IT'S A LIVING… BUT IT'S NOT A LIFE #9.2
The semi-tough J Church / Honey Bear Records Newsletter
Spring '01 - Boy Howdy!

 

DID YOU FUCK UP?

Ah, the tour is over. What a fucking blast! One month on the road with Propagandhi, Avail and Fabulous Disaster and the end feels weirdly pre-mature (although I'm happy to see my bed). Had a fantastic time hanging out with and seeing all the bands night after night. I've got to admit that Propagandhi have sort of rekindled my interest in hardcore… I forgot how brilliant they were live… I watched them every night. Swear to God… Hope you were there and didn't fuck up…

Okay, we added a Cringer song to the set for this tour and we probably won't play it again. I really wanted to do something as sort of a little tribute to Jerry from Gaunt and I didn't think we could really get away with covering Rich Kids. …And people had been yelling for Cringer songs for so long, I thought this might be nice. Turns out, of the few people at the gigs that were there specifically to see us, most of them didn't know what the song was. But I was still happy to make the gesture. The song was Petrograd and we probably won't be doing it anymore…

I know that a lot of people think it was really weird that we did this tour and I've learned that there isn't much cross pollinating between J Church and Avail supporters. I've heard complaints on both sides and it's really too bad because we really like Avail a lot. Yeah, we're sort of worlds apart musically. But I really like a lot of their music and I thought they were really great people (road crew included). I really don't see what the big deal is. I sort of long for the old days when all different types of bands could play together and it was no big deal. I remember once Cringer played with Chumbawamba AND Neurosis. Once J Church played with Money Mark AND the Red Aunts. What's wrong with that? Even better, remember when the Minutemen would tour with Black Flag and the Meat Puppets? What about the Descendents with Suicidal Tendencies? SNFU with Die Kreuzen? Chill out. It's cool.

On a practical level, I really don't know if this tour exposed J Church to a wider audience. Gigs that big are really impersonal and it's really hard to meet people. You walk in the crowd and your suddenly surrounded by an endless sea of people. I'm not a rock star. But I'm really claustrophobic. So, I don't know. Some nights, we were definitely just playing the 25% or less of the crowd who knew who we were. Some nights we went down great. Others, you could hear a pin drop between songs. I don't know if the tour helped. Whatever.

We also went out of our way to do interviews, radio shows and even a little TV on this tour. We finally got around to playing on WFMU where we brought out a few new things including a cover of the Subhumans' People Are Scared which will probably wind up on a new single on Snuffy Smile. We also did some weird TV show in San Francisco. I don't know what it was called. All I was told was that 6 million people saw it. Did you see it? Did anyone tape it? I'd love to get a copy. We did Jane, Vanessa And I and Yellow, Blue And Green. I don't know how we wind up doing these things. But it was cool.

So, now I'm back at home and there are a million things for me to do. I'm just now catching up with all the mail and mail-order, so I beg for your patience.

 

WHAT IS NEXT?

Okay, we're detoxing from the tour right now and I really don't know what is on the horizon. Do we record or hit the road again? I don't really know.

One thing I do know is that Adam and his wife, Lydia, are expecting a second child. So that sort of limits what he can do, obviously. But it's fucking great. Their daughter, Mimi, wants a brother and Mom and Dad are doing what they can to accommodate! More power to them and if you are at all cool, you'll send them a card of congratulations to: Adam and Lydia ­ c/o Lost Weekend Video ­ 1034 Valencia St ­ San Francisco, CA 94110.

But that leaves us without a touring drummer for a little while. If we do go out on the road again, we will need someone to fill in with us. Historically, that's been Andee (A Minor Forest, TicWar, PEE, etc.) and that's been really great. Aside from the fact that he's one of my best friends in the world, he's a brilliant drummer. Certainly one of the best around. But he's got his own thing going on, so we can never assume that he'll have the time to fill in with us. I mean, his label alone takes up half of his life (check out www.tumult.net) and he may be moving into a treehouse in Portland (I can't even begin to explain this…). So, who knows? We would like to do that Citizen Fish tour. But, as you can see, it's all up in the air at the moment…

As for recording, I've got more than enough songs for the next record. But we really need to sort out the timing. We've got a lot of other records that will probably be coming out first. First of all, there is a new singles collection coming out on Honey Bear Records. It will be our fourth. Secondly, I'm trying to work it out so that the new issue of my fanzine, Some Hope And Some Despair, comes with a CD made up of real weird shit that the band has recorded. Lots of experimental stuff as well as some covers and typical J Church stuff. It will be some pretty weird stuff, so assuming that it does ever see the light of day, it'll probably be of limited pressing. Finally, Broken Rekids will be doing a series of 4 CDs reissuing all the out of print J Church stuff including a lot of things that only came out in other countries. So, our calender is full of stuff although all the re-issues and weird stuff will probably leave us pretty anxious to get the new album out. Too much of anything drives me crazy.

 

WHAT ABOUT THE LABEL?

Yeah, things are gonna get busy for the label as well. First of all, now that I'm at home, I'm finally getting it together to start the singles club up. If you didn't hear about it the first time around, here's how it works:

You send me $45 ($55 in Europe) and you gain membership to the Honey Bear Records Singles Club. The plan is to release 6 singles in limited editions of 100 copies each. Needless to say, with such a small pressing, these records will not be sold in stores. Now, the price seems kind of high. But when you make so few copies, the costs go through the roof. And the new postage rates are no help. Now, I'm still working on trying to find deals to lower my costs. If I can lower the costs enough (and I can't promise that this will happen) then I'll add a 7th single to the club.

As it stands, the records coming out will be from the bands J Church, Cringer, Cilantro, Tami (from Japan), Semiautomatic (ex-Rice, Peechees) and Princessed. That's a pretty good bunch of records and I think you'll be stoked if you join. As far as payment, you can follow the instructions below just like with the rest of my mail-order.

In addition to the singles club and the J Church stuff, I will hopefully also be releasing CD collections by the Cravats and Flowers In The Dustbin. These bands were two of my favorites from the old anarcho days and I'm really excited by these releases. Most of the Cravats stuff came out on Small Wonders though a lot of the best stuff was on Crass / Corpus Christi. Flowers In The Dustbin also released some pretty amazing stuff on All The Madmen. But I sort of think that their best moment was a single on Mortarhate. So, hopefully, that will be in the cards.

 

LIVE CDR TYPE THINGS

Okay, some of you have already seen these things floating around. There are a bunch of J Church "live" CDRs now available. Let me explain:

I've been a fan of Bluurg Records for a long time. Since I was in school, I followed the Subhumans and the label and I always thought that it was cool that in addition to the distributed records that you could find in stores, there was a whole mess of other things you could order directly from Dick on cassette. To this day, he has cassette releases available. I think it's great.

I also know that I never really listen to tapes anymore. But since I wanted to get something going like Bluurg, I've started to make available entire J Church live recordings (along with printed covers of my design) on CDR. If I wind up having the time, I'll also make available some of the weird J Church demo tapes and home recordings. Obviously, this is die-hards only and none of this stuff will be available through distributors to stores. But to keep it all organized, I will give them all catalog numbers and titles. I just got the first one done and as soon as I can get the covers and everything ready, you can expect a dozen or so more in the next couple of months…

 

IN THE J CHURCH LISTENING ROOM

THE ANNIVERSARY ­ Designing A Nervous Breakdown CD

Despite having a record cover so crap, I can't believe no one somewhere along the lines didn't stop them, this is one hell of a pop record. Taking a lot of tired old formulas that make up most of what is thought of as punk (or pop punk) today, The Anniversary inject a healthy dose of college rock sensibilities to, if not in anyway re-invent, the genre to carve their own little spot in the punk world.

There's enough of that straight ahead rocking that we've familiarized ourselves with via bands like Weezer and the Get Up Kids to appeal to the extreme youth of America. But there are a lot of curve balls to draw in a jaded old fuck like myself. The occasional Dinosaur Jr like lilt or the Treepeople / Built To Spill ratio of whine to rasp all work to the bands benefit. That and the occasional Beatles-esque 7th chord make this record a head above the rest. There's nothing new under the sun, but this is a great Springtime record for young America.
(Heroes And Villains, PMB 361, 2118 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90403)

ROLAND KIRK ­ Domino CD

I'm not gonna pretend to be some sort of jazz expert or historian. But I am a great fan of Rahsaan Roland Kirk's work and I do know that a lot of people consider his time on Mercury records his most creative and adventurous. Domino was Kirk's second record for the label after a the groundbreaking We Free Kings (at the time a statement about civil rights and not free jazz) and a stint playing for Mingus (well represented on the amazing Oh Yeah on Atlantic).

No longer thought of as a hack or a gimmick artist, this record is incredibly confident and is crucial in understanding the artist's realm. With one foot in the avante garde and another foot in formalism, this record both let's Kirk run free with his boundary free scales along with his ability to offer strict arrangements as emphasized by a great rhythm section switching between Herbie Hancock, Andrew Hill and Wynton Kelly on piano.

This re-release includes an additional 15 tracks of out takes and different versions. I guess I'm not enough of a scholar to really appreciate this stuff (four versions of Termini's Corner?). But there are still some interests to a laymen like myself including the alternative version of the title track and an odd little meditation called Where Monk And Mingus Live. To bad there aren't any tracks from Kirk's performance at that years Newport Jazz Festival where Kirk first debuted a lot of this material including the classic A Stritch In Time (what exactly is a stritch? Is it for real or just another one of Kirk's inventions?).
(Verve master Edition)

MUSEE MECANIQUE ­ The Zelinksy Collection CD

If you're not familiar with the Musee Mecanique, you should start by knowing that it's one of the great attractions of the Bay Area that is completely genuine and, while it doesn't completely sum up the city, it's a significant emblem of San Francisco's quirkiness and uniqueness.

Daniel Galland Zelinsky, who is the museum's founder, is a collector and an eccentric. The museum is a permanent display of antique machines from penny arcades that go back, some over a hundred years. Zelinsky collects and restores these machines and at the Musee Mecanique, they are available for the public, not only to see, but play just as they were enjoyed when they were the cutting edge of arcade technology.
One thing that will always stay with you when visiting is the music. The odd, just vaguely out of tune music pumped through the hundred year old machinery is a key to the museums ability to take you out of the Bay Area for a moment and put you in another world.

Some people think that the music is a little creepy. In a way, I guess it is. But I also think that it's really beautiful. These are all analog sounds that you can't find in any contemporary music. The vague distortion of the imperfect sound systems and the fact that time and non-exact time creates a slight tuning problem all add to the mystique. This CD documents a lot of that music. With any luck, like the cover suggests, this will be the first of many.
(1090 Point Lobos, San Francisco, CA 94121)

THAI ELEPHANT ORCHESTRA ­ CD

So, does this count as outsider art?

Yeah, I guess the title really says it all. This is a CD recording of six elephants (and that's not some code name for anything. We're talking trunks and tusks.) playing music over their own design and direction. This is not some circus trick. There's no fucking ring leader whipping the elephants making them play Oh When The Saints… or some bullshit. This is really a bunch of elephants left to their own devices with a bunch of instruments to improvise.

Okay, here's a little background info. Dave Soldier and Richard Lair are scientists and zoologists who work and have been working with elephants in Thailand for some time. As most people know, there are a lot of miseries in that field. First of all, the elephant population has been reduced from 100,000 back at the last turn of the century to little over 2,000 today. The surviving elephants are still being forced to do dangerous labor for companies working in Thailand and others are put at risk through irresponsible tourist organizations.

To put a bit of a spin on the situation, the two doctors decided to bring their mutual love of music into their day work. Working in a traditional Thai musical scale, they had built several musical instruments specially designed for the elephant's anatomy.

So, this recording, which is quite fantastic, represents the improvised and dare I say "free" music created by elephants on slit drums, marimbas, Thai renats, diddley bow, gongs, harmonicas and some sort of keyboard. Uh, the elephants are pretty good and it really freaks me out how, uh, rhythmic they are. I mean, if this thing hadn't been written up in the New York Times, I would almost think it was a hoax. But I guess it's for real and therefore, pretty fucking impressive. But I have to admit; it's almost worth it just to see the photos of the elephants smiling and playing music.
(Mulatta Records)

 

Back to Article Index