How to Wreck a Nice Beach

More Crosstalk on the Vocoder
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Something To That Effect

Robot Redboard

By Dave Tompkins at 10:27am ET

You’re looking at one colorful wall from the room of Electro Barry Sheppard, a Nottingham folk hero. Actually Electro Barry is his “family friendly name.” He’d prefer that you call him Audiotron, his vocoder-given name. Barry collects vintage English security alarm boxes, arrows, natural history skulls and glowing traffic bollards. He also has an amazing scrapbook of clouds he photographed in the 1980s. A scrapbook for ’80s pylons, too. On the wall across from the alarm boxes is the world’s most extensive collection of hand-drawn vocoder cassettes. To the left is a a big-ass cardboard check presented to Barry by the town of Nottingham for walking around the city for 5.5 days for charity, taking a path he designed himself. Not pictured: a few of Electro Barry’s brother’s teeth, sold to Barry (by his brother) for 3 quid.

You’re also looking at a photograph of Barry in his Robot Redboad suit, inspired by Robert Redford’s light-studded cowboy in The Electric Horseman, who’d previously inspired Roger Troutman’s light suit when Roger performed “Computer Love” at the Charlotte Coliseum. Twice.

His skull collection:

(Photo by Lord Ivory of the P Bros)

When I met Audiotron, he was three bites into a two-story heart attack on white bread: six franks on the bottom, two beef patties on the top. This hot dog sandwich spent most of the evening sitting on his EMS-2000 vocoder.

The imagination, the science and mystery of Electro music made it magical. If I could live my youth again, I would live out the early to mid-’80s, just for this reason alone, and then happily fade away.

(There’s more on Electro Barry in the appendix of the paperback.)

Shout out to the grandma in The Pale King who covered her trailer in hubcaps to generate an electromagnetic force field to thwart various unsavory types in Peoria, Illinois.

The blog has been neglected of late, for the usual reasons and distractions: New projects, Miami, the coral revolution, extensive lasers to the guts, a cistern that holds the ashes of Bloody Watson, Volatile Organic Compounds and the Dynamic Headspace Method, a vocoder version of “Inch Worm” recorded for the California school system in 1985, okayokay, mid-90s bass tapes from Memphis, stone tapes, toast, Nigel Kneale, Hev Dog, a man who drinks torpedo fuel, bee clouds, a mongoose fluent in Russian. And so on, all the way half-dead into Fall, the true season of rebirth through decay and states of deciduousness.

Nitro Deluxe Is Right of Sa-Fire

By Dave Tompkins at 12:37am ET

(Back cover photo of Cutting Remixes, Vol. 1, released on Cutting Records in 1987)

Front row, second from left: Aldo Marin (ran Cutting Records, did edits for Fantasy Three’s “It’s Your Rock,” allowed the Latin Rascals’ edit-block to be photographed with my grandma’s headless plastic orange mummy for the vocoder book)

Front row, fifth from left, in lavender Pippo: Omar “Oh Oh” Santana (believed to be near legally blind, required box of Oreo cookies and milk for late-night edit sessions)

In front of Omar: Tony Moran of the Latin Rascals (see dub of Bryan Ferry’s “Kiss & Tell”)

Left of Omar: Albert Cabrera of the Latin Rascals (opened up Fresh Fest III in Charlotte with Mozart; once told me he would get so buried in the edit, he’d almost get mummified in 2-inch recording tape and would have to cut his way out)

Next to Albert: Herb Powers, Jr (etched family of Pac Men on runoff groove of “Pack Jam”)

In front of Herb: Lil Louis Vega (half of Masters at Work with Kenny Dope)

Above Aldo: Hashim (traded Madonna a promo of his 12 “We’re Rocking the Planet” for one of her leather wristbands)

Right of Hashim: Sa-Fire (freestyle!)

Right of Sa-Fire, and in recent memoriam: Manny Skretching, Jr, aka Nitro Deluxe (did electro-house classic “Let’s Get Brutal”)

Happy 30th Birthday, Planet Rock!

By Dave Tompkins at 3:40pm ET

(Designed by Rob Ricketts)

30 znh-znh-znh-znh-znhsomething

Your month is my month!

Go to Rob Ricketts’ site for the sequence and the science.

“Theoretical Security Was Not Absolute Like The Records”

By Dave Tompkins at 11:44pm ET

This diver is searching for the 50,000 ton vocoder that had been chucked in the Chesapeake Bay after World War II. The compression he must be feeling.

What’s up with that fish’s face?

We released a limited edition 45 (only 500 printed) which is now available for purchase. Each record is a different color, made from recycled vinyl, and includes a special 8-page booklet detailing the effects of 2001: A Space Odyssey on Jermaine Dupri when he danced at the Swatch Watch NYC Fresh Festival in 1984.

Track Listing

Geno Jordan: “You’re a Peachtree Freak On Peachtree Street (Tom Noble Edit)”

I once knew a kid from Gainesville named Peaches who did belly-flops off the high dive. That stings.

Geno Jordan is from Atlanta. This classy, sophisticated grown-up space-funk situation makes the author fondly think of the Peachoid water tower off I-85 South in Gaffney, South Carolina, which admittedly is not Atlanta, but looks like a giant rear end, or a planet, and will get you there soon enough.

IZ Army:  “Brainwash (Army of Shadows Edit)”

According to Discogs, the IZ Army logo is designed by Philco. It appears to be a war eagle wearing keyboard flip-flops, under a flashing star (or the Very Idea!) that could easily be classified by William Corliss as “phenomena.” Philco may be some guy named Phil, or the same Ford Motor Company subsidiary that manufactured vocoders for the Air Force. Either way, it would make a dope hood ornament.

Courtney Branch, the gentleman on the vocoder here, is credited as “Commander Crazy.” The chorus seems to favor Mtume and is pretty uplifting for a song about brainwashing.

Fantasy Three: “Biter’s Dub (All You Have Is Yore Teeth Edit)”

Pardon me, but my teeth are in your record.

As mentioned in the book, this record is about vampire vacuum cleaners, Donald Sutherland pods, clone drones, mirrors of mylar, and microphones carried in shaving kits. And Fangoria. It literally almost tore my mom’s turntable apart when it refused to surrender the spindle. It just wanted to remain there and keep playing. Like, forever. This is the black hit of space. Fantasy Three were from Harlem, and among many things, should be sainted for mentoring LL and Kool G Rap. Pumpkin’s dub version still remains one of the most futuristic electro tracks ever made.

The record was made in partnership with Peoples Potential Unlimited, and mix assistance was provided by Tom Noble and DJ Monk-One. For more info on the record click here.

The Wonka-Nazi-Insect axis

By Dave Tompkins at 5:12pm ET

If you know anyone in the seaside town of Whitstable, UK, I’m doing a Miami Sustained Decay talk at 10:30am tomorrow morning. Bass Breakfast edition. It’s for the Off the Page Fesitival, sponsored by The Wire and Sound & Music.

Also, I wrote about an insect documentary born of Wonka, Nazis and oatmeal over at Grantland.

Get That Chestnut From The Grave

By Dave Tompkins at 11:57am ET

(Fairy of the Black Rocks, 1902)

Nothing beats getting flashed by a skeleton in a snowy graveyard in 1902. In fact, I wanted to call this mix “Getting Flashed by a Skeleton in a Snowy Graveyard.” But then I listened to the Young D Boyz and heard chestnuts. Young D Boyz of course heard no such thing.

Listen and download here: Get That Chestnut From the Grave

If feeling chilly, go inside this UFO Jell-O Mold Party:

The ever patient Monk-One (NYC Trust) did all the work as usual, in between watching Fiend Without a Face and Ikarie XB-1. (If anyone can speak Czech, I’d be grateful for some subtitles). I brought in heaps of music with a loose idea of the sequencing and sat there and drank beer and tried to not knock over his son’s Brooklyn Bridge.

I’d say this was a vocoder mix were it not for the tobacco auctioneer, the heartbroken loner from Taylorsville, NC, the androgynous Prince clone, Juvenile’s bald–headed alien, the guy who claims he’s an iceberg, the UPS song, the Whispers, and a girl from New Orleans named Na’Tee saying, “Fuck Auto-Tune! Fuck a v-coder!” Twice, even. Damn, Na’Tee!

Anyway, there are lots of customized edits, winter bones, freak frozers, and shut-in joints on here, as well as some real snowman melters. No snowman acid rain water was drunken (dranken?) during the recording of this mix.

Many of the tracks were recommended by others, over the past couple of years after book was first published. Thank you Monk One, Dante Carfagna, Nate Smith, Spacey Sissick, Josh Dunn, Jeremy Campbell, Big Fun in the Fun Town, Noz, Marty Key, Tom Noble, Andrew Morgan, Lily Kane, Terry Kane, Bepe Loda, the man known as 12ManRambo, Jon Yu, Hua Hsu.

(0:00) Young D Boyz “MAC gOD”

As mentioned up there, this has all been a terrible misunderstanding. But the skeletons won’t listen to reason.

(0:56) Harm Drost, Speech After Removal of the Larynx (Smithsonian/Folkways)

Recorded at the Phonetic Laboratory of the Ear, University of Leiden.

(1:18) Zeus B Held “Europium”

Intermission in Zeus B. Held’s brain.

Apparently, Zeus B. Held stole my mom’s florescent kitchen halo and wore it on his head, like an angel, an angel in silver pants with his dick hanging out.

(1:44) Dorothy Collins “Mountain High Valley Low”

This song makes me of running in the mountains in November, through a pasture to the top of a hill where I touch the wizard’s nose carved into a post in an abandoned shack. Then my knees remind me of how much it sucks coming back down the mountain, and how, one day, when we’re old, and I’ve written 50 vocoder books, I’ll be forced to walk down. Then I remember the time I passed three black bear cubs, climbing up a tree, like three fuzzy Bell South repairmen, and how, as cute as those guys were, I was glad my knees got me the hell out of there.

(Everyone’s happy when the wizard walks by)

No vocoder here, but pretty advanced production for the early 1950s. Dorothy Collins backed by a gang of Dorothy Collinses. Be all you can be.

(2:46) Geraldine Stewart & the Gospel Song Writers “You Ought To Been There” /”Walking With The King”

A few years ago Marty Key (who runs the excellent Steady Sounds in Richmond, VA) let me borrow this psychedelic disco gospel vocoder 45. On the label you’ll find a drawing of winged serpents cast from hell and/or a Larry Cohen movie. I’d lost it, and It, at a party. After a year of feeling like a crudwump about the whole thing, a friend’s 2-year old found it among his 45s.

Thank you for saving my old behind, little one.

Geraldine talks about loving everyone and pissing off the devil because she’s walking with the king.

(5:14) Conrad Schnitzler “Berlin Express (The 4:08 To Paris)”

RIP Mr. Schnitzler. I haven’t taken the 4:08 to Paris. However I have taken the 8:08 to the dome, and the hungover 8:05 to Hamburg where I ended up in a record store playing Pyramid Plus, as well as German vocoder clips for an audience who helped translate a homily about keeping peace despite evil neighbors.

(8:09) Mirage “Mirage In the Space”

See image of UFO jell-o mold above, with indoor magic hour lighting? That is what this record is.

(8:50) Bernice Frazier “Will You Be the One”

After submitting the third book draft (almost done!), I went to the beach with my niece (Berenice), and my dad and stepmom. I read Herzog’s Conquest of the Useless, which is recommended for anyone finishing an interminable project. I sat on the porch in a rocking chair and tried to determine whether Mr. Herzog was serious when he talked about tonsillectomies being performed with a vacuum cleaner in the Amazon. Meanwhile my niece read Watership Down and laughed at British rabbit names.

Also recommended for anyone trying to finish an interminable project: waking in the middle of the night and screaming, “The fields are covered with blood!

(11:45) Sneak E “Fluff-U”

The A-side is “Land of Stuphph,” but it’s not until the flip,“Fluff-U,” that we are actually taken to the Land of Stuphph. At approximately 13:24, you will be mugged by the Stuphph.

There should be a weed dispensary called “The Puff & Stuphph.” And a dog wash/ fabric softener named “Fluff-U.” Not to be confused with the secret German cloud force called the Fluftwaffe.

The song is from Ohio, though the label is Straight From The Coast Records & Tapes. This makes me think there’s some secret beach portal in Ohio, on some Mt. Analogue.

(13:51) The Whispers “Keep On Loving Me”/ 12 seconds of Kraftwerk “Trans Europe Express”

“Keep On Loving Me” is the first song I ever taped off the radio. There are about 20 different possibilities for edits, as indicated by DJ Steef here.

We just grabbed the first swell until that German train showed up.

Steef also did the excellent Triolisme and Planet Caravan edits.

(15:42) Floating Points/Reel To Real “Love Me Like This”

No stranger to countless other mixes but “Keep On Loving Me” called for it.

(16:35) Trus’ Me feat. Dam Funk “Bail Me Out”

Inspired by Was (not Was) “Wheel Me Out.”

Last time I saw Dam Funk, he was shredding a Keytar at a top floor swimming pool at Soho House in Miami. There was nobody there and Dam was facing a beach masked by darkness. But we could hear the unvoiced hiss energy of the tide. I know you’re out there, ocean!

(17:32) Iz Army “Brainwash (Army of Shadows edit)”

According to Discogs, the Iz Army logo was designed by Philco, a vocoder contractor for the Air Force. Oh, really!

I once had a dream about Army of Shadows that involved Kraftwerk running a water ballet school/lab in occupied France.

If only Simone Signoret opened that suitcase and found a Philco vocoder stashed among her garments. Her luggage/that scene contained a stolen line about frequencies (“The wavelengths have changed”) that happened to wash up on Miami Beach in 1983. Or p. 96, admittedly.

(20:01) Next Movement “More Love” (Instrumental)

I visit Chicago for all my winter facelifts. I’ll be there in February for a talk at Northwestern where the vocoder book is being used for a media studies class.

This is the instrumental but I love the way he says, “I’ve got complicated things on my mind… too much static enigmatic.”

(21:51) Esophageal Voice (at two different octaves)
Speech After Removal of the Larynx (Smithsonian/Folkways)

“Air is driven into the esophagus by means of mouth and tongue. This air does not reach the stomach, but reverses direction and produces a vibration of the mucous membrane in the upper part of the esophagus as it again rushes forward. You will now hear the so-called injection of air.”

(22:27) Planet Funkatron

Before leaving for Dusseldorf, the incredibly monikered DJ Spacey Sissick, contacted me and said he’d found a 10-inch acetate in Long Island, bearing no identification marks other than “Planet Funkatron.” It turned out to be 9 minutes of freaking “Planet Rock” backwards, an effect that can be simply achieved in Garage Band, if you want to be a dick about it. But we don’t want to be dicks about it. This is an actual event from a real record!

What’s up to Badlands and Three Women: “For a while they lived in a tree house.”

(23:41) Nakion “Deus Ex Machina”

Which is Latin for “Do The Sex Machine.” Which is why I sucked at Latin, despite taking four years in high school. Anyway, this song is new. A new South Korean Latin vocoder classic.

(24:48) Shoc Corridor “Ice Berg”

Accusing your girlfriend of global warming is just downright unseemly. Maybe she’s just a really fly meteorologist. Maybe he found a glacier’s phone number in her wallet and got jealous. He’s a snowstorm. He’s an iceberg. He’s on some winter wonder twin shit. Shape of: A 1960s insane asylum where people get diagnosed with “erotic dementia.” Form of: a real bummer. To be taken under winter advisory.

(27:24) Spencer Tune “Nightmare (Maggots Over Antwerp)”

Still winter, maybe scarier. And British. Spencer Tune is British. It really does say “Maggots Over Antwerp” on the record. Apologies for cutting it off before the really dope 303 acid-y part, but we’ve got places to go. At the wrong speed it sounds like a good Geto Boys track.

(28:16) JAZAQ “All Systems Go”

According to Monk, Jazaq is really Jazai. But when he signed the contract for Enjoy Records, Bobby Robinson mistook the Q for an I, so Jazai became Jazaq. Jazaq’s the facts jack! An I for a Q and a tribute to Mantronix and the retired Serbian B-Boy I met in Dusseldorf (named Jantronix)

(30:36) U-Gents “Chain Gang”

I taped this off the radio in my dorm at college. Reminds me of something Kodwo Eshun once said about an Oasis show. “It was horrible! It was amazing!” Amazingly horrible. But I honestly think this is amazing.

(31:24) Matrix “It’s Time To Rock”

The “Def Beats” version of this Cali electro thing sounds really nice with a layer of “Uranium” on top.

(32:43) This Track Is Called If You Have A Copy Of This Song To Trade Please Contact Me At Your Earliest Convenience

This is from a Josh Dunn mix, which ultimately means it’s from Detroit. I grew up a Lions fan. My brother and his friend Vinnie Vickers pummeled me in a pile of damp leavcs, chanting “Thirty-Seven-Nothing”, after the Cowboys beat the Lions 37-0 in the 1970s. I think the Lions should be proud of how they played this past Saturday against the Saints, despite giving up 45 points.

(36:11) Fat Jon “B-Girl (Instr)”/ “Tobacco Auctioneering”
Vocal Styles and Resources In Folk Music (New World Records, 1978)

Instrumental from a Five Deez album, engineered for spring, when the tobacco auctioneer shows up in a woodchuck suit. No pocuscadabra (“You wouldn’t hit a bat in glasses”) was attempted to make the woodchuck suit fit. He naturally landed in here.

(39:36) Emerson “Sending All My Love” (edit)

Dear UPS,

Raise your brand profile and license this song now.

The “what’s wrong” and “family” stabs always make me sad.

Does he say, “Airmail stamps won’t do?”

The hook was once misheard by Daptone’s label manager as “sitting on a birdhouse.” There was an abandoned Boo Radley birdhouse in my neighborhood, with three stories and spinstered with cobwebs in the beak portals and gumballs in its den. It was in El-P’s backyard.

1988, from Morrow, Georgia.

(43:15) Lovebug Starski “Say What You Wanna Say” (Big Fun In The Big Town Edit)

Hope tinged with melancholy. Also known as: how the morning sun hits Manhattan in the winter. A little post-punk (see shimmer). Could be Freestyle even. There’s also a weird Michael Karoli-ish guitar that comes in later, but we’d since moved on. As the lore has it, Lovebug Starski is believed to be one of the first to yell the words hip-hop at a party. I once saw him fishbowl on a panel, when talking about what happened to the old school. It was incredibly moving. Starski is also behind one of the dopest moments on Paul’s Boutique.

(45:26) Whodini/Conny Plank “Nasty Lady Dub” (Monk’s dub of a dub)

The following was licensed with permission from the bottom of p. 206 of the best-selling book, How to Wreck a Nice Beach: The Nasty Lady from Nasty Lady to Nasty Lady.

“Nasty Lady” was a stone-boot crunch. Its drum machine suggested Lurch repeatedly head-butting a low-flying doorframe, his brain apparently in no hurry to push the duck button. When Whodini asks, “How many of y’all know Nasty Ladies?”, it’s the nasty ladies who answer, screeching on behalf of their men, assuring they’d known no better. Impressive, even startling, is how this screech carries itself across the room with all that back-raking decay. But, as Samuel R. Delaney once wrote: “There are times when all the helling and the yelling won’t fill the lack.” So the late Conny Plank treats us/it to a 9-minute dub version.

(48:17) Bassonlians “Bass Command”

Miami! Maggotron! The first to use Bass as a verb. Gerunderpants!

(49:08) King Eric & The Groove “The Groove”

Expensive! Can’t afford! From Cali! Getting lazy!

(49:41) Camille Bloch Chocolate Ad Made By Siemens

Trans Swiss Chocolate Express.

(49:56) Computer Jay “Maintain (FaltyDL edit)”

One of my favorite remixes from last year.

(50:53) Na’Tee “Back 2Da Block”

Excellent use of the human voice to express antipathy towards Auto-Tune and “the V-Coder.”

Now see here, young lady!

(51:04) Juvenile “400 Degreez”

I think Manny Fresh is using a cello for the carrier wave?

Give me your best three bald-headed aliens. Off top (harf!), I’m thinking It Came From Outer Space; This Island Earth (nope—those are brains, I think); Blue Sunshine (no—hair loss caused by LSD); Ultimate Warrior (come on, that’s just Yul Brynner); THX-1138 (clearly I need some help here); Close Encounters of the Third Kind (now we’re getting somewhere—my brother’s Xmas tree looked like a spaceship from Close Encounters.) (Bonus back-slaps if you can find the Close Encounters reference in the “Pack Jam” chapter. Hint: It’s not a spaceship but it definitely involves Richard Dreyfuss.)

(52:40) Outkast “Synthesizers”

In which you have Outkast, George Clinton, and a vocoder on the same track. But this is the instrumental, so it’s the thought that counts. And it’s a nice thought. (Incidentally, one of the worst terms ever is “thought-piece.”)

Nice of LaFace to do instrumentals of the entire Aquemini album though they left off “Da Art of Storytellin’ (Part 2).”

(53:36) Parabuccal Speech
Speech After Removal of the Larynx (Smithsonian, Folkways)

“We are not able to say exactly how far this singer is using his normal voice.”

—Harm Drost, Phonetic Laboratory of the Ear, University of Leiden, Netherlands.

“The air required to form the basic tone is collected in the space between the cheek and upper jaw; the cheek serves as an air reservoir. The basic sound is formed between the cheek and teeth.” (Not the cheek & gum where Walt Garrison stores his Skoal.)

(54:11) Virgil Charles Mashburn “Why Should It Be”

This loner thing with nice guitar is from Taylorsville, NC, near Morganton and Hickory. We always passed through Morganton during family trips to the mountains in Linville. The witch in the window at Spake’s Antiques was a reliable scare during that drive, as was the Broughton Mental Institution, where my dad once photographed my brothers and myself. That photo will be found when I disappear.

(57:59) Keith Sweat “How Deep Is Your Love (Instrumental Dub)”

A classic Teddy Riley vocoder ballad. Keith Sweat had great sweaters.

(59:32) Young D Boyz “MAC gOD”

And back to you, Mr. Chestnuts Grave.

(1:01:18) Zeus B Held “Europium”

Sort of like when you when you nap at the beach (or think you’re napping because your eyes are closed) and catch all these fragments of conversation at different distances mixed with the froth and tide.

And so we bug

By Dave Tompkins at 2:45am ET

Thanks to Mr. Monk-One for housing the living shit out of the paperbacksgiving jam this past Saturday night in Brooklyn. When he played Dayton’s “Sound of Music,” I was put on the phone with Shawn Sandridge, Dayton’s songwriter and vocodererererer (and also the guy behind Project Future’s “Ray-Gun-Omics”).

Next week I’ll be doing vocoder talks in the Netherlands and in Germany. Scroll down for information and flyers.

From a Whisper to a Scream

By Dave Tompkins at 4:16pm ET

(Droogs play a game of Telephone on the set of A Clockwork Orange*)

The vocoder book is now available in paperback today, with all kinds of bonus terminal beach slaps. It only took a month. That second book is a cinch!

I’d say the paperback drops today, but I prefer you held onto it. Or wore a helmet with two chinstraps. I’d say it gently whispers through your office window like Snake Plissken’s glider, but that may infer that my book is a breeze. (And that your window is open. Though it should be—it’s nice outside.) Or cool air. Or that my book’s breath smells like the inside of a fat wooden leg. Or that you should rip out all the pages and see what flies.

It’s a paperback, so you can batflap your face with it. What I’m really trying to say here is my book is a Troop song. Sometimes I wish it was a farmhouse full of bats. When I taught at a prep school outside Orange, Virginia, there was an old farmhouse that had bats in the walls. One of the summer deans lived there. He’d agitate the bats by jabbing the wall with the butt of a tennis racket. Sounded like the house was taking off. We’d just sit there drunk and listen to the walls flutter, hoping they wouldn’t get out.

Spread spectrum communications now means COLOR. The color is no longer out of space, it’s everywhere.

Said the man from Nottingham who once disguised himself as Robot Redboard: “This may appear a bit strange to you, but I like color.”

The man from the BBC—his shirt is pink!

Forrest J. Ackerman’s Cadillac—is red!

The vocoder exhibit in Chicago—is… azure?

The ELO gatefold—is a gorgeous spaceship!

The cover for Tonto’s Expanding Headband—is, uh, what is that!??

My copy of I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream—is still beat to shit!

My best friend from high school—is still on p. 219 and apparently has a tanning membership at Electric Beach!

The sky is blue. It’s uncannily warm for November. Please get me out of here.

More folks have joined the story. A dragon wears a speaking Keytar around its neck. Teen Wolf appears at a high school gym in Compton. Ned “Neck of the Woods” Gerblasnky sings “Feel Like Makin’ Love” through an Electrolarynx. A Dutch kid predicts approaching Stutka bombers by sticking his finger in the air. And Just-Ice loves animals: “I like to wear my Gold in mouth so that I can spit on it and know it’s there.”

*Image courtesy of Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures (Little Brown) by Christiane Kubrick. Thanks to the Kubrick Estate for allowing the image to appear in the paperback edition.

From The Bathroom Wall Of Madeleine L’Engle’s Ghost

By Dave Tompkins at 9:40pm ET

This special robots-only issue of Rocktober was recently declassified from a stack of magazines at my place. Along with: The Source (Nov. 1994, Redman cover, knot of tissue, right nostril); issue of Time with Nabokov on cover (Artifice, acrostics, lepidoptera, two jackhammer operators falling in love) ; Mad (with Don Martin’s utterly essential Super Hero Sound Effects); Rap Pages (Goodie Mob emerging from a swamp in Georgia, much to the surprise of the local snake-leech-stoat-wild boar community), Military History (JFK, on phone, clutching his imploding forehead during Cuban Missile Crisis, next to the headline: WORSE THAN WE KNEW); New Yorker with the George Saunders story about the woman who answers the door with a dirty sock feeding on her shoulder; ITT newsletter with Nixon’s future science adviser, Ed David, talking about how vocoders will bring us closer to the robot (run, robot, run!); Famous Monsters of Filmland (Frogs!); the Life hip-hop issue with Bambaataa, Fab Five Freddy, DXT etc. (kidding! I scissored that thing to death and taped the pictures on the wall as consolation after getting cut from the basketball team in seventh grade); a diagram of a Kraftwerk show rendered on graph paper by Pete Relic; Christian Science Monitor (“Talking Soapsuds on the Air? Blame It On the Sonovox,” Sept. 2, 1941); DE:BUG (issue with feature on HTWANB, as well as the world’s most extensive collection of artificial voice toys, in German); every ego trip; no Blazes; one One Nut Network; postcard from Funkenklein addressed to the offices of Delicious Vinyl (“Coolin’ in Tokyo with the Jungle Bros”); Famous Monsters of Filmland (The Green Slime!); issue of Urb where they let me write about how one could store their entire record collection in the back-leg of a cockroach after the apocalypse; email from former Spin editor Simon Reynolds saying my double review of Ui/Kriedler was frolicking in too much jive; a promo one-sheet of T La Rock’s “Back To Burn” 12 that includes Sleeping Bag records’ cute koala logo (which, along with “When the Levee Breaks,” I listened to, on Walkman while on the bus heading to “states” in Asheville, NC, where my high school basketball team lost, though I take no responsibility, pine-riding in a pair of Worthy Expresses); a laminated Tommy Boy press release from Sept. 1983 (includes photo with caption “Whiz Kid and wife Betty discuss the merits of Linn Drum vs. Dr. Click beat box during a break in the mixing session”); Tuba Frenzy (with my “Stabbing In Words” story that borrowed a still from Peter Weir’s The Cars That Ate Paris), a vaguely legible photocopy of the fax of Reginald Dennis’ letter of resignation to Source publisher Davie Mays, concerning abovementioned Redman issue that contained a certain feature on the Almighty RSO that had been indelicately forced into the magazine, thus burping the layout, which, according to one crackpot theory (mine) resulted in a byline casualty (also mine), as a review of Da Youngsta’s third(?) album went unattributed, leading me to believe that the Almighty RSO had sabotaged my Source debut, a beef wisely pocketed during my interview conducted with RSO’s Ray Benzino, late one night at the Source offices, when we discussed the murder of Paul “C” McKasty.

It’s cool. I wrote my name in there anyway.

And finally, at the bottom where the bass blooms, something my mom copied off Madeleine L’ Engle’s bathroom wall (Tesseract, hi), which I was going to read at my brother’s funeral, but opted instead for “Where 2 O’ Clock Came From,” a poem by Kenneth Patchen, because, really, check how that old dragon couple “quick-tailed the sky down” while some unidentified creatures—thinking woodland here, in spats, but it’s your call—upset a table, also presumably falling from the sky, and merrily stuck their faces inside a clock while deciding what time it is. All at once. Their clock. Their call.

“I believe:
that imagination is stronger than knowledge
that myth is more potent than history
that dreams are more powerful than facts
that hope always triumphs over experience
that laughter is the only cure for grief
and that love is stronger than death.”

Additional cure for grief: dub version of Fantasy Three “It’s Your Rock”

How ghost it?

It ghosts.

Spy Like What

By Dave Tompkins at 11:43pm ET

ABOVE: This is Spyder D. (Not photographed: His partially healed anterior cruciate ligament.)

In 1981, Duane “Spyder D” Hughes blew up his knee after landing funny on a basketball* court in Ypsilanti, Michigan. This freak wrench ended his college reel yet freed him up to hang out with the Frost Band and make “Big Apple Rappin’“—ACL be damned.

As a kid growing up in Queens, Spyder was once sent to the store to buy a trumpet, but instead returned with a boom box and a copy of the Ohio Players’ Skin Tight.

His mother was thrilled.

He learned to make beats in Vaughan Mason’s basement by tricking the lights on the Roland 808 drum machine. “If the lights look stupid, chances are the beat is stupid,” he once told me. “And I mean, stupid bad.”

So into the little blue people yonder he went.

Recorded in 1982, “Smerphies Dance” was an electro menace that landed Spyder a gig at Bond’s International in Times Square—wearing a Spiderman suit.

“DO NOT wear that Spiderman suit!” advised Russell Simmons beforehand, trying to decide whether he should manage his old high school friend from Queens.

“But I had the original Peter Parker joint from Ruby’s Costume Shop!”

So Spyder took the stage and a stance, fisted his armpits and shot the crowd with his elbows.

“I was like ‘Yeah, I got on a Spiderman costume, WHAT!’”

The crowd went smurfshit and Russell became his manager that night.

Yet Spyder’s label, Telestar Cassettes, threatened to KGB him with a voiceprint phonoscopy if he recorded elsewhere. (“They claimed they had speech analyzers!”) So when West End asked Spyder to rap over an Italian soundtrack Sesso Matto (“Sex Is Funny”), he cloaked his beanpole baritone in a vocoder—speech analyzer by birth, secret masking agent by necessity. He spliced and looped some red-handed congas from 2″ recording tape (no digital sampling), called the song “B Beat Classic” and credited the alias of his tour bus driver, Butch.

“What I learned from Vaughn Mason was you gotta shoot it like a movie. And it’s good to not know what the hell you’re doing.”

But not knowing who the hell you are? Priceless. Spyder remembers the session for “B Beat Classic,” up all night losing his mind in the studio, mummified in sex-is-funny tape, scrunching his nose into a sustained “yeeeahh” that spooled around the building. This guy with spaghetti knees, unraveling, listening to a machine run off with his larynx.

“I made it for the cats droppin’ acid in Europe.”

*I wish I’d made a dope record after blowing my knee out during basketball practice. But the Dilaudid they gave me after surgery… Weeeeeeeeeeeee!

Bonus: Spyder got his name from his spin moves on the basketball court.

(Mostly/originally appeared in Wax Poetics a few years ago.)

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