Kurt Cobain’s Mixtapes: Montage of Heck

An ostensibly authentic Kurt Cobain mixtape has been sitting on Vimeo for 2 years without being noticed. It was posted by SpaceEcho, who says he got the cassette personally from Kurt. It sounds exactly like Kurt’s experimental art-tape style. Kurt didn’t just make mixtapes. He made strange, William S. Burroughs & Brion Gysin 89influenced cut-ups from sound.

Montage of Heck runs just over 33 minutes and sounds so familiar it reminds me of a primitive version of Kurt’s later sound montages. Those have a much faster editing pace and make cannier choices before jumping into music. Either it’s real, or someone went to great lengths to imitate Kurt’s audio cut-up style.

At 19m10s a female voice tells you get ready to dance “a wild watusi, a frug, or a swinging halli galli”. I’ve heard that same excerpt on a different Kurt Cobain tape, minus the rest of the dialogue that is included before and after the quote above. In other words, Montage of Heck has more of that particular audio sample than what Kurt used of it on another tape. For that reason alone, I would say this is authentic.

Kurt was also known for giving out mixtapes to just about everyone, even to the kids who were around when he was working as a janitor. There’s actually an NPR story about that that I’ll post later.

Montage of Heck on Vimeo

SpaceEcho’s description: “Mind the length of this one. Find yourself submerged into the voyage depths of hell. Experimental Electronic Communication from out worldly sources through the forces of Cassette. Presenting the full version of Kurt Cobain’s “Montage Of Heck. (1986)

You can watch and download Montage of Heck on Vimeo.

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Hit Songs Squares Didn’t Realize Were About Drugs: Midnight Cowboy

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Harry Dean Stanton, in the 2012 documentary, Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction:

“[singing] Everybody’s talkin at me…
–This is a heroin song, by the way. It was written by Fred Neil. It was inspired by Luke Askew, an actor.”

Luke Askew was a blues singer and actor who appeared in Cool Hand Luke (1967) and Easy Rider (1969), among many other credits.

Bill Paxton in an interview with AVClub.com:

“Luke was with Fred Neil one time, and they were stumbling around, they’d both shot up and were on heroin, and Fred Neil said to Luke, ‘Man, how do you feel?’ And Luke looked at him and said, ‘You know, everybody’s talkin’ at me, and I can’t hear a word they’re sayin’.” 

Fred Neil

Fred Neil

Everybody’s Talkin’, the theme song from John Schlesinger’s Midnight Cowboy (1969), is performed by Harry Nilsson in the film. But the song was first written by Fred Neil and recorded by him in 1966. Nilsson covered the song in 1968 and the director chose it over Nilsson’s proposed theme: I Guess the Lord Must Be In New York City. Nilsson’s cover of Everybody’s Talkin’ made him rich and famous. Fred Neil wasn’t interested in fame and retired from music in 1971.

 

Neil’s original version is better suited to the song: slow, sad, dreamy, and lonely:

 

Nilsson’s cover, which is the only version most people have heard, is faster and radio-friendly. It’s oddly upbeat, although that trait arguably fits opening of the film:

 

Bill Paxton on Luke Askew:

Luke Askew

Luke Askew

“[Luke Askew] had been a great actor, and he’d also been someone Bob Dylan first identified with when he went to New York and decided he wanted to play in the coffeehouses. He used to see Luke singing the blues… 

Most people think [Harry] Nilsson wrote that song, because he made a hit out of it in Midnight Cowboy, but Fred wrote that. [Sighs.] Luke Askew, man…”

 

From Easy RiderLuke Askew as Stranger on the Highway:

Billy: Where ya from man?
Stranger on the Highway: Hard to say.

Stranger on the Highway: I’m from the city… Doesn’t matter what city; all cities are alike.
Billy: Well, why’d you mention it then?
Stranger on the Highway: ‘Cause I’m from the city; a long way from the city, and that’s where I wanna be right now.

Stranger on the Highway: [giving Wyatt some LSD] When you get to the right place, with the right people, quarter this. You know, this could be the right place. The time’s running out.

Heroin: Art and Culture’s Last Taboo

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These are the best journalistic pieces I’ve ever read/listened to that delve into the history of junk philosophy. The author doesn’t seem to have ever been a heroin addict, which is wonderful. What joy, to see our little tribe of philosophers in extremis considered on its merits by the outside world! Andrew Hussey deserves a round of slow, lethargic applause.

The Article: Heroin: Art and Culture’s Last Taboo — by Andrew Hussey, The Observer

The Radio Version, which is even better: BBC Radio 4: Heroin, by Andrew Hussey — on Art, Creativity and Heroin 

The drug did not give Baudelaire visions or hallucinations, even if he had wished for them; instead, it threw him into a profound meditation which detached him from the world and made him understand it more clearly…

Heroin users don’t need to do anything or go anywhere: they just are.

This above all is what makes the heroin user a threat to a society built on speed and movement. Heroin, in contrast, makes the individual deeply introspective. Beyond the “dirty junkie” cliches and the fear of disease, one of the reasons why heroin is still taboo is that it wipes away the sense of responsibility to the collective, to the herd. This is why heroin users are usually characterised as self-destructive narcissists who don’t really deserve to survive their habits.

But it is clear that artists who are heroin users have a clearly developed sense of negativity in relation to society, and that has its own aesthetic. This indeed is the true art of heroin – to refuse life, to refuse society; terrifyingly, in every absolute sense: to just say “no”.

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Professor Andrew Hussey: dean of the University of London Institute in Paris

 

SYD ARTHUR’s Psychedelic Daydream Sounds: Talking Shop with Liam Magill and Raven Bush

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Syd Arthur’s Liam Magill showing off his supercool electric fingerstyle

Syd Arthur, psychedelic rock virtuosos from Canterbury, opened last night for Sean Lennon at the Great American Musical Hall in San Francisco. Both bands were fantastic. Thanks to Liam for hanging out with us to talk shop at the expense of time, tobacco, sleep, and beer.

Syd Arthur’s music is like a stream of consciousness soundscape of psychedelia, rock, and funk, with undertones of folk and jazz and blues and more. It all makes for a really unique sound infused with some real history. Both Syd Arthur and Sean Lennon’s The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger are rarities in a psychedelic music scene dominated by electronica. It’s great to see a 21st century English psychedelic rock band with solid influences. It’s great to hear psychedelic music performed by people who can actually play instruments. It’s great to see two bands in one night that would both make a young Syd Barrett proud.

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Syd Arthur is Liam Magill (vocals, guitar), Raven Bush (violin, mandolin, keys), Joel Magill (bass, vocals), and Fred Rother (drums, percussion).

You know a band is good when they sound even better live than when all tracked up and mastered. These guys are great musicians. Raven Bush (violin, mandolin, keys) explained that his music background is academic; he knows his music theory. It shows. His mandolin solos are a thing to behold. And I’m sure it made his night that he got to play violin with Bob Weir from The Grateful Dead in Sean’s encore.

Liam Magill (guitar, vocals, songwriter) says he comes at music more organically. His guitar style is a great mix of technicality and forceful attack, the kind of style that does develop organically over time as you find your own way. Liam does the lion’s share of the songwriting, and while touring can suck, I was amused to hear him say he just takes his electric keyboard on the road and does some contemplative composing. He also said he composes a bit on the flute, which is pretty damn cool, because there is definitely a little Jethro Tull in there somewhere.

Here’s what really got me, though: Liam has a vicious guitar fingerstyle. It’s something you don’t expect to see played on a Stratocaster, on rhythm, in front of a wall of sound. He brings the plectrum out as needed, but where everyone else would use a pick, Liam uses a sort of aggressive funk clawhammer with percussive slaps, downstroke strumming, and string-assaulting upstroke plucking. He’s got that aggressive Neil Young attack (although Liam actually moves his wrist) and the hard strumming of an angry John Lennon rhythm, but he does almost all of it without a plectrum. It’s an aggressive technique, it really stands out, and it works wonderfully in their music. Who needs a guitar pick after watching that? Not me.

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So, you should really check out Syd Arthur. Go see them touring with Sean Lennon or at Bonnaroo. Take some 2c-e, 2c-i, 2c-whatever, DMT, LSD, shrooms, mescaline, maybe even some peyote if you can find it. Take them all together. And check out what real psychedelic music is, based on solid influences, performed by people who play real instruments.

Syd Arthur is touring with Sean Lennon and will be at the Bonnaroo Music Festival in a few weeks.

Syd Arthur’s new album, Sound Mirror, is out now in the US and coming out in June in the UK. Check it out.

Online: http://sydarthur.co.uk/index.htm

On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sydarthur

On Twitter: https://twitter.com/sydarthurband/

On Band Camp: https://sydarthur.bandcamp.com

Who Killed Kurt Cobain? Vultures: Courtney Love explains

Ludovico

In 1995, Courtney Love, in a questionable but more honest interview than most, talked about the immediate reason Kurt killed himself: being “ganged up upon” by selfish, greedy jerks who were supposed to be his friends. Courtney and the vultures that surrounded him staged a “tough love” drug intervention. Any idiot could have told them it would backfire. But they didn’t do it for him. They were trying to shove their cash cow toward the bullpen. He was supposed to be touring, he was cancelling left and right, and millions of dollars were at stake over Lollapalooza alone. And here we have a guy who is not only on smack, he wants to sneak off and record Lead Belly covers. He doesn’t want to be a pop star and make us money. That is unacceptable.

It’s a rare, vintage moment of honesty among a crowd that never wants to talk about why Kurt killed himself, or dispel the myth that fame alone did him in. As if fame is some evil goddess. Even in the same interview, Courtney starts to veer toward that official line. Actually, the twisted, greedy pigs around Kurt and in the music industry are the ones who did him in.

These prohibition-minded, temperance movement style drug and alcohol interventions kill people. At best, they can do serious damage. If the management and money men had just let Kurt do what he wanted with his music, since his decisions are what made them all rich in the first place, and if they’d just put Kurt on methadone James Taylor style, maybe he’d be alive today. Maybe not. Who can say? But in the 1990s, tough love interventions were all the rage. Actually, they’re still going on. Even the disgusting A&E show Intervention ran until 2013: 193 episodes, 13 seasons of exploitation and misery.

Mark Goheen, an addiction counselor, put it plainly: “These interventions backfire because it reinforces the idea that [kids’] parents are assholes.” Great way to help some one, right? Be a total prick to them when they’re suffering.

Remember kids, drugs are bad for you, but it’s prohibition that kills.

at 8m18s

Barbara Walters: Could you have stopped it?

Courtney Love: Yes.

BW: Could you have stopped it permanently?

CL: No, but I could have been diligent…

BW: …Why do you think your husband killed himself?

CL: He was ganged up upon…

BW: …Do you feel his death is your fault?

CL: In this instance, yes.

BW: Because?

CL: Because I didn’t need to call for an intervention. I shouldn’t have called for an intervention. I just panicked.

BW: …Because you tried to get him off drugs…it’s your fault?

CL: He thought he was a waste of space. Yes. I told him he had dropped the baby. And I was mean about it… I told him on the phone, ‘you know, you dropped the baby the other day.’ When he was in rehab. You dropped the baby. He was like ‘what!?’ I’m like, ‘you dropped the baby, you dropped Frances on her head.’ She was wearing a big hooded coat, he did not hurt her. And I did not need to tell him that.

BW: And you think that’s why he did it?

CL: I think that’s a major reason…I do, I think that’s a major reason alright? And also, he felt like a waste of space, and a sell out and he’d made everything too huge and it was his fault that everything was too huge. Do you understand what I mean? I mean it came like a Mack truck. First, it was magical. It was so weird. It was surreal and magic in the air. Everybody my age remembers that period when his band got big. And then huge, and then the grown ups knew and then the boomers knew… and he was too famous.

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Kurt Cobain on how to play guitar

Kurt Cobain, who Rolling Stone Magazine ranked as the 12th greatest guitar player of all time, teaches you the value of music theory in this rare video (at 1m50s):

“I have no concept of knowing how to be a musician at all, whatsoever. I mean, I don’t know the names of chords to play. I don’t know how to do major and minor chords on a guitar at all. I couldn’t even pass Guitar 101. Folk Guitar 101. Everyone knows more than I do. …I never learned how to read the music. I just copied the other people that took the time to learn how to read… [Dave interjects, “He’s a good drummer.”] …if you go by a text you’re kurtcobainjspretty limited, you know.”

“[I’m a] songwriter. I have no desire to become any better of a guitar player. I’m not into
musicianship at all. I don’t have any respect for it, I just hate it. To learn how to read music or to understand arpeggios and Dorian modes. It’s just a waste of time. It gets in the way of originality.”

So, if you are one of the many, many guitarists who think technical proficiency makes you a good musician, then that ostensibly means you and I are probably both better musicians than Kurt Cobain. Except, probably not. So forget music theory. You can have fun sitting in your room practicing your stupid rock solos which all only use the same scales anyway, but the audience doesn’t care how good a guitarist you are. They can’t even tell when you suck. All they know is whether or not it makes them feel something. That’s all that matters.

Damon Albarn says heroin made him creative and productive

Damon Albarn, frontman for Blur and Gorillaz, is set to release a new solo album, Everyday Robots. He’s now given a rare interview in which he discusses his past heroin use as a creative and productive experience, but he also admits it’s a cruel drug to be addicted to. He describes his habit in one of his new songs, You and Me:

“Tin foil and a lighter, the ship across … Five days on, two days off.”

So he was smoking heroin, not injecting, and he was not using daily. The technical term for this is Damon_Albarn_Performingmoderation. Sure, five days a week could be considered more than moderate use depending on quantity. But what people refuse to understand is that moderate use of heroin can actually exist. There’s been so much demonization of the drug that it’s caused mass cognitive dissonance, even hysteria. Smoking heroin occasionally is not the same as lying in alley with a syringe stuck in your arm. People can’t seem to grasp that, yet they find it easy to understand that having a glass of wine five nights a week with dinner is not the same as drinking a quart of vodka a day.

I hope this turns into something instructive for someone out there, but I imagine Albarn will just be demonized for admitting there are benefits and harms associated with heroin.

As a former junky and as a guitarist, I have to add that to get any creative benefit from heroin (like any other drug), you better use it in strict moderation. Opiate addiction can really sap your creative drive and even deaden how music feels. Again, compare it alcohol: you might be inspired after an evening out with friends talking and having a few drinks. Whereas if you started drinking every day it might ruin you, and soon you could wind up with no friends to talk to and few new ideas to talk about. Then again, according to addiction experts, alcohol is much worse than heroin. And as with any drug, most people who try heroin do not get addicted. The statistics vary by study but tend not to rise above 30 percent.

Damon Albarn’s new album, Everyday Robots, is out April 29, 2014.

Excerpt from the Guardian:

Damon Albarn has given a rare interview about his past heroin use, describing it as an “incredibly productive” time in his musical career.

Although the singer is now sober, the singer addresses his drug use in a new song, which describes how he would regulate his heroin intake to “five days on and two days off”.

“[Heroin] freed me up,” Albarn said in this month’s Q cover story. “I hate talking about this because of my daughter, my family. But, for me, it was incredibly creative … A combination of [heroin] and playing really simple, beautiful, repetitive shit in Africa changed me completely as a musician. I found a sense of rhythm. I somehow managed to break out of something with my voice.”

Albarn began using heroin “at the height of Britpop”, after returning home from tour and finding it “in the front room”. “I just thought, ‘Why not?’ I never imagined it would become a problem,” he said.

“I’m happy I found that poetry,” Albarn told Q. “I can move forward now without all the nudge nudge, wink wink innuendo I’ve had in the background for years.”

 

This Day In Music History: Radiohead ends World War II

Radiohead ended World War II when Adolf Hitler had a nervous breakdown on his 56th birthday after hearing The King of Limbs for the first time. At least he didn’t live to suffer through Atoms For Peace.

While Hitler and I were both Radiohead fans from way back (I think I might have seen him at the Sept 11, 2001 Berlin show looking very pleased and shoving people in the pit), there is one thing Hitler and I disagree on. I thought Codex, at least, was good.

Thom announces the terrorist attacks on 9/11 while playing live in Berlin, Germany:

California uber alles

California, here’s your new state anthem.

The media lied to me. They said California was progressive. Social freedom? Not technically allowed here, but maybe they’ll let it slide if it’s something the bourgeoisie don’t frown on. I didn’t expect much in terms of economics. I’m not that naive. But I guess I’ve traveled too much and forgot I was in the United States, where liberal means “10 degrees to the left of center in the best of times, and 10 degrees to the right of center when it affects them personally.” In a way, I prefer the discreet fascism of the red states because of their brutal honesty and authentic, ignorant convictions. Nothing is worse than hypocrisy. These California progressives speak equality and freedom while stuffing money into their pockets and legislating enough bureaucracy into existence to make Big Brother proud.

I’ve seen homeless people treated better in right wing cities where no one cares about anything but money. Here the methadone clinics apparently don’t even match federal guidelines and restrict you to 7 day take homes instead of 28, are even more overpriced than the rest of the country, and all sound horrible. The better to protect you from yourself? Also, everything is against the law.

The original is by Phil Ochs, an early compatriot of Bob Dylan, and a great protest singer.

Maybe Woody Guthrie summed up California best.

The alternative state anthem is a pretty obvious choice.

A Nirvana Reunion Fronted By J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr

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Nirvana just performed for the first time in over 20 years at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with Joan Jett, Kim Gordon, Annie Clark, and Lorde. Joan Jett was good. She could front a reunion tour. But it all just makes you miss Kurt’s wild, cigarettes-and-gravel voice. It was really his band, his songs, on his orders. Still, it’s hard to resist nostalgia made flesh. Then, after the Hall of Fame, there was a secret show at Saint Vitus in Brooklyn, with the addition of Dinosaur Jr’s J Mascis and Deer Tick’s John McCauley. Watching J Mascis cover School changed my mind. Maybe they could pull off a reunion tour. Here’s why:

1. J Mascis fronting Nirvana on School. It sounds like Kurt’s voice aged, say, 20 years.

Compare that to Kurt playing School live at Reading 1992.

2. Kurt Cobain asked Mascis to join Nirvana. Twice.

3. Style. Mascis’ gear isn’t the same, but it’s close enough and at least it wouldn’t be an imitation. Jazzmasters and also Jazzmasters and then more Jazzmasters. Kurt didn’t play Jazzmasters, but he did play Jaguars. Yeah, J’s sound is different. Personally, I don’t see what Kurt saw in those short scale guitars, but he got a lot out of them. He’s totally underrated as a guitarist. And yeah, J’s technique is very different and more precise. His solo on School is nothing like Kurt’s vicious, sloppy attack in the Reading performance. I prefer that angry, sloppy style, personally, but hey, it’s like David Gilmour and Syd Barrett, only J Mascis can actually play Kurt’s songs.

J Mascis rig rundown (Check out this site to read about Kurt’s equipment)

dinosaur jr – feel the pain