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.
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.
“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.”
WHOAH. Check out this sneak preview photograph of Aja Lathan as The Queen of Diamonds from a shoot for the San Francisco-based Five & Diamond collective by Allan Amato. Lathan is adorned with a breathtaking array of pieces crafted by various indie and alternative designers associated with the 5&D store/gallery:
Aja Lathan as The Queen of Diamonds for Five & Diamond / Photography by Allan Amato / Art Direction by Jessica Atreides / Styling by Ricardo Felix / Makeup by Medina Maitreya / “Pharoah” Headdress by Monica Wallway / Gold Neck Coil by Tawapa / Crystal Necklace by DUST / “Ruff” Ruched Scarf by Radio Cloth / Studded Bra / Axis Waist Cincher by Steam Trunk / Burlesque Skirt by Miss Be / Leather Gloves by Sparrow / Rings by Jungle Tribe / Shot at Purebred Pro Studios
“The Five and Diamond Design collective is a collaborative project created to promote local artists and designers while providing a resource to San Franciscans and beyond for unique, artistically designed apparel, jewelry and accessories.”
This shoot was obviously a massive group effort. (Bravo!) Keep an eye on 5&D’s twitter for more information about this shoot and other lovely stuff.
Well, it happened. The Pussy Riot verdict has been announced. The girls have each been sentenced to two years in prison for performing their one-minute “punk prayer” in the Christ The Savior Cathedral to protest Russia’s fusion of church and state. ”Even though we are behind bars, we are freer than those people,” said Pussy Riot band member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova from her glass cage on the last day of the trial. “We can say what we want, while they can only say what political censorship allows.”
Protests are happening around the world today. Above, a protest video by Peaches that was released three days ago. The video features performers who support Pussy Riot from around the world, including Kate Nash, The Knife, Lykke Li, Miike Snow, Peter Bjorn and John, Light Asylum, Deichkind, The Hives, Dave Catching(EODM), Screamclub, J.D. Samson, Marshall Crenshaw, Wayne Kramer, Bonaparte, Margaret Cho, Dave Hill, Nick Zinner, Jake Shears, Bun E Carlos, Narcissister, Sheila Chipperfield, Bronson Hankins, John Renaud, Fya Hopelezz, Margaret Saadi Kramer, Miss Guy, Sir Honey Davenport, Saskia Hann, Empress Stah, and Vice Cooler.
Below, a free poster by Molly Crabapple. Download the hi-res here. Print, post, mashup, and share. (Or buy a limited-edition 17″ x 22″ print to support their legal fund from Molly.) FREE PUSSY RIOT!
Who would’ve thought there could ever be a more wonderful rendition of Lana Del Rey’s “Video Games” than this one?
Well, Boy George has knocked it out of the park. The music video for his lush, soulful cover –a meditation on “young love in bleak Britain” starring London clubbing diva Angel Rose and alt-model Cesare Polini– is wistfully gorgeous as well.
In early 2012, the Russian feminist punk band/avant grade group Pussy Riot staged several disruptive performances in Moscow. Inspired by Oi! bands, the riot grrrl movement, and an diverse slew of cultural thinkers, the band donned colorful ski masks, armed themselves with electric guitars, and sang in protest of the devastating violations of civil rights happening under Putin’s regime.
Back in February, Mer blogged about the band’s “Punk Prayer” – an incident in which the band stormed Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral for an impromptu performance. The lyrics of the song criticized the Orthodox Church’s corrupt alliance with Putin’s government, asking Mother Mary to deliver Russia from Putin’s third term. “Virgin Mary, Mother of God, become a feminist,” the girls sang before they were dragged away by the authorities.
Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Mariya Alekhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich, the three jailed members of Russian punk collective Pussy Riot
After the performance, things got dark for Pussy Riot. Three members of the group were arrested, thrown in jail, denied bail, and held without trial for months. They have been charged with “hooliganism,” and are facing up to seven years in prison. At time of writing, the women have spent 117 days in jail, with the trial postponed for months longer. This is without any family visits, despite two of the girls being young mothers.
Shit is fucked up and bullshit in Russia. Putin has just exponentially increased the anti-protest fine, riot police are savagely beating anti-Putin protesters, and the homes of opposition leaders just got raided. Moscow has just placed a 100-year ban on LGBT pride parades, and St. Petersburg has banned any images of “gay propaganda.” Meanwhile, Russia’s Kremlin-controlled media has done its best to sway public opinion against the girls, painting them as “blasphemous” criminals bent on destroying the entire Russian Orthodox religion. In this climate, it’s likely that the three members of Pussy Riot will be convicted. In fact, just 7% of Russians believe that the band should not somehow be punished.
What can you do to help? For one, spread the word. Organize a local benefit, or donate to their legal fund (note: at time of writing, the site freepussyriot.org where you can donate is down, but most of the time it’s running). Take action with Amnesty International, urging the Prosecutor’s Office to drop the charges and release the band. Stage a protest at your local Russian Embassy or Russian Orthodox Church. Take pictures. Show the band that they are not forgotten.
Have you ever wanted Tarot card explanations that rejected the gender binary, referenced political movements, and quoted riot grrl music? If so, this deck is for you.
In The Collective Tarot, wands, coins, cups and swords are replaced with magical found objects: keys, bones, bottles and feathers. The court cards (page, knight, king and queen) are replaced with the Seeker, Apprentice, Artist and Mentor. While most card names in the Major Arcana remain unchanged, all have inspired new interpretations. Certain cards that contain outdated tropes (for example, “The Hierophant” – when is the last time that metaphor was relevant to your life?) have been replaced with more relevant symbols, such as “The Code” (referencing the hanky code) and “Intermission.”
The deck is designed by 5 core collective members and 25 contributing artists/co-collaborators. Artist Annie Murphy, one of the deck’s creators, said she felt inspired make a new Tarot deck when she found that she and her friends were unable to relate to the Christian, Euro- and hetero-centric symbolism found in many modern decks. In crafting the Collective Tarot, Murphy and other artists wanted to represent “beings and bodies of size and of color … as well as differently-abled, multi-gendered and multi-generational characters.” The card interpretations speak to the problems of modern people – the struggle to complete an art project, negotiate a polyamory agreement, or organize a volunteer group – while remaining rich with magical lore.
The deck has been out of print for two years. Now, the artists are putting out a limited third edition. A Kickstarter (with only 5 days left to contribute!) is going on for the third print run of the Collective Tarot. Those who contribute $30 or more will get a copy of the deck. In addition to a deck, one of the prizes is a T-shirt featuring the Ace of Bones by Annie Murphy, as seen below:
Good morning. Pretend for a moment that this is not, in fact, the Spring of 2012, but rather the Spring of 1982, now thirty years past. We’re in England. New Romance is budding. Rocky Horror is a’rockin’. The likes of Gary Numan, Spandau Ballet, and Klaus Nomi rule subterranean radio.
Under the banner of SHOCK, two young London lads with very excellent bone structure and pop ‘n’ lock skillz named Tim Dry (who would one day become Tik from the robotic mime duo Tik & Tok) and Richard James Burgess (who would go on to produce all manner of sophisti-pop) have joined forces with two young London lasses with very large hair and dovelike coos called Carole Caplin (who shall one day become far better known as the tormented fitness and fashion consultant to Tony and Cherie Blair) and Barbie Wilde (who is soon to be immortalized in celluloid as the creepyhot female Cenobite from Hellraiser II).
Edmund Welles, 2010 press photo. Aaron Novik, Jeff Anderle, Jon Russell, and creative mastermind Cornelius Boots in the foreground.
Confession: I’ve been meaning to write a feverish and swooning rave-up of Oakland-based musician Cornelius Boots‘ absurdly beautiful and strange and intelligent and mischievous and sincere and meditative and heavy-as-fuck bass clarinet chamber music group, Edmund Welles*, for years now.
It certainly isn’t for lack of reverence for Boots or his compositions that I’ve lagged. When suffering from blogger’s block, my editorial purview tends to be “when in doubt, crap it out.” But occasionally, there are those subjects that you can’t just casually hork up. You want so badly to do them every justice– to elevate and praise them to the highest and most lofty of misty, Middle Earth-worthy mountaintops. Boots’ ouvre definitely lives in that non-horkable category. Well, then! Having unburdened my guilty conscience…
Yes, Cornelius Boots and friends make music that I want throw a parade for. Or, alternately, throw my frilly undergarments at. While his group Edmund Welles definitely is not everyone’s cup of tea, it’s 100% my cuppa, and hopefully, it’ll resonate with Coilhouse readers who also love waaaay-off-the-beaten-path-no-srsly-bring-your-machete-cos-we-be-bushwhackin’ music.
Edmund Welles [...] has the distinction of being the world’s only original, composing band of four bass clarinetists, they invent and perform heavy chamber music. The bass clarinet has a five octave range and a huge span of tonal, melodic, and rhythmic capabilities.
Drawing virtuosic precision from the classical realm; innovation and texture from jazz; and power, rhythm and overall perspective from rock and metal, the quartet’s sound is characterized by a thickness of tone, a density of texture, absolute rhythmic precision, and the extreme use of dynamic contrasts: a dense, pulsing sound capable of expressing and reflecting the full range of human emotions.
They ain’t foolin’. It’s a massive, meticulously structured bass reed sound like nothing else you’ve heard. (Parallels have been drawn between John Zorn’s more recent works and Edmund Welles, for sure, but Boots’ steez feels simultaneously more West Coast and Far East-steeped.) Weirdest Band in the World‘s assessment is pretty spot-on as well: “The bass clarinet is an inherently weird instrument. Put four of them together in one group, and it sounds like a chorus of demon cats in heat fighting over a chicken bone. A demon chorus whose eerie caterwaulings just happen to occasionally assemble themselves into passages from Pixies and Nirvana songs.”
In 2005, they put outAgrippa’s 3 Books, which offers up original compositions by Boots that reflect his abiding interest in the occult and his talent for interpreting uber heavy spine-crunching metal. (Hilariously, Boots calls this stuff an attempt to create “Muzak for conspiracy theorists.” ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED!) Additionally, there are Sepultura and Spinal Tap covers. Not to mention the most bewilderingly esoteric and brilliant liner notes you’ll find north of a Trey Spruance solo project. (Buy the goddamn CD. Seriously. No, seriously. Totally worth it.)
Edmund Welles’ second album is called Tooth & Claw, and it’s comprised predominantly of original composition that are as bizarre and heavy as anything Boots has ever written, but with more nuanced elements of avant jazz and modern classical woven into the dense sonority.