Mr. Horribly Charred Infant? I'm a fan of your Happy Flowers band, so I was perusing your site like an asshole and WHAMMO! I saw my name mentioned! You've actually heard of my site? Holy Toledos! Is there any chance I could interview you for my world-famous "Interview Section"? Please let me know!
Hey Mark! I'd be honored to do an interview! Your site kicks butt, IMO. I've even sent in some comments from another e-mail address, like a response to the little snot who declared Suicidal Tendencies were hardcore but Black Flag and Minor Threat were not (wtf?).
Fantastical! When would be a good time for an interview? Are you free any time on President’s Day? (next Monday). In a strange coincidence, I just did a search on my web site and discovered that I influenced you to buy both Engine CDs. Here’s the strange coincidence – that guy Pete Williams and I haven’t talked in over a decade. Finally – TWO DAYS AGO – I caught him on MySpace and asked him flat-out, “Did I do something to piss you off, or did we just naturally drift off into our own lives?” And he admitted that a full decade ago, I acted like such a self-centered prick during his visit to NYC that he didn’t even try to speak to me again afterwards. He explained what I’d done (I had entirely forgotten!), I apologized a billion times, and now I guess we’re friends again. And that’s the coincidence!
(*a week passes*)
Hey Mark, Sorry, I've been working late the last few nights on a big project and hardly touching the computer when I get home in favor of lying on the sofa with my husband and our dogs and zone out in front of the TV (not counting when I went to see Zoroaster on Tuesday night, of course). But now he's asleep on the sofa and I decided to change the songs on our MySpace and answer some e-mails. Anyhow, I'm working on Prezzie's Day so that might not be the best time. Also, I thought you might want to wait 'til I can get you copies of the stuff y're missing beforehand. It looks like you're just missing the first album, "My Skin Covers My Body," the two EPs that preceded it ("Songs for Children" and "Now We Are Six"--"Making the Bunny Pay" is just the two of them reissued as a 12" with one EP per side) and the "Too Many Bunnies (Not Enough Mittens)" compilation CD. I can burn you a copy of that last one and dub some cassettes of the others, just let me know!
What is your MySpace page? Mine are www.myspace.com/markprindle and (if you’re all excited and want to hear my music) www.myspace.com/markprindlemusic.
HFs MySpace: www.MySpace.com/HappyFlowersBand
Nice! I just sent an “add to friends” note to you, so whenever you hit MySpace again, snag me!
Wow, AWESOME history you have on your MySpace page! I’ll read that before coming up with interview questions so I don’t ask anything everybody already knows.
“Mr. Horribly-Charred Husband”!? Good to see he took your name!
I actually grew up in Norcross, GA. Spent the first 18 years of my life there, and my parents still live there. Where in Atlanta are you?
(*three weeks pass*)
Hey Mark, What can I say. I suck. At least I now suck a bit less as I put a CDR and cassette in the mail to you on Saturday so hopefully you got it today or will by the end of the week. The CDR is a copy of the "Too Many Bunnies" compilation CD and the cassette is our first two recording sessions. I was going to make dubs of the first two EPs themselves but discovered I didn't have any tapes of the songs in the finished order. So . . .
side 1: first session: four songs recorded for $50 at Inner Ear Studios for the heck of it. We ended up picking three for our first EP and saved "All I Got Was Clothes for Christmas" for a compilation that I was going to release on Catch Trout but never did so when we got the call from Touch & Go for Gods Favorite Dog, we used it for that.
side 2: second session: Touch & Go wanted two exclusive songs for the comp so we hit the studio to see what we could produce. We ended up with enough for a short LP but ended up using "Colors in the Rain" for the comp and shelving the album 'cause T&G weren't interested in releasing it. We ended up pulling several songs for our second EP, holding a couple for our first actual LP and giving one to another compilation. I completely forgot about "Hello," "Goodbye" and "Don't Turn Out the Light," none of which were released in any fashion. Actually, until I found that tape, I'd forgotten we had our very own "Static Age" but without any angry short guys with silly hair.
Sorry it took so long! Let me know when you'd like to do the int, unless I've totally screwed up and annoyed you for life. :'-(
Of course you haven’t annoyed me for life! Let me give ‘em a listen when I get ‘em and we’ll set somethin’ right on up.
Good old “’”’s.
(*two days later*)
I got the music today and am enjoying it to pieces! Now I gotta somehow find a copy of “My skin covers my body” to Compleat The Collection.
Let me think of some good interview questions over the next week, then we’ll set something up, eh!?
Oh, that's right - you don't have My Skin (thank goodness!). I'll put another tape in the mail for you.
Cool! Thank you so much! I was looking online for a copy last night and the closest I came was a cassette copy for $58 on Amazon, which hardly seemed fair. Now please understand that if I review these, they may not all get 8s and 9s what with you guys' penchant for NOISE NOISE NOISE NOISE NOISE. But I do quite enjoy your work (especially stuff like "I'm The Stupid One"), so I can't imagine the grades will be LOW (except maybe that really early stuff?). Do you want me to review them? Because if so, I will, goddem it!
You hear me? Goddem it!
PS "Goddem it!"
Review away! You couldn't say anything meaner than was written the first time 'round. :-D
Will do! I'll get crackin' on 'em in a couple of weeks (after I review Wild Man Fischer's fine discography). And please let me thank you profusely for not using the "I said i wanna watch cartoons" vocal gimmick in every single song you wrote, regardless of how appropriate it would have been. I love the song, but BOY does it remind me of why I never want children!!!
Once was definitely enough! It's soooo f'in' grating. It's been 20 years and I still can't listen to that song without cracking up when the screaming gets really intense near the end.
I think your most disturbing song is "There's A Worm In My Hand." He's ripping his vein out, right? If not, I've misinterpreted the song for the past 17 years.
Hmmm, I never even thought of that possibility. I'll have to check with Mr. Anus (that was one of his).
I assumed it was his vein, by the way it moves around when he touches it, and it just keeps going and going when he starts ripping it out. But I guess it could just be some crazy worm!
Is "Mrs. Butcher" based on a real person, by the way? That song rocks!
I realize I sounded like a Ted Nugent fan there, but on an album full of disturbing noise, the "ass-kicking" quotient of that one is quite enjoyable.
Mrs. Butcher was my second grade teacher and was responsible for a good deal pain and suffering in my life. I was in group therapy by third grade, thanks to that bitch.
Got THA tape! Thanks again! We’ll schedule an interview soon. I have a “Lot On My Plate” at the moment (getting ready to go to a friend’s wedding, practicing a lot for upcoming Tae Kwon Do Black Belt Test) and you do too, I betcha.
Glad ya' got the tape! I should be pretty wide open for interviewing as I just broke my ankle the other night (stage diver knocked me down when I went to see Daughters Thursday night) and will be taking off next week, and possibly the week after that, from work to recuperate as I have to have surgery on Monday to flip the bone back in place and screw it back on!
No offense intended here, but I just started listening INTENTLY to your catalog today for my upcoming reviews and… Well… No offense here, but…. “Making The Bunny Pay” is AWFUL! No offense, of course. I realize you were just getting your style down at the time. But Christ! It’s awful! I mean, I love you guys and all but… Jesus Christ, it’s terrible! Actually, to be more specific, I’d give “songs for children” a 1 out of 10, and “now we are six” a 4. So together, I’m giving the album a 3. I’m glad you got better so quickly!
Dude, I was just reading All-Music Guide’s reviews of your stuff. Man, they LOVE you!
I also just found a copy of “Flowers on 45” on Amazon for the ludicrous price of only $2.99 plus shipping, so I snatched that up to replace my long-lived CD-R. And now VOILA! I have ACTUAL COPIES of all your stuff! (except the 3 you sent me, so never mind).
ACTUAL COPIES of four of your stuff!
I do love the snippet of “In A Big Country” in “Requests.” That was my favorite song when I was in the fifth grade!
I also love that you covered “Reaganomics” during a concert. That was my favorite song in the eleventh grade!
Silver Apples and Nick Drake too. Man! Oh man!
And Yoko Ono, but she broke up the Beatles by sitting on George Harrison’s amp.
Btw, my wife discreetly turned the stereo way down tonight when “mom I gave the cat some acid” was playing.
However, she did emit an actual, real-life, unfaked chuckle in response to the final line of “Hush Little Baby,” followed by the statement “That’s not very nice!”
I guess she didn’t notice the lyric “Hungry Like The Wolf – you know what that means? I just wanna fuck your brains out, bitch!”
But enough of my single-sentence paragraphs.
How’s the broken arm?
One of the reviewers tracked me down and called me at work! I removed the link to my employer from our website after that! You know how AllMusic has links to report incorrect information? They apparently don't give a rat's ass if something is wrong as I've contacted them to correct our label (I may be straightedge-as-fuck we were not on Positive Force Records!) and factual errors in reviews (guitar solo credited to Mr. Anus when I played guitar on the song in question and a reference to pounding drums in a song with no percussion).
5th grade? Damn, I was in college when "In a Big Country" hit and I absolutely fucking HATED it. I'll take real bagpipes and/or Thin Lizzy any day of the week (yeah, they're Irish but Brian Robertson was from Glasgow). "Reaganomics" is a much better song.
I liked to mess with the heads of our listeners with the off-the-wall covers. We played a ton of 'em when we played live on the radio a week-and-a-half-or-so ago. Our hardcore band, The Landlords, did tons of covers, as well; The Landlords, however, took the time to actually learn the songs first. To this day, I don't think either of us has ever heard "Bring on the Dancing Horses" (we were discussing it just the other day) and I'd like to keep it that way. Whereas I love "The Cutter," I find most Echo & The Bunnymen intolerable.
A record pressing plant in Canada refused to press Making the Bunny Pay. They claimed it was offensive. I don't know if they meant musically or for that snippet of altered D² lyrics. Fuckers pressed tons of hardcore records and there's no way we were more offensive than a lot of hc at the time.
Arm is fine; ankle is broken. As I just blogged earlier tonight, though, Mr. Anus' parents were incorrect. It was broken and I was not screaming.
Gotta go t' bed!
“My skin covers my body” = 8 out of 10. I know you’re upset that I couldn’t award you a 3 to go with your other 3, but the album’s too good.
Mr. HCI: “Hey, I found my hamster’s gerbil!”
Mr. Anus: “What!?”
What song is that in? I don't remember that at all!
It’s the song about how you’re both so bored because it’s a rainy day. After that small exchange, you correct yourself: “I found my sister’s gerbil!” Then I think you put it in the blender or something.
Also, Oops! Guess I read too soon – this “Flowers on 45” I just bought for $5.50 total is in fact the audiocassette! Oh well. At least I finally have the liner notes.
Oh, one question – what the hell is going on in “Let Me See Your Hand”? Is that an old trick where they give you their hand and you hurt it somehow?
Charlie's little brother was retarded. He was a sweet kid but had a bit of a violent streak. He used to ask to see Charlie's hand and, when proffered said hand, would grab the fingers and pull them apart, Vulcan "Live Long and Prosper" greeting-style. Ouch!
He passed away several years ago and I miss him.
I realize this wasn't your song, but do you have any idea what the hell “I’ve Got The Picnic Disease” is about!?
No idea whatsoever! It's one of my favorites of ours, though!
I Crush Bozo = 9 out of 10. If none of the next four strike me as better, I’ll give “I Crush Bozo” the ‘coveted’ 10. What the hell is that noise propelling “My frisbee’s under the lawnmower”? It is a sample of a guitar noise or something?
I honestly can't remember what it is. Plus, in my current state of brokenness, I can't pull out the LP to listen and see if I can figure it out. We did have an Electro-Harmonix sampler that we used to sample both voice and guitar, so it's most likely a guitar sample. The sampler could loop samples to play continuously or allow them to be triggered by hitting the attached pad; it could also vary the playback speed. It rocked.
Do you have a favorite Happy Flowers record?
If pressed, I'd say my favorite is I Crush Bozo.
Did it hurt your feelings or make you feel weird when Mr. Anus said “I think he’s gay…” in the song “I’m The Stupid One”? Did he not know your preference at that point? Did you even know your preference at that point?
It didn't bother me at the time because I was still pretty deep in denial at that point in my life (somehow I had myself convinced I was straight despite a total lack of sexual attraction for females and plenty for males). He had no idea when he said that that I was gay; nobody did.
BTW, you hit one of my pet peeves but I think it's something most straight people don't understand. It's not a preference; it's an orientation. In other words, I don't "prefer" to be gay, I simply am gay. "Preference" implies choice and sexual orientation isn't a choice, no matter how many ultraconservative, religious blowhards who know nothing about homosexuality other than what they interpret The Bible to be saying claim it is. The same folks ignore all sorts of laws laid out in Leviticus and Deuteronomy (the only places where words attributed directly to God address the issue) like not mixing fibers to make cloth, not allowing dwarves or blind people to approach the altar, punishing the rape of an unbetrothed virgin by making her rapist marry her, not charging interest on loans, capturing peoples of other nations to be slaves, etc.
OK, off the soapbox!
I didn’t mean “preference” like you chose to be gay. I’m sorry it came across that way. I just meant it the way I “prefer” women to men. In other words, my brain/body is constructed in such a way that wimmins gimme boners, the way yours is constructed the other way. I’m doing some work now for an LGBT-oriented company, and it’s so disturbing how many people feel threatened by ‘homersexuality’. Like that fucking army guy who called it immoral a few weeks ago. Why does he fucking care? It has NOTHING to do with him!
Also, how in Sam Hill are you married in Georgia? It’s not legal there, is it? Aren’t you ruining the sanctity of marriage?!? I’m married to a woman, so that’s sanctimonious.
"Prefer" still implies choice, though; for example, I like bananas and apples but I prefer bananas. Calling it a preference makes it sound as though gays and straights are attracted to both sexes but prefer their own or the opposite. You didn't upset me or anything, I just wanted to point that out.
I wish I could understand why people are so threatened. Do they think straight kids exposed to homosexual issues will be so enchanted by the idea that they'll be unable to resist the temptation to change teams?
I've asked people how homosexuality is harmful to society, since my definition of whether something is moral or immoral hinges on whether it inflicts harm upon others. I've been told that gays spread disease (despite AIDS being worst in Africa where its victims are predominantly straight) and cause marriages to break up. Of course, it matters not that these are marriages that never should have taken place in the first place since they are doomed to failure from the start! And, of course, homosexuality is harmful to society because, you know, it's just wrong so claiming that it's OK is harmful.
What really bugs me lately is people saying, "You know what? I guess it's not a choice and they can't change BUT it's still immoral and against nature and God's plan!" Some priest recently suggested in his blog that if it were possible to test in-vitro for homosexuality and a way is found to "cure" it before birth, then we are morally obligated to do so to prevent temptation to sin. WTF?
Then you've got folks like Hank Hanegraaff of the Christian Research Institute (www.equip.org) who devotes considerable time on his daily radio show to anti-gay issues. He loves to say things like, "There is no passage in The Bible regarding hOmosexuality that is ambiguous" and "HOmosexual relationships are psychologically and physiologically devastating!" Sure makes me wish I was straight so I could get out of this 13+ year, wonderful, fight-free relationship and stop exposing myself to all sorts of venereal diseases to which straights are apparently immune and physical damage since gays are the only people sick enough to engage in butt sex. Naturally, he never says how gay relationships are psychologically devastating; the only thing psychologically devastating is the animosity directed at gays. He's another one that's said it doesn't matter if we're born that way, it's still immoral and evil. So, God made us gay, since he makes everything, but he made us gay by accident? But . . . God is perfect and incapable of making mistakes . . . so he made us gay deliberately so he could deny us love and companionship? That's one sick fucker I choose to not believe exists.
We're not legally married, unfortunately. Two (opposite sex, of course) 16-year-olds who just met and got married would have more legal recognition than we. We've had wills and powers of attorney drawn up by a lawyer and Phil is on my insurance policy where I work, so we're as close as the government will allow to being married at this point. We bought matching rings on our 11th anniversary and we wear them on the left ring finger but they're stainless steel rather than gold (partly 'cause Phil is a landscaper and replacing a lost steel ring is considerably cheaper than replacing a gold one and partly 'cause I prefer silver-tone jewelry to gold).
OK, enough soapboxing again!
Look! 60 Minutes has tackled this needlessly controversial subject! (*provides link to online 60 minutes feature about whether homosexuality is biological, environmental, or personal choice*) Hopefully they bothered asking some actual gay people. Feel free to watch it if interested.
Dammit! I was checking my e-mail right before going to bed, late as usual, and I ended up watching the whole thing. I thought they presented it fairly well, actually. The nine-year-old twins, however, I think are not one straight/one gay but, rather, one straight/one transgendered, a distinction a lot of people don't understand. I have a friend who felt like he was supposed to be a she from age six or so and finally started (surgically) transitioning in what became her early 30s. I, on the other hand, have never even remotely wanted to be a girl yet I also feel no sexual attraction towards girls. To put it simply: Gay men do not want to be women; transgendered men want to be women. Same for lesbians and transgendered women.
I was the first child, so statistically I am more of an anomaly than my husband, who has three older brothers. His one younger brother, however, is straight. I also know a pair of identical twins, one gay and one straight. As they said, however, there's more to what biologically controls a person than just genes.
I absolutely think biology is the primary factor, not environment. I knew I thought boys were much more interesting than girls, especially with no clothes, before I knew there was such a thing as homosexuality. My first same-sex crush (that I can recall) was when I was eight-years-old. His name was Tiger and he was a boy at my summer camp. My memories are vague, as it was a long time ago, but the main thing I remember about him was I really liked looking at him; he had olive skin and dark hair and eyes and was pretty. That same session of camp also found me getting, to the best of my knowledge, my first erection, while playing strip poker with the other boys in my cabin when the counselor was away. I was terribly embarrassed, not to mention confused as to why my wiener was all hard, and ended up with the dreaded nickname of "Bone" for the rest of the session. Earlier than that, I remember very much enjoying rubbing naked butts with another boy when we were on our hands and knees changing into bathing suits, under a sheet for some reason. I was probably four or five.
In regards to all these new findings, what disgusts me is the new tack appearing on the Religious Right, since they are losing ground on the "it's a choice and they can change if they want to with the power of Christ" argument: "Who cares if it's biological? It's still sinful! They should just be celibate and accept their punishment for Adam's original sin." Ted "Bring on the catamites and meth!" Haggard was an amusing log in their eyes.
Ted Haggard, you say? We actually just got “Jesus Camp” in the mail today! Hopefully will watch it this weekend. Have you seen it?
We watched it a few weeks ago. Among his first words in the film are, "We don’t have to debate about what we should think about homosexual activity, it’s written in the Bible!” Then he jokingly threatens to blackmail the camera man. "I know what you did last night. If you send me $1,000, I won't tell your wife. [pause] If you use any of this, I'll sue you." Much truth is spoken in jest, as the old saying goes.
I thought it was amazing that between the original release of the film and the recording of the commentary for the DVD, Haggard was implicated in the male huster 'n' meth imbroglio. First, he denied everything. Then he admitted that he had the hooker buy meth for him but claimed he didn't actually use it. Then he confessed to his congregation, "There is a part of my life that is so repulsive and dark that I've been warring with it all of my adult life," and stepped down from his mega-church. Then he met with Christian "counselors" who declared him 100% straight just three weeks later. Yeah, right . . .
The hypocricy is just absolutely sickening.
Also, in response to your statement that gay men do not want to be women, etc. Why is it that so many gay men behave effeminately? I know some straight men do too, but you know the stereotype I’m talking about, of the “flaming” flamboyant gay man. Is it just the natural way they feel? Or is there a purposeful affect to it, like “I’m gay and not hiding it, world! I love men and FUCK YOU!”? It’s that sort of person that long ago made me assume that gay men wanted to be women!
Of course, I then met several gay men who acted just like me, which blew that theory to Hell.
You're flamboyant and effeminate?
I think with any group of people, some will adopt the look and mannerisms of what is perceived to be, though isn't necessarily, the majority presence in said group. When gays are seen in the media, it's predominantly the stereotypical ones that get the focus: effeminate men and overtly masculine women. My gut feeling is that some gay men see this stereotype and feel they need to adopt it to fit in with the crowd. I could be totally wrong but I know elements of it had an effect on me. When I finally came out, way too damn late in life, I cut my hair short and started wearing cut-off denim shorts with boots. Luckily, that phase wore off and I went back to being myself, clothing-wise. I never adopted any effeminate mannerisms but I'm good at faking them and disturbing people; I was an actor in high school, you know. I played Charlie in Flowers for Algernon and the audience cried every night.
I also, though, think there are plenty of gay men who simply are not particularly masculine. Some gay guys get all hot under the collar about them and make nasty and cruel comments and I think that's terrible. It's pretty sad when a member of a minority group feels obligated to denigrate other members of the same group in order to distance him or herself from "those people."
On the other hand, there's also the notion of "straight acting," which is offensive to me and many others. It's a term often used in personal ads to indicate the man in question isn't some kind of sissy, God forbid.
Conversely, I had some friends, who are now ex-friends, accuse me of doing "that straight thing," when I didn't act gay enough, I suppose. Whatever. They decided it was more fun to hang out with their hairdresser friend who drank like a fish, cheated on his boyfriend and put on a major queen act in public.
I think of myself as "me acting" rather than "straight acting." I can't stand organized sports, though, other than the killer Void song, of course. You can see me in the live Void footage on the last disc in the Twenty Years of Dischord box set, by the way. Look at the front of the stage for a kid with curly brown hair wearing a red t-shirt and pulling the mic cord back out of the crowd at roughly the 37 second mark. I'm also visible on the Minor Threat DVD, getting trapped on stage after jumping up on to dive off during "I Don't Wanna Hear It" and getting tangled in the mic cord, instead. Talk about embarrassing . . .
On a related note: Thanks to Sigmund Freud, homosexuality in males was long thought to be caused by a distant father and an overprotective mother. It makes more sense to me, though, that some fathers, either consciously or subsconciously, sense a difference in their young, gay sons and withdraw as they don't know what to do with them. Mothers probably sense the patriarchal rejection and home in to protect their babies. In other words, Freud got the cause and effect backwards, much to the detriment of sons and parents the world over.
According to my father, I used to cry when I got dirt on my shoes when I was a toddler and I have a great picture of myself striking a pose when I was four or five. I guess I was a bit of a princess.
Something I forgot to mention earlier: that 60 Minutes show addressed the fact that identical twins are not always both gay when one is, thereby implying biology may have little to do with it. What they neglected to say was that if one identical twin is gay, the other will be too roughly 50% of the time whereas if the twins are fraternal, the percentage of both gay vs. one of each drops to around 20%. That points right back at biology as a stronger factor than environment.
What do you do for a living? Also, after Happy Flowers, I’m going to review the work of DUMP. Is it true what they say – that that guy was in your live band for a while? If so, was he nice?
I'm a software engineer. I used to say computer programmer but SE sounds more impressive.
James McNew was our second roadie, Mr. Surrogate Roadie, after Mr. Roadie up and moved to Florida, taking his car with him. Neither of us had a car, you see.
Anyhow, James played guest drums with us a few times. The first time was for our final three songs at The Middle East Café in Cambridge, MA. They tried to cut us off after just twenty minutes so we rallied with "Loser City" (by The Charlie-Cramer Band) into "1970" into "LA Blues," after my obscenity-laden tirade against the woman mc'ing the night. They wanted us to stop early so the local band Harlequin (not the Canadian one) could play a full set for their 10th anniversary show after we had been delayed in starting by the late arrival of another band on the bill. One of Harlequin's roadies was surprised we'd never heard of them, seeing as how they'd released a 7" several years earlier. Uh . . . OK. After we finished, the crowd was screaming so loud Ms. MC could not say anything for several minutes. Most of the crowd left before and during Harlequin's set. Ha! I just Googled them, BTW, and all I could come up with was they played at The Rat a few times. Wow!
Prior to the 1990 breakup, I think he played with us just one other time, when we played with a local thrash metal band called Slaughter Child. IIRC, he and our friend Bob Hurd played double drums with us, just like The Dead! When we did our four show 2000 reunion tour, he played drums with us for the whole set every night then did a full set with Yo La Tengo. The man is unstoppable.
We also had a trio called The Bunnies with James on drums, me on guitar and Charlie on bass. We practiced two or three times and wrote two songs, the music of both of which was later used for "Leave Me Alone" and "If This Gun Were Real . . ." on Lasterday I Was Been Bad.
James and I were also roommates for a few months in the summer of 1990. Plus, we both worked at The Corner Parking Lot, where a man died during James' shift one day, and at my college radio station, WTJU, which also was home to future members of Pavement (Malkmus & Nastanovich) and Silver Jews (Dave Berman), Rolling Stone critic Rob Sheffield and video director (Pearl Jam's "Jeremy") turned Hollywood film director Mark Pellington. I'm sure other 'TJUers have made names for themselves but those are the ones that come to mind.
James is super nice. He's a prince. He's one of my best friends.
What the hell are you saying in “Unhappy Birthday”!? And what the hell is Anus saying in “Leave Me Alone”!?
Damn, transcribing these was tough! All the words were improvised and we both tend to slur our words. I think I got all of the first one (except for the unintelligible interjection by Mr. A in the middle) and most of the second but, Lord, it was a bitch!
"Not a Happy Birthday"
Don't wish me a happy birthday
It's not a happy birthday for me
I didn't get any presents I wanted
My cat died
Don't wish me a happy birthday
It's a rotten birthday
Not a happy birthday at all for me
My mom invited all the wrong kids to my party
My best friend couldn't come
I got a lot of clothes
I didn't get any toys from my parents
My grandma gave me five bucks
What does she think this is, 1950?
I wanted twenty dollars
Give me more
Everybody asks me, "How old you are?"
And I think, "Who the fuck cares how old I am?"
I haven't gotten any taller
I don't look any older
I don't feel any different
Now I have to pay more to get into the movies
Not a happy birthday to me
Not a happy birthday to me
(more anguished screams)
"Leave Me Alone"
Stop making fun of me
Make fun of the way I talk
You Make fun of the way I do things
The way I move around
I know I'm not good at sports
I know I can't do any of the other things that kids do
I know I can't ride a bike as well as you
It's not my fault
Leave me alone
Don't make fun of me
Leave me alone
For things I can't help
It's not my fault
I know I can't help it
It's not my fault
It's not my parents' fault
I don't know whose fault it is
You aren't making it any easier
Leave me alone
Leave me alone
It's not my fault that I'm this way
Look, I'd be like you if I could
I can't, though
I can't help being this way
I can't help it
Do you think I like taking different classes?
Riding a different bus to school?
The things you say about me
I wish you had my place
Leave me alone
I'll be by myself
Leave me alone
Oof gets an 8! Out of 10!
Too Many Bunnies = 8 out of 10 (not surprisingly).
Christ, TWO versions of “Mom, I Gave The Cat Some Acid”!? That is such a lousy song!!!
Err… I mean, “Hey, great song guy!”
It's our hit! The song that put us on the map, baby!
The first version on the CD is the one from Songs for Children and the second is the original, recorded in the middle of the night in the WTJU production studio at our first ever recording session (and also the first time we played at all as HFs).
Lasterday I Was Been Bad gets a 9 out of 10, swinging “I crush bozo” up to a 10. Lasterday doesn’t have much going on lyrically but what a great mean collection of ACTUAL MUSIC!!!
So your grades up to this point are:
Making the bunny pay – 3 (songs for children=1, now we are six=4)
My skin covers my body – 8
I crush bozo – 10
Oof – 8
Too Many Bunnies – 8
Lasterday I was Been Bad – 9
I recall disliking quite a few of the pre-Happy Flowers tunes on “Flowers on 45” but hopefully my memory is mistaken there. What number grade would YOU give each of your records?
Dang! I am honored!
Lasterday was recorded after we had written music with James as The Bunnies ("Leave Me Alone" and "If this Gun Were Real . . ."), after I had spent two months in Germany with my pre-acceptance-and-finally-coming-out girlfriend and my guitar, making stuff up ("Embryo" [title stolen from Black Sabbath], "Simon" [named for her roommates' 4-year-old son] and "Mr. Fuck" [my attempt at aping Savage Republic]) and after playing "Call Me Pudge" so many times on our first European tour that it developed an actual structure (it was originally improvised when we opened for Birdsongs of the Mesozoic in Charlottesville and only later did I realize it bore a striking similarity to "We Belong to the Night" by UFO). Of course, there's a preponderance of covers on that record and they all were somewhat musical thus adding to the musicality. It took me ages to get to the point where I could play UFO's "Rock Bottom" even slightly competently so we had to record it. Plus, "Thirteen" is such an incredible song and sorta appropriate as we were maturing a tad bit.
I'd give all our albums 11s.
Should we just do this interview by email? Judging from your last couple emails, you seem to type pretty quickly. I’ve actually found most of my correspondence with you to be very interesting so far, and would like to use it in the interview if possible (subject to your review and editing, of course!). And then I could send you a bunch more questions, and you could answer them if you want to, and then I could ask follow-up questions and the whole thing would be swell and my Interview Transcriber Guy wouldn’t have to transcribe a tape!
The main problem with email interviews is that usually the people I interview have no clue who I am and they just answer real quick and boringly. But you already know who I am, and your answers are both interesting and genuine! It’s up to you. I just can’t seem to find the goddamned time to get on the phone for a goddamned hour (and then wait two months for my goddamned transcriber guy to… but enough about God, and him damning things).
Let me know your thoughts about such an idea.
That'd be fine. I do tend to go on a bit when writing. Using portions of what's been discussed already would be cool, if you don't mind letting me see it first in case I wrote something potentially libelous.
BTW, do you have the 20th Anniversary Show DVD? There were only 100 made but I can burn you a copy with my fancy schmancy new PC. Take that, Macintosh! God, I hate those stupid commercials. Do they not realize they're basically giving the impression that Macs are good for frivolous stuff and not much else? And shouldn't they be feeling guilty for attempting to give the impression that PCs are incapable of doing anything fun or artistic? If the Mac guy wasn't in Idiocracy, I'd say he should just be killed.
What the hell does “Ruckwerts Essen Jetzt” mean? I looked it up on Babelfish and it translated to “jerk value eat now”!
When Sylvia Juncosa was touring Germany in 1990, we had the same booking agency, I.B.D., which is run by Sabine Waltz and Andrea Scholz (www.ibdbooking.de). Sylvia went out drinking with Andrea one night and had a bit too much. As they were driving, Sylvia realized she had to throw up. She was trying very diligently to speak only German but didn't know how to say she needed to puke, so she came up with the closest she could think of: "backwards eating now!"
“Boogie!” in your “The Butcher” song is from the Brownsville Station’s “King of the Party”!
You are correct, sir! I love that song. We went on vacation when I was 10 or 11 and I heard it bunch of times at a diner or gift shop or something where we were staying. I didn't hear it again 'til I found a copy of School Punks at a record store when I was 23. I'd been checking Brownsville Station albums for years looking for that song and here it finally was! I was thrilled almost beyond belief. Everyone should own at least Smokin' in the Boy's Room: The Best of Brownsville Station, which features "Kings of the Party," the title hit, a bunch of other cool tracks and my favorite: "The Martian Boogie," which has to be heard to be believed.
Other samples used: .
The thunderclap is from the opening sequence music from the TV show The Prisoner. I actually remember watching The Prisoner when it was originally broadcast in the late sixties but had no idea what it was 'til I watched it on PBS when the whole series was shown when I was 14 or so. I recognized The Rover (the big beach ball that kills people) and the end credits right away. I watched the whole series again on DVD when we got our subscription to NetFlix a few years ago and it still blew me away..
"I am very tiny" is from the Disney children's record The Very Reluctant Dragon. The line is spoken by Merlin in a battle between him and Mad Madam Mim. They take turns transforming themselves into dangerous creatures and Merlin finally wins when he turns himself into a germ and makes Mim sick. That may be from a Disney movie, too, but, if it is, it's one I've not seen..
the drum loop was built from the intro to "Vital Transformation" from the Mahavishnu Orchestra's The Inner Mounting Flame. The Inner Mounting Flame made me rethink my opinion of fusion; I had to accept that it doesn't all suck. Black Flag totally ripped off "The Dance of Maya" for "Life of Pain" on Damaged, BTW. Ginn was allegedly a jazz fan before discovering punk rock..
"I don't wanna play anymore" is from the song "War" from Bruce Haack's 1970 LP The Electric Lucifer: I found it in a used bin for $2 in the late 80s and it looked so ludicrous I had no choice but to buy it. It's been said that the Hampton Grease Band's Music to Eat was the second worst selling album in Columbia Records history and I've often wondered if it was second to this . . . classic. The Electric Lucifer was recorded with homemade synthesizers and tells the story of Lucifer as an angel of love and war in Heaven and some other stuff. Yep. Yep. Yep. Uh, huh. It's cheesy as Hell (ha!) but it's a fun listen. Whoa! I just checked Amazon.com for the heck of it and discovered it was given the deluxe remaster treatment just a month ago! You're damn right I ordered a copy! My LP has always sounded like a $2 record, surface noise-wise..
All this stuff is going in the interview! This is gonna be the King Of Interviews!
I forgot one question that a friend of mine wanted me to ask you: “Are you sympathizing with the children, or making fun of them?”
Flowers on 45 gets a 6. If it was just the Happy Flowers stuff, it would get a 7, but a lot of that stuff at the end is just awful! I do actually quite enjoy the Landlords tracks, however. Was your other Landlords stuff that interesting?
I just listened through it a few times, found two more and am feeling verbose at the moment:
"Sanctus" from Missa Luba, "a mass sung in pure Congolese style" by Les Troubadours du Roi Baudouin as directed by Father Guido Haazen, released by Phillips in 1965 and featured in the 1968 film if . . . ., starring Malcolm McDowell. I fell in love with this piece of music the first time I saw the film and ended up renting it (many times) on VHS in college and freeze framing the credits so I could find out what on Earth it was! The mono pressing of the original Phillips record is the best way to hear it plus the deluxe gatefold packaging and artwork are gorgeous. It was later f'ed with for a stereo version that was sapped of a lot of its power. It was also repressed in the 80s with a lousy non-gatefold cover, the stereo mix and totally different stuff on the other side (the "Missa Luba" takes up one side of the LP). if . . . ., meanwhile, is finally scheduled to appear on DVD this coming June and it's about damn time! I'm hoping the second (and best) film in the loosely related trilogy, O Lucky Man!, will also make it to DVD one day. The third film, Britannia Hospital, is the only one to ever be available on DVD.
a snippet of spoken word from the eponymous album by St. John Green, produced by Kim Fowley and released on Flick Disk in 1968. I found it in a used bin when I was in college for $4.95 (same store where I found the amazing first Silver Apples LP for the same price, IIRC). The cover art was so incredibly stupid and hideous, I was immediately compelled to give it a listen on the turntable and headphones provided by the establishment and then plunk down my cash for it, posthaste (actually, I probably wrote a check). I figure it's either the worst "psychedelic" rock album in history or a complete and utter piss take issued to cash in on the scene, man! Needless to say, it's one of my favorite albums. I found a website years ago for the drummer and e-mailed him to ask if they were serious 'cause it was so hilariously bad but I never heard back from him; maybe they were and I offended him! I Googled it and came up with a typically OTT review (and a nice cover image) by The Seth Man on Julian Cope's Head Heritage site. Of course, had Julian written the review, it'd be even more frothing. http://www.headheritage.co.uk/unsung/thebookofseth/835
Short answer to your friend's question: not making fun at all. Neither of us had particularly happy childhoods and a good deal of our songs are based on specific incidents from our pasts.
What are some of the songs based on specific incidents from your past? That’s TOTAL interview fodder!!
What do you think?
Seriously, lots of 'em are. Ask about some and I'll tell ya'.
ASK about some!? Crikey, I don’t know! I assume “Milk Carton” isn’t one of them? Come on! Give a guy a clue!
"Milk Carton" is definitely not one but I'm wondering if I should sue over this: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0113008/
Songs inspired by things from our childhoods:
Get Me Off of the Broiler Pan
I Don't Need Another Enema
I Don't Wanna Go to School
I Don't Want to Share
I Wet the Bed Again
I Wish I Was Adopted
I Wanna BB Gun (and Some Glass Eyes)
If It Was Broken You'd Be Screaming
Jenny Tried to Kiss Me at Recess
Let Me See Your Hand
Let's Eat the Baby (Like My Gerbils Did)
Make the Cat Stop Talking
Mom and Dad Like the Baby More than Me
My Arm Won't Wake Up
Ruckwerts Essen Jetzt
These Peas Are So Green
Songs appropriated from childhoods of others:
If This Gun Were Real (I Could Shoot You and Sleep in the Big Bed with Mommy)
Leave Me Alone
My Evil Twin
Stop Touching My Food
They Cleaned My Cut Out With a Wire Brush
Why Didn't You Tell Me You Were Bringing Home a Baby
Dear God! You must have had horrible childhoods! What is "Make the Cat Stop Talking"? I don't think I've heard that one.
That one was more of an adult thing, actually. I had several dreams where cats could speak English when I was in college so I went with it.
I can't believe I forgot to include the most horrible childhood experience song of mine from that list: "Mrs. Butcher"
Yeah, our childhoods sucked but that's life.
Tomorrow, I get my stitches out and a new black cast to replace this temp one made of padding, plaster, Ace bandages and bedsheet lint.
You have a BLACK cast!? Where you going – Satan’s Hospital?
(I only said that because I just watched a terrible, boring old movie called “Satan’s Cheerleaders.”)
Also, sorry I lowered “lasterday”’s grade from a 9 to an 8. It’s a very very high 8, but I listened again and sorta felt that the lyrics just aren’t “Happy Flowery” enough for it to get a higher grade than OOF or the other 8’s.
The doc offered me several color options. I get chastised at work for wearing black too often (I'm usually in black jeans and a black band t-shirt -- today it's Elekibass, from Japan) so I felt I had to do it. I almost went with fluorescent, hot pink. It was really tempting but I figured it might be a bit risky here in the Deep South (inside The Perimeter, I-285, ATL is relatively gay friendly . . . outside, not so). I bought silver Sharpies for people to sign it, at my surgeon's recommendation.
What on Earth drove the two of you to adopt such a bizarre “schtick” as a couple of screaming warped children? Did you intend from the very beginning to use this construct for your entire career as Happy Flowers?
We started out with just one song; the one you hate. When we decided to do a second EP, we needed "song" ideas. I suggested that since "Mom . . ." was childhood-related, why not make all our stuff about horrible things that happen to kids, both real and imagined? The next song came easily after that: "All I Got Was Clothes for Christmas" (deliberately incorrect grammar fixed by Touch & Go when Gods Favorite Dog was released) 'cause, despite being a little proto-homo, I hated getting clothes as gifts when I was a kid. I mean, I got clothes all year round when they were needed so getting them as gifts sucked. I was no nascent Isaac Mizrahi or Todd Oldham. You might as well have given me flatware or bed linens. I wanted TOYS!
Were lyrics ever written beforehand? Or did you just come up with concepts and ad lib from there?
All we had when we arrived to record was our instruments and a sheet of paper with potential song titles that we'd thought of in the weeks prior to hitting the studio. We'd usually arrive at Inner Ear Studios in the morning and set up all the equipment and recording levels. Then we'd pick a song title, decide who would play what and Don Zientara would hit the record button. When we stopped playing, he'd hit the stop button. If we thought we could do it better, we might attempt multiple takes. Though all our stuff (sans the dance track, "The Butcher") was recorded live to master tape with no mixing or overdubbing, we did take the occasional liberty. "I've Got the Picnic Disease," for example, we recorded twice. The first version started well and the second ended well so we decided to use each of the good halves. Don did such a great splice, even I'm not sure where the switch is! The only time lyrics were written in advance was when we recorded covers and when we recorded "Call Me Pudge," though that song started out improvised on stage and grew into having lyrics and an arrangement over the course of many months of playing it live. The only time music was written in advance was when we had a few riffs 'n' such before recording Lasterday I Was Been Bad.
What were your stage shows like? Did you incorporate any “children” costumes or props? Or rare unreleased covers?
No costumes. No props. I liked the idea of playing really messed up, noisy-ass music and screaming our heads off while looking rather normal.
Covers? We played bazillions of them. We didn't care whether we knew the song or not. "Bring on the Dancing Horses" is a perfect example. I can barely stand Echo & The Bunnymen (though "The Cutter" is a great song) and I'd like to go to my grave with the only version in my head being ours. If we did know the song, we'd incorporate bits 'n' pieces of the original but most covers lasted less than a minute so we didn't incorporate much. Some covers that we never recorded did play often were "Symptom of the Universe" by Black Sabbath, "What Goes On" by The Velvet Underground and "Sonic Reducer" by the Dead Boys (or Rocket from the Tombs, if you prefer, but I didn't hear that version 'til long after our 1989 tour where we played it almost every night). If we couldn't remember the words, we'd make up our own. "People out on the street/They don't know who I am/I stand right next to them/Covered in rancid jam," for example.
If you and Mr. Anus still lived in the same town, would Happy Flowers still be an active recording unit? Or did you break up for a different reason?
We pretty much ran out of steam. The band started as a lark in late 1983 and lasted until mid-1990. We were essentially a side project of our other band, The Landlords, for whom I sang and Mr. Anus played guitar. By the time we recorded Lasterday I Was Been Bad, we were finding it more and more difficult to come up with song ideas, obviously, as out of 14 songs, two were instrumentals and three were covers. There was no falling out or anything. He's one of my best friends and will always be so, whether we're making music together or not. On the other hand, there's no one else with whom I enjoy making music nearly as much. I often refer to Mr. Anus as my musical other-half, as opposed to my actual other-half, Mr. Horribly-Charred-Common-Law-Husband. It's scary how in sync we are sometimes. For example, even though neither of us knew what the other was screaming when we recorded "All I Got Were Clothes for Christmas," we both yelled "G.I. Joe" at the exact same moment. Another time, at a show at C.B.G.B.'s we both switched mid-song from whatever it was we were playing to "Ace of Spades" by Motörhead simultaneously, despite a complete lack of discussion before the fact about even playing that song at all.
Do you still play music in your free time at all?
I've played in a couple of bands since, The Love Killers and Meat, but the latter broke up twelve years ago. I played guitar in both bands and sang a few songs in The Love Killers. In Meat, I was the only guitarist so I got to work on my pathetic lead chops whereas I played primarily rhythm guitar in The Love Killers. Neither released anything. I do pull out my guitar and bang on it from time-to-time and I jamed with some folks for a few months in 2005 but nothing came of it. I also recorded a bunch of solo guitar noise and sent tapes out to a bunch of record companies in the late 90s but no one was interested in releasing anything. If I ever get my stereo component CD burner fixed, maybe I'll release it myself as a CDR. I've thought about trying more recording and experimenting with multi-tracking as I have a four-track but I haven't had the time or gumption lately.
Mr. Anus, on the other hand, has kept himself quite busy both with cover bands and bands that play original material. Then again, he's an actual musician whereas I'm just someone with the nerve to get up on stage and perform when I can barely play my instrument. His website, with info on his various projects, is www.CharlieKramerRocks.com.
What did each of you (HCI, Anus) bring to the project? For example, did one of you want it to be more musical than the other – or one want it to be more disturbing than funny – anything like that?
Everything was pretty much equal. We both had lousy childhoods ripe for source material and we rarely disagreed about what we wanted to do or how we wanted to do it. As for musicality, Mr. Anus is an amazingly talented musician whereas I merely have cojones.
What kind of music were you listening to at the time Happy Flowers started? Did you have any conscious or unconscious influences, as far as you can tell?
Well, obviously we were both into hardcore, being members of a hardcore band and also being from the Washington, DC area, home of Dischord and tons of incredible bands. We also both grew up on a steady diet of 70s hard rock and heavy metal: AC/DC, Black Sabbath, Blue Öyster Cult, Deep Purple, Foghat, Judas Priest, Motörhead, Rainbow, Scorpions, Starz, Thin Lizzy, UFO, ZZ Top, etc. When we started the Flowers, however, I, at least, had two specific influnces: I wanted to combine the heaviness of Swans (Filth was released right around when we started) with the noise and chaos of Half Japanese, whose Loud is my favorite album of all-time.
Do you think that, had the band continued, you would have focused more on the music than the lyrics, as seemed to be the case on your final long-play? Or was that just a one-time deal?
I don't think at that point we could have continued; we were burnt out. We were definitely getting more musical, though. Since the break-up, every reunion show we've done (eight, so far) has featured a guest drummer (with me on guitar and Mr. Anus on bass, for the most part). We were also getting guest drummers a fair amount near the end of our original career. We even did one show with a double drummer setup, just like The Greatful Dead. Most recently, Chris "Deech" DiChiara played drums for our live set on WMUC FM on April 15 of this year. Mike Malinin of the Goo Goo Dolls played with us at our 2006 appearance at SxSW and at our 20th Anniversary Reunion show in Charlottesville, VA in February of 2004. The latter was released as a limited-edition DVD-R by Lost Frog Productions in Japan and is still available at www.LostFrog.net. Prior to that, James McNew of Yo La Tengo and Dump played drums on our four date, mini-tour opening for YLT in 2000 and our friend Jim Ralston was the drummer for our first reunion show way back in the summer of 1991.
This is very, very important. How in Sam Hill did you run across my site in the first place, and why did you come back!? Questions like these help us learn much about society and its ills.
I honestly do not remember! It was many years ago and I immediately saved a link to it 'cause I liked your sense of humor. It even influenced my writing somewhat.
Is it true that many of your songs’ bass lines were played by Mr. Anus just stepping on the bass while playing drums?
Yes! He also often played keyboards that way, as well. The trick with the bass is to use a ton of distortion, so it continues to generate noise after hitting it, and to place the neck under the kick drum pedal, so it gets struck somewhat rhythmically. There were other multi-instrument techniques we used, as well. For instance, on "I Said I Wanna Watch Cartoons," I played the bass normally but had the guitar on the floor where I could drag my foot across the strings and step on the whammy bar. For "Jenny Tried to Kiss Me at Recess," I strapped on both the guitar and bass, with the bass on top so I could play it and the guitar underneath so it could generate noise and feedback. We also sampled and triggered or looped things. The one note bass line for "BB Gun" was a bass note sample triggered by the kick drum, for instance.
In your initial phase, you played solely noise. Was this due to lack of musical skill, or an actual love for out and out racket?
It was due to a complete and utter lack of skill on my part and a love for out-and-out racket on both of our parts. When we started, I knew how to tune a guitar and how to finger a C and D chord but that was it (and I could barely do that). Mr. Anus taught me how to make barre chords and loaned me one of his guitars (which he later gave to me as a gift) for Christmas break in 1983 and I banged on it constantly until I could at least hold down a barre chord and strum it. I did take a music theory course later in my college career, so I know the correct notes for the major and minor scales. When I play solos, though, I mostly just play as many notes as possible, whether they're the right ones or not. A quote I read about Snakefinger many years ago probably influenced my playing somewhat: "He plays all the wrong notes in all the right places."
Looking back at your catalog, what major impressions do you have about each record? Were you trying different approaches on each one? Were any created during times when you and Mr. Anus were feuding over musical direction? Are there any records/songs you wish you hadn’t released? Etc. Say all you’d like!
I can't really think of much specific with each record other than over the years we got better-and-better at improvising together and, as a result, we got ever so slightly more musical. We also found it harder to come up with good song ideas as time went on, hence the large number of covers and instrumentals on our final album.
The only time we came close to feuding was when we recorded what ended up being the cover of "The Butcher" by Leonard Cohen. It was our first, and only, attempt at a multi-track recording and, after a few hours of dicking with it, feathers got a bit ruffled. We finished it, though, and I'm happy with the way it turned out.
There's nothing we released that I wish we hadn't so that leaves cover art as my only regret. And I mean that in the sense that the some of the releases on Homestead could've looked a heck of a lot better if we'd been able to see proofs between me sending them the artwork and them releasing the finished product. The text and image got badly misaligned on the cover of Too Many Buttons (Not Enough Mittens), for example. When I designed the cover for Lasterday I Was Been Bad, I asked if I should send them the negative for the image of the baby doll heads on the cover of but they said no, just send a print. I was heartbroken when we got the albums in the mail only to discover the front cover was horribly washed-out and fuzzy when it should have been vibrant and sharp. Finally, I spent a long time putting together the cover for Flowers on 45. I did it with several sheets of velum (I think) with the different portions of the image in black with instructions for colors to be used for each. They didn't mess up the alignment but the colors were all muted when they should have been blinding.
I guess I shouldn't complain too much, though, as many labels don't give bands much control, if any, over their record covers.
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