Craig Finn – God In Chicago

craig_finn_sq.jpgCraig Finn has cut a swath through beer-soaked halls–playing on six-inch risers often never higher than six feet–for the last twenty odd years of his career with the band, The Hold Steady.

Course he’s had his solo work too. Equally impressive to be sure. And no, his music isn’t quite as dour as his photo. At least, not all of it. Shit, there’s a lot to unpack in his lyrics…

I’m not the only lazy music fan who’s been likening his rambling story-telling song lyrics to a modern Raymond Carver weened on Springsteen and Black Flag with a guitar. He’s consistent and reliable and undoubtedly an incredible amount of thought and care in each turn of phrase as evidenced by the narrative film with collaborator, Kris Merc on his latest contribution, “God In Chicago.”

Okay, well, see, it’s a story about a guy and a girl and drug deal/road trip.

But with Finn, it’s always more.

He’s a master of subtext, and his subtext is all in the gut.

Check out the video on The Nowness:

https://www.nowness.com/story/craig-finn-god-in-chicago-kris-merc

Finn is playing with Japandroids this Sat. March 11 at the Music Box in San Diego.

Beuyscouts.com Virtual Field Warp Series 1

Post Shock and Awesome: Lust for Life Marketing Presentation (PDF) has found a new place to dwell over at http://beuyscouts.com as part of their Virtual Field Warp series (check out the Anal Acrobatics piece by writer, Harold Jaffe while you’re there). The Illustrations for the piece were done by troop leader, Norman Conquest.

This insurgent text, guerilla prose piece re-imagines (re-images) life as an IED and a Drone.

Here’s a screen cap.

Click on image to read full PDF text of Post Shock and Awesome

I also received my lifetime membership in the Beuy Scouts. Check out this nifty membership card!

Take some time and point your browser at http://beuyscouts.com/.

About Beuyscouts:

Beuyscouts of Amerika is an international activist art collective founded in New York City in 1989 by artist Norman Conquest. It was initially a response to the Republican attack on the National Endowment for the Arts—spearheaded by the late right-wing Senator and reprobate from North Carolina, Jesse Helms.

To learn more about Piss Bush and how to signal ‘fuck’ in semaphore,  visit http://beuyscouts.com/about/

Made Out of Babies: An Interview with the Band

UPDATE: I’ve got an entire update/lowdown from Julie Xmas on her new solo record as well as what has been going on in the MOOB camp including info on their new record, new producer!, new loads of noisy AWESOME. I saw Brendan last Friday night at the Casbah, looks like he is doing some tour dates with Red Sparrowes. Hopefully we’ll see a spring release for the new record. The following interview took place on their first West Coast tour with Blackfire Revelation and Unsane in person at the Casbah. They had just released their Neurot debut, Trophy and I think I was the first person to interview the band. I’ll be adding the update/interview with Julie later this week so check back. Live they are magnificent, like a wolf pack in a cage covered in caribou parts, Julie as Asena stalking the stage, tearing through the crowd with her howl.

made out of babies

Brendan—guitar
Julie—vocals
Cooper—bass
Matt—drums

It’d be easy to do a bunch of metaphors using their name, but I’ll do my best to refrain from that lowest common denominator of writing gimmickry and provide a tale of my sordid encounter with Brooklyn’s fiercest “heavy” music act.

When Charles (musicedge.com photographer) and I made it to San Diego’s Casbah, much to our chagrin Made Out of Babies was three songs into its set. We got our wrists stamped and entered the venue with a spring in our step. Noticing the lack of people standing near the stage, we took it upon ourselves to show support by getting close—close enough to see the veins pop out of vocalist Julie X-Mas’ forehead as she spit the chorus of “Gut Shoveler” into her white-knuckled fist that was strangling the microphone.

Fans started to trickle in as MOoB went deeper into its set; most of the gathered masses were there to see noise core progenitors Unsane, who are touring in support of their latest Relapse Records release, Bloodrun. Yet those lucky enough early birds in attendance got a taste of what can only be described as awe-inspiring. MOoB combines the best of The Jesus Lizard chain-saw guitar effect (Brendan) with gut churning bass lines (Cooper) and bombastic, Keith Moon-like percussion (Matt). The apex of MOoB (aside from the talented instrument players) comes in the form of an auburn-haired Siren named Julie X-Mas, whose tortured, rage-filled screams are punctuated by moments of melodic beauty, enchanting listeners and raising obligatory devil horns from even the most cynical scenesters.

Their debut record, Trophy (Neurot Records), has a dozen gems that range in feel from manic chaos to schizophrenic surrealism. Their live set had the same feel of controlled chaos as their album with Julie caterwauling, spinning like a winged airliner in a final dive to the beckoning earth below.  Brendan and Cooper wield their instruments like weapons and their bodies act as if in the midst of some transcendental aboriginal dance, swaying back and forth to Matt’s maple splitting drum beat. This is a band that demands your attention while simultaneously command a sound with a passion and fury more than worthy of the barbaric applause and exalted screams from the crowd.
My only complaint was that the band didn’t play my favorite song, “Sugar,” which guitarist Brendan explained “is in a different tuning.”

With their set finished, we gathered in the Atari Lounge in the rear of the Casbah. The Lounge is a room filled with games like Gallaga, Ms. Pacman and Centipede. With the cacophony of video game music and the second act, Blackfire Revelation for ambiance, we sit at a table with an inlaid map of the U.S. and make jokes about Red and Blue states.  I’m impressed with the bands generosity as I attempt to conduct a very intimate interview.

SR: How did you all meet?
Julie: I dated him and him (pointing to Matt and Brendan). Brendan and I started playing together first about two or three years ago. Cooper’s been with us for over a year.

They proceed to argue benevolently on the precise time when Cooper joined the band.

Brendan: We drafted him about a year and a half ago.
Cooper: Here’s how it went. I played in my other band that’s called Players Club, and they opened for us on their first show and they weren’t good
Brendan: We were terrible.
Cooper: But I loved them. Anyway, a year later they recorded some stuff with the guitar player from Players Club, Joel Hamilton, and they recorded a bunch of songs with him, three of which are still on the record [Trophy]. I was at a party with these guys and said, “If you guys need a rhythm guitarist I’ll totally play rhythm guitar.” So a week later Brendan called me up and said “Why don’t you play bass guitar with us instead?” So I said, “Doesn’t Matt’s sister play bass guitar?” and they said, “Not anymore.” Then we immediately wrote the rest of the record.
Brendan: We were already in the process of recording but we weren’t happy with it, and we knew we could do better so we decided to scrap most of it and start all over.
Cooper: They had about five songs and we kept three.
Brendan: We had written bits of other songs then Cooper came along and …
Cooper (mockingly): Then we gelled, man.
Matt: Like a three-cheese quesadilla.
Brendan: Four.

SR: How did the writing change with the addition of Cooper, and how does the process work in the band? Is there one person writing songs or is it collaborative?
Brendan: It’s pretty much everyone. Different songs have started from different places. Some start with a guitar riff. “Sugar” started with a drumbeat and I wanted to do something “jerky” sounding, and Matt said, “Well I have this drum beat.” And it kind of went from there.
Cooper: I try and bring in like two parts that go together and let it go from there.
Matt: Lyrics come together once the skeleton of the song is in place.
Brendan: The great thing about Julie is that the lyrics come fairly easy to her. We’ll be figuring something out and she’ll say, “I want to try something right here.”
Julie: I always think of things as a singer. In writing, these guys have their own specific job. But thinking of things as a singer … that changes the writing too.
Cooper: That’s the great thing ’cause she can say; “I only have words for half of that.” So we’ll shorten that. Or “I have more than that” and we’ll double it.
Brendan: And most of the time it works ’cause it will break the cadence of the song up in a way that we wouldn’t have written it. The vocals and the melody will lend itself better to the song.

At this point we are interrupted by Dave from Unsane, bringing friendly shots to his friends and band mate, Cooper, who moonlights as a guitarist and vocalist for Players Club.

SR: As a writer, do you have things that you’ve already set down on paper prior to hitting the rehearsal or is it more spontaneous, creating words on the spot?

Julie: Well, sometimes I’ll use stuff that I already have, but most of the time I don’t even think about the words. Even some songs now I don’t have lyric sheets for because I use more sounds than actual lyrics. But I definitely take influences from things that I’m reading or something that strikes me when I hear their music.
Brendan: Like “Gut Shoveler”; what was that book you were reading?
Julie: The Jungle by Upton Sinclair.
Brendan: She said to me, “We should do something that sounds like a machine” and that’s when I did that thing with the slide that makes it sound like something is churning over and over again.
Cooper: The other great thing about the recording process is all the stuff we had written together as a band had changed quite a bit.  The vocals were still pretty loose but when we went into the studio there was such a format and so many different ways to do it that Julie was really receptive.  We were in the control room and she was laying down tracks and we could say, ‘try the other one.’  She’s awesome because she can do the songs a million different ways.
Brendan: In some ways, Joel Hamilton who produced the record is in a lot of ways another member of the band because he came up with a lot of ideas that we ended up really liking.  Getting back to the song ‘Sugar’ Julie had a basic melody and when we recorded it she had a couple of different things she would do.  She would improvise a lot of things when we were in the studio and she would change something or do something different and we’d be like, ‘that, do that again!’  Joe sat down with that song over the course of an hour and came up with the melody in the chorus.
Matt: At that point it was nice to have an objective pair of ears cause we had been in the studio for a while and doing the same thing over and over and he’d suggest something and the light bulb would go off, ‘Bing!’
Julie: The song and lyrics are based on my sister and me. When I wrote that song I was thinking of a character so I took certain traits of my sister and I (who’s at every show that we play) and put it into one person.
Brendan: All right, enough about that song. [He says laughing]

SR: how did you get started playing guitar?
Brendan: Some friends of mine were starting a band right as I was finishing high school, and I was always going to the shows and I just wanted to be in the band with them. The guitar player was a really good friend of mine and he showed me how to play a few of the songs, and in about six months I was playing in that band. I played with them for about four or five years but it never went anywhere. I didn’t play for years and years and then Julie and I went out for a while, then split up.
Julie: Like a hundred and seven years.
Brendan: It lasted for years. It lasted forever! But then we didn’t talk for a year, and she called me and it was her sister’s birthday, and she was already playing music with Matt and they needed a guitar player. So I went and practiced with them for about four days and played the show for her birthday with Cooper’s other band, Players Club.
Cooper: I love ’em but they played awful.
Brendan: Matt hadn’t played drums for a number of years and I hadn’t played guitar for six or seven years so it was terrible.

SR: Did you just start playing bass for this band?
Brendan: He’s our celebrity.
Matt: Lets stick with bass; who’ve you played bass for?
Cooper: Sweet Diesel and this band. On guitar, I played for Thursday. Their first tour they were all 21 and I was 28. They are my best buddies in the whole world. They’re a bunch of dirt bags and I love them. Their first tour was a series of house shows from here to Florida for two weeks and back. I have great photos of that tour.
Cooper: They’re my boys. I love those guys. I went on tour with them and only had one practice with them. Jeff, aside from singing, is a really good guitar player and he’d tack up these teachings for me that were in guitarist speak that said things like, First chug-chug part, eighteen times—into second light emo part into second light emo part— two times.

SR: Matt, when did you start playing?
Matt: I started playing drums in the sixth grade, because there was a girl in band that I had a crush on. ’Course she dropped out of band the day that I started. I stayed in there and ended up loving it. So I was a band geek from sixth grade through junior high and high school. I played in marching band: bass, cymbals, triangle, snare, I played the roto toms. It was cool. I had a blast during that time.
Cooper: You played bass in the marching band?
Matt: Yeah. The bass drum.
Cooper: I pictured you walking down the street playing a bass guitar.
(Laughs all around)
Matt: I stayed all the way through school, learned how to read music.

SR: Julie, how did you get your start?
Brendan: Julie has the most formal training out of all of us.
Julie: I come from a big Irish family and everyone plays music. My dad still plays music. He started a local prison band in a minimum-security prison upstate—in his spare time. I started very young … and I can sing so I went to Julliard for six months and dropped out. [It was] all vocal training.
(Dave from Unsane interrupts again)
Dave: You’re still here?
Julie: We played with Neurosis last night. We didn’t play as well as we did tonight. It was scary. We’ve never played for that many people before.

SR: And how did the relationship with Neurot Records come about?
Julie: We sent our demo in to them on a gamble and they called us like a few months later. It was a joke that we sent it to them and we are constantly reminded that we are the only band that they’ve picked up from a demo submission. We were sitting there and talking about where and who we should send it to, and Brendan is a huge Neurosis fan so we sent it. It was out of nowhere.
Cooper: I’m on tour in California with Players Club and Brendan thinks I’m calling to [mess] with him.
Brendan: But then I called Steve [Von Till, owner of Neurot Records, lead man in sludge-core giant Neurosis] back and was like yelling, “Who is this?” And he’s like “Steve Von Till” and I was like, “Yeah, whatever.” And after I talked to him (and realized it wasn’t a joke), he said that he really liked the record and asked if we would want Neurot to put it out. And I had to think about for 2 seconds. I hung up the phone because I would start telling him how much I love him. Then I called every person in the band and blubbered it out.
Cooper: The funny thing is that we really like them, but they really like Red Sparowes, who we hate (he says smiling while wearing a Red Sparowes T-shirt).
Brendan: They’re knob-twiddling hacks.
Matt: Shoe-gazing long hairs.
Brendan: Please add into the interview Greg’s proclivity for hair products.

MOoB!

Click here to listen to the track “Swarm” from their album, Trophy

San Diego Indie Music Fest!

Get Ready to be completely underwhelmed!

Its almost that time of year again when the best in the ‘Indie’ world descend on Northpark for two days of music and mayhem! Who? That’s what I thought when I got an email from Citybeat, directing me to the Indie Music Fest website. Hey, I know who James Marsters is! He’s Buffy’s other boyfriend from Buffy The Vampire Slayer, his character, Spike made watching Buffy worth every minute of pain I endured during season 4 when Buffy started dating the Initiative guy, Riley [what a total douche nozzle that guy was]. Spike was delightfully manipulative and you could see his budding obsession with the Buffster. Apparently he’ll be performing with his band. I wish it was a different famous actor turned musician, like Zooey Deschanel and M Ward instead, but I’ll settle for Spike.

The Indie Music Fest ‘performer’ list reads like a whos who of who. I guess that is the point at an Indie Music ‘fest’. Though Kid Beyond would be worth seeing, he’s a genius using live midi-on the fly samples. I’m wondering where all the San Diego Bands are though? No Prayers, Muslims, Vultures or Transfer? What about Grand Ole Party? Why the fuck do these great San Diego bands always get passed over? How about Weatherbox, one of the best melodic hardcore bands to come out of SD in years?

People get so bummed out when talking about the local ‘scene,’ and I can guess why. Scolaris will now be the exclusive bar of the new world order in North Park. All those bourgeois 30-thousand dollar millionaires will need a watering hole closer to their prefab domiciles across the street and Bar Pink Elephant is thankfully too ‘weird’ for those gaslampers. The Alibi won’t be having shows in the near future or possibly ever again. Beauty Bar and U31 have cornered the asymmetrical haircut movement and don’t even get me started on Soma or the Che where exclusionary IS the norm.

Even Music Fest sponsor 91x treats their Loudspeaker show like a shameful experiment by having it air from 1am to 3am monday mornings. I guess that ensures that the only people who’d listen and be interested are fast asleep. In the interest of full disclosure my brother is a DJ for the loudspeaker show so yes I’d like to hear loudspeaker ‘live’ and not through their podcast monday afternoons.

It boggles the mind. But maybe it is too early to assume there won’t be any bands there that I’d like. Or maybe my discriminating tastes are too music snob and not quite Joe Public enough. I hope to be pleasantly surprised, or more so than last year when Fishbone was one of the few attractions.

Here’s who I’d pick for a ‘Locals Only’ Stage, if given the chance.

Grand Ole Party
Archons
The Prayers
Get Your Death On
Hostile Combover
Joanie Mendenhall
The K23 Orchestra
Weatherbox
Some Girls

Cabron Live at Chasers this Friday!!!

“Uh, Fuck Yeah man, like for sure we’re totally playing at Chasers with Triclops (ex-fleshies-victims family), Batwings and the John Foothills Band.”

“Its sort of last minute but, its Bobs B Day this weekend and we haven’t played since early January. People might forget we are a band and move on to the next best thing, which may consist of drinking at home and listening to Vivaldi.”

“Ew, we can’t have that on our conscience.”

“Don’t folks want to feel like bands in this town give a shit about this town? I mean, how many bad glam rock revivalist bands can there be? Can’t we strike a balance between 70’s throwback rock and roll excess with Iggy inspired Brechtian punk rock aggression?”

“I’m down.”

“Me Too. Hopefully some people will show up…”

Cabron Live at Chasers

Congratulations To the Future Mr and Mrs Sarah Glaser!

That’s right! Cullen finally proposed to Sarah, on her last day as a volunteer kelp tank cleaner at the Scripps Birch Aquarium. Kudos to Cullen for the hugeness of the proposal! Six years of dating had to end in a blowout proposal, one that all of San Diego will remember, at least those that read the Tribune today since it made the front page! Not only that but he made the NATIONAL FUCKING NEWS!!!

Some folks like to propose to their loved ones at Scolaris and some like to propose to their loved ones while they are in full scuba gear in a fish tank. But no more of this kind of action for Mr. Hendrix. [I’ll save the one of him ‘asleep’ on the beach for the privacy of the wedding party]

frank the tank

Consumption Junction: Expecting Less but Getting More (CityBeat Update)

So here’s an update on that whole Citybeat thing courtesy of Rosey over at SDDialedin who posted an informative bit about a change at Citybeat. Actually, she makes some good points but SB editor Dave Rolland gives the best two middle fingers to San Diego I’ve read in a while by stating in an email:

We’re actually working on a replacement feature that would incorporate some of what Locals Only offers. Beauty, as always, is in the eye of the beholder. Some people like to read about the same local bands every week; others like to read about touring bands coming through town. We’ve begun to tire of the Locals format. Over the last couple of years, it’s come to feel a little too much like public relations for local bands, and we’d like to make better use of the space. Sometimes you have to kill your babies and try something new to keep things fresh. Hopefully, you’ll like the new feature.

I don’t really have anything to add to that but I will say that if you want to know what’s going on around SD just go online (SDDialedin, Sandiegopunk.com, myspace.com/loudspeakersandiego), if you want to know about touring acts pick up a Rolling Stone, Spin or Blender. While you’re at it, beer me that flesh turd—forgot to throw it out with the bathwater.