Andrew W.K.: The Wolf Howls!

One of my more memorable interviews was with Andrew WK. Sometimes writers get those interviews that are like pulling teeth (Fefe Dobson, your interview was as bad as your music!) where subjects are so despondent that they can’t even handle talking about themselves, which is hilarious because most ‘artists’ love to talk about their accomplishments. Then there are those interviews that only come around once in a great while. The type that pretty much write their own story. The amount of material from these interviews is overwhelming but well worth documenting. Andrew blessed me with one of those interviews I’ve only been able to get from certain people like Gared O’Donnell from Planes, Chad Smith from RCHP and Ian Mackaye. Andrew’s ability to navigate communication mediums such as TV with Your Friend, Andrew WK, a sort of Dear Abbey for todays youth that aired briefly on MTV2, as well as music and spoken word engagements, give Andrew’s message plenty of avenues to be disseminated to all regions of the world. His positive outlook on life and his music are endless and inspiring, and his dedication to his fans is astounding.

In fact, the dedication his fans have to him is even more colossal. The first-ever “Andrew W.K. Fan Convention” was a sweeping success in the city of brotherly love (Philadelphia) and made Andrew realize how important his music is to the people who make it possible for him to continue.

“It is continuous for as long as it is going … and it will keep going always—while I’m alive, and it will keep going as long as you are alive, because that’s what this is made of. THIS IS MADE OF YOU AND ME AND EVERYONE ELSE WHO BELIEVES IN IT, AND EVERYONE ELSE TOO. And we can keep it going, and we can keep it moving and spreading,” says Andrew W.K., in reference to the music and community of which he has become an integral part.

Andrew was born in California and raised in Michigan. He began playing piano at 4 years old and hasn’t stopped since. By the age of 18, he was living in New York City, soaking up the sights and sounds of the Big Apple, writing and recording his own material and playing small venues and coffee houses up and down the Eastern seaboard. As with most artists, the arrival is second mostly to the journey—and how Andrew got to where he is today is best explained in his own words. An eloquent and well-spoken man of 25, Andrew took time out of his busy schedule to speak with about his origins and his strong belief in music education.

On Music Education
“From what I understand, the topic is something I’m very excited about and believe in. I was talking to my mom about this interview just five minutes ago. We were discussing this very problem and other problems that schools face with their funding and how school boards don’t have the means to get anywhere near the funds they would need to keep the schools in shape, let alone school music. And it’s because people don’t want to pay taxes. People’s priorities on what they should spend money on become very skewed, and at the end of the day, there is no money left to pay taxes to schools for arts programs.

“What’s even more frustrating is that the federal government won’t step in because it’s not important to them either, and what is important to them is never music or art, which, in my opinion, are the most important things. I don’t remember much of what I learned in junior high and elementary, in terms of the actual academics. At that age, it’s a chance for you to find out what you like about life. To not even have that chance to discover something like that is just terrible. I feel people should be ashamed of themselves for being so confused when it comes to funding for what it all can ultimately be good for. School is capable of so much, even if it is to introduce someone to music and have them say, ‘You know what, now I know I don’t ever want to play music.’ At least you’ve learned something.

“There are people out there—geniuses out there—virtuosos probably who never even knew they could create music. Like the great composer/pianist Charles Ives (a more modern composer), who is considered to be one of the greatest of all time. What’s interesting about this guy is, he had been a millionaire through his own means, just an incredibly successful man who had amassed this fortune. Then, in his 50s, he retired and got into music and ended up being this genius, and I don’t think he ever knew it. So think of all the young people who just don’t even know about music and never got into it or never sat down to play an instrument—it just kills me.

“To me, the pursuit of music, the pursuit of writing, the pursuit of painting, anything for the creative mind, is the best thing that humans have that sets them apart from animals. We can create things simply for the enjoyment of doing so, something that no other animal can do. I think it is our saving grace. It’s what keeps us sane. I cannot imagine a world where music doesn’t exist. I probably wouldn’t be able to exist. I talk about it with my friends all the time, that if we had a choice to go deaf or blind we would chose to go blind, simply because at this point we’ve seen enough to have a memory and a database in our brains that we could visualize and apply to any situation and visualize what we are not seeing. But to not hear those tones again or hear that chorus again or feel that drum beat, it would be devastating. I can’t imagine what that would be like. It’s really a fantastic thing to think about. It makes me very excited that I have been able to have had so much music in such a concentrated dose, and I hope it just continues exponentially.”

Those First Few Steps
“I started taking piano lessons right after my family moved to Michigan when I was 5 years old. I was born in California and lived there the first four years of my life; my dad was a professor at UCLA and got an offer from the University of Michigan. I never really asked them why they wanted to move, I think they were just tired of L.A. and wanted to set up a new life in a different climate in a different town with different sensibilities. Ann Arbor has a more Northeastern vibe, and it’s a fantastic place to grow up, in my opinion. Southeast Michigan is a great place to grow up and talk about music! I mean, this town is ridiculous. For the population that the town has, you’d never guess … Providence, Rhode Island, is the only other town I can think of that has a similar concentration of creativity going on. And I was so lucky to be around that. I feel pretty strongly that if I hadn’t grown up in Ann Arbor, I wouldn’t be where I am today or talking to you about music at all.

“So anyway, I took piano lessons at a program that was offered through the University of Michigan Music School, which is a great music school from what I understand. And my experience was fantastic. They had a program called the Pedagogy Program, which the very premise of it is fantastic. It wasn’t until recently that I understood what the program was and why it was so cool. The basic idea was that anyone can teach young people piano, but what they did was they had graduate students—they’re very advanced piano students who chose to pursue music education—[who] could in fact teach kids how to play piano while they were students themselves. There is probably no better way to learn something from someone who is actively involved in it for his or her own passion. The president of the program was an older woman named Mrs. Smith, who, as far as I know, wasn’t a student at that point, but she had the spirit of a young person an over-the-top character.”

There is a pause during this time because someone has rung Andrew’s doorbell. He says, “[This] is very unusual because I live in this bizarre, amazing place, which is more or less an apartment building, but I’m the only one that lives in it. There aren’t any walls in it. I live right in the heart of Manhattan, but at night, I’m pretty much the only one on the entire block. It’s a one-in-a-million find. I can make as much noise as I want.”

Andrew continues, “Anyway, [Mrs. Smith] was very unique. She was very exciting to me. She was kind of the grandmaster of the whole thing, and, for all I know, she was the one who came up with the program in the first place. She was definitely a strong supporter of the program and having people in their 20s passionately teaching piano to kids. There was nothing better or [more] thrilling than having a teacher sit down and play me the piece they were rehearsing for a recital or even going to see the teacher at the recital. I would go and get all dressed up, and it would have a tremendous effect on me. It would be a very intense event. One of the women who had the greatest impact on me was a Japanese-American woman named Tamoko, who was a strikingly beautiful and confident woman and probably had an impact on me as far as what I would think of as attractive. The other woman was a very tall, almost Annie Lennox-looking woman who had this exaggerated style of playing that was amazing to watch.

“For example, if you watch someone like Horowitz, he sort of just sits there looking at his hands like, ‘Oh, I can do this,’ and that is what makes him so fantastic is his ability to be removed from the whole emotion of it while playing. But this woman would lean real close to the keyboard, almost so that her nose was touching and then sway way back so that she was arched up towards the ceiling. I remember several lessons where she brought me to tears out of my own frustration and anger and feeling disgraced and discouraged, because they were intense lessons. It wasn’t just someone being like, ‘Oh, it’s okay Andrew.” She would say, ‘Andrew, why haven’t you done this? Why didn’t you practice this? You should have done this!’”

The Beginning of the ‘Feeling’
“It was my favorite thing and least favorite thing to do at the same time. The first time I remember ‘feeling’ music, Tamoko (after a few years of taking lessons) played some piece she had been working on, but I remember sitting and watching her and having complete physical sensations running through my body. These chills, these Goosebumps, this electricity and butterflies in the stomach, and I thought, ‘Wow, that’s cool,’ and I didn’t really know what to make of it at the time. But then it happened again when I saw her or someone else play or listened to music that was that emotional, and I said, ‘I think that feeling happens to me from listening to music; I think it happens when I hear music that I really like.’

“There were a couple of times where we took school trips to see orchestras play that I noticed I would get that feeling again. At that point, it was definitely more noticeable at live performances. I mean, I would have hints of that feeling from recorded music, but there was something about seeing people play, seeing their efforts and the emotion they put into playing—especially an orchestra, to see a group of people making a concentrated effort to make this music was amazing. It became very clear to me at that early age that this was something I wanted to do. It seemed very important, and, in fact, nothing else seemed as important as pursuing that feeling as much as possible and eventually trying to make something that would make other people feel the same way. To give you a physical reaction like that that is completely uncontrollable by something that isn’t based on a thought or idea. This is before I was ever listening to rock songs that were based on a thought or a lyric or songs with stories or [a song that] had a video to accompany it or had some visual stimuli—it was just tones, it was melody, on the most simple and pure terms, it was just music for the sake of music. With no message, no story and just the thought of, ‘Do you like the way this makes you feel?’ And the answer was, ‘Yes!’ And that’s all I needed from music.

“As the years went by, I would get into rock music and all different kinds of music. The lyrics and the meaning were just an added bonus, and it didn’t really matter to me what they were about or who they were coming from, as long as I liked the melody and the music itself. That has always been the priority of the music I make—not necessarily in a literal way, but quite often a literal way. To make songs about how great music is. In fact … I am always striving to make a song about how great the song that you’re listening to itself is. To sing words about the melody and how it makes you feel. I always write the music first and then try to find words.”

Writing Lyrics
“After writing and playing and recording a song for days and days, if not weeks or months, by the time I need to write words, I have so much inspiration simply due to the melody that I’ve played so much and fallen in love with, and I’ll just sing words about that or things that that melody makes me feel one way or another. Or a lyrical theme that would deserve to be in the presence of such a powerful melody and use it to amplify, picking a very powerful topic and use the two together to make it very powerful. That is when rock music is the most powerful, when you can have a lyric that is very strong on its own and a melody that is very strong on its own, and you put them together where they don’t fight against each other but join up as one to really drive the point home.”

Andrew is the very representation of the music fan that became a famous musician. It is a well-known fact that Andrew stays late after every show to sign every autograph of every person who waits for him. An interesting fact about Andrew is that after moving to New York at the age of 17, he traveled the city, wide-eyed and excited to be living on his own in a giant metropolis, finding inspiration in each thing he encountered and person he met.

At the age of 21, Andrew released his first EP, played several one-man shows (armed only with a CD player, keyboard and microphone) supporting the Foo Fighters and played the Belgian Arts festival. Upon returning to New York, Andrew formed his band that consists of five like-minded, positive individuals; Donald “D.T.” Sardy (drums), Jimmy Coup (guitar), Gregg R (bass), E Payne (guitar) and Sergeant Frank (guitar). That same year, Andrew signed to Island Records!

Though his most basic inspiration came from classical piano, he was a devout fan of metal, especially the band Obituary. Through the randomness and pure luck that has blessed Andrew over the past eight years, a friend of a friend had a contact with the drummer of Obituary. Taking a chance and a page from the book of positive thinking, Andrew sent drummer Donald “D.T.” Tardy of Obituary a letter and a demo with the intent of seeing if the metal mogul would be interested in joining Andrew. Lo and behold, two weeks later, D.T. called Andrew on the phone and said he’d be interested—and from there, the rest is pretty much history.

As always, Andrew’s drive and passion for music can be translated into the way he lives his life. He plans on taking some time to try and go back to school to study more piano.

“Recently I had the pleasure of meeting some music students from Boston’s Berklee School of Music, and it made me think about going back to school. But I’d have to get a private teacher to get my audition up to par. I’ve got a good grasp on the fundamentals, and playing live has helped me improve tremendously. I understand music more and more every day, and it keeps getting more exciting. I just think what I can learn if someone could tell me things and teach me new things. Hanging out with the students at Berklee was so exciting—they could answer every question, and they reveled with me in my enthusiasm for Bach and the way his music works. It’s as great as music gets, as great as any human accomplishments.”

If you have an opportunity to see Andrew W.K. live, please do so—it’s a non-stop party, and he always invites everyone to join in the fun while he’s on stage!

PT II; The Wolf Howls

The first time anyone steps on a stage it can be an exhilarating and altogether horrifying experience at one time. Though Andrew has done his time by touring the world and supporting two full-length records, I Get Wet (2002) and The Wolf (2003), the ease of stepping on a stage hasn’t always been a walk in the park. He still gets nervous before every show – even now.

The First Piano Recital
“We had a yearly recital. There were two big things I would dread every year with these piano lessons because I took them from the time I was 5 until I was fourteen. One was practicing every single day for hours and a group lesson twice a week and a private lesson twice a week. The private lessons would sometimes be at the music school or at the teachers houses. Its funny because most of these teachers lived at the student housing and most of these teachers would jam a piano into their tiny apartment. It was there whole focus, it is very beautiful to think about and I get emotional just thinking about it now.

“Like I said before I recently had the pleasure of meeting with some students from a music school (not a day goes by where I don’t think about going back to school for music) and what was interesting was that I never went to college and I graduated a year early from high school because I worked very hard to get out early so I could be done. After a year of sort of just doing various things in Michigan I moved to New York and visited NYU and I was also accepted into the Chicago Institute of Art but decided not to go there against some better judgement and against my parents better judgement – to not go to school and see what I could do on my own. What I was talking about with this student was how exciting he must be to be going to school there especially for piano and what he said was, ‘its funny that you say that because everything we are working for and learning – you know most of our goals are to do what you are already doing.’ So that was very interesting and I never thought of it that way. Its cool that we both want to do it all. Clearly we were both satisfied and felt very fortunate and lucky, very lucky to be doing what I am doing. I’ve been lucky to have opportunities. No one can make anything happen one way or the other really, I mean I guess it does happen, but that’s not what has happened here, ultimately I’ve been incredibly lucky and have found my way into amazing opportunities and have been afforded the chance to prove myself.

Trying is Succeeding
“Some people will go their entire lives without ever having a chance to prove themselves. Like if they have a dead end job or if they have a life that doesn’t allow them an opportunity or if they don’t have a chance to grow or change or a chance to express themselves or show themselves or let alone the rest of the world that they’re capable of great things or are capable of trying at least. [Not sure how to word the previous, kind of stream of consciousness-y]That’s all I want to do is try. Succeeding is trying. I feel so blessed (in the most basic universal sense of the word) to have opportunities given to me where someone says, ‘okay Andrew you want to do this, try it,’ and not only did I try it but I said, ‘not only am I going to do the best job I possibly can, but I’m going to do it in honor of all those people who don’t get the chance, in honor of all those people who have worked at this ten times longer than I’ve even been alive (well twice as long). To say watch what I can do. And it goes beyond music, ‘To really have a chance to live while you are alive,’ as Bon Jovi and Max Martin wrote in that song “Its My Life.” So I feel I still have enough time to go back to school and do all those things I really want to do.”

The Two Things Most Dreaded
“I want to go back to the recital thing we were talking about earlier, I never finished my thoughts. There were two things I dreaded every year; one was the end of the year recital which took place spring and the other was a state wide music competence test. I can’t remember what it was called – the SCT’s or something like that but it was just dreadful. It was a two day event in Ypsilanti Michigan (which is right next to Ann Arbor) at Eastern Michigan University’s Music School. You would go in and they’d have all these pianos set up in a room and you’d play for strangers – these judges and they were usually these crochetty old women and men and they wouldn’t say anything. They’d just write your scores down on these sheets of paper and say, ‘Thank you,’ and you move on to the next one. You’d go and play scales for someone and do this and that and then you’d take a written test and oh my god the night before I would be laying in bed wishing that it would be canceled. I was so miserable afterwards. Usually I would do pretty awful. The one scale I always had trouble with was b flat minor scale they’d have me play. But I really credit all of those recitals and experiences where I would just practice myself into a frenzy of tears and frustration where I would slam the piano closed and swear to never play again – I must have really terrified my parents. But I refused to stop at that point, it had become like a battle. In the front of my mind I hated it but obviously in the back of my mind I wanted to do it I wanted that feeling of excitement once it was done no matter how badly I had done.

“That is what I got hooked on was the whole rush of the experience. It ended up going and turning into less of a fear and more of an excitement. I strongly strongly credit those early recitals for giving me confidence for performing or being in front of crowds in general. Again, that is what I think is so fantastic about music is that it enriches your life and your personality and your education in ways that are far far beyond music itself.

Playing Live Now
“I still feel a lot of the same ways now when its time to play a concert but I’m so familiar with them that I use them and embrace them. There is a part of me that can’t imagine we have to go play a concert for the 400th time and there is part of me that says, ‘maybe we won’t have to play.’ Every moment of the day is building up with anticipation – not dread – but the strongest anticipation you could have before it becomes dread, and at the same time someone could say, ‘you could cancel it,’ I would never in a million years do that. That’s how I get myself psyched up. The day that I’m not nervous before a concert is the day I know I’ve lost my passion for it. I’m not scared, I’m excited and I’m trying to prepare my mind for the show. Especially this music, its not casual where we just go up there and jam, I envy those types of bands. It would be so amazing to just go up there and stand behind a bass or a keyboard but the thing about this music and what makes it so incredibly amazing and rewarding is the challenge and adversity. I talk about that with the band and everyone is just dead at the end of the show and we really thrive on that. I judge myself by the way I feel at the end of the show. If I don’t collapse at the end of the show then I know I’ve done something wrong and I get frustrated with myself. It all comes from taking each concert on its own as treating it as one opportunity. If I don’t give my all for one then what is the point? Why did I put myself through all that? If you don’t come to go full out why do you come at all? Having that early recital experience and dealing with that kind of intensity and pressure makes this all seem a lot easier.”

The Future
Andrew and the gang are playing several festival dates this summer and are currently planning on a headlining tour in the fall. He is busy working on material for the third installment of his discography, a follow up to 2003’s The Wolf. Keep an eye out for Andrew in the months to come and if you have any questions for the Wolf that weren’t answered here, feel free to write to him at his website, he answers fan mail regularly and always takes the time and special care to make sure his answers are sincere.

The Morgue Called, They Want To Use Your Cadaver “For Study”

The first time I met Justin Pearson I was just getting started with a project, a website called The intention of it was to be this hub of youth culture that the music products industry could dip its marketing muscle [read:balls] into and reap the benefits of kids going out and buying truckloads of instruments and products – a hilarious and immeasurable goal – perpetrated by a bunch of business suit attired has-beens and wannabees who thought that an asshole such as myself with some experience in music journalism could bring some gravitas to the fledgling site. They were right. To an extent. We hovered at 30K visitors a month and were an official Webby Award Honoree for 2006 (woo hoo…). Of course those accolades fell on deaf ears, or rather ears that wouldn’t know that the web would surpass radio for ad spend in 2007. Does hindsight count if you were blind behind?

At first I was enthusiastic about it. To endeavor to bring the beauty of making music to a generation whose art and music programs were being cut by an administration obsessed with war was enticing. I took the pill. I jumped right in. I wanted to make things change. That was the optimism of a post 9/11 job out of college (not right out of college, more like 2 years later) for me. I must stress that there were more good things that came from that experience than negative, one of them being my growing friendship with Justin Pearson of The Locust. He was the first “Big Interview” I did for the site. He believed in the propaganda that I believed in, but part of me thought he believed in the fact that artists that don’t chart and don’t move units should have an opportunity to be heard. Sort of an “I like their aesthetic. So I want to share it with everyone,” thing, right?

The last interview I did with Justin marked another benchmark. It was the first for A project basically run by two dudes and supplemented by about 20 of the most amazing and loyal writers and friends a hack editor could ever ask for. Below is a link to the last lengthy post post from a guy that was probably born ten years too late into a world that is as unforgiving as it is beautiful and absurd.

You will get an inkling of what the ‘music business’ is all about – from the Graveyard of the Arousal Industry couldn’t be a more apt title for Justin Pearson’s tour diary. Part of me wishes he’d have continued in the face of all the terrible things he is going through (gone through), and part of me is glad he’s done writing for now. He’s incredibly prolific. If anything just to continue to document what it is REALLY like. The pieces themselves were quite amazing and honest. These paragraph-less musings on life on the road where a bit of a bitch to get through when editing. Nevertheless an amazing account.

Not traveling in a giant fucking tour bus, staying in 3 and 4 star hotels, having everything and everyone tell you that you matter. Fuck that. Its the real deal.

Here is an awesome picture taken by Robin Locust.

Searching for a Form of Clarity:

Or Music Journalists Aren’t Your Friends and Don’t Forget That – Ever!

Hmm. Yes I remember it well. Not quite as well as I should and being a writer I probably should have documented every nuance and snippet of conversation while I was in the ‘moment.’ Alas, I’m not much of a journalist when it comes to that sort of thing. I’m more interested in having a good time and writing usually takes a back seat to my rabble rousing but since this is a story that was mostly experienced three sheets to the wind, I’ll preface it by taking some liberties in the facts. South By Southwest Music Festival is always a trial in patience and a test of ones alcohol endurance. The past two years I’ve been I’ve ended up hanging out with folks that don’t have badges, therefor my show going is limited by their ability to get into a venue, which usually means I miss the good shows at Stubbs (06′ Beastie Boys) or La Zona Rosa (06′ Drive By Truckers) or even Emo’s for (06′ Minus the Bear).

I’m a gregarious asshole and fiercely loyal to my friends, or at least I’d like to appear to have their best interests and happiness in mind and try to lend my brand of drunken revelry as the situation dictates. While 2006 was spent sharing a hotel room with The North Atlantic (J. Richards, who is almost 7′ tall, sleeps in the fetal position and takes up almost the entire bed, leaving me to half sleep on a parcel of mattress like some indentured farmer) and Under The Drone (their stand in bass player snores so loud, even pass-out drunk I couldn’t get to sleep and end up staying awake for roughly 48 hours. As a result of which during the a set by The Sword two days later I nod off on a chair at the back of the room. Luckily I’m there with my friend Ben who walks me across the Congress St bridge back to our room and I make my flight – yay! Crisis averted).

I did manage to break away from the non-badge holding crew, who had spent most of the time at the Red Eyed Fly watching Dixie Witch or Black Lamb and make my way to Lucero at Red 7. While I was there a man approached me at the bar. After I had placed my order for a tallboy of PBR he says, “Can I buy your drink for you?” Drunk and skeptical I look at him funny, turn around to look for Vanessa or Jamie (Badge holding crew/Lucero fans) for some guidance, but he quickly reassures me that his intention is purely marketable, stating, “I’m the regional rep for PBR, just want to thank you for your loyalty.”

“Uh huh. Thanks!” I say, adding,”It’s cheap and I can drink an assload of it.” Then make my way through the crowd to the front as Lucero busts into “Bikeriders” and my arms flail all marionette-like in excitement as my mouth tries to remember the lyrics and my brain warns me that this is the last tall boy I’m gonna drink.

These little one offs are common in Austin during this time. Chance meetings with people. One notable was at the patio of the Red Eyed Fly, watching Dixie Witch, riff through their songs, amplified by a sweet Mojave, I drunkenly turn to the guy standing next to me and bum a cigarette, as he lights it I realize its Elijah Wood (who apparently was there scouting for his own label) “thanks dude.” I mumble, with a twinkle in my eye, thinking, “Fucking Frodo loves stoner rock, he’s even cooler than I thought.” Though for a character of LOTR one might expect some fascination with drug culture and all its sub categories (statement is not to suggest or imply that Mr. Wood condones drugs or the use of them).

That leads me to SXSW 2007. On a much more business oriented, diplomatic approach, with my new boss, coworker and CEO in town I had to keep my booze intake waaayyy down. Meaning that it was bloody’s in the morning and only beer thereafter or I’d be a wreck by 5pm. I’m a good host and I had been to Austin the year before: I could handle it, I knew the score. Savagery by night, civility by day. Though the night before all those work folks got there I was rousing with the Lennon Bus Boys at the Purevolume lounge, drinking free booze (which is the best, btw) and trying to convince them to join me at the Emo’s Annex parking lot thingy where Hydrahead was having a showcase (Jesu, Pelican, Oxbow, Stephen Brodsky), I got in and Fester got stopped at the door, which sucked cause there wasn’t that many people there. Course this year, SXSW was undertaken with the pretense that we were going to actually conduct some sort of business and meet with industry people to discuss the problems and opportunities – blah blah blah – facing the industry I really had to put on the officious air, while toning down knowing that my best friend had flown from DC and the Drone crew was waiting elsewhere.

Now I will get to the point. The point about being a music journalist and all its trappings. Attempting to do something like what we’re doing with and what I attempted to do with themusicedge but was thwarted by shortsighted corporate ineptitude is at most times an opportunistic venture. Just like a shark’s feeding habits or a thief’s intuition. But the main point in this piece is about not trying to be friends with people in bands that are subjects of an interview and just trying to get the story and all that shit. You know – that shit that real journalist learn in journalist school and publicity people train their clients ‘these people aren’t your friends, whatever you say is on the record, no matter if they say its off the record” – kind of ethics. While both statements are pretty harsh they are quite true and are pretty much par for the course when it comes to the general journalism practicioners. As a side note, I’m not the most prolific ‘blogger’ not because I’ve got a lack of material, but because sometimes, which is most times, its good to have someone look at your stuff before it gets released into the wild. However, one good thing that comes from this medium is the ability to give another perspective. A first hand account. The gonzo side of things for those of us that get paid to write and can’t write about puking in the graffiti covered stall of some shit hole bar in a Tulsa strip club, or taking hits from a hash pipe and blowing it into the window of a K9 unit while the officer is busy securing the scene of a drunk driving accident amidst a thousand drunken pedestrians.

Right. Just as Fucked Up writes weird pseudo-hard core, I digress a bit. I meet up with Vanessa (AM!’s publicist and longtime friend/colleague of mine) for the Shirts for a Cure showcase where I am to do an interview with Tom Gabel of Against Me! Its 2pm and I’ve already had four Lonestars and to be quite honest, I am a bit intimidated (read: buzzed) at the thought of interviewing him in person (fanboy syndrome), being the telephone coward I am when it comes to interviewing bands I actually care about. In hindsight I probably should have done the interview right then and there. After a brief introduction, I explain that I’d prefer to do the interview at a later date. I don’t pull any punches with Vanessa, since I’ve known her and worked with her now going on ten years since my time at the college paper. She’s cool. That short 4 days in Austin I watch Against Me! a total of five times. Some shows I’m at the stage and some shows I’m way far away (Mountain Dew free show in the Park with Mastodon and Riverboat Gamblers, Eric* and I pass out during the Gamblers set and are awoken by Gamblers singer Mike Weibe who, with wireless mic in hand has come down to the grass and dances with all the kids. I instantly like the RBG more just for that fact). Eric*(best friend from DC) and I go for a gyro and are standing up eating and watching the last few RGB songs when we are tackled by Justin and Ben of Under the Drone. Not just tackled but violently tackled by two uber drunks. Gyro’s fly everywhere. Its quite humorous; sob/laughing a bit, I feel like Chunk in Goonies when his food is taken away. I’m stoked that we’ll be seeing AM! for the third time that week. They come on next, wind blowing, people screaming, making for a very dramatic effect. The band runs through the gamut of great tunes like “Miami” and “Cliche Guevara” and play some new ones like “Americans Abroad” and “White People for Peace” and I begin to realize that this band is my age and they grew up on Fugazi and Black Flag and The Replacements and maybe their replacing The Replacements but thats just the booze talking and the sweat and fists of strangers swirling around me singing at the top of their lungs to “Pints of Guinness Make You Strong.” I think how it feels to listen to music and how great it is to be part of this thing – whatever the fuck it is – taking place in the little pockets of world.

So…finally, I end up doing the interview with Tom for (Link). I did it on the phone, after almost two months of missed times I caught him at home prior to their tour with Mastodon, Cursive and Planes Mistaken for Stars. The best lineup and tour package I’ve seen in the past five years (even though I didn’t make it when they played San Diego). He seemed somewhat guarded during the interview, even though I had drunkenly bored him to death with my musings on punk rock and selling out at the No Idea party in Austin. [Where Chuck Reagan played a solo set right before The Draft and I was convinced they would do a Hot Water Music song, and I drunk texted one of my old estranged friends but never got a reply. Of course they didn’t. AM!’s James told me he knew they wouldn’t although Warren and I kept saying how cool it would be if they did.] Though gregarious I may be I realized there is sometimes a line between interviewer and interviewee and I suppose I’m okay with that. Tom was quick to assert his disapproval of illegal downloading and like an idiot I mention that the new Neurosis is amazing.

“I didn’t think that was out yet.” He exclaims.
“Yeah, I got an advance copy from one of my sound engineer buddies.” I explain, then realize what a total asshole I must sound like after he just told me what he thinks of downloading.

All in all it was a good interview. I was hungover when I talked to him and I’m always a bit sensitive after a bout with the cohol and I took some of his comments the wrong way but when I went back to transcribe the interview I realized how articulate and thoughtful he was. So there ya go! Here are some pictures from the best show in Austin I’ve ever witnessed from one of my favorite bands.

Consumption Junction: The Cultural Significance of Britney’s Ass or can I get a Ringle?t

I caught this post on Tech Crunch and in light of the hilarity of the 2007 VMA’s recently I thought it’d be appropriate to expound my opinion on a couple of things. I’ll address the Arousal Industry’s latest blundervestment: making ringtones available on CD and selling them as ‘Ringle’s.’ If you haven’t followed the rapidly declining sales of the dinosaur-wearing-gucci-industry into the rabbit hole of failure you’ll know that these gentle giants and habitual employment curtailers are scrambling for the next best thing to supplement their bottom line. For that they have thought long and hard while on the toilet, squeezing out a seared ahi and quail egg champagne shit as the collective stone was passed from urethra, chinking on the porcelain, inspiring the latest money maker – The Ringle.


To the uninitiated or layperson, basically the ‘Ringle’ will, “contain three songs: one popular track, a remix, an older track from the same artist and a ringtone.” The distro method will be a “CD with a slip-sleeve cover.” If you’re smashing your balls with a meat tenderizer right now in light of that news, well sir, you’ve been paying attention to the comings and goings of the music industry. If not, don’t despair. This can still be considered one of those ‘what the fuck’ moments. The first of those will be a single from recently re-celebritized Britney Spears, her song; “Gimme More” is already testing really well in the major markets. Sony and Universal are going to pump titles into the stream this fall and they’ll be available at your favorite wallet raping store. The propensity for continued revenue loss in the face of continued bad decision making isn’t as appalling as the fact they’re going to sell singles by CD. CD???  Or is Britney’s gunt more appealing packaged as a pitch corrected ringtone. I dunno.



So now that your brain has come to a nice simmer and your eyes are bleeding a bit, drool slowly congealing somewhere on your shirt or blouse, hands limply at your sides, legs prostrate beneath you, a jolt of pop narcotic will bring you back. A shot to the jugular with a syringe full of excitement – a glass pipe filled with potent crystallized entertainment – a tincture of attention drawing, edge of your seat mayhem filled with blinking lights, celebrity and pageantry. For the kingdom of your brain we present the 2007 VMA’s. A nightmare ride into The Palms casino/hotel in Las Vegas for an amalgam of hyper stylized vampiric pop-lust orgy of coordinated chaos – presented by Chevrolet. That’s right. America’s car company. The company that brought you the Tahoe, and the tagline “An American Revolution.” AND John-fucking-Mellancamp leaning his jackboot on the fender of a truck while a montage of ‘life style images’ flood the screen. Look! Some sepia toned portraiture of African Americans that look doggedly low income smiling bravely for the high paid photographer, middle-American white folks ‘eating’ hot dogs, and team sports! Yes. Chevy has now taken it upon themselves to sell us cars by insinuating that this whole “save the world thing” is a punch line for some smog breathing fat cats with pockets full of cash.


Those genius marketers at MTV and Chevy teamed up for what they’re marketspeak calling a, “…Superserve Key 12-34 demographic with creative integration and multiplatform innovation campaign.” Essentially, they’ll use the power of their marketing muscle and advertising budget to sponsor something that MTV knows is well worth every penny for hooking new consumers. So they show a series of seemingly Eco-friendly spots. The spots are kinduh irreverent, edgy; MTV’s demo will totally jibe with this posish. (WOW 30MPG on highway! I can hear dolphins singing as baby seals swim in crystal clear water and unicorns shit rainbows).


This is part of MTV and Chevy’s “Break the Addiction” campaign, which sadly promotes the benefits of Flex Fuel or E85 and touts their continued development Hydrogen Fuel Cell technology. Want to know about E85? Click here <>


MTV has always been the bane of my entertainment consumption. They’ve had some good shows and of course they used to play those dinosaurs of the entertainment dietary pyramid, THE MUSIC VIDEO but if the fact they’ve been dictating youth cultures taste in music doesn’t make you vomit your righteous indignation instantly, these commercials will. One example in particular is a scene of a young woman with dyed hair, fairy-winged, and glossy eyed. Hers is a character meant to exemplify some green friendly tree hugging marijuana addict blowing a tune into some plastic bottles strung together while a voice mockingly says something like “You can still save the environment without having to drive an ugly car you little sheep.”


And this brings me to Britney Spears ass. It has always been a shining example of slutty suburban chicks everywhere. Her ass is insignificant. Her music represents an industry’s reliance on tone corrected voices. It is robotic. She is ubiquitous. You could interchange her with Rhianna and only by ear you’d never know the difference. The reason she and Rhianna lip synced their shitty songs was because in the fantasy world MTV has made for viewers and the public, they’ve instituted a zero tolerance policy on imperfection. This is smoke and mirrors. It’s no wonder Viacom’s ad agency shares similar tactics as the US government’s agency that handles all of their “Be Army Strong” campaigns, or Chevy’s highly insidious and clever “Break the Addiction” campaign.


Britney Spears showed us all that you can sound like robot, dance like a star in a giant production but if you gain just five pounds you can lose all credibility. She also showed the world our addiction to perfection through her socially imposed imperfections. Soon we’ll see teen stars, weighing 90 lbs., chain smoking Marlboro Reds, eating a leaf of ice burg lettuce a day, while a Ringle from Mastodon plays “Holiday in Cambodia” on my sweet new iPhone.on. Chevy and British Petroleum will be champions of the Green movement and George Bush will go down in history as one of the most thoughtful presidents in history.


This isn’t science fiction.


This isn’t the future.


This is the perpetual “What the Fuck?”