IT'S A LIVING… BUT IT'S NOT A LIFE #9.5
J Church / Honey Bear Records Newsletter - Summer '01
Promises you make never become fact…

 

MORE CDRs!!!

Okay, people are really diggin' those live CDRs. Shit, I may need to go out and get one of those component CD burners for my stereo so I don't have to do `em one at a time on our home computer with that lame Nero program. (Any suggestions on brands or where to get one cheap would be greatly appreciated).

Here's the new shit:
HB027 Blue Jeans Hurt My Crotch ­ Live at the Bottom Of The Hill - Feb. 2000
HB028 The Phantom Limb ­ Live at the Bottom Of The Hill ­ 10/29/00
HB029 Carlton Fisk ­ Live at Studio #158, North Windham, CT ­ 03/30/94
HB030 The Man Who Left His Will On Film ­ Live at Gilman St. #2 ­ 08/20/93
HB031 Fake Family Vol. 1 ­ Live at the Dublin Castle, London, England ­ 06/19/95

As usual, they're each $6 post paid. You can order `em like anything else in my catalog. Send cash, check or money order made out to Lance Hahn to:
1071 Clayton Lane #506
Austin, TX 78723

 

OTHER NEW STUFF

Meaty, Beaty, Shitty Sounding is set for release in the middle of August. This fourth singles collection will be on Honey Bear Records. I'm not sure if I'm gonna try to hire a publicist this time around. But we'll see. There are 20 songs all together and it's all pretty good sounding. If I can get the money together, I'll release a limited double LP version as well. But don't count on it. I'm broke as hell…

By the time I get that next newsletter together, I'll hopefully have some copies of the new split single with Minority Blues Band from Japan. The record is now out on Snuffy Smiles in Tokyo. I'm just waiting for my shipment to arrive from across the sea.

Next up will be a CDEP out on Rabbit Records in Australia. It's seven songs all linked together to form one song and tell one, uh, "story"… Sorta… It's just a day in the life kinda thing… Somewhat inspired by the movie Office Space. I'm laying it out at the moment, so I'll tell you more next time around.

Well, we missed the deadline for the comp out of Brighton that we were supposed to be on. Instead, we're doing a split record on that label with the UK band Annalise. I dig what I know of them, so it should be pretty cool. Not totally sure what songs will be on it. But our tracks will be totally unreleased. I've been plowing through some recordings I recently discovered from the late `90s when the band was technically on hiatus and technically working on a new record. There's a couple of demo that are pretty good sounding… These songs will be from that…

I'm also finally getting off my ass and sorting out the Argentinean CD. It will be a compilation only for South America collecting all of our cover songs on one release. I'll have some to sell here once it's out…

 

LIVE GIGS

I guess we're gonna be playing two or three gigs in August in time for the release of Meaty, Beaty, Shitty Sounding. All three gigs are in the Bay Area.
August 18th ­ Bottom of the Hill w/ Citizen Fish
August 19th ­ Gilman St. w/ Citizen Fish ­ it's a matinee, so come early
August 19th ­ The Covered Wagon w/ The Urchin (Japan) ­ evening 21 and over show.

 

CHECK OUT THE SUBTONIX AND SEMIAUTOMATIC AND WHAT HAPPENS NEXT

Some great bands are on the road at the moment and nobody seems to be talking enough about `em. Here are a few tours I think you should check out if they come through your town.

Subtonix are from the Bay Area and they're fantastic. I've ranted and raved about them before in this newsletter. They're the best thing out of the area these days. They're on tour supporting they're amazing first single which they put out themselves. It's four cool chicks with bass, drums, keyboards and saxophone. Catchy as hell with smart lyrics. I can't really think of another band like them. Sort of like X-Ray Spex meets Cravats or something. I think their dates are posted at the Troubleman site.

Semiautomatic are also one the road at the moment. Streamlined down to a duo, they run through a great set of punk rock, new wave, trip hop, turntable shit, and more. Totally great and another band I have a hard time comparing to anyone else. You may know Rop as the singer for Rice or the bassist for the Peechees…

For a dose of old school hardcore done in the old school way, check out the amazing What Happens Next. They guys play tight "bandana thrash" (hey, that's what they call it…) in the style of Heresy or maybe even Larm. Totally powerful live, and you can count on Robert selling the AK Books at the merch stall.

Anyway, all three bands are great and are well worth checking out. Definitely a good time. Tell `em Lance says "hi"…

 

SOME HOPE AND SOME DESPAIR #3 IS OUT NOW!

I almost forgot. The new issue of my zine, Some Hope And Some Despair, is now out. Number three features interviews with Action Time, Matt from Coagula, Jon Moritsugu, The Cravats and Flowers In The Dustbin. It's 32 pages with no advertisements (I didn't have time to solicit them this time around). It's $3 post paid from me…

 

OTHER WRITING STUFF

So, you may have noticed that my article on the Mob (which is really just a first draft) is now out in Maximum Rock N Roll #218. My interview with Moritsugu is in that same issue. Next will be my Flowers In The Dustbin article, my interview with Action Time, and an article on the Cravats. But I'm not sure when that's all happening as they've got an all South American issue coming out at some point as well.

I've also got something in the latest Skyscraper. Andrew ran my Sid Vicious rant. I think I'll have something in the following issue as well. Really nice looking, that Skyscraper. Kudos to Alex for the great cover shot.

 

COMMODITY FETISHISM AND THE D.I.Y. ETHIC

Whenever discussing drugs and drug addiction, there's always someone in my social circle that mentions how some people have addictive personalities and others don't. Me, I can't imagine not having an addictive personality. It's part of my value system. I just don't see how you can completely embrace life without having an addictive personality. It's the vilification of drugs that taint the image of the drug addict. Sure, you can blame the drugs. But can you really blame the addiction? I try to avoid using terms like "human nature". But I don't know much else that's as instinctive as addiction.

Now, I'm not a drug addict. I'm not an alcoholic. I'm not even a sex addict. While I've indulged in all of the above for entirely instinctive reasons, it's rarely reached a level where I could even consider it addiction (in all fairness, I know a lot of people that would disagree and I've been called an alcoholic more than once in my life). But my relationship to those so-called vices is not far removed from the intentions of an addict. Perhaps in the beginning it was the same clichés that led me there. Curiosity and nerves were the two guides I followed through most of my youth. But as time wore on, sex, drugs and alcohol became a more mature part of my life. It was a way to fill voids inside and a way to conquer loneliness. I know that sounds really existential or something. But the inability to connect on the most basic levels with my peers was my reality.

I spent a lot of the `80s feeling completely isolated and out of sync with the world. I didn't understand the world. I was born in the `60s and grew up in the `70s. I didn't understand what the `80s were all about. I couldn't relate to kids around me. I couldn't understand the music that was popular (I still don't which is why I can't relate to most of the pseudo new wave of today's underground). I couldn't understand television. I couldn't figure out what was funny about sitcoms or most television. I couldn't understand how Ronald Reagan could be president. It was the first time in my life that I truly felt like an outcast.

Even the punk rock kids I knew were secretly conservative, rich kids. In Hawaii, the punk scene was 95% suburban military brats. It seemed crazy to me that they could be so patriotic while wearing an MDC t-shirt. My connection to fanzines like Maximum Rock N Roll sorta steered me in the right direction and gave me some hope. So, I decided I needed to find new ways of filling the void.

I'm not a competitive person. I've really never been ambitious. Sometimes I say I am just to be taken seriously. But, really, I do what I do and I know why I do it. I'm not too concerned about impressing anyone and I don't really care about my station in life. My obsession with punk rock was in a lot of ways against my nature.

I've always been a "collector" of sorts. Not the "red vinyl, first edition, mint condition" type of collector. If you know me, you'll know that most of my records are pretty well played and the covers are usually well worn. So, I'm a bad collector. But it's a compulsion that engulfs a huge part of my life.

Now, I'm not trying to belittle the struggle of people suffering through drug addiction. I'm just trying to understand the nature of addiction itself. There are definite similarities in the exponential nature of my drinking and the way I peruse record stores on a daily basis no matter what city I'm in. But it's the process that's important to me and I think that is also what fuels a lot of D.I.Y. culture these days. It's a clean switch. It can be religion without the dogma. It's Zen atheism. If AA says you can switch religion for alcoholism, why can't you substitute D.I.Y. culture for alcoholism? Isn't it all addiction?

I'll be the first to admit that there are bands out there that I support even though I may not really relate to their music. I'm not necessarily talking about political bands (I always thought it was weird that so many people used to say they liked the politics of Crass but not the music. I really like their records!) or anything like that. There are some bands that I'm just glad that they're around. They serve a purpose and offer a musical counterpoint to something / anything. I think that is more important than a bunch of bands playing a musical style I like, each band identical to the other. If you've ever bought a record just because you wanted to and not because you necessarily thought you would ever listen to it, you know what I mean. I do it all the time.

I think it's the same mentality for bands. Why go on the road for months playing to 20 people (or less) a night? Hey, there are thousands of bands that do it. Why bother to play a gig where only 3 people actually showed up? If you're a religious person, then I guess you could argue that you are celebrating some sort of gift from above. If not, you're playing to satisfy some inner longing. Those gigs are like signing a pact with your inner demons. Either that or you've got nothing better to do (and who doesn't have better things to do!?!).

It's addiction and it's pathology and it's what fuels the underground in these conservative times. It's the mindset that is constantly veering dangerously close to dogma. It can become a cult. But I always felt that the main difference between a cult and a collective was hierarchy. In many cases, it's the only difference.

D.I.Y. culture is an addiction. All record collecting can be an addiction. Records, fanzines and performances are all intellectual fetish items in their own way.

 

IN THE J CHURCH LISTENING ROOM

 

HAN BENNINK & TERRIE EX - The Laughing One CD

This is a fascinating improvisational record between the old and new. Han Bennink is an avant-garde drummer who has been playing around since the `50s with everyone from Eric Dolphy to Paul Bley to Peter Brotzmann. Terrie Ex is, of course, the guitarist for Dutch band, The Ex. The Ex have, of course, dabbled with free improvisation for some time now and have always maintained their connection to the form.

This record is an interesting splatter of guitar and percussion. With most of the tracks clocking in at less than 2 minutes and only one at over 5 minutes, these short bursts inadvertently become one long piece. The mood it creates is one of tension and paranoia. This could also be due to the sparse structure of the tracks. Not surprisingly, this record is very reminiscent of some of the tracks on the Ex's Instant CD featuring all improvised performances with a variety of musicians and configurations.

It's an exciting record as the drums are often clearly the lead instrument due to the character of the playing. The variety of rhythms and parts definitely set the direction of each song. The guitar is also nice though more subdued than I was expecting. There are a lot of interesting textures typical of Terrie's playing which is itself often reminiscent of Arto Lindsay.

Still, with the amount of short songs, I get the feeling that there's a whole dimension that they chose not to explore. This record at times feels like they're testing the waters. Neither musician completely committing. Hopefully, that's an indication of more deep reaching collaborations in the future.
(Terp, PO Box 635, 1000 AP Amsterdam, Holland)

PROPAGANDHI - Today's Empires, Tomorrow's Ashes CD

I don't need to tell you that Propagandhi are one of the greatest hardcore bands around. Needless to say, this third proper album (their first in four years) delivers just how you would expect it to. While a lot harder than their previous efforts, this record still maintains the great sense of melody and vocal harmony that is part of the band's musical identity.

What I find so great about this record is the lyrical maturity. I've always agreed with what this band has been about. But I'll be the first to admit that at times (on the first album anyway) it all seemed a little obvious. I don't know. I guess these things can't be said enough. But I guess I'm more paranoid of becoming strictly a propagandist than others (though I'm happy to be a propagandist at times). I find that the lyrics on this record are much more sophisticated and therefore more accessible to someone like me.

Like their previous full length, there's a zone on this record that I especially love (on Less Talk it was the zone from Nation-States to Pre-Teen McCarthyist to Resisting Tyrannical Government). Starting with the unbelievably powerful version of Fuck The Border (an I Spy song) to the incredible title track and ending with Back To The Motor League. It's one of those perfect moments and Propagandhi are one of the only bands I can think of to pull it off twice in a row.
(Fat Wreck Chords, PO Box 193890, San Francisco, CA 94119)

SAM RIVERS TRIO - Firestorm CD

My pal Marin was telling me about how great this line-up was live when they blew through San Francisco a couple of months ago. I've really, really regretted missing those sold out gigs at Bruno's. But this little souvenir of a record will do fine for now.

A trio of multi-instrumentalists, this CD was recorded live at a series of New York dates and covers a lot of ground in terms of the band's diversity and individual musician's creativity. Doug Mathews whose main function in the trio is that of bass player, switches from bass guitar to bass violin to bass clarinet. He's even spotlighted on a solo piece called Embers, written for his late father. Anthony Cole (yeah, he's related to Nat Kink Cole) is the band's drummer. But he also plays Tenor Sax and piano on this record.

The variety could be chaotic. But there's a nerve that runs through all of the tracks that can only come from a band very comfortable with playing together. The improvisations are often "free". But the psychic connection between players keeps the whole package very, very cohesive.

The standout tracks for me on this record are Flame, Unity, Smoke and Dominant. On these tracks, bass and drums are left behind for an all reed trio of Soprano and Tenor sax and Bass clarinet. I don't know that Unity is in anyway a reference to Albert Ayler, but he has certainly influenced River's and there are moments in these pieces that drift towards Spirits Rejoice era stuff. It's abstract expressionism unless you think Jackson Pollock was speaking in tongues when he painted. Then it's Spiritual Unity.

The performances on this record are lively as all hell. You would never have guessed that Rivers was well into his 70's. He sounds as fresh and as curious as a player in his 20's. This record is a reminder of past experimentalism. But it's not nostalgic. It's more like a burning arrow cutting through the mediocrity.
(RivBea Sound, 803 Park Lake Pl., Maitland, FL 32751)

SUBTONIX - Trophy 7"

You are crazy if you pass this up. The Subtonix are the best band in the Bay Area I've seen in ages. Fantastic whacked out punk rock from a bunch of wild girls who's lack of self-consciousness allows for a unique approach and energy like I haven't seen in ages.

I guess some people would call this post-Riot Grrrl and that's half right. But there's something else going on with this band. Smart lyrics and autobiographical tales communicate some of the bands inner secrets. But there's also an element of playfulness in their hyperbolic images of gothic horror.

The music is a new step in an old direction, mixing guitar, bass and drums with keys and some great sax playing. Holding it all together is the bass and vocals with their incessant melodies and tense phrasings.
(No Love Records, PO Box 426828, San Francisco, CA 94142)

 

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