Ferndale Dad

Location: Ferndale, Michigan, United States

Thursday, October 20, 2005

I Sing the Vaulty Electric

So I interviewed one of the mystery men behind the Diff'rent Strokes and Diff'rent Stripes novelty records which according to the interwebs have pretty much disappeared. Weird. Anyhoo. I chatted with 'em over said interwebs for a planned chapter on White Stripes fans and tribute acts for a book I wrote about the Dynamic Duo. Not like it's gonna see a second pressing where I can add stuff. So it's a freebie from the research files in the interest of feeding the content monkey. Besides, I actually think this is one of those fun musical/pranky projects of which there just aren't enough .

Q: How, when and why did the whole "Diff'rent" project get started?
A: The idea was conceived by a bunch of musicians all playing in cool, established bands who met at a music event where they found themselves drunk together one evening. It started as an outlandish claim by one of our number that there ought to be a tribute act to The Strokes who call themselves The Diff'rent Strokes. At the time everybody fell about laughing and screaming "Watchutalkinbout??!!" at the top of their voices but the next day all agreed that this bad idea was in fact a good idea and after 3 evenings in a converted flat/budget studio in the East End of London the EP was completed. We approached Guided Missile Records with the idea because we have always liked the subtle humour involved with the stuff they do. They loved it and released it immediately.

Q: Why extend it beyond a one-off (the Strokes one was first, correct?)
A: The Strokes one was the first, correct. Probably because we enjoyed it so much and it made a change from the mechanical way we operate in our 'proper' bands. Guided Missile convinced us by telling us it's traditional with novelty records of this type "to do a follow up which gets nowhere". They said it "cements the project" (!). The natural choice was to cover some White Stripes songs as they were the big thing at the time and we all really liked them. As it happened the White Stripes tribute was just as successful.

Q: Has it ever been performed live and if so where?
A: Because of the number of overdubs we do, the need for the group to remain anonymous, and the logistics of being able to get together and not clash with our proper bands it makes playing shows almost impossible meaning this can only be an underground low-key studio affair. We have received offers from Rough Trade to open for some of their bands and there is a lot of respect for these EPs within the scene, but it's just too hard to organise. Guided Missile were talking about getting a dance troupe to perform routines to the tracks and take that out on the road but I don't think they ever really got it together.

Q: What lives has it led outside the studio (has it found a home on radio? What has the response been?)
A: Had a great response from John Peel and Steve Lamacq on Radio1 as well as some of the daytime DJs, also indie stations like XFM and BBCRadio6 and tons of regional stuff. Lots of press interest as well - the Darkness one was Single Of The Month in Rocksound - and the White Stripes one was Worst Single Of The Week in NME. The wankers.

Q: Why do the songs as synth/dub versions? Is it a reaction to the Stripes' "anti-digital/anti-tech" stance?
A: Nah, we're not really trying to make a point, but there doesn't seem any point in doing the versions as drums/guitar/vocals. A much better band already did that. By doing them sounding like Perrey & Kingsley meets Howard Jones we can claim that our version is 'outsider art'.

Q: Why is it important to remain anonymous?
A: A number of reasons, as stated above we all have proper bands, some of which are very cool bands but we have never revealed the identities of the people involved. This means the Diff'rent project can't interfere with our real bands, but also Guided Missile wanted it to remain a secret as they want to stay an underground label - and told us they liked the idea of the project being like KLF or The Residents in that respect.

Q: Is part of the point of the "Diff'rent Stripes" recordings an attempt to extend and/or cash in on something that you view as ephemeral?
A: All music is ephemeral these days isn't it. Our friend Zoe has this theory that no style of music will ever go out of fashion again. It's certainly not about cashing in because the singles have never really made money and what little they have we have just left with the label to put into the next ones. They keep letting us do more. The idiots.

Q: Has it sold many copies?
A: We haven't seen the actual figures. All the EPs have been limited editions and there are probably at most a couple of hundred left on any title but the White Stripes tribute made it to number 89 in the UK singles chart with absolutely no marketing plot. Any success the EPs have had has essentially been achieved through the power of the word of mouth. (The "Orchestral Manoeuvres in The Darkness" EP got to number 66).

Q: Do you actually like the White Stripes music?
A: Absolutely. We saw some of their smaller shows before they made it in the UK. We love them. Our EP was recorded about 200 yards from Toerag where they recorded the last album. They're a proper band aren't they; just good honest music and great tunes. The colour scheme and that whole brother/sister thing really appeals too. It's nice to have a bit of a story.

Q: OK, bear with me: The Stripes version of Hotel Yorba is so totally couched in "Americana" and your version seems like a cheesy '80s version of an English TV show theme (or something like that)? If that's accurate, was that on purpose? If not, why not?

A: Yeh, it was on purpose but there's no deep meaning behind that. It was just a nice catchy song and we fancied doing something which sounded like a TV theme with trumpets and stuff. A lot of the ones we've done sound like TV themes. We like TV themes! Our main thing is always just to try to put a different spin on any track we cover, so Hotel Yorba was done kinda cheesy brass band cabaret style, Fell In Love With A Girl sounds like Jan Hammer/Miami Vice and I Think I Smell A Rat done as dub reggae. There's no real set pattern or agenda. We all watch a lot of shit TV on UK Gold etc and it largely depends on whatever rubbish we are watching that week.

Q: What's the most satisfying result of the "Diff'rent" recordings?
A: If you ask Guided Missile they'll say "Guided Missile finally making it into the Guiness Book Of British Hit Singles" cos that's what they said to us, but for us as the artists it's probably just the fact that we do it purely for fun but that people have really liked all the releases, not least the bands themselves. In other words, we make music for ourselves and if anyone else likes it then that's a bonus.

Q: Are the Strokes jealous that the Stripes "Diff'rent" songs are better?
A: Haha. Well it's all just a matter of opinion eh? We don't know how they Strokes liked our White Stripes one but they seemed to like The Diff'rent Strokes. They played it at their own New Year's Party and talked about it in The Face magazine. It's funny cos The Darkness's manager Sue Whitehouse sent Guided Missile a really nasty e-mail accusing them of bandwagon jumping and moaning that the band and their management had not endorsed it. You'd think of all the bands The Darkness would appreciate the humour but of all the bands we've given 'the treatment' so far, their reaction (or at least their manager's reaction) was the least cool of all.

Q: How ever did you con Terry Edwards into such a thing (and is it the same Terry Edwards that worked with PJ Harvey and Gallon Drunk and all that)?
A: It is the very same Terry Edwards. A legend. Terry's a friend of Paul from Guided Missile. He's an incredible guy, hugely talented, very friendly and he did his parts in about half an hour which left plenty of time for us to all go drinking afterwards. He was well up for the project and has good taste in music.

Q: How many have you done now? Which other bands have you paid tribute to?
A: Apart from Diff'rent Stripes and the Strokes one, we've done an electroclash Darkness one (Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Darkness), an EP of kids singing Smiths songs (Morrissey Minors) and a Franz Fedrinand one (called Less Ferdinand). There's an album in the pipeline which will feature all the EPs plus bonus tracks.

Streetcar Named Meta

Would anyone else like a bite of banality?
(Yeah, that's right, a self-loathing self-link. Howyoulikemenah?!)

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Just Throwing It Out There

One of the frustrations (read, therapeutically-speaking, "challenge") of parenthood is that if you cook up any stupid ideas, you rarely have a chance to see them through. Hell, you rarely have a chance to have your friends laugh you down over a couple pops at the bar. So there you sit, waiting for that same Seinfeld re-run, stewing in your creative juices, muttering mnemonic devices to yourself so you don't forget the idea cuz you're too lazy to write it down and admit that it's actually yet another thing you'll kick yourself for not doing leading further down the spiral of self-loathing and detachment that makes men do things like join lodges, go hunting even though they don't like to and join bowling leagues only to realize, at the end of 40 years that the only people you've surrounded yourself are overwight, less-than-average bowlers and dudes who go to gun shows at the Gibraltar Trade Center to see the "Winchester-ettes" in their tighty-tank-tops stroking the barrel of the very gun "you've been thinking about buying."
um, what was I saying? Oh, yeah.

So, in that spirit and in the spirit of throwing intellectual flotsam into the creative commons, I would like to offer the following three ideas that have been running around in my head for the last week or so. I need them out of my noggin more than I need to know how they'll turn out. and I'd like to apologize to Gallagher for meta-ripping-off his super-hilarious "To Do" list. Consider it an homage, Gallagher. Seriously. To wit:

"Whitman's Sampler":
This is a recording project for the sampladelic of heart. Here's the skinny: Release a series of singles over the course of six months to a year featuring the looped, soothing sounds of Slim Whitman yodeling over breakbeats. Then, the next year, compile the singles into a collection shaped like a box of chocolates called, wait for it....Whitman's Sampler. I think it would be effing rad! But that's me.

"Clara Peller Retro-Viral Campaign":
There's been no bigger boon and bane to the ad biz lately than the viral marketing campaign. Audi's whole "who stole the car" fiasco, BK's subservient chicken, etc. etc. The shit's just annoying. Yes, we can spend time with your brands, but, in the end, it's still a dude in a rubber chicken suit doing half-assed versions of what you'd really like to see him do. What better ad icon, then, to take the fad through the looking glass than Clara "Where's the Beef" Peller herself (RIP). The Peller-delivered "Where's the beef!?!?" was the penultimate one-note phenom (with apologies to "Hey Mikey! Hey likes it!" and "Whaszzzuuppp?!"). I think Peller deserves another shot at capturing the irony-addled attention of 30-somethings and the charmingly-naive "I'll consume just about any damn thing" mental nexuseses of the younger set.
So, thus, wheresyourbeef.com. Braindump 1.0: A Peller soundboard. Peller the detective trying to track down a missing Colorado heiffer that was said to possess "super-beefiness". See, there's a conspiracy theory. The vegetarians want to take away your "right to meatful living" and they've hooked up with an underground cult called the Oprah Citizen's Brigade and they've broken into a government compound and cow-napped the bodacious bovine.
Of course, each of them has a blog, a podcast, a faux-rum (read forum, gosh I'm so clever!) an e-mail-a-friend function, a sweepstakes on the "official" website of the company that first foisted Clara Peller on our consciousness. Perhaps someone sets up a cafepress site with "Free your Meat," "Vote for Clara" t-shirts, etc. A video could be made by some "rogue element" within the company's ad agency that shows the mechanical, wholesale slaughter of such "super cows" -- like super graphic, but totally computer generated -- of which the parent company can claim to have no knowledge, but it's too late! it's already on iFilms.
Oh, hell, feel free to elaborate. It's your idea now.
Did I mention the cow customizer and/or the wholly derivative Subservient Cow? That's a requirement in the creative brief.

"Petty Line":
This one's pretty simple. Set up an 800 number for people to record anonymous, bitchy messages about people. Not major stuff, just like total gossipy he said/she said/i can't believe that bitch/asshole stuff.
Record the messages (of course), convert 'em to digital, dowloadable audio, make them searchable by keywords. Where's the money? Ringtones? Customization? Data mining? who the hell knows. I just think it'd be fun. Kinda like the apology line that was featured on This American Life several years ago, but totally petty and profitable.

If anyone takes these ideas "to 11" please let me know. It'd be fun to see what happens.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Now THAT's What I Call Blogging!

Keeping up with the Joneses. Feeding the meter. Squeezing blood from a stone. I have ideas for content, but no time. Instead, may I recommend the following cliche blog tidbits.

1) My brother just called and said he met Pedro Sanchez at Detorit Metro Airport. He'd been in town DJing at strip clubs and talking to college students about the making of Napoleon Dynamite, apparently. His handler shepherded him through the check-in process with Pedro/Efram spacily moving along at the handler's suggestions. Weird existence that must be. My brother said he was nice and cordial-like.

2) I might as well admit, I suffer from a slight case of Customer Service Rage. I'm seeking meditation therapy, and I've spoken with Dr. Landy. But my CSR flared up at Dunkin' Donuts the other day when they didn't have any of the donuts I sooooo needed (currently carrying +/- 20 lbs. extra, thankyouverymuch). Plus, the lady behind the counter occupied herself with sidework while there were like 5 or six people waiting for their caffeine, sugar and grease fix. Anyhoo, I got all "Sorry to have bothered you" when she finally deigned to take my order. Yeah, yeah, I was that guy.
In my huff, I was all like "I'm NEVER spending any money there ever again!" Yeah, yeah, I'm that guy.
So I go on a hunt for other local independent donut shops and as I'm debating whether the 7-11 at Hilton and 9 Mile will make the cut in a pinch, I notice Apple Fritter Donuts, next to a tanning joint, in a strip mall. Errrt! (The Buick makes that noise when I turn sharply.)
Pull up. Head in. Perfection. Half-a-dozen pensioners/Moose Lodge lifers in Members Only jackets are sitting at two-top linoleum tables under flourescent lights, sipping coffee and bitching about GM, Delphi, The City of Detroit, Hemmeroids. The donuts look like what they lack in size, they make up for in density.
My neighbor, a semi-retired funeral director barely recognizes me outside the context of yelling "hey, how's it goin'?" across the road.
Him: "You're out pretty early, aren't you?"
Me: (checking my imaginary watch, suddenly wondering just how closely he monitors my comings and goings), "heh, well, you know, gotta get an early start..." (I know he's thinking 'punk, when I was your age I'd smoked a pack of filterless Pall Malls and embalmed three stiff by this time of the morning').
As the token white collar worker on my block, I now take the subtle and not-so-subtle ribbings of my Carhart-donning neighbors in stride, so we chat amiably about our lawns for a moment, I order my grease grabbers and coffee, wave a quick goodbye and head the eff out.
The donuts were phenomenal. the cinammon twist (recommended by the counter-lady no less) was devoured without much chance for appreciation, but the sour cream donut that followed was the most sour creamy sour cream donut (weird sentence this is turning out to be, eh?) I've ever laid tongue on. It's like when people who grew up on a farm tell you the egg yolks were yellower when they're farm fresh. Donuts used to be better, more different from one another. I've found a new home for my cholesterol fix, and it's only a minute more of a drive from the national chain that sits on Woodward waiting to snare less discerning morning junk food fixers.
(Also, it's nearly 3:30 in the afternoon and they're still right there, saying hello.)

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Knock Squared w/ Chickens

Ain't no one that can bring the "knock knock" funk like my boy N. For someone who's just learning the structure of hte joke, he's really taken to the form, much like a young John Cale took to screwing up perfectly good Lou Reed tunes, me boyo gets inside the machine and makes it dance to his strange internal logic.
Him: Knock Knock
Me: Who's there?
Him: Spearmint
Me: Spearmint who?
Him: You want to try my spearmint gum?

Him: Knock knock
Me: Who's There?
Him: Boo
Me: Boo who?
Him: You want to try my orange boo gum?
Me: Don't you mean 'boo hoo why are you crying baby?'?
Him: Nooooo. This is funnier.

Now, before you get all "that kid's five and he's already doing jazz-like improvisation with the old knock knock workhorse"? Observe some of his more "conventional" work with the "Case of the Chicken v. Road" jokes.

Him: Why did the chicken cross the road?
Me: Dunno, why?
Him: Because he wanted to suck the mailman's blood. He was a vampire chicken!!!

Him: Why did the chicken cross the road?
Me: OH, I dunno, why?
Him: Because he wanted to eat booyakasha pumpernickel!!!
Me: What?!?!
Him: No, it's funny. You should laugh.

Try the veal, we'll be here all week.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Majesty Crush In Full(ish)

OK, so I lied (kinda) about the self-linking thing. Here's the deal. I'm trying to keep my promise of content every day (just to, you know, see what the pace is like). and rather than just combing for links that would no doubt drive up traffic and all that crap, I'm gonna do my best to step with original stuph.
That said, Metro Times asked me to help with one of those fun things they do from time-to-time. In this case it was catching up with Detroit bands from days of yore. I pulled (rather, selected myself) Majesty Crush and Angry Red Planet.
MT's gonna publish the quick 'n' dirty formatted for print version of both, but I thought I'd throw up, er, out, the unexpurgated e-mail interviewage between meself and Michael Segal, guitar-great, arteest extraordinaire and record bin sherpa of some repute.
Here 'tis. Enjoy:

Who Was Majesty Crush?
David Stroughter vocals
Michael Segal guitar
Hobey Echlin bass
Odell Nails bass
(above line-up was the original from 1990-1994)

Echlin leaves in late 1994
Craig Thornton bass 1994-1995

How did you conceive of your sound and how would you describe it (then or now)?
Our sound was conceived on the idea of drone and rhythm. We wanted to be pop but spacey and atmospheric (not yet a joke word). We had a mutual love of the 4AD and Factory labels. Also the heavy, dreamy rock from late '80s UK seeped into our brains (Jesus And Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine, Spacemen 3, Loop, Galaxie 500 [USA]). But our difference was that we had a singer that didn't want to be buried in the din. A dynamic frontman with no instrument put us a little outside what was termed then (and has stuck) as shoegaze. Above all we didn't just want to ROCK (though we did in a monotonic, static way).

Where did you form and when did you break up?

We formed in early 1990 when it was novel to run into people at clubs and say want to jam afterward? We began jamming in Stroughter's basement in a duplex in Indian Village. We began with an attempt at New Order's "Ceremony"
and all loved playing together. And it went on from there. We practiced for a few months, had about 8 songs, and for our first gig opened for Mazzy Star at St. Andrews.
We broke up in August of 1995 after about a year of being dispirited: our label went out of business a month after our first album came out (late 1993), bass player quit, ridiculous tours of the mid-west, etc.

What was the biggest/most significant gig you performed and why?
We used to play these 89X gigs at the State that were packed and the crowd was wild. It seemed that it was on our own merit, so that was the most satisfying. Though we played many opening slots with popular bands of the day and held our own (Mazzy Star, Big Cheif, Laughing Hyenas, Mule, Royal Trux, Jesus Jones, Soup Dragons, Julian Cope, Chapterhouse....your laughing). Playing CBGB's was cool, standing in Johnny Ramone's spot and thinking of the history...and then realizing that just about every band since than has played there as well...

How did you measure success and to that end how well do you think that you achieved it?

We achieved success in that some people dug our music. What else is there? Oh yeah sales, good reviews, good attendance. Maybe that stuff only happened in Detroit but we were poised. Anyway our name resides in ALL MUSIC GUIDE's top shoegaze groups, for what that's worth :)

In conventional terms, were you looking for that label deal and what happened when you got it?

Ideally, for the type of music we envisioned we made, we thought maybe 4AD or Creation in the UK would have been good. Or something more indie. Some factions of the band thought in terms of superstardom so a major deal wasn't an evil thing. WE went with a subsidiary of Elektra called Dali after being courted by their A&R guy (did you know Fishbone's served alligator at their breakfast brunch?). We had a budget for recording our album, got meager advances (I needed it too!), and got to play CMJ and hang out with other up and comers. The album was released in September of 1993 and the label folded in November of 1993. We were in New York when we got the call about the label going out, and sat there in a friend's loft -- stunned. But in a touching moment we picked up acoustic instruments and played a brand new song for our friend's female roommate (it was about her).

How did you fit into the Detroit music scene at the time? Who were your kindred spirits?

Grunge was happening. Faggy dream pop was not. Big Chief seemed like a nemesis. We seemed to fit into the scene as the token UK sounding band, where there was the Ska band (Gangster Fun), the Country joke group (Goober), and the Grunge band (Big Chief). Those seemed to be the big draws of the time and we were one of them. As far as kindred spirits, there were a few similar sounding (space rock, dreampop, etc.) groups that were younger than us, that opened for us. Spectacle, Asha Vida, Thirsty Forest Animals.

Did you have any ambivalence about success in the context of the first rush of "alternative rock"'s crossover potential?

No we knew what was happening. The term I believe back then was "The Post-Nirvana Signing Frenzy"
We were into it. We knew we were odd being American and sounding British. And we had the bi-racial thing too. We felt unique, but smart enough to be what we wanted to be and appeal.

What do you think would have happened had everything went according to plan and labels not folded/people not gone astray?
That's hard to say. Moderate success I guess. But we always had a dysfunctional, volatile inner band dynamic. So I don't know how far it would have gone in it's original state anyway.

Was there any disconnect between Odell's role as a kids show host [drummer Nails co-hosted a local children's program on WTVS Public Television] and rocker?
That didn't seem to come up much, but yeah that was a little odd. Some of our younger fans knew about it, some older people, peers, that were against us made cracks, but we took it in stride.

Why did you break up?
See above

What is everyone up to now?
Segal is a freelance graphic artist and fine artist, and lives in the Detroit area. Nails lives in New York and is a lawyer (entertainment law I think...for a major record label [?]). The other two I'm sort of vague on... Last I heard Hobey was teaching yoga in California. Stroughter lives in LA and still makes music as PS I Love You and sightings of him are related to me detailing varying degrees of wacky behavior.

"Sunny Pie" 7-inch (Vulva Recordings) 1991
Fan EP CD (Vulva Recordings) 1992
"Grow" 7-inch (Davies Productions) 1992
Love Fifteen CD (Dali/Elektra) 1993
Sans Muscles EP CD (Vulva Recordings) 1994
"If JFA Were Still Together" 7-inch (Che) 1995
Majesty Crush Detroit limited edition/vinyl only LP (Vulva Recordings) 1996

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Voodoo BBQ

In case you were wondering what happened to Deja Voodoo, here's a goodly rundown from like five years ago. I'm still gonna go on that pilgrimmage and track those crazy Northerners doon.
Dewald's a brewmaster and Van Herk's a linguistic's professor.
remembe to buy insureance cuz what are you gonna do when someone comes along and cuts of, cuts off your head?
Huh?! Riddle you that.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Gimme an S-A-S-Q-U-A-T-C-H!

First post of the proposed 30 days' "Flight of the Content". Expect little and thy shalt not be disappointed. I will try not to post self-congratulatory links to crap I've written for other publications or break my arm patting meself on me back.
Rather, I'll try to aim for a middle ground between here and there.
Or something.
Prepare for Wednesdays' "Old Man's Records" with all apologies to Gordo.
In the meantime, let me just say that I've always thought the mass media missed a golden merchandising opportunity when they re-branded Sasquatch as "Bigfoot" instead of "Sassy". Seriously, "disc golf pants for girls"? Jeebus, as this I once took my radio nickname?
Take Back the Sass 2005 starts now!!! To the "Streets"!
What the hell was I saying? Oh, yeah. October always makes me think of our large-footed Sassy friends wandering the mountains of Cascadia.
I think I wonder just WTF our hairy friends do once the leaves fall from the trees, thus blowing their cover. Sure, sure, there's abundant conifers, but it's also hunting season.
So in our world of plenty, let's spread a smile of joy, throw your arms around the Sass at Autumn time.
Thank you for your support.