Ari Rothstein vibrated his way through PS 54. Known as the most hyperactive kid in midtown Manhattan, he was remembered everywhere as "that crazy hyper guy." Always moving, talking, gesturing, jumping, twitching, spazzing. The kid was a manic ball of non-stop excitement. He had a magnetism about him too, people were drawn and attracted to him, girls especially. Ari's mom died when he was a little kid so he lived with his artist father in a loft a few blocks from Penn station. His dad didn't force too many boundaries on Ari's life, so he would literally be running around the city at all hours. He and his rat-pack of friends would skate all through the city and hang over at their favorite spot under the Brooklyn Bridge. Ari's energy levels were bordering on insane and he would skate the same spot for hours, pushing his tricks further and further, amping super hard, all sweaty and frenzied, getting in his friends faces and exclaiming "HOLY SHIT THAT GRIND WAS SICK I JUST WANT TO HIT THAT NOLLY VARIEL OVER THAT RAIL HOLY SHIT TURN THAT FUCKING MUSIC UP FUCK YEAH!!! For hours and hours and hours. When Ari and his crew turned 16 they started going to punk shows and got deep into the NYC industrial and metal-edged punk movement. Ari would just go ballistic on the dancefloor. He was a little guy so he'd be flying through the air all over the place. Leaping off the second story balconies, getting up and singing into the guitarist's microphone. Just going out of control. He fucking loved it. Soo.. that Christmas he asked his dad for a bass guitar. Soon he and his friends were practicing till the wee hours in his dad's art studio. At first just three-chord punk songs. But soon it grew.
In school all Ari could talk about was music. He was fanatic. He wanted his band to be legit, not just another group of "wanker punk pussies." So he started hounding the best musician in school to come join his band. Noel Spur also grew up in Midtown. He was a quiet, studious kid with exceptional musical talent. He played first saxophone in the prestigious school jazz band, but was also known to shred some wicked fusion guitar. After much coaxing Ari got Noel to come to a practice. The practice went poorly. Noel was annoyed that the other guys could barely play their instruments. But he did like the fact that a bunch of girls were hanging out at the studio. Soo.. he came back for more practices and eventually taught the guys to play. For about six months Launchpad practiced their asses off. Then they began playing shows.
The first show was at a grimy little club in the East Village. Five bands were due to play and Launchpad was the opener. There were about 20 people in the crowd and Launchpad blasted off into their first insano song called, "Rip Your Eyes Out!" The kids in the crowd were ready to dance and Ari was literally vibrating off the floor with his energy and conviction. He also had this really distinctive voice. It was cutting, shrill and high-pitched, but also melodic and flowing. And he would bark these anthem-like phrases that got the people bouncing around in the crowd.
Six months later Launchpad opened for NOFX at the Trocadero in Philly. Kids were packed to the gills into this classic little club. Ari, still only 18 years old, was running around backstage churning himself into a blind frothing psychopath. Launchpad came out, fired into their opening song and the kids in the crowd started going ape-shit. A huge circle-pit formed, humming with the primal force of the music. Hundreds of kids all moshing and bouncing and rampaging. Ari was screaming the lyrics as kids were leaping off the stage and getting sucked into the pulsing pit of dancers. The energy was thick and visceral. The club was sweaty and dark. The volume was ear-splitting. Raging and pulsing and destroying. Manic.
(Jeff Chamberlain sent this in)
photos from surfermag.com
Liquid photo from Jamaica
A few years ago I spent two weeks on an island in the Indian Ocean. There were three or four waves scattered over a few miles of coast. The wind remained calm all morning and blew side/offshore all afternoon. Four or five guesthouses huddled in front of the main wave, which was generally crowded due to its proximity and quality. Most folks surfed this main wave or another wave that was spitting distance from the guesthouses. However, if you walked 50 minutes north, through a little forest and around a large bay, you'd arrive at a very special reef/point that for some reason rarely attracted many surfers. The wave was a bit more temperamental and required a more specific swell and wind direction. The first time i walked over there it wasn't working. The sideshore wind was onshore here and the wave just crumbled and closed-out down the line.
The next day we knew there would be some new swell arriving. I woke up before light and paddled out to the main wave in front of the guesthouses. Beautiful crystalline glass conditions. Overhead barrelling Indian Ocean tropical fantasy waves. Unreal. Within 30 minutes of dawn there were maybe 30 people in the lineup. uggg. So i exited the lineup and began the walk to the other wave, even though it supposedly needed a different tide to work. Up the coast, through the forest, around the bay... from a distance i could see the tell-tale lines. Peeling. I ran the last 500 yards. This was it. Empty, reeling, magazine-quality right-handers. Nobody around. I paddled out over the sharp coral heads and caught a few tear-jerkers. Soon a crew of Aussie rippers came walking around the bend.. then a few Kiwis. Eventually 7 of us in the lineup. A couple of the Aussies were semi-pro ass-kickers. During a lull in the action they said, "Yeah, yeah. this is off it's tits! We're takin' turns now so line up. Crikey!" And sure enough we spent the next two hours (until the wind came up) lining up and taking turns. If it was your turn and a less-stellar-but-still-rideable wave came along, you went. If the sickest, gnarliest wave of the biggest set marched in and it was your turn, you'd better fucking go . It was awesome. I remember paddling back out and seeing the main Aussie guy drop into a thick, keg-like reef-sucker, bottom turn and then stuff himself way way back into an amazing barrel. I paddled over the top of the lip with my fist up in the air hooting him as loud as i could.. Then a few minutes later i was dropping into a way-less-stellar-but-still-legit wave, not getting barrelled or anything.. but he was paddling out and gave me a huge, tribal hoot. It was radical. We kept looking over toward land to see if anyone else was walking out, but nobody did. The next day it was crowded at this wave.. but.. the memories remain.
In other news the "Brian for God" campaign picks up huge headway on an underground SF blog.
I responded to a craiglist ad for a band looking for a guitarist. The ad spoke of "luminous improvisatory mania" and "abstract bewitched bru-haha." Soo.. i was intrigued. I emailed the guy and he responded that he played drums and wanted to put something together. He mentioned having a keyboardist, bass player and maybe another guitar. I headed over to Lennon Studios in SOMA after work, arriving a bit late. I lugged my gear down the hall to room 9 and opened the door to the sight of not one, not two, but FOUR other guitarists all set up or setting up. When i walked in they exclaimed, "ANOTHER GUITAR PLAYER!! GRRREAT!" We were all pretty miffed at the drummer for sort-of tricking us. But.. whatever, it would be an experiment in respecting and sharing the musical space. Plus the drummer kept packing huge bowls of ganja and hash. Not that i smoked any.
It took me about 25 minutes to set up because, as fucking usual, i experienced "equipment meltdown." It's a horrible feeling when you rush to get all set up. Get the pedal chain all set up, power-supply working, guitar tuned and whatnot.. then you plug in, turn off the amp bypass.. and... where there should be sound there's nothing. Shit! So then you begin a process of elimination to discover the source of the problem. Guitar strait to amp, then just one pedal, then the second pedal.. could be the connecting wires? could be the pedals? could be the guitar? Anyway it turned out that BOTH the delay and distortion pedals i borrowed from a friend didn't work! argh.. soo.. get them out of there. Then quietly ease into the jam that's already begun.
A 50+ year-old guy with a fantastic grey mullet and huge white LA Gear basketball shoes is leading our guitar army through Aiko Aiko, Scarlet Begonias, some Allman's song, then some Floyd. Then the bass player finally shows up and he's actually a guy i used to play in a band with. Random! We try to initiate one of the songs we used to play together but the other guitarists aren't down... at least the two "leader" ones. They want more Dead.
A short description of the other musicians:
Guitar 1: Jolly, plump, balding 30-something guy. Glasses. friendly. LOVED talking about gear and trapese tailpiece this and class-A Sovtec tubes that. Pretty mellow in the mix. had some cool leads here and there.
Guitar 2: aforementioned mulleted older dude. Bluesy, gravelly voice. Played mostly rhythm guitar.
Guitar 3: Punk-rock looking guy with a died pink goatee. Also played mostly rhythm and often held up the structure of the songs.
Guitar 4: total ripper guy. Probably in his 50's. Affable, jovial expression. Black beret cap. grey hair and beard. Big belly with his light, little guitar nestled above it.
Guitar 5: Me.
Bass: my friend Gary. 50-something Mexican guy. Started buying and selling houses at age 20 and is now retired and basically does what he wants all day everyday. Huge stoner. Builder of solid grooves.
Keys: strait-laced lookin' dude who seemed pissed off to be there with all the guitarists. Made one comment like, "maybe a bit more structure and changes would be cool." right before we launched into another 10-minute two-chord space jam.
Drummer: Madman who purposefully brought together 5 guitarists by lying to each and telling them that there would only be one other guitarist. Had a massive kit with probably 8 toms, electric drums, funky Tibeten cymbal pyramids, double bass, etc.
The sound was full and massive. Not much open space. One of the guitarists was frickin bad-ass. Beautiful tone from his hollow-body Paul Reed Smith through a little Boogie combo amp. He soared through elegant, subtle, Jerry-esque phrasings. I attempted to follow and mirror him but was often embarrassed by the weak, piddly tone of my own setup. Plus I'm not always "at home" in the groove. Sometimes i find myself lost in the songs i've never played before. All of a sudden i'm not sure what key we're in and i lose confidence in my contribution. When that happens i stop playing. Then I try to delicately mesh myself back in. Good musicians just seem to always be in the pocket. The don't lose the groove. There's no obvious fumbling. No janky splat notes. It was humbling. I truly suck.
My favorite jam was probably this trippy spacy improvisation we did (actually i think it was supposed to be "Space" by the Dead). A few of the guitarists were taking a break. I was just vocal jamming through a mic, not playing guitar. The rad guitarist utilized a spectrum of warbly, demonic, strobe-light effects to create some really celestial sounds. I threw in a bunch of guttural, bizarre beat-box weirdness to shadow the guitar work. I thought it was pretty cool but most people usually think my vocal jam stuff is too weird and unsettling... soo dunno.
Anyway.. it was pretty fun all in all.. Not sure why i'm writing about it. It reinforced a growing desire in me to take up an instrument other than guitar. It seems that everybody and their brother and their uncle and cousin and wife's sister's ferret is a guitar player. When i was in 4th grade i started playing drums. played in marching band and concert band and all that. Ratamacues, paradiddles, flim-flams, etc. In 7th grade my dad brought home a trap set he picked up at a garage sale for $50. I thought it was the friggin bees knees. Rocked for many hours in my bedroom until about 9th grade. Then being in the school band just wasn't my thing anymore. My dad's friend, who played guitar, used to always tell me, "Ethan, keep playing those drums because everybody is a guitar player. There are a million guitar players out there, but everyone needs a drummer." Of course, a few years later i began playing guitar and pretty much dumped the drums. Total dumb-ass maneuver. Maybe i'll resurrect my sister's old Coronet.
In surf news there are some waves out there. Surfable for sure with nobody out when i checked around 7. A bit wild but not crazy. A few inner-bar drainers.
Dieter Roth (tres Kaiser-esque, non?)
Top o the morning.
Emptiness out there.
Barely breaking on the outside.
Backing off then occasionally firing on the inside.
Found a few open faces.
Enjoyed racing down the line.
Sat around in a hole for a while.
Lerm and i basically paddled in.
Couldn't get a last one.
Grey, slightly onshore vibe.
The mighty ocean is a beautiful place.
The California coast takes your breath away.
John Zorn talks about Jewish music, surf music, Masada, and shredding
A few shots from a-frame magazine
jeff anderson photo
chris burkart photo
Looked mouth-watering from the dunes.
Tough to harness the succulence.
Spent a lot of time duckdiving random outside waves that would mush and not reform properly.
Took off late on a tight/crisp right and biffed hard.
Caught a few shreddable rights but didn't surf them with style.
On one ended up leaning too far on my front foot after having to push forward to get into the wave.
With flow compromised i wasted a corpulent section.
Lerm surfed well. Saw him bash the lip a few times.
I finally caught a nice left and had fun.
Then a really cool belly ride on the way in. All ze way to shore.
A beautiful morning, regardless of wave status or wave-riding ineptitude.
Lanquid, smooth water.
Gentle, offshore wind.
Sea-birds diving and gliding.
Colorful, inspired sunrise.
Relative emptiness in the lineup.
Cavernous barrels on parade.
Bracing, arctic water temp.
A few posts from yesterday (mostly in regard to the guy who died surfing at Sloat on Sunday (Sean):
Ended up going out at lunchtime today where Sean ended up. I couldn't shake the vibe that had been cast for me...I didn't commit fully and tried to drop early but ended up sitting at the lip, then being taken over the falls and held down for about 20 seconds...long enough to start scratching...got a screamer after that and just headed in...
...came home and started trying to figure out why I was so bothered by this other than the obvious...made a few calls and as it turns out Sean's new loft is under mine. He was my neighbor.
I did not know him personally other than passing in the building.
I never saw him with a board, I've never seen anyone with a board in my building. But if I had...
I regret not knowing him.
I regret not knowing him and possibly helping him understand what little I have learned about the many personalities of that bitch OB.
OB can own you on a 2ft day low tide suck out or on a 10+ ft heaving sunny day.
Doesn't matter who you are, she will take when and how she wants to take.
I would like to challenge myself and each and every one of us to reach out to those who may be learning or relatively new to our surf community and look these people seriously in the eye - and inform them of how volatile, violent and irreverant OB can be. It's not a f-in sandbox, it's dangerous out there (both from conditions and from other people).
I think we owe that to Sean, ourselves and our community.
Foo was surfing with buddies, lots of them, and photographers and a huge audience and he still disappeared. Like blakestah said, unusual stuff happens. I was out at Sloat not long after he drowned. I didn't know it had happened. It was a fairly crowded day out there with lots of people on the beach and in the lots watching the surf. Even several photographers with telephoto lenses. People paddling in and out and yet no one saw him floating. It's all strange and sad. It's good to be out with a friend but at OB you have to behave as if you're out alone at all times. Even on a crowded day there may be no one there in time to save you.
I was surfing with 2 buds when my knee went out.
They weren't anywhere close... and you know how that goes.
Stuff happens, and when it comes down to it, remaining calm and focused is most important.
Unfortunately, a newbie doesn't have the tools or confidence to roll with it... and, like Foo, even then it may not help.
I just found out that my surf bud's wife and new daughter where right there in the mix of Sean being pulled from the Sea.
I talked about it with her... about the rips, the risks, and so forth. I have no hesitation in reassuring her that I will look after hers. She knows... she, like my wife, know. You have to go, and, in return, I watch myself.
I'm also committed to having fun and reveling in what we're privileged to enjoy.
I'm looking forward to snapping some pix tomorrow.
That said, deepest sympathies to Sean's loved ones.
I had a fucking awesome day. FUCK YEAH im so STOKED. Get in the water, get a fuckin nose-ride right, takes forever and it was BEA-FUCKING-UTIFUL!!!! and then i got a shotgun left and another fuckin right. a couple big ol drops but the waves closed out and i got stuck in whitewash, oh well. fucking so after that i come home, plop my ass in the hot tub and smoke a fat cigar. and after THAT my parents have cooked me up a fatty london broil and i fuckin pig out on prime ass juicy steak and salad and potatoes, and finish it all of with some grub ass chocolate cookies and FROSTING AND MILK!!!!! OH YEAH im feeling fucking good. best day ive had surfin for a long time. MEGA STOKE
photos by Steve Fitzpatrick
Waves are gifts.
Each a unique celebration.
Brutal inside whompers.
Slow-rolling outside mushers.
Quirky, spiraling drainers.
Enjoy the ride.
RIP guy who passed away at Sloat yesterday.
I heard the sirens and was told that "someone passed-out on the beach" but didn't realize the deal.
Also there is a fund for the Santa Barbara wahine who died surfing at Campus point. The money will go to help support her young daughter.
article from the Chronicle
from SF Chronicle:
A man died in powerful surf at San Francisco's Ocean Beach Sunday morning.
Authorities are still trying to identify the man, who was pronounced dead shortly after 11 a.m. at the University of California San Francisco Medical Center. A longtime lifeguard described Sunday as deceptively beautiful, saying Ocean Beach is always treacherous.
"This is a dangerous day," said Sean Scallan, 43, who works for the National Park Service Beach Safety Patrol and has surfed Ocean Beach for more than 30 years. "There are waves that are dangerous with lots of current."
He said, however, that Sunday was one of the better surfing days this winter, and many other surfers continued to enjoy the surf.
Numerous beachgoers had seen something floating in the water but dismissed it as trash or a dead sea lion.
This reporter, who was sitting with her family 15 yards from the water's edge at the foot of Sloat Boulevard, initially thought the object was a log but soon realized it was a person. As she and her husband dragged the body out by the arms, several other people came running to help.
John Bowling, a nurse at the Veterans Association Medical Center at Fort Miley who also had been surfing, attempted with another man to resuscitate the surfer until ambulance crews arrived."I heard a shout from the cliff ... and ran down," he said in a shaking voice.
It was unclear whether the surfer's board had hit his head or he had been sucked under or slammed down by the powerful waves.
Scallan said the last drowning at this part of Ocean Beach was roughly four years ago. Drowning statistics for the entire beach were not available Sunday, said Rich Weideman, a spokesman with the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. He believes this was the first surfer to drown in 2006.
"The challenge with Ocean Beach is the rip tide," Weideman said.
After a spate of drownings five or six years ago, the National Park Service began to focus from spring to fall on the portion of the beach that runs from Sloat Boulevard north to the Cliff House, he said. Patrollers warn swimmers and surfers about the dangers of the rip tide and carry oxygen, a first aid kit and a radio.
Surfers tend to be the most knowledgeable about the dangers and watch out for each other, Weideman said.
Scallan said the beach is particularly dangerous now because winter storms have moved the sand around, creating troughs parallel to the beach that cause swift channels of water known as rip currents to move quickly away from shore. Drownings at Ocean Beach are often the result of a surfer or swimmer getting caught in a rip current.
It's not known whether the man who died was surfing with anyone.
Authorities found a set of keys on him but do not yet know whether they belong to a car he drove over or whether he walked to the beach, Weideman said. His board washed up after his body was taken to the hospital. It was unclear how long he had been floating in the water.
Chris Durkin, 25, who made the call to 911 and often surfs at Ocean Beach, said the death wouldn't change him.
"It's saddening (but) it doesn't change the way I think," he said. "It doesn't make me think it's any less or more dangerous than I did."
James Meyering, 40, who lives near the beach and was wearing a wetsuit before he got in the water, said if he didn't surf Sunday, he never would again.
"I have panic attacks sometimes -- sometimes big waves come out of nowhere and take the board out of your hands and you're under water," he said. "I have to go or I'll be afraid to go out again."
It was hard to tell how experienced the dead surfer was. "It doesn't matter," said Durkin. "He could be a beginner or a longtime Ocean Beach surfer."
Scallan said that as the sport has become much more popular in the last five to 10 years Ocean Beach has seen a marked increase in surfers. He advises people always to surf with a friend and for beginners to start at safer spots such as Cowell's Beach in Santa Cruz. Longtime Ocean Beach surfer Scott Schofield, 47, advised anyone who is caught in the current to stay as calm as possible to conserve oxygen.
"People don't realize how dangerous this sport is," Schofield said. "Ocean Beach is treacherous."
got up early and drove.
darkness for a while, then a bright, resplendent sunrise.
Eventually arrived at a little spot with nobody around.
Not perfect but not horrible.
Sat for a while deliberating.
Finally another surfer pulled up.. but.. nope.. dog walker.
I suited up and paddled out
A bit wild and untamed out there.
A little scary so i played it conservative.
Locked into a good one within the first 5 minutes.
Ended up being my best ride.
Steep take off.
Race down the line.
Steer around a crashing section.
Up and punch into the lip.
Stand and trim for a few seconds.
Caught a few short ones quickly after.
Then i took a set on the head.
Sucked me in and I had to paddle for a while to re-position.
Then biffed a take-off and went over the falls.
Did it again on a warbly one soon after.
I fucking suck.
Then sat for 20 minutes trying to get my last ride.
Two other surfers paddled out.
Each immediatly caught a good one while i frustratingly tried to nab one more.
Couldn't do it.
But... finally.. after probably 30 minutes.. found a little pipsqueak wedge to ride in on.
hands and feet still frozen.
Nice to just be out in the ocean.
some lame-wad scrub kook tranny
Large, daunting beasties out there.
Watched a crew of skimboarders find a few.
Gaffs, airs, down-the-line. Pretty sweet.
A few book reviews if you're interested:
I've been semi-addicted to reading music-related biography and autobiography lately.
Whores: An Oral Biography of Perry Farrell and Jane's Addiction
I knew this was going to be trashy but i couldn't help myself. This book is comprised of interview splices and first-person accounts detailing the history of Janes Addiction. It begins with Perry Farrel as Perry Bernstein, born to a charismatic Jewish jewelry merchant in Queens NY. Perry's mom committed suicide when he was 3 years old and a few years later the rest of the family moved to Miami. He started surfing in Florida and still surfs to this day. He later moved to LA and got into the punk scene, played in the band Psi Com, and then started Jane's Addiction. The name of the band came from this girl Jane who lived in a house with Perry and a bunch of other people. She was good-natured and intelligent (went to Smith) but addicted to heroin. I think her name was Jane Banter. Dave Navarro's story is also told, by himself and his cousin mostly. Born to a wealthy family in LA. Dave was the bad-ass high-school guitar king. Long-hair metal-hippy style. His mom was murdered when he was a teenager by her then-boyfriend. Dave took his mother's death hard. Within the first year or two of Jane's Addiction Dave was doing mounds of heroin. Supposedly he loved the actual ritual of shooting and would begin to prepare the next batch barely after finishing the last. Tons of Coke and Heroin for Dave, Perry and Eric Avery, but Stephen Perkins stuck to the ganja. Perk describes how there were often tons of ladies trying to hang with the band and maybe make-out or whatever but the other three were preoccupied with scoring smack and so he would manage the overflow of women as best he could. Pretty cool stories about the parties the band played at the mid-80s LA art-rock scene in general. The story goes through the break up and then into the post-Janes years of Porno for Pyros and the red hot chili peppers and such. I guess that Perry and another porno for pyros guy were big surfers and the whole band used to rent houses in Fiji and Tahiti and Mexico to surf and record. Tons of crack cocaine and heroin went down during Porno for Pyros and the details are ugly and fascinating... I guess.
Beneath the Underdog : His World as Composed by Mingus
This is Charles Mingus' autobiography. A strange and unusual read. Mingus barely talks about music in this memoir, instead focussing on his childhood in Watts, his various failed relationships and then as his alter-life as a pimp. The stories are really too out-of-hand to be believed.. but.. maybe?? He lives with two women for much of the time, loving them and pimping them out. He goes on a huge bender in Tijuana involving scores of prostitutes, which sheds some light on some of his Mexican-themed music. He's basically surly, disgruntled, cocky and pissed-off throughout the whole story. He talks about playing with Miles and his success in New York and Europe. All in all a weird read that's mildly entertaining but doesn't shed much light on the technical nature of his music or compositions but does much to express the overarching attitude of the man.
The Dirt : Confessions of the World's Most Notorious Rock Band
OK.. i couldn't friggin help myself on this one. This book is about Motley Crew. For what it's worth I've never been a Motley Crew fan (except for maybe Dr. Feelgood and a few other tunes). But.. if you're curious about the rock-star lifestyle in it's most depraved and scandalous.. check this book out. I first saw it last year at Stacey's and used to sneak out of work to read bits and pieces of it for fun. It's really horrible.. But.. really good in it's tragic/comic sordidness. Nikki Sixx could be the most vapid, superficial, shallow musician ever. He's horrible. The stories from the original Crew house on the Sunset Strip are pretty awesome. Drugs, parties, trashy girls, vomit. Not much respect for decency or humanity. The story is filled with first-person memories of the rise and fall of the group, told by each of the members. What ends up being gripping, though, aren't necessary all the lewd depictions of mounds of cocaine and lascivious gropings (though there are many), but some of the very human shit that goes down in their lives. THe lead guitarist Mick Mars suffers from a rare degenerative bone disease that forces him to endure massive amounts of continual pain and also creates a mild hunchback stoop in his posture. It also drives him to drink ridiculous amounts of whiskey. Vince Neil loses his 3 year-old daughter to cancer and describes the psychological torture he goes through. Fucking heavy. Tommy Lee goes into depth about his relationship with Pamela Anderson. He met her while on ecstasy at a New Years party. He talks about the unbelievable paparazzi that surrounded them at all times, and how that drove them to despair. Anyway.. it's actually a much better book than you might believe and if you're curious about the Crew or about the LA glam-rock scene in the 80s you should check it out.
memorial for the 29 yr old Santa Barbara surfer girl who died at campus point. Best wishes to her daughter and boyfriend. Rest in Peace Michelle
Wow, it's been quite awhile since I've been able to write, but now I can send out a quick email to let all of you know I'm still alive. I'm in Australia now, living out my tiny rental car. It's pretty sweet and super touristy, I love it. I stick out like a sore thumb, which isn't too bad, because that happens as soon as I open my mouth anyway. As soon as I speak people look at me like I'm speaking a language they've never heard of, and ask where the hell I'm from. But this is only outside the big city. I flew from Paris to Bangkok and spent a day there. Bangkok is a surreal place and I would love to spend a little more time there. It's a different planet. I spent 4 days sleeping in train train stations, airports, and a hotel floor one day (thanks Dan). I finally made it to Brisbane, spent the night there, and celebrated my much needed arrival to Australia. I felt like a different person as soon as I stepped off the plane, mainly because I was able to speak to people in English. Well, after Brisbane I took the train to the Gold Coast and stayed with my friend Nic who put me up for about 10 days and took insanely good care of me. I got to surf one of the best waves in Australia, Burleigh Heads, and got a bunch of fun waves. I've stopped by a ton of the major surf spots in Australia, but it's been flat for about a week. I don't mind though, it's nice just to see the coast and explore all the little nooks and crannies. It's also really fun almost getting washed out to see by the tide coming out and trapping you on some rocks. If you ever get the chance, give it a try. Now, I'm somewhere on the East Coast, traveling along the Pacific Highway, camping at national parks, waking up early to dodge paying the park ranger. I'm getting pretty good at it. It's pretty strange to be eating, sleeping, and exploring out of a tiny rental car by myself, but there's nothing else like it in the world. Oh yeah, I'm driving a stick with the steering wheel on the right hand side, and everyone drives on the left side too. Quite an adjustment, especially after not driving for about 7 months. Well, I come home in 2 months, and it seems like I just left yesterday. Amazing how fast time goes by. Well, I'll write again soon and get some pictures online, but I just wanted to tell everyone I'm still alright, aside from the 30 mosquito bites covering my body. Thanks to everyone who keeps me posted on life back home. As much as I love this, and appreciate every second of it, I still can't wait to get home and see all of you. Anyway, talk to you later.
Liquid photos from Jamaica
BugEye occupies the far corner of the second floor. They have a huge studio with an expansive window overlooking scenic West Oakland. BugEye hit it big in 2001 with a top-50 tune entitled, "Back that sh*t up." They lived lavishly off the proceeds of that song for a few years but are now re-entrenching and attempting to get the flow rolling again. Two brothers from Berkeley form the core of the funk/hip-hop group.
Eugene and Larry grew up in an upper-middle class black neighborhood on the border of Berkeley and Oakland. Their father Raymond ran a successful soul food restaurant called Raymond's. Raymond also played jazz clarinet and would have his friends over for impromptu jams on sundays after church. Eugene and Larry would dance and sing while their father and his friends played Duke Ellington and Thelonious Monk tunes for hours. Soon Eugene and Larry had their own little band, with Eugene on drums and Larry on bass guitar. They would create grooves and then rap along to them. Soon they were at Berkeley high school playing in the jazz band with such notables as Joshua Redman, Charlie Hunter and Will Bernard.
After high school Larry and Eugene started playing out, and soon developed a reputation for hilarious, good-time stage antics and legendary, uber-rockstar offstage shenanigans. As good-looking, smooth-talking musicians on the rise, they soon gathered a veritable harem of stylish, nubile felines around them. After a year or two of paying dues and partying large, BugEye hit it huge with "Back that sh*t up," a funk/rap groove about shaking booty on the dancefloor. They created a hilarious, over-the-top video where all these cartoon ladies with exaggerated posteriors did the butt-pop dance at ridiculously high velocities. The video has all the ladies perform this syncopated dance where their butts jiggle and wiggle in direct tempo with the song. Then cartoon charactertures of Eugene and Larry are seen with huge eyeballs that jiggle and wiggle to the sight of the jiggling butts. The climax of the video has all the butts and eyeballs jiggling out of control and the whole building crashes down due to all the excessive wiggling. The video won an MTV music video award but was also banned in many areas.
Eugene and Larry lived luxuriously for about a year with their newfound wealth. They each rented a penthouse suite in Russian Hill and also one down in Santa Monica. They threw unbelievable parties featuring scantily-clad, well-endowed females, hot-tubs, celebrities, high-grade hydroponics, grills, and all the rest. They rolled fantastic, 8-paper blunts. Booze, limos, chartered jets, krunk-goblets, armani suits, etc. They toured and roared through the country, living the dream. But, after a while the buzz wore off and the album stopped selling and Eugene and Larry landed back on earth.
Now they're in Harmony Studios, trying to put it together again.
Thank you Huey for the stellar waves yesterday!
Cold, dark, frumpy peaks.
Diamonds in the rough.
Needles in the hay stack.
Pits in the poopoo.
Coalition of the Chilling this evening at 8pm.
7th and Folsom.
Set from 8pm to 8:50pm.
No localism or stinkeye.
Best wave was my first wave.
Long, powerful open face.
Let out a little, "Oh yeah!" to myself at the end.
Wiped out on a few solid ones.
Sat for a long time while not catching anything.
I will always be a barney kook.
Forgot my earplugs so imagined that my inner-ear bone was growing rapidly.
Briny, chemical-tasting foam.
Watched some impressive surfing.
Inspiring and humbling.
Got caught inside.
Sucked and pulled all the way in toward the beach.
Arggh. Decide to call it a session even without a last ride.
A bit frustrated and disallusioned as i walk to the car.
The 15 seconds of riding was fun.. but.. the paddling, the duckdives, the beat-downs, the crowd dynamics, the sore back. Maybe surfing isn't all that great.
But a few hours later, in the shower, it started creeping back in.
Memories of the few smooth carving moments.
Watching conical waves twist and throw down the line.
The desire for progression and improvement.
Just the bad-ass nature of the act.
Tossing yourself over the ledge.
Surfing can't be denied.
4 photos from wavescape
Upchuck fucking suck. They're some of the worst people i've ever encountered and they happen to exist within two realms of my life, surfing and music. They occupy the room across the hall from ours on the second floor of Harmony Studios. They sport the full-on black-shades, punker/skater/cool-guy attitude. Big loud trucks with lifted tires, pit-bulls in the back. Trucker hats. Hot, tattooed, peroxide-blond girlfriends. They play aggressive, three-chord thrash music with angry, screamy lyrics that sounds like all the other bands that do the same thing. If you walk past them in the hallway they just snarl or silently walk past and then mutter "fag" under their breath. It's pretty hilarious, actually, how cliche they are. Strait out of Point Break. But.. nevertheless, they're a presence. They recognize me from surfing the localized spot where they surf, and they don't like me one bit.
Usually they arrive around 9:30pm, after our band has finished a few hours of rehearsal. They immediatly turn on loud, obnoxious death metal and begin snorting lines of meth and chugging Coors Light. For some reason they're proud of the Coors Light and have Coors light stickers and a posters tacked up on the outside of their door. I know they're snorting meth because they left the door slightly ajar one day and i peeked in and saw them leaned over a little mirror cutting up lines. I guess it could've been coke but based on the fact that they rock extremely hard and extremely loud for hours and hours on end leads me to the conclusion that there are amphetamines involved. Anyway, i also noticed some beautiful Marshall full-stacks in there, which explains the unbelievable decibel levels they achieve. When they start playing we usually have to end our own rehearsal because we can't hear ourselves play.
One of the guitar players, Adam, is also one of the heaviest locals at a quirky, highly-protected wave i sometimes surf. He grew up in the area to a super wealthy corporate lawyer dad and a pretentious, alcoholic, hyper-bitchy mom (who's pretty friggin hot). Adam's dad is a huge power-player in the local political arena and usually bullies his way into big money and big deals. Sorrowfully, Adam didn't inherit much of his father's intelligence, but he got plenty of his sense of entitlement and heaps of his dad's money. I've witnessed Adam absolutely lose his shit in the water. One time he thought some guy was infringing on his position in the lineup so Adam loudly said, "what the fuck are you doing?" The other guy just looked up and didn't move and Adam literally flew off his board and began punching and spitting and freaking out like some rabid animal. Adam's friends in the lineup (one of whom is in Upchuck) held the other guy down while Adam punched and dunked him under water, always with this twisted, psychotic look on his face. They finally let the dude go after a while, he was all bloody and almost unconscious. I felt horrible for the guy but I didn't know what the hell to do as i was pretty afraid of Adam and his crew. Something about Adam's demeaner was really unnerving and unsettling. Like he was really crazy. You could see it in his eyes and hear it in his voice. Here was a man who was truly violent and had no qualms about inflicting violence on innocent bystanders. Instability is scary.
Anyway. Upchuck was somewhat of a running joke around Harmony Studios. Nobody liked them. Mostly everyone thought their music was horrible. We complained to the owner but he just shrugged his shoulders and told us that they pay triple the rent just so they can play as loudly as they desire. So a few of the bands began a low-key campaign of retribution. It began with a flat little stink bomb passed underneath their door a half-hour before they arrived. Then someone started posting Depeche Mode and Cure stickers all over their door. They didn't like that and Adam went on some kind of crazed rampage through the hallways banging on people's doors yelling, "Who's the Cure faggot that wants to get the shit kicked out of him!" We were laughing. Then the onslaught of insults and insinuations towards Adam's mom began. I don't know who found it but someone discoverd a photo of Adam's mom in a skimpy bikini looking very trashy and slutty. This someone made flyers of the photo that said, "Upchuck moms rule" underneath the picture. I walked into Harmony studios one day and there were litally thousands of these flyers tacked up all over the hallways. It was hilarious. Needless to say when Upchuck arrived later that night you could hear this primal scream coming down the hall and sure-enough Adam was going ballistic. He was yelling incomprehensible vulgarities at the top of his lungs, banging on doors and generally flying off the handle. It was awesome.
One of the doors on the second floor of Harmony Studios is covered in criss-crossing patterns of black and yellow electrical tape. Little papier-mache figurines that look like squirrel heads with huge teeth and bug-eyes poke out from the mesh of tape on the door. Very strange. The music, or sounds, emanating from within are also highly unusual. Sometimes you'll hear high-pitched scraping noises over a foundation of sub-sonic rumbling. Sometimes you'll hear a melange of overlapping whistles that create resonant harmonic overtones. But mostly you just hear this voice. A thick, dark, baritone that hums quirky, slightly-disturbing melodies. There is something forbidding and not-quite-right about this room and its occupant. Something that gets under your skin and makes you squirm and worry. Something mysterious and uncomfortable. But also something foreign and intriguing. Something altogether new.
Inside the taped-up door sits Bodkin Shreve, the man scrutinized by many and posited possible alien origins by some. Born in Kiev, Ukraine to a ballerina mother and a butcher father, Bodkin popped into this world in a characteristically unique and bizarre way. His father held many wacky ideas about life and science and also about his profession as a butcher. He believed that if his newborn child were to be blanketed in the warm, gooey uterus of a freshly butchered cow he would be blessed with good health and a strong constitution his entire life. And so it was. To this day, 42 years later, Bodkin rarely gets sick and enjoys a strong, able body. Growing up in the Ukraine, Bodkin showed early brilliance in math, music and science. But he was most noted for his prowess in chess. He caused a stir within the chess community for his non-traditional use of both rooks in a highly calculated forking pattern that required a complex series of setup maneuvers to orchestrate. It wasn't the most effective strategy but it garnered praise for it's aesthetic ingenuity. Bodkin began his music career by playing piano and the clarinet, but quickly shed them in favor of building his own electronic instruments. His early tinkering with magnetic pitch-shifters led him to the Theremin, which he altered and produces sounds never heard before.
Today Bodkin is still using his altered Theremin. But over the years he has built a virtual orchestra of self-produced instruments. For roughly a decade he worked in the materials science wing of the Lawrence Livermore Lab in the East Bay. He was hired on as a theoretical material analyst and given the task of inventing lighter, stronger metallic alloys. He probably spent as much time in that decade working on the resonant properties of these alloys searching for new musical sounds as he did looking for their properties of strengh and durability. He found a few favorites and used them to create strange cymbal-like instruments that he bowed with violin-bows to create moaning, groping otherworldly tones. Bodkin also spent a lot of time on the computer, crafting algorithms to shape and shift the inputs of his analog instruments. He worked with Elliot Sharp for 6 months using the fibonacci sequence to create an altered tuning structure for his theremin and to compose a long orchestral piece that was intended reflect the exponential growth patterns inherent in nature.
Bodkin's fans are small in number but large in gusto. He enjoys a cult following and all his releases (under the name of Total Eclipse) are snatched up quickly by his followers and analyzed and dissected intensely on the internet.
My band Coalition of the Chilling is playing this friday evening at Brainwash Cafe at 7th and Folsom at 8pm! If you're looking for something to do come check us out. Bring your laundry!
Coalition of the Chilling plays from 8 to 8:45.
You can listen to some mp3s on this page
My friend Dan is both a serious surfer and meteorologist. He plots shipping routes for huge cargo ships. Once in a while he sends out an email describing some surf session. Below is an email about surfing Mavs:
Mavericks January 5, 2006
We'll, I've rode my 10' 4" the last three sessions in a row,
(mavs, swift, mavs) so it is officially my shortboard.
Yesterday Mavericks was tow only with 40' faces. I was wishing I had a ski. Oh well, only one or two clean tow days a year - Surfed Swift. Those 20 waves I would have caught would have been about 150 bucks a piece, but I'm sure they would have been worth every penny.
Anyway, we went up insta-crowd style like the old days coming down from Napa to go surfing: Matt, Max, Tristan, and I with four big boards on top.
It was Tristan's first time, and I wish Austin was there because he's
great at scaring the rookies. I did my best though in his absence.
It was right at high tide (a little over 4') when we paddled out. We looked at going out the north end, but there was a lot of surge coming though so we decided to go out the south end. Ryan walked past us and took a while on the rocks, but made it out through the north eventually. Doc was behind him, but opted to paddle the long way too. When we got outside, there was only like 5 guys out owing to the high tide. Ryan had beaten us out, and we saw him nab a nice one while we were paddling out.
It was pretty weird out there due to the raw swell again, and
because the angle was straight west. Very glassy though. A big wide swinger came in not long after we had got out, and I actually paddled over the north side of the peak - it was so wide. Max was really the only one in position to get it, but was pretty late. No one went. Another similar wave came in and Max and I were in position. We paddled for it side by side, but I couldn't get in and pulled back. Max was further on the shoulder, but found a steep part and looked to be in. We watched him from the back getting to his feet after the wave had already seemed to break. His board went over the falls
and sucked him back. Three more waves were coming, and he was in
no-mans-land. Guess he punched through the second one and made it over the next two. His heart rate was near 180 I bet! He claimed no points were scored, but I begged to differ ha ha.
I got a medium one shortly after, but it was a short ride, and I
got mowed by the bigger wave behind it, 1-1. I was on my way back out when another bigger set came in. Someone was going, but I couldn't tell who tell I got closer. It was Tristan on Matt's 9' 2". I hooted him. He was on the board just like that. Max took off on the next wave, the biggest one in the set. He was on the corner and got completely blasted by a huge spit right as he was getting up, but made it. I hooted again, it was cool to see your buddies on waves right after I got one. When we had got back out, Tristan
was smiling. I go, "It must be like crack…you're addicted now."
More people came out. I got a couple more smaller ones. Matt
just missed a nice one.
Keith and Dan Malloy were out this time. Guess Dan's hooked.
Keith had been out once last year, and after his brother's stories from the previous day, probably didn't need much coaxing to come back up. I shared my second wave of the day with Keith.
Then a bit later, Tristan and I partied on his second wave. We
faded back toward the white water trying to connect the next section, and Tristan got blown up by the whitewater. It was fun to watch. Paddling back out, we saw Keith get a nice left.
The body-boarder paddled out with another couple guys. I
introduced myself to Tim, the guy that had just recently got attacked outside mushroom rock about a month earlier. This was the first time I had seen him out. He was riding the board with the shark teeth dings on the bottom as it was his only mavs board.
The body-boarder took off on a chucking wave with another guy
behind him. Tristan and I were right there to see him getting sucked up and over the falls. After doing an unintentional barrel roll, he was sent down along with the other guy. It was very entertaining! Wish I could see that one again on video.
Dan got a really nice drop a bit later, but no where near as heavy as the two the other day. He and Ryan had the sickest drops of the day.
I got another medium one that stood up right as I was getting up.
It was super steep, and I could see the lip coming down over my left
shoulder. The explosion from it hit me pretty hard at the bottom of the wave, but I was able to make it. Max took off on one and got chucked while I was on the inside, so I didn't get to see it...Damn. I did get to see some humor though paddling back out... There were two guys riding a nice one that had a really steep third section forming up. It got really vertical, and the guy in the back was leaning so far back, that he fell off the back of his board and got sucked up and tossed in the air with the lip. I watched to see if he was ok, and it took like 10 seconds for his board to stop tomb-stoning and come back up. You got to love those inside ledge sections!
It was getting late in the afternoon. I had gotten another
smaller one, and was inside again to see maybe the biggest wave of the day. Tristan was paddling for it with Max going also about 15 feet farther over on the shoulder. Tristan got held in the lip for a second, and I thought he was chucked, but he managed to get back on the face. Then a huge spit hit him and knocked him a bit sideways. He held on a bit out of control, and tracked wide onto the shoulder. It was a bomb for sure, but I guess he didn't get into the next ledge because he had been knocked so wide onto the shoulder. He went in on that one.
Turns out that same wave had maybe caught a couple people, but
definitely caught the body-boarder perfect, and when I got back, the
guys were talking about how he had hit bottom. When we came in at sunset, Tristan told us how he had seen half a body-board bounding in next to him. He picked it up and gave it back to the body-boarder I guess. I'm sure many have you have seen a body-board crease and bend, but has anyone seen one get ripped in two pieces!? I'd hate to see an x-ray of someone's back if that lip had hit someone just right!
Tristan crew up surfing in Santa Barbara, and was there the last
two weeks. He said every day was really good. He's surfed all the best waves down there, and said it was cool to see the Malloy's at mavs. He'd seen them out many times over the years down south. Max asked him how that wave was when we got back to the car, and he said, "That was the best wave of my life!" I told him, "Just wait till you get a wall all the way to mushroom rock." Ahh the ying and yang of surfing mavericks…Tristan gets the best wave of his life while the body-boarder gets the worst wave of his life.
It kind of shut down the last 15 minutes, and the whole lineup had to paddle in. Matt was talking to Doc on the way in, and Doc had said that he had paddled out at O.B. on the big Wednesday (this one Jan. 4th, not Dec. 21st) but couldn't make it out. His first time not making it out in a long time, that crazy bastard.
The Roulette Quartet rent a room on the second floor of Harmony Studios, near the vending machines. They've recently relocated from New York to San Fran and are currently working on a score for an edgy art film by the Italian director Francesca Messina. Talent and mastery run thick through the members of the Roulette Quartet.
Doug Brown grew up in Chicago and began playing piano and saxophone at an early age. His father, a legal history professor at the University of Chicago and his mother, head of the Illinois Bar association, were both amateur musicians who fostered their young son's musical leanings. Doug excelled early in the Chicago Youth Orchestra and in his prep school's jazz band. He went on to the Eastman Conservatory in Rochester, where he studied composition and continued playing in various settings. From Eastman Doug moved to NYC, where he fell into the remnants of the "downtown scene" and met the other members of the Roulette Quartet.
Born and raised in Havana Cuba, Diego Gonzales grew up son of the world-renowned Cuban percussionist Bernardo Gonzales. Bernardo achieved world-wide fame through his mastery of a wide palette of latin percussive techniques. Salsa, Habanera, Samba, Bossa Nova and Merengue represent just a few of the traditions absorbed into Bernardo's style. Bernardo also intensely studied and then incorporated the polyrhythic traditions of African music into his playing. Overlapping layers of syncopated rhythmic cadences. He became enraptured by the mathematical gridwork inherent in the textures of the polyrhythms. Diego took after his father, who proved a patient and encouraging mentor to his boisterous son. The father and son toured together as leader and member of a percussion-heavy band for many years. They travelled all around the world. Diego eventually branched out on his own and moved to NYC to work with John Zorn and eventually the Roulette Quartet.
Eli Rothstein grew up in Brooklyn New York. His parents immigrated from Hungary in the 40s and joined the large Hasidic community in Brooklyn. Eli always loved the Klesmer and traditional jewish music he heard while growing up. But his life changed in the 8th grade when he saw the Incredible Skratch Piklz play a show at BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music). Holy shit! he thought. This music is the jam! Although frowned upon by his hyper-religious grandparents and other members of the community, Eli's parents indulged him and bought some wheels of steel for their son. This quickly led to hours and hours in the basement. Hours and hours in the well-stocked Brooklyn record stores pouring through collections. Soon Eli was ripping it up and DJing at the resurging local hip-hop gatherings. Kids of all stripes and color would gather at the local JCC on Friday nights to breakdance, rap and listen to the turntablists. It was awesome. By the end of high school Eli began to move on to more computer-generated electronic music. He used sequencers and drum machines to create fresh, cutting-edge break-beats and downtempo music. His style become more and more unusual and avant-garde. He eventually met Bill Laswell while DJ-ing a club in downtown Manhattan. Laswell and Eli collaborated on a few dub albums and then Eli met Diego from the Roulette Quartet and has been playing with them ever since.
Eric Boon grew up surrounded by classical music. Both his parents played in the Portland Symphony Orchestra. His mother second chair violin and his father the french horn. He grew up a very happy child, listening to Tchaikovsky, Chopin, Bach, and Stravinsky, singing along with his parents as they practiced, running around the Symphony hall after school as his parents rehearsed. He played piano and the tympani as a young lad. Everything was honky dory. Until... It was little Jimmy Deegan from around the corner who played Eric his first Fugazi record. Eric didn't get it at first, he thought it sounded like anarchic noise. He didn't hear the musicianship in the music. But a week later Fugazi came to town and Jimmy took Eric to see the show. The audience was fully decked-out in leather, patches, mohawks, sneers, studded bracelets and chuck taylers. The club was packed. Hot, drippy, thick, electric. With the sonic bombardment of the first guitar chord of the first song the audience erupted into a huge, lurching, frantic circular mosh pit! Eric's draw dropped and he could not believe what he was seeing.. but he could feel it. The energy of the music and crowd swept through him and he found himself unwittingly drawn to pit. Barely realizing what he was doing he leapt into the fray and began dancing, slamming and leaping to the gallivanting, pulsing, melodic Fugazi anthems. He fucking loved it!! On the way home from the show, sweaty and bloody, Eric vowed to get an electric guitar and begin rocking, pronto. Needless to say his parents were less than thrilled by this sudden shift in their son's musical tastes. But as understanding parents they acquiesced to his nightly practicing in the bedroom. His dad even jammed along with some of Eric's tight punk licks with his french horn. But in a few years Eric grew past the rip-stop conservatism of the basic punk-rock style. He started listening to more alternative heavy music like Faith No More and the Melvins. Eventually he started studying jazz theory and really took off in his own musical direction, falling somewhere along the intersection of punk, metal and jazz. He moved to New York and quickly fell into the scene, where he also met Diego and began playing with the Roulette Quartet.
big wed (from surfermag.com)
The rear corner of the top floor of Harmony Studios is generally hot and stuffy. The rooms are a bit smaller and there aren't as many windows. The cheaper rents usually attract the more scruffy, down-and-dirty musicians. Status Flow practices in one of these dark back rooms. I noticed this band one day while strolling around the hallways, pausing at various doors to listen to the music inside. I heard this blues/funk rhythm happening around the corner and it sounded pretty polished and energized. Then all of a sudden a soaring, heavenly, breathtaking guitar sang out over the top of this rhythm. I was immediately captivated and entranced. I wandered over to the door with "Status Flow" flyers taped all over it and sat down and listened. The band grooved along while the guitar wailed a tear-jerking, gut-wrenching solo. Very raw, beautiful and pure. The deep, rich tone spoke with a visceral, stunning voice. It hinted at loss, suffering and pain. The melodic lines were graceful and full of inquisitive, satirical character. Gorgeous, gorgeous music. The band stopped after that tune and i could hear them putting down their instruments for a break. A few minutes later the door opened and out walked a motley lot of older, disheveled homeless-looking characters. This squat, hunchbacked guy with scraggily black hair and a crooked nose glared at me and i could tell immediately that he was the dude. I told him that i enjoyed their music and he just winced and nodded to me. His face looked horrid, with the tell-tale red-veined signs of alcoholism and a sallow, yellow-tinged coloring that spoke of sickness and lack of daylight exposure.
Later i found out that this guitar player, Red "the Hammer" Cookland, is a total California guitar legend but also a bit of a tragic story. Born up in the old gold country near Nevada City, his mom made ends meet doing odd jobs but also as a "working girl" at the local brothel. Red never knew his dad but had inklings about his ethnic origin based on his own darker skin and kinky hair, especially considering his mom was a freckled, pale-skinned red head. Red and his mom moved around a lot, following opportunity and meeting disappointment in Reno, Vegas, Needles, Barstow, Fresno, Sacramento, Modesto. Invariably Red's mom would end up working at some house of sin and Red would end up hanging out with the other ladies and the bands that came through to play. From a young age he was transfixed by the sound of the guitar. A lot of the old black rhythm-and-blues bands used to play at the various brothels. Red couldn't get enough and eventually used money that he made from cleaning the bathrooms of the bordellos to purchase a used Les Paul from a local pawn shop.
The brothels were a strange place for a little mixed-race kid to grow up in the central valley and desert towns of Nevada and California. He witnessed drunk men at their twisted worst. He saw strung-out women experience manic breakdowns. At the age of 14 his mother suffered a terrible beating at the hands of a wealthy, entitled newspaper baron. Hearing the commotion from her room he rushed in to help and was violently struck by the large man. He broke his nose in 3 places. The man left but Red and his mother lay bleeding and in trouble on the floor.
Red dropped out of school in the 7th grade and began playing guitar for money at bars and brothels. He toured with various bands and came close a few times to breaking it big. One night in Chicago a tiny, redneck-looking kid wearing a cowboy hat approached Red and thanked him for playing so beautifully and asked for a few pointers. Years later Red saw that same kid up on a television screen, his name was Stevie Ray Vaughn.
Over the years Red struggled with alcohol addiction, poor health and lack of money. People almost universally loved his playing but record company representatives shied from signing him due to his gruesome appearance and swarthy manner. To this day he's still channelling a riveting spiritual connection and inspiring people everywhere he plays.
Yeah Red, keep it flowing man!
Alain sent a wonderful email and some great photos from across the drink in Europe. Rock on Alain!!
In the first room of the first floor of Harmony Studios is a hipster Emo band called the Switch. Bleach-blond Kate on lead vocals and bass guitar. Most would consider her extremely sexy. Pale skin with huge, colorful dragon tattoos on each arm. Sleek, form-fitting black dress. Petite, slender body. Little pointy Indie shoes. Euro-mullet hair. Pretty, slightly-exotic face beaming with confidence. She exudes a cooler-than-you, you-wish-you-could-fuck-me attitude. Basically a bad-ass rocker chick. Her voice is screechy, haunting, delicate. Her man Devo (real name Devon) plays keys and sings some backup. He's got the full over-the-top, heroin-chic, leather-clad, pasty-white emo-rock look. Leather pants slung low with studded belt. Tight. Tiny black polyester 70's shirt with big collar. Died black band-guy mullet. Big, mesmerizing blue eyes that transfix the ladies in the audience when he plays. Rob plays drums. He attempts to cultivate the rock-star look but falls short, settling for an trendy faux-hawk haircut and a wife-beater and levis getup. He's a solid drummer whom Kate and Devo found through Craigslist.
Kate and Devo met in an LA Goth club in the mid 90s. They both grew up upper-middle class Valley kids who idolized X, Joy Division and early Janes Addiction. Devo was never the best musician but he was a wizard at combing through the thrift stores on Melrose and putting together flamboyant outfits.
Kate grew up singing in the choir of her community church. Her parents were socially-conservative Republicans who sent their kids to Catholic school and believed in discipline, manners and guilt. Kate was the model daughter, so they thought. Beautiful, chaste, did well in school, yadda yadda. But Kate secretly despised her parents and their white-bread, cookie-cutter hypocritical, self-righteous attitude. Under her school uniform she wore her Suicidal Tendencies patch and listened to Jello Biafra and Ani Difranco. On the weekends, when her parents thought she went to choir retreats, she really took a bus to the clubs in downtown LA. She stashed her ripped-up short skirt and army boots in her big backpack. She applied her dark black eyeliner and rocked out. Eventually she met Devo and they quickly fell in love. Soon The Switch was born. After high school Kate moved in with Devo and they started gigging and recording. Kate's parents disowned her and in response she got a giant dragon tattoo. This particular dragon was, according to Kate, a symbol for freedom in feudal Hokkaido.
Bagel's friend Kim Cogan painting (photos from fecalface.com)
Andy Mueller photo
Deep in the roughshod warehouse district of West Oakland sits Harmony Studios. The building used to be a hat-making factory back in the 30's, producing mostly peacock-feathered fedoras. Now the 3-level, glass-and-concrete behemoth serves as a home to a varied assortment of Bay Area bands and musicians. The hallways are painted with supernatural scenes of screaming skeletons and bizarro gardens of eden. Zeppelin posters mix with Druidic Calendars. Janet Jackson's belly casts a yellowish hue as multi-colored neon lights illuminate the long, winding halls. As you walk past each door your ears are bombarded with the sounds of its occupant. Fast-paced, hard-hitting speed metal. Crooning, off-kilter, emo-rock. Body-thumping, base-heavy Oaktown hip-hop. Noodily space-jam. Tight, crunchy, syncopated funk horns. A solitary female chanteuse. All these bands, musicians and artists sometimes intermingle and cross-pollinate. Some of the bands snort meth and play ridiculously loud warlock-rock all night. Some rappers have their mini-harem of hangers-on butt-pop for hours while they lay down vocal overdubs. Some of the bands go on to international stardom while others wallow in flake-prone mediocrity. Magic, love, passion, scandal, intoxication, violence, laughter, artistry... it all goes down at Harmony Studios.
Jessica Dunne painting