The Music Business was disassembling itself in real time. Napster led to Spotify and it was getting difficult to get anyone to buy physical product. This is all we knew, not based on music business experience but based on the sound logic of living through our teens. We were not simply musicians but consumers of music. In our time this was a fairly simple concept: find the bands you like and buy their records. If someone recommends something, they believe you might like, buy their record. If you were looking for new music, hit your record store and see what came out. It is OK to judge a record by its cover. You may not like the record but you tried.
With Spotify, Pandora, Amazon Music dominating people’s listening habits, the very idea of making a ‘record’ was a failing logic. It was about singles. The average listener would not listen to anything beyond a song.
Do not confuse this statement for a soapbox. I am not condemning anyone in this. If I did, I would not be curating my Amazon Music list so carefully. I am as guilty as everyone else.
The problem with this was if you wanted to really say something, to really explore, it would take more than a song. It takes a collection of songs to wheedle, confuse, clear up and speak it out loud. I am a music consumer and I love a good single. My teen metalhead leaning of ‘anything Commercial is bad’ wore off a long time ago. I hear good songs, not songs in a style I appreciate, and like them.
The Grimm Generation was a concept before it was a band. We over intellectualized everything we could get our hands on, reformatted it and made it marketing. We wanted people to really hear the words, both Carmen and Myself. And we wanted everyone to hear each other’s words as well. As noted, CC was becoming one of the more interesting lyricists I had even met.
The loss of the album format was a true blow to us, to all of us. But since we were making up the rules (people over 40 do not start Indie bands), we decided to break this rule as well and make a record like we would want to listen to too.
We wrote too much, in general. Now CC and I were getting together about every day to work out new songs. We were always looking for people with home studios who had time on their hands and were interested in recording Grimm.
Due to Facebook, I renewed my acquaintance with Adam of my previous band The Citizen Spy, who would play a big role in my musical life.
Adam came in at the end of my award-winning folk band that no one really cared about and was a good guy. We kept playing until the bass player found out he was having twins and that was that. Adam was a guitar player and a damned good one. He played mainly acoustic due to the group but could tear it up with vigor.
While looking for home studios who would put us with us, I reached out to him and he was intrigued.
We showed up at his home in Collinsville and laid down a guitar and vocal to a click track. And then left him alone. What he created around those tracks was impressive and maybe the best we ever sounded. Due to his learning, and perhaps based on the fact his father was a noted Bluegrass player in the area. There was a sort of Americana sound that neither Carmen nor I cared for, but aside from personal tastes, he was leaving a mark on these songs. I wrote a song called ‘Coming Home’ that was pretty dark and broody. He took that and with his equally talented brother on banjo gave a real down-home Country feel. It was impressive.
The lead off tracking was a song I wrote called ‘Blink, I’m Gone.’ It came to me as a whole story which does not happen a lot. I was reflecting on the name Asher and wrote the opening line ‘Asher wants to come. But tell him it is not happening…’ This turned into a noir song about murder.
A rare thing about this song was that I was singing it. I let Carmen sing as often as possible and took a few lead vocals but mainly counted on my background vocals. It worked well for me not because I was afraid to sing but it was good fun trying to figure out interesting harmony counter points to CC’s lead. Some genuinely well-meaning people suggested that I need to sing more as CC’s voice was unique. Unusual. My more standard voice may carry a bit better.
I really appreciated that but had my job to do. I liked the way things were going.
In another instance, CC and I took a trip down to the shore to work up some tracking with an old acquaintance named Big Dave. I knew him through a friend and he used to drop by his house and hang out. What I liked about Big Dave was he was unusual for the area being that his band played big and ugly heavy rock and there were just way too many hippies in the area.
After I moved out of the area, I did not see him anymore. Our next meeting happened at a Solar Powered Local Music Fest held in a beautiful farm in East Haddam CT. This was a funny gig as we had played a gig in Massachusetts. After the gig, the ride home, the Listening Party, we must have finally crashed about 6 am. The gig was at Noon on Saturday.
To say we arrived worse for wear is an indictment of the word ‘worse.’ We were a pair of twin wreckage. It was all very rock star in so much as we looked like we slept in our clothes, looked still drunk and wore mirrored shades the whole day.
My favorite thing about this Fest was we had a dog running around on the stage which was endlessly amusing to me personally. I may have still been a little high.
Lo and behold, Big Dave was there with his zydeco band that really rocked and we got to chatting. He liked what we were doing and had an excess of recording equipment and we asked if he would be game for a collaboration. He was.
The usual method was we would send interested people some practice tracks and then go back and forth on email. We had some tracks burning a hole in our psyche (another new set of tracks…nothing from any of the records, nothing from what we were currently playing live) and we took a ride out to his Westbrook basement lair. He knew his stuff. With some basic drum programming and skill, he took our basic vocal / acoustic tracks and started making something interesting.
He even knew musicians which was exciting. We wanted to do a track I wrote called ‘Brooklyn Good’ and I wanted a cello on it. And he knew a girl (this is foreshadowing …).
We were pretty excited about what Big Dave was bringing out on these songs. He had a bunch of weird ideas but we were not averse to weird. He wanted to go to Brooklyn and record street sounds as a subtle soundscape behind ‘Brooklyn Good.’ Which was pretty groovy, in concept.
As we went about the business of being Grimm, we reached out to Big Dave without replies. He had a few bands going and started writing protest songs to sing solo. So, he was busy too. But we found it strange how we could not get in touch with him.
Based on what we felt like was the potential of these songs, I scheduled a couple of days so that he and I could get together in the studio and start progressing on these tracks.
There was a boat in the basement. Not a canoe. Not a kayak. Not a boat model. A full-sized boat about 30 feet. This was my first sign I was entering Alice’s Wonderland.
We settled in his studio basement with a wild array of instruments strewn around. Big Dave could play the majority of them which was impressive. He had played with a variety of genre bands starting with the ugly metal he played when we met and continuing through zydeco, protest, a number of solo gigs based on his own songs and covers. He had a great voice.
The vibe in the room with just the two of us was strange. I would say passive aggressive but it was pretty aggressive passivity. We started chatting and he started enlightening me to a huge number of Conspiracy theories I could not care about. Wide ranging, global, 9/11 to local lore.
Anytime I would try and change the subject back to ‘Can I hear the tracks?’ he was launching into something equally new and bizarre. I like a good Conspiracy theory, but this was work. And it was not happening. And I scheduled two days of this with him. On purpose.
It was disappointing but I figured ‘OK, we still have another day…’ And we did. And the same exact thing happened.
During the second day of Big Dave’s Manifesto, he did mention that he had a Cello player that played some on ‘Brooklyn Good.’ This was exciting but of course I never heard it even once. He noted that he had the Cello player play the same few notes over and over and over so she could capture them and build something amazing. Three notes, over and over, for hours.
I felt a genuine empathy for the nameless Cello player sitting in this basement and working on a song I was now convinced no one would ever hear. By the end of that day, I knew there were no recordings coming and gave Big Dave my best.
We did go hunting for that Cello player and found her without too much difficulty due to Facebook. CC and I reached out to her, apologized for wasting her time, and then asked if she was interested in joining a burgeoning Indie rock band.
And she was! Enter Grimm Generation Cello player Julie Kay.
We had a few sessions with her and Lys and we started mining a sound that was something different. It was still Indie (define that as you like) but there was some movement in there as well. Something undefined. We started playing out the 4 of us.
As we gained momentum, we still needed some other players to fill out the sound. We were fortunate that our higher profile interested some players. After we worked through those contacts we were back on Craigslist.
Perhaps the grandest of the GG mysteries was our experience with drummers. We just could not find a drummer to work with and the majority of the Grimm shows were drummer less. We would set up and play and my big stomp foot kept the meter.
We auditioned a bunch of drummers. It was a theme throughout our band life. Kerry started playing with us more consistently as we started gearing up for the next record. Kerry was an excellent drummer but he played fast, which was a total kick on about half of the material cause I liked to strum fast as well. The other half it was hard to corral him.
I remember having a Latin beatmaker based on Carmen and My mutual love of Bossa Nova (this was all CC. When we first started writing the book, she would drop Getz and Gilberto into the playlist and I learned such a love of that sound). He spoke English rather well or at least superior to our Spanish. A very cool guy but it just did not work.
Usually via Craigslist, we would invite drummers in to audition that were total flakes, dicks, a bit of column A and a bit of column B. I remember one drummer who dropped by on a Sunday was such an emphatic douchebag that I had to physically restrain Carmen.
Finding a drummer has been my failure in this life. I have worked with some excellent drummers, but it was always someone doing me a favor as they had other bands that were their bread and butter. I think maybe drummers are the most conscious of getting paid. That is not a critique. It is a fact and since we would never play a cover, we were never going to make those big bank weekend Summer gigs that can genuinely affect your tax status positively.
The majority of musicians that we worked with knew that every penny we earned was going back into the band, financing the next record. We had a team mentality in that respect.
Bass players are just impossible. You will find drummers who are not interested in playing with you, which isn’t fun, but at least you could find drummers.
Bass players were the prettiest girls in the standard band set up as everybody wanted them. We did find one and let me say this: he was a brilliant player. As well as top tier weirdo, but that came with the instrument.
One night in New Haven while playing with Lys, Carmen started getting chatted up by some guy there who said he played bass. With the RedHead Lead Singer, you can never truly know what someone’s intentions are, but if they play bass, it’s worth the restraining order.
Enter Grimm Generation bass God Eric.
In retrospect, I know how this happened though at the time I had no clue. Eric liked ladies. And the Grimm Generation had three of them, plus me, not a lady. I think he came in a bit obsessed with CC but quickly became obsessed with Lys.
A man’s motivations are their own so this is just conjecture. I liked Eric a lot but we never got close. What was undeniable was he was a fantastic bass player and definitely the best I ever played with. Watching him showed me what bass can really do aside from loitering around the beat.
The very first practice with him, just Eric, CC and myself, we knew he was something special. He wasn’t cocky. He wasn’t loud. He was quiet and skilled beyond belief.
So now The Grimm Generation was 5 people: Carmen on vocals, JpK on acoustic and background vocals, Lys on lap steel, mandola, glockenspiel and vocals, Julie on Cello and Eric on bass. And we started putting together what would be our next record ‘The Big Fame’ and started gigging quite a bit.
We did a few gigs at The Bing Theater in West Springfield, Mass which was an old style movie theater repurposed into an arts venue. This was a perfect GG venue. We became very friendly with the owner and his family and we played there with a variety of friends and artists. One notable show was the first time I ever met CC’s Dude and eventual husband, Matt. Matt owns a much-loved burger joint called Goldburgers and he is good people.
We played quite a few gigs in Massachusetts with this line up. A more memorable one was when we finally had the opportunity to play Luthiers in Easthampton. It was a two set show with a couple of friendly bands in the lineup. We were very excited about this as it was a real cool venue.
We played our first set and something was wrong. We could not identify it but we all felt a little out of sync. What I loved about the members of GG was they each had a bit of madness to them. And when we played less than well, all that madness came a calling in unique and individual ways. I would brood. Lys would distract herself with the tuning of many instruments. Julie would be positive. And as I found out, Eric and Carmen drank.
I found this out as we were getting near start time for our second set and no Eric anywhere. We were about 10 minutes out. I took to the street to see if I could find him, looking in the bar windows. I came to the last bar and looked in the window and saw CC and Eric downing some drinks. The whole scene looked like a Fritz Lang movie with all the appropriate gravitas.
I noticed that with these different projects, the band drew lines in terms of what was and was not relevant. Because they were not on the EP, because we were not putting any of the songs in the set, they seemed pretty disinterested in it. It was confusing and a bit hurtful but I realized this about musicians … and I would have to say CC and I operated in the same way: If they are not playing on it, it was irrelevant.
This was something I warned CC about again and again, based on my general pessimism but bore out with some real fact. These people are not our friends. They are not coming out here to help us, to do us a favor. They came out as long as they saw something with potential. I loved these folks who we traveled around the area with, who we saw week after week for months and years, but I could not mistake that for being genuine friends because I knew the moment a better option came, they would take it.
In a sense, this was a bummer. In a far larger sense, we had people traveling the state to play our songs for little cash. It genuinely blew our mind that talented people, all with their own careers, would take this trip out to the House of Grimm. That itself was more important than any offense I could take. I fortified this in Carmen as I knew there would come a day.
Meanwhile we received the EP we recorded with Adam called ‘Coming Home’ with 6 songs total. While listening to it was fairly incredible considering that we had exactly 2 sessions with Adam and left him to his best devices to fill in the rest. And he did, with gusto.
One song on the ‘Coming Home’ EP stuck out which was the song I sang about a crime gone wrong ‘Blink, I’m Gone.’ The song had such weight to it we needed to do another video, and we enrolled Zack into this caper once again.
This video, in concept and execution, was clearly a love letter to crime dramas of the past several decades. The video centered on my character and Carmen, along with Lys, invited to be The Boss. I always remember this one-day shoot for a simple reason: it was hot. Crazy hot. Even at night.
The video starts with CC and I at the famed kitchen table and it was clear that things were bad. At a certain point, we needed to ratchet up the tension so Zack requested CC and I argue. And we went to it. Loud, clearly crazy, clearly angry we lashed at each other. The moment we were done, the moment the camera cut, it was clear that we did it well as the entire room was silent. It made us a bit nervous. Did we fuck it up?
It was clear that everyone thought the fight was real. No one would look us in the eye. No one said a word. We were as proud as we could be.
The narrative revolved around ‘Asher’ (another actor friend of Zack’s, killing it) and my relationship. I have to admit that when I saw the dailies, I was uncomfortable. Looking at myself looking at ‘Asher’ it was clear that I was in love with him. Which worked for the narrative but personally made me icky. It was clear I did a good job as this was a subtle tell of the tale. And it sold the video. Nevertheless …
The video ended in the backyard of the House Of Grimm. ‘Asher’s’ fate had been decided and now he was lifeless in the back of the truck. What really got me was when Zack said ‘action’ I was supposed to carry the body from the truck to the waiting grave. When I started to carry him from the back of the truck, ‘Asher’ went lifeless in his form and it was ghastly and fantastic. I think there were audible gasps from the collected friends assisting with this shoot. It looked genuine and more so, felt like it looked.
After I managed to get the body in the grave (dug on the hottest of all hot days), Carmen paced menacingly by the truck headlights, I fell to my knees and said a prayer for dying criminal. And Carmen slid up behind me and shot me in the head. Fin.
It is a pretty incredible video. Weighty, scary, dark as the night. And shot beautifully by Zack again, whose style was made for these themes. We started promoting the release of it with the ‘What Happened To Asher?’ campaign which became rather popular online. We were playing off of people’s True Crime tastes, as well as our own.
Selling a video is not like selling a record. Mainly because it is untraceable. We can count the hits and the views … we heard the name ‘Asher’ bandied about the Internet where it had not previously…. but like so many brilliant artistic actions that don’t find their audience quickly, eventually you need to put your pants on and go home. And hope someone liked it.
We started playing quite a few gigs with the new lineup. Bars, clubs, multi band bills, consistent Café Nine gigs. As well as starting to play out of Connecticut more, upwards toward Western Mass. We were part of quite a few tribute shows such as the Anthology of American Music show in which musicians were taking tracks from Harry Smith’s seminal field recordings.
The gig that was consistently fun for us was the Best Videos gigs which was a video store/venue where they would play a movie while the band played. Not every musician chose to have the videos play but we would gear the gigs around what movie was playing and dress accordingly. Like the Holiday ‘Diehard;’ show where we all showed up in outrageous 80s fashions. Or the ‘White Heat’ gig where we dressed as noir as Hell.
We played nearly all new songs in these gigs as that was where our heart was. Aside from knowing The Grimm Generation, not as many people who came knew a song or two that they preferred. So it seemed to us that if no one is really paying attention, why not play the new stuff for practice with a crowd? And the songs came together in ways they never had based on the fact that we were playing these songs as a real band and everyone was taking their parts seriously. Previously we would send someone our tracks and ask them to do something. There would be a few practices but we were looking to get that part recorded, ready or not.
The effect of working with the same musician’s week after week made us tighter than we ever had been in any other formation.
And despite the fact Grimm was always about taking moments from our real lives and putting them in Pop songs, after Carmen’s father passed away, she started creating some deep and personal songs that were simply beautiful. My fortunes fared better so my contributions were dirty sex songs with all of the language changed.
We were growing beyond our frame. All the while our name traveled farther but never far enough for our liking. We accepted the gigs that were offered with the understanding that this is how we grow our brand. I was not sure if this was the right path for us. I was not sure if endless gigging would serve our brand well, but to every musician I met in my life (including the majority of the band), this was the path to glory.
In addition, all of our clever word play and leading language which started the whole GG Shebang was starting to trend less. I don’t think it was the language. It was us. We were always game to over expose ourselves and expect that may have been part of the slow chill that crawled into progress.
I really do not remember where the concept of the Radio Show came from. I do know that while we were pushing ‘Blink, I’m Gone’ with all the Blair Witch style faux news reports and hashtags for #whathappenedtoAsher? And we conceived of a way to bring in the new material. A full blow Radio show in the style of the classic radio dramas from the 40s. We were already dropping Noir language and tropes as a matter of course and this seemed like the next logical leap.
We had no idea how to do it, stage it, create it but we never imagined being in a band at this age either. So, with our best ‘Damn the Torpedoes’ we dug in.
I wrote the narrative in a single night. It was a story about Asher and the woman (CC) who loved him. It ended in murder and perhaps redemption, though that is left open for interpretation. Each part of the tale leads into a song from the set/record all tied together with a lovely musical pause from Julie on cello, sweetening the spoken language pieces. This would become one of our crowning glories, The Grimm Generation Big Fame Radio Show.
Once CC and Me conceived of this and recognized it was completely possible, we looked for an appropriate venue to debut this piece. As it happens, Windsor, CT happens to be the home of the Vintage Radio Museum. We always acted as boosters for the town of Windsor, though do not believe we ever got such love in return from this suburb of Hartford. We played nominal gigs in our hometown mainly because all the venues were in another town.
We met with the President of the Museum who was gracious and cool, much older than our target audience but he viewed this as an interesting development. We asked for a date to throw the show and he gave it to us: a Saturday night a few months away. Perfect.
At this point we needed everyone we could get so connected with Killer Kerry Miller again and asked him to learn the set. This was for recording the record, which was starting to come together, but we also knew we would need a full band for this show.
This was good fortune as Kerry kept in touch with Ginger who previously played the angry woman with signs in the ‘Nothing Astral’ video. We need someone to adopt the southern accent and narrate and she was only too game to assist.
Due to our excitement related to the new songs and the Radio Show, it was clear that we had to bring this band to a studio and get these songs down and recorded properly. This was a new experience for us where we were not sending out tracks asking someone to ‘do something catchy’ for the song. We had a crack, tight band who were bringing out colors in these tunes we could have never conceived of.
Where to record it was the question. CC and I had great fun and were quite happy recording the first record with Chris The Scamp, but strictly based on geography this was not convenient. I think everyone in GG at the time lived about an hour away from each other, so something in the middle of that expanse was the smart move. But where?
We were not making enough money to pick carelessly. We sunk everything the band made into recording, but being an original band, this did not total into thousands.
I did what I did when I met a music problem I could not decide: reached out to good ole’ Dave Hogan, who was now gigging out and recording with his three-piece Graylight Campfire. They were good, too. They always reminded me of that period of the 70s that power trios ruled the land.
They had already recorded a few records around town so I inquired about if there was someone good who wasn’t crazy expensive. And he said Tyler Bird.
Tyler operated his own studio outside of New Haven and had experience working at much larger, more renowned studios. He was a good guy out of Tennessee, very laid back, very easy to talk to. This was all important but the Dave Hogan seal of approval basically got him this job.
Carmen and I met with Tyler at his condo and we discussed what we wanted, and the variety of instruments involved. This was not a lo-fi sound with various guitars, bass and drums, keyboards, glockenspiel, cello and any number of tight or counter vocal harmonies. Tyler put us at ease with a simple grin that related ‘Yup, Another day at the ranch.’
It was the right place for the right record but Tyler came with a price tag that was not hefty but more than we had. We had a massive Tag Sale at The House Of Grimm and titled it ‘Kickstart This!’ as so many artists had moved toward Kickstarter as a way to get their projects accomplished. We never considered this, perhaps based on pride but more likely based on the threat of embarrassment that we would not make a dime and the thin illusion of the popularity of our weird project would be outed.
And back out on the streets. We took every gig that was offered as it gave us an opportunity to sell CDs and make a bit of cash from the bar. At this point Kerry was hooking up with us for gigs and for the first time The Grimm Generation had a full band line up.
With the speedy Kerry on drums, every set was a bit faster and more exciting. It reminded me of something to my personal taste: the bootleg recordings of Elvis Costello and the Attractions on their ‘This Year’s Model’ tour where they were young, punk as fuck and coked out of their gourds. You can almost feel them fly completely off the planet at certain points, and that was the approximate power we were playing with in Grimm.
We played a lot of gigs, had a lot of fun and made a little money. One of the most memorable was the Cabaret shows deep in the heart of New London. New London is the classic New England Industrial city by the sea full up with industry, arts and heroin by the bucket full.
New London has a strange and strong music scene, a variety of styles, a number of different bands and a lot of experimentation. More importantly, people in town supported the music scene which made it a rarity around these cover band loving parts. We had played in New London before. Once at a Coffee Shop where no one came. The other time at a Biker Bar that was drinking kicks. Though no one came.
This time, we had The Adult Dose. On the biggest night of The New London Scene, the Hygienic Arts Weekend we were right downtown at 33 Golden Street, a delightful and sort of divey basement space. We played there before with just Carmen and Me and despite our folky sound, people were cool.
The most interesting part of that first gig was the fact that as tradition they had Burlesque dancers. We had played with Burlesque dancers quite a bit before based on a sort of renaissance on the form in the Northeast.
This time, when we were in our dressing room backstage, the Burlesque girls came in and started stripping down with just CC and Me in there. Carmen held a perfectly pleasant conversation while I went red and tried to look in any other direction than at the fine female flesh. It was rather hilarious and never forgotten by CC … used when my britches were a bit too big to remind me that I am fundamentally a real geek.
The next Cabaret was the full band and though the stage was tiny, we got all 7 members on it. And we tore it up. Dressed in wild outfits, playing at lightspeed, more women than men on the stage. It was a good time. One burlesque act tore apart a cooked chicken with her mouth on stage and completely grossed out the vegetarian Julie. I could see her point. The stage was slick with grease which even for a meat eater was … gross.
Now any right-thinking band would put out their first official record (we had 3 EP’s under our belt at that point, all home recorded). It generally works well if you go with the songs that you know best, that have received the biggest applause. GG was never right thinking so consequently we wrote a whole new set of songs. Then started sending them to musicians who came into our orbit.
And when it came to where we would record, I had only one thought: The Scamp.
Chris was a drummer, but seemed to be able to play any instrument he laid his hands on. He kept time with the art rock extravaganza that was The Bud Collins Trio (at last count, 6 or 7 members). I had read their name when I lived down in Fairfield constantly in the New Haven Advocate, so they were sort of Stars to me.
Flash forward 10 years or so and there is me, freshly laid off by the Insurance company du jour and had 401 K money burning a hole in my pocket. I had a retirement plan already: Be a rock star and die young. So that money was slated to record my first solo album, The Jason Drug Reaction ‘Down On The Pharmacy.’
Yes, I was Jason Drug for some years. Yes, my Mom HATED it.
After playing with bands I decided to follow my muse and see where it would lead. I was effectively playing with the Houses’ money. I went studio shopping.
I came across a spot not that far from my near Hartford address and took a ride out to see what it was about. I met Chris and his engineer Finch and liked them immediately.
I booked a week to do the tracks, practiced up with the recently pilfered band mates, brought along some friends to add flair. We had a good time. It was excessive and exactly as I dreamed it would be, cocaine and late Sunday night strip club included (note: if you go to a strip club late on a Sunday, no one will be happy to see you).
It was a good record. I had a pretty hard Ziggy Stardust era obsession at that time (which still stays with me) and it was pretty obvious. My partner at the time was the irrepressible and mysterious ‘Fetcho’ who played guitar, was brilliant at creating melody and was cooler than everyone you know piled up on top of each other.
With my solo record out, I marketed myself. Pre Internet. So, this was a hard copy promotion (printed on paper! For real!), stickers, a Bio and the printed CD. I sent them everywhere I could for reviews, for press, for acknowledgement.
When that did not work, I created a fake charity tour named CARMA with myself and friends from Gigglejuice. The idea behind the tour was to ‘raise awareness about homelessness’ which was as empty of a sentiment that I could come up with. I did not want something trackable…because it was a scam.
It was not a good scam because it was not very successful. I don’t believe we made a dime and likely lost a bit of money. But we did receive a ship load of press.
Recording ‘Down on The Pharmacy’ was fun and I always appreciated The Scamp. We kept in touch, even did some sessions afterwards, on the house. By now, social media was starting to grip the World so we fell back in touch. So, when CC and I were looking for a studio, he was my first and last call.
He was available, built a new studio at his house in the woods of Storrs and was less expensive as we were friends.
The recording of the first GG record ‘The Last Record Party’ was madcap. Because The Scamp got weird in delightful ways, he also knew how to record interesting off the cuff stuff that made the record fall into place, which was convenient as we came loaded for bear.
We brought Dave Hogan on guitar, 2 drummers, 2 bass players, 1 trumpet player and courtesy of some Bud Collins Trio members hanging around, keyboards and guitar. The Bud Collins keyboardist played on just about every track and I believe I was in the same room with him absolutely. We asked him to add color and he was cool and said ‘Sure.’
Each session ended with Chris The Scamp saying ‘OK, that was good. Let’s hope my computer doesn’t crash and everything disappears…’. Every. Single. Session.
It was a beautiful out in the woods spot to make a record. Meanwhile The Grimm Generation brought about 18 songs, but were switching them up constantly as a new 7 songs had been written since we started.
The record we made was The Grimm Generation’s ‘The Last Record Party’ which came with one of my favorite record jackets of all time: Black white and red photo realism image of a plane about to crash right on top of the House Of Grimm. Pop did not fuck around and took this vague idea of mine and created something lasting.
The record kicked off with electric guitar and trumpets in ‘Sometimes I’m Subtle (Sometimes I’m Drunk)’ which was Carmen’s creation. I still remember when she presented the words to me and I saw it almost all at once. The crashing bits and fanfare and a killer hook that stuck in your brain. Mike was the trumpet player who we hooked up with from Craigslist. He was an ebullient guy, a lot of fun and was the singer and trumpet in his own cover band that did really well around here. Sitting to play with him that first session, just CC me and Mike at the Table was surreal. I had never played with a trumpet player before and he was excellent. Not simply skill, but trying things to fit around and into the sound which he did brilliantly.
Next up was more muted trumpet magic on CC’s ‘The Definition Of Love.’ These were the songs we had been playing with The GG3 so Dave Hogan had time to build the perfect guitar parts for these songs. This was a lovely sort of noir take on our favorite subject. This was a popular song for us. People dug it pretty hard.
My first pass at the big singers’ microphone was ‘Tick, Tick, Tick, Tick’ and it was a beast. Lyrically, one of my personal favorites but I do wish it had more distortion on the record. This was a quick study of a relationship approaching the precipice of a high cliff. I wrote a lot of songs on this subject at the time (versus the sad boy breakup songs) because this was the life I was living at the time.
A beautiful GG3 version of ‘Hovering’ and ‘Keep It’ were next. What The GG3 lacked in membership was made up with ingenuity. Since we started as a stompy 2-piece, melody was not something we were paying much service to. It was the song. The song shared a particular point of view that we hoped would crawl through primal arrangements. Once Dave was in the fold, he laid beautifully poignant lines on top of that made it feel closer to conversation between lovers than crying in your beer. ‘Keep It’ was a song that came to me whole in another romantic misadventure and I remember those words just whole. I recorded the very first demo on a pre smartphone voicemail and think that version captured it better than any of the other 4 or so times I recorded.
‘I Fall For Everyone’ was next and we already thought this would be the first GG video so we were focused on getting this one just right. A killer lyric by CC that was funny and terrifying and just plain honest.
Followed by ‘The End of The World’ from the first EP, this time given a more royal treatment and baritone guitar. One of the things I loved most about GG was our harmonies that came from raw experimentation. My natural singing voice was a bit higher than Carmen’s so I would often swoop between the low and high harmony in a single song. Our harmonies on the chorus of this gave me goosebumps. I had worked vocal harmonies with bands before. I would not say I was particularly good at it, but faced with this arrangement, I had to be. We were two people and a guitar, so any flourish would need to come out via vocal work.
Next up was one of my best performances and maybe best songs, ‘Slow Language.’ And it hurt me. Because I meant it. This was one of Dave’s favorite songs of ours and when we played this as a trio, his guitar soared and spouted actual tears.
For a bit there I was writing songs that made hay with Biblical imagery and from that came ‘The Book Of Day Job.’ It was one of the funnest live songs we ever played because it was speed metal fast with Carmen and I croaking out a note for note harmony throughout the whole song. On top of that Dave Hogan used one of his sharpest tools: the slide guitar. He whooped and wheeled all over this and the result is just pure mania.
Followed by Carmen’s most direct song about sex ‘Pull The Trigger.’ Men in particular went crazy for this song and it was not difficult to see why. Raw, bordering on dirty but always on the angels’ side.
And then came ‘Forward Ho.’ Lyrically the song meant quite a bit to me as I wrote it after a grand disappointment in the Grimm camp. The point was ‘Fuck it…. let’s move on.’ I should have recorded that and saved the record from including this song. The best memory I have if this song is recording this session with Kerry and trying to keep up with him. He could play fast. And we wanted fast. But Christ. I remember feeling like that classic Maxell Tape ad where the guy was sitting in his chair and everything was blown away behind him. It was a personal victory that my guitar track was spot on, but this was not a great song.
As opposed to this one, which was a great song. CC’s ‘Toy Girl.’ Always a lyrical favorite of mine and just too fun to sing the chorus in that weird harmony. I always remember this track because we had a lot of hand percussion on it and I clearly remember The Scamp, Dennis the drummer, Dave and myself playing all kinds of weird hand instruments and just laughing like loonies. It’s likely the best and has the most trumpet than any other song on the record.
An early version of this was our first video. In the burgeoning Facebook Universe, there were a lot of people shopping their creative wares. We found one such cat named Dan who showed up and drove around Windsor with us, filming us posing around Windsor. The video came out quite good but it was before we had this version of ‘Toy Girl.’
One more thing about ‘Toy Girl.’ This style of writing that Carmen was pulling off was genuinely impressive because she had attitudes I never could. She discussed being a woman in ways I never heard anyone else address. She was all bluster but a real sense of naïveté in her style. She had a way of saying things that opened me up to what it was being a woman in this modern world. She was cool and distant. But she was real and talked about that distance. Songs like ‘The Definition Of Love,’ ‘The End Of The World,’ and ‘Hovering’ were stark and scene setting. She wrote in cinema.
Next up was my creation ‘Blue Eyed and Black Hearted’ which became our theme song. We also filmed a video for this which was strange. An older gentleman from the region reached out to us when we were looking for anyone with a pulse and a camera. We showed up at his place which had a garage. It was an August afternoon in Connecticut so the average temperature was about 1200 degrees. We performed in front of a green screen with CC wearing her usual array of fashion flair, me wearing a smart vintage (but thread worn) suit. It was diabolical. The video came out alright.
My song ‘Nothing Astral’ was next, which was previously featured on our ‘The Book Of Love’ EP. Simple arrangement of The GG3 with Dave bringing some sweet melody and Carmen really owning the song vocally. This was my paean to Tunxis Hill Park, a place where we used to congregate as teens. I imagined it as a dirty bit of suburban sex that I am not convinced I ever had in that Park. Followed by CC’s ‘Why Wouldn’t You?’ We loved this song when we wrote it with its vaguely psychedelic lyric and a reggaeish groove. It was really groundbreaking in our songwriting. Unfortunately, by the time we recorded this, we did not love it so much. We were already writing better songs at this point.
Next up was ‘Hipster + 10’ and we utilized members of the Scamps’ musical combo The Bud Collins Trio. We used their keyboard player Ziggy all over this record and you can hear how it helps. A thing I learned about from Grimm was to ask people if they want to participate and make something amazing. Of course, ‘amazing’ is in the eye of the beholder, but it was a type of marketing.
CC and Me were musing on how cool a keyboard would sound on ‘The Book of Day Job’ and Chris said he would call Ziggy and see if he is game. We met absolutely once and he played on near every song. We gave him practically no directions. Just play something cool. And he did. About 18 times.
We also had BC3 guitar maven Chris play on this as well as Les Scamps on the drums. This was rife with irony, by the way. The song itself was written after playing a gig with The Bud Collins Trio and was a song about themselves. I never told them that part.
‘Fire and Gasoline’ was written about 6 days before we recorded it. Lyrically, I love it. The final version was not great though Kerry’s crazy beat almost makes up for the overall lack of flourish on it. This song was best served as an acoustic duo oddly. CC and I did a show on WPKN and played this fast pile up as a ballad. It was one of the best recordings we ever did, the one time acoustic vocal version. Lyrically, the thing I like about it is it said exactly what I wanted it to say: Fuccccck You.
And finished up that record with the title track ‘The Last Record Party.’ Here is what I remember. I was pissed at Carmen. Why? No idea. Nevertheless, pissed. This is about Us. And she knew it. She knew I was pissed and knew it was about her. And she sang it with me which had 2 effects:
1) Impressed the Hell out of me.
2) Made me not pissed anymore.
This was the simple cause and effect of my song writing. If something gets me good and riled, a song generally comes from that. Not happy. Not go lucky. Just raging pissed. I spit out the words on a pad, less than interested about what type of tune would go to it. As I said before, this was therapy. Once I finished the song and calmed down a bit, I would look at what I wrote and think ‘Man. Thank God I’m not that guy.’
We had ourselves a real live Rock and Roll Grimm Record which was our plan from the start. And as social media grew more substantial, we needed a video.
GG was always lucky in meeting the right people at the right time. Enter The Director, Zach.
CC and I came up with the concept, which was a send up about looking for musicians for a new band and how similar it was to dating sites. This video, like all of the Grimm videos was filmed at the House of Grimm. When we met Zach, it felt strange…he was very young, or seemed so to us, who were no longer very young. He had good ideas and a steady cam. Notes flew back and forth between us.
When we finally came together some Saturday with camera in place, we had a ball. You did not have to convince Carmen or me to pose. It was really all we did. We did as the director wanted, helped him follow his vision as he was helping us achieve ours. It was a good partnership and we ended up working with him again a few times.
The video turned out excellent. It looked amazing based on Zack’s skill, and it was just plain funny. It did exactly what we wanted it to do, ending with a knock at the front door and when we opened it, a real live bass player awaiting us (Brian who also played on the record).
Another video we made with Zack was a full production for the song ‘Nothing Astral.’ This involved actors which was of course new to us.
We reached out to Killer Kerry to play the creepy guy peeping through a telescope at a young couple making out. Zack had some friends with an acting background to play the previously mentioned horny teens. It was genuinely surreal watching the kids making out in the car while Zack craned his camera around. It seemed dirty and it genuinely was. When I saw the footage from the car scene…it was pretty hot and maybe would not be allowed on network television. We also asked a friend Ginger to play a psychotic angry woman placing signs on street signs.
The central spot of the video was Dave and us playing in the Grimm garage while these stories wound all around us. Carmen and Pop did up the garage into something absolutely dreamy with a lot of sparkling tinges. The way Zack caught that garage footage, based on his taste, spun it into pure Garage Rock fantasy.
It was the three of us playing with a lot of close ups and beauty shots. Dave impressed me. He was not the poser that CC and I were. He brought out a genuine world weariness just in the way he looked, something with true gravity. CC looked killer in her Elvis Costello shirt and I did what I always did: wore blue, because of my eyes.
The value of this video has grown within me. In a Dave Hogan less Universe, it is a fitting tribute.
We were proud and excited of what we did and started sharing it everywhere in the cyber verse. And we did make some mistakes.
We stuck with Facebook, mainly because the site was so friendly. And at the time we were there anyway. The benefit of Facebook at the time was it was a free market. You can post gigs and videos of gigs, start conversations and network through Messenger. We did not at that point know the narrow reach we were really dealing with. We started a Twitter account, but we could not be limited in terms of how many characters we could post. Aside from YouTube there were not many other options at the time. Instagram would not come out for a few years yet.
We had a record, something we were proud of so we did follow up with the accepted logic of the time: get on tour and sell some records. We enlisted Dave Hogan and the GG3 hit the road.
Now…when I say on tour, we were not traveling the country. We all had jobs we had to get to the next morning. Despite our ego, we were not so confident that we could succeed, cash wise.
So, we set out for any venue that would have us, regionally. That was bars, clubs, coffee houses, multiband bills, yards and festivals. At one particularly prestigious Film Fest in Mystic we met Bill Clinton. OK a professional Bill Clinton imitator.
We hawked CD’s from every stage trying to recoup some of the money spent in making ‘The Last Record Party.’ We played some super fun gigs but mostly to empty rooms. It did not even matter at the time. We were having a ball. Every gig ended with a long ride home and a too late night up with CC and me listening to the recording of the gig. These were the Grimm Parties. This tradition continued till the end and brings me great joy to reflect on how hard we were laughing at our poor audience attendance but excellent performance.
We played a club in Belchertown, MA that was straight from a horror movie except usually in horror movies there is some kind of cast. This gig contained one elderly couple who danced to every song we played.
We played a Coffee House in New London to an absolutely empty room. A Saturday night too. And they charged me for the coffee.
We played a female centric arts festival that hated us but kept booking.
Despite our best efforts or directly because of those efforts, GG carried drama around like a PA.
I think that both CC and I forged into one massive ego who we took slights pretty easily. A band that we promoted but did not promote us. A venue that was not promoting and unprepared to hold a gig.
This particular brand of band drama was flourishing in the Social Media world where you could never lose the thread of what some like minded band was doing, with better or worse than us. It was immature of us but we convinced each other it was not.
We wanted a certain antagonism to be present in what we did. We never intended to be everyone’s cup of tea. We were definitely the black coffee with 2 espresso route, and usually that was my beverage of choice. Which may explain a lot. We did not want to upset people but were certainly not going to bore them.
Love and Hate are similar emotions. We were OK with a little of both. As long as you were paying attention. This did keep us out of some rooms, off of some collaborations. We resented that as well and the circle wound around.
This factored into our personal lives as well, though mainly mine. Understand that I had never had a real single life. I was married to my high school girlfriend at 22. Then married again at 27. At 40, I was single for the first time, which brought me to Match.Com, which brought me to The Grimm Generation.
There were a lot of gigs where I was watching the door with a real trepidation for fear that someone might walk through it at an inopportune time. Like when I had someone there. This happened a lot. There were many tears shed in the passenger seats of cars right outside the Grimm gigs.
I had ascended to be something that I could never be before: the mythical JpK. This was a name given to me by CC and when that name was used, I was more than human but less than pleasant. I was irresponsible and rationalized any number of questionable acts as ‘doing it for a song.’ I played fast and loose with hearts. As ‘JpK’ I was in complete control of all things, confident in every action.
It felt good to be a god. I was a false idol at best but it felt pretty fine.
Another more significant gig we did was during the great Snowmageddon storm here in CT where we had about 4 feet of snow on the ground and most of the state was completely out of power. On Halloween.
Someone who played that night would become a big player in The Grimm Generation. The Lil Cowgirl Lys Guillorn. She wrote lovely dark folk songs, played guitar and a plethora of other stringed things and was an accomplished visual artist as well.
I am not sure if Lys remembered when she and I first met. I came across her in one of the alternative weeklies and heard her songs and really liked what she was doing. I read that she was going to show up at a Rock and Roll Flea Market and decided to drop by. When I saw her and asked if she was Lys, she looked at me like I was going to lay a summons on her. I think I scared her. I was acting my least monster-y. Which is still a little monster-y.
I think both CC and Me had a sort of crush on Lys. She was so cool, so talented, so much the artist we were aping to be. We wanted her in Grimm. Though doing what we never even considered.
So, picture this: we are driving to this gig Halloween night, not a single electric light the entire trip. Gas lines fed back on the highway exits as only 6 approximate gas stations in the whole of Connecticut were operating. CC and me and her SUV tagged The Slounge after one particular misadventure. It was spooky, truly.
Nobody in the World would have blinked an eye if we cancelled considering the circumstances. We had a record to push and this was an avenue, so we found our way to Waterbury, CT. Of course, no one came out to see it considering the healthy dose of apocalypse all around but the bands came and we supported each other quite vigorously.
And we met Lys in person who was part of this multi band bill with her mate Ken. She was shy and smart and just plain ole’ cool. We all got on quite well. After we played, we suggested that maybe she should come up to Windsor some time and jam. She was game.
We did not have a clear role for her yet, but we also did not know how many instruments she played.
After sending her a few tracks …. Nothing off of the record just released, we were already writing a new set based on the sound CC and I were mining. She came with a mandola and a lap steel. We dug the lap steel big. It had an almost timeless howl to it and that appealed to us. She was also a hotshit guitar player but we would not discover that for a little while longer.
Hooking up with Lys came at a perfect creative time for GG songwriting. Carmen was coming in to her own lyrically and was really nailing the mood, the tone of our songs, which was slowly changing from the basic foot stomp raw Rawk sound into something that was a bit more open, more honest. I was using the basic chords I knew and throwing on a capo for these I did not know, and our sound expanded.
With Lys engaged with GG and playing a couple of different instruments, we decided to invite Dave over to play with the three of us. Both Dave and Lys were noted songwriters and performers in Connecticut so we were just pinching ourselves that they would travel to play with us. We called these the LAND Sessions, for Lys and Dave. We were always attempting flagrant wittiness.
It was a Sunday I would remember. Both Lys and Dave, who lived in the same are but had not met each other. And they watched each other with a wary eye. The thing was both Lys and Dave had personalities that would not be called ‘effervescent.’ They were both a bit shy, a bit quiet and we thought they would get on like a house on fire … and in time they did, forming a true and real friendship aided by a deep personal admiration of Gram Parsons.
That Sunday, though, they were not there yet. Being seasoned performers and genuine folk, no one was nasty, no one spoke out of line…but a general vibe around the room was sullen.
Despite that, the practice tapes were strong. There was something here with Dave playing with his warm Les Paul and Lys with her lap steel. Both Dave and Lys sang, and there was something about the vocals going between CC and Lys that was engaging. Carmen still had that lower sultry register and Lys knew exactly where to place her voice in that mix. Dave and I had practiced our harmony singing from the bands we played in together, dating back to our teens.
After they both left, Carmen and I just looked at each other and shrugged our shoulders.
The LAND GG set up played a couple of gigs with the 4 of us including a beautiful day at the Meriden Daffodil Fest. This was a big local festival and THE place to be seen. Plus, they paid well. The Grimm Generation was not used to being paid at all, so paying well was a step up.
This was the place to meet all of the CT musicians you ever wanted too. The whole event was organized by Robbie (who also hosted our first gig and ran the Homegrown Radio show for CT Music) and we took the stage on a glorious Saturday afternoon and tore it up.
Another gig the LAND set up made was one of the stranger ones (though paid even better…. we were socking away money for the next record) was at a Science Museum in Hartford. We were everywhere online at the time. New record, new video and we updated information every day or just made something up. Gigs were coming to us too quickly to count.
A Science Museum downtown during a Thursday Cocktail Party for the donors and we came dressed to the nines. Carmen in particular was done up as a version of the killer robot chick from Mars Attacks. Her hair was higher than the stars and she looked amazing. To counter, I painted myself green and wore attached antenna.
The room was a sonic nightmare. High ceilings, a lot of chatter (to be expected) and despite the costuming, not many people came near. Or maybe because of the costuming. This was the first time I heard Lys and Dave do their Gram Parsons set. It was beautiful, if not inaudible.
The alien gear and high hair had the intended effect and The Grimm Generation received press, which was the point.
Not long after that, Dave sent me a private note and said that due to his obligations with his own popular band, he would have to step back from GG. I understood. And suspected we would meet again.
With Lys in place and our writing expanding to include more stringy, less stompy sounds we kept gigging just the three of us. The hot rock sound of the GG3 started to take a back step into something more open, and we barely played any of the songs off the records we made. We were writing a new record and one we expected would be Our Statement record. I believed in all of that stuff, like CC did as well.
And it began. Carmen and I were close and she had to put up with my frustration of my lot of life: believing I am talented and having to prove this to the World. She was in attendance of that ill-fated New Year’s Gig. She took up two seats with her beau du jour. She had already listened to me whine and wail about the great unfairness of it all where I had to work a job like a chimp while being a legitimate delicate genius.
I was not sure if she could ever take this seriously. I certainly poisoned the waters effectively.
I was already a living example of how being the grandiose starving artists can wind you up in a basement. She already knew this dream was near impossible because I would mention it again and again. To her.
We met at the Table. I capitalize this as it was not just any table. This became the HQ for every folly that GG would follow. A kitchen, cabinets, stove, a sliding door onto the porch. Clocks on the stove and the microwave. One door that opened into a dining room, another door that led to the living room, one door that led down to my room. The home of many videos, many recordings, many brilliant ideas. Some meals.
For the book marketing, this is the way this would generally go: coffee gets made, we each have a pad, and we talk about big ideas. This was a bit different. Still coffee (as I was most entertaining when buzzed out of my brain), still the two pads. This time I brought some songs and asked her to sing them. It was songs that I had either been working on or songs from previous projects.
My songs generally had a theme which was relationships gone bad. I always found interpersonal relationships more interesting than cars or fast woman or doing something All Night Long. These played perfectly into the Grimm sound where so many of our stories written and put in the book were on similar subjects.
I used my personal failings as my Muse. And she was good to me.
That first session, acoustic and pad and my words printed out on the equipment from whatever Insurance job I had at the time. For it was Connecticut so that’s what people did. They still do.
Carmen was nervous but she was brave. Bold. She sang the songs as I asked her to sing them and in time, stronger. And stranger. Her low rumble brought out highlights in the lyrics that I missed while writing them. She was bringing something unknown, unexpected and simply glorious. We both felt it.
The following day, Carmen at her incredibly intense job of being one of Windsor’s 911 operator, Me at my stint at CignaTravelrersAetnaEtc., we started talking about the session. We were both excited. These notes worked to expand our World, to make the Grimm Brand go Worldwide.
This was how we operated, always. We were never into this to have fun.
This was our super-secret device used to take over the World, like any common mad doctor. This was not casual music to us. We were trying to teach philosophy.
The session happened again and again. What would become the Grimm Twins was forged at that Table.
Carmen started writing songs. And they were good. Really good. I knew she could write, but this was a revelation.
Here is how this would usually go: Carmen would kick up a sheet of words. A poem initially before she eventually started working into the verse chorus style. I would slip down to my room with words and put a couple of chords together. I would decide ‘this is the Chorus’ and ‘this is the Verse’. And then hook up with Carmen again and try an arrangement. And it worked.
The more we did it, the better it got. The more we did it, the more we believed in it. The book was put on the shelf while we worked on our new tactic to steal the hearts of the public while making bank.
And we had a tool: Social Media. This was still generally new. This was when Facebook was fun and not an undiagnosed sickness the country shared.
We knew we had marks against us. People generally do not start bands beyond an age of 40. In previous years it would be impossible to get signed with an older band as the market was always, in style and audience, youth.
We bragged about it utilizing Facebook as our weapon of choice. At that time, Facebook was still a reasonable place to market music. It was a dream platform where you can add a picture to a song and have text space to convince people to listen to it. We were all in. We were both charming and quick, but did not like to show this off in public as much so it gave us the perfect disguise to draw people in and start a conversation. And it worked quite efficiently for a few years. And those years were what we needed.
Despite being a musician in this geography, I had very few music contacts.
This is before I understood the raw power of the Red Head Chick Singer.
Carmen was hot. Red hair, a good sneer…. She was what a Female Singer in a rock and roll band should look like. And we used this to our advantage. She and I, the Grimm Twins took a lot of photos of ourselves in appropriately Rock and Roll ways. It started with us taking pictures of each other, but then we fell in with quality photographers who were looking to do something new. And we were new.
A selection of leading photos, a concept of a primal Rock and Roll sound based on a bashed up acoustic and a sneering Chick Singer, interesting song titles and a touch of salacious humor. With Facebook offering us up as a menu item. We cleaned up.
By cleaned up, I mean we were taken seriously. Despite the cracks in the logic of starting a new band at 40, despite the lack of gigs and poorly recorded shared demos, people were curious.
It was a moment in time. We used our lack of status and plain spoke mission as a distraction. We took ourselves seriously despite the low-level sex jokes and high-level self-involvement. And Facebook was where it played out and Facebook was good to us.
We started attracting visitors, views. We started getting noticed by musicians, local and National. We celebrated every small victory and defeat at that Table that started it all.
We started small but thought big. Since people were looking at us as a band now, we needed some kind of product to let them hear. I had a small 4 track recording rig that was already past its time but we did not need grandiose equipment I could not operate. We kept it simple: brown paper cover, simple woodblock style image art, 6 songs. This was our first release ‘The End of The World.’
We recorded this as a couple of acoustic guitars and a couple of voices. No rhythm section, no leads.
Though it had a piano on it. This happened when we met a piano player and invited him in. He was a nice guy soon to disappear into oblivion but did play with us a couple of times. We took a track from one of these sessions and put it right on the record, uncredited on ‘Hovering.’
It was our first blush, it was an EP and sounded decidedly folky, but the songs were there. The title came from something Carmen wrote which was a brilliant bit of stoned 70s memories from when she was a kid. Once I started working on it, the hook, the tune for Skeeter Davis’s ‘The End of The World’ kept buzzing in my brain. And we married CC’s song with that hooky chorus ‘Don’t they knowwwww it’s the end of the World….’
The aforementioned ‘Hovering’ was on it as well which was another CC song that was heartbreakingly beautiful, lyrically. I came up with a pretty simple structure that carried the tone of the vocal. We also included an earlier song of mine ‘Keep It’ and a song that would become our first video ‘I Fall For Everyone’.
CC was the same way as I was about Press; we wanted it. So as soon as the EP was finished, we started sending it out for reviews. And amazingly, we were covered in the Hartford Courant which was akin to slipping onto the stage of Madison Square Garden. The review was sweet; it was not overwhelming with praise, but it could have been far worse. That first taste, our names in the paper, made the stakes higher.
With the press came musicians. We were making a big noise online and at this point, and everyone was on Social Media. When someone in your field seems to be doing something different, you start to pay attention. We were getting our names in the papers, we were over posting our outrageous amazingness, so when we hit Craigslist this time looking for players, a few of them were already aware of us.
One who intrigued us made their way to the House of Grimm. That would be Bass Mike.
This would be the spot where I describe Bass Mike but this is an impossibility. He was the definition of inscrutable. I believe he was married. Or divorcing. He had children…or did not. He was a good dude, fun to play with, a great conversationalist, but I cannot recall a single personal thing about him.
Except he was the perfect Grimm bass player. He instinctively understood what we were doing and was all in.
He also likely had a slight crush on Carmen, which was expected and kind of her job.
Let me not be misunderstood: Carmen was never someone I would describe as salacious. She knew how to flirt and when flirting was the best advantage to take. I always considered CC as a canvas that other people painted their desires upon.
Though the only one who would paint on that canvas was Carmen herself.
At each turn as we were creating narratives and generally just shucking records, we would create campaigns. For example, our Lucky Panty New Year’s Show (with live free panties!). Or the Grimm Ghost Halloween Show with a live presentation of ghost photography and the creepy GG sound.
CC always became inspired by these shows and changed her look based on what was happening…and she was amazing at this. Whether rocking a Ziggy Stardust look or dressed in a vintage 80s business suit for our Holiday themed ‘DieHard’ movie party or what she put together for the GG videos that were still upcoming, her look was integral to what we did. She was in complete control of her look.
It was an element I could not have imagined on my own not having a key eye for fashion. Carmen owned it. And started dressing me as well.
We also had some talented friends. Pop was an artist who we came to know quite well and truly designed the Grimm Generation visual style. She was shy, quiet and wildly creative. She helped us along from vaguely scribbled concept to real cool Pop art stylings.
She was the Original G, meaning we were working with her just as we started and she was invaluable. We had such a vision for what the GG Brand would encompass and she was the one who could get it onto paper and make it sign. Also, the Official Grimm Generation Photographer which was where all the acclaimed click bait came from. Carmen and Pop would go back and forth on aesthetics, the tiny little moving machines of image that made us seem larger than life.
We dangled pictures of CC as a way to trap people online. And it could be said that the same was done of me. And it was successful. We started getting heard and receiving messages. Many were sleazy, or were an introduction to upcoming sleazy behavior, cause…you know…Dudes.
And what came from these off line conversations were a lot of bands looking for interesting openers.
So then came the gigs.
Our first ever gig was the Coffee shop in Wesleyan, invited by Local Music Man and general bon vivant Robbie. He featured us quite a bit on Wesleyan’s WESU which was exciting. OK, so he got the name wrong a lot. And sometimes never played us at all after promoting it. We took it in stride.
The next gig weaved together a few people who would fill out the greater GG Universe as we were invited to warm up The Peacock Flounders at one of my favorite gig spots, The Never Ending Bookstore. In New Haven, CT. The drummer/singer for the PF was one Killer Kerry Miller who would eventually join up for a time.
In addition, the guys who ran the Bookstore, Rev Dave and Brad were true believers in the realm of local Rock. They created a space that was small, but mighty. They booked us quite a bit in time and we were always appreciative of their efforts on our behalf, as well as toward The Scene in general.
When we showed up, there was a movie camera there. We were shocked. Not a video, not a digital camera on a tripod, a real live movie camera. This was our first real gig and we were wondering if the press had caught up with us. Nope.
It just so happened that the lead singer of the Peacock Flounders, Ron, was getting a movie made about him based on some historical CT rock reference. The man with the cameraman was a former CT Newscaster, which was absolutely surreal. It was a good gig. The crowds at the teeny tiny Bookstore were always incredibly supportive. It was a small room and that added to the energy. It was a fine place.
And from that gig, another band asked us to play with them. But we were facing a problem. For all our bluster, we were a guy with an acoustic and a girl singing. There are many brilliant bands based on this sound but it is hard in the clubs, bars, venues we were getting offered. We were popular with Rock bands, not folk bands, so our sound was thin for the rooms.
We had fascinating and fun ways to vent this irritation. When we would play and if the people kept talking, we would whip out a song that CC wrote called ‘I Like To Watch.’ We built into this song a long duo harmony that, when provoked by a crowd not paying enough attention, would ramp up between the two of us until the effect was something like a smoky siren blaring through the room.
Gigs were coming, new songs were being written at a rapid clip. This was when CC and I really hit our stride in producing work.
Where previously the glue that bound us was The Book, this was changing to The Song.
We had a fairly simple formula based on the tools we were given: an OK acoustic guitar player, a first time band for the singer and pop length songs that were exclusively based on the lyric. We wanted to cut out the middleman of solos and musical bridges and get to what mattered to us: being heard and perhaps understood lyrically. We set up a Tuesday practice night which in time became every night.
We produced song titles that were noticeable. This was part of the marketing, being able to assign significance using the canon of pop culture references to hem the listener into a time and a place that was all Grimm. Song titles were marketing. Understand, we had no listener at this point, no crowd to play to, no radio to play upon. Keeping ourselves amused was important when you are playing for an audience of two.
One thing about the dynamic of those days was that even before the band, the book kept us intertwined with each other’s lives. I came to know or know of CC’s boyfriends who, to a person, I did not like. Reflecting on CC’s love life brought us songs like ‘Waterford Speedway,’ which was a true story based on a real boyfriend with a real affair going on across the country due to the Internet.
These types of interactions, our own and others, was becoming a real theme in what we did. Not simply because we were drama hounds, but it was all new and public. This was before people really got the scope of Facebook’s public interaction. People would share things they would never say out loud to 30 million of their best friends. ‘Waterford Speedway’ was an appropriately dirty story about a woman traveling from a great distance for an even greater disappointment.
On a similar subject, related to the same beau was my song ‘Twisting Our Lives Away,’ which was based on my hearing their interaction above my basement lair. It was strange because there was never any romantic desire from me toward CC. but when I reflected that in the song, I came off as jealous. I do not believe I was but man…these songs. They paint a picture about me that makes me uncomfortable.
It was never a question as to whether these songs would come out because embarrassing personal discoveries in songs was my bread and butter.
When Carmen started kicking in songs, that was when the balanced voice of GG came through. A song called ‘Murder Wins,’ which she wrote, caused me to write one of my prettier, less obtrusive arrangements for it. Lyrically, her song shined like the late autumn sun. It was subtle, and meaningful.
‘Aloha Japan’ was another story song based on a different time. It always reminded me of a faded postcard featuring some sweetly smiling bikini girl from some gauzy 50’s timeline, with color faded to a sepia tone.
As we continued, she started bringing in songs like ‘Save The Girl,’ which was a more empathy driven version of ‘The Next Indie Boy.’ These were all true stories we were living in stereo.’Save the Girl’ was a plea to a woman we knew to not get caught up in the whims of a man to stop this madness and save herself. As opposed to ‘The Next Indie Boy’ which spoke to the same girl and said ‘Screw this guy. There is always another singer somewhere’.
‘Come to Me’ which would eventually be recorded on our EP ‘Coming Home’ was simply gorgeous. It was a torch song and very slow and sexy.
The song unveils itself, starting with snapshots of the very human feeling that accompanies missing someone and builds to a plaintive and deceptively simple “Come to me…..Be with me….Love me as I am….” which always took my breath away in its simplicity. With my habit of overwriting, trying to replace feeling for rhyme schemes, I could not have come up with something so simple and beautiful.
The recorded version lacks the initial passion of the duo version as I suggested Adam ‘do something like Radiohead.’ He did, I was wrong.
One of the songs I brought forth was during a period that I was working a lot of bible imagery into everything. That was ‘Pleasures of the Flesh’ which was another of my Dylan style ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’ rips. It was fast and when properly played came off as high gospel based on the raw energy. Lyrically it bordered on blasphemy.
Something that CC brought forth, which I believe was one of my favorite never recorded GG song was ‘Proximity Bomb’. It was a too fun tune about how getting closer to the wrong person will bring harm upon you. In case the message was not received, the chorus is a countdown to ‘Boom’.
Now let us discuss the song ‘Alse Young’. For it bears discussion. When history books are written, any chance we have of showing up on them is based on this song.
Alse Young was a real person and is noted to be one of the few witches killed from Connecticut. She was from Windsor which was where the Alse Young lived before being taken in chains to the Hartford State House and hung for, and I quote the official records ‘keeping company with the dark’. We caught wind of this tale and I started the song. As traditional a folk song that we would ever write, it reflected the whole horrible story in 4 verses
This was our perennial Halloween release and we discussed the subject as much as possible. A few years later, we received a note from author Beth Caruso who was writing a book about Alse Young and actually came across our song in an Internet search. She was incredibly excited to find another reference to Alse and utilized the song in some marketing of her book ‘One of Windsor: The Untold Story of Americans First Witch Hanging’. I became incredibly excited when she guested on a paranormal podcast that I followed and they played the song on that podcast on Halloween. I actually spoke to a few of Alse Young’s relatives who were very appreciative of our work.
Based on Beth’s book and some dedicated friends, they actually started a movement to exonerate all of the Witches persecuted in that period. They were seeking the witches to be declared innocent. And they were successful. Alse Young was exonerated.
We did not create this, though helped where we could. This was all Beth and what it gave us is a unique entry into genuine American History.
After getting some notice with the ‘The End of The World’ EP we went back in the basement and started work on the next one. This only made sense as we were producing so many different songs in a wide variety of styles, it was difficult to keep track and to be sure we were working on a consistent sound. We were still a 2 piece (the mysterious Bass Mike split the scene) so that reads as folk. Despite some definitely folk songs, that was not what we were writing at large. We needed to get more product out to either confuse or attract the general public.
The next Grimm Generation EP that came out was the ‘I Like To Watch’ EP, this time only 4 songs.
All of the EPs (4 in total) cover art was all Pop’s creation, using a brown paper and a black and red theme matched with sort of wood cut images that spoke specific to the music. We were definitely upping our game with the sound despite the fact that we still did not use any other musicians. Playing together every night as we had been doing for months, maybe a year, had tightened up the control of what we wanted to sound like and what the songs presented.
‘I Like To Watch’ started off with ‘Hipster + 10’ which would be recorded for the ‘The Last Record Party’ full length. This was a song that took on a different vibe when we played it live. When it was just CC and Me, we roared out this song. I wrote it and liked the lyrics quite a bit. This was effectively a bitter song talking about bands whose name traveled farther than ours had. It made me angry and that is why I started writing songs, to assuage my worst impulses.
When Dave came on board for The GG3, he loved this song as it was decidedly darker. I remember a gig we played where we warmed up Scott from Neurosis so we had a pretty metal crowd in attendance. The three of us took the stage and killed this and I saw some heads banging in the back. It felt amazing because Dave and I came up through metal.
Next on the EP was one of my older songs ‘Sex Changes Everything’. It was a song that I had written several of the type which was a ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’ type list lyric, always super-fast. I believe we went ahead with this one as it seemed to attract attention based specifically on the title. I had played this song with a few different bands in my years and it was a good song, though not terrifically Grimm.
Then the song that I said for a long time was the high-water mark for Grimm Generation songs, the high point of our collected career. At that point. That song was ‘I Like to Watch’. Carmen produced the lyrics for this one and it was an amazing slice of backwards voyeurism. This song had a real build to it from the start of the quiet vocal to the raw roaring we did in harmony to end it. This song was directional, showing where we were going.
The final song on ‘I Like To Watch’ was ‘A Year Of Living Dangerously. A Carmen Champagne penned lyric, a lovely quiet tone that spilled out desperation. It was another song that when CC presented it to me, I knew she was no joke.
The next EP was our Valentine Day release ‘The Book Of Love’. In my opinion, our best EP. We had started to really focus on the sound and these were songs that were played out by The GG3 quite a bit as the songs were written about that time. It was a small little Rock record still recorded on acoustics, but the sound quality was better as I was getting better at recording Grimm.
This started off with a GG favorite and a song that would eventually be re-recorded in a real studio for ‘The Big Fame’. The song was ‘Real Bad Voodoo’ and this was such a cool rock song that Carmen wrote and I came up with a slinky sounding arrangement. It had an infectious quality to it.
I should mention that all of this was new to me coming from a background of either writing my own songs or writing words for other people’s arrangements. I did not believe I could write music. My musicianship has always been unique but I would not say practiced. It was until this moment in time that I had a formless bunch of CC’s words that it just came to me. It wasn’t something I knew I could do. This started with her singing my songs, my simple arrangements. As she wrote more, I was put into the position to write good songs to go with her clearly good words. Since CC’s tone was lower than mine, I started using the capo in ways I have never done before, and started playing with the sound of the keyed chords. Some of these were perfect for Carmen’s vocal; some were perfect for my own.
Like so much about this period, there was something happening that seemed like magic. I cannot say that enough. I know how it sounds. I know. I’m a skeptic by nature and truly a pessimist. I also have no other explanation where I, we, acquired these skills that we did daily during the Grimm days.
Up next on ‘The Book Of Love’ was my ‘Pull Down The Covers … Slowly’ which was either very sexy or very scary. It was deep and slow; the quiet arrangement sounding plaintive in a way and near psychotic in another. This was a strange one and we did love it so.
Carmen and I often called the Grimm songs ‘our errant little children’ because even if one was ugly, or clunky, overly salacious or not, sometimes just dumb, they were ours and we birthed them. And honestly, I think we always liked our weird little songs a bit better. This song was another example of Grimm’s growing power with our two voices.
Song # 4 was another one I am proud of mainly because it was kind of funny and that was ‘Someday I’m Going To Leave You’. Carmen actually told me that when I brought this song around, she thought it was a veiled threat / message. Despite that not being true, it still felt good to hear. This song has an excellent stompy vibe and again features the patented GG harmony on that chorus line. This and ‘Real Bad Voodoo’ both came to life when Dave sat in with the electric guitar.
‘The Boy King’ was my song that I had previously played with The Citizen Spy. The song was based on one of CC’s beaus of the time that complicated their relationship in every conceivable way. This is a really good song, good words, good hook. This song was also a genuine fear that I had that this was autobiographical. Everything I accuse this character of could be reflected back on me and it made me uncomfortable. But it had a good hook so it survived my queasiness. I did re-record this for my ‘The Zen Of Losing’ solo record, which followed GG.
Finally, was our first pass at ‘Nothing Astral’ which was re-recorded for the debut ‘The Last Record Party’.
We were in a quandary. Though musicians were becoming available to us, we were attached to our style of communication and creation. Two people can operate far quicker than a band strictly based on scheduling. CC and I moved together and spent just about every night of this period either practicing or marketing. It was an addiction. ‘What can we do to advance our agenda? 3-2-1-Go!’ and we would be in constant communication, always World Building. This same mania could not work with a bigger group.
We knew we needed something else. Something to change our trajectory from Indie Folk to Rawk.
And I knew a guy. Enter The Man.
Dave Hogan (or Dave Hogan to his friends) was a hot shit guitar player who I happened to know from starting our first band together when we were about 15. Burning Ambition specialized in covering obscure metal and was completely out of step with everything happening at the time. We wanted to anoint the masses who had the poor fortune of not discovering bands like Raven, Loudness and of course, Iron Maiden. And they (We) were a bunch of classic Kerrang level loonies just like you read about in said magazine.
Except Dave, who had the same worship of these generally obscure bands but was much quieter about it. Mike, bass player, was a degenerate freak. The drummer was an immensely talented rhythm beast who drank to excess. I was near 250 pounds and wore a white karate Gi as front man gear.
Dave was quieter, though no less a drinker. There was something about him that you could tell, even from that age, he was studying his craft.
Burning Ambition became Wild East (cribbed from the Ian Hunter song, a massive influence on all of us) with just Dave and I remaining in the line up. We again were trying to convince people there was better music out there than they were listening too (there was no lack of snottiness in this) , this time creating a set that effectively replicated UFO’s ‘Strangers In The Night’ double live album. When people asked if they were our songs, we said ‘Yes, Sir’. Why not?
I was the singer and the only one producing lyrics. It was almost a parlor trick where I could hear a tune and create a narrative out of thin air (Note: the songs were not good). This amazed people…and honestly made me a bit difficult to deal with.
To point, I was always looking long at Dave. Thinking he just did not fit with where we were going or more so where my genius would lead us. I had my first conversation with Dave about why he should find another band. It was not the last time I had this exact conversation with him.
And, inevitably, all for naught. We did find a quite inventive guitar player but the trajectory of the band was heading to where the majority of teen dream bands went: playing shitty covers in shitty clubs for shitty people. And the same plan next weekend. I was singing covers (to this day, hearing Aerosmith ‘Dream On’ makes me queasy.).
Meanwhile …. Dave had a good band. A damned good band. I was jealous as fuck and Dave became my nemesis. I joined that band a few years later. They were good! And when I quit, I took most of the band with me to make my first solo record. And had that conversation again.
So, what did Dave do? He started ANOTHER band that was even better! Fucker.
He started The Rafter Bats which was playing a mix of rock and real bluegrass before anyone even considered such a thing (Flying Burrito Brothers aside). And getting very popular around these parts. Way too popular.
I was seething.
I still remember driving around on a Saturday and hearing that the Rafter Bats were sitting in playing a set on WPKN (The Best Radio Station. No qualifiers). I actually called them live on the air and the chilly silence at when my name was mentioned was a true and wonderful moment of my life. I did not want these dudes to hate me, many of them were good friends
But fuck …. It makes you feel like a supervillain to suck the joy out of a studio like that.
Dave was my nemesis but I am not sure I was ever his. Years after this, I believe with the invention of Facebook, he invited me down to sit in with him at Café Nine (New Haven) Cocktail Set, and I did. And we talked over old times and we became closer than maybe we ever were. Many of our mutual friends had already died via drugs, liquor, poor decision making. We were rounding out to be the last of our breed. I missed him. I hope I apologized but he knew me for what I am: a megalomaniac.
When Grimm started producing songs, I was keeping him in the loop by sending tracks for his review. It was not initially his bag but as we got more real Rock and Roll, he became more interested. We had him up to Windsor to add some guitar to what we were doing and it clicked. The GG3 was born.
It was me on Acoustic, CC singing, and Dave and his Mega Boogie and Les Paul. We still did not have a rhythm section but we were getting loud even without the extra members. The songs took the form of what would be our bread and butter: smart Rock and Roll songs with a dirty minded bend.
It was a unique arrangement but it had a sound that was full tilt. We were all assuming our roles within the GG Organization. Carmen was singing and dressing like a rock star already. I would thrash around with my acoustic, my steady stomp was the drum. Dave would sit opposite me and pull these lovely lines out of that fat Les Paul. It felt like we were a 70’s band.
Dave liked to play guitar. He always had some other projects going because he just wanted to play guitar and not worry about the bookings, the travel, the Plan. Despite his excellent voice which brought up a dusty church in some long-gone town, despite his ability to write his own Rock and Roll come Country songs, he always wanted to just be the music director for someone and just play guitar.
And in the GG3 that is exactly what he did. CC and I were the masterminds and he were happy as Hell not to care…just to show up when we need him, rock out and then catch a ride home.
We were gaining traction. Once Dave, a Dude who was already well respected in the area, started showing up at gigs, more musicians started paying attention.
Some things you can only see in the rearview mirror. And as is often the case, the objects do seem larger than they appeared.
When we co-opted the name Grimm from said Brothers, it was not a mistake. There was always an element of fairytale about what we attempted to do. And quite like the actual stories from the Brothers Grimm, much of it was terrifying.
I had a dream. And I had someone to dream with, which is this story.The dream was always the same: World Domination. Or at least validation. Being recognized for what you did versus who you were. Fueled by a teenhood full up on rock magazines (Creem, Hit Parader), classic FM radio and that Monday after the big concert when everyone in class wore the same t-shirt.
Currently, that seems quaint. And it is. The Music Business was always a business. If the greatest musician you ever heard never left their bedroom, they would not be the greatest musician you ever heard. They would be your cousins’ friend, your coworker, your Ex.
We started The Grimm Generation with a simple concept: Children of the 70’s at 40. And what I do not believe I have ever considered was how Rock music culture of that era affected us. Infected us.
Before the Internet, records were passed around between friends, hand to hand, and the receiver would offer something back.
And the World grew larger.
We dealt in myth. And we were our best customers. When you try to do impossible things, you need to think in impossible ways. I could not do it alone. And I did not have too.
The tale of The Grimm Generation is the story about a house. A domicile that gave us the space and time to create, the raw desire to reach out further. Every element of what we would become was co scripted with a collection of walls and windows.
This is a story about a band that did not make it. A story with real magic, real tears, love and intrigue, creation and re-creation of ourselves. There is not a moral to the story. Morals are for fairy tales and despite our personal preferences, this takes place in the very real time of the late 2000’s.
The Internet was born and we were reborn with it.
It starts with ‘The Story’. ‘The Story’ that started a whole unknown Universe of Grimm…a story that was shared by CC and Me on every form of radio, tv, print press interview available.
And it goes a little something like this….(hit it!)
‘Carmen and JpK met on Match.Com. They went on a date that went well but it was not a love match. Both retreated to their separate worlds until a note went from Carmen to JpK asking ‘Do you like Sparklehorse?’
That simple question bloomed into more notes, more sharing, more details of the damages done to us by a life of suburban excess. Marriages, divorces, kids, cars. And New Wave, Glam Rock, the effect of Led Zeppelin on our growing years.
It never stopped. For years. They realized that despite the romantic missing, they had some type of undefinable chemistry. Notes lead to cups of coffee. Stories transformed into larger lessons the more they wrung them out. Carmen would send poetry and JpK would send demos.
These reflections became the basis of a book ‘Dispatches from The Grimm Generation’ a collection of vignettes birthed by choosing a single subject and the two writer’s impressions of it. What was discovered was this errant chemistry was a true partnership as lovers came and went. And usually left a tale or two in their wake.
The Grimm Generation was coined based on the ideas of kids of the 70’s turning 40 and how our generation was sold fairytales as a future. We were given the American Dream but the anxiety kept us awake.
This constant communication, text, emails, (never a call) led to JpK moving right into Carmen’s refinished basement, henceforth known as The House of Grimm. And the pair set out to learn about how to promote a book.
JpK was songwriter mainly, good in a short sprint, ran out of breath on a marathon, with a genuine love of good Pop songs. He had some success, but much more debt. While beating his head against the cinder block cellar one Sunday, he heard Carmen and her kids playing ‘Rock Band’.
When he heard Carmen sing an AC/DC song, he thought ‘I could work with this’. And invited her down to sing a few of his songs…’
This is ‘The Story’. And this became what we did for the next 5 years. And what The Grimm Generation defined became our banner. We were already too old to start a Rock Band, but we were cagey promoters and had the benefit of a young Internet culture that suited us. We were both born posers and would take a position at the first click of a camera. This was when Facebook was still based on living people versus dying industry.
We were ready for our close up.
I have known Carmen for over a decade now, with a level of sharing that brought us closer to kin than friends.
That does not mean I know her, truly.
Carmen keeps it close to the vest, always. She is not what you would call effusive. Unless she is drinking. Then she was a red headed charm bracelet that sang out loud.
She was born in Hartford, CT and was the first American baby from a family with deep French-Canadian roots. When her extended family came round to visit, it was all Crown Royal and crazy Canadian food stuffs. And a deep, bracing whiff of redneck.
We grew up similarly as she had a few brothers and sisters, went to school, flirted with college, married young and had a few kids.
Then as was in vogue in the Nineties, divorced. As we all did that decade.
I was from Fairfield, CT about one hour south. I had a good childhood as I recall, though in telling some stories of my misguided youth, I have noticed eyebrows climbing ever higher.
As a kid, I had a deep love of language and what can be done with it. Being very fat kept me inside with my books, comic books, pads and pens. I wrote my first song at age 9 proclaiming my love for Kara. She never heard the song.
Many Kara’s followed. I was a World Champ’een Unrequited Lover. And it fueled my writing.
In time I discovered Pot and my worlds turned stranger and my sense of being a responsible person slipped away. I started writing more songs.
I started with bands when I was a kid. We did what bands did back in the Actual 80’s: we started at Teen Center shows, graduated to shitty club gigs with covers, write and record original music and break up. Over and over again. Some victories, a lot of laughing, some crying.
I held a job, married, had a child …. divorced…. married again, gained a step child…. divorced…
I tried to push back the creative need and limousine dreams to try my hand at being a decent Husband and worthwhile Father. I did not want to tell anyone I ever even wrote music as I tried to settle.
It was fruitless. It was what I was good at. I acted like a bon vivant living on lottery winnings. Immaturity was my brand. I operated with a dangerous combination of ego and absolute anonymity.
This dogged me as I came up, moved away from home (by only an hour, but in Connecticut that matters), needed new pot connections and consequently made new friends. Of course, they were musicians.
I have always had an odd and maybe strained relationship with musicians. I think because I was The Songwriter my end goals were always different than the dudes I played with. Everyone wants to have a good time, jam, pack the clubs, make a little cash and do it again next weekend. That was never my goal.
I had my musical heroes but they were also my competition. And my artistic vision went beyond what I could explain to even the most open minded and dedicated players. I was scattered, I was over blown, and absolutely pretentious. I would talk about crescendo where the musician would talk about where the solo was.
I was fated to be a solo artist as very few could deal with me for that long.
This created a situation where I was ever earnest about my work, my Art, always attempting to write a legitimate hit, mainly alone in my bedroom. I took to the recording bedroom style as the equipment became affordable.
I had a simple enough schematic for what I wanted to produce: a good chorus, short, words that were a bit darker and more detailed than will fit in a Pop song. Aiming for hooks, melodies. The fruit of what captures the ear and makes you turn to face the radio.
Songs were a means to an end. Originally it was therapy for me. If I never sang a note these songs would still exist moldering in some low drawer. I used my frustration to create. This also led me to involving myself in personally dangerous circumstances and rationalizing I was doing it for my art.
I read the 70’s / 80’s Rock magazine like they were Greek myths. At that time, they practically were. Consider the images of the wild flowing hair, lit from behind like a perfect capture in oils. Coliseums shake as the masses gather and call their name. In unison. Loud. And lighters fill the night. In tribute to these Gods who walk with men.
Who wouldn’t want that?
In those days it was the alternative papers that featured the local music sections. Anytime I was involved in something, I would send constant Press Releases to keep a generally uninterested World on where my mighty muse may lead me.
In 2009 I had an all-acoustic group named The Citizen Spy in the era just before Indie Folk had a genre. We were chosen as the Best Folk Group in Hartford by the Hartford Advocate. It was work to get it, to network, to suggest, cajole, beg for people to vote for me for, a band that very few had heard.
I collected the members though the tried-and-true musicians want ads.
The Musician Want Ads were always sketchy at best. First those same alternative weeklies had their ‘Musicians Seeking …’ section and then CraigsList. These were like dating sites where no one got lucky, even by accident.
You could find someone and review their work and express interest. And never hear from them again. Maybe they died. Maybe they were arrested for ‘rocking too hard’. Maybe they were still a little drunk from last night’s gig.
You become immune to this quickly (much like Internet dating) when you recognize it’s a numbers game. Reach out to more and you will get more. The ‘more’ you get is often unworkable, unstable stuff but it makes you feel like you’re actually participating in a type of Music Business.
On the Musician Want Ads, a Bass Player or Drummer would be considered the ‘pretty girls at the dance’ as everyone wanted them. They string you along (‘play original music for little cash? Sign Me Up!’) until their ship comes in (‘play covers and make a lot more cash? Sign Me Up!’) and then disappear.
The term that offended me when relating this to other musicians was that the people you find on the Musician Want Ads are ‘hobbyists. That made me angry. Despite being absolutely true.
I dedicated myself to finding players who could help me build something larger, grander in scope. I believed that if a group of people, even absolute strangers, can come together with a common cause, a sound that matters to those involved, they can produce something lasting, something beautiful. Something that can transcend social relations and slip into a higher airstream for all to see, all to experience. A labor of true love.
Which brings us back to the Best Folk Group in Hartford. I worked hard to get that award. I figured it would be a stepping stone to get my name a bit more public. I campaigned for it.
And won. It was a shock.
When it came time to play the gig, The Citizen Spy had already broken up. Because they were hobbyists. I had conceived and achieved and succeeded, and found myself alone again, not a step further ahead than I was
I was heartbroken. Until that Sunday night about a week later when I heard CC playing Guitar Hero.
2007…. or so
I was renting a room from a bandmate at this time and decided I needed to go. Carmen and I had already been in a constant conversation on every conceivable method of communication. It was a natural step.
It was the emails that bonded us. Texts are quicker, Instagram can show fine details, but sending emails was a perfect form of communication for us. It was like writing letters and throwing them into a virtual Sea. There was a weight and breadth to them, despite being composed of circuits and electric ink.
We started with Sparklehorse and coalesced into something deep, then deeper still. It was all about feelings that neither of us shared with other friends or family. We allowed ourselves to let go and share with someone who would not judge, even as we clicked through a series of actions we were less proud of.
This is where the talk of the Grimm Generation really started, as a code for ‘Children of the 70s at 40.’ We felt that what we were taught growing up was a very soft glow version of what life would really be like.
We missed the Drug Era but of course, drugs were appropriate for every Era. We missed the movements of a real Culture that we were too young for. These lessons never set in with us as a generation, and we fail spectacularly. We marry because it is what we believe we are supposed to do. We have kids because we are married, whether we wanted kids or not. We bought houses that we lost when the market crashed.
In retrospect, was this a series of excuses for not having our shit properly together? You’re damned right it was.
The true political intent was just a false flag. We had someone to talk too after being on Match.com too long where every communication was either someone selling you something you do not really need or you selling yourself.
The unceasing communication we struck was about the book that we were co-authoring. Neither of us had any type of experience in marketing a book, my scant experience in marketing a record was good but ultimately not useful.
With my living situation deteriorating, when Carmen mentioned that she was refinishing her basement, I jumped on it. I have always had a lovely relationship with basements and the House Of Grimm basement was perfect. And would allow us to really focus our attention toward the book.
All of this was happening in the background of my personal Waterloo, the Hartford Advocate Poll debacle.
It wasn’t anyone’s fault. Even by this point, less and less people read print media. These proud giants of alternative thinking were rotting in their boxes.
Where once the Grand Band Slam was a multiple night affair, everyone was involved and partying, playing a variety of clubs, outdoor gigs. Just a real general hullabaloo. it was shrinking in significance almost daily. The print media. The Scene itself.
I was offered an outdoor gig that was cancelled. I set up my own celebration gig on the day after New Year’s. Even the band did not show. No one came except for Carmen and her beau du jour. I was crushed.
And wallowed in it. Constant angry pacing in my 15-foot square underground sanctuary. Carmen was upstairs with the kids (approximate ages: Boy – 10, Girl – 6) playing Rock Band. And then Carmen took the mike and sang an AC/DC song. And I heard something there. Something undefinable. Something I needed.
Carmen had no background in music aside from a grammar school chorus and years of listening. There was something in her voice that was dusky and true. Not a traditional sound, but something that called out from late nights, broken hearts, too much liquor, on a loop.
It was a sound my more traditional voice could not convey. It wasn’t ability, it was atmosphere. And as I listened, I considered what if I took my decidedly pop songs and put them through that voice. I had no idea what would happen, but it kept me from thinking about the great expanse of what was not happening for me.
Since we lived together and had working projects, there were a lot of shared cigarettes on the screened in porch overlooking Park Ave in Windsor. This time was always about what happened next for the book marketing.
The book was The Thing. The book was our shared vision, our lopsided child. We went back and forth, story for story, until we selected the best subject and best writings that we produced. One of us would pick a subject (‘Lust’, ‘Butterflies’, etc) and we both would write our take on it. Some of the stories were long. Some were 3-line poems. It was an individual choice as to how to best capture the subject.
We felt like we were doing something so far unknown to the Market. The ‘Story’ and the stories we shared would leap out from the page and engage people our age. That was our market, clearly, as we wrote this about turning 40 in the high 2000s. We presumed that people would hear about it and reach out with their own tales of Grimm Generation excess and a community would be built.
We sent out the book to a hand-picked focus group who read it and provided insight, accolades and grammar hints.
Just like real authors do.
We then adjusted the tales through the insight provided group and built the book as suggested by the several thousand websites that offered encouragement and advice.
Just like real authors do.
We started shopping the book. When we received the first rejection (like real authors do), we laughed at the lack of imagination of the Big Book Business. By the third and fourth rejection letter, we were laughing a bit less. Seven and Eight hurt like Hell.
This process, unsuccessful as it was, really forged the Grimm dynamic that would become our trademark. We were hucksters, shameless. Specifically, together. We brought out the carnival barker in each other.
Individually we were still both a bit shy, closer to unknowable. United, we were glamorous grifters. We were good at it. Marketing that was funny, a bit salacious, but never uncomely. It entertained us greatly.
I expected to go into the book using this same level of grating glory, but I could not have anticipated the addition of Carmen. We fed off of each other, each idea discussed among smokes and bigger cups of coffee till we tore down every idea and rebuilt it to hold up to the GG standard.
We were in a single clear conversation for about 8 full years. The circumstances changed, the band members came and went and we were always looking at what is next to advance the Grimm agenda.
I have worked with people before, but it was nothing compared to what CC and I had.
We believed we could sell ice in the Antarctic. And because we believed it, we could do it. I always thought that if we tried hard enough, the two of us could will the house leave the ground and lift off into Space. Simply because it never dawned on us that we couldn’t.
We were not invincible. The rejection letters cut us in the places still exposed: lack of confidence, a genuine shared and fought against pessimism, old childhood ghosts of limits to what we can expect and what we could accomplish.
This January Sunday night, when a text was received and I slipped upstairs for a smoke, a new conversation began.
‘So…by now you do recognize I am quite mad. Right?’ I started with.
CC looked wary…trying to assume what angle this conversation was going. ‘I am aware.’
‘I heard you singing on Rock Band. And I have to say…. I could do something with that voice.’
‘Something … like what?’
‘A band!’ I exclaimed while she looked at me with an almost sympathetic nod noting I was indeed quite mad.
‘What am I going to do in this band? Sing??’
‘Yep. You’re the Singer, I’m the genius behind the scenes that plays guitar and broods.’
‘W.E. I think we can do something…. something bigger than the book, using the same philosophy. Children of the 70’s at 40. We may not know what people are reading, but we know what they are listening to. Their Facebooks are lousy with the stuff.’
‘So, I have the songs and you have the voice. It is something I am far more familiar with than book marketing. Why not?’
‘Because I can’t sing.’
‘You can. And really…who cares? Need I produce the list of non-traditional singers who have populated the pop charts? Dylan anyone?’
‘C’mon! You are high.’ (Note: I was.)
‘Yes…. but that doesn’t mean I am wrong. Let’s do this. For the next book meeting, I am bringing my guitar and you bring extra wine. If I am wrong, it will not take a lot for time to discover that.’
Join your Author as he unveils his new band Cursive is Code publicly for the first time at Cafe Nine for the Sunday Buzz series Sunday August 1st with super special guests Lys Guillorn and Her Electric Band getting back together for the occasion.
So one more time: Cafe Nine (250 State St, New Haven, CT 06510) Sunday August 1st. Show starts at 4;00 PM and is free. Cursive is Code live debut. It will rock and that is not hype.
In my estimation, the Greatest Story Ever Told (with apologies to the Bible) involves a team of heroes…or better stillvillains….who come together with a single minded intention.
This can be World Domination or World Saving or planning a particularly surprising Surprise party…. When you get a group of disparate individuals pulling together like a team, great things can happen.
Usually after a series of bad things. Cause that is Creation.And Creation ain’t always pretty. I refer you to birth, at large.
People come together, disagree, come together, make a little more progress…disagree…..repeat. People get tested and either rise to the challenge or stop returning phone calls. The goal in mind grows larger with the sweat equity of work. And Luck plays a hand. Because as much as we want to believe that hard work can get you what you need, Luck can do it faster, better, harder.
And the only thing that improves this concept is if everyone is holding instruments.
A band is a living thing. If it is healthy. The people around you can hold you together. If it is unhealthy, the same, but it is like a trust fall. There will come a time that they will not be there and you will fall hard.
This is a fable based on fact. This is The 1200 Bar Blues.
The Grand Libido: Magic is a deal. Magic is the willful suspension of disbelief. And so is sex. It can send you outside of the atmosphere (if done properly) or ground you to the life line you need to survive.
It can also upset your apple cart, destroy your home, your sense of self respect, the concept of trust in general. Sometimes if done properly. The rightness of the moment is magic, the reality of the next day is stage work. A genuine suspension of real belief required.
In summary, Sex is Magic. And here’s a song about a magician.
Hopi Fest: This is a song about charity. Or to the point charity gigs. I must state for the record that I am not against charity or charity gigs. The reason I must state that to this imaginary record is because of this song. It’s a true story and some of you may have been there, early on the bill on shitty Sunday at Sneakers. The gig that caused Hogan to hate reggae. The gig where we went on last to the deep disappointment of everyone who wanted to just go home. When we dropped acid about half way though.
It Could Be The Drugs (It Could Be The Dancing): Have you ever received a note in you band email offering a gig in the big city? They state they have found your song and LOVE it (capitalized). And they have an opportunity for you to play where the action is: (insert big city near where you claim here)? This is your chance! Of course the gig is on a Wednesday morning which is usually where the music scouts are out looking for new talent. Plus you will have the benefit of playing with other bands. Its not a competition. Its not. But make sure you bring everyone you know and everyone they know. Though its not a competition. Really.
Kinky Devil: Regarding the next song, Kinky Devil: No Comment.
Summer of Drummers: This is not a new quest. This may be a life long quest. Maybe my ultimate quest. I have no luck with the makers of beat. Drummers are like the hot chicks in the bar: everybody wants them, needs them, but they play to many other dudes. BTW…if you know a drummer, give them my name
Houston, We Got A Problem: This song exists for one reason. Lucky Money Oil. If you were conscious in the 80s you may remember seeing these in a variety of 7 11s and Wawa’s in your travels. A small bottle of oil that if you use will bring you great fortune. The downside is that it smelled like Patchouli and Grim Death. This song is about spilling that oil in your car and rolling up the windows IN THE Summer Sin to see which of your friends could last the longest before ejecting.
Show Your Work: Half of this band are teachers in the public school system. And a lot of our friends are teachers too. I have learned a lot from them even now, mainly that I wish I paid attention to the teachers I had. But I have heard the term ‘Show Your Work’ a few times and it struck me. This … this whole day…. is me showing my work.
I’m The Singa’: It requires gumption (or balls) to say Im The Singer. To step out on the stage with nothing but your voice and words you don’t remember and sell it…. As noted: balls and gumption. This one goes out to CC of GG.
The Death Of Indie: I blame Society. And Spin Magazine. Big radio and Pitchfork. I blame myself and some of you. What is Indie Music? Isn’t everything Indie Music? Are we Indie? Are you? This is a crime scene investigation with a wicked beat.
Our Future Is California: The best description I have heard of this song is from my mate Julie who stated ‘The prettiest F.U song ever.’. This is Our Future is California
Who Plays First: this is a tale based on the apocalypse and proper band placement. This is my ego to a 4 x 4 beat
The Deleted History Of Us; This is my take on a modern age Grimm Generation song. CC and I were always fascinated by the interpersonal interactions via the Internet, and how this formed our culture on a global level, but as deeply, personal relations. This song is about the last gasp of Internet love.
The greatest story ever told? I said it so I must mean it. Right?
This is something I have said before. Probably in this very space. It is something I believe. And something I have done.
And it goes a little something like this (hit it!):
The Greatest Story Ever Told is based on a band that did not make it. A Band you never heard of, playing songs you never knew.
But what about the coke fueled parties? The difficult second album? Who slept with whose wife / husband / daughter?
What about the grandiose celebrity failure checklist that passes as music journalism?
You see, bad behavior is not exclusively for the rich and famous. We have all done pretty fucked up things.
So for the Coke Fueled Parties, you get a junkie drummer. And that is no party.
Re: the difficult 2nd album, how about trying to get a gig during a pandemic where everyone who was afraid to go outside at all developed genius marketing? (More eloquently, if you cannot go up the Mountain, watch the weather because there may be a time that the Mountain will come down to you).
The assorted affairs? Yes, you need to be rich to do that. Right? (crickets…)
No…these are trappings of success. Right down to the fact that they are reported and cataloged and presented to a generally uninterested World.
No. What I am talking about is Death or Glory.
Or steady work or Glory.
Playing shows for the bartenders only or Glory.
Packing your shit back in the van during a blizzard where no sane soul would even leave their house … or Glory.
‘Forward, the Light Brigade! Charge for the guns!’ he said: Into the valley of Death Rode the six hundred…’
These are matters of faith. You trust your Muse; you weigh your chances and you make your move. And you seek out folks with a similar vibe, a similar desire who can hopefully play an instrument you cannot. When you bring a group together with a single-minded idea of what they want, amazing things can happen. Usually in line with samples sized bites of true disaster. But that’s show biz.
Bands come from everywhere. They can be your long-time friends, or family. They can be friends of friends that you have hung out with some but don’t know them that well. They can be an anonymous donor of rock that you found on whatever acts as Craigs List this century.
And you get tested. And they get tested right along with you. And how you all deal with these tests…is a test.
I have played with people I have not cared for. I know that people who don’t care for me have lined up behind my songwriting. It’s a Devils Deal…. but that doesn’t mean it cannot be successful. Some bands sound is based on the raw anxiety that each individual member has by having having to spend time with the other members. Fact: these are usually my favorite bands.
‘Their’s not to make reply, Their’s not to reason why, Their’s but to do and die: Into the valley of Death…’
If you have the drive, you push through and a proper line up gets assembled. Though unless they are friends or family, don’t get used to them. You’re not the only one in town selling this dream.
And songs come together. (Note: this whole magilla is related original bands playing a roughly Westernized Pop style. If you play jazz, I have no idea why you are even reading this).
You write songs with a message, and that message does not need to be deep. It does need to have a hook. Something that resonates either melodically or lyrically.
You bring these songs to the collective and everyone adds to the brew. The song that you wrote alone in your bedroom half drunk becomes a clarion call informing the sound of what you do. It is one of the most pleasing parts of the process having a musician kick up an idea that you would never have even considered and its genius. Something subtle, something wholly revelatory. This errant child of your drunk sadness starts to walk upright. And maybe shimmy a bit.
This is Glory. This is why potential is an absolute addiction. You broke your own heart writing this song with real tears and after it goes through the process, you sing it without a care. Cause everyone has a job to do.
So you build songs together, work up the dynamics, the drama with continuous practice, continuous play. A night or two gets picked and that is Jam Night. You all take to the Lab.
It is a secret thing right up until you start selling it.
‘Storm’d at with shot and shell, Boldly they rode and well, Into the jaws of Death, Into the mouth of Hell Rode the six hundred…’
The more time you spend with these people form the bond that is necessary to take on the upcoming disappointments. The first being that the more time you spend with these people, you realize that there is oil in the water and always will be. Everybody has a job to do and your current job is keeping your mouth shut.
And how could disappointments not come? This disparate collection of self-involved souls have created a masterpiece out of the ether. The World will tremble. The bars will overflow with milk AND honey when they behold what we created.
Inside the Jam Room, you forget outside the Jam Room. That you can be good, you can be motivated, you can be willing to lay down your life for that Glory. But you are unlucky. And an unlucky zealot is just a dude with an opinion.
‘While horse and hero fell, They that had fought so well Came thro’ the jaws of Death, Back from the mouth of Hell …’
And maybe time has passed you by. Maybe you are not in line with what ‘the kids’ are buying. Maybe your just tired.
Its possible, of course. With each victory thwarted by an uncaring World, the stress shows on all of the faces surrounding you.
You press on. A good review versus a bad gig. A drinking problem versus firing your guitarist. The slowly reclining press of a culture that is ceasing to exist at all.
This won’t stop you. It never does. You have something to say. Maybe in the next band.
‘When can their glory fade? O the wild charge they made! All the world wonder’d. Honour the charge they made! Honour the Light Brigade, Noble six hundred!’
Maybe to bring up the fact that it will be stream able the following day on the replay through Cygnus Radio at Noon (https://cygnusradio.com/)?
Of course not, Silly. But do listen.
This post is about growing up in the shadow of this particular 50,000 Watts station and why being featured on Sunday nights makes me feel like I have magic shoes that allow me dance on ceilings.
When I was growing from boy to older boy, before all of my comic books were traded for a single Alice Cooper ticket (it is a great Rock and Roll story and a poor plan), this station is why.
It was the King Biscuit Flour Hour and the show was ‘Black and Blue: Black Sabbath and Blue Oyster Cult).
I was about 12 at the time and comics were my life. I was into the X Men (as any right thinking outcast kid in the suburbs should be). Everything was comics. They covered my walls, my few friends were collectors and we would trade all day long.
So, a quick study of this is I was a kid who was into fantasy. Not the wizards and sword and sandals stuff. The deepest I could go into that vibe was the Frazetta posters that also adorned my tiny teen bedroom. And I’m not convinced I hung those there for any reason than I was 12 and the girls started to interest me.
This was my life. My parents even brought me to my first Comic Convention which was NOT a Comic Con. It definitely had more the vibe of the Waterbury Record Shows (on Sunday Mornings!) held at Ramada (or w.e.). Meaning it was generally middle aged dudes who smelled foul.
It was not until the Waterbury Record Shows that I realized poor hygiene was a tactic. Smelling bad was an excellent way to make sure nobody stands to close to you as you are digging for gold among the crates of vinyl.
So I was a nerd, but so were you, don’t lie.
I had always had older brothers and sisters and cousins who brought around music. Despite my young age, I was raised on Yes records and first albums James and I received for Christmas which were ‘Queen: Live Killers’ and ‘Aerosmith Live Bootleg’. Also an 8 track of ‘David: Live’.
Which if you boiled down the elements, you get my musical career.
So I was aware of rock music, considered myself a fan but it was comics. Until that Sunday Night ….
I was getting ready for school and had 99.1 Rock on because I believed that was what I was supposed to do. I barely owned any records of my own aside from a few single 45’s my Dad would get for James and I whenever he hit it in the Lottery. Understand I am not talking about ‘Lottery Winners’. That term itself is an oxymoron. If he made a few bucks on the horses or daily numbers, we would know when we received a 45. I remember my first one was Thin Lizzy ‘The Boys Are Back In Town’ and James opted for David Bowie ‘Golden Years’
(Which if you boil down the elements….etc.)
So it was 99.1 Rock Radio on all the time. Dr Demento was likely what brought me there. The real prize was ‘The King Biscuit Flour Hour’. In a pre-YouTube universe this was where you heard performers live. It was the only way, at the time.
So, getting ready for School Monday on a Sunday night and the show starts. The opening sponsored announcements. I barely paid attention.
Then the bell.
The fucking bell changed everything.
On the Heaven and Hell Tour. Opening number ‘Black Sabbath’. I knew none of this at the time (my sister listened to Volume 4 which when I hear again I knew every word without knowing I did).
All I knew was the sound of wind and rain, howling and the Bell. My ears perked up like a dog who heard a can being opened. I sat right down and stopped everything. The World itself stopped spinning and all focus was on me and my speakers.
This is a month of personal Celebration. Anyone who knows me knows that I wait all year for this jewel: through the sour Winter, the shitty Spring, the unbearable Summer just to be delivered to these shores of Autumn goodness, starting with colors in the trees and ending with the crunch, crunch, crunch of leaves. I live for this.
And of course…Horror. The fictional kind. Not the ‘walking around in a plague ridden wasteland while zombies are flying US flags’ type of horror. (Note: VOTE!)
Though sometimes a movie walks the line so expertly that you can not …not believe in the story.
Its not new news that many horror films are socially conscious. Zombies = Consumers. Slashers = degrading morals of the new generation. Godzilla = Amazon. But when you base a fantastical movie with cue and current social issues…and film it in the Found Footage style….something bigger can come from it.
A note on Found Footage: I have a problem. It is not that I don’t like Found Footage…it is that I LOVE Found Footage and will watch every terrible Found Footage movie that gets released. And many of these are bad.
I always feel a kinship for these unknown horror directors who somehow cobble together the money to make what is the cheapest type of horror film. You just need a few friends, a few actors and an imagination when it comes to effects. It is really a problem for me.
I will die of this sickness in time and expect my grave to be plundered by drunk teens with Go Pros…but I will be waiting for them….
Not why we are here.
This is about Savageland. You can find this movie steaming for free in many places and I suggest you take 1 hour and 20 minutes out of your life.
But understand….you can not escape from the monsters in this one. Cause we are them.
The story takes place in Arizona. I never had a concept of Arizona in my brain. I knew it was hot which was enough to cross it off my global checklist. I did not know it bordered Mexico. I did not know until 2016 that there was a pretty healthy redneck population.
A person who I trust once told me it was the worst place on the planet. I believe her now.
The story is put together as a TV Style documentary with old news footage and current talking heads, police and mourning families It tells the tale of a massacre that occurred in Sangre de Cristo (don’t look it up … the town if fictional too) where one man went mad and killed 57 men, woman and children in the most awful ways imaginable. Which was deemed as impossible as that much mayhem would need a team of killers in running shoes … but you see…he was Mexican.
The movie is rife with people speaking to how our Country was being over run by said Mexicans and many people say terrible things during the interviews. This was pre Trump by one year BTW….and that speaks volumes. Wonder how we got here? There are parts of the Country that were ALWAYS there and waiting.
So one impossible act, with one day laborer slaying an entire town. Except…. He took pictures. And what is on these pictures does not work with what he was ultimately electrocuted for.
You need to watch this. I’m not going deeper into it cause … you need to see this. It’s a great Horror movie.
The terrifying part is that thought the horror is faux, the attitudes, the xenophobia is not. And that is more chilling than the scariest thing crawling form the deepest darkest swamp.
It is 2020. You don’t need a costume this Halloween. Just wear your normal street clothes. We are the monsters our parents warned us about.
So, cracking open the Nu Music Marketing 2020 Bible (Do not look for this. It doesn’t exist.) it looks like we are up to the Bio section. Prove your worth in under 300 words.
Using words. Stupid words.
I like words as anyone who happened to read this before will know. Not necessarily correctly spelled words. No words that have never existed before I forced them into some public dialog. Words are flexible and fun. Are they entertaining? Yes. Can they describe the total picture? Perhaps not.
When considering what I wanted to say about myself and CiC, I pictured creating a hieroglyphic bio, something with dogs and coffee and sunrises and stars and more coffee. I like coffee. Something that would bring the reader into my fractured world of…words. Without words.
Have you noticed if you say the word ‘words’ over and over and over again, it loses meaning? It is a sound, but not really a word. This is after repeated applications.
Anyway…. words (see?). The practical plan for Bio writing is simple:
List your accomplishments (actual not imaginary …. Though it’s only words, right? So, who cares? The Music Business cares, that’s who! Fly right!)
Describe your sound (though its accurate, I don’t think my genre tag of ‘Sounds like two robots f*cking’ will please the Overlords of The Music Business)
Always written in third person. (I prefer 5th Person because from a fifth person perspective, one starts to “feel” the system in a different way, recognizing that one’s own perspective on and in the Anthropocene is merely a perspective, which itself is a perspective, which in turn is a perspective. Am ’I Right?’
List 2 or three influences (OK, so I’m opting for Poverty, Validation and The Mountain Goats)
Always list what is happening RIGHT NOW!! NOW!!! (I am endlessly pushing a stone up a hill for eternity. Forecast for tomorrow: the same damned day)
List any Music Business contact you have. (I know Elvis Costello. Well I saw Elvis Costello. From a stage. Does that count?)
Be Engaging! (Fu* k Off!)
So I balance all of this sage advice with the fact that …well…words. Ya know? You don’t? Let me explain…
So before I write a real Bio for the Music Business I wanted to try one here:
Cursive is Code, or CiC for short is a new group featuring singer / songwriter Jason P Krug (Award Winning Mountain Climbing Professional Bowler who is three inches taller than his listed height) and Julie Kay (sweetest patch of grass on the Earth and a noted Baker / liberal nutjob).
Together and with their previous band The Grimm Generation they have knocked out Muhammad Ali, swam the English Channel, tamed a wild beast with a song…and some drugs…Lots of drugs.
The Cursive is Code sound has been described as ‘Who?’
The sound is based on their love of Sammy Davis Jr (early work), Ministry and that one song from that one move…what is that song…dammit….
So you decided to purchase Cursive is Code’s debut record ‘The State Enforced Renaissance.’
Good for you! I like a person who buys records. Especially mine. I’m cheap that way.
Just as a primer I have decided to put a guide together to allow you get the most out of the Cursive is Code experience.
Despite the cute cat videos and general goofy mayhem, this is not a record for kids. As noted, the themes of this record are Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll. In what order depends on the song. The sounds will make your kids dance about in arrhythmic patterns…maybe a bounce or two…but do not let them look at the liner notes (does anyone remember laughter…ummm…liner notes? That is a Classic Rock Joke squared). There are a few swears that will be bore out when we get to playing out live at which point, I will swear like a Redd Foxx record. Naughty stuff, bad stuff, likely about your mom.
Fact is, the powers that be (meaning the companies I paid to post this) already put that ‘E’ on the record based on the song ‘It Could Be The Drugs,’ which was why I changed that song’s title in the first place.
Legal: Cursive is Code does not accept responsibility for your kids turning into Rock Stars.
What do I feed it?
Nothing. It is a record.
Where is the best place to listen?
This record was designed to create high energy, rollicking, and shimmying back and forth. Dance to it. Drive to it. Cook spaghetti to it. Fall into La Dance De La Fornicato with it, hopefully with a partner. This is NOT Sunday Morning Music, except maybe ‘Our Future Is California.’
Is there a narrative?
Excellent question. No.
What is it about?
The meat of the Cursive is Code sandwich is the history of being a local light on the scene far past one’s due date. But that is not exactly what ‘The State Enforced Renaissance’ is about.
The idea is to combine this and the next record into one big extravaganza. But then I read on Hypebot that extravaganzas are not in this year. I almost did it anyway as I am an artist. No one can tell me what to do with my art, including producing a record so dense that an average listener would fall right down with the weight of my pretension.
I did not do that. Look forward to my posthumous collection where I will unleash this particular Kraken.
No. For a change of pace for me this record is about…relationships. Yeah, I know. I have one note and I know how to whistle it.
But unlike the lovely and depressing Zen record, this one is about the good and the bad parts of lovin’.
It contains a rare actual love song to my band mate (and Mate) Julie in ‘Reward Animals.’ ‘We Kick Sparks’ is also a love song, but a bit more about adult lovin’.
‘The Wrong Playlist’ is the anthem to being in way over your head love wise and the results.
‘Our Future is California’ is the attempt to say the worst things possible in the sweetest voice I have.
‘The Deleted History Of Us’ is a modern love song…wait…. Did I put this and ‘Wrong Playlist’ on the same record? They are both about the same thing. Fine.
‘The Grand Libido’ speaks for itself, obviously.
OK, You have convinced me. Where can I find this record?
I will unleash the list in a moment. But send us emails at CursiveisCode@gmail.com and you can have such claptrappery as this popping up in your mailbox as the mood hits.
To everyone who already made a little space for this record….we deeply appreciate you. To those that haven’t: Click…buzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
A gracious and salutary ….ummm.. salutation to you, Cursive Cabal.
I hope this note finds you fat with money, free with love and a good meal awaiting you. With the Gods. Or your Dogs.
So today, as we slide from post apocalypse plagues to a newer (and yet far older) apocalypse, we are here to discuss voids.
Let’s call it March. 3 Months and change and everything went upside down. A world most of us never expected…and the ones who did expect are SUCH a drag to hang out with.
90 days. 2100 Hours.
So what did you do with your void? Empty space fills the bowl that one held hilarity, kicks, communion … and we are on our own.
Did you gain weight? Knowledge? Has familiarity bred contempt? Catch any new shows?
I was getting busy when the quarantine hit. I lost Hogan and knew that if I did not get my head together quick…well, I had no idea what that result would be. After the ceremonies, Julie and I got down to it, building the beats, laying down tracks upon tracks, gittin’ all fancy. Guitars added, guitars subtracted, Julie building big brassy counterpoints and high infections of melody.
Because we can dream and we can build, it gives us control. We can spit frustration into a vocal, over-distort the guitar and then do it again, learn bass.
And when you’re done…. there is still the void.
My concept of how to make money making music was probably outdated before I picked up a guitar. The main thrust of it was ‘get out there!’ But that was never my …. desire. It all came back to the lifelong argument Dave and I would have.
He said that if you play everywhere, and are good, people will know you and you can build a following.
I said that you will burn out in the bars before you ever get heard and there has to be a better way. A better mousetrap.
The debate rages still, now more piquant as the venues are gone. As is D.H.
And everyone is experimenting with building better mousetraps game now.
Look beyond this day, this year, and know someday this will be regarded as a truly creative period for art.
A State Enforced Renaissance.
We reach out how we can. Social networking is just too convenient and too easy, which is why it is absolutely over-saturated with everyone everywhere.
It is also a true gut check for the times that you pour your heart into something and it gets overshadowed by a particularly cool cat pic
But Fuck. Life is hard all over. Especially these days. Let us not carry things without weight.
And if the Gods are kind and the cats are ugly, maybe you can be heard.
So…what have Cursive is Code done with their Void?:
Songs: Follow the link to check out the available Cursive is Code songs on Soundcloud. This is 4 songs…and I think a few more will be added and this will be available for purchase. Like the songs if you like, love us if you like love (?):
I hear the weather is funny in Minsk these days? Reply?
Excellent. Welcome to The Cursive Cabal. Your passage is booked. Enjoy the refreshments.
So as April passes into May, we find the reawakening of this World. Though to be fair, we are quite busy and may miss this. Or this eternal gray may kick rocks into another year of fear and trembling.
I have a record to push. So do you, likely. Or child to raise, charges to face, people to kiss (from a safe distance). We all have our projects.
So today is a peek behind the curtain, beneath the sheet, under the cupboard, over the …. whatever.
Today’s subject is songs. I had a point to make before I was reduced to a blubbering mess in my last post. This is that point: Songs are special.
That’s it! Good Night Folks!
Ok…… not. When I consider what art allows us, one thing that I don’t recognize within the forms is how something someone else created becomes ours. Personal property. A line can bring you to that Big Breakup. A melody to the wedding before.
Maybe it’s the long versus short from. It could be poetry is a reasonable comparison but no one is reading poetry out loud when your cruising around on some Friday night, of your youth, of your post youth, your pre passing.
Songs are frames for the things we want to remember or need to forget. A wild rave up attached to your misspent youth, distorted electric guitars carry us into adult hood, sweet acoustics mean Sunday Morning, shitty acoustics means Friday night.
Songs operate as placeholder for emotion. They meld with the circumstances in ways we require.
I need songs…. but these songs need words as well. Every song is not Leonard Cohen, but if they were, what would we do with Rockabilly? There is genius in the dumbness of Rock and Roll words. And the beat!
Songs mean a lot to us here at Cursive is Code. Not just the act of creating music, but attempting to share our moments and maybe hit upon yours. Or maybe just create an earworm that will haunt your day. Or a lyric that seems raw and simple but holds galaxies within.
We released our first song on Soundcloud about one month ago, with new songs following every two weeks. There are three there now and a new one next week. Where?
So I figured I would take a moment and discuss what’s up there now. We will add a new one next week…and then wait till these get heard. We are very proud. And why give the milk away when the cows a slut.
Is that how that goes?
The Grand Libido: And thank you all for weighing in on that first cut. It’s our first ‘hit’.
The know the actual genesis of this song was it was a Grimm Generation song, played out live absolutely once. I also believe the title was inspired by The Danbury Lie’s The Great Jester. I was always a fan of The Lie. Always reminded me of weird metal on acoustics. The guitar harmonies make me nostalgic.
What is it about? Dirty stuff.
Julie remembered this song from Grimm and was maybe part of the movement to go electric. She wanted to see this done. And she was right. It is a barnburner.
It Could Be The Dancing: Otherwise known as ‘It Could Be The Drugs’ till I was rebuked by The Manor.
This one …. theeeees song….yeah. It is a statement. And maybe a cruel one. Maybe self-abuse. But hey. That’s Showbiz.
This song, part of the eventual collection about being a unfamous musician has a lot of clues for those who have treaded the boards, spent countless USD on mailing actuall press kits with real cassettes. This is about the grift of the music business. It takes on the City gigs in Manhattan (Bring Your Friends! Serious-fucking-ly!), the effect the tambourine has on drunks, the uninjestable sadness that we can all be replaced by a dude with a DJ Deck and my favorite bit of reality in the form of the line:
‘It is Independence Day
For the 1200 Bands who will start up tomorrow
or the 1200 bands that broke up today’
It hurts. But it is good for you. Look around.
And to boot I snuck a good verifiable Grimm Generation reference in.
The Deleted History Of Us: So far the best recorded one. It is hard to believe this is mine. It is very different. This is not about someone in particular but it is about everyone, conversely. This is about the simplicity of ending the online relationship (even with real flesh and blood non catfishy type people) with that gesture, that simple click. Click. Do it. CLICK. Do it!!!!! DOOOOO ITTTT!!!!
Yes My Cursive People. Now we move along to the next challenge: how do you sell a record when the word record doesn’t mean record anymore? How do you get gigs in a pandemic? How do you cut through the din of Social Mania?
Write a Blog? Nooooooo….
Till next time my friends. Look for Cursive for Code to pop up in the weirdest places.
Hey You! Yes YOU! You in the glasses! (that was just for me)
Yes I have a great opportunity, big payouts, we finally take down ‘The Man’. Just you and Me and a couple hundred thousand friends. We’re gonna cabal the night away.
That’s why you don’t see this blog anywhere else. This is just for Us. Shhhhhh….. You may note from my usual method of screaming ‘PAY ATTENTION TO ME!’, this ain’t that. Sure, I will post on walls (even a bathroom walls but the number always gets wiped away…) feeds, pages… if I wasn’t so lazy I would post bills and hang flyers….but going out side is so 2019.
Nope, its just us now. So chilllll…relax…let me drop some knowledge. This is the birth of the Cursive Cabal.
So…if your reading this….you’re interested in what I have to say. And if you read any of my previous blogs, you will note I’m not exactly a deep thinker. This will continue that grand tradition. But…more honest. Cause I am among friends here.
So….Cursive is Code. This is the new band, this is my new Magnetic North, this could be the last band. Who knows, right? Cause not all the members of this band will make the record. If you read this before, you know exactly what I mean.
Here is the tale: So when Grimm kicked the bucket, I decided to follow my expected route of Singer Songwriter sensitive heartbreak route. And I brought in Grimm Cello player Julie Kay to help me. I never discussed this before, but she helped me beyond any expectation I had. It wasn’t simply the beautiful playing or the Astral Weeks style bass thing she brought (which ticked off one of my musical fantasies). She was playing hurt. She was scheduled for a surgery…and she came down to the basement and sat uncomfortably, in genuine pain…and would grin and bare it.
If I had…if I was better at being human….would I suggest she not come, not put herself through excess pain? I can say we don’t know…I can also say it made no difference at all cause she was going to come anyway. She believed in what we were doing. She believed in Me. She would work her way down the stairs to sit in my bachelor pad (which looked a lot like a 13 year old’s basement except more cheesy keyboards…I think that was captured in a video somewhere….) or take a trip out to Collinsville to work on some songs with old music mate Adam Hagymasi, who did about half of everything on that record. If it wasn’t an E Bow (That’s Hogan) or fumbly acoustic (Moi), everything else was Adam. But Julie would take these trips with us while we worked out the basic tracks.
The record turned out good. I still have some free downloads if you want one.
This was….or wasn’t…I cant be sure…when I fell in love with Julie Kay. We did not connect till about a year later. And…Wow. We grew much closer. And live happily.
Anyway….yes, this is more honest…more deep .. than I expected to go…
So, a Misery Monkey like myself, now all flush on new love… time for my next record. I mean…I live with my band! (Julie) It was a test of my theory that writers write best when mostly miserable. And I was right! Unfortunately…
I was blocked. New happiness made no songs. And I somehow wised up to the fact that forced unhappiness is just dumb, dumb, dumb. Look around now. You just never know.
So I lived happily…and even the anguish of not creating abated a bit. We formed a band based on the acoustic sound, played some shows, had some fun. I was writing new songs but I just could not get motivated to do something with them.
Meanwhile….a bit of history. Dave Hogan and I started together in our first band….and played together from project to project the entre time I knew him. Our musical tastes were different…and always had been since age 20….but we came together on a mutual love of vintage guitar rock and British Glam. So Humble Pie….Mott The Hoople…Black Sabbath….BOC…..despite the time and tides of projects and bands, the friendship was based on these fundamentals. I don’t mean that to sound tribute or light…sure we came together on a few bands and differed in so many ways…but the way we loved these bands was zealous. Religious.
And we had an often discussed plan, a goal. One more BIG rock band with me and him. He always wanted to just be a musical director in some project…and I wanted to re-use the voice I cam up singing with, less croon, more rock.
So I took this to heart and started writing again. It was not easy. It was Karma. I was always fortunate that I could write on a dime. It was my Super Power. Sure not every song was ‘It’s Alright Ma I’m Only Bleeding’ but I could attach a half formed thought with a half formed melody and shake some shit up. Not this time.
I had my concept. I wanted to write a series of songs reflecting Dave’s and my coming up through the local music ranks. Targeting specific gigs, specific experiences. The significance of this to me was that all these tales turn quaint when balanced against the entire industries apple cart getting upset by the Internet. All the old plans, the old expected results, the long time argument tween Dave and I if excessive gigging helps or hurts…. I had my concept. And dug into it.
It was rough. I will say that I had to return to rhyming dictionaries. I had to try every trick suggested on every writing site. In time…it came. It did not break out like a dam; it trickled like a stream but still filled the record.
It was not just the band concept I was working with…I also had the excitement of being happy and in love…so those songs were written right along.
So I bought an electric guitar and Julie played keyboards. Did I know Julie could play Keyboards? Not at all. Can she play? Like a MotherFucker.
Then a year in the desert looking for musicians. I had not done this…actually my only experience doing this was Grimm…. And CC and I muse that we still don’t know how we got so many people involved, taking trips out to Windsor and making something beautiful. This time was less successful, more anguish and wholly disappointing. EXCEPT….We found Dan. Dan plays bass, as well as banjo, classical guitar….and most important, was good fun to play with.
But the record was not getting made. No drummer. I worked on it with my vintage Korg Dr Rhythm Drum Machine (favored on RUN DMC’S biggest hits) and made a few tracks’, but others were beyond my rhythmic imagination.
Enter Julie, with yet another unknown talent on display: beat maker. After we upgraded the keyboard, out of frustration more than a plan, she started coming up with beats and we started recording properly. And it worked.
With unexpected results. The songs were danceable. I never created anything danceable unless you count bouncing uncontrollably as dance. Also….after working exclusively with acoustic for years…I was really digging the Electro Sound. It sounded vintage to a scene I never listened too. This was Julie influence. She opened me up to sound and brought those sounds right home to Deep River.
So now….Hogan. Weapon X (he would appreciate the comparison). And I sent him the tracks with a note on the envelope that exclaimed ‘Our Mott The Hoople Dreams contained within’.
And I was too late. And I will never forgive myself.
But Hogan was more than a friend and a stunt guitar player. He was a Saint. I never would have conceived of that when we were kids. But going to his funeral…the pure Love of all of his friends, the real heartbreak of losing a cat before his time. This record became important. Cause these songs were written with him in mind, his style, his background vocals. Based on experiences he and I both lived through…and lived with.
We often had discussion of we were just both legitimately crazy still chasing this same dream when every conceivable outlet turned against us. We always reached the same conclusion: We were.
I miss him every day.
Anyway….so back to Julie and Me and the record. We dug in….I played more guitar, more than I ever thought I was capable of….Julie brought out the strings and horns from the Juno….and we started crafting what would be and currently is Cursive is Code. The name came from a late night conversation tween Julie and Me of how generation of kids no longer recognize, much less can write, Cursive. That made it feel like a secret language, something shared among those who know.
Hello. We lost a Good Man, My Friends. I was crafting this personal history of Dave and I to present to him when he was feeling better. Something so he was fully sure of the impact he had on my life and the life of the countless others he called ‘Brother’. It’s personal, full up on references earned over a 35 year friendship.
These days have had me reflecting on the past, the meat of what mattered and how I got here. And as I gaze back at what would be my most full moments, you were there, stage right, holding it down, joyous, celebratory, a quick grin between us when the harmonies hit just right and the song sails. This brings me back to the very beginning. Verillis garage.
This is where we met. And I remember it all, the state of the clutter, the too small space the blue aria pro, Vic smashing shit like a Muppet, the irrepressible Verilli acting every inch of his eventual occupation (not the drug store, the LA Hair Metaler) , you focused and concise…and so fucking young. I was too but I don’t see me here. I see you. Fuck you looked 15 but played like 50. I still remember the swells of Remember Tomorrow, the barnstorming of Tyrant. I remember the feel of really doing it, really singing into that mike, barking, and all my dogs barking with me. And Mrs Verilli. A true cartoon dragon of there ever was one, we, hard teens, metal heads, drinkers, druggers fuckers all hiding silently and wide eyed when she got home.
We were the classic 80’s movie that we did not know would be classic…cause it was the 80’s. We fought the popular kids with their poofy hair and van halen set. All the girls went dewy at the very site of Drew and the boys. And we brought pure fire. Pure anger. Purity. These are not our songs but you motherfuckers are going to hear them anyway. Loud. Fuck you all.
And I flash forward a year, a year of beginnings, a year of you blowing my mind in Scots basement with every new song you learned the night before. Yes songs. BOC songs. It was really intimidating.
You have always been like that, or appeared that way. Focused. Cocksure. Correct. I’m sure you had doubts. I’m sure you had fears. But they never crossed your face or spun up your voice, in song or in jest.
One year later, one year of basement playing, one year of focus to do what we always wanted to do: not simply ROCK but rock with songs these people should know. The UFO set. Rock Bottom, the room would fall away and its you and that solo… Let It Roll. Only You Could Rock Me (Rock Me). We won that night.
Afterward I remember Wizards Lament….my first official song and how everyone came together and started adding their parts. And I remember it all falling apart. You hooked up with Scot, we became a cover band, I started the Basement Apes with Fetcho.
And this was the part where you became my nemesis. It’s a place of honor. While we wiled away our mornings and late evenings writing, recording, The Rafter Bats ascended. I think it would be a little late in the game to say I was coooool with that. I was jealous, plain and simple. You created something that had not been created yet, much less mass produced and genrefied. You were the first Bluegrass Rock and Roll band and it drove me mad.
I will always remember the moment I heard you on WPKN, the whole band playing some live tunes on a Saturday morning. And it sounded amazing…groundbreaking. And I called you at the station. I was out on the air with you. And captured the most uncomfortable 5 minutes of radio in existence. I’m counting the Hinderberg, by the way. I said ‘Hey!; and heard grumbles and very guarded responses from you and Dennis. It was hilarious. Soon after I caught your act in Greenfield Hill in Fairfield, that farmers market and we were in communication again.
Thing is….I drew such inspiration…such pride,..that you liked what I did. It wasn’t simply anyone liked it…it was you. And I knew you were no bullshit so your not going to bother aligning with me if you did not believe in what I was doing., And that made me press farther, push harder. And when I shared the tapes of what I had been doing, The Great Upsetters came to life.
It’s a mystery to me why that band did not go farther, and this time it was not from lack of trying. But fuck man…the times we had. The Post Office bar in Bridgeport with the undertaker bartender (Tins sister, if I remember) and the hookers and the crack addict. And this was one of those moments that meant the world to me. That empty bar, half the band tripping on acid, the other half hopelessly drunk, and when we kicked into Like A Rolling Stone…a song I don’t believe we ever played before and barely knew the words between the 5 of us….and when we started that, that 5 person draw sang like a crowd of 1000’s. Everyone screamed every word.
I don’t know if we got paid that night. I don’t know anything about that night except for that moment and the raw feelin of being fucking alive and sharing something with folks who wanted it.
And somehow we feel into the Ticketmaster National Showcase. Christ, remember that set? I bet you could still play it without much encouragement. We had it down to a super tight 38 minutes. What was it…10 songs? With the intro and outro of The Great Upsetters, the funky darkness of Something Missing, the sweet harmony of Whose Really Where. I was always proud at how we worked. We jammed hard but were never a jam band. We were focused to serve the song, that was the endgoal, and that was what we did.
The one moment you missed from that night was me changing for our set at the Holiday Inn and coming down the elevator, Phil Mogg walked in. I was in my fucking stage gear. I had to say something. And I did. En quote ‘ omg, Your Phil Mogg, your my hero and my band of UFO worshipers is just about to play a set for a national contest across the street and your band is the reason’….I said it likely faster than that with my eyes likely spinning around like a googly doll. He was polite, amused, and thanked me and wished us well.
Then onto the show. Another of these moments that I look back on and you were there right next to me. We killed it. A perfect set. Girls screaming like the fucking Beatles. Magic. Just the wrong decade. 5 years later our 70’;s worship would have been hip again. Right outfit, wrong year.
Hopi Fest. This was not something amazing musically…it just showed what an original bunch of crazy crackers we were. We stormed that stage long past anyone wanting to hear it. But we did not care. This was The Upsetters…and by definition anything the Upsetters wanted to do they did.
And the end of the Upsetters. I broke up bands for the same reason I am writing from a day job today versus my yacht…fear of success. I know it was me. I would start to think all artisty and start thing of something that would fulfill me.
I did not know then these memories would hold and hold me to answer for. I did not expect to live this long.
And I made my solo record with the invaluable help of more Hogan stock, Bill Becker. I got to know Bill pretty well during the GU year in his role of…well everything. And he was a killer bass player and partner for me. I miss him right now, even as I write this. He was a good man without any of that icky goodness that corrupts good men and makes them dull.
While Graylight Campfire ascended. Prick.
I remember a gig DayDrug did with Graylight (which I don’t think I dreamed…but who knows?) and introducing you as my friend was a point of pride. By that point, we were not simply friends. My family has not been as much family as you have. I know that sounds strange. I do not make a lot of friends. Its not a plan, a design, just a circumstance of being self obsessed.
But you are my friend. You are beyond that. We became brothers on this trip.
You have a lot of brothers, Dave, A lot of people who believe in you. Enough people who admire you. You are a beloved commodity. You inspire such…reverence when your name comes up. You think Im being fancy, but I assure you are not. It’s a shame we never really know our standing till standing is no longer an option.
This month….. I looked at what I have accomplished in my life as an artist…and I had some successes…and you were there beside me, holding it down, holding us up, bringing that unmistakable but astral tone in your sound, in your very soul.
A lot of people love you, Dave. Admire and love. You need to know that. I don’t think we ever get this explained to us when we need it, so consider me Professor X: Nothing is the same after you. You are legendary and that will grow with everyone who ever knew you.
Then Grimm. I stand by the fact that my favorite period of GG was the trio. You and Me and CC…meeting imitation Bill Clintons, playing the always drama packed Swan gigs, the video for Nothing Astral…your PART on Nothing Astral still one of my faves off the cuff Hoganisms…… recording up in Storrs with Dennis along, Fuck….. Graylight / GG set at Ideat Village which…Wow…….
I mean…we created a form of rock and roll, something that was compact but fully loaded, 3 people, 2 with instruments. And a set of songs honed down and fine tuned.
Then Lys. Seeing you two sing those Gram songs was….incredible. You too added something into them that the countless covers missed…maybe it was a true love, maybe it was revelry….. but I felt like I had a hand in something good by putting you two in the same room. I know she thinks the same thing. I always picture us in that horrible sounding space museum…. And the Daffodil Fest, with you and Lys on the remarkable non rainy Daffy day. The 2 Boots shows.
On that point….the picture. The picture taken at Café Nine of just you and me on stage. Of when you were doing an early acoustic set and I cam down. A Friday I believe. How when I saw you…and you saw me….every wrinkle of the past had faded, every sharp left turn evens out….. and it was meeting an old friend and it took that moment for me to really recognize the trip you and I had been on. We were older men then…older still now…but we just grined at each other with a look like ‘well that was a time, eh”…and played the Upsetters songs, near perfect.
Cause our harmonies……was something beyond talent or skill…there is an understanding on how our instruments bend and warp around each other. That’s history in action. Its beauty in repose.
Anyway…the GG machine rolled on, now with you in place for the Big Fame record and shows. Yes, I regret not having you on Dizzy. Yes, I regret not having you on every track. But the shws…the radio play, culminating in the big time times 2: playing for the Tom Tom Club and WPKN Sunday Brunch.
I still laugh when I think about you at McLevy hall, being wholly UNIMPRESSED by the literal Rock stars watching. It impressed me and CC and I were always good for a star fucking. And GG was gone. Poof.
Onto me beginning of this phase of my life (while Graylight ascended…did I say prick? I did? Cool) which started with Zen. Not in a literal sense…I was insane at the time. But you were there too. You were there with the necessary rock and roll Dave/J back up on Last Days Of Rome….the real picture of how talented experimental you were on the ebow shit which really made those tracks.
But what I recall best is the radio show. Me coming on to introduce Zen on your WPKN show. Still on my soundcloud as I listen to it from time to time. Not to hear me, monitor my performance. To hear Us.
It is a conversation shared publicly of you and me just talking shit, not sharing secrets that we both know. There is a love in this conversation and this interview sits upon things I am proud of. Cause we were brothers, separated by bold, by circumstance, miles, poverty. Our dreams glimmered gold while our wallets got lost. 2 men coming from the same war, and an easy acceptance of what we have been dealt.
Now…not so easy. Cause this is not fair. This is not right anymore. I could listen to that conversation forever. It is friends. Veterans of the same psychic wars. One still more practical than the other. My madness tethered by your cool. An amazing team. A perfect match.
Except my art made me want to try everything on the plate while your steady hand held the rutter and kept you focused on the horizon where everything glimmered like a future coming.
I am an eccentric and you are a working man.
But it is not fair, make no mistake.
I did it. I wrote that record. The Mott one. The one where you get to be in the sainted seat of music director…some singing….real rock and roll shit. Its about everything I out down here. The trials and tribulations of limonene dreams.
I wrote it with the clear image of some future stage where your standing stage right and leading the band through the songs…you have a smile on your face…it looks like peace.
Happy New Year, ya filthy bustards (it’s a type of bird and now I have taught you something).
I am a simple machine. I am the definition of sanity in so much as I do the same things over and over and make them fly.
Did I get that right? No, I did not.
So here we are at the precipice of what started this blog in the first place. If you are not aware what that means, start at the first Blog and wit till you get here.
I’ll wait. Dooo Do Doo Doo Duh Dooooo Duh Doo. Dooo Do Doo Doo Duh Dooooo Duh Doo.
(Sing along at home! the words are Dooo Do Doo Doo Duh Dooooo Duh Doo…..)
So here I am home recording a record. A theme record. Even a concept record though the concept is loose and filled with holes. So theme.
As you can recall from just rereading every Blog I produced (you did, right? Right?? RIGHT????) that this Blog came about to take my mind off of making a record. It was a heavy record for me, emotionally, not sonically.
And when I did what people of my ilk do (record a heartbreak record and hide for three years), it was satisfying. A good record too. I’m proud of it. I had one goal for that record: I wanted someone to hear it and understand the wild weeds of how I really felt, I wanted to help someone, to let someone know that they were not alone. And I did get that.
And I should have made the goal mansions and brand new cars. Live and learn.
And then I sunk into the luxury of living a good life. I’m dumb but quite happy. She makes my planet spin and also plays a mean piano.
I always felt my own misery was my muse. I feel like I found myself in situations which would make me miserable and then all the good words flow out. It works too.
At what point though do you need to drive that particular muse to a bus stop and let them go? (See.. that is JpK fun cause a lot of that record was written on busses. I’m so fun. Look it at me. I’m fun.)
Anyway…. Right, New Years Misery. Got it.
And by reading this you recognize that this whole process starts again. I did not create this blog as a marketing tool. Though should have. Its medicine.
And here we go again. New record that I have been sitting on has started recording, and again in a similar format to the last: obsession and excess headphone equalizing.
And when I follow myself up that path up my own bum, I will come here and complain, cajole, or worship.
The thought came to mind while watching the apple music commercial. Clarity. I am being marketed too as a creative artist with something to say, even in this glut of like minded folks.
Like you. And you.
And why shouldn’t I be marketed too? I spend money (or consider at least ) on books and websites to connect me to the largest audience possible to hear my songs.
And I realize that my decision making on where to put myself virtually is knitted together texts of faith and angle, something that gives a small advantage. Cause it’s the wild west out there. No one has a clue and the maze reconfigures monthly.
And it brings me to the spiritualist movement of the late 1800s all of knocking tables and ectoplasm. People went crazy for trying to reach across the veil and commune with the dead. And for every request, new technologies of bad science and melodrama were devised to refine ones access to the beyond.
I won’t be so cynical as to use the idea 9f snake oil salesmen. I do believe every new online music platform or least starts with real belief. It’s simply were cynical creatures. When some one sees a need, someone else needs profit from it.
Consider how we got here. The desire to share music among friends via Napster. In it’s design, it wasn’t created to upset the apple cart. It just did.
So pick your poison: seance or EPK? Spirit photos or the dream of going viral on YouTube? Tarot cards or download cards? Ancient texts or Twitter?
Whatever your choices, pack an extra thing in your ole’ kit bag: Belief.
And we’re bringing something special tonight. A taste of a harvest meal upcoming.
Since The Grimm Generation went on super secret hiatus, I started crafting songs about loss. Conceptual. Very real. And a record was born. Still cooking with our top scientists working on it (Hi Adam!). So what we have here is a preview of whats to come. Played live in one set. Acoustic voice and stompy foot. Cello sensuality in pluck and box. Lyric driven, image laden. We’re coming from and for the heart.
So as a delectable aperitif, the set, as it will be played tonight at 7:00 PM at Klekolo World Coffee, Court St in the grand old dame of Middletown.
For your consideration…
‘Push Play’ – ‘…whats so special about you?’
‘Twin Twisters’ – ‘…As good an epitath as any for us…’
‘Hidden Lake Smells Like Gunpowder’ – ‘There’s not enough medicine to make me feel. And EVERYTHING is medicine…’
‘Determined To Fail’ – ‘…past the cracked cross of the Evangelical warehouse’
‘Last Leaves To Fall’ – ‘… These nights, they expire. All hope. All desire…’
‘Your Body Betrays You’ – ‘… have I got your attention?’
‘Lush’ – ‘… As we wind together like vines, we bear fruit in this unbearable heat…’
‘Last Days Of Rome’ – ‘… And we squandered what we were given. It wasn’t healthy, but it was Home…’
‘Ring It Out’ – ‘I’m a bad liar. I won’t hide it. You fill me up and I get drunk with it…’
‘Believe In Me’ – ‘astral are just pricks in the dark’
‘Nu Constellations’ – ‘… aren’t we done with all the gravity of old reputations?’
‘Cut Down The Moon’ – ‘…a war was fought. No one knew….’
‘Outloud’ – ‘If you want to love me, you can love me.’
‘The Boy King’ – ‘the allure of the utter wreck, The Boy King takes another sip…’
‘Saving Grace’ – ‘…It’s intimate. But a different kind…’
‘I’ve Never Been Here Before’ – ‘I kicked some friends when they were down. I kicked up dust till I cracked the ground’
‘The End Of Mystery’ – ‘… Regards unopened, ghosts in the wire. The songs stay unwritten, nasty looks from the choir…’
And plus, paying respects to where we came from…
‘Bigger Than’ (The Grimm Generation) – ‘All my sad songs are about you now.’
‘St Joan (Of Rt 495)’ – ‘Cops are scary’
Please join us for a live viewing of the upcoming album ‘The Zen Of Losing’ as performed by Jason P. Krug (vocals, guitar) and Julie Kay (cello) at Klekolo World Coffee, Court St in Middletown, 7:00 pm sharp.
After a brief period of death and resurrection (I should note that I neither died nor was resurrected. I do tend to be dramatic ) I have come out the other side of this mortality wormhole with knowledge. Well….not knowledge. ….let’s call them paranoia based lessons to live by. Or die by. Whatevs.
1) when we get sick, we go into Safe Mode. All higher functions miss the Start menu and you lose all ability to color your world or place your self in the frame. It’s hard to consider the Great American Novel when your your thoughts go into rogue survival mode. It’s ok.
2) freedom of choice drives everybody crazy…..to paraphrase X. And without the ability to appropriately focus on my entertainment choices, I let go and listened to satellite radio. That’s my version of giving up. And though I understand the appeal of new music discovery, I found the content was too light, too repetitive. It was good for my distracted state, but what does that say? Is the fear that if we get overly engaged we will drive into the ocean over and over?
3) life is precious. But precious things are by their nature dull. Live agressive.
4) if you survive, show off. Go public. Maybe plan a date to show off how alive you are with a dear cello playing friend. (Klekolo, August 18th @ 7:00 pm)
…And of course that makes sense, now. Here in the future (where you and I will spend the rest of our lives…). Cause look at them. Your parents, I mean.
Older and out of touch. With a ton of stories you will never hear from their lips. Good ones. Maybe a bit too much eye liner to combat the clock. Maybe Dad releases a country themed single to capture the market that he never knew existed till some Desmond Child’ish creation said ‘Hey Dad! Cornpone is the new black!’.
You listen to this decades Aerosmith and consider your folks and think ‘sure. I can see that. My parents are lame. Of course they would copulate to soundtrack music’.
And sometimes it takes a dude on a coffee buzz to adopt the Lester Bangs style of ‘wise’nd old coot’ to tell you the truth. And it may make you a bit uncomfortable hearing it. But that’s my job ….. no, jobs pay something….my calling. Yeah.
Here’s the truth: Aerosmith was once the coolest band on the planet. And your mom ran around like a tramp. And your dad followed her like a dog. God Bless America.
It’s is easy to forget….no…it is IMPOSSIBLE to remember how great 70’s Azimuth was. Not simply as ‘The USA’s Rolling Stones’ but the real skill, the real composition of a great Rock and Roll band, in every form. Live, studio, drug fueled exploits, models, childish inter-band turmoil (cause to be a Rock Star is to adopt teen hood as a lifestyle. And teens is dumb).
(Except you. Your special).
They wrote big hits, even then. ‘Dream On’ right out of the gate. ‘Mama Kin’ on that same debut record. But they really got interesting with their sophomore ‘Get Your Wings’. I suggest you go to the library (just kidding, kid)….I mean hit YouTube and find it and listen all the way down from tip to tail.
What you will note is that in the space of 2 records, they went from the blues based Boston band done good to something that started a whole new page in the Book Of Rock and Roll. ‘Lord Of The Thighs’ is page 1. I always wondered if this was Steven’s lil’ jab at the darker more Sabbath’y band of the era with that title, substituting ‘Your Thighs’ for ‘Of This World’. Alas, we will never know since Steven has clearly gone mad with syphilis and the drugs to treat syphilis (I’d like to direct the court attention to exhibit A, American Idol’…).
Aerosmith was firing on all cylinders at this point and continued with ‘Toys In The Attic’ and ‘Rocks’ and, in my opinion, deserve every blood red penny they make and throw at their butlers now based on this work.
The key to Aerosmith to me personally was always Steven Tyler and his incredible, indecipherable, single entendre lyrics and delivery of them. Tongue twisting, brilliant use of phrasing and rhyme. Really, the very first white rapper.
And his focus, which was always sex, girls, sex with girls, drugged sex with girls, sex with druggy girls. He elevated what could be considered a marginal (though fun sounding) life into real degenerate poetry. And had the voice, the linguist genius to wrap these images into unconscious on the beat jags that you find yourself singing at the most inappropriate times.
And why? Because they were young and did it like they wanted.
Like your parents. Who did it standing up. Listening to ‘Seasons Of Whither’.
As a clear sign that I have been driven mad, I have permanently effected the affects of this particular medulla oblogata with my recording within Dante’s digital pit, I have come to the realization that digital effects are not just for music.
Furthermore, I need to make a miracle machine (which is tricky as the dog ate my engineering degree) that puts digital effects where they belong: conversations. This may require we all walk around with permanent earphones on to get the effect (big and fat), but what are words worth? They are worthless unless you can EQ them to a listenable form and then blast them through BIG reverbs.
Effects will be the new punctuation. They will say. When I create the machine. I will be hailed as yet another distraction (like iphones and Instagram and insulin) that is keeping us from becoming the species we should be, in our most perfect and docile form.
Dull. Dullllllll. Im So Bored with your plain, simply heard speeches. Do me a favor…ask me that in Flanger. Phase me, baby.
Consider how it can really emphasize the conversations you are already having?
Don’t you feel cheated when you are angry and yell at someone and it simply dissipates? Try that with a big hall reverb. Now THATS angry and impossible to ignore.
What about ordinary dull conversations with people in the grocery line? Slip in some Digital Delay…and slowly build it, so your words leave your mouth and are suddenly bouncing, bouncing everywhere, every direction, every corner and crevice of the subconcious till theres no option for anyone but to turn away and look at the Star or People Magazine.
Late night and early morning? Need to talk to people but your too wasted to form words? Compression. Everything you say will have more impact, even if that statement is ‘I’m sorry I dropped the ball on the Perkins account.’. Your manager can only admire your honesty, forthrightness and deep sonorous tones. And this is how you get a promotion.
Tryin to explain away a prior bad act? Speak clearly through a Heavy Metal distortion. Raise the gain. Speak slowly and stare directly into their eyes and watch as they get confused, a little sad and go away.
Need a lil pickup in the bedroom? Ladies love a good Wahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, brother. Get all Issac Hayes and shit and lay it down.
My point being that we short change ourselves in terms of appropriate dramatics. Sometimes it takes a bit o’ science.
Are you an idiot? Am I? How about that dude? Is he?
It starts as an entertainment and creases its way into the general culture. It corrupts the culture and bleeds into mechanics of the machine, money and politics. And someone brings a camera and exposes it….and markets this discovery to the culture who allowed it, and we eat it up with a spoon.
All the while, we think we’re being ironic. But I think we just may be idiots. Cause we created Donald Trump…or allowed him to be created. That’s on our dime.
Let’s start here: News. We have a bunch of 24/7 news services, each with their own agenda, their own voices that multiply to true rabble. And despite the fact that it’s a big ole’ World, and their can be enough news to fill these spaces, that’s not what we get. We get one hour of news reported 24 times. And to fill that time, analysis by the endless parade of authors who just released unreadable (read? Like the color?) books on point of these superfluous non stories.
I have a news ticker at my job. Weather, ads, news ticker. A few weeks ago, this was featured:
‘Gwyneth Paltrow missed the recent Award Show to spend time with her daughter Apple’.
wtf. This is barely a factoid, and of no interest to anyone but her publicist and child. And I think the child is to young to read it, the publicist to far from CT to see it. So,….if this for me? Should I call her and thank her? Maybe send fruit?
As a brainwashing technique, a previous job always played CNBC, which if financial news. And what I noticed was that they turned the Stock Market news, traditionally rather dry…and deadly, if its bad news…and turned in into ESPN. Colorful loud hosts, big graphics, lots of colors and feigned excitement. Which says a few things:
1) Financial news is sports for people to shallow and bright for sports.
2) Not a lot of woman are watching.
Despite the fact that what they report genuinely effects us, even if in a years time (a single year are is new decade, haven’t ya heard?), they spoon feed us like Saturday Morning sugar cereal commercials feed Saturday Morning kids.
And let us all remember Brian Williams, who has been tore down based on lying on his resume. How can lying on your resume be a sin when you gig is lying?
Let our true Statesman finish this for me. Ladies and Gentleman, Billy Bragg.
And remember, your not an idiot. That dude may be.
It says here that the Unions will never learn
It says here that the economy is on the upturn
And it says here we should be proud
That we are free
And our free press reflects our democracy
Those braying voices on the right of the House
Are echoed down the Street of Shame
Where politics mix with bingo and tits
In a strictly money and numbers game
Where they offer you a feature
On stockings and suspenders
Next to a call for stiffer penalties for sex offenders
It says here that this year’s prince is born
It says here do you ever wish
That you were better informed
And it says here that we can only stop the rot
With a large dose of Law and Order
And a touch of the short sharp shock
If this does not reflect your view you should understand
That those who own the papers also own this land
And they’d rather you believe
In Coronation Street capers
In the war of circulation, it sells newspapers
Could it be an infringement
Of the freedom of the press
To print pictures of women in states of undress
When you wake up to the fact
That your paper is Tory
Just remember, there are two sides to every story
I have the image clear: about 7 years old in my older sister bedroom, her and her friends laughing and I’m twisting the long coil of the soup can style fat headphones (the fatter, the better. …I still stand by this, ear buds can’t hang …) and laying on the floor leafing through the LP covers as the vinyl discs get listened to and piled on top of the speaker, long dried wax and incense dust in a permanent drip on the space age black plastic stereo cover.
And though I know there was more, the art, the impossible comic book of album covers, of 4 records sticks in my head:
Black Sabbath ‘Volume 4’, Elton John ‘Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy ‘, Chicago….the chocolate bar covered one and Deep Purple ‘Made In Japan’.
Being 7 or so, the ‘Made In Japan’ cover fascinated me…..and in retrospect, maybe cause it’s the only of these records to show the band in photo. So you can imagine Highway Stars and Space Truckers and examine the front cover action shot and think ‘Yup. That’s what someone who drives a truck on space looks like.
What I did not know at the time was the Deep Purple I was listening too was as close to a true team of comic heroes Rock music would ever produce. And what they did would inform and inspire what I did for the rest of my life.
Because Deep Purple was unique and always would be. They were that Avengers style super team where each member was a fifth of the power, and without these 5 you have….oh I dunno. …Vanilla Fudge. Every member was necessary …. not the instrument they played…..them playing it.
And of course these 5 dudes created a song that went far beyond their generation, far beyond their own life span as a band….and surely as corporal beings. You know the tune. ‘Duh Dunh Dunhhhhh, Duh Dunh Dunh Dunhhhhhh….’ etc.
THE riff of Rock written by bass player Roger Glover, who wrote others. He was perhaps the most restrained, most common in appearance. …and there lied his mutant ability to produce timeless riffs.
Ian Paige was always a cult figure, a deeper Neal Pearl style worship amongst those who know. This was beat (in perfect paradiddle) into my head by my old friend Vic who was so stupidly talented, he learned these Paice driven monsters beat for beat. And to simply watch him play with (big and fat) headphones on was a revelation to me if what drums REALLY did if you watched someone who knew how to play them proper. Ian’s ability was to make it look easy and simultaneously impossible.
Jon Lord. He was the heart if this sound. This was not simple worship of Hammond B3. It was using it as a tool, and pushing the good taste and warm whirly tones into an over driven groans and wails and the low rumble of (big and fat) American automobiles. He was the strong one, the honorable one, the mad scientist who ain’t that mad.
And the difficult one, the dangerous unpredictable one. The one who played with black magic and risked his soul within the complexity of each incredible solo. And the one who started me on my vague obsession with megalomania. Mr Ritchie Blackmore. He was Dr Strange with a stratocaster.
And on vocals and bongo, Jesus Christ.
Ok. Ian Gillan was not actually Jesus Christ. But he did play him on the stage. And through this, at a later age than church would prefer, I came to know The Passion Of The Christ.
It’s hero worship. When your a fan. …a real fan….you track down where your hero’s come from. And in this fashion, me and my friends came to know Jesus Christ Superstar. And despite being Sabbath obsessed darklings, we came to know every word. Every plea, every plot of the Christ story. And to this day, this is where my true understanding of Christ came from.
But one doesn’t get defined by being Jesus. ….Jesus aside. Ian Gillan was one of the best singers in and out of Rock. And looked damned good doing it.
There is no band that ever sounded like Deep Purple. And there will never be again.
Jon Lord left this plane for farther shores. And I think he is still out there, awaiting the call to save us.
For the sake of clarity, Ill put a definition on it: approximately 45 minutes of a single artist or group of artists (or ‘band’ as the kids call them today)whose intent is to capture your attention, imagination and share some personal POV’s….or big comic book epic’s about Norse Mythology, whatever.
The expectation was that if you can create a ‘single’, a pop length taste with hooks and ‘legs’ (thats Hollywood talk I’m just misappropriating) then that would serve as bait for you to buy a Long Player. And take a trip inside the mind of the artist.
There’s a certain level of bait and switch in 85% of these releases. We have all bought a record based on a single and came away disappointed. I don’t believe there’s any guile attached to this. It’s only natural to lead with your strongest move, and if you could dance to it, all’s the better.
It’s craft. It’s musicians giving you what you want….but adding in their own acts of personal exploration and musework. And all it costs is 45 minutes of your time. A worthy investment…if the album doesn’t suck.
What is a playlist?
A playlist is a bait buffet. All killer, no filler. No single artist, songs based on moods or holidays or just for kicks. Some playlists capture a time they were created and always bring you to that point. The songs act as photographs reminding you that you of forlorn summer or that you once loved Terrence Trent Darby.
In a sense, you become the artist. You create the moods, call the causes and use your own sense of what works using others work. You mix era’s and genre’s, speeds and volumes based on whatever you feel like. Why make ‘Blood On The Tracks’ when you can create ‘Divorce Playlist Volume 1′?
When we discuss whats destroying the Music Business, let’s call it for what it is: Freedom. The freedom of the listener to cull through the history or recorded music and pick the particular tastes they savor. It is creation. It’s imaginary radio where you are the DJ, the sponsor and audience.
As a recording artist, it is a frustration. As someone angling for that 45 minutes of your time, it’s another obstacle. Another distraction in an increasingly distractable world.
What happened is music making moved beyond the music makers and became the trade of anyone inclined. This is progress. This is new.
And the one thing Playlists offer is discovery. You can find sounds you never heard before but love as much as your ole’ Ian Hunter records. Carefully cultivated and collected in a thematic list.
Spotify is not the problem. Nor Apple Music. YouTube. It’s freedom of choice that buggers us. So we must stop freedom of choice at all costs. Individuals deciding for themselves has made this world sick and shallow.
Do I believe that? Sometimes, yes. Is it true? Yup. The war between being a fan and an artist too is harrrrrd.
I’ve come to you today to discuss the meaning of true Independence. In its most effective form. I am here to praise the American Weirdo.
For I have known them. I have sang their songs, eyes closed, every lyric accurate.
I have clapped and stomped for returning weirdo heroes. I have waved flags and pledged allegiance with simple slogans like ‘Everybody dies frustrated and sad and THAT is beautiful’ or ‘I’ve built a little empire out of some crazy garbage called the blood of the exploited working-class’.
I have seen great mobs of people from every conceivable age, race, religion come together and jump at once to the sound of accordion and large, miked stomping stick.
The uniform they wore was a huge giddy smile. Everyone of them.
For I have been to a They Might Be Giants show.
If you create something that is completely original, wholly unique, a true extension of your weirdo nature, a couple of actions are expected.
1) you alienate everyone
2) the few you don’t freak out are your audience. Cater to them. Water them, watch them grow.
And as you challenge the existing system we call The Music Business, you don’t settle for acceptance. You aspire to more. You create free phone songs and truly groundbreaking videos that quietly kickstart ‘alternative music’ a decade before the term was coined.
And you keep your eyes on the prize. Be good to your audience, give to them fully, freely. Let your enthusiasm, your absolute freak-muse, infect the people.
And keep working. Let the land rise to meet you. These connections will gain there own space and invite you in. And these shoulders will carry you into the wider culture.
But the culture is fleeting. To attempt to capture the culture is to bore the culture. The culture only desires the things that no longer need it.
So be not distracted. And start touring with a horn section cause the opportunity allows.
And you succeed. You become that invaluable element in so many lives. You do it well, and your odd peeps will teach their children using your words, your sounds, your bizarre character.
It’s a truly American story in it’s purity and hope. And how hard work and weird ideas can be a commodity. And it is as true now as ever.
This 4th of July, celebrate appropriately. Put on a big fake prosthetic fore head to cover up your real head. And grab a guitar and sing a verse of ‘Alienation Is For The Rich’ and see who sings along.
The winds raises the dandelion seeds, a perfect marriage of force and natural aerodynamics. And brings you a yard full of weeds. The rain brings you mud and deepening soil and you check the radio which brings you the weather. And you bring your boots out today.
And cool older cousins bring you YesSongs and let your adolescent self play among the covers, the Roger Dean Universe, let you wonder at the 8 foot by 6 foot poster that could only fit on the ceiling of a suburban cool cousin bedroom. They let you borrow this record while they go about with their cool friends, tasting all the fruit the decade of the 70’s had to offer. Things I came to recognize as that decade was reconstituted and re-imagnined into ‘Dazed and Confused’ and ‘That 70’s Show’. And Stoner Rock.
Cool Cousins who took the time to treat you nicely, like family, and share with you. Whose natural excitement and nature would have them talk to you like an adult though you were far from one? And you appreciated it.
Cool cousins who drop the needle on side one and introduce you to your first real taste of classical music ‘Firebird Suite’ as it evolves / dissolves into ‘Siberian Khatru,’ a multilayered bit of beauty that leads into what first really nailed me about Yes. It wasn’t the musicians expertise and resume. It wasn’t the lyrics which (and I know every one) but are at best vague.
It was…and is…that incredible ability to create melodies via counter point vocals. The harmonies, the arrangements, still confound me. And thrill me, drive me.And make me try harder.
Even Siberia goes through the motions
Hold out and hold up
Hold down the window
Hold out the mornin’ that comes into view
(Blue tail, tail fly)
River runnin’ right on over my head
Vocals completely counter to each other start a conversation, a word art piece. Though the words themselves becomes sounds, notes. Playing between counter points and true strong harmony, sometimes within a single line. As I have grown old, I recognize others used these games methods, first that comes to mind is Simon and Garfunkel. I don’t believe anyone arranged their vocal harmonies as carefully as Yes did, and it’s something that I think went over looked in the list of reasons why Yes was genuinely an important band.
And this style, these vocals ….. This whole Universe…… started with Chris. Find some old bit of YesStory or YesShows on YouTube and watch that motherfucker work.
And the carefree friends of Cool Cousins come to bad ends. And Cool Cousins did too.
And Yes takes on a greater personal significance. It’s no longer a band on a label, during a time you were barely alive for. It becomes the stuff of personal folklore. There’s lessons within each side, memories trapped within each song,
So I mourn this day. I don’t mourn Chris Squire, though he was a true hero of mine.
It is a too rare treat to discover something unknown that completely confounds and compels you. Not something that you understand, not something that is reminiscent of some greater Universal work that you have loved all your known life. Not a genre or movement or draw on your hipster gland (‘this was made for US. THEY don’t get it’).
Something that steps into your head, pops the top and rearranges the contents until it fits. And starts subtly changing the definitions, the limits, of an art form. Personally, if not globally.
Something beamed in from some alternate dimension that was watered and fed on the culture your part of. But the zipper shows up the rubber monsters back. That’s not a regular monster. Not the monsters we’ve come to expect.
And where others get these particular kicks in deeper, darker LSD infused fugues, I opt for a more simplistic mind blowing. Make mine a Jonathan.
I never saw ‘There’s Something About Mary’. I never invested time in discovering The Modern Lovers. So I was completely unprepared.
With my first listen to Jonathan Richman, via a single dollar find at a flea, I was….uncomfortable. It’s hard to describe why. It’s almost felt like I shouldn’t be listening to this as a heterosexual male. It was effeminate. It was light and spare and the singing sounded like a joke. And the songs were simple and dumb.
Problem is I couldn’t stop listening. Morning, noon and night, that record became my constant companion. I wasn’t aware how much I was enjoying it; it was more akin to liturgical study. There’ was a great mystery within these songs. A personal X File.
I understood why I liked it. He is a walking history of Pop music as art form. Whether accurately describing, influence and actual sound of the ‘Fender Stratocaster’, or liberally borrowing everything in the American Rock and Roll canon for ‘Parties in The USA’, I recognized him as someone whose simplicity belied a truth, maybe a nostalgic truth, but still a truth.
And the arrangements he chose to work in were pure JpK bait. Spare, fat electric or thin electric, snare drum, maybe a bass. Some grand doo wop harmonies. I like my listening music to have lots of space for interpretation; let me make the melodies in my head, whether lyrical or musical. That way it’s a shared sport.
It is a universal truth and not one I’m the first to mention: the awesomeness of a rock and roll song is directly related to the number of instruments on it. Too many instruments, you are left to ride along. Too few instruments is like a Chinese fire drill. Everyone drives. Interactive and anonymous kicks. Good for everyone.
But….it took me a while to get here. Cause at first listen to Jonathan Richman, I could only think of Fred Schneider. In time, I came to love and admire the B-52’s, but that was not my first reaction. No. My first reaction to hearing the B-52’s was to take the tape out of the player (not my tape, nor my car) and whip it out the speeding cars’ window. But I was a kid. One expects to have such knee jerk reactions to alternative lifestyles at that age. Kids are dumb.
Which made my reaction to Jonathan Richman more….concerning. Cause I have evolved far beyond teens (I tell myself) and an adult isn’t allowed to have such juvenile reactions to things different. Not if they are NOT an asshole.
If you still believe all the things you did at 14 in the decade of 40’s, you may be an asshole. Ask someone you know. They will likely be honest, asshole.
And as usually happens, my immediate, visceral reaction revealed far more about me than the work of Jonathan Richman. Cause Jonathan is a man who loves woman. I would say he is right there with Paul Rodgers in terms of He Man chick slaying. Except in place of the scads of ex Zep groupies Paul dropped his bell bottoms for, I imagine that Jonathan had one woman he wrapped his twisting libido around.
Lets take Bad Company’s ‘Feel Like Making Love’. Demanding. In the vocal, you don’t get the sense that Paul doesn’t mean ‘making love’. I picture poses and literal fireworks. He sounds demanding. The girl may want to fake it and not upset the Tarzan of Love.
Now compare that too ‘Closer’ by Richman. A song about sharing a marital bed. With Jonathan proclaiming ‘closer…closer…’. He’s not discussing a close feeling or close deep talk. He wants in. He describes the dynamic with much grinding. Perhaps some frustration on his wife’s part cause the dude never stops needing to be ‘closer’. It’s erotic and truly identifiable for any guy whose ever been married.
Compare ‘Can’t Get Enough’ from Bad Co to ‘Every Day Clothes’. Now despite Paul’s insistent ‘I take what I want. And baby, I want you.’ I’m not convinced there’s much in it for said groupie aside from a night of telling Paul ‘It’s OK. it happens to lots of Cock Rock Stars.’ It’s not that it’s unbelievable. Its just a really authentic cartoon from a hack writer.
Jonathan digs his girl in her sweats and those unimaginable over sized sweatshirts. He’s likes that jussst fine. Jonathan is a realist. He loves his woman. He doesn’t need sheer fabric to remember whats beneath those figure flattening threads. It’s on his mind con-stant-ly. Closer. Below the clothes. Closer. Between the sheets, the clothes removed. Closer.
Take ‘Rock and Roll Fantasy’ and match to ‘Monologue About Bermuda’ for a real taste of fame and life on the road. Maybe it’s cause the concepts, the ideas that Bad Company existed in became so outdated so quickly that they couldn’t see….or just didn’t care….how cute they would be some day. Limousines and record companies covering the bar bills is so quaint it might as well have an ‘Olde’ before it. And sell Maple candy.
Where in the talk piece that is ‘Monologue About Bermuda’, you get the real sense of life in a traveling band: shifting sands, new influences, frustration, boredom, anxiety. A sense you are constantly repeating yourself. Plus it’s much funnier.
But…. boys love Bad Company. Everybody loves Bad Company. They are the waffle of Rock. Who doesn’t like waffles?
Richman is more of a crepe. Even I don’t like crepes.
Chords. Built on notes. I don’t understand how to play the chords yet so I work my notes. It becomes muscle memory. I hear the notes meet and feel them blend, foundations.
And yet my fingers play dumb, stoned, surfer, Picillo-ied. It falls apart. The swear that follows blows ash off the keyboard and echos with plate reverb.
So it’s notes and repetition. It’s cramped, non ergonomic positions and focus. And constant Rewind – Record. Repeat.
A mountain starts with a step. A war starts with a shot. A song starts with a note, and notes get piled on: harmonic, dissonant, octave. And chords come and you have flight.
Take time from the all consuming ALL of life and get here, in front of the keys. Learn. Take effort from the act of living well or surviving adequately and work on your timing. A half beat can be your doom or breakthrough. You can’t know until you know.
It’s sunny and 75 degrees. But I cover the window to keep the constant Park Ave traffic sounds manageable. It could be midnight or 3 in the afternoon.
Learn. 188.8.131.52. Notes make chords. Chords are progress. Joy.
There is a difference though. Tween life and learning piano. You can take lessons and training for one. The other. … not.
So I work the notes. Chords, broken Baroque by accident. Maybe. Maybe fate.
It is NOT a dog eat dog world. If it was, there would be many more half eaten dogs laying about. It IS a dog eat dog food world. But as axioms go, it’s a bit thin.
No, the world itself is a dog. Domesticated, generally, but still a wild creature. Unpredictable. It will greet you with slippers almost everyday. But will occasionally bite you. Hard.
No, if you want a lesson within the dog dynamic, let’s call it for what it is: you can’t find a better teacher than the tick.
This doggy world has two types of travelers: the fleas and the ticks. The fleas are not particular in their needs. They have abilities to leap into different worlds (like perhaps your needs would be best served by taking up residence on an Irish Setter?). They have no commitment to this dog in particular. They are shallow and light as air. Bright light would shine right through them.
You know fleas. They generally come up in cautionary tales. Someone who had such potential but they lacked patience. So they bounce. And they will forever bounce until their short life span ticks down. And in those last seconds they wish desperately to come back in some next life as a butterfly or a Datsun.
They lack the courage of their convictions. They bite and run. They irritate and….well, flee. And ultimately the endless fleas become a memorial roll who you barely bothered attaching names too.
Be the tick. Focused. Visceral. Get your hooks in and feed. Become part of your doggy world; let its blood flow into you, become one with it. Own it, at last. Own it. Have no fears of the cigarette end nor tweezer. When they come for you, dig in. And if you can’t stay, can’t outlast, persevere, leave something deep down to remind them of you.
Infect this world. Ride it out. Don’t let yourself be thrown away.
Even when considering the wide world of Singer-Songwriters….and for the sake of clarity let’s focus on the ones that come with a possibly authentic ‘folksy’ charm (Will Oldham is not Will Rogers), John Prine is unusual.
It’s not that he can’t out ‘folksy’ most of these folksters, but this, in like everything he does, is seemingly effortless.
This came to me with a listening to ‘Live and On Stage’ where me charmingly mumbled his way through a story about Billy Bob Thornton in the introduction to the brilliant tribute to modern, real and ugly love ‘In Spite Of Ourselves’.
Thornton suggested to John he should write a song to close out the credits, something in line with the characters and John’s typecast ‘brother in law with low self esteem’ acting gigs. And in this song, with its references to panty sniffing and the erotic appeal of prison movies, he weaves a real and perfect argument that love is not a cosmic notion, that we don’t all feel and share love the same way.
And that is why John Prine is different. He understands the idea that there is no universal sense of happiness. We must hardscrabble and work too long days at pointless jobs. And pan for gold for our joy. He doesn’t sell a bill of goods that your bliss is anything but fleeting. But fleeting bliss beats no bliss.
The genre Americana was invented to describe John Prine. Not simply due to his knowledge of trad folk and blues forms, and a lyrical sense that can get timeless when focused on the social or political. Or when combining the two. As much as I love ‘Sam Stone’ from the first record, a perfect protest to post war malaise, its ‘Donald and Lydia’ that sticks with me.
A love story…maybe….but a love story for monsters. I don’t mean the fun mutated type, I mean people you wouldn’t elect to spend even a single second considering if not for the masterful pen and POV of Prine. And clearly he’s got some psychic in him, cause this is the Internet’s first real love song, though the Internet was decades away. It’s about longing and loneliness and desire to be desired by something, someone, somewhere.
Watching John’s career trajectory through his 70’s work is a lesson in Record Company History. Within his small simple songs, the infection of excess wormed in and horn sections and too many strings, too much studio. But his direction never wavered. He took this ‘being in the right place at the wrong time’ vibe and folded it right into the songs and kept writing them. In a sense, raising a mirror to the industry that they wouldn’t even recognize in 20 years time.
And now, an elder statesman, but not one with the mass appeal of a Willie Nelson, who everyone loves and generally gets. John operates in the shadow of the Music Industry buildings, with a faithful and true connection to his many fans that will have him only grow into deeper colors as he goes on and keeps writing.
In a perfect world, Prine would be Springsteen. But in a perfect world, we would have no need for the surgeon steady perception’s of John Prine.
OK, Here I am. But I’m not really here. I hear a mystery ‘click clack’ of keyboards, so I know I exist somewhere. But I’m not here.
This is my state lately. I’m a ghost in this world. I keep my obligations. I show up for appointed work schedules. This week I’ve even performed before a lovely crowd of New Haven eccentrics and held my eccentric own. All of those folks saw me live in technicolor.
But I wasn’t really there. I’m always elsewhere these days. Even as I type this, my real desire is to go find a cheap, build able sound baffle.
I’m making a record. It will be out come spring…
OK, not spring…a hot summer release….
OK, maybe not.
Fall. Definitely fall.
Writing songs, capturing moments of angst or joy, in a slow hymnal or quick yip jump fashion is my calling. And good fortune gave me a voice to sell them with and a rudimentary understanding of guitar that allows the songs to get writ.
What I wasn’t provided with was the technical way of thinking that engineers use to wring out the full potential of simple songs into hushed or clattery moments of beauty. A sense of appropriate miking techniques. A subsonic sense of hearing squeaks and bumps as they happen so they don’t haunt come the mastering. I’ve decided at this point to not only learn all this stuff, but create what I believe will be a proper representation of myself in sound, lyric and style. And one I will die defending.
If its listenable. At all.
So as you see me, shake my hand, write me and get written back, know that beneath every word is a distraction. As I provide valuable customer service at my job, I’m really trying to remember the myths associated with ‘Pet Sounds’ and doing the math to see if there is anything in them I can use.
As I drive to said job, I now travel with a coffin sized bag of Cd’s basically encompassing the history of 20th century recorded music trying to note the subtleties / similarities tween Howling Wolf and The Hold Steady.
If you see me shopping and stop me, I will appear completely corporal and present, but I’m really trying to figure out what the fuck lo-fi really means? Is it a reduction of instruments used…or using the standard set up and recording it poorly? Cause one is called ‘folk’ and the other is called ‘garbage’.
Which raises the important question: what is a quality recording?
I grew up listening to the classic 70’s records, as I was force fed classic rock via the radio. This was, in my opinion, the beginning of the Big Record Fetish. Huge monster drums and rumbly bass, cutting guitar and multitudes, many, choirs of virtual angels mixed in with church bells and congas and Moogs by the mouthful.
And this casts my memory back to the days when something called ‘Behind The Music’ was on (kids, ask yer parents) and how castles and haunted mansions, scores of weirdo hanger on’s grabbed a shaker and contributed, and how the record company paid for it all.
Till the bottom fell out mainly based on some crazy culture’s feeling that music should be free. And they freed it.
Not my point….my point is what is a good recording? The BIG records….the Zeppelin’s and Electric Ladyland’s…..the wispy drug fueled progressive records…. are not what I listen too now. And I haven’t for a long while.
What I listen to is best described as stark and minimalist. My Holy Grail, The Mountain Goats. My conscience, Vic Chesnutt. Old Leonard Cohen records. Muddy Waters on Chess. Sparklehorse
What matters to me is purity, subtlety, and this is where I’m drawn. I have no issues with the quality of the recording, the click clank of tape recorders, the shouted out ‘1,2,3,4’, the misplayed chord on a single tracked guitar. It thrills me, to fall in so deep to music, and it doesn’t matter if anyone else understands it.
So then….why do I feel the need to make a BIG record which is clearly beyond my ability and interest?
Whose approval am I subconsciously seeking? Griel Marcus? Yours?
Music is practically free. But now, so is the musician. We need not fit the suit that will make us a Superstar (Johnny Bravo style). Odds were always long and have now gone astronomical. We are free to be what we wanna be, Marlo.
I sound convincing, don’t I? Yeah.
Meanwhile …. there is beauty in creating. Even alone, confused at what to do with my Send’s and BUS’s. Hopelessly lost in my effects. I add a guide vocal for cello recording Sunday (shout out to Julie Kay! Hi Julie, see you tomorrow!) and get lost in a moment, the guitar in my headphones, I sing a sad song and connect with the lyrics I barely remember writing. It all came back to me in a flash and I remembered every injury, every wound that made this record important to me.
Make the record you want to make. Don’t over complicate it. Keep it pure and simple.
And send half your tracks to a legitimate scientist to record.
And if you see me this summer (which you likely won’t. I’m making a record), forgive my distraction, my 1000 yard stare. Pretend I’m there.
It was me and you (then)
And The Vineyard
Week before Valentine’s Day
I waited for this since late November…though honestly, much longer than that. You were worth waiting for (then).
On the ferry from Falmouth, I held you against the icy winds
You kept me from the rocking waves.
When we were close to each other there was always heat, though seldom warmth.
When we hit the Island, we drove to all four points, giddy, giggling
We hit Tisbury, stopped by the beach….you wrapped your scarf around my eyes
When it was revealed, the blue, blue water crashed into my soul.
I loved you at that moment…though honestly, much longer than that.
And back to the room.
Come dark, we went out for supplies
And I drove to the water….moon illuminated the rolling waves, rocks, the horizon that showed the sensual curve of the earth
And I asked you to dance with me in the sand. You laughed.
But I meant it.
And we did, radio up loud, headlights shining on us, we spun and laughed and kissed….
We said things we could never live up to (well, one of us did)
We were in love (then)
My screen saver watches over me.
While I rest. While I play.
My screensaver watches over me.
A slideshow, filled with the digital pictures from this trailing year, all post Collinsville.
Pictures I receive, of anything, ultimately pop up in random order and strange juxtapositions align: a picture of four drunk girls in Mexican hats doing the can-can next to a smoky picture of myself, haggard looking, lighting a cigarette with the Meriden sky behind….hot red writers and the cool blue water of the New England Coast….assorted nude pix of a hot blonde mixed with measured, precise pictures of a dilapidated tower in East Hampton…pix of Mary Lou Lord melt into my dog, Wyatt, who met a young couple and moved to the country (the dog American Dream)…
But even random things have themes, at least in my definition of random.
It’s ivory and deep blue (waters and skies), green soft cotton lingerie, sand and muted reds. It’s all her; It’s always her. Damn it. Damn it.
Knowing her for a bit, I was shocked when she told me she had a tattoo. Actually, she didn’t tell me, it was one of those online surveys that asked a million small questions to divine the larger answers…and the question was: ‘Do You Have A Tattoo?’
‘Can I see it?!?’
‘Eventually….’ And the way she said it, I believed her.
And when I did, when I slid her jeans down for the first time, her hip wore a flower, faded, of many colors, each petal a mood in her, each petal a soft place to fall or jagged rock to throw myself on. I followed her jeans down to the floor and kissed it, stared at it, tasted it, ran my fingers across…
That was the first time I saw it, but not the last. I saw it in many ways, many angles, I rested my head there some nights.
And once, in the bed with an ivory cover and steel frame, with the soft noon light falling in the skylight, I took a picture….
Blue petals, red petals (all faded)…impossible to tell what it is, without the knowledge of it.
Impossible to forget.
My Screensaver Is My God. But it’s a cruel God sometimes.
I look outside today, this 28th of May, the lush greens, the blues, the air sensual to the taste, and remember 9 years ago to the day.
I bought you the perfect present (at a time I could scarcely afford food, but priorities…); I plucked it from my soul: Van Morrison ‘Astral Weeks’. I sent a note flirting with the idea of whether this was a romantic gift (this was not a romance, you reminded me, you always reminded me….but the way you smiled as you said it, it was a lovely contradiction. And one that came close to breaking me).
But it was a romantic gift, even without the oversized valentine style heart attached…it was the distillation of my heart and soul in that record….it was more personal than anything else I could give.
And I gave it to you willingly, happily…because I wanted you to know me. I wanted you to know when my heart beat and skipped, when my body creaked and moaned. Where my soul took its summer residency. I wrapped it with paper and a bow (something I never do).
And met you at the picnic tables, a brief 10 minutes before the show began. It was a beautiful Yankee spring day, before the humidity started to dot our clothes, before the sun turned much green to brown. The tables were in the shade, and I got there first, looked at the scene, and posed my self appropriately.
I didn’t think you would come, which says more about me than you.
But you did, work clothes on, and beaming. You always were a dark little character. When I made you smile, I felt like I was moving mountains, drinking oceans.
And you opened it, confused, but smiled just the same. And looked me deep into my eyes…and we kissed for the first time: sweet and yielding, hot…I felt every emotion in me flame up at your touch. I felt the day collaborating with my heart, painting perfection in only the way love and good New England weather could do.
I wrapped my arms around you; I felt your body advance into mine, hungry…
That was before that terrible summer. That was before we brought in November together. That was before the weekend in Tisbury.
And now, nine years later….a note sent: ‘Happy Birthday ______, I hope it turned out like you wanted’
I don’t expect a reply. Which says more about you than me.
Why not just write it and bury it in the ground? (Cause the geocache’ers will find it and sign there own name and let the coordinates slip).
Is it at least in some way relevant to this Holiday based on memorializing our fallen heroes? (No. Not even a little. I’ll save that for people who just MIGHT get read on Memorial Day)
Why aren’t you outside? (causes your Mama’s not. So there.)
Since I am clearly writing for an audience of one, I’m gonna throw a shout out. Hey JpK! (Hey! High Five! )
No. This ones for me. And it’s about what to me equates to the best band Rock and Roll ever produced. And I’m clearly not seeking a consensus on this.
Take a truly masterful and epic tick tock madmeister of timing, who creates big weird rhythmic Universes within simple and short A-B-AA-B-AA-B song styling, drummer to the Sultans, Pete Thomas)…
Add the quirky twin to this soulful cyborg, a bass player capable of holding down, driving on, creating weird hooky high lines (his work on ‘This Years Girl’ still operates as ‘perfect bass’ to me), a perfect touch for a kiss or a stomp, the 4 string king of suburban soul, Bruce Thomas….
Factor in musical prodigy quality music theory and farfisa based dramatics, part Leonard Bernstein, part the Che Guevara of melody, a real Mad Doctor feel and just killer imagination for turning ordinary basic songs into deeply felt cinema scene and themes, the best name in Rock and Roll, Steve Nieve…
And lead by the scurrilous, scabrous bespectacled bard of longing and liking, skilled with abilities to weave syllables into fabric that can coat poor misunderstood boys and girls, to bright for their own goods. The slash and absolute-itude of rhythm guitars, the contorting emotional cannibal originally known as Declan but upgraded, evolved, promoted into royalty, Elvis Costello.
Ladies and Gentlemen (meaning Jason), I introduce to you your favorite music if your not a dickweed, Elvis Costello and The Attractions.
I don’t expect nor care if you agree. Based on all the bootlegs a boy can buy, this was an incredible and unmatched set of lads live. On fire isn’t enough. We need discuss the atomic to get even in the ball field.
Live they combined punk fury fueled by the good ole’ days of cocaine, the beauty of listening to the appropriate amount of music from all over the planet, so the country is country, the soul is soul, the snozzleberries taste like snozzleberries. Wicked twists and turns of tight practiced over toured enthusiastic burning out and upwards.
Let’s talk Long Player records. From ‘No Action’ to ‘I Want to Vanish’ that is decades of brilliant adult themed pop music. And each record has a different feel, a different sound, but is corralled by Elvis’s spit phrasing and Steve’s kooky carnival or sub classical leanings. When you consider that only 2 records separate ‘This Years Model’ with it’s pissed off youth fused punk rock pop to ‘Imperial Bedroom’, which is a different animal, big British, tribute laden by whatever drove the Little Hitler. But clearly the same species.
And consider ‘Brutal Youth’ and ‘When I Was Cruel’ and recognize they not only held there own against the clock, but improved, fleshed out colour with visible brush strokes. While most bands that late into career would be hailed for still being relevant, The Attractions bent the bar into twisted shapes just to make it more interesting to hop over.
And I include ‘Goodbye Cruel World’, considered one of their worst records. But still better than most other bands best. I speak of ‘Inch By Inch’ which is as perfect a tribute to online stalking as any, though written far before the Internet. ‘Worthless Thing’ with it’s accurate view of Rock and Roll myth making. ‘The Comedians’ just for that chorus (and yes, a better version was done by Roy Orbison).
And the songs. Man, the songs.
‘I Want You’…epic and terrifying and beautiful.
‘Less Than Zero’… empty apathy deeply felt, perfectly rendered. OK, his perception of America was a little bit comic book, just like Bowie. But …why not? Elvis Costello was a provocateur. A major mensch.
‘Beyond Belief’… Jumps into the track from the first beat and spins the lyrics, the sheer volumes of syllables and imagery attached and a vibe that is unmistakeably Elvis.
‘It’s Time’….a genius F.U. song…devastating, if the type of relationship ending at all falls in line…
‘Uncomplicated’….plodding, Goon Squad (oh yeah, and ‘Goon Squad’!!!) stomps in the room and lays you to waste, belittles your belief’s, your culture, your very DNA. In short, don’t break up with genius songwriters.
‘Night Rally’…specifically the existing footage from some long gone British pop show….my original VHS copy had weird distorted lines that ran down the left side…and based on the energy, the darkness, the fire that spilled out of every speaker and flickering tube, I miss that distorted stripe. It made this vision of a true warning of impending cataclysm and Nationalism seem like it was viewed in a loop in Anne Franks attic.
Anyway. As you go about your BBQ’s and Parades, as you soak in that sun and soak down them suds (I guess), Remember Elvis And The Attractions. Or don’t.
Good Day! My name is Jenn or Heather or Mickey or Ray. I am young or old or authentic or have secret bad intentions. Odds are good things will end badly for me, and certainly for my friends.
My single skill relevant for recording in writing is my ability to hold a camera steady while Im being horrifically murdered. Or lightly tortured. Or chased. I am the found footage camera man.
And I run this joint now.
Though my hand is shaky and my footage ultimately to dark, I am the ultimate in embedded. I know what you want. So when this film ends and I meet my grisly fate, Ill spit a lil blood into the lens so you really feel it.
I came this way. I started in horror (OK, factually I started in PBS Holocaust Films and Vietnam on my TV) at the right time. We’re a culture almost beyond scaring. We have access to 50 terrifying things before breakfast everyday. So old standards such as Poe just got a bit creaky, right? Whats a genre to do?
Go POV. Like porn, but less disturbing.
And ever since, I have been running from witches and zombie, aliens and serial killers, evil dolls, rabid dogs and one memorable time a shark. Which wasn’t pleasant but the sun felt good.
And when ultimately asked how I can keep feeling while all my friends are:
4) generally murdered
… my reasons are simple:
1) It makes this horrific reality seem like a movie so I need not feel it.
2) I must capture this FOR SCIENCE!
It’s is a heavy yoke I carry. When it all goes bad in a supernatural and general unpleasant sense, push the red button. Catch it all. Let it rest in the Everytown USA Police Department filing cabinet till the Resurrection. My final resting place.
But never the monster, who is a cash cow. Like we’ve learned from every True Hollywood Story, fame has teeth. Its a dog-eat-monster-eat cameraman world out there.
I started in horror. But I wont stay there. My found footage creations have crossed platforms, crossed over, infected all film genres now. Except westerns cause…well, duh.
Know me. I am you. OK, not you, your not fictional. I am the visual every man. I am dying for you.
There is something particularly intimate in songs b an artist and their industry. People who create music are generally passionate about it, and the evidence of this passion is bearing constant small and large rejections, taking mega doses of Optimism X and smiling as everybody dances around you to terrible music.
I would say its almost romantic the relation tween musician and Industry, but it’s closer to God like worship and Devil fueled fears. It’s like being in love with the most popular, coldest, cruelest bastard that ever sprouted legs and walked. You are always left wanting, every day you are Last Years Model.
And we’re all dating the same chick. And one day you are in her favor. And the next day she denies your name.
So to find people kicking against the pricks in song is tradition, even if ‘song’ is the particular prick.
And of course, I love this type of song deeply. Even if you believe a singer comes off as less authentic while singing about love, when singing a bitter tribute to a record label who screwed them.
This is a big subject, worthy of a book…..but I got work in a few, so a random well loved sampling:
Pavement ‘Cut Your Hair’ – a timely guide to getting played on 120 Minutes in the early 90’s. But as relevant today as ever. And if this entire blog can be summed up in to two syllables, it is Malkmus’s sneering of the word ‘career’. He makes it sound like a joke. Which…it is, innit?
Van Morrison ‘Showbusiness’ – As far as I know, not released on anything except ‘The Philosophers Stone’ compilation, but a long, nasty, genius meditation of The Music Business cut with the perfect tone of Irish cynicism.
The Kinks ‘Rock and Roll Fantasy’ – From the Grand Statesman Hisself. This song gives me pause every time I hear it. Not simply cause its beautiful. And full of hope. But the core belief (so core its the actual title) that to dream this dream is to predict this will end poorly. Even if your the fucking Kinks.
Mott The Hoople ‘The Ballad Of Mott The Hoople’ – Mott The Hoople was on the skids when Bowie offered them ‘All The Young Dudes’. And that changed their fate considerably. After touring incessant, then a big Pop hit and endless touring, dressed like 20 year olds, being 40 year olds, feeling 100 years old. In this, lyrically the pulling apart (and simultaneously recreating) The Mott legend member by member, the real point is Ian’s voice, which sounds as weary as weary gets. It doesn’t make having a big hit record sound like that much fun.
The Replacements ‘Left Of The Dial’ – A fine slice of 1985 birth of Alternative history, but slung with enough real rock and roll and subtle lyrical imagery (Paul speaks like a Dead End Kid and it comes off like a modern James Joyce) and unhinged enthusiasm that clearly proclaims ‘We Mean It. Maaaaaaaaaaan.’
Bob Dylan ‘Positively Fourth Street’ – Which gets special notice due to the opportunity that Dylan uses the Music Industry to attack his fans. On the AM radio, even. After Dylan went electric and created an entire new form of this Rock and Roll, his folky fans turned on him. And being Dylan, it wouldn’t do to let that stand. Its viscous and totally on point.
I missed many here. I count on you, dear reader, to write my wrongs and share good F.U. songs to The Music Business.
For today, let us not speak of corporate funded creativity, media monopolies or manipulation of times, of numbers, of mass perceptions that television trades in. Let’s not consider the true Devil’s bargain that televised singing competitions bind there winner’s with (for reference, google Phillip Phillips).
Let us celebrate. The Last American Idol is from Connecticut. Whether you cheer the ‘Last’ fact or the ‘Connecticut’ fact, this morning offers something for all of us.
For every musician I’ve heard slag American Idol, this must be pointed out: Television is not the music industry, though from the wide coverage on commercial radio and spreads in the now sad and pointless ‘Rolling Stone’ could confuse. Theses spaces have been capitalized with a capital ‘F.U.’, marginalized into amorphous blobs of meaninglessness.
Let them go. It’s time.
American Idol made great television. It was compelling. More so when Simon was still on, but whatever. Certain television shows have gained success by taking dumb ideas and doing them exceedingly well. Why should the muse starve? Why does good art necessarily equate to bad credit?
You need recognize the difference in form. Television is a nod and a joke and a hand in your wallet. Especially if your watching with your kids, who are not canny enough to know they’re being played. Television has created great works of art, but more often than not, its a long vamp to the commercial breaks. And it’s supposed to be. Television is unbearable politics and seriously unfunny humor and the Super Bowl.
But imagine awaking by the CT Shore today and being a kid. Its like the Beatles on Ed Sullivan. There’s no difference. It’s ‘Bye Bye Birdie’ writ into an internet infused, phone voting tribute. Nick Fradiani is Elvis. Today. And thats grand. Even Elvis wasn’t Elvis everyday.
Aside from Nick’s, life goes on unchanged. We don’t get the day off, which is the real horror. Mainly cause it’s so nice out today.
And lets keep our outrage focused where it could do well or at least remain topical. Connecticut. I watched a report on local news featuring bar owners whining that they live in fear of ASCAP fines that could accumulate from the over covered cover band songs. Seriously, whining, near tears.
Awwwwww….. (no wait…that wasn’t convincing….) AAAAAAAWWWWWWW….. (yeah).
And wish Nick well. He is a songwriter. He’s played the bars. He is one of our own. Its not impossible to work your way out of a corporate Rubicks cube on your own terms. Simply review the career of the True Rebel Queen of Idol, Kelly Clarkson.
So…for this allusion, lets start here: Stupidity is an apple. And its the most delicious, tart and tasty apple in the barrel.
You know who loves tasty treats? Kids. So they eat a lot of them. But at what age is a tasty treat NOT a tasty treat?
Never. It’s in the words. It is the treat that is tasty.
The older we get, the wiser we be, and yet we are as capable of being dumb at 40 as we are at being 4. Cause who doesn’t love an apple?
This is not the type of Stupidity that will effect your SAT scores. Its the delicious cinnamon and sugar blend of bad decision making.
We expect bad decisions to come from those who lack experience. It’s part of the path of wisdom. It began with ‘STOVE…HOT!’ and continues into ‘who needs a physician when I have WebMD?’ (the answer: You. Dim ole’ you.)’
But as youth is wasted on the young, so are mistakes. I learned more about the Universe since I turned 40 than I knew in all the years cumulative. It wasn’t that I wasn’t trying to figure out life, I just dint have the proper protection at that point. But somewhere in that period I crossed into some odd unknowable ‘nothing matters but what I want’. And then began my campaign to take on life as a Wise Man.
Though the wisdom was conceptual cause the things I did was dumb. Though great fun. But dumb. Stove. Hot.
The dumb things I do may ensure a shorter life, but make life worth waking up for. If your shallow, brag about it. If your deep, brag about that too. Forget that your too old to wear that skirt and Go! Though maybe reconsider the biker shorts.
40 is the new 16. Dint you hear? Some idiot told me that.
Parked in the backyard, the unkempt landscape claimed the Delta 88 as its own thing, throwing tendrils of yellow and white flowers over the mammoth windshield, obscuring the view inside and out.
That was the summer where the wheels seemed to be coming off the cart in my group of friends: it was all serious girlfriends or pre-college prep or alcoholism…it was the summer I chose to step away from that ole’ gang o’mine.
An awful and humid summer, a lot of rain that year, endless steamy nights; I spent many of them alone in that derelict car. I was in that period that is such the symptom of being 19: Grand questions without answers. Was the world as small as it seemed? Were dreams worth staking your life on? (FYI, jury still out on that one…). I pondered this much those nights, and the Delta kept me hidden and safe from harm.
I was lost. Listening to Van Morrison’s ‘Astral Weeks’ a lot, staring out the only visible bit of window. I watched the drivers’ side mirror like gazing out of a submarine: the street light hit the steaming road, a burnt orange color.
‘And I’m conquered in a car seat…Not a thing that I can do’
Van Morrison sending me personal messages through time, through technology. The weariness in his voice, the weight of his heavy, heavy heart, the uncomplicated, unglamorous pain he was relaying…I felt it too. I stopped, and rewound, and listened again.
A tragic tale of an adult male in love with a 14 year old girl. Beautifully rendered, hypnotic repeating lines, a pure and uncut dose of love and loss. No redemption in sight and none expected. And it wasn’t the words: Its the voice. The music hangs back and lets Van relate this sorrow, with an almost embarrassing intensity. Like being part of a conversation you never, ever want to have.
And I kept rewinding it, and listening again and again. It was as close to prayer as I ever had.
If there is a Heaven for a heathen such as me, it is comprised of long dusty gravel pathways lined with tables of junk. And bargains. But mainly junk.
So some Sunday morning when others are reaching across the veil to commune with the spirits and their kin, you will find me crouched over a box of CD’s seeking a type of absolution via smart shopping and a canny memory for sounds Ive heard before, but a prices I wouldn’t pay. I will be among the toy pianos and old cult movie magazines, choosing only 5 from the 8 remaining. And a plan to be back for the errant three. You will find me half dressed, half awake shambling with a cup in my hand that ain’t helping.
And I will see many of you there. because whatever you need is at the flea market. The path to righteousness starts at the snack bar.
I am not unrealistic; I don’t need this junk. The music I find can be sent digital, the cult movies have innumerable sites dedicated and toy pianos are so 2010. It is not the stuff I acquire, its the zen state of a central purpose, the simple hand work of panning for gold though endless sand.
And maybe like all things best served on Sunday mornings, it starts with a lack of sleep, an excessive Saturday and $20 bucks in your pocket. These are the tools, whether you are dropping cash into a gaudy silver plate amongst hymn or talking down a man who looks like every decision starts with ‘gimme a double’ from 2 for $5 to 5 for $10.
It’s bargaining. And an argument can be made your eternal soul isn’t worth an Eagles box set. And that’s not worth a lot.
But I will leave it to you to keep counsel re: your higher self… Im too busy trying to figure out why I should get a new, battered Casio keyboard (cause it’s $8 bucks and COULD work) or shouldn’t (cause the other 4 I bought did not).
And flea markets are erotic affairs. If viewed though enough distraction and dust. Where else do you go and common with people who clearly put on the first thing they pulled from their bedroom floor? It’s a public intimacy, it’s TMI for those seeking MI, in general.
It’s a perfect ‘Morning after’ activity. Don’t think. Too early to feel. Just…react. Just laugh. Together.
We are bargain shoppers, as a species. Affected by the axiom that ‘one mans trash is another man’s treasure’. A universal truth.
And it’s not simply ‘he who has the most toys wins’. It’s’ he who has paid penny on the pound for his toys wins bigger’.
Is paranoia a useful and effective tool for judging one’s self worth? Because who would bother creating deep cover conspiracies for just some nobody, some schlub?
You need be important to be spied upon. No?
Who’s spying on your coworkers? No one, that’s who. Who’s spying on your neighbors? Well, if you’re not, no one else is, cause they’re nobodies.
Do you know someone who is not paranoid? You know why? Cause they are a loser. Lo-Ser. They clearly operate with a peace of mind that grand governmental, legal, ethical or supernatural don’t even believe is worth the effort of spooking.
You need to have something going on to be conspired against.
The more access we have to each other, the more difficult it gets to reach people. I’m in a position where I need to ask for email addresses to complete certain types of business. And I have noticed that asking certain people (not all….not dull, dishwater, regular happy people) get a strange look when asked this question, like as opposed to a request for an address, I asked in a version of Swahili for their hand in marriage and breeding. They get flustered and look uncomfortable, while I stand there cool in demeanor, trying to not act like I’m going to take their email and send it directly to the Taliban or worse yet, Google. (just kidding Google, I love you.)
Which, of course, I will do cause I’m part of it. I’m a cog in the Grand Conspiracy. And all I got was this stupid tee shirt. And $25.000 in Deutsche marks. You’re a patsy and I am Jack Ruby. I got Castro on speed dial, which is impressive when considering the phone quality in Cuba.
No, just kidding. Right?
Oh, and be sure to sign up for Facebook Messenger. That’s how we see into your bedroom. Oh, plus the pictures you posted of your bedroom. Everywhere.
But how can such arcane plots and the slow theft of freedoms operate in a glass room, in this web filled world with every sin caught on digital video and every document pdf’d, printed and posted? How do the conspirators even communicate in such a leaky unsafe world?
Cat pictures. Every one is tagged and tracked. Wired into the pixels, patterns emerge. If you’re in the know.
There is a thousand crab legged combatants circling, circling in the sand in the battle for your attention.
A Thousand (times a thousand, times a thousand)
Bands and boys and shows
Heroes and villains and bystanders with a story to sell
A Thousand creeping horrors, or hot pix, or ways to Salvation from the Hell of
A Thousand diets and relationships and birds tap, tap, tapping at you pane / pain
(Are you listening?)
New movies and gently worn classics, A Thousand matters that mattered before you were born
A Thousand holidays in the name of God and Country, both of which may be myth
A Thousand drunks a drinking and staring glassy eyed across the room, or country or time itself
A Thousand new technologies to keep us aware of all of the above and the below
(Are you listening?)
A Thousand (times a thousand, times a thousand) bells to answer and streams to shut down
And everyday, the battleground shrinks a little bit more as A Thousand (times a thousand, times a thousand) new sensations/ relations begin
I have overdosed on nostalgia (my own, others) and it has deposited me here, with this empty page and an odd aftertaste, like copper and chocolate. The copper could be blood. The chocolate is likely chocolate.
I have pored through and re dug the trenches of my hourglass memory, allowed the sand to flow back in and obliterate details, leaving me to restore. I have considered the erotic, the emotional, the historical…reconsidered the erotic (I like the erotic) and tried to walk around within these memories as I am now, keening my hearing to catch the songs playing that allowed the acts to happen, listening to the words of the songs that gave me reason or gave me pause before I made yet again another big, dumb decision.
I’m not sure that these remasterings of the memory make for a better end product or just act as historical lip-synching. I can discuss my first kiss. But what would my first kisser’s story be? I could talk about the effects of a national tragedy. But am I really sure I wont lapse into someone else’s story of heartbreak, survival, triumph? I can discuss great personal horrors with a laugh and a joke and I can create great (self indulgent) emotionally wracked tales about Van Morrison records. Which I probably stole from Lester Bangs.
The erotic is clear, though. I made it my business to remember every second of minute as they happened. I like the erotic.
I have used my past as a venue that my present plays out of. I’m not even sure it matters that these tales are true, or maybe an amalgam of my smoky memory and 80’s sports movies, where we all triumph in the shoes of the loser in the opening scene. Which, of course, could also be me.
I have looked for great meaning in small interactions and looked past tons of bullshit. I haven’t considered the worst of these moments…or maybe what I ACTUALLY am is a ‘constant state of considering the worst of these moments’.
The things from the past…the important things…I have kept.
Friends and lovers and a thousand practice tapes.
Old books with fresh inscriptions.
Art from first, then second, then third grade (and so on) from Miss C-Rae.
And this still doggedly determined heart that wont allow the past to be my best days. And this mad internal clock that runs backwards and makes me faster and thinner as the world grows fat.
The Devil is in the details. This ancient axiom (as old as the papyrus it was likely never even scrawled down on. Cause we know this. We all know this. Don’t bother writing it down, Flaubert. We came in with this innate knowledge. Jerk.)
It’s also a fine place to start today’s discussion on genres, and specifically in the family tree of Rock Music. Cause a lot of Rocks rocks, but some will never Roll.
Describing what Rock and Roll (the type, specific too, but not limited to, the greater Rock family) means to me specifically is like trying to describe movement with words. Like trying to describe desire beyond moans. It is amorphous.
In the playing of Rock and Roll, there are core places to start: guitars, bass, drum, a piano is always nice, and a rock and roll singer. Of course, these same tools make up most of the Rock family.
Add pedal steel? Americana. Add distortion? Metal or Stoner Rock. Make it suck completely? Jazz Rock.
So what make a Rock band Roll? Action. Action, Action, Action.
It needs to feel like it’s barely keeping itself attached to the rails. It needs to wail out a frustration that is relatable. This is why it started with teen culture. Teen culture, of any generation, develops shortcuts around the language. These short cuts take the largest matters of the heart and transforms them into spitting visceral slogans. Which bears repeating. And is repeated. Repeated.
Rock and Roll is eternally optimistic. When the greatest fear in your life is that Peggy Sue will go to the prom with some football player, honestly, your life is going OK. It’s about cars going faster and girls wearing less and dancing slower and dudes too cool to be caught. It doesn’t consider growing old and dying. It doesn’t consider what forever really means. There’s no divorce in Rock and Roll.
Rock and Roll is mischievous. Its single minded double entendre (though less sex laden than blues lyrically, but more suited for the rhythms of the act (especially when a teen) and small folk tales of sticking it to the man, your principal, the cops, the bartender, your own blessed parents.
Rock and Roll is the pure uncut stuff, not to be confused with Rockabilly (which I also love) due to the fact Rockabilly bands might as well be traditional folk bands….they are paying dudes to higher Gods, they worship at the no longer in existence Soda Shoppe.
Proving My Work:
The Alice Cooper Band was Rock and Roll. Alice Cooper solo was not.
The Blasters are Rockabilly and deliciously predictable. X is a Rock and Roll Band.
Eric Clapton never rocked or rolled.
The Rolling Stones were THE Rock and Roll Band. The Beatles are not.
Despite how weird this says to say, Led Zeppelin was Rock and Roll.
The Hold Steady are Rock and Roll. The Replacements? Hmmmm…. Yeah, The Replacements too.
Now….one mans opinion. Though I stand by the Jazz Rock comment.
To me, Rock and Roll is the ocean and every Rock genre is just a stream.
I considered whether if I should write this blog. Which is not the du jour track I usually take. I open a page with fury and tap tap tap tap. I start with a notion and when I’m good, I support it. Usually with a mix of humorous the self depreciation to keep it jake: I’m not self obsessed but I play it online.
The subject of this blog is alienation.
And it started last week with the passing of a man I did not know, but nevertheless was good to me personally. He played my records on the #1 radio station in the county I grew up in. This beyond any other bit of music promotion caused old friends to touch base and make my Mom happy. And made me feel accomplished.
With his passing I saw a number of beautiful natural tributes and personal recollections posted. These days are what Facebook is for. It was truly moving.
And I felt a loss. Because I knew his name and he may have known mine, both being players in The CT Music Scene. We had mutual friends, got played on the same radio shows etc.
The image that came to mind was Noah’s ark. We didn’t elect to be CT Musicians. It’s just where we are from and what we do. We get pushed two by two into this circumstance and bon voy – fucking- age.
You have a geographic advantage, surrounded by big college towns. A culture that appreciates the arts. The whole state is two hours across. Score.
But matched with strict Yankee tenants in the personalities. The scenes around the cities are fractured and there’s no support from the crowd. The social media replaces the tradtional press and the reach gets smaller.
What sounds personify the Connecticut Sound? What defines it? I ask this as an open question begging dialog from you, the reader. What typifies the New Haven scene, New London. Does Hartford have a sound?
I have lived here my whole life. I love this state and the people in it. I love the post puritan edge of coming from the birth place of American intellect. I make music with these aesthetics. And maybe like Hendrix hitting in London, maybe it takes an alien place to appreciate our ordinary.
A dream of a possible Santa Fe, where a burgeoning swell of JpKmania awaits a new sound born of bad winters and noir-y self imaging.
I want to connect here. Home. Is it ego to consider people listening to the songs driving down the very roads the stories played out on?
The Connecticut music scene is smart and motivated. Edgy. Surely hard working. But divided by friends lists on Facebook. And the effect of this is like changing from butterfly to pupa.
We can’t control media monopoly taking down the press opps. We can’t control the many entertainment options that compete with getting to a gig. The music that is programmed to be heard from on high.
When meeting my fellow CT Musicians, at gigs, events, Stop and Shop, I don’t know how to get across the appropriate greetings that express:
‘Hey. Why don’t you get all your friends and I’ll get all my my friends and we will work to start a movement, an original plan that starts here in the roots of the Fifth state and creates a legacy future Connecticut bands will aspire to and transform in their own image.’
But Im an alien. I speak in sub text. I keep it light and filled with confidence. ‘Hey, good gig.’ is what can be expected. But I mean the long version. I wasn’t suited to start revolutions, only paint my tiny pictures in the ash.
PS: Record Store Day and it’s a beauty of one. A absolute perfect Spring day made for cruising to The Ventures with a close companion. And in entering the store, I see Ceschi Ramos CD ‘Broken Bone Ballads’ there amongst the National acts, a name I’ve heard, but I do not know personally. And I picked it up. I like it. And more so, it gave me a small thrill, a small light down an incomprehensible tunnel. Local boy done good.
Fast or slow…infected or reanimated, everybody loves a zombie. Zombie culture is loose and gathering numbers and heading to your own poorly protected farmhouse. ‘Zombie walks’ and tested zombie escape plans, parodies and long serious tomes abut the ‘Zombie War’, Zombies are ‘sexy’. And there’s even sexy Zombies, though more ‘camp’ than ‘chomp’.
What’s delightful (and scary, genuinely, and maybe a touch sad) is how completely the group driven, viscera eatin’, shambling Greek chorus has over taken the real Lugosi driven, erotic tinged vampires as Americas ‘Creature Du Jour’. To me, it clearly says that as a culture, we just don’t value sex enough.
The metaphor can be extended. It’s the fantasy ‘Dream Lover’: ancient, wise and having a few tricks up their sleeve. Compared to the ‘more is more’ mentality of the real life swingers set, where the quality drops where the numbers climb (as is the way of numbers…I guess. I’m bad at math). We are uncomfortable with the ratio’s of success sensuality affords, the less than 100% chance we will be turned into something hungry ourselves. We want a lot of variety and clothes falling (rotting) off. We want to be overwhelmed and have a ready excuse for why we let ourselves get bitten. There’s no guilt the world of zombies, it’s kill or be killed.
How can fidelity exist in a world of monsters?
The tradition for vampires is you need to invite them in. In some small or obvious drunken sloppy way, you have to open that door. That’s a matter of choice. Zombies don’t ask, they smash down your door and crawl all over you. In great numbers. Like you always dreamed. Except…with the numbers up, the quality drops. Its natural selection (I guess…I’m bad at science too).
This unusual, intellectual, confusing flick is the most interesting treatment of zombies since the hyper kinetic ’28 Days Later’. It’s a movie I have watched a few times now and see some new strain in the story, in the ballsy logic, every single viewing. It’s a zombie film without gore, with real black humor, and a concept of what an ‘infection’ can be that is wholly unique.
‘Pontypool’ takes place at a radio station in the wilds of Ontario. American ‘Shock Jock’ Grant Mazzy (Stephen McHattie) having burned his bridges in his home country, takes a radio gig up North. His cold ride into the station, the ugly night and the spitting snow create a claustrophobia, matched with a palpable dread of bad decision making that lead Mazzy to this clear dead end.
The idea of what is a true ‘dead end’ changes when he and his two woman crew get the first report, a riot in the peaceful desolate town of Pontypool, chanting mobs and extreme violence. And as reports flood into the radio station, very much on the edge of the media wilderness, a list of murders is compiled: families destroy families, neighbors burn down each others houses, all chanting nonsense sounds and sentences and phrases. And the infection keeps changing and spreading…..and the ‘how’ is the thing. Not through blood or bone. Not through black magic or errant space station radiations.
There’s no gore and no guns, which are the staples of the genre. And yet….the most original take on zombies on this list. See it.
4) Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things
From its title….from its cast…this shouldn’t be a good movie. From its poster, which looks clearly like the ‘Meatballs’ poster, this is a hippie disaster of a film. It sounds like ‘The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies’ (and for those looking for a review of that one, see Lester Bangs). It should be horrible, as most of the early 70’s zombie movies were.
But what C.S.P.W.D.T. has is pure and uncut creepiness, and a real building terror. Zombie movies are usually over the top, the most subtle being the original ‘Night Of The Living Dead’, which ain’t so subtle.
C.S.P.W.D.T is about a crew of dislikable hippies, the darker and sleazier post ’69 variety that Altamont hearkened too (and when you have a movie where lot of people likely wont survive the night, that’s a benefit).
They make they’re way out to an abandoned island to make a vampire film, and make 2 major mistakes:
1) They use the bodies from the abandoned graveyard as props.
2) They THEN use a black magic ritual to raise the dead as part of the film.
Can you guess what happens? You can.
This was the first zombie movie I ever saw, on some ‘Creature Feature’ on some Saturday night, when I was still way too young to see such movies. There’s images in this movie I have never forgot (like the use of slow motion in death scenes, the ritual scene, the immensely skin crawly ‘Orville’, the prop turned executioner). Soon afterwards, I begged my Mom to let me stay up and watch ‘Night Of The Living Dead’.
For every original creative thought, a 1000 rip offs pop up like weeds. Cleary, C.S.P.W.D.T. is a rip off of ‘Night Of The Living Dead’. And yet…..’Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things’ is on my list, and ‘Night’ is not.
Call it nostalgia. Or maybe some weeds are tasty good.
3)REC (or Quarantine – US Version)
REC was first, remade for English speaking as Quarantine. And it causes me to kick up a confession in my horror tastes: I am an absolute sucker for the ‘Blair Witch’ first person, shaky cam style of horror. The faux documentary style feeds into my voyeuristic nature. What always, at the basement levels of my thought processes, fascinates me about horror movies isn’t the monsters so much, it’s the decision making. It’s in introducing a scenario where you are completely and utterly screwed, zombies to the left, more zombies to the right, the general give and take of the practical world a memory.
Did you get gas this morning? The weight of that question changes significantly when zombies are introduced into the equation. Upset at your boyfriend? Is he trying to eat you, along with 4 score of his undead pals? No? Then chill. Real life money problems are forgotten, the question of whether you will ever achieve your dreams a luxury you can not afford. Cuz…zombies!!!! It does sound a bit peaceful, aside from the eventual ‘becoming food’ bit.
REC, shot from the POV of a news crew doing a fluff piece on their local Fire Department, takes the shaky cam style indoors, into the run down urban surrounding of a city tenement. It feels like a real haunted house story, with the camera skimming the long dark hallways and gray walls, the jittery feel of running that goes right to your feet, even when sitting. It’s positively gothic. And stays so throughout, getting ever more dreadful as the places to run too run out.
And claustrophobia runs to paranoia. The most effective scene in both versions is when they recognize that they are locked in, with the Army and snipers on the other side of those doors. There comes a moment when the army drops a quarantine tent over the exits and that image of that plastic tent with Army stencils falling with such finality is genuinely disturbing.
It speaks toward what real terrors are. What zombie films do. It’s the ordinary details that heighten the effect. The Universal Monsters (Dracula, Frankenstein, The Wolfman, etc) thrill, but don’t chill in these post-millennial days. Too long ago, too far away from where we live, and live everyday.
That scene, with shaking camera and recognizable elements of our culture is what makes the shaky cam style work: it confuses our intellect, it speaks to a different part of us and leaves us open to the possibilities of what if?
I should say that after ‘REC’, Zombie kingpin George Romero released his own statement on the first person zombie story with ‘Diary Of The Dead’. Which failed. Appallingly.
2) Day Of The Dead
Romero is my hero. Pot smoking, laid back, socially relevant, genius of carnage. Romero was ‘indie’ decades before we had a name for it. Borrowed money from Pittsburgh blue collar communities and used friends and investors as cast. What George had was an idea, a vision, and that little concept became ‘Night Of The Living Dead’…which started the zombie culture.
Romero wasn’t a simple man with a simple message. Each movie in the ‘Living Dead’ series, released in a different decade, had an underlying social message. Romero’s attempt to answer what had become of us as a society in these past 10 or so years. The. zombies were a metaphor, the zombies were random circumstance and WE we’re always the real monsters of the piece. Romero is a pessimist with a huge… and now global… palette to paint on.
Not all the movies were great. ‘Land Of The Dead’, ‘Survivial Of The Dead’…not good. But he is a genuine ‘maverick’, and the fact his movies may be misunderstood doesn’t trouble him. My guess is by the time the reviews come out, he’s already scaring up financing for his next opus. And that one may just be great.
In my estimation, the best of the series is 1985’s ‘Day Of The Dead’. It again plays off of claustrophobia, and plays with it, as its opening shots are on a helicopter overlooking an abandoned Miami, only blue sky and alligators and living dead left in town.
Soon we are taken to the real setting of the movie: an underground military compound and a collection of brilliantly rendered scientists and soldiers, all unraveling at the edges. The pace of the movie, the monotony of their assignments, the clearly cruel soldiers, the Mad Doctor all scratch at you like nothing else in the ‘Living Dead’ series.
The scientists want to find a cure. The soldiers want to get out. And the wails of the undead, above ground and below are clearly getting to them. One of things I appreciate about ‘Day Of The Dead’ is you get dropped into the middle of this world. You can feel tensions, you could see who dislikes likes who within this small (and getting smaller) group, but have missed all the conflagrations that brought them to this state. You go underground with the helicopter and feel that you are now with them…of them. And it’s a boiling pot.
The acting (specifically ‘Rhodes’) is first rate. ‘Day Of The Dead’ is the most gory of all of the series, with disgusting effects that are hard to forget. Honestly, its not a fun film to watch. Its too dark, to grim, too much blood and grisly bits. Its too intense.
But consider the theme. How could it not be?
1) ‘Dawn Of The Dead’ (remake – 2004)
Blasphemy? Sure. Love the original ‘Dawn of The Dead’, loved it since my brother saw it and shared all the gory details, loved it when we finally caught the midnight showing together (pre video…can you imagine?) and love it despite all its obvious flaws: the blue zombie make up only done to the sleeves, the fake hand to hand combat, the plastic guns. I know it line for line, scene by scene.
That said…have you seen the first 15 minutes of the remake? Have you? Its terrifying.
The dead rise and a group of survivors finds their way to a mall. Which is everyone’s dream, right? Like without the zombies? Am I that shallow? It has been mentioned….
It’s a big budget zombie movie, and while I would like to make a point that Romero’s grass roots appeal and anti Hollywood stance informs his art, the ‘Dawn’ remake get’s it right on every level. The acting. The effects. The humor. The action. The characters. Owning the DVD, even the supplemental footage works better and feels more complete than other full horror films (the DVD piece on ‘Andy’, the gun store owner, particularly effective).
Also, the best opening credit sequence of the genre. It combines footage of real revolutions, zombie invasions, every possibility of media violence, all played out under the message of The Man, Johnny Cash singing about ‘’When The Man Comes Around’. Chillingly effective. A message about the apocalypse, sung old biblical style while the modern day devolves into Sodom.
Scary as hell. Just like the box says.
Note: I know I missed a lot here. Apologies to fans of ‘Return of The Living Dead’ series, the ’28 Days Later’ series and Fulci’s ‘Zombi’.
Is it still ‘too soon’ to talk about it? It’s something I believe that counts as a global reasoning, something we can almost see at times but slips away like sand in a colander. It explain the Unexplainable things about fame and celebrity and hell fire and getting hits on the radio.
Is it because the majority of people who actually do discuss this are kooks and crackpots and Ministry hucksters? Wasn’t John The Baptist considered a kook? (I actually have no idea. I was young then.)
Is it the whole ‘moral panic’ thing? Or the idea that by answering these simple questions, the following questions get much more difficult and directly related to the state of your eternal soul?
Are you such a Zeppelin fan that you cant see the mystical forest for the burning trees?
Well I’m going to talk about it. People have sold their souls to some Unnameable figure (likely in black, cause all knowing entities are so big on flash) and have benefited from it. And we all know their names.
You know the scene, and perhaps some intimately. A lone figure with a clothesline strap acoustic sits on the crossroads and waits. And in time, he is approached. A bargain is struck. Fame and fortune commences quickly followed by bad luck and an early death. And an idea of what comes next for that man with the guitar, but not a scene that can be painted without offending most of your major religions. But lets just say it gets sulfur-y.
Myth? Sure, can be. A bad ass myth that brings together pop culture and cosmology and the gut level fear that we need earn what we get, there’s no free lunch. It’s a beaut.
Now…come with me along this particular path. Let’s chat.
Do you ever get the sense that you just don’t understand how something can be beloved or famous? Do you ever find yourself watching a band that everyone swears by and you just feel like it’s a grand prank played on you by all your friends? (That’s my Guns and Roses experience. And really….consider THAT in this context.)
You feel like you just don’t get it. In your most paranoid moments, you feel there’s an affliction of love that you are the sole uninfected. It’s puts you in a place similar to looking at abstract art: there’s something there that clearly isn’t interested enough in you to teach you.
It’s not simply to say the celebs who are famous for being famous…though some have clearly bought low. It’s people in your record collection.
Waiting out the death of vinyl so the backwards will never be unmasked.
I’ve finally come up with my thesis for my imaginary college degree. Being considered a self genius does not go far enough. I needed to be heralded as a genius by non existent institutions and hit the lecture circuit, filled with tasty bon mot’s and something that sounds smart…but upon investigation is just literate.
And it all starts here…with the break though….right here…..it’s coming…..:
All Kids Under The Age Of 12 Are On Drugs.
Now, I hear gasps from within the also imaginary lecture hall. Harrumphing at a distasteful level. I whip off my lab coat to reveal my accurate to the stitch Dr. Frankfurter costume. And I strut. The room turns hostile. Someone lights a torch…
I don’t say this simply to shock. That’s only about 80% of the reason. I’ve done study. I’ve been a child under 10. And I’ve been on drugs. Things looked very similar.
Consider the dress. You ever see kids playing together in a mud pit? Now have you ever been to the Gathering Of The Vibes?
Consider the distracted nature of kids / drug doers. Want some attention? Shake some keys. Get a laser pointer. Watchem go! (note: which will be covered in the next semester ‘Cats and Kids Under Age 12 Are On Drugs’.)
Consider the moodiness. Having a party? Invite some children / drug doers. They will make you laugh and dance and deal with the small snatches of exhaustion that comes with dealing with people with problems (as to be considered in the end of my thesis trilogy ‘All Kids Are People With Problems’). But in the end, clown or not, someone is gonna lose their shit. And tears will flow.
Consider the diet. There is a number of foods that exist solely for children and stoners. I might suggest the whole of the sugary cereal industry rests on these brave and twitchy shoulders. And every year food gets more ridulous (and also awesome) with munchies being cross pollinated and mutated into new forms of ‘food’. And thats cause there is a market for it. And who makes up that market?
Consider commercials. Have you noticed that the role of the male in modern commercials is akin to the role of the tween in years past? ‘Jeff just won’t leave his new toy alone’ can equate to Lego’s and cellphones simultaneous. Why you ask? Drugs. (OK, I made that up. But it does irritate me.)
(Quirky Fact: This blog started out being about the band Yes)
Moon roof open, and the sun rides on our shoulders, a presence as physical as a particularly wise parrot, whispering suggestions in our ear, recalling stories of the last bikini you saw, the last time you were completely submerged in water, the last time you felt the sun burn your skin to red.
And we race to the shore. By we, I mean all of us, the suburbs have emptied and everyone heads south for the shore. It’s like The Great Expansion…if the settlers had fast Japanese cars. We pass people on the highway and they pass us again. Its like go carts, except everyone also keeps their eyes on the medians, the crossover strips, eyeing state cops, as they settle in for their particular brand of holiday cheer.
And the music is loud, it pours out of the open car windows, flows from the moon roof. It’s Def Leppard playing (her choice)…and it’s perfect. It brings me back to when I first heard these songs (for completists and time chasers, its ‘Pyromania’), when I was 18, when I wouldn’t be seen on a beach without a black heavy metal t-shirt and ripped flannel. It was an open challenge to the season, and we always won. Because the summer didn’t know it was playing. .
But that was years ago. And the landscape has certainly changed for the boy. Now, as we fly to the shore, I cast my eye to the passenger seat, and there sits the perfect summer girl. Long dirty blonde hair, makeup that gives a glimmer (gold, of course) to the flash of her blue/green eyes, a two piece bikini (hushed silver metallic), her hand hangs lazily out the passenger window…I allow my eye to follow her gold ringed fingers up her tanned arm, I watch how the wind blows her lace cover all around, a flash of skin, with a maddening repetition; the bikini top revealed, in time with every 10th white line we pass. In time with the kick drum, too.
The music, the clearly 80’s vibe of excess and a certain misogyny, big beats, processed guitars, too many vocals on the choruses, which made every song sound like a keg party you’re bored of. All irrelevant, as the boys from Brighton knew what they were talking about when it came to girls; I watch her sing along to every word, completely unaware that that is something she should be embarrassed of. Except the utter pretentiousness of this thought embarrasses me.
She is singing along, and now I am too…because I know every word also. They are part of me, much better remembered than the Pledge of Allegiance, the Lords Prayer and my mom’s birthday combined. We head to the beach, me and my summer girl, and we smile at each other a lot and kiss at the stoplights.
The question: Do your fantasies at 18, going to the place you never imagined with the company you never expected to have access to, maintain into your fortieth year?
Not to critique the official Record Store Day, which I believe in and think is a fine DIY (though clearly some corporate blood money has been laundered through it, but that’s show biz!) movement. I became a man (OK, a elitist snot) in independent record stores. Starting in my gauzy youth at Earport in Fairfield where I purchased my first LP with my own money (‘The Grand Illusion’ by Styx. I was young.) I would go through the endless used LP’s looking at the covers, the titles, the artists, all while heady music played above me and cheap incense filled my virgin senses with images of rolling vans of rockers heading toward the sea shore: abandoned beaches white with frost.
I would judge records by there covers, as is the way of youth. It brought me to my first real Band love, Mott The Hoople via ‘Mott Live’ with its immensely creepy marionettes clapping and big ass H guitar that Ian worked in those glammy days. I saw the cover and it connected synapse in me from horror movies to ghost stories to comic books to the just sprouting seeds of raw lust. It was e;electric and almost instantaneous. I understood not the future, but the steps into a possible future.
Then it was Secret Sounds, Platters Plus, Brass City Records. Pilgrimages each. And multitudes of them. My tastes subtly change and I find myself shopping in sections I had never considered before. I started in Hard Rock but then Metal. Then folk. Blues. Hardcore. Punk. New Wave. And into the genre non specific place I come from now. Little treasure await those who go looking. That’s not only the larger idea of life, but the smaller concept of why records matter.
Records aren’t just history. The right records record YOUR history. Your first. Your worst purchase. Your best friends record that will always bring you back to them, whether they exist on this plane any longer or not. The first record you dedicated to a lover. The last record you ever need hear again.
Record are photos we were to distracted to take, to joyous to require, to sad to bother.
So I put forth this: Every Day Is Record Store Day.
You don’t need a logo to know where to go. The opportunities are all around you. Everybody is selling units. Your friends and their friends. Your town and city. Your state and the neighboring states. Amazon. Bandcamp.
Everyday you reach out beyond your collection to find some new shade to add is Record Store Day. Every time you hear something stream and write it down…or buy it immediately…is Record Store Day. Every Spotify playlist is a path to a larger purchase. Not financially, of course: Spotify is the devil. But you invest your time in something someone else took their time to make.
You need music. If you don’t, this is the wrong blog. Cause your author needs music.
We need not live out our best years nostalgic for the cheap vinyl bins of history. Everything you want (with the exception of Van Morrison) awaits you. And if your on a fence about a record, go on YouTube.
This blog is a celebration of a feeling. Its Tuesday and today the new Mountain Goats record is released. It’s awaiting me in my download folder, seductive, cruel, but deeply desired.
Today is my Record Store Day. And it’s yours too. If you want it.