() WHAT WE SAW LAST NIGHT: Oct 30, 2007 8pm – a Shocktoberfest Grand Guignol variety revue at the Thrillpeddlers’ Hypnodrome -
() WHAT WE SAW LAST NIGHT: Oct 30, 2007 8pm – a Shocktoberfest Grand Guignol variety revue at the Thrillpeddlers’ Hypnodrome – http://www.thrillpeddlers.com – support live theatrical art at the edge of madness!
Hypnodrome, 575 10th St/Bryant, Tues October 30, 2007, 8pm. Featured guest artists: vocalist/keyboardist/songwriter Jill Tracy, her tuxedo-clad soundscapist/ drummer/ percussionist Randy Odell, and extraordinary guest violinist in tux-and-tails, Paul Mercer. Plus the super-talented Hypnodrome Theater Company.
What a night! Some experiences fill your head with so many ideas and images and thoughts that you can barely recall one-tenth of what you’ve been exposed to. I think the whole evening just walked the line of being minimally acceptable to the pair of lucky 11-year-olds I brought with me – at 10pm, one told me: “Dad, I think you scarred me for life!”
We arrived before 8pm – myself and the two 11-year-olds – and sat in the front center row; the best seats. Right away, Hypnodrome host Russell Blackwood introduced me to Mel Gordon, a U.C. Theater Professor and encyclopedic theater historian (google him) who has penned about a dozen books, including “Grand Guignol” and “Voluptuous Panic,” about sex in the days of the Weimar Republic. His next books are about little-known sex cults (including one in Palo Alto) and the history of “bad acting” – can’t wait to read these. We both agreed that there is still so much to research – how could anybody be bored, with a world so full of wonder as close as our back yards, literally. It turned out we had both met Felicity Mason, Brion Gysin’s adopted “sister,” and he had a colorful anecdote to tell about her. He also lived three doors down from Andy Warhol’s Factory, and often saw him at parties. Mel is very busy these days – he’s flying to Paris for three weeks to give four talks, including one at the Sorbonne about “Sex and Performance” (doubtless the Viennese Aktionists figure in here) – and he talked about how busy he had been in the Seventies and Eighties: “If you have no money, you have to keep working.” He quoted William S. Burroughs: “America is a bad country. It was bad before the Indians came.” [Where was THAT quote from?]
Then we watched a stream of some of the “best” movie trailers ever seen, for “Tentacles,” “Herbie Goes Bananas,” “Females for Hire,” “The Children,” One Million Years B.C.,” “At the Earth’s Core,” and an amazing old short called “Bicycle Tricks” – a must-see for every fan of the “new” lightweight one-speed you-can-pedal-’em-backwards bikes so popular now. Russ announced that these film trailers were courtesy of www.deadchannels.com – whose physical home is the Vortex, 1082 Howard/7th St – I’m guessing that these type of films play round the clock at this locale.
The short live theatrical pieces began with “Werewolf Mama” featuring a female werewolf, one Audra Wolfmann. Just great classic burlesque, about four feet away. Amazing wolf eyes, wolf teeth, wolf fur on all the “right” places and flawlessly choreographed moves to a song the Cramps taught us. Then two “high school” girls [Larkin Boero and Sarah Eismann] appeared and read a Jack T. Chick pamphlet about Christ vs. the Devil – very charming; perfect gestural language. Next, a burly masculine actor [Erik Tyson Wertz] with a hairy chest and shockingly pink nip-ples – dressed in a pink dress – read from the “Penny’s Guide to Teenage Charm and Popularity” (sic; written late 50s?) while a woman [Kara Emry?] in a black vinyl dress whipped him/her – btw, with a great deal of charm and an unpredictable, but always appropriate, variety and intensity of lashes. The frightening banality of the text spoke volumes for the social attitudes of the time.
A curly-frizzy-haired blonde [Indra Lowenstein?] came out escorted by a male nurse [Will McMichael], languishing and apparently shrunken and withered in a wheelchair. Suddenly she resurrected herself and then proceeded to sing, ostensibly, about selling her wheelchair?? She sang, really very well, a Ruth Brown classic naughty song about something to the effect of: “If I can’t sell it, I’d rather sit on it; I won’t give it away.” Her charming performance was also done to a classic strip-tease, but a very original one – whoever used a wheelchair as a prop before? (N.B. some people look as good from behind as in front.) Then we heard on the player piano a recital of Simon and Garfunkel songs which sounded, really, much better than the originals – they almost sounded like Schumann, in a way. Who knew that songs like “The Sounds of Silence” and “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme” and “Mrs. Robinson” could sound so “classical”? And that these songs had been “recorded” on piano rolls?
Local celebrity writer/comedian/infiltrationist Harmon Leon came out, donned a black terrorist ski mask, and read from a book covered with white paper, doing a routine which had the audience yelling and harmoniously/loudly participating. It had something to do with Judge Joe Brown (?) which apparently is a TV show everybody (but me) watches. He was loud and enthusiastic and it seemed the entire audience was already in his pocket before he even came on-stage. I didn’t get it, but it everyone else was having fun, so…
The Jill Tracy Experience…
In 1978 the San Francisco Mutants sang, “These are the New Dark Ages.” Ohio’s DEVO was spreading the notion of “De-evolution” – that humans, instead of evolving, are devolving – i.e., becoming stupider and stupider…becoming a nation of dimmer, not brighter, light bulbs. Did Punk Rock predict the future? Is that why it still attracts thousands of each new generation, thirty years later?
Well, if these are indeed the New Dark Ages – and it seems like they are, with the last widespread optimism linked to the long-gone Sixties Space Age – well, what we need now are dark songs that express our time. If we’re lacking in history, we need songs that teach us history. And that is what Jill Tracy sang to us tonight: her song, “Torture,” was a small recitation of torture instruments through the ages. She called for audience members to name torture instruments, and of course somebody yelled out “Iron Maiden,” etc. Then she taught us about the “Brazen Bull”: “It dates from Rome” – perhaps the days of the Roman Coliseum, where gladiators fought to the death for the entertainment of the unemployed masses. The unfortunate “torturee” was placed into a hollow bronze bull and a fire was lit underneath which slowly and no doubt painfully burned the individual within to a blackened crisp. Flutes were placed in the bull’s nostrils or mouth, and the screams of the victim allegedly caused “beautiful” music to be “played” for the delight of the emperor or members of the reigning class. Select blackened bones were sometimes made into bracelets afterwards.
Jill Tracy writes beautifully crafted, classic structure songs, but with exceptional lyrics like “I like the way you leave me cold” and “Haunted by the thought of you.” Beautiful, somewhat somber, minimalist atmospheric keyboards (Roland RD-300SX) were augmented with an exceptionally wide range of highly sensitive and always appropriate percussion effects, to create a full panoply of sound allowing the vocals to be 98% deciphered – unlike most live music shows. A new tune from her forthcoming album had the line “The Bittersweet Constrain” – it was another magic noir un-love song.
Then Jill Tracy gave the stage to visiting violinist Paul Mercer, who flew in the day before from New Orleans (?); the three had had just one short “rehearsal.” Paul hooked his violin to a DigiTech electronics processor unit on the floor. He announced the theme of the music would be about a 130-year-old violin named Daphne (?) and proceeded to give an amazing, full-range orchestral concert with just one violin – reminded me of the famous H.P. Lovecraft story, “The Music of Eric Zann.” This was a real eye (and ear) opener: how a four-string violin with a bow can summon up a sky full of thunderous war currents and swooping sounds, dying down to melancholy faraway strains and the rising and falling wail of an ambulance siren. Hypnotic, athletic, EPIC, really – and all done by one soloist with a violin.
The next song was about a violin brought back to America from a missionary to India. The drummer (Randy Odell) was onstage very quickly (Jill Tracy: “He’s very efficient”) and the two began a musical journey to India which started out very tentatively and built up to an amazingly percussive, Indian raga-like trance dance frenzy — full applause.
Then Jill Tracy joined the stage and announced a new song about the art of poisoning. Couldn’t help but think that this was a kind of ultimate performance, what with the extremely sensitive true “accompany”-ment of the violinist and percussionist. Her next song was the tale of a man who had committed suicide in a Midwestern hotel in Room 19, and it was… just perfect, musically, in mood. Next was a Kurt Weill-Bertolt Brecht-like hit that she still gets royalties from, for being in a film or TV show (?): “Evil Night Together”…
Again, it was hard to imagine these songs being “better” than heard tonight live, with just Jill Tracy, percussionist Randy Odell, and super-violinist Paul Mercer. Sheer magic! Perfection. Improvised. Best of all: Virtually Unrehearsed.
Then, sadly, I had to leave, to chauffeur two 11-year-olds home; it was 10pm… Sometimes all good things have to end too soon, but — better 4/5 of an evening than none. From the start I knew I’d probably have to leave early (it’s a school day tomorrow) but looking back, it was all well worth it, and Hail Satan (just kidding) for arranging the fates thusly. When people such as the Hypnodrome crew can put on such an amazingly high-quality, just plain “wonderful” live theater show – if you’re lucky enough to be there, you realize you’ve just had a hint of something extra-mortal, uber-human, transcendent – maybe the concentrated ghosts of Shakespeare’s Globe Theater or the Commedia Dell’arte of the past are swirling around the room . . . and you think that THIS is the new avant-garde: live, un-censored, living theater, taking risks, unafraid to be dancing on the razor’s edge… This night was (sadly) not video-recorded and therefore can never be “commodified”… It was magic, it happened, and it vanished…
Went home and googled Jill Tracy and found this quote by Lydia Lunch: “”Jill Tracy – I thank you for your deliriously sweet and evil musical beauty, your unique talent and independent strength in these, the days of not only the Dumbing Down Of America, but the profoundly redundant state of music in general….” Lydia nailed it. Another quote: “The femme fatale for the thinking man.” “Macabre torch songs.” Found a video (and even lyrics!) of her new “Torture” song: http://blog.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.view&friendID=48316602&blogID=282945121
Also discovered her tour schedule at http://www.myspace.com/jilltracymusic and her official website: http://www.jilltracy.com
Well, it’s nice to have discovered another artist of depth and substance, especially in an age where it’s easy to feel that almost none still exist… Jill Tracy: “the elegant side of the netherworld” – maybe “netherworld” has replaced “underground” now. No wonder Biafra had raved to me about her. The new music of the future will give us history lessons, and restore to us our lost authentic emotionality, in an age which J.G. Ballard has described as “the death of affect.” The death of authentic emotionality and emotional response, indeed… NOT YET – not as long as a handful of people like Jill Tracy, Jello Biafra, Nick Cave, Henry Rollins, and Lydia Lunch keep “kicking against the pri-cks” (to paraphrase Shakespeare). And handing us reasons to still keep living and deciphering what we really feel – what our intuition tells us instantly – while hating the old, still-clinging-to-life, fake world of pervy Bush Republicans and twisted religious psychopaths… [end] – http://www.thrillpeddlers.com , http://www.grandguignol.com – Thanks to Scott Bryan, Chris Paulina, James Toczyl, and everyone else behind Hypnodrome
() Thur Oct 25, 2007 Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) of London presented a San Francisco outreach celebration titled “Figures of Speech” and sponsored by some amazing-sounding software called “SpinVox” which transcribes your speech as you say it – wonder if it could be used to transcribe interviews? Featured guests were Matt Gonzalez (one of our favorite people in the world), Lynn Hershman Leeson (local feminist art pioneer), and others including Aaron Rose, who started an edgy New York gallery at age 19. We were invited by Jack Rabid who surprised us by devoting his five-minute presentation to all the ways Search & Destroy had inspired him (at age 15, 30 years ago), and we were somewhat floored, and of course, deeply honored. For some reason we hadn’t heard of Jack Rabid before (blame our attenuated interest in post-1984 music production, except for brief infatuations with the Riot Grrrl and Swing movements) and hereby print his condensed “bio”:
“Jack Rabid is the founder, editor and publisher of 27-year-old semi-annual music magazine “The Big Takeover,” and has written for many other publications… A consistent blogger at bigtakeover.com, he has regularly been on radio shows, film documentaries, MTV, and has DJed hundreds of rock shows in Manhattan since 1979, including the legendary “Rock Hotel” punk shows. An original late ’70s punk rocker/New York scene member as a teen hailing from suburban Summit, NJ, he also oversees a small record label, Pink Frost/Big Takeover Records, and lives in Brooklyn with his wife Mary and cat while expecting their first child.”
Afterward, the ICA Artistic Director, Ekow Eshun, came over and said how he had been influenced by reading RE/Search at Compendium Bookstore in London’s Camden Town, while in the 80s and 90s. His clever concept for the San Francisco event was (we read this AFTER the evening was over]: “Tonight will be an evening of dynamic presentations, challenging our six speakers to concisely introduce and explain the one thing they could not live without.” [therefore, we were extremely moved that Jack Rabid chose as his "object" a copy of "Search & Destroy 11" with the Mutants on the cover] “Drawing from an infinite array of objects and experiences, each speaker must deliver their narrative in only five minutes, no more, no less [with PowerPoint slide/video help allowed].” This is a great idea for ALL public speeches – and every presentation was “interesting” – a favorite being the Aaron Rose speech about his early Mod zine – great photo of him on a motor scooter looking exactly Paul Weller [the Jam] 1964, but in a Los Angeles suburban backyard! We also enjoyed a Kenneth Baker talk featuring a de Kooning painting we’d never seen before that was complex enough to be a kind of “classic” – we were never fans of the artist before, but this was the “best” de Kooning we’d ever seen…
A few days later Jack Rabid sent us his magazine “The Big Takeover 60″ and we found a quote by The Shins, a band whose first CD we liked: “…People generally are seeking out authenticity in all realms of their lives. Wanting to buy older houses and fix them up, instead of buying sh-tty stuff in the suburbs. Even food choices; the restaurants have better quality local produce. There seems to be this desire for this authenticity that’s growing. Maybe we’re part of that?” [What is this: the "Authenticity Movement"?!]
() We also met the charming Alasdair, another ICA cohort, and highly recommended he go to Shocktoberfest Hypnodrome – and he ACTUALLY WENT! He emailed us: “Hi, Vale, hope this finds you well. Thanks so much for the recommendation for Shocktoberfest – it really was a great evening! And we had a nice chat with Russell, too, quite a chasracter, very friendly and lots of energy. Would be great to stay in touch, and thanks again for the magazine, and signing it for me – gonna frame that one. Best wishes, Alasdair.
I replied: “In my opinion the event you saw is one of the most original experiences “happening” right now – in an age of post-Walter Benjamin mass reproduction, it’s “refreshing” to have something “real” happening right before your eyes, for you only, which is not being video-recorded. Real time, real people, just a few feet away, breathing the same air as you … Making un-censored “art.” Shocking, in part because most of us are not over-exposed to live “theater” cuz it normally seems so affected, over-stylized, over-dramatized, and besides is quite “dear,” admission-price wise.”
Alasdair responded: “Thanks Vale – had to read up on Walter Benjamin to fully understand your email, and now I agree, it is precious. One forgets as well that the suspension of disbelief in “live” theatre is so much more tenuous; it is all the more emotionally engaging when it is done well…Thanks again, Alasdair.”
() We saw a “live” performance of Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” and were impressed. This must be the year of the violin (for us); Psychic TV (PTV3) also featured a violinists… Hmmm…
5. What We’ve Been Reading/What We’ve Been Sent:
() Raymond Chandler: “The High Window.” More dramatic than John Fante, more complicated than Ernest Hemingway… Evil, stingy rich woman manipulates everyone around her to jump through flam-ing hoops and get burned…
() Michael Connelly: “The Overlook.” Newest mystery by one of the reigning masters of sunlit noir – the threat of nuclear terrorism used to bait the (little-known) Homeland Security goon squads…
() Jack Rabid’s THE BIG TAKEOVER 60 (glossy 8.5×11″ magazine, 224pp, $5.99) – order from bigtakeover.com – Interviews, reviews about “Music with Heart.”
6. RECOMMENDED LINKS – thanks to our friend Phil G, James McN-, & Others who sent us the below:
() “you can listen to some previews – I always thought the Ramones were closer to a surf band than punk” – Phil G. – http://cdbaby.com/cd/ramonetures
() “here’s my interview with brad (“hard core zen,” “shut up & sit”) warner” – gary g.: http://…com/2c67y2
() sent by Naut Humon: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/technology/technology.html?in_article_id=487039&in_page_id=1965
() sent by Karen Marcelo: “forwarded to me, found on google:
() Donations for Jackie Breyer P-Orridge funeral (member of PTV3 and THEE MAJESTY) can be sent by PayPal:
to the following address:
Thanks – Jean-Pierre Turmel, Sordide Sentimental –
() “German Prank” sent by Phil G.: http://www.yesbutnobutyes.com/archives/2007/10/the_restroom_mi.html
() “From Lydia Lunch: Please enjoy my article on Herbert Huncke-Guilty of Everything – now up at this link”: http://www.yourfleshmag.com/artman/publish/article_1092.shtml
Check my new track The Ghosts of Spain and the listings for my upcoming shows:
() Confuse, astound and parody: http://www.instructables.com/id/Look-Like-Your-Enemy-Create-signs-that-confuse-a/?ALLSTEPS
() from Kent B: http://www.projectcensored.org/censored_2008/
() sent by Scott (Units): “Howie Klein did a new Prez Bush video with Units music:”
() The announced “Tirage de Tête” / Pascal Doury special edition is finally available !
Packed in a special box with glued on top a splendid Doury silkscreen … A delight for all Doury’s amateurs and people with “good taste” … This includes :
- 2 limited silkscreens taken from unreleased drawings (see below),
- a Facsimile consisting of a 90-page story wrote by Doury’s wife, Nathalie, and drawings by Pascal Doury. Price: 90 Euros + shipping –
() “Please forward this link to anyone who is listed on any wedding [music] band listings as a band for hire: http://www.marcgunn.com/2007/10/warning-to-musicians-internet-wedding.shtml – It’s very sad that people are preying on vulnerable musicians, whom are usually desperate for funds. Everything you get in an email should be treated as a potential con nowadays. – thanks, Sandra”
7. PENELOPE HOUSTON Intv by Stephane von Stephane (next issue she will review Red Beat, ‘The Missing Album’ www.manicmachine.com )
1977. Any given night, San Francisco. Anyone who was around during the original Punk Rock explosion will remember Penelope Houston as “just the girl, the girl, The Girl You Want…” (Devo). We all wanted her. And why not? She was the intense, beautiful, fire-and-ice leader of The Avengers, the best punk band in San Francisco. She would take the stage at 199 mph and never slow down, pogo-ing up a sweet sweat, snarling out her brilliant political lyrics, eyes flashing in a controlled burn while the crowd went wild with lust and desire. Danny Furious drummed like his name, Jimmy Wilsey thunked along on bass while Gerg Ingraham thrashed away on guitar. But all eyes were definitely on Penelope. She’d sing: “In the beginning there was a void, except for the written word, I was born in such foolish times my guilt is guaranteed…” (“Corpus Christi”) We pretty much adored and worshiped her as often as possible at the Mabuhay Gardens on 443 Broadway as she reminded us that “It’s the American in Me that makes me watch the blood running out of the bullet hole in his head.” and “It’s the American in me that says it’s an honor to die in war that is a politicians’ lie.” And that was way before the current debacle in Iraq.
Things just don’t change all that much. She’d sing (in “We Are the One”): “I am the one who brings you the future, I am the one who buries the past, a new species rise up from the ruins, I am the one who was built to last!” And she has lasted. After an extended detour in neo-folk land, Penelope is back as an Avenger, much to my delight.
October 8th, 2007, a perfectly temperate Monday afternoon at Penelope Houston’s lovely and modest craftsman-style home in the Rockridge area of Oakland. A polite young man lets me in the door and says Penelope will be down soon. Would i like anything? No, I have brought coffee and water. The ‘Merch’ is obscuring he the quaint 50′s table, so I sit in the living room – nice dark wood and spartan decor. I check out the small paintings on wall (by Tomata Du Plenty from the Screamers) and move into the alcove containing an easel with a self-portrait of S.F.’s first punk rock femme fatale. Then, the woman herself comes down the stairs in a silk bathrobe, eyes still flashing and still beautiful. Perhaps remembering exactly who I am, she announces, “I’d better put on some clothes.” She hands me the current issue of “Spin” magazine with an article (which she is in) on punk rock, east coast, west coast, London, and heads back upstairs. Minutes later, we settle on the comfy overstuffed velvety couch to talk.
S.v.S.: The last time was I saw you was at an Avengers show 3 years ago at Cafe Du Nord -
P.H.: We played there about six times. This show coming up Wednesday at the Bottom of the Hill is our first show that’s not at the Du Nord or the Dirkfest. It’s the first show of the tour. There are 16 dates across the country and almost all the shows are All Ages.
P.H.: Yeah, it is good. And, the next day we go to L.A., in fact the band is driving right after the show.
S.v.S.: No tour buses, still driving in a van?
P.H.: Yeah, but I’m gonna fly the next day. Two of the band are also playing with Pansy Division who is opening for the tour, and they need to go down and rehearse. And I’m like, “You know, I don’t need to be there for that, so I’m goin’ the next day… I so love my bed.”
S.v.S.: And the time I saw you before that was at the Howard Dean rally… last election… it’s been that long.
P.H.: Wow… that might have been the weirdest show I’ve ever done.
P.H.: Well, first of all it was a rally, for Howard Dean, presidential…
S.v.S.: But you were FOR Howard Dean – you wanted me to show up; I had never even heard of Howard Dean, you were really into it.
P.H.: Yeah, I guess I was for Howard Dean, but he wasn’t even at the rally – he was going to appear by video, so 90′s… And then the sound…we were playing on the floor and the sound was coming out of the ceiling from these little circular discs with holes in them way up high in the ballroom. It was at the Hyatt Regency [Market St]. There were all these folding chairs, and sound trickling down out of the ceiling like poisonous gas…
S.v.S.: Peter Coyote was there, and he was warning about the electronic voting machines and how they could be hacked into…
P.H.: I missed that because we were off somewhere practicing an acoustic version of ‘The American In Me’…
S.v.S: And a lovely version it was…
P.H.: Thank you.
S.v.S.: So, do you have any feeling about this next upcoming election? Do you have any fire in the belly for politics anymore?
P.H.: I’m a little sour… America is… it’s hard to hold up. We need a big change, and if that happens I’ll feel better and engage a lot more. After the 2004 election people were just so sickened. I basically did not turn on the news after that. My total disgust from seeing Bush’s face on TV weaned me off TV completely. At first I thought, ‘Well, I’ll JUST watch The Simpsons or Antique Road Show; then I just stopped watching entirely.
S.v.S: Yes, I see you have a TV but it’s covered…(draped in fabric).
P.H.: Yeah, that’s just for DVDs now.
S.v.S.: TV IS the opiate of the masses – most people are happy with TV, football, and beer; that’s all they need.
P.H.: Some of my relatives have moved to France…
S.v.S.: Exodus expatriates!
P.H.: I think hopefully people will become more vocal, if it seems like someone is listening. Whereas now it’s just ridiculous – the administration is just doing the opposite of what people want.
S.v.S.: And they SAY the exact opposite of what they are actually DOING. It’s very Big Brother, but we’ve seen this coming for a while. What can one individual do?
P.H.: You gotta raise up your voice and scream loudly.
S.v.S.: And that’s what you’ll be doing on tour. So, do a lot of younger people come out to the shows? Are they all energetic and into social and political change? Do you have your finger on that pulse?
P.H.: I don’t have my finger on that pulse exactly, but I think that the way people communicate is changing. The Internet is changing the way people get information and interact, especially with young people. That’s why something like MoveON! is good, because they’re using that as way to communicate their intentions. But, I haven’t really been thinking that much about politics lately.
S.v.S.: So, what has been on your mind?
P.H. In the last couple of years I’ve written a bunch of songs I need to record. My life has changed a lot in the last 3 years.
S.v.S.: I heard that you are not married anymore.
P.H.: Yes, that’s true. You saw the young man upstairs – we’re pretty close. Also, since 2004 when the Avengers re-formed, I also started playing with my own band and we’ve done 3 European tours, some English tours, a couple American tours…
S.v.S.: So, your own personal creativity is your passion now?
P.H.: You could say that. I’m trying to keep up the house payments.
S.v.S.: Could I just ask you about the ‘singer/songwriter’ phase of your career?
S.v.S.: Did I see you on David Letterman? I can’t remember…
P.H.: No, I was never on any big-time TV shows, but recently I was on Josh Kornbluth. (laughs).
S.v.S.: I saw that – that was good.
P.H.: I did some big-time TV in Germany. What happened was, I had started doing the singer/songwriter thing in ’83, after I came back from living in London. I was listening to Violent Femmes, Tom Waits, and getting into some quirky-sounding quieter stuff. I did that for a while and then suddenly these Germans starting coming over and saying (German accent), “The San Francisco Sound – You are the Queen of Neo-Folk – blah blah blah!” We were on the cover of magazines there and started touring over there and got signed to Warners in Germany. We did a few albums for them, “Cut You” and “Tongue.”
S.v.S.: So, you never longed for big-time American success?
P.H.: Well, I was signed to Reprise here, but I was ‘licensed’ from Warner’s Germany, so they treated me like some bizarre European Import, though I was in their own backyard.
S.v.S.: It just seems to me that you were as good as some of the other “women’s music” artists that were being signed during that big phase, so I wonder what happened?
P.H.: (laughs) YEAH!!! No, it was like Reprise would say: “Why don’t you write a hit single?” and I would say “I’m writing songs. YOU make them hit singles – that’s YOUR job!” There are a lot of talented artists, and when you get one song that takes off and becomes part of the zeitgeist, (like Beck with “Loser”) then it all works out. But that kind of fame isn’t THAT interesting to me. When I got signed I got a little chunk of money and bought this house. I’m kind of happy with how everything turned out. I like writing and recording songs, and it’s nice when someone says “Here’s a bunch of money to record; do anything you want.” But they don’t really say, “Do anything you want”; they say, “Make a Hit.” It’s a pain in the ass. So, having had that, and not having it anymore, it’s fine. I can focus on writing songs, and do different things when I feel like it.
The Avengers has been super fun. One of the things I do is make up different lyrics for “I Believe In Me” every time we play it. Whatever’s on my mind I can sing about it. Whatever is bothering me – like our sitting President, for instance.
S.v.S.: Oh, that’s fun.
P.H.: I want to put out another album, but I don’t exactly know how to do that as “The Avengers” without the other members. Danny’s in Sweden. Jimmy said he wants to write some Avengers stuff though, so that would be good. I was just at his 50th birthday. He’s in Southern California, has a job as a computer expert for some company. He’s putting out an instrumental country western album. (check out his MySpace page). Brad has disappeared; they say he surfaces and plays in front of a liquor store every 3 years, then disappears again. Jonathan Postal was the bass player before Jimmy, for like 5 shows.
S.v.S.: He took photos of me and Sid Vicious at that Winterland show that you guys played at, then he disappeared. I would love to see those photos.
P.H.: I bet they were really cute.
S.v.S.: I was wearing a hospital smock with ‘Media Controlled Event” painted on it – lyrics from a Nuns song.
P.H.: And Crime didn’t play that show, they didn’t want to be opening act, and now regret it, undoubtedly. I saw them play the other day at Amoeba. They have a re-release.
S.v.S.: I remember when you first started doing the singer/songwriter thing I would always want to hear Avengers songs and you’d get really angry and vehemently state that you would never do that again.
P.H.: Did I say that, really?
P.H.: People are always telling me things from the past that I have no recollection of. Like, the other day someone told me he remembered seeing me around San Francisco during the early days wearing a jacket that said “Leave Me Alone” on it, which I don’t remember. (laughs) It’s a great idea, though; I think I’ll start doing that again.” [end]
Review of Avengers show, 10/10’07
I looked forward to this Avengers show almost as much or more than I did all the original shows back in ’77, ’78, and I was not disappointed. It occurred to me this time around that Punk Rock is not a music to be listened to, really, but more to participate in. If one is capable of wild abandon, this is the soundtrack for that. At age 20, wild abandon is a natural state of affairs. Would I be “feelin’ it” still at my age? Yup.
The Avengers’ music compels – always did and always will, methinks. I could not help but pogo to “Thin White Line.” I briefly considered the ubiquitous videophones and the possibility of my image on YouTube with the headline ‘Here’s a Laugh: Ancient Punk Rocker Attempts to Pogo As In Days of Yore.’ But then I figured, Oh well, that would be true, and probably pretty funny, but who cares?!! That is the great thing about getting older: nothing is embarrassing anymore, and other people’s opinions just don’t really matter all that much. Not that our days of sensitivity and openness are over, hopefully, but this “older” perspective is in place and that is freeing.
Penelope is as stunning as she ever was, and Greg shreds on guitar. The newer bass and drums are fantastic. Us older scenesters would naturally want to be seeing Jimmy and Danny, but that ain’t the way it is, so we’ll take the excellent musicianship and spirit these guys show. As Jimmy points out on his MySpace Blog; “The Avengers reformed a few years back – Penelope and Greg with two new members. They have toured and played more places than the original band has by far.” Jimmy will be at tonight’s show at Spaceland in L.A. on guitar.
Two young women at last night’s show came down from Oregon. Penelope dedicated “Corpus Christi” to them. Their car broke down before they got to California and they hitchhiked the rest of the way here – that’s dedication. I also saw Johnny Strike and Hank Rank from Crime in the crowd. Jack Rabid, who wrote the Spin (Oct 2007 issue) West Coast Punk article was there. An old B&W photo of Johnny Rotten graces the cover (check your newsstands now). By far the hottest punker besides Penelope was Greg’s daughter Enika who was dressed in a black & white striped t-shirt, mini-skirt, fish-nets, and spikey heels (tres early Debbie Harry/Edie Sedgwick). She is also a musician she tells me, and her brother Miles, also in attendance, plays classical piano. Good genes! I told her “Your Dad Rocks!”
Dog made an appearance and heckled Penelope. She told the audience that she used to be his sidekick on a cable TV show in the 80′s. Before cameras rolled each and every show she would turn to him and say, “It’s all YOUR fault, Dog! Y-OU are to blame for EVERYTHING!!” inspiring a nervous start to every show. Speaking of nervous starts, I had forgotten how “testy” Penelope gets before a show, so … if you see her before the Avengers go on, Leave Her Alone! After the show she is cool and always talks to the fans. The Merch is cool, too; if I’d had any cash I would have bought a black T-shirt with the classic band photo by Marcus Leatherdale.
They played all the great songs: “Cheap Tragedies.” “Open Your Eyes,” “White Nig-ger,” “American In Me,” and more…the encore of course; I Believe In Me! I went to see the Avengers as many times as I could back then, and if they stick around I will be comin’ back for more. I gotta say, I am not as fond of Punk music as a genre as I used to be, but the Avengers were always my fave. Once at the Mab someone threw a full bottle of beer at Penelope on stage. I dashed over to where he was perched on a ladder leaning against the wall, and I pulled the ladder so he fell off. Then I dived back into the sea of people and commenced pogoing. A minute later I was grabbed from behind and taken down by that guy – he bit my thumb really hard and wouldn’t stop. My girlfriend ended up biting his ear or something to get him to let go. I ended up in the Haight Street Free Clinic to get a tetanus shot. But I wouldn’t let anyone hurt Penelope. She was unaware that the whole thing had happened. She gets totally into the music. Long live the soundtrack to wild abandon. – S.v.S.
() “I have my share of dreams, just like everyone else. In fact, I dream most of my movie plots, or at least the basic idea for them. I keep a small night lamp at my bedside (with pad and pencil) and I jot down notes when I awaken.” – William Castle, quoted in John Stanley’s I WAS A TV HORROR HOST, http://www.stanleybooks.net
() “I try to recreate the childhood fears of the little boy or girl or the baby. I feel I have to break through the senses of the conscious mind and attack the unconscious.” – Roger Corman, quoted in John Stanley’s IWATHH.
() “We all have a need for reassurance. The worse reality becomes, the more we retreat to fantasy.” – Robert Bloch, quoted in John Stanley’s IWATHH
() “Comedy…is the other side of the coin of horror. Both depend on the grotesque and the unexpected for their effect.” – Robert Bloch, ibid
() “Fascinating is a word I use for the unexpected.” – Mr Spock, ibid
() “…the best way to relieve the current agony of air travel is to get the passenger trains running again. Let the airlines do what they do best: really long-range trips. Let trains do the rest. We will consume less foreign oil. The jobs now hemorrhaging out of the US auto industry could move into the passenger rail and rolling stock sectors. Everybody will be much happier.” – james howard kunstler – http://www.kunstler.com/mags_diary22.html
() “I am still expecting something exciting: drinks, animated conversation, gaiety, brilliant writing, uninhibited exchange of ideas.” – Edmund Wilson, author of Axel’s Castle
() sent by Mindy: “We learn from history that we do not learn from history.” – Hegel
“Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.” – Kierkegaard
9. Feedback from Readers:
() Sent by Russell Blackwood of HYPNODROME Theater – Support local San Francisco innovation, genius, talent, perseverance, diligence and pains (literally): bring your friends to the Hypnodrome, 575 10th St/Bryant – www.thrillpeddlers.com, www.grandguignol.com. The Shocktoberfest 2007 runs from Oct 4 – Nov 17, 2007 – plays usually take place on Thur, Fri and Sat nights…
“Vale, I’m touched and tickled by your blog. You know what it is to make something on purpose and then get a response like that, particularly from someone you respect and admire – I feel great. Thank you.
“Funny, I’d just sat down at my desk to write a blog about meeting you on Saturday night! Seems we’ve struck a chord in each other. How grand!
“Thank you again for books! Reading from Pranks 2 proved to be great day-after-opening R&R. I read Jello’s and the John Waters’ interviews. I actually had the pleasure of seeing an exhibit of Water’s artwork in NY a while back, but I hadn’t heard much about the whys and wherefores behind his visual art. This exhibit also featured screening rooms for each of his first 3 films and a “cardboard theatre” recreation of his home office – served up with a complete catalogue of the books, records and videos in his libraries, including of course his extensive collection of por-no tapes. I really dug reading the list of plays, not to mention all that Genet! I’ll tell ya, I’d be hard pressed to tell you everything that man did to me in the Bijou Theatre when I was 13, but that matinee of Pink Flamingoes put sparks in my brain. Shameless, joyful, divine sparks that spur me on, perhaps now more than ever.
“I went back to the HG Lewis sections of “Incredibly Strange Films” with an eye towards prepping for this 11/3 interview and hey, that was an illuminating read and for reasons well beyond what I’d intended. It has colored my conversation these past few days, influenced what I planned for tonight’s brush-up rehearsal of Shocktoberfest!! and how I responded to an interview I did last night about the show on Pirate Cat Radio.
“Anyway, it all reminds me how grateful I am that I can read. How much I enjoy doing it and why I crave the after-effects that reading like RE/Search books have on me… I hope you and I will meet again soon! – Russ”
() Chris Paulina wrote: “Hi V.! It’s me, Chris, the lighting and sound designer for Shocktoberfest 2007. Thank you for coming to the show. It was such a pleasure to meet and talk with you on Saturday night. Thank you also for the great blog on the show and for encouraging others to come. Just wanted to share this review of the show from a real audience member. It’s our favorite so far. We must be doing something right…
“This is a very violent and disgusting program. It includes depictions of violence to human beings, simulated cruelty to animals, disgusting language, excessive scatological references and sexual objectification of men and women. It was so disgusting that I left at intermission. I am still having bad dreams because of it and may need to seek therapy.”
If that doesn’t get more people to come, what will? Hey, if you’re ever in the mood to hang out and have a drink (on me) and talk about everything, let me know. Take care and write soon! – Chris
() CHRIS – THANKS! Wonderful quotation from the real audience member. We all need more of these! It’s negative dialectics in action! Or, the Lure of the Forbidden/ Atrocious/ Horrific – like the uncontrollable urge to look at a grisly car crash. Thanks for a great evening, and look forward to a future Hypnodrome experiencing – best, vale
() bought Incredibly Strange Music CD in New York maybe 10 years ago, and one day it
just stopped playing (maybe i listened to it too many times!!!) !!! Incredibly Strange Music had a huge contribution to my music culture… Anyway, i’m a musician, you might like to check these out: – www.myspace.com/thelegendarytigerman – www.myspace.com/wraygunn – All the best – Paulo
NOVEMBER 2007 RE/Search eNewsletter written by V. Vale & contributors. Newsletter and website powered by http://www.laughingsquid.com
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