photos by nacrowe
been a fan of JANE'S ADDICTION since my teens and are my all-time favorite rock band. only THE SMITHS and DEVO, two very different bands, come close in admiration.
luckily i've gotten to see the band play in various iterations over the years, but none more bizarre than a 2015 gig in TOKYO at OZZFEST 2015. first off, the show itself was all kinds of strange as you had two main stages, one with american bands of various genres like A DAY TO REMEMBER, HATEBREED, BLACK LABEL SOCIETY and OZZY & FRIENDS and the other japanese bands, namely BABY METAL. japanese metal is weird, its all mixed with J-POP music so there is lots of hand-clapping and choreographed dance moves. BABY METAL has a legit rhythm section so they absolutely crushed, if you ever get the chance definitely hit up their live gigs. BLACK SABBATH had to back out due to health concerns surrounding TONY IOMMI's battle with lymphoma, so essentially OZZY & FRIENDS was the legendary singer with his band plus guest guitarists DAVE NAVARRO, TOM MORELLO and his first performance with ZAKK WYLDE in over 10 years. too bad OZZY sounded awful. he just sounded old and tired. i left early.
but my reason for going was strictly JANE'S ADDICTION. living in the greater LOS ANGELES area in my formative years, i have memories of riding around with my dad heading off to soccer games in at-risk MEXICAN soccer leagues listening to K-ROQ blasting songs off RITUAL DE LO HABITUAL (WARNER BROS, 1990). to me, JANE'S ADDICTION is LOS ANGELES, the land of my youth.
the show was great with the requisite dancers and swinging models fearlessly suspended above the fray with hooks in their backs (a then-recent hobby of guitarist DAVE NAVARRO). it was everything you'd expect from them, something a bit raunchy, dangerous and obscure to go with a setlist made up primarily of their transcendent genre-defining efforts NOTHING'S SHOCKING (WARNER BROS, 1988) and RITUAL DE LO HABITUAL. if they never do anything of merit again, those two records are canonical in my opinion.
so in summation, having attended several OZZFESTS in the early 00s, this version had little of the feeling of those events which was as much due to the lineup as it was about the location. it was more like a LOLLAPALOOZA/OZZFEST hybrid which was fine by me, although historically a bit absurd given that OZZFEST was created by SHARON OSBOURNE after not being able to secure her husband/client OZZY a gig on one of the initial LOLLAPALOOZA. regardless, i had a great time soaking in the absurdity of it all and JANE'S ADDICTION sounded killer. too bad OZZY had an off night. he really should retire. he more than deserves his time off. ALL HAIL!
for some reason i was reminded of this anecdote recently and i'm surprised i haven't written about it here before.
for my freshman and sophomore years of high school i attended the NORTHFIELD MOUNT HERMON SCHOOL in western MASSACHUSETTS. its a private boarding school that, at the time, had a student population of around 2,000 students (now i believe it is closer to 650). i basically couldn't get in now if i wanted to as it went smaller and more exclusive (joining the EIGHT SCHOOLS ASSOCIATION, a mirror of the IVY LEAGUE). but back then it had a reputation for being the most liberal of the elite northeast boarding schools having in the past educated the children of MARTIN LUTHER KING, MALCOLM X and even NAT KING COLE when other similar institutions wouldn't due to racism. i attended because my parents lived overseas and attending school where they were stationed in NIGERIA was not an option.
those two years were beyond weird and still affect me to this day. just the privilege and power dynamics that i saw there seem to be on display to me all the time in AMERICAN civic life and none of it deserved. it might be because i was a public school teacher, but witnessing fellow students with straight Cs go on to YALE and HARVARD still churns my stomach when i consider the number of bright, hard-working youth from limited means get turned away. such is life. i'll probably go into it in detail in subsequent posts, but fellow peers at NORTHFIELD included sons and daughters of ambassadors, HOLLYWOOD directors, WHITE HOUSE officials, heads of industry, foreign dignitaries and world leaders. it was a dizzying experience at point in my life when i was still figuring out who was.
so here's an example of a typical NORTHFIELD random event. our school had a chaplain, which was a holdover from the school's initial mid-19th century roots as a seminary founded by famed evangelist DWIGHT L MOODY. the chaplain was non-denominational and not even associated with a particular religion, in fact she was a graduate of HARVARD SEMINARY and was married to NOEL PAUL STOOKEY of PETER, PAUL & MARY fame. he lived on campus as an "artist-in-residence."
once a year he would play for all the students, which was quite the sight. this old bald dude with an acoustic guitar, from a bygone era, connecting brilliantly with the most jaded of crowds. just to give you a sense of how privileged this student body was, past guest speakers when i was there included MAYA ANGELOU and KEN BURNS.
i vividly remember STOOKEY introducing a song saying, "contrary to public opinion, this song is not about drugs" to which he played the introductory chords to "PUFF THE MAGIC DRAGON." all my dorm-mates looked at each muttering under our collective breath "yeah right." he also played "LEAVING ON A JET PLANE" and "RIGHT FIELD" and others, but honestly nobody cared. everyone was there to hear "PUFF THE MAGIC DRAGON." and everyone sang. like everyone. me included. and i am the last person to ever sing in unison at a big collective event. but this was different. it was "PUFF THE MAGIC DRAGON." didn't hit me until later what a feat he pulled, as i was often asleep or near sleep at those formal school meetings, all dressed up in my sport jacket and all. ugh.
so there you have it. just one instance of my very odd high school years in boarding school and beyond. to be continued.
our friends in DOLLTITS recently released the first of two EPS entitled VALLEY OF THE DOLLTITS which is available on all streaming services. the new material is very much in keeping with past material in that they provide intelligent, often eviscerating lyrics dealing with caustic themes such as INSECURITY, FEMALE EMPOWERMENT, TOXIC MASCULINITY (and CATS!). sung with sweet, lilting melodies, these songs are buttressed by odd instrumentation, often ukulele and auto-harp that switch between both THERINA and MAGIE.
these songs feel more filled out sonically with more prominent bass and drumming which helps provide a counterpoint to THERINA's megavoice. this new direction was showcased at their recent RELEASE PARTY at SEARCH PARTY STUDIO which found them rounded out by bass/backup vocals (EMMY TASTIC), drums (MIKE HELL GAMBINO), and a very theremin-like saw played by BRIAN MCGOWAN.
i really enjoyed this batch of new songs and can't wait to hear where they are going next with their sound on the next EP.
parodies by nacrowe
doing the DEER GOD RADIO show has been such a joy over the past year. i wanted to take a moment and thank KRISTEN and TOM of MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC for allowing us the opportunity to broadcast our program from their station. it is crazy that we are nearing 70 episodes.
in case you missed any of our 2019 shows, i took the liberty of linking them below:
photo by nacrowe
when i began doing this blog thing in earnest i knew that i was going to need to provide some sort of regular content. since i've always been reading memoirs and biographies of musicians as long as i can remember, writing about them seemed a natural fit.
we've got many coming up in the new year including next week's review of the late LEMMY KILMISTER's 2002 memoir WHITE LINE FEVER. so look for that coming very soon!
here are links to all those reviewed this year:
i know a lot has been made in recent years about HOWARD STERN's skills with the long-form interview format, but no bullshit, this is the best interview i've ever seen with the famously guarded former secretary of state, first lady, senator and presidential candidate HILLARY CLINTON.
obviously this interview from last week has absolutely nothing to do with me or DEER GOD, but i wanted to spread the word on it with the vehicles i have at my disposal (website and social media) for the benefit of whomever reads this blog.
i should say that years ago when i was a PEACE CORPS volunteer in ALBANIA the then-secretary of state came for a visit. usually when a prominent official or celebrity visits various volunteers would be called upon to TIRANA (the capital) to showcase their projects. an example of such was when actress ELIZA DUSHKU came to promote literacy and volunteers from the southeast region (where her family is descended from) came to speak with her before returning to introduce her in-person to the community. very cool indeed. this did not happen with CLINTON. they literally invited all the minority volunteers to to the capital for a lame photo-op. all involved felt used. their local projects were not of concern in this situation. whether that was her doing or not i have no idea, but i should at least be clear that i was never a huge fan, although of course she was infinitely more qualified than TRUMP (obviously). sigh.
life's funny sometimes.
the summer before 6th grade i got in a BMX bicycle accident. a very serious one that landed me in the ICU for several days and came perilously close to paralyzing me or worse. i was very lucky. literally my head missed a curb by inches and no, i was not wearing a helmet.
that was back in '96 and since then i have had a fascination with bikes in general and i'm almost certain it comes from that experience. i've ridden BMX bikes since but for whatever reason i've never owned once since the accident.
this is not to say that i haven't conquered other fears. i've long hated/feared flying but have been in innumerable flights my entire life, including twice on a helicopter (BRAZIL and ZAMBIA). i've had a strong fear of being trapped since childhood, but have learned to really enjoy SCUBA DIVING (LOS ROQUES and ISLA MARGARITA in VENEZUELA).
but for me there is something about bicycles that equates to a sense of freedom. in JAPAN my exploration of my neighborhood only really got underway after getting a multi-speed cruiser that i rode to work in (sighhh, that thing was awesome) and later in MYANMAR where i was teaching the only real mode of transportation was via scooter (taxis were inefficient).
i ended up getting a HONDA CLICK which had a 125cc engine and really flew. for me it was almost too fast. driving in MANDALAY was insane because literally nobody followed any rules of the road out there. at any moment cars, trucks, scooters, street dogs, chickens, whatever might come at you or cross the road from either side. it was dangerous. but i have to say that the idea of getting out of work and driving through flooded rice fields with water buffalo gently lifting their heads out of the paddies while in distance you could see the golden spires of buddhist monasteries is something i will always take with me. i loved that scooter and how it gave me the ability to really explore northern MYANMAR.
i believe my fear of accidents died with that scooter since twice i had to jump off it to avoid other riders making careless decisions. both times i got scraped up but luckily broke nothing. driving a scooter in southeast ASIA can be pretty gnarly and i credit it with getting me over my slight phobia of BMX bikes.
gopro footage from my scooter in MYANMAR
so since coming back to the states almost two years ago i was long considering obtaining a BMX bike. what is funny is that i went to a bike shop in central NEW JERSEY multiple times, initially to educate myself from the staff and later to purchase something. i learned later after buying my bike that this shop is owned by SCOTTY CRANMER, a local NEW JERSEY BMX legend roughly my age who is tied with DAVE MIRRA with 11 X-GAMES PARK MEDALS. what is interesting about this is not his numerous medals, but his story of recovery.
in 2016 he got in a terrible bike accident that initially left him paralyzed with restricted motor skills. by sheer will the dude got himself to eventually be able to walk again and eventually maintain his balance well enough to stay on his bike for short periods.
the idea that i bought my bike from a store where there is a shared experience with the owner is not lost on me and it seems rather funny and poetic. only gives me further motivation to keep riding!
if you get a chance i recommend his YouTube channel as it is inspiring to see someone continue to support other riders in spite of his setbacks. it shows a true love of his sport and the community around it. dude is, no joke, an inspiration.
photo by nacrowe
every time i enter FRANKFURT AIRPORT, the main international transit hub of my youth, it is never lost on me that the place itself is more or less the same. only i have changed over the last 20+ years.
thats kind of the experience of seeing TOOL in concert over multiple tour cycles, since each one is 8-10 years apart. its an odd sense of deja-vu or a time warp or something. the last time i saw them was during the 10,000 Days cycle and the LATERALUS cycle before that. love the band but im not big on big corporate arena shows. you always feel screwed when you can't get better seats and you get the feeling those below you either paid royally in a secondary market or worse, got them as a corporate gift like box seats at a YANKEE game. i guess the demand is just so great after so much time that there is no easy answer to this conundrum in fairness to them.
but the actual show this past saturday (with KILLING JOKE opening!) was epic, TOOL are like the second coming of BLACK SABBATH meets LED ZEPPELIN meets RUSH meets CAPTAIN BEEFHEART. i wasn't super-enthused on the last album since it feels like everything post-LATERALUS is just a rehash of it, like they are using the same tricks (mind you, those tricks are beyond cool). i just wish they'd push the audience a bit more at this stage in their career since they have nothing left to prove.
unless filling arenas that screw over fans is a goal of theirs. if you catch them this go around, thats cool. if not they'll back around. in 10 years.
photos by nacrowe
i'm not gonna lie, SOUTH KOREA is a strange place.
and that is from the perspective of someone who practically seeks out unfamiliar cultures and actively attempts to understand them on their terms. for most visiting westerners, especially americans, it is easy to get caught up in the neon lights and dizzying hustle and bustle of SEOUL and its labyrinth of cavernous subways and seemingly infinite shopping destinations. the place basically has no central district with multiple competing neighborhoods basically competing for influence. at the time i was living in JAPAN outside YOKOHAMA and for me SEOUL seemed to me a more bloated version of TOKYO for reasons already described.
but what got me about this country wasn't its massive cities but the insular nature of its people. living in JAPAN i often felt quite isolated, which to me was funny because at that point i had lived for years in politically and economically depressed countries like ALBANIA and VENEZUELA that were a step removed from mainstream "world culture." yet i never felt alone there. i always felt welcome and not a curiosity. JAPAN was very much a situation where you never felt welcome. people were impeccably polite but it was a politeness that acted as a barrier. its hard to verbalize what i mean. there was a definite insularity and rigidity of thought, a lack of curiosity. i found JAPAN jarring but SOUTH KOREA was another level indeed.
i worked at an international school in JAPAN and there were several CANADIAN counterparts of mine that had JAPANESE spouses. i learned that in SOUTH KOREA dating was carried out with the forethought and determined specificity of two merging corporations as families would want to the income and occupation of not just you, but up to three generations before you. the two participants were just an afterthought in this intense negotiation that had as much to do with standing and honor as it did about commitment and love.
and i get why. the JAPANESE were absolutely brutal to the KOREANS during their occupation and post-KOREAN WAR this country had to basically pull itself up by its bootstraps and make something from basically nothing. literally nothing. most of their ancestral architecture was defiled and destroyed by the JAPANESE. most or all you see today of past royal palaces are works-in-progress recreations. its funny now because SOUTH KOREA has basically followed JAPAN into consumer electronics and beaten them at their own game. revenge indeed.
but much like JAPAN, SOUTH KOREA has a problem with teen suicide and depressions. families have few children and put a lot of resources into their education, putting excessive pressure on them to succeed and procure employment that pays off this investment. what results is that you have a country that sees value only in your ability to produce. i have teacher friends out there that i stayed with and it felt claustrophobic being around that educational culture. all students played violin or cello or piano not out of interest but out of needing something to fill out your college application out with. everything seemed backwards like the kids were supposed to fit into a pre-conceived mold. it was conformity of the most intense variety. even pop culture (K-POP specifically) was about meeting a predetermined standard of demeanor, purity and naïveté.
i found the place claustrophobic and is one of the few countries i've visited that i don't have any real urge to revisit. people there are treated as a commodity by their families and it makes perfect sense to me why so me seek a way out, suicide itself being a normative means of maintaining family honor in a warped moral landscape.
and i haven't even gotten to talking about NORTH KOREA yet. stay tuned.
when my friend and frequent collaborator MAGIE asked me back in august to dj at her TWIN PEAKS-themed party in october celebrating the opening of her new tattoo shop THE BLACK LODGE TATTOO, i was simultaneously honored and horrified effective immediately.
so of course i said yes.
its no secret that i prefer to be behind the scenes creating stuff. even this blog is an avenue for me to keep writing, as i was at one point writing all the time going back to my former film column for THE DAILY TARGUM during my undergrad years at RUTGERS. despite my time public speaking as a teacher both in NYC and abroad for almost a decade, i am pretty reticent to be out in public generally and have no desire to be the focus of attention. even the radio show i do is largely me curating and listening to music i love in a closed room.
so i just wish to thank MAGIE publicly for allowing me the opportunity to participate and be a part of welcoming her new business venture, as well as forcing me out of my comfort zone. the event also included two other sets by fellow MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC DJs RAY of CHANNELS & WINDS and CHRIS of COMPOSITE BEAST, both of which you should look into and i have gone ahead and linked to their respective show archives. i'd also like to thank RAY specifically for his support at the event and letting me rub off some of his fearlessness.
my spotify playlist from the is linked HERE if interested. it was a mix of film score, soundtrack picks that any self-described fan of DAVID LYNCH would recognize and appreciate. enjoy.