Tuesday, April 5, 2011

SXSWTF: This Year's Thing and a Response to the Stuff That Was Said

Wye Oak doing an acoustic set at Lustre Pearl. 

Right now I am in Iowa City. Wye Oak hired me to sell their merchandise for a five-week tour of the US and Canada with Brooklyn band Callers, so here I sit, behind a card table listening to an opener named Alexis Stevens strum out some earnest chords at The Mill (est. 1962). Last night we were all in Omaha, where the local weekly published an article about Jenn and Andy, the content of which focused primarily on What It Is Like To Be A Band At SXSW. 
Whenever I go to SXSW I’m relieved that I don’t have to “work” it, even though I may be present. Once, Monitor Records brought me down for free because I was working for them for free. I sunburned my entire face and got locked out of the hotel room. A few years later, I went down to perform in a few different capacities (solo and with Lexie Mountain Boys). I’ve never had to play more than 4 shows in the weekend, nor have I had to schedule meetings about overseas music licensing for advertisers nor have I run across South Congress with a guitar in my hand trying to make it for my slot at a bookstore barbecue. Someday, maybe. I am not complaining; I’d like to preface this screed by stating that I was present for SXSW this year in an unprofessional capacity. Perhaps "improfessional" is a better way of putting it. Informally non-professional. I didn't have to attend any conferences, put it at that. I hung out with Jenn and Andy while they played their shows. It was fun.

When we first got to SXSW, three things happened within 20 minutes of each other. Seeing this was the first.
This year, most of the people I spoke with who actually did have to "work it" seemed to be in high spirits despite the gloomy forecast for moving units across the US and beyond. The nature of music manufacturing and broadcasting is being redefined, the strictures for artmaking and cultural support are tighter than ever, and music listeners are absorbing more product than ever while paying less for it than ever. It is this type of environment that forces artists and industry-types to reinvent themselves while riding the rails of the old ways; the demands of SXSW require heavy gasoline usage, regardless of how many semi purposeless “Green Zone” tent villages are erected. Vans, generators, trailers, motorcycles. A thousand pedicabs couldn’t hump all the equipment passed from hand to hand all night & day, up and down staircases and across innumerable thresholds. What use is a Green Zone in a parking lot if there aren’t enough trash cans and everyone is ankle-deep in empty little plastic spring water bottles and greasy taco foil? 
So Austin is awash in trash, shirtless fistfights and barely audible streetcorner gypsy bands competing with the omnipresent blare. There seems to be no weight or value to anything because the whole thing is everything and the diffuse effect of all things promoted simultaneously creates a near-total wash; the “where are you?” heard over and over is the cry of echolocation and the answer should always be “it doesn’t matter” or “everywhere”. This mass, unchecked washout is a microcosm of both the tour experience and the American experience. A blur of city-states, a dazzling endless skyline of signage two stories off the ground, a situation bolstered by live musicians who are largely underpaid (if paid at all) and a situation that can barely support their weight when it comes to the execution. A desperate communal scrabbling towards something greater, something more effective, more what it needs to be. A mindless bacchanal shitstorm streaming shreds of bathroom tissue, filthy tears, ice cubes, dried vomit, cameras: a staring contest between thousands of participants. A party of darkness and light fighting for supremacy. 

Number 2: Return of Josh T Pearson, pictured here (l - r) with a hobbit and Jean Rose.
We drove out of Austin on Monday March 20. We read articles written by Baltimore journalists, bloggers, record company owners about the SXSW. Twitter accounts of a fake parallel festival (#southbysouthwendys) featuring Narwhalz & Juiceboxx, where the Mooney Suzuki was hogging all the honey mustard, sounded awesome, especially since it was fake. Some articles, however, were exasperating
Many (OK, ALL) of the articles that drove me up the everloving wall were written by Baltimore's Sam Sessa, whose "main reason for going was to find out why Austin (the "Live Music Capital of the World") has such a great music scene, and what Baltimore could do to help make ours better." I couldn't believe it, especially in light of the actual blog entries. My response to these articles is threefold. 
Number 3: A reminder that partying hard can happen before noon. 

1. Make sure you are actually seeing Baltimore bands. More than two, preferably.  Especially when a thorough list of Baltimore bands and when and where they were playing was published on the same blog you are writing for. Not one but TWO Baltimore media outlets (Baltimore Sun and WTMD) send you to Austin and the thing you have to report is that you shook Rachael Ray's oily mitt and you didn't get in to see Das Racist? Sam, call me and I will take you to actual Baltimore shows with Baltimore bands playing them. My phone number is the same.

All that stuff went down on our walk from Lustre Pearl to Wye Oak's IFC filming. 

2. Drawing comparisons between Baltimore’s music scene and the music scenes in other places in America, especially Austin, is useless. Why does one thing work and another thing not work? Because nothing is precisely the same. Just saying that Austin has a great music scene does not automatically make it so. Baltimore’s music scene and its relationship with the city legislature is best served when it highlights its own strengths in order to rebuild and redefine its needs, not when it bemoans its lack in comparison with other places. How can we capitalize on what we have in order to create a situation advantageous to the city and its artists in particular? It doesn’t benefit Baltimore’s cultural entities to know that Austinites think its fucked up to not allow bands to play all over the place all the time. Additionally, who's to say that Baltimore bands want Baltimore to be more like Austin? Baltimore has one of the spiciest scenes in the country now, due in no small part to the fact that Baltimore bands have to be creative and inventive. When there is no SXSW, Austin's scene can't hold a taco to Baltimore's action. MAN AM I WORKED UP! 

I drank a Miller Lite and ate caramels in the green room. Here is Jenn wishing she could do the same, via the IFC. 

3. Journalists need to know that it is fucking boring to read about bands talking about SXSW. As a fan and someone interested in the lives of musicians and their artmaking processes, the last thing I want to read is a two-minute opinion about something as sprawling and grotesque as SXSW. The only person there who is going to tell you he hates it outright is Cass McCombs, if you can get him to talk to you at all. Did you know people actually move out of Austin when SXSW happens? No business owner is going to tell you they don’t like it either, because the festival is precisely the boost that post-holiday retailers, restaurants and vendors require to make it into summer.   The Stranger's Line Out blog is a perfect example of what kind of thing people want to see when it comes to articles about SXSW: a blend of gore and triumph. Pictures of carnage (toilets at Red 7, anyone?), real surprises, weird stuff, good pictures.

"Can't wait to try that raisin pie from craft services..."
This year, Ben Weasel punched two women in the face in a move that caused his entire band to quit (albeit only after the internet comments jumped off). YOKO ONO performed, sparking a rumor that LADY GAGA was going to make an appearance (she didn't). Bands from Africa played. AFRICA. Every year, every day of that particular weekend someone wakes up thinking “Did that happen to me, to us?” Did I just drive all the way across town through the hellish mobs and steaming gridlock to the late show and then load in after the obvious headliner just to be told they would only have five minutes to play so why bother and get out? Did I just enter a “gifting suite” that smells like a cardboard box and take my pants off to see if these other hard new pants fit? Did I, drunk and stoned, hop a fence at the edge of the yard of a person I just met, to cry into a neglected dog’s lion ruff? Did my life just look like that for a moment, pure hedonistic transcendence so fierce-feeling and tender and wide-open that it could not possibly be mistaken for anything else than reality? My dreams often look a lot like SXSW: crushing waves of strange bodies, familiar faces swimming in and out of focus, buildings that look like one thing turning into another (“Is this a textile factory, a bar or an amusement park?”). Mutability, potential, heartache. Come on, that's got to be interesting to write about. Oh wait.

Dr. Waz, Post-raisin pie glow in Waterloo Records' Official Tito's Vodka and Brioche French Toast Airstream. 
All photos in this article taken by Lexie Mountain.  
wyeoak's dot com

Monday, December 27, 2010

Essay Rejected by McSweeneys: My New Job (Now Old News)

The bosses are brothers, and they bring their matching-eyed dogs to work. The dogs look like reptiles because of these yellow eyes. It makes them appear confused and ancient. There are two, and they ignore each other. One, a silken monkey food-stealer spaniel thing, barks hysterically at strangers. He lounges in the hallway, looking up with an expression of inexplicable terror. The other is a horse-pill shaped tick of a dog with respiratory problems that causes incessant and periodic honking on the exhale. When one of the bosses introduced her, he said “This is Funny,” in a most un-funny tone of voice. I was looking at the dog, stroking its throat, and I thought my new boss was referring to the sheaf of papers he was holding. Then I realized he too was looking down at his dog. He said it again. “This is Funny.” 
From my desk, in a windowless half-office, I can hear the rhythmic honking rise and fall as Funny lumbers up and down the carpet, searching for someone to smell her breath and comment on her Flying Nun ears. Sometimes she catches a whiff of something interesting and her breathing becomes its own drum fill, a shuffle-ball-change that might be snappy if it happened at regular enough intervals. Snuffly-DOO-snuff-AH! 
The dogs generally keep to themselves, or are ignored. Ignoring the dogs is an athletic act because we have to prove, on a regular basis, that we are in fact ignoring them. Regardless of how severely we ignore, one of the brothers is convinced we are going out of our way to feed his dog our celery or hummus or whatever. “I swear someone is feeding him,” he announced (yelled) a few days ago through a particularly noisy faceful of wasabi peas. Today he banged his sunburned forehead against the wall of my office very slowly, almost a dozen times in a row. DONK. DONK. DONK. I don’t know why, I think it was because I asked about something. His dog is the silky one, always appearing slightly jealous, lurking in doorways waiting for the sound of a spoon against the walls of a single-serving yogurt container. His name is Newman, and I cannot help but think when I look into his brass-button eyes: “New man.” Sometimes I say it aloud. Sometimes, for no apparent reason, someone else will say one of the dog’s names aloud. 
Newman was absent from the company picnic; Funny attended at the end of a length of clothesline. The line stretched from her owner’s belt loop to wherever the closest morsel of barbecued meat might be, which was basically everywhere on everyone’s paper plates. She made new noises, one of which was a snort-honk-grunt combination that actually startled people. We were told, while lying on sheets at the edge of the disc-golf course, that Funny is 75% Beagle with a quarter of indeterminate origin. Her owner had her DNA tested. Newman was submitting to the exact same background check, and the results came back totally Spaniel-free. Smallish shiny completely brown monkey dog wasn’t listed in his chart either: evidently there wasn’t much on his chart due to the complexity and completeness of his genetic emulsification. The afternoon was hazy with the moistness of a nearby hurricane, and yellowjackets hovered around everything.   
Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could harness this listlessness, this hunger for whatever? How much energy could be generated by aimless dogs? A dog gym, a facility of treadmills hooked up to generators, could easily power one house, perhaps two, or a small factory’s lighting needs. Run, little things, run. 

Monday, October 18, 2010


Stephanie Barber makes films, writes poetry, co-curates Transmodern Festival, and teaches at MICA with whatever spare time she invents out of thin air. She currently resides in Baltimore where everyone is the better for it, as evidenced by her collusions with Theresa Columbus, Geodesic Gnome, Performance Thanatological Society, Dan Conrad & Jenny Graf and recent readings at recent literary events about town (WORMS!).

What do you do? What are you doing the most lately?

i make art.  film, poetry, music etc.  i talk about animals. 

mostly right now i am making videos and writing a lot. i'm interested in making a something in a certain medium which manages to sidestep the concerns of that medium--or like a plain cardboard box might begin to sprout wings and armadillo shells, prehensile tails and the goofy smiles of human children with down's syndromes--so a film can be considered as a poem and a song can be considered as a film and a poem can be considered a cross country ski competition and hopefully the best pieces can be considered just pieces of art.  

Lawn Poem installation by Stephanie Barber at The Poor Farm

How long have you done these things? How have the things changed?
i have always been writing and for half of my life i have been making films and very recently i have been making videos. my music making is sporadic and unfocused but like a miracle when i wind up inside of a musical project.  the most enjoyable.
things have changed in that i am working within myself right now in a very particular way.  i mean that i am pushing against my own ideas and my previous work in a way that was maybe not as possible to do when i didn't have such a large body of work.  it is a very subtle feeling.  like artistic proprioception.  an interoceptive awareness of where i am in my art.  this is a simultaneously abstract and specific feeling. 
i'm unsure of how i feel about this morally.  there is something about the hardcore individualist motivation in working like this--responding to previous work i have made--avoiding the tropes of previous stories--etc.--something about strident individualism which feels tawdry and propagandistic.  the alternative seems either like being tossed around in the giantest ocean slammed by rocks and unnamed sea creatures or being in harmony and eternal dialog with all art ever made and about to be made.  

stephanie barber's 'in the jungle' with dan conrad and jenny graf

Why do you do these things? What's it like when you are unable to do these things?
probably to make someone love me or hear me (same).  ideally everyone. a deep sort of love which has to do with being known--a childish unattainable eradication of the aloneness of a life.
also because maybe i feel like it is 'the good work'.  i am a religious fanatic without a religion.

it feels terrible when i am unable to make work.  sometimes i don't work for a little while as a way to make myself feel awful and worthless and unloveable.  then i realize i am doing it and quickly stop. i have tried to think about worth outside of the creation of something poetic, or moving or funny or lovely--then i imagine i could be a monk and this seems like it could possibly be fulfilling (or a jogger--sometimes i think about jogging) but i think, for me, it would not be (or would cease to be after a certain time).  art work is spiritual charity.  both internally and externally.  

When was That Moment in your life that told you you would become what you are? 

i don't think there was a moment.  i've always been what i am. 
Another still from "In The Jungle", this time courtesy Kelly Kuvo
How has your life changed to accommodate That Moment's effect on you?
my life is really hard.  probably a lot of lives are very hard and much harder but sometimes i think the way i live is a bit too uncomfortable.  the hairshirts of financial destitution and ascetic self flagelation of expectation.  
no, my life is super easy and like a soak in a never cleaned hot tub in the post swinger mountains of colorado.  it need not accommodate.

How has your work affected your life in return?
my work affects my life in that i wish for it to be as multifaceted as i try to make a film or poem or video.  how something can be crass and tender simultaneously or funny and sad, or academic and cheap joke..............i guess in life you have to pick something and i am not so good at doing that--i feel let down by the lack of dynamism in lives and jobs and towns and loves................or maybe i am terrified by the actual dynamism?  more moved by the architectural angles and armatures of contrast and collusion suggested by challenging art than the messy, cruel way that these sorts of dynamics play out in life and interpersonal relations.

What do you think of the future?
i think it is going to come and i think it is already here.  i am a self aware substructure and as such am (though pessimistic) a believer.  

What do you think of when you think of David Lee Roth? Why?
i think he is super.  i love the way he and eddie van halen play fast and loose and funny with their super-talents.  he is as brilliant a physical comedian and dancer as fred astaire and steppin fetchit.  his radio show in ny is ok too.  he's sharp.

MICHAEL ANDREW TURNER: A Muscle Car Out of Cockroach Parts

Mike Turner! Oh man, where to start? Lexington Kentucky's own Mikey T plays solo musics, all lonely thready guitar ragas, and sometimes with his band Warmer Milks shows happen. He's always got a new chapbook or cassette, weird job or exciting and confrontational place to live. He's a poet, a real dreamer and the kind of conversationalist who can talk the paint off a tank. In the past year or two he's also taken a stab at bent journeyman noir with duo Cross aka The Sound of The Rat Vex. Warmer Milks played at the old True Vine space, where the shows were perfumed with the night air of Hampden, a burned feathers smell that was romantic and even mouthwatering. Eventually someone, probably Ian Nagoski, silenced any curiousity about the delicious nature of the odor in revealing that it came from the late-night crematorium down 36th St towards Ash. That one night, though, in that charring air, Mikey said to me "You should have a band called Lexie Mountain Boys" and then laughed his ass off. 2005. 

What do you do?
I write a lot of poetry and fiction.  A "lot" could be small as well but I guess it depends. Some things I've written have appeared printed but I can't recall off hand where but that's irrelevant.  I'm bad at keeping up with that stuff anyway.
I suppose I've more so "known for" within underground circles as someone who plays guitars. Electric and acoustic ones. I write songs on them and then either perform/record the songs with other people under the guise of "band" or by myself as "solo".  I've also played around with many other instruments throughout the years but guitars are my "candy" for sure. That sounds ridiculous doesn't it?
What are you doing the most lately?
The past seven months have seen me acting out in the group Cross as well as under a variation of my own name, Ma Turner. Cross toured for a couple of months over the summer, tried to move to California then gratefully came back to Lexington, KY. The past few months we've been writing a new record to be recorded early 2010 in a hair salon/art haus here in town.
The past two weeks I've been playing with open tunings on my acoustic here at the house. Elaborating on chord sequences and scales, warping them into songs. Also sketching out my next short story while my first one is coming out early 2010 via issue one of Heavy Bombardment (Rampart Tapes).
How long have you done these things? How have the things changed?
Writing has been a part of my life since I could first hold a crayon in my hand. It is what I know how to do more than anything else. Talking to God through writing. It is my way. The majority of my writing has been poetry but the past few years I've been writing short fiction. What a thrill it is!  With poetry, I stay pretty free form and but since I've been tackling short fiction, I've grown more accustomed to structure. Being torn apart via editing is an amazing feeling. I get to hang out with the words longer. It is starting to rub off on my poetry and music as well.
I have played guitars with other people since the early nineties. At first I just made sounds on them, then almost a year in to owning a guitar (around ninth grade), my mother got me into some guitar lessons. I learned most of the basic chords as well as some "rock" tricks. After writing a couple songs on my own, I quit taking lessons and sat in my room combining the sounds I was making beforehand with the stuff I'd learned through lessons. Early on I knew it was all about writing my own songs.
Unfortunately I lived in a area where I didn't meet that many people who thought very much like me (Nicholasville, Jessamine County, Kentucky) so my songs were confined to the bedroom. Meanwhile I played in a few high school bands but none of them were really up the alley of what I wanted sans one group called 'Sunburn' which leaned towards grittier 'pop' music that aligned with my interests and I think we actually played one of my songs. I remember being laughed at for wearing a Depeche Mode shirt and not being familiar with the high from marijuana. I believe this was 1993 0r 1994. A beautiful time. Memorex cassettes with "Fire in Cairo" and "Divine Hammer" blasting in my headphones. So tender and wide eyed. I'm closing my eyes right now and thinking of it. I can still be there. So nice.
I'm not sure that me playing guitar has changed as much as progressed. Writing songs is still the point but now I suppose my idea of a song has opened up larger. Perhaps I've always known a song can be anything I want it to be but now because I've been playing around with a guitar for roughly nineteen years, I have many different angles to work with. More tools, more colors, it's easier to pull an idea out of my head now and mold it into what I want it to be. However, I go through moments of unlearning where I just fall into the space I was in as a kid, "DUNH, DUNH", bar all of the strings on one fret, bang on it in time with a personal vibration no one else is getting but myself.
In the realm of acoustic guitars, I've been sitting around with one since I was very young. 'Ma Turner'. The 'a' is my middle initial but I like Ma because it is obviously feminine, MOTHER. I dabbled in that with the name 'Warmer Milks'.  Ma and WM are similar in their beginnings. Writing songs on acoustic guitar about love and life but as I get older I allow more tradition to trickle in as well as space and abstractions. Don't get me wrong, I know how that "trad" word sounds but in all seriousness, I'm friendlier with folk and country then I used to be but I also have no interest in nostalgic torch music. Like any other music I play, it feels nice to leave the door open in every room. It comes down to more emphasis on song and it happens to be kind of handed down from the past but yet still moving into the future.
Playing in Cross, I'm going back further into a high school mind, a kind of guitar hero worship, MOVES, occult sexual possession like Page slides and Jagger hips but Ginn on his tip toes heckling the football team. Total Television Personalities pulsating lack of//major sophistication. I dunno, just wanting to fucking boogie again feels amazing. It's me and three other guys,  a total team effort. I write riffs and bring them to practice, so fun. The group in turn, puts it all together and it becomes it own thing.  In my early twenties I played in what people would consider a "street punk" band but in actuality it was a hybrid of like Motorhead and some southern rock spiel but the skinhead/punker scene ate it up. We toured a bunch and made a record that I'm super proud of and (it) did really well in that world. When I wasn't jamming in this unit, I'd be at home listening to Jim O'Rourke or some shit like that. I think it was the Gastr Del Sol record 'Upgrade & Afterlife', a total masterpiece of insanity and beauty. At the time, I was really torn up and confused, like I thought I was cheating on that album by playing rock n roll so eventually I quit. A few years later I was playing music that could be compared to some boring ass Archers of Loaf water. Jesus, the REAL rock n roll band I left was so much better. I suckered myself into empty ideas of what is and isn't art. Fuck art! Have fun! Luckily I started Warmer Milks and we just did EVERYTHING that came to mind for around six years. Art or no art, I projected a new manifesto for that thing every other minute and actually followed through with the majority of my (for better or for worse) ideas. People I played with, hung around or performed for either got stoked or bummed on that deal but I am so proud of it.  I learned so much about myself in that period of time and wouldn't take it back for anything. Warmer Milks ended last May and I'm really stoked that it is over. It was time for a change.  
Why do you do these things? No, really, why? How does it make you
feel? What's it like when you are unable to do these things?
Like I mentioned earlier, writing was my first true form of creative expression. I've written a lot of poetry. Started when I was 5. I write at least two a week, rarely skipping out on said activity. I've thrown away a good 80% of the stuff I've written but haven't forgotten any of it's essence. I keep writing the same thing over and over again. Just want to improve. I also said earlier that I'm writing to God and if I can't write to God then I feel as if I'm dying. I want to channel this into my short fiction and I think that it's happening. Communicate to to a higher plane through some short story about a kid with down syndrome that builds a muscle car out of cockroach parts. Amen.
I play music because it feels so good.  It has been the one thing externally since day one that has been a constant turn on, total passion, relentless form of expression. I always walk away with a sense of adventure, curiosity, wonderment, excitement but yet it also makes me nervous, anxious and often times frustrated because I love it so much and like any other powerful relationship in my life, have had some extreme ups and downs with it.  There are times I've allowed other aspects of my life to steer me away from music or writing and that is something I will never let happen again because it is weak on my part and causes major sadness inside. I've arranged everything in my life at this point to compliment my love for playing music and writing and I'm thankful that I am at a place where I can always participate in those activities and nothing can touch that.
When was That Moment in your life that told you you would become what
you are? What happened? Please elaborate.
The Moment with writing was the first time I ever tried to write a letter. My parents were fighting and I attempted to write them a letter explaining that they were scaring me but it was just scribbles. I knew those lines didn't exactly translate out to the world what I was thinking but it sure made me feel a whole lot better and I haven't stopped since.
With music, a combination of situations really. My mother's record collection blasting on the stereo when I was four. The two of us would dance to Neil Diamond, Simon and Garfunkel, Carpenters, Beatles as well as countless awesome christian rock albums from the seventies and early eighties. It truly warmed my heart. Watching MTV at it's inception. Just taking in the visuals (haircuts, outfits, stage set ups) and obviously the pulse of electronic drums and synths shook me intensively. It truly felt like alien music and I knew I wanted a part in that which went hand in hand with 1980's fm radio. Stuff like Billy Idol and Wham! struck me as so intense and I loved beating on my kiddie drum set along to their songs in my bedroom after school.
I suppose the "super reality connector" between me and music was hearing:
 a) Black Flag via a dub from some asshole in junior high (1990) (he thought it sucked so he gave it to me because I was a nerd) 
b) Nirvana on Z Rock several months later and wondering what the fuck was going on (I promptly grabbed a baseball bat and played along, it was like someone set my house on fire).
c) The fire was completely lit when local college radio (http://wrfl.fm) was added in the mix shortly thereafter to fill in the gaps of underground musics and helped me along Self Highway. I found a copy of their zine (RiFLe) and it had an interview with Mike Watt. Floored for life.
How has your life changed to accommodate That Moment's effect on you?
The impulse to create constantly jerks me around from place to place, back and forth through time, in and out of conversation, etc. so I guess in the end The Moment controls my every move. Good job Moment!
How has your work affected your life in return?
Not to be cliche but my work IS my life. That being said, everything else around me plays into the moment I make up something musically or through written/spoken words. It can be scary for sure but for the most part, my life is full of joy because of my guitar. Jesus, good grief.
What do you think of the future?
I love the idea of getting older. Improvement. The future is great. A constant shift. Go Future!
What has David Lee Roth meant to your life? Please elaborate.
David Lee Roth has a lot to do with the future for me. The older I get, the more I appreciate and respect David Lee Roth as lead vocalist in Van Halen circa 1980's. DLR now? Absolutely no clue what he means to me NOW? As a kid, his thing kinda got under my skin for some reason, especially his solo situation. It was too campy for me at the time. Now, I can handle it but put on the first Van Halen lp and there is some serious rock n roll going on and that is the essence of DLR to me.
I wrestle with the idea of worshipping "classic rock" icons, groups, songs, etc. but regardless, I find myself back in the middle of it, studying up on whatever I can about it and David Lee Roth plays into that, of course! As much as I wish I could just focus on something eternally cool as Whitehouse forever and let go of VH, I can't. But Whitehouse IS cooler.

Monday, August 23, 2010

TONY RETTMAN: Do Less, Be More

Portrait of Tony by Ben Chasny

Tony Rettman is a music journalist and radio personality, which is saying very little about someone who's experienced so much. He's been to more shows than most people you know, which at this point makes him something of a music historian. Tony is also one of the few to weather the change from zines to blogging with elan: Revelation Records recently published his book "Why Be Something You're Not: Detroit Hardcore 1979-1985", and he can be heard on WFMU like crazy. 

What do you do? What are you doing the most lately?
I work a lot for a major financial entity and occasionally write stuff about music that people seem to enjoy. Lately, my time is taken up by whining about my job to my girlfriend, trying to tie up loose ends on a book I've written and cooking decent meals. 

 How long have you done these things? How have the things changed?
I've worked all my life. I've written all my life (sorta). Nothing has changed with the work as far as I can see. It just gets more demeaning and crappy as it goes on. The writing has changed on many levels. First off, if you do anything for a long enough amount of time, it's just going to get better. So I think plugging away at it for so long has made it qualitatively better. I'm happier and less embarrassed of stuff I turn in these days. The subject matter has sorta stayed the same as far as being based on music, but the actual...(uh...) 'genres' of music have slipped around to different stuff. I started out doing a Hardcore punk 'zine when I was 14 and sorta went through the musical 'coming-of-age' alotta people did and explored other sound avenues in my late teens/early 20's and wrote about it in various fanzines I self-published. Strangely, I've got back into writing about Hardcore as it's kinda the only thing people ask me to write about when it comes to paying pieces. So, I've just come back to where I came from sorta, just with better referential ammo than I had when I was a kid. The writing has also changed in that I think I use it more as a vehicle to wrestle with words than hip anyone to some new crazy sound. I guess I'm 'trying' less these days. It's just like Brother JT said, 'Do Less, Be More'. 
Why do you do these things? No, really, why? How does it make you
feel? What's it like when you are unable to do these things?

To be honest, the reason I do most writing these days is to earn some extra loot. The intial reason I started writing I guess was because I was bowled over by the fanzine culture of Hardcore when my brother started taking me to shows. I was very inspired by merely holding these things in my hand. The idea of being interested or inspired by someones' writing style or musical taste came much later in my life. As stated in the previous answer, the writing - these days at least - is more of a thing where I graple with the words to get them to submit to what I'm trying to convey. I like twisting them into my own definition. I also like working with editors as well, which I'm sure most writers will think I'm crazy for stating. Some really do push you to come up with some great stuff. They really help in trying to convey certain things that might be lost in the cobwebs of your mind. I only get frustrated when I am unable to write when I have a deadline looming. Other than that, I can take or leave writing. 

When was That Moment in your life that told you you would become what
you are? What happened? 

I don't think I really know that moment. Whenever I read or see someone in some documentary/book say something like 'And when I saw (fill in the bands name) my life changed', I think they are full of shit. No one goes around documenting their lives for themselves like that. If they are, they're fucking nuts! I hate to keep going back to this, but I guess the first couple times my brother took me to Hardcore shows, I kinda got a feeling of defintion in myself. It made me feel it was OK to be a bit twisted. There's a few things that are popping into my head now...First time seeing Black Flag...First time seeing Youth of Today...My brother playing me 'Space Ritual' by Hawkwind, 'Psychedelic Underground' by Amon Duul and 'Patty Waters Sings' all in one sitting during a snowstorm...Seeing NNCK for the 1st time... These are some things that flash into my head that made me think about the power of sound in ways I couldn't fathom before hearing them. 

How has your life changed to accommodate That Moment's effect on you?
It's made me into a bum!
How has your work affected your life in return?
It's made me into a bum!

 How does your location affect what you do and who you are these days?
My lady and I have moved out to the North Shore of Long Island. To most outsiders, anything related to L.I. is bad news, but this area is very, very quiet with a sparse population and a low amount of football jerseys and gold chains. We are near the water and it's so quiet around here, some times all you can hear is a train whistle. I think the new location has really helped the writing as far as letting me get (as corny as this might sound) lost in my own thoughts. When we were in Brooklyn, I was always trying to find some quiet while drug dealers and general retards prowled in front of my window. Here, I can see or think one little thing and I just start flying. Personally, the location has just helped me be more at peace with myself and Danielle. I have to prepare a slow cooker meal everyday before I leave for my hour long commute to work, but I think it's worth it. 

What do you think of the future?
For the first time in a long time, I look forward to it. By the way, my hope for it has nothing to do with political climate, social climate, actual climate, etc. I just feel good about it...that's all. 

What does David Lee Roth mean? 
He is a celebration of the self. 


Sunday, August 15, 2010

Deodorant Isle: A List of Promises

Promises made by deodorant and anti-perspirant, many of which are applicable to Joaquin Phoenix, Kanye West, the military or small dogs. Interspersed with the dogs that appear when the words "lexie deodorant" are your google image search criteria.

  • Extra responsive in emotional moments. 
  • Responds to increases in adrenaline.
  • Shave less often. 
  • Feels dry in seconds. 
  • Dare to wear black. 
  • Unbeatable on white marks. 

  • Sized for airplane travel. 
  • Smells like wilderness, open air and freedom.
  • Fast drying technology.
  • Irresistable like chocolate. 
  • Non-irritating. 

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Round Robin 2008: The Movie

When Baltimore's 2008 Round Robin tour came to Oberlin College, we were given a conference room replete with shower stall and chalkboard to post up and eat pizza in. There, controversially and at great length, ROUND ROBIN: THE MOVIE was cast...

Shaun Flynn: Sylvester Stallone (or Vincent Gallo or Cillian Murphy)
Donovan: Flea
Olivier: Steve Guttenberg
Ed Schrader: Christopher Walken
Adam Endres: Bobcat Goldthwaite
Dan Deacon: Abigail Breslin
Lexie: Kirstie Alley in Cheers
April Camlin: Carol Burnett
Benny Boeldt: Conan O'Brien
Max Eisenberg: Steve Buscemi
Frank: Gary Oldman
Height: Glen Danzig
Jones: Snoop Dogg
Josh Kelberman: Haley Joel Osment
Lizz King: Hilary Swank Punky Brewster
Mark: Adrian Brody
Robby Rackleff: Christian Bale
Rose Chase: Diane Keaton
Justin Frye: Keanu Reeves
Kate Levitt: Mary kate Olson
Stefani Levin: Julia Louis Dreyfus
Alex Scally: Billy Crudup
Dan Franz: BJ Novak
Victoria Legrand: LiLo
Pete O'Connell: Paul Giamatti
Kevin O'Meara: Heath Ledger
Jim Triplett: Michael Cera
The Death Set: Blink 182
Dave Zimmerman: David Cross
Conor Kizer: Tom Green
Nolen Strals: Vin Diesel
Bruce Willen: Jeff Goldblum
Gerrit Welmer: Chris Martin
Sam Herring: Jack Black
Will Cashion: Philip Seymour Hoffman
Greg Fox: Alex Winter
Andrew Burt: Emilio Estevez
Jana Hunter: Jodie Foster
Geoff Graham: Chuck Norris
Lesser Gonzales Alvarez: Mark Ruffalo
Sam Garner: Elizabeth Taylor
Amy Harmon: Drew Barrymore
Katherine Hill: Uma Thurman
Amy Waller: Dakota Fanning
Twig: Michael Richards
Carly: Maggie Gyllenhaal
Ben Beast: Kevin Spacey
Bob O'Brien: Dan Aykroyd
Devlin: Kurt Russell
Dan: Charles Bronson
Chester Gwazda: Chevy Chase
Donny: Orlando Bloom
Rob: Kurt Cobain

Directed by Mel Gibson (or Alejandro Jodorowsky)
Screenplay by Charlie Kaufman