MRR #398

mrr_398_cvr1“I’D SELL MY SOUL BUT NO ONE’S BUYING”

The Diät tour had ended, and we had made it safely back to Berlin.

Berlin: a place where addictions come to reinvent themselves. Where drinking beers on trains is no biggie, the party starts after 4am, and rolling a big fat jozza by the canal is common practice for locals and tourists alike, who both flock here from all corners of the earth. It’s a chunky city, with wide streets and pavements, clusters of massive, modernist buildings, colourful murals on post-war project housing, green parks and grey skies, and a canal winding through the centre, lined by leafy banks and cobbled walkways. It was the beginning of spring and the budding branches seemed to extend skyward, as if stretching away the stiff winter and welcoming warmer days with open arms.

Every morning for a week, my kind host Iffi and I would wake up, jam our new radio pop song obsessions while eating porridge with ginger and almonds, then head to Static Shock Musik, where we’d jam the Chain of Flowers record hella loud while opening up shop. At least Iffi was jogging every morning to detox from tour—I was waking and baking at the house and day-drinking on the bench outside the store. I was on a hedonist’s quest, sans most of the resulting pleasure. I helped out with some odd jobs at the store (once a shitworker always a shitworker), walked around the Russian Memorial park twice and yet still failed to actually find the massive statue (what a loser), smoked a joint by the Brandenburg Gate and contemplated the evolution of identity in the age of the selfie stick, and lay under the sun in the park staring at the clouds that looked like dicks with wings, listening to Lust for Youth (so unpunk) and thinking about Blake, the demonization of the body and the absurd things we sometimes do to dismantle the illusions in our head. I went to Bis Aufs Messer Records (they also sell their own yummy coffee!) and with beers by the canal, reunited with the lovely Beeney, who was a MRR shitworker my first summer in SF! I saw a packed Diät gig at Tommyhaus, and danced to punk 45s and tunes by London’s Scraps at the Acid Baby Jesus show at Urban Spree, and drank divine Moscow Mules lined with dingos on the balcony at Kastanienkeller where Warsong from Zaragoza joined locals Sunbather in a packed and fun show. By far the most exciting band (and tightest drummer) I was introduced to this time around was Sick Horse, who play a mix of sinister psych garage and tense, snarky punk.       On what I thought was my last day—because I don’t know how to read a bloody calendar—I woke up to barking dogs and smeared make-up. I stumbled out the house and through Alexanderplatz (the smell of sausage practically nauseating), walked through Museumsinseln but didn’t actually go inside any of the museums and almost fainted with dehydration by the canal with no corner store or café in sight for blocks or bridges. Poisoned by nicotine and negativity. With an extra day in town I felt suspended in my own mind so I decided to avoid humans and sat on a bench by the river in the sun with Low on repeat for three hours. Then I drank my way to an early night at the store. An earth angel came my way—in that way they do out of nowhere—and, after chatting for a while, about my meanderings, my life in the US, she realized I was the writer of what has comically devolved into MRR’s emo column, sans any of the music. “Yeah, you’re more confused in person than you come across on paper.” Ha, I liked her immediately! After Static Shock closed we went round the corner to hers, where she cooked me up a mini feast and gave me beer and the most delicious home made vodka-lemon drink that her dad makes back in Poland—it was like heaven in a shot glass. We talked and smoked and jammed Total Control and made each other lists of bands to check out, and her hospitality and open-heartedness humbled me. The next day it was “goodbye Berliners,” and a done deal to return for the festival two weeks later.

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MRR #397

mrr_397_cvr“Striving for relevance one cigarette butt at a time” – on the road with Diät

It’s eleven pm, one am, three am on a Saturday and I’m over-caffeinated at my old desk in my old apartment in Athens. I haven’t left the house in six days. I’ve not been in one city for more than three weeks in the last four months, so it’s not too bad really. I’m jamming the Diät record for the first time in a couple months—and definitely the first time since we got back from tour three weeks ago. Roadie’s first tour! As soon as the needle drops, it all rushes back; fish-eyed frames and colourful medleys, flashing lights and sonic ecstasy. I keep myself afloat on a melody, the record still sounding fucking incredible, even if somewhat bittersweet now. Despite the pessimistic sound and ironic title, the music gives me such positive energy I get teary eyed with emotion. Like I did almost every one of the nine times I saw them live. And I still look forward to the tenth next week in Berlin. I took notes on my phone drunk in the back of the van, one eye closed as I focused my vision long enough to type, but looking back it all seems like a dream underwater.

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MRR #396

mrr_396_cvr-2-300x391Slowing Down but Never Stopping

Damn, London is wicked! I’m back here for a couple weeks and I’ve not spent one whole day at home! I’ve been to punk shows and noise shows, got drunk on champagne beer, high in cemeteries and marshes, had divine food from around the world, bought a bunch of records, spent time with family and was generally a bad influence on friends, convincing them to skip their responsibilities and instead get day drunk with me on French Kisses. Also, I went to DIY Space for London, finally! I was so psyched to be there I actually had crazy butterflies in my stomach for the first half of the evening. ALTER and Static Shock were putting on a mini fest, with a bunch of sick hardcore bands and electronic projects, with highlights from NO FORM, the LOWEST FORM and of course headliners DAMIEN DUBROVNIK. I reunited with the Spanish contingent, met the Greek punk goddess after my own heart Alexandra from EFIALTIS (interview coming soon! EP out any second on Static Shock London/LVEUM), bulls-eyed a bunch of darts tipsy on fruity ciders, and hung out with the NO FORM boys—ugh, sweetest bunch! They played an impressive live performance that I found superior to the record, which is still pretty darn great and kinda Dadaist in a way that’s uncomfortable and tantalizing at the same time—def one of the most exciting new bands outta the UK right now! The Lowest Form (interview in the works!) whom I saw again a week later, were both times tight and on point. The new songs aren’t banging, they’re mental! A tad more mid-tempo than some of their first, hella catchy but hella mean riffs, with simple yet smart drum arrangements that highlight the rest of the frenzied action, and of course #chrisbresswickedreggae on vocals and in the pit! The crowd went wild, knocking over the front monitors, moshing, pogoing, head-banging, stage diving—it was great! Who needs drugs when you’ve got hardcore? Perspex Flesh were also hot and raging (as a friend put it, “that band that wants to be American but is, you know, English?”) while DAMIEN DUBROVNIK were simply stunning. Loke and Christian, who run Posh Isolation Records in Denmark, delivered a set that was hella stirring, and not necessarily in a comfortable kind of way. While their tone and dynamic is often harsh and prickly, their sounds and textures are often soothing and subtle—it’s a magnificent combo. I was standing right in front of a massive tower of speakers so every time a beat came down I would feel a little gust of cold air coming from the subwoofer. The eerie keys and growling vocals punctured the high-pitched frequencies that cut through the room like earthquake cracks from floor to ceiling. The walls of sound made the real walls shudder, the reverberations of crashing metal panes permeating my whole existence, my eyes firmly shut throughout the whole set. The two tall men in white shirts felt more like mediators than performers. Like modern day Teslas, they were harnessing a force that was as electric as it was electrifying. This was more than just noises coming from speakers, it was a deluge of sound waves, and I was soaking it up. More unapologetic, uncomfortable, uncompromising musick please!

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MRR #395

Let’s Dance for Fear Tonight Is All

I’ve just boarded a delayed flight to Athens, Greece. I spent the last six days in London. Though technically my second home, I still feel like a bit of a tourist there: navigating (and getting lost on) the chaotic transit system, getting excited with squirrels, eating hot cross buns and crumpets. What a cliché, I know. I landed early in the morning, got to my cousin’s, had some tea and caught up. That same evening I went to the South London Gallery to see Luke Younger aka Helm perform a wall-shuddering live set, in tandem with expressive improve dance performances by Alice Mackenzie and Fernanda Munoz-Newsome. It was a great night. Luke’s a highly active sound artist (among other things), always doing some interesting collaboration or project, ALTER label release (alterstock.blogspot.com), show, Yelp! review, you name it. He’s touring right now with Drew McDowall of Coil and I’m excited to see him in a few weeks in London, where he will be doing a set at the release event of the revised and expanded edition of the seminal book on the English experimental / esoteric underground by David Keenan, England’s Hidden Reverse. Coil, Current 93, Nurse with Wound fans, check it out!

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MRR #394

There Is No Up Or Down Anymore, Only Forward

What’s up my malaka mates? You miss me? Good riddance 2015, you were a pain of a fuckin’ year! Welcome 2016, wishing you all less stress, more sex! Get ready for another installment of my random, intoxicated, self-indulging updates, this time from my grand US exodus: life is too short to be unhappy about the things you can change. So, since my last column two issues ago—and with a countdown clock numbered at 40 days—I purged half my shit, boxed up my books and records, took down my posters and left my old Victorian Adam’s Family house in West Oakland. I went on a drug binge for Halloween, quit my job before Punxgiving, then hosted Punxgiving, saw as many of my friends as possible, and recorded one final MRR radio show, part of my Year End Top Ten—more on that in a minute. I postponed all my magazine subscriptions, tried to stay healthy and sober for as long as I possible, then went on one last high-flyin’ rave with my koubaros Jason Halal to see (by universal coincidence) Bill Kouligas from Athens, but based in Berlin, work his enchanting, minimal, experimental sound architecture magic. I’d know him from Athens and have been a fan since his then project Family Battle Snake shook the walls of our Katarameno basement circa 2010. He’s one of the most interesting people right now making electronic music and curating and supporting projects via his label, PAN Records. If you’re a fan of eclectic, electric, forward-pushing unconventionality in the form of sound waves, check out his catalogue at delinear.p-a-n.org.

On December 4th I said my teary-eyed goodbye to my main man Mike and set out on my journey. It has been a crazy 3.5 years and I remained sane in large part thanks to Mike and his support, so I want to officially thank him for everything—a good egg if ever there was one! Life in the Bay is what it is but for me it was time to take care of some business back in Europe, and things aligned in a way they very rarely do. That “once in a lifetime” kinda timing—like when I booked a one-way flight to SF to coordinate this here fabulous magazine four years go. “Buy the ticker, take the ride.” “Now she can only smile and say goodbye…”

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MRR #392

Punk is Love: Recollections from Not Dead Yet festival 2015, Toronto

The caffeine starts to kick in at about 6am, as I am looking at my BART pass wondering why the heck it won’t work. “It’s got like $10 on it, can’t I go through?” The guy gives me some response that’s way too complex and detailed for so early in the morning. “You can get a single at the machine.” Fuckinelle, I’ve got a flight to catch ya know. Hand written sign taped to machine reads CASH ONLY. Well what if I haven’t got any cash?! Canada has its own dollar! Eye roll. “Here,” the guy takes my ticket, trashes it and lets me through. I thank him for his begrudging accommodating me and run through, plane ticket in hand. Oof. Enter airport, locate check-in desk. “Two-hour delay? What the hell?!” Deep breaths. More coffee. Chain smoking. Freaking out but glad I find that old joint in my winter coat pocket before going through security. Finally—boarding. Knotted stomach, all wound up, stuck between two large guys; coding and cross word puzzles. Turbulence outside the plane and inside my brain. I bet I snored.

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MRR #390

Lo único para que vivo es pasión.

July went by rather mildly, meeting friends for ramen, mapping about new projects, and listening to “no CDs, no mp3s, nothing but the hits, the hits, the hits, on JJ’s original soul 45 rpm record show” on KPOO on Saturday nights. Staying home, saving money and trying to get into some kind of writing routine (fuck knows why, it’s all rubbish rhetoric). There was a nice work-related surprise, which was getting free tickets to see Melt Banana from Japan. I will go ahead and assume most of you know this band, and for those who don’t (living under a rock maybe?) let me say they were mental live. They played for just under an hour, Yasuko’s captivating stage presence, wicked sense of humour and untouchable vocals a sharp contrast to her soft-spoken voice in person. She held some kind of sampler or sound manipulator ,which she waved about to the music, while Ichirou slammed out riff after crazy riff. A great pleasure to finally see them live, fifteen years after I first heard “Free the Bee.” Arigato Revolver, arigato Melt Banana.

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