Save Music in Chinatown 12 preview with The Schizophonics

The Satellite, Los Angeles (February 22, 2017)

I distinctly remember the first time I saw The Schizophonics. Following the last day of the San Diego Comic-Con in 2013, a bunch of us went to see El Vez’s Punk Rock Review at Bar Pink and holy cow! The opening band was not only a red-hot, garage punk and soul dynamo but they actually played with the former Zero as well. I was in the front row, hoping my dropped jaw wouldn’t get detached by singer Pat Beer’s out-of-control guitar playing. Next, I saw them in Pomona, opening for the newly reformed Drive Like Jehu and they were just as sweaty, animated, and nearly impossible to take a decent photo of. Nonstop rock!

After seeing them rip it up with El Vez and then the Little Richards last summer, I finally got to see the proper lineup in quick succession at The Echo and Cafe NELA. At this point, I started saying hi to drummer Lety Beers and becoming friends with them on Facebook or else it wold be getting a little weird. One thing lead to another, and now the trio is one of two San Diego bands coming up to play our twelfth all-ages punk rock matinee on Sunday, May 7 to raise money for the music program at Castelar Elementary. The other commuters will be My Revenge with Hector from The Zeros–a real plate-of-shrimp development!

This is actually perfect timing, since The Schizophonics just released a 10″ EP and have a full LP about to drop. A perfect opportunity for a quick Q&A with Pat and Lety about their past, the new music, and the Save Music Chinatown cause. Plus bonus answers from bass player Brian Reilly.

Bar Pink, San Diego (July 21, 2013)

MW: The first time I saw Schizophonics was with the punk review with El Vez at Bar Pink! How did that bond form with him?
LB: At some point we made friends with Pony Death Ride, a San Diego duo that knows Robert. They took him to see us at Bar Pink and he really liked us. That is such a huge compliment coming from him, let alone him asking us to play with him. He does a Punk Rock Review that he wanted us to back him up in that’s composed of a lot of his early punk influences. That was the first time we ever went on tour and our first time we ever had such an intricate set to learn. He definitely has taught us to be a better band and taught us so much about putting a show together. He’s our band guru.

MW: Am I crazy or did you spell your name with a T back then? What happened to it? Have you come across people with tattoos with the old spelling?
LB: We DID! There is still a 45 out there on Munster Records with the old spelling. Then we realized there is no T in schizophrenic (and also wanted to get away from being called shitty) so we switched it to the correct spelling before we made more records and merch.

MW: Pretty sure the second time I saw your band was with Drive Like Jehu in Pomona. Do you feel like part of that whole tradition of San Diego underground music?
LB: I don’t see it as underground. We moved here in 2008 and didn’t know much about the music history until we started meeting talking to more people.

PB: That was a real honor because John Reis was a big influence on us when we started the band. His Swami radio show opened our eyes (or ears?) to how much cool unheard music is out there.

Glass House, Pomona (April 8, 2015)

MW: You play so often! Do you keep track of how many shows you’ve played so far? Who plays more, you or Mike Watt?
LB: Haha, they’re in my Google calendar or we’d be so lost!

MW: Your ratio of playing shows to releasing music is freakishly high. Is that on purpose? Is putting the songs on wax something you’re doing reluctantly or has it been a flood waiting to happen?
LB: When I joined this band I didn’t know how to play the drums, so I think some of that has been a learning curve with how to write and play songs to the point where we feel confident enough to record something we are happy with.

PB: The Ooga Booga 10” EP and Land Of The Living 12” LP are a mix of brand new songs and songs we’ve been doing live for a long time.

MW: The new EP is a real ass kicker! How did you split songs between it and the LP? What can we expect?
LB: The 10″ is a few of our older songs that we never really put out properly, along with a couple of new ones that we wanted to put on the Pig Baby release. “2017” was a riff that Pat had been working on that I really liked. I wanted to make sure the Pigs got that one.

PB: The two records have all different songs, and we didn’t want the 10″ EP to be like the songs that were left over after we did the album. So we wrote new stuff for that one until we had enough tunes we were happy with so both records to stand up on their own.

Cafe NELA, Los Angeles (December 17, 2016)

MW: What’s your secret to being on fire every single time for every single configuration (Schizophonics, El Vez, Little Richards, probably a ton of other bands I don’t know about)?
LB: Our favorite musicians and heroes are bands like Little Richard, James Brown, The Woggles, Iggy Pop, The Loons, and El Vez who, when they hit the stage, are like a bolt of lightning. That style of performance is what really moves us as music lovers so we draw so much inspiration from that.

MW: I think I told your about our show—how it’s for music education at an inner-city elementary school, how it is inspired by the punk rock tradition of the old Hong Kong Cafe. Got any thoughts about kids, music, life, and so on?
LB: We love seeing kids get into music!

PB: Music is one of the greatest things a person can have in their life. It carries you through the good and bad times, and it’s inspiring to see young people playing not just because they are the artists of the future, but because they are learning a skill that can give them peace of mind and strengthen their souls throughout their lives.

MW: I’m super excited about having you play our show and getting to see you on back-to-back days starting with Cafe NELA…
PB: So are we! Thank you for inviting us and thank you for all you do!

Cafe NELA, Los Angeles (December 17, 2016)

MW: Brian, can you tell us the best thing about being a Schizophonic?
BR: The best part about being a Schizophonic has got to be traveling and playing new cities. I’ve always been a bit of a wandering soul, so to get the best of both worlds is alright with me.

MW: Got any thoughts about music education, all-ages shows, and stuff like that?
BR: As far as my thoughts on kids in the music community, I’ve always loved it when a kid gets it and learns a new bit of music. Especially if it’s something heavy and on the garage vibe. I’ve been teaching kids for quite a while. To say it helps them form their identity would be a bold understatement. Find a kid that can mirror your playing and you’ll get a session player. Find one that can’t do what you’re doing? They’ll change rock and roll.

Find out more about the Schizophonics at schizophonics.com and get their brand-new 10″ EP from your favorite local record shop, pigbabyrecords.com, or the merch table. Get Save Music in Chinatown 12 tickets at eventbrite.com.

catsssflyer3

Advertisements

A short Q&A with Charles Glaubitz, creator of the mind-blowing, psychedelic Kirby-meets-Zardoz graphic novel, Starseeds

Starseeds_cover

I was stoked when Charles Glaubitz reached out to me a few years ago. He asked me about the magazine I used to edit, and my response was that it had run its course but the self-published and signed copy of Crystal Sigil I bought from him at Comic-Con in 2010 was a prized possession that left a lasting impression on me. (Number 8 in an edition of 70!) We kept in touch and, more recently, he asked for my address and proceeded to send me his first release by Fantagraphics.

On the title page he jotted a note thanking me for reviewing his indie comic, adding that it had a role in the brand-new book I was holding. Wow. Sometimes I’ll jokingly say that Giant Robot magazine came and left like a fart in the wind, but a statement like that makes the waft smell pretty special!

I should mention that Starseeds is an incredible read. Cracking it open reminded me of being a teenager and having my mind blown by VHS tapes of psychedelic movies like Eraserhead, Zardoz, and 2001: A Space Odyssey, not to mention surreal Krazy Kat comix or Jack Kirby’s pop-art forays into the Negative Zone. How could I not ask Charles a few questions about it?

Starseeds_note

How did you go from self-published comics to Fantagraphics?
My friend Jacob Covey is a designer and art director for them. I sent him my finished book asking him if he would be interested in designing it to self publish, and he forwarded everything to an editor friend who he loved it. I think he called it “a tour de force of visual imagination.” From there we planned of doing a 500-page first volume, but that made the book very expensive so we decided to do smaller books. The whole story is about 1,400 pages in five volumes.

The plot is wild, pitting otherworldly Illuminati against the universe and reality itself. Do you trip yourself out when you read the first published volume?
I have only read parts of it since it has been published, but I do trip out when I read it. I kinda get sucked into the experience of the art and words.

Did you know how the story was going to unfold or did it just flow out if your head and hands?
The story started with ideas I wanted to narrate, a beginning, and an end. From there, I developed the in-between stuff and let the characters and plot develop to reach the end. Starseeds was two separate stories that I blended together–the first being the Crystal Sigil and the second, Secret Societer.

Starseeds_54-55

Are you into weird movies like Heavy Metal, El Topo, and Zardoz? Because I feel like I am in that sort of world when I read your comics.
Yes, absolutely. I love Jodorowsky’s work. It is very enigmatic, mystical, and transcendent. I haven’t watched Heavy Metal or Zardoz in a long time, but I watch a lot anime. I love Kaiba from Masaaki Yuasa as well as Ping Pong. I find them very magical.

Do you listen to music when you draw? I was thinking the Heavy Metal soundtrack, Fucking Champs, or Earthless…
Yeah, I do listen to music when I work: Tommy Guerrero, Daft Punk, Girlpool, Massive attack, Stereolab, Chicano Batman, Ramona and Jardín (Tijuana bands)… Kavinsky Nightcall seems to repeat a lot. When I work late at night, I listen to Coast to Coast AM.

I am gonna check out the bands you mentioned.

Does drawing and storytelling come easily to you? Have you been making comics for fun since you were a little kid or is it an art that you have been torturing yourself with for your entire lifetime?
It is something that is natural. I drew comics as a kid, and I have always told stories in my art work. Each series that I produce is a part of the narrative, may it be painting, drawings, etc., in a gallery setting. I thought that the audience would gravitate toward the narrative as it unfolded in my art and shows, and started making comics in 2010 with all the narrative from my gallery work.

I know a little bit about Tijuana bibles, lucha libre comics, and translated Marvel and D.C. comics in Mexico, but is there an underground, indie, or art school burnout scene too?
Growing up in Rosarito, I was pretty isolated from anything underground and read mainstream superhero comics–mostly Marvel. My mother had a pharmacy and I would read the translated comics from the stand. My father worked in San Diego, so every Friday he would stop by a comic shop and get me a bunch of books every week for years.

So when do we get to read the next volume of Starseed? Is there a schedule for the remaining books?
I am hoping to get the next chapter out around the same time next year, if not early summer. All I gotta do is keep on schedule and we should have a book every year…

Starseeds_portrait

Stalk Charles at mrglaubitz.com and buy Starseeds from your local comic book store or fantagraphics.com.

Jon Moritsugu and Amy Davis on their return to Los Angeles: Anarchy in Asian America, March 24 at USC

-2

On Friday, March 24, indie filmmakers Gregg Araki, Roddy Bogawa, Marcus Hu, and Jon Moritsugu will be gathering at USC to talk about the state of underground Asian American cinema and other stuff. The free event will be followed by an after-party/concert including performances by my friends SISU and Low on High, which is Jon and his wife/partner in crime Amy Davis.

How could I not ask my pals Jon and Amy, who are behind such must-see movies as Fame Whore, Scumrock, and Pig Death Machine as well as killer garage rock, some questions leading up to the date? This is a rare and cool (and did I mention free?) event that everyone should be amped about. I know I am.

MW: It’s been ages since you were L.A.! What do you look forward to doing when you’re in town all the way from Santa Fe? Are you going to stay at the same fleabag motel on Sunset?
JM: We’re stoked to be returning to the palm-littered and glitter-dusted City of Angels! Totally excited about being able to party at sea level, lotsa oxygen, hanging with old friends, oxygen, and chowing down on some really rad Asian vittles (pho, halo halo, mochi, etc.) and, oh yeah, did we mention oxygen?! (Santa Fe is at 7000+ feet.)

Alas, Sunset Blvd scuzziness  of yore when we used to come down to La La Land to get sick-ass tattoos (Okay, only Amy) will have to ferment and bubble on without our presence. We miss bedbugs!

MW: When you go onstage with other filmmakers is it more like a summit meeting, Marvel Superhero Team-Up, or a UFC cage match?
JM: It’s more a fight between  highfalutin, intellectual, artsy thugs in a back alley combined with an earthquake of good vibes. Lotsa love, laughs, and high-fives with a dab of ball bustin’ and smidgen of gentle roasting.

MW: Do you know the other panelists very well? At film festivals, do you go to P.F. Chang’s together?
JW: I totally know Gregg, Roddy, and Marcus really well. We all met in the late ’80s when the underground/indie scene was pretty much bein’ born out of the vagina of the film universe. As far as Asian goes, I have never been to a P.F. Chang’s but I have experienced Brandi Ho’s, Benihana, and Panda Express–all very fine examples of ultra-authentic and undiluted “real” Asian cuisine.

AD: It’s so not fair that Jon never takes me to P.F. Chang’s! I wanna live! I wanna experience the Chang Mania!

MW: I’m extra-amped about seeing LOW ON HIGH again. Can you tell me how your garage rock band compares to your cinematic partnership? Similar, complementary, or therapy?
AD: Oh, I guess I’m taking this one… Dude. Man. It’s totally marriage style. Like how in a marriage you may be the boss of certain aspects–perhaps the cleaning or bills or cooking? Well, in the celluloid wonderland Jonny gets to rule and lord over me. Muse that I am, I allow it for his male ego, et. al. (Ladies, you know the games we play, wink wink.) Although I do have quite a huge impact and will cry on set if he doesn’t let me have some input, but with the rockin’…  Babies, that is all me! Me. Me. Me. I’m the rockstar and Jon is just like stage candy that bleeds and vomits out some yummy solos when I cue him. I am The Boss. Amy Springsteen, yo. Jon is just something pretty to ogle at on cue. He’s so fine. Right, honey?

JM: Yes, dear.

MW: Are you bringing merch? Can I bring money to buy the LOW ON HIGH 7″ single and a Pig Death Machine DVD at the show?
JM: We are bringing the entire merch booth: DVDs, CDs, vinyl, zines, T-shirts, buttons, the works! Fun fun fun. Glow in the dark, blood-splattered, and covered in sweet, lickable, underground pathos. Goofy pathos!

MW: Amy, do you get and wear free fancy clothes from your high fashion illustration gigs? Or are you just naturally fabulous?
AD: OMG. Yes, Martin. I do! Right now, I’m in an OFF WHITE tee and Chanel skirt with a Christian Cowan jacket and those sick sequin glitter YSL boots from AW 2017! You know the one Rhianna is rocking all over Paris? Plus oodles of $1,500 skin cream and $4,000 one-of-a-kind Creed perfume they made especially pour moi and they call it Beyond Amy: The Creamy Years.

Not! I get nada, baby! It’s all a labor of amore and I do love it so! I will still get some baby kine swag here and there but, nope, not the sick-ass cha-chinga swag. But being innocent, I never doubt that one day I’ll be spoiled rotten!

lowonhighlive

MW: I seem to recall that your old hometown of San Francisco might have been famous for Day-Glo posters and psychedelic hallucinogens but Santa Fe turned out to be naturally rainbow-colored and trippy for you two. Is that accurate? Does it affect your art and filmmaking?
JM: Sante Fe’s lack of oxygen makes everything trippy! Coyotes, deserts, crushed sapphire, blue-blue-blue skies, and chile peppers so hot they’ll make ya so high and pass out–all that informs life here. Also, the filmmaking process. The immense space and big nature slow down your mind and help ya to connect to stuff more “relevant.”

That said, San Fran, too, had crazy fog and weirdo locations and, yes, the brighter-than-bright Day-Glo wonder that anything is possible. Amy and I were in our 20s and totally innocent. Now that we are way older, we try to regain that innocence and it’s harder than you’d think. Jaded angst of youth is  a pretty sweet and creamy flavor. If you have innocence and ambition and truth, you have it all.

-3

MW: In addition to making movies do you watch a lot of them? What are you into now?
JM: Oh yeah, we love movies. Everything from classics like Hell’s Angels (Howard Hughes’ 1930 magnum opus) to sparkly new stuff. Recent fav’s: Neon Demon, Nocturnal Animals, 20th Century Women. Plus weirdo TV crap like The Affair. We get hooked on the basic stuff. Face it, we are shamelessly basic!

MW: Pig Death Machine came out while ago. What’s cooking? C’mon you can tell us…
JM: We are in pre-production for brand new feature #8! We’re shooting in New Mexico this summer, and it’s a riff on the fine art/high art scene. Amy will be playing a totally fucked-up artist. Lotsa glitter, shimmer, obnoxious tunes, and posin’ plus blood, gore, laughs, and yucks.

AD: I really hope the costumer can get me those glittery boots…Folks. let’s all dream it: YSL boots for Amy! Livin’ the dream, lovin’ the scene!

15178063_10154826576312474_4730689656075863202_n

Stalk Jon and Amy at jonmoritsugu.com and amydavis.com and RSVP for both the talk and concert at visionsandvoices.usc.edu

The return of Slug!

img_20161109_0008-sm

All band photos by Wild Don Lewis.

Worlds collided a few weeks ago when I introduced the legendary punk rocker Rikk Agnew to my friends and our hosts Steve and Max (a.k.a. Cyrano and Lotus) when we were guests on KXLU’s Molotov Cocktail Hour. I casually mentioned that Steve used to sing for a band called Slug, and Rikk immediately recalled being blown away by them at Bogart’s in Long Beach. In fact, he flashed back on them somewhat recently and had even dug up videos on YouTube. And then the very next day, the ex-member of the Adolescents and Christian Death sent me a text saying that he downloaded the recently remastered tracks on Bandcamp and to let Steve know that he was in Slug heaven!

I’m super excited about the return of Slug as well, fondly recall seeing them often in the ’90s when they were practically the house band at Jabberjaw. With a punk upbringing and indie work ethic but dimensions of industrial, noise, and dub, they could play with bands like Nation of Ulysses, Unsane, and Ruins as well as Fugazi. So how could I not ask Steve if he and some of the other guys would answer some questions about how the reissued music came to be, where the band is today, and whether or not they’ll ever get back together to play a show. And here are the answers.

The participants: Steve (vox), Todd (guitar), Michael B. (second bass), Tomas (drums).

img_20161105_0006-2-sm

Martin: Why now?
Steve: The reissues of the Slug material is something that has been in the works for a while now.  It was just a matter of finally pulling all of the threads together. The biggest incentive was how 2016 marked the 25th anniversary since we released our first single. As time goes on, we had a growing desire to  archive the documentation of Slug in one central source. Revisiting the music, the artwork, photos, lyrics, etc

Tomas: Let’s just say we talked about re-releasing this material in a variety of ways, CDs, vinyl, etc. for quite a few years but the 25th anniversary concept gave us a hard target to work around. And thanks to Todd for really providing the spark to this project by setting up our website, Bandcamp, and other entities, Steve for scanning rare photos, Damion for compiling, engineering, and remastering contributions, and all the other band members for their input. It was definitely a group effort on a lot of levels, just as our songwriting from this period was.

Todd: Tomas drove this effort. We’ve been discussing these reissues since before I moved to NYC 14 years ago, and Tomas was always the one to relight the fire after years of inaction and distraction among all of us. He spearheaded our digital presence on Facebook, drove coordination alongside Steve with our Jabberjaw friends during their recent anniversary and book release, and worked with Bandcamp and his marketing contacts to get the word out on these reissues. It wouldn’t have happened without his perseverance.

Michael B.: I don’t know what got the rest of the gang to get this going, but I’m just happy to finally have digital copies of these… I don’t have a record player so it’s nice to be able to pull these up and force my kids to listen to how “Dad used to be cool… I swear, a few people actually liked us! No, I’m not making it up! Yeah, well you’re grounded!”

img_20161106_0013-sm

Martin: How do the songs sound after not hearing them for a while?
Tomas: I think they do stand up. They were written in a certain atmosphere that suited the times with the available equipment and skills that we had, and given that few of us were trained musicians at all, these tracks sound original in their own way. We never had one aesthetic, like say noise rock or industrial noise as our anchor, we freely borrowed from tons of influences: experimental classical music, field recordings, ethic folk traditions, dub, industrial dance, punk, post-punk. It sort of all went in the Slug blender and came out as our sound. In my opinion, what I think really comes out now, is how solid Steve’s lyrics were. Sure, they were often buried in the denseness of our compositions, but reading them now, he captured the mood of our songs perfectly.

Todd: It’s interesting how some tracks sound very fresh to me and others I find haven’t aged as well, and some are even combinations of both. “Diesel” was an unreleased track we’d recorded in one of our first sessions and I hadn’t heard it in a long time. It’s a product of the time in many ways–musically it captured all of us really well at that early point in our evolution, with Tomas’ excellent fractured rhythms, a good mix of the various bass and guitar sounds we’d been hashing out, and Steve’s great lyrics railing on the then-raging Gulf War. But it also has a few elements in the mix I’m less certain of, like the machine gun sound effects at the outset and the dual vocal tracks that I remember thinking were great at the time but now sound a bit dated to me. All that said, I love the track and I’m really glad it has joined the others are out in the world.

Steve: Some definitely sound different than I remember. I think some aged pretty well, and others I hardly even remembered. And yes, aspects of “Diesel” are a little cheesy, but I think that song has a heart.  It’s been a strange voyage of discovery to hear something you were a part of (even the sound of my voice) and come back to terms with it so many years later. I’m still stoked on everyone’s playing–the inventive and deceptive rhythms of Tomas, the towering power of the basses, and fuzzy, murderous slices of guitars. It’s great to hear the alternate mix of Swingers, emphasizing different instruments and with added vocals from Carla Bozulich and Beth Capper.

Michael B.: I’d always been frustrated by how our recorded output never matched our live sound but Damion did a great job beefing them up, so to speak. My playing is a bit more buried in the mix which is a good thing because I was the least talented of any of the members.

Martin: Are there songs you didn’t like then that you really dig now? Vice versa?
Michael B.: “Diesel.” I didn’t even recognize it as one of our songs. It took a few listens to finally get the recognition brain cells firing and it is much better than I remembered as it was my least favorite of our stuff. Vice versa? “Horrible Skull.” It used to be my favorite song of our set in the early days and was bummed when everyone voted to drop it from our sets. Now I hear it and just kind of think “Eh.”

Tomas: Personally, as the drummer, I was pushing the band to play some of our early songs live when we played out, rather than just the newest things we’d written. There was some tension around that, but we did succeed in playing some early material, like “Elevator,” from time to time, and I really love the intensity of our earliest compositions. I liked the early tracks then, and I still like them now.

Steve: I always felt like it was impossible to capture our sound on record, but I’m not ashamed of anything. These two releases include the earliest recordings committed to vinyl, and I love the immediacy of them. I hope people can appreciate our raw imperative to make a ruckus and not fuss over it. There were no wrong answers in Slug and everyone’s contributions were valid. I always thought there  was an unspoken aesthetic with our band that we all understood and maintained — instinctively there were things we did or just did not do.  perhaps in collectively shaping our sound, we defined it. Thankfully, I think this process kept us progressing and changing all the way through our lifespan as a band.

Going back and listening to things like “Horrible Skull” or the whole “Sore Thumb” single, I think there’s a youthful urgency and, at times, an almost naïve charm to them. Many times, we included moments of the humorous and absurd into our songs, as well as the obvious concussive waves of aggression and force. After we came up with “Godstopper,” it became our show closer, and it’s always been an icon of sinister menace and malice to me. Listening to it now, that songs seems to embrace my feelings of fear and loathing moving into 2017. As it was a 200 copy, tour-only single, I’m glad to see it out in the world.

Todd: Most of my mixed feelings have to do with the recordings themselves, some of which I’ve always liked more than others. I do wish we still had the studio tapes of some of the earliest recordings so we could go even deeper into remixing and cleaning up with modern digital tools, but that said I’m still happy with the way most of these tracks were captured and proud of what we did during this period.

band_pic_darker-sm

Martin: Is the music like a time machine? Therapy?
Tomas: The music is a reflection of our aesthetic at the time. We were DJs into found sound, tape collage, William S. Burroughs, Test Department, Hafler Trio, and Malian traditional music, as well as very loud extreme music, Japanese noise, frenetic punk, and industrial music. We had amazing peers and musicians in bands like Distorted Pony, Waldo the Dog Faced Boy, Oiler, and Unsane. We reflected the fractured politics of that time too, Bush 1’s disastrous Iraq campaign, the L.A. uprising, and post-Cold War reverberations. So the music was our reaction to what we were seeing, hearing, feeling, and experiencing, and we made that our art and our lifestyles. All of us were very much serious about living our music culture, supporting other bands, going to shows, putting on shows in backyards and other spaces, doing zines and faux propaganda missives. It was our collective statement as friends and artists.

Todd: Agree completely with Tomas’ assessment. It is great to hear these tracks and remember much of what was going on among us and how we captured those moments in these songs. One of my favorite tracks from this period, both then and now, is “Godstopper.” It’s probably the best snapshot of our energy during that period, having been recorded right before we kicked off our first national tour. It was also written/recorded right around the 1992 L.A. riots, an event that I believe strongly reverberated in our music at the time. Plus “Godstopper” was one of our first recordings in Tom Grimley’s Poop Alley–Tom’s influence on our recordings can’t be understated, and the mix of “Godstopper” is a great example of how well he honed in on what we were doing.

Steve: Listening to it now, it reminds me of a time when Tomas, Todd, and I were living together; Rich was silk screening our shirts; and we were hand dying them and drying them on the clothesline behind our apartment across from LACMA. It makes me think of late nights at Kinko’s pasting up show fliers and art for the singles, meeting other bands, and making new friends as varied as Caroliner Rainbow, Unsane, Jawbreaker, and Lois. It reminds me of the bloat of the music industry before it was about to implode, a huge shift in the music scenes of L.A.  (the death of hair metal, the rise of Riot Grrrl) the true breakthrough of international music which we were listening to a lot of (Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Baba Mal, Master Musicians of Jujuka, Buddhist Chants, etc), the rapid growth of rap and hip hop, and watching Twin Peaks. Also eating toast at Ship’s coffee shop.

For me, our music was more like therapy when performed live. That energy onstage with the rest of the band was like being in the eye of a sonic tornado. I thought about the shows of other bands I liked and remembered best, and thought I wanted to do the same: to give someone in the audience a worthwhile performance. At the same time, I always ended up losing myself in the music and could just be in the immediacy of the moment. Listening to the recordings can also be somewhat melancholic, like seeing old photographs or hearing a story about an old friend who has passed away. It brings up a lot of feelings about the past and how seemingly simple those days were. You treasure them, are proud of them, but know those times are gone. What did David Bowie say? “Things that happened yesterday, only happened in our minds”?

Michael B.: Yes to both. It brings up a lot of memories–some wonderful and some very sad. After Slug, I went through a very troubled period of my life which got progressively worse (addiction, HIV, divorce, homelessness, and prison) so the songs definitely makes me reflect on a more innocent, less complicated time. For the record, I’m doing well now: 8-1/2 years clean, remarried, good health and back in school to get my Master’s in Counseling. Put that in your article to make me sound good!

Martin: When are the physical copies with photos and essays and stuff going to happen?
Steve: We’ve flirted with the idea of re-issuing the physical media over the years, but it just hasn’t come to fruition. I would love to have great pressings of the re-mastered songs out in the world. We’re open to ideas, suggestions, and offers if anyone cares enough. It’s something we’ll be pursuing as more Slug material is re-mastered by us.

Tomas: We’re seeking label partners with resources to help with that side of things. If there is interest and we can find a good label to work with then it’ll happen. We have the raw material (music, photos, text). We just need a good label to work with.

Michael B.: When you find out, let me know.

img_20161105_0007-sm

Martin: Has the process got a lot of you back in the same room or has everything happened via texts and email?
Michael B: Since I’m in St. Louis now, the only contact I’ve really had has been through the rare email with Steve (and Rich via Facebook).

Tomas: Texts and emails mostly, with personal visits when we’re in each other’s respective cities. Steve, Damion, and Dave Stone are in L.A., I’m in the Bay Area and Collin and Todd are Back East,

Steve: I still see Damion every week as he and I still DJ our radio shows back-to-back on KXLU. Everyone else has fled the coop, but I often check out pictures of Rich (McKinley) skating in Santa Cruz. I see Todd and Tomas once or twice a year and Michael B. and I talk once in a blue moon. I  run into Dave Stone around every so often, and Collin and I talk about music and meet up when he’s in town…Mostly the reissues has been facilitated through the miracle of computers, but sometimes over the miracle of coffee and pie, too.

Martin: Think you could pull of some of the songs live? Maybe just a few. On a small stage. Maybe at one of our Save Music in Chinatown benefit shows since Jabberjaw is no longer around…
Tomas: Ha ha! We’d love to do that some time Martin. Let’s hope fate makes that happen some time soon.

Todd: It’s fun to think about abstractly, but when the idea was brought up as part of the Jabberjaw anniversary a few years ago, I had to vote against us participating. Besides the logistics of it, I’d selfishly hate to sully my personal memories of what we were 20 years ago by pretending to have any chance of capturing that energy again. Our lives are all very different now and, with that in mind, Tomas’ answer to question 4 above is probably the best argument against us playing live again.

Michael B.: I still have the same strings on my bass that I had for my last show with Slug (’94?) so my part would sound kind of skeezy. Then again, my stuff always sounded really skeezy in comparison to the other guys. (And before you ask, Mr. Writer Man, yes “skeezy” is a word.)

Personally, I’d love to have a chance to play one more time for nostalgia’s sake as I have no creative outlets whatsoever and hold onto my time in Slug as “my salad days,” kind of like the high school football player who still goes to the games long after he’s graduated. But I think the rest of the guys have pretty much moved on and grown artistically with other outlets. I have no contact with Damion whatsoever (I miss the little guy) but from what I understand, musically Slug is just not his thing anymore and I can’t imagine Slug being Slug without that wall of immenseness he created with just four simple strings.

Maybe I could be like Greg Ginn and do a Black Flag maneuver… I’d have to find some amazing musicians to mask my ineptitude, though.

Steve: I have no doubt in my mind we could pull off the songs live, but it would take some large efforts on all of our parts. We are scattered all across the U.S., so logistics as well as Father Time tend to put the kibosh on any realistic hope of getting together. Then consider practicing and stripping off enough rust to do the songs justice. I would be there in a heartbeat, but it’s highly doubtful at this stage of the game.

It doesn’t mean I’m going to stop seeing shows in Chinatown, though…

steveratter

Check out Slug at slugla.com and buy the music at slug.bandcamp.com.

 

Hallo, Dave Laney from Milemarker

28644192734_ada31790f0_k

All photos of Milemarker at the Rock N Roll Hotel (August 26, 2016) courtesy of  Christopher Grady.

My friend Brian sent me an email asking if I knew any journalists out in L.A. that would want to cover Milemarker’s upcoming tour. My response was something like, “Not really, but how about me?” I loved reviewing everything off his Lovitt  Records label when I edited GR mag and would gladly cover the band’s triumphant return for my humble blog. And, oh yeah, Milemarker’s provocative blend of post-hardcore electronic music with pitch-black lyrics is rad.

Thanks to Dave Laney for answering my often uninformed and sometimes ridiculous questions with gusto and go see Milemarker as they work their way from Texas through California and back to Chicago. Right now. They’re based in Germany nowadays, so don’t blow it!

Here’s a Devo-related question… Your sound was kind of futuristic a decade ago. Is it vintage now?
I’m not sure how futuristic our sound ever has been. We’ve often sided on the more dystopian angle lyrically, and perhaps synths + dystopian lyrical content gives the impression of a futuristic sound, but most of the keyboards and synthesizers we began using were essentially bottom of the barrel Casio garbage that friends gave us or we found lying around, unused in someone’s garage collecting dust. At that point, they were already “vintage” so to speak, but not in a presumably “desired” type of way. It wasn’t intentional, rather more out of necessity as we didn’t have any money, and also because we tended to break them quite often on stage. We’ve always been more of a working-with-what-we-have band.

But to speak to the “vintage” question, I hope it’s not! I’ve always felt that our albums were quite different from each other, or at least that’s part of what we’ve always tried to achieve as a band.

How did you guys wind up in Germany? Playing songs again?
Al and I moved to Germany at roughly the same time, a little over seven years ago, but for different reasons. Al’s mother is German and he has dual citizenship, so he decided to try out a new place and has been working over there on his writing, comics, and art stuff. I had been spending a lot of time in Hamburg and married a German woman and moved there for that reason, focusing on and touring with another band I also play in which is currently based there. Al also had his hand in my other band from time to time, with recording and filling in on some tours. After a few years it seemed like we should be doing our own thing together again, so we asked a few friends if they’d be interested in playing together. It came together very naturally and smoothly, so we let it roll. The lineup has been the same for the last few years with Ezra Cale and Lena Kilkka.

28979028770_f0d4fcbd22_k

Did the songs and song writing come right back? Was there some rust or was the muscle memory and chemistry there right from the start?
Well, we never stopped playing music together, nor did we have a time when we weren’t active with other touring bands, so the process of playing music is something that we’ve been doing for quite a long time. While writing the new album, it was fun to feel the influence of Ezra and Lena, who both approach music a bit differently than other people we’ve played with in the past. So in that sense, it’s always interesting to play music with new people and figure out what their strengths are and develop songs using those strengths of everyone.

That said, it was informative to learn some of the old songs again. We’re obvious in different places than we were in, say, 1997 – physically, emotionally, and interest-wise. I think Al and I both agree on the idea that some of the lyrical content would be written differently if we were to write the same songs today. But that’s an unavoidable consequence to learning songs that were written up to 20 years prior. I think we both realized that we were really angry then. And while we’re both still naturally angry with many things, we’ve been trying to focus more on the positive side of things in more recent years. That doesn’t necessarily mean mellowing out, but I’m implying a slightly different approach to life and dealing with negative situations.

 “Conditional Love” is a rad song but also a really cool looking 7″ single. Can you tell me about the design?
We wanted to keep it minimalistic.

LP Jacket-Outlines.indd

Has being in Germany had an effect on your music or lyrics? Lou Reed and David Bowie in Berlin, Kraftwerk being Kraftwerk, Clash in Hamburg. Is it as rockin’ as it seems from the outside? Does anyone call you Kilometer Marker?
Sure. I think any place people live has an effect on their music, and Germany is no different for us, not only in terms of just Al and I living there for a long time and the societal and political differences, but also from the influences of and musical interaction with Lena and Ezra.

Germany has a long history with good music and there are plenty of good bands there. No one has ever called us Kilometer Marker until just now.

Have you been playing shows in Germany? Is it still a blast being back on stage after so many bands, so many years?
We have been playing quite a bit around the EU. Being back on stage with Milemarker is a blast. Everything came together naturally and easily and we’re all having a great time doing it. If it wasn’t like that, we simply wouldn’t be doing the band. No reason to spend 3+ weeks at a time on the road if you’re not having fun doing what you’re doing.

Any cool bands, scenes, zines, or cryptoids in Germany we need to know about?
“Need to know about” could be strong phrasing (depending on one’s individual reliance on new things), but there are loads of things happening over there. It is a country of 80 million people with a rich history of interesting things in terms of music and art.

It’s too complicated to fully get into for a little Q&A, but what’s it like coming back to the U.S. right now? I think it used to be an adventure going to Europe from the U.S but now it might be the other way around!
Personally, I’m having a great time touring the U.S. I’ve been touring primarily in Europe for the last 9 years, so what used to be the “unknown” has become normal. You know the bad cities, the good cities, and probably how to get around a lot of them, at least in terms of finding that good coffee shop of the music store. So it’s more or less reversed roles with the relationship I used to have with the U.S.

29267489785_dccc3e628b_k

On the other hand, there is a very in-your-face type of reverse culture shock coming back to the U.S. I’ve been in Europe so long that I’ve literally forgotten how to do some things in the U.S., and technology has progressed here at a dramatic rate compared to that which Germany has embraced. For instance, we “need” a credit card reader at the merch table now. That’s a new concept for us. I mean, we’ve heard about them but I’ve never seen anyone use one in Europe, and it seems that everyone here has one, regardless of their age or what they sell. Just taking a guess here, but I imagine vendors at flea markets here have them and the patrons at flea markets have some sort of fleamarket.xxx type of app where they can find out the median price for a rusty candle stick made out of antler and iron.

On another note, I’m always amazed by how much trash we generate during a tour in the U.S., compared to the same length tour in Europe. That’s always a shocker to come back to. You wouldn’t necessarily think that 7-8 years of living outside the U.S. would be long enough to evaporate the rhythm of being here, but it is amazing how quickly one becomes acquainted to different standards. I saw a woman yesterday in a truck stop filling up a 1-gallon plastic cup with cola and immediately had the urge to take a photo of her as if she were a woolly mammoth in a zoo (I refrained). That’s the type of thing that seems “exotic” to me about coming back to the U.S., though it’s clearly something familiar to it all. Like finding a photo buried deep in a box I haven’t looked into for years.

But the obvious other element involved in your question is the current political situation. In that sense, it is a curious time to be touring here. Lots being said about that at the moment from every imaginable angle. In attempt to keep my bit on it short, I find it sad that there is currently such a tremendous divide between people, but I also find it encouraging and heartening to see the political push back that is happening. That gives me hope. Brian Eno wrote an excellent article on the current political situation roughly asserting that this was not the beginning of the end, but the end of the ending and thus the beginning of a new era. Everyone is disenfranchised and soon there will be a time that we all figure out how to work together for the good of everyone. Let’s hope the optimistic vision weighs out here and we can wrap up this ending.

Besides seeing Brian in D.C., what do you look forward to most about the U.S. tour? Foods, dudes, gear, classic rock while driving on freeways instead of autobahns?
Unfortunately we’re going to miss Brian as we’re not hitting the East Coast this time. But there’s a lot we’re all looking forward to. I love driving through the desert, so I’m excited to be going back there. Part of the idea of the tour was to escape Germany during the winter. It’s dark and grey there with very little fluctuation as to those elements: dark and grey. As such, we decided to go towards the best weather we could find. Texas to CA. Certainly can’t argue with those climates during February. So yea, call it our vitamin D and sunshine tour.

Check out the band at milemarkerwebpresence.com and lovitt.com and then stalk them at facebook.com. See em live and buy stuff from the merch table, too.

SoCal dates:
Tuesday, February 14 – San Diego at the Casbah
Wednesday, February 15 – Los Angeles at the Echo
Thursday, February 16 – SF at Bottom of the Hill

Public education’s not dead–yet

011917-school_trump_at_castelar1

It’s safe to say that each of us who protested our 45th president’s appointment of an unqualified, inexperienced, and pro-privatization billionaire to Secretary of Education was horrified (if not surprised) when the Senate and Second in Command confirmed her place in the White House Cabinet this week.

011917-school_trump_at_castelar2

The Secretary of Education’s lack of knowledge was displayed for all to see in public hearings and disapproval by authorities on education was overwhelming. That hefty donations from her family to conservative causes–not to mention every single Senator that voted for her–might be sufficient to secure her place in the Cabinet is outrageous and should be embarrassing to all Americans. Our children are up for sale, just like the environment.

eaglerock

DeVos’s vision for education is not clear–perhaps not even to her–but we can expect a push for vouchers directing more public money to private, virtual, religious and for-profit schools. We can expect less regulation when it comes to assisting and protecting  English learning, special needs, and low-income students. Her family donating millions to anti-LGBT groups should strike fear in yet another group of at-risk kids.

dalia

I’m hoping that this moment will not sink but galvanize supporters of public schooling for everyone. The day before the current regime took office, teachers and families across Los Angeles woke up early and stood outside in the rain to show support for their public schools. At least 30 of us met outside my daughter’s school in Chinatown, Castelar, and family and friends passed along photos of like-minded gatherings at Eagle Rock, Dalia, and Glenfeliz elementary schools.

16343662_10154281800948017_324271053_n

The awareness and activism of parents has been swelling. Last year, the Castelar community fought off  co-location by a charter school, and we families shared information and strategies with peers at others’ schools who faced similar threats. This year and moving forward we will  continue to work together to protect and improve our public schools in spite of federal leadership or lack thereof.

16105771_10158003160545507_8755556303142729881_n

Public education is not perfect, but many of us are willing to work on it and fight for it.

Thank you for Save Music in Chinatown 11: Rikk Agnew Band, Ford Madox Ford, Rough Kids, Florida Mistakes

smic11-roughkids3

My friend Daryl said that our eleventh Save Music in Chinatown show might have been his favorite one so far. And who am I to argue with a guy who holds down the fort at RazorCake magazine and KCHUNG?

kchung1

Of course Daryl and Gabie at KCHUNG are two friends who always carve out time from their radio shows to help us get the word out. I think it’s really cool that Gabie’s Crystalline Morphologies program is not only scheduled early enough that Eloise can go on the air, but is also archived for streaming and downloading.

rikkatkxlu

We get help from so many friends. There’s also Cyrano and Lotus (a.k.a. Steve and Max) at KXLU’s Molotov Cocktail Hour. On their show, we had Rikk Agnew on the air to pick songs from the great new Rikk Agnew Band LP, and vintage solo stuff, Adolescents, and Christian Death, and share Hong Kong Cafe anecdotes from his storied punk rock life, too. Super cool!

smic11-lp3

At the show it itself, we saw a lot of old friends coming out to support the cause. There was LP3 and Carrie. Louie played for us with Evil Hearted You way back when and will return with LP3 & The Tragedy sooner than later.

smic11-bob

Bob Forrest has played for us twice, solo at our first show ever and then with The Bicycle Thief. Holy cow, I can’t believe that reunion happened at one of our little shows. Were you there?

smic11-ethandavelisa

And how about longtime supporters Lisa Fancher from Frontier Records and David O. Jones from Alice Bag Band, Carnage Asada, Deadbeats, and a bunch of other cool projects coming out early enough to see Rough Kids?smic11-rough2

More old and new friends: Paul from Rough Kids with Paul and Nick from Escape Artist. Nick played for us in FourEyedFour and will come back with 16 Again one of these days!smic11-roughflyboys

There was an Alice Bag sighting, too. How rad was it for her to come out to Chinatown and say hi to Chip, who was co-headlining our show with Ford Madox Ford. Decades ago, they used to play in the Bags and Dils, respectively, right across the courtyard at the Hong Kong Cafe!

smic11-patchip

I was especially happy to see my friend Jaime not only get time off from work to attend the show but jump on stage to sing with the Rikk Agnew Band. When I was in college, I used to go to the Anti-Club almost every weekend to see him play with the Chemical People on bills with ALL and Big Drill Car.

smic11-morejaime

After seeing him so often at shows and then Hollywood Book and Poster we became friends, breaking the barrier between stage (even ones a foot tall) and crowd. One small step on the way to putting on these benefit shows…

smic11-rikk3

Of course, there was my good friend Nate who helps behind the scenes of every single show. Although he’s elusive like Bigfoot, this time I got a blurry picture of him with Chip and Scott from Ford Madox Ford. But how did I miss photos of Vicki, Horace, and Clare–the latter two all the way from London?smic11-chipnatecrew

Besides being excited and grateful to the Florida Mistakes, Rough Kids, Ford Madox Ford, and Rikk Agnew Band and everyone who showed up, I don’t have a real story to tell except that a lot of people out there want to make a difference and help out in some way.

smic11-fm2

I don’t have a radio show, play in a band, release records, or make awesome cookies. But if I can help those people get together to help kids in Chinatown receive music education at their public school, what can you do? What difference can you make?

smic11-bakecrew

Thanks again to the Grand Star, the bands, the bake sale crew, raffle donors, everyone who came, and everyone who spread the word. We’ll do it again at the Grand Star on Sunday, May 7 and be ready for some top-shelf garage punk rock ‘n’ roll…

smic11-blurrykids

Best blurry picture ^ v Gung hay fat choy!

smic11-confetti