The Problem with Being A Fan

I’m supposed to be reading The Secret Agent by Sir Robert Conrad. This book is about a supposed anarchist-cum-terrorist who botches his targeted explosion because he gives his bomb to his autistic brother-in-law who kills himself, possibly to save others, a theme I have yet to read about anywhere else. And I know you’re thinking this can’t possibly be relevant to the image to your left here and what could an early 20th Century Novel not really about politics, anarchism or terrorism have to do with The Red Hot Chili Peppers, and why are you even writing about THAT album, but it’s important.

In 1991 I entered High School in the Northern Virginia Suburb of Herndon. That summer, thanks in part to Perry Ferrell, I discovered Black Flag and turned down a long and dangerous path of punk rock idiocy. Three weeks after I entered into the most terrifying institution I could imagine, my favorite band The Red Hot Chili Peppers, released the epic (and I do mean epic) album Blood Sugar Sex Magik. Not until 1993, when Fugazi released In On the Kill Taker did I really consider any other albums. Oh sure I was introduced to King Missile, The Dead Milkmen, Blur, The Butthole Surfers and a plethora of other awesome and weird bands, but nothing held my attention like Blood Sugar Sex Magik. When John quit the band in May of 1992, right around my 15th birthday, I was devastated. That single act on his part is still, to this day, unforgivable to me. A person with that much natural talent should have the damn decency to keep his shit together and realize he was in the most magical band that ever walked the planet. The point of this is that Blood Sugar Sex Magik came at a pivotal part of my life and largely got me through a lot of odd times. I shed old friends and gained new ones, found there is a pecking order and hierarchy in life and it’s bullshit and marginalizes everyone,  and that any descent from the norm is treason. You can call this band mediocre and radio rock and bullshit, and to some extent I will agree with you, but these tattooed, free wheeling, hyper-sexualized, physically sexy and utterly talented four men were all I aspired to be. Some of that is true even today.

Currently, I am living in a new state, at 34, totally unemployed and thus unencumbered by adulthood and once again finding myself inside the halls of institutionalized learning. There are differences of course. I know a lot more now and I am a lot more confident at 34 then I was at 14 and I have a clearer, more detailed view in how the world works. Largely my suspicions of my youth have been confirmed. But, I’m still anxious as hell, feel out-of-place and wonder if this is all just one big joke being played on me. And somehow, the Red Hot Chili Peppers are still there for me. And it’s partly the same, and partly different. I did drive to school this morning, I’m With You emitting from my speakers as the cloud of slumber slowly relinquished from my head. The spirit of the music I loved 20 years ago is still there, somewhat, and it helped me to be a bit more confident and sure of myself. Chad Smith’s steady, solid drumming is like the foundation of each step I take (even hindered by crutches), putting the world beneath my feet. Anthony Keidis’s imperfect voice and vocals are childlike and playful (most of the time) and makes my heart sing. And what can be said of the flowing, freaky bass lines of Flea. They enter a sphere all of their own, giving me swagger and sway. It’s so familiar to me, like an extension of myself. But obviously all is not the same.

I am a fan of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I refused to endure the negative when One Hot Minute came out (the album is horrible, by any standards) and embraced it fully. I still accept that bastard step child. I lived through the jockish Californication which was the return of John and somewhat of a return to form. I celebrated and loved the mostly amazing By The Way  and am angry to think that Flea almost quit because he felt understated on this record (I won’t forgive him for that either). I even braved the sloppy, useless double album Stadium Arcadium seeing the band for only the second time on that tour. That concert by the way, even amongst 25k other people from 100 yards away from the stage played directly into my heart. Seeing John Frusciante even from that distance is one of the singular most important moments of my life. Other people celebrate their marriages or the mediocre, redundant births of their idiotic and unentertaining children. For me, it was seeing a rock god tear apart every aspect of my being in what was essentially a concrete bunker. There is nothing magical about the “wonders of childbirth” and nothing remotely important about “the unity of family”. I love my parents, they did amazing and great things for me. But John Frusciante bending steel against wood and smashing his finger tips on that fret board were all I needed to sustain me for the rest of my life. Pathetic, I am sure. But my values clearly differ from those of the rest of so-called “normal society” so if you are offended, good. I don’t like you any way.

The problem with being a Red Hot Chili Peppers fan is having to defend this band. They have drifted their feet into the wadding pool of mediocrity. After Stadium Arcadium I can’t even blame or be mad at John for leaving the band. I would have left while that monstrous disaster was in process. But even still, I don’t care. I can’t really defend most of their career, their actions or their behavior. I have been a fan of this band since I was 11 years old. They lip synced “Me and My Friends” on a TV show that was shot at Paradise Bowling. Dead Kennedy’s DH Peligro played drums and it might have been John’s first appearance with the band in public. All I remember was they had tattoo’s, mohawks and wore dresses and it was the most amazing moment of my life up to that point. There was clearly a marked difference in my appearance and attitude at that point. So, seriously, how can I objectively defend this band when they are so central to who I am now. I submit this, to you dear reader, the following. All of us start out star struck. No one comes from a singular point of DIY ethics and coolness. We’re dorks before we’re hipster dorks, running around in ill-fitting jeans and stupid Keds shoes. And we don’t get to pick the moment that alters our state of consciousness into an awakened state. The Red Hot Chili Peppers, for better or worse, did that for me. And as far as I am concerned, it was for the better.

So here I am, almost 25 years into my love affair with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, a new album and another new guitar player at the helm. What do we do with this? How do we even feel about this? Is the three days I’ve spent, relentlessly listening to this album even enough time to unpack everything and anything about this? Is it even fair to my love of this band or the love I still feel from them. Because I do feel like they care. As soft as they may have gotten, nothing about the relationship between Flea and Anthony indicates anything but love. It’s an abusive, fucked up relationship (if you haven’t read Scar Tissue you should. I mean it breaks down like this I grew up. I did Heroin. I got clean. I did heroin. Someone Died. I got clean. I did Heroin. and so on and so on. But it’s still telling) but it’s a relationship of great love. And I still feel that love when I hear this band. Yes, they wrote “Sir Psycho Sexy” which is totally sexist and borderline appalling. But if you can listen to “Lovely Man” and not get choked up then your soul is more black and cold and empty than mine.

Photo By Clara Balzary (Flea's now adult daughter)

Where to begin (is it even worth it) with I’m With You, their first new offering in five years? Well, “Monarchy of Roses” and “Brendan’s Death Song” are some of the best songs that this band has ever written and “Dance, Dance, Dance” while not perfect is the strongest closer on any Red Hot Chili Pepper’s album in their nearly 30 year career. And while I suspected that they would lean on Josh Klinghoffer, who is younger than I am, to reignite this band, instead Flea once again takes center stage as the principle, a role he hasn’t really had since Mother’s Milk. This is partly problematic, because as a bass player, there is no one better (except for Mike Watt, whom Blood Sugar Sex Magik was dedicated to). Seriously. But he’s not the strongest song writer. Here is where John’s talents, not just a great guitarist, but as a great arranger and song writer are missing. Josh is a natural fit for the sound and the feeling he imprints is seamless, even though he is quite a different musician than John. But the songs are meandering, lacking focus and punch. After the fourth song, the slow but solid “Ethiopia” I’m With You loses it’s footing. There are some great, funky, hard-hitting parts, some even reminiscent to some of the best and earliest work, like the bridge on “Look Around”. This smooth, sinister break could have easily fit perfectly on Freaky Styley and it makes my heart warm. But even lead single “The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie” starts off strong, funky and beautiful and diverts into something radio friendly and less fresh. The lyrics, as I am reading now, just make me want to cry, because they are cringe worthy. The song never gets off the ground, feeling older than I think even Josh should have allowed.

Other moments of music are sweet and sugary. Josh, much like his predecessor (and some would argue mentor) John has an innocence in his approach to the guitar, which is so necessary for a virtuoso. Further, his vocals, whether a part of the background offering support, or giving a punch to a song (such as on “Did I Let You Know”) are just stunning and beautiful. It’s could be suspected that John foresaw his second departure  sooner than he let on and groomed Josh to take his place. This is a service I think that both the Chili Peppers and their fans should be thankful for. For Josh does interject that much-needed young blood at such necessary points on this new album, making at least a worthy if wobbly entry into the canon.

What I think this album could have used was some more new blood. Because more than anything, I think Rick Rubin is mostly at fault here. It’s true, I believe at the time of Blood Sugar Sex Magik he was the perfect spirit to inject this band with some far out shit while simultaneously holding on to the reigns. But Rubin has just become another icon of the dinosaur music industry he once brought to its knees with the likes of Slayer and LL Cool J. And I think his inattentiveness to this project (and just about everything else he’s worked on in the last ten years) is beyond apparent. The Red Hot Chili Peppers are soulful, talented and amazing. But they lack focus, clearly, and this is where the role of the producer is so important in rock. Without John’s strong sense of arrangement, the Red Hot Chili Peppers suffer from their own abstract nature, now allowed to wander around their own landscape, without actually taking a good hard look at the aesthetics of their garden.

I’m not sure if, ultimately the problem is me or them. After all, when Blood Sugar Sex Magik came out, I didn’t even read record reviews, let alone obsess for  thousands of words in print about albums. My love for the Red Hot Chili Peppers was pure and unencumbered with many confusing years about ethics in music production, DIY attitudes and fuck all punk rock. Even at the height of my punk rock posturing, I made room for the Peppers, unforgivingly so. But at a certain point, love stopped being enough and I wanted more. Granted, there is more on I’m With You that touches my heart then anything they’ve done since By The Way, which is nearly ten years old already. But I still feel distanced, if only slightly. But is it my over critical, sarcastic, pessimism that created that small scratch? Or am I being too forgiving? I’m sure almost everyone who reads this would say so. After all this is The Red Hot Chili Peppers, one of the most popular, recognized bands on the entire planet. To many, they define what is wrong with major labels and the music industry. People find them overplayed, mediocre and bland. And maybe my love blinds me from this slightly. But they mean so much to me. I trace my personal history, not just in terms of my musical aesthetics, but my own personal identity back to that moment when I saw them as a youth, because that was when my awareness for all things occurred.

There is ultimately no solution to this for a die-hard fan. They are my first, one and true great love. I am a dedicated fan, through the good and the bad, no matter what fetid garbage the naysayers hurl at me. I will stand by this band until the end (which to you probably seems like it will never happen) believing that nothing better can ever happen to a person than this music. Which, rationally, I know is not the case. But just don’t argue with me. I don’t want the bubble to burst.

Fordists – Watch You

The Fordists
Watch You
Amor Y Lucha

Washington DC is a city of spooks. Around every god damn corner you will find some twisted looking bastard, with tightly pursed lips and a terror in their eyes and you know that idiotic motherfucker works for one of the eight billion fucking “intelligence” agencies that our ever paranoid government has set up and funded at your expense over the last ten years. They are so prevalent and terrifying, one can only come to the conclusion that these paranoid, uptight bastards are being bread. And that is actually true now. Thousands of new buildings have sprung up around our nations once beautiful capital to house and employ literally millions of people who bought into the bullshit taught to them in high school and college in an effort to spy on our neighbors, countries abroad and you and I. Massive amounts of data is collected daily and haphazardly analyzed by people not intelligent enough to drive a car 10 miles without getting in a deathly accident in a failing effort to protect us. Washington D.C. is a scary place.

With this back drop of suburban sprawl, scary parents, and total spy warfare going on, it’s not really a wonder that The Fordists exist. This trio of young lad’s are clearly paranoid. No, this isn’t the spazzed out, hardcore inspired music of Washington DC in the 1990’s. The Fordists are far too angular and calculating for such unabashed destruction. And this attention to detail works in their favor, making the best, post-rock spy music one has ever heard.

Drenched in flavors of the best parts of a post-punk apocalypse, The Fordists make a new sound. It’s rooted in familiar territory, but it’s so fresh and scary. The pounding, distorted bass is the sound of a hammer of hands pounding on your skull. The guitars weave this cutting pattern of steel threads through your brain, each point felt, the small streams of blood accumulating at your feet. The drums placed well in the mix, hit with precision but tend to be at their own pace and speed, regardless of the paranoid musing of the rest of the band. It’s all quite terrifying, especially when one considers this band isn’t trying to overload you with power and noise and volume. Things are by no means pretty, but those images of steel beams being erected in place of trees along the Potomac river make you feel like maybe nature is growing those buildings. That is the sound of Fordists.

Listening to music that feeds your own paranoia, reminding you of Fahrenheit 451, Brave New World and 1984  is probably not that great for your health, but that doesn’t fail to make The Fordists one of the most interesting bands to come out of Washington DC. The lineage is there, and that makes me miss my former home a bit, but like so many other great bands, they take that legacy and put a unique, new and in this case down right nightmarish twist into the whole thing. Anthropologically, The Fordists makes sense in this day and age. These three young men came of age in a time of terror, that was talked about in the riddles of racism, hatred and persecution. Meanwhile, the landscape of their childhood was torn apart by awesome machines and the hands of men redirected their sight lines to massive edifices of concrete and glass. That DC’s youth didn’t pull some kind of crazy, utopian suicide pack ala Suicide Club is a god damn miracle. Instead, The Fordists display the fear and hope people can feel simultaneously and created something truly interesting.

Our Name is Legion//Our Projects are Many

Well, well, well, it seems I’ve returned to my own vizion, and with the same carni-barking hustle in tow.

Those of us living in the EV are often deeply contorted through a multitude of projects, and while I can’t speak for the total mass, I will say that Sean, Ian, and I are in the mires of productivity.

First, might I remind the creatures of the DMV that No Love Lost is happening once again this Sunday (8/21) at Velvet the Velvet Lounge:

In case you can’t read fliers, the details are:

No Love Lost
Sun 8/21
9pm-Close
21+
FREE
At
The Velvet Lounge
915 U St NW
Washington, DC

We even have one of those painfully nifty FB events for the digitally repaired…

This will be another NYC send off for Sean and I, but more on that later.

Don’t be prepared to retire just yet, as the record label Ian masterminds, Cricket Cemetery, is having its first showcase on Mon, 8/22. Not only that, but sir Ian will also be performing in his band Lions&Tigers&Whales,for which I also now sing. Don’t believe me? Here’s a rough rehearsal demo, recorded through a top of the line laptop:


Beyond that, AAA, and the Tender Thrill are also playing.

For the internet inclined, here again is an FB event. And for the rest of the world, the details are as follows:

Cricket Cemetery
SHOWCASE 8.22. 2011
9:00pm – 11:30pm
$5
Galaxy Hut
2711 Wilson Boulevard
Arlington, VA 22201

Incidentally, though Ian is always coursing through music projects, I could not be more excited for another band he’s conquering new territory with, Bitter American. It’s a new take on a throwback hardcore punk sound, (yeah, “hardcore punk,” that far back), in all the best ways possible. Their first release comes out on Cricket Cemetery soon, but in the meantime, burn your ears with this:

From there the storm only grows stronger as we find Sean and I moving the front back up to NY to spend another dark evening DJing at Wierd. Last time was an amazing experience, and we were ill-blessed by the sounds of Frank [Just Frank]. However, this time there is almost more a crackle of excitement as we join forces with Fan Death Records’ own Pleasure Leftists for an indescribable evening. If you’ve been trapped outside of the space time continuum, and are unfamiliar, Pleasure Leftists are like the reincarnation of some obscure, long lost Factory Band. It goes a little something like this:

Again, there is a handy FB event for the human impaired.

And so, in the spirit of no peace for the wicked, we march ever onward for the big finish of this round. Fan Death Records is also having a showcase in the next week. This one is the much hyped show at Mishka.

I’ll spare you the endless reams of frenzied excitement we’ve all been churning out about this, but I will let Mishka do a bit of the talking:
HERE

Again, there is a handy FB event.

But allow me to expound a bit.

Longtime, both Fan Death, and No Love Lost friends, Screen Vinyl Image will be coating the entire space with their rich aural webs.

Once again the aforementioned Pleasure Leftists will storm the planks in their frantically sour fashion.

But the black monolith of the entire event will be another elusive performance by the master of downtrodden synth pop: Puerto Rico Flowers.

It is physically impossible to have read any online music periodical and not know about the genius of this group. I myself have spent a substantial amount of time singing hymns of praise. In fact, shooting myself in foot a bit, I’d dare say, if you only attend one thing on this entire list, it should be seeing Puerto Rico Flowers, at all cost.


And from there friends, we retire back into the dark corners of the earth. But I assure you, it will not be for long. Join us, won’t you?

A Mix For The Afterlife

Ambient / Noise Mix for the Afterlife.

First one of these I’ve ever done. No tracklisting. Just light some candles, shut your lights off, lay down, ingest your proper audio enhancers… Focus on the futuristic spirit worlds of the ancient times.

Download : HERE

THE BAM BAMS DEBUT 7INCH AVAILABLE FOR PREORDER

These girls are going to fuck yr shit up so hard. I saw them for the first time about a month ago at velvet lounge and was knocked on my ass. Anyone who has seen them knows exactly what I’m talking about. Their DEBUT 7INCH drops September 6th on Cricket Cemetery. However you can order it now & get free shipping!!!http://cricketcemetery.com/artwork/2154487_The_BAM_BAMS_7inch_PREORDER.html and have it in time for their show with THE ETTES at black cat on September 2nd. 3 songs, 300 copies, hand screened covers. I feel bad for anyone that doesn’t pick up a copy, honestly.

Keiji Haino: The Best Live Videos

My fascination with Keiji Haino, one of the most innovative and important guitarists of the past 30 years, started with my introduction to Fushitsusha and their live album ‘Withdrawe, This Sable Disclosure Ere Devot’d’ . The album was pummeling and honestly made me rethink how guitar was played. Ever since I heard that LP, I’ve tried to listen to everything Haino has ever done or been a part of if I could get my hands on it. Haino is no stranger to releasing project after project, if one combines his solo work with his collaboration work it totals at 74 recordings. Many have deemed him an “experimental/avant” guitarist/musician, honestly, I think that is a disservice to the music Haino has done. I think putting him in the same category as Charley Patton, Tommy Johnson, and Mississippi Fred McDowell is much more understandable due to the extreme nature in which he plays. Instead of using the guitar to just create sound or accompany the song,  like many early Delta Blues musicians before him, Haino attacks the guitar in order to add to the piece. Vocally one could argue that he has one of the most painful voices put to tape (I mean that in the best way possible). Don’t believe me? I challenge you to get through the LP “Black Blues” (vocal only version), and not tell me he puts some of Yoko Ono’s vocal work to shame.

In the end, those familiar with Haino’s work already know all of this, have probably read every interview he’s done, and probably tried to catch him at some of his extremely rare shows (especially those within the USA). If you haven’t checked out any of his work, do it now, to help here is a primer if you will of some of his YouTube highlights.

Axiom Mix Series Vol. 1-3

It feels like just yesterday I was using Audio-galaxy and Napter to discover Throbbing Gristle LPs I’ve never heard before, find all the live Sun Ra records in existence, or satisfying my love for Chicago by downloading the first 3 LPs. Of course those places are gone now or are radically different from what they originally were, but with Spotify it feels like I’m re-discovering music again. I really can’t stress how much I love Spotify, not only do I have tons of music at my finger tips, it also makes it a lot easier to discover new stuff. I’m sure by now most of you have heard what Spotify does, so I won’t bore you with what it is. Sure there are drawbacks, much of which has to do with the music that is NOT on there yet, but I’m sure it will only get better.

Furthermore, I understand there are services somewhat similar in a lot of ways, I won’t get into that here, what I will get into though is the idea of sharing playlists (for those of you already familiar with this, you can ignore the next couple of sentences). I love the idea of being able to create a mix on the fly anywhere you are and share it with anyone who has a Spotifly account and has synced it up to their Facebook. No longer do you need to know how to stream stuff, zip stuff,  or upload to a website/downloading site. For the past 2 weeks every Thursday or so I’ve tried to create a new playlist mix. It forces me to re-discover old music, and discover new stuff as well.  I know a few blogs do a “Spotifriday”, I won’t be doing that, but every so often I will post a few volumes of the mixes I do. I’m sure there will a bit of something for everyone in these mixes, much like the radio show I did in college, you might love 1/3rd of the stuff, hate 1/3rd of the stuff, and just be fucking confused about the other 1/3rd. Ultimately, in the end, that’s the way I think good and interesting mixes should be.

Here are the first three, you can find me on Spotify here.

Axiom Vol. 1

Adrenalin O.D. – Paul’s Not Home
Sir Richard Bishop – Gnostic Gem
My Dad Is Dead – The Quiet Man
Negative FX – I Know Better
Pascal Comelade – Bar Electric
Crispy Ambulance – Not What I Expected
Babes In Toyland – He’s My Thing
Einstürzende Neubauten – Zuckendes Fleisch
Yusef Lateef – Love Waltz
Dead Can Dance – Fortune (Remastered)
Silkworm – Give Me Some Skin
Free Kitten – Seasick
Morton Feldman – Journey To The End Of Night – 1
Xmal Deutschland – Tag Für Tag
Survival Research Laboratories – October 24, 1992: Graz, Austria
Gang Gang Dance – Adult Goth
KK Null – 2
Pharoah Sanders – Astral Traveling

Axiom Vol. 2

Thrilled Skinny – Good Doss
Purling Hiss – Run From the City
Taake – Hordalands Doedskvad part I
Loren Connors – On Patrick Hill
Killing Joke – Unspeakable (Live at Odeon)
Julie Doiron – Mother
McCoy Tyner – Mode To John
Blurt – Smoke Time
Tony Conrad With Faust – The Death Of The Composer Was In 1962
PJ Harvey – Rid Of Me
Windir – Sognariket Si Herskarinne
Richard Youngs – Part II
Mudhoney – Here Comes Sickness – Live At KCSB 11/16/88
Killdozer – Farmer Johnson

Axiom Vol. 3

Bill Orcutt – My Reckeless Parts
Government Issue – Snubbing
THE NAMES – The Fire
The Shivvers – Teenline
Ornette Coleman – The Alchemy Of Scott Lafaro
Chickins – Chickins Theme
Iannis Xenakis – Plektó
60 Étages – The Blank Invasion Of Schizofonics Bikinis
Sort Sol – Marble Station
Incapacitants – Mutual Fund Explosion – Backwards
Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci – Where Does Yer Go Now?
Le Volume Courbe – I Killed My Best Friend
Urban Waste – No Hope
Ikue Mori – 8 Million Ways To Die
The Fiends – Asian White
Jarboe – Late Night
Zeena Parkins – Sleep