We here at TNB Music would like to extend a swift kick in the ass with a steel-toed boot to 2012, with menacing threats to never, ever show its ugly mug around here again. That said, this open heart surgery of a year has yielded a rich trove of enduring albums and songs, and as we impatiently wait for 2013 to pull up out front and beep its glorious horn, the intrepid writing corps at TNB Music now pause to share our favorite offerings from 2012.

To our readers, colleagues, conspirators, confederates and harried editors, we wish you all a happy, healthy and hopelessly sexy new year.

-Joe Daly

TNB Music Editor

 

Hi, self, let’s agree to pretend that there’s an actual interviewer, shall we? Otherwise, we, you and I, are going to choke on the preciousness of it all.

Yeah, let’s do that. The whole notion of a self interview is endlessly cute and irritating. It’s like club promoters who “let” the band set up their own bill. Nobody wants to work anymore.

 

Well, your work ethic is terrible too.

Yeah, but I NEVER wanted to work. I think it’s a new thing for everyone else.

 

Fine. Did you read that book that n+1 put out on “the hipster”?

No, I read the shorter New York Magazine piece. It was fine. Life’s a bit too short to read a book length treatment on the subject. When I worked at The Strand, my boss gave me advice that has served me well up to this day. He said “Zack, life is too short to read Tom Wolf.” I use it often and I think it’s given me an extra lifetime of spare time. Spare time I use to download Crust demos and think of snide things to say about Let The Great World Spin.

 

What are you talking about, you loved that book. You were, like, crying through the whole thing.

Sure, at the time, but now all I remember is the part where the Irish dude talks about playing Tom Waits in a bar. Nobody plays Tom Waits in a bar. It’s like wearing a sign that says, “I’m in a bar! Ask me about it! Bar bar bar bar bar . . .” The only people who play Tom Waits in bars are college kids and people who write “Great American Novels.” Nobody should have to drink with either of those types.

 

Do you mean what you say, or are you just trying to be interesting?

Chuck Eddy’s Stairway to Hell was a huge influence on me. People thought he was just being contrary because he put Teena Marie and the Adverts in his top ten Heavy Metal albums of all time, but he was being sincere while never losing sight of the fact that shit should actually be interesting to read. I’m interested in the truth, but I don’t make a fetish of it.

 

Let’s get back to the hipster thing.

Why?

 

Because people like to talk about it. It elicits strong feelings. And your writing has been criticized in the context of you being a hipster asshole.

Yeah, fair enough and, by current loose standards, I am. I guess I’ve been hearing people I’ve been serving drinks to calling other people hipsters for as long as I can remember but, to me, it’s not a terribly interesting subject. I mean, I work, pay my rent, plan on eventually paying taxes, I figure the obscurity of the band t-shirt I’m wearing is my business. If it makes you feel bad, on whatever level, don’t tip me. I’m a grown-ass man, I’m too busy fearing death to flip the fuck out over a blogger’s disdain for my life.

 

But you live in Williamsburg, play in a band, and have black rim glasses. You’re a goddamned cartoon.

Luckily Williamsburg is no longer hip. It’s now just a rich shitty college town. A guy like me can now, walking down Bedford Ave., safely get called a faggot by a white person. So I would hope everyone would update their cultural references accordingly. Anyway, there seems to be a real element of “disco sucks” to the hatred of all things hipster. Know what I’m saying? People can’t say what they mean. Hardly ever.

 

OK. We already knew that. So, what’s next for you and Stacy and Nick?

We’re doing a reading/performance in SF for the Noise Pop Fest, at the end of February. I’m not allowed to talk about all the neat stuff Nick is working on musically, but it’s real neat. Stacy has a cool book of show dog photos out on her and her sister’s publishing house, Evil Twin. I’m working on a novel (like everyone reading this I imagine), a piece on my love of Cop Shoot Cop, and an essay for a Jane Eyre zine.

 

A Jane Eyre zine?

Yeah. I think I’m going to defend Rochester. I don’t see the problem. He seems fine to me.

 

 

Does Nick Cave know about my love life?

I found out my wife was cheating on me. Not the greatest feeling in the world after a decade of marriage. I admit, there were times when I met another attractive woman and thought, wouldn’t it be cool if I could just…but I put that thought right out of my mind and went home a committed guy.

Not that sex was the only thing to the petit mess that our marriage was. There was me, the writer, and what she thought the writing life style would bring her.

When we dated, I was the quirky artist guy. She thought listening to Nirvana made her alternative and Nora Roberts was literature. We’d go to my place and make out to Tom Waits on the turntable and I’d send her home with a Bukowski book. Did I mention we were Jehovah’s Witnesses? A woman who read anything other than a Watchtower publication was pretty alternative in my universe as a 25-year-old virgin. I was seen as quite a threat to the congregation elders for not keeping up in my bible reading and spending many nights at the public library reading Burroughs and educating myself in the world of literature. Unfortunately the belief system of God’s day of judgment entangled the synapse of my brain, so I had to keep my alternative reading and music cravings on the down low in those days.

A couple of years into our marriage I made a lot of money in the computer industry, which in turn paid to kickstart her career. I gave up the job early enough, before it sucked my soul, to pursue writing. The computer career only worked because I was smart and understood operating systems, not because I actually pursued it in school or anything. I had a tendency of disappearing from my cubicle for an hour reading Tolstoy in the bathroom or sneaking out to Gregg Araki’s latest film. I was excellent at my job at a hands on level, but not a corporate guy who really gave a crap about the future of Sun Microsystems.

In my ex-wife’s mind, my decision to become a writer meant that we would frolic with Danielle Steele at society events. I would make Stephen King caliber money and the film adaptations would pay for her shoe-buying habit. We’d both survive the upcoming apocalypse because I’d write under a pen name.

Let’s back up.

Our first date was a Nick Cave show…don’t tell the elders. There was a silence in the crowd when I yelled for Nick to play one of my favorite songs, Hard On For Love.

“What?” Nick turned around to our side of the stage and walked in our direction.

“Play Hard On For Love!”

“We have our set taken care of, thank you,” Nick replied and hearts spilled out of my eyes and onto the floor. Nick Cave was my favorite musician and I had just had a conversation with him.

From there:

  • Marriage. Sex. Wow, it’s warm in there.
  • I keep writing and taking the wife to see live bands. Don’t tell the elders.
  • I make more money than I ever make in my life and she spends it well.
  • I drop out of the religion, she freaks out and double times as a Jehovah’s Witness to get us both through Armageddon.
  • I go to Nick Cave shows alone.
  • She hides my “worldly” books and places Watchtowers on the table when her mom comes around.
  • I write a novel loosely based on my experience growing up a Jehovah’s Witness teenager. Scared that her gay fashion friends will find out she’s a JW she wanted me to use a pen name. Uh, no.
  • She cheats on me.
  • She repents to the congregation elders for her adultery. They understand. I was such a bad influence.
  • She does her best to take everything monetary.

After three months of grieving, utter shock, weeping in cafes while trying to write, and drinking myself into a stupor, I finally gave it a go with a girl in bed.

Wow, it’s warm in there.

Nick Cave was scheduled for two shows at the Warfield and they were in three months. I made calculations of the women I had been seeing, kissing, dating, and really enjoying. I picked a few to test and see if they were Nick-Cave-date-worthy. We would dance and sing up front and touch Nick’s hand as he’d sweat on us. Oh, the glory of all that is Nick Cave.

I scored an interview with Nick at his hotel since I’ve been a writer and covering the entertainment scene for years. Nick Cave. My favorite singer and me at his hotel.

I interviewed him over the phone before, but never in person. I didn’t tell him about my divorce. Or how I held a personal contest to win a date with me and go to a Nick Cave show. I did tell him I asked him to play Hard On For Love years before at one of his shows.

“What did I say?” Nick asked.

“Our set’s taken care of, thank you,” I replied, remembering every word, every smell of our history together. I told him I stopped yelling out songs at his other shows because I didn’t want to interrupt.

“We probably just didn’t know how to play it,” he said and told me how the version they had in their set for the tour is a lot harder than the recorded version.

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds hadn’t played Hard On For Love at any show for twenty years. They wouldn’t play it when I was with my ex-wife, and it took him until 2008 to put it in his set.

None of the ladies were Nick-Cave-date-worthy. I went to the show alone. Dateless.

Inside the Warfield I saw some friends at the front of the stage and stood behind Lia, a girl I had been a friend with for a while. We danced and we sang and Nick Cave sweated on us.


Then, Nick said, “This next song is for you in the hat.” I was wearing a hat and he pointed in my direction in front of everybody at the Warfield Theatre in San Francisco. I pointed at myself and said, “Me?”

“Yeah, you with the facial condition,” referencing my bushy mustache.

The girls next to my friend in front of me yelled, “His name is Tony, His name is Tony.”  They didn’t know I interviewed him earlier and we talked about Hard On For Love, giving the illusion that Nick and I were really tight. The band went into the song and my friend Lia held my hand and everything flashed before my eyes.

  • Jehovah’s Witnesses.
  • Marriage. Betrayal. Divorce.
  • The animal drive in my life that craves literature, music and film.
  • Holding hands with Lia. It’s not a date, but a great person to share the moment with.

Lia and I hung out a lot after that show. Still high on Nick Cave. Bar hopping and meeting up as buddies until one night it hits me…..there’s more to us than friends. She’s smart, she’s beautiful, she’s strong and I wasn’t used to someone like her. I messed up our friendship, but she agreed to mess it up as well and now she’s my girlfriend.

I reflect on how Nick Cave wouldn’t play my request for Hard On For Love when I was with my ex-wife. How he never played it through my whole marriage. Then, when I’m there with the right girl…whom I didn’t even know was in the romantic running, let alone the perfect date for a Nick Cave show….then, not only does Nick Cave perform the song, he dedicates it to me.

I am the fiend hid in her skirt
And it’s as hot as hell in here
Coming at her as I am from above
Hard On For Love.

Hard On For Love performed in Croatia on YouTube



This is Rock ‘n’ Roll, but not rock ‘n’ roll music. This is some heroin addict losing a thumbnail on a G string, Al Green on his knees, Sleepy John Estes alone beneath a streetlight screaming, “Aaahh’m just a pris’ner!” into a Coors Light bottleneck. This is Mick Jagger finally castrated and Marianne Faithfull juggling his balls and a chainsaw. And this is accordion. Just accordion played by a Zapotec girl in a night alley that has no business being this orange.

You should know this: My wife is asleep in a Oaxaca motel named for the swallows who shit there, and I have what looks like blood on my hands; that the motel has no A/C, and a hot plate where we cooked our dinner, and the blood on my hands is just chioggia beet and not blood. This is nothing like the church group accordion that the upper middle class men played (in lederhosen) when I was a child at Strawberry Fest in Long Grove, Illinois, when polka was still as exotic as whiskey. This is accordion that virtuoso Guy Klucevsek can only swallow with an avant garde sleeping pill and a Transylvanian whore.

I am in Oaxaca City and I have to take a picture of this girl and her accordion, and the red cup that has only one peso in it, and the kids up the street destroying a piñata and eating its sweet organs, the simple pleasures of balloon and lightsticks occupying the children in the Zócalo before they take their shifts behind tarps, bearing clay burros, and yellow scarves, and wool carpets for sale to the tourists.

My wife and I are in Oaxaca trying to find our place in the world again, aged after a year of dealing with our sick parents. We force ourselves to shed hesitancy and over-protectiveness, and all manner of adult things behind food carts steaming with pigs’ heads, girls’ fingers dancing over keys that were never mother-of-pearl. My wife sleeps and I walk, stop for this girl—motherless, pearl-less—and it’s all I can do to pull out my camera.

I’m hungry. For dinner tonight: only two passion fruits and a cherimoya, a sautéed beet, the chile relleno with salsa roja my wife and I split at the Mercado Benito Juarez, passing so many stalls where intestines hang like ribbons. We’ve slept little, listened to so much music. But nothing like this. This tiny voice perched as if on a water-lily, driven by some failing engine—a horsefly with too-wet wings, food for some larger animal with a poisonous tongue. This asthmatic accordion scoring its attempts to fly, right itself; the instrument itself failing, played-out after one too many cigarettes—dirty and ugly and struggling and beautiful. There’s a reason why Tom Waits has a pathos Celine Dion never will. That reason is this girl’s accordion and its emphysema.

It’s all I can do to say, “Foto?” and I feel immediately blasphemous for doing so. You should know this: my wife is asleep and she cried before sleeping. Something to do with the bald old woman selling green maracas. Something to do with her knowing, in likely dream, that her husband is interrupting a nightsong.

She doesn’t stop playing, but nods, her little sister running out of frame, standing beside me hugging my leg and the flash explodes. Only a few months earlier, this street saw the local teachers’ strike lead to violent protests, riots, cars set aflame, rocks hurled, barking guns, military intervention. I wonder where she played then. Now, only the firing of my camera, her little sister hanging on my forearm, reaching to see the photo, her feet off the ground. I’m glad it’s blurry.

On the outskirts of town the streets turn to dirt, three-wheeler moto-taxis, stray dogs and squatter camps in the valley before the mountains. The buildings here spew their exposed steel cables like industrial squid, the cisterns slanted on the roofs, holding, for now, their collected water. I begin to wonder when dark becomes too dark; what the accordion player’s name is. Because I’ll never know, I give her the name I’ve always wanted to give a daughter. This is the word I will wake my wife with.

Returning to town, the bustle has become a chug. The push-carts of ice cream and mezcal and flan in plastic cups return home, their bells feebly ringing. At the cathedral-tops, bells more obese announce the crooked arrival of something holy: music or midnight.

She is gone, but something of her endures—something beyond music and the instrument that acts as intermediary, beyond buttons and bellows and small fingers that can only press. In this accordion is translation. A language that can stave off, just as it ignites. In it is all music—the stuff my wife snores, the shitty Laura Branigan cassettes my mom kept in her car when she was well enough to drive, when Branigan was alive and sexy and rife with the lovely strength required to belt-out crappy songs.

I head for Hotel Las Golondrinas, something of clove and orange peel in the air. Tomorrow, we are going to Santa Maria del Tule, to the church grounds there to see the Montezuma Cypress whose trunk has the greatest circumference of any tree in the world.

My wife is sleeping, so I am quiet when I enter the room. I take a long pull from the ass-pocket of mezcal on my nightstand; the ass-pocket we bought at a market on the grounds of a different church. I need a sink, and its cold water. In the bathroom, I wash the beet from my hands, wonder what the accordion girl will have for breakfast tomorrow. I’m pulling for bananas and cream. I have no idea where she sleeps tonight, or where—if—she wakes up. Because I know there will be a fence around the trunk of that giant tree, because I’ll never know, I knife her name into the bathroom door.

There are two kinds of people in my world:

Those who think Tom Waits is some sort of musical demigod and those who erronesouly think he’s black.

This is not to imply they (or I) might be racist, just uninformed, or unacquired.

Maybe they are afraid of his voice?

He does sound a little like Louis Armstrong’s nightmarish great grandfather might’ve sounded after a lifetime of pounding coffin nails and guzzling sour mash.

Waits is one of those polarizing figures.