The Vectorist

My blog will eat your blog.

King Khan Teabags SXSW

So in my dogeared copy of Seven Habits of Highly Effective Bloggers, I read that a successful blogger posts something every day. I am not that person. I am like the Leonard Cohen of blogging. This stuff takes time. It is deliberate. Things just got busy and then before I could recover I went to Austin for SXSW. It was good, by the way, but not the musical onslaught of past years. I think a lot of folks were just sitting this one out. Or I am really out of touch.

king-khan

King Khan

One of my SXSW highlights was King Khan and the Shrines. He was subdued, considering that I’d heard such wild things — peeing on the Black Lips‘ stuff, inciting Jay Reatard to stick a flower up his butt — but regardless he and the Shrines were totally on point. Still and perhaps the best time to see him is not when he’s not doing three shows a day in the Texas heat, which is why I just bought tickets to see him at the Music Hall of Williamsburg in May. You should go. It will be awesome. Mark Sultan (more on him later in this post) is opening, and so is Georgiana Starlington (the first guy who played guitar for the Black Lips is in this one).

(Digression: There were an inordinate number of two-man bands at SXSW this year, each one comprised of one dude on guitar and another on drums. Ninety percent of these bands took an eternity to set up their shit. In contrast, King Khan and the Shrines set up in record time. Impressive considering that in addition to your typical guitar, bass, drums, vocalist they also have a horn section and a cheerleader. So, hey there, Mr. Blues Hammer, Jrs., don’t be fuckin’ prima donnas. Ay, stugots.)

King Khan wore a cape and hat and came out carrying a staff. Watching him I thought of Little Richard and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins. And also the Dirtbombs. Norton Records. Everything! He has showmanship! There was passion! Rock ‘n’ roll! Germans! A cheerleader! People burnt money! Women swooned! I got a sunburn! It was awesome.

The King Khan and BBQ Show: Teabag Party

But from where did he emerge? The French-Canadian/Indian King Khan joined a Montreal garage rock band called the Spaceshits at age 17. He played bass. The Spaceshit’s lead singer/guitarist was a guy named Mark Sultan, who Khan would continue to work with as the King Khan and BBQ Show. During a tour through Europe, Khan decided to stay in Germany. He was 22.

Khan’s first child was also born around this time. “I had been playing delinquent rock and roll music and when my baby was born I wanted make something more soulful, something about love,” Khan told Impose magazine.

He released a coupla albums and was eventually signed by Vice Records, which released the Supreme Genius of King Khan, a compilation, last year. (Vice has also distributed Khan and the Shrine’s What Is?!, which is the album to check out as the band is at full strength there.)

In addition to the Shrines, King Khan and BBQ have released a variety of singles and two full-lengths, such as the hard-to-find Teabag Party 7″. The album was recorded in Berlin. Its concept grew out of King Khan teabagging people at his shows.

Here is the full King Khan and BBQ Teabag Party 7″.

My favorite part is the “ball-dip-dip-dip-ball-dip-dip-dip” scat during “Teabag.” It’s what the Marcels woulda done if they coulda. Think about it.

Exeunt!

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Music for Sensuous Satanists

Have you ever seen Cannonball Run II? Ever wonder what would have happened if the scene where the Sheik is being held hostage at a brothel took a really dark turn?

I think the answer is Music for Sensuous Lovers by Z. I flashbacked to it this morning while listening to Supreme Rainbow by Matmos.

300Music for Sensuous Lovers is a record that contains two side-length songs. Side A is called “Climax One,” while Side B is called “Climax Two.” On top of some moog riffs a woman fakes an orgasm. The album’s composer, Z, is actually a guy named Mort Garson who wrote a lot of moog stuff.

About one minute in on “Climax One” the woman makes a slurpy noise that I have never been able to narratively resolve. Around the 3:45 mark she emits an almost Satanic laugh.

It’s no wonder that Mort Garson also released an album called Black Mass by Lucifer.

I guess I could see some seventies couple coked up and listening to this record as they’re getting it on shag carpet style… But I think the intended listener is the record collector of the future. (Well, Mort’s future and our present. Or my past when I wrote this and your present when you’re reading it. Etc.) Who else would be able to contextualize it? I’ve had the record for years and always found it to be mysterious. I pictured Z as a sultan of the synthesizer who made women go crazy. In reality Z was just a guy named Mort.

Anyway, this is a rip that’s been floating around for a while. Wish I could have posted it in time for Valentine’s Day, but now you have a soundtrack for next year.

Music for Sensuous Lovers by Z

Matmos uses a lot of vintage equipment to perform electronic music. The band scored for a few gay porno movies. This is perhaps how they came to draw on something like Music for Sensuous Lovers as inspiration. In “Rainbow Balloon” it’s all there except for the lady mewling. It is pretty joyful little song all the way through. But about a minute and a half in, I swear Z’s moog arrives, changing the tone entirely.

“Rainbow Balloon” by Matmos

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WFMU Fundraising Marathon Begins Today

The freeform station of the nation needs your hard-earned dough!

The annual fundraising marathon at Jersey City, N.J.-based WFMU is in full-effect starting today.

wfmu_logoWFMU receives no corporate or government funding and is entirely listener-supported. According to WFMU’s “A Brief History of Freeform Radio,” its mode of broadcast is “a type of radio that encompasse[s] not only eclectic music, collage and satire, but also an intimate, live interaction with the listening audience.” The station also does not run advertising.

It’s the best thing out there. The DJs have complete control of their programs, which leads to some total anarchy over the airwaves.

I was listening to WFMU this morning and Station Manager Ken mentioned that the landlord that owns WFMU’s broadcast tower in West Orange has gone out of business, which means the station’s rent on this space could go up from $800 to $4,000 a month.

Meanwhile, WFMU’s first-floor tenant is having trouble making rent. The tenant contributes about $70,000 annually to the station.

There’s good news. The FCC has given WFMU the permission to purchase a transmitter in Midtown Manhattan. The deadline is in August. Ken says he is committed to buying it this year as it will be their only chance. “[It is] something I have always dreamed of,” he says.

Ken, though, says he feels optimistic about the station’s future and it’s ability to make its fundraising budget. So it’s not all doom and gloom. Well, maybe doom but not so much gloom.

Pledges of $10 or more can be paid off monthly. DJ pages and donation information can be found at WFMU.org. The marathon runs until March 15. There’s also a booze cruise. Tickets for that are $3,000. Donate here.

I’ll be pledging tomorrow during Tom Scharpling’s The Best Show on WFMU. A few years ago Yo La Tengo played during Scharpling’s marathon show. For pledges of $350 or more, they’d play a song of your request. Here’s the song I requested —

“Lay Lady Lay” by Yo La Tengo

I think Yo La Tengo is doing it again this year. I’ll update when I know the details.

UPDATED 3/8: The Yo La Tengo show is next Friday, March 13 from 8 p.m. – 11 p.m.

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Some Kinda Love: Like a Velvet Underground Cast in Iron

The only things I love more than The Velvet Underground are the bands that appropriated the Velvets’ sound. So I’m introducing a feature to The Vectorist called “Some Kinda Love,” which will turn the spotlight on post-Velvets kinda bands. But since this is the introductory post, here are the Velvets.

velvetundergroundc

Makes you wish for the B&W pics of The Factory days, huh?

There’s a caveat: If there is any one band that I could live the rest of my life without hearing again, it would be The Velvet Underground. I don’t necessarily mean that in a Rocco DiSpirito “oh, I’m so tiiiired of fois gras” way. (Good luck with your gout, motherfucker.) It’s just that when I glommed onto the band back in high school — I really glommed onto them. Virtually everything that I listen to has stemmed off from that first intense attachment to the Velvets.

The thing is, I sucked the life out of this music. If I hear “Sweet Jane” in a bar, I’ll enjoy it for as long as it’s on. If I put it on at home, my interest in it is more academic. I try to figure out what it was that first attracted me to the song. In my high school there was me and there was some other guy who were really into The Velvet Underground. I don’t know if he saw it as much of a competition as I did. I went crazy digging up bootlegs and things all in an attempt to be a VU scholar. And what happened? A thing that I once enjoyed is annoying to me now.

But all that said, I can’t write a post about The Velvet Undergound without posting something from the band.

Here’s my absolute favorite version of my favorite Velvets’ song — “What Goes On.” The below MP3 is from the band’s 1969 Live Album. Not exactly the most obscure thing in the world — I think I bought the CD at the mall when I was in high school — but it is a foundation stone. I’d get a little deeper but, in all honestly, most of the bootlegs I’ve heard either don’t sound that great or I don’t have them in a format I can share here. Also, I’m just getting this started. Bear with me.

What Goes On

And if nine-minute long riffs don’t interest you, here’s “Temptation Inside Your Heart,” an outtake from the lost Velvets album. What’s better than Lou Reed and John Cale fucking up the background vocals to a cheesy pop song? I really don’t know. You can find this song on the box set as well as the VU collection if you haven’t already.

Temptation Inside Your Heart

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Brainiac: Go Freaks Go!

Welcome to The Vectorist, so named because I have a terrible problem staying on topic. Hopefully the name will help. This here blog will be two things — short, personal essays about music that might have fallen through the cracks; and links to that music. I’ve got a lot of stuff that I don’t know what to do with, and I’d like to share it.

So that said, the previous post about Brainiac comprised the essay portion, here are the goods — two live recordings of Brainiac from 1997 and 1996 (the download link is at the bottom of post).

If you’re familiar at all with the band’s album work, you’ll notice that some of the electronic boops and bops and SKKKRNCHS obscured some of the lyrics and flavor. I like the album stuff fine. But the live version of a song like “Sexual Frustration” from Bonsai Superstar (which appears to be out of print; I wonder how much it has to do with Touch & Go’s problems) always sounded much more defined to me. So when I found the second of these shows, I was stoked. It was like jumping into a time machine.

’97 France
Indian Poker
Beekeeper’s Maxim
Hot Metal Dobermans
Flash RAM
Go Freaks Go
Vincent Come on Down
Flypaper
Pussyfootin’
I Am a Cracked Machine
Nothing Ever Changes
To the Baby-Counter
This Little Piggy
Draag

’96
Hot Metal Dobermans
Beekeeper’s Maxim
Pussyfootin’
Sexual Frustration
Go Freaks Go
Vincent Come on Down
Flypaper
I Am a Cracked Machine

Download Here.

On a technical note, I’m still working out some things about how this blog thing will work, specifically the music hosting. My primary issue is finding a topic and staying on it. But that is also an issue to be resolved. Both links at the top of the sets lead to the same zipped file, by the way.

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Brainiac’s Mad, Musical Scientists

Out in the sticks, the industrial wasteland of Dayton, Ohio seemed positively cosmopolitan compared to my little town of Enon. On any given night in the mid-nineties, one could find Robert Pollard and Kim Deal gabbing over drinks at Walnut Hills; or bands like Lazy, Real Lulu, or Swearing at Motorists playing at the Sub Galley, a sandwich shop with a teeny-tiny performance space.

John Schmersal, left, Timmy Taylor, right.

Brainiac, a bunch of art-rock weirdoes with college degrees in fashion, was at the forefront of it all. In a few short years, they had evolved from thrift-store fashions and playing skronk to wearing Beatle boots with tailored suits and playing precursors to the electro-doodlings of today. Best of all, Timmy Taylor understood how much Brainiac meant to the kids. But as quickly as Brainiac appeared on the scene, they left it.

The band released only three full-length albums, two EPs, and a handful of 7” singles. Each effort trumped the last in terms of noise and weird alien sounds. The Moog—which added a nice, vintage analog feel to their songs about smack bunny babies, brat girls, and the like—evolved into an array of synthesizers and keyboards, all of which looked like they’d been drop-kicked a few times. Once Brainiac began to incorporate electronic instruments, the songs evolved into something darker and technologically proficient. During their live shows, the band chewed up the scenery and left the audience bewildered. The band members were, as one of their concert posters declared, mad musical scientists.

Then, one night in 1997, Timmy Taylor died in a fatal car accident only blocks away from his home in Dayton.

After Timmy’s death, the music scene dried up around Dayton: Tyler Trent played drums very briefly for the Breeders, bassist Juan Monasterio increasingly focused on his design work (he’d designed most of the Brainiac albums, T-shirts, and other things), and guitarist John Schmersal holed up in Kentucky before heading to New York.

I, too, began getting my shit together. Part of this meant landing an internship at the local paper where I got to hang out with their music critic and a one-time drummer for Guided by Voices. I knew that he was friends, at least in passing, with the guys from Brainiac, and it took me weeks before I could get up the nerve to mention the band. We spent one afternoon driving around Dayton in his car, talking about one of the last shows Brainiac played: Timmy had been particularly cavalier onstage that night, gabbing about Tupac Shakur, who had just died. In retrospect it was eerie, knowing Timmy would be gone soon as well, but at the time it was just one guy doing his best to make us all laugh at death. As we talked, my friend reached into a cardboard box on the back seat and began digging around for a tape that John Schmersal had sent him. Schmersal, who had by then moved to Brooklyn, had started a band named after my hometown—he even released a 7” with a picture of the Enon water tower. The tape he played wasn’t Brainiac, but it was good. The sound Brainiac had started was—and is—continually evolving.

I met Timmy Taylor a few times. Briefly. I know a lot of people that had similar experiences: Taylor remembered someone’s name because they’d talked to him at a show, or he complimented someone’s jacket when they ran into him on the street. He certainly didn’t know my name, but we talked a few times, and if I saw him somewhere he’d always take the time to say hello. That meant something. The last time I saw him was at a gas station: He’d left his car (a vintage Saab or Volvo, I can’t remember which) idling in the parking lot and had come inside to buy a six-pack of beer. I don’t remember what we talked about, but we shook hands just before he zipped away in the car that he would die in only a few days later.

“We’re Brainiac from Dayton, Ohio!” he used to yell between songs. He made that place seem like more than nowhere. It was somewhere—it was where I was from. And that meant something, too.

The above blog entry is a revised excerpt from an essay that originally appeared in Maisonneuve.

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