Friday, January 26, 2007

Breaking DFSBP news: "Wild Animus" Beast-Man, Rich Shapero

it is with considerable mirth/great wariness that i report to you my discovery of the work of one Rich Shapero.

my friend Laal went to the Clipse concert the other night and returned with an odd sort of souvenir: a complimentary CD handed to her and other concertgoers upon their exit by a young Hispanic woman. i discovered this artifact on L's dresser last night and was instantly intrigued. the disc is credited to a man named Rich Shapero, depicted on the back as a middle-aged white dude standing in a snowy naturescape and squinting against the cold. the title of the release is "Wild Animus," but "The Ram" is also written on the cover, which bears an extremely cheesy, yet lavishly executed, cave-painting-style silhouette of a charging ram. it looks really Photoshopped and slick and wanna-be edgy.

opening the CD booklet, i saw more of the same: all this animal-themed faux-Native American imagery rendered in a really sensationalistic clip-arty style. then i started to browse through the lyrics and i was shocked--shocked!--by what i found. the first song, "From the Flames," begins, "The flesh is sizzling, / Limb muscles twitching, / Deep tissues pulling where the boiling blood anoints." the rest of the songs share this horrifically bad, wanna-be-deep-and-shocking vibe, and this theme emerges of a dude turning into a ram: "Draw my gaze in. / Chest covered with fur, not skin. / A white muzzle where my face has been."

but at the back of the booklet was the info that sent me into spasms of curiosity. the extensive list of Shapero's sidemen wasn't populated by fellow nobodies, but rather by well-respected veteran session musicians! ... Marc Ribot (polymathic downtown guitarist), Airto Moreira (Brazilian percussionist who's worked with Miles Davis and just about everyone else), Jim Keltner (drummer on a lot of the Beatles' solo stuff), Jerry Marotta (session drummer for Peter Gabriel and a ton of other megastars) and a bunch more. i turned the CD over and saw that it appeared to be self-released (label credit was "Too Far"--never heard of it). obviously, i'm thinking, "who the fuck is this guy?"

and then i played the CD. sweet, sweet jesus, this shit is heinous, but in a really fascinating way. basically it's atmospheric and slighty rootsy art rock, almost psychedelic, but really, really lush and meticulous with all these cheesy flourishes; just super overproduced and studio-sounding. but the vocals are the kicker: unbelievably tuneless, nasal and undramatic. it just sounds like some dorky white dude reciting poetry; there's a hint of a melody, but this dude just flat-out cannot sing a lick. just remarkable how shitty it is. the structures and arrangements are actually kind of avant-garde and interesting, which isn't really surprising given the players, but the overall effect is the worst kind of pretentious, self-important garbage. there's some superweird sections that almost sound sarcastic, such as on the jaunty "Cock and Spring" (yes, that's the actual title), but it's pretty clear that Mr. Shapero is not kidding in the least.

i almost didn't want to Google the guy, didn't want to know more. the enigma i was faced with was just too delicious and fraught with meaning; i was having too much fun trying to figure out who in the hell this musically impaired mook was that he was able to get world-class musicians to execute this piece of garbage. my only thought was that he had to be filthy rich.

i took the CD to work and quickly intro'd it to my colleagues. one by one, the jaws of each member of the "Time Out New York" music staff dropped as they demo'd the thing. even w/ preparation, this shit is straight-up shockingly awful.

Googling ensued, of course, and the facts were fascinating. i'll let a San Franciso Chronicle piece from '04 give you the basics:

"With deep pockets and an even deeper belief in his inner Hemingway, first-time novelist Rich Shapero is taking vanity publishing to a new level.

The Silicon Valley venture capitalist wrote his novel, founded a company to publish it and then launched one of the biggest and most colorful individual book giveaways ever.

Shapero, 56, is spending nearly a half-million dollars to promote "Wild Animus," due in stores in early October. And he has a 13-city book tour planned."

so this CD in my possession is the audio companion to a novel self-published in '04 by a frickin' venture capitalist?!? it's appparently being handed out all across the country at youth-oriented events. i can only imagine how many people left Webster Hall the other night with this thing in hand and played it only to recoil in horror. maybe i should start a support group.

anyway, there are some pretty strong feeelings on this guy floating around the web. one article--on Lyndon LaRouche's homepage no less--is entitled "'Wild Animus' Beast-Man, Rich Shapero, Exposed! (Please, put your pants back on.)" in it, Wesley Irwin describes the novel "Wild Animus" as--get this--"a detriment to the mental health of anyone who reads it" and summarizes the plot thusly:

"The story is about a "disillusioned UC Berkeley graduate" who "leaves behind a world of protests and riots to follow a wild, inner calling." The main character, "Sam," who, like Shapero in the '60s, takes mind-bending trips on LSD, ends up following his "wild animus" up to Seattle, and then into the remote regions of Alaska where he has an inner "truth-seeking" experience that takes him all the way to the "breaking point" of his sanity. In the book, he turns into an animal, specifically, a ram, renames himself "Ransom," freaks out on his girlfriend, and ends up dying in the wilderness of Alaska."

are you fucking kidding me?!?

Irwin goes on to posit that Shapero's whole survivalist/savage viewpoint is a conservative ruse:

"Why is this book being targetted into youth/political areas across Washington, Oregon, and California, weeks before what is probably the most important Presidential election in our lifetimes? It clearly promotes running away from facing today's frightening political realities, into a drug-induced schizophrenic escape into the wilderness, instead of effectively fighting (which the LaRouche Youth Movement is) against the mentally ill George Bush's, and Dick Cheney's preventive-war policy, which must be smashed if our U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence are going to survive."

daaaaaamn, son, this is some heavy shit. there are interviews with Shapero online, but i haven't yet delved into them yet. in the meantime, here's some relevant links so you can begin your own research. together, we must find out everything there is to know about Rich Shapero. DFSBP is now officially on "Wild Animus" watch; please report back with any findings.

Shapero interview on "BookCrossing"

website of Shapero's publishing imprint, Too Far

Rich Shapero CV

and lastly, an mp3 of "From the Flames" itself. please brace yourself, i implore you; this is no game. it's a whole new, insidious, can't-look-away kind of bad.

seriously, be alert, vigilant, etc. on this. Too Far/Wild Animus may be the new Scientology, or worse.


Anonymous said...

Good Luck!

Anonymous said...

hah, the new scientology, in Rich's dreams! Still, he's very entertaining in a train wreck sort of way. It's like a really bad b-movie bad, except he doesn't mean it to be.

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