“True hardcore is forever young; true hardcore is left undone.”

Lou Barlow has been in a lot of bands, yet he is self-contained. His first band in Boston was the hardcore outfit Deep Wound. Later, he joined indie legends Dinosaur Jr. only to be kicked out by front man J. Mascis for “lacking social skills.” Lo-fi Sebadoh was his bounce-back band, one that was tremendously influential on myriad bands (but please don’t link him to emo), and evolved over a decade into a rock and roll juggernaut. Meanwhile, he continued to do lo-fi on the side under the moniker of Sentridoh, and came up with a side project called Folk Implosion (you might recognize their hit “Natural One” from the movie “Kids.”). Folk Implosion has since imploded, and Lou is hitting the road with early Sebadoh member Jason Loewenstein. A mid-fi solo record is also soon to be released. I caught up with him at his L.A. home while he was trying to remove kitty litter crystals from the clogged sink drain attached to his washing machine.

SLUG: This is pretty nerve-wracking for me because you’re basically my hero; you’re my rock and roll god, icon …

Lou Barlow: Really … thanks man [laughing] … I guess.

SLUG: I’m glad to be talking to you while the sun is still in Cancer.

Lou Barlow: It is, you know it was my birthday two days ago [July 17]. Jason’s birthday is tomorrow [quick plug: www.jakerock.com], so Sebadoh in its current incarnation is really Cancer-packed.

SLUG: That’s appropriate because there are two full moons this month, and your birthday was on the new moon. I’m a 7/11 guy myself. So between the astrology and the fact that you recorded your first couple of records on a 4-track, I was so inspired that I got down in the basement and tried to follow in your footsteps as so many others have done. The only thing that really impeded me was a lack of ability.

Lou Barlow: It’s one of those things that you just don’t know, though. You just have to try [sigh].

SLUG: In 1988, when I first heard the Freed Man and Weed Forestin’, you had me at Bridge Was You/Soulmate/I Love Me. It’s interesting with all of the different incarnations that you and your bands have taken over the years that you’ve gotten back to doing the Sebadoh/Sentridoh thing, and doing some home recordings. It’s pretty sweet now because it’s mid-fi instead of lo-fi.

Lou Barlow: Yeah. The technology has improved considerably since I first started. So now, cheap, good-sounding equipment is commercially available. When I started I could only afford a cassette 4-track, and that thing cost me $600-$700. It was expensive to be lo-fi. When you’re working your first job out of high school, still living out of your parents’ house and bagging groceries, that’s pretty expensive.

SLUG: And yet it’s been 15 years since Sebadoh started, and you’ve been making rock-and-roll for nearly 20 years, and you’ve yet to get a day job, I guess.

Lou Barlow: It’s getting kind of scary though. I’ve let things slide to such a degree. Luckily, I have a Sebadoh tour coming up. That’s been my only goal since the beginning is to not have a day job, but it hasn’t been combined with a whole lot of ambition beyond that.

SLUG: I’ve heard your jokes about how you might become a registered nurse.

Lou Barlow: I don’t really know if that’s a joke [laughing]. I guess it seems like it could be funny, but to me it’s not; it’s kind of … I don’t know. I shouldn’t talk about money. I hate talking about money. I say stupid things when I talk about money. I shouldn’t worry about money. Know what I’m saying?

SLUG: Amen to that, brother.

Lou Barlow: Anyway I have a tour coming up and I’m almost done with my first proper mid-fi solo record.

SLUG: Which is Loobiecore, Vol. 2?

Lou Barlow: Well, I don’t think anybody wants me to call it that. I want to call it that, but I think that my tendency to have ironic titles like that has worked against me over the years. That’s the common opinion among people I know, my family, my loved ones. They think that I should maybe step up and call it Lou Barlow. There, it’s my solo record, and I’m not steeping myself in all these self-deprecating, ironic things.

SLUG: Self-deprecation works up to a point …

Lou Barlow: But when you’re 38, let’s say, and your wife is pregnant and you have a really nice house in a very expensive neighborhood in LA. Being self-deprecating and lacking ambition and living in Los Angeles is a really odd combination.

SLUG: Congratulations on the pregnancy. In one of your journal entries on www.loobiecore.com, you mentioned that you wanted to have a little kid.

Lou Barlow: Did I say that in my journal? God, I said that? I guess I really was putting hints out there for awhile.

SLUG: You really plug into your own mortality when you have a child.

Lou Barlow: Yeah, and that can never hurt. I mean it can hurt, but it’s OK. That’s my job to manufacture hurt and confusion into songs. The more hurt and confusion I feel, the more creative I tend to be.

SLUG: That’s right, you have a “License to Confuse.”

Lou Barlow: [laughing] And to be confused as well.

SLUG: What are the logistics of you and Jason on tour?

Lou Barlow: We have prerecorded drums, played by Jason, and he plays bass and I play guitar. We’re doing songs from across the Sebadoh catalog, but heavy on Bakesale, which seems to work really well. What’s interesting is we play a large part of Weed Forestin’ too, but people are like “What?”; I think that everybody knows this stuff. I don’t know why I would think that, but when I put out that record I made a lot of friends and people came to our shows, so I always feel like I’m being really awesome when I play those songs.

SLUG: Are you playing “The Freed Pig”? That has to be the most brilliant song to an ex-bandmate since John Lennon’s “How Do You Sleep?” Speaking of J. Mascis, didn’t you recently hang out with him?

Lou Barlow: He played a benefit show that Sebadoh played at two or three months ago, and I sang on stage with him and Ron Asheton, Scott Asheton, and Mike Watt when they were playing Stooges songs in London.

SLUG: Did he pay you back any of the money that he owes you from the Dinosaur Jr. back catalog?

Lou Barlow: After being kicked out of the band, I was angry and couldn’t call him and ask him directly for money, so I sued him and got $10,000. That was the settlement, I guess. After that, I’m just a performer on his records. I’m not mad at J. I have no ax to grind anymore. It’s been ground. We’re just two old guys playing in our respective bands, living off past glories. We’re equals now. There’s no need for bitter infighting.

SLUG: Yeah, but he writes one 6-minute song and you write three 2-minute songs.

Lou Barlow: That’s my style. Yeah. He plays a whole lot of lead guitar, I’ve noticed. He really likes to play lead guitar. It’s pretty incredible. As a guitar player and as a musician, I don’t understand leads that well. I liked it when I played in his band, because his leads were awesome. [Former Sebadoh member] Eric Gaffney had pretty good leads, too. He was kind of a crazy lead player. He was a really interesting guitar player.

SLUG: What’s next for you: Sebadoh vs. Mothra, or my favorite: constant lo-fi Loobiecore like water dripping from a faucet?

Lou Barlow: I don’t know. We live so far apart that if Sebadoh were ever to make a record again, we would have to do it without any influence from anybody, no labels. I would want to do it completely independently before we even looked for a label, which would be difficult at this point because Jason’s working two jobs in Louisville and playing in his band, and I have this solo record coming out and need to tour as much as possible before the baby comes. So I don’t know if we’ll be able to find the time to just “chill out” and spend some quality time together, which is what it takes to make a good record.

SLUG: But so far so good. It’s sort of like “slow food.” Your latest recording cycle has worked out well.

Lou Barlow: Exactly.

An extended version of this interview, along with LouB’s music, will air on Across the Tracks on KRCL 90.9FM on Aug. 14. Radio show begins at 1pm MST.

Ahh, Sundance Season. Time for that quaint little film festival put on by that little man who once watched Butch riding Katharine Ross around on bicycle handlebars to tumble into town followed by people, events and opportunities nigh seen around these parts any other time of year. Back in my salad days, before Mr. Hankey had to save the South Park sewer, I remember seeing such brilliant films at Sundance Festival as Blood Simple and Sex, Lies & Videotape that helped launch the careers of the Cohen brothers and Steven Soderburgh, respectively. The festival has changed enormously, become much more commercial, yet it is still an opportunity—to see some damn good movies. Here’s a sideways snapshot preview of the 2005 Sundance Film Festival from A-Z:

 

A

is for art. Film is “art,” right? Check out this list of 50 hot “artists” who appear in this year’s Sundance films along with highlights of their careers:

 

Joan Allen—not really a hatchet-face; she just plays one onscreen (Pat Nixon).
Tom Arnold—Roseanne’s castoff is now is on the Worst Damn Sports Show Period.
Benjamin Bratt—agreed to do Catwoman thinking it would be a sequel to Monster’s Ball.
Beau Bridges—He’s made 100 films but his brother is the dude, dude.
Pierce Brosnan—to Hell with James Bond; I’m all about the Remington Steele.
Steve Buscemi—his role as the lipstick-wearing serial killer in Billy Madison is priceless.
Neve Campbell—still waiting for the sequel to Wild Things, Neve. Denise is down.
Chevy Chase—Three Amigos, Funny Farm, Caddyshack II … Fletch was on fire!
Joan Chen—We lesbian-scene purists prefer Wild Side with Anne Heche to Wild Things.
Kevin Costner—ma’am, I’m neither an actor nor director nor producer. I’m a postman.
Alan Cumming—hmmm, Spice World, The Flintstones, X2 and beaucoup d’art films.
Jeff Daniels—Dumb and Dumber made us forget that he ever worked with Woody Allen.
Daniel Day-Lewis—That The Last of the Mohicans hunk made my day.
Laura Dern—from David Lynch to Jurassic Park and Dr. T and the Women. Ouch.
Danny DeVito—Twins. He and der gropenfuhrer were obviously separated at birth.
Matt Dillon—I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for Tex, or was it Dally? Rusty?
Robert Downey, Jr.—good research on his role in Less Than Zero, post-production.
Janeane Garofalo—the boys were cruel enough to her in Team America: World Police.
John Goodman—please, Mr. Goodman, never appear as a Blues Brother again. Please.
Macy Gray—isn’t she that crazy bitch with the whacked-out hair? Just checking.
Michael Keaton—still hasn’t quite made it back from Beetle Juice and Batman.
Jane Krakowski—similarly, Jane K. was the only Ally McBeal actress who ate daily.
Lisa Kudrow—you know, she can really act. Why did she make that trash for 10 years?
Jennifer Jason Leigh—she had me from Fast Times … until Single White Female. Yikes.
Kelly Lynch—let me see, Drugstore Cowboy or Curly Sue? Nah, it’s Charlie’s Angels.
Carrie-Anne Moss—still trapped somewhere inside the matrix doing kung fu with Keanu.
Bebe Neuwirth—I don’t care how many plays she’s done; she’s still Lilith from Cheers.
Catherine O’Hara—great as Mickey in A Mighty Wind and Cookie in Best in Show.
Bill Pullman—great chemistry between him and Ellen DeGeneres in Mr. Wrong.
David Schwimmer—you know, he can sorta act. Why did he make that trash for so long?
Kyra Sedgwick—the apex of her acting career was t-shirt toilet-scrubbing in Singles.
Elisabeth Shue—left her top poolside in Leaving Las Vegas. Nick Cage left his integrity.
Jimmy Smits—Miami Vice, L.A. Law and NYPD Blue. Now that’s a holy trinity.
Mary Steenbergen—I thought that maybe she was washed up until I saw Elf.
Marisa Tomei—when I saw In the Bedroom I thought, “That could have been me.”
Liv Tyler—it’s all been anticlimactic since she worked the strippers’ pole in Dad’s video.
Donnie Wahlberg—the Jan Brady to prosthetic-wearing, underwear-modeling bro’ Mark.
James Woods—Did you know that he was born in Vernal? Welcome home, native son.

 

Kevin Bacon (of course), along with his “music”-making brother.

 

To be fair, that’s what stars do now: They make one or two sellout films so they have the leeway to make an indie film and name their kids Apple or Phinneaus or some shit.

 

B

is for barhopping. At the end of January, rubbernecking could catch you a glimpse of a B-list celebrity (providing he/she is slumming and not attending a VIP-only party). Or, if you’re lucky you could go home with that slut Hilary who writes the dating column for Flipside in Park City.

 

C

 

is for Calexico. One of the many bands playing at the famous/rich-only Music Café is Tucson’s finest. My date to the Calexico/Wilco show informed me that the tall one who plays the vibes is “hot.” Also scheduled at the café are … And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, Dresden Dolls, Angelique Kidjo, Kings of Leon, Suzanne Vega, artists who are old (Michael McDonald and Rickie Lee Jones) and many more.

 

D

 

is for documentaries. The documentary competition has two divisions: American and World. American topics include death row convictions overturned by DNA, Penn Jillette backstage, Daniel Johnston (more on him later), a high school sex-ed advocate, Enron, Mardi Gras beads made in China and a Catholic clergy sex cover-up. World documentary topics include Chechnyan children, killer bears, a Rwandan massacre, a Brit going bonkers in Brooklyn and Communist Chinese revolutionary model operas.

 

E

 

is for Egyptian. Now that’s a theater, or is it theatre? As an aside to you Ogdenites, there will also be screenings of Sundance films at Peery’s Egyptian up North. So you will have more than Bad Brad Wheeler and the blues now that they’ve taken your nativity scene away. Several years ago I saw Care of the Spitfire Grill at Park City’s Egyptian. This was after Castle Rock had shelled out an obscene amount of money for the distribution rights. Man, that movie was a dog and I was drunk. I passed out and I was snoring loudly throughout the screening. My ex-wife woke me up and I hollered something indecent at the screen. That was when Sundance’s worm turned.

 

F

 

is for frontier. “Frontier” is what Sundance calls its small cachet of experimental work. The Joy of Life features the voice of beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti in a visual poem about San Francisco. Room is executive produced by Michael Stipe and describes a mother transcending technological and wartime media saturation. Sugar is the name of Bob Mould’s band. Just kidding, it’s actually about another woman in a Kafkaesque situation. Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take 2_ is a postmodern way to say it belongs to the two Steves (Soderburgh and Buscemi). Tropic of Cancer is a Mexican film about begging and primitive hunting. One may also explore the virtual frontier at SOFF (Sundance Online Film Festival), www.sundance.org.

 

G

 

is for Glover, Crispin. What is the highlight of Crispin Glover’s career? Was it cultivating his creepiness in River’s Edge (which played at Sundance)? Was it keeping his cat in the cooler in Rubin and Ed? Is Crispin proud that he lived above Frederick’s on Hollywood Blvd. or that he played McFly or that he almost kicked Letterman in the head or that local band Boxcar Kids wrote a song about him called Hellion? Perhaps it can be found in his entry in this year’s festival, What Is It? Let’s see: graphic sexuality, a black-faced minstrel who wants to be an invertebrate, talking snails, giant seashells, a naked woman in a monkey mask. That sounds about right.

 

H

 

is for ho. Actually, Hustle & Flow is about a pimp, but per KRS-One, this is a pimp/ho society we live in. If you don’t believe me, simply observe the hustlin’ and flowin’ going on at some of the Park City parties. Apparently Djay, the protagonist of H&F, demonstrates that pimps can suffer through midlife crises too, which may seem Ludacris, except that particular rapper is cast in the film too. Word.

 

I

 

is for “independent.” INDEPENDENT is plastered on the cover (out of focus) of this year’s Sundance guide, which is a bit of a joke because nearly everyone involved has something that they want to be, or that has already been, sold. Let’s all hold hands and change it to “Differently Dependent.”

 

J

 

screenis for Daniel Johnston, a manic-depressive, middle-aged musical manchild who lives with his parents in Waller, TX. When his dad screened my phone call he revealed that Daniel had lived in Brigham City when he was just a baby, yet he still remembered it.

 

DJ: Hi, how are you?

SLUG: It’s exciting that you’re coming up to Park City for the festival in January.

DJ: Yeah, we’re all excited about the documentary. They’ve been working on it forever and it should be a lot of laughs.

SLUG: It seems like you’re a big fan of movies.

DJ: Oh yeah, I was watching a DVD just now and I watch all kind of movies all the time.

SLUG: Your song “King Kong” certainly is a tribute to that film.

DJ: Oh yeah, that’s one of my most-watched films. The song came from watching it a lot.

SLUG: When you were younger, didn’t you used to make Super 8 films?

DJ: Yeah, and I made some videos. I had a friend that I wanted to make films with, but she died. I had just seen the movie Ed Wood and I was so inspired to make B-movies like that, but then she died. That was a real rip-off.

SLUG: Obviously you’re a visual person with all of the art that you do.

DJ: I draw a lot. That’s where I make my spending cash. My dad buys my drawings and resells them. I can get a fair price to have money for cigarettes, soda pop and stuff.

SLUG: Where do your characters come from? Is that what’s going on in your head?

DJ: I do use some copyrighted characters such as Captain America and Casper the Friendly Ghost, even Strange Dog who looks sort of like Snoopy. But I have my own characters as well. I have had offers to do professional comic books, but I don’t know what’s with me. I get too paranoid when the offers are too real … even Stephen Spielberg made me an offer to be on his label and I said, “I don’t wanna’ be E.T.” When I think about it now, I want to kick myself in the head. I could be a millionaire.

JohnstonSLUG: I heard that your [Hi, how are you?] mural in Austin [that Kurt Cobain wore on his T-shirt] was in danger of being painted over.

DJ: Yeah, it made the papers. But then they decided to keep it. And the logo of that frog is on the uniforms of the new Mexican restaurant they opened there.

SLUG: What made you decide to head down to Austin?

DJ: I was traveling with a carnival that had Austin as its last stop, so I had nowhere else to go. I sold corn dogs, but we spelled korn dogs with a “k,” so that was it.

SLUG: What’s the story of you handing out your homemade cassettes to people?

DJ: When I moved to Austin, there were all these kids around my age and they were all playing this great music. I’d received a tape duplicator for Christmas, so I made copies of tapes that I’d already made and I gave them out to everyone I met, especially pretty girls, and to musicians too. By the time I went to do my first show, people knew who I was so the place was packed. It was like the Ed Sullivan Show, in a way.

SLUG: Were you working at McDonald’s at the time?

DJ: I was. I had a janitor’s position. I had started on the grill, but I knew I had to get out and work the lobby. So I could dream all day and write songs in my head while I was cleaning the tables and emptying the garbage. All of my fellow rock and rollers could come and see me and talk about doing shows and stuff.

SLUG: In 1994 you signed with Atlantic Records and released Fun, on which you were helped by Paul Leary of the Butthole Surfers.

DJ: That’s right: Paul Leary at the door. I had a lot of songs written already, but because I was on medication from the psychology doctor my arms were shaking and I couldn’t really play the guitar. So I just showed him the parts and he played them. Once we got started, Paul had me make up a lot songs. So there’s a lot of goofball songs on the album.

SLUG: The film about you is called The Devil and Daniel Johnston …

DJ: Oh man, that title … when they first started making the film they told me the title would be Yip Jump Movie. About three weeks ago my brother told me the “Devil” title and I said ‘Oh, no … oh, no.” And now there’s nothing I can do about it. It’s a nightmare.

Untitled-1SLUG: But those themes of good and evil are in your music.

DJ: I realize that, but I remember seeing The Devil and Daniel Webster. He was like a guy who was trying to do right, but the devil was like, “Here, wanna’ beer?” He’s giving a lecture to some people and he drinks a beer and he starts saying evil things.

SLUG: The Late Great Daniel Johnston tribute album makes it sound like you’ve passed away.

DJ: Isn’t that weird? I bet that half of the people who see that are going to think that I’m dead. But those artists did very well … I like the versions of “Dream Scream” and “Impossible Love. I like Sparklehorse and (former collaborator )Jad Fair, of course.

 

I tried to ask Daniel about the nature of his illness (manic depression, treated by lithium etc.) and his former girlfriend, Lorie, from the funeral home and whether he pushed her off of a balcony because he thought she was possessed by Satan, and if he recorded “Speeding Motorcycle” with Yo La Tengo from a mental hospital phone (No, it was from a friend’s house), but I think his mom caught wind of the content of my questions and yelled from the other room, “Dan, that’s enough. Get off of the phone!” So he did.

 

Daniel Johnston’s documentary premieres in Park City on Monday, January 24 at 6:15 p.m. at the Holiday Village Cinema. There is also an SLC screening at the Broadway Centre Friday, January 28 at 6:45 p.m. He plays the Sundance Music Cafe on Wed. the 26th at 9:15 p.m. followed by Yo La Tango. A limited amount of tickets are available from www.sundance.org.

 

K

is for “Killer” Kane. Arthur “Killer” Kane was the bassist and leader of the New York Dolls. David Johansen referred to him as “the miracle of God’s creation,” which Kane seems to have taken literally as he became a born-again Mormon after the band bottomed out on drugs and alcohol. New York Doll, also in the American Documentary Competition, details the story of how Kane, 30 years later, buys his guitar back from a pawnshop, takes leave from his job at the Family Center Library and reunites with the Dolls.

 

L

is for losers. Let’s just all agree going in that we are losers, whether we have a screenplay to pitch, or digital dexterity, or onscreen charisma or a Swiss bank account or whatever: losers, losers, losers. To import the wisdom of Rodney King from SoCal, “Can’t we all just get along?” There, now I feel better.

 

M

is for Murderball. Only at a film festival can you see quadriplegic rugby with modified Mad-Max-style wheelchairs and a Canada vs. USA conflict. Who needs the NHL (no hockey league)? God bless Canada.

 

N

is for Nine Lives. I intentionally omitted the nine actresses in this film from the “Hot Top 50” list, but they are bringing it: Kathy Baker, Amy Brenneman, Elpidia Carrillo, Glenn Close, Lisa Gay Hamilton, Holly Hunter, Amanda Seyfried, Sissy Spacek and Robin Wright Penn. Plus director/screenwriter infers that these women are like cats, so I’m not the only one kicking around who’s not exactly PC.

 

O

is for “on-line.” In addition to the SOFFrontier, the Sundance Digital Center is offering daily workshops on such topics as HP/Avid, Sony, HDV, Panavision, Adobe, HD Shooting and Format, Docs and Blogs, Animation, Postproduction and how to be a chode in general.

 

P

is for panels. I wish it were still for Piper Heidsieck (former sponsor of the independent spirit awards). Oh well, less champagne for me. Topics for panel discussion include culture wars, imaginary worlds, sex, alternative distribution, machinima, poets of progress and doom and music.

 

Q

is for queer. Gay, lesbian and transgender films seem to have less of a presence at this year’s festival than in years past, and I hope that this is not by design. Perhaps there is need for another alternative festival, BecauseWe’reHereDance?

 

R

is for Reefer Madness. You don’t have to be stoned to enjoy this film, but it could help. Check this out: It’s a musical starring Alan Cumming, Neve Campbell and half of Gemini’s Twin, Ana Gasteyer. You’ll laugh so hard that you’ll cough.

 

S

is for Strangers With Candy. Jerri Blank is your typical 46-year-old ex-junkie whore with strong bisexual libido until she decides to return to high school upon her release from prison. The screenplay is penned by Amy Sedaris, the Daily Show’s Stephen Colbert and director Paul Dinello, and is like an after-school special on acid. It features cameos by Philip Seymour Hoffman, Matthew Broderick, and his wife who does The Gap commercials.

 

T

is for Trolley Square. Camping out for tickets at the Trolley Square box office is the closest one can come to an opening of Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, or a D&D convention. Seriously, don’t be bummed out if you wait and you still can’t get tickets to the screenings you want. The good news is that another art cinema is opening where Madstone used to be, so screenings should be plentiful there and courtesy of the Salt Lake Film Society (Broadway, Tower).

 

U

 

is for underground. Old Sundance underground, where are you now? Perhaps it would be better to focus instead on Slamdance and Tromadance. Check out the Slamdance guide on page 12 for a list of their cool happenings. If Tromadance had their shit together at press time you would be reading about their films right here. Check out their website instead: www.tromadance.com

 

V

is for van. If you are an ingenue and some dudes invite you to get in the back of their windowless van to view some real cutting-edge cinema, don’t do it. Watch the Aussie film Wolf Creek if you want to be scared.

 

W

is for Wendy. Lars Von Trier is trying to cheer us up again. It’s not enough for him to make uplifting films like Breaking the Waves, Dancer in the Dark and Dogville in which women are sexual deviants, hanged or raped, respectively. Now with his screenplay for Dear Wendy (directed by Thomas Vinterberg), he tells the story of Dick and his love for a gun that makes us reflect upon our quirky Americana.

 

X

is for X-Dance (like the X-Games, get it?) the action sports spin off of Sundance. Like Tromadance, all screenings are FREE. Too bad the drinks at the X-Dance temporary Tiki Lounge aren’t (333 Main Street, 2nd Floor—across from the Egyptian Theater!) This year’s lineup features new works from Chris and Emmet Maloney, Teaton Gravity Research and surf-turned skate/snow company, Billabong.

 

Y

is for Yo La Tengo. In addition to performing on the same night as Daniel Johnston, YLT did the music for the film Junebug; moreover, Ira and Georgia are married and even if they play a quiet show, here’s hoping for an unplugged rendition of “The Evil That Men Do.”

 

Z

is for Zion. No, not this Zion … that Zion. Mark Levin’s Protocols of Zion examines the recent rise of antisemitism post 9/11, with a score by John Zorn.

Académie Française is an institution aimed at keeping the French language free from outside influences; however, for about 50 years, the term “cool” has been proliferating in Paris and elsewhere, perhaps fronted by the Frenchies’ affinity for American jazz. What does this have to do with Londoner Max DéCharné, lead singer of the Flaming Stars? Well, he has accents aigus in his name, and his musical career to this point has been more underground than the Chunnel.

The Musical Film Noir of the Flaming Stars have been around for 10 years, but their records have only lately been readily available in the States. Prior to 1995, Max DéCharné played in various bands, including drumming for Gallon Drunk, who opened for Morrissey at the U of U in 1992. I had a chance to chat with the Flaming Stars’ frontman, from balmy Berlin (3∞ C).

SLUG: I’m supposed to be a hipster, but I’ve only recently stumbled onto your music.

MaxD: Until we signed with Alternative Tentacles in San Francisco [a couple of years ago], it was incredibly hard to find our record in the States, and if you did, it would be on import [Vinyl Japan label] for stupid money: I saw one at Tower Records in Times Square for 30 bucks. You’re not going to take a chance on a record if it costs that much.

SLUG: Back in the day, AT was all punk with bands like the DKs and Alice Donut, but they’ve diversified quite a bit

MaxD: Now there are bands like Slim Cessna’s Auto Club … and The Flaming Stars don’t really fit in on the label. But they like that fact, and that’s what’s good about them.

SLUG: It’s pretty pointless to compare your sound to other bands, but I would like to ask your opinion of a few specific bands that may or may not be influences or contemporaries:

MaxD: Buzzcocks: Oh, I love them. I saw them once years ago, before they split up the first time. That’s one of the best gigs I ever saw in my life. Everyone in our band loves them. The Fall: Yeah, on a good night. I’ve seen them a few times and you never know what you’re going to get, which is half the fun of it. On a good night, they are incredible, and I like the fact that they just go out there somewhere and they don’t care about it being perfect or rehearsed, which is the proper, original punk spirit. Paul Weller/The Jam: I saw the Jam back in the time of the first three albums and, again, they put on an incredible live show. I’m not such a fan of his solo stuff, but I think he’s a good guy. He does what he wants and doesn’t really care what anybody else thinks.

SLUG: This is sort of a facile comparison, but I’ve read your music compared to that of Nick Cave, perhaps because there’s a bit of a literary quality to both of your lyrics.

MaxD: I’ve been a fan of Nick Cave since he was in The Birthday Party, about 20 years ago. In fact, one of the guys I played in Gallon Drunk with, James Johnston, is now a member of the Bad Seeds, playing organ now that Mick Harvey is playing more guitar.

SLUG: Did you start out as a drummer?

MaxD: Yes, my first God-knows-how-many bands, I was a drummer. Then when we started The Flaming Stars, I’d been writing some songs and it always looks a bit rubbish if you’re trying to sing and play the drums, so I thought, “I’ve got to stand out front because I’m not Karen Carpenter or …”

SLUG: … Phil Collins?

MaxD: Hopefully not. No, I’m not bald enough to be Phil Collins … thank God. So I just stand up front and play drunken keyboards.

SLUG: You wrote an analysis of hipster slang, Straight for the Fridge, Dad …

MaxD: Yeah, that’s it, from 1900 to 1964: It’s the stuff that you get in crime films and novels and old records. A lot of the same words show up in these things. If Carl Perkins used a word on a record at Sun Records in 1956, similar words were used in later film noir films and also in cheap pulp novels. I’m interested in how people used to talk in the Al Capone days: Music was always linked up with sleazy places. If you were a blues or a jazz musician in the 20s, you wound up playing in speakeasies because they were the only places where you could get work. The people who paid you at the end of the evening were The Mob. So a lot of these people spoke the same language.

With that, Max DéCharné put a pill in his kisser and lit it, trailing off like a Flaming Star. Check out their latest effort, Named and Shamed, available at your favorite independent record store.

Jon Lech Johansen is from Norway, land of the Vikings. Like them, he is a pirate; unlike them, he has less than a thimble full of testosterone. Like the high school jocks who now bag (and teabag?) Maddox‘s groceries, old-school knuckleheads have gotten their comeuppance. The virtual ocean (and therefore the world) is now navigated by propellerheads, and DVD Jon’s code-writing trifecta of 1) Allowing DVDs to be viewed on his Linux laptop; 2) Circumventing Apple iTunes’ anti-copying technology; and 3) Only last month, cracking Apple’s AirPort Express that broadcasts iTunes tracks to other stereo gear is the most impressive trilogy since EvilDead, EvilDead 2, and Army of Darkness. Needless to say, Jon is not the apple of Steve “Rim” Jobs’ eye; nonetheless, he deserves his own pirate photo.

While “So Sue Me” is not quite as catchy as “The Best Page in the Universe,” Jon’s blog at www.nanocrew.net/blog contains quite a bit of useful information (read: code), as well as links to his trial for the DVD thing, for which he was acquitted. It seems that Europe’s version of copyright control contains a loophole that is not included in the U.S.’s DMCA (Dumbasses Must Control Access) promoted by the RIAA (Rape and Incest Association of America). [Note: DMCA actually stands for the Digital Milennium Copyright Act and RIAA is the Recording Industry of America.] An interesting twist is that a “legitimate” company, Real Networks “hacked” into iTunes in order to make its songs playable on the iPod. Of course Apple is pissed because they were building a nice little monopoly.

In the conflict between open access and protecting corporations, guess which side the government is on? Taking a page from the Orwellian “War Is Peace” lexicon, the GOP-controlled Senate is trying to push through a bill called the “Pirate Act” that would give Hack Asscroft and the Justice Department the power to sue and “investigate” suspected copyright infringers. Wait a minute; they stole the term “Pirate” like they did “Patriot.” Orrin “Booby” Hatch is leading the charge. Remember him? He’s the genius who suggested the federal government “zap” or destroy the computers of file sharers.

When I was in college, I violated copyright law by recording every album I could get my hands on onto cassette. I even recorded movies off HBO onto the Betamax. But “The Man” didn’t feel quite so threatened because of the tape’s inferior quality and the obstacles to redistributing it widely. If I had the time, passion and bandwidth during the past couple of years, I imagine that I would be one of the 500 or so people prosecuted for copiously downloading music. I could even be a cellmate of Sabuj Pattanayek, a 21-year-old Duke U student who was sentenced to 41 months in federal prison for his role in pirating and sharing tons of software, games, music and movies through the “DrinkOrDie” warez group. Instead, I have only hundreds of cassettes melting in my car, collecting cat litter dust down in the basement or being unspooled by my three-year-old son.

Speaking of my three-year-old son, he’s a fan of this Australian musical group called The Wiggles. These guys aren’t exactly hurting for cash as they’ve sold more than 10 million DVDs and videos in the U.S. alone. Sort of like a swishier version of The Monkees targeted at toddlers, they came here on tour last year and charged $30 per ticket, full price for my two-year-old. Then they try to sell you vinyl backpacks assembled in Singapore sweatshops for 20 bucks! I almost have to pirate their material to balance things out, right? Speaking of pirates, one of the characters on The Wiggles is this gay blade (“butt pirate” would be too offensive) named Captain Feathersword, who can’t stop tickling the boys or repeating the phrase “Blow Me Down,” not that there’s anything wrong with that.

There is wiggle room in these copyright issues because once media is purchased, the owner holds “fair usage rights.” That is why DVD Jon got off, I mean, was acquitted, because he cracked the code to play DVDs on his own laptop, and then simply shared the open-source code. No intent to pirate and redistribute could be proven. The same can be said of iMusic: Why shouldn’t consumers be able to play the songs on any software and any stereo that they choose? Apple allows a song to be copied five times after it has been purchased, but why shouldn’t it be 50 and why should they have a monopoly? It’s because they’re paranoid about it being replicated 5,000 times and sold on Canal Street. So the corporations try to build a better mousetrap, but they’re dealing with a rat, a piRATe.

 

50 REASONS NOT TO VOTE FOR BUSH
ROBERT STERLING

Feral House

Anger is one way to overcome apathy. Many of us are angry about “President” George W. Bush–this book provides a good list of reasons why. While Shrub will undoubtedly finish at the top of the list of “Worst ‘Presidents Ever,” hopefully it will be after four years, not eight. While your vote may not help that much (the Electoral College is a bit of a buzzkill) it’s a way to vent some frustration and pad the popular vote, which he’ll undoubtedly lose even if he and Jeb steal Florida again. Here’re some of the 50 reasons: He stole the election. He knew about 9/11 and won’t investigate the Saudis. He lied about WMD. He screws our troops; the quagmire in Iraq is a widening gyre of death, destruction and wasted dollars. His tax cuts and other economic policies favor the wealthy. Big Brother, errrrr, Attorney General John Ashcroft, is watching you. He rapes Mother Earth. He appoints right-wingers to the courts and could appoint another Supreme Court Justice if reelected. Shrub has alienated the USA from the rest of the world. Well, that’s it. Don’t get mad: Vote. -MC Welk

NOISE OF THE WORLD: NON-WESTERN ARTISTS IN THEIR OWN WORDS
HANK BORDOWITZ

Soft Skull
Street: 01.20.05

Don’t tell Condi, but imperialism is bad. That’s not necessarily so, however, when it comes to music. While it’s ironic that whiteys like David Byrne, Peter Gabriel and Paul Simon have opened up the world’s music to the West, since it was there long before we were hegemonically here, it is so. Let’s enjoy it, and vice versa. Napoleon is one of history’s greatest (or worst) imperialists. Coincidentally he was approximately the same height as Paul Simon and Joseph Shabalala of Ladysmith Black Mambazo, who collaborated on the song “Homeless” from the album Graceland. Don’t even get me started on Elvis. Can you dig? I didn’t think so, and that’s precisely why you need to read Noise of the World. Seriously, Bordowitz has his academic (read: white) intro, but the bulk of this book is artists from around the world describing themselves, their work and their countries (read: colonies) in their own words. The cool part of this book is that you can skip around, using that newfangled thing called an index, and read about those artists/regions that interest you. I for example am way more into the late Ofra Haza (dead from AIDS) than Gloria Estefan. Call me crazy. –MC Welk