IT'S A LIVING… BUT IT'S NOT A LIFE #8.4
The Venerable J Church / Honey Bear Records Newsletter
End of Austin's Summer '00
HEY, WE'RE GOING ON TOUR (FINALLY)
Okay, here are the dates I've got so far. Needless to say, they're not
totally complete and if you've been checking the J Church websites (either
the official one or the Honest Don's one) you'll probably already know
most of this stuff.
Oct. 24 Balcony Lights Las Vegas, NV
Oct. 25 Solar Culture Gallery Tucson, AZ *
Oct. 26 Che Café San Diego, CA *
Oct. 27 Troubadour Los Angeles, CA *
Oct. 28 Jerry's Pizza Bakersfield, CA *
Oct. 29 Bottom Of The Hill San Francisco, CA *
Oct. 30 UCSC Santa Cruz, CA *
Nov. 14 Philadelphia, PA (tba)
Nov. 15 Brownie's New York City, NY
Nov. 16 Middle East Café Boston, MA
Nov. 20 The Lift Brighton, UK **
Nov. 21 Camden Underworld London, UK **
Nov. 22 The Cockpit Leeds, UK **
Nov. 23 The Star And Garter Manchester, UK **
Nov. 24 13th Note Glasgow, UK **
Nov. 25 Victoria Inn Derby, UK **
Nov. 26 Railway Inn Winchester, UK **
Nov. 27 Zwischenfall Bochum, Germany
Nov. 28 Aachen, Germany
Nov. 29 Wild At Heart Berlin, Germany
Dec. 01 Chez Heinz Hannover, Germany
Dec. 02 Stuttgart, Germany
Dec. 03 05 Italy (tba)
*These dates with Dismemberment Plan
**These dates with The Urchin
Okay, some of the European stuff is a little vague. But December is
a long ways away and I'll send you more info as it arrives. Keep in mind,
everything is subject to change.
Also, if it seems like our last few tours have gone out of their way
to avoid your part of the world. Don't e-mail me your complaints yet.
We're planning a few more tours to support One Mississippi in the new
year including Japan, South America and a more extensive US tour.
Okay, here's the first newsletter from J Church / Honey Bear Records
in exile. I'm here and getting sorta situated in Tejas and first thing
is first. Here's my new address:
C/O Honey Bear Records
1071 Clayton Lane #506
Austin, TX 78723
I'm still keeping my old PO Box as we're planning on moving back as
soon as my girlfriend is done with her insane grad school (I sure hope
they're hiring linguists then). But your mail will be responded to a whole
lot quicker if you send it right to Austin.
ONE MISSISSIPPI IS OUT
If you've bothered reading these, you'll know that the new J Church
album, One Mississippi is out in the shops finally. If
you've missed out, here's a brief synopsis…
This is our first album since The Drama Of Alienation
back in '96.
We burned out.
I got sick.
The album took a long time.
Now having said that, I really can't tell what people think of the record.
A few people have e-mailed me saying that they either like it, hate it
or are indifferent to it (we've never been able to please everyone at
once… or even a few people with any kind of regularity). But I've
been having a hard time gauging what people think. I mean, somebody is
buying the record and somebody is playing it on the radio (it's our best
CMJ showing possibly ever). But I guess I just don't know those people.
When I ask my friends what they think of the album, the usual response
is: "are you guys still together?"
Of course, I'm really in no position to be complaining. Somebody is
buying our records. And while it may be at a pace below most of the stuff
on Fat, it's above average compared to 95% of the punk/indie world. We
may never sell 100,000 records. But on the bright side, we don't get "extreme"
jocks rocking out to One Mississippi in their SUVs while
double parking in the bike lane. It's just not possible... I think…
If you bought One Mississippi on CD, I feel a little
obligated to give you some sort of instructions or at least some kind
of disclaimer. You see, we really meant for this album to be a double
album. The way this record works is particular to that format. Sitting
through 26 straight songs of the same band just isn't natural. One
Mississippi is meant to be listened to in little 20 minute blocks.
I don't mean to get too pretentious, but each side has it's own…
uh… "personality" and flows as such. From No Jazz
to Your Mother is one side. Try to listen to it like
it's one thing. Next time, listen to She Says through
I Reach For Her Hand. Part 3 is The Doctor
through The Devil And I. Finally, the last section is
Rich And Young And Dumb through Stars Are Exploding.
Now, I could say something really stupid, like "each side is a
different season" or "each compartment represents an age in
the author's life" or some other bullshit to justify this. No, it's
four separate "sets", if you will, and the songs were selected
in the same way we put together a set to perform live. Each side is it's
own entity. That was the intention, I guess.
But it's all bullshit anyway. If you like the record, I'm stoked. If
you wanna know what I was trying to do with a double album, now you know.
Either way, the main complaint I've heard is that it's too long. Shit,
you don't have to listen to the whole thing. It's four different listens.
It's over an hour of music. I hoped people would think of it as value
for the dollar. If you don't like the record, it's gonna be bad no matter
how long it is. If you like it, what's too much.
It reminds me of the joke in Annie Hall about the two
old women who complain about a restaurant. The first woman says, "the
food here is terrible." The second says, "yeah, and the portions
are so small." In some ways, One Mississippi is
the reverse paradigm of that joke…
Oh well, on to newer things…
VIDEOS, CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?
Sue Chen swears she'll have our first video done soon. She's great and
if you are in the Bay Area, you should rent the video of all of her stuff
from Lost Weekend Video. It's really great. Her video is for Imaginary
Friends. Greta Snider is gonna hopefully be doing a second video
for us. We talked about it a little before I left for Austin and she was
gonna shoot a bunch of stuff with her new digital video camera. That'll
probably also be fantastic as everything she does is amazing. Not sure
what song she's gonna use yet…
ABBA FUCKING RULE
I've always loved Abba. That's right, Abba. Fuck you!
Anyway, our next recording project (hopefully) will be a tribute EP
to Abba. We're gonna record five tracks and have our pal Kelly Green do
the vocal stylings. She's becoming our Nico. And I do mean OUR Nico…
Sorry. I'm tired. I don't even really know what that means. This Tejas
heat is kicking my ass…
USED STUFF FOR SALE
Okay, I think I'm finally getting sick of selling stuff on E-bay. I
just hate bidding wars and I hate to bother to put something up that's
really only worth a couple of bucks. So, I'm starting a used list. Sort
of my on-line used record store. I'll just put up a few things at the
price I wanna sell them for and whoever e-mails me first gets it. No bidding.
Just a bunch of stuff for sale. Some good and some crap. If it goes really
well, I may start buying and selling stuff for people who don't wanna
deal with e-bay anymore either. If you know anyone that would like to
get the list, tell `em to e-mail me.
Hey, I've been trying to track down videos of a few different Oshima
titles. I can't seem to find them anywhere!!! If you have any access to
these videos, please get in touch. I'd much appreciate it. Tokyo
Senso Sengo Hiwa aka The Man Who Left His Will On Film,
Nihon Sunka-Ko aka A Treatise On Japanese Bawdy
Song, Natsu No Imoto aka Dear Summer
PUNK ROCK IN A DIFFERENT TIME ZONE
Well, despite the fact that I've moved several states East of California,
I seem to be getting even more involved with Maximum Rock N Roll.
Even though I probably won't be able to do the record reviews as often
(hurray!), I'm still planning on involving myself by doing some interviews.
The first was just printed in the latest issue (October 2000, number 209).
It's the interview I sent a few newsletters back with Matt Gleason of
Coagula fanzine. I think it's a really great interview and it's one of
the only zines I read anymore. If you don't subscribe, you should certainly
at least check out his book, Most Art Sucks.
My next interview, I'm still transcribing. It's my chat with Greta Snider
about film and punk and punk film. You'll see it first here. It should
IN THE J CHURCH VIEWING ROOM
Deep Red (Anchor Bay) DVD
This came out just before I left for Austin. Now, I've been a fan of
Dario Argento for a long time. One of my earliest childhood
memories was the TV commercial for Suspiria with the skull combing it's
hair reciting the "roses are red…" poem. It was simple
and totally horrifying. I can't put my finger on what it was about it
that was so frightening. But I still remember it vividly and it gives
me chills. In some ways, it freaks me out more than anything in the movie.
So, that's the main root of my obsession with Argento. I'm also continually
drawn in by his sophisticated and intellectual approach to horror films
in particular. This genre has never been taken seriously by our cultural
elite and with rare exception (Silence Of The Lambs being
the last I can remember) is kept on the outside of America's most pathetic
figureheads, the Motion Picture Academy. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy
as the more sophisticated and intellectual filmmakers are therefore drawn
to other subject matter and genre. At first maybe to create their own
name. But eventually, they become trapped in the vicious cycle of pleasing
your audience rather than pleasing yourself. Even without becoming stereotyped
in their themes and style, these potentially groundbreaking film makers
still become limited by their own design even while re-inventing themselves
(Tarantino, et al). You really can't be the tortured artist and have a
party at the same time.
For a time, the horror genre was (and maybe still is) a way of safely
circumventing the omnipresent system of knee jerk analysis which in itself
was nothing more than a veneer for all out commercialization. The so-called
independent scenes of Miramax and the like are little more than scraps
thrown to the dog. They keep an audience starved for an intelligent alternative
to the Hollywood system controlled and placated. But in it's absolute
dismissal, horror was a way for many directors to gain the freedom they
needed to try out adventurous and avant garde techniques in both story
and aesthetics. Dario Argento's films of the `70s are a great representation
of that freedom. While his scope has ranged from horror to thriller to
mystery to even some spaghetti western, there's generally been a level
of experimentation as well.
Deep Red was Argento's fifth film. In many ways, Deep
Red (more widely known outside the US as Profondo Rosso)
represents his first completely realized film in terms of his experimentation
in camera work (he had spent years honing his skills as a technician)
and his extremely candid exploration of the human psyche both in terms
of insanity and it's social cause and purpose. For that, Deep
Red is truly Freudian filmmaking.
The story of Deep Red is a complex mystery that starts
with two friends. Bonded by their talents as jazz pianists, they otherwise
lead quite different lifestyles. The protagonist, Marc Daly (played by
David Hemmings of Blow Up) is the successful concert
pianist in Rome on professional business. Carlo, on the other hand, (played
by Gabriele Lavia of Revenge Of The Living Dead and Beyond
The Door) is an alcoholic who plays for bar and dinner audiences
to pay his bills. His pleasures aren't from his art but rather through
his decadence as displayed as the film unravels. The difference between
the two is perfectly summed up by Carlo when he declares, "We both
play piano good. But I'm the proletarian of the keyboard and you're the
bourgeois. You play for art and you enjoy it. I play for survival. It's
not the same thing."
After one of their late night chats, Marc witnesses a murder on his
way into his apartment. From the street he sees a woman killed in the
apartment above his. The woman, Helga Ulman (Macha Meril), is a known
psychic who just earlier had a given a lecture on psychic phenomenon that
was interrupted by her picking up the signal from a killer in the room.
Though Marc rushes up to the room, Helga is already dead with her throat
slit and body butchered by glass and cleaver.
While giving his statement to the police, Marc confounded by the knowledge
that something is missing from the apartment. He's convinced that a painting
is missing, though he can't place which one it was or what it was of.
Perplexed by this for the rest of the movie, he becomes determined to
unravel the mystery himself and therefore putting himself in the path
of the killer.
His situation is complicated at first by an Italian newspaper reporter
named Gianna Brezzi (played by Daria Nicolodi who upon auditioning for
the part fell in love with Argento igniting a partnership that would last
for years) who insists on following Marc around pointing questions at
him. Unlike the archetype of the "nosey woman getting in the man's
way", Gianna right away proves to be more clever and stronger than
Marc. A scene emphasizes this where she beats him at arm wrestling. He
may be the protagonist. But she's no damsel in distress.
From here the story grows into an elaborate giallo* tracing back several
years of violence while bring the death toll up in the presence. The violence
is magnified by the acts use of convenience. Rather than some supernatural
force killing people in supernatural ways, the deaths are painfully believable
and therefore manage to get under your skin in the same way "real
life" and autopsy films can. Death by scalding in a tub or by being
slammed into a sharp corner is a lot more tangible and therefore believable,
than a gun shot.
The film also uses intense framing of shots to create a strange combination
of terror and intrigue. While the shock may make you want to cover your
eyes, the strange camera angles and perspectives keep you looking. Partly
to make sure you saw what you saw. But also because in the process of
adjusting your vision, you can possibly pick up details and clues you
wouldn't recognize from a normal perspective. Not only does Argento anticipate
this, he revels in it. The crux of the film is based on the idea that
Marc saw something earlier on and can't remember what he saw. The audience
sees the same thing and for the rest of the film is regretting that they
hadn't paid more attention.
Some of the greatest images, however, don't necessarily exist to propel
the anxiety that clouds over most of the film. A close up of a tape being
threaded through a player is strangely as engrossing as anything in, say,
Diva or Evil Dead.
I suppose in many ways Argento's films appeal to me as both snob and
outsider. On the one hand, I'm so offended by the way Hollywood dumbs
down all of its films as if it's all the public has the capacity to appreciate.
Of course, the public eat it up as it's all they've ever been shown. I
find myself being a snob because I can't tolerate the idiocy of most Hollywood
films, so I find myself purposefully immersed in foreign films and so-called
"art" films. Argento's experimentation and his association with
others like Bertolucci and Fellini (in fact, Deep Red
was co-written with Bernadino Zapponi who also co-authored Roma
and Satyricon) has made him acceptable to film snobs
On the other hand, he is never influenced by trends and does things
that at times seem like purposeful efforts to rid himself of the "hipster"
tag he's been saddled with. Despite what a lot of critics want to believe,
there is always depth to Argento's scripts. It's not all surface experimentation.
Certainly there are times when a scene is shaped with the intention of
trying out some new lighting effect or a new camera. But this isn't art
for art's sake. There aren't any simple answers like you can easily skim
off the top of Romero or Carpenter's films. Argento is willing to sacrifice
himself to find out what's at the bottom of the human soul. Even at his
worst, he won't let you go with a black and white answer. There are many
stories of how suicidal he was while working on Deep Red.
He'd spend all night awake blocking the windows of his hotel room to prevent
himself from jumping out. Then he'd show up fresh faced and eager for
This doesn't come with too much extra. I guess there's really not much
out there. There is a brief documentary celebrating the 25th anniversary
of the film with interviews with Argento and Zapponi (just before he died).
Also, the trailers are included.
But what is really great about this is it's finally the proper director's
cut of the film. There's an additional 25 minutes of footage, which not
only gives a little more depth to Marc. But also broadens his relationship
with Gianna (the humorous sequences are a little odd).
I'm not sure if I've bought anything from Anchor Bay that wasn't Argento
related. But I'm starting to really dig this company.
* Gialla is an Italian film style of suspense mystery. In some ways
the Italian noir, it got it's name from the old detective mystery books
who's pages turned yellow with age.
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