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 below is our first, and ultimately unpublished, episode taken from the widow's walk on the top floor of the mansion.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.
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.
one of my all-time favorite writers. and not just because he writes about the part of brooklyn my family is from.
in the united states there is this force-fed optimism shoved down our throats since birth through our education systems and mass media that basically propagates the narrative that if you work hard enough, good things will happen. reading any HUBERT SELBY JR novel essentially an exercise in looking the AMERICAN DREAM straight in the face and laughing at it. and not one of those belly laughs were you see the folly, but one of those nervous ones were you realize how much of your identity is swallowed up in this hollow fantasy.
the three novels of his i am familiar with are LAST EXIT TO BROOKLYN (1964), THE DEMON (1976) and REQUIEM FOR A DREAM (1978). two obviously have been made into excellent film adaptations by ULI EDEL and DARREN ARANOFSKY, respectively. love them both but such will be the topic for another post. what unites them all is a sense of competing drives, not necessarily good vs bad, but constructive vs destructive tendencies brought on by ambition. the central question of his novels is "what is it that we want?" and "what is the price of attaining it to your psyche?"
his characters tend to have what SIGMUND FREUD would recognize as a very strong will to self-destruct, or as he termed it, a "death-drive." all of his protagonists (incidentally all share the name "Harry" in his novels) seek validation through community, money, vice, or otherwise and in each case they get into trouble. its almost like he chooses each novel as a way of elucidating different facets of how the AMERICAN DREAM is a hoax and a quixotic fallacy on par with any other human construction (family, religion, community) used to motivate a sense of identity. in terms of narrative the protagonist's character arc is inverted, as you undoubtedly encounter them initially at their highest point, the peak of their powers and sanity. from here on out its a downward spiral, with any solace in brief periods of calm merely red herrings making the free-fall to come that much more brutal and inhumane.
it is a dark, bleak and ultimately realistic portrayal of reality. when i read his work i am often thinking about my own motivations, goals and what the actual cost of such are. yes in america there is opportunity, but what is the price of the success we seek? what are you giving up to achieve it and fundamentally who are you at the end of that process? what has that process done to your sense of self? that is the gift of his work in my opinion. they are almost bitterly self-reflective in nature in a way few others are.
as a former english teacher i really appreciate the fact that his characters are so singular and well-constructed that HUBERT SELBY JR imposed a very unique writing style where he would not use quotes and never specifies what characters say what at the end of sentence. characters speak in all caps and by context you know who said what without being told. it is a really neat trick that just further showcases the depth of his writing.
other side note: THE SMITHS' THE QUEEN IS DEAD album is named after a chapter in LAST EXIT TO BROOKYLN. just saying.
my brother's ex-girlfriend clued me into this band nearly two years ago when i returned stateside from MYANMAR. at that point i felt utterly discombobulated emotionally (i had decided to not pursue my teaching career any further), geographically and politically. DRAB MAJESTY's 2017 effort THE DEMONSTRATION turned out to be the perfect soundtrack to that feel of isolation and detachment.
much like JAPANESE BREAKFAST hit a sweet spot with all the SHOEGAZE and INDIE ROCK bands i grew up loving, DRAB MAJESTY are basically an amalgamation of all my favorite 80s post-punk, GOTH ROCK and NEW WAVE bands, matching THE CURE's textual keyboards and droning guitar riffs with THE SMITHS' sense of melody and ringing guitar heroics.
plus they write really great songs. i cannot recommend them highly enough. they recently released a new album MODERN MIRROR that is definitely worth checking out in addition to their catalogue.
photo by karl burhop
ok i admit that its more than a little strange to write a profile on yourself. but here i go.
as creative director of DEER GOD i basically have a hand in everything we do that is non-audio. that basically boils down controlling/editing all things visual and written. of course we work as a team and frequently collaborate and take cues from one another, but i more or less take these efforts and produce the final product.
out of the whole team i am probably the last to the party in that i was not involved with audio or video production until a few years ago when i returned from overseas. for the better part of the last decade i was involved with education having taught secondary english abroad at international schools in MYANMAR, JAPAN, VENEZUELA as well as a stint as a peace corps volunteer in ALBANIA. my start as an educator was in NYC where i got my masters at COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY and had brief stints teaching at both BROOKLYN TECHNICAL HIGH SCHOOL (student teacher) and STUYVESANT HIGH SCHOOL (long-term substitute). my bad timing entering the field in the wake of the great recession meant that no new positions were available as older teachers delayed retirement and an effective freeze was put on new hires. thus i had an IVY LEAGUE degree and recommendations from two of the top public high schools in the nation, but no prospects.
so i went and taught overseas.
due to my parents work i spent time overseas growing up in NIGERIA (middle school) and KUWAIT (junior year of high school) and attended high school in both MASSACHUSETTS (NORTHFIELD MOUNT HERMON) and CALIFORNIA (ROCKLIN HIGH SCHOOL). oh yeah, and i was born in SPAIN.
my passion as long as i can remember photography as i would take photos of my travels (somehere around 60+ countries). i think my passion for other cultures and worldviews informed my (brief) teaching career and most definitely is a part of what i bring to my current visual work here at DEER GOD. if interested, check out my photos above.
the rest are linked HERE.
much like his previous book on another legendary SEATTLE musician (HEAVIER THAN HEAVEN / KURT COBAIN), ROOM FULL OF MIRRORS (HACHETTE, 2006) by CHARLES R. CROSS is a sensitive portrait of a transcendent cultural figure whose modesty and private introversion belied his public persona.
the striking thing i walked away from this book, aside from new knowledge of the formative experiences of JIMI HENDRIX on the chitlin' circuit as a hired gun for the likes of LITTLE RICHARD and THE ISLEY BROTHERS among others, was his evolution. ever expanding his musical lexicon to incorporate new ideas, technology, chemicals, etc as a means of further refining an expression of consciousness that only he could translate.
in a way he was a shaman, a gatekeeper temporarily transporting us to another reality. whenever i hear his music i feel the higher ideals he promoted so ardently, those notions of free love and brotherhood which seem so naive in the modern TRUMPOCALPYSE we are all currently living through. HENDRIX invites us to a metaphysical world that isn't defined by race, gender or worldly possessions, it is a landscape of sound and vibrations.
CROSS balances presenting the many sides of HENDRIX by those who knew him best while largely conceding that the man was a vagabond, a self-described gypsy that transcended his early modest upbringing to produce some of the most epochal music of the 20th century. he was HENDRIX not because of SEATTLE or his childhood, but because of the choices he made as a self-made entity. he was the ultimate cultural sponge, learning from all his experiences. his real genius in my opinion was his ability to contextualize blues, jazz and rock n' roll into a singular cohesive statement.
this genius of taking what came before and creating a new lexicon for all that came thereafter is something i can only point to composers/musicians like IGOR STRAVINSKY or LOUIS ARMSTRONG as comparable in the last century. he literally changed modern guitar playing, arguably the featured instrument of 20th century popular music.
regardless, this book is worth looking into as well as his equally excellent HEAVIER THAN HEAVEN about NIRVANA frontman KURT COBAIN.
in a previous life i was a high school english teacher straight out of graduate school looking for work and somehow found myself at STUYVESANT presenting what they call in the education field a "demo lesson." essentially you were supposed to present a demonstration lesson in front of students, faculty and (sometimes) administration so that they could see how you perform in a real-life situation with actual students. needless to say its pretty intense, only more so because this was STUYVESANT. for those who don't know, STUYVESANT HIGH SCHOOL is the top public high school (arguably top high school period) in new york state. the alumni list at that place is insane, filled with nobel laureates and famous writers, politicians, artists, business leaders, etc. as you can imagine.
but all i had to worry about was giving a lesson to a bunch of graduating AP English students. now what was funny is that i was one of 5 prospects presenting that day, i believe another 5 went the next day, all of them with multiple years experience. i had just completed a single semester teaching at BROOKLYN TECHNICAL HIGH SCHOOL. these other teachers came out of their demo lesson utterly dejected by their performance as the students had figured out their lesson in the first 5 minutes of a 30 minute lesson. that is the worst situation possible and to do it in front of potential peers and admin is gut-wrenching.
which brings me to WOLE SOYINKA. having lived in nigeria during my middle school years, i knew about SOYINKA given that him and CHINUA ACHEBE are their two most famous writers. i chose one of his poems entitled "Telephone Convesation" which was essentially his retelling of a conversation he had in England with a potential landlady over an apartment he wanted to occupy during an extended residency at a university as a lecturer. the poem basically showcases how the landlady was attempting to figure out how BLACK he was, and all the racist connotations that such entails.
the beauty of the poem is that it is written in a hyper-literate fashion basically showing off his vocabulary, use of complex meter schemes and complexity of thought. essentially to showcase on multiple levels how bankrupt of a human being this landlady was and the worldview that she more broadly represents. it is a challenging poem and i knew from presenting it that i could take it several ways depending on what the students threw back at me. essentially i started a tennis match of ideas and just ignored the other teachers and admin in the back. i think i may have gotten too comfortable and even made a stupid joke or two.
setting up a tennis match based on analysis and disciplined thought is what i loved about teaching. the idea that students come with their own angle on things and giving them the lexicon and background to help define and present their ideas effectively is what i lived for. i do miss teaching. here was the website from a previous class for any educators out there. feel free to steal anything i did in myanmar.
oh yeah, about STUYVESANT. didn't get the job initially, somebody wayyyyyy better than me got it. i did teach their eventually and learned that this SOYINKA poem got added to their curriculum at the time. which is still pretty cool.