Strange Famous Records

Europe pt.2: Dole vs. The Volcano

Hello mutha,

I’m writing this letter home from underneath a cloud of poison ash.  The kids here at camp seem friendly enough though, and the second leg of my European tour has come to an end.  Please send cheeseburgers and milkshakes, as it seems I’ll be living here from now on.

Read on for some highlights from this second leg of the tour.

volcano!

1. Middelburg, Netherlands

One of the highlights of this tour came early on, at the last show added to the schedule.  Shout out to Tonnie in Middelburg for setting up a surprisingly rowdy performance @ The Underground.  On a Tuesday night, in a small city I’d never played before, we managed to pack an intimate spot and have a truly great time.

Also, apparently there is some bizarre local custom of making what I can only describe as a pterodactyl noise when excited by an emcee.  I’m talking, the place where another crowd might go “BO! BO! BO!” these folks were going “GAHHHH! GAHHHHH!” This went from being mildly disconcerting to a whole lot of fun.  Cheers, Middelburg.  One of the best shows of the tour, hands down.

Maybe this was due to the awesome local news coverage?

2. Prahahaaaa!

After a 19 hour, overnight train journey from Amsterdam, I arrived in Prague.  Surprisingly, Barack Obama was there too.  I don’t think he was on the same train as me though.  I would’ve noticed that.

I had heard a lot about the city, but didn’t expect to be as struck by it as I was.  Maybe it was a heightened sense of awareness brought on by the journey, but I was really overwhelmed by the very visible history in Prague.  Specifically, the Soviet history.

As it happens, I’ve been writing a pretty ambitious song on this tour about Laika, the first animal ever to be launched into–and die in–space.  She was a stray dog, launched on the Sputnik 2 satellite, to test what would happen to a living organism on the trip.

Also fresh in my mind was the fact that I’d grown up in the 80s, and had spent a lot of my childhood thinking of people from this part of the world as intrinsically evil and bent on the destruction of all we held dear.  The significance of being among the remnants of that empire, and meeting and befriending folks who’d grown up on the other side of that conflict, wasn’t lost on me.

The show that night was another high-energy, intimate affair with a group of excited kids who went nuts for the entirety of it, and called me back for multiple encores, to the point where I’d run out of instrumentals and was doing spoken word stuff.  Even before that though, Prague had made it’s impact on me.  I won’t soon forget that trip.

Also, the slightly dodgy hamburger I ate there won’t soon be forgotten either, as it led to tour highlight #3.
stadium

The show in Prague happened right next to The Great Strahov Stdium, which is the largest in the world.  It was originally used for synchronized gymnastic displays, and Communist displays of power a la North Korea.  These days it’s covered in graffiti and looks to be falling into disrepair everywhere.  Staggering.

3. St. Gallen, Switzerland

Alright, so this one isn’t so much a highlight as it is one of the most fucked up things ever to happen to me on tour.  I therefore feel it’s newsworthy.  Remember that hamburger in Prague?

I arrived in St. Gallen the night before my show there, after a long day of travel from Prague.  No worries, got some sleep at the hotel.  Woke up with a whole day to kick around in the city and wait for the show.  I met Damian, the promoter for that night, around noontime.  He let me into the backstage area, where I proceeded to argue with people on the internet about nerd rap.   So far so good.

Now it’s time for soundcheck.  I notice that I feel a little dizzy and tired while doing the soundcheck.  I ask the sound engineer:

“Are we in the swiss alps here?”

“Huh?”

“Are we in the mountains?”

“A little bit…”

“Cause I feel kind of like… the elevation maybe.”

<laughing> “no no… we’re not that high.”

Ok.  We’re not in the mountains.  Go upstairs, drink some water.  Maybe I just didn’t sleep enough.  Lay down take a nap.

I awake an hour later with sharp pains in my stomach, and the fun begins.  Just as the show is getting underway, I start getting violently ill backstage.  While both openers are on, I am in the backstage bathroom wishing for my death.  I quickly realize that I am in the midst of a fairly serious health situation.

I says to myself.  What would Evel Knievel do?

I managed to get onstage and perform for about 35 minutes, while standing stock still and just rapping the songs how they appear on the record.  Very little extra movement, as I felt there was a good chance I’d start throwing up or faint onstage otherwise.  Not one of my finer sets, I admit.

I finished rapping, explained to the crowd that I was extremely sick and that I was headed to check out one of their local hospitals, walked offstage, into the cab, straight to the St. Gallen ER.

200 Euro, 11 hours, 3 vials of blood, 1 x-ray, 1 ultrasound and 2 ENEMAS LATER, I left the ER, having been diagnosed with food poisoning.  The Swiss sure are thorough.  This caused me to miss my train for the next day’s show, and anyway I hadn’t slept and was asked by the doctors to stay in St. Gallen for the day and return to the hospital if my condition didn’t improve.

I’m hoping to return to Europe in the fall of this year, and when I do, I owe both St. Gallen and Innsbruck the shows they missed out on due to this.  Consider this your apology and raincheck.

4. Polar Bear Digital.

Due to our sharing a booking agent, 3 of the shows on this tour had me opening for the recently reunited Anti-Pop Consortium across France.  Not only are these guys legends in the game, but they were also extremely personable and we hit it off immediately.  Their sets were bonkers (including a surprise appearance by Mike Ladd in Paris!), their audiences were extremely receptive, and I consider all of them friends at this point.  Keep an eye out for more cooperation between us in the future, and check out their new material. Shit is off the chain.

antipop

Thanks to all the audiences that came out, Anti-Pop, Cyril at Zoobook, and of course Sage Francis for facilitating this leg of the tour specifically.  I made all my motherfuckin trains on time, except when I was poisoned.  And that’s still sumthn.

Next up, the Rocky Road to Dublin.

4 / 20 / 10 – “Barfly Club” w/ Dan le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip – Wales, UK
4 / 21 / 10 – “The Pavilion” w/ Dan le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip – Cork, Ireland
4 / 22 / 10 – “Rosin Dubh” w/ Dan le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip – Galway, Ireland
4 / 23 / 10 – “Trinity Rooms” w/ Dan le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip – Limerick, Ireland
4 / 24 / 10 – “Whelans” w/ Dan le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip – Dublin, Ireland
4 / 26 / 10 – “Nerve Centre” w/ Dan le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip – Derry, N. Ireland
4 / 27 / 10 – “Mandela Hall” w/ Dan le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip – Belfast, Ireland

Apr 19

First Leg of the “Weight of the World Tour” is Over.

Here we are in Brighton, UK. Where it is raining buckets, everyone is nice, lots of people are gay, and the record shops are lovely. I’m playing the last show of this leg tonight at the Concorde2. Across the street is the English Channel. By now I have lost all sense of orientation in the world, and am for all practical purposes in space.

I’ve been writing a lot. A song or poem about the first dog shot into orbit. The last song that will ever be written about George Bush, and a snappy tune called ‘Murderlicious.’

I’m also reading a lot. Finished ‘UBIK’ by Philip K. Dick, which I don’t recommend, and this biography of David Bowie, which I do.

I’ve been lucky enough to be brought along on this first leg by dan le sac vs. scroobius pip, SFR’s militant UK electro brethren, who’ve just released their sophomore lp “The Logic of Chance” and are touring in support of it. The crowds have been rabid, the shows have been sweaty and ‘rammed,’ as they say, and the highlights have been many. Here are a few:

1. Norwich

Norwich

All of these shows have been full of excited, smart, rowdy audiences… the perfect combination really.  Able to listen and wile out at the same time.  Norwich was the first venue that stood out, however… due I think mostly to the stage setup.  It was a small room.  Low ceiling.  Audience close enough to the stage to reach out and fuck wit.  They exploded after the first beat dropped, and provided tons of energy with which to perform one of my favorite sets of the tour.  Big up!

2. Liverpool

“To be honest, being American… I only know one thing about Liverpool……..which is that…..the women are very loose.  Huh? Wha? The Beatles are from here?  Well now I know TWO things about Liverpool!”

Every single surface in the club was wet by the time this show was over.  Walls. Ceilings. Handrails backstage.  Wet.

vroom

3. Pompey Pyros

Heading to do our Portsmouth gig, I tweeted about my set times and was responded to by a number of folks who told me not to mention that city’s struggling football club.  Apparently, the Portsmouth team had recently suffered a number of epic defeats, and it had just been found out that the entire franchise was in debt and about to go under.

Sooooo….

That night onstage, I introduced ‘Economy of Words’ with a dedication to the Portsmouth team who “like me, are broke, and like me, are not very good at Soccer.”  (I knew they’d enjoy my calling it ‘soccer.’)

The crowd responded just as I thought they would, and I got to have a fun bad-guy-wrestler interaction with them.  They started doing their team chant at me, which I mimicked by saying “Wait…wait…I think I’ve learned this song.  Does it go “RAAWWWRRR RARRR RARRRrrrrrRRRRRAAAA RRAAAAAA”

Big laughs.  Good times.  I press play on the beat and start performing the song.  When the chorus hits, I throw a whole bunch of fake American money into the crowd (as I’ve done every night…) and a few of the rowdier fans in the crowd start picking up the fake money and LIGHTING IT ON FIRE.

So now I’m trying to rap the song while communicating with my body language “Woah! What the fuck! Don’t do that!  Put that out!”

Luckily a riot/club fire was narrowly avoided, and what followed was another monster of a set.  Pompey don’t play.  Lesson learned.

4. Koko in London

High water mark, right here.  For starters, the most beautiful venue I’ve ever performed in, full of 1400 screaming British kids.

Koko

Secondly, I met Buddy Peace for the first time, 20 minutes before hopping onstage as he DJ’d my set.  Buddy played that night in between sets as well, and it was beyond dope to walk around this beautiful venue and hear Sage Francis, Prolyphic, and Buck 65 tunes bouncing off the walls, being mixed seamlessly and freaked mercilessly.  Even before stepping onstage, Buddy’s mix was repping SFR in a way that me feel proud and excited to be part of this show.

The night before the Koko show we’d played in Manchester and, for the first time in my life, I had managed to leave my Evel Knievel costume behind.  The hand-made costume, made by my grandmother.  The one of a kind, irreplaceable, pivotal to the set, Evel motherfucking Knievel costume.  I was gutted.  I was backstage punching myself repeatedly in the dick.

However, you know.  The show must go on, and what would Evel do?

Apparently, Evel would strip off his clothes to Eye of the Tiger anyway.  Instead of an Evel Knievel costume, he would wear only a white t-shirt on which he’d written the words ‘Evel Knievel.’  Instead of a cape? A red hand towel from backstage.  Instead of pants?  Drawers.  Death would be defied, one way or another.

Proto-Evel

What Would Evel Do after that? Well, he’d probably shave his beard off live onstage, to make sure he never committed such a lapse again.

Shavin

As I write this, Sound of Rum is doing their final soundcheck of the tour, having smashed each and every one of these shows as well. The Evel Knievel costume returned to me via the Royal Mail this morning, looking like it’d had some adventures on it’s own since we last met. We’ll be reunited onstage tonight, and then I’ll leave my friends Dan and Pip for the next few weeks as we tour Europe separately.

www.FallenHouse.com has all tour updates, including new shows that have been added. I’ll be reuniting w/ Dan and Pip from April 20-27th for a string of shows in Ireland as well. Thanks to everyone that’s come out to these UK shows, and of course to the boys, Becca Lewis, Steve & James for having me out.

I’ll be back before long, Britain. Stay soggy and sarcastic.
Luv,
b

UPCOMING SHOWS:
April 3 – “L’Astrolabe” w/ Antipop Consortium – Orleans, France
April 6 – “The Underground Cafe” – Middelburg, Netherlands
April 8 – “Klub 007″ – Praha, CZ
April 10 – “Palace” – St Gallen, SWITZ
April 13 – Domino Festival @ “Ancienne Belgique” – Brussels, Belgium
April 14 – “New Morning” – Paris, France
April 15 – “Colmar” – Grillen, France
April 16 – “Dachstock Reithalle” – Bern, SWITZ
April 17 – “Case à Chocs” – Neuchatel, SWITZ
April 20 – “Barfly Club” w/ Dan le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip – Wales, UK
April 21 – “The Pavilion” w/ Dan le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip – Cork, Ireland
April 22 – “Rosin Dubh” w/ Dan le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip – Galway, Ireland
April 23 – “Trinity Rooms” w/ Dan le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip – Limerick, Ireland
April 24 – “Whelans” w/ Dan le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip – Dublin, Ireland
April 26 – “Nerve Centre” w/ Dan le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip – Derry, N. Ireland
April 27 – “Mandela Hall” w/ Dan le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip – Belfast, Ireland

beardless dolan

Mar 29

Could we ever make junk mail illegal?

Week after week I find myself throwing out piles of useless mail. Direct marketing mail that is printed on glossy pamphlets and whatever else. This morning a guy dropped off a huge “yellow pages” book in my driveway. What the shit is this? I have 5 of them stacked in my closet already. I never use them because…I HAVE THE INTERNET. Like most of our country. We use the internet these days. It’s the future, motherfucker. If I want a yellowbook I’ll go to the yellowbook store and ask for one. Go make a yellowbook store and see how well that yellowbook store does.

Anyway, this got me thinking about junk mail some more and I thought to myself “Hmmm…I wonder if there’s ever been some kind of proposed legislation to make ‘junk mail’ illegal. It would obviously help save a lot of trees as well as energy.”

Then 2 seconds later I realized that these companies are paying the United States Postal Service to have their junk delivered from home to home and that will probably be a reason why this shit probably can’t be stopped.  Apparently, junk mail constitutes 52% of mail volume!!! Absolutely insane.

Here’s a story from Newsweek explaining the insanity:
http://ow.ly/1rEAu

I don’t know how effective this is, but someone gave me a link to this website where you can submit your name to a “Do Not Mail” list:
http://www.directmail.com/directory/mail_preference/

Thoughts on that?

Lastly, here’s a wonderful little ditty from the Circle Jerks who were complaining about this same shit in the early 80′s.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KabHEIjj040[/youtube]
As it is plain to see, complaining gets us places.

Mar 27

Suicide Squeeze

I first heard hip hop music back in 1980, I figure. I remember seeing a story on a news show about it or something. At that point, music hadn’t become an obsession yet. I don’t remember what other songs I may have liked at that point. I remember being into Kiss when I was a little kid. My cousin was into Black Sabbath and he kinda got me into it too. I loved “Rhinestone Cowboy” by Glen Campbell. That came out in 1975. And I remember really liking a lot of truck driving songs, especially if they were talking blues style. I think that’s why I liked hip hop so much when I first heard it.

From 1980 to 1983 or so, I was into hip hop and bought whatever records I could find. But I was also into some other stuff. I took an interest in my cousin’s growing collection of metal records. I was also kinda secretly into Duran Duran and I think I bought “Business As Usual” by Men At Work when it came out.

But when I heard Run DMC it was all over. From that point on (after ’83) I was a hip hop totalitarian. I refused to listen to anything else. I think it’s safe to say that hip hop took over my life by the time I was 11 years old. It was an obsession.

I feel lucky that I was born when I was because my high school years (which is a crucial time for any music lover) coincided exactly with the golden era (1986 – 1989). Those days were glorious. It was an exciting time for hip hop. It was beginning to come into its own in many ways, but it was still an underground phenomenon. Almost all the records were on independent labels and the biggest stars in the game were really dope – Doug E. Fresh, UTFO, M.C. Shan, Just-Ice, Superlover Cee and Casanova Rud, J.V.C. FORCE, etc. I was a downright militant fascist hip hop junkie.

In 1989 I started volunteering at my local campus radio station and soon after I started hosting my own show, which eventually ran for eleven years. Looking back it seems pretty much inevitable that I would host a hip hop radio show. I HAD to!

Then… 1990. The wind changed. I felt a disturbance in the Force for the first time. Two records were released that year that changed hip hop forever – “To the Extreme” by Vanilla Ice and “Please Hammer, Don’t Hurt ‘Em” by M.C. Hammer. I honestly think that these two records were the first hip hop recordings I had ever heard that I hated. Before that, pretty much all hip hop was good! Not all of it great (although a crazy-high percentage was), but nothing ever terrible, really. But sweet jesus, these two records were not my cup of tea.

It angered and perplexed me that it was even possible for there to be any such thing as bad hip hop music. But what rubbed salt in my bleeding wounds was that both of these records were also hugely successful. In fact, I’m guessing that if they weren’t the two MOST successful hip hop records to that point, they must have been close – top 5, I’m sure.

I couldn’t stand it. I honestly couldn’t deal with it. My world was collapsing. Flood gates had been opened. All of a sudden there were all these corny people getting into “hip hop” (I refused to even recognize Hammer and Vanilla Ice as real hip hop). Parents liked these records! Hip hop was never music for parents! I took such huge offense to what was happening. I think I even took it personally in some perverse way! I felt that the world in which I lived was under threat of annihilation. I saw a no-good end coming and I felt strongly that I couldn’t just stand by as it happened.

In 1990, I went on a hunger strike. I was living on my own in my first crappy little apartment. I had no idea how to organize any sort of political demonstration. And of course, there was no internet yet, so I didn’t have a platform for a statement at my disposal. I just figured that word would get around, someone in the local media would catch wind and then it would get around from there. I vowed (to myself and a few stupid friends) that I would go without food until the mainstreaming and commercialization of hip hop music came to an end. I wanted Hammer to go back to the navy and Vanilla Ice to go back to riding motorbikes, or whatever.

I think I made it six days. Word might have gone around town a little bit, but the discussion was just about how much of a moron I was. The TV cameras never showed up. I just rolled around the filthy floor of my cat-piss apartment and moaned. I moaned all alone. Finally, my friend Rob (Sixtoo) kicked my door down and wrestled a granola bar into my mouth. He pleaded with me and bribed me with a few choice records from his collection. I had a good cry and finally relented. I was already skinny before I started, but still managed to lose a bunch of weight. I was very weak and wretched. Rob watched over me for a few days until I fully regained my strength. I was pretty much back to normal after three or four days, but it took months to get over the embarrassment.

Seven years later, Rob saw my mood darken again. But he was preemptive this time and talked me down in the heat of several horrible nights. If it wasn’t for Rob, who knows what sort of private rampage I may have enacted?

I was such an idiot. Sixtoo saved my life. Rob Van Winkle and Stanley Burrell come across as nice people on reality television. And as for hip hop music, well…

Buck

Mar 22

Sacrifice Fly

Hi.

I know a guy named Derek. He’s a rapper. His very first show was playing with the Sebutones a long time ago. A few months back he went to work on an album and reached out to me to ask if I would do a verse on a song. I said I would because I’m a romantic. He asked “how much do you charge?” I told him, “nothing”. I’ve never charged anyone for a verse ever. I guess I got no game that way. I don’t know…

Derek’s rap name is D-Sisive. The song we ended up making together is called “The Superbowl Is Over”. I was happy with how it turned out. It’s on his album “Let The Children Die”. When I heard it I was kinda dumbfounded by how brutally honest a lot of the material is. He really lays it all on the line. I find a lot of rappers don’t have the guts.

Anyway, recently Derek wrote to me and said, “we should start a group!” I said yes to the idea right away even though it’s a little bit crazy because I need a god damn break! I just finished recording enough songs for two albums (you’ll be seeing that stuff soon), a DVD (also coming very soon), scored a film (coming soon), did remixes for a handful of people, a bunch of other collaborations, plus did some recording for a Haiti relief album (coming super-soon). It’s nuts. But I said, “yeah, let’s go to work”.

I had been sitting on an idea for a long time (I’m always sitting on a lot of ideas) and it occurred to me that Derek would be a perfect guy to work with for it…

See, I’ve pretty much made a career out of telling stories from my life and those of the people I’ve known along the way and putting them to weird, dark, unpopular music. Derek has kinda done the exact same thing. So my idea is to invite people from all over the world to send me their stories and I’ll turn them into songs.

So Derek and I have formed a group called The Ricardo Christoff Apparatus and we’re calling the project “100 Story Building”.

I’m asking people to send stories about people they know. I have a feeling that it might be better to tell someone else’s story than your own in this case because things like humility or pride are less likely to get in the way. And I’m looking for all kinds of stories: funny ones, tragic ones, inspiring ones, sexy ones… all kinds. My plan is for the song titles to be the name of the person the song is about. Simple.

This may sound super-corny, but I was partly inspired to try this by watching the Olympics on tv. They always do these profiles on athletes and their amazing stories and even though I never heard of these people in most cases, I always find it really compelling. Know what I mean? So I just want to tell people’s stories. I expect I’ll read lot of amazing stuff. And I just think this idea is nice. Don’t you think it’s a nice idea?

So, all the info is at www.100storybuilding.tumblr.com (even though I just explained it all) and people can send their stories to 100storybuilding@gmail.com

Derek and I will work hard to do justice to people’s stories and get them heard by the whole world (or at least a good handful of people around the world. Let’s be honest, I’m no Katy Perry or whatever the hell).

That’s all. If you think it’s a nice idea, spread the word. I’d appreciate it.

Oh – and by the way – if I get 1,000 stories, I won’t be making 1,000 songs, obviously. I’ll pick a bunch of the best ones, which I’m sure won’t be easy. But this very well may be a project that goes on for the rest of my life if all goes well.

Buck

Mar 11

LI(F)E album: artwork by the legendary Shepard Fairey

The new album Li(f)e by hip hop iconoclast Sage Francis is an impassioned and timely critique of cultural hypocrisy and organized religion. The record’s cover art has been created by renowned artist and illustrator Shepard Fairey who first gained notoriety with his “André the Giant” street art and later with his iconic Obama “Hope” poster. For the cover of Li(f)e Fairey has employed his distinctive agitprop style to create a suitably provocative image of an unwavering and winged Francis caught in the crosshairs as flames rise beneath him.

THE MUSIC

Musically Li(f)e is refreshingly unique. Francis’ biting and sardonic wordplay now further empowered by Read the rest of this entry »

Mar 03

B. Dolan’s record release show!

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=72pnDFNEQzU&feature=player_embedded[/youtube]

The “Fallen House, Sunken City” record release show on 2/27/10 at Jerky’s in Providence, RI was one of the best shows I’ve ever been a part of for a variety of reasons. Read the rest of this entry »

Feb 28

B. Dolan “EARTHMOVERS” video and photos

B. Dolan and I flew out to Kansas City from February 19-22 to film the video for his “Earthmovers” song (www.FallenHouse.com for more info on that album!)

I was prepared for high quality work from the director, Kyle Harbaugh, but the kind of things he worked out for “Earthmovers” is beyond anything we could have Read the rest of this entry »

Feb 24

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