somewhere along the way, legendary guitar player SCOTT IAN of THRASH METAL icons ANTHRAX learned he had a real gift for storytelling. his obvious mentor in this regard was HARDCORE frontman HENRY ROLLINS of BLACK FLAG/ROLLINS BAND fame who has maintained a longstanding second career as an in-demand spoken-word artist.
given his stature, IAN has seen things over his 30+ year career and his second memoir ACCESS ALL AREAS: STORIES FROM A HARD ROCK LIFE (DA CAPO PRESS 2017), which he penned himself, maintains his acerbic wit, cadence and voice. reading through this it is not hard to imagine him standing beside you performing each narrative as a spoken-word routine, which is definitely a compliment. there is a reason why most musicians don't write their own memoirs, and IAN proves himself a highly capable narrator. his style is very much utilitarian in that he doesn't get too wordy or overly clever with descriptions, which in a way describes his iconic no-sense rhythm guitar work and that of his musical idol, MALCOLM YOUNG of AC/DC.
obviously i don't want to give away any of the stories, but i will say that they deal with his outside pursuits regarding professional poker, moonlighting in tv shows like THE WALKING DEAD and GAME OF THRONES, relationships and of course touring. highlights include stories that include the pranks of legendary PANTERA guitarist DIMEBAG DARRELL (R.I.P.), hanging out with MADONNA and the wardrobe choices of the immortal LEMMY KILMISTER (R.I.P.) of the almighty MOTÖRHEAD.
IAN comes off as a hardworking musician more than aware of how fortunate he is to have his career and the respect of his peers and this book, along with the previous I AM THE MAN: THE STORY OF THAT GUY FROM ANTHRAX (DA CAPO PRESS 2014), seem to be a celebration of that community of musicians. a celebration of how they touched his life, so in that regard i hope he keeps writing.
also keep a look out for the dude in concert. just learned he's touring with MR. BUNGLE in 2020. MIKE PATTON and SCOTT IAN sharing a stage. man, life certainly does not suck.
art by nacrowe
tonight's episode of DEER GOD RADIO at 8PM on MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC is all about 2-TONE SKA and beyond. get ready to dance.
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.
ok i realize that BAD RELIGION by no means is a new band and that in the past i only highlighted recent, more obscure bands in this CHECK OUT THIS BAND series. but really i just felt the need to write about them.
with all this shit surrounding DONALD TRUMP and the dire future of american democracy conceivably going the way of a strong-man dictatorship like those i've lived under in the past (ALBANIA, NIGERIA, MYANMAR and VENEZUELA), its disheartening how few recording artists these days have explicitly addressed this sense of existential dread in an intelligent manner.
enter BAD RELIGION. they're whole career has been a rallying cry against corporate greed and fascism since the 1980s, but to continue doing so publicly at THIS stage during THIS political moment with THIS proto-fascist in charge is beyond admirable, its a necessity. i can't express how much i respect them for that, giving an intelligent voice for the opposition is unequivocally HARDCORE, absolutely PUNK ROCK. i would argue it is their finest hour.
i just wish other musicians would stop worrying about the music industry and how to maximize their market-share and consumer brand identification and just go for the jugular like these QUINQUAGENARIANS! it bothers me that a group of BABY BOOMERS are the only relevant cultural force out there addressing this sort of thing, but then maybe i shouldn't be that surprised with everyone inwardly concerned about their social media presence and sponsorship/cross-branding opportunities. just a shame.
we still have BAD RELIGION thankfully. support them and the organizations they assist. and register to vote. please.
and DENNIS RODMAN has been my favorite basketball player since childhood.
i know now in this "anything goes" TRUMP-era people, rightly so, criticize him for his naive efforts at international diplomacy and "friendship" with north korean dictator KIM JONG UN, but my reasons are wholly based on his performance on the court. at least mostly.
i'd be lying if i didn't say that one of the sports highlights of my childhood was watching him curse out MORMONS in an interview on live tv during the 1998 NBA FINALS. and he did it in the arena in SALT LAKE CITY. that was classic. and don't get it twisted, thats not me condoning hate speech. MORMONS have a complicated history with their racist beliefs regarding AFRICANS and NATIVE AMERICANS and their "missionary" efforts in AFRICA. so sue me.
what impresses me most about RODMAN was his work ethic and ability to make a career out of doing the unglamorous things that win games: rebounding and playing defense. raised in DALLAS by a single-mother, growing up he was anything but an athletic standout and often battled depression. he did not know his father (they wouldn't meet until his 30s) and he was even homeless at one point during his late teens, so battled sever issues regarding identity and attachment during a key developmental stage. in a league that was and still is star-driven, RODMAN was picked in the second round by the DETROIT PISTONS after attending a backwater, no-name NCAA DIVISION II school SOUTHEASTERN OKLAHOMA STATE. the fact that he willed himself to be a dominant player in the league is a testament to his drive and work ethic. in my mind his play, garnering him accolades (5x champion, 7x rebounding champion, 7x all-defensive first team, 2x defensive player of the year, 13.12 rebounds game/career average, hall of fame induction, no. 10 retired by DETROIT PISTONS) , spoke louder than his wedding dresses, dyed hair, tattoos and publicity stunts which in mind were his misguided way of seeking the love and affection he so desperately sought as a child.
he is a flawed, but so are the rest of us. and again, i respect that hell of out the guy. a HALL OF FAME career doing the unglamorous hard work on the floor that others don't want to do.
can't help but admire that.
family portrait from DOBRUNË
before i get into these interviews i should give a little background into why i did them.
THE UNIVERSITY OF VLORA
at the UNIVERSITY OF VLORA i was tasked with teaching students translation studies. now this is funny because due to my working in a university setting, my albanian language skills were a bit stunted relative to other volunteers, essentially because i spoke english all day. in fact, people knew i was a "professor" so pretty consistently people practiced with me at the market, on the street, at the gym, you get the idea. i made a choice early on that my facilitating their english-speaking skills trumped my need to master albanian. many are the PEACE CORPS volunteers that spend all their time on the language and not on their job in order to win a pissing contest within the PEACE CORPS community. as i made clear in PART 1 of this series, i wasn't concerned with the other volunteers and their opinions unless it would benefit my adopted community.
ok, so i am tasked with teaching translation but my albanian language skills are whatever. my thought to improve their writing was, ingeniously yet obviously, to make them write. unfortunately the educational system there was focused on a book and multiple-choice tests for certification. the book wasn't helping them, they'd master it through rote memorization and they still couldn't write or speak well. worse, the test made no sense and was arbitrary. this further minimized the effectiveness of the entire educational structure. these students were being trained to become written and spoken translators for foreign businesses and governments. that was the job everyone wanted.
my thought was to have students translate interviews they did with their elders and then translate them. these translations would be put on a website that i created (now long-since defunct) that would showcase the audio file and written translation that could be easily sent via text/e-mail to potential employers.
it was a good idea and it also afforded me the ability to have students record conversations with their grandparents. this was the genius part of the whole thing. PEACE CORPS at one point told us not to talk to albanians about life during communism, the KOSOVO CONFLICT, or anything political. this is exactly what my students asked their parents about and it gave me tons of insight and information that pepople don't ask or learn about. it was great.
usually there was a lead of someone i could interview. i would go there with a representative of that community who would explain who i was and that i was with PEACE CORPS and the UNIVERSITY OF VLORA and that i was collecting answers as part of an archive for future generations to learn from. i would show them the questions. after the interview, which i recorded on my iPhone, most often they'd be excited by the experience and tell me that other people in the community were better suited for my queries. this would result in moving up the ladder of participants.
DOBRUNË was the perfect example of this process since we interviewed several adult men who duruing the conflict 15 years before had run guns across the border into KOSOVO to assist the KLA (KOSOVO LIBERATION ARMY) in fighting off the genocide being perpeturated by SERBIA and SLOBODAN MILOŠEVIĆ. in that manner we worked our way up to the grandmother, who talked about how she only recently met her sister in KOSOVO after 30+ years due to strict travel rules during the communist reign of ENVER HOXHA. the support i got from this and other families is something i still hold dear.
family portrait in GODIN
the next day i went into the nearby border town of GODIN in KOSOVO, which was hit particularly hard by the SERBIAN ARMY during the conflict. MILOŠEVIĆ saw an opportunity during his election in 1997 to use an anniversary of a failed uprising by SERBIA against the OTTOMAN TURKS to mount an ethnic cleansing campaign against MUSLIMS in the region, including BOSNIA and KOSOVO. what was interesting about my initial meetings was that people referred to a family in DOBRUNË that brought them weapons at great personal cost. it was the very family i had interviewed the day before. that was intense.
i should state that the MUSLIMS in KOSOVO are predominantly ETHNIC-ALBANIAN, but ALBANIA is not a religion dominated by any religion. in fact, albanians have a saying that equates to "the only religion in ALBANIA is ALBANIAISM." in the north there is a slight majority towards ISLAM and in the south a slight majority of GREEK ORTHODOX.
the SERBIAN MILITARY's campaign against their own people included that of the people of GODIN, where soldiers had all males over the age of 5 lined up against a wall and shot in the head. its just brutal and unforgivable. people in the UNITED STATES like to throw around the word "terror" quite a bit. THIS IS TERRORISM. i spoke to several families here that had that traumatic experience. they showed me the wall in the center of town. it still gives me a chills.
there was one father i spoke with who enjoyed speaking about his son, long since passed. when we were introduced to him he was about to rest but instead brought us in and fed us. to me THAT HOSPITALITY is uniquely albanian. him and others participated i was told because they were happy that someone cared about their experience. that someone wanted to document it. that someone believed them. i took a photo of this father and his son in front of a portrait of his fallen son. it was a family portrait i sent back framed and have been told its still hanging on the wall.
to me this experience of doing interviews was the highlight of my time as a PEACE CORPS volunteer and i look back at it as one of the privileges of my life. the next and final part of this series will be on the paper i co-wrote and its presentation at a prestigious conference, but this moment speaking with the people of ALBANIA/KOSOVO border about their experiences during this fraught time is something i still carry with and appreciate the opportunity to listen and learn from.
the village of GODIN
cover by nacrowe
check in and listen to TOM's latest installment of the NOWHERE FAST show on MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC with a SECOND playlist made up of suggestions his friends gave him to listen to as he is recuperating from a broken ankle. check out the FIRST playlist in this series HERE from last week.
past episodes of NOWHERE FAST as well as other MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC shows like DEER GOD RADIO, MAKE HER SPACE, and THE SYNTHESIZER SHOW are available here at the DEER GOD website.
photo by magie
watch JEN and MAGIE's latest episode of MAKE HER SPACE where they catch us up on their recent activities and preview upcoming events in the NYC area.
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.
it must have been sometime in my late teens when i started getting into film. i know for years my dad had been trying to get me to watch CABARET (ALLIED ARTISTS, 1972) and i just never got around to it for whatever reason. i know now how annoying that can be when you provide (what you feel is) a quality recommendation and the recipient of said information does nothing with it or doesn't appreciate it in the end. that can be annoying. just ask anyone at DEER GOD, since i'm apparently alone in feeling that MEL BROOKS is a genius and BLAZING SADDLES and SPACEBALLS are among the greatest comedies EVER.
but this is about CABARET and not MEL BROOKS. i did finally get around to watching CABARET in college and was floored by it. i told my dad how good it was and he was pissed. pretty funny now.
CABARET is a period film that focuses on the idyllic artistic/sexual/political freedom of the WEIMAR REPUBLIC and ultimately how abrupt a shift was experienced thereafter when the NAZI PARTY took over. noted theater director and choreographer BOB FOSSE was an inspired choice for director (beating out BILLY WILDER) as the musical numbers starring LIZA MINELLI and JOEL GREY are vivacious, memorable and effectively incapsulate the free-roaming spirit of the period. not to be mean, but MINELLI is so good in this movie that i forgive her as a fan of art everything she did thereafter. its like DAVE NAVARRO of JANE'S ADDICTION. it doesn't matter to me how many shitty reality shows he stars in or mediocre records he produces these days, since he is still the dude that created NOTHING'S SHOCKING and RITUAL DE LO HABITUAL.
it is hard not to read into the film an almost kindred relationship between the WEIMAR period in germany and the then-recent rise and fall of the american counterculture, civil rights and anti-war movement of the 1960s. perhaps given the fall of the WEIMAR REPUBLIC to the NAZI PARTY it is interesting to consider what the corresponding threat was to american life at the time: NIXON, CAPITALISM, CONSUMER CULTURE. just a thought.
if you haven't seen CABARET you should. for me its in my all-time top 3 (others being EAST OF EDEN and THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST). please seek this film out. it is that great.
i am the biggest sucker for a good pop hook.
it is basically my achilles' heel when it comes to being a fan of music. as much as i love to bask in dissonance and aural chaos, there is an equal part of me that could easily listen to CHEAP TRICK all day.
2000s band SHINY TOY GUNS and especially their debut WE ARE PILOTS (UNIVERSAL 2006) is just one of those records in my opinion that still hits that sweet spot in spite of the band's corny overdone image. i don't believe in guilty pleasures, but i would definitely put both the debut albums by LINKIN PARK and 30 SECONDS TO MARS in similar standing with SHINY TOY GUNS. again, call me what you will but great melodies are great melodies.
with respect to SHINY TOY GUNS, i listened to their debut years after its release during my PEACE CORPS years in ALBANIA. to me listening to this record represented the ultimate distraction from what i was living through at the time, namely having limited water and losing 40 pounds in 3 months (seriously) due to lack of food. having been abroad so long i always find it interesting what remnants of home you hold onto, and for some reason this album along with LADY GAGA's BORN THIS WAY (INTERSCOPE 2011), MASTODON's THE HUNTER (REPRISE, 2011) and LADYTRON's GRAVITY THE SEDUCER (NETTWERK, 2011) were basically my soundtrack to being in a desperately poor yet expansively gorgeous eastern european nation with limited means of outside contact. i believe now that all four records were escapist in nature and listening to any of them brings me immediately back to cold winters, sightings of wolf packs and post-communist paranoia/curiosity about my being in a community of strangers.
maybe the music worked because i felt like i was on another planet. if you've ever spent any time in eastern europe, that may not exactly be the worst comparison in the world.
BOOK REVIEW | "TRANNY: CONFESSIONS OF PUNK ROCK'S MOST INFAMOUS ANARCHIST SELLOUT" BY LAURA JANE GRACE WITH DAN OZZI
photo by nacrowe
its painful to imagine what it must be like to feel born into the wrong body. it must be truly awful to have GENDER DYSPHORIA.
growing up is hard enough without the burden of the shame, guilt, isolation and fear of being outed for something that is so basic to your self-identity. i can't imagine how disillusioning and just exhausting that experience must be.
sadly american culture has a difficult time accepting reality.
reality in all its beautiful, complicated permutations and expressions. the reality that gender is expressed biologically along a spectrum. the reality that our culturally defined, normative-based dualistic concepts of male/female gender identity are just that, artificial human-engineered constructions.
AGAINST ME! front-woman LAURA JANE GRACE in her memoir TRANNY: CONFESSIONS OF PUNK ROCK's MOST INFAMOUS ANARCHIST SELLOUT (HACHETTE BOOKS, 2016) navigates the murky waters of fame, drug abuse, failed marriages and parenthood while coming to terms with her GENDER DYSPHORIA. throughout the book she doesn't mince words about her struggles and ultimately the consequences her transition has had on those around her. it is quite a story.
one structural aspect of this book that was particularly effective was the inclusion of numerous diary entries (apparently selected by co-writer DAN OZZI) that further illustrated and reinforced the level of anguish GRACE went through while struggling with her decision on how to best proceed with her life.
i was really blown away with the courage it took to write this book. GRACE does not shy away from her past selfish experiences as a rock musician or her scattered early upbringing as a military brat and later a homeless punk in FLORIDA during her teenage years. it would seem displacement is a common theme throughout her life.
i can only imagine willing your band from obscurity to being a viable cultural entity must have been confusing enough on its own. i can't imagine the intestinal fortitude it takes to battle managers, PR reps, label execs, bandmates and even former fans while being in a state of becoming. her experience regarding gender identity is beyond anything i've encountered and one is left feeling inspired by her example. its quite an act of courage for anyone to work towards transitioning to their gender identity.
again, i am inspire and just in awe from this book. a very worthwhile read, especially if like me you are sheltered and not familiar with the lived experience of GENDER DYSPHORIA. ultimately the GRACE encourages her fans to seek their truth and become who they were meant to become.