IT'S A LIVING
BUT IT'S NOT A LIFE #14.10
J Church and Honey BearRecords
Summer In Hell Spending Loud Night...
I'M NOT DEAD
Not yet, anyway. So, you may have been hearing rumors as to what I've
been up to for the past week. It's late and I'm tired, so this is just
a brief note to let you all know what is up.
I got home from tour about a week ago. It was great. Lots of fun. But
I came home feeling really crappy. After two days of feeling shitty,
Liberty insisted I go see a doctor. It turns out that was a very smart
idea as I spent the past week at St. David's Hospital undergoing
various tests and small operations.
I've always had a bad heart. Now my heart is operating at a little
less than half a normal person's strength. It's pretty fucked. The
doctors said I could literally drop dead at any moment. It's crazy
fucked. I'm taking new meds and that will hopefully work. If not,
we're talking about a defibrillator (I can't spell it). Odds are
against me just dropping dead. But for the first time in my life,
that's a real possibility.
Even worse than that, I found out that my kidneys have been damaged
beyond repair. They shrunk, been covered in scar tissue and basically
are beyond hope. As a result, I've started dialysis, which I'll be
doing three times a week from now on. Basically, I need a kidney
transplant and that's what the doctors are getting me ready for.
There are a lot more detail I'll write when I have more time. For the
moment, I've got tubes coming in and out of me. I lost 27 pounds of
water weight while in the hospital. I may lose more. I dunno.
It's all sort of fucked. I don't know what I will do. More later...
Okay, I finally had some real sleep and a third round of dialysis. I'm
feeling a little saner, so here's a better account of my last week...
J Church went on a west coast tour. It was great. It was hot. The
shows were fun. But despite everything, I wasn't feeling very well for
the whole trip. I thought it was stress and the awful heat and the
lack of sleep. None of those things are good with my heart condition
and they are all part of being on the road. But I can usually handle
it and my cardiologist has never really fretted about it.
But when we got home from tour I started feeling really bad. My legs
felt really tight and bloated. I was having some breathing trouble and
I was coughing all night long. It was so bad by the second night home
that Liberty insisted I go to the ER at St. David's. Turns out that
was a good idea.
I was admitted to the hospital with kidney failure. It seems that both
of them crapped out on me. The doctors started doing loads of tests
including an ultrasound that revealed massive scarring and damage. The
thing about kidneys is that they really don't get better. When they're
fucked, they're fucked. The doctor kept running tests, but it became
obvious that I was going to have to go on dialysis and start thinking
about a transplant.
I also started seeing a new heart specialist. While my trashed kidneys
are the biggest problem, he also discovered that my heart wasn't doing
well either. I guess the meds were only partly working and my heart was
working at a little less than half of a normal persons strength. That's
what put me in the "sudden death" category. I'm trying not to
think about that as it's not completely likely. But it does mean that
I could drop dead and my heart could just decide to stop and any time
So, I started dialysis. I was put on lasyx to help get rid of the
weight I had put on as a result of kidney failure. I also had my heart
meds updated. I feel better than I've felt in ages. I lost 27+ pounds,
which is totally crazy! I do dialysis three times a week and I have no
idea how I'm gonna pay for any of this (dialysis alone without the
meds is several $1000 a month). I may get on Medicare. I've had the
worst cramps I've ever experienced in my life. I can't even think
about going back to work for a few weeks.
The new meds and the dialysis leave me pretty dizzy most of the time.
I've also got a crazy new diet where I need lots of protein BUT I
can't eat beans, nuts or tofu! To stay alive, my vegetarian days may
be over. I dunno...
That's where I'm at. I'm gonna be in bed for the next few weeks so
I'll try to be on this a lot. I feel tired and sore. I'm also filthy
as I can't shower with all the tubes coming and going in my body. I
don't know what the future is for my normal life. I definitely can't
tour for a long time, though I wanna keep doing J Church stuff. I
don't know how I'll be able to get to England to finish my book. I can
get dialysis there. I just can't afford anything. I don't really know
what capacity I'll be able to continue work at Vulcan. At the least, I
probably won't be able to work the counter anymore...
Anyway, I got some sleep. I ate some grapes. I've got the PMA...
Here are a few quick answers to questions I've been getting asked a bunch:
1. Yes, I do have insurance. But it's pretty crappy and the
deductible is huge. It's Humana, which sorta sucks anyway. I got it
through Vulcan Video. I still don't know if it will be able to cover
the dialysis. If not, I'm gonna have to apply for Medicare which I am
fairly positive I qualify for.
The problem with my insurance (among other things) is that I need to
be working 30 hours a week to keep it. I don't know if that's going to
be a real possibility as the new meds and dialysis leave me pretty
wiped out. If I lose the insurance, I'll be really screwed money-wise.
It would almost be better if I lost the job totally and applied for
some other social services. I don't know what is going to happen just
yet. It really depends on how cooperative Humana is with everything.
2. My meds are really expensive. Not as much as the dialysis, of
course (which is somewhere between $3000 and $4000 a month). But it's
still a couple hundred dollars a month.
3. Additional bills are still mounting. I was in the hospital for a
week. I had multiple ultrasounds plus x-rays and other tests. I had
two rounds of dialysis in the hospital and I had a catheter test on my
heart which is gonna cost a fortune. On top of that, I still need to
see a cardiologist every other week to monitor my heart rate.
4. My life expectancy
I really don't know. First of all, the sudden
death syndrome with my heart is a real threat. Until I get my heart
rate improved, I'll constantly be in danger of that. I can stay on
dialysis forever if I need to. But everyone is recommending that I get
the kidney transplant as soon as possible. It's a fairly standard
operation these days, about as standard as you can get. But there are
no guarantees. It's real surgery and I can die. Plus there are no
guarantees that the transplant will work. A working kidney transplant
can last for a few years or can last a lifetime. It would really suck
to have major surgery just to wind up back on dialysis in a couple of
5. My book
I've got to fucking finish it somehow. I'm going to
writing trying to sort out these last interviews. I wanted to spend
some time at Dial House with Crass. I also wanted to track down Vi
Subversa, Pete Fender and maybe Conflict. I still need to interview
them. But I don't think I can make it over to England. I don't think
I'll be able to get the money together. If anyone out there has any
ideas on how I can sort out these four interviews, I would hugely
6. I am on two diets at the same time. I am on a low sodium diet for
my heart. I am also on a renal diet for my kidneys. That is the hard one
as it's aimed at increasing protein while lowering potassium and phosphorous.
I need lots of protein sources BUT I can't eat tofu, potatoes, beans or
nuts. As you might imagine, this is going to be totally life altering.
That's life I guess...
7. I'm on bed rest for two weeks. After that I can slowly try to get
back to work. I won't be able to work like I used to. I can't stand at
a counter for eight hours. Right now, I can't stand up for more than a
few minutes without getting dizzy and lightheaded. Hopefully that will
improve as I adjust to the treatments.
8. Dialysis is mostly really, really boring. I can read. I can listen
to my disc man. There are TVs, but they are all shared and everyone
wants to watch crap. I may try to buy a cheap laptop as I can bring
that in as long as it's all charged up as we're not allowed to used
any of the electrical outlets. There are a couple of side effects. One
is that I on occasion will get some pretty painful cramps. The first
time was the worst. It really felt like there was a rat crawling
around in my calf. I also get muscle spasms, which are very, very
minor. But they prevent me from sleeping through the treatment.
9. The band
time will tell. I wanna keep doing stuff. We can
certainly keep recording. I just don't see us touring anymore. It's
not impossible that things will be back to normal after I get my
kidney transplant. I just can't imagine big month long tours happening
again. But I'm still writing songs and shit, so touring or not, J
Church will still be somewhat active.
So that's it. I'm at home. I don't feel very good. I'm really wiped
out all the time. I will say this: if you are one of the people out
there in the world that even owes me a dime, now would be a great time
to pay me back. I never follow up on that stuff. But I'm broke as hell
and need to pay for my meds.
Anyway, I'll let you know more when I know more.
IN THE J CHURCH LISTENING ROOM
BAD RELIGION - Into The Unknown LP
I'm not sure why everyone was so shocked when this record came out. Way
previous to it's release, Bad Religion were involved with a compilation
in conjunction with Destroy LA fanzine. In just a few months, a lot of
the original SoCal hardcore bands were trying to legitimize their music
by straying musically in every direction. Channel 3 started doing Aerosmith
songs as did Symbol Six. The Circle Jerks were doing all sorts of rock-n-roll
with the occasional hardcore to pay the bills. Black Flag were off on
their own idiosyncratic trajectory. Bad Religion did an especially nasty
interview for Destroy LA talking about the ignorant hardcore kids and
how they were trying something new on their second album. That album was
the much-maligned Into The Unknown.
First of all, over the eight songs, only Greg Graffin and Mr. Brett return
from How Can Hell Be Any Worse? Aside from the instruments you
expect, you also get acoustic guitars, piano, keyboards and synths, wood
blocks... It's pretty crazy and at times it does sound a little like a
lo-fi Emerson, Lake and Palmer on speed. But Graffin's voice is as strong
as on any record. The lyrics are still smart if a bit more imaginative
(aren't you sick of hearing that? "Oh, Bad Religion are so smart.
Those guys have PhDs. They are so darn smart." Fuck off!). Going
faux prog didn't mean they lost their tunes. I think Chasing The Wild
Goosestands the test of time. Plus, it's dedicated to Vonnegut! Nerds!
BUSH TETRAS - Boom In The Night CD
I used to read about these post-punk, post-no wavers long before I ever
got to hear them. I was afraid of singer Cynthia Sley. She seemed so tough
and larger than life.
Their music, a hybrid of funky rhythms and bass parts with raunchy
guitars and poetic vocals, was both dark and upbeat. Only in post-punk
can such a thing exist. The funk was totally irresistible while the
mood was foreboding. The guitars could give it the no wave blast of
white noise and could also pick out some effect ridden gothic lines.
In some ways they married the post-punk of the Modettes with the
sophisticated dance of Pigbag.
Lots of fun stuff, but the really out there upbeat punky numbers are
the most moving like You Taste Like The Tropics, Dum Dum
and their hit Too Many Creeps. Erase Errata fans, take note as
this will go nicely along with your Slits and Raincoats records. (ROIR)
CONFUSE - Nuclear Addicts 7"
CONFUSE - Contempt For Authority 7"
CONFUSE - Spending Loud Night 7"
Ah, 1985! What a great year to be into hardcore. Every other day, you
would eagerly check your mailbox for some new amazingness to be thrust
into your life. Imagine seeing the craziest photos of Japanese hardcore
bands in MRR and having to wait to hear what they sounded like. No band
satisfied like Confuse. Crazy-ass Discharge and Disorder influenced hardcore
that looked as good as it sounded. In 1985, the crusty nightmare hadn't
really manifested itself yet, so Confuse looked really crazy.
Like their spiritual predecessors, Execute, their first release to make
it (just barely) out of Nippon was a flexi. The seven song Nuclear
Addicts is as insane and uncompromising today as the day it came out.
The buzz saw guitars screech almost reminiscent of the scalpel blade effect
on the first Disorder full length. The drums sound nearly tribal, they're
so primitive and forceful. There are some real, though surely coincidental,
comparisons to Iconoclast but with a more guttural approach to vocals.
From Indignation to The End, the record never lets up and
doesn't have a bad moment.
1985's Contempt For Authority finds the band getting their shit
more organized. It loses some of the unstable ferocity of the first release.
But it's still powerful hardcore. Just this time around, the songs are
a bit more discernable. The guitars are still a beautiful white noise
that at times don't even sound like proper chords. Whereas on the first
record, each song just sounds like a near spontaneous burst of energy,
this four-song EP is more, I wouldn't say melodic...
Two years later the band came up with Spending Loud Night, the
rawest of their records. It seems to be the band's earliest recordings
with the studio date in 1983. One mid-tempo track, Merciless Game,
has a secretly melodic bass-line bringing to mind, of all things, Psycho
Candy era Jesus And Mary Chain. It's the kind of record that is brutal
enough to please the hardcore kids with enough pure noise to impress the
Some five years later, the band got back together to record the Stupid
Life 12". But it's just sort of lame rock. It doesn't even slightly
resemble the original band.
Confuse have been booted to death. Some of them are pretty dodgy. As
a rule of thumb, the 7" boots aren't too good while the 12"s
are good enough. Obviously, they were mastered off of vinyl. But let's
face it; it's fine. This isn't the kind of music that needs a 12-band
EQ, right? (Blue Jug, Confuse Records, King's World)
HAMPTON GREASE BAND - Music To Eat 2xLP
Before I heard this record I had read so much about how the band would
just go out live and make totally improvised noise and how this record
was inspired but totally unlistenable. So I was sort of expecting something
really crazy and atonal. But that's not the case at all. In fact this
is a really pretty record especially Halifax that crushes a lot
of different elements together. There is a lot of riffing and improvising.
But it's within a very clear framework. It's in some ways like a much
more loose and aggro version of the Doors at their peak. Other extended
breaks take more of an Allman Brothers blues exploration. There's a weirdness
in the songwriting that comes somewhere between Don Van Vliet and the
Bonzo Dog Band or even the Turtles.
It's easy to see why there are a lot of Beefheart comparisons. Singer
Bruce Hampton is like a tenor version with a lot of those shit in the
throat type tones but without the baritone rumble. But the complexity
of the arrangements has more to do with the whole group tightly moving
from one time signature to the next as opposed to Beefheart who at their
wildest layered 3/4 over 4/4 over whatever came up mathematically correct.
As a result, this is in some ways potentially more accessible than say
Trout Mask Replica. But this is still far from commercial. It's
wild and random with three tracks closing in around 20 minutes each. No
potential singles here. But to really "get it" if you choose
to, and it's worth the journey, you really need to hear it all in one
sitting sort of like how you can't just check out part of Free Jazz.
You need to make it the soundtrack of your life for a day or two to really
absorb this shit. (Columbia)
Back to Article Index