Dear Subscribers, both old and new:
In the course of life, I’ve found the hardest things to give up are the things you still love, but which circumstances force you to leave behind.
The favorite toy you’ve outgrown
the home in which you grew up
the favorite shirt, now all ratty and torn
the lover who no longer loves you
the child, about to go to college or be married
the parent or grandparent about to pass out of this world.
I humbly apologise to all of you for my neglect of the past several months, and I have recently come to the realization that events in my life make it impossible for me to continue running this newsletter.
As much as I have loved doing this for the past few years, I have decided to turn the management of this forum to another person who has agreed to take up the gauntlet. Very soon now, we will have formalized the exchange, and will be sure to let you know the details. Stay tuned, and bear with us for a little bit longer. From now on you will hear from me only as a fellow subscriber.
And now for the last issue of my version of American Music…
I received this bit of info from the Black47 official mailing list:
Now here’s something many of you have been waiting for. The tickets for our two shows on St. Patrick’s Parade Day, March 16th at The Knitting Factory are now on sale. You can go to the Knitting Factory at 74 Leonard St., NYC(5 blocks below Canal between Broadway & Church) 212-219-3006 and pick up tickets for $20 or get them through Virtuous Tickets (with a $2 extra charge, which mostly goes to food and shelter for the homeless).
Both shows are ALL AGES and are at 7 and 10:30pm. The support act will be Paddy on the Railway (featuring Kirk Kelly and Brian Richie of the Violent Femmes). It’s almost certain that we will film and record these shows for a DVD and live CD. And as everyone knows, there are a lot of supporting roles for the audience in any Black 47 show – but particularly on St. Patrick’s Day. Get your tickets while they’re still available. The Knitting Factory is audience friendly, their security is there to help not intimidate – that, the all ages factor and the venue’s proximity to WTC is why we chose it.
This show will be on a free audio webcast and pay per view $4.95) webcast on http://www.celtictv.com but be warned: this may only be Black47 and not Paddy on the Railway too.
It would be nice to know what the band is doing. I have sent numerous inquiries to the website with no response. I just wanna hear that they are doing their own things or working on new material or planning on playing somewhere.
What good is a fan website if their is no new info. At least here, we can create our own band propoganda, but it doesn’t seem that anyone here has a pipeline to the band.
Lets all go to the website and demand some new info.
Meanwhile, I hear that Gordon’s semi-solo album won’t be out until January. Has anyone heard the music? Also, I heard that Brian was searching the archives for some of the Femmes earliest recordings for possible MP3 release.
Finally, I read that the band had two-albums worth of new music written, but no means of release. Has anybody else heard this story?
Has any one seen the Labat Blue beer commercial. It’s playing Blister is the background
French verbs now conjugated differently
There seems to be some discrepancy as to the release date (Ice magazine says it’s this month, CD Now says next year) but Violent Femmes singer Gordon Gano is releasing a solo album entitled Hitting the Ground. Put out by Instinct Records, On it he is joined by a rather surprising guest list that includes Lou Reed, Frank Black, PJ Harvey, and They Might Be Giants. This news comes shortly after the group received perhaps the greatest honor of its two-decade career – being asked to sing and appear in promos for Nickelodeon’s Spongebob Squarepants, perhaps the greatest show to ever air on commercial television. Oh, and the group’s first two classic records are getting the reissue treatment from Rhino as well.
Does anyone know when “Hitting the Ground” will be released? CDNOW has the release date of January 8th, Allmusic has it as September 25th. I’m going to order it, I’m just curious how long I will be waiting around for it to arrive.
Also, In regards to a CD-R tree I would be willing to distribute. I don’t have much other than the studio albums (which I wouldn’t want to distribute because
1) I wouldn’t want the femmes to get ripped off and
2) I suspect that most of us have them all anyway.
But I would be willing to help distribute rare or live stuff that’s not commerically available. I don’t really know how these things work- I suspect you just need a bunch of people with CD burners, right?
I’ve been making requests (nearly) everyday to KROQ- does anyone know if there has been any success in this?
-Pat. Says: new release date is listed as May 07, 2002. Track listing is:
1. Hitting the Ground
2. Oh, Wonder
3. Make It Happen
4. Don’t Pretend
5. Catch ‘Em in the Act
6. So It Goes
8. Darlin’ Alison
9. Merry Christmas Brother
10. It’s Money
Marylee mentioned a while back that she and I paid a visit to NYC’s Mercury Lounge to experience Brian’s new project. I finally got a minute to scan in and post the photos we took. I even snagged the set list which – in true punk rock style – was written on a brown paper bag!
Check it out at: http://www.geocities.com/ddearry/mercury.html
Together, they don’t have a name. Individually they are: Spencer P. Jones (of Australia’s Cow Penalty, Paul Kelly Band, Beasts of Bourbon, The Johnny’s)lead vocals & guitar; Steve Boyle (Australia) guitar;Billy Ficca (Television, The Waitresses)drums; and our much reveredBrian Ritchie on bass. Those of you who have (or are getting) the compilation have a snipet of Spencer playing the lap steel on Good Feelings during the Femmes tour down under in ’95. I had seen him do the same at a festival gig in Birmingham in ’98. That was the extent of my knowledge about the man in the white cowboy hat. Not anymore! The music was totally unexpected – reminiscent of the truly great punk rock from the time when that type of music didn’t have a label. Reminiscent – including a cover of Jet Boy/Jet Girl – but not a remake. The sound was thick and heavy – full of driving beats that pulled you in and pushed you on – with lyrics full of attitude. There were a couple of twangy numbers, a coupla’ gee-tar wailing, ballad types and even a VF inspired, Ritchie-penned tune with the catchy refrain of, “If you think your life is fucked up look at mine.” There was also another VF connection onstage that night – Malachi Delorenzo (Vic’s son)took over the strings from Steve Boyle and rocked out with the guys for a bit.
What amazed us was how tight the sound was when we knew they hadn’t had much time to rehearse & were only playing a handful of gigs. There was just a certain chemistry about them onstage though. I guess that’s what happens when you assemble that level of talent. Marylee & I weren’t the only ones who noticed the electricity either. The guys were offered a record deal two gigs in and put down about half an album’s worth of tracks before the end of the run. They were hoping to finish recording and do some more gigs in and around NYC in November but Spence and Steve call Australia home & circumstances are tricky for that kind of travel right now. Keep an eye out for more from these guys in the future though. Get out and see them if you can. You won’t be disappointed!
A few nights ago my sister and I went to a Nickelback/Saliva concert, and it really made me appreciate Violent Femmes shows. Like, I’m completely nostalgic for their concerts. There’s just nothing at all that compares. But since they’re not touring or whatever right now, I just wanted to write in because I’m wondering if anyone else is going through VF withdrawl like I am…
I don’t know, I just kind of like my music to be a little bit on the strange side. Nickelback and Saliva just didn’t do it for me, but then the sound was really horrible at the Rave in Milwaukee, so maybe they would have sounded better somewhere else. Maybe it wasn’t their fault. But there wasn’t really a whole lot to think about. It makes me miss the Violent Femmes. But maybe there are some other bands out there that are very intelligent/happy/weird/catchy that a person just wouldn’t hear about normally except through word-of-mouth? There are a few bands I would recommend to check out if you’re missing interesting music like I am.
Here are some of my other favorites:
G. Love and Special Sauce: kind of a blues/rap mixture that’s completely cool. And they tour a lot, so there’s a good chance they’ll be playing in a variety of places.
Little Blue Cruncy Things: I don’t think they’re touring, I think they broke up, but they’re a local Wisconsin band that have a few cool CD’s worth buying if you find them.
Old 97’s: I think they’re considered country, I’m not sure, and I don’t like country generally, but the Old 97’s are pretty cool. Fighting songs is an awesome CD
Ani DiFranco: Well, everyone probably knows about her, but I just bought one of her CDs and her lyrics are so interesting, and I’m completely digging the guitar-playing.
Anyway, if anyone knows of any cool bands/CD’s, etc., let me know because I need something fresh to listen to other than rap-metal or Brittany Spears or I think I’ll explode.
Just a short note to let you know that I have received my copy of the compilation video from Harry Bull. I actually got it a few weeks ago, but e-mail problems have prevented me getting in touch sooner. There’s some excellent stuff on there, its well worth having. Thanks to all involved.
Unfortunately I can’t make copies of the video to help distribution at present. I would however be willing to take part in a CDR tree if there’s a possibility of something like that ever being organised. There’s not too many femmes boots around these parts and usually from about ’85, so newer recordings would be appreciated.
don’t know how we missed this when it came out but here is a great interview!
A Conversation With
June 22, 2001
Rayanna Barker: Brian, back to the beginning, how did you meet these guys and is there any truth that when you played for the 1st time as the Violent Femmes you and Victor were playing Gordon’s song’s and hearing them for the 1st time as you played them?
Brian Ritchie: Well, I’m going to give you the full, detailed story for posterity. I don’t think it’s ever been told, probably because it’s boring. I was playing in a band called Ruthless Acoustics with a fellow named Jerry Fortier (4TA). Victor DeLorenzo was a previous member of the band and in fact in my earlier incarnation as a rock journalist I had written a review about them saying Victor was the best thing about it.
So Jerry and I went to a bar in Milwaukee called Harp. Victor was there, we were introduced, and we found out we had a lot of musical tastes in common, like Albert Ayler, John Coltrane, Sun Ra, etc. This was in the punk era when sullenness and negativity were the norm. Victor’s extroverted and slightly goofy persona were refreshing. So we hit it off and started playing in a number of different bands like The Rhomboids, Hitler’s Missing Teste and Trance and Dance. In the meantime I had come up with this name “Violent Femmes”. I can see that’s your next question so I’ll answer about the origin of the name later. Anyway when Victor and I were playing with third parties in impromptu situations or if we were playing as a two piece we called ourselves “Violent Femmes”.
Around the same time I met Victor I was approached by the owner of the Metropole Theater in Milwaukee, Robert Soffian. He told me,”There’s a guy you should check out, Gordon Gano, he’s a pint sized Lou Reed imitator. I think you’ll like him.”
I asked Robert if this Gordon character did Lou Reed songs. “No, he does his own songs, but he imitates Lou Reed.” Being a huge Lou Reed fan I was mildly curious about this, so I went to Gordon’s gig at a local coffehouse, Beneath it All. I was impressed by his songs and ability to handle a crowd. Those days he was much more extroverted on stage than he is now. He talked a lot to the audience and some of that was funny. I introduced myself to him. He had heard of me, and was happy that I had come because I was the only one from the adult world there. The rest of the people were kids from his high school.
We made plans to get together. I went over to his parents house and we played some songs. That was the first time I heard “Country Death Song” which blew me away. He had dozens of songs. They have turned up on most of our albums. I didn’t know what to do with Gordon, but I gave him a gig opening for the Rhomboids and we kept in touch.
Next stage in our story is when the Oil Tasters played at the Starship in Milwaukee. The Oil Tasters were the hippest band in Milwaukee and included as members Guy Hoffman (our current drummer) and Caleb Alexander (Femmes soundman and sax player). I bumped into Gordon and he invited me to join him the next morning for a performance he was to give at school for the National Honor Society. Gordon was being inducted and they wanted him to perform a song.
The next morning Gordon and his dad picked me up and we went to school, someplace I thought I’d never be again. The contrast between us was ridiculous. Gordon, 5’2″ wearing a suit, me 6’1″ in torn jeans and an old paisley smoking jacket. We were supposed to be playing “Good Friend”, but in imitation of Elvis Costello, who had recently performed a similar stunt on “Saturday Night Live” we broke into “Gimme the Car” after a few bars. There are some implied obscenities in that song, which were enough in that pre-rap era to cause the audience to explode. The principal was on the side of the stage waving his arms and mouthing the word “Stop!” to no avail. Gordon was expelled from the society.
A few weeks later Gordon was doing another gig at the coffehouse and he invited me to play. I brought Victor along. Curtis Weathers was playing bass, so I played electric banjo. Curtis wanted nothing to do with the name Violent Femmes so we were called “Gordon Gano and the Violent Femmes plus Curtis”. Curtis knew the songs already and Victor and I just played along. That’s when Victor made up the drum riff for “Blister in the Sun”.
Rayanna: Where did the name Violent Femmes come from? Is there a story behind that?
Brian: Jerry Fortier asked me what my brother was like. At the time my brother was working for an insurance company, totally straight. So of course I lied and said, “He’s exactly like me, he’s a punk and he has his own band!” Jerry asked me what the name of the band was, which put me on the spot. I had to come up with something, so I blurted out, “Uh…. Violent Femmes.” I then walked over to Victor’s house and told him about this episode. We had a good laugh and decided to start using the name.
Rayanna: How much of what you play is improvisation?
Brian: The best parts! Actually some of the songs have very little improvisation. Others have sections where the entire band is improvising, which goes against the norm for rock music. In most bands nobody improvises, and then once in a while the guitarist improvises over a static rhythm section. The songs which we do group improvs on include “Black Girls”, “Kiss Off”, “Confessions”, “Gimme the Car”, “Add It Up”, “Never Tell” and a bunch of others.
Rayanna: How many instruments do you own and do you still play your Earthwood Acoustic Bass or after 20+ years has that been put to rest?
Brian: I probably have over a hundred instruments including acoustic basses, bouzouki, didgeridoo, soprano sax, xylophone, nose flute, shakuhachi, and a spate of percussion, keyboards and guitar. All of which I’ve used on Femmes recordings. I am still using Ernie Ball Earthwood acoustic bass, although the original one is now being saved for a museum. I have some others for recording and touring. I wish they’d start making them again.
Rayanna: Have you ever considered playing or have you played a standup bass? Your sound reminds me a lot of what you would hear from a standup but yet I have never seen you play one live.
Brian: I played it on about half of the “New Times” record and used it on that tour. But the longer I play the more I realize that it’s my destiny to play the acoustic bass guitar.
Rayanna: Who are the most colorful people that you have performed with over the years? And do you have any good stories you can share?
Brian: Definitely the most colorful person who has played with the band is Dennis Rodman. He invited us to play at a benefit concert he was putting on and he sat in on drums (OK) bass (bad) and vocals (ridiculous). By the end of the night he had fallen down, pushed wheelchair victims around on the stage while screaming at the audience, “Who says I don’t have a heart?”, poured a beer on Gordon’s head and he was on the verge of exposing himself to the audience when he was hauled off the stage by his own bodyguards.
Rayanna: Do you guys all still live in different cities and if so does that make it hard to tour?
Brian: Gordon and I live in New York, Guy in L.A. We have not had all three in the same town since ’84, although the configuration is always shifting.
Rayanna: Who are some of your musical influences?
Brian: Our main influences are Velvet Underground, Gene Vincent and the Blue Caps, Ramones, Sun Ra, Johnny Cash, Pink Floyd, Television, Hank Williams Sr., John Coltrane and about two million other people.
Rayanna: Are you involved in any side projects?
Brian: I have mainly been studying shakuhachi, the Japanese bamboo flute for the last five years. I will be making a CD of it soon. I produced and played on a record for El Destroyo, out of San Francisco. http://www.eldestroyo.com .That should be out in a few months. Gordon’s nephew John Bisagna is quite a talented musician and we are in the process of making a CD together. In August I will be touring with a strange band consisting of Spencer P. Jones, who is a great rock and roll guitarist/singer from Australia, Rat Scabies, drummer for the pioneering British punk band, The Damned, and myself. http://www.spookyrecords.com/ I am always available to do interesting projects.
Rayanna: Does your son have any interest in performing or would he rather steer clear of the music industry?
Brian: He told me, “Dad, I hope you don’t take this wrong. Listening to music is cool, but playing it is stupid.”
Rayanna: Are there any plans for another new album any time soon?
Brian: We have released three albums in the last 18 months. “Viva Wisconsin” which is a live album. “Freak Magnet”, studio. ‘Something’s Wrong” which is an internet only release on http://www.emusic.com/. I don’t want to speculate about future plans.
Rayanna: What was it like remaking “Spongebob Squarepants” ? And how did that come about? Was it for Nickelodeon or just something you guys decided to do?
Brian: Nickelodeon wanted us to do a commercial for them because they are moving “Spongebob Squarepants” to prime time and they needed a fun campaign. So basically we did a couple of 30 second spots for them which you can see on Nick. It was very easy.
Rayanna: Is there anything that you would like to add?
Brian: I am against the death penalty. We can’t trust the government to do a good job anywhere else, why would we assume they will excersise matters of life and death with any skill or fairness?
Who cares if Bush’s daughters are trying to do underage drinking? Civilized countries don’t have drinking age limits. Change the laws!
I hope the Packers make it to the Super Bowl this year.
Rayanna Barker is Head Of Contacts and a Contributing Writer. Contact her at suma
I know this is a sad attempt at stirring up some conversation but hey – we’ve gotta keep hope alive! This July festival is taking votes for your favorite band. Click and vote TODAY!