Wednesday, July 28, 2010

other things I saw at the last concert I ever saw

Flaming Lips with Oneida
Rumsey Playfield, Central Park, New York, NY
Monday, July 26, 2010

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

the last concert I ever saw

Flaming Lips with Oneida
Rumsey Playfield, Central Park, New York, NY
Monday, July 26, 2010

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

things, I've got a few

tonight I'm thinking that Dylan's "I'll Keep It With Mine" might be the best song ever of all-time ever of all-time.

the funniest thing I've ever seen at a Yankee game (not a lot of funny things at Yankee games usually): tonight they put Steve Martin on the big (I mean, tremendously large) video board out in center field. he was wearing one of the inexpensive, Budweiser-sponsored caps given to the first 21,000 fans 21 years or older at tonight's game (yep, I got one too). but underneath his picture on that big (I mean, tremendously large) video board out in center field: Navin Johnson.
keep this in mind the next time you say that the Yankees have no sense of humor.
I know I will.

I've felt better. tonight's drink of choice: Caffeine-Free Coke.

I am not a parent and I am (hopefully) through with my schooling.
however, some of you may not be through with schooling and some of you may very well be parents.
who knows, really? surely not I.
but for those of you who may, in fact, be either parents or of school age (which could be a pretty wide range), allow me to shill and simultaneously pass along a money-saving offer from
for a limited time (though they don't actually say how limited) you can get $10 off a $50 Back to School clothing purchase by using the code 10SCHOOL or $25 off a $100 Back to School purchase by using the code 25SCHOOL.
I myself have purchased many items of clothing from, especially if you count shoes as clothing, and have found them all to score very high on the comfort and breathability scale. unless you're counting shoes, in which case I generally just buy the year-old remainders for extremely cheap prices. after all, comfort and breathability aren't all that damn important.

I interviewed 1984 Olympic silver medalist in the Women's 400 meter hurdles Judi Brown (n/k/a Judi Brown-Clarke) on Tuesday and thoroughly enjoyed myself.

and finally (because unfortunately there always has to be a finally), though it's not my first Going on 50 piece to be published, or even my first Going on 50 piece to be published by the Village Voice, my first Going on 50 piece to appear in print at the Village Voice (and my first print piece to appear in the Village Voice since I turned in the Tusk manuscript 13 months ago) will be available at those little plastic newspaper rack thingies all over New York City later today.
or you could just click here (it's with the Flaming Lips' Wayne Coyne and it's pretty damn good if I say so myself).

thank you, Cleveland, and good night!

Friday, July 16, 2010

cleaning out the interview closet, volume one (Rob Zombie edition)

so yes, I've definitely been ignoring the blog.
as repeat visitors will no doubt know, I've been busy interviewing 49 year olds as well as those who have lost a job since the recession started. and doing research, finding people who are 49 years old or have lost a job since the recession started and asking them if they want to be interviewed (preferably by me). and reading Don Quixote. and next week, for the first time in over a year (I think), I'll have a piece (directly connected to the first two projects above) appear in the print version of the Village Voice, so I spent a little time on that.

plus, Twitter (here's my Twitter address) strikes me as so much more time efficient than either Facebook (though yes, I'm there now) or blogging (and yes, I'm here now and have been for years).
and right now, given certain constraints (see above), that seems pretty damn important.

however, a dear friend, much more metalicious than I ever will or hope to be, asked that I forward her a piece that I'd written on Rob Zombie as she'd recently seen him (Mr. Zombie) but never seen the piece that I'd written.
and while I remember talking to Rob Zombie, writing about Rob Zombie, I couldn't for the life of me remember for what publication or when.
but since she's such a dear and metalicious friend (as well as a good person), I spent the next 17 hours (not really, but it was definitely more than 17 minutes but the actual amount of time might actually have been closer to 17 minutes than 17 hours) finding the answers to those two particular lapses in memory.

first of all, I wrote an advance published in the Cleveland Scene for a Rob Zombie show on July 15, 2006 (yep, four years ago last night). but it was a small piece (see where "small piece" looks different than the rest of the words in that previous sentence? that's because it's a link to that "small piece").
warning (if you haven't already clicked through): Mr. Zombie throws the F-bomb.

now I certainly could've written that advance without interviewing Rob Zombie, so either I wanted to interview Rob Zombie (probable) or the publicist or editor wanted me to interview Rob Zombie (possible), but it certainly wasn't standard procedure (I don't think) to interview the subject of an advance as short as this one.
which means there was a lot of interview that was never used, has never been seen.
until now.

as best I can tell from the 17 hours and 17 minutes I've put into this, I interviewed Mr. Zombie, who attended Parsons School of Design and later served as a production assistant for Pee Wee's Playhouse (the second of those two things are relevant in terms of the interview), by phone on June 9 of 2006.
so, with no further ado (because God knows there's been enough ado), and for my dear, metalicious friend, my heretofore unseen, unpublished and barely edited interview with Rob Zombie:

(former Geffen publicity and current Big Hassle honcho) Jim Merlis says that you’re a really great guy, very funny and very personable.

Oh, great. Now I’m all set up for this interview.

Right. Now the bar’s set really, really high.

I better deliver is what you’re saying.

Yeah, you better deliver. Let me assume that there’s nothing you need to get off your chest and I’ll just start firing questions at you.

Yeah, go for it.

I’m assuming you’ve done hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of interviews. What question are you asked the most? What question annoys you the most? And is it the same question?

It’s actually this question.

(I laugh about as hard as I ever have during an interview) Okay. You’ve got the funny part down.

Okay. Now we’ll get on to the personable part.

Is there a question that annoys the hell out of you?

You know what? There really isn’t. There’s sort of a weird misconception amongst everybody with certain things. Like every time someone comes up and asks for an autograph, they go, ‘Oh my God, you must hate this.’ They go on a long ramble. And I’m like, ‘It’s fine, buddy. Whatever.’ You know, in the same way people go, ‘You must be so sick of playing the same songs all the time.’ I’m like, ‘No, it’s fine.’ It’s sort of the same thing with questions, you know. It’s all the same. It’s all one big blur (laughs). You know, it’s not like there’s one question I hate or one I love or one I’m indifferent to. It’s sort of all the same in a way.

Okay. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a picture of you smiling. And I may not have done enough research, but like on the cover of Educated Horses you’re doing the gruff rock star, scary dude, which I guess would contribute to the perception that you must hate giving autographs. How much of a separation is there if you’re this funny, personable guy Rob and Rob Zombie, director/performer/rock star?

To me it’s all exactly the same. I never feel . . . I don’t like to smile in photos ever. And what’s really funny is all my school photos, even my first grade photo, I’m not smiling. So not smiling in photos is just something that I’ve always done. Even in my kindergarten picture I’m not smiling, so I don’t know. I just didn’t like to smile for photos for some reason. I was scarred for life with that. But I don’t see any difference. I mean, I don’t try to put on an image. I mean, however I talk or act onstage is how I would talk or act in real life, and how I act on set when I’m directing is how I would act . . . I never wanted to concoct an image. I mean, because it’s. I don’t know. I just never thought of it that way. The way I always describe it is different portions of your personality become hyper over others, much like if you’re a football player nobody thinks you’re concocting an image, but you’re certainly not going to act the same way at dinner as you are on the football field.

Right. You’re not going to clothesline your grandmother on a blitz.

Right. Different parts come out. You know, people, like when they talk to me on the phone, they’re like, ‘Oh, you’re so mellow.’ Well, what do you want me to be, shouting over the phone like a mental patient? I don’t know. I just think it’s all me. It’s just different things that I do bring out different aspects more so than others.

Before I let the photo question go, what in particular does make you smile?

Oh I don’t know. Everything. I’m . . .

A pretty happy person?

I’m happy all the time. I don’t try to project anything else, you know, even like onstage or playing. Even though the show is dark in a way, dark elements, and it all reflects dark imagery, the big thing that me and the guys in the band always talk about is like, ‘We’re having fun.’ We want it to be fun. It’s not supposed to be depressing in any way to be at this concert, or to be a fan. So, I don’t know. It’s all good.

Well, how about lyrically? Do you have to get yourself in a certain place emotionally in order to write lyrics like “Electric black night/Crash hunger on your face”? I mean, that doesn’t sound like happy, smiley guy.

Uh, no. That’s just the stuff happy, smiley guy likes to think about.

You don’t have to make yourself pissed off or angry in order to do the songwriting thing.

Not at all. I mean, it’s kind of a funny thing. This is all the stuff that I love. Before it was a career, when I was just a kid, it’s always been the stuff that makes me happy. People that love horror movies don’t go into horror movies pissed off and angry and come out pissed off and angry. Unless they’ve seen a bad movie. You know, that’s what you love.

I’m going to let this persona thing go right after this question. But Robert Cummings has a birthday. It’s January 12, 1965. When is Rob Zombie born? I’m not looking for a date necessarily, but is this like a high school thing where it’s like, ‘Okay, now I’ll be Rob Zombie?’

No, it’s sort of like . . . I mean, I started White Zombie, the band, let’s say a year after getting out of high school or so, and you know, it just becomes . . . It wasn’t a name I invented for myself. It was more like a name other people invented for me. You know, it’s just what people started calling me. And everybody calls you that and as time goes on, that’s your name. And 20 years later, if someone’s been calling you something every single day then that’s your name. I don’t even respond to anything else. I mean, I legally changed my name because everything was so insane with it. But, you know, that’s my name. If people call me anything else I just think they’re trying to be insulting and I just ignore them.

Okay. Music and film. I’m assuming that they’re complimentary and you’ve got to have both in order to maintain a balance. Is that an unwise assumption?

I don’t know. A balance in what sense? A balance in my life, you mean?

Yeah. You would have a void if you gave up one or the other, would you not?

Oh yeah, clearly. I mean, I just like to be creating things all the time. What I love about movies is it’s such a huge, intense process. Plus the fact that I love movies. But it’s a huge, intense process, but I get to be completely behind the scenes at all times. And that’s what I love about it. But music, you know, making the records and everything, it’s the same, similarish process, but the fun part for me is the performing. That’s the big crazy release that I get in my life that you really wouldn’t get any other way except maybe if you were a sports person or something. It’s just such a crazy thing.

Does it get close to physical? If you’re behind the scenes working on a movie for a year and a half, two years, is it close to like a physical urge to go out and perform and kind of capture what you’d been missing from the movie side?

Kind of. I mean, I don’t really realize it, but I start feeling like stir crazy or something. I mean, I just think people are drawn to do certain things. It’s not like one person had a band and they got lucky and one person had a band and didn’t get lucky. I mean, everything I’ve ever done, whether it’s make music or try to make movies, the urge to do it is so strong that I feel like if I can’t do this I can’t live. I don’t want to live because I can’t find any other purpose to be alive. You know, that’s what I’ve found. Anyone who’s successful in the field that they’re in, it’s not a casual success that came about. It’s like they’ve worked on it beyond all other aspects of their life, because they can’t imagine living without it.

It’s an avocation, not a vocation. It’s not something you choose. It’s something that chooses you.

Exactly. It’s exactly like that. As soon as someone comes up to me and asks, ‘What advice do you have for a struggling band?’ my only advice is, ‘If there’s anything that will deter you, then quit now.’ Because, you know, people see the success part of your life but they don’t see, you know, the years and years and years and years of just nothing that got you to the point where maybe there was a glimmer of hope. And if that doesn’t bother you, then you’re on. Actually, even asking for advice tells me that you’ll quit, because I never asked anyone for advice because I knew I would never quit. Even when people were telling me to quit. They’re going, ‘You’re wasting your life. This is never going to happen. Why do you waste your life?’ And the only answer you can really have is, ‘Fuck you.’

I understand that ‘film’ and ‘music’ are large, general, overarching that I’m using here, but is there anything outside of film and music that propels that internal drive, that gives you that cabin fever if you don’t do it, whether it’s a hobby or something like that? Is there something else that rivals that need to do film or do music?

Um, not really. No.

So you’re not going on cross country bicycle tours or trying to build the world’s largest pyramid out of popsicle sticks.

No, because it all sort of comes from a creative thing, where like I feel like if I think of something I have to do it. Like a while ago I had this idea. This is the path like my brain will take on a subject. I thought of this idea for a comic book called The Haunted World of El Superbeasto. And it all came into my head. Okay, so then I turned it into a comic book, but really I was always seeing it as a movie. So the comic book, when I was doing it, I was spending tons of time. I wasn’t making any money on it. It seemed like, in the grand scheme of things, like ‘Why are you wasting your time?’ But then when it was done I sold it and now it’s being made into an animated movie. And that’s the way my brain works. Like once I see it, I have to do it, because it’s already, in my world, done. I can’t not make it come to life. I can’t just go, ‘Oh, I had this great idea but I never acted on it.’ Once I have the idea I have to act on it. I mean, I have so many ideas and I intend to try and accomplish all of them.

Tell me how the idea happens. Like if we’re doing a songwriter interview, I’d want to know if there’s a time of day that the songwriter’s had the most success. Do they wait for the song to come to them? Do they sit down every morning with a cup of coffee at 9? Do they have to wait to be depressed at 11:30? Is your brain working on comic books and stage design 24/7 or is there a certain time of day? Does it hit you right after your head’s hit the pillow when you really wish it would leave you alone? When does this thing spark on you?

I mean, it never really stops. I’m sort of always thinking about everything all the time, and I will always be doing something related to it. Even when it seems like I can’t. Like as soon as we end this interview I have to drive across town to go to where we’re working on the animated movie, but so that the down time in the car isn’t a complete waste of time I’ll either be listening to music that I know that we’re going to put into the movie or calling other people involved with other projects to check up on those things because, you know, simultaneously I’ve got two movies in production, a TV show and I’m putting together the tour that starts in a couple of weeks, so there’s always something. There’s never a moment where I can’t be getting a piece of something accomplished.

You are Rob Zombie, multi-tasker.

Yeah, I mean, because you have to be. There’s no other way. There’s no like, ‘Well, I’ll get to it later.’ There is no later.

There’s not enough hours in the day.

I love nothing more than to see someone who I feel works harder than me, because it’s inspiring.

And it’s probably a rare thing.

Well, you’ll see it sometimes. Like you’ll see The Biography of Martha Stewart, and you go, ‘Well, how did this woman build a billion dollar empire?’ I get it. It is that obsessiveness, and I love that. And people go, ‘You should take a vacation.’ But this is what I love. This is what makes me happy. What makes me unhappy is just feeling like I’m just sitting there like watching the clock tick and nothing’s happening.

When is the last time you had a vacation? Or what somebody might actually term a vacation?

I don’t know. A couple of years ago maybe. Even then I will be doing stuff. Like here’s a calm moment to read this book that I know is related to this thing.

So obsessive is a fair description of your personality. And that’s not a choice thing, it’s like you’re born that way, right?

Yeah, I guess. I think I’m just lucky in the sense that when you know what you love to do and you’re given the opportunity to do it, nothing is greater.


And other people that are in that situation get it. They never question it. I think it’s just people who aren’t the ones that are the most confused by it.

Well, it’s a very rare gift to be able to earn a living doing what it is you’re interested in, and doing what it is you’re good at. There are a very small percentage of people out there that have that opportunity.

It’s very difficult, because you almost have to take your life to the edge of destruction because it may never happen. But, I mean, I never look at it that way. I go, ‘Well, I know this is going to happen. I just have to keep working at it.’ You never get any real positive feedback, really, so you can’t ever let doubt enter into your mind at any given point, because everyone’s going to be a doubter. It’s very rare that someone goes, ‘You’re amazing. Go for it.’ It’s usually, ‘What are doing?’

Obviously the new record and the tour are going really well because you’ve just added a third leg. But this second leg that you’re playing place like Casper, Wyoming and Saskatoon and Sioux Falls and Fort Wayne. This isn’t New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. Is there a conscious thought that you need to go out and play the middle markets?

Well, the conscious thought is we just went through all the major cities like a month ago, so usually the way it goes is the second leg of the tour usually goes through the next level down markets. Which, for me, those are my favorite markets. Because those are always the best shows.

Is that because the audience is more appreciative? That they don’t have big rock stars coming through all that often?

I think so. You know, you live in Manhattan or L.A., I mean, what is there that you’re not getting? You’re getting so overloaded with everything that you’re so jaded, but when you go to like Salem, Oregon or Fargo, North Dakota, those kids don’t get everything all day every day, so they go bananas and it’s a blast. I mean, my favorite show of the last tour, literally my favorite show of the whole tour was Peoria, probably, because it was like insane.

But it’s not just audience response. The positive response has a positive effect on your performance and it kind of feeds off each other?

Oh, yeah. That’s why I always think performing is like a sport. Like when a team plays in their own arena and the crowd is insane, it can’t help but make them play better.

All right. I know you’ve got a crosstown drive ahead of you, but I’m a huge Pee Wee fan from way back.

Oh, yeah.

Which Pee Wee character is your favorite? And what did you learn from the Pee Wee experience? Was it anything other than just a job?

Well, it was and it wasn’t. I mean, I was already a Pee Wee Herman fan before the show. I’d seen a couple of things, like the HBO Young Comedians Stand-up thing, ensemble shows. And I had seen the thing that would be the pilot for Pee Wee's Playhouse. He did this sort of stage show. So I was already a fan. I liked him and I thought he was great. So the place I was working was called Broadcast Arts. You know, they already existed. They mostly just did TV commercials and stuff. So when I heard they were doing the show I was excited because I was already a fan of Paul Reubens. I mean, that was always my favorite character on the show. I always thought the character of Pee Wee was genius.

Last question and I’ll let you go and thank you so much for your time. What record have you listened to most in your life?

Possibly Kiss Destroyer. It’s one of the first records I ever had.

You listen to the same album more when you only have like three to choose from.

Yeah, like when you’re a kid and your record collection is huge and it consists of ten records. So it’d be something like Alice Cooper Welcome to My Nightmare, Kiss Destroyer, Beatles’ White Album, you know. That’s when you listen to records so much that you destroy them.

Oh, yeah. The grooves wear down until there are crackles and pops. But would those records be the holy trinity of your musical youth?

Yeah, those are all hugely significant. I listened to all of those thousands of times.


Monday, July 5, 2010

amazon's $5 downloads for july: the highlights

so another month (though we're now five days in) and another 100 albums offered by Amazon for a mere $5 each.
here are the highlights:

if you only have $5 to spend:
assuming you purchased Arcade Fire's Neon Bible last month like you were supposed to, here's your chance to finish your AF collection (until the new Suburbs album comes out in August - by the way, if you think Suburbs isn't a big deal, know that's currently the #67 best-selling album on Amazon, and the album doesn't come out for another month).
Funeral, currently the latest and greatest release (again, until August) from, again, quite possibly the most important band in the world.
(and if that's not enough, here's your "oh yeah" or "a-ha" moment: "Wake Up" is that majestic tune that accompanied the Where The Wild Things Are trailer for so many months)

other "indie" releases on independent labels:
Camera Obscura's Let's Get Out of This Country,
Passion Pit's Manners and the Drive-By Truckers' The Big To-Do.

slightly less "indie" bands on significantly less indie labels:
the James Mercer/Danger Mouse collaboration Broken Bells, Plastic Beach by Gorillaz and MGMT's Oracular Spectacular debut (yep, the one with "Time to Pretend").

classic alt-rock:
Pearl Jam's Ten (definitely their best) and Smashing Pumpkins' Gish (though not Siamese Dream(which is just $5.99), still pretty early enough that's pretty damn good).

and long-ago classic Bowie, long-ago classic Aerosmith and pretty damn recent near-classic Haggard:
Hunky Dory, Toys in the Attic and I Am What I Am.

keep in mind that Amazon's offering another 38 or so downloadable albums for $5 each that I haven't mentioned, including offerings by R.E.M., Radiohead, Modest Mouse, Crowded House, Daft Punk, Joan Jett, M. Ward, Jakob Dylan, Greg Laswell, Lenny Kravitz, Indigo Girls, Silversun Pickups, Sade, Blondie, Adele, Cake, Spoon, Superchunk, The Whigs, The Band, The Shins, The Strokes, The National, Norah Jones as well as things far, far removed from my playlist (but maybe not far from yours if you watch American Idol or the Disney Channel for anything other than The Incredibles) like Justin Timberlake, Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Miley Cyrus, Jordin Sparks and David Cook.