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

Any Major Bag of Dead Leaves Will Tell You

By Dave Tompkins at 5:38pm ET

(Halloween a Nice Beach. Photograph: Raphael Lauchaud)



When I was in L.A. for a book reading, I visited Dublab and tried to iron my tie and did a radio show. Now I’m in October, not L.A., and Halloween wants its Pumpkin back. Of course, the vocoder is under the impression that every day is Halloween and I’m not going to burst its skull balloon.

In fact, I’ve been convinced for some time that my book was written and recorded exclusively during October, that reliquary of magic, loss, decay, top-hatted ghouls in hardware stores (Mazzone’s True Value Hardware, 470 Court St, at 4th Pl), melancholy 9-minute S.O.S. Band songs, orange things, hearing things, Mean Old Devils, Ambrose Bierce, faceplants in corn mazes, Dead of Night, hydraulic skulls with spinners (Clinton St & something), and special teams’ flukes.

This is a combination of L.A. stuff, and Halloween, and things that have little to do with either.

For those who want instant Miami Bass Halloween skip to 33:37.

Thanks to Frosty at Dublab and Jeremy Campbell (at 10 Jay) for all the engineering, edits, and do-whats.

Wave hi to the dust witch, in her balloon outside your window.



Download the mix, “Any Major Bag of Dead Leaves Will Tell You,” here.



(What’s a lagoon to a Gill Man? Photograph: Kate Glicksberg)



In The Kitchen with Vincent Price

Vincent Price made an Italo cooking record that includes a prosciutto and Honeydew melon appetizer. Good to hear Dr. Phibes talking spaghetti and meatballs. Not included is the “poodle pie” recipe that Price used to force feed a critic in Theater of Blood, which also featured Diana Rigg in mustache disguise as Dave Stewart from the Eurhythmics. Or Foghat’s drummer circa Foghat Live.



(0:12) “Colours (Remix)” Cabaret Voltaire

My first Halloween suit was a semi-fire retardant Creature from the Black Lagoon. The mask had swamp dimples on the forehead and gill jowls. I wore it to school. I wore it in the summer.

In The Creature Walks Among Us, marine biologists at Seaworld attempt to outfit the gill man with a human voice box and a pair of khakis.



(0:40) “The Sentinel” Ian Boddy

My brothers convinced me that a green ghost lived in the storm drain in our backyard. My mother gave it a theme song and impaled a green sheet on our lamppost, which, according to one neighbor, I used for signaling the Martians.

The full 12 minutes of disco Sentinel can be heard at Veronica’s Minimal Wave radio show. Not to be confused with this Sentinel.

I like that growling fog that rolls through, before we get gonged by…



(2:51) “I Wanna Do Something Freaky To You” St. Tropez

A vocoder cover of the Leon Haywood song sampled in a famous song by Dre and Snoop, who later rose from the dead as Jimmy Bones.



(3:50) “Rockberry Jam (Dr. Dre remix)” LA Dream Team

The recently deceased Uncle Jamm is shouted out at the end, just after the berry voice gets all smoky in pitch.



(6:00) “Blood” P.E.A.C.E.

Known to make fun of the L.A. Dream Team and wear a helmet with two chin-straps to secure wig from blow back.



(6:03) “Planet Rock Backwards” Egyptian Lover

I asked Egypt if he’d do that “Planet Rock” backwards thing for a minute or so and send me an MP3. Then Uncle Jamm passed away. Then Egypt sent over a 45-minute mix of him tearing up my vocoder playlist. The email just said (((BOOM!!))).

May all of your parenthetical asides be swamped in Bass.



(8:31) “Aqua Dream” Madrok

Not to be confused with that E.V.I.A.N. song with the starfish with a hi-top fade and seahorse playing a keytar on the cover. Thank One Way for that MiniMoog catapult and “I Need A Freak” for the bassline.

I ordered a copy of Madrok from Finland but they sent me the Clean Version of Kool Moe Dee “Go See the Doctor” instead.

Thanks, guys!



(10:06) “True To the Game” Snoop

Old demo (?) of Snoop rapping over someone—maybe Dre or Battlecat—rubbing together two copies of “Radioactivity,” long before they turned it into “Cali Iz Active.”



(11:32) Roger & Eazy (Ghost Radio)

Roger Troutman goes on the Ruthless Radio show in ’94 and makes a beat for Eazy, beatboxing through a Talk Box. (The drums are from an Austin group called the Pool.)



(12:48) “Late Night Hype” Compton’s Most Wanted

An Anita Baker bassline, a late night exchange at a gas station, something unregistered poking out the window—what this guy from Gastonia used to refer to as “the Wavy Wavy.” Then gunshots. “I tried reason with the chap,” says Eiht. (The g is understood.) Later he does a faceplant on the floor, thanks to the ding-dong timing of Rick James’ bag of weed.

Eiht is surprised because DJ Unknown used to make beats like these. A minute or so into it, you realize “Basstronic” is kicking some “Rain Forest” ass.



(17:28) “Hollywood Dreaming” Father’s Children

“Sweet sweet dreaming didn’t ease the pain.”



(20:44) “Who Falls Apart” The Nonce

Some Fall sadness in memory of Yusef Afloat. The sleeve is orange.

For the Nonce completist, click here.



(21:52) “Long Day” The One & Only’s

Shortest song about the longest day—in Dayton. The state of Ohio was basically annexed by L.A.



(23:33) “I Love What You Love Doing To My Heart” JQ’s

Not to oversell the ambiguous specter at the window, but want me and heartbeat sound like haunt me on the right balmy day, which is now.



(26:23) “The Word Is Out” John Howard & Co.

My favorite car in the Wacky Races was the Creepy Coupe, which came with its own weather system. A storm cloud drop top.



(29:07) “Sending All My Love” Emerson

Misheard by a few people, for longer than necessary, as “sitting on a birdhouse.” There once was an abandoned Boo Radley birdhouse in my neighborhood, three stories and spinstered with cobwebs in the beak portals and gumballs in its den.



(30:47) “Tony’s Fantasy Edits” Bobby O

This isn’t scary. This is Freestyle. Where the f**k is Halloween?



(33:37) “Head Tonight (Instr.)” Luke & Lil Jon

Since I couldn’t attend the Goblin/ Alan Howarth thing in Krakow, the next best thing is Luke and Lil Jon doing the John Carpenter Halloween theme.



(36:39) “Way of the Drum (Dub)” Funkadelic

In case you were wondering what Funkadelic was up to in 1989.

The last time I saw George Clinton he was in a golf cart that ploughed through a game of 3-on-3 basketball game with the Beastie Boys in a parking lot in Atlanta, back when the Fu-Schnickens were still together. George was headed to the tour bus to have a speck of glitter extracted from his cornea. I remember George’s eye nictitating like Herbert Lom’s eye at the end of Pink Panther Strikes Again (when Lom’s slowly being erased by his own doom laser). For a wonderful moment all that remains is Lom’s tic, floating and twitching in front of a church organ, which is still feeling pretty Lon Chaney about things before the castle is reduced to manure.



(39:57) “Loveline” Shawne Jackson

Nothing to report here other than this was a preemptive consumer act before the WFMU Record Fair, in which a guy came down from Alaska to buy Straight Outta Compton. When my brother returned to North Carolina from Alaska, he pulled up in the driveway with giant tree stump chained to the hood of his yellow ’77 Corolla.



(41:22) “Fly Guy and the Unemployed” Ramsey 2C-3D

Obligatory “recession is scary” nod. Or dismal shake. Or, hey, decapitation while we’re at it.



(44:21) “Gangster Chronicles” Rammellzee and Phase II

Then there are those who pretty much observe Halloween every day.

Two of eleven minutes, allegedly recorded with stolen equipment in a basement in Vienna in 1984. The dub I got from Rammellzee also included Led Zeppelin “Dazed and Confused,” followed by “Radioactivity.”

Actually this may be “Crimes of the Gods.”



(46:31) “Black Hit Of Space (Oakey Extraction)” Human League

A song about a record that swallows all the record stores in the universe. Conversely, The Thing in Greenpoint is a record store trying to swallow all the records in the universe.

Superfund blobs activate!



(48:49) “Einzelganger”/“Aus” Giorgio Moroder

You tooth can sound like this if you sleep with your mouth open and have central heating.

“Aus” is The End, though this isn’t the end, and they could be chanting this is hell or HAL, or neither, since it’s in German.



(52:23) “Haunted Mix” Whodini

Going with this instead of the branded “vocoder version” of “Haunted House of Rock” is the kind of thing that could get me fired.



(54:36) “Buggers Dub (Reverse Edit)” The Buggers

Reversing the reverses, said Mr. de Zoet.



(57:17) “Wishing at the Wrong Speed” A Flock of Seagulls

A few Halloweens ago, a woman got on the subway with bloody birds pinned to her green sweater.

“What are you being for Halloween?”

“A Tippi Hedren bird attack.”

Still Tippi? Beak-a-zoid?



(59:12) “Greenwich Chorus” Peter Howell (BBC Radiophonic Workshop)



(1:00:28) “I’m Gonna Treat You Good” The Donations

Possibly the best la-la-la on record next to the New Holidays and maybe Gigolo Tony “Smurf Rock,” which I used to listen to in the back of a Mustang SVO on the way to school. And it’s from Cleveland.


Canticle for Rip Cord Rex

By Dave Tompkins at 12:26am ET

(Image: Urb magazine, 1993—my first feature.)



Q: Are you going to see the new Transformers movie?

A: I don’t need to see it. I am it. Why do I need to see me?







Rodeo Big Duck

I bought “Beat Bop” while on a family Christmas trip in 1983. I was 14. Having lost my parents to Macy’s, I escaped to a nearby record store (which may have been Rock & Soul) and blew my Christmas shopping money on 12 inches. A guy who kind of resembled the manager of the First Avenue club in Purple Rain (“What’s this one-song shit!“) recommended five records: “Fresh” by Fresh 3 MC’s, “Rock the House” by the B-Boys, “Death Mix” by Afrika Bambaataa, “Bad Times” by Capt Rapp (produced by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis), and “Beat Bop,” which was credited to Rammellzee Vs. K-Rob.

I’d never heard of a song being by something vs. someone. The conflicted verses. Many questions. Who was making with the freak-freak? Rodeo big duck? What’s a Rammellzee? Why is his pinky nail so long? Who’s driving this German tank?

In eighth grade, my asthmatic friend would recite all the jabberwocky of “Beat Bop,” occasionally hitting his inhaler while quacking around in his green Sergio Tacchini flip-flops.



Scare Quota

I first met Rammellzee when I was in town for the New Music Seminar in 1993. I was with Randolph Heard, a former copy editor for Hustler, then working for a Larry Flynt hip-hop magazine called Rappages. En route to Rammellzee’s Battle Station, we stopped at a Kentucky Fried Chicken and Randolph talked about the giant chicken statue in Flynt’s basement. And then something about Ultramagnetic MC’s first visit to the Rappages office, all of them dressed for summer, save for Kool Keith, who had arctic mirrors welded to his bald head—the rest of him furred up, as if he’d just mugged a dogsled.

When the elevators opened into the office, the Four Horsemen just stood there.

The Yeti hunter said, “Enter the spaceship.”

I loved that story so much I accidentally tossed my wallet in the KFC trash with the nugget tray. It kind of turned into a thing, with my arm half-eaten by the Thank You flap, and the guy behind the register, mildly entertained, as if watching some grisly zoo accident. The Garbage Gods were watching.

The rest of the day’s events are accounted for in the book. Men from Zurich challenged Rammel to a transversal alphabet drag race using letters on zip wires.

I remember the fumes.

I remember meeting Rip Cord Rex, a character with nitrous tube eyebrows and a spare tape deck that cushioned ejected from his brain. (Alyssa Milano’s hair clip had been borrowed for the teeth.) Rammellzee once showed me a Polaroid of Rip Cord Rex wielding a leaf-blower under a strobe light. He was wearing a kimono. I was then told that Rip Cord Rex liked to steal engines. (This recalled a Sesame Street episode in which Cookie Monster and his jiggling eyeballs drove a stolen steam engine through a game show.) Not surprisingly, Rammel had a miniature toy train with Cookie Monster, the engineer, leaning his blue head out of the window.

That’s how things worked around the Battle Station.

You talk into electric fans, eat bad mushrooms (duds) and put on a 47-pound Jules Verne helmet that seemed to be missing its Krakken. The helmet was welded together by the Morse Diving Company in 1923. I thought I was going to fall through the floor.

You realize it’s best to not try on the masks.

You’re told that this guy is an equation and are reminded of a Peanuts character named 5.

You hear about dentistry, epoxies, oil rig fissures, deep sea decompression, and rescuing baloney-sandwich idiots from the rip tide.

You remember the time you got carsick in back of your mother’s Buick wagon, and how the electronic tailgate got lockjaw.

You learn about the Mettroposttersizer, a planet smasher that triggers “the Wizard’s Game of Pool,” leaving the solar system in a molten state and putting a black eye in the sun. Also known as “a good reason to drink beer.” Sometimes referred to as: “Might be a good time to leave.”

Not so fast.

You listen to a 1984 recording of Rammel and Phase 2 on the vocoder in a basement in Vienna, and notice that Led Zeppelin (“Dazed and Confused”) and Royalcash (“Radioactivity”) have bled through from the other side.

You get sozzled.

You consider things like Word is born is term is time is period is punctuation is ending, and hope your editor saves you from yourself.

You are given a plaster dimetrodon and are told it is part of the letter A.

You are told not to be a scallywag, boss, yet find yourself impaled on a phrase, again.

You have no idea what’s going on, but just go with it, with the understanding that it may not bring you back in one piece, if ever, but if you worry about such things, then you’re probably in the wrong place.

You then leave the Battle Station and make sure the city is still there and that the sky hasn’t gone crooked and is still happy to see you.

I remember Rammellzee growling at me, “When you start thinking too hard, the culture dies.”

Later that afternoon, I stood in a park at the Zulu Nation Anniversary, thinking too hard, watching O.C. do “Time’s Up” in a downpour.







Zee

According to Ralph Miller, a retired phonetic engineer at Bell Labs, the letter z is a noise, not a sound.



Of Friends at the Institute

I used to proofread Product Inserts for a pharmaceutical company out in Zebulon, N.C., allegedly near Terminator X’s ostrich farm. One day I received a handwritten fax and a question: “Can science achieve a unified theory of complex systems, permanently skeptical of friends at the institute?”

This was followed by four pages of rhymes about “self-replicating lightning” and “truly complex amoebic bond traders, appearing at the border.” There was no cover sheet, but according to the name at the top of the page, it had been sent by the Emperor General.

Emperor General was Sir Menelik was Scaramanga was Chewbacca Uncircumcised (?), a rapper from Brooklyn who made a few appearances with Kool Keith on Dr. Octagon. Keith once called me collect from a pay phone near LAX, on Valentine’s Day. It was after 3:00 a.m., North Carolina time. I accepted the charges.

I once introduced Menelik to Zee, thinking, well, you know.



Eat A Planet

Last year, I sustained a severe neck injury while trying to finish the Rammellzee chapter—and the book—on my 40th birthday. A terrible idea. Trying to invent a chapter title wasn’t much easier. Rammell suggested “Death of a Monk.” I went with something less terminal: “Eat a Planet and Go On to the Next One.”

He shook his head. “And now we both raise our eyebrows together.”

I reminded him that those were his words, his math. His teeth. He’d said it after telling a story about how he once vibrated his diaphragm too hard when using the vocoder. It made him upchuck his contents under pressure.

He blamed McDonald’s, the planet, and of course, the word whatever.

“Garbage up! Garbage out!”

And with that Rammellzee said, “Time for beer!” and rolled back and executed a crooked reverse somersault from the edge of his bed, aimed in the vague direction of the kitchen, his surf footie akimbo, and Rammellzee himself, hitting the floor, with grace, right on the word beer.

So long, Rammellzee.

I will miss our annual Halloween phone calls.

“I have to go back underwater. We’re turning buildings into spaceships and we’re not telling you.”


Stop Smiling Books

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