Monday, June 30, 2008
"I ponder the scent of old, used books, pages tilled worn and sallow by dead fingerprints of former thought." - C. Allen Rearick
"Like drinking light beer or decaf/they often have little ability to stimulate inebriate of liberate the senses." - S.A. Griffin
Why read a poem? Of all of the things are to read, from newspapers to novels to magazines to blogs, what makes a poem worth reading? I have always been found of poems that have the ability to evoke emotions and in some way stimulate the senses or bring forth a distant memory or thought. What makes poetry special is that each word is carefully selected, and the language is so exact. The purpose is to capture a feeling, an image, an idea and allow the reader to quickly understand the essence of it all.
The idea of bring together two poets, two chapbooks and putting them back to back is very cool, and making it a flipbook is even cooler. The poems in this collection range from the simple observation to the honesty of love to raw and vulgar nature of man. Taken as a whole these two collections are very much night and day, and clash with every word. Yet, if you were to start with C. Allen's observations on life and love, with his vivid images of pets and bars, Woolworth's and bedroom, and then move slowly into the dark and seedy sub-conscious world Griffin's work you may be able to make a connection. C. Allen speaks in surface glances and looks to the world, the word, and the drink to relate to the reader. Griffin takes those readers locks into dirty motel room with stack of hardcore porn. It's a match made not in Heaven, but in a back alley behind a dumpster. This is collection liberates the senses and then moves onto to liberate so much more!
Ed Harcourt The Beautiful Lie (Dovecote Records, June 2008)
There are certain periods in your life when you are at you most productive. High school seems to be a prime time for sappy drama filled poetry and prose, the age of 23 seems to be a peak year for fresh creativity, and at 30 the artist seems to be focused, experienced and ready for his/her defining moment. At 30, musician Ed Harcourt has released his 5th studio album in six years. The Beautiful Lie finds Ed, the storyteller, spinning tales of experience, love, addiction, life, and politics. It finds him confident in his writing and music, and sharing his most mature effort with the world.
Recorded on an 8-track in his Grandmother's house using a piano made especially for her in 1917, the sound of this album echos with a genuine and classic sound. The sound was then moved to the studio for the addition of incredible effects. Switching frequently between ballads and stomping Cold War Kids-esque stompers, Beautiful Lie is a true and complete effort.
Whirlwind in D Minor/Visit From the Dead Dog/You Only Call Me When You're Drunk/The Last Cigarette/Shadowboxing/Late Night Partner/Revolution in the Heart (mp3)/Until Tomorrow Then/Scatterbraine/Rain on the Pretty Ones/The Pristine Claw/I Am The Drug/Braille/Good Friends are Hard to Find
Sunday, June 29, 2008
Listen to: "Grown Folks" f/Little Brother (mp3)
The first musician that I ever interviewed for Orange Alert was a young woman from the UK named Kathryn Bint. Better known as One Little Plane, at the time she only had a few songs recorded and more focused on performing and learning before officially stepping into the studio. That was in May of 2007, and now One Little Plane is ready soar with her debut album Until (out June 30th on Text Records).
Check out her appearance with Ed Harcourt (more on him tomorrow) on Welcome to our TV Show.
Listen to: The Sunshine Kid (mp3)
Here is the story... The start of 2007 saw the release of the band's debut, Isn't That What It's For?, which received critical praise for its lush pop textures and sweeping melancholy. Singer/songwriter Paul Rosevear, bassist G.E., and keyboardist Matt Jaworski recorded the album bit by bit throughout 2006 with friend and producer Arun Venkatesh. The music was quickly featured by big names like Dunkin Donuts and Turner Broadcasting, received constant radio spins on NY/NJ rock and college radio markets, as well as maintained steady internet presence on blogs and playlists throughout the year. However after touring in support of the album throughout the year - with new guitarist Jim Fitzgerald added to the line-up and the return of drummer Spicy O'Neil - the band knew it was time to make a record that captured the soul and spirit they felt making music together live. Armed with a laptop, a handful of microphones, and any instrument they could possibly get their hands on, the group said goodbye to their day jobs, friends, and social lives and rented a small house at the Jersey Shore. "We basically moved in together and wrote and recorded every day, 10 hours a day, for about 3 months, just spilling out whatever ideas came naturally," says Rosevear. "We're not engineers and none of us had ever done anything like this before. But we knew what felt great and that's what this whole thing was about. Forgetting everything except what feels right."
Listen to: Honey, You Might Be Right (mp3)
MP3 Round-Up! The inbox was flooded this week, so here is the run down...
Kid Dakota - Chutes + Ladders (mp3) from A Winner's Shadow (3/08)
C. Robin Madigan - To The Horizon (mp3)
These Modern Socks - Worry Free Lifestyle (mp3)
Murdocks - Spirit of '95 (mp3)
Computer vs Banjo - Magazine Queen (Ninja Simone Remix) (mp3)
Ivan Colon - Gabriel (mp3)
Duchess - Ccut Up (mp3)
Brian Coates moves to New York in 2004 where the music/art project that is to become The Great Northwest commences. It grows to involve over 20 people including Portland ex-pats Noah and Nathan Rice (the Christopher Twins), Josh Kalberg, and Dale Winston. After a year+ in NYC, Brian's wanderlust leads him west to California. At his friend Armando's house in Fresno, a musical beacon was sounded. Joe Kaczmarerk, Brent Fellows, Courtney Taylor Taylor, Brent DeBoer, Ray Gordon, Sean "Gothman" Addams, Poopy Simons, Louise Fenton, and a load of new friends converge for a blowout of a party. Brian Richburg, owner of Studio 9 in Fresno makes them a deal for studio time and recording begins. More than an album's worth of music is made. Brian, working with Dead Meadow, ends up in the Mt. Pleasant neighborhood of our nation's capital in 2006. Douglas and Mike from Kora meet up with him at a bar in their mutual 'hood to hear some unmixed MP3s on his laptop, leave awe-struck and sign him straight away to put out an LP. During a summer pitstop in Portland, with longtime bandmate Randall Crush, the songs receive mixing treatment at The Dandy Warhols' Odditorium with mastering back east by TJ Lipple (Aloha) at Silver Sonya in Arlington, VA.
The 13 track album brims over with lush soundscapes and ambient modulations. Pop melodies and slowcore pacing coalesce seamlessly throughout the record. Lavish and haunting vocals woven with Brian's savvy wordplay complete the sonically induced mind altering experience. After the mixing session, Coates said tenderly, "there's guitar, there's bass, there's drums, there's trombone, there's Leslie speakers, practice amps, Jew's Harps, drum loops, tambourines, ebows, harmonicas and pie tins. There's thought... there's love."
Listen to: Chief John (mp3)
The first installment of the Meld Series, this album has always fascinated me. Bringing together two of the most innovative and intelligent producers in electronic music can only result in a hauntingly beautiful album. Dj Spooky brings the off-beat and distorted hip hop, illbient groove, and Scanner twists the most obscure knobs available. Together the advance all forms of music into onto a completely new planet. From the raw scratches and samples of "Uncanny" to grace and electro-beauty of "Guanxi" these two fit together perfectly.
Saturday, June 28, 2008
1. The Death Set: Electro-punk in all of its glory! These guys are playing a free show @ The Hideout with Matt & Kim on July 3rd. Listen to: Negative Thinking (mp3)
2. The Dutchess & The Duke: She's the Dutchess (Kimberly Morrison) and he is the Duke (Jesse Lortz) and together they make off-kilter lo-fi folk. Listen to: Reservior Park (mp3)
3. Andy Dale Petty: Only 21 years-old, the trainer (he rides the rails and sings his songs) just released his debut album on Voodoo Rythm Records. King Kahn has this to say about his music, "People like Andy Dale make America the beautiful nightmare that it is." Listen to: The Coo Coo Bird (mp3)
1. Gel by Zosimo Quibilan, Jr.: Just your average story about hair gel. Appearance is everything you know.
2. Truimph Outright by Kyle Beachy: A story about writing a letter.
3. For Me by Errid Farland: A little naughty, but well written and enjoyable.
4. A nice review of Jeremy Shipp's Vacation by Caleb Ross: This review is good, but I don't know if any review can do this book justice. You really have to read it.
5. Simulacrum by Adam Moorad: The main character is name "The White Man" and that makes me smile.
6. Out of the Cupboard # 10 with Ben Barton: I will like this new segment over at Gloom Cupboard. Richard is running a series of poems the the poet and then a small interview. It is really a quality idea.
7. On the floor the women by L. Ward Abel: The latest installment from the most wonderful zine on the planet!
1. Stok : There is nothing worse for an addict then to open the cabinet and find the can of coffee bare. Yet, last week that is what occurred. Frantic, I ran out the house and stopped, in a hurry, and 7-11 (oh, thank Heaven!). I drink my coffee black and from where I can find it hot and cheap. However, I glance down at the colorful creamers, and there is a name I do not recognize. STOK... "Black Coffee Shot". What? "40mg caffeine" Yeah! "Limit 2 per day". I pour two in my coffee and grab a handful for the road. Oh, I was flying!
2. Fifty Designers' Current Favourite Typefaces: Not only is this a cool looking book, but 100% of the proceeds go to UNICEF's Myanmar (Burma) Cyclone Children's Appeal in the wake of Cyclone Nargis that hit Myanmar on 2nd May 2008.
3. Soul Vegetarian: I spent the day among the crowds at "The Taste" yesterday and sampled many great Vegetarian dishes, but my favorite (aside from the Tiramisu Gelato) was the BBQ at Soul Vegetarian.
1. 'Billy Mays Full-Color Art Mask': If you are into infomercials then you may recognize Billy Mays. He has sold everything from Oxiclean to Mighty Putty. Now you can look just like him!
2. Free Barack Obama Campaign Poster : One thing was clear to me at "The Taste" this year... Chicago support Obama. I am not really surprised, but if you are one of those supporters here is a free poster to give you "Hope".
3. Popdeck Comp: Speaking of voting, its your right to vote for William Bryant's board design in this new competition.
1. The Dreadful Yawns "Catskill": This is one of favorite albums right now, Take Shape, will be released on August 26th via Exit Stencil Records.
3. Virtual Ball Pit by Kevin Atkinson
4. Hamster Reads Tao Lin's Eeeee Eee Eeee
Friday, June 27, 2008
"What I say don't mean as much as what I do..."
In order to speak on the issues of the world and our government you must first see and experience the alternative. There is no way to comprehend freedom and all of its responsibilities without first traveling to other countries. After you have experienced life in Southeast Asia or Ecuador then you can write about solution, adventure, justice, and unknown sexually transmitted diseases. You can write your hidden gem, a clusterbomb, brightly colored and waiting to explode.
Chicago emcee Alltruisms, member of the Giraffe Nuts crew, has traveled world and written his debut album in various countries and in various states of mind. On Clusterbombs (Gravel Records, July 1st), he has reached out to the Chicago hip hop community found some of the top producers in the business. With tracks produced by Chicago's Earmint, Maker, K-Kruz, 5th Element, and Kaz1 as well as New York's J-Zone and Ohio's Dj PRZM (who passed away just over a year ago from a heart condition), Alltru's debut is not short on beats. With such a wide range of producers you might expect to hear a lack of connection between tracks, but he pulls it a together with his tight rhymes. Their is also an overwhelming sense of jazz on this album, especially in Maker's "Rocket's Red Glare". Horns and beats, guitar and scratches, Clusterbombs is a Chicago classic in waiting.
Recently, Alltruisms was kind enough to answer a few of my questions.
Orange Alert (OA): Clusterbombs is your debut album, but you are not a newcomer. How long have you been working on Clusterbombs? Is there an overall theme to the album?
Alltruisms (AT): I was traveling in Southeast Asia and New Zealand from Feb. 2005 through May 2006. 5 of the songs existed before that trip, but they were rewritten and rerecorded after I came back. All the other songs were written between May 06 and December 07, when I finished the album and left to travel in Ecuador. As far as theme, the title theme is the similarity between Cluster bombs and rappers. Think of the slang, they "drop", many at once, and need "spins" to be able to "blow up" upon release. Some do, but many don't, and sit there, waiting to be "picked up" by an unsuspecting child in a field in Laos, or a music fan in a record store in Chicago. I wrote 2 title tracks, one is specifically about the munitions, Laos, and the places I visited, and the other expands on this comparison. As for a theme of the album, it follows my back and forth of traveling and returning, juxtaposing the stories and concerns I have in those 2 different situations.
OA: Gary G. of Fourty/4/Media has made another incredible cover. How did choose 44 and were you happy with the results and 44 in general?
AT: Verbal Kent put me into contact with Gary. Gary also did the artwork for VK's new album "Fist Shaking". I'm extremely happy with how the art came out. I had the idea in my head to show a person standing in a deserted field with bombs and records. And I had the bombshell logo in mind. But I'm not a visual artist, so Gary brought it all to life far beyond what I imagined.
OA: You have enlisted some of the top production talent in the city with Maker, Kaz1, K-Kruz, Earmint, 5th Element, J-Zone (New York), and Overflo, and it gives the album a very eclectic feel. Why did you decide to have different tracks produced by different people as opposed to just one one beat creator?
AT: It's just really difficult to find an album's worth of beats that I like from any one producer. Also, having one producer do an entire album risks monotony. At the same time, having many producers risks an album that doesn't sound cohesive, but I trust my skills as an arranger...The process is an assembly line, I want to get as many beats as I like ASAP so I can immediately make songs out of those beats. And it's unlikely that one producer will have 6 available beats that I like right now, but more likely that 4 producers will each have a beat or 2.
OA: Speaking of Chicago Hip Hop, it seems like a clusterbomb itself, all of this quality music dropping all at once. What are your thoughts on the Chicago scene? Do you think this success of Lupe Fiasco, Cool Kids, Kid Sister, Kayne, etc will help you in anyway (even though they are making hipster rap)?
AT: It's interesting that you describe those artists as hipster rap. I think that a lot of music fans who would be demographed as hipsters, people who pride themselves on exotic and eclectic music tastes, are really pretty conservative in the type of hip hop they're willing to listen to. It's either the type of people you listed, or it's Clipse and coke rap, or it's stuff from '95 or earlier. Hopefully that will expand with time... I would describe the people you listed as pop music first and foremost. There is rapping on it, but we've long passed the point where there can't be rapping on a pop song. And I think pop music is, by definition, something for a lower common denominator of people, where more people may like it, but the people in that mass don't have as intense of a connection with the music, except maybe the 12-year olds. I see how people are excited by something that image-wise, and sonically, seems different than boring mainstream rap. But to me, content-wise, I don't see how Kid Sister and the Cool Kids talking about nails and low rider bikes is very different from mainstream rap or R&B songs about clothes and cars. Kanye is still saying "wait till I get my money right," and even Lupe's old music was about guns, drugs and hos... Will these groups' success help me? It will if lots of people read and hear my name next to theirs. You're doing your part, thanks for that.
OA: How did you first get involved with Giraffe Nuts? What's next for the group?
AT: I can't really talk about how I got involved with GN, as the statute of limitations hasn't run out yet. I've been continuing to break in to the Adler Sanitarium to meet with "Dr." Murphy and the group, and work on the GN sequel. It's called "Debbie Travis: she's dead", although you wouldn't know it by the ongoing conversations Robert Travis continues to have with her.
OA: After you finished the album you traveled to Colombia. What was that like, and has that experience affected your music in anyway?
AT: It's affected my music because it's reinforced the view I have on my album, that hip hop, and American popular culture in general, are artforms that the whole world wants to take part in. I also love Cumbia music now.
One story that sticks with me...I have a Colombian friend here, and he put me in contact with his friend, who teaches 9th graders English in a public school in Medellin (ex Pablo Escobar). So I go to this 9th grade English class so the kids can have someone to practice English with. Of course they had no interest in that, but I speak some Spanish so I told them to ask me any questions they might have about anything. Their first 3 questions were "what's the image of Colombia in the U.S.?" "What do People in the U.S. Think about the potential free trade agreement with Colombia?" and after the teacher told them to ask a less political question, "how has racism affected you?" And then they said they liked the Wu Tang hat I was wearing
I was actually in Ecuador for 3 and a half months, and in Colombia for only 17 days. I crossed from Ecuador to Colombia soon after the incident where the Colombian army killed the #2 of the FARC (the main left-wing Guerrilla army in Colombia), at his hideout which was in Ecuadorian territory. So there was a whole brouhaha, diplomatic relations temporarily suspended. But as a tourist there it's very normal, although some places are off-limits. I spoke enough Spanish to be able to shrug off the policemen who wanted a bribe from me for not carrying my passport .
OA: What's next for Alltruisms?
AT: I'm currently working on my next album, which will be called "Travel VS. Rap", and I intend to have it finished before leaving again. Also in the works are the GN sequel, and a project by The Unhappyest, which includes myself, Verbal Kent, Rusty Chains and Lance Ambu. I plan to travel abroad again in October when my job ends, possibly through Mexico and Central America, keep improving my Spanish. But those plans might change if I have a lot going on musically, we'll see.
OA: If you drink coffee, what was the coffee like in Colombia?
AT: It's spectacular. Juan Valdez (the man from the commercials) is the Colombian version of starbucks, good coffee there. And in Colombia, anywhere there's people there's micro-capitalism, and there are many people on the street selling tinto (coffee) out of thermoses. it's poured into 4 ounce plastic cups, costs about 15 cents, and always has a lot of sugar, no milk.
OA: Top 5 emcee's of all-time? (I know it's a tough one!)
AT: Funny you should ask, I've actually had this in my head for a long time
5: Rakim – He single-handily advanced the art of rapping more than anyone else
4: Nas - the ultimate street poet, he blows my mind to this day
3: Biggie - the most charismatic emcee ever, it's not even close
2: Ghostface - he made it allowable for rappers to force listeners to work a little to get it
1: Ice Cube ('93 and earlier) – A true SONGWRITER who described his life and environment in its full range of emotions
Listen to: Nine-Digit # (mp3) and Blindfolded (mp3) and The Bird's and The Bees (mp3)
For more information on Alltruisms please visit his website. If you pre-order Clusterbombs here before July 1st you will receive an instrumental version of the album for free (it's only $8.99!!). Also, you can stream the album here.
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Minnesota poet Stephen Morse has long been a pivotal voice in the small press and an outlaw poet. Not only has he created a lifetime's worth of words, but he has also given a home and a voice to many aspiring poets. As the founder of Juice Magazine back in the '70's he has published some of the best underground poets over the years, and continues to seek out the voices hiding just below the surface. He has embraced the image and temperment of the cowboy, and to this day he continues to explore the unknown lands and unexplored boundaries of the written word.
Recently, Stephen was kind enough to answer a few of my questions.
Stephen Morse (SM): The biggest difference I notice today is in the ability of the small press to distribute their publications.
When we started Juice we were taking advantage of a technology ---The AB Dick and Paper Plates--- that made printing cheap and gave us a chance to publish (in black and white) a decent looking product; saddle stitched with good cover stock and the ability to use camera ready graphics at no extra cost. Graphics yea!
And we thrived with talented poets because we were plugged in to other publishers like Hitchcock at Kayak who was more than happy to put a little notice about Juice in his outgoing mail, which included their acceptance and rejection mail. It was all postal of course. We exchanged the favor. So, there was no problem right from the beginning getting quality work.
Hitchcock was probably the best known independent publish for poetry at the time. There weren't any lists of small publishers at the time. It all grew out of networking. Later Dustbooks put together some helpful directories, but poets were desperately seeking publishers willing to take a risk, so any new magazine was immediately inundated by the power of word of mouth sharing. I sold a list of magazines and editors that I knew were willing and able to publish poetry that they liked for a buck. I think there were 50 that I recommended. Amazing how many takers there were. It helped pay for some of the costs.
But distribution was the stumbling block. There were a few stores that would take them on consignment, a number of libraries that would subscribe, and a few individual subscribers. But mostly we gave them away to get them out there..The web has changed all that. The word of mouth is now multiplied by any mouth that wants to speak. There are networking organizations like my space, I have a website, a couple of blogs and a discussion forum and easily reach thousands of people a day, and there are people who care enough to contribute financially to help cover our costs.
Many of the publications are online only, and the quality is erratic, but democratic. There's poetry out there for every taste...some of it seems good. Some of it is weird. But that is what the small press is all about. There are people who care enough to do something. They do the best they can, and they are independent as hell. That part hasn't changed at all.
OA: As a poet who has been published both in print and on-line, and as the editor of Juice On-line, do you feel being published on-line has the same legitimacy as print journals?
SM: That's a good question. Or at least a good question to get out of the way. The purpose for publishing a poem for me was that it preserved a poem or a poet's work by publishing it and getting it out to the public. I like print. I like to look at poems in a book. It's portable, I can pass it around. I can sell my books when I read my poetry. The printed product can be signed and become a collectors item.
But I've never received much feedback from printed work. People tend to set it on a shelf and forget about it. They may have some thoughts about a poem, but there's no easy way to hunt the poet down and give them to him or her. After awhile I became tired of the ego game of having a book. I'm guessing that maybe three or four hundred people read the poems in the print versions. I know none of them ever reacted or responded.
Compare that to online and you get a different picture. I know that about 50 people a day read the work on Juice online, most of them are new people, that's about 36,000 readers a year or about 900 times more readers for the poems. Now, since my objective is to preserve and promote poets and their poetry, I'd have to say that online poetry is a much more effective tool, and I can do a lot more with it. Straight online bothered me though because it lacked the tangible, hold it in the hand quality which is very satisfying. So we do something a little different. We put the online on CD at the end of every year, and all contributors receive a copy. This they can pass around and share with their friends and family.
Back to the legitimacy issue which has to to do with reputations, status, and ranks in the world of literature. Given the current state of affairs where anyone can publish a book, mag, or whatever on LuLu for no cost, I'd have to say that print has lost a lot of the built in legitimacy that it had. It really matters more who the editor and publishers are...if you want to play that game. I'd say that the same is true of online publications, but I feel they must create a CD or other storage device to really be in the same league. There are some very strong online mags who are very worthwhile being published in because the right people read them.
So online, print, in terms of legitimacy, are about the same for me as media. But it's the content that makes or breaks them.
OA: In your opinion, is poetry a product? If so, how can we make it more marketable? Is the ultimate role of a poem to be bought and sold?
SM: Poetry is a process, a way of seeing and way of being that produces a product. Just as a piece of Art is a product.
I see a couple of good marketing approaches going on right now. The most common method of marketing is to market the poet, not the poetry. Ginsberg, Kerouac, Snyder, Bukowski, S. Plath, Raindog, and even I to a certain extent are known as much by our created identities as we are by our poetry. I know a lot Kerouac fans that haven't even read Kerouac. But they like who he was. Create an artistic persona and promote him/her. Sells a lot of books.
The second method I see involves more around product. Michele McDannold is the most innovative I've seen of this school. She creates products to contain the poetry, reminiscent really of Emily Dickinson's packets of poems that she tied together with ribbons and threw out the window for passersby. Michelle takes the packet concept even farther. Her most recent project involves a cigar box, a match book, and well we'll have to wait and see what she does with my dozen crow poem chapbook. This method of marketing puts the emphasis back on the poem as a product or a production. I really like it.
No, the selling of a poem is not a role of poetry, at least not for money. Most poets would not mind the money, but few write for it. The ones who make the most money are sadly not the ones who write the best poetry.
OA: Growing up with and running in the same circles as the West Coast beat poets, was there a feeling at the time that something significant was taking place? Was there anyway to know the legacy or legend would be what it is today?
SM: Yeah, we knew we were doing something. Something with energy and a worldwide synchronicity. It felt like the American Revolution must have to us and the world. It just seemed to be a massing of the collective consciousness. The time was right for something new. We saw ourselves as revolutionaries of sorts. Poetry, the Arts and Music, and all the other arts and crafts were all magic and the groundwork for a new way of being.
An alternative life style was possible, based on art and love. We competed like crazy in ways that weren't destructive and there weren't really winners, just some people that didn't get it. See if you're doing something that isn't practical, I.e.; making lots of money or providing for the material world in the world in some way that accumulates the respect of gaining things that your neighbor has, then what use is it? The straights and hips were in an unprecedented conflict and we loved it. We could do our thing as long as we didn't hurt anyone directly and it probably looked like fun.
This freedom and the new cheap technologies for printing created a creative fire storm of possibilities.
We had no doubt that many involved would be considered ground breakers and influences. Even then some were rising to the top level of public consciousness. Many are just now beginning now to be recognized as important poets. I think the poets that are still involved, the true independent writing and publishing poets are blossoming and will ultimately be seen as more significant than the branch of poetry that now is seen as mainstream and important. These coyotes are independent but they still sing and chase through the moonlit nights howling and singing. The American poets.
Don't be surprised if they sometimes stampede the herds.
SM: Bukowski was one of the early poets to recognize that in order to succeed he had to create a persona and make himself a hero that the young rebels could relate to. He was an alcoholic, a very articulate alcoholic with a kind of hermit streak. The classic ingredients for a dirty old man; throw in his muse, the race track and its colorful characters and you have a very attractive image as this old outlaw telling it like it is. Bukowski always made himself the hero in all of his writing.
OA: Has teaching poetry changed the way you look at your own writing and writing in general? What is one thing you have learned from your students?
SM: Teaching in general has changed the way I look at a lot of things. For one thing I've been obligated to really read some of the people that I was exposed to as a student and make an effort to explain to students who these people and what they were doing.
I think T.S. Eliot was the biggest revelation to me in my teaching. I used to have problems with Eliot, thought he was too intellectual in an academic way. I learned what I had to learn to pass tests, but had never really given his poetry a chance. Didn't want to like him, because that's not the way I wanted to write, I don't want to learn all that mythology. Why would anyone read someone who footnoted his own poetry because he was afraid that people wouldn't get it otherwise?
I still think the footnotes are distracting, but I fell in love the Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. I think it is one of the greatest poems I have ever read about what it feels like to be an older poet/artist with enough success to be studied, analyzed and pinned against the academic walls of dissection. Already I have had intelligent and attractive people talk about what a poem means, and I think of Prufrock “that is not it, that is not it all.” It makes me smile that kind of sardonic smile of I get it.
Students also make me aware that poetry has little general relevance for the general population. They don't get it. They don't get why we read it or write it. They can't get past Whitman's homoerotic poetry. They find him dull. Sylvia Plath's suicide does touch them. But aside from Daddy, most or her poems leave them blank.
I also discovered that if I made them write some exercise poems, that they often produced some fun stuff, and enjoyed the process. So the process of poetry is more appealing than the products of other poets. I found that after they wrote a couple of their own that I was more able to interest them in reading the works of others, and by the time they get to Bukowski, they are ready to become rebels.
What I know is that the way literature is traditionally taught by academia destroys poetry for most students because it doesn't do much with process and how it feels to write a poem.
OA: I know you are a fan of folk music, do you believe there is a connection between music and poetry?
SM: In the sense that sound is an important part of both and they're always borrowing from each other, yes there is a connection that goes back to the beginning of poetry the rhythms and melodies of song that allowed the bard to remember the details and words of their songs.
This sense of story and tone is strongest in the type of music that I like. Like Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, and countless blues men, the real country singers Hank Williams...and too many to mention. I guess it could be called folk music because it isn't the high art of classical music or the gimmicky highly stylized versions of what passes for music in the pop world. Even there, the story, the narrative is what drives a good song. And rhythm and rime still drive many a song and its lyrics.
Many of the free verse poets of today are so afraid of seeming old fashioned that they shun rhyme, don't get rhythm, meter, form, style or sound of words at all. It's chopped up prose with fancy smilies and stretched metaphors. Or often its just beautiful words dancing like pigs in skirts of traditional gowns. My how lovely the air burns in thine nostrils, fair maiden of curly tail. I imagine the ecstasy of knowing your secret parts in some darkened corner of the mystical night.
I think all the Arts are related and share some of the processes and tones that make magic.
OA: What's next for Stephen Morse?
SM: God, I wish I knew. I intend to continue doing what I have always enjoyed, writing reading, talking about and sharing poetry. One project that I would love to see finished in the near future involves a book of poetry that Judy L. Brekke and I have been working on since we met back in 1975; It's called places that linger. It's a collection of work that reflects our life together and the parts and paths that lead to there. It's a type of autobiography of what it's like to be alive together. We've never done things the easy way and I think we'd both like it if a good editor magically appeared, gathered up all our work and put it together with a sense of narrative and how the parts fit together and how sometimes they don't, then published it. I don't mind publishing Judy or Myself, but somehow it would be more of an affirmation of being worthwhile if someone else did it.
I guess we'll just continue our way through life singing and howling with those who care.
For more information on Stephen Morse visit his blog or check out his myspace page. Also be sure to check out Juice Online.
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Recently, Constance was kind enough to answer a few of my questions.
Orange Alert (OA): Let start with the hardest question first, what do you look for in a shot (i.e. lighting, setting, natural or prosed, etc)?
Constance K. (CK): I look for character in my surroundings and depending on the individual I will choreograph them to be as natural as can be however some staged expressions work...I feel when you are in natural light you are at your most natural state.. the sun is shining on you, and your soul shines through!
OA: What is the best location in the city to take pictures?
CK: Hmmm if I disclose that it won't be the best...those places where you find yourself alone give me the most inspiration...but if I must say it has to be anywhere on the shore...Almost every person I have photographed there felt something and was able to convey that through they're eyes. If your eyes don't look interested then it must not be an interesting place.
OA: Do you prefer black & white vs. color? Do you feel black & white offers a more artistic feel? CK: I love both...it just depends on the subject and how it makes you feel...a colleague of mine suggested that all photos of children be in color...and I asked why..he told me that they are true and honest in color...and I realized he knows what he's talking about...because he is also my web designer...so I trust his opinion. You know if you feel that your composition will be more flattering in a certain color or tone..you have to trust your instinct.
OA: How did you get involved with Chicago's hip hop scene? Are you surprised at all by the success of The Cool Kids? Has there success helped you in anyway?
CK: There is this saying...the right place the right time...that's me and The Cool Kids...when they started I was there...we grew together and I most certainly believe they are successful because they are talented charming young men that had hope and with that hope comes success. So I am not surprised but proud and happy that my friends are creative individuals that make kids all over the world happy...and I think that's all they wanted to do. I wouldn't be exactly where I am without them and vice a versa... My affiliation with them has definitely opened the doors for me to meet and work with other wonderful talent here in Chicago that I may not have had the opportunity to.
OA: What's next for Constance K.?
OA: Coffee? If yes, where can you find the best cup in Chicago?
OA: We know you photograph hip hop artists, but what type of music do you enjoy personally? CK: The kids on the streets call me dancing machine or dancing queen...so my music of choice is disco and funk!
For more information on Constance K. please visit her website.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Less Than Jake - GNV FLA Listen to: Does the Lion City Still Roar? (mp3)
Be Your Own Pet - Get Damaged Ep
J-Live - The Upgrade/The Understanding
Shining - IV : The Eerie Cold
Vast Aire - Dueces Wild
Monday, June 23, 2008
The stage was filled with instruments including a mandolin, bongos, xylophone, and acordian. This was truly the full Venna experience. They continued to play other amazing tracks from the ep, and then announced a 'fairly new' song. Marky grabbed Heather's mic and proceeded to sing. Heather joined in later, and the contrast of Marky's voice was a great addition. Closing with 'Papers' the set was brief, but beautiful and warm. Heather was feeling a little under the weather and returned to the merch table to sell her handmade goods.
"Paul Simon feels sick with worry. He tries to listen to the son 'Our Way to Fall' by Yo La Tengo, but whereas before it suited his feelings (nostalgia, failed love affair, small quite feeling, sadness, longing), now it feels kind of mocking."
How freeing is it to write a story, post a message on your blog, print 50 copies and mail them around the world. The benefit and feedback are almost immediate, and the ability to print more is always available. So the question that will ultimately be raised is, is this a legitimate chapbook?
The answer is up to you, but in my opinion I believe it is. The focus is on the writing and not the presentation or the publisher or anything but the story.
The of story Paul Simon is both hilarious and sad at the same times. You find yourself laughing at the man's depression and childish desires to be a member of Yo La Tengo. His relationship has dissolved, his career has dissolved, and his friendship with Chevy Chase is extremely volatile. Through ten small scenes you take look inside the life and mind of the music legend, as he makes pancakes, checks his facebook, takes a shower, and emulates his favorite Raymond Carver story. Paul Simon is clever, funny, and completely insane. Did I mention it was written by Chris Killen? Chris Killen!
There were 50 copies of Paul Simon sent around the world, and I am holding copy #53. That's right, 53. Visit Chris Killen at his blog Day of Moustaches.
Sunday, June 22, 2008
2. “Gimmie Some” (Mike Mangini Remix) - Nina Simone
3. “There Was A Time” (Kenny Dope Remix) - James Brown
4. “California Soul” (Diplo) - Marlena Shaw (mp3)
5. “Take Care Of Business” (Pilooski Edit) - Nina Simone
6. “Bim Bom” (Psapp Remix) - Astrud Gilberto
7. “Tenderly” (Mocky Remix) - Anita O’ Day
8. “Tea For Two” (Chris Shaw Remix) - Sarah Vaughan
9. “Dilo Como Yo” (Antibalas Remix) - Patato & Totico
10. “Evil Ways” (Karriem Riggins Remix) – Willie Bobo
11. “Everybody Loves The Sunshine” (9th Wonder Remix) – Roy Ayers
12. “I Get A Kick Out Of You” (Cinematic Orchestra) – Ella Fitzgerald
Listen to: Under the Pines (mp3)
07/17/08 Los Angeles, CA - The Echo (CD Release Show)
08/07/08 Chicago, IL - Schubas
08/09/08 Toronto, ON - El Mocambo
08/10/08 Montreal, QC - Le Divan Orange
08/12/08 Boston, MA - Middle East Upstairs
08/13/08 New York, NY - Mercury Lounge
08/15/08 Brooklyn, NY - Union Hall
08/16/08 Philadelphia, PA - Johnny Brenda's
08/17/08 Wasington D.C., - Black Cat Backstage
08/18/08 Columbus, OH - Cafe Bourbon St. Annex
08/19/08 Indianapolis, IN - Locals Only
08/23/08 Los Angeles, CA - Sunset Junction Street Festival
Musical maverick and ex-Ladytron bassist, Pop Levi is back and continuing to carve his path. Never Never Love (Release date: 9/2/08) is wide-ranging follow-up spanning rock, r&b, lo-fi anf hi-fi, the album is a true reflection of multiple sides of Pop Levi.
I am not going to claim that I was in on the genius of Lee Norris (aka Metamatics, aka Nacht Plank, aka Norken) from the start, but in 2002 I stumbled across an mp3 of "Giant Sunflowers". As a fan of Boards of Canada and Aphex Twin, I was surprised by the depth and beauty found in Norris' melodies. The challenge of electronic music is maintain the warmth while adding the right amount of complexities. Metamatics is that balance, and on his third album everything seemed to click in perfect order. An album filled with nature and life and layed beats, From Death... should be considered a benchmark in electronic music, but I feel it has been sadly overlooked.
Friday, June 20, 2008
1. Skew: This NYC producer just release his debut ep, Stadiums Are Ok Too, for free on his website. His full-length album is currently being mastered, and will be out in September. His tracks are a complex mixture of hip hop and electronic dance music. It is all very appealing.
2. Deep Science: This Seattle-band is preparing to release of their third album Villainairal. Listen to: Throne of Blood (The Jump Off) (mp3)
3. Farino: This UK guitar duo are about to give Rodrigo Y Gabriella a run for their money!
1. Like King Kong by Cora C. Pyles: A very short look at the very long path that is life.
2. What Day is Sunday by Lauren Pretnar: A touching family tale, the innocence and warmth of a child.
3. To Be Read in Some Place That Doesn’t Exist by Patrick Howell O’Neill: I enjoy the way he tells you where you should be reading this story.
4. Land Use Planning by Lightsey Darst: I like this piece, but I am more interested in the larger work this is taken from. ""Land use planning" comes from a larger sequence called Dance, which will work something like a book of horoscopes when completed. (I'm hoping for a spinner on the cover.) The two tags at the bottom are a newspaper headline and a type of prophecy (borrowed from Paul Dickson's book Words). As for the poem itself, I can only say that my mother is a botanist and my father is a planner for the state of Florida."
5. Klein's Latrell by C. Robin Madigan: Guns, violence, a preacher's son... this one has it all!
6. Fistful by Elizabeth Ellen: Tragic and violent... I couldn't stop reading!
7. Another RC Flyer Off Course by Arlene Ang:
1. Kendra Steiner Editions Issue #100: Three years and 100 chapbooks! That is an incredible accomplishment. Issue 100 is a great one too, NEXT EXIT: SEVEN by Ronald Baatz and Luis Cuauhtemoc Berriozabal
2. That I could design a poster (check it out): To celebrate the launch of Counting Crows summer tour, the band is calling all Counting Crows fans and artists to help create their summer tour poster!One lucky winner will have their poster design printed and sold on tour. Entrants will create and submit an original tour poster design that captures the sound and energy of Counting Crows. You must submit your entry by July 1st, 2008. There are just three simple rules:
1) The poster must be 18"x24" portrait or landscape. 2) Your artwork must be at least 300 DPI and be transmitted through the internet (Files must be jpeg or gif and must be less than 10MB in size) 3) Any graphic elements you use cannot be copyrighted.Please send your entries to email@example.com along with your name and, of course, your email address.
1. Graphi Magazine Issue #1: Beautiful new art mag, download it here.
2. LEGENDmag Issue #20: The voice of progressive urban independent lifestyle.
1. Alltruisms "Nine-Digit #": From the soon to be released debut album, Clusterbombs, from this Chicago rapper.
2. Sigur Ros "Gobbledigook": Great new song, and the rather suggestive new video.
3. The Reverse Graffiti Project
d$ is the man! This Mississippi boy is rocks the cut off jeans, over-sized glasses, and everything completely uncool. However, he has the voice of God. Crafting lush harmonies, Dent May will release his first single "Meet Me in the Garden" on July 28th. Last year he self-released a wonderful ep for free through his myspace page, and this year he playing to the New York crowd at Popfest!
Listen to: Meet Me in The Garden (mp3)
Mario Hernandez (aka From Bubble to Sky) is back with his highly anticipated third album, A Soft Kill, out June 3rd on LA-based Eenie Meenie Records. His music as sweet and light and airy as his wonderful name would imply.
Sharon Hagopian (aka Cannonball Jane) blends hip hop, pop, and jazz into a swinging girl group melody. This teacher by day and pop sensation by night is on the verge of greatness. She released her debut ep last year's Knee's Up, recorded entirely at home, Hagopian’s studio set up of beatboxes, samplers, tambourines, guitars, turntables, piano, synths, various noise gadgets and effects shines through, creating an innovative retro-modern mix, elegant and sweetly beguiling but still rough enough to handle something bigger than a moped. From the Spector-soul of “Take it to Fantastic” and “The Secret Handshake” (MP3) onwards, Knees Up! combines such diverse influences as Run-DMC, The Aislers Set, Solex, The Shangri-La’s, The Go-Go’s, Luscious Jackson and Devo, while remaining fresh, exciting and original at all times.
Formed over ten years ago, this Seattle band knows how to move the crowd and they eat donuts to boot. Tullycraft's latest album Every Scene Needs A Center was released last October via Magic Marker Records.
Listen to: The Punks Are Writing Love Songs (mp3)
Is a two man social project that came into existence in the summer of 2005 when Josef and Esbjorn decided to start a band. The plan was at first more or less dismissed by everyone who knew these guys. The chances that they could produce anything were not considered to be likely and furthermore if they produced anything, could anyone listen to it? These sounds we make, are they traces of gravity? Oh! Custer is based in Lund, Sweden (hometown to fellow shoegazers The Radio Dept.)
Listen to: States (mp3)
Here are a few images by Dominick Mastrangelo from Popfest.
The Ladybug Transistor play lush pop music with horns and harmonies. Check out the video for "Always on the Telephone". Their latest album, Can't Wait Another Day, was released last year by Merge Records.
Thursday, June 19, 2008
In business you are consistently told to "think outside the box", and as Americans we are always reminded of our freedoms. We are encouraged to discover new ways of solving old problems, and reach out in abstract and undefined ways to become something new. However, some may contend that the most magical explorations and greatest discoveries may occur inside the box. When we set limits for ourselves or very narrow goals that is when we excel.
Massachusetts writer Ben Segal has gone inside the box (or boxes) and in many ways come out with something new and original. His debut novella, 78 Stories (out June 20th No Records Press), fits perfectly into the structure of a crossword puzzle. That's right, the stories read both across and down. Inside these squares the words interweave and guide the reader carefully down the page. However, do not get caught up in the form, Ben manages to write quality stories as well.
Recently, Ben a was kind enough to answer a few of my questions.
Orange Alert (OA): Your debut novella, 78 Stories, has a unique structure. How did this concept first come to you and how long did it take to layout?
Ben Segal (BS): The idea for the structure came before any of the actual stories. I guess there are a few major reasons for choosing the form. I've been very very interested in the OuLiPo group for a few years and their ideas of constrained writing and find the idea of constrained writing to be very appealing. I even dedicated the book to Georges Perec (a member), who is one of my very favorite writers. If you'd like I could do a whole spiel on OuLiPo, but basically the short version is they are a French literary movement that grew out of a reaction against surrealism and automatic writing. OuLiPo is an acronym that translates into the Workshop for Potential Literature. They use very intense formal constraints to structure their writing and force creative and unusual combinations of words and narrative arcs so they don't get stuck in the common patterns of traditional writing.
I tried to use the crossword form specifically because I love crosswords, but mostly because I was thinking a lot about the idea of iterability. I wanted to see how I could work in a way that emphasized both repetition (in terms of the strict repetition of paragraphs in multiple directions) and difference (in so far as each repetition would signify differently). Finally, the idea of a single large sheet and the fact that a crossword puzzle is a non-linear form made it a really exciting concept to pursue.
As for layout, At first, it was very slow work to lay-out because I was doing all of the squares by hand, but then my girlfriend figured out how to computerize the layout and it became much easier. The difficulties mostly came from keeping both narrative strands in my mind when drafting each paragraph.
OA: Behind the layout and incredible appearance of the book there a great story, what can you tell us about 78 Stories the story?
BS: Can we make this now read: The story isn't so much a story as a big weird collection of stories that bleed into each other. My rule in writing was that any 'answer' across or down should be a coherent fragment. Other than that, I let the themes and plots emerge as naturally as I could. Vaguely you can say the book is about 2012,failed relationships, ghosts, and animals behaving strangely. Also a good bit of ennui and football. I'd like to again refer to Perec here, insofar as I think the way he uses formal play is something of an ideal for me. What I mean is that I really wanted was for this really exciting form to then yield a piece of writing that was often also funny and emotionally resonant and also generally stimulating. I'm not sure how well I've succeeded on all of those counts. Anyways, the story is a strange and kind of sad/funny, possibly apocalyptic world with 78 little narratives.
OA: You have decided do a book tour for this release, but incorporate more elements then just reading. What can someone except to see at your events?
BS: I live in this really awesome house in Northampton, Massachusetts with a bunch of other people and we do shows in our basement and have a fire pit and have done movie screenings and things like that. It's called the Purple House. If you're ever in the area, please come visit. Anyways, one of my housemates is a quantum physics researcher at Amherst College and another of my housemates is a really accomplished trumpet player. We decided that it wasn't fair that the kids in bands got to have all the fun, so we are going on a tour. Jim is going to be talking about physics and also doing some pretty amazing demonstrations. There will be magnetic fluids and discussion of the make-up of the universe. It's really cool. Peter's playing
trumpet. He's been in rock bands and classical ensembles and is actually a really fantastic klezmer musician, but on tour he's performing a lot of his solo work which features a lot of controlled improvisation and unusual manipulation of the instrument. I think what kind of ties the evening together is that we're all kind of working on things that I think are very interested in exploration and innovation, but at the same time we're all doing stuff that I think a lot of
different people (not just specialists) can understand and hopefully be really excited by.
OA: Can you tell us more about your record label?
BS: The label I do is called Leisure Class Records. I actually co-run it with Dallas Foster, a good friend from college who now lives in Chicago. He's actually the one who is hosting our Chicago show. The label puts out mostly folk/experimental kinds of things. We've done releases with Liz Isenerg, Veer Right Young Pastor, Cassette Concret, and Vio/Mire. We also have a website, www.leisureclassrecords.com, although we kind of suck at the internet so it is a bit out of date.
OA: This being your first book, is there a difference is seeing your work in print as opposed to on-line publication? Do you write differently for on-line journals then print journals? Is one better then the other?
BS: Print vs. Online is a hard question because I get a big thrill holding physical objects. That's a lot of why we do the label-- because we really like things like sewn and stencilled packaging. On
the other hand, having something online for free makes it way more accessible. This is all super-obvious, but I think the biggest thing for me is the hope that people read a story of mine no matter where it is published. As for the book, I felt strongly that 78 Stories should be in print, because I think it loses some of it's impact on a computer screen.
OA: What's next for Ben Segal?
BS: Next for me is that I have to write my Master's thesis and then probably more school. Then I want to teach somewhere and live in a big house with lots of people and do house shows and write little books and stories. Next is basically now with a real job, except better and
without a landlord.
OA: Coffee? If yes, what is your favorite type of coffee and where can you find the best cup?
BS: I am boring and cheap, so I take regular coffee with a little cream and sugar. I probably take more cream and sugar than is seemly and real coffee lovers probably look down at me. They typically look down at me at the Haymarket Cafe, because that is where I go to have very reasonably priced soups and coffee.
OA: What type of music do you enjoy?
BS: I think the safe answer for the type of music I enjoy is the stuff my friends make and the music my label releases. That's a really big part of what I'm into. I'm also super into Amelia Fletcher, things released by Sarah Records and Subway Organizaton, Beulah, and I'm
currently getting pretty into 1950s and 60s pop music (doowop, girl groups).
Ben's tour stops in Chicago this Saturday, June 21st at 9:00, at 4F. 4F is located at 1354 N. Greenview Avenue. This is a house show and one that should not be missed. For more information on Ben Segal and 78 Stories please visit the No Records Press website or Ben's myspace page.