Sunday, September 18, 2022

The Whole Damn Family Band

 “This is what Dead shows must’ve felt like man…”  I lean into Jake’s ear as I snap some shots of the An-drool Corn Starrch Jamboree.  Or whatever the fuck they’re callin’ it these days.  Everyone in the band posted it as a different name.  Too much gear shufflin’ around and exchangin’ hands to get an accurate count on the band members.  And the vapor trails aren’t helpin’ much.  I’m smokin’ a spliff.  Scarf tied around my head.  I’ve never been one to take pictures durin’ shows.  Gotta stay in the moment man…  Mostly though I use this camera my sister gave me in high school as a fancy point and shoot.  I just hate usin’ the flash durin’ shows.  Broke my mom’s point and shoot as a kid exposin’ the flash in my eye.  But this is gonna be one of those “ya had to be there” moments.  Need some solid evidence I didn’t just trip too hard after our set.

“It looks like they just grabbed a buncha people off the street to play.”  KC whispers as they start on some spacey noodlin’ the way the Dead used to open their sets.  Andress Starr Family Groove Thang.  Sree in a construction helmet and vest.  Feelin’ like a real road worker holdin’ up traffic as they wheel their amp down the streets of Hamtramck after their set.  Two drummers.  Diego in the banana suit while Mahadeva hides behind a Spider-Man mask.  Geoff.  With a fresh shave!  Kyle.  With a clean shaven fingertip!  The prosthetic he built fallin’ off durin’ the 208 set outside the scene of the crime.

It’s nights like these I’m left thinkin’ about memories.  I put on my copy of Tonight’s the Night by Neil Young.  Bought it at a record store in Grand Rapids after makin’ the drive with a pinhole in the head gasket to meet a Tinder match.  What can I say?  In her first DM she talked about the Butthole Surfers.  I found out about the Butthole Surfers in the backseat of my mom’s minivan when she put on the Dumb and Dumber cassette with their cover of “Hurdy Gurdy Man.”  Anyways.  I remember tellin’ her when I bought it about the time I overheard Jake talkin’ about his favorite Neil Young albums.  I told him I always dug Tonight’s the Night“I bet you really dig heroin too Nips…”  And we both had a good laugh without him needin’ to know the truth.

I thought about coverin’ “Albuquerque” for our set.  First song that came to mind to cover when we got asked to play the Hamtramck Labor Day Festival.  This year’s festival dedicated to a hundred years of Hamtramck.  Has it been a hundred years of gettin’ drunk in the streets?  Let the Yeji Boys toast to a hundred more.  Even though I’ll miss their set Sunday while I get ready to go have a panic attack watchin’ some house DJ I’ve never heard of.  Man.  The things drugs and alcohol protect ya from.  At least I can still disassociate sober as I flashback to dancing as the art of escapism.

“This is the greatest city in the world!  I never wanna leave!”  Cam yells standin’ on a chair as we watch the Labor Day yacht races.  Thankin’ Jeff for hookin’ ‘em up.  My first Labor Day Festival I met Jeff pukin’ in the street and he asked me to kiss his dinosaur.  Pullin’ the stuffed animal from his shirt.  Cam didn’t get the memo it was bring your own damn water balloons.  You can hear the smack of one pop against someone’s face.  The kids dart into the street to salvage the unpopped balloons between laps.  Only one of the poorest cities in the country can pull off shuttin’ down the streets for three days to commit a mass act of rest.  The most defiant thing you can do in this system.

“It’s the most punk rock thing you can do under capitalism…  Be vulnerable and share your feelings.”  Stacey tells me this a few weeks ago at the fifth annual Punk Rock BBQ after she congratulates me on gettin’ cleaned up.  Four months to the date I had been off blow.  She makes it a point to tell me this because she realizes we’ve known each other for four or five years now.  Which means I’ve known most of you motherfuckers for four or five years now.  And we’ve seen each other through some shit.  Well.  You’ve all seen me through some shit.  Even if ya don’t know.

Kev and Antonio put their arms around me at the Magic Stick a week later.  Playin’ the Rachel Cobra memorial.  The first time they played a show at my house they were still in high school.  And they ripped...  Tonight.  I’ll get to feel the vibes of Sugar-T through those monitors as Antonio gains +100 shred for rippin’ my weed pen while on stage.  They’ve never stopped thankin’ me for tapes or bookin’ ‘em.  Even though the pleasure has always been mine to watch their growth.  Not realizin’ they’ve been inspirin’ mine.  Does the scene realize how much life it continues to breathe into people?

So much of who we are comes from other people and our memories with them.  Durin’ our set I wear a shirt I bought from Nick.  The Miller Time cap Jake bought me in LA when we first met.  The guitar pick with mine and my brother’s favorite Vine reference engraved on it is around my neck.  I got a Jager bracelet from an old coworker I used to drink too much Jager with on the clock.  And even spend a minute talkin’ to Manchester about the teal die earring I bought from Sav at a pop up at Nice Place.  Fuckin’ remember that bullshit?!

“I don’t wanna know the answer to that…”  Sean’s briefcase goes off like the bomb everybody used to think it was.  Pullin’ up to the function with a briefcase full of fuckin’ wires.  To this day I’ll look at the thing with the same awe-struck confusion as when I’d see it at the Russell.  The same awe-struck confusion as I watch the Andrew Starr Warrs Jedi Mind Fuck.  I remember Cam workin’ on the song at the Russell when we first got the lease.  Wanted as many instruments on it as possible.  I didn’t know THIS was the fuckin’ the vision!  Do you even realize how many motherfuckers are on that stage right now?!  Decoratin’ space and time and the whole damn continuum with pure genius.  How could you meet people like this and not find the beauty of life and bein’ a goddamned fuckin’ human?  How could you see somethin’ like that and not be inspired by the infinite realities we can create?  Unpack the work from your briefcase for Labor Day.  Rewire it to somethin’ that makes you wanna fuckin’ move.  Creatin’ sounds that prove to you the only limitation of reality is our imagination.

Snap some shots of a lost Jake.  Searchin’ for Sav.  For his uncle.  Lights a cig as he gives up his hunt for family and watches Cam’s cult.  “He came all the way down here to see me play and I didn’t even get to talk to him.”  Seems to be a recurrin’ theme.  I didn’t even get time to talk to my mom before she left.  Since I first started playin’, all I wanted was to play this festival.  Deep down that’s all we crave still.  That approval from the people we love that they’re happy for us.  Lookin’ for someone to give us reassurance everything we do is right.  Like that early house show at Shireen’s.  We’ll always be those lost kids on the festival grounds hopin’ to win the prize that’ll make us feel good about life.

ESG on Monday night might be responsible for reteachin’ me how to dance.  And feel good doin’ it.  But that ain’t got shit on this moment.  This moment is that prize.  This beautiful fuckin’ moment feels fuckin’ good.  Antonio and Kyle bounce uncontrollably.  Sunglasses and hair maskin’ ‘em from bein’ perceived.  Movin’ with the dual beat of the synchronized drums.  The band morphin’ into somethin’ you’d hear on a cruise ship through a wormhole.  Diego’s sax cuts through the open air as Sree cries into the mic.

I lay in the bean bag chair and begin to cry.  The way you do when nobody is there to see it.  “I’ve been starvin’...  To be alone…”  Ash the spliff as the words pass through the wire and into my ringin’ ears.  The memories blur.  Seein’ ‘em through the haze of chainsmoked cigs.  Drippin’ sweat and drippin’ noses.  “The odds of all of us bein’ here right now is so unlikely.  That alone should make us wanna savor these moments with each other.”  I hear Jake sayin’ somethin’ along those lines at the end of Summerfest while we listened to Daniel Johnston and Bob Dylan.  Infinite variables in our lives have led to this exact moment.  Takin’ direction from the infinite people our lives overlap with.

I mean.  If I hadn’t taken guitar lessons from Troy I never would’ve found out about Daniel Johnston.  Which is probably the only reason I’m here in the first place.  “What a great teacher to have.”  Peter says as we watch Troy’s band the Witches near the end of the night.  Which is funny cause a few hours ago.  Just a few feet away.  The man who taught me life is just the constant bangin’ of your head against the wall was sayin’ “who would want a miserable recluse like me around children?”  But those lessons spent usin’ vomit porn as a metaphor for the Dave Matthews Band were just as consciousness expandin’ as when he showed me the Penguin Cafe Orchestra.  And you can see all these dots connectin’ from different people and experiences.  Like the aux chords slitherin’ like sonic snakes from Sean’s briefcase.  You call it coincidence as it all melts together like Kyle’s feet on the ninety degree concrete.  Or maybe it’s one of the obvious signs you’re where you’re supposed to be.  How many times has Daniel Johnston saved your life?  How many times has the scene been your only motivation to bang your head against the wall another day?  Keep on livin’.  Wake the fuck up!  Get outta fuckin’ bed in the mornin’!

Splashed awake as Cam douses the crowd with a water jug.  Baptized and rejuvenated in infinite possibility.  “WE CAN MAKE EACH OTHER HAPPY!!!”  Cam screams.  Shimmies and shakes as they kick pedals around in the puddles on stage.  Danglin’ over the monitor.  So glad they moved here from Grand Rapids.  I was talkin’ to this girl from Grand Rapids one time and she said there was no sense in makin’ memories with people that aren’t gonna stay in our lives.  But KC I’m glad you’re here for this beautiful fuckin’ moment regardless.  Time flies.  Things change.  People leave.  But people never leave us entirely.  Even if they are merely a brief memory of how the right vibration can send life pulsin’ through your fuckin’ body again.

“WE CAN MAKE EACH OTHER HAPPY!!!”  The crowd screams.  Everybody moves.  Everybody bangs their head futilely against the wall.  Sax screeches.  Bass drivin’ with the dual drums direction.  We can make each other happy.  Maybe not forever.  Or even most of the fuckin’ time.  But we can build memories that help make the sound of our heads against the wall sound like the beat from the Andrew Starr Whole Damn Family Band.  Cam has always had a way of makin’ you feel like family.  “WE CAN MAKE EACH OTHER HAPPY!!!”  Hands clap.  Feet stamp pedals.  Instruments drone and squeal.  This place brings you in like home.  Ben says it durin’ his set Monday night.  How could you ever leave this place?  You think as you smoke a joint with Byron, the guy whose house you parked in front of.  This is the place where you found a will to live.  The people that showed you this world is as beautiful as you choose to make it.  “WE CAN MAKE EACH OTHER HAPPY!!!”  It just takes one good memory.  One beautiful fuckin’ moment.  Like Cam’s smile as they sit between the drums they lunged through at the end of their set.  One of those prized “ya had to be there” moments no footage could ever do justice.  These beautiful fuckin’ memories that will keep our vibrations pulsin’ and dronin’ with life.


Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Interview with Alluvial Fans

 

ALLUVIAL FANS 

 BANDCAMP     BOOKING


Can you start by telling us a little bit about yourself? How'd you all get started in music?

Ollie: I started playing the drums when i was ten because my dad played the drums and i wanted to be just like my dad but then i found out my dad had tinea pedis and so maybe i didn’t wanna be exactly like my dad but i still wanted to play drums.

Drew: I remember listening to a Nirvana CD that my uncle burned for me on those walkman CD players when I was 5 or so. That pretty much hooked me. A lot of my dad’s friends and my friends were into music when I was young, so that also inspired me to start playing. I played alto sax and guitar in middle school. I quit alto sax to play guitar in rock n roll bands and in jazz band in high school. I studied music technology at Wayne State until 2015 and have been playing bands around Detroit since 2015. It’s my favorite part of life and culture.

Gilad: I grew up in a musical household. My parents have a gigantic CD collection with tons of classical/jazz/world/folk music and nice speakers in the living room. My mom is a soprano vocalist. My sister grew up playing piano and flute. I started taking classical piano lessons when I was 5. So music has always been a central part of my life and who I am.

Caelin: Both my parents encouraged me to pursue music from a young age; started on piano at 7, cello at 10, and finally electric bass at 11. I more or less dropped the first two and took the bass to college. I studied jazz at University of Michigan and during my time there I got very into math rock. For awhile I played a lot of drum and bass and duo groups in that genre. Now I just write on guitar and play bass with whoever I can.

 

How did Alluvial Fans come together?

Drew: Well, there’s been a few different versions of the live group at this point. It was always my intention for Alluvial Fans to be an energy-driven, melodic and dynamic rock band. I had the idea around 2014-15. I played in a lot of other bands and wanted to focus on my own songs after giving so much of my musical self to my friends' visions. The first lineup was composed of good friends and room/flatmates Nick Sapounas (bass) and Mike La Bella (drums). Nick’s band at the time was GrayBliss. He also played in Dr. Wolf, and now composes and performs in Torus Eyes. Mike moved to DC in 2019 and has been working on solo music while teaching at the local school of rock. Mike and I played with Nick in GrayBliss and in another band called Honeybabe. 

Nick, Mike and I played a handful of Alluvial Fans shows in 2015. A lot of those songs are on our first album “Lag Air”. The project fizzled out as we were all musically spread thin. Mike and I continued with Honeybabe: Matt McBrien (guitar, vox), Danny Despard (bass) and Austin Keith (drums). I also played bass with Taxon Clade: Daniel Ericksen (guitar, vox) and August Leo (drums). Through playing solo sets, I met Gilad and Ollie and we started playing together in 2019. We recorded the second album “Earth to Astronaut” in 2019 and it was more of a collaborative effort than the first one. Alluvial Fans would not exist without all the support from these and other close friends and family. We are better off together. 

Our current iteration came together on a fateful occurrence last summer outside of Marcus Market. Caelin Amin (bass, vocals) was inhaling tacos and cigarettes when I ran into him and asked if he might want to join the band. A few weeks earlier, Nick suggested Caelin to me as a bassist as we were looking out across the Keweenaw Bay while working on August’s first feature film called Attack of the Flies. Caelin played with Nick in Dr. Wolf as well. Alluvial Fans has been heavily active since 2019 but we had a two year live gig lull since the pandemic. We’ve only recently started playing shows again and I’m feeling more like myself because of it.


Ollie: Well first i met gilad in israel when I was fifteen years old and we talked about baseball and then later like way later i was playing in a band with a pirate when i met scotty and mikey from maine and they bought a church van so we could go on tour with these guys from texas so i said to gilad who was from detroit lets play a show together when we get to detroit but then the van broke down in florida and we slept at the walmart and had to go back to maine so we drove forever and when we got back i felt sad so i went to detroit anyway and the other bands still played the show and i worked the door and gilad played and drew played and caelin played and that’s where i met drew and caelin because gilad already knew them and gilad said i should move to detroit so i did and then started a band with drew and asked gilad to play with us so he did and then he moved to brooklyn and then caelin started playing with us and that’s how alluvial fans came together.

Gilad: Nothing much to add, Drew and Ollie pretty much have it all covered. Mostly just grateful to Ollie and Drew for believing in my abilities as a bassist when at the beginning I really didn't think of myself as  a bassist... more of an electronic musician/DJ. In retrospect definitely one of those butterfly effect/fateful moments and my involvement with the band shaped how I see myself as a performer and musician today, as well as how I feel when I check out shows given how many we played.

Caelin: I know about as much as you, diligent interviewer.



What is something people would be surprised to know about your band?

Gilad: We (were) all geminis ha. 

Ollie: The drummer doesn’t even know what he’s doing.

Drew: If there were a band mascot, it’d be a falafel sandwich.

Caelin: Me and Ollie swap mustaches every so often and sometimes Drew doesn’t even know. 


Rumor is that you have a new record on the way. Can you tell us about it?

Ollie: Spume is the new record and it’s the best one yet or at least that’s what my dad and my brother say and it’s about the ocean and the tides of our lives and the foam in the ocean cause that’s what spume means it’s like the stuff in the foam or that makes it foamy or maybe it is the foam i'm not sure drew came up with it. 

Gilad: It was an insane 180 for me to go from basically just staying home and meditating and riding my bike and keeping myself busy with all sorts of random things that weren’t music to recording an album crash course style in around 10 days. Frankly it took me a few days to get back into the swing of things. Like everything else post-pandemic being in a band again for a second took some getting used to. But overall super cool to hear these songs that we started playing live just before covid hit polished up and in a time capsule. For me a punctuation mark on the end of my time in Detroit for the foreseeable future.

Drew: The pandemic split us up for a bit. Ollie was back in New Hampshire and Gilad and I were locked down in Detroit. I made a lot of electronic solo music during this time. I had 9-10 songs for “Spume” and wrote 5-6 more during this time as well. Ollie came back from New Hampshire and slept on my couch for all of March 2021 while we rehearsed to record “Spume”. We tracked 15 songs live in one week at our practice/studio space. The record ended up being 9 songs but there’s leftovers for an EP or future release or split. We then took a one-week vacation to the Smoky Mountains to step away from it. I finished writing lyrics and recording vocals in the fall/winter. I was in a dark and dissociative place during that time, but music kept me going through 2021, as it does generally. I wish this record was out last year but I'm still proud of it. 

“Spume” will be self-released on July 26th. Our release show is July 30th at Ghost Light in Hamtramck. I guess if there’s a theme to this album, it’s the vital role of expression and detoxification through art and the intention of being true with ourselves and others. That’s where the word spume resonated with me for the title. These songs are what was leftover on the surface from things that were boiling underneath. The music is mature and second-nature to me and I never second-guessed it, as I tend to do with lyrics. This time around the lyrics became more grounded and personally emotionally expressive than the last 2 records. I was sad, confused and frustrated with myself for bad coping habits after a break up that hit me pretty hard. Healing did not come quickly but it did with time. I’ve struggled with some form of depression and anxiety for most of my life now. Spiritual practice, friends, and self-producing this record helped as a psychotherapy to untie some of the knots in my head and come to a higher understanding of myself during the pandemic. I see my struggles and life’s challenges as a form of anti-fragility, which create the opportunity for genuine growth. I’m much better these days and grateful to be moving on to new music and be inspired by old and new people in my life.



What are your thoughts on the local music scene? Any favorite bands/venues?

Ollie: I didn’t grow up here and one of the reasons i decided to move here instead of moving back home or going someplace else was the music scene i think it’s real special lots of interesting people doing creative things and making different sounds and i used to go to burts and have pecan pie and listen to the horn players and they’d let me play drums and maybe even sometimes gilad would take me dancing and i’d hear things i never heard before and i wouldn’t even know where the sound was coming from because you couldn’t see the musicians and a man in a white suit would dance all crazy and cool and that would make me feel better.

Gilad: Now that I've been living in Brooklyn for almost a year, I can safely say that I think Detroit's music scene is superior. Though I think that's also a result of me not having found my favorite locals here, and part of that is because of the insane variety of live music available here. In Detroit, the quantity is a lot less but the quality is a lot higher and more consistent, and when you show up to something you can really feel like you're a part of it. Lots of one-off DIY stuff in unusual spaces. A healthy respect for the city's Black musical foundations (gospel/jazz/motown/techno) and a predisposition to exploration and experimentation is a current that runs through all the good stuff in Detroit. Recently I heard an old poet say "sometimes you just walk into the real thing." I would get that feeling more in one month in Detroit than I have in one year in Brooklyn.

Caelin: I have freelanced as a bassist in this scene for a few years now and one thing I can confirm is that there a lot of different types of gigs to be had which in turn, would mean there’s a diversity to it. I think that’s nothing but a good thing.

Drew: I’m inspired by the plethora of predecessors and contemporaries here in Detroit. Grateful to be a thread of the city’s musical lineage. A lot of raw talent spanning many genres. Friends and family from outside Detroit will emphasize the music scene, so that’s a good sign I suppose. I think the cheap rent (for how long?) and geophysical space of the city allows for more creative incubation. I think about the concept of emptiness a lot, physically and psychically, and how that space in this city nurtures new growth and ideas. I also sense a lot of us are alienated from nature and existentially lost in this volatile post-industrial modern age, me being one of them, and turn to friends and strangers in the music/art/food/party community for a sense of comradery, purpose and solace. There are many great bands and venues, but I don't feel obligated to name any. Although I will say house shows are my favorite. 



Do you have any favorite gig memories you can share?

Gilad: My favorite gig was at a local artist residency/gallery space called Spread Art around Woodbridge. Every band that day -- Imaginatron, Cookie Tongue and Favi Demacho -- really brought something special and had a super unique performance style. I feel like I return to that gig a lot in my head as the gold standard for a good bill. Also the space was far more DIY and intentional than a random dive bar trying to pedal alcohol.

Caelin: Pretty much any gig where the crowd all dances in a line, I think that’s the best vibe. Weirdest vibe was a nude resort I played at on the west side of the state. Let's say the band wasn’t the only thing swingin’ that night!

Drew: There’s two that come to mind for me. We had a group of people dressed as superheroes from the League of Enchantment hop on stage with us at Ferndale DIY fest in September of 2019. They danced to an early version of “I Am Now” which is on the new record. The other one was recently at PJs Lager House where someone in the crowd was headbanging in the front row on their knees like a dolphin having an out of body experience. Later found out his brother has the same name as me, but he said he loved me more than his brother. Still processing that one. 

Ollie: Everytime my friends come to a show is my favorite because i don’t get to see them enough and everyone is so busy all the time but i love them so much so those are the best memories but one time like drew said these superheroes danced with us on stage and you could tell how much the kids liked it because they felt like they could do anything and maybe i felt that way too a little bit even if i don’t like to say it and that’s how i want everyone to feel so that’s a favorite memory too.


Besides the new record, what are you all working on next?

Drew: 4th record, vinyl/merch and maybe touring in the fall. Most of the live set is currently newer songs that aren’t off of “Spume”. Caelin has been a creative catalyst and an amazing addition to the band. I can’t stop writing as of recently and find a bit more satisfaction in composing and recording than playing live. We tracked drums for the 4th record last month. I’m trying to get in the habit of recording material while it’s fresh. I have another solo-electro album that I want to finish up this year as well. We’ll also be settling into a new practice space at the Russell after 7 years at the bagley vision building. Besides music, I’d like to take some more camping, kayaking and bike trips with friends and maybe have a vacation to simply relax.

Ollie: Ya there’s so much going on all the time we just keep doing things i am trying to keep up with my yiddish translation work and my job making solar systems and also i have anxiety and depression and lately i have been learning about single use plastics so i watched all these videos about the history of plastic and did you know by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish and that plastic isn’t really recycled just downcycled and only nine percent gets downcycled anyway and that the plastic industry just tells us to recycle so we feel like plastic waste is our problem and that's how they continue to produce plastic without creating outrage so i am trying to eliminate as much plastic from my life as possible so if anyone knows any cool bulk grocery stores let me know also i got this cool camping mug and a camping silverware set that folds in like a pocket knife and i can keep them both on my keychain so i don’t have to use plasticware isn’t that neat but if you meant what are we working on next in terms of music then a new album and maybe a video.

Gilad: These days, I've just been settling into my new home and figuring out how to live here. Haven't honestly had a whole lot of room for creating music, which is something I struggle with sometimes. I have been running a beat making workshop through the organization I volunteer for called 8 Ball Community, and much more active as a radio/club DJ, which is something I always find a little bit easier to do when I don't have time to practice creating music and improving as an instrumentalist. I also wrote a bunch of poetry in my notes app when the inspiration would strike me walking around the city. I've been dreaming about taking a retreat somewhere remote just to create.

Caelin: Working on a solo album with my best friend as the engineer which is wonderful, that’s my main personal project. Other than that, I live with my wonderful partner so moving in together has been another project, but a fun one. Would like to have a home studio set-up eventually. Besides that, just writing and playing when I can and selling marijuana legally.



How do you feel about the future of music/art?

Gilad: I don't like thinking about the future. Man plans and God laughs, an old yiddish saying that Ollie taught me. Music/art will continue to be created. Fuck fame and recognition just make what you need to make, share it with the people you love, and move on. And if you're not making anything then be nice to yourself about it. There are no quotas or requirements to creating, just your own drive set against the circumstances and realities of your life.

Caelin: Sorta with Gilad on this one, I don’t enjoy thinking too hard on the future. There is in fact so much music that’s already been so much art created that looking into the past is more interesting to me a lot of the time, I rarely keep up with new releases. Sometimes I wish I listened to things as they came out, but a lot of the time I prefer going back to something without current opinions affecting what I think about it; time is the best palette cleanser. As far as the future goes, I only hope that whatever  I can accomplish in the current time can be enjoyed/discovered in it just as easily.

Ollie: I don't think anyone can stop art from happening it doesn't matter how bad they want because art is so important to so many people and some people even care more about art than eating food or having a place to live but it does make me sad that artists don't have enough time for art because of everything else they have to do and i wish more people wanted to give artists what they need to do their art because it would make the world way better.

Drew: Mostly optimistic. I think it will probably serve us in the future as it did in the past, as a transcendent quality of expression that is a definitive trait of humanity. At the same time, we are living in a world of omnipresent capitalist commodification that threatens art’s integrity and directs its energies towards selling products. That is not the point. It is to express yourself and go deeper into your feelings. It is to question, perhaps without any answer. Does touring make sense in a world of fossil fuel addiction? Are money and music ethically compatible? How does my art contribute to the rich lineage of music and human culture? Creating and sharing art to me is an act of vulnerability and celebration. I’m excited by the idea of cooperatively owned venues and event spaces that can double as community organizing centers. Like I mentioned above with my earlier bandmates, I’ve been able to make and record music because we all teamed up. Power in numbers made the practice space and recording gear viable. I feel empowered without being indebted. Things are tough when you’re alone. Life is much easier and rewarding when you team up and communicate with your peers and loved ones.

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Interview with Half Japanese

https://drive.google.com/uc?export=view&id=15nCXosvh9-SnKQymXSXu7eGLhiig7VMd

Hello friends, Dee here. I’m happy to once again write an article for the Remove blog, It’s been far too long: Among all bands in the American underground music scene of the 70s-80s none have been quite as unique as Coldwater, Michigan’s own, Half Japanese. They may as well be their own genre. In my opinion, Half Japanese are one of the greatest bands in the universe and should be spoken in the same sentence as The Beatles & Elvis when one discusses all time greatest rock performers. It was a pleasure speaking with Jad & David Fair (very nice guys, might I add), founding members of Half Japanese, check it out.

You are both visual artists, what was some of your favorite things to draw growing up?

David: In first grade I drew a pig with a bowtie. It was made out of circles and triangles. Then I copied drawings from Mad Magazine, then Monsters by Big Daddy Roth.

Jad: I liked to draw dogs and stars. I had a dog named Bess. I liked to do drawings of her.

Whats your earliest musical memory? What got you interested in music?

David: My parents had show-tunes: Music Man, Oklahoma, Guys and Dolls, and Louis Armstrong records. When I was about 8 I started buying my own records. That was Beach Boys and Jan and Dean and stuff we heard on the radio. We had a great radio station in Detroit that played a lot of Motown, and a station in Fort Wayne that played Beatles and everything that everyone wanted to hear.

Jad: We grew up in Michigan and I thought it had some of the best music. I listened to the radio a lot. I was a huge fan of Motown. When I was a bit older my favorite bands were the MC5 and The Stooges.

How was growing up in Michigan? Any favorite memories from that time?

David: I had a lot of great friends and we lived on a lake in the summers. I didn’t care much for school. On my first day of Kindergarten I walked home during recess. We just lived two houses away from the school. I  decided right away that school wasn’t for me. It didn’t stick. I had to go back. My mother walked me there and then the teacher grabbed me by the shoulders and shook me and screamed in my face “Don’t you ever do that again!” That didn’t help me like school any better. But I had fun riding my bike around town and doing anything or nothing with friends. It’s too hard for me to answer questions about favorites because favorites change.

Jad: I bought Fun House when it first came out. It was great having so many great Michigan bands. I was also a big fan of

Question Mark and The Mysterians.

Some of your early songs were inspired by monster movies, what are some of your favorites?

David: I liked all of the Universal Monsters; Frankenstein, Dracula, Wolfman, Mummy, Hunchback, Phantom of the Opera, etc. And then Space monsters and King Kong, Gorgo, Mother, Godzilla. Plus all of the giant insects and Shrinking people. I liked the Blob a lot. It just looked like Silly Putty but it terrified the town.

Jad: Dracula, Frankenstein, The Wolfman.

What was the first concert you saw? Any particular favorite shows you’ve seen?

David: I had friends in local bands that I would see, but the first real concert was the MC5. There is no way to top that unless you start your own band, so that’s what we eventually did.

Jad: My parents took the family to see a Joan Baez concert. I think that would have been the first concert I saw.

When I lived in Maryland I would go to see NRBQ any time they had a show in Maryland or DC. I went to a lot of their shows. I've seen hundreds of bands. NRBQ is the best live band I've seen.

If you could have dinner with anyone, dead or alive, who would they be?

David: I’m sure that would change from day to day. Alexander Calder, Marcel DuChamp, Charlie Chaplin, Relatives who have passed away, Howard Finster, John Prine, Jesse Winchester, Mark Twain, Paul Rhymer, and many many more. I love having lunch with friends that I do have lunch with whenever I can, Bill, Wendy, Rolly, Mark, Jackie, Janise, Chad, Thomas, Jad, Patty, Swab, Cydney, Craig, and way too many more to name. 

Jad: I prefer having dinner with someone that is alive. I always like having dinner with my family. I get along real well with my brothers and my sister.

Whats your all time favorite band?

David: Again, that would be impossible to name just one, so here are a few of the first ones that I think of: The Tinklers, KfriendR, Modern Lovers, Van Morrison, The Band, MC5, Stooges, Kinks, NRBQ, Howlin Wolf, Pogues, Little Richard, Patti Smith Group, Ramones, Buddy Holly, Waits, Prine, James Brown, GTOs, Beefheart, Otis Redding, Sam Cooke, Aretha, New York Dolls, Yo La Tengo, Hendrix Experience, Danielson, GoPillX, Burrito Brothers, Commander Cody, Shangra Las, Stones, so many more. On a certain day any of these could be my favorite.

Jad: NRBQ is my favorite band. I have all of their albums and listen to them a lot.


Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Anemone

 The first time I ever really checked out the Brian Jonestown Massacre goes back to the first time I played Outer Limits in 2019.  I had only known Brendan for a few months at that point.  But he offered to put a tape out for us on his label Remove Records.  We were playin’ with the Pontiac Stags.  With all five members.  And they did a cover of “Anemone.”  I was on acid that night.  We played a horrible set.  But that cover really reverberated through me.  So in a roundabout way, Brendan’s the one that got me into this mess in the first place.

Fast forward another month.  It’s my twenty-first birthday.  I’m on molly in my kitchen makin’ pizza rolls.  I got a band playin’ upstairs.  And the house is full of a buncha faces that would soon become recognizable to me in the drunken blur of shows to come.  “I pulled up behind a car with a Brian Jonestown Massacre bumper sticker and knew I must be in the right place.”  This guy says to me as he fills a bottle of water.  Hit a joint.  I’ve never met him before.  But he’s supposed to do an acoustic set in my back room under the name Kid Infinity.  After his set he asked if it would be ok if he set his projector up for the other bands to use durin’ their sets.

Fast forward a few years.  Just a few months ago.  Second annual Freaksgivin’ is just gettin’ started at Bowlero.  208 is playin’ near the end of the night.  And I’m coked out.  Makeup runnin’ down my face from sweat.  And frustration at my inability to figure out how to get a fuckin’ DVD player to work.  Forgetting the crucial first step.  Turn it off then back on.  So I pull up Dig! on the laptop and play that through the bowling alley instead of Gimme Gimme Octopus.  “You know they just showed a full cock on the screen right?”  Gabe asks me as he DJs and I speed off to do a bump and help get the first band set.  The goal was to find somethin’ family friendly at the beginning of the night.  But the only movie I could think of that was free on YouTube was the BJM doc.

You can see how the Brian Jonestown Massacre became a bit of a motif in my life.  Appearing as an omen for something beautiful about to begin.  A sign that I’m at the rest place.  And I don’t think anyone idolized Anton the way they did Iggy.  Well…  Maybe Joey.  Everyone has at least one time they remember him putting on Dig! in their presence.  So it made it all very surreal when I checked my phone as my acid was kickin’ in today to a message from Kyle.  “We’re opening for BJM tonight.”

The benefit of workin’ for ultra neo-lib bosses is that they will do whatever the fuck you ask if they think it will help their image.  So I had already gotten some free tickets to BJM.  “Whatch you’re sayin’ is 208 is just the little cherry on top of your trip tonight?”  Will raises his eyebrows at me as we stand outside smokin’ cigs after their set.  Yes.  That’s the best way to put it bud.  208 is the rotten cherry bomb.  Caked in fuzz and drenched in blood and spit.  With a short fuse to send your fractured teeth rattlin’ in your fuckin’ skull as you bite down on the crunch of guitar and drums.

“That’s a huge jump.”  Josh, the bartender I know at the Majestic, says to me as he turns down a shot.  Gotta keep it professional behind the bar when you’re workin’ the Theater apparently.  “I thought it was a typo when I got in and saw the set times.  They’re an above the lanes band.  Not an opener for a show like this.”

It is a huge jump.  I look out my bedroom window to the front lawn I plan on doin’ house shows on this summer.  Again.  Another mess of sludge and dirt that I got rooted into once I met Brendan.  As I smoke a cig.  Thinkin’ this is some crazy delusion caused by the D in LSD.  I can see the spot Kyle first gave me a 208 tape durin’ a show at my house a couple years ago when him and Shelby moved here.  They didn’t say much to me then.  Shit.  We still don’t even say much to each other now.  It’s always hard to have a conversation over the feedback.  The drugs.  And the general lack of social skills we all have that probably brought us together in the first place.  They just thought I might like their band.  They heard about me through some clout chaser whose name won’t even tarnish this fuckin’ beautiful moment.

Now if you were one of the boomer acid casualties in the audience for BJM and saw Kyle doubled over.  Spittin’.  Screamin’.  And bleedin’.  With the mic held between his teeth.  Shelby behind a pair of sunglasses.  Still behind the kit.  But beatin’ the shit outta the toms.  Every bit of chaos distinguishable through a PA of this quality.  If that was your first impression of 208.  You might think the two are unapproachable and terrifyingly cool.  And that last part is still true.  But they are the two most genuine people you could meet.  Quiet.  Tame.  They aren’t there for the party.  They aren’t there to get in with Hala or the false prophet of garage Jack White.  They aren’t even lookin’ for a good anecdote to tell their grandkids when they catch ‘em smokin’ grass.  They are there for the same reason any of us have been there.  Cause that shit makes our tinnitus sound siiiiccckk!!!  Clippin’ just right.  They’re just tryin’ to vibe like the rest of us.  They both are there because they simply enjoy the music.  It just so happens we’ve all become friends along the way.

“Do you ever think of looking into doing something else in the music business?”  My mom asks me that afternoon.  I’m not on acid yet.  208 doesn’t even know they’re openin’ for BJM at this point.  I was just tellin’ my mom about this movie I watched last night.  24 Hour Party People.  The story behind Factory Records and Tony Wilson.  I started tryin’ to summarize it.  But just watch the movie.  It’s good.  All you need to know is Factory Records never really existed.  It was just some words Tony Wilson put on a sleeve so Joy Division could have full creative control of their music.  None of this is about makin’ money.  Or bein’ immortalized in underground, subculture Reddit threads.  It’s about feelin’ the sound guy turn the subs up after Anton bitches at him that there doesn’t need to be that much low end.  Even if it does sound sick.

Even if it does trigger Sean as a sound tech.  That chaos.  That noise.  That feedback, delay, fuzz, reverb.  Six twelve string guitars.  The pretension and desire to be seen and heard.  That audible mess is what makes the constant noise in our brain feel it belongs.

My mom has only smoked weed once in her life.  She took one hit and didn’t like it cause it hurt her throat.  But she loves watchin’ and readin’ about Warhol and the Factory.  About the Beats.  These little cliques of artists that have sprung up time and time again.  I tell her stories of house parties or what happens when an after hours gets raided.  I tell her Dee is workin’ on an interview with Half Japanese for our blog that nobody ever remembers to promote their writing on.  And it’s always “you guys need your own little thing like the beatniks…”  And she doesn’t get it.  We don’t need to be immortalized.  We live our own urban legends in real time.  The shenanigans of doin’ whip-its and makin’ pancakes at three in the morning means just as much as if nobody else ever knew about it.  It wasn’t just Kerouac and Ginsberg ya know?  And it wasn’t just Warhol?  There were vast networks of artists feeding into each other.  Through space and time and the whole damn continuum.  It’s all the same sound wave.  Just ran through a few different pedals.  It’s all the same energy.  Kerouac is Warhol is BJM is 208.

It’s not just one party.  It’s not just one gig.  It’s constant.  The old heads are talkin’ with the up and comin’ scenesters.  Everyone’s there.  All the faces radiate in familiarity in the red lights of the Theater.  Spot a Stool.  A Toehead.  I’ve missed things like this.  A guy collapses face first from a combination of body heat.  Probably a psychedelic of some sort.  And the raw sounds of 208.  These sounds.  These sights.  These vibes.  This community of people that aren’t afraid to admit they have no idea what the fuck is happenin’ anymore.  I’ve missed it.  Goddamn!  I picked the wrong month to finally get off blow.  Although…  A lawyer once told me if you drive on psychs just deny.  They can’t test ya for it.  Addiction is nothin’ more than a habit we form to cope with the burden of bein’ human.  But sometimes the habit we turn into an addiction can be a healthy coping mechanism.  Like sacrificing your hearing in the name of tone.  Or beatin’ the shit outta each other and lobbin’ beer cans at someone’s skull.  These addictions form bonds.  These bonds form community.  And I’ve been too busy turnin’ other habits into addictions.  Somethin’ as visceral as 208 can’t help but make you think.  All that bottled up, raw emotion from the humble duo released into raw sound.  You can’t even call this shit noise rock anymore.  It’s just sound.

Em steps back inside after Kyle spends at least four minutes tearin’ strings from his guitar.  Every bit of noise distinguishable.  Speakers clippin’ just right.  White noise for the deranged.  Head welted from him bangin’ the wood against his skull.  They said last time we played Outer Limits they know good psych when it feels like they’re gonna have a panic attack.  And I know some of the punk purists don’t wanna say noise is psych cause they don’t like hippies or Deadheads.  The guy that talks the most shit about the Dead just had to play an hour set.  And mostly jammed feedback.  At least Jerry played fuckin’ notes man.

Regardless.  Sean says good psych gives the panic attacks a feelin’ of purpose.  Now there’s somethin’ at least to attribute to the general anxiety.  “What was the name of that band?”  An older woman behind us asks.

“208.”

“Ok.  I need to know so I know never to see them again.”

“I’ll tell Kyle and Shelby you said that.”  Don’t worry ma’am.  They’ll take it as a compliment.

I went to see Melvins and Ministry a few days ago with Sarah.  And she described the experience as spiritual.  Well…  That doesn’t nearly compare to the spiritual experience I have everytime I see 208.  Spiritual in the way Kyle supposedly sold his soul to the devil.  It feels like my soul just nutted.  Or maybe that was me puking.  I don’t know.  I drank that PBR too fast.  And I don’t know how Joey got from the stage to the crowd to start a pit so fast.  All I know.  I fuckin’ needed 208 in my life.  It never gets borin’ tryin’ to come up with new and exciting ways to describe the noise.  The midwest, construction bumble of Shelby’s drums.  And the staggering mess of Kyle emerging from a swamp of sound in his Remove Records t-shirt as he throws his guitar in the air and the mic crunches against the floor as it falls from his teeth.  Glob of drool hangin’ from his lip.  I imagine that was how he was walkin’ on the shitty scaffolding when he got vertigo readin’ the text “do you wanna open for BJM tonight?”

I could sit here and describe how mesmerizing Kyle moves on stage.  I could tell you how my head spirals following Shelby’s sticks.  Describe how mind blowing it was to hear them fill a room that size with so much dissonance.  I could tell you how sore my neck is.  Or make jokes about all the BJM fans that couldn’t understand seein’ genius before their very eyes.  But you really just have to be there.  Be here now in the moment to truly understand the ritual of 208.  I let the euphoria of that surreal, beautiful experience exist on its own.  I didn’t buy any blow.  And it’s a lot harder to write comin’ down from acid without it than I thought.  I’m addicted to these people and the way they kill the dreadfully mundane.  I enjoy the moment with the community I feel at home in.  The place where the mess of noise in my head feels it belongs.  BJM has always been a sign I’m in the right place.  If you wanna see the set you’ll have to see Kid Infinity’s footage eventually.  He was on stage filmin’ the whole thing.  All I’ll tell you.  It was fuckin’ sick.  Watchin’ them figure out how to fill an hour set.  I don’t think they’ve ever played longer than twenty minutes.  And the two of them deserve every fuckin’ second of that hour.  Even Shelby cracks a triumphant smile on stage.  The two radiate on stage.  Open in full vulnerable expression like an anemone.  Reminding us all just to relax and enjoy the beautifully surreal chaos this life spirals us through.


Monday, April 4, 2022

60 Down Woodward

White knuckle drivin’

On a bald tire

With no heat

I’ve always tried to be

Cold blooded

Goin’ sixty down

Woodward

In the parts that don’t

Take kindly to my 

“Hippie Chick”

Bumper sticker

208 warbles on the busted

Tape deck

Shakin’ the broken mirrors

And rattlin’ the fogged plexiglass

But the noise makes my head

Feel at home

No time to look behind me

Keep on truckin’

Got my chips cashed in

Call me the doo-dah man

A man that exudes comfort

What’s wrong with wantin’ to feel good

All the

Fuckin’

Time

Spark a spliff

Out drive the gas leak

It’s over four bucks a gallon

I’d get more bang for my buck

With a fuckin’

Eight ball

These days

Probably better mileage too

Lettin’ your heart hurt more and more

Each day

Is less painful than

Your wallet

Let the suspension rust

Crack under the pressure

Of potholes in the road

And pot burnin’ holes in your

Brain

Turnin’ memories into

Minefields

The nostalgic crunch of metal

Wakes you up at the wheel

The noise blends comfortingly with

The noise in your head

The potholes hit like home

As soon as you hit south

Of Eight Mile

Comin’ home at three

In the goddamn mornin’

Railed on flat Red Bull

And Adderall

Feel the skin tighten

Around your face

Tinglin’ with dehydration

Swervin’ down the freeway

Side swipe the rumble strip

Drunken side swipes on Tinder

Too afraid to DM girls

I think I vaguely know

Too afraid to say

“I’m just lookin’ for someone to talk to”

As if the internet can somehow

Fill the void

Isolating us from the inside out

But do I wanna go back down that road?

Ten hours spent

Crunchin’ bone marrow into dust

Turn life to powder

Tendin’ bar for a buncha

Entitled brats

That have never heard how

To

Insure

Proper

Service

Just cause it gives me enough money for rent

And the pills that help me keep

My gorgeous figure

Seventy five

The long and winding road

You know like the back of your

Cracking hands

Jaques Brel covers

On the AM

Let the car veer on the curve

Let the potholes turn your brain

To the one way

Dead end

Oncoming

Impending doom

Of the void

Let the hole swallow your axle

Let your thoughts swerve

Intrusively

Take me home to loneliness

To emptiness

To a haunted house

I’ll never find my way

Out of

But at least the void

Has the comfort

Of home

Here

I am alone

With no expectations

To even exist

And no one to disappoint

But myself