photo by nacrowe
this week we are focusing on LOGAN, DEER GOD recording engineer and 1/2 of the indie dance-pop group ACE & THE MIGHTY GAN. after the lease expired on [the end] recording studio in greenpoint a few years ago, many of the engineers came out to staten island with BRIAN to setup a new studio in the historic KREISCHER MANSION. during this formative period (DEER GOD wasn't founded until a year and a bit later) LOGAN was instrumental in reestablishing the new location and maintaining the sprawling estate. he even began growing arugula and lettuce on the premise, that is until the deer reclaimed their territory and ate everything.
LOGAN has worked closely with in recent years with artists like chilean musician GO and YEASAYER. he is known for vocal abilities and propensity for stacking vocals in a mix, which is a tricky thing to do (so i've been told since i am not a recording engineer).
he is also a talented musician that i have seen play several gigs around NYC. he was nice enough to serve as our guinea pig when we were figuring out how to go about filming our KREISCHER MANSION SESSIONS live music series. below is our first, and ultimately unpublished, episode taken from the widow's walk on the top floor of the mansion. enjoy.
photo by nacrowe
recently i finished reading this book CHASING DEATH: THE IMPROBABLY HISTORY OF DEATH METAL & GRINDCORE (BAZILLION POINTS, 2016) by DECIBEL MAGAZINE editor-in-chief ALBERT MUDRIAN. it very much gets into the weeds on how both these genres developed out of teenagers in the mid-80s who were looking for a more intense expression for their rage in the wake of the HARDCORE and THRASH METAL scenes in both the industrial midlands of britain and the eastern seaboard of the united states.
my impetus for exploring this genre was partly to provide context to a host of bands i've enjoyed over the years including PIG DESTROYER, NAPALM DEATH, CARCASS, DEATH, THE LOCUST, MORBID ANGEL, SUFFOCATION, CANNIBAL CORPSE, BOLT THROWER, GORGUTS, NILE, IMMOLATION, AUTOPSY among countless others.
what i didn't expect to find was the relative obscurity of bands that made a truly global impact due to the international tape-trading scene of that pre-internet age. case in point: DEEP WOUND from western massachusetts and the pre-DINOSAUR JR harcore band of J MASCIS. despite their relatively minor status in the BOSTON hardcore scene of which they were on the periphery stylistically, socially and geographically, their music which was more intense, uptempo and chaotic made them a must-have for tape collectors seeking their next fix of more extreme music as far away as JAPAN, SWEDEN, HOLLAND, GERMANY and the UK. despite being a regional act, their influence abroad far outweighed their geographic limitations and proved to be influential in the scene. that cross-polination of the HARDCORE, INDIE and extreme metal scenes wasn't something i was aware of but makes sense given that their supporters (american college radio, JOHN PEEL at BBC1) were equally open-minded, even during this formative stage.
even the amount of label infrastructure that came about to support and profit from this burgeoning yet seemingly hopelessly unprofitable scene is staggering in its own right and has benefitted countless other extreme genres in its wake (and, er, NICKLEBACK). this includes most predominantly:
COMBAT RECORDS (DEATH, POSSESSED)
METAL BLADE RECORDS (CANNIBAL CORPSE)
RELAPSE RECORDS (AMORPHIS, NILE, ICANTATION, DYING FETUS, SUFFOCATION, PIG DESTROYER)
EARACHE RECORDS (NAPALM DEATH, CARCASS, BOLT THROWER, MORBID ANGEL, TERRORIZER, BRUTAL TRUTH)
NECROSIS RECORDS (REPULSION, CARNAGE)
PEACEVILLE RECORDS (AUTOPSY, AT THE GATES, OPETH)
ROADRUNNER RECORDS (DEICIDE, OBITUARY, PESTILENCE, IMMOLATION, SEPULTURA)
CENTURY MEDIA (GRAVE, ASPHYX, ARCH ENEMY)
NUCLEAR BLAST (DISMEMBER, IN FLAMES)
the book is definitely worth looking into if you are interested in getting a broad overview of the history of the scene. like any comprehensive book on a given genre, reading this has helped me rediscover stuff i hadn't thought of in a while and made me consider how diverse and complex fringe music can be.
tonight's episode of DEER GOD RADIO at 6PM on MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC is dedicated to the profound cultural legacy of DAVID BOWIE.
past episodes of DEER GOD RADIO as well as other MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC shows like MAKE HER SPACE, NOWHERE FAST and THE SYNTHESIZER SHOW are available here at the DEER GOD website.
watch HERE as JEN and MAGIE catch us all up on what they've been up to this past month, including last week's cancelled LA ISLA BONITA FESTIVAL. they also alert us to upcoming events in the community.
past episodes of MAKE HER SPACE as well as other MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC shows like DEER GOD RADIO, NOWHERE FAST, and THE SYNTHESIZER SHOW are available here at the DEER GOD website.
man back in the day i worshiped this dude.
or at least i projected my insecurities as a young adult on him. as a lanky white dude of average appearance i loved the self-made gusto in which he created a whole interior world unto the lyrics and soundscapes of THE SMASHING PUMPKINS. his music was lush and inventive, often exploring textures and feels throughout his songs that almost served as little operatic suites. i can definitely see the SHOEGAZE, 70s PROG ROCK and METAL influences years later, but he definitely made them his own.
what i didn't foresee was how poorly the actual person dated past his prime. now i just see a sad old narcissist that's more of a cultural vampire than any breed of visionary as he once was back in the 90s. to tell you the truth, his support of DONALD TRUMP and conspiracy theories surrounding OBAMA has made me reevaluate everything about this dude.
in old interviews BILLY CORGAN would often opine about the then-current state of rock music and his place within it, often posturing his latest release as not being properly appreciated by an elite music press that didn't share his mid-western sensibilities. except this was all complete bullshit. CORGAN to this day positions himself as an outsider because it relieves him of taking responsibility for his actions, like bad career choices (cough, cough, ZWAN) and treating his fellow musicians horribly.
i love the fact that the fawning press that once celebrated his accomplishments (ROLLING STONE, SPIN, NME, etc.) are now all largely legacy publications or essentially rendered irrelevant in a new media environment ripe with blogs and websites (PITCHFORK, CONSEQUENCE OF SOUND, STEREOGUM, etc.) that question his place in the pantheon of 90s alt rock luminaries. these new gatekeepers are more in line aesthetically with bands like PAVEMENT than the THE SMASHING PUMPKINS. and CORGAN is pissed painting himself predictably as the victim.
its crazy because i still love listening to GISH and SIAMESE DREAM from time to time, but the dude is just such a disappointment. its a real bummer because he was one of the most gifted songwriters of his era, capable of creating lilting delicate ballads and blazing neo-SABBATH riffage on the same album side.
too bad he is a shitty, self-involved narcissistic bully that preys on his bandmates and paints himself a victim of circumstance, opportunity, geography, timing, waah waaah waaaaah waaaaaaaaaaah.
i think it just goes to show that you really have to separate the art from the artist at times and for me, CORGAN is the poster boy of that. i have accepted that the same person that wrote "1979", "Stand Inside Your Love", "By Starlight", "Mayonaise" "Perfect" and "Rhinoceros" is the same fellow that repeatedly goes on INFOWARS.
spending my early formative years in southern california, i have a soft spot for SURF MUSIC or really anything that reminds me of summertime at the beach in general. what makes this los angeles-by-way-of-seattle indie rock band LA LUZ so compelling is that they managed to provide a really cool spin on that sound by relocating it emotionally to a place of vulnerability rather than celebration.
now i recognize that composer BRIAN WILSON from what I read in the excellent biography CATCH A WAVE (RODALE BOOKS, 2007) reconfigured the music of his youth, namely vocal quartets, by utilizing rich harmonies and PHIL SPECTOR-esque "wall of sound" production techniques as a means by which to give expression to his intense feelings of alienation and social anxiety. in this manner the music of THE BEACH BOYS is actually quite tragic in that it relates a fantasy that is almost a carnival-esque inversion of his actual mindset. culturally however the music he championed and ingeniously constructed is the soundtrack to simple idyllic fantasies of long weekends, sunshine and bikinis.
perhaps LA LUZ recognized the potential to use SURF MUSIC as a means of transmitting alienation since they play off expectations associated with the sound of reverb-drenched, staccato single-note run embellished with the full-throated sound of a Hammond organ. vocal melodies, often as a chorus, are delivered deadpan almost inviting you to listen even closer to the lyrics despite the lushness of the sound carrying on around you.
this band is an excellent example of bending a sound to your own will and make it your own. i deeply enjoy their music and recommend it highly. please check them out.
watch HERE for our most recent episode of DEER GOD RADIO where we abused and eviscerated our listenership by pummeling them with nothing but brutal, unforgiving, hardcore DEATH METAL. damn straight.
past episodes of DEER GOD RADIO as well as other MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC shows like MAKE HER SPACE, NOWHERE FAST, and THE SYNTHESIZER SHOW are available here at the DEER GOD website.
i first saw KINJI FUKASAKU's brutally intense film BATTLE ROYALE (2000) in high school when i was in KUWAIT and didn't really understand it until i taught high school years later at an international school in JAPAN.
the film deals with a series of japanese high school students that are whisked away to an island where they are reluctant participants in a sadistic televised game where only one student survives. each participant is given a weapon and a collar attached to their throat with explosives. each hour that someone isn't killed results in a random collar being detonated. the film is beyond vicious and the premise is pretty terrifying.
when i saw it as a high school student i didn't latch on to any of the underlying themes or embedded criticism of the japanese public school system. i saw it purely on a visceral level of going along the ride of the narrative. its too bad, because what FUKASAKU was describing was very pertinent to my experience attending school in the MIDDLE EAST where conformity was beyond intense, in fact NOT CONFORMING could result in your family losing their visa privileges.
i should backtrack slightly. KUWAIT only allows christians and muslims into their country officially, looking the other way with common domestic and service industry workers from predominantly buddhist and hindu countries in SOUTHEAST ASIA and the INDIAN SUBCONTINENT. common workers were virtual 3rd or 4th class citizens. westerners were definite 2nd class citizens and seen as guests in their country, so long as they weren't jewish. this meant that at my high school any mention of jews, buddhists, hindus, homosexuals, etc. in written form were forbidden from publication, which is exactly why i wrote about those subjects every chance i could. my term papers literally had to be burned or else my teacher stood the risk of being deported.
back to the film. when i taught high school in YOKOHAMA i really got a close-up look at japanese culture and the psychological toll it took on students that didn't fit in. by that i mean literally students that were not fully japanese. i had students that were a mix of japanese and turkish/uszbeki/pakistani/korean/chinese/american parentage. the school was specifically made to cater to the mixed crowd due to the notorious OVERWHELMING BRUTALITY of the japanese public school system.
JAPAN is a conservative culture that is very traditional and for them being japanese means having 100% japanese blood. if you are 50% japanese, by their measure you are NOT japanese. i learned from my students the levels of unrelenting torment they received from other students, both in class and online, from former peers at public schools for not being japanese enough. apparently the suicide rate is very high among students in japan, partly because of bullying, partly because of parental pressure to succeed.
when i taught at STUYVESANT HIGH SCHOOL in MANHATTAN there was this thing called an "Asian Fail" which was any grade below a 95. essentially not getting an A+ to traditional chinese/koream/japanese parents meant you failed and the familial pressure was intense. locks on windows were everywhere there as a precaution for possible suicide attempts, which sadly were not uncommon.
BATTLE ROYALE in a dramatic manner questions why the japanese public school system is so intense, effectively creating an environment were even those that survive are traumatized by the experience. the film questions if the cost is worth the benefit of having a homogenious society that accepts and relishes its traditions. this story very much reminds me of SHIRLEY JACKSON's 1948 short story "The Lottery," which similarly critiques the cost of unquestioned traditions and cultural practices that effectively hurt the population.
as somebody who experienced such sanctioned toxicity in two places, this film has served as a mirror to those concerns that makes me rethink my assumptions each time i watch it. just a brutal film of the highest caliber. required viewing.
watch HERE the latest episode of THE SYNTHESIZER SHOW on MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC where hosts Vince and Reed return with a second playlist that chronologically walks the listener through the history of the synthesizers over the past 40+ years.
as always, you can access past episodes of THE SYNTHESIZER SHOW via the DEER GOD website as well as those of MAKE HER SPACE, NOWHERE FAST and DEER GOD RADIO.
last christmas was the perfect time to take stock and celebrate the omnipresent hellscape that is the current TRUMPOCALPYSE we are all living through by playing nothing but 1980s HARDCORE.
at the time i was revisiting the subject by reading two books on the subject: Lexicon Devil (2002, Feral House) by Brendan Muller and American Hardcore: A Tribal History (2001, Feral House) by Stephen Blush. both are oral histories of the scene. the second publication was the impetus for an excellent 2006 documentary on the subject also titled American Hardcore (Sony Pictures). while we are on the subject, i would also recommend the 2014 documentary Salad Days (New Rose Films) on the 1980s D.C. punk scene as well as the SOCIAL DISTORTION documentary Another State of Mind (Time Bomb, 1984) and, of course, PENELOPE SPHEERIS' classic The Decline of Western Civilization (Spheeris Films, 1981). and now i'm just gonna push my luck by also recommending two books by JOHN DOE of X, Under the Big Black Sun: A Personal History of L.A. Punk (Da Capo Press, 2016) and the recently published sequel More Fun in the New World: The Unmaking and Legacy of L.A. Punk (Da Capo Press, 2019).
the immediacy of the music is the draw for me. there is a no-bullshit, take-it-or-leave-it aesthetic to 80s hardcore. it is what it is. if you want musicianship, go listen to RUSH or your parent's stuff. if you want a soundtrack to brutality, you are in the right place. politically i don't understand how this music or something in the spirit of it doesn't exist today. as bad as RONALD REAGAN was, he's nothing compared to our current RAPIST-IN-CHIEF.