Mythic Sunship : Land Between Rivers

Mythic Sunship seem to have appeared out of some ancient musical text. Through sounds and textures as old as weathered folklore and whispers under the breath in the shadows of centuries-old mountaintops, these Danish musicians make music both primitive and not of this earth. Like thunder clapping in the distance, their new album Land Between Rivers takes its first breath as a quiet chattering, but soon pours its mighty roar down and never lets up. Never. Mythic Sunship made their initial landing last year with their fiery Ourboros. It made no qualms about what Mythic Sunship were about, which was pummeling guitar, crushing drums, and epic songs that sounded like explosives battles put to music.

On Land Between Rivers opener “Nishapur” their ear-shattering mission statement stays on point. It opens with quiet, brooding guitar that builds into a cacophony of fuzz and distortion. Quite literally a wall of noise. Drums crashing like angry waves against the hull of a ship, guitar squall bashing into itself over and over, and bass acting as an anchor so as to not let the song fly into orbit “Nishapur” is a bludgeoning of the senses.

It’s one hell of an opener.

“High Tide” has an almost garage-y vibe in its opening moments. Motor City acid fuzz sprinkled with something sinister; something not of this earth. Soon enough though Mythic Sunship hit the interstellar overdrive button and light speed is reached. Anything resembling the gritty streets of Detroit in 1969 are washed away by the primitive drum beats and hazy, reverbed guitars that knock our psyche into orbit. There’s a sense the Sunship crew have tapped into some subconscious, Altered States-like primitive instinct. I’m not calling these cats cavemen by any means. I mean, what caveman could man a rockin’ ship this advanced? What I do mean is that they’ve gone deep in search of the essence of heavy here. They’re going back to the beginnings of that heavy, far out sound. Sabbath, Blue Cheer, Hawkwind, and all those other brave souls that took that one small musical step for man, so that there could be that one giant musical leap for mankind. They leave the frills, movements, suites, and concepts for the art school types and wordy chaps. Here we have pure rock concentrate.

“Silt” finds us in a haze of distortion and feedback. It’s like being lost in a blazing ball of white light. Blind to the world, you can only feel your way around the room in a glow of distilled energy. Soon enough the light fades and in its place is a darkened sky, lightning pulsating just behind the storm clouds. It’s an overwhelming display of power and existential doom. “Silt” is the heaviest Mythic Sunship have gotten, cresting Om and Sunn O))) territory, but without all that unnecessary chanting. If you turn this one up to 11 you may disintegrate before you reach the end.

Land Between Rivers sounds like a band in the midst of a musical storm. Mythic Sunship have upped themselves and their debut with an album that wastes no time getting around to melting your psyche. With three tracks spanning over 30 minutes, the Sunship lock into a distortion-laden groove and never let up until our ears are buzzing and the space/time continuum has been fully disrupted. Land Between Rivers is blissful, primitive rock for the new millennium space traveler.

8. 4 out of 10

Table Scraps Unleash “My Obsession”, 7″ Split w/Black Mekon

Way back in the year 2015 the Birmingham garage/psych wizards Table Scraps dropped their excellent masterpiece More Time For Strangers. It was a blitzkrieg of guitar squall, hyperactive drumming, and banshee howls that could resurrect the dead and make those zombified ghouls bang their heads and pump their skeletal fists. It was a raucous example of how rock and roll can still be fun and a little dangerous.

Well lo and behold our Table Scraps have returned, hungrier and gnarlier than ever with one of their best songs yet. “My Obsession” is a dark and doomy jangle that sounds like a cross between Alice Cooper, The Misfits, and The Kills on a bourbon bender. Their sound is more precise and deadly this time around. The vocal swirl of Scott Vincent Abbot and Poppy Twist is spot-on, bringing to mind New York City’s White Hills and in spirit X. Seriously folks, this thing rocks. Just listen:

The track is being released on a 7″ split with Black Mekon as part of a 7″ series Black Mekon is releasing with various artists. According to the band’s Bandcamp page:

The 45 Consortium is a series of split 7” releases, founded by Black Mekon, and sees Table Scraps join an esteemed lineup of worldwide garage heavyweights (previous participants include White Mystery, Bob Log III and King Brothers)

Includes digital pre-order of My Obsession (Split 7″ w/ Black Mekon). The moment the album is released you’ll get unlimited streaming via the free Bandcamp app, plus a high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.

If you get moving you can order the limited edition 7″ via the band’s Bandcamp page and see that cover in glorious 3D. And yes, you get 3D glasses. Hurry. There’s only 9 copies left. Get to it!

Hit up the Bandcamp page for all the details. Until then, play this LOUD!!!

Record Store Daze

Maybe I’m getting old. Well I know I’m getting old, but that’s beside the point. The reason I say that at this juncture is because this past Saturday was Record Store Day 2017 and I was still in bed when the festivities started. Years past(well at least since 2012) I was up and out the door waiting in line to grab some exclusive vinyl with loads of other guys and gals. Fidgety and shivering from the cold air, I’d be hanging out in the early morning light listening to various conversations that would range from what releases were the most sought after to the best cartridge to own to what this person or that person did the night before. I usually was quiet and kept to myself, pondering what I needed to do when I got home, besides pouring a cup of dark roast and which record to listen to first. It’s one of the few group activities I enjoy taking part in. It’s a unifying sort of day, really. Everybody coming together for the love of music and vinyl and elbow rubbing with the tribe, if you will.

But this year, I slept. And when I woke up, instead of throwing on some clothes and running out the door for my local brick and mortar, I made a pot of coffee and sat and chatted with my dad for a couple hours. Once he left I headed outside and mowed the yard. And sprayed for weeds. And trimmed limbs. And raked. Around 3:30 pm I finally made my way to town to see how my record store pals did. They did really well, nearly selling all their RSD goodies. There were a couple releases I was interested in, but I wasn’t expecting to get them with over half the day gone. I did luck out and I found one copy left of each of them. The War On Drugs 12″ single “Thinking Of A Place” and Metavari’s Metropolis re-scoring, which was released via One Way Static and Light In The Attic.

I chatted up my friends at Karma Records of Warsaw, then was on my way. The evening was spent grilling up some brats and dogs, enjoying a couple IPAs, and watching the excellent sci fi film The Void with my son. Once the evening got late I put on some headphones and dropped the needle on that Metavari LP. It was divine. A great way to end the day.

Hope you had a great RSD 2017. I did.

Nasty Boyz : The Late Night Sounds Of Video Nasties

Listening to Video Nasties is a lot like watching early John Waters films, reading a William Burroughs short story, or coming across an old Maxell videotape with 4 hours of dubbed cable access children’s shows from the early 80s. It leaves you incredibly intrigued and feeling slightly queasy. Brendan Evans and Christopher Livengood, aka B. Nasty and C. Nasty, savor the old and forgotten. Their music is noisy and disjointed at times, but also steeped in melody. Dusty and fractured, but melody nonetheless. At times their Feeding Tube Records self-titled debut sounds like early Cure run through a broken Radio Shack sound mixer, or Joy Division being pulled into a black hole. They love gadgets and noise makers, and each song is affected in some way or another by tape delay, modulation from Hell, and vintage-sounding synthesizers. If Suicide and Can ever did a bunch of whippets together in the studio and hit play, then that recording would sound a lot like Video Nasties. Maybe throw in a less emotionally stable Devo, too.

Evans runs and curates Strange Maine, one of the few multimedia shops left in New England, while Christopher Livengood is part of the heavy synth duo Victims. Both of these guys have a love for horror, vintage media, and skronky noisemakers, which is what makes Video Nasties such a unique band. Together, these two lifelong friends have a lifetime of late night movie viewings and music excursions to pull from. Video Nasties compiles a few of Brendan and Christopher’s cassette releases onto one LP. Anyone familiar with early Ariel Pink and Mac Demarco’s Rock And Roll Night Club, as well as early 80s alternative and bizarro Euro pop will have an idea of what they’re getting into here. For those that don’t know what I’m talking about, enter at your own risk. The rest of you, let’s have some fun.

Brendan and Christopher sat down with me to talk about everything nasty. Enjoy.

J. Hubner: With a name like Video Nasties, I can only assume that you two are horror fans. What’s one of your favorite horror films?

C. Nasty: Very difficult question. In some ways I feel I haven’t found that film yet and maybe that’s why I’ve watched so many over the course of my life. I guess Nicholas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now and Andrzej Zulawski’s Possession have both at one time or another occupied that spot. They create a palpable sense of dread. Despite having wildly different tones they make you feel under the threat of an unknown, inevitable horror lurking around the corner…and then when that horror is revealed, it’s simultaneously absurd and genuinely frightening. But I also love the Italians and like B, every once and a while find myself daydreaming about The Church, by Michele Soavi. I remember thinking I’d found the perfect movie when I rented that one back in 94…

B. Nasty: How’d you know i was gonna say Demons 3?! Probably because it’s loaded with sleaze, gore, and Asia Argento, plus it’s a 90 minute long satanic music video for Keith Emerson covering Philip Glass. There’s some really brutal and beautiful imagery, some absurd characters and implausible deaths. I’ve loved that movie for twenty years and i’ll never get tired of it. You can have my VHS copy when you pry it from my cold dead dick.

J. Hubner: Being friends since middle school there must be a musical symbiosis happening between you two. When did you realize you wanted to make music together? Did you bond over a band or a movie?

C. Nasty: I think we bonded over our love of bad movies first.

B. Nasty: There’s no such thing as bad movies, just bad people.

C. Nasty:  I automatically felt a kinship with B when I discovered he had co-opted his parents camcorder and was making un-self conscious, totally weird videos that were equal parts sincere self-expression and semi-arch tribute to the movies he loved…just as I was doing. It wasn’t until we were in our twenties that we first played music together. We started an improvisational band. Although at times we made abstract music, we mostly improvised “songs”. A number of the Video Nasties songs were composed in this manner. When “jamming” with B I’ve always had the feeling that anything can happen and that whether or not the end product is something anyone would want to listen to, we both had a great time playing. Whenever it’s not fun we usually just stop and watch a movie or something.

B. Nasty:  Our average ‘band practice’ consists of watching whatever new VHS we scrounged at a thrift store, drinking top shelf whiskey, jamming out some rhythms, watching some fucked up Youtube, and cramming in a few minutes worth of actual ‘practicing’ at the last minute. But back in (junior?)high school, i walked to C’s house with my backpack stuffed with tapes and paintings and I distinctly remember asking him “do you like horror art?” before showing him some weird H.P.Lovecraft inspired art i’d been doing. C proved to me that he could play Sabbath’s ‘paranoid’ on the guitar. We had a five minute debate on how you pronounce Dario Argento’s last name, i stubbornly insisted that it was ‘Argentine’. He introduced me to ‘the internet’ by showing me a nude picture of paula abdul. He played me a Pigface cd. I played him “21st Century Schizoid Man” by King Crimson. He lent me a dubbed copy of ‘Evil Dead’. It was the greatest day of my life and i fell in love with him, but it wasn’t until about 12 years later that we finally created the band that we should have started way back in 1994. We’ve been exposing each other to weird shit for a long time though. I can honestly say C introduced me to more bands and movies than anyone else in my life, but he’d still be listening to Boards of Canada if it wasn’t for me.

J. Hubner: Listening to your new self-titled album via Feeding Tube Records I hear so many different things. Lo fi, diy noise, no-wave, post-punk, and experimental all come to mind. What was the idea behind the band for you two? Were you trying to go for a certain aesthetic, or were you two just following the muse? Who or what is influencing the sound of Video Nasties?

C. Nasty: B and I, independently of one another, have been home recording stuff that fits all those descriptors since we were kids. I think we were consciously striving to combine all those elements, acknowledge the influence of all those genres in this record. Perhaps not deliberately Lo-Fi, though…I think that if there’s a homemade, messy quality to our recordings it wasn’t intentional…we were trying hard to make it sound good. It just so happens that we’re not the most technically proficient musicians and we might have lower standards on what sounds ‘good enough’ to be the final take.

B. Nasty: I honesty worried that the record sounded too polished but everyone keeps calling it lo-fi or ‘casio keyboard’ or whatever. We spared no expense, that record has $10,000.00 with of gear on it.

J. Hubner: How did you guys get hooked up with Feeding Tube?

C. Nasty:  In previous projects, we used to play out in Western Mass. with some regularity. We’ve both been fans of the label and the whole music scene out there. Many of our friends have worked with Feeding Tube, including artists like Id M Theftable, Big Blood, MV & EE, all of whom we’ve collaborated with previously. I can’t overstate how impressed I am with what Ted and Byron are doing. Most small independent labels I know of have some specific ‘thing’ they’re selling…they package their stuff uniformly, try to release music that has a preexisting audience…not those guys. In my opinion they’re the riskiest, most exciting label working right now. We felt that we had complete and total freedom to do exactly what we wanted with our record.

B. Nasty: Our buddy Caleb (from Big Blood/Cerberus Shoal) who recorded and mixed 90% of our songs is almost completely responsible for the record coming out on feeding tube. He thought Ted Lee would dig the songs and basically kept hounding him until he put it out. Byron Coley did the write up for the record. We thought he would dig it, but it’s hard to tell from his description. I mean to talk to Byron about that, maybe he’s been reviewing too many records. When you think about it, he’s probably reviewed more records than any other person in human history, so maybe his opinion can’t be trusted the way it used to.

C. Nasty: C’mon, you shouldn’t say that!

B. Nasty: Coley is an ass.

C. Nasty: He doesn’t mean it.

J. Hubner: Should I reach out to Byron for comment? Maybe later, for now how does the recording process go for you guys? Digital or analog recording? Is the songwriting a complete collaboration?

C. Nasty: I think each song was recorded differently. It’s hard to keep track. Some of the songs started as sketches in my home studio with no real goal in mind. I record basic tracks to 1/4 tape, cassette, straight onto a computer, or all of the above. If B and I like something and think it would be right for the Nasties, we use it. Sometimes we add elements in my studio, sometimes we take parts of songs to Tank 28 and build on them with Caleb Mulkerin (our producer/engineer/collaborator/etc….truly a member of the band, at least behind the scenes). There are some songs that we built from scratch in his studio. I know that at least one of them was composed spontaneously there. Sometimes we write that way too…just making stuff up on the spot. But there’s definitely no methodology or strategy. Even after we’ve recorded something and it sounds done we spend a good deal of time adding things, chopping parts up, basically messing with them. I think we were going for the sonic equivalent of an old VHS tape that has lots of different things recorded on it over a great deal of time…some things innocuous, like a home movie of a wedding or birthday party; some things exciting, like a half-recorded slasher movie; but then maybe something you weren’t intended to see…something horrible.

B. Nasty: There isn’t a single song on the record that isn’t a collaboration to some degree… we’ve always egged each other on to make everything more profoundly perverted.

J. Hubner: What’s a Video Nasties show like? Is it as chaotic as you guys on record?

C. Nasty: B and I have large VHS collections and we spend a good deal of time hanging around watching stuff. I like to pick out scenes from our video binges, then, using an old analog video editor/FX mixer, make ‘greatest hits’ tapes that are dubbed/psyched out. We project those over us as we play. I think we both feel like live music can be kind of a drag sometimes…that’s why we recruited a dancer/tambourine player, Cal the Kisser.

B. Nasty: Cal is an old friend of ours who came to all of our shows, he always danced even when no one else was. I started to worry that he’d miss a show so I invited him to join the band. Now he plays tambourine and does back up vocals. He’s fucking amazing. One night he wore nothing but a gimp mask, fairy wings, and a g-string that he accidentally had on backwards. That night we played for two hours, I shit you not. Subsequently we were blacklisted from that venue, it’s a source of some pride for us.

J. Hubner: Are you guys an anomaly in regards to the music scene in Maine? Explain to me what the “Strange Maine scene” is?

C. Nasty: I used to know how to answer that question but now I’m not sure. I don’t go out too much and I’m sure that there are lots of young bands doing cool things that I don’t know about.  I do know that we play with lots of bands that don’t sound like us, yet the shows still make sense, so maybe there is a scene. I like Big Blood, Taboo, Altered Gee, Caethua, SS Cretins, Tom Kovacevic, Herbcraft, Colby Nathan, Synthetiv Vision, Glade Swope, Id M Theft-able, just to name a few bands or artists that we’ve played with at least once (and are, coincidentally, friends)…I don’t think Video Nasties sounds anything like any of them. Maybe all of the above are a little (or a lot) too weird to play the bar or straight-indie scene, which is what my perception of most of Portland’s music is like.

B. Nasty: But we have played nearly every venue in Portland, somehow. There’s really not as strong of a ‘weird music’ scene in Maine as i’d like. Seems like Boston has had a lot more fucked up bands the last few years. I really like New England Patriots, those guys are weird but groovy in a way that nobody in the Maine scene is, other than Taboo or Caethua. Those bands are the vanguard as far as New England weird rock goes. It’s just not common to find bands that are weird, rockin’, and unpredictable. That’s who we want to play with- whether it’s dance pop or noise rock, it needs to be catchy.

I opened “Strange Maine” in 2003, and there have been hundreds of shows there. The last decade or so Skot (Id M Theftable) has been doing most of the booking. If there’s a Strange Maine scene it’s his doing, but I think he and I have both been pretty conscious about using the store as a venue for music/noise/performance that we LIKE but that’s the only criteria. So it stays weird and/or good but it’s never of a specific style of genre. Video Nasties haven’t played at the shop in a long time, though our first couple of shows were there. We used to play at The Oak And The Ax in Biddeford, Maine constantly, that was the perfect venue for us: it felt like a cozy coffee shop/hipster bar but they gave us carte blanche for what we wanted to do, and they just kept inviting us back. Every rock band needs a club that lets them do whatever; that’s what that place was for us.

J. Hubner: If you had to pick just one, who would you prefer to spend your Friday night with: Lucio Fulci, Dario Argento, or Mario Bava?

C. Nasty: The one who’s still alive seems like the most fun. I hope he’d bring along members of the family as well; Asia, Fiore, and Daria Nicolodi could round out my dream party.  Mario would be interesting, but I’d hope his son Lamberto would tag along. Lucio was notoriously unpleasant and apparently had questionable hygiene.

B. Nasty: Can we choose from Fabio Frizzi, Goblin, and Ennio Morricone? And Asia Argento is the greatest living Italian director, as far as I can tell. Chris and I have both been OBSESSED with her since she/we were teens.

J. Hubner: Anything new coming from Video Nasties in the near future?

C. Nasty: We have lots of material that we’d like to edit and release at some point before either 2017 or the entire world ends…whichever comes first.

B. Nasty: Caleb has been putting together an amazing analogue recording studio in South Portland. He’s invited us to use it to create our magnum opus, i think we’ll deliver. I think that by the end of 2018 we’ll have written, recorded, and released the angriest and most perverted pop record in the history of the human race. Unfortunately, we’ll all be using crank victrolas to listen to it because society will have totally  broken down. That or maybe we’ll just fuck around and put out another cassingle limited to 50 copies, I dunno.

Fabio Frizzi, Goblin, Ennio Morricone, and Asia Argento. I’m good with all of those. And I’m good with the Nasty Boyz, B. Nasty and C. Nasty. Master curators of the strange. Kings of weirdo rock and keeping Maine weird since 2003.

Paul Gilbert : The Everyman’s Guitar Hero

It’s been close to 30 years so my memory may not serve me correctly, but somewhere in the vicinity of the spring of 1989 I got to see and meet Mr. Big guitarist Paul Gilbert. Why do you care? “Paul who? The Mr. Big dude? Yeah, so what?” Will you please let me finish? Thank you. So in the spring of 1989 my guitar teacher heard that Paul Gilbert was doing a guitar clinic at the now defunct Music Spectrum in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Spectrum was the who’s who or what’s what of local music stores. Neal Peart got kits from this place(check some of the late 70s/early 80s Rush albums for the liner notes “thank yous” to MS.) Gilbert was touring the country doing clinics at various music stores for Ibanez, and my guitar teacher Tim Bushong had the forethought to load a few of his in-training guitar slingers into his car and drive us 50 minutes to see Gilbert do some shredding. My older brother at the time was taking lessons from Tim as well, so it turned into a big brother/little brother bonding experience.

Photo courtesy of Paradise Artists

So to give you a little history into Paul Gilbert. Gilbert was from a small suburb outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He was born in 1966, and by the time he was 15 years old he’d sent a tape to Shrapnel Records owner Mike Varney about auditioning for Ozzy Osbourne. Varney was blown away by the 15 year old from Pennsylvania. Gilbert moved to Los Angeles and attended GIT(Guitar Institute of Technology) and by the time he was 19 he was an instructor there. Soon after he joined the metal band Racer X and put out some premier shred albums. But in 1989 he left Racer X and formed Mr. Big with Billy Sheehan, Eric Martin, and Pat Torpey.

I owned one Racer X cassette. Second Heat was the one Gilbert album in my collection, and to be honest it was just okay. His playing was out of this world good, but musically it just wasn’t my thing. It was too heavy for its own good, in my opinion. Most of the Shrapnel Records roster was like that. Guys that grew up on Eddie Van Halen, Jimi Hendrix, and most of the AOR-ready rock we hear on classic rock stations now, but in order to show off the speed and neoclassical riffs the band pumped up the metal. When I’d read that Gilbert was in a new band with David Lee Roth’s bassist Billy Sheehan I was pretty excited to hear what they would do.

So on a Thursday evening my brother and I headed to Fort Wayne with our guitar teacher, along with a couple other students, to Music Spectrum to see Paul Gilbert in the flesh and hear some virtuosic guitar playing and mentoring. We arrived and the place was packed. There wasn’t any open carpet anywhere in the place. Mulleted teens and men alike(even a few guitar-slinging chicks if I remember correctly) filled the place to its capacity. Gilbert had a stool set up in the front, along with a 4-track cassette recorder and some PA speakers.  I didn’t know what to expect from the guy, really. I guessed by the looks of him he was maybe my brother’s age(he’s actually a year older than my brother, born in 1966), but I’d never seen any interviews with him. After an introduction and some energetic clapping Gilbert walked to the front with his Ibanez guitar and so began the clinic.

Now I can’t remember specifics, so I’ll hit some highlights:

Gilbert played some pretty eye-popping licks for us all to guffaw at. There was a portion of “Name That Tune” where Paul displayed his array of music history knowledge. During this part my brother yelled out and correctly guessed The Beatles’ “Martha My Dear”, to which Gilbert was impressed. Gilbert also previewed a track from the debut Mr. Big album which hadn’t been released yet. With the 4-track cassette player, he played the backing tracks to “Addicted To That Rush” and perfectly followed along with the rest of the band trapped in the confines of the multi-track recorder. I believe there was a Q&A as well, but I can’t quite recall(a lot has happened in 30 years.) It ended with everyone getting in line so they could personally meet Gilbert and get his autograph. I brought along that copy of Second Heat and Paul kindly signed it. One of Tim’s other students brought his Ibanez guitar and Gilbert signed the back of the guitar neck. I thought that was kind of ridiculous, but whatever.

I walked away from that guitar clinic a fan of not only Paul Gilbert’s guitar playing, but of Paul Gilbert the dude. He came across like someone my brother might’ve hung out with and brought over to the house to listen to tunes with. The guy was as relaxed sitting in a room playing and chatting in front of a room full of hungry wanna-be guitar heroes as he would’ve been had he been chatting in a living room with a couple friends, strumming on his six-string. There was no pretentious, “I’m better than you” attitude coming from this guy at all, yet he’d earned it by being one of the best guitarists in the world at the time.

I went on to buy that first Mr. Big album and thought it was a great mix of superior pop hooks, prodigious playing, and pristine metal-lite that could be played loudly in one’s bedroom or on a family trip in the car without any strange looks from the parental units. The guitar/bass combo of Gilbert and Sheehan was a force to be reckoned with. Pat Torpey was a great drummer in his own right, while singer Eric Martin had the perfect mix of sweet and gruff in his voice as to pull off both great pop melodies and the come hither swagger needed to be a proper late-80s rock outfit. I bought their 1991 follow up Lean Into It as well and that one topped the debut. It had the acoustic singalong “To Be With You” on it, but the highlights were “Green Tinted Sixties Mind” and the hefty “Daddy, Brother, Lover, Little Boy(The Electric Drill Song). That album made Mr. Big a household name(sort of), and I played that album for the most of junior and senior year.

And then that was it…for me, at least.

Seattle took over and I discovered The Kinks, Procol Harum, and Brit pop. The urge to be a guitar slinger was tampered by the urge to be a songwriter. The Shrapnel Records cassettes I’d amassed were designated to an old shoe box, along with those late-80s hard rock cassettes. CDs were in and so was a new era of music for me.

But I never forgot about Paul Gilbert. Despite changing tastes over the years, I’ve always liked Gilbert and his playing. I’d look into what he was doing every once in a while, but it wasn’t until last year that I’d really starting digging into my guitar slinger past and found a treasure trove of Paul Gilbert videos on Youtube. For the past 30 years Paul Gilbert has never stopped making music or doing guitar clinics. In the many that I’ve watched, these videos show a guy that’s never stopped loving playing for people. He seems to still be that 17-year old kid from the suburbs of Pittsburgh playing UFO covers in his room, or excitedly playing his guitar with an electric drill. He still has that urge to share and show others what he’s learned. He still comes across as a dude coming by the house to listen to records and jam in the basement. I love that.

I think one of my favorite videos that I’ve discovered is of Gilbert on a Japanese game show where guitarists name a band and another guitarist has to name the guitar player in that band and then play a portion of one of their songs in that guitarist’s style. It was Paul Gilbert, Marty Friedman, and a Japanese guitar player. Gilbert pretty much ruled the game. To me it shows just how much Paul Gilbert loves music in general.

I won’t be on a buying spree for Mr. Big and Paul Gilbert albums(at least not yet.) But it’s great I can jump into the wayback machine while watching his instructional videos or live performances and be reminded once again how much I like the guy. And you should check out his most recent album, Stone Pushing Uphill Man. It’s mostly instrumental cover versions of some of his favorite songs. It’s pretty great. His cover of The Police’s “Murder By Numbers” is particularly awesome.


Sad Man Noble Poet : Steve Henn Talks About His New Book, New Perspective


by J. Hubner

Photo by Joni Earl

Sometimes the most interesting minds are hiding in plain sight. Maybe it’s some guy at work in the break room quietly reading A Confederacy Of Dunces while FOX News blasts in the background. Maybe that guy at the local Starbucks making you a peppermint mocha has a Masters in Psychology and has written nine unpublished novels but fell on hard times. Or possibly that woman in your kitchen that wakes you up in the mornings to go to school who’s currently making your dinner. Maybe she used to travel the world and was passionate about the dada movement and had dreams of being an artist and living in a mud hut off the grid before you showed up. Or maybe that teacher of yours. The one you have for 5th period that quotes Vonnegut and you see reading George Saunders short stories at his desk before class. Maybe he’s a gifted poet that writes about life’s ironies and tragedies in a humanistic way.

Well that last one might just be Mr. Steve Henn. Henn’s a Midwestern poet who teaches high school English by day, raises four smart kids, and when time allows writes poems about life(yours and his, and everyone else’s that’s ever felt both the swelling sting and innate beauty of living.) Henn has been published in the past(check out his works at and he recently released his newest collection called Indiana Noble Sad Man Of The Year through Wolfson Press.

Steve and I sat down and talked about the new book, his inspiration, and a particularly nasty bout of Vertigo.


J. Hubner: You recently released onto the world your newest collection of poetry called ‘Indiana Noble Sad Man Of The Year’. How did this one come together? Is this your first book with Wolfson Press?

Steve Henn: I was invited by an editor at Wolfson to submit a manuscript, although it was made clear that an offer to look at a manuscript was not a guarantee of acceptance – that would be up to the Wolfson editorial board. Thankfully, they took it, and from there there was a lot more work involved with Joe Chaney as the lead editor for my book, Sky Santiago as the designer, and several others involved in the process as well. This is my first book with Wolfson – my first full book not on the NYQBooks label. Wolfson Press is a university press at IUSB. I’m very happy with the care and attention all parties involved gave to the book – at times the process felt laborious, but the end product is worth the effort.

J. Hubner: Are the poems in this collection all fairly recent pieces? Or are there some that date back before your second book ‘And God Said: Let The Be Evolution!’?

Steve Henn: The poems are mostly 2013-2015 poems. One of the oldest ones in the book is “Poem for the Girl Next Door” which was written a few weeks before Lydia (my ex-wife, mother of my children) died [in August 2013]. I don’t think there’s much, if anything, in the book that predates that poem.

J. Hubner: When you go into putting poems together for a book, is there a common theme between the writing? You seem to use your own life, both when you were younger and now, as origin points for your poems. But is there a concept to the book? 

Steve Henn: This one was very much influenced by the era of my life in which I was writing – after Lydia died, as I was acclimating myself to the pressures and challenges of full time single fatherhood. I found myself looking back to my own childhood, and also found I wanted to catalog experiences with my children – I wanted to think about what Lydia had chosen to leave behind. There’s not a distinct intention to form a certain theme or concept to the book, but the finished product suggests that family and fatherhood were big ideas I was ruminating over in many of the book’s poems.

J. Hubner: Where did the title of the book come from? 

Steve Henn: The title of the book comes from one of the early poems (I think it appears 3rd) called “What Facebook Knows.” The “Indiana Noble Sad Man of the Year” award is a facetious award I grant myself for my status as single dad, in that poem.

J. Hubner: Besides your writing, the book was illustrated by your children Franny, Lucy, Oren, and Zaya. Were they aware they’d be illustrating ‘Indiana Noble Sad Man Of The Year’? Was it the plan from the beginning to make it a family affair?

Steve Henn: I encountered a book of poems by the excellent young poet Franny Choi called Floating, Brilliant, Gone. The book included some illustrations that linked up with the poems they illustrated somehow. We had originally discussed including some of Lydia’s artwork in the book – some of her paintings, which are amazing, are still hanging at the Blue Pearl in Pierceton – but the feel of the art didn’t seem to fit the feel of the poems quite right. So I suggested bringing in a bunch of drawings by the kids and seeing if any of that worked. It was really the book designer, Sky Santiago, who is responsible for the ingenious pairings of poems and illustrations in this book – page after page, there’s some element or another in the drawings that seem to sort of comment on or compliment the poem it’s lined up with. I really think that aspect of the design – the selecting of drawings to compliment the poems – was so excellently handled by Sky. I’m glad the kids had a hand in the book too – the book is dedicated to the kids. I suppose I wanted the book, in part, to codify how much I appreciate having them in my life – without my kids I’m certain I’d be a great big mess and be making all sorts of stupid choices. Or would have, at least, if they’d not placed a necessary and providential burden of responsibility on me.

J. Hubner: Now you’re also doing a few readings to promote the release of the book. How has the feedback been so far?

Steve Henn: It’s been fun to do readings. Probably the best one so far has been in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, at the University of Pitt-Greensburg campus. I read to a roomful of Lori Jakiela’s energetic and talented senior creative writing students. We spent about an hour together and it was worth the 14 hours or so round trip. For a bunch of creative writers, poets, etc., the kids seemed abnormally sunny, well adjusted, and supportive of each other. A real good group.

J. Hubner: Reading your piece ‘On The Presidential Election Of 2016’ I could totally relate to the panic you had in those moments, thinking you were dying. I had some bouts of anxiety for the first time in my life back in 2014. That feeling of helplessness and the feeling of the world closing in on you is a terrible one. I can only imagine that first bout vertigo is a similar feeling. Have you had any more bouts since the day before the election?

Steve Henn: Cool, that’s on my blog then, the existential humorist on tumblr – which I’ve neglected since that post. It seems maybe sort of ridiculous, maudlin looking back on it but as it was happening I was truly worried my heart was failing. Suddenly being super aware of all one’s physical sensations is a strange place to be for a writer used to spending so much time exclusively between his ears. I have had ongoing vertigo issues since – nothing as catastrophic or as alarming as that particular day mentioned on the blog, but less alarming versions of vertigo occur often enough now that it’s the new normal for me. Hooray for growing older.

J. Hubner: I loved your poem “Requiem”. Beautiful ruminations of your childhood and memories of your father. I particularly love the line “I wanna travel down the telephone cord from the kitchen to the living room where my mother sat in her chair telling her mother a little too loudly how the kids were doing in school.” It’s a scene I can recall in my own childhood. Do you still take to rights out of the neighborhood and go visit your dad at Oakwood? 

Steve Henn: No, I actually never visited my dad beyond attempting to a handful of times in the month or two following his death way back in 1991. I felt foolish standing there trying to talk to a plaque in the ground. I never felt like he was really there. I generally don’t experience his presence as any sort of awareness or sensation at the gravesite or elsewhere, but I do remember certain scenes and situations from time to time. I used to get very sad or sometimes angry thinking about the end of his life and his death but anymore, mostly, I’m happy that there are scenes that stuck, that I recall, and that generally remind me that he was an honest man doing the best he could. I don’t feel comfortable at his grave. I’d rather imagine him sitting in his big black recliner cracking up while reading essays by Andy Rooney.

J. Hubner:  If there’s some sort of life learnt wisdom you’d like to bestow upon your children, what would it be? 

Steve Henn: I suppose the only wisdom I can claim about life is knowing what most of the poets are trying to tell us, which is that it has an end. It has an end, and as the poet and essayist Thomas Lynch reminds us in The Undertaking, it’s a good idea to maintain an awareness of that. Understanding that we will die encourages us to live with care and attention and kindness, and, if we haven’t been, to understand and accept that we’ve only got so long to get better at this before we’re done.

Steve will be reading at Voyageur Book Shop in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on Friday July 21st with Wisconsin writer Troy Schoultz. There is also talk of a book release in South Bend where it will be a kid-friendly event, though this is still in the works. If it happens, it will happen in May. Check out often for event dates. Indiana Noble Sad Man Of The Year is available now at or contact Steve through his website. Steve will also have ‘Sad Man’ tour t-shirts available through his website as well. Grab one while you can.


Dark Soundscapes : Timothy Fife Talks ‘Black Carbon’, SxSW, and Giallo Films

Timothy Fife. Heard of him? No? Well stick around and let me introduce you. You see, Timothy Fife made his presence known to me last year in the form of the synth duo Victims. Their 10″ release with Death Waltz called Form Hell was one of those jaw dropping experiences for me. Along with Chris Livengood, Fife laid out two epic heavy synth tracks that felt like the universe slowly expanding and then retracting onto itself. To my ears the music Victims create is of the intellectual sort. Music that evolves and reshapes every time you listen to it. Soon after that release there was word that Fife was releasing his solo debut with Spencer Hickman and Death Waltz sometime in 2017. That day finally came a few weeks ago. The release is called Black Carbon, and it’s a stunning album of moody compositions that run the gamut from eerie epics to ambient excursions.

Fife is one of those well-rounded musicians, composing scores for films, collaborating with other artists, and just generally expanding minds through circuitry. He’s also a guy that keeps moving forward. I reached out to Timothy Fife and asked if he’d mind talking a bit about the new record and what’s next for him. He was happy to reply.

J. Hubner: So tell me about your experience at SxSW. You re-scored a portion of ‘Kwaiden’? How did this come about? What was it like working with Antoni Maiovvi?  

Timothy Fife: SxSW was great. I did my first solo set there and I re-scored over an hour’s worth of music for Kwaidan with Antoni Maiovvi.  Working with him was pretty much effortless, he is a really great musician and can improvise really well.  The Kwaidan rescore was a collaboration between Holodeck Records and the Austin Film Society.  Antoni and I were the only artists that rescored Kwaidan that weren’t on Holodeck so it was a real honor to be picked for that.

J. Hubner: Would you go back to SxSW?

Timothy Fife: Oh definitely.  I didn’t see a lot of really commercial stuff when I was there and a lot of what I saw was really great electronic acts that all had their own thing going on.  Austin is definitely a great place for synth music right now, and very little of it was “synthwave.”

J. Hubner: So let’s talk about your Death Waltz Originals debut ‘Black Carbon’. It’s an incredible album, man. How long have you been working on these tracks?

Timothy Fife: I actually made that album really quickly.  I knew exactly what I wanted to do with that record, so I really just banged it out.

J. Hubner: Was there anything influencing you? Influencing the direction the songs took?

Timothy Fife: The whole thing about Black Carbon came from listening to a report on Public Radio about climate change.  The country just seemed to be going crazy with the elections at that time, so hearing something that was even worse about the environment really made me want to have those feelings as the undercurrent in the record.  Obviously I’m still heavily influenced by Berlin-School music but I really wanted elements of noise in there.

J. Hubner: I can hear that undercurrent in “Sydney at Night”. 

Timothy Fife: When I was finishing up with the track I remembered reading something awful about Sydney, Australia and I thought “that title fits.”

J. Hubner: I really dig the bonus track “Alebedesque” ,only available on the download version of the album. This one almost has an industrial vibe to it. Why didn’t it make the vinyl cut?

Timothy Fife: Yeah, that was just something I was working on potentially for the record and I just didn’t think it made the cut. I was definitely inspired by noise acts at that time.  Some people really liked it, so I decided to make it a “bonus track.”   But I think the definitive version of the record is the one Death Waltz released on vinyl.

J. Hubner: Speaking of Death Waltz, how is it working with Spencer Hickman and that crew. They seem to really get the whole synth scene really well. 

Timothy Fife: I owe a lot to Spencer.  I was basically a nobody from nowhere and he liked my work enough to want to release it on the best label out there.  I’m on the same label as Bruno Nicolai, that’s fucking nuts.  He is also really hands free if you want him to be and he gives you complete artistic freedom toward your release.  For Black Carbon, I didn’t have art set up like I did with the previous record, so Spencer asked Eric Adrian Lee to do it because of his awesome work on the Death Waltz giallo records.

J. Hubner: When did you start to get into Giallo films? 

Timothy Fife: I would say I was in my mid-twenties.  One of my friends was really into foreign exploitation films and he would show me Joe D’Amato and Jess Franco films a lot.  When I first saw it, I kinda didn’t get it but I liked the style and design in them.  Around that time I became really addicted to the soundtracks, and the Giallo ones were some of the most incredible ones I’ve heard. Loving those scores really got me into that genre.

J. Hubner: Someone coming into the genre green, where would you recommend they start?

Timothy Fife:  I guess if someone didn’t know the genre and they wanted a good start, it would definitely have to be Argento’s Tenebrae or Profondo Rosso just because they are still kind of like Hollywood films.  If they were enticed by those then Sergio Martino would be the next great giallo director to check out.

Timothy Fife(L) and Antoni Maiovvi at SxSW 3/17/17. Photo courtesy of Holodeck Records.

J. Hubner: Since we’re on the subject of films, at this point do you prefer film composing over writing original music?

Timothy Fife: No preference, at least right now.  Whenever I do non-film music I’m always eager to get back into film composing and vice versa.  It’s definitely more personal to write non-film music, but my style if you want to call it that certainly comes out of film composing more than anything else.

J. Hubner: So what’s up next? Any live shows?

Timothy Fife: Next week I play a few shows in New England and testing the waters with performing more.  I was a composer for film for so long I kind of forgot how to play live in a way.  I’m playing with Tyler Gorman from the band Dust Witch.  He’s one of the best musicians I know and we like the same stuff so it’s cool.

J. Hubner: Any new Victims releases in the works?

Timothy Fife: As far as Victims goes, I believe Chris will be coming back from NYC soon and we already have some ideas for a live show.  We have like 30 Victims tracks we never used so we want to put something else out with that material.

J. Hubner: It seems like performing something like Black Carbon would be a challenge.

Timothy Fife: I’m not going to play anything from Black Carbon live, at least not for now.  When I played my first show with Tyler I did open with a version of sorts of Low Plain Landscape, but those compositions really aren’t meant to be played in front of an audience.  I really see Black Carbon as more of a mood record of sorts.  For these shows the music is way more cheery and you could probably dance to it.

J. Hubner: Is getting back into performing something you’re excited about, or something you feel you need to do? Maybe a little excitement and dread?

Timothy Fife: When I played my solo set at SxSW I was really nervous.  I had never done that before and I think you could tell if you heard the performance.  I still haven’t developed my live set yet completely so every time I play it’s going to be pretty different from the last show.  I am excited about it, and so far everyone seems to be into it so I’m OK with that.

J. Hubner: Before we go, are there any dream/future collaborations you could share with us?

Timothy Fife: I have about three tentative collaborations set up already.  Wish I could tell you about any of them right now because they are all really cool.  As far as musicians go, I’d love to work more with people that influenced me.  Alec Empire would be cool.  As far as directors go, my dream gig would to score a Cronenberg film.

Head over to Mondo and grab a copy of Black Carbon on vinyl, or if downloading is your poison grab some digital goods at Mondo’s Bandcamp page.