Memory Lane

Watched The Unheard Music (documentary on the band X) and Mayor of the Sunset Strip (documentary on DJ Rodney Bingenheimer) and started to feel a tad nostalgic for the LA of the ’90s. Then we hit the anniversary of the LA riots and the nostalgia disintegrated. Still it got me thinking of the days in the clubs with Fools and Fodder and sent me digging through the archives for the tracks-in-progress from the unfinished remastering of the Feckless album. But let’s back up for those of you who have no idea what any of this means…

As the 1980s ground to an end (along with my college career) songwriter/singer Judy Contreras and her songwriting partner guitarist Mike Krupa decided to put a band together. Mike drafted drummer Paul Mitchell (from their then-defunct punk band Zero Initiative) and me (on guitar, bass, mandolin, banjo) whom he had collaborated with on some theatrical scoring projects and Fools and Fodder was born. Taking inspiration from the pre-alternative artists of the day both from Los Angeles (Concrete Blonde, Peter Case, Lone Justice) and from farther away (Elvis Costello, Squeeze, Split Enz, etc) we crafted a sound that was equal parts pop, rock, celtic and cowpunk.

Judy named the band, inspired by a quote from Berthold Brecht’s Threepenny Opera (“First comes fodder, then comes morality”) and wrote all the lyrics and Mike wrote the bulk of the music and I contributed the occasional hook. We stormed out of the San Gabriel Valley and onto the stages of the legendary Hollywood/LA clubs. I remember sitting in the dressing room the first time we played the Whiskey a Go-Go soaking up the rock history. Or playing a 50 minute set doubletime to fit in to our suddenly reduced 30 minute time slot to a bewildered crowd at the Palamino. Or playing our first show at the Roxy the night before my wedding (which was a pretty good replacement for a bachelor party).

We were once booked to play a club somewhere in Ontario (?) and were told we had the whole night. Upon arriving there were 2 other bands that apparently were told the same thing and the management was saying we could each do a 40 minute set. After a quick band huddle we walked out, walked to the park across the street and did an acoustic show for all the regular fans (as well as some new ones), none of whom set foot inside the club that night.

The Contreras/Krupa writing team cranked out some great songs and we eventually headed into the studio to record what would be out first (and only) album, Feckless. I still feel today that if the band had stuck together and persevered it could have taken off and become something really great. Unfortunately the combination of dissagreement on songwriting credit, solo-artist-itis and a complete lack of maturity sent me from zero to fuck you in record time. I quit, thinking they would persevere as a trio but not really caring. They didn’t. Oh for a time machine.

Back in the present I am digitising my archives including the album, demos and bootlegs. I’ll probably post one or two things here eventually.

SXSW 2012, Part 4

Day 7 (March 15)

The day began in line for the keynote speech for this year’s SXSW Music part of the festival. Lining up early was important as Bruce Springsteen was the speaker. While in line the email went out to those who were selected in the lottery for tickets to Springsteen’s SXSW concert. Kevin got chosen, I did not. The keynote was interesting and entertaining although mostly about the past and I think most of us are interested in the future. You can watch and read the whole thing here.

After that Kevin stepped outside and nearly stumbled over Ben Fee (an old friend of his that he had no idea would be there). A pleasant surprise in an ever shrinking world. Kev then had to head out to get in line for Springsteen while I wandered off for an epic night of music.

First stop: Cedar Street Courtyard where I saw Madi Diaz and band (a pleasant surprise/discovery) and then a solo set by Trixie Whitley. Trixie’s dad (the late Chris Whitley) remains a huge influence on me as does Trixie’s band Black Dub. There were some technical issues with the loaner keyboard that had her a bit flustered but whenever she opened her mouth to sing you forgot about everything else.

Next stop was Lamberts: Caught the Melismatics set (good, rockin’), followed by the Figgs (good, rockin’, quirky), followed by Tommy Stinson (ex-Replacements, ex-Bash and Pop, currently of G’n’R and Soul Asylum as well as solo) along with his band. Awesome set. Wandered back to hotel and caught up with Kevin who gave me the details of the Springsteen show while I tried not to fall asleep in my beer. A long day.

Day 8 (March 16)

Convention center day, wandering from workshops and panels to Flatstock (concert poster display). That evening Kevin headed off to connect with Ben Fee and I headed back to the Cedar Street Courtyard to see Thomas Dolby. Nice to finally see him live as I have always liked his work. The new album is pretty good as well. Then reconnected with Kevin to wander through the sea of people:

Day 9 (March 17)

Pannels in the morning. In the afternoon attended a vocal workshop presented by Ian Astbury (the Cult). Some usefull stuff with a lot of stories (prompted by co-presenter Martin Atkins (ex P.I.L, ex-Pigface). Headed into East Austin to reconnect with Kevin and Laura at the Yellowjacket (kick-ass grilled cheese sandwiches) and then wandered back into downtown Austin to see a band of Laura’s friends. We split up after that and I headed over to the Hilton Garden Inn to catch a set by my friend, violinist Todd Reynolds, who never ceases to amaze. His disc Outerborough is definately worth checking out. He was followed by Hatian “Afro-Electronica” artist Val-Inc, who won over the small crowd with some interesting and adventurous soudscapes. Then I staggered off to bed.

Day 10 (March 18)

Travel. Blech. At least the day started with Tacos at Titos with Kevin and Margaret.

Really looking forward to seeing my family and being home again.

SXSW 2012, Part 1

Day 1 (March 9th):

Woke up in San Antonio, Texas this morning. I was greeted by Ellie (pictured below) who I haven’t seen since before her family moved to Texas. The family being Kevin and Margaret. Yes, one-third of the music division of Ghost Ghost now lives in Texas. The other two-thirds will be assembling here to take part in the annual South By Southwest festival (hereafter know as SXSW).

Happy reunion # 3 is seeing Margaret (#1 was seeing Kevlar last night at the airport). Realizing how much I miss these folks. It’s breakfast time so we begin our quest for tacos (rather easy as Tito’s is just down the street and they make fantastic migas, chorrizo and egg/bean/bacon tacos. Setting the taco bar pretty high on my first meal here).

Next is the schlepp to Austin, hotel check-in and badge acquisition. Karl arrives tomorrow. Sadly Tim and Charlie won’t be along as our visual division. A cause for slight concern as it now falls upon us to be visually interesting on our own.

Day 2 (March 10):

I picked Karl up at the airport with the help of Mr. T (my GPS). Tacos are again a priority as is Shiner Bock. Chupacabra Cantina on 6th will soon become our home away from our home away from home.

More importantly, our hotel room now has a coffee station thanks to Kev’s foresight.

This is just a small example of how Kevin’s logistical co-ordination of our Southwest Tour is making the ship sail smoothly.

Spent some time at the convention center. Karl and I connected with Laura our Dorkbot pal at a hot dog place called Franks.