Author Archives: jakemanson

Weird Band of the Week: Tartar Control

Tartar Control

This and header photo by Patty Courtland

This week’s weird band was a tough call. You see, Los Angeles is home to not one, but two punk bands that dress up like Mormon missionaries. The Mormons did it first, forming back in 1998, and they take the extra step of wearing bicycle helmets to really complete the standard Mormon missionary look. Tartar Control came along much more recently, so normally, we’d give the nod to The Mormons. But Tartar Control has a robot, and when calculating any band’s weirdness quotient, robots beat originality every time. Plus, Tartar Control’s music videos rule.

So congrats, Tartar Control! You are officially the weirdest Mormon punk band not only here in L.A., but possibly anywhere in the world. Joseph Smith would be proud.

Tartar Control’s two human members, Sean and Robert, claim to be actual Mormons from Salt Lake City, who were sent to do their church mission in South Central Los Angeles. When and how they acquired their bassist/drummer robot, Robot, remains something of a mystery, unless you know how to read binary code.

Sean and Robert started out singing in the church choir, but somewhere along the way, they developed a taste for punk rock. They first caught our attention with the video for “Diabolical,” which is a delightful 83 seconds of gore, mayhem and goat-fucking:

Then we found the video for “Jesus Is Love,” which shows the band wreaking havoc in their native habitat, Anaheim punk club the Doll Hut:

Those songs are both from Tartar Control’s first album, 2012’s Holy Crap, as is their most recent video, “Smoking Crack,” which came out last year. We assume, since they’re Mormons and all, that “Smoking Crack” is a cautionary tale. Normally, I’m sure Robert, Sean and Robot all Just Say No.

Late last year, Tartar Control released their second album, We Forgive You. So far they haven’t made any videos for it, but they did release this fun little album teaser:

We haven’t had a chance to listen to all of We Forgive You yet, but so far, our favorite track by far is “My God’s Cock.” I didn’t know Mormons were so into talking about the magical powers of the Good Lord’s schlong, but they do wear magical underwear, so I guess crotch-related magic is a theme with them.

We’ll leave you with one of Tartar Control’s many helpful public service announcement songs (along with “Cramps Don’t Mean You’re Pregnant” and “Satanists Are Fucking Dicks”): “Brush Your Teeth.” Cleanliness is next to Godliness, kids, so brushing your teeth is like putting a little Jesus in your mouth.

Links:

Reynols

Reynols

To our South American readers: ¡Hola! How’s it hanging? Except for Brazil, we’ve kinda ignored you guys, and for that, we are sorry. You have your fair share of weirdos, too…starting with Argentina’s Reynols.

Reynols was started in 1993 by a drummer with Down syndrome named Miguel Tomasin and his two music teachers, Alan Courtis and Roberto Conlazo. They also had a fourth member named Christian Dergarabedian early on, and at some point Roberto’s brother Patricio got involved, so most photos and videos of the band show four members. According to Courtis and Conlazo, Tomasin introduced himself to them by saying, “Hello, I’m the world’s most famous drummer.” And the rest, as they say, is history.

Inspired by Tomasin’s unique way of looking at the world, Reynols make music that most people probably wouldn’t consider music. Their first album, Hydrogenated Vegetable Fat (Gordura vegetal Hidrogenada), was a “dematerialized CD,” which is another way of saying that it was sold as an empty CD case with nothing in it. Because it doesn’t exist, Courtis and Conlazo explain, it’s everywhere. “Everybody has that record, even people who haven’t been born yet,” Courtis told one interviewer. “Napoleon has that record, Plato has the record, Jim Morrison has the record.”

They’ve also released Chickens Symphony for 10,000, a field recording done inside a chicken coop, and Blank Tapes, an album consisting entirely of tape hiss, from tapes the band claims they collected from all over the world. “The cheap tapes sound better than the expensive ones,” says Conlazo. “TTK tapes from Singapore. Maxwell tapes (not Maxell!) from Taiwan. The idea was to use all the possibilities, a lot of different frequencies.”

They’ve also made “music” based on the sound of banging things against the Eiffel Tower and gravestones of famous people. “They’re all very different. For example the Oscar Wilde statue sounds incredible. We played it with roses. We use different things to play each grave.”

When they make music in a more conventional band configuration, it’s still pretty weird, especially because Tomasin does all the vocals, wailing in a made-up language about a parallel universe called Minecxio. His bandmates accompany him with detuned guitars, effects pedals, feedback and the occasion ram’s horn. It’s trippy and noisy. But mostly noisy.

Weird though they may be, Reynols was a pretty successful cult band for about a decade, releasing a ton of records on labels from all over the world. They toured the U.S and Europe at least once, although Tomasin couldn’t travel with them to Europe for reasons that are unclear, so they brought along a big yellow poster of his face instead.

Oh, and they were also once nearly arrested for a street performance in which they played guitars plugged into pumpkins. Pumpkins don’t actually make very good amps, so the guitars didn’t make much noise, but apparently the authorities felt that the performance was “setting a bad example for the tourists.”

In 2004, Reynols announced they were breaking up. Since then, Alan Courtis has released tons more experimental music on his own, while Miguel Tomasin and Rob Conlazo have continued to work together occasionally, but seem to be much less active. Someone made a documentary about them in 2004 called Buscando a Reynols, but as far as we can tell, that was pretty much the last time anyone’s done anything to document the group or its members.

We’ll leave you with a live recording of Reynols in Chicago from 2001, which someone was kind enough to upload so posterity could hear how completely batshit these guys were. If anyone knows more about the Reynols story post-2004, let us know and we’ll update this post. Oh, and many thanks to reader MrAgalloch, who suggested we take the plunge down the Reynols rabbit hole.

Links:

  • Reynols interview from Paris Transatlantic, March 2003
  • Reynols interview from Furious.com, updated Jan. 2004 with announcement that “Reynols’ life-cycle has come to its natural end”

Nozinja

Nozinja

We’re back! Sorry we’ve been away for so long. It’s coming up on six years since we’ve been doing this blog and I’m not gonna lie to you: There was awhile there when we were both seriously considering calling it quits. I mean, how many more weird bands can there really be out there? A shit-ton, I’m sure, but we’ve officially reached the point where 99.9% of the emails and comments we get are for shit that’s fucking awful and/or not that weird. So separating the cream from the curdle has actually gotten more difficult as our audience has grown. I know, I know…boo-fucking-hoo, right? At least our audience has grown, so we must be doing something right. Right?

Anyway, starting this week, I solemnly swear that I will post a new weird band every week again, just like the good old days. Andy will pitch in too, sometimes, but he’s got a fancy new job that pays him to go hang out at Coachella and shit, so he won’t be around as much. But your old Uncle Jake here is gonna start driving this blog like a stolen Ferrari again…at least on the weekends.

So to get us back in the swing of things, I figured some good party music was in order. So allow me to present to you Nozinja, inventor of a whole new genre of music called Shangaan electro that is like dance music for hummingbirds. Seriously, I’m winded just listening to this stuff.

Nozinja, whose real name is Richard Mthetwa, is from a part of South Africa called Limpopo, which is a long-ass way from Cape Town, home base of our other favorite South African oddballs, Die Antwoord. Limpopo is in the far northeast of South Africa, next to Botswana and Zimbabwe, and it’s mostly rural and dirt-poor. Among the many native peoples living there is a group called the Shangaans, who are known for the xibelani dance, an insanely fast dance that kind of looks like a cross between a hula dance and twerking. Shangaan electro, pioneered by Nozinja and other local musicians, basically took the rhythms of the xibelani dance, sped them up even more, and replaced traditional drums and other instruments with lo-fi synths and drum machines. And presto! A crazy new dance music genre was born.

Shangaan electro is so great, it probably would’ve gone worldwide eventually. But Nozinja sure helped jump-start that process. Using the money he’d earned from running a chain of cell phone repair shops, the budding Dr. Dre of Limpopo went all-in on a home recording studio and began cranking this stuff out. He even made a few goofy, low-budget videos that are all the more awesome because, against all the screen-saver graphics and random shots of backup singers dancing in what we assume is his front yard, Nozinja’s still sporting his cell phone repair shop owner wardrobe. He looks like he wandered in from a Ross Dress for Less ad, but he’s still got more swag that a thousand shitty gangsta rappers.

Such brilliance couldn’t remain undiscovered for long…and sure enough, Nozinja signed to Warped fuckin’ Records in 2014. Yes, that Warp Records, home to Flying Lotus and Aphex Twin. Not surprisingly, in his first video for Warp, “Tsekeleke,” he’s sporting a much more stylin’ wardrobe.

Nozinja’s debut full-length album, Nozinja Lodge, comes out on Warp on June 2nd. We cannot fucking wait. We’re gonna strap on our xibelani skirts and dance to that shit like hummingbirds.

Links:

Donny Varper is a “Material Boy”

Donny Varper

Nicaragua’s leading gay alien Madonna impersonator Donny Varper is back and bringing the crazy in a new video we can’t stop watching. “Material Boy” starts with Donny wandering the desert in harem girl drag and ends with him crucified on what appears to be the rhinestone-encrusted dollar sign from a D-list rapper’s chain. Also, there’s something on his crotch we can’t quite identify—although not being able to identify things in the crotchular area on Donny Varper is kind of a given. Basically, it’s what we were hoping the Madonna Grammy performance would be like, instead of whatever that vogue-ing matador bullshit was she laid on us instead. At least at the BRIT Awards, they got to watch her eat it.

The video can’t be embedded. Why, Donny, why?! Don’t fear the embed. But fine, you can watch the goddamn thing on YouTube.

Donny keeps promising to answer some of our questions…and oh yes, we have questions…in a video interview, if we can just get our shit together and send him some damn questions. It’ll happen eventually, we promise.

Army of Gay Unicorns wants you to start 2015 “Concussed and Terrified”

Army of Gay Unicorns

Since the traditional way to start a New Year, at least around my house, is with lost keys and a raging hangover, I figured we should start off 2015 here at Weird Band HQ with a track that evokes Jan. 1st in all its skull-splitting glory. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the aptly named “Concussed and Terrified,” the latest cold shower of noise from our old pal Richard, aka Army of Gay Unicorns. If you by some miracle do NOT already have a hangover, crank this one up and it’s the next worst thing.

Happy New Year, weirdos!

Andy posted his 10 favorite weird videos of 2014 on his day job’s site. Don’t tell his bosses.

ZebraKatz2

Zebra Katz: he made a pretty weird video this year

Hey, so remember how we took that looooong break a couple months back? Well, contrary to Internet rumor, it wasn’t just because we went off our meds. (That was just me.) The main reason it happened was because my partner Andy got himself a fancy-pants new job as the music editor for LA Weekly. They still come out once a week in newsprint form, which seems kinda last century to me, but everyone I talk to assures me it’s still a pretty big deal. So yeah, you should all congratulate him and shit.

Anyway, this means Andy now gets to sneak some weird content onto the LA Weekly website from time to time. He was freelancing for them before, so he’s already gotten some weirdness on there, but now that he’s a shot caller it may become a regular thing. Our devious scheme to spread weird music to the masses is coming to fruition!

So here’s the first weird train pulling out of the LA Weekly station on Andy’s watch: a recap of 10 of our favorite weird videos from the past year. Yeah, Andy threw “Turn Down for What” in there, but the rest of it’s pretty out there for a website that still puts itself into newsprint form once a week.

Andy’s still trying to impress his bosses, so be sure to check out the full list on LAWeekly.com so they gets lots of page views and shit. Maybe you could even leave a comment or tweet it or post a selfie of you jerking off to it on Snapchat or whatever you damn kids do these days. Basically, just spread the word, K?

BiS Kaidan

BiS Kaidan

Ever since we added Babymetal and their J-pop-meets-death-metal steez to the Weird List earlier this year, a bunch of you have written in to point out that actually, Babymetal aren’t even the most extreme example of adorable headbanging Japan has to offer. For truly insane idol-meets-noise Japanese weirdness, we have to go to a short-lived project called BiS Kaidan.

BiS Kaidan was a collaboration between an idol J-pop girl group called BiS (short for “Brand-new Idol Society”) and the veteran noise band Hijōkaidan, who have been churning abrasive noise collages like this one since the late ’70s, occasionally accompanied live by smashing up equipment, pissing onstage and throwing garbage at the audience. (Japanese noise bands, in case you’re not familiar, do not fuck around. The Gerogerigegege used to jerk off onstage and eat each other’s shit, and an early version of the Boredoms called Hanatarash, during one show, once took out the back wall of the theater with a backhoe.) BiS already had a bit a bad-girl rep for mixing hard-rock guitars into their music and making music videos like this one:

So it was a match made in heaven. Or hell, depending on your tolerance level for listening to the dog-whistle shrieks of Japanese girls over guitar feedback and caffeinated punk-pop.

BiS Kaidan were only active for about two years, from late 2012 until this past May. Shortly after they disbanded, BiS broke up, as well, in a move that’s pretty typical of idol groups, I guess, since hardly any of them stay together once the members exit their teens. Wish somebody would tell American and British teeny-bopper groups about this tradition. I saw Take That on The Graham Norton Show the other night and those guys are definitely way past their expiration date.

During their brief run, BiS Kaidan played a few shows that, based on the YouTube videos we’ve seen, look like a cross between a GWAR concert and a pillow fight at a Japanese girls’ boarding school. Aborable and horrifying. Adorifying!

While the BiS ladies were wreaking havoc with Hijōkaidan, they were continuing to produce their own, increasingly out-there music and videos. We’ll leave you with “STUPiG,” which is like some kind of cyber-horror cross between Dir En Grey and Lady Gaga set to the most headache-inducing hardstyle EDM you’ve ever heard blasting from a Honda Civic with a street racing spoiler. Not even Miley Cyrus went this scorched-earth on her cutesy teen-pop roots.

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Winny Puhh are back and just as batshit as ever

Winny Puhh

Thank god for you folks out there in Readerland. If it wasn’t for you, we’d never get caught up on all the weird music we missed during our last hiatus. Topping the list of shit we slept on: a new album from Estonian spazz-punks Winny Puhh, who released their latest album Kes küsib? (Who Asks?) on Sept. 28. Big ups to reader Jimmy Miller for dropping that knowledge bomb into the spider hole we’ve been hiding in these past few months.

We’ve only been able to find two tracks from Kes küsib? online, but they’re pretty insane even by Winny Puhh’s unhinged, hanging-from-the-ceiling standards. Let’s give them a listen, shall we?

That was pretty great, but this next track ups the ante with some throat singing while also managing to be kinda catchy.

Apparently, Kes küsib? was the number one album in Estonia at one point. Which officially makes Estonia the coolest country on the planet. Sorry, Japan. You had a good run.

There doesn’t seem to be any way for us Americans to legally purchase Kes küsib?, unless you trust your Google translator and/or limited grasp of Estonian to guide you through this site, which appears to be selling legit copies of it for 13 Euros. [Update: One observant reader pointed out to us that the site has an English translation button. So Estonian fluency not required after all.] It’s also on a shit-ton of Russian torrent sites, but we’re not gonna link to those ’cause they’re shady. If you really want a Russian black market MP3 copy of Kes küsib?, we’re sure you have what it takes to figure it out.

Mac Sabbath

Mac Sabbath

Every once in awhile, a new weird band comes along with a concept that is so completely fucking brilliant, you can’t believe no one else thought of it sooner. That was the reaction we first had when a friend of ours here in L.A. invited us to see a McDonald’s-themed Black Sabbath cover band called…wait for it…Mac Sabbath! Genius, right?

It was so genius that we were sure they must suck…no idea could be that clever and well-executed. Turns out we needn’t have worried. You’re in good, puffy clown hands with Mac Sabbath…those hands belonging to one Mike Odd, the same twisted visionary behind another of our favorite weird local bands, Rosemary’s Billygoat. (Officially, Mike Odd is just Mac Sabbath’s manager. But let’s just say that must be Mike’s brother under the “Ronald Osbourne” makeup, because the resemblance is uncanny.)

We were apparently fortunate enough, by pure dumb luck, to attend Mac Sabbath’s first-ever live performance (blurry photographic evidence below) back in July and it was fucking amazing. Hamburglar came out first, tossing hamburgers at the audience as he took his place behind the drum kit. Then came the guitar player, Mayor Slayer McCheese, horns protruding from his cheeseburger mouth like he just ate a whole steer. Then came Grimace, and of COURSE Grimace plays the fucking bass. Most bass players have a little Grimace in them. If you painted my high school garage band’s bass player purple, he’d basically be Grimace with slightly more hair.

Ronald Mc…sorry, Osbourne, came out sporting red and yellow fringed sleeves and took up position behind a mic stand shaped like a giant milkshake straw. The band launched into “Sweet Beef” and the rewritten Sabbath songs just got more ridiculous from there: “Frying Pan” instead of “Iron Man,” “Pair-a-buns” instead of “Paranoid,” you get the idea. I’m pretty sure “Rat Salad” is still just “Rat Salad,” though.

The highlight came when Ronald reached into his takeout bag, pulled out a hamburger with bat wings, and took a massive bite out of it. Or maybe the highlight was when he started using a giant straw to sneak slurps of audience members’ drinks. Or maybe the highlight was just watching Grimace play the bass. Seriously, I could not get over that part.

I’ll leave you with a live video of the band performing “Frying Pan,” complete with subtitles so you can appreciate the full hilarity of what Mike Odd and company have aptly dubbed “Drive Thru Metal.” Supersize me, Mac Sabbath!

Oh and here’s our bragging-rights photo of their very first performance:

Mac Sabbath at Bergamot Station

Links:

Space Alien Donald

Space Alien Donald

One of the weirdest music and art venues in the world is in, of all places, Phoenix, Arizona. There, the self-described “world’s oldest gay Canadian rapper,” Space Alien Donald, does shows and hosts art exhibits in a little house near the airport called Funny World. We hope to visit soon, because it sounds like the kind of place that The Man could shut down at any moment. Especially in a place like Arizona, where anyone suspected of being an alien is just one broken taillight away from getting deported.

Actually, when Space Alien Donald bought Funny World in 2011, he was apparently told by the city that it would be torn down in six months to make way for a parking lot. But three years later, it’s still there. Even in Arizona, the weirdos are winning.

How did a 70-something gay Canadian rapper wind up hosting semi-legal punk shows in his house in Phoenix? We’re a little hazy on the specifics, but according to this article in something called the Downtown Devil, the man born Donald Roth moved to the U.S. from Ontario in the ’60s to work in electronics. After working in Silicon Valley, where he faked his school records to get jobs, he eventually settled in Prescott, a small city north of Phoenix, where he began developing his sci-fi inspired alter ego, Space Alien Donald.

Donald calls himself a rapper, but that’s not quite accurate. He really just kind of sing-speaks lyrics about science, astronomy, aliens and one of his favorite topics, a hypothetical particle called the tachyon that, like many things in Space Alien Donald songs, may be legit science or may be a bunch of pseudo-scientific hooey. He does this over synth backing tracks that sometimes are just the preset beats and chord progressions built into cheap electronic keyboards. So basically, he’s like nerdcore meets Mission Man meets a less schizophrenic Wesley Willis. Only older and more Canadian.

Donald just released his latest album, Must Be Funny, on Related Records. It’s got songs about how aliens built the moon and it has penises on the cover and it’s awesome. You can stream the whole thing over on Bandcamp and buy it for five bucks if you’re awesome, too. Here’s one of our favorite tracks:

To get more of the full Space Alien Donald story, this documentary, made by one of the residents of Funny World (yeah, people live there, too), tells you all you need to know:

Big thanks to Kai of Toxic Chicken for introducing us to Space Alien Donald’s weirdness.

Links:

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