Monthly Archives: January 2012

Terrorvision on Television

My love for Terrorvision is well known and to those of a wrong-headed nature, inexplicable.  Anyway, whoever runs their Twitter account posted that the entirety of Fired Up and Lairy, Terrorvision on Television was on YouTube.  And lo and behold, so it was, in all four parts.

It features a sort of spoof documentary type thing, linking all their videos from Formaldehyde and How to Win Friends And Influence People, plus a fair bit of live stuff from the latter filmed at the Astoria.  (I really must find a copy of that somewhere. And also who that was doing live backing vocals on Discotheque Wreck.  I assume Josephine Ellul but it doesn’t look like her.)

So clicky the linky and watch.  If only for the gag about where Shutty was born.

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Sean Yseult and White Zombie

Finally got around to getting hold of a book by a member of one of my favourite bands ever.  “I’m in the Band: Backstage Notes From the Chick In White Zombie” by Sean Yseult.

I'm In The Band cover

To give a potted history, Yseult was the bass playing founder along with singer Rob Cummings (aka Rob Straker, aka Rob Zombie) of White Zombie.  Initially a sort of hardcore noise punk band, White Zombie slogged it round New York and the rest of the States building a following.  Eventually their sound settled down into a industrial mix of heavy as hell metal and samples from movies and TV.  Your average White Zombie song  has riffs so powerful it makes you feel that your head is being ripped off and slammed repeatedly into the nearest wall.

In a good way.

When I first heard their second and final album, Astro-Creep:2000: Songs of Love, Destruction And Other Synthetic Delusions From The Electric Head, it completely blew me away.  It is a metal classic, especially More Human Than Human. It still sounds fresh and powerful now – if you want to try some speakers, then throw on Super-Charger Heaven and see how good they really are.

The band went from nothing to mid-level stardom, with the aid of hard work, determination and a timely boost from Beavis and Butthead, who showed Zombie and Yseult on their show and said “it is the chick from White Zombie. She’s cool.”  Not in a sexist way, because Yseult is a remarkable bass player and with drummer Johnny Tempesta and guitarist J Yuenger, crafted the music.  She held her own in a macho scene without either being patronised or coming out with a chip on her shoulder about her gender – which cuold not have been easy in a genre that was both on and off stage 99% male dominated.

However, as the band got bigger and bigger, Rob Zombie succumbed to self-confessed LSD – Lead Singer Disease – and after a pretty dysfunctional tour in support of Astro Creep, dissolved the band.  Not that he actually told the other band members that.  He then embarked on a successful solo career doing, well, much the same thing.  Except a bit more cartoony and without the sheer muscle that Yseult, Yeunger and Tempesta provided.  Didn’t help that he isn’t a great singer, especially live where he misses more words than he sings.

Anyway, Yseult charts all this in what is effectively a scrapbook – ticket stubs, flyers, notes and photos.  There is some explanatory text but the main point of the book is to present this entire thing in a timeline from the first gig at CBGBs, appearing way down the bill behind the likes of The Bags and Ed Geins Car and then all the way to the final gigs with Pantera.  As a document of life in a band, it is a unique approach and one that shows not only the fun side of things, but the sheer hard work that the band put into the music and making it big.

Scattered occasionally are notes from agents, or the rest of White Zombie past and… more past.  Rob Zombie himself is notable by his absence, appearing only in photos or the odd reproduced paper cutting.  Yseult, to her credit, doesn’t spend much time on him. They were not only bandmates for thirteen years, but an item for seven of them.   She could have been pretty bitter about a guy who, as soon as the band started making it big, decided he was off and God knows he gave her enough ammunition.  She sums the contact as “Zero. He hasn’t spoken to any of us in the band since the day we broke up . . . As soon as you’re not in his world, you’re out of his world. He just kind of moves on. No hard feelings at all, but that’s just how he is.”

Instead she comes across as chirpy, confident and proud of her achievements.  And they were achievements – when WZ appeared at Donington in 1995, Yseult became only the second woman to walk on that stage in the entire history of the gig.  The book title is self-deprecating, not only does the subtitle come from Beavis and Buttheads assessment of her, but the main title is a reflection of the many occasions when she was prevented from getting to the stage by people who didn’t believe she was actually in the group.  It must have been tough, yet the issue is done and dusted with a few chirpy quips.  Reading the book brought to mind a proud parent showing the kids what they used to do, a scrapbook of memories assembled and watched over with great care.

As a documentary about a very influential group, “I’m In The Band” doesn’t really do a great job of explaining the politics or  relationships within White Zombie.  That book, especially with regard to the lead singer, would be extremely interesting, although I suspect it will never be written.

What this book does do is perhaps give White Zombie a more fitting send-off.  Since the breakup in 1998, there has been this and the Let Sleeping Corpses Lie boxset.  I’ve toyed with the idea of getting the latter, but I’ve never really shook off the idea that it is a cash-in – for all his refusal to talk about the past, Rob Zombie has never been unwilling to trade on it for a while.  The album Icon (his third Greatest Hits collection) features six White Zombie tracks, including The One, which has only ever appeared on the Escape From LA soundtrack.  This comparatively rare track is clearly there for the White Zombie completists who have to buy the other stuff just to get to it.

I couldn’t help but warm to Yseult over the course of the book, the sheer love for what she did and how it all came about and I respect the hard work and circumstances that she fought through to get her dream.  In summary then, this is not an essential book for White Zombie fans, nor is it for those who aren’t familiar with their music, but if you have a bit of money to spare and an interest in a great 90s band, this is an informative, entertaining book that I completely recommend.

Amazon link.

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Sport and politics

It is often said that sport and politics shouldn’t mix.  That is an ideal that is rarely, if ever achieved.  Orwell famously said that “sport is war without the shooting”.

As most people who know me know, I am a huge fan of ice hockey and of the Boston Bruins in particular.  Last season, the Bruins won the Stanley Cup, the biggest prize in the game for the first time in my lifetime.  They won based on many factors, balanced scoring, playing on the line between hard and dirty, taking their chances and one of the most astonishing performances in goal by Tim Thomas seen for many a year.  The man was just unbeatable and set record after record on his way to the Conn Smythe Trophy, the individual award for Most Valuable Player in the playoffs.

One of the traditions of the game is that the Stanley Cup winners go to the White House with the Cup and have their photo taken with the incumbent President.  This is usually scheduled for when the winning team is in Washington to play the local team, the Capitals.  It is a photo op for both sides, a formality.

Yesterday, the Bruins went to the White House for the formality.  They went minus Tim Thomas.  Thomas released a statement giving his reasons for not attending.

“I believe the Federal government has grown out of control, threatening the Rights, Liberties, and Property of the People.

This is being done at the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial level. This is in direct opposition to the Constitution and the Founding Fathers vision for the Federal government.

Because I believe this, today I exercised my right as a Free Citizen, and did not visit the White House. This was not about politics or party, as in my opinion both parties are responsible for the situation we are in as a country. This was about a choice I had to make as an INDIVIDUAL.

This is the only public statement I will be making on this topic. TT”

So what started as a formality has become a bit of a flap.  There are two sides to the argument, Thomas is free to say what he wants and do what he wants.  The other is that he should have sucked it up and smiled for the camera.

The latter is the preferred option of most people.  Yesterday was merely a photo opportunity on both sides.  The Bruins team will consist of Republicans and Democrats as well as Canadiens, Slovaks, Swedes and Finns who have no horse in the race.  The President, like many before him, probably knows little about hockey.  The idea is the President looks good, the NHL looks good, the team look good.  Sport and politics mixed, but only in a superficial way.

Thomas didn’t have to go – some players have cried off citing personal reasons.  Fine.  But by releasing his statement, sport and politics were mixed – and they were mixed by Tim Thomas.  So if you want to get into the politics, Timmy, then so be it.

So, Tim, you think the Government has suddenly grown too large since 2008?  What about beforehand – why now?  You support the Constitution and the Founding Fathers.  If the document is so binding, why does everyone keep ignoring those awkward bits about slavery?  How do you feel faced with the option of possibly voting for a Republican candidate who declared, just two days ago, that is so devoted to the Constitution that he will ignore the bits that don’t agree with him. Who are you on the side of, Tim, the aforementioned hypocrite, the tax dodger, the religious freak or the racist?

Oh, and for those who think Thomas is a hero for doing this are largely the same people who told the Dixie Chicks to “shut up and play” and organised events where their CDs were crushed by bulldozers for… saying they disagreed with the President.  Thankfully Thomas won’t be receiving death threats for expressing his opinion or have people turning up to games openly displaying guns or anything.

As for “this is the only public statement I will be making on this topic” is shutting down debate in a completely cowardly manner.  He lit the fire and is running away.  Like I said, he is the one who made it political. At least have the balls to stand up and defend your position – he does that plenty on the ice.  This is probably the first fight in his life that Thomas has started but never finished.

I’ve never made the mistake of elevating an athlete to a role model (they never ask to be put in that position and being able to score a goal, kick a ball or stop a puck doesn’t automatically make them one).  I’ll continue to cheer for him when he wears the Black and Gold – I don’t sit there and go “What a save! Despite being, you know, having views I disagree with”.  But I can’t help but be disappointed – because he has made himself look like a stupid, petty man and Tim Thomas is not a stupid, petty man.

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Rule Britannia

There has been a lot of banging on recently about Britains place and standing in the world and I heard a very interesting stat the other day that put a fair bit of it into perspective.

The recent crisis in the Eurozone was spun as David Cameron “fighting for Britain” – a battle he fought so well, that we’re facing 26-1 odds on getting our way with what is comfortably our biggest trading partner.  For the sum total of fuck all benefit.  (Disclaimer: I am pro-Europe, and Euro-neutral.)  Also in a time of austerity, we apparently have to keep Trident as a deterrent against… well, somebody and we are busy finishing off two wars in which we get none of the benefits and all of the pain.  Oh, and not to mention stuff like Libya and so on and so forth.  Cameron is busy making noises about the bloody Falklands again, supporting threats against Iran as well and muttering about Scotland as it moves towards some inevitable form of independence.

(Not that he is totally to blame, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were inherited.)

This all hinges upon the idea that Britain is the same power that it was a long time ago – not post-war, our economy was fucked after WWII and we were granting all sorts of places independence – presumably to get them off the wage bill.  So we’ll call it pre-WWII as the last time Britannia truly ruled the waves.  Yet in the minds of many, the UK still bestrides the world stage, dispensing truth, justice and democracy to all those other countries, like the minnows of China, Germany and Russia.

There are various measures of Gross Domestic Product.  The one most used is nominal GDP – the total value of all products and services produced by a nation in a given year.  This table is led by the usual suspects, USA, China, Japan.  Blighty is sixth, just under half of Japans GDP.

But the stat I heard was GDP by PPP per capita. The PPP bit is purchasing power parity – it takes into account things like the cost of living, inflation etc.  In short, GDP is a blunt instrument, an absolute total, GDP by PPP is an attempt at forming a baseline for comparison.  The “per capita” bit is GDP by PPP per person, so divided by the average population.  Obviously there are some big assumptions being made, but GDP by PPP is how rich a country is, and GDP by PPP per capita is how rich a person in that country is.

So GDP by PPP has the usual suspects at the top, US, China, Japan etc.  UK in 7th.  GDP by PPP per capita has a different look, top is Qatar, Luxembourg, Singapore and Norway.  USA is about 7th-9th, quite a few European countries hovering around 10-15 (Netherlands, Austria, Belgium).

The stat – and I fully admit to it being a outlier, but not an outrageous one – is that by the CIA World Factbook measurement of GDP by PPP per capita, the UK is in 27th place.  Five places behind… Equatorial Guinea.

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The music industry is stupid

I have little time for piracy but I have even less time for the music industry.  The former because I am not a spoilt man child who expects to have something for nothing, the latter because I wish to give them something and they often provide me with nothing.

There is a particular song I’ve always adored.  Indeed a specific version of it, actually.  Despite being a metal fan, I do have a weakness for a girl and an acoustic guitar, so my music collection features Tori Amos, Sophie B Hawkins and others.  In 1995, I got myself a copy of Amanda Marshalls debut album, and it is pretty good.  I had bought the first single “Let It Rain” on cassette and the B-side (kids, ask your parents) was a live version of another album track called “Last Exit To Eden”.  An ode to the uncertainty of walking away, it features one of my favourite opening verses ever.

The walls are thin here in this motel room
Some fool is raging overhead
He’s preaching the Gospel
According to
Johnnie Walker Red

Which I think is a simply wonderful line.

The album track is good, but the B-side is live, in Montreal I think and is just Marshall and an acoustic guitar.  And given that Amanda Marshall has a supremely powerful,earthy voice, it becomes a soulful, bluesy, pain filled number.  I adore it.  If I could sing, I’ve often thought about learning the guitar just to play it.

And yet, I can’t buy this track on MP3.  Hell, I can’t even find it.  I have a second hand recording from the original cassette.  The closest I have is this YouTube video.

The guitar isn’t the same and there is a backing band.  The soul is still there but it gnaws at me that this other version, my perfect version, is out there.

This week, several prominent websites blacked themselves out in protest at SOPA/PIPA – two laws currently being drafted to prevent online piracy.  However, because the entertainment industry has bought and paid for the US political system (to be fair, they are not the only owners and the UK Parliament is almost as bad) the laws are so broadly drafted as to shut down the entirety of WordPress because I happened to have linked to that YouTube video above.

Yet, as previously stated, I wish to purchase the song and pay real money for it.  I can’t.  The closest I can get is the video above, which means I put everyone with a WordPress blog in jeopardy.  Punishment of innocent people for being unable to purchase a legal item.  It isn’t just a stupid situation, it is an insane one.

And that is before we consider that many of the major participants in the  music industry are law breakers, from sampling, copying, drug taking, gang warfare, prostitution, exploitation, fraud, assault and battery and various other shenanigans that come with “hell raising rock stars”, “record producers” and “music executives”.

Of course, a piece of paper is the worst padlock ever invented, so absolutely nothing will change.  I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again – piracy is not killing the music industry, the music industry is killing the music industry.  It chokes off its own air supply, forces product people don’t want onto them and then wonders why the consumer goes off to the equivalent of a back street hustler in order to get the product they want.  Black markets exist because they supply things to people that they want but can’t get.

Anyway, we all know the arguments.  Point is, here is a great song.  It isn’t the best version, but unless I can figure out just how to get hold of that in this day and age, then it is the best I can do.

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Fotoshop by Adobé

OK, so Geoff Taylor and I did this gag five* years ago, but this is very, very well put together.

*Christ.

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HS2

Every morning, I catch the train to Liverpool.  On the way towards Manchester, I pass the Longsight train maintenance depot where Virgin have their maintenance setup for the Pendolinos.  On the other side of the track, is a huge grey maintenance shed known as Manchester International Depot.

It was built to handle the Regional Eurostar services, where the then new Eurostar trains would be planned to come through the Channel Tunnel and go past Waterloo, heading up to Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds.

Regional Eurostar never happened for a number of reasons.  One of which was that there was no real will for it to happen, but the announcement was a sop to the regions, worried about the usual gravitational pull of London.  A Parliamentary Select Committee said in 1999, “the regions have been cheated“.

The Government have announced HS2, the new high speed train link from London to Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds.  Costing £33bn, the first phase will go to Birmingham in 2026 before reaching Manchester and Leeds by 2032.

I’ll bet a body part, possibly going as far as putting my left bollock on the line, that it will never reach Manchester.  Call it bitter experience.

As for whether HS2 is a good idea, I refer you to this. (OK, it is from the Graun, but the point is the same.  Forget the environmental concerns, what is the business case?  I want good public transport and what we could do with £33bn.)

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