So as usual, we got something wrong when we first wrote about this week’s weird artiste, the inimitable Mr. Vast. We said he’s from Germany. But that’s not quite right. He is apparently based, at the moment, in Germany. But he’s British. His accent should have tipped us off, but we were probably day-drinking again. Anyway, our apologies to the entire nation of Great Britain for not properly crediting you with bestowing Mr. Vast upon the world.
Mr. Vast is the alter ego of one Henry Sargeant, an actor, musician and performance artist whose previous musical project was (or maybe still is—they’re still releasing music and Sargeant might still be involved) a jokey crew called Wevie Stonder. He relocated to Germany in 2005 and took a break from Art to become a Dad. (Not that those two occupations are mutually exclusive, but the hours are pretty brutal in both.) He returned to music in 2012 as a solo artist called Mr. Vast, making what I shall tentatively describe as tongue-in-cheek New Wave electro-glam-pop until somebody comes up with something catchier to describe his bizarre but surprisingly infectious tunes.
At his best, Mr. Vast reminds us a little of our current favorite Australian weirdo, Kirin J Callinan. Like Callinan, there’s something highly theatrical and fully formed about Mr. Vast, like he’s already a rock star and the world just hasn’t discovered him yet. Also like Callinan, he’s capable of being both unabashedly pop and slightly avant-garde, often in the same song, and doing both in a way that feels both fully committed and slightly tongue-in-cheek. Take, for example, “Teflon Country,” which might be a country-fried psych-rock parody, or it might be actual country-fried psych-rock, albeit one with a junkyard dog impersonation in the middle of it:
That’s from Mr. Vast’s one and only album, by the way, a brilliant, 14-track opus called Grievous Bodily Charm that we pretty much can’t stop listening to. It’s got sci-fi Afro-pop workouts (“Process of Illumination”), fuzz-toned heavy rock freakouts (“Henry the 8th”), Groove Armada-style downtempo makeout music (“Elemental,” which contains the high-five-worthy lyric, “The sangria made me angrier”). You can listen to the whole thing on SoundCloud and decide for yourselves if it’s a masterpiece. We’re leaning towards yes, but it might be the sangria talking.
We’ll leave you with a few videos, because that’s how we do it. First up: An extended experiment in toast physics called “Buttercide.” For the record, this is one of Mr. Vast’s weirder tracks, so if you can’t hang with it, don’t give up on him yet.
Next: The far funkier “Ease & Speed,” which we maintain is best described as Gary Numan meets Professor Elemental (I think last time we said Mr. B the Gentleman Rhymer, but hey, po-tay-to, po-tah-to).
And finally, here’s a glimpse of Mr. Vast live and in concert. Well, it’s not so much a glimpse as a bit fat fucking eyeful. Not since David Byrne has oversized costumery looked so sexy.
We’ll be putting our usual snark-fest on hold this weekend and sending lots of positive vibes towards Tim “Herb” Alexander, the amazingly ambidextrous drummer for Primus and Maynard James Keenan’s bizarro side project, Puscifer. Some time in the past few days, Alexander suffered a heart attack, and he’s scheduled for open heart surgery early next week. The news first broke via a post on Puscifer’s Facebook page. Today, a post by Les Claypool on Primus’s Facebook page confirmed the bad news:
As some of you my already know, our friend and über drummer Tim “Herb” Alexander is having a bypass procedure to remove blockage from arteries near his heart. He is a strong Herculean fellow and we all expect him to be up and around in no time but with all surgical endeavors we want to make sure he has the best energy working for him so let’s all throw our coins in the nearest fountain, wish on the first star of the night, blow out the birthday cake candles with him in mind, pray to whichever deity seems appropriate and generally send good thoughts his way so we can soon, once again, experience the glory that is the magnificent percussive rhythm of the mighty Tim Alexander.
Alexander joined Primus in 1988 and played on all those “classic” albums you probably had in your dorm room: Sailing the Seas of Cheese, Pork Soda, Tales From the Punchbowl. He’s been in and out of the band since, but had started performing with them again just last year, replacing Jay Lane. He joined Puscifer in 2010. He’s also played drums with Blue Man Group, Laundry and Attention Deficit.
Here’s hoping Tim’s surgery is a success and he’s back behind the kit doing stuff like this soon:
Well, it only took us five years, but we finally hosted our first-ever Weird Band Night, and it was amazing. Why didn’t we do this sooner? Because we’re control freaks and booking live music is the art of wrangling chaos. So many things are so completely out of your control that all you can really do is line up the bands and the venue and tell everyone you’ve ever met that they need to be there and then sit back and hope for the best.
But despite a setback or two (we forgive you, Haunted Garage), Weird Band Night was a rousing success. OK, the venue could have been a little fuller, and the show could have run a little more on schedule. And Satanic Puppeteer Orchestra’s name could’ve been spelled correctly on the marquee. But no one died and the bands were on fire. Plus the California Institute of Abnormalarts (CIA) might literally be the Weirdest Venue in the World (complete with its own oddities museum containing no fewer than two actual mummies) so we couldn’t have asked for a better place to host it for us. We’re putting this one in the win column!
First up we had the Satanic Puppeteer Orchestra from San Diego, playing their first L.A. show. As with all opening bands, they had to contend with the lower energy of a small audience, but they powered through a hilarious set that answered such burning questions as “What’s the most expensive way to feed a zebra?” (answer: Pop Tarts) and “Which species of bird are potentially poisonous?” (answer: all of them).
For a one-man/one-robot act, SPO had quite the impressive setup, complete with their own lighting and an audiovisual presentation that included vintage educational videos and lyric subtitles, so you could decipher the Stephen Hawking-like vocals of the band’s frontrobot, SPO-20.
Next up: The Rhythm Coffin, the ghoulish cavalry who swooped in and saved the day when Haunted Garage were forced to cancel on short notice. Their set was a big horror-punk/surf/rockabilly singalong with lots of great audience interaction, especially when they tossed what felt like about 300 styrofoam dummy heads into the crowd. This was ostensibly only for one song, “The Headless Head Bop,” but once the heads were unleashed, you pretty much had to keep your own head on a swivel for the rest of their set, lest you get beaned from behind by an overeager Coffin fan.
Last but certainly not least: The Radioactive Chicken Heads. What can I say about these guys? Every single song was a show unto itself. They broke out so many props and costumes and extra performers that, had I not met lead singer Carrot Topp in street clothes before the show, I might have started wondering if Dave Brockie faked his death and was now playing in a chicken-themed punk band from Orange Country. Their show was GWAR-like in its mind-boggling parade of wacky characters and costumes.
Thanks again to all the bands, Carl and everyone at the CIA, and most of all, all the friends and fans who came out to support the show. I hope you had half as much fun as we did.
It’s fitting that today’s weirdo, Mr. Vast, looks a little hungover in his promo photo. He’s from Germany and presumably that entire country is a bit bleary-eyed today after celebrating their historic World Cup win.
It’s also fitting that the track we’re going to share from Mr. Vast is called “Ease and Speed,” because that pretty accurately describes how the Germans dispatched Brazil yesterday. He’s actually got weirder music, but “Ease and Speed” just seemed too timely to pass up. Plus the video is jam-packed with the kind of green-screen tomfoolery we just never tire of, and Mr. Vast comes on like a groovy cross between Gary Numan and Mr. B the Gentleman Rhymer. It’s good shit.
[Update: Turns out we're full of shit and Mr. Vast is English. But he's based in Germany. And the shit we wrote about the World Cup is funny, so we're leaving it. Sorry, Brazil.]
For more Mr. Vast, visit his official website.
So we had bad news and good news this week regarding our first-ever Weird Band Night. You know, the one happening Friday, July 11th at the California Institute of Abnormalarts here in Los Angeles, that you’re totally gonna be at? Oh, you live in different time zone? Excuses, excuses! If you’re not there, you’re dead to us.
Wait, what were we talking about? Oh right, bad news and good news. So the bad news is that one of our headliners, Haunted Garage, had to bow out due to, uh, personnel issues. Or more specifically, bass player issues. In fact, if you happen to see Haunted Garage’s ex-bass player in line at Starbuck’s, and you happen to have a sudden uncontrollable urge to, oh I don’t know, pull his pants down, point at his junk and laugh laugh LAUGH hysterically…well, who are we to tell you what you can and can’t do at Starbuck’s? It’s a free country.
So that’s the bad news. Pretty bad, right? For a minute there, we were sure Weird Band Night was dead in the water. Now for the good news: We have ALREADY found an awesome replacement for Haunted Garage in the form of groovy ghoul rockers The Rhythm Coffin. Imagine The Misfits meets The Rocky Horror Picture Show meets a zombie Ramones cover band and you can see why the reanimated corpse of Weird Band Night is going to be even more fun than its mostly animated original incarnation.
Here’s just one of The Rhythm Coffin’s many dance crazes that are sweeping the underworld.
And here’s a song they do about coffee, which is basically just “Coffin” with two different letters. I just blew your mind, didn’t I? But if you think that’s crazy, get a load of this video. Who knew the undead drank coffee? Finally, something to look forward to in the afterlife. I thought it was all just clouds and harps and shit.
So thanks for rescuing Weird Band Night, The Rhythm Coffin! See you on July 11th.
To Western ears, there are few sounds eerier than the low-frequency groans and drones of traditional Tuvan throat singing. A technique also known as overtone singing, its mechanics have been widely discussed elsewhere and we won’t get into all the specifics styles and variations here. We’ll just say, when practiced by masters of the form like Albert Kuvezin, it’s basically the vocal equivalent of a really cool sleight-of-hand trick. He’s singing in two different frequencies! And one of them is, like, super-super-low! How the hell does he do that?
However he does it, Kuvezin has helped popularize the Tuvan style of throat singing through two groups: the more traditional Huun-Huur-Tu (which he quit shortly after helping to form the band in the early ’90s), and Yat-Kha, which mixes traditional Tuvan and Mongolian folk instruments with guitars and electronics. His original partner in Yat-Kha was Ivan Sokolovsky, a Russian avant-garde musician and composer who found lots of creative new settings for Kuvezin’s highly distinctive take on throat singing (which he calls “kanzat kargyraa”). Here, for example, is the title track from their 1995 album Yenisei Punk, a dizzying mix of flamenco rhythms, rock guitar and Kuvezin’s hypnotic chants:
Actually, Sokolovsky had quit Yat-Kha by the time of Yenisei Punk; the project is now primarily Kuvezin’s, along with a rotating cast of supporting drummers, bassists, guitarists and players of more traditional instruments like the morin khuur. But Sokolovsky’s influence over the band looms large.
Yat-Kha’s most famous release is probably 2005′s Re-Covers, an eclectic collection of Tuvanized versions of popular rock songs, from “Ramblin’ Man” to Bob Marley’s “Exodus.” When we shared their amazing version of Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart” last month, several readers noted that the Yat-Kha version of Led Zeppelin’s “When the Levee Breaks” is even more powerful—and you’re not wrong, people, but that track is unfortunately only available on subscription sites like Spotify. So you’ll have to settle for their version of Iron Butterfly’s ridiculous proto-prog-rock epic, “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida,” which is not as awesome as “Levee” but definitely gets bonus points for being one of the weirdest uses of throat singing ever, especially when they give the song a little bit of a Johnny Cash-style boom-chicka-boom cowboy rhythm.
Yat-Kha hasn’t released any new music since their a 2011 live album, Live at the Stray Dog. But they still tour pretty actively, at least in Russia and Eastern Europe, and will hopefully get back into the studio again one of these days. Until then, we’ll leave you with this live video from a 2013 performance in Poland. Is it just us, or does Albert sound a bit like Rammstein‘s Till Lindemann when he’s singing in rock mode? Now there’s a collaboration we’d like to hear.
I was never much of a Star Trek fan. It’s OK; I don’t expect you to believe me. Anyone nerdy enough to start this blog must’ve gone trick-or-treating as Spock at least once, right? But it’s true. I was always more into Battlestar Galactica.
Because I’m not a Star Trek fan, I can’t really tell you which episodes of The Next Generation they cobbled together and digitally altered to make the video below for Friendly Rich’s “Sausage Samba.” But I can tell you this: The results are brilliant. The song’s pretty great, too.
In case you’re not familiar with Friendly Rich: He’s a Canadian comedic singer-songwriter whose biggest claim to fame is composing the music for The Tom Green Show. His band, The Lollipop People, has done shows with fellow weirdos like Amanda Palmer and The Tiger Lillies. “Sausage Samba” is from his latest album, Bountiful, which is due out next month. You can pre-order it from Amazon or via his website.
A big fat sausage cigar goes to reader Eel Namturg for sharing this with us. Thanks, Eel!
I always thought wineries were for pinky-pointing pussies. But I guess I need to rethink my position, because a winery is hosting a weird-ish music festival in Upstate New York this August. It’s called the Wild Wild Fest and it was founded by our flute-playing cowpunk heroes, Well Worn Boot. Do I need to drink Chardonnay to attend? Fuck it, save me a barrel and I’ll be there with both pinkies flappin’ in the breeze.
I must admit…except for WWB, Andy and I hadn’t heard of any of these other bands on the Wild Wild Fest lineup. Well, we’d heard of Bill Ward and for a second there we got all excited…but it’s not the drummer from Black Sabbath. It’s this guy. But hey, I bet he does a mean “Paranoid” cover.
Still, we did a little research and it turns out that WWB are definitely not the only freaks on the bill. Armcannon, for example, do synth-metal covers of videogame music. (Hm, where have we heard that idea before?) Baby Gramps is a crusty old folk singer who has a song called “Scrotum Song.” And then there’s this Jack Topht guy. I don’t even know where to start on that one. Somebody pass the fuckin’ Chardonnay.
Anyhoo, Wild Wild Fest is Aug. 29-30 at Willow Creek Winery in Silver Creek, NY. Come for the Boot, stay for the wine slushies. Did I mention there will be wine slushies? Fuck yeah, there will be wine slushies. I kinda buried the lead there, didn’t I?
For more info, including ticket prices and whatnot, go here. Or watch this nifty little promotional video.
P.S. Please do not confuse Well Worn Boot’s Wild Wild Fest with this other Wild Wild Fest. That one is all shitty metal bands and zero wine slushies. Trust me, you want the one with the guy who sings the “Scrotum Song.”