Saturday, January 27, 2007

Keep Your Heart Right (The Nexus of Hex and Tease)

Sorry for the delay in correspondence but a beastly bug (hey there, little insect!) is nestling stubbornly in my bronchial tract, delivery mechanism probably the unfiltered Jetblue air on my return from SF (germs on a plane), was a long time, uh, germ-inating but now me and the missus are both enduring the effects, as so it seems is half of Manhattan (just came from lunch with Jerry Harrison at I Tre Merli--Jerry in town to scope his production proteges O.A.R. who headline Madison Square Garden tonight--and the Soho streets on my stroll over West Broadway seemed eerily deserted under siege of slate grey skies/cold bitter wind passing by/ this microbial miscreant), anyhow bug's sapped a smidgeon a soupcon of my old elan but haveta report the week started swimmingly enough as we were very very VERY well-received last Saturday at the Knitting Factory Winterjazzfest, where the legendary Roswell Rudd tailgate-trombipulated his way through the labyrinthine Gods and Monsters songbook (gig netted a rave in showbiz-bible Variety, see my homepage--to quote Lord Buckley, "play the rahdio, play the video")...

ROSWELL RUDD!! (His very name connotes sanguine spaciness)...First heard and grooved on Ros in the late 60's on Archie Shepp's seminal "Live in San Francisco" Impulse side which got alot of airplay on a particular Syracuse University free jazz program I liked to tune into on WAER FM (not Lou Reed's "Excursion on a Wobbly Rail", this was a few years later), I remember shifting gears and gliding smoothly into the Ra-Lin's loading dock in my Dad's Ford van (did deliveries for my father afterschool, Ra-Lins was one of my stops) to the sound of Archie's dramatic cultured bespoke voice sermonizing "The Wedding" ("'I said THANK YOU JESUS!' Sister Beatrice said..."), "vaunced on Panamanian Red", or some variant thereof...the nightfly dj followed this Shepp-specimen with a track from the same album featuring Ros blowing his brains out on trombone (Ros went to Yale 'jes like me) during Archie's arrangement of Herbie Nichols' ever-so-sad and beautiful "Lady Sings the Blues" (which is not to slight Archie's own compositional talent, I rate him right up there with Mingus for small-group ensemble writing--"Keep Your Heart Right" is a sinuous bluesy gem)...and when I finally got this album I couldn't help but admire Ros' sartorial splendor where he is pictured out front of the band on an SF stoop probably somewhere in the Fillmore district sporting a natty muted- plaid jacket...niiiiiice!...anyway I've known and dug Roswell for some years now, we've jammed together before but this was his first public appearance with my band, and must say that Ros really hit some seriously beautiful heights on our extremely eclectic music--music that may well not technically fall under the rubric of (what is this thing called) Jazz (thank God for open-minded listeners and open-minded musicians)... but we sure rocked the house with it--hope to play with Ros again soon!

During my nocturnal fitful tossing and turning last night fighting off this little critter doing the buggy boogie woogie in my bronchia I flipped on the IFC channel's Friday night Grindhouse show at midnight-- and saw a delirious masterpiece that matched my own semi-delirium to a tee, straight from the heart of the most unique, fantastic, singular film director until very recently completely unseen by me (although known to me by name, for years)...

I speak of Brazilian primitive genius Jose Mojica Marins, a/k/a "Coffin Joe" (Ze do Caxao in Portugese)-- whose astonishing 60's oeuvre has enjoyed a recent release on DVD through Fantoma--order it NOW, you will not be oeuvre that is an unholy cross between Bunuel, Dali, Mario Bava and Russ Meyer, that simultaneously comes across like experimental cinema (mainly photographed in deep black and white... although last week's showing of "This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse" had a shockingly abrupt switcheroo to an ultra-vivid colour sequence set in Hell) tricked out with all sorts of jump cuts, close-ups, and time/space narrative disjunction...and also resembles Latin American soap operas, morality plays, and sex melodramas (officially sanctioned "pornochanchadas")...

A renegade auto-didact who grew up literally inside a cinema his parents operated in the 30's and 40's, Marins started off at age 6 directing myriad home-made short films, eventually directing and starring in what is regarded as Brazil's first real horror film in 1963, "At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul"--and after the military junta took over somehow was able to sneak out the aforementioned "This Night I Will Possess Your Corpse" in 1966, and again in '69 bestowed yet again upon the world the twisted charms and enchantments of "Awakening of the Beast" (which was on IFC last night)...he's been a folk hero for years in Brazil, comics, serious philosophical treatises, and pop songs about him have flourished there for years, renowned Brazilian filmmakers like Glauber Rocha have praised him while others in the Brazilian Novo Cinema movement revile him...

if you have any interest in world cinema, the macabre in any shape or format, or intellectual kinkarama in general-- you owe it to yourself to see "This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse", in which Coffin Joe (the traveling undertaker/son of an undertaker played by Marins, decked out in black top hat, black cape, black beard, and foot long talons) delivers wall to wall Shakespearean, Lear-like soliloquys equal parts Nietzsche, Freud, and Sade while on the quest to find the perfect female mate to sire the ultimate child with (children are the only true innocents in the Marins cosmogony), as he moves through the most beautiful/grotesque mise en scene, blasted landscapes, fetid swamps, snake-infested torture chambers, diabolical laboratories and dungeons, boudoirs crawling with tarantulas, bedeviling, murdering, and seducing a variety of hefty/nubile naked beauties and lug-headed men, pursued by angry townsfolk in awe of his Black Arts--I won't give the ending away except to say that it involves a direct dialogue by the evil nihilist Coffin Joe with a very pissed-off, very Catholic God, who answers Joe's florid metaphysical curses and imprecations in a dialectic of howling winds and jagged lightning bolts...

For those with catholic tastes indeed, I urge you to get the full "Coffin Joe Trilogy" available on Amazon (comes in a coffin-shaped box housing 3 DVDs, plus a 36 page reproduction of one of the "Coffin Joe" 60's comic books)...never mind the auteurist visual feast, the soundtrack alone is brilliant: cutup snippets of hymns, obvious meller "movie music", eerie electronic tonalities, maniacal cackles and shrieks, cheap pop tunes-- in fact the credit roll last night at the top of "Awakening of the Beast" featured blood-curdling screams only--no music--in seemingly random intervals, louder and louder on the soundtrack, very unsettling/disturbing/reminiscent in fact of the time I happily watched a Chinese ghost-movie in Taipei in the mid 70's and the theater projectionist manually pumped up the volume in the Sino-kino to jumping-out-of-your-skin level whenever the "good parts" took over (I did a similar breaking of 4th wall intervention as a projectionist at Yale when showing Rupert Julian's silent "Phantom of the Opera", by switching on and off the house lights in Lindsey-Chittenden at the point when Lon Chaney as Erik makes the lights go on and off in the Paris Opera House before the chandelier falls) fact, during last week's midnight epiphany when I finally caught Coffin Joe for the first time (thank you thank you thank you IFC, best damn channel on cable!), I finally realized where Bruno, Eugene Levy's hunchbacked assistant to John Candy's lisping Dr. Tongue on SCTV, derives from--namely, the fetid imagination of Marins, as Coffin Joe has a similar slobbering hunchbacked factotum named Bruno in "This Night I Will Possess Your Corpse"... I also realized where the spooky oooooooeeeeeeeeoooooooo electronic music comes from that crops up on the SCTV soundtrack whenever Dr. Tongue does his 3D House of Stewardesses hypno-moves, swinging objects towards a zooming in and out camera lens (a visual homage to Andre de Toth's original 1953 "House of Wax")--o those cheeky Canadians!--as (but of course) similar theremenic glissandos are heard at judicious moments on the soundtrack of "This Night I Will Possess Your Corpse"...

'Nuff said (or should I say, snuff said)--Jose Mojica Marins and his Coffin Joe "Cinema from the Mouth of Garbage", as it was known in Brazil in the 60's, rules! (not all that far afield really from the same slum environs/Manichean mindset from whence emanated such contemporary Brazilian masterpieces as "City of God")...

and I will now retire in pursuit of golden slum-bers as me wife is summoning me to the boudoir of tarantulas :-)




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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Sea Mists of Winter

...was the title of a rather fine elegiac essay by Wyndham Lewis written in 1951, announcing to his readership at The Listener magazine, where he spent his twilight years installed as chief art critic after a lifetime spent on the more or less permanent outs of the British High Art Establishment, that due to his rapidly failing eye-sight (caused by a pituitary tumour), he could "no longer see a picture" ... and was thus resigning his post..."Pushed into an unlighted room, the door banged and locked forever, I shall then have to light a lamp of aggressive voltage in my mind to keep at bay the night..."

Sea misty mountain hop hop hopping up Mount Tamalpais last week in winter, ensconced chez Harrison with Jerry and Carole and a couple of their kids in what is probably the most beautiful house I have ever been invited into laying me a palette on the floor at (the Times wrote up a Home section cover story on Jerry and Carole's boho style renovation of their redwood-surrounded Marin County/Mill Valley aerie some years ago...same Times who on this very day smugly contrasted a black and white photo of a 70's 42nd Street grindhouse showing "The Christine Jorgensen Story"--the horror, the horror!--with a sunny color snap of a theater cross the street today currently housing "Mary Poppins the Musical" --replete with a Pecksniffian caption trumpeting a transformation of the naughty, gawdy, bawdy 42nd Street area from "a nexus of sex and sleaze" 30 years ago into a veritable mini-Magic Kingdom, all thanks to a judicious application of "a spoonful of sugar and a cup of capitalism", ie, Disneyfication)...give me Max and Dave Fleischer and the risque anthropomorphic sheer off-the-wallness of Fleischer Studios and Betty Boop and all that crazy New York Jewish jazz energy any day of the week over Uncle Walt and his squeaky-cleaned-up Snow White jive (Disney eventually drove Fleischer Studios out of business here)... sorry to say, but the present day Disneyfied 42nd Street audioanimatronic "Wonderland by Nacht" vibe creeps me out much more than the Forty Deuce of 30 years ago when I moved to this fairest of cities ("Sprinkle some fairy-dust over the bahstard!"--Reg Presley, The Trogg Tapes)...

Jerry Harrison came to spirit me away back to HIS Magic Kingdom after my CultureCatch/Macworld gig at the Great American Music Hall in SF last Wednesday night, gig was a good 'un too, after a look-see into the rampant computer geek-dom on display at the Moscone Center that afternoon (I mean really, does the Apple phone actually do anything NEW that current phones on the market do not?) I was rarin' to inject some blut and thunder into what was essentially ye olde Parade of Lifeless Packaging writ large (the CultureCatch Salon at Red Ink Studios was another story entirely, the CultureCatch Salon operating in the heart of the seedy old prime cut of real estate that is Market Street by way of the Tenderloin--right across from the stately Golden Gate Theater, where "Legally Blonde" the musical is about to open--which I hear is a fantastic new show!) (hey I like Mary Poppins as much as anyone, in fact it's Caroline's fave, both book and film, PL Travers was quite a crusty cutup indeed, 'jes like her protagonist, and really gave old Walt a shellacking over the ultimate Disneyfication/cinematic disposition of her book; also, to tell the truth, I had a crush on Julie Andrews anyway as a young whippersnapper and in fact an autographed photo that Julie herself sent me after I wrote her a loveletter at age 6 while she reigned supreme on Broadway in "My Fair Lady" is but a good 6 inches right under my flying fingers typing this here ramble, said photo buried in the oaken confines of my 20's German Art-Deco desk on top of which perches my G-4 --hey I love Apple!--and I viewed Julie's ascension into the pantheon after her star turn in "Mary Poppins" as only her rightful due, given her snubbing by George Cukor/Jack Warner in favor of Audrey Hepburn for the "My Fair Lady" film lead)...

During the CultureCatch Salon sideshow I got to speak to an ultra-friendly David Lynch on a live video hookup and his eyes really lit up/he was quite complimentary when I was introduced as "Beefheart's guitarist"--confusion will be my epitaph!-- Lynch waxing eloquently on the subject of Beefheart, stating that "Trout Mask Replica" was one of his favorite albums, I told him that "Eraserhead" was one of Don's favorite films, and lah dee dah dee dah, also good at the Culturecatch Salon was a mock confessional booth hosted by fetching podcaster Emily of CBS Free-FM's "Sex With Emily" show, I went into her darkened lair and delivered a reasonably truthful account of the current state of affairs, and she was, uh, taken aback somewhat, well she is kinda young to be offering such advice methinks, youth being wasted on the young and all, but a spunky trouper nevertheless, here's looking at you Emily!)... another good Salon sideshow was the dithyrambic peregrinations of Tiffany and her femme-bot performance troupe Double Vision (good name... check my album "Diplopia" with lute master Josef Van Wissem, "available wherever fine albums are sold"--not! But you CAN order it through my website), one particularly enjoyable bit of business was a couple of the Double Vision dancers highstepping over stretched canvas underfoot with tanks of yellow and blue paint respectively strapped to their backs, said tanks squirting copious amounts of impasto on this Pollockian palette on the floor-in-the-making with every wiggle of their hips/terpsichorean maneuvre and plie (accent ecru)...a fine mess, a fine madness, and very very sexy indeed, reminiscent somewhat of the great food-colour bespattering of Emily Mortimer by Ewan McGregor in the cinematic version of Alexander Trocchi's "Young Adam" (but I digress)...

Anyway I got up onstage at Great American Music Hall Wednesday night with my '66 seafoam green Strat and myriad black boxes of FX on hand (same set-up I've used for years and years, if it ain't broke don't fix it)-- and video artist/Columbia prof Luke DuBois began doing real-time video manipulation of my performance projected on a screen behind me, very much in the San Fran psychedelic '60's tradition--and, well, I'll let my old friend Bay area poet/editor and academic Jean Gier gyre and gimbal and generally set the scene for you here now.

In attendance were old friends highschool buddy Larry Shore (last scene in monstre gai Paree), SF hipster about town Jordan Loewy, ace new music photog and transplanted New Yorker by way of Milano Marco Ugolinni, and former rockwriter turned adman Bob Duncan, his wife the lovely Roni Hoffman and their son Hardy down from Reed College (took me to Mel's Diner for dinner avant shau)-- plus a crew of Macworld hypnagogues/liggers/rubber-neckers there to take in little old "thinking man's guitar hero" me (thanks to The New Yorker for that one), strutting and fretting my hour on the stage (you know, after nearly 17 continuous years of doing this for a living fulltime--and really, if you count the Beefheart era marking my first foray into professional status, 27 years playing for keeps-- you might think that the Sea Mists of Winter would be encroaching on my Diplopic purview by now... but you would be mistaken).

And then Jerry came and whisked me back to Fortress Harrison...and I spent a couple of excellent days in Sausalito holed up at his studio with fine madman Matt Cohen, "the world's most patient (Jewish) engineer".. and with the eventual arrival from LA of the real Rei Momo/Lord of Disorder/mixologist supreme Eric "E.T." Thorngren, the Whole Sick Crew was assembled-- Jerry's Kids!-- and I was proud to be as one with them...and we were working on a mix of my next album, a live DVD and CD of my recent CMJ Gods and Monsters show at the Bowery Poetry Club...and in between catching the rays of a studio tan I went hiking in Muir Woods with Jerry (what a jock!)...sampled several fine dining establishments in the nabe (Kitti's Thai joint across the street particularly notable)...and a splendid time was had by all, special thanks to Dusty Wright and Richard Burns of CultureCatch for spiriting me out to SF in the first place (also thanks to Absolut for their sponsorship-- my favorite rocket fuel after Slivovitz)...




Blogger Nicole said...

Dear Gary,
The Double Vision dancers with paint you were referring to was a piece by Nicole Zvarik. Based on the two body problem, it is a physics/dance/live art piece where the dancers enacted two bodies orbitting under different force laws, which the audience changed. The paint gave the audience a visual representation of the orbit patterns we or rather they were creating. Very sexy indeed!

Nicole Zvarik

1/22/2007 2:51 PM  
Blogger Gary Lucas said...

Right you are, Nicole! Thanks for sharing!


1/22/2007 4:01 PM  

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Sunday, January 07, 2007

Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance

Writing this now ensconced south of the Mission District in old San Francisky where I left my heart/just got in from new yawk ("didja valk or did ya flew?", pace Eugene Levy's great SCTV character Sid Dithers), staying in a lovely house near Castro Street belonging to old friends Mark and Carolyn Plakias who relocated last year from the West Village to this fair city...Mark was with me at Yale, in fact we met and bonded for life in Howard Felperin's Lit X Class which also boasted my pals Bill Moseley and Jeff Bewkes as fellow non-linear-thinking Yalie classmates...I love the X Factor in just about anything (xxx)...and that class was no x-ception, boasting a great required reading list ("Ulysses" was on the jour de carte) and a stellar lineup of stylish junior faculty lecturers including the great Marjorie Garber who went on to write taboo-breaking tomes on bisexuality in literature, cross-dressing, and other gender-bending topical treatises, she gave a lecture during the course of that course on Pauline Reage's "Histoire d'O" viewed as a transgressive religious parable, wotta gal/great course/stellar curriculum, anyway Mark was a stone skinny hipster who loved Beefheart, free jazz in general, and carried the inevitable pack of Camels rolled up in the sleeve of his tee-shirt beatnik stylee (speaking of da beats, made homage to Ferlinghetti's great City Lights Books in North Beach today where my Catholic mystic friend Francis Xavier McCarthy used to work, also Re/Search publisher/editor Vale with whom I was in a band with along with his girlfriend Vermillion Sands for a minute in 1977 before she ran off with Rat Scabies of The Damned, this was during the 4 months or so I was living in Pacific Heights here with Ling after leaving Taiwan, during which time we tied the bloodknot...but that's another story) and noticed a Museum of Beat relics and marginalia across the street from this great bookstore, coupla doors down from the Condor where the great Carol Doda more or less put topless dancing on the map in the mid-sixties, eventually flashing her immense pneumatic charms in the pages of Playboy)...anyway Mark is now a bigshot working for France Telecom, and so they relocated him and his wife Carolyn (former fashion photographer) out here and man what a cool crib, they've made me feel quite at home :-)

I'm ostensibly out here to play Wednesday night at the Great American Music Hall (where I remember seeing a young Billy Ficca bashing the skins with Television in '77) for the Macworld Convention, a special event hosted by my pal Dusty Wright of (check my website homepage to click on a podcast Dusty conducted/produced about my music recently)...also to see Jerry Harrison and work in his studio in Sausalito on mixes for our upcoming live CD/DVD for Mighty Quinn...also to reunite with some old old friends living in the Bay Area...

Gods and Monsters live at the Bowery Poetry Club NYC 1/5/07

photos by Eva Apple | click to enlarge

Had a great gig the night before I left NYC with Gods and Monsters at the Bowery Poetry Club on Friday night, joint was PACKED (getting the "Nightlife" Pick of the Week in The New Yorker last week definitely didn't hurt attendance), graced by the presence of another old Yale friend, former femme rockcrit turned English prof the lovely Debra Rae Cohen with hubby in tow...also radiant Carolina Atlasovich, my dear friend Richard Porton, and Pakistani pistolera Shaista...and a surprise pop-in from Paris of high fashion/art-photographer Mark Lyon and his super beautiful wife Laura Brunelliere, another great photographer who took the shots of me that grace both the front and back covers of my retrospective album "Level the Playing Field"...Mark gifted me with a big new art-book of his photos and is involved in an upcoming show of his work at MOMA...another nice surprise was my childhood friend Bruce Waltuck and his son in the audience, haven't seen Bruce for a couple years he was one of my oldest friends in my elementary school days (and a mean guitarist himsself)...finally got home around 2am and was so wired and adrenalized from the gig (Billy was REALLY good that night, as were Ernie and Jason) that I failed to catch any sleep whatsoever just lay there in bed vibrating and buzzing until 5:30am when I had to get up and pack for a 6:30am departure to haven't had much sleep per usual but am ever so glad to be here now, beautiful crystalline bay area blue skies warm temperatures and clean air for the last 2 days, we went to the Alameda Jumble Sale Flea Market in Oakland today and found some great old books including Fellini's shooting script for "Juliet of the Spirits", now about to chow down on some excellent tri-tip barbecue (a San Francisco treat) courtesy of Mark who is an amazing chef...

anyway soooooo nice to be here!

and before I break for dinner here's a list of some of my favorite films of 2006, highly recommend you go see them if you get the chance:

1. Volver (Almodovar about my favorite director these days, Penelope Cruz rules)
2. 13 Tzametti (new Russian director's black and white French rural nightmare, rivalling the bleakest visions of Henri Clouzot)
3. Army of Shadows (Jean-Pierre Melville's harrowing film on the French resistance long overdue in the US)
4. Children of Men (Caroline's fave actor Clive Owen in compelling dystopian dangerous vision by way of one her favorite authors, PD James)
5. The Queen (very entertaining indeed, I've loved Helen Mirren ever since "The Long Good Friday")
6. Black Book (Paul Verhoeven's return to form, magnificent cast, heart-wrenching story)
7. My Summer of Love (was actually out the year before, but what the hey... great great film, on cable again recently, beautiful score by Alison Godfrapp and Will Gregory)
8. The Departed (terrific ensemble work with Nicholson, Damon and DiCaprio, finally convincing me that Leonardo DiCaprio is indeed a fantastic actor)
9. A Scanner Darkly (Robert Downey Jr. makes this film come alive, so bleak, so true)
10. The Good Shepard (right up there with "The Spy Who Came In From the Cold" as more or less telling it the way that it is...some major plot holes, and miscasting of Angelina Jolie, but found a restrained Matt Damon totally compelling, Skull and Bones sequences priceless, provocative script by "Munich" screenwriter Eric Roth--and was I the only one who actually liked "Munich"?)
Bonus: Rescue Dawn (just saw this at a screening, Werner Herzog's new film, not at all the mess the advance press has made out)

Music highlights? Playing in lovely Moscow and soulful Saint Petersburg last spring with Gods and Monsters with Ernie Billy Jason and Jerry and Carol Harrison, "all aboard for the night train!" from Saint Pete to Moscow...jamming electro-clash stylee in London and HyderaBAD, India, with DJ Cosmo and her crew (Romanian spa on the Black Sea was pretty cool too even though Cosmo got stranded in London due to security issues and missed it)... Joanna Newsom! new album "Ys" is really damn good, maybe the best I heard all year... but enjoyed her even more live solo without the strings at Pop Montreal this fall...Brazilian Girls the best I ever saw them this New Year's Eve at Irving Plaza, a glammed-out Sabina getting a bunch of blissed-out party people rushing the stage to semi-strip (one girl even did a Carol Doda) (for a moment)...the Roky Ericson documentary/live show at Pop Montreal, so engrossing/life-affirming, what a sensational comeback!...hanging with brilliant Sandy Pearlman and shpritzing wildly on a panel with him and Prof. Dan Levitin (nice NY Times writeup last week) at McGill University's "Future of Music" conference ...jamming with Czech legends the Plastic People at the Knitting Factory recently right after Vaclav Havel, Czech ambassador to the UN Martin Palous, and David Byrne came backstage full of cheer, good will and good words for Gods and Monsters...recording with Chris Cornell Chris Cornell Chris Cornell under the aegis of Steve Lillywhite Steve Lillywhite Steve Lillywhite in LA, cool runnings, big fun, played my ass off--what a great album project!...Fast 'N' Bulbous selling out the BimHuis in Amsterdam (listen to a broadcast on the internet in a couple weeks, check my website for details)...selling out the Rubin Museum here in NYC with "The Golem" last spring...appearing on Hans Flupsen's national Dutch tv show on VPRO with my guy lutist Jozef Van Wissem last fall (click on my website homepage for your viewing plaisir)...

so long... farewell... auf weidersehn goodbye (for now!)




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