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 christophersrecords@internet.lu. 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 regularity, hopefully.

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 in Cleveland.

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.

Sam Rivers
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.

Blasé
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.

Tricky
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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