Cartographer of the American Dreamtime: An Appreciation of RICK VEITCH, by Alan Moore (Arthur, 2013)

Originally published in Arthur No. 33 (January, 2013) as a sidebar to an interview with Rick Veitch by Jay Babcock


ABOVE: Roarin’ Rick’s Rare Bit Fiends, Rick Veitch’s self-published ’90s comic book focused on his dream comics, which featured occasional celebrity guests. One repeater was Veitch’s collaborator Alan Moore, shown here finding the best stash ever.


Cartographer of the American Dreamtime: An appreciation of Rick Veitch

by Alan Moore

The Julia Set, unique and intricately beautiful, is an exquisite fractal outgrowth from the mother Mandelbrot arrangement, a specific form dictated by the mathematical peculiarities of its precise location in the overall continuum, the jeweled continent of numbers charted and explored by Benoit Mandelbrot during the 1980s. The Julia Sets are, if you will, distinct and individual entities which nonetheless arise from the unique conditions at their point of origin. As such, they offer us a splendid metaphor; a new way to consider the relationship between ourselves as human beings and the landscapes that we grew from. We are Julia Sets, and our specific natures and distinct psychologies are an elaborate extension of the maze of streets where we were born; the valleys, hills and rivers that defined our world and the topographies that we grew up amongst.

If some supporting evidence is needed in defense of this hypothesis, then we need look no further than Rick Veitch. Born out of Vermont, he spent childhood and youth unaware of the powerful significance of his surroundings, as most of us do. In attempting to find the right path for himself, an endeavor that might lead him past the constraints of his life, he pursued both a passion for comic-book artistry and an increasing involvement with his own tumultuous dream-life. While these two preoccupations have greatly enabled and enriched each other in Rick’s subsequent career, I suggest it is the dreampath that is of the primary importance in that it is somehow closer to the center of his being, closer to the source of his artistic inspiration than the marvelously illustrated pages that grow out of it. By following the shadowy and lunar trail of his oneiric explorations, mapping his own route as he made his way further out into uncharted territories, it would seem that he’s been led back to the very point at which he started out, but with a greater understanding and appreciation of its meaning and its majesty: Vermont. The river and the bridge. The petroglyphs.

This was the landscape that another vocal and prolific dreamer, H.P. Lovecraft, had described after a visit to Vermont, the flooded river and its cargo of gas-bloated cattle lending local color to his tale of ghastly and unfathomable alien abduction. Brains in copper cylinders, extraordinary rendition, bound for Yuggoth. Funnily enough, the isolated cabin where Lovecraft’s protagonist is subject to the conversation of its human-mimicking inhabitant was based upon the residence that stands a little way from the Veitch homestead, owned once and perhaps still by a neighbor with experience of alien abduction who had published books upon the subject. Or at least, something that looked like him had published books upon the subject.

As Rick started to investigate the place that he was raised in, he began to get a sense of its geography as it related to his personal history, to the history of the area and to his own ongoing archaeology of dreams. He learned about the Abenaki, whose own cultural perspectives had informed the landscape once, before the vision of the settlers had been ruthlessly imposed. They’d been the ones who’d scratched those strange horned stick-figures into the rocks down by the river, the same ones that Lovecraft mentioned, with the ancient markings partly smothered by the concrete of the bridge foundations. That would be the bridge across the river to New Hampshire that in Rick’s dreams seemed to symbolize a bridge across the centuries, jet fighters sparring with pteranodons above the central span. The Abenakis’ hilltop burial ground, with bodies customarily interred sat upright, had been razed by bulldozers… decapitations and bisections of Native American deceased… in order to erect the paper-mill where Rick’s own father would slave out his days. America, ignoring the advice of its own horror movies, is entirely built upon the site of an old Indian graveyard and must take its ghosts and hauntings as they come.

While he deepened his inquiries into the rich history of his birthplace, Veitch’s waking life and dream life seemed to synchronize with his material world, seemed to connect with narratives that were those of the streets and soil themselves. He dreamed about a native shaman with a magic bow, his features masked at first by a carved pumpkin head but then revealed as those of an unusually tall man with a goofy and distinctive overbite, a face that was entirely unforgettable. A few days later, in the waking world, he took a walk down by the riverside in search of either inspiration or some new clue to the innate puzzle of the area. Floating in the water was an orange globe that seemed from several feet away to be a pumpkin like the shaman’s headpiece in his dream. Venturing nearer he discovered that it was in fact a punctured child’s ball, thrown away somewhere upstream, upon some previous occasion. Fished out of the water, on the other side was a crude, childish drawing of the same distinctive face with the same goofy overbite. The last I heard, Rick had it perched above the doorway of his studio.

The synchronicities came thick and fast, as they will tend to do when one embarks upon investigations of this nature. At one point, researching his own genealogy he came across a tantalizing reference to a long dead ancestor, a female member of the Veitch clan who had intermarried with the local Abenaki, taking as her bridegroom an unusually tall man if the story was to be believed. Was this the reason for his serial dreams about the petroglyphs, about the Abenaki, some unlikely but convincing blood connection?

Whether the descent be biological or otherwise, it seems that Rick Veitch has been pressed into continuing the role of his shamanic Abenaki forebears, of the ones that walked the land before him, who grew out of it as he did. Through his studies, his experiences and the splendid comic pages that resulted from the same, Rick has fearlessly explored and mapped the dreamtime of his native landscape just as thoroughly as did his psilocybin-entranced predecessors. And let there be no mistake, it is that dreamtime that all our reality is founded on, the mythic bedrock upon which we build our paper-mills, the modem structures of our modem lives.

Also, in Veitch’s case, in should be noted that we are exposed to an authentic vision of the true American dreamtime rather than another dissertation on the American Dream. The latter would seem to have been of questionable use in the development of the United States, too often held up like a brightly painted backdrop to conceal a less agreeable American reality; the promise of a photogenic destiny, of realizing lifestyles that in truth only exist on celluloid, a retrofitted continuity. The former, the American Dreamtime, is the sustaining, nourishing, neglected panorama that is still there, underneath the muddle of contemporary detritus that has piled up in the cellar-rooms of our unconscious, and Rick Veitch is its cartographer.

And in the sempiternal and unchanging Mandelbrot of spacetime, that is who and what he is forever: a unique and fascinating outgrowth of his place, his time and circumstances, an inimitable Julia Set grown from that cemetery dirt, that riverside, those petroglyphs. Or, if that’s not the case, then somewhere in another world there is a butterfly that’s having the most unbelievably strange dream.

DREAM A DEEPER DREAM: A how-to conversation with cartoonist RICK VEITCH by Jay Babcock (Arthur, 2013)

Originally published in Arthur No. 33 (January 2013)

Accompanied in print by “Cartographer of the American Dreamtime,” a tribute to Rick Veitch by Alan Moore

The Universe, the Planet, This One Spot

A conversation with dreamer/cartoonist Rick Veitch

by Jay Babcock

Born in 1951 in Bellow Falls, Vermont, Rick Veitch experienced the psychedelic late 1960s as a teenager. After overcoming some profound self-inflicted difficulties as a young adult in the early ‘70s—detailed in the following Q & A—he got serious about becoming a professional cartoonist. He succeeded. In the last three decades, Veitch has navigated the comics industry’s ups and downs while creating a singular, deeply weird and challenging body of work: sometimes raw, rough and outrageous in an old-school underground comix way, but more often clever and fantastically imaginative, with moments of startling cosmic beauty. My personal Rick Veitch highest highlights are his visionary run as Alan Moore’s handpicked writer-artist successor on Swamp Thing in the ‘80s; The One, his deeply anti-superhero comics series, somehow published by a Marvel Comics subdivision, that in a better world would have been the final word on the superhero concept; and Can’t Get No, a daring, dialogue-less graphic novel drawn in landscape format that builds from the story of corporate drone’s post-9/11 roadtrip into something truly poignant and profound. (Not for nothing did Fug/poet/historian Ed Sanders himself salute that work with a rare blurb—as did Neil Gaiman.)

Rick Veitch’s most unlikely and enduring triumph, though, has got to be Roarin’ Rick’s Rare Bit Fiends, a black-and-white comic book series he self-published under his King Hell imprint for 22 issues starting in 1994. Rare Bit featured no continuing characters or stories—its entire subject matter, issue after issue, was Veitch presenting his dreams in comics narrative form. It was a remarkable run that continued to resonate long after it finished, due to its enduring, mysterious subject matter.

A few winters ago, suffering from two decades of persistent, distressing nightmares, I visited Roarin’ Rick in his rural Vermont home. Here is our after-lunch conversation.


Arthur: So Rick, when did you start dreaming?

Rick Veitch: [laughter] From the time I was a little kid I was a big dreamer. There were normal everyday dreams but then were these big dreams that seemed like movies. I think that my fascination with dreaming was kicked off by a series of recurring nightmares. I would wake up in sheer terror from this recurring dream of a little girl trying to pick a flower below a skyscraper that was being built, and something happens, and the whole skyscraper starts collapsing. The girders start landing around the little girl, and the sound is COSMIC. I dreaded that dream. I had it again and again and again. I credit it with making me pay attention to my dreams.

Arthur: Did your parents know what was going on with your recurring nightmares, terror?

Not really. I grew up in an odd situation. We were a big Catholic family, I was the fourth kid. My parents had sort of ran out of gas running herd on my older siblings. So I pretty much did what I wanted, with not a lot of input from my folks.

I paid attention to dreams in general, just because this terrifying experience kept coming back. I think that’s how nightmares work. They want you to pay attention. That’s what they’re saying: Pay attention to what this phenomenon of dreaming is.

My older brother, Tom Veitch, who also writes comics and is well known as a poet, had an early interest in dreams and spirituality too. He was ten years older than me. We grew up very differently. He grew up with a normal family, while our folks were still paying attention. I grew up when no one was paying attention anymore. By the time I started becoming aware, he was out of the house already, living in New York, so it isn’t like I saw him a lot, but when I did, I would learn interesting things about the culture, about art, and about dreaming. I was telling him some of my big dreams. He was interested in them. And from listening to him I began to understand that there was a system to analyze the symbolism of dreams, that dreams WERE symbols. 

Was there a turning point when you started to pay serious attention to your dreams?

When I was about 20 years old, I went through a personal crisis. I had just sort of ran my life into the ground as 20-year-olds tend to do. I went into a deep depression. I couldn’t even get out of bed in the morning, that’s how bad it was. And in those days you didn’t go to a psychologist. You just sort of suffered these things. And somebody gave me a copy of The Portable Jung, a big fat paperback that collects a lot of Jung’s writings. I read the whole damn thing, kind of obsessively. I didn’t really understand it, but I went through the whole 700-page thing and began to see correlations in the dreams I was having, which were apocalyptic. That’s what was going on with me at the time. I couldn’t get out of bed. But at night my dreams were just unbelievably strong, really vivid. I began to sense that they were trying to direct me to heal myself. I can’t say I sensed all this consciously, but unconsciously, through the assimilation of all of Jung’s writings and the focus on the dreams themselves, I began to see a way out of my depression. And it worked.

I started this really detailed dream diary, writing down every damned thing I could, which I’ve still got, and bit by bit I began to understand the shadow side of my own personality, what was causing me to fail at growing up. I began to see that I had to ally myself with the deeper parts of myself, I had to trust that. I began to understand the nature of the structure of the psyche, which is one of the great things that Jung brought us. And I began to pull myself out of the hole. That was the beginning of my dreamwork.

What had happened? What hole were you stuck in?

It was a whole bunch of stuff. It was just being a teenaged lunatic. I was never a big druggie but I hung out with druggies. Relationship problems with my girlfriend, unable to hold a job, all kinds of stuff. 

Focusing on my dreams, looking at them, trying to understand what they meant, I slowly began to heal myself. Got a job, started to make money, pulled my whole life together. Took responsibility for the things I’d screwed up with the people I had alienated. More importantly, I began to realize the reason I was broken, was that I needed to be an artist. I’d known from the time I was a little kid that I was an artist. But except for my brother Tom, the environment around me, my parents, friends, the education system had all basically said ‘No, you can’t do this.’ That was a constant growing up. So there was a real deep and dangerous conflict in me.

I began to understand that if I really wanted to spend my life making art and being an artist, that I could. But it was up to me to make it happen. That’s when my real life began.

This process of dream journaling and study turned me around. I found a school that taught comics, the Joe Kubert School. Even though I was poor, I canvassed the state of Vermont and got a grant to go to school. Within a few years I’d put together a career drawing comic books for the major comic book companies. It really was a case of me making the right moves based on how dreaming was helping me organize my life.

Keeping the dream diary, how did that start?

First it was a series of indelible dreams, just cataclysmic.

The girl with the falling girders?

Yeah, they were on that level. But I was older now.

So they were uglier…?

I think ‘archetypal’ is the best word. They were pointing out both the nature and structure of the psyche. Many were all based upon a borderline, demonstrating how there’s this psychological border you cross, On this side, it’s your personal stuff you’re dealing with. and on the other side things are more archaic and symbolic. The dreams began to map a landscape in my mind of my psychological state. What was extraordinary about this was that the landscape was based on a REAL landscape in my hometown. Naturally you would think of course your psychological landscape is going to be based on where you grew up; what’s familiar. But it just so happened that part of this landscape in my hometown, I discovered much later, had been a place where Indian shamans from the Abenaki tribe used to gather and take magic mushrooms. Shamans and shamanism began to come up in the dreams spontaneously.

In my forties I began drawing these very early dreams as comics and began researching the shamanic connection. There are these petroglyphs in my home town that were left by Abenaki shaman and they’re right on the map in my dreaming! I began to come to understand that information itself had a certain life-like quality. The information that shamans worked with was ALIVE, and this could all be accessed via our dreaming unconscious. That became a focus of my dreamwork and my art while I was doing my series, Rare Bit Fiends.

Where did you get the idea to keep a dream diary?

I probably got the idea to do it from my brother Tom, because I know he was doing it. And he’s the guy who gave me the copy of Jung as well, at that key point. I think he could see what was going on. He handed me the tools I needed, rather than try to teach me himself. He knew that it’s something you’ve got to assimilate on your own.

How does keeping a dream diary work?

You have a little notebook by the side of your bed and you teach yourself to remember what you’ve dreamt. In the beginning I’d write every detail I could, nine or ten pages, whatever. Now I don’t do it so much. When I wake up in the morning now, even before I open my eyes, I try move the dream imagery from the dreaming part of the brain into the part where there are memory cells. That’s the key trick. You don’t want to open your eyes because once light comes into your eyes, you’ll lose a lot of those dream memories. Once they’re in the memory side, you got it. So then I’ll get up and have breakfast and stuff and then I’ll sit down and make little notes. That night, I’ll re-read the notes, and usually upon re-reading the notes, more from the dream comes up.

The dreams you present in your comics are not prosaic. They have cosmic stuff happening. You must have a very vivid and super-charged dreamlife.

I think that everybody does. It’s just a case of paying attention and learning a few tricks. There are different levels of dreaming. One level is the totally cosmic, that seems to happen in the middle of the night. On the other end is the totally mundane which happens nearer to morning. One trick I learned early on was to drink a couple of glasses of water before I went to bed, so I’d have to get up and piss, maybe about 1, 2 o’clock in the morning. That’s when you’re in the deep sleep and the really cosmic stuff happens. Usually we don’t remember that because we sleep right through it.

The dreams that we tend to remember are the ones we are having as we wake….

Yeah. They’re the ones about having to deal with the postman or the boss and stuff like that. And I had plenty of those. And when doing the dream comics, I tried to mix them in too. But what really attracts me to dreamwork is that it seems to be a way to get a handle on what’s really going on. Dreams are like a dialogue between the Ego and the deepest part of the psyche which Jung calls the Self. What the Self is, is no one really knows. You can only see pieces of it. But, using Jung’s model of the Psyche, the Self is the center, and the Ego just sort of floats on it. The ego, our conscious awareness, is maybe like ten percent of the totality of what we are. So I’ve come to see dreaming as a dialogue between those two parts: the floating conscious Ego and the deep, unconscious mystical Self. Once you realize that that dialogue exists, it actually becomes more real, and the characters can actually take on a life of their own. So sometimes you recognize that you’re talking to the deepest part of yourself because there’s just that certain awareness of the character you’re dreaming of.

The “Self” contains the personal unconscious, the collective unconscious…and beyond. I think it’s a way to understand nature too. Like say, you wanted to get a handle on the quantum, you might be able to do it through dreaming because on the deepest level, we are made up of quantum bits, so why wouldn’t we be able to dream about how we interact in the quantum realm. Or at a deeper, even more mystical level, there is Afterlife. Couldn’t we contact that? Wouldn’t it be through dreams?

So, I approach my dreams with an open mind, in that sense. I’m always like, Hmm that dream I had of that guy who’s dead—was I VISITING that guy, or was he visiting me in my dreams, trying to give me a message? You hold that in your mind, after you have the dream, you just try to suss it out. Is that’s what really happening, or am I fooling myself, or…?

Your journaling technique is necessarily different since you are also a visual artist. You can replicate the visual component of the dream, physically. Your description is a bit richer cuz you can use text to describe it – and art.

Yeah. What happens is, when you create art from your dream, you re-inhabit it in a way that you don’t do when you write it in a journal. When you write it in a journal, you’re using the reasoning, linear side of your mind. When you start drawing, the part of the brain that channels symbolism comes into focus. Your artistic intuition comes into play. Writing the dream, you’ve got the facts of the action, like: ‘Here I was on this day, this thing happens, that thing happens.’ But when you begin drawing them, your intuition starts playing with what they might mean, and it starts juggling the potential: it could be this, it could be that, it could be related to this other thing. As you’re drawing the dream, you’re waiting for that moment when you go, ‘Aha!’ and your intuition tells you it’s right. And so by the time you’ve drawn something as complicated as a comic book page of a dream, you’ve got a real handle on what it is your unconscious is talking about.

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AVENGE BROOKLYN by Dave Reeves (Arthur, 2013)

“Let Me Finish” column by Dave Reeves

Illustration by Arik Roper

Originally published in Arthur No. 33 (Jan. 2013)


The eye of Texas is upon you, Dave.

AVENGE BROOKLYN

It was me that killed Arthur. I kill all the little joys that make life worth living.  Brooklyn. Those three Motorcycles. The Master Cleanse. Burroughs quotes an account of the black plague: “Never yet has the plague come but one has first seen a ragged, stinking boy who drank like a dog from the village well and then passed on.” I am that ragged boy, passing villages, expensive coffee brewing in my tracks. And I am still thirsty.

If you’re reading this, you are one too. Takes one to know one. Twitter dat. Now there’s three. Then it’s like rabbits. Within the day they’ll be a hundred thirty of us at the coffee shop competing to write this very article about how our presence erases “ethnic enclaves” with precision worthy of Robert Moses. Detailing the fact that within the passing of three summers of sighting Us in Echo Park the Santeria temple turned to cafe, attracting the record shop, the stench of which summoned the Thrift Stores, The Shops of Obscure Purpose and The Second Coffee Place. Cue Upscale Grocery. Wham! Yoga mats. Suddenly, Doug Aitken is Art and Chloe took your parking space in front of a restaurant so cool it doesn’t have a sign. Rents blow up faster than a Gaza Strip Club. And we can’t go home. Again. 

Which is fine. Big rents means it’s time to take the show on the road. But, this time, ragged boy is thinking, “what if we visits a well in a town that sucks, instead of killing the thing that we love?” And in the course of thinking things he hates, thought of Texas. Specifically, a little “Atlas Slouched” sort of a town where artist types claim the light is great, forgetting to mention that all there is to see in the great light are a bunch of Texans drinking beer and taking ten-pound shits. 

Ragged boy figured he could take a little sip from the well and the place would be strip malls full of people making coffee and tattooes in no time. But first the ragged boy had to work into the fabric of the place, which essentially meant that he had to, you know, buy some weed. 

First problem is people don’t have any. Turns out that the laws are so strict in Texas that people turn to other sources for their buzz like huffing gas, shotgunning beers and abusing analogue drugs with names like Giggles or Mr Greenvibes.

The analogue drugs are packaged for specious purposes like bath salts or plant food, designed to fool the FDA of the manufacturers’ intention to jump the blood-brain barrier. In the course of juking the FDA, they also sidestep any sort of lab research, leaving the testing to be done by teenagers in garages all over this land. 

I watched a guy, my age, two kids, purchase some fake drug called K2 from a case in a headshop in which also were kept those horrible things that stretch earlobes out. The man behind the counter said that this particular potion had the Border patrol guys waiting at the door in the morning shifting from foot to foot like they had to pee real bad. My friend figures if it was good enough to null the pain of government work, it was good enough for him.

I knew by the click click of the razor on the mirror and the insistent scrape that this was no cheerleader drug like salvia or that thing where you hold your breath until you pass out. No, this “plant food” was dangerous stuff, resulting in the total loss of sanity.  As a bartender,  I’ve seen what real drugs can do: blind-eyed alcoholics, weedheads dizzy and coke fiends whose jaws keep clacking long after you cut their heads off. But this plant food stuff was bananacakes. 

My “friend” was stupid, paranoid and sensitive to light. The bath salts made all of these afflictions even worse. Whatever evil force was in this powder drove him to rant about how when Texas secedes something called the “Posse from El Pusso” would attack California. He did this while trying to nail “shadow people” to the doorframe. It was horrible. We can only hope that no real plants were given this “food.”

My friend’s actions and subsequent loss of job and embarrassing himself in front of his family forced me to deduce that the ingredients removed from these drugs to make them legal are the same things that God put in the drugs to keep us sane. Stopping people from smoking Mexi-press weed with analogue drugs is like giving someone rabies so they won’t take Advil. 

Furthermore, if we damn our border patrol jocks to abuse fake drugs in order to pass a piss test, is it any wonder that there are immigrants everywhere? 

Shudder to think how many Christmas gifts have been tainted by the unwitting addition of psychedelic bath salts. How many half-eaten pets must be buried late at night by confused bloody grandmothers before someone lets these poor Texans have the weed that God (okay, it was most likely Jesus) put on earth for us to use? While I’m on the Jesus — Why would Texas bust a state mascot like Willie Nelson for smoking weed? It’s not like he’s driving the tour bus. Marijuana, like Mexicans, was native to Texas before this bunch of asshats showed up and started putting everybody in jail. This fact exonerates All, as neither The God nor The Willie Nelson I believe in are capable of mistakes, mister.

I’ll say it here in Arthur magazine, fresh from the dead, that until Texas allows the Border Patrol to use the real drugs, this ragged boy is going to hang his hat somewhere that is not Texas. Also, fuck Arizona. Good luck trying to gentrify your ethnic neighborhoods without me.


Dave Reeves has an article in this month’s Man of the World Magazine and an article about him in the Russian Travel magazine Mir. He spends his days working on movie drivel, gets fired or quits, it’s hard to say, and then works on other movies. The cycle repeats itself until the magazine industry comes back from the dead. Also, Dave is working on the perfect lamb vindaloo, jogging and listening to WFMU.

Arik Roper is an illustrator and designer who lives in New York. He creates record covers, screenprinted posters, animation, comics, and other vehicles of visual flight. arikroper.com

ALCHEMY AND BANKROBBING: Applied Magic(k) column by the Center for Tactical Magic (Arthur, 2013)

Alchemy and Bankrobbing

Applied Magic(k) column by the Center for Tactical Magic, illustration by Aaron Gach

Originally published in Arthur No. 33 (January, 2013)

“Money always fascinates people, and magic with money is doubly fascinating.”

—J.B. Bobo, Master Magician and author of Modern Coin Magic

You don’t have to be psychic to know that many people who want their fortunes told have concerns about money matters. Indeed, even the name ‘fortuneteller’ implies a talent for making economic predictions. However, the fortunetellers most in demand these days are a different sort of financial forecaster. Bankers, financiers, and investment brokers gaze not into crystal balls but into multiple LCD screens showing real-time and projected financial data used for profitable prophesy. To the unanointed, the machinations of Wall Street mages are masked in a mysterious lexicon; indeed, it takes a bit of translation to understand the esoteric formulas behind high-frequency trading, an investment strategy based on proprietary computer algorithms devised to exploit minute fluctuations in the markets to make numerous trades at lightning speed throughout the day.  

High-frequency trading is a bit like a magician’s performance of “The Miser’s Dream” in which the performer makes coins appear out of thin air and drops them into a bucket—except there’s no show; only money and a bucket. Oh, and also market instability that directly impacts the livelihoods of those of us who don’t even want a seat at the show in the first place. One doesn’t need an economics degree to see the Faustian bind produced through the financial industry’s flash crashes, credit default swaps, commodities speculations, scandals, fraudulent practices and whatever other demons are yet to be unleashed by undisciplined and unscrupulous dabblers.

But, dealing with devils isn’t unique to Wall Street, and ultimately, there’s nothing new about the any-means-necessary path to wealth. Through the ages, numerous grimoires have detailed spells and rituals for gaining riches.

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LOVE AND DEBT: Note from the Editor (Arthur, 2013)

Jack Rose got paid.

Note from the Editor

LOVE AND DEBT

Originally published in Arthur No. 33 (Jan 2013)

“Follow your bliss”… “Do what you love, the money will follow…” —probably the two worst pieces of counsel that can be given to a young person seeking career advice—unless the counsel-giver is a credit card company, in which case they stand to profit handsomely from young people going into debt while following their dream, expecting the money to flow right in.

Jack Rose, a working musician who died suddenly three years ago this month at the unfair age of 38, knew that this kind of life advice was utter horseshit. Nothing magically comes to you because you do what you love. It can be hard for solo practitioners to stand up for themselves, to merge commerciality and hustling with artistic creation and expression. But there’s no getting around it. Jack made sure he always got paid, and he was justifiably proud of it. Jack knew that you gotta get compensated for your work, or have another source of income that funds your labor of love, or else you go into debt.

I got Arthur into a lot of debt. Giving away the magazine for free from 2002-2008 while relying on revenue for the enterprise from advertisers didn’t work. There were never enough advertisers, and all too few of them paid on time. Arthur was always short on cash. Writers, photographers and artists labored for free. By the end of 2008, when Arthur ceased print publication, I’d worked my way into six-figure nightmare debt trying to keep Arthur going, becoming a constant walking bummer to close friends and family. When Wall Street brought the global economy to a halt in September 2008, it was impossible for Arthur to go on. We weren’t alone, of course—countless other folks saw their worlds collapse as the economy contracted that winter.

But Jack Rose’s world kept getting brighter. Not only had he found a rich artistic path to follow, one that so many of us were eager to listen to him tread, he’d figured out a way to pay the toll for the road. That said, Jack wasn’t ever just about himself. Quite the opposite: Jack’s tenacity at getting audience members to pay a pitiable cover charge for performing musicians at Philadelphia house parties was legendary. I found out later that this was not an activity limited to Philly.

Jack looked out for Arthur, too. In early 2009, not long after we put the magazine on hiatus, sweet Michael “Mountainhood” Hilde organized Arthurdesh, an impromptu benefit concert for the magazine in Brooklyn, produced by the wonderful Todd P. Jack was one of the first performers to donate his services. Jack not only played onstage that night—a set that, typically for Jack, shushed and awed and moved a crowd waiting for louder fare—but he also helped hustle stuff at the Arthur merch table, standing there next to fellow performer Peter Stampfel, perhaps the most effortlessly hip/soulful odd couple I’ve ever been lucky enough to gaze upon.

Four years later, we’re back in action. I like to think that Jack would be happy to see Arthur alive again, and happier that we are charging five dollars for it, so that contributors can get paid, and nobody goes into debt doing it. Lesson learned, Jack.

Thank you for supporting our efforts by paying for the rag you’re holding. It’s good to be alive again, doing something that we love.

You might even call it a collective dream.

Jay Babcock

Joshua Tree, California

UP IN SMOKE: Weedeater column by Nance Klehm (Arthur, 2012)

Up in Smoke

by Nance Klehm

Illustration by Kira Mardikes

Originally published in Arthur No. 33 (January 2013), art direction by Yasmin Khan

Reginah Waterspirit, aka Brown Dove of Albuquerque, told me this story. 

Her husband Bearheart had been reading from his book at a major bookstore in town. Afterwards he was approached by a woman who he’d noticed had arrived at the reading late. She didn’t ask any questions, just looked into his eyes and gave him a paper, folded up. He put it into his pocket without looking. Later in the evening, Regina asked him what the woman had given him. He had forgotten about it entirely. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a wrinkled piece of paper holding a yet-to-be-used teabag. So they put the kettle on.

* * *

We are in an age of contraction that has the potential to unlock hidden economies. We all carry the scars and burdens and gifts of our ways of being. Tension exists between our desire to connect and our need to protect ourselves. There is a disconnect caused by doing this. As my friend Bill Wheelock told me: ‘I am a post-worker in a post-work economy.’ And he is right on. We’re dang uncomfortable about this structural unemployment. We have been made more vulnerable now with loads of sticky edges and on top of that we feel constricted by our own eggs.

Since so much of what we exchange, or have within us, is difficult to value in market terms, how do we even begin to form new economies?

In the economic monoculture of money, money is traded for money and devalues large classes of goods and services. Goods and services have concrete value. Money is only worth what it can buy; and indeed, money is an efficient shorthand for distributing goods and services. In the ecological, non-monied world, economic transactions happen across kingdoms—Bacterial with Animal (lacto-bacillus and animal gut) and Fungal with Plant (yeast and sugar) are recognizable economies.

If someone comes to your door, you help them out. If someone helps you out, you show your gratitude for what they have shared with you. This is part of the hobo ethical code. This is also an economy. And maybe, this give-and-take rocks back and forth, creating a rhythm of more mini-economic transactions and a relationship is nourished into being. And, maybe, in this flurry of synergistic exchange, the original impetus to engage is lost. It’s from here that our new economies emerge.

Most economies now relate to information. Getting it from somewhere quickly and at no cost so we can pack our heads with it. Hit the internet and books all you want, but when you ask someone to share something garnered from what they have lived, whether they have lived it easily or with difficulty, following a path chosen or given, and from whom you have no prior relationship, no prior economy, you should come without empty pockets.

Even better, before you ask them, slow down and ask yourself is your question really that important. The answer is frankly, most likely, NO.

But if the answer is YES, here is an urban-foraged weedy smoking mixture that you can easily find, gather, dry and mix yourself to later put in your pocket and pull out for payment or sharing when needed. 

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JACK ROSE discography by Byron Coley (Arthur, 2013)

As published in Arthur No. 33 (Jan 2013), accompanying the Jack Rose interview



Above: Still from Jack Rose & Glenn Jones: The Things That We Used to Do film/dvd, courtesy Jesse Sheppard and Glenn Jones.

JACK ROSE DISCOGRAPHY

by Byron Coley (with thanks for help from Mike Gangloff & Glenn Jones)

Hung Far Low, Portland Oregon (Klang CDR, 2001)
Doctor Ragtime (Tequila Sunrise CDR, 2002)
Red Horse White Mule (Eclipse ECL-012 LP, 2002)
“Red Horse II” on Wooden Guitar (Locust Music 33 CD, 2003; 2LP, 2008)
Raag Manifestos (VHF #85 CD, 2003; Eclipse ECL-039 LP, 2004)
Opium Musick (Eclipse ECL-026 LP, 2003)
“White Mule” on Golden Apples of the Sun (Bastet BAST-0001, 2004)
Kensington Blues  (VHF #92 CD; Tequila Sunrise TS-12001 LP, 2005)
“White Mule III” on Imaginational Anthem (Tompkins Square TSQ0531 CD, 2005)
“Box of Pine” on This Side Up (UK Ptolemaic Terrascope POT-35 CD, 2005)
“Sun Dogs” & “Now That I’m a Man Full Grown” on By The Fruits You Shall Know The Roots (Time-Lag/Eclipse 3LP, 2005)
“Hey Fuck You Rag” on Two Million Tongues Festival (Bastet BAST-0006 CD, 2005)
“Variations on Fleur de Lis/Be The Name of the Lord” on Dream Magazine #5 comp (SWE Dream Magazine CD, 2005)
“Untitled (Parts I & II)” (Tequila Sunrise TS-7002 7”, 2006)
“Cross the North Fork II” on Imaginational Anthem Volume Two (Tompkins Square TSQ1424 CD, 2006)
“Amp” on Less Self Is More Self (A Benefit Compilation for Tarantula Hill) (Ecstatic Peace E#107 2CD, 2006)
Jack Rose (aRCHIVE 28 CD, 2006; Tequila Sunrise TS-12006 LP, 2007)
“How Green Was My Valley/Buckdancer’s Choice” (split with Silverster Anfang) (BEL Funeral Folk ff015 7”, 2007)
“Since I’ve Been a Man Full Grown” on The Great Koonaklaster Speaks: A John Fahey Celebration (Table of the Elements TOE-CD-91 CD, 2007)
“Revolt” on Mind the Gap Volume 68 (BEL Gonzo Circus GC084, 2007)
I Do Play Rock and Roll (Three Lobed TLR-049 CD/LP, 2008)
Dr. Ragtime & His Pals (Tequila Sunrise TS-12007R, 2008)
“Mr. Rose Visits Washington DC” on Meet the Philly Eilte (BEL K-raa-k 7”, 2009)
The Black Dirt Sessions (Three Lobed TLR-066 LP, 2009)
Luck in the Valley (Thrill Jockey 229 LP, 2010)
“Moon in the Gutter” on Rough Trade Shops – Psych Folk 10 (UK Rough Trade COOPR250 CD, 2010)
Unrock Series – 12.11.2009 (GER Unsound UNR-009 CDR, 2010)

As Dr. Ragtime:
“Buckdancer’s Choice/Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground” (Sacred Harp Library 7”, 2005)
“Alap/Flirting with the Undertaker” (Tequila Sunrise TSR-6, 10” 78, 2005)
(compiler) Dr. Ragtime Presents Nice and Nasty (Ecstatic Yod CDR, 2008)

Jack Rose & Jason Bill:
Via St. Louis (Drunken Fish dfr-36 CD, 1996)

Jack Rose & Glenn Jones:
“Linden Avenue Stomp” on The Wire Tapper 17 (UK Wire Magazine CD, 2007)
The Things We Used to Do DVD (Strange Attractors Audio House SAAH058 DVD, 2010)

Jack Rose & the Black Twig Pickers:
Jack Rose & The Black Twig Pickers (Klang Industries 008 LP; VHF #116 CD, 2009)
“Revolt/Soft Steel Prison” (UK Great Pop Supplement GPS28 7”, 2008)
“Shooting Creek/Rappanhannock River Rag” (UK Great Pop Supplement GPS49 7”, 2009)

Jack Rose with D. Charles Speer & Helix:
Ragged and Right (Thrill Jockey 12.42 mini-LP, 2010)

with Ugly Head:
Spoon Knife Fuck (Transparanoia 7” , 1994)
A Bowl of Fever (Transparanoia 7”, 1994)
“These Drugs Aren’t Working” & “Throttled Sleep” on Dixie Flatline (Radioactive Rat CD, 1994)
Silence Is the Mystery of the Future Age (Transparanoia CD, 1997)

with Pelt:
Brown Cyclopedia (Radioactve Rat 333 LP, 1995)
“Big Stick and Little Sweet Play ‘In the Pocket’” (possibly) on With Pure Hell Raying From Our Sacs (no label MC, 1995)
Burning / Filament / Rockets (Econogold Ego-002 CD, 1995)
Snake to Snake (Klang Industries LP, 1996)
Woove Issue Five split with Soma 77 (WUVT-FM 7”, 1996)
Max Meadows (VHF #28 CD, 1996)
Techeod (VHF #36 CD, 1997)
For Michael Hannahs (no label CDR, 1997; VHF #38 CDR, 1998)
Black Florida split with Harry Pussy (Klang Part 3 7”, 1998)
“Zinc Mine” on untitle comp (UK Ptolemaic Terrascope POT-24 7”, 1998)
“Tibetan Ass Hash” on Umlauted Roman Numeral Five (Klang Industries Fifth Anniversary) (Klang 2CDR, 1999)
Empty Bell Ringing in theSky (VHF #43 2LP, 1999)
Rob’s Choice (VHF #54 CD, 1999)
two untitled tracks on Pelt/Pengo/Andy Gilmore Live At The Vilage Gate Carbon CR33 CDR, 2000)
Keyhole (w/Keenan Lawler, Eric Clark) (Eclipse ECL-006 LP, 2000)
Ayahuasca (VHF #62 2CD, 2001)
Houston 2001 (Klang CDR, 2001)
Six of Cups (Klang CDR, 2001)
“The Signal Tower at Murraysville, Pennsylvania” on The Invisible Pyramid (Last Visible Dog 2CD, 2003)
Keyhole II (w/Keenan Lawler, Eric Clark) (Eclipse ECL-017 LP, 2003)
Pearls from the River (VHF #76 CD, 2003)
A Capsized Moment/Paris 3.5.04 (Klang CDR, 2004)
Untitled (VHF #90 CD, 2005)
Skullfuck/Bestio Tergum Degero (VHF #98 CD, 2006)
“Sunflower River Blues” on I Am the Resurrection: A Tribute to John Fahey (Vanguard 79789-2 CD, 2006)
Heraldic Beasts (Eclipse ECL-050 2LP, 2006)

with Pelt/Rake:
United Supreme Council/Oastem! Vibe Orchestra (Eclipse ECL-009 LP, 2001)

with Dredd Foole & the Din:
The Whys of Fire (Ecstatic Yod #49C/FYPC20 CD, 2003)

with Glenn Jones:
“Linden Avenue Stomp” (unique version) on This is the Wind That Blows It Out (Strange Attractors Audio House SAAH024 CD, 2004)

AH, MAN: A career-spanning conversation with JACK ROSE by Brian Rademaekers (Arthur, 2013)

As published in Arthur No. 33 (Jan 2013)…

Photo by Michael Chaiken

AH, MAN
A career-spanning conversation with JACK ROSE, American musician, recorded just a few months before he died in 2009
By Brian Rademaekers

When I started covering music in Philadelphia in 2007, my beat—the city’s crumbling post-industrial river wards—felt like a veritable nexus of weird folk and psychedelic experimentation. The Espers clan and their compound, Fern Knight, Fursaxa, and heavy-hitters like Bardo Pond were all there, churning out a storm of beautiful, strange music that seemed in part a product of the ancient, twisted alleyways of Fishtown and Kensington.

Here, Jack Rose was the benevolent, unassuming King—a master set apart from his peers by a massive presence and an indomitable, mystical talent that elevated him from mere musician to magician. He was a dark alchemist, transforming calloused flesh, polished wood and taut steel into the intoxicating, intricate worlds of sound that were his music. Not that Jack — Jack the giant, hulking Virginian — would ever presume to wear a crown; it was just something that he brought into the room with him, disarming all with a humble warmth offset by a blunt, caustic confidence that he wielded like a knife at just the right moments. These days, most of the musicians from that scene are gone from the neighborhood, though none as gone as Jack.

When I first heard Jack’s 2005 album Kensington Blues, I was thunderstruck, lost in awe that such a masterpiece not only existed, but that it was made in my time, by a man whose elbows polished the same bar counters as mine. Listening to Jack’s recordings was great [see sidebar for a complete discography] but best of all was seeing Jack live, spreading his gospel in church halls or little clubs or living rooms and, finally, along the banks of the Delaware River for a summer concert series shortly before he died.

Watching him amble up to his chair with guitar in hand signaled the start of near-religious experience. He would hunch over the instrument, cock his head to the side and, with closed eyes, unleash wild syncopated layers of rhythms, leaving listeners rapt in a sort of devastated trance. Here was this giant bearded man suddenly becoming seamlessly enmeshed in his guitar to create these idiosyncratic spells that were at once as delicate as flowers and as forceful as hurricanes. Seeing that miracle in the flesh, there was nothing else like it in the world. For me, it was like being a jazz freak in the ’40s and living down the street from Charlie Parker.

So began a years-long obsession. I felt compelled to document this genius quietly living in our midst. And Jack obliged. It never seemed to bother him that some reporter from a little local paper was always pestering him, asking for details about a show or politely begging for an advance copy of a record. In that way, Jack betrayed the appearance of a dominating, cocksure master and revealed a man with a very big heart.

My pretext for interviewing Jack in the summer of 2009 was his forthcoming long-player on Thrill Jockey, Luck in the Valley. Jack was elated. He and his wife, Laurie, had just bought a tidy little brick rowhouse a few blocks from the city’s blasted Port Richmond waterfront. He bragged about his new car, a Honda that he loved for its efficiency in carrying his guitars from gig to gig. He raved about a pizza joint he’d found down the street, about how quiet his block was. To him, the Thrill Jockey release was the milestone he’d been awaiting, a culmination of years of hard work and mastery that meant he could finally say he was making good bread on the merit of his music.

For three hours, he let me follow him around the house, tape recorder in tow, as he smoked and poured tea and pulled LPs from his wall of records. He was a man satisfied, a musician reveling in the feeling that his art was finally about to find the place in the world that it deserved.

When Jack died a few months later, I groped through the shock, looking for some way to respond to the ugly, gaping hole that had so suddenly appeared, and decided on transcribing the whole of our conversation from that summer day on Ontario Street. That tape is presented here, and captures Jack in a bright mood at the peak of his career, ruminating on everything from his first lessons to his labor on “Kensington Blues” to the joy of landing the Thrill Jockey deal.

* * *

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ARTHUR’S FIRST ISSUE IN FOUR YEARS OUT NOW

ArthurCvr33Pre

Arthur No. 33 (Jan 2013)
Sixteen 15″ x 22.75″ pages (8 color, 8 b/w)
$5
Published Dec. 22, 2012

“The new oversized print-only issue of Arthur Magazine is even more gorgeous and satisfying than expected. Like a Sunday supplement for heads.” — Jesse Jarnow, author of Big Day Coming: Yo La Tengo and the Rise of Indie Rock

“Beautiful” — Chris Richards, The Washington Post

“A coffee-table newspaper, printed on 16 immense pages of newsprint with minimal ads, and almost every inch covered with words or pictures… The cover, a gigantic piece by surreal comics artist Rick Veitch, is gorgeous, and the crispness and clarity of the print is perhaps the best I’ve seen in a newspaper. Everything in the new [issue] is worth absorbing… Opening the mammoth pages of the new Arthur feels much like unfolding a road map, one that points to strange, unfamiliar worlds.” — Ned Lannamann, The Portland Mercury

“The Haydukes of music/art/culture journalism return…welcome back!” — Team Love Records

After a four-year sabbatical, occasionally beloved revolutionary sweetheart Arthur returns to print, renewed, refreshed, reinvigorated and in a bold new format: pages as tall and wide as a daily newspaper on compostable newsprint, with ads only on the back cover(s). Amazing!

In partnership with Portland, Oregon’s Floating World Comics, Arthur’s gang of idiots, know-it-alls and village explainers are back, edited by ol’ fool Jay Babcock and art directed by Yasmin Khan.

This issue’s contents include…

Dream a Deeper Dream: A how-to conversation with cartoonist ROARIN’ RICK VEITCH by Jay Babcock. Plus “Cartographer of the American Dreamtime,” an appreciation of Rick Veitch and his work by Mr. Alan Moore. Mr. Veitch’s “Self-Portrait in Six Dimensions” graces our cover.

JACK ROSE: the definitive, career-spanning interview with this late great America guitarist, conducted by Brian Rademaekers just months before his death three years ago. Plus: Jack Rose discography compiled by Byron Coley, and an illustration of a classic Jack pose by Plastic Crimewave.

An illuminating/endarkening conversation with sparkling Luciferian artist FRANK HAINES by Eliza Swann

Stewart Voegtlin on WAYLON JENNINGS’ dark dream, with an illustration by Beaver

Columnist DAVE REEVES on Burroughs, bath salts and border guards, with an illustration by Arik Roper

Columnist NANCE KLEHM on new modes of exchange—and homemade smokes, with an illustration by Kira Mardikes

Cartoonist GABBY SCHULZ explores our interstate nightmare

The Center for Tactical Magic on “The Magic(k) of Money” — and how YOU can win $1000 for planning a BANK ROBBERY!

“Bull Tongue” columnists BYRON COLEY & THURSTON MOORE survey happenings in underground culture, paying special attention to new and archival releases from Claude Pelieu; Spectre Folk; United Waters; Devin, Gary & Ross; Jess Franco; Mick Farren; Chris D.; Donna Lethal; Crystal Siphon; Mad River; Horace; Erewhon Calling by Bruce Russell; Toy Love; The Clean; David Kilgour; The Heavy Eights; Chris Corsano; Joe McPhee; Rangda; Ben Chasny; Sir Richard Bishop; David Oliphant; Brothers Unconnected; 200 Years; Six Organs of Admittance; Gary Panter; Marcia Bassett & Samara Lubelski; Cheater Slicks; Ron House; Above Ground; Vacuum; Max Block; Dead C; Axemen; Hamish Kilgour; Circle Pit; Kitchen’s Floor; Bits of Shit; and Boomgates. Plus a special report on The Ex 33 festival at Cafe Oto in East London, featuring The Ex, John Butcher, Zea + Charles, Jackadaw With Crowbar, Mats Gustafsson, Ken Vandermark, Trash Kit, Steve Beresford, Wolter Weirbos, Valentina Campora, Gabriella Maiorino, Andy Moor, Yannis Kyriakides, Anne-James Chaton, Ad Baars, Jorge Vega, Ian Saboya, Enrique Vega, Tony Buck and Roy Paci.

Please keep in mind… Arthur is no longer distributed for free anywhere. Those days are (sadly) long gone, ladies! Now you gotta buy Arthur or you won’t see it. Our price: Five bucks pretty cheap!

ORDER NOW: CLICK HERE