David Liebe Hart

dlh-outer-dimensions
If you were a fan of the Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, you’re probably familiar with this week’s weird artist. But what you might not realize is that David Liebe Hart, with his puppets and quirky lo-fi songs about aliens and insect women and staying in school, was not some surreal creation of that most surreal of late-night comedy shows. David Liebe Hart is a real live person, and to this day he’s still making his wonderfully weird music and even weirder music videos.

An actor originally from the Chicago area (where, he says, he was abducted by aliens as a child) and now based in Los Angeles, Hart had a few small television roles early in his career on shows like Good Times, What’s Happening and Golden Girls. But he became best-known in the L.A. area in the 1990s for his musical puppet act, which he performed around town as a street busker and on a local cable access TV called The Junior Christian Teaching Bible Lesson Program. Thanks to the miracle of YouTube, you can still watch some of Hart’s early cable-access performances, which are fantastic.

So Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim didn’t exactly pluck Hart out of obscurity when they put him on the first season of their Awesome Show in 2007; he was already a cult figure around L.A., on par with other eccentric Hollywood fixtures like Known Actor Dennis Woodruff and Thai Elvis. But they were smart enough to just point a camera at him and let him do his thing, showcasing his menagerie of puppets, his slightly out-of-control baritone bray of a singing voice, and some of his most outlandish songs. He’s probably still most famous for “Salame,” the tune with which he made his Awesome Show debut (accompanied by his most famous puppet, Jason the Cat), but for our money, Tim & Eric scored Peak DLH with “I’m in Love With an Insect Woman.”

“Insect Woman” is amazing for a lot of reasons, but my favorite thing about it is probably how clearly Hart is in on the joke. Though some Tim & Eric fans seemed to react with alarm upon learning that his act existed outside the show (sample YouTube comment: “The realization that Tim and Eric met a crazy man and put him in front of a camera makes you a little sad”), I think part of David Liebe Hart’s genius, if you can call it that, lies in his ability to simultaneously embrace the absurd elements of his act and also fully commit to his underlying messages. He doesn’t really care whether you take him seriously or not; he just wants you to believe the aliens are out there — and to stay in school. It’s like Wesley Willis meets Space Alien Donald meets Sesame Street.

Since the sad demise of the Awesome Show, DLH has been keeping busy. He’s released numerous albums, written a book of poetry, played the mayor of Chicago in a B-movie called White Cop, launched his own podcast (“Adventures With David”), and done a national tour fronting a punk band. Since 2014, he’s teamed up with a new musical collaborator, Jonah Mociun, who’s given his songs a more fully produced, jaunty electro-pop sound. He’s also continued to embrace his silly, self-deprecating side; songs of his most recent album, Space Ranger, include “I Caught My Pecker in My Zipper,” “No Sex Since ’94” and “I’m Not a Hoarder.” (And we have it on good authority that, yes, that really is his apartment in the video for the latter track.)

But to this day, it’s when Hart sings about aliens and outer space this his weird light burns brightest. We’ll leave you with the totally cosmic video to another track from Space Ranger, “Space Train,” which features a fellow eccentric by the name of Tennessee Luke. According to Mociun, who wrote to us recently to share some of DLH’s latest stuff, Luke “believes he controls the weather with his mind.” Needless to say, we’re already fans.

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Itchy-O

Itchy-O

Our readers submit a lot of marching bands as possible entrants on the Weird List. Usually, we don’t pay them much attention, because the whole concept of extreme/alternative/punk-rock marching bands is nothing especially new at this point. You got your Extra Action Marching Band, your Mucca Pazza, your Rude Mechanical Orchestra and so on. But something about this week’s band, Itchy-O, stands out from the pack of tattooed punks bashing away at quad toms.

A 30-plus-piece ensemble from Denver, the Itchy-O Marching Band (IOMB) typically begins their performance by entering the venue from the street. Drums dominate, but there are also synths, vocalists, dancers, guitar and bass, and a prominently featured Theremin. Many of the performers wear amps like backpacks, so they can move freely around the venue during the show. There’s usually a giant, dancing Chinese dragon. There are several of those massive, Japanese taiko drums, which are basically the Steinway pianos of the drum world, both in terms of sound and in terms of how much it must suck to haul them around on tour. They wear black balaclavas and often giant sombreros, which makes them look a little like a gang of anarchist mariachis. It all makes for what looks like a pretty insane, sensory overload live show (though we have yet to experience it first-hand ourselves).

With their emphasis on drums, dancers and audience interaction, Itchy-O are clearly indebted to San Diego neo-tribal performance troupe Crash Worship, although their shows are, by all accounts, relatively tame compared CW’s, which famously featured lots of fire and nudity and fluids, bodily and otherwise. To the credit of the group’s founder, Scott Banning, he acknowledges the debt, telling Denver publication Westword that, while living in the Bay Area, he became friends with Crash Worship’s Simon Cheffins, and toured with both CW and Cheffins’ later band, Extra Action Marching Band, though he’s careful to say, “I was never in Crash Worship.”

Banning, a percussionist by trade, initially started Itchy-O as a studio project; his first release under that name, in 2005, he described as “an ambient project made from the layered tracks of animal heartbeats found on vinyl from a veterinarian school.” But as he started organizing Itchy-O live shows, the project grew into a full-fledged band, evolving into its marching-band incarnation by 2010.

Following a 2011 EP, Inferno, the band released its first full-length album, Burn the Navigator, on Jello Biafra’s Alternative Tentacles in 2014. Usually, bands built so strongly around live spectacle don’t really measure up in the studio, but tracks like “Dance of the Annunaki” (which appears on both Inferno and Burn the Navigator) are a really cool mix of heavy, syncopated percussion, squelchy electronics and weird ambient noises and vocals — in this case, random bird and jungle sounds.

At other times, Itchy-O go for a sort of tribal black metal vibe, like on “The Merkabah,” which sounds like a bhangra remix of Mayhem.

Pretty cool, right? Still, it’s clearly in a live setting where Itchy-O’s particular brand of percussive mayhem is its most powerful. So we’ll leave you with a live clip from a show they did in 2014 right here in Los Angeles — which we missed, because we are bad at our jobs. Hopefully they’ll be back soon, although touring with 36 people and a hundred or so drums can’t be easy.

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Little Big stitch together a “Dead Unicorn” in gruesome new video

Little Big

We had a feeling that after their last video, the Yo Gabba Gabba-esque “Public Enemy,” Russian rap-ravers Little Big were going to return to the dark side. And boy did they ever. “Dead Unicorn,” their latest, combines child rape, skin suspension, human centipedes and the Saw movies with, well, unicorns. Dead ones. It’s hard to watch and you won’t be able to look away.

Sorry you can’t unsee that.

On the brighter side: Little Big have promised some European tour dates in February and March, culminating in an appearance at the Paaspop Festival in the Netherlands April 3-5. Given the current shitty state of affairs between Russia and the U.S., we’re not holding our breath for any Stateside dates, but maybe—like a magical, non-sewn-together-from-dead-bodies unicorn—they’ll pleasantly surprise us.

Space Alien Donald

Space Alien Donald

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.

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Little Big put on their happy faces for “Public Enemy”

Little Big

When your last videos featured zombies dancing in a junkyard and real-life hooligans beating the shit out of each other, how do you top yourself? For Russian rap-ravers Little Big, it’s simple: Get a bunch of dumb, off-the-shelf Halloween costumes and make a video so relentlessly, children’s-television shiny and happy, it somehow comes across as the darkest, most punk-rock shit you’ve done yet.

“Public Enemy” starts off pretty silly, with Little Biggers Olympia Ivleva, Ilya Prusikin and Sergey Gokk Makarov dressed up as, respectively, a carrot, a banana and a lobster. (Worst smoothie ever.) There’s also a bunch of other folks dressed up as various animals and vegetables, as well as cops, prisoners and that evil clown guy who shows up in all their videos. There’s even a dashingly blue-eyed guy in a turban flying an airplane who can’t possibly be a terrorist because he’s all smiles, right, Little Big? Right? What, what the fuck is happening? Are those the World Trade Center towers? And a bear, the symbol of Russia, biting a Crimea-sized chunk off a map of the Ukraine? Oh, now I get it. You’re smiling ironically. This is secretly a video about how much everything sucks. You got me, Little Big!

This video would probably have a bazillion plays by now, but for some reason, they’ve disabled embedding on it. Maybe they figure Putin will never see it if it’s only on YouTube? Anyway, yeah, it’s only on YouTube. Follow this link if you want to watch it, as I highly recommend you do.

“Public Enemy” is the opening track off Little Big’s first album, With Russia From Love, which is now streaming in its entirety (at least we think it’s the whole thing) on their website. Hopefully they’ll be making more videos for the rest of the record soon, because they continue to create some of the most outrageous, eye-popping stuff this side of Die Antwoord.

Weird of the Day, Moogfest Edition: Kraftwerk

Kraftwerk

Today’s Moogfest performer needs no introduction, but I’ll do one anyway: Kraftwerk, unarguably the most influential electronic musicians of all time. Without their pioneering, all-synths version of krautrock, it’s fair to say that most of today’s strains of electronic music wouldn’t exist.

To this day, Kraftwerk live shows operate on two levels: as a purist expression of button-pushing electronica at its most mechanical, and as a sly commentary of the increasingly mechanical, button-pushing nature of modern life in general. I’m not sure if they’re still trotting out their robot doppelgangers for “We Are the Robots” these days, but I do know they’ve got some crazy 3D projections and are digging pretty deep into their catalog, playing classic albums like Autobahn and Trans-Europe Express in their entirety.

Kraftwerk plays three shows at Moogfest, one on Thursday, Apr. 24th and two on Friday, Apr. 25th. Visit the official Moogfest site for more details.

Little Big

Little Big

God bless Die Antwoord. If those crazy South Africans hadn’t pointed the way with their over-the-top rap-rave anthems and even more over-the-top music videos, I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t have the Polish “Slavschool” hip-hop of Donatan and we definitely wouldn’t have the Russian rap-rave anthems of Little Big, who are basically Die Antwoord after too much vodka.

On one level, Little Big resembles Die Antwoord so much that they almost seem derivative. Their music is glitchy and uptempo; their videos are grotesque, absurb and occasionally shocking; their lead singer is a skinny tattooed dude who used to be a hip-hop-loving performance artist. (Die Antwoord’s Ninja, aka Waddy Jones, got his start doing more high-brow, satirical with projects like Max Normal; Little Big’s Ilya Prusikin honed his mic skills doing raps dressed up as Josef Stalin.) Even Little Big’s two midget members, Olympia Ivleva and Anna Kast, are reminiscent of Leon Botha, the late Die Antwoord collaborator with progeria syndrome—although that’s probably a totally unfair comparison because for all I know, Kast and Ivleva are integral singers/songwriters/producers in Little Big who just happen to be little people.

And yet, for all the obvious indebtedness to Die Antwoord—and, I suspect, to the videos of Donatan—there’s something about Little Big that is thrillingly original, too. Their hyper-kinetic videos are especially addictive, recasting the stereotypical images of Russian culture—the folk dancers, the vodka, the tracksuit-clad hooligans, the drab, Cold War-era military uniforms, even a balaclava nod to Pussy Riot—as the ghetto-fabulous trappings of a non-stop dance party. And even though their music is almost entirely electronic, there’s a manic, gypsy-punk energy to it. They’re like a raver version of Gogol Bordello, especially on their most popular track, “Everyday I’m Drinking”:

And if you thought that was a wild ride, get a load of “Life in da Trash,” in which a junkyard doubling as a zombie prison camp turns into an apocalyptic dance party and, judging from some heavy-handed title cards, a metaphor for modern life. Prusikin told Vice UK that he’s also a big fan of Cannibal Corpse, which makes total sense after you watch this.

Little Big have an album coming out later this month—their first, I believe. They have a pair of album release shows coming up in St. Petersburg and Moscow and just released a new video earlier today to promote them. It’s called “With Russia From Love” and it gives me oddly amorous feelings towards goats. And makes me want to dance like a Cossack on meth.

P.S. Huge thanks to reader Vass for introducing us to these guys. You made our week, Vass!

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