I’ll try to keep this short; it’s late and there’s not much time left. Please forgive me if you’ve heard parts of this story before.
For me, it started with an old box of science fiction. I tore through Samuel R. Delany, Joanna Russ, Gene Wolfe, and others, reliving stories old by the time I cracked the pages. I didn’t care.
To my mind, the New Wave had it: the future was something to play in. This status quo was the most transient of things, its passing viewed with a sense of infinite possibility. If there were other cultures out in space, forward in time, why not here? Why not now?
I lived in one of those amazing, barely-clinging corners of the country too many ignore when they talk about culture of any variety. No metropoli there, just a scattering of people trying their desperate best. By the time I busted open the box full of old books, I had already faced a fair amount of poverty, hardship, and even death.
But here, as the years wore on and I read my way through an uneasy adolescence, was something else: here was hope, in the most dangerous fashion. Somewhere out there, people changed their personalities, moved in unison, turned boundaries into blurs transitory as old blood on a highway.
By that point I did not care about ridicule, and laughed when someone threatened me, but this I was terrified of, sure that the half-described scenes — goths, ravers, activists, and more — faced possibility with a courage I felt I’d never know.
A final, fantastic Geekqualitycross-posting written by Moxie Munroe. Thanks again to everyone over at our cherished sister blog for their thoughtful contributions and ongoing inspiration. We love you! Keep up the empowering, nourishing work. ~Mer
It’s a widely accepted idea that music, like fashion, social movements, and menstruation, runs in cycles. Sometimes this theory runs less true than others, but right now I think it’s pretty applicable. Because right now, in the year of our Lord 2012, three things are making a huge media comeback: feminism, babydoll dresses, and female [presenting] emcees. This is important on several different levels, one being that the rise of the female emcee in 2012, and the performance styles they’ve adopted, gives us the chance to have some real conversations about race, class, and presentation in the role of third wave feminism.
You might say, “But Moxie, this is a blog for geeks by geeks! What does this have to do with my geek culture?” And I might answer, “Well, you beautiful newborn baby, geek culture is fringe culture, just like this is fringe culture. Music geeks are geeks too, and music geeks encompass a wider berth than just Flaming Lips fans, so get over it – hip-hop geeks need some shine too, and the issues we’re dealing with here are the same issues we deal with when we talk about representation of women of color in media in general, including comics, so double get over it, zip your lips and listen up, sporty.” And you might say, “Moxie, that’s mean!” And I might say “I don’t care!” So let’s continue.
Third wave feminism, is Now feminism; it’s pop feminism; some people might identify it as “girl power” Spice Girls feminism. It’s important, because this particular wave allows us to focus on things like sexual progressiveness and agency as it exists within the feminist sphere. A lot of the criticisms surrounding third wave feminism (and feminism in general) focus on the perceived and actual exclusion of race, class, and gender presentation in discourse. Several of the up and coming femcees in 2012 serve to challenge many of the practical aspects of both the standard patriarchy and the perceived paradigm of the feminist ideal. I’d say a lot of this is because most femcees exist in a racial/sexual no-man’s land, where subversiveness is almost necessary to survival.
The first wave of femcees seems to have come around sometime in the 80s and early 90s with folks like Queen Latifah, MC Lyte, Salt N Pepa, and TLC; with tracks like “Ladies First” and “None Of Your Business” lending a particularly feminist voice to the hip-hop game. As hot as these songs (and artists) were, none of them became banner anthems of the feminist movement, falling behind artists like Bikini Kill and other darlings of the Riot Grrl movement. Recently though, vintage fem-penned hip-hop has been getting more play in feminist circles, due in large part to this generation’s penchant for nostalgia, and also the rise of social media’s role in social movements, allowing more voices of color to come to the forefront of the conversation. Social media has aided in the diversity of the music scene as well, allowing more underground artists to be heard by a wide range of demographics.
But let’s get back to the future. Today’s crop of female emcees seems to be as influenced by the socially conscious hip-hop of the 80s and 90s as it is the more raw sexually charged female hip-hop of the early 00s, when artists like Lil’ Kim and Foxy Brown ruled the school. The explicit lyrics of that form of the genre tended to turn off a lot of feminists who dismissed it as both heteronormative and degrading.
John John Jesse is a celebrated, controversial Catholic schoolboy-cum-punk rocker-cum-gonzo pop artist who came up in the dirty streets of NYC’s Lower East Side in the 80s and 90s. Luscious, filthy, fantastical, Jesse’s illustrative paintings are imbued with a lifelong appreciation for the fierce and rebellious girls he grew up with, and convey a deep understanding of the psychosexual underpinnings to work by a wide variety of fellow artists– from Gustav Klimt and Béla Iványi-Grünwald to Jamie Reid and Caravaggio. Most of the people featured in Jesse’s work are friends of his; many others are recognizable figures from sub/pop/countercultural spheres. A couple years back, Jesse moved from the big city into more pastoral climes, but his passionate love affair with the imagery and narrative of Punk Rawk New Yawk continues. Today on Coilhouse: a recent interview with JJJ conducted by Coilhouse contributor Sarah Hassan. ~Mer
L.I.E. ’88 by John John Jesse
As the quintessential ‘punk rock painter’ from the Lower East Side, a neighborhood now known more for it’s expensive rent and boutiques than heroin addicts and street gangs, how did your move from the city affect your work, if all? Is New York City still what inspires you, or is there something to be said for the quiet of small-town living?
I left New York City because it no longer is what it was. It has turned into an extremely over-crowded college dorm. I mean, now you actually have to wait in line to cross the street and some intersections. That’s fucked! But moving didn’t affect my work at all, it just removed the distractions. You can take the boy out of the city, but you can’t take the city out of the boy, as they say. My life story is what inspires me and most of that took place in New York City, so being here – the country – just gave me the clarity to get my point across in my works.
New York can be rather distracting for an artist, there is a simplicity to living outside it that seems to enhance ones creative output. Your work appears and is often credited to be extremely autobiographical; the music, the drugs, the girls, the heartache. As you’ve developed as an artist, have your inspirations changed in anyway, or do the same themes resonate with you even more than ever?
It’s a lot of the same; I am just discovering new ways to tell my story. After time, your craft always becomes more refined and that gets me pretty eager to keep painting. And as it – my work – is autobiographical, my life continues, so therefore my story does too.
The 3-Headed, Tattooed Waif by John John Jesse
The ever-evolving body of work; it’s inspiring. The exuberance and anxiety of youth is a major theme with your paintings, which music has always been successful in addressing. How has your experience as a musician affected your fine art?
I’m now retired from touring and playing in punk bands, I don’t have the time they need to commit. Better to give a one-hundred percent to one thing than spread myself thin and do both crappy. I had been on tour or recording most of my life, so it had a huge impact on my art. I mean, we weren’t the Jonas Brothers, but you can imagine what we were like on tour. It’s pretty much a free pass to do whatever the fuck you want.
Wren Britton of PUREVILE just posted this (and several more scorching hot, queer-as-fuck music videos) on his website, saying: “Just some pretty amazing gay positive hip hop…FINALLY…I mean with so many in this genre still on the DL its really amazing to see some new kids standing up and saying ‘YES HUNTY’…..Keep that shit up !!!!!”
Oh, hells yass.
The video for Mykki Blanco‘s “Wavvy” is particularly off the hook. Really, what’s not to love about a juicy, no-holds-barred, 19th Century salon style orgy? Some of our east coast readers may recognize some familiar faces and names from the downtown NYC bohemian gallery scene: Susan Surface, No Bra, Christelle de Castro, Jeanette Hayes, Ruth Gruca…
“What the fuck I gotta prove to a room full of dudes who ain’t listenin to my words cause they starin at my shoes?”
Guys! “I Have Your Heart”, a tale of love and organ transplantation by Molly Crabapple, Kim Boekbinder and Jim Batt (previously on Coilhouse) is live, and it was totally worth the wait! Check out the interview with the creators on BoingBoing, and watch the animation here:
A few hours ago, Finitor posted this raw video he shot on Staten Island yesterday with an iPhone 5. No audio mixing, no post-processing. Its soundtrack is eerily beautiful, and, in the context of current events, more than a little sad.
Finitor writes: “There’s this unfinished building on Staten Island’s east shore, intended to eventually house an indoor track. When the wind blows strong, the metal strutwork and roof skin resonate to create this haunting music, like something one of those austere [Finnic] composers like Arvo Pärt would produce with a full chamber orchestra. …The building looks over the worst storm-hit parts of SI, and the keening is kind of a soundtrack to the ruin.”
Needless to say, it’s been an incalculably stressful and difficult week for millions of people directly affected by Hurricane Sandy. This is just a series of “How You Can Help” links cobbled together from various trusted sources around the web. Please, by all means, add more in comments if you like.
East Coast and Caribbean comrades, we’re all sending lots of love and warm, dry vibes your way. Please let us know how we can help. Hang in there.
NonsenseNYC has also collected together a fine list of people and projects that require aid, many that need actual labour, “not your donations or clicks”. Their latest newsletter began with, “The most important thing to understanding what’s going on is to actually go to the areas that need attention. People who need help will not always ask for it, or be able to ask for it. This is a do-it-yourself guide: call or internet if you can, but ultimately just go.”
It is All Soul’s Day, when the veil between the living and the dead is said to be at its most diaphanous. And so we present a feature on the eligaically named, NYC-based band O’death, written Katelan Foisy. A multimedia artist, writer, model, and tarologist, Katelan is known as “La Gitana” and the “Mistress of Magic”. She can be found on the internet almost everywhere. ~Mer
Portrait by Katelan Foisy.
O’death is one of those bands you remember falling in love with. I first heard them back in 2007 in the former apartment of William S. Burroughs. I was making cowboy coffee and my boyfriend at the time was queuing up music for our Darwin’s Nightmare Party, a party to “celebrate” the naturalist’s birthday. “You’ve got to listen to this band,” he said as I poured loose coffee grounds into boiling water. He hit play and I stopped, mid-pour, to turn around. “Who is this?” I demanded. He told me it was O’death, a Brooklyn-based band he had seen a few weeks back. I left the coffee as we danced on cigarette strewn, whiskey stained wooden floors. The song was “Down to Rest” and I was entranced. It had the feeling of a small town forgotten and decayed, remembered only by the myth passed down by word of mouth by elders at camp fires.
Spring, 2008. I walked into a coffee shop to deliver a human skull to an artist when a poster caught my eye. It was for an O’death show. I remembered that night again like it was the first time. I immediately went home and tried to befriend the band. They were about to come out with a new album Broken Hymns Limbs and Skin and commissioned me to do a portrait as part of the press packet. I listened to the album. It was more refined than the first but still pulled the listener into a world between waking and dreaming. I remember thinking there was something incredibly special about this band; it wasn’t just that they had taken parts of old time Appalachia and made it contemporary, it was that they could make you feel you were part of the story. This could be explained in the way they’ve recorded each album. Head Home and Broken Hymns, Limbs, and Skins were recorded live. As you listen, you see them on stage. What you hear on the album is as passionate as a live performance.
Outside, their most recent album, was recorded in fragments. David Rogers-Berry, the band’s drummer, had recently battled Osteosarcoma (a form of bone cancer), undergoing chemotherapy and a shoulder replacement. Where many would have given up, O’death embraced this as an opportunity to experiment with sound. The album’s lineup of Gabe Darling- banjo/ukulele, Jesse Newman- bass, Greg Jamie-singer/lyricist, and violinist Bob Pycior lead the music towards a slower, more melodic turn.
Each O’death album has a distinct feel while retaining the band’s singular magic. They transport listeners to new places. Hearing an O’death song is like falling into a small book of short stories told in a cave by a fire, on a ship during a storm, in a pub on the streets of England, or while hidden away in a swampland cabin. Their music transcends time. Upon first listen, a characteristic track might be mistaken for a classic folk song. However, their words are striking in the contemporary dialogue with time and humanity they invoke.
Despite an old time feel to their music, the only song actually based upon a historical event is “Fire on Peshtigo” from Broken Hymns, Limbs, and Skin. It was inspired by the 1871 Peshtigo, Wisconsin firestorm that killed 1,500 and which occurred the same day as the Chicago, Holland and Manistee, Michigan fires.
“I recorded with them after we left here last time, and in a couple of days I’m going to Berlin to record some more… They’re totally sweet people!,” she said about a month ago.
Funchess also told No Conclusion that the track features lyrics written by visual artist Emily Roysdon. “Karin [Dreijer Andersson] and I sang the lyrics and created the melodies along with Emily as well, and Olof [Dreijer] and Karin produced the music.”
Artist, musician, and grand master tinkerer Felix Thorn builds machines –wondrous, whimsical, beautiful machines– by taking apart old, obsolete contraptions and breathing new life, motion, song and light into them. His pieces have been featured in galleries and shop window displays and art installations and commercials, used in various live performances, or as theatrical accompaniment, or as stand-alone film fodder.
He states: ”Although my medium focuses on the development of acoustic sounds, I am continually inspired by electronic music – the countless abstractions act as blueprints for the construction of its acoustic counterparts. I aim to build a space where artificial and dream-like environments can become a reality.”
Felix’s Machines EP available here. The stunning film above was recorded and shot at Gasworks in the UK in the winter 2008, and here’s another one (more of an overview) by Tom Mansell: