Monday, May 30, 2011

Doom Snake Cult

     I’ve been too harsh on Doom Snake Cult in the past.  They were a good band- wait you mean they’re back together?  Wow.  That’s fuckin rad.  No sarcasm implied.  Those dudes deserve any recognition they get and it looks like people are taking notice. 

    I've never been sure of which genre these guys fall into.  It’s Metal.  It’s heavy.  It’s got weird groovy breakdowns which are Sabbathesque in delivery.  They’re striving for a heavy psychedelic vibe and it’s freaking me out.  In all honesty it’s not my thing but I hung out with the singer Ace a few times years after DSC were over and done. He was a lot of fun.  Except when he drunkenly smashed the window to my shitty apartment on Linn lane.  Or was it guitarist Jeff Schwob who done that?    

    They were at their peak during a transitional time in the Vegas underground.  There weren't many other bands gigging around that time in Vegas who I knew about.  Although I should probably mention that the Wholes were also somewhat active around that time.  During those ramshackle years, roughly 90-92, the Vegas underground seemed rarely linked to the outside music world.  I don’t recall too many touring bands who came through town during those years.  The Elks Lodge seemed to still be a venue on occasion but I mostly remember house parties.  I suppose the Huntridge was on the radar at that time but for some reason I didn’t go to many shows there.  I liked it better as a movie theatre.   

    First time I saw Doom Snake Cult was also the first time I ever took what someone told me was Ecstacy.  I don’t know what it was but I shouldn’t have got drunk before it kicked in.  It seemed to fall flat on me.  The drugs I mean.  In any event I didn’t pay attention to Doom Snake Cult although onstage they had one of those trippy carnival wiggling lights you get for popping the balloons with darts on the midway like you’ll see in this video.  I was fucked up at that show but not in a good way. 

     The second time I saw Doom Snake Cult is a complicated story.  Again I got really stoned but had no money for beer.   That night DSC had girls dancing onstage during their set.  One of the girls was really eyeballing me.  The song ended and the girl who’d been flirting with me asks out loud who has a beer while she’s staring straight at me.  At that exact moment the guy next to me, who I didn’t know, puts his full beer down on the stage and goes to tie his shoe.  I impulsively, and stupidly, grab the guy's beer and hand it to the girl at which point the drummer gets pissed off and starts yelling at me as he comes from behind the drum set screaming that this was his girlfriend and blah blah blah, meanwhile the guy who’s beer I stole gets up and finds himself in the altercation, also my brother and all my friends are behind me yelling and screaming as well!  Heavy scene but it just fizzled out and I think Doom Snake Cult even started playing again after a few minutes time.  I didn’t talk to the dancing girl after all that but I remember she kept the beer.  I'd like to take the time now to apologize to that guy whose beer got stolen.  Wherever you may be.  Again, I wasn’t paying attention to DSC as they performed onstage.

     Uh, let’s see, there had to have been a third time I saw them.  I could swear I took mushrooms and saw them.  Maybe not.   Over beers Ace once told me that Doom Snake Cult played a show with White Zombie out at the West Charleston ditch well before White Zombie became WHITE ZOMBIE.  Only a dozen or so people were in attendance from what he said.  Apparently WZ and their roadies were freaking out by the dust being kicked up around their speakers.  I don’t know any details.  If you were there tell me what you saw.  That W. Charleston spot was a weird one.  But which of these desert party spots was normal?

     Doom Snake Cult were an interesting twist on the Doom Metal genre.  A nebulous sounding name for a genre if you ask me.  I used to think of them as Stoner Rock but that might be a misnomer as well since Stoner rock would  become a genre that would later explode for a few seconds in the late 90’s and then slowly fade into obscurity in the 2000’s.  Or is Doom Metal and Stoner Rock the same thing?  I can't keep up or even care much anymore. They certainly were in the same league as bands like Cathedral and maybe even Grief although the weird hippie vibe they would emit made them stand out among the legions of Sabbath worshippers that came in their wake.  Their style was equally menacing  and somewhat laughable but you wouldn't laugh in their face that's for sure.  They were creepier than “punks” or traditional metal heads because of this weirdo hippie vibe.  Kinda like the Texas Chainsaw Massacre family putting together a metal band or a louder Manson family, considering their affinity for psychedelics.  I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say Doom Snake Cult was a psychedelic metal band although I have to strain to hear that psyche influence.  In truth I might only be thinking that because they had the song Acid Orgy and plus I don't know where else you'd place these guys on the hard rock spectrum.    It was hard to see if their delivery was by accident or design although it seems cooler if they stumbled onto it by accident so I’ll just assume that’s what happened.   It’s not something they had to work real hard at nailing down so in that regard they were not posing.  

    They were too mid paced for my tastes but it took balls to try and pry open a style like that in front of crowds who were used to hardcore or at the very least death metal.  Although it should be stated that the umpteenth ska revival was just around the corner at that time.   

     I dig Metal.  It doesn’t have a whole lot of pretensions about it.  It’s a fully developed genre that doesn’t have much leeway in how you ape it.  I respect the adolescent wet dream fantasy world which is a large part of the atmosphere.  The subject matter is largely the same for each style of Metal (Speed Metal/Power Metal/Thrash/Death) and in point of fact I'd say if the lyrics deviate from those subjects too much it might not be considered metal anymore.  There’s a clear delineation of subjects you’re allowed to broach in this realm.  Drugs, woman, motorcycles, kickin ass, getting drunk, Satan, killing people, and other darker facades.  Obviously Death Metal plays up the horrible shit but it’s all cut from the same cloth.  It’s all fantasy.  Which I can respect.

     DSC played up that point in some regards.  I think.  I’m not sure what they're singing about and as with most bands in this genre the lyrics are not all that important in the grand scheme.  In fact the less you know about what these bands are saying the better.  The obvious Conan reference from their name speaks volumes to their Metal mythology or their laziness.  Again I think it's just that outsider status that makes them so unusual and somewhat scary like the Manson hippies.  Living in the desert and appearing vaguely satanic was a potent mix since they don't appear to be clever enough to be faking it.  Which seems to make them even more sinister and unpredictable. 

     Another aspect of Metal I find perplexing is the complete allegiance the fans have for Metal of any stripe.  The fact that Doom Snake Cult's sole release, which I think was really just a demo, is being pressed on insanely expensive vinyl format in 2011 speaks to the reverence metal fans have for any music that resembles Metal.  I'm a bit surprised there would be a market for this music here and now.  I know that sounds like a slight but I only say this in comparison to the huge amount of underground punk records and demos which will never receive any repressing.  The most these hardcore bands can expect is a write up on a second rate blog such as this.  Meanwhile DSC and even Goatlord have super classy pressings which go for big bucks.  Which I suppose is another factor in the divide between punk and metal.  While the ebb and flow of the metal audience comes and goes the fact remains that audience however small throughout America will continue to shell out big money for anything Metal.  It’s a part of the culture.  T-shirts at a metal show generally start at $25.  The punk band that sells a shirt for over $15 is laughed out of the hall.   Even if the hall is packed.  I’m not even gonna bring up the Metal audience outside of America, many of whom will be buying this DSC record. 

     Meanwhile there’s still no real “punk” audience.  And probably there never will be.  There’s the occasional new pressing of upper tier hardcore bands and the irreverent Killed By Death series, which has always been hit or miss, but far too many hardcore bands have been lost in the shuffle.   Is this partly because that target audience might be making that same music themselves?  Possibly but I suspect it will remain that way because it’s just not marketable in the same way Metal is.  Metal will always be a juvenile dream that is dopey but ultimately timeless while hardcore places too much value on reality so it’s shelf life is built in.  It’s always of the here and now and it rarely lives on past that.  Add this to the fact that hardcore, while it seems rigid and codified, is somewhat more pliable than metal.  It has gone on to change and take different forms while metal only seems to change slightly over time especially in regards to lyrical content.  This is an especially unusual development because time was that hardcore was stubborn and unchanging while metal was more accepting of new developments ie. thrash, death, speed.  I'm just going on and on, I have no idea what I'm talking about and it doesn't really matter anyway.  All I know is Doom Snake Cult have a super nice repress that came out this year and they have a sizable internet presence in the form of multiple reviews through multiple blogs.  No other underground Vegas band has anything which compares.  Maybe the metalheads are more obsessed?  Maybe the hardcore heads are always moving forward instead of running in place?  Band's and listeners of today borrow effusively from punk and metal so the line has blurred.  It sometimes seems like the worst elements of each are cropping up to taint it all but I know there's still good bands out there.  You just have to be more selective in what you find I suppose.  Or jut go back to listening to hip hop like I have.

     This is all conjecture and grist for the metal/punk PHD I'm trying to define just to have something to do.  Obviously I'm generalizing just to hear myself write.  I find it interesting.  If you don't why'd you read this far into this post?

     To be fair Doom Snake Cult was peddling this style long before it was fashionable and that is worthy of respect.  It also shows an odd crossover of cultural iconography between the metal of yesterday and the punk ethos.  Since they are still largely obscure it seems like only an elite metal collector would want to add this vinyl repress to his collection.  An elitist attitude consistent with punk record collectors who were used to paying big bucks for original rarities on ebay at the turn of the century.  Original pressings mean big punk points to some idiots out there.  Or in this case big Metal points.  Glad I unloaded some of my vinyl before these repressings and mp3 downloading destroyed the market!  (I got $60 for a TSOL Dance With Me record back in 2004.  Can you believe that?  But I must admit I bought the metal band  Destruction Infernal Overkill LP at a record sale a few weeks ago for $20 but hey that's not as bad as paying $50 for a Dr. Know LP right?)    

     I love spouting my inane philosophical platitudes about shit that only I and 3 or 4 other people would care to ponder in between my fond remembrances of drug induced fits I’ve had.  I’m still considering writing a book about punk and metal.  I think this blog might be training wheels for just such a project.  I got too much time on my hands.           

     Ace is a cool guy.  I always liked him and I think he's a great vocalist for this style.  Lot's of rasp instead of just growl.  I can understand most of what he's singing which works out good.  Glen the guitar player always seemed nice enough but whenever he talked to me it seemed like he was forcing himself to concentrate on what I was saying.  Meanwhile he seemed to understand other people just fine.  Whatever.  He was later a mainstay at the drum circle at Sunset park.  No surprise there.  Even later he started a hippie jam band called the Baccanaul.  I was done with psychedelics at that point.  Or was I?

     I don’t think Jeff Schwab ever liked me that much either.  Whatever.  I’m guessing it was because I dressed vaguely punk and he was an avowed Metalhead.  It’s ridiculous how important those lines seemed back then.  I recall a weirdo freakshow music festival out in Pahrump in the mid 90’s.  I wanna say it was called Pahrumpstock.  Seriously.  I only bring this up because I remember partying with Schwab at this festival and later in the night he passed out underneath his car.  Hilarious.  I always thought he was cool even if he didn't like me so much.    

     I’m surprised to see they’re still kickin it.  I hope it’s the same dudes or at least I hope it’s still Ace, Schwab, or Glenn.  I wouldn’t care if they got a new drummer.

    There are several blogs offering links to download this record as well as some spotty and spot on reviews.  There's even one that offers the demo pictured above.  Doom Snake Cult more popular now than ever before!  ACID ORGY!! LSD!

Blog with the original CD download found here

I have yet to see this new vinyl ripped and posted online but I'm sure it's coming.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Wheat Pastes 2000-2002

     I'm letting the cat out of the bag.  In the years 2000-2002 I did wheat pastes all over the city of Las Vegas.  Mostly on the East Side because I lived on the East Side and fuck the West Side.  These were designs I made myself as well as a few I stole outright.  They’re not all clever but I think they’re all worth seeing again since none of them are around anymore. 

    If you lived in Vegas at the time and were wondering what all the fuss was about now I guess I can reveal my motivations and end the mystery. As if anyone gave a shit.  I’m sure no more than a few people will remember these images anyway and it’s probably people who knew it was me all along. 

     Las Vegas is… ok let me put this diplomatically, Las Vegas is an easy target.  There is plenty to complain about.  One gripe I always had was the constant bombardment of commercial imagery.   More than any other city I've ever seen, including Tokyo.  Billboards shoved their tits in my face.  Random signs clogged every conceivable nook and cranny along every street.  The radio blared commercials which were usually twice as loud as the music in the broadcast. 

     Messages. Messages. Messages.  None of them worth a shit.  None of them meaningful.  None of them strayed from the script of senseless spending and coaxing to spend and consuming and eating and shitting and drinking and smoking and chocking.  It never ends. 

     I couldn’t take the drowning anymore.  I had to plant little islands of humanity along the boulevards of bloated schemes covered up with minty fresh breath that was suffocating my soul.  I'd done some spray painting as a kid.  It would never stick for more than a few days before it was whitewashed.  I wanted something more artistic for which I could have more control.  Something with more teeth that might be easier to understand and appreciate with the potential to connect with others who might even let the images stand on their own.  Much to my surprise a few of them did stand the test of time and they were not removed for months and sometimes years!

     Part of this project was inspired in an off hand way by the wheat pastes I’d seen by Shepard Fairey.  At sometime in 2000 he, or his minions, invaded Las Vegas and put up their Andre the Giant posters.  Some of these showed up in my neighborhood.  I can’t explain why but it offended me.  Maybe it was the outside influence of these out of towners?  Well fuck that shit this is for locals only!  Within a few days I was plastering my own public art in my neighborhood and beyond. 

     I didn’t have a treatise about why I did it.  I just fuckin did it.  I wanted to have something created by my community displayed in my community without merit aside from connecting community.  Easy stuff to understand I would think but that mentality has little space in a place like Vegas where you’re bought and sold every minute.  Still I think some people appreciated why I did it.  It was 100% positive and didn’t have an agenda other than reaching out to be understood.  I wasn't trying to preach some bullshit hippie do gooder ethos with cute little messages.  More like I was trying to steal back something intangible that had been stolen from me.  Part of the appeal was that I was breaking the law and forcing others to look for a second at something real.  And I didn't pay a dime to reach my "audience."  

    It's obvious to me now this was also an attempt to reclaim some of the public space that was being robbed from me by mountains of advertisers.  For all the money changing hands in advertising revenue in that city I'm surprised no one from the public makes a stink about the rights we have as involuntary receptacles for these garbage messages.  There's got to be some subconscious side effects.  It's an indignity for the whole community to be plastered with messages about hemorrhoids, bad breath, or athletes foot and not give more than a fraction of space to public art.  Or maybe we are just pigs waiting to pay money to enter the trough?            

     I wasn’t the first to do it in Vegas but I noticed a wave of wheat pastes followed in my wake.  I won’t take credit for something for which I have no control but I’ll tell you there were very few naked telephone poles.  Vegas being what it is I wasn't too surprised to see some rogue advertisers using this wheat paste tactic as well.  I heard they got busted and fined.  Only an idiot would wheat paste his phone number or website at a bus stop.

     So with this post I reveal my intentions and officially add Street Art to the growing resume of my obscure, go nowhere, post no bills, pay no bills, IOU Art Career.  When I’m dead they’ll all say how remarkable and unmarketable I’ve been.  If my memory could be so lucky.  More than likely I’ll just be chewed up and shit back into soul compost comprised of hundreds, thousands, millions of dudes who had something to say.  Oh wait something new just came out…    

     I love bringing up my mortality.  When I die please print these out and wheat paste some of them on the East Side in Las Vegas.  Come to think of it why don’t you print some of these out and wheat paste them tonight when you walk to that Rebel station on Trop and Pecos to buy cigs?  

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Pabco Daytime Video

     I can’t believe I haven’t shared this clip yet.  I think I decided not to post it on youtube because it shows certain individuals getting prepared to smoke "the weed."  People can be real sensitive about airing shit like that in a public forum especially if they got kids or if they got a “straight” job.  I don’t wanna get anyone busted so I’m guessing that’s why I’ve kept it off the shelf.  It’s currently unlisted on youtube and the only way you can you see it is through the link posted below.

    This vid is a real curiosity piece.  This was the Spazz/Catapult/Dwarf Bitch/Lopez/Fatty Lumpkin show.  But don’t let that fool you there isn’t much music in this clip.  It’s mostly a document of the Pabco party spot right before the show.  It was a wild night.  Somehow a bunch of us got there during the day right before sunset.  Since there's so many people hangin out in the daytime I have to assume it wasn’t full blown Summer just yet.

    Every other “desert show” video I shot was at night.  It's pretty fuckin cool to see the place all lit up.  Before we got all lit up.  It’s a great spot with a long strange history most of which I can only guess at.  Pabco didn’t have the drama of the Rainbow Caves or the urban aesthetic of the Lossee road ditch (the Tubes) but it did have rugged charm.  Who knows maybe there’s a show out there tonight?  A freeway overpass was built over Losee road in North town so there'll never be another show at that spot again but I’ve heard rumors about recent shows at the Caves.

    A tiny sliver of music is in this clip as well.  Dwarf Bitch and Catapult rocks out for a few minutes but the camera mainly stays focused on the crowd and the environment making the music more of a soundtrack rather than the main event. If you want to see more clips from this night go to youtube and lookup Pabco, Spazz, Fatty Lumpkin, or y’know some shit like that.  You’re a grown person you’ll figure it out.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Letter from Ryland

     I had a dream about Ryland Luss a few weeks ago.  This morning I found this letter Ryland sent me in May 1998.  It's the last correspondence I ever got from him.  I was in a band at the time and I believe he offered me these lyrics for songs we were writing.  

   Ryland Luss was a close friend of mine.  I became friends with him going to Eldorado High.  The funny thing is I remember meeting him years before at Quanna McCall 6th Grad center in North town.  I was sheltered growing up as an Air Force brat.  My family lived in housing on base and my brother and I went to school on base.

    Three blocks from Las Vegas Boulevard the 6th Sixth Grade Center was an attempt to "integrate" schools in the early 80's.  That concept isn't in play anymore I guess integration isn't all that important anymore in Vegas, or anywhere in America for that matter.  Quanna McCall is now just a regular elementary school.  Growing up this school was definitely my first experience with real public education.  I saw Ryland on the playground several times and he shocked me by being the first kid my age to openly cuss out loud.  Repeatedly.  Even around teachers.  I wouldn't get the balls to cuss out loud myself until I made it to Dell H Robison Jr. High.  

    In High School Ryland became a close friend.  He regularly smoked me out at lunch.  He let me borrow his punk records.  He pushed some guy off a Spree motor scooter and into the street when he tried to park on my parent's front lawn.  He had the MDC Chicken Squak record.  At one time he got his Dead Kennedys Kill the Poor record taken away from him at school because it was "questionable."  He was a hell of a guy.  He gave me lots of shit for free and never asked for more than friendship in return.  Demo tapes, t-shirts, even records on occasion.  We did our fair share of record trading and taping.  I got super pissed one time when he borrowed my Geto Boys CD without asking and then returned it to me broken in half without explanation.  He was funny.  And not at all shy.  He was the guy who most often told me about parties or shows that were happening.  He was my lifeline to the "scene" because I guess I've always been anti-social.  Fuck you.

     Ryland was also a close friend to my brother.  He once put chalk in his afro so he could go buy beer for Mark and his skate buddies.  That's all it took to make him look old.  Can't believe what a pain in the ass it was to get people to buy us beer when we were under age.  Thank god I'm an old man now.  
     Really he was close to my whole family.  He constantly hung out at our house on Linn Lane just about every day when we lived on the East Side.  One time I came home and Ryland was the only person in the house sitting in my bedroom listening to that Big Rig 7" playing Sega.  It didn't faze us.  He was a member of the family.

    He fancied himself as a lyricist.  He was hugely inspired by the lyrics of Operation Ivy and Crimpshrine.  I don't think he ever got to their level.  I can't critique his stuff because I just don't care for poetry.  I think a lot of his work was fragmented but he wrote some interesting shit.  Things that are worth remembering because he was such a great person.  Maybe a little lost, confused, and alone, but he was always true.  It was never fake.  I'm glad he worked as hard as he did on his writing.  It's something I might have taken for granted back then but it's still something I relate to.  Some of it was dead on.  The fact that he did it so often was inspiring.  I wanted to have his work ethic but I couldn't keep it together then.  It's still be a struggle to stay motivated.   I wonder how happy he was to have some of his lyrics finally set to music and recorded by Dwarf Bitch. (Specifically the song What Now?)         

     Things were way simpler.  Not that things have changed so much but life has become more complicated.  Me and my friends didn't do things much different from anyone else who lived in Vegas.  We worked.  We got wasted.  We tried meeting girls.  We mourned the music that died and celebrated whatever shit seemed real at the time.  Ryland never strayed too far from that Bay Area punk shit.  He loved hip hop and gave that style as much love as any of us did back then but he would always return to his "roots."

        We pissed a lot of years away.  When my family eventually moved I remember thinking how sad it was that I wouldn't be seeing Ryland every day like I had been.  We didn't talk about it a lot at the time but I recall my mom thinking out loud "What's Ryland gonna do without us?"  

       We were all fucked up trying to deal with our own issues and it never occurred to us that Ryland might actually have real mental issues.  The last time I saw him he got really drunk at a house party.  I hadn't seen him in months and it was really bad.  I heard people talking about the fact that he had to take medicine now, that he was diagnosed as a Schizophrenic.  He never said that to me.  I don't know who told me that.     

      I still don't know the truth about what happened to Ryland.  His family moved to the West Side.  It must have been like another country to him.  The story is he went out into the desert and died from exposure.  I also heard he died while sitting in a ditch.  Waiting for something.  Waiting for us to show up?  Wow, that really hurt to write that.  Every now and then I have a dream about him.  In those dreams everyone's hanging out.  We're partying.  Listening to Crimpshrine.  Or Fifteen.  Smoking bunk ass weed.  Smokin cigs.  Waiting for something to happen.