IT'S A LIVING… BUT IT'S NOT A LIFE #10.2
J Church / Honey Bear Records Newsletter ­ Spring 2002
Imagining the Sound

 

NEW STUFF

Only one new J Church thing to report at the moment. Our cover of Nick Lowe's Mary Provost has once again turned up, this time on a compilation CD called 3 Chord Rocket Science on Suckerpunch Records along with a lot of other cool bands. Let's see, Groovie Ghoulies… Dirt Bike Annie… Odd Numbers… You get the picture. You can get it for $6 post paid from me…

 

STORM THE TOWER ROCKIN' THE STATES

One of the upcoming summer releases for Honey Bear Records is the first of two 7"s from a great Austin hardcore band called Storm The Tower. I've mentioned it briefly before. But here is a little more detail. They are a really great local band melodic in the DC sense. A lot of people compare them to Rites Of Spring. I think they're more like the Faith. Either way, you get the picture. Catchy, thoughtful hardcore with EST-like exploding vocals… To support this first single, the boys are gonna be on the road and you should really try to check `em out. They got a jaded old fuck like me going to hardcore shows and house parties again and THAT says a lot. Here are some dates:

Fri. 05/24 Fort Worth, TX - brian waits
Sat. 05/25 Memphis, TN - jonathan @ DIY Memphis
Sun. 05/26 Nashville, TN
Mon. 05/27 Asheville, NC - jason, ruledbyfools@yahoo.com
Tue. 05/28 Greensboro, NC - @ ryan saulsbury's house
Wed. 05/29 Richmond, VA *
Thu. 05/30 DC/Baltimore - @ WMUC College Park, MD
Fri. 05/31 Philadelphia, PA
Sat. 06/01 NYC @ ABC No Rio
Sun. 06/02 Boston, MA - meredith, meredith.marshall@simmons.edu
Mon. 06/03 Providence, RI - lee, landmarkrecs@yahoo.com
Tue. 06/04 NJ *
Wed. 06/05 Reading, PA- @ Alexander T's house
Thu. 06/06 Pittsburgh, PA- @ Mr. Roboto Project
Fri. 06/07 Ann Arbor, MI- @ michael h topper's house
Sat. 06/08 Columbus, OH- @ legion of doom
Sun. 06/09 Minneapolis, MN w/ Amde Peterson's Army
Mon. 06/10 Chicago, IL
Tue. 06/11 Iowa City, IA (Ian?) *
Wed. 06/12 St. Louis, MO *
Thu. 06/13 Tulsa, OK
Fri. 06/14 Oklahoma City, OK
Sat. 06/15 Dallas, TX - @ Chris Bland's house

* - still lookin' fer somethin'

If you can help out with any of the shows either e-mail them directly at tower@storming.co.uk or e-mail me at honeybearrecords@hotmail.com.

 

E-BAY AUCTION TIME

Okay, I'm broke as hell and need to pay for a lot of label stuff. Aside from working crazy hours at the moment, I'm also going to be selling a bunch of stuff on E-bay. Some of it will be Honey Bear Records stuff. Some of it will be J Church or Cringer related stuff. Some of it will just be collector stuff. To see the stuff that I'm auctioning off, type in HONBR in the search area and they should all show up. I've already got a few things up there. It'll be ongoing for a little while…

 

TID BIT #1

Rop from Semiautomatic sent me this. I think it's funny.

 

TID BIT #2

Mike from Songs For Emma and Broken Rekids sent me this. I think it's funny too.

 

MORE HAWAII STORIES

I'm in a bit of a rush to get this out. So here's another hopefully charming story about my youth in Hawaii.

 

SCARRED FOR LIFE

I don't know if this story makes any sense. But here goes.

My tenure as guitarist for Scarred for Life was my first "real" experience in a punk band. Heather (my sister) was hangin' with Ed Tarantino at the time (who at the time was Straight Ed). He was over at our house chillin' when I guess he heard me playing guitar in the next room. I was practicing by playing along to a Ventures record. Ed thought, "Hey, if he can play Walk Don't Run he can probably play Slayer's Haunting The Chapel".

So I was recruited to play guitar. Previous to this, Rich (Ed's brother) had been the guitarist and Mako was the singer. Little did I know they hadn't told Mako about any of this and that he was being replaced as Rich decided to rock the mic.

Anyway, we practiced in some old office space downtown that was hooked up through the Tarantinos through some group that their family was involved with. I'm still not really sure what Subud is, but they all seemed nice enough and I think I met Patricia Arquette at one of their functions (totally another story).

Rich had given me a tape of just him playing all the guitar parts and I had learned the songs from that. Practice was pretty smooth. Back then, the Krolls were in a band called Nok Mub* with Kerry, Scarred For Life's drummer and Rosetta (yet another Tarantino and one of my first punk rock crushes). As a lover of all things Kroll let me say that they really haven't changed much at all since 1984. I do remember them being a little nervous about the Tarantino's new interest in Exodus, Voivod and Celtic Frost. The night we met, Jon said something to the effect of, "please don't make them into a metal band." Like I could!!!

Our first gig was at a health food restaurant and was a benefit for some RCP related thing. The only other musical act was a weird pre-Don ("Don Patrol"? "Don's Early Light"?) version of Devil Dog with Dave Carr drumming. I sort of somehow knew Dave from something and was so relieved to see him. I think I remember him being the only person smiling and laughing. I didn't know what I was doing. My lack of comprehension of reality I think was manifested in the fact that I believe I was wearing a chamois headband at the time. I could be wrong. I hope I'm wrong.

Devil Dog went down great. We were berated for our sexism. We used to cover SOA's Girl Problems but we really had no excuse for Girl Problems Part 2 or Cleavage Chicks for that matter. I mean, yeah, that was bad. But we never had a song like All The Fags by the Efekt (who I loved. Shit, I loved all of the Hawaii bands.). I almost wanna say that Byron from the RCP and the Fallout maybe was the guitarist in Devil Dog at the time and Wendell was the bassist. Am I totally wrong? Was I not the only person wearing a headband?

The climax of my time in the band was the gig my sister and Ed set up at Kojak's. Sure did feel like we were getting away with something. Robert Scott's band, I think they were called Bad Posture, used to play there a couple times a week and we would go hang with them. Was Arnie in that band too? Somehow it was decided that this lizard-luring lounge would be a great place for a hardcore gig.

I don't wanna go into too much detail about the rest of the gig as I'm sure someone else can do a better job. Here are my recollections...

Before the show, Ed had put on a Slayer tape in the club's sound system. I remember David Moffat coming up to us saying "this music is the future" and thinking that was mystical and funny.

For some reason I was wearing combat boots which I had never worn before or since. I think I might have been wearing a headband again as that was now part of my "stage persona". Oh, and I was out of tune for every fucking song because I changed all of my strings right before we went on.

I remember before we started playing, the punks helped each other clear away the tables and chairs. It was so polite and so funny looking. "Let us now please adjourn to the dance floor for the slam dancing..."

Anyway, I think we played once more and I split the band. I thought I was gonna do something different and groundbreaking with Raoul from Devil Dog and Tommy from the Fallout. Looking back, I was probably just being too serious about one of Raoul's drunken rants and Tommy was just too nice to tell me to fuck off when I told him I wanted to start a band that mixed Gang Of Four with Iron Maiden.

Needless to say, within a month I knew I had made a mistake. But I was too proud to go back. So I started Cringer with Ed instead.

"Why do you care about what we do?
We don't only play for you.
Wasted talent, that's us.
But all you do is bitch and cuss."

* - They were fans of the Colorado punk band, Bum Kon. So they decided to name their band Bum Kon backwards. Oddly enough, Bum Kon's singer was none other than Revolver's El Bobo.

 

IN THE J CHURCH LISTENING ROOM

BILL DIXON - Odyssey 6 CD box set

As I finally sit down to write this review, it's almost four months in 2002, the dawn of which this collection of music came into my life. After spending months saving up the cash to buy this box set (you think I'm making any real money off of this? Guess again!) and before that doing some research on Bill Dixon only then finding out that this limited, mail-order only item even existed, my need to own Odyssey became a red herring to the actual music (something a lot of record collectors can understand).

I wasn't sure how I exactly wanted to approach this review, as there are so many levels on which to discuss and enjoy the music not to mention the fact that it does completely span six discs. I'm leaving the background discussion of Bill Dixon and his approach to a later article, as I was fortunate enough to get an interview with him a month back. So, forgive me if this verges too far into Lester Bangs and not far enough into Robert Hughes.

Bill Dixon is like a National Treasure to me much like the Badlands, Death Valley or Robert Rauschenberg. Only difference is he's not being recognized for his artistry and integrity in the face of adversity. Suffice it to say that I've been a fan for some years now although I did come pretty late to his music. I was listening to most of his music decades after they had been made available. So, my interest has always been organic for the most part.

So, this six-disc collection of solo performances and spoken word dating back to the beginning of the `70s is like a given for me. I love Dixon's arrangements for small bands as well as orchestra. But his often-understated performing style is served well in these solo recordings. On this collection you are given a museum's worth of art, your own "permanent collection" to ponder and thoroughly explore. That's exactly what I've been doing.

I've really been living with this music for the past few months. I listen to it at home. I listen to it while I write (like right now). I listen to it on the bus to and from work. It's the soundtrack to my life at the moment. While I'm not suggesting that you have to do that to penetrate this audio tome, the pay off is well worth the journey.

Odyssey as soundtrack to your life: détournement was a tactic used by the Situationists in the `50s and `60s where by taking an established piece of (usually) commercial art, altering the slogans or dialog changes the intentions of the art and therefore turns the propaganda in on itself. Its effectiveness is reason why it's still a popular technique used widely today.

If you are, like me, of the disposition that most of society with it's personal racial profiling, psychic fascism and other alienating means is ultimately just a big piece of commercial art, then you may be looking for ways to détourne your own life. As Odyssey has become the soundtrack to my life, it has in effect altered the meanings of my surroundings.

Talk about fighting alienation with alienated means; this music is like a voice talking to you reminding you that there are others paths not plainly seen. The aural cues and runes are mirrors with which to define in your life what is creative and what is destructive. As a soundtrack, Odyssey is kinetic deconstruction.

The incredible tones and sounds (some would call "skronk" but I'm trying to avoid that word these days) Dixon gets on these recordings are unlike anything you could hear in your noisy city-soundscape. You can't help but be intrigued by the other-worldness of the sounds and the vibrant textures painting a variety of emotional elements while filling completely taking advantage of your aural palette in its solitude. His own rich tones are often wetted with effects that enhance the elements unique to this style of playing as well as its other-worldness.

Odyssey is the anti-Muzak: in audio versus visual experiments, it's clear that people pick up on audio cues more deeply than visual cues. That is why with streaming video, for example, if you don't have DSL or Cable, the picture comes through in bits and pieces. The capability only exists to send either the visual or audio signal clearly but usually not both. The Internet chose to send the audio signal clearly and it surely wasn't done on a whim.

If Baudelaire was right in calling work the salt that mummifies the soul, than it was only because he died before an entire spectacle existed to embalm us metaphysically. Muzak stuns reality in a miasma of simple lines and points. It's the equivalent of giving a math scholar a million basic addition problems to solve. The long-term affects are more serious then you would think.

Listening to Odyssey is the counterpoint to that. The reflective and occasionally angular arrangement of many of these pieces is pretty consistently challenging. In some ways, it can be a good yardstick in delineating art versus entertainment. Rather than be a lazy spectator, the pieces encourage participation on an intellectual level. Even the titles are evocative. Pictures and scenes are framed in your mind as provoked by the music. In this way, it becomes and intensely personal experience.

Now, this is just one angle that I'm coming from. I've spent a lot of time with this music as I was quickly drawn into it. To write a thorough review of this box set would take pages and probably a lot more music knowledge than I've got.

For me, this is great American art and just as much part of the art tradition as the Beats, the Abstract Expressionists, post-modernism, etc. Where Odyssey falls in order of importance within the creator's repertoire is certainly subjective. But it's very possible for me to think that this could be his "Bride Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors, Even".
(Bill Dixon, Inc Archive-Edition)

 

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