry." (Tennessee Ernie Ford wasn't just a gospel guy but did rockabilly, too). About the only disappointment - speaking of Tennesee Ernie Ford - was that there was no performance of "Sixteen Tons," by far the best known Merle Travis song, due to Ford's template-setting cover of it. I cleared a vid I shot of Paul's ironic metal/ rockabilly adaptation of, what was it, "Flight of the Bumblebee," so as to have space on my phone for "Sixteen Tons" - and then they didn't play it!

Great band, though, and Blue Smoke is a lot of fun. Pretty happy with this sequence of pics I took, too, testifying to the newfound beardlessness of Jesse Cahill and the theatrical expressivity of bassist Keith Picot. I bet Adam PW Smith and Bob Hanham got even better ones.

Got lots to do this next week, so no more for me from awhile, unless this Pere Ubu thing that I put out there into the world comes together. (That's Nov. 30, also at the Rickshaw).






All photos by Allan MacInnis, not to be reused without permission...