North American droners GROWING, profiled by Peter Relic (Arthur, May 2006)

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Happy Mediums
How nature droners Growing found their flow

Text by Peter Relic
Photography by Eden Batki
Layout by W.T. Nelson

originally published in Arthur No. 22 (May 2006)

If Plato had had the necessary resources back in the day, he would have definitely buffed out his philosopher’s cave with black lights and fog machines. The old Greek dude never got the chance, but in the new millennium, Growing have done it for him, figuratively speaking.

Growing is Joe DeNardo, 26, and Kevin Doria, 27, two gentlemen who met at Evergreen University in Olympia, Washington. DeNardo is originally from the suburbs of Chicago, while Doria grew up in Richard Nixon’s hometown of Yorba Linda, tucked deep inside Southern California’s Orange County. Together they play a slug-paced, ocean-deep drone music without drums or traditionally recognizable melodies that nonetheless projects a palpable pulse and a sense of pro-biotic harmony. Over three albums, and assorted tapes and EPs, Growing have united the foreboding heaviness of doom metal with the reassuring beauty of placid ambience in songs stretching up to 20 minutes in length. The unlikely arranged marriage actually works. Call it life metal, or nature drone.

“We chose the name Growing because it seemed all-encompassing,” Joe DeNardo says, on the cel phone from the duo’s live-in bunker in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. “A lot of people didn’t like it at first because they thought it was a reference to marijuana or boners. Not so. It does seem to describe the process of living and dying without being heavy and ominous. Which is nice.”

For their newest album, The Color Wheel, Doria and DeNardo have expanded the Growing sound to encompass even more: now, discord and rhythm join the Edenic shimmerblasts and underlying thrum of their past work. If Growing is an entity, The Color Wheel is the sound of it in adolescence: the bucolic innocence of childhood mostly lost, replaced by awkwardness, dark intimations of mortality and, of course, new joys. Adolescence is beyond volition—it just happens, whether or not you want it to—and Growing’s growth seems to have happened in the same way: the band’s sound has unfolded in ways its makers didn’t contrive or foresee, yet nonetheless accept.

Speaking with DeNardo and Doria is not unlike listening to Growing: it ain’t gonna work if you’re in a hurry, and the less you pry for insight, the more revelations are likely to come. Then again, these guys are don’t confine the big slowdown to their guitarwork. They do everything slowly, including going though college (Doria: “Took me seven years and I’m not even a doctor!”).

“We’re not very conscious guys,” says DeNardo. “Like, we’re not very aware of ourselves. We just kind of…float. We don’t articulate ourselves all that well. We don’t talk to each other much about this stuff; we don’t line everything up like ‘Okay this is the idea: I’m thinking about the French Alps right now, I spent time in the caves, we can make some music like…’

“We don’t do that. It’s just all kind of melts and flows together.”

* * * * *

Growing was birthed in Olympia, Washington. For two years—or maybe three years, no one’s really sure—DeNardo and Doria lived in a house with Joe Preston, a legendary musician with arguably the heaviest resume in guitar history, one that includes work with early Earth, mid-‘90s Melvins, White1/2-era Sunn0))) and now, High On Fire (which features an ex-member of Sleep), as well as his own one-man noise-drone-riff unit, Thrones.

“For the most part it was really just mellow times,” says Kevin Doria. “We played video games, went to Taco Bell…just hung out for the most part. He never practiced, not once. Okay, I think he did once when no one was around, for like 15 minutes. I guess he just didn’t like the way it sounded in the basement.”
DeNardo and Doria didn’t mind the basement sound.

“Before Growing, we had a little tape thing called 1,000 A.D.,” says Doria. “It started out as Joe [DeNardo] and me fucking around in the basement: a lot more riffage, no drums or anything, just guitars and bass, really long tedious parts that went on for hours. We were simultaneously doing this other band called Black Man White Man Dead Man which, when it started was more hardcore stuff: fast, loud. As time went on, it evolved into slower heavier jams. Finally we realized that having two bands comprised of the same members was really stupid, so whatever, let’s just have one band. The writing didn’t dramatically change as far as the songs were concerned, but everything did get slower. I’m not particularly good at playing fast, or playing parts even—that had something to do with us getting slower—but also, we just kind of got bored playing hardcore. We got older. It was natural.”

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Stan Lee's writing process

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Peter Relic writes:

Stan Lee, aka Staggerin’ Stan Lee, is the 86-year-old writer and co-creator (with Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby) of more classic Marvel Comics characters than you can shake a Galactus-caliber prong-horn at, including Spider-Man, the Uncanny X-Man, the Fantastic Four, Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, and the homey Doctor Strange. Last year I had the chance to meet Staggerin’ Stan at his Beverly Hills office, where, looking like a grinning, perma-tanned carny barker covered in liver spots, he sat behind a desk covered in photographs of his offspring (his comic book creations, that is, not his actual family). Preparing for the interview, I’d run across the old photograph above, of Stan standing at his typewriter in his backyard in Long Island. Figuring it might provide some insight into his process, I asked Stan about the photo, and this is what he said.

Q: Did you feel you got more power from typing standing up?

Stan Lee: I didn’t do it for power, I did it because I knew a few writers who were terribly out of shape, had potbellies. I didn’t want to get like that. So I put a bridge table on the terrace behind my house, and stacked a stool upon that, and put my portable typewriter upon that, and that was just the right height for me to type standing up. And I loved the sun, in those days I didn’t realize how dangerous it was. So I’d keep moving the typewriter a little bit so I could keep facing the sun. I worked for hours out there in the sun. My wife would have company, she’d have her friends over and they’d frolic in the yard and I would type, and they would pay absolutely no attention to me. I’m standing there trying to write and they’re talking and singing and yelling at the kids and partying and I’m enjoying it while I’m writing. It was a very strange situation but I loved it.

I had a Remington noiseless portable. It had a small carrying case. It wasn’t really noiseless, but it didn’t make as much noise as typewriters that weren’t called noiseless. When you wanted to use it you took the lid off, then there was a little knob on the side and you pushed the knob towards the back and the keys lifted so you could type. When you were finished you pushed the knob back again and then the keys went down and you closed the set.

Because of that typewriter I came closer to getting a divorce than any other time in my life. One day my wife got angry at me, I don’t remember why, and she grabbed the typewriter and threw it down and it shattered. I said to her, “If I don’t divorce you for that, there’s nothing you could ever do that will make me divorce you.”

New posts by PETER RELIC up at Arthur's blog on yahoo…

RUNNING WITH THE ALLIEN: A New Mix Of Beats To Make You Run For The Hills
The good news for iPod-addicted workout junkies is that the best runner’s soundtrack since 45:33 is upon us: BoogyBytes, Vol.04 mixed by Berlin beat moll Ellen Allien. Read more…

CONTRADICTORY VICTORY: Bigging Up Joe Higgs’ Reggae Classic “Life Of Contradiction”
Joe Higgs’ 1975 album Life Of Contradiction, newly and impeccably reissued by the ever-attentive Pressure Sounds label, is an LP whose nuanced vision makes it stand out within the pantheon of reggae classics. Read more…

Previous Arthur/Yahoo blog posts by Joe Carducci, Erik Davis, Paul Krassner, Molly Frances & Mark Frohman (special reports from SXSW!), Brian Joseph Davis, Trinie Dalton, Gabe Soria, Jay Babcock and other Arthur contributors are still up at http://new.music.yahoo.com/blogs/arthur


Arthur presents TONIGHT at Family in L.A.- FREE – readings by Douglas Messerli and Pete Relic

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Thursday February 7, 2008
8pm
Family Bookstore
436 N. Fairfax Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90036
Arthur Magazine Presents
Acclaimed Poet and Essayist Douglas Messerli
reading with
Poet and Rap Scholar Peter Relic

Douglas Messerli is the founder, operator and editor of Green Integer Books (www.greeninteger.com), a truly awesome independent publishing company that keeps in print early novels by Knut Hamsun, poetry by Ko Un, and assorted notable writings that “may appear necessary to bring society into a slight tremolo of confusion and fright at least.” Which is not to say that joy and humor are not also part of his agenda. Messerli will be reading for the first time from his cultural memoir, My Year.

Peter Relic is an Arthur Magazine contributing editor. Tonight he will be conducting a dramatic reenactment of what happened inside the smoky and underlit boxing ring of the Cleveland Armory one winter night in 1956.


“He was the soundtrack to my show”: SONNY HOPSON on James Brown, as told to Peter Relic (Arthur No. 27/Dec. 2007)

Originally published in Arthur No. 27 (Dec. 2007)

“He was the soundtrack to my show”
The Mighty Burner remembers the Godfather of Soul

by Peter Relic

Sonny Hopson debuted as a radio disc jockey with “The Might Burner Show” on Philadelphia’s WHAT in 1965, playing James Brown’s “Please Please Please.” You can hear Soul Sound Sonny announcing the news “Brown’s in town!” to all of Philly on Sonny’s storming “Original 1969 AM Radio Broadcast” CD (available from the Philly Archives label). Arthur spoke to Sonny by phone three weeks after James died. Here’s what he told us. —Peter Relic

James was one of my good friends. He got to know the number one disc jockey in Philly! James had no problem calling you up and thanking you for playing his record. James really took care of his disc jockeys. He’d call me up: “Meet me at the club down on Washington, Mr. Hopson, I need you to emcee the show.” He’d give me five, six hundred dollars. He knew disc jockey doesn’t get paid much, and he’d make sure you got paid. Always leave some money in the town he came to. James’ father used to call the station, he was in the Navy with [Philly radio deejay] Georgie Woods. Buddy Nolan worked for James as an advance man. Come to town three, four weeks ahead of time to find out everything, make sure they’re playing James’ record, make sure the show was a sellout. James’ show was two, three hours. He played every venue there was. I played every James Brown record that came out, and he put out a new record every month. James had the funkiest bottom you could put your hands on. He was the soundtrack to my show. “It’s A Man’s, Man’s World”!

One night I went up to Harlem to see James at the Apollo Theater. James was getting ready to go on and suddenly Jackie Wilson came in the house, sliding across stage, killing ’em! James said, “What are you doing letting Jackie Wilson go on before me! Shut it down, I ain’t going on for another hour.”

There was a club The Sex Machine on 52nd and Market, they named it after his record, he was so excited he came to the club. He was dancing, dropped down to the floor, popped back up! He also came down to the International Astro-Disc, that was my club. He called me Mr. Hopson, never called me Sonny, and I called him Mr. Brown. We were very respectful. When Otis Redding died I was there carrying the casket in Macon, Georgia. Arthur Conley, Johnny Taylor, Joe Simon, Joe Tex, James Brown were all there. There was a photo of it in Jet magazine. Otis didn’t work as hard as James Brown but he was right up there cooking. James Brown was the boss. Everybody copied his shit. He had the blueprint. I don’t know how you can outdo James Brown unless you take out a hammer and kill yourself right there on the stage.

He’s a heavyweight part of the Civil Rights legacy. He lost radio stations trying to be a civil rights leader. We were in Miami with the Fair Play Committee when he cut “Say It Loud I’m Black And I’m Proud.” I was the only one playing “Say It Loud I’m Black And I’m Proud” but only for a minute—that record could not be stopped! James called me on the phone: “Mr. Hopson, I heard you’re the only one playing my record in Philly!” Then they all jumped on it. Everybody was wearing their hair in a process, then black got beautiful.

MC Hammer is my cousin. When I told James that MC Hammer was my cousin he said, “Yeah but he ain’t as smart as you.”

Twenty years ago I went down to Constitution Hall to see James perform with Eddie Murphy. James had a limousine with a bathtub in the back. I met my son’s mother that night.

Women? He could get what he wanted. They couldn’t do what he did. If a man can get past the woman he can get somewhere. Lotta guys can’t get past the woman. Look at Michael Straythairn. He gotta give his woman fifteen million dollars, and now he don’t got her no more. Real pretty ones, they get what want and they’re gone. I don’t take nothing away from no woman, woman got talent. Angelina Jolie, she’ll make you leave your wife and your happy home. Alicia Keyes comes for the Mighty Burner, I got to go. She says “I’m waiting on you,” man I already left! I’ll fight Marc Anthony. It’s dangerous when them cold blooded killers come after you. You get weak in the knees. Ain’t that a bitch. Like James said: “I don’t want nobody to get me nothing, open the door, I’ll get it myself!”

I went up to the funeral in New York. They changed his clothes three times during the funeral. That was James: “I can’t go out in the same suit.” Outside people were ten abreast for three blocks down each way, from three in the morning til six at night, all ages, all colors. No fights, no fussing, no nothing. I’m going to miss him and I’m REALLY going to miss him. Part of me died when he died.