J Church and Honey BearRecords
Summer In Hell – Spending Loud Night...



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 now...

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 years.

5. My book… I've got to fucking finish it somehow. I'm going to keep 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 appreciate it.

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.



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! (Epitaph Records)


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 experimental set.

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)



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