LOVE WITCHES, BIONIC GIRLS, AND PSYCHOTIC HAIR STYLISTS! (ETHERIA FILM NIGHT BRINGS THE NEXT WAVE OF KICKASS FEMALE DIRECTORS TO THE FORE)

ETHERIA2016MARQUEEWell, it’s been about a week since the Etheria Film Night kicked L.A.’s pasty-gray male cinematic ass for the third straight year. (Or at least it did mine!)

For those of you not in the know: Etheria is an organization devoted to showcasing first-rate female filmmakers who work in the genres (horror, fantasy, science fiction, action, crime, black comedy, and bizarro). Festival founders Heidi Honeycutt, Stacy Pippi Hammon, and Kayley Viteo take their traveling shows all over the country, year-round. Meanwhile connecting women all up and down the motion picture universe, from industry insiders to struggling beginners to international filmmakers the whole world over.

Their mission statement is that not ONLY are women fully capable of directing high-quality, astonishing film and television, but that they have the proof: selecting the cream from the hundreds of films submitted, and saying, “HIRE THESE WOMEN. You have no excuse not to.” And they are absolutely right.

Full disclosure: I’ve been a judge and “Honorary Vagina” for Etheria since the very beginning. So am I biased? You’re goddam right. I FUCKING LOVE THESE WOMEN. Believe in them a trillion percent. Think the case they’re making is incredibly important.

And every year, with every showcase, they do nothing to prove me wrong. Getting better and better all the time. (For more info, check their website  http://www.etheriafilmnight.com/about-etheria-film-night/)

Love Witch Poster ImageThis year’s feature also turns out to be one of my favorite films of 2016 to date: Anna Biller’s THE LOVE WITCH, which should be hitting select theaters before the summer is out. It’s a delightfully stylish, funny, and fucked-up 21st-century resurrection of vintage 1960s-70s Eurosleaze, exploitation, and hippie horror. Taking its fem-gnostically fun-packed vision further than any of the films and filmmakers it evokes, on the way to staking its own unique claim on film history.

Think 1973’s THE WICKER MAN meets BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS on its way to THE DUNWICH HORROR – with some Radley Metzger, Roger Corman, Donald Cammell, Sam Fuller, Nicholas Roeg, Jess Franco, and John Waters thrown in for good measure – and you start to get the gist of how insanely juicy this gets.

It’s the story of Elaine (Samantha Robinson): a lovely and deranged young woman who really, really wants that fairy tale True Love she’s been promised. And is determined to have it, no matter how high the broken-hearted body count gets. She’s a student of the seductive arts. She’s ridiculously gorgeous. And she’s also a witch. So she’s pretty much three-for-three in the Black Widow Sweepstakes. No man can resist her spell.

But love gotten that easily is pretty hard to respect. And the cruelty of her first love – which propelled her on this quest – has focused and hardened her to the point of pure free-floating psychotic fixation. And as her sloppily-disposed-of stack of dead dudes deepens, she encounters the One Tough Cop who could either be her ultimate dream lover, or the man who finally brings her down.

As a story, this is total fun. But as a film?

OH, MY FUCKING GOD.

It all starts with Anna Biller herself – a filmmaker’s filmmaker, if ever one was – who not only wrote, produced, and directed the living shit out of it, but also edited, composed the music, production-designed and art-directed the exquisite sets, the wardrobe, and every inch of it throughout so hard that she deserves some sort of Stanley Kubrick Award for EXCELLENCE IN EVERYTHING.

You know you’re in unusually good hands when you go, “Omigod, look at those colors. This is gorgeous!” Then start laughing at a perfectly staged joke, leading straight into sequences of genuine horniness, culminating (usually) in some sort of alarming death. All of it exquisitely shot. Eyeball and earball candy all the way. (Her music is both lush AND hilarious!)

And the performances couldn’t be better. Samantha Robinson channels young Liz Taylor by way of Russ Meyer and The Carrie Nations, and is can’t-take-your-eyes-off-her riveting throughout. Love-spell recipients Robert Seeley and Gian Keys both kill it, as does Laura Laddell as the woman most betrayed. Elaine’s fellow witches are also terrific. But Jeffrey Vincent Parise scene-steals his shit so hard (as “Wayne”, the totally good-to-go first fool we meet) that I can’t believe he wasn’t already one of my favorite movie stars.

I gotta say: there’s something about watching men nakedly, vulnerably weep on camera – like women have been asked to do since cameras began – that’s kind of hilarious in a film like this. Seeing the sex roles inverted always cheers me up. But also totally yanks my chains.

Because, yes: the broken heart of a man hurts just as much as the broken heart of a woman, I am here to fucking tell you. It’s just surpassingly rare to see it portrayed on film like this, from a woman’s perspective, and with the stoic manly filter turned off. Watching your guy melt down to a puddle, while you go, “Oof. Jesus, what a pussy,” is as real as real can be; and Parise and Seeley bring that emotion so hard that I’m laughing and crying at the same time. An extraordinary feat, in an extraordinary film.

I love this movie soooo much, in so many ways, that you’d think it cast some sort of nefarious spell upon me. And you’d be right! Am officially an Anna Biller fan for life. Want to see anything she does. But will not be swigging anyone’s love potion, any time soon.

And now we move to the short film block, where the remaining nine filmmakers cued up to weave their respective spells, at 20 minutes or less.

Ghengis Khan Conquers the MoonFirst up was GENGHIS KHAN CONQUERS THE MOON by Kerry Yang, wherein the titular warlord (Cary Tagawa, THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE) is enticed to spread his empire extraterrestrially, to the Sea of Tranquility, as seen through a telescope owned by James Wong (GREMLINS). It felt like a super-high-end Syfy Channel series pitch to me, in terms of tone. Superlatively dialed. And I hope they listen. Cuz she knocked it out the park. (The production values –including the lunar landscape they created – are legitimately breathtaking.)

HOSS - directed by Christine BoylanHOSS by Christine Boylan is also aiming straight for high-end network viability. Clearly a setup for a post-apocalyptic sci-fi western series, it’s beautifully shot and staged, and the script is clever, with tons of cool implications. My unfortunate complaint is the one I honestly have with most TV. It’s too clean. I don’t smell the sweat, and wonder how this tough heroine keeps her wardrobe so spotless. But taken on its own terms, it’s sharp as a knife, and the death scene that caps it is excellent. Far as I can tell, she could step onto any show and hold her own. Knows how it’s done. And does it very, very well.

ReStart - directed by Olga OsarioFrom there, shit gets weird in a hurry. Olga Osario’s RESTART is a time-warping, mind-warping gem somewhere between MEMENTO and LOOPER, with all the enormous filmic skill that implies. This story of a kidnapped woman, eternally trying to figure out how to change her past and end the cycle, is profoundly thought-through and directed within an inch of its life. Amazing work. And phenomenal talent.

Boxer - directed by Toy LeiToy Lei’s BOXER brought the action, at the shortest running time. It’s the story of a nondescript Asian mom who nobody would suspect came here to kill you. But she can, and she will, with incredible skill and absolute ruthlessness. Somewhere between her succinct, beautifully-choreographed ultraviolence and her love of her son, I fell in love with this thing. It evokes a powerful motherly role-reversing twist somewhere between LONE WOLF AND CUB and LEON THE PROFESSIONAL. If this became a series, I would watch it. Just sayin’!

Hard Broads - directed by Mindy BledsoeLikewise with Mindy Bledsoe’s HARD BROADS, the far-and-away laughtastic favorite of the show. It’s the cheapest and rawest of the batch. But fuck if this girlfriend inversion of WEEKEND AT BERNIE’S gone horribly wrong didn’t bring down the house. Utterly belongs on Comedy Central, or whoever else wants to surf that hilarious wave. I laughed so hard it hurt.

The Puppet Man - directed by Jacqeuline CastelJacqueline Castel’s THE PUPPET MAN is thin on plot, but drippingly rich in sleazy textural va-va-vooom. The awesome music and cameo by the great John Carpenter certainly add to the voom. But there’s a giddy, galvanized intensity to every neon-lit speck of the proceedings at this shithole bar, where things go from bad to worse, that’s impossible to ignore. If the feature it implies pays off on its deliciously creepy setup, this one could be a keeper. It definitely rocks. (And Susannah Simpson gives my favorite supporting performance of the short fest. She’s the P.J. Soles of the next generation. I want to see her in EVERYTHING!)

Which brings us, at last, to my top three.

The Stylist - directed by Jill GevargizianThe big festival award-winner – with both the judges and the audience – was Jill Gavargizian’s THE STYLIST. For very many good reasons. Its tale of a lonely, damaged, homicidal hair stylist who longs to live the lives of the successful clients she colors and coifs literally screams to be made into a powerful stand-alone horror feature, of which this is but a chapter. (A series could work, too, But let’s start with the feature!)

Najarra Townsend (CONTRACTED) utterly owns this role, lovably down-to-earth and wincingly tragic by turns. She’s the opposite of a cold-blooded killer. Has a very warm heart. But is unfortunately deeply insane, with some really bad ideas about how to improve her life.

And there’s a grisly, sustained centerpiece – shot in one retina-peelingly astonishing take – that had the entire audience cringing and staring through its fingers. It’s a virtuoso moment of pure hardcore horror that’s as emotionally transgressively shocking as it is meatily unflinching.

Bottom line: it’s a great horror film with a lot of soul, delivered impeccably. SOMEONE GIVE JILL THE MONEY TO MAKE THIS FEATURE NOW.

Nasty - directed by Prano Bailey-BondSpeaking of hardcore horror: the one film that had me jumping up and down in my seat was NASTY, by Prano Bailey-Bond. This is a U.K.flick, set in 1982, during the height of the “Video Nasties” scandal, when horror films from CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST to THE EVIL DEAD were being actively banned. And it dances with the danger and allure of watching such forbidden fruit in a familial setting, with a barely-teenage son trying to figure out where his dad has disappeared to. Stumbling onto Dad’s secret stash of forbidden VHS tapes. And getting initiated into a deeper, darker surreality that may both corrupt his life AND bring the family closer together.

I’ve seen a lot of movies try to reconcile our love of watching horrible things with our desire to understand those horrible things. And recognize them in ourselves, without taking them out on the world.

NASTY’s enormous triumph, for me, is that it uses every naturalistic and hallucinogenic chance it gets to hardwire you inside that experience. Draws a super-clear line between the imaginary and the real. Then pries your brain apart, and drags you through the luminous VHS gateway to revelation.

Lemme just say that Prano Bailey-Bond is one amazing director. She works in at least three distinct styles here, from gritty/jittery/artifact-packed 80s VHS re-creation to Ken Loach naturalism to Chris Cunningham-level mind-bending what-the-fuck-did-I-just-see-ness. She uses every tool in the visionary toolshed, on a tiny budget, and the results utterly blew me away. Fucking loved it. Fucking want to see more of her soon.

But if NASTY had me jumping up and down, Stephanie Cabdevila’s BIONIC GIRL was the one with which I fell most soulfully in love. And it’s the one for which mere words are most apt to fail me. So please allow me to attempt to describe this most intoxicatingly beautiful of bizarro mindfucks.

Bionic Girl - directed by Stephanie CabdevilaLet’s start by saying Stephanie Cabdevila is working at a Michele Gondry level of artistic brilliance here, circa his videos for Bjork and THE SCIENCE OF SLEEP. The movie is, in fact, a musical sci-fi/fantasy from beginning to end, translating its boundless imagination into one breathtaking symbolic setpiece after another. So no, I wasn’t crying. That was just my eyeballs drooling.

From the moment our mad scientist/heroine (Clemintine Poidatz) starts songsplaining the bionic replica of herself she’s created to take her place in the outside world – and we’re shown her ghostly-sheeted, googly-eyed constant companion in alienation – we’re transported to a place made entirely out of magick and infinite possibility. And as her plan goes swiftly, horribly wrong, the depths of her isolation become stunningly manifest. She’s got a long, hard climb to reclaim herself, a process both sweetly comic and sincerely oh-no heartbreaking.

The climactic fight between self and projection is a classic example of the all-too-rare “surrealist action scene”, monumentally played. And where it lands is so achingly lovely and utterly weird that it feels, to me, like home.

If I were ever to start a Fungasm Film line – producing the kinds of films I edit as books for Fungasm Press – Stephanie Cabdevila would be at the very tip-top of my list. BIONIC GIRL is, to my mind, the reason they invented the word magnificent.

So that’s my report! I hope it inspires you to look into Etheria, and their ever-growing roster of femme-tastic filmmakers. Because they’re essential parts of the new frontier. In a world where men direct roughly 96% of the feature films and television being produced, there’s no longer any excuse for saying, “Well, I’d hire a woman director, but there just aren’t any. We just can’t find ’em.”

As Jackie Kong – groundbreaking, troublemaking director of BLOOD DINER, and recipient of Etheria’s 2016 Inspiration Award – said in her keynote speech (and I’m paraphrasing pretty close), “If you want to support us, hire us. We’re right here. And we’re ready to work.”

And as I’ve said before, and will say again: if 49% of the human race is telling 96% of the stories, WE AIN’T HEARING 51% OF THE WHOLE HUMAN STORY. A situation so unjust and untenably insane I should barely even need to point it out.

If you’re as tired as I am of hearing the same old stories, over and over, here’s a simple solution that’s sitting right there, just waiting for us to open the door.

I’d like to suggest that we open that door.

There is no excuse not to.

— John Skipp

The Puppet Dance Begins

“Hannah lived in a big house in the suburbs and she did her homework every night and she ate all of her acorn mash because she was always told that acorn mash would make her strong, and she emptied the dishwasher when it was full and she took out the trash when it started to smell and she always remembered to floss after brushing and both of her parents were puppets.

All adults were puppets.” -Puppet Skin by Danger Slater

Happy Friday!

This week is all about puppets.

Puppets in books, puppets HOLDING books and puppets on a trip to promote this new book.

Fungasm Press is extremely excited to announce their latest book, Puppet Skin by Danger Slater is now available for preorder on Amazon. And the release date is July 18th!!!

https://www.amazon.com/Puppet-Skin-Danger-Slater/dp/1621052230/

 

What? You never heard of YA Bizarro Horror Fiction before? Maybe it’s because there really hasn’t been any. Welcome to the future folks. Danger Slater has outdone himself again and I can’t wait for everyone to read it.

This one’s unique, even by Fungasm standards, in that it may be the most deeply fucked-up, weird-ass YA novel I’ve ever seen. Or maybe  it’s just a shockingly horrific Bizarro fairy tale for brain-starved teens of all ages. YOU TELL ME!”  -John Skipp

Over the next two weeks Puppet  Danger and Puppet Lisa will be heading across America on an puppet-venture with an appearance on the Bizzaong Podcast to talk about the new book and whatever other messed up stuff Frank comes up with to talk about. https://www.facebook.com/Bizzong/?fref=ts  

The puppets are also guests of honor at a very special bizarro bash in Chicago held by author Michael Allen Rose, the flawless Sauda Namir, as well as many more fantastical puppet-photo-ops. We will be posting these shenanigans on both Instagram and Twitter using  #PuppetSkinPreorder  and I promise, if not educational, it will at least be entertaining. 

Stay tuned and you might just be surprised by some of the cameos that drop in.

Cheers! Lisa

#fungasmpress #bizarropress #teamdanger

 

Fungasm Friday!!!

 

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”

Some guy from some band said that.

And you know what? He was right.

Summer hasn’t even officially began and I’m already out of free weekends. EVERY SINGLE WEEKEND from now until September is spoken for.

Not all the plans involve work events, one of those weekends says “the Oregon coast” and another says “Lake Trillium” those are camping trips with my friends and family. Tonight it says Gilbert Road where Garrett Cook and Danger Slater  I mean,  Applause-O-Tron will be co hosting Portland’s weirdest night readings, performances and open mic slots with Portland’s ONLY monkey moderator.

Tonight is going to be a good time. But…..the rest of those, yuck.

Thank goodness for Bizarro Con.

When the sunburns and pool parties are just distant memories….

When the best holiday in the world (HALLOWEEN) is over and it gets dark at like 4pm.

THIS is something to look forward to. The 17th-20th of November and held at the Edgefield Hotel just outside of Portland Oregon. You will never experience anything quite like it anywhere else in the world.

 

If you love bizarro fiction and strange as fuck performances from the funnest group weirdos around, this is your kind of party and registration for 2016 just opened up at  https://bizarrocon.com/registration/

My first year I was so nervous and drank so so much beers, (did I mention the beer yet? It’s great) and I heard Carlton Mellick III perform The Rules Of Fight Club followed by dancing to live music from The Slow Poisoner, Mr. Andrew Goldfarb accompanied by Mr. Skipp on the bongos.

This year I’m introducing a new element, the “Bizarro Pickles” event will take place on Thursday night, I’m going to make pickled radishes and a surprise item. (something spicy)

Another cool thing about Bizarro Con are a little thing called the Wonderland Book Awards.

The most talked about Bizarro books of 2015 are all up for nomination RIGHT NOW!!

Last year MP Johnson won for his book Dungeons and Drag Queens and if it weren’t for the runaway success of Jeremy Robert Johnson’s Skullcrack City I believe MP’s Cattle Cult Kill Kill would totally win this year. You can vote for your top three choices here:

https://bizarrocentral.com/2016/06/01/wonderland-book-award-preliminary-voting-begins-now-5/

But, if you want to have a say when it comes to the final vote, you have to go to Bizarro Con!

And finally, we are celebrating the 15th Anniversary Edition of SATAN BURGER! http://www.amazon.com/Satan-Burger-Anniversary-Carlton-Mellick/dp/1621052184?ie=UTF8&*Version*=1&*entries*=0

“The book that did more to frame the oncoming Bizarro revolution than any other”

John Skipp wrote the intro to this one, as a guy who helped frame a previous genre revolution with a funny name (splatterpunk).

“This book is brilliant”. (You can quote me on all this…..John Skipp)

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

 

FUNGASM FRIDAY!

I’m going to be super honest with you. I’m having a really hard time writing this post. There are so many things going on this weekend and I will be missing most of them due to the whole “life ain’t cheap” situation. I am trying to post links to things and I keep getting distracted by the pictures and stories going up online from all of my friends and colleagues at these fantastic events. Deep Breath. Slow Exhale.(that’s for me) Okay, let’s begin.

I would like to start this week out the right way by mentioning the San Pedro H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival starting today at the fabulous Warner Grand Theatre. Seriously, the lineup for this thing looks great and our very own Cody Goodfellow just happens to be one of the directors for the San Pedro chapter of HPLFF and he has put a lot of work into creating a beautiful event. Not only will Mr. Goodfellow be there but the guest list also includes the likes of Joseph S. Pulver, Leeman Kessler, Andrew Kasch, Nick Gucker and MANY more. Andrew Kasch will be presenting the wraparound footage from the upcoming horror movie Monsterland  that he shot with John Skipp at the Warner Grand! Another highlight I’d like to mention about the weekend is the performance that Skipp and Cody are going to be doing at the Cthulhu Prayer Breakfast on Sunday morning. http://l.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.hplfilmfestival.com%2Fhplfilmfestival-sanpedro-ca%23top&h=jAQHA_jt2&s=1

 

Next thing on my “I Want To Go To There” list is the release party being hosted by John Skipp and Laura Lee Bahr TONIGHT (8pm Stockroom Hall) in celebration of her book Long Form Religious Porn. I’m having a serious case of “missing out” this weekend and I implore you, IF you are in the Los Angeles metro area…GO TO THIS PARTY! HANG OUT WITH THESE PEOPLE!  http://blog.stockroom.com/events/laura-lee-bahr-long-form-religious-porn/

And last, but in no way least, Fungasm Press is beyond thrilled to announce the ARCs (Advanced Reading Copy) of the latest book by the one and only Mr. Danger Slater.   PUPPET SKIN (coming this July) are now avalible for reviewers! 

From the back cover copy:

“Danger Slater is fearless, and should be ashamed of himself. Thank God he’s not.” — Josh Malerman, author of BIRD BOX

Hannah graduates from middle school on Friday. That’s the day she transforms into a living puppet, like her parents and teachers before her. No longer a human girl made of flesh and feelings, but a perfect wooden new self, whose strings lead up from her limbs into an endless black void above. With no pain. No sorrow. No sickness. No fear.

But Hannah has begun to suspect that something is very, very wrong. And in a world where emotion is treated like a disease, and unknown terrors lurk inside everyone, just keeping your soul alive past childhood might be the greatest challenge of all.

“PUPPET SKIN is a dark, grotesquely-beautiful Bizarro nightmare fable for alienated teens of all ages. If you’ve ever felt lost in this deranged universe, Danger’s book knows exactly what you mean.”

John Skipp, author of THE LIGHT AT THE END and THE ART OF HORRIBLE PEOPLE

Okay ladies and gentlemen, I’m going back to living vicariously through the photos and stories of my awesome friends. If you get the chance to join them, PLEASE do.                       Do Something Fun!   -Lisa

#teamfungasm #fungasmfriday #bizarro #smallpress

Fungasm Friday!

Fuck.

 

Seriously.

I mean like, shit.

It’s barely been a week that I’ve felt like I could hear a Bowie song playing in the grocery store without the need to pause and mourn the loss of such a talented and amazing creature.

And now, my sweet Prince.

I never actually got to see him live. But I did get to dance in the streets of downtown San Francisco with thousands of other happy drunk people to 1999 on New Year’s Eve that year. Raspberry Beret was one of the first songs I remembering hearing on the radio as a kid and thinking “Wow, that’s music” I gyrated inappropriately with cute boys in dark corners at my high school while Cream played. I ‘found myself’ in underground secret basement parties listening to dance mixes of When Doves Cry.That mug shot magnet in the last picture there? That is the first thing I have put on my fridge in every new place I have lived since my divorce. I think it’s safe to say that Prince was kind of a big deal in my life and it just didn’t feel right trying to write a post this week without mentioning his passing.

Like a good book, music shapes us it stays with us, has the ability to transport us back to places and times and I will be forever thankful for those awesome memories.

AND NOW FOR A HORRIBLE SEGUE ….

Speaking of memories, do you remember when the  Horror Happens Radio Show had an episode with John Skipp and Danger Slater talking about Danger’s new book I Will Rot Without You and you missed it because you were busy because it was on during the middle of the day here on the West coast and some people work a 9-5 kind of schedule? Well I’m pleased to announce that all of their uncensored archives are now avalible at http://horrorhappens.com/

In other fantastic wonderful news Boned, the feature film by Miss Laura Lee Bahr is now available to rent or buy on Itunes. If you like dogs or people or dominatrixes or goth kids or smug funny plastic surgons or quirky dogwalkers …this movie has something for you. https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/boned/id1091152711 It’s a great movie with sexy people (Bai Ling!) and enjoyable performances from everyone in the film.

I also highly recommend that people in the Los Angeles area look into the Long Form Religious Porn release party that is coming up this Friday the 29th and will be held at the Stockroom.  It’s going to be a fun time and I really think you should be there. https://www.facebook.com/events/1714469732132228/?__mref=message_bubble

And on that note, I think I will leave you to your weekend.

I hope you have a great one.

I hope you dance to Prince.

It doesn’t matter if you get all dressed up and go out to one of the millions of dance parties being held in his honor this weekend or if you dance iat home wearing old pajamas.

Just dance. And celebrate.

Much Love, #bizarropress #teamfungasm #fungasmpress