I have always been a member of the music-and-politics-don’t-really-mix-because-no-one-cares-what-musicians-have-to-say-anyhow camp. Obviously, I can’t ignore the glaring exceptions to the rule. For instance, consider the reverence that Bob Marley and his music are still, in the present day, granted by the Jamaican populace. Yet with artists such as Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie often still serving as musical barometers of appropriate political involvement in this country, it would seem that the need for a new form of social protest has been present for some time.

[Q and Not U] As members of Washington D.C.’s Dischord label, operated by members of the politically inclined post-punk, ber-band Fugazi, it seems that the members of Q and Not U, granted a bit more exposure, could easily fill the role of successful 21st-century artistic activists. Yet, Q and Not U are not simply a more amiable version of Rage Against the Machine. Our uniquely named friends are here to inform us that we must inform ourselves.

In speaking with John Davis (drums/percussion/backup vocals) and Chris Richards (guitar/bass/keyboards/vocals/songwriting) over the course of two interviews, I realized that informed optimism can often be the most valiant opponent of sociopolitical turmoil. With their musically diverse, lyrically progressive and surprisingly danceable new record, Power, Q and Not U have upped the ante for indie-rock involvement. Now they’ll tell you how.

SLUG: Do the instrumental diversification and expansion of vocal treatments go hand in hand with either the enhanced political content on the record or the increasing urgency in the political climate at large?

Chris Richards: I can definitely see that being the case, but we feel we just do what comes naturally. But in context, all the current political debates revolve around the issue of freedom. The same freedom we possess and explore.

SLUG: Are there any collective influences or interests that are moving the band in this direction?

John Davis: Though we’ve been moving in this direction for a while, the core influences that people are going to spot on this record are Fela Kuti, James Brown, Prince, Daft Punk and on and on. But we are still a punk band. But, to break it down, in 2000, when we made No Kill No Beep Beep, we were listening to 75 percent rock music and 25 percent dance music. Hence, that was more a traditional post-punk record. But now that ratio is reversed.

SLUG: It seems that the rhetoric on Power is not only more openly political than your previous albums, but the lyrics also seem to become more firm in the socially minded stance as the album progresses. With statements like “we’re keeping our flags at home” and “can’t take it out, forever your country” in the final two tracks (“Book of Flags” and “Tag-Tag”) it seems a message has been fleshed out of previous metaphors and allusions. Is this something that was evident to you while recording, or even now in retrospect?

JD: At first, I didn’t necessarily think this was a political record. But thinking back, it makes sense, considering everything that is going on in the country and who we are as people, that there is a lot of politically minded content.

CR: I just tried to let the songs write themselves. I tried not to fight it. In the past, I was certainly more attracted to fragmented lyrics and imagery that require the listener to bring their own set of aesthetics to the exchange. Hence, this record feels far more narrative and explicit. But, on the other hand, it seems that keeping some of the lyrics in the rhetorical gray area shows more respect for the listener and their intelligence.

Chris went on to say that he usually doesn’t inform John about the presumed messages contained in the lyrics. Hence, the band has its own set of checks and balances, a way to sort through the potential interpretations of their material.

A few days prior, my own politicking tongue had been thrust into action after witnessing a new music video with terribly overt political content. As I was speaking with culturally conscious musicians, it seemed a good idea to discuss this intersection of pop music and politics.

So I queried:

SLUG: Regarding Green Day‘s new single and video, “American Idiot,” do you feel that bludgeoning statements such as “not part of the redneck agenda” or images like stripes melting off the American flag while slime covers the band hinder the causes of organizations that challenge the status quo and this administration, perhaps because the statement can easily be interpreted as anti-American?

JD: They just happen to speak to 16-year-olds. It is certainly not eloquent or mature, but I’m glad that there’s a big band that at least is talking about these issues. Yet it will turn off a lot of people because it is so easily misinterpreted and misrepresented. Members of the political right could simply attribute these statements to all liberals and say, “this is how the left views this country.” It was the same issue with Rage Against the Machine. Their words and images seemed to lack resonance because they were major-label artists. It is hard to be a rebel when the system is paying for your megaphone. But I understand the argument that they might have used the system to get their voice heard. That is really the lesson to learn: that politics and social concerns are never present in black and white. There is always room for debate.

Chris would also demonstrate this rational flexibility; a thing I thought was lost on the D.C. punk scene and Dischord Records.

CR: It’s a double-edged sword, really. But I would rather have Green Day write lyrics with such political content rather than filling another album with songs about girls and Slurpees. Ideally, kids can accept this political content and then build upon that foundation themselves and reach out to more provocative information.

SLUG: Considering that, yet also recognizing such artists as Bruce Springsteen and John Mellencamp, who openly endorse the Democratic Party and could potentially influence the middle-aged vote, what artists are left to fill the influential middle ground, the 18 to 30 demographic?

CR: In the popular spectrum, the influence certainly belongs to hip-hop. Rock radio is pathetic. It’s a floundering menace full of bland, atrocious music. Even considering the current work of Russell Simmons and Outkast’s performance on the VMA’s making light of the political conventions, the current state of musical activism is kind of sad. I mean, where’s our Sly Stone? Where’s our Bob Dylan? On the other hand, within the last year, vocalization about these issues really seemed to build in the underground communities. Yet, regardless of the outcome of the election, we can’t subside into apathy after we get the results. Apathy has been intrinsically burned into American culture, especially in this demographic, and hopefully this election destroys that.

SLUG: In your experience, do you feel that hailing from Washington D.C., the homeland for such issues, has made it any easier to get points across to an audience?

JD: People might think we have inherent attachments to these issues based on our location and the history of the D.C. punk and hardcore scene. Singing about politics and doing benefit shows is part of our musical DNA.

CR: In a subconscious way, being in D.C., a city that is built on the industry of the federal government, certainly influences our music. Yet I certainly don’t think we are any more qualified to talk about social issues than anyone else in this country. Being an American is the only right you need to say anything.

SLUG: What is your favorite politically minded album in your collection?

I’ll admit I didn’t quite hold my ground on this question and allowed John and Chris the opportunity to talk about whatever they wanted. Hence, I didn’t receive the most concise answers. Regardless, the resulting continuity proved to be charming.

CR: Fela Kuti is incredibly important. This is a man that ran for president of his native Nigeria, built a fence around his property and declared it a sovereign state, only to have the government invade it and kill his mother and break all the bones in his body. The tight link between music and politics for this man was truly inspiring.

JD: Zombie by Fela Kuti is probably the favorite, but bands like Gang of Four and U2 are certainly candidates.

SLUG: In your opinion, what should individuals of our age group (18 to 30) be reading right now?

JD: Magazines like The Nation and In These Times have been great inspiration to me. I think reading about American history, especially colonial history, can really put a lot of what is happening now in a new context.

In a post-interview e-mail, Chris suggested John Berger’s The Shape of a Pocket, a collection of essays that “humanize a wide array of social and political conflicts.” As this suggestion came back to me through the press agent, I was certainly nothing short of smitten with his genuine attention to detail. Furthermore, I was smitten with Q and Not U.

As both John and Chris addressed the acquiescent nature of political logic with the utmost eloquence, it was only appropriate to find out that the band’s name is also an example of such freeform postmodern thought. Though the concept of having a “Q” with no “U” is more closely associated with 20th-century linguistic thought, it certainly resonates with the daunting task of sorting through this nation’s current political rhetoric. But if your head won’t stop spinning, if you can’t make black or white of what you’re hearing (reminder: you won’t be able to), then find yourself a microphone.

Don’t miss Q and Not U (touring with the equally conscious and active El Guapo) at the Lo-Fi Cafe Oct. 24.

In a warehouse space full of clothing patterns, racks of jackets and skirts, boxes of scarves, enormous computer screens, sewing machines and genuinely interesting-looking people, a man with a full-length wool coat and camouflage pants directs the operation. He is the Idaho-born, Los Angeles fashion scene-weaned, fashion world upstart Jared Gold. With a new retail space in Trolley Square, Jared and his Black Chandelier associates offer a bacchanalian alternative to the typically bucolic Salt Lake shopping experience.

Yet, unlike other outlets of fashion and feel-good hipness, Jared’s scintillating designs will undoubtedly be kinder to your checking account than the Prada sweater you bought last year in New York.

After moving to an empty, spacious room above 100 South, Jared candidly discussed his unique career, his aspirations upon returning to Salt Lake with his business, the virtues and vices of contemporary fashion and the “over-the-top holistic environment” of the Black Chandelier store.

SLUG: Examining your resume that includes extensive music study, it seems that fashion wasn’t always your intended career path. What caused the career change? Was there any sort of epiphany?

Jared Gold: Fashion just seemed like a really easy thing to do. It seemed really easy to make stuff. But it also seemed really easy to sell it and make people be interested.

SLUG: What was your first fashion success? What got the ball rolling?

JG: I was really obsessed with Andy Warhol in high school. I taught myself how to screenprint and I developed flavored inks. We then made shirts utilizing a transdermal medium; you sweat and drugs go directly into your body. This was 1992, so it was a perfect match for the rave scene. Then we decided to send some shirts to Perry Farrell and he was into it, so we started touring with Lollapalooza. The ironic thing was that they wouldn’t let us sell our shirts because they were selling their own. So we had to learn to make clothing. That’s probably how it started. No one at that point was making rave clothing, so we showed up in San Francisco at the beginning of the tour and sold everything in three hours. We drove back to Idaho with a roll of $100 bills.

(It seemed to me that he was glossing over a step in the process. We can’t all call the lead singer of Jane’s Addiction on a Sunday afternoon to talk about creative T-shirt production. So, how was the connection with Perry Farrell made in the first place?)

JG: Lecturing at art and fashion schools, I always teach people that the only thing between you and everything you want is a fear of somebody or something. All you need to do is overcome that one step. So I said, “Call him; let’s send him some stuff.” I just badgered people and did it.

Be that as it may, why would someone with such interesting successes want to move his company to Utah? Apparently, our little city has something Los Angeles doesn’t.

14
JG:
I lived in Los Angeles for eight years with a lot of time spent in New York or London. After traveling, you come home and it’s dirty and loud and some cunt in an SUV with a Frappuccino is trying to run you down. I just missed being able to wake up, go somewhere and have someone be friendly and helpful. You give up a lot leaving LA, but I feel much calmer now. I feel cloistered from outside design influences, which is important because in fashion, you have to do your life’s work every six months. You have to completely reinvent yourself and your work which is easier when you’re not surrounded by the fashion industry at large.

SLUG: In your marketing you present a “mantra of mass personalization.” Do you think that this type of grassroots image creation is possible in our current cultural environment?

JG: All I try to do is make beautiful things. For that to be possible, we have to make money. Yet I want people to feel that what we make helps them identify themselves as an individual. We try to accomplish this by having more forward design elements, dark humor and an aesthetic that isn’t based in sexuality. I’ve never made sexy clothing; I don’t think I know how. But the people I’m reaching out to are sexy in their own ways; their sexiness lies in creativity and intelligence. So, mass personalization allows someone a chance to put on something that is funny without it being stupid. Funny, then, means that I’ve got balls; I’ve got confidence. It is important to me and a lot of other people to say something about the inside on the outside without utilizing a mass-produced, blind, sexual product. We are pounded with imagery and body types. But I am able to make, design and market things. All I expect anyone else to do is find it and find something in themselves. It is really a symbiotic creativity.

At this point, I inadvertently touched upon a “sore spot” for Jared. In the form of a mini fashion industry expose, Jared regretfully stated that he had a designer from Bebe say, “Sorry, we stole a couple of your designs.” Yet he also seems to have come to terms with such plagiarism. He said, “Diesel knocked off from me directly. That’s just how fashion works.”

Considering such cutthroat competition, one would assume that most designers and companies would advertise as much as possible, relying on media exposure for financial success. Yet Black Chandelier doesn’t advertise within the typical fashion publications. What’s the secret?

JG: We make things that are very interesting. Magazines want their photo spreads to look interesting. You never see a pair of basic black slacks in a fashion publication. So hype is created. People want to come to your show; they want to see what you’re going to make next.

SLUG: It seems as if a lot of male designers primarily work with women’s designs. Is this a creative decision or more of a financial consideration?


JG:
I’ve made men’s clothing before, but marketing is very difficult. The market for men’s clothing is incredibly traditional. Men don’t change their wardrobes seasonally as much as women. Hence, style and trend move much more slowly through men’s clothing. People always say, “There isn’t any interesting menswear.” But after you make it, reaching them can be challenging.

SLUG: People might say, “Jared, these are idyllic thoughts, but I can’t afford designer things. Hence, I shop at Old Navy.” How then do you respond to the complaint that fashion defies affordability?

JG: In Salt Lake, you really have to shell out cash to get interesting clothes. That’s what’s great at Black Chandelier; it is cheap and well-made. Good design doesn’t cost any more than bad design. We just do it more thoughtfully and creatively than Old Navy. Furthermore, we are going direct from cost to retail, so our prices stay in the range of The Gap.

Jared said his work relies on humor, irony and a play of opposites: “opposites exist for synergy.” For Salt Lake residents, this may become more evident when Jared’s new “well-dressed polygamist garage worker” line becomes available. But for now, we can cash in on a provocative substitute to door-crashers and layaway payments at the electronics superstore.

“I want to see how people react,” Jared finishes. “It is a test to reach out to people who are not exposed to things like this. I have faith that people will be excited.”

Opens Nov. 26, 2004 at Trolley Square. Be sure to stop by Black Chandelier for occasional performances and whimsical entertainment. For more info, call 801.746.3435, and isit www.blackchandelier.com and www.jaredgold.com.

The Official Jared Gold Timeline
1990: Obsession with Andy Warhol leads Gold to become a self-taught screen-printer
1992: Begins to produce T-shirts with flavored inks -Tours with Lollapallooza
1993: Tours with Lollapallooza again
1994: Moves to SLC.
– Opens party dress atelier catering to proms and drag queens
– Operates and promotes shows at The Vortex, Club X, Wild Planet, including Marilyn Manson
1995: Opens The Kitchen segment in Bricks
1996: Moves to Los Angeles to attend Otis College of Art and Design
1998: Designs for Fred Segal, L.A.
– Produces his first fashion show
1999: Sells Jared Gold products to Barney’s, New York
– Launches men’s collection in London
2000: First New York fashion show at Bryant Park during New York Fashion Week featuring the Dark Dynamite Collection.
2001: Entrance into Japanese market
2002: Gold receives backing from an Italian manufacturing group.
– Launches Black Chandelier.
– Jared produces items for Dermalogica and Nike
2003: Appears on the BBC’s Absolutely Fabulous
– Salt Lake City group offers Gold to take the company public
– Gold moves to Salt Lake City to design and manufacture
2004: Launches Botanical Reactor, the first Utah-made collection

GOD SAVE MY QUEEN: A TRIBUTE
DANIEL NESTER

Soft Skull Press
Street: 04.2003

In Daniel Nester’s simultaneously lyrical and obsessive treatment of Queen’s musical and metaphysical legacy, both band and ostentatious frontman Freddie Mercury are offered far greater fates than the reputation that precedes the group’s recognizable work, i.e., “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and Mercury’s highly publicized life and death. The tribute is sectioned by album and track, each song in Nester’s approach deserving of a poignant memory or historical aside. Though each prose poem is of similar length, the gravity fluctuates between the banal events of childhood life and the life-altering trials of love and loss. Many of the paragraphs are footnoted, providing order to the chaotic thoughts of youth. In a way, it is inspiring to read of music altering the construction of one’s social fabric and network so drastically as to, literally, live by lyrics. On the other hand, the text occasionally reads as a thirtysomething’s attempt to regain a childhood of far more poignancy than his adulthood. In the end, God Save My Queen is an example of escapism at its finest, a refreshing blend of doe-eyed pre-teen angst and midlife scholastic reflection. –J. Thomas Burch, Esq.

PICNIC GROUNDS: A NOVEL IN FRAGMENTS
OZ SHELACH

City Lights
Street: 04.01.03

Composed in a clean literary style devoid of muddied metaphors and overarching allegories, the hauntingly brief vignettes of Oz Shelach’s Picnic Grounds are guided by the concept of the commons: a series of publicly utilized resources, plots of land and amorphous societal rights. As a whole, the book acts as commentary regarding the current state of Israeli politics, both domestic and international. Yet any discussion of Israeli supremacy is markedly void. Instead, we are offered brief tales that serve as microcosms for the nation’s conflicts. Some are left behind in perishing villages. Some have vanished without a trace. Some cause problems for the sake of something to do. A select few have established successful, semi-charmed lives, leaving their complex issues behind with the ravaged forest land and sprawling desert. Though devoid of true narrative, the cogent vignettes establish a pattern that effectively highlights what the cost of citizenry was, is and shall become. –J. Thomas Burch, Esq.

 

THE ART OF MODERN ROCK: THE POSTER EXPLOSION
PAUL GRUSHKIN AND DENNIS KING

Chronicle Books
Street: 11.04.04

Guided by the premise that music (at least in the recorded age) and visual art are inextricably linked, The Art of Modern Rock provides readers a captivating compendium to the world of poster art. Featuring an array of artists ranging from heavy hitters like Frank Kozik to local printmaking chanteuse Leia Bell, anyone interested in the overlap of music world politics and DIY visual production can justify the purchase of this pricey coffee-table behemoth. According to the authors, the rise of the CD and digital-music sharing permanently downgraded the role of album cover art. Therefore, these posters serve as both response to that phenomenon and documents of a new, organic form of artistic ingenuity. Yet, as one would expect with such a product, the text takes a back seat. The authors’ assertions, as well as the artist’s biographies and statements, are too often tucked away in the margins, overshadowed by bold imagery. Despite the sometimes aggravating all-over pastiche of the book’s layout, this collection does far more to legitimize this subcultural genre than the archetypal late-night coffee shop bulletin board. –J. Thomas Burch, Esq.

THE WORLD’S EMBRACE: SELECTED POEMS
ABDELLATIF LAABI

City Lights Books
Street: 02.01.03

Every once in a while, you encounter an unfortunate soul who tries to sell you on literature’s primary (only to the far right-wingers) purpose—the conveyance of beauty. If said people possess any respect for world literature, they will find Essential Rumi on the Barnes and Noble bargain shelf, do some research and discover The World’s Embrace. If very few of Moroccan poet Abdellatif Laabi’s lines stand out, it’s because these poems serve their purpose only when considered as cohesive statements regarding the nature of existence, suffering, renewal, etc. This approach is often synonymous with the effort to convey some aspect of the individual experience vis-à-vis the universal (the title is evidence of this). Yet, if composed with anything less than brilliance, the poetry is often slave to overwhelmingly vague sentiment. I assumed a book of Moroccan poetry would possess something out of the literary ordinary (like Mohammed Mrabet’s phantasmagoric folktales). Not to say there is nothing of value in Laabi’s words (some sequences are sneakily enchanting), but the overall scope of the work and treatment of the subjects remains bland. –J. Thomas Burch, Esq.