Music Lover’s Guide to The City of Angels

LAElectronic

Image via Anais & Dax

 

Los Angeles is a place of luminous beauty juxtaposed with Hollywood’s “Boulevard of Broken Dreams.” It’s a mixed bag where substance belies shallow, red carpet vapidity, and resplendent nature exists in stark relief against gritty, exhaust-crusted urban sprawl.

Imagine the marbled sidewalks of Rodeo Drive lined with the plastic cards used within its stores, its neat cobblestone walkways laid with silicon implants wending into the half-life Day-Glo green of ghosts of aspiring actresses past — a cinematic decay befitting Los Angeles. It’s insipid, and it’s viral, and it’s not going away, much like famed residents the Kardashians. The city is chock-full of everything divine, and everything of the Bacchanalian and vice-fueled flesh. It is, in essence, what you make of it.

L.A.’s musical history was built on garage rock and surf music from the ‘60s, bloated arena rock of the ‘70s and the Aqua Net and peroxide blond hair bands of the ‘80s. During the ‘80s heyday,  labels such as Warner Bros. and Geffen pumped hair bands throughout “Rock ‘n’ Roll Sunset,” from the Rainbow to The Viper Room, where wealthy Turkish tourists with grey suede driving shoes, sailors with penny loafers and frat boys with a penchant for Girls, Girls, Girls gathered.

In any case, Los Angeles is a city predicated upon — and built up exclusively by and for creatives — and corollary gawking tourists. After the initial economic boom of California’s gold rush, Hollywood’s initial population upswing was indebted to the number of sunny days to film, and with the film industry came the aspiring actors, writers, musicians, comedians, and — let’s face it — porn stars.

Generally, prom queens from the Midwest arrive in the city generally (pitifully) wanting to make it, borne up by the levity of casting couch social mobility and upward social climbing, relying on the further buoyancy of their sizzling good looks. Cliché, yes, but they arrive with each bus and LAX inbound flight, indulging in the general painlessness of 72-degrees-and-sunshine-all-the-time. This general “Westward Ho!” behavior should probably be rewarded. It is, after all, evolution and ambition. Right, pioneers? Go West!

Los Angeles continues to evolve and expand with that Wild West mentality. The city’s recent population boom and influx to the Silicon Beach economy guarantees a continuation of growth, ensuring L.A. will sprawl up, down and sideways. Here’s our guide to everything from neighborhood exploration to restaurants, nights out, shopping, coffee shops and the stark contrasts within the City of (Hell’s) Angels.

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Life Lessons from Professor Prince

Prince

Music instigates social, political and cultural change. It is the one true universal language with a sonic boom that resounds across the space and time barriers separating race, place and class. It’s rare an artist can cross boundaries in a similar manner, but Prince was one of the best at single-handedly inciting social change while celebrating sexuality, promoting women in a male-dominated music industry, defying convention, decimating cultural norms and championing controversy.

He shocked and captivated when he sang about female masturbation and puzzled us when he pivoted, intoned like a preacher and talked about God. He strutted around as a cocksure misogynist in Purple Rain before embracing a sort of vulnerability to love through the transcendent heroic journey of his character “The Kid.” And through all his posturing, preaching and preening, Prince taught us valuable life lessons.

Lesson 1: Defy Gender Roles (“If I Was Your Girlfriend”)

Prince was staunchly masculine despite his diminutive frame. He boldly defied gender roles and embraced feminine displays, perhaps a nod to the glam rockers that preceded him, rimming his eyes in coal-black eyeliner, wearing neon green ass-baring pants and fringed tees, draping his torso in layered necklaces, brazenly posing naked against floral backdrops, coyly peeking out from purple feather-tipped fedoras, parading about in the clothing of a Victorian dandy while pursing his lusciously full lips. It was full-throttle gender-bending sex married with sound. Prince’s masculine-meets-feminine look was shocking and inspiring. And damn if you didn’t want to be his girlfriend — or boyfriend.

Read more on Rhapsody.

Exclusive Interview: RJD2’s ‘Dame Fortune’

Interview with RJD2, pondering the samples of the artist’s classic 2002 “Smoke and Mirrors,” DIY back when Xerox printing at the library ruled, Philadelphia roots, MPC-2000, ARP2600s: “forged in steel — solid, fortified.” Read the full interview.

Your best shot at making a career is to be good at what you do. Most often, that happens by doing what you love. You’ve gotta love what you do, and then it’s not work.

RJD2

The Peanut Butter Wolf Jukebox Feature for URB

peanut-butter-wolf-urb-featureI recently interviewed Chris Manak (Peanut Butter Wolf) of Stones Throw Records for URB Magazine. Here’s an excerpt. Please click through the links to read the entire article.

I first saw Stones Throw Records owner Chris Manak DJing 45 records as Peanut Butter Wolf more than a decade ago in a dank Seattle club. While he rarely made eye contact with the audience during his performance, he dug through his record cases with unconcealed glee. He was a shy type whose subdued and yet surly attitude was somewhat compelling. He didn’t seem to be an introvert, or an extrovert either, really. He wasn’t punk or shy for the usual rebellious sake of alienating people. There was a struggle taking place, a struggle that wasn’t appreciable by those who weren’t inquisitive. There was a reason he sought out the far reaches of popular culture. He collected and played obscure 45 records plundered from global flea markets. He donned strange haberdashery that had nothing to do with trendy headwear. He spent thousands pressing vinyl that had no apparent revenue potential.

If you were paying close enough attention, the subtext seemed to read: the hype isn’t what makes the music. The money, the scene, and the popularity aren’t what make movements. What compels and inspires is usually at odds with mass culture. It’s adjacent. It’s perpendicular. It’s genuine and difficult. And it might not make you rich.

Read the full article on URB.

The Swashbuckling Pirate’s Guide to Record Plunder in LA

I’m a swashbuckling vinyl pirate. I’ve spent years pillaging and plundering record crates in hot pursuit of record booty: ransacking thrift store bins, scouring dusty attics and moldy basements at estate sales, seeking out record shops near and far, hunting swap meets and garage sales. The stranger the location, the better records I’d find. I scored Chipmunk Punk, the new wave offering of Chipmunks Alvin, Simon and Theodore while thrifting my way through obscure Northern California locales: Willits, anyone? I plucked the Richard Simmons’ Reach  from the 25-cent sale bin at Salvation Army in Seattle. Imagine Richard Simmons’ shrill voice imploring you to “Lift it UP” over cheesy ’80s pop. Amazing.

Album © Universal Records

Frolicking through the autumn mist of thrift store dust bunnies, I uncovered Puff the Magic Dragon somewhere on Halsted Street in Chicago. I prized an ASWAD picture disc from the very eclectic selections of a porkpie-hat-wearing dealer at Spitalfields Market in London (I know nothing about the group, but couldn’t resist the purple picture disc prominently featuring ASWAD for the obvious reasons). The first pressing of Dick Dale’s Surfer’s Choice from Long Beach Antiques & Collectibles Market, the red vinyl Japanese pressing of Eno’s Here Come the Warm Jets from that legendary San Francisco trip—each record bears a story beyond the narrative or memorabilia of a music album.

Album © Deltone
Album © Deltone

After all these globe trotting record hunts, I’ve settled in Los Angeles, where vinyl is no longer the commodity it once was. Thanks in part to the digital music backlash, record sales have reached their highest point since 1997. I don’t have to jet to Gramaphone in Chicago, Atom Heart in Montréal or Seattle’s Bop Street Records to shop vinyl—countless new retailers are popping up all over Southern California. Here’s my guide to the best new (and old) record shops of LA.

Amoeba Records – Hollywood – 6400 W Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90028

The original, stalwart behemoth of record retailers, Amoeba is the largest independent music store in the world. The shop originally put several smaller mom-and-pop record stores out of business when it opened in 1990. I like to shop Amoeba if I have a long list of records to buy, but it’s not a place to go hunting for the unknown, as customers aren’t allowed to open plastic wrap or listen to albums before buying.

As the Record Turns – Hollywood – 6727 3/8 Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood, CA 90028

Great selection of the classics and the relics: visit As the Record Turns for Miles Davis, Chick Corea, Getz & Gilberto and the like.

Avalon Records. Image © Sara Jayne Crow
Avalon Records. Image © Sara Jayne Crow
Avalon Records. Image © Sara Jayne Crow
Avalon Records. Image © Sara Jayne Crow

Avalon – Highland Park – 106 N Avenue 56, Los Angeles, CA 90042

Avalon opened within the last few months and features a well-curated selection of punk, new wave and eclectic vinyl (first pressings of several hard to find, rare punk records), along with vintage clothing, 45 cases and all sorts of ephemera.

Avalon Records. Image © Sara Jayne Crow
Avalon Records. Image © Sara Jayne Crow

Gimme Gimme – Highland Park – 4628 York Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90041

Featuring “rock, folk, soul, hip-hop, punk, psych, country, jazz, blues, disco, latin and more,” Gimme Gimme has a broad selection of eclectic finds. Owner Daniel Cook originally opened up shop in New York in 1994 before relocating to Highland Park 2 1/2 years ago.

Gimme Gimme. Image © Sara Jayne Crow

Mono Records – Echo Park – 1805 Glendale Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90026

“Specializing in used and unique vinyl,” Mono Records offers a small but well-curated selection of rare gems.

Mount Analog. Image © Sara Jayne Crow
Mount Analog. Image © Sara Jayne Crow

Mount Analog – Highland Park – 5906 1/2 N Figueroa St, Los Angeles, CA 90042

WOW. Mount Analog has it all: imports, first pressings, new, used, 45s, LPs, collectible box sets, vintage posters, books, postcards, box sets, strange ephemera… this is, quite simply, a music and media mecca. Mount Analog’s leftfield, IDM and techno offerings are especially stellar. After the Sisyphean ascent and descent of your usual record store selection, climbing Mount Analog is about attaining the sonic zenith. Ascension. Nirvana.

Mount Analog. Image © Sara Jayne Crow
Mount Analog. Image © Sara Jayne Crow
Mount Analog. Image © Sara Jayne Crow
Mount Analog. Image © Sara Jayne Crow

Ooga Booga – Downtown – 942 N Broadway #203, Los Angeles, CA 90012

Small downtown boutique featuring rare books, art and vinyl.

Origami – Echo Park – 1816 W Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90026

Shop and record label Origami has an especially organized and choice selection of rare gems. Gems galore.

Permanent – Eagle Rock – 1583 Colorado Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90041

Stocking both new and used vinyl in various genres, Permanent has locations in Los Angeles and Chicago.

Photo courtesy Permanent Records
Photo courtesy Permanent Records

Poo-Bah – Pasadena – 2636 E. Colorado Boulevard, Pasadena, CA 91107

Poo-Bah is a boutique shop located near Pasadena Community College with a tasteful and eclectic (but not necessarily extensive) collection of both new and used vinyl.

Rockaway Records – Silverlake – 2395 Glendale Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90039

Though Rockaway has a great vinyl selection, especially of first pressing, clean psychedelic rock, I usually visit for the collectibles: Family Dog original screenprint posters advertising ’60s and ’70s concerts, autographed Beach Boys memorabilia, even David Bowie “Just a Gigolo” film contact sheets. Rockaway is something of a music museum.

Mount Analog. Image © Sara Jayne Crow.
Mount Analog. Image © Sara Jayne Crow.

Touch Vinyl – West LA – 1646 Sawtelle Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90025

Touch Vinyl seems like a good spot for new vinyl in several genres, but hip-hop and electronic music are especially well represented.

Vacation Vinyl – Silverlake – 3815 W Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90026

Hipster Silverlake destination Vacation Vinyl has a good selection of used, fairly priced vinyl, along with a selection of new releases.

Image courtesy Vacation Vinyl
Image courtesy Vacation Vinyl

Wombleton – Highland Park – 5123 York Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90042

Wombleton trudges far off of the status quo beaten path: you won’t find Britney Spears here, glory be. Featuring original pressings, imports, standard LPs and 45s.

This list is by no means exhaustive. I compiled these selections from personal favorites and those of musician and DJ friends who specialize in crate-digging record hunts. Thanks to Travis Kirschbaum, Emily Griffin, Ian RaikowAndrea LaBarge Mills and Nichole Girard for their help.

See the original post on Collective 310.

Don’t Shoot, We’re Devo: Pt. 3

Image Courtesy Gerald Casale

Image Courtesy Gerald Casale

Scrunchies. Jazzercise. The Gremlin car, in all its hatchback deformity. Cone-shaped bras. Jell-o fruit salad. Members Only jackets. Hammer pants. Over the course of a decade, countless trends have lit the pop-culture landscape and receded into obsolescence. What is it, then, that endures about Devo? Why does their 1978 album, Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo, still sound timely nearly 40 years later. Why do their energy-dome hats still look awesome? We met with Devo’s Jerry Casale over several months to find out. In this, the third installment of our exclusive Devo interview series, Sara Jayne Crow delves into the origins of “energy-dome” hats, explores the pending McDonald’s lawsuit, and encounters the ghost of lawsuits past.

Flavorpill: Let’s talk about the beginnings of Devo, back when people lobbed beer bottles onstage while you performed. Before Saturday Night Live, before Warner Brothers records, before the lawsuits…

Jerry Casale: In a slightly different scenario, it could’ve been that the real beginning of Devo was also the end. It could’ve been over, and nothing else would have happened. We would never have had a body of work, or a history. And that’s how narrow the difference is. It’s like the whole story of Tesla.

FP: I love that you brought up Tesla right now.

JC: Why?

FP: It’s just poetic.

JC: That’s a great story. He was an amazing artist, and his legacy was besmirched. He was erased from history. Except for people like us, who know about him. That’s how it can go. That’s the difference… just that much.

FP: That’s sort of the human condition, isn’t it?

JC: That’s right. There are plenty of people today in the wrong place at the wrong time. Like the massive rape in Africa, and the People’s Democratic Republic of the Congo, or whatever the fuck it is. It’s horrifying. Where’s the great United States justice there?

FP: America is normally so obtrusive in foreign affairs. But in the case of the Congo, it’s not financially solvent, and the pain and suffering continues.

JC: The pain and suffering is unbelievable.

FP: So where do you think this is all going? All the pain, suffering, strife, pollution, devolution?

JC: There’s just going to be more and more of it. There aren’t enough powerful, good people in the world to stop the freight train of history into the black hole. There are too many evil people and subhuman victims that aren’t equipped to resist any more. The saddest thing of all is in American politics, where blue-collar people are the worst in terms of being affected by heinous policies of the Federal government that penalizes them and drives them further and further into the dirt. They are the most tricked by the very people that perpetrate their victimization. These are the people that voted twice for Bush and probably voted for McCain and Palin.

FP: Time for another tea party? Back to the beginnings of Devo question… let’s talk about something devoid of politics and pain. How about where the idea for the “energy dome” hats come about?

JC: The idea originally came from a comic book about a cancellator helmet. The character in the comic book wore the helmet so she couldn’t hear, and it made her happy because it blocked out babble from the outside world. It looked a little bit like a ceiling fixture I used to fixate on in my [Catholic] grade school. Because I hated the nuns so much, I would stare at the ceiling so I wouldn’t have to look at them. If you could imagine the energy domes turned upside down in white milk glass, they looked exactly the same. I used to love the design. And I thought, “We should make a vacuum-formed plastic hat that looks like that for Devo.” And so I set about trying to make it.

At some point, a worker in the production factory we were using asked if we were making flower pots, and I spontaneously said we were making energy domes because he pissed me off. If we gave interviews, we talked about Wilhelm Reich’s orgone box, and added that to the story after the fact. To begin with, it was more about visual design and a ridiculous idea for a hat.

FP: So what’s up with the Devo lawsuit with McDonald’s over the “New Wave Nigel” happy meal toy whose hat looks mysteriously like those hats?

JC: You know, it’s very funny. You know… McDonald’s is so frightening with the legal process that I realized how power works, true power, all over again. Even I was surprised by how avaricious it was. I’m not allowed to tell you a thing about this, or they can sue me… But there was no lawsuit.

FP: Can you at least talk about why you filed the suit?

JC: They had a promotion for Happy Meals where each decade of was represented by different characters, the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, ’90s and now. Oddly enough, the ’80s character, which was the “New Wave Nigel” doll, did appear to us to be Devo. I can’t talk about it. I like how the victim becomes the victim, again.

FP: That’s been a theme, hasn’t it?

JC: Absolutely. It never stops. Whatever happened with McDonald’s… McDonald’s is a powerful corporation, and it creates reality, like Karl Rove. What they say goes. Even though we felt we were the victims, we were being treated like perpetrators and troublemakers. The fact that we’re not allowed to talk about it… you needn’t say more than that. By saying what I’m saying, I’m talking about it. That’s the problem.

It’s like the first time we were ever sued. We were sued less than every band, I think. The biggest and most furious one was where former friend and associate at Kent [State University], Bob Lewis, trumped up a suit about Devo about theft of intellectual property, which was ludicrous. Really, it was about a kid from Akron University’s college paper who tricked Mark into saying Bob Lewis was our manager, which was totally not true. Two years later, when we were getting ready to tour, and had a real manager — Elliot Roberts, who managed Neil Young, The Cars, Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan. This guy pulls out this tape and tries to injunct our tour, so we were forced to settle. He tried to claim that was proof his case of theft of intellectual property was real, which was totally ridiculous. It would make a great movie in and of itself, because then everyone starts arguing about the reference points for de-evolution and where it came from…

FP: Isn’t that the most devolved argument you can have?

JC: I know! Did it come from the comic book, did it come from The Island of Lost Souls, who said what first, and we were all acknowledging that we got this idea from pre-existing sources: even the song title “Jocko Homo” came from a religious pamphlet. The point is that these are influences of artistic people, and the ideas don’t belong to anyone, on that level. What may be Devo is the fact that Mark and I wrote songs with certain lyrics and played songs a certain way. That’s what made Devo, Devo. Not who read what book first.

FP: In some ways, the “New Wave Nigel” character, McDonald’s was homage to Devo.

JC: They were using a copyrighted icon that I created without asking permission. The point is, we don’t approve of what McDonald’s represents. If we had, maybe the homage would have been a compliment to us.

FP: Wasn’t there a band you were in called 15-60-75?

JC: Yes, I played both bass and drums at different times in that band.

FP: You were quoted at one point as saying that you wanted to write McDonald’s jingles with the band, because that’s what was familiar to people and was part of the mental landscape of the general populous whether they knew it or not.

JC: We were inspired by early McDonald’s advertising, because we were so horrified by it. We wanted to subvert what people liked. We wanted to take it and misappropriate it, or be transgressive about it. In our early videos, we would watch McDonald’s commercials and see what they did-we learned how to do our shot selection and edit from McDonald’s commercials. But then we mixed it with German expressionism and horrific twists to screw with people. It’s like in the “Beautiful World” video, where we show some really ridiculous, humorous image and then a starving child in Africa right after it.

FP: It’s taking the familiar editing precepts and making it into something subversive and appealing via shock, which has far more of an impact.

JC: It’s alienation by the familiar.

Related posts: Exclusive: Don’t Shoot, We’re Devo: Pt. 2
Exclusive: Devo’s Jerry Casale on De-evolution and the Meaning of ‘Whip It’

Devo’s Jerry Casale on De-evolution and the Meaning of ‘Whip It’

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The narrative of Devo follows a labyrinthine maze through the shattered idealism of the ’60s, the record-label monopolies of the ’70s, and the cocaine-addled New Wave scene of the ’80s. Recently reemerging for present-day collaborations with artists like Adam Freeland and Teddybears, the sometimes famed, sometimes infamous Devo have been busy of late. After completing a 2006 tour clad in the requisite yellow jumpsuits and creating “Watch Us Work It” for a Dell campaign, the band sued McDonald’s for use of its trademarked “flower-pot” or “energy-dome” hats in Happy Meal toys. Now on the cusp of releasing a new album after 19 years of silence, the band will be performing new songs at SXSW’s BMI showcase on March 20 in Austin, Texas.

Earplug’s Sara Jayne Crow met with Jerry Casale — co-founder, vocalist, bass guitarist, and synthesizer maestro of Devo — in his Santa Monica home over the course of several months. The following interview is the first installment in a series covering the long Devo history, De-evolution as a philosophy, the nature of the new album, and the real meaning of “Whip It.”

Earplug: After all this time, you’ve come together to release a new album. But initially you were brought together again to do music for a commercial for Dell, “Watch Us Work It”…

Jerry Casale: Yes, and the commercial got such a huge response. It was popular with listeners, and more importantly, it was popular with record companies. We gave it to Teddybears, and they produced it.

EP: This was during your 2006 tour?

JC: Yeah. I liked Teddybears, and their record had just come out. Paul, the creative director of Mother agency in New York (who hired us to work on the Dell commercial), knows them. He suggested that they do something with the song, and we thought that was fantastic. We loved what they did.

EP: I like that it updated the Devo sound.

JC: It was perfect, because it sounded like Devo, but it didn’t. People were like, “Is that Devo?” And then they were like, “Oh yeah, it’s perfect, it’s Devo.” It kept what people had in mind about what they think Devo should be without literally being self-parody, or something, which is a good fine line. I don’t think anyone would want Devo to come out and not sound like Devo, at this point. They wouldn’t accept that.

EP: How are you grappling with creating something new for the Devo sound while remaining true to the original direction, philosophy, and rawness?

JC: The way we decided to deal with this was to just use the same process we used in the past for writing, and to see what would happen, because it had been so long since we did that.

EP: The process being what?

JC: Everyone contributing ideas, sounds, and musical figures, and only developing the ones that everyone likes. With “Girl U Want,” like so many of our songs, we could tell in the first five seconds that they were recognizable as non-generic. We develop from there. That’s always what I was good at, taking things from different influences. “Whip It” was actually four songs, pieces of tape, and four different time signatures. There was the riff, chorus (a very slow, almost classical piece with no drums), and the bridge was a rock song, and the strange beat was an experiment that the drummer of Captain Beefheart, John French, would hang out with Mark [Mothersbaugh] and jam. A version of that beat that was too jazzy came out of that time. Once we had that beat, I had the idea of taking the other three pieces of music and unifying them. I had these “Whip It” lyrics from my attempt at doing a Thomas Pynchon parody. He did a bunch of parodies in Gravity’s Rainbow, and I liked them so much that I wanted to do one. So for me, “Whip It” was a parody of the whole Horatio Alger “You’re number one, there’s nobody else like you, you can do it” thing.

EP: Cheerleading stuff? Isn’t it ironic, then, that people generally think the song is about sadomasochism? Because, viewed in light of the theory of De-evolution that Devo stands for, the mindset is sort of masochistic.

JC: We like the irony. We knew people would think that. That’s why I made the video I made for the song. I said, “OK, let’s just give ‘em what they want, or what they think they want to see — except we’ll be making fun of Ronald Reagan and Americana. At that time, he was campaigning for the presidency on this whole rancher thing with the cowboy hat, on horseback.

EP: The lone ranger?

JC: Yeah, so we did this sort of “down at the ranch” video, but made it S&M. It was disturbing to everybody because there was a band playing in the corral, and Mark’s whipping this girl’s clothes off while cowboys cheer. It made us laugh, because it’s so horrible.

EP: It’s so demeaning…

JC: To all of us! To everyone.

EP: Yes, it’s an equal opportunity demean-er.

JC: It is, it really is. “Whip it into shape” is so ubiquitous, and cliché. I was trying to use lyrics that were a bunch of clichés if taken out of context, on purpose. Lyrics that are universal, but turn into some other meaning when taken together. “Freedom of Choice” was like that: starting with some slogan. We love slogans and commands, and that’s why we return to that idea. We try not to write about anything typical. One of our new songs is taken from a hunter’s safety vest that reads, “Don’t Shoot, I’m a Man” on the back.

EP: What are some of the lyrics?

JC: I get up every day / It’s a miracle, I’m told / Somehow I live to work / So I hit the road / Squeeze into my hybrid car / Drive as fast as I can / I scan the rooftops, yeah I scan the rooftops / Don’t shoot, I’m a man

EP: How is the mention of a hybrid car relevant to the song?

JC: We were just trying to paint a portrait of a modern, harried man. An emasculated, rat-race man living in a dangerous world full of crazy people and violence. And he has a horrible life, so he wakes up every day to get in his little dinky-ass, wimpy hybrid, and then is afraid for his life as he drives in gridlock to work. He’s begging, “Please, don’t make me prey.” It’s an anti-violence song. Humans feel like they’re being hunted now.

In this day and age, the whole instinctual human need for self-preservation isn’t really relevant. We’re not fending for ourselves out in nature, in the jungle. We lead sheltered, easy lives. Modern violence has less to do with the physical and more to do with day-to-day human interactions. We may not be in the jungle, but we created a new jungle. An urban jungle. And we created an unsustainable environment, and we’re doing our own species in. That’s what the song is about, in a humorous way.

We’re also doing a song called “What We Do,” which is again addressing the fact that human nature being what it is, it’s almost programmed to self-destruct… It’s like not taking two years to die on chemotherapy, or something. You’re spared if you go quickly. But of course we don’t deal with it that way. In the video we’re making for it, a hand is picking from cut-and-paste ad graphics of people and chimps. It picks certain people and chimps, and puts them in a spaceship, and then they get beamed up. It’s a reference to the stupid Scientology mythology. We’re showing these video backgrounds in sync with the music at this year’s South by Southwest.

EP: You’re performing all the new music there?

JC: Three new songs. And also showing people what we used to do before anyone used to do it, which is to play in sync with video. And now, sure, Nine Inch Nails do it, and U2 do it. It used to be almost impossible to do it the way we had to do it with the technology we had back then. Now it’s easier, it’s just expensive.

EP: So how many new songs do you have right now?

JC: We have about ten demos, and we’re working on about five. We have six songs completed and mixed and ready to hand to producers. We’re looking at a fall tour with our new CD. In the meantime, we want to get this music to licensers and producers.

EP: What’s the general feeling of rapport or camaraderie in the group right now? How are you getting along after all these years?

JC: I can only speak for myself. I have the same commitment, excitement, and urgency. I think to a large degree that the two Bobs do, as well. We do have some really good songs now. There’s one called “Fresh” that I like a lot. The lyrics are:

So fresh / I’ll search until I find it / So fresh / I’m closing in behind it / So fresh / Nothing could be better / So fresh / Like I died and went to heaven / So fresh it almost makes me want to cry / So fresh it’s givin’ me a second life / I see a fork in the road / Where it goes I don’t know / I won’t even think twice / I really don’t have a choice

EP: So it’s about… encroachment? Love?

JC: It’s about anything. It’s about fulfilling your destiny, and chasing new love.

EP: Thermodynamics?

JC: Yeah! What was the old high-school maxim? “When the angle of the dangle is proportionate to the heat of the meat, and the mass of the ass stays constant?” That’s thermodynamics! I love those hillbilly truisms and wisdom. It gets profound when you get older and think about it. High-school kids know everything already.

EP: And then you learn it over and over again, and then forget it, and then you don’t know anything, and that’s the true state of enlightenment.

JC: That’s right. Artists tend not to forget what they knew in high school. That’s what I like about artists. Part of them doesn’t grow up. They don’t get ashamed of those impulses. I don’t like people who do things in a spiritless way. Like with anything, like with sex. If you’re going to bother doing it, try to do a really good job. Concentrate and be there, and try to really be good at what you do.

See this post on Flavorwire – Earplug