Sunday, August 22, 2010

"Something Trying To Tell You Someone..."

I'd been meaning to do it for quite some time, I even began several quickly-aborted attempts. However after burning through Grant Morrison's mind-bending run on the Batman titles recently I found myself in an interesting synesthetic-crossroads: my aural leanings coalesced with my thirst for more comics, more old school Vertigo comics and I found myself popping in Meat Is Murder by The Smiths and opening the first issue of Grant Morrison's Gothic storyline that ran waaay back in 1990 in then third monthly bat-book Legends of the Dark Knight. I had only recently begun to expect that these two works, both on the surface intended for different senses, would work together in a very symbiotic relationship. The Headmaster's Ritual a perfect audio-accompaniment to following a young Bruce Wayne into the hellish inner-workings of an upstate New York British-style private school, the echoes of Morrissey's musings on life and loss the perfect condiment for the unraveling of an ancient, heretical plot that would, in retrospect, seem far more Vertigo than regular DCU. After Gothic I needed more. Naturally I moved toward the place on my shelf where Morrison's award-winning Arkham Asylum sat. Then I stopped myself. I changed discs to The Queen Is Dead and cracked the spine of Neil Gaiman's Preludes and Nocturnes and vowed I wasn't coming up for air until I'd finally re-read the entire Sandman series, something I'd never done before. I wasn't sure what to expect exactly, this time through with The Smiths as my guide, but I knew I was bound to unearth even more fleeting associations and hidden messages, as I realized Sandman is most definitely the work of a Smiths fan.


I'm relatively new to Smiths-obsession land. Not quite a year ago I tumbled head over heels into addiction after flirting with fandom for the better part of a decade but never quite moving beyond the admittedly lame, 'yeah, How Soon Is Now is great and everything else I've heard is pretty cool too...' Then I got it. I don't really know what exactly happened to cause me to 'get it', but I did. I'm sure it had something to do with the fact that I suddenly found myself around their music a lot more because new co-workers played them obsessively. But through repetition the tunes began to work their magick on me. I asked to rip a disc or two*. I received Meat Is Murder. I began to explore...

Also around this time a good friend of mine who had taken a leave of absence from work to deal with 'health issues' resurfaced – on his death bed. I clung to Morrissey and the boys for bitter support as my friend withered away, drifting in and out of contact with those who would eventually inform me of his death. I'd lost a lot of friends before, but something about this one... it was very difficult in what felt like a decidedly more profound way. I can remember the symbiotic relationship the lyrics to The Joke Isn't Funny Anymore's refrain developed to my own interaction with and interpretation of Death. The shimmering guitars and lilting bass drifted over the entrancing drums as Morrissey's voice echoed the perfect arrangement of langual dress for an archetypal human experience/fear/event. And somewhere in it all I thought of Neil Gaiman's Sandman and realized that I had heard this music before. That I had seen, as a third person voyeur, this magnificent sorrow somewhere else.

This was because Neil Gaiman had no doubt heard it too; been a massive fan most likely, as had Grant Morrison, maybe Jamie Delano – the old Vertigo crew. I realized that just as I had experienced a synesthetic-rush with The Cure and Joy Division when reading Sandman back in high school, or James O'Barr's The Crow, or Hellblazer, or Swamp Thing, the same was happening now with The Smiths as a new lens to reveal hidden facets to these stories from the post-Reagan/Thatcher era - the time of AIDS and Looming Nuclear Obliteration and MDMA. I was a kid in the 80's so I didn't quite get what was going on – for many years afterward the 80's was a decade best left in the past. This was because as a kid my associations with it were hyper color clothes and dana carvey, lisa lisa & cult jam and other such atrocities that I was exposed to as a pre-teen without an older sibling, left to establish my tastes on my own, sifting through the garbage spoon-fed to the masses on the radio and tv, until I was first able to pick up the trail that led me to any kind of an 'underground'. I didn't find The Smiths, or The Cure or any thing else like them until high school. My earliest underground was metallica and the satan-streaked roads of heavy metal, long since sullied and exposed for the douche baggery that it was (for the most part). But I eventually found this stuff and realistically it was because of its influence on comics and comics influence on me.

Because I had grown up with comics it was there that I did my first experimenting. Even while still imbibing the music of the masses I was slowly breaking away from the GIJOE and X-men components of my comic book taste, my mom often waiting outside Heroland comics in Worth, Illinois where some days I would spend over an hour browsing – looking for something new, something I'd not yet experienced. Vertigo as a housing apparatus for the darker tales was still a few years off and I remember titles like Watchman and Stray Toasters teasing me with dark, jagged art the likes of which I was not yet experienced enough to appreciate (fuck you rob liefield) but nonetheless still endlessly enthralled with. Not enthralled enough to fork out the $3.50 or whatever cover price the 'Prestige Format' books commanded then ($10 allowance? $5? I don't remember but it had to be stretched in that comic shop and as such risks were rarely taken in those days). In retrospect I believe it was a few years later when the Batman books first brought me into my appreciation of that darker, more urban tone that I am still obsessed with today. Around the release of that first Tim Burton Batman film DC really ramped up the output, leading up to the hullabaloo of the film with many one-shots and Prestige releases, many portraying an increasingly darker atmosphere for the character. You can say this began in 1986 with Frank Miller's classic Dark Knight Returns, but from there we received Batman: The Cult, Gotham By Gaslight, Morrison's Arkham Asylum and soon after (and to tie this back around to the beginning of the post) Morrison's Gothic, originally published in Legends of the Dark Knight issues 6-10.

This was a story I read monthly, and re-read over and over again for years. To this day I believe it is the best Batman story in existence as well as the template, in my own personality, that flipped the switch and suddenly made me understand something about the potential of comic books as a medium, not just superhero exploits or serialized adventures. Gothic is every bit the epic Gothic Romance it shadows; a literary work of visual art that takes one of the most iconic American superhero characters and transmutes him into an occult figure worthy of Marlowe, Blackwood, Chandler or William Hope Hodgson. Whats more, Klaus Janson's art was the perfect template for me to perceive comic art as something more than explosive, rippling perfection. There is a scratchiness to Janson's art, especially in Gothic, that serves to create a darker, more urban and horrific sense of ambiguity that allows the reader's own nightmarish associations of fear to creep in and finish the pictures for them. You don't need everything blue-lined and outlined and rendered shiny and perfect. Leave that to traditional comic narratives. Janson's art, like that of The Sandman's Sam Kieth, Mike Dringenberg and later Kelley Jones, is rough and dark because to a degree it carries with it that unfinished nature that helps it haunt you.

And that's what I found, last Autumn as my friend was dying and my own mortality seemed ever-so-much more impending, that The Smiths music does.

It haunts.

And suddenly I understood all of those Smiths and Morrissey obsessives - the people who only listened to The Smiths in High School (because a lot of them were probably exposed to it at developmentally difficult times by older siblings); the folks at the Morrissey conventions; the punks in 1989 that I just didn't understand as they popped Naked Raygun out of the cassette deck and fired up Louder Than Bombs. They were haunted.

And now I am too. And I have a lot of wonderfully creative people to thank for it. Thank You Neil Gaiman. Thank You Steven Patrick Morrissey. Thank you Robert Smith, Ian Curtis, Simon and Klaus Janson, John Ridgway and Jamie Delano and all of the other creators that established that beautifully dark world I can still evoke with the right combination of your music and pictures, words and melodies.

Most of all I am moved to say thank you to my mom and dad, for waiting so patiently all those evenings I spent hours investigating what else the comic shop had to offer besides Adamantium claws and Cobra Officers**.


* I only had The Queen is Dead and Rank, which I'd purchased in the earlier part of the previous decade during the period of two ro three years where I worked an ongoing and fairly elaborate Magickal Ritual that entailed my buying two records a week as an offering to the Music Industry as a God, Egregore, whatever. The end result of that ritual is still, to some degree, in question.

** Not that there's anything wrong with Cobra.


A little something lighter in tone. Funny, often appropriate, but soulful as all hell.

Although I've loved that first Gnarls Barkley album the 2nd one, 'The Odd Couple' has taken some getting used to. It's good, great even, but it hasn't quite grabbed me as totally as St. Elsewhere. That began to change when I became obsessed with Breaking Bad last year and they used the second track on the album in the season finale for season one. Admittedly I've not given 'The Odd Couple' the amount of time I gave the first – that's all time and place for me. Depends on what atmosphere I'm into at the moment. Before spiraling into my current Smiths/Joy Division jag to accompany a re-reading of the entire Sandman series by Neil Gaiman I was kinda hot on a soul kick and Gnarls fit perfectly. However that was interrupted by the dour British factory rock...

I know next to nothing about Cee-lo. This is a pretty good place to start. However further investigation will have to wait, as I'm back off to the Dreaming.


* Read an older interview with Thomas Golubic, the music supervisor on Breaking Bad, where he talks about the selection of Gnarls Barkley's 'Who's Gonna Save My Soul' here:

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Dear Nick Cave

I love you. This is the greatest music video in the history of music videos.

Thank You


Untitled Post

(The post below was something I found in my unpublished drafts. I have absolutely no idea what it is, was supposed to be or even any memory of writing it. It's kind of interesting though...)


We don't go near the bug wall

All kinds of craziness right there, man

Bees and giant moths and shit

and something in a cocoon that my brother was planning on using for an art project

Until it hatched

until it hatched

until it hatched.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Alice Russell on The Cosmic Lounge

Damn shame I missed her at Angel's Piano Bar (courtesy of LA's KCRW, Anthony Valadez and Miss Russell's bad self). Dig this track. The seventies are a state of mine my friends...

Monday, August 16, 2010

New Music Monday: Krowne

Fairtilizer is such a wonderful way to find new music. Case in point: I had never heard of Krowne, an electronic musician hailing from Edinburgh, Scotland, before today. This is some great stuff from the city I love and you can bet when I eventually get back there this will be one of the guys I am looking to see live. The E.P. is free for download from Black Lantern, but as I always I encourage any who do to donate. Download the big guys' stuff for free, but independents require our support to thrive and survive.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Richard Kadrey

This is what I am currently reading. Great book. I'm pretty hard on anything Sci fi or horror and this is definitely a cross-breeding of the two. However, its more of that Clive Barker horror, or maybe even old Vertigo. There is a certain logic that pervades the elements of supernatural that make it more than what we call sci fi these days* and because it deals with the Infernal Realms and demons and such (although in a less Christian more hierarchical sort of way) it automatically makes me think horror. So far though, not horrific per se, and that is not a dis. Kadrey is a very descriptive writer, and his dialogue is magnetic, even if I get the impression sometimes his characters are being just a skosh too cute for their own good (which is not a failing on Kadrey's part – main character Spyder sometimes just talks too much, which Butcher Bird even spends a great deal of time telling him. Character development on this level is excellent and fun to read, even if you occasionally want to smack the character.


* Which if we're being honest is a completely different animal than Science Fiction, but that's a discussion for another day

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Making Dreams with Mugwort Smoke

(Originally written on 7/20/10)
Interesting experience last night. Mugwort is a plant that I have possessed a dried quantity of for some time. Back in the Chicago Ridge days, while I was recording the bulk of the Forest Children albums with Dennis and Chooch we would mix the stuff with our pot and smoke it all night long. I'd found out about it from some guy in some occult shop in some city, probably while looking for Salvia or DMT. Mugwort is legal as it is a mild substance when ingested, usually as a tea or smoke tincture. During my initial research period with it, and now subsequently as I've begun ingesting it again, I have seen it often mentioned as being particularly effective as a catalyst for strong or even lucid dreams. I'm not sure if I could ever corroborate this claim before last night*, but yeah, that does indeed seem to be the case.

I've smoked two or three times in the last week, the most recent of which was last night. I sat down to watch El Topo for the first time despite being tired to the point where I knew I would probably have to fight to make it through the entire film. I smoked a bit of a mixture and settled in for the film, which I quickly realized I hated. However, as I sat struggling through the movie I began to nod off. What occurred next I am still unsure whether was in sleep or waking.

I began to feel very conscious of my heart rate. My vision flickered and my head spun a bit. I'd open my eyes knowing I'd been out but unsure how long. I The film playing out on screen is nonsensical to a degree anyway, so there was no way to use the perceived rhythm of its story to tell how long I was going out for, or whether or not the film was insinuating itself into my dreams. Had I been sitting here only a moment ago and feeling as though my heart was ramping up, threatening me, or had that been a part of the dream? As I was thinking this I even became aware that to some degree I was dreaming.

But then I wasn't.

It is as I have described here before, that when the REM pattern breaks up so does the dream. But the dreams can often hold on, like a rider bucked by a horse who may slip from side to side but ultimately manages to stay mounted.

My dream was telling me something. Or trying to at least.

The room and its accoutrements became a hazy dimension suspended in the twilight between wakefulness and REM. Even when I was finally certain that I was awake everything had the soft halo glow we associate with dreams or mild hallucinogens. I was burrowed into the N.O.W.** but something seemed as though it was moving around me, just outside my veiled consciousness. And my heart was beating.


Maybe fast is the wrong word. And maybe this wasn't the reality of the situation at all. Everyone who has taken acid knows that feeling where the drug suddenly seems as though it is about to climb on top of you and batter your senses to its own twisted-reality whim. I tried to recognize this and utilize it as an antidote to the encroaching panic but to no avail; of course thinking about needing to slow my heart down implies there is a problem, implies there is a danger in how fast it is beating. This is the ridiculous sing-song drug logic that, for the most part, made me stop doing them a loooong time ago. But this is Mugwort. I mean, come on, really?

Eventually I was able to out fix my paranoid android and get everything under control. My mind is stronger than this and again, the mixture in question is nothing that has ever reacted with me like this before. I ended up crawling into bed and falling asleep pretty much immediately. My dreams were long and vivid, I think, and I've since found literature reporting it is possible to die from prolonged ingesting of Mugwort, if taken over enough consecutive days.

Where the hell was that information before, when we were ingesting it daily and recording? Or, how much of those recordings possible contain messages from that plant, using the musicians harbored in those late night recording sessions at Dennis' as their vehicle to try and impart some subtle, archetypal knowledge to the world through our hands and voices, ideas and melody?


* Well, that's not true, but let's just say it's been so long and if I wrote anything down I'd have to unearth it.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

T. Rex

Fuck yeah!!!

Pygmy Shrews - Your Party Fucking Sucks

Wow. I laughed so fucking hard at this I had tears in my eyes. Definitely kindred spirits with my old bands Wink Lombardi and the Constellations and Schlitz Family Robinson.

I found Pygmy Shrews after reading about another band, Drunks With Guns. I looked those guys up on Last.FM and found an entire slew of similar acts, Shrews included. I'll post some Drunks With Guns next, and I'm sure I will be posting more grimy basement punk soon enough.

Thank You to Aaron Dilloway who chose Drunks With Guns eponymous album as his 'Inner Sleeve' pick for the August issue of Wire Magazine*.


* The only music magazine that truly matters. Although Ghetto Blaster has a couple killer writers working for them now...

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Melvins, Hand Puppets and Kareoke

No, this isn't some bizarre new fetish, it's a clip from something called Pancake Mountain. Awesome.

The Melvins have a new album out called The Bride Screamed Murder. I know without having heard it yet that it's good, for it is The Melvins.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Thee Oh Sees

I know nothing about this band. Just found them today.

That will change.

A Classic...

God Is LSD. Go all the way back to 1993. Waaay before the internet, before music file proliferation/sharing brought a globe of music, major and independent to every home with a computer and a modem, I used to get info on new music wherever I could. A hell of a lot of it came from the enigmatic Mr. Brown*, but we were always looking for new avenues to discover bands by.

We were thirsty. Still are, but it was harder to be back then so I guess mixed with nostalgia that makes the thirst seem more important now or something.

There was a independent record store in Orland Park, IL named Red Tower. A very local B&W music mag called 'Subculture' stacked copies in their lobby for free. Great magazine. One of the record reviews that caught my eye the hardest was Spirit of Suicide by God Is LSD. I don't remember if I had to special order it or not (most likely yes. Red Tower had a pretty damn good selection, but I don't know if it was that good) but that is definitely the store where I acquired the album that I immediately fell in love with. The above is a video for my favorite song on the album**. I had never seen it before today (only just now starting to utilize this youtube thing for its full potential)


* A regular star in the stories I tell on my Chud blog.

** Their only one, however main guy Thomas Luedke still plays in his other group, Invincible Spirit.

The Heir To The Throbbing Throne

I have not experienced something so brimming with Magickal energy since Throbbing Gristle. The video I've linked below is not for the squeamish – it contains such a strong undercurrent of energy that it is disturbing, even if when broken down most of the images are fairly simple. This isn't youtubesnuff or anything like that – there is no place in my life or this world for that brand of sick exhibitionism. However, when music and image come together in an alchemical marriage of Magickal Will, well, things can become very strong.

This actually brings to mind a video I had worked on back in 2003. I was renting a house with two other guys and spent a lot of time in various altered states, playing around with different ideas for ritual and exercising of the Will. One of those ideas centered around constructing a video to eventually distribute to various outlets (before Youtube) and influence the world, or at least the segment of the world amping up on media consumption as a way of determining direction in life. The collection of tracks and videos, never finished, were loosely referred to as 'tulpas' and have been since misplaced in the aeythers of the lost dimension of computer storage.

In Dreams You're Mine, For All Of Time...

Interesting the things that transpire in our heads when our consciousness turns off for a while. Moments ago I awoke from a morning filled with a strange effluvium of events that has me a bit paranoid and dare I say it, buzzed as I sit here drinking my fourth cup of coffee in ten minutes. I've been re-reading Grant Morrison's Batman run, from the beginning, and as with everything else the man writes it has most definitely been affecting my nervous system. The Invisibles rolled into one caped-crusading icon. Here's what's collating within the residue...

In my place, making coffee but unable to turn the coffee pot off. Surprised that I had never tried to do this before (a subliminal message that I imbibe too much java? Doubtful, I've waned in quantity lately and feel somewhat guilty about it) Comic Scribe Warren Ellis talks me through trying to turn it off. He is not in the room, nor on the phone. In the dream I seem to interact/communicate with Mr. Ellis as I do in normal life, one of many who occasionally participate in discussion threads on his Whitechapel forum. However, in the dream there is that strange and ever-endearing dream logic that works so well when weaving around physics as we now it, so that the communication takes place without either one of us sitting at a computer, typing. It is almost as if a word balloon appears next to me in the dream (do I become 2D?) and Warren floats inside it, a psychic apparition scoffing and surprised that I've never tried to turn off an appliance I use everyday.

From the coffee pot incident it is somewhat unclear what transpires next. I believe I was folding in and out of sleep's various stages, losing that gloriously technicolor REM where dreaming occurs, and as such the 'plot' of the dream becomes jagged and unclear in its continuity. This happens often, where the movement that connects the juicer points of the dream becomes blurred (as in, "How did I get from Mom and Dad's to Siberia wearing a chicken suit?") and I truly believe it is this interruption in the dream state that does it. Imagine having a hand of cards during a game that every few minutes or so requires you to have to toss them back in, reshuffle, re-deal and then re-acclimate? Static pictures reprocessed or remixed every so often. Interesting idea for a card game, eh? Makes it very attractive to want to assign a quasi-human persona to our architect, no?*

Anyway, the next thing that happens is a malevolence begins to pepper the house (still my house) In the dream I seem to identify it alternately as a 'presence' and an 'unknown agent' – as if one moment it's an exorcism I require and the next a gas mask. I know the word 'Nerve Gas' flits through my dream-avatar's consciousness at some point. Nerve Gas possessed of a malevolent, undead personality? A Gas Ghost, or a Ghost who has learned to manifest itself in a particularly desired atomic makeup? All this is unclear, what is clear however is that Mr. Ellis is now apparently my neighbor (I don't care how loud you play your stereo sir, just turn the sub-woofer down so it doesn't rattle the pictures off my wall thanyouverymuch. I'd hate to get Gravel on your ass) and I run outside to save my cats from the encroaching danger. Only Tom and Lily, two full grown felines, are more akin to tiny newborn kittens. I gather them up into an open-topped cardboard box and rush them outside only to find Mr. Ellis walking by. I ask him to watch my cats as I run back in and suddenly, at some point I am calling the police (or did they call me?) and setting the cash register drawers out for opening at the store where I work.


There' that trans-location logic again, this time remixed in a manner so that my location doesn't change, it simply acquires attributes of another, inexplicably so.**

So now the front door is open, Warren Ellis is outside watching my cats and the police are arriving, asking me questions that pretty openly say both A) they think I'm either crazy or high on goofballs (am I sweating at this point? Yeah, I probably look high.) and B) they realize that something is indeed wrong with the very air or atmosphere in the room we currently occupy. As I speak to the officers (two of them, one a early-forties caucasian woman wearing her brown hair in a braided ponytail, the other a mid-to-late thirties black man with short-sheered hair and a reassuring air of calm about him) I feel as though I am trying to explain something I most assuredly know but somehow just cannot express. The room continues to swell with toxic environment and I glance to my right, over my shoulder and see the front door, propped open. A moment later I do the same and it is closed. Still speaking ineffectually I move over to the door, pushing it open and see the two money-filled tills sitting on the stoop just to the right of the threshold. A woman goes by on the sidewalk two steps down, calling for her child. I lean down and assess the tills, suspicious that someone (the woman?) gently pushed the door closed and took money. In the top till there appears to be a lesser amount of change than there should be and the slots for most bills are empty. Then I see a fifty dollar bill, no two fifty dollar bills where the five's should be. Warren is still watching my cats, the police are still speaking to me (are their guns drawn all of a sudden?) and I find myself wondering if I am being purposely distracted...


* Unfortunately though, that is not a good enough reason for me to do so.

** How can you not become resentful of work when you spend so much of your waking life there that it often follows you into your unconscious? Bastard!!!