Burning Flags Press The website of Glen E. Friedman. Renowned for both his work with musicians like Fugazi, Minor Threat, Public Enemy, the Beastie Boys, Slayer (and many, many more) as well as his groundbreaking documentation of the burgeoning skateboard phenomenon in the late `70's, Glen has been privvy to (and has summarily captured on film) some of the coolest stuff ever. He's also an incredibly insightful and nice guy to boot.
SoHo Blues - Photography by Allan Tannenbaum Allan Tannenbaum is a local photographer who has been everywhere and shot everything, from members of Blondie hanging out at the Mudd Club through the collapsing towers of the World Trade Center on September 11th. You could spend hours on this site, and I have.
Robert Otter Photographs Amazing vintage photographs of New York City, specifically my own neighborhood, Greenwich Village.
oboylephoto Just some intensely cool photographs of abandoned places.
The Weblog of Spumco's John K. The weblog of cartoonist John Kricfalusi, crazed mind and frantic pencil behind the original "Ren & Stimpy," as well as "The Goddamn George Liquor Show." Surreal, unapologetic, uncompromising genius.
Behold, the Flaming Pablum family jack'o'lantern, lovingly carved by yours truly. Nice, eh? It's it pity that he's already started to stink up the apartment. Oh well.
On this day in the past two years, I'd compiled lists of scary songs for Halloween. I'd fully planned on compiling a third list, but never got around to fully writing my extrapolations for each. Both of the previous lists (2006 and 2005) have been getting Googled like mad, so I figured I may as well cite my next ten choices. Seek them out and hear for yourself why I think they're scary. Some are more self-explanatory than others. Listen with the lights off.
10. "Hurdy Gurdy Man" by Donovan - I know the more obvious choice from Donovan is "Season of The Witch," but in the wake of this song's placement in a key scene in last year's "Zodiac," "Hurdy Gurdy Man" seems a thousand times creepier. Also check out the Butthole Surfers' cover of it from their 1991 album, Pioughd
9. "Halloween" by The Misfits - A bit of an obvious one, I'll grant ya. The original Misfits always walked a thin line between campy and creepy, but this track was a successful marriage of both.
8. "Country Death Song" by The Violent Femmes - From the band's decidedly off-putting second album, Hallowed Ground came this grim yarn of a father inexplicably pushing his youngest daughter down a dark, dank well in the cold, dead of night. It's as stylistically far from "Blister In The Sun" as you could possibly get.
7. "Walking In The Rain" by Flash & the Pan - I don't really have too much to say about this one, other than that I'd always found it endearingly creepy. Seek it out.
6. "Song of Joy" by Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds - The darker cousin of the `Femmes' "Country Death Song," "Song of Joy" is another ploddingly gruesome tale of familial murder from the perspective of the (guilty?) father. Grim, grim, grim.
5. "Fodderstompf" by Public Image Ltd. - I'm sure many people would argue that this track is more annoying than scary, but I've always found the thirteen minutes of relentless, squealy chanting ("WE ONLY WANTED TO BE LOVED!") to be somewhat disturbing.
4. "Helter Skelter" by The Beatles - Sure, U2 stole it back from Charles Manson and all that, but the original is still drenched in blood and still reeks of abject violence. No cover of this song -- with the possible exception of Siouxsie & the Banshees' -- has ever been able to match the dizzying insanity of the original.
3. "Orphans" by Teenage Jesus & The Jerks - Again, possibly more annoying than scary, but there's something about Lydia Lunch screaming "LITTLE ORPHANS RUNNING THROUGH THE BLOODY SNOW" over a pounding caveman beat and a shrieking one-note guitar that still paints a decidedly nightmarish image.
2. "Cop" by Swans - Even if you can stomach the relentless, churning slave-ship rhythms and the deafening caterwaul of tuneless guitars, Michael Gira's bleak lyrics of abject humiliation ("Nobody rapes you like a cop with a club") surely ought to put you off your food for a while.
1. Plague Mass by Diamanda Galas --- All of it. I'd feel remiss in citing a single track off this amazingly disquieting sonic document. Suffice it to say, you'll never want to hear it twice. Truly, truly disturbing stuff.
Just spotted this tragic itemagain via my commendable cyber-comrade Jeremiah Moss of Vanishing New York. It seems the All State Cafe, one of my very favorite Upper West Side bars, has been closed as the result of spiraling rents.
Apologies for the relative slow-down in regular posting here. I think the recent passing of my friend Paul Raven just took a bit of the wind out of my sails, it being just the latest sad chapter in a frankly rather bleak 2007.
In an effort to distance myself from the gloom this past weekend, my lovely wife suggested going up to visit my friend Rob D. in New London. Rob's one of my oldest and dearest friends, and is currently sequestered in his rustic New England home, busily composing an exhaustively authoritative tome on New London's favorite literary son, Eugene O'Neill. Rob's first book, meanwhile, has recently been published and is out in stores now, so go fetch thyselves copies with the quickness.
Eager for a change of scenery and the chance to catch up with my friend, I took Peggy up on her suggestion and bought myself a ticket to go up to New London on Saturday evening. In true AmTrack style, my regional train was delayed for fifty minutes, leaving me ample time to explore the squalid, airless unpleasantness of Penn Station, truly one of my least favorite spots in New York City, let alone the Earth. Grand Central Station, in contrast, is a vast, architecturally rich expanse with a robust history. Penn Station is just a soulless, barely functional shadow of the august building (long since torn down) from which it took its name. Tear it down, I say.
In any event, I was eventually allowed to board my train and was soon streaming out of Manhattan. For all my grousing about the inefficiencies of modern travel, I have to say that I do enjoy a good train trip. The urban scenes outside my window slowly gave way to hints of Fall folliage until I was soon surrounded by vast swathes of marshland and water.
When I was a child, my family only came to New London while on our way to somewhere else. Whether to visit our friends in Newport or Nantucket, we'd invariably pass through New London at some point. This small whaling city didn't seem like a destination in itself, but rather a portal. My friend Rob, meanwhile, de-camped here a few years ago to pursue some teaching opportunities and has called it home ever since. A million figurative miles from the teeming ant heap of Manhattan, I stepped off the train into a thick, atmospheric fog (they don't call it New London for nothing) and spotted Rob's car just as the rain began to fall.
Rob and I spent the remainder of the evening consuming ill-advised quantities of cheapo beer and a herculean amount of surprisingly great Mexican food, catching up on old times. After the latter, we repaired to one of Rob's favorite watering holes on Bank Street which doubles as a live music venue. Despite the fact that the promisingly named local metal outfit, Face First, were preparing to blow new parts in everyone's hair, Rob and I decided to opt out and went back to his place, where we proceeded to drink his fridge dry, listen to irresponsibly loud music and scour YouTube for Jane's Addiction videos and drunkenn Ace Frehley interviews until about 3 a.m.
After a quick visit and a couple of bloody marys with Rob's mother in nearby Mystic the next morning, I let Rob get back to Eugene O'Neill's misbegotten moons, approaching icemen and long day's journies and boarded a midday train back to New York City, hungover but heartened from visiting my friend. Again, AmTrack dependably let me down via a track fire in New Rochelle which kept my train frozen and cut off at the Stamford station for a couple of hours. I finally walked back in my door after 6pm, greeted by my beaming wife and two giggling little children.
Today, I'm back at it, typing at you from a coffee shop on West Eighth Street (I've forsaken the chilly confines of Cosi in favor of the homier Gizzi's two blocks to the West -- better coffee, better tunes, same free WiFi). The weather may have turned colder, but for me, the gloom is lifting. Developments on my job search have taken a promising turn after weeks of discouraging silence, but I won't jinx anything by providing details. Suffice to say, I am again feeling hopeful. Stay tuned.
Oh, and seemingly since the dawn of time, I've routinely and unsolicitedly distributed mixtapes to my friends, forcing my musical tastes on their unsuspecting ears. Replete with ridiculous titles like The THRASH Compactor, The Third Reich Knee Injury Dance Party and Jammin' In Tha Stang-Whappa Dang Whappa Dang, my tapes have nourished the long suffering music collections of many of my nearest and dearest. Having not bestowed one on Rob in a veritable eon, I compiled a mixdisc for him on Friday night, summarily dubbed New London Calling. The track listing is below, ideal for a long train trip to see a far-flung friend.... New London Calling
"Three Legged Dog" by Firewater
"Start Wearing Purple" by Gogol Bordello
"The Great Annihilator" by Swans
"Cut You Up With A Linoleum Knife" by Mastodon
"Keep Forgetting" by the Cinematics
"Borneo" by Firewater
"Oh Timbaland" by Timbaland
"Your Touch" by the Black Keys
"Sick, Sick, Sick" by the Queens Of The Stone Age
"We Are Him" by the Angels of Light
"Phantom Limb" by the Shins
"Revenge" by the Plain White T's
"Wildcat" by Ratatat
"Jack The Ripper" by the Horrors
"Temptation" (a Heaven 17 cover) by Cradle of Filth
"Empire" by Kasabian
"Winter's Wolves" by the Sword
"Jesus Christ" by Brand New
"What Happened to Smith?" by Life In A Blender
"Not an Addict" by K's Choice
It seems that every time another storied Manhattan landmark is cut down, either a bank or an antiseptic Duane Reade grows in its place, like some horrible hydra. It's become such a safe bet that it's one or the other that it's not even all that funny anymore. Sure enough, as recently spotted by my similarly inclined comrade Jeremiah of Vanishing New York, the strip of the Bowery which formerly housed CBGB and CB's gallery is now to be home to a branch of Chase Bank.
Seriously, people, how many fucking banks do we need?
There's been an awful lot written in the past few days about the death of Paul Raven (I've already devoted twoposts to it), but nine out of ten of these articles seem only to rattle off the laundry list of musical projects he was involved with, notably the Neon Hearts, Kitsch, Killing Joke, Murder Inc. Pigface, Prong, Zilch, Society 1, Smartyr, Godflesh, Snow Black, Sarge and Mob Research (not to mention producing everyone from Ned's Atomic Dustbin through Headcount). If I'm not mistaken, I think Raven also did some session work with Yemeni duo Nasa, played for a short while with Zodiac Mindwarp & The Love Reaction and even leant his bass playing skills to the likes of former Go Go, Belinda Carlisle for a surreal appearance on "Top of The Pops." While it's true that the man's resume was impressive, I again stress that there was so much more to Paul Raven than his impeccable credentials as a rock star.
As a long-time fan of Killing Joke, I signed onto The Gathering, a worldwide online community of KJ fans, in 1999 (i.e. when I finally joined the 20th century and procured myself a home computer with a modem). As predictably geeky as the lay-person and/or non-devout would correctly assume, The Gathering spent (and still spends) most of its time debating the minutia of the band's catalog and acting as a clearing house of KJ-related information. Always the most communicative of the band's fold, Paul Raven infiltrated the Gathering right after I'd joined and began feeding the collective prized bits of information of band activity. In this capacity, Raven was invaluable, as Killing Joke had otherwise always prided itself on its austere impenetrability. While still respectful of that aesthetic, Paul Raven was endearingly non-enigmatic.
In relatively short order, Raven became much chattier and refreshingly down-to-earth. One afternoon out of the blue, Raven sent me an instant message, asking for my phone number. Amazed that one of my heroes wanted to actually converse, I supplied him the number, and within moments, he was on my phone, laughing loudly and inviting me to a party later that month that he was going to be attending right here in New York. Of course, I said yes.
To suggest that Paul was a consummate networker would be a fair and accurate statement, but he wasn't mercenary about it. While he clearly always had an eye open for new opportunities, he was also a hugely social guy. Knowing he was going to be in New York, he simply reached out to any and all of his New York contacts, I being one of them. The event in question was some seemingly random shmooze-fest held over at Chelsea Piers. I tried to coax my friend, Gardner Post of the band E.B.N. to come with me -- thinking that a possible collaboration might arise from their meeting -- but was unable to reach him in time. I brought my friend Rob B. along and we made the most of the proceedings. The place was crawling with scenesters and impresarios -- Lenny Kravitz, Gena Gershon and that dude out of Third Eye Blind were all there. I was more impressed to see Wayne Kramer of the MC5, Brian James of the Damned and punk photog extraordinaire, Bob Gruen all hanging out together at a table, prompting me to sheepishly approach and ask if I could take their picture. They gamely agreed on the condition that I get in the picture too. Suffice to say, it's a photograph I now cherish.
My friends Christina and Jim suddenly appeared via some random connection a little before midnight, but it looked like Raven wasn't going to show. I made the most of the open bar and got in a quasi-argument with some dink wearing a Queensryche t-shirt (ironic metal appreciation is a big pet peeve of mine), until Raven finally arrived, all broad smiles and knuckle-crushing handshakes.
Again, for a guy I'd only exchanged e-mails and IM's with, Paul was not on any rock star trip and was immediately easy to be around. Swiftly deducing that the party in question was somewhat lame, he asked us where we should all go. Within moments, we were all cramming into Jim's tiny Japanese car to speed off to a small club in the West Village. We spent the remainder of the evening drinking, talking and laughing.
From that night on, Raven and I were in fairly regular contact. He sent his best wishes from abroad when I got married in 2001, e-mailed about my well-being immediately on September 11th and routinely rang me up to find out how I was coping with fatherhood (himself no slouch in that department). When Killing Joke fleetingly returned to the States to play New York's Webster Hall in 2003, Raven took care of myself and a coterie of other wayward Gatherers. In 2004, Raven rang me up to chase down his former colleague, Big Paul Ferguson for an interview. When I flew over for the band's anniversary shows in 2005, Raven again acted the inclusive host. Last year, Raven returned with Ministry and put myself and Christina (who he'd also stayed in touch with) on the list, and joined us for drinks afterwards. His more recent plans found him bopping in and out of New York with more frequency. We'd had a standing rain check to get together between projects (when he wasn't working with his many new bands like Mob Research, Sarge, a reunited Prong and Snow Black). He'd only just de-camped back to Europe for a little while to work with French noise-merchants (and massive Killing Joke fans), Treponem Pal (their name is untranslatable French slang for venereal disease, if you must know). Sadly, this was where his journey ended.
I am only one voice of a very loud chorus these days lamenting the big man's passing, and I truthfully only scratched the surface. I'm terribly sad that I won't be getting any more of his endearingly profane e-mails or hear his roaring laughter on my answering machine ever again. Paul Raven was truly one of a kind, and we shall not see his like again. Rest in peace, Paul.
I started writing the entry below some time ago, but never finished it. In the wake of this week's events, it seemed appropriate to revive and complete it. Play the track very loudly....
At the risk of belaboring the obvious, let me just say that Killing Joke is my favorite band. I'd had other "favorite bands" before them -- notably Kiss, Pink Floyd, Iron Maiden, Devo, the Circle Jerks, Motorhead and a few others, but once I'd laid ears on the `Joke in 1984, it was pretty much over for any other contenders. Killing Joke forever dwell at the top of the heap. As such, their name and mine are frequently mentioned in tandem. My unwavering support for Killing Joke has been well documented, often to the point of parody. With that in mind, I've avoided citing any of their music here. It goes without saying that I think absolutely everything they've done (even the arguable clunker albums like Outside The Gate and their last one, Hosannas From The Basements Of Hell) is required listening.
But there's one track of theirs that been extra resonant for me these days, and that's "Feast of Blaze" off their inexplicably under-praised 1983 album, Fire Dances. Fracturing consensus among the band's faithful, Fire Dances is loved and loathed in equal measures. Acolytes praise it for Geordie Walker's signature guitar playing, at its bell-like chimiest throughout the disc's ten tracks. Detractors -- including members of the band itself -- cite the inarguably treble-heavy production (allegedly due to a preponderance of cocaine in the recording studio during the mixing process) and its somewhat oblique, sing-songy lyrics. To be fair, there is admittedly an awful lot of La La La-ing throughout the album. While still a burly, unwieldy package, it does lack the oomph-laden heaviosity of the three studio albums that preceded it.
Personally speaking, my only complaint with Fire Dances is with its frankly lamentable cover art, featuring some sort of pyromaniacal mime. Compared to the grimly iconic sleeves that graced the band's first three albums, Fire Dances looks a bit silly. I would say that it's their worst album cover, but that dubious honor surely goes to Outside The Gate (an album already rich with flaw). The music on Fire Dances, however, I find absolutely vital, and "Feast of Blaze" is a perfect example.
Though ushered in by Big Paul Ferguson's unrelenting primal toms (thumping out a rhythmic pattern I continually find myself drumming on my knees whenever I'm nervous -- which, these days, is quite often), it's Geordie's inimitable guitar that is the centerpiece of "Feast of Blaze." I'm at a loss to explain it in technical terminology, but the sound is simultaneously simple and dizzyingly complex. Rich with fat, expansive reverb, Geordie's hollow bodied Gibson ES-295 (a.k.a. "The Golden Harp") sounds positively ablaze here, pardon the stupefying pun.
Though invariably about an apocalyptic purification by fire, I've always found "Feast of Blaze" to be an uplifting, inspirational track, sort've like a more eloquent take on Black Flag's "Rise Above". It's a striking statement of aspiration, determination and self-reliance. Play it with the volume it so justly deserves.
Those of you regular readers with a keen eye for detail may have noticed a rather frenetic fluctuation in design here. On the same evening that I learned about the death of Paul Raven, I fielded a short note from illustrator Matteo Pericoli (his is the illustration of Manhattan you see on the banner above), politely informing me that it sure would have been nice if I'd asked him first before appropriating his work for my own purposes. Feeling like a first class heel, I apologized profusely to Mr. Pericoli and immediately dismantled the banner, reverting back to this weblog's previous design.
As it happens, Mr. Pericoli is a very understanding man, and generously gave me permission to continue using his artwork. As such, I've since restored the banner and previous design template. I'd like to thank the artist one more time.
I too was the victim of an unsanctioned appropriation many years ago (albeit of a much less accomplished fashion). As a junior in college, I was rather routinely in the habit of drawing a particular design on just about any hard, clean, flat surface I could find. I didn't consider it a calling card or anything, but I thought it was distinctive and was fairly pleased with it at the time. In any event, as I was walking across campus one morning, I saw that same design of mine gracing six or seven t-shirts. It turned out, my roommate -- a member of a quasi-secretive off-campus fraternity whose initials I honestly don't remember -- decided to use my drawing as a t-shirt design to showcase the manly merits of said fraternity (figuring, I suppose, that I'd either never actually see it or wouldn't care). Well, Denison University wasn't an especially large school, so I started spotting them almost immediately. Later that day, I went from being incredulous to being livid, and vehemently read my roommate the riot act for his audacity. It should be noted that my roommate, Todd, was a football player, so he probably wasn't especially intimidated by my vein-popping display of outrage, but he did at least feel sorry for it. I didn't mind so much that he'd used it -- hell, I was flattered, if anything. I just would have preferred that he'd asked me first.
In any case, in the wake of that experience, you'd have thought I'd have been a bit wiser and more sensitive. Always ask first, kids. And don't forget to check out Mr. Pericoli's website.
I've yet to see any "official" confirmation, but the sources reporting this news are all very credible. It seems Paul Raven, bassist of Killing Joke, Prong, Ministry and, most recently, Mob Research (among a myriad other projects) passed away this morning quite suddenly. I'm only getting bits of information now.
I consider myself extraordinarily lucky to have met and befriended Paul back in 2000, and we'd stayed in touch ever since. I saw him last year when he cruised through town with Ministry, and he's always been an unfailingly generous and warm soul. I am deeply shocked, if not entirely incredulous, let alone profoundly saddened by this news.
Paul was a big hearted man who will be sorely missed.
As the good folks at Rugby on 12th Street and University Place obviously understand, women (or, in this instance, hot manequin babes) look way better in Kiss make-up than Kiss do. Especially these days.