IT'S A LIVING… BUT IT'S NOT A LIFE #11.4
The Time Consuming J Church and Honey Bear Records Newsletter
Fall 2003 - Fuck School

 

COMING HOME

Okay, we're back. Had a blast. It was also torture. You know, tour. Right? Fun and torture at the same time, right? Hopefully, we're back to being a normal band that tours with some regularity. No more five-year gaps between tours…

 

TEXAS SHOWS

First and foremost, we're trying to book some more Texas area shows. If you live in Texas and you know of some new all-ages venue or promoter that might wanna do something for us, get in touch. This may never happen, but it would be nice if there were a network for Texas bands to travel from town to town on weekends and eventually create enough of a community so that we could maybe have our own Fest some day. Would be nice to do Austin Fest someday…

 

J CHURCH RELEASES

First and foremost, get off my back about the live record! No, it's mostly my fault as I fucked up another International Money Order and am still waiting on those live LPs from New Zealand. This whole thing is enough of a hassle that I may only do one live record and leave everything else to vinyl only. Here's something else I've decided, with the release of the first live LP, the corresponding live CDR will go out of print as they've become a hassle ever since I lost my burner in the fire of last summer.

More importantly, you may have noticed that our split LP/CD with Storm the Tower is finally out. If you made to one of our shows on this tour you would have seen it. I'm very proud of it as our side gives great indication as to where the band is heading. I'm really happy with the band as well as most people seem to have been on the last tour. People like that we're faster and adding a second guitarist has really filled things out nicely.

As for the album… Well, we still don't know who is going to put it out. I just don't really know how to ask people. It definitely will not be on Honest Don's, which was a very friendly and amicable decision (I hope). I dunno. It's weird asking friends to put your record out. I feel like I'm asking for a loan even though I'm not really…

Anyway, I'll talk more about all the new songs and stuff with the next newsletter.

 

EBAY

I'm gonna start regularly putting stuff on Ebay. Most of it won't be collectible stuff. Just whatever. Search under HBR to see my auctions…

 

TOUR DIARY

Here's the first part of my sort of half-assed tour diary from the last tour. I wrote a bunch of notes and cards and assembled it posthumously. So excuse the seemingly Goddard-ian disregard for time.

JULY 23rd ­ AUSTIN, TX (the footbridge)
Originally we were gonna be in Denton on the 23rd for our kick off show of the tour. But problems with scheduling didn't allow for it. Rather than just blow it off and drive straight to Phoenix, we decided to act on an idea that had been floating around for months if not years.

Some time ago, Ben Webster had said that a friend of his was walking across the footbridge at South Lamar and noticed that there were outlets for electricity. She told Ben she thought someone should go up and play there. Considering friends of ours had been doing free shows outside of the BART stations in San Francisco for years now, that idea didn't seem so far fetched. DIY punk has always had a history of shows like this. I can remember playing in Laundromats, rooftops, coffee shops (Muddy Waters in San Francisco was NOT ready for a Jawbreaker / J Church show), etc. I've been to two separate secret shows at different Kinko's locations.

Part of the fun of DIY shows is that the idea can often overshadow the seemingly practical stuff. We couldn't get a great PA out there. Obviously, we weren't gonna charge any money so we wouldn't get that elusive gas money to get to our next show. We really had no practical way of even promoting the show.

But thanks to punk's low standards of PA quality, J Church's lackadaisical attitude towards getting paid and the promotional power of Friendster, the show was quite a success. In the end, the line-up was J Church, Storm the Tower and Attack Formation (Webster's band). Each band would play two songs and switch off, the idea being that if the cops showed and shut us down it would increase the possibility of each band getting to play a little. We did this round robin until each band got three turns to play. I guess it's pretty quiet out there on the bridge. No cops. No complaints. It was magic playing under the starry Austin sky.

JULY 24th ­ drive
Long ass drive to Phoenix… We wound up arriving really early in the morning and having a hell of a time finding a motel to stay at. Our guitarist David (who also makes up the entire line-up of DFI) brought his wife, Rosa Maria, and baby, Eva, along. I think we were all a little surprised that the one year old didn't really cry the whole drive. Here's what I learned on the drive: because my seat is behind RM and Eva's, I'm gonna really have to get used to watching breastfeeding every day for the next month.

JULY 25th ­ PHOENIX, AZ (Modified)
Didn't wanna do the Nile this time around and it's just as well as it seems they've gone out of business. I don't really know what I think of that Cory guy. Lot's of bad stories. So this time I stuck with what I know and contacted my old friend Kimber who is one of the first people I even met in Arizona. She's been running a record shop called Stinkweeds for years and back in the old days when I would be out visiting the guys from Hippycore fanzine, I'd spend a lot of time there perusing 7"s. Turns out she's got a lot of new cool stuff going on a big part of which is Modified. Part of Phoenix's new drag of cool little art gallery's, her space doubles between that and a place for bands to play. A nice small room with a low stage, this is pretty much exactly what a band like us wants at every venue.

The show itself was fine. As is the curse with our band, a bulk of the crowd didn't come inside until we played. I started to get the feeling that some of these shows might really suck for DFI and Storm the Tower. For whatever reason that's sort of par for the course with us. It's no big deal if you're playing a big show. But when the sum total of the audience is 100 something people (or less even) and half of them stay outside until the last band…

I was worried it was gonna be a really rusty show after the long drive. But I guess we were all sort of busting to do something after sitting for so long. It was also great seeing old friends like Kimber who looks like she's still in her 20's and the guys in Financial Panther (they played first) who turned out to be old friends in a new band.

JULY 26th ­ SAN DIEGO, CA (Che Café)
Okay, this is a fucking summer tour. We arrive in time to find out that everyone we know is going to see Sensefield who are playing a huge all ages show about 5 minutes from where we're playing. There's also something cool going on at the Casbah or some bar. Yes, it's summer and summer tours suck. We never do them. In fact, after a decade this is our first summer tour in the states ever. Now I remember why we don't do them: the campuses are empty and there are 20 times as many bands to compete with on the road.

Our shows at the Che range from packed to empty. Got to play with Vena Cava who I had heard cool things about. More rock and less pop punk than had been described to me and that's a good thing. This time, the show started pretty bleak and turned out okay. When we started our set, there were literally about 10 people. But about six songs in, it was like the punk bus showed up and all these dudes came running in. Brett's (STT drummer) family was at the show. At least his Dad's side. Some good came of this evening. Hey, I'm just glad our little dog and pony show didn't ruin Sensefield's night of fun.

JULY 27th ­ ANAHEIM, CA (Chain Reaction)
I guess when the promoter tells you over the phone that he doesn't think anyone is gonna be there, you're not really expecting too much. Beyond that I really don't know what I was thinking setting up this show. OC has never been our friend and the fact that this club doesn't really advertise outside of there (they don't run ads in the LA Weekly) pretty much doomed us. Martin from Giant Robot was my only friend in the LA area that new about the show and that was because I e-mailed him about it. At the end of the night, the guy that did the show said that there were 75 people. But it sure didn't feel like it. Something about the size of the room made if feel like tumbleweeds were blowing across the stage. To make matters worse, Sensefield and the Kills were playing different shows in the LA area. Pretty much anyone that might have made the drive to see us went to one of those shows instead.

But I shouldn't really be making excuses. Let's face it, we don't have a new album out and our last record came out 4 years ago. We don't have a record label supporting or promoting this tour. Plus, we've got three bands on the road together canceling most chances of a local draw. Quite possibly the most important factor is that the last time we toured there weren't that many bands that sounded like us. Now we pretend that we're so different because our band is ideological and not just making music. We think we're real smart. But most people don't really care and now that M2 and the majors are clogged with bands doing something similar but with $100,000 production values, why would anyone care about us?

JULY 28th ­ off
Really, I wanted to have this day off so we could hang a little in LA and then spend half of the day in SF. Of course, that didn't happen as everybody decided they wanted to stay at different places last night meaning we didn't leave LA until late afternoon. I did get to go by the Giant Robot stores and spend a wadge of cash. I got to hang a little at the office and see Eric if only for a few minutes. Martin also hooked me up with a bunch of back issues which is cool since I'd lost my complete collection in the fire (anyone got an extra copy of #3 lying around?).

JULY 29th ­ SAN FRANCISCO, CA (Bottom of the Hill)
Back in the Bay and I'm feeling like a normal person again. We all spent the night at the Maximum house and I got to spend a little quality time with Arwen and Thorn. He came with us to Lucky Creation, which is one of my favorite restaurants in the world (one of the better all fake meat Chinese restaurants… Really feels like Hong Kong in there for some reason…). Before the show, there is a little reunion party for former Epicenter Zone volunteers that I unfortunately missed in the chaos of trying to organize three bands. Right before we went on a bunch of my old friends came in including Kate, Rob and Gordon who I hadn't seen in years. Made me feel a little homesick for the Bay.

Our set was strangely relaxing. I really wish we had more time. It was nice catching up with Mike Millett and Kim McGee (our old roadie). I hadn't seen Kim since before her sister-in-law died. We did a bunch of catching up. Then we loaded up and drove to Portland.

JULY 30th ­ PORTLAND, OR (house party)
Despite a more nervous-than-usual overnight drive to Portland (this is just a few nights after the Exploding Hearts tragedy), we arrived tired but generally unscathed. Baby screaming productivity was limited to one hour making the drive even sort of pleasant at times. Our Arwen from MRR came with us to hook up with her boy. Hoping this would be our chance to catch up, we both promptly fell asleep in the van waking up with fairy dust and dreams of hardcore in our eyes. First stop would be our crash pad of the evening where the guys from From Ashes Rise live. While I at first felt a little awkward for not having a bullet belt, I remembered that Brad is one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet and that pretty much everyone from the Tragedy / From Ashes Rise / Deaththreat / Severed Head world is really nice.

The show is sort of a kick off for the Portland Zine Convention. It's Wednesday, but there are already a lot of zine folks in town for the event. David Hayes and Paul Curran are also at the party, which is nice. But it makes me marvel that, with all of us and Arwen talking, the different generations of MRR shitworkers all in one spot. If I were a total nerd, I'd say that it was like a Dr. Who episode…

As is the case with most house parties, it's a blast with people going off. It's nice to know that our band can be a bridge between the bullet belt punks and the backpack kids.

JULY 31st ­ SEATTLE, WA (2nd Ave. Pizza)
Trying to get nine people to do anything on time is hard. But we're the worst. We make it to the venue right around the time when Storm the Tower should be finishing. We set up real quick and they get to do a few songs. We tear through a tired but enjoyable set and David gets to do 5 minutes of DFI at the end. This is hardly the optimal way of doing things. But in a weird way it was a relief. Touring is all about "hurry up and wait". You rush to get somewhere. You load-in. You maybe do a soundcheck. Then you wait around for hours to play. Especially for a tour like this, it's a lot of waiting around for me and Ben (our bass player). Just waiting for our turn to do our thing. So it's sort of nice once in a while to run in and do it. Just kick the shit out, you know?

Later that night we go bar hopping. Well, we hop between two bars, one of which is being tended by Kim from the Fastbacks and it's probably the first time I've heard the Jets in a bar in the States. A girl comes up to me and asks if I'm in J Church. Hey, she says she would have come to see us if she knew we were playing. This is something you have to get used to hearing on a DIY tour.

END OF PART 1

 

IN THE J CHURCH LISTENING ROOM

HOTWIRES, THE - Ignition CD

Holy shit, this is the fucking rock of the moment. There's a fucking groove going on with this band that puts them miles ahead of their competition like the Mooney Suzuki or The Hives. They've got the big bang guitars and the strict order (via Modern Lovers) rhythm section. But they've also got this subtext of soul that means someone has got a great record collection and it ain't just American records.

Huggy Bear ripples still concentrically infect and dement the UK underground and The Hotwires are a great example of that. Now, is the art damaged revolution back to burning down the garage or were Huggy Bear secretly the greatest ideological and tactile response to Pussy Galore and we just missed the point… one of the points?

Streams of consciousness only sometimes reveal the subconscious. Sometimes they release a surface, spontaneous violence. Isn't that how the French students of '68 explained it? The Hotwires commit to each song like you commit to a brick behind a barricade. I'll bet when they finish a song live, they can't remember what just happened.

There are times when you're gonna say Heartbreakers meets The Kid With The Replaceable Head. Other times you could say Dirtbombs meet Pussy Galore. There are even times when you could say RFTC meets X. Shit, this guy is a non-linear Richard Hell. You can really here it in the more subdued moments of On The Street. How did I miss that with their 10"? It's fucking uncanny. As if I didn't love `em enough…
(Artrocker)

SUBHUMANS - Football Bootleg: Live In Bristol 2001 CD
SUBHUMANS - Demolition War I ­ III CD
STUPID HUMANS / THE MENTAL - Pay The Public: EPs & Demos '79 ­ `80 CD

Aside from being old friends, The Subhumans are one of my favorite bands of all time. Nobody ever notices it. But much of what I do in the punk rock world is heavily influenced by the Subhumans and Bluurg Records. It's true. The reason I started releasing live J Church CDRs is because I love getting those Xeroxed lists of Bluurg tapes with Subhumans records or when you wrote to Dick.

So, it's no shock that I'm really happy that many of those cassette releases are now coming out as mail-order only items through Bluurg on CDR. Here is a rundown of the three of the best titles, as they are Subs related.

The first Subhumans reunion show I saw was in London with Zounds and the System. I could not believe how powerful and immediate they sounded. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised as three of the four members have been playing in Citizen Fish for past however many years. This recording was made a little after that first show and it's fucking storming! The recording is really pretty good and in-your-face considering I'm guessing it wasn't even a board recording. It just sounds fucking great. There are 26 songs on this CD and most of the hits (short of Cradle to the Grave) are here. All Gone Dead, Rats, Where's The Freedom and Reality Is Waiting For A Bus all sound fucking great. This CD is a benefit for something called the Alternative Euro Tournament, which has got something to do with an alternative football league.

On the opposite end of the Subhumans timeline is Demolition War I ­ III. Collecting the band's first three demo tapes, the CD is also a documentation of a pre-Trotsky line-up. Unlike most demo recordings, the first Demolition War is recorded live at a pub in their hometown of Warminster. Having spent a little time there and having even played a gig there, it's really sort of hard for me to imagine that such a sophisticated band would come from such a tiny rural town. Maybe that's why they're all so well-adjusted. All three of the demo tapes were recorded over a four-month period and even the non-live stuff has a very similar live feel as they were recorded to reel-to-reel 2 track. The recordings are raw and the drumming sort of lacks the character that Trotsky brought. But it's great lo-fi punk like you would expect from some of the best Killed By Death recordings. I would swear that Dick's voice seems like it's a full octive higher. So over the course of the 24 track CD you get some amazing versions of All Gone Dead, Germ, It's Gonna Get Worse, Nothing I Can Do and a crazy, hugely distorted version of Mickey Mouse Is Dead.

Finally, there's the pre-history. Pay The Public is a split CD between The Mental (Dick's previous band) and Stupid Humans (Bruce and Andy's pre-Subs band). The first four tracks are from the super hard to find Extended Play 7" from The Mental. It's crazy, noisy, and suprisingly catchy punk rock. The remaining four songs from The Mental are from their never released Shoot The Hostages EP. More greatness that is pretty removed from the Subhumans with the exception of the uncanny vocal stylings. The later songs may even be more raw. It's like they just through up a couple of mics in a practice space. Sounds great, though. Stupid Humans are much more like a slower version of the Subhumans. Make no mistake, there's still a lot of energy. But in 1979 "fast" just wasn't as "fast" as 1981. Very, very different versions of Ashtray Dirt and First Aid and some interesting, more straightforward versions of Get Out Of My Way, All Gone Dead and New Age. The final three tracks are from a pretty good sounding recording that could have been a single easy.

Maybe I'm a bit of a fan and I do have a personal connection to a lot of these folks. But I can't imagine not being excited about this music even this far down the line. Listening to this really makes me wanna start from scratch and write a whole album of Wire meets Pere Ubu type stuff. Maybe that's not a bad idea.
(Bluurg Records)

 

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