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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Cockfight - For Those Who Missed It

Cockfight was a four-piece band in the early to late Nineties that combined acid-rock metal guitar with jazz white-noise saxophone to an industrial machine punk rock beat, all dressed up in glittery glam clothes. You got a little Cramps, a little GBH, a little Sun Ra, and even some Sunset Strip metal. Like most of my music projects it was a little too much for the average rock crowd. We always did well outside of Hollywood and our only fans in Hollywood were mostly gay music fans, adopting us to play their clubs and rock showcases at The Abbey and The Garage.

I formed Cockfight as my regular band Trash Can School began falling apart, due to widely divergent musical and personal differences. One night I swung by to Rebecca's rehearsal studio to pick her up after her band Bitchcraft's rehearsal. As I sat by the front door waiting for her to finish I was getting increasingly more and ore blown away by her effortless facility to alternate between lead and rhythm guitar and sing at the same time. Her abrasive guitar tone was so incendiary it reminded me of Jimi Hendrix playing on "Manic Depression" and "Fire". I didn't need three guitarists any more because she sounded like three guitarists playing at once.

The first Cockfight rhythm section featured Rita D'Albert from the Pandoras and pre-Lucha Va Voom on bass guitar. She was a good, solid player and totally fit in with our space invaders glam rock style. She even smoked silver cigarettes. On drums was Erick Blitz who looked like he belonged in The Makers, eschewing a garage rock meets glam style.

After playing a few amazing shows with drag queens like Vaginal Creme Davis, Jackie Beat and Glen Meadmore. Cockfight guest starred on Sofia Coppola's pop-up TV show "Hi-Octane", shown on Comedy Central. We played against a dragstrip hellfire backdrop painted by Rebecca and me, and the great TV segment was directed by punk film director David Markey.

More offers for TV and recording followed: Cockfight recorded "The Stoner and The Stripper" for the Flipside Records compilation "The Devil You Know, The Devil You Don't", and Rebecca even got an illustration on the CD sleeve, too. Her style production friend Elizabeth Tobias filmed a video of the song with us performing on a huge Ed Sullivan-show type stage with guest star Ron Jeremy doing a Chippendales male stripper routine for an unruly crowd of funny money wielding grandmas. Erick Blitz left the band by this point so our friend, film director Roman Coppola sat in on drums.

Cockfight took a short break for two years and with a new rhythm section recorded a seven-song CD. Bo Kjaer played bass and surf documentary filmmaker Fran Battaglia played drums. The CD featured songs that ranged from punk blasts like "Liquor Store" to psychedelic ballads like "Lil' Albino Boy" and even drummed up a propulsive cover of The Plasmatics' "Sometimes I".

Unfortunately, in spite of all the breaks Cockfight was a tough sell given the tempo of the music scene was largely driven by jangly guitar sounding college pop bands, mostly headed by bookish looking snobs with thick horn rimmed glasses and drab Science Fair Geek clothes. Cockfight's brand of atonal glam-o-rama was too rock & roll and out of step with Seattlemania.

Cockfight, for me, was the last hurrah in playing music. Our last show was at Headline Records on Melrose (thank you, Jean-Luc!). After playing in bands for over two decades I thought it was time to find other avenues to artistically express myself, with writing providing a lot more gratification than anything. With occasional guest shots sitting in with Pressurehead, Pygmy Love Circus and The Anubian Lights it was time to simply call it a day. Cockfight, the legend and the legacy: To keep it noisy and look amazing doing so, Glam Noise forever!

Cockfight CDs and downloads can be purchased here: https://www.cdbaby.com/cd/cockfightmusic

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Fermat's Room (Spain, 2007)

"Fermat's Room" is a tense thriller with brains that you'll either love or hate. For every person who's seen it and thinks it's a brilliant suspense film that challenges your imagination there's an equal number of people examining any possible plot holes and inconsistencies so they can feel superior to the spine-tingling tension that fills this amazing film from Spain.

Directed by Luis Piedrahita and Rodrigo Sopeña, Fermat's Room begins with the old House On Haunted Hill premise of four complete strangers invited to spend an evening in a weird little house on a small holm (def. island in the middle of a lake). What the strangers have in common on first sight is a love for mathematics, and in fact are given code names named after famous mathematicians through the ages who all apparently died at the same age of the invited guests.

There's Hilbert (Lluis Homar, excellent), an aging scholar who's harbored feelings of suicide after having been scooped on an important paper he was working on for decades on Goldbach's Conjecture; a young lady named Oliva (Elena Ballesteros), a mathematics expert; Pascal (Santí Millan looking like Anthony Perkins), not a mathematician but an inventor of gadgets like a popcorn popper shaped like a duck; and Galois (Alejo Sauras), the young college prodigy that scooped Hilbert on the Goldbach theory that earned him fame, a cash prize and loads of pretty college girls.

Our four geniuses all hook up in a tiny room in the house that resembles David Lynch's red hell room from "Fire Walk With Me" (with the dancing midget). After a nice, quick meal they find that they can't get out of the room with math questions sent to them through a small PDA - yes, that's right a PDA. Who would have thought that PDA's still had a place in this world? Well, it does in this movie.

The PDA sends questions to them that they must answer within a minute or hydraulic presses installed behind each wall programmed by the PDA will move in a few feet at a time. If they take too long the walls close in more, and if they get the math problem (here called "enigmas") wrong, the walls will close in and crush them to death. The suspense in Fermat's Room is heightened because as the film progresses and the walls close in more the contrast to the cinematography is heightened more and more, the effect being like that of lights turned up higher and higher until everything is simply blinding. This effect in lighting is one of the most imaginative I've seen and definitely enhances the suspense factor.

As enigmas come one after the other walls close in causing furniture to fall over and mirrors shatter and only the correct answer can keep the room from closing in. The only way the four guests can stall the walls from crushing them is by taking all the book cases and lying them down across the room, symbolically showing that their education is the only thing that can keep them from being murdered.

The four guests ask continuously who Fermat is and why did he invite them into a death trap, but as the film continues they all confess to terrible sins they recently committed, the room looking more and more like some blood red confessional booth of sorts. One killed, one stole and one performed unspeakable acts of sex, all impacting at some time one of the guests. But who? Which one is Fermat? Will the other three get out in time before the entire room comes crashing in?

All four actors turn in excellent performances, with Lluis Homar standing out as a scholar who knows everything except how to cope with failure. I enjoyed watching all the math problems being worked out and the logic that went into them, and that's a pretty major feat for someone who never did well with math in school, but that's the real genius to Fermat's Room: while you're being entertained you're learning things and it's awesome.

Other films in this vein include Exam, The Method (directed by Burnt Money director Marcelo Piñeyro!) and Cube.

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White trash TV can show all the lame Heavy Metal Dad shows they want, but the greater truth as usual is served up by punk rockers, and the punk rock documentary "The Other F Word" is no exception. Produced by Morgan Spurlock (Supersize Me), the film interviews several punk rock musicians, mostly singers, about living the life of an FTW punk rocker and still living the punk rock life. Some of the dads interviewed are Flea, Fat Mike from NOFX, Art Alexakis, Mark Mothersbaugh, Greg Hetson, and even Tony Hawk.

What the film is really about is the fact that you can wave your freak flag as high as you’d like but ultimately everyone has to grow up. Once babies are born and bills come streaming into the house you’re not Daddy’s Little Monster anymore, YOU’RE Daddy, and it’s somebody else’s turn to be The Little Monster. It’s this change in maturity and responsibility which is really at the heart of the documentary.

The centerpiece in “The Other F Word” is Pennywise lead singer Jim Lindberg who has three daughters, one of which is already of high school age. Because record sales don't earn shit anymore the only way Lindberg can realistically support his family is by touring non-stop all year, which is always deadly for family relations. Lindberg clearly realizes that his family's life is passing him by and it's time to make some real decisions about his life.

The film goes through great pains showing the drama of Lindberg’s deciding whether he should continue touring with Pennywise or stay home and be a good Dad for his family. The film ends with him deciding to leave the band and be a good Dad. End of story. Not. After the film was made Lindberg not only didn’t play the family man, but in fact started a new band of his own and went back on tour, doing exactly everything he complained about doing with Pennywise. And so here we are again with another rock documentary that plays like bad television.

But the whole thing’s pretty lame folks, because two months ago Lindberg rejoined Pennywise, rendering all the drama in the documentary to shit. Maybe I was better off watching the Jack Osbourne-produced “God Bless Ozzy Osbourne” documentary, after all. Ozzy’s still a cooler punk, after all.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Random Riot

Hi, it's me the guy who threw up in your purse the guy who hurled Japanese finger food against the wall in your kitchen and never got invited again to your home you hypocrite it's me the guy who screamed for hours in the nightclub which doesn't even exist anymore I'm not that guy anymore and haven't been for some time but there are people who don't want to let go of their stupid memories of who I was they just want to hold on to the outlines of an unhappy and outraged and angry man who wanted to kill banality like a hunter in the dead of winter. I'm no longer on your radar I'm no longer in your orbit I'm not dead I just don't care about being in your petty and stupid life so there it is and the funny thing about it is you resent the fact that you can't complain about me and you can't attack me anymore because I don't care your dirty little sand pit is all yours sit in your shit and make your own mess it must suck to not have me to blame for your own kill switch you call a brain insane.

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It's so sad that within the past few weeks several cool stars from the British Invasion have passed on, notably Rick Huxley of the Dave Clark Five, Reg Presley of The Troggs, and early Beatles colleague Tony Sheridan. Granted they were pretty high up there in the years but they still rocked like crazy and gave me hours upon months upon years of listening pleasure. Their work was always exciting and fresh to listen to even in year 2013.

Special mention should be made of Reg Presley's excellent range as a rock vocalist. I don't think most people realize what an extensive range he had, going from raunch god on the classic "Wild Thing" to leering Peter Lorre soundalike on "From Home" to whisper gnome on "Night Of The Tall Grass" and "Strange Movies". And just when you thought he hadn't a shred of sensitivity in his sleazy bones he could tug on your heart strings with the beautifully tender vocal of "Love Is All Around". Brilliant, just brilliant. They will all be missed.

Bearing in mind that my English heroes are slowly departing I flew into a senior boomer tallywacker panic and downloaded a ton of British Invasion music, hoary old classics like The Merseybeat's "Sorrow", vintage Animals, Herman's Hermits and Dusty Springfield's "I Only Want To Be With You". While downloading these records I listened to a lot of Manfred Mann tracks and marveled how incredibly sophisticated the early stuff was, effortlessly mixing jazz with R&B and garage rock on tracks like "I'm Your Kingpin" or "Hubble Bubble".

Also in the underrated category was Sounds Incorporated, a totally killer instrumental unit that insanely combined James Bond spy music with Northern soul funk workouts at break neck speed. No wonder The Beatles tapped them to be their opening act at Shea Stadium. They can also be seen in the movie "Top Gear" rocking out a totally looney take on "The William Tell Overture". Check them out!

I also really liked a track by The Nashville Teens called "Devil In Law", more laid back than "Tobacco Road" but just as cool and the lyrics are pretty funny, too. I also liked "Even The Bad Times Are Good" by The Tremeloes, a really great song that stands tall next to their massive signature hit "Here Comes My Baby". The current state of music as such is so piss poor that even The Rubettes' hits "Sugar Baby Love" and "I Can Do It" sound pretty awesome, and that's skull-fuckingly bad.

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There's a new generation of film directors who seriously haven't got a clue what they're doing or even why they need to do it. It's pretty sad how it's become the rule rather than the exception when Rebecca and I to meet with these guys who present us with their projects and they have nothing planned or designed for us to work on.

One idiot came by and told us he wanted us to make outfits for his movie which was "kind of like The Craft, Sucker Punch, and some anime". He had a few bad sketches of chicks in skimpy outfits. One looked like a shit Baby Spice knock-off and the other one was some garbage goth witch outfit. This fortysomething director wanted to make some teen chick superhero movie. GROAN. Not again. I said okay, anime like The Dirty Pair, right? He didn't know who The Dirty Pair was, all he supposedly knew about anime was that it was supposed to be a bunch of semi-naked chicks running around kicking guys.

Rebecca: "Okay, so do you have any specific outfits in mind?"
Old man director: "No, I still haven't finished the script yet, so the outfits could change".
Rebecca: "What are the sizes of the girls?"
Old man director: "We haven't cast the film yet so I don't know anybody's sizes yet, but I'm anticipating really skinny tall girls. But they have to know how to fight!"

What the fuck does that mean? You don't have a script, don't have any actresses willing to do stunts, what do you have and why are you wasting my time? Go jerk off in a fireplace, you clown.

The scary deal is that there have been a lot of "filmmakers/screenwriters" barking up the same empty fantasy fanboy vacuum with no money and no ideas assuming Rebecca and I are supposed to flesh out their horny, myopic vision - which is already ten years behind what our friends, the Japanese, yes them again, are doing. Read Takekyo Hitman Reborn, No. 6, Karneval, D. Gray Man or Black Butler and get enlightened. America needs to step up their game, the times they are a-changin'.

I leave you with Rick Huxley and Mike Smith, both gone but not forgotten from the Dave Clark Five: