IT'S A LIVING… BUT IT'S NOT A LIFE #10.9
The somewhat regular J Church and Honey Bear Records Newsletter
Meteor stormin' - Happy Kwanzaa
J CHURCH LIVE
Hey, if you are anywhere near Austin, you should come on down to Emo's
this Thursday night. We're playing a big benefit show for the Rise along
with Recover and Those Peabodys. We'll be introducing 18 minutes of new
stuff along with some oldies. Serious good time if we can manage it…
December 19th here at Emo's. I think we're playing around 10:30 or something.
STORM THE TOWER 7" BACK IN PRINT
Finally, after losing almost the entire first pressing of the single
in the fire, I've got more Storm The Tower 7"s. You need to get this
record. People will remember this record as a classic hardcore debut.
Four powerful songs solidly recorded. Chris, who is now in J Church, plays
on this record. He also plays for the brilliant Severed Heads of State.
But that's another story. I've pressed 500 more and you can get them from
me for $3.50 each.
NEW STUFF AVAILABLE
I've been talking about it for over a year now and I've finally got them
in my hands. Yep, the J Church / Petrograd split 7" is finally out
and I've got a small stash of them for sale. Released by Christopher's
Records out of Luxembourg, the record includes two songs by Petrograd
and three from us. The J Church songs are covers of Hawaii
(Makaha Sons Of Ni'ihau), War (Zounds) and one brisk
original called Three Cop Cars. I'm pretty sure that
none of these songs have appeared on anything else, so there you have
it. The record is $3.50 ($4 to Canada or Mexico, $5 to Europe, $6 to Asia
or Pacific Rim) from me.
Diff of Petrograd and Christopher's Records was also kind enough to
send me some copies of the new (third, if you're counting) full length
from his band on both CD and LP. It's their best sounding record so far
and includes (amongst other things) a big booklet with a long piece on
the War on Terror by Chomsky. CDs are $7 ($8 to Canada or Mexico, $9 to
Europe, $10 to Asia or Pacific Rim) and LPs are $6 ($7 to Canada or Mexico,
$8 to Europe, $9 to Asia or Pacific Rim) from me.
Having just listed those overseas prices, if you are living in Europe
and would like to get either record, it's probably quicker and cheaper
to get them right from the source. You can reach Diff at email@example.com.
He's a good guy and worth writing to either way.
LIVE LP SERIES
Okay, I'm officially starting up the live series on vinyl. By the time
you read this, I'll have sent off the DAT of music to the guy that's gonna
make these super limited records. Again, I would like to reiterate that
these records are going to be very strictly limited with only one pressing.
I may even limit their availability to 20 copies each just to keep interest
super high. It will allow me to keep them coming out with some sort of
Like I mentioned in the first newsletter, the first live record will
be a vinyl version of You Don't Have To Say `No' Live at
Peabody's in Cleveland, OH 03-17-97. This was a pretty punchy
show we did on St. Patrick's Day with PEE and Boy's Life. This was the
first tour we did with Andee from PEE and A Minor Forest (now running
Tumult Records) on drums. For some reason, we always play really well
So, this LP is limited to 50 copies and is $15 ($16 to Canada or Mexico,
$17 to Europe, $18 to Asia or Pacific Rim) from me.
ON THE ROAD AGAIN
I'm fucking dying to hit the road again. Shit, we haven't done a normal
tour in years. Our last one was that big Anarchopalooza thing with Propagandhi
and Avail and Fabulous Disaster. We really need to sort out a normal J
Church tour whether people come out or not. Next summer, we will definitely
do a Honey Bear Records US tour with J Church, DFI and Storm The Tower.
Maybe we can do some short trips in the spring? We really just need to
get out and do some normal $5 shows. Lemme know what you all think…
PUNK KITTENS AND CLOTHESLINING JESUS
My old roommate Jeff Heerman always sends me the funniest things. If
you haven't already seen this…
He also sent me this,
which I may have listed before. I've got the hockey one and I hope to
get the football one next.
IF YOU HAVEN'T ALREADY
Go see Bowling for Columbine. It's worth seeing in the
theater to see people's reactions. It's a nice antidote if the newspaper
is making you crazy like it is me.
SOME ANSWERS ABOUT THE CONTENT OF PALESTINE
I never thought of myself as being cryptic. I mean, I do these fucking
newsletters pretty regularly and I'm happy to blab about all kinds of
mundane aspects of my life. So, I'm not very precious about J Church lyrics.
I'm not one of those people who think their songs are gifts from above
meant to magically cause creative stirs in each listener's imagination.
Nope. My songs CAN be left up to the listener's interpretation. But they
really don't have to be. They're just songs and if people wanna know what
they mean, I'm happy to tell. But you may be disappointed by how sophomoric
some of the songs really are.
Anyway, more so than most J Church releases, people aren't getting Palestine
and aren't really getting what the songs are about. I've been getting
loads of e-mails and letters to that effect, so here's a little self-serving
rundown on what it's all about. If you can't stand songwriter talking
about their songs (and generally speaking, I can't) please feel to skip
over this next section…
First off, I should mention that most of this CD, as I've said before,
is mean as demo material. I was working on songs for the follow-up LP
to Drama Of Alienation and that is a lot of what is on
this disc. So aside from the raw production and super simple arrangements,
they lyrics aren't totally complete either. Some of them are very rudimentary.
Some of the songs titles were just working titles. Some of the songs had
no lyrics, so I added them in the months before mastering.
Underground #1, 2, and 3
These three came together from three different sources. First of all,
I had been playing around with drum looping. For a lot of demos as well
as properly released recordings, I like using drums tracks previously
recorded for something else, sometimes not even for J Church. Looping
is sort of like when a DJ makes a song out of a break beat. With looping,
you mix out all of the other instruments and can make as long a loop as
you want from as small a segment as you like. I dunno. Blur and Stereolab
were doing it a lot so I wanted to try it in a much more rudimentary way.
I still like it for some things. Sometimes it's great to have loud, crazy
drums. Other times it's nice to have something simple and hypnotic. If
I were better at it, it would be more like dub. But I couldn't make decent
dub if I spent the rest of my life trying.
Anyway, to that I added some parts that I had been messing around with.
I've got loads of homeless parts and riffs that just float around until
I have a song where they can fit in nicely. I record them all the time.
I've got loads of horrible tapes of me messing around with little bits
and parts just so I don't forget them. The guitar and bass on these three
songs are consecutive riffs that I had meant to eventually use for something
else. But once I had them all laid down, I kind of liked them as they
were. In some cases, these were practice scales I use when I'm at home
playing guitar by myself.
I never did find a way of adding vocals to these songs without them
sounding totally melodramatic or pretentious, so at a later date, I decided
to use some recordings I had of the Weather Underground. The dialog comes
from interviews done with them in the `70s when they were still underground
and in hiding.
The Star Hotel
I think it's been knocked down. When I first moved to San Francisco in
1989, some hippy, weirdo friend of mine took me out to go score some drugs.
We went to this really fucking crazy hotel down on Mission Street between
16th and 17th. It was full of crack heads and prostitutes. The whole place
had a weird stink to it and I remember sitting and waiting in some room
with bits of broken glass on the floor getting in my hands. For some reason,
I always find these situations more fascinating than scary. I sort of
vaguely remember walking by it one night at like 4:00 AM and seeing someone
throwing a burning mattress out of the window. I always thought I'd wind
up living there one day. But they tore it down. Such a lyrical place and
name, I was really drawn to the survival in the face of self-destruction.
I'm a lot older now and true near death experiences have somewhat cured
me of my fascination with living the Bukowski life. I was never good at
it anyway. I always stick out like a sore thumb even when trying to blend
in with a bunch of losers.
At The Crossroads Of Hell
There's really no good reason for this song except that it's a chance
to show off some fancy guitar work. Ha! After playing with Beck, I had
way too much confidence in my guitar playing. The constant praise was
really going to my head. So, I wrote a Cortez The Killer
like song to showcase some guitar trickery. I do like the song and it
was a sneaky way of introducing some minor 7th chords to J Church.
The lyrics are sort of an attempt to make a kind of silly Japanese film
series (Lone Wolf and Baby Cub) into a serious meditation
on Shinto or something. Sometimes I write songs just because they'll be
really fun to play, not necessarily to listen to.
Star Of The Show
Ever since Letter to a Friend on Prophylaxis,
I've wanted the band to move more and more in that direction. I had this
fantasy back then that we would eventually bridging punk rock with Tom
Waits or something. But we're constantly reminded that we're really just
a punk rock band.
The song is pretty self-explanatory. It's about going back to LA to
meet up with a girl I knew when I lived there and then deciding it's better
to leave things as they were. I guess the moral of this song is don't
ask questions if you don't have to.
The State Of Things
See At The Crossroads Of Hell for why this song was written.
My heart is more clearly on my sleeve with this one as there's even a
little Powderfinger at the end of the last chorus. It's
funny, we covered that song for a little while and nobody ever knew what
it was. Now, the people that are buying our records imediately recognize
those 8 or so bars as a tribute to Neil Young.
The song is about my favorite Wim Wenders film about a European film
maker making his first American studio picture; a sci-fi being shot in
Portugal. When his funding is cut, he goes to Hollywood to find out what
is happening while is cast and crew are driven by boredom into L'Aventurra
like existentialism. It's a brilliant cast with Sam Fuller, Viva,
Paul Getty Jr., and other odd balls.
This is me trying to imagine what it would be like to be in the Flatmates.
Musically, that's what it is. But I never wrote lyrics for it. I would
try and get really self-conscious. I really wanted to write something
"Ooh, I'm in love with you-ooh" like the Flatmates would. But
I felt like such a dork. Then I finally did the most self-conscious thing
of all by writing a nursery rhyme about Sam Rivers delivered purposefully
non-commital. I don't know why I have the need to destroy decent pop songs.
Maybe it's why we butcher so many cover songs.
First off, I had to find a reason to use a Tibetan meditation bowl. Secondly,
I love Archie Shepp and it's the only thing I could think of any sort
of guitar arrangement for. Thirdly, I had watched Imagine the
Sound where Paul Bley talks about how by eliminating time keeping
as it's main function, drums and percussion had in some instances rendered
themselves useless. I think the solo ring of the bowl is much more effective
than some sort of tribal tom rhythm. I think it's one of the highlights
of the record and I think the guitar playing is far more inventive than
on the rock songs. I only wish I could have come up with a more convincing
vocal delivery. But I'm no Jeanne Lee. Nobody is or ever will be.
Jazz Butcher On A Work Night
When I was living in Los Angeles, I fell in love with this girl I was
working with the night we went to see the Jazz Butcher with Alex Chilton
at the Roxy. Everyone these days is so blah, blah, blah about the Modern
Lovers and the Replacements and the Mekons. What about the Jazz Butcher?
The middle 8 is from Big Saturday. He didn't play that
song that night. But he did do Take The Skinheads Bowling
for some reason.
Not Proud Of The USA
I love the Mice and I don't remember why we recorded it. Probably for
a compilation that never happened or were horrified when we sent them
this track. I was the only person in the band that new the song when we
recorded it, so it's pretty sloppy with the drums totally disrespecting
the bridge. Oh well, I'm glad we did record it and it seemed like a most
appropriate time to get this song out there.
Dora And Lili
I went and saw My Twentieth Century with my friend Sharon
Cheslow right around when she first moved to San Francisco. I remember
being totally mesmerized by it. But a week later I couldn't remember what
it was called and as a Hungarian film, it completely vanished out of American
consciousness. So years later I'm in a video store and I recognize the
woman on the box cover and it all comes back to me. This is now one of
my favorite films of all time if partially because of the catharsis of
finding it after having lost it for so many years. The story follows two
twin sisters, Dora and Lili, who are separated at birth. One grows up
a thief conning wealthy travelling men both financially and carnally.
Her sister is an anarchist terrorist, throwing bombs and going to feminist
meetings. Despite the serious subject matter, it's a very sweet film done
with an almost fairy tale quality. Like The State of Things,
it's black and white and totally beautiful to watch.
The Legend Of Rita
Musically, this song is one of many, many failed attempts I've made at
writing something to reflect my love of Motown and the Philly sound. Instead,
it sounds like a poor attempt at writing something similar to the Clash's
I'm Not Down which I do think is one of their best songs.
The best part of the song was the part that I always meant to change.
The verse was temporary until I wrote something better which I never did.
In the meantime, I was using the middle 8 of an old Cringer song called
Step Back. The tape actually ran out while recording
this song. But when I heard it back, I just figured it was good enough
for a demo and I wasn't really happy with it anyway. Oh well.
The song is about the movie of the same name. You know, if I had the
time, I would have revised all of the lyrics to the songs based on films
and picked more provocative titles rather than just using the film titles.
I mean, I always thought it was really corny that the Cure actually say
"I am the Stranger" in Killing An Arab. Now
here I am doing something even worse. Anyway, Legend of Rita
is a film made by the guy that did The Tin Drum. It follows
a woman somewhat based on Gudrun Enslin and partly based on Susanne Albrecht.
Of course, they were original members of the Baader-Meinhoff gang and
the film follows them through this, the origins of the Red Army Faction,
her eventual hiding out in East Germany and then how her world all comes
to an end with the destruction of the Soviet Union. It's a great movie
and the only one I can think of with an unstereotypical look at East Berlin
and East Germany.
Here's another song that I meant to expand on and reinvent the vocal line
so that it wouldn't sound so much like Box Elder by Pavement.
There was even a really horrible little melodica solo that I just had
to get rid of even if it meant altering history. This song is about an
old roommate in San Francisco who shall go nameless.
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