Monday, October 27, 2014
It's 6 am. I've been awake for 20 hours and I won't get a chance to sleep for another few hours. I'm not complaining. I've got a box of old tapes sitting on my floor that are waiting to be digitized. I'm bugging some other people to write about them so you don't have to only hear my opinion all the time. I think they're good tapes. You might disagree.
In the meantime, I made this mix for you...just for you. If you download it, you can imagine that I made it specifically with your tastes in mind....and then decide if I succeeded or failed in making a mixtape that you would enjoy. Big surprise: It's mostly punk. There's also some not-punk on it. The years span from 1961 to the last couple of months. Enjoy or don't.
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
When I was 18, I played drums in a band called JOEY TAMPON AND THE TOXIC SHOCKS with my friends Joey and Neil. We played for a couple of years, put out some recordings and went on some tours. It was fun. One day, we were practicing in my bedroom and Joey said something to the effect of "I'm bored with this and I don't feel like I have anything relevant to sing about anymore." The band broke up on the spot, but within a week, Joey and I were already practicing with a new band in my room. We asked two sisters named Rachel and Heather to join us playing surf music. I spent most of my teenage years devouring all forms of garage punk and surf but had recently turned my full attention to classic punk and hardcore. The other three members of the band lived and breathed surf music 24/7....or maybe like 23/6.
Long story short, I wasn't having fun playing surf music and it seemed like the others were really, really into it. I stuck around long enough to play a benefit show (I forget what it was for) and record this tape, but then went on my way. My friend Ben replaced me. He was also playing in RICE HARVESTER at the time and now plays in PINE HILL HAINTS.
I think the band had plans to record an LP, but that never materialized. Actually, I don't even think they lasted too much longer after Ben joined the band. This tape was recorded on a reel-to-reel four track in the back room of my house on the corner of Dement and Ward* in north Huntsville, AL. Most of it was the first take.
*When we found the house at Dement and Ward near Five Points in Huntsville, my roommate Elijah and I wanted to move in just because it was on that corner. The house was a shithole.
Saturday, October 18, 2014
There's a bar/venue in San Francisco on Polk Street called The Hemlock. Polk Street has a long history of being a cruising spot for hustlers, drag queens (and kings), entertainers of all kinds and much more. A friend of mine who grew up here said he used to drink at Kimo's Bar when he was underage, and he was funded by older men who were trying to fuck him. Years later, I would hang out with him when he worked the door there during bad metal shows and we both drank for free. These days, most of that era of Polk is long gone. Kimo's was sold. My friend moved away. You can probably still find some old men who want to fuck teenagers (easily), but I'm not sure which bar they frequent. What was my point? Oh yeah, the Hemlock.
They're a few blocks down from where Kimo's used to be. They've gone through this phenomena that many businesses in the city have gone through: When they opened in 2001, they were considered to be kind of fancy, evil gentrifiers. Now that Polk Street is even more of a hot spot for white partiers and fuck heads, the neighborhood has built up around the Hemlock, making them look, honestly, a little dumpy. I'm not meaning to cast a sympathetic eye on the place because, even though I know almost every single person who works there (and consider most of them a friend), I don't care much for it. And even though I've seen many, many good bands there (from RADIOACTIVITY to YI to BLACK PUS to FLESH WORLD to THE GIZMOS to everything in between), I never actually expect to see good bands who I've never heard of. Much less DIY bands who sell tapes for $2-3.
So, yeah, I was surprised and excited to see VIAL when they came up from Los Angeles. I was in the back of the room when they started, but I knew within the first song that I needed to be in the front of the room watching them....but I remained in the back of the room because it was fuckin' packed and I'm not one of those dudes who pushes himself up to the front of the room because their experience is more important than anyone else's trip. I mean, if everyone was throbbing and foaming to the music in that fun way where everyone gravitates toward the stage at some point, sure, go for it....but let's be real...it was a bar show in SF and everyone was standing there bobbing their heads and hoping no one would bump into their $5 micro-brew. More simply, VIAL was ruling. They play fierce, direct punk that is equal parts Dangerhouse Records and everything you already love about DIY punk in 2014 with no hint of professionalism or ego. I could have left as soon as their near-20 minute set ended....but I was actually there to see FLESH WORLD, so I figured I should stay. They were really good too.
Ask VIAL if they have any tapes left.
Monday, October 13, 2014
Just after the new year of 2008, I was a roadie, on tour with my friends from California when I still lived in Indiana. At that point, I didn't really know what I was doing with my life, but I was almost positive that I needed a big change. For some weird reason, I figured that subjecting myself to extreme temperatures, no sleep and damp basements was a good idea. I was right. I ran around in the snow in Worcester, shot silly string all over SHELLSHAG in Brooklyn, made out with someone in the cold on the hood of a broken down car, rode in the back of a freezing truck for 14 hours, swam in the ocean in South Miami Beach and did some other stuff that should probably not be repeated. It made me want to move away from Indiana...so, I did.
In Huntsville, AL, I got unreasonably upset over mundane things in that way that one can only get upset when returning to a disappointing town where they used to live. Overall, I don't think Huntsville is disappointing, but I had a really depressing "back in my day" moment that could have been easily avoided if I just didn't care so much about ridiculous bullshit. In short, when I lived there, we had shows in dive bars, parking lots, thrift stores, houses, ice cream shops and parks. The show that night was in a fancy bar and a lot of my old friends were missing or born again. Time marches on. It's fine. Huntsville now has an amazing resource called Lowe Mill and I'm sure there have always been teenage punk bands playing in garages consistently for the past 30 years or more.
I spent a lot of time walking around downtown...jumped the fence and rang the incredibly loud church bell for old time's sake....ran through my favorite secret alley. It was fine. I walked back in the bar just in time to see most of the bar patrons trying to ignore MAD SWIRL, who were from Milwaukee and a pleasant sight for these eyes and ears.
The beautiful thing about that era of Milwaukee punk is that almost all of the bands were fun, jangly melodic punk bands who kinda didn't give a fuck but were always good. The other thing is that they always traveled in packs. It seemed like all of the bands shared this one fucked up minivan and they would somehow pile 15+ people in it for cross-country tours. MAD SWIRL was no exception. Their set was fun and kinda reminded me of ANGRY SAMOANS, but maybe that's only because they covered them, because this tape doesn't sound like ANGRY SAMOANS...but it does sound like fun.
I should have been hanging out with MAD SWIRL all night and becoming better friends with them rather than trying to catch up with people who seemed like they wanted to get away from me. Lesson learned. I assumed we'd all be sleeping at the same house, but instead, I found myself at 5 am drinking beer and watching a dolphin documentary with my tour-mates while we all muttered "fuck yeah, this is cool."
Sunday, October 5, 2014
Today's entry is written by my good friend, E.R. Conner.
Carlos does a thing where he seems really disconnected when he performs...like maybe he's a quiet guy already. I mean, once I saw him pretty much naked fighting on some train tracks in an alley and that was music too. I think that time there was also some kinda food but instead of getting passed around to eat, it was getting thrown/rolled around in??? Or maybe it was shaving cream? My mind does not remember these kinds of details. So maybe it's just different every time.
I have some other RUSIAN TSARLAG recordings. They sound different from this. This tape about The Gas Station sounds like shoegaze music but maybe a little more fucked up. I mean, on purpose the way that people do when they make art things or music things. Not like it was an accident which is what sometimes people mean when they say "fucked up". I'm trying to say, I think this dissonance you hear in the recording or this kind of collapsing of sound, I think this guy thinks that sounds cool. He's right!
My favorite song on this tape is called "ON THE STREET". I like it because I like sentimental songs. Like, it seems cool to have an interaction with someone where you want to write a song about how you "wanna see them sometimes on the street". But maybe that's all you wanna do! Just see them around? I like that. Even though in real life my biggest pain is running into people I know on the street because maybe I was just having a conversation with myself inside my head and other people are distracting. Most of the other words are hard to make out, so it could be like that Sting song everyone thinks is like *really sweet* and *super cute* but really it's about a stalker and then it got REALLY awkward when they turned it into a song about BIGGIE'S GHOST WATCHING EVERYTHING YOU DO.
I wouldn't say that this is darker than other RUSSIAN TSARLAG tapes or more in line with conventional pop song writing but there is a way that it's that stuff in a different way than older tapes. Like maybe this guy found a COCTEAU TWINS tape or broke his little heart up or something. Or maybe he found out about some other more delicate part of life and that made shit more mysterious. I don't know what happened to this guy. His music sounds different now. You could call this maturing. Ok, let's call it maturing. He's mature now.
To keep up with RUSSIAN TSARLAG, try this.
Friday, September 26, 2014
Melissa and I met years ago in Chattanooga, TN, during what some people refer to as a "fest", but I like to call a family reunion. Melissa had never lived in Chattanooga (or even visited) so she felt a little like an outsider, but we became fast friends, bonding over the things people bond over, like creep seats and daring someone to drink a bottle of kombucha as fast as they can.
Even though I grew up in the south, I hate hot weather. I hate humidity and I can't stand getting sunburned, which is an easy task for me and my pasty white skin. Melissa has darker skin and had no aversions to being out in the sweltering heat. She caught Mike (our mutual friend) and I complaining about the heat and the threat of sunburn one day and muttered "bog people."
I asked, "Did you just call us 'bog people'?"
She said "Yeah. Bog people. You're both bog people. White, pasty humans who hide in the bogs, away from the sun. Afraid of withering away."
After returning home to the foggy, cool, bog-like peninsula of San Francisco, I was introduced to the band BOG PEOPLE. Before even hearing them, I immediately told Melissa and Mike about them. We were stoked! Then, I still waited on hearing them...and waited...and waited. Truth be told, I put this tape on for the first time last night after getting home from a tepid party and I regret ignoring them when the band was actually around and playing shows. Just to prove that I'm not some kind of know-it-all just because I upload music onto the internet, I had to google "UK82" because I don't really know/care what it is. My hunches were correct. I figured out that it's just punk....from 1982....from the UK (please don't further explain how I'm somehow wrong in the comments...I still don't care).
BOG PEOPLE are simple and punk and good. They did that crucial thing that many bands forget to do, which is to make your song fucking catchy and get a good drummer. They wear those shoestrings around their foreheads. Their bass player once closed up the coffee shop where she worked and walked around the corner to sing on my band's LP. I'm sure they know way more about UK82 and that one band's demo tape than I do. This tape compiles their original demo tape along with a rawer practice space recording and a "studio" track that was meant to come out on a record. I don't think that record ever happened. Too bad for you.
"Your eyes are white and your skin is pale"
Monday, September 22, 2014
LANDLORD starts off this tape with their ragged style of classic rock as viewed through a punk lens. Maybe you'll view it differently, but I really think they sound like a classic rock band and I'm into it. I don't really have any good stories about LANDLORD, but I can tell you that I've watched them play many, many flawless shows (and a few bad, stoned ones) and they once gave me a ride from Tennessee to Indiana wherein we dumpstered a pretty good pizza. All of the songs on their side of the tape are instant classics. You can find more stuff by them on Houseplant Records, Dead Broke and a label I won't mention because they continue to further the careers of irrelevant, misogynist, money-grubbing fuckheads.
On the flip side, GOURMET SCUM tells your brain to fuck right the fuck off. Seriously, I don't know what they're doing on this recording because it sounds so fucked up. They play their noisy ass sludge, blown out through tape hiss and an impenetrable cloud of weed smoke. They're possibly the only band in the world who plays stoner sludge through the cheapest amps possible while singing almost exclusively about Degrassi Junior High. You can find more about them and more fucked up recordings right here.
This tape is long out of print and was released on Magnetic South, a fine record label and recording studio out of Bloomington, IN. They specialize in some really great analog music and wild freak out jams by such amazing groups as PUPPY VS DYSLEXIA, APACHE DROPOUT, THEE TSUNAMIS and (my personal favorite) PSYCHIC BAOS.
Sunday, September 21, 2014
DARK LION almost didn't happen. The way I was told, Zak and Sean got together to play some music while they had both dropped anchor in Pensacola, FL. The two of them had never played music together and both were trying to cater to each others backgrounds with disastrous results. Zak had come up playing pop and noise freak out shit with PUPPY VS DYSLEXIA. Sean had already toured the world playing drums in GOOD CLEAN FUN. Adding those things together came out sounding like half a turd, as it was reported to me. Zak was about to give up and then he started playing off-the-cuff riffs. Sean left his comfort zone and decided to "go off." The results became the groundwork for DARK LION. Adding jailbird dreamboat, Sarah Derelict on vocals was the icing on the cake. Her lyrics were (are) incisive, direct and blunt. Pure hate was directed towards the cops, not because we're punks and we're supposed to hate the cops, but because she'd get fucked with by the cops over total bullshit. DARK LION existed during the reign of George W. Bush and that was evident in their output. The future and the present felt bleak as fuck, but I'm not gonna lie...it feels worse now.
Vinyl Rites released this demo a couple of years ago on a 7" (you might as well click over and order it right now) along with a booklet of fawning praise (all deserved). Initially, I thought the praise was a little overblown but then I thought back to how bad 2003 felt...and I thought about how real DARK LION was at a time when bands weren't speaking directly about how fucked up everything felt. I only saw DARK LION a couple of times. Once was after playing a couple of shows on tour, performing in front of people I'd rather ignore than entertain. Those shows led me to seriously question what the fuck I was doing with my life. Leaving that realm and delving back into my comfort zone of dilapidated warehouses produced of dubious craftmanship gave me a sigh of relief. Seeing DARK LION play a 10-12 minute set to a room full of obvious freaks of society made me feel right at home again. Watching Sarah with her fist raised high and screaming "I try to work and I keep thinking of killing cops! I'm trying to talk to girls and I keep thinking of killing cops!" felt like victory. I didn't question anything and felt at home, even though I was 3000 miles away from where I lived.
Like any good band, DARK LION was too volatile to have any sort of longevity. The members went their separate ways, each still being genuine lifers.
This tape is from the collection of Caroline Paquita
Saturday, September 20, 2014
Yesterday, I was hanging out with my friend Ryan in his studio while he showed me all of the new, huge paintings and installations he was working on. He was talking a million miles an hour, so excited to be working on art and learning everything he can about art history and theory. He's getting ready to ship everything out to Minneapolis, where he has a show coming up in November. An old friend, Forrest is helping to build some structures in the gallery, since he has a background in carpentry. Their friend, Naomi bought a house that has a storefront built into the first floor and she's going to host part of his art show there. It was inspiring to see him so wide-eyed and full of life, still figuring out his dreams while flying way under the radar.
Another thing I found inspiring is that all three of those people have stuck together since they started playing in COUNTY Z almost 15 years ago. COUNTY Z is one of my favorite bands of all time, but that's beside the point, Naomi took me on my first freight train ride. Forrest told me he didn't like the sustain of cymbals so he used brake parts instead. Sometimes I couldn't tell if Ryan was playing with or against the band, but it usually worked.
Most of this tape was recorded live at the Seward Cafe, which has been collectively ran since 1974 and is one of the best places on this entire earth. If you aren't familiar with COUNTY Z, I would suggest starting with their tape or LP first, Both are brilliant.
If you're in Minneapolis in November, be sure to check out Ryan's art show. He'll be there daily with tea for you to drink. I might be there too. If you show up, don't talk about this band. Let's talk about his art, the new dreams and all the crackpot visions we hope to see to fruition before this world implodes in the next few years.
This tape is from the collection of Caroline Paquita
Saturday, September 13, 2014
Last night, I was on the train blasting this tape into my earholes as I tried to tune out the rest of the world, so it (the world) wouldn't ruin the only good mood I'd been in for at least 18 hours. I was rushing over to the warehouse show and hoping not to miss the beautiful chaos of SBSM, who were playing first. The train was packed assholes to elbows with people who smelled like a perfume counter in a laundromat, which made me want to barf on their blazers. Instead, I raised both of my arms to hold onto the bar and unleashed my unwashed pits into their nostrils while I turned this tape up even louder. I don't really know what this band is singing about in their theme song because there's no lyric sheet, but I understood it as how all the casual bullshit of this world (wage drudgery, being broke, having to share space with people you'd rather throw into a bottomless pit, etc) adds up into a daily constant insult on your psyche. As the air grew thick with chemicals and the growing number of people backed me into the corner and the dudes stared down my non-gender conforming attire and the train rattled into a rickety tube that shoots right through a body of water, I closed my eyes, turned the tape up all the way and started feeling it pretty hard.
My good friend, Erin Yanke wrote about my own band one time, "I don't know how to describe music like this anymore, but I know when I like it." This is how I feel about CONSTANT INSULT. They have hooks out the ass. They split the vocals between genders...sometimes alone..sometimes together. They're not reinventing anything at all, but they're doing something that many bands are neglecting to do in these times, which is just write a solid fucking song that will stick in your head for longer than ten minutes. There's a hint of the beauty that makes FROZEN TEENS so undeniably good, because one of those guys is playing guitar and singing. It's not FROZEN TEENS jr though. It's really, really great.
The train was approaching my stop and I felt like all the oxygen had left the train car. How the fuck was I supposed to get off this train?! As if on cue, the party girl next to me fainted...just flat out onto the floor of the car. Everyone gasped, but also just kept texting...or more, likely, tweeting about it rather than offering any help. I took off my headphones, but quickly saw that she had a supportive crew of ladies with her who sprang into action. The train doors opened and we all yelled "Clear a path!!" Her friends dragged her off and pulled out so many bottles of water that it was mind-boggling. I followed in their wake and made a hasty retreat, flipping the tape over before riding off into the night.
I don't know how to order this tape, but maybe a band member could let me know in the comments.
Members of ALAS ALAS, FROZEN TEENS (if you like desperate melodic punk and don't own their LP, then I don't understand you), HARD FEELINGS and URANIUM CLUB
POSTSCRIPT: In addition to THE NEW FLESH, REPLICA and MÜLLTÜTE, I got to see SBSM even though I was almost an hour and a half later than the time listed on the flier. On the train home, it was much less crowded and I enjoyed an adult beverage with my good friend Robert as we laughed about the fucking utter buffoonery of Blag Dahlia. Good night and I'm looking forward to another good one tonight as I attend my 5th punk show this week. See you in the pit (or, truthfully, next ot it) at WHITE WARDS, THE LOWEST FORM, PIG DNA, THE LIGHT and INTERIOR 27.