Thursday, November 3, 2016

Dirt City Chronicles podcast episode 46

Heavy Metal Thunder”

All evidence points towards William S. Burroughs having coined the term “heavy metal” first in his 1962 novel The Soft Machine in the form of Uranian Willy, the Heavy Metal Kid and then in his subsequent novel Nova Express where Burroughs uses the term as “a metaphor for addictive drugs”
"With their diseases and orgasm drugs and their sexless parasite life forms—Heavy Metal People of Uranus wrapped in cool blue mist of vaporized bank notes—And The Insect People of Minraud with metal music" Though Burroughs vaguely gives the term a musical context, I imagine the radical, purposely incompetent rock noise such as that produced by NYC avant noise pioneers, The Godz to be a better match than the riff happy hard rock of the early 1970s.

In the hippie and beatnik vernacular of the day, Heavy was synonymous with profound. Metal represented an industrial element. Originally referred to as acid rock, hard rock or downer rock (a term used by Black Sabbath drummer Bill Ward to describe their music due to their fans preference for Quaaludes) Heavy Metal as a musical genre developed almost simultaneously in both the U.S. and the U.K. In the U.S.A. The origins of so called heavy metal music could perhaps be traced back to proto punks, The Music Machine, the brainchild of Sean Bonniwell, a heavy metal front man if ever there was one. The band cultivated a dark goth like image characterized by their use of black clothing, black gloves, “heavy” musical arrangements featuring distorted guitar leads and growling vocals.

In the U.K. some consider The Kinks You Really Got Me to be the prototype for the sound that would evolve into heavy metal. Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, The Pretty Things, Deep Purple were just a few of the bands developing what would soon become known as “hard rock” Across the pond, Blue Cheer (Summertime Blues) Vanilla Fudge (with their trademark extended arrangements of hit songs) Iron Butterfly (In-a-gadda-da-vida) Bloodrock (D.O.A.) and Grand Funk Railroad (who defied convention by succeeding without commercial radio play) were early purveyors of the “heavy metal sound” Blue Cheer, named after a strain of LSD made by Owsley Stanley, went against San Francisco's musical conventions to invent a ruckus form of music unlike anything heard before.

The first mention of “Heavy metal” in song lyrics would be Steppenwolf's Born to be Wild, “I like smoke and lightning, heavy metal thunder, racing with the wind and the feeling that I'm under” Kudos to Dennis Edmonton (better known as Mars Bonfire, an original member of Steppenwolf and author of Born to be Wild) for coming up with that line, which may well have been the impetus for labeling the nascent musical genre as “heavy metal” The phrase also started to creep into the language of music critics at Rolling Stone most notably Mike Saunders and Lester Bangs. Saunders famously referred to Humble Pie's first U.S. album release, Safe as Yesterday Is as “a noisy, unmelodic, heavy metal laden shit rock band with loud noisy parts.... 27th-rate heavy metal crap”

It's your one way ticket to midnight, call it heavy metal, desperation on a red line, call it heavy metal noise” New York Times music critic John Rockwell described "heavy-metal rock" as "brutally aggressive music played mostly for minds clouded by drugs" and then in a later review added "a crude exaggeration of rock basics that appeals to white teenagers" He's describing Grand Funk Railroad to a tee and stating the obvious.... heavy metal from its very inception was white noise for white boys. Eventually, the universal appeal of the music cut through racial and cultural divides, making it one of the most popular and profitable forms of commercial music to come down the pike. It wouldn't be a stretch to say that the genre ruled FM radio through the 1980s and 1990s. Boy Howdy!

I know that I could make this world so peaceful and calm,
If I could only get my hands on a hydrogen bomb”

Ground zero for heavy metal in New Mexico may well be Carlsbad, an intolerant burg nestled on the banks of the Pecos River in southeastern New Mexico. C-bad has sustained a vigorous metal scene for years, producing a number of relatively successful regional bands. With some fluctuation across the “relatively successful” range. Working in a genre that appeals to a limited audience certainly didn't help matters none. Despite oodles of talent and tons of determination, major label stardom eluded these Little Texas sultans of schwing. Footnote: Prom Night Girls, Edgrr, Cidogen, Flood the City, As Idols Fall..... live on only in the minds of hardcore oil patch heshers. Trying to find any mention of them online was an endeavor equivalent to searching for intelligent life at a Trump rally.

If you're talking Carlsbad heavy metal, you have to go back..... way back “The best band that ever came from this area ..Carlsbad,NM. was Banbury Cross..Period..” Perhaps named after an old English nursery rhyme.... “Ride a cock-horse to Banbury Cross, to see a fine lady upon a white horse; rings on her fingers and bells on her toes, and she shall have music wherever she goes” (cock-horse meaning a high spirited horse or a hobby horse ) Banbury Cross, formed in the early 1990s revolving around lead singer Tom Ireland plus guitarists Dion Hood and Martin Burris. Don't confuse this Banbury Cross with the slick alt-rock Seattle band from the same period that featured lead singer Gina Ricci, a Martha Davis sound-a-like and don't confuse that Gina Ricci with the shoe shop in Windermere, UK.

In 1995, following several personnel changes and stymied by the usual problems that plague bands, Banbury Cross called it quits.... Sadly, Tom Ireland passed away just two years later. Their languidly paced brand of heavy metal had more in common with the fading “arena rock” style favored by big hair metal bands of the 1980s than the thrash / doom / death metal bands that would follow. For one, the guitars weren't heavily distorted and you could actually understand the lead singer. If you wish to form your own opinion, Banbury Cross still has an active SoundClick page with three tracks available for streaming (Night Shift, Black River, Midnight Run 2) Dion Hood makes mention of a compact disc they recorded at some point. As one chapter of Carlsbad music closed another opened.

N-Cyde (the precursor to Kryoburn) came about from Todd Brashear jamming with Les Huber, which led to Chris Huber joining them (having just acquired his first drum set) They would go on to form the core of Kyroburn, the poster boys for Carlsbad's metal scene. Not sure of the band's full line-up during the early years. (They spent ten years grinding it out before recording their first album) The band has been through several bass guitarists, including Les Huber who takes on the duties when need be. Jared Pace was their bassist at some point, though Derick Richards plays bass on “Enigmatic Existence” Hunter Correll, bass player/vocalist joined after the debut album but left before the release of their second album, he was replaced by keyboardist Kelly Bogues.

It took ten years for Kyroburn to drop their first album “Enigmatic Existence” on the Continental Entertainment label in 2005. Recorded at Krank Studios in El Paso, produced by Eddy Garcia (Pissing Razors, he also produced the 6-track N-Cyde demo for the band. Which included a cover of the Simple Minds, Don't You Forget About Me) “Enigmatic Existence” is triumph of crisp, clean production, strong, muscular instrumental performances, and the barking vocals of Todd Brashear. While the exact parameters of this organically appealing sound have been explored before (Fear Factory, Strapping Young Lad) It doesn't detract from the album's overall appeal. Kryoburn carefully culled their influences from the very best of the alt-metal rockers from that period with highly effective results.

AllMusic's take: “This 2005 release is generally decent, at least if one enjoys a big dose of crushing brutality. Not every artist who comes along is obligated to be groundbreaking or innovative” Kyroburn wasn't having any of that “trendsetter” bullshit and once they dropped the hammer on their audience, it's not likely that anyone had any fucks to give about innovation. It's nothing but a party ya'll. Whatever momentum Kyroburn may have garnered after “Enigmatic Existence” quickly dissipated as the band suffered a number of setbacks including a round of personnel changes which left them pondering their own enigmatic existence. “When artists who wear their influences on their sleeves, function as followers rather than leaders, the question becomes, Are they good followers?” 
It took five years for Kryoburn to regroup. They did so by poaching guitarist Allen Scott and keyboardist Sam Logan from Blessed Disease, a metal band originally from Hobbs, N.M. The addition of keyboards added an entirely new dynamic to their sound, which they displayed on their long awaited second album “Three Years Eclipsed” Todd Brashear explained: “It took us awhile to get this done, with all the changes we've had going on, we had to find our legs again” Recorded at the band's own studio, KryoLab, “Three Years Eclipsed” produced by Todd Brashear, really benefits from their collaboration with Tue Madsden, who mixed and mastered the album at Antfarm Studio in Aarhus, Denmark. Todd Brashear: “He has done some amazing albums and we're big fans of his work”

AllMusic wasn't all that impressed: “Three Years Eclipsed pretty much picks up where their first album left off, they still operate on the harsher side of alt-metal, favoring an abrasive, claustrophobic, viciously dense approach” then as if to deliver the head shot, AllMusic concludes: “Now for the bad news, Three Years Eclipsed simply isn't very memorable” they go on to point out that Todd Brashear's “angry barking vocals” simply ape those of Fear Factory's Burton C. Bell. “One cannot help but root for Kryoburn and hope that their third album will be stronger” There would be no third album, in 2011, Allen Scott (who appears to have become the band's torch carrier) released a statement announcing that the band had officially called it quits.

Allen Scott later released a statement declaring that he was in the process of getting the band back together “There is a chance Kryoburn is not finished. Everyone keep your fingers crossed and send us some good vibes” No subsequent releases have seen the light of day, although Allen Scott seems to have hijacked the band's material while carrying on as Progenerate. Not certain if this project includes any members of Kryoburn, though Scott had hinted that he would be working together on a new project with Chris Huber. Twenty years after they first formed, we have to conclude that Kryoburn, Carlsbad's great white hope is no more. In fact the entire Carlsbad metal scene appears to be at a crucial crossroads. Most bands have disbanded or on semi permanent hiatus. Which doesn't bode well.

Inside Everyone is a Heavy Metal Kid

While researching for this article, I came across a Topix discussion on Carlsbad local metal bands. It proved to be more than helpful and highly entertaining. “Kryobum? hahahaha, Toad and his washed up buddys, hahaha,what a joke. How old are they? like 40, haha. Kryoburn, that is a good one haha.” Beat me daddy, eight to the bar “Kryoburn have been around since 1995. They broke up because they were tired of going on tour and coming back broke with no jobs. Everyone's a critic: “Dude stfu! These bands suck! I have been around and seen the original local bands and they were good these "bands" f***Ing suck. They don't play music they make noise and yell at these white kids from the rich side of town that have it good but want to be cool and rebel!” One commentator summed it up well “I knew that this town was not capable of any positive feedback or support for any local talent” Boy Howdy!

Of Graves and Gods, hailing from Oil Center, N.M. was successful enough to release an album “Slit Throat Andromeda” on Candelight USA records (same label that released Kryoburn's second album) and embark on a 2006 tour of the U.S. (which included a pair of shows in 'Burque) The album garnered some less than enthusiastic reviews: “Of Gods And Graves occupies the harder end of the metalcore spectrum. The band’s sound is belligerent and brutal” observed Anna Turgel at Metallian Towers “Then again, the lack of originality, the spoken vocal segments and the non-descript drumming take back most of the aforementioned gains” Dismissively, Ms. Turgel then ponders the tenuous connection between the band's name and C.W. Ceram's history of archaeology “Gods, Graves and Scholars”

All Music's reviewer sorta liked it: “When a band like the New Mexico-based Of Graves and Gods has a recipe that is about 90 percent metalcore and ten percent death metal, brutality is bound to result -- and this is definitely a brutal, harsh, vicious sledgehammer of a CD. Of Graves and Gods' jagged material isn't remarkable or terribly memorable -- other bands have done a better job with this type of approach -- but Slit Throat Andromeda is a generally decent listen if one is in the mood for pure, raw, head-kicking exhilaration” To sum it up, it's a dose of European metalcore for American metal heads who prefer metalcore played by Americans. “Slit Throat Andromeda” is available on Amazon for $1 U.S. plus shipping. Keep the change you filthy animal.

Of Gods and Graves consisted of lead singer Lance Staggs, lead guitarist Dustin Mellenbruch, drummer Jake Rogers, guitarist Shawn Norris and bass guitarist Dustin Norris. The Norris brothers were also members of Lest My Heart Dies, a highly talented Carlsbad metal band that we'll get into next. “Slit Throat Andromeda” was produced by Eddy Garcia whom I mentioned previously as having produced Kryoburn's first album and the N-Cyde demo tracks. Eddy is the drummer for Pissing Razors, a metal band originally from El Paso, since relocated to New York City......New York City? get a rope. Highly influential on the Transpecos metal scene, Pissing Razors have recorded seven albums for a number of labels including Noise Records.

Lest My Heart Dies was a Carlsbad teenage metal super group of sorts. Shawn Norris, Dustin Norris (Of Gods and Graves) Dustin Morril (Through Gore Comes Glory) Todd Brashear (N-Cyde, Kryoburn) Ismael Molina and the ubiquitous Kris Kerby, Carlsbad native and Albuquerque's most innovative and recognized drummer. (Joe Bolt coming in a close second) Kerby, the self proclaimed; One Man Percussion Apocalypse, is best known for his work as Icumdrums, but he also sits behind the drum kit for Leeches of Lore, Tenderizor, Knife City and collaborates on Monica Demarco's solo project Cthulha along with Jessica Billey. Kris also works with Lilah Rose, Sean Lucy and god knows how many others. I prefer to think of him as “Carlsbad's Renaissance Man”

For those of you interested in exploring Kirs Kerby's musical roots. Kris, Shawn Norris, Dustin Norris (who handled vocal duties) along with Dustin Morril, CJ Burton and Bronson Roybal were also involved in Death For the Well Dressed, a metal group that followed Lest My Heart Dies. Both groups released albums, albeit short ones. Lest My Heart Dies' album clocks in at a furious 18:10 and Death For the Well Dressed at 25:51. Both are available on YouTube. My New Mexico music source of choice. As you would expect, both groups have a similar sound, though for being teenagers their musical chops were well developed. To me this says a lot about Carlsbad Public Schools excellent music programs. Marching bands being the main source of rock musicians in the U.S.

Ibleedblood included Thomas Williams (Through Gore Comes Glory) and Wesley Whitaker (pretty sure he's related to Dillon Whitaker of Through Gore Comes Glory) They're best remembered for having won a battle of the bands that led to them opening for Veil of Maya, After the Burial and Within the Ruins during the Lubbock, Tx. Warped Tour stop in 2011. Ibleedblood were heavy as fuck, splendid in all their gut grinding, throat mangling glory. There's still a SoundClick page for the band with six tracks queued up for streaming... do it, do it now! All the Carlsbad bands I've mentioned suffered from “failure to launch” to one degree or another. None more so than Through Gore Comes Glory (Dillon Whitaker, James Dingler, Thomas Williams and Dustin Morrill)

Primed to become the next Kryoburn, Through Gore Comes Glory ran out of steam before reaching their full potential. A long awaited album never surfaced and their presence online seems to consist of a few live concert videos on YouTube that are rendered almost unlistenable by poor audio.
The one thing that jumps out at ya' about Through Gore Comes Glory are Dillon Whitaker's vocals... they can best be described as the sound a bobcat-that-got-caught-in-a-tractor's nuts would make... just before it died a slow and horrible death. All of which led one Facebook commentator to say: “That singer is fucking nasty” Through Gore Comes Glory, like almost every band I've mentioned is in a holding pattern. As are we all, waiting for the next big thang to come outta C-bad.

Dirt City Chronicles podcast episode 46

Retribution Shot- Space Truckers
Unkept- The Ground Beneath
Ramble Song- The Dirty Clydes
Court of Kings- Five Hundred
Gateway- Winterlock
Soul Crusher- Catfish Hunter
The Agent- Sincerely
Night Shift ~ Banbury Cross
Transience ~ Kryoburn
Curbstomp vs. Face ~ Through Gore Comes Glory
Above All ~ Immortal Prophecy
Taking Advantage ~ Arcadian
Alice ~ Cordova
Beneath Desire ~ Kryoburn

Friday, October 21, 2016

Berserker Bonfire Songs

My love for you is like a truck, Berserker....
Would you like some making f**k, Berserker”

“Did he just say making fuck?”.... Berserker, the song that Olaf (Silent Bob's metal head cousin from Moscow) uses to serenade Veronica Loughran (played by Marilyn Ghigliotti) was an actual song that appears on the official Clerks movie soundtrack album, performed by Love Among Freaks. “Girls think sexy” Olaf and his fictional band, Fuck Your Yankee Bluejeans were hardly Death metal... a closer approximation would be early Judas Priest. Death metal is considered a sub-genre of heavy metal music, though over the years, it's morphed into any number of sub-genres of its own. The style evolved from thrash metal (Metallica, Megadeath, Slayer) and black metal (Emperor, Mayhem, Burzum) The style further developed and spread with the relative success of bands such as Death w/ Chuck Schuldiner (not the Detroit band) Venom, Celtic Frost, Slayer and Kreator.

Death metal is much maligned, due mostly to its inherent preoccupation with subject matter such as; death, suffering, destruction and mayhem..... did I mention death and suffering? The primary characteristic of Death metal that sets it apart from other sub-genres are the vocals. Typically, lead singers will employ a hoarse roaring grunt, sometimes referred to as death growls, which should never be confused with vocal fry, a technique used in other forms of black metal. “The vocal fry register (also known as pulse register, laryngealisation, pulse phonation, creak, croak, popcorning, glottal fry, glottal rattle, glottal scrape, or strohbass) is the lowest vocal register and is produced through a loose glottal closure which will permit air to bubble through slowly with a popping or rattling sound of a very low frequency” Though unproven, growled vocals may have been a part of Viking music.

Death growls are also referred to as “cookie monster” vocals, due to its vocal similarity to that of the Sesame Street character. Regardless of what you prefer to call this mutated vocal style, it's nearly unintelligible to all but the most harden fanatics. “However, the harshness of death growls is in keeping with death metal's abrasive music style and often dark and obscene subject matter” The opposite of this vocal style would be the screamo/crunk pig squeal which is a squealing vocal technique resembling that of a pig. Another quirk that sets Death metal apart from the rest is the use of Death metal English. The ponderous diction accents the ominous music. It's a lyrical style designed to give Death metal lyrics a sheen of intelligentsia. Which is totally lost on the listener unless you can decipher the death growls delivering the message. The music website, Invisible Oranges does a bang-up job of identifying some common traits of Death metal English, albeit... tongue in cheek:
  • Big, polysyllabic words: You don’t have to use them correctly; you just have to use them. These words don’t even have to be real.
  • Adjectives: In Death Metal English, they’re like guitar solos. You aren’t using enough. Add more.
  • Prepositional phrases: Same is true here, too — the more prepositional phrases, the better.
  • Progressive tense: Especially useful for song titles
  • Passive voice: Active verbs aren’t brutal. Passive voice is useful when you need to add more syllables to a line to make it fit the riff.
  • Archaic or pseudo-Biblical verbiage: If you write like you are some kind of ancient, ageless force who is unfamiliar with modern grammatical conventions, you are probably pretty evil. Bonus points for using constructions that evoke the King James Bible, which is ironically among the most metal texts in the English canon.
  • Grandiloquent metaphor: This is death metal. Make whatever you’re talking about sound really big and important.

The difference between the genres is in the details. What primarily separates Black metal from Death metal is the former's adherence to ideological Satanism (not necessarily practical Satanism) Defining the term 'black metal', Euronymous (a founder and central figure in the Norwegian black metal scene) said that it applies to any heavy metal band who are theistic Satanists and write Satanic lyrics. Such extreme ideas repeated by other scene members, eventually caused it to implode upon itself. Not all the musicians and fans were mother loving Satan worshipers, many were bandwagon believers who dropped all pretenses of allegiance to Beelzebub once the shit hit the fan with a pair of highly publicized gristly murders involving key figures in the Norwegian black metal scene.

A wave of church fires preceded Bård Guldvik "Faust" Eithun (drummer for black metal band, Emperor) stabbing a gay man, Magne Andreassen to death near Lillehammer. Faust later confessed that he encountered Andreassen at Olympic Park “this man approached me, he was obviously drunk and obviously a faggot” the two went into nearby woods, Faust confessed: “I had decided that I wanted to kill him, which was very weird because I'm not like this” Faust was armed with a knife because “It's better to have a knife you don't need than to not have one when you need it” He stabbed Magne Andreassen 37 times and kicked him in the head repeatedly. It would later be revealed that, all three men, Faust, Euronymous (Mayhem) and Varg Vikernes (Burzum) were present at the burning of Fantoft Stave Church and Holmenkollen Chapel.

After Varg Vikernes, a protegee of Euronymous formed Burzum, animosity arose between the two men. The motives for what would follow are shrouded in mystery.... a power struggle, a financial dispute or a need by Vikernes to outdo the murder of Magne Andreassen by committing an even more hideous murder of his own. Whatever the reasons, “on the night of 10 August 1993, Vikernes and Snorre 'Blackthorn' Ruch drove from Bergen to Euronymous's apartment in Oslo. When they arrived there was a confrontation and Vikernes stabbed Euronymous to death. His body was found outside the apartment with 23 cut wounds” Vikernes claimed he killed Euronymous in self-defense, having been lured to the Oslo apartment under the pretense of meeting to iron out details of an unsigned contract. Varg claimed that Euronymous planned to ambush him using a tazer and torture him to death while “filming the event”

"There are very few bands in the history of rock & roll that are undeniable as genuine innovators, Mayhem is one of them." writes Thurston Moore (Sonic Youth) in the afterword for The Death Archives: Mayhem 1984-94. (co-authored by Jørn “Necrobutcher” Stubberud) Formed in Norway in 1984 and recognized as the most influential black metal band in the world, they are a group whose story has, over the years, grown so big, so notorious, it often seemed in danger of swallowing them up entirely. Arson and extremism; exploiting the grusome suicide of corpse-paint wearing singer Pelle "Dead" Ohlin and murder of guitarist Øystein "Euronymous" Aarseth by then bassist Varg "Count Grishnak" Vikernes Today, Norwegian Black Metal is one of the most distinct and controversial subcultures in the music world, its popularity spanning globally to Europe, the UK, the U.S. , Mexico and Brazil. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Radio is Broken

Radio Radio

Recently, Mark Davis who worked for Kmart from the late 1980s to the early '1990s, uploaded over 60 hours of pre-recorded music sent in from the corporate office on cassette tapes. Kmart radio (KMRT) featured an MOR format designed to comfort customers as they browsed through the store's array of discounted goods. It's mostly muzak interspersed with soft rock songs from that era and in-store announcements. Nonetheless, it's a fascinating find for radio heads such as myself. A veritable time capsule of sorts. Mark Davis, for no apparent reason, had the foresight to save over 56 tapes from the trash heap. Years later, Davis converted them into digital files and posted them at Internet Archives where they were met with far more fanfare than he could ever have imagined.

Canned music in stores is nothing new, it's been around forever. Walmart has come full circle with in-store music. Originally (like everyone else) they went with canned music. In the early 1990s Walmart Radio was created as a reliable means of broadcasting important information directly into stores. It evolved to include a morning show hosted by consummate radio pro Terry Berry, the original Walmart Radio legend. However staying true to its policy of “constantly changing things to keep those fuckers on their toes” In 2009 Walmart ditched Walmart Radio instructing stores to play cds' instead. (Terry Berry was long gone at this point) This led to lazy store managers looping the same music over and over.... usually Celine Dion, Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber or some other inoffensive white bread schmucks. The complaints from associates (most customers are blissfully unaware of the overhead music) came hot and heavy.

This even led to a puppet character named Willie Sellmore (Will He Sell More?) joking to Walmart head honchos at the annual shareholders meeting in Bentonville that “One of my fellow associates recently developed a serious eye-tic from hearing Céline Dion’s greatest hits on loop in our stores.” Ever eager to appease a workforce perpetually threatening to organize a union. Walmart reinstated Walmart Radio. A nationwide talent search to find two associates to serve as morning radio hosts was announced with over 500 cheesy videos submitted from across the country and the two men (sorry ladies, you were shut out) deemed the least offensive of the bunch were selected to become the new voices of Wallyworld. The lucky fuckers were Bo Woloszyn an innocuous bald white guy from Meadville, Pa. and Antonio Williams, an African-American co-manager from Frisco, Tx.

Antonio is inoffensive, not totally lacking in talent and believe it or not when he's in the groove, he spins some killer tunes. Bo plays the straight man, makes announcements and comes off as bland as mashed taters without salt or pepper. The nadir of the Morning show comes when Bo & Antonio muster up a shitload of phony cheeriness and lead the Walmart morning cheer, which in stores, usually follows the reading of daily sales numbers. “Give me a W-A-L-M-A-R-T,” with the rest of the people in the room shouting back the same letter. It's pure cornball, inspired by a trip Sam and Helen Walton made to a filthy tennis ball factory in South Korea. Between the L and the M...... Bo musters up all the personality he can find and yells “Give me a squiggly!” at which point I'm sure Antonio does a butt wiggle. So Help me, Sam. It's corny as hell... but the faithful eat it up.

The entire charade ends with an emphatic chant of “Who's Walmart is this?” to which the now frothing associates yell back “My Walmart!” They should just hand out amphetamine pills at the start of every shift. Wash them down with those Little Hugs fruit drinks that Walmart sells by the millions. Not all stores do the cheer anymore, mainly because it scares the shit out of customers. All in all, Walmart radio isn't that bad. It's a carefully formatted station that mixes Contemporary Hit radio with the that old format warhorse, Good Time Oldies.... sprinkled with just enough country music hits to keep the redneck associates happy. No actual commercials are played, just Walmart ads and friendly reminders designed to keep associates productive and focused. Walmart has licensed tons of music since the days of Walmart Music, so the playlist varies more than that of your average “Hot mix” station. Plenty of hit songs, lots of Beatles, Stones, classic rock, classic oldies and what have you.

Do you have any idea how surreal it is to hear “Sold in a market down in New Orleans, Scarred old slaver know he's doin' alright, Hear him whip the women just around midnight” played overhead in a Walmart at 3a.m.? It gives me the whammy. I still say that the song selections are meant to carry a subliminal message. The Beatles “Don't Let Me Down” plays at crunch time, just as associates are struggling to complete their daily tasks. “When Will I Be Loved” kicks in just after that (I've been cheated, been mistreated) Paul Revere's “Hungry” comes on right before the lunch break and The Guess Who's “No Time” just as the lunch hour comes to a close. Invariably associates will call in with requests for “Proud Mary” ..... “Workin' for the man ev'ry night and day and I never lost one minute of sleepin' worryin' 'bout the way things might have been” or “Working in a Coalmine”.... “Five o'clock in the mornin' I'm already up and gone Lord, I'm so tired How long can this go on?”

The second time I heard Larry from Vernon, store # 3229 in the Great state of Texas call in to request “Neon Moon” It dawned on me that dedications are pre-recorded and carefully screened. During Terry Berry's days, associates abused the request line by sending out mean spirited shout outs.... “Splish Splash” for that associate with a body odor problem. Weird Al's “Eat It” for that grossly obese assistant manager. Oh! that's classic. Walmart Radio's daily broadcast is pre-recorded. I suppose that Bo and Antonio's show is live, though it's hard to tell. Either way, Bo and Antonio broadcast to a captive audience that radio advertising salesmen would die for. (5,000 stores and clubs, 1.5 million associates) Sweet Jesus on the cross, that's just in the U.S. No terrestrial radio station broadcasting today can even come close to matching those numbers.

Hello!... this is Eager Beaver from ghetto Walmart, store #831, Albuquerque N.M. And I'd like to request I Wanna Fuck you Like an Animal..... err!, Closer by Nine Inch Nails and dedicate it to that shorty in Meats & Dairy, she's the spicy Tapatio meatball of my dreams..... Hello? Oh, they cut me off. I wonder why they cut me off?..... Hello?, they keep cutting me off, someone answers but they keep cutting me off ..... Hello?

Friday, October 14, 2016

Dirt City Chronicles podcast episode 45

  Put 'er in Cruise Control

Let's drive that old Chrysler down to Las Cruces. Keep your hands on the wheel boss.... roll me up another Zig Zag, can't you do that with one hand? It's going on two years since we visited New Mexico's second city. It's a vibrant scene, though not one bent on experimentation. For the most part the local music scene is dominated by beefy classic rock inspired anthems produced by bearded bros rocking out like it's 1973 and ZZ Top just dropped “Tres Hombres” This trend is mostly due to the efforts and influence of Travis Manning, his Nasty Cactus recording studio and its legacy of heavy metal thunder bands such as New Mexican Erection, Dirty Clydes, Worm Hole and most recently Flat Blak. It's a variable time capsule of rehashed hesher riffs and beats. If you loved Grand Funk Railroad back in 1970, you'll love anyone of the previously mentioned bands.

The city's music scene also has an inspired progressive side, which we'll be exploring in this episode. I'm partial to DAMN Union a collective of musicians anchored by Danny Graves and Aaron Ransbarger, both formerly of The Rawdogs. Build around jam sessions referred to as The Dona Ana Music Night Union (DAMN Union) the lineup is fluid. I'm reading this off their Facebook page... the current touring roster consists of Graves, Ransbarger, Larry Ramos, Tucker and Andrew Levi Hiller. Other notable members include: Audra Rogers, Neeshia Macanowicz, Joe Hecker, Mike Granado, Ben Cantrell, Chuck Drexler. A variable super group of sorts, especially so when Sean Lucy joins the proceedings. Casting egos aside for the betterment of music, a collaborative effort that sparkles like the starry skies of Southern New Mexico.... the results speak for themselves. 

Sean Lucy is the last of the cosmic cowboys, taking up where Gram Parsons (the original cosmic cowboy) and legendary troubadour, Townes Van Zandt left off. Michael Murphy, another singer/songwriter with New Mexico ties describes cosmic cowboy music as “The cross pollination between Hippie and Cowboy. Early 70s hippie stuff combined with kind of the red-neck mentality. Texas accents and Country music” Boy Howdy. DoStuff Media: “This blonde cowboy hails from Texas, where lots of good things come from.... and then they stay gone” We'll stake a claim on the technicolor cowboy, Texas' loss in New Mexico's gain. Sean is a prolific songwriter with an extensive discography, Eleven albums starting with “The New Vulgarity” released in 2006 leading up his two latest releases, “King Clone Creosote” and “Pearl Snaps & Blunt Wraps”

As the frontman for The Answer Lies and then Shang-a-Lang, Chris Mason became synonymous with Las Cruces' minuscule but resilient punk rock scene. In addition he operated a record label out of his home and ran The Trainyard, a local venue that became a home away from home for Cruces punk rockers. Mason like so many other New Mexico musicians eventually felt the need to leave the state. “I was kind of feeling like, at 34, I was ready to live somewhere that already had a flourishing scene” that place would be Portland, Or. Home base for Mason's current band, Low Culture which includes Mason's longtime drummer Sam George, guitarist Joe Ayoub of El Paso, Tx. And Chicago transplant Jay Castaldi on bass guitar. Low Culture, essentially a slightly more melodic version of Shang-a-Lang, has steadily ingrained itself on the indie punk scene.

The Answer Lies was hardcore, a buzzsaw of punk angst delivered with propulsive determination. Shang-a-Lang changed things up just enough to cause critics to speculate whether Mason had gone soft or not. Low Culture continues down that path. Mature punk rock for mature punk rockers. “There's unlimited supply and there is no reason why” What do white punks approaching forty have to rage against? The answer for the most part is nothing and therein lies the problem with much of modern punk rock.... it's bland as fuck. The lyrics are selfishly self absorbed. The vocal delivery invariably whiny and given that we're currently living through a period of polarizing social change and one of the vilest presidential campaigns in recent memory.... totally devoid of significant sociopolitical content.

Anarchy in the U.S. It's coming sometime and maybe? Not a fucking chance, that would be bad for the brand. There's a big hard sun beating on a big people The future's so dim, you need night vision goggles just to grope your way through the sunniest of days. Don't be afraid homies, accept the Las Cruces challenge. To sample more of what Las Cruces has to offer, go to Bandcamp, tag New Mexico, tag Las Cruces. You'll be amazed at what you'll find. (There's also tags for Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Taos.... by all means, check 'em out) My favorite Las Cruces bands from the past in no particular order: Rawdogs, Moonshiners, Beat Cowboys, Space Truckers, Liquid Cheese and my favorite Las Cruces bands recently active: The Raggies, Drunk Armstrong, Desert Ratts, The Gold Hearted Crows, DAMN Union, Everett Howl and the Wolves. Boy Howdy!

Titty Baby ~ The Raggies
Spooky Fuckin Blues ~ Holy Wave
Shake it Off ~ Low Culture
Drug Town ~ Back of a Car
Late Night ~ Sorrytown
Those Sweet Mojave Blues ~ Bad Homosapiens
Hot Fire ~ DAMN Union
Kinda sick and tired of paying my damn rent ~ Desert Ratts
Bill W. ~ Drunk Armstrong
No Way in this World- Sean Lucy
Texas Women/Memphis Girl- Everett Howl and the Wolves
Dead or Alive- The Beat Cowboys
Willow Grove- The Gold Hearted Crows
Albuquerque Freakout ~ Holy Wave
Southern NM ~ DAMN Union
Alamogordo ~ Back of a Car

Friday, October 7, 2016

Dirt City Chronicles podcast episode 44

“Simplicity is the key to doors divine”

Pickin' On is a series of tribute albums recorded by studio musicians in a bluegrass style. The series logs in at over one hundred albums, running the gamut from Three Doors Down to Hank Williams Jr. plus everyone and anyone that you can imagine in between. It's hit or miss. When it's good, (Van Halen's “Ain't Talking 'Bout Love” or The Offspring's “Gone Away”) it's really good. The bad stuff amounts to little more than the bluegrass equivalent of a square peg being forced into a round hole. “The Pickin' On series isn't alone in this world. Iron Horse a bluegrass band from Killen, Alabama has perfected the same formula for turning alt-rock songs into bluegrass tunes. It's the Sound-a-Like marketing technique of the early 1970s reinvented for the Americana set. The local tie-in? both Iron Horse and Pickin' On have covered The Shins, with good results.

Grand Canyon (Lesser bands have labels. We are the Grand Canyon) which evolved into Jenny Invert and hightailed it out of 'Burque, contributes “From the Westside” a cautionary tale about getting belligerent and shit faced, then having to walk from Albuquerque's westside back to the heights.... at night. Much ado about nothing. In my opinion, walking from the eastside to the westside would be much more harrowing, day or night. The best known band currently based in the Duke City would be The Handsome Family and “My Friend” does little to dissuade their reputation for producing music cloaked in a shroud of Gothic mystique. That can't be an easy thing to do in cheap and sunny Albuquerque N.M. What with all those colorful hot air balloons floating around on a daily basis.

Rod Lacy (The Old Main) is the product of his environment, Western New Mexico's coal country. Situated around Gallup on the state's western edge, it shares the same traits as its Appalachian counterpart. Rod Lacy hints at his roots with a jaded drawl that would seem more at home in West Virginia hollers than New Mexico arroyos. His plaintive tales pull you into the uncomplicated lives of the hearty men... broke dick and busted, who journeyed out to work the coal veins. “I feel okay but I came home with a busted back today” Rod's first album Blacklung was recorded in a cabin near Ruidoso while snowbound during a blizzard. It comes in two versions, the original 4-track recording from those cabin sessions, which is just a tad rough around the edges when compared to the subsequent studio version.

I will without the least bit of hesitation, admit to crying whenever I hear either Fast Heart Mart or The Handsome Family's original version of “My Sister's Tiny Hands” It's a song that fucks with my emotions. “We came in this world together, legs wrapped around each other. My cheek against my sister's, we were born like tangled vines” We all know the feeling of having someone ripped from us. Such pain being the vehicle that drives this heart rendering tale of sorrow and vengeance. “Every creature casts a shadow, under the sun's golden fingers” Makes ya' wanna grab a sharpened stick and start killing snakes. Fast Heart Mart (Martin Stamper) having completed a series of concerts in Germany and Finland, is still based in San Diego, with his most recent performances taking place at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass held in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park.

You got to roll me and call me the tumblin' dice. It's time to roll out another edition of New Mexico's one and only podcast dedicated solely to local music. This episode consists of tracks trimmed off previous podcast episodes in order to comply with Dailymotion's fifty nine minute rule. As a result, episode 44 is an odd mix of songs that slide up and down the genre scale. Nonetheless it goes down easy, not hard on the ears whatsoever. Excuse the two holiday tracks, I know we're nowhere near Christmas, but I just couldn't waste 'em. Boy Howdy!

Turn a Square- Iron Horse
From the Westside- Grand Canyon
My Friend- The Handsome Family
Black Xmas- Then Eats Them
Christmas Without You- The Angel Babies
Directions in a Bottle- Next 2 The Tracks
Black Lung- The Old Main
Norma Jean- Holiday Sail
Ought Five Thunder- The Foxx
Do Pot- Racist Cop
Soda Ride- Electricoolade
Darlin' Corey- Young Edward
My Sister's Tiny Hands- Fast Heart Mart
Drive- Hazeldine
New Slang- Iron Horse

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Dirt City Chronicles podcast episode 43

If I was where I would be, then I'd be where I am not
Here I am where I must be, where I would be, I can not

Nostalgia is the flavor of the day. “I'm glad I grew up doing this instead of this” the mantra for those more accustomed to looking back than looking forward. I got to experience the “good old days”, not just for myself but for every consequent generation after me. Those days are overrated. Not being one of my generation that continually pines for the past, I embrace change. Having spent part of my youth on a farm that still had an outhouse and no hot water. I have since grown accustomed to porcelain bathroom fixtures and electricity.

Change is good. The arrival of television to our household was a momentous day. (1964, just in time for the Republican and Democratic conventions that gave us LBJ vs. Barry Goldwater) Television got us up to par. It exposed us to a world that we rarely ever got to see (the fifty seven miles to the nearest “big” city, may as well have been a thousand) We now knew all about Ronald McDonald, Slush Puppies, Montgomery Ward and a place called Pancho's, that let you eat all the Mexican food that you could ever hope for.

Dirt City Chronicles was born of an idea that a radio station playing primarily local music could be feasible. It wasn't, although the advent of online streaming made that a mute point. Terrestrial radio, hampered by the FCC's archaic adherence to rules and regulations (in place since the early days of radio) simply can't compete with streaming apps such as Pandora, Slacker, Spotify etc. All of which allow users to program their own tailor made streams. After exploring possible online broadcast apps such as Shoutcast (too expensive, complicated) I determined that podcasting was the obvious choice.

Thus Dirt City Radio was born.... with a slight hitch, a local band was already using that name. Radio became Chronicles and there you have it. All I lacked at that point was a file host. After some research, I settled on Pod Bean, a competent app that provided cool embedded players, though overall the process of posting episodes was rather tedious. There was one major drawback to Pod Bean, initially you pay $29.99, after that Pod Bean essentially holds your audio files for ransom. Forcing you to renew at their escalating rates or your links go dead. Dirt City Chronicles is a not for profit undertaking, leaving me to explore whatever free options the internet had to offer. YouTube was the obvious choice.

It's free, you can upload files of any size (once you register your mobile number) and as long as you don't run afoul of YouTube's copyright restrictions, the sky really is the limit. Another option for those working on the cheap is Unlimited uploads, no file size restrictions and little if any copyright hassles. The internet is forever and these links will never go dead. I've recently rediscovered a couple of free and reliable options for posting podcast episodes: Dailymotion and Vimeo. Dailymotion limits uploads to files under sixty minutes. Vimeo's free version allows you upload up to 500mbs or approximately one podcast episode per week. Far less draconian than YouTube, both take a laissez-faire approach to copyright restrictions.

Editing previous episodes of Dirt City Chronicles down to under an hour left me with several hours worth of music that I've re-purposed as new episodes. New and improved, with enhanced audio (no more volume drops) I'm posting all previous episodes of Dirt City Chronicles on both Dailymotion and Vimeo.... for those that have no use for YouTube.

A grab bag of local music, alternative country, modern surf music, homegrown reggae, dream pop, goth pop, experimental and Americana..... yes, Americana. Tune in, turn up and drop me a line, Dirt City Chronicles, your choice for local music, Boy Howdy!

Swimming in Alcohol- Youngsville
Vertigo- Dead Town Lovers
As We Ascend- Before This City
Burts Tiki Tear Drop- The Surf Lords
Let the Morning Come- Mondo Vibrations
King of Whiskey Throne- Lousy Robot
Hello Again- The Black Disciples
I'm Your Huckleberry- The Giranimals
The Revelator- I is for Ida
Oh No- Jenny Wren Sounds
Spider Walker- Javelina
Locked In- The Porter Draw
Moses Stuttered- Todd and the Fox
My Revolver- Lowlights
Myra Joyce- The Porter Draw

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Dirt City Chronicles podcast episode 42

C'mon in, the water is fine
After sixteen years of self imposed exile in New Mexico's Bootheel Country, I've now been back in Albuquerque for eight months. This has allowed me to view the city from a different light. Burqueños proclivity for running red lights (especially on the Westside) is fucking scary. Bring back red light cameras already. Unser north of I40 is a speedway, on most days Unser south of I40 resembles a Baghdad highway. I've seen guns flashed, fights on the side of the road and a pitbull pup nearly strangled when he jumped out of a pick-up bed in traffic. The fifth most dangerous city in the U.S. continues to live up to its dubious ranking. A vicious series of brutal murders, drive by shootings and road rage fights have turned 'Burque news into the north-of-the border version of tawdry Mexican crime tabloid Alarma!

Albuquerque is a quizzical mix of open hostility and open armed bienvenidos.... meted out in equal increments that can be both puzzling and maddening. Bad things happen to good people here and bad things happen to bad people with alarming regularity as well. The prevalence of Spanish spoken throughout the city, is perhaps the biggest change that I've noticed. The line separating the homogeneous white heights from the rest of 'Burque is almost blurred beyond recognition. What were once good neighborhoods are now bad and what were once bad neighborhoods are now gentrified. Albuquerque as I once predicted has become more like Los Angeles or Phoenix. Though to be honest, the entire southwest has become more like Los Angeles or Phoenix That's life in the big city.

The one thing that has remained constant in the Duke City is the music scene. It continues to thrive with an upsurge of creative and talented musicians heading up a growing list of bands and projects that rival those of any other major metropolitan area that comes to mind. No shit. Albuquerque music makes Albuquerque a better place to live, it's proof positive that there's intelligent life here. Bring back the Punk Rock Flea Market, I need more music. Mac's Steak in the Rough and Bob's Burgers are overrated, Chicharron Burrito Express on 4th St. is the bomb. The Frontier and Golden Pride are as good as advertised and the best bakery goods in town are at El Super Mezquite on 98th. They also carry genuine Mennonite cheese straight outta Chihuahua. 

Fort Hobo (ex-Giant Haystacks) kicks things off with a track from their album “Michael” recorded at the Train Yard in Las Cruces by Chris Mason (The Answer Lies, Shang-a-Lang, Low Culture, Dirt Cult Records) which Chris founded in 2006, in Las Cruces... “to release his band Shang-A-Lang’s first 7″ record” 15 Polk St. allegedly had a small army of fanatic “Polksters” following them and they also claim to have “created an entirely new genre of rock music” it's a shame they never got around to recording “Polk Salad Annie” Austin Morrell (previously of Gusher, You, Austin Morrell & The Alchemists, Nightsnake, Brothers, Yoda’s House, Braillist, Abraham the Poor, Heyisayfuckyou, The Crystal Thimble and High Priest) serenades us with “Bad Heart” off his latest album “Albuquerque”

Retard Slave is one of Steve Hammond's side projects “Mow Down Mow Man” comes from
“Cool A.M. Party Sweat” a compilation album released in 2011. Nick Voges is a member of The Haptics..... who are still active, having played at Burt's Tiki Lounge as recently as March, 2016. In case you're wondering, Haptics (pronounced HAP-tiks) is the science of applying touch (tactile) sensation and control to interaction with computer applications. I didn't know that. Tracks by Seahorn, The Haptics and Nick Voge are from “The Music Lab- ABQ” a compilation album featuring local bands that ranks right up there with “Ouch! Welcome to Albuquerque” Socyermom's iconic compilation as a must-have local music companion. Melanthius is Mauro Woody (Animals in the Dark, Lady Uranium, The Glass Menageries, Chicharra, Five Star Motelles) her brothers Brahm Woody, Dhaveed Woody, and Eric Wellman.

Let's cut to the chase. Faster than a stray round! More powerful than an Española lowrider, Able to leap raging arroyos in a single bound. Look, up in the sky! It's the Creamland cow!, It's Wayfarer 515!, It's Dirt City Chronicles, strange visitor from another planet (Southern New Mexico) who came to 'Burque with a music collection far beyond those of your average joe. Don't touch that dial. Dirt City Chronicles is available on Facebook, YouTube (Dirt City Chronicles channel) Google + and at the original source: Blogger, Dirt City Chronicles. I don't do Twitter, Snapchat or Instagram and I never respond to any correspondence. All music posted on Dirt City Chronicles is available at various internet sources for streaming or sale. Boy Howdy!

Part 1 of 3 ~ Fort Hobo
Horsecops ~ Black Fando
Mow Down Mow Man ~ Retard Slave
Moon Pt. 1 ~ 15 Polk St.
Puritans on a Boat ~ Cloud Lantern
Captain Trips ~ Steve Hammond
Bad Heart ~ Austin Morrell
News ~ Italian Rats
All and All ~ Seahorn
Moon Spirit ~ Ballets
So Much to Blame- The Gatherers
Escapism (Markdown Coyote Runner) ~ CanyonLands
The Door ~ Melanthius
Another Day ~ The Haptics
You're So Cool (extended mix) ~ CanyonLands
Canary ~ Nick Voges
Behind Your Smile ~ Ballets

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Dirt City Chronicles podcast episode 41

The third installment in a three part series showcasing the women involved in Albuquerque's music scene is cued up and ready to spin. Until the late 1990s few women were involved in the local music scene and only a handful managed to release any recordings. Prior to that it was strictly a boy's club with a few rare exceptions. Beverlee Brown joined future husband Sidro Garcia in The Sneakers shortly before they relocated to Las Vegas, Nv. in 1964. The Feebeez ('Burque's legendary all-girl 60s garage band) recorded legacy consists of one scratchy self-released vinyl 45) Kid Sister w/ Victoria Woodworth are a bit of mystery. Bandmine lists them as being from Albuquerque and having been signed by MCA records. Yet, I haven't found much evidence that they actually were from 'Burque. Kid Sister rose to become a regional favorite based in Denver, Co. Could be they hooked up with Victoria Woodworth (raised in Denver) after they relocated.

Who of course, doesn't remember Femme Fatale, fronted by Lorraine Lewis (also lead singer for Babe Ruthless) they found success on a national level that few thought attainable for a local band. That success would prove to be short lived and bittersweet. Lorraine remains one of the most recognizable musicians to hail from the Duke City, becoming somewhat of a cult figure with heshers hellbent on reliving the 1980s. While we're on the subject. Twenty five years after the fact, Femme Fatale's aborted second album for MCA has seen the light of day. "One More For The Road" released this year on F n A Records. (compact disc only, no plans for a vinyl release) Lorraine, Bobby, Rick, Bill and Maz.... it's like they never left us. A time capsule from an era of Albuquerque's rock history that often gets neglected or lampooned. “One More For the Road” appears to have been released in limited quantities, check online for availability.

I would be negligent not to mention some other pioneering women on the local scene. Linda Cotton, blues/jazz/gospel singer was a local fixture for more than twenty five years. One of New Mexico's best known female vocalist, Cotton passed away at just 55 years of age in 2006. Hillary Smith, a native of Hobbs, N.M. and a contemporary of Linda Cotton, has been wowing New Mexico audiences for a quarter century. Best known for her work with Soul Kitchen (w/Chris Dracup of The Muttz & The Rattle Cats) and hONEyhoUSe (w/Mandy Buchanan and Yvonne Perea) Seriously, if you've never listened to Hillary Smith.... you need hit up YouTube and check out some of her videos. Some other notable female vocalists from the same era: Joanie Griffin (Cadillac Bob and the Rhinestones) Denise Brissey (The Planets) Denise Wollman (The Clams) 

Sometimes work and such gets in the way of posting new episodes, but at long last here we go; Dirt City Chronicles, podcast episode 41, featuring the women that make Albuquerque rock. Boy Howdy!

Voice 7 ~ Lady Uranium
Dustland II ~ Lady Uranium
Sleep With the Lights On ~ 5 Star Motelles
Brickspit ~ Star Canyon
Like a Prayer ~ The Rondelles
All Burned Down ~ Paint Me Purple
Less Okay Than Yesterday ~ The Hollis Wake
K is for Killers ~ I is for Ida
Jukeboxx Button ~ The Foxx
Sugar ~ YaYa Boom
I'm Your Huckleberry ~ Giranimals
Mellow Kin ~ Feels Like Sunday
What About Me? ~ The Jenny Clinkscale Band
You Killed Private Pyle ~ Foma
Whalebone ~ The Glass Menageries
Sitting on my Hands ~ Holiday Sail
Fil ~ Hit By a Bus

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Wall of Voodoo

Twisted Pop Music

Well, I'd say it now sounds like background music for vast urban barbeques, metropolitan rodeos, something along those lines. I've always called our music twisted pop music” Bruce Moreland

Wall of Voodoo came together at Acme Soundtracks, Stanard Ridgway's film score company. Located across the street from The Masque (Hollywood's infamous punk club) Acme Soundtracks became a magnet for aspiring local punk musicians. Marc Moreland, guitarist for The Skulls, was drawn in and from that collaboration came Wall of Voodoo. Bruce Moreland joined on bass, Chas T. Gray, also from The Skulls was enlisted as keyboardist and veteran drummer Joe Nanini rounded out the original line up. The band's name was derived from a comment made by Joe Berardi, a fellow musician whom upon listening to some of Ridgway's Acme Soundtrack recordings, declared “Phil Spector has his Wall of Sound, but you've got a Wall of Voodoo. The name stuck. It's an L.A. thing, I suppose.

Question: which of the following genre tags best describes Wall of Voodoo.... new wave, post punk, alternative rock, dark wave, cowpunk? It's a trick question, they all apply, unequivocally. How many times did you try and play Wall of Voodoo at a party only to be met by belligerent bellows of “Take that punk shit off!” Lead singer, Stanard “Stan” Ridgway drawled with jaded detachment.... a flowing river of abstract pronouncements, delivered with an unmistakably American west coast accent that echoed western movie heroes and any number of their nasalized sidekicks. “Cause I can tell at a glance you're not from 'round these parts, Got a green look about ya And that's a gringo for starts” Stan had the necessary tools: a shitload of confidence combined with an endless reservoir of arrogance.

After parting ways with Wall of Voodoo, Ridgway launched his solo career. He's recorded eight solo albums (“Big Heat” his solo debut still remains his most successful) Delving more and more into movie soundtracks while cultivating a narrative vocal delivery that  blurs the line between spoken word and singing, it's not for everyone. Stan's split with Wall of Voodoo wasn't all that amicable. Bruce Moreland still holds a grudge (Stan was instrumental in his being booted from the band prior to “Call of the West”)With Wall of Voodoo, it had a lot to do with Stan’s ego getting a little too big. People assume that the lead singer is the songwriter and leader of a band. But in Stan’s case he wasn’t. And I think it became obvious on his solo records that Stan wasn’t the creative force behind Wall of Voodoo” 

Guitarist, Marc Moreland specialized in big rich rolling tones, shamelessly lifted from Morricone spaghetti western soundtracks and spiced up with some Dick Dale inspired surf licks. Stan would introduce “Morricone Themes” by announcing: “Here's a little film music for you” Marc Moreland, one of the truly underrated guitarist from the 1980s. On stage Marc and Chas T. Gray gave off an underlying sense of hostility. Two So Cal bros ready to stomp your ass into a mud puddle at any moment. “If it's the rough stuff ya want You can point yer finger at me” Gray's encyclopedic arsenal of keyboard riffs gave Wall of Voodoo a “new wave” sound not unlike that of “Duty Now for the Future” era Devo (Can't Make Love and pretty much the entire “Call of the West” album)

Marc Moreland's roots went back to one of Los Angeles' very first punk bands, The Skulls. A band that both Marc and brother Bruce would later return to. (Bruce was asked to leave Wall of Voodoo following the release of “Dark Continent” due to his heroin addiction) Marc, Bruce and Chas T. Gray were also instrumental in keeping Wall of Voodoo afloat after Stan Ridgway and Joe Nanini left the band in 1983. Ridgway was replaced by Andy Prieboy, Nanini by Ned Leukhardt (this resulted in the “Seven Days in Sammy's Town” album) Post-Wall of Voodoo, Marc Moreland collaborated with Johnette Napolitano (Concrete Blonde) in Pretty and Twisted. He moved to Las Vegas, Nv. and put together a new band, Dept. of Crooks, which released one album “Plan 9 from Las Vegas”

Marc also released a solo album “Take it to the Spotlight” credited to Marc Moreland's Mess. (Marc on lead vocals w/ John Parish and Jean-Marc Butty, both of whom toured with P.J. Harvey) He's rumored to be the subject of Concrete Blonde's “Joey” a song about being in love with an alcoholic. (Johnette would admit as much in later interviews) An unabashed alcoholic, Marc Moreland died in Paris, France of renal failure following a liver transplant in 2002. Prior to joining Wall of Voodoo, Bruce Moreland had played bass for The Weirdos. He put together Black Cherry with Paul Black of the L.A. Guns. He teamed up with Wall of Voodoo band mate Chas T. Gray in Nervous Gender and also worked with Johnette Napolitano and The Skulls.

Drummer Joe Nanini maintained a workman like resolve even as his band mates resorted to surly on-stage shenanigans and drunken audience baiting. A veteran of L.A.'s punk scene, Nanini had played with Black Randy & the Metrosquad, The Plugz and The Bags. Following his stint with Wall of Voodoo, Nanini helped co-found The Lonesome Strangers, in (1983 w/ Randy Weeks, Jeff Rymes & Nino Del Pesco) A country rock/roots band much ballyhooed by critics, beloved by a small core of fans and and an utter commercial failure. Nanini left the band shortly after their first album “Lonesome Pine” was recorded in 1986. An ever inventive percussionist, aptly schooled in all genres, Nanini passed away from a brain hemorrhage in 2000. 

This modern world deserves a Modern attitude”

Ultimately, it would dawn on me that Stanard Ridgway fashioned his drawling vocal mannerisms after those of flaming asshole and proto-typical So Cal white guy.... Beach Boy, Mike Love. It all makes sense....these two variables (Beach Boys and Wall of Voodoo) have a linear relationship with each other. Both sought (in their own fashion) to promote the SoCal lifestyle as the American ideal. Brian Wilson painted sunny beach side landscapes and doted endlessly on the pleasures of fast cars, nice girls and surfing, Wall of Voodoo chose to expose the darkside of SoCal life, preferring America's fast lane to sandy beaches and surf boards. The post Ridgway version of the band (w/ Andy Prieboy) actually covered The Beach Boys' “Do It Again” on their final studio album “Happy Planet”

Wall of Voodoo's lyrics could easily have come from a Jay McInerney novel. “Mexican Radio” transports us to the land of barbecued iguana and easy virtues. “I'm on a wavelength far from home” “Lost Week End” is set on Interstate 15, a satiated couple returning to L.A. after a weekend of gambling debauchery, during which Sin City lived up to its other sobriquet: Lost Wages. “You can take any exit that you happen to feel is the right one." “Tomorrow” addresses the stress brought on by sudden fame and growing expectations. “Can't understand what happened to all the plans I made” “Call of the West” draws inspiration from Sergio Leone's epic spaghetti western, Once Upon a Time in the West "Son this ain't no western movie matinee and you're a long way off from yippee yi yay”

“Long Arm” finds the boys preoccupied with menial jobs and corporate headhunters “this business needs a strong arm. some new part to clear out all the deadwood” “Factory” hits close to home “Now I know I had something to say but the problem is to say something, gotta say it” The factories of today come with piped in music. It could be a big box retailer, a fast food restaurant, a convenience store. All the same, you grind it out, then go home to take stock of your prized possessions “I got a little rubber pool in the backyard for the kids to wade in and I got a little backyard, pink mustang, fenders chrome” It's all a facade “an average joe from the grand design” caves in to the pressure and can't always hold it together “Just lately now when my wife talks back to me I slap her around”

Just like Brian Wilson in the 1960s.... Ridgway, the Moreland bros., Joe Nanini and Chas T. Gray had their fingers on the jaded pulse of 1980s Southern California. Which as it turns out, was quite a bit different from Wilson's era. They'll be wearing their Mexican poncho vests and even if they could surf, the locals wouldn't let them go near the water.... I feel a hot wind on my shoulder or maybe that's just the cholos in  that lowrider staring intently at me. I hear the talking of the Dj.... but you can bet it's not Wolfman Jack, who built his rep in the early 1960s broadcasting on XERB, just across the border in Rosarita Beach. Even though, the son of a bitch was actually working in Minnesota at the time and his shows were pre-recorded and the tapes shipped by courier from Minneapolis.

"I've never seen so many corndogs in my entire life"
Stan Ridgway scanning the crowd at US Festival, 1983

Friday, July 8, 2016

The Muscle of Love

There’s nothing as unstoppable as a freight train full of fuck-yeah.” 
Much like Alice Cooper, Molly Hatchett, Bettie Serveert etc. Jenny Clinkscale wasn't an actual person. The band, described by its label as “equal parts glam, cock and shock rock” took its name from singer/guitarist Jen Sincero's first name and singer/guitarist Amy Clinkscale's last name. Formed in 1997, Jenny Clinkscale started blowing minds almost immediately... leading the Albuquerque Journal to praise them in this manner... "the group has a power that few bands are willing to wield these days." Jenny Clinkscale came together during a period in 'Burque's musical history that Journal music writer Kenn Rodgriguez once described as “atrophied” and mired in “musical doldrums”

Naturally, it was anything but. “Lack of middling bands makes it seem as if nothing new is coming up on the local scene” Kenn lamented, while naming off a list of “big bands” working the local scene: Giant Steps, January's little Joke, Flake, Scared of Chaka, Naomi and Hazeldine, Jenny Clinkscale, The Honeys, The Gluey Brothers (who were hanging around Santa Fe at the time) That's not a shabby roster and he left out more than a handful of excellent bands: The Withdrawals for instance. It all comes down to perception, it's hard to take in the big picture when you're gazing at your shoes, “You raise up your head and you ask, "Is this where it is?"

What the Jenny Clinkscale band brought to the local scene was entertainment value.... you put down your hard earned moolah and in return you witnessed a rock and roll testimonial unlike any seen before or since. Jen Sincero, the self anointed “rock goddess” had cut her teeth in NYC with Crotch (Sara Rotman and Mike Mellett) Crotch dropped one epic tongue in cheek video for their single, “Power Tool of Love” in 1994, then dropped from sight. The video includes a cameo by Adam Ant, Jen's mother and a hair bikini. Dear old mom gets catcalled by construction workers and Jen has no recourse but to take matters in hand. “and then something happened, I felt the biggest burning hunk of man muscle I ever felt in my life” 

  “You're here. I'm here. I love you. I'm gonna pee all over the floor about it.”

Naturally..... Jenny Clinkscale revolved around Jen Sincero and Amy Clinkscale, accompanied by a revolving cast of local musicians (at least 15 different musicians according to Jen & Amy) this included: Leonard Apodaca, Dead Leonard, owner of The Atomic Cantina and co-founder of Socyermom Records. Elijah Mink, a drummer from Seattle who responded to Jen's best selling book: “Don't Sleep With Your Drummer” by stating, “I don't know what I did to her” By the time Jenny Clinkscale hit the studio to record their one and only album “Mind if We Join You?” the line-up consisted of Marcos Garza and Freddie Weinstein.

Additional musicians included: Justine Flinn, David Cragin and Ronnie Wheeler. Produced by Stacy Parish, Art Direction by Jen and Leonard Apodaca. A local classic, “Mind if We Join You?” is a skillful mix of mid-90s alternative rock influenced heavily by Liz Phair and P.J. Harvey (obviously, seeing how Jen's other band from this period, 60 Foot Queenie derived its name from Polly Jean's song “50 Ft. Queenie” 60 Foot Queenie, formed in Los Angeles is not to be confused with 50 Foot Queenie, a P.J. Harvey tribute band) 60 Foot Queenie wasn't much of a departure from Jenny Clinkscale. Not long after that, Jen ditched the rock & roll lifestyle, declaring herself a failed rock star goddess.

“When my plans to become a world-famous rock star didn't pan out, I decided to try being a lesbian instead, didn't pull that off either” Jen set about becoming a writer (of books and such) She's since authored several tomes starting with “My Life as a Rock Goddess” 2001, “Don't Sleep with Your Drummer” 2002, The Straight Girl's Guide to Sleeping with Chicks” 2005 and “You Are a Badass: How to Start Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life” 2013. As a success coach, sex advice columnist and New York Times bestselling author, Jen has found the success and acclaim that eluded her as a rock musician. (The Huffington Post describes her as a “motivational cattle prod” who's goal in life is to encourage people to live “lives of unbridled awesomeness”)

  “Rub Till It Bleeds”

Sincero also hosted of her own nationally syndicated sex advice column, Living in Sin. “the sexpert with the carnal knowledge you need. Ask her your question. Cuz there's no such thing as being too good in bed” A NSFW endeavor with entries such as one titled: “Taking it to the Rim” it went like this, Dear Jen, I have recently discovered that I love rim jobs, both giving and receiving them. Yet, no matter what I try, I can't seem to get anyone to try it. How can I convince them? Jen's response? “Leave it to the human being to evolve into a species that's terrified of its own butthole. But don't despair, As you said, you only recently discovered how much you love having your butt licked. Lord only knows what other undiscovered delights are out there”

Jen's advice was always insightful and compassionate. Cuz, people got problems: “Dear Jen, I love to watch porn and have fantasized about group sex with my wife and this is causing a problem in my marriage” Dear Jen, I’ve been in love with my neighbor. We recently hooked up a couple of times - he kissed me for the second time and I blew him twice. Dear Jen, I'm a 20 year-old, bisexual-leaning lesbian who has not done anything sexual with either gender. I get turned on easily and love to masturbate all the time. One titled “Holes and Poles” is worth sharing: Dear Jen, I have a question that's been driving me NUTS. I can't decide between boys and girls. It's killing me. Have you ever felt this way?

She also appears on The Blog at The Huffington Post “Without your questions, she is like a flip with no flop, tuna with no mayo, a columnist with no column” Some of the highly entertaining entries included: Don't Let the Holidays make you their Bitch, The Tao of Houseguesting, Watch Your Mouth Dude, Live Like Your Life Depends on It, How to Stop Dating the Wrong People, Threesome's a Crowd and Merrily Skipping into the Unknown. In 2011, Jen packed all her belongings in storage and traveled around the world as a member of the NPA (No Permanent Abode) promoting the Zen of Jen “We humans can get used to anything. The problem is that we often use this glorious ability of ours to stay stuck in mediocrity. Oh the years we waste adapting to lousy marriages, soul sucking jobs, being friends with people who are rude to waitresses...” 

Your Brain is Your Bitch
Dear Jen: I'm sleeping and right in the middle of a good dream, like all at once... I wake up from something that keeps knocking at my brain. Before I go insane, I hold my pillow to my head and spring up in my bed screaming out the words I dread.... I think I love you (I think I love you) You are fucking awesome. What is wrong with me?_ Cosmic Cold Cut
Dear Jen: I wanna be a bad ass too, I want to move out of Loserville and into a penthouse in Awesome City.... am I capable of overcoming my weeny dog tendencies and becoming a pitbull? I want to take a bite out of life._ Last Guy in Guyville

You can keep up with Jen Sincero at Online, Jen has more memes than Bad Luck Brian and more quotes than Winston Churchill, here's some of my favorites:

“You are loved. Massively. Ferociously. Unconditionally. The Universe is totally freaking out about how awesome you are. It’s got you wrapped in a warm gorilla hug of adoration. It wants to give you everything you desire. It wants you to be happy. It wants you to see what it sees in you.”

“You are responsible for what you say and do. You are not responsible for whether or not people freak out about it.”

“It sucks being in love with someone and never being allowed to show it.”

“If you work with great people, it will be a great experience. Even if you're shoveling shit.”

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

“Faith is the muscle you use when you decide to blast outside of your comfort zone and transform your life into something that’s practically unrecognizable to you in your present reality.

If You want to Kick Ass, You must first pick up your foot