Mule Magazine: Issue 2

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Publisher MULE MAGAZINE is a collaborative effort of

Liz Tapp Joseph Shipp Emily Clayton Chris Roberson & Liz Tapp


Jenn Brandel Meg Vinson Michael Foster Joshua Bennett Al Burian Clark Williams


Emily Clayton Liz Tapp Chris Roberson Tim Degner Joseph Shipp Aaron Robbs Nick Dupey

Photography Aleks Tomaszewska Ezra Claytan Daniels Copy-Edit


Michael Foster Jenn Brandel Jonathan Van Herik Heather Kortan Elif Tuzer

Illustration Tim Degner Ira Yonemura Please visit Mule Magazine PO BOX 18138 Chicago IL 60618 Special thanks to: Paul Tapp, Susan Smith, Valerie Job, Sam Billings, Gaye and Betty Tapp, Honey, Ezra Claytan Daniels, Edmar Marszewski, Jamie Proctor, Eric Graf, Bill and Barbara Mooney, Dan Sinker, Anne Elizabeth Moore, Matt Greenwell, Rebecca Targ, Paul Rustand, Adam Ewing, Marcelle Good, Ron Buffington, Elizabeth Kincaid, Mrs. Patricia Berne, the Octopus Project, Andrew Ciscel, Phillip Driskill, Jason Duvall, David Weller, Patrick King, Ron Buffington, Floy Shipp, Karen & Leon, Bobbie Carolyn, Perry Wayne, Virginia Ruth, and George. Thanks be to Jan. And as always, Will Flowers.

watercolor by Ira Yonemura

The views expressed in Mule Magazine are those of the respective contributors and are not necessarily those of the publishers and editorial staff. Reproduction in part or full is forbidden without the written prmission of the publisher. Š2006 Mule Magazine. All Rights Reserved. Mention of any artist/product does not constitute endorsement. Mule Magazine assumes no responsibility for return of unsolicited manuscripts, photos, art, or recordings. Please send submissions to Mule Magazine PO BOX 18138 Chicago IL 60618 or contact us at Thank you for your reading. 33

watercolor by Ira Yonemura

It’s all a path. An open circuit, or a trail needing a good machete. And along the way, you’ve got to figure out where to cut, where to blaze or re-wire to keep things flowing . . . flowing smoother. Can you take a bike ride, and find the answers you’ve been looking for? How do you know when to leap from the train? To unpack your boxes, anew. How to decompartmentalize, decompress, deconstruct— or maybe just defragment? When to step from the corners into which you’ve painted yourself? For many of us, that understanding involves a connectedness to both our art and also one another. These things are made of circuits, of paths we travel. Gathering all along the way. Stopping and breathing. Storing up our potentials of energy. Before pedalling to the top, and lifting feet from pedals to fly downhill. In this issue we talk to a lot of people about how they open their circuits, where they find their energy, their pathways. How they connect or unplug from the outside world. We’re all a mass of circuits, of hopes. Frayed and burning wires, mixing, moving, changing. This issue is somewhat of an ode. To all the transitions, both good and bad, we’ve been through in the past year— the many circuits we’ve traveled, the movements we’ve felt. Strange shifts— from large scale disaster and political destruction to interpersonal changes we’ve seen in the lives of everyone around us. All these things made us need to know. Need to see more. To take off the hinges, shake the batteries, pull at the wires . . . Making connections with the world around us sometimes seems increasingly impossible, daunting— or most frightful, inconsequential. But we have to connect to it, or it’s no longer ours. We have to break open the hinges and hot-wire, hijack, our energies– combine, move, and mesh them. Here’s to it. May we lick our fingers, run them over those motherboards, and watch those circuits break. This is a third try, mule magazine 4

Music Andrew Bird Considers the relevance of myths in modern life. . . 56 Tom Verlaine’s new albums takes separate paths. Verlaine discusses the differences between the instrumental and more vocal-driven record . . . 34 Akron Family keep their lives out of boxes. An informal interview about life & song + bonus reincarnation/ incense information . . . 31

Art Chris Lowe’s Defender Prints The amazing silk screens & letterpress of Chris Lowe . . . 6 Nick Butcher’s Paintings back out of their corners. Butcher finds new dimensions and investment in a burgeoning body of work . . . 41 Normunds Bruveris and the Famous Chillie Willie . . . inside of us all . . . 60

Lichens Rob Lowe’s new musical project steps away from the expected trajectory . . . 14

Photo: Knox Photo . . . 18 Andrew Ciscel Elodie Lafont & Caleb Wilson’s photographs

Faun Fables On a train to picnic, the Fables remind us that the stops we’re expecting aren’t always our final destination . . . 48

Emerging Film Artists . . . 44 Canal Flowers Brian Hank Henry Meg Vinson

Shelley Short This Portland gone Chicago gal keeps wandering, but there’s really no question she’s on her way . . .8

Jesse Swanson’s Photography explores untraveled trails and modern-made ruins . . .10

Writing Al Burian’s “Rave Reviews” . . .37 Fashion soos: Soo Choi’s dresses are documented by Jim Newberry’s Photography . . . 25 & The Drama Magazine is my favorite . . .22 Version Festival is the best version. . . 52 Reviews . . . 16

On the cover [see above] & in the background of this page: Chris Lowe’s Defender Prints [see or turn the page for more].



“For My Yoko” vintage wood type [yee-haw industries] Chris Lowe: Image maker/poster creator and screen print born in Concord, Tennessee, lives and works in Knoxville. Currently, Chris is a printmaker, archaeologist, and owner/operator of Defender Prints. Future plans include a line of hand-printed fabrics and a collaboration project with Yee Haw Industries. Where do your images tend to come from? The images, especially for show prints, are usually gathered from old magazines, clip art books, text books and from my own drawings. I typically make posters in two ways: #1) I choose a type, or hand make it, and then I choose an image or images that seem to work with the said type. The rest of the time, I do the exact opposite. So, the images are taken from pop culture, art history, anatomy books, etc. I am really into using animals and plants, particularly in the past year or so. I enjoy finding elements of psychedelia in nature; although it does not always work, it is a challenge and interests me to keep trying. If for the next year you either had to work in absolute psychedelic absurdity of color or purely in black and white, what would you choose? It’s a no-brainer, black and white. These are the first colors that the human eye registers and therefore gets the most attention. I feel that part of your responsibility is that of the role of advertiser. With regards to show prints, it is the main objective, i.e., make an attractive print, and get people to the show. Also, these have been the primary colors used in propaganda, so someone, somewhere, smarter than me, figured out that these are the most effective colors. What was the train of thought behind the “For My Yoko” piece? (I know the message is fairly straight forward—but what were you doing that day? Was it a peaceful or scary day—frustrated, hopeful?) With regard to “My Yoko”— specifically, I feel, like most artists do, that I have a responsibility to the public to challenge and question the events around us, i.e., society. The main objective is very simple: end war. Simple protest song in ink. When I began tossing around ideas for the 66

print, my friend and I had been listening to a Plastic Ono Band record, and I assume the title came somewhat from that. I also find the love that Lennon and Ono shared to be of great significance for the world. I suppose I feel the same way about my friend. Who are your pillars of rock? (You know what I’m talking about.) Pillars of rock? Chuck Berry/Jerry Lee Lewis - the Beatles/Rolling Stones -The Stooges/Velvet Underground Black Sabbath/Led Zepplin - Lynyrd Skynyrd/ACDC - Nirvana/Mudhoney Do you prefer excess or restraint in life these days? I prefer restraint with a whiskey drink. How does your garden grow? We have tomatoes and peppers in the garden. If you had to pick two of your favorite qualities to find in music, right now, what would they be? 1.Rock and 2.Roll. In print? Color and type. What have you most been relishing? These days I most relish my time at home. Reading, drinking, eating, enjoying the company of others.





folk singer

SHELLEY SHORT CC from bottom left:Tiffany Kowalski (violin) / Gary James (upright bass)/ Jamie Carter (drums) / Shelley Short (guitar/vocals) 8

Words by Michael Foster Photo by Ezra Claytan Daniels


helley Short and I spent a while trying to figure out an

found on the album. It’s restless and serene at once: at peace with

appropriate title for the genre of her music. “Alt-coun-

the need to move. If “Captain Wild Horse…” were the soundtrack to a

try?” “Indie Folk?” “Y’allternative?” She was eagerly

movie the film would inevitably involve a stirring blend of sordid camp-

and equally involved in the process because she’d never really thought

fire tales and panoramic vistas of the open road: centerlines flying past

about it—which amazed me. In a creative cultural environment con-

with cornfields and windmills fading into rearview mirrors.

cerned with labels of all kinds, it’s a startling breath of fresh air to find someone that simply shrugs her shoulders at the idea of a pigeonhole.

What was initially planned to be a semi-formal interview quickly de-

She’s not intentionally rebelling against convention—she just doesn’t

teriorated into a discussion on the finer points of Roald Dahl’s body of

care. She wanted to put the songs she’d written on an album—how

work, before evolving into discourse on the art of storytelling in gen-

that album was filed in music stores across the country could not be more irrelevant to the project or to Shelley herself. The resulting fruit of Short’s labor is a remarkable album of meandering beauty, sincerity, and simplicity that exists for the sake of itself.

eral. We share an affinity for folk and fairy tales—the good old pre-disneyfied macabre ones: stories with eaten children and rolling heads, bittersweet endings with antiquated morals. Despite abandoning formality, it was an appropriate turn for our afternoon to take: Short’s “Captain Wild Horse…” is as much about the

The curious fact of our matter was that if an old man had penned the lyrics, had performed the songs and strummed out the melodies of the new album Captain Wild Horse (Rides the Heart of Tomorrow) would be considered pure, unadulterated, almost-old-time folk—Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan folk [with a Patsy Cline/ Hank Sr. twang]. To elaborate by cliché comparison one can hear some Edith Piaf in her laments, some Emmylou Harris in her confidence, and maybe a little Hope Sandoval in

telling of stories as it is the stories themselves. It comes across succinctly in the song “Like Anything, It’s Small”, one of the most charming and infectious tracks on the album: “…I’m writing the end to a story that hasn’t begun/ some stories are made up of toil and plight and some stories will make you laugh all through the night/ oh what is your story please tell me I do want to know…” Later in the song: “I’ve been thinking about it and trying not to fight/ I’ve been thinking about it almost

her dusky starkness. Nevertheless, in person, Shelley is a walking an-

every night/ It’s written like chapters what’s broken I’ll bring ‘cause I

tithesis to the stereotypes with which her style of music is linked. Hip,

carry it with me wrapped up in a string…”.

urbane, and raised on the amps and flannel of the Nineties’ Portland, OR scene, Shelley moved to Chicago in 2004 for the sake of wander-

One of the most resonating aspects of Folk as a genre grows from

lust; she wanted a change of scenery. It’s only a happy coincidence

the fact that it’s arguably the oldest form of lyrical music on the planet.

that she wound up in what’s become a growing national epicenter for

While melodies and instrumentation have evolved profoundly, a musi-

the renaissance of folk. When asked if Chicago’s flowering folk rebirth

cal vessel for the spoken word is older than Homer. In the Dark Ages

played a role in her decision to move here; she said it did not.

of Europe [named for the lack of literacy] the only people trusted to move in and out of communities without license were the bards that

Geographically, there’s a trendy and youthful belt of folk/rock in-

carried stories from town to town. The legacy came to the US with the

spiration running north and south from Musical hubs like Chicago and

rest of European heritage— in trickles and floods over 300 years. For

Austin. It wanders in pockets through towns and cities like Minneapo-

the modern folkster there’s an intimidating necessity for innovation. In-

lis, Milwaukee, Madison, Iowa City, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Omaha, Lou-

strumental technology is an asset but it’s the content of these modern

isville, Nashville, Memphis, and Knoxville [to name a few]. There‘s a

folk songs that allows them to wink at the past while still looking ahead.

worthwhile debate regarding how much of this trend is related to these

Enter Shelly Short. Enter “Captain Wild Horse…” It seems one of the

cities central “melting pot” locations versus how much of the trend is

few recourses for the postmodern folk singer comes via deconstruction

fueled by the reclaiming of traditional forms of the indigenous music

of the genre itself; Short does it with grace and subtlety as she sings

abandoned for decades.

about singing and tells stories about telling stories.

Shelley isn’t particularly concerned with either side of the debate,

And so this folk renaissance rages on, whirling around the Mid-

and the fact that she’s ended up in “the right place at the right time”

west. With albums like Shelley’s first one, it’s bound to thrive. The

seems to be an afterthought. In what seems to be typical of Short’s

prospect of a sophomore album is vaguely intimidating to Shelley [as

character, her relocation has more to do with the journey itself than the

it should be to any conscientious professional artist], but with an ever-

aspiration of joining a “scene.” Most of the album was recorded in Chi-

growing repertoire of new songs and a fan base that’s exploding faster

cago while tribute snippets were pulled together during return trips to

than shows can be booked, Shelley Short’s future is brighter than a

the northwest. While this duality is incidental, it certainly doesn’t hurt

kerosene campfire.

the fact that there’s an immense sense of space and rambling motion

For more visit


Jesse Swanson has wandered through the rainforest. He sent me a postcard about having to travel only by daylight, because it was too dangerous during the night— there could be an attack in the dark. I couldn’t imagine what trails he might be hacking through . . . I’ve lazily watched Jesse, outside his home in Knoxville,Tennessee, chopping Kudzu with a machete, knew his shotgun sat nearby for the copperheads that would writhe in the shade beneath the vines. I’ve followed him through the darkened halls of old school houses. And always known that, somehow, the adventure felt safe. Because Swanson walks so softly, the places he’s been might not even know he’s uncovered them, rediscovered them. Jesse’s photos are about his adventures, his discoveries. He wanders abandoned quarries, school houses, decaying coal mines, and other places where nature seems to have been dealt a strange hand by the constructions of mankind. Why abandoned, decaying, places where people have been but then left? “Partly because there are no people there now and you can wander around and think— with no chance of running into anyone. Partly because untouched wilderness just isn’t that interesting to photograph. I like to play archeologist . . . pretending that these places are ancient ruins. They sort of are.” These photos are portraits of nature’s reclamation: how vines, earth, and underground passages of water entwine, flood, and cover man’s serrations and constructions. These are Jesse Swanson’s explorations.

Jesse Swanson Photography

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11 11

What started the documentation of abandoned quarries?

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I could take my dog with me to rock quarries. And there are hundreds around Knoxville. I spent a semester finding at least one every week with my friend Jeff and our dogs.We just used a Tennessee Gazetteer and looked for the symbol, a crossed pick axe.

These pictures were taken either with a Pentax 6x7, which was stolen from my car a year or two ago, or a 4x5 view camera. I like medium and large format cameras, because you know they are going to really record an image. See for more.


Liz Tapp: Did you have a clear idea of the characteristics you wanted to have in Lichens before you started?



Rob Lowe: I think initially I had ideas and I wanted to test them out. The first show that I performed was sort of an experiment for those ideas. I wanted to try to put them out there and see what stuck. From there, the whole idea of Lichens, of something growing in a relationship with something it necessarily shouldn’t, has really appealed to me, because that’s what Lichens are. They can live and thrive almost anywhere. They can adapt and grow. That’s what I wanted the music I put forth to have— those qualities. So in some ways it was pretty concise. LT: Because of the name you’ve chosen, Lichens, and the way sounds in your performance mimic sounds in nature, like bird sounds- I’ve wondered how these natural themes serve as a premise for your music? RL: I’ve always been a fan of natural themes. I think the idea of a natural or an organic theme lends itself to what I do, but I don’t necessarily think that was part of the impetus. Although lichens are natural, they also grow on man-made objects, and I think actually that’s more thematically where I’m coming from. Because you have that juxtaposition of things happening naturally, happening in real time, and then the sampled voices being processed and returned. The result of that is something I think is wholly different [from being natural]. LT: I was looking in my friend’s journal Fold, and they had gotten people on different trains and bus routes to draw the experience of their route. So you could see drawings of their experience and then drawings of the actual route. There was a huge difference between their perception and the actuality. It’s similar to when I see you perform. It feels so intuitive that I don’t feel any structured route. But obviously, there are so many complex layers. You must have some kind of map, or are you also wandering through it? RL: I think that I am part of the wandering, mostly. As for a map, maybe I have an extremely skeletal frame to work in and from that point I need to flesh it out. Sometimes I have no idea what I’m going to do at all, and sometimes, I have a pretty concise idea of what should happen. But it’s always good because there are those little loopholes that get thrown in. They hoist it somewhere different along the expected trajectory. So that’s really nice, because it keeps me humble. I understand that I’m not necessarily controlling it, and I like that aspect of it. As much as it keeps other people guessing, it keeps me guessing. LT: I’m sure you’ve had others ask, but you have a lot of vocal parts, but no real words— RL: There are words, sometimes they’re indecipherable, but there are words. LT: Do you have a personal narrative in those words? RL: Sure. Absolutely. LT: Yeah, I guess it never sounds like a purely aesthetic thing to me. I always feel like there’s some place you’re going.

I feel (my) music moving rther and farther away m the idea of rock music... ecessary for me at this orce myself from o divorce s eas. 14

LT: After seeing Faun Fables play recently, I walked away thinking how there’s something to having an experience with unreality. It can maybe help a person see reality. RL: Bliss moments, maybe. LT: And I feel perhaps that this unreality is a very important ability that music can have. With your job, working at the Empty Bottle, you see so much as a facilitator. Do you have any thoughts about roles that current musicians play as providers? RL: Well I think music should have a much more. I think music plays a very important role in a lot of people’s lives. By those people, I mean people who don’t actively make music. But I also think that music has become strictly a tool of commerce. Or of cool? If that makes any sense. I think that most of it is missing the point completely. Especially the state of popular music is pretty abysmal at this point. And there’s no differentiation really between things that are mass-marketable and what’s considered a subculture thing. I mean, there are subcultures, but in the world of contemporary music and popular [music], there are so many similarities between . . . The artists are often, it seems, concerned with what label their album is going to be on before they even write the songs for it. It’s something that I definitely want to move away from— in what I do. But what I do is not necessarily popular music. In a way, I would like to keep it that way, and in another way, I would not. It’s something I‘d like people to better understand. But with the state of things at this time, there’s no way that’s going to happen. I feel (my) music moving farther and farther away from the idea of rock music, I think the more I do it, even though there are certain aspects that I enjoy, I think it’s necessary for me at this time to divorce myself from those ideas. LT: Let go of the idea of the piece as a commodity or object. I think you can feel a sense of that, maybe because of things as simple as words being indecipherable. You’re talking about another of my concerns. Which is— where do we turn, what are some recent projects that provide a restoration? That give you a belief in current music? RL: The thing I attached myself to most, which came out last year, was the most recent Earth record. Once I heard that record. . . It blew my mind. So much, it’s incredible. I’m actually wearing their T-shirt. To me, it was sort of the epitome of the perfect record. Where I’m at, this particular point, I appreciate how it’s such a patient record. It uses repetition in such a way that it’s not monotonous. It’s actually refreshing and subtle. By and far the best record that came out this year. Otherwise: Hisham Bharoocha’s Soft Circle. Hisham and I are friends and contemporaries, and sort of exist on the same plane, though approaching the same thing in different ways. Daniel Higgs, his solo work. He’s the singer for Lungfish. Really incredible. Making marvelous strides with his music these days. I’m always a fan of Lungfish. It seems he’s [Higgs] really finding aspects of his self that really should be shared. Also, the group Om. They’re my lablemates. They’re two-thirds of that band Sleep. They’re basically the voice of Sleep. I think everyone is really travelling in this similar way right now, even groups like Metallic Falcons, Fursaxa, and Kathleen Baird. Everybody is sort of getting it. And everyone is sort of flowing in this similar direction. It’s really nice and refreshing, happening more and more. LT: I feel like there’s something different. And I feel there are things happening in music that are about right now, well the last five years, that are very linked to things going on in the world. RL: In ways, I think it’s reactionary. In ways, I think it’s not a reaction, but it’s forced people to really find the truth of their individual voices. LT: Maybe to approach things without the infrastructure. I feel like I can’t pinpoint it, but maybe I don’t need to.

You may know Rob Lowe from his fronting of 90 Day Men. His new project is Lichens. Lowe is currently growing all over a great many things, including a year’s worth of hopeful collaborations. “My goal is to work with Tara Burke, Fursaxa, to work with Om, to continue to work with Bird Show, and Hisham Bharoocha.” Lowe has a record coming out on the Chocolate Industries label accompanied by a self-curated art book including work by Hisham Bharoocha, Daniel Higgs, Justin Schaefer, Kate Gronner, Rose Lazar, Devendra Banhart, Melina Ausikaitis, and Rob Doran. A Limited edition new Lichens release CDlLP will be out on Holy Mountain and Kranky. Also on Holy Mountain: White Lichens (a collaboration with White/Light). Last, but not least, expect a cassette for Belgium tape label Slow Tapes.

RL: Yeah, I don’t think it’s necessary. It’ll happen. You’ll see these shifts, and when they really start to take shape, and people really start to pay attention, that’s when it really gets bonkers. Which is good. It’s great.

JJesse S Swanson a s “Sand d Cave” see additional work on page ag 32 32 and and 33

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REVIEWS Baked Alaska - Nest of Ice Baked Alaska is an improbable food—cooked ice cream. Just as Nest of Ice is improbably made of stuff that doesn’t seem to equal a complete album. Its eleven short tracks extend just a bit over 20 minutes, and only about half of them are able to be considered as independent songs. Its other half is made of a smattering of various audio clips: a man and woman who compare friendship to tending a garden; a standup comedian who weighs the possibilities of entering the workaday misery of moneymaking or of living in a lazy, blissful sitar-playing state; a highly energized English arena rocker who shouts “We’re doing a live recording tonight!” before a veritable township of screaming fans; an evangelist who seems to preach about Satan’s temptations more to himself than the congregation. It is like walking through a dream-like corridor of doors and opening a few to see a Magrittesque bizzarity behind them. And yet as disparate and unrelated as these interiors are, they create a cohesive whole. In the end, this disparity works in favor of the album, lending its completeness a low-tothe-horizon perspective which is astonishingly vast. That is, as Baked Alaska makes many short stops at many different and dazzling places, they aren’t tempted to rise above the individual’s perspective into a god-like bird’seye-view; they don’t force their will on what parallels the uncontrollable elements of life. Technically speaking, the consistency of style assists a great deal in this avenue: while the words of Nest of Ice jump around a great deal, the music retains a consistent mix of very prominent distorted bass, drum machine, and melodic screaming which often sounds something like a hardcore industrial band playing the soundtrack to Mega Man. And the music is really what it’s all about—especially the songs that are totally Baked Alaskan. Their sound is listenably unlistenable, very harsh and pleasant, much like—though in a particular sense very dissimilar—Melt Banana or certain antiquated Beck songs. The delivery is intense, always, and is a perfect complement to the ridiculous brilliance of lyrics like, “Standing in your underpants screaming in the street.” Part concept-album-with-no-concepts, part mixtape, Baked Alaska bakes the ice-cream that is your brain, fast and sweet.

Snowglobe - Oxytocin There’s a new album worth reviewing, but the band that released it is a mystery. Outwardly the album Oxytocin was composed by Memphis indie phenoms Snowglobe: the band Pitchfork Media loves to hate to love. It’s exciting for music fans but confusing for those that have followed the band at all— Snowglobe broke up this year, and they didn’t get back together. The band was fronted by two gifted singer/songwriters: Tim Regan and Brad Postlethwaite, and the band chalked up two exceptional albums and a string of sensational stagefellows [The Cure and SleaterKinney to name two] while being courted by a bevy of prominent indie labels. Nevertheless, in the spring of ’06 Postlethwaite decided to attend med school and the group amicably decided to part ways while still 16

potent rather than disintegrate into a shadow of what they’d been. However, Oxytocin is the solo brainchild of Postlethwaite himself [the frontman that “left the band”]; apparently discontent with academia and missing the comfort of playing music with a great band, he wrote the entire album himself. Regan, the other half of the writing duo is not to be found anywhere on the album, and while everyone is apparently still getting along, no one knows exactly who Snowglobe is anymore. What is clear is that Oxytocin, while inevitably straying from the sound of previous albums, is a pleasure to listen to. There’s an undeniable classic-rock pop-factor in their sound [which has always been present], but clever instrumentation and equally clever lyrics spin the triteness into gold: when the music is at its most predictable, the lyrics are nebulous and poetic; when the tunes are at their most twee, the words are at their darkest—it’s an old trick but it’s still got legs. There was a balance and complexity found on the first two albums that’s no longer present [Regan’s “yang” to Postlethwaite’s “yin”] and Snowglobe now lacks a certain depth because of it. That said, regardless of the identity questions, Snowglobe’s Oxytocin is an engaging and entertaining shot of Tennessee’s finest indie rock. It’s a sterling example of the fact that good bands can weather big changes with creativity, flexibility and a dash of cheekiness.

Umbrella Tree - What Kind of Books Do You Read? In a musical world saturated with posturing and pretense, the Nashville band Umbrella Tree is turning heads with their simplicity. Their first release, What Kind of Books Do You Read? has catapulted them to local celebrity status in the burgeoning Nashville music scene. The eclectic trio has stumbled across a sound that showcases a vast amount of creativity and inspiration, if nothing else. There’s much to be said for precocious and elaborately fantastic songwriting and there’s a lot to be said about instrumental prowess. Furthermore, any band that can fuse the two into an accessible and entertaining cocktail is fulfilling their duty as professional musicians. All this can be said for Umbrella Tree, and the obligatory album reviewer’s “betterknown-bands-comparison” is a flattering one: the three musicians pull off a tasteful and quirky baroque-pop that resembles The Decemberists and 16 Horsepower. To say that their alternating male-female vocals resemble The Pixies borders on blasphemy—the two bands barely belong in the same breath, but points of reference are important and the parallel exists. It is easy to respect what this clearly gifted band is offering on the album; unfortunately it’s much harder to actually enjoy it. However, what the album lacks in hypnotic electricity is made up for in a live setting. A Mule field agent reported the band as very engaging when seen onstage—rough around the edges, but endearingly so. The quote from the field was “I’d really like to see them again, in like a year or two…” The same sentiment applies to the recent album. While underwhelmed by the content of What Kind of Books Do You Read, I’m certainly curious to hear their next album. When it’s all said and done, what’s least likeable about the album is the fact that there’s nothing to really love.

Jared Micah - Tree Perhaps it is the overwhelming amount of mediocrity plaguing the production of music, “popular” and “independent”, that is prompting artists to saturate their work in eccentricity. Jared Micah’s debut release, Tree, raises the bar for singer/ songwriters out there with intentions of hitting on something unique. It can’t be only about the mood, the story, or the voice. There has to be something extra that is not so obvious, something intangible. Micah has lassoed plenty of this intangibility in Tree. Tree evokes groups like Man Man, Animal Collective, and to a certain degree, early Microphones/Mount Eerie. In Micah’s instrumentation there is a lovely awkwardness with the use of alternative percussion, multiple layering, choppy riffs and time signatures, intermittent samples, a huge amount of instruments including piano, mandolins, banjos, synthesizers, guitars, horns, organs, and more, and an overall dialectic between feelings of hope and doom. One of my critiques is mostly a personal aesthetic judgement, so I can’t place too much weight on its importance. Micah’s voice seems strikingly derivative of Conner Oberst’s of Bright Eyes. While I imagine, many people would not mind, if not embrace this fact, but I had a hard time getting past it. I will admit that it sound much stronger when there are other elements surrounding this distraction, and the more I listened to the album the less it bothered me. The most crippling thing about my aversion is that the melodies and harmonies are quite strong and beautiful. The song where his voice is most successful (with accompanied lyrics) is “Alicia’s Shotgun Wedding.” However, my favorite track is “We Would Have To Drill A Hole To Get To The Moon.” There are no lyrics and it seems a lot more open and closer to getting at something. Of course it is a step away from the singer/songwriter aspect. It almost falls under some kind of Neo-Free-Quirk-Jazz. I think the most important and poignant- even gorgeous aspect of this album is Micah’s ability to move a song from the living room to the battlefield. There is a sense of intimacy that could be heard in a room with a group of friends that can seamlessly evolve into epic battlecry. It is almost as if this music is rooted in something older than itself— which is something unusual in music today.

New full-length album from Spader New full-length album from Spader New full-length album from Spader


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3 Caleb Wilson is an artist living and working in Knoxville, TN. He is seeking Science Fiction Space Travelers. To learn more visit:

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See & hear the sights and sounds of Antenna Shoes, the new project from Snowglobe’s Tim Regan visit &


Photographed by Jim Newberry [] Background paths & psychedelia by Nanny Carr [] Garments worn by Fay Davis-Jeffers [above] & Amy Cargill [following pages] Makeup by Dawn Gamble 25





[for more visit]



he Akron Family is a collection of old souls, brothers whose music and livelihood is delivered forth-right, open and honest, without so many of the boxes into which we usually compartmentalize our lives. These boys live as much song and soul as their music delivers. They’re a family that can circle together. Their performances break the rigidity of even the stiffest crowds, in celebration, sincerity, and a search for openness. They croon about the truthfulness of honest love, soar with My Bloody Valentine ambiance— in a split second they turn it up with booty-dance-it-up soul and funk. Young God Records are home to the Akrons harmony of spirit and brotherhood.


O nce upon a time, wasn’t singing a part of everyday life? Our distant

ancestors, wherever they were in this world, sang while pounding grain, paddling canoes or walking long journeys. Nowadays we tend to put all these things in boxes. Can we begin to make our lives once more “all of a piece?” Change a word. Add a verse. This is known as “the folk process.” Add pages. Add illustrations. Glue a new cloth cover on top when the old cover is worn out . . .When one person taps out a beat, while another leads into the melody, or when three people discover a harmony, they never knew existed, or a crowd joins in on a chorus as though to raise the ceiling a few feet higher, then they also know: there’s hope for the world. Rise up singing. – Pete Seger

Meg Vinson: What do you think about this idea of the folk process? Seth: The idea of music being part of one’s life— I think It’s something we individually take for granted to a certain extent. Occasionally I will be able to remove myself from our hectic lives and schedule, and when I really look at it, we are just four individuals. I am the youngest, I’m twenty-five. Probably for the last 10 years of our life, if not more, we’ve lived music. I have gone through parts of time where all we do is practice, or all we do is listen to music, and just play in bands. I think besides those things, we all just have this aspect in ourselves. Music is just really entwined within our lives.

don’t have a word for art. Those things that they attribute to the word “art” are just part of their process of everyday life. I think there are certain aspects of what we [the Akrons] do that incorporates music into our everyday life. Meg: Old Grey cemetery is a graveyard on Broadway, right down the street from here. I live a couple of blocks from it and pass it everyday. A lot of famous Knoxvillians are buried there. I keep thinking about all the amazing things they did in their lives, and wondering how they died. Which made me think to ask you, how would you guys hope to die? Ryan: About the actual process of dying, or what I’d like to have done with my deadness, my dead body? Meg: The process of dying.

Meg: Is it a necessity? Seth: At this point, I don’t even think it’s a necessity. I think It’s just part of what we are. It’s so ingrained. It’s so natural. Ryan: It’s our process. Seth: Yeah. I mean not to belittle it, to say it’s like showering— but it is like eating. It’s just part of our natural process of life. How I think and how I interact with people. How I communicate. It’s such a part of everything I do. Ryan: That incorporation is how you identify as a self-existing being too. Our culture is so consumer based, and in that same way everything is categorized and organized. A lot of that organization is so you can buy this— so you can do this . . . and music falls into that. Meg: I think the art world is really similar. But a lot of it is how you go about speaking about it.

Ryan: First of all, I want to decompose in the woods. Meg: Oh, my roommate is an archaeologist and has worked at the body farm here in town (where they study decomposing bodies) and said that because our bodies are so full of preservatives now, from what we’ve been eating, that they take a lot longer to decompose. Isn’t that sick? Ryan: I think I have heard that before. Seth: You have heard that? Really? That is fucked up. Ryan: Well, I would like to spend a few more weeks… I mean catch my favorite programs. I want to be be eaten by animals and just die into the soil. But my ideal death is like . . . Seth: Jousting. Ryan: you know, like a nice painless death . . . Meg: Like dying of old age?

Seth: Exactly. Now that I’ve grown up a little, and I’m living in New York, I meet people that are artists. And I would think people that are artists have to live like artists. But they don’t— part of that ends up meaning that they just produce things or art objects or they make songs. And yeah, making stuff is an important part of the process, but I think in general that artists need to live in a way that is artistic. And I think the whole thing needs to be part of the process. So what I think about, what he [Ryan] is talking about— this is kind of silly but I read somewhere— I don’t know if it was about using the language of the Eskimos maybe, but they


Ryan: Yeah, like your just regular old death. Just kind of whither away and die— just die. Maybe with family and friends playing music and joyfully celebrating this part of my existence. Yeah, lots of music and dancing, celebrating. Not that I’m looking forward to dying, but I think that part of our life is just so intense and unknown and wild and fast. It could be transformed into something exciting and celebratory. You know? Seth: Ritualistic.

Ryan: A ritualistic death … yes. People like chanting, burning incense and whatnot.

Seth: Yeah.

Seth: Yeah.

Ryan: I mean I don’t think that you are one hundred percent reincarnation, just an imitation of John…

Ryan: That’s how I want to go out.

Seth: Yeah?

Seth: I don’t think I want incense . . . I am not a fan of incense…. campy.

Meg: I have the same birthday as David Bowie, Elvis Presley, and Stephen Hawking.

Ryan: Incense? Campy?

Seth: Wow. We are at the end of the cycle right here— Capricorn, Aquarius, and Pisces right here.

Seth: Yes, campy. You just don’t think so because you were a Grateful Dead fan when you were a kid. Ryan: You don’t like the Grateful Dead? Seth: Not so much. I think my general complaint about incense is the way it mixes with the smell of the place I’m in. That I don’t like.

Ryan: Chopin, myself-wonderful classical composer. Meg: Beautiful. Now to the carrot question. Let’s take it up a notch. From the newest cd…”your ass is a carrot and I am a rabbit…” from the song Mic Check. Seth: Ohh, the Home CD. Wow, we have never got a question about that before…

Ryan: I can understand that for some people. Ryan: What is the question? Seth: I am not really a scent kinda guy… olfactory kind of guy. I mean I like smells, but I don’t like putting on that much, smelling them on myself. I am not generally turned on by smells on other people. I just like the way things smell. I am just not into an added olfactory experience. Ryan: I understand.

Meg: the line— Ryan: Your ass is a carrot and I am a rabbit. Yeah that’s good. For more information about the Akron Family visit

Seth: I am not really a decorative kinda guy either- not very ornamental. Ryan: Except for my birthday present from Jessica (from Wooden Wand). Meg: You are the 25th? Seth: Ten days before Steve? Four days before Jessica. If we were born the same year- we could share in John Lennon… because he died… Ryan: We have a good feeling here that Seth is partly a reincarnation of John Lennon… Seth: Possibly, I mean forty-eight days… Ryan: He is kinda within the range of reincarnation (Seth and Ryan look at each other and say reincarnation at the same time) If you believe in that kind of stuff...Lennon died fortyeight days later… and then Jessica from wooden wand is what fifty-three days later?


New FUll LenGth out NOW

Seth: I mean it [reincarnation] ranges from 40-50. I mean it is usually within 40. I mean we can stretch it out. Ryan: He really has the John Lennon qualities…the glasses, the voice— kind of like the whole John Lennon thing. www.quarterStickrecords.Com touch and go records, InC. P.O. Box 25520 Chicago, Il 60625 33



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al burian gives you

On my twenty-ďŹ fth birthday, I found myself in San Francisco, walking around, thinking about jumping off a bridge. Not in a depressing way. It was more just the realization that my life had wrapped itself up, compartmentalized itself to death, and now there were no loose ends. I had no obligations right at that moment, no housemates who would have to pick up my slack on rent, no one to drive to the airport in a couple of weeks, or depending on me to feed their cats while they vacationed. This was a comfortable feeling, in a way. It might have made a few people sad if I jumped off a bridge, sure, but it wouldn’t actually inconvenience anyone. I had lost track of time for a few days, and had that strange sensation of not knowing, at any given moment, the time of day, day of the week, or even, for a few giddy transitional days, the month. Stumbling around marking time by the position of the sun in the sky, you occasionally glance at a clock, resurface, grounded by the certainty of those hands. I would have liked to remain oblivious to the day of the week and the month and the year for a few more days, and thus quietly have missed my birthday. It didn’t quite work out, as usual. Having gotten to the point of closure, obstacle course successfully navigated, becoming self-aware of this moment, how can you do anything but jump off of a bridge? To do otherwise is just to open yourself up to new plot-lines, new acquaintances, new obligations— some traumatizing social event you’ll be compelled to attend, someone to meet for coffee, unresolved issues with brand new individuals whom you have yet to even begin to become entangled in. No, no: it’s too much to ask. This was a good life, a good length; it’s an all-American story with an upbeat ending. Fade out on me, walking up the bridge, conďŹ dent and secure, successful in the ways I’ve chosen to deďŹ ne success, after all these years. Do we really want to see the disappointing denouement, middle age, marriages, divorces, cars run into the ground one after another, the inevitable mortifying defeat of the sad ending ahead? Year after year, the same birthday present: an unraveling existence. How to react? I try to be alienated from humanity and sabotage all of my inter-personal relationships, I honestly believe I’m sincere of intention. But I’m a creature of habit, some vestigial limb aps around, an emotional appendix from an age when I was all energy and false momentum, and I ďŹ nd myself making long distance calls to old friends, or going to record stores and scouring the new crop of fanzines in search of the names of people I know. I do this despite my best intentions. Habit? Maybe I’m just addicted to the low-grade buzz of diluted, watery endorphins, the rush you get from anticipating the ďŹ rst bite of a candy bar, or seeing someone you know and having their eyes light up when they recognize you, or seeing your name in print, or doing something which, even as you do it, you know you’ll brag about later. It’s the easy way out all the time, low hurdles you can congratulate your-self for jumping. I decided to give my ex-girlfriend, Ramsey, a call. She had moved to San Francisco, but something in her demeanor while dumping me and telling me that she never wanted to see me again had me convinced that somehow, secretly, she had actually meant the exact opposite. I remembered, too, that I had asked her best friend to level with me and give me





“I can’t believe you had the nerve to call me. What were you thinking?” she snapped. “Oh, come on,” her friend had “Well, You see, I was just...” chided me. “Never wants to “I’ve learned a lot about you since we parted ways,” she cut me off, see you again? You know betexplaining coolly, “I’ve been filled in on a lot of details.” ter than that. She was just mad “That’s bad news for me, probably,” I imagined. at you at the time. To be honest- “It’s probably lowered your opinion, somewhat.” “she paused dramatically, “she al“Sure,” she agreed. “An opinion which was, pre-details, you’ll reways sort of thought of you as, well, call, at ‘I never want to see you again.’” The One That Got Away.” “Oh, yeah, but come on. Never again?” I was still holding on “The One That Got Away?” I repeated, to my trump card, the evocative phrase, One That Got Away, liking the sound of that phrase, apprebut a sinking feeling was setting in. The left-wingers seated ciating it for the first time as a genuine, in our proximity, sipping their beverages and pretending to non-ironic sentiment. be immersed in their journals, pricked up their ears, shifting Oh, sure,” her friend nodded. around in their chairs. The One That Got Away, I thought. Yes, “The reason I came down here to meet you, “ she exindeed I was that, although I was more plained in an even-toned snarl, “was because I never rethan willing to now assume the role of The ally got the chance to tell you off in exactly the way you One Who Came Back Around For a Visit, or deserve.” at least the One Who Got Bought a Cup of My mouth, I realized, was open, as if a response was Coffee for Old Times’ Sake. I went for a walk about to issue forth, as if I was about to clarify, to give around the Mission, contemplating this. Fiher my side of the story, let her know what all I was nally called her from a pay phone outside of a going through at the time, the trials and tribulations left-wing café adorned with beautiful cracked oil and heart-wrenching heart palpitations which had paintings of angry-looking women wearing overled me to act in the way I had, veritably forced alls and holding semi-automatic weapons. me to act in the manner she now so |off-handedly She seemed surprised to hear from me, but I dismissed as “the nerve” of a “fucking bastard.” opted to register the surprise in her voice as not Finding no words, I closed my mouth. The situnecessarily of the displeased variety. “Wow,” she ation was clearly not salvageable. I decided to stammered breathlessly, “well, this certainly is untake a new approach: she seemed, at least, expected.” to be getting something out of this, and it “Hey, what can I say, I was just kind of hanging out seemed like I might as well let her get what and thought, you know, I’d see what you were up to,” she was looking for, since we were both I reeled off, nonchalantly. “So, do you want to maybe, here. Perhaps, it suddenly seemed posI don’t know, meet for a cup of coffee....?” I gave her sible to me, this was it. The intrinsic lesmy approximate location. son that she had to transmit to me, whatShe hesitated a moment. “Hmmm... There’s a café near ever it was exactly. She certainly seemed there which I sometimes go to. It’s kind of left-wing, with amped to transmit it. these feminist murals of...” “I agree with you,” I said. “I am a total “Hey, I’m already there,” I assured her, cheerily. I tried to conbastard. It’s inexcusable. You’re right.” vey in this reply some sense of the can-you-believe-it-ness of “And the thing about you is,” she conthe synchronicity, the implicit bond in the coincidence. She tinued, not missing a beat, “you informed me that she lived just around the corner and told think nodding all gravely and gome she’d meet me in a few minutes. ing, ‘it’s true, it’s inexcusable, I’m I got off the phone, optimistic about the way things were goa fucking bastard,’ you think that ing. We’d had a brief and tempestuous affair, not without its somehow gets you off the hook, ups and downs, but I just knew that in the forgiving glow of makes it alright. Like now I reminiscence the good would outweigh the bad. We’d look back should feel sorry for you -- fuck and laugh at all the little tiffs and misunderstandings, I imagined. you. It’s not enough. You can’t I felt sure that here and now, on neutral ground, I would be, as go through your life fucking Nietzsche put it, “Beyond Good and Evil;” I hoped we could see people over and then shrugeach other objectively, as human beings, individuals— fallible, morging your shoulders and tal, sure, but with some intrinsic lesson to transmit to one another saying, ‘hey, what do you nonetheless. I hoped she’d bring enough money for a cup of coffee expect from me? I fuck for me, as well. (Unlike I’m sorry, no hard feelings, etc. there is no people over. that’s just the way to inflect your voice on the phone so as to get across bring an extra way I am.’ It’s no excuse. dollar to buy me a cup of coffee). Remembering (fondly) her reliability It’s pathetic.” and steadfastness, and thus assuming that she probably would have an extra dollar, I strolled back to the café and ordered a cup. There was an extensive free literature area (of course) which provided the requisite ten minutes of excruciating dogmatic boredom while I awaited her entrance into the coffee shop and re-entrance into my life. I was slogging my way through a Marxist analysis of the imperialist undertones in the packaging of breakfast cereals when she arrived. Her visage prompted my synapses to fire off three quick memos in rapid neural succession as she made the brief journey from the door to my table. There she is, was the first, followed by she looks radiant and then this was obviously a huge mistake. “You fucking bastard,” she began, throwing herself down into the chair across from me. Yes, totally radiant. 38

A conversational stumper. I found my mouth apping open again, as if the auto-pilot was switching on, and I waited for some taperecorded response to reel forth. “I... uh...â€? Nothing. Then, another switch of tacts. “So, but, you’re doing well, though, otherwise? Now, here, having moved and all? You’re recovering from the trauma of having ever known me?â€? “Oh, I don’t think about you at all, ever,â€? she scoffed. “When you do cross my mind, it’s just in passing reference to how much better my life is now than, say, in the days when I was inexplicably emotionally invested in a dysfunctional basket case such as you.â€? “Yeah?â€? I nodded encouragingly, “Life way better now than in the basketcase-afďŹ liated days? Good, good. Glad to hear that. So, what do you do now? What are you up to?â€? “I’ve gotten into a lot of new things here, “ she said. “Electronic music. Raves.â€? Electronic music? Raves? These interests, I have found, are much like Mormonism. Those who ascribe to them seem to possess an unearthly glow about them, as if they are constantly receiving really encouraging pep talks from other planets via transmitters implanted in their brains. “Have you ever been to a rave?â€? she asked. “Well, I’m going to have to come out and admit that I haven’t,â€? I came out and admitted. “That’s so like you,â€? she said. I felt that intrinsic lesson transmission was going into its crescendo here. “You’re just the same as always, aren’t you? I’ve evolved, I’ve moved on, I ďŹ nd new things, I grow and change constantly. But you just stay the same, don’t you? You’re totally stuck in your rut. What are you here doing anyway, if anything? Are you just wasting time, morbidly sulking around and feeling sorry for yourself, like always? What are you waiting for? The next hand-out of free food, the next cup of coffee you can sponge off of someone?â€? “Well, now... I don’t particularly think.... I mean, I...â€? She sighed. “You’ll always be the same. You’re stuck, and I pity that.â€? I decided not to ďŹ ght the line of argument. “Yeah, it’s all true,â€? I nodded. “You’ve hit the nail on the head. Stuck in the old rut. My life has hit the point of Koyaanisqatsi. I can’t go on like this. Let me tell you, in all candor, that I’ve been seriously contemplating hurtling myself off of a bridge.â€? “Do it,â€? she advised, throwing down a handful of change— enough for a solitary cup of coffee, I noted with horror— for a cup which she hadn’t touched, no less— and a tip. She strode out the door. I sat and processed the conversation for a moment. Then I opened my backpack and got out my address book. I crossed out her name and phone number. I didn’t get the feeling I’d be needing it again. That had seemed like the exit interview. I walked back to my friend Marie’s apartment, and was pleased to ďŹ nd that she, at least, had forgotten my birthday. “What do you want to do tonight?â€? She asked, tired from her day at work, understandably irritated despite herself at the houseguest, worn out from a day of wandering around, languidly killin time. “Oh, nothing,â€? I answered distractedly, “I don’t care. Nothing.â€? “OK,â€? she agreed, and we sat around and read, in separate corners. I could feel my lack of will to live radiating out, heating the room in shimmery waves, like a space heater. She’s going to think I’m always like this, I thought. But then, that begs the question of how many times you can do something before it is no longer an aberration from your character and simply your character. “Hey—â€? Marie’s head snapped up suddenly. Her eyes ďŹ xed on me. “You want to go to a rave?â€? “Uh— really?â€? I was taken aback. “I forget to tell you. My roommates are throwing one across town. The admission is steep,â€? and then those dulcet words— “but we’re on the list.â€? “Well,â€? I said, pleased. “I was actually just contemplating how I ought to try to expand my horizons. You know, try new experiences, climb out of my rut, expand my mind.â€? It seemed like a choice between new horizons or a quick plummet off the golden gate. Even if I was going to choose golden gate, I decided to put it off until tomorrow morning, and spend the waking death of my ďŹ nal night on earth getting some last-minute cardiovascular exercise by gyrating amongst hordes of sweaty people on intense psychedelic drugs. It sounded like a good way to go out, and also possible that Ramsey would be there, and I could get in one last tormented interaction, or perhaps get beaten up by her new boyfriend, or something similarly invigorating. Z H Z H H



Âą9OUR AURA ² HE REPEATED Âą)S STRONG !ND PURPLISH BLACK ² 8JUI UIJT QPUFOUJBM GPS SFXBSEJOH OJHIU MJGF JO NZ NJOE XF TFU PGG )BE With this potential for rewarding night life in my mind, we set off. Had Marie not known .BSJF OPU LOPXO UIF XBZ UP XIBUFWFS EVOHFPO UIJT FWFOU XBT USBOTQJSJOH BU * N the way to whatever dungeon this event was transpiring at, I’m reasonably certain I could SFBTPOBCMZ DFSUBJO * DPVME IBWF GPVOE JU CZ TJNQMZ GPMMPXJOH UIF QBUI PG JOUFOTFMZ have found it by simply following the path of intensely incapacitated chemical abusers of JODBQBDJUBUFE DIFNJDBM BCVTFST PG BMM TIBQF TJ[F BOE MJGF TUZMF BDDFTPSJ[BUJPO DMPH all shape, size and life-style-accesorization clogging the arteries of the San Francisco public HJOH UIF BSUFSJFT PG UIF 4BO 'SBODJTDP QVCMJD USBOTJU TZTUFN 8IFO PVS TUPQ BSSJWFE transit system. When our stop arrived, we disembarked, and the motley, shambling conXF EJTFNCBSLFE BOE UIF NPUMFZ TIBNCMJOH DPOHMPNFSBUJPO PG BMUFSOBUJWF MJGFTUZMF glomeration of alternative lifestyle livers of various creeds and ideologies stumbled its MJWFST PG WBSJPVT DSFFET BOE JEFPMPHJFT TUVNCMFE JUT XBZ UPXBSET UIF EFTJHOBUFE way towards the designated evening’s pleasure-dome. There it was: I heard it before I FWFOJOH T QMFBTVSF EPNF 5IFSF JU XBT * IFBSE JU CFGPSF * TBX JU UIF UIVOEFSJOH saw it, the thundering repetitive thump, and the next moment, what looked like the door to SFQFUJUJWF UIVNQ BOE UIF OFYU NPNFOU XIBU MPPLFE MJLF UIF EPPS UP B IVHF NFBU a huge meat-locker was ung open, and I was absorbed into a netherworldly fog of strobeMPDLFS XBT n VOH PQFO BOE * XBT BCTPSCFE JOUP B OFUIFSXPSMEMZ GPH PG TUSPCF MJHIUT lights and inhuman noises. BOE JOIVNBO OPJTFT The room itself was gigantic, the oor covered with several truckloads of sand- not good 5IF SPPN JUTFMG XBT HJHBOUJD UIF n PPS DPWFSFE XJUI TFWFSBM USVDLMPBET PG TBOE footing for dancing, I thought- and the walls plastered with huge white sheets on which OPU HPPE GPPUJOH GPS EBODJOH * UIPVHIU BOE UIF XBMMT QMBTUFSFE XJUI IVHF XIJUF meaningless phrases ashed rapidly, attempting to evoke the elusive atmosphere of “trippiTIFFUT PO XIJDI NFBOJOHMFTT QISBTFT n BTIFE SBQJEMZ BUUFNQUJOH UP FWPLF UIF FMVTJWF ness. â€? Paper-machĂŠ sculpted volcanoes burbled plumes of dry-ice smoke from hot-tub sized BUNPTQIFSF PG iUSJQQJOFTT w 1BQFS NBDIĂ? TDVMQUFE WPMDBOPFT CVSCMFE QMVNFT PG ESZ craters. I took two steps onto the mammoth dance-oor and realized that my shoes were JDF TNPLF GSPN IPU UVC TJ[FE DSBUFST * UPPL UXP TUFQT POUP UIF NBNNPUI EBODF n PPS already completely ďŹ lled with sand. BOE SFBMJ[FE UIBU NZ TIPFT XFSF BMSFBEZ DPNQMFUFMZ m MMFE XJUI TBOE I danced for a while, but the sand and ashing inane phrases wore me down quickly. This would * EBODFE GPS B XIJMF CVU UIF TBOE BOE n BTIJOH JOBOF QISBTFT XPSF NF EPXO RVJDLMZ all probably be a lot more stimulating if I were on crazy drugs, I imagined, but considering 5IJT XPVME BMM QSPCBCMZ CF B MPU NPSF TUJNVMBUJOH JG * XFSF PO DSB[Z ESVHT * JNBHJOFE that a rerun of the Cosby Show qualiďŹ es as over-stimulation under those circumstances, that FT BT PWFS TUJNVMBUJPO VOEFS UIPTF didCVU DPOTJEFSJOH UIBU B SFSVO PG UIF $PTCZ 4IPX RVBMJm not seem a glowing endorsement of the event’s entertainment value. No sign of the ex DJSDVNTUBODFT UIBU EJE OPU TFFN B HMPXJOH FOEPSTFNFOU PG UIF FWFOU T FOUFSUBJONFOU added to my disappointment. WBMVF /P TJHO PG UIF FY BEEFE UP NZ EJTBQQPJOUNFOU “This sucks,â€? I realized, and wandered over to the bar, where I found only brain-stimulating i5IJT TVDLT w * SFBMJ[FE BOE XBOEFSFE PWFS UP UIF CBS XIFSF * GPVOE POMZ CSBJO ginkgo-wheatgrass shots available, and at prices which busted my personal budget for ďŹ scal TUJNVMBUJOH HJOLHP XIFBUHSBTT TIPUT BWBJMBCMF BOE BU QSJDFT XIJDI CVTUFE NZ QFSTPOBM 2001-2006. “Ginkgo-wheatgrass?â€? I complained bitterly to no one in particular. “Is that why CVEHFU GPS m w * DPNQMBJOFE CJUUFSMZ UP OP POF JO they call this a TDBM i(JOLHP XIFBUHSBTT rave? Because you’re all a bunch of raving lunatics?â€? QBSUJDVMBS i*T UIBU XIZ UIFZ DBMM UIJT B SBWF #FDBVTF ZPV SF BMM B CVODI PG SBWJOH MVOBUJDT w “Your aura is strong,â€? the bartender replied. i:PVS BVSB JT TUSPOH w UIF CBSUFOEFS SFQMJFE “Excuse me?â€? I said.w * TBJE i&YDVTF NF “Your aura, â€? he repeated. “Is strong. And purplish-black.â€? i:PVS BVSB w IF SFQFBUFE i*T TUSPOH "OE QVSQMJTI CMBDL w “So? What does that mean?â€? I grumbled. i4P 8IBU EPFT UIBU NFBO w * HSVNCMFE “It’s the i*U T UIF BVSB PG GBNF BOE QPXFS aura of fame and power,â€? he explained. “You will be famous one day.â€? w IF FYQMBJOFE i:PV XJMM CF GBNPVT POF EBZ w “Sweet, â€?i4XFFU I had to admit. w * IBE UP BENJU He lifted a warning ďŹ nger. OHFS i#VU ZPV MM CF POF PG UIPTF CBE GBNPVT QFPQMF 'BNPVT JO “But you’ll be one of those bad famous people. Famous in the bad )F MJGUFE B XBSOJOH m way. Known for hurting people. One of those people everyone knows, and everyone hates.â€? UIF CBE XBZ ,OPXO GPS IVSUJOH QFPQMF 0OF PG UIPTF QFPQMF FWFSZPOF LOPXT BOE FWFSZ POF IBUFT w that,â€? I conceded. “I’m not picky about fame style.â€? “I can live with i* DBO MJWF XJUI UIBU w * DPODFEFE i* N OPU QJDLZ BCPVU GBNF TUZMF w I wandered away from the bar in a strangely uplifted mood, as if his serenity had given me a con high. * XBOEFSFE BXBZ GSPN UIF CBS JO B TUSBOHFMZ VQMJGUFE NPPE BT JG IJT TFSFOJUZ IBE HJWFO NF tact Famous in the bad way. I liked the sound of that. It gave me a new mantra to cling to, now B DPOUBDU IJHI 'BNPVT JO UIF CBE XBZ * MJLFE UIF TPVOE PG UIBU *U HBWF NF B OFX NBOUSB UP that One That Got Away had been forcibly retired. Deliberating on the potential details of my new DMJOHinUPevil, OPX UIBU 0OFknees 5IBU (PU CFFO GPSDJCMZ SFUJSFEout %FMJCFSBUJOH QPUFOUJBM career I fell to my and "XBZ beganIBE sculpting a sand castle of the slimyPO gritUIF now encrusting not only the oor but my clothes, eyeballs and lungs as well. Shortly, I was joined in this task by an entirely naked girl. For one profound, heart-lifting moment, I thought it was Ramsey. But a moment later my vision unblurred and it was just some girl, who seemed to be completely misinterpreting my aura of evil. We sculpted for a while, and then she motioned toward the burbling volcano. “Do you want to get in there with me?â€? she asked. “Sure, why not,â€? I said. We walked over to the crater and she lifted a leg to dip a probing toe into, while I unfastened my belt and let my pants fall around my ankles, struggling to whip my garments off in due haste. “Stop!!â€? screamed one of the designated security people (his status denoted by his XXL black Tshirt with a neon yellow yin-yang symbol on it). “Don’t go in there!â€? He ran up, waving his arms in alarm. “That’s a big pool of freon! You’ll burn your skin off!â€? The nymphette naked girl stared at him for a moment, and then gazed longingly back into the pool, one leg still up, the toe pointed down in ballerina fashion, ready to dip, and I saw (I swear I could see) in her face the self-awareness of the coming moment, the desire to embrace closure and ďŹ nality and just throw herself in, in one graceful motion, as if she’d been walking around town all day, half-heartedly looking for a pool of freon to throw herself into, because in the here and now she had found herself with no loose ends, no strings to tie up. For a brief and tantalizing moment it would be possible to step in and dissolve, to make an exit without inconveniencing anyone. She swayed slightly back and forth on one leg. I stood next to her, the thundering music and meaningless phrases and irrelevant light patterns and general nothingness of the whole event exploding and swirling around me, like some primordial energy-spasm; at the center of its emptiness, my pants around my ankles, me.


Al Burian is about to turn thirty ďŹ ve. He still has suicidal tendencies. He also still listens to the band Suicidal Tendencies. This story was originally published in his fanzine, Burn Collector, issue #11. For more info on ol’ Bur, contact StickďŹ gure, PO Box 55462, Atlanta GA 30308 / stickďŹ

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43 43


PURSE SWING meg vinson



01 02 03

Canal Flowers

Brian Hank Henry

Meg Vinson

me you and machines

is a collaboration with musician Takuya Nakamura and performance ar tist Michiko Takatani. Together we tried to create a character, a woman who is a representative from a fictitious place.

LANDSCAPE is a collaboration with musician Takuya Nakamura. A video about two depictions. One landscape is a familiar nature, with houses and trees and the other is machine. “Landscape” is an obvious reference to the scenery but also to the newly created one that occurs when the hand enters the frame to connect the two “landscapes” together. We were trying to interrupt the frame with unexpected movements. -CF




slide number one

is a voyeuristic look into the search for inspiration. At the time I made this piece my brain had kind of hit a wall in the creative process. As I thought more and more about why I wanted to make videos (at this time), the beauty and meaning came from what I saw that day, through the lens. As of right now I have just finished a documentary on small business owners in Chicago, and a music video for the band Bird Names who are also from Chicago. I’ve also just star ted pre-production on videos for Chicago based bands, J+J+J and Bang Bang. I’m somewhat trying to stay local with who I work with. Chicago has an amazing community of ar tists making great work. - bhh





mode of action is an animation set to a very rigid formula of numbers. The numbers are used in constructing a rhythm— the numbers determine the pace of the stop animation as well as the movement and placement of the camera and the background. My physical movement is a study of ways I can move and try to mimic the rhythm of the underlying formula. It is a masterpiece. Currently I am living in New York, and just finished a series of Richard Simmons paintings. I plan to continue with this idea and transcribe it over into a series of shor t films. I am trying to collaborate with as many individuals as I can to eventually star t an empire of greatness in every form of expression. - mv




Dawn The Faun On: Life On The Road, Personal Satisfaction, and Heeding the Call

Interview by: Jenn

Brandel Photos by: Aleks Tomaszewska



aun Fables were born nearly a decade ago to the avant-garde and truly original Dawn McCarthy. Together with Nils Frykdahl (of Sleepytime Gorilla Museum) and a rotating cast of collaborators, The Faun Fables have been creating unclassifiable music and staging unforgettable shows ever since. In retrospect, the way I was introduced to the Faun Fables seems nearly as extraordinary and positively strange as their music itself; I was living in Tasmania (two stops past the middle of nowhere) as an illegal immigrant farmer and with a 6’5’’ video artist named Wally Wallis - who subsisted on nothing but cigarettes, eggs over easy, and The Faun Fables. Without even realizing it, their music went on heavy rotation in the soundtrack of my life. And … coincidentally or not, the Fables played at Schubas hours after I returned to the motherland. I had to go. With suitcase in tow, I left stunned and gratified— the best culture shock possible. Dawn’s voice is a wise old woman smoking the world’s finest cigar…rolled in molasses, encased in velvet. It’s deep yet airy, rich yet not overindulgent. To put it simply— it’s evocative. The music she, Nils, and on this tour Jenya Chernoff, and Matt Lebofsky produce taps into both a time long since past and a time that never was. Now on their third album, The Transit Rider, The Faun Fables are touring a concept show complete with theatrics, multimedia, and a one-way ticket to another dimension. I caught up with Dawn the Faun over the phone, and in a bathroom stall of the Mercury Café.

“This one’s for fire protection, this one’s for castration protection – and the day that they work is the day you know they weren’t made in vain.” Jenn Brandel: Your musical style and shows feel so original I’ve imagined you raised by wolves in some magical forest, uninfluenced by popular culture or contemporary music. Does Faun Fables somewhat consciously reject what’s popular or current? Dawn McCarthy: That’s an interesting question. Of course I would hate to say there’s a conscious rejection – that seems kind of like an intellectual process; a bit silly or kind or naïve as in “yes we’re going to reject the culture that we’re in and the time period we’re in.” With that said, I’d have to say that I notice I do have a bit of an instinctive buffering from a lot of modern culture – largely because I don’t feel very inspired by it, or I don’t feel so aligned with it. In the work I do, it’s useful for me to try to explore some other things… things that aren’t influenced by what’s blaring all around us. I’ve noticed that there is a deliberate choice at times. Mostly, I feel that it’s just responding to something that calls you. Whether it ends up being popular, so be it. I’ll be over exploring something else… and I’ll look around, then I’ll find other people doing the same thing, and we’re all doing it separately. So there is that collective unconscious level you can’t really run away from. JB: Your new album, The Transit Rider seems to be your most theatrically based show yet. It confounds performance with music and art and overall spectacle. Which came first, the theatrical idea or the music – or did they develop and evolve simultaneously? DM: It developed pretty simultaneously. I wrote the Transit Scene, Dream on a Train, and The Questioning all in the same evening, twelve years ago in Brooklyn. And at that point, I was immediately thinking of this little play as an absurd story about someone just living on the train, and what would life be like if all you had was the subway system? What would love be like? …I didn’t do anything with them for years.

Once Nils and I were in the flow of working together in California, I started wanting to do stuff with those songs…it’s always been a theatrical thing – The Transit Rider. JB: The script revolves around four distinct characters stuck on a train together. How did you develop their personalities? To what degree do they represent each musician in their real life and/or certain cultural stereotypes? DM: Hmm. I would say that the Transit Rider [female protagonist], the conductor character, and the Swift Pin character came very instinctively out of me and Nils in working up the material . . . At some point, we put together the first version of the Transit Rider, which was a Bay Area community extravaganza – there were 13 people in the class and we had 5 offstage musicians. We did a series of improvs – action theater type stuff. I was co-directing with Allen Wilner whose done a lot of action theater. At that point I had some guidelines for the transit rider character, I just felt I wanted her to be a fool – a kind of holy fool… a very simple character - someone who’s just arriving in the world. This idea that she’s kind of a dreamer and she’s dreamed herself into existence on the train. So that came out of improv work, similar to the old clowning traditions where you found these inner clown characters – these characters that are naturally in you. Nils has done this stuff with these overly expressed authority machine kind of voices…for years, and I think the conductor came very naturally for him, and it’s a really good contrast to the Transit Rider. Swiftpin, for Nils, came largely out of his brother - the influence of his brother…being a main muse. I think he’s someone who’s had mental problems, mental illness, and challenges in life. [He] was a total artistic visionary and natural clown. A lot of Nils’s sense for characters and strange voices come from his brother - and I would have to say from his mom as well – they

get it from their mom’s side of the family. We… also had Nils do some physical improvising for the Swiftpin character. The other part of Swiftpin was an actual woman, one of the patients at a mental hospital Nils’ brother was staying at for a while. She gave us the great line – “this one’s for fire protection, this one’s for castration protection – and the day that they work is the day you know they weren’t made in vain.” We knew we wanted to put that in a show somehow. So Swiftpin became this combination of characters for Nils. The physicality of it just rounded it out.

For Jenya and Matt – Matt is playing this telephone, business addict kind of guy and Jenya’s playing this cleaning lady. They’re based upon a couple of characters we had in the original show…. Matt plays a sort of generic business man – racing around, made somewhat homeless by his work, basically living on the train… showing how the modern work life can hollow a person out. You know, the pace and removal of community, family, possibilities of relationships, intimacy – all of this gets really challenged – so the business man character was based upon that. What we wanted to do with both Matt and Jenya was to do some improv with them and then on the themes of these characters find their own place – their own version. You have to do that – you have to let people find themselves in a role. In choosing Matt and Jenya I definitely felt with Matt’s personality, a certain great kind of east coast nervousness and soft intellect – I thought Matt would be perfect for the telephone/guy businessmen character. And Jenya’s character is a combination of some different female characters we had in the original show…Since there are so few people who are actually on train, we needed a character to have some place and purpose – and I wanted her character to be a worker on the train. All of the characters basically live on the train, but not the usual people just passing through and getting off at stops. The conductor makes announcements for stops – but no one’s really getting off. [Jenya’s character] is kind of the straight person in a way – she’s a touch of reality, bit of a drunk, too. But she’s doing her job and she’s the one that tells the transit rider that the conductor is just a machine – it’s just a recording, but then again – machines have a lot of power in our lives now – so that’s explored: “yeah – he’s a machine, but he’s going to be the one who announces my stop and chooses whether the doors open or close, you know?” JB: How integral is the ethos of traveling in your music and performance? Would you ever consider stationing yourself somewhere and having a theatrical run? DM: Yeah – I would love to do that. That’s sort of what we’re hoping to do with this show and with other theatrical shows - is [to] hookup some short runs in some towns where we can just come in and set up and have it be the same place…It’s funny how much theater and music worlds don’t really mix. Music people don’t know that much about writing grants and bringing your own lighting to shows and how much you can


excited to continue working out ways of bringing these other dimensions into shows and learning how to tour it. JB: Have you found a lot of kindred spirits on the road – in terms of people who are developing their acts in a similar way as you are – blending theater and music? And would you ever consider touring with other people who are doing something in a similar vein?

“We’ll play bingo halls, hospitals, high schools, outdoor parks. Really playing a variety of spaces, each space works different muscles.” actually make the show be a whole piece and work on all the visuals and all the costume. Theater people often don’t know that you can just go throw some theatrical stuff in some easy space – and you don’t have to compete with all these other people to rent the place and expensive overhead. So we’ve worked up a touring career – That’s why we did this in a touring format. Also just to get it around to different towns where there are strong audiences for us. I would certainly love to get it into some theater festivals and some longer runs for sure. JB: How much would you say your style is based on traditional theater from other cultures or other times and how much of it just blossoms out of your own imagination? DM: I’m fairly unstudied in traditional theater. My relationship with it has been pretty instinctive. Just seeing what comes out of the shows and then a couple big influences – this Polish theater troupe inspired me- their amount of physical energy, and playing their instruments and singing and having everything exposed out there on the stage. That definitely gave me courage with the Transit Rider. Hey you know what – we can be totally exposed, we can play instruments, and we can still be in character?! To not feel that rigidity in like “well gosh – how am I a character and pick up an instrument and how do I keep that energy going?” I have seen a lot of theater in recent years. I’ve been going to shows and have been inspired by a lot of things…some of the physicality of Butoh, Dance, and I loved Robert Wilson’s productions. Kind of a mix of all of the above (laughs).


know? I want to have this whole continuous thing and this because it has this whole context, it kind of makes it easier in some ways. But also it feels very satisfying and it is more challenging – but it feels more satisfying. I need to be more challenged. With that said – this tour has been pretty exhausting – I don’t think it’s so much the actual show itself– but because of the size of the production – there’s just four people doing all of it… We have to get there earlier, set up, [and] from the time we set up until we actually load everything in – it’s a lot of hours. It ends up being about ten hours or so. And sometimes you realize “oh when did I last drink water?” I could see bringing a few other people on board to help out with stuff – a tour manager, merch person, stuff like that. JB: Does this new stage production figure into the production of your album at all? Have you been tempted to make a DVD or film the stage aspect as supplementary material? DM: I think we would like to make a DVD – it was suggested a few times. A couple of film students in Canada came out to the Toronto and Hamilton shows and filmed it – and they’re going to put together a little package for us and we’re going to see what that’s like. I think we’ll probably end up using some of that – but I feel like the show keeps improving each night – and I think I would do a final version after the tour is through, when it’s more well worked out. I think if we do a DVD it would have stuff in it that you wouldn’t be able to get from the live show – intended close-ups and more controlled lighting. It would be great to have it documented to have available for people who can’t see the show.

JB: With this kind of multi-dimensional show, do you find it hard to get into character every day –does it takes more out of you by the end of the night or do you find it more invigorating and energizing than a “straight” musical performance?

JB: With the new material you’re developing, are you going with a theatrical bend as well? Would you consider of wearing the two hats - touring two shows at once and having a few projects going on simultaneously?

DM: That’s a great question – I feel more deeply satisfied doing this show. Going into the whole theatrical realm of it somehow makes it easier than when you just sing songs. There’s always this kind of broken space in between the songs and I feel like “oh what to do with that?” You

DM: Yeah – I think all of the above. I have one sort of big project coming up that is going to be theatrical, but then I also have some song ideas and little collaborations that might just end up being just songs. But I’d have to say I’m pretty geared up for theater right now. I’m very, very

DM: Yeah – definitely. Sometimes touring is just logistics – finding out a way you can have two touring acts – and if you do it for a living then there’s always the money logistics and making it sustainable for everyone. That’s kind of been the main thing for us. We couldn’t really do this show with the four people and RV until now – we had to work up our careers, and work up the better guarantees and we had to get our audience going. But definitely would love to bring some other act on board and do some fun stuff. On this tour, I haven’t really found other theatrical folks – but I should point out the Billy Nayer show comes to mind in NY, and Cory McAbee doing solo stuff and he’s just a great story teller and does film and all kind of things. And in the Bay area – there’s some people, Rube Waddell Baudel, they’ve done some theatrical stuff and a lot of song work. I’d have to say I haven’t found…I’d love to meet more people doing similar stuff - music with a strong theatrical bend. JB: How important do you find the space in which you perform? I’ve seen you perform twice, and both times it’s seemed like the “right space” for the show you were touring. Do you ever play cafeterias or bingo parlors or places that clash with your style? Or is finding venues that suit your aesthetic a priority on tour? DM: This tour it was a priority – the booking agent and I put extra time into finding spaces that we could come in and kind of just be in for the night – but that wouldn’t be bars – it would be more performance art spaces, small theater spaces… In general, what Faun Fables have been doing is having one of those “we’ll play anywhere” and exactly like you say – we’ll play bingo halls, hospitals, high schools, outdoor parks. Really playing a variety of spaces, each space works different muscles. It’s definitely preferable to have a place with a decent sound system. Especially in the midst of a tour – a whole lot of singing, it’s been physically challenging. I would say it’s felt pretty important because it affects everything a bit – whatever space you’re in. I always feel like I’m kind of an idealist in that I think the performer can rise above whatever the technical challenges are or the spatial challenges… Even if the sound system totally dies –we still have the blood and the guts and the energy to make something with the people present – try to make some kind of magic, you know? For The Faun Fables tour schedule and more information, visit

visit to pre-order issue #4 fall/winter ‘06 or snag one of our limited edition shirts....

This issue made and brought to you by the beautiful music of our friends. If you’d like to hear the sounds we’ve been hearing visit[ insert any of the following]: mountainsofmoss maygray fecaljapanolecularization akronfamily cloudlandcanyon.Thank you to them for providing background to our makings.


Version 06 Parallel Cities April 20 to May 7, 2006 Chicago, Illinois

Festival curator

Edmar Marszewski talks about the Version. How was Version created and in what ways has it changed over the years? Version was created in 2002. It was very influenced by a tactical media festival in Amsterdam called Next Five Minutes that had a unique approach to the notion of conference and festival within art, technology and activist milieus. And I guess I can say my history of doing Lumpen,, Easy Listener and weird art happenings/parties led me on the path to festival organizing. Influenced by that incredible experience we decided to create our own version of a hybrid festival that incorporated art, technology, activism, tactical media, performance, academic conference action, parties, interventions etc as a way to contribute to the international dialogue engaging in public art, shared visions of a future world, etc... Our first festival, Version>02 took place at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago over a weekend and it was curated and programmed to give a sampling of projects centered around the theme of the digital commons. At that time there was great excitement about file sharing and social networking applications. Also people were using the internet to organize interesting activist campaigns, performing electronic civil disobedience and using technology creatively to illuminate social issues. This advanced DIY media was pretty cool. This is before blogging and Google Video and Friendster and Myspace was around to for online social networking. So there was a neat period where you could see how individuals and small groups of people were communicating with each other, organizing campaigns, taking down websites, parodying corporations, embarrassing the Man via the internet. By using this medium they were able to end run mainstream communication networks and spread their work virally etc... We essentially assembled a temporary convergence of these activities and players in Chill to kick start a dialogue and bring everyone up to speed on the frontiers of art activist practice in the digital resistance sphere.


It was pretty exciting. People freaked out at how kick ass we made the festival. I guess I then first encountered my forays into the politics of the Chicago art worlds. Working with the MCA was awesome but later we would outgrow their confines and the politics of the institutions. I could go on and on about each years iteration in tangents. Version>03 was themed Technotopia vs.. Technopocalypse. Here’s a blurb From the website: “The five-day festival brings together emerging and leading practitioners to respond to the latest advancements in virtual reality, robotics, bioengineering, and other such technology defining our time. The festival also examines contemporary social and political developments relating to the War in Iraq, the War on Terror, and the American surveillance society. Concerts, films, installations, labs, workshops, and panel discussions feature proponents as well as critics of the latest developments.” We found our festival taking place a week after the US invaded Iraq. Needless to say much of the programming that year was centered around strategies to investigate the war mongers and the lies perpetrated by the media and the pentagon. Creative resistances strategies and actions were explored. It was a pretty somber fest in some ways.. We felt overwhelmed by how easily the Bush administration lead the nation to war. So a week or so before the festival a huge protest the day after bombings saw over 20,000 Chicagoans shut down parts of downtown and over 1,000 people were rounded up and arrested one bock away from the MCA. Since our programming was so anti-war anti-Bush it scared some of the administrators of the MCA. Police squads and vans circled around the MCA all weekend and Riot cops dressed in Ninja stopped into our festival. There were rumors we were organizing daily protests against the mass arrests. It was weird. I think half our expected audience was in jail. That year we had super freaks like Stephen Marshall of Guerilla News Networks showing his work to kids in public Highs schools, there were street actions and tons of debate and awesome parties. That year Dearraindrop and Barkley’s Barnyard critters tore the town up. Dearraindrop got kicked out of the MCA for being juvenile delinquents. And their performance at buddy was raided by a dozen dudes dancing naked with the word “fag-

Illustrations by Logan Bay

got” written on their chests in protest of their bad manners. The critters rocked the party so hard that it began a tradition where the floors of buddy bounced til they seemed they would collapse due to the dancing. Dearraindrop was used as a reason for our not being invited back the next year. However we think we were uninvited to come back again because our politics alienated parts of the MCA staff. Version>04 Invisible Network was a big change in format, organization, venues and time. We stretched version to 16 days over ten venues throughout the city with the theme focusing on the social networks that have formed within the milieus we had featured at version. We opened up the organizing to various nodes of activity and individuals in Chicago. We feel that the burgeoning alt space scenes were become significant centers of countercultural activity and we sought to expose these networks to the visiting artists and the participants of the festival. Buddy, our old space, was a center of this activity for about three years and it was great to see how the alt spaces (along with the Chicago Cultural center) could present the festival. By getting out of the MCA we were able to accomplish much more and not worry about any programming conflicts. That year we started the NFO XPO and started doing group exhibitions based on thematic elements of the festival. The influx of tons of foreign guest who stayed in town also made the experience much more enriching and exciting. That Version became the litmus test I think.

Version>05>Invincible Desire was the turning point for our organization. It would be the last year we were headquartered in Liquor Park and the year we put one foot in the community of the future, Bridgeport. We still used the network of alternative space to do the festival, notably Buddy, Heaven Gallery, Open End, Texas ballroom and Three Walls, but we used the giant warehouse of the Zhou B Center for a new media exhibition and the NFO XPO. That year we programmed many more public interventions and performances and kept our hectic 2 1/2 week schedule of activities. Over 400 people participated showing work, performing or giving workshops and talks.

WE SEE WHAT WE ARE DOING IN BRIDGEPORT AS AN EXPERIMENT OF SORTS. IT IS HERE ON THE OUTSKIRTS OF THE HEAVILY GENTRIFIED ZONES OF WICKER PARK, BUCKTOWN, LOGAN SQUARE ETC.. THAT WE FIND BUILDING ANOTHER “COUNTER CULTURE” A CHALLENGE WORTH ENGAGING IN. This year’s theme was “Parallel Cities” - can you tell us a little bit about this idea in relationship to Chicago and specifically Bridgeport? Version>06’s theme is an extension of this alt space idea and the social/politcal and cultural

networking concepts we typically explore. We feel that there exists in every city what remains of the “counter culture”, there are many iterations and variations but it exists! So there are groups of people engaged in multiple forms of cultural production that does not get represented in the commercial culture or is outside or besides the institutional realms, or is freaky, or whatever. Their representations and activities exist on the net, in alt spaces, basements, apartments and on the streets. Their “resistance” is in creating their own scenes and activities that create a universe that is not too easily described. Is it utopian escapist, resistant? We seek to discover these threads and share them. Our hope was to bring groups and networks from different cities and different scenes to meet each other and share ideas, work, beer and coffee. For years I have called Bridgeport “the community of the future...if the future is the apocalypse” as a sort of ironic take on the history and the future of the neighborhood. We see what we are doing in Bridgeport as an experiment of sorts. It is here on the outskirts of the heavily gentrified zones of Wicker park, Bucktown, Logan Square etc that we find building another “counter culture” a challenge worth engaging in. Bridgeport is the heart of the beast of Chicago’s political power. Your readers might not know that five of the city’s mayors hail from this community of well heeled residents and connected employees of the political 11th war machine. Nepotism is king here. Most of the residents have a family member working for the city in some capacity. The neighborhood was famous for its xenopho-

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Artist vs Artisan fashion show - photograph by Usama Alshaibi - models Julia, Heather, Melinda and Katie


Mule magazine participated in the NFO XPO, a part of the festival that brought art groups, activists, spaces, individual artists and community projects together to exchange information and ideas. Here are a few of the friends we met: chicago tapes project

research and development

pomegranate radical health collective

rock paper scissors collective oakland, ca

chicago art department

country club

stop trashing houston houston , tx

working bikes

european green card lottery project

chicago underground library

bia and fear of the other. It is the stereotypical racist neighborhood. And now its changing. It is one of the few wards that is turning brown and beige while the north side turns white even though it too is gentrifying.

We hope our efforts will provide a center and bridge some gaps and reinvigorate some of the incredible power and energy that has erupted in Chicago the past five or ten years. This is a reason why Version can even happen at all.

sion ‘07 and do you have any other projects in the works?

In the past year many alt spaces were shut down due to the gentrification forces in the north side. We lost a lot of great places like Camp Gay, Buddy, The Mansion, etc... It became very hard to find live work scenarios. We moved our activities to Bridgeport because it was one option. It was an area that has big spaces to play in and it is isolated from the hustle of the young professional world and decrepit SUV drivers that have occupied the signified alternowonderland of LiquorPark/Fucktown. We find that many scenes and milieus have fragmented and scattered throughout the city. This is a good thing and a bad thing. Good because it forces us to do something new. Bad because it fragments our proximity, connectivity and ability to work collectively and play collectively. People within the scenes are now all over the city. Some are opening new spaces, others are disconnecting.

What were a few of your favorite moments during this years festival?

artist vs. artisan

Working with my cholos and getting it done was a great feeling. After seeing how amazing the exhibitions looked in the Iron Studios after we cleaned it up was a great relief. We had to coordinate almost 500 people this year and being understaffed took a lot out of us. Specifically I loved how the NFO XPO turned out. Other shining moments: Performances By Miraj and their male strippers; Brett Bloom’s “Uncontrollable” talk was inspiring; The assemblage of kids from Oakland and Houston was cool; Potluck dinner; The IIT program; and the Street art tour. With Version ‘06 just over, are you already working on Ver-

You know I think I am kind of fucked. Right now I am working on the 15th Anniversary of Lumpen Magazine. We are working on issue #100, a DVD compilation, several parties, a lumpenthology art exhibition, a book about dead spaces, our other festival, Select Media festival (happening in October), a massive invasion of Chicago art into Miami for December, and finally a new space in Bridgeport, the Community of the Future. This space is the going to change my life again. I look forward to it and I hope that it will birth a new era of action for me. For more info on Version Fest, Lumpen, and other things growing from the soil of Chicago please visit -


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Where is the Ghost Dog, 2004 Oil on linen 93 3/4” x 84 3/4”


Tell me a tiny bit about where you grew up and basic differences. Does children’s schooling in Latvia approach art differently at all? I was growing up in the other part of this big globe, in the North Europe. I am coming from a small town in the western part of Latvia and I’m kind of a country boy. Even though I never actually felt that I belonged to countryside. I loved it anyway and I’ve never regret that I was living I such a small town. I went there in a elementary school and one grade in high school. After that, at 16 years old, I got into Art College in Liepaja— city by the Baltic Sea. Well, I think there are no big differences between children in any part of the world. Everybody likes drawing and creating stuff. It doesn’t matter where you’re living, in the North Pole or in jungles. But of course there are differences in educational systems and approaches to the arts in schools. When did you start painting? This is very good question. I don’t really remember. My usual answer is; when I was born, I was smoking cigarette and I had already brush in my right hand, and my body was covered with a bunch of paints. So it goes. Can you imagine little baby smoking cigarette and painting? I’m sort of part Adams family but in more artistic way.

Where did your training happen? Since I remember always I was sitting by my self in a guest room by the table and drawing with color pencils or painting with the watercolor or gauche paints and my father had to sharpen at least 20 pencils because I was drawing pretty fast, and usually they broke and the big notebooks where full of drawings in an hour. That was before school. Kindergarten time. In the elementary school I was quiet and serious kid. Later I was studying decorative design in Liepaja Art College and then painting in Art academy of Latvia, Riga. So that is basically it. What drew you to paint? Always I felt something deep inside my body, my mind and my soul that I really enjoyed creating and painting. I do not know but this could come from God, even I don’t believe and I am not a religious person. Or might be it coming from my grandfather. He was very intellectual and talented guy. But however I kind of feel something giving me a power or message and I have to make it on canvas. On very big canvas . . . When did you move to the states? Why? I moved at very end of 2000. Something like in November. Why? Well. There are few issues and couple reasons. I guess I always liked New York even I never have had been here before. I felt that my country doesn’t need me as an artist. So and then I realized that I can’t live for two things. Country or Art. I had to sacrifice one of them and I decided to move on. And I remember I told my mom and father;” I am living just once in my life and I want to experience everything in the art world. I want to move to New York City. I had friends who told me: Why you come here? As a European I could go to Berlin or London and it’s very close to my homeland. It kind of makes sense. But

Strange Day, 2004 Oil on plywood 93 1/2” x 47 3/4”


Who is Chillie Willie? First of all, his real name is Famous Chillie - Willie. He’s a resident of Jersey City and New York City, born in Chill Town 111 First Street. That’s where I created him. He’s a mirror of us, a very unusual 21st century archetype. He reflects our whole humanity. It’s like when you watch a movie and you know it’s fiction, but at the same time, all the stories are about us. He is everything— little nasty genius who has no borders, continents, countries. Chillie is a part of me and I am part of him. We are connected forever, he can’t runaway from me. I can’t hide from him. He is my friend, my child, my baby, my icon. He is the ghost of Chill Town. Why can he get away with the things he can? He’s a person non grate. Famous Chillie Willie has no rules. He is the biggest punk, the most radical anarchist, utopist, the biggest lover, warrior against aliens, president, artist, astronaut, trouble-maker, revolutionary. No, no, do not think he’s bad. It’s just one tiny part of his expression. But I want to say that Chillie can stand out of time. He lives in 4th dimension. In the past, present, future. It’s impossible for us as humans. Our existence functions right now and right here, but for him everything’s possible.

Exercise on the Chair, 2002 Oil on plywood 68” x 48”

my destiny brought me here and that’s it. Here I am. I like to see so many people from whole world in a one place. It is very amazing. Every subculture transforms into another new cultural manifestation which makes life more interesting. And even in the art world as well. Did your paintings change from being in the US? Not really. At least not at the beginning, until I created Famous Chillie- Willie. That was the braking point in my painting and it changed everything; the structure, composition, idea, matter and conception. I was concerned a bit at the first moment about this little character but then I understood he’s the guy I need. And he took me over.

What are your favorite characteristics to look for in a painting? I don’t know there are a lot of many interesting things going on in my paintings though. Every painting is like separate story about Chillie and I like to involved him in these delirious journeys. To expose to danger. To get along with those monsters, aliens. But sometimes I want to get away from this and paint completely opposite way. I would create in my mind a new idea or conception of Chillie I mean that’s the purpose in general that Chillie Willie can be anywhere or anything.

Where does Chillie sleep? I don’t know where he sleeps. In the barn deep in the forest or by Central Park in some fancy schmancy flat. He could sleep next by you every 13th night. What sort of foods would Chillie eat? Chillie eats everything. He starts in the morning with the garbage from dumpster and finishes in a very expensive restaurant at night. Basically his favorite is Asian food and classic North European dinner. He also used to eat rats, insects, worms, snakes and dogs and many, many more. Once I saw that he was really pissed of at the cell phone. He was cursing very loudly and then he just gulped down the phone. It was gone. What do you want us to know most about Chillie? Famous Chillie Willie never wears any pants. His head looks like a spacious bullet he’s always laughing or screaming. Very peculiar. He looks like the president of USA, and he is. I want you to understand my Chillie because mostly people can’t get it. They would think or say to me: Oh it’s so funny. It is — sort of. But they wouldn’t even pay attention to the art value, to the painting itself, composition and other things. I want you to look deeper in his personality and try to discover, understand the basic truth which is about us all. What is his biggest secret? Love. What are you working on right now? Right now I am very excited for my big canvases which I am painting. They are big, and it is in the court of Famous Chillie Willie, 18th century. Still have to finish my conceptual painting about Chillie who was the mobster and the most wanted guy in USA. Look -- Chillie Willie can be anything even Mafioso guy.

Normunds Bruveris currently resides in Jersey City.


Adventures Above East Village, 2004 Oil on masonite 39 1/2” x 85”

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