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.
The sixth video from Petunia-Liebling MacPumpkin‘s Residents-channeling opus Fish Drive Edsels is a pretty literal interpretation of the song “House Plants.” Fortunately, MacPumpkin’s lyrics are so random that even a literal interpretation leads to some bizarre imagery.
There are plants with eyeballs for fruit and hungry, gaping mouths. (Feed me, Seymour!) There’s an angry frozen octopus and lots of hourglasses, because the song mentions something about “undermation of the hourglass,” whatever that means. Above all, there’s lots of Petunia singing into a megaphone and hanging out in her attic with her house plants, whom she tries to wake up, but never too soon—never too soon.
MacPumpkin is working her way through Fish Drive Edsels one track at a time, creating surreal videos for each of her cracked-calliope tunes. Next up is a song called “Autumn Leaves”—hey, just in time for autumn! I predict this one will feature lots of dead leaves and maybe a jack-o-lantern or two.
When our friend Richard There played a few shows in the U.K. two years ago, one of the performers he was on the bill with was a British singer/songwriter named John Callaghan. I guess he turned John onto our website, because yesterday John wrote to us and shared a few of his delightfully eccentric videos, including his latest one, which we’ve embedded below.
“I’ve been described as ‘weird’ quite a bit,” Callaghan says in his email. “I certainly don’t take being weird as my starting point. I’ve always simply tried to be interesting and good because ‘being good is different enough.’” He calls his stuff “eccentronica,” which is our new favorite made-up word.
Callaghan’s songs, while certainly offbeat, also have an appealing retro-pop quality to them; in different arrangements, they could be Thomas Dolby or ’80s-era Bowie. And his videos are often quite ingenious. Here’s the backstory for how he created this one:
Whenever I’m in a large, empty and private space I always think I should record a music video. And I’ve been trying to overcome my inertia by producing more material, too. So when I had an art college studio to myself for an hour (after posing for a life drawing class) I used the costumes I’d brought to pose in and my tablet to record some footage to toy with.
To learn more about John Callaghan and hear more of his music, visit his website.
It’s been a couple of years since we last got an update from the Land of There and its prince, jester and alderman, Richard There. And in that time, we’ve missed his sparse, haunting, occasionally psychotic bedroom folk songs. He was our first-ever Weird Band Poll™ winner, so he’ll always have a special place in our hearts.
So imagine our delight when Richard emailed us an update in the wee hours this morning. “I´m releasing my new album,” he wrote. “It’s the first time I release something on vinyl and I´m very happy with it. I´m doing it as always without any label and all by myself.”
The album is called Less Is Less and you can pre-order a vinyl copy right now from Richard’s website. You can also watch the first video from the record, for a track called “Axolotl,” but only on one condition: That you turn your monitor sideways before you hit “Play.” Trust us, it’s worth it.
See? Pretty cool, right? The song itself isn’t as weird as Richard’s earlier stuff, but it’s really beautiful. We look forward to hearing the rest of it, even if we have to turn the speakers sideways first.
For “Frozen Fish,” the fifth video from her magnum opus, Fish Drive Edsels, Petunia-Liebling MacPumpkin enlisted a famous friend for help: Bill Mumy, aka Art Barnes, one-half of legendary comic rock duo Barnes & Barnes. According to our sources at Petunia’s label, Electric Phantom, the video is a dramatic reenactment of how she and Mumy actually met, when she sent him fan mail wrapped around an actual dead frozen fish in tribute to Barnes & Barnes’ most famous song, “Fish Heads.” While we cannot confirm how much of the story is actually true, it certainly makes for an entertaining video—although we’re glad we’re not watching it in Smell-O-Vision.
Art Barnes isn’t the video’s only cameo: Evil sock puppet Werman, who first appeared in Petunia’s video for “Aquatic Plumbing,” also drops by, as does the (as far as we know) nameless apparition that looks like a hand covered with eyeballs from “Lonely Lady,” which has picked up some mad keyboard skills since we saw it last. At this rate, Petunia-Liebling MacPumpkin’s videos are going to rival Pee-wee’s Playhouse when it comes to weird recurring characters.
For those of you keeping score at home: Petunia’s next video should be for the Fish Drive Edsels track “House Plants.” Here’s a taste.
(Guest post by Kai Nobuko)
Harry Merry is a living underground legend from the Dutch harbor city of Rotterdam. Dressed up in a sailor’s tunic and styled with an iconic haircut, he is out there to flabbergast with his unique brand of entertainment. His favorite keyboard is subjected to his own wild arrangements, full of odd chord changes and a tone scale of its own. Add Harry Merry’s unique, heavily accented voice and your ears will witness a match made in weirdo heaven.
Harry Merry has released a couple of LPs and a free downloadable 7″ single, “Village Life in 1905.” Coming from his Well… Here’s Another Nice Mess You’ve Got Me Into album is one of his more popular songs that attempts to stay in your head. The promotional video clip for it has been around on the Internet for quite a while, but in case you missed it (or lost a few brain cells and erased it by accident): Here is Harry Merry’s music video for “Stevie Storm.”
For more Harry Merry, visit his website.
Why does the Internet genius called TomCattt have
three four “T”‘s in his name? Because he’s a fucking stud, that’s why. He’s in his fifties (I’m guessing) and still rocks a mullet. He’s karate-kicking a keyboard in half on his website. He dances with not one, but TWO hot chicks in his videos, because one day-hire dancer is not enough to slake his unquenchable thirst for dancing with hot chicks. He’s basically the Chuck Norris of midlife-crisis DIY pop musicians. He even looks plausible in a black cowboy hat.
Our thanks to reader and Weird List inductee Army of Gay Unicorns for sharing with us the glory that is TomCattt and this song, “Yes Love,” that will now slowly eat away my brain from the inside. At least I’ll die laughing.
P.S. The album that this song comes from is called Hiiyaaaaaaaaaaa!, which I assume is supposed to be said like you’re just about to karate-kick a keyboard in half. The alternative is that it’s the sound TomCattt makes when he climaxes, but I don’t really want to contemplate that possibility.
The lesson of Chimney Crow’s new “Sarah Kristina” video is: Don’t accept a ride home from Chimney Crow
Hey, Chimney Crow! How’s it hanging? Hey, listen, I love what you guys have been doing lately with the Muppets and Deee-Lite covers and all, but I gotta be honest: Your latest video is freaking me out a little. Are you OK, Chimney Crow? I mean, do we gotta send in an FBI unit to pull up your floorboards and shit? ‘Cause you’re sounding a little…well, just listen to yourself, man!
But hey, I’m sure you don’t really know anyone named Sarah Kristina, right? This is all just an artful meditation on the alienation of modern life or some shit, right? I really hope so, because I don’t want to have to hide all my drug paraphernalia when the detectives show up on my doorstep asking, “So, how did you know the suspect?”
Our basement electronica pals Chimney Crow seem to be on a covers kick of late. Just a few weeks after rocking a down ‘n’ dirty version of Deee-Lite’s “Groove Is in the Heart,” they resurfaced yesterday with a just plain down version of “Rainbow Connection” that leeches all the wide-eyed wonder out of the Muppets original and turns it into something more like a Nurse With Wound outtake. As an unabashed fan of Kermit’s banjos-and-schmaltz version, I’m not sure how I feel about Chimney Crow’s, but I gotta admit, it’s unexpected. Between this and Dolchnakov Brigade’s “Bein’ Green,” this could be the beginning of a very weird Muppets tribute album. Maybe next we can convince Anklepants to do “Rubber Ducky.”
Outsider music goddess Petunia-Liebling MacPumpkin continues to take us on a funhouse video trip through her album Fish Drive Edsels. Up next in her ongoing series: “Green Glow,” a particularly off-kilter tune featuring hand-cranked synths and vocals that sound like they were delivered from the bottom of a well full of nitrous. The video features Petunia pursued through the forest by a creature apparently known as The Cooker, who kind of looks like a military camo tent come to life. Who will save her? Watch and find out:
Actually, I guess we’re still not sure what happened in that clip, but I believe we can safely surmise that The Cooker = bad, and Green Glow = good. And eggs are important. In some way.
Petunia’s still moving sequentially through Fish Drive Edsels‘ tracks, so her next video should be for one of our favorite tunes, “Frozen Fish.” Please to preview it below.