Listening to BOBBY SEALE (1999)

Photo by Robert Altman, 1969

BOBBY SEALE * 17 March 1999 * unedited transcript

I interviewed Bobby Seale (official site) in person in Oakland for Vibe Magazine, on a commission by Peter Relic, who was editing the front section of Vibe that year. I think the transcript runs to 12,000 words. The published Q & A was about 700 words. There’s lots of great stuff in here about Black Panther Party history and philosophy, Bobby’s times in prison, barbecue and so on, after we get done with talking about what he’s up to at the moment…—Jay Babcock

Bobby Seale: I’m out here [in Oakland] for David Hilliard. David Hilliard is running for City
Council, 3rd district, to mount a real student involvement and people’s
involvement-type of campaign for him to win that particular political
office. It’s all about the continuing progressive Old Left-radical politics
today. We want to get these students involved in this campaign to teach
them techniques and methods of the old Black Panther party campaign, Old
Left radical politics, progressive politics. To teach students that they
gotta take over, that they have to be part and parcel of this kind of
stuff, they gotta take seats over all over this country and this is gonna
set an example for that. That they’re the ones who have to begin to
understand the need to control, run these political institutionalized
functions whether they’re city council, county seats, state legislative
seats, etc., and make laws, legislation and policy that reflect the real
true human liberation of the people, the empowerment of the people, whether
you’re black, white, blue, red, green, yellow, polkadot, we don’t care.
We’re progressive. In the 1960s we were an ALL power to ALL the people. We
didn’t care what you were.

People think we were just a strict so-called xenophobic-type Black power
organization. Not true. If people look and know our history…as an
African-American group of young people who were part of a young
intelligentsia of the 1960s, what we evolved were some of the most profound
progressive politics that emerged out of the Black community: to set up
coalitions, working face-to-face coalitions with all our white left radical
friends, with all the young Hispanics, young Puerto Ricans with the Young
Lords organization or the young Mexican-Americans Chicano brothers and
sisters with the Brown Berets and the Cesar Chavez farm labor movement. We
had a working coalition with that organization. AIM—American Indian
Movement—we worked directly with. All the young Asians, young Chinese and
Japanese worked with us, like the Red Guard out of Chinatown. Young Chinese
students and young Japanese. In fact, of all those ethnic groups, it was
always a few of each one of those ethnic groups that actually literally
joined our Black Panther Party. I’m just saying that, that’s the kind of
progressive, “All power to the People” politics that we put into the ’60s.
We crossed racial lines even though we were able to be an African-American
community organization that ran our own organization without any
intellectual or offbeat, abstract, academic dictates. We REFUSED to allow
for that, because our concept and our method was putting theory into
practice. Learning as we did.

And we want to show the youth—when I speak today—we want to show the
youth that if you participate, I want you to sign up for this campaign
because it is not about just a political seat, it’s about another kind of
movement, moving into this Y2K period…it’s not necessarily about the
continuing, old politics as usual of the Democratic and especially the
right-wing conservative Republican politics… There’s the Green Party,
there’s the Constitutional Party, etc. so on. For instance David is running
his total non-partisan, there’s no political party per se mentioned here in
terms of being listed on the ballot. So. We’re saying there are
multi-thousands of these seats. You talk about 50,000? or are you talking
500,000? …duly-elected seats in the United States of America, especially
on the local level. And this campaign is not the last of this era, it will
be another one evolving.

For instance in Winston, North Carolina, used to have a chapter of the
Black Panther Party there. The Party was over, what, in the late ’70s and
early ’80s? What in effect happened was the former Party members ran for
political office. Larry Little, the former Deputy Chairman down there, won
a councilmanic seat that represented that poor low-income African-American
community there. And since then, for 26 years, it’s always been a former
Black Panther connected to that seat. The people will not allow anybody
else. If you weren’t in the former Black Panther Party organization in
Winston/Salem, North Carolina—they call it , the old other conservative
council members call that particular seat “the Panther seat.”

In other words you have to remember those young Black Panther Party people,
young students and others, they put together a free ambulance program for
the people. They put together a free health clinic with a free pharmacy
program which all chapters and branches did. They put together free
breakfasts for children programs that served those people in that
community. So those people never forgot that. They remembered that. These
are tangible programs. This was not rhetoric, this was not talk. So this is
what I’m saying.

So we have various examples of former Party members still in political
office like Bobby Rush, who was an alderman there in Chicago for 12 years
and then became a Congressman. We have Michael McGee in Milwaukee, he is
still a councilman up there representing a heavy electoral group of the
African-American community.

What a lot of people forget is this is really the politics of the Black
Panther party. Even though we had a lot of shootouts and a lot of battles
with the police attacked us, when the politicians would send their law
enforcement agencies in on us, even though J. Edgar Hoover and all these
guys were out to smash us, try to terrorize us out of existence, they
killed 29 of my people in this country, particularly in the year 1969. 14
policemen wound up getting killed in those attacks. They attacked our
offices, they attacked our homes and we vowed to defend ourselves. Cuz in
our sense, all we were doing was defending our Constitutional, democratic,
civil, human rights: one, to organize the people, political electoral
community power…

People used to say “you’re outside the System.”
You can’t be outside of something that’s oppressing you.
You have to get right into the middle of it, change its structure,
change its direction, change the laws, change the
policy to serve the empowerment really and truly of the people.
And THAT’s the kind of politically revolutionaries we were in the 1960s.

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SOUTHERN LORD RECORDS: Its Origin and Ethos (2002)

Empire of Doom
Behind the scenes of Hollywood’s one-man doom record label Southern Lord

by Jay Babcock

Originally published in the August 08, 2002 LAWeekly

The Lair of Doom lies on a Hollywood boulevard, upstairs from a Thai restaurant. There, above the ambulance sirens and Metro bus brake squeals rising like so many noxious sonic fumes from the street below, a single industrious man labors intently. Listen close, at almost any hour of the day or night, and you‘ll hear his hearty cackle and—something else: a strange clatter, like the rattle of bones in a plastic tumbler.

Actually, that’s just the sound of Greg Anderson, 32-year-old founder of Southern Lord Records and currently its sole employee, working the phone and tapping out e-mail.

“I‘m here all the time,” says the longhaired, affable Anderson, gazing lovingly at one of the sources of his endurance, a 72-ounce pitcher-bucket of Coke he’s constantly refilling at the 7-Eleven across the street. “But I‘m not looking for sympathy! This is what I like to do.”

What Southern Lord has been doing since its inception in April 1998 is “doom metal,” a certain species of heavy music whose ultimate ancestor is Black Sabbath. Basically it sounds like the product of a bunch of guys smoking a lot of pot and trying to play music slower than the Melvins: bands have names like WarHorse and Place of Skulls, albums have titles like As Heaven Turns to Ash and Supercoven. It’s low-end music for black-clad midnight masses.

But Southern Lord does more than doom metal (strictly defined). Another look at the Lord‘s roster reveals: Mondo Generator, a churning, rumbling post-SST racket led by Queens of the Stone Age/ex-Kyuss bassist Nick Oliveri; SUNN 0))), which features dark, massive guitar sludgework by Anderson and Southern Lord graphic designer Stephen O’Malley; and Khanate, an O‘Malley-led band that Anderson characterizes as “black metal on ludes—it’s got that same grim evilness.”

With recent releases by the latter two ensembles, Southern Lord has begun to attract attention from new quarters. Acclaimed Japanese avant-garde noise warlock Merzbow mixed two tracks on SUNN 0)))‘s latest record, Flight of the Behemoth; Julian Cope has been an outspoken public champion (he’s called the just-released Rampton by Southern Lord supergroup Teeth of Lions Rule the Divine “an endless ambient Ragnarok”); and SUNN 0))), much to their surprise, found themselves being profiled this past spring by influential British artsy-music magazine The Wire. A recent East Coast tour by Khanate was attended as much by drone seekers and experimental music aficionados as the usual collection of stoners and adventurous metalheads.

Doom, it seems, is everywhere.

What follows are the Ten Commandments of Doom: both a how-to list for would-be micro-label operators and the slightly abridged tale, told in his own words, of how Greg Anderson found his grim calling…and followed it to the bitter end.

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BLACK FLAG: A 12-Step Program in Self-Reliance

A 12-Step Program in Self-Reliance
How L.A.’s hardcore pioneers BLACK FLAG made it through their early years

by Jay Babcock

Originally published in the June 28, 2001 LAWeekly

By midsummer 1981, when the then-unknown, now-notorious Henry Rollins joined Black Flag as its fourth singer, the South Bay–based punk band had already tasted some extremely hard-earned success. Despite a set of severe hurdles — from an initial difficulty in getting local club gigs and a record deal to sensational “punk violence!” coverage by the news media and constant harassment of both the band and its fans by police — Black Flag had managed to self-release three EPs, tour North America several times, and grow from playing to a couple of dozen people at a San Fernando Valley coffeehouse to headlining shows at the Santa Monica Civic and Olympic Auditorium.

Black Flag accomplished this by developing a do-it-yourself work and business ethic which, although common in jazz, rhythm & blues and folk circles for decades, was almost unique for American rock bands at the time. It was an ethic that was hugely effective, and one that would prove hugely influential over the next two decades.

But what’s ironic about the band’s current historical status as one of American punk rock’s original DIY pioneers — “They may well be the band that made the biggest difference,” says no less an authority than Fugazi’s Ian MacKaye — is that Black Flag’s original aspirations had nothing to do with building an alternate model to the existing music industry.

“The beginning and end of it was always working on the music,” says Black Flag founder, guitarist and chief songwriter Greg Ginn today. “The other stuff was very much at the periphery.”

As they tell it now, Ginn & Co. would have been quite content to let someone else handle the mundane trivialities of being recording artists and performers: the nuts and bolts of producing and releasing records, doing publicity and marketing, booking tours, handling legal matters, lugging equipment, etc. Black Flag would play while others would work. But the music industry, broadly speaking, wasn’t interested in Black Flag—so Black Flag had to figure out, almost on their own, how to get their music heard. This is how they did it, in their own words:

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ALL-AGES DIALOGUES, Part V: Will Oldham—"I think the best thing we can probably do would be to make fake IDs more available"

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photo by Valgeir Sigurðsson

The ALL-AGES Dialogues: A conversation with Will Oldham
by Jay Babcock

This interview was conducted by phone in late summer 2006, as part of a series of conversations I was doing with various folks regarding the history of all-ages, philosophy/ethic of all-ages, the state of play of all-ages, yadda yadda. Shoulda been published long ago but stuff kept going awry and we didn’t get it in the mag. Still, almost four years later, it’s a good, pertinent read. Thanks to Will for his time and patience, and special thanks to a certain friend of Arthur who transcribed this conversation a long time ago.

Will Oldham, as Bonnie “Prince” Billy, is traveling and playing shows right now with the Cairo Gang. More info: dragcity.com

Previously in this series:
Interview with John Sinclair (MC5 manager, activist, poet-historian)
Interview with Chuck Dukowski (Black Flag, Chuck Dukowski Sextet)
Interview with Calvin Johnson (K Records, Beat Happening, Dub Narcotic Sound System)
Interview with Greg Saunier (Deerhoof)


Arthur: Do you prefer to play all-ages shows? Is it a priority for you, or does it even matter?

Will Oldham: It matters and it makes a difference, but it isn’t a ‘priority.’ Does that make sense? Every show is contextualized for what it is—in that way, it’s important. But I guess my skewed stance is that I’ve always approached this work of making music in terms of… I think my main drive is to write and record music, so playing live is always just a weird experiment. So to me, every aspect of playing live is part of that weird experiment, whereas a lot of bands and musicians seem to make records of the music that they make. [For me] it’s the reverse. I think that every time that you play live, it’s like, ‘Whoa! What was that all about?’ It’s great whoever the audience is. You try to find the most fun audience, I guess.

Arthur: I noticed that when you are touring shortly, you’re playing a bunch of record stores…

Yeah, an all record-store tour.

Arthur: One of the weird things, from what I can tell about the performance environment in America, is that one of the few places where people of all ages can see quality music in a live setting now is the record store.

Yeah. “Quality music.” One thing that I had started to think about before we started on this topic was… like, how old are you?

Arthur: 35.

I’m 36, and my sense is that, if you won’t take offense, is that we are out of touch. There are quality shows going on six out of seven nights a week that are all-ages shows, in people’s houses, in public places, and we just don’t know those bands. Because I’ve seen some this year—I’ve seen some every year. And it’s like, Whoa, where’d these kids come from? And these kids came from the same places we came from, and they’re making great music that we don’t have access to, because… It’s the same way that bands that I went to see play 20 years ago, people who were 22, to 36, to 50, they would be saying ‘There’s just no music going on these days. There’s no shows like I remember.’ And meanwhile, I was having the fucking time of my life! Continue reading

COSMIC FARCE, FEB. 18, 2010: DICK CHENEY WADDLES ONSTAGE AT CPAC TO THE TUNE OF…HOWLIN RAIN'S "DANCERS AT THE END OF TIME"?!?

1971-76…

Dancers_at_the_end_of_time

“Bishop Beesley, endlessly corrupt gluttonous villain series. Thirsts for power, money, pleasure.” (wikipedia entry on the villain from the Moorcock books)

2008…

February 18, 2010…

2006…

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Michael Moorcock (with Arthur editor) at Arthur event at Church of Casper the Friendly Ghost—SXSW, 2005…

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The soul of Rick Veitch

From the blog of genius Vermont cartoonist/dreamworker Rick Veitch

“Over the last couple weeks I’ve found myself in a number on conversations with different people about the nature of the soul. The soul is one of those subjects that everyone has an opinion of but nobody really knows what the darn thing is or even if it really exists. Interestingly, I had a dream the other night in which I saw my soul! It was basically a globe with lots of geometric shapes attached that was constantly changing at a rapid rate. I’ve made a quick little black and white animation that kind of gets it across. In the dream there was an ever-changing riot of pattern and color on each of the geometric shapes. Maybe at some point I’ll do a color version of this to make it complete….”

veitchsoul

More Veitch on Arthur:

A conversation with dreamworker/cartoonist RICK VEITCH, with an introduction by Alan Moore

JODOROWSKY: "I am old. I have so many things to do, so every day I get quicker, in order to do them! I don’t want to die without doing everything I wanted to do."

JodoTarot

One from the archives: an interview conducted in person with Jodorowsky in Burbank back in summer 2003. Jodo’s then-forthcoming book on the Tarot has since been published, and is now available in English as The Way of Tarot: The Spiritual Teacher in the Cards (Destiny/Inner Traditions). Click on the cover above for purchase info at amazon. Here’s a 4.2mb PDF excerpt from the book, courtesy of the publisher. Also: Jodorowsky and Allen Klein reconciled prior to Klein’s death last year, and as a result, all of Jodo’s ABKCO films are now available on dvd.

In the Heart of the Universe
Jay Babcock talks with visionary comics author Alexandro Jodorowsky

Originally published in LAWeekly on January 01, 2004

In 1970, Alexandro Jodorowsky was launched into the counterculture consciousness via an utterly outre film called El Topo, which screened for seven straight months at a theater in New York City. Violent, mystical and more outrageous than Bunuel or Fellini’s surrealist dreamaramas, El Topo was the first midnight movie, a Western that divided critics even as it gained a rabid cult following of turned-on heads including John Lennon, Yoko Ono and Dennis Hopper. Without the benefit of advertising, the film showed seven nights a week to packed audiences. “Within two months,” said the theater’s visionary manager, Ben Barenholtz, who booked the film, “the limos lined up every night. It became a must-see item.”

Allen Klein, infamous manager of the Beatles and Rolling Stones, signed Jodorowsky to a film deal. An El Topo book was published by Lenny Bruce/Miles Davis/Jimi Hendrix/Last Poets producer Alan Douglas—its first half was the film’s nominal screenplay; the second half was a lengthy, startling interview with the auteur.

Born in 1929 and raised in a Chilean seaside town by Jewish-Russian immigrants, Jodorowsky had early ambitions as a poet. Dropping out of university, he formed a puppet company that toured Chile. He left for France in 1953 to find the Surrealists. With Artaud’s The Theater and Its Double as his bible, Jodorowsky worked in film, theater and with mime Marcel Marceau—for whom Jodorowsky wrote various ingenious scenarios. He spent the ’60s bouncing back and forth between France and Mexico — in France, he co-founded the post-Surrealist Panic Movement with Spanish playwright Fernando Arrabal, and in Mexico he drew a weekly comic strip, wrote books, staged plays and finally directed his first real feature-length film, a Dali-esque version of Arrabal’s play Fando y Lis. The Fando y Lis was scandalous and barely screened, but it allowed Jodorowsky to raise the money to make El Topo, the film that would bring him into the English-language world.

By summer 1972, anticipation for Jodorowsky’s next film was high enough for Rolling Stone to send a correspondent to Mexico for a visit to the set of his new film, The Holy Mountain. The resulting article, which was second-billed on the magazine’s cover to a piece on Van Morrison, described scenes, props and conversations that bordered between sensational and plain mad. Participants in the film seemed to be in awe of what they were doing: One P.A. said, “You know, I think this is the most important thing going on in the world today. At the very least, it’s the most far-out.” The finished film may be just that — if you can find it. At some point around the film’s release, Jodorowsky and Klein had a serious falling out that continues to this day, which means The Holy Mountain has never received a legitimate release on videotape or DVD (bootlegs are, of course, available).

In the following years, Jodorowsky attempted to adapt Frank Herbert’s Dune to film. The project ultimately failed, but it drew Jodorowsky into contact with French comics artist Moebius, who, along with Swiss artist H.R. Giger, had contributed design and storyboarding work to the film. Jodorowsky began to collaborate with Moebius on comics, and a new career was born.

Indeed, when I sat down with Jodorowsky this past summer for an hourlong conversation, the extent of that career was obvious: He was hard at work on scripts for six different comics projects. Collaborating with a host of the world’s finest talents during the last 25 years, Jodorowsky has found in comics an art form that can accommodate his seemingly boundless imagination. And what comics they are: the Philip K. Dick-gone-cosmic series The Incal, the Homeric space opera The Metabarons, the revenge/ redemption series Son of the Gun, the strange Western Bouncer. With the opening of Humanoids Publishing’s North American branch in 1999, most of Jodorowsky’s comic work is finally available in English.

In conversation, the almost 75-year-old Jodorowsky remains dazzling. Speaking in broken English (which has been slightly cleaned up in the following excerpts from our conversation), his tone is generous, self-deprecating, inquisitive and almost childlike in its sense of wonder. He has made only three films since 1972’s The Holy Mountain — the lost-children’s fable Tusk (1980), the gonzo Grand Guignol Santa Sangre (1989), and the make-work The Rainbow Thief (1990) — and although he has often spoken of an imminent return to the form, one guesses that in the business climate of 2003 this has got to be a long shot. He has, however, recently finished a number of substantial projects: a book-length commentary on the Bible, a lengthy restoration of what he considers to be the original Tarot deck, a collection of short stories and a book of poems. And in February, his decades-in-the-making, 400-page guide to the tarot will be published in Europe.

Q: You are at work on an alarming number of projects for someone of any age. Where is all the energy coming from?

ALEXANDRO JODOROWSKY: Energy is coming because I will die very soon. I am old. I have so many things to do, so every day I get quicker, in order to do them! I don’t want to die without doing everything I wanted to do.

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