HOW TO BE A MISCREANT #1 by my dear friend matt gasda All music is also a memory- all music flows, like all sensation, does, immediately into the past. So music flows and runs and roots us to the past where we stand whether in our bedrooms or at a concert hall or in our cars or walking down the street. We’re rooted and fixed by songs like we’ve stared at a Medusa head and when a song has struck us however inane and silly we might find that song a few weeks, months, years later, we can’t help but be moved by the silly little thing because somehow it gripped it’s talons in our brains and nested and built a whole colony of feeling in us while we weren’t looking. I say all this because I’ve come home recently, come home from college, for forever, having graduated, and I find my cranium just completely infested with the past and all the music that marked out my place in the world. I do and do not want to clear my mind out a little because being 22 and free somehow I want to just push forward and ignore who I was but I can’t seem to do so and when I go and sit down at the piano (in my laundry room) or drive to my job shoveling mulch I can’t help but feel the past grab me and pull me back because however much you think you can get rid of the past all music is past and becomes the past and helps define the past and so just playing the piano is really just playing upon the past- playing upon old memories and feelings because you can’t play what you don’t know and no one knows the future... And we preserve so much now- just on our Ipods- that we carry around the past with us everyday. We carry around the songs that really marked and moved us at 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, etcetera ad infinitum and we can evoke an old feeling, an old love, and old memory in a few seconds and the temptation to swim around in the past is so strong that driving home from college for the last time one doesn’t want to listen to any new music but everything that meant something to one over the last however many years. I can’t say that I’m driving at any particular point with this- except that maybe we shouldn’t just think of music as something that gives pleasure but as something that gives form and structure to our lives- that serves as one of only a few entry points to some of the most important experiences that we’ll ever experience and something too that can cut to one’s inmost heart and remind us what we used to care about, what we used to say we loved.
PROFESSIONAL MISCREANTS by that good ol’ arkansas boy, andy mcclain Everyone wants to be a miscreant, but more often than not, our ambitions and good sense get in the way. Or maybe we’re just scared. At any rate, we have a right to party, but we might need someone else to fight for it while we’re at work. Adam Yauch, Michael Diamond and Adam Horowitz were just three middle class Jewish kids from New York City, making noisy, rebellious music the best way they knew how, which in the early 80s was hardcore punk rock music. They noticed soon enough that you can only play rock n’ roll so loud before it becomes white noise. Luckily, hip-hop was being born in their backyard and they wanted to be a part of it. Their first foray into hip-hop was a 12” single called “Cooky Puss,” which involved a hip-hop beat, a punk rock bass line, a sample from a Steve Martin comedy album and a taped prank phone call to a Manhattan Carvel ice cream store, demanding to speak to Cookiepuss, a character depicted by the company on their ice cream cakes. Soon after, they were teaming up with Rick Rubin to make the singles leading up to their debut album, “Licensed to Ill,” which aped both Run DMC’s hip-hop and AC/DC’s over-the-top heavy metal. The resulting cocktail makes for the perfect soundtrack to a night of mischievous and antisocial behavior. These bad brothers had a keen understanding of the art of talking shit, which gets you a long way in hip-hop. They understood that when an MC is on the mic, an MC gets to decide who they are and who they aren’t. So these three kids, sitting pretty on a legal settlement from British Airways (who used one of their very early tracks in an ad without permission) decided that they wanted to be lowlifes. They rapped about eating Rice-a-Roni, drinking cheap liquor, sniffing glue, and not showering or going to work. These moronic, delinquent characters the Beasties created for themselves were a success. “Licensed to Ill” was greeted by Rolling Stone in 1986 with the headline “Three Idiots Create A Masterpiece.” Everyone had a good laugh at these three white kids pretending to be rappers as the album became the first hip-hop LP to make it to number one on the Billboard chart, as well as Columbia’s fastest-selling debut record, ultimately selling 9 million copies.
So let’s raise a glass of Brass Monkey to these three miscreants who created personas large and outlandish enough to continue cussing, spitting and making trouble in all five boroughs until long after they’ve stopped drawing Social Security checks.
THIS WEEK’S MISCREANT IS BROUGHT TO YOU BY
watch sarah aument’s new video for “gold” at sarahaument.com
EXCUSE ME, MR. MANGUM? by the miscreant, herself I am sitting at a show in Williamsburg one Saturday night. I am tuckered out, standing by myself in a crowd of paisley button downs and high-waist jean shorts, amidst a cloud of conversation varying from favorite Brooklyn dives to what’s new on the walls of Academy. Sigh -- I am knowingly minutes away from enjoying the show from a deserted couch on the balcony of the venue. Then I turn around, and I spot Jeff Mangum. Mr. Mangum and I had crossed paths several other times that evening. Earlier, I was working at a merch table, and he went out the front door with his ladypanion. Though I knew very well who he was, and wanted very much to say hello, I simply mustered a smile as he had his hand stamped for re-entry. “Do you know whose hand you just stamped?” I engaged the doorman. “No,” he replied, “Wouldn’t be much surprised though. A lot of important people walk through these doors. Just stamp their hand and send ‘em off.” I tell him who Jeff Mangum is. “Neutron what?” “No, no, Neutral Milk Hotel.” The doorman shakes his head; he isn’t impressed. Later on that evening (before I venture into the audience and after I have stood in a modest line for the bathroom) I run into my new friend, the doorman. He pulls me aside. “Hey,” he grabs, “I talked to that guy -- Jeff. I told him how big of a fan you were of his. Damn well made his night! Go talk to him! Go ask for his autograph.” I am surprised I don’t blush immediately, but as I begin to turn red, I shake my head. “Oh, no, I couldn’t do that. I’d look like such a geek.” I would certainly look like a geek. I tell the doorman that I might later. “C’mon now,” says the doorman, “Just say hey -- he’s a really nice guy.” I nod too much and walk away. Here’s the trying part, right? Should I stay or should I go? Should I pronounce my adoration? Should I run up on the stage and yell into the microphone, “Let’s all give a big, warm welcome to THE ONE, THE ONLY--!” I should at least let him know that his music has influenced me, right? Should I tell him about the time I left “King Of Carrot Flowers” on repeat for several hours in a car ride? I turn around in that crowd, clad in TOMS and the stench of Cafe Bustelo, and I stand towards Mr. Mangum. I inch, inch, and I continue past him. I will have disappointed a very talkative doorman tonight. And more importantly, I will have failed to give credit where credit is due. That’s the thing about “celebrities,” it’s a relative term. Also, what’s the harm in telling someone they have impacted your life? We’re all just miscreants, aren’t we? We’re finding inspiration within the work of others just as much as we find it within ourselves. I have said hello to a many number of people who I find important. And, although I could think of a near hundred compliments, stories, bits to tell him, I couldn’t see how he might think it nice until I had up and left the venue. Lord knows I could have at least said hello. Mark Maron tells this really great story about the time that he met Lou Reed. He’s 6
standing in line at a bookstore - or something - to go up to his favorite musician and say thanks - or something. Mr. Maron sees that by simply telling Mr. Reed that he is a fan will not make him stand out amongst the crowd. So, he decides to ask him a question. “What kind of pick do you use?” Lou replies “Medium, brother. I always use a medium.” Or in so many words. Either way, Lou Reed was probably happy to give a pointer. And I know Mr. Maron was happy to receive it. People want to know that they’re helping other people; I think that’s part of human nature. Most of us, miscreants or not, just want to know that we’re doing something right. And no matter how many times you hear it, it still feels good when a stranger or a friend lets you know you’re making a difference. So, if you ever see Jeff Mangum, or anyone who has created something important to you, listen to the doorman. Just say thank you, or say hello. And for the record, if I ran into Mr. Mangum again, I would certainly take the opportunity to thank him for producing such wonderful music.
WANT MORE MISCREANT? Thank you for reading the second issue of ‘The Miscreant.’ I hope you feel compelled to read more, and even contribute, if you feel so inclined. Perhaps you have seen an interesting movie or play that you’d like to tell the world about? Or maybe you just want to talk? Well, don’t be shy, my troublemakers! Tell us what you have to say; spread the wealth. Email the Miscreant at: email@example.com (don’t forget the double t!)