Friday afternoon decided last minute to go with Mike and Cleve to see Motörhead in the city. I’ve never been a metal-head at all, but this is a band I’ve somehow learned to respect without ever owning any of their records. They’re like the progenitors of the entire speed / metal / thrash / lineage. Even though I haven’t heard much, I’ve always known that theirs is very pure music – absolute rock with no silly metal trappings or pretense. The weird thing is that Motörhead sits in the middle of this sea of bands that are all about pretense – big hair, satanic or christian mumbo jumbo, really bad lyrics, really bad cover art … the whole Spinal Tap trip, but without the irony.

We show up at 3rd and Townsend and the place is swarming with black leather and chipped black fingernail polish. Pop a few vics and get in line, get frisked, get inside. The smell of hair care products and stale beer fills the air. Righteous. T-shirt vendors everywhere. The whole metal scene is all about the t-shirt – hardly anyone there not wearing some band’s shirt – and it’s uncool to wear the shirt of the band you’re there to see – it’s got to be the shirt of the band that the lead singer of the band you’re there to see was in in the early 80s or something. So there are all these shirts of obscure, half-baked metal outfits from 15 years ago. And every stand has like 10 designs. Found a Motörhead shirt that says in big gothic letters on the back, “Everything Louder Than Everything Else.” The classic original Motörhead design on the front. Can’t resist, buy one, now part of the machine.

Four bands on tonight. “Speed Demon” are clearly lying – half of them are too huge to be speed freaks. And they sound like parodies of themselves – close your eyes and you really are at a Spinal Tap show. Next up “Today Is the Day,” which sounds all nice and rosy until you realize they basically mean “today is a good day for an apocalypse.” So they’ve got something in common with your Revelations-reading grandmother, except your grandmother probably isn’t wearing a shirt that says “Kill or be killed” across the front. The singer shrieked relentlessly, totally unintelligible. The drummer defined new levels of posession – played with his eyes rolled back in his head (freaky), throwing his entire weight onto the kit, sweat splashing everywhere. Seemed like he would take a drumstick and start stabbing the heads at any moment. Amazing, but kind of pathetic too.

“Morbid Angel” was the next band – what an idiotic name. Total reliance on that double-bass drum sound Metallica pioneered – 30 minutes of hammering 1/64th notes. Vocals over that were all a single low note – lame attempt to sound satanic. Gimme a break. So much intensity from these bands, but so much of it doesn’t seem sincere. Well, this is the day’s sounded kind of sincere, but the other bands didn’t – more about the shtick. Popped another vicodan, bought another beer. If we’re going to be here, better get into the right frame of mind for it.

A total relief when Motörhead came on. All the pretenses ditched – still a super-high level of intensity, but – my god – there were actual songs buried in there somewhere. And – shocking – some actual pyschic communication between the players – cohesion, kung fu. Sounded so fscking great, totally exhilarating. To enjoy this, you have to just drop all your associations about the metal scene and all of its negative associations, and give yourself over to the purity of it. It’s like racing through the hills on a motorcycle, playing with the edge, hanging on but just. In total control, but knowing that if they took it one level higher the whole thing could fall apart. Incredible.

Lemmy is in his 60s – beautiful to see a man that age up there rocking that hard. Best cockney accent: “I’m not just a little deaf, I’m totally f*cking deaf! Is it loud enough for you out there?” I wore earplugs through the whole thing, but removed them for their unbelievable cover of the Sex Pistols “God Save the Queen” and again for their Ramones cover (forget which song). And again for “Ace of Spades.” Ears ringing pretty badly today. Not sure if that’s because I took the plugs out a few times or whether it was just loud enough to do ear damage right through the plugs. Hard to say.

Motörhead rocks. Great to see Cleve again too (lived with him in the early 90s). We should hang more often.

Kind of hung over today, but went to breakfast in Point Richmond with Chris and Amy, then kicked around on Solano ave. Checked out some birthing classes – we’ll get started on those soon. In the afternoon went to a matinee of Lantana, which was very good but not what we had expected. Ah well. Rented “Made” (by makers of “Swingers”) and watched in the evening. Down-time day. Tomorrow back on track with all the crap piling up.


Through the metasynth links in my previous post, have started listening to music generated via mathematical analysis of images. Some of it is wonky, as expected, but much of it is surprising, and surprisingly interesting. Now fascinated by this two-way generational relationship between images and music.

The most elusive goal of the perfect LJ Friends page is to display a roster of friends that represents the widest possible array of human experience, and thus to, at any given reload, be able to spontaneously generate an essentially random cross-section of human diversity in collage form.

Was thinking over breakfast today that the ability to locate an object in history is one of those uniquely human behaviors that would be extremely difficult to teach to a computer. For example, most anyone can look at a radio, an automobile, a jar, a brochure, an article of clothing, etc. and tell you with fairly good accuracy whether it was made in the 1920s or the 1960s or the 1970s or the 1990s etc. What is it that is shared by the radio, the automobile, the jar, the brochure, and the article of clothing? What marks these things as having come from a particular era? Color choices? A certain formalism of line? Fonts in fashion? This is extremely hard to pin down, and would be almost impossible to develop computer algorithms to accomplish. And yet it is an almost trivially easy task for humans.

Who’s That Face in My Song?

Aphex Twin embedded his own likeness in the waveformss of his song Windowlicker. As I understand it, the process works like this: Use metasynth to create sound waves from an image – in this case Aphex’ own face. When the music is played back and viewed with a spectrographic visualizer, the process is essentially reversed, which reveals the image in the sound waves. Kind of like steganography, but not. Does not work with MP3s, since the compression algorithm destroys the image. The track came out in ’99 but no one found the embedded image until now.


Watched our friend Matthew Sperry playing with Tom Waits on Letterman last night. Thought he might be hidden in the background or something, but he was right up close, on the left, very visible, exciting. Hope this turns into some kind of major career break for Matthew. If you watched the video I posted a few months ago – the birthday song we wrote for Roger’s 40th – Matthew wrote the music and I wrote the words for that.

Adamation just sent me a $75 gift certificate to Tower, which was really cool of them. Spent it yesterday on:

Orchestra Baobab – Pirates Choice (double CD)
Tom Waits – Blood Money
Tom Waits – Alice
Elvis Costello – When I Was Cruel

Pirates is considered to be the best Baobab ever laid down, in ’82. So loose and rubbery and easy soulful organic funk of the earth. Amazing. Listening to Wait’s Alice now – all throaty, pensive, half-drunken s – a return to the tempos of Nighthawks or Closing Time, but with the messed up xylophone percussion styles of Swordfish Trombones.

Ashcroft Sings

If you aren’t left speechless by this, you don’t love your country enough. Friend Matthew writes:

This clip shows why Ashcroft lost a senatorial race against a dead man.


I didn’t watch ’em, but was gratified to read the piece in Newsweek about the general growing consensus that A) the quality of available music (especially pop music) is at an all-time low, and B) the music industry is getting kicked on its ass. I’ve been moaning about #A for a very long time and it’s nice to see a pub like Newsweek come out and say it rather than pretending. I’d like to think that if lots of money is siphoned out of the music industry, it can only have a positive effect (music may become a meritocracy again, or at least something resembling it … people voting with their downloads rather than gagging on the spoon-fed banana brulee’).

And to have all these judges give awards to the O Brother soundtrack … was just too sweet for words. I had long since given up hope that the Grammys would ever reward talent again.

Poetic justice on me that Engelbert Humperdinck should be rolling through the itunes queue as I write this ;)

Los Platanos Machos Quattros

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been practicing guitar and playing a couple of times a week with a group of friends, preparing a song for our friend Roger’s surprise 40th birthday party. The party was last night and totally rocked. Amazing food, big circle of good friends, hooch to spare…

We played the song for him around halfway through the evening and he was floored (the intended effect). Amy got the whole thing on tape and I put up a low-fi version on the infernal interweb.

What a great evening. No matter how hard it is to find a place to live in the Bay Area, it would be almost impossible for us to leave our friends here. Just wish Will and Sage lived out here rather than NY.

Jackson Five

Christmas shopping with Amy yesterday.

She: “Why don’t we get a Jackson Five record?”

Me: “Yeah, why the hell not?”

It was such a good call. We both grew up with all those original J5 songs on the car radio. I had forgotten just how good this stuff is. Great wake up music. Great pop songs.

I feel so sorry for Michael Jackson, to have done all his best work before the age of 10.


Last week I mentioned that I had just been turned on to Betty Davis, ex-wife of Miles Davis. Betty did a couple records of this incredible skronk/funk/badass deep soul that almost no one has ever heard. Doesn’t really fall on the jazz side, though one can imagine it going really well with some of Mile’s early 70s stuff (On the Corner, Agharta, etc.) Apparently Miles and Betty actually did do a recording together at some point, but Miles destroyed it in a fit of rage after one of their frequent arguments.

Anyway, I promised to put some up for folks to get a taste. I normally don’t do the MP3 trading thing, but in this case it’s rare stuff that people aren’t likely to go out and hear on their own, and it’s just a couple of tracks… so I’ll leave this up for a few days. An exception to the rule.

Betty Davis on birdhouse

“He was a BIG freak!”


Amy has this old boyfriend, David, who has spent the last decade riding the rails and sleeping under bridges with hobos and tramps. He travels with a MiniDV camera and has shot 200 hours of footage of tramps in their natural habitat. He has spent enough time with them that he’s gained their trust and they’ve come to not even notice the camera, and are completely comfortable around him. The footage he has is amazing. He’s now in the process of editing this footage into a documentary called “Long Gone,” and has 15 indie film companies interested in the project. Tom Waits has given them the rights to use a bunch of unpublished train-related songs. Fantastic project. David passed through town yesterday and spent the day and night with us. Heard so many great stories… such a rich subject to work on. And so few film makers would have the kind of dedication and willingness to completely live that life that David has had. Awesome.

Went with David and Amy yesterday to SF MOMA, came home and ate pad thai and watched some of his rough cuts.