Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Guilt and the Ambiguity

I am going to start this out the lazy way and cut and paste the bio from the bandcamp page for the introduction, so here goes:

Johnny Ride aka John Ridenour has played with the Aluminum Group, Bobby Conn, Jim O'Rourke, Arthur Brown, Susan Voelz, and many others. He is half of ambient duo SPOOL with jhno. (SPOOL is also working on a new record).He is also a stay-home, home-schooling dad, urban farmer, psychogeographer, and has recently returned to college.

Very recently Johnny released his new collection of music titled the Guilt and the Ambiguity. It was a long time coming and worth every hour of the wait. It is a who's who of Chicago music as well as several other talents from the wider world.

I have been laboring over how I wanted to conduct an interview about this new group of songs. I even solicited a list of questions on my facebook page but that is another story all together.....

Q) As an admirer of the The Aluminum Group I was pleased to hear  the tune "Vertigo" open the album. I know that you have a rich history with the Navin Brothers but how did this particular tune come about?

Johnny Ride-I was in the aluminum group from 1996 to 2001 when I left Chicago to move back to Austin. We recorded so much stuff in early '01, however, that I appeared on 2 more albums of theirs even after i was no longer in the group! I love those guys--I think they are geniuses. They are also brilliant visual artists, and Frank has spent more time in recent years making short films. I always want to do more music or art with them, and  I was really pleased when they agreed to write lyrics and arrange vocals for Vertigo. john did a beautiful lead vocal that i was going to use originally, but Bobby (Conn) and I decided the first song on my record should have me singing, so i tried a different approach. I'm really happy with how it turned out.

Q) The title...the Guilt and the Ambiguity, how did that come about and what if any sort of private meaning might that have?

Johnny Ride-The title comes from a conversation I stumbled into one time. These friends of mine were talking about a motivational speaker or something, and one said "He combines the best of Christianity and Buddhism." I made a dumb joke about how it was better than the worst of those--which would be guilt and ambiguity. Everybody laughed, and I knew I had my next record title.

Q) Maybe because of the fact that I am a visual artist myself, I have to ask about the cover. The crows are really a powerful and mysterious image. Who did the artwork and how did you come about using them?

Johnny Ride-The cover art is by my old friend Joe Beck who lives and teaches in La Crosse. I really wanted a crow as the central image as I've been really into crows for awhile now, and I knew Joe would do a great job with it. I love how one of the crows looks mildly guilty. The design was done by my friend and neighbor here in Urbana, Gina Manola, and the photo of me is by another friend Virginia Pinkston. I took the 70s-looking prairie sunset. I wanted the cover to look authentically early 1970s, and i think Gina did a great job with that.

Q) Unbroken is a stand out tune for me. I hear shadows of 80's Robert Fripp on both this cut and Call Me Johnny as well. John Eichenseer who is credited  on Unbroken has been a long time collaborator if I am not mistaken. Is Unbroken an extension of sorts of other projects you have worked on together or is this something that was done solely within the context of this album?

Johnny Ride- Jhno (John Eichenseer) is of course my long time partner in a band called Spool. We get together every few years and make music, and sometimes it gets released. We have an epic 3rd record in the works, but Jhno is a bit of nomad these days, and he works slowly.

Unbroken is a repetitive guitar thing I wrote in Chicago the day I heard John Fahey died. I played this thing over and over for hours. I had this silly idea of it being a sort of fusion between Fahey-style aggressive finger-picking and dubby minimal techno with sort of medieval reeds. but with Jhno's layers of viola, cello, and duduk, plus Jason Finkelman's percussion, it went somewhere else. Bobby Conn mixed it using this great pitch-shifting delay thing called, I think, Vallhalla or something. I think it gets a bit into Fripp/Eno territory. I think it sounds great. I want to do a more thumpin' version, but it hasn't happened yet. maybe I can get some remixes done...

Q)-What was the actual working process on this album. Were a lot of tracks mailed back and forth or was a lot of time logged in at a studio doing takes with the other musicians face to face?

Johnny Ride)- I began to write most of these songs in Chicago and Austin in the early 2000's, and I started recording at Pogo Studios in Champaign in 2005, but the birth of my daughter and buying a house in Urbana put it way on the back burner for a few years. in 2009, Jhno visited and helped me set up a Protools/Mac studio in my basement, and I dove back in. In 2010, Bobby Conn graciously agreed to help me finish and mix the record. I've been friends with he and his wife Julie aka Monica Bou Bou since about 2000 when they asked me to play on the Golden Age album. I've played on a few Bobby Conn records since.He's a busy guy, though, and the record took 2 more years to finish. Most of the stuff was recorded a bit at a time, with some emailing of tracks.

Q) What was the actual working process on this album. Were a lot of tracks mailed back and forth or was a lot of time logged in at a studio doing takes with the other musicians face to face?
 Which do you prefer? How much of the spontaneous is lost in the translation when tracks are mailed back and forth or is it just a matter of trusting that your collaborator is on the same page so to speak?

Johnny Ride- I like recording live in a great room, and the spontaneity that can occur, but I really love recording by myself at home as well. I think it can be exciting and liberating also to mail stuff back and forth. In any case, I like collaboration, whatever form it takes.

Q) Knowing you as well as I do, I know that you are a huge Joni Mitchell admirer. I even seem to remember that you had a treasured copy of The Hissing of Summer Lawns that was autographed. What was it that spoke to you about this particular Mitchell song and inspired you to include it here?


Johnny Ride- HAHAHAHA! I treasure that signed copy! But i think maybe it was a forgery...I have this funny little shtick I do--I cover a Joni song, sample her, or quote a melody or lyric of hers on everything I record. It's silly, I know, but it's sort of one of those vows you make when young and idealistic, and I continue to honor it. This song is kinda obvious, a hit, not one of her deeper ones, but I tried to learn it for a hoot night years ago in Chicago, and it is a tough one--I took it on as a challenge--to make it my own. I intended to make it super dark and sleazy, but Bobby really got into the slick James Taylor kinda production and so it isn't so dark. People either love this or hate it. It's a bit embarrassing, but I'll stand by it. i think Jhno's keyboards really make it.


Q) Are you sitting on material from this project that you hope to release later? Perhaps tracks that you wanted others to work on but for one reason or another couldn't happen on this time-frame?

Johnny Ride-No, this is it. it was always in my mind these songs in more less this order. of course, they evolved somewhat during the time it took to finish. I have a bunch of other material recorded around the same time, but it is decidedly unrelated.

Q) I know that this project took much longer than you had intended and life gets that way but I have to say that the time I spent waiting was a worthwhile wait. Do you think that the album was enriched by the longer gestation period, so to speak?

Johnny Ride- Definitely. Although it would've been nice to get it done a couple of years ago! Sadly, I would've had more time and energy to promote it then, and I think I had some momentum with the successful kickstarter campaign that i may have lost now...I've gone back to school, gotten more entrenched in home-repair projects, home-schooling the kids, and we're expecting another kid early next spring, so I'm not able to work it like I should, but oh well!

Give it a listen:The Guilt and the Ambiguity


Sunday, August 5, 2012

Hot Fun in the Summertime-Reliving the 70's with an empty Slurpee® cup

     It's been a hot Summer no doubt. Nothing beats the heat like a Slurpee® or even better yet, any booze infused concoction in one of these nifty vintage Slurpee® cups.

I mean what's Summer without waking up on your neighbors lawn with this song pounding in your head?

"Well, woke up this morning with a Slurpee® cup in my hand.
Whose wine? What wine? Where the hell did I die?
Must have been a dream I don't believe where I've been.
Come on, let's do it again.
Do, feel like I do?
How'd ya feel?"

A Bud couldn't taste better than in this worthy vessel. Fuck hipsters and that shitty P.B.R

The Old Silver Fox himself

After drinking a couple of these filled with my favorite hooch I would certainly be ready to be "Taking Care of Business".

And who wouldn't want to obnoxiously scream "Rock On" after consuming a few too many pints from this cup that is, even when empty, brimming with awesomeness.


Kiss an Angel Good Morning and kiss your sobriety goodbye, in style.

Did you ever ponder how many times the air guitar and even air keyboards have been played to Edgar Winter's Frankenstein? Nearly every time I drink I ponder that very question.

This one deserves its own place in the hallowed halls of Just Fucking Amazing Shit!

I Can See Clearly Now? Not a chance after all the malt liquor I been swillin' outta this thing! Who would have thought that Johnny Nash was the fourth member of the Hair Bear Bunch?

Just add booze to chase down those amphetimines with this stylish addition to your fine barware collection.

The Average White Band on their own slightly above average designed cup.

I Love this one...what Stoned Soul Picnic is complete without this to hold all that wonderful moonshine with? I want some vodka to go in my purple drank.

Stoned Soul Picnic... 

Slurp it down to a stoned soul picnic
Slurring down to a stoned soul picnic
There'll be lots of time and wine
Red yellow honey
Sassafras and moonshine
Stoned Soul

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A Fathers Lesson and Elvis.

Let me quickly sketch a family outline.  We were living on the grounds of Dorothea Dix Hospital, a sprawling state institution in North Carolina for the mentally ill.  The hospital had housing for employees and both their families, but the campus ran much like its own entity.  Any given day I could be riding my bike past a working farm, a power plant or even prisoners behind barbed wire and guarded towers.  Didn’t faze me one bit.

 But, to the story at hand.  Mom and Dad were pinching pennies and had to find some crafty ways of keeping a young seven year old son a bit more occupied.  Dad brought into the marriage a massive stereo system – J.C. Penney branded no less, with speakers nearly half as tall as I was.  He also toted along an album collection that would have rivaled most DJ’s at the time.   I wasn’t much of a music kid at the time, but boy did that change fast.

My parents rotated first through third shifts and were not often on the same schedule.  The days that Dad was home were a real treat.  Early on, after he moved in, he would take some of those days to spin vinyl on the system and smoke Kool Filter Kings.  The house would fill with the sweet menthol and then the tunes ranging from Fleetwood Mac to Chicago to Crosby , Stills, Nash and Young.  But there was one artist that struck me hard and fast, and Dad saw a way to teach a lesson.

"Love Me Tender"  "Hound Dog"  "Return to SenderWe all know who this is.  Elvis Presley.  Dad would load one of the 33 1/3 or 45’s and I would instantly know who it was.   In a matter of mere weeks I was imitating Elvis, singing his songs and asking more and more about him.  Certain songs would elicit certain emotions and actions.  “Jailhouse Rock” would bring a goofy dance, “Hound Dog” would cause all sorts of singing and squawking, but Dad taught his best with one song. 
Just after the first week of August of ’77 I heard “Memories” for the first time.  I’m still not sure how I missed it as it was released in 1968, but as some of you may recall, it would be mere days before Elvis’ death.  The first time I heard this tune, Dad had played it and I became uncharacteristically still and quiet.  Dad observed me for a few minutes and asked me what was I thinking of.  I talked with him about my biological father and my Grandmother being sick and making her a big get well banner to hang in her hospital room and then friends and so on…Rambling as kids that age do.  But, I then started to cry.  Dad, being the great father he was, hugged me and saw me through it, and I then started to ask about why I felt happy and sad and mad all at the same time.  “It’s just like Elvis sang about son.  It’s Memories.  You will always have these feelings and some days you will laugh and some days you will cry.  But it’s what you do with those memories, that is most important of all.” “What do I do with them?” was my natural response.  “It’s tough to tell you now son, but as you get older you will know.  I promise.”

Two weeks later on August 16 of 1977, tragically Elvis died at the age of 42.   That evening dad took out as many Elvis records as he could and played them most of the night.  Again, I was much too quiet and Mom asked if I was okay. “I am working Mom.  Dad showed me today how to make memories of my own.  Like the Elvis song. “
To this very day music, not just Presley, does that for me.  New and old gives me an old thought, and I appreciate the years of musical variety my Dad gave me.  He’s now in his seventies,  I am now 42 – the very same age Elvis was at his death, and my Dad and I share that same love of music.  Although his mind and body are shattered some days, we can still load his wheelchair in the van and drive for miles, singing our souls out.  Still making memories. 

Joel Kilgore June 2012

Although not central to Joel's story, there was a mention of C,S,N&Y and this seemed to sum it all up for me. Here is to all of your memories you and your Father can make Joel...and all of you reading as well. Much Love. 

Friday, June 1, 2012

Kiddieland Memories-Schatzie Guerra

Kiddieland Amusement Park was one of the summer go-to spots we had on Sundays with my Father.
There was also the Indiana Dunes, various forest preserve bar-b-ques and Great America, but right now we're in Melrose Park in the mid to late 70s'.
The carousel, bumper cars and The Little Dipper.
I mostly recall these rail type cars that you got to squat into and then had to propel yourself around the track by cranking the oversized egg-beater style handles.
And, the puppet box.
Part of me thinks it a false recall, but I still have the haziest of pictures in my mind-and will swear it was real.
It couldn't have been more that 4 or 5 feet tall or so and maybe 3 deep.
There was a glass front with varicolored designs, maybe even a type of circus motif, but it was what was behind the glass that held me.
A small group of clown marionettes, puffed sleeves ending in those puppet wrists that remind you of the tied end of a balloon, hands down as if waiting to receive a slap.
Drop a coin in the slot and the edges of the glass would light up and the hidden wheels at the top would pull the strings, jerking the puppets to life for their twenty-five cent revue.
The music- Well, again, misremembering tells me it was some kind of calliope tune befitting the circus along with a small chorus of voices singing some happy circus-y song that really didn't match any of their movements.
It was odd and tinny, even standing right in front you really couldn't make out any words.
Like a drive through mountains where you catch the snippet of a song you think is familiar, you try and work the dial with a surgeon's grace, ranging between the static peaks to get it back.
I dream of the song.
Garbled but happy, the performers did as much as they could with the brief life a quarter gave them.
It mesmerized me and I had to see them every time we went to that park,.
My Father indulged but not before a look that told you you were not getting anything of value regardless how small the small expense.
There was also a slightly similar gimmick at Brookfield Zoo, maybe Lincoln Park? That I know for a fact existed.
It was a box with cut-outs of smiling animals and the money deposited was to help fund the zoo, according to the information on the front.
The concept was the same but the performance was nowhere near as captivating and if I had bothered, I'm sure I could have made out whatever it was they was singing about.
It's the Kiddieland marionette box that is the Grail of memories, partially due to it's surreal mien and because my Dad must have given up five dollars in quarters over the years so I could stand stock still for less than a minute and watch the show that never changed, unless you counted the increasing distortion from that speaker and the fading of their costumes.
I heard a song last year, it opens with a distorted warble that made me think of the puppet box immediately  and I have since tracked it down to add to my music.
I will occasionally play it and imagine the sun in my eyes from the angle of the plexiglass and picture a group of raggedy hanged men preparing to sing the only song they ever learned.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Worshipping the Bean

The History of Coffee

(with a soundtrack)

In the Beginning:

Legend has it, coffee was discovered by an Ethiopian goat herder named Kaldi. One day, he noticed his goats frolicking around in an unusually spirited manner. He observed that they were also eating the berries of a nearby shrub.
Not being one to be left out of all the fun, he decided to try the berries himself. He was energized and pleased with the effects the cherries had on him. He told his friends and soon word spread throughout the region. The rest is history. 

Coffee Timeline:

Here is an interesting timeline of the history of coffee from the UTNE READER, Nov/Dec 94, by Mark Schapiro, "Muddy Waters"
Prior to 1000 A.D.: Members of the Galla tribe in Ethiopia notice that they get an energy boost when they eat a certain berry, ground up and mixed with animal fat.

1000 A.D.: Arab traders bring coffee back to their homeland and cultivate the plant for the first time on plantations. They also began to boil the beans, creating a drink they call "qahwa" (literally, that which prevents sleep).

1453: Coffee is introduced to Constantinople by Ottoman Turks. The world's first coffee shop, Kiva Han, open there in 1475. Turkish law makes it legal for a woman to divorce her husband if he fail to provide her with her daily quota of coffee.

1511: Khair Beg, the corrupt governor of Mecca, tries to ban coffee for feat that its influence might foster opposition to his rule. The sultan sends word that coffee is sacred and has the governor executed. 

1600: Coffee, introduced to the West by Italian traders, grabs attention in high places. In Italy, Pope Clement VIII is urged by his advisers to consider that favorite drink of the Ottoman Empire part of the infidel threat. However, he decides to "baptize" it instead, making it an acceptable Christian beverage.

1607: Captain John Smith helps to found the colony of Virginia at Jamestown. It's believed that he introduced coffee to North America.

1645: First coffeehouse opens in Italy.

1652: First coffeehouse opens in England. Coffee houses multiply and become such popular forums for learned and not so learned - discussion that they are dubbed "penny universities" (a penny being the price of a cup of coffee). 

1668: Coffee replaces beer as New York's City's favorite breakfast drink.

1668: Edward Lloyd's coffeehouse opens in England and is frequented by merchants and maritime insurance agents. Eventually it becomes Lloyd's of London, the best-known insurance company in the world.
1672: First coffeehouse opens in Paris.

1675: The Turkish Army surrounds Vienna. Franz Georg Kolschitzky, a Viennese who had lived in Turkey, slips through the enemy lines to lead relief forces to the city. The fleeing Turks leave behind sacks of "dry black fodder" that Kolschitzky recognizes as coffee. He claims it as his reward and opens central Europe's first coffee house. He also establishes the habit of refining the brew by filtering out the grounds, sweetening it, and adding a dash of milk. 

1690: With a coffee plant smuggled out of the Arab port of Mocha, the Dutch become the first to transport and cultivate coffee commercially, in Ceylon and in their East Indian colony - Java, source of the brew's nickname.

1713: The Dutch unwittingly provide Louis XIV of France with a coffee bush whose descendants will produce entire Western coffee industry when in 1723 French naval officer Gabriel Mathieu do Clieu steals a seedling and transports it to Martinique. Within 50 years and official survey records 19 million coffee trees on Martinique. Eventually, 90 percent of the world's coffee spreads from this plant.

1721: First coffee house opens in Berlin.

1727: The Brazilian coffee industry gets its start when Lieutenant colonel Francisco de Melo Palheta is sent by government to arbitrate a border dispute between the French and the Dutch colonies in Guiana. Not only does he settle the dispute, but also strikes up a secret liaison with the wife of French Guiana's governor. Although France guarded its New World coffee plantations to prevent cultivation from spreading, the lady said good-bye to Palheta with a bouquet in which she hid cuttings and fertile seeds of coffee.

1732: Johann Sevastian Bach composes his Kaffee-Kantate. Partly an ode to coffee and partly a stab at the movement in Germany to prevent women from drinking coffee (it was thought to make them sterile), the cantata includes the aria, "Ah! How sweet coffee taste! Lovelier than a thousand kisses, sweeter far than muscatel wine! I must have my coffee."

1773: The Boston Tea Party makes drinking coffee a patriotic duty in America.

1775: Prussia's Frederick the Great tries to block inports of green coffee, as Prussia's wealth is drained. Public outcry changes his mind.

1886: Former wholesale grocer Joel Cheek names his popular coffee blend "Maxwell House," after the hotel in Nashville, TN where it's served.

Early 1900's: In Germany, afternoon coffee becomes a standard occasion. The derogatory term "KaffeeKlatsch" is coined to describe women's gossip at these affairs. Since broadened to mean relaxed conversation in general.

1900: Hills Bros. begins packing roast coffee in vacuum tins, spelling the end of the ubiquitous local roasting shops and coffee mills.

1901: The first soluble "instant" coffee is invented by Japanese-American chemist Satori Kato of Chicago.

1903: German coffee importer Ludwig Roselius turn a batch of ruined coffee beans over to researchers, who perfect the process of removing caffeine from the beans without destroying the flavor. He markets it under the brand name "Sanka." Sanka is introduced to the United States in 1923.

1906: George Constant Washington, an English chemist living in Guatemala, notices a powdery condensation forming on the spout of his silver coffee carafe. After experimentation, he creates the first mass-produced instant coffee (his brand is called Red E Coffee).

1920: Prohibition goes into effect in United States. Coffee sales boom.

1938: Having been asked by Brazil to help find a solution to their coffee surpluses, Nestle company invents freeze-dried coffee. Nestle develops Nescafe and introduces it in Switzerland.

1940: The US imports 70 percent of the world coffee crop.

1942: During W.W.II, American soldiers are issued instant Maxwell House coffee in their ration kits. Back home, widespread hoarding leads to coffee rationing.

1946: In Italy, Achilles Gaggia perfects his espresso machine. Cappuccino is named for the resemblance of its color to the robes of the monks of the Capuchin order.

1969: One week before Woodstock the Manson Family murders coffee heiress Abigail Folger as she visits with friend Sharon Tate in the home of filmmaker Roman Polanski.

1971: Starbucks opens its first store in Seattle's Pike Place public market, creating a frenzy over fresh-roasted whole bean coffee.

*thanks to Utne Reader &

and just to bid you a good & highly caffeinated day...

Thursday, April 12, 2012

And in a Nick of Time...Sham 69!!! Oi!!!

This years CIMM Fest brings a great documentary film to Chicago titled “This Band is so Gorgeous: Sham 69 in China”. Don’t walk into the theater expecting the decadence of the Stones “Cocksucker Blues” or the hilarity of a real life “Spinal Tap”. Neither would apply. You can expect to walk into the theater to see a group of men that have held true to their Punk Rock roots since the late 70’s with no compromise. One may think that men in their midlife would appear to be pathetic at their age mounting a stage and performing punk songs from their much more youthful days but nothing could be further from the truth. The energy of some of the shows captured is impressive to say the least. That is not the point of this film although a wonderful bonus. It is simply one facet of this true gem.
Image © Dandy Films

Sham 69 was the first major Punk band to tour China, a country that is caught in the growing pains of dominating the world in manufacturing of cheap consumer goods and struggling with new political and social paradigms. A large part of this film is how one perceives an alien culture and yet processes that experience into ones own artistic history and life.

Even if one is not familiar with the legendary band, Sham 69, it matters little in the context of this film (although you are REALLY missing out). This is really about a human experience. The experience of middle aged men hanging on to something as heartfelt as their music and art, remaining true to their roots and how transposing their own history over the unfolding of a strange and troubled land can become such an emotional experience. This is all not to say that this film is not without its humorous moments but just like real life, everyday is a full range of emotional experiences…laughter, frustration, sadness and feeling alive in the face of it all. This film IS real life.

After watching director Dunstan Bruce’s film I knew that this was an important document and set out to learn more. I was hooked and reeled in. In several certain aspects this film is about a changing world. It is about a group of men growing older but when validated by a group of youth in China take the trip to tour China at the request of a Chinese youth by the name of Ray of the Chinese punk band “ NoName”.
PhotobucketStill image © Dandy Films

Culled from an email to Ilko Davidov of Cimm Fest, was this quote from Tim V. Man “For me traveling and touring there was amazing and having the life experience and the people we met who took immense risks at times as well and people who pioneered for free speech who were arrested whilst we was there, was life changing...”. Deciding that I would try to uncover a bit more of this story I was able to get a contact for Tim V. Man to pose a few questions…Due to the magic of the internet, here is what transpired.

As I viewed the film I could not help but to be taken in by Ray's enthusiasm as far as booking the tour across China. It seems that would be the first reaction one might have. I am left to wonder, did the band really have any inkling of what a tour of China would mean in the larger scope. This is speaking politically of course but personally as well.

Well I think the point being was a guy who had heard of us but was for his part a lad who was motivated by passion over risk and that spoke volumes to me. For the band well I have always gifted the ideal of ‘if you don’t try you’ll never know’ and so when I approached the band with this idea it was more about pushing the band further to at least trying to get back what cred it had lost amongst the masses. The origin as of this was that I had always been writing to various people around the world in the last 15 years and some in China, be they poets or artists etc and at times I found I had a better perspective of what was going on and how they were dealing with it. It was one artist in China who told me about the underbelly of Punk that was emerging in China and one band was NO NAME. The band SHAM 69 was due to do a tour of Australia and New Zealand and for me that was the link so I set about arranging things with Ray. The band at this point were used to my ‘attack’ approach so with the prospect of touring China it was more a case of aah, ok well, erm.

To rephrase this..did you feel like "liberators" of sorts?

Liberators… Christ no I wouldn’t think that or want to, I think that would be sheer arrogance to. I'd imagine my previous incumbent may have like to have self-adorned that tag but not me. I think the ‘people’ have the rights and ability to liberate themselves if anything I would say we was a very small part of the stick that pokes the world in the back and the balls in the front. The thing is with this kind of venture its very easy for people to snipe and ridicule us for going to China and ‘endorsing’ a regime in their eyes but for me Id rather be the enemy within than a watcher from the woods…. unsavoury to some but Jimmy Hoffa once said its sometimes necessary to get in there and mix it up.

One would assume that since the tour was filmed, this is an experience that has been relived over and over so to speak but speaking from the perspective of today, what is the single largest experience that you feel you have taken away from this?

‘One would assume…’ Blimey Shane we’re make an English man of you yet…. well yes that’s the beauty of film, it captures the greatest and the beautiful moments in peoples lives and imaginations. Yes to relive this time is something that I would love others to enjoy and experience, and though Dave has since left the band to pursue his ideals whatever they are.. I can only hope that he looks back on this as something of a unique experience and one that he wouldn’t have or likely to do again. For me I would say the emotion of seeing a people living in naivety of sorts. The country is so vast and for them as people it would take a huge jolt for all of them the co-ordinate that emotion. I was dumbstruck by the hypocrisy but also the cost of human life to maintain this farce…a free market structure in a police state, Maggie T would have been proud.

How 'real' was the fear of being taken away or detained by the Chinese authorities for the music or message of the music to you? Was this ever a thought that hovered in the backs of the bands minds?

Haha…well yes I think for me putting the plans in front of the band and that blank expression of yeah…er great and the realisation of things when we descended the stairs at Shanghai airport and the huge pillars that were draped in the red Chinese flags Ian turned to me with a look of total horror and said ‘Christ Tim what have you got us into’…my reply was 25 years in a Labour camp…but that’s me..hahaha.

No it was the expression on Dunstan and John's faces and Ray when we marched through the border gate like true Brits on the piss that calm reined. Seeing the endless designer shops destroyed my logic cells and then the immortal yellow ‘M’ symbol I thought..God even here!!! But when we arrived at the hotel and whilst waiting for the lift seeing strange people go straight up to the reception desk checking our details and pointing I knew it was all simple. The first show I was told not to sing about anything political or anti communist, and so I harked back to when I was in the Chinese visa office and the man reeled off what I could and could do…so like always I said bollocks and just did it. Everything we said was being noted by the towns cultural officer who stood at the back, I was almost expecting him to ask me how do you spell Fuck Off….still in the end it was more about what they were trying to maintain and what the kids just didn’t care about anymore.

But the time we were in Beijing and I said to the guys we must go to Tiananmen Square was for me the key point. Each corner of the square was guarded by security checks and god knows we managed to get into and there was not one westerner. So within seconds we was approached by this woman who asked us questions constantly and so we decided to split up as she hurtled off to this army truck and that was it…I was concerned about my mates but we knew logic would be better suited to leave the square I was clear until I was grabbed and as I turned it was that moment when Richard Attenborough got nabbed in the great escape and the German retort was ‘YOUR HANDS UP’! For me it was a dodgy looking Chinese guy trying to sell me a watch with Chairman Mao’s hand going up and down…no thanks I said and breathed a sigh. The thing was the element of risk and danger out there is high but you need to be in their radar for it to finish you.

In a world that is on a daily basis increasingly becoming globalized and corporate ruled, with individual world governments being 'micro managers'...what would your hopes or advice be to the youth of China after seeing first hand the scenes that you witnessed?

Good question…yes but on a grander scale, but as Dave said out there it takes time for a people to evolve and I think the logic on comparisons is a one to study further to be honest. The social structure is more like the Emperors New Cloths and when you see that they are trying to live a capitalist lifestyle whilst the poor starve it makes you think about the UK in the 70s. The thing is China is a family orientated people and many generations live together but if you don’t have family your fucked. I saw old people on the streets men and women begging and when we moved through the rural parts some towns and villages were incredible.. Third World status in parts. For the ‘peoples’ ideology it wasn’t working. 70s strikes and power cuts was something that lit the fuse for Punk in Britain but I think in China 1 mans desire to live in a house with running water and a bog will be a long time coming to revolt for. I know many villages are becoming more self-governing and that’s great, I think its because the countries so vast it would never spark things like it did in Britain. As far as the Punk scene in China yes I think things can be addressed through their existence and what they chose to sing about, however I think its going to be something that addressed through all streams of Art/Music and the written word.

What , if any parallels, would you draw between the China at the time of the tour and the 'broken' UK that the 70's punks rallied and railed against?

Well they are seeing it first hand and one thing I saw in abundance and that’s a youth who are not blind or silly they know exactly what’s going on but in parts afraid and that’s understandable. For me I’d say to them again don’t give up and don’t accept the facts unless ‘you’ know them to be true.

What message would you (and the band) give to the youth of the world now that you have all gained the perspectives that time has given us all since the birth of Punk?

HAHAHA….well having seen more punk ‘u’ turns than cows have seen grass and that’s no inference to John Lydon’s Butter ad’s*…. I think it would be don’t look at the reflection in the glass…look through it and then smash through it if you want to see the other side…never accept what’s handed to you first see what’s second third and forth…and above all always remember YOU are the master of your destiny no one else!!!

As China experiences the growing pains of fitting into the larger context of the world today and artists, as they have been known to do historically, cause unwelcome waves in the status quo, do you think that China's youth are striving for the better aspects of Western culture or have signals been crossed as China strives for the more decadent aspects of Westernization?
Yes…it’s a mixed up fucked up place in part…but a great and powerful country that’s living a parallel existence. On one hand you have the oppressive state that harks back to a era that is no longer acceptable in this day and age and another that has gigantic power base of a economy that feeds the simmering resentment with tit bits of western culture from Hamburgers to Pop music….one day it will explode when those things are no longer good enough. For me I see it as the generations change so will the old guard and as they and it dies off the youth of china who will become logical economists without the oppression say to the old guard ‘will the last one shut the door on your way out’!!

This is NOT Sham 69

To see "This Band is So Gorgeous" check out the trailer and information here at this years CIMM FEST. Screening at the Logan Theater Saturday, April 14th

image © Dandy Films
A heartfelt Thank You to Tim V Man for taking the time to chat and answer questions about the film and to Ilko for making this happen.  

interview (C) Shane Swank and Chatter of Apes 2012 

This is Somewhat of Crossover Interest for Visual and Musical Artists.


It happened again...another of my images went viral. When this happened with the Poe Boy image I was somewhat heartbroken, so to speak. I felt like I was bleeding potential money. While I do not consider myself a greedy person, I do need to live. Living on less than 12 thousand a year is quite frankly Bullshit. Not only is it bullshit but nearly unfathomable to most.

Anyone familiar with my work throughout the years and my start as a Neo-Pop artist could easily & rightfully say that I have no right to bemoan the rapid assimilation of my work back into the creative pool.

The problem with the way that I am forced to work now means that much of my work is P.O.D. (print on demand) and this means a few different things as far as the sales and execution of my work goes. First it means that my work yields little profit to begin with. The sites that offer print on demand work are rather greedy with their profit margins for the artists. It also means that the images on these P.O.D. sites are set up so that the image that you see is the image that you get. There is no real way to watermark or protect the images.

IF and that is a big IF, I had the upfront capital to produce the works (be that plates, shoes, t-shirts ect.) in larger quantity then I would be able to realize better returns on my work BUT this also means that I would have to maintain my own website, shopping carts, shipping and build the web traffic from the ground up. I do at the moment have my own site but that still relies heavily on the print on demand market.

A few well spent dollars tossed into the Chinese economy would certainly mean more profit but much, much more work on my part. I am not afraid of an increase in the workload but it still does not eradicate the fact that with working capital I would fair much better in the economical and profit realization fronts.

Putting this all into one easy to swallow pill is a real task. I am trying to think of this in terms of "Free Promotion" and yet that is buying into the same line of reasoning that every artist has nearly come to believe themselves due to the proliferation of the game of "Screw the Artist". The standard line is "It's good exposure". If you have created anything as an artist beyond your coloring book phase at 8 years old then you have likely heard this before. I tend to reply, "I live in the Midwest, people die of exposure in the winter".

I do not want anyone to mistake this as bitterness but rather I am trying to find my way in this new paradigm where every thought can instantaneously be shared. The age of electronic interconnectedness. Musicians full well have had to adapt and perhaps have even felt the sting of this phenomena called the internet. It is, at once, a blessing and a curse at best. This means that an artist can look forward to sharing their latest creations with the push of a button quite literally but this also means that, in essence that work is no longer the property of the creator with the same push of said button.

As I said, this is not intended to be a bitter diatribe but rather an admission that I am grappling with this amazingly brutal behemoth called the internet and trying to find a way to finally enjoy at least a few of the benefits of a lifetime of creativity along the way. Until I finally figure this out, enjoy the work.

End Notes: Thanks for giving this a look/see. It was reposted from my FACEBOOK page and seemed to have struck a nerve with many of my friends.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter 2012-living with our eyes open

Today at a family gathering, I was reminded, surprisingly so, about a tendency that is now no more unfamiliar to me than the back of my own hand.
While my Uncle played DJ to our gathering, his sister, my Aunt, made a song request and when he acceded, she then proceeded to ask that he play the same song again.
Her daughter then began lightly teasing her about it and jibed her about how she used to put a song on repeat in our younger days and leave it on the spindle for hours.
At this point my cousin brought me into the debate and asked if I also recalled when these occasions happened, which I do and I did.
Now, the song in question was Leo Sayer’s “When I Need You”; judge as you will, I recall hating it by the 3rd go ‘round. And it would go on, and on, and on…
My Aunt then dragged my Mom into the debate by asking if she didn’t do the same thing when I was younger and, I had to admit, while the artists were different, I recalled her doing that as well.
Mom would put on a stack of LPs and let them blare throughout the house, when they were done; she would re-queue and do it all over again.
I now realized, this is exactly the routine I play out when I’m in a mood; good, bad or indifferent. You find a song, or songs, which encapsulate your feelings at the moment and wallow in whatever emotions you’re currently dealing with.
I also remember that Mom’s were typically some very melancholy songs, themes of regret, apology or plain sadness.
Until today, I had no clue; So much for being a clever dick.
When I’m in one of those moods, I too, tend to just tune out everything around me and after the song has done its duty, I want nothing more than to do it again- Sam.
Without getting too interpersonal, I have to admit our family had had its share of turmoil but of all the manifestations I recall, nothing resounds with me today as much as the ‘sad song on replay’ and that I failed to recognize it until this, my 46th year on Earth, bespeaks of how much, so very much, there is for me to still learn.
Today, Mom was happy & dancing, enjoying the company of family, extended and close and reveling in the music that was presented, no harm, no foul.
But – Shame on me, and quietly, on my cousin for not seeing the moments in our younger days when the omnipotent parent was, unbelievably, sad.
As it happens to us, it happens to them – And I officially apologize for my error.
This is my paean to Mom because I refuse to play Leo Sayer –

Easter Sunday 2012-Schatzie Guerra

Friday, April 6, 2012

Joe Angio answers 4 questions about his new film "Revenge of the Mekons, Cimm Fest Info and some other Cool Stuff.

Cimm Fest 2012 Information

As many of you in Chicago may already know CIMM Fest 2012 is looming large in the near future with events packed between April 12th to the 15th. Looking through the program this year looking for a writing project for this blog was no simple task as there were so many interesting shows and music related films to choose from. Everything from Scout Shannon’s full color 2-D epic about Gig Posters, ”Just Like Being There” to Old school Punk Legends Sham 69’s trip across China in the world premiere of "This Band is so Gorgeous" directed by Dunstan Bruce and so much more….. No easy choices here.

I finally decided that I would focus on the work in progress “Revenge of the Mekons” directed by former Chicago resident & filmmaker Joe Angio. Even in the eleventh hour Joe was kind enough to grant me a short yet concise interview. Four questions, that’s all I asked (well except that 5th one about the casting couch that he tastefully ignored). Angio will be packing up his director’s chair for the trip to Chicago to attend the screening at the Logan Theater on April 14th at 3pm. "Revenge of the Mekons" is part of Cimm Fests ”Roots-Rock Gods” program.
Photo(c) Victoria Rich

1) Why the Mekons?

There's a short, medium and long version. I'll give you the medium version. Aside from being a fan of their music the thing that makes the Mekons so interesting to me is not so much that they've persevered for 35 years but that they've done so without ever "making it." They've endured and overcome obstacles that would have (and have) made most bands pack it in long ago. What drives a band to keep going when all but the loyal stalwarts have tuned out? Why do they bother? I think it has something to do with staying true to the "punk ethos" (at least as it was understood in 1977). They took this quite seriously and, while they're less dogmatic about it than they were in 1977, they've more or less adopted it as a code to live by, which sounds grandiose but when you see how they scrape to get by while crafting their personal lives around keeping the band together, you see they really put their money where their mouths are, without calling any attention to it. It's really admirable.

Plus, they're the only band from that first blast of punk rock that has endured with what amounts to its core members. There's this myth about how there have been something like 100 members of the Mekons, but that's a misconception because the band's members started using pseudonyms early on (to avoid being thrown off the dole), a practice which continues to this day. And while they've had a number of musicians guest on their records, seven of the eight members of the band most fans know as the Mekons have been together for 28 of its 35 years (and the most "recent" entry celebrated her 20h anniversary this year). So it's not like the Fall, which is basically Mark E. Smith and whoever he recruits to back him. This has been an active, intact band for more than three decades!

2) What was the best/worst part of putting this film together as opposed to your other films?

The worst part is the same old song: the constant hunt to find money. This time I was fortunate enough to find an investor who put up some money early on, which allowed me to continue shooting. And then Kickstarter came along just when I was preparing to edit, so we had ran what turned out to be a remarkably successful Kickstarter fundraising campaign, which paid for the edit. But now we're looking for funds to pay for the licensing of archival footage and the color correct and sound mix. So it's a constant struggle. When I set out on this film I was seriously thinking this was a year-long project; it's now four years and counting. But I'm confident we'll have it finished in time for the fall film festivals. On the bright side, this one has taken me half the time of my last film, the Melvin Van Peebles doc, "How to Eat Your Watermelon in White Company (and Enjoy It)." So it's a good trend line -- the next one should take only two years!

The best part was that it took me to some interesting places, in particular the time I spent with saz/oud player Lu Edmonds in Tajikistan, where he spends a lot of time working with local musicians. I shot him when he was there in 2009, helping to build a recording studio in this small musical-instruments museum in Dushanbe.

3) (If you had kids) What story about making this film would you keep from telling your children?

Probably the crystal meth bender with the Mekons and the model-train enthusiasts in Wales. They'll never hear that one.

4) I always felt like some music seemed to be a personal soundtrack to my own life and I don't think I am alone in this thought. If you picked one Mekons tune that was/is a soundtrack to a time and a place in your life, what song would that be?

I'm actually a relative latecomer to the Mekons -- a colleague at work turned me on to them shortly after I moved to NYC. He gave me a tape of "The Curse of the Mekons" and "I ♥ Mekons," so whenever I hear "The Curse" or "All I Want" it takes me immediately back to that time when I was discovering a new city. And much younger.

An early Mekons single on Rough Trade Records

Mekons doing a dirty and live version of Hard to be Human at the Mean Fiddler in London.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The first guest here at Chatter of Apes...Schatzie Guerra

1980 was my Freshman Year and everything old was new again.
At least half of the people I had attended grammar school with were going elsewhere and my social circle was easily halved. Time to meet new friends.
September of that year was to bring back the highly anticipated return of Led Zeppelin and the folks in my primarily hesher neighborhood were in 7th Heaven.
Now, up until this point, I had been exposed to the typical MOR format available from WLS and its Easy Listening dial-mates. There were occasional derivations, and I remain to this day a fan of the piano as 'band' and am particularly fond of Chopin, but-
The death of John Bonham put the stops on the Zeppelin tour and also as a functioning band.
My Uncle, being slightly older than myself had introduced me to some of the 'heavier' artists around on WLUP, your '70s staples - Hendrix, The Who, Aerosmith and the like; there was also something new happening and I admit to my curiosity being piqued.
'New Wave' was the term and off the top of my head, I recall Blondie's 'Heart of Glass' followed by 'Call Me', the latter having made the charts due to its use in 'American Gigolo'.
'Heart of Glass' had what I later found out was that Giorgio Moroder driving synth, the like of which I had never heard in a 'rock' song, disco being a significant part of the music scene also.
That synth...
Kinda like a piano, but not---I was fascinated.
Girls liked it, most of the guys I knew did not, it being too close to disco, and dancing
To them there was no difference between this style and say, KC & the Sunshine Band.
'Heart of Glass' was only the set-up for the knock-out punch delivered in late 1980 -
Gary Numan's 'Cars'.
"Oh, synthesizer you say? Well by all means, have some of this!"
I was awash in a Sonic Ocean and there was no land to speak of.
Keyboards WERE the band, certainly the other instruments were present, but now this was their time to shine, futuristic, precise and all consuming, I could not get enough of this song and I had to find more from this artist. Even the album, 'The Pleasure Principle' hinted at science and no emotion, purchased, I devoured it and then started on to the back catalog.
Eventually, it turned out that Messr Numan began as a punk rock musician and to my listening ear, had managed to go from playing an expression of raw emotion to a modular, self contained android which only served to heighten my admiration. I had to have everything Numan (even his stage moniker bespoke of a new type of humanoid) and furiously sought out whatever my budget allowed.
To this day, I remain a fan of his, although I did taper off after his transition away from the Man/Machine phase but still keep a high regard for his music.
I will still play and sing along to 'Telekon', 'Are Friends Electric?' and Tubeway Army recordings, fondly recalling the time my musical horizons expanded slightly wider and into a Future I couldn't clearly envision until the release of 'Blade Runner' in 1982, but that's a whole other Ball of Wires-

Thanks for putting this together Schatzie and glad you were the first guest here.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Frameworks Has a Future And You Should Be Part Of It.


Matt Frameworks Brewer has proven to be about as difficult to write about as it would be to write about J.D. Salinger. There just isn't enough information out there to really put many words together so we must turn to the art. In Matt's case the art is beautiful music as opposed to Salinger's brilliant novels.

Matt's solo work (of which I have the greatest interest) is predominantly Chilled Ambient pieces that evokes some sort of hope, maybe even a " Darkest before the dawn" feel. It is very cinematic in scope in the sense that with eyes closed the imagination unrolls images or with eyes wide open, it becomes a pleasant, reflective soundtrack for waking life. There are shades of Nick Cave & Warren Ellis collaborations, Portishead, Cinematic Orchestra along with mind melting horns and strings. This isn't to say that the upcoming Frameworks EP isn't without originality as it has flavours that are wholly unique unto itself.

In a conversation with Matt "Frameworks" Brewer himself I got this bit of info "On my main stuff I'm working with Sabira Jade, JP Cooper and Ríoghnach Connolly.
The Ep is out with First Word in the next couple of months & the live band is in practice now and will be playing Soundwave Festival


Fold-Frameworks Feat. Kelly Atkins

The cut Fold evokes many of the facets of early Portishead which I am certain will be readily apparent but listen close because this is no pale comparison. This piece has a shimmer and beauty all its own.

Recipe for Happiness- Frameworks

Keep an eye out for Frameworks debut EP on First Word Records
due to be released in a few short weeks.

Early on Matt was a drummer for a Heavy Metal band and has since, obviously, grown in various directions. Aside from from the beautiful works crafted above this Manchester UK DJ has worked with some amazing Hip Hop talents. One of those groups is the Long Island duo, QnC.

QnC has an upcoming release on Hero Records that has Matt Frameworks prints all over it. Chillin up at the old D studios.

Here is a teaser from the upcoming QnC release on Hero records.

Here is a link to Blu Rum 13

For some straight up Canadian Hip-Hop,Frameworks also has a collaboration with Blu Rum 13 in the near future on My First Moth Records.

I feel honored to have gotten a sneaky taste of whats coming up on Frameworks upcoming First Word release.It's delicious to say the least and I can almost promise you that this will not be the last you hear from this Manchester DJ.

UPDATE: The official video for Frameworks track Somehow, taken from the Vanish EP. You can buy it at

The new video is here...

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A Requiem for Davey Jones...


I have always loved this song as it is one of the greatest psychedelic tunes ever penned (by Gerry Goffin and Carole King) and recorded in my opinion. The Monkees were in a constant struggle to break the mold of their Bubble Gum pop beginnings and this film, Head, was a direct if not bizarre byproduct of that struggle.

The Monkees - The Porpoise Song (the main theme for "Head")

My, my the clock in the sky is pounding away
There's so much to say
A face, a voice, an overdub has no choice
And it cannot rejoice

Wanting to be, to hear and to see
Crying to the sky

But the porpoise is laughing good-bye, good-bye
good-bye, good-bye, good-bye

Good Bye Davey...

The incomparably lovely and incredible wordsmith Ann Magnuson and the talented Mark Kramer of Bongwater left this behind as a great mark of Bongwater's brilliant but seldom noticed career.

...and you will know us by the trail of dead - The Porpoise Song (live)

Polyphonic Spree - Porpoise Song

Thanks to Jon F. for posting this on Facebook

Pixies- Monkey Gone To Heaven

Killing Joke- Requiem

and now this...Thanks Schatzie for this one.