Sunday, February 27, 2005


The other night I did a 90-minute phone interview which was one of the best times I've ever had talking to an artist. Part of it was, I'm not a huge slavering fan, so I was able to express my doubts about the guy's body of work (and believe me, I've got some) in the form of "devil's advocate arguments" without fear. And the guy answered me without fear, too, which was great. He's apparently really excited about being the subject of a major profile in the magazine for which I'm doing the piece (and you'll notice I'm being cagey about who it is and who it's for - well, too bad, you'll have to wait a month to find out), and was thus willing to open up. I've read interviews with this guy in the past that have been all surly, one-word answers intended to show up the interviewer as a stooge unworthy of the interviewee's time. Not in this case. Like I said, we talked for 90 minutes straight, and laughed and threw art theory back and forth and generally had a real melding of the minds. It's gonna be interesting to see whether the genuine pleasure I had in talking to him, and the enthusiasm I have for one of his projects (a project I'd ignored because the band he was in before that pissed me off so much), comes through properly in the piece, which is due on Friday. The last piece I was this excited about was a Tom Waits cover story I wrote for The Wire back in 2002, and that turned into a whole big shitstorm, and I'm not all that happy with the final document as it exists today. So I'm kinda hoping that my own lukewarmness toward some aspects of this dude's output can be contrasted with my newfound love for other aspects of it and my respect for his thought processes and attitude, and the whole thing can be balled up and sealed with sweat and spit and turned into something decent. I think it can. I got five days to prove myself right or wrong.

Don't have much to say about Hunter Thompson's death. It took me too long to work his influence out of my own nascent prose style to look back now - I'm like Orpheus heading out of the underworld. Eyes front, keep marchin'.

My cokehead rock-critic uncle-by-marriage told me when I was 13 or 14 that Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas was the only book that really understood the Sixties. I think he was right, if only because Thompson was already mourning the death of the Sixties in 1971 - it took a lot of other folks until at least Carter's election to realize that it really had failed, that the country really had gone to hell, and we weren't coming back out anytime soon. (We still haven't.) I think I'm gonna buy a new copy of Fear And Loathing On The Campaign Trail '72 and see if I can make it all the way through this time. The part where he tries to run out the clock by interviewing himself always dooms my efforts to reach the end.

If it doesn't snow too much, I'm gonna go see Interpol on Tuesday night. I've heard they're duller than the Hall of Presidents live, but the show's at Radio City, and Radio City has excellent sound and really comfortable chairs, so a dull band onstage is less agonizing than it'd be at, say, Irving Plaza, a shithole that the best show you've ever seen in your life can't fully redeem.

Well, time to go pound out 5000 coherent words in five days. Back on Monday, maybe. In the meantime, get your metal on at my other spot.

Thursday, February 17, 2005


New online: my review of General Patton Vs. The X-Ecutioners, which is much better than I expected it to be. (I like Faith No More's Angel Dust; pretty much everything else Mike Patton's ever done, until this album, I've found worthless and frequently masturbatory.)

Saw Cecil Taylor at Iridium last night. It was a trio date, which was good; his big orchestral things always fall flat for me. I don't know who his current bassist and drummer are. The last time I saw him, he was using Dominic Duval and Jay Rosen, but this wasn't them. I kind of missed Duval bowing frantically, sweating through his black T-shirt as his ponytail bounced around. This guy was a little too hippieish for me; he liked to play this thing that looked like a bowl with a bunch of slim metal rods around its rim - he'd bow the rods to get a weird violin-like sound, or tap the bowl for some other semi-wavery ringing tone. When he actually played the bass, he was much better. The drummer was too busy. Sometimes he had something to contribute, but for most of the set, I tuned him out and focused on Cecil.

Taylor was in top form. The first, 35-minute piece began with a brief poem (and some of that weird thing the bassist liked), but quickly became a typical Taylor tidal wave of sound. Watching his hands fly across the keyboard, in total control at blinding speed, is really one of the most intense live-art experiences you can have.

The second piece was just as good, if slightly mellower. There was more space between notes, and little melodies repeated throughout, with slight but significant variation. One of the friends who came with me was reminded of Debussy.

It was a good show, and it was good to get out of the house. I went to Kim's, too, and picked up some CDs:

Earth, Living In The Gleam Of An Unsheathed Sword
Bo Diddley, The Best Of Bo Diddley: The Millennium Collection
Lil Jon & The East Side Boyz, We Run The South
Cold Bleak Heart, It's Magnificent, But It Isn't War

And I got the new issues of Harper's and The Atlantic. Harper's promised a piece by Colson Whitehead on going to the movies, and they delivered, but I was disappointed. It's more of a prose poem about the experience of moviegoing than, say, a critique of contemporary cinema, which is what I actually wanted. (I still remember his writing for Spin.) The rest of the issue looks to be the usual warmed-over half-baked lefty crap, that chases away half its potential audience by its sheer obtuseness. And The Atlantic is its usual (current) crypto-right-wing self, including an article about how a Harvard education ain't all that. What the fuck ever.

Monday, February 14, 2005


I'm revising my novel, hoping to finish by the beginning of May.

I'm starting another book, to be co-written with an online buddy who's way funnier than me (which is good, since the book is intended humorously).

I'm freelancing for Cheri, Celebrity Skin, The Wire, the Cleveland Scene, the East Bay Express, Jazziz, Revolver, and the Village Voice. If I could find more outlets willing to publish my writing, I'd write for 'em.

Plus, I've started an MP3 blog here, because the MP3-blog community badly needs an injection of raw metal.

Oh, and I'm currently reading Robert Neuwirth's Shadow Cities, part of that 50-books-a-year deal, I guess.

Thursday, February 10, 2005


Hey, remember American Head Charge? No? Well, they're back, and they've got Otep and Candiria with 'em. (Otep's actually the headliner, I think, but whatever.)

The Village Voice Pazz 'n' Jop critics' poll is also back.

Here's how I voted.

Here's the ballot that crystallizes all the reasons people hate the Voice and the critical community that hovers around it.

Thursday, February 03, 2005


Here's a link to a review of the new Behemoth album. It's really good. You should go buy it.

You should also buy the new High On Fire album, which came out on Tuesday.

I didn't write this review, but I did contribute to the book that is its subject. The book's good. Go buy that, too.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005


I saw two movies the other day that I didn’t expect to have much in common. When they turned out to be about pretty much the same thing, it inspired the ramblings below.

Metallica: Some Kind Of Monster is a long (2 1/2 hours) documentary examining how and why the world’s biggest metal band chose to go so drastically wrong in the process of making their last album.

For those who don’t know, Metallica lost their longtime bass player due to inactivity (he felt like, y’know, going out there and making music instead of sitting home watching his bank balance grow), then they went into the studio with no ideas at all and attempted to spontaneously generate an album, then James Hetfield went off to rehab, then they came back and wrote a whole bunch of shitty songs with the therapist they’d hired to get them through the agony of their vast wealth, then they hired a new bass player who seems to have way more of a stake in Metallica being good and respectable than any of the three senior members, and then they released their self-indulgent piece of shit album, and that’s where we are today.

The biggest lesson of Some Kind Of Monster comes in the lyric-writing/therapy scenes. Not only is James Hetfield writing songs jam-packed with self-help clichés, the band’s therapist is actually seen passing notes to him with potential lines. This is where any right-thinking metalhead knows that the album is going to be a piece of shit.

Why is this? Because metal is not a music suited to introspection. It’s loud and aggressive because it’s about men (and/or adolescent boys) engaging, or learning to engage, the larger world. Metal songs are about a very few things: the evil of society (everything from Slayer’s “Angel Of Death” to the gore fantasies of Impaled and Mortician), sex (about half of Motörhead’s output), or the brotherhood of metal (Manowar’s whole oeuvre, and Metallica’s own “The Four Horsemen”). Metal is not about solipsism. It’s about communication within a group.

Fine art should also be about communication; that is, it should have something to communicate to the larger world. This is exactly what’s wrong with the movie Sick: The Life And Death Of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist. Now, I felt bad for Bob Flanagan, watching this movie. Not just because he had a nail through his dick, either. Flanagan had cystic fibrosis, and was coughing up phlegm so thick it looked like baby food for almost every scene in this documentary. During other scenes, though, he was doing his art, which was all about him getting slapped around or otherwise abused, mostly by his mistress/life partner, Sheree Rose.

I understood the basic message. Bob’s whole life was pain, so he chose to undergo more pain in order to exhibit control over his body. I got that in about thirty seconds.

Trouble is, making a performance piece out of that has nothing to communicate to anybody who isn’t in that kind of pain, or who doesn’t themselves choose to make that choice. It’s just carnival geekery, with a side order of medical fetishism.

This is the problem with a lot of “body art,” from Chris Burden and Vito Acconci on down. It doesn’t say anything. It’s just “hey, check that guy out, he’s hanging from the ceiling/crucified on a Volkswagen/jacking off under a ramp over there in the corner.” The most abstract painting has 1000x more to communicate to even the densest viewer.

There was one part of Sick that made me more disposed to like Flanagan, though. At the same time that he was dazzling the jaded art crowd, he spent 20-plus years working as a camp counselor for kids with cystic fibrosis. He played guitar and sang songs with them, to make them more comfortable with the realities of their disease and to make them laugh and have fun. Those little songs said more than all his gallery performances put together.

Oh, yeah: I finished reading John Leland's Hip: The History, so that's two books down, 48 to go. It's not bad; it glosses over a few too many things, assuming knowledge on the reader's part in ways it probably shouldn't, but Leland's a pretty solid writer and his conception is clear all the way through, and he's cynical about his subject/subjects when appropriate, so it's worth checking out.