T-Model Knows Better: an advice column by life coach/musician T-Model Ford (Arthur, Sept. 2005)

Originally published in Arthur No. 18 (Sept. 2005)


T-Model Ford is the 85-year-old self-proclaimed “Boss of the Blues,” also known as “The Taildragger.” T-Model Ford is featured at length in the new feature-length documentary, You See Me Laughin’: The Last of the Hill Country Bluesmen (available now on DVD, more info at fatpossum.com). Every couple months we call up T-Model at his home in Greenville, Mississippi and talk about something that’s been bothering our mind. Got a question for T-Model, or something you want him to address? Email it to editor@arthumag.com

Is it hot down there in Mississippi this summer?

It’s hot… but I’m still standin’. 

How do you deal with the heat?

I just sit out under an acorn tree somewhere and drink water. Just don’t get where the air can’t get to you. You’ll be alright.

What about mosquitoes and no-see-ums and chiggers?

Well, the mosquitoes are at nighttime, and then I’ll be inside. Daytime, I’ll be out there, when we don’t be bothered with them. But at nighttime, heh, you be bothered with ‘em.

So what do you do if it’s hot at night?

I got an air conditioner and a fan. I let it run, and when I go in there, it’s cool in there. And then I pull off everything but my shorts. 

Have you ever had a problem with honeybees having a hive at your house?

Get you some diesel oil where you put in trucks. And get your spray gun and pump it up. Don’t turn it to just one place, let it spray all over. And you get in there. When it hit em, they gonna leave or they gonna die. You’ll get shut of ‘em. You’re gonna get that queen bee. He can’t do with that diesel neither. 

I have a friend who’s very sad because one of her friends died unexpectedly. She’s very sad and is having trouble eating. What’s the best way to deal with grief, when you’ve lost somebody you love? What’s the best way to get through that?

Tell her to get on her knees and pray to the Good Lord to let her get over it, and don’t worry ‘bout nothin’. If you worrying about something, it’s gonna continue, ‘til you die. Look at me: all my brothers and sisters done died and left me here. I’m 85 now, and I ain’t worried. A tree fell on me, got me in bad shape, but I’m still goin’.

I heard you just drove up to Flint, Michigan in your ’79 Lincoln, the one with 200,000 miles on it.

Yes, indeed. It went up there and back down without any trouble. It went 60, 70, 80, NINETY… it took it. And didn’t use no oil. And it’s ready to go back again

Richard Hawley’s Shepherd’s Pie, with Henderson’s Relish (Arthur, 2005)


by Richard Hawley

photo by Anton Corbijn

Originally published in Arthur No. 18 (Sept. 2005)

Every time I listen to a Richard Hawley album, I see a late-night TV mail order commercial advertising one of those greatest hits cds by a long-gone-pop country crossover artist, or Neil Diamond, or Sinatra or some other smooth-for-the-ladies-and-blue-for-the-gents crooner/operator with a bag full of hits that just keep scrolling, , every fourth title being performed in a vaselined alcoholic cloud haze. Of course the proudly English Hawley is of the here and now, not in some distant UHF-for-mobile-home-seniors past, but his golden grained croon, accompanied by strings, organ and the kind of beautifully reverbed guitar figures Chris Isaak used to budget for, is the kind of thing I bet  my grandparents would dig too. Hawley’s latest is Coles Corner, out this autumn on Mute, and it’s another slow burner of languid, sentimental-romantic  music about Sunday afternoons by the seaside and Sunday evenings at the bar (or, I guess, pub): those times and places where people—of all ages—love, lose and laugh again, often to music like this. (Jay Babcock)

Richard Hawley: I used to be in a band called Longpigs in the mid/late ‘90s. We got on the U2 tour ‘round USA which was boss and got to play Giants Stadium and all that. That all went fine, even though we were probably getting a bit too recreational. You can go a bit mad on the back of a tour bus with only yourselves for company. Anyway, we were pretty glad when the tour was coming to an end and heading back to Britain to see our families. It didn’t work out quite as straightforward as that, though, as we got offered the Echo and the Bunnymen tour of USA at the last minute. They are one of my all-time favourite bands—Mac is a lovely bloke and Will Sargeant is one of the all-time great guitarists. So we stayed and did that tour—and another immediately after, with Oasis. It ended up we were touring the States for two and a half years, only going home about four times.

The whole thing ended up being really destructive and we were all mindless gibbering wrecks when we went home to our loved ones. I got back to Sheffield, out of my mind on drugs and drink and burnt out and bewildered at finally being home. I couldn’t believe I was there—even though I could see all my home town sites: the pubs, the shops, etc.—I was living in a blur. 

I arrived at our house completely numb. When I got in, our lass had cooked tea (that’s dinner to you Americans): shepherd’s pie, with green beans and gravy. I sat down at the table and poured Henderson’s (we call it Hendo’s) all over the food and took a mouth full. As soon as I tasted it I began to cry and couldn’t stop. Henderson’s is made in Sheffield—we have it on everything—everyone does—right since we were kids. But you only get it in Sheffield, nowhere else, so as soon as I tasted it I knew I was home—finally.

I dedicated my first mini-album to Henderson’s cus I feel like they helped save me—well, and because its a condiment for life —everyone in Sheffield has their Christmas pictures when they are kids, all sat round the table for Christmas dinner, and always there’s a bottle of Henderson’s in the middle of the table.

My highest accolade so far is Henderson’s making a special edition ‘Richard Hawley’s Henderson’s.’ When he saw it, my Dad said, “Now you’ve made it, lad.”

4 large carrots

2 onions

20oz potatoes

2 tablespoons chives

4.5 oz. mince meat (or TVP)

Vegetable stock

salt/pepper to taste

Henderson’s relish

Pre heat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Boil the potatoes and mash them. Slice and boil the carrots. Dice the onions and lightly fry. Add the mince to the onions in the frying pan then add vegetable stock or gravy. Simmer for five mins. Add chives and salt/pepper.

In a large oven proof dish, add the onion/mince mixture. Top this first with a thick layer of carrots, and finally with the mashed potatoes.

Bake for 30 mins until the potatoes are browned.

Serve with steamed broccoli, broad beans or your favorite vegetables. Finally, and most importantly, coat with Henderson’s Relish (unfortunately only available via mail order from their factory in Sheffield; info at www.hendersonsrelish.com)

Dungen’s Popcorn in 16/4 (Arthur, 2005)

Come On In My Kitchen

Dungen’s Popcorn in 16/4

Originally published in Arthur No. 18 (Sept. 2005)

Dungen is a prodigiously talented twentysomething Swede called Gustav Ejstes, whose sunnily melodic psychedelic delight rock, much heralded in the music press when his album Ta Det Lungt was available only as an expensive import (see Arthur No. 14, Jan 05), is finally getting a proper American release late this summer via the kind hand of Kemado, who’ve changed nothing—every lyric is still Swedish, every tune is still universal—and added something (a disc full of bonus tracks). Here’s Gustav’s recipe for popcorn—something familiar, something added…

Gustav Ejstes of Dungen: I used to be called the king of pop. Not to be confused with Mr. Jackson’s title in the ’80s music press. This refers to the art of making good-tasting popcorn. It is probably the ultimate snack, but could also be the most delicious substitute for a well-made meal. 

The thing is, my skills as a Swedish chef are a bit limited. I have never been interested in learning and that has led to experiments with the  interesting vegetable corn. Did the Indians discover it first? Is it healthy or not? 

I think it is. I have survived for days by only eating popcorn. And now you all say: making popcorn is the easiest thing to do. Well, if you choose to use microwaved popcorn maybe, but if your only tools are a pot, oven, oil and salt, it suddenly gets a little bit more complicated. The secrets behind my well-tasting popcorns are olive oil and herbal salt.

Everyone knows the basic recipe for making it, but here are a few tricks that you can pick up that will help you avoiding some of the classic mistakes: for instance, half of them stays un-popped, or all of it gets burned.

Fill the bottom of the pot with popcorn and drench them in virgin olive oil and add some herbal salt. Herbal salt is made from pure certified organic ingredients. I use the Herbamare brand, which is based on Swiss naturopath Alfred Vogel’s formula: it’s made up of sea salt, celery stalk, celery leaves, leeks, watercress, garden cress, onions, chives, parsley, lovage, garlic, basil, marjoram, rosemary, thyme and kelp. 

Electric stove: Start out at high heat. When they start to pop, lower the heat to medium. Wait until there is four seconds between the pops, take off the lid and add some more herbal salt, put on the lid and your favorite record and shake the pot in 16/4 beat and then take it off the stove and call your friends. It’s time to eat.

Gas stove: Start out with full temperature, but since gas gets hot quicker, make sure you turn off the heat as fast as you hear the corns begin their dance inside of the pot. When using a gas oven it is even more important that you shake the pot in 16/4 beat to your favorite record, otherwise the popcorns gets as burned as Swedes on an Asian holiday.

“THE NORTH AND SOUTH OF YOU: An Erotic Worldview” by JON HASSELL (Arthur, 2005)

Originally published in Arthur No. 18/Sept. 2005

An Erotic Worldview

by Jon Hassell

“I love the East, West, North and the South of you…”
— Cole Porter, “All of You” 

A tale of two equators—one around the planet, another at the waistline—and how the present global imbalance between a “developed” (technological) North dominating an “underdeveloped” (but culturally rich) South is a projection of the imbalance between the “north of you” (head, intellect, abstraction) and the “south of you” (hips, sensuality, emotion).

Could the story be as simple as the difference in how people turn out after centuries of evolution in a cold, hostile climate versus a warm, friendly one?  And if it were, what are the chances that such a simple answer would be accepted by those whose minds have become so deeply etched with the printed circuits of language and abstraction that what is obvious on a sensual level is routinely “explained” out of existence?

Relieved of the necessity of struggle in order to stay warm, southern peoples turned toward the “art of living”: decorating experience with a surround of color and pattern and rhythm. This was in contrast to northern peoples who—in order to merely survive in the cold—had to become resourceful in the way that later became known as “technology.” A few thousand years later, this branched into communications technology—the form which had the power to change the world more than any previous development. So the northern worldview—one reflecting the cumulative psychology of struggle—was the first to be projected worldwide in the seductive new forms of mass media.

And as the science and technology paradigm became the gold standard by which the rest of the world was judged (creating the cleavage into “first” and “third worlds”), many of the life-enriching gifts of the South—the ones which are often most treasured in our personal experience—have gone deeply undervalued, appropriated, or simply, gone.

A different kind of “global warming”—an emotional one—is called for as the basis for creating an alternate scale of “market value”—one that accommodates the samba as well as the microchip, one which reflects the actual degree of pleasure and cultural enrichment brought to our lives from the South, and the south of us.

Reviews by C and D (Arthur No. 18/Sept. 2005)

Originally published in Arthur No. 18 (Sept. 2005)


Shinola Volume 1
C: Ween, the house band of Arthur.
D: Not that they’d ever come to our house.
C: Coming through with an album of outtakes. But it doesn’t—
D: [singing along to opening track “Good on the Bun”] “Tastes! Tastes! Tastes good on the bun! Tastes! Good on the bun! Tastesssss…”
C: Another great Ween album. I mean, this is just a guide vocal, and a Miami bass drum pattern and the Deaner wanking away.
D: And we wouldn’t want it any other way.
C: Once I was talking to the singer of a band who shall remain nameless who went on tour opening for Ween. All the people couldn’t wait til Ween came on, and when they played a 20-minute version of “Push the Little Daisies,” people were in tears, just losing it. That’s when he realized his band was never going to make it.
D: Which is a terrible thing to realize.
C: [listening to “Boys’ Club”] “You can talk of the future/you can talk of the past/you can go find yourself a nice piece of ass”: What is this, a jingle for the Catholic Church? Amazing. And “Israel” is a Jersey Jew, perfunctorily giving a benediction, backed by the greasiest Sopranos saxophone possible…
D: It’s a one-man bar band at a bar mitzvah—
C: He just pressed the “pan flute” button on the Korg.
D: The cheese is frying on this one, that’s for sure.
C: I heard someone say these guys are one step removed from Weird Al—
D: Totally ridiculous.
C: Weird Al changes the words to popular songs. Ween write the best songs all of your favorite bands should’ve written. That’s a big difference, bro. “Gabrielle” is total Thin Lizzy action—
D: [spilling beer, exclaiming] Thinner Lizzy!
C: Please, D, contain yourself.
D: Like you’ve never spilled a beer! [muttering] So arrogant!
C: [continuing] And “The Rift,” which I think is “Roses Are Free” slowed down—is like the worst slash greatest Styx song possible. “I am the commander of time/in my vessel of god/I go through the rift/to the palace of ice … we may not come back from the palace of ice/because the rift is a door”—it’s prog written by the guy who got held back in eighth grade. I know I’m not saying anything new here but they’re the closest thing we have to Zappa, sending up everything they love, without mercy. These guys are a national treasure. And like Zappa, just as scatologically obsessive.
D: Pass the Shinola, bro!

Shel Silverstein
The Best of Shel Silverstein
C: Speaking of national treasures, here’s a compilation of stuff by Shel Silverstein.
D: I must confess, I do not know him.
C: Sure you do. He wrote Where the Sidewalk Ends and Light in the Attic, which is like required reading for the young and intelligent. Funny poetry for kids, he does these hyperdramatic readings of them here—
D: Sounds like Joe Cocker’s creepy uncle—without his pants on.
C: Plus, he wrote story-songs like “Cover of the Rolling Stone” and “A Boy Called Sue”—
D: I know that one, of course—
C: —and then there’s tracks like this “I Got Stoned and Missed It” and this one by Dr. Hook, the orgy ode “Freakin’ at the Freakers’ Ball.” [reciting lyrics] “Everybody’s kissing each other/brother with sister, son with mother/smear my body up with butter/take me to the freakers’ ball/pass that roach please/and pour that wine/I’ll kiss yours and you’ll kiss mine…”
D: Sounds like a pretty good time at the freakers’ ball.
C: “Well all the fags and the dykes/they are boogieing together/the leather freaks are dressed in all kinds of leather/The greatest of the sadists/and the masochists too/are screaming, ‘please hit me/and I’ll hit you’”… A funny guy into music, drugs, storytelling and kink—who drew gag cartoons for Playboy? He must’ve been the most popular dude alive in the ‘70s…
D: And looking at these pictures of him, I bet—
C: I know. Total human bonobo.

Devendra Banhart
Crippled Crow
(Beggars Banquet)
C: Devendra has a lot more hair on his head than Shel, but I think there’s a certain similarity in sensibility. Good times, weird times, you know he’s had his share.
D: He knows where the sidewalk ends.
C: So this is Devendra stretching it out in studio splendor, playing solo, playing with a band, playing a ton of acoustic guitar and piano songs. In English, in Spanish, in jest, in all seriousness, in duet…
D: [listening to “Now That I Know”] In the style of St. Nick Drake.
C: Such a range on the album as a whole, you can hear it in just the first five songs [out of the album’s 22]: whispers, tropicalia, a gentle piano protest lullaby, dreamytime-in-the-hash-den psychedelic-folk…
D: These songs… [listening to “Mama Wolf”] Every syllable is soothing, which is not something you hear done that often anymore. [seriously] Listen to me: Something magical is going on here.
C: Check out the singing, probably the best he’s ever done: that’s a guy who’s going for it in a heavy, trembling way—without losing it. He didn’t used to be able to sing like that. Incredible. And the lyrics, “Yeah when they come over the mountains/we’ll run yeah we’ll run right round them/we don’t have no guns/no we don’t have any weapons/just our cornmeal, and our children…”
D: I’m joining Devendra’s unarmed forces.

Silver Jews
Tanglewood Numbers
(Drag City)
D: [grimacing after a few seconds of the first song] I think I’m going to need three more beers. Immediately.
C: Don’t worry, I’ve got this one covered. [pulls out sheet of paper, clears voice] And to think this man formerly claimed he was nearly “hospitalized for approaching perfection”! Whatever D.C. Berman’s been smoking, his voice is shot. He once had a stentorian authority on par with Kristofferson and Robert Frost, now it’s lost. This might be a mere symptom of his decline —
D: Or the need for throat-coat tea and a personal trainer.
C: —or at least to mix the vocals up front—
D: Maybe he’s been freaking a bit too much at the freakers’ ball?
C: —but it dovetails with another problem, which is that since he is not a performing artist, he has never learned how to improve his craft by translating it live to an audience.
D: Which doesn’t help when it comes to making a record.
C: He now sounds as if he’s reading from a script rather than singing songs. His lyrics are great though, maybe as good as ever, like this choice couplet from “Sleeping Is the Only Love”: “I had this friend named Marc with a c / his sister was like the heat coming off the back of an old TV” altho’ his never ending quest for the ultimate bohunk cliche—”I’m getting back into getting back into you”—can be a little trying. There are a couple nice guitar moments, probably attributable to the Malk—
D: Who?
C: Steve Malkmus from Pavement, who’s on this album. [continuing] Otherwise the music is a detour-round-this junction of indie and bar band. Oh waitaminute, the seven-minute “The Farmer’s Hotel” is a sprawling gothic masterpiece: Breece D’J Pancake meets Stephen King meets Rick Brautigan in, apparently, a pernicious country inn where “there was no air of slumber/ there doors they had no numbers”…call it an analogue to being a Silver Jews fan: you can check in but you can never check out.

Sinead O’Connor
Throw Down Your Arms
C: Sinead does an album of extremely faithful reggae covers, recorded in Kingston with Sly & Robbie. It had to happen.
D: [stroking chin, deep in thought] I believe Sinead was the first celebrity I’d ever heard of who checked herself into a rehab center for addiction to that demon weed. Sometime in the mid-‘90s, it was.
C: And didn’t she retire from the music industry a couple of years ago? So this is an interesting turn of events.
D: The main question is whether she has grown the dreads or not. The answer, thank Jah, would appear to be no.
C: I gotta say combining the stridency of the Irish with the righteousness of the Jamaican reggae artist doesn’t seem like the best strategy, and most of this album is the dull hybrid I feared it would be: too serious, too austere. Missing is the sense of playfulness.
D: She is just doing the songs she wants to do, without regard for what anyone else thinks.
C: Respect to her for that. It is weird to hear a woman with her range do songs that offer her so little room to exercise her pipes. You get the feeling that these are songs that she’s sung along to a thousand times…the versions are so faithful, at this point, she’s more of a mimic than an interpreter.
D: I think as usual you are being too hard. If you were sitting there and a girl across from you started playing “Downpressor Man” on acoustic guitar and singing, it’d be all over.
C: Her take on Lee Perry’s seduction ballad “Curly Locks” is certainly seductive.
D: And “Untold Stories.” And “Vampire.” Come on, man!
C: I’m just saying, when Sinead does an album of Ween covers, then we’ll really be getting somewhere.

Buckwheat Zydeco ils sont partis band
100% Fortified Zydeco
(Shout! Factory)
D: I am not what you would call an expert exactly, but I do not detect too much zydeco here.
C: It is pretty generic—I keep seeing John Belushi doing backflips down the center aisle. An authentic practitioner shouldn’t be caught delivering this stuff. Then again if I had an alligator po’ boy and a cup of Dixie Beer in my hand, I might have a different opinion.

Terry Reid
C: The legendary Terry Reid gets a long-overdue compilation. A soul singer more than a rock singer, he came up in the ‘60s at the same time as Steve Marriott, Rod Stewart and all those guys. He’s best known as the guy Jimmy Page asked to front Zeppelin, who had to turn it down cuz of contractual obligations.
D: Doh!
C: They said Plant sang like a woman, and Terry Reid does too. Guess Page knew what he wanted. To paraphrase My Fair Lady,…
D: [singing] Why can’t a man sing more like a woman?
C: In that case, it’s a man singing like a woman singing like a man. In the tradition of Tina Turner and Mavis Staples or Inga Rumpf from German blues rockers Frumpy
D: This guy is a super-rocker. A mod-era master. He fucked it up, though.
C: Not as bad as Dave Mustaine. Better to have Led Zeppelin yelled at you on the street by the local smartcakes than Metallica.
D: [listening to “Stay With Me Baby”] Ian Gillan of Deep Purple totally took from his voice.
C: “Speak Now Or Forever Hold Your Peace” is unbelievable—the propulsive, tuneful, template for Slade, and by extension Oasis.
D: But Liam’s not a soul singer.
C: It’s very Faces. “Tinker Taylor” is the same thing. Word to the Djs out there: this is the only album you need to keep the dance party going…

The 88
Over and Over
C: Second album from The 88 from around Silver Lake…
D: Ha! That’s L.A. guys doing late-‘60s U.K. vision of California a la the Kinks’ Muswell Hillbillies. I like it. This is MUCH more potent that that Paisley Underground revival stuff that was going down in ’84. Silver Lake, eh?
C: But it’s not just Kinks stuff. That’s a big Elton John roadhouse ballad on here, which they can do cuz that guy can really sing.
D: If you’re going to do this, you better be able to take on El Dorado.
C: [Listening to “You Belong to Me”] Such a good singer, great voice. Too bad about the completely unrepresentative album cover, which doesn’t do them any favors.
D: Surprisingly sophisticated, this shit. It’s like known puzzle pieces being put into a new revised order… Man, if this comes from Silver Lake, this isn’t such a bad area! Maybe I should come by every now and then on a Saturday afternoon to hang out with these guys? Because they’re basically hip-hugging mod-haired Sixties guys, on a mission to pull through the gates of rock. That’s what I am too.
C: …
D: Although I am a bit older.

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BULL TONGUE by Byron Coley & Thurston Moore from Arthur No. 18 (Sept. 2005)

first published in Arthur No. 18 (September, 2005)

Exploring the Voids of All Known Undergrounds
by Byron Coley and Thurston Moore

Beautiful (in every which way) is the debut LP by Knoxville, Tennessee’s Picks & Lighters. TVA/Starvation (Living Room). The fact that it came out in 1997 does not detract from its glory one jot. A trio at the time of this recording, two guitars and one drum sullenly slam into each other with the lo-fidelity magnificence that so many strive for, but so few achieve. Rambling in a way that is almost incoherent at times, this is music made by humans and you’re never allowed to forget that for a second. It also has a cover that will make you slap your forehead and say ‘WHY THE FUCK DIDN’T I THINK OF THAT?’ Their new, eponymous, Picks & Lighters CD (no label) shows off the band’s latest incarnation. Expanded and regrouped, they make sounds that range all over the place, from further scum-blues dirt-investigations to disabled semi-acoustic ramblings that move around the sofa like Jandek at sleepytime. It’s all bitchen and comes with the highest commendations.

The great Tom Carter (Charalambides, etc.) pops up on a coupla fine fine disks this time around. The eponymous debut LP by Zaika (Eclipse) documents a duo project he does with Marcia Bassett (Double Leopards, etc.) and it’s truly puce. Two guitars shimmer and duck under each others’ beams with the lazy and luminous grace of twin zebras. It’s quite a show, and a beautiful production by every measure. Tom is also a member of a wild instrumental quartet called The Friday Group. Their eponymous debut LP (Beta Lactam) is a stunning ride through mountains of sustained-string/key blather. Filled with monumental creations of feedback and drone that stretch and swoop into imaginary sunsets, The Friday Groupi is an ethereal charmer. Prog rockers will dig its latter skysaw phrases the most! And as it’s part of Beta Lactam’s Records Are Not for Baking subscription series, it is accompanied (for subscribers anyway) by an additional picture disk 12”. On the bonus record, the Friday Group add percussion, which gives one side of this set the feel of Popul Vuh at their most tranced out. Brilliant stuff. Tom’s partner in Charalambides, Christina Carter, also has a comely new release. It’s the latest in My Cat Is an Alien’s set of split LPs (Opax). The MCIAA side features those feckless Italian brothers in their most masterful space mode—burbling like the sons of Tangerine Dream and then some. Christina’s side is a duo improvisation with Andrew MacGregor (aka Gown) and is really a kinda new thing for her, at least in compositional terms. She focuses a lot on small repeated figures (almost like Tara Burke in Fursaxa) while Andrew does some vocal moaning of his own, and splashes out small spouts of acoustic guitar. Packed in another cheery hand-painted cover, this is one for the archives.

A most valuable read can be had by picking up Sun Ra: The Immeasurable Equation, compiled by James L. Wolf and Harmut Geerken (Waitawhile). This hardcover collects pretty much every bit of poetry and prose that the great Ra scribed. Which means it’s no longer necessary to try and track down all the obscure pamphlets in which they originally appeared. Ra’s own material is appended by a buncha good (‘though sometimes impenetrable) critical and historical essays. Plus, there are some very swank snapshots. It’d be a dang nice present for someone special. Maybe even yourself!

The peripatetic Richard Youngs has a new duo LP with Andrew Paine, although it’s not being released under the band name Ilk (which is what we thought they called their duo). Regardless, Mauve Dawn (Fusetron) is a titillating space-out assemblage of keys and phases and tones that stretch from here to Venus. This one woulda nailed me to my dorm bed in ’74 or so, since it has a vibe that (in parts) reminds me of nothing other than the Gong tracks on the second Greasy Truckers compilation (which must be one of the great dorm-bed-nailers of all time). And hey—it still sounds pretty damn piercing now. Youngs has another excellent duo LP, Beating Stars (HP Cycle), he did with Alexander Neilson. This one’s a little bit noisier than the other, but it still fits into a virtual space-groaner bag. And the opening track—a killer noise-folk version of the traditional “Rolling in the Dew”—is guaranteed to slay anyone who hears it.

L.A.’s Trinie Dalton sent us a couple of very fucked up books she did over the past whenever, and they both have a very evil whiff of magnificence. Touch of Class is a disturbed visual rumination on the world of unicornology, including a very wild critical essay of the Eno’s early works, viewed from a unicornly perspective. Yikes! The other is Rodenta, which is a collection of art and essays about rodents as pets and/or pests. The crazy mix of low-art/high-art vibes here is pretty damn invigorating.

Stone classic punk rock action on Furthur, the debut LP by Chicago’s Vee Dee (Criminal IQ). You can hear moves nipped from The Nomads, the Misfits, Radio Birdman and other masters of in-your-face guitar snarl. Especially nice is the fact that they mix their aggression with lyrics that sometimes lean in a kinda freakbeat direction. Cool. More totally ace punk-shit arrives via the archival Karate Party LP, Black Helicopter (SS). This Sacramento band had only a small amount of stuff released in their lifetime, but their approach made a vast impression on the nascent A-Frames. Helicopter collects their known reelases and throws in a sweet load of previously unheard material, all of it in stripped down UK-DIY/Urinals/Middle Class chopper mode. Even the Devo cover. Honest. It’s a totally solid listening and head-frogging experience and should be “had” by “all.” Fave leftfield punk slab this outing must be Human Eye’s self-titled debut LP (In the Red). There seem to have been about a thousand people in the band, but the sound is basic, whipped quartet-scum-punk (Electric Eels style) with primitive art-damage hallmarks. These Detroiters even manage to toss some keyboard munge into the mix without making it sounds like revo-new-wave-puke. Nice choppers!

Klyd Watkins is not a poet we recall running into before, although we surely have, since he was involved in most of the Poetry Out Loud LPs. Anyway, he has a sweet new book of poems, 5 Speed (The Temple), that is about nature and desire and waiting around and going places and nipples and sortsa other stuff. His rhythms are very natural, his images have a soft, strong humor to them, and his voice is incredibly becoming. Seems like he has a buncha other stuff out as well. If you don’t check it out, we will. The publisher of 5 Speed is the great poet, Charles Potts. And there is a new splendiferous collection of his out as well. Kiot (Blue Begonia) is a selection of poems from ’63 to ’77 and includes a buncha (what we feel) is the most mind-battering work by this brilliant writer. The poems are arranged by the places in which they were writ, and the travelogue they present will allow you to roam across the belly of an underground (and of a natural world) that no longer exists. All Potts’ books are essential, but this one would make an excellent introduction for anyone. Even babies!

The Keep America Mellow LP by Montana’s Ex-Cocaine (Killertree) is one of the season’s more fascinating finds. The duo (guitars, some drums, some voices) is led by a long-time running mate of John Olson, and their sound is a unique chunk of basement invention. Parts of it are extendo-jam string-weaving, other parts are reminiscent of Robert Pollard’s dustiest early experiments, still others are some of the sweetest bongo/guitar-raunch duets you’ll ever hear. It’s very excellent to think that this was made in Montana (for some reason), and we can’t wait to hear more.

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TROPIC OF CANCER: Mistah Kurtz—he all the way live (Arthur, 2005)

Published in the Border Crossing issue (Arthur No. 18, Sept. 2005). All the good photography is Simon Lund. Bad photos taken by author Dave “David” Reeves.

I’m not bragging, but I had a little skin cancer. I walked around L. A. trying to generate sympathy with it, maybe get a free beer. Nobody cared. Everybody has a disease now.

A friend of mine insisted I come to a rainforest clinic near his hotel in Iquitos, Peru. “There’s no cancer here. This is the where big pharmaceutical companies come to crib traditional medicines from Amazonian witch doctors for a ‘healthy profit.'”

Three derelict 727s lay off the runway in Iquitos, all with the same story: “Crash landed one night, full of coca paste. The pilot ran off into the jungle.”

The Iquitos airport is at the southern border of the cradle of cocaine. For years the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration had a rule called “Fly and Die”; one of the program’s outcomes was that a reported 60 civilian aircraft were downed by DEA agents between Iquitos and Columbia. This program lost funding last November when agents blasted a Cessna full of missionaries out of the sky. Consequently, the DEA is now gone from the area, and continuous flights north make up what is known as ”The Air Bridge”—the route by which Peruvian coca paste is flown to Columbian processing labs, yielding two thirds of the world’s cocaine.

Iquitos runs on unmuffled mopeds racing from red light to red light at full speed. It’s fun at first but after awhile you feel like you live in a wasp’s nest from the insistent buzzing.

“The Venice of Peru” is tacked together from the continuous stream of balsa rafts floating down the Amazon. Harvesting balsa is profitable only when used to hide the great bulks of coca paste sent down river. All day and night saw blades shriek in the mills lining the river, giving the air a fresh piney scent. It is in this way that the world loses its last rainforest to gain another slum.

The population of Iquitos is estimated at a half a million people, but there is no way to parse the burgeoning chaos of the floating ghetto called Belen. No one starves here as fruit falls out of the tree right on your head. If you can’t hook a fish, just wait for one of these ugly bastards to crawl up on land.

When the food comes in Peru they say, “Let’s eat a little of life and death.”

Back when the Soviets had money they provided Peru the bulk of its economic aid. In order to sabotage those godless Commies, the CIA exponentialized the cocaine trade by facilitating the formation of cartels that moved coca from the cradle of cocaine to labs in Columbia and then to American ghettoes where it was wildly popular and generated enough profit for a lot of really wonderful covert CIA operations.

This was a blow to the Soviets, and so they started a great rumor that has apparently killed more missionaries than the DEA. The rumor goes like this: The Americans have a squad of silent glider planes that land at night and harvest the fat of children, which is used to fuel our rockets to the moon.

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NO SLEEP TILL BEIRUT: A conversation with ALAN BISHOP, by Brandon Stosuy (Arthur, 2005)

Illustration by Paul Pope

Originally published in Arthur No. 18 (Sept. 2005)…

No Sleep Till Beirut
ALAN BISHOP of Sun City Girls speaks with Brandon Stosuy about terrorism, travel, clueless Americans and curating the cut-up world music collages of his Sublime Frequencies label.

Caffeine and nicotine are Alan Bishop’s self-professed main vices. “Resting is an obstacle,” he says. “My cat Napoleon taught me how to take 15-minute naps, and when I drive down the highway late at night and feel drowsy, I narrow it down to a three-second nap. When I awake, and realize I survived again, I’m energized for hours.”

Given the range and breadth of his creative output over the last two decades, Bishop’s admission that he’s a self-taught low-to-no-dozer makes a lot of sense. For years, his main occupation has been as a prolific musician and composer. Sun City Girls, a trio he formed in Sun City, Arizona in 1983 with his brother (Sir) Richard Bishop and Charles Gocher, have released 40-plus albums of startling originality: a vast catalog of world music fusion and cheeky agitprop, Eastern music and blissed-out raga. (Two classics are 1990’s Torch of the Mystics, an impressive Spaghetti-Eastern wrangling of sound, like some kind of cowpoke-infused Bombay pop; and 1996’s 330,000 Crossdressers from Beyond the Rig Veda which is, among other things, a Gamelan drone marathon.) Bishop’s also had his hand in non-SCG projects like Uncle Jim and Alvarius B: in fact, a new Uncle Jim LP Superstars of Greenwich Meantime is due out any moment on the Kentucky-based Black Velvet Fuckere label, and a new Alvarius B LP Blood Operatives of the Barium Sunset, will be out on in October on the Sun Cirty Girls’ own Abduction label, which Bishop runs.

As if that weren’t enough, in October 2003, the 45-year-old started a new label with his brother (Sir) Richard and filmmaker Hisham Mayet in a collective quest to document and distribute the music of distant cultures that so fascinates them; Sublime Frequencies, they explain, is “dedicated to acquiring and exposing obscure sights and sounds from modern and traditional urban and rural frontiers via film and video, field recordings, radio and short wave transmissions, international folk and pop music, sound anomalies.” So far, Sublime Frequencies has released nearly two dozen CDs, from Radio Phnom Pehn‘s schizophrenic Cambodian metal/jingle remixed cut-ups to the juicy pop histrionics of Molam: Thai Country Groove to the on-the-road brilliance of Streets of Lhasa, which was recorded by Zhang Jian of the Beijing-based sound collective fm3. Meanwhile, Mayet, has filmed three DVDs of live performances by unknown musical geniuses based in countries like Syria, Thailand and Niger for SF, and has finished a fourth, Niger: Magic and Ecstasy in the Sahel. The fall finds three new SF CDs, two of which focus on members of the so-called Axis of Evil, Iraq and North Korea. Per usual, the names are as colorful as the sounds collected: Choubi Choubi!-Folk and Pop Sounds from Iraq; Radio Pyongyang: Commie Funk and Agit Pop from the Hermit Kingdom; and Guitars of the Golden triangle: Folk and pop music of Myanmar (Burma) Vol. 2. Sublime Frequencies’ ragtag contributing cast also includes micro-noisemaker Robert Millis of Climax Golden Twins and Bay Area Porest/Mono Pause/Neung Phak maestro, Mark Gergis; Gergis is the second most prolific SF contributor after Bishop, and is the mind behind the aforementioned Iraqi compilation as well as I Remember Syria’s double-album cut-up of field recordings, radio excerpts, and “lost” cassette pieces.

Sublime Frequencies isn’t your average world music label—in place of the in-depth documentation of records on labels like Lonely Planet, Smithsonian or Hamonia Mundi are reader-baiting sentences like “the equator runs through only ten countries on earth and I bet that you cannot name them all without consulting a map” and elliptical, beatnik-style prose-rants in which the compilers relay brief anecdotes and impressions of their travels. Bishop, the Kerouac of the crew, keeps a running journal related to the project.

“I write as much as I record,” he says. “I make custom books for each trip. Most are 50-100 pages in length with collage art and photos pasted into the pages. Each book is a different size/style and I always force myself to finish one for each venture.” So far he’s assembled 40 of them, none of them have been published. The mind reels at the unseen treasures lurking within their pages.

Recently Bishop and I conversed at length via email about his current activities. I began by asking him about Crime & Dissonance, a two-disc compilation of work by famed Italian film composer Ennio Morricone slated for release on Mike Patton’s Ipecac label this fall.

Arthur: How did the Morricone project come about? What drew you to Morricone’s work in the first place?
Alan Bishop: I saw The Good, The Bad and The Ugly when I was a kid on TV. The music destroyed me, just the power of it. Since then I’ve been listening, collecting and digesting all of his music. There was a feeling that if I could wear the music as a talisman, I would be indestructible. He worked in so many mediums of sound. He composes everything from romantic orchestral music to full-on speaker-thrashing noise. And along the way, he does almost every style of music that can be named. He is known for the Italian Western themes more than any other style but for those who investigate the massive output of thousands of tracks he’s either composed, co-composed, arranged, or directed, speaking about his work in generalities to educate the unfamiliar is a pointless task. For the compilation, Filippo Salvadori, who runs Runt distributing amongst other things, kept me up to date on what Morricone titles which were available to license for the CDs. It’s a true mess as Morricone has recorded for dozens of labels and licensing tracks from some of them is near impossible, so I was unable to get all the tracks I wanted and had to compromise. Still, it’s a great set. I listen to soundtrack music as music, not as a complementary appendage to the film. So as long as the music moves me, it’s a good soundtrack. Mono-thematic scores usually fail me but Morricone is one who can occasionally make a single theme interesting for the length of an entire soundtrack. La Cosa Buffo and The Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion both come to mind.

Can you trace your interest in documenting so-called “world music”?
I traveled around the States a lot when I was a kid, and when I bought a car, I moved from Saginaw, Michigan to Arizona. A cousin had just bought an apartment building in Marbella, Spain and he said we were always welcome to stay for free, so I started saving my money, hustling goods at flea markets. In 1983 I sold all my Jimi Hendrix LPs to get the rest of the cash I needed to fly to Spain. I was 23. Morocco was only a boat ride from Spain and it was cheap to travel around for a few months, so I stayed as long as my money held out. The second day I was there I heard that Joujouka sound of the Raitni chanters echoing from an elusive location in the medina of Tetuan. When some kids saw me trying to find the origin of the music they brought me up some stairway to a room filled with pretty women and four musicians performing for them. It was the remnants of a wedding party and I was the only male guest. The musicians gave me some hash and started playing and I danced with the women awhile and we all sat down and had mint tea and snacks, started discussing world events with the older drummer for an hour or so. That’s the hospitality of the Arab world. No questions asked. Want some food? Drink? Dance? Music? Hashish?

What was the political climate like?
The Polisario Guerilla movement was much more active back then in the Western Sahara and also in Morocco’s cities and countryside. There were checkpoints on all the highways and almost every bus I took from town to town was stopped by military personnel. One time I was on my way back to Essouira from Fes – I was in Fes for a couple of days and was carrying a passport for a guy who left it there, doing him a favor by taking it back for him. Some guy got on the bus and sat next to me in the back. About an hour later we were stopped by the military. The soldiers were checking people on the bus and when they came to the back I kept wondering if they searched me and found that I had two passports including a British one which wasn’t mine, what I’d have to explain, but they didn’t even look at me. They just grabbed the guy who sat next to me and took him off the bus and that was it. Seemed as if they knew who he was. He was escorted to their vehicle at gunpoint, and shoved in the back seat. Our bus was then allowed to leave. Polisario perhaps? A sympathizer with the Polasario? Or just a common petty thief? I’ll never know.

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THEY WERE AFRIRAMPO, by Oliver Hall (Arthur, 2005)

Originally published with photography and design by W.T. Nelson in Arthur No. 18 (Sept. 2005)

They Are Afrirampo
Oliver Hall encounters Osaka’s number one freedom paradise rock duo.

When Oni and Pikachu arrived at the Smell in downtown Los Angeles there was nothing about them that suggested the powers they would soon deploy on stage. Certain performers have a way of carrying themselves in venues that tells you not to approach them unless you have something important to say about the sound system or how many drink tickets they get, and Afrirampo, despite looking road-weary, and dressed down in floral prints with naked faces, held themselves with that kind of authority. Not that it stopped (male) fans from approaching the two, or the band from receiving them graciously. But they did not look like the creatures you’d expect to see after reading any of their press: sex demons, noise futurists, musical athletes, punk sibyls who, when asked for their favorite three albums of all time responded, “1. AFRIRAMPO 2.AFRIRAMPO 3. AFRIRAMPO”. . .

Here is the description of Afrirampo on the band’s website:

young Japanese girls rock duo from Osaka JAPAN!
Naked rock!!!!! Naked soul!!! Red red strong red dress!! Freeeeeeeeedam
paradice rock! Jump! With improvisation.
Sooo fantastic & wild performance!

Afrirampo’s recording career began with A (not to be confused with A’, presumably to be read “A-prime,” a collection of early recordings), a shrieking garage-thrash record with guitar, drums and two girl voices; if the music on this record has any antecedents, it’s the startling moments of weirdness and the playful, conspiratorial spirit of the ealry ‘80s Swiss female punk band Kleenex/LiLiPUT, who, like Afrirampo, enjoyed letting music wreak havoc with familiar vowels. Afrirampo’s latest release, Kore Ga Mayaku Da on John Zorn’s Tzadik Records, is similarly playful but more elaborate and scary, like classical theater. I interviewed them around the corner from the Smell, before they were in costume and makeup; a little over an hour later, their set came to a close with the crowd bearing Pikachu from the stage to the front door as Oni took over the drums and sang Sayonara! Sayonara!

My intention was to interview Afrirampo at the bar behind the Smell on Main, but as we turned from Harlem Alley onto Third Street, Oni exclaimed, “Japanese food!” They had identified something that would relieve their homesickness: a plain burger restaurant with a marquee-style menu behind the counter, sparsely decorated with objects whose strangeness I wouldn’t have noticed if Oni had not been so taken with them.

“I like frogs,” she said, pointing to the giant ceramic vase in the shape of two frogs on the counter. There were plastic pieces of fruit spread out like a rebus on the shelves in one wall and a painting of two ballerinas in a dance studio hung opposite.

“Looks like Japanese,” said Pikachu.

“European,” said Oni. They seem to contradict each other often in conversation in this breezy way, just as one of them will suddenly, frighteningly take over a song in the middle of a performance. When I asked them how music in Japan, especially in their hometown Osaka, is different from music in America, Pikachu frowned, “It’s the same!” “Very different,” said Oni. “Especially in Osaka, like underground scene? Noise? Strong, and also more deep, especially in Osaka, for now. Interesting, more than America.”

Oni seems to love the words “strong” and “deep,” referring, for example, to Keiji Haino, Acid Mothers Temple and the older generation of out Japanese musicians they’ve played with as “deep, deep, crazy old guys.” Despite these connections, Afrirampo does not see itself as a noise band. When I tried to argue that American noise aesthetics have more in common with Japanese noise’s love of pure sound than the conceptual abstractions of European, industrial noise, they seemed to think I am calling them a noise band.

“Not only noise music,” said Oni.

“Actually, not noise music,” said Pikachu.

“Strange music,” said Ono.

“I want to know more about strange music of America,” said Pikachu.

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How to Get Into the Grateful Dead (Arthur, 2005)


Originally published in Arthur No. 18 (Sept 2005)

Dear Arthur,
Okay, so a lot of people in Arthur have been coming out of the Deadhead closet lately [cf. “Uncle Skullfucker’s Band”, Arthur No. 11]. Someone, maybe Bastet, maybe someone else, should put out a mix CD or two of some of the Dead’s material that might be most likely to impress the contemporary drone/noise/psych/improv and/or free(k) folk scene(s). I have enjoyed a very small percentage of the G.D. that I have heard, and have been unwilling to delve through the catalog in search of the gems. I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, and would like to hear a carefully selected mix made by discerning ears. Example: Garcia solo piece on Zabriskie Point soundtrack.
Rick Swan
via email

Dear Rick,
There are over 2,800 Grateful Dead shows available for free download at archive.org, and depending on who you talk to at least a half-dozen studio albums worth checking out. That’s a lot of music to sort through, even if you can get your hands on most of it without laying down any cash. We convened a conclave of reconstructed Deadheads in order to help you and any other greenhorn seekers of the Dead find your way around. The Knights present for this meeting were:

Geologist, a member of Animal Collective, that incredible international post-hippie string band.
N. Shineywater, of Alabama’s creamiest slow-folk practitioners, Brightblack Morning Light. It is worth nothing that Brightblack’s cover of “Brokedown Palace” with Will Oldham on vocals makes us weep.
Ethan Miller, of the mighty Comets on Fire.
Daniel Chamberlin, a contributing editor at Arthur, and the author of “Uncle Skullfucker’s Band” (Arthur No. 11) about life as a closet Deadhead.
Denise DiVitto & Brant Bjork: Owner-operators of Duna Records, which releases records by Mr. Bjork (co-founder of Kyuss) and other worthy artists. Two mellow souls who hang in the desert.
Erik Davis, Arthur contributor, native Californian and the author of Techgnosis: Myth, Magic and Mysticism in the Age of Information.
Barry Smolin, the host of the essential “The Music Never Stops” Dead showcase on Los Angeles’s KPFK, 90.7 FM.
Michael Simmons, a contributing editor to Arthur.
The Seth Man, a/k/a The Seth Man, editor of FUZ and author of “The Book of Seth” on Julian Cope’s website.


GEOLOGIST (Animal Collective)
The birth of my father was a mistake; an unplanned pregnancy in the 1950s. As a result, his brothers, and my cousins, are much older. During the ’80s, my cousin Adam was my idol. I was in grade school, he was in high school and later went to college in Athens, GA. The guy was all about “rock & roll.” He had Live…Like A Suicide by Guns N’ Roses on vinyl in 1986. He predicted the worldwide stardom of REM and the B-52’s as far back as I can remember. But his first musical love was, and as far as I know, still is The Grateful Dead. By the end of the ’80s he had been to over 100 shows.

As I got older and began to hunger for more music than what was being fed to me on MTV, I of course turned to him. Like any true Deadhead, my cousin immediately pushed me towards their live material. His Dead collection was just a box of tapes with dates written on them; I don’t really remember seeing any albums. It is to this aspect of the Dead’s output that I would direct any new fan. I listen to the ’66-’74 era, pretty much exclusively. An easy place to start is the live albums released during this period, specifically Live/Dead (from ’69) and Europe ’72. The former has my all-time favorite Dead jam, “Dark Star” into “St. Stephen,” and the latter contains my second favorite, “China Cat Sunflower” into “I Know You Rider” (affectionately known to Dead fans as “China Rider”). In addition, there is a killer CD release of a Fillmore East show from 2/11/69, which has some of the same tunes. And for 1974, the Winterland shows from February of that year totally rule, even though you have to endure the awful background singing of Donna Godchaux.

I certainly don’t mean to discount the worth of their studio albums, because there is no denying the greatness of Anthem Of The Sun, Aoxomoxoa and American Beauty. I love them all and listen to them frequently, but I still lean towards the live stuff. The reason for this is simply “good times.” I recently got into an argument at a bar about whether or not you can give credit to someone for nothing more than “good times.” I say you totally can. Why not? Isn’t that pretty much what most of us want on a day-to-day basis? I was fortunate enough to see the Dead on one of their last tours in 1994. I was 15 years old, and had moved from Philly to Baltimore, where I was in the early stages of becoming best friends with the dudes I still consider my closest friends in the world. At the time, however, I dearly missed my old friends from middle school. They managed to get tickets to the Dead show at the Philly Spectrum, and my parents, being the wonderful folks they are, let me skip school for three days and hop on the train to catch the show. Jerry may have been old and forgotten some lyrics here and there, but man, good times were had by all. I’ve never since been in an environment as positive as that concert. As people who are passionate about music, especially music that is outside of the mainstream, we sometimes get caught up in our own brand of snobbery. But when I catch myself acting like a dick, I try and think back to that night wandering around the burrito stands and hacky-sack circles in that parking lot. If people continue to care about the music we make and continue to come see us play, I really hope our parking lots will look and feel like that one day. Good times.

N. SHINEYWATER (Brightblack Morning Light)
Early-era Dead songs resonate with me, so I would maybe dig a collection of songs featuring Pig Pen. The first recording I heard by Grateful Dead also served as a successful backdrop to a good time. It involved my native Alabama woods, an old Jeep chasing another old Jeep through the mud, and the constant doobie. The friend of mine who was driving the jeep let The Dead’s American Beauty repeat over and over … Somehow a very long early-version of the song “Dark Star” appeared on the homemade cassette, and when this came on we had just taken a doobie break. One friendly sister starting throwing mud at me so I threw mud back at her and the next thing I saw was this dancing grey mud flying and hitting smiling bodies of friends.

One time this same Jeep-friend has to drive across the country in a new Ford van. He happened to know he was going to be using reefer along the way. The van had only one sticker, plain in style, that read, “GOOD OL” really large, followed very small by “GRATEFUL DEAD.” It wasn’t the kind with little orange bears; it was red, white and blue. He chose this plain sticker to avoid attracting the Man. Yet he knew that he wanted to share his love of Grateful Dead music. It was a risk he didn’t mind taking.

Later in life he led a Greenpeace effort to successfully lower himself and a few others over the side of the Mitsubishi building in Oregon with banners that read, “BOYCOTT MITSUBISHI, MITSUBISHI DESTROYS RAINFORESTS.” The last I heard of him he became a river guide.

ETHAN MILLER (Comets On Fire)
First off, I also loved that article by Daniel Chamberlin in the July 2004 Arthur also and found it very inspiring to try and track down the more extreme avant-garde Dead stuff that the author of that piece talks about being fooled that it was Dead C. or Sonic Youth or whatever.

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