Reviews by C and D (Arthur No. 20/Jan. 2006)

Originally published in Arthur No. 20 (Jan. 2006)

C AND D: Two guys bicker about new records.

TV on the Radio
“Dry Drunk Emperor”
(Touch and Go)
D: I’ve listened to this probably a hundred times by now, and I still find it overwhelming. It’s a devastator.
C: For those out there who haven’t heard it yet, this is the song TV on the Radio released in the wake of Katrina, free to everyone via the Touch and Go website [go here]. This is what they said at the time: “we were back in the studio thinking and feeling again and made this song for all our everybody… in the absence of a true leader we must not forget that we are still together…. hearts are sick … minds must change … it is our hope that this song inspires, comforts, fosters courage,and reminds us… this darkness cannot last if we work together. let us help each other… heal each other …. look after one another … the human heart is our new capitol…. this song is for you…. us…..we….them… it is free. pass it on. TO THOSE AFFECTED BY HURRICANE KATRINA: NEW YORK CITY’S HEART IS WITH YOU… STAY STRONG! WE LOVE YOU.”

We don’t usually do this sort of thing, but this is a special case. Here are the song’s lyrics:

DRY DRUNK EMPEROR
baby boy
dying under hot desert sun,
watch your colors run.

did you believe the lie they told you,
that christ would lead the way
and in a matter of days
hand us victory?

did you buy the bull they sold you,
that the bullets and the bombs
and all the strong arms
would bring home security?

all eyes upon
dry drunk emperor
gold cross jock skull and bones
mocking smile,
he’s been
standing naked for a while!
get him gone, get him gone, get him gone!!
and bring all the thieves to trial.

end their promise
end their dream
watch it turn to steam
rising to the nose of some cross legged god
gog of magog
end times sort of thing.
oh unmentionable disgrace
shield the children’s faces
as all the monied apes
display unimaginably poor taste
in a scramble for mastery.

atta’ boy get em with your gun
till mr. megaton
tells us when we’ve won
or
what we’re gonna leave undone.

all eyes upon
dry drunk emperor
gold cross jock skull and bones
mocking smile,
he’s been standing
naked for a while.
get him gone, get him gone, get him gone!!!
and bring all his thieves to trial.

what if all the fathers and the sons
went marching with their guns
drawn on Washington?
that would seal the deal,
show if it was real,
this supposed freedom.

what if all the bleeding hearts
took it on themselves
to make a brand new start.
organs pumpin’ on their sleeves,
paint murals on the white house
feed the leaders LSD
grab your fife and drum,
grab your gold baton
and let’s meet on the lawn,
shut down this hypocrisy.

C: The harmonies they get on this are just shattering. And the chorus…
D: This is soul, with zero retroism. That’s not supposed to be possible anymore and yet here it is. Pure righteousness.
C: I find this song overwhelming too. Not just for the song itself, but for the spirit in which was recorded and offered to the public, and the immediacy and selflessness involved. That’s what being an artist is about, in times like these. They get to something really tragic about the current situation: all those poor idiots who have been buying the Bush balderdash since 9/11… because they did that, now we are all paying for their mistakes, and will do for decades. And I’m broke, man. My pockets are empty. And I’ve got it easy. Think of all the unnamed, uncounted dead civilians in Iraq, all the dead and mistreated in New Orleans, all those detained in the secret torture prisons in Poland…
D: This song is so good I can’t believe somebody made it. The build and release, the chorus, the singing, the lyrics, the fife and drum…
C: It’s a call to imaginative action, for less talk and more walk. This is prime Fela Kuti-level stuff, seriously: talking truth directly to power, giving comfort and uplift to the powerless. I’ve never heard this song on the radio, yet it’s exactly the kind of song radio was made for.

Cast King
Saw Hill Man
(Locust Music)
C: Debut album from 79-year-old white fella. Recorded in a shack in Alabama.
D: Seniors rock. Look at this guy. I think our friend T-Model Ford might have some new competition!
C: He recorded eight songs for Sun Records in the ‘50s. He he had a touring country and bluegrass band, Cast King and the Country Drifters, but it didn’t work out and he never released an album.
D: Sweet baby Jesus, what is wrong with this country?
C: I find myself wondering that often these days…
D: The first line of this song is “I don’t care if your tears fall in my whiskey.” What more do you need?
C: The guy’s voice is so rich, it’s a pleasure just to hear his singing. The sadder the lyrics, the brighter the music. The songs are clever, catchy, simple. How could nobody care for three decades? This nation is so cruel to its artists.
D: There’s some Johnny Cash here for sure.
C: To our modern ears, of course. But I’m starting to wonder. Who came first? Not that it matters as much as, well, just how many other guys are out there still who are this good, who we’ve never heard? Maybe it’s a lot more than we think. People who got skipped over by accident of history or circumstance. That’s the lesson of the reissue culture that’s so strong right now—the Numero Group label’s releases, the stuff they talk about in Wax Poetics, all the rediscoveries of people like Vashti Bunyan and Gary Higgins and Simon Finn—all of this teaches us that actually the cream doesn’t always rise to the top. It often sinks to the very bottom.

Nina Simone
The Soul of Nina Simone dual disc
(Legacy/RCA/Sony BMG)
C: You’re not going to believe this, either. A new dual disc release: one side is a greatest hits run, the other side is vintage live footage. Deep vintage.
D: [looking at track listing] Whoa! None deeper vintage. Pure black power, 1960s. Look at this!!! [Reading aloud scrolling text on screen] “By the end of the ‘60s, the civil rights movement was in a shambles; its key leaders were dead, and race riots had erupted in several U.S. cities. ‘It felt like the shutters were coming down on anyone who dared to suggest there was something seriously wrong with the state of our country,’ said an angry Nina Simone. A ray of community hope appeared in the sammer of ’69, when the Harlem Festival—called ‘a black Woodstock’ by its producer, Hal Tulchin—came to Central Park. Crowds of up to 100,000 flocked to six free concerts. The stars included Sly and the Family Stone, Stevie Wonder, Mahalia Jackson, B.B. King, Gladys Knight and the Pips and Simone. These excerpts from Simone’s performance have never before been shown in America.”
C: I’ve never even heard of this festival.
D: Me neither.
C: How is that possible? I thought we knew our shit. My god. Are they saying this footage has just been sitting there since 1969? Listen to her go. Listen to this band. Look at that set, look at this audience. Look at the songs she’s playing—“Revolution,” “Four Women,” “Ain’t Got No—I Got Life” and “To Be Young, Gifted and Black.” Look at the setting. Look at the situation is which this was performed.
D: This is right before she went into self-imposed exile.
C: She looks absolutely purposeful. There is a resolve in her voice, in her comments to the band and the audience, in that gorgeous face of hers as she sings that is just absolutely… She looks like a woman about to leave, because she’s been wronged. You know she’s gonna slam that door.
D: No whining. “My life has been much too rough,” she sings. [Listening to “Ain’t Got No—I Got Life”] Listen to the band swing! Unbelievable.
C: She’s holding back tears for the entire performance… She finally breaks—just a bit—on “To Be Young Gifted and Black.”
D: I think this is the greatest single live performance I have ever seen.
C: Especially when you consider the context. This is just extraordinary. Le Tigre and other no-skill apologists who say technique is irrelevant would do well to watch this. The reason people are listening to what she has to say is because she had skills beyond even her conviction.
D: It’s an absolute travesty that the American public hasn’t seen this footage until now.
C: Can you imagine what the rest of this festival must have been like? Look at that lineup. Sheesh. We’ve got to ask again: WHY HAVEN’T WE HEARD OF THIS UNTIL NOW? Where are our cultural historians? Why do we know about Jimi liberating the national anthem and not taking the brown acid and all that other Woodstock jive but not about this? It’s criminal.

Niger: Magic & Ecstasy in the Sahel dvd
by Hisham Mayet
(Sublime Frequencies)
C: And now for somebody who knows how to document and distribute important stuff immediately, rather than waiting for 36 years…
D: [spills beer in joy] YES! The mighty Sublime Frequencies strike AGAIN!
C: 70 minutes of footage of hot blast from the streets of Niger, one of the quote poorest unquote nations in the world. Oil can drum duos, one-stringed instrument maestros, harmonizing ululators, invocation dances. Divination ceremonies and informal nighttime initiation rituals, Taureg trance funk at the end.
D: Absolutely riveting.

OOOIOO
[Untitled]
(Thrill Jockey)
C: New album from project featuring Yoshimi who is in Boredoms. Don’t really understand the provenance of this album—recorded in 2000 but only released this year? Weird vocal calisthenics, big tribal drum thrusters, chimes and flutes and birds and trumpets, synthesizers, tablas, loopage and harmony chants, Sean Lennon and Yuka Honda amongst the guests, the best album booklet I’ve seen in 2005—it seems to illustrate a place directly midway mushroom wonderland of the Allmans’ Eat A Peach album centerfold and the post-toxic landscapes of Lightning Bolt—and check it out, here on Track 7: straight-up female Tuareg ululations!
D: Sometimes I think Bjork gets all the attention for trying to do what Yoshimi is already doing.

Pearls and Brass
The Indian Tower
(Drag City)
C: We really shouldn’t be reviewing this til next issue cuz it’s not out til January 24. But excuse me, I think I need to turn this up.
D: Cream covered by Kyuss?
C: Yeah, kind of, huh? It’s actually three dudes from Pennsylvania.
D: These are some pretty knotty riffs. Quite a brush. A hedgerow.
C: Thorny stuff, but they still give you a riff. Here, have one.
D: Why thank you.
C: Total air guitar and drum practice CD. “The Face of God” is the face they make when they play, I bet. And there’s the vocal harmonies, and the fingerpicked acoustic blues.
D: This is bigrig truck driving music.
C: Forty-wheeler stuff—for the poor dudes trying to forget about the price of gas as they drive the nation’s clogged freeways. If it’s time for a Convoy remake, then this is the soundtrack.
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Reviews by C and D (Arthur No. 9/March 2004)

Originally published in Arthur No. 9 (March 2004)

REVIEWS BY C and D

Guitar Wolf
Red Idol DVD
(Narnack)
D: Hey, I can’t make this DVD work.

The Von Bondies
Pawn Shoppe Heart
(Sire)
D: This is the Detroit garage guy who had his face bashed up by Jack White.
C: Right. Jason Von Bondie is apparently the town asshole, or so I’ve been told. But, do you know that song, “Pablo Picasso”?
D: Of course! Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers! They were the best! [singing:] “He could walk down your street/And girls could not resist his stare/Pablo Picasso was never called an asshole.” But this doesn’t sound like Jonathan Richman…?
C: [sighs] Okay D, I’ll spell it out for you: Pablo Picasso was an asshole. But he also made some great paintings.

Franz Ferdinand
Franz Ferdinand
(Domino)
D: This is what the Strokes and the Rapture should have done on their last records. But they were incapable.
C: Every song is a sure-hit on the dancefloor. Plus the guy can sing. And check out what they do on this track (#3), 55 seconds in…
D: Whoa….
C: The tempo slows down… And listen to that guitar playing! Then here comes that descending disco bassline again.
D: This is ridiculous. Can I use your phone? I’ve got to call my financial advisor. I’ve got to buy stock in this band! They are the new kings!!!
C: I know, eh. It’s like all the those other bands, including those Interpol guys, were all just warm-ups for the Ferds. Amazing stuff. Album of the year so far, easy.

The Walkmen
Bows and Arrows
(Record Collection)
D: Ah, I see what you’re doing…
C: Yes, I am Clever Man.
D: These guys, they’re good, they’re kind of like the Ferdinand and the Strokes and…
C: Dude’s got a bit of the crooner in him. And he’s a more interesting lyricist than Julian Casablancas. Then again, just about everyone is.
D: Watch it.
C: Oh right, sorry, I forgot about your inner 14-year-old girl self.
D: …
C: Um… Okay, sorry, that was uncalled for.
D: You can be so ARROGANT sometimes… [listening] The sounds they get are so cool.
C: Organs, guitars, tacked pianos. But check out this next track, you’re gonna lose it.
D: [listening to “The Rat”] It’s the Strokes with their pants on fire! That guy’s mad!!!!
C: Madder than Jack White. He’s fucking going for it, damn, and you know, when a crooner spits blood, you better look out. Anger always means more when it’s coming from a guy who usually .
D: This shit is banging. “You’ve got a nerve to be asking a favor/You’ve got a nerve to be calling my number/I’m sure, we’ve been through this before/Can’t you hear me, I’m beating on the wall.”
C: I’d pay $15 for this song alone. And you know what? There’s ten more songs on the album!!!
D: And they’re good too. Shit. This is gonna be some year.

Oneida
Secret Wars
(Jagjaguwar)
C: You wouldn’t know this–
D: Again with the arrogance!
C: Well, you wouldn’t–
D: Wouldn’t what?
C: Wouldn’t know what the title is based on.
D: Well…
C: ‘80 Marvel Comics. Which I read. And I bet you didn’t.
D: …
C: So fuck off! [laughter] Big battles between superheroes and the main guy who summoned them to the “secret wars” : The Beyonder.
D: [wistful] Ah, the ‘80s…
C: Or it’s based on something else! Anyways. I dig this.
D: [Listening to “$50 Tea”] It’s frantic. Hypnotic. Like strobe lights for your ears.
C: But it stretches out too, and there’s melodies. It’s a lot like that last Primal Scream record, Evil Heat. Difference is that Oneida won’t let the machines do any work.
D: The Beyonders is the name of my new band.

Weird War
If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Bite ‘Em
(Drag City)
C: From Secret Wars to Weird War, get it?
D: You are so clever. Almost too clever to bear. I cower before your cleverness.
C: [laughs] As you ought. Now check this shit out…
D: [listening to “Grand Fraud”]: Is it supposed to sound like that? Listen to all that hiss.
C: Yes, it’s nice and raw and funky and kinda fucked up. They used some old mixing board that Sly Stone and later the P-Funk guys used. Um. I guess it’s possible…
D: [2:45 into “Grand Fraud”]:WHOA!!!!!
C: That’s the shit right there. That’s IT.
D: Who is the singer?
C: Ian Svenonius, Arthur astrologer, on vocals. He’s been around forever. Nation of Ulysses, Cupid Car Club, Make Up, Scene Creamers… The Make Up split up just when they were getting good! Now I think he’s got it going on again, especially with this new guitar player, that guy has some tasty chops, as they used to say back in the day. Do you remember, back in the ‘90s, when it was a point of pride to be less than competent?
D: Stupid indie rockers, I never liked that stuff. Weird War is a weird name.
C: You’re right. Like, what do you call the people in the band?… Weird War-ers?.
D: Weird Warriors! [Ears pop up as female voice rapping begins on title track breakdown] Is that Peaches????
C: It’s Jennifer from Royal Trux.
D: Whoa. I think she can quit her dayjob! And Peaches should call her lawyers.
C: Always with the lawyers, this guy.

TV On the Radio
Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes
(Touch and Go)
C: Another band with a difficult name.
D: “TV on the Radio”? What does that mean? What are they thinking? This is crazy talk.
C: Just listen to the music. You can’t judge a band by its name! The Beatles is the stupidest name ever, right?
D: Yes, okay. [listening] What do you call this kind of music?
C: I have no idea, but I like listening to it.
D: It’s dance music, but it’s got all this…
C: All these weird elements, used in weird ways. Horns. Backing vocals. Dance grooves.
D: He’s got a voice like Peter Gabriel. There’s something kind of scary about this stuff.
C: It seems like they’re holding it together in the face of something. [Quoting song lyrics:] “You were my favorite moment/of a dead century.”
D: This is really good. It’s genuinely new—I can’t say that I’ve heard something like this before. And I want to hear it again.

The Paper Chase
What Big Teeth You Have EP
(Southern)
C: Speaking of scary.
D: Super-tension crisis music!
C: Drills. Angst. Space. Rolling bass. Piano stabs. Guitars at angles.
D: It’s like a soundtrack to a murder.
C: Reminds me of Jesus Lizard. Drive Like Jehu… But there’s an almost… symphonic, I guess…component to it. They’re from Texas, they thing big.
D: Violins too. Genuine horror movie stuff! But not in a cheesy way. No organ grinder.
C: You should see the video that‘s on here: it’s like low-budge Lynch meets Cunningham. Okay, onto the next track, which is a Brel cover…
D: Of course. “My Death.” Scott Walker did this!
C: The drums are so big on this record. I think it’s a Texas thing. Those guys love the big Bonham drum thing down there. Lift to Experience, Secret Machines, these guys… Maybe it’s from all those years of Flaming Lips coming down to Austin from Oklahoma, that dude is an epic drummer. So is this guy.
D: The guitar is now being strangulated. It’s almost too much. Psychodramatic, just at the edge of being too much.
C: Yes. This last song is a Roger Waters cover from The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking. It’s massive.
D: Whoo-ee. We need to keep an ear on these guys!
C: Their next album is gonna be on Kill Rock Stars… A label with a violent name for a band with a violent streak as wide as a Texas mile.
D: They are the new Texas chainsaw murderers, only they use guitars. Murdered by music.

Casual Dots
Casual Dots
(Kill Rock Stars)
C: Speaking of Kill Rock Stars, here’s a record on the label by a new band.
D: More angularity.
C: Angularity is the new strumming.
D: A female voice, finally! Why do we always listen to men records?
C: That is a very good question to which I don’t have a very good answer. Anyway, in case you were wondering, this sounds to me like Stereolab meeting Deerhoof with, oh, Poison Ivy from the Cramps on guitar. It’s indie rock vets from bands like Autoclave and Bikini Kill, but they can play their instruments.
D: Progress has been made. Miracles, they never cease.
C: This song, “I’ll Dry My Tears” is a cover, right?
D: It must be. Very nice, so different from the rest. We can ask the Internet about it.
C: Poison Ivy is so underrated… This whole record sounds like a tribute to her guitar playing.
D: Cool stuff on record, now I wanna see ‘em live. Women rock!
C: …

Hella
The Devil Isn’t Red
(5 Rue Christine)
C: Instrumental mathcore by men.
D: Excuse me while I yawn.
C: I’m sure it’s all very difficult and very intense, but why should people listen to this when they could listen to, oh, King Crimson or Magma?
D: This is so difficult. Oh so very difficult. The nerds of rock, shredding away. Maybe it is fun for them.
C: The drumming on this bugs the shit out of me, it’s busy beyond belief. For what? I don’t get it.
D: Off it goes. Bye bye!

Deerhoof
Milkman
(Kill Rock Stars)
C: Speaking of Deerhoof, here’s their new one on…Kill Rock Stars.
D: Which rock stars do they want to kill exactly, that’s what I always wondered.
C: Of all the people to advocate killing, why rock stars? Why not…um…first-world capitalist greedheads? If you’re going to go down that route, I mean… Not that I’m advocating anything.
D: We are peace people.
C: But rock stars? John Lennon was killed. Are these John Hinkley sympathizers, then? That’s pretty fucking stupid.
D: Disgusting!
C: Hey anyway, guess what? This sounds like the other Deerhoof records! Cute dreamy vocals in the same key by Japan-born singer Satomi Matsuzaki, I don’t know what she’s saying but it good, and lotsa riffs glued on, stomping and stopping and starting.
D: They’re supposed to be amazing live.
C: Yeah, I can see that. But they still don’t quite do it for me on record.
D: Well, that’s your problem. I am digging it. Next!

OOIOO
Kila Kila Kila
(Thrill Jockey)
C: Continuing on from our “kill” theme, and also on the Japanese theme, here’s the new record by the band that Yoshimi from the Boredoms leads…
D: This is boring twiddling thumbs music. Where are the drums? I need some drums.
C: You may get your drums. Just sit still and listen for a second, will ya? Patience is a virtue.
D: Hey what about that Guitar Wolf DVD? He’s Japanese.
C: Oh yeah. Lemme see if I can make it work. [tries to make it work] Nope.
D: This is getting better, but it’s taking too long. I am a busy man.
C: Okay, okay. I just want the Arthur readers to know that this is an interesting, minimalist art-trance-experimental record that rewards multiple listens by the genuinely curious. I mean, shit D, this song is 10 minutes and 40 seconds, you gotta let it develop. It’s like the opposite of Deerhoof. Deerhoof is for people who need it NOW and OOIOO is for people who can wait.
D: I am definitely a cannot-waiter. I apologize to Yoshimi, but that is how I am!

Ghost
Hypnotic Underworld
(Drag City)
C: I have prepared a statement regarding this album, that I wrote while in what we shall call ‘alternative consciousness,’ which I will now read. [clears throat] “Pure, total towering all-encompassing humble acoustic-electric-Mellotronic psychedelic-pastoral-rock-art-prog-outre accomplishment, the summation of a career, a flowing highlight reel that takes every angle that Batoh’s Ghost band (who come from Japan) have ever explored during the last decade and a half and multiplied the richest parts by a factor of 48. (It’s like The Love Below, in a way, right?) The band is sympathetic, tremendous, stunning: the electric guitarist Michio Kurihara deserves particular recognition for his restraint, his launches, his trails. Lower the lights, turn on the fog machine, put a candle in the wine bottle, turn the stereo up loud and gaze lovingly at the gatefold. I want to tell you something: my friends, whoever you are and whatever language you speak, This album is why Music exists.”
D: Yeah, it’s pretty good.
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Kyp Malone of TV on the Radio: “I don’t want to be a commercial for the death machine.”

From Arthur No. 25:

Kyp Malone of TV on the Radio talks about his band’s anti-Bush song “Dry Drunk Emperor” and their recent tangles with U.S. militarism.

“Ah, dear father, graybeard, lonely old courage-teacher”—a crucial line from an Allen Ginsberg poem, directed to Walt Whitman, that poet-scholar Lewis MacAdams recently pointed out—couldn’t help but remind me of finally meeting TV on the Radio’s Kyp Malone recently at a Massive Attack/TVOTR/Gang Gang Dance show at the Hollywood Bowl—as the Massive Attack set unfolded across the vast fogspace, I spotted Kyp walking across the Bowl’s midpoint transom, taking in the scene—and I ran after him, to ask him what had really gone down in Boston in August, when his band made the news because of their repeated anti-military recruiting statements from the stage—and to find out why the band’s “Dry Drunk Emperor” wasn’t included on the band’s new album—It’s a song was recorded and released instantly onto the internet via Touch N Go in October 2005, in the immediate wake of the Bush government’s disastrous handling of Katrina—Its beautiful fury, soul-deep sadness and sensible proposals (“what if all the bleeding hearts took it on themselves to make a brand new start/…/paint murals on the White House/feed the leaders LSD”) put TVOTR squarely in that foundational American tradition of courage-teaching graybeards—I caught up with Kyp, the song’s co-author, and owner of a graying beard, and we conferred—and the next night, after a TVOTR show at the all-ages Glass House in Pomona, we got the following convo on tape—
[Jay Babcock]

Arthur: Why isn’t ‘Dry Drunk Emperor’ on Return to Cookie Mountain?

Kyp Malone: We were right at the end of doing sessions for the album. Me and Dave [Sitek] had been passing back and forth this piece of music about the war in Iraq and living in a situation where the government had taken us into a war over a lie. An obvious lie, that we have to live with for the rest of our lives. [smiles] Unless some magic superhero from some other dimension comes down and changes it.

Then Hurricane Katrina happened. We were in the studio and our friends in New York who have family in the Gulf Coast were coming by. We stopped working to watch the news and console our friends. When we started working again, I finished the lyrics and then we had it.

Dave and I felt really strongly about that song. It’s super-naïve now, but at the time it seemed very realistic that if we waited to put it on the album, it would be an irrelevant song because the person that it was directed to—George W. Bush—would be out of power. Because how could the whole nation watch what was happening with the war started over lies? There was no way that he could NOT get impeached. IF there was a reason to go to war—if there ever was in my lifetime—then maybe Afghanistan made sense. But they fucked that up and they went to Iraq for obviously selfish reasons. And then the biggest port in America gets crushed by a hurricane? Obviously they knew it was going to happen eventually. And then they fumble that. It’s important to take care of the biggest port in America. That’s important if you care about the country—if you’re a ‘patriot.’ But they fucked it up, and they fucked a bunch of people who historically had been fucked…

If we get to the next phase and people remember this country, I really wonder what they’re gonna think about this time. And about race in particular. Pretending nothing is fucking wrong, when it’s so blatantly obvious that it’s fucked. I’m not saying nothing has ever been cleaned up since the inception of the country, [but] the fucking institution of slavery hasn’t been cleaned up. Hasn’t been cleaned up! And if you talk about it, people get bummed out because it’s boring and uncomfortable and it makes people feel weird and ‘you’re just being sensitive’ and not with the times.

A: What happened after Katrina, in the spring?

Kyp: We were invited to open up for the Nine Inch Nails/Bauhaus tour—both bands I listened to a lot as a kid. It was pretty thrilling for me, and I learned a lot playing amphitheatres and House of Blues and Live Nation, which is the new Clear Channel. There was a really good communal feeling amongst all the bands.

But at some point in Texas a week and a half into a three-week stint, me and Jaleel (TVOTR drummer/multi-instrumentalist) were walking past one of the big screens and they had a commercial running for Army or the Marines. Jaleel pointed it out to me and we were both aghast—what the fuck is that about? We walked out into the crowd and found the Marines were recruiting kids at the show. On the grounds. Right next to beer and taco stands and ice cream—the Marines! They had a contest: ‘Come on! Let’s see how many pull-ups you can do!’ I couldn’t believe it. I felt sick to my stomach.

Why did you feel sick?

Kyp: Because I don’t want to be a commercial for the death machine. I don’t want to be a part of it. I don’t think that there’s any place at all in our creative community for that bullshit. It’s anathema to what I believe in and to what I’m trying to do. So I got really uncomfortable. I called management to say if this is anyone’s idea of a good idea then we can’t be on this tour. Trent [Reznor] freaked out. He didn’t know [the Marine recruitment stations were there]. No one knew. It was actually in the contract that the Marines COULDN’T be there. But the Marines offer so much money to promoters that the promoters think maybe they can just slide it by and no one will call them on it. So Trent had them kicked off. And the venues were charged $20,000 apiece to give to a non-profit working-for-peace organization, which is a pretty awesome way to handle it.

And that brings us to what happened in Boston in August when you played the WFNX-sponsored show headlined by your friends the Yeah Yeah Yeahs in City Hall Plaza to 12,000 people.

Kyp: No offense to anyone who’s born there, because we don’t get to decide where we’re born. But there’s a James Baldwin quote about Boston which I find to be apt. He said, ‘In Boston, when they shit on you, they hand you a towel—so that you can wipe their ass.’ We got there and we were playing outside of Boston City Hall. And I’m looking around at all the corporate logos. I’m getting uncomfortable, but I’m used to it. I’m used to playing festivals. I’ve seen it a number of times. I’ve had the Verizon logo shine on my face at the House of Blues. [laughs] There’s a lot that I’ve come to stomach, in this game, on this level. And then I see a Marine recruiting tent. I point it out to Dave. We’re on the side of the stage. I don’t know what to do about this. I still want to play for these kids that came out and I want to play with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. We’re about to go on. The DJs for this radio station that put on this show come onstage and they say, ‘We want to introduce you.’ We’re like, ‘We don’t need you to introduce us.’ I don’t want them to talk about us. They don’t know us. But they were really insistent. Like, ‘It’s our job.’ Okay, do your thing.

So they start talking, [in dumb voice] ‘We wanna thank this corporation, and we wanna thank this corporation, and let’s have a big round of applause for the Marine Corps.’ At which point simultaneously me and Tunde grab the microphones and Tunde’s like, ‘We will walk. We will walk away from this right now. Don’t applaud that shit. They don’t belong here. They don’t have any right to be here. We’re not here for them. That is SEPARATE from us. That is separate from what we’re doing. We want NOTHING to do with that.’

But I still felt like it was attached to us. Just the mere mention. Then I think, the US military is probably doing this in any place they can find right now—they’re trying to get inside. The militarization of everyday life in this country. Which is pushing us closer and closer to totalitarianism.

What was happening in the crowd?

Kyp: Welll… It got confusing for people. A crowd can have its own opinion, which is why people get tomatoed off of stages. But people are also conditioned to ACCEPT certain things. They accept [that] someone standing above them with a microphone is a voice of authority. And people who spend their lives speaking on the radio have that NAILED. Then I was just ANGRY. And before every song I was like, ‘This song is about not joining the Marines. And this song is about not joining the Marines. And this song is about not joining the Marines.’ [laughs] It could have been a lot more fun for everybody, but what are you gonna do? The energy was different. The whole time I was trying to ERASE the idea that they’d turned us into a commercial for an institution that is engaged in something immoral and horrific.

What happened when you walked offstage?

Kyp:The security and the cops who were working the event started vibing us really hard. I was talking to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, trying to tell them about what happened, because I didn’t think they were even cognizant of any of it. The head of security was all up in Jaleel’s face and Timmy [our guitar tech] and Gerard’s face and the cops were standing behind him. Like [in deep voice] ‘You’re not welcome here anymore. You’re not welcome in Boston. You need to leave.’ There’s a lot of great people in Boston, I want to be able to play in Boston. But it’s always going to be BOSTON.

I talked to the DJ afterward. He was like, ‘What, are you guys pacifists or something?’ I went, ‘Uh, no, not really. But that’s not the point at all. I don’t want to be a commercial for the Marines—or anything else, but particularly not the Marines.’ He’s like, ‘Yeah, well, you know they pay a lot of money and we gotta pay you.’ And I go, Well, let us know where the money’s coming from. Because if it’s coming from the Marines, we’re not gonna play the show.