We kinda lost track of our old pal The Emotron for awhile there, but lately the man known to his daddyTron as Kyle Knight has been posting up a storm on Facebook. We keep checking to see if there’s any, y’know, Emotron news we can share with y’all, but really, all of his posts kinda read like the work of someone on a killer combination of Red Bull and shrooms—you know, the kind of high where they’re just talking non-stop and at a certain point you give up trying to figure out what’s real and what’s hallucinatory bullshit and just enjoy the ranting and raving for its own sake.
So: Did The Tron really take a massive shit onstage in North Carolina last week? Is he really selling jewelry for infants? Did he really perform a gig with Cowboy Troy in his dad’s backyard? Fuck if we know, but whether any of it happened or not isn’t the point. The Emotron’s Facebook posts are their own reward. Behold:
I’m kinda bored tonight. I think I will go around town & find some baby’s ears to pierce. any mother who lets me pierce their baby’s ears starting tonight & any other night in the future=will get a free pair of Emotron earrings! I’ve also got some nose rings for your baby & shit!
I never thanked The Kickstand, Treasure Fest, and the fans of Charlotte NC for coming out to see me take the biggest shit ive ever taken. It took me nearly my whole set to shit out 4 days worth of shit.
cowboy troy is coming over to my dad’s house tomorrow. come over Tuesday about 7-9pm. turn into that neighborhood off the Locust Grove Hwy. my dad isn’t gonna do his old style tron performance, but he will bring out some of that dmt he shared with Capt’n Beefheart at The ATL pop fest of 1970.
Why was it such a big deal that Chipper Jones hooked up with a Hooters waitress back in the day? I say hell yeah! Hit that…..it’s all pink on the inside & shit.
I could go on, but really, just follow the fucking dude on Facebook and enjoy the ride.
Emotron, we heart you, man. You are the box of chocolates to our Forrest Gump. When are you coming back to LA? This time, we’re not gonna miss your show, dammit.
Today’s weird band…or rather, weird artiste…was suggested by a reader named Aaron, who notes that New Wave opera singer Klaus Nomi was “most defiantly a awesome weird guy.” True dat, Aaron! Even if you meant to say “definitely,” there was also something defiantly weird about Mr. Nomi, too.
Klaus Nomi was an opera-obsessed gay kid from Bavaria, which is sort of the German equivalent of being from Alabama. He moved to Berlin as a teenager to attend a music conservatory and work at the Deutsche Oper where, legend has it, he gave impromptu concerts for his fellow ushers while they were sweeping up after the shows. But he didn’t really fit in with either the Berlin opera community or the gay nightclub scene (which wasn’t used to drag queens singing arias), so like many of the world’s great freaks, he finally washed up in New York City. The year was 1972.
By 1978, Nomi was finally making a name for himself in the East Village art scene, performing arias in a melodramatic counter-tenor and even more melodramatic costumes, engulfed in smoke bombs and sci-fi sound effects. His reputation eventually caught the ear of David Bowie, who invited Nomi and one of his backup singers, Joey Arias, to perform with him on Saturday Night Live in 1979. You can watch clips of the performances over on this site, and marvel at how much tamer pop music is these days (yes, even you, Lady Gaga).
The SNL appearance changed Nomi’s life. Not only did he borrow the oversized plastic tuxedo look Bowie sported and make it his signature outfit, he also scored a record deal and released two albums, Klaus Nomi (1981) and Simple Man (1982), before his AIDS-related death in 1983. He was
Nomi’s music was a bizarre and totally unique mix of original pop tunes done in a campy, New Wave style, avant-garde covers of oldies like Chubby Checker’s “The Twist” and Lesley Gore’s “You Don’t Own Me,” and operatic pieces–his set closer was an aria from the 19th century French opera Samson and Delilah. You could call him a trail-blazer, but really, no one’s quite followed the trail he blazed. Everyone from Morrissey to Jean Paul Gaultier has acknowledged him as an influence, but really, there just ain’t that many pop/New Wave opera singers in the world. Klaus Nomi was probably a one-time deal.
Here’s a clip of him performing his most famous tune, “Nomi Song,” on French TV. Purists might prefer the original “Nomi Song” video, but the picture and sound quality are a little better on this version.
- Klaus Nomi ZABAKDAZ (official site for posthumous Nomi album, Za Bakdaz)
- Klaus Nomi on MySpace (unofficial)
- The Nomi Song (official site for Klaus Nomi documentary, released in 2004)
- The Klaus Nomi Tribute Page (fan site)
- Klaus Nomi Keys of Life (fan site)
- A weird little Klaus Nomi Flash animation tribute site
(Photo originally appeared in Details magazine, 1991; article available here)
Today’s band was suggested by a reader from Belgium (worldwide, baby!) named Steve V., and it may surprise some of our American readers. Here in the States, The KLF are mainly remembered (if they ‘re remembered at all), as just another of that pack of seemingly indistinguishable bands who cashed in on that weird moment around 1990 or so when house music was actually getting played on the radio. But trust us, these guys were not in the same league as MARRS and C+C Music Factory. They may as well not even have come from the same planet.
The KLF originally started as a British hip-hop group called the Justified Ancients of Mu Mu, then morphed briefly into a deliberately lame proto-house group called The Timelords, whose one and only single, “Doctorin’ the Tardis,” was a piss-take of pop hits that, perhaps inevitably, itself became a massive pop hit. A mash-up of the Doctor Who theme with Sweet’s “Blockbuster!” and Gary Glitter’s “Rock & Roll Part Two,” “Doctorin’ the Tardis” went to No. 1 in the UK in 1988 and reportedly sold over one million copies. Its success inspired the Timelords/KLF duo, Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty, to write a book called The Manual (How to Have a Number One the Easy Way), which dispensed such we’re-kidding-but-not-really advice as “if in a band, quit” and “watch Top of the Pops religiously.” (The book is out of print but you can read most of it online here—or shell out $89 to a greedy Amazon reseller here.)
Drummond and Cauty probably could’ve scored a spot here on TWBITW as The Timelords solely on the basis of “Doctorin’ the Tardis” (and its video, which is one of the most hilariously amateurish artifacts of ’80s pop music), but they didn’t stop there. Instead, they reinvented themselves yet again as The KLF, an acid house group that specialized in what Drummond (aka King Boy D) called “pure dance music, without any reference points.” The KLF went on to become one of the most successful dance acts of the era, releasing a string of increasingly bizarre Top 10 hits in 1990 and 1991 that combined elements of acid house, rock, pop, hip-hop, gospel, ambient electronica and even country. (Their last single, “Justified and Ancient (Stand by the JAMs),” featured guest vocals by Tammy Wynette.) They called it, a bit cheekily, “stadium house”—and they were indeed successful enough with it to fill their fair share of stadiums.
It seemed The KLF could do no wrong. Until Drummond and Cauty got bored with their success and, in one spectacular public gesture, chucked it all.
In February of 1992, The KLF were scheduled to perform at the BRIT Awards, England’s answer to the Grammys. Instead of their usual rap/rave stage show, Drummond and Cauty brought in a punk/grindcore band called Extreme Noise Terror to play a thrashed-out version of the KLF hit “3 a.m. Eternal,” which climaxed with Drummond, grinning and supporting himself on a crutch, breaking out a machine gun and firing blanks over the heads of the stunned audience. As the band left the stage, an announcer declared, “The KLF have left the music business.” Later that night, The KLF left a dead sheep at a BRIT Awards after-party with a sign hung around its neck reading, “I died for you—bon appetit.”
Not content to stop there, Drummond and Cauty took the almost unheard-of step of deleting their entire back catalog. All albums and singles by The KLF, The Timelords and the Justified Ancients of Mu Mu remain out of print in the U.K.—although last we checked, The KLF’s final album, The White Room, is still available in the U.S., presumably because the duo’s contract with their American label, Arista, didn’t allow for catalog deletion. (But Arista’s parent company, Sony, just folded Arista into RCA Records, so it will be interesting to see if White Room stays in print.)
But wait! Drummond and Cauty took it a step further still. Still flush with cash from their days as pop hitmakers, they decided to take one million pounds in cash, nail it to a picture frame, then shop it around to various art galleries under the title Nailed to the Wall. Then, when no gallery would agree to show the work, they took their million quid to a remote Scottish island and burned it—all of it, in £50 notes—in a fireplace, filming the whole thing. The film they made about the whole project—including the creation of the K Foundation, a satirical arts foundation that also awarded £40,000 to the “worst artist of the year”—is called Watch The K Foundation Burn a Million Quid and can be viewed in its entirety on Google Video. It’s a pretty fascinating document. (The burning starts at around the 13:45 mark.)
We could go on about these guys: How they came out of retirement in 1997 in old-man makeup and motorized wheelchairs, giving a single performance of a remixed version of one of their old songs titled “Fuck the Millennium.” How they invited a bunch of journalists out to the island of Jura (the same island where they later burned their million quid) and made them all dress in ceremonial robes so they could film an elaborate ritual centered around a burning wicker man and called the whole thing The Rites of Mu. How they once traveled to Sweden hoping to persuade ABBA to let them keep an uncleared sample on their debut album, 1987 (What the Fuck Is Going On?). (ABBA refused to meet with them and insisted that the album be withdrawn from sale—Drummond and Cauty, ever the pyros, burned a bunch of copies of that record, too.)
But really, we think nothing sums up how completely mental these guys were than this video for “America: What Time Is Love?” It’s got everything: Vikings! Rappers! Stadium house beats! Shredding guitars! The lead singer from Deep Purple! Yes, there really was a time in pop music history when this song could go Top 10 in eight countries.
- The KLF WebRing
- Library of Mu (archive of KLF-related articles and documents)*
- The KLF on MySpace (unofficial site)
- The Mu-Museum (fan site)
- Penkiln Burn (Bill Drummond-related arts site)
- The17 (Bill Drummond current musical project)
- Watch the K Foundation Burn a Million Quid (full film)
*Note: The Library of Mu domain name expired the day we published this. It’s a conspiracy! Which would sort of make sense, because The KLF loved conspiracies. They were big fans of The Illuminatus Trilogy.
Today’s band was suggested to us by a reader named Alex. Big ups to him, as the kids like to say, because the one-man rock ‘n’ roll wrecking crew known as Paska (Finnish for “shit”) is as weird as they come. It’s like if someone shoved Bobby McFerrin so far up G.G. Allin’s ass, he started spouting punk-rock a cappella covers of “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
Paska is one Ari Peltonen, and his entire shtick is that he performs and records, very, very badly, with just his voice–no instruments, no overdubs, just one clearly unhinged individual sing-screaming highly condensed, barely intelligible versions of songs like “Ace of Spades” and “Love Me Tender”, interspersed with the occasional really bad mouth guitar solo, random drum hits and whatever other noises he can muster in between sloppy gasps for more oxygen. Oh, and he does perform a few originals, too, like “Pain in the Ass,” “Sex Is Shit,” and my personal favorite, “I Fucked Myself and Fell in Love.” Been there, my Finnish brother!
Now I know what you’re thinking: “Jake, this sounds like what me and my friends do when we’re driving home from $2 pitcher night and everyone in the car is too drunk to work the CD changer.” But here’s the difference, my friend: No one would so much as buy you another $2 pitcher to see you and your friends drunkenly butcher the punk and pop classics of yore. Whereas this Peltonen dude has been doing his Paska shtick, and getting paid for it, since the 80s. He’s played major festivals. He’s toured the U.S. He’s released an album (2005′s Women Are From Venus, Men From Anus), an EP and various singles and 7″s. In Finland, he’s either sort of a national hero or public enemy No. 1, or maybe both. At the very least, he has his own radio show.
I think my favorite part of the whole Paska story is that in the early 90′s, Paska “broke up” and Peltonen began staging concerts as various “ex-Paska” members: the egomaniac lead singer was Jeesus, the cheesy organist was Johnny Blue, the disgruntled bass player was Jorma (Finnish for “dick”). Of course, all of these Paska “solo projects” also just consisted of Ari Peltonen jumping around by himself and screaming into a microphone, but that’s the genius of the whole thing, don’t you think?
Alex sent us over a crap-ton of YouTube links to Paska’s hijinks, and it’s hard to pick just one as our favorite. So fuck it, we’ll embed a few. He’s just that awesome.
First off, you gotta start by just appreciating the man’s raw performance skills, or lack thereof–and the fact that yes, he regularly does this stuff in front of attentive, seemingly appreciative audiences. So here’s Paska um, interpreting “Stairway to Heaven”, live and in concert:
Still with us? OK, now here’s my personal favorite: some wiseass edited Paska’s version of “Bohemian Rhapsody” over bits from the original Queen video. I like to think Freddie Mercury would have loved this, but I know he probably sheds a golden tear in rock star heaven every time it’s viewed:
And finally, for a good long stew in the sauna of Paska’s madness, see if you can make it through a mere 8 minutes (yes, this is only half of it) of his epic version of Mike Oldfield’s “Tubular Bells”:
You didn’t actually listen to the whole thing, did you? Yeah, us neither. Just knowing it exists is the whole punchline, really.
They may not have democracy in Egypt, but here at Wierdest Band in the World, we’re getting democratic all over this bitch. Yes, you readers (all 11 of you…thanks y’all!) cast your votes and once again, a band on our Submit & Vote page has been elected to a spot on the hallowed Weird List. That’s three straight Submit ‘n Vote candidates who have made the cut. You guys aren’t getting soft, are you?
But this time, we gotta hand it to you…Hi God People are indeed the real shiz when it comes to weirdness. We’re not even sure how to describe them exactly. Experimental noise ensemble? Hippie tribal performance art? Modern dance troupe that’s done too much acid? We’re stumped.
What we can tell you is that Hi God People are from Melbourne, Australia, and that the two main guys involved are named Greg Wadley and Julian Williams. Wadley teaches computer science at the University of Melbourne, specializing in the study of virtual worlds, and plays in a buncha bands, including one called New Waver that does satirical songs like this reworking of the Beatles’ “Hey Jude.” Williams is a musician and playwright who also has a solo album out called Liquidambar that might actually be even weirder than Hi God People. His label says it reflects “influences from the Beach Boys to John Cage” and judging from what we just heard on his MySpace page, that’s about right.
Other Hi God People people include Dion Nania, who also plays in a band called Panel of Judges, and Dylan Martorell, who makes “improvised electro acoustic music and sound installation” with a group called Snawklor. Then there’s a bunch of folks on the band’s label website who are just listed by first name: Sophie, Jason, Marcus, Nathan (the other half of Snawklor, possibly), etc. It’s just one big happy family of freaks, really.
Oh and one last note: They apparently “borrowed” their name from an old Christian group who released a few children’s singalong albums back in the 60′s or 70′s. We thought they might be making this part up, but we did a little digging and uncovered a few of the original Hi God songs, most of which seemed to have been written by a dude named Carey Landry. Who probably spins in his grave everytime Hi God People does one of their arty hippie freakout shows. To which we say: Amen. (Oh wait, actually, he might not be dead yet. Sorry, Carey! You probably just get really bad stomach cramps every time Hi God People does one of their arty hippie freakout shows.)
Hi God People have done a few wacky music videos, but really, their live shows are where the serious craziness ensues. The clip below was supposedly broadcast on an ABC TV “experimental music series,” although when the fuck ABC ever had an experimental music series, even in Australia, we can’t really imagine. Maybe Desperate Housewives never really took off down there.
Once again, democracy has struck here at TWBITW. Our readers have spoken, and they deemed the most recent entrant on our Submit and Vote page to be weird by the widest margin we’ve ever seen. In fact, if your votes are anything to go by, Zayde Buti might be the weirdest thing we’ve ever blogged about. Either that, or he spent way too much time voting for himself over and over again. (We really should close that loophole. We keep meaning to.)
Including Zayde on The Weird List is a bit of a cheat—not because he’s a solo artist (although some of our more pedantic readers take issue with every solo act we’ve ever listed), but because he’s really more of a performance artist than a musical act. And calling a performance artist weird is a little like observing that kittens are cute. Weird is what performance artists do—and as you can probably tell from the above photo, Zayde certainly comes through on that count.
But music is definitely a major part of Zayde’s act. He’s even got an album out: It’s called I’m Lovin’ It and yes, that’s a McDonald’s reference. You see, Zayde seems to be endlessly fascinated with the advertising slogans and iconography of fast food—that’s actually a Wendy’s wig he’s wearing in his publicity photo. In Boston, where he’s based, he has a one-man show called “Hungry,” and he’s also been known to do guerrilla theatre performances where he dresses up like a Dunkin’ Donuts employee and does song and dance routines for unsuspecting DD customers. It’s all very subversive…or at the very least, it confuses the hell out of the actual employees in pretty entertaining ways.
I’m Lovin’ It is streaming in full on Soundcloud, and it’s worth checking out. If Weird Al Yankovic got together with those guys who do the “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell” song and made an entire album inspired by Naomi Klein’s No Logo…well, actually, that would probably be a train-wreck, but I’m Lovin’ It has its moments. Still, for the full Zayde Buti experience, you really have to watch one of his videos. They’re all pretty bizarre, but this one called “Hot ‘n Juicy” really takes the cake. Or burger. Or something.
(Photo: Lilly M via Wikimedia Commons)
Hi, kids! How was your Thanksgiving? Did you stuff your face? Good, cuz today’s weird band is gonna put you off your leftovers. You’ve been warned.
The Aesthetic Meat Front is the performance wing of a group called the Asthetic Meat Foundation, which was started right here in Los Angeles by a twisted individual named Louis Fleischauer. The stated aim of the AMF is “ritual against human devolution” or some shit, but really what they mostly seem to be interested in is in coming up with arty, creative ways to do horrible things to themselves in public. If Jigsaw from the Saw movies has a favorite band, it’s these guys.
Now apparently based in Berlin, the AMF like to fill their performances with what Fleishauer calls “human instruments.” This includes some really high-tech gadgetry like homemade EEG machines that turn brain waves into sound—but mostly it just consists of using hooks and needles to wire the performers to various sound generating devices, then yanking the performer’s flesh around and seeing what kind of wacky noises they can generate. Besides cries of pain from the performers and groans of horror from the audience, that is.
Fleischauer’s website has a gallery of some of his more stomach-churning creations. Among our favorites: a microphone inserted under the skin (and then played by essentially mouth-farting onto whatever appendage the performer inserted the mic into—the arm seems to be the most practical) and a “human harp” made by piercing someone’s back with a bunch of wires and then pulling them taut. The AMF MySpace page also mentions something called a “vaginal scissor dance” and honestly, we’re afraid to even ask what that one’s about.
You wouldn’t think the “music”…and yeah, it definitely deserves to be in quotation marks…that comes out of all this would be of much interest to anyone, but you can in fact buy all sorts of Aesthetic Meat Front goodies from A-M-F Records, including something called the Embalmer Tapes that was made entirely from an unauthorized audio recording of an embalming session. Eat your heart out, Matmos!
Anyway, below is a video of Fleschauer and friends getting freaky at something called the Castle Party last year. Don’t worry, it’s not all that disgusting. Just try not to think about the fact that all those metal contraptions they’re wearing have probably been sewn into their skin.
Today’s weird band is yet another suggestion from one of our greatest sources of weird band lore, our buddy Treiops, who also designed our bitchin’ double-neck guitar “W” logo. Treiops recently reminded us about a band he saw back in the ’90s called Crash Worship, which sort of took the whole neo-pagan tribal vibe espoused by events like Burning Man to its logical extreme. In fact, if I had to guess, I’d say most former members of the now-defunct Crash Worship (aka Adoración De Rotura Violenta, or ADRV) probably think Burning Man’s gotten pretty lame at this point. Too many safety rules. At a Crash Worship show, safety pretty much went out the window.
Crash Worship started in the mid ’80s in, of all places, San Diego, where a couple of percussionists named Markus Wolff and Simon Cheffins got together and started making music inspired by their shared love of early industrial/experimental bands like Throbbing Gristle and 23 Skidoo. Originally, the band was purely a studio project, but eventually, their live shows would grow to eclipse their recorded output—most of which is, to be honest, a lo-fi mess of post-punk/industrial jam sessions with lots of distorted guitar and tribal drums and not much in the way of recognizable songs.
But oh, those live shows. A Crash Worship concert might begin with the band entering the venue from the street, pushing its way through the audience with mobile drum kits and fire dancers, then assaulting the spectators with strobe lights, fake (or possibly real) blood, wine, whipped cream, ice cubes, smoke, green Jello, small fireworks and god knows what else. Two de facto frontmen, JXL and Fat Jack Torino, served occasionally as vocalists but mainly as “audience manipulators,” running through the crowd to hand out little gifts (fruit, hand percussion, etc.), exhort the wallflowers to get off their asses and dance, and rub various viscous substances on the half-naked bodies of any willing (or sometimes unwilling) participants. People got naked, people got dirty, people got injured. Mostly, the barriers between audience and performer broke down to the point where nearly everyone there felt like they were not so much at a show as participating in some kind of ancient ritual. “I reverted to a PRIMAL state,” is how one witness described it. Whether you believe that or not, it’s pretty clear that a Crash Worship show was a totally unique experience.
Throughout the ’90s, Crash Worship continued to perform throughout the U.S. and Europe, although their reputation for leaving behind a horrible mess meant that fewer and fewer venues were willing to book them. The band also went through numerous lineup changes, the most significant apparently happening in 1996 when Wolff and some other key members quit. After that, a newer member of the band named Quintron seems to have taken a more significant role—in one interview, he even referred to himself as the “leader” of the band, even though Cheffins, JXL and Fat Jack were still part of the group. Quintron’s elaborate puppet shows would now often serve as a prelude to the rest of the group’s show—puppet shows he later developed further with his partner, Miss Pussycat, as part of their New Orleans-based “swamp-tech” act.
By 1999, Crash Worship was finished, leaving a trail of blown minds and tamer projects by various ex-members in their wake. (See below for links to some of them.) Unfortunately, very little video of Crash Worship shows exists, and most of what’s out there is of pretty poor quality—although it’s probably impossible to capture the vibe at a Crash Worship show anyway. Video can’t breathe fire in your face and pour chocolate syrup down your back. Still, this clip gives you some sense of the chaos.
- Crash Worship official site
- Crash Worship on MySpace
- Interview with Simon Cheffins
- Interview with Markus Wolff
- Waldteufel official site (Markus Wolff musical project)
- Extra Action Marching Band site (Simon Cheffins’ musical project)
- Morricone Youth site (percussionist Dreiky Caprice’s musical project)
Sorry things have been a little quiet here at TWBITW—it took us longer to sleep off our South by Southwest hangovers than we had anticipated. Also, our ears are still ringing from seeing GWAR. If you’ve never been sonically assaulted by Oderus and co. before in person, seriously—we can’t recommend it highly enough. Just plan on taking a few vacation days after the show—you’ll need them.
Anyway, today’s weird band is another oldie but goodie, and comes to us all the way from the former Yugoslav Republic of Slovenia. Formed in 1980, when Yugoslavia was still under Communist rule, Laibach was a sort of proto-industrial rock band-slash-performance art project that managed to simultaneously celebrate and mock the trappings of totalitarianism in all its forms. They’ve described their own music and iconography as “radically ambiguous” and, judging from the range of responses they’ve gotten, they seem to have succeeded: Detractors and critics (not to mention the censorship-happy Communist regime in Yugoslavia, which frequently banned the group’s performances) have accused them of being fascists, Stalinists, Nazi sympathizers and/or radical Slovenian nationalists, while their fan base seems to include everyone from arty types who treat the band’s militaristic costumes and Wagnerian martial-industrial music as sly satire of fascist/skinhead culture to…well, actual skinheads.
Is all of this starting to sound a little too much like a post-modernist graduate thesis project? Well, not to worry, because here’s the most brilliant thing about Laibach: Much of their music is actually highly accessible, and frequently takes the form of Teutonic/industrial-style covers of familiar pop music. Laibach have tackled everything from the Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil” to the Beatles’ “Let It Be” to Europe’s “Final Countdown.” They even did “Jesus Christ Superstar” and an album of national anthems called Volk. If you thought Jimi Hendrix did weird things to “The Star-Spangled Banner,” wait till you hear Laibach’s version of it.
As great as Laibach’s covers can be, their most memorable musical moments tend to come on their original compositions, when the jackboots hit the dance floor and all “Heil!” breaks loose. (Sorry, we couldn’t resist.) Although the “Fear the Kittens” video for this song (courtesy of Rathergood.com) is pretty awesome, it still can’t top the original.
- New Laibach covers compilation coming this November (9/16/12)
- Nazis on the moon! “Iron Sky” sci-fi film featuring the music of Laibach coming soon (2/18/12)
- Weirdify Playlist 8: Covers for Kooks (4/23/12)
(Bonus factoid: Laibach may be the only industrial band to have a winery named after them. Suck on that, Rammstein!)