Weird of the Day, Moogfest Edition: Holly Herndon

Holly Herndon

Next week, Asheville, North Carolina will play host to Moogfest, an annual electronic music, technology and art festival honoring synthesizer pioneer (and longtime Asheville resident) Robert Moog. The festival is one America’s best when it comes to booking leftfield artists, so every day leading up to the festival, we’ll share some of the weirdest entries on Moogfest’s packed, five-day (Apr. 23-27) lineup.

First up: San Francisco-based singer/composer Holly Herndon, who creates ethereal, abstract soundscapes formed almost entirely out of her looped and processed vocals. Herndon’s hardly the only electronic voice artist on the scene these days, but she’s certainly one of the most innovative, as this wildly disorienting video for “Chorus” illustrates.

Herndon appears at Moogfest on Saturday, Apr. 26th. For more info, visit the official Moogfest site.

Weird of the Day: Thor, king of ’80s muscle rock

Thor

What happens when you cross a metal band with a bodybuilding competition? I’m so glad you asked. You get Thor, scourge of ’80s metal and bender of metal bars WITH HIS FUCKING TEETH. And OK, a towel, which kind of detracts from the drama, but still. I bet all the other ’80s metal were all like, “Well, shit, we can’t compete with that. Guess we’ll just have to settle for more Spandex and Aquanet.”

Public memorial for Dave Brockie set for Aug. 15th, one day before the GWAR-B-Q

This amazing Dave Brockie photo lifted from this even more amazing

This amazing Dave Brockie photo lifted from this even more amazing Metal Sucks article

GWAR fans still shattered over the death of their hero, Oderus Urungus, now have something to look forward to: On Friday, Aug. 15th in Richmond, Virginia, a public memorial service will be held honoring Oderus and the crazy, incredible dude behind him, Dave Brockie.

The memorial happens one day before the 5th annual GWAR-B-Q, which might be a slightly more solemn affair this year. Although let’s hope not, because I’m sure Oderus would’ve wanted his minions partying till they puke in his honor. Maybe they can puke first and then cry later. That seems like the way to go here, I think.

In a video statement, the surviving and unmasked members of GWAR also announced that they’re creating the Dave Brockie Foundation, a charity that “will be a resource for artists in the fields of music, film, literature and all visual arts who cannot find funding through mainstream channels.” So basically, every single band we’ve ever blogged about should apply.

You can read more about the Dave Brockie Foundation here and get updates on the GWAR-B-Q here. So far the only band that’s been announced is…GWAR! GWAR without Oderus? Can such a thing be possible? Maybe they can get Joan Jett to be like Oderus’ long-lost sister or something. She did a pretty good job subbing in for Cobain with Nirvana, I hear.

Here’s that video statement. Mark your calendars, GWARmy!

Weird of the Day: Panther, “You Don’t Want Your Nails Done”

Panther

Today’s weirdness comes to us from reader GeeEs and the year 2007. Back then, a dude from Portland named Charlie Salas-Humara (that’s him on the left) made an album of awkward hipster lo-fi disco under the name Panther called Secret Lawns. He later added a drummer, Joe Kelly (that’s him on the right), and signed to indie label Kill Rock Stars, but he only managed one more album of Panther stuff before putting the project on ice. He now does psychedelic synth-rock under the name Grapefruit.

Panther didn’t leave much of a web footprint, but the project did produce at least one video that’s kind of genius: “You Don’t Want Your Nails Done.” This takes dancing around your room with a hairbrush pretending to be Justin Timberlake to a whole new level. Enjoy.

Here’s the Panther catalog on Amazon.com.

Dwarr speaks! Duane Warr sets the record straight on his “canceled” tour.

Dwarr

Turns out we really should read the comments on this thing more often. Ten friggin’ days ago, Duane Warr himself, the mysterious garage-metal hero behind Dwarr, posted a comment and we only just saw it this weekend. Sorry, Duane! Day jobs and shit. I’m sure you can relate.

Anyway, it turns out that Dwarr’s ill-fated 2012 comeback tour, which was described all over the interweb as having been totally canceled (including by us…oops), was only partially canceled. Duane did manage to squeeze out two shows in Texas before the whole thing went sideways. He even provided the video evidence to prove it. You can read his entire comment over on this page but allow us to provide the highlights:

The tour started in Austin, and it sounds like the first show went OK, even though Duane had literally only met his touring band the day before. “We had a really rough first practice. We practiced again Saturday around lunchtime. We went on last Saturday night. It was really bad, but everybody loved it.”

The first signs of trouble surfaced in Houston: “I was told I couldn’t use the Fender amp anymore because it was old and I might blow it up.” But the show went on anyway, and even sounded pretty good, despite early signs of road fatigue: “The music was a lot tighter in Houston but my 2 guys were tired. I think they stayed up late in Austin. At the bottom of my set list they wrote ‘BEDTIME.’ Pretty Hilarious.”

Duane drove by himself to the next gig in New Orleans, and showed up right on time for load-in, only to be greeted by the cook and the bartender. “Nobody else showed up for 2 hours,” he relates.

When they did arrive, I was told I had to shorten my set. I told them I only had 5 nights and really needed to play my whole set, I was trying to get a 2 disc live package with a CD and DVD. When I was told “This is Jennifer’s Tour and if she says you get 45 minutes, you get 45 minutes” that was it for me. Adios Amigos.

Jennifer, by the way, is Jennifer Herrema, formerly of Royal Trux and now gigging under the name Black Bananas. Black Bananas was the headliner, so I guess she pulled rank.

So there you have it…the true story of Dwarr’s only partially, not totally, canceled tour. I guess the two-disc live package will have to wait, but at least there are some sweet videos from the tour up on YouTube. Here’s our favorite, for a track called “Tears You Cry.” Yeah, it’s a little rough, but we owe Duane Warr a serious apology for bagging on his musical skills in an earlier post. Clearly the man can shred. And he rides that wah peal like it’s a stolen Ferrari.

Weird of the Day: Meneo, “Larele”

Meneo

Yes, it’s another bold leap forward in blog innovation here at TWBITW. After doing our #WTFoftheDay and later #WeirdoftheDay posts on Facebook and Twitter for nearly two years, we finally decided to cut the social media cord and move that shit over to this here lil’ ol’ WordPress site. Finally, we can just call it “Weird of the Day” without that stupid fucking hashtag! (I mean, we could’ve done that all along, but when you’re limited to 140 characters, you conserve space any way you can.)

We couldn’t make just any song and/or video our first Weird of the Day blog post, so thank pixelated 8-bit Jesus that a reader named Angus came to our rescue. Angus introduced us to a gentleman from Barcelona named Meneo who makes what he calls “electrotropical” and his label calls “Gameboy reggaeton” and we call “music that makes us twerk uncontrollably while sangria spurts out our noses.” And no, we haven’t even been drinking sangria.

For more Meneo, hit up his SoundCloud page.

Sunday Shout-Out: Dangerous Minds

[Some Sundays, we give a little hype to a fellow blog, website or other source for all things related to weird music and the people who love it. Check the tag "Sunday Shout-Out" for other recommendations.]

Richard Metzger, Dangerous Minds

When our little blog grows up one day, we hope it bears more than a passing resemblance to Dangerous Minds, the website/online talk show created by Richard Metzger. It’s a veritable treasure trove of subversive, unconventional and downright freaky bits of cultural detritus from across the ages and around the globe, all presented with a level of intelligence and wit that most other blogs (ours included, quite frankly) rarely achieve.

Metzger got his start as the co-founder of The Disinformation Company, or Disinfo, creators of the popular You Are Being Lied To and Everything You Know Is Wrong books, along with the controversial U.K. television show Disinformation, which Metzger hosted. With Disinfo, Metzger made a career out of exploring underground and sometimes dangerous subcultures like Satanism, as well as interviewing leftfield artists and thinkers like Douglas Rushkoff and Throbbing Gristle‘s Genesis P-Orridge. He’s still doing that with Dangerous Minds, but in a more thoughtful, less sensationalized way.

Dangerous Minds covers dozens of topics, not just music; it’s also a great place to learn about, say, fashions of the future as imagined in 1893, or a long-lost cable access show that hosted the likes of R. Crumb and Tiny Tim. But without its rich source material, many entries on this here blog would not have been half as interesting. Where else would we have found a track-by-track analysis of Nina Hagen’s Nunsexmonkrock? Or read a detailed first-person account of the 1989 Butthole Surfers show that took place inside an old porn theater? Or been reminded that Jermaine Jackson once collaborated with DEVO?

So we doff our Energy Domes to you, Mr. Metzger! For nearly 20 years, you’ve made the Internet a much weirder place, and we are all the better for it.

Weird Interview: Laki Lan

Laki Lan

After they topped our Weird 100 chart last month, we were determined to learn more about bug-themed Polish funksters Łąki Łan. But English-language info about the band is scarce. So we reached out to them directly. Here’s what they had to say for themselves via email in their (probably) first-ever English interview. (We’ve edited their answers a bit for clarity and coherence, but not too much—we didn’t want to lose that English-is-not-their-first-language flavor entirely.)

P.S. All questions answered by Laki Lan’s guitarist, Bonk.

Weirdest Band: You call your music “meadow funk.” What’s meadow funk?

Łąki Łan: “Meadow Funk” is a title of one of our songs (“Łąki Funk”). So we used it to call our music. We call it techno twist or techno live funk as well. Many kinds of music are intermingled: you have funk section, rock ‘n’ roll guitar, techno keys. We didn’t want to be a typical funk band or rock ‘n’ roll band. Nobody want to be a pigeonhole.

WB: How did you all first meet and come to play music together?

LL: In about 1999 there was a group of people who got a great passion. They visited [abandoned] buildings, industrial zone and many interesting places. We made a bonfire , smoking joints and had a good time. We had many very cool places in this time in Warsaw. Old communism factory…a huge factory about two or three kilometers from the center of Warsaw! Paprodziad was a spirius movens [spiritual leader] of this informal group.

WB: What’s Paprodziad’s story? Most of you seem to be insects but he seems more like some kind of mad wizard.

LL: He wasn’t a typical vocalist to begin with. He was a kind of showman or performer, a theatrical person on the stage, something like a mad wizard indeed. He did a lot of performances like changing brains to clump of grass. He was singing a few lines in a few songs, but we played almost only improvisation in those days. Some riffs, but it was open form on one chord on most of them. It was cool, but it was sometimes working and sometimes not, so we felt we needed [more structure] to get our show up. Paprodziad always was a writer, and he started to sing own stuff and we started making songs.

WB: Are your influences mostly other Polish bands? Or bands from other places, too?

LL: I think only bands from other places. We listened to funk ’70s stuff, James Brown and George Clinton of course, and RHCP [Red Hot Chili Peppers], Frank Zappa, all new stuff like Chemical Brothers or Groove Armada, techno music and house music, we loved it. And rock ‘n’ roll ’60s , all acid jazz, Jamiroquai, Snoop and all hip-hop stuff, Beastie Boys and AC/DC and Guns N’ Roses, Metallica, Slayer, and also Burt Bacharach or Elvis. And Bob Marley of course. And Prince.

But when we saw George Clinton it opened our eyes! We said yeahh, we can do it in the same style. Let’s dress up. Let’s make our own world. We tried a little bit to be an ambassador of funk in Warsaw because nobody playing this at that time. DJs played that but not a live band. In the late ’90s we have got only rock bands and old communism stars and awful pop stars. But most of them were really shit. It wasn’t our music, young people music. Only hip-hop and rap was interesting at that time.

We tried to be different and fresh like music we listened to, Chemical Brothers or Fatboy Slim. We always wanted to play techno as live band. Techno is some kind of jazz, you’ve got a groove full of places to improvise. We tried this on a really big techno party for thousands of people! We tried to play like Prodigy or Chemical Bros.

WB: What’s the music scene like in Poland these days? Are there many other bands playing your style of music?

LL: We are a village country so most popular artists are playing disco polo. It is our traditional [songs] but played on the Casio. Something like Balkan turbo disco. It is wedding music, too. But it doesn’t matter. There are a lot of bands playing good music, more and more. And more and more hip-hop artists using live bands so we have got more funk characters in Poland. We have got many reggae bands as well. They are very popular. I think people in Poland have a great feeling of black music like reggae or funk. It’s huge but still underground. It isn’t mainstream, but it could be in YouTube times. Times they are a-changing nonstop. It is good for us. But I haven’t seen any bands playing our style.

WB: Do you ever tour much outside Poland? Where is the farthest away from home you’ve ever played a show?

LL: We working on that. We were in Georgia farthest. We’re still waiting to show in New Zealand and Alaska.

WB: Some of your lyrics are in English. Do a lot of Polish bands sing in English?

LL: Not many but much more than ten years ago. I think people prefer Polish language because they could understand what’s going on, a heart feeling. This is poetry at the end. But much more people using English. Language is kind of instrument as well, so if you play funk or rock ‘n’ roll for example, when you using English it sounds good. If you play flamenco you [use] Spanish language rather German. It’s not a rule, but it is easy to make an odd thing doing this way. And believe me, when you get English texts and sing them in Polish it is a big comedy. Polish language is a very different, it is another context.

WB: To an English speaker, “Łąki Łan” sounds a bit like “Wonky One,” which means something like “Weirdo.” Was this intentional?

LL: It is a play on words. Paprodziad was writing a lot of stuff and he tried to use a Polish words to get English sound. We’ve listened only to western music almost (western meaning west from us) and English language is part of those [songs] like guitar sound is part of rock ‘n’ roll . So he [put together] Polish words in special way and everybody thought he sing in English. We love that because we were different and sound western but we used still Polish words. Łąki Łan is two words of one line of text, we said, “o yeahh!” It sounds great. It sounds like the name of the band. Many people in Poland still asking us what does it mean.

WB: Your live shows look like fun. Do a lot of your fans dress up in their own Łąki Łan costumes?

LL: There are much more! It is amazing! Thanks, everybody! When I see people dress up like me it is so huge a power and happy. They dress up like me, wow, and I only play music! This is nice.

WB: What are you working on these days? Will there be new Łąki Łan music coming soon?

LL: We are working nonstop because we love it. We have got new stuff so I hope it will be coming soon.

WB: Do you consider yourselves weird?

LL: I don’t know. It is hard to consider this from inside. It is normal for us. We are people like others. We know much  more weird people, everybody knows, but they are not famous usually. Really weird people for us are still normal when you know each other.

But there is one kind of weird people for me.

They believe in money.

Kirin J. Callinan

For some performers, the weird is not something they rinse off after the show. Their weirdness runs soul-deep. Such a performer is this week’s artiste, Australia’s Kirin J. Callinan.

We first discovered Callinan through the Beggars Group, probably the closest thing us weirdos have to a major label. Among the Beggars Group’s many imprints is a newish label called Terrible Records, which also recently became home to rap provocateur and Weird List inductee Le1f. Who’da thunk our new favorite label would be co-founded by one of the guys from Grizzly Bear?

Anyway, Beggars sent out a press release a couple months back announcing Callinan as the opening act for fellow antipodean eccentric Connan Mockasin on an upcoming U.S. tour (dates below). So right away, we were intrigued. Then we read this, about a video he just shot in New York for YoursTru.ly:  “Never one to bore, the video features Kirin getting  interviewed whilst being massaged (a non-negotiable requirement of his interview policy).” So now we were really intrigued. Non-negotiable massages? Who is this guy?

Sure enough, in the YoursTru.ly video, there’s Callinan, getting worked over on a massage table as he talks about his childhood (“My parents would offer me two dollars for any report that didn’t say ‘easily distracted’; I don’t think they ever gave me any money”). Then he goes into an awkward yet oddly compelling solo piano performance of a song called “Victoria M.” Before you watch the YoursTru.ly video, I recommend starting with the original:

That’s the campiest of Callinan’s videos, but it’s far from the weirdest. That honor probably goes to “Way to War,” a flickering, mostly black-and-white video in which a series of disturbing tableaux appear to be seen through a broken View-Master. It won something called the J Award in Australia for Best Music Video in 2012.

As you can probably tell from those two tracks, Callinan’s style is pretty eclectic. But they really only hint at the range of his 2013 debut album, Embracism. Over the course of 10 tracks, he tackles everything from minimalist electronic noise to stately, Leonard Cohen-esque hymns to turgid, quasi-industrial freakouts like the amazing “Come On USA,” which somehow manages to name-check Springsteen while still sounding like Ministry. Vocally, his rubbery baritone owes a lot to avant-garde singer-songwriter Scott Walker; in an interview with V Magazine, he admitted that it wasn’t until he heard Walker that became confident in his own singing abilities. “It’s over the top and ridiculous,” he says of his own singing. But hearing Walker, he told V, “validated, in a sense, that vision I had of my own voice. I wasn’t ready for anyone to hear it before.”

Callinan’s music is so compelling he almost doesn’t need a backstory, but we’ll give you a brief one anyway: He got his start as the guitarist in a surprisingly conventional post-punk band called Mercy Arms, but quit over creative differences with the band’s singer. He briefly did improvisational tribal/ambient rock with a loose collective of musicians called Fashion Launches Rocket Launches, but apparently the collective was too loose to stay together long. In the same interview with V Magazine, he says his solo career started after the end of a long relationship, which might explain the raw-nerve quality of his music.

Most descriptions of Callinan’s live shows seem to focus on how he likes to get naked, or at least strip down to his skivvies. But based on the few good clips we’ve been able to find online, these descriptions seem to overstate Callinan’s nudist tendencies. Yes, there’s something overtly sexual about Callinan’s music and stage presence, but there’s also a lot of humor, goofy charm and a genuinely innocent quality, too. He might just be taking his clothes off because it gets hot up there. Or he wants to feel free. Anyone who finds his bare skin either confrontational or vulnerable might be projecting a bit.

We’ll leave you with Callinan’s most recent video, for one of Embracism‘s loveliest songs, “Landslide.” It’s actually an incredibly simple setup, but the effect, combined with Kirin’s aching baritone, is pretty disconcerting, no?

Kirin J. Callinan’s U.S. tour dates (all with Connan Mockasin):

4/28 Washington, DC – Rock and Roll Hotel
4/29 Philadelphia, PA – Boot & Saddle
4/30 Boston, MA – Brighton Music Hall
5/1 New York, NY – Bowery Ballroom
5/2 Brooklyn, NY – Music Hall Of Williamsburg
5/4 Montreal, QUE – Cabaret Mile End
5/5 Toronto, ONT – Lee’s Palace
5/7 Chicago, IL – Empty Bottle
5/11 Seattle, WA – Barboza
5/12 Vancouver, BC – Electric Owl
5/13 Portland, OR – Doug Fir Lounge
5/15 San Francisco, CA – Independent
5/16 Los Angeles, CA – Echoplex

Links:

We interrupt this blog for an important message regarding Facebook

Facebook-DislikeDearest Readers,

Those of you who follow us chattering classes and our continued hand-wringing over technology might have noticed a lot of us bitching lately about Facebook. You might have heard us chatterers throwing around terms like “organic reach” and “filtered feeds” and “social media extortion.” I just wrote a very long post explaining all this shit, but then I decided to delete it because none of it is really all that interesting. If you want all the gory details, read this. Or better yet, watch this video.

Bottom line, here’s what’s happening: If you’ve “Liked” our Facebook page, you now have only about a 7% chance of seeing any of our Facebook posts.  This is because Facebook has decided that content from pages you’ve liked is somehow less relevant or “spammier” than posts from your friends.

So if you like our posts and want to keep seeing them, there are a couple of things you can do:

1. Follow us on something other than Facebook. Options here include:

  • Our RSS feed (old-school, but reliable)
  • The “Follow” feature on WordPress (only works if you have a WordPress account…but it only takes about two seconds to create one)
  • Twitter (for now, this is the only other way to get our awesome #WeirdoftheDay posts…but thanks to Facebook’s nefarious ways, we’re considering posting them on the blog, as well, where more folks can actually see them)

2. Like or, better yet, share our Facebook posts. You might have to hit our page directly to see our posts in the first place, but the more “Likes” and “Shares” they get, the more they’ll actually start to appear in our other readers’ news feeds.

We will, of course, continue to strive to bring you content that’s actually worth liking and sharing and whatnot. If we start sucking, we deserve to have our posts buried. Who knows, maybe that’s what’s already been happening. But I don’t think so. I just think Facebook is being a dick.

As always, Jake and I humbly thank you for reading. More weirdness coming your way very soon.

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