Hello!

Mike Nobody - GLITCH Portait 022

 

“All the various styles are organically connected to one another. I’m an additive person—the entire storehouse of my knowledge informs everything I do. People are so obsessed with the surface that they can’t see the connections, but they are there.” ~ John Zorn

“Cute, cool, and creepy”, is how I have been described by some folks.
Usually, I am classified by my contemporaries as an outsider artist-musician.
Davin Brainard (time Stereo) and Warren DeFever (His Name Is Alive) observed that I do not intentionally TRY to be perceived as weird, that I just naturally AM….. making comparisons to Wesley Willis and Daniel Johnston. I guess that I will just go along with those descriptions.

  • Music, Videos, Noise, and Art /
  • Voice, Tapes, and Reed Trumpet /
  • Bass, Baritone, and other Guitars /
  • Electronics & Junkyard Percussion /
  • Plunderphonics and Custom-Made Instruments /
  • Inspiration and Panic

I enjoy creating what I refer to as “Prog-Punk Noise-Rock”, a strange pastiche of many styles. I have collaborated with plenty of other artists.

I have always been obsessively into art and music; drawing, painting, playing with tape recorders and making noise. I built my first guitar from a badly beaten-up body & neck that I found in someone’s trash. A friend’s dad gave me the electrical guts from an unknown 1950’s guitar. Additional parts were improvised from pieces of found junk and bought from a music store.

When I was a twelve year old kid, back in the 1980’s, I was just a runt of the Detroit hardcore punk / heavy metal scene . Lacking enough money to buy any good equipment, I purchased a cheap microphone at a pawn shop and passed myself off as a vocalist. I sang in whatever groups that I could find, gaining experience and learning whatever that I could. Mostly, it was shitty cover bands, playing in basements, getting yelled at by uninvited drunks that we suck. Later on, I built a microphone stand by welding a tube onto a metal lid and looping an old belt through the top, to hold mics. It wasn’t very sturdy. But, I replaced it with a real one when I had enough money. Eventually, I improved my bass & guitar skills, playing in many short-lived groups that went nowhere.

I was a writer / photographer for The Jam Rag, a widely-read local music paper, while still a teenager and made friends with other artists along the way. During the 1990’s I was a cameraman, roadie, and occasional collaborator with Princess Dragon-Mom, Mog Stunt Team, His Name Is Alive, etc.. I also performed in a few experimental noise groups; Bionics, Edible Audio, Fresh Farm Raised Catfish, etc.

The Island of Misfit Noise began in the summer of 1998 with only Mystic MarshaKat and myself. She played keyboards & guitar (classically trained) and I played bass & guitar (mostly self-taught). Both of us were former members of N2-Submission, the backing band for our then-roommate The Impaler “Detroit’s Vampire Poet.” Our duo’s name changed a couple of times, before settling on the IOMN.  Other musicians came and went during a period of 15 years, with she & I being the only constant members of the group. She also left in early 2013. MarshaKat and I remain friends. She may continue to assist in some capacity, just not as a full-time band member.

I resurrected the IOMN as a recording project in late 2014, with collaborators from Michigan to Australia. We exchanged material back-and-forth until some music was completed. The style that we made is very freeform. A few collaborators from the IOMN have joined me in other projects. Some of them have experience in film & television and are producing low-budget movies with me.

MickeyBugsBand_1

After years of trial-and-error, I have come to the conclusion that I simply lack the necessary social skills to keep a stable group together. I tried for ages to put a band together. But, I could never manage it for very long. I am focusing primarily on composition and recording, for the time being. I will return to live performance when I am certain that the project won’t immediately disintegrate. Assembling the right line-up and keeping it intact is a big obstacle. I would like to eventually have a live group again. At minimum, I would prefer having a decent drummer accompany me. I get uneasy being on stage alone. But, an ideal line-up would include:

  • Myself on bass, vocals, and tapes.
  • A creative drummer. Someone who is comfortable playing with additional percussionists, drum machines, noise, or other unusual stuff.
  • Maybe two guitarists who could also contribute more percussion, keyboards, samplers, vocals, or whatever.

Maybe I will just go back to replacing musicians as I go along…. again. I’m currently preparing a one-man-band type thing that I can perform by myself with just a bass and my crazy setup. I’ll make it work, somehow.

Some of my current projects;

  • Mike Damn Nobody is my experimental noise project. I might book some shows for this again. Recordings are available as “RecycleTapes”, as well as digital downloads.
  • Theee Urban SpaceCat (Cassette-Zine) is a publication of my artwork, ramblings, stories, correspondences, miscellaneous found objects, music, commentary, and anything else packaged with a cassette tape or compact disc of my recordings… whatever they may be. I wish to publish an issue every three or four months (depending on available funds). It is intended as an outlet for all of my artistic endeavors combined into one package, modeled after my decades of correspondences with pen-pals.
  • The Island of Misfit Noise (MovieComix) is an on-again-off-again production for an extremely no budget Sci-Fi Comedy. We are working on it, one piece at a time, as resources become available. It is also series of DIY comic books that I’m working on, at least until the movie gets made. Basically, it’s storyboard ideas. I’m also sending contributions to other zinesters seeking collaborations.
  •  MykNobody is an alternate spelling sometimes used when I’m drawing & painting. Commissioned works are relatively cheap, if you want some art in your life.

♛ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ Prog ☆ Punk 🐱 Noise ☆ Rock ☆ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ♛

Over time, I have received some frequently asked questions. So, I will add this below, if anybody really wants to know:

Gear Geek Stuff:

I don’t have a rehearsal space, just a tiny apartment that serves as my studio / office.

I have two multi-track machines;

  • one cassette (Tascam 488 MKII 8-track Portastudio)
  • one digital (Roland VS-1688 Digital Audio Workstation)

On my computer, I use whatever freeware programs that are available online. Two old broken boomboxes serve as studio monitors. I also collect various types of tape recorders (cassette, micro-cassette, reel-to-reel, 8-track, etc).

I prefer recording electrical instruments directly, via preamps or emulators, and mic-ing up an ambient “room sound” for acoustic tracks. Analog tape is good for getting a saturated compression sound, well-suited to percussion instruments or creating tape noises. Digital is good at getting a cleaner sound. I record the bulk of my material at home. I make demos during the week and begin multi-tracking by the weekend. My original plan was to lay basic tracks on tape, bounce them to digital, then either take the tracks to someone else for mixing (maybe at a higher quality studio with a good engineer) or figure out how to do it myself.

I don’t have very high quality microphones;

  • A modified telephone receiver, with an XLR jack installed
  • an old abused Radio Shack mic from the 1980’s
  • another stolen from a karaoke machine
  • two USB microphones, from Guitar Hero, I think
  • several cheap models from 1970’s tape recorders

I used to have a homemade drum kit, affectionately referred to as my “ShitKit”. It was a hodgepodge of rusted crappy drums acquired from the Salvation Army. Instead of cymbals I added scrap metal and junk, for a clunkier sound. Unfortunately, it was mistakenly hauled away by scrappers from a friend’s garage. But, I am rebuilding another “new-and-improved” version, ShitKit 2.0!

I have some cheap keyboards and electronics. But, I would like make improvements to my setup as I go along. There are some models of foot drum kits that look interesting. I also have ideas for custom basses / guitars that I would like to get built. Adding other instruments to my arsenal would be fantastic.

My bass / guitar setup has evolved over time into an unusual hybrid rig, splitting the instrument signal three ways, combined with various effects into a “sonic sandwich”;

  • one through a bass amp (SWR)
  • one through a lead guitar amp (Marshall)
  • one direct to mixer (Line 6 POD)

Miscellaneous samples and noise collages are prepared on cassette tape and played back with a pair of foot-controlled Dictaphone machines fed directly into the mixer.

I have two basses;

  • 1987 Guild Pilot with tremolo bar. I use recycled copper/nylon picks, for more attack and articulation.
  • Jay Turser copy of a Höfner’ 500/1 violin “Beatle Bass”, like Paul McCartney’s. I use this shorter-scale bass mainly for cleaner finger-playing techniques.

I have two guitars;

  • Line 6 Variax guitar, to achieve a wide variety of tones.
  • Ibanez RX-Series guitar with a Seymour Duncan Humbucker that I installed at the bridge. It is usually tuned down like a baritone. But, I also use it for other alternate tunings.

I prefer Ground Roundwound strings, for their smooth feel – yet bright tone. Stainless steel armored instrument cables are also very durable and minimize ground noise.

Previous attempts at building circuit-bent and experimental instruments have yielded mixed results. But, I can get some interesting sounds out of them, if the darn things don’t self-destruct first.

Creativity Stuff:

My songwriting style is a mix of eclectic influences juxtaposed together. I like combining a bit of everything, when I can.

Sometimes it is harmonious.

Sometimes it is schizophrenic.

Sometimes it is simple and accessible.

Sometimes it is noisy and irritating

It can be almost anything, depending on the song. I am writing within three basic categories;

  1. Solo: material that I can play alone without additional players.
  2. Band: material that requires other musicians to perform live.
  3. Album: material that is very difficult or impossible to be played live at all, recorded solely for album releases.

Lyrics are kind of an afterthought for me. I’ll write down any ideas I get and go back to them later if I am working on something. But, music comes first. Lyrics might be personal or political. They may be strange and surreal. Overall, it is “the little world”, “the big world”, and the English Language… or any kind of language. I like leaving things a little open to interpretation rather than always being explicit.

I’ve played with hundreds of musicians from many different genres. I dunno if I really have a “sound” or not. It just comes out through whatever I have to work with. It’s sorta like combining Frank Zappa’s Freak Out List  and the Nurse with Wound list together! Some notable influences include;

  • ¡Tchkung!
  • Alice Donut
  • Bad Brains
  • Bad Religion
  • Beatles
  • Beck
  • Jared Warren (KARP, Big Business, Melvins)
  • Bootsy Collins (Parliament-Funkadelic)
  • The Crazy World of Arthur Brown
  • Bran Flakes
  • Robert Smith (The Cure)
  • Brian May (Queen)
  • Buzz Osbourne (Melvins)
  • Captain Beefheart (The Magic Band)
  • Carl Stalling
  • Caroliner
  • Chris Squire (Yes)
  • Chuck Mosley (Faith No More, Bad Brains)
  • Cliff Burton (Metallica)
  • Comets on Fire
  • Comparative Anatomy
  • Cop Shoot Cop
  • Crash Worship
  • Crass
  • Daft Punk
  • Dale Flattum (Steel Pole Bath Tub, Tumor Circus, Milk Cult)
  • Daniel Johnston
  • David Bowie
  • David Grohl (Scream, Nirvana, Foo Fighters)
  • Dennis Dunaway (Alice Cooper)
  • Destroy All Monsters
  • Gerald Casale (Devo)
  • Bob Log III (Doo Rag)
  • Doug Henderson (Krackhouse, Spongehead)
  • Dust Brothers (Beastie Boys, Beck)
  • East Bay Ray & Jello Biafra (Dead Kennedys)
  • Einstürzende Neubauten
  • Evolution Control Committee
  • Fat Mike (NOFX)
  • Wayne Coyne (The Flaming Lips)
  • Flipper
  • Frank Zappa (Mothers of Invention)
  • Fred Frith
  • Geddy Lee (Rush)
  • Geezer Butler & Toni Iommi (Black Sabbath)
  • Gene Simmons & Ace Frehley (KISS)
  • Godheadsilo
  • Greg Ginn & Kira Roessler (Black Flag)
  • Grotus
  • Hazil Adkins
  • Helios Creed (Chrome)
  • Hide (Ultra Bidé)
  • Ian Mackaye (Minor Theat, Fugazi)
  • Ichirou Agata (Melt-Banana)
  • Iggy Pop & The Stooges
  • Jaco Pastorius (Weather Report)
  • Jad Fair (1/2 Japanese, Strobe Talbot)
  • Jerry Garcia (Grateful Dead)
  • Duane Denison & David Wm. Sims (Scratch Acid, The Jesus Lizard)
  • Jimi Hendrix
  • Joey Shithead Keithley (D.O.A.)
  • John Bonham & Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin)
  • John Oswald (Plunderphonics)
  • John S. Hall & Bradford Reed (King Missile)
  • John Zorn (Naked City, Painkiller)
  • Juan Garcia Esquivel
  • Jucifer
  • Kevin Rutmanis (The Cows, Melvins, Hepa/Titus)
  • Killdozer
  • Larry Graham (Sly & the Family Stone, Graham Central Station)
  • Kevin Strickland & Larissa Strickland (Laughing Hyenas)
  • Lemmy Kilmister (Motörhead, Hawkwind)
  • Les Claypool (Primus)
  • Lightning Bolt + Black Pus
  • Malcolm Young & Angus Young (AC/DC)
  • Marc Bolan (T. Rex)
  • Mark Sandman (Morphine)
  • Masahiko Ohno (Solmania)
  • Masonna
  • Curt Kirkwood & Cris Kirkwood (Meat Puppets)
  • Masami Akita (Merzbow)
  • Mike Patton (Faith No More, Mr. Bungle, Fantomas, Tomahawk)
  • Mike Watt (Minutemen, fIREHOSE)
  • Negativland
  • Omoide Hatoba
  • Pat Smear (Germs, Nirvana, Foo Fighters)
  • Paul Leary (Butthole Surfers, Melvins)
  • Pussy Galore
  • R. Stevie Moore
  • The Ramones
  • Raymond Scott
  • The Residents
  • Rob Wright & John Wright (NoMeansNo)
  • Roky Erikson (13th Floor Elevators)
  • Root Boy Slim & The Sex Change Band
  • Scott Lucas (Local H)
  • Sebadoh
  • The Shaggs
  • Shannon Selberg (The Cows, Heroine Sheiks)
  • Shockabilly
  • Shonen Knife
  • Six Finger Satellite
  • Skeleton Key
  • Sonic Youth
  • Kim Thayil (Soundgarden)
  • Space Streakings
  • Stan Lee & Leonard Graves Phillips (The Dickies)
  • Stanley Clarke
  • Steve Albini (Big Black, Rapeman, Shellac)
  • Subhumans
  • Superconductor
  • Syd Barrett (Pink Floyd)
  • The Tape-beatles
  • Tatsuya Yoshida (Ruins, Zeni Geva)
  • They Might Be Giants
  • Thin Lizzy
  • Throbbing Gristle
  • Thrones
  • Tom Morello & Tim Commerford (Rage Against The Machine)
  • Tom Waits
  • Tragic Mulatto
  • Trans Am
  • Victims Family
  • Violent Onsen Geisha
  • Ween
  • Weird Paul Petroskey
  • Wesley Willis
  • Wildman Fischer
  • Yamatsuka Eye (Boredoms, Hanatarash, UFO or Die)
  • Zach Hill (Hella)
  • Zen Guerrilla
  • ZZ Top
  • etc., etc., etc., etc., etc.,..

I tried for years and years to arrange having dual drummers play together. We managed to do it a few times, which was great while it lasted. Most drummers are not into that, though. I have been told that they want to be guitarists, instead. I prefer working with someone who enjoys learning the instrument that they are playing, who really spends time improving their skills. Y’know?

I always needed to be collaborating with somebody, whether an individual or a group. It gave me confidence and motivation. I would bounce ideas off of other bandmates, to get a feel for their capabilities and preferences, to find which direction that we were going in. I depended a lot on their input to filter my ideas through. I was always looking for feedback, trying to be as democratic as possible. But, this approach slowed us down, frustrating everyone. In hindsight, it was a mistake, like driving a car with the parking brake on.

My lifelong struggling with mental illness sometimes gets in the way as well. Clinical depression, social anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive tendencies are a debilitating combination. Medications help to keep the highs and lows manageable. But, they aren’t a cure.

Techniques:

I will play almost any instrument available to me. I might not be good at it. But, I’ll play it anyway. My attempts at drumming have been pitiful. My foot coordination is terrible. I finally ended up positioning the bass drum sideways, playing it timpani-style.

My vocals tend to be on the high and nasally side. But, I give it a little growl on the low end. Adding effects makes for a little more variety and covers-up my natural voice a little bit, which I’ve never liked very much.

My guitar / bass playing skills are pretty good, not virtuoso… but still, pretty good. I believe that I’m a better bassist than a guitarist and a better composer than a musician.

The “Theory of Obscurity” states that an artist can only produce pure art when the expectations and influences of the outside world are not taken into consideration. 

The “Theory of Phonetic Organization” states, “the musician should put the sounds first, building the music up from [them] rather than developing the music, then working down to the sounds that make it up.”

I visualize music as abstract sounds, in waves, shapes and colors… like a rainbow oscilloscope. Sheet music feels a little too rigid to me. But, I will score parts out on paper where I think it is appropriate. Sometimes, I’ll jam riffs onto demos and pick out the best ones later. Sometimes, I’ll sing everything a capella, bang on found junk, make noises, and interpret it later. On rare occasions, I’ve had entire songs pop into my head while I scramble to get it recorded before I forget.

“Thinking too much can ruin a good time” – D. Boon (Minutemen)

When I am creating music & art, I probably do my best when my brain is turned off, just mental finger-painting. Everything that I am doing is sort of revealed to me as I am doing it. So, I don’t really know what it is until I am finished. Conscious messages don’t work very well for me. Stressing-out about money, transportation, food, housing, and living conditions REALLY messes-up my mojo a lot, though.

“Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open.” – Stephen King

Physical Appearance:

Having a standard uniform of your own is useful. People like Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, and Steve Jobs wore clothing everyday that was nearly identical to all of the other clothes that they owned. It saved time and brainpower finding something to wear, when their entire wardrobes were virtually the same.

 The Science Of Simplicity: Why Successful People Wear The Same Thing Every Day

My physical appearance doesn’t change very much, day-to-day, either. Nearly everything I own is secondhand; from yard sales, garage sales, estate sales and thrift stores. I’ve always been a t-shirt and jeans guy. If I can’t find an outfit for under $12, I probably won’t buy it.

Sometimes I’ll try out new things, making small modifications to my so-called image. None of this is permanent. But, my typical everyday outfit includes;

  • Goatee & long hair (sometimes tied back).
  • Black jeans with a black button shirt (black goes with everything).
  • Converse Chuck Taylors have always been my go-to shoes.
  • Recycled rubber belts adorned with a Captain America shield buckle.
  • Mix it up a little with different t-shirts.
  • Red glitter nail polish adds some color.

Personal Rules of Conduct:

I seldom drink alcohol and I loathe beer. I don’t smoke tobacco or abuse any drugs. It doesn’t really matter to me if anybody else does, unless it gets in the way of working or becomes obnoxious. Marijuana and hallucinogens are more tolerated than harder drugs.

I have little patience for perpetual fuck-ups who will constantly flake out on me.

I am an atheist. I don’t believe in whatever Hell you think I’m going to, let alone your invisible friends. You can believe whatever you want to believe. But, if you’re a religious fundamentalist creationist who thinks that the Flat Earth is 6,000 years old or 72 virgins await you in the afterlife because you won’t eat bacon, I would prefer not to hear about it.

I am LGBTQ-supportive and have friends from all sorts of different backgrounds. Bigots are not welcome. Go away.

There are not many groups that I believe I would fit into if I didn’t begin from scratch. I never had any delusions about “making it big” or getting rich. Making a decent living as a self-employed full-time artist / musician would be great, if possible. I am content if I make enough money to cover expenses, have a good dinner, and pay a few bills.

If you want to check out upcoming events or new stuff available add yourself onto the mailing list in the sidebar. There are also fundraising links there for anybody who wants to support my efforts.

Thanks!

The Rise and Fall of the “Freest Little City in Texas”

texas_observer_neat_layout_01_flat_stronger_colours2
(“This article from the Texas Observer was too good NOT to share.” – Mike)

How a libertarian experiment in city government fell apart over taxes, debt and some very angry people.

The abandoned cop cars sat in Trina Reyes’ yard for eight months. She wanted them gone, but there were no police to come get them. Last September, the police department in Von Ormy — a town of 1,300 people just southwest of San Antonio — lost its accreditation after it failed to meet basic standards. Reyes was mayor at the time, so the three patrol cars, as well as the squad’s police radios and its computers, ended up at her home. It was just another low point in a two-year saga that she now counts as one of the most difficult experiences of her life.

“This is one of the worst things I’ve ever done,” she said of being mayor. “I’ve never dealt with such angry people. I’m washing my hands of everything. … I’m going to travel. I’m going as far away from Von Ormy as I can.”

For the last few years, Von Ormy has been in near-constant turmoil over basic issues of governance: what form of municipal government to adopt, whether to tax its residents, and how to pay for services such as sewer, police, firefighters and animal control. Along the way, three City Council members were arrested for allegedly violating the Open Meetings Act, and the volunteer fire department collapsed for lack of funds. Nearly everyone in town has an opinion on who’s to blame. But it’s probably safe to say that the vision of the city’s founder, a libertarian lawyer whose family traces its roots in Von Ormy back six generations, has curdled into something that is part comedy, part tragedy.

In 2006, fearing annexation by rapidly encroaching San Antonio, some in Von Ormy proposed incorporating as a town. But in government-averse rural Texas, incorporation can be a hard sell. Unincorporated areas are governed mainly by counties, which have few rules about what you can do on private property and tend to only lightly tax. There’s no going back from what municipal government brings: taxes, ordinances, elections and tedious city council meetings. Still, the fear of being absorbed by San Antonio — with its big-city taxes and regulations — was too much for most Von Ormians.

Enter Art Martinez de Vara. At the time, Martinez de Vara was an ambitious third-year law student at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, a local boy with a penchant for Texas history and right-wing politics.

Martinez de Vara suggested a compromise of sorts. Von Ormy could become a “liberty city” — a stripped-down, low-tax, low-government version of municipal government that’s currently en vogue among the tea party in Texas.

Initially, the city would impose property and sales taxes, but the property tax would ratchet down to zero over time. The business-friendly environment would draw new economic activity to Von Ormy, and eventually the town would cruise along on sales taxes alone.

There would be no charge for building permits, which Martinez de Vara said would be hand-delivered by city staff. The nanny state would be kept at bay, too. Want to shoot off fireworks? Blast away. Want to smoke in a bar? Light up. Teens wandering around at night? No curfew, no problem.

Martinez de Vara and his mother, Sally Martinez, along with other prominent residents, started the Commission to Incorporate Von Ormy. He gave Von Ormy a motto: “The Freest Little City in Texas.”

Folks in Von Ormy liked what they heard and in May 2008 voted to incorporate. Martinez de Vara was elected mayor that November.

In a 2015 presentation he gave at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank, Martinez de Vara said that a group of people with no political experience took it upon themselves to do everything a large city like San Antonio does but at a lower cost. He touted Von Ormy’s ability to provide animal control services, a 20-officer police department — a mix of paid officers and volunteers — and an online city hall.

“We were blessed with this unique opportunity to experiment with democracy,” he said.

Today, there is no city animal control program and stray dogs roam the streets. The Bexar County Sheriff’s Office patrols the town instead of city police, and City Hall resides in a mobile home with one full-time staffer — though that’s a step up from the dive bar where City Council met until the owner bounced them out. If you go to the city’s website, you’ll be informed that it’s still under construction.

If Von Ormy is a libertarian experiment with democracy, it’s one that hasn’t turned out as expected.

JEN REEL

Former Von Ormy mayor Trina Reyes at her home in April. Several abandoned police cars were in her yard for eight months.

The crisis of government in Von Ormy doesn’t present itself at first glance. The town is located on I-35 just south of the Medina River, where San Antonio’s impressive sprawl gives way to the scrub brush of South Texas. There’s a post office, of course, plus some gas stations, a diner, a trailer home dealer and the MGM Cabaret strip club. A giant oak tree in town is believed by some local historians, including Martinez de Vara, to have been the encampment for Santa Anna before he laid siege to the Alamo.

Reyes lives near I-35 in a distinct two-story blue house. A retired buyer for a beauty supply company, she moved from San Antonio to Von Ormy in 1982. When Martinez de Vara stepped down as mayor in 2015, he tapped Reyes to run. She had been an early supporter of the liberty city idea. But when I visited her this spring, she was counting down the days till her term expired in May.

From the beginning, she said, the town had been divided.

“Some really liked it,” Reyes said. “They liked the possibility of getting street lights, sewage, better roads and all of the stuff that comes with incorporating. … There was quite a bit promised and people bought into it, including myself.”

Others thought that the process would lead to unnecessary fights and power grabs.

“A lot of people that did not want to incorporate were saying that once you become a political entity you start with the corruption, the infighting and all of the stuff that comes with having public figures,” she said. “They said it was going to divide the city, which it did. The majority of the people that spoke up against [incorporating] were right then about what’s happening now.”

As mayor, Martinez de Vara’s first priority was to lure chain stores with the town’s low-tax, low-regulation branding. But there was a problem: Von Ormy lacked a sewer system and it would be expensive to connect to San Antonio’s main wastewater system. The San Antonio Water System, which services most of Bexar County, told town officials that the connection would cost $4 million to $5 million.

According to Reyes, City Administrator James Massey recommended floating a bond, standard practice for most cities. But Martinez de Vara rejected the recommendation. Liberty cities aren’t supposed to take on debt, after all. (Martinez de Vara didn’t respond to numerous requests for comment.)

Reyes said most people in Von Ormy agreed with Martinez de Vara’s position but that it put the town in a bind. “You want to be a liberty city? No taxes,” she said. “We could only afford to put in $500,000, if that, but where would we get the rest from?”
The sewer system was never installed, and the town still relies on septic.

The lack of a centralized wastewater system made it more difficult to recruit businesses. But the oil boom in the Eagle Ford Shale — the vast shale play that stretches from Laredo into East Texas — helped juice the businesses along the I-35 strip in Von Ormy. Martinez de Vara and the City Council stuck to the plan of ratcheting the property tax rate down every year. In 2009, the rate stood at a modest 39 cents per $100 of value — less than neighboring San Antonio or Somerset, a small town to the south. By 2014, they’d cut it to 25.5 cents — enough to generate $79,000 in revenue. Meanwhile, the sales tax brought in about $215,000 that year.

Martinez de Vara promised that the property tax would be eliminated altogether by 2015, the bold step he’d envisioned at the town’s inception.

“Many of our residents are on fixed incomes and property taxation is the single greatest threat to continued home ownership and the ability to pass the fruits of a lifetime of work onto the next generation,” he told the San Antonio Express-News in 2014.

JEN REEL

Von Ormy no longer has a city property tax and instead relies on sales taxes from businesses such as the Route 35 Diner.

But two things happened around this time: First, the bottom fell out of the oil economy. With oil prices in free-fall in 2014 and 2015, the drilling rigs in the Eagle Ford Shale started packing up, as did many of the workers, trucks and ancillary oil field services.

Second, some were beginning to sour on the liberty city model. On the five-member City Council, three council members — Jacqueline Goede, Verna Hernandez and Carmina Aguilar — had banded together in a bloc that was increasingly at odds with Martinez de Vara and the two other council members, one of whom was Sally Martinez. The most explosive issue was property taxes. The three women thought it was foolish to eliminate property taxes altogether. Sales taxes rise and fall with the economy, and few cities rely on them alone.

“As new as we are and as small as we are, to grow we need those taxes,” Goede told the Express-News. “We need them desperately.”

What ensued was a confusing series of boycotted meetings, obscure loopholes and eventually a possibly illegal hearing that landed the three women briefly in jail. In September 2014, Martinez de Vara had formally proposed zeroing out the property tax, but Goede, Hernandez and Aguilar voted it down 3-2 and, at least for five days, kept the property tax in place. However, to formally ratify the rate, per state law, at least four council members needed to hold another meeting to vote, but Sally Martinez and Debra Ivy refused to show up to any hearing with ratification on the agenda. The result: Martinez de Vara got his way and the property tax rate was eliminated.

Frustrated, Goede, Hernandez and Aguilar took a radical, and possibly illegal, step: They formed a kind of brief shadow government, holding their own City Council hearing at the Von Ormy fire station without Martinez de Vara and the two other council members. At the hearing, they elected Goede mayor pro tem, established a property tax and fired the head of the police department.

Martinez de Vara caught wind of the meeting and got a judge to nullify the actions taken in it. Soon, the Texas Rangers opened a criminal investigation into possible violations of the Texas Open Meetings Act, resulting in misdemeanor charges. In May 2015, the three council members turned themselves in to the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office. Though the charges were eventually dropped and the women continued serving on City Council, the incident only inflamed tensions in the community.

“After that, there was a lack of authority, lack of direction and a lack of enthusiasm,” said Michael Suarez, the former animal control worker for the city and a Martinez de Vara supporter. “Everyone started acting like children and nothing got done.”

Even as Von Ormy descended into chaos, Martinez de Vara’s own profile had been rising. Folks from around the state had started calling him with questions about how to form a liberty city. Martinez de Vara found himself with a niche law practice. He says he has helped four or five Texas towns incorporate as liberty cities, about half the state total in the last decade.

The GOP had also taken notice. In 2011 and 2012, Martinez de Vara served as chief of staff to one-term Representative John Garza, a San Antonio Republican. Then, in 2014, Senator Konni Burton, a libertarian-leaning Republican from Fort Worth, brought him on as chief of staff. That session, Burton introduced Senate Bill 710, which would codify the liberty city model as an official form of municipal government, with restrictions on regulations, debt and the implementation of taxes. The bill died in committee.

Today, he’s the assistant general counsel for the Texas Republican Party and the city attorney for Kingsbury, a liberty city near Seguin in Guadalupe County.

Art Martinez de Vara was the architect of Von Ormy’s incorporation as a liberty city.  KIN MAN HUI / SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS

In May 2015, Martinez de Vara stepped down as mayor — but not before asking Reyes, a member of the City Council first elected in 2013, to run as his replacement. She and Martinez de Vara agreed on the top priority: getting the three women off the council.

“It got to the point that the city was spending $20,000 to $30,000 a month in legal fees,” she said. “All three of them would pick up the phone and ask the same question and we’d get charged for all of them.”

Despite pressing city business, council meetings often devolved into chaos. For example, at a September 2015 meeting, Reyes angrily told Goede and Hernandez they were “speaking out of turn” and threatened to call the police if they kept talking. But when Hernandez persisted, Reyes ordered the police chief, who was present at the meeting, to escort Hernandez outside. Hernandez was arrested and booked into jail for disrupting a meeting, a misdemeanor. But that didn’t quiet Hernandez or her supporters.

One day, Reyes said, she got a call from Martinez de Vara.

“He told me that the only way that we were going to get rid of those women is to change to a commissioner-style government,” she said. “And at that point, I would have done anything to get rid of those three women. They were nothing but trouble.”

Martinez de Vara recommended that Von Ormy switch from what’s known as a Type A municipality to a Type C. Instead of the usual five council members and a mayor, Type C cities have two commissioners and a mayor. According to the Texas Municipal League, only 27 of the 1,200 municipalities in Texas are set up this way. In November 2015, voters narrowly approved the change, with 129 in favor and 115 against. The new commission started holding meetings the next month.

When I visited Reyes in Von Ormy in March, she was in despair about the arrangement. Halving the council from six to three elected officials hadn’t brought unity.

She had all but stopped speaking to the two commissioners — longtime City Council member Sally Martinez and Alex Quintanilla, another stalwart in the city government. Reyes simply stopped showing up for council meetings in early 2017, accusing Martinez and Quintanilla of ganging up on her.

In September, Martinez and Quintanilla voted to reclassify the mayor’s office as a conference room and mandated that Reyes pay for the desk’s relocation. “They said it was too big and that I had to take it home,” she said. “Now I work from home.”

She was also worried about violating the Open Meetings Act again, which is easy to do when there are only three people in charge of the city and two constitutes a quorum.

“If two of us talk on the phone, I think that would be a violation,” she said. “We’ve just stopped speaking to each other. And Alex lives across the alley from me. It’s really sad.”

She points to a February meeting between county officials and rural leaders in southern Bexar County as evidence of the precariousness of their situation.

I went to a forum with the county to talk about potential Community Development Block Grant funds in nearby Somerset, and I didn’t realize until I put my glasses on that Sally and Alex were there,” she said. “I thought, ‘Oh my God, we’re in trouble again.’”

In September 2016, Von Ormy made headlines when its police department was forced to shut down. For nearly a year, Reyes and the two city commissioners had been locked in a power struggle over who should be the police chief. When Reyes took over as mayor, she moved to sack Police Chief Greg Reyes (no relation), who she and others accused of harassing council members and city staff and lying about his law enforcement background. (According to a report written by a private investigator tapped by Mayor Reyes, the police chief had lied on his résumé about obtaining a degree from San Antonio College and being assigned to the Frio County Sheriff’s Department Narcotics Task Force, which turned out not to exist.)

Mayor Reyes fired Chief Reyes and convinced the City Council to hire a man named Pedro Rosario. The new police chief claimed to find some serious problems left behind by his predecessor.

“The evidence room had very little to no control measures,” he told me in an April interview. “It was literally an 18-wheel trailer that was unsecured. There was no cataloging. I found unmarked boxes filled with everything from weapons to narcotics … and anybody could walk in, and they did. A lot of the City Council members would just walk in and want to see a file or just grab things.” (Greg Reyes did not respond to numerous requests for comment.)

Former police chief Pedro Rosario claims the evidence room, housed in this tractor trailer, was found unsecured and held unmarked boxes filled with weapons and narcotics.  JEN REEL

Then in the summer of 2016, the two commissioners, Martinez and Quintanilla, voted to fire Rosario and rehire Greg Reyes. But Mayor Reyes claimed the hiring was illegal and refused to recognize Reyes as police chief.

Then in September, the dispute was finally brought to an end when Bexar County Sheriff Susan Pamerleau wrote a letter to Mayor Reyes. Pamerleau said her department would no longer provide dispatch services because there was simply “too much instability” in the department. Without dispatch services, the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement quickly pulled the Von Ormy PD’s accreditation.

The Bexar County Sheriff’s Office has been patrolling the town ever since. The three patrol cars Von Ormy had received as a donation from Bexar County ended up in Reyes’ yard. After her term ended in May, they were moved in front of City Hall.

Jake Galvan, a retired mechanic, says that the police department was an embarrassment to the town and the source of rumors about misconduct and other illegal behavior.

“They didn’t hire anybody that’s a veteran,” he said. “They just hired a bunch of rookies with no experience.”

In Galvan’s view, the liberty city experiment has gone all wrong.

“This ain’t going well at all,” he said. “We’ve got a bunch of empty buildings, a lot of [federal] grant money spent, and for what? We have a fire station that nobody wants to operate and a police station with no police. Where did all that money go?”

In early May, Von Ormy elected a new mayor: Sally Martinez, the only person who has served on the council since the beginning.

“We are in the process of trying to bring back our police department,” she told me in a brief April interview. “We just want to move forward and improve the city however we can.”

David Farr, her challenger, is a mechanic who had started to attend meetings over the past year and wanted to change what he saw as stalled progress and nepotism.

“The only way to make Von Ormy sustainable is to get more businesses out here,” he said.

“If things don’t change, we’re going to be in trouble in, I’d say, two years. We’ll have to start borrowing to get the roads fixed.”

He pins the town’s woes on Martinez de Vara’s crusade to establish other liberty cities, a common complaint heard in Von Ormy.

“I’ll give him credit, he’s the one who got the city going,” he said. “But then, all of a sudden, he drops out. He’s up in Austin. He’s too busy.”

Reyes thinks the liberty city experiment has failed. With increasing expenses, a population resistant to any taxes, and economic development dead in the water, she thinks the town is only a few years away from a fiscal crisis, when the commission will have to decide whether to take on debt.

“We’re halfway there,” she said. “Without ad valorem taxes, we’ll be done in three to five years. If we can’t attract more businesses here and provide the infrastructure, then I think we’re done.”

But others are protective of Martinez de Vara’s vision and blame Reyes for the dysfunction.

Michael Suarez resigned from his position at the city’s animal shelter after City Council voted to suspend its animal control program.  JEN REEL

Michael Suarez, the former animal control worker, was born and raised in Von Ormy. He says that Martinez de Vara was a capable leader who simply saw an opportunity to climb the political ladder.

“Trina just wanted the power, but she didn’t know anything,” Suarez said. “All she wanted to do was just scream about how she’s in charge and order people around. She would scream at people, and that’s not how you do things.”

Suarez was one of the biggest supporters of incorporation, spending his free time block-walking to convince his neighbors that it was the right thing to do.

His wife, Amy, was on the City Council from 2011 to 2013 and was an ally of Martinez de Vara’s.

“I think we’re just young,” she said. “We’ve reached our temper tantrum stage and we just need to get past it. But a lot of the people here don’t care. They want to be left alone, but if something’s not done soon then San Antonio’s going to annex us. Then we’ll have to pay the taxes that Von Ormy was established to get out of in the first place.”

Michael says that the election was an opportunity for things to settle down and live up to the trust given to them by county officials, but that there will be some hard work in getting the town they want back.

“We worked so hard to get this far,” he said. “But it’s kind of turned into George Orwell’s Animal Farm. We’re all equal, but some of us are more equal than others. There’s nobody competent enough to lead this city and we sure as hell can’t attract anybody to come and fix us. We have to do this ourselves.”

(Illustration by Matt Johnstone)

This article appears in the August 2017 issue of the Texas Observer. Read more from the issue or become a member now to see our reporting before it’s published online.

James McCandless is a freelance writer in San Antonio.

Mike Nobody Eating A Hamburger

This is my tribute to Andy Warhol, on the 35th anniversary of his scene in the movie “66 Scenes From America” by danish filmmaker Jorgen Leth. The movie was shot in 1982 and has a total duration of 39 minutes. It consists of a series of shots (or moving postcards) that outline daily life  across the USA in the 1980’s.

Jorgen Leth did not know Warhol, but he was a bit obsessed with him so he definitely wanted to have him in his movie. Friends told Leth that he “should forget about it” and that he could never even approach Warhol.

Anyways – Leth was stubborn so when he came to New York for his movie he simply went to the “factory”, the building Warhol had rented to work at and despite all other claims simply managed to get to Warhol’s studio inside where he met Andy Warhol while he was currently working.

Leth just told Warhol about his movie and the idea of having Andy being one of the 66 scenes along with the highly “symbolic” burger. Warhol immediately liked the idea and agreed to the scene. Andy liked the scene as he said because it was such a real scene, something he would like to do.

So Andy Warhol agreed to come for filming a few days later.

Jorgen leth was a bit afraid that Warhol would not come. He had invited him to a photo studio in new York at 14th street/5th avenue that belonged to a friend of him.

Leth had his assistant buy some burgers and directly advised him to buy some in halfway neutral packaging as Leth was afraid that Warhol might reject some brands (Warhol always had an obsession with some of his favorite brands).

So Andy Warhol finally did arrive at the studio, of course along with his bodyguards, and when he saw the selection of burgers the assistant had brought he asked “Where is the McDonald’s?” and Leth – slightly in panic – was immediately like “I thought you would maybe not like to identify… “ and Warhol answered “no that is the most beautiful”. Leth offered to let his assistant quickly run to McDonald’s but Warhol refused like “No, never mind, I will take the Burger King.”

Directing the video was pretty simple. Leth said to him: “You simply have to eat this hamburger. And then after you finished, you have to eat it, after you finish you should just tell the camera, to the camera, my name is Andy Warhol, I have just eaten a hamburger. “

Leth was worried during the taking as he forgot to give Warhol a glass of water and the bottle of ketchup was brand new, so it was hard to get it out. But being a real Warhol there was only one take, one try, so Warhol pulled it through in just one take, roughly 5 minutes.

So, why a whopper from burger king?

A quote from Andy Warhol:

“What’s great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you know that the President drinks Coke, Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke, too. A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. All the Cokes are the same and all the Cokes are good. Liz Taylor knows it, the President knows it, the bum knows it, and you know it. “

 

▀▄▀▄▀▄▀▄▀▄▀▄▀▄▀▄▀▄▀▄▀▄▀▄▀▄▀▄▀▄▀▄▀▄▀▄▀▄▀▄▀▄
───╔╗
───║║
╔══╣╚═╦══╦═╦══╗
║══╣╔╗║╔╗║╔╣║═╣
╠══║║║║╔╗║║║║═╣
╚══╩╝╚╩╝╚╩╝╚══╝
────────╔╗
────────║║
╔══╦═╗╔═╝║
║╔╗║╔╗╣╔╗║
║╔╗║║║║╚╝║
╚╝╚╩╝╚╩══╝
──────╔╗──────────╔╗
──────║║──────────║║
╔══╦╗╔╣╚═╦══╦══╦═╦╣╚═╦══╗
║══╣║║║╔╗║══╣╔═╣╔╬╣╔╗║║═╣
╠══║╚╝║╚╝╠══║╚═╣║║║╚╝║║═╣
╚══╩══╩══╩══╩══╩╝╚╩══╩══╝
Please Share, Like, and Subscribe!!!

Send me some mail (drawings, pictures, souvenirs, letters etc.):

Mike Nobody
c/o Theee Urban SpaceCat
P.O. Box 1201
Taylor, MI 48180
USA

▀▄▀▄▀▄▀▄▀▄▀▄▀▄▀▄▀▄▀▄▀▄▀▄▀▄▀▄▀▄▀▄▀▄▀▄▀▄▀▄▀▄

Follow on:
✓ Website https://mikenobody.com/
✓ Facebook https://www.facebook.com/MikeNobodyIsHere
✓ Twitter https://twitter.com/MikeNobody
✓ Tumblr http://mikenobody.tumblr.com/
✓ Instagram https://www.instagram.com/mikedamnnobody/

▀▄▀▄▀▄▀▄▀▄▀▄▀▄▀▄▀▄▀▄▀▄▀▄▀▄▀▄▀▄▀▄▀▄▀▄▀▄▀▄▀▄

DOES MY CONTENT BRING VALUE TO YOUR LIFE?
If you want to support the channel and my other work,
you can pick up some music & merch by going to
★ Bandcamp https://mikenobody.bandcamp.com/

…become a patron
★ Patreon https://www.patreon.com/MikeNobody

…or you can make a donation:
★ PayPal https://www.paypal.me/MikeNobody

You can also support by sharing any
video you like on your social profiles.
Spread Mike Nobody far and wide!!!

Thanks,

Mike

\,,/(^_^)\,,/

Oh and if you’re a troll coming here to give me any shit…

ᶠᶸᶜᵏ♥ᵧₒᵤ

Today’s Blog

Music For The People

I haven’t posted much on my website blog in awhile. I have kept myself fairly occupied most of the time, despite outward appearances.

I’ve finally closed the door on The Island of Misfit Noise, as a recording group for good. It is still the title of a no-budget movie and comic book. But, for the purposes of collaborating with other musicians, it has outlived it’s usefulness. I will think of something else if I need it. I’m currently working on a new album with some friends and am keeping an eye out for available musicians to perform live with again.

My disability pay has not come yet. I’m annoyed. A mistake has been made by the Social Security Administration. I updated my account information with them over a month ago. But, they deposited this month’s payment into an account that is no longer active. I called their office and the bank. Hopefully, it will be straightened out soon. I need supplies to work on a few projects and it is holding me up. I have a lot of stuff to catch up on;

  • This week’s mail is ready to go out as soon as I get some postage.
  • My homemade drum kit (aka The ShitKit) is coming along really well. I need to get some parts from a hardware store to put it together.
  • I’m working on a short film to submit to a film festival next month. I need a few items for building props, sets, puppets, etc.
  • I have some incomplete paintings that require art supplies.
  • Someone is offering a free drafting table on Craigslist. I’m out of gas, though. Hopefully, it will still be there when I can refuel again.
  • I need funds to send my zines to the printers, if I am to have them ready in time for upcoming events.
  • I have VHS tapes that need to be transferred to my computer for editing. But, the VCR needs cleaning badly and I can’t find any tape head cleaners anywhere. I gotta get replacements.
  • Of course, there is also the matter of monthly bills and mundane household things; rent, phone, internet, debts, medications, food, dish soap, cat litter, paper towels, toilet paper, car insurance & license plate renewal, etc.

I recently sent out an email to those on my mailing list with a few details of upcoming events and a plea for financial support. I doubt that anybody will take me up on it. But, it never hurts to ask.

I’m writing a new horror story to be made into another low-budget movie, after “The Island of Misfit Noise” film is finished. It is a little more ambitious. It will actually require a REAL budget and not be made piecemeal like the IOMN.

Another project that I will undertake, a little bit later, is a compilation LP.  It will be funded collectively by the contributing artists. Everyone submits a song or two and their share of the budget to produce it. After the vinyl is pressed, everyone gets their percentage of the finished product, to sell at gigs. It is an old method of doing things, that I have participated in before. Another share of the records will be sent out for promotion, through radio and press.

But, before I embark on these and other projects, I need to finish up a couple of things and sort out my financial situation. I have enrolled in a debt consolidation program. So far, my credit cards seem to be under control. But, I have yet to get my payday loan debts arranged. I don’t believe that I can do that this month, because I have to buy a car insurance policy to renew my license plates. We will see how that comes along. Anyway, that is what I’m doing lately.

Support Trans Rights with Bandcamp!

trans-fundraiser-600-7
On Friday, purchasing music through Bandcamp will be donating money to the Transgender Law Center, a nonprofit organization that works tirelessly to change law, policy, and culture for the more equitable.
Learn more here and explore the Mike Nobody Bandcamp page.

Death Cat @ Fireside Inn (07/22/2016)

One year ago.
Damn, time flies.

http://www.deathcat.us/

https://www.facebook.com/deathcatmusic/

https://www.facebook.com/firesideinn.divebar

A Few Little Updates

Mikeycat Jammin color

I did a little re-adjusting to my Patreon tiers, recently. Some rewards will no longer be available outside of the United States (sorry). But, I’ll make it up to my patrons somehow. Postage and costs would likely make them prohibitively untenable.
I have gotten some offers to perform live and showcase my artwork in a few months. I’m a little on the fence about that. It would behoove me to bring some stuff for people to take home with them (recordings & merch). I have delayed, delayed, delayed putting those out for quite awhile. I know. I suck. It’s embarrassing.
If I can get those ready, though, I MIGHT do it (emphasis on the “might”). Would anybody be interested in that? Does anybody care? I dunno.
I may be doing more collaborations again. I have incomplete recordings that have been waiting to get finished for a long time. An EP or something might get released. We will see.
Meanwhile, I have been scavenging for things that I need. I hit a few jackpots. So, I’m very pleased with that. Every little bit helps to move my projects along. If I keep going on this lucky streak, I’ll be sure to get something tangible done.
Leave me some comments or send some mail, won’t you? It would be nice to know if anybody gives a rat’s ass.

KNURL @ The Green Room 07/19/1997

I shot this twenty years ago at the now-defunct Green Room, in Ypsilanti, Michigan.
July 19th 1997.
Man, time speeds up as you get older!

Knurl

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Knurl is the noise music project of Alan Bloor, Canadian experimental composer and sculptor. Based in Toronto, Ontario, Bloor has been performing and recording Knurl material since 1994, when his seminal harsh noise releases “Nervescrap” and “Initial Shock” were recorded and released. He has released over twenty albums internationally, and has collaborated with sound sculptors such as Jim O’Rourke, Thurston Moore, and Aube.

Biography

Bloor, originally from Windsor, Ontario, was involved in several bands in the early 80s, including a Hardcore punk band called “Binge of Violence.” After the band’s breakup, he pursued a career as a solo musician, studying jazz bass, as well as classical and flamenco guitar. In the late 1980s he began performing noise backgrounds at poetry readings in Detroit, Michigan, in which he experimented with his bass guitar by placing metal objects on the strings to produce the sounds (a technique often called prepared guitar).

Since that time, Bloor has delved heavily into experimentation with found objects as sound sources, which have included fan blades, typewriters, scrap metal and car springs. He has also supplied musical scores for performers Andrew Hammerson (ex DV-8) from the UK and Jake Brown, Montreal. Since the beginning of 1995 he has been performing solo as Knurl in Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and Detroit, and has explored a less harsh side of noise music in his acclaimed ambient music project called Pholde.

Music

Knurl’s objective is to take music and strip it entirely of what we know music to be: it’s rhythm, melody, vocals, even production quality which is most associated with music today. Bloor records and performs without the assistance of computers, synthesizers or samplers. Labels that have released Knurl material include Alien8 Recordings, RRRecords, Solipsism, Harshnoise, Troniks, Gameboy, and Obscurica.