Man you can tell how seriously I take this whole personal brand thing when you see the last time I updated this site was
twobaaahahahahahaha three years ago. Really workin’ it out here. Growing the profile. Yup.
Anyway I’m breaking my silence to talk about a couple projects I’m tangentially involved in that you might find worthy of your consideration.
You might remember my friend John Davis from his work as one half of the Folk Implosion or, if you’re really hardcore, from a run of startlingly beautiful solo recordings he made for Shrimper in the ’90s. These days he’s a schoolteacher and maintains one of the more compulsively readable blogs you’re likely to run across, and last year he released his first new music in more than a decade, a sprawling and cinematic album called Spare Parts. Happily, he’s not going to make us wait so long for the next one, and a couple weeks ago I got to spend a fun couple days in North Carolina playing bass on it. Ever wondered what a fretless hollow-body Godin tuned to drop-C sounds like played through a Leslie? This will be your chance to find out. (Hint: it sounds unhinged. Thank you, Scott Solter.)
John has set up a kickstarter to help fund the album’s recording, which I’ll let him tell you about. Reminder that John is a teacher. He’s trying to raise a measely four thousand bucks, which is half what he’s figuring he’ll spend on it. That kickstarter link again.
I just moved away from Rochester, New York, where I lived for most of the last fourteen years, but it’s still close to my heart. One thing I’m bummed I won’t be around for is a new radio station called WAYO that seeks to bring truly independent, free-form, community-based programming to a city that, while it actually has a surprising number of non-commercial stations, the “free-form, community-based” parts? Maybe not so much.
Mike Yates hit me up for a mix CD for their fund-raising campaign, an easy enough thing to do. But then I got ambitious, and started digitizing a bunch of thirty-year-old cassettes that I knew would soon be going into storage purgatory, perhaps never to be seen again. Several months and an eight-hundred-mile move later, my mix CDs—two volumes!—are done. Last night I wrote up a description about them.
It’s hard to believe, I know, but once upon a time there was no such thing as Pitchfork, or Spotify, or YouTube, or The Pirate Bay. When I was growing up—and here I betray my age—the way you found out about cool music was by having cool older siblings, or, if you weren’t so fortunate, by listening to the radio. And if buying an album meant wiping out two entire weeks’ allowance, you filled the gaps by hoarding blank tapes and keeping one paused in your boombox with the play and record buttons pushed for when you heard something come on that sounded intriguing.
Luckily for me, the cultural wasteland of suburban southern California in which I came of age did have one thing going for it, and that was KSPC, the Pomona College radio station which was and remains one of the best and most fiercely independent in the country. And so I would sit there by the radio listening, pausing and unpausing, filling up cassette after cassette which I would then listen to endlessly while carefully weighing my next investment.
Thirty years later, these tapes represent a time capsule, a window into an alternate narrative of ’80s music, one that overlaps slightly with the version that’s been codified, repackaged and resold by a thousand and one “eighties nights” dance parties but is mostly made up of stuff that’s been largely forgotten for one reason or another—the songs that didn’t have massive publishing companies behind them trying to wring a few more bucks out of their back catalog by pushing ’em onto nostalgia comps.
These CDs compile a cross-section of minor classics ranging from synthpop to punk rock, and I present them as evidence of what a truly killer radio station can mean to a community and especially the people growing up in it. Today there is no shortage of other paths to discovery out there, but radio is unique in that it’s so much closer to the cool-big-brother/sister model than almost anything else: it’s made up not of playlists and algorithms but actual human beings with their own ideas, their own tastes and opinions, sharing them with an audience of engaged listeners. KSPC opened my eyes and ears to things I would never have otherwise encountered, and there is an absolutely direct connection between the music I discovered through it and my career in music today.
Here’s hoping that someday someone can say the same of WAYO.
What I fail to mention here is that of course these CDs consist of rips from thirty-year-old cassettes of shit taped off the radio, and they sound like it. Still, they’re pretty entertaining. Check out the WAYO indiegogo site for info on how to get a copy.
They say parenthood changes the way you see things, and it’s true. You look around and think about the kind of world you want your children to grow up in, the future you’d like to imagine for them. If you write songs, it almost can’t help but inform your work in some way. Say, like this.
First song and title track from an album that might be a little more slowly forthcoming now, but it’s coming. In celebration of the birth of my little girl, and in full solidarity with occupations everywhere. I’d be joining you, but we’re going to be occupying our house for the next little while. Meantime here’s a song to rally the troops. Let’s do this.
John, I see your Billy Bragg cover, and I raise you one Minutemen cover. Not exactly a union song per se, but a call to arms and the song that’s been in my head on continuous repeat for about the last two years. Feel free to download, link, share, whatever. Power to the people!
all these men who work the land
should evaluate themselves and make a stand
can’t they see beyond the rhetoric
the lies and promises that don’t mean shit
and all the men who learned to hate them
they keep themselves hidden away
they keep themselves upon the hill
afraid of the day they’ll have to pay
for all the crimes upon their heads
and all the men who learned to hate them
Side note, just as a heads-up: anyone disappointed with the lack of activity on this site is urged to check out the tumblr at right, easily subscribed to via rss, which I update almost daily and has become my kinda default hub for internet activity. See you over there.
Hear, hear! As of today, we are officially in business: Fangio is now available as a guilt-free digital download from iTunes, eMusic, and Amazon. Turntable-enabled physical object–fetishists may still order our beautiful numbered vinyl editions directly from Fayettenam, of course, and are encouraged to do so!
Big picture fans are likewise encouraged to click on Davey G. Johnson’s brilliant Evita send-up, above, for the full-res version. Suitable for framing, or multiple-story Diego Rivera-style hand-painted murals, your choice.
Pictured above with the fruits of his labors is illustrator nonpareil Marty Davis, perhaps the only person in the world capable of generating persuasive likenesses of both myself and Juan Manuel Fangio, from memory, and without question the only person capable of morphing them into the iconic visual punnery you see here. These are the records; this is the album. They turned out fucking amazing. They look and feel ridiculously great. So stoked! Go to Fayettenam and get yours! (The shirt is a prototype. Stay tuned.)
Pleased to report that as of this week Fayettenam is not just taking but filling orders for both the 7″ single and the LP. They exist!
Today, in celebration of this fact, some further elaboration to enhance your listening experience. Spoiler alert: lyrics and song explanations beneath the cut!
So here’s the deal: it’s still indie rock, and sometimes, when you’re doing super-limited, tiny runs of things, pressing plants aren’t always as cooperative as you’d like them to be. So yeah, the actual, physical 7″ single we’ve been promising? It doesn’t quite exist yet. The covers look great though! And we have been assured that the records themselves will indeed be pressed, along with the the LP, in time for the latter’s promised due date of September 7.
In the meantime: order from Fayettenam and Scott will see to it that you get the downloads now to tide you over.
In more exciting news:
Five thousand plus views in a week! We are blowing up in the Hooniverse, on the Autoblog, en français, in Polish (!), on Saabs United, and, most importantly, in Argentina! We can only hope for such love from actual, uh, music critics.
It’s time, folks. Today, a little history to get you up to speed. Bold bits link to images and are worth checking out for contextual immersion’s sake. Enjoy!
October 8: Juan Perón born in Lobos, Buenos Aires, Argentina
August 24: Jorge Luis Borges born in Buenos Aires, Argentina
June 24: Juan Manuel Fangio born in Balcarce, Argentina
March 12: Sixten Sason born in Skövde, Sweden
November 15: Augusto Pinochet born in Valparaiso, Chile
So yeah, as I’m sure many reading this are aware, it’s July now. But I only called it a “target date,” didn’t I? Not every shot is a bullseye.
New and final release dates, and to quote Scott at Fayettenam, this is a “hard deadline”:
7″: August 10
LP: September 7
That’s the cover of the LP above. The vaunted video will be up when the single drops. Yet to come: an exhaustive listener’s guide, a Fangio timeline, downloadable posters, Fangio: the Novelization, a feature-length film. Better not to hold your breath on the last two, maybe. Seriously though, we’re putting together a full-on assault. When it’s over, people who google “Fangio” will see pictures of Saabs. I am bending the fabric of reality to my will!
Meanwhile: in the fine tradition of Inland Empire tribute albums past comes Smooth Sounds: The Future Hits of Wckr Spgt, the Shrimper 20th anniversary compilation. Thirty-six Shrimper alums—including the likes of Refrigerator, the Mountain Goats, Lou Barlow, Franklin Bruno, Simon Joyner, Charlie McAlister, and Jad freakin’ Fair fercryinoutloud—interpret Wckr Spgt songs penned exclusively for the purpose. The one I was assigned afforded me the opportunity to make real a long-threatened idea for something called Joel Division: Spgt songs sung in the manner of Ian Curtis. You need this.