We’re back! Did you miss us? We promise to resume regularly posting Weird Bands of the Week and occasionally updating our Weird 100 chart, but other site updates will probably be more infrequent because we’ve both got demanding day jobs now. For our ever-popular Weird of the Day picks, follow us on Twitter or Facebook. And now, back to the weirdness…
This week’s “band” is a solo artist from New York named Thomas Truax (pronounced “True-Ax”) who plays guitar and a variety of homemade instruments, mostly of the beat-making variety. He started out as the bassist/vocalist for a ’90s trio called Like Wow that was part of downtown Manhattan’s “antifolk” scene (did anyone actually like the term “antifolk”? didn’t think so), then turned solo around 2000 or so. His signature instrument, seen above, is called the Hornicator. It’s a modified gramophone horn that he can both sing into and use as a twangy percussion instrument by plucking a string wrapped around its neck. It apparently also has a kazoo inside it, because really, any halfway decent homemade instrument may as well include a kazoo.
Musically, Truax tends to play his own spin on mutant, lo-fi blues, evoking shades of everything from Nick Cave to Jon Spencer to another weird artist famous for cleverly constructed analog drum machines, Mr. Quintron. He’s done an entire album of songs from David Lynch films and another of original songs to accompany a production of Henrik Ibsen’s Peer Gynt. More recently, he’s teamed up with ex-Dresden Doll drummer Brian Viglione. But it’s his solo live shows, where he unleashes his Hornicator and a variety of steampunky percussion instruments with evocative names like the Sister Spinster and the Mother Superior, that really showcase Truax’s weirdness.
Truax has also made more than his fair share of memorable music videos over the years. Here’s our favorite, suggested by reader Chas (thanks, Chas!), for a typically offbeat Truax original called “Prove It to My Daughter” that doubles as both a song and a hypnosis session:
Good news for Primus fans who like reading and stuff: Tomorrow marks the arrival of the awkwardly titled but sure to be awesome Primus: Over the Electric Grapevine: Insight Into Primus and the World of Les Claypool, the first oral history of the influential, bass-slappin’, beaver-ticklin’ alt-rock legends. We’re supposedly getting our mitts on a review copy soon, so we’ll provide more details then. All we can tell you right now is that it was compiled by journalist Greg Prato and features interviews with all the major players in Primus—Les Claypool, Larry LaLonde, Tim “Herb” Alexander, Jay Lane, Bryan Mantia and Todd Huth—as well as friends, fans and occasional collaborators like Trey Anastasio, Stewart Copeland, Tom Morello, Geddy Lee, Kirk Hammett, Tom Waits, Chuck D and Hank3. You can pre-order a hardcover or Kindle version here.
In other Primus news: On Friday, they released another track from their forthcoming Primus & the Chocolate Factory, their tribute to the music of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, due out Oct. 21st on ATO Records. “Golden Ticket” turns the light-hearted original into a primal space-blues stomp—but in a light-hearted way. Les even whistles at one point. Yep, even by Primus standards, this one’s clearly gonna get pretty weird.
Hey, so here’s another L.A. band we’ve been meaning to write about for awhile. Tartar Control claim to be God-fearing Mormons from Salt Lake City who try to spread religion through the power of snotty punk rock, but I’m not so sure. I think they might be actual snotty L.A. punk rockers who are just ripping off these guys. Oh, wait, their drummer is a robot? I take it all back then. They must be actual Mormons and their act is totally original! (Mormons love robots. It’s why their Chosen One is Mitt Romney.)
Anyway, Sean, Robert and Robot have a new album coming out in October called We Forgive You. You do? Thanks, Tartar Control! Glad that dead hooker is finally off our conscience.
While we wait for forgiveness, here’s a video for “Smoking Crack” off their first album, Holy Crap! Tartar Control forgives us, but who forgives Tartar Control?
For more Tartar Control, floss regularly and visit the band’s website.
Primus’ next album might be, at least conceptually, their weirdest yet: They’re doing their own spin on the music from the immortal 1971 film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. The album, called Primus & the Chocolate Factory (with the Fungi Ensemble), is set for release Oct. 21st on ATO Records and features the “definitive” Primus lineup: Les Claypool, guitarist Larry LaLonde and returning drummer Tim Alexander, with help from members of the Les Claypool Frog Brigade (operating, we presume, under the name Fungi Ensemble). It’s the first time the Claypool/LaLonde/Alexander lineup has recorded a full-length album together since 1995’s Tales From the Punchbowl.
In discussing his motivation for doing a Willy Wonka-inspired album, Claypool doesn’t mince words: According to the press release, he was largely inspired by his hatred of the 2005 Tim Burton film version of Roald Dahl’s classic children’s book. “I think like a good portion of the planet, we were all pretty put off by the remake of the Willy Wonka movie — the Tim Burton version,” says Claypool. “Look, I love me some Tim Burton, when he writes his own stuff, and I respect what Johnny Depp has done over the years. Hell, Ed Wood is one of my favorite films, but that (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) is just unwatchable and believe me I’ve tried…twice as a matter of fact. Even my kids hated it.”
I’m not exactly sure how Primus’ Zappa-esque take on songs like “Pure Imagination,” which you can hear below, is any truer to the spirit of the original Gene Wilder film version of Chocolate Factory…but I gotta admit, it’s unlike anything Primus has ever done before. Have a listen.
In other Primus news: The band shared an update via Facebook yesterday on the condition of Tim Alexander, who underwent heart surgery a couple weeks back. Sounds like the surgery was a success and he’s doing well. Here’s the full text of the post (which also includes mention of some cancelled September dates):
Tim has been home from the hospital for about 5 days and is making great progress. Thanks to all Tim’s friends in the music community and the fans for having Tim in their thoughts over the past two weeks. He is up walking around, starting some physical therapy and his wits about him as well. Unfortunately, we had to cancel the 2 set shows in Maplewood, Fargo and Clive as Tim wont be ready to play 2 sets in September. Tim is resting up at home and getting ready for his return to the stage on Oct 22nd at the Tower Theater in Philadelphia. We’ll be making a special announcement about both Riot Fest shows sometime in the near future.
That Oct. 22nd date marks the start of the Primus & the Chocolate Factory tour, which runs through November, with more dates to be announced. As Claypool says, “it gives me an excuse to wear a purple velvet waistcoat and brown top hat for the next 18 months.”
Primus & the Chocolate Factory tour dates:
10/22 – Tower Theatre – Upper Darby, PA
10/24 – Palace Theatre – Albany, NY
10/25 – Orpheum Theatre – Boston, MA
10/26 – Flynn Center for Performing Arts – Burlington, VT
10/28 – Palace Theater – Waterbury, CT
10/29 – Hippodrome – Baltimore, MD
10/31 – Beacon Theatre – New York, NY
11/01 – State Theatre – New Brunswick, NJ
11/02 – Main Street Armory – Rochester, NY
11/03 – The Fillmore Detroit – Detroit, MI
11/05 – Peabody Opera House – St. Louis, MO
11/07 – Taft Theatre – Cincinnati, OH
11/08 – Tabernacle – Atlanta, GA
11/09 – Hard Rock Live – Orlando, FL
11/11 – The Fillmore Miami Beach at The Jackie Gleason Theater – Miami Beach, FL
11/12 – Ruth Eckerd Hall – Clearwater, FL
11/14 – Hard Rock Hotel & Casino – Biloxi, MS
11/15 – ACL live at the Moody Theater – Austin, TX
11/16 – The Majestic Theatre – Dallas, TX
11/17 – Majestic Theatre – San Antonio, TX
11/19 – Orpheum Theatre Phoenix – Phoenix, AZ
11/21 – Orpheum Theatre LA – Los Angeles, CA
You know what this blog needs? More Elvis impersonators. Who doesn’t love a fat guy in a jumpsuit singing “Love Me Tender” and “Blue Suede Shoes”? Don’t bother answering that, because whether you love it or not, we’re gonna ram some Elvis down your throats anyway.
First up: Sweden’s weirdest and I’m gonna say best (because how much competition can be there be, really?) facsimile of The King, a middle-aged, mush-mouthed dude who goes by the name Eilert Pilarm. Like all great Elvis impersonators, Eilert doesn’t seem to actually know all the words to most Elvis songs, but he barrels through them anyway, with a lack of rhythm and timing that perfectly complements his inability to pronounce the word “Jailhouse.” Enjoy.
Shout out to reader bambiraptor666 for introducing us to Eilert Pilarm. Bambi calls him “The best Elvis impersonator in the world!” and it’s hard to argue, mostly because we’re lazy.
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: