The blog of author Dennis Cooper

Author: DC (page 1 of 372)

Nik presents … John Fahey Day


INFLUENTIAL AMERICAN artists are often cranks recalcitrant, inscrutable, possessors of a nearly untenable vision. When John Fahey’s recordings of syncopated, finger-style guitar compositions, redolent of old blues, rags and hymns, began appearing in the early 1960’s, he was taken to be an acoustic blues revivalist or a coffeehouse folkie. An early LP cover even confirms the typing a bit, showing him in an honest-looking herringbone jacket and desert boots. But an arrogant look in his eyes seem to dare you to figure him out.

His old fans barely recognized the odd creature on stage one recent evening at the Empty Bottle, a rock club near downtown. At 57, Mr. Fahey is puffy, and his white beard and sunglasses hide his face. He finished a blues dirge by simply coming to a stop and shrugging. His new fans are used to being puzzled; this was a young, intellectual audience who knew that Soundgarden was playing in an arena across town but were too hip for that. It is Mr. Fahey’s moment as he rides back into view as an avant-garde father figure, whom the guitarist Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth has acknowledged as a ”secret influence.”

Mr. Fahey’s music is conceptually slippery: it belongs to no genre. Musicians within folk, neo-acoustic blues, New Age and now, strangely enough, post-everything avant-garde rock have claimed him as an inspiration. A couple of articles by the rock critic Byron Coley — a 1994 Spin magazine profile and an entry on Mr. Fahey’s work in the recent Spin Alternative Record Guide — sparked new interest. Mr. Fahey began getting calls from record companies and musicians, and now he finds himself, to his amusement, the object of much attention.

John Fahey, the son of a United States Public Health Service employee who divorced his mother, grew up desperately unhappy and glued to the radio in Takoma Park, Md. In 1954, he heard Bill Monroe’s version of Jimmie Rodgers’s ”Blue Yodel No. 7.” That experience changed him, as did his first exposure to Blind Willie Johnson’s ”Praise God I’m Satisfied,” which, he has said, made him weep. He soon became a record collector and dedicated himself to playing guitar. Using money he earned pumping gas, he made his first recording in 1959 and had 95 copies of it pressed; one side of the plain white sleeve read ”John Fahey” and the other, ”Blind Joe Death,” an invented blues singer about whom Mr. Fahey devised an entire mythology. That started his career at Takoma Records, his own label, which he ran until the mid-1970’s, when he sold it to Chrysalis.

His old albums, like ”Requia” and ”Death Chants, Breakdowns and Military Waltzes” are dense with eccentricity; for a piece called ”The Singing Bridge of Memphis, Tenn.,” he stood under a bridge, recording the sounds of cars passing overhead. The records featured liner notes with track-by-track musicological analyses and surreal stories about the meaning of the music. They were signed with names like Chester Petranick (the name of a music teacher from Mr. Fahey’s childhood) and Elijah P. Lovejoy; it was all Mr. Fahey.

He did spawn a line of finger-style acoustic guitar composers, one of whom, Leo Kottke, has been much more successful than Mr. Fahey. But he did not join the acoustic blues revival by copying the old styles as other young white musicians did in the early 60’s. (Mr. Fahey hears grief and despair in his own music as opposed to what he perceives as humor and anger in the blues.) He wasn’t a hippie; he calls Jerry Garcia a ”psychic vampire” and never took LSD, he says.

But hippies were his audience in the 60’s and 70’s, and he denied them the groovy time they wanted. ”He was the only artist I ever worked with whose sales went down after he made public appearances,” remembers the blues historian and producer Samuel Charters, who worked with Fahey on two records in the mid-60’s. ”Most people assumed he was a ‘head.’ What they didn’t understand was that John was a drunk. So there would always be this stunned moment when they would look at John sitting up on stage with a quart of Coca-Cola and a bottle of whisky.”

-New York Times



Interview by Jason Gross (October 1997):

PSF: The last few CD’s that you’ve done have been a real departure from your earlier work. How do you see this?

I’ve done stuff like that a long time ago in ’64, ’65. I did sound effects and collages on a few records. Most people didn’t like it, so I didn’t do it again for a long time, until recently. Then the next time out, there was this new music scene going on. I didn’t know anything about it. Then suddenly, BANG, I found out about it. And I’ve been experimenting privately for years and years and years. So, it’s nothing new to me. It’s working out pretty good. A few of the old fans want me to play stuff that’s thirty, forty years old. I just tell ’em to go to hell. I’m picking up more of an audience from younger people who have an open mind, who are more into experimentalism. I don’t want to live in the past.

PSF: What were you listening to that gave you encouragement to do this?

Cluster, Bang on a Can, Sonic Youth. Some of the classical people like Stockhausen. Jim O’Rourke was doing was really crazy stuff. Loren Mazzacane Connors, who’s a good friend of mine.

PSF: What did you find appealing about this?

It’s more fun. You don’t have to stay in such a rigid structure. You can branch out and experiment and have more fun. Sometimes it works real well and sometimes it doesn’t. Now people respect you than they ever did before for experimentalism, even if it doesn’t work that well. There are more record companies, more distributors than there ever have been.

PSF: Looking at your whole career, how do you judge this part of it now?

As far as I’m concerned, this is the apex of my career. I’m really tired of the old stuff. I was getting sick of it. I didn’t know I could get away with anything else (laughs).

PSF: In some of your recent writing, you were saying how you felt you had more in common with the punk and alternative crowd than with the hippies and the folk crowd.

Yeah. I never thought I had anything in common with them. I didn’t like them. I was never a hippie. They picked up on my music and they thought I was one of them. They thought I shared their value system and I took LSD and so forth. They just didn’t understand me. But they bought my records and I had to play for them. Secretly, I always hated them. Now you can see what they’re really like. I always knew that they were control freaks. Like that chick, they want to control everything, control me- they don’t want anybody to be free. This new group is all for freedom. That’s one hell of an improvement. With the alternative people, there are some social do’s and don’t’s. But in comparison, it shows that the hippie movement was always quite rigid even though it was always talking about freedom. It was phony.

PSF: Some people found that there was some kind of spiritual element to your work. Do you think that’s accurate?

That was a misconception that people were reading into it. I really don’t understand that. I wonder what they’re talking about. I don’t know what YOU’RE talking about, no offense.

PSF: Where do you get inspiration for your work?

Oh, I sit down, improvise and try to open up the unconscious. As soon as the unconscious opens up, something’ll happen. I’ve done this for a while now. It takes a certain amount of planning once you get to the recording stage, if you’re going to do duets and collages and so forth. Even then, if you’re unconscious is about to come out of there, it’s interesting. Some guitar players don’t pay attention to how they feel so it sounds phony. If you’re seperated from your feelings then it’s not very interesting.

PSF: You studied German philosophy a while ago. Did that have any bearing on your work?

I took the wrong fork. I should have gone into psychotherapy. I did do that for about 10 years (1970 – 1980) and that’s what I was really trying to learn about. I just went to the wrong place (laughs).

PSF: So you think that it helped you a lot?

Oh yeah. It saved my life.

PSF: What do you think about the work of some of the people you’ve worked with before like Leo Kottke and George Winston?

I’m not really interested in what Kottke is doing. I don’t even know what he’s doing. George is a good friend of mine. I don’t know what he’s doing though. I see that there’s kind of a culture war going between polite middle class people who listen to and like that light woe-begotten stuff and then there’s alterative people. Kottke hasn’t come out to that yet. George probably knows about it. He’s more of a rebellious type. When he was in high school, he and his friends decided that they wanted to destroy a talk show in Florida. They recorded about 90 minutes of lunatic phone calls that they made and they’re funny as hell. Even though George plays nice, passive dinner music on stage, backstage he’s really good. He plays really good guitar too. There is a lot of rebellion in him- he just doesn’t show it onstage.

PSF: Could you talk about the Takoma label? You started that yourself, right?

Yeah, I did. The reason that I got rid of it was almost everybody in the office started taking cocaine and I couldn’t get rid of it. We weren’t losing money or anything. We were still selling records. I made the terrible mistake of giving stock to the employees so I couldn’t fire them. The only thing I could do was to dissolve the company. While I was doing that, Chrysalis offered to buy it and I said ‘sure, take it.’

PSF: What was your original idea behind the company?

It was to record people like myself and alternative people and blues and ethnic stuff.

PSF: I’ve heard that you used to go record collecting door-to-door. You still do that?

(laughs) No, not anymore. Record stores are very useful. Everyone has yard sales now too.

PSF: When you first started out with music, you were really unique with what you were doing. No band, no lyrics, just solo guitar. How did you decide on that?

I tried to sing but I’m a terrible singer. So, I wrote guitar songs.

PSF: What were you listening to then?

I was listening to a lot of Bartok and Shostakovich and bluegrass of the time. Harry Smith stuff and other similar records. I tried to syncretize all that into one guitar style and I think I succeeded pretty well.


His Songs:

if fahey knew anything it was how to fucking own your little brain with his guitar. – guiltyalexis

On the Banks of the Owchita


On the Sunny Side of the Ocean


Bean Vine Blues


Composed by Fahey in late 1962 or early 1963 after driving from Albuquerque to Berkeley. Fahey was impressed by the contrast between this enormous edifice, the smoke which poured from it and the surrounding green hillsides. Upon arriving in Berkeley he took a bath, had Pat over for dinner and composed it in her presence later in the evening. – “Days Have Gone By” Liner Notes

The Portland Cement Factory


Night Train to Valhalla


The keen-eyed cineaste will be intrigued to note that the green-tinted cover of this album is plainly visible in a record shop window seen in the notorious movie “A Clockwork Orange” by the late Stanley Kubrick. Whether personally selected by Kubrick, whose eye for detail was well documented, must remain a matter of conjecture. – johnfahey.com

I Am The Resurrection


Red Pony


Sail Away Ladies


The Yellow Princess


The late 60s dragged its feet towards the 70s, like it was reluctant to grow up. John Fahey was busy as ever. In 1969 he married Jan Lenbow, his first wife. She was far more excited than her new husband when Italian arthouse director Michelangelo Antonioni flew him to Rome to compose the soundtrack for his anti-American hippy movie Zabriskie Point — and she was more upset than Fahey when it ended with the American composer and the anti-American film maker aiming to punch each other out. – The Wire

Dance of Death






Sunflower River Blues


The set closes with one of his truly magical works, “Dry Bones in the Valley (I Saw the Light Coming Shining ‘Round and ‘Round)”, which was a gateway for many through the cover version exacted with Tony Conrad on Gastr del Sol’s Upgrade and Afterlife set. The effects are off, the session musicians sent home, and it’s a beatific example of Fahey’s opened steel strings resonating into the infinite, droning yet with numerous emotional contours unfurling in the chiming notes. – Pitchfork

Dry Bones In The Valley (I Saw The Light Come Shining ‘Round and ‘Round)


“I remember the first time I ever heard him, I thought they’d turned the record from 45 to 33 or something, ’cause I couldn’t believe how slow he played.” – Chris Darrow, session musician




His Epics:

Out of all the songs I ever wrote, I consider only two of them ‘epic’ or ‘classic’ or in the ‘great’ category and they are both on this record. It’s taken me more than five years to complete these – John Fahey

Voice of Turtle


Mark 1:15, for the curious, reads: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent ye, and believe the gospel.” This verse is considered by theologians to be the irreducible essence of the preaching of Jesus of Nazareth.” – John Fahey

Mark 1:15


“Fare Forward Voyagers” is dedicated to a swami/guru dude of Fahey’s and in a 1994 interview, the maestro had this to say: “Probably the primary reason I got involved with [Yogaville West] was that I fell in love with Swami Satchidananda’s secretary Shanti Norris. So I was doing benefits for them, hoping to score points with her, and along the way I learned a lot of hatha yoga.” – Dark Forces Swing Blind Punches

Fare Forward Voyagers


When The Fire and the Rose are One


Edited together from several pieces, the 19-minute “The Great San Bernardino Birthday Party” anticipated elements of psychedelia with its nervy improvisations and odd guitar tunings.” Fahey himself called it “a histrionic, disorganised outpouring of blather”[2] although he had kind things to say of some of the other songs. Unterberger also states “Despite Fahey’s curmudgeonly dismissal of the record several decades later, it’s an important, if uneven, effort that ultimately endures as one of the highlights of his discography. – Allmusic

The Great San Bernardino Birthday Party


Q: What is the City of Refuge?
JF: It was a place my parents took me to when I was a child. It was along the Atlantic Ocean somewhere, and we ran out of food and water and we went into this mysterious city. It was just so weird. There were no people, but there was a big factory. I had a recurrent dream about it that my parents had planned to take me to the city to chop me up and consume me. But the factory communicated with me and warned me what they were planning, and me and the factory consumed my parents instead.

City of Refuge



His Orchestra:

Although Fahey had very occasionally recorded with other musicians during the previous decade, this marked his first album to feature accompanists — no less than seven altogether — on much of the material. Too, it was his first venture into major-labeldom, as the first of a pair of LPs he did for Reprise. Any suspicions of sellout were dispelled by the result, which expanded his sound while retaining the languid, dark, and mysterious moods he had explored on his numerous prior acoustic solo guitar releases. – “Of Rivers and Religion” Liner Notes

Dixie Pig Bar B-Q Blues


Om Shanti Norris


Lord Have Mercy


March! For Martin Luther King


Old Fashioned Love



Christmas Tunes:

“Well, the arrangements are pretty good, but on the other hand there are more mistakes on this album than on any of the other 17 albums I’ve recorded. And yet, here’s the paradox… this album has not only sold more than any of my others, I meet people all the time who are crazy about it. I mean really love it. What can I say. I’m confused.” – John Fahey

Medley: Hark, The Herald Angels Sing / O Come All Ye Faithful (Instrumental)


Christmas Carol


Yes! Jesus Loves Me


Joy to the World



His Experiments:

A Raga Called Pat Pt. IV


“The Singing Bridge of Memphis, Tennessee” is a musical collage done with the collaboration of Barry Hansen. The two had worked on sound collages on Fahey’s prior Vanguard release, Requia.[ Fahey commented that “I didn’t know how to mix things on tape recorders and make edits. Barry was more knowledgeable and intelligent than me.”[ The recording utilizes a two-minute section from a recording of “Quill Blues” by Big Boy Cleveland. – Wikipedia

The Singing Bridge of Memphis, Tennessee




Our Puppet Selves


Red Cross Disciple of Christ Today




Live 1969


Live 1978


Live 1981


Live 1997


Fahey Singing


Joe Bussard on recording John Fahey in 1958


70’s Interview


80’s Interview


Dance of Death Book Review






How Bluegrass Music Destroyed My Life Paperback
– April 15, 2000

A collection of fictional but semi-autobiographical stories, this work comes from one of the most influential guitarists in music history. The tales are recalled in a conversational, feverish tone, following the musician in his childhood and young adulthood in post-World War II suburbia, pausing along the way for moments of clarity and introspection. The stories resist categorization—part memoir, part personal essay, part fiction, and part manifesto they simply stand alone, having their own logic, religious dogma, and mythological history.



One day in 1954 or 55 I was listening to the radio station WARL, Arlington, VA.
This station blanketed Washington D.C., and suburban MD and VA.
Now it has different call letters.
When I first started listening to this station there was an afternoon show called Town and Country Time. The DJ played country-western records. Emphasis on western and electric.
Eddy Arnold, Webb Pierce.
People like that. No bluegrass. None.
I was still innocent. I didn’t know about bluegrass music.
I liked Webb Pierce a lot.
And Hank Snow.
I was still reasonably happy.
Even though I was unhappy.
I hadn’t heard any bluegrass music yet.
I was loved. I had friends. I was one of the crowd.
All of us united all day long. When we weren’t separated by artificial things like school.
That sorta’ stuff.
We were all terribly lonely. And we were all excessively social. We were aggressively social.
We were compulsively social.
There was nothing we could do about it.
Divorces, mainly divorces.
But some of our parents were criminals. They got locked up sometimes and we didn’t see them for a long time.
Didn’t have anybody to counsel us. To understand us. To commiserate with us. To give advice to
Some parents were sick or out of work. Things like that.
But mostly divorces.
When we got together— us kids — we were all in our ‘teens — when we got together and managed to get away from the adults, what we did was, we got together and talked about the hillbilly hit parade we heard on WARL.
Some of us sang and played on guitars.
Anyway, radio station WARL and that show were very important to us. It is hard now, for me to believe just how important that show really was to us.
You see, next to each other, WARL was the only thing we had that kept us from going nuts from loneliness and pain cause by our
Or step-parents or relatives or whatever they were.
There was a lot of incest going on.
Know what I mean?
All of us were severely unhappy because of lack of attention and love from our elders.
I mean, you know, you call sex with them love???????
I’m not joking. My parents were in the early stages of this long-suffering disease.
I mean divorce.
Not incest.
We all knew about that.
That was tolerable as long as you didn’t talk.
But divorce?
That was much worse.
I felt lousy all the time.
So, you might say that me and the other kids were “thrown” together. (Heidegger.)
WE all needed each other. And a connecting link.
WARL was that connection.
That’s how important it was.
I’m perfectly serious.
And you could say that the reason we took the music and the personas so seriously — the reason why we discussed the virtues of this or that record was to feel something good. Rather than despair we felt as a result of
the stupid and reckless activities of Mom and Dad. The lack of attention they paid to us.
WARL helped us escape the terrible sad we all felt.
Yes, that’s how it was.
Pretty bad, all things considered.


Anyway, one day the format changed.
WARL hired a new guy named Don Owens. AND the programming changed.
On the morning show we now heard country music.
That’s what they called it back then.
Prior to the advent of Don Owens, the morning show DJ played white, popular music.
And white, popular music was running out of steam. It was dying and taking a very long slow time to expire.
In the 40’s popular music was great. But it ran out of life.
In the early 50’s
It was inane and insipid.
Know what I mean?
Worse, even, than “easy listening music.”
And even now, a lot of people don’t understand why punk and industrial and noise and alternative and noise and grunge and Sonic Youth and Throbbing Gristle and the German Shepherds and ———
Sorry. I got carried away.
You know.
Anyway, WARL wasn’t the only station that changed. WGAY changed. WTOP changed.
WWDC changed.
WRL changed. WOL changed. WMAL changed. WDON changed.
WQQQ changed its call letters to WGMS. Ha.
Washington’s Good Music Station.
Good music.
Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Stravinsky, Rimskey Korsakoff, Ipolatoff-Ivanoff, Khataturian, Gliere, Glazonoff, Kalinikoff, Tchaikovsky, Rachminoff, Mussorgsky, Kabalevsky, Borodin, Qui, Scriaben, Stravinsky, Tchaikovsky.
And on and on and on and on and on and on and on ——.
Russians. All Russians.
The radio station was Communist.
Everybody knew it.
What the hell could you do?
All these stations started playing rock and roll music by black people.
WE didn’t know that they were black.
No joke.
We assumed that these guys were white. Crazy as hell but white.
Boy, what a shock we all had when we discovered reality.
Most of us were prejudiced against black people and black music.
We learned it all from our parents.
One day, WARL DJ Mike Honey Cut put on an obviously black record, played it for
about 45 seconds, then took it off and abruptly said
What the hell did he do that for?
Honey Cut didn’t know anything about country music.
All he knew about was popular music.
So, Don Owens did the selection.
So, all day long we heard music chosen by Don Owens.
I know all this because my father was a friend of Honey Cut’s and helped him out a lot.
Mike had a big problem with alcohol. A big Jones.
He was a great talker.
But nothing about music. Nothing.
Now, thinking back, I wonder who programmed the anti-black music episode.
Neither Don Owens nor Mike Honey Cut
were like that.
Owens did an interesting and very perverse thing.
He changed his music. But he did it slowly and gradually.
So you didn’t notice.
Until well after the fact.
Know what I mean?
He started playing more and more bluegrass and other acoustic, country music.
In fact he started each show with a Bill Monroe record.
He played Molly O’Day a lot. Grandpa Jones. Carl Story. Jimmy Murphy. Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper. Flatt and Scruggs. Jim Eans.
People like that.
But we didn’t notice.
I mean, for example, he had a kind of short mini-atrocity. A saccharine-sweet, nostalgia campaign for Hank Williams.
Every day!
And gradually Webb Pierce, Eddy Arnold, even Ernest Tubb disappeared.
He liked Hank Snow. But electricians other than Snow and Hank Williams simply disappeared.
It was as though they had never existed.
And by the time us kids noticed the change, Owens had gotten us used to, familiar with the bluegrass and
acoustic sound. And the high, tenor voices of folks like Stanley Bros. and Reno and Smiley and people like that.
But I didn’t care about the change. I hardly noticed it.
Until one day Owens did this crazy thing which I could in no way have anticipated.
It was a dirty trick on me and on others but I didn’t know it at the time.
Hell, it changed my life.
Isn’t it weird how somebody like a DJ who you don’t even know and have never ever seen can do some
apparently trivial thing — at least that’s what you think at the time — and it changes your entire life for the rest of your life?
Yes, Owens and another guy ruined my life.
I’ll get around to the other guy in a minute.
Just wait.
Owens: “Well, friends, this is a very old record and it has a lot of scratches on it and it’s
heard to hear but it’s such a good record that I’m gonna’ play it anyway. Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys doing Jimmy Rodgers’
You’re not safe anywhere.
Not from bluegrass music.
Then I heard this horrible crazy sound. And I felt this insane mad feeling. Neither of which was I in any manner acquainted. It was the bluesiest and most obnoxious thing I had ever heard. It was an attack of revolutionary terrorism on my nervous system through aesthetics.
It was blacker than the blackest black record I had ever heard. It reached out and grabbed and it has never let go of me.
I went limp. I almost fell off the sofa. My mouth fell open. My eyes widened and expanded. I found myself
hyperventilating. When it was over I tried to get up and go and get a paper bag to restore the correct balance of power between oxygen and carbon monoxide. I screamed for help but nobody was around and nobody came. I was drenched with sweat. It was like I had woken up to a new and thrilling exciting horror movie.
Nothing has ever been the same since then.
You see, I had gone insane.
And I didn’t even know about it.
I had to hear that record again. It was madness and I knew it would get me in trouble and it did get me in trouble but I couldn’t help it I was out of control.
So I went to the record store in Silver Spring, Maryland, the name of which I forgot. It was at the intersection of Georgia Avenue, and Colesville Road.
Right around the corner from the Silver Theatre.
I asked the man behind the counter about that record. He was a “nice guy.” He looked it up in some great big yellow catalogue and actually found it.
But, it was out of print. And there wasn’t one on the shelf.
“Sorry, kid, I don’t have one and I can’t get you one.”
“But, I’ve got to hear it again. I’ve got to.”
“Listen kid” he went on. “that record is no good. In fact it is evil. It caused a lot of trouble while it was around. Women left their husbands. Husbands left their wives. Children ran away from home and were never seen again. There were sunspots on the moon. Revolutions started, massacres happened, suicides and alcoholism went sky high, wars started, monsters were seen on the Edge, it was bad kid. Maybe it would be better for you if you didn’t hear it again. I mean I just feel I gotta’ tell ya’ that kid. It’s dangerous for anybody your age to get interested in things like that.”
“I don’t care,” I said, “it must be fate.”
“Fate schmate. I gave you a warning. But if ya’ don’t take it the only thing I can do is tell ya’ this. You gotta’ find a record collector. Chances are a record collector would know about it.”
“You know any of those guys you are talking about?” I asked.
“No, I don’t hang out with weirdoes like that. But they’re around. And I’ll pray for ya’ kid. I’ll pray for ya.”
“Thanks a hell of a lot. I may need it.”
“Oh, you’re gonna need it alright.”
I was more than heartbroken. I was thoroughly confused because I didn’t understand this new and rebellious emotion I had heard. I had to get in touch with it again. I had to.
Yes, it had woken me up.
But it had also turned me into a monster.
But, I didn’t know it yet.




p.s. Hey. You have a truly superb weekend ahead of you, if you so choose, thanks to Nik, who has put together a truly fantastic post in and around the sublime guitar-centric artist and musical visionary John Fahey. Extremely great stuff. Do explore the Fahey fest to your best abilities, and spare a comment of any sort for Nik to thank him for his hard work and incredible gift. Thanks, and you’re welcome, and thank you ever so much, Nik. ** Steve Erickson, Hi. ‘Beach Boys Love You’ is a great record. Really it’s the only good post-Holland BB album. You probably know this, but ‘Sunflower’ was their big comeback record at the time. It’s when critics started taking them seriously again after ignoring or misunderstanding all of their post-‘PS’ albums. It’s also when Brian first returned from his infamous drug mess reclusive phase. I saw the BBs play when ‘Sunflower’ came out, and, during their show, Mike Love kept beseeching Brian to come onstage between every song, and he finally ambled on, helped by someone, sat at a keyboard and vaguely played/sang for a couple of songs as the audience went insane. His appearance onstage was such a huge deal that it was on the front page of the Los Angeles Times the next morning. Here you can not get away from the Chris/Christine hype. The metro stations and streets are covered with posters, and so on, and it’s just non-stop and very off-putting. I’ll read that Andrew WK thing. Sounds very conspiracy theory, no? Isn’t he anti-drug and stuff? ** Nick Toti, Hey, Mr. Toti! Good to see you! Great about your article on Tao’s and Megan’s films. I’m in the camp that really likes them. Very cool. And I’m jonesing to read her Tyrant book. It’s on the way to me. Everyone, Whether you are or aren’t familiar with Megan Boyle and Tao Lin’s MDMAfilms project, you are highly encouraged to use the following links because the honorable Nick Toti has written a series of pieces about these really interesting and strangely overlooked films, and his thoughts will be a great intro and/or provide places to bounce your own thoughts off of. So, here they are: Nick Toti’s “Digital Gods”- Season Two, Transmission Five, Part 2, Part 3.1, Part 3.2. Do reward yourselves by taking some time to read them. Thanks a whole lot for the alert, man. ** Scunnard, Hey! I saw your email in my box, and I’m gonna open it shortly, and I’ll get back to you. Thanks! ** Jamie, Hi high, Jamie. Mr. Dickie seems to have given up filmmaking, but we’ll see. Yeah, I must say that we are now heading into the TV series project with a whole lot more enthusiasm. They do seem to get and like what we want to do, and they do seem to have ideas about how to clarify things that don’t interfere with our plans, so, yeah, big surprise, great news. Thanks for the longer ‘Hotel’ link thing. It was an ARTE project? Huh. I’ll ask them about it. I hate going to the dentist. I haven’t gone in ages, such is why I’m fucked at the moment. I fear it’s going to be a very big/little problem that’ll need an invasive fix, ugh. I just have to hope that my tooth pain gets no worse than the kind of low hum of pain I’m feeling right now until I get back from the Germany trip. Eek. Weekend … gotta work on the film proposal stuff. Might see a film. Need to meet with Gisele because she’s heading off for 6 weeks of touring on Monday. Stuff like that. And trip prep. ‘Crowd’ is going to play in London, but not until fall 2019. Otherwise, ‘PGL’ might get a short theater run in London, but that’s up in the air at the moment. Well, The Monkees show … I was, like, what, 13 years old? I loved it, but I had no other live shows to compare it to at the time, but I think it was probably pretty good. Well, yeah, seeing the current Monkees in concert is just a scary idea. If you saw Davy Jones, it was a while back because died seven years ago or something. The best Monkee? I guess you probably mean Mike Nesmith. Me, I think Peter Tork was the best Monkee for some reason. It’s the rare building or even thing that doesn’t look better in photos than in 3D, it’s sadly true. The imagination almost always wins. Which is, you know, … thank god. May every inanimate object you see this weekend seem prismatic. Edible moon love, Dennis. ** Alex rose, Mr. Rose! I love your thing in SCAB! Hi! Bless your heart. Thanks for the crossed stuff. Yeah, it’s looking better, but, shit, so much no fun work left to get the job done. But whatev’. AiWeiWei, ugh. Hamfisted, dumb, hackneyed, you-name-it. Oh, yeah, Richard H. is way cool. He’s the real thing. You’d like him, as I guess you can tell. All right, what’s up this weekend where you are, eh? Love, me. ** Dominik, Hi, Dominik! Yeah, London was good. School in Amsterdam. Interesting. I like that. Nice to have it as a thing for your mind to play with. Cool. Oh, my honor, pal. SCAB is great. I’m reading through it with a slow luxury, and loving it! Oscar Nearly is awesome. I met him a few years ago when Zac and I showed ‘LCTG’ at the University of Cambridge. Super interesting guy. He said ‘PGL’ reminded him of Peanuts, the comic strip, which was hilarious and weirdly right on. I’m good. The ARTE meeting was shockingly positive. Zac and I are going on a road trip to Germany next week to go to amusement parks, and I’m psyched for that. How’s your weekend panning out? I hope it was amazing! ** Nik, Hey! Man, again, I’m so happy to be able to host your Fahey fest. It’s so great! Thank you, thank you! Oh, reading Baudelaire and Calvino is certainly cool, so that class sounds A-okay so far. Does reading your story aloud excite or scare you or both? Had you thought about how it would work when it was enclosed within your speaking voice? Fingers crossed that the marks on it are like celebratory 1D fireworks. Different grants require different proposal documents. Right now we’re readying to apply for a grant to write the film — which is a scam since we already wrote it, but don’t tell anyone. For that, they want a 10-12 page’ treatment’, which is basically describing the film in prose form. That’s finished. They want a 1-2 page synopsis, which a short description of the film. In our case, that’s hell to do, and we’re struggling. And they want a ‘statement of intent’, where we have to lay out why and how we’re going to make the film. That’s very hard, and we’re partway done. Those are the basic documents most grants want, but they want them at different length, basically. Plus the script itself most of the time. It’s a big schmooze, and neither Zac or I are schmoozey, but our producer, who’s very familiar with grant seeking, will read what we’ve written and help us make them more seductive. Thanks again, man. Enjoy your weekend maximally! ** Misanthrope, Hi. He’s still around, but I think he’s stopped making movies, our maybe he’s getting more pro about it and wanting decent budgets and stuff, which takes time. Oh, right, I did get adamant about you going to the haunted house. Well, I thought you needed it ‘cos I know how you’ve blown off haunted houses for years, and I know how enriched your conscious will be once you get off your high house, ha ha, and get on the haunted house tip. So do it!!!!!!!! Oops, I did it again, sorry. Well, I hope your weekend is a snooze-fest. In the good way. Like actual snoozing. And … ? ** Okay. Get yourselves back into the John Fahey post now, should you so choose to do so. See you on Monday.

Johnny Dickie Day *

* Halloween countdown post #3


‘Johnny Dickie is an extremely avid (and super-cool) VHS collector who not only runs his own website called Video Vendetta which is dedicated to showcasing and reviewing some of the grooviest and most obscure VHS flicks known to the Videovore, he’s also just completed two full-length feature films with oa third now in post-production, all written, directed and edited by Johnny himself. But you wanna know what’s even more groovy? Johnny’s done all of this before his 17th birthday, even though he’s quick to dismiss his age as a factor.

‘We first met Johnny Dickie about a decade ago, when he was six years old and regularly running a path of wild, hilarious destruction after school at Molly’s Books in the Italian Market. (His mom, Molly Russakoff, owns the place, and it’s still great — in fact, better than ever.) Even back then, it was easy to see that Johnny was a gifted kid, whipping up an endless series of drawings and jokes and clearly inspired by the energy of the Market.

‘So there’s not too much that’s surprising that, at 16, Johnny now has an IMDB entry that rivals that of many actor/directors three times his age. But Dickie isn’t on some corny child-star trip, oh no; since the age of 12, he’s been making his own homemade horror movies with pretty much whatever equipment is immediately available to him. As such, to enter the cinematic world of Johnny Dickie is to experience a place in the imagination where VHS is a viable option and the goopy grape-jelly fake blood flows like wine.

‘And because there’s a community for everyone online these days, Dickie’s films have found an audience — in this case, a devout underground of splatter-obsessed, videotape-collecting horror obsessives. His last big feature, Johnny Dickie’s Slaughter Tales was released on DVD and VHS via Libra Verde Media. And of his newest, City of the Dream Demons, about a night-terror’d kid’s 16th birthday gone horribly awry.

‘Dickie’s films are not technically spectacular. You won’t walk away wishing for an Oscar nod. You will walk away with a shit eating grin on your face. Those films are made by a horror fan. Specifically by a fan of the SOV sub genre that came out of the video store boom of the eighties/nineties. The acting is bad in all of the right ways. It has that hyper real, while being over the top feel. It almost was reminiscent of early John Waters, with long dialogues, over expression, and rapid eye movement.

‘Dickie is an avid collector of VHS tapes, and everything about his films harkens back to that mid-to-late-eighties heyday when horror films ruled the rental roost (mostly due to low budgets and high demand for any kind of content). The flicks are shot on video, and look like they’re trying to replicate those early shot-on-VHS efforts. Pretty much all of the effects are practical, including some stop-motion work, and the actors (besides Dickie) are all pretty much the kind of amateur performers one expects in these kinds of low-budget flicks.

‘Dickie’s films play like an adolescent take on Fellini’s 8 1/2, autobiographical mind-fucks of boredom, repressed violence, gallows humor and sublimated lust, filtered through Raimi, Henenlotter and Cronenberg. Making the most of his infinitesimal budgets, these sharply-paced and fluently-edited films always have a wonderfully confident and charming performance from its adolescent auteur, who also designed the films’ oozing array of practical effects. It’s impossible not to be utterly endeared to this film from start to finish.’ — collaged





Johnny Dickie’s Video Vendetta tumblr
Johnny Dickie’s youtube channel
Johnny Dickie @ Facebook
Podcast: Creep Show Radio – The Revenge of Johnny Dickie!
‘Johnny Dickie Needs Your Help!’
Johnny Dickie interviewed @ Daily Grindhouse



24HMM: The Reboot: Johnny Dickie – Unmasked

‘The Door Is Open’ composed by Johnny Dickie

Johnny Dickie reviews ‘Murder Weapon’ (1989)

Johnny Dickie reviews ‘Violent Sh*t’ (1987)


from Lunch Meat VHS


You just celebrated your 15th birthday, right? How was it? Get anything good?!

Johnny Dickie: Yes, I did! I had a lot of fun! I was sick for some of it, but I got to spend a lot of time with my family and friends. My mother made me maybe the best gift I have ever received: huge handmade VHS shelves in my room! I was running out of storage space before, and now all of my collection is displayed in my room. It is really a great sight to see, especially when it’s the first thing you see when you wake up in the morning.

Since you’re so young, most people wouldn’t expect you to be into VHS. Was it the format you had around you growing up or… ?

JD: I have actually not received a whole lot of interest in my age recently. I think most people can talk to me as just another collector, not someone trying to jump on a bandwagon. I had grown up around a lot of VHS and have very fond memories of looking at the gory DVD covers in the horror section of my now closed local TLA video store. I think the aspect of VHS collecting for me came in when I found out there were so many movies not available on DVD. I was very fond of VHS, but my family had moved on to DVD, so getting back into using them was very easy for me. There is a warmth I get from putting a VHS tape into my VCR and sitting down to watch. I don’t get that feeling from watching a DVD; something seems amiss… where are the scan lines!?!?! Why does it go back to the menu when the movie is finished!?! The cover and packaging differences between more modern formats and VHS should go without saying, but I have always found it much nicer to hold a VHS in my hand than say, a Blu- Ray or just looking at a file saved on my computer. It’s a different feel entirely, and I find it very easy to compare the VHS vs. DIGITAL FORMATS debate to the FILM vs. VIDEO debate in how they both have different looks and feels to them.

What were some of the first movies you remember seeing that totally blew you away or just made you think, “Man, I love this stuff!”?

JD: The first one that comes to mind is John Carpenter’s Body Bags. It was the first VHS I ever had to seek out. Since the first time I saw the movie I have been influenced. The film can be credited as the main inspiration for Slaughter Tales. Besides Body Bags, Unmasked Part 25 has made a very big impression on me and has become my favorite film of all time since I first watched it nearly two years ago. The whole SOV style of film making has really affected me; I still consider the films of Tim Ritter and Joel Wynkoop to be greatly under looked.

You’re really active in the VHS community. What do you think of the collector community as a whole? By that I mean, what’s the vibe you get from all the different personalities?

JD: I love all of the different people in the community of collectors! Pretty much all of them are very nice and all have very different senses of humor. I have rarely run into another collector that I have disagreed with, but when I have, it usually isn’t pleasant. Most people don’t mention my age when we are trading or talking, and when it does come up, it never gets in the way. It’s a great community and I am very proud and happy to be a part of it.

You’ve just completed your first full-length feature film SLAUGHTER TALES. What inspired you to take on such a huge project?

JD: Slaughter Tales actually started off as a proof of concept to see if I could make a short anthology, maybe around forty minutes long. After the original stories I already had for the film [were] destroyed when my first computer crashed (The best thing a filmmaker can do is back up their work), I had to restart. I was still aiming for about fifty minutes, but I just kept working on it till I was happy with each story. The last story of the film ended up being around a half hour. I’m really happy with how it turned out, because it was never meant to be a full length feature film; it just ended up that way, so there is no filler. I am really happy with the finished product, even though it ended up being more than two times as long as I originally intended it to be.

Could you tell a little bit about the process of making it: the writing, shooting, etc.?

JD: I had no script for Slaughter Tales, just a bunch of ideas and props. Most weekends I would invite my friend Joey over, pull out the camera and start pouring the blood. All the animation on the devil slugs was done in about a day. All of the explosions in the film were all done with models, a spray can of sun screen, and a candle. No digital effects were used. I edited the film in order, usually the same night as shooting [for a particular] story] was finished. I would get the blood wiped off the walls and sit down to start the editing. I have tried using scripts in the past, but I cannot write one successfully. I think the way the film was shot gives the finished product a very sincere feel.

What do your parents think about you making movies like this?

JD: My parents are very supportive of my film making! I know that horror or VHS is not their thing, but they support me to the point of letting me cover them in blood and make up. My mother and step-father both make appearances in Slaughter Tales. I still have half of my family asking me for copies. News really spreads in my family.

What’s in the future for you, Johnny? Do you plan on making any more movies? Any other cool projects? You recently did a toy commercial, right? Think you’ll want to further your education about film, maybe?

JD: Right now, I’m working on a new feature with my friends. I can’t say too much right now, but it’s going to be a labor of love, especially in the effects department. All I can say right now is it will put a new spin on the vampire genre. The toy commercial I did was for the film Blood Slaughter Massacre. It was a lot of fun to shoot and it was cool seeing how another group of low budget filmmakers work. It was shot the weekend of the Monster Mania Convention in Cherry Hill New Jersey. I actually shot the post ending credit footage [for Slaughter Tales] that weekend with some good friends, and some hack named Josh Schafer. Joking, of course!

I want to get into film school down the road, but for now I will continue to make features. Age has never stopped me, and if any other young filmmakers are reading this, don’t let your age stop you. I am still in high school and I am already having a full length feature released. Don’t let the business side get in your way either, because if it’s not your thing, it will suck the fun out of it for you. All ways shoot the movie, draw that picture, perform that song or whatever; [do it] for yourself. If you are happy with your final product, it was a success. Just don’t kill anyone.



Johnny Dickie Slaughter Tales (2012)
‘The directorial debut of 15-year old horror sensation Johnny Dickie, Slaughter Tales is a loving tribute to the no-budget horror video revolution of the 1980s. Johnny Dickie also stars, and the movie was made on a budget of $65. A teenager steals a mysterious VHS tape and finds himself tormented by the spirits that are trapped inside the tape and the horrible film within. Ignoring all warnings, he pops the tape in. What follows is a 90-minute fever dream horror anthology, where each story is worse than the last. But is this teen living out the worst story of them all? Slaughter Tales is more than a bad movie, it is a video nightmare you can’t escape!’ — collaged

Trailer 1

Trailer 2

Mrparka Reviews “Slaughter Tales” (w/ clips)


Johnny Dickie The Hateful Dead (2012)
‘The first official teaser trailer the newest splatter vampire film from Johnny Dickie (Slaughter Tales, 2012)! Shooting starts soon, and more info will be released as production movies on! Other vampires suck, this one maims..’ — JD



Johnny Dickie Clampires and Other Stereotapes (2013)
3 friends sit down to watch a film titled Vampires and other Stereotypes, but when they put the tape into the VCR, they are sent to hell and stalked by a horrific vampire clamshell case, a Clampire! The only way out is for the trio to watch the movie once and for all!’ — JD



Jack Mulvanerty Creeps: A Tale of Murder and Mayhem (2013)
‘I recently learned (rather recently) that Johnny Dickie held many roles in the new flick Creeps: A Tale of Murder and Mayhem by 15 year old director Jack Mulvanerty. When I found this out I had to see it and lucky for me the film just wrapped. Dickie hooked me up with a link to the online screener and for that I thank you and Mulvanerty so much! This film was fucking amazing. Plain and simple. The film blew my expectations out of the water then dick punched it repeatedly. This film was just that damn good. The acting, sadly, was really bad. The entire cast shows charisma but lacks the experience necessary to make the scenes and dialogue flow better. Finally, those looking for blood and on screen kills will find more than enough in this flick here.’ — Horror Society


Teaser trailer

Watch & Review: Creeps: A Tale Of Murder And Mayhem, by Jack Mulvanerty


Johnny Dickie City of the Dream Demons (2013)
‘Over the last 15 years I have seen so many filmmakers grow with each passing film. Some grow for the better while others take on a completely different style altogether ignoring the cries of their fans. However, that is not Dickie at all. Dickie grew tremendously from his first film, Slaughter Tales, to this one while keeping his style the same. Honestly, this S.O.V. look he gives his films is actually a breathe of fresh air when it comes to indie horror in general. The acting in this one is what you would expect when you think about a film starring teenagers with no real acting experiences other than acting in their own film. Most of the scenes consist of awkward dialogue and forced acting. Though the cast does show a lot of inexperience they still have heart and drive. With more experience the entire cast would be a force to reckon with.’ — Horror Society

Official trailer

Teaser trailer

deadbydawn93 Reviews: City Of The Dream Demons


Dan M. Kinem Adjust Your Tracking: The Untold Story of the VHS Collector (2013)
‘ADJUST YOUR TRACKING: THE UNTOLD STORY OF THE VHS COLLECTOR is a documentary and celebration of a format that is far from dead. VHS may not be at Best Buy, your Mom and Pop video store may be shuttered, but the passion for VHS is contagious and very much alive. “I realized how important VHS still is and how many people out there still love and collect it,” said Kinem. “We wanted to make a movie that oozed with this passion and informed people that VHS is more than just a cheap paperweight, it’s an important piece of film history that needs to be archived.” Featuring teen horror film auteur/sensation Johnny Dickie who is also one of the film’s Execute Producers.’ — collaged

Behind the scenes: This Ain’t Adjust Your Tracking

Adjust Your Tracking: The Untold Story of the VHS Collector screening & swap


Johnny Dickie The Robot Ninja (2013)
‘He’s not batman…. He’s not superman….. He is The Robot Ninja…. AND HE KICKS ASS! A short film inspired by the 1989 action movie of the same name.” This is something you can get behind. Remember when we reviewed Slaughter Tales, the Johnny Dickie SOV classic anthology horror flick made on no budget whatsoever but beloved by many in the horror community including myself because it embodies everything we love about our genre? Well he has a new short up and I demand you enjoy it. Part action. Part horror. Part Exterminator. Part comedy. Part VHS Collection display that had me jealous.’ — Doc Terror

the entire film


Johnny Dickie music video for ‘Misery Date’ by Local Cretin (2013)
‘Official music video for Local Cretin by Misery Date. Directed by Johnny Dickie.’

the entire video


Joshua Bruce Burn in Hell (2014)
‘In a small town, gruesome killings have been plaguing the townspeople. Bodies are found torn apart and eaten. The authorities have no leads. After the death of his best friend, a young high-school football player, Brad, seeks out the help of local priest Father Damian, who is slaughtered by the killer before disclosing any information of the killings. The killer, revealed as the demon Beelzebub, sets out on a vicious killing spree to consume a steady supply of human blood in order to maintain a physical form. Brad recruits metal-head/stoner kid D.O. to assist him in his hunt for Beelzebub. Guided by the deranged, one-eyed demon hunting priest Father Lewis, the trio set out to rid their town of the evil demon, eventually leading them straight to hell. The film stars Johnny Dickie, Kenny Geiger, Joshua Bruce, Ken Brotis, Zack Sabat, Dylan McLarnon.’ — collaged

Trailer 1

Trailer 2


Undead Video (2017)
Fatal Birthday has a vengeful corpse return from the dead, The Reel American Tragedy has a low budget film director struggle to make a movie, and Dependency has a world on the edge of collapse as two drug dealers try to survive.’ — IMDb





p.s. Hey. ** Marilyn Roxie, Hi, Marilyn! Good to see you! I don’t know ‘Secret Habitat’, but I will definitely check it out, and thanks a bunch. ** Damien Ark, Hi. Well, I’ll think more seriously about it then. I saw King Crimson live a bunch in their heydays, and I’m always a bit wary of revisiting bands when they’re restoring what they done, but yeah. A guy destroying Ai WeiWei work is good with me just to begin with. The deer one is pretty sublime, yeah. I’m very weak on sci-fi and dystopian stuff. I seem to have no basic pull towards that kind of work for some reason, and I’ve never delved there much at all. I only know the pretty much obvious work in that/those genres. I just got my copy of the new Sotos yesterday, and I’m psyched to start it. ** Scunnard, Hey, hey, J! I’ve been good, really busy with stuff, and good, thanks. You? Yes, yes, yes, I am even severely into doing a post for your book. Entail? You can check out the past book posts to see what I usually do, the ‘welcome to the world’ posts specifically, but it’s really quite open. Images, an excerpt, description, any side trips or supplementary stuff available, etc. Write to me at my current email — denniscooper72@outlook.com — and I’ll hit you back with my mailing address. Really excited for your book! ** Jamie, Hi, Jar-jar-mie! Ha ha, sorry. Ooh, wow, ‘Hotel’ looks fucking gorgeous. What the hell is it? It’s a series? Huh. It’s very ‘game’ obviously. I’ll find out more. Yum, thanks a lot. The ARTE meeting, to my huge surprise, went as well as it possibly could have. We have a shitload of work to do, but, as of this moment at least, I feel pretty confident that we’re going to give them the series they want and that the series will actually get bought and happen as hoped. So, yeah, we were all a bit shocked by how into what we proposed they are. You never know. At least their side and your side are both sad. That seems like sadness’s best case scenario. Oh, okay, ex-Pastels. Ex-Pastels member sounds even better than current Pastels member, if that isn’t weird to say. Ha ha, your mum’s Beatles story. I never saw The Beatles live. Weird ‘cos I went to concerts incessantly, but I guess I was just a little too young during their lifespan. I saw The Monkees, though. That was my very first concert: The Monkees @ The Hollywood Bowl. A nice Thursday you had. Did you like the V&A in general? It looks pretty good in pix. My Thursday was the surprisingly good ARTE meeting. That took a lot. And Zac and I got some great news: we’ve been granted some initial funding for our next film, so the ball is rolling. Not much else. One of my teeth, which has been really fucked up for a while, started hurting, so that’s ominous. Ugh. We leave for the German theme park trip on Tuesday and come back on Sunday. May your Friday be like the time I saw Guided by Voices and yelled out ‘Johnny Appleseed!’, my favorite GbV song at the time, and Robert Pollard heard me, and they played it. Pigeon bubble bath love, Dennis. ** Steve Erickson, Hi. I saw King Crimson during that period, and, yeah, memory tells me the shows were pretty great. A lot, lot, lot better than the Grateful Dead shows of the same era. Like a lot. Oh, god, Christine and the Queens. I don’t know about the States, but the hype on her here is relentless and completely over the top obnoxious, and everything I’ve heard by her has been totally meh. But I’ll go see what you think. Everyone, Steve E. weighs on Christine and the Queens if you’re curious. If you are, go here. I’m a big fan of the run of post-‘Pet Sounds’ Beach Boys albums, everything from ‘Wild Honey’ through ‘Holland’, with the exception of ‘Carl and the Passions’, which is really spotty. My faves of that period are probably ’20/20′ and ‘Friends’, I think. ** _Black_Acrylic, Hi, Ben. Cool: the talk. Ha ha, nice: the ‘paint’ thing. ** James Nulick, Hi, James! No, I won’t be Japan then. Too much happening here, unfortunately. I guess Gisele and crew might be there, I’m not sure what their dates are exactly. Zac and I are angling to get there before winter ends, maybe December or January. We’ll see. You’re going to have the fun of all funs, man, that’s for sure. ** Right. Your Halloween input today enters around the former prodigy/phenom Johnny Dickie, who I haven’t heard much about in a while, so maybe adulthood hasn’t been a good fit with him, I don’t know. Anyway, check out his youthful horror movie follies, if you like. See you tomorrow.

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