AND NOW A WORD FROM VIOLET LeVOIT!

It’s been a while since we talked with Violet, the astonishing author of I AM GENGHIS CUM and I’LL FUCK ANYTHING THAT MOVES AND STEPHEN HAWKING. She vanished from the public eye roughly a year ago, to give two kinds of birth: a new short novel called I MISS THE WORLD, coming this fall from King Shot Press, and a new baby, who arrived just weeks after finishing the book.

So I was delighted to find this podcast this morning, featuring 40 minutes of Violet at her brilliant, captivating best. She truly is one of the razor-sharpest minds I know, and I could listen to her talk all day. Just love her voice. Where she’s coming from. Her unique polymorphous perspective.

So here she is, on the awesome Bizarro lit podcast BIZZONG (where I put in a cool appearance, a month or so back). Ladies and gentlemen? MEET VIOLET LeVOIT!!!

http://www.projectiradio.com/anagram-violet-levoit-bizzong-podcast/

ON BEING BORN FOR A REASON

HI! I’m turning 59 years old today. If I live another year, I will have fully lapped my expectations. Cuz I never ever EVER expected to make it to 30, hard and crazy as I’ve lived.

I always feel like, “Well, shit, dude. You make it through this one, we’ll talk about the next.” But so far, there’s always been a next, full of new things to do, and even more reasons to stay alive.

Insofar as I can tell, I was born to make art I believe in, and support the artists who do so, too. There’s a sweet spot in the universe that wants to be tickled hard. A cosmic clitoris that will get off like crazy, once we learn how to hit it. How could you NOT want to provide that invaluable, fungasmic service to all of creation?

If there’s one thing I love about not being dead yet, it’s the chance to connect with amazing people, with every speck of honesty and emotion and intelligence and uninhibited creativity we can possibly muster together. Making our fleeting time together as astonishing and rewarding as it could possibly be.

HI! I’m 59 years old. And the universe goes on forever. Maybe we do, too. Maybe not. Who knows.

But my birthday present to you is the love underlying every speck of work I do, and that of the astonishing people I champion. Because, to me, they ARE champions. Art heroes. My heroes.

I may live forever. But one of these days, this John Skipp dude I’ve been playing for the last 59 is gonna get his ass shown the door. And I will step through it, like everyone else.

So, baby? LET’S ENJOY EACH OTHER WHILE WE CAN. Give each other the best of each other, for so long as we are able.

That’s what Fungasm means to me.

I love you crazy fuckers.

Let’s dance.

 

Fungasm Friday the 13th

pool

Fungasm Friday the 13th

Happy Friday the Thirteenth!

Today feels like a good day to do some creepy stuff. Like go swimming in the lake down by the old abandonded summer camp, or maybe pick up that questionable looking hitchiker.

I’m spending the day relaxing and lounging around on this beautiful 88 degree day. (what the hell, Oregon in May) I’m staring longingly at the unopen and slightly greenish swimming pool that I really ony want to go in because I”ve been told that I can’t and I’m also catching up on last week’s Horror Happens Radio Show from Jay Kay andhttp://homegrownradionj.org/

 

This week Jay chats with John Skipp and the beautiful Devora Gray, author of Human Furniture. . I missed the live airing of the show and chances are you did as well but never fear, Horror Happens is now archived on Sound Cloud. That means you can catch Devora and all of the Fungasm authors as well as a plethora of interesting intererviews with all kinds of cool people.

There are a lot of other events going on this week that I should  mention, like the StokerCon Horror Awards at The Flamingo in Las Vegas this weekend, but I think I’m just going to go break into that pool instead.

Cheers! From Lisa and #teamfungasm #fungasmfridays #smallpress #bizarrofiction

BURNING GHOSTS PT. 2: DANIEL ROSENBOOM INTERVIEW, AND LIVE CONCERT-FILM PERFORMANCE!

Burning-Ghosts-Band

As mentioned in Pt. I, the band BURNING GHOSTS releases its new CD today. What I didn’t mention is this!

BURNING GHOSTS // CD Release // Saturday, May 7th, 9:00pm

Celebrating their debut CD release on Orenda Records, Los Angeles expressionist metal-jazz mavens BURNING GHOSTS present a live concert-film recording IN THE ROUND at Downtown LA’s premeire live creative music venue, BLUEWHALE.

Featuring:
Daniel Rosenboom
 | Trumpet
Jake Vossler | Guitars
Richard Giddens | Bass
Aaron McLendon | Drums
www.burning-ghosts.com

Joining them for this special event will be video artist extraordinaire, Travis Flournoy on live psychedelic visuals, and countercultural force of nature John Skipp. (Ain’t I fancy?)

BLUEWHALE
123 Astronaut E.S. Onizuka St., Suite 301
Los Angeles, CA 90012
http://www.bluewhalemusic.com/event/2016/5/7/dan

Hope to see you all there!

Meanwhile, as promised, here’s a brief conversation with the man both behind and in front of the curtain: on sonic evolution, cultural revolution, working with brilliant musicians, and forging new ways to get that music heard.

FUNGASM INTERVIEW WITH DANIEL ROSENBOOM

1) What cultural forces provoked this music?

Truth be told, by the summer of 2015 I found myself disgusted, despairing, frustrated, and somewhat helpless in the face of the continuous onslaught of “bad news” that seemed to really explode after the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO. By that point, it had been almost a year of pulling the curtain back on police brutality, particularly in majority black communities; and along with this rampant disgrace, all sorts of reports on rape culture, economic and class inequity, gender discrimination, LGBTQ struggles, and political corruption seemed to be boiling over in our newsfeeds. And as a white artist living in an incredibly diverse city, I couldn’t make sense of any of this – it just didn’t compute for me. How could this be our 2015 America? How could people enact such bigotry towards each other? I was almost feeling paralyzed by the need to do something, but not knowing how to put these feelings into action.

Of course making art, particularly expressionist music, is a pretty abstract way to react to all of these cultural ills. But my voice is most effective through the horn. I’m not saying that this music is a mode of effective action against police brutality or discrimination – but I do think that music has the power to inspire discourse, to make people reflect and share in a feeling. And if knowing the influences that, as you say, “provoked” this music can help our audience to ask themselves some difficult questions, or to reflect on our society while listening to the collective emotions the band puts out, then I think it can be a pebble in a pond. And hopefully the ripple radiates wide.

In a certain way, music IS the rock that hits the social mirror. And change really IS possible.

2) Why these instruments, for this particular experiment? Why these guys?

For me, making music always comes down to the people involved in the project. Depending on who’s in the band, the approach, sound, and concept are going to be unique. So, I had been mixing an amazing duo project between Jake Vossler on guitar and Aaron McLendon on drums. I’ve known these guys for well over a decade now, and Jake and I have been close musical compatriots, bandmates, and brothers that whole time. Mixing their duo project, I said to myself, “I gotta play with this combo.” Jake and I have had a duo relationship for years, Aaron and Jake have had a duo relationship, Aaron and our bassist Richard Giddens have had a duo relationship, and Richard and I have had a duo relationship, but the four of us had never all played together in the same context. So, it was an exciting opportunity to mix these elements, these incredibly strong musical personalities, together. 

The sound of these guys together was always going to be visceral and intense – some might even say extreme. So given the timing of the recording (summer 2015), and the culture maelstrom that felt totally overwhelming, it seemed like the perfect band to dive into that fire and say something bold. But rather than write music specifically designated to certain social issues, we basically started a dialogue about all these things – the warts on our American cultural identity that were just too big to ignore – and we set out to make subversive music in a spontaneous way. That is to say, some of the pieces had some loosely structured compositional elements, and some were totally improvised, but all were played against the backdrop of serious cultural examination.

What’s really amazing about this band is the range of musical influences that integrate seamlessly in the moment. For me the broad umbrella of “free jazz” was an important element, not only musically, but for its cultural implication. I think of it as an attitude more than genre. And that attitude is pretty aligned with punk, in many ways. Jake’s background as a metal guitarist informs everything about his sound and approach, but his musical tastes are incredibly diverse, and his approach to improvisation is so dynamic and colorful that sometimes it’s impossible to believe it’s the same guy. Richard and Aaron have deep roots in jazz, but they’re also spectacularly diverse improvisers, and approach their roles as a rhythm section with an incredible drive and intensity. There aren’t that many “jazz guys” that can shift gears from burning swing to straight up metal or even almost avant-classical as effortlessly as they do. Basically, I knew this band was perfect for creating music that felt as shifting, dynamic, and conversational as this subject matter demanded.

Really, the music is like a mashup of Ornette Coleman and Wadada Leo Smith with Fantomas and The Melvins, imbued with the spirit of Rage Against the Machine and Dmitri Shostakovich. Fans of Napalm Death, Burning Witch, and Earth will find common ground here with fans of Albert Ayler, Charles Mingus, and John Zorn – it’s a complex sound that has appeal to folks on either end of the spectrum for ironically similar reasons. Timbre-ly speaking, it is metal and timbre-ly speaking it is jazz, but these are ultimately superficial and secondary distinctions. What it really is, is a group of four musicians with broad interests fluidly integrating the entire spectrum of their shared language in a naturally spontaneous way. It’s a musical dialogue, and the sound is just the result. 

3) I love that you put the trumpet in the foreground on this project. So often, you generously offer the spotlight to your band members, to the point where you spend more time blending in than popping out. What’s the difference this time?

Thanks man! Yeah, usually speaking I try to go for an ensemble sound more than a soloist sound. In this instance, it was an important delineation to only have one horn – we were going for a very strong and distinct sound for each instrumental voice. But the trumpet is also an appropriate “narrator,” if you will, for the conversation. Historically, the trumpet is a signal instrument – in the ancient world it was literally used to signal approaching danger, or announce important events. In that way it has a deeply ingrained role as “the voice of the call,” so to speak. So, in this context, it really operates like the lead voice in a narrative.

On a personal note, this is the first time I’ve positioned myself as the only horn in a band. It was a distinct choice to put my voice out front and center, both to challenge myself as an artist, and to really direct the conversation. Because of it’s timbre and natural melodicism, the trumpet acts like a guide through the ever-changing textures the other guys weave. Richard and Jake both have really deep, rich, big sounds, so they provide a huge sonic bed for the trumpet to float over. Aaron’s drive and percussive sonic palate are like waves to surf as a horn player. 

But really, I think the feeling that the trumpet is at the foreground is actually just a bi-product of the instruments we used, and the natural way we play together. The idea was to really have a group dialogue going the whole time. It’s not music where there are very many clearly delineated solos and backgrounds. We’re all contributing equally all the time. The trumpet just has a timbre that rides on top very naturally. 

4) Orenda, like Fungasm, is a small label with a fierce determination to put out challenging, genre-defying work. Can you talk a bit about the Orenda aesthetic, and the kind of work you push, why?

For me, as an artist, I’m most interested in work that’s pushing the boundaries of its chosen direction. So in terms of music, that naturally tends toward projects that are quite genre defiant. But the genre-defying isn’t the point. It’s simply that musicians today listen to an enormous range of music. Since we’ve got about a century’s worth of recorded music to draw from, and hundreds of years of scores to check out, and thousands of years of traditions, I think most creative musicians today see genre lines as almost laughable. 

In the days when record companies had to give stores clear genre distinctions in order to help them organize their shelves and sell products to people of certain persuasions, it was more important. It’s how people moved music to the masses. But the most creative artists never really played by the rules anyway. The difference was label executives used to take more chances. I saw an interview with Frank Zappa once where he laid it out perfectly. To paraphrase: “The label executives were old guys with money, who recognized that they had no idea what kids would like. So rather than worrying about whether or not they could sell an artist or album, they just threw money at the weird stuff and let the kids figure it out.” I love that attitude. And I’d totally go with that ethos…except I have no money to throw at anything! Hahahahaha!

But that’s largely why we put out the music we do. Most of the stuff on Orenda Records would have a really hard time finding an appropriate home on another label. Most of the artists we work with are at the beginnings or early stages of their public careers. They’re taking chances, trying things, and experimenting with music without worrying too much about sales. Worrying about sales is the death of creativity, and in my experience, the bolder your creative choices, the better chance you have of success. So, I’m inspired by artists and musicians who take those risks and go for it!

That’s created a catalog that’s pretty damn diverse. This is our 30th record, and we’ve got everything from creative jazz, to electronic music, to contemporary classical, to cross-cultural, to avant-garde, to chamber jazz, to experimental metal, and more. And what unites all of this is a sense of community – all these artists are working with each other, playing on each other’s projects, sharing influences, and pushing each other. That’s the most exciting part. And we’re just getting started…

Get the Album: http://bit.ly/24pF3SR
Music Video: http://vimeo.com/165177877
Official Website: http://burning-ghosts.com

CD Release Show: http://burningghosts.eventbrite.com

THE BURNING GHOSTS OF AMERICA (PT. 1: LINER NOTES, AND FIRST PEEKS)

Burning-Ghosts---Orenda-0030---Square-Cover

For today’s Fungasm Friday, we’re gonna take a day off from books to celebrate independent artists kicking ass at the musical end of the spectrum.

Case in point: the astonishing debut album by avant/jazz/metal ensemble Burning Ghosts. It’s being released today by Orenda Records, a label which has for the past several years specialized in the boundary-breaking sounds unleashing from L.A.’s creative underground.

When Daniel Rosenboom asked me to write the liner notes for his new band’s new album, I was delighted to oblige. The man’s an authentic musical genius: on the trumpet, as a composer, a bandleader, and the brains behind Orenda. And the second those new tracks poured into my ears, and we discussed the soul and intent behind them, I went upstairs and wrote the following words.

[CLICK BELOW for “Manifesto”, the debut video from BURNING GHOSTS. And check PT. II, coming right up, featuring an interview with the man and links for more info!]

https://vimeo.com/165177877

THE BURNING GHOSTS

OF AMERICA

JOHN SKIPP

Black smoke curls through the blood red sky, laced with blue and white and sheer darkness above. Below, the streets are aflame like they haven’t burned since Rodney King. Or more to the point, Watts in 1965.

Injustice has a smell. You can ignore it if you want. Ignore it if you can. Like a fart in a room. Be polite all you want. Doesn’t mean that it’s not there.

Injustice has a voice. It is not always heard. But it has to be deliberately ignored to be missed.

Because it’s already there. You can hear it scream, cutting through all the din between you and the bland-but-jittery obfuscating fabric of ordinary life. Hear it cry. Hear it rage. Hear it dance to its own rhythms. Laugh. Find its power. Peel the clay from off its feet.

It has a voice like a horn that sings straight from the soul. Slices through the cacophony. Tells you just who it is. Evoking every emotion there is.

And all around it stand the burning ghosts of America.

The streets are alive with flaming specters, their sorrow etched in fire. They are the ones who passed before us. Who stood up and got mowed down for their trouble. Who never stood up, got mowed down anyway. Who barely got a chance to even stand before they were leveled low.

These are the ghosts that flame amongst the living. Who haunt us every step of the way. Whether we ignore their fire, pretend that fart never happened, is entirely our call.

But the dead call to us. And what they’re saying is this:

SET YOURSELF ON FIRE, WHILE YOU’RE STILL ALIVE TO DO SO.

The flaming ghosts of the past are only here to inspire and inform. It’s the only toehold they have left on a world they no longer inhabit. Memories. Legacies. Priceless artifacts, if we’re lucky enough to have preserved them.

They had their day.

But this is ours.

And lemme just say: the full weight of legacy burns through every note on this frankly astonishing set. The world we inhabited. The world we’re in now. Like Miles Davis and King Crimson went to Ornette Coleman’s house, where Frank Zappa, Ennio Morriccone, and Buckethead were also ready to jam with every other great musician who ever lived. Said “Let’s pretend the world matters.” And took it all the way to town from there.

It weirdly smells like the calamitous last half of the 1960s to me, in the very best way. Only fifty years later.

And with new artists, entirely on fire. Burning both like forever and like never before.

I don’t know if you believe in the human soul. But I do. It’s not belief. It’s just human experience. One soul ignites another. I’ve seen it over and over. That’s just the the way life is.

This is how we keep the torch alive, even as the coppery tang of blood on our streets cuts through the chaos of this world like a trumpet’s scream.

If you can hear it, taste it, smell it, you know what it is. Every ear, nose, and tongue knows something’s up when history awakens to itself.

Let’s not fool ourselves, boys and girls. Shit just got real. Has never been realer than now.

We’re at another pivot point in history. And whether this smoke in the air smells like revolution, evolution, devolution, total apocalyptic disaster – or all of the above, in competing measure – if there’s one thing I know, it’s that the time has come to put all all of our flame-squirting cards on the table. Just lay it all out. See it all for what it is. Whether we like it or not. It’s the only hope in either heaven or hell we have of ever fucking clearing the air.

And if that wild trumpeting voice of the soul has anything real and important to tell us – surrounded as it is by all the burning, long-suffering ghosts of America, from beginning to end – it’s that this life matters. Every moment. Every beat. Every laugh and cry and scream. Every tenderness and triumph.

That’s the voice I carry with me every step of the way to wherever we’re going. And why I love this singular gift of purest soul fire.

Get ready to light yourself up, baby.

Because the time has come.

Yer pal in the trenches,

Skipp

Los Angeles

8/16/2015