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26 November 2010

Take it Sleazy

On Wednesday night, Peter “Sleazy” Christopherson died. Here’s a nice balanced obit.

I’m not writing as a particular fan of his work. (He was most definitely a Dionysian but after a brief fling with industrial music in high school, I’ve mostly been on the side of Apollo.) I do offer much respect though, both for his body of work and as a lifer in pop (sub)cultures. (More on lifers from yesterday’s blog.)

Christopherson was a co-founder of Throbbing Gristle, partner of the amazing graphic design studio Hipgnosis, and a video director for artists as likely as Sepultura and Nine Inch Nails — and as unlikely as Yes.

Naw, you say? But no, totally, he made this video for YES:

That he was able to bring his own vision to projects like this, projects that were quite unlike his own output, is the greatest testament to his gift as a creator. His collaborators recognized this. Listen below to one of the first recordings of Christopherson’s Coil project. The title of the song “How to Destroy Angels” has recently been adopted by NIN’s Trent Reznor for a new musical project he started with his wife Mariqueen Maandig.

While some of the obituaries that have come out in the wake of his death seem to be masking the occasional sleaziness of his life, I like how his own site, Threshold House aka is considerably less circumspect. Ergo this message serves as the current homepage:

I’ll close with a song by one of his more well known post-TG groups, Psychic TV. Therein, I can hear the bits of Sleazy’s cultural output that I do take as an inspiration. While he will be remembered as an icon of industrial music, a culture primarily understood for its darkness, its transgression, its harshness, the real wonder of his output is that he could effortlessly display how, within darkness, there was often a certain light.

UPDATED NOVEMBER 29, 2010: I’d be remiss in remembering Sleazy if I did not point you toward this collection of tributes collated by my friend Brandon over at Stereogum. Best of all, the piece included this quasi-Buddhist quote from the man himself (via The Quietus).

“We are all only temporary curators of our present bodies, which will all decay, sooner or later. In a hundred years or so ALL the humans currently alive will have died. I take great comfort in knowing, with certainty, that thing that makes us special, able to enrich our own lives and those of others, will not cease when our bodies do, but will be just starting and new (and hopefully even better) adventure… If we don’t get to meet in this Life, maybe in the next you can buy me a beer!”

Call me a hippie for taking great pleasure in that quote. Go ahead. Try it.

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6 September 2010

ATP Festival & Large People Crowdsufing: Some thoughts on 90s nostalgia

I remember the underground pop culture of the 90s. Indeed, I prefer to think of that time as an archive now — albeit one consigned to a series of digital files, not actual libraries. This recent Twitter stream from my friend Brandon serves as a good encapsulation. (I joked to him that his feed could be nicknamed Shit My Dad Says: 90s Alt-Rock Edition.) Or you can visit YouTube, a trove of nostalgia that brings you closer to the source of what it was really like:

This weekend’s All Tomorrow’s Parties festival, which I’ll admit I (regrettably!) attended only Saturday felt more like a living library curated by none other than 90s icon Jim Jarmusch. There’s advantages to the live part well enumerated in the article links embedded in this sentence. And there are disadvantages only hinted at in the brief half-life of a Twitter hashtag.

Catching up with the 90s, though, is not why I usually go to rock festivals. For example, I go to Coachella to discover what the 16 year olds are wearing these days. Read more »

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10 August 2009

Happily Ending Aftermath

Here are notes on the installment of the Happy Ending Music & Reading Series which I curated last week at Joe’s Pub. They’re accompanied by an edited set of pictures. (There are a ton more photos here on Flickr.) You can read the basic info on what you missed right here — bios of the participants and such. The good news it was sold out! That several people dressed up! That we scared at least one participant’s grandmother! That one of the guests revealed a nude photo of themselves live on stage! (I won’t tell who. Something secrets are for those who came.)

More rabbinical commentary in line with the full-sized photos after the jump.

Read more »

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Happy Ending Reading & Music series @ Joe’s Pub || Theme: Process & Progress

August 5, 2009 - 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm

PURCHASE TICKETS HERE: I recommend you buy ASAP if you’re interested in coming. The first eight installments of the series at Joe’s Pub have sold out very quickly.


What is this?: An edition of the Happy Ending Reading & Music Series at Joe’s Pub.

Theme: Process & Progress: I love people who make things. This night will be devoted to how these people do it.

When: Wednesday, August 5th 7pm – 9pm

Where: Joe’s Pub, 425 Lafayette St, NYC, NY 10003. (Subways: R, W to 8th Street, 6 to Astor Place)


COLIN STETSON will deliver an opening invocation on solo saxophone. Aside from his work as a soloist, Stetson has brought his unique voice on winds and brass to the stage and studio work of artists including Tom Waits, Arcade Fire, TV on the Radio, Sinead O’Connor, The National, LCD Soundsystem, Bell Orchestre, Antibalas, and Anthony Braxton. Stetson was born and raised in Ann Arbor, Michigan and lives in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.


The featured musical guest will be BUKE & GASS, cover stars of this month’s local scene publication The Deli Magazine, who describe them as “a two man (wall of sound) band – although one of them is a woman.” This South Brooklyn duo consists Arone Dyer (the lady) and Aron Sanchez (the dude) who are able to play bass, guitar, ukulele, kick drum, snare, tambourine and sleigh bells all at the same time thanks to their curious innovation of their custom made instruments. Arone is on buke and voice, Aron plays drum and gass — all of which are filtered through various pedals and amplified by a pair of funny looking stereo guitar amps. Their music is simultaneously clear voiced and fuzzed out, innately hopeful yet redolent of darker things.



RACHEL COHEN will be reading from her book A Chance Meeting: Intertwined Lives of American Writers and Artists, which traces thirty-six actual encounters among writers and artists over the course of a century. Published in 2004 by Random House, it won the PEN/Jerard Fund Award and was a finalist for the Guardian First Book Prize and the PEN/Martha Albrand First Nonfiction Award. A fellow of the New York Foundation for the Arts, the MacDowell Colony, Breadloaf, and the New York Institute for the Humanities, she has published pieces in The New Yorker, The London Review of Books and McSweeney’s, and been anthologized in Best American Essays. She teaches in the writing program at Sarah Lawrence College and lives in Queens, where she is at work on a book about art historian Bernard Berenson for Yale University Press


BRANDON STOSUY‘s presentation will be drawn from his in progress oral history of American black metal, a section of which ran in The Believer. A senior writer at Stereogum and Pitchfork‘s metal columnist, he has written criticism for many publications and collaborated with artists on catalog essays and exhibitions, most recently with Matthew Barney at Munich’s Goetz Collection; with Kai Althoff in a three-part installation at Dispatch Gallery on Henry St; and with Brody Condon for an upcoming sculptural rewriting of William Gibson’s Neuromancer at the New Museum. Stosuy’s 2006 anthology of downtown New York literature, Up Is Up, But So Is Down, Up Is Up, But So Is Down, was selected by the Village Voice as one of their 25 favorite books of 2006. He also curates a monthly heavy metal showcase in Brooklyn called Show No Mercy and occasionally teaches art and literature at NYU.


If luck holds and his wife does not go into labor, MATT LUEM will take part in Brandon’s presentation. Matt is my correspondent about teenage kicks from the west coast.


LAWRENCE WESCHLER‘s reading will be drawn from his books about two visual artists — Seeing Is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees: A Life of Contemporary Artist Robert Irwin and True To Life: Twenty-Five Years of Conversations with David Hockney. Currently director of New York University’s Institute for the Humanities and artistic director for the Chicago Humanities Festival, he was a staff writer at The New Yorker for over twenty years where his work shuttled between political tragedies and cultural comedies. He received a Lannan Literary Award in 1998, is a two-time winner of the George Polk Award in Journalism, received a National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism in 2006, and was finalist for both the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction and the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction.



AMANDA STERN is the author of three novels, the critically acclaimed novel, The Long Haul and two young adult novels written under a pseudonym. She founded the Happy Ending Music and Reading Series, out of the Happy Ending Bar in 2003 and has been running, curating and hosting it ever since. She moved the series to Joe’s Pub in January 2009. She’s at work on her next adult novel and a series of three children’s books for the Penguin imprint, Grosset & Dunlap.



In 2001, ALEC HANLEY BEMIS co-founded Brassland, a record label that documents the work of a growing community of musicians, including The National and Nico Muhly. In recent years he has added consulting work for the UK-based festival company All Tomorrow’s Parties and general manager duties at Cantaloupe Music. In 2009, he began co-managing Dirty Projectors, and took a seat on the board of directors for Manhattan New Music Project, a music & education non-profit. In an earlier career, Bemis was a journalist who wrote for outlets including LA Weekly, The New York Times, The New Yorker, Slate and The Los Angeles Times. He has taught in New York University’s graduate journalism program, produced projects for new media design firm Funny Garbage, and worked as an editor/writer at trend spotter Faith Popcorn’s BrainReserve. He lives in Brooklyn, NY.

Roughly translated PROGRESS & PROCESS is a night about creativity in action — how makers actually make what they make — all their visionary insights and petty concerns. There are sub-themes of duality and repetition; artistic innovation and invention; the psychological relationship between shrink and patient, interviewer and subject; and also some brief insights into make-up, modern clowning and the ways artists outfit themselves to cope with the world’s harsh vacuity, distractions & short attention spans. I hope people will find the contents relevant, stimulating, and occasionally humorous, if not in a “funny ha ha” way, in the manner in which a small baby sometimes puzzles over the food they’re given to eat.



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