Christmas came early, as a package from our good friend from Sweden, Per-Arne Hognert, arrived in the mail on December 14th!
Included was a spooky one-of-a-kind collage with a handwritten letter on the back, as well as his latest CD, BONG WITCH.
With a title like that, you would think it would be one of those Sabbath-worship "stoner doom metal" bands like Electric Snoop Wizard or EyeLoveDogs or REO WeedDragon or Willie NelSunn O))), right?
Nah, only a few tracks have that thick, sludgy bass guitar (or is it just a regular six-string guitar tuned to drop z?) tone.
What we have here is actually a decent variety of genres! Mostly midi-sounding, but there's nothing wrong with that! Many of these tracks have kind of a krautrock vibe going, and wouldn't sound too out of place in a 70s or 80s Italian horror movie! One song even reminded me of Pat Benatar for some reason...
I shouldn't leave out the album artwork either: the cover is black and white, but printed on green paper, so it's really black and green. Type O Negative would be proud.
All in all, the ooky spooky contents of this great package complement the holiday season all too well. Thank you, Per-Arne!
Happy Mother's Day, pilgrims! Hail Santa! FUCK BONGUS!
On December 8th, 2018, I carpooled from the Tampa Bay Area with a pair of friends (Vallam and Penny Grune-Fae) in tow to play a show in Jacksonville.
Jacksonville is one of my favorite cities to play in the sunshine state. Ironically, the very first time I played there was quite possibly one of the worst shows I've ever played (quadruple-booked show, which I didn't find out about until I arrived at the venue; the curator also bailed right before their part of the show started), but every gig I've played there since then has always been a blast. I've even driven up that way sometimes just to attend some shows that friends of mine were playing.
This particular show took place at the Backroom, aka Thomas Milovac's house. Many acts from throughout the state of Florida played this marvelous event.
Thomas Milovac is a virtuoso jazz bassist that I had originally met when he was living and playing in the Orlando area. Currently residing in Jacksonville (as of this writing), he usually plays standup bass, either finger-picked or with a bow.
Up first was Bongus, the Orlando free improv collective consisting of core members Milovac, Syoma Klochko (drums), and Zach Muth (guitar), plus occasional hankin' from St Pete's Zachary Hickerson and several other collaborators. This performance ended up being a duo of just Milovac and Syoma, the latter of whom alternated between piano and drums. It's also worth noting their catchphrase, in true Primus or Green Jello fashion: "FUCK BONGUS!"
The second performance was by Penny Grune-Fae from St. Pete. Her setup was more minimal than usual, with only a few pedals run through a small amp that she conveniently packed up in small backpack. Ambient field recordings giving off a cinematic vibe.
The third performance was by Formaldehydra, a moniker I had been playing and recording under over the past year. It's my attempt at making more atmospheric noise. Recent sets under this name have consisted of a rhythm run through a looping pedal while improvising over the top of it. I was quite pleased with this set. (Photo courtesy of Penny Grune-Fae, because I don't take selfies when I perform)
The fourth performance of the evening was by local free improv husband-and-wife duo Tomokie's Cup, aka Adam and Aimee Naworal. They drafted Penny and I to collaborate with them for this particular set. The Naworals played tiny electronic devices run through Honeytone amps, while Penny played a theremin and I fumbled around with a ukulele bass. (I unfortunately could not get any photos taken of this set)
The fifth performance was by Fiver's Stereo, the long-running project of our good friend, Jacksonvillain Jay Peele. Jay played a variety of instruments (often simultaneously), including prepared guitar, Moog synth, and a microcassette recording of one of his old prog-metal bands from the 90s rehearsal sessions, played against his guitar pickups. One of my favorite sets I've seen of his to date.
Up next was Vallam, from Tampa, and one half of Tampa Bay noise booking collective the In-Between. Their set consisted of industrial rhythms and textures plus a broken guitar (no strings attached - literally) and what looked like a defibrillator being used on aforementioned guitar.
The final set of the evening was Venus Envy, from Panama City, which consisted of guitarist Scott Bazar and drummer Charles Pagano, plus Milovac sitting in with them on bass and various spacey effects. Scott an Charles usually play and tour together as Plutonian Burrito, but this time they decided to visit an entirely different planet. With the sounds ranging from chaotic free improv to more droning ambient soundscapes, the outer space theme is more than accurate here.
All in all, a great time was had. I look forward to coming back to Jacksonville (at the Backroom or otherwise) more often, perhaps at the upcoming Pre-INC show. Thanks again to Thomas Milovac for hosting the whole thing in his home and for having us!
Oh, also, fuck Bongus.
YouTube videos by Thomas Milovac.
View Aimee Grace Naworal's report on the same show.
(Currently nothing online of theirs at the moment, so here's a link to a Plutonian Burrito set in the meantime)
On November 2nd, 2018 at approximately 4pm (or 16:00), a tornado warning was issued for my area in Polk County.
I quickly ran to my mailbox (which was left open ajar) to see if there was anything in it before I had to sprint back inside to avoid getting swept up by a Wizard of Oz reference (complete with Dark Side of the Moon synchronization)
In my mailbox was a bill from Sprint addressed to somebody else; presumably a previous tenant of this house. I'd been at this address for over 2 years now and I'm still getting mail addressed to two or three other people who apparently used to live here.
Also included was this mail art postcard courtesy of my friend Kai Holyoke, in Tampa!
Kai runs the diy garage-turned-venue the Red Light, which has hosted various events ranging from shows for touring artists to benefit shows to art galleries in the backyard.
All are welcome, but you've gotta ask-a-punk for the location! Also shows start and end early, so you'll have time to either get to bed early or wreak havoc in Ybor or catch a bunch of death metal bands play at 2am at the Brass Mug.
According to the signature at the bottom, the postcard was made on October 31st at midnight.
Maybe one of these days when I'm all moved out and somebody else occupies this space, they'll be receiving mail art still addressed to me and be like "WTF?!"
This special, 1/1 edition arrived in my mailbox on October 30th, 2018, courtesy of our good friend Rafael González from the Canary Islands!
I'm definitely getting a Bowie-esque vibe from this postcard, seeing as his final album before his passing was titled Black Star.
Thank you, Rafa!
Editor's Note by Hal McGee: here is my You Are A Sat card from Rafa!
Here are 3 postcards that arrived in my mailbox on the exact same date (October 5th, 2018), courtesy of Scott Kindberg.
Represented are Striations, Brighter Death Now, and Ritual Chair.
They're almost like trading cards, but even bigger!
I received this pair of limited one-of-a-kind mail art postcards from Ed (aka Sluggisha Tapes, aka "the reason I discovered Florida's noise scene in the first place") in August of last year.
There was no return address or insignia on either of them, so for a few weeks it remained a mystery as to who had sent them. (I found out when Ed asked if I had gotten them yet)
The postcards are photographs of statues of Mr. Peanut and Popeye at a used car place in Inverness, FL. There may be more characters there, and if there are. I hope Ed returns and does another series of postcards about them!
I have a bunch of other postcards from Ed (all one-of-a-kind), but I'll have to search for them again in the meantime...
Most of this album was recorded throughout the summer of 2018.
I tried to list as many people as I could for the "special thanks" section: mostly people who've been an active part of my life over the past year. Whether they've booked a show for me on an out of state excursion, or attended a show that I've booked, or just been a great friend in general...I feel bad when I forget to list somebody, especially if they've played a big role.
The recordings would not have been possible without the following for loaning certain pieces of gear that I've used: Penny Grune-Fae (a looping pedal), Hal Harmon (a ZOOM bass fx pedal), Jeremiah Paddock (a Yamaha keyboard and a karaoke tape), and Emmy Lou (letting me record a few tracks at the ART/Ifact art studio down the road from me in Lakeland).
I went through a few track list revisions, track titles, the order of tracks. There are a few outtakes, at least one of which I might contribute to a future compilation or split release.
The second track, "Going to Hell Again," was recorded shortly after I had purchased a Behringer vintage delay pedal from a nearby pawn shop. I originally recorded it to test out some equipment and stopped right before the 5 minute mark, intending to use it on a potential EC Add-and-Pass cassette when another one arrives in my mailbox...but I liked the track so much, I felt like it made an appropriate "track 2" to an album.
Overall, I would have to say that I'm pleased with the results of this album. I personally feel like it's the best one I've done since Shock Ramen (back in 2013!).
I hope to have physical copies available in the near future...
The Emotron and Cut Throat Freak Show
July 28th, 2018
at The In-Between House
2017 marked a turning point for the Tampa Bay Noise scene: in April of that year, the long-running warehouse arts venue in St. Pete known as the Venture Compound closed its doors, and all of the noise/experimental shows have been taking place at various locations scattered throughout the Tampa Bay area. Just to name a few: Iberian Rooster, FUBAR, Sawgrass (sadly no longer there), Paper Crane, Safety Harbor Arts and Music Center, American Legion Post 111, Tre Amici @ the Bunker, and, most notably, the In-Between House.
The In-Between is an arts collective run by erstwhile Venture Compound board members Emmy Lou and Vallam Barrett. In addition to booking shows in the Tampa Bay Area, they also run the DIY tape label FIGURE RECORDS and can often be seen tabling their merch at various local fests (Blest Fest, Tampa Zine Fest.
Throughout 2018, they have been booking shows at their own house. Shows usually start around 7pm and end before 11pm, so you can absorb their show and still have enough time to go check out another late-running show in the area...or better yet, be in bed early.
The action takes place in their small living room, with a stack of television sets (collectively known as "TV MOUNTAIN") against the wall while playing various old VHS tapes on them.
There's another room with a giant tv and a gaming console hooked up, so you can play video games during downtime.
On July 28th, the In-Between hosted an event for nomadic touring performance artist The Emotron, and a collective of sideshow performers known as the Cut Throat Freak Show.
Local support came from Slime Queen Bingo, Sloth of Gulf Coast Florida, and Joy Lane.
Opening the evening's festivities was Slime Queen Bingo, the solo noise project of Emmy Lou. Their set consisted of screaming at their faltering equipment, and audience participation in the form of asking people what their names were and handing them duck and dolphin puppets. The set ended with a wall of feedback from a Barbie Karaoke machine, an Olsen Twins cassette, and a sped up 7" record of someone singing "Happy Birthday."
Up next was Sloth of Gulf Coast Florida (formerly of Northeast Ohio). Sloth has been active since the mid-90s. Starting off as a sludge/doom band, they have done splits in their early years with heavy-hitters such as Noothgrush and Miami's own Floor, along with various Seth Putnam side projects. As a result of their heavy metal origins, they have their own entry on Metal Archives. Over the years, Sloth's style has ranged from doom metal to noisecore to death and black metal parodies to noisy songs (in the vein of Happy Flowers and Sockeye) about cute animals to, most recently, harsh noise wall. Since 2012, they have been on Bandcamp and uploading a single track (usually between 6 to 10 minutes in length) of noise almost literally every day on there. These releases get added to their Metal Archives discography, infuriating the metalheads in the process. The negative reviews are worthy of their own Sloth release!
Since relocating to Florida in 2015, Sloth (which currently consists of founding member Dom Kaveliski and his partner, The Link) performances involve heavy use of a fog machine and a black metal backing track being played on an Orange amp cranked to 11 while the pair hands out either envelopes or ziploc bags full of various goodies (including candy, toys, stickers, and a sheet of paper with an interview and internet links on it) to every audience member there. This night was certainly no exception.
Following Sloth's set was some downtime to open the door and let the fog out. And then it was time for The Emotron.
The Emotron is a long-running performance art act that tours quite frequently. This was actually my first time seeing him play. His set had him singing in a suit and a wig (which reminded me of the late, great Dennis Flemion of the Frogs) over soulfully deranged music and, best of all, an Angela Lansbury workout video with the volume cranked up (to the Emotron's request), which actually fit very well with the music. The grand finale had the Emotron strip down to just a black speedo and lighting his crotch in fire during the final song of his set.
Up next was a trio of sideshow performers known as the Cut Throat Freak Show.
First was a magician from Las Vegas known as Jungle Josh. His set opened with a truck involving a trained bird (named "Cherry), followed a series of visual illusions, magic tricks, and mental connections with the audience, with a decent amount of deadpan humor scattered throughout.
Up next was Philadelphia burlesque performer Scarlett Storm. She came out in an outfit resembling slave Leia from Return of the Jedi, popped balloons, and rolled around in shards of broken glass...all without any bleeding, cuts or scratches on her body. And she did all this while dancing to "Holy Diver" by Dio, which was the icing on the cake.
The third and final act of this traveling circus was the namesake Cut Throat himself. He snorted a 10-dot Lego block up his nose and pulled out an 8-dot block from his throat, and ended his set by attaching lit firecrackers to his ding dong.
Of course, it's not a sideshow performance without having audience members volunteer to staple dollar bills onto the performers bodies!
The closing act of this epic night was the almighty Joy Lane, from Orlando.
Joy Lane is a fairly newer project (at least to me) that has had a number of members over their period of existence, although recent gigs of theirs has been slimmed down to core members Darren Crittenden and Millia Chandley.
Categorizing their music or comparing them to other artists wouldn't do them justice, but my interpretation is this: Martin Rev, Alan Vega, and Birthday Party-era Nick Cave go to a party and their punchbowl gets spiked by Flipper, leaving them Brainwa--nevermind, forget it, you wouldn't understand anyways.
Joy Lane's epic closing performance consisted of Darren crooning over Casio keyboard preset rhythms and Millia screaming her head off while body-slamming a mannequin torso with the words JOY LANE written on it with lipstick, and occasionally playing a circuit-bent toy guitar.
Towards the end of their set (and several broken microphones and consumed alcoholic beverages later), they did covers (in their own uniquely demented fashion, of course) of "Hot Freaks" by Guided By Voices and "Dream Baby Dream" by Suicide. I referred to this piece as "Suicided By Voices."
So there you have it. If you're in the Tampa Bay area and you're either a fan of weirdo experimental music, performance art, or you just want to find something to do and experience something you may not have before, then you owe it to yourself to come check out any event being put together by the In-Between. The hills are alive with noise!!!!!
(Fakebook page; if you're on there, give em a follow)
(The In-Between's DIY label)
SLOTH OF GULF COAST FLORIDA
(Their infamous Bandcamp page; updated almost daily)
(Their Metal Archives page; includes their vast discography even before they stated pissing people off with their Bandcamp shenanigans!)
(Oh look, He even has his own Wikipedia article, so you know he's a big-time celebrity!)
The Cut Throat Freak Show
(A live performance at Uncle Lou's, shot by Andrea Knight)
Some exquisite corpses that I took part in at ART/ifact
(an art gallery and music venue in Lakeland, FL) on June 2nd, 2018.
The other participants included Emmy Lou, Leif, Rachel, and Sunny.
For those unfamiliar: Exquisite Corpse is the concept of having 3 or 4 people together, and folding up a piece of paper in thirds or fourths to draw their own individual parts of a body.
The first person draws the head (and lines connecting the next fold) then folds up their side (so no one can see what they drew) and passes it on to the next person
so they can draw the middle body (or the first part of it if there's 4 people involved), then they fold up their side and pass it on to the next person
who either draws the second part of the middle body or the legs and feet.
When the last person makes their contribution, the entire picture is unfolded,
revealing the "exquisite corpse" so to speak!
There are even audio exquisite corpses out there,
the best examples being the ones Hal McGee has curated over the years
as well as the band Bauhaus, who even has a song named "Exquisite Corpse!"
Last week I received a pair of tapes from our good friend _ from Denmark!
The first tape I listened to was Skolens Toss. Side A consists of more traditional pop songs done in _'s unique style, which brought a much-needed warm and fuzzy happy feeling to my mind (which has been kind of nerve-wracked all week).
On Side B, he gets a little more cinematic/experimental, with an instrumental track that sounds like he's watching a low-budget horror movie in the background, followed by a gloomier number that wouldn't be out of place on Matthew Moyer's PopNihil tape label.
After that is a song with delay added to the drum machine while _ sings and strums his acoustic guitar over it, and eventually a John Carpenter-esque synth enters the foray.
Towards the end is a plunderphonics collage of various recordings from other artists run through delay, like changing through stations on your radio.
This tape is like his version of Eno's Another Green World or Bowie's Low. Strongly recommended!
Up next was Folk & Støl. Cover photos from our good friend Jen Sandwich!
It started raining when I hit play on this tape, which was very fitting for what I was about to hear.
A majority of this tape consists of more melancholy songs of just vocals and acoustic guitars, much like Nick Drake's swan song "Pink Moon", but also recommended for fans of Skip Spence, Leonard Cohen, and Sebadoh.
There's also some dark Casio jams and spoke word collages towards the end of this tape, hence the Sebadoh comparison.
I strongly recommend these tapes to brighten your day. I'm so glad I live in a universe where _ exists!