this straightforward, un-adorned memoir co-written by BLINK-182 drummer / FAMOUS STARS & STRAPS founder-owner TRAVIS BARKER delivers on the goods of walking his audience through the ups and downs of his improbably career.
my interest, aside from the fact that he's a sick musician that has been in several killer bands that basically defined my formative adolescent years (i.e. THE AQUABATS! , BLINK-182 and THE TRANSPLANTS), was mainly in how he went about his career. what i learned is that the dude has an addictive personality that basically informed his relationships with weed, women, tattoos and all things material. that drive throughout this self-spun narrative of his life essentially allowed him to pursue and push further without being sidelined by doubt or obstacles.
and man, were there obstacles. namely the death of his mother at 13, but also the horrific experience of being in a lear jet plane crash after a gig in 2008. both events defined him and the later gave him the opportunity to reassess his priorities.
its easy to find many of the things written about here wrote and rife with cliches, but i dont think that was a concern of his when considering pursuing this book. if anything, what i took from his story is the intense level of engagement he has with his instrument and how that singular focus provide him a unique vessel to communicate with an ever growing cadre of musicians and artists. through everything, that core relationship was intact.
you really get the feeling he'd be drumming somewhere in a small club with a no name band happily even if BLINK-182 never took off. its that love of his art that i resonated with. the stories of sex addiction and pursuing of celebrity relationships and material bullshit less so.
this book was easily digestible and straight to the point, much like a good 90s skate punk song. worth it if you are a fan of the POP PUNK genre.
parody by nacrowe
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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.
as i probably made abundantly clear in a recent review of the book MEET ME IN THE BATHROOM about the early 2000s stateside indie music scene, i have a strong bias against rock music of that period. my main gripe was that the bands generally were too nostalgic and ultimately poor imitations of bygone scenes and eras.
two forward-thinking bands that standout during that period who obliterated that safety net were EL PASO's AT THE DRIVE-IN and LONG ISLAND's GLASSJAW. both were abrasive and quirky and seemed to be informed but not beholden to the POST-PUNK, HARDCORE and INDIE scenes that preceded them.
i'll save AT THE DRIVE-IN for another day, but in my mind both bands are similar in that they seemed to delight in creating obtuse sonic and lyrical landscapes that were impressionistic and expansive which allowed the listener to project themselves onto. GLASSJAW to me is particularly all about vibe. vocalist DARYL PALUMBO is renowned for his phrasing style which is equal parts CHINO MORENO (DEFTONES, TEAM SLEEP, CROSSES, PALMS) and MIKE PATTON (FAITH NO MORE, MR. BUNGLE, FANTÔMAS, TOMAHAWK, PEEPING TOM, LOVAGE), which found him changing keys and tempos as he saw fit creating a jarring yet incredibly melodic compliment to guitarist JUSTIN BECK's crushing angular riffage and reverb-drenched ringing waves of distortion. the closest analogue i can think of is JANE'S ADDICTION and TOOL at their most expansive and adventurous, when they seemed content with just exploring sonic space to create hypnotic looping mantras of blissful feedback and poly-rhythmic drumming.
to me GLASSJAW split the difference between the brutality and immediacy of HARDCORE with the dynamism and experimentalism inherent in the best INDIE music of the 80s and 90s. i'd even trace their use of odd song structure elements and instrumentation to that of earlier POST-PUNK tradition. that's all well and good, but to me their music comes off as incredibly deliberate and personal, without being obvious. they are definitely pointing at something and i just haven't figured it out yet and maybe that is the point. great art is supposed to be about a reaction and i have always listened back to their catalogue to remind myself of what rock music is still capable of.
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.
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.
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getting into instrumental rock music can be difficult. too often it gets ahead of itself and becomes a self-indulgent wankfest by "muso" musicians so clever they've ended up regressing. there is something about rock music that demands immediacy yet spontaneity, unlike say a JOE SATRIANI or an EMERSON LAKE AND PALMER record, no disrespect intended. to me listening to a RAMONES record is more in the spirit of ROCK N ROLL than say DREAM THEATER since the later are inherently more concerned with their off-time paradiddles a obscure scales than the experience of the listener. only my opinion.
experimental rock band BATTLES is one of those groups that can pull it off since their highly inventive and kinetic, propulsive rhythms demand the attention of the listener in the tradition of BEBOP JAZZ, 70s PROG ROCK and AFROBEAT.
its hard to explain how good these guys are since they all have chops, but the music is composed and constructed in a way that things build and overlap and crescendo, with interesting sonic textures and non-traditional instrumentation being utilized to enable a cogent musical idea. its remarkable. and i highly encourage anyone to seek out the instrumental music of BATTLES. definitely worth your time to explore.