"My Conversation With the Secret Service" by IAN SVENONIUS (Arthur No. 15/March 2005)

Originally published in Arthur No. 15 (March 2005)

A Conversation With the Secret Service
Was I being investigated as a threat to the president—or as a potential hire for a sinister job?

By Ian Svenonius

I have a suspicion that the current president might be assassinated. How do I know? I was interviewed for it.

About a year and a half ago, I took a call from people who identified themselves as the Secret Service. They expressed an urgent desire to see me, which in their highly considered psycho-babble, was made to sound like a choiceless inevitability.

On the demand for an explanation, the agent, a woman, told me that they had intercepted an email which seemed to implicate me in a plot to harm the POTUS: that is, the President Of The United States.

I immediately surmised that her concern was related to a mass mailing I’d written in beat-prose to attract attendees to a night of record playing at a local club, called “Spilt Milk.” Thinking that my audience would enjoy the same amusements as myself, I had perhaps contained some reference to a dispatched leader of the free world.

The Secret Service’s responsibility was to check out every instance of a threat, no matter how far-fetched.

“We need you to come down to the office. It’s extremely important,” the woman insisted.

To get the initial sale, through, they used a female agent, knowing via a psychological assessment based on telephone and computer surveillance, that this would seem less threatening to me. Like a talented telemarketer, she was gentle but firmly coercive. In fact, the two professions are related, as the FBI and CIA’s inquisition techniques are lifted straight from Nelson Rockefeller’s bible for salesmen, How to Win Friends and Influence People, and feature the exact same mind control tricks. Of course, telemarketers don’t have the weight of state security at their disposal.

“I can’t come down, I’m really busy,” I told her, though my inbred instinct was to obey.

“We’ll come to your house, then,” she insisted, another offer I evaded.

After much back and forth, I agreed to meet “them,” the Secret Service agents, at a French bistro not far from my house. It seemed less likely that they’d kill or abduct me in a public setting.
Before I left my home, I alerted a few people as to the nature of my rendezvous and they agreed to witness the interrogation from afar, unannounced.

When I arrived, the officers were sitting in the outside cafe section under a sun umbrella which said “CHIMAY.” One was the woman I had spoken with on the telephone and she was accompanied by a man in a lowslung baseball cap with some rugged facial growth.

They looked drab and angry, respectively.

As the woman agent clasped the evidence and sat businesslike, her partner assumed the “bad cop” persona, searching me like a berserker and then scowling fiercely through the duration of the meeting. The implication was clear; if he were let off his chain, he would make quick work of me for god and country.

The purpose of this choreographed psycho-ballet is of course to draw the detainee into the maternal arms of the good cop so as to escape the paternal bad cop figure’s wrath. This psy-op cliche was immediately transparent, but it still worked; psychological reflex is at least as dependable as the blood-and-guts kind.

Meanwhile, my own spy witnesses had taken their anonymous positions, taking snapshots innocuously in case I were later dangled from a helicopter by these freak thugs.

When the waiter came by, I ordered a latte.

The mama character drew the offending email from a folder dramatically, like it was a bad report card. She read it aloud, slowly and haltingly as if translating from hieroglyphs. Continue reading

"Thus Sprach Peatzches": Ian Svenonius interviews Peaches (Arthur No. 1/October 2002)

Originally published in Arthur No. 1 (October 2002)

Thus Sprach Peatzches
Live from a Berlin beergarden: it’s the crotchtastic techno-dynamo Peaches, on the phone with the intrepid Ian Svenonius.

She rescues rock ‘n’ roll from its doldrums and self referential morass; she lassoes in the lost tribes and constructs for them a common language. She builds an Ark for escape from the downpour of vengeful judgment on a rock world damned for its irrelevance—but unlike Noah, she doesn’t discriminate against homosexuals. She straddles paradox with legs stretched across the sea of contradiction; legs which emanate from the crotch emblazoned totemistically on her breakthrough underground hit punk rock disco album Teaches of Peaches. She is the ferocious rockin’ techno dynamo Peaches.

For those poor souls living under a rock, Peaches has led the way for the most exciting underground Rock N Roll trend going; the feminist hip-hop/techno/ Punk Rock melange which has captured the imagination of artists everywhere. Her album, pulsing at better discos everywhere, was composed and played entirely by her with the help of a Roland MC 505 Groovebox which she calls her ‘MC5.’

Peaches originates from Canada, a country stuck halfway between US commercial vulgarity and old world conservatism. While providing refuge for expatriate artists Rick James and Funkadelic during Vietnam, Toronto was too comfortable to spawn the insatiable rock n roll animals which haunted the desolate southern shores of Michigan. Why and how then was Peaches chosen to be the innovating vessel for ‘electro-clash,’ the marriage of forms which is being hailed as a rock n roll revolution?

Stan Lee theorizes: “Perhaps, in a freakish confluence of college radio signals, the music of the Stooges and DJ Assault were combined in a piece of crystalline mist which floated from Detroit across the frozen waste of Lake Erie. Maybe this bit of matter entered Peaches’ brain through her earhole and transformed her into the inspired, Frankenstein synthesis of the two encapsulated artists who would meld the primal urge of rock ’n’ roll with the new technology of software and itty bitty circuitry…”

Whatever the case, Peaches would soon boast autonomy through the fusion and mastery of these formerly opposed forms, but like a hybrid mutant, she would be stronger than either. Peaches wouldn’t work in the derivative manner of the usual rocker but neither would she be condemned to the computer coldness which would dog so many of her electro-enabled peers. Live, with her dynamism and assuredness, she came to resemble a young Tom Jones.

Peaches makes her home in Berlin. Appropriately, the city is a symbol for liberation and conquest. It stood for western decadence within Stalinist sparta; for metropolitan menshevism against Hitler’s bucolic Bavaria, for Spartacists and Dadaists in the midst of Prussian autocratic militancy. The gateway either to western decadence or to Slavic exoticism. The Berlinese tradition of resistance and conflict is woven within Peaches’ music but is now aimed against the repression and hypocrite morality of her bourgeois nemesis.

Rock and Techno. America and Europe. East and West. Past and Future. Peaches straddles these worlds and contradictions with ease and grace; a template for artistry, even a candidate for cloning; but woe/whoa to the scientist who attempts a scraping, for Peaches is a wildcat dynamo live, like perhaps nothing you’ve seen. I talked to Peaches from a biergarten in Berlin as she enjoyed a summer Wheat Beer with a bit of lemon. She sat with her proteges Electrocute enjoying a brief vacation from her fairy tale life of constant touring and festival performances.

I was concerned that she wasn’t capitalizing on her pioneer status within the “electro” movement which she’s done so much to instigate into being…With her killer debut Teaches already two years old, the attention deficit will forget their debt to her….remarkably, she doesn’t care.

“That’s alright. If I’m influential one time, that’s the best I can ask for really. I’m not saying I’m giving up or something but that’s a pretty fucking amazing thing. But now I’ve seen the effects of it being in Berlin, watching Electrocute and Barbara Brockhaus I really feel like I had a little influence on them; All these girls doing stuff…”

Don’t be fooled by this insipid modesty! It’s unbecoming. I’m on the phone with Peaches but when in person, I avert my eyes from her holiness; she’s that fantastic! She’s built the bridge of possibility, combining punk’s DIY and Techno’s autonomous production medium as no one else was able to before. But before her electro days, Peaches was just an old fashioned rocker.

“I had a band called The Shit which was really cool, there were four of us, whatever we wrote in the room, that was our set, that kind of avant-garde punk shit but it was really cool. And I still have a band called Feedom which is complete classic rock riffs, one riff, every song is one riff that just gets more intense in that band. It’s completely instrumental; [fellow Kitty-Yo artist] Gonzales is the drummer, [Kitty-Yo artist] Taylor Savvy plays lap steel through a distortion pedal and I’m the bass player.”

Peaches is being coy again. Legend tells us of other groups like Mermaid Hotel and Fancypants Hoodlum, of auteur films touring festivals, of teaching children, even of directing theatre! After all these exploits with their social emphases, with the Canadian civic ethos and her manic exhortations for involvement of her live audience, isn’t her creative singularity lonely? What, I wonder, is Peaches’ process, as she works in her artist’s garret, alone with her plastic machines?

“I make beats, smoke drugs, masturbate, eat, write some lyrics…but I never think about the beats and the lyrics going together. That’s one way. The other way is I put on a beat and put on a guitar and sing and I tape it for like two hours and maybe there’s16 minutes of stuff that jumps out at me. I still write a lot on guitar; I play guitar a lot like a bass; a lot of that can be transferred into electronic bass sounds or whatever. I sometimes trick myself that I’m playing in a band or whatever… put on my guitar and beat and pretend it’s a band.”

Berlin, with its history of expatriate artists escaping provincialism and small town morality, provides the perfect setting I suppose , for someone like Peaches whose body of creation is based entirely around Liberation. Did she feel she had to escape Canada?

“When it comes to surroundings and people and provincial attitudes and things like that, I’m pretty patient. So, I didn’t leave Canada kicking and screaming…I just did my own thing. But in terms of a career, I couldn’t do it there. Here, somehow, maybe it was the exoticism, that I was from somewhere else also. And the music really caught on here. And, even though I have rock elements, I think that Europe…I mean they’re just getting into all the electro stuff in the USA but it’s really so, I hate to say, how far behind it is…but, again, in Europe they’re pretty far behind in really good underground style rock n roll , so it’s a trade off. But because I come from North America I think I can bring it back to North America, y’know?”

Yes, I do know. In fact, those who’ve seen Peaches know that, if there were any justice, she would eclipse Elvis in regards to infamy regarding crotchistics and shimmy shaking; that she leaves the tedious pretenders (Madonna, Lil Kim, yawn, snore) in the stone age with her truly polymorphous perversity. Sadly, some morons mistake her futurist presentation for some kind of faddish retrogression.

“I really couldn’t give a shit about the 80’s or retro or anything; I heard it the first time,” she says with characteristic candor. Amen to that. Meanwhile, I’m intrigued as to the path her music will take; the possibility of different aggregations and instruments. But while Peaches politely humors my questions, she makes it clear she isn’t following some David Bowie prescribed blueprint whereby she careeristically moves in a commercially digestible dialectic through the various rock band configurations.

“…Sometimes we do Feedom for an encore; I play live guitar a lot…I don’t wanna make it too much like a band though. I just started working with two really great women, one’s a sex trade worker and one’s a stripper; it sounds campy but to them it’s cool to do something cool and sex oriented that isn’t so male based. I wanna work with PEOPLE, [but] I don’t always wanna work with musicians in the way that they work. But I did collaborate with Pan Sonic; that was cool…we played a show together and they played their instruments and I played mine…

At this point the idiocy of asking a great artist banal questions becomes intolerable, so I bid adieu. See her live when you can. It’s like seeing the barbudos enter Havana or the Rats conquer NIMH; a Liberating Spectacle and a Rocking Show.

ARTHUR'S ASTROLOGY by Ian Svenonius (Arthur 10/May 2004)

by Ian Svenonius

first published in Arthur No. 10 (May 2004)

Once, Man looked on the natural world for his metaphors and archetypes… your people were dubbed ‘the ram’ for that animal’s stubborn ferocity. Today the Ram is nearly extinct, an abstraction to the modern techno-child. People are alienated from “nature”; most couldn’t tell you what a ram was, let alone its characteristics. Because astrology, like all other things, must change with the times, you are now Aries—“The Ram”—but named after the pick-up truck by Dodge, hailed by its adherents as “Ram Tough.” This means your astrological qualities now include:
1) Whopping big four-way disc brakes for much better stopping power
2) A frame with hydroformed parts for less vibration
3) A more friendly interior, with more storage space and facilities for child seats and extra passengers
4) Four new grilles, one for each body style, the most muscular going with the Sport model
5) Another 40 horsepower in the base V6 as a result of the swap from the 318-based 3.9 liter to the much more modern 4.7-based 3.7 liter engine. Congratulations!

“The Bull.” You’ve ruled the roost for a while now, epitomizing toughness, rutting pompously about and snorting at those who defy you. Unfortunately, due to newly perfected cloning techniques, you’ve been rendered redundant—there is no need for the bull anymore. Your sperm is irrelevant; they’ve got Elsa’s uber-bovine DNA in the lab. Soon, there will be no Taurus astrological column, because there will be no bull. You will be a picture on the Sierra Club’s wall, toasted by donors at environmentalist fund raisers, your name accompanied by tremulous piano plonking. As everyone relates their stories, praising your noble character, only I will have the guts to say you were an asshole.

They say that twins often dress the same, act the same and even can use telepathy to communicate with each other. Can you please use that special power to tell what’s-his-face to shut the hell up?

As a Cancer, you have a deeply poetic sense which is integrated with a mild form of Tourette’s: You always say something brilliant, yet offensive in public. This leaves a tangled web of wounds and shaken pride in your wake. You are usually oblivious to the carnage, focusing instead on the tiniest problem of your own. This works out fine though, as you surround yourself with masochists who await your next acrid pronouncement with barely disguised glee. Your tiny problems are enshrined by these followers and tended in a garden as their own. These maladies never need disappear, therefore, but can be revisited during assigned “periods of nostalgia.”

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The time you spend on the toilet is legendary. Here is a ballad written around this epic rite: “The time you spend on the toilet seat is certainly no mean feat if you had a bed in there I’d think it’s where you sleep. When I pass the door I hear the moans and innutterable sounds of a soul left hanging before god as his best work drowns.”

If Libra were a car, it would be a classy little number, not vulgar but with an engine that meant business. If Libra were a film, it would be foreign, but with a sense of humor—not inscrutable. If Libra were a food, it would be a pasta primavera or something else elegant but suitable for a cafe and with a touch of freshness. Unfortunately, Libra is a person and they are absolutely insufferable.

Some of your subjects seem to suddenly realize they are without what you might call “complete autonomy.” They realize their actions have been guided as from enormous strings from on high, and that you hold the strings. Only, there are no strings. Just a series of mnemonic symbols and repetition-induced brain control as learned via an operative from the CIA. Soothe their fears. Tell them that they’re on a “secret operation,” that brainwashing is just “another kind of cleaning.” People wash their hands—don’t they?

The great Sagittarian martyrs, Jimi, Jim and Janis, all died from wretched excess. They are admired for their art, but imitated for their bachannalian imbibements; every night young acolytes strive to ingest as much as they did, in deferent homage. The poseurs! They think it’s a matter of choice. They don’t understand that it’s a kind of a curse to be Saggittarius, “the patron saint of consumerism.” It gets tiresome embodying the culture’s endless pursuit of youth, sensation and desire, living as the market’s role model. There can be no rest for you though, this is your destiny. Show these tourists how to “super size” their order!

You are toughest, when it comes down to it. Your resolve always trumps everyone else’s fancy plans. When things get tough, remember the Capricorn Stalin against the Nazis; he could not be defeated! The Capricorn Mao against the imperialist running dogs—“sometimes a retreat can ultimately be an advance”! These are the examples of dogged resistance in the face of almost absolute negative odds you must recall when things seem hopeless. Just don’t think about the Capricorn Nixon, who got set up by his own party with “Watergate.” Ouch! Or Howard Hughes who flopped with that “Spruce Goose” and then became a weird recluse and CIA asset. Wotta loser. Or Bautista…his whole army beaten by twelve guys in the jungle. Don’t think about those Capricorns though; focus on the winners!

You are a spoiled sultan splayed out in the sun, eating “dolmas” or grape leaves. You’ve handpicked the eunuchs and the harem and you’re ready to ravage the latter but you, being “Aquarius,” want to be evenhanded. You will spread your sensual generosity evenly among your sexual slaves without regard to their gender or lack thereof. Bravo! Eunuchs need love too.

You are the fish. Few people realize that we are living through the “fish holocaust” right now. That, because of people’s faddish proclivity for sushi and fish in general, combined with the terrifying efficiency of modern fishing trawlers, your kind don’t stand a sporting chance anymore in the wild. To combat your complete eradication in fact, you must enlist the help of the sleeping Leviathan which lies nesting on the floor of the Atlantic. This thing is a monstrous creature, it’s exact size can’t be speculated, but it is quite beyond imagination. The KGB and the NSA are aware of its existence but no one dare speak its name, because a slight tumult on its part would send tidal waves crashing absolute ruin onto “civilization.” Your mission must be to awaken the beast and destroy mankind. The problem is simple logistics. As it is, fish are stratified by level; this is not unlike humanity with their class system, but with fish it is quite literal. Different fish at different levels rarely communicate with one another or even see each other. The lowest fish, the ancient sturgeon and prehistoric glowing fish must be your messenger. The problem is: they don’t understand the gravity of the situation, being so far away, near the bottom and removed from the slaughter of their brethren. Therefore, you must show them this astrology column! Subscribe them to ARTHUR. I will be your messenger!

Ian Svenonius is vocalist for Weird War, whose latest album is If You Can’t Beat Em, Bite Em.

ARTHUR'S ASTROLOGY by Ian Svenonius (Arthur 9/Mar 2004)

by Ian Svenonius

first published in Arthur No. 9 (Mar. 2004)

Question: Why are you, an air sign, “the water bearer”? Answer: Air “bears” water during rain, I suppose. A drag… no one likes rain. Except for Ronnie Specter, who enjoyed “Walking in the Rain.” This was probably because the umbrella provided anonymity and she was embarrassed to be going out with a psychopath like Phil Specter. I guess John Lennon professed that he liked the rain too, in the Beatles song “Rain.” And… Yoko Ono is an Aquarius! Wow… Astrology is true.

Pisces is the Fish. Fish supposedly developed before mammals in the primordial muck and then slowly clambered onto land in the form of tadpole-type creatures which eventually grew legs and started slithering about until they developed into “man” who, through the cumulative labor of hundreds of thousands of years, created what we know as “modern civilization.” Pisces: I just wanted to say that, through that entire time and all through those changes, I think it’s awesome that you stuck to your guns and stayed a fish!

The Ram. In popular American songcraft of the twentieth century there is a mythical creature evoked, called Rama-Llama; half Ram and half Llama. This is, for a particular sect, the spiritual rebuttal to the Buddhist’s head honcho, the “Dolly Llama,” who is the merged progeny of a llama and a kind of push cart. The Rama-Llama sect is called “Aries.” A trivial part of the world’s population, I’m happy to note. To the Aries: playtime is over. Stop trying to convert the world to your personal vision of Shangri La. Who but you would feel entitled to poison the water supply? Congratulations anyway, it’s more than anyone ever thought you would achieve. Maybe all that acid will free our minds and end the war.

The Bull. There is a legend of a bull in a “China Shop.” The bull charges about the china shop and destroys precious commodities therein, which can’t withstand his legendary girth. This is supposed to illustrate the clumsiness of your breed in gentile and rarified circumstance. It is evoked usually as an insult, but perhaps it is an allegory. Maybe the “shop” is capitalist or colonial China and you are the peasant army, smashing it to pieces under the guidance of Mao! And maybe this legend is just another insipid bourgeois slight against revolutionary movements.

You are, at times, tautological and inane. When you speak, the world feels like a character from Edgar Allen Poe: they can’t believe the thoughts that creep into their minds! Do you see them reaching for their knives? As you speak, each word sounds like a deafening tom-tom drum in the jungle, being played by cannibals. They are hypnotized into a state of frenetic fear driven blood lust! For your own sake, maybe you should take a vow of silence for about a million years… Or at least until the cannibals are done eating.

You’re always whining about what’s on the TV. Well, most of the TVs I’ve seen were equipped with a knob that switched channels; even one to turn it off. Maybe you should go to some uncharted island where they don’t have soap and razors.

I guess your species must be going extinct cause you’re trying to procreate with an old dessert mix. In your imagination your genitals are crown jewels… best displayed on Liz Taylor’s bosom. In reality they’re like Nazi gold in a Swiss account: laundered, but with a sordid history.

You are always kneeling on beans and ruminating about matters spiritual and ontological. It’s OK; just tell god you were “researching” all that internet porn.

The Scales. You’ve been thinking about just closing up shop and shutting down for good. You feel that your sign hasn’t been given a fair shake. That maybe it was an afterthought, tacked onto the astrology wheel just for the sake of symmetry. You are the only sign which is an inanimate object for, example, while the other signs are wild animals or heroes or hybrid creatures out of myth. Cosmologically, you feel like the kid who was picked last for the team; just standing at the fence for eternity. Don’t worry though, there’s light at the end of the tunnel. When the inevitable nuclear holocaust occurs and the oxygen is pried from every living thing’s lips in a ghastly storm of fire and ash, non-breathing objects will have the only chance of surviving. Then you will have your day!

When you enter hell, there will be two doors. Behind the first, there is an IKEA and behind the other there is a mega mall featuring a Pannera, a Starbucks, a Crate & Barrel and other such shops. The doors will be marked accordingly, and I suppose your choice will be determined by what you’ll need to make your stay there most comfortable.

Though you are a centaur, you’ve really gotten into Brazilian-style hot-wax treatment on your entire lower half. So, instead of being half-horse, you’re more half-dinosaur. You should collaborate with Steven Spielberg, who loves dinosaurs and other creatures he can cast as enormous metaphorical phalluses. There’s apparently a lot of money in blockbusters and I think it would be better than running around with a bow in the woods trying to fornicate, but be warned: your character will probably be a metaphor for a penis.

The sea goat. You should be given an award, or made king of the world. I always thought you were just a poseur, a put-on, that you’d gotten your persona from watching some dumb Scorsese movie. But when you had your chef executed just for using cumin, I had to give you props. You are totally real.

About the astrologer: Ian Svenonius is the acting chairperson for the Rock N Roll Comintern and an auxiliary member of the group Weird War.

ARTHUR'S ASTROLOGY by Ian Svenonius (Arthur 8/Jan 2004)

by Ian Svenonius

first published in Arthur No. 8 (Jan. 2004)

Predestination; a concept older than free will and borne out by recent scientific elucidations on historical dialectics, genetics and chemical psychology. Each of us is caught in a tangled labyrinth of circumstance and cosmic programming, acting out our grotesque fate in an awful, ignorant manner.

The restless contractions of the astral bodies affect us in a profound way; each offhand movement of a planet can have enormous repercussions for humanity and our various client species, via magnetic fields, space dust and thoughtless lunar alignment. The moon can likewise be an irresponsible entity, tumbling through the sky carelessly, without regard to the tidal waves it may or may not cause. A correlation could be drawn to our own unthinking rearrangement of ant life or microscopic organism culture. This column is a transmission then, not only to the Arthur readers (who have star signs), but to the stars as well, an attempt to get them to understand that even their nonchalant actions have repercussions…

Your good taste and “attention to detail” is your cachet. Recently however, everyone seems to have good taste. It’s a veritable “Age of Capricorn” with the whole of society engaged in conspicuous collecting of obscurant minutiae. These poseurs are like a race of mushrooms who’ve blossomed overnight, and they’ve seemingly rendered you redundant. Or maybe not. Legend has it that there’s still a backwater region, somewhere in New Guinea, where no one knows about the particular labels and sub-trends which are your passion. Go there now and take your rightful place as their inscrutable aesthete.

You’re tired of the simplistic astrological characterization which has dogged you ever since the hippiexploitation musical Hair. You dug all the attention at the time, but now you’d like to dissociate yourself from those fabulous furry freaks of yesteryear. You’ve found yourself pigeonholed; you find it hard getting jobs as a butcher or a Pentagon military contractor, for example. It’s time for everyone to know that Aquarians aren’t just well-meaning free-thinkers living in schoolbuses and teepees. That nazis like Ronald Reagan and slaveowners like George Washington were Aquarians too. That Aquarians are tough mothers like Rollins and rabble rousers like John “Rotten.” And that if this millennium is indeed the “Age of Aquarius,” it’s a bloody epoch featuring war and nuclear proliferation; not just food co-ops. Your work in expanding social consciousness about Aquarius’ versatility is absolutely crucial for the people of your sign.

You are the sign of the fish. Fish travel in large groups, called “schools,” but you hate school, which makes you an unusual fish; a romantic, loner, James Dean-style fish. Part of a new “me generation” in the fish world, wary of social conventions—such as egg laying and gill use—and intent on individual freedom. It’s a very American outlook and one which many in the fish world resent. Continue reading