Thursday, December 23, 2004

Nervebreakers interview

I got an e-mail from Mike Haskins of the Nervebreakers tonight, with some scans of pics from a show the NBs played at Sound Warehouse on Lemmon Avenue in Dallas on July 8, 1978 (about two weeks after I arrived in town). The NBs were actually part of the reason why I moved to Texas in the first place. My drummer from college was attending electronics school in New Jersey and for some reason decided to transfer to the school's campus in Irving. He called me up and said, "You should move here. You can live for real cheap. Plus the music scene is great. I just saw the Sex Pistols. They sucked, but this Dallas band called the Nervebreakers was great." Later I got to work with Mike at Peaches at Cole and Fitzhugh in Dallas. Everybody used to kid him because he looked like Donny Osmond. He still does. Back in 2001, I did an interview with Mike and his ex-bandmates Barry Kooda and Bob Childress for the First Church of Holy Rock and Roll. If Phil Overeem (aka the Rev. Wayne Coomers) didn't take it down, it's still here.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

The Dave Karnes Record Game

OK, just one more. Karnage has a game he likes to play: "Name three records that you like all the way through." Of course, being a greedy bastard, I'll take 10 (in no particular order):

1. Van Morrison, Astral Weeks -- The record I used to give to all the women I even remotely liked. I think I've bought my last copy.
2. A Tribe Called Quest, Midnight Marauders -- My first experience of hip-hop as jazz. Thank you, Derek Lewis.
3. Elvis Presley, The Sun Sessions CD -- After a lifetime of dissing Elvis as a grotesque joke, I got into this when I was bedridden for a few days about 10 years ago. Maybe the NyQuil helped? The original punk rock.
4. The Sundays, reading, writing and arithmetic -- Harriet Wheeler's voice will forever remind me of driving from Fort Worth to Shreveport once a month between 1992-97.
5. Simon and Garfunkel, Bookends -- I'm no longer ashamed that this was the first album I ever owned. Sad bastard music never sounded so inviting.
6. The Who Sell Out -- I got this (for $1.99) the summer I turned 13 and played it four times a day until my Sound of Music-loving sister threatened to break it. Then Live At Leeds came out.
7. Captain Beefheart, Doc At the Radar Station -- If you buy into Lester Bangs' thesis that what most of Don Van Vliet's music lacked was heart, well, this has more heart than the rest of his oeuvre put together.
8. French Frith Kaiser Thompson, Live Love Larf & Loaf -- A little avant-gardism, a little humor, and a lot of Richard Thompson's gtr w/Beefheart's drummer.
9. Bobby Bland, Two Steps from the Blues -- Everybody needs this, regardless of how they feel about "the blooze."
10. Charles Mingus, The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady -- The auditory equivalent of reading Mingus' book Beneath the Underdog. The planet wasn't big enough to contain him.

Top 10 Movies of All Time

Since I'm on a roll, and since someone asked, I might as well do this. Kinda like the asshole in High Fidelity, huh? In no particular order:

1. The Producers (runner up: Blazing Saddles, for "The French Mistake")
2. Seven Samurai (runner up: The Magnificent Seven)
3. Diner (runner up: The Wanderers)
4. Miller's Crossing (runner up: The Untouchables)
5. Cool Hand Luke
6. On the Waterfront (runners up: Edge of the City and The Defiant Ones)
7. High Fidelity (runner up: That Thing You Do)
8. The Princess Bride
9. A League of Their Own (runner up: Hoosiers)
10. To Kill a Mockingbird

Best Spike Lee Movie: 25th Hour
Best Oliver Stone Movie: JFK
Best Quentin Tarantino Movie: Reservoir Dogs
Best Woody Allen Movie: Sweet and Lowdown
Best Rock Movie: The Kids Are Alright
Best Reggae Movie: Rockers
Best Movie About Kids: Harriet the Spy
Best Movie About Teenagers: Ghost World
Last Horror Movie I Saw That Truly Scared the Pants Off Me: Phantasm (generally, I dislike horror movies).
Other Movie Scene That Truly Scares the Pants Off Me: The Wizard of Oz (when the Wicked Witch of the West appears in the crystal ball)
Best Genre: War (runners up: baseball, porn, blaxploitation)
Best Baseball Movie: Bull Durham (I love the American myth of baseball, but Christ, the games are boring)
Movies I've Unwillingly Seen the Most Times: The Road Warrior, Conan the Barbarian, Cat People, Taps (My squadron in Korea had a recreational hooch. I spent an inordinate amount of time there. It was the dawn of video movies. We had exactly four.)
Stupidest Movie I've Ever Seen 50 Times: Death Race 2000 (When cable TV became available on Long Island, I was living with my parents. I insisted on getting it and even paid for it. I spent an entire summer with John Wilmshurst, trying to hitchhike to Smith Point Beach to go crabbing and watching this fucking stupid movie -- Sylvester Stallone's first.)
Most Nightmarish Movie Experience: Two. 1) Taking my then-girlfriend to see Taxi Driver, thinking it was a comedy. 2) Waking up in the middle of Pokemon: The Movie (basically one long commercial). Realizing I was the only adult in the theater. Realizing who really won World War II.

My Village Voice Pazz & Jop Top 10 for 2004

1. Goodwin - Goodwin - no label (15 points)
2. Darth Vato - Havoc - no label (14 points)
3. - Fort Worth Teen Scene (1964-67) - Norton (13 points)
4. Robin Sylar - Tricked Out - Top Cat (12 points)
5. Calhoun - The Year That Never Was - Atomicsky (11 points)
6. Johnny Case - Waiting for the Moment - Seabreeze Jazz (9 points)
7. Chatterton - Prescription #1 - no label (8 points)
8. Brian Wilson - Smile - Nonesuch (7 points)
9. Yeti - Volume Obliteration Transcendence - Life is Abuse (6 points)
10. Ahummin' Acoustical Acupuncture - A Leaf's Journey - no label (5 points)

like young

just read francis davis' like young -- my new fave writer about music. at least, the one i agree with the most, and the 2001 pub date of this means it covers up to the ken burns doc. what caught my eye was the subtitle: jazz, pop, youth, and middle age. as someone who's mos def on the wrong side of that big generational divide (48 next year), it's interesting for me to observe that i no longer want to be lester bangs...but realize that one could do a hell of a lot worse than being francis davis. and he's married to terry gross.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

A friendly chat with Kevin Aldridge

KS: "Loving You is Giving Up" is my favorite song right now.

KA: Do you want to know what it's about?

KS: Yeah.

KA: I wrote it when I put down my suitcase in the place where I would spend the next seven months. Picked up my axe and wrote the whole thing. I even have a rough draft on a tiny tape recorder. Most of the songs are on that tape. Another key song is "Compliance and Liability."

KS: It seems like you've been a lot more prolific lately. What's changed?

KA: I finally combined work ethic with creative drive. Maybe it sounds heavy-handed and arrogant, but that's what I feel.

KS: I'm still curious about the session you guys did with Matt Barnhart a couple of days after you did one with Jordan [Richardson]. You guys went from elated to deflated in just three days.

KA: Bottom line: Barhart didn't care. He heard "demo" and shut down. The biggest difference: He's not Jordan!

KS: Right. I've never known anyone in music as capable and enthusiastic as Jordan. One or the other, but not both.

KA: I want to play with him so bad! Him, [Matt] Hembree and Steffin [Ratliff]. How spoiled am I?

KS: That's a hell of a lineup, for sure.

KA: I already play with the best guys, in my opinion, but that's another one I want to try. But anyway, the whole change in writing just happened.

KS: Maturity?

KA: That too. Brasco quitting liberated me. I got better, freer. I wanted to leave so many times in the last year or two, but I felt I owed myself and Jared [Blair] one last record. And we did it. It was good and then we ended it.

KS: Jared's an odd duck.

KA: Yeah. He's very unrealistic at times. And he needs his stamp on everything. He plays solos because he's the lead guy, that kind of stuff. He never wanted us to add keys and that's the replacement I wanted for Chris [Edmiston]. He couldn't deal. Don't know why. He also said after hearing the Chatterton demos, "I would never put up with this shit." And he didn't mean that in a bad way. Which is weird.

KS: What shit was he referring to?

KA: The slow stuff. All the ethereal things. If it wasn't noisy, he didn't generally get it.

KS: Typical guitarist.

KA: Typical. Not Scott [Davis] or Chris. The difference now is I play in a band of musicians, not a guitarist, bassist, and drummer.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Mick Farren

My friend Mick Farren blogs at My oldest daughter says his spoken word performances sound like "an evil Jeremy Irons." I once called him (in print) a "rock'n'roll Renaissance man." Meant it, too. You can read all about his many exciting adventures, books, records, etc. at Funtopia.

He recently had his own Lost In Translation moment while on tour in Japan.

A couple of years ago, I reviewed a CD by his band, the Deviants, for my former employer. My then-editor grudgingly accepted the review and told me, "OK, we'll run it, but after this, you can't just write about your friends." I told him it wasn't my fault I make friends easily. When I reported his comment to Farren, Mick said: "Every movement in art since the beginning of time has been the result of people writing about their friends." So there.

Sunday, December 05, 2004


One of the high points of my "year in music" for 2004 would have to be the expressions on the faces of the four members of Goodwin when the curtain parted -- OK, it was a crappy, jerry-rigged curtain, manipulated by frontman Tony Diaz' brother, but a curtain nonetheless -- during their CD release party at the Wreck Room at the end of January. When they saw the sea of faces that were anxiously awaiting their set, you coulda knocked all four of 'em over with a feather.

Since then, the Goodwin guys have continued pounding the boards in Fort Worth, Dallas, and the mid-cities, as well as venturing outside the Metromess for stands at the Vibe in Austin (where they've forged ties with the Austin Indie Alliance) and the Steel Penny Pub in San Angelo. They've played band battles, benefits, and outdoor festivals, winning new converts wherever they went. Through the wonder of internet radio, MP3 sites, and e-commerce, they've sold CDs to fans as far away as Finland and Australia. But the fact remains, several of the most riveting moments in the band's current live set remain unrecorded: songs like "Red," "Apparently," "My Shitty Roommate." Now Goodwin guitarist-songwriter-evil dictator Daniel Gomez and his crew plan to remedy that situation. They're taking some time off from gigging to record a sophomore CD, to be unleashed on the world in the spring of 2005.

Sure, their self-titled debut CD was a revelation -- packed with flag-waving, gorgeously melodic rock anthems that the band performs with raw vitality, passion and power. (If you don't already own Goodwin, do yourself a favor and go immediately to to cop. I'll wait here.) But the band doesn't view the disc as an unmitigated success. "It was recorded over the course of a year in two different locations with two different engineers, mixed by two different people and mastered by two other people," said Gomez. "And a couple of the performances were kind of lackluster. This time we're looking to have the sound more consistent, more raw and more rock. We want this to be our The Colour and the Shape."

"Our Stink," chimed in bassist Matt Hembree, who split engineering and mixing duties with Gomez on the debut and whose Wedgwood home (aka Meow Mix) will serve as the studio for CD number two. Hembree isn't just the bassplayer in more than one local muso's dream band: he also plays with prog-rockers Underground Railroad, whose technically demanding tuneage, he says, provides him with a good counterbalance to Goodwin's unbridled emotionalism.

"Our Bark at the Moon," added Diaz, tongue planted firmly in cheek. Besides fronting Goodwin, working a day job, and studying history at UTA, the barrel-chested singer is part of the three-headed hydra that hosts KTCU's Sunday-night Good Show. There's more: he's worked with graphic artist Kate McDougall to coordinate the music portion of 2004's Experience the Art of Music event at Axis. He's also one of the founders of the Fort Worth Arts Consortium, an amorphous organization of art and music folk seeking to increase public awareness of Cowtown's vibrant scene. A busy guy.

The Foo Fighters, the Replacements, and Ozzy Osbourne might seem like a wide range of benchmarks for a band to aim for, but the guys in Goodwin have grown accustomed to serving as a blank slate onto which listeners, particularly those who write down their opinions for a living, are free to superimpose their own rock dreams. (Comparisons suck, but scribes sure love to make 'em. It's how we attempt to explain our preferences without having to actually describe anything.) Hence, the references in Goodwin's press to artists as disparate as Cheap Trick, Journey, Rush, Bob Mould's Sugar and -- my favorite, because it's so off-the-wall and obscurantist -- Cincinnati's Psychodots. Once Goodwin live staples like their longtime set-opener "Write for You," Everyfan's anthem "Revelation of Revolution," slow-it-down change-of-pace "Glance," and the stripped-down masterpiece of tension-and-release they call "New" have been committed to shiny silver disc, we'll all have to reach into our collective bag of similes for some new "sounds likes."

While all the bandmembers get their two cents in, and will do so at the slightest provocation, make no mistake: Goodwin is Daniel Gomez' baby. Onstage, the self-described "taskmaster" and "overachiever" can beam like a benevolent sun or glower like an angry Aztec god while jogging in place or wowing the crowd with his signature splay-legged leaps. He'll occasionally confound his bandmates by extending intros or deviating from set lists, but he's always working to a plan that's clear in his own mind. Offstage, he's unmistakably the one who calls the shots. "We'll discuss things," joked drummer Damien Stewart, "and then Daniel decides what we're going to do." Stewart knows from his experience playing with his other band, Pablo and the Hemphill 7, just how challenging it can be to run a band as a democracy. "At the end of the day, someone has to make a decision," he said. "In Goodwin, that's Daniel's job."

It's a cliche, but it's also true: Damien Stewart is a drummer's drummer, a stick-spinning paragon of onstage flash. Other skinsmen line up at Goodwin shows to try and figure out How He Does It, but the real source of Stewart's showmanship is simple: "I'm a total product of the New Orleans public schools." Back home in the Crescent City, he was the "secret weapon" in his high school's drumline. "I was the lone white guy out of 100 drummers," he said. "Drum captains from other schools would check us out and think we were going to be lame because I was there. It was fun to surprise 'em." Migrating to the Fort by way of Kansas City, he made his mark in bands like Ebola, Slowpoke, Route 420, and Brasco before assisting in Pablo's late 2001 birth and replacing Nathan Brown in Goodwin the following year.

"With the first CD," Stewart said, "we really enjoyed handing it to people and telling them 'We did this all by ourselves.' " Back in November, the band met with Bart Rose from First Street Audio to discuss the possibility of working with him on the new CD. In the end, they opted to work at home again. "It just made more sense in terms of cost control and scheduling," said Gomez. "The only aspect we can't handle ourselves is distribution, and unfortunately, Bart wasn't set up to help us with that."

"It's a challenge to us to try and top our first effort," said Hembree. "We want to improve. We know more now than we did then, so the next step is to have a CD that sounds and is recorded better."

Lest you get the impression that Goodwin takes this stuff too seriously, remember: this is the same band that appeared at the Wreck Room's Halloween bash dressed up as the Flintstones (Gomez as Fred, Diaz as Barney, Hembree as Mr. Slate -- "the character no one remembers" -- and Stewart as Bam-Bam, of course). For their CD release party, they armed the audience with poppers (the tiny fireworks, not the amyl nitrate thingies danceclub goers used to favor) and Silly String (prompting the Wreck's wizard of sound Andre Edmonson to plead over the PA, "Come on, people -- that stuff doesn't come out of anything!"). At the end of another Wreck Room stand, they performed a few bars of the Who's Clear Channel staple "Won't Get Fooled Again," which Gomez concluded by smashing an innocent pawnshop-procured guitar to smithereens. After seeing the recent Donnas-Von Bondies show at Trees in Deep Ellum, Hembree commented, "The thing that bothered me was that none of the bands smiled. Maybe Goodwin would be more popular if we all wore black and scowled."

Luckily, there's scant chance of that happening. What really makes me chuckle, though, is when I tell people that Goodwin is my favorite band and they ask, "You mean local?" -- as if there were two worlds of music, the "local" and the Real. I've gotten used to being emotionally moved, not just viscerally stirred, by musos who live in the same town as I do, to the point where it's hard for me to relate to folks who still think they need national media to legitimize what they like.

Listen: If what you like is catharsis that comes with loud electric guitars, you should anticipate the incipient arrival of the new Goodwin CD in the same way as you would a candygram from the gods.