The blog of author Dennis Cooper

Nik presents … John Fahey Day *

* (restored)


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. –

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. ** Dominik, Hi!!! Your weekend sounds like a cinematic masterpiece. The heatwave is kaput at long last! Thank you for the  well wishing. We’re having some formatting issues, so it’s needed. Love making my facial hair stop growing, G. ** Probably, male, Hi, man! I did like the ‘Fight Club’ novel. I think I blurbed it. I think his early books are his best. He started writing more quickly as time went on, and the prose is less attended to, I think. But he’s good. I haven’t read his last eight or so books. ‘Survivor’ is good. I don’t think I ever had a brutal fight if you mean physical fight. One time at a Melvins concert these two guys attacked me and a friend of mine and beat us up and ripped our clothes half off. It all happened in about thirty seconds, and I barely remember the attack. Otherwise, my fights have all been just verbal. What about you? ** _Black_Acrylic, Russell was on ‘Celebrity Big Brother’?! Weird. Go Scotland, of course! ** Jack Skelley, Hey, Skellster. Thanks, pal. And last Friday was nothing but a G thing. ** Telly, Hi! Awesome about the Zine Fest! I’m really happy you got such deserved props. I don’t think people will correlate your Cooper with me. But Sandoval is nice. Dilemma. What’s your current thinking? Monster horror, awesome. You know, your writing is probably better than you worry it is. That’s my instinct. Great that you’re being a scribe. You sound good. Oh, that ‘Mike Robarts’ piece: I think I wrote it at 16. I wrote this huge novel that was my imitation of Sade’s ‘120 Days of Sodom’ and I used boys any my school and the teachers as the characters, and the teachers gradually sexually slaughtered all the boys. I found out that my mother was snooping around in my bedroom, and I got scared, so I burned the whole novel so she would never find it. A few years later I was going through my stuff and found one page that somehow escaped the fire, and that’s the page I found verbatim. Mike Robarts was my best friend at that point and a huge secret lust crush object. I haven’t looked at it in years, but I guess my hope would be that it’s charmingly incompetent and sincere? Thanks for asking. ** 2Moody, Hi. I haven’t seen the last, gosh, maybe five or six Almodovars, so I need to catch up too. I would say in fact this is a resounding YES on your Xmas gift proposal. Thank you for sussing out my secret wishes. Anyone who wears a hat in a movie theater is pretty safely a selfish jerk, no? Our heat died a sudden death last night. I hope yours is seriously contemplating suicide. I don’t have health insurance, which is very stupid of me, but just to say you have temporary company. Thanks for the film wishes. It’s been kind of technically tricky so far, so much needed. xo. ** David Ehrenstein, Ha ha, that did seem to be the case, yes. It’s still so weird to me that Larry Kramer wrote ‘Women in Love’. Based on his other writings and having known him a little. ** Chris Kelso, Hi, Chris. Really nice to see you! Thank you in multiplicity. Oh, cool, about the curious student. Thanks, and thanks for telling me. I used to know Irvine a little back in the day. Very nice guy. The music project sounds fascinating. Do keep us/me informed. Best to you, buddy. ** Steve Erickson, Thanks, pal. Awesome that you had the Russell in-person experience. Great luck with The Wire. My fingers are ultra-crossed. ** Matt N., Hi. The ‘audio novel’ will take some time, it’s pretty complicated, but not as lengthy a process as making a film, I think, I sure hope. It’ll be performed by a number of people playing the different characters. No, I haven’t seen ‘Secret Behind the Door’. I guess I should probably? Strangest person? In what sense of strange? I’ll have to think about that as I’m heading off soon. But I will. Any luck with the difficult scene? My week is all film work, I think. The great writer/my friend Dodie Bellamy is reading here on Saturday, so I’ll take a break to go to that. Have an excellent one. ** TJ Sandel, Hey. Icy hugs about the melting. We just stopped melting here last night. I hope you get to join in the luxurious chilliness pronto. Interesting question about ‘on track’. Hm. I pay a huge amount if attention to the style and the structure and to the dynamics and stuff. I always think about charisma. Things can be technically imperfect, but as long they’re charismatic, the reader is drawn in and keep wanting to be in the experience of reading, I think. But determining if something is charismatic takes a weird kind of objectivity or attempted objectivity. I think I gradually figured out a way to look at my fiction that way, but it’s hard to explain. Obviously the characters have to move forward intriguingly though, since most readers see the characters as the main entrances to the novel. It’s tricky. What are the problems you’re having more exactly, if you can describe? ** Travoveda, Hi. Nice to meet you. Thank you coming inside. Wow, thank you for your interest. That’s exciting. I’ll write to you in the next day or so. Thank you again! ** oliver jude, Evening! I look forward to mine. Thank you a lot about ‘PGL’. Almost all of the performers in the film were non-actors. The guy who played ‘Tim’ was an actor. He was in a Larry Clark film, but that’s it. They were great, yeah. I love working with non-actors. They dedicate themselves to the characters in a really sincere way. I wrote the script, and Zac assisted me. I wrote it in English, and it was translated. Exciting about your script. Obviously it sounds very enticing. If you have the ending that’s a pretty good start. I usually have the endings in mind when I write our scripts. Cool. I thought Jon Moritsugu directed ‘Mod Fuck Explosion’? Was Todd Verow the cameraman? Yeah, I like that film. Fun indeed. Say more about your script/film if you feel like it. I’m interested. ** Bill, Howdy Bill! I don’t know ‘August Blue’, but I do like what I’ve read of Levy. Hm. Thanks for the film wishes. What are your current goings on? ** Cody Goodnight, HI. I’m happy because it’s cooled down here. My favorite Russells? Mm, ‘The Devils’, ‘Women in Love’, and ‘Savage Messiah’, I think? I haven’t seen ‘Perfect Blue’, no. I’ve read the manga, which is strange because I rarely read mangas. I bet I can find it. Will do. Have a rich day out there, my friend. ** Okay. Today I’m restoring an old post that a blog reader once made about the sublime guitarist/ composer genius John Fahey. If you don’t know his work, this is a great way in. See you tomorrow.


  1. Dominik


    Uh, I hope you manage to sort the formatting issues out as fast as possible! Fingers massively crossed!

    To join your request: Love making my nails stop growing. I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but it takes an inordinate amount of time for me to clip my nails, haha (and the finger mauling involved, of course, as we discussed). Od.

  2. Misanthrope

    Dennis, I’ve introduced more than a few people to Fahey because of Nik’s post here. Long-time guitar players who knew nothing about him, don’t you know.

    Lil D did call them back…Monday. He told them he couldn’t start until Wednesday and they scheduled him for Friday. We’ll see how it goes. I know it’s a shitty job (I’ve worked far worse in my day) but if he can actually go to it on time every day and keep it, that’ll be a good thing.

    The viewing wasn’t that bad. Our friend was happy to see us. Still sad, though. But his dad was 95. A pretty damn good run.

    Looks like my plans for getting over there this year are blown up. When I can go just doesn’t work for everyone else. So…next year! I also have plans to go to Portugal next year with my best friend and her family. Looks like 2024 is the year then.

    I have three novel ideas right now. I think I’m just going to write them and self-publish them. I ain’t care no more, and the likelihood of finding/getting a “real” publisher is so slim anymore. It’s just not a concern of mine. Onward and upward.

  3. _Black_Acrylic

    Yes indeed Ken Russell took part in 2012 Celebrity Big Brother! He made a fantastically entertaining houseguest and there is a short highlights reel for him here.

  4. 2Moody

    The ones I’ve seen so far have lost most of the classic zany Almodóvarian charm for me, or maybe ‘matured’ is the better phrasing. Bummer, as I think he really found a charming sweet spot of melodrama and campiness during his late 80s/90s run. Bad Education and The Skin I Live In are my standouts so far— kinda seemed like his take on Hitchcock and William Castle, respectively. My all-time favorite is still, and will likely always be, Law of Desire. I was so obsessed with Eusebio Poncela for a couple months after watching it, tracking down DVDs from overseas and all. Very much like Banderas’s character, now that I think about it.

    Oh but wait! If it’s a yes on the Xmas bug, wouldn’t that mean my own squeamish self would have to handle the little monster too?? Surely you’d rather have a cute fluffy puppy instead? One of my go-to vintage shops posted on instagram a puppy wet specimen for sale that I thought was totally adorable, though others didn’t seem to agree. The shop has since closed their comments from all the outrage. More for me/us, then!

    I definitely went from thinking the explorer was a jerk + throwing metaphorical tomatoes at the back of his head to slowly entertaining the idea that it may be a ‘girl with the green ribbon’ situation. If he takes off his hat, he exposes his cranium/brains, which would surely be even more distracting than an explorer hat, thus making him far more considerate than douchey. Yes, my penchant for imagination in the face of ire amazes me, too.

    The heat has in fact eased by at least 10 degrees, high five on our heats’ murder-suicide! What do you think you’ll do first with this newfound freedom? I suggest our insurance-free selves go skydiving with all this luck on our sides xoxo

  5. Nik

    Hey D, what a delight seeing this reposted today. I remember making it in my dorm like five years ago, haha. Happy to see in comments it has stuck with people (ty Mistanthrope)! How have you been, and what have you been up to? I’ve bounced from working full-time on the agency side publishing to working for Pratt in Brooklyn, and live in the city now. Still wiritng and working with Fence, and am pulling together a “‘crime’ journal” there, “Fence Crime,” which I’ll hopefully be able to share soon. Would love to catch up, and hope you’re well, man. N

  6. Thomas Moronic

    Cool! I adore John Fahey. What a special type of genius. I can get so zoned out/in to his stuff. And I love how he kept pushing and stretching his interests and skills as he went along. I picked up his book from that wonderful old Bimbo Towers years ago. God, that place was great.

  7. Matt N.

    Hi Dennis. I see… not a radio play and not a straight-forward audio book. Yes, you should probably! Hahahah… I mean “strange” in the sense of mysterious, an uncanny feeling from a person, even when you don’t really know him or her that well… No luck! Its hard to reveal a secret that doesn’t want to be found… Nice Saturday program, I envy your editing days… Have an excellent one too.

  8. Steve Erickson

    Your revival of this day is a funny coincidence. I’ve been curious about the musique concrete albums from the end of Fahey’s life, although I have never heard them. He went through an eccentric period in the late ’60s and early ’70s.

    I’m now reading Ada Wolin’s 33 1/3 monograph on the Shangri-Las’ GOLDEN HITS OF THE SHANGRI-LAS. It’s rather frustrating. Her analysis of their lyrics’ fascination with the figure of the “bad boy” and view of them as the most rock-oriented, even proto-punk, girl group is spot on. But the first chapter goes through a lengthy reprise of the poptimism vs. rockism debate. There’s a strangely defensive tone to the book and her choice to write about the Shangri-Las. (She says the Ronettes and Shirelles were more talented and repeatedly calls Mary Weiss’ voice whiny.) Have bootlegs of the unreleased album Lenny Kaye produced for them in the late ’70s ever leaked out?

  9. TJ Sandel

    Glad to hear your weather changed. Scattered showers are in the forecast here, so there’s hope!

    Thanks for the thoughts on your process. I don’t really have a “problem,” it’s more a feeling of the limitations of character and traditional elements and how I fall back on them (probably the MFA influence and having to unlearn things!).

    Maybe in your writing style does the work of character (or mimics it through what you call charisma) that both interests you and draws readers in? I’ll need to think but this does sound freeing. Thanks so much!

  10. Ollie🦉

    Hi. Oh I was talking about when I was talking about wanting to grow my hair out blah blah and you brought them up because they were trans but I think it was a while ago and it feels weird now that I think about it, that I remember that but it didn’t really leave my head for some reason. I dont know why that made me so excited in the moment but regardless it looks like an interesting book!!

    Uh. I haven’t written in a while, and I delayed the process of finishing my book draft because I was focusing on a lot on art things. I feel so stupid now because I haven’t read a good book in a month and my writing isnt coming out as fluently as it was >:C !
    Is it a normal part of the writing process to write, and start over, write, ?
    I want to work on this book but if I fail it wont mean anything to me anymore because no matter how much it potential it might have it still will be a failure. When I say fail I mean its horribly written and not as good as I hope it is.
    I also have this thing when I read my work that the word choices and the way its structured, people will think it sounds way too immature and automatically know it was written by a teenager. I dont know maybe thats not a bad thing for the story style and narration. I don’t know.
    But yes work is cool. Not bad at all. I had today off! Oh. I hope you dont mind these really annoying writing questions, but I’ve decided that writing is where i’ll start futurewise. That being said Do you have any good advice on how to get writing seen? or like making it a career?
    Sorry if I dont respond ive been busy at work.
    Hmm. I wish to project images of bird automatons, dancing, and tweeting, in your dreams when you sleep tonight-or technically tommorow look forward to that.

  11. oliver jude

    good evening!! i worked a bit on the screenplay today. the main character is named arthur russell and he’s sort of like richard gere in american gigolo but more polite, and he has a lot of violent sex fantasies that make him nervous. there’s a beautiful transgender librarian that loves him named audrey. arthur owns a fish market and there’s a gorgeous cajun punk named pierre that shucks oysters for him, arthur’s obsessed with him. he won’t get with audrey because he thinks he’ll hurt her. i think arthur kills pierre in the end and lets audrey be his girl but it’ll be a lot less rewarding than it seemed like it would be in the beginning. i think i want the ending to thematically be like the doom generation. i don’t know many things about the plot yet, and the only scene i have written is audrey’s first scene, and there’s a tammy wynette needle drop in it. i’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about the characters but i think it’s about time to just start writing it.

    i had no idea about that larry clark movie that your tim actor was in, i’m gonna watch that soon. up my alley for sure. and yeah jon moritsugu directed, todd verow was the cinematographer and production designer. there was one sequence that they kept cutting to in mod fuck of london fantasizing about her leather jacket and it looked just like scorpio rising, it was so delightful.

  12. Cody Goodnight

    Hi Dennis.
    How are you? I’m ok. I’d like to thank you and Nik for this post. I will listen to Fahey’s music. I really need to see Savage Messiah. Have you seen The Music Lovers? I love it. I’d highly recommend it. I’d really recommend Perfect Blue as well. Really need to read the manga myself. I’m more of a manga than an anime fan myself these days. Nothing too special happened today. I discovered I really like cherry Coke and Vanilla Coke. My favorite soda is Dr. Pepper, but my favorite drink is a simple hot chocolate on the coldest winter. What are your favorite drinks, Dennis? I also read some Edgar Allan Poe. Have a good day or night yourself, Dennis!

  13. Mark

    Hi Dennis – I know you are doing color this week, hope it’s going well. Just checking to see if that zine arrived? Went to see the big Keith Haring exhibit here in LA with Kristian Hoffman today. Super cool to hear his tales of Keith, Andy and almost getting trampled to death at Altamont… now that was a concert!

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