Guitars A Go Go Debut with “Travel Advisory”

Guitars A Go Travel Roller Revise

Guitars A Go Go Debut with “Travel Advisory”

Improvisational Duo Teams Up for a Collection of Sprawling Soundscapes

and Pocket-Sized Electronica Collages Waxed in Live-in-Studio Performances

and Remote Collaborations During the Covid-19 Quarantine

Hudson Valley, NY, June 5, 2020 — Guitars A Go Go, the edge-pushing improvisational partnership of two acclaimed Hudson Valley-based guitarists, Rick Warren and Sal Cataldi (aka Spaghetti Eastern Music), today releases their first full-length album, Travel Advisory (Bad Egg Records 60066), exclusively on Bandcamp (guitarsagogo.bandcamp.com).

Armed with a plethora of effects pedals and a quest for meditative and melodic adventures spanning a galaxy of musical attitudes, they have been performing at leading concert venues and art galleries since early 2019 as a duo, and, on occasion, in a quartet abetted by bassist/composer Mark Steven Brooks and percussionist Pete Tenerowicz.

With Travel AdvisoryGuitars A Go Go swing for the fences, with nine tracks reflecting their left-leaning influences. The duo conjures everything from the contemplative soundscapes of Fripp and Eno and wandering proto-electronica of Krautrockers like Tangerine Dream and Faust to genre-defining experimental/avant of six-stringers like Derek Bailey, Glenn Branca, Sonny SharrockDavid Torn and Bill Orcutt to electronic classicists like Morton Subotnik and Pauline Oliveros.

The heart of Travel Advisory is a quartet of live-in-studio duets recorded just as the Covid-19 quarantine took hold. They are layered, looped dreamscapes that journey through an abundance of moods, from meditatively peaceful soundscapes to textured noise and dissonance, ranging in length from 10 to 19-plus minutes – all recorded without overdubs.  Five more tracks were later produced in remote collaboration, with Cataldi adding guitars, synths and effects at his studio in West Saugerties to solo pieces performed by Warren at his in Hudson, N.Y.

Recommended Listening Suggestions:   

·       The Volcano Lovers:  Nearly 13 minutes of peaceful vibe music, setting the hypnotic template/mission of the Guitars A Go Go project. Loops and layers create an ambient bed that floats, setting the stage for a quietly unfolding back-and-forth relay of melodic improvisations by each guitarist. This trance-inducing epic was released as a single in March 2020.

·       Jig for Europa:  With a foundation on a modal jig figure that morphs into a blues performed by Warren on heavily processed acoustic 12-string, it is dressed in strings, electronic blurbs and backwards guitars by Cataldi, producing a blues that is equal parts old skool Delta and Deep Space.

·       DeKooning Was a Crooner:  The final and, at 19:57, longest live-in-studio improvisation.  Jazz chordal voicings from Cataldi lead into the inside-out improvisations from Warren, before taking a long meander through a series of ambient chapters, light and dark. The piece culminates in a final section of spiraling layered loops and sonic wail, recalling the 100 guitar orchestras of Rhys Chatham and Glenn Branca.

·       Smash Hits:  A trip into a backwards world, with a fist punch and echo treated acoustic of Warren’s setting the beat/pulse for electronic dressings by Cataldi, and his melodic acoustic melody.

For gearheads, here’s a list of some of the effects used by the duo on this album:  EHX Soul Food, Chase Bliss Gravitas Tremolo and Spectre Flanger, Catalinbread Csidman delay, Montreal Assembly Count-to-Five delay/looper, Empress Zoia (multi-effect modular synth pedal), several Line 6 DL4 looper/delays, Ebow guitar sustainers, Boss Heavy Metal Pedal, Morley Fuzz Wah, Electro-Harmonix C9 Organ Machine, Walrus SLO Reverb, TC Viscous Vibe phaser and Boss Super Shifter Pitch Shifter and Tera Echo TE-2.

NYC and Saugerties-based guitarist Sal Cataldi may be best known these days for his style-jumping solo project, Spaghetti Eastern Music. With Spaghetti Eastern, Cataldi fuses hypnotic Eastern beats, blues, jazz and electronica-influenced guitar instrumentals with gentle acoustic vocal tunes and looping straight out of the John Martyn/Nick Drake songbook, a diverse brew featured on his debut disc, Sketches of Spam and his 2020 single, “Her Lemon Peel Raincoat.” Time Out New York writes: “Cataldi’s largely instrumental, Eastern-influenced jams are infused with some delicate guitar work and hauntingly moody atmosphere,” while The New York Times proclaims he has “a beat unmistakably his own.” Called “truly excellent” by The Village Voice, “a wild ride” by Radio Woodstock, “beautiful and unique” by WFUV’s Mixed Bag and “a whirling dervish of musical creation” by Hudson Valley One. Cataldi is also creating acclaimed work with The Vapor Vespers, a music-meets-spoken word project with Alaska poet Mark Muro captured on the 2020 album, One Act Sonix, and on two albums with The Hari Karaoke Trio of Doom, with Kansas City based percussionist/producer Doug Hitchcock and renowned Eno bassist Percy Jones.  He also performed with Rhys Chatham’s Guitar Orchestra at Lincoln Center in 2009 and 2010, captured on the album, A Crimson Grail (Nonesuch).

Originally from Kingston, Hudson-based Rick Warren has been deeply involved in the improvisational and experimental music scene fostered by renowned vibraphonist Karl Berger at his Creative Music Studio in Woodstock. It was Berger’s chance visit to a Rick’s high school music theory class that led him to become a regular participant in twice-yearly workshops held at CMS, an international hot bed of improvisational music performance and education founded in 1971 by Berger, Ingrid Sertso and Ornette Coleman. Rick is best known for his soundscape compositions using his guitar and a variety of electronic sound sources, each one a new and different on-the-spot creation. Today, Warren is also involved with the Woodstock-based soundpainting ensemble Audiocanvas , led by bassist Steve Rust and captured on the 2019 disc Some Bad Western.  Rick is also active with the Hudson-based Slink Moss and the Magic Stones, the improvisational duo The Warren-Ver Straeten Half Quartet and the popular acoustic folk duo, Rick and Marilyn, with songwriter Marilyn Miller.

 

If in her agency, she chooses the sociopath by Eddie Vega

PhotoFunia-1591097784

 

If in her agency, she chooses the sociopath

 

If in her agency, she chooses the sociopath,

who beat her with open palm and word,

I will not interfere with reason or gesture.

 

Perhaps her heart has already fled back

or was never here…

And there’s nothing to discuss

Except what things to return.

 

If in her agency, she chooses the man who treats her

like spill on a barroom floor

(reasserting only what she feels about herself?)—

 

she’s no such thing!

she’s the light that fills every space she moves in!—

 

if that’s what she chooses,

if that’s what she chooses…

 

in her agency.

Eddie Vega is a Cuban-born writer with degrees in English literature, writing, and journalism from Brooklyn College (CUNY) and Columbia University. His poetry has been published in numerous venues including Pearson’s My Perspectives textbook, where the poem “Translating Grandfather’s House” quickly became a popular reading assignment in middle and high schools across the U.S. His news writing has appeared in Washington Post, T.V. Guide, The Tampa Tribune, Orlando Sentinel, and Austin-American Statesman. He is author of a novel, Awake Now, Sailor, and a book of poems, Translating Grandfather’s House and other Poems, Puntos, and Décimas, both published by Bare Knuckles Press.

N.Y. State of Mind By Michael A. Gonzales (inspired by Nas)

Gonzalez

Photo by Paul Price

“The illest niggas in New York City live in Brooklyn,” my homeboy home LaRoc used to say, and in the summer of ’86, when we both dwelled in the hell that was the Brooklyn Arms Hotel, nothing could’ve been more true. More than two decades later, the building itself, which was directly across the street from the Brooklyn Academy of Music, has been demolished and turned into a parking lot. Going to see it the night before, a part of me wishes I could’ve pissed into the rubble, or at least watched the workers trucking away those broken bricks that contained so many ghosts from that bleak time.

 

Often I dream about that gloomy sixteen-story building. That towering welfare hotel, where my family was dumped when we had nothing, still looms in my imagination, an eternal monument to those desolate days. Waking suddenly, sweating profusely and breathing hard, I’d gulp some water and spend the rest of the night staring at the ceiling, remembering the time.

 

For years we’d lived in Queensbridge Projects. QB or Da Bridge, we called it. At fifteen, I was the oldest of three kids with my kid brother Eugene, two years younger than me, and six-year-old baby sister. On top of the TV, inside a cheap gold frame, was a picture of mom. Taken when she was in high school, her skin was the color of chestnuts and kinky Chaka Khan hair flowed down her back. That was in 1971; nine months later I was born.

 

I had a cool childhood, but sometime in early 1985 mom duke started messing with some dude named Rico, smoking that stuff when she should’ve been working, and within months, things started to fall apart. Bills went unpaid, food was lacking and it wasn’t long before the city padlocked the door.

 

You know you done fucked-up when you get evicted from the pj’s. The Housing Authority gave us an hour to take what we wanted. As we packed, nosy neighbors peeked into the apartment. Whenever anybody asked what happened, I’d stare them coldly in the eyes and reply, “Crack happened.”

 

We shamefully threw pieces of our lives into black bags. My own bags were stuffed with clothes, Batman comics and a shoebox full of rhyme books I’d been scribbling in since I was ten. Before our fall, I had Run-DMC and Just-Ice posters on the wall. Calling myself K.C. Boogie, I taped Mr. Magic and Red Alert every week and rapped hard in the bathroom mirror.

 

Shuffling through the doorway of the Brooklyn Arms, we walked across the dirty marble floor towards the rickety elevators dragging the trash bags. Overhead, a chandelier hung from the ceiling looking like a giant teardrop. The stench of garbage simmered from the overflowing trash bins, wafting through the hallway. I held my breath to keep from vomiting.

 

If the outside temperature was eighty degrees, inside the building it was a hundred and fifty. Two noisy stand-up fans, their blades covered with dust, circulated the foul air throughout the small reception area and offices. In the corner was a battered payphone. There were three old elevators, but only one was working, moving slowly upwards towards our room on the tenth floor.

 

In the long, dark corridor, the oily brown walls looked as though they were smeared with shit. From behind the doors I heard the wails of crying babies, grunting sex sounds, television theme songs, couples arguing in Spanish and playful children laughing. A few doors cracked open as the silent greeting committee glared. Black faces, white faces, yellow faces, a melting pot of sullen, sad-eyed faces warning us with their eyes. “Get out while you can.”

 

Looking as though she was sleepwalking, my mother finally opened the door. After we were settled, my brother and baby sister sat on the bed holding hands. There were only three beds in the room, which meant my sister and mom would sleep together. In the corner was a rusty radiator and in the middle of the floor, there were dried bloodstains.

 

Our first night at Brooklyn Arms, a giant rat ran beneath the door. On the second day, some Fila sweatsuit-wearing clowns jumped me in the lobby while a few feet away a tubby kid with a JVC boombox blared L.L. Cool J’s “Radio.” Minutes later the fat kid screamed, “Enough already! You motherfuckers trying to kill him.” As though the voice of God screamed through the chaos, the boys stopped beating me.

 

Without waiting for me to thank him, Boombox Boy broke out. Boombox Boy—that would make a dope hood superhero, I thought. Later, when my savior turned out to be LaRoc, I told him my idea for Boom Box Boy, and he laughed so hard grape soda squirted through his nose. “You bugged out, man” he said, wiping his face.

 

After only a week, my mother had become popular with the trife life crack head crew. Nappy-haired dudes were knocking on the door at all hours of the night. Dealers was askin’ her to test their product. Unlike other fiends who flocked inside “the Broken Arms,” mom had managed to retain some of her fineness and all of her teeth, which I suppose made her a hot commodity.

 

While she slipped out in the hallway, creeping in the shadows, I was left with the kids. Finally, a few hours later, she would come back looking bugged-eyed and crazy as she threw herself across the bed. “I can’t take this shit anymore,” I screamed. She stared at me, but no words came out of her mouth. “I’m surprised B.C.W. ain’t already taken the kids, but I swear this shit has got to end.”

 

Telling a crackhead it’s got to end is like telling a pigeon not to shit on the window ledge, but I had to say something. Instead of arguing back, mom simply sat up on the bed, stared at me with glassy eyes and started crying. I grabbed my notebook from the bed, ran out the door and fled down the stairs.

 

The cinderblock walls were painted an ugly gray and covered with graffiti; hundreds of names and crude drawings were scrawled in black markers while the stink of piss hung in the air like an invisible cloud. In my pocket was a crisp twenty-dollar bill my grandma gave me a week before for my birthday. I promised that I’d keep it a secret from my mother.

 

Reaching the ground floor, I crashed through the door and slammed right into the fat kid carrying his radio. Boombox Boy, with his oversized sound machine blasting Cut Master D.C.’s “Brooklyn in the House.” Still, holding the radio in his right hand, he picked up my dropped notebook and handed it to me.

 

“Slow down, duke,” he said. I looked him up and down, taking in his color coordinated blue outfit and spotless white Nikes. His hair was cut short, faded on the sides, and looked as though it was trimmed a few hours before. He wore a pair of Cazal shades and a gold nameplate that read LaRoc.

 

“Where the fuck you going so fast?” The boy looked at me and started laughing. Putting the radio on the floor, he extended his right hand. “I’m Stacy Grant, but people call me LaRoc. Don’t know what mom’s was thinking about, givin’ me a bitch name like Stacy.”

 

“Like Scott LaRock?” I asked.

 

“Except without the K,” he replied, poking at his chain. “No K.”

 

“I’m sorry,” I mumbled. “I’m Kyle, man. Kyle Cooper.”

 

“Yo, dude, you gonna have to speak up. Ain’t no mushmouthin’ round here.” He had a hard Brooklyn accent that was warm and welcoming. Unlike the other boisterous boys he didn’t seem angry with the world. “Just chill, man.” Nodding his head towards my notebook, he asked, “You in summer school or something?”

 

“Naw, man, I write rhymes and things.” He nodded his approval.

 

“What you call yourself?”

 

“K.C. Boogie.”

 

“K.C. Boogie?” He laughed. “What happened, you got rid of the Sunshine Band? Naw, that name is corny. From now on, you Kool Kyle—Kool with a K.” He looked me up and down, shook his head approvingly. “Yeah, Kool Kyle, that’s the joint. Remember this day, because you have just been reborn.”

 

“You helped me out the other day, thanks, man. Them dudes was tryin’ to fuck me up.”

 

“They wasn’t trying, they was fucking you up.” At first his snap made me pause, but before I knew it we both laughed. For the first time in months, I was laughing.

 

“Why them guys so scared of you?”

 

“They ain’t scared of me; they scared of my brother Benz. I’m a fighter, but my brother is crazy. He one of them don’t give a fuck dudes. He runs most of the crack and coke in this spot. Me, I ain’t living like that. Naw, I’m into music, man. DJ LaRoc.”

 

“Now, that’s what’s up,” I exclaimed. “That’s my thing all day every day.”

 

“I spin a little, make tapes and shit. Trying to get into making beats, that kind of thing. Got some turntables up in my room I be practicin’ with. I ain’t no Grandmaster Flash or nothing, but I’m getting there.”

 

“How you got turntables and these fiends ain’t stole ’em yet?

 

“Shit, I done told you, my brother is the man ‘round here. They be better off stealing from Jesus; at least he forgives.” He laughed loudly. “You smoke, man. Wanna go puff?” For a second I stood there, silent, not sure how to answer. It wasn’t always wise to get too friendly too quick. Of course I wanted to puff, but I didn’t want dude acting like I owed him nothing.

 

As though reading my mind, LaRoc said, “Don’t worry, man, ain’t nothing going to happen to you. I got your back.”

 

Many of the people who lived in the Brooklyn Arms never seemed to leave the surrounding area. Talkative mothers stood with strollers outside the hotel puffing on Newports, the butts collecting at their feet like mutant flowers as they chatted for hours.

 

Standing in front of the streetlamp on Ashland Place was a cold faced dude wearing a dookie gold chain, sharply creased black jeans, black Puma sneakers with thick red laces and a black baseball cap turned backwards. Dude stared at me without blinking until, finally noticing LaRoc, he smiled slightly.

 

“What up little brother,” the guy said. Standing in front of him, I noticed the Mercedes Benz logo on his cap. “Who you runnin’ with here? He look like somebody I know.”

 

“He’s a new jack. Calls himself Kool Kyle; he’s a rapper.” LaRoc said things with such authority you believed him, no matter how silly it sounded. “This is my brother I was telling you about.”

 

Benz nodded his chin towards me. “What up,” he sneered. “Where you little bastards headed?”

 

“Got a phat sack of good-good from the weed spot earlier. Goin’ get some Phillies, head over to the park and spark this shit.”

 

“You know, that’s where we be buryin’ bodies,” Benz said. “Ya’ll be cool over there. Any of them Fort Greene project fools step to you, you tell’em Benz your brother and I’m down with Supreme. They gonna recognize.”

 

In the park, me and LaRoc sat on the gray stairs, out the view of po-po, and exchanged stories. As we shared a forty-ounce of Olde English and puffed two blunts, LaRoc told me his mom had moved to an apartment in the Bronx, but he chose to stay on his own at the hotel. “Benz gives the owners loot to do his dirt and they don’t say jack. As long as they get theirs, they happy.”

 

By the time we left the park a couple of hours later, me and LaRoc agreed to collaborate on some music. After sharing my rhyme book with him and spittin’ a Buddha blunt influenced freestyle, he was the first person I trusted who gave me props.

 

Coming from Wycoff Projects, he thought of himself as the King of Brooklyn. For the rest of the day we roamed the streets, hanging out at Wendy’s in Albee Square Mall and, afterwards, walking over to Beat Street Records where the DJ was spinning Joeski Love’s “Pee-Wee’s Dance.”

 

“You like this song?” I asked LaRoc.

 

“It’s alright. The track is dope, but the lyrics are trash.”

 

“It’s a fun song?”

 

“Fuck fun, I like my rap to be hard, to have vision. You know, “The Message,” “Beat Bop,” “South Bronx,” that kind of stuff. The real, the grit, not just some shit about a dance.”

 

Joeski faded as “Eric B. Is President” was mixed in. LaRoc began bopping his neck to the funk. “Now, this is what I’m talking about. This is the kind of stuff that inspires me to go in the lab and make some dopeness.”

 

Within days we set off on a journey into sound. LaRoc’s room at the Brooklyn Arms was on the top floor. Old soul album covers covered the walls and his prized Technics 1200s were set up in the corner. In addition to refining his own dirty sound, sampling the drums from the Super Fly soundtrack and combining it with a James Brown jungle boogie bassline, he helped me craft my first serious song “Broken Arms,” a track about the bleakness of our humble abode.

 

With my brother taking care of our sister while moms continued beaming up, me and LaRoc spent hours practicing. “Just speak the truth,” LaRoc encouraged. “As long as you speakin’ the truth, can’t nobody tell you nothing.”

 

One humid August afternoon I went to his room and found it in complete disarray. In the corner, the turntables were in pieces and broken records littered the floor. He sat on the bed, too angry to cry, too stunned to be sad.

 

“What the hell happened?” LaRoc looked at me and shook his head. “My brother Benz owe these fools some money, but ain’t nobody seen him in over a week. These niggas gettin’ agitated and they want their money. They can’t find him, so they taking it out on me. Nigga not only skipped town with Supreme’s green, but also his bitch.”

 

A few hours passed, and there was still no sign of big brother. LaRoc jumped each time the elevator creaked open, each time he heard footsteps in the hall. “I gotta get out of dodge,” he said as he quickly packed a bag. Within minutes we hit the street, hurrying towards the Atlantic Avenue subway station.

 

Suddenly, everything became a dreamscape as a red ride screeched around the corner. Two dapper dudes leapt from the car, slammed their doors and ran towards us carrying nines. The shelter residents began to scatter, pushing baby carriages into the building and screaming for their badass children to get out the street. As they got closer, the thugs leveled their guns towards LaRoc, and one of them yelled in a Spanish accent, “Blame your brother Benz for this.”

 

Seconds later, they opened fire. The shooting seemed to go on forever as flames erupted from the barrels. Screaming loudly, bullets ripped through LaRoc’s flesh as his body shook wildly, but still he refused to fall. As I ran in the opposite direction, droplets of blood splattered on my forehead like a sloppy kiss.

 

When LaRoc finally collapsed, the men dashed back to their ride as I ran over to comfort my friend. Weeping softly, LaRoc took his final breaths as sirens screamed in the distance.

 

For days, my hands felt sticky with his blood. For days, splashes of LaRoc’s blood remained splattered on the street, serving as a constant reminder that, as my grandmother used to say, tomorrow ain’t never promised.” For days, I sat in LaRoc’s old room, salvaging his sounds and packing away his cassettes. For days, I sulked and cried as I answered questions from the police, caseworkers and news reporters.

 

After a week, I finally made up my mind, kissed my brother and sister goodbye and fled into the darkness of New York City carrying nothing except a plastic bodega bag containing my rhyme book, a bunch of my homeboy’s beat tapes and the belief, as instilled by LaRoc, that one day I was going to make it. Forget about simply livin’ large, my goal was to be a lyrical giant spitting the truth.

Bio: Michael A. Gonzales is a native New Yorker who has written about rap music since the 1980s. In 1991 his co-authored book Bring the Noise: A Guide to Rap Music and Hip-Hop Culture was published. His work has appeared in The Source, Vibe, Rappages, XXL, New York and Wax Poetics His fiction has appeared in several print and online publications including The Root.com, Bronx Biannual, Dark Mask edited by Gary Phillips and Black Pulp. His newest story “Graffiti City” will be published in SOLEDAD #2.

 

HARDCORE NOIR by Eric Beetner

 

all the way downWhen Paul debuted Punk Noir my immediate thought was of the night those two passions of mine collided.

See, I was a hardcore kid. Punk rock was actually kind of weak in my mind at 15, even though my gateway drugs had been the Ramones and Sex Pistols like everyone else. But after I’d been to my first genuine hardcore show I was hooked. Trouble was, I couldn’t drive yet so my outings to shows were limited by when my friend Dan could drive us. Dan was a bit older and the only other person I knew in my quiet suburban Connecticut town who liked loud music. Dan was a metalhead and he’d taken me to see Slayer, Megadeth and Bad Brains in NYC earlier in the year when I was 15 and I got stopped at the door and not let in because I was too young. I’m still bitter about it. Then again, I didn’t even own a set of earplugs back then so maybe my hearing came out ahead.

But the club where I’d go see hardcore shows was an all ages venue run out of the basement of an art gallery in Stamford, CT. called the Anthrax, because why not?

They made no pretense of turning it into anything but a basement. The floors were concrete, the ceilings head-cracking low and the “stage” was a six inch riser tucked in a corner where the bands would set up and try not to get electrocuted by the PA system.

A big show would be thirty people crammed in and doing their best to slam dance while avoiding the exposed steel beams holding up the floor of the art gallery above.

This is suburban Connecticut in the 1980s. It’s Regan-era conservative in a commuter town with money. They didn’t care for punks. As a result, the Anthrax had an adversarial relationship with the police. Noise complaints, calls of crowds of no good delinquents hanging about were commonplace. But we didn’t care. It was only proof that the system was out to get us. It radicalized us punks like zealots.

I look back at the schedules then and I kick myself for the shows I didn’t make it to. But one day they announced a secret show. A big time band. So big, it was the first time they’d sell advance tickets. And they’d be five dollars, not the usual three bucks at the door. Rumors swirled and before long it was clear the secret was out. Black Flag was coming to town.

black flagFor a hardcore kid, this was the Beatles playing at the Cavern Club. Granted, this was late era Black Flag when they all hated each other, the songs got bloated and long and a far cry from the Hermosa beach heyday of the band. But still. It was Black Flag.

I bought my ticket. I secured a ride. I was going. I still didn’t own any earplugs.

When we arrived the parking lot was a zoo. Leather jackets, skateboards, mohawks, spikes. There had to be two hundred kids there. I didn’t know how we were all going to fit into the basement, but I had my ticket and I was psyched.

I stepped inside and the tiny stage was surrounded by a wall of amplifier cabinets. The opening bands were to be Painted Willy and Gone, Flag guitarist Greg Ginn’s prog-punk instrumental jam band who might have fulfilled him creatively at the end of Black Flag’s career, but the run-on noodling was painful to hear and more like and Emerson, Lake and Palmer concert than a hardcore show.  No worries. Suffer through this self-indulgent crap and soon Henry Rollins would be screaming Rise Above in my face.

Here’s where the Noir comes in. I’d set myself up for one outcome and I was about to be tripped by the fickle foot of fate. I went in with the best of intentions. Don’t we all?

We knew the long history of contention between this notorious band and the police. With dozens of punks spilling out into the street, the cops had plenty to respond to.

The two openers had played. The anticipation had built. Fights broke out. It was a hardcore show, after all. And a Black Flag show on top of that. No big deal. But not to the cops.

It’s hard to argue that the tiny club wasn’t in severe violation of fire code limits. With only one way in or out via steep concrete steps, if anything had gone wrong down there, none of us would have much of a chance. Worth it, though, for a band we all knew was as dangerous as they come. This wasn’t the faux kabuki danger of Kiss. This was a show where you were very likely to come away bloody, and you’d be excited about it.

But alas, before the first chords of My War rang out, the police descended in numbers. Squad cars circled the gravel lot outside the club. They’d arrived expecting trouble. A crowd of angry punks were more than happy to give it to them.

I wasn’t one of them. I stayed on the fringes. I just want to see the show. But as the punks spat on the cops, the cops muscled the punks into handcuffs and the call went out to shut it all down, I knew my dream of seeing one of my favorite bands was dead.

I didn’t know then that this would be their last tour. There was no way to know if the show would have lived up to expectations. All I knew is that it had all come crashing down in a storm of nightsticks, siren whoops and calls to disperse or be arrested.

In many ways, it was the ultimate way to see Black Flag at the time. A disappointment, a little dangerous, cops were involved. Yeah, it seemed about right. I also see it as very noir. I might not have been trying to commit a crime but I was trying to do something dangerous, a little illicit. I’m sure I’d lied to my dad about where I was that night. And then plans went to shit.

As we were driving away I saw Henry Rollins walking along the street toward the club. He must have been getting food or something. He was walking back into the melee of angry cops and angrier punks. There was my Mick Jagger walking to a show that would never happen.

Later, when Henry released his tour diaries from those days in the book Get in the Van, the show didn’t even merit a mention, so commonplace were Flag shows being shut down that it blended in to the larger tour and wasn’t noteworthy enough to write down.

I was crushed when I realized this hugely significant night of my youth wasn’t even diary-worthy by the man who lived it, but it has always been formative for me.

Shortly after, the club moved to a different, larger location in an industrial park where they could be as noisy as they wanted. I got my driver’s license and by the time I left high school I’d seen over 170 bands at the new Anthrax, at CBGB and other NYC clubs like the Pyramid and L’amour. I never did get to see Black Flag. Still have my ticket, unredeemed. If that isn’t Punk Noir, I don’t know what is.

Bio: Eric Beetner has written more than 20 novels, the latest of which is All The Way Down. Ken Bruen has called him “The new maestro of Noir” He co-hosts the Writer Types podcast and lives in Los Angeles. Ericbeetner.com  

Beetner by krajnak

HOME ALONE BY PAUL D. BRAZILL

home aloneA guilty pleasure is an oxymoron, of course, since no true pleasure should make you feel guilty, but we all have enough skeletons in our closet to make a palaeontologist envious. And I’m rattling mine now.

Make no bones about it – bones/skeletons, see what I did then?- the first two Home Alone films are misanthropic, dark and violent pieces of work, indeed. These are stories about child abuse, after all. Tales of smarmy yuppie parents who are so wrapped up in their own petty little troubles that their kids are pretty much invisible to them. Well one kid in particular is: Kevin. He’s so invisible, in fact, that they go on holiday and leave him behind to fend for himself. Twice! Even in New York’s low life infested Times Square!

And the poor kid really has to fight to survive on his own, too; in both films he’s attacked by two ruthless criminals. Many times. But he fights back by creating an array of sadistic weapons worthy of the Saw films and he tortures and torments them with glee.

In Home Alone one and two, Macaulay Culkin plays the neglected Kevin with a maniacal glee worthy of  Heath Ledger’s Joker and, in fact, all of the cast are top turns, apart from the bloke in the second film who plays a rich playboy called Donald Trump and is too far fetched to be believed.

Punk Lust @ Museum of Sex, NYC by Graham Wynd

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The new exhibit at the Museum of Sex in NYC has a lot to offer. Anger may be an energy, but lust is too. This show crams a lot of it into a relatively small space. Everything from vintage posters and adverts to memorabilia shows the overlaps between punk, DIY zines, the burgeoning 70s porn industry (AKA how home video became an industry) and glossy mags.
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Everything the orgasm addict needs: Johnny Thunders’ black leather jacket, badges from bands, glories from Vivienne Westwood & Malcolm McLaren’s SEX shop where the marketing of punk as product began. Veers American but not totally. Nice vintage pages of Patti Smith, glam shots of Debbi Harry and Joan Jett, a full size stand-up of Iggy whipping it out, lad mag spreads, interviews with everyone from Poly Styrene to Wendy O. Williams, and even a flyer for Edith Massey appearing with ‘her all-girl punk rock band’.
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Fun stuff: more pictures on my Facebook page.
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PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A CONSUMER: ELIZABETH YOO

30171128_10160193876855153_6066347487558525097_oSONGS:

 

Come Fly With Me by Frank Sinatra

Gangster of Love by Johnny Guitar Watson

Machine Gun Kelly by Nancy Sinatra

Rags To Riches by Tony Bennett

Promised Land by Chuck Berry

San Francisco Blues by Ramblin’ Jack Elliott

Pull My Daisy by David Amram

On the Sunny Side of the Street by Dizzy Gillespie

Follow the Leader by Eric B. & Rakim

These Days by Nico

The Wild One by Suzi Quatro

 

TELEVISON:

 

Naked City

The Twilight Zone

The Untouchables

Johnny Staccato

Peter Gunn

Columbo

Alfred Hitchcock Hour

Tales of the Unexpected

Tales From the Crypt

Batman

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Breaking Bad

 

BOOKS:

 

AGAINST NATURE by Joris-Karl Huysmans

BOREDOM by Alberto Moravia

THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY by by Oscar Wilde

THE INVENTION OF MOREL by Adolfo Bioy Casares

CONFESSIONS OF A MASK by Yukio Mishima

THE LONG GOODBYE by Raymond Chandler

ON THE ROAD by Jack Kerouac

PIMP by Iceberg Slim

STORY OF THE EYE by Bataille

DELTA OF VENUS by Anaïs Nin

THREE ROOMS IN MANHATTAN by Georges Simenon

PICK-UP by Charles Willeford

ROGUE COP by William P. McGivern

DEATH WISH by Brian Garfield

A SWELL-LOOKING GIRL by Erskine Caldwell

THE PLUM IN MR. BLUM’s PUDDING by Tosh Berman

 

FILMS:

 

Vertigo by Alfred Hitchcock

Taxi Driver by Martin Scorsese

Out of the Past by Jacques Tourneur

The Connection by Shirley Clarke

Le cercle rouge by Jean-Pierre Melville

Le bonheur by Agnès Varda

Breathless by Jean-Luc Godard

Easy Rider by Dennis Hopper

Scorpio Rising by Kenneth Anger

Il Sorpasso by Dino Risi

The Searchers by John Ford

Scarface by Howard Hawks

Blast of Silence by Allen Baron

Trans-Europ-Express by Alain Robbe-Grillet

Mikey and Nicky by Elaine May

 

PLACES:

 

Big Sur, California

San Francisco, California

Las Vegas, Nevada

Paris, France

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

 

OTHER STUFF:

 

Cats

Gangsters

Pulp paperbacks

Vintage pin-ups

EC Comics

Mid-Century Modern and Space Age design

 

Bio: Elizabeth Yoo is a freelance illustrator and writer based in New York. She has had several solo art exhibits in New York and frequently illustrates for books and other publications. Her most recent book work is the illustrated cover for the latest novel in Stephen Jared’s Jack Hunter series, The Chameleon Thief of Cairo, published in the spring of 2018. She frequently collaborates with City Lights writer and poet Tosh Berman and they are currently working on a cinema book together. She also shares a booth every year at New York Comic Con with writer R.J. Huneke, representing Rune Works Productions. They have just begun working on their first graphic novel, a neo-noir dystopian spy thriller. Additionally, she assists Academy Award-nominated director Immy Humes on the first documentary about pioneering independent filmmaker Shirley Clarke. It is currently in production. You can visit Elizabeth’s website, view her art at her Etsy shop, or follow her on Instagram and Twitter at @lejazznik.

Poetry: Truman Capote’s brownstone by James Walton

Truman Capote’s brownstone

Holly’s voice

fingers digging between ribs

the one-eyed cat’s

zig zag troupe

 

the shower running

 

after the call up

rooms full of old grey white men

in avalanche

interring country and western songs

 

a guitar taut as strung throats

 

no one’s Fred

callow as a phone booth at Joe Bell’s

should have listened sooner

a false note on every dollar

 

in old Spanish towns they believed

blindness gave voice a tone

birdcage on a sidewalk

 

a marmalade rescue

warming a window

 

awash in a cul de sac

 

our histories gutter up

perhaps for snow or fire

the past best kept as fine china

Jim portrait headBio: James Walton was a librarian, a farm labourer, a cattle breeder, and mostly a public sector union official. He is published in many anthologies, journals, and newspapers. He has been shortlisted for the ACU National Literature Prize, the MPU International Prize, and the James Tate Prize.

His poetry collections include The Leviathan’s Apprentice, Walking Through Fences, and Unstill Mosaics (forthcoming). He is now old enough to be almost invisible.  He lives in the old coal mining town of Wonthaggi, Australia.

Reflections/Iceberg Slim – Record review by Michael A. Gonzales

a7fb1231ac3ab5b5f2f3ee22d72cb147Living in Harlem in the early 1970s, my father’s apartment on 7th Avenue and 123rd Street was upstairs from an infamous Harlem bar known as The Shalimar. Glancing out of daddy’s fourth-floor window on a Friday or Saturday night, it wasn’t uncommon to see rows of brightly hued Cadillac’s lined-up from corner to corner with their equally flashy owners hanging in front of their rides before parading inside the lounge. In the beginning I had no idea who these dudes were, but after seeing the blaxploitation classic The Mack when I was ten, I realized that the rainbow coalition of sharp dressed men were pimps.

In addition to providing the world with an underrated Willie Hutch soundtrack album, The Mack provided a window into a world of vice that regular folks (i.e. squares) knew little about and inspired more than a few wayward souls. Still, a few years would pass before I realized that The Mack, as well as other pimp films The Candy Tangerine Man and Willie Dynamite, were partly inspired by Iceberg Slim’s bestselling memoir Pimp: The Story of My Life.

Originally released in 1967 from Los Angeles based pulp publisher Holloway House, the book’s author, whose real name was Robert Beck, was a former gentleman of leisure, a devilish man from Chicago who relocated to the city of angels to restart his life and spend time with his mother in her dying days. Working as an exterminator by day, he and his wife Betty (he dictated as she typed) worked on Pimp at night and sold it to Holloway House for the small fee of $1,500. Pimp would go on to sell millions, though it wasn’t sold in bookstores, but was instead marketed in urban candy stores, gas stations, record shops and head shops throughout Black America. In 51-years, the book has never gone out of print, and has served as an influence on varied creative artists including artist Fab Five Freddy, rapper Ice-T and author Irvine Welsh.

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However, since Slim wasn’t making much loot from his gritty literary efforts, in 1976 he teamed-up with his saxophone playing buddy Red Holloway, whose band performed nightly at the Parisian Room. Holloway helped him get a record deal with Ala Enterprises, a subsidiary of the African-American comedy album folks Laff Records. The end result of their collaboration was the album Reflections, recently reissued from Modern Harmonic, a strange, but aurally enticing one-off that featured Iceberg reciting what is known as hustler toasts, a type of ghetto poetry that was popularized on street corners and prison yards, two places Slim knew a lot about from his hardcore life.

Although some critics think that Reflections inspired gangta rap, truthfully it was the toasting tradition itself, as well as Slim’s books, that inspired the genre more so than that record.  On Reflections, Slim dropped lyrical jewels about wicked whores (“The Fall”), his own dying mother (“Mama Debt”) and a sharp dressed pimp who becomes a shabby heroin addict (“Broadway Sam”), Holloway’s quartet supplied the laidback grooves of easy listening soulful jazz that blends perfectly with the rhythm of Iceberg’s velvety voiced speech patterns. On “Broadway Sam” we hear a hint of the Drifter’s 1963 hit “On Broadway” played on guitar while on the “The Fall” we get a taste of Holloway’s smoky sax, but the musical solos on Reflections only last a few beats before Iceberg slides in and starts talking about sin again.

Reflections sounds a little dated, but that doesn’t make it any less interesting. A natural born shit talker, Slim’s voice is hypnotic, but he doesn’t rush through his words as he patiently schools us lames about the pimping game that he never tries to glamorize. “You know the price when you’re dealing vice,” Iceberg says coldly on the opening track. But certainly if you don’t, you going to learn tonight.

Bio: Harlem native Michael A. Gonzales has published short fiction in Brown Sugar (Random House), Bronx Biannual (Akashic Books), Crimefactory and Needle: A Magazine of Noir. He lives in Brooklyn.

Hard Knock Life: On the Films of Abel Ferrara by Michael A. Gonzales

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Nobody loves New York films more than a native. From the time I was a kid growing-up in Harlem during an era when the city wasn’t pretty, I’ve always had a thing for moviemakers who were able to capture the grit of my town on celluloid.

Of course, there are exceptions, like my favorite Woody Allen flicks Annie Hall and Manhattan, as well as the Neil Simon scripted The Goodbye Girl, but for the most part the movies I got the most pleasure from were the ones that showed the Big Apple’s rotting core, worms and all.

Over the years, I have repeatedly watched The French Connection, Super Fly, The Warriors, The Education of Sonny Carson, Taxi Driver, Serpico, Death Wish, Gordon’s War and Dog Day Afternoon, all films that perfectly fit into my aesthetic of what constitutes a great NYC film: raw, gritty and somewhat unpredictable, much like the city itself.

In the early 1990s, the two New York films that had the most affect on me were Abel Ferrara’s double dose of big city sleaze The King of New York (1990) and The Bad Lieutenant (1992). Ferrara was himself a native New Yorker born in the Bronx in 1950. Like my favorite Bronx Boy creative folks writer Jerome Charyn, director Stanley Kubrick and rapper KRS-One, he is a no bullshit kind of guy.

Ferrara started making flicks in the early 1980s, B-movie fare with cool names like Driller Killer, Fear City and Ms. 45, but it wasn’t until 1990 that I was introduced to his bleak worldview and neo-noir sensibilities.

King_of_new_york_ver1Staring at the poster for The King of New York outside a Times Square theater, where a few feet away hookers walked the block and three-card monte cats ripped-off tourists. I wandered into the movie house not really knowing what to expect. Sitting amongst a typical neighborhood crowd who screamed at the screen and smoked weed openly, as the movie began it didn’t take long for me to block out the distractions and become absorbed by Ferrara’s dangerous visions of thug life in our hometown.

Released at a time when “the drug game,” primarily crack and powered cocaine, ruled the streets of the city, Ferrara’s film introduced the viewer to recently released kingpin Frank White (Christopher Walken) and his gang of black henchman led by Jimmy Jump (Larry Fishburne). Determined to take over the drug trade, as well as giving back to the hood by building a state-of-art hospital in Brooklyn, Frank unleashes a blood-bath gang war on everyone from the Italian mob to the Chinese gangs.

Never one to do any acting halfway, Walken is at his best as Frank White. Whether talking shit or gazing out of the window in his Plaza Hotel suite, the audience cheered for that troubled man who has so much on his mind. Yet, as good as Walken was, he was no comparison to Fishburne’s role as the bugged-out, blow-sniffing, gun shooting Jump, who had more swagger than a million Jay-Z’s.

Looking like his daddy might’ve been a Black Panther back in the day, Jump is crazier than most cokehead gangsters are, but he still he reminded me of a few cool, but deadly dudes I knew in Harlem. Fishburne doesn’t walk in the film, he moves swiftly as a dancer, quietly as a jungle cat. Screenwriter Nicholas St. John also gave Jump some of the dopest lines in the movie. “Trust isn’t one of my stronger qualities,” he says, moments before killing a drug dealer.

One can imagine Fishburne today, all flabby and stone-faced, turning on the telly and seeing himself more than two decades later and wondering, “What happened to that brilliant motherfucker?”  Additionally, the film also featured wonderful co-starring performances from Wesley Snipes, David Caruso, Paul Calderon, Steve Buscemi and Roger Guenveur Smith.

Since many of those actors had worked together in other New Yorkcentric films, the ensemble acting was seamless as the robbers, cops and various baddies battled for supremacy while ducking bullets. Yet, while King overflows with violence, there are many dimensions to the film, as though Godard, fairytales and gangsta rap, also inspired Ferrara equally.

The Schoolly D. songs used in The King of New York, especially “Saturday Night,” only added to the hip allure of the film, an aural black cherry on top of a cake made out of dynamite. A few years later, when other MCs were still quoting Oliver Stone’s overrated Scarface script as though it were the holy grail of gangster movies, an overweight rapper named the Notorious B.I.G. showed his love for The King of New York by dubbing himself “the black Frank White.”

While obviously influenced by Martin Scorsese, who’s Good Fellas came out the same year, Ferrara’s perspective in The King of New York of our beloved sin city was more twisted. Shot by cinematographer Bojan Bazelli, the film has a strange texture that works perfectly. Between he and Ferrara, the nighttime streets, rides on the subway and various shoot-outs, including the brutal climax where damn near everybody dies, feels like something Frank White might be actually dreaming while he’s dying in jail.

Like most of Ferrara’s films, The King of New York was shot on a tight budget, but the director still managed to master mix a calm art-house sensibility with a manic pulp vision that was dark, dangerous and intoxicating. However, if King scrapped the surface of the scum that drove cabbie Travis Bickle crazy, then The Bad Lieutenant dived in deep and just continued swimming to the bottom for infinity.

Harvey Keitel played the title character, a cop so damaged that even his fellow officers were disgusted by his behavior. The cops give him sideways glances when he accidentally drops a kilo of coke he stole from a crime scene, a part of the movie that always makes me cringe, or talks badly about the Catholic Church putting-up a $50,000 reward for the capture of the “boys” who a raped nun. Still, that is small stuff compared to the rest of the inspired decadence of the ninety-six minute movie.

The Lieutenant, who wasn’t even given a name, was perhaps one of the most damaged characters in ‘90s cinema, filled with enough dread and pathos to fuel six David Fincher films. As he smokes crack in tenement hallways, masturbates in front of two teenaged girls and shoots-up with a hooker, we almost feel sorry for this pale faced mess of a man. Embracing those dark and scary places, Ferrara shot The Bad Lieutenant, which he co-wrote with Zoë Lund, as though it were a modern day horror movie.

bad_lieutenant_movie_image_harvey_keitel_02Yet, if the King of New York was a dream, then The Bad Lieutenant was a nightmare. The movie’s unintentional (I think) comic relief comes when he is at home surround by crying babies, an oblivious wife and a old, white haired mother-in-law who says nothing, but stares at Keitel fearfully. She seems to be the only person in the house who actually looks at him, but she has enough fear for everybody.

While the thin plot concerns the raped nun who refuses to identify her attackers, Ferrara’s masterpiece was in actuality a brilliant study of a man who no longer believes in anything: a Catholic who doesn’t believe in God, a cop who doesn’t believe in the law, a man who doesn’t believe in death because he’s already living in hell.

Keitel, unlike his friend Robert DeNiro, never stopped challenging himself when it came to taking difficult roles, and in The Bad Lieutenant, he played the ruined character with the rawness of a pus-oozing sore. Unlike other scary cat directors, my man Ferrara (the tainted saint of cinema, the outlaw auteur, the Hubert Selby Jr. of movies) captured it all.

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Harlem native Michael A. Gonzales has published short fiction in Brown Sugar (Random House), Bronx Biannual (Akashic Books), Crimefactory and Needle: A Magazine of Noir. He lives in Brooklyn.