07 March 2010

lazy, unmotivated, doing other things

Yep, what the title says. I will do that concordance thing eventually, promise. Meanwhile, this is what I've been up to.

31 March 2009

the shit

np: Kiss "(Music from) The Elder"
nd: Westmalle Tripel

Hey pals. I have been absent. I do that. Have I mentioned that I fucking hate computers? I am always anxious to get away from the machine. So if I post I am either really far up my own ass, trying to hustle some bread, or there is no one around to entertain or fuck me (i.e.-tonight). And yeah, I was dead ass broke there for a while and had zero time.

So I have been a happy man these last months. I pull out The Elder every two or three years and I still don't know if I like it, but there's definitely entertainment value for days. I can say with certainty that the track "Mr. Blackwell," co-written by Gene Simmons and Lou Reed, is a fucking badass song. Like many of my generation, there is plenty of Kiss that I like, Lou I was obsessed with as a post-adolescent, and Ezrin has been behind a good number of records that got encoded into my DNA... so I can't resist it.

My wife is back to bartending and has a part in revamping the beer list at The Royale. So there has been some very classy drinking chez Griff lately. After a couple Belhaven pint cans and an Odell Extra Special Red is probably not the time to be drinking Westmalle, but wtf. It is delicious, and I can pour half a glass, right?

So what's going on, reconnection, is the point of this post. Thank you for giving a fuck. Despite the release of Dirty Moons (and some more nice press that I'm too lazy to link to atm), it would be unwise to expect our activity level to increase. We might play a couple shows next year. There may or may not be more recordings. It's just not in the cards for the Enk, he's all about the rustic (and the limitations of horse breeding)... I can't hold it against my dear friend that he has found a good place. Caged birds do not sing. But I do know exactly what Prisonshake record I want to make next. It will be ideal for post-midnight listening.

That said, I must rock and I have ideas and passions. Lately we've been working up some of Joe Thebeau's new songs for Finn's Motel (and they certainly go in some new directions) and we'll be doing a show opening for Tommy Keene at Off Broadway on April 25.

np: Sabu "Sorcery"

There will be some recording of said new material after that, including an alternate writing of one of Joe's songs from my point of view. Further on I'd like to work up some material of mine, some of which is rock and some of which is fucked, and some both. It's not in or out, baby. The parts that are not Prisonshake-ish will be released under yet to be determined names, the ones that are as....

Transitional Pussy!

Is that the best name ever, or what? I can't imagine playing shows as Prisonshake without Enkler, it doesn't feel right. I toyed with Prisonshak (no E), but that just seems dumb (and done). 100% credit to my wife for the name, which came up in conversation with a gf of hers. I wasn't looking for it, it fucking fell into my lap. Life is so easy sometimes. If we play out, and that would probably include PS songs I sing, it will be under that name.

So, yeah, music will keep happening, there will be reissues too, and I might even post to this blog more. I do fully intend to do the concordance thing I mentioned. I am slow, but I never leave anything unfinished.


06 January 2009

happy sol invictus and new year

np: Queen II
nd: Duvel

I haven't had the bread to buy records or new music lately, though I guess I could steal it - but when you've got too many records (modest by hoarder standards, but I've got a bit over 2,000 LPs), it's not like there's nothing to listen to, and I don't iPod or listen when I am at the machine. And god knows most of the shit out there is either too inept or gay to rock out to anyway, so wtf. Thus, much of the canon has been getting a lot of 'table time lately: Electric Ladyland (would love to blog about that album someday), Exile, Double Nickels, older AC/DC, Sonic Youth, etc. Tonight, Queen, a band I first met in fifth grade, circa 1975. The record, A Day at the Races, a killer. II I acquired later in life, maybe 10 or 15 years ago. I love the sound, juicy tones, solid rock action paired with apparent excess. No surprise, I prefer side black to side white. If you're a Queen virgin (to their entire albums, that is - god knows we've all heard some of their songs well beyond the breaking point), get Races or Sheer Heart Attack. Everything from the debut through Jazz is cool with me. And good value for money - I don't know for sure, but can't imagine any of them sell for more than $4 secondhand. Hipsters and crate-diggers don't grok Queen as far as I can tell. The Duvel (Dutch for 'devil') was a nice score, my local spot has it on sale this week for $10 for a 4 pack. Easily in my top 5, and I like the 8.5% ABV.

So Pickering emailed me this youtube video. My guess is that it was a project by an Oberlin student circa 1985. I don't remember doing the interview that's part of it, but there I am, with hair my 13 year old daughter is jealous of. The back of it was red, black and gray. There's lots of later era Guns footage (2 guitar lineup) bookending interviews with various scene folks (Larry Collins... really? These people had to be from out of town.) The band I refer to as 'we' is Spike in Vain. Other interviewees include Knifedance, The Guns, and a tantalizing few seconds of the old Chris' Warped store - that was cool to see.

Hope you all have a great '09.

29 October 2008

time is tight

np: Budapest Quartet - Beethoven string 4tet #15 (Columbia MS 6386)
nd: Sam Adams Cranberry "Lambic" (fucking weird)

Well, dang, it has been a while. Money and time are tight. At times like this, when I'm mostly working the ebay or classical LP pimp action, the little remaining free time is best spent as far away from the computer as possible, as you well know. If you happen to look at that ebay stuff (some random classical, some 45s for a friend, key label releases), bear in mind that the label bits there are generally more expensive than you'd pay at the label site (hint, hint). In fact, if you'd like to take advantage of my not-so-fucking-good present situation, type in "blog15" in the comment field at checkout and I'll give you 15% off. That will happen off-site, nothing happens automatically. And hey, the new Cobra Verde album, Haven't Slept All Year is out this week! I can't give you the 15% on that, but it's worth getting, no doubt. Their version of "Play with Fire" from the last album, Copycat Killers, was on a recent episode of HBO's True Blood - I think during the closing credits.

So money sucks ass, maybe you're in that spot too, but I'm holding up alright spirit-wise because all the non-financial parts of my life are fucking great. And at least we broke even on these shows we did, many thanks to those that came. We had a lot of great openers, too - especially This Moment in Black History in Chicago. God do they rock. And they've really got that essentially Cle thang, but I can't elaborate in my present state. They had a hilarious story about how they fixed their radiator en route with some misc plumbing supplies they scrounged at a Home Depot or some shit. I look forward to being able to hang with those guys sometime when I don't need to maintain coordination and fine motor skills.

There's a possibility of heading down to Austin in Jan or Feb, but I'm not sure if we can find enough scratch between here and there to do it. If you live between here and there and if you book a joint or like the idea of a house party, contact scatrecords (at) gmail (dot) com.

One thing I've heard from people about Dirty Moons is, "it needs a fucking concordance." So I'll set to doing that when I can post more. Probably short bits with links to spoilers and ephemera.

An interview with the Agit Reader can be found here. Ghettoblaster magazine took a shine to DM in their latest issue and have a free mixtape mp3 thing on their site that includes I Will Comment, along with some other people you've probably heard of or are curious about.


03 October 2008

the "new" guys

np: Greg Sage Straight Ahead side 2
nd: Trippel, again

We opened for The Wipers at Stache's in Columbus in summer of '87, B.E. (before Enk). The most thoroughly beautiful live guitar sound I have ever heard, including tripping balls seeing Sonic Youth circa Bad Moon Rising. He had some kinda of stereo setup involving several different sorts of amplifiers, but regardless of that... fingertips to spare. Like butter. I think Straight Ahead is my favorite record of his, even more than the Wipers' several greats. I just keep coming back to it. Shelf life is where it's at.

Personal circumstances (e.g.-"making rent") dictate that my post count probably won't be high in the short-term, but since everyone's asleep and I'm feeling loquacious I will address the long-standing matter of, "what about the rhythm section, now? what about the rhythm section?!?"

The "new" guys, who've been in our band for 14 or 15 years. If you condensed all the activity down to normal band-compressed time, it might be equivalent to the Burgess-Pick years. If you look at it that way, it's like The Roaring Third was a little monument with two long-running lineups on either end of it - one releasing everything, the other distilling it. Jesus did we rehearse like fuck between 1995 and 1997, but it was quite often exploratory, and the gigs... not much more than half a dozen, mostly locally. So we built, demolished, and rebuilt much of Dirty Moons to the extent we were able at that time. Not so much jamming as endless "minor changes." Man, was Enkler hating life. He just wanted to rock out.

np: Aura Noir The Merciless side 1

@ The Bluebird last weekend, pic courtesy of Mike Kole
Firstly, Mr. Steve Scariano, he of the night bus home. We first played in St. Louis in April, 1994 at Cicero's and Steve was one of the first people we met. He immediately got where we were coming from and regaled me with his tale of scoring an acetate of Big Star's Third when recording at Ardent in Memphis for an aborted Dave Branyan (Scruffs) solo LP. Steve is a lifer, he is what he is, and his bass action is always classy and in the pocket. Roll Away the Stone is his blog.
He's been playing in bands in St. Louis and back home in Champaign-Urbana since the KBD era, among them The Nancy Boys, The Singapores, The B-Lovers/Turning Curious, Pop The Balloon, The Dagos, Dumptruck, Adam Schmitt, Erik Voeks' Sandbox, Blown, The Love Experts, and Finn's Motel.

Enk & Patrick in Columbus, pic by Doug's sis Carol, I think
Mr. Patrick Hawley is one of the finest drummers I have witnessed in this life. Dirty Moons was not only a total analog-domain enterprise, but the mixes were manual as well. Meaning that the faders were not programmable, everything was on the fly, and with the side 3 tracks there had to be many hands on deck for the mixes, with yrs truly often blanking on a mute and then needing to start the whole thing over... Patrick was a rock in that process. He has often been integral to moving our arrangements and interpretations further outside and is an excellent foil in many respects. The highlight of any show for me is what crazy shit will go down between us in the intro for "Year of the Donk," among other spots. Patrick also hails from C-U, is the young one (erm, under 40) among us. He's played with lots of people, sometimes just in a recording situation, but a partial list would include Ballyhoo, Load, The What Gives, Pansy Division, Twiggy, Titanic Love Affair/Jay Bennett, Blown, Erik Voeks' Sandbox, Diamond Star Halo, Adam Schmitt, Love Experts, and Finn's Motel.

Both of these guys are world-class and it is an honor to play music with them. Sometimes I feel like we're a jazz band that plays rock, because the music really gets "played" - it's a living thing, we know where the song is, and anyone can play around the song as much as they like.

np: Freddie Roach Mo' Greens Please

Moving to St. Louis also coincided with a growing interest in jazz. Just before I'd left Cle, I'd wound up spending time at the House of Swing in South Euclid. The owner housed his records and memoribilia at the bar, non-reverentially, and they played sides of whatever as the house music. Before that I hadn't heard any jazz that I liked (child of the 70s, so Weather Report etc was my frame) but the HoS left me know there was good stuff out there. When I moved to StL, I was in the neighborhood of, and Scariano was employed by, what was to become one of the pre-eminent jazz LP dealers, Euclid Records. They sell all kinds of shit, but if you want crazy rare jazz, like autographed Sun Ra 45's that no-one knew existed, Joe Schwab is your man. I worked there for a year or two in the late 90s when my bread was especially lean, and Scariano is there to this day with a good spell at Vintage Vinyl as intermezzo. Point being, I really fucking lucked out and bought a bunch of choice LPs in questionable shape for a nice price. Both Steve and Patrick were hep to the jazz whether out or in, and expanded my horizons quite a bit. I owe both Andrew Hill and Art Tatum to both of them.

So Steve and Patrick are good partners, they're always there musically and good company to boot. And jeebus, do they have their own musical voices, but you should know that by now. I should also mention utility infielder Joe Thebeau, he of Finn's Motel, who's always at the ready to play guitars I'll record over, spot us a second live, offer good ideas, lend us his perfect pitch, play whatever silly ass percussion we ask, drive us around in his boogie van, put the guitars into my sometimes ridiculous tunings, and along with his lovely wife Gina, whore out their basement when we need four days straight of rehearsal. Joe is a very musical and talented cat, he's worth your ears.

25 September 2008

things online

My penchant for accuracy compels me to note that despite what the Agit Reader review says, Year of the Donk was not edited or recorded at different times, it is a continuous, non-edited take.

23 September 2008

important StL driving info

If you're coming to St. Louis this Friday, particularly from the west, be forewarned that I-64 (referred to locally as "40" - the old federal number) is in the midst of a gigantic reconstruction. First off the highway is closed between I-270 and I-170. The Hampton Ave bridge is being demolished that night, with traffic re-routed to the exit/entrance ramps. More critically, the eastbound Jefferson Ave exit will not get you to the club because the Jefferson Ave bridge is closed. If coming from the east (westbound on I-64), you can still use the Jefferson exit (and the Hampton demolition won't be a factor either, it's further west).

There is no signage in the front of the Bluebird/Beffa's (a very cool bar/cafeteria mostly open during the day), there is a parking lot in back and you'll see a blue awning for the club there. It is one block west of Jefferson on Olive, on the southwest corner of Olive and N. Beaumont.

If traveling from the west via I-44 east, exit at Grand, proceed north and turn right at Olive (a few miles up the road, just past I-64). If you're taking I-70 in, take I-270 south to I-44 east and proceed as above. Unless you're a total badass, I would advise against taking the Kingshighway or Grand exits off 70, they'll take you through a pretty hairy part of north city. Alternatively, you could go 70E to 170S to 64E and exit at Grand or Market, but with the Hampton bridge demolition it might be faster to go the long way around via 270 & 44 as described above.

If taking I-70W coming from the east, just switch to I-64 (left 2 lanes on the bridge) and exit at Jefferson.

For more detail check this site.

last weekend

Well, that was quite a time. You couldn't find two more opposite shows. I had more trouble with my gear in Columbus than at any show in my lifetime. I determined the following day that there were several parallel problems, so no wonder I was totally flummoxed. But hey, when we were capable of creating sound, it was really good! The tension and frustration made the playing more vicious to be sure.

Thankfully there wasn't a camera at the back of the stage to document me totally losing my shit: "what the fuck is going on? I can't believe this shit. Goddamnit. I'm never doing this again" etc etc. After a while it started to seem completely absurd and I wondered if we were stuck in some Andy Kaufman bit. Shining Clock, with some Greenhorn and Gaunt refugees, were quite good, I was especially struck by Nick S' singing - he has a good voice, sense of melody/cadence. They rocked and seemed to have some good songs. I did a fun interview with Next Best Records' Ron Wadlinger for the Agit Reader after the show, I'll post a link when it goes up, along with pointers to some of the other pieces now online.

Cleveland went off like a charm in comparison. We did a great "Year of the Donk" - there are bits that are different every time, especially the intro, and we went to some places we hadn't been before with it. There is audio, but I haven't heard it yet. I might post some mp3s if the mix is ok. No technical difficulties beyond the ass pain of having songs in multiple tunings, some of them a bit extreme. Short of owning 5 or 6 guitars or having a full-time guitar tech there's not much way around it. I've used odd tunings off and on since Spike in Vain days, but there are definitely more of them on the new album than back when.

It was great to see Short Rabbits, Charlie Ditteaux's (Impalers, Easter Monkeys, Knifedance) new 3 piece with This Moment in Black History's Buddy Akita and his groovy drummer extraordinaire wife Christina. They've just released a 9 song 12" on My Mind's Eye that is full of Cle style punk rock goodness, real sound to it also. I'm not seeing it on the web yet in a quick google search, but plan to pick up a few to sell on the Scat site. I wouldn't be surprised if it turned up at S-S, either.

John Petkovic kindly emailed me some pics:
Myself, Patrick and "utility infielder" Joe Thebeau.

12 September 2008

hey, I think there's something wrong with your radiator

np: Alicia DeLaroccha - Granados' Goyescas
nd: New Belgium Trippel

Pianist DeLaroccha is the last word in Spanish repertory of any era and most of her recordings can be had on vinyl for $10 and under, mostly under if you go digging. NB's Trippel is like milk at our house, and it's not expensive since 1=2 with a 7.8% ABV. And delicious too. $7-$8 for a six around here. The Colt 45 of the Family Man? Nectar.

Naturally I've been busy, which is encouraging rather than a stressor - but I wanted to post a quick note that I do intend to keep this thing going, it's not totally a whoring the new album thing. I must introduce our magnificent and infinitely patient rhythm section as well as spout about the bills on these first shows, for starters. I do intend to post some oddball mp3s. And I'm always listening to records, feeling and thinking about the rocks of various girths and shapes. There are other blogs I read and links I'd like to post, I just haven't gotten to wiring them in yet. Regardless, I've always got some random ignorant crap to say too, so do stay tuned.

02 September 2008

myspace fun

I've quickly learned that the worst part of myspace is the random band trying to glom onto your show. A-1 fuckos on the move.

But I've just realized this can be fun. Names changed to protect the nameless dumbass, I'm nice like that.

----------------- Original Message -----------------
From: Mono Standard
Date: Sep 1, 2008 8:38 PM

hi. i sent you a message a week or so ago about hoping on the 9/26 bill you have @ the blue bird in St. louis. i contacted the venue and the told me it was your show. we could return the favor here in indianapolis.

let me know what you think.


I think you are unnecessarily wasting my time. I owe you an answer.... why? The world owes you nothing, clown. I do not know you and I do not play this myspace whore game. I don't have enough room for people on our bills who take some inspiration from our music, but yet it is you, some random dude in a pop band who can't bother to listen, read or think about what he's asking long enough to realize how far wrong he is, it is YOU who deserves a response? Get bent.

16 August 2008

2 Sisters video

A friend of mine came across this the other day - somebody made a video for "2 Sisters" - nice. Thanks for picking up the slack, dude, I enjoyed this very much. Making videos is something we've never been interested in. Like, at all. This way is much more fun, 'cause bands making traditional music videos is kinda pathetic, it says to me: we're so desperate to be liked that we'll happily spend and lose thousands of dollars on the off chance that you'll think we're cool. I know, thousands are no longer required in this brave new world of tubes, but it's still a bunch of time to spend. Did I mention it was gay? Very gay. How gay? Sniper-at-the-fag-parade gay. Knob city. Dork alley. So I dig this action, best of both worlds.

Lest any passers-by think there is any actual homophobia involved in the above comments, please refer to our single, "Jimjimmyjimjim." We love our gay and tg'd brothers and sisters, the only people I have a problem with are the repressed ones who won't let their own freak flag fly. And if you need more bona fides, our drummer Patrick used to be in Pansy Division...

14 August 2008

set list

I should be able to announce the Chicago date very soon. I've been starting to think about what songs we'll play at these shows, so I listened to about half of The Roaring Thirdm for the first time in I don't know how many years (aside from re;peated exposure to "Precious" when my 8 or 9 years-old-at-the-time daughter was really into it - not a situation I ever forsaw!) - and I was struck that Dirty Moons is really a whole hell of a lot different than that album. The aims are completely different, but the world(s) they take place in are the same. But in terms of both production and playing style, the two sounded drastically different to me. And I like both, they're each particularly suited to their aims.

So I'm thinking we'll play 15 songs, 9 from DM, 3 Roaring Third, 3 ancient... or something like that. If it's a drag playing old stuff we'll cut it back. But if you're going to one of these shows (Columbus, Cleveland, St. Louis, Chicago - see the myspace) and there's a song you really fucking want to hear, say so in the comments or by email (you can post comments anonymously). For the most part it doesn't make much difference to us, we like most of the songs and it's been a while. I may decide against all suggestions here, but speak now or forever hold your peace. At least until the show and you're drunkenly yelling song titles at us.

06 August 2008

more crap online

So, we convinced Enkler to take some time off from caring for baby thoroughbreds and come visit us at the end of July. So we had a small party, then a big party, and it was good. I also had the brilliant idea of shit, press types are always wanting photos... eh, we can get some random shots at the party. I didn't warn anyone, so we don't look very suave. Hell, I forgot myself, but luckily there was a good camera around. Yes, we are always giving it 100%, because we are all about taking it to the next level... of not giving a fuck. We are the Darkthrone of indie rock, bitches.

So, here's an outtake for our loyal readers. Below you will observe the giant brains of Prisonshake grapple with the modern boombox:

We eventually figured it out... but check out Enkler, that dude is always ready to pull out his cock. Speaking of, I found a couple choice shots of him on the camera, standing outside buck naked with an artfully placed gigantic zucchini. I so wish I could post one here, but he says, "I don't want to be on the internet." Pussy. You can see the "better" pictures at the bottom of this page.

Also, I've been remiss - I got distracted by the streaming players and forgot to post a free mp3, so here's Crush Me. I put up a rough mix of it ages ago, but I think it was called This Is All It Is then, though it started life as Kirke. This is probably the oldest song (writing-wise) on the album, we started playing it when we were touring The Roaring Third, though of course it went through some changes before the 2004 take we are using. A '96 demo version was a hidden track on the '97 Scat sampler. I think my favorite bit is in the solo when Patrick plays threes over our fours, those polyrhythms do an excellent job at mimicking most humans' favorite activity, way rad.

29 July 2008

Dirty Moons preorder

Is now up, right here. Or see all available Snack product, including the preorder, here.

24 July 2008

a trip to Cle

There was a perfect storm of rock shows and my birthday, so when I heard about the Mirrors reunion, and the Boris/Torche/Nachtmystium bill that was naturally skipping St. Louis, my wife found a cheap-enough flight ($168) and insisted I buy it right then while I could. Southwest has a liberal cancellation policy, I wouldn't need a car or hotel, so I went along with the plan and I'm fucking glad I did.

I landed midafternoon last Wednesday and took the rapid from the 'port to W. 25th, had a Dortmunder and tasty fried chicken sandwich at the West Side Market Cafe as my friend wrapped up her shopping. Then to Bier Markt, not open yet, fuck, so Great Lakes. Had their Holy Moses witbier, a little better than meh. No smoking in Cleveland? Fuck me. That's one good thing about living in a mostly red state like Missouri, it takes longer for this bullshit to happen. And then there is a downside. Or four. Like not having places where you can get Chimay, St. Bernardus, Piraat, Kwak (most ridiculous beer glass, ever), et al on tap.

Settled for just a single Old Rasputin, as a night of rock was yet ahead. $6 or $7 a glass, but two or three times the alcohol content of most of the beers at your local market. Leverage, economies of scale, these are good things.

No other photos, I hate carrying shit around. Nachtmystium were fucking badass, though the sound didn't do them much justice. To be fair it's hard to mix metal where speed and high stage volumes are integral components, and the minor keys and chromatics don't lend themselves to clarity in the live setting - they just vibrate differently than major chords. Most of the set was from Instinct: Decay, an album I got to know very well in the last year and some, so I was able to compensate when one of the guitars' melody lines was buried. Assassins is a very different album, but so far I'm digging it. Torche brought it and were probably the winners of the evening for most of the crowd. I've been waiting a long time to experience the bomb strings live and was not disappointed. Boris I've seen before under better circumstances, I think their visual component is important....gotta see the drummer going spazz. Guest Michio Kurihara supplied several brain-melting leads that captured my attention, I've always heard some Eddie Hazel in him in a most pleasing way, but after a bit I was well into my cups and talking was more fun than rocking. And you can't smoke at the bar. At the rock show.

I need to quicken this up, got other shit to do so I'll try to be brief. Caught The Hold Steady's encore at the Beachland. It's great to see a band well into their stride and riding a wave of ever increasing popularity and still having a good time. There is an electricity at shows like that that can't be denied, it reminds me of when GBV first started playing out in '93. I like THS more than I dislike them, so I can see both sides, but it warms my heart that for once there's a band on the rise that deserves the title "rock band." Which is to say I'll take them over your Arcade Wolf Collective drama troupe any day of the fucking week. Mirrors, Saturday, wow. I figured it would be good, but not this good. Jamie Klimek can go outside with the best of them and he was in fine form, every bit as good as when I last saw him play in the late 80s. With the exception of Mike Weldon on drums, this was a 70s Mirrors lineup (Klimek, Crook, Bell, Marotta) and they played only material from that era. Fucking great, heard all my favorite jams. Another highlight was getting a burn of roughs of the next This Moment in Black History album. I liked the last one, but this one, Public Square, is on a whole new level, jamming high-energy rock and skronk into a punk sandwich with a healthy dose of Cle irreverence, badass all the way. I salute you.

That Steelyard Commons development flipped my lid HARD.

14 July 2008

the myspace player

I changed the songs on the myspace because I was bugged by the concept of individual tracks. Instead I put up all of side one (songs = Fake Your Own Death, I Will Comment, The Cut-Out Bin, Dream Along, and "You're Obviously the One") as a continuous track, though I had to split it into two parts because of myspace file size limits. We worked a long time to make an Album, so just having Songs didn't feel right. We've Only Tasted the Wine is still up, and I added Fuck Your Self-Esteem because it is so kick ass - aside from the maracas and the short outro guitar solo, this is a live recording.

01 July 2008


Yep. Want more? Here. Spoiler alert: that link reveals the back cover of the LP booklet.

We'll be playing in Chicago, Cleveland and St. Louis in September. The fall is a busy time of year for some of us. Right now more shows in '09 sounds good, but who knows. I'm not crazy about performing, until I'm doing it, then I like it plenty. Otherwise I have to remind myself of that or it just sounds like a drag. But it's been a long time and it will be good to see friends, meet people and hang.

08 June 2008

Punk Rock Guilt II

Part one below need not be read first. There I basically say Brant Bjork is a top-drawer rocker of note, and hey, look at this righteous screed he wrote:

The inner line within myself dividing my reality and my idealism is very fine. As I assume it must be for others who would consider themselves “bleeding hearts, under-dogs, dreamers, or romantics”. I know deep down, none of these things ultimately define me but I’d be lying if I said that I don’t feel all of these characteristics inside myself at any given moment. Growing up in a capitalistic society is an intoxicating thing. Money. It’s a harsh reality. It wouldnt be so bad if our culture wasn’t so obsessed with it. Obviously I chose to follow my heart into the arts. Yes, I too obsess over money from time to time. but my priority has always been to maintain my path in art ...specifically music.
Art, to me, is spiritual and should remain so. There is nothing wrong with “making a buck”... but I simply feel it should not be at the expense of your spirituality, or...your art. There are so many paths to take that are entirely built for the pursuit of money, why some choose the arts as a way to “make money” is something I really don’t understand. When I was growing up, I was naturally attracted to “punk rock”...not just for the music but for the “effort”. It was a movement...at least I saw it as one. I saw Punk Rock as a place for the few who didn’t want to “walk the line”. It wasn't motivated by money. It was a natural attraction for me and my personality. Most of my closest friends at that time were into “it”. Punk Rock is my root and it’s the school that I came up in. It has a lot to do with how and why I play music today. I say this, not out of pride, certainly Punk Rock today is not something I am really interested in, but I am not in denial of my roots. Why specific people choose to dwell in the mainstream artistically is not something I can really answer.
For me...I simply don’t like controlling people and I don’t like people controlling me.
and as for “Punk Rock Guilt”. I honestly don’t even know what it is supposed to mean. To feel guilt for growing up on one of the only meaningful forms of rock music and art in the 80’s...seemed so lame that I had to use the term as a record title.
I second all that, heartily. I think Brant's a few years younger than me. I started young, first gig in late '81 at 15 years old with the Dark - so part of my root is also that between-the-eras time, when punk was assumed to be dead and the hardcore resurgence hadn't picked up steam yet. Point being, that was a time when so few independent records were released that I tended to buy just about anything that came out - which led me to waxings by oddballs like Factrix, Chrome, the Residents, Non, etc. The Drome, one of thee great record stores of the late 70s to early 80s, used to sell 3 packs of 45s at a sale price, and the mystery record in the middle that couldn't be seen in the store often turned out to be something very cool. That's how I wound up with a copy of Orchid Spangiafora's "Dime Operation" EP - Byron Coley's cut-up tape recordings. And in Cleveland itself there was always weird shit happening, hell, Johnny and the Dicks were a "band" that didn't play music, who released an album with no record inside (basically a 12"x12" cardboard flat with some glue, glitter and a photo pasted on it). One friend of mine actually bought one, but was so puzzled that his curiosity drove him to peel it apart, hoping somehow there'd be a record inside that 2-ply cardboard. I remember in '84 or so noticing that somehow a good number of people in the hardcore scene owned SPK's album "Leichenschrei" - and that strikes me today as being an illuminating and unique aspect of our mindset. You could do fucked up things, punk rock orthodoxy didn't have much pull with most of that first generation of NE Ohio hardcore bands, many of whom were better known for their low-rent hedonism than any political stance. Audiences at the biggest shows were another matter, but then you had lots of kids getting their first live exposure and all that goes with that. And the previous generation had given as such great bands to look up to - Pagans, Pere Ubu, Electric Eels, many many others, you know the list if you're here. Hell, probably the best band during that first hardcore era was not part of the scene at all, but from the old class of '77 (and earlier), the Easter Monkeys, and we all knew they were the fucking greatest.

In Cleveland, everyone understood on a near-molecular level that a band didn't have to be popular, even in underground terms, or conform to their era, let alone be acknowledged to exist by anyone beyond a 10-mile radius of the Terminal Tower in order to be important. If you didn't have a tape of Rocket from the Tombs' WMMS broadcast, you probably knew someone who did and it made your year to get a dub of it. Sure there was a party scene (hello, 1385) but when it came to music, most of us were dead serious, but also had zero expectation that anyone besides ourselves would really give a shit. Those who were just on the take or aiming for stardom were ruthlessly mocked when not entirely ignored (most of the time). I'd include Trent Reznor's old band Exotic Birds in that category, what knobs those guys were.

So there wasn't much political correctness in Cleveland, but a code was instilled nonetheless, and that was: be real, do your own thing, but please don't take yourself too seriously or we will cut you down to size, ginsu-knife style. I can't help but violate that last one, but I do so knowing full well the inconsequence of my labors.

On the other hand, it was the hard rock of my boyhood that made punk rock work for me. It clicked for no other reason than it was hard and passionate. I've been truly blessed by relatives and friends who turned me on to cool music from the git-go. Before I even started kindergarten, Blue Cheer's Vincebus Eruptum was one of my favorite albums. Alice Cooper's early records were my grade-school bible, and I couldn't understand why so few of my friends bought albums, and when they did, they were kinda lame. I guess that was the beginning of feeling outside, apart from others. I vividly remember Andy Ferstman (sp? He played in some Florida punk bands and later played a bit on the glam metal circuit) calling me up from FL to play me records by these new bands Black Flag and The Eat. And there was also the radio - CKLW and WIXY in the late 60s and then WMMS' early prog years, establishing audiences for T. Rex, Bowie, Roxy Music and many others long before they could draw anywhere else. Plus the artists could stay in the old Swingo's, a rock and roll hotel/bar that rivaled LA's most debauched haunts. And although it's common wisdom that Cle radio did not support punk, it was M105 where I first heard the Dead Boys, which was then followed by the DJ taking calls on-air for reactions, most of which were along the lines of "this is the worst crap I've ever heard" - I called in too, I didn't get on the radio, but told them it was kick ass. Given the direction the station went (or continued in, rather), their listeners really didn't want anything to do with punk rock, just more Springsteen and Southside Johnny, thank you very much.

My point here is that there was a whole maelstrom of other unique influences on people in Cleveland during those days, some that you wouldn't associate with a smaller, down-on-its-luck city. That combined with extreme isolation and a shit local economy is the rosetta stone to understanding the otherness of much Cleveland music. Lots of outsider art/music came in, but what came back out was hardly broadcasted back into the larger world, and everyone seemed pretty much fine with that, wasn't that how it worked anyway, unless you just got really lucky?

Whether you ever liked punk or hardcore, Brant is right on when he portrays it as "one of the only meaningful forms in music and art in the 80s" - because that scene was to some degree a midwife to all the good rock-based musics of the following 10 years, and the art component is significant as well. But it's also why the current climate is so baffling to me. Indie labels with releases in the top 20? I love it that the money is not going into corporate coffers, and to a label that is probably better about paying royalties, but still... isn't Iron and Wine (or whoever) just the Seals & Crofts of the aughts? The cognitive dissonance is overwhelming. Where did all the guts go? Where is the rock? Our descendants are the new purveyors of the MOR format? Fuck.

I'm not too interested in the false binaries of punk vs. indie, big business vs. small, but I am interested in Fucking Things Up (from either direction) in just the right way. Both chaos and deliberation are honored guests at our table. Both spontaneity and control, but not in opposition so much as the limits of a spectrum.

This all ties in a bit with our concept of "The Donk" - a marvelously versatile term whose root meaning is to do things wrong in just the right way, or to be perplexed and amused and maybe even enlightening at the same time... and lots of other more crass things. But as this post is already way too long, I'll deal with that later.

And to bring it all back home, one last Brant Bjork observation - the wife put on the PRG album last night and in all seriousness stated that the best lyric on the whole album was the first line of the first song ("Lion 1"), namely:
There's a bit more to that line ("...I know my rights"), but it follows a great introduction and build on a simple modal riff (do note the classy hi-hat work in that section - all foot, no stick), so that the way he delivers that word just oozes with feeling, which I hear as, "yeah, I know exactly how hot the last two minutes of rock were, and I'm just getting started... check this shit out..." The song is quite the opening salvo, not so much epic as sprawling, it keeps digging in a little deeper each time you hear it. The refrain of the song is, "I can be who I want to be" - which is the essential punk rock lesson, right? Dig it.

06 June 2008

Punk Rock Guilt intermezzo

Ok, I'm back. I had to get some Friday afternoon blogging supplies, namely LPs by Cluster, 13th Floor Elevators, Morgen, Joe Tex and James Brown. And some booze. Then I had an unexpected but welcome visitor. I will probably not get far with this post, but it seems important to let you know that Trois Pistoles from Unibroue of Quebec is quite possibly the most delicious beer I have ever tasted.

Punk Rock Guilt

Ahhhh, summer is here. Along with the shedding of clothes and nights of drinking and blazing on the porch, the last several summers have each brought a new Brant Bjork album to serve as soundtrack. This year we've got Punk Rock Guilt. Great album title, or greatest album title?

But fret not, I'm more interested in that title as a jumping off point than penning an album review per se. As music fans, regardless of genre preferences, we are looking for artists or bands that are Forces, those whose particular Voice or talent is a fact. The only question beyond that is whether we can suspend disbelief and enjoy the music on its own terms. Is it a world you want to be in? There is value in one-offs, but my interest in any of those is inversely proportional to how much music "like that" I already own, or if a genre has deep veins down into the mountain. A long-haul artist transcends good or bad, but simply is. The further they weave themselves into the fabric of your life, the more arbitrary and irrelevant the particulars of a given recording become.

Brant Bjork is definitely one of those guys. Though I've seen him describe this new LP as "total rock," I think that just means it's a bit heavier some of the time, even recalling Kyuss a bit, because last year's Somera Sol was arguably a more aggressive album in terms of pure rockage. Punk Rock Guilt is instantly recognizable as BB, and does not really stray too far from the groovy pentatonic boxriffs that are his primary bag. Production is spot-on and unlike most modern records still sounds great loud. And I will state on the record that the man is a brilliant lyricist, he's totally real and has the cajones to spout killers like:

Captain Lovestar's my name yeah
And I'm your rock and roll commander

Another day at the office, baby can you hold my calls
If I ever mix business with pleasure,
Baby, you can hold my balls.

There are so many. He's got some wise-man mojo as well. Brant pulls off the trick of seeming like a well-adjusted, happy individual who can still make music with grit and edge. A person you can hang with but also learn from. The music lifts you up, but also helps you get down, a testament to the music's r&b roots and its proximity to the trunk of that tree. Nearly all of BB's solo albums are worth owning, but I'd recommend Jalamanta, a terrifically iconic debut, as well as BB & the Operators, and Saved By Magic as some of the juiciest flowers, all very distinct and with seemingly infinite shelf-lives. Of course Punk Rock Guilt is a great place to start as well.

But here's what I really want to get at. From the faq at Low Desert Punk, his new label:

Both you and former band-mate Josh Homme have been talking a lot about the term "Punk Rock Guilt" this year. He was saying how he grew up with it and kind of grew out of it as he got older and left Kyuss. What's inspired you to keep on rolling with the D.I.Y. attitude when some of your old friends have embraced the mainstream?

The inner line within myself dividing my reality and my idealism is very fine. As I assume it must be for others who would consider themselves “bleeding hearts, under-dogs, dreamers, or romantics”. I know deep down, none of these things ultimately define me but I’d be lying if I said that I don’t feel all of these characteristics inside myself at any given moment. Growing up in a capitalistic society is an intoxicating thing. Money. It’s a harsh reality. It wouldnt be so bad if our culture wasn’t so obsessed with it. Obviously I chose to follow my heart into the arts. Yes, I too obsess over money from time to time. but my priority has always been to maintain my path in art ...specifically music.
Art, to me, is spiritual and should remain so. There is nothing wrong with “making a buck”... but I simply feel it should not be at the expense of your spirituality, or...your art. There are so many paths to take that are entirely built for the pursuit of money, why some choose the arts as a way to “make money” is something I really don’t understand. When I was growing up, I was naturally attracted to “punk rock”...not just for the music but for the “effort”. It was a movement...at least I saw it as one. I saw Punk Rock as a place for the few who didn’t want to “walk the line”. It wasn't motivated by money. It was a natural attraction for me and my personality. Most of my closest friends at that time were into “it”. Punk Rock is my root and it’s the school that I came up in. It has alot to do with how and why I play music today. I say this, not out of pride, certainly Punk Rock today is not something I am really interested in, but I am not in denial of my roots. Why specific people choose to dwell in the mainstream artistically is not something I can really answer.
For me...I simply don’t like controlling people and I don’t like people controlling me.
and as for “Punk Rock Guilt”. I honestly don’t even know what it is supposed to mean. To feel guilt for growing up on one of the only meaningful forms of rock music and art in the 80’s...seemed so lame that I had to use the term as a record title.

As for tequilas... there are a lot of premiums worth checkin out.
Especially these days.
But I’d say, right off the shelf, Don Julio Anejo is very nice.

I'll be coming back later to riff on the above, but will publish this now since it's been quiet here lately.

28 May 2008

Axl Rose, you are my bitch

You know it, baby. And I know it hurts. You've crossed my mind over the years as we struggled with our own Chinese Democracy, as it went from eagerly anticipated to wishful hoax to mostly forgotten. I understand the pressure, the self-doubt, the personal demons - rock n roll ain't beanbag, eh? But dude, you've got bijillions of dollars, talented minions at your beck and call... why can't you get it done? I'll tell you why: you have no vision. How could you ever find your album when you were lost on day one?

That's why our record is done and yours is not. I've had a vision for this album from the beginning, the delays mostly boil down to execution and lack of money. You've got cornrows and endless tapes of wandering suck.

Seriously, though, I know the answer to your problem. All you've got to do is pick the dozen best tunes you've come up with, record them live to 2 track in a room with good acoustics, done. After all the drama, an honest rock and roll album is probably the last thing anyone expects from you. Don't worry about the videos, only ass-kissers do that shit. You can do whatever you want... so why don't you? Until then, this nowhere rock band PWNS you, and you are my bitch.

I always thought "Patience" was a good tune of yours. Especially when hearing it on the jukebox at Sindy's in a pre-gentrified Tremont back in Cleveland. That's gone now, right? It was at Fairfield and W. 11th street, SE corner. Hospital green interior. I picture hilljack girls swaying at the box, inevitably punching up some Bad Company to follow-up the GnR, maybe one of the Greeks coming up and following it with some of their homegrown bouzouki sides. I really knew times were changing when Beck and Nirvana not only appeared on the juke but were embraced by some of the regulars. That was kind of sad.

20 May 2008

Cle HC bloggy goodness

Man, I love when people give my old days some love (Spike in Vain, The Dark). Goodbadmusic dishes on the New Hope comp LP.

19 May 2008

inquiring minds

Wumme has questions:

Were Guided By Voices the doing and undoing of the label?

But I did plenty of undoing on my lonesome. When GBV took off it would've been pretty easy to put out a bunch of similar stuff, goddess knows I got every Pollard-wannabe demo known to man after Bee Thousand came out. I didn't want to exploit that niche as one should do according to the record label textbook and I didn't like the idea of releasing x number of records per year just so bigger media would take Scat seriously. It almost did happen, though - in 1995 it was nearly certain that I'd sign Neutral Milk Hotel, but Jeff changed his mind and went with Merge because my short-lived Matador deal creeped him out.

But in the end I take full credit and blame for my fortunes. I think 20, 40 years from now the catalog will be more interesting and noteworthy as a result of my choices. My goals have always been more historically-oriented than success-oriented.
Why the eventual move to St. Louis?
Growing up in Cleveland is sort of like being in an abusive relationship. I've always moved frequently. I went to 8 different elementary schools, 3 of them in New York (Utica) or Florida (Ft. Lauderdale). I even spent a summer in Glendive, Montana while my mom recovered from broken nose, ribs and double pneumonia. Once I left home at 17, I tended to have a new place to live every 6-9 months. I've lived in six different spots since moving to St. Louis for that matter, and suspect I will not be here forever either. So I'd wanted to leave Cle for years, but my band was there and I had little money. At the end of '94 we no longer had a regular band and I did have some money. St. Louis was one of the more welcoming and beautiful places we'd been. Label and success-wise, it would've been better to move to NYC or Chicago. But I like a slow pace, so NYC was out and Chicago just seemed like a bigger, yet somehow lesser, version of Cleveland. StL was just right. I also liked the idea of being somewhat anonymous. That said, I don't think I'll ever totally lose the bluntness and cynicism that is the Cle heritage, but StL has softened up the edges a bit. I've learned to be a little friendlier. I'll always love Cleveland, I do enjoy visiting very much, but it's also a place filled with scars for me. It's a heavy town psychically and I'm a sensitive fuck.

Or you could say it was fate. It's strange, on several occasions I've written songs which later came true in unexpected ways. There's "Stuck in St. Louis" on the Della Street EP, and the line in "Kick Up Yr Heels" that goes, "from St. Louis, Missouri to the Florida keys," some other examples too. I went on a trip to the Keys not long after moving to StL. I even married a skinny girl with pretty little feet, too... didn't see that one coming.

Is Damon Che as much of an asshole as they say?
Man, if there was ever a guy who got a bum deal on the intertubes it's Damon. People who don't like him seem to have popular websites and people who do like him don't seem to have computers. I've met plenty of genuine assholes and he is not one of them. He's got a temper, he's self-critical and will not sell himself out musically. 99% of any asshole behavior on Damon's part is due to some combination of those things. He may not always express himself in the most constructive ways, but he's actually a very relaxed, easy-going cat 99% of the time I've been around him.

But hey, even if everything written about Damon were true, and even if it were worse than what's out there, he'd still be one of the greatest all around musicians of our day and I'd still be honored to consider him a friend. Asshole is just another word for misunderstood.

And jeebus, haven't any of these fucks heard the Buddy Rich Tapes?

13 May 2008

we keep busy

We've actually got like another dozen albums in the can. Here's one:

09 May 2008

some old bullshit

Man, I look at this thing and I just want to delete it. I've got that disclaimer bit over there and I'm not just being cute. We never talk about any of this shit when we're together, we mostly laugh and drink and play a song or two in between cracking each other up. As a group, we spend a lot more time thinking up shit like this:

07 May 2008

the Adam Schmitt sessions

Fall, 1997, Urbana IL, the Indians-Marlins World Series underway, Adam Schmitt recorded us in his basement over three nights. We did 63 takes on a 1/2" Tascam 38 8-track deck. These were full "days" but often recording didn't begin until late in the afternoon and went on until 3 or 4 am. We used two different mic'ing strategies, so each song was recorded at least twice, some thrice.

At the time I was pretty worked up over how terrible records were beginning to sound. Between the increasingly widespread practice of 'peak level mastering' and the advent of digital recording, I vowed to engage in neither. I did not want our next album to sound 'big' - but I also didn't want to go as lo-fi as our initial 1995 sessions (the "Scissors Suite" was recorded on 8-track cassette with our first St. Louis drummer - and lead vocalist on one song - Ann Hirschfeld). Steve and Patrick were both originally from Champaign-Urbana and had known Adam for years and suggested we lay down our jams at his joint. He'd started recording very young and had even done some creative multi-tracking as a kid, bouncing back and forth between cassette decks, the mad scientist type. If there was ever a guy who could get the maximum results from minimal equipment, it's Adam. He has amazing hearing and stamina too. So off we went and Adam was all that and more. Although he's very much a pop guy, he understood what we were after (everybody playing in the same room, good aggressive tone, no gated snares, etc) and he delivered. When I mixed all the various recordings last year, Adam's were not only the easiest to mix (and not just because there were fewer tracks), but the band really jumped out of the speakers at us. Although the dynamic range is not as wide as on our later, 2" 24-track recordings, he got more out of that Tascam 38, Mackie board and a few inexpensive mics than anyone would think humanly possible. Even our engineer at Electrical, Rob Vester, was super impressed with these recordings. About a third of the album comes from these sessions, with a few of the songs being almost completely live, even vocals and some guitar solos: The Cut-Out Bin (first 2/3rds, drum fill and final chorus were recorded elsewhere nearly 10 years later), I Will Comment, Fuck Your Self-Esteem, Dream Along, The Understudy, It Was a Very Good Year, Favorite Hospital, and some of the middle freakout in Fake Your Own Death were all recorded by Adam.

So the why so long part. Despite being at the top of our game and having genial recording conditions, for many years I thought of these sessions as a near-total loss. I came home with four 60 minute cassettes of all the rough mixes and set out to determine which takes to finish. They generally sounded good, but we had been woodshedding the songs so intensely that I got lost in the details (do you see a theme here?) - I obsessed over tempi, feel and accents and was always able to find an unwanted flaw in everything we did. It's not that a perfect performance was sought, but for it to be perfectly broken. I always want the music to hurt a little bit. Though I didn't know it at the time, we did achieve all that in spades. But even moreso, it was apparent that some of the songs were not ready, regardless of performance, especially the early versions of Year of the Donk and what we called Nowhere Near at that time (and is on DM as A Very Good Year). We'd gone through at least a dozen different arrangements of each, if not more, with new parts added, old ones taken away, ad nauseam. I changed them every week for at least a year, then changed them some more, a few times, several years later. The more I listened to the roughs, the worse it sounded to me, but I did settle on five songs that I thought were pretty good even though I thought at least two of them were "B-sides at best" but well-performed and we did a few overdubs on those a year later. If you'd asked me at the time how the album was coming I would've said, "we've got some stuff recorded, but most of it didn't come out well. We maybe have a short EP."

As time went on, I felt worse and worse about the recordings. After putting the band through hell for a couple years with the endless revisions, I didn't have the heart to put any of us through more of the same and our activity level began to really drop off. And after a while it starts to seem like there's no point to doing any of it. Why play out? We hadn't had an album in a few years, no prospects of finishing one, and to top it off it was really starting to seem like underground interest in rock music was hitting an all-time low. Grunge had been rechristened Stoner Rock and sent off to its own little ghetto while post-rock and pop twaddle ruled the day. Why finish the album? It'd probably just get slagged for being too rock and having guitar solos on it. I had a new baby, a wife, and nowhere near enough money. There were very, very few current bands I liked, so I lost myself in jazz and early 70s hard rock lacunae (Morgen, Dust, Buffalo, Bang, etc) and was much happier for it.

There are very few songs on Dirty Moons with a standard verse/chorus structure. When we made The Roaring Third the idea had been all killer, no filler, big hooks, big choruses, big rock, work the archetypes, etc. That was a good thing and many people connected deeply enough with it to ask about a new album for years afterwards (and without that encouragement from you all we might not have been inspired to finish this one, so cheers), but afterwards I was ready for something different, initially that was to create big contrasts within the songs themselves, but much of the writing was very intuitive and as a result rather hit or miss. I wasn't sure what I was looking for, but I knew it wasn't just "catchy songs" (in fact I purposely avoided those to some degree, for DM: expression > hooks) so whenever I picked up the guitar and something struck me I ran with it without much thought. (another duality to smash: cerebral content vs. instinct) Listening back to our roughs, four hours of them, made it pretty clear that this was not the best m.o. - and maybe I just didn't know how to write the kinds of songs I wanted. Truth is, I didn't, most of the time anyway. Now I do, but I needed some time to get there.

So for several years I would not listen to these recordings, it just made me depressed. But then one day I decided to transfer some of the better songs to my computer and I was shocked by how amazingly great some of the tracks were. Time is a beautiful thing. I changed my mind about the five "good" songs, ditched two of them, and added a bunch more. Today I am beyond proud of these particular recordings, they are definitely a peak for us in terms of intensity and you-are-there live sound. But don't think that there are hours of great tracks lost, I'd still say at least half the recordings aren't worth hearing. At some point I plan to finish the best outtakes and release an LP's worth of them, though probably half would be different versions (often radically so) of songs that are on Dirty Moons. There are only a few "lost" songs, but there are a good number of "different" ones.

30 April 2008

first post + sequencing

We started recording Dirty Moons in the spring of 1995, and the last bits were put to tape in the fall of 2007. Why did it take so long? It's hard to say, but I figure it's better to dish than be coy or dismissive about it, which is what I'd usually do. The simple answer is that this is what I wanted to do, which sheds no light because sometimes we did want to finish but could not. Unfortunately there's no easy explanation for why it all went down the way it did, so I will address the elephant directly in these first few posts and no doubt beyond.

Part of the problem is that I've tried very hard to both embrace and shatter dualities on this album, to learn to love apparent contradictions, but also to toss them about as predator vs. prey. More about that later, but the end result is that it's very hard to make many general statements about it, and the same goes for the process. It "took" a dozen or so years, but actual studio time? Maybe a month's worth of 12+ hour days, give or take a few.

There are a lot of reasons it's taken so long, and there are a lot of things that happened. Sometimes it's difficult to tell which is which. Here's one:

There are close to 100 different sequences here. The pages stack up ~ 3/4" high, so most aren't visible. Even worse, these are maybe one third of those I ever wrote down. At some point I realized how ridiculous it was getting and decided to start saving these ("Do you really need yet another variation? You probably already wrote it down and don't even realize it. Look through the stack before you do it yet again.")

When circumstance or finance did not allow work on the album, I did this instead. One of my goals was to make an album with lots of contrasts (all levels: production, composition, sequencing, ad infinitum) - I like when songs pull the listener to unexpected dimensions, like you closed your eyes for a second and now you're instantly somewhere else. But I also wanted it to have cohesion and internal logic. For a long time I was being too cute, trying to put certain songs in certain places - I really, really wanted to make Cut-Out Bin third song, side two, but it didn't work. I had plenty of other targets to aim at too, certain songs just HAD to precede others, some "belonged" to particular sides... I set myself a puzzle that by definition could not be solved. Eventually I gave up all my sacred cows and preconceptions and hit upon the correct running order.

I picture the sequence as a party. You have to park pretty far away and as you're walking towards the house you can already hear the band in the distance, gaining in volume and intensity as you approach. They're playing in the front room of the house and you walk in the door just as all hell breaks loose. Maybe in the bridge a nitrous tank comes your way, or you drink something you shouldn't have, and you wander through the rest of the house, each of the following songs being a different room. But you don't get involved in conversation for long, you're just scoping the action and deciding where to settle. The first side is sort of a quick overview of the party, it's the whole album in miniature (tracks 1-3 share methods with side 2, track 4 is analogous to side 3, track 5 to side 4). After casing the joint you settle in a rather animated and chaotic area of the house, each song a person, crowd of people, conversation, perhaps overheard, or something you felt or witnessed. The same goes for sides three and four, but there are different groups of people and atmospheres in those parts of the house. Just like a party, people come and go; the sides are not discrete, although each is a valid entry point. There are shouts heard from other rooms, a ruckus outside maybe, always hallways, basements, and roofs too. The power even shorts or browns out a couple times.

In the end it is about creating a world real enough to be shared, yet tempting and extraordinary enough to be desired. A summoning.

The sequencing wasn't just about structure or which songs could make the cut, it was also a way for me to solidify the material. The album being at the time in a thoroughly incomplete state, I would listen through the whole thing in my head, editing and rearranging an album that did not really exist yet. The bitching guitar solo in We've Only Tasted the Wine was "written" this way (with Joe Thebeau assist for the germ of the first lick) and much of what I think really makes the record special happened this way, especially in regards to feel, tonal color and some of the more involved arrangements.

These were dark days for me. I had so much of the album in my head, so little on tape; it was the only time in my life that I feared death in the existential sense because I knew the album could not possibly be completed if my number got called. I've often felt that this is my final lifetime and I worried that I would have to reincarnate or wander if I didn't get it done. The relief that I felt as the "big" songs were mixed down to the 1/2" master was overwhelming, physical, practically an orgasm. And yeah,
I could have alleviated it all by recording digitally, but that was a giant NO for me.

But sweetest of all? We're gonna get this fucker out before Chinese Democracy!