Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Great Tribulation session at Ghetto went well, with two songs attempted and much good work achieved. "Sure As The Rain" was simply too elaborate to finish in an afternoon, my plans too grand for a satisfying conclusion, but we have the bedrock down, so another round of overdubs should bring it closer to done. However, "When A Stranger Kisses Me" proved more manageable, and those with a yen to can hear a rough cut at the JLR/TGT Myspace site. Thanks to Jim and, especially, Pat, who had to spend the day translating my vague directives into recognizable rhythm.

PS. Happy birthday, Mom.

Friday, January 29, 2010

My Master Lucifer

Lucifer, to you
my heart, my heart and my love
I hear you complain

in the gate of hell
your strong blood pulse
I see you laugh
I see you complain

You will have everything from me
I will do everything for you
I'm your instrument
My master Lucifer

I enter in the dark
in the warm of hell
I feel your power presence
hot like hell
powerfull like the forty-nine demons.

(Her official website is a fuckin' riot ... don't miss the wallpapers!)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

We've confirmed ... The End Times will perform at The Mix in Georgetown (Seattle, WA) on April 16, 2010 to herald the release of THESE ARE THE END TIMES. Possibly another NW date or two as well, but don't quote me. There are still no-cost downloads available at the website, but only for a limited time ...

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

I have no idea what iTunes is. But my friend Abi does, and her new record is available for purchase, track by track, on that "website." I would like to suggest starting with "The Prodigal," because I love that song so much that I wanna cover it (I made up my own arrangement already) and what are you gonna do with that 99 cents? Buy half a coffee? Make a pot at home for a change, put it in a thermos and take it to work or whatever it is you do, then buy the song. One song. If you like it, try "The Cycle" (listen for free here). Oh, you didn't like that one? That's cool, I understand, not everyone likes everything, but I like it, probably even more than "The Prodigal," it's the kind of song that really sticks in your subconscious whether you want it to or not. "Orpheus Bows" is good too, that's Tyson there playing the slide guitar. She has a habit of pulling away from what she loves before her heart breaks, a cushion of space, to keep herself sane. I wish I did. If you're still listening, keep listening ... Abi Grace has a long way to go, but she's already halfway there.

Can't commit? That makes sense, considering the way the world works. Check her out here, download free, where you can still hear "Nightingale For Grandpa," the song that caused me to fall in love with her in the first place.

All hail our conquering hero, Mark Lansing -- film star, R&B showman and cultural critic. Please join us as we usher in another half century of Deming.

It's a trend that I hope continues unabated ... stage banter from metal frontmen stripped out from live recordings and presented as standalone tracks.

King Diamond from Mercyful Fate (the best of this batch)

Tom Araya from Slayer

Paul Stanley from Kiss

Bruce Dickenson from Iron Maiden (no MP3s, audio loads automatically)

And the grandaddy of them all, Cronos from Venom, recorded and edited by a Black Flag roadie in 1986.

I am exhausted. Insomnia. Can't barely finish a sentence. Tonight I'm trying melatonin.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

It has recently come to my attention that tracks from down MF's The Law of Diminishing Returns cd/7” are still digitally available here on the band's official website. If you haven’t already, you should ... I haven’t heard these songs in a long time, and they’ve returned to regular rotation in my car, kitchen and head over the past week.

Back in grunge-era East Lansing, down MF, or rather the band's figurehead Scott Sendra, was generally regarded as the wise-yet-unpopular sage of the local basement rock universe, a noisy, stiff-hipped bastion of straight-edge bad vibes that beer-drunk teenagers had to sit through in order to revel in the gory mosh pits of more crowd-friendly bands. But it's no surprise that every Good Time Charley act that picked down MF to open their shows would have swapped souls to be able to write songs with the same conviction ... not for nothing that my own pop/ska/rockabilly combo El Smasho opened up nine out of ten gigs with "Solid State," a down MF number that we turned into a bubblegum hardcore rave-up so frothy that Sendra nearly abandoned the song altogether (luckily, he later relented and released it on a down MF single infamous for having fewer than 60 seconds per side). It took a while for down MF to achieve the respect the band deserved, but relative obscurity was its only reward, as is so often the case.

The Law of Diminishing Returns was down MF's last (final?) release, and features the band's most high-concept anti-audience gimmick ever ... the inner sleeve of the 7" single is lined with sandpaper, meaning that every time the listener removes the record for play the vinyl is damaged that much more, resulting either in new, exciting sounds every time or ruined stereo equipment. The accompanying complimentary CD is easier to enjoy, and features down MF's best-sounding recordings ... start off with "Toast of the Town," "Brixless" and "My Trend," then keep on working down the list if you get it. It's easy enough to simply point you once again towards Deming's rave review to give you the jist, but am I really that lazy? Maybe. All I know is these songs still move and inspire in the same old way ... all that melancholy distortion and those bitter melodies, shambling rhythm and incidental noise, Sendra's clumsy baritone pointing out every fault and folly you thought you'd overcome, hidden or simply forgotten. I'm not sure what down MF makes me feel exactly, but it feels exactly right and these recordings are uncovered gems worth digging through the dirt for.
For nights on end now, I've been awakened at 3:00 am after intense, lucid, yet not exactly disturbing dreams, three in the morning every damn time ... over the past 72 hours I've fathered two children who called Lori "Mom" and me "Fred," served on Pat Bills' legal team to help him beat a court case for a crime he didn't commit, embarked upon a mountain climbing expedition only to quit after a few miles and go to an amusement park instead, helped my brother unpack a duffle bag full of tools, answered a cell phone while driving, stood in an unusually long line at a coffee stand despite being several hours late for work, and got sentenced to a women's prison -- this last bit isn't nearly as sexy as you might think, all that happened was I sat in a small cell with about eight female inmates and we all watched a stack of horror movies on VHS that the warden provided for us (meaning it was kind of a dream come true, if it hadn't actually been a dream). Then my cellmates gave me a pair of really cool sunglasses. My therapist doesn't know what to make of that last detail.

This night, after cursing whatever curse has been laid upon me and spending a few minutes brooding over some things in my past that I can't change, I listened to the house settle, the subtle cricks and creaks and cracks that pass unnoticed during the day but become obsessive after dark. Nearly a rhythm, so regular this pattern became, like a ghost tiptoeing through the hallway, an extremely polite and respectful ghost who doesn't want to alarm or awaken anyone, just wants to quietly haunt and not make a big deal out of it but doesn't realize how light a sleeper I really am. After those noises ceased, I became acutely aware of my forehead against the pillow, feeling the blood punch its way through the veins of my temple until resting my head became unbearable, and then my stomach started up, curling like a fist and flexing in its emptiness despite the lack of any true feelings of hunger.

So I'm awake now, hopefully not for good. Lori needs to be up early this morning to prepare materials for a class she's to teach today, and I have about an hour before the alarm ... I'll get back in bed and try running through songs in my head, composing new melodies that I have no hope of playing on any physical instruments. This will at least kill some time in the dark.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Running on very little sleep again ... insomnia claims me after several nights of vivid dreams in which random celebrities (Rush Limbaugh and Michael Nesmith thus far) reveal strange truths that, ultimately, I already knew. It's okay, despite last week's relative inaction, a lack of motivation compounded by lethargy and impatience with everything that would seem to be my due, I am filled with a strange energy, a directionless and dissipating energy but energy all the same. Gratuitous levels of stimulant and the soothing drones of Sunn 0))) are working wonders as well.

Proofs are in, so we're about two weeks away from finally having everything.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Also more recently R.I.P. ...

Porn legend Aunt Peg

Jay Reatard

I hadn't heard this news before today, but my favorite werewolf died a few months ago. Paul Naschy, aka Jacinto Molina, passed away thanks to cancer on November 30, 2009. He was best known for portraying "Waldemar Daninsky" in a long series of peculiar Spanish werewolf films including WEREWOLF VS. THE VAMPIRE WOMAN, FRANKENSTEIN'S BLOODY TERROR, THE CRAVING and THE WEREWOLF AND THE YETI, among others. My favorite Naschy titles are his non-lycanthrope films like THE HUNCHBACK OF THE MORGUE, CARNIVAL OF THE BEASTS and HORROR RISES FROM THE TOMB (find that one first if you need an introduction, it is completely insane). Good night Mr. Naschy, and thanks for all the strange memories.


I posted more Naschy nonsense at Frenzy Of The Visible. Blow your mind, if you dare ...

Thursday, January 7, 2010


Thanks to Tyson, I found my way to a website hosting four full-length Michael O'Donoghue rants from his Not My Fault! column in Spin. He was a cold, cruel genius and too good for this world. O'Donoghue, I mean, not Tyson, who is just right for this world.

Since I was in the mood, I searched and found a snippet of O'Donoghue's legendary Mr. Mike's Mondo Video special, which was prepared for but never aired on NBC. Like all Saturday Night Live spin-offs, it's spotty but often hilarious, like the part where they throw the cats in the pool. Anyway, it's over at Frenzy of the Visible and it's dedicated to Roy, who first turned me on to Mr. Mike, as well as Firesign Theater, Wire and the New York Dolls. My entire record collection owes him a debt.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A mid-morning lull between applying for jobs I won't get and scouring craigslist for musicians I won't call ... currently seeking a keyboard player to help me transcribe a few songs to piano so I can finally talk Diamond into producing the great soft rock masterpiece he was born to craft. Seriously, Jim, no cocaine need be involved, I know it can be done with prescription pharmaceuticals, coffee and tequila. A brave new world of MOR infamy awaits us, but we must get softer first. Softer, I say!

Jeni Lee and The Great Tribulation do have time at Ghetto scheduled for later this month, this time to record my songs, two freshly Michigan-penned numbers I have not yet had time to second-guess. One a potential New Country hit about crushing loneliness and casual sex, the other an epic apocalyptic gospel ballad that may or may not include kettle drums. Speaking of drums, Bills served his notice so we've been talking to other interested parties, and I even sessioned with one in the basement of an historic Ypsilanti mansion, a jazzer who took every song I threw at him into uncharted territories. It was intoxicating to hear songs I wrote deconstruct before my ears, it's exactly the kind of approach I need to burn the cotton out of my head.

Meanwhile, I heartily recommend downloading this recording of one of Anton LaVey's Satanic Masses. It's a laugh riot ... Cosmic Hearse is a godsend for anyone seeking infernal, profane sounds, there's a wealth of uber-obscure Black Metal from all over the globe available, although I'm more partial to this guy's extensive hardcore collection (SOA, YDI, JFA and totally amazing Japanese 'core).

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Not yet accustomed to the format of the new blog ... tiny, tiny paragraphs. But I have certainly spent enough quality time on this project today, so I must move on. Nice to see you here.
Because I don't want this to ever be forgotten ... a rerun from the final moments of 2009.

The End Times LPs have arrived and currently sit packed snugly in boxes in a corner of my library (yes, that’s right, we call the unheated back room of the house our library, because that’s where we put the bookshelves and the record collection) ... no covers made yet, as everyone’s favorite local indie screenprinter dropped the ball for me and I ended up having to make new plans, but thanks to the limitless patience of my hero Pat Bills we do have a finished design that will be produced in Nashville, Tennessee. Life is constant compromise, unless you’re a dick about it. There must be a lesson here somewhere ...

I’ve had a lot of time to think about this record, what it means as a document of the past three years, what it might have been if it had been completed as originally planned and whether or not any of that matters. Of course, it doesn’t matter. Outside of a small circle of friends, These Are The End Times will be accepted at face value as just another product, one more quiet shout in a crowded, impossibly noisy landscape overrun with more media than anyone can absorb, offered to the marketplace on a format only the most stubborn music fans cling to, but that’s okay. I’ve had several bands break up immediately after recording a full-length album, only to see our record labels (wisely) opt out of their promise to produce and distribute an unmarketable release from a defunct act with regional-at-best appeal. Would the alternative nation have embraced Lover’s Wrists, Fighter’s Wrists without, at the very least, midwestern touring and a continued loyal local fanbase? I don’t know, but I do hope Trixie Rex would have spelled my last name correctly on the insert.

This record was too important to shrug off. A physical residue must exist to prove we walked the earth. We can provide the interested with spectral versions of the songs for transitory enjoyment, but once the computers finally become cognizant and commit mass suicide for their part in mankind’s downfall (within our lifetimes, friends, believe it), MP3s will disappear as completely as any anonymous 15th century troubadour’s favorite tune, and with generations raised on instantly accessible information, do you think anyone’s memories are strong enough to retain that which was never necessary to retain? Compact discs litter the earth, and are considered by most these days as a disposable vector for sounds -- buy, burn and then stack, sell or destroy. But vinyl collectors, for all their faults, they keep their records, usually in alphabetical order and cased in protective plastic sleeves, even the titles they’ve never actually listened to, and when the revolution comes all we’ll need is a sewing needle and a paper cone to access the precious information locked in those mysterious grooves. Of course, you’ll ruin the record at the same time if you do that, but I think you see my point.

So when I consider this record, I must herald the contributions of my partner and friend Tyson Lynn, the quiet third of the band who contributed a bottomless well of moral support as well as the glue that held the whole project together even when the seams strained hard enough to bleed. While I provided the rhythmic skeleton of each song, Tyson was in charge of melodic counterpoint, and he did so with an ethereal, eccentric style of finger-picked slide guitar that complemented my own whatever-it-is better than anyone before, and I fear better than anyone to come. As with most of the best artists, he is largely self-taught, coming to the band with rudimentary skills but finding his own way to communicate through perseverance and dedication, developing a style of slide guitar closer to the gentle pluck of a harp than the sharp country twang most players seek. There were many crooked notes and jagged time signatures along the road, but Tyson always found his own individual melodies within the confines of my chords, and it’s only now that I can see that the true formula for the End Times wasn’t me and a broad plus Tyson, but me and Tyson plus a broad.

I’ve pontificated loudly and often about the importance of the feminine quotient of the End Times here on this stupid blog and in countless drunken bar conversations, and who could blame me? All of the singers we’ve worked with (in End Times, the Blacktree Singers and Desperado) have been fascinating women in their own utterly different fashions, and anyone who knows me knows how little I care for my fellow males ... other men, who needs them, all they do is get in my way most of the time, everyone knows that women are far superior as companions and confidantes, lovers and friends, partners and nemeses, nearly any relationship can be enhanced with an extra X chromosome. I mean, I get it, some men are beautiful animals with a special energy that can’t be ignored (believe me, I understand better than I like to admit), but far as I’m concerned there’s only one thing men have that women don’t, and I already have one. More importantly, writing for the female voice matured my songwriting in ways I never anticipated, opening me up to colors and shades I hadn’t been able to express before, and the very fact that I can write a sentence as seriously gay as this one without remorse should be sufficient enough testimony.

But the fact is that without Tyson, the End Times would have began and ended with Kate and I sitting around smoking cigarettes and telling each other the same amusing anecdotes over and over again for a few months before the whole project just floated away. Tyson was solid in a way that we were not, and his presence made us a band. His initial contribution was volunteering a digital four-track recorder to capture our first fleeting bleats, cementing what might have been just a passing fancy into something a little more official. When I learned he owned a lapsteel guitar, I invited him to bring it to the next session -- he demurred, saying he didn’t know how to play it, but I figured that as long as he could slide the bar up and down the neck and scrape his nails across the strings we’d have a little extra texture to our cheap little recordings. Tyson was indeed a rudimentary player, but as I stated before, he doubled and tripled his skills within the span of a year and before I knew it, he was good enough that I feared another band might snap him up. When Kate was no longer available to us, it was Tyson who convinced me that the sing/strum/slide lineup we had was worth preserving (after I quixotically considered replacing her with a choir or restructuring the project into an instrumental noise-fest ala Gone), and he was right ... I didn’t believe anyone else would be interested, but within twelve hours of placing an ad we had attracted Abigail, and within two weeks of that she was making regular bus trips to Seattle from Olympia for rehearsals, within another month she was living in town and working in the same office as me, and within three months we were back playing shows. It felt like fate and I like to believe that it was, but if not for Tyson’s belief in the band I would have probably allowed despair to swallow everything we had worked towards.

Tyson and I communicate largely through emails and text messages, as we both tend towards shyness and I suspect we share an ability to express ourselves more deeply with words (on that subject, he writes a very good music column for the Seattle P.I., even if there isn’t nearly enough metal coverage). I think I’ve already shared most of these sentiments with him, and I hope he isn’t embarrassed by my stating them so relatively publicly, but I thought it was important to do so at least once. I promise it won’t happen again, because my New Year’s resolution is to stop telling people how I feel about things. From now on I’m saving it all for the stage.

A new decade. A new home. A new blog. Time was my weakness, but I no longer wish to dwell on my frailty. I have stronger medicines to lean on and a bitter skin toughened by ice and salt. It's a brave front I put up, but is it the truth? No one will ever know. I made myself very vulnerable for many years and my heart weakened under the strain of non-stop beating. If everything must change, then I must change everything.

There are good things afoot, with the usual reservations and implied warnings, but this year is off to an auspicious start. I will divulge more once these hopes calcify into facts. Til then, if you want to find me, I'll be right here.