IT'S A LIVING… BUT IT'S NOT A LIFE #10.4
The "Official" J Church and Honey Bear Records newsletter:
June 2002 ­ Come to Ogre Battle

 

UPCOMING J CHURCH RELATED EVENTS

I just did some sort of a "performance" the other night. For whatever reason, I've been fussing around with some instrumental tracks and synching them up to various little projects. I had an idea a while back of putting out a series of alternative movie soundtracks where I would come up with an albums worth of music for some film I was into. I had talked to a few other bands about the project and it just never really materialized. Somewhat related to that, I've made some of these instrumentals in relation to films my friend Greta Snider made. No reason, really. She didn't ask me to do it or anything. Just a little creative project that I started for fun and then got really into. Anyway, I "performed" this thing (mostly with a video projector and DAT player) at Emo's here in Austin simultaneously breaking the Rise's guitar amp that they were kind enough to let me borrow (hey, The Rise are cool guys. Check `em out on tour). Don't know if I'm gonna do it again as it involves sorting out a video projector and this and that. But some people seemed to like it and I think it could turn into something interesting if I keep working on it.

Also, I'll be doing another "singles" club of sorts (shit, I'm really going crazy with the ironic quotation marks this time. I'll stop.) through the J Church website (www.j-church.com). The site will feature one new and totally unreleased song as a free MP3 each month for a year. It should start sorta soon depending on when I get the mixes done and all. You should contact Graham who runs the site for more details. Haven't got it all figured out yet. But I do know that it will include a bunch of cover songs including our version of Peg by Steely Dan and Heart Love by Albert Ayler.

 

MORE NEWS ON PALESTINE CD

Okay, here is the projected track listing. I guess it doesn't really matter as all of the songs are unreleased and chances are you've never heard them…

Underground #1
Star Hotel
At The Crossroads Of Hell
Star Of The Show
State Of Things
Sam Rivers
Underground #2
Blasé
Jazz Butcher On A Work Night
Not Proud Of The USA
Dora And Lili
The Legend Of Rita
Tricky
Underground #3

So, the working title is still Palestine. Granted, the title may be more provocative than meaningful. I like it. I have to admit, after following a bit of what has been going on with the Refuseniks I'm a bit tempted to rename the record Yesh Gvul (There Is A Limit!). Check out some of the testimony of Israeli refuseniks especially "An Open Letter To Jewish Americans". Very, very moving. I'm kind of thinking of making this record a benefit for the cause.

http://www.yesh-gvul.org/ (If you're like me, you'll probably want to select the English language version)

 

DREAMS OF HAWAII

And yet another of my self-serving postings from the Hawaii Punk site. It's a private site for former members of the early `80s Hawaii punk scene, so you can't actually go there. But here's the last thing I wrote for it.

 

WHY I LOVE PUNK GIRLS

This stroll down memory lane has ultimately been an intellectual self-flagellating affair of psychic mind games of the past and historical allegories of hyperbolic relevance. So what better way to continue my soul crippling humiliation than a few stories of my puppy love crushes from back "in the day"?

I've come to learn that all the archetypes often talked about in punk rock society (and within other underground / counter cultures) are only partially true. Whether role playing via Foucault or not, Madonna / Whore or Slave / Master or whatever never really had impact on someone like me who knew what he wanted (sort of) but had no idea as to how to get it. At 16, I would have been happy with Madonna or Whore or Slave or Master or any combination of the above. For all the talk about punk rock sex, it wasn't until I left Hawaii that I realized that there was a hell of a lot less of it going on than I assumed.

Not that I didn't think about it all the time. I loved punk rock girls. I don't know what was so appealing. Maybe it WAS the whole "rich white girl gone bad" motif. So I wanted a punk rock girl friend. I found myself hanging out with a number of different girls (socially) just trying to figure out what was in their heads. There were so many cultural barriers to analyze and critique, I couldn't believe what a sheltered life I had been living up at Kamehameha with the drama club girls and quill and scroll sweethearts. Figuring out punk rock girls was much more complex than I had realized. Jeez, in my desire to be Dionysian, I became completely Apollonian! Story of my life…

I guess I should also mention that all of these crushes were mostly from afar. In high school, I really only went out with girls from Kamehameha. That's where I went to school and the dorm scene was enough debauchery for me. It's only expected considering the punk scene was a bit distant to me. Since I didn't go to Kaiser or wherever and didn't live on THAT side of the island, I wasn't really part of the social scene until way after Scarred For Life split up. My only other sexual experiences at the time were related to my volunteer work with the Hawaii Performing Arts Company. But even I'm not ready for that kind of self-analysis.

So, where do we start? At the beginning I guess.

I'll be the first to admit that my attraction to Liz and Gretchen was probably in some sick way Oedipal. Even though we were about the same age, they seemed so much more mature than me (back then a couple of years was a huge difference. Now we are all old fucks and it doesn't really matter as we're all essentially in the "30 to 100" age group…) and I was as fascinated by them as I was attracted.

Because I was young, stupid and undiscerning, I wasn't able to fall for one but not the other. I know that almost sounds complimentary, as I couldn't like one and not the other. But it equally indicates my inability to find deeper meaning in any social relationship and its unrequited logical extent. But this is all sentimentality anyway, so I'll write it as I remember it.

Liz reminded me of my cousins in a weird way (I told you there was something sick and vaguely Oedipal about this). Uh, this is a huge stereotype and one that I'm desperately trying to destroy. But A LOT of Asian girls are pretty reserved. It's true. It's a cultural stigma. It's often true of the guys as well. But once you get to know them pretty well (or if they are close family) they can be really rambunctious and funny. Hanging out with Liz always seemed like hanging out with my cousins. She was so fucking funny all the time and I can't really explain how her sense of humor was often very culturally specific. I don't necessarily mean in content. But there was a way that I could joke around with her and Barry that was a little different. I really can't explain it without going back and writing out a complete dialog and I'm no playwright.

Gretchen was a bit more arty and I really dig that kind of thing. I remember she was working on some huge Sisters Of Mercy batik in her living room with an overhead projector and everything. She would talk about things having to do with art and philosophy that I really didn't understand. Sometimes she would be talking about people that I'd never heard of (and really wished I had). Other times she ventured off on an explanatory tangent in that alluring, can't-quite-place-it, vague accent of hers. I know that sounds either pretentious or hippy-dippy. But that really wasn't the case. I don't think I really romanticize that sort of thing. She was just a genuinely interesting and creative person who at that time was much more self-aware than I even am now.

Hey, they were smart interesting girls who were foxy. As a straight guy, you could either be intimidated by them or you could worship them.

I was flattered that people as interesting as them would even talk to me much less not make fun of me constantly (I guess that was Morgan's job). I remember when they got back from England (which was a real milestone in itself) they were talking about this great new band on Crass called KUKL. That was enough for me to buy the record and start writing the band. That's how I got to be pen pals (albeit briefly) with Gunnar and Bjork. Those KUKL records are still ahead of their time and surely that says a lot about Liz and Gretchen.

There's something indefinably appealing about the goth chick look. Especially in Hawaii where everything is bright and loud and colorful, the negation of it all will always be sexy in an alienated way. Mix that with their smarts and their mixed drinks and they were the girls I dreamed of ever since seeing Julie Christie in Billy Liar. They were the bohemians I'd been reading so much about. They made me want to do something more interesting than be in a hardcore band.

It's true that it deeply affected "my music" (ha ha ha). At first I just wanted to fit in. I had zero creative urges. I didn't have an idea about what I was or what I wanted to express. I just wanted to be in a band that was exactly like Minor Threat or Crass (there's still some truth in that). But knowing how totally uninteresting that must have been to Liz and Gretchen made me really take a long hard look at myself (not like that, you pervert) and assess what I was trying to do. How could I be even vaguely as interesting to these girls as they were to me?

Well, that's one that I never solved. When you're young and a guy and a guitar player it's hard not to want to just play something loud and fast. Took me years to find any sort of subtlety in my playing. It took years of reeducation via The Band, Harvest, This Mortal Coil, the Velvet Underground and side two of Exile On Main Street before I learned anything about timbre or dynamics (fuck you, those records are all related).

But years later, I'm still in the same pattern as far as finding someone like Liz or Gretchen and letting that be some sort of beacon to do more than I would otherwise; to try a little harder. Yeah, it's me being eager to please. But I'm usually a good enough judge of character that it all works out in the end.

 

IN THE J CHURCH LISTENING ROOM

A-FORMATIKONTACT CDR

An offshoot of Ausin's Attack Formation, Ben Webster has put his two cents in the post-rock, E music, nu new wave, kitty. While clearly in the vein if not direction of much of the mid-`90s Chicago scene, the post-Slint, electronic minstrels, A-Formatikontact benefits from a much more organic approach steeped in a tradition of DIY recording. In other words, its punk because it's got hiss all the fuck over it. Do you know what I mean?

Hiss is a fucking beautiful thing. It's what makes something as academic and distant as Xenakis seem like the Nation Of Ulysses or Crime. There are many factors you could research out and use to justify the genealogical connections between the music. But the main point is in your face. It's the hiss motherfucker.

A-Formatik's whistles and snaps are a noise field of light almost precious in its construction and certainly subtle in its performance. The recurring rhythms including those from the bass are both mesmerizing and propulsive. It could be said that the low fidelity of the recording muddles up the sounds layered on the foundation. But the chaos is what maintains the unease that is the band's strength.
(www.attackformation.org)

DILLINGER FOUR - Situationist Comedy LP

Jeez, this may be the punk album of the year. I can't stop listening to this record. Got a big parcel of nice gifts from Fat including the NOFX singles collection and the new No Use For A Name and while they are all very nice and more than enjoyable it's the Minneapolitans that I can't stop listening to.

Thirteen songs with not a dull moment, how rare is that in today's world of high-tech, low art punk rock? Each tune is catchy as hell and is as thoughtful as it is naïve. Rarely does a band utilize two very different (sounding and stylistically) singers to such great effect. I think they both sound great and it really varies up a record that could easily have turned from pop genius to pop punk mundaneness. Faintly evocative sing-a-longs sporadically arise helping the forward motion of the music rather than bogging down with an Oi-like football chorus.

I've never heard of a studio called the Terrarium but now I wanna know. This record is produced like a motherfucker. Each song is like a punch in the face. Not like "I'm gonna kick your ass". More like "I'm punching you now and we'll have a beer later Fight Club-style."

Okay all you cynics ­ I'm a cynic too! Like there isn't enough poppy hardcore as influenced by Snuff and/or NOFX in this world. I'm with you. There is way too much of that shit. But Dillinger Four aren't out of nowhere. They aren't some wannabes rehashing a style so closely that they might as well be a cover band. No, this hits harder than almost anything else on the Fat roster and if you're too far gone to even see the value in that, well, I don't know what to say. If Albert Schweitzer couldn't figure out that too much of anything was a bad thing, than how can the average music nerd?

(www.fatwreck.com)

MATMOS - Drug Opera CD

Also known as Matmos Live, this is a cool little self-released record by the boys who I guess now include Lesser as a full-time member. I think it came out in conjunction with a tour of Japan or something like that. It's mentioned in the Aquarius Records blurb but I don't know what I did with that.

If you aren't familiar with Matmos, these loveable electronic nerds are more than the guys who "did stuff" with Bjork. Historically, their records are incredibly dense exercises in sound-scape possibility and the violent urgency of a successfully improvisational performance. Oddly enough, I've also learned over the years that despite the libertarian approach to musical construction, they really get bent out of shape if you don't play by the rules while bowling. Ah, heighten the contradiction!

Oh, and these guys are nerds. Once I went over to Jay's house thinking there was a party or something. Turns out it was a "soldering" party. He and a few friends were having a party soldering electronic bits together to create new electronic thingies. I mean, I think that's pretty cool. But I'm a fucking nerd!

Their records and performances (I saw them aurally destroy Aquarius once at an in-store) challenge you with combines of organic and synthetic noise and sound. So, it could be argued that a studio recording could never really capture what they are trying to convey.

But I dig their two (is it just two) other albums. I think they are quite beautiful and focused. I think it shows a limitation and smallness in the field that they are continually compared to the self-indulgent meanderings of Oval and Autechre and other pointless, uselesses.

So, this record is a collection of live performances mostly from college radio which they in a small way pay tribute to as one of the last supported art forms in the country. Too bad so many college radio DJ's think of it as nothing but a resume entry for their future corporate music careers. Sad, sad, sad…

Since this is live, there isn't nearly as much layering as on their studio records out of necessity. But part of being a great improviser is the ability to adapt to anything. People always say, "it's not the guitar, it's the fingers." I guess you could substitute "guitar" for "sound forge" or something. Either way this record meditates in a few specific areas with at times bone rattling results.

Like all live records, this is something of a souvenir. Unlike most live records, this isn't just buying time before the next album. It's not static. It's effervescent.
(Vague Terrain)

V/A - Dynamite With A Laserbeam LP

Queen are like one of my five favorite bands of all time, so I was a little wary of this tribute record. I mean, tributes suck for the most part. I don't know why they are so intriguing (and they really are). But it's always a totally unsatisfying affair.

I'm not sure why this comp is so enjoyable. Some of the versions don't really have any resemblance to the original versions. I'll assume that Bastard Noise had some deeper inspiration from Sheer Heart Attack in doing their abstract version of Lily Of The Valley. It's cool! I dig it. And some are almost a little too tongue in cheek, as you would expect. But it's an almost entirely enjoyable record.

The Blood Brothers do a great Under Pressure and the Oath do a great We Are The Champions in similar fashion. The Locust are always great turning in the shortest song on the comp; a version of Flash's Theme. Spacewurm also do a cool little e-rock version of Vultan's Theme. Shit, I always thought of The Game and Flash Gordon as the end of the road for Queen. I may have to re-investigate.

Surprisingly, I think the best contribution might be from Weasel Walter doing an excruciating version of Bohemian Rhapsody. Well, I don't know who Weasel Walter is, so maybe it's not surprising that the track is so good. Just waiting for the payoff.

There are some other cool moments (Melt Banana and the Convocation Of as expected) and some odd moments (Upsilon Acrux does a version of Bicycle Race that sounds just like All-O-Gistics. Seriously, just keep saying things like "Thou shalt not commit laundry" while listening to it…). This is a really fun comp and I very, very, very rarely (and I'm sure you're the same) feel that way.
(Three One G ­ PO Box 178262 ­ San Diego, CA 92177)

 

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