What I traditionally prefer to offer in the Scrutinizer is news and commentary that is, at least tangentially, related to music and to stay away from any overt political soapboxing. However, a guy I didn't vote for who calls himself my President is engaged in a land grab in the Middle East right now and, well, it's kinda affected everything.
Terror in the Dustbowl
Godspeed You! Black Emperor recently discovered the strange manner in which America is busy policing itself. While traveling between shows in Forth Worth, Texas, and Columbia, Missouri, Godspeed pulled off the road to gas up in Oklahoma and found themselves surrounded by local law enforcement and the FBI. A gas station attendant took one look at the band and their two vans and white-paneled truck and passed a note to a female customer, asking her to contact the police. After several hours of what must have been interesting conversations with FBI interrogators, Godspeed was allowed on their way. Kranky label co-founder Bruce Adams (who has released Godspeed's work in the past) said in a statement that this sort of behavior isn't new to Godspeed. "They get hassled by The Man regularly. Police pulling them over, anything you can imagine. It's just the feeling in the country right now."
Godspeed You! Black Emperor are finishing up their U.S. tour (baring any more surprise visits from the Office of Homeland Security) before departing on an extensive tour of Europe with dates in France, Greece, Spain, and Portugal. They are touring in support of Yanqui U.X.O., their latest release on Constellation Records.
An anecdote from a attendee of the show in Columbia, Missouri, relates that Godspeed still had a bit of energy to work off about the incident. A clueless patron of the club standing near the stage happened to be wearing a t-shirt with a picture of George W. Bush on it and, when accosted about his attire, shrugged and said, "Hey, he's not my president." To which a Godspeed member shouted at him: "He is your fucking president. Do something about it."
So, kids, there you go. You'll have a chance to fix things in a little over 18 months. Let's get out there and do the one thing that democracy assures us, shall we?
That is, if we're not living in a police state by that time. In a recent interview with Democracy Now! spokesperson Amy Goodman, Michael Franti of Spearhead related some disturbing information about how his politically charged music is garnering the wrong sort of attention. Following a performance, the mother of one of the band members received a visit from two plainclothes men from the military who were asking rather pointed questions about the band member who has a sibling serving in the Gulf. From Franti's interview:
"[The men from the military] had pictures of us performing the day before at the rally, they had pictures of us performing at some of our annual concerts that we put on that are in support of peace and human rights. They had his [the band member's] flight records for the past several months, they had the names of everybody who works in my office, our management office Guerilla Management. They had his checking account records. They asked his mother a lot of questions about where he was, what he was doing in this place, why he was going here. They confiscated his sibling's CD collection that they had brought over to listen to while they were in the Gulf, and basically were intimidating –- told her which members of the press she could talk to and which members of the press she should not speak to.
"And basically what this signals to me is that I don't feel like we're being particularly singled out or under any investigation for any activity because all the activity that we do is very much above board and all the events where photos were taken out were all public things we were at. But what it does signal to me is that there's a lot of us who are now making a blip on the radar, you know, whether we're organizers at rallies, whether we're musicians, whether we're people who are speaking out, authors, writers, actors. And we're beginning to make little blips on the radar. They're starting to pay attention and collect information about what's going on. You know, more important to me or more important than me you know, being a part of that is the fact that our civil rights are being eroded across the board for every person."
Spooky shit. Your opinion is the only thing that is truly yours, and John Ashcroft and Tom Ridge have plans to take it away from you. Plan accordingly. And no, duct tape will not stop the jackboots from stomping in your front door.
Canada's Got Themselves a Faith Healer
Meanwhile, one of Canada's secret medical experiments just had its cover blown. A young woman named Christiane Kittel who has spent the last seven years in a coma will be able to attend her own 25th birthday party after waking from her non-responsive state. Christiane suffered a lung embolism seven years ago and, while emergency surgery saved her life, she never completely recovered from the trauma. Her mother -- in that sainted way that mothers have -- decided to take her catatonic daughter to a Bryan Adams concert.
"Bryan Adams was always her biggest hero and she loved his music before she fell into a coma," said her mother, Adelheid Kittel. "When I heard about the concert in Regensburg I knew straight away that I had to take her there. I decided that Christiane had to hear him." Apparently she did. During the concert, the heretofore comatose Christiane started to react to the music and eventually opened her eyes and become conscious of the singer and the event. She remained animated upon return to the clinic and was even able to recognize her mother and call out her name several times.
Michael Bolton has made no official comment, but I'm sure he's pissed. Bryan Adams has just proven himself to be medically beneficial. While such a statistic might not sell more records, it certainly carries with it undeniable bragging rights.
We send our congratulations to Christiane and her family on her recovery. While attending a Bryan Adams concert might actually induce catatonia in eP staff members, we are thrilled to be able to report that music brought someone back from perpetual darkness.
Meanwhile, in Norway They're Tossing Sheep
At a recent Mayhem show in Bergen, Norway, a sheep's head flew off stage and nutted an audience member on the noggin. Per Kristian Hagen is able to report -- first-hand -- that a sheep skull is a fairly solid object. "My relationship to sheep is a bit ambivalent now," he said after the incident. "I like them, but not when they come flying through the air. I have a headache now."
While the flying through the air bit was an accident, the dismemberment of the animal was a scheduled part of the act. Mayhem has a reputation for performances which are certainly more visceral than a Bryan Adams show, and band member Rune Eriksen (whose stage name is Blasphemer) has expressed contrition at the incident. "But," he says, "maybe it would be an idea for another show."
Hagen has filed involuntary assault and battery charges against the band, charges which carry a maximum sentence of six months in prison. Yeah, like prison would be any kind of deterrent for these lads.
Mayhem was formed in late 1984 by guitarist Oystein Aarseth (who took the name "Euronymous") and Necrobutcher, and was one of the first death metal bands to have any sort of impact in Norway. Joined by Hellhammer on drums and Death (really) on vocals, this line-up was part of the burgeoning underground metal movement until 1991 when Death committed suicide by putting a bullet into his head. The surviving band members kept trinkets; Hellhammer made a necklace from some of the skull fragments and Euronymous reportedly made himself a snack of Death's brain à la Hannibal Lector. Two years later, it was Euronymous' turn to be loaded into a pine box when he was stabbed by Count Grishnackh (the new bass player). Grishnackh was apparently upset over Euronymous' more "evil" reputation and, as it has been rumored, in order to outdo the messy demise of a member of rival band Emperor, Grishnackh stabbed Euronymous 23 times.
Euronymous' parents had some issues with Grishnackh's bass work actually appearing on Mayhem's 1994 album De Mysteriis Dom Santhanas which was being finished when jealous Grishnackh went Lizzie Borden on his bandmate. The bass parts were re-recorded and Grishnackh continued his musical career from prison under the name of Burzum. Hellhammer -- along with Maniac, Necrobutcher, and Blasphemer -- has reformed Mayhem in light of continued interest in the band's music and they have toured sporadically since. As their stage show appears to involve the ritual slaughter of farm animals, one can imagine the difficulty in finding clubs which don't mind the smell. "Hey, you can't bring a live animal into the club." "Ah, actually, it won't be alive that long." "Oh, okay, that's fine then. Come on in."
Meanwhile, in Texas They're Boycotting the Dixie Chicks
Several weeks ago, at a concert in London, Dixie Chicks singer Natalie Maines spoke to the audience about the coming war in Iraq and said that, as a Texan herself, she was "ashamed that the President of the United States was from Texas." The backlash in country music land started immediately with a number of radio stations pulling the Dixie Chicks from their playlists. Station managers (read spineless sycophants) have said that their decisions were prompted by the number of irate calls and e-mail's from listeners who felt that such criticism was unpatriotic.
The Dixie Chicks have continued their world tour and took time out during the Australian dates to tell journalists that the backlash has been following them, and that they have been receiving threats of bodily harm as well as vandalism to their personal property. Natalie Maines, in an interview with a Sydney journalist asked, "What is wrong with the world when what the Dixie Chicks say is more important than the war? Why does anyone care what we think?"
Ironically, sales of the Dixie Chicks' latest record, Home, spiked upward and, as of April 5th, 2003, the record was still at the top spot on the Billboard Country Album charts. The song "Travelin' Soldier," about a soldier who fought in Vietnam, was recently number one on the Country Singles chart. It would appear that, in addition to Michael Moore, the Dixie Chicks still have some fans out there.
Rest in Peace, Edwin Starr
Soul singer Edwin Starr, who penned a number of Motown hits including the persistently topical "War," passed away on April 2nd. Starr, who was 61, died of an apparent heart attack at his home near Nottingham, England. Born Charlie Hatcher in Nashville, Tennessee, Starr hit the music scene in 1957 with his first group, the Future Tones, and recorded one single before departing the biz for a three-year army stint. In 1965 he was offered a solo deal after several years of touring with another band.
In addition to the seminal song "War," several of Starr's other successful songs included "Agent Double-O Soul," "Stop Her on Sight (S.O.S.)," "Contact, and "H.A.P.P.Y. Radio." "War," a No. 1 hit in 1970, became a rallying point for anti-Vietnam War protests and still poses a topical question which has not been successfully answered: "War...what is it good for? Absolutely nothing."
Starr made a brief comeback during the disco craze, but has spent most of his time touring the European circuit on the soul festival ticket. A few weeks ago, in March, he had performed two well-received shows in Stuttgart, Germany. The shows, with over 16,000 in attendance over both nights, were recorded for television and will remain a lasting tribute to his memory.
Remix the Remixers
Electronic charlatans and sonic innovators Autechre are about to release a new record, Draft 7.30, and fans are still unsure whether the duo have gone even further into the fringe of electronic construction and musical fuckery or have come back to play with the rest of us DSP-illiterate neanderthals. To celebrate the "are they or aren't they?" moment, Autechre has announced a remix contest. Just remix any two historical Autechre tracks in any fashion that you like and submit them to email@example.com by April 21st. 15 lucky bit-scratchers will be chosen by Xltronic and two of those finalists will be chosen by polling and by the band themselves. The two winners will receive fun prizes and losers get the opportunity to have their work subsumed into the Autechre machinery and they might get to hear a bit of it in a future Autechre release.
Picking the Winners
While we're on the subject of winners, scientists in Barcelona, Spain, recently announced the formulation of a "tune technology" which will allow them to predict hit records. This is a bit of news which may have Simon Cowell and Randy Jackson of FOX TV's American Idol worrying about their prime-time jobs. The technology uses 22 variables, including the obvious beat, harmony, and rhythm methods, as well as the more abstract variable of "distance of singer from microphone," to determine the success or failure of any given musical number. Researcher Mike McCready says that the technology has a 93 percent success rate, and cites the program's prediction of Norah Jones' huge success many months before her sweep at the Grammy Awards as an example.
Making Your Own Trail, Ten Years On
The other Mike McCready is out on the road with his fellow Pearl Jam members right now. Guitarist McCready and the rest kicked off the U.S. leg of their 2003 tour in Denver, Colorado, on April 1st in support of their latest record, Riot Act. The band began the show with "Love Boat Captain," their tribute to the nine audience members who died during a tragic accident at the Roskilde Festival in 2000.
Pearl Jam, who released 72 official "bootlegs" from their last tour have embarked on an equally ambitious plan with their 2003 tour. Fans who pre-order any given show will be given access to unmastered MP3s just hours after the concert has ended. These MP3s are simply to whet your appetite during the week-long wait until your limited edition CD arrives. These double CDs with custom packaging will not be available in retail outlets. CDs may be ordered from the Pearl Jam website, the official Ten Club site, or www.pearljambootlegs.com. Pearl Jam continues to bypass the music industry entirely and delivers content directly to their fans. The artist revolution is happening; we've just been too caught up in P2P file sharing to notice.
Quote of the Month
MTV Europe recently circulated an internal memo which stated that songs and groups which have a military theme would not be played during the duration of the war in Iraq. Which means The B-52s will not be airing anytime soon on your local MTV channel. When asked by the New York Times about this decision Fred Schneider, singer for The B-52s, replied, "I guess MTV doesn't have a research department, because from Day One we've said in interviews that our name is a slang term for the bouffant hairdo Kate and Cindy used to wear -- nothing to do with bombers."
Make Love, Not...
And finally, lesbian pop duo t.A.T.u. recently commented that they enjoy having sex three times a day. In an interview with a German newspaper, Julia (yeah, like I'm a first-name basis with either of them) summed it up like this: "We really love each other and the sex is phenomenal. It's a thousand times better than with a man. And contrary to what others might say, we don't just talk about it. We have sex at least three times a day. The best is in the morning when we have just woken up. Then we do it nice and slowly. In the evening it is a lot faster and we rip each other's clothes off. We like it at lunchtime too."
While that statement won't fit on a bumper sticker, www.masturbateforpeace.com has a number of other succinct suggestions that will. Pick one from the list that you like, or just while away the time thinking about lesbian pop duos who not only have sex with each other constantly but also entertain female groupies after shows and the occasional fellow, though they are "not as much fun." And, if you really want to rattle your brain stem, consider the rumor that the lovely ladies are in talks with German industrial monsters Rammstein to work together on a "most unpredicted project."
Regardless of how you day-dream during your lunch hour, remember to love each other and "when in doubt, pound your trout." I'm never going to be able to go out on the river with my Dad again without turning into Beavis and/or Butthead when he lands a fish.