How to Wreck a Nice Beach

More Crosstalk on the Vocoder
  • About the Book
  • About the Author
  • Reviews
  • Buy the Book
Something To That Effect

The Cloud Who Wore Red Pants

By Dave Tompkins at 8:39pm ET

“I do not try, gentlemen, to account for that thing—that voice.”
—Randolph Carter





This varsity Miami Bass jacket came from Robert Mooney, a gift for finishing my book. One for my trouble. As you can see, it comes with a spaceship attached to its sleeve.

(I should finish vocoder books more often!)

My mom—who is not acquainted with the finely stitched intricacies of Bass messaging in Miami—said the Skyywalker Records logo looked like Minnie Mouse’s behind.

(Maybe it was the shoes.)

I said, “No, that’s not Minnie Mouse’s behind. That is a dancing Bass cloud wearing red slacks.”

Then we had a laugh about “clouds of butt.” And my grandmother’s red slacks. And the idea of a mouse getting mugged by a cloud. And how the cloud ran off in the mouse’s Bass pants. And how “That’s the mouse’s Bass pants” would replace the cat’s PJs. And how the cat would just give up.

This provided a good distraction, as my mother just had surgery on her rotator cuff, a.k.a. supraspinatus. This translates to “fish banana” in artificial brains struggling with speech recognition.

The double y’s in Skyywalker’s name were on purpose, so George Lucas wouldn’t sue the red cloud pants off Luther Campbell.

In the words of Jeff Spicoli, “Where’d you get that jacket?

Mr. Mooney organized the vocoder party in Raleigh, N.C., which was DJed by Kurtis Blow’s guitar player Davy DMX*, also the producer of  “F-4000.” Professor Griff showed up and slid through the Soul Train gauntlet.

The appearance of Griff inspired a friend to drive home and retrieve his copy of “Bass Mechanic” so we could hear it at the club. And we did, and we freaked, and our faces quaked.

I was reminded of a story MC A.D.E. once told me about doing “Bass Mechanic” on Pele’s ex-wife’s TV show before she was nearly kidnapped, and before A.D.E. performed “Bass Mechanic” in a futbol** stadium in Brazil, wearing a trench coat.

(A.D.E. is from Lauderdale, incidentally.)

I did not see Professor Griff dance a ring of fire to “Bass Mechanic.”

But the face quakers kept coming.

The last time I saw Griff was 2:00 on a Saturday afternoon in Chapel-Hill. Public Enemy had dropped by to rip up the Cat’s Cradle for a matinee while en route to a homecoming  appointment at NC Central. Flavor Flav surfed over the crowd to the stage.

The Reading

The Raleigh vocoder reading took place earlier that day at Quail Ridge Books, across from the intersection where once, many years ago, a Just-Ice song shut down my friend’s Jetta at 3:00 in the morning and we had to call Triple A.

At the reading, some kid asked me about Lil B. (The Lil B song about Sword in the Stone is great.) A retired pilot inquired about voices in the black box.

After the reading, a guy introduced himself as Randolph Carter.

The Randolph Carter?

Randolph Carter was last spotted in an H.P. Lovecraft story in 1919, on a mobile phone, in an ichorous swamp in Gainesville, Florida.*** He was speaking with a colleague who’d gone under a tomb and, amid the “miasmal vapors,” discovered something “utterly beyond thought.”

According to Carter, the voice at the other end of the line was “deep, hollow, gelatinous, unearthly, inhuman, disembodied,” etc.

As fond as I am of the gelatinous voice, there are concerns that pack jam has no interest in leaving me alone.

*During middle school assembly, Principal Alice Litwinchuk made us write down our nicknames and hand them over to the administration. I stole mine from a guy named after a drum machine. People laughed. What is a Davy DMX? Like the time Violet and Lucy coaxed Charlie Brown into admitting he always wanted to be named “Flash.” (Last panel: Violet and Lucy, on the ground laughing in boldface mean: FLASH??? HA! HA!) So I changed my rap name to a tree doctor/storm trash removal service called Davey Tree. Their rival was another crew of tree removers called Asplundh. We had the better looking trucks, though Asplundh had a nastier tree-eating machine.

**We are now tying into current events.

***Lovecraft once walked out on a screening of Tod Browning’s Dracula in Miami.

Bounce, Rock, Rollschuh Fahren

By Dave Tompkins at 8:47pm ET

Holger Czukay said he was tailed by the Cologne police while test-skating his vocoder perfume song. He looked wired to explode. They may have been suspicious of the Ziploc bag of electronics dangling off hip, essentially a homemade bag of Walkman guts. (Holger also once purchased a vintage IBM dictaphone from an undertaker.)

Holger claims the cops were following him because they thought he might bust his iliac, perhaps not the stallion on wheels fantasized by Big Boi.

When we were laying out the book, I asked Holger for a photo of him rollerskating. It was too small for our purposes, but here’s the proof nonetheless.

Native Tunguska

By Dave Tompkins at 12:44pm ET

Off to the mountains, near Asheville, after hearing Dam Funk drop a new Steve Arrington joint in the Sunday mist. Speaking of Steve Arrington, I saw an exquisite pair of signature Three Times Dope knee pads while in Chicago a month ago. They were a promotional item for the 3 x’s D single “Weak at the Knees” (Feat. Steve Arrington).

These knee pads shame my Alkaholiks beer coaster. They also remind me of the guy who asked for Swen Nater’s kneepads after a Laker exhibition game I attended in Charlotte long ago. Hey Swen! Lemme have one of them kneepads!

But the mountains.

I love “Mountain’s World.” (Great Rap Moment: Listening to Tuff Crew’s Monty G, aka The Mountain, order a sundae at a Friendly’s in Philly, with screaming kid party at next table.)

I love the Mountain label.

I love that part of “Al-Naafisyh” where the words “beach knob” seem to get scrunched through the vocoder’s snoot. Lil Beach Knob is a mini-elevation near Linville Gorge. Good caves and moss beds there! (Where my brother once fell through a cave onto a dead moose.)

Last time I was on Lil Beach Knob, the sassafras smelled like Froot Loops.

But I will be reading in Asheville, not Beach Knob.

Asheville is near Brevard, N.C., where I went to summer camp and was indicted by a kangaroo court for waking up one night in my cabin and declaring, “There’s a spaceman in the trash can!”

This incident would later appear in “Spaceman In the Trash Can,” a story I wrote for the Broken Wrist Project, which was published by James Hughes in 2002.

Then, we figured, why not a vocoder book?

My counselor (named Alex Bell)* had been throwing dirt on me in my sleep. He said I was being bombed with bat-guano. “Those bats are shittin’ on you!” said the whisperer in darkness.  I believed him.

It’s great to be here.

Asheville also happens to be Bob Moog’s old haunt. (Event details here.) Hopefully the reading won’t conflict with Game 7 because THERE WON’T BE NO GAME 7.  (Update: Um there will be a Game 7). (Rondo!)

Anyway, my cousin, who did the German translations for the book, will be moderating and hectoring.

Hopefully his old man will come out. My uncle is a former CIA codebreaker who defected into the Blue Ridge mountains to become a water dowser. Apparently he used to eavesdrop on Soviet tank commanders cussing their mothers.

When I was a kid, my uncle would show up at the house and talk UFOs, J. Allen Hynek, and Siberian Tunguska Incidents (the mysterious tree-frying explosion in 1908 that made the coyotes walk upright and go to church in Against the Day.)

*No relation to the guy who designed a talking machine for his deaf wife.**
**Wasn’t there a song called “Def Wife?”

Grammar’s In The Cellar

By Dave Tompkins at 3:56pm ET

I acquired The Punctuator in a junk yard in Burbank back in 1995. You walk through a maze  of chewed-up cars, a scrap tunnel, and into a wall of used books and records.

Hello, mangy Chas Wright “High As Apple Pie, Part II” that skips at the Gang Starr and Large Pro parts, all scuffed to Baconator catfuck hell.

Hello, The Punctuator.

The Punctuator was used for a—um, err, (horn section blurt!) (Freestyle keyboard eructation!)—5,000 word story I wrote on stabs for a 1939 issue of Weird Tales/Tuba Frenzy.

Stop Smiling Books

© 2010 Stop Smiling Media, LLC. All rights reserved.