Monday, June 30, 2014

Why didn't Roy Rogers and John Wayne serve in World War II?


Milwaukee Journal, March 14, 1945

Why didn't singing cowboy Roy Rogers serve in World War 2? Or John Wayne, for that matter?

Rogers and Wayne "are forever tainted with the stigma of opting out[,] unlike so many of their contemporaries from the Hollywood community who put country first before family [and] career," Bruce Hickey wrote. Seventy years later, people still have heated opinions about it. Wayne's lack of service has been written about more extensively than Rogers', but both are perennial topics of speculation, justification, and scorn.

A notable contemporary among the actors who enlisted was Gene Autry, who—like Rogers and Wayne—was a Western star under contact to Republic Pictures. Autry was four years older than Rogers and the same age as Wayne.

Autry in the service, still singing

Autry, in a WWII-era interview that is quoted in Charles K. Wolfe and James E. Akenson's book Country Music Goes to War, said:
I think the He-men in the movies belong in the Army, Marine, Navy or Air Corps.  All of these He-men in the movies realize that right now is the time to get into the service. Every movie cowboy ought to devote time to the Army winning, or to helping win, until the war is over—the same as with any other American Citizen. The Army needs all the young men it can get, and if I can set a good example for the young men, I'll be mighty proud.
Roy Rogers, the book says, "received a deferment because of his children," and John Wayne received a deferment thanks to Republic Pictures' efforts, which were driven in part by the studio's unhappiness over losing Autry to the service. 

Roy Rogers

Robert W. Phillips' book Roy Rogers: A Biography... tells a slightly different story. It says that Rogers was classified 1-A, which made him eligible for the draft, but his classification soon changed to 3-A because of his age.

The change in the maximum age limit is also mentioned by Adam Lounsbery, who wrote:
A lot of men were drafted during World War II. Roy Rogers was one of them. With a 1-A classification, he expected to be shipped out in the spring of 1945. Consequently, screenwriter John K. Butler (working from a story by Leon Abrams) came up with a script to showcase Rogers’s leading lady, Dale Evans. When V-E Day rolled around, however, the draft board exempted men over the age of 30 who had children, so Rogers never had to serve. Director Frank McDonald’s Sunset in El Dorado ended up starring both 'The King of the Cowboys' and 'The Queen of the West'....
And yet another story appears in Raymond E. White's book King of the Cowboys, Queen of the West: Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. White writes:
Rogers carried a 1-A draft classification, but he never entered the service. Carlton Stowers, who helped Rogers with his autobiography, says that at the point of Roy's induction, the Selective Service lowered the maximum age limit for men being drafted. On the other hand, the Los Angeles Times indicates that the star's draft was deferred so that he could 'make a previously scheduled tour of military hospitals.'
(The Los Angeles Times article that White refers to is from March 21, 1945, one week after the Milwaukee Journal article that can be seen in the image at the top of this page.)

Just to recap, the reasons we've heard so far for Rogers' deferment have been children, age, age plus children, and so that he could continue his movie star activities.
John Wayne
According to the draft classifications as they were during World War 2, Roger's change to 3-A—a deferment for "Men with dependents, not engaged in work essential to national defense"—was granted because of his kids, not because of his age. It's unclear whether Republic helped to wrangle the deferment, but in John Wayne's case, the studio appears to have intervened repeatedly. 

Scott Eyman, in John Wayne: The Life and Legend, says that Wayne was reclassified from 3-A to 2-A after "a deferment claim was filed by a third party—undoubtedly Herbert Yates and Republic. The 2-A classification meant that the registrant had a talent or skill not replaceable by another person." (Rogers was never classified 2-A.) Wayne continued to be the subject of third-party deferment claims until the end of the war, at which point he was classified 4-A, which was an age-related deferment.

Eyman points out that Wayne didn't entirely avoid service—he applied for the Office of Strategic Services in 1943, because he wanted to serve in a photo unit with director John Ford. Nevertheless, Wayne caught some flak even during the war years for his choice not to serve. Garry Wills' book John Wayne's America says that John Ford needled Wayne about it during the filming of They Were Expendable in 1945, resulting in Wayne storming off the set. 

As other Hollywood actors enlisted, Rogers and Wayne both benefited from the shrinking number of leading men who were available to star in motion pictures. Bruce Hickey, writing about John Wayne, said:
The fact that so many leading men were in the service [and] Wayne free to make movies greatly enhanced his career. It is doubtful if he would have gained the notoriety to the extent he enjoyed as a movie star had he gone into the services for 3-4 years.
And Rogers, with Autry out of the picture, quickly rose to become the leading Western actor at the box office. Dubbed the "King of the Cowboys," he starred in 50 films during World War 2. Autry, in contrast, made no films between Bells of Capistrano in 1942 and Sioux City Sue in 1946.

Bottom line: Rogers and Wayne could have served if they'd wanted to, but they weren't required to serve, so they didn't. Both were under pressure from Republic to keep making movies, and deferments were pursued more aggressively in Wayne's case than in Rogers'. It's not clear to me that Rogers' deferments were specifically applied for, but the eleventh-hour deferment just as he was about to report for duty is a bit of a coincidence. In any case, both actors took advantage of their deferments while many older actors, such as Clark Gable, Jimmy Stewart, and Henry Fonda, chose to serve. 

Some of Rogers' wartime activities benefited the war effort. He sold war bonds (reportedly more than any other Hollywood star) and spent a lot of time entertaining troops at USO shows and generally keeping up American morale. 

Someone recently argued that Wayne contributed to the war effort by "extolling military virtues." Some of the military movies in which he appeared served as wartime propaganda.  His third wife, Pilar, wrote in her biography of Wayne, John Wayne: My Life with the Duke, that he became "a 'superpatriot' for the rest of his life trying to atone for staying home." 

Despite any lingering resentment the public had over Roger's and Wayne's decisions to opt out of military service, both actors enjoyed robust careers in the postwar decades—in part because of the visibility they enjoyed onscreen from not having served. By not serving, they were both vilified and rewarded.

Friday, June 27, 2014

"Skin songs": Controversial sexy country music in the 1970s


Tanya Tucker in 1978


Country music is sometimes seen as traditional and moralistic, but it got sexy in the 1970s. So sexy, in fact, that moralists decried country music itself for polluting the airwaves and American minds. 

These sexy "skin songs," as they were called, "ventured into the area of eroticism with a greater suggestiveness and openness than at any previous time in country music history," Bill Malone wrote in Country Music USA. The songs, he said, "were cited as evidence of the harm that had come from country music's flirtation with other musical cultures." 


Grandpa Jones says no to "skin songs."
 (Headline from Tuscaloosa News, April 10, 1974)

Bill Anderson says yes to "skin songs."
 (Headline from Times Daily, July 17, 1976)

Polluting the minds of listeners wasn't really a new thing for country music. The cheating songs of the 1950s, for example, were very suggestive for their time. Not many pop singers were singing about illicit affairs back then, but country singers were all over it.

Today on Music Weird, we'll look at some of the sexiest hits of 1970s country. Sometimes sexy, sometimes crude, these songs were simultaneously popular and scorned.

Jerry Lee Lewis – "Meat Man"

This outrageous song was written by a relative of mine, Mack Vickery. I never met Vickery, but my mother did. Sample lyric: "I ate the fuzz off a Georgia peach."




Tanya Tucker – "Would You Lay with Me in a Field of Stone?"

Tanya Tucker was 15 years old when she recorded this song about strong needs and laying and midnight hours and giving herself, etc. The song became a #1 hit after Tucker appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone.




Conway Twitty – "You've Never Been This Far Before"

When Conway Twitty sang about touching forbidden places, squeamish listeners frantically touched the "off" buttons on their radios. 




Mel Street – "Borrowed Angel"

Street loves his borrowed angel—he just can't help himself. The inability to resist temptation and continue, in the face of it, to care about what's right and wrong will be recurring themes throughout these songs.


Statler Brothers – "Bed of Roses" 

An older woman teaches a younger boy about the ways of love: "She took me in and wiped away my childhood." Same story as Queen's "Fat Bottom Girls," more or less.




Jerry Reed – "Plastic Saddle" 

I included Jerry Reed's 1970 version of this 1968 Nat Stuckey hit because Reed's version is way better. "Don't give me no plastic saddle," Reed sings. "I like to feel the leather when I ride." If you don't think that this song has sexual connotations, then read some of the comments that people leave on the videos. Yikes.




David Allan Coe – "Divers Do It Deeper"

"Plastic Saddle" isn't the only country song that compares ridin' a saddle to gettin' it on. David Allan Coe's "Divers Do It Deeper" praises the longevity of cowboys, because they can "stay in the saddle just a little bit longer." This song was a minor hit in 1978.



Barbara Mandrell – "Midnight Oil"

Another cheatin' song, "Midnight Oil" refers to the literal or figurative residue of forbidden love that covers Barbara when she gets home from her illicit rendezvous. "Tomorrow I'll be sorry," she sings, "And I'll feel kinda dirty, because I'll have the midnight oil all over me."



Loretta Lynn – "Rated 'X'" and "The Pill"

Loretta Lynn didn't care what anyone thought. "Rated 'X'" criticizes what we now call "slut shaming" even as it revels in sexy imagery, and "The Pill" celebrates birth control as women's ticket to sexual freedom. Kurt Wolff's book Country Music: The Rough Guide says that, with "The Pill," Lynn "once again showed fearlessness toward controversial and up-to-now forbidden material."


 

Connie Cato – "Super Kitten"

The predatory woman: "There she goes out into the night, a-waggin' her body.... Searching out a victim...." 


 

Bob Luman – "Lonely Women Make Good Lovers" 

The predatory man.

 

Charlie Rich – "Behind Closed Doors"

Rich's first #1 hit. 

 

Freddie Hart – "Easy Lovin'"

"Easy lovin'. So sexy lookin'."




The Kendalls – "Heaven's Just a Sin Away"

Sinful to begin with, this song is extra weird because it's a father-daughter duet. Great song and great group, though.




Melba Montgomery – "Angel of the Morning" 

"If morning's echo says we've sinned, well, it was what I wanted now." This song was reportedly offered to Connie Francis, but she turned it down because she thought it was too risque. It was first a pop hit for Merrilee Rush in 1968. Melba Montgomery hit the country Top 40 with her version in 1978.
 



Bellamy Brothers – "If I Said You Had a Beautiful Body (Would You Hold It Against Me)"

 

 

Kris Kristofferson – "Help Me Make It Through the Night"

"I don't care what's right or wrong—I don't try to understand." 



Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Victorian-era trade cards from piano and organ companies


Vose & Sons Pianos, Boston, MA


In the late 1800s, the same advances in lithography that spurred sheet music sales also led to the proliferation of trade cards. Trade cards were a popular form of advertising in the Victorian era and are highly collectable; some trade cards are now worth thousands of dollars.

Improved printing techniques enabled advertisers to create cards that featured visually interesting, full-color images on the front and advertising content on the back. Advertisers counted on the novelty and beauty of the imagery to attract viewers, and consumers often collected trade cards the way that people now collect baseball cards.

Similarly, as music publishers adorned sheet music with increasingly ornate and detailed artwork, sheet music began to transcend its function as written music and become a collector's item. Music lovers in the 1800s often collected and displayed sheet music in the same way that record collectors do with the picture sleeves of phonograph records.

The heyday of trade cards, says Collectors Weekly, was from 1876 to the early 1900s, and businesses of all types produced them: bakeries, sewing supply businesses, soap makers, and livery stables. This is a music website, though, so today Music Weird presents a selection of trade cards from piano and organ manufacturers and sellers.

The popularity of pianos in the Victorian era dovetailed with the popularity of sheet music. As sheet music gave way to recorded music, pianos declined dramatically in sales. Player pianos—an early form of mechanical reproduction in music—declined even more dramatically in sales. From 1927 to 1932, player piano sales plummeted from 170,000 a year to only 2,700.

Pease Piano Company, Cooperstown, NY
Mason & Hamlin Organ & Piano Co.
Melville Clark Piano Co., Chicago, IL
Hallet & Davis Pianos, Stony Point, NY
Estey Piano Co.,  New York, NY
Another Mason & Hamlin trade card
Sterling Co., Chicago, IL
Ivers & Pond Pianos
Blake's Great Piano Palace, Boston MA
House & Davis Piano Co., Chicago, IL




Monday, June 23, 2014

Songs about Hadacol from 1949-1953




Hadacol is one of the most notorious snake-oil remedies of all time. When its theme song asked "What put the pep into grandma?" you knew the answer. Formulated with vitamins and 12% alcohol, the brown, foul-tasting liquid sold by the truckload throughout the South in the 1940s and early '50s. 

Invented by Louisiana State Senator Dudley LeBlanc, Hadacol made its mark on the music world via the Hadacol Medicine Show, a touring package show that featured, at one time or another, major artists such as Roy Acuff and Hank Williams.

LeBlanc's over-the-top advertising and creative bookkeeping finally brought down his Hadacol empire, which at its peak raked in millions of dollars a year. Ads claimed that Hadacol "made you strong, made you tall" and treated scores of ailments, but the Federal Trade Commission and the American Medical Association disagreed. They said in 1951 that Hadacol was deceptive junk, and that was the end of that. 

For several years, though, Hadacol enjoyed broad popularity, and many artists from the pop, country, and R&B fields recorded songs about Hadacol. Today's Music Weird compiles songs from the Hadacol era that mention Hadacol, with video links where available. I haven't included any songs or recordings from later than the '50s. 

If you know of any others, please mention them in the comments!


Basin Street Six – "Everybody Loves That Hadacol" (Mercury 6305 & 6307, 1951)


Released in two versions: Cajun and English. 





 
Tiny Hill and Orchestra – "Everybody Loves that Hadacol" (Mercury 5543, 1950)

Competing recording of the same song. No video. 




Audrey Williams – "What Put the Pep in Grandma" (Decca 46233, 1950)

"Hadacol" is the answer. Recorded by Mrs. Hank Williams, this song is extremely annoying.




Bill Nettles – "Hadacol Boogie" (Mercury 6190, 1949)

Jimmy C. Newman later recorded this song for the Cajun Country label. 



Bill Nettles – "Hadacol Bounce" (Mercury 6275, 1950)


 

The Treniers – "Hadacol (That's All)" (OKeh 6876, 1952)



 
Roy Bird (AKA Professor Longhair) & His Blue Jumpers – "Hadacol Bounce" (Mercury 8184, 1950)


 Slim Willet & The Brush Cutters – "Hadacol Corners" (4 Star 1614, 1952) 

The B-side of his hit "Don't Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes."



Jesse Rogers and His 49'ers – "Hadacol Boogie" (RCA Victor 32-0001-A, 1949)

Another version of the Bill Nettles song.



 
 Little Willie Littlefield – "Drinkin' Hadacol" (Modern 709, 1949)

Jerry Lee Lewis later recorded this.


 
Tillman Franks and His Rainbow Boys – "Hot Rod Shotgun Boogie No. 2" (Gotham 7-TF-1, 1951)

This combination of Arkie Shibley's "Hot Rod Race" and Tennessee Ernie Ford's "Shotgun Boogie" was sung by Faron Young in his early days. Young puts Hadacol in his car's gas tank to give it a little extra kick.




Al Terry & His  Gold Star Band – "H-A-D-A-C-O-L" (Feature 1017, 1951/52) 


L to R: Happy Fats, Al Terry, Dudley LeBlanc, Doc Guidry

 
Happy & The Doctor & the Hadacol Boys – "La Valse De Hadacol" (Feature 1020, 1951/52)
By Cajun musician/composer Harry Choates.



Joe Lutcher – "Give Me My Hadacol" (Peacock 1562, 1950)




Tony Almerico All Stars and Dixieland Band – "Hadacol Boogie" (Dot 15080, 1953) 

No video or image.


Sharkey Bonano with The Pinky Vidacovich Band – "Hadacol Ramble"

On Joe Mares' Acetates, a collection of acetates from 1949-53. 



Ellis Stroud – "My Hadacol Gal"

Included on the Collector Records compilation Boppin' Acetates Coast to Coast. Not sure of the year on this one.





 
Wynonie Harris with Todd Rhodes Orch. – "Lovin' Machine" (King 4485, 1951)

The lovin' machine dispenses a bottle of Hadacol after it wears you out.



Teresa Brewer – "Lovin' Machine" (Coral, 1952) 

A cover of the Harris song.



Hank Penny (Plain Ol' Country Boy) – "Hadacillin Boogie" (RCA Victor 20-4862, 1952)




Saturday, June 21, 2014

Music Weird studies our ability to recall the tempo of "Stayin' Alive" for CPR





The American Heart Association's campaign to raise awareness about hands-only CPR uses the Bee Gees' 1977 disco hit "Stayin' Alive" as a theme and a tool. The song was chosen not only because the title corresponds with the lifesaving potential of CPR, but also because the song's tempo is 103 beats per minute (BPM). 

"At 103 beats per minute," reported the New York Times, "its tempo almost perfectly matches the recommended rate for performing hands-only CPR—100 chest compressions per minute with no mouth-to-mouth resuscitation necessary."

The association's CPR demo video emphasizes the significance of this tempo. The narrator says that when you perform CPR, "It's important to push at a rate of at least 100 beats per minute." 

Ideally, in a CPR emergency, you would call 911 and be talked through the process by someone who would help you perform chest compressions at the correct rate. But if a telephone weren't available, how accurately would you be able to recall the tempo of "Stayin' Alive"?

To find out, Music Weird performed a small study with 12 subjects.

Each participant was asked to visit this All8.com webpage, which allows visitors to tap any key on their keyboard to measure BPM. Subjects were instructed to think of the song "Stayin' Alive" and tap the space bar at what they thought was the tempo of the song. After approximately 10 seconds, they were asked to stop tapping, and their BPM was recorded.

Not surprisingly, the results varied widely, from a low of 54 BPM to a high of 174 BPM. Only 3 out of the 12 subjects came within 10 BPM of the 100 BPM goal, and nearly half were more than 30 BPM away from the target.

Not that it matters all that much. The lead investigator of a study on the effectiveness of music as a CPR prompt told the BBC that, even though the use of music has its shortcomings, "any form of CPR is better than none at all."

Why? Because of the 300,000 people in the U.S. each year who experience cardiac arrest outside of a hospital, only 5% survive, according to the Dallas News, often because no one intervenes. With odds like those, even poorly timed chest compressions might help. 





Note: CPR stands for cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

A Faulty Chromosome: An interview and retrospective


A Faulty Chromosome. Eric on the right, Mike second from left.


Do we value originality in music or not?

I ask because I sense that A Faulty Chromosome never got the respect they really deserved, even though they were true originals.

Living here in Indiana, I'm not especially plugged into the psychology of the masses, so I'm basing my impression that A Faulty Chromosome didn't get its due on a single experience: I saw the band at NYC Popfest in 2009, and they got a pretty lukewarm reception.

They took too long to set up, with their hanging lights and all the blankets over their amps that made them look and sound like they were underwater. And they weren't twee, so it probably wasn't the best audience for them. The crowd grew impatient and then didn't get what it expected, which is not a recipe for success. The chick from Afternoon Naps even got onstage and played a song with them to try to energize the crowd. That was only moderately effective.

Nevertheless, A Faulty Chromosome was a super-interesting band. Their hallmarks were novel, lo-fi soundscapes with everything-including-the-kitchen-sink instrumentation, elaborate stream-of-consciousness lyrics, mutant dance grooves, and left-field pop hooks.

On their now-deleted Facebook page, their list of influences included Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam, Arthur Russell, Half Japanese, and Sun Ra. That kind of sums it up.

Music Weird talked to Eric and Mike from A Faulty Chromosome on June 17, 2014. 


The band is defunct, I take it?

Eric: Well, the band is super dead. I murdered it myself. I bathed in its blood and hosed it off down the sewer.

But defunct? "No longer existing or functioning"? Can music ever be defunct, really? I mean, it keeps going so long as people care. Even if I wanted it to die—which I do, because I purposely murder it each day I wake up and say, "No, I will not sink more money into this doomhole"—other people—like you, for example, and sometimes-bandmember Mike, who keeps reminding me, "Hey, one more human said something good about the band on this website! See, you're not a total failure"—keep it existing and functioning to some degree. 

Mike: But still, yes, even so, the band’s pretty much defunct. I mean, the band was Eric, and Eric was the band—inextricably linked! His head porridge, his heart salsa!—and Eric’s not defunct. But as a physical entity? The band’s dead. Persists only in web echoes and vinyl pressings. And this makes me sad. Because I miss standing five feet from Eric’s mouth sounds and finger thrum. The songs were just plain fun to play. 

Eric: I tried to find a pinch of joy in a slopbucket of misery. I didn't kill myself, so I guess that was a miniature success.


But you met your Kickstarter goal for the last album. What happened? 

Eric: Being in a band was a miserable experience for me. I tried my best to have fun, but there's so much business and planning and marketing and advertising and other things that I don't enjoy and am not good at. I mean, I'm horrible at it.

I lost a lot of money to try to get other people to listen to it, too, sending hundreds of albums out only to have them mostly thrown in the garbage by bloggers, record labels, booking agencies, college radio DJs, et cetera. I'm still paying off that debt and will be for another year. The Kickstarter only paid for the pressing of the albums. The nice guy who gave the most money just really liked our music and started a record label [Yelping Hill Records] to put it out, even though he didn't know anything about running a record label. So, together, we had a lot of heart but little know-how and zero connections. I should have asked for more to tour and promote it, I guess. But it costs approximately $1,000 a month to pay some kid to harass people via e-mail and telephone until they listen to or review your record. I'd rather just play, and if the music is good enough, word of mouth will keep it alive and passed around.

I mean, I never wanted to be arena-rock rich. I never wanted to be a Kurt Cobain "King of the Losers" messiah. I just wanted to support myself, but I couldn't, so I stopped. At the time— 2007-ish—"making it" was having your song on a compilation that's played in Urban Outfitters stores or featured on Pitchfork, then playing a hipster party at SXSW, then getting asked to open on a tour with whatever mentally unbalanced band was currently temporarily popular. It was like trying to fit in with a rich high-school clique that we didn't even want to fit in with. Our fans tend to be very nice, slightly nerdy, shy-at-first-but-dying-to-talk types. [Greg's note: This describes me.] It's too messy for normals to mindlessly dance to. But it's dance music! I wanted dancing. Like robots malfunctioning and collapsing on the floor! I still want this. I hope at least bedrooms and used cards are bouncing. 

Mike: Eric was never much comfortable with the self-promotional side of things. Of the idea of “growing” the band, none of us were. Who wants to shill? It’s gross and low. But maybe, just maybe, we were dignity snobs? Were a little too—um—suspicious of inauthenticity, which I don’t even know what that means anymore. I mean, we were never going to have a street team—a real cute buncha kids, swoop-haired and tight-jeaned, all out there with the stickers and the stencils—but we maybe could have/should have done more? To push ourselves? Still—it’s not like Eric didn’t try. He rang up a lot of debt getting somebody—anybody—to listen. And looking back, the rest of us in the band weren’t really “pulling weight.”



What does the discography of A Faulty Chromosome look like? 

Eric: Two proper albums, a few tour-only B-sides and demos mishmashes, and a bunch of covers, including the Magnetic Fields' House of Tomorrow EP in its entirety. I wish All Music Guide would let me edit my own band's page. I wish someone would just put it all on YouTube. I have it on a hard drive somewhere still, I think. Some hard copies are in an old lady's garage in New York. Some is in a suitcase doubling as a cat scratch post. I have no real interest in preserving such memories. If it makes others happy, that's nice. But I don't want the job of archiving. It's like saving love letters from exes you don't even like.


What were your experiences with touring and with NYC Popfest? 

Eric: I've found that the Popfest crowd tends to be "collector" types. The people I know personally still have hundreds of 7-inches that they never listen to but like to brag about having to show that they heard it first. It rubs me the wrong way. I just didn't really feel like we fit in or were welcomed. Guuhhh. I was hoping Popfest would help me feel happy and hopeful and young and childlike, but it just made me more depressed because it failed so miserably. It's like wanting, really wanting, to have religion work, but then, before you even get inside the church, you just start laughing at the whole notion of the thing, and you walk back home empty. 

Mike: Nice people everywhere. And head nods. We’d get head nods every once in awhile. 

Eric: Yeah, head nods help. You and I, Greg, met at Popfest. I guess, as a musician, I always hope that people will be blown away by the sound, as though they had never heard anything so moving or different or expressive or sincere at the same time. Ideally, their heads would explode like Riki-Oh so I'd know for sure it got to them. Or buying the album helps too. I can never tell if people like us. They always looked confused.

I dunno…. I played music because it was the only thing I could do to convince myself to not to want to die. At the time, it wasn't fun. It was exorcising demons. I guess that's not necessarily what Popfests are for.

I hoped people heard it and sang back...or hugged me...or fixed me. I don't know? Like wild animals howling. Singing like a kid, in hopes that it would get me out of the hopelessness of being 20-something I was feeling. It helped a little, I think? Not twee, though.




How did you guys fit into the Austin scene? What kind of reception did you get in your hometown? 

Eric: Austin smells like barbecue, beer, and cedar. It was great to come back to after being away. It was a lot of fun in that it was living "the Ultimate College Experience," like it was an amusement park ride. We were invited to "keggers," "potlucks."

You've got to understand, I'm not the partying type. Parties have always depressed me, because when I'd go, I'd wanna have deep conversations, but other people just wanted to escape and dance and fuck. So I tried that this time, but it didn't work. But it wasn't our hometown. I have no home, and have been in nomadic limbo since 2000. We moved to Austin because kids at the college radio station played it a lot, and living in L.A. is a horrible place to be in a band because no one will let you play at their club unless you're friends with their friends.

In Austin, I feel like we had maybe 7 or 8 fans. Or at least kids who genuinely liked it because it meant something to them, and not just "supporting your friends." I dunno. Austin was sooooo relaxing and comforting because everything moves much slower, and the people are just: "Y'all...." 

Mike: Austin was a lovely experience. An exhalation after the five-year inhale of L.A.

Which, by the way, L.A. can be grand. But, ugh, what crummy, clueless club owners. "No, sir, we cannot guarantee a 30-ticket pre-sale, but perhaps if you promoted your shitty venal velvety little venue a bit better we wouldn’t have to." Squid pro quo!

But yes—and this inevitably makes me sound like a bitter A-hole—I’d have to agree with Eric about the multiplicity of “art” bands. Of “art” in general. Sometimes there’s such a thing as too much output, too much creativity for creativity’s sake. It can get oppressive. And enervating. Again, probably a personal issue. But c’mon, must every idea be not only executed but then shared with the wider world? Keep that collage in the ol’ skull—the calcium vault—and just sit in silence a spell beneath an old gum tree. It’ll do your interior world wonders. At least let’s have a moratorium on Tumblr sketchbook sharing for five years. Be an artist, fine—but the self-marketing is icky. Oh God, shut up, Mike.




What were the best experiences of A Faulty Chromosome? 

Mike: Best experience: dancing to Eric’s songs. Equally best experience: singing along, in real time, to Eric’s songs. 

Eric: Ummm.... Uhhh.... Best was having kids high on mushrooms and MDMA tell me that they lay on the floor and cry when they listen to my music. I also really enjoyed the kindness of strangers, and exploring cities, and sleeping in haunted mansions and crack houses, and seeing all the different conditions in which humans apparently live in. I'm quite surprised we survived. Honestly. It got pretty dark sometimes. A lot of blood stains and wads of hair and new odors. I am very surprised we survived. 


Your lyrics always impressed me because of their stream-of-consciousness quality and their sheer quantity! How much work was it to write all of those lyrics? Did they flow out of you or did you agonize over them?

Mike: Aren’t they sooooo good? The way they do what they do over the sounds they do it to? And he did. He did agonize. I seen it! 

Eric: Guhhhh... Yeah, and yeah. They flowed out for sure, but often in no apparent order. I agonized over everything.

I usually start to write by singing gibberish so that the melodies would appear, then I'd turn the mumbles into semi-coherent lyrics. That was all easy. But I just like language a lot. I like reading the dictionary and tracing the etymology of a word, and I like the feel of sounds smashed together, and sounds that used to be in dead languages that disappeared that our mouths can make. I love a good hip-hop MC flow, but didn't want to fake like I was from the ghetto. It's hard to sing without affecting something artificial. But I rewrote and rewrote and rewrote until it felt like it fit together.

I just tried to find a flow that made sense to me. I couldn't just sing a song about being confused and frustrated and then sing like monotone Jesus and Mary Chain with tons of reverb on the vocals. I wanted it to sound as frantic as the voices in my brain sound. I wanted to scream, but wouldn't let myself because it was a greater challenge to articulate the feelings. And I tried my best not to leave open-ended questions or generic platitudes, as those drive me nuts in songs. Each song started with a question or a problem with my life, and I genuinely tried to write a song that gave me some kind of resolution to it.

At the time of being in the band, I was dating a girl who hated to analyze human emotions, and opted for the traditional Chinese way of ignoring them until you die, for the greater good! Hence, a lot of songs with a lot of words. But now, I have a partner to talk to, so no real need for music. Funny how that works.


Are you doing anything musically now? 

Eric: I'm working on a short animation right now and doing all the scores, music, and sound effects for that. I also have this mess of a mixtape I add to whenever I have a few minutes to spare that's kind of a weird mess of vocal harmonies, old doo-wop loops, and hitting things to make beats. But I will always make noises. I wish one day I could get paid to do it enough so I wouldn't have to drive forklifts overnight in a furniture warehouse. Actually, it's a ton of fun, and sexual harassment is alive and well!

I'm in L.A. now, so playing a show is pretty much not an option, as they all want 50 people minimum. I miss making songs, though; I do. I'm just not in the mood yet. 

Mike: Make more songs, Eric.

 

Discography

 As an Ex-Anorexic's Six Sick Ex It (No label, 2007)
  • Them Pleasures of the Flesh / Anomie's the Enemy / What? / Jackie O / A Frozen Lake / Bad Thing / This Is Far from a Belle Epoque / Eyes, Foreign Eyes / The loneliness of the Short-Distance Walker / I'll Stop Swimming When I Drown



Free Sample Inside (No label, 2009)
  • Tippy-Toes / Bad Thing / Either You Don't Love Me, Or... / Anomie's the Enemy / Our Poor, Boorish Head / Love Goes Home to Paris / Pleasures of the Flesh / Short-Distance Walkers
     




Craving to Be Coddled so We Feel Fake-Safe (Yelping Hill, 2010)

  •  Growing Children Need Food / Scoffers vs. Beasts / Dancing on the Ceiling (Flailing on the Floor) / Tippy-Toes / U Stoopid / Our Poor Boorish Head / Little Miracles / Picayune / Warmish Piles / Incubate'r / Exorcise! / Groaning Like a Grown-Up / What We're Made Of