Comparative Anatomy are another group that I have liked for many years. Their 2010 CD Mammalian is really good. I have been waiting ever since for a follow-up album, which never seems to come.
They are an experimental drum & bass band from Charlottesville, Virginia. Known for their elaborate costumes, absurd humor, simple but diverse textures and unique sound, the band has become known in the experimental and noise rock scenes for their outlandish performances. Their early work has been referred to by reviewers as a “patchwork, cut-up style” similar to bands like Mr. Bungle, but recently they have created their own unique sound with robotic sounding bass lines, frenzied loops of animal samples, and beat-focused drums. To date, they are the only band to consistently use animals for vocals, recording their sounds in a variety of settings and programming them to the music, often altering the sounds and layering them in their more recent work.
Comparative Anatomy started as an experiment in 2009 between the two main members, Sir Puffers Rabbinald the Third and Ron Chickenbaby. At this time, the band name was not yet chosen. The original line-up went through several guitars and one real drummer, all of who were eventually eliminated. After deciding to work alone, the group took a different route, eliminated guitars altogether and moved away from the quirky, death metal sound where they started as well as completely scrapping vocals. Their musical direction began to take an experimental, drum & dual-bass approach utilizing special tunings, a drum machine, and various samples from a variety of sources. They’re known for its odd humor, which relies heavily on absurdist and quasi-dadaist dialogs with the crowd and symbolism focusing totally on animals.
During live performances, Comparative Anatomy is known for wearing costumes, which were at first simple designs made with dismembered, stuffed animals, but eventually became elaborate and full-body pieces hand-made by the two main members featuring everything from top hats to black metal guantlets. In addition, their live act involves a set of films and animations created by the band that follow the music and are projected behind them on a giant screen.
Another cool thing about them that I like very much is that they tour in a refurbished ambulance, playing their music over the PA system as they approach their performances.
If you ever wonder what a Mike Nobody solo performance looks like, without a real band onstage, this probably isn’t far from it… minus the costumes.
In the 1990’s, there were a number of bands who styled themselves as cartoonish action heroes, complete with a theatrical image and fictional backstory (GWAR, Supernova, The Aquabats, The Cocktails, The Amino Acids, Man or Astroman?).
I am not sure if this is the legacy of KISS or The Monkees.
The nice thing about these groups is that they are fun, for starters, and make additional income for the artist through merchandising. I wrote about merchandising before. Yes, there is a dark side to avoid. But, there is also potential to have a lot of fun with it. Comic book culture thrives on it. Go to any comic-con and check out the mountains of stuff available for almost any property. I cannot help that the inner geek in me likes collecting things. I blame Star Trek and record collecting for getting me started on that.
Mog Stunt Team were one of these groups, and were also close friends of mine.
I liked their music and whole schtick. But, I always felt like they put most of their energy into an image and not their music. I believed that I could write better songs, for sure. Bassist / vocalist Kenny Mugwump must have sensed this on some level, because he often asked for my opinion about stuff and wanted my input. I regret that I never asked to join their group. But, I was a bit intimidated. These were old pros with management, years of experience in a number of bands, touring, getting signed to labels, etc. I was just this weird kid who hung around a lot and helped when they needed a favor.
I kinda forgot about these sort of groups for awhile, then realized that The Aquabats were still kicking, and had their own TV show for two seasons! Christ, how did I miss THAT? I did a little research and discovered that the lead Aquabat, Christian Jacobs, was a former 1980’s child actor. He tried making a go of The Aquabats band for a couple of years in the 1990’s, unsuccessfully. In 1998 they made a failed Aquabats TV pilot with Bobcat Goldthwait. In 1999, he tried pitching Yo Gabba Gabba! to the networks instead. After belatedly appearing on the internet for a few years, it was a big success. Afterward, he was asked what his next project would be. So, he simply dusted off his VHS recording of The Aquabats! Super Show! and tried that again 15 years after it was originally made. Ta-Dah!
Anyway, I thought it might be interesting to make The Island of Misfit Noise sort of like these groups. The IOMN movie certainly shares some of the same influences. I don’t want to wear costumes onstage or anything like that. But, I think that I could create different characters that we could make toys out of and stuff like that. Sorta like The Archies or Josie and The Pussycats. That could be fun.
As a kid growing up in the 1970’s-1980’s, I knew even then that most of the cartoons on TV were just half-hour commercials for toys. It was a little annoying, sometimes. I mean, c’mon, they made a TV show about a talking Rubik’s Cube! Really?! The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were one of these shows. Literally, the show was only made so they could make toys. But, damn if it wasn’t still a good show! I think the fact that they had already developed it as a successful comic book for a few years gave them the chance to flesh out the characters more.
Anyway, I still look forward to writing songs with anyone who wants to add them into this. Not sure what will come of it. But, we will see.
Space Streakings was a noise rock band from Japan formed in 1993 by four video game programmers. Very little information is available about them, not even their real names.
- Space Streakings:
- Captain Insect – bass guitar, vocals, programming
- Kame Bazooka – alto saxophone, vocals, horns, illustrations
- Karate Condor – turntables, vocals
- Screaming Stomach – guitar, vocals, trumpet, kazoo
As those pseudonyms may suggest, the group took a cavalier attitude to their craft, producing a series of unclassifiable songs which have confused critics in and outside of Japan’s borders – the band themselves dubbed it ‘Cyber-punk-techno-core’. They had unusual instrumentation. No drums, for one thing. But, they also featured a gasoline-powered guitar and flamethrower trombone.
In 1994, musician and music engineer Steve Albini flew to Japan in order to record the band’s second album 7-Toku. Shortly after the album’s release Screaming Stomach, who had grown tired of the band’s cacophonous sound, left the band. This resulted in a collaboration with Mount Shasta of Chicago, forming the supergroup Shakuhachi Surprise:
- Jason Benson – drums, percussion
- Carl Brueggen – guitar
- Captain Insect – bass guitar, vocals, horns
- John Forbes – vocals, guitar, harmonica
- Kame Bazooka – alto saxophone, vocals
- Karate Condor – turntables, guitar, horns
- Jenny White – guitar, bass guitar, vocals
I actually like this collaboration even more than Space Streakings itself. The addition of a real drummer smoothed out the jagged edges of the stiff-sounding drum machines. Space Streakings Sighted Over Mount Shasta is the sole album recorded by Mount Shasta and Space Streakings together, released on October 1, 1996 through Skin Graft Records. It is a shame that they didn’t make any more.
After a brief tour of the United States, Space Streakings disbanded.
I applied for another job again, Value World (aka Value Village).
Not sure if it will do any good.
They were the only place that required applicants to apply in person, instead of online like everywhere else.
I later walked to the store for pop & bread and actually did some housecleaning today, too.
I’m on a roll.
♛ ★★★★★★★★★☆★☆★☆★☆☆★☆★☆★☆★☆★☆★★★★★★★★★ ♛
I am feeling kinda brave and pulled the Roland workstation out… seeing if I could operate it at all.
I may dig through some boxes of old tapes and see if there is anything that I wanna work on again.
I may lift some material directly from them for the zine.
I am thinking that I will just keep accumulating material as I go along.
Then, when I have enough cash to publish I will put a new issue out, hopefully every three to four months.
It would be easier if I had some extra income for this.
But, I am working with what I have for now.
Thee Urban SpaceCat CassetteZine may be printed by a company that did Death Cat comics, Ka-Blam is their name I think.
It seems like they work in all sorts of volumes with good quality.
The tapes may be recorded, mixed, mastered, and dubbed totally DIY, though.
I am undecided if I want to get them made at a duplicating plant or just dub them myself.
I guess it depends what the demand is for them.
If I get too many orders I will have to go with the duplicating plant.
I am making a distinction between the CassetteZine and the RecycleTapes, though.
The CassetteZine will use fresh normal bias cassettes, probably Sony.
They seem to be the most readily available.
RecycleTapes are hard copy recordings of Mike Damn Nobody’s noise albums, dubbed on reused tapes and re-labelled by me.
I may have to create new artwork for the older titles.
I cannot find the originals.
I was thinking of when I want to take my recordings into a legitimate studio.
Money is a factor, of course.
But, when I am ready, I am thinking that I may only release vinyl singles and EPs like that for awhile.
If they do well, I can compile them onto CDs later.
The Weirdos are an LA punk band from way-y-y back.
They released only vinyl singles for twenty years before they put out their first full-length album.
“Weird Al” Yankovic says that he will no longer release full length albums.
He is only doing singles now.
It seems like that is the direction that the music industry will be going, eventually.
I haven’t been in a record store for years.
So, it is a little tough for me to gauge.
♛ ★★★★★★★★★☆★☆★☆★☆☆★☆★☆★☆★☆★☆★★★★★★★★★ ♛
I am probably gonna upgrade my my video capture software and get a chromakey program added to it.
I need to get a green screen or some fluorescent green paint.
I have a few leftover projector screens that I could paint if I had something for fabric, that wouldn’t crack and peel off.
Here is another group that I like very much. I have been listening to these guys for years and years. Touring with them would be pretty awesome if the opportunity ever came up.
Japanese experimental punk trio Ultra Bidé was formed in 1978 by Hide Fujiwara (bass / guitar / vocals) and released their first song in 1980 on the five-band compilation Dokkiri Record. It’s sort of the No New York of Japan’s south-central Kansai region (which contains Osaka and Kyoto), and Ultra Bide’s contribution, the dissonant “1979!,” bolsters its babbling vocals and thwacking bass with thunderclaps of guitar. After the band’s debut full-length, 1984’s The Original Ultra Bide, it took them 11 years to put out another, at which point they dropped three between 1995 and 2003—and 2013’s DNA vs. DNA-c (Alternative Tentacles) is their first since then. These guys can still make a whole lot of noise (“Phase Is Massive Power Attack Weapon” consists mostly of reverberating guitar feedback), but they’re also great at cleaner, more melodic tunes built from blunt guitar jabs and driving, nimble bass lines.
For many years, they were a standard power trio of guitar, drums, and bass. But, in recent years, they have eschewed the guitar for a two-bassist lineup. It is a really bad-ass sound. Their last album was recorded entirely at home, then mixed & mastered in professional studios. Definitely my way of doing things!
I look at making music as kinda like making movies.
There are different styles of making music, just as there are different styles of filmmaking.
Some bands are very dictatorial, with one or two people in charge.
I have always hated that and avoided it like the plague.
Frank Zappa was like that.
So was Captain Beefheart.
If a band were a film crew, both were the writer, director, and producer of their band.
The rest of their group would be the cast and crew.
They would compose the music alone, then hand it off to their band, who would play it exactly as it was written.
I always tried to be more democratic than that, involving everybody in the process, through the whole thing.
I am terribly uncomfortable in a leadership role.
But, that is not a very efficient method.
People get frustrated by it and leave.
After years of trial-and-error, I think the best approach to operating as a group is to be a “benign dictatorship” of sorts.
Someone has to have an idea of where they are going or the whole thing will drift apart.
They also have to leave a lot of wiggle-room for others to work with.
I try to look for ideas from the world of filmmaking, when it is applicable.
I think my biggest problem is the lack of social skills.
I don’t read people or situations very well.
I don’t communicate what I am thinking very well, either, it seems.
So, if I want to do anything at all, it seems like the best approach for me is just working alone (for the most part) with some occasional collaboration with friends.
This really sucks.
Part of the reason I make music is to overcome anxiety, depression, and have some sort of social life.
I don’t really participate in much else, besides music.
But, it seems like having a real band is going to always be out of reach for me.
Why do people with mental health issues gravitate to music & art?
Why is this especially true on the fringes of outsider art & music?
I broke my mood ring.
I am stripping my rig down a bit.
Still a work in progress.
I am trying to fit everything onto the pedalboard.
There may still be a few things sticking out.
Ideally, I should be able to set up my gear in about ten minutes, give or take a few.
Fewer parts, fewer complications.
Gotta think like a NASCAR pit mechanic, in & out.
“The more they overthink the plumbing, the easier it is to stop up the drain.”
– Scotty (Star Trek III: The Search For Spock)
My equipment has evolved a lot over time.
At one point, I had a built-up a huge Frankenrig from two old PAs, some preamps, and pieces of my current Mini-rig.
I got inspiration for my setup from a bunch of different bass & guitar players; Bootsy Collins, Chris Squire, Cliff Burton, Greg Ginn.
Some players have elaborate switching systems, with tons of pedals and rackmount effects.
Some players have truckloads of gear, insane shit.
Sonic Youth had a different guitar for EACH SONG.
I am trying to pare it down to whatever my live sound will be.
What do I REALLY need?
Other effects and sounds that I use I will probably just record samples of.
This changes the dynamics of composing quite a lot.
It is gonna sound way different than if I had everything plugged into the bass.
You can sort of hear how this is shaping my sound, so far.
But, this is for demonstration purposes ONLY (sorry that I got fat):
This is an unfinished song that The Riverviews were working on a couple of months ago.
I might re-purpose it into an Island of Misfit Noise song, if Mike Hayes doesn’t mind.
Stripping down the mini-rig.
Trying to find a compromise between my “live sound” and “studio sound”.
The strings are long overdue to be changed.
But, I haven’t got enough money for replacements.
Actor / singer Meatloaf was interviewed once about his music career. He corrected the interviewer, though. He said that he was an actor, who happened to play the role of a musician.
I think that is the best way to sum up David Bowie. He is a shapeshifter. Each album is a new role to play. He changes his costume and persona. He becomes a new character each time.
I don’t think I could do that. Maybe its a stubborn streak of honesty. I am just always myself. Some friends I used to have would tell me how they “grew out” of certain kinds of music. I don’t really grow out of anything. I just keep expanding my vocabulary. I kinda look at my musical tastes like the Borg, assimilating everything in sight.
So, maybe I have more in common with Locutus of Borg than David Bowie. I dunno.
I think somebody else likes David Bowie, too.
Besides artists from the outsider music genre (Wesley Willis, Daniel Johnston), I have also been compared to a few other people. It didn’t always annoy me. Some comparisons were flattering, I thought. But, this is kind of how I came to be known as Mike Nobody.
Honestly, I do not know where anyone got this from. Is there a physical resemblance? I dunno. Maybe a little. I guess there are worse things than being a Goonie, a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, or one of the Frog brothers from “Lost Boys.”
I didn’t mind this one very much. Kenny Mugwump ( bassist / vocalist for groups like Princess Dragon-Mom, Mog Stunt Team, Loudhouse) made this observation a few times. I don’t know why. Maybe, like Thurston Moore, I know a lot about music history and collect a lot of it.
A few pen-pals made a comparison between me and Beck, a couple of times. This is quite funny to me. I began using Mike Nobody as an ironic commentary on the whole Grunge / Loser thing. When asked what my musical style is, I used to jokingly tell people that it was just “Beck, with a bass.”
At the peak of Nirvanamania, I do not think hardly a day went by when someone didn’t tell me, “Oh, my GAWD, you are just like Kurt Cobain!” AAAAAAAAAAAAAUUUUUUUUUUGGGGGGGGHHHHH! This annoyed me to no fucking end! I was followed and constantly harassed by a Cobain-obsessed stalker for months and months. I ended up fucking her, just to make her go away! I eventually had to move TWICE to lose her. I know that I should feel bad for saying this. But, it was kind of a relief when he died. That is about when those comparisons stopped happening.
On the upside of this, it landed me a role in a biopic about him, a few years after his death. The movie began as an independent film, then got bought by HBO (who increased our budget by a LOT). But, it seemed like the script was being rewritten every week. The story that they were going with became more fictionalized and ridiculous each time (Kurt Cobain becomes a zombie?). I got fed up with it and quit. Production fell apart shortly thereafter. However, the project started up again when they brought in Gus Van Sant to direct. The finished movie became “Last Days”. It stunk. My only regret is that, if I had stayed in the movie, I could have met Kim Gordon (bassist / vocalist from Sonic Youth). She had a role in it too.
No one ever called me by my given name, not even as a child. I later discovered that my surname is a lie (I never liked it anyway). So, I only felt like my middle name, Michael, was my real name. What eventually made me settle on using the pseudonym Mike Nobody was the recommendation from Rob Wright (bassist / vocalist from NoMeansNo) to keep it, after I sent him a letter with that as my name. Hey, it was good advice. So, it has been my pen & stage name ever since.
Separating an artist from their work can sometimes be difficult. It stirs mixed emotions and makes us question ourselves. It makes us see our heroes as the flawed human beings that they really are.
In 2015, Bill Cosby has been revealed (by his own words, under oath) to be a serial rapist. Does that mean I can’t enjoy his work anymore?
The comedy albums that he recorded, that I grew up with, are still classic. I still love them. I still like Fat Albert, The Cosby Show, and some other work that he did in film and television. But, I won’t be giving him any of my money anymore.
The Bad Brains are one of the greatest hardcore punk bands of all time. Being one of the few all-black groups in that scene certainly made them trailblazers as well. But, they are (at least they were, back in the 1980’s) extremely homophobic.
During the summer of 1982 they became involved in the Rock Against Reagan Tour, during which time they fell out with the band MDC when Rastafarian singer H.R. learned that Big Boys‘ singer, Randy Turner, was gay. H.R. and MDC‘s Dave Dictor had an intense confrontation. Upon Bad Brains‘ departure from the bill, they refused to return a loan owed to Big Boys and instead left a note that reportedly read, “burn in hell bloodclot faggot.” The incident resulted in the MDC song “Pay to Come Along.”
“First let me say I hated that whole incident. MDC adored the Bad Brains 1980-1982. After a gig where we really hit it off together in Oakland, we dropped everything in our lives to go across country on a mini tour with them on 2 days notice. Ended up playing 2 shows with them. One in Houston and the infamous one in Austin where we dropped off the tour. There in Austin they freaked out in the middle of the show about Gary Floyd’s and Randy Biscuit’s out gayness and refused to sing using the same microphone as them. The Bad Brains seemed to always have these much younger people in the scene around them. And it seemed no would call them on their bullshit. We were about the same age as them and a bit more politically sophisticated then the typical people in the DC and NY scene.
I only felt mistreated in that they came into a show that MDC and others had set up and hurled a lot of insults and anger towards our friends. Insults like “All gay people are blood clot faggots and they should be put to death.” It wasn’t like they expressed that they didn’t like gay people and disapprove of their lifestyle. It was wishing death for the singers of two of our favorite bands in our original punk rock home town. It was sad to see it all go down and didn’t feel good at all. It was confusing that we could adore and agree with people about many political topics including human rights, yet disagree about homosexuality. With HR-Joseph we have never resolved anything, but with Darryl and Dr Know (the bassist and guitarist), we all expressed regrets on the topic years later.”
P.M.A. (Positive Mental Attitude) my ass!
Politically conservative rock & roll musicians are an oddity. Rock & roll, by definition, is anti-authoritarian and anti-conservative. Ted Nugent, Lee Ving, and Johnny Ramone never seemed to understand that.
I don’t understand how Alice Cooper, Dave Mustaine, or Ozzy Osbourne can go on about Christianity and keep a straight face.
Some artist’s work can also be questionable (or just plain vile). But, I may appreciate certain aspects of it, regardless.
Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead has long been criticized for his collection of Nazi paraphernalia. But, no serious person believes that he holds any sympathies for them or their ideology.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:
Lemmy collects German military regalia, and has an Iron Cross encrusted on his bass, which has led to accusations of Nazi sympathies. He has stated that he collects this memorabilia for aesthetic values only, and considers himself an anarchist or libertarian, and that he is “anti-communism, fascism, any extreme,” saying that “government causes more problems than it solves”.
Jeff Hanneman, the late founder of the thrash metal band Slayer, befriended Lemmy due to their shared fondness for collecting Nazi memorabilia. According to Keith Emerson’s autobiography, two of Lemmy’s Hitlerjugend knives were given to Emerson by Lemmy during his time as a roadie for The Nice. Emerson used these knives many times as keyholders when playing the Hammond organ during concerts with The Nice and Emerson, Lake & Palmer, often before destroying them.
Some stuff that I like, I know is just totally horrible and in bad taste. It doesn’t make me a bad person, though.
Overall, if you don’t want to support someone because they offend you, then don’t. Save your money. Give it to someone more worthy. Meanwhile, enjoy whatever art & music that you enjoy. If other people don’t like that, fuck ’em.
One band that I was in played at a party once. The host was mixing our soundcheck and the guitarist complained about the bass being loud. We were at the same volume. “Feel the bass! Feel the bass! God of thunder-r-r!” I said in my best Gene Simmons impression. Lower frequencies only “sound” louder, because of the increased air pressure. Know your physics.
My first bass (in the late 1980’s) was a 1970’s Gibson Ripper. The kind that Gene Simmons played on “KISS Alive!” Someone had modified it, adding a precision bass pickup in the middle. It had a solid set-neck maple body and sounded really good. It was only $100 dollars. They currently sell for thousands of dollars (no thanks to Nirvana and Green Day!). I had been playing guitar for a few years. But, I equally wanted to play both. Lacking much money, I tried to maximize the interchangeability between them. I purchased a 1960’s Guild Thunderbass amplifier head on a brand new crate 4×12, useful for both basses and guitars. I later also bought a 1970’s Rickenbacker 4001 bass. I got a good deal on it, just a few hundred dollars. I had to liquidate most of my possessions a couple of years ago, to avoid homelessness, and they were sadly sacrificed with some other gear that I miss.
I began playing bass around the time that the funk metal craze happened (Red Hot Chili Peppers, Faith No More, Primus). I liked those bands. But, I can’t really say that I tried to emulate them. I wanted to find my own voice, instead. My playing style got compared to Les Claypool a lot, even though I never slapped as well or as often as him. Maybe it was just because I played a lot of notes or something, instead of just playing the root note of the rhythm guitar. Maybe it was the only popular frame of reference people had. Anyway, I always looked to other players for little tricks or techniques. Most players use just their middle and index fingers. What I picked-up from Claypool was using ring-middle-index instead, making triplets and odd-meter rhythms easier to play.
I later discovered country guitarist Danny Gatton’s fingerpicking style, including the thumb like a banjo player. I am still working on that.
But, I usually reserve fingerpicking for when I am playing with a dry signal, no distortion or effects.
I prefer using a pick, recycled copper-nylon 1mm, to get more attack and articulation.
I prefer ground wound strings (GHS Brite Flats are the most readily available), brighter than flatwounds, but smoother than roundwounds.
I also looked for ideas to set my rig up with, borrowing and improving upon the peculiarities of some favorite bands and musicians. I was trying to fuse my guitar and bass set-ups together. Partially, this was because I was too poor to dedicate equipment money to both individual instruments. But, also, because I was trying to be more independent, relying less on another guitarist or another bassist. This, of course changed my playing style a little, as they were both sounding more alike. I never liked playing big chords on guitar a whole lot, except as a punctuation or color. But, I also didn’t like playing too many single notes on the bass, adding more chords to it.
Funk and jazz players usually got a good groove going. Admittedly, so did some disco and new wave players. Punk and metal players had the energy and heaviness. Progressive rock players had sophisticated compositions which were challenging. Blues, folk, and country players had soul. I try my best to integrate everything together.
I like to build-up a foundational base on something, a skeletal framework (like the rhythm section), and decorate it like a Christmas tree.
I am not a very good improviser, I admit.
If I have to come up with something on-the-fly I am more comfortable just playing a simple rhythm (or random noises) with a good drummer. Jam sessions aren’t always productive with me. But, I always try remembering to record everything when practicing. I can take that material back later, cut-and-pasting what we have got into a song. I call this “making Jam-Paste.” It is a slow-w-w-w-ass process though.
I work better alone. But, paradoxically, I often need someone around for motivation or I get depressed and nothing happens. I am trying to write more independently. But, it is taking me a long time to get used to it.
Noise is what punk rock wishes that it could be, but never will.
I believe that the use of noise to make music will continue and increase until we reach a music produced through the aid of electrical instruments which will make available for musical purposes any and all sounds that can be heard.
— John Cage The Future of Music: Credo (1937)
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:Noise music is a category of music that is characterized by the expressive use of noise within a musical context. This type of music tends to challenge the distinction that is made in conventional musical practices between musical and non-musical sound. Noise music includes a wide range of musical styles and sound-based creative practices that feature noise as a primary aspect. It can feature acoustically or electronically generated noise, and both traditional and unconventional musical instruments. It may incorporate live machine sounds, non-musical vocal techniques, physically manipulated audio media, processed sound recordings, field recording, computer-generated noise, stochastic process, and other randomly produced electronic signals such as distortion, feedback, static, hiss and hum. There may also be emphasis on high volume levels and lengthy, continuous pieces. More generally noise music may contain aspects such as improvisation, extended technique, cacophony and indeterminacy, and in many instances conventional use of melody, harmony, rhythm and pulse is dispensed with.
The Futurist art movement was important for the development of the noise aesthetic, as was the Dada art movement (a prime example being the Antisymphony concert performed on April 30, 1919 in Berlin), and later the Surrealist and Fluxus art movements, specifically the Fluxus artists Joe Jones, Yasunao Tone, George Brecht, Robert Watts, Wolf Vostell, Dieter Roth, Yoko Ono, Nam June Paik, Walter De Maria’s Ocean Music, Milan Knížák’s Broken Music Composition, early LaMonte Young and Takehisa Kosugi.
Contemporary noise music is often associated with extreme volume and distortion. In the avant rock domain examples include Jimi Hendrix’s use of feedback,Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music, and Sonic Youth. Other examples of music that contain noise-based features include works by Iannis Xenakis, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Helmut Lachenmann, Cornelius Cardew, Theatre of Eternal Music, Glenn Branca, Rhys Chatham, Ryoji Ikeda, Survival Research Laboratories, Whitehouse, Brighter Death Now, Merzbow, Cabaret Voltaire, Psychic TV, Blackhouse, Jean Tinguely’s recordings of his sound sculpture (specifically Bascule VII), the music of Hermann Nitsch’s Orgien Mysterien Theater, and La Monte Young’s bowed gong works from the late 1960s. Genres such as industrial, industrial techno, lo-fi music, black metal, sludge metal, and glitch music employ noise-based materials.
Hip-hop producers The Dust Brothers are on my shortlist of people who I would like to work with someday (if I could actually afford them).
Contrary to popular belief, sampling and mixing is an artform.
Some people do it very well.
The Dust Brothers, The X-Ecutioners, or The Bomb Squad come to mind.
Some people are just talentless hacks.
MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice come to mind.
In the meantime, unless a million dollars falls into my lap, I will have to do this sort of thing by myself.
Sometimes, less is more.
So, keep it simple stupid.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:
Pop music (a term that originally derives from an abbreviation of “popular”) is a genre of popular music that originated in its modern form in the Western world during the 1950s and 1960s, deriving from rock and roll. The terms “popular music” and “pop music” are often used interchangeably, although the former describes of music that is popular (and can include any style).
As a genre, pop music is extremely eclectic, often borrowing elements from other styles such as urban, dance, rock, Latin, and country; nonetheless, there are core elements that define pop music. Such elements include generally short to medium-length songs written in a basic format (often the verse-chorus structure) as well as the common employment of repeated choruses, melodic tunes, and hooks.
The funniest description that I ever heard about KISS is that they are like if The Beatles signed a record contract with McDonald’s.
Most musicians are, by necessity, also businessmen.
They have to be, in order to survive.
But, none take the capitalist cake like KISS.
I am pretty confident that they hold the world record on band merchandising.
Is there anything that they HAVEN’T put their faces or logo on?
I mean, I understand the mentality of a collector, having been one myself.
But, does anyone really need a “KISS Kasket” to be buried in?
The first record that I ever bought was the Paul Stanley 1978 solo LP.
I also got a KISS t-shirt.
It was the silver glittery iron-on logo on black.
I gotta admit, at one time, they were a good band.
They wrote good songs and put on a great show.
That was long before Peter Criss and Ace Frehley were ejected, before it became just two greedy old Jews and their hired hands.
Honestly, the group should have disbanded by the 1980’s.
We would still have better memories of them.
Okay, I understand that putting on a big spectacle every night like they do costs a lot of money.
Revenue has to come from somewhere.
In the band’s early years, they sold out venues, but couldn’t sell any records.
The label was going bankrupt trying to keep the band afloat.
So, merchandising had to take up the slack.
The same phenomenon happened with the film “Star Wars.”
George Lucas received very little money or support from 20th Century FOX.
But, he owned the merchandising rights.
In both cases, merchandising saved the projects.
Hell, during their entire career, The Ramones made most of their income from t-shirt sales, not records.
The Misfits make their money the same way, putting their artwork on skateboards, belt buckles, coffee mugs, almost anything.
You cannot swing a dead cat in a Hot Topic without hitting some Misfits merch!
I don’t begrudge artists trying to find ways to support themselves.
But, it can reach a point where you lose your integrity and become another corporate whore.
John Lydon took a lot of shit for doing a butter commercial.
I admit, it was annoying.
In his defense, though, Public Image Limited wanted to release a new album, but had no backing from a record label.
The financing needed to come from somewhere and this was an opportunity that presented itself.
The butter ad money was exhausted on this project alone.
Now, some bands avoid these moral dilemmas by keeping their overhead low, “jamming econo.”
I can dig that.
I usually TRY to do that.
It means figuring out how to do more with less.
Fugazi never sold merchandise of ANY kind, no t-shirts….nothing.
Their reasoning was that if they had to sell stuff at a table, then that is one more person needed to watch the table and make sales.
Cut out the merch table and cut expenses.
Overall, I guess it depends on what compromises that you can live with.
I am generally against making commercials, unless I can have creative input.
I made some for a friend’s record store once, which appeared on the MTV Music Awards no less.
There is no way that these commercials could be mistaken for something cooked up in committee at an advertising agency.
Art and commerce have always had a shaky relationship.
During the renaissance, artists were supported by wealthy benefactors, kings and merchants. Now, art is just another commodity on the market. Artists have to sell themselves to be supported. Every dollar has strings attached, though.
There is a scene from “Man On The Moon” where Andy Kaufman (Jim Carrey) is fired from a club gig because of his stubborn refusal to conform. I couldn’t find a video clip online, unfortunately. But the exchange with the club owner goes like this:
Andy Kaufman: So, Mr. Besserman, same spot tomorrow?
Mr. Besserman: I don’t know, Andy. I think I have to let you go.
Andy Kaufman: You’re firing me? You don’t even pay me.
Mr. Besserman: I don’t want to be insulting, but your act is like amateur hour. Sing-alongs for six-year-olds……puppets that aren’t funny, playing records…?
Andy Kaufman: But it’s original. No one’s ever done it. I’m not like everyone else.
Mr. Besserman: Everybody else gets this place cooking.
Andy Kaufman: I thought it was cooking. There was a man really upset.
Mr. Besserman: He stormed out, and other people left during your act. I can’t sell booze to people who–
Andy Kaufman: It’s about booze. Not comedy, not art?
Mr. Besserman: I can’t sell booze when you’re singing “Pop Goes the Weasel.” I’m running a business. It’s show business. Show. Business. Show. Business. Without the business, there’s no show. And there’s no show for you.
My experience dealing with the “legitimate” side of the music business has not been very pleasant. Half the time, clubs will try to rip you off. I got the sense that they were really mafia fronts for drug smuggling or human trafficking. I overheard talk about some clubs blacklisting bands for playing at DIY shows.
When I tried to book shows myself, I mostly got rejections everywhere because I was too different from what they wanted, except pay-to-play venues. Fuck that. So, I played coffeehouses and parties when I could. Hell, I even played in parking lots, anywhere with electricity.
I would rather avoid the “business” side of music, if at all possible. I am very suspicious about people wanting you to sign a contract or join something. I know that it is often necessary. But, I prefer to do things DIY when possible.
Some artists have done pretty well by this work ethic; Big Black, Fugazi, Crass, NoMeansNo, etc.
Is compromise sometimes necessary? Maybe. But, it usually better not to be put into a situation that forces you to.
I was not planning to add another post today.
But, a friend requested to keep ’em coming.
So, okay, one more.
Redd Kross is an American alternative rock band from Hawthorne, California, who had their roots in 1978 in a band called The Tourists, which was begun by brothers Jeff and Steve McDonald while they were still in middle school. With the addition of friends Greg Hetson and John Stielow on drums, the band’s first gig was opening for Black Flag.
With deep connections to influential groups like Black Flag, Circle Jerks, Bad Religion, Off! (and even the White Stripes), Redd Kross are a band that I can relate to for a couple of reasons:
- They began very young (11 and 15), performing in a hardcore punk scene full of adults.
- They’ve had a thousand different drummers and lead guitarists.
- They embrace campiness and 1970’s pop culture.
- They are not afraid of change, trying new musical styles.
- They wrote a song titled “Notes and Chords Mean Nothing To Me”.
- They are punks with long hair, like moi.
- They are still at it, decades later, with little or no recognition to show for it.
Overall, I dig their pop catchiness and the colorful retro presentation that they usually bring.
To me, rock & roll is like a musical Rosetta Stone. It has co-opted everything in its path, blurring the distinction between genres and cultures. There are fewer degrees of separation between musical artists than Hollywood actors and Kevin Bacon.
Because I like so much different music and want to play it ALL, I have always relied on other musicians to filter it, molding it into whatever style we were going to perform together. Also, other musicians may be more skilled at performing different styles than I am.
Frank Zappa set such a high standard for people to join his band that he, himself, admitted that he couldn’t pass the audition. I never had such a luxury. I just had to work with whoever would work with me and try to make the most of their talents.
Writing music by myself, I have more freedom to work without having that filter.
But, the limits of the technology available is still a factor.
Having only one performer (me) is a factor.
The skills that I possess (or the lack thereof) is a factor.
So, will it really sound the way I want it to?
I don’t know.
All I can do at this point is continue to throw everything at the wall and see what sticks.
Polystylism is the use of multiple styles or techniques in literature, art, film, or, especially, music, and is a postmodern characteristic.
Some prominent contemporary polystylist composers include Peter Maxwell Davies, Michael Colgrass, Lera Auerbach, Sofia Gubaidulina, George Rochberg, Alfred Schnittke, Django Bates, Alexander Zhurbin, Lev Zhurbin and John Zorn. However, Gubaidulina, among others, has rejected the term as not applicable to her work. Polystylist composers from earlier in the twentieth century include Charles Ives and Eric Satie. Among literary figures, James Joyce has been referred to as a polystylist.
Though perhaps not the original source of the term, the first important discussion of the subject is Alfred Schnittke’s essay “Polystylistic Tendencies in Modern Music (1971)”. The composers cited by Schnittke as those who make use of polystylism are Alban Berg, Luciano Berio, Pierre Boulez, Edison Denisov, Hans Werner Henze, Mauricio Kagel, Jan Klusák, György Ligeti, Carl Orff, Arvo Pärt, Krzysztof Penderecki, Henri Pousseur, Rodion Shchedrin, Dmitri Shostakovich, Sergei Slonimsky, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Igor Stravinsky, Boris Tishchenko, Anton Webern, and Bernd Alois Zimmermann.
I have always been a packrat and tinkerer.
So, naturally, I liked to build my own instruments and noisemakers when I had the materials for it.
Anything that vibrates and changes pitch is fair game.
I made many attempts, but never mastered building electronics.
Some of my simple guitar-based instruments worked pretty well, though.
I once played “The Electric Stick” with Carey Loren’s Monster Island and MSBR, from Japan.
MSBR were so impressed that they put a video of me on their website.
I ended up giving the The Electric Stick away to Davin Brainard, of Princess Dragon-Mom, during a housecleaning Marsha Postel and I had in our Detroit apartment.
I recently uncovered some old parts in storage that may be useful.
So, maybe I will make something again, soon.
Frank Zappa on TV!
Just out of curiosity, I wonder who will watch these videos and who will run for the hills.
I am already losing subscribers.
Gotta weed out the trash.
A couple of months ago, I was publicly humiliated in a rant on Craigslist by a former bandmate or collaborator.
It was very upsetting to me.
The chickenshit never identified himself, though.
Anyway, one of his criticisms was my support of LGBTIQ rights.
I honestly didn’t think that I had made a big deal about it.
I may have said something briefly, gave some warning, to avoid potential conflicts.
That is about it.
I do not know if I would write a song on the subject or not.
It is possible.
It is something I have always cared about and has become more accepted by the mainstream in the last couple of years.
I simply acknowledge that gender and sexual orientation are not binary constructs.
It is a range of possibilities that a person may find themselves being.
There are thousands of species of animals that are identifiable along this range.
There are biological and environmental factors that affect our physiology and behavior.
Why wouldn’t sexual orientation and gender be among those affected?
Pollution has exacerbated the population of intersexed animals.
Hormones dumped into the sewer systems and water supply has created more hermaphrodite fish.
Why wouldn’t that also affect us?
Our corporate food supply has increasingly used hormones and drugs to produce more meat, resulting in radical changes in child development.
Kids mature faster than they used to.
Doesn’t anybody think that this has other side effects?
I am not saying that this an entirely man-made phenomenon.
But, I think the natural balance of things has definitely been affected by factory farms and industrial waste.
People who are LGBTIQ are still human beings who deserve love and respect, as anybody else would.
Hiding bigotry behind religion doesn’t help anyone.
It just breeds more bigotry and social problems.
Usually, the bigger the homophobe someone is, the more self-loathing and deeper in the closet they are too.
When I began writing songs, as a kid in the 1980’s, I was very self-conscious of what the lyrics were “supposed” to be like.
I knew that I DID NOT want to sound like 90% of the vapid garbage on the radio or MTV.
It had to “mean” something.
It had to be important.
The Laughing Hyenas had a strict band policy that their songs were always about themselves, someone that they knew, or something in the news.
I shared that sentiment for a long time.
But, over time, I realized that I was making a mistake.
I was rejecting otherwise good material that I had written, solely for this reason, until I realized that I don’t have to write about anything…at all.
I am under no obligation to make sense to anyone.
My lyrical style may sometimes be autobiographical. I can share stories of things that have happened to me and people that I have known.
It may often share George Carlin’s comedic style. His material falls under one of three self-described categories: “the little world”, “the big world”, and the English language, all sharing the overall theme of (in his words) “humanity’s bullshit”, which might include murder, genocide, war, rape, corruption, religion and other aspects of human civilization. He was known for mixing observational humor with larger social commentary. His delivery frequently treated these subjects in a misanthropic and nihilistic fashion.
But, it can also be surreal dadaist nonsense.
It can be anything that I want it to be.
Admittedly, I got into Magma a bit late.
I had seen their albums in bargain bins for years and never gave them a second thought.
I got into Japanese noise rock around the late 1980’s, bands that were heavily influenced by Magma (Bondage Fruit, Daimonji, Kōenji Hyakkei, Pochakaite Malko, and Ruins).
Magma is a French progressive rock band founded in Paris in 1969 by classically trained drummer Christian Vander, who claimed as his inspiration a “vision of humanity’s spiritual and ecological future” that profoundly disturbed him. In the course of their first album, the band tells the story of a group of people fleeing a doomed Earth to settle on the planet Kobaïa. Later, conflict arises when the Kobaïans—descendants of the original colonists—encounter other Earth refugees.
Vander invented a constructed language, Kobaïan, in which most lyrics are sung. In a 1977 interview with Vander and long-time Magma vocalist Klaus Blasquiz, Blasquiz said that Kobaïan is a “phonetic language made by elements of the Slavonic and Germanic languages to be able to express some things musically. The language has of course a content, but not word by word.” Vander himself has said that, “When I wrote, the sounds [of Kobaïan] came naturally with it—I didn’t intellectualize the process by saying ‘OK, now I’m going to write some words in a particular language’, it was really sounds that were coming at the same time as the music.” Later albums tell different stories set in more ancient times; however, the Kobaïan language remains an integral part of the music.
Christian Vander didn’t just create a very innovative group.
An entire subgenre of progressive rock, Zeuhl, was invented by him.
I had hoped someday to find really good musicians who could help me pull off this sort of thing.
But, alas, no such luck.
I don’t think that I can do it alone.
So, I will just do whatever I can do by myself and be satisfied with that, I guess.
There is a certain “sound” that I am going for when I am recording.
It is kind of a boxed-in, mid-rangy, squashed-compression sound.
It is not too slick and not too cheap.
There are a couple of example albums where you can hear it;
- Some of Ween‘s albums, especially “Chocolate and Cheese” and “The Mollusk”.
- Some of Primus‘ early albums, especially “Frizzle Fry” and “Sailing The Seas of Cheese”.
- Some of the Butthole Surfers‘ albums, such as “Rembrandt Pussyhorse”, Cream Corn From The Socket of Davis”, “”Locust Abortion Technician”, “Hairway To Steven”, and “Independent Worm Saloon”
I was able to ask Paul Leary (guitarist/producer for the Butthole Surfers) once about how he got that sound.
He said it was because they always used cheap tape recorders.
But, I also know that “Locust Abortion Techician” was recorded at home, when they only had one microphone.
I also know that Primus always recorded Les Claypool’s bass directly from the preamps.
So, I am betting that the Butthole Surfers probably did that a lot, too.
I know that the guitars on “Independent Worm Saloon” were recorded straight from their preamps.
Ween often had shitty microphones like I do.
So, I am betting that they did this as well.
As it turns out, this is used by some big-name producers when they want a tight, uncolored, signal.
Now, I also like Steve Albini’s drum sounds when producing Shellac, The Pixies, Nirvana, etc.
He always got a really good ambient “room sound” when recording drums.
This is ironic, because he began his career by recording a Roland drum machine directly to tape.
I enjoy lo-fi tape noise and distortion, too.
But, I want to have more control over it, having a different color to paint with.
Overall, because I mix different styles together, I would like to have a cohesive sound that somehow ties them all together.
It would be nice to play whatever music that I want and still be recognizable when someone hears my work, y’know?
Beating a rhythm out on found objects is as old as the caveman hitting stumps and stones with a stick.
The modern equivalent is prominent in industrial music, although not exclusive to that.
I kinda prefer the clunky sound of hitting a piece of scrap metal over commercially sold cymbals.
Well, except the high-hat.
High-hats are kinda cool.
There seemed to be more groups that did stuff like this, twenty or thirty years ago; Cop Shoot Cop, Pussy Galore, Skeleton Key, Doo Rag, Tchkung!, etc..
I haven’t seen as many like that in a long time.
I would like to include it in my little bag of magic tricks, too.
So far, few people seem to enjoy doing it… except me.
I am slowly rebuilding a new and IMPROVED ShitKit, incorporating found junk as well as electronics and contemporary drums.
It may take me awhile.
I have always liked cassettes, for home recording and collecting music.
But, the idea of that being “your band” just always felt weird to me, like karaoke.
In the 1980’s there were a few bands which consisted of only two people and a boombox; Ween, Timbuk3, They Might Be Giants.
There have been others also backed by drum machines and MIDI programs, like Big Black, Space Streakings, Melt-Banana, etc.
There still are.
Somehow, playing and singing along to a tape… alone, never felt right to me.
Unless there is a drummer in the group, it never really felt like a REAL band to me.
It is an irrational bias, I know.
I probably could have gone a lot farther, long ago, if I just recorded myself and played alone with a boombox… instead of constantly trying a revolving door of musicians.
I could never get comfortable being a solo artist.
Power in numbers, maybe, gave me confidence.
“Us” onstage against “Them”, the cretins in the audience who hate us.
It goes back to the days of my playing in basements to uninvited drunks who shouted, “You suck” at us.
It probably added a certain energy to my performances.
I am not sure if I can do that by myself, without some backup.
But, I guess that I have to try.
Even as a kid, I felt that jazz bassists were the best.
Stanley Clarke was always at the top of my favorite players’ list.
Not just for his technical skill, but for getting a great groove.
I was never all that great at slapping, like him or Larry Graham.
I always used that technique sparingly, as an accent.
But, Jaco Pastorius never slapped and he is considered one of the best jazz bassists of all time.
So, there is some consolation in that, for me.
Another favorite of mine is the legendary Killdozer, from Wisconsin.
I grew up listening to them in the 1980’s-1990’s and they never released a bad album.
Dripping with dark humor about serial killers, going to the beach, communism, cranberries, hamburger, and the best cover versions of any songs you can imagine.
I got to meet and chat with them on their final tour.
I wanted to post some of my original material.
But, currently, I lack a necessary adapter to fit the camcorder.
Anyway, I thought I would do the next best thing and share some music from one of my influences instead.
Grotus were a unique group during the 1990’s, having two bassists, two drummers, and two samplers.
Not quite an industrial band, their music often employed ethnic instruments and tribal rhythms.
Championed by Mike Patton of Faith No More, the band opened for Mr. Bungle on a US tour.
They were swallowed up in the feeding frenzy major labels went on, trying to find “the next Nirvana.”
It ultimately led to their breaking up.
I would be stoked if my music turned out being half as good as theirs.