photo by nacrowe
i always found it interesting with movements, whether they be artistic, social or cultural, are entities constantly in flux with new blood constantly reevaluating, interpreting and contextualizing what came before into a new modern amalgamation/expression.
PUNK ROCK is such an artistic/social/cultural phenomena whose innate value and very definition is forever a controversial topic to its many participants and stakeholders. personally, that discussion has long bored me (dating back to high school) and it is refreshing to know that KEITH MORRIS, iconic frontman of 80s HARDCORE legends BLACK FLAG and CIRCLE JERKS, felt much the same as well.
KEITH MORRIS makes a point in his memoir MY DAMAGE: THE STORY OF A PUNK ROCK SURVIVOR (DA CAPO, 2016) to elucidate upon why he got into music (i.e. passion and personal expression) and how such a foundation has maintained itself over his career as an under-appreciated (in my opinion) cultural force.
it always happens that underground bands like THE VELVET UNDERGROUND, THE STOOGES and THE SEX PISTOLS all had cultural influences that far outweighed their record sales and BLACK FLAG was no different. their ability to refine and harden PUNK's edge into a more potent, punishing musical variant has influenced bands far outside the PUNK community. i'd argue modern METAL music is indebted as much to BLACK FLAG in its ethos and attitude as it is to the doomed riffage of BLACK SABBATH. again, my opinion.
one aspect that caught my eye about MORRIS was the energy and genuinely altruistic (to the point of naivete) he put into the community of artists in southern california, irrespective of genre or scene. for every anecdote dealing with members of THE ANGRY SAMOANS, SOCIAL DISTORTION, CRO-MAGS or THE ADOLESCENTS, there are others with members of RATT, VAN HALEN or THE RAVEONETTES.
to me PUNK ROCK is almost a religion and its not surprising that core, unassailable members of its royalty are by no means interested in the "punk police" bullshit that well-intentioned fans, and in some case other peers, hoist on the public. he really makes a point that this idea that to be a true appreciator of PUNK ROCK you need to wipe away all that came before is sad, pathetic and just wrong. in his career this came full circle with the formation of OFF! where his younger bandmates had many outside influences that didn't coincide with his. to him it was an opportunity and the idea of a bands as a democracy (both artistically and financially) is something that has been constant in his post-BLACK FLAG career.
growing up i got tired of PUNK ROCK fans that just shat on everything else. it just seemed so counterproductive and stunting on a human level to have up barriers like that. its nice to know part of the underground cultural vanguard of the 80s had his ears open to the street.
still does. do damage.
photo by nacrowe
so much of this HIT SO HARD (DA CAPO, 2017) by HOLE drummer PATTY SCHEMEL is about self-destruction. the enduring image of KURT COBAIN, a friend and former collaborator and even housemate of SCHEMEL, is seen as an example of being too far down the road of despair and drug abuse to turn back. he isn't portrayed as a victim as much as someone resided to their own fate. with SCHEMEL we see someone who took that road to its logical conclusion, losing literally everything: friends, family, financial independence, even her sexuality.
this memoir is less concerned with the story her journey from being an awkward, red-headed lesbian teen from eastern WASHINGTON who found in HARDCORE and drums her identity as it is about the harrowing depths of depravity associated with her road to recovery from opiate addiction.
her being a famous musician is only noteworthy within the arc of this book in that it showcases the cottage industry of enablers and hangers-on that provide celebrities with the means of their own destruction within the entertainment industry. i feel like reading as many biographies as i have about musicians, the recurring trope of drug abuse is a known cliche. that being said, any jadedness i had to the topic was obliterated by the honesty and clarity by which SCHEMEL dissects her actions and behavior and the wake of destruction that followed for bother her and those that cared about her.
to me this hit home, because an overriding theme of this book was kinship. the connection between musicians that is almost asurrogate family. there are surrogate families that fall apart (HOLE) and others that come and go as a means of support from friends (JULIETTE & THE LICKS, IMPERIAL TEEN). even her actual family, especially her brother and father, support her even when all was dire and hopeless. i have family and some friends that have been on similar trajectories, though nothing thankfully as harrowing as described in this book, and it feels comforting to know that an addict like SCHEMEL sees love and human connection as a means for maintaining sobriety.
and that is what makes the death of CHRIS CORNELL so poignant in this book, not just because it bookends the death of fellow SEATTLE musician KURT COBAIN. CORNELL's recovery mirrors that SCHEMEL and serves as an example that once you are an addict, always an addict. recovery is always ongoing and having a support system is your lifeline. which ultimately positions this book as being earnestly involved with the redeeming potential that hope and human connection can foster. it is easily one of the most affecting memoirs i have read to date.
ROBYN is my spirit animal.
it took me a while to come around to dance music in general. i went through baby steps with artists like KYLIE MINOGUE and BJORK, but discovering norwegian singer/producer ROBYN in the late 00's during the impressive second wave of her career was a revelation.
it was probably the first time i heard modern pop music that was really affecting, triumphant yet melancholy. her conviction, range and energy is just downright contagious. in an industry where talent, especially young females, are constantly discarded for the new shiny object, ROBYN has proven to be quite the survivor, even becoming an in-demand producer and songwriter in her own right.
just great songwriting and incredible pop hooks sung with a sense of earnest heart-on-sleeve conviction with a very welcoming, inclusive vibe. a little hard to believe that this is from the same country that gave us BLACK METAL, which is essentially the inverse of that vibe.
like a lot of people these days, i'm pretty ambivalent about american football. with all the long-term health issues associated with CTE impacting veteran players, it seems as if we are witnessing a blood sport that is literally dismantling players before our very eyes. don't believe me? watch this interview with BEARS quarterback JIM MCMAHON. its absolutely heartbreaking.
aside from health concerns there is also the matter of the draconian business practices and labor rules that govern the league which are anti-free market and anti-american. you are essentially watching economic fiefdoms battling each other where "owners" have near total control over salary negotiations and incentives that serve their interests and not the players.
lastly there is the matter of politics and race relations, which the NFL is sorely behind the times, no matter how much money they throw JAY-Z's way. i won't even get into COLIN KAEPERNICK, only to say that the dude is the most significant player of his generation and will one day be revered among MUHAMMED ALI, JIM BROWN, JACKIE ROBINSON, BILL RUSSELL, KAREEM ABDUL-JABBAR and other prominent athletes that took a righteous socio-political stand despite the personal and professional ramifications. these choices showcase greatness that transcends sports.
this is all to say that what i do not feel ambivalent about when it comes to football is JERRY RICE, often considered the greatest player of any position the NFL has ever witnessed. what i love about him specifically is his humility and work ethic.
when DEER GOD started i was transitioning from working in education to something well outside my comfort zone, the world of recording studios and recording artists. in the past 2+ years since returning stateside from MYANMAR i've been around people that talked a lot bit did very little. my whole ethic was to underpromise and outperform, to do whatever i could to at the very least not be the weak link in the chain.
if you ever get the opportunity you should definitely watch RICE's legendary HALL OF FAME speech in CANTON. it was right after fellow inductee EMITT SMITH gave a sermon passionately espousing how he self-made himself into a generational running back based on sheer perseverance and his own self-identified greatness. listening to SMITH was such a bore and an exercise in being crass and self-aggrandizing for the sake of self-mythology.
RICE on the other hand spoke about growing up in the south the son of bricklayer who got paid per brick. RICE would assist his family on construciton sites by passing bricks along in a chain. he literally did not want to drop a brick as it would result in his family getting fewer financial resources. he carried this mentality to the field where his only motivation was not to show off, but rather to not fail. his whole singular HALL OF FAME career was an attempt in trying his hardest to not let others down. think about that. it is beyond humbling to consider the sacrifice he made as a matter of pushing forward the idea of teamwork and collaboration. it is quite remarkable.
literally one of the great speeches i have ever heard by an athlete and further evidence that in a league that cannabilizes on its own and disregards common sense, personal freedom and human decency without a second notice, here is a gentleman who has elevated this shit league from the morass of its own cowardice and self-interest to higher noble ideals more in keeping with the better nature of this american experiment.
fancy way of saying you should check out his speech. worth your time.
kraftwerk parody by nicholas crowe
click HERE to watch a very special HALLOWEEN installment of THE SYNTHESIZER SHOW on MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC with hosts Vince and Reed delivering a playlist of choice electronic compositions as only they can deliver. and in KRAFTWERK costumes to boot! so awesome!
as always, you can access all past episodes of THE SYNTHESIZER SHOW via the DEER GOD website as well as those of MAKE HER SPACE, NOWHERE FAST, DEER GOD RADIO and CLASSICAL-ISH WITH NUTMEG.
and if you haven't yet done so definitely download the FREE PHONE APP for IOS/ANDROID and enjoy listening to MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC 24/7 at your convenience!
cover by nacrowe
watch HERE for the latest installment of THE SYNTHESIZER SHOW on MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC where hosts Vince and Reed return with a new playlist of experimental tracks, film scores and electronic deep cuts as only they can.
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.
and if you haven't done so already get the FREE PHONE APP for IOS/ANDROID and enjoy listening to MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC 24/7 at your convenience!
for whatever reason, the four seasons of 90s cult classic comedy show MR. SHOW (HBO, 1995-1998) starring BOB ODENKIRK (BREAKING BAD, BETTER CALL SAUL) and DAVID CROSS (ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT) is criminally overlooked. an outgrowth of the alternative comedy scene in LOS ANGELES at the time, its cultural impact can be seen in the varying careers of its many collaborators including that of BRIAN POSEHN (METALOCALYPSE, THE BIG BANG THEORY), TOM KENNY (SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS, THE POWERPUFF GIRLS, JOHNNY BRAVO), JILL TALLEY (SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS, THE BOONDOCKS), PAUL F. TOMPKINS (BOJACK HORESMAN, BOB'S BURGERS, THE DAILY SHOW), JACK BLACK (TENACIOUS D), SARAH SILVERMAN (THE SARAH SILVERMAN PROGRAM, SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE, BOB's BURGERS), JAY JOHNSTON (THE SARAH SILVERMAN PROGRAM, MARY SHELLEY'S FRANKENHOLE), BEN STILLER (THE BEN STILLER SHOW, ZOOLANDER, DODGEBALL), JERRY MINOR (SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE, COMMUNITY), MARY LYNN RAJSKUB (24, THE LARRY SANDERS SHOW, PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE), JOHN ENNIS (TWIN PEAKS, WALK HARD, ZODIAC), SCOTT AUKERMAN (BETWEEN TWO FERNS WITH ZACH GALIFIANAKIS), MARLON WAYANS (IN LIVING COLOUR, REQUIEM FOR A DREAM) and JANEANE GARAFALO (SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE, 24, THE LARRY SANDERS SHOW). the "Titannica" skit was referenced in the name of a BLINK-182 song ("Adam's Song") and the show even become the springboard for a TOOL side project (MAYNARD JAMES KEENAN's PUSCIFER) and TENACIOUS D, who themselves had an HBO show that was co-created and co-produced with ODENKIRK and CROSS.
the show takes its sensibility from MONTY PYTHON in that live and prerecorded skits are connected tangentially from segment to segment with no narrative arc. this frees the material to be the focus. a product of the CLINTON-era, much of the focus of the humor is derived from lampooning the stupidity of american life (reality tv, jingoism, sensationalist journalism) and public institutions (the police, government officials, corporate america). in many ways the lack of intellectual curiosity and selfish nature of the american general public is a target just below the surface and for that reason, this show has aged remarkably well.
given the political nature of their comedy, the creators and select cast members have done mix-media tours of theaters over the years. i saw them in NYC around 2003 as they lampooned the build-up to the misguided return american military adventure into the middle east on their HOORAY FOR AMERICA! tour. to me MR. SHOW holds a special place in my heart as they were consciously articulating a perspective and using comedy as a mirror to articulate just how far from our professed ideals we had fallen, especially during a time of compliance and plastic patriotic fervor rooted in raw, uninhibited xenophobia.
again, MR. SHOW still holds up. definitely worth your time to investigate.
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.