A Life of Leisure…

October 6th, 2013

Not having a government right now, it seems like maybe a good time to write this.
Most of my friends have heard me rant about this; it is an ongoing comedy routine I do…
I walk in and start soliloquizing without prompting, as if we had been speaking already for an hour…
But see so…
Apparently in 7 years or so Nissan will have autonomous cars in showrooms.
Apparently, Google is in negotiations with a cab company for autonomous cabs.
This isn’t really a talk about technology.
This is about seeing things differently.
Perfected autonomous cars would mean:
1) No more traffic
2) Hours of commuting time used for other things than driving
3) No more accidents leading to:
a) Less need for repairs and mechanics
b) less injuries,
c) wholesale changes in car insurance. or elimination thereof. Say…you only need insurance if you insist on driving yourself…
d) Less emergency response from police, medical and fire
4) Decrease in fuel use
5) No more tickets. No more traffic court. No more DUI’s, No more traffic lawyers, judges, bailiffs, less people in jail, way less monies to local government
6) No need for taxi drivers, truck drivers, bus drivers, delivery drivers etc.

In essence, a complete restructuring of everything. A collapse of sorts as a result of a technological advance.

Um, if you don’t know about autonomous cars, and missed the first hour of my talk, which was at my house last week…
They drive themselves. You tell them where to go and then….do whatever you want till you’re there.
I want one.
Some people say: “I love to drive! I’m not letting some machine drive!”
Yeah, I’m sure you love driving to work every day and wouldn’t want to be in the back seat, making breakfast, drinking coffee and watching the morning news…
And these cars are safer. They don’t text, they react instantly, they don’t daydream, they have 360 degree vision, they stay in their lanes even when you’re smashed legless blotto.
These new technologies eliminate thousands of jobs, mostly but not all, blue collar and replace them with a handful of high skilled jobs.
That is just ONE new technology. There are a bunch of them on the way. 3D printing is just another example.
Happened to the music industry already, in a big way…
Machines doing the work for people. Jobs eliminated. Free time for people to enjoy themselves, stay in school indefinitely, pursue their stuff.
Then someone says “but…who’s going to pay for all those out of work people?” and I say: “I don’t know. But I know what Ayn Rand would say: Let em starve.”
So there’s one solution.
And you might say: “New jobs will come, they always do!”
And I say: “Yes there will always be jobs for the highly educated.
But for the rest, most of them, not really, I don’t think so. Fewer and fewer.”
So I think one of the changes in consciousness that has to happen is that some people are not going to be working, and that oughta be fine, a sign of amazing societal advances, not a sign of them being lazy parasites.
I think a lot of people will work for free and for fun. And I think a lot of goods will be free or virtually so.
All this does not bode well for the economic structure of the world as it exists today.
But it doesn’t have to be a bad thing at all, I don’t think. It’s a good thing, once you get your head around it. Which people seem to be resisting.
Education should be free for life. How else will you get skilled workers, practically the only workers needed?
Fruit will be picked by robots. They almost have those.
I am not making this up, and I’m not trying to foist a socialist agenda.
I’m just saying, technology is fact, it impacts society, deal with it.
Your job is going to go away.
Awesome, right?

Talent and Rage

September 15th, 2013

Blog 3

Well so what does that look like, a parallel universe of music that frees me from needing to really hear much of anything outside it at this point? That makes everything you play me seem kinda superfluous and trite, perfect, amazing but unnecessary? Offensive to the level of whatever commercial success it may be enjoying because I am moved more by things made by a luggage technician at the Cleveland airport? Boring because we may well have toyed with and abandoned this direction you are so excited about years ago?
Some of you may think my sister Kira and I have accomplished some things in music, participated in some history, even written or played on music that is in your I-thing.
But Kira and I would certainly agree without hesitation that we play with someone unknown to you whose talents and abilities dwarf us and have since we began in high school. In fact, in conversations we have agreed that he has more talent than both of us put together.
Yah, go ahead and object to the word “talent” use whatever word you want, but we musicians see these freaks who are born out of the gate spitting out precocious music they have no business making.
How does a 19 year old so grok the concept and culture of blues and it’s subsequent rape by rock’n’roll that they can write songs with titles like “Mama, I’m on your Rag” and “Done my Woman Dirty,” go out to the garage in the middle of the night fueled by coffee, dirtweed, stolen popcorn and Jack Daniels and record them? And it isn’t that they are authentic, though all the right cues are there, they are postmodern informed and simultaneously hilarious and… perfect? With open tuning on the acoustic guitar and a deep south accent and phrasing? And you laugh and cry and know you are in the presence of genius?
Sure he read every Keith Richards interview ever done, bought Son House albums etc etc, did a post graduate study and summed it up in a half dozen or 20 four-track gems. But man, that is ACCELERATED! And why? For a record deal? How? Thinking the riches were around the corner? No, pretty much pure unfettered inspiration, a channeling, a “click” that is then transformed from nothing but thought into nothing but soundwaves captured on an old cassette.
While he was doing this I was studying classical music and writing ornate prog rock. There was no chance whatsoever of me “getting” classical music the way he got blues. I was failing and fumbling about. I got in the Screamers and looked good. I even occasionally managed a gem.
But Glenn Brown was mining a vein and pulling out sophistication. He always did. He always still does.
And he can do it in a dozen styles. Rock, Funk, Reggae, peculiar instrumentals, noise (I mean the knob twiddling noise popular in 2013 back in 1978) country, etc…all done with a mature fucking OLD MAN humor that YA JUST DON’T KNOW WHERE THE FUCK IT COMES FROM.
So, to get back to the original point…when you play me Jack White…. I just don’t care. He’s just doing a Glenn Brown thing and not very well. I mean, it’s great. It’s perfect. It’s amazing.
But I’d rather listen to crappy recording my friend made 35 years ago, bouncing between two cassettes. Rich ol’ everything he touches turns to gold Jack White…why should I care? It goes by, I nod my head, if I’m feeling generous I will acknowledge your excellent taste.
But honestly, beneath it all, is a howling punk rock rage at the world; it’s stupidity and blindness an unfairness and general loathsome existence.
I don’t need your music. I have my own.

Pidgin Philosophy

September 2nd, 2013

I wanted to talk about music.

Maybe the one thing I’m qualified to talk about.  Maybe not even.
We kinda live in a culture where we’re supposed to value every one’s opinion and that’s valuable; novices and dilettantes come up with awesome accidents and out of the box approaches.
That leads us all into “there are no experts” land…especially about art and all things subjective.
My curious ego once figured out that I’ve spent somewhere in the neighborhood of 40,000 hours making music. So far.
Many of you have certainly spent that much time LISTENING to music.
Which in a sense, makes you experts in a way that I am not.
What I love most is MAKING music. Listening is often frustrating. It is very rare that I am touched by listening to music. Unless I am personally involved with it somehow.
I generally need someone or something to hold my hand and pull me into a song or piece of music and make it matter to me.
I have found that what makes me love music is usually falling in love with the artist. Then, suddenly I think I know them, and I care enough about them to listen to them in a deeper way. I follow them down into their life and thoughts and ways of expressing themselves and their work of art suddenly blossoms and becomes essential.
I believe that by nearly every measure of criticism, this is wrong, wrong, wrong.
But what can I do about it? I read “Lust for Life” and I fall in love with Van Gogh. I watch “Amadeus” and Mozart’s Requiem becomes something monstrous and perfect. I learn about Rothko and I look at his blobs closer. I’ve stopped fighting it.
Up to that point, I am often paying lip service, or nodding intelligently trying not to look dumb, assuming that the culture knows what it’s talking about and I just haven’t gotten it yet.
What I’m talking about is embracing the work of art so that it shakes you, so that it changes you. Not “appreciating” which I can do with anything, even total pop crap because I appreciate the elements of say, songwriting or production which are competent or expert, but which don’t move me particularly.
Which leads me to what I’ve been trying to get to here, in a roundabout way.
When you play something for me, thinking that I will like it, and I glaze over, or shrug, or even say “no, I don’t like that at all” don’t be sad or offended. The deck is hopelessly stacked against me being moved by almost anything you try to turn me on to. So my friends think I don’t like anything, or even that I don’t like listening to music.
Which is absurd. I listen to music all day every day, deep in the process of making it.
But aside from certain cultural mountaintops that we share, I live in a parallel universe of music, most of which you have never heard. And most of it is the music of my friends and my own. Us struggling and reaching to out-Bowie Bowie or out-Beatle the Beatles or out-Stone the Stones or out-Dylan Dylan or out-Connor Connor Oberst or even out-Beethoven Beethoven. Or really, to out everybody, by going where there are no comparisons.
We know in the eyes of all of you we can’t possibly succeed, because the deck has been stacked against us as well. We are going against the entire weight of history and commerce and criticism and peer pressure and advertisement and the dialectic.
But we care not an iota. We see where we succeed and where we fail and because we love each other we can walk with those icons; we give that to each other. And we obsessively pursue the PROCESS, without a choice in the matter.
I can’t really say we don’t care. Our purest best selves don’t care. Often we are crushed for decades in alleys of despair and demoralisation and obscurity and confusion. But the balance and payoff is being our own heroes and gods. Being each other’s gods. Oh, in the liberal ethical system, artists often replace gods as the sacred. Jonathan Haidt misses this in his otherwise excellent “The Righteous Mind.”
That’s enough on that, for now. Plenty. But I will write about these people now, I will tell you about them in later installments. Maybe I can even make you love them so you will hear them the way I hear them, although that is not the intention. It is more just to talk about beauty and what is beauty and how do I find beauty and to share it with you. I think everyone is made richer by beauty and it is maybe sometimes hard to come by.
Writing a blog is hard. I mean writing is easy, but to think someone might read this is daunting. I sound like a ponderous pretentious cow. I don’t have time or inclination to edit. I will read this later and think “oops.”
When I talk really fast and say these things I think I sound intelligent. reading it makes me think “ouch.”
Because this stuff isn’t actually thought out for a purpose or to argue a thesis. I’m just trying to figure it out. Maybe we get somewhere together.

Summer 2013. Two new albums. An embarrassment of riches

August 23rd, 2013

I have a blog. Now I have to write things.
Summer 2013 fades into fall in some places in America. In Los Angeles, it just keeps going.
This blog is attached to a new website, designed by Cherish Alexander. I am thrilled by it. It’s guilting me into writing this. Inaugural. Blog. Thing.
Without any cynicism, hopefully skirting corniness by a whisker, this was a crazy summer.
I am trying to get to what happened.
What happened was.
I write a lot of music. I don’t release it. I throw it up on Soundcloud sometimes and tens of people listen.
And but so I’m releasing two albums. Right now.
The first is a vinyl release of a 47 minute progressive rock song that I wrote in 1975 and recorded in 2012. It is called “the Arc.”
The second is a handmade CD and download release also recorded in 2012 called “6/12” after the month and year it was recorded.
These albums were written 37 years apart, but recorded in quick succession.
I hope some of you will explore them, tell me what you think.
It’s as good as I can do, and that is pretty much whatever.

As the release dates of the albums approached I met Julia Riva the head mistress of Harry Warren Entertainment. and Red Queen Music.
Google Harry Warren.
And so but I signed a publishing deal and they are helping me get these albums heard. By some strange synchronicity.
Ruby Ray did a huge billboard In downtown San Francisco for Levis. Featured was a 19 year old me with Tomata, the singer from the Screamers. I am not boasting or whatever it is people do…running down a list of their accomplishments. I didn’t have anything to do with it other than being cute, a long time ago. It’s just weird.
Clever people put links in their blogs. So then like you could see pictures of the billboard. Isn’t going to happen.

I live and work in a recording studio called Kitten Robot. It is an absurdly cool and surreal space, and yes I’m fairly certain I’m using the word “surreal” incorrectly. Again. No link.
But I record all day. And night. I try to realize people’s sonic dreams.
This summer I recorded the Bloody Mess RocknRoll Circus with Rikk Agnew producing. Rikk and I became BFFL’s. Is that the right twitterish acronym? I have a positive phobia and horror of twitter for reasons I will never reveal. A Paul Roessler Twitter account is also definitely NOT in the offing. Offing DOES NOT seem like a word. Other than, like, killing someone.
I recorded Bellylove. Harry Cloud. Cherish Alexander. The Moon Bandits. IGAF Sequoia, Savannah Pope and Space Cream, Fleepus, Hyena Motorcade, Elephant. Some as yet secret projects. Some other cool bands more back like in Spring. WckrSpgt with Geza X and Cottontail.
I recorded some of my own songs. New ones called “What Is” and “Talisman.” Sometimes I record old songs that I wrote when I didn’t have a studio. I recorded one of those called “Someone (Long Ago Not Yet Born)”

I play live once in a while. Sometimes with Harry Cloud. Research Harry Cloud. No links.
Sometimes I go out and play the Arc. It’s more of a lecture. I talk a lot. Then play. Then talk. If I had time I would do Q & A.
I find most live shows boring and this is my way of trying to avoid that, possibly exacerbating the problem, but I don’t think so.

Mani Quinn and Rio Warner run the label Records Ad Nauseaum. They are putting out “the Arc.” Angels.
Thomas O’Neil from the Moon Bandits is putting out “6/12.” Another angel.
Julia at Red Queen. Yet another. Angel.
That was my summer. I’m forgetting things. But whatever happened, it probably happened in the studio.
I will discuss ideas rather than events at a later date in this blog.
That’s a rather odd sentence.
To close.

Josie Cotton – Pussycat Babylon

November 13th, 2010

This was a very different project from Nina Hagen’s “Personal Jesus.” Josie and I hammered this out over almost a year, going back and forth, and generally indulging our Calliopic muses…
First and foremost, I think the success of this album is a result of Josie walking through a life-changing experience and being driven to process it through songwriting. Everything seemed to follow from that. The songs would come in in various states of completion, but each with a life or death urgency. The work would start as “music as therapy” and evolve always into some sort of SOLUTION.
That’s important on it’s own, but it’s all unrealized potential until there’s a strong musicality; a sonic identity. This involved some Shackelton-like polar explorations… which for someone like me is a generally ecstatic process. In other words, lots of FUN!
In the end, listening back to this record is pretty breathtaking for me, following along with all our searching and discovering and birthing.
Honestly, it’s one of those records that if someone else had done it, and I heard it, I would have despaired…thinking “whoever did this is so much more talented than me…who do I think I’m fooling…what am I doing in this business…” Except this time that thought is followed by “Hey wait! That’s me!!!!”
Thanks Josie, and all the great musicians who contributed and made me look good!

September 14th, 2010

Nina Hagen called me early this year asking me to produce her new gospel album.
The recording was fast and furious. I learned a lot, quickly.
Gospel music is BLUES and ROCKNROLL. The only real difference I could find was the subject matter, and sometimes, the intensity level.
There was a delicious process of jamming the ancient traditional sources into punkrock/cybernetics.
Nina was inspired, passionate, focused like I had never seen her. As the sessions were going on, she was often reading her new book in it’s entirety for an audiobook release. We set her up in a little studio upstairs and she would lock in there for hours, checking in on us regularly to make sure we were on track and putting some religious fervor into the proceedings.
I’ve known Nina for so long, I guess I talk about her matter of factly. There is no “matter of fact” about Nina. She is positively otherworldly. Just as any of you who are familiar with her would think. An impossible thing to really get across. Some people have something intangible. She does, she knows it, and she’s known it for a LONG time. It is her fabric, her essence.
But capturing it as a producer is also a very mysterious tight rope act. Lightening in a bottle.
Apparently, we did it:

Personal Jesus is a punk album in drumming and overall high-energy level only. What it really is, is the jumpingest left-field-holler gospel album since Gordon Gano put the Violent Femmes on the back burner to record The Mercy Seat.

And Personal Jesus is better.


Let me say first and foremost that when I heard that Nina Hagen was making an album of Gospel & Blues I was a bit wary of what it might sound like but on hearing ‘Personal Jesus’ I was just blown away. This album will be in my top albums of 2010. It is magnificent. Every track is a little masterpiece and I’m still in a state of shock because it was not what I was expecting. Kudos to Ms Hagen for demonstrating that she is actually quite a good singer with an ear for a great song. Once again the song ‘Personal Jesus’ is better than the original (and comes close to topping Johnny Cash’s version). Go and buy it, now!!


“Personal Jesus” refers on the one hand on the title of gecoverten Depeche Mode – and also on the intermediate target of a long search, the (knows how to Nina Hagen) be completed not necessarily already have. When you think of coming from the heart of Christian music is led inevitably to gospel, country and blues. If the punk icon that is actually a gospel album was added? Yes – it has. And now before all the fans of these genres in horror take on the head: this task has taken very seriously, does not use any flashy action and can contribute their very distinctive voice to the converted rock songs and traditionals.
Nina’s smoky voice is passed to the songs as if the good never done anything else. Fans of Depeche Mode will probably slightly taken aback when they hear the blues version of “Personal Jesus”. The implementation is, however, succeeded in completely. Other highlights: “Mean Old World” in the tradition of Nat King Cole, the dissipated Gospel-hit “Down At The Cross” and the joyous opener “God’s Radar”. Nina sings authentic and energetic. Politically motivated songs like “All You Fascists Bound To Lose” position on top of all the perfect complement dar. Strong woman – strong album!


September 8th, 2010