Monthly Archives: March 2009

Alix Lambert: photography

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photo by Peter Suschitzky

Although I have worked in, and continue to work in a number of different artistic mediums, I have had an enduring love affair with black and white photography. For me, black and white photographs inherently elicit a feeling of nostalgia. They allow my imagination to follow numerous narratives for any single given image. There is an elemental joy to be extracted from the search for the moment that has passed.

 

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http://www.pinkghettoproductions.com/

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Darryl Jenifer of Bad Brains: A Realist

 

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by Damon Locks (original interview appeared in Stop Smiling magazine)

“So I say to the youth right now, don’t sway to the unjustNo matter what they say never give in, never give in” – At The Movies, Bad Brains

When I listen to your early stuff I hear a Black Uhuru or Dennis Bovell or Burning Spear kind of influence, but I don’t know what you guys were actually listening to.

HR and Earl, their parents are from Jamaica. Doc and I are Washingtonians, and I didn’t know much about the Caribbean. The reggae I was first listening to was the Ruts, Bob Marley, Augustus Pablo and Black Slate. It was a mixture of what the Clash was doing with reggae and what was around at that time.

Sid McCray (original singer for Bad Brains) was the one that was searching the Yesterday & Today Records, the imports and all of that. Right around the time we were starting Bad Brains we were doing a lot of fusion shit under the name Mind Power. We never really played out or got established, it was just a teenage band. People were tripping on how we were like Mandrill or Chick Corea’s Return to Forever or Mahavishnu Orchestra. We were on some conscious DC shit. It wasn’t like we were going down to Anacostia Park; we weren’t just on some go-go head shit. We just wanted to be different. We didn’t want to be banging on trash cans. I grew up on Sly and the Family Stone and Aretha Franklin. I remember when my mom was looking for a house out in Silver Spring, Maryland, and it was a split-level with a yard, like the Brady Bunch.  I was from the hood, and as a young man things that were supposed to be white were interesting to me.  I would go and find the one little tiny patch of woods and play in it.  My mother would always wonder why I wasn’t at the basketball courts, or the rec center.  I would be in the creek, playing with a frog or something. I think I thought that was getting away from what I was supposed to be doing.  So with music I started doing the same thing. I remember WPGC used to be a white radio station and I would hear Sweet Home Alabama, and David Bowie’s Golden Years, and even the Steve Miller Band.  These were white artists crossing over in to the black music like “Fly Like an Eagle”. You remember how brothers used to dress?  I might have been the brother with the leather pants on some black hippy shit.  I remember when we were teenagers and Sid came through with the Sex Pistols, the Ramones, Dead Boys, and No New York.  It was a noise thing.  The blessing of it all is that I was a youth that wanted to explore other avenues rather than just rolling with what you’re supposed to.

I can relate, my family lived in Silver Spring and we were one of four black families in our neighborhood.  I grew up on groups like Kool and the Gang and songs like Fly Robin Fly (by the Silver Connection). Then a friend of mine started making me tapes of the Jam, the Clash and Joy Division and got me really thinking differently. The DC scene was something that really helped me out. The first show I went to was Minor Threat & Government Issue at Wilson Center.

DJ: That’s real right there.

That first show was electrifying, and to tell the truth some of my favorite shows as a kid were your shows. You guys were ferocious.

DJ: Thanks. Back then…you saw the real deal. Only people from that era really know why people say that we were good.  The changes that we started to go through, the other stuff we started to do like I Against I and more metal-esque stuff, but there was a time when all we played was covers…punk covers!  That was when we were the Bad Brains,  When we crossed over with the rasta and the PMA (positive mental attitude) got stronger in ‘82 and ‘83.  That was our heyday. So if you saw us then that was the real deal, the real essence of what we had popping.

It was phenomenal.  I remember this one show, at a really big place, watching you guys from up on a balcony somewhere.  Everybody was going nuts,  I had to get my courage up to go dance because I was only fifteen years old but I just had to go down there.  

DJ: To be a part of the energy.

Yeah.  I still put Bad Brains up there as some of the best shows I have ever seen.  I have seen some shows since then that blew my mind, like Sun Ra and his Arkestra

DJ:  Sun Ra is my man, I got to play a show with him.  At the Irving Plaza, in ‘84 as a group called “Me and I.” It was a very extreme event.

Were the Clash and the Ruts an influence or contemporaries?

DJ: They were an influence. A lot of these guys are back in 77.  I was still a kid playing basketball. I was wearing pins of theirs they were influences of ours. We were not the beginning of this. The last time I was in a pit was at a Ramones concert. I never even did slam dancing, for me it was pogo-ing. This pit stuff that was back when Bad Brains were just a mission. This was before hardcore was invented – we’re not even hardcore. I remember the first time somebody told me we were hardcore.  I was like “Really?!”

Well it is interesting because you can hear the speed and ferocity pick up as the times change.

DJ:  And its not necessarily the band saying ‘We’re going to do this or that’…

It’s the times.

DJ:  Yeah, you know actually it was. It was these kids starting bands thinking that we’re playing fast and trying to play like us, but playing faster. So then their bands open up for us and are playing fast, and we’re like ‘Oh, it’s a build up thing?’ Fast wasn’t even a conscious thing, it was just how the music formed. It may have started as a pogo type music, just jumping up and down. But as times changed and Ian (McKaye) and kids were making bands, figuring they were playing faster than Bad Brains, while we just figured we were playing faster than the Ramones, and they don’t even play that fast. I remember when the riff from “Sweet Home Alabama” was hard [chuckling].  That shit was hard to play. So the times were making things change. That was the glory of the whole thing. It wasn’t a bunch of contrived moves. It was the great spirit at work with the art and the youth and the time and ages. Our riffs weren’t designed to play fast. When we tried to play faster that was what actually fucked us up.bad-brains

From my perspective the Bad Brains entity was something I had to comprehend. The lyrical information as well as the musical information was not something I had come across previously. When you guys were writing all this stuff, was there a concept that you were going to have this unified front?

DJ: People say ‘Bad Brains has had such a sordid past- you break up and get back together’ but that’s not right. We were a brotherhood long before we ever started Bad Brains. We were friends and picking each other up and playing music on a totally different level. We started out just trying to play music like the records we were listening to. And we had our whole punk thing going on, but it was when the rasta came in that EVERYTHING started to change. We were on the PMA, the positive mental attitude, which was basically saying give thanks and praise on an intellectual level. We started to get more faith oriented listening to the teachings of Marley and all the Rasta stuff in our music and you can hear the talk about Babylon and the bourgeoisie or this and that, but the music was different. The PMA becomes the rasta ideals. The message in the music gets away from PMA and goes to rock, everything starts going to God. If you look at the lyrics, seeing that we’re an entity, like you said, the energy behind the riffs is all the same. We’ve always been together. When the riffs start coming out and we say we’re gonna make a song, we’re all coming through on those lyrics. People say, “Aww you broke up.” We didn’t get together through ads in the newspaper. The Bad Brains has a life of its own.

It all happened before, you know, with Little Richard, Chuck Barry, the main ones that did that duck walk, that’s the beginning of this shit. Some things we call white culture was really African American culture, slave culture, coming out of blues. So sometimes they say, “Darryl why you play that white boy music?” It’s not white boy music or simply black boy music. The juxtaposition of those things is what upsets me about the situation of being black and wanting to be something different other than what you’re supposed to be: just be that. Back then, I didn’t even know I was black, they didn’t even know they were white, all we knew was that we were punk.

At the time in punk/hardcore unity was really important. So if you had your people going through the same thing you were going through, shaving your head or getting a Mohawk, it was those people that were your support system.

DJ: It didn’t matter what their color was. When people put the emphasis there, I’m like why do that. It insults me. I’ve said, if you’re black, that’s a natural fucking fact. Nothing you can do about that. Now if you want to be punk, be punk, if you want to be rock, be rock. All I’m saying is I don’t think you got to be ignorant to be black, and I’m not saying if you trying to act articulate you gotta be white. What I’m trying to say is, if you’re black you’re black if you went to a white school, cool. Just let punk rock be punk rock, its not about your color, its not a white deal…If I had known I was a black punk, it might not have been as fun.

You guys have gone through a lot of changes. Did people play closer attention to what you were doing lyrically and spiritually in the early than after I Against I?

DJ: Yes…but I’m too quick to say that. You can do what you want and be what you want in music, that’s the main message of Bad Brains. All the fast guitars and stuff, that’s cool, but that’s the bells and whistles. And with the rasta and the punk, it’s the same: it’s rebel music. That’s what happened with the Brains. We opened up for Peter Tosh and that was one of the scariest concerts ever played. It was an all Jamaican audience at Stony Brook University in an amphitheater where people sit down, it was packed and we were opening. This was 1985, maybe, early. We get up there and start ripping our punk shit. We finish the first song, nobody says nothing. They just looked at us. We rushed through a couple more, then they start booing us a little bit. But we kept at it, and we played a reggae joint, long story short, by the time we ended they all stood up clapping. Everyone that was there that day saw that music, art, creativity and expression had no boundaries. If we were bullshitting, they would’ve booed us. We were serious. They saw that and felt that. Same thing I’ve seen happen to us recently at the Ashbury Park Concert, right in the middle of the hood. Black people were sitting out on their porch, they kept seeing me, I’m signing autographs, but they see all white people, really, and they see the dreads, and they wonder, Who is this band? Is it reggae? After the set when I came offstage I waved to them, and they all waved like they were happy to see that shit.

Bad Brains has turned into a punk music staple, which is great. The problem right now is that a lot of people are starting to see Bad Brains as an icon separate from what you are and what you did.

DJ: The band is God’s work. We don’t have some big organization to get us concerts or make records. None of us are who we were. I don’t want to play no Vegas shit. We’re playing the House of Blues and this is a way I keep my music and my band alive. We know Bad Brains is something God has given us to be and do, whether we like it or not. I feel like I’ve created some classic musical expression. With that in my pocket, I don’t really care what anyone says about any of my art. I did what I said I could do. I put my heart into every riff I ever wrote, I never wrote one song that wasn’t inspired. So when I hear someone say, “Oh this or that sucks”, it doesn’t hurt my feelings. I’ve been great at what I said I could do. Right now, the way we’re functioning is different; it has become really a cosmic group. We don’t practice but for the most part we put on some great shows. HR is what he is these days. He’s not doing what he did in ’82. The dude’s 54 years old. HR has got all the charisma in the world, but its not ’82. Its interesting now, this band just seems to live on. We live on because we never blew up. We never had platinum sales, and we’d always go away for a long time and come back. The band will always be here until one of us takes off. All I’m trying to say is, the Bad Brains has got a life of its own, and we don’t ever know what’s popping.

I always felt that there was a tension because I used to go see HR (frontman H.R.’s reggae band) back when they were playing in DC, and I always felt that this was an outlet that he needed to have because the Bad Brains had gone to another place.

DJ: But he doesn’t really get it. He gets it, but…he’s like Sid McCray. To me its something very technical. Its not a joke. There’s no element of Bad Brains that I got any problem with. I’m with the whole concept of the melding of the flavors, the whole thing. I think sometimes HR doesn’t like to be known as this manic-wow-punk-rock motherfucker. I don’t mind. I know all I got was this creative juice. I’m just a dude that wants to be creative. I had yellow hair and earrings and all that shit. I was like the New York Dolls and all that shit, just me being me.

When I Against I came out, tunes like Re-Ignition, Return to Heaven, that sort of thing, from my perspective, that album sent a ripple through what was then the underground. All of a sudden, people starting writing riffs differently, it illuminated a way for a lot of people.

DJ: We were being progressive with our writing, so we came out we tried to be thoughtful: Stevie Wonder influenced Sailin’ On. We wanted to mangle riffs up and the only way to do that is go back to punk. People sometimes mistake it as metal.

I never saw it as metal because it continued to be so raw. You guys took a turn that created a whole new doorway.

DJ: We played the adolescent style of punk rock and we kept it progressive and we came out with the I Against I. Then with the Quickness record, the riffs starting growing more metal-esque. We’ve always stayed inventive with our riffs. But you notice on our latest record, we went back and I created riffs that were reminiscent of the old style. Every record we ever came up with until this newest one (Build A Nation), we were still forging forward. And if you go back and listen to God is Love, Rise, you hear the riffs trying to go somewhere different, be something different, find something different. This is the first we didn’t, not try to copy ourselves, but we put it in neutral and I said, when people listen to the riffs on this record, they’re going to say, that’s them. There’re gonna say that’s the Bad Brains. That was the intention. The Bad Brains sound is the Rock for Light era which was our first set that we played. Not I Against I, not even Quickness, those records are the Bad Brains trying to kick it.

Its like when you said, if someone saw you previous to I against I, that was the real Bad Brains.

DJ: That’s the real Bad Brains. Now we do this shit, we still driving it but we driving it like we know how we drive it.  People need to know about the Brains. You know – talking to you, talking to people…it’s real. You didn’t ask me questions like a normal interviewer and I appreciate that.

I’m glad you enjoyed it because the Bad Brains mean a lot to me. I know that you know this already, but you guys affected so many people of my generation and most people that I know that ever came across Bad Brains in any time period. It’s probably part of my creative, genetic make-up. To this day, I listen to the music and am still blown away. Sometimes I say, “How did they write that?”

DJ: A lot of those riffs caused friction amongst us when we used to play together, it was a battle between us. We wanted to have the shit pop off right. We were very serious about the concerts, especially me. I’m still like that today, it’s a responsibility. I pride myself about being ready, but I realized not everyone’s like that. The only thing that has to be pure is your intention. There’s two sides to everything, even my bitching and moaning. We kept our riffs as tight as they could be. What God wanted to show us was that no matter what color you are, no matter where you come from, you can do whatever you want to do with music and art. Its expression so express yourself. I remember when the Beastie Boys used to be punk rock. I honestly believe if it wasn’t for the Bad Brains they would’ve thought twice about getting into rap. The Chili Peppers opened up for us in LA, they were like a frat boy band. A frat boy band that wanted to play funk?  That’s what they were. There are all these things happening at the same time. We used to play out there with Bad Religion at the Santa Monica Civic Center. We rolled out to California in a van – from DC going to a stadium gig when the Dead Kennedys, Bad Religion, the Circle Jerks when all these groups were jumping off. Its God’s work, this whole thing, it’s the great spirit showing the world. Before, it wasn’t like that. It was white boys played this shit, black people played that shit. I don’t want people to get me wrong, for people to think I’m a racist or a bigot. I’m a realist. 

 

http://www.badbrains.com/index2.html

 

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The Politics of Architecture

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by Eve Fineman

The relationship between art and politics is both old and new, clear and complex. Numerous mediums lend themselves quite readily toward a political end, music being particularly apt through its blending of word and sound.  Yet music can do much more than simply inspire through its lyrics; it is a vehicle for giving large groups of people a political voice.

Being fortunate enough to come of age in Washington D.C. in the 1980’s, the multifaceted relationship between music and politics revealed itself to me in life-changing ways. Through participation in punk percussion protests across the street from the White House, and organizing benefit shows for local women’s shelters, I was able to see how many layers of political meaning can exist within the single medium of music.

During the same period that grassroots music scenes were addressing political issues head-on, the visual arts were also moving in a more outwardly political direction,  with such unforgettable works as Martha Rosler’s 1989 collaboration entitled “If you lived here.”  This Dia Foundation exhibition presented multiple positions on issues of housing and homelessness in disarmingly graphic and straightforward ways.  The interdisciplinary approach brought together fine artists, graphic artists, designers, architects and urban planners to address an ostensibly unsolvable problem. 

It was invigorating, as a newly minted architecture student, to learn that these issues for which I had sought an outlet through music, were clearly relevant to the field I was beginning to explore. And yet somehow this relationship, the one between architecture and politics, remained elusive to my peers outside of the discipline. To be political and creative meant writing, performing, painting and protesting, but not designing. 

Seeing this disconnect between the politics of architecture and the artistic activism of other genres, it became clear to me that the general public was not likely to perceive the political potential in buildings.  Yet now, as we approach an ever-more politically active and aware time in the collective consciousness, it is perplexing that there remains a general unawareness of how our most public of arts can have much to do with governments, wars and our relationship to the earth.  Although large groups of non-designers seem to have a greater interest and investment in aesthetics and “green design,” we continue to believe the myth of architecture as a vessel, either benignly apolitical or symbolically heroic. We must, if we are to move forward with a deep desire for sustainability, look at public architecture with a more critical eye, and hold it to higher standards than the current ones of structure, surface and systems.

For an example of the structures we mistakenly hail as symbols of our democracy, we can look at MiesGE001699van der Rohe and his iconic buildings in Chicago.  With a charming trip down the Chicago River on an architectural boat tour, a visitor can learn how Mies escaped Nazi Germany and was given amnesty here to produce his modernist visions, the steel and glass structures which are now emblematic of Chicago’s skyline. Chicagoans readily embrace the notion that, without our open Democracy, modernism as we know it may not have been given a chance to flourish. Yet rarely is it mentioned on these tours or in conversation that in 1934, roughly four years before moving to the U.S., Mies signed a motion in support of Hitler, in the hopes that he may be selected as the Architect of State, beginning with his being shortlisted for the design of the state’s new Reichsbank. Nor do Mies’ soaring structures get shown alongside his 1935 competition entry for the German pavilion at the Brussels World Fair, upon which a similarly visionary structure is adorned with an eagle and a swastika.

While we cannot hold Mies responsible for the outcomes of Hitler’s regime, neither can we continue to perpetuate the myth that he is a political hero whose buildings represent pure democracy.  This democratic ideal that we so strongly believed in during the middle of the 20th century is now morphing into our desire to respect the earth and live sustainably. And so, with the Mies story in hindsight, we must be careful when jumping on the sustainability bandwagon and not get too seduced by the latest renewable material or self-generating energy source. These things alone do not turn buildings into heroic emblems.

With the rigorous standards developed by the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), corporations around the country are boasting of their greenness with regard to the ratings of their newly constructed or renovated buildings. Yet perhaps it is our responsibility to look into this a bit further before feeling placated that companies are treading more lightly on the land. Take, for example, Lockheed Martin’s new facility in Sunnyvale, California. This LEED certified headquarters houses a corporation which, according to its stated mission, is “pursuing projects that protect natural resources, conserve energy and reduce emissions,” all while producing, storing and developing a vast supply of bombs, missiles and weapons of mass destruction.

I might suggest that LEED incorporate a client or occupant profile into its ratings checklist, requiring negative points for things such as providing the means for  destroying human life, or denying certification altogether for a company that paid a $110 million dollar fine for failing to properly clean up a nuclear waste site. We may want to ask ourselves what about these practices is sustainable, or how such a corporation came to be awarded the “Global Climate Change Champion” by National Geographic in 2007. As informed citizens, I ask that we look beyond the vessel and into the story behind the building to see how these beautiful structures we build are intrinsically tied to the politics of our time.

 

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Death Is Not The End

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photo by Tammy Hackney

Interview with bassist/vocalist Bobby Hackney and drummer Dannis Hackney of the band Death by Damon Locks (original interview ran in Time Out Chicago)

Three talented siblings, young black men in Detroit, in 1974, have a band called Death that records an album that no one has heard until now.

…For The Whole World To See is the unearthing of a previously unheard lp by a band who, unbeknownst to them, were operating at the crossroads of rock & roll and the birth of American punk music. Their ideas were youthful and honest. On these recordings you can hear the pulling at the seams… the beginning of something new. 

BH: The record is being issued for the first time. It’s kind of a remarkable story. Here we were, this all black band, signed up to the black rhythm and blues production label that had no idea how to promote rock and roll and no idea how to sell it or market it. So, we were all really just taking a heavy chance.  At the time there weren’t very many white producers or white record companies in Detroit that would be willing to take a risk on three black guys from the inner city playing rock and roll. We wrote these songs in 73 and we recorded them in 74 and 75 at Groovesville Productions in Detroit. 

The Beginning:

BH: We were fortunate enough to have a dad and a mom that always had all types of music. My dad used to listen to the blues station. They used to play all of the B.B. King and the Etta James, Sam Cooke and all that kind of stuff.  But my mom used to listen to CKLW. CKLW was a mainstream station. You would heard a song by Motown but then after that you would hear a song by Jimmy Dean or a song by The Beach Boys. Then in 64 my dad, god bless him, he made us all sit down and watch The Beatles on Ed Sullivan. He had told us that this was history in the making and he wanted us to be a part of that. We didn’t understand why we were watching at the time then The Beatles came on and our jaws just dropped. They next day David found an old guitar in the alley and we pretended we were playing Beatles songs.   

The Roots:

BH: We formed a band in 71. When we started out it was all three of us and a cousin that would visit every summer Cleveland. We were doing kinda funky stuff. Because in 68 Sly and the Family Stone, that whole explosion had hit the scene. We used to go down to the Detroit Auto show and see Bob Segar. He wasn’t Bob Segar at the time, he was Bob Segar and The Last Heard (they made Travelling Man). My mother’s boyfriend (at the time) was a security guard and he got us into all the concerts for free at places like Cobo Arena, Ford Auditorium, Olympic Station, where all the rock acts would come. That’s when we saw Iggy and The Stooges, Alice Cooper, The Who. We knew about Iggy and The Stooges and Wayne Kramer and MC5 cause they were regulars though out the whole Michigan area. When The Who came out in 1973 with Quadrophenia, that made a big impact. My brother Dave was really heavy into Hendrix, everybody was. David took note of all these great chords, power chords,  that Pete Townsend was doing. David’s thing was, if you could get a guitar player that can do leads like Hendrix and chords like Pete Townsend that (to him) would be the ultimate rock guitarist. The 3 bands that made the big impact on us were the MC5, The Stooges and Grand Funk Railroad (this was before they put the keyboard in and became Grand Funk).  The great thing about Detroit was the variety. We used to watch this dude who used to come out of Canada called, Robert Seymour’s Swing Time. That was like a Detroit ritual, every Saturday afternoon you had to tune into Swing Time. On Swing Time he would have a line up like Smokey Robinson and The Miracles, then he would have like The Rascals or Grand Funk then The Four Tops. 

DH: That’s when we saw Ted Nugent.  

BH: Ted Nugent used to come on Swing Time and do some outlandish stuff. I remember a show he had on where he had Ted Nugent and the very next act was Joe Tex. It was a real variety show. So, people in Detroit were used to a whole lot of variety. 

The Black Community:

BH: People thought that we were crazy.  We were in the middle of the black community. James Brown, The Motown Sound – singing groups like The Spinners, The Philadelphia Sound – Harold Melvin And The Blue Notes, Marvin Gaye, this is what the black community was tuned into. Earth Wind and Fire was the closest thing that the black community had to rock and roll. So people would be like, “You guys should play Earth Wind and Fire.” We got that so much we almost had a distain for Earth Wind and Fire.  So many people wanted us to be like Earth Wind and Fire instead of Led Zeppelin. We did have fans in the black community that would tune into us, to what we were doing, rock and roll but the ones that misunderstood us far outnumbered the ones that understood us. 

DH: We saw ourselves as a viable black rock act.

BH: A major influence was when Jimi Hendrix did his thing with Live At The Fillmore East with Buddy Miles and Billy Cox. We did realize that it was a novelty for us to be playing for us to be playing rock and roll music. 

DH: Sometimes in the black community its fun to be a novelty and sometimes it’s not. 

The Record:

BH: We put out a limited edition 45 of Politicians In My Eyes/Knock On Knocking. Politicians was written in 73 and the draft was still in place. To be honest with you we were all worried we were going to get drafted too. The very next year Nixon ended the war. We wrote Politicians In My Eyes, we were on fire, just like everybody else about that Vietnam thing. A lot of those lyrics are attributed to Nixon. There were other politicians I thought about but he was the focal point. 

The Radio:

BH: Our favorite radio stations to listen to were WWW, WRIF, WABX in Detroit. There were the three top rock and roll stations. We had some deejay connections there. They would only play us very sporadically, late at night or on one ups.  There used to be a time were a guy would walk up into the deejay booth, hand him the acetate. They deejay would play it and love it and by the end of the week he had a major hit. We kinda came in at the tail end of all that. The deejays would tell us, “We love this music but you gotta get it into rotation. Then we will play it all the time.” That was the whole problem. Later we come to find out all this great rock and roll we were listing to in 75 and 76 was being pre-taped in like Dallas Texas. 

The Response:

BH: We went through so much rejection. So much rejection until we didn’t think anybody wanted to hear our music anymore or the type of music we were playing.  Then on top of that the disco era hit. I still think of 1976 and my stomach almost gets sick. After what happened to the music. Band that we looked up to started jumping on the disco bandwagon. The only two words I remember about 1976 were the words “disco sucks.” Cause that’s what we were chanting all the time. Those were my nightmare years! For all rockers those were bad years! There were flashes of light during the whole disco thing: Fleetwood Mac, Patti Smith. They kinda eased the pain. The disco ebb was too strong. We were like “People don’t even like rock and roll anymore. They like John Travolta.” I mean John Travolta wasn’t even a musician. That’s how much respect we had for disco. We would tell other musicians, “That’s just all about John Travolta. He is not even a musician, he’s an actor.”

Punk: 

We weren’t trying to predate anything we were just trying to do really good rock and roll.  We left Detroit in 77 (then moved to Vermont & New England) Heard little rumbling about it. We were hearing stuff about Patti Smith and The New York Dolls. But we only really heard about that through magazines that we were tuned into like Cream and Circus. 

The End: 

We had just kinda left Groovesville productions. Don Davis (of Groovesville) almost had us a deal with Clive Davis of CBS but Clive Davis wanted us to change the name of the band. David was having no part of that. David was the lead of the band so we followed his lead. We were young and very cocky. We felt that this music was going to get out and we knew that it was going to be big. When that (deal) soured and we were on our own, we had those limited editions but couldn’t get our 45 into rotation. The only way you would get your record into rotation was to get a record deal. We didn’t quite understand what was going on, that the music industry was changing. The whole reason for not changing the name was because we had a whole concept. David had a whole concept. David was working on an opera, a rock opera about the whole concept of death. He was going to spin it from negative to positive. We asked him why do you wanna call the album Death…For The Whole World To See. He said, “Cause nobody gets outta here alive.”

 

http://www.myspace.com/deathprotopunk

 

http://www.dragcity.com/bands/death.html

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The Search For Winston Jarrett and The Righteous Flames

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by Wayne Montana

When I get interested in something I usually dive right in and get obsessed with it. When I started playing the bass I never put that sucker down. When I first started buying reggae records at the end of high school there were not all that many to be found, especially on Long Island where I grew up. I bought the Wailers records, the bad later Black Uhuru records, knowing I wanted something out of the music but not completely knowing what. When I was exposed to Lee Perry (Blackboard Jungle Dub) I almost shit myself, I mean I knew there was something I was supposed to get out of reggae but I didn’t know it would blow my mind.  Over the years lots of reggae has blown me away and to my surprise I’m still finding stuff that kills me. How much more amazing stuff is still out there from that tiny island, I don’t know but I want it all. That’s why I ‘m writing this.

In 1988 I first heard Blackboard Jungle Dub and a record called Man of the Ghetto by Winston Jarrett & the Righteous Flames. It was in 1988 that I moved to Chicago and started playing bass in a group called Trenchmouth. One of the guitar players of that group was Tom Sweets. He is an excitable dude to say the least and I love him for it. Tom played Man of the Ghetto for me for the first time. He was almost crawling out of his skin telling me about it and when he put it on he just shut right up. As I listened the hair on the back of my neck really did stand up. Man, it was an amazing thing for me. Winston Jarrett’s falsetto “whoas” freaked me out, it was an intense thing for me. Tom and I would often put this record and Blackboard Jungle Dub on and freakout.  Something to add to this drama, Tom’s copy had a crack about 1 1/2″s into the record. So we could only listen to the last 3 songs on each side without a big thump, and the needle jumping off the record every time it hit the crack. So that meant that there were even more songs on this record that I couldn’t hear untainted. Ouch!  So what does an obsessed person do when they hear something like this? They go out and find it and buy it and freakout to it over and over again. Blackboard Jungle Dub was easy, there was a Clocktower reissue around from the early 80’s (that one took me less than a year to find – it’s currently in print now go get it!). Man of the Ghetto took me from 1988-2007 to find.

It was during a Trenchmouth tour out west when I came one step closer to finding it. We always used to go to record stores on tour, and I would always run to the reggae section to find the gems. There was a store somewhere in Texas that had a big reggae section. Damon, the proprietor of this blog and the former singer of Trenchmouth, was right next to me filing through one of the reggae rows. He let out a high pitched “oh!” the sound an excited child would make when finding some secret cookies their mom was hiding for a family party. Damon always being the controlled cool guy lost his cool. He pulled it up from the other records and showed it to me “LOOK!”  We both looked at one of the coolest covers ever and one of us said “I hope it’s not cracked!” It was 100%, no cracks and if I remember correctly it was like $3.99 or something. DAMN…I was one row of records off. You see we were both on the search for this one and Damon’s search was now over. I was very happy though, now I could hear those other tunes stuck in Tom’s cracked record. I would like to add the four songs unearthed by the uncracked copy were worth the wait.

Getting closer. 

Many years of searching record stores and Damon vowing to keep a trusted eye out for a copy for me turned up nothing. What to do?…keep looking. Then years later a thing called eBay started. Of course reggae record buyers like me are not too discriminating about how much they are willing to pay for something they really, really want. I have dropped some change on some records. My 12″ of the Gladiators Pocket Money was not cheap, but shit I had to have it. So for years I checked eBay for Man of the Ghetto with no luck. One day I was checking the completed listings and came across a copy that sold for $160.00…..SHIT! That’s a lot of dough and I didn’t even have a chance to get out bid. I wouldn’t even have known how much to bid. As far as I know no one knows the quality of this white whale of reggae records. It doesn’t even show up in the reggae record guide books.

A little closer now.

At least I knew someone else has a copy. Then 2 years later BAM a copy comes up on eBay Starting at $10.00. I got a little nervous now knowing that the last copy sold for $160. Did I want to spend that much on one record? I don’t know, maybe. Cut to the chase – I won it for $38.00. I put my max bid at $105.00 hoping for a miracle, and one came my way.  A beautiful copy with no cracks is now in my possession.

The last time my current band was on tour in Japan I did what I do and was record shopping. I found a crazy store that had almost every reggae record that I have searched high and low for. Sure they had them but they were all around $100.00 each. It kind of weirded me out seeing all those amazing records one after another. Kind of like going to some rich kids house and looking at his records and knowing he didn’t have to sweat to pay for them he just has them all. Sure enough they had Man of the Ghetto for a cool $200. Of course Damon was standing right next to me when I picked it up. I showed him the price and he said “Whoa, it’s a good thing you just found a copy” and I said “No shit” So if you ever come across a copy of this never-reissued-record please buy it and send it to me, I need a back up copy. Enjoy.  

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Kim Ambriz: visual artist

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The body of work shown here can definitely be described as a sampling from the all of the visual chapters I have accumulated.

The earliest prints are the result of an interest in creating fable type narratives about mundane observations or invented scenarios, which are carried out by ambiguous characters, usually animals. When I started making prints, I looked at a lot of Mexican printmakers, José Guadalupe Posada and Leopoldo Méndez, as well as Elizabeth Catlett, who all worked primarily in relief. Their work was very influential to me in the beginning, due to the solid narratives that resulted through their use of woodcut, linocut and relief engraving. Black, white, message, story, no questions.

My work eventually began to evolve into an investigation of a personal past, which relied partially on truth, partially on invention. Catalysts included an absence of heritage and demise of language in my family, which I translated as mystery and loss. This is not the main focus of the work anymore, but it has led me to specific ways of working and presented me with visual sources that I cannot imagine being without.

For the past three or four years, my image making has been following a methodology that relies on layers, repetitions, and reuse of imagery. This establishes an exclusive vernacular where recurring symbols act as masks, mythologies and stand-ins, and functions as a pictorial language that consistently spans throughout my work. My prints and drawings are considerably informed by, reference and may well contain appropriated images and the formal structure of, pictorial histories, maps, manuscripts and chronicles, specifically those of ancient Aztec codices, Plains Indian ledger drawings and Indian miniature painting. The work explores a principal interest in myth, symbol, story and visual mapping, and also takes cues from such works as the Popol Vuh and the Mexican zodiac; these are profound influences on the recent prints and drawings that I have been working on, which portray various journeys and trials, emanated by way of forests, rivers, walls, owls, bats and dogs.  

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http://kimambriz.com/

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Derrick Buisch: visual artist

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I focus on abstract painting informed by ordinary, everyday visual information. Thirteen years of painting abstractly provides me with a fertile working territory. The major concentration in this body of work is the development of an idiosyncratic, abstract visual language. My original fascination in ideograms transitioned into a more automatic, abstract painting vocabulary. These paintings involve the investigation of three specific properties: drawing, structure, and color.  Inspirations for these works come from a variety of pedestrian sources such as: roadside signs, strip malls, graffiti, tattoos, and product symbol design.

Drawing is explored as both a signifying system and an automatic gesture. The drawings transcribed in these paintings are circuitous. Through the repetition, reconfiguration, and recycling of marks a loop is created, a dense weave of insular information.  Scraps of paper, receipts, and old envelopes from discarded mail all serve as supports for random scribbles. Sketchbooks and smaller drawings serve as a source from which the paintings quote. The marks are simultaneously lyrical and clumsy. This research calibrates the tension between the personal gesture (scribble) and the public mark (signage).

Multiple visual structures are employed to compose a range of various atmospheres.

The structure in the compositions is intended to be unsettling.  Due to dramatic cropping and an ambiguous center of balance the paintings give the sensation of falling or slipping.  This response of vertigo infects the initial act of looking at the work. A visual pressure is provoked through the structure. The paintings meant to be first visually engaging, and then unnerving.

The color represents a range of materials from the synthetic (plastic, bubblegum, crayons) to the natural (old walls, shallow pools of water, flesh), as well as having a physical presence, one that is both mouth watering and sensuous. The surfaces vary in types of paint application employed, revealing the element of time involved in making the painting.  These paintings are developed at different rates, incorporating varying degrees of pigment and oil. Subtle changes in color and surface tone evoke compressed shifts in the visual space. The differences in paint viscosity are subtle and precise and extremely important in differentiating each painting. Ultimately the surfaces of these paintings are luscious and mysterious.

I believe in the importance of the reflective space provided by painting. I relish the slow time in both the making and the reading of the work. These paintings are a distilled chaos riddled with small incidences of uneasy hilarity, which creates a rigorous abstraction that is simultaneously evocative and elusive.

My work is inspired by the poetic potential of a new vocabulary of abstraction. The varied meanings and the material possibilities of pigment are fully explored. Future research will result with abstract paintings that will be resonant and unnerving.

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http://website.education.wisc.edu/dbuisch/

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