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.