Monday, June 28, 2010

Let the record show

Good readers:

Given (1) that I am Facebookless and possess no real 'net platform aside from DFSBP and (2) that I've already informed family and many close friends of this news, I happily interrupt my typical blogging content to announce my engagement to Laal Fatima Shams-Molkara, my sweetheart of four years and omniplatform collaborator in countless life- and art-related endeavors. Details re: the when and the how of our marriage are yet a mystery to us and to the world, but for now, we simply deem one another, respectively, the One.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

RIP Bill Dixon

I wrote up a brief obituary for the Volume. I'm happy at least that Dixon's last years were extremely productive ones. I'll just say here that this man's music has given me enormous pleasure over the years. It was aural quicksand, the kind of thing you wanted to sink into. For pure sound worship, the revelation of texture, Dixon's best can't really be beat. As far as the records go, Vade Mecum--an early-'90s communion with three other audio painters, including the great Tony Oxley--is probably my favorite. Another indispensable Dixon document is Imagine the Sound.

When I interviewed Dixon in 2007, I began an Invisible Jukebox-style activity with him, where I played him a selection of un-ID'd records. The exercise quickly got sidetracked but I'll never forget listening to Booker Little's "Man of Words" with him. When the track--perhaps the most weighty ballad in the jazz literature--finished, Dixon simply said, "Play that again." I did, and when it was over, I asked him if he could identify the artist. "I'm not sure," he said. "But whoever that was has spent a lot of time studying the music of Booker Little."

Saturday, June 05, 2010

One idea, three ways: Voivod, Kettle Chips and the unified rock aesthetic

Blown away tonight by Killing Technology, a 1987 album by Quebec prog-thrash overlords Voivod that I picked up this afternoon on LP. As I marvel at the completeness of the vision presented here--everything plays into the sci-fi gestalt, right down to the lyric sheet, which features drummer-artist Away's brilliant ancient-to-the-future calligraphy--I think about a quote that's been springing to mind constantly of late. The source is an interview with the admirably single-minded black-metal duo Bone Awl, itself known for a striking audiovisual unity:

What I first found attractive in Bone Awl and in your label Klaxon Records, were your excellent artworks, which succeed in remaining really black-metalish while moving away from commonplaces... Did you study arts?

All together now! You write one idea in three ways. Once in music, once in words, and once in images.

To me, this is an incredibly profound distillation of what rock aesthetics should be. It's been germinating in my mind for months know, and I see and hear examples of it constantly. Utterly perfect case in point: the work of Glenn Danzig. Think of the imagery, the Misfits, Danzig and Samhain logos; now think of the goth-bluesy sounds; now think of the graphic, lurid, sumptuously dark words. ONE IDEA/THREE WAYS.

Voivod is exactly like that: Piggy's cyborg riffage; Snake's technoparanoid, Philip K. Dick-ian words; Away's gritty-fantastical graphic mania (compiled here in book form). ONE IDEA/THREE WAYS. Can't wait to dig deeper into this particular catalog.

Most of my favorite rock fits this bill: Craw (the art inside the first two records enthralls me to this day--the perfect analog for the band's smart-went-crazy flailings), ALL (can you imagine ALL's hyperactive prog-punk without its cartoon mascot, Allroy?), Morbid Angel (those riffs... that LOGO!), Rush (the arcane nobility of the tunes=the Star Man reaching ever higher), Black Flag (Ginn/Pettibon), even something like the Band (that music is inseparable from those classic old-timey photos)--I could go on and on.

I've been thinking a lot about this re: my own band, STATS. I guess what it really comes down to is brand-building, no? And not in a crass way, but you want to use all the media at your disposal to drive home the company message, as it were. That's one reason I decided a few years back to rope in my close friend Remi Thornton as our official cover artist:

I want a unified look, as though each new release were a new flavor of Kettle Chips--a spin on a familiar template. And I also realized that, as much as I love a lot of instrumental rock, words are important to me. (Don Caballero's publishing imprint said it all: "Not the Only Music You Listen to Music.") Accordingly, vocals and lyrics are making a comeback in the music of STATS. Stay tuned as we attempt to craft ONE IDEA/THREE WAYS.

Kind readers, what are other great examples of ONE IDEA/THREE WAYS in music? Bring 'em on in the comments.

P.S. Just watched Under Great White Northern Lights, a fine recent White Stripes documentary. ONE IDEA/THREE WAYS is all over what Jack and Meg do. (Jack speaks constantly in the film of aesthetic "constriction.")

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Have you seen this woman?

As reported on this blog last year, I'm currently working on a book about Ween's Chocolate and Cheese album for the 33 1/3 series. I've conducted many original interviews for the project, speaking to the band and their associates, as well as various people involved in the visual element of the album, including photographers, designers and the man who crafted the immortal Boognish belt. Basically, I'm trying to be as thorough as possible, tracking down everyone who might have an interesting story to tell about their role in Chocolate and Cheese, however minor.

But one person has eluded me, and I'm wondering if anyone out there can help. Yes, I speak of Ashley Savage, the woman whose torso adorns the album cover and who helped the image win Playboy's illustrious Sexiest Album Covers of All Time poll back in 2002. I've spoken to people who knew her at the time of the shoot, and I did manage to find the following unaired Saturday Night Live short--a Seinfeld spoof--in which she appears. (I have confirmation that the woman who plays the waitress--she first appears at :25--is in fact the same Ashley Savage.)

Long story short, I'd love to get a few comments from Ashley Savage for the book, and the clock is ticking. To my knowledge, she's never spoken about the shoot, maybe for a reason. But I'm hoping I could at least get some input re: what it's like to be immortalized in this unique context. So, good DFSBP readers, does anyone have the foggiest idea how I might reach her? I've tried going through all the obvious channels (band, photographer, design company, fellow actors in the short above, even the director of this film, etc.), but maybe there's a connection I'm missing. Please don't hesitate to get in touch if you know something I may not. My e-mail address is at the top of the blog.