“We were absolved of a life of mediocrity because we couldn’t play,” says Iggy Pop about 16 minutes into this interview with Thurston Moore. Crucial memories of the Psychadelic Stooges in this video include oil drum percussion strategies, vacuum cleaner/ air compressor wind synthesis, water jug gongs, and a great discussion of repurposing a bummer of an amp that Iggy bought by knocking it over and enjoying the clang of the reverb.
Category Archives: rock and roll
How to make noise: stooges
Filed under art, do-it-yourself, music, punk, rock and roll, synthesizers, technology
Into Another are a New York City based post-hardcore band. I’ve seen them perform at least a dozen times and consider the band to be a light-year progression in American music. Here is why.
The NYC hardcore years and east coast hardcore were really fertile times. There was something proud about this organized movement of young musicians that were embodying a disruption to the musical genres that had previously constrained it. Hardcore was faster than punk at times, but could slow down to metallic chug-chug levels of thrash. Hardcore musicians were represented as bald, young and passionately creative. The politics were DIY, politically aware, working-class priced and relentelessly political. Youth of Today, Minor Threat, Bold and a couple hundred tiny bands that popped up inspired by this moment.
I came of age at the right time. I was blessed to be surrounded by music at all times and have a forgiving mom that didn’t mind me playing music and discovering my own music. I could play the Dead Kennedy’s in my room and the only boundary was the request that my Butthole Surfers sticker stay on my side of my bedroom door. The foundations had been laid by the time I discovered 7-Seconds at age 14 – there was a whole world of people my age who were making music and getting things done. Honestly, the DIY awareness that you could just do things and figure it out through force of will was a lesson that stuck with me to this day.
As fast as the new hardcore movement was opening up a chance for kids to find their voices and for people to get organized and make a difference, there were also threads that were discouraging. Sexism (particularly the exclusionary assumption that all of the music was written for, created by and performed to boys only), racism and white supremacy and some purity/hipster problems also plagued the hardcore movements. Straightedge, Krishna-influence and animal liberation were also early ideas that came along with the great music I was discovering. There was very limited internet in these days, conduits of knowledge are actually limited (you could miss stuff) – you had to mail order a punk rock band’s dubbed cassette from the back of Maximum RocknRoll.
Everything moved very fast. While I was in high school Minor Threat ceased to exist and Fugazi came to be. Youth of Today ended, and Judge, Underdog and eventually Shelter emerged. You could discover a band and they would break up and you’d never know until you saw an interview or the new project. Knowledge of music became really important. I started to seek out every record that certain labels released (notably Dischord and Revelation). Being broke didn’t deter my musical fiending. I worked part time jobs, borrowed money, traded, sold and got patient in hunting out music.
Into Another were on my radar screen before I saw them live. Any of the players who touched Youth of Today were absolute gold standard. My first year in college at UVM I had worked hard to get the privilege to DJ in the middle of the night on WRUV the independent college radio station. I beat out several other folks because I was focused on playing punk and hardcore music.
Sidenote: when you have to fill two hours of radio time, songs that are 30 seconds long are a disaster. My first night DJing on the radio I had a complete breakdown after playing every 45 I owned and becoming paralyzed on air with nothing to play after 24 minutes. My debate partner Lisa came down to the radio station and helped me out. My arrogance had been the assumption that I would just play what I already knew about – the wonders of a literal library of music (there was a whole room of jazz records lovingly curated by a crew of people at WRUV). I got my head around the radio station as an extension of my knowledge network (skimming the new releases, coming in and previewing new records in the production booth or just taking freestyle risks on air and playing something that looks cool – these were great joys I was just discovering).
I can see the first Revelation Into Another CD at WRUV. The front cover with the 11-pointed star has the white sticker that is covered with comments. The date scrawled in the corner and the review noting that members of Youth of Today and Bold are in the band. Then someone wrote that the record sucked and was pseudo-metal. Another defender wrote that the record was genius in terrible scrawl. The arguments on the CD label between radio station DJs was so heated that the plastic CD cover was cracked down the middle.
I played Into Another blind that night and I wasn’t that impressed. I was going to defend it because it was kind of good, but it wasn’t what I was expecting or used to from the genre. I had not yet understood just how pleasureable that was going to be. I remember thinking that I’d tape a copy of the radio station CD, but that the record didn’t warrent buying my own copy of the tape (I didn’t own a CD player until I was a sophomore in college).
That dubbed Into Another cassette travelled with me everywhere and grew on me. In the back of debate vans while everyone was sleeping I would listen to “Robot Whales” or “For Lack of a Better World” and think about the complexity of the world to a soundtrack that seemed one dimensional, but was starting to get tinged with reggae, jazz, blues, hip hop, metal and international music.
When I was a sophomore I made a cassette tape with Into Another‘s “Powered” and a couple of Underdog‘s “A lot to learn” at the front. I would get ridiculously over-amped for debate rounds listening to these songs in the hallway outside the rounds. When we won the Marist tournament, my debate partner Scud listened to one headphone of both songs before we won the final round.
Even when you knew that Underdog had the metal energy to get you adrenalized, there was a kind of humanity and complexity in the music. Underdog‘s lyrics were about loyalty, friendship, solidarity and sacrifice. But honstly, I had vague ideas of what Into Another were singing about most of the time. Not to mention the musicians were edging past the hardcore comfort zone with reggae and metal, consider Underdog‘s “Without Fear” a staple of my life in the 1990s.
When Into Another was coming to town to play at 242 Main Street, a few of us gathered together to see the band. I was sort of taken aback at how friendly they were. The first band member I met was Tony – a jolly friendly long hair who was sitting on the stoop of 242. We introduced ourselves, assuming he was a local that we didn’t know and we talked about the band for a while. We were really excited to meet some musical heroes and Tony was just as excited to meet fans who knew about his band.
Tony took us around back to meet Peter, Richie and Drew. Richie was really friendly and quick to talk about veganism, philosophy, and had a funny story about everybody. Drew looked like a rock star and was quiet – it wasn’t until he hit the stage that he really turned on. Richie committed to an interview for my little zine at the time and then the show started. I don’t remember who played with Into Another that night, but I don’t think it would matter.
The crowd at 242 became life-long Into Another fans that night. The band was an organic whole performing world-shifting rock and roll for a crowd of 25 people. Richie was funny and personable between songs and then would transition into serious singing (that was one of the knocks on Into Another for decades – was that the lead singer sang). But live, it was the crystalization of a humungous juggernaut machine behind that capable lead singer. Peter Moses brought this exceptional guitar tone and restraint. He plays a lot of stop-start polyrhythms on guitar, but also a lot of viscious metal riffs. Drew’s drumming is snare and tom-forward and complex. Perhaps one of the best martial breakdown drummers ever to play, he and Peter worked in concert to bludgeon audiences. Tony was the artist, grooving along with bass lines and fills that just worked to keep your head nodding. The ensemble could not be beat, and you had the sense that this band was at a higher level.
And they were the opposite of assholes. After the show, every person got a conversation and the sincere sense that they were leaving with new friends who happened to be the best band you’ve ever seen.
The next time the band was in town, the crowd was in the hundreds and the talent was next level. They played several tunes from the Creepy Eepy and destroyed the club. Despite being legit hardcore champions that night they found themselves crashing in our dorm rooms and eating pasta and broccoli I cooked in the communal kitchen with Richie and Drew helping. Tony crashed with my friend Rhymestyle Bob who made a life-long friend over vodka, Russian literature and metal guitar riffs. There was a kind of weird juxtaposition that this band looked, sounded and seemed like stars, but you had the sense that they were earnest DIY folks who crashed with grandmothers and college kids across the nation to make this band happen.
Bonding over veganism and hardcore, a lot of the conversations with Richie influenced my eventual Ph.D. dissertation about punk rock music and animal liberation. But you got conversations with Richie that happened while I was cooking green beans or while trying to get a tape recorder to work for an interview on the back of a loading dock. Richie is a solid intellectual who has forgrounded ethics – he also is just a funny dude who didn’t talk down to people.
There isn’t a great ending arc to this essay. Into Another struggled and despite releasing consistently top notch art and rocking shows world wide, they broke up after label difficulities. Beloved bass player Tony Bono died in the early 2000s and the world’s capacity for rocking shifted back a few notches. They have played a few reunion shows this decade and sound excellent albeit the absence of Tony.
If there was one thread that was consistent with Into Another was complexity. The band’s lyrics were complex, the music was complicated and the band was not a transparent youth-crew handcore legacy project. The band extended the ideas present and made something really quite new – the fact that people didn’t have the ears to appreciate what was recorded doesn’t diminish was was contributed. The band offer up a catalog of rocking riff-laden monsters, mental-health lamentation ballads, psych-rock trip-a-thons, tributes to lost friends, and daydreams of apocalyptic surveillance and control.
It is worth supporting the band with a bandcamp purchase – I recommend the whole catalog, but don’t sleep on the relatively recent “Omens” album.
We need spirit of fertile creativity embodied by Into Another now more than any time. The kind of oppressive bland culture which created the youth-crew positivity would be welcome right now. But so would the dissidents – the kids who can see something more and are willing to risk the mockery of their peers to make great art.
Filed under art, capitalism, communication, do-it-yourself, food, kindness, memorial, music, punk, rock and roll, sexism, vegetarian, vulnerability
Electric Wizard early recording footage
. . . the wizard . . .
Filed under communication, do-it-yourself, documentary, drugs, forbidden fruit, music, rock and roll
Nostalgic Rock N’ Roll: the Hellacopters
I associate the Hellacopters with Pittsburgh. It was the second year that I lived there when a friendly record store clerk and they suggested “Grande Rock,” the third Hellacopters LP after noting my purchasing patterns.
At the time I was heavily into hardcore and punk and had a fairly purist view of DIY ethics (necessary) and corporate record labels (evil). But I will acknowledge a healthy love of classic rock. Part of the reason that I started collecting vinyl LPs was to buy second-hand records and bypass the guilt associated with supporting a multinational death company that might have purchased the soul of some poor talented musician.
It wasn’t uncommon for me to buy an brand new copy of the New Bomb Turks CD and also a thrashed J Geils band LP on Atlantic from the dollar used bin. Which honestly is a pretty good description of the Hellacopters.
Guitars. My memory of the first listen was dominated by the guitars. Slashing, thrashing and almost indulgent levels of guitars. And then that sort of goofy piano playing that becomes so necessary after many listens. Then you sync into just how good respectful 4/4 drumming done well is. And then it’s the guitars, catchy songs and genuine respect for rock n’ roll traditions.
Saw ’em live at least once, maybe twice during these years in Pittsburgh and they were fantastic. About everything you could imagine – with a performance at a pub being particularly memorable for the energy level and amount of beer poured on my head.
From the position of socially-distancing during Covid-19, you sort of wonder what forms music and rock n’ roll will embody in the future. I find myself nostalgic for the kind of energy and excitement of the crowd in the video above in Stockholm in 2018 when the band kicked into “Gotta get some action now” . . .
But the lived nature of a band like the Hellacopters is that they should be enjoyed. The band worked because they weren’t straightforward 70s rock clones, and they weren’t afraid to lay down a lick that was melodic and Zep-worthy. They just rocked and never really looked for justification or permission.
We can trust that the spirits of rock n’ roll can’t really be destroyed and will always re-emerge in some new presentation depending on the local circumstances.
Filed under punk, rock and roll
Prince 101: Let’s Work
[I’ve tried to load a live clip from Prince in the early 80s doing “let’s work” and I’m unable to make a digital connection. You’ll have to search for that tune yourself. I suggest the live eighties versions with Prince in a unitard. ]
“Let’s work” is an understatement from the enigmatic Prince. His output is stunning. I probably a dozen good Prince albums. Prince certainly worked.
You’ve got to work. You’ve got to work to be funky. You’ve got to work to be real. You have to work to be anything.
James Brown: “If you don’t work, you don’t eat.”
But this is the least indulgent song imaginable. This is emblematic of funk-a-teers going to work. Militarily precise in the application of snare and slap bass. Dance floor mandatory! With just enough swing to make sure you know it came from the land of 8 billion lakes or where ever Prince is from.
The real power of Prince is that if you are open and aware then you have to acknowledge his brilliance.
Also suggested is the Wax Poetics Alan Leeds article about tour managing Prince.
Filed under funk & soul, memorial, music, rock and roll
Janelle Monae & 500th post
This is the 500th post on life of refinement. I’m proud of the non-linear series of artifacts gathered here that point toward new understandings. I use this web site to archive interesting things. Meaningful things. This is a curation of the rambling series of artifacts and patterns of representation I find significant enough to be marked and analyzed in a free open public space. This is as close to learning as we’ll ever get.
Thanks to all who read the website.
I knew of Janelle Monae and appreciated her music but only had singles in my library. Inspired by a Wax Poetics write up, I bought a copy of “The Electric Lady” last night. With two full listens into the album (barely enough to comprehend what is going on) I’m sold.
This project is wonderful dance music and a really good concept album (or an extension of a concept album to multiple projects — Monae plays an alter ego pretty consistently). The record is an extended riff on technology, cyborg/human interactions, civil rights and living life with dual identities. Given that “The Electric Lady” could be a Phillip K. Dick novel, the smooth inviting production and musicianship is what carries the project.
This albums sounds VERY eighties to me. From the sonic structure and choices of beats/samples to the rock opera lyricism of the concepts. At points I was reminded of my nostalgic childhood filled with Styx, Heart, Bon Jovi and Run DMC. The strings sound eighties. The drums sound eighties. Even the vocal harmonies remind me of eighties hits. But the eighties were a point of technological jump off and the slight broadening of pop music.
I like the futuristic world that Monae is painting. And the willingness to build futuristic pop music out of the sonic blocks of the past. Astute Monae names tracks after inspiring pioneers: “Sally Ride” (astronaut) and “Dorothy Dandridge Eye’s” (first black woman to be nominated for an Academy Award).
In the context of the blog, I’ll quote the end of the “Dance Apocalyptic” when Janelle Monae says: “I really really want to thank you for dancing to the end.” Thanks for reading and dancing ’til the end.
Filed under art, communication, funk & soul, hip hop, human rights, music, representation, resistance, rock and roll, technology
Alice Cooper: Black juju live
How much fun would it be to see Alice Cooper in the day? Daaaaaamn. Stick around for Black Juju. It gives me some ideas for monday’s class on semiotics.
Thanks to Dangerous Minds for the suggestion.
Filed under music, rock and roll