Sunday, July 29, 2007

Rollins, RZA and Rick

first: i found the Simpsons movie extremely enjoyable. it wasn't a huge revelation seeing it on the big screen, but there was this great vibe of sort of watching the tube with a roomful of people and just having a fun time laughing at characters that have become like family. some minor characters got short-shrifted (where was Principal Skinner?) and the plot was a little absurd, but i laughed out loud at probably 85% of the jokes, which to me made it totally worthwhile.


now for several important archaeological finds:

Henry Rollins gets hit in the head during a 1983 Black Flag show in Germany and proceeds to have a hissyfit. first he sort of 'roids out and threatens to beat the culprit with the mike stand, but then he gets all whiny and self-righteous, i.e., "We came a long way to play for you guys! Why are you throwing things?!?" my favorite quote is "Don't throw shit at my face so I can sing for you!" (impact at 3:15, tirade continues for several minutes after that.)

for another school of thought on how to take a beer bottle to the head during a show, try this David Yow clip. utter insanity...

(christ, what a scary-good performance on every level.)


a thousand thank yous to Laal for hipping me to this, an appearance by Wu-Tang's the RZA on Fresh Air. at first i was all "ha-ha, the nerdy white lady is interviewing a rapper." but that lasted like ten seconds. pretty soon i was like, "Holy shit, this is an incredibly deep conversation." my favorite part is how RZA goes through his various personae and discusses the significance of each one. he also talks about learning to compose, waxes philosophical on martial arts movies, comes clean about his various excesses and talks about how his childhood was cut really, really short. seriously i don't know if this guy is always this articulate and insightful, but this seems to me like a really special encounter.


i'm obsessed with Rick Astley. there's something about that voice... how do you describe it? it's kind of like some weird head-voice shit a la Michael McDonald. deep, bellowing, almost comically tuneful. i hadn't seen the following video (for "Never Gonna Give You Up") in probably a decade, but i had never been able to shake the notion of the incongruity between voice and singer. what a babyface this guy has! and you gotta love the red hair and double-denim action. and dig the completely stiff dancing; they cut every 1.5 seconds b/c if they stayed still, you'd pick up on it. the dude has exactly one move: the lateral shimmy.

anyway, i love this fucking song too, especially the part about "You wouldn't get this from any other guy," as if Rick's trying to sell his prospective lover a used car. anyway, dig it (watch for the skeptical black bartender who can't resist the Astley onslaught):

and dig this live version, where you get an even better view of the shimmy (admittedly the live vox sound awesome even if NO ONE ELSE IN THE BAND is actually playing). check out the snarl on "'re too shy to say it!" at 1:10:

and i even found one from 2005 where Rick rocks the first part acoustic and fools with the melody a bit. the dude's aged pretty well, no? nice disco groove from the band as well:

Friday, July 27, 2007

Brand new BAG

reading books is hard, no? well, more accurately, it's finishing books that's the really hard part. if i'm reading a book, a lot of times, i'll only dip into it on the train, which leads to fitful and extremely protracted reading.

some books, though, just sort of read themselves. when i say "i couldn't put that book down," it tends to be not necessarily b/c it's the greatest book ever written, but simply b/c i am utterly fascinated with the topic.

the latter was very much the case with the book i just finished, "'Point from Which Creation Begins': The Black Artists' Group of St. Louis" by Benjamin Looker. don't know that i've really mentioned the Black Artists' Group (i.e., BAG) on here too much, but it's been a pretty big deal to me in recent months.

more accurately, it's Julius Hemphill, one of the key BAG members, that i've been incessantly obsessed with of late. check out this Destination Out post and this Darcy James Argue post for some helpful background on the 'Hemp. more importantly, track down "Dogon A.D." and "Coon Bid'ness." first one has never been on CD to my knowledge and the second is kinda tough to find (there's an edition under the name "Reflections" floating around), but you'll often see LP editions of them from the Arista Freedom catalog floating around at used-record shops.

anyway, so this book. it's by a pretty young dude, and i guess what i'd say to begin with is that it's a really good read. not revelatory, but i definitely learned a whole lot. one thing that really struck me about the book was that it succeeded in engaging me with the nonmusical portions of BAG, which is kind of a huge deal.

as a fan of jazz and improvised music, i've at times been frustrated by multimedia collaborations (dance, visual art, poetry, film, etc.) that seem superficial, or extramusical additions that detract rather than enhance. i'm not going to name names and i know this is an extremely biased and blanket sort of statement, but it's really just been a taste issue for me. the bottom line is that i haven't seen too many performances of this sort where i've come away thinking "WOW."

anyway, but BAG (active in St. Louis from '68-'72) was an inherently multimedia collective, and Looker makes sure to drive that home. he talks time and time again how BAG's musicians (most visibly, Oliver Lake, Julius Hemphill, Hamiet Bluiett and several others) were really the group's ambassadors to the world, but how the group was much more than a jazz guild. when i first got the book, i cherry-picked it and read only the parts on Hemphill and Co., but this time i went straight through and i was glad i got hipped to poets such as K. Curtis Lyle and Ajule Rutlin, painters such as Emilio Cruz and dancers such as Luisah Teish. it was pretty to awesome to read about how closely BAG's various divisions worked together and how each production incorporated as many of those elements as possible.

the book is pretty open about the fact that BAG was kind of a failed experiment. a lot of it discusses the group's intense struggles to find a niche in St. Louis and how its fortunes were intimately wrapped up with the civil-rights struggles of the day. ultimately it seems like one of the main things that wore BAG down was the fact that members disagreed over how political the organization should be. though there was dispute over this issue, it's pretty amazing how the group was able to integrate itself into the community--it's hard to imagine artists today not only living in impoverished areas but directing their performances toward the residents of those areas. Looker tells of countless BAG shows inside housing projects. as Hemphill said, "This ain't a conservatory. This is out of the neighborhood. That's where my impetus comes from." and crucially, that's where he and the others applied their gifts too.

another cool thing about the book is it gives you an intense feeling for how important Midwestern artists were in general for the development of avant-garde jazz. the AACM--which is the shining example for this sort of collective--and BAG enjoyed a really awesome interchange, which was facilitated by trumpeter Lester Bowie, who went to high school in St. Louis and then later moved to Chicago and joined the AACM. they really opened a lot of doors for BAG; one of the coolest tales in the book is of how the Art Ensemble of Chicago visits Paris, gets a great reception and then returns home to encourage the BAG dudes to get to Europe as quickly as possible (Bowie apparently told them: "Just get there. You'll work."). there's this sense that Chicago and St. Louis only had a finite amount to offer these genius artists and that they had to work together to find out where to go next, namely Paris and on to New York.

the epilogue is the success story of some of the BAG dudes' arrival in New York, where they made a splash on the loft scene with their individual units and with the World Saxophone Quartet. as w/ the Chicagoans, a lot of listeners recognized that BAG had a unique spin on avant-garde jazz--heavily theatrical, eclectic and R&B-influenced--that really stuck out among the post-Coltrane blowouts that were the norm in New York.

the WSQ was really the icing on the cake, in a ton of ways. the BAG dudes (Hemphill, Lake and Bluiett) really got the recognition they deserved out of that endeavor. not to diminish the importance of BAG's nonmusical wings, but it's likely that if it weren't for the WSQ, Looker's book might not have been written. maybe that's a stretch, but they were certainly the crown jewel in the group's extended history.

anyway, the book is highly recommended if you've got an interest in either these musicians in particular or just the struggle of avant-garde arts to flourish outside of major cosmopolitan cities. it's a fascinating process, and Looker does a great job of showing how BAG was both enriched and beaten down by the culture of St. Louis.

one caveat: Looker did a ton of original interviewing for the book, but in my opinion, he does not include even remotely enough quoted material from the participants. time and again, i found myself frustrated my measly quotes of sometimes just a word or a phrase. long stretches feature no quotes at all. this kind of bummed me out, but Looker really makes this into more of an essay than anything. it's *his* account of this scenario, which has both advantages and disadvantages. that said, i learned a lot and i'm thrilled that he undertook a serious history of BAG at all.

now the next step is obviously George Lewis's AACM history. cannot wait for that. anyone have any release date news?

here's a World Saxophone Quartet track to take you out... Julius Hemphill's "My First Winter" from the "Live in Zurich" disc. it's kind of inappropriate as a coda to this entry b/c the main soloist is non-BAGger David Murray, but it's a sick track nonetheless:

My First Winter

by the way, Looker's tome is available here. the book ain't "Forces in Motion" or "Dixonia" (probably my two favorite jazz volumes), but it is a very serious addition to the canon.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

HuffPo: "Sunday, Nasty Sunday"

have lapsed a bit on "The Huffington Post," but i dreamt up a new post last night, on the concept of nastiness in Flannery O'Connor and Robert Altman.


also, the William T. Vollmann/"Denny Lo Quiche" mystery has been solved... what he said was "Danilo Kis"! check out the Vollmann interview here (scroll to the bottom). thx to Laal for the link and to DFSBP readers Dave and Peter for their efforts in helping me crack the code. (background here for those who have no idea what i'm talking about.)

Friday, July 20, 2007

Sui- generis

for the record, Allentown, PA's Pissed Jeans pretty much deserves whatever hype they're getting. they're playing at Southpaw tomorrow night, so go. if you need some incentive, read this thingie that i wrote about them in Time Out. (also there are mp3s here and here (scroll down).) i had an awesome time interviewing the singer, Matt Korvette, a truly hilarious and unassuming dude--until he starts vocalizing at least. then he's depraved and alarmingly unhinged.

anyway, i started thinking about them today b/c of this idea that i touched on in the piece: "Much as the idea of paranoia provided constant creative fuel for Pink Floyd, the emotional muse of Pissed Jeans is the state of *****being massively, almost tragically bummed*****—in the most mundane sense imaginable. Previously, Korvette’s lyrics have addressed topics ranging from nasty flu symptoms (“I’m Sick”) to postejaculatory depression (“Ashamed of My Cum”); on the band’s new Sub Pop debut, Hope for Men, he disdains his yuppie neighbors, finds the anguish in eating too much ice cream and even rails against the weather."

so anyway, that idea (of the massive, tragic bummer) came to mind while i was reading "A Scanner Darkly." i'm totally in love with the book philosophically and emotionally, but the humor is really what's getting me. there's one scene in particular that really encapsulates that idea of the ultimate bummer.

so basically this deadbeat junkie, Charles Freck, is trying to off himself and he takes a whole bunch of pills that he thinks will do the trick. it turns out they're actually hallucinogens though and he just ends up on an awful trip. check it out: (and i quote...)

---> He had to face the fact--considering how many of the capsules he had swallowed--that he was in for some trip.

The next thing he knew, a creature from between dimensions was standing beside his bed looking down at him disapprovingly.

The creature had many eyes, all over it, ultra-modern expensive-looking clothing, and rose up eight feet high. Also, it carried an enormous scroll.

'You're going to read me my sins,' Charles Freck said.

The creature nodded and unsealed the scroll.

Freck said, lying helpless on his bed, 'and it's going to take a hundred thousand hours.'

Fixing its multiple compound eyes on him, the creature from between dimensions said, 'We are no longer in the mundane universe. Lower-plane categories of material existence such as 'space' and 'time' no longer apply to you. You have been elevated to the transcendent realm. Your sins will be read to you ceaselessly, in shifts, throughout eternity. The list will never end.'

Know your dealer, Charles Freck thought, and wished he could take back the last half-hour of his life.


Ten thousand years later they had reached the sixth grade.

The year he had discovered masturbation. <-- (and i end quote)

frickin' cosmic bummer, right? anyway, this book rules. can't wait for movie! (even though everyone says it sux.)


speaking of suicide (yeesh, there's no way to finesse that one...), this is an unbelievable article on the history of Golden Gate Bridge jumpers that Laal found in the New Yorker. basically it's a polemic on the idea that a safety barrier needs to be built on that architectural marvel asap. but the details are what got me--how bout the guy whose note said that he was going to walk to the bridge to jump and he'd turn back if even one person smiled at him (no one did). or the guy who actually survived the jump (whoa) and recalls thinking as he went over the edge, 'I instantly realized that everything in my life that I’d thought was unfixable was totally fixable—except for having just jumped.'

damn, sorry to go so heavy on a Friday, but as discussed last episode (again from P.K. Dick) "Life is only heavy and none else."

(p.s., anyone seen the "Jumpers" doc that was inspired by the aforementioned New Yorker piece? apparently includes much actual jumping footage--don't really know if that's something i'm interested in viewing. extremely curious, though...)

Monday, July 16, 2007

k.c. jones // creep show // etc.

and just like that... my longest blogging caesura yet. reasons are myriad, but for one thing, i've just returned from a few days in my hometown of K.C. i'd like to extend warm thanks to my family (mom, dad, Caro and the dogs) and friends (Jeff, Chris, Laura, Laura and Erin) for a wonderful time.


the unlikely theme song for the weekend was "Dance Tonight," the leadoff track on the new Paul McCartney album, "Memory Almost Full." i guess the best way i can describe my reaction to this song is "creeped out." the disc was in my mom's car and i wanted to sample it. as "Dance Tonight" began playing, i was kind of shocked at its blandness, not to mention the fact that the voice is basically unrecognizable as Paul McCartney.

it's like this strummy bouncy repetitive breezy bit: "Everybody gonna dance tonight / Everybody gonna dance tonight / Everybody gonna dance around tonight" and so forth. it's really funny reading along w/ the lyrics. i guess it's infectious in a really basic way, but what really gets to me is the little turnaround where he goes "You can come over to my place if you want to...." it's like he just sorta slips that in there, i.e., "hey, everybody's having a great time; we're all dancing; i'm Sir Paul; isn't this fun and whimsical? ... and by the way, do you want to shag?" ewwww... i'm sure this is not meant as a sexual thing, but by god does it register that way.

combine that line with the intensely aggravating promo pics that Starbucks has plastered everywhere (has anyone noticed that in the shot above, McCartney is essentially sporting his version of Zoolander's Blue Steel face?) and you've got one annoying product. hear the song in question for yourself at this link. maybe it's saying something that i'm claiming to despise this track, but i keep returning to it, but i honestly think the simplicity combined with the innuendo makes for an unintentionally hilarious piece of music. i don't know what it is; it just makes me giggle.


three other things:

--> Laal and i have moved on to Philip K. Dick's "A Scanner Darkly" and i'm totally into it. love the post-Beatnik jive talk especially, e.g., "Life... is only heavy and none else; there is only the one trip, all heavy. Heavy that leads to the grave. For everyone and everything." dig it!

--> i'm the last one to say so, but the Boredoms 77Boadrum thing was pretty excellent. i won't even bother w/ linkage b/c everyone and their mother has weighed in on this thing. a true event indeed.

--> a nice appearance by William T. Vollmann, in conjunction w/ the Whitney's "Summer of Love" exhibit. L and i had just finished "Poor People," and then lo and behold the dude rolls into town as part of a mini panel discussion on photography and violence, also featuring Richard Drew, who took the famous "Falling Man" pics of the guy plummeting from the WTC on 9/11.

a very thought-provoking and successful event, methinks. the main thing that was driven home was the difference in the two men's approaches: Drew, an AP photographer, essentially portrayed himself as an apolitical shutterbug, i.e., he just does the best job he can at capturing the history that's unfolding around him at any time, whether that's a party celebrating the new "Harry Potter" or the assassination of Robert Kennedy. Vollmann on the other hand repeatedly expressed his interest in "helping" via his prose and pictures. he goes places and documents events with the explicit goal of making things better. (he claimed that he probably wouldn't go to Iraq if asked b/c there would be nothing he could do to help, i.e., everyone already knows it's a shit show.)

Drew got into some hobby-horsing at times, complaining about his more controversial pictures not being picked up by certain news outlets and proudly declaiming that he's never turned down an assignment. but Vollmann was remarkably modest and unpretentious.

Vollmann gave real insight into his character when he talked about how when two of his colleagues were shot through the head while sitting in a car w/ him in Sarajevo, his immediate reaction was to photograph them and then begin taking notes on the experience. craziness.

what a humble guy though. he's just sort of the quintessential subjective journalist; recording experiences we hope we'll never have but are intensely curious about. apparently the next book he's readying is one about riding the rails; he also mentioned another one about Japanese Noh theater. can't wait for either.

some really pretentious questions were lobbed up, but one response Vollmann gave during Q&A is worth repeating. asked who his literary influences are, he said (i'm paraphrasing): "i've been inspired over the years by great stylists such as Lautreamont, Denny Lo Quiche [note: that's my transcription of what i think i heard. i have no idea who this author is. anyone know a writer with a name that sounds vaguely like that?] and Hawthorne." even without that Denny fellow, you've still gotta love the juxtaposition of the French Surrealist Lautreamont (among other things, he wrote about a dude that copulates w/ a shark) and the dude who wrote "The Scarlet Letter." anyway, awesome to see Bill in the flesh, sporting a shirt that said "TALK IS CHEAP" in big letters, no less...

Monday, July 02, 2007

Walt Dickerson interview, part 2

I present to you part two of the Walt Dickerson interview from 6/29/03. The first part is here in case you missed it.

[some quotes depend heavily on inflection, so if you have trouble deciphering what he's getting at in any particular passage, drop a line and i'll try to paraphrase.]

HS: It seems that your music requires a lot of dexterity. Having never seen you live, I’m curious: Do you move around when you play?

WD: I used to - used to - move. That's they way- That's what I felt, and my feelings would cause me to move, and I would move according to my feelings. What I was playing at the time, and- So they would be varied, my physical movements would be varied according to what I was playing at the time. Over a period of time, the movements became less, less pronounced, and now my movements are usually to get over the instruments; sometimes, some passages cause me to move in a very accelerated fashion to get what I'm reaching for. But my movements are less, and I think that's due to being able to reach or access what it is I hear more easily. As the development of the technique increases or increased, the movement became less; the physical movement became less. Yeah, that's how that whole movement thing was.

HS: You played with a lot of people that are not well known, such as the drummer Jimmi Johnsun and the bassist Andy McKee.

WD: Andy McKee is a fine bassist, and he's around New York now to my knowledge; yeah, he's around New York now, and he came to- The last time I saw Andy was when I performed at the Vanguard in New York, and he came down, and we had a nice time together. As a matter of fact, he brought his bass down; he wanted to play in the worst way, but at the time it wasn't possible. But he was in several of the big bands around New York.

Jimmi Johnsun was a musical drummer, a very musical drummer; he played piano also- very tasty. And he played with several of the New York musicians. Their names escape me now, but at the time, they were among the ones doing it on the scene, and Jimmi Johnsun was a part of that group of very good musicians. [He was] out of Baltimore. I know Jimmi from when I was in school at Morgan State University and Peabody Conservatory, and he had a strong desire to go to Europe, and I fulfilled his burning desire to visit Europe, and he performed excellently.

But then, there was Abdul-Malik who was well known, the bassist who was a cornerstone of Monk's quartet for a good while; we had some interesting excursions. Malik, I enjoyed playing with.

I played with all the musicians that- Benny Golson, out of Philly; I played with them. So, along the way, I played with many of them, but I chose certain individuals when I was in New York for the recordings, individuals that appealed to me at the time; I didn't go according to, you know, who they had played with; it didn't matter to me, no. Their talents, their taste was what persuaded me to choose them; all of them that I chose for my recordings, that's what it was based on. There were those that were with the individuals that one would say- front-line individuals that asked, but I didn't care to have them record with me, yeah. Choice, choices was the reason that I chose them, the individuals that did perform with me. Based on musicality, compatibility, and I liked them as human beings; that has a lot to do with it too.

HS: Henry Grimes has resurfaced recently.

WD: Yes, I heard, I heard. Isn't that wonderful?

HS: Have you been in touch with him?

WD: No, I have not. No, I got the wire [Note: Though Grimes’s story was reported in the music magazine the Wire, this is actually a reference to Dickerson’s personal network of musician friends. It’s explained just below.]—of course I always get the information... by way of the wire, I have connections; I'm well-informed of what's going on just about everywhere because people are in constant contact with me, letting me know what's going on. So, I'm not in a void.

Yeah, I was glad to hear that Henry was back- a very fine bassist. I recall, he was on the West Coast- the information I received was that he was on the West Coast and that he's now back. And I think Reggie [Workman]'s doing his best to assist him on his return. That's what I've heard so far, and I’m glad to hear it; I look forward to hearing some things from Henry, yeah, yeah.

He had a brother that was a tremendous tenor saxophonist, tremendous tenor saxophonist. I recall the Grimes brothers... Oh yeah, he's from Philly... Oh yeah, I chose him [for the Jazz Impressions of Lawrence of Arabia session]; he came right in and did a fantastic job.

HS: Who are the other musicians, besides Andrew Cyrille, who make up "the wire"?

WD: Strangely enough, they're- most of them are PhD's at various universities; constant contact. During the summer, they'll be through; they'll call me, and we'll spend time together- come down, come up, come down, come from the West, come from wherever they are. We'll spend a couple of days going over things. A couple musicians- I won't name them, I won't give up my sources, except for the one that you mentioned.

Yeah, having to do with the educational process they find me aggravating at times, but interesting, is the reason why I guess we're still in contact, [why I've] developed a friendship with them. But there's always a heated debate when they come around, and I find it enjoyable, and they find it enjoyable- refreshing. They need that; they need it; I understand that they need it, so I give it to them! They need it in the worst way, and they love me for giving it to them, getting them out of the doldrums of academia.

I understand it's a job, a job, as most of these institutional things are, but don't become enamored with it, you know, like, it is what it isn't. See it for what it is, and do your job. Some find it increasingly difficult; they become rather rebellious as far as the curriculum is concerned, and I've been accused of that- through conversation with some of them, and them becoming rather rebellious and wanting to institute certain things in the curriculum that kind of rub the hierarchy the wrong way. And I've been guilty of that, and happily so; it means I'm doing my job. So musically and verbally, which are the same - One and the same; always remember they're one and the same; what one espouses verbally is what you'll hear musically; they're one and the same; but of course that isn't taught in academia, that they're one and the same; they're separate; those two areas are separated. "Now let's talk about the man. We've discussed his music; now let's talk about the man." is the way it goes. Well, don't you know, when you discuss his music, you discuss what he's about; you're discussing what the man stands for; they're one and the same. Then the person gets a better glimpse of what the person is really about when you put the two together as it should be. He's not a separate entity from his projections; they're one and the same. Treat them as such; view them as such, and then you get the complete picture. Isolate them, and you'll get a distorted picture, not complete, subject to your assumptions, which are ninety percent of the time erroneous. Put them together; like in life, you put them together, and you bypass the automatic bicameral processes, and that's the objective: to become conscious to the state whereby you can pass those bicameral processes. That's evolving because they're automatic bicameral processes; that's an automatic process; those are the automatic processes that occur, no thought involved, subject to hallucinatory events; by way of the automatic bicameral process one is subject to that hallucinatory phenomenon, listening to.

Hence, mysticism; hence the formation of institutions to control and dominate the mass by way of various figures put before them.

HS: Are you talking about religion?

WD: [sarcastically] How keen you must be. Of course. Also astro-quantum-particle physics are involved in that, one of the culprits, dealing in cold fusion, low-energy nano-nanotechnology in the search for the fictional, wishful birthplace of our forever-evolving plasmatic universe by way of the Big Bang. Remember what I told you earlier, and you put the pieces together: Starting here, starting here, starting here - that which forever has been. Fact! Honesty. It's a joy. And as you do that, Hank, some interesting facts come up from your storehouse of facts which are already there. As you meditate, focus on these profound things, things that come to you as some would say out of the blue. No, nothing is by chance; everything can be determined [???]. It appears a bit cloudy at first, but then one focuses; the clouding dissipates, and another fact appears on the photoscreen of your mind, an undeniable fact accompanied by honesty; already there, already there waiting for you to access it.

Some revelations appear so clear, I've had occasions, and my wife also, to just embrace each other with joy, sometimes with tears of joy as to how it occurs, how the process works. They ask me, and they'll ask my wife- she usually passes it on to me- "How long have you been married?" they'll ask my wife. She'll say, "Ask Walt." Well, they're usually kind of reluctant if they've ever said anything to me; they usually have their reservations about asking me things, people in general; I don't know why, but I do know why, because my reply is "Forever." "No, no, no" is what they'll say, "I don't mean that." [laughter] And my reply is, "But I do mean that, but you don't understand what my forever encompasses, and simply, it encompasses forever! Now one day when you have time and I have equal time, I'll be glad to sit down with you and share some things with you so as to bring about some clarity in your mind regarding what I meant by the statement 'forever.'" And that's always an amusing point to make, pursuing that question; it always has been very amusing to me, but it is congruent with being ageless, "Oh, but that's right, we haven't talked, or you would begin to put the pieces together." When we can communicate- I mean communicate - we are of the same age; yesterday, today, and tomorrow are today, thus the sameness on the scale of infinity.

HS: I’m curious about other members of your family. One of your compositions is dedicated to a brother who died, right?

WD: [hesitantly, gravely] Yes, yes, we were very close. Service-related; at sea. Hmmm... a smaller craft capsized and went down. We were very close; we had many moments of joy together early on... [He was] older...

As a matter of fact I had two brothers that passed by way of the service, armed forces. There were four of us; two went that route. So when I speak about wars- totally unnecessary. Initiatory force is only valid in self-defense; other than that, it's destructive and value-less. There is no need for that kind of activity; it does not occur in the civilization of the universe- civilizations of the universes; it does not occur. Again, a fact that we are in the anti-civilization. And I hear them speak; I hear the verbiage: what we must do to them, what we must do to them- I hear it. You can't help but hear it; it's so pervasive; we're being inundated by it. And I did my time in that part of the system, the armed forces, strangely enough; so it's not like I'm speaking as an outsider. I went through that, but even then what did I do? I looked at the gun as if it was my enemy. I looked at the rifle that was given to me to do what, to do what? To commit murder to another mother's son and I knew that wasn't right; I knew that wasn't right.

So then, the forces that I later became aware of told me what to do. I did that. So I was assigned to the Seventh Army Symphony- again, playing music – which is located in Stuttgart, Germany. I also toured with my own quartet while in the service, playing music. I discarded the uniform while I was in the service; I wore civilian clothes while performing in the army; I toured extensively; I enjoyed playing music while in the army.

My eldest brother wasn't as fortunate. When he went in, he was shot unfortunately; he lost his little finger on his left hand. He was a fantastic concert violinist; of course that ended his career as a violinist, as you very well know how important that little finger is.

So, that was my excursion through the service and the realization that there had to be a better way for man to deal with man than warfare. No, that's not civil at all; that's not humane at all. Therefore, the music indicates that. It's there; it happens when performing, various thoughts come across one's mind. Sometimes, it happens before you commence to perform; something will be on your mind of that ilk, and whereas I used to try to shake it from my mind, I learned to embrace it and let the thoughts and creative projections coexist which is what's supposed to happen: one answers the other; therefore it's there in the music.

Oh, what a sea of sound [responding to birds chirping?].

HS: Is there a possibility or a desire for collaboration with other musicians in the future?

WD: There's always been requests; I'm always being requested. Requests are always being made: "Let's do; let's do." And I'm not saying that I won't at some point in time; I probably will at some point. I might just do a duo performance with someone, a concert duo performance. I haven't ruled anything out; nothing is etched in stone, so that remains to be seen.

HS: Your duets have been very artful, sparse and meditative. I think you really pioneered something in your duets with Richard Davis and Pierre Dorge that hasn't been pursued by anyone else.

WD: Yes, you're right; I don't know of it having been pursued by anyone else, but there again, that's the beauty in the art form: there's a niche there, a niche there, so many niches to be filled. That's the nature of what we're dealing with. It isn't necessary. If you want that, there it is; if you enjoy that, there it is; if you enjoy that, there it is. So many areas to be filled; we're dealing with an art of creativity at its highest level. When you're dealing with creativity at its highest level, all of the niches can never be filled; there's a niche for everyone, every artist, and it behooves the artist to seek his or her niche, and, as it has been written, that that is the area of greatness. Be that as it may, it's just something that I'm a part of, and it's a part of me; we are the same, one and the same. So, it is with great honor and distinction that I accept that and cherish that uniqueness. Hopefully, it will allow others - and this has happened to hear that, pinch from it, and try to find their own niche; that has happened: many pinches from it, hopefully in route to finding their own niche. Yes; yes; yes.

HS: You seem to want to record and perform.

WD: Oh yeah! Hank, that's my job; that's what I'm here for; that's my love!

HS: Actually I’m here for the same thing. My band played last night in Philadelphia.

WD: Why didn't you tell me? Yeah, why didn't to tell me! Awww, don't do that!

HS: You would have been into checking it out?

WD: Of course I would have. Wow, wow.

HS: Well, it’s sort of a heavy rock band...

WD: It's funny, one time I was performing someplace, and there was a very strong rhythm and blues element at the club, and they were used to some very hard – you know what I’m talking about – the backbeat and so forth; that’s what they were used to. So, I started to play in that area just for the hell of it and the fact that I can, and Andrew [Cyrille] was the drummer, and Andrew picked it up and began to apply the backbeat, and we got into a thing there [laughs]- I never will forget it; we brought the house down with this backbeat, blues excursion, and after it was over, Andrew ran up to me and said, “Damn, Walt, I never knew you could play that shit!” [laughs] It was one of the funniest experiences. I said, “Man, please, don’t you know that’s how you come up, playin’ everything?” You come up playin’ everything… I forget who the other ones [on the gig] were; it was really just Andrew and myself who got what was going on because I think the other two were just shocked; they weren’t even present really; there was just the two of us, you know, into the thing… I was playing the things that I was playing in the Prestige days… It was back then, but I never forgot it. Oh, you never forget that; oh no; never forget it.

Like I said, we came up playing everything; that’s how we came up. We played everything coming through. You name it: singers, the rest of it. Yeah… It brought me to where I am; it was a part of the growth cycle; sure. It’s enriching, and everybody has their own way of coming through; I don’t say, “You should do this, or you should do that;” no, no, no; it’s not for me to say how you should come through; that’s you; you’re building your uniqueness. How you come through? No, I don’t give advice on that; no. “You should do this; you should do that.” No. I can appreciate you for where you are. I don’t care where you are in your growth cycle; I can see where you are, and I can appreciate where you are. See that’s the difference, knowing that that’s a period in time; that’s where he is or she is at this period in time. “Now let me hear; let me hear.” Then you listen to things; you listen to things; you hear things; beautiful, beautiful. And it doesn’t matter where you are on that scale; you would get nothing but encouragement from me. You see, that’s being who we really are. If I can be an inspiration to a person, if I can uplift their spirits, that’s what I’m about. [We] don’t have to be about the same thing, ok? We can go into a blues house and enjoy it, and enjoy them for where they are.

I’m not to say [whether or not rock is valid]; I’m not to say that. I know they’ve attributed some things about it that they used to attribute to the music that I play. Quote: “Awww, what could be any worse than the devil’s music?” And I’m going to turn around and join that mentality by saying derogatory things about what they say is that music? No, you don’t get that from me; please, please. I’m not there; I’m not there at all; I will not join you as you go about abrogating this music or that music; no, I won’t join you there; no. The same thing has been done to me; should I repeat it? Then I haven’t learned. No, no. I want to hear what you have to say. I don’t care where you are. If I happen to be there, or you happen to be in my presence, I want to hear what you have to say, musically and verbally, and then I’m going to pick out nothing but the delightful aspects of what you said or what you played; those are the only things that are going to come from my lips. You see because if that’s all I look for, that’s what I’ll hear, that’s what I’ll see, that’s what I’ll receive, and that’s what I’ll become. Only the beautiful aspects.

[I tell Walt about the rock bands that I’m in.]

… So many ways to get what you want done from that person; they do things that you enjoy, so we just bridge the gap and go over here and sit down and talk and, “You know what? I like your strength. We were playing that song and your strength…, and if you were ever in control of your nuances, that would be awesome, baby; that would be awesome.” “What did you say, Walt? ‘If I was in control of my nuances?’ Well, hell, I can work on that.” I said, “I know damn well you can work on that.” It’s done… They love you; they love you because you’re giving it to them with love. Remember what you throw out; throw out what you want to come back; throw out the love. I love the love coming back- Oh yes, yes, yes! … Sure, but that’s why we’re alive; we love love comin’ back at us, just being inundated by love comin’ back at us- the greatest feeling there is.

Dudes on the street: “Man, I love you Mr. Dickerson; man, you a cool dude [laughs]. Everywhere, I mean wherever I go. They could be hoods, what some people would call hoods, gangsters- I talk to ‘em; they don’t even know who I am, but I talk to ‘em man-to-man about an issue one of ‘em had.

[His grandmother said,] “Mr. Dickerson, would you talk to ‘em? There’s three of ‘em over there, and I’m tryin’ to tell ‘em they don’t have to do the things they do; life’s not about bein’ a gangster; you’ve got the wrong slant on life.”
“Sure, sure, sure. They your boys? Sure I’ll talk to ‘em.”
“You gonna come down and talk to ‘em? It’s kinda rough down there; it’s kinda rough.”
I said, “How rough is it?”
“Well, you know, shootings go on.”
I said, “The place ever blow up?”
“No, the place never blew up.” [laughs]
I said, “Ok, that’s cool then.” [laughs]
And I go there; I go there, drive down, and usually- I remember three of ‘em in particular - they were considered very hard-core, ok? – and one of ‘em’s grandmother asked me to talk to ‘em – she’s a fan of mine… I’m a father; they’re young men, ok? See, it encompasses all areas of one’s life, ok? The music. I remember this particular incident: the fellow to the right of me was sitting there with the other three, and I walked in; he introduced himself; the other three introduced themselves; a couple of ‘em reluctantly did so. I gave them their handshake. “Oh man!” one of ‘em said. I wasn’t supposed to know their handshake, you understand? I wasn’t one of them. I said, “I don’t have much time, fellas; I don’t have much time, but the time we spend is going to be quality time, ok?” “Yeah, that’s cool.”
Because they were about to do something, ok? I said, “You hope to have kids someday, right?”
“Yeah, I’m gonna have kids; sure, yeah, I’m gonna have kids.”
“You don’t want any harm comin’ to those kids, right? To your kids? You don’t any harm comin’ to ‘em? You have a beautiful little daughter, you don’t want anyone harmin’ her? You have a nice handsome son, you don’t want anybody slidin’ up to him, blowin’ him away, do you? You wouldn’t like that, would you? They’d better not.” I said, “Ok, let’s start now by preventing that from happening.”
“How you gonna do that, man?”
“By you not doing it; by you not doing it; that’s the first thing. There’s gotta be another way, man. I tell you what, I’m gonna invite all of you over to my crib, and then we’re going to talk further.”
“You gonna invite us up to your room?”
“I said up to my crib man? You know where I’m comin’ from; I hope you know where I’m comin’ from.”
“Damn, man, you real. Man, where you get him from, man?” they said to the one who invited me.
“I told you, man,” he said. “I know some down old dudes.”

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Got the 'Guts?

you know how in "Dr. Strangelove," so much of the absurdity comes from arms-race paranoia? i.e., George C. Scott's "We cannot allow a mine-shaft gap!" proclamation. anyway, technical death metal is sort of like that, in that no one can ever really win the sweepstakes, i.e., each time a record drops that seems like the new benchmark of complexity and aggression, another one tops it by a mile.

anyway, i'm not up enough on this genre to tell you who's currently got the edge, but i will say that Germany's Necrophagist is the state-of-the-art as far as i'm concerned. (though they've been touring their 2004 disc, "Epitaph," for a mite too long. they'd best drop another disc soon...)

wanted to throw up a little mention here of a classic of the genre for the curious: "Obscura" by Gorguts, circa 1998. quick history of this Canadian band is that they did some fairly run-of-the-mill death metal in the early '90s, then disappeared for five years, only to resurface in '98 with a whole new sound, a whole new lineup (guitarist-vocalist Luc Lemay was the only one who stayed) and this monster of a disc.

"Obscura" is sort of like the "Trout Mask Replica" of contemporary metal. no one who's heard it can believe how fucking weird it is. i first heard of it via Colin Marston of Behold... the Arctopus, a serious fucking tech-metal authority if there ever was one, and his recommendation was backed up by Tim Byrnes of Friendly Bears and Chuck Stern of Time of Orchids, two other serious tech/prog aficionados. all spoke of the disc with "whoa, dude" reverence.

so here's the leadoff title track

Gorguts - Obscura

a few things i'd point out about this one... note the insane stop-startness of the rhythms. this is some seriously precarious shit. it's hard enough to play the blast beat (that superfast tata-tata-tata-tata thingie that's the hallmark of death-metal drumming) without essentially rebooting every few beats like this dude, Patrick Robert, does. these drum parts are seriously chopped and screwed in real time (or whatever the antithesis of chopped and screwed would be, i.e., if the basic beats were made infinitely faster and more disjointed).

but the best thing about "Obscura" is the completely loony guitar work from Lemay and Steeve Hurdle. during that first break you can hear the crazy snarling squelching tone they favor. and the riffs are incalculably difficult, but the snazzy chords somehow make them really catchy.

my favorite part of this track is the breakdown at about 1:25. the guitar in the left channel sounds like it's being played by a goddamn hi-powered sewing machine, just peppered with notes, and the one in the left is heaving and snarling and lurching.

then there's that spiraling, hard-grooving math-metal crunch around 2:30. sick, vertiginous riff, that one. the song never lets you breathe. it's like this swirling pit of grossness and jaggedness. and the album pretty much follows suit. pick that shit up used via Amazon, yo.

(if you're wondering what the vocalist--i'm not sure if it's Lemay or Hurdle--is growling about, it has something to do w/ nostalgia and emotional reverie, no joke: "Clouded by the bliss obscura / Covered by the frame of drama")

other resources:

amazing interviews/demos of some "Obscura" songs courtesy of Lemay and bassist Steve Cloutier. i love the dorky intros: "This is Luc." "And this is Steve from Gorguts," and just the sort of scholarly-dude/dudely-scholar vibe these two emanate. Lemay talks about Gorguts attempting to "invent its own dialect," and listening to "Obscura," you can see how completely they accomplished that. and they even demo that insane sewing machine shit i mentioned above. i also gotta give props to the Marston/Byrnes/Stern triumvirate for hipping me to this goldmine. check it...

there's a part two to this which is easily findable on YewTewb if you're interested.

post-"Obscura," the band again kind of imploded. Steeve Hurdle, a key writing force in the band, left, as did the drummer, Patrick Robert, whose replacement ended up committing suicide. before that, a follow-up, "From Wisdom to Hate," was recorded. i'm not as familiar w/ that one, but i've been told it's inferior to "Obscura." afterward, Lemay turned his attention to wood-carving--how metal is that?!?

fortunately, Lemay and Hurdle are back together in Negativa, and the demos on their MySpace page sound fierce as shit. very much in the "Obscura" lineage of asymmetry, atomization and filigree.

forget the tech-metal arms race and dig into this north-of-the-border wonderland of metallic fucked-up-ed-ness. Gorguts is just another in a long line of Canadian musical icons: Rush, the Band, Neil Young, etc. etc.