Wednesday, January 21, 2015
This release brings back those heavy elements from days gone by and shapes them into an even more jagged narrative. Instrumental and bleak in its contour, the heavy amplification slithers its way between symphonic harmony and pulverizing dissonance. Within the suffocating haze, the guitars and bass melt with Sabbath-like precision. The reckless rhythms puncture and wince, allowing just enough breathing room to keep the rock pulsating. The recorded sounds defy gravity and genre with their noisy rewordings of jazz, punk, reggae, and stoner rock.
Originally formed in 1982, the St. Louis, Missouri based band made its debut on SST records in 1987. Legendary producer Bill Laswell lends his vision to their latest maniacal outing. Laswell's unique engineering allows the recording to slam and worm with a warm, nuanced buzz. The pacing is erratic but deploys epic fragments of linear song structure to connect the violent vibrations. The tracks “Earthmover” and “Wheels of Progress” highlight the diabolical capabilities of these reckless noise mongers. “Fub” and “Strung” sneak in some cool Dub and Freeform Space Rock that enable this collection to flow as a movement, instead of “just a bunch of new tunes” the band threw together. From the horrific indie sophistication of “Twenty Four Hour Dawn” to the breezy poison of closing track “Shutdown”, the compositions flow steadily in all of their freaked-out glory. Post-modern weirdness that stays heady and heavy without forgetting about the listener.
Fear and Loathing in Long Beach
Wednesday, January 14, 2015
A non-comprising cocktail of early synth-punk combined with echoes of Jim Morrison’s final days fuel the mechanical crackle of melody within this collection. Unlike other bands that lose focus in this genre, Terminal A has a precise predilection for vocal harmony and tumultuous prose. The voice of Colin Peterson is a standout in its cool delivery of choice notes combined with impulsive anger. Lee Busch pulverizes the machine-laden atmosphere with over distorted industrial guitar slamming. An undertow of Throbbing Gristle and Kraftwerk residue provides a fertile killing ground for this two-man insanity machine.
“Oedipus Kiss” and “Tonight We’ll Be Gone” highlight the band’s talent in creating nightmares, ones that you don’t want to wake up from. “Satellite” and “Queen Mab” have an infectious rock that requires return visitations. These two tracks really get under your skin and do the required damage, providing memorable hooks and haunting chord progressions not usually heard in this realm. The EP ends with a live track that captures the cantankerous essence of this unique art damaged duo. Before you to decide to kill yourself this year, give this a listen and decide how many people you want to drag down with you. Happy trails…
FEAR AND LOATHING LB
Saturday, December 13, 2014
December is turning into an annoyingly introspective month. Maybe I've overdosed on too many tomorrows and sometimes fortunate twists of fate. I always look back and analyze the people who have impacted me and maybe how I've impacted them. I always wish things could've turned out differently, but life has a way of blindsiding you with impulsive faith in uncertainties. It feels like I had this weird opportunity to live an entire decade in just one year. The year of 2014, one that will stay with me for quite some time.
It didn't make me better. It didn't make me worse. On the musical front, I'm pretty unimpressed with most modern offerings. Either way, I'm looking forward to 2015. A time to push boundaries even further. The invisible fence hasn't stopped my curiosity or movements yet.
I used to have a dream where I would magically appear in an old friend's basement. He would say to me "Why aren't you in Long Beach man? What are you doing here? No need to worry though...I've got gallons upon gallons of Vodka. Drink up! Drink all you want but you know it's never enough." He was right, it's never enough... Here's to the upcoming year.
Friday, October 24, 2014
There was a time when public radio was nonchalant and freeform in its transmissions of new music. I’m not referring to the coffee shop fodder or indie/folk vagaries of current NPR. Kids were coming out of college with communication degrees, filled with THC and PBR memories, ready with an armful of 7”s to unleash upon an unsuspecting public. On a warm fall afternoon in the midst of this toxic uprising, I was driving around in a not so trustworthy Honda Accord that maybe had a lot of hazy fog in it and a confused destination. The cassette tape player sometimes worked and the FM radio picked up random stations every few miles depending on where I was driving.
By chance, it was a small town I was passing through (that had a nuclear power plant) and a strange station number became audible. A bizarre noise blasted out with extreme turbulence and scattered melodies. A sound baked in thrift store distortion and alleyway “behind the bar” fluency. This was my first introduction to Gaunt. Unfortunately, the song was already halfway into its duration. I had never heard a lo-fi production on FM radio at that point in my life, let alone a frantic mess that I needed to hear more of as soon as possible.
I used to get these cool compilation tapes from friends and I soon received one with the “Jim Motherfucker” single included. This particular 7” had come out on Anyway Records from Columbus, Ohio. I was intrigued by Gaunt, what a strange name for a band. The single was originally released in 1992 and I didn’t hear the radio broadcast until about 1994. “Jim Motherfucker” had this crazy speed drone and moody vocal dipped in minor key Buzzcocks polish. The boiling B-side “Spine” puts any Epitaph band to shame, to this day. Primal, offhand, and overdriven with crackling terminal indifference, this is “fuck art” sonic sculpture at its creative premium.
When I hear people talk “old school” nowadays and bands like Operation Ivy and Anti-Flag come up, I get quite irritated. Those bands didn’t rock my world or get me to register to vote. Gaunt embodied the slacker lifestyle and attitude. A stubborn fusion of reckless early Replacements, second-hand store stilo, and Stooges filth, this band would become a permanent fixture in my music collection. I could relate to it and the lifestyle. An academic rationalization of low-cost rent, economical beer, thrift store shopping (not the overpriced retro/vintage rip offs of today), and revolving door relationships.
During that decade, exclusiveness in relationships was blasé and you could have a different job every month if you wanted to. The temp agency boom was a goldmine for basement bands in the Mid-Atlantic and Mid-West regions. There was never a shortage of work and pay was actually higher than it is now. Gaunt personified the glory in underachieving and keeping the expectations of others at a minimum. From what I gather, kids stay at home until 30 nowadays and don’t have the pleasure of inheriting chronic low-esteem from the “greatest generation”. The beauty of “booking your own fucking life” (a band guy’s hitchhiking manual that sub culture used for navigation in those times) and couch surfing your way across different cities isn’t much of a reality anymore.
A new world of government babysitting, obnoxious obesity, and doing things for the “greater good” has risen. The thing that made “slacking” and basement-band bombing so different, was that it forced you to create your own identity and amoral values. So many of the great 7” labels of that era only released 5 or 6 singles but man, they sold quick and you would immediately invite all of your friends over to your sub-par apartment to spin them, talk until eternity, and plot to destroy preconceived assumptions about what you should grow up to be. This is the essence of Gaunt and why I chose to write about a single from 1992 in 2014.
If you have an uncontrollable urge to do something for the “greater good” consider the following: boldly follow your dreams until you’re bleeding, make a spectacle of yourself, orchestrate-execute the loudest racket possible, and stop reading self-help books. With those actions and violent movements, permanence takes place. The kind that schemes, swindles its way through the decades, and ensures cantankerous beauty will never take its last breath.
FEAR AND LOATHING LB OFFICIAL
Monday, October 13, 2014
(FNL) Were the Muffs ever officially broken up?
(Kim) No, we were never broken up. Actually, in 2000 when after we did a bunch of stuff, we went on the Warped tour but we had temporarily quit because Roy needed to make real money and have a real job. He was tired of it being it really hit or miss. So I did some online thing and said “People, Roy quit, tell him how much he means to you”. I got a gazillion emails and forwarded them all to him. He called me up crying and eventually came back to the band, so now he has both job and band. After that, we did the 2004 record and toured that for maybe 2 months. In 2005 we had finished the support for that album. In 2005-2006, we were just playing random shows and were doing a few new songs, felt off, and were thinking, what’s the point? We were really depressed about it, so we took a really long break where I went back to school for photography.
When did you start playing guitar and form your first band?
When I was in college, I had never played guitar ever. I played piano and a little bit of violin very badly. I grew up in a musical family and when I got to 18, I fell in love with the guitar, but it didn’t fall in love with me. I sucked, I was terrible. I took one lesson and learned two chords, open chords. After that, I just picked people’s brains and I figured it out for myself. When I was 19, me and a couple of people from college tried to start a band but we never played out. We played in the garage; we were literally a garage band.
We could never finish songs; we would start a song but could never get it done. We wrote songs but they were terrible, we didn’t know how to end a song. I am notoriously bad at ending songs. I like it to end on a major chord but if you do it too much it sounds the same. Like the Go-Go’s at the end of “Our Lips are Sealed”. I like that kind of ending... In our first lineup of the Muffs, our drummer Chris Crass, always wanted to end every song with some drum thing. I hate doing the “hard ending”, it’s so pretentious.
Back in 89-90 I was still in the Pandoras and starting to get better at writing songs. My first songs I didn’t think were good. With the Muffs, “New Love” was our first single and might’ve been our first song actually. Everyone said it sounded just like the Sex Pistols… I was actually listening to them the other day at the gym and thought “Anarchy in the U.K” is amazing! This is a really good one to walk to!
When I had my first place, tracks like “Funny Face” and “Lucky Guy” were permanent fixtures on my stereo. What is the story behind those classic songs?
Funny Face is so hard for me to sing that we’ve never done it live. It’s so high up. We try to do it every once in a while at practice and the guys say “you’re gonna wreck your voice”. I sound like I’m trying to take a shit when I do it (laughs).
What about "Lucky Guy"? I always loved the chord progression and lyrics, who is it about?
That song is about Ronnie because we went ou together for a little while and he is absolutely frustrating to go out with. He’s the most frustrating guy to date ever. We’re awesome friends but to go out with him is just no way, no way. At the time it was very tempestuous, and he was pissing me off constantly, I guess I was pissing him off too. I was writing songs a lot to just get things off my chest and so of course, they all started coming out about Ronnie. That whole first album, that song “Saying Goodbye” is all about Ronnie. I presented it to the band as “Saying Goodbye to Phil” and that it was a fictional account about Phil Spector.
Lucky Guy is basically about the fact that even though Ronnie never tries, has no ambition, he falls into good situations. He just falls into it, like random and I’m jealous, honestly. Like he doesn’t have to lift a finger to do anything. Anyways, this is what I thought at the time, this is what the song is about.
There’s this guy who’s totally useless but gets into great situations and does well with it. Lucky…he’s lucky… It’s a little sarcastic because I’m like fuck that, you’re lucky, and I have all of this hard work on my end. There are a lot of nasty, nasty lyrics on that first album when you think about it (laughs).
What’s your approach to writing in general?
I narrow a lot of feelings through writing songs so that’s like my therapy. When I write a song, I don’t think of what it’s going to be about. It’s automatic writing almost and then later after I’m done with the song and it sits for a while, I go through whatever emotions. I realize that the song is about what I was just going through and I had no idea I was writing about it. Usually there’s one verse that’s a little more me thinking about it. So it’s always the dumb verse that I hate, this awkward verse. My subconscious writes better songs than I do. Blonder and Blonder is a lot more about the things I was going through with Melanie. We split, we also had a tempestuous breakup. We broke up as friends but we’re buddies again. So a lot of that record is about that time.
Looking back, when the band gained immediate attention with the first 2 records, what are your thoughts on the 90s?
The 90s were cool. I have really good memories of the 90s but I was really immature about a lot of stuff. Now that I’m older I look back and I’m like whoa, what was I doing? I was like a pirate; I was like an animal almost. Just my reactions to things were so big and grandiose. I got stuff done. I don’t think I dealt well with authority. Now I’m just fine with everything. I’m easy going. I still get stuff done but now I can be relaxed.
Do you prefer that time period to the times we’re in now?
No, I wouldn’t say it prefer it. I see it as being a really cool time but there are other cool times too. I’m really excited about right now. This is a more exciting time than back then, we used to always be at the mercy of someone else to put out records. We couldn’t do a lot ourselves and now we do everything ourselves. I used think that I knew everything and know I admit that I don’t. I’m more relaxed but there’s still a lot to do.
What current trends bother you?
Every trend does. Like the terrible melodies everyone has that all sound the same. Like bad hip-hop and robot voiced music. What the hell is that about? It’s so terrible to listen to. I don’t even think it’s real.
Like the auto-tune effect?
It’s not even auto-tune’s fault, it’s the people that control auto-tune. I won’t use auto-tune, when I do vocals I do a ton of takes. I go through the mind numbing task of picking through them. I’m like the Marilyn Monroe of doing a million takes. Roy is the Frank Sinatra of takes. He only wants to do it twice. Recording with Roy is awesome because he is amazing and improvises.
So, what went down with the Pixies and what is the deal with their “mystique”?
They do have mystique, artificial mystique maybe but whatever. How it started? Randomly they asked me to play a couple of songs with them at a benefit because Kim Deal couldn’t do it. So they were getting together a bunch of bass players to play with them at this benefit. This was back in 2009. I lost track with them and then, seriously, out of the clear blue sky, Charles “Black Francis” got a hold of me through social media. Twitter messaged me and Facebook messaged me. He asked if I wanted to hear some music and I said yeah, as long as you’ve written it because I didn’t want to hear some random person that he thought he was cool. And then after a while he finally blurted out “Would you ever be interested in being the bass player for the Pixies?”. I was shocked because up until then all he wanted me to do was listen to some music.
I thought someone must be playing a joke on me because I had met Kim Deal briefly and we talked a bunch and when she found out I was in the Muffs she stopped talking to me. This happened right before I first heard from Charles so I thought is Kim Deal playing a prank on me?
Because if she is, she should be applauded. But then Charles asked if he could call me and he did and I asked, what is the deal with the Pixies?
Kim Deal had left during their recording session in Wales. I had to audition in LA and learned all of the songs but the other guys didn’t like me that much which is fine with me, fuck them (laughs).
After I had played with them, the final words from their manager was that I get my passport renewed for the next tour. I just wish they would've told me I was getting fired before I left. I wouldn’t have wrecked their shows and they have amazing fans. Those guys… they are who they are.
Did you want to stay with the Muffs sound on the new record or were you considering something different musically?
No. Stylistically it’s still very similar. I only like what I like. I’m not ambitious in one of those creepy ways where I think I should change my music every time. I don’t like to trend follow. I live under a rock when it comes to trends.
I pretty much think that everyone has terrible taste but me. I know there are a few with good taste and I have to search them out. It’s almost ill to think like that but at the same time I look at people’s taste and I’m like- I don’t get it, I don’t get it, I don’t get it.
I think the same, and always think that there must be something wrong with me.
No…no, it’s the other way around (laughs)! It’s them. Everyone has their own tastes and that’s the way it is. Some people are fed and they just like what they’re fed. I dislike what I’m fed usually. So I’m constantly trying to find what truly really moves me, and not a lot does. But some things do and when they do, my head just explodes, I like it that much more. It’s rare, it’s a rare gem.
FEAR AND LOATHING LB OFFICIAL SITE
THE MUFFS FACEBOOK
Tuesday, October 7, 2014
In my experience and travels, smaller and relatively unknown cities produce the best punk hardcore thrash bands. When you’re not in an overpopulated city singing about scenes and paying excessive amounts for practice pads, you’re left to really write about your surroundings. Whether you’re pissed off, bored, or wasted, it gets a lot more real. Angst without a pose and screaming volumes minus “noise-permits” sharply come to life in all of their brutal candidness. Such is this case with Scatterbox’s brand new full length “Ritual”.
This thing rips from beginning to end, no apologies and no breaks on the tempo speed. This radioactive thrash blast comes courtesy of the Washington/Idaho border and sounds like a mutated update of Gang Green, Toxic Reasons, and classic Suicidal. A pounding and frenetic rhythm section highlights the Crash-esque vocals of singer Tom White. The punchy production shows off the sinister chops of drummer Scott Rozell and bassist Ryan White. From the opening car bomb of “Mining for Mold” and the blood soaked roar of “Fear, Profit, and Puppetry”, you know that you are never coming off this trip alive.
The band has some moodier moments with the burning “Something’s Gotta Give” and deathly delivers with the hard-hitting anthems “Born To Rule The World” and “Dance”. Hyperactive skate thrash with just enough melody to provide the perfect chaser for these high-octane double shots. The guitar interplay of Justin Smith and Mark Cogburn lays on the riffs heavy and catchy, bringing to mind the six string wizardry of NOFX on their classic “Ribbed” album. The vitriol of small town America screams loud and clear on this uncompromising effort of safety-pinned sophistication.
FEAR LOATHING LB OFFICIAL
Wednesday, October 1, 2014
I love your latest record Kingdom Technology. In my opinion, it’s a primal
garage scream of electronica, erotica, and neurotic impulse. What impact
did you seek with the compositions and accompanying album artwork?
Our friends Chris Nelms and Jason Matherly did the artwork, and aside from
thinking they’re wildly talented we’re big fans of each other’s work so it
seemed natural to ask them to do the cover. We don’t necessarily make
music to have an impact—if anything, we have an impact because we make
music. But if we could control the results of our intended impact, we’d
all have swimming pools shaped like palm trees.
You have referred to pop/rock as a “played-out corpse” with Jack White
being the best example of a derivative formula based musician. Do you
feel that the inclusion of ear pleasing melody and harmonizing throughout
your own compositions resembles pop/rock in anyway?
We think our compositions resemble pop/rock in every way. But you know,
all our pop friends think we’re hopeless weirdos, and all our avant-garde
friends think we’re rock stars. Which is probably the best place to be.
You have addressed modern music as “over privileged boys and girls
looking to manufacture an identity…” I personally think there are many
unaddressed personality disorders clogging the creative air of unique
artists and musicians. Why do music listeners pay so much attention and
money to generic retreads of the past?
Because they’re generic retreads of the present? More likely they’re just
responding to a conservative music press/music industry. With so much
music being made these days, it requires a lot of determination to sift
through it on your own, and as a result people are dependent on
websites/critics/etc. to recommend stuff to them. If that stuff is
backwards-looking and easily digestible, it’s more the fault of the music
press/industry than the music listener.
What is the typical reaction to Tunabunny that you encounter the most?
Confusion and/or adulation. Also, an increase in the use of thesauruses.
Do you think music in general should always be undefinable or
unpredictable? Does it benefit the band or the listener more?
We don’t think there’s that much of a split between band & listener. We
were (and are) music fans before we were musicians. And as listeners,
yeah, we tend to get excited by music that sounds different than what
we’re used to (recent examples of this would be Bastards of Fate, Blanche
Blanche Blanche, and Micachu) than something that sounds like, say, The
Stone Roses (though we all unabashedly love their 1st album). But should
it always be undefinable or unpredictable? Not if you want a bigger
swimming pool, apparently. But it’s good to keep in mind that owning a
swimming pool increases your risk of skin cancer.
How did dumpster diving through the kingdom’s technology (recording equipment) affect the way the songs evolved or devolved throughout the recording process?
During recording we’d hear the songs played back and marvel at how pro
they sounded (like The Go-Go’s or something), but a lot of critics have
written about the $3000 piece of equipment as if that means we recorded it with lower quality equipment, which may say a lot more about the class
background of your average music writer or expectations surrounding the
cost of making music/recording than it does about our album. Having said
all that, we enjoyed going back and trying to warp the resulting clean
recordings, more so than those that were recorded with a $25 microphone on
reel-to-reel (which is already kind of distorted/phased by its very
nature). So yeah, we had a lot of fun with our new toy. And as we’ve
already started working on the next record (a double album scheduled for
summer/fall 2015), we’re having even more fun with it.
In your individual experiences growing up, did Top 40 music have a
bigger impact than avant-garde or underground music?
Of course it did. Our parents didn’t play Stockhausen around the house.
Having said that, top 40 was/is great training for the ears to respond to
avant-garde music. This idea doesn’t originate with us, but the line
between Missy Elliott and Steve Reich—or Britney Spears and Pere Ubu—is a
thin one, and is easily traversed. I think our listening habits tend to
ping-pong back and forth between melody and dissonance and that’s
reflected in our music.
If you had to cover an entire album of either the Carpenters or ABBA,
which one would you pick and why?
Carpenter is the queen of suburban soul, the Nina Simone of the overclass,
but Abba would be more fun because they’ve got more better songs and they
know how to bring the hooks.
Do you think that the current American climate of low paying jobs,
unemployment, and overreliance on technology is a blessing or curse for
the modern artist?
Anytime people can’t afford to make a living that’s bad, and we would
trade any artistic benefits from the current gilded age we live in if it
meant the average US worker could get paid a living wage. But politics
aside, you would think that this newfound access to vast catalogs of
music, whole entire genres that would’ve set you back hundreds and
hundreds of dollars 15 years ago, would have resulted in music that was
super-eclectic, bravely transversing boundaries and blowing people's minds. In a commercial sense, that hasn’t been the case (this is as true
of the underground as much of the mainstream), and that’s probably because of the financial hemorrhaging the music business is going through.
A mood of barely concealed fear runs through the music industry, and when people
are afraid they tend to play it safe, and that’s probably most music you
hear is the sound of someone hedging their bets, and most music writing is
the sound of someone interlocking their fingers in prayer. Which is a damn
shame because there’s lots of cool, passionate interesting music out there
being made. You just have to dig a little bit harder to find it.
Guess that’s it. Thanks for the interesting questions, Kevin. Keep fighting the good fight.
FEAR LOATHING LB OFFICIAL SITE (more interviews and reviews)