This is ground zero. The origin story, if you prefer
Everyone remembers their High School experience like some version of Godfather, or, with any luck, Heathers minus the beautiful celebrities. But the truth is rarely ever that intense, or epic, at least to anyone who wasn’t there. In order to give it any sense beyond a source of early education, we all become particularly adept and framing those years in a way that gives that four year span a narrative ark, to take us on the journey from naive Freshman to Jaded Senior. My experience was no different than anyone else’s, in that it was absolutely unremarkable next to that of anyone else, and the most important genesis that has ever been committed to print. When I recall the secret history of this vanity project that only lives on in my memory, I hear it as my Richard II. Or, at least, my Three O’Clock High. While this unreliable narrator is certainly biased – not to mention a double for the main character – I can promise that this is as true as any story that you can make up yourself, and then some.
Like any good story, there are all the usual inconsequential details. There is an ensemble cast, each of which will loudly proclaim their own version of events where they are the protagonist. The settings have the permanence of the Pyramids and the protean nature NYC over the last 100 years. There are a handful of villains – extra credit for those who can lit crit an argument for the narrator as the antagonist – but on the whole it’s a character study, with Herculean Tasks and anecdotal period piece sketches. It is my story, a simple story, a complex story, and most important, set in the ’90’s, and told in three acts.
It goes without saying that little can be said to recommend my time in High School, save for this particular narrative. In the same way that most of life is a baptism by fire, working on these publications galvanized me in a way that I still feel to this day. Some people remember the prom, and other’s have the A/V Club to given their past some color. The Big Game is the climax for some, and others speak recall the time they got the scoop for The School Paper. Cheerleading, School Government, lunch room politics, theater, band. The roles we played all served different functions in each other’s version of this story. Curiously enough I was none of these things, an outsider in a number of ways who wore many hats, and yet felt comfortable in none. Not smart enough to be a nerd, and too smart to be a jock, both a rule-follower and breaker, at home both studying and blowing off my work. I was constantly between places, never fitting into either and wanting to play a role in both. In order to make a place for for myself, I had to write my way in. For me, these publications are the Rosetta stone, a meta-text map that revealed me entirely and set a path I’m still following.
And, as with everything, we begin in medias res, sometime in the previous millennium.
As hinted at previously, it was hard from the beginning to confine a simple party to one single night. While the show at The Kenton Club was always going to be a rock show, there were a fair number of friends that wanted to perform too, but happened to be of a more experimental nature. Since I wanted to have my cake and eat it too, I pulled a few strings, and in the end, my party has now become a two-day affair.
And this, dear friends, is Day 1:
Fortunately for us, Plew’s Brews in Historic St. John’s was tuning into our frequency, as this show is their first in a “Last Friday” series of Experimental Showcases. Plew’s has been a long-time supporter of the scene in St. John’s, and regularly lends its stage for the annual NoFest celebration, and hosts live music featuring a wide range of local and touring acts. I was incredibly grateful to be picked to curate the first in this series, and to that end I picked my favorite local acts.
A good party requires just the right kind of music, and to that even we’ve been fortunate enough to have Miss Rikki of Closet Radio agree to provide interstitial tunes and DJed enjoyment before and between our performers. Miss Rikki has been providing audio entertainment for listeners for quite some time, and now that her show is on XRAY.FM, her audience has only increased. Ranging from post-punk, garage, experimental and all points in-between, she is guaranteed to plug you into the vibe we’re cultivating, and we simply cannot wait.
Sound sculptor Overdose The Katatonic is next up in our cavalcade of beauty and wonder, and if you have not seen him perform before, it is a sight to behold, and unlike anything you’ve seen before. Using a suitcase full of doodads and gizmos that he’s assembled himself, OTK provides a wall of noise that is pregnant with tones that are dark, intoxicating, symphonic, abrasive, and always fascinating. I would dial up a few of his live performances to get a sense of what to expect, and then keep in mind that what you’ll actually see will be nothing like that. This Seattle-based artist always draws a crowd, and collecting performances by him is something of which I can never get enough. I think you’ll feel the same way.
We are very excited to have added to our line-up the incomparable Doug Theriault. Not only is he an accomplished performer and musician, his sound is a beautiful melange of guitar experimentalism and electronic wizardry. Doug’s performances are intense, impressive and incredibly personal, and you should start adding his music to your collection. I cannot wait to see what he manages to create for this show.
Another addition to this experimental showcase is Admiran, a member of the Battlesnakes Collective. No stranger to our events, Admiran is a one-man electronic menagerie of music for and about glitchy dancing, audio soundscapes, eccentric stagecraft, and beautiful weirdness that will fill you with joy. We’re very excited to see Admiran perform again, and we think they will make an excellent addition to our show. Enjoy.
Of course, as it is my birthday, I get to do what I want, and this time I’ve asked to perform live with The Dead Air Fresheners at this show. While I am occasionally invited to perform live with them as a member of their mysterious group, this performance will be a sequel to our show from 2013, where they will be backing me as I deliver a spoken word piece titled “The Country Mouse & The City Mouse.” I always enjoy working with these guys, and I’m hoping that this performance will merge our aesthetics in a way that you’ll have to see to believe.
With special guest dropping by throughout the show, Day 1 has turned out to be quite excellent, and Day 2 is gonna be pretty amazing, too. I’m really looking forward to turning 40 now, and I hope you enjoy it, too. Let’s make this happen!
Please join me for an evening of rock, punk & hardcore at The World Famous Kenton Club, and watch a man turn 40 and irrelevant before your very eyes.
As many of you know, I have a varied taste in music, and a number of people came to mind when I realized how anti-climatically I would be aging. Therefore, like many of the best Split LPs of the past, I decided to Split the evening into two distinct forms, which I think will not only scratch my taste for 31 Flavors, but allowed me to build two different shows in one incredible evening, without having to go anywhere else.
First off, Tuff Gnarly will be DJing to get the crowd in the mood for fun. A consummate DJ with an encyclopedic sense of what must be heard, he will not only tie the evening together, but bring with him a sense of dignity that is unique among DJs. We’re excited to have him at the show, and we think he will set the tone for fun.
Come early for Side A, where you can see The Nervous, opening for The Welfare State. Both feature musical prowess, nerdy intertextuality, and a sense of style and sophistication that few other’s bring to the stage. Both friends and entertainers, both bands will bring out the best in our audience, and I cannot wait to shake my little tuckus to their rhythmic charms.
As if that were not enough, stay for Side B, where things get a little louder, a little more rough hewn, and where rock is absolutely necessary. To that end, we have /root_DIR, nerd-grind from Eugene, who will leave you a husk of your formal self with 40 second blasts of extreme music enjoyment. They are opening for Xiphoid Process, a thrash-metal force to be reckoned with that will close out our party, and not a moment too soon.
Come early for fun! Stay late to get plowed! No matter which side works best for you, we think you’ll have a lot of fun helping me celebrate my 40th rotation. See you there.
Most of my offices have had to serve double duty. Usually I set up a desk in the corner of some room and hope that it was out of the way enough to create a multi-purpose space. During the day it would be a living room, but at night I would sit down and work. A true Office seemed out of my league with the kinds of clients I was able to drum up, so a desk in the corner was good enough for the odd jobs I did manage to get. When I had work, the desk served as a focal point for client info, schedules, stories I had to finish, and a box of index cards was enough to keep track of all. All I had to do was step away from the space and it would return to being a bedroom again.
Every time I would sit down at the desk, though, the transformation seemed more than just a glamour I had cast. There was something about sitting down to do work that pushed away the rest of the world and helped give me focus. At the desk, it was clear I was working for myself, calling the shots and making all the arrangements, and that made all the difference in the world. When I had a case, even a cheating spouse or assembling a quick spell for a paying customer, I could look proudly at the invoice that I would send out, even if I knew it would never get paid. Jobs like that add up over the years, and eventually I had a reputation that generated new work from time to time.
Not a good reputation, but a reputation.
Of course, there’s only so far you can get in this world trying to work for yourself. The spoils of WWII have entrenched capitalism, bureaucracy, and a class structure that left a fairly strong mark on us, and as we’ve scrambled to find places where we all fit properly in this modern world, it’s been too easy to jockey for positions within these structures. It became harder and harder to find self-made men the way you once did. As the money coming in paid for less and less, it was harder to make a case for pursuing the work. Like my own desire to make it work, checks bounced, or were lost in the mail. I could spend all the time I wanted at my desk, but if I didn’t have a place to put it, then it was largely metaphor.
To keep the bill collectors off my back, I usually had to have a day job, too. While I want to say that I sold my labor for a fair price, in truth I worked for others in a series of demeaning (and unflattering) jobs. There was little that I didn’t (and couldn’t) do: knoll exterminator, bookseller, mail carrier, street sweeper, radio engineer, copy machine repairman, fifth dimension tour guide, teacher, dental hygienist, musician, illuminated text copier, and, ironically, office drone. As I sat in these mazes of cubicles with a coffee cup in my hand, I spent my days trying to figure out what these jobs were actually about, and my nights at my desk at home wishing that I didn’t work in a office, but instead had my own.
I spent years like this, working for one person until we had reached a point where it was clear to one or both of us that it was time I left. I lasted a few years in some, but for the most part I was terrible at showing up on time, doing what I was told, meeting dress codes, filing paperwork, going to meetings, or doing just about anything short of taking breaks and drinking coffee. There was just something about the way bosses tried to manage me that bred contempt and disgust. I tried everything I could think of to make jobs more tolerable: being a clown, being a drunk, working hard, not working at all. But no matter how much acid I took or pranks I would pull, there was very little that made the jobs interesting or worthwhile.
And all the while, I’d be chipping away at a case, trying to make some sense out of something that was absolutely senseless.
It’s funny how 20 years can go by and you don’t realize it’s been that long. Or, that when you do, you can’t believe it. But there I was, a jack of all trades, a trail of broken relationships and friendships and bank accounts, and a pile of stories to show for it. As my desk relocated and the birthdays piled up, it didn’t really occur to me to try and balance the ledger until there was so much to keep track of that it began to take a while to make sense the past, too. My own life became a new case to work, and when I was not trying to work some job I was piecing together some narrative about where I had been, and where I wound up, and what I’d done along the way, usually transcribed using some symbolic three act structure, where I had to keep re-scripting the key figures and ending with each new year.
It’s not surprising then that things started going my way when my last boss tried to screw me over. It was a perfect irony, and the final straw. But it solidified a number of things that were not entirely clear to me before. With my particular resume, I had no business doing business with the rest of the world on their terms. I had made only the smallest of reputations on the outer fringes, not enough to get any special treatment or anything. But at least I could call the shots, and prove myself based on something I knew I could do, rather than hope that some new manager was going to choose to treat me with any kind of dignity or sense of fairness. I had cut a distinctive path on my own, and as I put together the clues and solved more cases, I felt more accomplishment in assembling a case file than I ever had at any job anyone ever offered me.
It is true, the desk helped make the man, but recently I’ve come to see that it wasn’t that I’d put the desk in a room in my house, but rather that I lived in an office where my desk happened to lay. In textbook fashion, I couldn’t see the entire picture until nearly the end, and by then the cliches were as thick as a wool blanket. But I felt like I was on the path, where I had a code to live by and made my own way, doing things I was proud of. It wasn’t just that my origin story involved an office; but rather that I’d been transforming into The Office Dick the entire time.
Sure, it might be a retcon, but it sure makes for a good beginning, don’t it?
Even more fun is on the horizon this spring as I begin rapidly filling up all the dates on my calendar. Here are a pair of audio offerings that you may be interested in, that you can hear via the comfort of the radio on your Inter-Web-A-Tron at kpsu.org.
First on the agenda is an appearance by none other than Crank Sturgeon on What’s This Called?, hosted by Ricardo Wang. I’ve been engineering live performances on Ricardo’s show since it transitioned to KPSU in 2005, and Crank has made a number of amazing appearances on the show since then. As Crank and I will be on a mini-tour together, our last stop will be in the KPSU studios, where he will be kicking out the jams one more time before he gets back on the road. If you are new to Crank’s music, it can best be described as a pulsing electro-organic performance with home-made gear, costumes, dancing, and a vision that is unique even among his peers. Tune in to kpsu.org on March 28th at 12 Noon to hear him rock the KPSU studios, and you will find out what I’m talking about.
Next on the agenda is KPSU’s 24 Hour Live Broadcast on April 11th. Last year, KPSU brought listeners a full day of live treats and goodies, and they have decided to repeat the feat this year, culminating in a series of experimental performances leading into What’s This Called? on the morning of the 11th. Ricardo Wang was kind enough to ask me to be a part of this show, and I’m very excited to find out what he has in store for listeners. While none of the acts have been selected yet, a quick glance at his broadcast history will give you an idea of the kinds of acts he usually gets on his show, and this should be the kind of event you will not want to miss. Set your alarm for experimental fun Saturday morning, and you will be rewarded with a number of incredible performances by some excellent acts.
As usual, the year has only just begun, so there will be more updates and information as we have the details. Music is good for the soul, and I love filling you in on all the soul-enriching information I have at my disposal.
My work with the chance determinist experimental enclave The Dead Air Fresheners goes back to 2013, but I met some of the members back in 2005, and have become friends with many in the years since. While their identities are largely unknown and make for great speculation, I have always been honored to be asked to perform with them. For 2015 they have more in store for their fans, and with that in mind I will be accompanying them on a mini-tour this March.
On March 26th, join me at 8 PM in Olympia Washington at Deadbeat Olympia (226 North Division St) for a night of experimental joy. The Dead Air Fresheners will be performing with legendary Crank Sturgeon, the incomparable Derek M. Johnson, and the two piece painting sensation, Pocket Vinyl. Performing in a record store should be a lot of fun, and as I have never performed in any capacity in Olympia, let along the state of Washington, so I’m excited to find out how they do things North of The Border. You can keep track of this, and everything connected to it, by following The Event over on MyElFacester+Twinstablr.
These shows should be a lot of fun, and I’m very much looking forward to hitting the road and seeing the sights that playing in a traveling band has to offer. Hopefully, I will see one or more of you at either of these. If you have never seen shows like this, I urge you to check them out. It will be unlike anything you’ve ever seen.
In an effort to keep track of the history of this endeavor, I’ve been making an effort to locate and assemble a resource where I can better track down the work I’ve done over the years. I’ve been creating media for over 20 years, and it wasn’t until I put that number in a sentence I actually used in public that it occurred to me that there is little-to-no record of some things I spent the largest amount of time working on.
To that end, I have put together this Resume that documents my output since the first ‘zine was assembled in 1993. Imagine this post coming with a late-’90’s Under Construction .gif, but the ultimate goal is to account for every ‘zine, broadcast, video, performance, and related detritus that have been put together in that time. A good portion of these are available in some form or another, and at the very least, documented. Broadcasts are available as .mp3s, while publications can be read as .pdfs. Both formats are available for download or through your browser for free.
Inevitably, there are holes in the timeline. Not only do we have to contend with the failings of technology, memory, and capturing devices, anyone who has attempted to archive anything laments the incomplete information we have of the early years, or some legendary jam session where no one pushed record. Still, this is more complete than I ever imagined it could be a month or so ago, and I am comfortable with the losses for the sheer abundance of things that still persist into the present day.
Ironically, this entire project has led to the slow-down of nearly every creative outlet that I usually participate in. As usual, there are always trade offs. This seems to be a pattern for me, and when I run out of juice, I just stop cold. As I spend some time doing some serious soul searching and documentation, this is not only rejuvenating my desire to develop something new, but is recharging the ideas that I never managed to pursue before. There’s a lot happening behind the scenes, and when there are fruits of the labor are worth admiring, you can be sure I’ll make mention of it.
The current project is to document I’d Buy That For A Dollar!, a ‘zine I produced from 1996 – 2005. Up until this project, I had given up on finding any kind of evidence of their creation, and had assumed they were just lost forever. However, I found a box had been in storage for years, and it contained some back-issues. To that end I began the project of digging around in all the old files I used to make these publications, and slowly I’ve been able to piece together most of them.
At the beginning of this year, I was having a hard time seeing the xeroxed forrest for the recycle bin. It’s funny how an old liquor box full of paper can help you re-think the last 20 years. I transformed from being a middle-aged detective trying to make sense of the clues in front of me, to a person with a past, one that was documented, where I was always working on a new case, always pushing forward.
You can watch my progress backward on this site as I put all of these together, and hopefully I can announce something new soon instead of digital relics then.