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The girl with pink hair is in the opening band. Later, she will sing and writhe on the stage. Her red microphone cord will be wrapped around her head and neck so tight that it will leave marks. But right now the couple working the door don’t know who she is. The are taking tickets and checking identification. They either don’t recognize her or don’t believe her when she tells them she’s performing. “I can show you my ID,” she says, “If I have to.” They tell her that, yes, that would be good. The girl with pink hair opens her pocket book and the couple at the door check a sheet of paper and wave her through. The couple at the door are with the company that is promoting the show.

Welcome to TNB Music!

By Joe Daly

Notes

 

With the recent upgrades to the site, we are pleased to announce the launch of TNB’s new music section.

The steering committee got together with the planning committee and we broke out a few ad hoc committees before circling back and debriefing the joint committee oversight board on what we should call this brave new section. After an expansive, fiery and briefly violent debate, we settled on:

TNB Music.

Many, many moons ago I used to write for a magazine you’ve never heard of. My editor had a curious theory: Rock and roll had hit the wall during the 77-era of punk. It’s not that he didn’t like music made since then. On the contrary, he was a huge Nirvana fan and was a mainstay on the American hardcore scene of the early 1980s. It’s that rock and roll could only get so fast and heavy before it ceased being rock and roll and started being something else.

I respectfully disagree. It’s true that many strains of rock music are too damn tight to allow for the little shimmy-and-wiggle action that puts the “roll” in “rock and roll.” Greg Ginn discovered this during Black Flag’s early days. He compensated by making everyone play at one-quarter speed during rehearsals, working their way up to the mid-tempo hardcore the band’s post-My War years. Motörhead, on the other hand, are a prime example of a band playing music both heavier and faster than punk with more than enough swing in its step to properly be called “rock and roll.”

Please explain what just happened.

I awoke to the feeling that the dream I’d just been having was still going, and then I ate breakfast.

 

What is your earliest memory?

Lying in my crib, staring at a complex pattern on brightly colored wallpaper.  I remember feeling irritated -– whether it was the wallpaper or because I wanted to get up and move around, I don’t know.

 

If you weren’t a musician, what other profession would you choose?

It would have to be writing in some capacity; it’s the only thing outside of music that I could picture myself doing.

“The chick in White Zombie” became an affectionate nickname for me thanks to Beavis and Butthead and legions of Metalheads. It not only singled me out as the only girl in the band, but also as the only girl in a huge boys’ club. A big, sweaty, long-haired, denim and leather, moshing boy’s club. This was the arena of heavy metal, where not only the fans, but the bands, the road crews, the stage crews, the club owners, the managers—were all guys. As a musician, I was head-banging into unchartered territory, hoping to sneak by before anyone noticed. Once I had, I was not only accepted into this club, but fans accepted me on a level reserved for their favorite band members, and bands gave me respect as a musician, songwriter, and performer. I felt extremely lucky and thankful to have bypassed the sexism that was still prevalent at the time and place—at least with the bands and our fans, the people that really mattered.

Of course, being “the chick in White Zombie” wasn’t always easy, but I enjoyed the challenge and the adventure. In the early days, sharing a hotel room with three or four guys required extreme tact, as did the single dressing room we were frequently faced with at clubs and stadiums. Over the years of rigorous touring, I was sick or injured a disproportionate amount of time compared to the guys. It was hard to pull my weight when my gear was the heaviest, although I tried anyway. Later when we were headlining arenas, local stagehands would see me walking from backstage towards the stage at show time and try to stop me, thinking I was a friend or fan of the band. “No one allowed on stage,” they’d bark. Frustrated, I would have to explain that I was in the band as I’d hear the intro tape with my stage cue rolling and watch the pyro firing up. Eventually my bass tech or stage manager would freak out and come looking for me, and only with his assurance would I be allowed to pass. When we played Castle Donnington in 1996, my appearance on stage was so unusual that a TV crew filmed me afterwards, asking what it felt like to be the only girl to have ever performed there in all of history besides Doro Pesch. There were nine other bands playing that day, including Metallica, Skid Row, and Slash’s Snakepit. All the members were men. Even the 80,000-strong audience was 99% male.

Back when White Zombie played with East Village punk and art bands, I would meet other female musicians. But once we crossed the line over into the world of rock and metal, that all ended. I’m sure there were some like-minded girls out in the audience somewhere, but I never met them. The only women I met now were girlfriends or groupies that wanted to get backstage and “meet” the band. Whether that meant clawing their way on stage, or somehow getting past security and the road crew (don’t ask), it was always awkward for me to encounter these women. Especially when the crew had them tagged with a “Tulsa” backstage pass (“a slut,” backwards). Even more bizarre when they got backstage and wanted to meet me, thinking I was a dude. (Yes, that happened.) Once a gay man even placed an ad directed at me in the LA Weekly personals, having mistaken me for a guy. Remember, this was the world of metal, where everyone had long hair. So even though I was wearing hotpants, my stick thin figure and engineer boots left me looking fairly androgynous. I wasn’t helping matters by going by Sean, which is what my parents called me, instead of Shauna. And while I wasn’t trying to purposefully look like a guy, I also never wanted the fact that I was a girl to be an issue: I just wanted to be accepted as a musician and songwriter, first and foremost. So, I was stumped when the interviewer at Donnington asked me that question—the same one that came up in every interview I ever did—how does it feel to be the only girl? I had nothing else to compare it to, having always been the only girl in the scene, and I would banish that line of questioning with some glib response as, ironically, discussing my gender only seemed to belittle what I was trying to achieve: equality.

Derk Richardson of the San Francisco Chronicle has described the band’s sound as “the heavy sadness of Townes Van Zandt, the light pop concision of Buddy Holly, the tuneful jangle of the Beatles, [and] the raw energy of the Ramones.” Hailing from Concord, North Carolina, the Avett Brothers have burst onto the music scene with the release of their acclaimed 2009 album, I and Love and You, and there’s no looking back.

I had the fortunate opportunity to speak with Seth Avett of the band to discuss—among other things—this very album, their recent rise in popularity, and whether or not beard envy was involved when working with the man himself: Rick Rubin. Enjoy.

On The Locust’s next tour, we hit the East Coast and managed to get a show at a typical all-day festival featuring one crappy “play on the floor” band after another in the fine town of Who Really Cares, North Carolina. It was a clever mix of straightedge and white trash. We stuck out like a sore thumb—a beaner, a towelhead, and a couple throwbacks. Everyone thought we were total fags. And we were stuck there. We broke into a nearby church and stole a bunch of mics to ease the pain of that long, hot day. I slept in the baptismal tub for a few hours to avoid the blistering heat and humidity. But when it was time to play, it got a lot worse than we expected.

Our set was about four songs long. During the first three songs, the audience was as hostile as they could be. This shithead in front of me kept kicking the mic stand. When I went to sing, it would smack against my teeth and he’d laugh. After the third song, I told him if he did it again, I’d fuck him up. As the next song started, he kicked the mic stand and I headbutted him without missing a beat. When the song was over, I noticed blood on the floor in front of me. His girlfriend was yelling at us. Joey spat at her, Gabe gave us a four count, and we went into another song. But some people in the audience were trying to physically stop us from playing. We decided our set was over. Gabe ran outside to get some fresh air since the missing sound guy could not give us oxygen in the stage monitors. He came back to inform us our van had been vandalized. I threw off my mesh vest and started to charge outside, ready to fight, but Gabe stopped me. Apparently the brother of the guy I had headbutted punched our van’s headlight; his fist broke the glass, which slashed a major artery in his wrist. Blood spewed all over the front of the van, and the paramedics were called. It was probably good that I didn’t make it outside to fight the guy since I was only wearing hot pants and sneakers.

Our roadie went to the van to make sure it wasn’t getting completely destroyed. We packed up our gear, and tried load it into the van through the crowd. By the time we were loaded up—if you can call throwing everything in the back and hoping the doors would close “loading up”—the cops had showed up and started arresting people. There was a police helicopter in the air and police dogs on the ground. People were demanding money back for our merchandise they’d bought. Some even threw the stuff back at us. Everyone was yelling at us, but we weren’t taking their shit.

We managed to pull away from the parking lot without getting arrested or beaten up. On the drive out, a car followed us for a while, but we lost it by running a couple red lights. We ended up at some guy’s apartment in the next town over. We’d become friends with him earlier that day while trying to pass time as the plethora of crummy bands played. We woke up in the morning to find our van’s tire had been slashed. We just changed out the flat with our spare and were on our way. I never understood why someone would only slash one tire. If you really want to be a badass, you should slash all of the tires. But I suppose a badass would have just kicked our asses in person.

The tour was absurdity from there on out. Another show, somewhere upstate New York, was the same old run-of-the-mill mockery from a predictable audience. I knew that we were Jedis when some dickhead talked shit to us before we even played a note and got nowhere. Our lack of response resulted in him spitting on me for no apparent reason. As the spit dripped down my chest onto my mesh vest, I spat back without a thought. Now, this shot I took was without aim, concentration, or hesitation. It was exactly like the part in Star Wars: A New Hope when Luke blew up the Death Star. My spit went straight into this heckler’s mouth as he was leaning back, mouth open, cracking himself up after making a string of dumb comments about our band. I spun around toward my amp, amazed, tense, waiting to get socked in the head. I stood there, only a few feet from this guy, wearing my uniform, which consisted of a mesh vest with reflective stripping, hot pants, goggles, and sneakers. Nothing happened, and I then knew that the four of us Locusts had evolved.


The Supergroup.  That mythical entity that carries such soaring expectations that it is remarkable that any of the bands ever make it into the studio.  It’s like the Honors Society kid who letters in three sports, dates a cheerleader, and is a top flight boxer- how can he fail, right?  Until it’s ten years later and the sheriff is tucking the eviction notice into the pocket of his work shirt while he’s passed out on the trailer floor with a needle in his arm.

What’s a Supergroup?  A gaggle of well-known musicians from different bands (and often different genres) who come together to form a new musical entity.

Just like the Honors kids, Supergroups start out with great pedigrees, lots of breaks, and doors swinging widely before them, but that doesn’t always mean that these advantages translate into something memorable.  But when they do click it can be one of the most exciting spectacles in music.

Supergroups are the embodiment of our musical fantasies come true.  “What if?” becomes reality.  This is the stuff that even casual music fans stop to ponder.  Die hard musos can come to blows over them.  Somewhere in the world right now, there is an intense, late night, cocaine-fueled debate raging about the ultimate Supergroup.

kurt suicide scene

A despairing friend called late one night to say that he was looking at a photo of himself as a toddler holding his father’s rifle.

“I have an appointment with that rifle,” he told me. “I’ve always known I was going to end my life with it.”

He’s fine now, thank God, but his remark brought to mind a journal entry I made as a teenager, in which I said that I was sure I was going to kill myself one day; it was only a matter of how and when.

“It all began with a fuck,” goes the brash opening line of D.R. Haney’s first novel Banned for Life, and the strange seduction begins.

For those who haven’t read Haney’s sprawling debut, it follows Jason Maddox’s serio-comic adventures in the underground punk scene, stretching beyond mosh pit mayhem and barroom brawls to explore death and obsession and purpose. The author zigzags confidently between a resonant coming-of-age tale in North Carolina, la vie boheme in hardscrabble New York, and a tempestuous L.A. love affair which leads our narrator to Belgrade for climax and denouement.

Even readers ambivalent to punk will be drawn in by the peculiarly irresistible voice of Jason, who is at turns heartthrob, heartbroken and healed.

D.R. Haney tells TNB how he went from breaking guitars to becoming a serious novelist.

You’ve said it took 9 years to write the 400 page manuscript. What prevented you from going permanently insane during that time?

I’m not sure I didn’t. It was quite a ride. I mean, if there’s no blood on the keyboard, there should be. Broken bone and gray matter, too.

I was lucky to have good friends. That was my saving grace – that and music. It’s perhaps an embarrassing thing to say, but rock & roll has been a redemptive factor throughout my life. If I’m feeling bad, I only have to pick up a guitar or play a certain record, like “Arboretum” by Unwound or “The Rat” by the Walkmen, and my mood improves. My spiritual sense is absolutely tied to music, specifically to rock & roll.

Jason, the protagonist and narrator, confesses late in the book that his story is memoir “written as a novel for legal reasons”. Can you talk about this?

Well, the book certainly isn’t a memoir in the strict sense, but if it were, Jason would no doubt be worried about the potential for legal fallout, and just plain fallout, period.

I’ll say this much: there are characters in Banned that are very much based on real-life people, and I was (and continue to be) concerned with their reactions. I didn’t even bother to change the names in a few cases. Others are composites or purely the product of my imagination. But I think all narrative writing is finally fiction; it’s only a matter of degree.

Morally, Banned seems concerned with the search for personal meaning, which is achieved, mainly, through defeating a particularly American brand of boredom. Would you agree with this assessment?

To a certain extent, yes, though I think the American brand is something we’ve successfully exported to the rest of the world though movies and TV shows.

American entertainment is hugely popular, even among those who claim to hate us, and its appeal is its very mindlessness, in never allowing the viewer to become bored, when in fact boredom is the very thing is produces, no matter the initial giddiness.

For me, it’s worse than mere boredom; it amounts to the starvation of the soul, in dimmed sense, in unwitting complacency and conformity and alienation. It’s a culture of death. Ironically, death in America is a subject largely avoided, which to me is classically Freudian: you don’t want mentioned what you suspect yourself, perhaps rightly, to be.

I’m not proposing this as an original view. It’s been argued again and again, and there are counterarguments, but when the subject comes up in private conversation, I’ve almost never had anyone disagree with me. Most of us seem to recognize the effects of what I’m calling the culture of death, if not in ourselves then others. But there also seems to be a general feeling of, well, what’s to be done about it? That’s the world we live in. And it is. But the question for me at that point is: How to stay alive?

There’s obviously no single answer, but I do think, as you say, Jason in Banned is searching for a way that will work for him. And a classic starting point for anyone similarly alienated of Jason’s generation was punk rock, because it was forthrightly expressing rage in a way that was forbidden, and continues to be, by mainstream corporate media. These were kids who, whatever their flaws, refused to go along with the program, and that’s something I don’t really see anymore. I don’t think there will be another movement like punk in my lifetime, because we’re all too atomized and prematurely (in the case of the young) jaded, but I want to leave a record of it, and I think and hope Banned can be appreciated by people who dislike punk but still have a streak of resistance in them, or they’re looking to discover or recover it.

That’s what happened to Jason: he both discovered and had to recover it, because he’d once again succumbed to the culture of death.

I couldn’t get past hating the character of Irina. She’s insecure, a compulsive liar, intellectually unimpressive and yet Jason fetishizes her physical beauty. Did you intend for her to be so unlikable?

It’s interesting: I’ve had a number of women readers react as you did, but almost never any male readers.

I don’t know if that’s because men are more superficial than women, if they’re more easily bamboozled by physical beauty or what, but even male musicians I know – guys with deep roots in the punk scene – will read the book and comment mostly on Irina, and rarely in unfavorable terms. And, you know, in the book, Irina says that women don’t like her, so it seems as though that trend carries over with readers.

But to answer your question: I certainly wanted the reader to be exasperated by Irina; to feel about her as Jason feels as she leads him on this agonizing ride of l’amour fou. I mean, the reader is sort of Jason’s confidante, and if a friend comes to you and says, “And then she did this,” you’re almost certainly going to take his side. I personally believe Irina when she says she’s forced to lie because Jason is too possessive to listen when she tries to tell him the truth.

As for her physical beauty, that’s another funny thing, because I didn’t set out to make her so beautiful but she refused to be written any other way, which I’m sure owes to the woman who inspired her. However, I failed in making Irina as smart or as interesting as the woman who inspired her, and that woman was, shall we say, a tad upset when she read the manuscript.

Without giving anything away, could you tell us if in fact there is an Alexi? And if so, where is he?

I wish I could say he’s in Belgrade, but Alexi was kind of a last-minute idea that came to me as a way of trying to close a particular thematic circle. I considered him the riskiest thing I did in the whole book, even though he only appears for a second.

But I included him in part because of the risk. It seemed cowardly to back away from something that, thematically, made sense, at least to me.

Peewee is vivid and memorable. What is it about him, do you think, that makes him so compelling?

I personally think it’s his courage. I mean, here’s this tiny guy, but he’s got the balls to go against everyone and everything. He’s not even afraid to physically take on guys he knows are going to beat the crap out of him. Plus, he’s intellectually courageous, even though some of that arises from his considerable contrarian streak.

It’s also possible that he stands out partly because you know from the beginning of the book he’s going to die. So maybe, at least unconsciously, you think as you’re reading, “Oh God, please don’t let this happen.” I was literally sick with grief when I wrote about the accident. I loved, and love, him so much.

There’s a scene in the book where he has a showdown with his father and sinks to the floor in a flood of tears, and you really see, for the first time, the full extent of his damage. I think he suffered terribly. But what does he do? He cries it all out and walks back to Jason and says, “Let’s get the fuck out of here.” That says everything to me about Peewee. He’s a tragic but ballsy little guy.

What is your writing background?

I’m an autodidact. I learned by reading. I was never in a creative writing program or anything like that. And I also learned by doing, by writing a lot and poring over what I wrote and learning from my mistakes.

In terms of professional experience, I’ve had pieces published in zines and small magazines, that kind of thing. And I’ve done some screenwriting and I worked for a number of years on a novel that I ultimately had to scrap. That was a horrible experience, but again, I learned from it and the lesson was: Never, ever write another book told from multiple points of view.

Your sex scenes are…exuberant. How did you approach writing this type of material?

Well, there’s one scene that’s proven popular with early readers and I have to confess that in writing it I thought, “I never read sex scenes that do anything for me, and this one is going to.” It was the only moment in the book when I fully surrendered to my inner pornographer.

It must have worked, because I’ve had male friends, alas, report trips to the bathroom with Banned in hand. And my friend Jane told me she thought the Jason/Irina relationship was “hot”, and that was especially gratifying, not only beacuse it was coming from a woman but because I felt I was holding myself back with those bits.

I don’t know. The sex stuff was the same as the music stuff, the same as the Hollywood stuff: I just tried to put myself in that particular place and describe what I felt and saw.

Jason has a strained relationship with his parents. How has your own family reacted to Banned?

They haven’t read it. My mom wanted a copy, and I said, “Well, you know, Mom, this book is pretty shocking. Even the first sentence is shocking.” And I told her what it was, and she immediately decided this was not a book she preferred to read. I did consider sending a copy to my dad, who I thought would be more open, but my mom said, “Oh, no, your father wouldn’t understand that kind of thing at all.” Which is a pity, because he loves to brag about his kids’ accomplishments. I mean, I showed him the manuscript, which he never read, and he would display it to anyone who stopped by: “Here, look what my boy did.” But, again, he did that with no idea what was in it.

How did you celebrate the news Banned had been picked up by a publisher?

I didn’t, really, because I celebrated the completion of what I thought was the final draft in 2005 and within days I was rewriting it.

Also, I’d gotten an offer from [fellow TNB contributor] Brin Friesen to publish the book with his imprint, And/Or Press, following a reading we did together in 2006. It was only later, after I’d talked to other publishers, that I decided And/Or was the way to go.

The other publishers either wanted to alter the book where I thought it was unnecessary or they’d shake hands on deals only to renege; and I trusted Brin, who’s a friend and a novelist in his own right. Fortunately, he was still open to publishing Banned.

So the celebration may yet occur, when Brin is in L.A. or I’m in Vancouver. We’ve talked about doing a two-man reading tour. It’s only a matter of funds.

In the acknowledgements, Banned lists some recognizable names. Has there been any talk amongst your Hollywood connections of turning the novel into a film?

Some talk, yes. It’s just kind of a low murmur at this point – very low. But I do get the feeling the talk will grow and get louder.

How did you arrive at the title?

Originally the book had a title that now makes me wince. And then that title was used by somebody else and I was in a great state about it, and one day I was reading something in, I think, Spin magazine about a band getting banned for life from Holiday Inn – the whole chain – and I thought, “You know, ‘banned for life’ would be a terrific title for the book.”

As I’ve said, there’s a life/death motif that runs throughout the book along with a big/small motif, among others. So I called a few friends and said, “What do you think?” and everybody seemed to like it as a title so Banned for Life it was.

What’s next for you?

I’ve always been interested in the old physiology-as-destiny idea, in how appearance shapes the way we’re regarded and leads to success or the lack of it, and studies have shown that, contrary to widespread belief, men are judged just as much on appearance as women. Also, I tend to write a lot about brothers, which undoubtedly has to do with my having three of them, so I’m working on a new book concerned with all of the above.

At the moment I’m calling the book Handsome, in tribute to a nineties band of the same name. But I find myself embarrassed whenever I mention it, so it will probably end up getting changed.

Thanks for “talking” to us!

No, thank you. It’s my honor to be asked.