The blog of author Dennis Cooper

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

 

Dvorak

 

America

 

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

Song

 

 

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

 

Sharks

 

Our Puppet Selves

 

Red Cross Disciple of Christ Today

 

 

Bonus:

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

 

IN SEARCH OF BLIND JOE DEATH: THE SAGA OF JOHN FAHEY Trailer

 

 

Fiction:

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.

 

Excerpt:

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.
Yet.
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.
Yes.
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
HELP
us.
Some parents were sick or out of work. Things like that.
But mostly divorces.
Yes.
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
PARENTS.
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.
Much.
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.
Glue.
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.
Yes.
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.
Ridiculous
BIPPITY BOPPITY BOO
Know what I mean?
Cute.
Kitsch.
Krap.
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
NO, NO. WE DON’T PLAY THAT KIND OF MUSIC ON THIS
RADIO STATION.
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
CUT CUT CUT
were like that.
BOOM BOOM BOOM
No.
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?
SNEAKY GRADUALISM HEH
HEH HEH
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!
Wow.
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.
Permanently.
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?
Wow.
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’
BLUE YODEL NUMBER SEVEN.”
Christ.
You’re not safe anywhere.
Not from bluegrass music.
No.
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.
Wow.
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.

9 Comments

  1. Wolf

    Nik – thanks for the Fahey day, such a brilliant one!!
    Dennis, Coop! Dude, what’s up, did you and Z both make it home peachy last weekend and enjoy your last hours in London? It was so awesome to see you, and to bear direct witness to the goodness of both PGL and the new written thingie. Aces! Inspired by our Indian meal I made some delish sag aloo the other day and not-deep-fried-because-I-don’t-have-a-deep-frier onion bhajis, which were ‘well tastiferous’ if I don’t say so myself.
    I just read your report of a positive ARTE meeting *and* some good funding news, whoa, dude, is it Xmas already?! It’s barely Autumn! W’s gowan on?!
    Here’s some spicy hugs with hot mango chutney: ((X))

  2. Steve Erickson

    Andrew may be anti-drug personally, but that doesn’t mean he might not be playing around with drug references. Many people took his bloody nose on the I GET WET cover as a reference to the effects of cocaine abuse. Yeah, that article is one big conspiracy theory, but I found it pretty fascinating even though I only have a glancing interest in his music.

    I wasn’t sure when the Beach Boys made a “comeback.” it does seem like Brian is a fairly passive presence on many of the post-PET SOUNDS albums. That show you saw sounds quite bizarre.

    The Chris hype in Paris reminds me of Spotify’s decision to put Drake’s face on every single one of their playlists – including the likes of “ambient chill” – the week SCORPION came out – and the massive street advertising campaign in Manhattan for Queens of the Stone Age’s VILLAINS, where ads were plastered on every single bus stop and subway station in my neighborhood. These are actually quite rare for music these days, and the “anti-hype” of dropping an album on iTunes with no notice or advance singles/videos seems to work better, as long as you’re already a star. But I know you’re coming from a different POV because she’s French and the album is likely to be a big hit in France while it’s not likely to find any mainstream success in the U.S. (jn part because she sings with a very heavy accent.) Her label, Because Music, is releasing it through Universal here, but they also put out a Beta Band compilation yesterday that Forced Exposure is selling so I assume they work with independent distributors too.

  3. Nik

    Hey Dennis,

    Dude! Thank you so much for putting it up! It was a total pleasure to make.
    I’m not really scared of having my stuff read aloud, or reading my stuff aloud. I’m super comfortable with public performance, any fear I have about it is the good, adrenaline kind. And yeah, right now all of my stories are attempts to write in my own voice or a stylized off-shoot version of my voice. I don’t know, so far all the one’s that I think really work are the one’s closest to my voice, like this new one. The goal is definitely to get to a point where I’m able to do something a lot more formally adventurous, but right now I’m totally happy doing whatever I can in the confines of an ‘authentic’ voice, if that makes sense. Oh, fingers crossed for the most celebratory marks for sure.
    Hmm, interesting about the grant stuff. I remember reading Lydia Davis describe attempting to create synopsis’ about Maurice Blanchot’s books and it being a nightmare. I imagine your movie is not so obscure, but still complicated from a marketing perspective. How are you getting around it?

  4. Misanthrope

    Nik, Okay, so I’m totally unfamiliar with Fahey’s work, but I wish I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard someone say he’s the best guitarist ever. I’d have bunches of nickels. I’m listening to the first one right now, and I get it. I do.

    Dennis, Peanuts! You know what? Nearly is pretty spot on. I get it. I do. PGL does indeed have the pacing of a Peanuts show, now that I think about it. Wow. Mind blown.

    Well, it’s not that I’ve blown the haunted house(s) off, but that I end up forgetting about going until it’s too late. You know, you get busy with stuff and…blow shit off, haha.

    Yes, got some good Zzzzzzzzzzz’s last night. Dreamt that a fat woman stole my all my credit cards and my bank card and I had to replace them. Then dreamt that someone put a bunch of plastic bottles and shit in our toilet and I had to dig them out. Then dreamt that I had this really high-off-the-ground Jeep that I couldn’t get into.

    Fuck, so much of my dreaming is about not being able to do shit. What the fuck?

  5. Bill

    [Not sure if this got posted earlier; sorry if it appears twice!]

    Thanks for the treasure trove of Fahey material, Nik and Dennis. I’ve enjoyed guitarists influenced by Fahey, but never spent much time with the man himself. This will be a fine way to spend the weekend.

    Looks like you have a packed October, Dennis. How are the travel plans shaping up? I’ve been in Porto a few times mostly for work, didn’t know there’s a Queer Porto festival. In case you didn’t know already, Taipei is a fine city, I’m scheming to spend some time there in the spring.

    Hoping for a snooze-y, mellow weekend myself… Just scored DVDs from the library of Nick Antosca’s Channel Zero Season 3, and Benson/Moorhead’s Resolution. Should be a good warmup for Halloween season.

    Bill

  6. Steve Erickson

    I started listening to Fahey in college in Boston (his albums filled the used bins there and then), without much background in the folk and blues music he was drawing on. I interviewed Cul De Sac at their guitarist Glenn Jones’ house in my final year of college, and he showed me his huge Fahey collection; the band would go on to collaborate with Fahey. To be honest, I haven’t heard him in quite a while; I don’t own any of his music on MP3 and little on CD. But he opened doors to me towards guitarists like Sandy Bull and Robbie Basho, who followed his path without copying him.

    Thanks to YouTube’s infamous algorithm, I followed a friend’s Three 6 Mafia remix to a channel called “War Aesthetics.” Made by a Canadian college student who is also serving in his country’s army, it consists of found footage clips (both Cold War-era Eastern European armies and war-themed video games) set to vaporwave and mash-ups (one featuring Death Grips and Balkan pop music.) He’s done a series called HOTTEST WAR depicting an alternate history where a nuclear war occurred in the mid 1980s. It’s interesting to me as an example of implicitly right wing found footage: he shows endless clips of tanks firing missiles and planes dropping bombs, but the counter-shots of their victims are missing. It’s fairly rare for someone to just say “war looks awesome, and it’s fun to aestheticize it” in the circles I run in. The guy who runs the channel speaks with a Canadian accent (I’d think he was American if he didn’t say he was Canadian), but given the number of references to Yugoslavia and his praise for Tito in one Q&A, I suspect his origins lay there. https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=war+aesthetics

  7. Jamie

    Hi Nik, thanks so much for this post. I’ve managed not to have consciously heard any John Fahey before and now I’ve heard tons and I love it. Some of the tracks you’ve posted are utterly wondrous and I’ve not even made it to the epics yet. And I really geeked out over some of those live clips. Funny that on one of the Rockpalast ones he’s introduced as ‘the king of primitive guitar’ or something – he’s sooo not primitive. I love those semitone descensions that he seems to love to. Thanks for cheering up a moody Sunday!

    Ahoy Dennis!
    How was your weekend? What did you get up to? We had a Writing Gang, which was okay, except for both Hannah and Kate not really liking a short prose piece that I submitted which I thought was the best thing I’d ever written, haha! They did like the piece of Eddy’s Head script I also handed in though, so it was okay.
    Of course Peter Tork is the best Monkee, duh! And it was him who was absent when I saw them, which is odd as I always heard that Mike Nesmith didn’t play with them any more due to being loaded after his mum invented Tippex or something. I checked and it was 2011 I saw them, so maybe not as recent as I’d thought. Time flies indeed. I also saw the setlist for the gig I was at. 40 songs. Jeez.
    How’s that tooth of yours holding up?
    Hey, you’re away Tuesday! How are you going to spend Monday?
    May it be like a hug in the form of a day.
    Potato-cake love,
    Jamie

  8. David Ehrenstein

    What you may have witnesses was Brian’s last appearance with The
    Beach Boys. He has his own band now.
    “Zabriskie Point” has always fascinated me. How can a film be so good and so bad at the same time?

  9. _Black_Acrylic

    @ Nik, I was unaware of John Fahey until this weekend, and your post makes for a fine primer so thank you!

    Right now I’m looking to make some positive changes in my life, so after about 5 years wearing the same fragrance I’m changing to Comme des Garcons Blackpepper. This doesn’t require much description, it just smells exactly like black pepper and I’m into it. A suitably autumnal scent.

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