Monthly Archives: October 2013

Nina Hagen

Nina Hagen

So it being Halloween and all, we were going to make some wacky costumed act our Weird Band of the Week. But then we were going through some old reader comments and a few different folks mentioned Nina Hagen and we said, “You know what? Other acts wear Halloween costumes. Nina Hagen is a Halloween costume.” People have been ripping off her unique style for decades, to the point where some of them (ahem, Lady Gaga) probably aren’t even aware of the original source. So for all you young’uns out there, let’s get acquainted with the so-called Mother of Punk, shall we?

Nina Hagen was born in 1955 in East Berlin, at the height of the Cold War. She was pegged very early in life as an opera prodigy, but she was more interested in pop music. After singing in a more traditional German pop band called Fritzens Dampferband (you can hear one of her early vocals here), she formed a “rock” band called Automobil in 1974. I put “rock” in quotation marks because this was one of their more rockin’ tracks:

The song title translates roughly to “You Forgot the Color Film” and the lyrics are basically all Nina Hagen berating her boyfriend on their vacation for, well, not bringing color film. Apparently it was interpreted at the time as a sly critique of the drabness of East Berlin. Yeah, life behind the Iron Curtain was not fun.

In 1976, she and her parents defected to West Germany, and that’s when the Nina Hagen we all know and love really began to blossom. Inspired by the nascent punk scene on a visit to London, Hagen formed the Nina Hagen Band and began playing a theatrical mix of punk, glam and progressive rock, all punctuated by her increasingly over-the-top, operatic vocals. The music was frankly not all that exciting, but Hagen was developing into an astonishing vocalist and live performer. Here, for example, is the Nina Hagen Band in 1979, performing a track called “Naturträne.” It’s basically one minute of song followed by three minutes of Nina wailing over a bunch of prog-rock noodling, but this woman could wail over a Yanni record and I’d still camp out for tickets.

By the end of ’79, the Nina Hagen Band had already broken up, as Hagen went off to explore wilder musical frontiers as a solo artist. Even in this 1980 clip of her covering “Ziggy Stardust” on Swedish television, the style and attitude she became famous for is pretty much all there: the crazy hair and eye makeup, crazier facial expressions, and positively batshit vocals.

In 1982, Hagen released her first solo album and first album sung entirely in English, NunSexMonkRock. Richard Metzger of Dangerous Minds recently called it the post-punk era’s greatest “unsung masterpiece” and it’s hard to argue with him. From beginning to end, the record sounds like it was flown in from another planet, not exactly punk or glam or New Wave but somehow channeling all those forces into a totally original sound. The best-known track is an anti-heroin anthem called “Smack Jack,” which isn’t the weirdest thing on the album but which features a music video that has to be seen to be believed. Yes, that’s Nina in male cop drag. And Nina singing backup. And another Nina singing the other backup. It’s a Nina-palooza.

Hagen’s done plenty of other weird shit in the years since: One of the most amazingly ’80s videos of all time, “New York New York” (her only real hit here in the U.S.).  A Rammstein cover with the Finnish cello-rock band Apocalyptica, which is fitting since Till Lindemann stole many of his vocal affectations from Hagen. She released an album of Hindu devotional chants, with cover art featuring herself dressed up as the goddess Kali. She once told David Letterman about a UFO she saw over Malibu—actually, she told lots of people about UFOs. In more recent years, she’s recorded an album of big band standards, covered Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus,” and, sadly, lost much of her once-astonishing vocal range. She’s also become a devout Christian, which probably alienated some of her old punk fan base. But she remains as refreshingly kooky and totally original as ever.

We’ll leave you with one of Nina Hagen’s signature cover tunes. Sid Vicious may have punked up “My Way” first, but Nina’s version is untouchable, even after all these years.

P.S. Thanks to readers Singing Grass, Alex and Denny for reminding us to add Nina to the Weird List. Better late than never, right, guys?

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Weird Live Review: Long Beach Zombie Walk 2013

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BRRRRAAAAAIIIIINNNNSSS!

Okay, so we didn’t dress up as zombies for the 6th annual Long Beach Zombie Walk. Instead of brains, we feasted on bacon-and-gorgonzola sliders from the Me So Hungry food truck. But hey, we were there to document. I didn’t want to get zombie gore all over my camera phone. (Except that I kind of did anyway. More on that in a moment.)

Zombies are great and all, but we were mainly there to see the bands. Radioactive Chicken Heads, Rosemary’s Billygoat, Haunted Garage and Metalachi, all in one lineup? We’d eat our mothers’ brains with a spoon to check that out.

Sadly, we missed Radioactive Chicken Heads, which was extra frustrating because we got there during the last 15 minutes of their set and just couldn’t find the entrance. Event security staff were in full-on zombie mode, too. “How do we get in?” we  kept asking, at barricade after barricade. “Ugh,” they’d reply, pointing vaguely back in the direction we’d just come from. Who do we have to eat to get into this thing?

We finally figured it out just in time to have about an hour to kill before the next set, by Rosemary’s Billygoat. We passed the time watching a lame wrestling show, a slightly less lame burlesque act, having more event staff zombie conversations about how to buy beer (“Where do I go to get my ID checked?” “Ugh! Ugggghhhh!!”) and, of course, people zombie watching. Not everybody went full undead for the occasion, but among the ones who did, there were some pretty cool makeups. Here’s our personal favorite, the only one we saw from which people actually recoiled in horror.

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Incidentally, I’m glad to see he wore his earplugs. Just because you’re dead doesn’t mean you can’t take precautions again tinnitus.

Finally. Rosemary’s Billygoat took the stage, and they did not disappoint. Frontman Mike Odd is a serious showman, entering on stilts through the crowd and performing their first head-banger strapped to an electric chair.

rosemarys5Throughout their set, R’s BG pushed the prop-rock envelope. There were pizzas sliced up into pentagrams. There were hearses spun in circles through the audience. There was a flaming baby carriage for their cover of “Hell Is for Children” by that “horror queen” (as Mike Odd referred to her), Pat Benatar. There was a flaming guitar, which I failed to get a decent picture of, but I’m posting a picture of it anyway because I love that one of the spectators in the foreground is a giant brain. [Update: We have since received a great shot of the flaming guitar from none other than Mr. Mike Odd himself. Thanks, Mike!]

The show ended with what looked like Manute Bol in a werewolf costume stumbling through the crowd. It was all quite the rock ‘n’ roll spectacle.

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Mike Odd of Rosemary's Billygoat

Photo by Todd Sharp

Next up: Haunted Garage, the recently rebooted splatter-punk ensemble led by the inimitable Dukey Flyswatter, looking fetching in an apron made of human skin (note the screaming face visible near the hem) and ass-crack-revealing biker shorts. (I failed to get a decent photo of Dukey’s ass-crack. To all humanity, my humblest apologies.) Oh yeah, and those things on his face? Mousetraps. Even the guy with the super-gross zombie makeup was probably like, “Woah, dude. Hardcore.” hauntedgarage7

“This is our first Halloween show in 20 fuckin’ years!” Dukey proudly announced. They tore through a short but furious set of Haunted Garage classics, from “Welcome to Hell” and “Bitch Like You” to “Incredible Two-Headed Transplant” and “Brain in a Jar” (complete with, yes, a brain in a jar, like something you’d see at the checkout counter of a zombie convenience store). The stage show was stripped down compared to Rosemary’s Billygoat (“We’re building it back up,” Dukey promised), but what they lacked in flaming baby carriages they more than made up for with energy, intensity and spewage. Right after “Welcome to Hell,” Dukey scored a direct hit on me and several other folks in the front row with a well-sprayed mouthful of what looked like blood but which I believe was Jack Daniels, Coke and red food coloring. At least that’s what it tasted like. Yeah, he caught me mouth-breathing, that bastard. What can I say? I was slack-jawed with admiration at their horror-punk onslaught.

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The whole band tore it up, but special recognition has to go to guitarist Erik Erath, whose screaming leads took the whole band into Priest/Maiden territory. Not bad for a guy whose brains appeared to be leaking out of his forehead.

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Oh, did I mention the giant, demonic rabbit? That’s Peter Rotten Tail, who came out and danced around for a song or two. There was also a flying monkey and some go-go dancers called the Gore Gore Girls.  But Dukey was always the center of attention. That guy’s a true rock ‘n’ roll maniac.

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After Haunted Garage, we stumbled over to a whole second fenced-off area for the Zombie Walk, which isn’t really a walk anymore—more like an aimless milling about, which I suppose is more zombie-like, come to think of it. Anyway, the headliners in this smaller area were L.A.’s preeminent metal mariachi band, Metalachi. We’ve already described the awesomeness that is a Metalachi show, so I won’t give a full recap here; I’ll just note that I believe they rocked this poor gentleman’s fucking face off:

Metalachi-fanmetalachiSo thanks for an excellent evening, Long Beach Zombie Walk! And sorry we missed you, Radioactive Chicken Heads. I’m sure you were a huge hit with the undead crowd.

Mr. B the Gentleman Rhymer’s new LP “Can’t Stop, Shan’t Stop” arrives Nov. 5th

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Jolly good news, ladies and gents: Mr. B the Gentleman Rhymer has announced the arrival date for his latest chap-hop opus, Can’t Stop, Shan’t Stop. It shall arrive in all antique and modern formats (save, alas, for wax cylinder) on November 5th. You can pre-order it here for a mere £10, which I believe is equivalent to five guineas, four sovereigns, a half crown, two shillings and sixpence. At least I hope that’s right, because that’s all the change I could find in the cushions of my chaise longue.

Can’t Stop is the fourth Mr. B long player, following up last year’s redoubtable Tweed Album. You can sample a little solo piano rendition of one of the album’s most titillating ditties after the full tracklist below.

1. Shelltoes Or Brogues
2. Ladies Have Friends Who They Hate
3. (I’ve No Wish To) Keep It Real
4. Hip-Hop Was To Blame After All
5. Pop Song
6. Grammar Song
7. In A Club
8, Toast
9. Rude Britannia
10. It Doesn’t Pay To Turn Up Late To An Orgy
11. Reasons To Be Unsuccessful (Part One)
12. The Corinthians
13. The Neglect Of My Duties
14. Brushed Tweed In The Hour Of Chaos

Is Mr. B touring in support of his latest masterwork? You bet your brass buttons he is. Here are the dates.

NOVEMBER
1st: Whitby, Steampunk Central, Whitby Rifle Club
8th: Southampton, Orange Rooms
9th: Brighton, Concorde 2
16th: Leeds, Wet Spot @ The Wardrobe
18th: New York, I Am Dandy book launch
27th: New York, The Slipper Room
29th: King Of Prussia, Pennsylvania USA, Gilded Festival

DECEMBER
6th: Canterbury, Penny Theatre
7th: London, The Grand Anarcho Dandyist Ball, Bloomsbury Ballroom
12th: Doncaster, Cast
13th: Brighton, The Haunt
20th: London, Lost Theatre, Wandsworth
21st: Portsmouth, Beats And Swing @ The Wedgewood Rooms

Oh Yeah: Twink the Toy Piano Band releases free album built with Yellofier iPhone app

Twink-Miniatures

It’s been awhile since we’ve heard anything from Twink, our favorite toy-based band. So we were delighted to learn a few days ago that, to celebrate the launch of his revamped website, Twink mastermind Mike Langlie is giving away a free, nine-track LP of new music. The collection is called Miniatures Volume 1 and it has the distinction of being the first album ever created entirely with the Yellofier iPhone/iPad app. Yellofier, for those of y’all not familiar, is a music-making sampler/sequencer app created by Boris Blank, one-half of the Swiss electronic duo Yello. Never heard of them? Oh yeah you have. Get it? Cuz the song is called “Oh Yeah”? Oh, we crack ourselves up.

Anyhoo, to download your copy of Miniatures Volume 1, scurry on over to Twink.net. You can also name your price if you feel like throwing Mike a little extra coin.

The Yellofier app is not free, but at $2.99, it’s still a steal. You can read more about it and watch a demo video here.

If you’re a try-before-you-buy type, feel free to preview the album below. It’s a veritable symphony of plinks, plunks and plastic beats.

Rosemary’s Billygoat

Rosemary's Billygoat

So in perusing the music lineup for this Saturday’s Long Beach Zombie Walk, Andy and I realized that there are a lot of weird bands right in our own backyard that haven’t made it onto the Weird List yet. Clearly, we need to get out more. I blame my Xbox. Have you guys played GTA5 yet? Holy Christ. Shit’s basically gamer meth. Now what were we talking about?

Oh yeah: Weird L.A. bands, many of whom will be in Long Beach this weekend rockin’ out for a bunch of zombies. Including this week’s WBOTW, Rosemary’s Billygoat.

Rosemary’s Billygoat is a costumed comedy cock-rock four piece that’s been kicking around our City of Lost Angels since the early ’90s. And yes, I know “costumed comedy cock-rock” is way too much alliteration for a Wednesday, but that’s what the music of Rosemary’s Billygoat does to me. It’s like if you threw AC/DC and GWAR into a pentagram-shaped MMA cage and made them hurl gnarly riffs and hunks of animal flesh at each other until they conjured up a goat-headed demon army that then proceeded to devour both bands and absorb their power.

I won’t go into the full RB backstory here because a guy named Paul K. from the band Imperial Butt Wizards already nailed it. But here, because I’m a lazy bastard, is a brief excerpt:

The fledgling group went through a number of drummers, none of whom were truly capable of understanding Mike [Odd, lead singer] and Neal [Gargantua, guitarist]’s world view, until they happened upon a part-time motorcycle racer and demolition derby driver by the name of Paul Bearer. The only audition this Evil Knievel of the trap set needed was revealing that once, while working for a moving company, he had stolen a pair of Rod Stewart’s pants (they’re the tight leopard- skin ones; every once in a while, when he’s feeling generous towards the rest of humanity, Paul will wear them on stage). It turned out to be a fortuitous choice: pants aside, Paul proved to be one of the top drummers in Los Angeles, a serious student of percussion, something like Ginger Baker but with a personality.

I guess early Billygoat shows featured a big furry cross upon which Mike Odd would crucify himself, and something called a “flaming pizza of death” and possibly cross-dressing, although that last one is from Wikipedia and Wikipedia is often full of shit.

Eventually they decided to take their own name more literally and went for more of a Satanic goat horn motif. They built helmets with horns, hats with horns…even one of Neal Gargantua’s guitars has giant fucking goat horns on it. If they ever add a keyboard player to their lineup, you know they’ll have the poor bastard gluing goat horns onto his expensive Roland electric piano. Except that’ll never happen, because like any self-respecting Sabbath/AC/DC-influenced metal band knows, keyboards are for pussies.

Bonus fun fact: Lead singer Mike Odd is also the proprietor of the Rosemary’s Billygoat Odditorium, an online stop carrying such truly odd shit as coffin coffee tables and belt buckles shaped like Cthulhu. Apparently he actually had an Odditorium storefront in Hollywood for awhile, but like most cool things in Hollywood, it was forced out by gentrification and is now probably a Pinkberry’s or some shit. He also does what I believe is a children’s show called Dr. Odd’s Medicine Show. At least it’s the kind of show I’d take my children to see. Good thing I don’t have any.

Speaking of shows: Here’s a live clip of Rosemary’s Billygoat in action. Can’t wait to see these guys throw down at the Zombie Walk. It’s gonna be goat brains for everyone!

I’ll wrap up this post with “Hobbit Feet,” which as far as I know is Rosemary’s Billygoat’s latest audiovisual masterpiece. It’s a tender love ballad about how one little physical abnormality can ruin an otherwise perfectly good hot chick. Or maybe it’s about how that one unique attribute makes a hot chick all that much hotter. It’s an artistic meditation on beauty that raises more questions than it answers, is what I’m saying. And hey, there’s probably cosplay freaks dressed up like hobbits knockin’ big furry hobbit boots as I write this. Who are we to judge?

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And now, a short film from Barbara

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We got a little present in our inbox yesterday, and for once it didn’t involve penis enlargement or Russian prostitution rings. Toronto weirdos and former Weird Band Poll winners Barbara have made a short film, and while it doesn’t technically involve any music, it’s too random not to share.

It’s a little story…sorry, a fuckin’ story…about a pair of dreamsters who escape from a sink and wind up exploring the “taupe catacombs” of a shopping mall. If you have no idea what any of that last sentence meant, don’t worry…neither do we.

Watch and be fuckin’ amazed.

Frank Zappa’s “200 Motels” is coming to Walt Disney Concert Hall

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If you like your avant-garde rock delivered with all the pomp and bombast of a full orchestra, and you happen to be in L.A. this coming week, we highly recommend scoring yourself a ticket to see the “world premiere” of 200 Motels, Frank Zappa‘s 1970 rock opera opus based on the early touring days of The Mothers of Invention. I put “world premiere” in quotation marks because, of course, there’s been a perfectly good film version of 200 Motels in circulation since 1971—and available in its entirety on YouTube since 2012, But according to the Los Angeles Philharmonic, which is mounting the one-night-only performance, this will be the “first complete realization of Zappa’s musical vision.” This version will be based on the first live performance of the complete 200 Motels score, which also featured the LA Phil. Zappa was not happy with conductor Zubin Mehta’s interpretation of his music, so 43 years later, the Phil is giving itself a do-over.

This time around, the LA Phil will be conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen, who in the classical world is a bit of a rock star in his own right. It will also feature former Mothers of Invention sax/keys player Ian Underwood and a cast of vocalists that includes Michael Des Barres, Rich Fulcher of The Mighty Boosh and Frank’s youngest and least weirdly named offspring, Diva Zappa. The program lists lighting, scenic and wig designers, so apparently there will be some production values, although we’re not sure if the whole thing will be fully staged.

Oh yeah, you might need to know the date, huh? It all goes down this coming Wednesday, Oct. 23rd at Walt Disney Concert Hall—which, amazingly, is not the first time the names Disney and Zappa have been associated with one another. Frank’s son Ahmet conceived and produced the Disney film The Odd Life of Timothy Green. Bet you didn’t see that random factoid coming, did you?

Tickets are $25-$83 and can be secured via the LA Phil website.

We’ll leave you with a fan favorite from the 200 Motels film soundtrack, “Magic Fingers.” Take it away, Ringo!

Only four days left to score yourself a free Laibach EP

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Good news for fans Eastern European electro-industrial performance art rock: Laibach have announced the impending arrival of Spectre, their first proper studio album since 2006’s Volk. And this week, you can download three songs off the forthcoming album for free from their website. It’s their gift to you, Laibach fans! Either that, or they’ve secretly been communists this whole time.

A press release from the band’s label, Mute Records, claims that Spectre will be their most overtly political album to date. But based on these three advance tracks, it’s not so much political as observational. On “Eurovision,” for example, Milas Fras growls, “Europe is falling apart”—which is obviously true to anyone who’s been watching the news, but it’s hard to tell whether Milas considers this a tragedy or an awesome excuse to break stuff.

The new EP, called simply S, also features a live cover of Serge Gainsbourg’s “Love on the Beat.” To hear that track, you gotta buy the whole package. If you just want the free shit, hit the Laibach website before Oct. 21st.

Here’s a trailer for Spectre, which is due out February 2014. Clearly, if Milas has to dance, he doesn’t want to be part of your revolution.

Drunken Forest

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I guess we have a lot of readers in Brazil, because for the second time, a band from the land of Carnaval and Christ the Redeemer is the winner of our monthly Weird Band Poll. And unlike previous Brazilian winners Skull and Bones, he’s actually pretty good. Meet Biaggio Vessio, aka Drunken Forest, and prepare to be wowed by some serious guitar chops.

Vessio, a São Paulo native, started Drunken Forest as a band project in 2009, but went solo in 2012. So far, he’s really only released four tracks, on a self-titled EP that covers a lot of stylistic ground in 11 scant minutes. The music of Drunken Forest isn’t hit-you-over-the-head weird, but it’s definitely unique, mostly thanks to Vessio’s guitar style, which cuts on a dime from melodic finger tapping to metalesque shredding and back again—as if Kaki King were trading licks with Kirk Hammett. Even in this early, lo-fi video, you can tell the man knows his way around a six-string.

You can download the Drunken Forest EP for free from Bandcamp. For a little taste, here is the album’s most frenetic track, a smash-cut tour through progressive metal, post-rock, bossa nova and jazz, all set to Zappa-esque mutating time signatures. Vessio plays everything except the saxophone. So yeah, he’s got some serious percussion chops, too.

So congrats on winning our poll, Biaggio! We hope to hear more Drunken music from you soon.

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Weird bands invade the Long Beach Zombie Walk: Metalachi, Haunted Garage, Radioactive Chicken Heads

LBZombieWalk

Usually I save my zombie impersonation for the morning after the party. But Saturday, Oct. 26th, I’m gonna be moanin, shamblin and bitin people in the head during the party. It’s the sixth annual Long Beach Zombie Walk Festival, motherfuckers! And this year, they’ve got a music lineup that’s practically ripped from the pages of this here blog.

LBZW 2013 stars three Weird List stalwarts: heavy metal mariachi combo Metalachi, reunited ’80s horror punks Haunted Garage, and why-is-the-lead-singer-a-carrot band the Radioactive Chicken Heads. As if all that wasn’t weirdness enough, they’ve also got monster-themed rockers The Rhythm Coffin, evil clown punks Circus Jerks, and whatever the hell these guys are supposed to be.

Tickets to the festivities are a mere $15 and zombie attire is optional…but why the hell wouldn’t you smear yourself in fake gore before going? Especially if you’re taking the Metro. Nothing keeps the panhandlers away like fake gore. Well, except maybe real gore.

For more info and to purchase tickets, go here.

We’ll play this post out with The Rhythm Coffin’s “Tombstone Twist.” Catchy like ebola, ain’t it? See ya in the LBC.