Martin's Posts

Blood, Muscles, Bones, Street Eaters

  Photo: Shanty Cheryl

Photo: Shanty Cheryl

Holy crap, the new Street Eaters LP is perfect. From the backwards-masked vortex that leads into “Reverse,” one is immediately sucked into a brutally even struggle between drumstick wielder Megan March and guitar killer John No–each trading animalistic vocals as they trade primal beats and post-punk riffs like heavyweight boxers trading blows. And just as there’s no time for musical filler, there’s no space for lyrical stupidity, either. The sound may be rough but the songs are smart and solid and  suitable for those of us who grew up on indie punk as well as the crusty kids that use dental floss to sew patches onto their black Army surplus jackets.

After listening to the brand-new, hand-stamped CD (that comes in a stitched jacket) for weeks nonstop, I shot over some questions to the real-life couple/post-punk pair. Naturally, they answered my queries as a duo and from the road. Can’t wait until they finally roll into SoCal next month…


Blood::Muscles::Bones is a pretty stark title. Or does science necessarily equal bleakness?
The title was intended to evoke the bare necessities of life–in a sense, cutting out all the extra baggage that holds us back. Blood, muscles, and bones are vital components of the body that are found in every part of it and are always growing, changing, and moving. That sense of movement+change is also key to understanding how we approached making this record, which is about self-preservation and survival. I’m not sure if it was intended to feel bleak; rather, strong and real. Sometimes, if you want to build yourself to a place of strength, you have to face the bleakness head-on and accept it for what it is.

That first song is a real ass kicker! Street Eaters’ sound isn’t about studio tricks in any way, but the backwards tape part is so perfect for a song called “Reverse.” Can you tell me about that?
We do like to keep things raw and intense, which is something that can totally be lost along the way with a lot of studio tricks. We recorded onto 2-inch analog tape at Buzz or Howl Studios with Stan Wright, keeping things driving, and he did an old-school board mix in the studio. Non-digital, so if we wanted to change something we’d have to set the levels and mix it all over again from scratch. We decided to do the intro for “Reverse” after the song was already recorded, and we had a minute to think about it. We basically just picked a part of the song and ran it backwards, did some wild stereo panning, and it sounded perfect. (more…)



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Dinosaur Jr with Dale from the Melvins for Marshall Headphones; 7 Seconds with CH3 at The Roxy

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Holy crap, I just saw Dinosaur Jr. play a free show on a backyard porch with Dale Crover from the Melvins on drums. If you don’t get it, that’s sort of like seeing AC/DC with Jon Bonham, Metallica with Dave Lombardo, or you get the idea. Nothing against the real lineup–which rules–but this was a rad, one-time event that you had to be at. (more…)



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The Mural at Wirtz Elementary School

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My buddy and fifth-grade teacher invited me to a mural painting at his school in Paramount, CA, last weekend and it was rad. Visiting artists for this second annual outing included Dustin Klein and Rich Jacobs from Oakland, Tim Kerr from Austin, and Koji and Kota Toyoda, Yosuke Hanai, and Hi Dutch from Japan.

What a killer collection of artists and how cool did the completed mural look. The school faculty and parent volunteers that I met on Sunday were thrilled. On Monday, it was the kids’ turn to be blown away.

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Building up to the weekend, 130 or so fifth graders were invited to submit art inspired by the visiting artists as well as Shepard Fairy, Albert Reyes, Mel Kadel, Keji Ito, and Thomas Campbell. The pieces were displayed in the cafeteria, and on Monday there was not only a viewing but an old-time music concert by Tim Kerr with his pal David Bragger followed by video presentations from the artists. In each clip, the artists applauded the students’ creativity, shared some favorite pieces, and then gave away artwork as motivation for the lucky ones to develop their art.

Of course, Erik is very happy with the sense of community, campus beautification, and excitement among students that his brainchild has spawned. But even better, he says that the students who are put in the spotlight aren’t always the most academically or socially successful kids. Being recognized for their unique thinking and creativity gives them a reason to be interested in school–and stoked on life in general.

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Unhappy with the defunding of the arts in his classroom, Erik started the program about five years ago by asking some of his favorite artists to participate. To see it grow, inspire kids, and create a partnership with other teachers, the principal, local businesses, and the PTA is as inspiring as it is cool.

I love that my generation of peers who grew up on punk rock, skateboarding, outsider art, and other DIY ways of thinking are changing the world like Erik is. Congrats to Erik, the artists, and the sponsors, and bravo to the supporters in the PTA, faculty, and district. Can’t wait to see next year’s event as well as the ripples of awesomeness to come.



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Preview of The Future Crew (E3! Edition)/LA Game Space benefit w/ Daedulus, Starry Kitchen, Attract Mode, and other homies

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I would go to this anyway. Daedulus seems to perform more often in Europe and Asia than in his hometown of L.A. (DJ sets or otherwise) and Starry Kitchen’s tofu balls are always welcome in my mouth (usually on Friday afternoons in banh mi form). But even better, Monday night’s event at The Well (which also features contributions from Doseone, Daniel Rehn, The Future Crew…) is a fundraiser with proceeds going toward LA Game Space, our city’s very own experimental, open source, and very cool epicenter of video games supporting innovation, education, and exhibitions.

Sounds rad, right? On top of that, Devolver Digital will have four playable games projected as well as on HDTVs.  Attract Mode co-founder/LA Game Space director Adam Robezzoli carved out a little time to answer some of my questions about this excellent event, which was planned in conjunction with Unwinnable.

This will be a super fun evening on its own, but can you talk about its purpose and why you’re doing it on Monday?
People from all over the world are in town for E3, so it’s a great opportunity to come together as a community and help raise funds for LA Game Space.

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Why it will be awesome?
The music! We have a ton of great musicians performing and DJing including Daedelus, Doseone, Chrome Canyon, Grimecraft, and Arcane Kids. Daedelus and Doseone actually composed two of the best soundtracks to two of the best games released in the last year (Nidhogg and Samurai Gunn).

Add to that live video synthesis from Sam Newell and Evan Shamoon with more videos by Johnny Woods and Daniel Rehn. Plus, there will be official screenings of demoscene productions by The Future Crew between sets.

And everyone’s favorite underground restaurant gone legit, Starry Kitchen, will be slinging tofu balls and more house specialties all night.

What’s one aspect of the event that you are particularly excited about?
Many people at the event will be experiencing the demos by The Future Crew for the first time. These 10-minute A/V experiments were made in the computer underground of the early 1990s and still look incredible, which is even more amazing when you realize they are only the size of an iPhone photo!

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More info at Future Crew E3! Edition’s Facebook event page or go straight to ticketing at Eventbrite. Seeya at The Well on Monday night! Support indie video gaming!



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Q&A with Josh Landau of The Shrine

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Like a lot of guys, I’m guilty of mostly listening to all the old bands I grew up on, but holy crap I love The Shrine. The young power trio from Venice plays unironic, razor sharp, and totally fun metal in the tradition of Motörhead with cosmic riffs from outer space like Thin Lizzy and the good times of Van Halen. Yet they are also informed by the stony heaviness of Sabbath and aggro DIY spirit of Black Flag–which is why they have a bitchin’ split 7″ covering songs by both of the bands. But even better is their amazing new LP, Bless Off, which takes off like a rocket straight into your nearest earhole and flies out your ass. The quality of songs, chops, and riffs blew me away.

I met the guys after their killer set at The Roxy a few weeks ago and they happened to be the coolest dudes ever. I went ahead and asked some questions to singer and axeman Josh Landau afterward…

MW: Can you hypothesize why Bless Off shreds so hard when many bands fall short in their second effort?
JL: We’re influenced by stuff with roots–ripping off guitar riffs from old stuff that’s withstood the test of time–and there’s an infinite well of inspiration in that shit. We’re not looking out for what wave is popular right now for 5 minutes.

MW: While you guys always seem to have fun, you are a super tight band. How did you guys meet and how long have you known each other? How would you describe each guy’s contributions to the combo?
JL: We’ve been a band a little over 5 years now. I met our drummer Jeff when he moved out here from Baltimore ’cause he couldn’t get a band together out there. Court and I had flipped out over Thin Lizzy at a party a month or two before that. When we all jammed together for the first time, I realized that just the three of us could make enough noise and decided to just get shit going. We had all been playing music for years, and liked the power of being tight and hitting the nail on the head all together at the same time. So we practiced, I started singing, and we worked at it until we could do it in our sleep.

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MW: Is writing songs something that just happens when you’re hanging out and jamming? Or are you killing yourselves, fixing, refining, battling amongst each other?
JL: We used to jam a lot more, like 5 or 6 hours a day, 5 times a week. The first few years of the band we didn’t know what else to do and didn’t want to do anything else. We didn’t tour yet, and had to work really hard to get on a show or to set up our own shows, so we just spent a lot of time jamming and tripping out. The songwriting usually comes out of riffs I make up while sitting on the toilet playing guitar. Nowadays, we’ve been learning new songs as we record them, trying to catch some of the good mistakes that come out and the energy that happens when ya play something new for the first time and are still fighting to get it right–before you totally wire it into your brain and get confident and lazy.

MW: The title cut is amazing. Kinda reminds me of C.O.C.’s “Holier” or Slayer’s “The Crooked Cross” but way more upbeat. Can you talk about being skeptical yet stoked at the same time?
JL: For sure. Around every corner and on every news headline you can’t help but feel in your gut that the human race is totally screwed and on its way out. When ya look at history, freedom seems to build–civil rights, womens rights, segregation, the church’s influence on people–for the last hundred years, all that stuff in this country seemed to really change for the better. But now it kinda seems like it’s all being removed secretly and no one talks about it. I’m not an informed person at all, but it just seems like police brutality and the people in power’s actions toward poor people, sick people, and unfortunate people are at an all-time fuck you. I’m totally skeptical of anyone with “answers” or conspiracy info, too. People and their Internet statistics are shit. Some 9/11 conspiracy site I saw once also had some bullshit about the recreational swimming pool for the guests at Auschwitz. What are you gonna do with that info anyway? I’m super thankful of where I grew up and where I live, and that people aren’t dropping bombs right here and I don’t have to steal to eat or get clean water. As fucked as things are, a lot of people I see complaining have got it so much better than most of the world and they don’t appreciate it. If you’re not gonna fight to try make some kinda positive difference that’s fine; you don’t have to. I don’t really do much. But at least be stoked on what you do have and fucking live. When the lady on the corner starts preaching to you about needing God in your life and a tie around your neck, you can tell her to bless off. (more…)



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Magic of Japan Week in review (a.k.a. Return to The Magic Castle)

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Magic of Japan Week 2014 at The Magic Castle came and went and it was totally rad. And not just because I got to hang out with two kick-ass magicians from Japan and take some pictures inside a camera-free club. No, it was awesome because it was the same as it always is: a claustrophobic, creepy, and uncool members-only spot where you can see close-up, irony-free tricks and illusions performed by magicians for magicians. You need to know one to gain entry to the enigmatic mansion at the base of the Hollywood Hills. This time, the talent just happened to be from Japan. (more…)



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Q&A with Kevin Seconds on Leave a Light On (Brand-new 7 Seconds!)

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The new 7Seconds album is awesome. It’s one thing to hear kids singing exuberant, straight-from-the-heart punk songs about walking together and rocking together. It’s another to hear adults who not only cling to the idealism and activism but rip at the art of hardcore after 30 years. Songs like “Exceptional” and “Slogan on a Shirt” are at once tangible and humble yet experienced and intelligent. And while certain lyrics hint at being weary (“Who wants to be sequestered in Another State of Mind?” ), there are no signs of being jaded. I love the dream sequence in “Heads Are Bound To Roll” in which The Clash plays one last show and Kevin gets to sing “Death or Glory” with them. Meanwhile, the hyper melodic title song “Leave a Light On” can be as literal or poetic as you want–perhaps a side effect of Kevin Seconds’ acoustic gigs between 7Seconds releases and shows.

Needless to say, I was all over a chance to ask Kevin about the new 7Seconds LP, his most recent acoustic work, and just plain making passionate, powerful music for 34 years and counting. Maybe next time I’ll ask him about his painting… (more…)



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An interview with Justin Trosper from Survival Knife and Unwound

  Photo: Ben Clark

Photo: Ben Clark

When Survival Knife played at The Echo a couple of weeks ago, I was stoked to see so many friends coming out of the woodwork to check them out. People that hardly go to shows any more, and they not only stood by the stage but also lined up to buy merch afterward. Yet it was anything but shocking. The Olympia band’s debut LP is equally noisy and beautiful, with layers of texture and riffs that recall the patient geometry of Hot Snakes as much as the power of Unwound, the band that singer and guitarist Justin Trosper and guitarist Brandt Sandeno previously formed in 1991. (Need I mention that a certain demographic loves Unwound just like they do Fugazi or Shellac?) So their reuniting after 20 years and recharging with rhythm unit Meg and Kris Cunningham is a big deal. I couldn’t not corner Justin when the band blew through L.A.

MW: Survival Knife has a really tight, solid sound. The band is new to a lot of us but it seems like you four have been honing the songs and chemistry for a while…
JT: The band started in 2011 and practiced for about a year until playing a show–we weren’t in a hurry! The combination of people is an interesting dynamic with Brandt and myself having a musical history that goes back about 25 years, playing with Kris, who has a separate but equally lengthy musical experience of his own, and Meg, who is a relatively newcomer to being in bands. So the songs go through a variety of filters before becoming what they are. We all have preconceptions and habits that need to be questioned, but I think it works out for the most part. The editing table gets a lot of use, although people might not believe me since we have songs that are eight minutes long!

  Photo: Ben Clark

Photo: Ben Clark

MW: How did your time away from music after Unwound broke up in 2002 affect you as  a musician? Do you see it or approach it differently now?
JT: From high school to about the age of 30, I was headlong into the music scene and bands. My identity was very much attached to all that. So walking away was actually pretty challenging but ultimately a better thing for me as an individual and citizen of the world, so to speak. Even though bands can be a special thing, in long-term situations they can turn people into grumpy old dads with misanthropic tendencies, who are a chore to be around.

MW: Was it easy to recover your groove? Did you have a ton of energy and ideas ready to unload on the world or was there some rust?
JT: It feels easy for me. I’m in better physical and mental shape than I was before and, yes, I had a bunch of creative energy bottled up. I don’t have enough time to get it all out there so I’m trying to figure out a way to manage that. Planning ahead is more important for me now so I don’t lose ideas and energy. It’s exciting to be doing Survival Knife but, like before, I need a separate outlet to work on other stuff. So I have another thing that doesn’t have a name or an overriding concept. It’s waiting to emerge… (more…)



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Show reviews: Save Music in Chinatown 3 with Chuck Dukowski Sextet and California, more California, The Shrine, ARCTIC, Survival Knife…

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Holy crap, our third Save Music in Chinatown benefit concert for music education at Castelar Elementary came and went and it kicked ass! The co-headliners Chuck Dukowski Sextet (above, featuring the legendary bassist of Black Flag) and California (with members of Jawbreaker and Green Day) were stellar but first there was Bitter Party (below). (more…)



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Meet the Bear and Little Nun (Save Music in Chinatown)

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The Bear and Little Nun was a last-minute addition to the Save Music in Chinatown 3 lineup. But the experimental/soulful duo is a perfect fit for the benefit not only because Mark Baar and Noni Rigmaiden are Castelar parents but also because of roots in O.G. Chinatown punk rock and modern Shanghai club culture (with Atlanta and Bay Area jazz and R&B connections, to boot). Their special set on Sunday, May 18 and Human Resources will be their live debut.

Your duo seems pretty unlikely. Can you talk about your totally different backgrounds and how you got together?
In many ways I think we are a most likely duo. But I do admit that our chances of meeting were a kind of serendipitous event. I write experimental music and came out of L.A. punk rock in the late ’70s but quit that style of music when hardcore hit in the early ‘80s and got into noise and artsy music. Noni came from a musical home, sang in church, and had huge voice but was into punk rock up in Oakland as a teen. The she went to CalArts to broaden her already amazing vocal chops. We just did our searching in different decades.

I had been looking for a woman to sing on an electronic instrumental album and, of course, this being L.A., the more I looked around the more I was sure I was never going to meet her. Then, on the first day of this school year, there were Noni and Zara. They had just moved to Chinatown from Atlanta so her daughter could be in the Chinese immersion program at Castelar, which my son attends. I had no idea she was in the Atlanta or Bay Area jazz and R&B scenes with major players, and that she is this intensely trained yet profoundly original soulful singer who loves experimental and crazy instrumental music yet is very approachable.

So one day I said something about music and she said something about music, too. And from there she came over and listened and l was blessed. Noni gets music–all kinds of music—and loves it in the same way I do. So it works great. Noni always lets me be me; I am odd and play my stuff and she just blows it up with her voice. And we both write lyrics, too, and we get each other. Everything happens just as it is supposed to.

What’s it like to dive back into making music after taking a lengthy detour through food and business? Is there anything familiar about it or is everything brand new?
I am that nerd that has always played–no matter what instruments I have around in my life. When I opened restaurants and clubs in Shanghai for a few years, I took a Strat, an interface, and a computer, and my son. I worked seven days a week and still played and made music. For years I didn’t think it was possible to do anything with it. Between my own fears, my unwillingness to deal with my own crap ideas, and life in general, music was what it was: nerdy, noisy self-expression I did alone to kept sane.

But now that I have told the job to piss off (and my wife’s blessing was a huge thing for me) I can do what I have wanted to do for years now. I am not only making tons of music but have started a label that will release an album this year. I am also producing music and trying to be a real contributor to the music community in as many ways as I can.

Some stuff I think is just the same as when I was a younger. But it is a new era of laptop studios and sounds I could only dream of making at my fingertips. I really believe that with the new abilities we have in the tech and digital worlds, the next generation of music is going to be even more dynamic and amazing than anything that has happened in my lifetime. I want to be a part of it and really push for it.

Have you revisited your old music at all? How do you think it stands up?
No, not at all. My old punk stuff was pre-hard core, and I could talk about this band or that band I played with or was on a tour with but, as I said, when ’82 rolled in and hardcore was what punk would become, I moved on and into the world of the Art Bears. Or The Birthday Party or Eno and Cale. Noisy eclectic stuff no one ever listened to except for my band and 50 people at some art gallery in San Fran or Portland. It was what it was. I mean, I got to play with Frith and some other really cool people in the mid and late ’80s but I have no romantic notions of the past of any kind. Some amazing stuff happened. Some of it made a impact or has relevance, for sure. But I was just a kid doing what kids do naturally, so why look back when the whole world is opening up today right in front of us?

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You did witness the original Chinatown punk scene, though. Can you describe any shows or tell a story from back in the day?
I thought about this all day since Chuck is doing this gig. That’s so great of him and his family. And I am sure in those days that no one ever thought there would be any real connection between Chinatown and the punk scene or its legacy members. But it was an odd marriage that worked really well for a bit. I do have some heroes from those days that were driving forces for me to explore music. Black Flag, The Middle Class, X, and some others played shows down here for about two years and that meant something then.

So I thought I would remember one night and I wonder if Chuck recalls the story as I will tell it now. Keith was still in Flag, we were at the Hong Kong Café, and Dinah Cancer, Lorna Doom, and I were drunk. I can’t remember why I was with them or where their usual cohorts were (mine were downstairs in the plaza getting into trouble) but Bowie was at a side table with a date. Keith was doing the whole fall-off-the-tiny-stage thing, Greg was on the right, Chuck was on the left, and some tables went crash. Dinah or Lorna or both of them were screaming at me to get Bowie’s cigarette butts from the ashtray. I was a little drunk, confused, and unsure of everything but I was willing, so I leapt in to grab Bowie’s ashtray off the table when his totally tall, gorgeous date whose top was falling open said over all the noise, “Really? Why don’t you just sit down and ask?” So I did. Bowie sad something like, “Great band, eh?” I was maybe 17 or 18, and didn’t really know what to think or do, so I just sat there as the band and crowd went off. Keith finally ended up on the floor and Bowie got up, and some really huge guys walked him out. I think that was the summer of ’79 or so.

More really crazy stuff happened that evening, but at the end of the show we ended up at some rehearsal space in San Pedro or Long Beach, I think, and I had to take the bus back to Hollywood the next morning after Flag and others played all night. That was just another night in those days.

What are some of your favorite things about Chinatown today?
Chinatown for me is people. My son was born at Pacific, which is right across from Castelar Elementary. We live here, my wife is from Shanghai, and we walk a lot to visit galleries, eat out, and shop. I speak fourth-grade level Chinese and hang out with the old folks dancing in the morning or doing tai chi at Alpine Park where my kid hangs in the after-school program. We know all the parents and kids.

To me, Chinatown is a community that has real Angelinos in it. It is a huge immigrant neighborhood, but unlike the rest of the city they don’t come here from the Midwest to be actors or celebs or on TV. They raise families, fight, drink, eat, work, send their kids to school, shop, or do whatever but they become residents and don’t have a need for the faux life L.A. that so many fools are attracted to. They are living in and building a community that is crazy in its differences: 20 kinds of Chinese, Latinos from Mexico to Peru, some black folks, and some white guys like me. No one cares much about any of that stuff, but everyone cares about what you do and who you are as a person. It is by far my favorite hood in the city.

And what’s next for your band?
The Bear and Little Nun have our fist five-song EP coming out September 1. It’s going to be called James Bond’s Dream. We’re going to be on my label called Jawseybruce Records, and I hope that we can put together some kind of west coast tour dates to show it off. I am really hoping to do some college radio shows, too. Then there is the full-length LP, but for now Noni and I are just being playful. I look for a lot from her with regard to performing. She is a honed performer who simply glows and loves to play live, and I am really digging being allowed to show up with her and play some music we care about. I hope that others can get behind it, too.

Anything else you wan to add?
Thanks for your ability to bring such cool people here to help out. Getting instruments to the kids is a very important thing, and I am really thankful to everyone giving their time and energy to this event.

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The Save Music in Chinatown benefit will take place on Sunday, May 18 at the Human Resources gallery in Chinatown. For more information about the show, which raises money for music education at the mostly immigrant and working-class inner-city school, visit the Facebook event page or Eventbrite ticketing page.



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Meet Bitter Party (Save Music in Chinatown 3)

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The Chuck Dukowski Sextet and California have serious roots in L.A. punk rock. They come from Black Flag and Jawbreaker, respectively, and represent critical and cool moments in the DIY music scene in Chinatown and L.A. in general. But don’t show up late to Sunday’s Save Music in Chinatown 3 matinee and miss Bitter Party. This quartet is also uniquely appropriate for the benefit concert, taking inspiration and energy from Taiwanese and Vietnamese immigrant culture as well as the contemporary art scene. Here’s what the members have to say:

Wendy Hsu (electronics, keys, guitar, vox)
Nathan Lam Vuong (violin, viola, vox)
Linda Wei (bass, vox)
Carey Sargent (drums, guitar, vox)

How did Bitter Party get together? Can you talk about the band’s academic and conceptual roots?
Wendy: We met through events at Concord (an arts space in Cypress Park) and bike repair at Flying Pigeon. Over time, we realized our mutual love for bitter melons and bitter drinks like IPAs and Chinese herbal tea. Our name Bitter Party actually came from the parties that we had with friends where we ate lots of bitter things to rejoice summer abundance and companionship. Beyond that, bitterness refers to the melancholy war-era and postwar music that fuels our musical energy. As a band, we come together, or “party,” to remember our past and to provoke a communion over of tribulations. (more…)



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Save Music in Chinatown 3 (My Perfect Day)

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Back in the stone age/print era, we used to have a section of Giant Robot mag where we would invite friends and family to share My Perfect Day. Sometimes they were were artists, musicians, or filmmakers providing a glimpse into their awesome lives. More often they were regular dudes like you or me, simply enjoying and showing off their beloved hometowns.

I’ve been blogging a lot about the rad bands that are playing our next DIY punk matinee (The Chuck Dukowski Sextet, California) as well as how it’s going to benefit public schoolkids in Chinatown by paying for their music education. So you already know about it being a killer show for a great cause. But it’s also important to me is that people come to the neighborhood where my grandparents, in-laws, and now my daughter have spend time and have a rad day. (more…)



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Adam Pfahler of California (and Jawbreaker) on Save Music in Chinatown 3

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As soon as I found out that my pal Adam Pfahler was in a new band that was starting to play shows, I asked him if they would play our next Save Music in Chinatown benefit. And then they said yes. Wow. The group not only features Adam (who was in Jawbreaker, J Church, Whysall Lane, all among my favorite bands) but Jason White (from Monsula, Pinhead Gunpowder, Green Day, and a bunch of other favorite bands) and Dustin Clark (The Insides, who I’m guessing that I’ll love). So cool of them to book their first SoCal tour around our punk matinee/benefit show for music education at Castelar Elementary that will take place on Sunday, May 18.

How could I not ask him some questions about playing in Chinatown, the new band, some old bands, and an old friend…

Most people think of you as a Bay Area guy but you grew up in L.A. Did you ever get to see any punk shows in Chinatown?
I remember going to the Hong Kong Cafe after shows to drink coffee and listen to the jukebox but never saw a show there. Maybe it was a bit before my time. I’m sure I’ve been to shows at Madame Wong’s in the mid-eighties but I couldn’t tell you who I saw!

Jawbreaker had a band meeting there once around the time we were practicing in Highland Park before recording our first album. It wasn’t a venue at that point and was just a bar and restaurant. So we’re having a beer and bao there one afternoon and out of nowhere a fight breaks out between these two really tough Chinese girls. They’re full-on punching each other in the face. Like, shit’s falling off tables and everything. It’s so gnarly that everyone in the restaurant pretends that it isn’t happening. One of the girls screams, “Fuck you, you two-bit Jawbreaker!” Blake says, “Hey, that’s our band!” I say, “That’s it–the name stays.” (more…)



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The Chuck Dukowski Sextet on Save Music in Chinatown 3

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Holy crap! I still can’t believe Chuck Dukowski Sextet is going to play our next Save Music in Chinatown punk rock matinee/benefit show. I’ve never met the original bass player for Black Flag in person–although I’ve talked to him on the phone and seen him play a few times (pics below)–so it was a long shot when I asked. But not only were he and his wife/partner/collaborator/inspiration Lora Norton down but he added that they were fans of GR magazine and loved Chinatown, too. Yes, I have been stoked ever since.

To get all of you as amped up for the show as I am, here’s a quick Q&A with Chuck and Lora about their post-punk jazz combo, family, art, and Chinatown.

MW: So amped that your combo will be playing our benefit for kids in Chinatown. Can you tell me about the Sextet’s impressions on the neighborhood? Memories of music or otherwise?
CD: I’ll always remember playing The Hong Kong Cafe with Black Flag. It was an important rite of passage. At the time The Hong Kong was the place that you really strived to play. I remember seeing The Germs, X, The Plugz, and so many great bands in Chinatown. The whole plaza became a punk rock mecca. If people couldn’t afford to get inside, they would hang out outside where they could still hear the music. I always made of point of paying to see bands because I wanted to support everyone’s efforts. Back then almost every band you saw was really good.

LN: Chinatown is one of the best places in Los Angeles. Just recently, Chuck and I went to an opening at Shepard Fairey’s gallery on Sunset and we went to eat at Ocean Seafood on Hill. We often have Dim Sum there, too. I bought a beautiful and weird sculpture of rats and peaches at Wing Hop Fung on Broadway. That is the best store! I love the architectural aesthetic of Chinatown; it’s so over the top. I am glad to see all the art galleries but I wish they still had venues for bands!

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MW: I saw that the CD6 played Historical Monument #157 recently, which is just north of Chinatown on Broadway. How was that spot? That gig?
LN: We had a great time at HM157! It is a beautiful old Victorian mansion with colored glass windows and a lovely big porch. I am an architecture nerd so it was a real joy to play the spot. When I was a teenager no one dared to have shows somewhere so pretty and fragile. The audience would just destroy things. It is life affirming that young audiences can dig heavy music yet not thrash their environment. And I have the best time playing with young bands. I feel very lucky to play in a band with my oldest son and that his generation embraces us.

MW: It seems like the CD6 just starting to play out a bunch of shows. Do you get into music mode sometimes or do shows just happen in clusters naturally and you roll with it?
LN: Chuck always wants to play every gig! I used to be more critical and choosy about shows but ultimately I realized that it’s hard to tell if a show will be great or not! Big size does not always make the funnest gig. It is amazing to play for a large crowd but sometimes a small gig with the right audience is even better!

CD: We will be playing San Francisco in June. We are going to see our son Isaac graduate from UCSC and then do a SF gig with the band Frightwig.

MW: I have to admit that after I totally gushed about the Eat Your Life CD in Giant Robot way back when, I have been out of the loop regarding CD6. Can you tell me a little bit about how the band has evolved since then?
LN: I think the biggest difference from our first album is the evolution of our son Milo’s musicianship. When we started he was only 16, but now his songwriting and playing have just exploded. He reads and writes music and he practices for hours everyday. He makes me proud–especially since I have not been the kind of parent that forces his or her children to practice their instruments! Milo is a world-class guitar player and when you add the fact that he is a professional contortionist/acrobat, we can put on quite a family show!

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MW: Lora, your visual art has always been a big part of the band’s releases and flyers. Can you tell me what you’re up to in these days as far as illustration and design go?
LN: Chuck has always encouraged me to make the covers and fliers for the CD6. He is very generous with encouragement. I don’t make “punk” art like Raymond Pettibon or even Shepard Fairey. I don’t fit with hardcore purists. I just have to make what is beautiful to me. I am working on illustrations for our new release, which has a sort of dark fairy tale theme. I also wrote and illustrated a children’s book. I keep thinking about doing a more adult-illustrated story but I need to work a bit harder! That last year has been pretty crazy with the FLAG lawsuit and everything…

MW: I’m not going to get into the Black Flag lawsuit because the only real thing that we need to know is that it’s over. Chuck, what are some other things that you’re gonna catch up/dig in on now that large amounts of your time and energy are yours again?
CD: We are going to release the new CD6 album and I hope that we will be performing more. I want to play music with new people and see where that leads, too. I am excited about all the projects by the kids in our family. Mira has another new book coming out and Milo has a fucking great solo project as well as music with Insects Vs. Robots.

MW: I love how you play with FLAG (FYF was super fun and I was at the GV30 show at the Santa Monica Civic, too) but also hang with young bands like No Age and The Shrine. How do you stay in touch with new sounds? Do you approach the bands? Do they hit you up?
CD: I genuinely love new music and to be around people who are engaged in making something fresh. The guys from The Shrine and No Age are stellar people. I like to be open to people and not be elitist or jaded. The CD6 is a family band and an intergenerational band. I consciously try to share information and experiences with younger bands. The divide between generations of artists is negative. There are so many ways we can all help each other.

MW: Anything else that you just gotta share?
LN: A photo of me and my oldest daughter Mira was in one of the earliest issues of Giant Robot. We went to go see Ultraman fight Baltan at a convention and someone from your magazine took our picture! I have learned about some of my favorite artists, like Junko Mizuno, through Giant Robot magazine. I’m a big fan!

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For more information about the benefit, which happens on Sunday, May 18 at Human Resources, check out the Save Music in Chinatown 3 Facebook event page. For ticketing, there’s the Eventbrite page, too.



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Welcome to the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival 2014

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Tomorrow night, Visual Communications will kick off its 30th annual Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival. That’s a real milestone and I’m happy to volunteer as one of the programming committee for my second year. So I’ll get to attend the gala opening screening of To Be Takei (I hope I see some Starfleet members) and then get ready to watch some import, indie, and arty movies…

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On Friday night, I have the pleasure of introducing Lisa Takeba’s The Pinkie. Combining crime, gore, and other genres that I love, it’s as colorful as it is energetic. It’s going to be a kick to watch on a big screen with a hopefully boisterous audience.

Yes, Lisa will be in attendance for a Q&A afterward and so will representatives from “Unusual Targets,” a short that will accompany it. That will be cool and that doesn’t happen when you stay home and watch movies on your computer.

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On Sunday at noon, I’ll get to introduce another indie import. Miko Livelo’s Blue Bustamante addresses the series topic of Overseas Filipino Workers and mashes it up with vintage Japanese sentai shows. You know, masked Power Rangers.

There’s no Q&A afterward, but when will you ever get to see a movie like this on the big screen? Of course, this movie and The Pinkie are perfect movies to be presented by Giant Robot.

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On Sunday night, I present one more movie. Lordville is the latest documentary by the hugely respected arthouse director Rea Tajiri. It’s a spooky and beautiful and real study of her adopted hometown, which happens to be a ghost town.

LORDVILLE Trailer from Rea Tajiri on Vimeo.

Yes, Rea will be in attendance for a post-screening Q&A to answer the many questions that will arise. Won’t you attend, too? Support indie, imported, and Asian cinema! See you there!



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Show Reviews: OFF! at The Roxy, Bryan Ferry at Club NOKIA, JSBX at The Echo, CH3 at Left of the Dial

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Is OFF! the gnarliest band in the universe? The members’ chops came out of heavy bands like Black Flag, Circle Jerks, Redd Kross, and Rocket from the Crypt and they are complemented and pushed by each other’s unique badassness. That’s why they can tour with young, up-and-coming, and hungry punks like NASA Space Universe and Cerebral Ballzy without seeming like fossils. Instead, they’re the badass godfathers.

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The vocals of Keith Morris are the blueprint for angry, pissed-off hardcore but they come off as brand new with the ripping guitar of Dimitri Coats, percolating bass of Steve McDonald, and massive drums of Mario Rubalcaba. The raging set was drawn pretty evenly from the essential first four EPs, bitchin’ self-titled debut, and the darker-than-crap follow-up. I loved it when Keith chided a girl for trying to take the playlist mid-set without asking by saying, “Don’t be a Republican.” And then followed, “Don’t be a Democrat, either.”

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I’ve never been to Coachella but I’ve become a fan because I like the club shows that the bands play in L.A. in-between. A couple of weeks ago I got to see Bryan Ferry at Club NOKIA. That’s a pretty small place to see a rock god play a killer survey of mostly Roxy Music songs with choice solo material. From “Re-Make/Re-Model” and “Ladytron” to “More Than This/Avalon” and “Jealous Guy,” he put on a clinic of how to be cool.
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Show reviews: OFF! at Amoeba; howardAmb, Bobb Bruno, Sandy Yang, and DSS at The Smell; Ray Barbee and Paul Kwon at Pacific Standard 2; RFTC and Dan Sartain at The Echoplex

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Whoa, the new OFF! album is a beast and Tuesday’s record release in-store at Amoeba Hollywood kicked ass. Not some lukewarm sampler but a full-on, raging 16-song set! Of course for this particular band that adds up to about 30 minutes but damn. Quality minutes of world-class hardcore punk from the originals, measured with Sabbathian darkness and riffs. (more…)



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New Music Reviews: RFTC, Bad Cop/Bad Cop, Bongoloidz, California

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New music. Not from publicists (although I appreciate their good looks) but friends! Mario, Fredo, and Adam are not only rad drummers but the raddest dudes. And my new pals in BC/BC are the best, too. But I actually bought all of the official releases because music is worth paying for–especially from homies.

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Rocket From The Crypt – Hits 6 x 7″
While not as coveted as the “He’s a Chef” split-single with Wayne Coyne and Biz Markie, these one-sided city-specific 7″ singles are quite rad for any RFTC fan. And while the series of covers originally sold at European tourstops is called Hits, the songs aren’t exactly household names–except for maybe Venom’s “In League with Satan.” Somehow, RFTC’s version channels both a conga line and “Sympathy for the Devil”! Gerry Rafferty’s “Baker Street” is probably the most-played song of the originals, although I know it better from the episode of The Simpsons where Lisa meets Bleeding Gums. Rocket’s version is unironic, epically long, and especially cool. The Buzzcocks are probably my favorite band to get the treatment, but “Love Is Lies” is not a single going steady but a cut from Love Bites. The way it starts off mellow and become epic reminds me of a Tom Jones or Neil Diamond anthem. Wow. The San Diego band’s take on Red Lorry Yellow Lorry’s “Spinning Round” nicely contrasts a dark, plucky goth bassline with its trademark heavy horns sound. Covering the Boomtown Rats’ “My Blues Away” is definitely more interesting than taking on that other band from Dublin. More garage rockin’, for sure. Out of all of the bands from London, Status Quo is similarly bold choice but the take on “Shy Fly” cements the band’s links to the tradition of pub rock. The Casbah counts as a pub, right? Buy your set of singles from the merch table like I did at The Echoplex (pictured above) and help fill the Swami van’s tank on the road! [Swami Records]

Bongoloidz – S/T CD
Although Fredo Ortiz is best known for his percussion work for the Beastie Boys, his Kickstarter-funded solo project starts off more like Fluf or late Jawbreaker than the Atwater-based (at the time) rappers. Songs like “Subtle Breeze” and “Sompniphobia” are guitar-powered cruisers straight out of the early ’90s and totally rule, but other songs show other facets of the multi-instrumentalist’s abilities, sounds, and tastes. “Japon” has an electro groove complete with processed vocals, “Sk8 Dance” has a cool dark wave feel, and “Facky Freak” has a cumbia vibe (my favorite live song). There’s even some Taiko action! If it sounds like the songs are all over the place, that’s because they are. Yet they all sound great together because Fredo is no dabbler: The multitude of styles comes straight from Fredo’s huge heart and talented fingertips. Very cool cover art by Mackie Osborne, too. [El Bomber Records]

California – Live Recordings
Recently, I received a mysterious package of live recordings (not demos) of a new band featuring Adam from Jawbreaker and J Church, Dustin from The Insides, and Jason from Monsula, Pinhead Gunpowder, and Green Day. Who else is on the songs, where they were recorded, and how far the band will go is unclear but I’m digging the music. “More like Big Star than Big Drill Car,” I was warned and I have no problem with that. “Woodson Lateral” could be an allusion to the much-loved Oakland Raider but its patient groove goes better with driving down the I-5 than driving to the end zone. It’s rootsy but not dusty, with cool breakdowns. “Almost Home” has a little more twang and bashing and is mostly smooth with Tom Petty-like asides. Bitchin’. “Hate The Pilot” is the probably heaviest, punchiest song of the batch, and contemplates what happens after not killing the messenger. I swear there’s some Mick Jones-style riffing at the end. So good, so what’s next for this un-Googleable band? [Blackball, Adeline, or the highest bidder]

Bad Cop/Bad Cop – Boss Lady 7″
My pal Aaron told me that his girlfriend was in a punk band that just signed to Fat so I had to check them out. In only took a few seconds of listening to the band’s debut 7″ for Fat to realize that the title of this single doesn’t refer to The Man but the badass women of the band itself. They are bosses and their songs are as personal as they are tight as they are rocking–proof that aggro and melodic aren’t mutually exclusive. With killer drums that recall Bad Religion, buzzsaw guitars, and supremely confident gang vocals that are harmonized as they are pissed off, the San Pedro band attacks crappy exes, stupid dudes in the pit, squares on the street, and anyone else who might be uncomfortable with their unapologetic punk rockness circa the early ’90s. “Asshole” is a killer song that you’ll never get to hear on the radio, so you better catch ‘em live or buy the record. [Fat Wreck Chords]

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Kowloon Walled City/City of Darkness Revisited

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Perhaps you remember the Q&A with photographer Greg Girard way back in Giant Robot 22. It delved into City of Darkness, the amazing coffee table book he made with fellow photographer Ian Lambot exposing the interconnected maze of adjacent buildings and connecting alleys that made up Kowloon Walled City. The ultra-dense city block was notorious among Hong Kongers for being separate from building codes and law enforcement alike, and was made famous in movies such as Wong Kar-Wai’s Chungking Express and Johnny Mak’s Long Arm of the Law. So I was stoked when Greg recently informed me that a redesigned edition of the book is in the works.

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While locals didn’t seem to care much when when Kowloon Walled City was leveled in 1993 to make space for a shiny new airport, Greg says that he and Lambot have been impressed by “the unexpected ways in which it was turning up as an obvious inspiration in popular culture, and also being referenced in architecture, urban theory and other areas.” So on 20th anniversary of the demolition they decided to update and expand City of Darkness.

The revised edition will be 50 percent bigger than the original one (which was already a brick) and include never-before-seen photos as well as extra text derived from interviews with ex-cops who patrolled the area in the ’60s and ’70s as well as a government survey from the period which lists the exact number of brothels, opium dens, strip clubs, pornography theatres, and dog meat restaurants. Sounds amazing, right? Find out how to support the book–and perhaps get signed copy as well as an archival quality print–at the City of Darkness Revisited Kickstarter page.



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Mike Kelley retrospective at MOCA

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Last Friday, I attended the media preview for the Mike Kelley retrospective at MOCA and it’s amazing–the biggest showing of the much-loved L.A.-based artist’s work ever. It started with an assortment of short speeches, starting off with new MOCA director Philippe Vergne calling it a homecoming after debuting at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam and making stops in Paris and New York. Mary Clare Stevens, Executive Director of the Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts described the artist’s personal involvement in the show’s evolution and Ann Goldstein, the former director of the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam and exhibition curator, added that the show began as related to theme but shifted to chronology upon the artist’s death in 2012.

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MOCA Curator Bennett Simpson emphasized MOCA’s history of supporting the artist (who was part of the museum’s “First Show” and has been in almost 30 more including one that he curated) and added that the current stop includes a Chinatown-related piece that has never been shown in Los Angeles before. Framed and Frame (1999) is located on the upper floor, and challenges the audience with concepts of context but also alludes to the Downtown L.A. area’s punk rock history via sex and drugs paraphernalia mixed in with the traditional wishing well icons.

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Another large piece is Kandors (2007-2011), a collection of sculptures of Superman’s hometown reimagined from various comic book pages. The reference to the alien city, shrunken by the iconic hero’s arch-enemy Braniac and kept under glass, is esoteric to many but is folklore to hardcore comic book readers. Kelley created a video installation mashing up the four-color hero with the goth poetry of Sylva Plath, but never realized his plan to introduce the Art Forum scene to the Comic-Con crowd online. (more…)



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