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Kembra Pfahler on 30 years of the Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black, with exclusive Richard Kern pix!


Photo by Richard Kern, courtesy of Kembra Pfahler

On February 15, Marc Almond, the Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black, Sateen, Hercules & Love Affair, and DJs Matthew Pernicano and Danny Lethal will perform at the Globe Theatre in downtown Los Angeles. This absolutely mental, once-in-a-lifetime bill will celebrate the second anniversary of Sex Cells, the LA club run by Danny Fuentes of Lethal Amounts.

Because I am so eager to see this show, and because the life of a Dangerous Minds contributor is high adventure, last Sunday I found myself speaking with Karen Black’s leader, the formidable interdisciplinary artist Kembra Pfahler, by phone, after she got out of band rehearsal in NYC. My condensed and edited take on our wide-ranging conversation follows. If I’d noted every time Kembra made me laugh with a deadpan line, the transcript would be twice as long.

Kembra Pfahler: My guitarist is Samoa, he founded the band with me; he’s the original Karen Black guitarist, Samoa from Hiroshima, Japan. And then Michael Wildwood is our drummer, and he played with D Generation and Chrome Locust, and Gyda Gash is our bass player, she plays with Judas Priestess and Sabbathwitch. I just came from band practice, and I am one of those folks that really enjoys going to band practice. Doing artwork and music isn’t like work, and being busy is just such a luxury. It’s been very pleasant preparing for this show we get to honorably do with Marc Almond. We’re so excited!

We played with Marc Almond at the Meltdown Festival that was curated by Ahnoni in 2011. That was a great show with Marc Almond and a lot of other incredible artists. And I have an art gallery that represents me in London now, which is called Emalin, and I had an art exhibit there, and Marc Almond, thankfully, came to it. He’s friends with one of my collaborators called Scott Ewalt.

I’m not a religious person, but I did think I had died and gone to heaven. When artists that you have loved your whole life come to, for some strange reason, see the work that you’re doing, it’s one of the truly best things about doing artwork. I’m very much looking forward to this concert.

Can you tell me what you have planned for the show? I’m sure you want to keep some stuff a surprise, but is the disco dick in the pictures going to be part of the set?

You know, the Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black has always made a lot of props and costumes, and I never really just buy things. I’m not much of a consumer. I’m an availabilist, so I usually make the best use of what’s available, and we are going to have a lot of props and costumes in this show that I make myself, and I have art partners in Los Angeles, collaborators. We’re going to have a big grand finale sculpture that’s going to be my Black Statue of Liberty holding the pentagram. That’s a huge pentagram sculpture. I made that with a friend of mine called Brandon Micah Rowe.

That sculpture lives on the West Coast, and it comes out when I go to the beach and go surfing. I usually take the Black Statue of Liberty with me, ‘cause it’s a great photo opportunity on the beach. And the last time I was photographing the Black Statue of Liberty—‘cause of course I have several—I took this Black Statue of Liberty in a truck and drove down to Sunset Beach, right at the end of Sunset Boulevard and Pacific Coast Highway, and I just have a great memory of almost drowning with the Black Statue of Liberty. It was very much like reenacting Planet of the Apes. That was the impetus for the Statue of Liberty; I’ve always loved the last scene in Planet of the Apes where Charlton Heston realizes that the future is just a disastrous, anti-utopian, dead planet. Kind of similar to what’s happening to us now.
 

Photo by Brandon Micah Rowe
 
[laughs] Yeah, it’s uncomfortably close to the present situation.

To me, it’s very close. I mean, film has always been very prophetic, to me. Orson Welles always talks about magic, and historical revisionism, and truth, and the ways that film can actually inform you of the truth in politics, mythological truth, cultural truths. And I’ve always learned the most just by watching films. That’s why I named the band Karen Black, because I was so educated by the films of Karen Black. I know that sounds sort of wonky, but what I’m getting at is I love listening to Orson Welles speak about magic and truth and film as a way to articulate that truth.

Are you thinking about F for Fake?

I’m thinking about the little tricks and happy accidents that occur in film that are what Orson Welles spoke to. I mean, Kenneth Anger talked about magic and film constantly, and light, and Orson Welles just had a different articulation of the same side of the coin.

I grew up in Santa Monica, so I always loved Kenneth Anger; I was always happy that I lived near the Camera Obscura on Ocean Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard. I thought, I don’t fit in with any of these other Californians, but Kenneth Anger was here at the Camera Obscura. I can’t be doing everything wrong.

I was born and raised in Los Angeles, and my family was in the film business, and I left for New York because I wasn’t accepted by my family and the community, because I was interested in music, and it wasn’t fashionable to be a goth or be into punk when I was in high school. So I moved to New York. But no one was going to New York when I first moved there. I really just moved to New York to be as contrary as possible, and I knew no one would follow me at the time.

You moved to New York in ‘79 or thereabouts, right?

Yeah, I did.

I think the LA, probably, that you were leaving was more, I don’t know, provincial. . . I can imagine the appeal that New York would have had in 1979.

Well, also, the thing was that I really wanted to be an artist, and I got accepted to School of Visual Arts when I was in 11th grade at Santa Monica High School. That’s why, really. The Los Angeles that I was familiar with wasn’t provincial at all. I mean, there’s been generations and generations of weird Los Angeles. My grandparents met on the baseball field: my grandmother was playing softball, my grandfather played baseball, and my father ended up being a surfer, and I’ve always had exposure to a really incredible kind of lifestyle that I think people mostly just dream about. Like, Beach Boys songs at Hollywood Park race track in the morning and surfing in the afternoon. If you think about being born into this time when the Beach Boys and the Stones and the Beatles are playing, and then Parliament-Funkadelic’s playing, and then. . . just the most incredible exposure to music and art and nature, surfing even, surf culture. I mean, when most people are born in countries where they can’t even eat dirt for breakfast, I was born in the most incredible place, that I’ll never forget.

It’s such a huge part of my work, I named my interdisciplinary music and art class at Columbia University “The Queen’s Necklace.” Because when I was a child, I used to meditate on all the beach cities. Starting from Zuma Beach, I would meditate on the cities by saying: [chants] “Zuma, Malibu, Topanga, Pacific Palisades, Santa Monica, Venice, Torrance, Palos Verdes”. . . I’d say all of the cities that represented the Santa Monica Bay area. That was in my field of vision, that was what I saw every day. All those piers, all those waves, and all of the mythology that I grew up with was all about beach culture.

So Los Angeles, I feel closer to writers like John Fante than anyone else. Do you have books in your library that you’ve had your entire adult life that you would say represent your thinking, more so than any other books? Do you have your favorite, favorite books? One or two books that always are with you.

Oh my God, I’d have to think about it. 

I do. I mention that because one of them is Ask the Dust. Another one is David J. Skal’s Cultural History of Horror.

What’s that?

It’s a great book that talks about the horror film genre being quite prophetic, and it’s kind of what I was trying to speak about, as far as how film and horror kind of teach us about the future. That’s one book, and also Klaus Theweleit’s Male Fantasies, Volume 1 and 2 is important to me. Do you know that book?

I do not. Is it like a case study?

It’s a case study of men’s relationship to women during World War II and pre-World War II. It’s about men’s relationships to the women in their lives, in Germany, particularly.

Continues after the jump…

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Posted by Oliver Hall
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02.07.2019
01:18 pm
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Growing Up in Wallace Berman’s World: An interview with Tosh Berman


 
This is a guest post from Matthew O’Shannessy

Tosh Berman’s memoir Tosh: Growing Up in Wallace Berman’s World documents a childhood immersed in West Coast bohemia, from the Beat era of the 1950s through to the crumbling ruins of hippie idealism in the 1970s. Through his father, the cult artist Wallace Berman (who was tragically killed in a car accident in 1976), Tosh gained first-hand experience with an eclectic cross section of post-war culture growing up amongst many now-iconic poets, artists, actors, musicians, and counter-cultural figures.

Despite Wallace Berman’s celebrated connections (his face appears on the cover of the Sgt. Pepper’s LP), the artist has remained an enigmatic figure, little known outside the art world where he is venerated for his Verifax collages and assemblages that combine popular culture, Jewish mysticism, and pornography. His handmade journal, Semina, featured writing by Alexander Trocchi, Michael McClure, Allen Ginsberg, and Jean Cocteau, and was purposely circulated mostly amongst friends.

Tosh presents an intimate view of the hermetic artist-father told as a non-linear coming-of-age story that stretches from the relative isolation of Topanga Canyon in Los Angeles to the bustling Beat scene of San Francisco’s North Beach. Everyday brushes with fame—drop ins by Brian Jones, a chance encounter with William Burroughs in the back of a London cab, getting caught up with notorious occultist Marjorie Cameron—are juxtaposed with the more mundane financial and logistical dramas of growing up with a father who rejected the straight world and all its trappings.

I spoke with Tosh at his home in Silver Lake, Los Angeles.
 

 
Matthew O’Shannessy: In the book, you mention that the TV Western “The Rifleman” was a reference point for your relationship with Wallace. Can you talk a little about that?

Tosh Berman: I always loved “The Rifleman” and during the repeats I would watch it over and over again. The story’s about a ranch widower and it’s just him and his son on the ranch. His son would have to help him out and they would go into town together. Like with me… you know, they can’t just go around the corner. He had to get on the horse and go into town and get everything. You know, eat dinner, have lunch, because it was too far to the ranch and back. Which is kind of like Topanga, away from civilization. So I started to identify with it, not only because of the relationship with my father but also the geography and the physical hardship of [living in a more] rural area.

I was with my dad consistently for my first 20 or 21 years. Except when I went to school or I visited friends, I never traveled alone. So I was always with my father. He was home all the time. I would hang out in the studio and help him make work. My mom was the one who did the actual work in the fifties and sixties. She’s the one who went out and made a salary. She’s the one who worked. My dad supported us when he sold art, which wasn’t that often, but he also made money by playing cards. He played with his friends and I remember once he played a game with Robert Blake who was a known actor that time. My mother hated him. She made him leave the house. She made my father take him somewhere else.

Topanga was very secluded at that time. It’s a canyon area of course, and people went to canyon areas at that time to get away from society, so not only did you get creative people and rich rock ‘n’ roll people, you also got the losers of all sorts, people who just can’t deal with the outside world or they’re paranoid. In the sixties, there was a lot of paranoia. Topanga became like a fort or fortress in this corruption of the sixties. It was totally a utopian thing. But I didn’t see as a utopian thing. It’s always been, to me, a depressing area. Very beautiful, but living there can be so difficult.
 

A portrait of Tosh Berman taken by his father. The woman in the photograph is Berman’s wife, Shirley.
 
One of the stories in the book that’s interesting to me is when Wallace takes you to the T.A.M.I. show. It’s the dress rehearsal and he has a film camera but he doesn’t film anything. Then later he watches the documentary of the concert and films the images of the bands off the screen. Do you think that says something about his artistic sensibility? 

He never talked about his artwork or his techniques or why he did stuff. Never, to anyone. Around 64, 63, 65, he would carry an eight millimeter camera with him all the time—one that you had to wind up. At the time you could take it anywhere, there were no copyright issues or security issues.

My dad had it with him at the dress rehearsal and there were people like the Beach Boys sound checking, rehearsing. And I remember them well. They were totally in uniform. They had striped shirts, white pants, and then the Supremes came on afterwards and they all were in hair curlers and bathrobes. The only people in the audience that were our friends were like Toni Basil and the members of the Rolling Stones. That’s where we first met Brian Jones and I met Mick Jagger that night. My dad did not shoot anything. It wasn’t until the movie came out, because this was a film concept that played in theatres, that he actually shot footage of James Brown and shot footage of Mick Jagger.

I think my father’s aesthetic is that he needed to be distant, he needed another process between him and subject… rather than be directly in front of that person. He liked that idea of shooting off a movie or shooting off another photograph.
 

Tosh Berman with Allen Ginsberg.
 
You talk about how meeting Brian Jones had a big impact on you because you were a fan. 

I met him when I was 10 or 11 years old and the last time I saw him was probably when I was 15 or 16, a teenager. I was a Rolling Stones fan. My father brought in rock ‘n’ roll records himself, but with allowance money I bought records as well. As he bought Rolling Stones records, I bought Rolling Stones singles. So, anyway, I was very aware of who Brian Jones was and his presence. When he came to our house in Beverly Glen, it was like he walked right off the Aftermath album cover, especially the back cover, always wearing a black turtleneck, white jeans, desert boots, like the classic Brian Jones look.

You say in the book that the first time you were really aware of fame is when you met Marcel Duchamp.

[Marcel Duchamp] was the first person I met where I went into to a room and I knew there was somebody important in that room. And everybody was focused on the importance of this one person, like a legendary iconic figure. And I knew he was an iconic figure and I knew this artwork actually because my dad always had a picture of his artwork on the wall in the studio. And I think mostly what I remember is the bicycle wheel. That appealed to me because the bicycle wheel, for a child, represents a bicycle. It’s very simple and very direct.

A lot of the chapters are named after significant people in your life, and a lot of them are now iconic. Was it strange writing about your own life that’s filled with encounters with people who have gone on to be mythologized?

That wasn’t strange to me. I realized that they were mythologized and iconic and when I was writing the book I didn’t feel that way because when I knew them, I knew them as a child. If I knew them when I was a grown up, I think it would be more like, “this is Dennis Hopper, the iconic actor”, but I was introduced to Dennis at a very young age, of course, and at the time it was before Easy Rider, so it was before “the iconic Dennis Hopper”. It was sort of “the local arts scene Dennis Hopper”. So while writing the book I didn’t really pick out iconic people. I didn’t try to think of people who would sell the book later or to make a blurb about it. I really sat down and wrote everything I can remember and it was just one long rambling manuscript. And then it was the suggestion of people who had read the manuscript to make it into smaller chapters. I started doing a chapter on Toni Basil or Dean Stockwell… Dennis Hopper.

As I wrote it I really wanted it to be multifaceted. I wanted the book to appeal to people who were interested in the arts aspect, the Beat Generation, Beat Era, as well as the coming-of-age / teenager-to-adult story as well. So from the beginning, I was aware that it was important to have these multi-levels coming through the book and hopefully one interest will expose the reader to another, maybe new interest.
 
Much more after the jump…

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Posted by Richard Metzger
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01.29.2019
11:26 am
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Orson Welles’ ‘Voodoo’ Macbeth on film
01.10.2019
08:55 am
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Poster for the ‘Voodoo’ Macbeth on tour in Indianapolis (WPA Federal Theatre Photos, via Library of Congress)

A theater company in St. Petersburg, Florida recently mounted a revival of Orson Welles’ “Voodoo” Macbeth, which transposed the medieval violence and witchcraft of Shakespeare’s “Scottish play” into 19th century Haiti. The show and the stir it caused had much to do with the Welles legend. When it opened at Harlem’s Lafayette Theatre on April 14, 1936, some 10,000 people surrounded the venue, blocking traffic on Seventh Avenue; when the show toured the country after a three-month run in Harlem, the playbill boasted that the original engagement played to 150,000 people. 

The original production was financed by the New Deal. During the second half of the thirties, the Federal Theatre Project funded performances to feed starving actors and keep stages open. One of these was the Negro Theatre Unit’s Macbeth, directed by a 20-year-old Orson Welles. Despite his youth, Welles was not timid around the Bard, having published a three-volume set of Shakespeare plays “edited for reading and arranged for staging” during his teens. Among other revisions and inventions (such as the unmistakably Wellesian costumes and sets), Welles’ audacious staging of Macbeth replaced the three witches with a troupe of Voodoo drummers and dancers.
 

WPA Federal Theatre Photos, via Detroit Public Library
 
There is a wonderful story about the theater critic Percy Hammond, who panned the show in the New York Herald Tribune and died shortly thereafter. The tale exists in many versions; here’s how John Houseman, Welles’ friend and mentor, who was in charge of the Negro Theatre Unit and brought Welles on board, tells it in Voices from the Federal Theatre:

When we did the Voodoo Macbeth, it was very successful, and we got very nice reviews except from a few die-hard Republican papers. Percy Hammond wrote a perfectly awful review saying this was a disgrace that money was being spent on these people who couldn’t even speak English and didn’t know how to do anything. It was a dreadful review but purely a political review.

We had in the cast of Macbeth about twelve voodoo drummers and one magic man, a medicine man who used to have convulsions on the stage every night. They decided that this was a very evil act by Mr. Hammond, and they came to Orson and me and showed the review. They say, “This is bad man.” And we said, “Yeah, a helluva bad man. Sure, he’s a bad man.”

The next day when Orson and I came to the theatre, the theatre manager said, “I don’t know how to tell you this, but there were some very strange goings-on last night. After the show they stayed in the theatre, and there was drumming and chanting and stuff.” We said, “Oh, really?” What made it interesting was the fact that we’d just read the afternoon papers. Percy Hammond had just been taken to the hospital with an acute attack of something from which he died a few days later. We always were convinced that we had unwittingly killed him.

 

WPA Federal Theatre Photos, via Detroit Public Library
 
Jean Cocteau, who was then reenacting Phileas Fogg’s circumnavigation of the planet, caught the “Voodoo” Macbeth in Harlem. Welles’ biographer Simon Callow reports that Cocteau, though put off at first by the startling changes in lighting, came to appreciate its “Wagnerian” effect, which heightened the play’s violence. In Cocteau’s account of his travels, Mon Premier Voyage, after recording a few criticisms of Welles’ choices, he expresses his admiration for the show:

But these are details. At the La Fayette theatre that sublime drama is played as nowhere else, and in its black fires the final scene is transmuted into a gorgeous ballet of catastrophe and death.

 

WPA Federal Theatre Photos, via Detroit Public Library
 

WPA Federal Theatre Photos, via Detroit Public Library
 
Thanks to another New Deal program, the Works Progress Administration, some film of the original “Voodoo” Macbeth survives. We Work Again, the WPA’s documentary on African American unemployment, culminates in this footage of the production, touted by the narrator in the old-fashioned American rhetorical style:

The Negro Theatre Unit of the Federal Theatre Project produced a highly successful version of Shakespeare’s immortal tragedy Macbeth, which far exceeded its scheduled run in New York and was later sent on a tour of the country. The scene was changed from Scotland to Haiti, but the spirit of Macbeth and every line in the play has remained intact. In this contribution to the American theatre, and in other projects under the Works program, we have set our feet on the road to a brighter future.

 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Oliver Hall
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01.10.2019
08:55 am
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My Interview with Amethyst Realm: The Woman Engaged to a Ghost
12.13.2018
06:29 am
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October 30th may have been what they call a ‘slow news day.’ Gangster Whitey Bulger was murdered in prison. Pharrell sent a cease-and-desist letter to Trump. Kanye now wants to distance himself from politics. Woman who has had sex with twenty ghosts is now engaged to one. Wait wait, hold on - what happened?
 
To me, this was the day that I read one of the most incredible stories of my lifetime. It was a headline that should have run in the National Enquirer or the Daily Mirror. In fact, it probably did.
 
The suspicious timing near Halloween made this international news. I even got a push notification about it. The woman’s name is Amethyst Realm and she is from Bristol, UK. And, as the headlines have stated, she is marrying a spirit. I know what you are probably thinking - this is rubbish. I would think so too, if I didn’t believe her.
 
I needed to learn more about this paranormal love affair, so I reached out to the source herself. We spoke on my radio show about her prior relationships, proposal, and plans for the wedding. If any of the below speaks to you in ways like it impacted me, remember, she’s working on a book.
 
Bennett Kogan: Okay, just to make sure I understand this correctly. Your fiancé is – a spirit?

Amethyst Realm: Yes, that’s correct.
 
And this isn’t your first spirit lover… let’s hear a little bit about your past experiences with the occult.

I’ve always been very open spiritually and aware of other presences. When I was around eighteen, I moved into a new house and met my first spirit romantically. And since then, I’ve had a few lovers. It’s been… yeah.
 
But that was your first time with a ghost?

Romantically, yes. I’ve always been aware of them. It’s something that’s been sort of normal to me. I can pick up on different presences - like if I were to walk into a room. I’ve always had that kind of sense.
 
How does an intimate relationship with a ghost compare to one with a human?

In a lot of ways, it’s pretty similar. For me it’s totally normal, so I find it quite difficult to explain. We’ll still go out on dates and things like that, but we don’t really need to communicate in the same way than with a partner of this realm. It’s much deeper and a lot more emotion based. And intimate.
 
What was the realization that these encounters would become something that was meant to last for an eternity?

It was just something that felt so much more real and serious. Kind of in the same way if you met someone in the living world that you fell in love with instantly. It was love in first sight, in a way. “Love at first sense,” maybe. When you meet someone, you look into their eyes and feel something. You feel that energy. For us, it’s just that energy.
 
The spirit that you are now engaged to, how did that introduction occur?

I was in the outback of Australia, not looking for anything. Just walking and enjoying the amazing scenery out there. When suddenly I just felt their presence. And it just felt right from the start. I just knew it was a real, serious thing. It wasn’t gonna be a fling.
 
Were you able to address him by a human name?

We never really bothered with names. It wasn’t important. I have now given him a name because it makes it much easier. He showed himself in photo that a friend took of me. He appeared as a ray of light shooting across the photo. So now, I call him “Ray.”
 
Can you visualize his face?

No, because I can’t see him. He definitely has a presence. His energy and emotions form like an emotional shape almost.
 
Are there certain characteristics that you’ve been able to sense since first meeting him?

I guess he feels strong. And very solid and there. Recently I got a reading with some psychics who told me a little bit about what they felt his history was in his past life. And now, I can say that he is male. Before that, it was so unimportant to me what he looked like that I didn’t know what his gender was - and it didn’t matter to me.
 
Is Ray there with you right now?

Yeah, he came back on the plane with me to the UK.
 
And that’s where the proposal occurred?

We went up to Somerset one weekend. And while we were there he really wanted to go to the Wookey Hole Caves, which are quite a ways away. I was a little bit confused by it. Because I’ve always trusted him, but thought maybe he’s got an ex-phantom lover there, or something? It’s a quite heavily haunted spot. So, we went on a tour around the caves. While we were there, he asked me to hang back from the rest of the crowd. And then he proposed.
 
So now you’re engaged and looking forward to the big wedding. What type of ceremonies do you have prepared?

We’re planning a spring wedding, I think. I want kind of something based around a hand-binding ceremony, rather than a traditional wedding. Because obviously, spirits don’t have hands. I’ve been referring to it as a “soul-binding” ceremony. We’ve got a really special venue lined up as well, which is very exciting.
 
Your family and friends, what were their initial reactions to this kind of news?

They were really happy for me. My family and friends are quite alternative, so they’re just happy that I’m happy. They understand that there is more to this world than what you see.
 
It was interesting how the media portrayed your story. I’m looking at a headline right now that just states, “Woman who had sex with 20 ghosts is now engaged to a spirit.”

It seems that the world at the moment is really interested in the concept of alternative relationships versus the traditional ones that everyone has. Of course, I expect some people to disbelieve me. I hope I’ve made those that are having the same experiences as me feel a little more comfortable with it. Or those that aren’t satisfied with a normal, mainstream relationship can feel like there is an alternative.
 
I’m sure people have been reaching out to you since your news went viral.

So many people are asking me if Ray can set them up with one of his spirit friends.
 
I’m definitely open to the opportunity.

I’m in talks with publishers about writing a guide about how to seduce a ghost. It seems like so many people want to do it. I’m hoping that I can educate some people and maybe help them along their path.
 
I’m sure that our everyday paranormal encounters could have escalated into the same experiences that you’ve had. For those who are reading this now and aren’t convinced by your story, what advice do you have to offer them?

I know what’s going on and I know what’s real for me. Keep an open mind and heart. And just be aware of the signs, really.
 

Posted by Bennett Kogon
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12.13.2018
06:29 am
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I Walk with Demons: Roky Erickson depicts selling his soul to the devil on public TV, Halloween ‘84
10.30.2018
08:23 am
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Does it get any more Halloween than Roky Erickson? The ex-13th Floor Elevators frontman has been at the center of our Hallows’ Eve playlists since his “Bleib Alien” years. With songs depicting themes of old sci-fi and horror films, plus an unsettling personal struggle with mental illness, Roky makes Ozzy look like the Easter Bunny!
 
In 1984, Erickson appeared on Austin Community Television for a music documentary titled Demon Angel: A Day and Night with Roky Erickson. The hour-long special features a rotating interjection of interview and performance segments, with an ever-so cheery and quick-witted Erickson on the devil’s holiday, Halloween.
 

 
The interview portion, which may have taken place on a different day than Halloween, is conducted by Swedish writer Georg Cederskog. The two can be found hanging out and blazing cigs in a sunny backyard somewhere in Austin, Texas. They discuss a variety of topics, including Roky’s belief that he is the only “horror rock artist” and that Bob Dylan is some sort of a demon from another planet. The type of demon that won’t hurt you, however. He then proceeds to play a cover of Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind.”
 
When asked if he likes cops, Roky responds “Sure, I like to wait awhile and then watch their program. They’ve got a show on at night called COPS.” The two talk about serious subjects too, like whether or not Erickson thinks we will ever have to worry about atomic warfare (“I’ve always believed in America”) and if he likes Ronald Reagan (“I’ve liked all the presidents”). They even touch upon Roky’s stint in the state hospital, as part of an insanity plea for possession of a single marijuana joint in 1969. It was during this time, in between electro-shock treatments, that Erickson wrote his poetry book Openers under the name “Roky writing as the Reverend Roger Roky Kynard Erickson.”
 

 
Around the thirteen-minute mark, Roky and George discuss a subject that Erickson has sung about many times before: the devil. Roky claims that he sold his soul to the devil, “about 4-5 years ago.” He then goes on the describe the process - he was alone and “all these pieces of paper appeared” for him to sign his life away. Ironically, this would have been when Roky entered into a record deal with CBS Records Europe (Columbia) for his first solo record, Roky Erickson and the Aliens (1980). He claims that the reason he signed was so the devil would always have possession over him, and therefore he “can never make a mistake.” Don’t shake me, Lucifer!
 
Perhaps even more interesting is the location of the live performance, which liner notes indicate was filmed somewhere at an eerie “underground creek.” Most of the songs are played solo acoustic and electric, with some featuring guitar accompaniment by local producer, Mike Alvarez (the man behind the “Woodshock” festival). They play a dozen-or-so Roky Erickson classics, including “Two Headed Dog,” “Night of the Vampire,” “Starry Eyes,” “Cold Night for Alligators,” and two Elevators’ favorites, “Splash 1” and “You’re Gonna Miss Me.” The entire thing is truly haunting.
 
Spend your Halloween with Roky Erickson in 1984, below:
 

 

Posted by Bennett Kogon
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10.30.2018
08:23 am
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Audiences at the original run of ‘The Exorcist’ losing their shit
10.25.2018
10:48 am
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Toronto
 
While I love The Exorcist and watch it at least once a year—wherever Penderecki is booming from big speakers, I’ll be there—I’m unable to see it without thinking about hype, suggestibility and mass hysteria. Most promotional campaigns for horror movies are more or less artful variations on the tagline Dudley Moore’s ad man comes up with in Crazy People: “It will fuck you up for life!” Rumors of a cursed set, damned celluloid and occult frames were for The Exorcist what $1,000 life insurance policies were to William Castle’s Macabre. Since its release, the movie has benefited from the outsize expectations first-time viewers bring to it.

When I was growing up, I regularly heard The Exorcist cited not only as the scariest movie ever made, but as the legitimate exemplar of subliminal techniques in filmmaking. The first time I saw the movie (on VHS), I remember noticing that at least some of these subliminal images I had heard so much about, the ones that had supposedly been engineered to make you puke and cry from abject terror, were plainly visible to the naked eye when the tape played at normal speed; seemed pretty superliminal to me. If you’re aware that you just saw a flash cut of a ghoulish face, is it your unconscious mind that’s being manipulated, or your fear of subliminal editing?
 

Westwood
 
The widespread belief that the movie used modern techniques of mind control probably had more to do with the reaction it provoked in audiences than anything William “Fuck them where they breathe” Friedkin did in the editing room. As with The Blair Witch Project, an inferior movie similarly hyped, audiences were primed for terror by hyperbolic news reports and hours standing in line, anticipating the most traumatizing experience modern media could deliver.

Below, in local news footage, audiences at the original theatrical run of The Exorcist wait for hours to buy tickets. There is much weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth among those exiting the theaters. An usher describes the crackups he’s seen, and some moviegoers step into the lobby to get some air mid-screening. Smelling salts are requested.

In other words, it’s a pop sensation! What’s more reminiscent of The Exorcist than the shrieks, sobs and streams of urine that greeted matinee performances by Frank Sinatra and the Beatles?
 

 

Posted by Oliver Hall
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10.25.2018
10:48 am
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I’m Dancing with Death: The Forgotten Glam Punk of Lou Miami & the Kozmetix
10.22.2018
10:08 am
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Lou Miami was a punk rocker from Boston, Massachusetts. His band, the Kozmetix, played around locally, but rarely toured. They were regulars at popular night clubs like The Rathskeller (“The Rat”), The Channel, and the Inn-Square Men’s bar. The band formed sometime in the late-seventies and released two EP’s: Lou Miami & the Kozmetix in 1982 and Rituals in 1985.
 
Lou was a spectacle. His style was flamboyant and glam, with a touch of goth esotericism and a gritty punk demeanor. My favorite description of him is that he was “sort of a cross between Iggy Pop, Boy George, Devo and Helen Reddy.” I’d also throw in a little Richard Hell, Lou Reed, and Joey Ramone. Lou had an obsession with the allure of sex symbol and actress Jayne Mansfield - particularly her humor and rumored involvement with Anton LaVey’s Church of Satan. “The occult doesn’t have to be depressing,” Lou once said.
 

 

Lou Miami covers ‘Monster Mash’
 
Having opened up for The Cramps and spun heavily on Boston’s WERS 88.9fm and the short-lived (but influential) music video channel V66, the Kozmetix didn’t receive much notoriety outside of the Boston scene. Before MTV, Lou recognized pretty early on that video would be a tool to expose a band and display its concept. Lou took mime lessons from a former 1960s go-go dancer and found it important to be an “entertainer” while on stage. The Kozmetix created WAY more video “content” than most bands today, especially in a pre-iPhone, nearly pre-MTV era. They even made more than one video for certain songs.
 
The Kozmetix fizzled out of the local scene sometime in the mid-eighties, when it was believed that Lou had gotten into witchcraft up in Salem. He died of heart failure in Los Angeles in August 1995. Thank you for everything, Lou.
 
Get a taste of the fabled Lou Miami after the jump…

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Posted by Bennett Kogon
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10.22.2018
10:08 am
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Sound and vision: Scriabin’s Theosophical score for orchestra and ‘color organ’
09.06.2018
08:07 am
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Jean Delville’s title page for ‘Prometheus’
 
I’m no synesthete, so I’m still not sure what Eddie Van Halen meant by “the brown sound.” Sorry, Eddie: I’m the kind of literal-minded philistine who sees with his eyes and hears with his ears. Regular slobs like me have to make do with the pitch-and-color correspondences of Alexander Scriabin’s Theosophically inspired score Prometheus: Poem of Fire, which included a part for color organ.

(N.B.: As this article points out, a century ago, “synesthesia” did not exclusively refer to a neurological condition, but described “a broad range of cross-sensory phenomena” that could arise from mystical or aesthetic experience. So asking whether Scriabin himself was “really” a synesthete is beside the point.)

There’s ever so much bullshit about Prometheus on Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Internet. As a corrective, let’s start with some heavy scholarship from the eminent musicologist Nicolas Slonimsky:

Scriabin made an earnest attempt to combine light and sound in the score of Prometheus, in which he includes a special part, Luce, symbolizing the fire that Prometheus stole from the gods. It is notated on the musical staff as a clavier à lumieres, a color organ intended to flood the concert hall in a kaleidoscope of changing lights, corresponding to the changing harmonies of the music. Unfortunately, the task of constructing such a color keyboard was beyond the technical capacities of Scriabin’s time. Serge Koussevitzky, the great champion of Scriabin’s music, had to omit the Luce part at the world première of Prometheus which he conducted in Moscow in 1911.

 

Alexander Wallace Rimington with Colour-Organ (an instrument that did not, in fact, perform ‘Prometheus’ in 1915)
 
The Russian Symphony Society gave the first performance of Prometheus with lights at Carnegie Hall on March 20, 1915, a little over a month before the composer’s death. James M. Baker’s “Prometheus and the Quest for Color-Music” sets Scriabin’s work in historical context and traces its path to Seventh Avenue. The essay overflows with detail on the particular system of correspondences Scriabin worked out, the history of synesthetic compositions, and Prometheus’ relationship to Theosophical lore. Significantly, Baker agrees with Slonimsky that, when Scriabin wrote Prometheus, he had no clue how the Luce portion of the score would actually be played (much less how “to flood the concert hall” with colors):

Although documents from the time are sprinkled with comments hinting that various color apparatuses had been tried and had failed in preparing earlier performances, in actuality there was no color organ ready and available for which Scriabin had conceived the part. It is true that Alexander Mozer, the composer’s friend and disciple who taught electrical engineering at a Moscow technical school, had constructed a small color device with which Scriabin experimented in his apartment, but this was merely a crude circle of colored light bulbs mounted on a wooden base.

 

Alexander Mozer’s ‘small color device’ at the Scriabin Museum in Moscow
 
Baker writes that Scriabin’s plans for English performances of Prometheus accompanied by A. Wallace Rimington’s color organ were scotched by the outbreak of World War I. In New York, the technical problem fell to the Edison Testing Laboratories, which invented a color organ especially for the show: the Chromola, a keyboard of 15 keys hooked up to a number of lamps behind color filters, with two pedals to control their intensity. While more impressive than Mozer’s “crude circle of colored light bulbs,” the projections on a gauze screen fell short of the composer’s desired effect. The May 1915 issue of The Edison Monthly represented the debut performance of Scriabin’s “special light score” as a modest success:

The theory of the production is roughly this: Following out the analogy of light and sound vibration, Scriabine [sic], the Russian composer, hit upon the notion of writing a color score to accompany his orchestral “Poem of Fire.” In theory, the audience was to sit bathed in floods of changing light whose variations in tint and intensity should follow the sound variations. In practice, however, this became more complex.

It was found impossible to achieve “floods of light,” and in their place a gauze screen was provided on which the changing hues were thrown, controlled from a cleverly designed “color organ” or “chromola.” Scriabine’s original color scale was found defective and a more scientific one was provided, based on rate of vibrations, each octave extending from deep red at one end of the spectrum to violet at the other. Thus pitch was made analogous to hue, loudness to shade and quality to the intensity of illumination. Advocates of mobile color feel sufficiently encouraged by their experiment to wish to attempt another production under more favorable conditions. And apparently one of these will be a score somewhat less bewilderingly dissonant than the “Poem of Fire.”

Below, a 2010 performance of Prometheus approximates the totally bitchin’ immersive light show Scriabin imagined, with the help of 21st century lighting tech and Yale’s massive endowment (that’s Ivy League coin, perv!).
 

Posted by Oliver Hall
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09.06.2018
08:07 am
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A beam in the shade from a silvery blade: Own Ronnie James Dio’s sword collection
09.04.2018
05:00 pm
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Over the course of his decades-long career as a singer, Ronnie James Dio (RIP 2010) became as well known for wizards-and-demons-and-swords-and-sorcery lyrical themes as for his astoundingly powerful voice. But, to our amazement, we were able to locate the actual word “sword” in only one Dio song, “Push,” from his eponymous band’s 2002 LP Killing the Dragon:

You’ve ridden on a carousel
So you know the feeling as the ring slips through your fingers
Sometimes you justify it
But there’s the sword and you’re bleeding once again

To discover this bit of nearly unbelievable trivia, I combed as closely as I could through all of the lyrics of every album he sang on looking for the word “sword”, starting with his early-’70s hard rock band Elf—a tedious and not at all illuminating enterprise that I quite regret undertaking—and the only other reference I found was from Rainbow’s “Lady of the Lake” off of Long Live Rock ’N’ Roll, the lovely “silvery blade” line in this post’s headline. If I missed something, please do tell in the comments, but all the same, his rep for medieval mysticism was justified, and underscored by his penchant for brandishing swords in LARP-y promotional photos. And next weekend, swords from Dio’s personal armory will go up for public auction.
 

 

 

 
Much more after the jump…

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Posted by Ron Kretsch
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09.04.2018
05:00 pm
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Dennis Hopper is private detective H. P. Lovecraft in the occult noir TV movie ‘Witch Hunt’
08.31.2018
06:23 am
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Night Tide it isn’t, but I like this cheapo TV movie with Dennis Hopper as hardboiled private dick H. Phillip Lovecraft. In Witch Hunt, the sequel to Cast A Deadly Spell, Hopper takes over the role from Fred Ward, and Paul Schrader relieves Martin Campbell of the director’s chair.

Both early nineties HBO features are set in a post-WWII Hollywood where everyone dabbles in black magic—the Portuguese title of Witch Hunt is Ilusões Satânicas, “Satanic Illusions”—and all dirty work is left to gnomes, sylphs, undines and salamanders.

Eric Bogosian plays Senator Larson Crockett, a McCarthyite anti-magic crusader whose voice emanates from every TV and radio, speechifying about the threat the dark arts pose to the American way of life. When the actress Kim Hudson (Penelope Ann Miller) hires Lovecraft to investigate her husband, the case draws them toward some mass-movement jingoistic witchery that makes Hollywood look sweet.

The score is Twin Peaks-y jazz by Angelo Badalamenti. One scene echoes Dean Stockwell’s performance of “In Dreams” from Blue Velvet, only this time it’s Lypsinka miming “I Put A Spell on You” as Hopper looks on with pain and delight.

Have a look after the jump…

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Posted by Oliver Hall
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08.31.2018
06:23 am
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