IT'S A LIVING… BUT IT'S NOT A LIFE #10
J Church / Honey Bear Records Newsletter - Early 2002
Call out my name and I'll be there…
First off, our split record with Annalise from England is now out. Took
me a while to get it together, but here it is. Our songs are Fuck
School and Asphyxia By Submersion. I'm about
99.9999% positive that neither of these songs has been used on anything
before. I sort of stumbled on a bunch of old songs some of which were
finished and others that needed guitar or vocals added. The record is
out on Beat Bedsit Records. But you can get `em from me for $3.50 ppd.
I got the new issue of Some Hope And Some Despair out
finally. Number 4 contains my interviews with Kronstadt Uprising, Lack
Of Knowledge, The Mob and Semiautomatic. Loads more of my writing (most
of which you've already seen in this newsletter) and a few cool photos
I had lying around of the Mummies and Doom (of all bands). It's $3 ppd
SXSW AND NEW HONEY BEAR STUFF
Okay, I've got a few records coming out this year.
First of all, I'm doing a 7" (haven't done one of those in a while)
with local Austin hardcore band, Storm The Tower. One of the best new
bands I've heard in a while, they're a mix of old school DC style hardcore
with a unique approach that, while I can't quite put my finger on it,
makes them especially great. They're recording at the beginning of March,
so you'll see it soonish.
I'm also finally reissuing the Flowers In The Dustbin stuff on CD. It
will include all the material from their records on Mortarhate, All The
Madmen, 96 Tapes, and Cold Harbour. I really dug that band and I'm glad
all of their stuff will be available again.
I'll also be doing a CD with DFI. A one-man band, DFI are a mixture
of progressive music with new metal (maybe Fucking Champs or something
of that nature). Great production and amazing musicianship.
I'll also be doing some sort of J Church CD this year. It's the band's
10 year anniversary so I was thinking I should do a major live album sampling
20 or so songs going all the way back to our first shows…
If for some reason you are going to be here in Austin during South By
Southwest, come on down to the Honey Bear Records showcase! It's on Friday
the 15th at Sound Exchange. Storm The Tower and DFI will both be playing
along with four or five other bands. Should be a great time. I'm going
to make little grab bags of funs stuff to give away for free at the door.
Oh, it's free.
UPCOMING J CHURCH STUFF
I've mentioned the live record. The split with Petrograd is in the works.
I've got to re-master something due to some fuck up which was probably
all my fault. But it's coming…
We've also got stuff coming up on loads of different comps. The next
closest one I can see is the giveaway CD with the next issue of Law Of
Intertia. I just sent them a CDR of our cover of the Mice's Not
Proud Of The USA which I don't think has ever been on anything
else. That should be cool as LOI is a really cool zine. There are a few
other comps we may be on and I'm gonna try to sort something out for David
Hayes' new comp about drinking. Maybe something about mixing gin and tonics
WHAT HAPPENED TO R & B?
I was watching that stupid Jackson Five reunion show on TV a little while
back. Yeah, it was way over the top and stupid. But despite the really
embarrassing stage show and the personal meaning of a middle aged Jackson
5 deep in the back of my mind, I was still pretty stoked when they did
the all too brief parade of classics. The sound was terrible and their
voices are all pretty done, but since these were some of my favorite songs
of all time I was still excited. For some reason even this totally horrible
version of I'll Be There still makes me teary eyed.
I turned off the TV before the morons like Brittany Spears came on,
as I really didn't want to know. After my 15 minutes of Motown nostalgia
was over I was overwhelmed by depression. What happened to R & B?
I'm a huge fan of the commercial shit. I'll admit it. As much as I dig
the Stax box set, I've always been more of a Motown fan. Yeah, I'm one
of those people that prefer the Supremes to the Beatles. I also think
the Philadelphia sound was as revolutionary with it's mixture of music
and politics as the avant-garde jazz scene.
But where is that music now and why is there such a huge difference
in what is considered R & B today? Where did the songs go? When did
the production values go from the warmth of Hitsville USA to MTV/VH1 slick
When Destiny's Child were on Saturday Night Live a few months back I
actually found myself enjoying their second number. Pretty soon I realized
that it was a cover of Samantha Sang's Emotions written
by the Bee Gees. Shit, nothing is new anymore. Hollywood can't make a
decent new movie and the best they can come up with is bullshit remakes
of films like Abres Los Ojos. I guess it shouldn't be
any shock that nobody in the big, big leagues of pop music can come up
a decent tune and so the best they can do is a remake of a Bee Gees throwaway.
I know nobody agrees with me. But I guess I equate the death of R &
B with the death of punk rock. Commercial interests eventually outweighed
artistic interests. Of course, it's still arguable in any art form that
you're fate is sealed once you even begin to consider commercial interests.
But for all the music press and political ideas that many people in both
genres claimed, some of the more basic day-to-day living realities were
never taken into account. Punk rock died because it was afraid to become
an art form and in it's confusion became part of the rock business that
had taken over just a few years earlier. R & B was never allowed to
be taken seriously as an art form and with everything happening in black
America in the `60s and `70s; they had bigger fish to fry.
So now both music forms are in another state of resurrection in mainstream
music. I don't have to bore you with another rant about major label punk
rock. So what? Punk has a thriving underground and DIY scene. Besides,
mainstream punk rock is just about done. But what happens to R & B
as we knew and loved it? Is it dead?
It really is true that R & B has never totally gotten the respect
it was due. Not to diminish the importance of the Beatles (as if I could!)
but it is important to remember that the Supremes were charting competitively
in the US at the time. Especially in the mid-`60s, the arrangements of
both groups were equally innovative. But I don't think it's any surprise
that because of race issues, Motown never got the same intellectual analysis
and that has had a resounding effect.
Even when other musical forms of the black community crossed over to
R & B it was looked at as a kind of dumbing down. When Albert Ayler
and Rahsaan Roland Kirk began crossing over, it never shed new light on
the importance of R & B. Rather, that music was seen as being low
points for both musicians creatively. Albert Ayler was even accused of
playing R & B as a sell out move.
Personally, I quite like both of those ventures. Blacknuss
is probably one of my favorite Rahsaan Roland Kirk records and I actually
love all the different versions he's done of My Girl
(in a concert in Hamburg shortly after the release of this record there's
a version of that Temptations cover at breakneck speed). I also really
like the simple joyfulness of Heart Love on New
Grass. Yeah, I like the vocals. I don't know why that's such
a hard stretch to make. If part of the joy of listening to someone like
Ayler is listening to him stretch for the high notes and not always hit
them, then missing certain notes with the vocals can also be acceptable?
While there may or may not have ever been completely altruistic artistic
aspirations in the Motown scene or the Gamble / Huff scene of Philly,
there was also no encouragement from most of the music establishment.
With no alternatives and certainly no role models, the direction of R
& B was co-opted (like most other things) in the material `80s. God,
the `80s were a fucking miserable time.
But like punk rock, the materialism of the `80s was only one aspect
of the problem and blaming it entirely on the "Me" Reagan years
is an oversimplification. The rise of hip-hop in the `80s (probably the
last important occurrence in pop culture since punk rock) also had an
unexpected effect on music.
In it's earliest incarnations, the music was a simple backdrop for the
MCs to rap over. The simplicity of early Sugar Hill records production
was partly due to limitations of the technology at the time. But as any
Grand Master Flash record will show you, given the freedom there was a
lot of room to move creatively. In other words, simplicity in backing
music was somewhat desirable as not to detract from the vocalist and/or
From early on, R&B songs were occasionally sampled (Chic for example)
to build backing tracks. Of course, the popularity of this style has grown
and grown to now where it's a more common than not format in hip-hop.
In the late `80s and early `90s, a new trend began with DJs remixing
current R&B singles often with instrumental tracks. The next step,
of course, was to bring in MCs to rap over extended mixes. As hip-hop
grew and grew in popular consciousness, its importance in the music business
surpassed that of R&B switching the dynamic of supply and demand between
DJ and R&B artist.
Currently, R&B finds itself cashing in big with music that works
better as back up to rappers rather than pop songs. The vague tunes just
barely existing in the ether of TLC or Destiny's Child are secondary to
the slick production and pedantic professionalism. The music is a mechanical
product like I Macs or Big Macs or new VW Beetles. In my most cynical,
I'd imagine R&B in the future would exist solely as music with the
one hope of eventually being used as a sample.
IN THE J CHURCH LISTENING ROOM
THE DIRTBOMBS - Ultraglide In Black LP
This record fuckin' rocks. I couldn't think of a better way to start
my new year than with this pumping party album of classic covers fucked
up and rocked out by the genius that is Mick Collins. I've been a big
fan of this guy since the Gories and while this may just be done in fun,
it's really hit a chord with me and a lot of people.
This tribute of sorts is largely remarkable because of Collins' rich
vocal stylings. Using other peoples words and music as a vessel, he conveys
so much emotion in a short pop song, it makes me wonder why no one else
is able to even come close. There's an earnestness that shows whatever
he's trying to convey is real. It is especially effective in his updating
of Stevie Wonder's classic Livin' For The City.
This record was built by the band's 10th line-up, which has a consistent
sound as they still maintain the unique two bass and two drums attack.
The sound at times is almost like large group recordings with Sun Ra.
There's a weird order in the cacophony and it's seeming randomness in
arrangement always somehow ends up perfect.
I've listened to this record a dozen times now and I still can't find
anything wrong with it.
(In The Red)
MELT BANANA/THE LOCUST - split 7"
It's the end of February and this is already probably one of the 10 best
records of the year. Once you've gotten past the quasi-Lichtenstein via
Mexican comic book art of the front cover and the Orange Julius colored
vinyl, you'll find yourself listening to some of the most advanced hardcore
and thrash imaginable. Actually, it's totally unimaginable. Three or four
years ago, even with these bands already existing, I never could have
predicted music like this from them or anyone else. I'm not sure I even
know how to explain it other than to say it's great.
Of course, it's a challenge as well. That's part of what is so brilliant
about these two bands. They genuinely challenge the listener to expand
their preconceived notions of punk rock and hardcore and, inadvertently,
music. Okay, that sounds like a lot of bullshit. But I think it's true.
I didn't buy this record to be entertained or to add to my collection.
Melt Banana are reaching out in a new direction this time around while
maintaining the basic schematic. The addition of electronics and non-instrumental
textures to an already abstract kind of music creates something even more
devolved. It's almost as if this idea was floating around in the fields
of ESP around the planet. One flash of it was planted in the gray matter
of a Swedish straight edge band called Refused and became one thing. Another
flash was deposited in the blood flow of Japanese noise thrash band called
Melt Banana. Both times it lasted for just a flash and that seemed to
The Locust, on the other hand, is continually marching in seemingly random
directions creating music that is certainly as expressive as it is aggro.
Squeezing five songs onto their side, they manages to keep the lyrical
ideas in real time encapsulating a fleeting thought pattern into a totally
kinetic form of complex hardcore. Some people I know think of them as
being sort of a metallic / moshcore band. I think this record will hopefully
expand some minds.
ROSWELL RUDD - Broad Strokes CD
I sort of keep expecting either this guy or Archie Shepp to really bust
out one of these days and put together something as blasting as they did
in the `60s. Maybe that's just wishful thinking. Even the collaboration
between Rudd and Shepp, while totally enjoyable, was pretty restrained.
It's reasonable to assume they don't have the chops they once had. But
there are other ways of challenging yourself.
With Rudd, the new challenge is work outside of his field. His trombone
style, especially in large group collaborations like Charlie Hayden's
Liberation Music Orchestra or New York Eye And Ear Control, is so strong
that it can often carry a melody on it's own no matter the competitive
voices in the surrounding. One of the few musicians pecializing in the
trombone in the "free" or avant-garde scene, his uniquely almost
barbed style is distinctive anywhere.
On this record, Rudd focuses on ballads, an area he's never been known
to work in. The end result is a strange mixture of sounds ranging from
total experimentation to almost smooth jazz. The recordings were made
in several different studios with as many different groups and collaborators.
The selection of music to cover ranges greatly from Herbie Nichols to
Thelonious Monk to Elvis Costello. Needless to say, there is quite a varied
sound on this collection.
At the same time, it's a very modern feeling record. Not necessarily
because of Sonic Youth's contribution to Theme From Babe.
But that he is acknowledging them and their contribution is generous and
they seem to reciprocate with a respectful support role on the track.
It's also interesting that Rudd name-drops Jennifer Jason Leigh in the
liner notes when speaking to his cover of Costello's Almost Blue.
It's interesting to think that her tortured version of the song in her
film Georgia might have been some inspiration for his
almost funeral march-like version.
The playing on this record is also very fluid. The production is crisp
and his horn jumps right out at you and isn't ever overshadowed by the
occasional vocals even on the soulful Stokey. Even his
free improvisation with Sonic Youth is seamless. No easy outs here.
(Knitting Factory Records)
TELEVISION - Poor Circulation CD
Are you a big Television fan? I mean a big, big fan? Are you a huge Richard
Hell fan? If not, TURN AROUND! GO BACK! WAIT ON DRY LAND! This is a collection
of totally fucked recordings of Television from back in the days when
Richard Hell plonked on the bass for them. The recordings are from two
rehearsal tapes and a couple of live performances.
To get it out of the way, all of the shit you would expect from a bootleg
record is realized here. The sound quality is pretty fucked. These probably
weren't the band's greatest performances. They seem pretty damned loose.
The practice stuff is barely complete.
But fuck it, you know? It's a fucking bootleg! What the fuck do you
expect? Dark Side Of The Moon? This brief history of
the band's incarnation features quite a few of Hell's songs that were
never recorded. This original version of Blank Generation
is also really fascinating. It's interesting to see how different guitar
players approached that song. There's also an odd version of the Count
Five's Psychotic Reaction recorded at Max's Kansas City.
It's also interesting from the early practice tapes how much more pronounced
the Velvet Underground influence on them was. By the time they were thinking
about Marquee Moon they must have had quite a bit of
time to evolve.
Really cool packaging on this odd little CD of dubious origin. Lots
of early photos of the band that I've never seen…
This record is a great document for nerds like me who can't stand the
idea of anything Richard Hell or Television did going undocumented. It
kills me to know that there really isn't a proper studio version of Fuck
Rock N Roll. So discs like this have to suffice. It just seems
too sad. But then again, maybe the problem is me. Yeah, I thought so.
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