Tithing the band

“There is a heavenly account with your name on it…Every seed of faith you have ever planted has been deposited in a heavenly account with your name on it…As you would receive a corresponding ‘receipt’ from a bank here on earth when you make a deposit, you are the holder of a heavenly receipt with God. And by your faith, you can tap into your heavenly account with God any time, according to His Word.”- Oral Roberts
 

OK, as I’ve made clear before, I have some basic issues with Kickstarter. Look, you think Hank Williams would have been on kickstarter?  Hell fucking no!  But that aside, there is a line to be crossed there where people take their audience for granted to such an egregious level that you may as well toss in poor ol’ Jesus’ name into the mix and get a show on TV.   Oral Roberts meet The Dirty Guv’nahs.  Now of course The Guv’nahs haven’t gone so far as to say that the lord will “call them home” if they don’t meet their goal but there is something just horribly sleazy to me in the way they grovel for cash.  Here is what you are greeted with on their website (emphasis mine):

We Are Partners! (Photo: Ashley Hoskins Photography)

“THANK YOU SO MUCH! We are completely amazed at how supportive you guys have been! This update is to let you know that The Campaign is Not Over! You have successfully helped us pay for the recording budget of this album ($20K)… but the overall cost of this album (including promotion, music video(s), mixing, mastering, and distribution) will easily approach $50,000! Because we have decided to stay independent, we will continue to stress the fact that You are our Record Label! THEREFORE… we have set some new goals, and we have created some new reward packages! GOAL #1. If we reach $30K then we will be able to pay for 3 Months of Publicity and Radio Promo…” and so on…

Wow! Does this sound a little familiar?

Oooooh, The Lawd has seen how ya Dirty Guv’nahs fa-yuns gave and he was evah so pleased but the right and powerful Lawd knows you can do bettah… much bettah. Sho we asked you for $20,000 and you gave that and moe, but the good Lawd wants you to dig evah so much deeper into that pocket.  Give more and the goood Lawd will favah ya with some new Reewa’d Packages. Hallelullia!!!! Amen Brothas and Sistahs.

Now, I know a lot of bands that can record an album a hell of a lot cheaper than $20K and those records can sound pretty solid.  Hell, I know people who recorded with Steve Albini for a hell of a lot less.  But that is neither here nor there, what gets me is that they turn around and ask for more?!!! What a bunch of fucking ungrateful douches!  You just got $20K… fuck no, you got $36K at this point and you still want more?  Wow!   Their fans may see it differetnly but all I can think of  when I see that picture of the band as they hold-up their cardboard sign at the corner of the digital intersection, is the words of the great Ignignokt whe he raised his middle finger and said…

"I hope he can see this 'cause I'm doing it as hard as I can."

 

Farewell 2011

2011 was kind of a banner year of awfulness – everyone has one of those sooner or later – so I’m kind of looking forward to 2012 myself.  It’s easy to complain and drone on when you have one of those years (believe me, I have)  but then you run into something that puts things into perspective like this.  This is a video from a Texas teen who had long suffered from a heart condition.  There is something very sweet, hopeful, and courageous in this two-part video that I find very touching and human.  I’m sure some folks will find this corny or naive but I’ve found that some of my favorite people are corny and naive, so sue me. The Houston Chronicle reported that a week after he posted this , he died. That was Christmas Day.  Take from this what you will.

Holy Crap – Kim and Thurston break up? The 80’s really are dead!

 

Wow, so first REM breaks up and now this news item, “Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore Announce Split.”

Now, obviously the reasons for their split-up is their business and their business alone.  To the rest of us, it’s about them as an abstraction – what they represent to us through their music and their public personae – and that is all I can speak to in writing this.

The first thing is that the future of Sonic Youth doesn’t sound too bright. If they call it quits after their scheduled tour dates in Brazil or perhaps after one last farewell tour, I wouldn’t be surprised. Much like REM in a previous post, I also kind of stopped paying attention to SY. The last album that really blew me away was Daydream Nation. At the time that was a perfect indie rock companion to Metallica’s …And Justice for All – a long spiraling album that was equal parts unfocused and brilliant. But starting with Goo, I began to lose interest. Goo sounded like a band that was trying to be commercial but trying to be arty at the same time resulting in an album that was kind of goofy and at times fun but ultimately forgettable. From then on the albums just seemed to be a band retreading similar ideas. Not that there weren’t good albums but they just never had the kind of impact that the triumvirate of Bad Moon Rising, Evol, and Sister had on me. Still it was good to see them still out there keeping their music going and never quite becoming irrelevant even in their old age. 

The thing is that for those of us who followed them back in the 80’s and 90’s, especially with REM’s recent demise, it’s just a nother reminder of the dying of an era of music.  It’s like watching old blues dudes die off and oh yeah, dudes, we’re getting old!

But on another level, the thing about Kim and Thurston breaking up also has another side in that they were kind of the Mom and Dad of the US Indie rock scene. Perhaps because they heralded in Nirvana and indie rock as a commercial product with the tour documentary 1991 – The Year That Punk Broke, they kind of took that elder statesman position in my mind. So them breaking up has this kind of weird “Wow, together for all those years and they break up?” kind of feel that, not knowing them, is admittedly kind of odd. But you look at two well respected, good looking, commercially and artistically successful people and they can’t make it as a couple? That’s kind of disheartening. Not that I’m epically crushed by this but just a small part of me kind of sighed a little “awww” when I heard it for that reason.

So, good luck Thurston and Kim,
All I can say is don’t be dicks to each other in divorce court and thanks for some great music.

Who did I nominate for the Houston Press Music Awards?

The Houston Press Music Awards are happening again this year. Unfortunately, thumb I stopped caring once the free food and drinks ended at the Rice Hotel.  Still, malady I vote every year and here is who I nominated this year. 

 

4. Best LP/CD/EP – Rusted Shut

5. Best Mixtape – Rusted Shut

6. Best Song – Rusted Shut

7. Local Musician of the Year – Rusted Shut

8. Best New Act – Rusted Shut

9. Best Male Vocals – Rusted Shut

10. Best Female Vocals – Rusted Shut

11. Best Songwriter – Rusted Shut

12. Best Rock – Rusted Shut

13. Best Indie/Alternative – Rusted Shut

14. Best Punk/Garage – Rusted Shut

15. Best Metal – Rusted Shut

16. Best Experimental/Noise – Rusted Shut

17. Best Electronic Act – Rusted Shut

18. Best Solo Rapper – Rusted Shut

19. Best Rap Group – Rusted Shut

20. Best Rap DJ – Rusted Shut

21. Best Club DJ/DJ Night – Rusted Shut

22. Best Pop Artist – Rusted Shut

23. Best Latin – Rusted Shut

24. Best Reggae/Ska/Dub – Rusted Shut

25. Best Jazz – Rusted Shut

26. Best Blues – Rusted Shut

27. Best Soul/Funk/R&B – Rusted Shut

28. Best Zydeco – Rusted Shut

29. Best Country – Rusted Shut

30. Best Folk – Rusted Shut

31. Best Americana – Rusted Shut

32. Best Cover/Tribute Act – Rusted Shut

33. Best Guitarist – Rusted Shut

34. Best Bassist – Rusted Shut

35. Best Drummer – Rusted Shut

36. Best Keyboards – Rusted Shut

37. Best Miscellaneous Instrument – Rusted Shut

38. Best Producer – Rusted Shut

39. Best Radio Personality – Rusted Shut

40. Best Radio Station – Rusted Shut

41. Best Radio Program – Rusted Shut

42. Best Record Store – Rusted Shut

43. Best Local Label – Rusted Shut

44. Best Live Music Venue – Rusted Shut

45. Best Instrument/Equipment Store – Rusted Shut

46. Best Scenester – Rusted Shut

I’ll tell you who I am rooting for this Sunday.

Who am I rooting for on Sunday?  No, not a football team, but Fauja Singh, a 100 old dude who is running the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon on Sunday.  Here is the story on the CBC (link).

Cool Olds of the week – Fauja Singh (image from the CBC)

 I mention him becasue his story is in sharp contrast so much out there in the news.  See, I went in for my annual checkup at the doctor’s yesterday.  To my annoyance, they had stupid-ass CNN blaring in the waiting room just making all this noise and reminding me why I never watch television news.   What were the stories being shouted about by the announcers and their guests?  An awesome dude who lost his wife and child 20 years ago and took up running?  No, long horrible stories about John Wayne Gacey, who appears to be back in the news, and some horrible case about a home invasion where the killer tries to blame the people he murdered.  GAH! 

Seriously, I don’t get that shit.  Not to minimize the tragedy of the victims in those cases but the fact that people follow these cases in the news as a kind of entertainment – that I don’t get.  Balls to that!  I don’t want to invade on someone’s tragedy nor do I want to hear graphic details of brutal people’s actions.  Which is why when I read Fauja Singh’s story, it felt like a relief – there is good stuff and good people out there.

Go, 100 year old dude!  The world needs olds like you.

Jobs

Curious that today, as Houston joins in with its own Occupy Wall Street protest, one of the big captains of industry, Steve Jobs typed “/sbin/shutdown” yesterday.

I think we all have a relationship with Apple products. I personally remember my old Apple IIc. That was the first computer I owned and to this day I wish I hadn’t given it away to Brian Carusella. It was a great little machine and I made a few mods here and there (made it smoke once even when I connected a few wires wrong). Bongtooth, used it as a drum machine. We didn’t have a drummer so I sat down and did some primitive sampling using a SAM card and my turntable.   As I recall, Live Skull’s Don’t Get Any On You and 10,000 Maniacs’ Blind Man’s Zoo had some pretty good drums that were clean of other instruments and was where the vast majority of my samples came from.  The primitive nature of the sampling and poorly cobbled loop software made for some curiously weird rhythms that wouldn’t quite stay in sync and that kind of lent a flavor to what Jim Otterson, John Cramer, and I wrote.  It’s funny because from working with the Apple to Kurt Mackey’s histrionic drumming style was quite a leap but to this day I still recall with fondness trying to make this 64K machine work beyond its means.

Our studio by the way is built around Macs.  We learned after blowing our first record company advance at a studio that it was better to invest in our own gear and so the band put money together for a PowerMac and some software that Steve eventually expanded on to create his own Studio. 

Even though my ex-wife has my old G4, I still kind of miss that computer. I’d souped it up as fast as a 1999 G4 could go but damn if it still didn’t work nicely.  I moved up to a G5 after the divorce and while I’m a generation behind on the processor (mine was the last of the PowerPCs) it still does what it does efficiently and nicely and that is that I am running on the bare minimum of RAM because I’m too lazy to buy new sticks.  And I think that’s the thing about Macs you do get attached to them. I’ve had PC’s that you can diddle around with and have no fear of setting it afire which is fun in the same way my old AppleIIc was but for some reason there is something disposable and impersonal about the PC.  PCs are the beater computer that when they break or become obsolete, you can run down and plunk another $400 at Best Buy to replace but a Mac is something you buy and expect to last for at least a decade.   Maybe that’s because when you plunk down that much money for a computer, you are a little more committed.  

Anyhow, the point is many of us here are Apple folks.  We suffered through the beach ball of doom and the clunkiness of OS9, learned Apple Basic and Fortran on an AppleII, and recorded music on their machines as well.  To be fair, many of us also winced as Apple grew from being the underdog to becoming a variant on the overlord it mocked when it ran its 1984 super bowl commercial.   Good or bad, Steve Jobs gots the lion’s share of credit for what the company and its products became.  Of course, Jobs never acted alone, he was smart enough to surround himself with a solid team of developers but you can’t argue with the fact that without him, there would be no Apple Computer in 2012.  If you don’t believe me then you likely don’t recall John Sculley’s reign at Apple.  So because his company has had such an effect on the technology that affects our lives, his passing is kind of a big deal and tributes are flowing from everywhere. 

Hell, even KPFT was getting in on it.  This afternoon, I was listening to a speech on that station while driving. I  was completely oblivious as to who was speaking until the end of the speech but the speaker was Jobs and he closed with a very lovely and fitting line, “Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish.”  I can’t think of a better epitaph.

So, anyhow thanks Steve

 

 

Welcome To The Occupation

Well, it seems the Wall Street Protests are finally getting some traction and there is going to be a march and “occupation” here in Houston (http://occupyhouston.org/). It’s an interesting amorphous grass roots movement that’s inspired by the Arab Spring demonstrations with a worthwhile target.

For some reason the movement does get portrayed as liberal – that may have to do with the youth culture of the right vs the left and how they see themselves and how they are seen in the media – but I think corporate corruption isn’t a liberal agenda. Remember McCain-Feingold? John McCain back in 2000 (before he became a weirdo robot) was very aggressive with campaign finance reform. Look no further than the bail outs and the stimulus.  The partisan left bitched about Bush’s bail-outs and the partisan Right bitched about Obama’s stimulus, and the rest of us just wanted some accountability. And the whole thing just comes across as crony capitalism when you read sentences like, “One of Obama’s top economic advisers confided in a 2009 e-mail that the government did a “crappy” job as a venture capitalist, picking which companies should receive financial support.”(1) But regardless of the broad message and the local organizers writing that their “political and social beliefs will remain neutral for this cause” and that “the only thing [they] will promote openly is peaceful demonstrations,” I suspect it will be mostly folks on the left or left leaning who will show up to the Houston protest.

But outside what’s behind the protest and who will be attending, I think one of the more interesting aspects is how broad and leaderless it is. That can be a double edged sword. One the one hand the lack of a cohesive message and specific proposed solutions can just come off as an aimless bitch session. On the other hand, as a message to lawmakers to address the issue, it’s quite open and democratic in its approach.

Another double edged sword is the lack of an proper and cohesive organization that can make for a clouded and muddled message. A reporter can go to one person and get a statement then go to another and get something else. But that also has an advantage in that it addresses the largest problem I saw in the local peace movement – egotistical self-righteous assholes.

I will tell you right now, I’m no fan of some of the local big wigs in the political left who seem to be more about self-aggrandizement than what is best for their cause so it’s nice to see them passed over simply becasue of the manner in which this was organized. No doubt those guys will try to get their paws into this so they can speak loudly and pound their chest but, for the moment, the movement it’s pretty safe from their bullshit. As far as I can tell, it’s basically a big ass picnic down a city hall and that’s cool because nobody wants to hear the Communist Party guys yammer on for an hour at a rally or cringe while someone starts-in with “those Jews.” I’ve seen both and trust me, that kind of shit will suck the life out of any rally which is why I loved it when, at a march I once attended, the Anarchist kids responded with their own chant “Workers of the world…RELAX!”  Brilliant!

How will it go? Who knows. It looks to be a peaceful sit-in and march with good intentions. Sure it has its flaws but those flaws also help in avoiding some of the pitfalls that other local movements have been burdened by. So, while I can’t make the rally, I’m gonna give it a proper shake and give it up to the kids organizing this. Good luck.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x2wET1OlK4Q

 

(1)  http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/10/03/BU9V1LCRSL.DTL#ixzz1ZoxRirvj

The Gibson Firebird X – Satan’s guitar for rich stupid people who don’t play guitar

Satan clearly has been working overtime at Gibson. If you need further proof, look at this abomination – The Gibson Firebird X. Patches, third party apps, robo tuners, on-board effects, a fucking battery pack???!!!! What the fuck!!!!  What assbag at Gibson greenlighted the development on this piece of shit?!!!!

I mean, it takes nearly fucking 40 minutes for this guy to ramble through all these crappy things that nobody asked for and a lot of it sounds like ass. I’d almost rather have someone read me the tax code for 40 minutes than suffer though this demo.

The biggest issue I have with this is that the whole idea of making an IGuitar really misses the entire point of the instrument. I have a Jaguar and it has its quirks and its sound that’s totally different than my Samick or my Strat (RIP) or my Roy Smeck or my La Boz. Why would I want something that tries to emulate a million OTHER things but doesn’t have its OWN sound and pay over five grand for it. No, I want each guitar I have to have its own little niche in what I do and most people I think approach it the same way. Each guitar is singular and has its own qualities – just like your friends. You plug them in and they just act like themselves. No muss no fuss. You like them for who they are or they wouldn’t be your friends.

So, all I can say is if you have over five grand to blow on this, get yourself a real guitar. Hell, you could buy a couple at that price and the bonus is you wouldn’t look like a rich douchebag pussy poseur half-wit playing it. But if you don’t heed my advice please….please let me know next time you play so I can “accidentally” spill a beer on your guitar while you play on stage. 

Fuck you, Gibson.
Peace!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=447d8NXqztQ&feature=related

I’ve still got half a beer left so…let me ramble about REM

…I got done with my work here at Black Hole early (I come in on Wednesdays to do my weekend preview for the Free Press) and I still have half a beer so I’m gonna ramble on REM…

First off let me say that, for me, REM really ended when Bill Berry left the drum kit still, that doesn’t lessen the impact. There is something sad about one of the most defining bands of my growing up calling it quits. When I was recently going over my university posters, I found no less than three REM posters (the highest poster to band ratio). So that right there should tell you something.

The funny thing is I remember when I first heard their music. Now as many of you know, there was a time back before the internet when you actually had to seek stuff. That meant reading zines and people sharing cassettes and usually looking in the import section of Sound Warehouse because, somehow, all the indie music ended up there. To my chagrin, REM was a band I’d been hearing about for a while but I’d never heard a note because their albums weren’t stocked down in the suburbs so my first exposure to them was, of all places, Nickelodeon. Yes, Nickelodeon had some show called Livewire and seeing REM on there made a huge impression on me. Thankfully someone uploaded it to Youtube.

A few months later I finally got a copy of Reckoning and after that I was pretty much an REM junkie. As you can imagine, the IRS years are the best likely because that’s what I grew up with. Murmur and Reckoning were records I learned backwards and forwards. I loved the messy charm of Fables of the Reconstruction and Life’s Rich Pageant and the fun feel of Document and (their first album for Warner Brothers) Green.

It all kind of started to go south for me with Out of Time. To begin with, the album contained “Shiny Happy People” which I found to be insufferable and their biggest hit ever, “Losing My Religion” came from that same record and I can’t stand it either – it always struck me as corny and overwrought. [What’s funny about my hatred of that song is that “Everybody Hurts,” from the next record, is likely just as corny and emo but I love that one. Go figure.] Something about Out of Time really seemed to lose what made the band great up until that point. The previous albums sounded like A BAND but, with that album, the production started to take over – the simplicity of those IRS albums was lost and while I’d seen them live a half dozen times (each time they put on a great show), after Out of Time, I never caught them live again. That’s not to say I totally dropped off; there were a few tracks off of Automatic for the People that I liked and, for all its flaws, Monster did recapture some of the sloppy charm the band used to have but, by and large, I kind of tuned out and Berry’s departure kind of sealed the deal.

A little side note, I actually got to briefly meet Peter Buck in Seattle at Terrastock years ago and, for me it was just this huge deal to shake his hand, exchange a few words, and thank him for being such a huge influence as a guitar player and he had this total “gee thanks” shrug that was very humble and human and that I think that is really the reason the band survived as long as it did – they pretty much never lost sight of just being people.

Anyhow, now with the band’s demise, I’m kind of curious about those post Berry records. I really didn’t give them much of a chance and maybe they are worth listening to. Maybe I’ll use my E-music credits this month to look into those but I doubt they will have the same impact though as being some kid watching them on Nickelodeon.

Thanks guys, for some great music.
‘preciate cha.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y_8_LpLqKYA

What’s 40,000 brown people’s lives – I deserve my bump

 Let’s get a few things out of the way.  First, I am for legalization of drugs: regulate it, tax the shit out of it, and impose stiff penalties for dangerous use.   I also have a message for pot heads – think local, buy quality USA grown pot!  As for the meth-heads and the heroin addicts, you guys are fucked anyways.

That leaves the one drug that inspired a shitty JJ Cale song of which 90% (according to a state department estimate) transits through Mexico.  It’s the one that came up in conversation while I was having coffee with a friend of mine who was visiting Houston for the first time in ages. She asked, “When did cocaine get so popular?” and I really had no clue.  I mean, years ago, coke was this total douchebag drug reserved for the worst of the worst of the people who would now be cruising the  Washington Avenue bar scene here in Houston.  You know who I’m talking about – some Gucchi wearing assbag yuppie in a convertible with a horrible license plate that says something like “RU 18 YET.

Yet, it’s so prevalent now in the Houston music scene that you can walk into just about any show to someone doing blow in the bathroom at some point in the evening.  But here is the thing, these aren’t the douchebags of some years ago.  No, these are actually just regular Rock and Roll dudes.  They don’t drive a fancy car or swagger in wearing Raybans behind their head.  Nope, just regular people which is what sparked my friend’s comment.

Some of these are friends and acquaintances who I like very much.   In fact, once I walked into a bar and this one guy I know offered me some coke and I jokingly declined saying, “No way man!  You know how annoying you guys are?”  and he laughed and went into a perfect, note for note, impression of a coke head talking  at a million miles an hour which was pretty hilarious.    So yeah they even have a sense of humor about themselves and aren’t out to look cool or impress anyone.  It’s very much this social drug akin to sharing beers and I’m very libertarian on that kind of thing – if it’s not hurting anyone else, go for it.   But here is the problem – over 40,000 bodies.

You want to know what your cocaine really cost?

OK here you go… here are two pictures of some guy doing a mound of coke. Click on them when you’re not at work if you want.

Coke is fun!
Coke is fun!

Man, doesn’t that make you high all the better?  Woo!  Yeah, you know, what’s a couple browns.  They are just fucking Mexicans anyhow.  Not like us here in the States.  I mean it’s not your fault.  You didn’t start the drug war, that’s Calderon’s fault for trying to interfere with Free Commerce and Bush and Obama’s fault for helping him escalate the response.  Your nose is morally clean.

Except that’s bullshit. Regardless of your stance of on the drug war, the fact of the matter is right now, in the reality that is North America 2011, there are thousands of people murdered, lives displaced, economies ruined, and a region of Mexico that has basically become a narco state and it’s all fueled by the demand in the United States – your little bump.  While you are at a club or at a party doing a bump someone is dying because of it.

So, to you in the Houston Music scene and elsewhere, may I humbly suggest you stop being selfish narcissistic sacks of shit: put the fucking coke away.  Thank you.