Qui*o*tic was the first I heard but I thought they were a different band. Clockwork fairy tale creepy punk opening for Sonic Youth and Stereolab. Sinister lullabies for ghosts performed by two women who could be sisters and a male bass player. I erroneously thought they were the Lansing band Universal Indian that I had discussed with a friend over our mutual amazement that Sonic Youth name dropped them. When John Olson of UI joined Wolf Eyes, and Gretchen of that band appeared in Slumber Party, my mistake was realized. Who made these strange and sinister dollhouse dreams? These two fairytale sisters and this man who didn’t seem to fit in this world. And in the end never did. They were the Billotte sisters and they grew up in the DC punk scene and not in an ivy clotted haunted house filled with ghosts and raccoons. But in the neglected real estate of our shared punk world. https://youtu.be/NLsL6-t-HeE
Get Hustle I heard next. I got a catalogue for the Kill Rock Stars offshoot label 5RC in an XBXRX cd and the mysterious descriptions and covers of these albums made me seek them out. The Beefheart tangle of Godzik Pink, the savage beauty of Deerhoof, the lonely noisy loops and dub experiments of the Replikants, and Get Hustle. The album was called Earth Odyssey and it had a striking giraffe on the cover. I couldn’t even imagine the people who made this music. It just exploded out of the speakers. Free jazz, spaghetti western and spy soundtracks, surf, cabaret, and Nina Simone were the precedents I could grasp. I had no idea that they were a band that in a couple years I would share a stage with. I had no idea they were even from the same planet as me.https://gethustle.bandcamp.com/album/earth-odyssey
Young People first got on my radar because of the presence of Jeff Rosenberg, as I was a big fan of the shows and recordings of Pink and Brown having been surprised by their guerilla punk opening for Arab on Radar. Hearing him involved with a new project and that it was coming out on 5RC definitely had me paying attention. The debut had abstract sketched figures in black and white. There were hints of Americana in Katie’s vocals and a hint of drama. The backing music at first seemed warped and shambling, tapping at drums and strums and plucks at distorted guitars. But the shapes appeared as you absorbed it, like fog drenched objects gaining solidity to the eye. https://youngpeople.bandcamp.com/
Quix*o*tic’s magnificent Mortal Mirror appeared to alternately mute and hostile critical greeting. How thoroughly great the album is and how much there’s been a devoted cult towards amongst many of us jars with this unfortunate treatment of it. It expands on the morbid garage of the previous album and detours into a surreal journey through retro song forms but casting them as things that could only exist at that moment. Doo-wap, sixties soul, Neville Brothers, and Black Sabbath are recast in the sinister haunted house the Billotte sisters build here. The bass player has vanished into his own troubles and eventually out of this world. Are the lyrics of “The Breeze” addressed to him, a meditation on the beauty of this brutal world and a plea to keep enjoying it despite an urge to leave it, to self remove from. https://youtu.be/eI0smEyvMz0
Mick Barr, usually seen doing alien shred in the brutal prog duos Crom Tech and Orthrelm (and nowadays Krallice) is here on bass and provides just the necessary touch for every song.
Caught them live in Chicago that year. It was both awkward and mesmerizing like we’d wandered into a sleepover and caught them performing a ritual. They stopped sometime after and the albums remain without reissue despite continual reassessment by those who remember. https://youtu.be/GzKSVtNMZOo
Near the end of our time in Chicago despite finally gaining a friend group with shared interests we’d decided to head back to the west coast. And coming from the west coast was the Get Hustle, scheduled to play two nights in Chicago. First at the venerable DIY institution Fireside Bowl and the second at the Pink Section, which was our friend Jamillah’s house in the south side. Drums and two keyboards on the stage, and they dressed vaguely old timey which mixed with their tattoos gave them an air of working a sleazy carnival working a dust bowl town. The instruments bounced off each and worked up a rhythmic sound like rock and roll reduced to its most trancelike and ritualistic elements while Valentine the singer danced her recitations and beckons on top of clangor and pulse. The second keyboardist was Mark Burden who had drummed on one of the early Glass Candy and the Shattered Theatre singles I was obsessed with, and the avant-garde metal project Silentist. This lineup was captured on the Dream Eagle ep. But as usual it didn’t quite translate the live effect. https://youtu.be/X6b6DEyxSRM
In PDX I first got to witness Young People. They played at an art gallery that our friends set up shows at and followed a dance troupe. This atmosphere implies an artistic remove and sterility but they were alive in a vast unexplainable way. Music on the edge of consciousness and being violent and filled with peace, like the sinister stillness of Young Marble Giants exploring the American songbook. A floating, a levitation.
War Prayers expanded the sound palette of Young People. There was an air of the surreal underbelly of the golden age of American cinema, like southern gothic scenes rendered in matte paintings. The cover of the theme song from the menacing and beautiful film Night of the Hunter that ends the album most showcases this. That dreamlike movie with its surreal drowned wives and demonic animalistic preachers, and a strange river at night. https://youtu.be/UJZ6jvfz4G0
Get Hustle reappeared with a performance at the secret PDX club Dunes. Maximilian had been playing in the Plaster Hounds era Chromatics and the robot on fire grind unit Holy Molar and here he was back behind his kit, Mac Man had a series of bizarre noise makers including a cymbal and record player hooked madly to his electric piano. This created a Silver Apples/Sun Ra/Philip Jeck buzz, fuzz, and throb on top of rhythmic pummeling, while Valentine stalked the floor spitting out ritualistic chants and shouts. Bits of Dr John’s voodoo incantations, sixties revolutionary shouts, and Bo Diddley’s rhythm danced on the edges. This lineup was eventually preserved on the Rolling in the Ruins and most accurately but obscurely on the Live at Little Fawn cdrs. Get Hustle had begun their journey rising out of the ashes of the chaotic posthardcore band Antioch Arrow who had already arrived at hypnotic tension and gothic atmosphere by their final lp. They had a great lineup with the guitar of David Scott Stone(Slug, Melvins) on guitar that released several albums including Earth Odyssey but eventually arrived in Portland based out of a house perched on the border of a graveyard without Stone. They had also arrived at a place without comparable peers. The closest precedent was their tour mates Love Life from Baltimore. That band that emerged from the bloodthirsty Ann Arbor unit Jaks, also centered the deranged vocals and exclamations of a striking vocalist, Katrina Ford. The band tumbled and pulsed around it with lurching bass, tumbling drums, and guitar pushed through an organ effect. They arrived at a similar place to Get Hustle. A genre of two. https://gethustle31g.bandcamp.com/album/rollin-in-the-ruins
My band Hustler White was planning our debut show. We had a debut date but thankfully our guitarist had the intel that the Liars were coming to town so we moved it up a week. The Liars had lost their rhythm section and moved away from the Gang of Four on Touch and Go sound of their debut to a more abstract and ritualistic territory. And who was opening this tour? Get Hustle and Young People.
Was this kind of summit for things? As close as this strange thread of music drifted towards the mainstream? Pulling up to the venue and spotting the tour bus of the Liars my friend announced: “A tour bus? But their new album is so non tour bus!” This success was dazzling but it was barely a blip in the world that soon moved on to simpler and easier to sell narratives. Years later I read in a Quietus feature on his favorite albums Angus of Liars praised Quix*o*tic and White Magic. Connecting those dots. https://thequietus.com/articles/15020-liars-angus-andrew-favourite-albums
Get Hustle continued for many years and even had a brief lineup with the mighty Joe Preston on bass. But eventually Valentine moved to Northern California to be the actual shaman she always was. Maximilian could be seen behind the kit of the gloom ritual unit Atriarch and other bands around town. Mac Man to running a club and the sleazy electro of DBC. I see him at US Girls shows.
Young People lost Jeff to the luminous folk pop band Lavender Diamond(the Calvary of Light ep and the Imagine our Love lp are singular creations centered around Becky Stark’s unique vocals and vision, and the greatly imagined instrumental support of the band), and Young People’s final album to date All at Once was even more stark affair with lots of piano and somnambulant nocturnal air to the songs that floated in their own particular dream logic. They never officially broke up and have occasionally played shows though no new music has appeared. Katie studied nursing and her own personal life reeled from the twin suicides of her father and veteran brother. She re-emerged with the musical persona KATIEE and in 2016 created the Out all Night lp with the band Sunwatchers. The music resembled the art pop of Scott Walker’s Climate of the Hunter and Berlin trilogy Bowie but those fractured vocals and lyrics were back in full effect. https://katiee.bandcamp.com/album/out-all-night
Mira Billotte appeared with a duo called White Magic. They got filed in with the nascent “Freak Folk” movement and while they shared some superficial similarities(especially Mira’s more hippy look in that period) the twisting and turning of the tropes of American music felt like an extension of what she was doing in Quix*o*tic. Moving from drums to piano and guitar but remaining very visceral and rhythmic the songs had elements of folk but seemed deeper in abstract blues and gospel and even sea shanties (or the cabaret mutations that Get Hustle worked up) and paying tribute to the obvious touchstones by covering “Katie Cruel” in the Karen Dalton arrangement or “Plain Gold Ring” in the Nina Simone one. https://whitemagic.bandcamp.com/album/dat-rosa-mel-apibus The daunting task of even trying on those shoes showed the confidence in her vision that Mira had. I think lots of people are struck by their one song “Keeping the Wolves from the Door”.https://youtu.be/q4cnGFBkWmA An intimate song removed from their usual arrangements and is just Mira and guitar and vocals. Almost sounds like a demo in its simplicity and intimacy. A couple of great eps and an essential full length and they too vanished, though signs of life have reappeared. https://www.psychicgloss.com/articles/3798
Christina joined up with drummer Steve Dore and Bikini Kill bassist Kathi Wilcox for the delightful Casual Dots. They had a similar attitude towards American music forms that felt poised between respect and deconstruction but with an eye towards being played while people dance rather than swooning with horror. One very fun album and rumors of another. The rumors of the Quix*o*tic reissues have never ceased but nothing has yet to appear. https://bikinikill.bandcamp.com/album/the-casual-dots
Were these bands considered important beyond those that loved them at the moment? The world tries to imply they weren’t. But of course pop and music is obsessed with the now and history in deciding what is valued and remembered. Artists who witnessed these bands and absorbed this music continue to create. These strange dreams made out of necessity will continue to resonate
This record seems to have emerged from a dream I had falling asleep watching a horror movie as the stereo switched from Phil Spector to Roxy Music. The sound of this record. The “Sound” is overwhelming and disorienting at first, and finding your path takes multiple trips. The Phil Spector box set fed through a delay petal and the almost familiar but befuddling sounds of those Sublime Frequencies pop compilations are what I am initially presented with. https://youtu.be/sSSbnC919_4
Then “Jack” comes on. This is a song the Portland band Danava would play in the middle or end of their Hawkwind/Goblin channeling sets and it would always grab attention. It seemed to materialize from an alternative reality 1970’s where T Rex composed music for Dario Argento movies. It turned out it was written by their associate Brock Robinson in the 90’s. Here the gender is reversed for this creepy glam stomp about someone dreaming they were Jack the Ripper but maintaining a ghostly, glamorous menace. https://youtu.be/9gPGflHGx7A
The sound of the record than mutates and reminds rather than resembles Eno’s Green World, Nico’s Marble Index, those Cure albums with the blurry covers, Roxy Music, T Rex, Twin Peaks soundtrack, Conet Project, Royal Trux’s Twin Infinitives, and Young Marble Giants, the oldie “Boondocks” is almost redeemed along the way which is something, and then it all concludes in the glam piano ballad “North on 45”. This is music leaked in from the other side of the mirror. A world of ruined and threatened glamour, ghostly murmurs, radio transmissions, and failing light. A world that may only exist as this album plays. https://youtu.be/wmLykNwPO64
Lots of powerful and singular woman musicians have risen out of the pysch/drone/noise underground over the last decade or so with impressive bodies of work. Grouper, Fursaxa, Valet, Inca Ore and others have provided innovative recordings and performances that have expanded our concept of music. It’s of course slightly sad and reductive that I have to lump the U.S. Girls in with these musicians just because they are all women cutting their own swath through these sounds, but other critics already have and I say they fit together comfortably. Gem may be the most consistent album that any of this generation has produced though. Time will tell. Disclaimer: When Meg the singular member of U.S. Girls lived in Portland, I was in two bands with her. Two bands that will never be mentioned in a U.S. Girls review. https://usgirls.bandcamp.com/album/gem
(Note: this is a review I wrote on my blog in 2013. Things I didn’t know then: That it wasn’t Meg on the cover. That Gem is Meg backwards. Carl of the great band Zacht Automaat played keyboards. That our bands Hux and Hustler White would be mentioned in future US Girls interviews).
A whale moved like a slug down the street. People danced out of the shops and restaurants and tore pieces from the side of the whale. Gore dappled their clothes as they feasted on the raw blubber. A helicopter floated low and warned the gathering that this was a wild animal and not an event provided for their entertainment and consumption. Spray trucks moved in afterwards to handle the massive amounts of vomit and gore. Ambulance blimps wedged through buildings, their beds overfilled. The wounded whale had disappeared. Its presence became a rumor. Children sighted massive eyes popping out of sewer grates. Whale songs echoed out of toilet bowls.
Two men born in the century of the wind that sought life on paper pages. Such a fragile thing was paper in the century of the wind.
One was born in the old world. The old world he was born into had become sickened with war, racial fear, economic disasters, political utopianism, and paranoia. It was in the grips of the spirits unveiled by the events of Paris 1919. He grew up in a city that became captured by the cultists of a man born of the bad eggs of the wounded old world. He joined the children’s crusade, marching like a tiny soldier thrown in the ranks with the old and the forgotten. The cultist warned that the barbarians would come, and they did. An army that moved on rape, plunder, and gasoline thundered across the old world, driving tanks over refugee columns, crucifying and hanging people, and planting red flags across the lands squandered and poisoned by the cult. This man dreamed of a boy who refuses to grow up, pounds on a metal drum, with screams that shatter glass. He dreams of his country and the times it endures, as it births the new.
The other man, this hopeful believer in pen and paper as icons against the monolith of greed and insanity at the heart of the century of the wind, was born in the new world. He was born in a land especially filled with promise, culture and riches. It was compared to the old world, which this man felt a little apprehensive about as he knew there were wonders here that could never be replicated in the frozen ways of the old world. The economy began to suffer and his country started to get rigid and fearful. Students claiming they had the spirit of Tupac Amaru retreated and began to buy guns, training themselves as urban guerillas. The state formed an army to fight its own people and the streets shook with the martial columns that moved down them. Torture chambers grew like fungus everywhere darkness lingered. This man began to fear his own country and clutching a couple notebooks he fled. This confirmed his dread of patriarchy, capitalism, white supremacists, and the envoys, prophets, and yes man of the great machine to the north. This machine controlled the new world by owning its loans, and soon it ruled over the old world when it collapsed in rot. His only weapons were history, writing utensils, and his own imagination. This connected him to the man who crawled out of the collapsed and putrid body of the old world, pushing through its dark and frenzied convulsions like a maggot through forlorn meat. He saw new orders born and died, and he wrote fables to explain them to those in remote future ages. He drew grotesques that only hinted at the madness loose in the century of the wind.
Both these men died in the age of distraction, their messages clearly written for those with the time and patience to read them. We find it harder and harder in this age to find time for such things, we risk losing the histories of the century of the wind. What lessons and horrors could be repeated when the distractions fades, when history returns to the ever present now?.
“..and I know full well what makes the shadows on my walls because I cast them there myself.” – U.S. Girls “IOU”
The first, or one of the first times, I met Meg she gave me a zine. I recognize that voice here almost twenty years on. But of course it’s able to tell things it never did before.
The elliptical, collage style is also recognizable from much of her physical and musical art. It’s a style I intellectually respond to and it resembles some of my own ideas towards text.
The rawness, honesty, and physicality of some of the descriptions reminds me of Michelle Tea’s Against Memoir, which was a book that really struck me and seemed removed from recognizable traditions of literature and more from the world of spoken word, pamphlets, zines, and other so called debased and low traditions(by declaration of male dominated academia) but the material and telling was so convincing it ridiculed those dispersions. The text served the material and so it does here as well.
At the center of this book like many memoirs(a question of whether this fits that genre purposefully lingers) is a hidden crime exposed. The book circles around it and mentions it as almost an aside. I’ve seen it circled around in interviews and I’ll probably circle around it here. I know it has affected Meg’s life,art, friendships, and world view and I hope by not mentioning it by name I’m not giving it more mystery and power. Crimes are mystified and given allure by our systems. Read it and let her present it. The crime deserves no mystery, “It’s common, but we don’t talk about it.” to quote the Bratmobile song.
But talking about it. Telling it is what this book is about. To remove things from shame. To be a good witness. To do something forward with what you learned from this witness. To break down these systems.
The first part of the book most resembles a memoir with the current events of the last decade of the 20th century interposed with moments of her life. Desert Storm, Oklahoma City, Monica Lewinski, and 9/11. These are presented through the purposefully naive eyes of the child, with prejudices of the official history removed. To show the events as spectacle. It begins to fracture at the image of an oil ruined car and secret tape, an essay on media spectacle of phalluses, sports, and military precedes this ellipsis. And then a series of experiences that our “culture” likes to house in the column of “shame “ which of course relates to the body and health. Abortion, STDs, birth control, miscarriage, and the burden put on the accuser in a rape conviction. And the way trauma permeates a life and the actions of those afflicted. The inability of our “society “ to have honest discussions of trauma are continuingly open wounds bleeding beneath the surface. The response to punish the traumatized for their actions in response to that trauma so that they quietly fit into our culture, shown here by the doors being removed from a teenage bedroom. Privacy removed to attempt to stamp out an “antisocial “ response. Thus granting it the power of the forbidden and continuing the cycle.
I’ve not discussed the section on random violence. Is it because I’m in this section? Where do I appear? When the man pulls a knife at a record store and everyone runs but Meg I’m part of that everyone. It was at the time something we all laughed at about us wimpy punk boys and how “badass” Meg was. This was our cope at the time, a way to dismiss the violence. She called his bluff and he probably just wanted our reaction but we don’t know his side, how far he was willing to go, how far Meg would have let it go. I was one who ran away and sure maybe he had no intention of violence towards a woman but would have loved to stab a dude. We don’t know. We can’t change it and thankfully can talk about it as a strange and not tragic incident but I was one who ran away. Now I must witness the telling.
I remember then, we all saw America as an obvious scam so we felt we were free of it. But inaction does nothing to dissipate the schemes and narratives a culture sells.
This book is many things. A pamphlet for kinder world of mutual aid like her old zines, a phantasmagorical tour of America’s spectacle, a fractured memoir of crime, trauma, and survival, but it’s not a pop book by a pop star. For those not paying attention it could be as shocking as clicking on “Rosebud” on Spotify and then Introducing: https://youtu.be/X9yM0lDio_c
Meg’s recent trilogy of albums for 4AD are almost concept albums working through the themes of imprisonment, violence, and how memories are filtered through our culture and systems. The themes bleed into a whole and resonate here with the artifice and characters removed. She always claimed those characters are all her anyway.
With the exception of the Beatles cover band connected to her first period and the Grateful Dead shirts it’s interesting how little music actually sneaks into this book. It’s like it’s kept separate. Another realm from these experiences. The cracks in between. The raw material of life without the dress up.
Grey synth noise leaks out of the darkness. What are these half glimpsed things on the cover? Something in an unfriendly dimension. Eventually drums join in. They never sound like they are at the right speed. Occasionally a crescendo is reached but it fades away into the landscape again. The creeping omnipresence of the sound is all.
It’s creeping grim horror soundtrack vibe matched a year where decay, dread, and disease dominated. This is the work of Andee Connor and Marc Kate. I don’t know Marc well but know he did live keyboards for I am Spoonbender a band lumped in with electroclash and unfairly dismissed along with it, but they did a lot for me in the early 00’s and helped me rediscover Eno and discover This Heat. Connors music history I know. Playing drums in the SF answer to Codeine/Rodan, A Minor Forest, and then for his ordering/reviewing at Aquarius and his label Tumult. Aquarius helped bring me and others to the drone scuzz of Birchville Cat Motel, Necks, Bohren & der Club of Gore, and Tumult basically single-handedly kicked off the US Black Metal movement by releasing Dead as Dreams by Weakling. Alongside with bringing us the motorik metallic psych of Circle, the dirge powerviolence destructo of Burmese, haunted improv of Thuja, horror ambient of Noisegate, all of which resonate with this amorphous soundscape that you experienced by it overwhelming you, flowing over you in waves. Bands that pushed the borders of metal, krautrock, post rock, noise rock, ambient, and soundtrack. Take in also Andee’s recent work with Common Eider King Eider, Rob Fisk’s(Deerhoof, 7 Year Rabbit Cycle, and Badgerlore) burnt blackened doom ambient ritual collective and maybe some of the more shapeless elements of Jonathan Snipe’s(clipping.) soundtrack work also seems to resonate here. That latter reference was released on one of the three labels that collaborated to release this, the Southern California iconoclasts Deathbomb Arc who have brought a varied and strange catalogue to the DIY world blurring the area between noise, punk, drone, no wave, hip hop, and electronica since the nineties. They did the tape. Aforementioned Tumult did the cd, and the wonderful Zum who brought us High Castle, Intima, and Sea Scouts and the recent terrific Body Double album brought the vinyl.
Around 2000 rumors of this band XBXRX appeared, and out trickled mysterious images and tales of shows of pure unhinged abandon. The album GOP 1st Minee appeared on the Kill Rock Stars offshoot 5RC and answered few questions but intrigued further with its blast of mutant noise punk and synth slather( https://youtu.be/SsHeSXUoSLs)
I emailed them for a show they couldn’t do but they reached out about coming through later with the Toronto band Sick Lipstick. I offered my basement in East Lansing and thus set up my first show. I was at the time in the midst of discovering a vibrant underground of antisocial noise that seemed an antidote to the drab emo, listless post rock, and shiny “indie” of the time, so GOP 1st Minee sat alongside Soak the Saddle by Arab on Radar, Other Animals by Erase Errata, Man, the King, and the Girl by Deerhoof, 3 by Black Dice, s/t by Wolf Eyes, Ride the Skies by Lightning Bolt, and Uterus and Fire by Old Time Relijun in showing me a new thread of musical expression. Lacking the machismo of the Midwest noise rock sound and exploding with new colors and tangents. One that could maybe involve a complete amateur like myself. And this show brought the reality of this scene into my own basement. XBXRX represented this moment for me and has always been high in my pantheon of bands. All these years later Vice Cooler was nice enough to answer a couple of those long lingering questions.
What inspired teenagers from Mobile, Alabama to start a band? What was the town’s reception? Atmosphere for punk rock in the south?
XBXRX originally started in Mobile, Alabama with myself, Steve and Alicia. Though we weren’t even old enough to drive at the time we still had a very deep and meaningful connection with music- especially any sounds that came from a DIY background that was both noisey and aggressive.
I believe what made music appealing was our need to escape from the gnarly atmosphere that we were surrounded by in the South. The world that we grew up around was full of homophobia, racism and sexism that was influenced by the evangelicals who were surrounding us. We always found these behaviors disturbing and thought we were alone until we found out about bands like Nirvana.
Around February of 1998 XBXRX started as a noise trio. We quickly realized that we had considerable limitations both musically and as players so we expanded it into a five piece band shortly thereafter. Now with two guitars, bass, drums and synth we all became very excited to try and play some live shows. We spent a good year playing shows almost exclusively at houses, trailers, record stores and a few different coffee shops around Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. The reception was ok and a mixed bag. People reacted in all extremes imaginable from pure excitement to complete violence. While our purpose of playing was for the sake of a fun creative form of entertainment it was often misinterpreted with bad results. It became rough sometimes and was common for grown men to smash our gear or attack us.
An example of this would be at a show that we played on a farm in Mississippi in the late 90’s. When we were playing a crust punk started smashing a bottle against me and ripped up my finger really bad. I was probably only fifteen at the time and had never been in a situation where a stranger assaulted me and in hindsight made me worried that every show would end up becoming a warzone. What stuck out as well was an awareness that you could be in a room with adults and if they saw someone attacking a kid none of them would stop it or help you. Shortly after that we played in Birmingham and the sound guy smashed Steve’s guitar into pieces and charged at Joey, one of our members, chasing him out the door threatening his life. This type of environment to perform in became normal to us.
But overall we experienced many great things too. We played shows with Quintron, Miss Pussycat, Bobby Conn, Deerhoof, Scarnella, the Make Up and the Third Sex all within our first fifty shows. We had support from people like This Bike Is A Pipe Bomb who would put us on shows at Sluggos in Pensacola, Florida. This was first generation internet so we did a lot of booking for out of town shows through Book Your Own Fucking Life and traveled during a time without cellphones or internet. We also got around in a really old van that we put our money together to buy. This $500 investment was very dependable in getting us around and I remember how exciting it was to purchase our first vehicle with our own money.
While I don’t reflect back that much on my creative past I do try to remember that we were all very lucky, had a lot of help from caring people and got to experience the world while we were teenagers. We made a considerable amount of lifelong friendships with very talented people. If you get really lucky those experiences might happen once in one’s lifetime. So I consider us fortunate to have had it for as long as we did.
I’ve heard the Unwound, Deerhoof, and Peechees tour made a big impression. Tell me about that event and what future connections built from it? First hearing of Kill Rock Stars?
Being in Alabama during the 90’s most of our music would come from mail order. At the time all of the Kill Rock Stars releases would come with a fold out catalogue where you could order directly from their Olympia house. Through AOL chatrooms and reading zines we would get suggestions of bands that we should check out. Me and Steve sourced our orders mostly by not eating at school and saving our $2 a day lunch money to get a few new records a month. We made some great choices and ended up with records that really inspired us from Emily’s Sassy Lime, the Need, Bikini Kill, Free Kitten, Sleater Kinney, Mocket and the Frumpies.
The first time I heard about Unwound was when I was visiting this record store in a Pensacola house called the East Hill CD exchange. The owner was a man named Elvis and he knew that everytime I came in that I would be digging for anything he had that was Sonic Youth related. One day he pulled out an Unwound cd and said “hey you should check this out too!”. He put the discman on the counter and I loved what I heard.
About a week later we were back at Satori in Mobile and there was ONE flier that had been dropped off there for a Deerhoof, Peechees and Unwound show. Me and Alicia went to see it and I was hanging out at the merch table that Steve Dore was working (Casual Dots, Deep Lust). We started talking and he immediately introduced me to Rob Fisk from Deerhoof who then brought over Greg Saunier. I told them that I was trying to save up $100 from my job at the movie theater so that I could buy a hagstrom guitar that I saw on Harmony Central and start a band. Greg immediately said, “Oh yeah that is a great idea, when you start a band bring it to California and we will tour together”. A quote that I’m sure Greg regretted later because we took him up on it! Ha.
What were the early shows and tours like?
I have to admit thinking back that far is somewhat foggy. A lot of crazy shit has happened between then and now. What I do recall is having every feeling that you could think of. Being in very violent adult scenarios, seeing things I never thought I’d see on my own terms like the Grand Canyon or a German castle and getting to see and become friends with bands that I admired. The experience was all over the place and in hindsight probably wasn’t the safest lifestyle for children to be growing up in. But also at the same time we were surrounded by incredible adult musicians who took good care of us and were great examples to be around.
What led to the Deerhoof tour and 5RC release?
Greg Saunier had offered to bring us on tour and booked us a tour up the West Coast. One show was in San Francisco at Kimos. Sadie Shaw was there, who was a filmmaker managing 5RC at the time while also playing in the Lies, and really enjoyed it. She proceeded to tell Slim Moon to come to our show a few weeks later in Olympia.
I don’t actually remember how the talks started but I do remember feeling so happy and lucky that any of it was happening. One of my favorite parts of our first west coast tour was being invited to the Kill Rock Stars office and meeting Slim, Maggie and Tobi. They gave us a lot of great records and posters that I still have to this day. Their whole set up of running a label out of a small house with incredible music everywhere really inspired us.
You toured with Sissies and Q and not U. Two bands I loved at that point and it’s too bad Sissies are forgotten (love their albums. Hannah’s other band Devil is Electric is one of the only other bands to play my East Lansing basement btw).
You seem uninterested in hardcore and its macho culture yet your sound seems similarly aggressive. What inspired this choice? And the show antics that sometimes involved hospitalizations?
It is completely true that none of us listened to hardcore. To this day I still haven’t heard any of the hardcore classics as at that time I was listening to a lot of noise bands, Daft Punk, Juvenile, DJ Jubilee, Beck and the Spice Girls. I think this is why people from the hardcore circuit were a little confused when we would tour with the Sissies or Q and not U instead of Municiple Waste (who we played their first show with- totally nice guys!)
People like to talk to me about the speed at which we played and how it sounded like the fastest hardcore band they had ever heard. From my perspective XBXRX was just playing rock songs but as a result of not playing well and social anxiety the songs ended up being played too fast. I remember so many times we would hear back a live version of one of our songs and not even recognize it because it would be double the time we practiced it.
When did you first encounter the Providence/Fort Thunder scene of Lightning Bolt, Black Dice, and Arab on Radar etc. What was your impression of them?
All of the bands you mentioned were on the same tour circuit as us. Everyone played The Smell in LA, the Modified in Phoenix, and the Fireside in Chicago. Every night of tour people would talk to us about those bands (along with bands like The Locust or Milemarker). Most of them became friends because me and Steve were setting up so many shows along the Gulf Coast. Most of those shows in the South were barely filled, which seemed normal at the time, but in hindsight I feel awful putting bands through painful, barely attended, low paying shows in New Orleans, Mobile or Pensacola.
I would also tour with blank cassettes and VHS tapes. When we would stay with people who had music or videos that I couldn’t find- like homemade Miranda July films or rare 7″s- I would stay up at night copying them in order to bring home and absorb later. Strangers’ personal collections really helped expand my taste in music and art. And I believe this is how I initially ended up with copies of a lot of the GSL and Load Records stuff.
I was blown way by 1st GOP Minee. How was recording with Albini? Also did some sessions with Mackaye and Zientara? How did those occur?
The band, like all of our peers, were big fans of Steve Albini’s sound. Being teenagers and having the opportunity to record with an engineer like him- in a studio like Electrical Audio- was a special experience. Around 1999 we worked with a label who suggested we record with Steve Albini. We all thought it was impossible but the label really encouraged us to do it. If my memory is correct Steve (XBXRX) then sorted out all the details, including an affordable rate, with the studio booking. We then paid for it with money we had all saved up collectively uncertain of how we would release it.
We recorded the album very quickly. The first day we did our set up and all of the basic tracking. While we did all overdubs and mixing on the following day. Considering Albini was not only recording us but also babysitting it’s really unbelievable that we turned the whole thing around in a 48 hour period.
Albini was really patient, kind and supportive. Having someone as talented as him keep himself accessible to bands like us really says a lot of great things about his ethics. Gop Ist Minee is probably our best sounding recording and I’m so happy that we worked so hard to get the album recorded with him. What is also cool glad it still lives on in other forms (for example the Deerhoof Milkman song’s “Desaparecere” and “Giga Dance” both use drum samples from “Gop Ist Minee”)
The band always had a very hard time translating our vision to the world. Our live shows were mostly failed and misunderstood concepts. An example would be this one show that we did in Fairhope where we hid behind massive cardboard box walls. A few days before I had found a bunch of furniture boxes and thought we could make a huge cardboard castle wall with a door in the center. The idea was that one of our interpretive dancers would run out of the center door and would be the only person you’d see for the first song. The show would then turn into chaos as we would throw all of the boxes around the venue as we destroyed the wall. This concept in reality was a complete mess.
These comically dumb ideas usually only happened for one show. So we began to film everything with a borrowed VHS camera. Between tours I began to edit them by using two VCRs to create collage videos that were basically bloopers reels. I would then dub them and hand make casings for us to sell on tour. It was during this time that a promoter in Mississippi randomly bought one. He then dubbed it and sent it unsolicited to Ian Mackaye. I guess he liked it because one day we randomly got a postcard from Ian saying he enjoyed our video. We later met in person at a show in DC and got along really well. Since we had a hard time with recording engineers the idea was brought up that it would be great to ask him to record us since he actually understood what we were doing.
It was really enjoyable recording in DC at Inner Ear with Ian and Don. By the time we got there XBXRX had some extreme lineup changes. At that point we were touring as a four piece with vocals, baritone, synth and drums. This lineup only lasted for a few tours so getting that stuff recorded during the small window of this era was a great thing to have happened. Like all of our recording sessions we did everything in one or two days.
My first show ever was setting you up in my basement with Sick Lipstick. It was a hugely inspiring event for me. How did you come in contact with them? What led to the wonderful 7” together?
I believe Mark Mclean reached out to me and Steve. We happened to have two songs left over from when we recorded the GSL “Mardi Gras” 7″ in Austin, TX. He took care of sorting the label and everything. I was actually pretty disconnected from this release outside of approving things. I also don’t have the pink vinyl version of this record.
Also how did you get banned from Canada?
We were deported from Canada on tour. I believe that we looked highly suspicious to customs considering that our trashed van with Alabama plates was a sardine can of merch, equipment and underage kids. At the time our Canadian promoter convinced us to give them this fake, printed out sheet of paper that said we were recording in order to get in. Customs quickly separated us for interrogation while other agents ripped apart our van looking for anything to get us with. Between the seats they found the fireworks and claimed that we had explosives. The main agent eventually put together that we had shows but didn’t believe that we were traveling into Canada just to play in a basement and to sleep on floors. They began an attempt to shake us down for money but collectively we only had around $60 cash. The agent then asked if we had bank accounts or credit cards- which we did not. They began to threaten us with arrest but eventually due to our age they just gave us deportation papers and asked us to leave. It’s comical how confusing our lifestyle was to all of the agents.
Meeting both of you alongside my housemate Nate Powell(did you know him from the Arkansas punk scene?) inspired me to become vegan for a period of time(and still eat informed by that diet and may switch back entirely). How did you discover veganism? And what’s your thoughts and evolution on the subject?
Me and Steve were in a band who did a tour where we played a lot with Nate’s old band Soophie Nun Squad. He is a really great and talented person. I probably heard about veganism around the same time that I began going to see shows. I was resistant to the idea at first because I didn’t understand it. I became vegan on tour with Q and Not U because I got sick from some old cheese at this pizza spot in Athens that Jerry Fuchs (LCD Soundsystem, RIP) brought us all too. That was maybe 2000 or 2001 and I have eaten this way ever since.
Costumes, lights, and other elements of the show. What led to them? Reaction or commentary on the po-faced indie/hardcore scene? Sense of fun?
From my perspective there was nothing reactionary by doing it. We just wanted to put on a really good show that would be something that we would like to see. At that time we would have had a full on vegas style show if we had the resources to do so. We also loved the WWF and Man Or Astroman a lot. MOA was doing wild things at their shows too like setting shit on fire and using projectors. That kind of showmanship really influenced us a lot.
How did you connect to Erase Errata?
Jenny and Bianca had a band prior to Erase Errata that was called California Lightening. They had reached out to us through Toyo Records to set up some shows for them along the Gulf Coast. During this leg of their tour they took some days off and stayed at my mom’s house with us. We all really got along. A few months later Bianca sent me a cassette demo for her new band Erase Errata.
Erase Errata also had us book their Southern shows for their first tour. Bianca asked a few different bands I was in to play these shows with them. Three different bands I was in played the shows from New Orleans up to North Carolina on this stint. They were a really incredible band.
Tell me about your label NFJM? I have a couple releases including that 7” comp and the Deerhoof Shaggs cover. I remember I had a zine by you forever ago also but can’t recall the name now.
NFJM started around 1998 because Steve (XBXRX) had found some deal through this LA label Black Bean and Placenta had a scheme where we could print 7″s through their label for extremely cheap. We ended up putting our money together to do the first release for XBXRX and NFJM this way. To save money we did the 7″ with blank labels and did stolen xeroxes for the cover. We hand assembled all of the releases at home.
Later on I had a job at a pizza place where I was being paid $2.10 an hour by a shitty boss. I began stealing hundreds of dollars a week from him that funded all the 7″s that later came out. One of these records was a 7″ with ten bands on it. The first pressing of that single had a zine inside of it. That could be the zine you are thinking of.
You connected to and dropped the names of some interesting figures from the Wicker Park nineties now wave/no wave scene that quite expanded my ideas of what was possible then. Bobby Conn, Quintron and Miss Pussycat, Zeek Scheck, and Weasel Walter. How did you discover them?
One of our first out of town shows was in Mississippi with Quintron and Miss Pussycat. At the time we were all obsessed with the Quintron album “Satan Is Dead”. Afterwards Miss Pussycat invited XBXRX to play their Thanksgiving show at the Spellcaster Lodge (their speakeasy in New Orleans). This show happened to be with Bobby Conn.
We were already fans of Bobby Conn’s record “Rise Up”. One of us had bought it because Jim O’Rourke was the producer on it. Afterwards “Rise Up” was an album that we listened to in the van constantly. At the show Bobby watched and enjoyed our set and we became friends. We then began playing lots of shows together through the late 90’s and early 00’s.
On our first tour we played the Fireside Bowl in Chicago and Weasel randomly was in a noise band that also played. We became friends through our mutual love of chaos. Eventually we kept crossing paths and eventually moving into the same warehouse in Oakland.
Chicago has a great legacy of bands from this period- Zeek Sheck, Monotrona, Collosamite, US Maple and so many more.
Tell me about the Bay Area move? Was there an intention on starting a new lineup?
Me and Steve decided to get out of Alabama once XBXRX did one of its main break ups. We had wanted to get out of Alabama for years but were kind of stuck there due to our age and circumstance. Once we were in the bay area we began to play with people to see if anything would stick. We did some playing with Eric Landmark from Numbers and then wrote maybe a dozen songs with Paul Costuros and Sergio Iglesias. But none of them panned out for longer than a few rehearsals.
In Oakland we lived in a warehouse with members of Erase Errata and Burmese (and sometimes Brontez squatting). Weasel moved into one of the rooms from Chicago and we discussed starting a project. I don’t remember how but it somehow became a new version of XBXRX. We did that whole Narnack 7″ in the warehouse in only a few hours and it was off to the races.
While I don’t think about it that much I look back at the history of XBXRX as a band that has no end. It’s comically always splitting apart and then finding its way to life again. While I personally have no interest in ever playing in the band again I also would not be surprised if it pops up again in another form before I die.
Tell me about Hawnay Troof?
I have always been into all kinds of electronic based productions in the late 90s. However I could never figure out how people made it until a friend of mine showed me how to use Fruity Loops and Cool Edit. I have always had a better workflow with songwriting by using a computer over hardware.
An aspect of XBXRX in the first five years was always wanting people to dance rather than mosh. This wasn’t a political statement but rather because we viewed, naively, that the music we made was something to dance to that was more in line with Abba than a band like Earth Crisis. However it never translated to other people as this and when we played people would still beat the shit out of each other. But I look at the heart of all of the music I have ever made as an attempt to make something that would work in a dance club.
So when I started Hawnay Troof it was just a way to focus that kind of energy now in a more refined way since I had access to “electronics”. I was writing so much music then. Though in hindsight the production is pretty whack, everything is out of key and the records don’t sound good. I have thankfully learned quite a lot since then. Most of the music that I did- with any of my bands before 2010 – sonically sound like shit and the music feels rushed. I rarely revisit or think about any of it.
How did you meet George Chen and Kristy of Lil Pocketknife? How did Kit form and what was its intention? I saw you in the first lineup when you destroyed the Meow Meow game room during a Dear Nora show. One of the greatest things I’ve ever seen! We all ate Mediterranean food beforehand. This band had two periods of activity in slightly different lineups, give me a brief history? Both full lengths are great and a little different. Tell me about their recording?
In my opinion Kit was usually an extremely confused and unfocused band. Honestly it’s a surprise we even got two albums done at all. Part of this somewhat chaotic atmosphere meant that we kept switching up who played what while keeping the same four members.
The first album was done over a few years and all tracked in my bedroom and kitchen. The second one we did was recorded with Phil Elvrum in Department of Safety in Anacordes. I am glad that I got to see Phil’s approach towards recording. We did it on a small 8 track mixer to tape so were working with a lot of limitations. For example he used only three microphones for the drums and said he never records anything in one particular way. At one point while doing overdubs we needed to have a guitar reverb go quickly from completely wet to completely dry. For this effect Phil had me hold a long mic line and walk up from a basement cellar into a hallway where the amp was being played. Eventually I ended up with the microphone tight against the amp to create a “dry” reverb tone.
Tell me about the Bay Area lineups of XBXRX and the recordings. Who plays on those? I love the intense edge Weasel’s drumming brings. How was the songwriting and recording in those lineups?
The bay area era of XBXRX was centered around myself, Steve and Weasel. We switched out the fourth members every few years. For example the Narnack 7″ has Paul Costorous from Total Shutdown on Bass while Sixth in Sixes that role was performed by myself. Once the album was out we added Ed Rodriguez into the band and he fulfilled those duties on both Wars and Sounds.
I’d say we were at our best around the time of Sixth in Sixes. We rehearsed every afternoon. The band was in a constant state of writing as we were all bringing in ideas for new material almost every day. And once XBXRX had Ed in the band we felt like a really well oiled machine.
My PDX band Hustler White was supposed to play with you but had to cancel. What was your connection and opinion of the PDX scene in that period? I know you had some connections to Get Hustle, JXATG, and Sleetmute Nightmute.
What’s really great about scenes is that there is always one happening in every big town. Literally any place where there is a concentrated group of creative kids in their twenties there will be incredible things coming out. As ours phased out in Oakland other stuff bubbled up and took its place. Stuff like that band Mansion.
During “our time” there was so much fun stuff happening along the coast especially in Portland. Bands like Glass Candy, Yacht and Yellow Swans were all sonically different but were equally impressive. Get Hustle, JXATG and Sleetmute, who you mentioned, were so insane to see. They really pushed music into strange creative territories.
Tell me about Modern Reveries? I love that 7”.
I was a big fan of Layla Gibbon from Skinned Teen. When she moved to the bay area we began talking and decided to start playing together. It went well and we ended up writing some good material but both decided that we needed a third member. That is when I asked Miya from 7 Year Rabbit Cycle to come in on bass. And we were all lucky because it happened to work out really well. We were around for probably two years and did one tour up the coast, a seven inch, and after a handful of local shows let it die.
Move to Los Angeles and later lineups?
After Weasel left XBXRX me and Steve just stopped talking about the band. Steve moved to LA for school and I stayed in the bay for a while because of my touring schedule. I ended up moving to Los Angeles a few years after him in 2009. Once I got here we started a joke band with Josh Taylor (Friends Forever) and Kyle Mabson for a one off show at Pehr Space. Afterwards me and Steve talked about what to do with XBXRX and both agreed that the lineup felt like it was it. So we all decided to try it again. We ended up writing a lot of songs, doing a few singles and toured with Future Islands a few times. We finished recording an album that was set for release on Polyvinyl but it never came out because the band completely fell apart overnight. I feel fine about it because we got a lot of miles out of being around for two decades and it freed me up artistically to move to other things.
And as a huge Raincoats fan I have to ask how you ended up drumming for them? What did you have to do with the Bikini Kill reunion? What’s your history with that band?
I have been a lifelong Raincoats fan. One of the first mail orders that I did was The Raincoats Peel Sessions EP on Smells Like Records. I then got their other records as I began to tour. Their music was so inspiring to hear as it was written, composed and recorded in a completely raw way that really showcased all of their strong ideas and personalities.
As I began to tour a lot – and I’m talking 300 shows a year for about 15 years straight – I found myself playing in London every few months. This amplified once I got a booking agent and became friends with everyone at the London based label and show promotion company Upset The Rhythm. Its founder, Chris Tipton, was really into keeping the bands happy and would always ask who they wanted to play with. As a Raincoats fan a common request of mine was for Gina or Ana from the Raincoats to play. And to my surprise it happened. Over time I developed a friendship with all of them and kept in touch as I traveled.
During one of my European tours I was emailed by a label who was putting together a Rough Trade tribute compilation. I expressed interest in covering something from the first Raincoats 7″ but wasn’t sure how I would do it. I realized I was going to be in London a few days later and emailed Ana to ask if she wanted to play on it. To my surprise she agreed and suggested that Gina come to play with us as well. We booked some studio time and ended up covering the first 7″ in a few hours. We wrapped up the recording and went about our ways.
Later I received an email from them asking if I’d like to fly to Europe and drum for them at a festival. Their other drummer, Jean Marc, couldn’t make it due to his commitments playing in PJ Harvey’s band. I was able to do it and flew to London to rehearse. The show went well and I have been touring with them ever since.
I am always excited to play shows with The Raincoats because they embrace parts of playing music that are usually trained out of a seasoned musician. For example we sometimes might cut out half a measure in a song just for the purpose of it feeling right. They also encourage me to not use cymbals and to tape up the drums until there is almost no resonance. I welcome untraditional approaches to creating music and have such joy playing those songs with them. They have also created so many memorable musical moments for me as their shows have had guest play with us like Angel Olsen, Lora Logic and Viv Albertine. Through them I even did a stint as a drummer for Chicks On Speed. I have also become friends with one of my favorite drummers Palmolive – whos Raincoats parts I try my best to adapt and channel on stage for every show.
My connection to working as a tech for Bikini Kill is actually attached to the Raincoats as well. A few falls ago we had a set of shows at the Kitchen in New York for the release of Jenn Pelly’s 331/3rd book on the first Raincoats LP. These shows were three nights of very inspiring people and energy. Bikini Kill played unanounced at the third show. It was their first time playing together since the 90’s. They performed just the song “For Tammy Rae” and it was really touching.
After they announced the official reunion I received a text from Tobi asking if I’d like to be her drum tech for the LA shows. I was surprised and happy to have the honor of doing this for her. I ended up doing a lot of the reunion shows as a tech and it was so much fun. They travel with a small crew who are all so talented and amazing. Its a really special thing to experience how uniquely a band like them operate and I feel fortunate to be able to learn so much from them just by being there.
Tell me about your later work as a producer? And current music projects? I’ve heard you prefer to listen to electronic music more than the music you’re commonly lumped in with because of your bands? What’s your preferred listening?
I have spent most of my life being nomadic- both personally and creatively. This applies to what I creatively absorb and invest time in. This lifestyle has made my creative past full of random and seemingly unrelated things. For example in 2018 I released a book on southern California haunted houses, did a mini documentary on Sonic Youths archive and studio while also having production work on a Louisahhh single come out. Those are three things that are in completely different categories.
I do love playing live shows. It feels natural since I grew up on the road. But around 2010 I hit a point where touring the way I was had created complete financial instability. I began to phase out touring and focus on other things like songwriting and production. It took a few years to learn how to redirect that time constructively but I have since done a considerable amount of music production work.
Another creative outlet I discovered was working in film. I have had a great time directing music videos and documenting really talented artist. At this point most of the film that I do is for this great pedal company Earthquaker Devices.
Since 2010 I haven’t played that many live shows outside of a rare solo performance or something drumming with the Raincoats. Focusing less on touring made me realize that I now had more time to be creative. It is nice because I usually wake up around sunrise to work on whatever I want for the rest of the day. Over time I have developed great creative relationships with other artist and companies that have kept me steadily busy.
A realization that I recently had in regards to production is that I really love writing music now more than I ever have in my life. It’s extremely satisfying to produce records for artist and help them make something that can become enjoyed by the public. The flow of working with different people also helps expand my experience and keeps me in a state of constantly learning. I love getting to the other side of musical challenges.
Some current projects that are in the works production and writing on the upcoming Louisahhh and Ah Mer Ah Su records. I also started a quarantine band with Erica Dawn Lyle from Bikini Kill. That project is currently finishing up a record where we will have a different singer on every song. Once the album is released all of the proceeds will benefit Soul Fire Farm. In regards to video work theres a lot in the works including a top secret series for TV that is a punk Austin City Limits type show and a really great series for Earthquaker Devices with Sylvia Massy.
I honestly just try to stay busy and keep moving. Part of this is listening to music and I will listen to almost anything. Today I listened to Princess Chelsea, Zowie, Deathgrips, Kero Kero Bonito, Special Interest, Hannah Diamond, The Smashing Pumpkins, Lisa Mitchell, Wolf Eyes, Brian Eno, White Zombie, Sophie, Swans, Kano, Lil Kayla, Kate Bush and 100 Gecs. But it changes every single day and is completely all over the map.
We fought gladly and to the last drop of blood for America
The history of aerial bombing in the United States of America is a history of racial tension and class struggle, like many of our histories. It is also filled with rumor and myth, another trait of American history.
The first incident occurred just months before the second in the year 1921. Aerial bombing had been invented just years before, in the rush of invention to create new technologies for slaughtering people, in what was then referred to as the Great War or the war to end all wars. Left over armaments from that conflict played a role in both the first two incidents. The first incident is what is called the Tulsa race riot. This incident at the end of May of that year resembled the “race riots” of two summers before, the “red summer” where murderous racial violence exploded across the country. The Chicago riot of “red summer” occurred the same week a dirigible exploded over the city, raining fire and bodies on office buildings below, but this similarity is accidental. But like many of the race riots before, a simple incident between a black male and white woman got out of hand and fueled local racial tensions leading to a larger gathering of armed white men who assaulted the Greenwood district in Tulsa, then the richest black neighborhood in America sometimes called the “Black Wall Street”. Both the besieged and the attackers were well armed, but the blacks were at the disadvantage as their businesses and homes were set on fire, devastating the district. Six biplanes left over from the world war were dispatched to fly over the conflict. White officials claimed these were merely spotter planes there to prevent a wider uprising. Eyewitnesses reported the planes were employed to drop firebombs on the district and to snipe at the besieged.
The catastrophe of the First World War and the extraordinary spiritual malaise that came afterwards were needed to arouse a doubt as to whether all was well with the white man’s mind.
The second incident was mere months later in West Virginia. This almost mythic event called the battle of Blair Mountain has been regarded as one of the largest armed civil conflicts in the United States since the Civil War. The United Mine Workers fought a pitched battle with local lawmen and Baldwin Felts strikebreakers for five days. This episode was one of many incidents in the bloody “Coal wars” of the previous decades. The strikebreakers hired private planes to drop bombs left over from the world war on the strikers, sometimes indiscriminately releasing them on villages. When the army arrived to conclude the hostilities in the favor of the mine owners they also employed bombers as surveillance planes and some said intimidation. The miners captured one of the unexploded bombs the strikebreakers had engaged and later displayed it at a trial.
I do not know if all cops are poets, but I know all cops carry guns with triggers
The third major known incident of aerial bombing in the United States of America took place some six decades later. This third and final event under discussion involves the conflict between the city of Philadelphia and the organization known as MOVE. MOVE, a black liberation organization with back to the land overtones started by John Africa (all members of the group employed the surname Africa) had a previous violent conflict with the city in 1978 where the unsanitary nature of their compound and incidents with police led to a raid. A policeman died in the firefight under unclear circumstances and several of the members of the group were charged with his death. The embattled organization (as the founder John Africa insisted they be considered. Many argued that MOVE was a cult, some called them a terrorist organization) moved to a working class black neighborhood which they came in conflict with, setting up two bunkers on the roof of their house, occasionally gesturing with weapons, and blaring profane political speeches through loudspeakers at all hours of the day. This mixed with compost, feces, and gathered wood that filled the compound, alongside concern for the treatment of the numerous children that MOVE had, all lead inevitably to another conflict with the city in 1985. The police moved in (many of whom had been involved in the previous confrontation) and surrounded the house and then evacuated the area. They issued a communique to MOVE that had curious language.
Attention MOVE, this is America.
Soon tear gas and two high powered water jets were turned on the compound. At some point heavy gunfire started. There has been much debate which side did most of the firing, though the police at one point ran out of ammo. The police commissioner citing the tactical advantage MOVE had with the two bunkers on the roof decided to employ a drastic measure. He had a police helicopter drop a satchel bomb on the roof of the house. It failed to destroy the bunkers but started a fire. A decision was made to let the fire burn. The water jets were turned off. The fire destroyed the compound; only two people left it and survived an adult and a child, five other children and six other adults died including John Africa. There were rumors that the police fired on anyone trying to leave the fire. One adult was seen by witnesses leaving and then running back in for an unknown reason. The ensuing blaze also destroyed three blocks of the neighborhood.
This for the moment is what we know of aerial bombing in America by Americans.
If this is Peace, it is peace with gothic undertones, as if the ghosts of the past might be appeased for a moment but never exorcised in their entirety
From the crumbling infrastructure of the news industry comes a transmission to make you doubt. Casts shadows on friendships and things you held dear. How were you wrong all these years? How did you not know?
I could buy groceries today but a plane went down. I saw a tiny plane alone in the sky when I went out in the backyard. Was this the day that the cherry blossoms were drifting down like floral snow? Or was I getting ahead of myself. I read about the plane and imagined that last minute for each person on board. The vastness of the sky letting them go, returning them to earth in the cruelest way possible.Was that plane I saw a ghost? A signal from beyond. But why would I be worthy of this symbol? I was unconnected to this plane except for the pain I felt at this remote witnessing. It should pain me no more than the collapse of Yemen. But,Yemen gave no ghost. Or no ghost I recognized. Maybe all the tragedies of the world give out ghosts for us to see. It is up to us to properly witness. To recognize the ghosts offered us. But the onslaught of distant news in many ways already is a ghost. Like those stars whose light peppers the dome of the night, we are seeing light from something already dead.
Like the second death of Chinau Achebe. An outpouring on the internet for a man most probably hadn’t even read. Not that I have really read him, read many authors influenced by him. Read one of his essays once and didn’t really care for his conclusions. Things fall apart the title of his most famous work is a great title, a good thought as we think of our society as an eternal monolith, an unending reality with no conclusions, no cracks in it. Of course we see some cracks in it. California has less than a year of water left. The entire dream of California could end in abandoned cities. We can’t really picture an end that isn’t a disaster or understand any other way of living, for we are in a total system, one that respects no other reality, or this reality even. Death rumours start in the ecosystem of this echo chamber, sharing without reading, without researching. A minute visit to wikipedia would confirm when the author died. I was suspicious when I saw it appear in my feed. Saddened at his death but with a nagging feeling that I had experienced this before, felt this moment, felt this sadness. Obviously there is too much information to process on any level, we feel this urge to react. We need to be seen as the carrier of this dead famous person’s legacy. it’s the selling of our personal brand, to be seen as someone who works to preserve these brief moments of intelligence in the world. Not the worst thing to be a private unpaid entrepreneur for. Advertising has leaked in and consumed everything.
How many times can you die before you fade away? When does your archived information work through the system and stop appearing. A friend of mine who died almost a year ago still has a profile up. People keep tagging themselves in her photos and she reappears. Or her name appears when I’m tagging someone else in a post. We know her, we know she is gone, we know the date. She isn’t a celebrity that vast amount of people respect but barely know, her death won’t be widely reported again. She isn’t one of the idols or icons unknown and removed from context, ripe for appropriation. I had watched a comedy special where the comedian showed Ghandi being used to sell Apple and Che Guevara to sell Mercedes. Icons removed from any reality and the hope being we get that aura of their power without thinking too deeply. Just click, forward, put a thought down and move on, never looking back. Never turning to a pillar of salt.
All month I’ve taken photos of clouds. Masses of water vapour crafted into magnificent and odd shapes bunched up and pulled taffy like across the sky, caught in the shimmering light. That is why I caught that plane crossing in front of an immense darkened cloud, a cloud too dense with water to be permeated by light. I took the shot and felt it represented the fragility of humanity’s technology and vanity in front of the awesome face of nature.Later that morning, the news of Germanwings tragedy started appearing.150 lives wiped out by the collision between technology, vanity, and nature. As usual my mind jumps to connection, relying on pattern recognition, that age old human trait that pulled us through the dark ages on our way to birthing this vast networked society. I see the plane I photographed, I hear of the plane hitting the mountain. I connect the two. I see a ghost, a warning of the event. Like the legendary black dog that foretells a death in the family.
Then, a week later it appears again in the feed. A sad day in music someone proclaims, Captain Beefheart is dead. I know instantly that Beefheart has been dead for almost five years. He fits into a category like Achebe, of an artist who is respected and admired for his work and vast influence on other musicians but seldom listened to. People want to be seen as an admirer of his work without listening to him or even doing the minimal research to find out if he is alive or not. I stumbled upon his masterpiece “Trout Mask Replica” back in high school, that mystic period where our personalities and idea of the world are being formed through the flawed receptors for stimuli that we are gifted with, battered by the winds of hormones, pressure of peers, and our ignorance as we stumble in that dark searching for purpose and meaning. I hated this record as many did at first (or remained hating), couldn’t find its bizarre rhythms and harsh sound as even music. Slowly and obsessively I learned its language, deciding long ago that it’s a marvelous piece of twentieth century art.
Many find that century’s legacy in danger in this age, The age of distraction. The age of ghosts. The age of multiple deaths and appearances.
In an hour I saw them appear. Multiple new sources reporting that Joni Mitchell was unresponsive in a coma. I forward a link to it myself. Checking her official website showed that this was false. The stories gradually disappeared. By the next morning the last of the crossposts had stopped, been corrected or deleted. These events are like weather clogging our dreams. The ghost continue, the dead walking with the living who are living hazy recollection of what life should be.
The weather had been warm and brightly sunny, a late spring early summer feel. Barbeque was in the air, and lawnmowers running. Sickly clouds of insects hovering over the grass. The weather brought a calm, but also a greedy expectation of movement, to be out and mixing with the world. The weather had a dark undercurrent, were was the rain? The snowpack was already dangerously low in Oregon and with looming water disaster in California these thoughts kept popping up. A week after the plane was the morning of the cherry petals. A wet dashing rain, wind blown with lost little drops. The petals falling down scattered in their ends on the patio. The air was cooler, like an actual spring, with a possibility of a clean rebirth.
“Nobody owns life, but anyone who can pick up a frying pan owns death.”
― William S Burroughs
The child was not yet two. He reached for the blueberry bush with his stubby little arms and stubby little fingers. He knew which ones to pick. The ripe ones. The leaves of the bush were still damp from watering. The drips of water caught the sun as its light cascaded over the house. He moved the blueberries he picked to his mouth. One after another
The associated press @ap
Malaysia airlines has lost contact with a passenger plane over the Ukraine.
The man felt pretty confident about the piece he just wrote. He knew some changes needed to be made. He liked it though. He sent a copy to a writer friend in another city to get her opinion on it. The child sat flipping through the pages of a book. The book told of the vacation plans of a crab and penguin.
Three men entered the bank. They carried assault rifles. They had spare clips taped to their bodies. They left the bank manager tied up and fled with three hostages. They used one of the hostage’s SUVs to flee the scene. The police were behind them. The guns started firing. Police reported that the gunfire was almost continuous throughout the chase.
BREAKING NEWS: A large IDF force has just launched a ground operation in the Gaza Strip. A new phase of Operation Protective Edge has begun.
Shadows beneath the trees were cool pockets away from the glare of the sun. The stroller travelled between these patches. The heat of the day had begun to build in the air. There was still some coolness lingering, in the stray breezes and in those cool pools of the tree shade.
Fuck them they shouldn’t have been flying. This is a war.
The child had developed a routine for humpty dumpty. He stomped around until he heard the line about humpty’s great fall. Then he flung himself to the ground.
This is what the plane looks like if it disappears.
I saw objects falling from the sky, I thought they were bombs. I thought they would explode.
These are breaking news stories so we won’t be able to cover these stories until Friday. Wait, I’m informed we don’t have a show on Friday, which is good because those stories are super depressing…
– Steven Colbert
A hostage had been shot and then flung from the car. She is expected to survive. The police spotted an ambush. Bullet holes were in cars and houses for miles. Another hostage was shot and flung from the car. She is expected to live.
America this is quite serious.
America this is the impression I get from looking in the television set.
America is this correct?
The child raised his arms in the air and then moved them back down as itsy bitsy spider was sung. The glass walled community room of the library contained the parents and the children. Books were read, bubbles blown and songs were sung.
Out came the sun and dried up all the rain.
You know what’s truly weird about any financial crisis? We made it up. Currency, money, finance, they’re all social inventions. When the sun comes up in the morning it’s shining on the same physical landscape, all the atoms are in place.”
Breaking: Malayasia Airlines flight MH17 shot down over Ukraine. 298 people on board are all believed dead.
The man received an e-mail from his writing friend. She confirmed what he suspected about the piece. It was solid. He had felt it and it flowed well. He bundled the child in the stroller and they made their way through the neighborhoods. It was time for lunch.
The tank moved down the street. Faces peered out of the doors and windows of houses and watched it pass. Dust was in the air. Men moved in formation after the tank. They observed the street through the sights of their guns. The ground rumbled from nearby bombs.
The smoothie was a blend of frozen berries, bananas, milk, yogurt, kale and peanut butter. The child slurped it through the straw of the sippy cup. The child saw the trees and the houses pass. He knew the words for these objects. He knew the words for the cars that traveled down the streets. He reached his foot out of the stroller and kicked it through a leafy branch that draped over the sidewalk.
They pushed their way through the swaying sunflowers. Here and there they pointed. They brought tarps and covered the bodies they found among the sunflowers. A finger of smoke stained the sky from where the plane had crashed.
Events are following one another at a mad pace
The white smoke was the exhaust of rockets. The black smoke was from the burning buildings.
The woman cleared the wall. She was looking for a cab to hail. The driver was unable to stop as he cleared the turn. After striking the woman he pulled his car to a halt and waited for the police to come. People gathered around the body, after a while the singing of the traditional Thai song deuan pen (full moon) was heard across the Chiang Mai highway. The crying friends of the woman had gotten the gathering passersby to join in for the singing. It was a favorite of the woman, who was already gone.
Two of the robbers were dead and the last hostage. She had left her daughter in their car to get money out for a haircut. It is unknown at this point if the fatal bullet was from the robbers or police. Shells are everywhere. The chase ended when the tires of the suv were blown out. Tarps are placed over the bodies.
The day moves on. Heat is slowly slipping away in the shadows. The man looks at the computer screen. It is the only light in the living room. The child is asleep and so is the man’s wife. The house is still. He is reading some online tributes to John Coltrane who died on this day in 1967. He sees a post on Facebook he doesn’t understand. A cousin of a friend he hasn’t thought of in a couple years has posted a picture on her Facebook wall implying that this friend was dead. The man is confused thinking the cousin is dead, but it’s the cousin posting it. There is a series of confused comments on the photo. Someone said this is not the way to share this news. There might be translation issues as the cousin is Thai, the man’s friend is part Thai and had been living in Thailand for a while. He scrolls down the friend’s Facebook page. Her last post is of her holding an Atlas Moth, the largest moth in the world. It fills the palm of her cupped hand. The text of the post starts “I can die now…”
“But the past is passed; why moralize upon it? Forget it. See, yon bright sun has forgotten it all, and the blue sea, and the blue sky; these have turned over new leaves.
Because they have no memory . . . because they are not human.”
― Herman Melville, Benito Cereno
The dark of the backyard. The sky was a deep blue still slightly pregnant with the day’s light. Trees shook in the distance as the breeze moved through them. The man stood in the silence of his backyard. The Facebook post had disappeared and he could find nothing online. He hoped it had been imagined. He saw the distant lights of a plane blinking against the immense bowl of heaven. He watched as it approached its elevation and then went steady towards its destination westward. The trees continued to pulse, and the sky lost all trace of the day. The man went inside. He would not know his friend was dead until the next day. A day that rolled out like all the others. Just like July 17th in the year 2014.
“It was so interesting, when [John Coltrane] created A Love Supreme. He had meditated that week. I almost didn’t see him downstairs. And it was so quiet! There was no sound, no practice! He was up there meditating, and when he came down he said, “I have a whole new music!” He said, “There is a new recording that I will do, I have it all, everything.” And it was so beautiful! He was like Moses coming down from the mountain. And when he recorded it, he knew everything, everything. He said this was the first time that he had all the music in his head at once to record.”