Fuel: Monuments to Excess

Fuel
Monuments to Excess (CD)
Rough Trade (Re-released by Ebullition Records on Vinyl in 2000)

Fuel featured Mike Kirsch on guitar/vocals, Aaron Arroyo on bass, Jim Allison on guitar/vocals, and Jeff Stofan on drums. Mike Kirsch was also a member of about a dozen 90’s HC bands like John Henry West, Torches to Rome, Bread and Circuits, Saw Horse, Navio Forge, etc. I never caught Fuel live, but I did have the pleasure of seeing Kirsch’s mid 2000’s project, Please Inform the Captain This is a Hijack at a little coffee shop on Broadway in downtown San Diego. They had a bit of a gimmick, wearing plastic animal masks, but their music was pure unadulterated hard core in the tradition of Fugazi/Nation of Ulysses.

Fuel on the other hand was one of the more influential bands in my back catalog. It was one of the first CD’s I bought at Wax Trax along with Tree People’s Something Vicious For Tomorrow, and Split Lip’s For the Love of the Wounded LP. A friend had recommended them knowing my man crush on Fugazi and everything and anything that sounded like Fugazi. So much so that they often were called Fuelgazi. Whatever though, these guys laid the groundwork for Hot Water Music, er at least the first couple HWM records.

“Disengaged,” comes in with a palm-muted riff and a tempo of immediacy that echoes throughout the album, like the band knew this LP would be their only one. Most Kirsch projects proved that the first time is the best time and this first is definitely a history maker. A few bands of the early 90’s utilized the instrumental, Pegboy, Fugazi has consistently had an instrumental on almost every album and Monuments to Excess has its own version of “Locomotivelung” or “Arpeggiator” in the track simply named, “Instrumental.” Employing some dueling guitar acrobatics, backed by a solid rhythm and a Chris Bauermeister inspired bass line the song leads nicely into the brilliant “Some Gods.”

Every song on this record is amazing. It has been reissued TWICE. If you look at their Amazon page a bunch of douche bags have posted some comments saying that this Fuel isn’t the same Fuel that brought the world such grunge-lite tripe as “Shimmer” or “Million Miles.” You know the kind of shit you’d find on a late 90’s Nicolas Cage romantic comedy?  Like the kind of music you’d open a vein to in the waiting room at the abortion clinic hanging out with your future ex-girlfriend.

Do yourself a favor and find Monuments To Excess then go out and purchase Kirsch’s newest endeavor, Baader Brains.

Q and Not U: An Interview with John Davis

John Davis is in a new band called Georgie James. A rock band from his longtime home of Washington D.C. They were supposed to play at the Casbah at the end of this month but had to cancel their west coast dates cause John has been super sick. I saw them in Austin last summer at Emo’s and they put on a great set. Vocalist Laura Burhenn anchors their weighty classic rockish riffs with a nice female touch that isn’t too demure. Go see them when they come back. For the time being, go back and listen to Different Damage and No Kill, No Beep Beep!

Q and Not U’s unique blend of rock and sound was in it’s infancy in their 2000 release, No Kill No Beep, Beep, yet after a lineup change (Matt Borlik left the band in fall of 2001) and subsequent revitalization and re-evaluation of their goals as a band has led Q and Not U on a new musical journey that is an evolution on their latest Dischord Records release, Different Damage.

John Davis (drummer, vocals, percussion) of Q and Not U says, “We were worried after we parted with Matt if we could still do this (music). It was a relief and very liberating and we felt like we could do and try anything we wanted to do.  If I wanted to start using a maraca instead of a drum stick I could, or if I wanted to use a tambourine instead of drum stick I could or even if I wanted start using a cow bell I could, anything I wanted to do I could and I was encouraged to experiment.”

In contrast to the sound the writing process for John, Harris (guitar, bass, vocals) and Chris (guitar, bass, vocals) didn’t change much.  “The fundamental way we wrote songs didn’t change.  Essentially we wrote them where someone would come in with some parts and we would jam them and tape it.  We’d write out the part we thought was cool and label the parts; we do A then we do B twice or A one more time.  We’d write it out like that and that’s basically how we still write but we became much more experimental.  Fundamentally there wasn’t a big change in how we wrote but we definitely became more experimental,” John says about being a three piece.

Both, No Kill, No Beep Beep and Different Damage, have the same relative passion as far as the music is concerned, although Different Damage is an interesting expose on what happens when a band sheds convention and starts writing for themselves and from the gut with the intent of breathing new life into their music.

In reference to the first Q and not U record, John says that, “I’ve listened to the first record once or twice lately and you know there are moments in it that I like and there are moments in it that I cringe, many moments.  I think it’s just a more conventional record.  To some people when they heard Different Damage maybe certain people were used to No Kill, No Beep Beep. We were getting comparisons (from No Kill) to these other bands like At the Drive In, I don’t think we sound like At the Drive In, I don’t even like At the Drive In but I think certain people would hear elements like they’d hear two guitars dueling and draw a conclusion.  And we would get comparisons to Fugazi and at the time I thought we didn’t sound a thing like Fugazi but looking back and listening I’m like, oh that does sound a lot like Fugazi.  But we grew up in the D.C. music scene; we were knee deep in the D.C. music scene for our whole lives so of course we are going to pull from those influences.  But it was different on Different Damage and it will change even more on the next one.”

Different Damage is an amazing album, and markedly different from No Kill.  Its a sound that hasn’t been polarized and used as a buzzword for some music writer yet and it contracts and expands on so many different levels to leave the listener breathless the first time around.  Different Damage with its stark timing change’s, various instrumentation (baritone guitar, melodica, keyboards, 12 string guitar, synth and lots of percussion) and clever lyric and musical eccentricities that give a certain warmth to the music that was hinted at but wasn’t quite as apparent on their first Dischord release.

John Davis is a music aficionado as much as he is a member of a great band.  He received his first guitar at the age of 12, took guitar lessons for two years, played guitar in his high schools yearly review where he played an interesting cross section (over 45 different songs) of cover hits ranging from The Beatles to Motown while playing in variety of high school bands as a guitarist.

During the summer of 1998, in John’s last year of college, Q and Not U formed.  His highly musical background and family (his father was a radio DJ) have summarily made John what he is today.  “My family, they weren’t musicians really but my Dad was in radio.  They listened to music all the time and music was just a part of who we were.  That’s what I grew up around.  Even when I wasn’t old enough to be in bands I was making up bands that I was in, drawing up fake album covers and having my own radio station.  Those were things that I did when I was a kid.  So it’s seemed kind of natural for me to go into music.  But playing music was something that came to me when I was about twelve.  So at this point, (music) has been in the majority of my life.”

His involvement in school band consisted of playing in the show choir and being part of his high schools yearly review.  “It was insanely big. We would do like 45 songs.  They would put tons of money and production into it and each song would be it’s own production number.  I was the guitar player from tenth through twelfth grade.  I remember we did KISS one year and I had to wear Ace Frehley make up.  Or another year I was George Harrison and we did a Beatle’s song, it was cool and a lot of fun.  I also learned a lot about playing guitar because my parents had these old complete Beatle’s songbooks.  It had all of the chords of course but it also had all the songs drawn out for guitar, it wasn’t tablature but when you look in those old timey books they sort of have the chords spelled out for you.  I learned a ton about different chords (from the books).  I learned a lot from being in show choir and that yearly show we did.  I learned what certain things mean; I learned about modulation and what it means.  I learned so much and it was probably a big part of my foundation as a musician.    I think back on it and think, ‘that was a lot of fun.’  It’s something I’ve thought a lot about getting back into once this band starts to wind down and I’m living a less nomadic existence.  Where I’m going to be home for longer periods of time.  I’ve thought about maybe being a high school English teacher and maybe being able to get involved in the music program.  In the way that it helped me (school music) I think that I would be into helping kids learn about music.  We did a lot of obscure songs in that review, songs that I heard for the first time and I learned about rock and roll music.  Everything from doo wop and early sixties stuff to seventies more obscure AM hits.”

In regards to playing drums he says that, “For as long as the band’s been going, that’s like as long as I’ve seriously played and that is about five years.  I played off and on before that but I’ve been messing around on the drums forever.”

Adding, ” I played guitar for a long time, I played a guitar for about 15 years.  I think it was just the kind of thing that, playing in bands occasionally I would sort of mess around on the drums at practice and stuff.”

Q And Not U just returned from a short North American tour to their home in Potomac MD., which is about twenty minutes outside of Washington D.C.  “We went out at the beginning of June and we just did some various spots in the U.S. that we had to make up.  We had to cancel some shows in spring because I broke my foot.   I was playing street hockey and it was the day before we were leaving (for tour) and I kind of stepped wrong on the stick and it broke (his foot). So we had to cancel about 35 shows.  So there was a lot of shows we needed to make up so we thought we’d take care of some of that this summer so we went out with two weeks, mostly in the Midwest, then we were home for a couple of weeks.  Then we did like five dates in the U.S. and about 8 or 9 shows in Canada.  That was at the beginning of July and we’ve been home for about a month.  Then we’re home for another couple of weeks, then we go out for another U.S. tour for 6 weeks.”

John went to college and graduated with a degree in English from the University of Maryland, which is in College Park, just north east of his hometown.  “I didn’t really do any musical stuff with the school there.   I had always been in bands, but it was in school that I started getting into writing about music.  I was the arts editor of the school news paper for three years and I did a fanzine all through college, learning about different journalism things.”

Aside from Q and Not U, John works at the performing arts library at the University of Maryland, “There’s a little segment of the performing arts library called the International Piano Archives at Maryland, and basically its a collection system for piano music, its all classical piano music and it focuses on piano music from the first half of the twentieth century and generally American or people who have immigrated to America have contributed.  We have whatever they decided to submit, like programs, letters, etc.  We have about 97% of all the issued classical piano music.  I designed their website also.  So I came in and designed the whole thing and its pretty much done but there is still some proofing and tweaking to finish up, and they just renewed my contract for another six months and I’ll be doing another website for them.”

“And it’s totally flexible so whenever I leave for tour they’re like, ‘Alright see ya later!’  Because its not a ton of work to do so as long as I get it done that’s all they want,” John says.

John’s musical taste is eclectic.  His most recent play list consists of mostly vinyl but several cd’s like; The Ruts-The Crack/Grin and Bear It.  Trojan Records-Nyabinghi (Rastafarian Reggae, heavy afro influence), Funkadelic-Uncle Jim Wants You, Max Romeo-Ultimate Collection, Donny Hathaway-Everything is Everything (Old School R&B), Bo Hannon-Dom Um Romao (Afro-Brazilian music).

Armchair Martian, Fluf, and Local

Buckfast Superbee, Armchair Martian, Fluf @ Casbah Sat. Sept. 2nd

It was a weekend of reunions of bands from the 90’s that I used to listen to or watch every chance I got. While my good friends from the North Atlantic were playing their swan song(s), closing the 3rd annual Denverfest (why the fuck wasn’t there one of these when I lived in Denver?) drinking and cavorting with mutual friends and my brother in law, I was not landlocked but instead walking distance from the Harbor at San Diego’s premier 21+ club, The Casbah. I met Borracho Bob there, another old Denverite and we said our hellos to Jon Snodgrass, Bob proceeded to tell Jon the story behind Chris Sharry’s album art for “Good Guys…Bad Band.” Which translated well to the image of the album cover to the right. Another example of barehanded drunks wielding instruments instead of weapons, playing for 10 people, two of which were Bobrob and Chris. So. Yeah.

We were patient with the mid-90’s bro-rock of Buckfast Superbee and became intrigued when their drummer had a hissy fit and threw his high hat over his head in a fit of frustration. I wish more bands would do that. It was the highlight of their set. Though TJ has a pretty awesome voice their songs sort of blended into one another, however a lot of people seemed to be into them and it was nice to see our rehearsal space mates draw some attention from the sometimes skeptical Casbah crowd.

Armchair was up next. Watching Jon run through songs I heard over 10 years ago was pretty remarkable. Especially since the last time I saw them was when they played with Samiam at the Aztlan Theater on Kalamath when that one dude Dan Steinberg used to price gouge all the Denver scene kids. That show was consistent with my memory of the band – inconsistent. Some shows they ruled the stage without fucking up any songs and other times they were fall down drunk. The art on the inside of “Good Guys…” is telling with Dracula, The Wolfman and the Mummy as the band members trying to decide if they should go set up for the show. This time around they played incredibly well. Jon has honed his country sneer from moonlighting in Drag The River for the past decade or so and sounded amazing. While it was nice to see some familiar Denver (via Ft Collins) band it wasn’t quite like seeing Crestfallen and Christie Front Drive play with Planes Mistaken for Stars. Essentially my three favorite Denver bands minus Acrobat Down (what you guys couldn’t get your shit together for a one off show?). They went through the hits and even tossed in a Gary Nuwman cover expertly sung/mimicked by bassplayer Paul.

I like the idea of seeing Armchair Martian as drunk as Drag the River but with more Jawbreaker and less Lucero ya know? It was a good show. Fluf played all their hits and all the bros sung along happily while chicks pretended to sing along but just sort of mouthed ‘watermelon/c a n d y b a r/ ooh’ while expertly sipping their gin and tonics or whatever the fuck they were drinking. I left early. Better to have the memory of a decent show than a show that I stayed too long at and might’ve been mildly impressed with.

82907

Thirty years ago today I came tumbling out of my Mother screaming and covered in goop, the doctor spanked air into my lungs, a nurse snipped off a piece of my foreskin, my father handed out cigars in the waiting room and my mom smiled in exhaustion. It was done. It was the same year and the same month Elvis Presley died, Jaws and Star Wars were released and Sam the dog told David Berkowitz to go on a shooting spree with a Dirty Harry-style revolver in a sweltering New York City.

I was born during the Dog Days of summer.

The hottest point in the season.

Every year during this time something truly remarkable and vile happens in various parts of the world. Hurricane Katrina. Wild Fires in Greece. Cholera outbreak in India. Hundreds of miners drown in China flood. Massive roadside explosion in Northern Iraq kills hundreds.

That’s just a smattering of headlines over the past few weeks. The ones that leak in through the television snow. The little pieces of information that make August an auspicious month during the year. If I was a betting man I’d say that I’m incredibly lucky to have been able to survive the apocalypse, which was supposed to happen 10 years ago, according to Sarah Connor. There is the thought of predestination paradox where had Skynet not sent a terminator back to kill Sarah, John would not have sent Reese back to protect her and of course conceive John. Harlan Ellison’s I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream” had that initial idea that a super computer becomes self-aware and triggers the end of humanity or at least 98% it. The Wachowski brothers tried the same thing with the Matrix and of course there is always Our Trusty Asimov and his I, Robot stories. None can forget the implications of Phillip K Dicks dreaming androids drawing comparisons to our homogenized brave new world where more money is spent on physical augmentation such as breast implants than is spent on Alzheimers research.

Do the years get better?

 

Or do my tits get better?

I reference these things because there are a million scenarios that play themselves out in my head every minute of the day. Choices that I made that directly affected my future. Now with thirty years under my belt I’m looking forward to making more choices. What will I have for lunch today? Maybe some Quik powdered chocolate in a glass of milk with a grilled cheese and tomato sandwich and some Oreos to finish it off. Those little creature comforts cut through the noise. They can stop the outrage fatigue I’ve had since Sept. 11th and quell the squall of rage I’ve held in my ever blackening liver since Nov. 3rd 2000 when I wished a category 5 hurricane swept across Florida and silenced all those fucking voting machines. I reference these things because I’m hardwired to question everything. I’m hardwired to expect more from people than they may be willing to admit they have in them. It is a philosophy of expectation I learned from my father.

 

So do all these seemingly random pop culture references and political musings have a point in this piece?

 

You who read this want your information in bite sized morsels. You are most likely reading this because you want to see what I have to say. The same could be said for the reason I’m writing. I want to see what I’m going to say too! I’m surprised what comes out. It’s a form of therapy. It’s the equilibrium I need.

 

There are lines that you can draw from disparate sources such as Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and society’s current obsession with celebrity and appearance – there is no amount of shaming our society can do to make someone like P Hilton drift off into obscurity. We’ve moved from adoration of success to the obsession of failure. We want to wallow in squalor and bathe in the idea that some starlet who had everything laid out for her; money, success and fame, is dumping it all down the drain while staring at a palm mirror through reddened and glassy eyes with a rolled up twenty in her hand. Is it the ultimate form of rebellion to just give up to vices and pour yourself out of your celebrity skin in front of a million flashing bulbs and video cameras? No. Methinks it is just slow suicide.

 

I want to feel validated. I want to feel like that vote I handed to Nader in 2000 wasn’t about winning the election or giving it to Bush or taking another informed voter from Gore but that it was about doing what I felt was right at the time and wishing that everyone could make their own educated and informed decision as to who to vote for. Alas, most people are robots, self-aware enough to eat, sleep, shit and fuck occasionally without ever asking why, who or what as long as it feels good then it must be good.

 

We’re animals. Robot animals. And we’re living in the nightmare that writers like Aldous Huxley, Ellison, Dick and Stephenson have been imagining. The violence that we live with daily is magnified during the dog days. It’s the heat of the Northern Hemisphere working on our subconscious where eons ago our ancestors rode across vast landscapes with truncheon and spear and sword to conquer and bleed into submission those that would alter or change the status quo.

 

Do not fear. Fear. Do not fear. Fear.

 

We are at war because war is profit. It is an industry that can be perpetually fed. Trillions of dollars into the effort and there will always be someone with a job and a big white house to eat Kobe steaks and caviar in.

 

We’ve had hope shoved up our ass. Just words of hope. No real sign of it. No large group or government making an effort. No miracles. No second coming. This is the realization age. We will realize that in our species infancy we are destined to rot in quotidian suburban malaise, buying groceries, driving cars, going to church, making lists and standing in line.

 

 

There is a silver lining and each of us has to look just hard enough to see it.

This is my beautiful wife.

This is my beautiful rented duplex.

This is my family.

These are my amazing friends.

This is the hyperlocal network of hope.

These are the inspirations for a million more songs and stories.

This is something I wrote when I turned 30.

Argument Tactics

Words as accidents
Covered by the assurance
They will be repeated,
Used as blunt objects,
Or surgical tools,
To reopen old wounds
How many stitches does it take,
To close up that hurt?
Does your indemnity plan
cover failure of internal editing?
Metastasized in the middle of an argument.
Better take out another policy
Once this is done.

cabron in the studio…attempting to document sound

ah. punk rock. in all its facile glory. waiting and watching the dials turn. too much listening, not enough feeling or maybe too much feeling. whats the diff? and who fucking cares anyway. studio is so antiseptic. too clean. too nothing. not like the hot sweaty practice room, where your balls stick to your thighs and your face gets wet and smells like breath, cigarettes and beer. do that part again! oi! do that part again cabron! make that shit pop. this is all that matters in the time we take to eat sleep shit and fuck. just thirty minutes to feel like something is actually taking place instead of that endless wait. man that distortion is warm, feedback is so underrated i don’t know how U2 lives without it.

i don’t ever want to grow up.