IT'S A LIVING… BUT IT'S NOT A LIFE #8.2
J Church/Honey Bear Records "News" letter
Moans and Groans - Summer 2000

 

NO NEWS IS GOOD NEWS

Well, by the time you read this, the new album should be out. After seven and a half months of waiting since it's recording, it's finally seeing release. It's funny, there's so much build up to a record release. And then nothing happens. I mean, what could happen? It's like we were expecting some big explosion or a prize of something. As if we would find out right away if it was a hit or not. If people liked it or not… If nothing else, I really like the record. It's funny. It's taken so long for the record to come out, I've got a whole new perspective on it. It's already a little old to me. I was so worried a few months ago. I was freaking out about the different elements added to this record thinking people wouldn't accept it. Y'know, shock of the new, and all that… But now I just don't care. Shit, I've already written a few new songs for the next album… But do let me know what you think of the record. If you love it or hate it, I'd sorta like to know. Even if you've never liked a single note of a single J Church moment, let me know. I'm a bit of a masochist…

 

FREE STUFF!!! FREE STUFF!!! FREE STUFF!!!

Hey, here's a free compilation CD that we're on. If for some strange reason, you attended The Warp Tour this year, you've probably already got one of these. But if you're like me and spent that morning watching the Giants, you'll want to get this sampler from me. It's called More RPMs Than Floyd On A Scooter and it's a free sampler from Fat Wreck Chords. It features songs by us, Snuff, Avail, Bracket, Nerf Herder, Dance Hall Crashers, Chixdiggit!, Strung Out, Inspection 12, Fabulous Disaster, and Big In Japan (not the old new wave band). It also comes with a coupon for two bucks off our new album (it's actually a coupon for any of the aforementioned band's new records. But we're hoping you help the cause.). You can get this comp for free by ordering anything from my mail-order list in the next month or two and mentioning that you heard about it in my newsletter.

 

WE GOT RADIO

Yeah, as you may or may not know, Liberty and I have been spending a lot of our free time constructing a new Honey Bear web site. One of the fun side projects is a radio station for the site. It's not really J Church stuff or Honey Bear stuff (maybe later). Right now it's just a bunch of my favorite songs floating around in cyber space. Check it out if you've got the time. The site isn't up yet, but you can get to the radio station by going to Live365.com and searching under Honey Bear Records. It's not at 100% yet and I hope that the kids aren't offended that it's not entirely punk. Just a bunch of songs I love. Sorta like if I were to make you a compilation tape…

 

WE GOT VIDEO

Hey, our pal Sue Chen is doing a video for us. No, it's not your normal lip-synch type deal. She's doing it more like a short film (it's shot in Super 8) spliced with footage she took of our last gig at the Bottom Of The Hill. She's also done a few other short films when she was at school at NYU. They're all pretty cool and are mostly somewhat connected to J Church… Hopefully, she'll have them all available to the public soon…

 

ANOTHER COMPILATION

Another compilation is out with one of our songs on it. Ivy League College is on the debut release for Wynel Records. The comp features loads of bands almost all of whom I've never heard of. But that's not always a bad thing. I gave it a quick listen and there was a nice cross section of emo, pop punk and ska. I'll have a little more info on it below as I've got a few for sale.

 

CRINGER? I DON'T EVEN KNOW `ER! (AND WHAT'S ALL THIS ABOUT A VIDEO?)

Some kid did a Cringer video and has been selling it. I don't care. It doesn't really matter to me one way or the other. But he's going to send me some copies to compensate. If you're interested in buying one, get in touch with me. Hey, if it does well, maybe I'll just release it… I also heard that there was some sort of bootleg Cringer CD out there. Is there really any need for that? I mean, I don't mind. But who cares? Either way, if you know anything about Cringer bootlegs (demo or live, real or CDR) please let me know. I just wanna get a few copies...

On that tangent, I'm trying to find a couple of J Church bootlegs that are supposed to be floating around. There are a few different videos, only a couple of which I've seen. I heard that someone in Germany also did a live LP split with Screeching Weasel. I would definitely like to see that. I heard that there was also a single of our complete Peel Session. Again, I don't wanna get anyone busted. I just want some copies for myself. Is that too much to ask? I mean, I don't even have a tape of our full Peel Session…

 

A LITTLE INFO ABOUT THIS NEWSLETTER

Okay, I've gotten lots of e-mail from people saying that they had been sent this newsletter. I think that's so great. I'm very flattered that people have been doing that. Please feel free to copy and send this to whoever you want. If you received this newsletter from a friend and would like to start getting it "regularly" just send me an e-mail saying "subscribe" and I'll sort it out right away.

 

THE FILMS OF GRETA SNIDER

I've known Greta Snider for some time now. I remember when I first moved to San Francisco in '89. Greta was someone that I sort of held in a weird sort of esteem. It's like when you start high school and you sort of admire the seniors (until they do something cruel and Welcome-To-The-Dollhouse-like making you hate high school even more than you hate yourself. But enough about me…). Greta is super smart and one of the least pretentious people I know. But before this starts sounding like a eulogy, let me start talking about her films.
If you had to categorize her films (and that's part of my day job), it's safe to say that they all fall somewhere between the vaguely broad genres of experimental and documentary. Each film varies from side to side. But they all exist in this broad framework. Although may be starting to work with video, everything I've seen has been 16mm and 8mm (I think). Keep in mind, they're mostly between 5 and 10 minutes long.

I've seen ten of her eleven films (I think that's all that there are at the moment) and I dig them all. The only one that's missing from the list is her "sex" film (and if you have it, she wants it back!). So here we go…

Futility (1989) ­ Her first film is mostly a monologue accentuated by a collage of found footage. It starts with the sound of water dripping and becoming water draining, a metaphor for futility. The water drips and fills slowly and then is suddenly drained. Over it are images of an older couple at home interacting (dripping) followed by scenes of alienation in production and machinery depicted in images of work (draining). But the metaphor is also representative of the second part of the film which uses collaged images to emphasize a story of abortion. Finally, is what she calls a love letter but is more like a romantic Treaty of Versailles to an unknown "you". The one section where the words buttress the visual is the second segment where she reads a list of synonyms for futility while a great image plays. I'm not really sure what it is. It looks like hands hopelessly failing to fix something. It sort of looks like re-threading a pipe end or something. I don't know. But it looks great with it's textures of hand on metal all equalized by the fact that it's black and white.

Hardcore Home Movie (1989) ­ This movie is so funny. When I think of being friends with Greta, I sort of think that this movie captures that spirit more than anything else (including her fanzine). A montage of punk portraits from a Bad Brains/DRI gig at the farm mixed with a sort of "man on the street" series of interviews with the kids about punk and why it's important. It's EXACTLY what you would expect and it takes no sides. Sort of caustic in both the responses as well as the intentions of the film. It's so funny without condescension. It's laughing at you and with you at the same time. Hey, where else can you see Greta with a mohawk?

Blood Story (1990) ­ Blending both of her earlier ideas, this film isn't necessarily disturbing in its parts so much as the way they are juxtaposed against each other. Three simultaneous events are happening. On the audio is a light-hearted (I'm not being facetious) discussion with a woman friend about getting her period for the first time and attitudes towards it in Western culture. The film is subtitled with a story about seeing a dead body and watching the police deal with the situation systematically. Finally, there is the visual image which leaves me with the most questions. Hands knead through a bowl full of coagulating blood. I thought it was fruit at first (smooshed cranberries or something). But Greta assures me that it's real blood. Totally gross, but in a good way.

Mute (1991) ­ This is a really creepy story of a person's infatuation with a mute girl. Carnal desire and visual stimulation are interrupted by a sort of existential wondering. Why was she mute? Not how, but why? Eventually this turns to anger and ultimately to violence. But the violence becomes reflective and analytical. When she's dead, then she is truly mute. Without ever saying "God", there is a little Nietzche running through the story. The speaker can only understand the "why" when it's by his own design. When he kills the girl, he then accepts that she is "truly mute". Also in the film is a sub-titled section that represents at times the victim, though not always directly responding to the voice. It's another slice of existentialism, but this time in monologue. On it's own, it would only exist as poetry. But juxtaposed with the other story, it becomes insightful and also helps to hear the first story with objectivity, making the voice all the more creepy.

Our Gay Brothers (1993) ­ Sort of the second part of what could be thought of as her sociological study in "alternative lifestyles" (ha) started with Hardcore Home Movie. The meat of this film is a series of interviews with several gay men specifically talking about their sexual experiences with women. Very funny stories and observations that might upset some people (fingering a girl is described as putting your finger into "hairy, smelly oatmeal"). But it's bad taste in good fun like if John Waters made documentaries.

No-Zone (1993) ­ I was just watching this again and I was wondering if Errol Morris saw this. It's almost like a low budget Fast, Cheap And Out Of Control. Six separate vignettes in Greta's epic (it's 20 minutes long). Everything from toxins buried in the ground to travel supplies for running away to dreams of AIDS to street skating/bicycle free styling. Two of the most memorable moments, however, are two of the most understated. In the second segment, a man talks about what plants growing wild around Oakland are edible and what medicinal properties they have. The last segment is a guy who works down in Los Alamos showing the physical waste of no longer needed nuclear technology. This chapter is titled "The End of History" and it's sweetly encapsulated by the man describing a huge stone block that he would like to make into a new Rosetta Stone for the aliens to learn about Los Alamos after we've blown up the planet.

Flight (1996) ­ I think this might be my favorite of her films. While it may not be as "entertaining" as her other films, it's her most direct and personal message. I don't really know much about film technique, but I guess she hand processed all of this by exposing the film and not using a camera (an idea originally used by Man Ray). This silent film starts with black and white distortion twisting and turning. Eventually, images appear in the texture. Objects, numbers, faces. It's really scary at first, and I wouldn't recommend watching it alone at night. Slowly, it evolves into slides and a letter that Greta's father wrote to her before he died. It becomes a sort of sad message from beyond. The last bit is a note from him to her. It's moving and unsettling at the same time.

Portland (1996) ­ Well, I guess this is her most "accessible" film (for what that's worth). City kids engage in some train hopping hi-jinx and trouble follows them every step of the way. It's a really funny story about Greta, Ivy, Iggy and a couple other people who decide they've sick of Frisco and want to have a little getaway in Portland. A lot of bad stuff happens to them including being stranded in the middle of nowhere, all of their stuff locked in an abandoned building and ultimately jail. That they can laugh about it is amazing enough. Add to that Theo telling a story (in the way only he can) about his experiences in Portland at the Jack London Hotel (it's so great, I could never do it justice). Ultimately, this fun film is a cautionary tale: if you don't have to leave San Francisco, don't.

Quarry Movie (1999) ­ Though this film is credited as a collaboration, it's actually a Greta film. The list of collaborators were basically people under Greta's instruction. In fact, she says she had to bribe them with beer and donuts to get them to help. Atmospheric in it's attempt the capture the feel of the quarry without simply documenting it as a third person. Textures are created by the colors, camera movement and the quarry itself. The soundtrack is a simple recording of kids diving into the water that is more ambient than a dialog.

Urine Man (1999) ­ This film was actually made in the class she taught last year. It turned out pretty great, although, again, the credits are a little misleading. Even though the box says it was made by her class, Greta still directed it and did all the editing (she thinks of her directorial skills as that of an editor and not so much a cinematographer). Just a straightforward interview with a guy just known as Urine Man. At first I was pretty overwhelmed by this guy. He rambles casually from subject to subject. It's conspiracy theories and rants all the way. He even berates the film crew at one point for not filming everything he has to say. But you definitely get glimpses of a guy that is probably really smart. He's just completely demented. Whether he's crazy or delirious from being homeless, who can tell? But he's applying some pretty clever theories to really inane subject matter. Here's one: you don't need to eat. Eating is a sin and it's why Adam and Eve were cast from the Garden. Society makes you wear clothes but it's to cover up the fact that if you were naked, you could use photosynthesis like plants. Hence, you don't have to eat. Okay, you can see where that's crazy AND you can see where that makes sense.

 

COAGULA IS A PUNK FANZINE FOR THE ART WORLD

This is going to show up in some form or another in Maximum Rock N Roll. I thought I'd include this un-abridged version as a little preview. Also, I've got a little self-interest: Coagula has inspired me to start carrying fanzines again in my mail-order. Look below for more information on how to get the latest issue from me…

Mat Gleason, the editor of Coagula, describes his publication best when he calls it a "punk zine for the art world". I sort of stumbled upon it when I was killing time at some Market Street bookstore. The orange cover and bold title glared out at me: Most Art Sucks ­ Five Years Of Coagula. A quick flip through the book and I was convinced. A scathing indictment on the Art World establishment full of swagger and sardonic humor. Take Sniffin' Glue and mix it with MRR's golden years and lastly add some of the rebellious, corporate baiting, humor of Crass. Coagula is both a forum for objective art criticism as well as an all out attack on the establishment. Here's my interview with Mat…

Lance - Okay, basic stuff: How did you get into art and the scene in LA? Did you go to art school? Can you really be accepted in that scene without having gone to art school?

Mat - One day some girl took me to a museum, I was in school in the Midwest in 1982 and she took me to the Chicago art institute, and it was like "whoa!" I got it, it was sort of like the first time I heard the Sex Pistols, which I know they sound pretty tame today, but if you put it into the context of 1978 and Johnny's voice sneering when everything else is Styx and Santana and Led Zeppelin, it was just like a whole part of your body waking up, and so it was like that with the art, It was like my eyeballs woke up.
I was an art major at Cal State L.A, but got kicked out, but you don't have to go to art school, although it is the best way to meet people with similar interests. But it isn't the only way, the only path to being a known artist. It is the best, but also pretty expensive.

Lance - How did you get into punk? What were some of the bands you were into when you first got into it? Do you follow it anymore?

Mat - Punk appealed to me the minute I read about it, I think it was actually in the newspaper. I knew there was punk out there, but I didn't know where to find it. There was a record store near where I lived called Up Another Octave and they had punk albums, and one day I went in to buy a kiss album and instead I bought something else, must have been the Pistols or Ramones, this is like '79, I think, so pardon the Alzheimer's. It was just that moment of truth. I liked the first wave of L.A. bands and the first wave of O.C. bands, so that would be like X, Black Flag, the Germs, Circle Jerks. Fear I probably saw a hundred times. And Social D, Adolescents, T.S.O.L. It's funny because in art, I tend to like the first wave of artists in any movement more than the ones who came later. Like I like Manet or Pollock more than I like Renoir or Sam Francis. I follow punk a bit now. Of course I follow Down By Law seeing as they named a song after me (Mat Gleason is God), but with punk today, it seems either you get corporate America or demo tape hell. But punk is sort of a way of life beyond being a purchaser of records. The punk philosophies vary wildly, y'know? So I am more of a freedom and integrity punker than a vegan leftist. I am sober now, so I guess that makes me straight edge, ha ha ha. That is one religion I never considered joining but had to to stay alive.

Lance - What's the connection between Coagula and Flipside? Did you ever actually work for Flipside? Do you still here from Al? He's probably the nicest guy I met the entire time I lived down there...

Mat ­ I started a TV show on public access in La Mirada, a suburban pit just like the one every punk comes from, and I wrote a letter to Al and asked him to review albums on the show. La Mirada is next to Whittier, so he came down with his wife Hud and Hud's brother Gus and we taped an interview and he said the one thing that summed up punk for me better than anything, "Don't sell out, sneak in." I was chiding him, trying to get him to say that the Go-Go's were selling out because they were signing with a major label, if you can believe how long ago this was, and he refused to agree with me. He said that line and I was left speechless, which is a fucking rarity. I never wrote for Flipside but I would always by the issues. If I had enough money for one album and the new Flipside was out, I would by it instead of the album. No Mag was another great zine at the time. Al is great, when I do see him, it is always nice, but neither of us go out to shows much. I managed Al's Bar (a different Al altogether) for two years and my hearing is shot to shit, I think his is as well. I see Gus all the time.

Lance - Do you think of Coagula as being in any way connected with punk? Ethically, aesthetically... Do you think of it as a "fanzine"?

Mat - Absolutely. It is a punk zine for the art world. Nothing more, nothing less. Don't sell out, sneak in - all the way to your top, not theirs, and when they start inviting you to the parties, don't let up on them.

Lance - Coagula is one of the funniest zine I've ever read in my life. I don't even know what you're talking about half the time, and I still think it's funny when you really go after someone. What do you think is the appeal of Coagula to people not entrenched in the LA art scene? I mean, I'd never even heard of Christopher Knight or Larry Gagosian before reading your stuff...

Mat - Most people would rather go to a dentist than to an art gallery opening, because they perceive everyone there as snobby elitists. That is half true. The people we rake over the coals are the bad guys. Pretty simple. They are Foghat and Lynyrd Skynyrd and Journey, and I feel like I am Johnny Rotten screaming "I am an antichrist." It sounds cliché to say it, but I really feel that way. As a writer, it is gratifying to have an audience. I like that people who don't know who the big shots are get a kick out of my writing, that is a very good sign. I love writing and I enjoy to no end that the commoners are getting a kick out of the lunacies perpetuated by these stuffy fuckers.

Lance - A lot of the stuff you talk about (shallow trendiness, greedy bastards, conflicts of interest between different segments of the art world) come off as being more symptomatic of bigger problems. If you could even put it in a nutshell, what would you say is the main problem in the LA art scene? Is there one person that needs to be taken out with extreme prejudice?

Mat ­ The big problem is the myth that art is a career. I view it more like being compelled to make art, like a band that has to tour and play gigs and record, not to make money, although that is not bad, but they do it because they HAVE to, it is their life. The bigger problems are all based on careerists grabbing the little crumbs that are there from the hands of the real artists. George Herms, who is a genius, a great artist, told me that the only sin was glamour. That made a lot of sense looking around at the fucking parade.

Lance - Do you think that there is any sort of resistance to the status quo in the artworld? Or just the occasional voice in the darkness?

Mat - It is lonely at times. Sometimes I go to a gallery opening and you just see so much fakery and shallowness. But at some punk shows you get record label hucksters, or gangs, or whatever, or cops breaking up shit, and you get sick of going out for a while and you either stop going or you DIY. I opened a gallery in L.A. because I knew the real elitist pricks would never in a million years deign to come in, and so my opening receptions are always really great parties, and the artists know they will not get reviewed by the upper echelon critics. So I don't get any careerist assholes looking to climb the art world ladder of success. I end up with what I consider to be great art shows by REAL artists. Art collectors have been coming, that's weird. But that is the beauty of DIY, sometimes your thing clicks and sometimes it don't and since there ain't shit you can do to make it click, just make it yours.

Lance - Do you ever find yourself having to slag off friends who's art sucks? Have you ever lost pals over a bad review?

Mat ­ I have managed to avoid reviewing shows. What I usually do for a friend is tell them to find someone to review their art show, because I am all for real messy democracy, not dogma or ideology. But if someone cannot get over a bad review, that tells you more about them than they usually have led on.

Lance - On the other hand, have you ever had trouble with people you hated coming after you? Have there been any slander suits? I mean, these people seem pretty pretentious... Back alley beatdowns? Some of these people seem pretty shady...

Mat ­ The best thing about the art world and critiquing the ass-lickers is that they are by their very nature cowards. Cowards get lawyers though, and so I have learned a great technique. The minute you get a letter from a lawyer, you write two letters: One hand scrawled on wrinkled loose-leaf like a lunatic, not threatening, just schizo babble about them conspiring with the Pope and British Intelligence against you. You send that one to the lawyer who is after you. The second letter you type on letterhead real professional, you complain in very reserved tones that this lawyer is harassing you with frivolous and malicious litigation. You send that letter to the State Bar Association. This works so well, and when I tell lawyers this trick, they get real huffy, so I know its a keeper. See, that's punk, it doesn't matter if I listen to Miles Davis or Crass tonight, if you can stay free by your wits, it doesn't matter what you wear or listen to, you're a punk. When people threaten me in person I just tell them to sue me, that I would love to get them in a deposition and question them about their secret dealings with money and sex and publish every fucking word they say.

Lance - It seems like if you're a new artist and you haven't sucked up to this system and gone through Otis Parsons or Cal Arts or one of these schools, you don't really have a chance of being noticed. Isn't it possible that something more relevant is going on somewhere else in the world and the art world is completely oblivious to it? Outsider art or something?

Mat ­ The schools are only good to go in and challenge the fuck out of people, but then you get kicked out. I've been kicked out of Saint Paul High, Cerritos College, Fullerton College, two colleges in the Midwest and Cal State L.A., so I know a tiny bit about challenging institutions - it cannot successfully be done by one person. The art schools try to advertise that they are the way to art superstardom. But plenty of artists don't go to them and still succeed. My favorite is this artist, Sharon Ryan, she spent four years hanging out at all the local grad schools, their social events, art openings, got to know everyone and traded studio visits, and was always polite and asking questions, and now she is a bigger art star than almost any of the hundreds of graduate students she hung out with, and they all have student loans to pay back.
It is almost a certainty that the great art of our time is being made outside of the art world. Hopefully it will make its way into the public eye before it disintegrates or is sold at a swap meet. That is the real killer when it comes to art, be it painting, punk, poetry, anything: how does one get an audience? And even after that hurdle, there is the whole thing about compromising your art for that audience and a million et ceteras, but having readership, listeners, viewers, that is the toughest thing. The art schools promise them but do not, I believe, really deliver that.
The problem with outsider art, it's like the twelve bands you used to have to sit through before the Dead Kennedys played. I still believe that is what caused the Wilmington riot, too many bands and their friends thought they were rock stars and fought the security guards, locked them out at one point, which was funny until the guards brought the cops back with them. I was standing on a milk crate that held up the sound board's platform watching the show and saw the whole fucking thing go down. Outsider art has a real admirable lawlessness to it, no rules, purity and all, but you wade through so much crap that the party ends before the good shit ever happens. You also might get a sapping of your belief that anything better is gonna come along. If you think you're being fooled by a minimalist painter or a conceptual artist, think about someone whipping out "innocent" or "naive" art all day and night. That's a worse con, like when the metal bands all went grunge, but really just wore different clothes and cut out the drum and guitar solos.

Lance - If there were five artists that you would want everyone to know about, who are they and why...

Mat - Living artists that you might have a chance to see, other than those I show at my gallery, one is Llyn Foulkes. He is an old guy who was a beatnik artist who makes really intense critiques of corporate America, especially Disney. He paints so good though, the rich corporate fuckers by the stuff. Like when the frat boys started listening to Holiday In Cambodia, it was tragic, but it was a victory in the short and long term. Long it might make a difference in how they think, short, it did validate the fucking music. If Llyn was a shitty painter ragging on Disney, at some point you gotta say "So fucking what."
George Herms, he is brilliant, he makes assemblage, he's part of the beat tradition as well. The beats were just punks who liked jazz and had less to be pissed about and more freedom to exploit and enjoy. Kim Dingle, she makes little girls in easter dresses who just rage and trash everything in sight. Manuel Ocampo, of course. Diane Gamboa, she is one of the few people I have ever seen paint characters who are incredibly sexy but terrifying at the same time, without any illustration cliches at all. Very powerful stuff.

Lance - What's the shittiest art you've ever seen?

Mat ­ I saw a painting of Adam and Eve doing it doggie style while the snake watched. But that one was so awful it stayed with me, so in a way it was great. The art that is shittiest is the one with the built in attitude of superiority, one that ridicules part of the audience. Mike Kelley is the progenitor of that type of art. I stopped buying Sonic Youth albums after he did one of their covers. Perfect timing, too. They won't be doing another Daydream Nation or Sister anytime soon.

Lance - Aren't you ever compelled to paint again? I mean, if you're looking at all this stuff all the time, wouldn't you know best what not to do? Don't you ever feel like `fuck, I can do something better than that'?

Mat - Coagula is my art. I was always frustrated painting because I knew what I wanted and could not create it and wouldn't settle for shit. I am much happier with my writing. I'll write an essay or a short story and make it perfect. I couldn't do that with art and so I stopped. Lots of artists waste their lives in the wrong medium. I got lucky.

Lance - How hard is it distributing Coagula? Where do you mostly sell to? It must be hard to get a museum's gift shop to carry you when they might be under attack any given issue!

Mat - Again, art world people are mostly cowards and avoid confrontation. The obliviousness is just a shield. We distribute it to anyone who will take it. It isn't allowed in a lot of galleries, but the people who own those spaces go to the galleries who carry Coagula and pick up a copy and read it.

Lance - Is there anyone else out there doing what you're doing? Is there any other fanzine or magazine that you feel you have any sort of connection to? Writers even?

Mat ­ No art magazines, that is for sure. I read a punk zine any chance I get. It is a great art form, definitely inspired me and I feel connected to them as an art form, although I am not writing about music at all. Writers I like? Not any art writers, they'd all shoot their mothers for an invite to the next cocktail party. God, I learned more from the Circle Jerks singing "Beverly Hills, Century City" than I ever learned in a fucking school.

Lance - Anything else you wanna tell the kids?

Mat - Avoid cliches, cops and crystal meth. Read Burroughs, Bukowski and Gerald Locklin. The best bands have at least one girl in them. The best art tells the truth, or an amazing lie, or both.

There you have it. With any luck, Maximum Rock N Roll will print the whole thing. If you want to get the latest issue of Coagula (#46), send me $3.

 

IN THE J CHURCH READING ROOM

Last Gang In Town: Marcus Gray ­ If you've followed this, you know that I love the Clash. I've sort of avoided reading this book as every knows that it's famous for ripping apart the Clash myth (did anyone ever totally believe it anyway). Hey, I don't mind the myths. I've lived with them for this long. But when I saw this book on sale at the Anarchist Book Store for $6, I had to get it. I mean, shit, it is the Clash. So now I've read this book and I can see what everyone else has been talking about. All I've got to say is, "so what?". There is so much nitpicking over minute details, it all just seems ridiculous. Really, any band can be critiqued and taken apart inch by inch. You're bound to find problems and inconsistencies. They're just people, for fuck's sake. But the main problem I had with this book is that I never was totally convinced of the main Clash crime: being puppets to an evil manager. Every fact used to buttress that argument could be taken in a number of different ways. Is it really possible that the band's politics were a total pose? You have to come to this book feeling one way or the other. If you, like me, don't believe that, you won't change your mind. So, having said that, it's a really fun book to read. There's incredible attention to detail about pre- Clash bands (especially interesting are the Mick Jones bands before London SS). There are all the Hollywood Babylon-esque stories of rock-n-roll excess (they weren't the Stones, but they are exactly the Osmonds either). Every moment of Clash history is documented here and it's great to see it in one place even it is a weak attempt at discrediting the band.

Steely Dan: Reelin' In The Years: Brian Sweet ­ Fuck you, I love these guys. If you hate them, there's really no point in reading this. But keep this in mind, despite their respected place in the hierarchy of `70s rock, they were one of the few bands that weren't attacked by the punk rockers who eagerly spit venom (rightfully so) at bands like Yes, Pink Floyd, the Eagles, etc. The reason is simple, there's not that big of a target when attacking Steely Dan. As far as image goes, they were pretty different from their contemporaries. They were known for any sort of excessive lifestyle. They were intellectuals. They didn't have any interest in punk for it's music. But they did say it was great from a sociological standpoint (isn't that the premise of most emo bands?). In fact, their obsession with studio technique was strangely echoed later in the post punk period. If you close your eyes, you can almost find similarities between Aja and Sandinista. It's embracing sophistication as a means of not dumbing down pop music. Anyway, this book is for the fans. It's poorly written and bursts at the seams in it's failed attempts at objectivity. And it's great and really fun to read. What can I say? You're talking about a band that have made a career out of avoiding the public eye and anonymity is part of their artistic license. For the first time that I can think of, all the anecdotes and recording stories are written down along with a long since forgotten history of the Steely Dan "band" line-up of the first few records. Besides, it's written by the guy that is the editor of Metal Leg which is THE Steely Dan fanzine.

 

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