Wednesday, August 23, 2017
I woke up next to a blonde girl with frizzy hair, smeared makeup, and a full bottle of Rolling Rock still clenched in her hand. I didn’t feel alarmed or worried, mostly because I immediately spotted two unopened beers on the scratched wood floor next to my side of the bed. My oncoming anxiety attack was put to rest as I grasped the severity of my odd situation. I don’t know her but she obviously liked me enough to take me home. I played a gig the night before and she was collecting the cover charge at the show. I didn’t make it past the first song. It didn't matter because my head had been swimming off and on in a cheap liquor sea of distraction and doubt for the past month. I was loaded out of my mind from a deafening booze binge I had been on the last few days. I quietly opened a bottle of beer while scanning the room for clues to the history of my new friend. All I could find was an overdue bill with her name on it. Perfect, now I can communicate with her and drink in peace as I sort through my scattered thoughts and blurry sense of self.
A few feet in front of the bed was a makeshift front entrance. A battered set of French doors with a broken chain lock barely holding its position in the off white walls. I could hear voices occasionally drift in from a nearby hallway. This wasn’t good. I like to keep my existence as anonymous as possible when I'm unsure of myself. I am a very paranoid person when it comes to privacy. I had to wake her up and let her know we were exposed and almost out of beer. It was close to noon and I felt like a melting vat of combustible chemicals. After I nervously nudged her to wake up, she opened her eyes, sat up almost instantly and chugged her beer in about 30 seconds. She said we would walk up to the Mexican restaurant nearby and slam Coronas all afternoon.
She then asked “So do you want to move to Columbus? You can just live with me I guess. I just quit my job two days ago. We can worry about that shit later. Let's get drunk.“
I said “Well I guess so, I’m already here and my life sucks so yeah, this is where I'll live for now. Thanks.“
That was that. All of the long torturous months leading up to this moment of instant resolution seemed like such a useless stretch of time. Instead of anticipating my worthless future while constantly living in my head, I could just drive blindly into it and let the ensuing crash make up my mind for me. I didn’t feel like announcing my new life change to anyone. In fact, I didn’t want anyone to know where I was. It felt so invigorating and eerily intoxicating to just vanish into thin air. I felt like I was finally freed from my previous world of predictable consequences, bargain bin teenage drama, and excruciating small city boredom. I wondered why it felt like I was the only one having a mid twenty-something life crisis. It didn’t really matter because I wouldn’t care to listen about it anyway. At that moment I realized I didn’t have my wallet, a change of clothes, or any idea of who I was actually staying with. I'll figure that shit out later... (to be continued)
Wednesday, May 24, 2017
Hillary Burton continues to evolve as an intriguing and truly unique songwriter. Soon to be summertime anthems “Crushed”, “Messy Love”, and “Some Other Girl” twist and shout with shimmering choruses and unrestrained 60s garage finesse. Kim Shattuck’s intimate and raw production adds a new dimension to the band’s sleek and stylish sound.
“When I Stumble” and “Ready for the World to End” jangle and gently shake with Deborah Harry sass and Buddy Holly vibrations. The infectious “Three Horizons” devises a moody magnetic pull that relies on the band’s skillful rhythm section and carefully colored notes to create an unusual detour in their already impressive catalog. From the red hot album opener “Bombs Away” to the hypnotic acoustic closer “Welcome to My Life”, honeychain delivers an unforgettable listening experience.
( read a conversation I recently had with Hillary Burton about the new album below )
It has been 3 years since your last record Futura, the world in 2017 seems to be a more paranoid and impatient place. Is the romance of rock n roll dead? If not, what role should it play in our ultrawired existence?
(HB) I think now, as much as ever, rock n roll is vital; not dead at all. Essential. An ultrawired existence requires a soundtrack!
If you had to describe your new record in three words, what would they be?
Loud, passionate, storytelling.
Crushed is an awesome collection of carefully crafted power pop rock. It has an understated aggression in its delivery. With themes of alienation, love, and betrayal, was there an underlying feeling or experience that you wanted to convey throughout these songs?
I didn't set out to convey a specific experience per se, rather i wanted this record to be a collection of songs that invoke varied emotions. All of those themes you noted are definitely ones that infiltrate my songwriting. Sometimes from personal experiences and other times from trying to understand what other people are going through.
“Messy Love”, the first single and video, is super catchy summertime bliss. It was embraced by your fans and the legendary KROQ. Is commercial success a goal or just a nice surprise?
It's a goal to share our stuff with as many people who will listen. I'm super proud of this record and my bandmates and I think the songs are strong. Commercial success, such that we reach a lot of people, is definitely a goal.
I especially love the songs “Crushed” and “Three Horizons”. Can you tell me the story behind these two stellar tracks...
That's cool you like these two. They are super fun to play live. Crushed has a bit of vulnerability in the lyrics but takes that vulnerability, (the expression of ones shortcomings) and 'i won't sit around just to watch you leave' and basically in the end is about me saying F you, 'sometimes being crushed isn't enough' in that i will always land on my feet.
Three Horizons is about the realization shortly after being with someone that it just isn't going to work. It's not autobiographical. Although there was this one blind date...It's really just influenced by my observations and putting myself in the place of people who have to go through a lot of meaningless, short-lived romances.
You do an amazing cover of Kathy Valentine's “Some Other Girl” on the new record. When did you first hear the original and what inspired you to cover it?
I bought the 45 record by The Textones (her pre Go-Go's days band) when i was like 13 or so. I immediately fell in love with the song. Kim (Shattuck) actually took me to an engagement at the grammy museum and introduced me to Kathy and as coincidence would have it, it was not long after i had made Kim a mix CD of cool tunes (yeah, i still make mix CDs for friends like when I was in jr high making mix tapes ha ha) and i had put the song on it. I gushed to Kathy how i loved that song. Fast forward a few months and after I had sent Kathy a download of the FUTURA CD, we, honeychain, opened for Kathy's current band, The Bluebonnets, in Los Angeles. Then a conversation took place, maybe via email I can't remember exactly, but I asked what she thought about honeychain covering Some Other Girl and she was super supportive. She really likes the version we did and has been kind enough to mention it on twitter and facebook. The Go-Go's have always been one of my biggest influences and she has always been one of my favorite songwriters so to cover a song she wrote and have her like it, is super surreal to me.
The band is now a power trio instead of a four piece. Do you find it easier or more difficult to deliver the songs live?
There are a few songs we can't do live as well without Emma (who was our bass player and back up vocalist and appears on the record but has since left the band to devote her time to political causes and candidates that she is passionate about). But most of the songs on both records sound super cool live as a power trio and Andre has done an awesome job jumping from guitar to bass and picking up some more back up vocals to boot. We, Loye, Andre and I also have a handful of new songs we've added to our set over the last few months. Whereas it was super cool when Andre was on guitar too, I'm now super spoiled being the only guitarist and therefore always being able to hear myself!!!
Do you feel that music is your full time occupation or do you prefer to have it as just one aspect of your life? What feeds your passion on a daily basis?
It's an integral part of my existence. Like oxygen. I always tell my kids that the greatest thing they can do with their lives is to make other people feel loved and i'm passionate about trying to reach people through music in that i've had some people tell me they've been brought to tears by songs (Than You) to having felt understood (Violet) and as a songwriter, connecting with people like that, drives my passion sometimes for sure as i'm actually pretty shy sometimes and not the best verbal communicator, so reaching people through songs is something i'm super thankful for.
Does new music inspire you or do you prefer to listen to the classics? What artists in your music library might surprise people?
I'm inspired by both older stuff and newer stuff. I love Patsy Cline to Greenday. I'm also fond of the (new) band Skating Polly and their very raw and almost innocent approach to their music and lyrics.
Surprises hmmm, I love Arctic Monkey and The Vines. I love old honky tonk. A few random songs in my collection people might find surprising:
Genius of Love - Tom Tom Club
My Life Would Suck Without You - Kelly Clarkson
Cry - Tammy Wynette
You also drum for the Pandoras. How did that come about and will you be recording new material with them?
I was asked to go on a tour of Europe with them when their drummer at the time, Sheri, was not able to. Kim knew I also play drums so she asked me. This was fall of 2015. I stayed on as their drummer. We recorded some tunes together last year that, along with some tunes that were recorded with Sheri before I joined the band, will be released later this year. Stay tuned!!
What does honeychain have planned for the summer and when is the next single dropping?
The title track, CRUSHED, is the follow up to the first single, Messy Love, and people have been loving it, which is super rewarding.
We have our record release show scheduled for June 17th at Th Redwood in downtown LA, which is a place we've played at a lot and we love it there. Joining us are our pals The Touchies and Kim Shattuck is going to do a special solo set.
We are also going on a mini tour (Vegas and Arizona) with The Touchies in August which is going to be all kinds of fun.
We also just tracked our cover of the Material Issue song Going Through Your Purse which will be released later this year for the Girlsville / Nerve Centre Records Cassette Day comp.
Tuesday, May 9, 2017
I haven't been too thrilled with new music in the last few months, there are just too many reissues of reissues floating around and a glut of auto tuned, disgustingly overproduced reunion records. It's an annoying trend that highlights the lack of original new music actually worthy of a listen. My response to this is a new found obsession with 1970s one hit FM wonders. I've always been fascinated by the creepiness and hollow soul of the decade I was born. The world was new and everything looked so lopsided and strange. The radio stations were eerie and fascinating. It's like they were speaking in acid dipped tongues on those muddled sound waves. Saccharine atrocities committed by Paper Lace, Nick Gilder, and Sugarloaf. I swear to god, it's always raining and permanently gray with Jonestown, Guyana burned into the square TV screen whenever I try to locate my memories. Discovering new weirdness in forgotten train wrecks is a gratifying distraction.
When I think of 1980, everything is sleek, bright, and neon just like one of my first records, K-Tel's “Rock 80”. This mind blowing compilation contained classic and crisp compositions by the Knack, Joe Jackson, the Ramones, and Blondie. A refreshing blast of radioactive candy to relieve me from the bell bottomed dreariness of the Me Decade. The latest release by Long Beach, California's Radiohearts would fit right in with the stellar lineup of “Rock 80”. This five song power pop dynamite is an impressive collection of eclectic punked out pop. While other bands bands in the genre continue to water themselves down in search of imaginary fame, the Radiohearts play in the red with a raw burning intensity.
The lead track “Daytime Man” is an explosive number that fuses the rough and rootsy melodies of Impatient Youth with the reckless sting of early Damned. “Alright” blasts even harder in the anthem department with it's Cheap Trick-esque structure and classy double stop guitar soloing. This extended play does not let up or disappoint. The hits are catchier than ever on this release. “Wasting Time” and "Know That Song” are some of the band's best songs to date. The guitars are edgier and the choruses punch harder. If you thought power poppers couldn't punk out, you're dead wrong. “No More” is a deadly shot of Thunders rock damage, wired to kill with its safety pinned purity and wired rhythm. If you dig this, you'll be all over their earlier releases. A worthy addition to your record collection.
Monday, May 1, 2017
As the week rolled on, I would dry out, never call, and pretend I had never talked to them. I would get insecure and avoid eye contact. This self deprecating cycle had no rhyme or reason. One day, king of the nighttime world, the next, a total piece of aimless shit . Spring time was coming and my confidence was in seriously bad shape. Things had changed for me since I turned 21. It felt like I had used up all the vacuous fun and the joke was on me. Anger and sadness would come and go, but most of all I was bored.
Hyperactivity and boredom make for a nasty combination. I missed having brand new experiences. I missed being a slimy punk rock underdog with my slimy punk rock friends. I missed having a steady girlfriend with a steady supply of uncut cocaine. Two years earlier, back when we were together, we abruptly decided to start a casual habit because that's what successful up and comers do. Our weekends of ultra confident white noise eventually turned into weeknight binges filled with early twentysomething nosebleeds and oversexed friendships. I thought if I could restart my punk rock band, with its brief second of cult popularity, I could get my mojo back in orbit or some shit like that. I was wrong but not entirely...
(to be continued)
Monday, October 24, 2016
FEAR/LOATHING (Fear and Loathing in Long Beach) has started a new site for current reviews here
The new site is 'Blinded by a Million Shades'. Recently relocated to central Pennsylvania. This site will continue to be active but without new entries. Thank you for reading and please check out the new format. Thank you.
The new site is 'Blinded by a Million Shades'. Recently relocated to central Pennsylvania. This site will continue to be active but without new entries. Thank you for reading and please check out the new format. Thank you.
Thursday, August 4, 2016
(F/L) My first exposure to Sympathy for the Record Industry was in 1989 when I began reading zines like Flipside and Maximum Rock n Roll. Right away, I would notice the SFTRI ads and thought “that’s a strange name for a record label”, how did underground music speak to you and inspire the record label and corresponding name?
(Long Gone John) The name for the label came to me as I was driving down the 710 heading for L.A. to master the first record. I’m a Rolling Stones fan and it just sorta came to me as if ordained by God or perhaps it was Mr. D. I thought it was a fitting name and apropos as the record industry was an easy shoe-in for the Devil. My distributor and many others thought it should be, no sympathy, but to me it was tongue in cheek as if I could really give a shit either way. The name has served me well.
I soon got turned on to the Dwarves “I Wanna Kill Your Boyfriend” 7 inch followed by Hole’s “Retard Girl”, in my perspective, these singles began to define a new era of music in the1990s, a renaissance of sorts. How did this resurgence affect you and what aspects did you like and dislike in the decade?
Hole almost more than anyone was a big deal for me. I’d been seeing them a lot and to me it was pretty evident that with a force like Courtney at the helm, the potential was certainly there to be a solid contender for stardom. Although I fully understand, it is near sacrilege and I risk being stoned to death in the town square, I still like her. I think she’s talented, she writes some great songs and is a real rock chick and there are nearly no rock chicks around.
The Dwarves were already a well-known entity and had records out…people really liked them they were sorta the poster children for the punk movement: short fast songs, set over in 15 minutes spiced with equal amounts of abandon and legendary nudity. Blag is an incredible songwriter and he has always surrounded himself with incredible musicians. I think Blag is a little more intelligent than most and he knows how the game works and takes care of business. He is serious about his career.
What I love about SFTRI to this day is the folklore and mystique that surrounds it. Who is Long Gone John?
Well, that is a name I came up with one night when i was going to the liquor store between bands, by the Cathay de Grande. I was with my best friend. We had been in a boys home together when we were 16-17 in Echo Park. We were in the liquor store and all of a sudden he was laughing really loud I went over and he showed me some porn magazine with an article about John Holmes titled Long Dong John. The name kinda stuck in my mind and sometime that night I came up with Long Gone John. I was unaware at the time there were a couple songs that used that name, one by Tom Waits, an old field holler and a pretty great one by Louis Armstrong called Long John From Bowling Green. Anyway I was actually studying to become al tattooist at the time and thought it would be a great name for me, so the name precedes the label by 5 years or so. Nowadays I actually prefer to go by two-bit Johnny cuz after the “Treasures of Long Gone John” film came out I kinda felt that chapter of my life was over. I always attempted to make Sympathy appear as a much bigger entity than it was and because I kept a high profile with advertising and such, people were surprised to discover it was a label run entirely by one guy out of his house. I’d get calls with someone saying, “Can I speak to someone in college promotions?” or “Can I speak to someone who handles foreign press?”, I always thought it was funny.
There were stories (some of which I created) that I was a trust fund brat, that I owned slaughterhouses and that I was heavily involved in the pornography industry. Stuff like that kept people guessing and probably made me appear more interesting. The truth was I got up, worked on Sympathy all day, and if I wasn’t off to see a band at night I just watched TV. I really had a pretty insular existence. There was a rumor going around Long Beach that I had Tourette’s Syndrome cuz I cussed so much. The reality is I was just a hard worker obsessed with records, trying to make things look good and releasing records at an astounding rate. At 10 years in business, I had a catalog that equaled a release per week for every week of existence. I did eventually slow down a bit. I just didn’t know what else to do, I didn’t know how to stop. I had so many friends in bands and bands would break up and splint off into new bands and I’d get so many recommendations from people whose opinions I respected. I never went out looking for bands and rarely choose things from submissions except for foreign bands.
What was your opinion then and now about artists venturing from independent label notoriety to a major label, in search of a larger audience and paying the bills with art (if possible at all)?
It’s an inevitable and necessary step for an artist. I don’t begrudge anyone wanting to better themselves. It’s the reason I’ve never signed contracts and I never once asked a band for any portion of their publishing. Most artists were aware they would not get rich with Sympathy and I believe most thought of it as a springboard to something else. I was fine with that, but the lack of finesse and consideration with which it was done by certain parties was a very different thing. I think someone like me who put a great deal of faith and time and money into a band deserved something if they went to greener pastures, just seems like courtesy and honor to me. It’s a tough game for the label and artist, it’ll be tough wherever they go. The sad reality is that the chances of a band making it in a big way are pretty infinitesimal at best and if they make a bit of a splash it is usually pretty short lived. I released records with over 550 bands and I think most of them do it for fun and have realistic expectations. I think they are fortunate to get a label to foot the bill to put out a record, make it look good and get it out with proper distribution. The retail market has to know about the band, find the record in a shop and then plop down their dough. It’s practically magic if those 3 things happen in succession. There is so much product out there. A glut of horrible stuff by horrible bands. It’s difficult to wade through the shit to find the good stuff.
If you had to trade places with an artist/musician from any era, who would it be and why?
I’m gonna say Hank Williams. Of course his life wasn’t glamorous and it was very short, but he was so prolific. He must’ve written every day and found inspiration in the simplest things. His music is pure and uncluttered, he was an early American treasure, and it seems his music was very much aimed at the downtrodden and working man sensibilities. He wrote songs of sadness and heartbreak and of love and tearing things up. I have a great admiration for him for that reason.
As “part of the problem since 1988”, you helped introduce the world to Billy Childish whose work ethic seemed eerily similar to SFTRI. What similarities do you see between yourself and Mr. Childish, if any?
Well, actually there are similarities, I think our work ethic was the same and the result is: he put out a shit load of records and I put out a shit load of records. Billy is a real renaissance man. He is a prolific performer, he is an accomplished poet and he is an artist garnering greater accolades and success as the years roll by. Billy was always gracious and thankful.
The label reissued some legendary works by the Scientists, Gun Club, and Roky Erickson to name a few. Why do you think music listeners do not catch the greatness of these artists the first time around or is that the classic conundrum most artists face?
I think with time the important/visionary musicians will be recognized and receive the status they deserve. Truth is there are very few that really rate any longevity in the history books. The Scientists, Roky and Gun Club rate pretty damn high. I’m also very proud of the Wanda Jackson, Wreckless Eric, New York Dolls and the Suicide releases I was able to do.
Throughout the decade of the 2000s, what changes were you starting to notice in modern music at the time (good and bad)?
I’m kinda oblivious to time frame. It’s hard to make a definitive distinction between the 1990’s and 2000’s. It’s all a blur. I do feel the quality of the bands I was able to work with did continue to get better as the years rolled by and the last records I released before I moved from Long Beach are some of my favorites, like Matson Jones, the Ettes and projects with Jack Oblivion and Greg Cartwright. There isn’t much going on right now that I care about, I’d rather listen to old music than follow new bands that are merely aping the cool old stuff at best.
You have a sincere passion for Long Beach, as the city was heavily associated with the label and amazing bands such as The Red Aunts and the Humpers. Why is your affection for Long Beach so strong and what do you consider the“heart of the city” to be?
I do love Long Beach. I lived there for 25 years or so. It’s a great city. I love that it’s by the ocean and it still feels like a little town. For a while it had a couple of the best venues and that was Fenders and Bogarts so it was nice to not always have to drive to L.A. to see bands. Now, there is Alex’s and they seem to get very cool acts. I only left cuz I was tired with Southern California in general. I was born there and lived there my entire life. I needed a change and wanted to be somewhere that it rained a lot. I wanted to live in a forest on the water and I was fortunate to be able to find that. Olympia is a quiet little town and I am 7 miles from there. I’m really happy here and appreciate the beauty and solitude every day.
After years of varying accounts of your artistic dealings, what are your favorite misconceptions and rumors about Sympathy?
Well, it’s interesting that I worked with over 550 bands and only had one legal entanglement. There are those who were unhappy, but very few in light of the total. I made mistakes. I did not however promise things I would not deliver. It’s always the ones who sold the most poorly who are certain they’ve been cheated. I had an ongoing mantra; “anyone who can handle the humiliation is welcome to go through my files at any time”. The only reason I was able to sustain Sympathy for so many years is that I had so many releases and each month I’d sell a few of these and a few of those and it would add up to something. The ones that actually generated anything beyond the expense of the original budgets were few and far between. I spent most of the money on new projects. The recent ones subsidized the upcoming ones, it’s just the way I did it. I wasn’t Capital Records, I was an uneducated record collector that accidentally started a record label. I never had an office or an employee. In retrospect I think I did a pretty good job. I did not leave any bodies in my wake and I put out a lot of very cool music that likely wouldn’t exist if Sympathy operated on any other level. I think the important thing is that the bands have left behind a legacy and there are documents that they existed. So many performers never get that and are relegated to remain in the ether.
As founder and sole owner of Sympathy for the Record Industry, indisputably one of the most influential independent labels over the past 20 years, what made you decide to stop doing the label?
Well, Sympathy still exists although I’ve only done a few things since I’ve been in Olympia. I released the Waldos album as an LP, as I’d only done a CD originally. I released the Ettes last album on LP as well as putting out 3 singles with them with 3 different covers and 3 different B sides. Anyone who has run a label knows that’s a suicide mission, no way to break even on a project like that. I did it because I love the band and wanted to do something special for them. If the right project crosses my path I’d consider it, but I’m not interested anymore in spending money on losing propositions. I put my time into trying to document the music I thought was cool. It was never about making money to me. It was keeping me busy, out of trouble and cultivating friends I would cherish the remainder of my life. I have been fortunate to work with some amazingly talented people. I am grateful to every one of them for sharing their creative force with me.
What consumes your creative appetite nowadays?
I share my home with four cats, I stare out my windows, I walk on the beach and in the forest. I go to swap meets, yard sales, antique shows when they happen. I continue to fill my life with peripheral things; toys, books, art and records. I don’t think too much about tomorrow. I sleep when I’m able and watch lots of films and TV. I’ve just published a beautiful new book, called, “The Timid Cabbage” written by Charles Kraftt and illustrated by Femke Hiemstra and I still produce projects with my other venture, Necessaries Toy Foundation. The days disappear, I never run out of things to do.
HOLE - RETARD GIRL
DWARVES - I WANNA KILL YOUR BOYFRIEND
Sunday, May 15, 2016
The latest full-length release by Bloody Knives twists the genre of post-shoegaze into an indescribable form filled with disturbed dignity and dilated turbulence. Like a sadistic wallflower placing salt on a slug out of boredom and sheer curiosity, the result is an explosive expression of melodic noise and tortured guitars. An orchestral cocktail of Christian Death goth-punk and early 90s industrial-fuzz oblivion contaminates the frequencies of Bloody Knives’ disheveled musical world. Above all else, the band establishes themselves as an independent and original entity in the vast arena of non-mainstream rock.
With S&M now becoming a more popular pastime in our current culture and individual expression revealing its inherent darkness and unpredictable soul, this is the sonic equivalent of seeking pleasure through extreme behavior. Guitars that are literally scratching and tearing through overblown amplification provide a delicate oxygen that lets the echoey vocals breathe with vicious contemplation. A relentless energy shoves the blurred passages. Restless drumming and icy bass lines ricocheting back and forth. Eerie keyboards and feverish reptilian guitar lines feed the electrified neurotic crash with a soothing suicidal acid rain.
This Austin, Texas based rock mutation kicks off the record with the dread-filled hyperactive goth-punk of “Cystic”. An infectious symphony of confusion and dark harmony instantly ignites. “Blood Turns Cold” continues the macabre melodies with its syncopated heavy drumming and super fuzz distortion. Disembodied vocals and disjointed radioactive solos create a hypnotic trance laced with deadly feedback, fragments of Pailhead frenzy hidden in the mix. The Knives boldly display their stellar songwriting and insidious hook ability on “Poison Halo”, “Reflection Lies”, and “Black Hole”. Heavy in its chic dissonance and angst-ridden wired-punk leanings, “Buried Alive” ends this collection in a suicidal fast-tempo firebomb wall of unsettled sound, repeated listening mandatory. Every track holds its own, without filler and without apology. With the enticing nervous vibration of summer well on its way, this may be the impulsive cure you’ve been searching for to ease your pain.
BLOODY KNIVES - POISON HALO (video)
SAINT MARIE RECORDS
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