Saturday, May 9, 2015

T.C. Boyle (#3): T.C. At The T.C.


Fiction writer T.C. Boyle reading from his latest book The Harder They Come at the Tattered Cover on April 30, 2015. Wonderful, once again, to give a listen to—as well as to speak briefly with—the prolific, provocative, and profoundly-entertaining author, whose love of literature always proves infectious.

I have a background with Boyle: I conducted feature interviews with him, published by High Times in 1989 and Salon in 1990. (I also appreciated his words of encouragement when I was finishing up my novel A Western Capitol Hill; Boyle wrote of the early chapters that I sent off to him, “This is beautifully done.”)

Given that Boyle's early work was primarily satire—although he's written his fair share of dramatic literature, since then—I gave myself the assignment to ask him the following at the Tattered Cover:


What are your thoughts on satire, and the P.E.N. recognition of Charlie Hebdo?

BOYLE: You know I'm known a lot as a satirist and my natural play on the world is to make crazy sick jokes to keep from crying. This is what satire does for me...

[The Charlie Hebdo killings are] an attack on our democratic society and on our ability to live together. I stand for absolute freedom of expression--no matter what it takes. I don't know if I would have had the courage of the editor of Charlie Hebdo, but I think if a group, any group—and we go back to Salman Rushdie and the Ayatollah—starts to dictate what we can and cannot say in our country, we're doomed. So, I admire the courage of [the editor of Charlie Hebdo]: a kind of fatal courage, a kind of suicidal courage. But, I've said here before to you, I'm proud to be part of a democracy and able to be who I am and say anything I want and do anything I want without having to care about anything: I mean, that's our essential freedom. 


United we stand up for satire.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Harry Lyrico (#2): High School Funnies.

Larry Hubbell (aka Harry Lyrico) holding a copy of his 1973 contribution to underground comix: High School Funnies, published by San Francisco's Last Gasp.

I'm appreciative of Hubbell's contribution to my 2015 novel release: Hubbell illustrated the cover for A Western Capitol Hill.

Brazilian Girls (#1): Disco Mystic.

Sabina Sciubba of Brazilian Girls getting her mojo working. Cervantes' Masterpiece Ballroom, 10/2/14. As Sciubba brought the party to the people, she also called to mind a mystic a la Bob Marley, encouraging the crowd to affect changes for the benefit of the planet. At the end of the band's set, the audience was on the stage dancing along, and--poof--she was gone. Magic.

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Dandy Warhols (#1): The Dandy Mama.

The January 2015 issue of Culture magazine includes my interview with musician, DJ, and activist Zia McCabe of The Dandy Warhols. In it, she discusses her 20 years with the band, her thoughts on America's War on Drugs, and why taking a stand on a number of social and political issues matters to her. What got edited out of the piece, though, is her take on one of The Dandy Warhols' most famous videos, so I've included that question-and-answer below; additionally, I'm including her more fleshed-out answer to one of my questions.

 Shining a light on Zia at the Bluebird Theater on 9/30/14. 

The song “Smoke It” is pretty whimsical. It sounds like The Dandy Warhols' answer to Bob Dylan's “everybody must get stoned.”

We used it to encourage people to vote for Measure 91, the successful measure to legalize and tax marijuana in Oregon. We have a few songs about smoking, and it's good and it's fun, and it's nice to be lighthearted about issues that are dear to you and can get really heavy and make you frustrated.

I can get grass, good grass. I don't smoke massive quantities, but a white female smoking a little weed isn't at much risk whether it's legal or not. Unfortunately, for a lot of other people—in other words, members of the black community—a law enforcement encounter can negatively affect them. This victimless crime can really derail people's lives—especially minorities—leading to extended sentences once inside our corrupt, privatized prisons, when they didn't deserve to be in any trouble, at all. Keeping marijuana possession illegal perpetuates racism: imprisoning people for something that should be legal. 

 Zia (aka DJ Rescue) selecting the tunes at the Lost Lake Lounge

The Dandy Warhols' recent release is a live version of its album Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia (Live At The Wonder; The End Records). The humorous video (from 2000) for the song “Bohemian Like You” seems to capture an authentic, pre-Portlandia era and vibe in Portland history.

It definitely was a slice of life, and a slice of Portland time and culture for us. That bar that we shot the performance part of it in, and doing karaoke, was called Slabtown. It's actually closing its doors, along with a lot of the other seedy, dive establishments. In Portland, rent is getting so high that you can't afford to be a dive. That was our haunt for several years and now, to us, it will be a sign of a yesteryear. Another really good example of that is the “Ride” video: You see us on motorcycles going down streets that just don't exist anymore and passing buildings that are long gone. And, to us, that was the first, “Wow! We really documented a piece of Portland that was soon to disappear”—and you don't know it when you're doing it.

Mama mia! Thank you, Zia.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Ralph Gean (#23): Ralph's Groove Thang.

Rock 'n' Roll lifer Ralph Gean showing off his latest release: a lathe-cut record limited to 25 copies.

Here's Ralph, with drummer Andrew Lindstrom of Nightshark, at his record release event at Mutiny Information Cafe. According to Westword, which reviewed the event, Ralph remains "Denver's Greatest Unknown Rock Star." (The article also mentions that Ralph "covered a song by a local artist present for the performance--Gregory Ego.")

See more Gregory Ego photos documenting the vastly under-appreciated phenomenon of Ralph Gean right here. Because those of us who know, do speak!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

The Clash (#2): Stand By Your (Corrected) Man.

  A smashing show—if not smashed bass.

It's a Clash mea culpa, on my part. In a previous blog posting, I repeated an oft-cited slice of "historical" trivia: namely, that photographer Pennie Smith took the iconic cover photo of London Calling on September 21, 1979, the same night that I saw The Clash at The Palladium in New York. Hey—on the London Calling album itself, that's the date it says the photo was taken; and that was the date cited on a web site dedicated to The Clash that I referenced when I wrote that blog text. To my mind, the problem is (and has been) this: I never saw a bass guitar smashed by musician Paul Simonon on the night in question. Was I in the bathroom when it happened? No, I don't think relieving myself ever entered into my mind while frenziedly transfixed by the band's performance. Maybe I just didn't have a good sight line? Actually, I was quite close to Simonon during the latter half of the band's set, getting what decent photographs I could while standing up on the arm rests of the seats about four rows back from the stage. Was I too stoned? No, I would claim I didn't feel a thing after partaking of my very first doobie that same night. But who am I to question official history? And who would even question it, if I was wrong?

No "Pressure": Paul Simonon with his bass on 
9/21/79 at The Palladium in New York.

Enter super Clash fan—quite possibly fanatic—Dave Marin, who wrote me to say that he witnessed Simonon smash his bass (which had the word "Pressure" on the top of the guitar body, near the strap button, and which is on display at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum) the night before, on 9/20/79; Marin asserted, within his email and during our enjoyable phone conversation, that 9/21/79 is the wrong London Calling cover date. Marin's mission: to correct the historical inaccuracy wherever he finds it repeated on the web—and hopefully to see that it's corrected on any official, future reissue of London Calling. After reviewing his accumulation of evidence, I have to admit his historical take is more solid than Simonon's bass. Because if Simonon had actually smashed the bass he was playing on 9/21/79, when I photographed the band, he wouldn't have been playing the same bass the next night in Philadelphia.

Even if a bass wasn't smashed, I do know The Clash rocked my world like a sonic earthquake on September 21, 1979. In fact, I still feel the tremors.


[Update: 1/9/15. Dave Marin posted the following video yesterday, which includes my "fan photos" shown above:]

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Quasi (#1): A Quasi Good Time.


Masterful, Beatlesque pop filtered through a punk rock perspective. I'm not quite sure what orifice most critics have their heads (ears included) lodged within, but Quasi's 2013 release Mole City made my personal “Best Of” list last year, at least. Former married couple, occasional collaborators, Sam Coomes (Heatmiser, Deep Fried Boogie Band) and Janet Weiss (Sleater-Kinney) enlivened the Hi-Dive in Denver on 11/5/13. They turned me on—to paraphrase a song of theirs.

At the show that same night, I met Voodoo Doughnut co-founder Tres Shannon, who I subsequently interviewed for Denver city magazine 5280 (his Portland-based business opened a store in Denver, the city where he spent time growing up—providing a dual, local angle). From the stage, Weiss gave props to Shannon—who once ran a Portland all-ages club, the X-Ray Cafe—for providing Quasi a place to play when no other venue would. Shannon, no stranger to sugary confections, clearly felt touched by the sweet sentiment. Voodoo Doughnut has subsequently started a record label, releasing a revved-up single by Coome's Deep Fried Boogie Band. Below, Shannon attends a May 2014 record-release party in Denver (at a Buffalo Exchange) for the Voodoo Doughnut 45 by Poison Idea.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Jonathan Richman (#2): Mr. Moonlight.

Jonathan Richman overcome by lunar forces, leading his audience outside the Lion's Lair in Denver, in order to literally gaze at the moon. 6/28/13.

Mudhoney (#1): Mudhoney Moments 2013.

Mudhoney celebrating its 25th year. Where the hell have I been as a listener all that time? 2013 was the year my ears finally embraced the band, digging into its sonic evolution. I've taken the plunge, dug the grunge. Dug their brand of pre-grunge psychedelia, their proto-grunge punk. You might even say I've become somewhat of a “Mudhead,” given that I checked Mudhoney out in Portland, Denver, and Seattle, last year. Touching: I haven't gotten sick of listening to them just yet. They feel like brothers from another kick-out-the jams-motherfucker! – if not mother. 






Thanks to Duane of The Derelicts for helping me gain backstage access after the Denver show. That signed single made for a great present. (Dig Duane sporting a t-shirt of my friend Johnny Strike's band CRIME.)


Thursday, May 22, 2014

John Waters (#1): Waters With Water.

[UPDATE: 5/22/14. I had the chance to interview film director John Waters for Culture magazine, which used my piece as its February 2014 cover story. Here's my favorite exchange:

What's your favorite part of being a storyteller?

WATERS: The most fun is when you think it up. When you first get the idea and nobody knows it but you. And it's your secret. And you give birth to it and you keep rewriting and working on it. That's the fun of it: Getting an idea that you realize you're going to live with for the next two years, and developing it and working on it every day. It's like an affair. An affair that sometimes works.]


Filmmaker provocateur John Waters (Pink Flamingos, Hairspray, Cry-Baby) at a reception, following his speech and the showing of two of his favorite short films (by Kenneth Anger) at the Aspen Shortfest in 2001. Author of the essay collections Shock Value and Crackpot.

Waters was introduced at the event by a friend who was also an actress in his movie Hairspray: singer Debbie Harry of Blondie.

[Originally posted 8/1/09]

Thursday, November 21, 2013

William S. Burroughs (#5): Thankfully, Burroughs.

[NEAR-ENOUGH THANKSGIVING UPDATE OF 11/21/2013: Two of my photos of Burroughs wearing a late-'80s-era "brain machine" have been incorporated into this video (at 2:32 & 3:34) of the song "Burroughs" by Chelsea Light Moving (which features Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth). I like the song and the video so much that I'm not going to sic my entertainment attorney on the videomaker for copyright infringement!]



A couple of weeks ago at the Starz Denver International Film Festival, I saw the documentary that I’d been eagerly awaiting: William S. Burroughs: A Man Within. Denver’s alternative weekly Westword published a blog about my contributions towards the film’s making--since it features some of my photos of Burroughs, as well as audio (Burroughs talking about his “shotgun art”) from my interview with the writer. In fact, my black-and-white photo of Burroughs wearing a “brain machine” (above) can be seen within the documentary’s latest trailer:

The film offers a compelling look at Burroughs’ history, featuring the affecting recollections and perspectives of Patti Smith, John Waters, and Genesis P-Orridge. People unfamiliar with Burroughs and his work will learn about the counterculture legend from it, and longtime Burroughs devotees will gain new insights. In fact, in its stellar review of the film, the New York Times wrote, "There is not a word or image wasted in a documentary you wish ran an extra half-hour beyond its condensed 90 minutes."

I’m thankful that I was able to lend a hand.

Which reminds me: What would a Thanksgiving be without taking in a viewing of William S. Burroughs’ A Thanksgiving Prayer (also featured within the film)?

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Oskar Alegria: Leave Oskar Alone.

In setting out to see the film The Search for Emak Bakia, I mistakenly went to the wrong movie theater. Billed as “an endlessly enchanting experimental documentary,” the film had been chosen as one of the selections for the Starz Denver Film Festival; unsurprisingly, the festival's roster incorporates multiple screening locations. So, whoops, I goofed-up by going to the theater on East Colfax (the same box office where I'd recently gone to have the order that I had purchased online changed, since I had accidentally purchased a Saturday showing for the film, rather than for earlier on Friday, as I had initially intended). Easy enough to rectify geographically, last night: back on the express bus to downtown, which had its delays when a confused middle-aged Latino man who hobbled with a cane -- due to having been shot through the legs, he would soon claim -- held things up with the driver, the passenger appearing unsure which direction he was supposed to be heading. Although I made it to the correct theater with plenty of time to spare, it turned out a good thing that I'd gotten off from work earlier than usual, by chance, because otherwise I might have missed the start of the presentation.

It soon became apparent that the film was making a name for itself, that it had festival buzz. In addition to selling out, I heard a film-studies professor mention that a movie critic friend had called it a “must-see.” [Update 11/19/2013: The Search for Emak Bakia won the Maysles Brothers Award for Best Documentary Film at the Starz Denver Film Festival.]

The Search for Emak Bakia (“a film about chance”). Going through the festival's programming a few weeks back, the name, the synopsis, and the trailer had stood out -- practically called out, in some way -- to me. A man attempts to find a palatial house in Spain named Emak Bakia (which translates as “Leave Me Alone” from the Basque language), which Dada and Surrealist artist Man Ray (someone whose painting, photographs, sculptures, I enjoy) had included within an arty film of the same name. In addition to clips from Man Ray's own film, there was a resonating image of Alegria's within the trailer: a discarded plastic glove blowing down the street, then seemingly doing a courting dance with a paper napkin in the breeze. The film takes circuitous detours before arriving at multiple conclusions: as just two for-instances, it also researches the fate of a clown whose image appears on a gravestone, as well as where a postcard that has just one line written on it (“Are you behaving yourself?”) had been sent and why it had been inscribed the way that it was.

As fortune would have it, filmmaker Oskar Alegria spoke afterward, something which I hadn't realized would be occurring.

Alegria said the following:
  • “I love to work with chance: you don't have to pay him. He's a good partner.”
  • “I like to search [for] things; I don't like to find them.”

  • “I love mistakes. I think the best inventions of human beings are mistakes: penicillin...Viagra, LSD, etc."

  • “I'm a journalist. But in this project I wanted to kill the journalist. I wanted to be another person: more poetical, more creative.” Rejecting his previous TV-work experience, Alegria set out to find a fresher path: “I think we all have to do something called 'Emak Bakia' in our life.”
Alegria discussed how he'd discovered -- by chance -- the Man Ray film, which had set in motion his own odyssey to find the house and why it was named “Leave Me Alone.” Alegria had thought of Man Ray as being just a photographer. But at the Tate Gallery in London, he walked into a projection room, part of the extensive Man Ray exhibit. Alegria soon saw the film with the words “Emak Bakia.”

“That's Basque!” he realized.

Just like himself.

Alegria described how his father had come from a small village. In his later years, he wrote down all the Basque words that had been disappearing. His father wrote down the names of rivers and birds, for instance, in his own little dictionary. His father believed that “if the word goes, the bird disappears.” Alegria says, “I tried to do the same thing with the [film] screen, not paper.”

Afterward, I had a chance, along with others, to speak with Alegria. In a magician-like gesture, he fanned black postcards out in his hands and asked people to pick a card, any card. On the underside, the cards contained various stills from the film. One of the cards stood out to me, the paper stock appearing darker than the others.

On it was a darkened, black-and-white Man Ray seaside image: “A section of undeveloped low coast. It was the only clue Man Ray gave about the place where he was filming the beach.”

I took the card fate had dealt me. And my leave.

Back to my own apartment, back to my own Emak Bakia.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Richard Vincent (#3): Remembering Curmudgeonly Richard.

R.I.P., Richard Vincent: 11/28/36 -- 3/30/12.

Richard Vincent was a confounding character. Even the people who he was closest to found the painter/sculptor prickly and off-putting. One friend still refers to him as the “original curmudgeon.” But Vincent bestowed humor – in addition to heaping doses of agita – upon those he took a liking to. Several remember him as being generous with his limited resources, someone capable of being deft at the personal touch. Most certainly, he made his share of enemies as well, delivering his unpopular beliefs with a sneering laugh. Sometimes, just a sneer. “Photography isn't art,” he dismissively told me on one occasion – a milder example, for sure, of one of his opinionated quotes. Towards the very end of his life, he expressed a few regrets about having alienated people with his uncompromising attitude, his dismissive and sometimes hostile demeanor.

He was the kind of guy who wasn't invited to a friendly collector's house because she feared that Richard would complain about how his art was hung. The kind of guy who, if you innocently offered him $200 some years ago for one of the plethora of small pieces laying about his studio, would adamantly refuse because paying a lesser price, he insisted, would be unfair to his collectors and devalue his artwork. But Vincent was also the kind of artist who would spend twelve hours working on a minute detail within a single painting – and be pleased as punch if someone actually noticed it. 
It's said by art maven Fran Mishler that he was meticulous in his painterly technique; that his geometrically-patterned, carefully-calculated canvases display exquisite details, which often surface only after close study. Bubbling colors and surface modulations result from multiple layers of glazing, she says. Tiny lines and amorphous, almost human shapes are built upon vibrant backgrounds. “You should be able to turn a painting three different ways and have it work,” he once informed me.

Born outside of Chicago, his parents separated while he was a young boy. He was raised by his father, then by a grandmother in California. As a child, he was badly burned, the scars still visible on his neck and face decades later. Somewhere along the line, he also lost an eye (in the fire, as well?) – which has led to the speculation that his limited sight may have contributed to his unique vision upon canvas. 

Small in physical stature, he must have had grand ambitions. Vincent studied art first in San Francisco, before moving to New York City in 1956, where he continued his education at Cooper Union at Columbia University. In the Big Apple, Vincent apprenticed to sculptors Peter Agonstini and Seymour Lipton.

In 1967, he moved to Colorado, residing in Salida, the Aspen area, and finally Denver. An acquaintance of his from the '90s, who remembers him less than fondly, quipped via email, “He reminded me of some itinerant Frenchman from the 1920's somehow caught in godforsaken cowtown Denver.” 

The mystery remains: What happened to Vincent's 1970 statue commissioned by the May D&F company for Denver's Zeckendorf Plaza? It was placed beside noted architect's I.M. Pei's hyperbolic paraboloid--before Pei's work was appallingly torn down in the years to come. Where is the statue today?

Throughout the years, his art was sporadically shown – although, across the globe. He exhibited at Maruyama Gallery in Nagano, Japan; at the Blue Man Gallery in Prague; at Quantair Arts in Den Haag, the Netherlands; at Oz Architecture in Denver.

 Richard Vincent at his exhibition at Oz Architecture.

A notable, human interest anecdote: This web site helped reunite Vincent with family members of his, whose online research led them to my previous photos of Richard inside his studio, and allowed them to make contact with him after 50 years. A sense of closure for his elderly aunt, who had always wondered what had happened to her sister's boy. After a cousin's initial talk with him, she reported back to me, somewhat aghast, that Vincent didn't own a TV or a computer! Didn't own them willingly, I'm sure – rather than as an indication of him being the proverbial starving artist – I replied.

Dying of lung cancer in a hospice outside of Denver, though, his last statement to a friend was a paraphrase of television anchorman Walter Cronkite's closing remark: 

“That's the way it goes,” painter and sculptor Richard Vincent resignedly concluded.

Richard Vincent at his Grant Street studio.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Little Fyodor and Babushka (#5): The Whole World's Got Him In Its Hands.

Little Fyodor being group-groped by his band mates, including Babushka (far right).

On 7/13/13, a show is being held at Denver's Walnut Room in celebration of a new(ish) tribute CD to singer-songwriter Little Fyodor called The Unscratchable Itch. Quite an honor, given that you usually get a tribute CD (if at all!) only when you're dead or near-death. In addition to Fyodor cover songs by Ralph GeanBoyd Rice, and the Voodoo Organist, the CD includes one by the author of this blog, in addition to another by the side project that this author co-produces, Reverend Lead Pipe and the Evil Do'ers (my vocals on both cuts).

Twenty-one plus years ago I acquired Little Fyodor's cassette Beneath the Uber-Putz, a selection of original, punk-inspired songs that still bring me joy, thanks to the dark, witty vision of the songs' angst-ridden creator. It's an honor to have participated in the recording of "Small Talk" (from side "Uber" of the cassette) and "You Will Die" (from side "Putz") for the tribute CD. And I will be joyfully informing Little Fyodor of this on Saturday, after I perform onstage and before he does, when I request that he sign the sleeve of my precious cassette. (Check for it on sale on eBay on Monday!)

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Frank Kwiatkowski (#1): Cuts Like A Knife.

Frank Kwiatkowski holding one of his cone cut prints (now part of Gregory Ego's privately-held collection of Kwiatkowski artwork).

With oft-present syringe in practically every one of his visionary, dystopian etchings, Frank Kwiatkowski is an indefatigable diabetic if there ever was one, going all out to literally and figuratively illustrate how a wrecked health care system has left him a wreck. He's a street artist who quite visibly puts his woes out to the world in visually-arresting, shocking, amusing ways. The primary “gallery” for his poster series, The Kwiatkowski Press: on dumpsters, street poles. His medium: etchings used for printmaking which are cut into the backs of heisted, segmented, orange safety cones; the etchings are then inked and pressed onto paper or cut-up shards of the orange cones themselves.

It's been noted that, historically in art, wood block artists have often dealt in religious or political subject matter. Arguably, Frank's safety-cone artwork treads both those grounds, as well: think images of a martyred saint facing the slings and sharp-syringe arrows of the mismanaged health management system, or insular and prisoner-like within his costly bottle of life-sustaining insulin. It's Kwiatkowski's agitprop-with-attitude that has spurred me to serially photo document each discovery that I make of his art in shadowy Denver alleyways and on grotty street corners.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Wheelchair Sports Camp (#1): Roll Another One.

Rapper Kalyn Heffernan of Wheelchair Sports Camp rolled one for High Times, and I just so happened to be the scribe along for the ride. My article on the hip hop group was published in the magazine's February 2013 issue.

Some of my favorite Kalyn quotes weren't able to be included in the piece. So here they are -- for the first time anywhere!:


On being a disabled rapper doing what she does:

"I have to be okay with myself, and not just okay but happy with myself."

On the notoriety that her group has accrued -- in large part, due to her:
"If press was money, we'd be filthy rich right now."

On whether she uses marijuana medicinally:

"Medical marijuana doesn’t really help with anything besides my stoner addiction."

On her incorporating unauthorized samples of some major recording artists:

"What are they gonna take: my wheelchair?"

 Hell no! Give the woman a gold-plated one.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Pierced Arrows (#1): No Halloween Costumes Required.

Pierced Arrows dressed as themselves, Halloween Night 2012. Ash Street Saloon. Portland, Oregon.

 Fred Cole

A word often used to describe the husband (guitar/vocals) and wife (bass/vocals) team of Fred & Toody Cole is "legendary." After all, Fred Cole has a rock 'n' roll pedigree dating back to the '60s with his band the Weeds/Lollipop Shoppe, and their previous group Dead Moon garnered fans on at least a couple of continents. But I'd be remiss not to add "fun" and "intense" as onstage characterizations for them, as well.

Last night, I re-watched the Coles perform as part of Dead Moon in the 1996 documentary Hype! about the Seattle grunge scene. Although they're certainly representative of a Pacific Northwest psych-garage-punk sound, what's not mentioned in the flick is that the Coles pound terra 173 miles to the south in Portland -- not belly up to Puget Sound. Ah, the days when Portland got no respect!

As for the Coles and drummer Kelly Halliburton--"Much Respect," as the saying goes, for their gritty, gutsy playing, and Fred Cole's switchblade-insightful lyricism.

Toody Cole

Kelly Halliburton

Friday, December 7, 2012

Steve Bloom (#2): Reefer Flicks.

"Henry Hemp" interviewing Steve Bloom (right) about his book Reefer Movie Madness: The Ultimate Stoner Film Guide. Bloom, who runs the CelebStoner web site, edited articles of mine for High Times magazine, and gave me assignments to conduct feature interviews with authors Tom Robbins and T.C. Boyle.

For Reefer Movie Madness, I contributed a couple of movie reviews: Withnail and I ("Bruce Robinson's film deservedly has as devoted a cult audience in England as The Big Lebowski does in the U.S.") and Oliver Stone's Salvador ("There, Boyle and Rock encounter death squad victims at a mass dumping ground, right-wing paramilitaries, Marxist guerillas, and Reagan-administration interventionists who purposely overlook human rights violations by the El Salvadoran power elites...").

If I were being interviewed for a documentary right now, I'd say, "May there be less Reefer Madness, and more Reefer Movie Madness, in the days ahead."

Cut! That's a wrap!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Ralph Gean (#22): Ready To Play At Seventy.

Today is rock 'n' roll original Ralph Gean's seventieth birthday. I'm sure if he has guitar in hand, and someone in front of him, he'll naturally be playing his own songs or cover tunes, and serving as the entertainment tonight at his own celebration.

Never have I witnessed a performer reach so many different types of audiences: whether it be white hipster dive-bar patrons as he plays his original songs like "Homicidal Me," or latinos gamely listening to him butcher the lyrics to "La Bamba" at a blue-collar bar, or old folks at a retirement home as he breaks out a hip-shaking, risque Elvis standard. Ralph has been enjoyed at peckerwood car lots, local talent shows, and Satanist wedding receptions. He has the gift of reaching all manner of people through his muse.

I'm delighted to add that Ralph sometimes entertains people by playing a cover version of my song "Kill for a Cigarette," which Ralph released on one of his own CDs, in addition to having tickled the keys on my very own, original Gregory Ego sound recording. (See YouTube video below.)

Here's hoping Ralph remains ready, willing, and able to rock and roll all night for years to come.

Happy Birthday to you, Ralph Gean!

Ralph opening for John Doe at the Lion's Lair in Denver on May 27, 2011.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Paul Z. Simons: Anarchy in Johnny's Newsstand.

Paul Z. Simons, a onetime writer and editor for the magazine he's seen holding, at a now-defunct Denver newsstand. (I'm amused at how there's a loaded gun on the cover of TIME magazine, but not on Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed -- stereotypes be damned.) Currently, he's an editor for the magazine Modern Slavery: A Journal for the Abolition of all forms of Enslavement.

And Simons is also a onetime employer of mine. In the '90s, he headed an HIV and Hepatitis C prevention group called People Engaged in Education and Reduction Strategies (PEERS). From '97 to '98, I helped coordinate the organization's activities. Our non-profit co-hosted a conference on harm reduction that was attended by the health departments of several Western states, as well as Colorado's future governor. (My article on the event can be found here, on pg. 28.) We spearheaded a change in Denver law concerning syringe exchange, and attempted to reform state law in the legislature. And we hosted a regional user's group which solicited advice, on behalf of state funding overseers, from injection drug users on how to best offer services.

I once asked Simons how he managed to be a political outsider, yet still officiate in a very public way within the system.

"Compartmentalization," he shot back.

I still find that to be particularly helpful advice.

Wayne Kramer (#3): Wayne Raging On Guitar.

UPDATE: The photo above of Wayne Kramer was recently included within the book Feeding Back: Conversations With Alternative Guitarists by David Todd. It’s a book of interviews, which are as much about several, unique musicians’ takes on life as it is about their relationship with their instrument. For instance:
David Todd: Are you still a work in progress?
Wayne Kramer: Well, yeah. I haven’t pulled over and parked. I guess we’re coming back around to this idea of ambition, and I actually feel like I’m just getting started, you know…That’s why I’m grateful that I’m alive, I’m enthusiastic about every day. I know that my time is finite, but it’s enough time. It’s exactly enough time if you’re using it as best you can.
It’s time to express my gratitude. I was tickled pink – or, perhaps, red, white and blue (like Wayne’s axe) – that the Kramer organization directed Todd towards my photo, and suggested it be used as the one representative shot of the guitar-slinger that would be included in the book at the start of the interview.

Wayne Kramer makes ready to perform a most incendiary version of "Kick Out The Jams" with Rage Against the Machine, across town from the Democratic National Convention. Denver Coliseum. August 27, 2008.

Here's my Huffington Post interview with Kramer that took place prior to the event. Kramer relates his experience with the MC5 at the violence-soaked '68 Democratic National Convention in Chicago.

(Click here for my other Wayne Kramer photos.)

Thursday, April 12, 2012


ed fROMOHIO and Mike Watt of  fIREHOSE. Early '90s. Where and when's all a mystery to me today.

Having seen Mike Watt's previous band, I can attest that fIREHOSE were no Minutemen. But, then again, the Minutemen were no fIREHOSE.

Here's to fIREHOSE's present-day reunion -- and to Mike Watts' continued low-end endeavors.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Slim Cessna's Auto Club (#17): Celebrating Slim Cessna's Auto Club.

Cheers! Wishing the always energetic Slim Cessna's Auto Club another 20 years of activity. The band celebrates its double-decade existance this week with three gigs at the Lions Lair in Denver -- a rare treat. Those shows I'll be missing. But luckily I've seen the band at the venue, in the past. The photo above, though, was taken in Fort Collins in the late '90s.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Tom Robbins (#2): The Green Man.


The photo that I took above accompanied my feature interview with Tom Robbins ("The Green Man") in the June 2000 issue of High Times. The same interview was recently reprinted in a scholarly work published by the University Press of Mississippi: Conversations with Tom Robbins. Nice to know that a state-affiliated publisher in Mississippi would concern itself with Mr. Robbins' thoughts concerning pyschedelics.

My favorite exchange:
HT: Why, in your opinion, is fiction still an important art form?

TR: Much more than an entertaining set of exaggerated facts, fiction is a metaphoric method of describing, dramatizing and condensing historical events, personal actions, psychological states and the symbolic knowledge encoded within the collective unconscious; things, events and conditions that are otherwise too diffuse and/or complex to be completely digested or appreciated by the prevailing culture. The human race has always defined itself through narration. That isn't going to change just because we've gone electronic. What is changing is that now we're allowing corporations to tell our stories for us. And as I write in my new novel, the message of the corporate story is always the same: "To be special, you must conform; to be valid, you must consume." Real fiction will prevail, however, because at its best it's an enchantment that refreshes the wasteland of the mind.
 Trip out on that! In Jackson, no less!

Carol Doda (#1): Carol Doda Keeps Her Shirt On.


Legendary Condor Club stripper Carol Doda displaying her vocal and stand-up comedienne — rather than bump ‘n’ grind — skills. At the nightclub Amante in North Beach, San Francisco. May 2010.