IT'S A LIVING… BUT IT'S NOT A LIFE #9.4
J Church / Honey Bear Newsletter - late Spring '01
Spiritual Unity!

 

NEW MATERIAL AND STUFF

Okay, that comp I was talking about last newsletter… The one with our song Palm Tree that was an out take from One Mississippi? It's not out yet. But it's on New Disorder (home of bands like the Jocks, American Steel and Half Empty) and you can find `em at www.newdisorder.com.

Another new item coming up soon is our split single with the Japanese band, Minority Blues Band, on Snuffy Smiles. I'm not totally sure when it's coming out. But I'll have at least a few for sale here which you'll wanna keep track of as Yoichi's stuff is all pretty great and often really hard to find.

Our songs for the split 7" are two that we recorded at WFMU in New Jersey while on our last tour. The two tracks are covers of People Are Scared (originally by the Subhumans) and Petrograd (originally by Cringer). Pretty decent sounding from what I remember. I don't think I fucked up any of the words…

You can expect the next singles collection to appear in stores sometime in the middle of August. Titled Meaty, Beaty, Shitty Sounding, it's about 20 songs all together. I think you will be very pleased when you see what's on it. It will be on Honey Bear, so you can get it right from me.

Other stuff? Yeah, we've got a CDEP of all new material coming out in Australia. When I know more details I'll let you know. We've also got (theoretically) a split EP with the Euro Anarcho band Petrograd. I guess we had to do a split with them! There's also gonna be another benefit CD for AK Press. We're giving them a weird little cover we did a while back of All The Wars by Anthrax (the UK band not the NYC metal band). Now, assuming that we got the DAT to Paul on time, we will also be on the new Beat Bedsit compilation CD which is a benefit for the opening of a @ center over in Brighton. Our song for that is a weird little Black Flag inspired thing about the death of Albert Ayler called Asphyxia By Submersion. There are a few other things in the works. But they're still in their early stages. I'll let you know more on all these things when I know more. I will say that all of these projects will have unreleased J Church recordings of songs never heard before… I just don't know who gets what just yet.

 

HONEY BEAR RECORDS AND SINGLES CLUB

Okay, on the label side of things, I was sort of hoping to get my shit together a little quicker with Meaty, Beaty, Shitty Sounding. But I should have known that it wouldn't happen. So the record is actually coming out later than I had hoped. That means that the Singles Club isn't going to get started until the Fall and it's just as well. I haven't got all the tracks and artwork together. In the mean time, there's still room to join. So if you or anyone else you know is interested in being part of the fan club, here's a reminder on what it's all about:

The new singles club is a series of six (maybe seven if I can find a way to make it financially feasible) 7"s of limited press of 100 copies. The records will feature unreleased material from Cringer (some really cool stuff from around the time we recorded Cottleston Pie), J Church (three new songs including Fuck School), Semiautomatic (Rop of Ropstyle, ex-Rice, ex-Peechees), Cilantro, Tami (from Japan) and hopefully Princessed. The joining fee is $45 in the states and $55 world. The price is a reflection of how much it costs to do a pressing of only 100 records and the new international shipping prices. I'm trying to make it a little fair for everyone. You can join the singles club by sending check or money order to my Texas address or you can pay online through Pay Direct at Yahoo (my account there is through honeybearrecords@yahoo.com).

There's still talk of hopefully doing a CD collection of music from Flowers In The Dustbin and The Cravats. I've also just proposed something to Southern about maybe releasing the two Lack Of Knowledge records that were on Crass on one CD. We shall see. There's also been really loose talk about a Flux Of Pink Indians "live" CD as their guitarist has been telling me that he's got a much better recording than their last live record (which I thought was pretty damned good!). But these are all much more in the talking phase at the moment. Let's look back on this list in a year and see what really came out…

 

RISD BANDS DON'T ROCK

Okay, here's where I'm going to start a fight. We're all friends here, right? Just stay with me for a moment...

For the longest time, I really didn't care about the new wave of ironic hardcore by bands like the Locust and then Black Dice and now Total Shutdown. I didn't and still don't really like those bands. I thought what they were doing was really silly. But I never thought any of them took themselves seriously, so I never really cared. Besides, the few people that I've met from all of those bands are really quite nice. I always figured, "fair enough, they're nice to me and they probably don't care for J Church either…"

But now it's gone too far. The new wave of totally apathetic / grad school / poseur hardcore has become too much for me to stand. It all has to do with them crossing the line and insulting a musical form that I hold dearly.

I subscribe to the avant-garde newsgroup at Yahoo because I love hearing postings about Bill Dixon, Albert Ayler, Cecil Taylor, etc from people that worked with them if not from the artists themselves. I've never posted because I've never felt I've had anything to contribute. It's just a source of great free information. Avant-garde and free jazz… it's a musical scene that means something, if for no other reason than history. You're talking about the reclaiming of a music form specifically for the African-American community. It was creativity and activism that merged art and politics as equal footed aspects of "cultural" analysis. The very idea of going far beyond the rigid order of traditional jazz and music in general was an abstraction that had direct ramifications on the socio-political landscape of the late `60s and early `70s. If the music world is a microcosm of the world at large, then music constructs had to be questioned like any other one in society… and vice versa. It was counter-culture and DIY methods that pre-cursed Crass and the anarcho punk movement.

It fucking means something to me.

So when I saw a listing in the avant-garde newsgroup for Black Dice and Total Shutdown playing a gig in San Francisco, I was fucking pissed off. These little shits were trying to disguise the fact that they were just a bunch of punk kids who "outgrew" punk and thought that they were really clever if they made a bunch of noise (which is the one aspect of these bands that I do like. But free jazz isn't just what's on the surface) and called themselves "artists". But these fucks take all the pretensions and all the posing, all the bullshit that most people hate so much about the art world and offer no tangible reason to think that they've done something of character or of cultural significance. Art is a mirror and these bands reflect nothing. It's a pose.

Avant-garde and free jazz was inherently connected to black power. Just ask Bill Dixon or anyone from the Art Ensemble of Chicago or Archie Shepp. What do Black Dice and the bands like them have to do with black power? Could they ever do something as ideologically radical?

Now, I haven't cared that much about hardcore in some time. There are still bands out there that I like. But I don't care that much. Still, it makes me sad to think that bands like Black Dice could in anyway be the wave of the future. I like to think that they are an insignificant blip on the map of music history (like J Church, of course). They probably are. But I worry that they are the shape of things to come. It's a shame when that kind of cynicism is the only way to combat the un-imaginative status quo of `90s hardcore. There are still some people in that scene involved for the politics and "art" of it rather than the empty slogans and macho poses. Black Dice are, sadly, the logical extent of Sonic Youth's half ironic interest in hardcore punk. They are the kids that won't really commit to anything because they would rather laugh at it. Shit, Black Dice must be doing something because I haven't been worried about the "state of hardcore" in years.

Hopefully, this will all play itself out. Black Dice aren't gonna survive in the avant-garde world doing what they're doing. They'll have to change and that might be a good thing.

 

IN THE J CHURCH VIEWING ROOM

End Of The Art World video

At little over half an hour, this fascinating film covers a lot of ground and a lot of heady artists. From Jasper Johns to Andy Warhol to Robert Rauschenberg to Michael Snot to Roy Lichtenstein, Alexis Krasilovsky (Beale Street, Exile, Blood, author and director of the book and film Women Behind the Camera) manages to create her own unique piece of art by appropriating not only images but the artists themselves.

Intended as a documentary, the film was conceived as a result of Krasilovsky's feelings that too many important artists are forgotten or looked over for any myriad of reasons. Acknowledging that the artist is often just as responsible as the lack of an understanding audience and media, the function of this film was to document the artist of the time, the late '60s.

But her own artistic leanings betray any strict objective nature of the documentary. Instead, the film becomes a vibrant collage of images and soundscapes. Shot in 16mm, the film is as grainy as can be and the fact that much of the audio doesn't sync up with the pictures only helps to accentuate both. It's effect is like drastically panning audio channels on a record… like the Ramones first album.

Often, she captures the artist in its natural (or what they want people to perceive as natural) habitat. Andy Warhol isn't so much interviewed so much as shown at one of his openings surrounded by all his followers and hangers-on. Rauschenberg is shown in his studio working on one of his thousands of assemblages. Roy Lichtenstein is interviewed in a faux "talk show" manner that's funny in it's loose deconstruction.

One of the most fascinating moments in the film is the interview with Jo Baer, a minimalist artist. Interviewed in front of one of her paintings of a great rectangular shape, she's awkwardly charismatic in her nervousness in front of the camera. As Krasilovsky continues to provoke her by asking her why she feels uncomfortable and asking her to repeat herself, Baer reveals herself in a way that's quite touching. As soon as she begins talking about art and regains her stride, the interview is over.

Another striking moment, which is also humorous, is the interview with Joseph Kosuth. When asking him how he feels about art history and how he communicates through his art, he stands at a bus stop while she films and asks the questions yelling back and forth on the other side.

The film is short, which probably works to its advantage, as most people I know have no idea who most of these artists are. I wasn't really sure of who some of them were and this is stuff I like!

Anyway, here's the monologue that ends the film. I thought it was great.

…We are in a new era in America
Where we have to say "Death To The Pigs"
…And when you begin to talk about
Death To The Pigs
They will take you seriously
And will begin to vamp on you
And you won't be saying that
Unless you truly want to do something
(Rafael Films)

 

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