Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Crazy Rant #900

When I work at the Evil Empire bookstore, I often have time for a little bit of reading. This morning, I decided to look at the music trades. As some of you may or may not know, I have firmly planted both feet back in the biz! Yes, it's true! Our heroine (or villain, depending) has done the unthinkable. Anyway, back to the trade rags. I just want to say that never has music been in a more pathetic state. What is out there is not just bad, it's pretty supremely craptastic. Here are some impressions I had. (I will obviously not mention the actual mags' names because being sued doesn't sound like much fun.)

First off, I picked up a very well known Deathrock mag that featured an interview with my favorite kitty daddy Glenn Danzig. This interview was so lame that I think I may have laughed out loud once or twice. " I am the real deal," Glen says. "I can tell a legally harvested skull from a illegally harvested one." Geez, Glenn, so can I... But dude, is that really worth bragging about? Oh, and get some sun---pale is only cute if you don't have jowls. While I am at it, your fingernails freak me the fuck out. Cut them. You are not a crack addict. He goes on to talk about Samhain (not the band, the holiday) and then gets angry when the interviewer wants to talk about what Glenn does on Halloween..He says its "not what we are here to talk about." brought it up...

Next up, a more middle-of-the-road Rock 'n' Roll rag, it featured Rob Zombie interviewing Alice Cooper, which is a great idea! These guys could be long lost brothers. Sadly, it was really boring! Rob fawned over Alice, and Alice accepted it graciously while actually trying to talk about music. It was like watching an old episode of the Arsenio Hall show. You know what I mean: that virtual blow job. Then they trashed other bands, which I found immature and distasteful. Guys, that's for me to do. On you it looks like jealousy.

So then I read a review of the new Arcade fire CD. They are calling them the next big thing. Really, people, check out Echo and the Bunnymen, 'cuz that is the shit they are borrowing from. Personally, I find the Bunnymen way more compelling.

Honestly, music is very cyclic, I get that! Last night I ranted like a madwoman about a bit of this to my young ward---we'll call him Robin for now (uh huh that makes me Batman...well Batgirl maybe). I could tell through the laughter that he was slightly shocked at the venom of my words . I get that copying a sound is part of getting inspiration from your influences, however can we Puh-leaze have some new ideas. One thing we both agreed upon..Music is Show Business...anyone who thinks otherwise is deluding themselves! Think about it, bright lights, fancy clothes(unless you like shoegazers)and loud music. Hey Viva La Vegas..dig?

Final outcome, I got bored and put the trades down. In ten years nothing has really changed there. The business is different but not the music..I will do just fine, but it's going to be a wild ride...

Give 'em the old razzle dazzle
Razzle dazzle 'em
Give 'em an act with lots of flash in it
And the reaction will be passionate

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


In the years I have worked in the music business, I never developed "crushes" on the people I worked for. The last time I can even think of crushing on a musician was during the 80's on Tony Hadley of Spandau Ballet (FTR, I never worked with them). I can't explain it. I guess I really really like tall dark haired men? Anyway, once I saw him hold his microphone like a cup of tea it was done...crush abated big time. Although, when I hear "True" I still sigh like a 12 year old girl. (I know, I know…ewww.)
Still, there is one exception...Al Jourgensen. UH HUH! You know it. I love me some Ministry and Al gives 110% on stage. In addition, there is always the added bonus of seeing if he'll gore himself on his own microphone stand. Al lives life and is passionate about the problems in the world, and I have to respect that. Plus, creatively he never stops. I have had the pleasure of meeting him a few times; each time he is gracious and compelling, and TALL!
In the first year I lived in Seattle, I was walking down 1st Street Downtown with my pal Willow when we noticed coming towards us this gentleman that looked quite remarkably like Al Jourgensen. I was trying to convince Willow that this was indeed Al but she would have none of it. As said dude passed us, I looked around him and said, "it totally is Al Jourgensen." ( I never just call him Al. I always call him Al Santa Claus or Jack the Ripper...) Anyway, dude must have heard me because he turned around and smiled...or bared his teeth... It could have been either, really. "Uh-oh," I thought as my fight or flight mechanism took control. He looked at me and said very kindly, "you win."
Holy shit, it WAS Al Jourgensen... Could I be more embarrassed?
We all chatted for a few and I was shocked to find out that Al hangs in Seattle pretty often. He told us he was having a few people to the Albi Room in the evening and we should stop by. The Albi is a bizarre dark club know for it's "look the other way " policy for musicians... Many still hang there. We went that night, met some cool folks and talked current events, religion and the craptastic state of music. It was a good time. Sadly I don't have a story about how Al shaped my life or gave me sage words of wisdom. I haven't made any incredible personal changes in my life because of something he said...

Or Have I??? Heh heh...

A few days ago I went out for drinks with friends...and Al was there. The general consensus from the group was that I was tense, quiet, and drinking way more than usual. I explained I was facing a sort of professional crisis, thinking about testing the waters in the music biz again. I was worried about stepping back into a world that abandoned me when I was diagnosed with cancer. That I was both excited and terrified. I also shared the story of how someone close to me suggested I start reading the trades again because I was sort of closed off musically. CLOSED OFF??? WTF??? They all laughed. My friend Eric said he could see the old Synde emerging. Was that a good thing, I wondered?

Mr. Jourgensen was very to the point as usual. "Fuck yeah, you should do it! Especially if it scares you, because that means you feel challenged, pushed to excel. You'll have to prove yourself all over again. That's a good thing. They'll be no laurels for you to rest on this time."

I might or might not have almost started to cry right then... If you know me, you know the answer. If you don't, then I totally didn't!!!

So I made my decisions and took Al's advice. Hopefully I did the right thing...It's early on and I can't tell. I'm teetering on the precipice between hysterical panic and the adrenaline of making the right choice. Time is on my side, I hope...

Armageddon, it's gotten
No savior jailer can take it from me
World ending, it's just beginning
And rock and roll is what I'm born to be

Monday, October 18, 2010

Living Dead Girl

Once a year, a well known LA radio station called KROQ has a huge summer festival called the Weenie Roast. In the 80's and 90's, the station was not syndicated, rather a cutting edge station that showcased new talent. NOT POP. Anyway, I loved to work these shows as a lighting technician. The line up was always great and everyone treated the whole gig like a giant party. Not sure of the exact date of this particular concert, but the year was 1991 because White Zombie's La Sexorcisto had just come out. I was in the height of my goth years and I looked scarily pale. (I don't hide that I was also struggling with an intense drug addiction, which also contributed to the paleness.)

This year, Skinny Puppy and White Zombie were the headliners. A few hours before the show Ogre was on the stage with me working out some lighting kinks… It takes a bit to get the lights "just so" when a singer is going to cover themselves in cows blood… I love Ogre. I don't know him well, but in my experience, he is a funny and generous guy as well as a consummate performer. I have a background in theatre lighting so it was really easy to the the lights right. (FYI, this was before everything in lighting design became completely computerized.)

Once we had things set, Ogre was telling me about this new band, White Zombie. Rob was the talk of the town back then, with his animal prints, DayGlo, dreds, and crazy-ass top hats. Not to mention he had an amazingly talented female guitarist, Sean Yseult. Ogre thought I should meet him as we liked similar things. (Even now, Thunderkiss 65 is still one of my all time favorite songs.) In Rob's early days as a singer, his brand of talk/rap/singing was very cutting edge. We walked backstage and found Rob talking to his then new girlfriend (Sheri Moon, now Sheri Moon Zombie). He was taller than I expected and much friendlier too. Introductions were made all around, but when I reached out to shake his hand, he looked down at my hand and then back up to my face. Smiling he took my hand and shook it oh so gently, and said, "You aren't a Zombie are you? I was worried your arm would fall off if I shook it too hard."
At the time I overreacted (cuz I NEVER do that!!) and told him to fuck off. Rob seemed confused, adding, " You are really really pale."
I was a different person then, but truthfully I think I was a bit confronted by the truth of the matter…soooo I just stood there unblinking. Ogre shrugged and we moved along. I remember being really annoyed and, after all, I didn't tell Rob his dreds smelled like a wet dead dog.

To "get even" I used a ton of lime green color during their set, which is a nono when lighting pale-complected people. Sadly I heard that Rob loved the macabre effect that Synde designed. VINDICTIVE FAIL.

The next night I began to tone down my look and within a year put and end to a very horrible chapter in my life. An addiction had been permanently put to bed. So yes, Rob's insightful and " humorous" comments did the job.

Years later I found out that my very close friend Jodie had been working for Rob all along. So we all hung out a bit, and Rob is still a funny guy. I am not a huge fan of his solo career or his movies, but his visual imagery is full of win. I retold him the story and he didn't remember anything except the green light… Funny, that...

I got nothing to say I ain't said before
I bled all I can, I won't bleed no more

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Relevance I haz it?

Wow! Today was one of those days where I woke up and BOOM, the struggle for relevance was on! Coming from the music business I always felt very much a part of things. Socially and artistically. When my health forced an early retirement out of me, I struggled to find the kind of social and artistic contribution that felt right. I owned my own esoteric bookstore, read tarot and the like, but couldn't make a living. Finally I settled on (for?) working in a chain bookstore and owning my own jewelry business. I have always kept one foot in the "biz" as many of my friends still work in it. Lately I have heard a lot of "wow you have been gone a looong time" and "you mean you don't know that band?" I struggle sometimes to feel like my cool points are being slowly stripped away. I still have lots of connections- but day jobbery often prevents me from hitting up gigs and playing nightly with pals. Being well connected doesn't mean I don't need creative recognition. It's a funny thing, when your friends are "noteworthy" it's harder than ever not to crave and creative recognition.

Age is a cruel master indeed. Recently a supervisor suggested it was time I start "acting my age." WTF does that mean? Dressing in granny jeans and letting my hair go gray? Listening to Michael Buble and wearing a fanny pack?

I firmly believe that you are as old as you act, so don't expect me to grow up anytime soon. I will keep pushing myself.

The stories I tell here are not just memories, they are little lessons I have learned. Some beautiful, some embarrassing—all life changing. I hope the reader gets that. I don't want you all to think I am parading my life before your eyes for no reason. After all: I'm not dead yet!!

What have I become
My sweetest friend
Everyone I know
goes away
In the end

Monday, October 11, 2010

Sweet Sweet Connie...

Recently on twitter there was a discussion of a reality show and celebrity. During it, a friend's husband made a groupie/starfucker comment to me. Now, relax! I don't think he was calling me either of those things, but I will admit for a second, I did suck air. If he was, well he is so far off that it's hilarious, but nonetheless it has been percolating in my mind...and Abracadabra, a blog post popped out.

During my time in the "biz," I met some really awesome people, some of whom could be classified as groupies. Oddly, Cameron Crowe did a great job depicting groupies in Almost Famous, as they were a merry band of women. All good friends as long as a famous dude didn't come in between them. The thing that struck me most about said groupies is that they had such incredibly low self esteem that they would allow these "guys" to use them and toss them away. Like a pile of used Kleenex. These girls were cool, stylish women who were looking for some acceptance. Many evenings it broke my heart. There were a couple of bands who would actually ask me to pick out several—ahem—"dates" for them each night. I would tell them what room to go to at the hotel, give them 20.00 for cab fare, and tell them what to expect. Most nights I would try to spend some time talking to them about their lives, trying to get insight into why they would be ok with this. It was always about wanting acceptance. Many a night I felt like a madame, and often I would refuse.

In the mid 80's I met Pamela Des Barres—famous groupie, writer, and sometime wife to Michael Des Barres (singer for Silverhead, Detective, and also a well known actor)—and we talked in detail about Starfucking. She was honest and funny, citing a poor home life, low self esteem and not fitting in at school all as factors. Those were all factors I faced in my youth, but the thought of being the "fuck buddy du jour" makes me want to slap the shit out of somebody. The difference is, I think, two things: I am a fixer not an enabler, and I had good role models growing up. My brother was already working in the business when I hit my formative years, and often took me along to help. I saw early on how to be a part of things without having to lose myself in the process. I saw how to be a part of the process, not the candy you ate after the process was finished. The music business did take a toll on me, I definitely had "to pay the ferryman". However I have more than just memories of whom I slept with.

What am I trying to say? Nothing, really...just taking you along with me on another memory. The comment I mentioned at the beginning of the post just allowed me to remember some of the fine people I met in my travels, and how I wished something better for them than they wished for themselves. I hope they eventually got it…

But you can't turn back the time -- It always gonna wait on the line.

**this post is dedicated to Sable Starr, who we lost in 2009.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Bookseller to Bookseller- E Books

Hi all- first off let me apologize for the different fonts..I can't seem to make it all the same font. It's driving me crazy but the content is the same so I will leave it be.
John and I decided we wanted to have a discussion about e books, how they effect both independent and chain bookstores. Please comment, we would love to hear your take on things as well. So don't be shy.

How have e books effected you, working in an independent bookstore?

J-I think we're in a really unique situation. Most of the customers that come into our store aren't just readers, they're book lovers. They love the look and feel of a book, and appreciate how a good cover looks. Because of that, we haven't seen much of an impact. Customers come in all the time and ask how the e-readers are affecting our business, and then profess their love for a physical book.

S-it's funny that's what I find in general, customers still wanting to have books. I know I do. But recently I borrowed a Nook(B&N e-reader) from work and I love it for certain situations. I still want books. But when I am riding the bus to work and waiting for the bus I love the ease of an e reader.

Do you think this will lead to the demise of the independent bookstore. Do you think specialty bookstores will survive?

J-I think, if anything, independent stores are going to have a chance to thrive again. Buying books from a website can be intimidating, it's also cold. There's something about being able to browse in a bookstore and get recommendations from staff members. That's something the independents have always been able to do well, and that's going to help them in the long run. While everyone else is scrambling to keep up with the new technology, sticking to what we know best just might be the thing to help the independents.

S- yes exactly. I think all the major chain jockeying is turning people off to them. When I go to a bookstore I want books..not games, toys and all kinds of junk. I enjoy book bags, tshirts and maybe a few journals, but the chains are bordering on department stores. We actually have shoes in the kids dept!!!!

Do you have an e-reader?

S- no, but as stated above I think I might want one. I noticed that I read faster on an ereader because I can read anywhere, easily.
I could never give up books. I am a book whore. Plus I love getting books signed. One thing about an e-reader is that it's very impersonal.
Not sure I am ready for that aspect.

J - I don't. I've played around a few of them, but haven't had much experience with them yet. The one I've used the most was the iPad, and the experience just isn't the same for me. If I traveled more or was limited on storage space I could see wanting an e-reader. I joke that if someone wanted to give me an e-reader I would probably find a use for it, but I'm not there yet either.

Do you think the chains are doing a good job of trying to adapt to e-books?

S- they are trying. I feel there is too much jockeying between the major chains. Set your prices and go with it. But no! One slashes their prices then the other has to. It's very high school and honestly form what I deal with daily, it confuses the customers. They don't know who to choose or why.

J - I left Borders before they had actively started trying to grab a piece of the market. I've been surprised at how proactive they have been. I don't remember the music industry being to proactive in trying to adapt, so it makes me hopefully about the longevity of the chains.

S-I agree. I think chain stores are necessary..Some people will not go to a bookstore unless it's attached to a mall. So there is a place for chains too..what do you think about that?

J - Chains stores are necessary. We're lucky to have a very devoted customer base, but don't have a lot of walk in customers. Chains thrive on walk in business. I think it's important to the publishing industry that the chains stick around. If the industry is going to stick around, it's going to need the chains moving books too. Specialty stores like the one I work in are great, but there's also something to be said about being to walk into a chain store and find a ton of books on a wide variety of subject. There are many communities where that mall bookstore is the only one in the city.

Hey I am going to do the intro and stuff tonight..Take one last look and see if you want to add anything..

I have seen some of the predictions of how big a piece of the market e-books are. When a new book releases(a mid list author) how big do you think their e book sales are? Do you think print is still larger?

J - I can't imagine the percentage is that high for mid list authors. E-books are still priced pretty close to traditional print books, so there's not a huge incentive to buy them. I'm sure the majority of e-books sold are back list titles that have special pricing, or the biggest, newest bestseller that everyone wants. I don't think that e-books are going to destroy the publishing industry like everyone thinks they will. I really think that there will be a place for e-books. It won't be as bad as traditional publishers think it will be, and I don't think it's going to be as great as e-book retailers hope it will be. I think it'll fall somewhere between the two.