Monday, May 5, 2008

Music that Sounds Like Raymond Pettibon Drawings

One time when I was a teenage skate rat I tried to interview Ed Templeton for my zine only he thought I was hitting on him and wouldn't do it. If you knew me as a teenager (or even now) you would know that is the most ridiculous thing to think. I am the least flirtatious person on earth and I am such a champion nerd that I can launch into a 5000 word dissertation on the relative merits of late period Black Flag instrumentals with no notion that the dude I am talking to would way rather be um doing other things than listening to me demonstrate what a total dork I am. I used to hang out with this dude who looked at me incredulously when I said I would never be able to play the guitar parts on The Wipers' Youth of America. I mean for me the guitar sound on that record is kind of epic and mythic/ mysterious and thus unimaginable in the context of my mere hands. For him it would probably be a lazy evening's project. It's just a guitar part. It's just a studio trick. Except it isn't!
It's the sound of bad weather, bad drugs, paranoia, weird alien conspiracies, evenings alone, walks through isolated parts of town at the wrong moment in time. It totally evokes the North West- an isolated doomed, weather-beaten down/too many drugs genius sound. It's not something you can replicate with your hands, you could maybe make an approximation of, or maybe even an exact replica. But it would be wrong somehow. Even if you decided to do a band using the idea of that as your masterplan it would not sum up an entire paranoid universe that doesn't actually exist. Except in your head when you listen to Youth of America. Too many people wanna do a band like VOID and just make a bad metal douche sound instead. Or they wanna do a band that's along the lines of the Dead C and somehow they can't get the atmospherics quite right and instead of hexed transcendence you are very aware of the collection of devices connected to the guitar spread out on the floor, spoils of a pawn shop pedal spree. Meaning that there is some weird chemical reaction that separates the sound from the scene depiction of. Endless Re-enactments! Doomed to Dream!
Therefore no one should do anything ever again.
I want weirdo mutants not shambolic dudes who smoke a lot of pot and get a lot of ass and keep it on the regular regularly. I like having an idea of music and not having that idea ruined by actually meeting the musicians and finding out they're just regular folx, which I guess is me playing my part in upholding the myth of rocknroll. Basically I want music to be as it is in my head, not made by actual humans that participate in actual human interactions. Not too much to ask? Ho Ho HO. (YOU WILL NEVER MAKE A SOUND THAT'S AS LIBERATING AS THE GUITAR ON VOID'S EXPLODE! DON'T EVEN TRY! )
What is it about a person or a band or an idea that makes you want to create your own thing rather than just consume theirs? What makes you feel like a fan eternally stuck in the audience as opposed to the feeling that makes you think that you have something to contribute to what is happening on stage. That you could make your own weirdo version of it. Endless offshoots vs starry eyed worship. I like reading old Minutemen interviews because they were such dork fans, so obsessed and reverent and yet the music they made was a total irreverent celebration of this, they kind of turned being a total fan into this other thing. This joyful inclusive sound that makes the listener feel part of something worth investigating and yet very aware that what they are listening to is (a disruptive) part of rocknroll and thus in itself fanworthy. See also: first Meat Puppets 7". The music creates a world in which you are able to exist. But you have to also create your own thing to remain an active participant is the process, not a reproduction antique.
This is all connected. If you have been following my fascinating journey through life and thusly fervently reading these columns on a month to month basis you will know that I went to the Great Pacific North West for the Sex Vid 7" release rather than going to the upcoming punk rage fest, Chaos In Tejas. (Though I may still go to that? Um, probably not since it seems it'll ultimately cost more in the $400 range and I live more in the minus 400 dollar range) At anyrate, Olympia, the city of ghosts of former ideas and happenings; definitely was weird to be there in the context of Sex Vid rather than a Yo Yo a Go Go or Ladyfest. Felt way less frantic and run around and more weird and fucked up like a slowed down Wipers guitar part or driving round listening to Thrones in the end times.
We flew into Seattle and it was fuckin snowing, the airport had a weird sterile rock/zen garden that we sat in and watched the snow fall. I spent the flight reading this book, Enter Naomi, SST, LA and All That by Joe Carducci which Hubbs' lent me months ago. I was totally consumed by it to the point that I was one of those douchebags that reads whilst walking along, all the way to where Sam and RJ were waiting for us by the curb. Enter Naomi was written as a result of finding out two years after the fact that the SST house photographer Naomi Peterson had died. It works as a history of SST and Black Flag from an insiders perspective, Carducci was the Label Manager I think, but as it says on the subject line on the back cover "Music/Photography/Women/Los Angeles." While not quite a memoir, though it sort of is that too, it's more about the women of SST and the history of punk and how music and place and scene and scum bag geniuses make things transcendent and digusting at once. There were a few moments where I felt the depictions of the women were off; just felt like they were kind of cartoon 'crazy wild lady!' which is to say a little one dimensional. And I'm not saying that the women/girls of early LA punk/SST weren't wild, more that the characterizations seemed a little fetishistic/simplistic in certain places, but really that's kind of a minor quibble.

In using Naomi's life trajectory as his starting point Carducci creates a really refreshing way of covering familiar punk-rock-history-book territory, ie the Myth of Black Flag™. The book switches from biographical detail, of Naomi, of LA, of Medea, the woman that inspired Jealous Again, to all lower-case emails sent from other lost SST girls, and his own esoteric memories elicited from a certain photograph or flier. He details the exact manner in which Naomi managed to go from random punk girl in distress/potential groupie to scene photographer for one of the most important record labels in one of the least women friendly environments. You will lose a day to this book I swear. It works as a great companion piece to Get In The Van or the punk planet Flag interviews, and opens up another LA where the Bukowski antihero is a woman who doesn't quite get eaten by the scene/society but loses and gains something else in terms of identity and memory. The fliers and ephemera; photos, recording notes, press releases, post cards, diaries add to the collage like nature of the book. It's like a conversation rather than a broadcast if that makes sense and really opens up a world like the best books do.

I also read RJ's old Forced Exposures which made me rue the lack of great music zines, I know the internet, the internet, blah blah blah, but there's nothing as wide reaching, insane, creepy, funny and obsessive as that zine in existence now. That's a definite call to arms by the way. Half of Sex Vid live across from a place that sells Rippin' Tacos. RJ said he used to be vegetarian but started to feel the meat vibrations a few years back, which could the name of your new zine? Right? Super creepy. MEAT VIBRATIONS. Rippin Tacos is your fake OC Reagan band. We sat in on a SEX VID practise sesh minus Judd, which Hubbs' is bootlegging as I write this. $80 of ebay gold; imagine the NECROS trying to play INTEGRITY VOCAL TEST. Livin the Dream tapes. Also watch out for Sue's Meat Puppets 1st 7" Brooklyn basement scene explosion 2010 future. Heard some gnarly stories about a 20 yr old Iraqi war vet who is now an anti-war campaigner. Total annihilation. Sam's drums randomly smashed the back window of his car in the car park of the pizzeria where the show, which was free with Iron Lung and Sisters and ltd ed. ebay gold merch, was going to be in Oly. My best friend called me because she was walking home from attending a Boredoms show at 1am alone by the river Charles on the opposite coast and malevolent dark forms kept appearing from the shadows.
Of course Sex Vid were fucking great live-kids were doing flips off the pizza counter into the crowd and the new shit sounds incredible played in such circumstances, totally brutal brain damage LSD math genius disturbance. Heavy like late nights/early mornings/which is which? I liked Sisters a lot, but saw a lot of Evol/Sister replicants when I was a teenage grunge fan so wanted more from them kind of? Especially in regards to the dude that apes Thurston's voice so mechanically. He definitely needs to figure out how to not do that. Kanako's voice is super rad, though she only sang on one song and I really dug her Moe Tucker channeled thru Jesus and Mary Chain drumming style. Iron Lung also were great, like them waaaay better live than on record tho the new LP cover art is next level greatness.

Listened to lots of BATS LPs and 12"s, the Dead C White house 12" and bought some weirdo mid 80s battle of the bands/Cramps mutation shit-fi 7" with photocopied on legal paper cover with incredibly intricate autistic doom art that was moulding. Also heard more Ween hanging out with Sue and RJ than I did for the entire 90s and 00s combined. Bummerz. No sleep pretty much except on a dirty mattress in some junkie kid's apt in Olympia while a life long Petty Crime fan tried to get me to tell him something I couldn't figure out. (Petty Crime was my teenage artpunker band with aforementioned best friend)
Sex Vid will be playing my backyard some summer afternoon; SF's alright if you like saxophones/green drugs/feeling like earth.

1-CAMPINGSEX 1914 double LP reissue

2-Late period Black Flag on headphones
3-Suburban Lawns-Janitor

4-Nixe 7" and rumors of a LP discography

5-Breakfast Without Meat zine, the issue with the Black Flag interview

6-My future contains a Thera knitted Faith/Void scarf

7-The Brat on the cpver of Lowrider magazine Feb 82 Issue. NEED THIS, also the fact that The Brat are putting out a discog. With unreleased songs…. Dreamy!

8-Coffee in Seattle is delicious, coffee at Seattle airport is a shitsystem

9-Angry Grunge Dude #1: "You Have Great Thighs©"

layla.gibbon at (older columns I wrote are here)