Saturday, December 31, 2011

Richard Serra-Drawings, MOMA SF, 12/30/11

Disaster Amnesiac made it over to San Francisco MOMA to check out the exhibit of Richard Serra's drawings, along with Mrs. Amnesiac and our pal Cynthia.
Minimalism always brings out an interesting response from people. I heard one waggish teen put it bluntly: "this SUCKS". There were also plenty of bemused looks from various viewers.
That said, I loved the work. Serra's stark, paint stick-on linen works were very complex, despite their outward simplicity. The textures, pocks, lines, and drips that different light angles revealed within them were wondrous for this viewer.
Disaster Amnesiac was also reminded of Nordic Black Metal as I gazed up into these works that were tacked onto various gallery walls. Their immense blackness would surely go well with some Burzum or Darkthrone. I could definitely see Fenriz appreciating their stark black forms.
The linen works had the same mass of volume as Serra's metal sculptures in many aspects. The weight and feel are very similar, and the fact that this effect was achieved with cloth is amazing.
Serra's paint stick-on homemade paper were amazing as well. With their black forms on white space configurations, they had the feel of Zen drawings. Some had impasto inches thick. I marveled at the amount of drawings Serra must have done to get that effect. Striking.
Also on display were many notebooks with plans for his large scale sculptures. It was cool to see the early imaginings of these monumental works, especially those at Bilbao.
Disaster Amnesiac left the gallery thinking about Minimalism and its effect on the viewer. In my opinion, Minimalism offers a lot of freedom to one who is taking it in. The viewer's perceptions are free to go wherever they go, unencumbered by representation. It also offers the chance to be disciplined and attentive. When these aspects of the mind are employed, its vistas are endless. That sucking sound heard by the surly teen was the sound of his own ignorance. Given time, I hope that he will cultivate the willingness and discipline to gaze at the vastness that Serra's art can offer.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Pere Demo

Disaster Amnesiac downloaded Pere Ubu's most recent demo release for their forthcoming Lady From Shanghai record over the weekend. Hearpen clearly states that many of the tunes on the release are still quite embryonic, while others are near completion. The whole thing is "nowhere near" mixed. I just wanted to chime in and say how brilliant it seems, from a marketing perspective, for Pere Ubu to do this. In an era of the hyper-niche market, it makes absolute sense for what is probably the ultimate niche market band to do this. It lets the the band's hardcore fans glimpse into its process, something that Disaster Amnesiac is sure appeals greatly to many of them. It provides revenue to Ubu, something that Disaster Amnesiac is sure appeals greatly to the band, if for no other reason than to help pay production costs for the album. It's a spin on the Kickstarter patronage system, a logical, effective way for underground bands to operate their business. As usual, David Thomas is WAY ahead of the curve, blazing trails that others will likely profit more from. At least he'll get the satisfaction of saying "I told you so", or maybe something harsher. Disaster Amnesiac has seen him be that way. He earns the privilege again and again.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Black Face-I Want to Kill You/Monster; 7" vinyl, Hydra Head Records 2011

Billed as a revisiting of songs that Chuck Dukowski wrote for early 1980's Black Flag, only to have been rejected, Black Face has had Disaster Amnesiac intrigued since my good pal Max Sidman told me about them in September. Needless to say, I put a pre-order in at the earliest possible opportunity. It has arrived. I have listened.
Opener I Want to Kill You is a fast paced, stop/start Hardcore rant, featuring excellent, throaty declamations from singer Eugene Robinson. The lyrics are definitely evocative of the Creepy Crawl/My War paranoid vibes that characterised the early 1980's iterations of the Flag. Musically, it reminds Disaster Amnesiac more of SWA than Black Flag, owing to its bass-driven, stuttering feel and more blatantly psych-colored guitar sound from Milo Gonzalez. It seems as though it's very difficult to approximate the physical weight of Ginn's riffing, especially of that within Black Flag.  Drummer Tom Dubrov does a nice job of keeping the quick pace of the song flowing without ever resorting to the standard Hardcore oom-pah-pah blast beat approach.
On the flip side, Monster seems to tell a tale of self loathing and the desired love interest of him doing that self loathing. This song is closer to the then-emerging musical aesthetic of  Black Flag ("let the rhythm ooze"), again with bass-led and psych-fueled sounds from the strings, and heavy rhythmic trudge from the drums. Robinson sounds downright scary on this one. Although he seems to have checked his more manic vocal approach with Oxbow for a more "normal" one within Black Face, it still sounds unsettling as he comes a-courtin'.
This 7" is an impressive opening salvo from what will obviously be a great band. I look forward to seeing Black Face live! 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Greg Ginn and the Royal We-We Are Amused

In which, Greg Ginn continues his decades-long personal quest to make the music that best suites him at the current time. Disaster Amnesiac has been listening to We Are Amused, along with reading the most recent Black Flag book, Spray Paint the Walls. The latter has not much bearing on the former's sound, aside from being of the same musical continuum, but certain interviews in the book have influenced my hearing of this new release from SST.
I'm not sure if this is Greg's first truly solo recording, but it appears to be so. The instrumentation consists of guitar (and guitar synth?), bass, keyboards, theremin, and programmed percussion. As it is after all Greg Ginn, let's start with the guitar. As opposed to the recent recordings of Mojack or Gone, Greg keeps the guitar relatively restrained, more a part of the rhythmic/melodic aspect of the sound than a soloing voice. This is not to say the classic Ginn guitar tone is not present. His tone is instantly and recognizably unique, a tart, treble-ey melodic style that is his alone. When he does take solos, they are brief and somewhat understated. In this, his guitar approach is more akin to that used in Jambang. As mentioned, some of the sounds seem to be generated by the guitar synthesizer, an instrument that Greg has mentioned using in recently on-line interviews. These tones have a bright, keyboard-type sound, but an attack that sounds guitar generated. Having seen Ginn play the bass for full sets on four different tour cycles recently, Disaster Amnesiac knows how much he loves the instrument, and great his playing of it has become. On We Are Amused, the bass is a central element. Given that the percussion is all programmed, the bass is in a lot of ways the "lead" percussion instrument. By that, I mean that it provides the sound of physical impact (fingers hitting strings) in a much more "real" way. Greg's bass style is very percussive and heavy; at times, the tunes end up being duos of percussion and bass, with the bass being very compelling just on its own. Perhaps the best interview subject in Spray Paint the Walls is Kira, bass player for Flag from 1984-1985. At one point she expounds upon Greg's desire to "let the rhythm ooze". On Amused, he has definitely achieved this oozing sensation with his bass playing.  
We Are Amused is in some ways a recording of surprises from Greg Ginn, one of which is his heavy inclusion of keyboards throughout. He keeps his playing paired down to a simpler melodic approach, but this new timbre in the Ginn sound world provides interesting and cool hearings of his melodic style and song writing approach. The keyboards brighten the sound a bit. It's a bit disconcerting to hear Greg's sound as an almost joyous one (in the conventional sense), but the keyboards do provide that aspect on the record. Also new and entirely unexpected is the theremin. While not used on every song, this strange, noisy instrument seems to be used as the out-and-out noise generator that the electric guitar so often has been in Ginn's hands. There are points where the tones of guitar and theremin are played in harmony, even, but, for the most part the instrument provides weird, wiggy sounds atop the groove.
Speaking of groove, despite the fact the the drums and percussion on We Are Amused are all electronically generated, they still manage to provide enticing rhythmic action throughout. Ginn's programming is creative, the beats are clearly thought out and "non-stock". On top of and around them, percussive accents swirl and echo and twist. Greg has managed to utilize the percussive approach of the electronic and techno music that he loves so much, melding it to a more Rock/Jam Band aesthetic. It's pretty unique, actually. This is most likely the aspect that will turn off many of Ginn's fans. To them I say, try and listen to the record with headphones on, paying close attention to the beat programming and percussion. You may change your opinion.
The overall sound of We Are Amused is a kind of Rock/Techno/Jam Band hybrid. The pacing of the music is one of slowness, overall. Another compelling interview subject in Spray Paint the Walls, Keith Morris, talks of the rehearsals for the 2003 Black Flag reunion shows, in which he mentions an annoyance with Ginn's desire to have the tempos of the classic Flag tunes slowed down. According to Morris, Greg's response was something akin to "that's their correct tempo". It is telling that, possibly as far back as the late 1970's iterations of Black Flag, Greg was already feeling a slower rhythmic tempo. Just venturing a guess here, but I'd opine that it may be Greg's desire to slow the music down in order for the riffs and melodies to really sink in. I say this because We Are Amused's tunes benefit in this way from the slower pace of the rhythm. The melodic sounds are given time and space to be heard and felt. They are all quite catchy and memorable, and in that, We Are Amused strikes Disaster Amnesiac as being as compelling a statement from Ginn as Nervous Breakdown or Slip it In or In My Head or Let it Burn (Because I Don't Live There Anymore), all high water marks of his career. The album also benefits from great mixing and great production standards. One can hear the attention to details in this mix, an aspect that has sometimes not been the case from SST productions. It just sounds solid, all the way through.
Greg Ginn and the Royal We seem to be heralding yet another change of pace from Ginn, another new direction. Regardless of what others think, he continues to follow his own muse. Only Greg knows whether or not he'll continue with more recent projects such as Jambang or the Taylor Texas Corrugators, along with older ones such as Gone or Mojack. Disaster Amnesiac looks forward to hearing whatever comes down the pike next from SST; We Are Amused will absolutely stay in my rotation until that time.

Friday, November 4, 2011

21st. Century Ginn-zoid Man: Greg Ginn's music in the 2000's

Next week Greg Ginn will be releasing a new recording, that of his Greg Ginn and the Royal We project. It seems as if our man at SST has started yet another new chapter in his going on four decade career of music making. This turn of events has had Disaster Amnesiac thinking about, and listening to, as much of Ginn's work from the 2000's as I can scour up. Here are a few of my thoughts.

Mojack-The Metal Years
The Metal Years will probably stand as the Ginn release that is most pleasing to his traditional fan base. I'd say "ditto to Under the Willow Tree", but sadly, have not heard that one. What Disaster Amnesiac has heard on the Metal Years, though, is Ginn powering a mostly-live band, made up of Greg on bass and guitar, Steve DeLollis on drums, and Tony Atherton on saxophones. Pleasing, in that the classic Ginn melodic approach of simple, repetitive melodic lines is the standard here. It's what happens around and on top of these lines where the magic happens. DeLollis's approach is fat and funky, moving the tunes with solid, musical, acoustic kit playing. Ginn's tandem bass lines provide thick support for the drumming. His bass playing can seem as powerful and original as his guitar playing, in its own, Ginn-singular way.  The Metal Years is a rhythmic romp, for sure. The upper registers of the sound are provided by Atherton's great saxophone. His sound is wild and controlled at the same time, and when it's not going into full Fire Music mode, it is often giving the proceedings a kind of  rollicking 1960's Pacific North West feel; you know, like the stompin' bleats of the Wailers, the Raiders, etc. Greg  revisits his classic guitar soloing approach on the Metal Years. Listeners are treated to the out of control, noisy blasts that made Black Flag  and Gone such compelling groups for guitar freaks. The overall sound of the Metal Years is a kind of hybrid of the heavier jam bands, SST melodic aesthetic, and Jazz, which bounces and grates and slides and rocks, all in a very live feeling way. Great stuff.

Hor-Culture Wars 
Wrapped in a naughtily lurid cover, Culture Wars continues the legacy of Ginn's Hor project, which goes back to the mid-1990's. Hor is a much more electronic music-related concern than Mojack. Ginn has been pretty open about his love for electronic music, stating, for example, "[I']ve gotten really involved in that (electronic music), as far as listening and going to clubs and stuff. I like the hardcore techno, but also a lot of other electronic music" in Mark Prindle's Mark's Record Reviews web page. The band, made up of Ginn on bass, guitar, and synthesizer; Sean Hutchinson on drums; and Andy Batwinas on percussion, crank out a taut, robotic, computerized sound. Ginn's guitar playing is less melodically/chordally-focused; instead, he plays clipped arpeggios, little percussive runs up an down the neck. It seems as if he wants to get his guitar to sound as much like a computer as possible. On the rare occasions when he does solo, he keeps them succinct, jumping out from and back into the rhythm really quickly.  His bass stays in a more traditional "bass" role, and, as such, proves a lot of the melodic feel on the tunes. Much as in the Mojack release, Ginn's bass playing is superior and deserves special mention. He really does coax rich, thick tones from the instrument. A few years back, there were intense on-line debates as to whether or not certain listed drummers on Gone releases were real or fictitious. Disaster Amnesiac can attest to the actual existence of Hor drummer Sean Hutchinson, as I've seen him play live (3/29/2010, Red Devil Lounge, S.F. CA). Hutchinson is adept at fusing acoustic trap set playing with laptop-generated electronics, and does so on Culture Wars. His playing is tight and uncluttered, less Funk-oriented than that of DeLollis, but perfect for Hor's Techno grooves. His drumming and Andy Batwinas's percussion stick close to the computerized beats and feel here. Overall, Culture Wars is a fast-paced, intense blast of guitar-led Techno from the mind of Mr. Ginn. Who bought this? I sure did!

Gone-The Epic Trilogy 
Greg Ginn/SST's late 2000's re-emergence was heralded in large part by this 2007 release, the first from Gone since 1998. A double CD release, the first of which featured vocals by Bad Brains leader and long-time SST recording artist HR, with the second featuring instrumental-only versions of the same songs, The Epic Trilogy proved to be a challenge to many who followed Ginn's work. Over three sprawling, twelve to fifteen minute songs, Greg sounds renewed and re-energized, but, perhaps, a bit too tech-ey for many. More on that in a bit. First, let's talk a bit about Mr. Huntin' Rod's vocal performance. On the Epic Trilogy HR's approach is less righteous Rasta and more good time party in its tone. It's as if he uses the opportunity to sing "side project" to let go of some of the heavier messages he often imparts, and just have a good, rockin' time. The Epic Trilogy may be the closest he'll ever get to out and out GoGo, at least as far as subject matter is concerned. Of great effect too is his use of multi-tracking. Sly and smooth, it is quite the tripped-out call and response, the voices just out of phase enough to add some serious "WTF?" sounds for the listener to contemplate. The Epic Trilogy definitely sounds like a guitar-heavy statement for Ginn. His six string axe is mixed loud and up front throughout, and Greg wails with his characteristic big riffs, noisy solos, and bars-long slide effects. Gone has always been a very melodic band, and that trait stays true here. The songs' lengths beg for repetition, but, of course, Ginn riffs make repetition a good thing. His melodic gifts make navigating the twists and turns of it bearable and enjoyable. When he steps out and solos, the effect is mind-numbingly great. As with so many of his recent recordings Greg handles the bass on the recording. It is mixed a bit lower than the guitar, and as such plays a bit more of a subservient role in that relationship. Still, it bears repeating just how talented a bass player he is. Greg plays the bass with a percussive, driving hand. Heavy! The previously mentioned "tech-ey" sound is in large part due to the drums on the Epic Trilogy. Some have argued that the drums are 100 percent electronic, and programmed. To me, they sound like a blend of electronic drums played by a drummer and percussion overdubs/programming (Andy Batwinas?). The fact that the only listed drummer on the recording is dubbed "Drummer" will not give clarity to the matter! Ginn has always been a stickler for tight, focused rhythm, and I feel that if electronic drums provide him with the precision he needs for his guitar flights, then so be it. Some find the sound cold, but, Disaster Amnesiac likes it. All in all, epic indeed!

Change has always been the defining constant in the musical work of Greg Ginn. It has been my hope, with this by no means complete survey of his work in the 2000's, to show that the changes continue to happen in his music in enjoyable and interesting ways. That so few are interested, and many more actively hostile, seems a shame. Still, I suspect that I will be grabbing a copy of the Greg Ginn and the Royal We CD soon after its release, along with any other product he puts out. SST is still relevant to me.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Space Collective 3-Live at Outfest, Medusa 088, cassette

As you are probably well aware, recently the Oxford English Dictionary removed the term cassette tape from its future editions. If you've read this blog recently, you may have also become aware that Disaster Amnesiac has been purchasing, enjoying, and writing about a few cassette tapes of late.
Most recently, I've been digging into Rafael Toral's Space Collective 3, and their cassette tape release, Live at Outfest .
Toral provides "electronic instruments and direction" for the Space Collective, and is joined by Ricardo Dillon Wanke on Rhodes piano and Afonso Simoes on drums and percussion.
The trio burns through three lengthy pieces, seemingly improvised, with a hot sound that is equal parts Avant Garde and Fusion. That they take the most compelling factors from both of these styles (intense interplay based upon subtle auditory communications and high-grade musicianship), makes for a fun, often intense listen.
Far from being there simply to add color, Toral's electronics are right up in the instrumental mix. It's pretty cool to hear them being played as part of the group, the way one would hear a guitar or a sax or any more traditional Jazz instrument,  as Toral by turns comps, solos, or interacts with Dillon Wanke and Simoes. He gets wicked electrified trumpet a la Agartha-era Miles sounds, robotic R2D2 sounds, wispy washes, drones, cracks, and pops. Again, all of this sound action within the broader context of an improvising band.
Ricardo Dillon Wanke also plays his axe masterfully, providing heated electric piano. He takes long solos, comps with tons of space,  even leaves the scene completely, just generally doing whatever the moment requires of him. His keyboard sound may draw from the likes of Larry Young and Joe Zawinul, but it is clear that he is well into his own world.
It is a pleasure to listen to Afonso Simoes's drumming. He mixes powerful chops with free/expressive approaches within all of the tunes. His style is a burbling rhythmic one, much reminiscent of Free masters such as Andrew Cyrille or Shannon Jackson. There is total freedom of playing here, but it is contained within a deep pocket. Simoes is entirely present throughout, driving, commenting upon, and just generally moving the music along.
Cleanly, clearly recorded and well-mastered, Live at Outfest is a great document of a compelling band, utilizing time-honored approaches, all the while, thanks in large part to Rafael Toral's instrumentation, adding unique twists to them. I suspect that subsequent releases will be available in more formats than that of the now non-OED-lexicon'ed cassette. Would that the real-time version would hit a Jazz fest in the S.F. Bay Area! 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Kevin Carnes Interview

Presence. For Disaster Amnesiac, that one word describes Kevin Carnes quite effectively. The few times I've spoken with him, he's been quietly humorous and eloquent. He doesn't say much, but, one invariably knows that he's in the room. When he's behind a drum kit, his presence makes itself known in a much more audible way. His funk-fueled poly rhythms have been blowing Disaster Amnesiac away for two decades. Kevin can drive any kind of band to musical heights.
Kevin has been a present, drumming in the S.F. Bay Area musical scene for close to thirty years, but he doesn't seem to get the in-depth treatment that so many others have received. I've lamented that for some time, and humbly offered my services to him, by way of this interview. Dig in, and enjoy the wit and wisdom (and there is PLENTY of both) of Kevin Carnes!

You've been making music out of the S.F. Bay Area for quite some time. Are you a native Californian, or were you born and raised in some other locales? 
 I was born in Florida, my parents were part of the “migration” north in the 60’s to Detroit, that’s where I spent my early youth until I graduated from high school.
From there, I went to Las Cruces, New Mexico on a Track and Field scholarship  which is where I met Adam Shurborne (Consolidated, Until December).  I joined his band (the Usuals) and relocated to Houston, Texas.
After a year of being called nigger and told to go back to Africa, the band moved to San Francisco, and aside from about 10 months in LA in the early 90’s, I’ve been in the Bay Area ever since.

What were some formative sounds or musical experiences for you?

Seeing Isaac Hayes in Detroit in 1970, and Prince on the Dirty Mind tour were 2 of the most important experiences on my musical journey.  Taking drum lessons with my father every Saturday for about 7 years and listening to his massive record collection also played a major roll.
As far as sounds go, I’ve never felt bound to any particular genre, so I’ve always been open to all styles of music, which has exposed me to all sorts of sounds, textures, and ideas about what music is or could be.
2 other moments stand out as well.  The first was a recording session that I did with George Clinton.  I won’t go into the long version of this story but he directed me through over-dubbing drums on a song and I learned more about “dynamics” with him than ever before.  The second moment I have to mention was seeing Max Roach do a solo performance at The Palace Of Fine Art.  Max played drums and sang songs for about 55 minutes and it was the most beautiful thing… The elderly woman sitting next to me cried like a baby, she was so moved by it.

 At what point in your life did you begin to actively play the drums? Did you play in school or church bands? How about garage bands?

 I started to study drums at the age of 5 but didn’t become serious about it until I played in my first band at age 12. 
 I played in school from first grade through high school, orchestra, marching band, not much in church, but once I played with my first band, I was hooked.

Were there any formal instructors in your early development as a drummer? How about other instruments? Did you have any early mentoring in your musical development? 

I had a drum teacher when I first started playing music, he taught me “In the Sunshine Of Your Love” by Cream for my first lesson.  He also taught me how to read music, and that was his greatest contribution to my world.  I also studied guitar and viola but I had no support on the viola and after my first guitar instructor, who was awesome, I had a really crappy teacher who was so grumpy that I quit studying with him.

You were a founding member of the Beatnigs. I never saw them play, but have heard clips. Beatnigs' sound comes across as a mashup of various Post-Punk musical elements. Please tell how this group came about, its aesthetic concept, and its development.

I was a DJ at a small mission night spot in the early 80’s and had the run of the place on Sunday nights.  I hosted many events there, fashion shows, dance performances, film nights, it was more of a salon than anything, very experimental and I would spin everything from Public Enemy and The Sex Pistols to Sylvester and Dean Martin over Dub tracks.

Gradually, certain people became regulars in the scene and on the stage.  One was Andre who introduced me to Michael Franti and brought him into the fold and soon had him on stage reading poetry and dancing in some of our performances
Rono Tse joined the circle with a very creative fire and a truck.
We did some pretty “out” stuff but continued to develop ideas and try them out to the point where we started to need “rehearsal” and a space to work out.
 Henri Flood was a friend from another band that I was playing with and he began to play percussion with us and was really into the idea of being more than just a conventional percussionist.
That became the nucleus of the band and Michael came up with the name.  There was a manifesto, of sorts, one that was about what you could do and not what you couldn’t.  We were very political in that Punk Rock, Black Militant, Artist  kind of way (very Afro Punk).

Broun Fellinis have been playing for over twenty years. Please talk a bit about the conception of this band, early development, and the nascent scene around it.

David Boyce and I had a bunch of conversations about art, music, history, politics, girls, general bullshit that we felt like expressing as musicians.  We also did not want to sound like anyone in particular but everyone at the same time while also carving out our own space in the continuum.
David came up with the name during a rant about “surrealism” and how to convey that in our music.  And, along with a lot of other folks, we both love Fellini and his films.
Broun Fellinis have a very solid, identifiable sound, along with fascinating conceptual world all your own. Can you address these two elements of the band?

Feeling is first, and we rarely use the word “style” when we share our musical ideas with one another.  That’s all I can really say about our “sound”.  I Think that everyone lives in their own internal “conceptual world”, we’ve just chosen to live our conceptual world in our actual world and it’s made it a lot better to be here.

Broun Fellinis have held steadfast to an independent stance within the music industry. Please address the issue of independent artistic control, especially as it applies to your music.

We’re not a “major label” band.  We’re not even an “indy” band, and we’re not really interested in designing something that fits into those little boxes.  The last 20 years have provided artists, of all disciplines, the opportunity to create, market and display their art independently and be very successful and we’ve found that there is also a great deal of satisfaction in knowing how manage a mailing list… just joking!  This shit is hard work and I’m sick of doing it but if a label or manager, or publicist or girlfriend doesn’t do the things necessary to get on stage, make records, or pay bills, who will?

A friend recently attended a Broun Fellinis show in Berkeley, and he marveled at just how psychedelic the music has become.  It seems to me that this has always been the case. What are your thoughts on psychedelic elements within music? How important are psychedelic or space elements to you and your band mates?   

Playing this music is very meditative for me.  It’s my medicine, my religion, my food, and a positive thing that I can share with the world.
I don’t really think of it as “psychedelic” before arriving to the band stand or in the studio. We just try to open ourselves up to the possibilities of the cosmos, or our own inner feelings or whatever kind of hippy shit that sounds like.
Music, story telling, the creative process, is about transportation and a little delay or flanging goes a long way.

I have seen and heard your drumming in other bands besides Broun Fellinis. Please talk about some of the projects in which you've participated. Which ones have you enjoyed the most?

The short answer is Eric McFadden Trio (with James Whiton on bass), Storm And Her Dirty Mouth (later Storm Inc.), and IZM (the best rock band you’ve never heard of), and Consolidated/Adam Shurborne. 
There are many other bands, artists, jam sessions and events that I could talk about for hours, but the one that I have to mention are the times that I’ve played with Bernie Worrell (Parliament/Funkadelic – Talking Heads).  He is the most intelligent, funky, creative, versatile, musician that I’ve had the blessing of making music with and I would commit major crimes for the chance to play with him again.

What type of drum gear are you currently using? What types of gear do you love to use? 
I have a set of Slingerlands from the late 60’s that I absolutely love, a 13"[tom], a 16” floor tom and a 22” bass drum.  I have a wooden snare that Sam Adato designed and my Black Beauty copy was stolen so I need a good metal snare.  I use Zildjian cymbals and I have a set of Vistalites that need refurbishing.  I don’t really care for “new” drums, they all sound the same, but if you gave me some I would play the hell out of them for you, then probably trade them for something old with a little more character.

How involved are you with engineering and mixing of Broun Fellinis recordings? 

You know, it varies from project to project but I tend to be very hands on with our recording session.  As I get better and better at doing it though, the less I want to be in that mode .  I’d much rather work with a good engineer so I don’t have to think about it.  I would really like to produce more, both with the band, produce the other members’ projects, and other artists outside of the band as well.

Along with drumming in Broun Fellinis, you also add electronic sound. Do you produce a lot of electronic music as a solo artist as well? Any links to these types of productions? 

I’m finishing a project now, U.A.F., which will be done around the end of the year, and some other things are in the works – HEADBOLT, Black Quarterback, a Broun Fellinis remix project which will happen in the spring and hopefully include releasing some vinyl.

Many creative people have well springs of inspiration from which they draw. What are some things that give you the spark needed to continue on your creative path?

I just open my eyes, open my mind, breath deeply then strike the first note and see what happens.  I think that every moment in one’s life is an opportunity, a story, a melody or a rhythm and it’s on me to address whatever I feel and try to document it. 

Please give your thoughts on San Francisco, particularly your impressions of the city over the years that you have lived there. 

San Francisco is one of those “special” cities and I love living here.  Whenever I think about relocating I end up with a very short list of places because so few places offer up what the San Francisco and the Bay Area provide for me.  It’s a very inspiring and stimulating place to be an artist, though it has become more difficult in light of the gross inflation of property, I’ve seen my cost of living more than double since moving here and it’s largely due to housing and rehearsal space rental fees.
I’ve been here since ’84 and have seen many changes, both good and bad, in the Bay Area.  There seem to be a lot more people who are part of the consumer culture and fewer of those who contribute to it, more trend followers and fewer trend setters.  Don’t get me wrong though, the folks who are here creating are doing some amazing work, the ratio just feels wrong and I have to do a lot more investigating to find cool shit.  I also feel that SF has priced out a lot of the creatives and they’ve relocated to the East Bay and that’s causing a renaissance of sorts that’s been happening for a number of years now, and it’s beautiful… Make BART run 24 hours please! (amen to that!-ed.) 

Going forward, what are some projects that you're involved with? What is in store for your music? 

What is in store for my music?  To get it into the stores!!!
To also see if I can cut another 20 year slice of life out of this Fellini cake, continue rockin’ stages all over the globe, and inspire others to make some kind of positive action.  As far as projects to look for: U.A.F., Black Quarterback, HEADBOLT, Reverser, and Broun Fellinis are the things that I’m most passionate about, and there are a few others that either don’t have names yet or I am keeping them secret until it’s time to share them with you.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Fancy Space People, Jean Geanies, Magic Leaves-Brick and Morter Music Hall, SF, CA 10/7/11

After a four year wait, Disaster Amnesiac finally got to see the wonderful Fancy Space People live and close up. The group played this smaller venue, the night after opening for Smashing Pumpkins at Oakland's Fox Theater.
Magic Leaves started the show. Their music is a hopped up "regular guy" art Rock, with a lead guitar player who plays quite good solos and a sharp rhythm section. I love seeing bands that are still developing their sound, and it seemed like this was the case with the Leaves. A definite lack of pretension here, and a definite love of playing.
Above: Magic Leaves groove together
Below: Magic Leaves guitar player takes another flight

Jean Genies played next. They are a 1970's era David Bowie cover band. I was talking to my pal Adam a lot, and, sadly, took no photos. Mick Ronson was great! Paging Paul Hood and Craig Gray!

After midnight, Fancy Space People ambled up onto the stage and presented their brilliant, fun, mashup of Glitter/Space/Psych. I was stoked to hear Spectacle Electric! This band is just so rad in so many ways. Nora is riveting as a front person. Disaster Amnesiac can die never having had to watch Alice Cooper live, as Ms. Keyes pretty much owned and delivered that particular vibe in spades! She also has the coolest fingers in Rock!
Above: Magical Fingers!

While Don Bolles's former band mate Darby Crash will be forever seen as the primal poet of Hardcore, Don has become something even cooler-the elder shamanistic messenger. It's always inspiring to see him play. Oh, and was that Paul Roessler on keyboards? Shit yeah!
Above: Fancy Space People, in space!

I still can't say enough good things about Fancy Space People. It was just so great to see and hear them live, loud, trippy, and fun!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Dreams-Morbido, cassette, Yerevan Tapes 001

Some years back, Disaster Amnesiac was seriously excited by the music that was coming out of the Alsatian region of France, primarily from groups under the rubric of Le Grande Triple Alliance. A.H. Kraken, the Anals, Pussy Patrol: these bands were exciting to listen to (still are, of course. A.H. Kraken's debut has never left my iPod).
It seems as though a lot of that activity has waned, or perhaps I've fallen out of that particular informational loop. Or, perhaps I haven't. I was delighted to get an email from Yerevan Tapes, advertising their debut release, Morbido, by the Dreams. These guys had me at "featuring members of  Le Grande Triple Alliance". As it has been with all releases of the Alsatian Punk ilk, the only thing I could count on, as I clicked on "pay now", was a challenging listen, followed by delight at hearing actual aesthetic quality in contemporary musical production.
Need you even ask if this was the case?
The Dreams are a duo, made up of one male and one female. Their sound, a drum machine-propelled Post-Punk, is rich with references to all kinds of rhythmic styles, from all regions of the world. Despite their lack of a drummer, they enhance their particularly good drum beat programming with tons of percussive accents and colors; this music is danceable and funky, without ever succumbing to blatant style copping. One might hear elements of East Indian dance music, or African tribal sounds, but one never gets the sense that the Dreams are being too obvious. Thick, dub-ey bass lines propel most of the tunes' melodies, which are scratched out on cheaper-sounding guitars. While the melodic element takes a somewhat subservient role to the rhythmic element of the Dreams' music, that is not to say that the songs here are tuneless. They are not. The listener will find plenty of hummable tunes, even as they stop dancing around to the deep grooves on this cassette.
As with all other salvos issues from Le Grande Triple Alliance, great enjoyment can be taken from the vocal style of the Dreams. Their declamations, whether in their native French, or English, or, as on one tune, dubbed backwards to resemble some obscure Asian dialect, just sound cool. They are never delivered with too much hysteria, but always have the Punk sense of urgency and real human expressiveness. 
Morbido's production has a definite "home taped" feel, but the Dreams have clearly taken care to ensure that their sounds are present and listenable on this release. One never gets a sense that it is a slap-dash affair, only that it is an independently produced document, working within the restraints and blessings of that approach.
Hopefully Yerevan Tapes will find more Alsatian Post-Punk to document, or at least make more music by the Dreams available.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Midday Veil-Subterranean Ritual II, TLO 05, cassette

Disaster Amnesiac was stoked at the possibility of seeing Midday Veil play live in San Francisco last month, but, sadly, a nasty little stomach flu precluded that trip.
I have been tripping on their great cassette release, Subterranean Ritual II, though, which I purchased in advance of the show that I was not able to attend. It's a great slab of current psych/freak Rock, bubbling along at a stoned, immaculate pace, with great, tom tom centered drumming by Chris Pollina, and post-Yma wordless vocalizing by Emily Pothast. Baritone guitarist Timm Mason adds color and space to the Ritual's psychedelic mix, and David Golightly's synth washes and gurgles spice the sound with elements of Kraut-ey curries. The first track, Moon Temple, gets a bit wiggier, while its opposite side track, Naxos, stays cool and austere throughout.
One could definitely  use this tape for their actual psychedelic rituals, whether played out in consensus reality or just within the private spaces of the mind.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Karen Stackpole with Dan Webster, photo essay, 9/11/2011 Ex'pressions Sound Stage, Emeryville, CA

Disaster Amnesiac met up with recent pal Andrew Joron, to listen to Karen Stackpole play some of her vast collection of gongs. Karen is probably the preeminent gong player in the S.F. Bay Area. She's a master of coaxing sounds from her metals. With the help of laptop processor Dan Webster, she transported the audience at Ex'pressions into otherworldly sound spaces.

Karen dances with her gongs!

Karen and Dan played about five pieces total. All with strange, scientifically inspired titles. Karlheinz Stockhausen would have been proud. The audience was quietly awed.

All sounds were pumped through Sunn cabinets. Yeah!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Jeff Mooridian photo essay

Disaster Amnesiac caught Vaz, live at S.F.'s Hemlock Tavern last night, 8/24/11. Jeff Mooridian seems a lot like Christian Vander to me, in that the music of his band pivots pretty much entirely around his shifting, machine like drum set POUND. Jeff left me pretty much speechless, so I'll just let the  pics do the talking on this one.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Weird Scenes Inside the Goldmine

Just got home from seeing Cowboys and Aliens, and, color me impressed! The movie is a great mash-up of the best elements of classic Sci-Fi and Western, as the title suggests. Before you go and call Disaster Amnesiac a master of the obvious, I'll list: Alien, Blade Runner, Treasure of the Sierra Madre, West World, Star Wars, The Terminator, hell, even Blazing Saddles! All these influences, and countless more, plus a compelling story and a great performance from Harrison Ford as an aging bad-ass, make for a fun summer blockbuster movie. See it at the theater for its full effect!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

India Cooke/Bill Crossman/Donald Robinson, 8/14/11, Berkeley Arts Festival

The weather was great and the mood was light for this Sunday matinee, presented by the Berkeley Arts Festival, 2011.
India was in fine form. Her earthy, bluesy playing, honed with the likes of Sun Ra and Cecil Taylor, is such a joy to hear. Even when she gets into heavy abstraction, there is always a joyful sound coming from her violin. She's a Jazz Master.
Cooke was joined by pianist Bill Crossman and drummer Donald Robinson. Crossman's swift piano playing, often in duet with India, was at times also bluesy, at times more abstractly Cecil-like. The two chased each others' playing brilliantly.
Drummer Donald Robinson playing the second half of each of the group's two sets. His mallet-driven  playing was subtle, generally quiet, and very free. Perfect for the chamber Jazz feel conjured up by Cooke and Crossman.
It's such a blessing to live in such close proximity to marvelous players such as these. What a fine day for freedom of expression!

Lost and Found in Russia-Lives in a Post-Soviet Landscape; Susan Richards, Other Press, 2009

The fall of the Berlin Wall and the break down of the Soviet Union were noted and celebrated in my family. My father worked for the U.S. Army in Germany. Young Disaster Amnesiac was watching commercials that celebrated the A-10 Thunderbolt II while his contemporaries stateside were watching MTV as it aired live. This must be stated, as formative media such as the Armed Forces Network and the Stars and Stripes newspaper had huge effects on me. The Soviet Union loomed as a large existential threat to me quite early on. I'm not gloating here, just being honest about where certain philosophical outlooks were shaped within my younger consciousness. Disaster Amnesiac is fascinated with the history of the Soviet Union, along with the historiography that has ensued in the wake of its collapse.
Regardless of where one stands in the debate of Right v. Left/Capitalism v. Communism/Wealth acquisition v. Wealth redistribution, it is undeniable that the Soviet Union, at least in its 20th Century phase, failed.  Lost and Found sets out to deal with the fallout of that world-historical event. Richards uses the story of her relationships with seven Russian citizens over the span of several years (1992-2008) as the lens through which to view the post-Soviet evolution of the region. Her use of the travel writing method takes the reader along as she journeys with her various friends throughout Russia and its myriad regions. Often these friends are using their recently acquired human rights to "vote with their feet" as they search for meaning, or profits, or that elusive "freedom" that beckoned to them across the great divides of the Cold War era. It is within the descriptions of the towns that they visit and the people that they interact with therein that Richards paints the picture of a Russia struggling to come to terms with her identity and possible futures. Much attention is paid to the pre-Soviet era and the encompassing influence of Orthodox Christianity. If one comes away with anything from Lost and Found, it is that Orthodoxy looms large within the national psyche of the Russian people, that its influence is as prevalent as that of Stalin-ism.
Chapters describing time spent traveling among an occult-oriented physicist, an intentional New Age community, ancient religious communes, and a traditional shamanistic healer ("witch") are juxtaposed alongside scenes of the crumbling, struggling cities of Marx and Saratov as their citizens adjust to the rampant succession of changes that effected Russia during the book's time frame.  The former are contextualized within the rubric of the older, Orthodox Russia, while the latter are defined more by the parameters of the great struggle of the 20th Century, the cold (economic) and hot (physical) wars fought between the competing ideologies of Communism and Capitalism. The descriptions of her friends' developments within these battles are great. The reader will find his/her self compelled by the stories of these peoples' lives as they unfold, the spanning their youth and developments into maturity. Some thrive, some flounder. Richards writes with insight about all of these developments, bringing a human tenderness to her descriptions of their stories (they, are, after all, friends).
Books like these are very important to Disaster Amnesiac. For one, they bridge the mental divides that were instilled within me as a child. Secondly, they tell stories and show scenes that are in real danger of being wiped away. It would be naive to think that the totalitarian impulse that found perfection within the  Stalin-ist Soviet Union has been abrogated. There are currently powerful forces within Russia that would gladly "disappear" many of the insider views shown within Lost and Found. If for no other reason, I recommend this book to spite Richards' conclusion that gives advantage to the ultimate return of that impulse, in Russia, and elsewhere (italics mine).

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Nervous Gender-Gestalt/Green Tile Floor 7" (TestTube Records, 2011)

Disaster Amnesiac was excited to read Razorcake's exhaustive two part interview with Nervous Gender last winter, and had been looking forward to hearing the new recording that they mentioned.
Thankfully, the Gestalt 7" does not disappoint. The two tracks are both jabbing, propulsive, and succinct; cutting synthesizer lines and super-fuzzed keyboard runs, played on what sound to be older analog gear, are punctuated by simple, pounding tom tom drumming.  The vocals and lyrics retain Gerardo's punky, alienated misanthropy, and although his presence is missed, the surviving group members do a fine job of continuing his singular vibe. The overall feel of the tunes compliment the group's name: both of these tunes will make one nervous. You can feel the adrenalin, hear the angst that is its result.
There are times when I'm reminded of the Screamers, but, seeing as Nervous Gender were that great band's contemporaries, maybe that just shows how the two bands influenced each other within a living scene as its nascent development was occurring. The presence of Screamers member Paul Roessler as engineer only adds to the super-legit feel of this 7". The sense that he put a lot of care into the production is clearly evident.  This version of Nervous Gender benefits from the care put into its production.
Here's to hoping that more recordings will emerge soon. The spirits of Gerardo and Tomata live on!