It's a new issue of Original Fuzz Magazine, and it's loaded with hits!
Inside, we take you to East Nashville's The Basement East for opening night of The Death March Tour with A Place To Bury Strangers & The Black Angels. We get heavy with Eric Slick on his new record, Jungian dream therapy, and his personal guide to meditation. Our artist of the month, Herb Williams, walks us through his colorful sculptures made with thousands of crayons and offers some advice for young artists. And, we've got a new Five Minutes interview with Jessica Tonder on her heritage and new record.
Plus, read a story on country musician, Bemo Prince: The Has Been That Never Was on the life and trials of a man so close to having it all. Listen to the newest episode of our podcast on Sixteen Years of Dylan Fest with special guest and co-founder, Austin Scaggs. And, we've got a new mixtape for the summer.
By Kari Leigh Ames.
Photo by Shervin Lainez.
We caught up with Eric Slick (Dr. Dog, Lithuania) between a solo in-store appearance at Fond Object Records’ 4th Avenue location and a full-band performance opening for Sinkane at the High Watt in Nashville, Tennessee, at the last show of his recent tour. Eric was kind enough to let us into his world and, even, collaborate on a signature guitar strap for our artist series collection.
Read our interview to catch his take on childhood influences, psychoanalysis of his dreams, and recording his debut solo record. You can find his meditation zine, "A Personal Guide for Meditation," and his new album Palisades, out now via Egghunt Records, on his website or wherever you get your music.
Photo by Kari Leigh Ames.
What’s your favorite press-thing you’ve ever done?
Well, this now.
What’s the most annoying thing about being interviewed?
Nothing. I like doing interviews! The only annoying thing in my life is that I have to be places at times, that’s the only thing. The fact that we’re playing so early is annoying, but I’ll live with that.
I was hoping you could talk some more about your family and how they influenced your music.
My family has influenced me in a huge way. I would say probably the biggest influence on me from the get-go, because we had a record collection growing up. Listening to the Beatles with my dad, my mom putting on Joni Mitchell records, that was my introduction to music. They strongly encouraged me to play music. My sister, Julie Slick (of the Adrian Belew Power Trio), was a little bit slower on the uptake because she was more into things like ballet dancing and softball. When I was eleven, she was twelve, she started playing bass. I had already been playing drums for a while. I started out as a drummer. Yeah, family is a huge part of my musical adventure.
When was the first time that you realized that you were going to play music forever? That you were a musician?
Probably the first time I ever played on a stage. Technically, the first time I was ever on stage was for a daycare performance, which was actually pretty traumatizing, but when I was nine years old, that was my first time on stage. I was pretty introverted as a kid, very shy, and being onstage brought me out of my shell. It was a way for me to be myself and be extroverted. Eventually, I became extroverted in my day-to-day life. I was nine at the Griffin Cafe in Philadelphia, in a super small coffee shop, that’s where I knew. I didn’t really have a doubt in my mind, ever since that moment. My family also pumped me up pretty hard.
I know that you have some experience with a School of Rock.
Yeah, I went to the very first one. This guy, Paul Green, invented [rock] music school, and the first show that I played not in my living room for my parents was at a School of Rock event. Now, it’s kind of mutated into this whole other nationwide phenomenon, but the Philly one is the first one. Actually, Paul Green was playing drums at the very first School of Rock variety show performance, where they were playing a bunch of different classic rock songs. I remember walking in and being like, “This guy’s the worst drummer I’ve ever seen and I should play drums for this.” I had an ego and I was like, “Yeah, I should play drums, surely I’m good.” I was nine, so there’s no way that I was any better, but that’s how I got started. I was very adamant about joining the rock school. I dragged my sister along, and we got started concurrently. I’d been playing drums since I was two, and they didn’t have a drummer. Paul Green was playing drums to fill-in, because he was only teaching guitar students and bass students at that time, so I took it upon myself to be assertive and be the drummer kid.
Do you ever get pissed at your drummer?
No, actually, because I pick drummers that I’m a fan of. Being a drummer makes me very sensitive to other drummers. Being up front, it’s great, because I can tell the drummer what to do without it being this passive aggressive thing. Guitarist-drummer-dynamic is always so rough, and for this band it’s really nice, I know how to talk to [Ricardo], because I talk to him the way I’d want to be talked to.
What do you like in a drummer in your band? Is it the same as your style or different?
Oh, it’s always going to be different. Even if I tried to find somebody who is just like me, it would still be different. With Ricardo, he has that sensibility of being reserved. I like drummers who are generally pretty reserved when they play.
Who are some hallmark drummers for you?
Ringo. Everyone shits on Ringo, and they’re stupid. He’s the best. Jim Keltner, who played with George Harrison, he did all the Phil Spector stuff. Anybody who played on big pop records, who plays tastefully, I’m a fan of. Then on the tech-y side of things, I could go on and on about drummers that I like, but they’re more inspirational from a technique standpoint. They’re not inspirational from a musical standpoint most of the time. There’s only a select few that have blown me away with being really fast and being really musical. A lot of jazz drummers are really fast and really musical. Most of the time when I’m making a reference to drumming, it’s Ringo, John Bonham, Earl Palmer—who played with Little Richard—it’s always the same couple people that play tastefully.
What’s your favorite Beatles’ record that Ringo played on?
I love the way he plays drums on Abbey Road, because the drumming on that record’s insane. There’s all these overdubs on “Something” that doesn’t make any sense, and the beat to “Come Together” makes no sense. Like, who would start a song that way? [mimics the opening of “Come Together” on air drums] That’s totally not a drummer sensibility. He’s also a lefty playing a right-handed kit, he’s fascinating as a drummer. I talk about him all the time. Everyone thinks of Ringo as this soft-hitter, which didn’t happen until later on, he became known for that. Early on, he was beating the fuck out of the drums. I just remember my folks showing me a VHS tape of this Beatles performance, called Ready, Steady, Go!, and ever since that moment, I was like, “I’m gonna play drums.” No doubt in my mind. I even wiggled my head like him as a baby. It was a deep, deep Ringo connection.
Do you want to talk about the Three of Cups?
In 2014, I moved to North Carolina to cleanse my palate. I grew up in Philly and I was like, “I’m done with Philly, fuck Philly.” I moved to Asheville and I got really into… spirituality? [laughs] I was meditating and getting into dream therapy, so I started seeing this dream therapist. I’d go to her once a week, and I’d write down all my dreams after I had them, and she would do a full Carl Jungian psychoanalysis of the dreams. She would tell me, “Okay, if you’re having a dream about being in love with somebody, it doesn’t mean that you’re actually in love with someone; it actually means all this other stuff.” The last time that I went to her, I was sad because I was being kicked out of my situation in North Carolina. They were selling the house that I was renting, and I was really bummed out, but I had this dream that I was on the beach, overlooking the water. I was wearing this gold robe, and I had a scythe, and I was singing to the ocean. This person walked up to me, this formless thing walked up to me and was like, “You should keep singing,” so I wrote that dream down and went to my dream therapist. I didn’t tell her about my dream, but she did my tarot, and the first card that she pulls is the Three of Cups, which is a guy wearing a gold robe, overlooking the ocean, holding a pole. I was like, “That’s the dream that I had. That’s the exact vision in my dream,” and she said, “Of course it is. You know. I’m blowing your mind right now, but this is totally chance. The Three of Cups means whatever was represented in your dream, you were singing, that means that you have to keep doing it. You have to do it until you get the best at it.”
The Three of Cups is the card of transcendence and success and realizing your dreams. It’s not even in the major arcana, it’s in the minor arcana, but she was like, “This is so important.” It was a month before I was gonna go record [Palisades] that I just put out; I’d just finished writing the record, too, and I was super self-conscious about it. She was like, “You have to do it, even if you’re self conscious about it, even if it’s gonna suck for you. Even if you’re going to be embarrassed, you have to do it,” so that’s why I put it on the back of the record, and I have the gold robe on the front. It was all just making sense, having a Side One and a Side Two and having the tarot card be in the middle as the imaginary Side Three. It all just kind of clicked in one moment and I was like, “Oh, I have to put the tarot card on the back.” That was such a kick in my ass to actually record the album. Even after that, it still took me two years to get the guts to finish it because I was so self conscious about it. The album is all songs about your subconscious and the deepest stuff in you. It’s a way of bringing it all together, and now we got to put it on a strap so everyone can wear it and feel good feelings.
Where did you record Palisades?
I recorded in Anacortes, Washington. There’s a guy who lives in Anacortes, named Phil Elverum, who was in a band called The Microphones—that’s now called Mount Eerie—and he has this old church that is now a Croatian club. It’s this massive room, he’s got all this incredible old gear, and it’s super cheap to record there. You’re in the San Juan Islands, so you’re just surrounded by all this natural beauty. Deer are native to the island, so they’re not afraid of you. You’ll be walking down the street, and deer will just come up to you. It’s like being in Twin Peaks, but with deer instead of people. [laughs] There’s a lot of musicians that live out there, Phil Elverum lives out there, a lot of the people who were on K Records in the 90s. A lot of Olympia people moved up there, and there’s an incredible, thriving music scene. I had recorded there with a friend a couple months prior, and I was like, “Okay, if I go back and record, I have to do it here, because this is a spiritual spot.” You can go to the water, and there’s a beautiful overlook. I could show you photos and you’d be like, “Let’s go there tomorrow.” It’s an hour-and-a-half north of Seattle along the Vancouver border.
How long were you there?
We did the album in two days, so it wasn’t a lot of time. We didn’t have a ton of time to do it. It took even longer to finish it. I probably spent eight days on the record and it took two years to make, so… [laughs] It’s ridiculous, but there’s Dr. Dog, there’s other stuff. I have another band called Lithuania, and we did two Lithuania records in the span of trying to finish this record.
Is the guy that’s playing with you tonight from Lithuania?
He is, the drummer, yeah. He’s, like, the only drummer I trust.
Did you write it all in a more condensed time period?
I wrote the Lithuania record and the solo record over the course of a year, but the majority of this record was done in a week. I wrote it in a week when I was deeply meditating. I wasn’t listening to any music. I was just in a house, alone, with my piano and very little. I had all my stuff in Philadelphia, got rid of everything—purged everything. Just started fresh and wrote the songs seemingly out of nowhere. A lot of meditating and then whole songs would just kind of come to me. I’d write them down and that’s what’s on the record. A lot of lyrics, I go back and read them and I’m like, “I have no idea what this means.” The song “Palisades” in particular, I’m still trying to figure out what that song means.
Do you keep up with your meditation practice?
Twice a day.
Is that hard to do on the road?
It is. It’s really hard, but I wake up every morning, even after I’ve had like five hours of sleep, and it just centers me. If there’s a day where I can’t do my two meditations until later in the day, the first half of the day will be complete shit. I will be in the worst mood, or I’ll be super scatterbrained. This morning I did it, and the rest of my day was awesome. It just depends on the day, it depends on your travel schedule, but doing it is always better than waiting to do it, for sure.
How long do you meditate for?
Twenty minutes in the morning, twenty minutes in the afternoon. Sometimes, if I’m on tour, I might only have a 15 minute window, even 15 minutes will get me to the same place. I have a phrase that I repeat to myself. For me, as someone who’s incredibly ADHD, it makes me super mellow and creative. It allows creativity to happen. I feel like they should teach it in school, everyone would benefit.
It came from David Lynch, honestly. I read a book called Catching the Big Fish and it was all about how David Lynch, from the beginning of Eraserhead, has been doing meditation. It blew my mind, because when I watch David Lynch movies, I’m like, “This guy must be suffering so horribly, this is the darkest shit I’ve ever seen.” It just showed me that this guy has a complete access to his subconscious, and he mines it for his art. His normal day-to-day life is actually very peaceful. A lot of people in my life are like, “Why is your record so dark? It sounds so depressing.” I’m just mining the darkness. We all have that. If you don’t think that you have it, you’re lying to yourself. We all have that darkness. We’ve all experienced death. We’ve all experienced pain. We’ve all been broken up with. It’s just that you don’t want to feel those uncomfortable feelings. That’s why we have this [gestures to his phone]. That’s why we have drugs.
A similar example is when the White Album was made, [the Beatles] were all doing transcendental meditation and John Lennon didn’t understand. He was like, “I’m writing ‘I’m so tired’ and ‘Happiness is a Warm Gun,’ these super dark, dirge-y tunes, but I’m blissed out in India, what’s the deal?” And the Maharishi was like, “It’s just you accessing your subconscious. There’s gotta be a lot of stuff down there that you’re not picking up on.”
George Harrison maintained his meditation, and All Things Must Pass was a meditation record. Seinfeld’s been meditating since 1972. You would be shocked at how many people have been doing it for as long as they have and just haven’t talked about it. Every Stevie Wonder record was made under the influence of meditation. He even says it on Innervisions, he has a lyric that says transcendental meditation is the best, and you’re like, “Woah. Fuckin’ nuts.”
Why do you think that darkness comes out in your art? The purpose of it? Is it catharsis?
Yeah, it’s catharsis, and it’s also about understanding who we are. To be a human is to be a suffering entity, right? That’s what buddhists say, you’re born into this world and you’re not really wanting to be born into this world. Why do you think babies cry? They’re so confused about why they exist. That’s the cosmic thing right there; you really didn’t ask to be here. Two people chose to bring you into this world, however it’s done, however you wanna do that—petri dish, or however it’s done—you know, we didn’t ask for it.
To be a human is to suffer and to die is to suffer. We all know that death is this inevitable thing. I feel like a lot of artists have a fascination with death. I think a lot of their art is driven by, “Well, I’ve only got so much time on this planet, and I’m going to die, so I might as well make a ton of shit,” or, “I might as well make something out of this.” I really do feel that way. That’s where the drive comes from, whether we wanna admit that or not. It’s the knowing that death and taxes are inevitable, y’know? I think I was very outwardly goofy and happy, but I had a lot more stuff bubbling up underneath, then I started [meditating] in 2011 after I lost my best friend to leukemia. I didn’t quite know how to deal with death. My family had never given me the tools to deal with death. Meditation is my way of understanding his passing and also understanding the relativity between people and all these things that I wasn’t doing enough, and I started writing songs! I wasn’t able to complete a song until I started meditating.
When you meditate, do you see the words for the music, or do you hear it first?
It depends. Sometimes I’ll have a piece of music that I’m working on that might be in bits and pieces, but then I’ll meditate. I think “Palisades,” the song on my new record, is a perfect example. I was just sitting on my couch, meditating, and the word “palisades” came up and I was like, “What the fuck does that mean?” I got a piece of paper, sat back down, said “Okay, what’s that?” All the words to the chorus came, the song wrote itself. It was one of those things where, looking back on it now, I still don’t know how that happened. It’s just a very wild experience.
But then, the second to last song, [called “Evergreen”], that took three days to write. I was banging my head against the wall, and I would meditate and meditate, “What is this song? What am I doing with this thing?” It was in the wrong key, and then the parts weren’t connecting. Nothing about the song was connecting, and after three days of beating my head against the wall, it was done, but every process is different. As long as I’m using meditation to get there, though, it feels true and it feels real to me.
“The Dirge,” the song I opened with at Fond Object, and the song we sound-checked with, that one I had just meditated when I woke up in the morning, and I just had two chords. If you listen to the demo of it, I haven’t even warmed up my vocals yet, I’m singing the shape of the song. I went and got coffee, came back, and all the lyrics were done. If any idea is worth it’s weight, it’ll stick.
The beauty of creativity is it’s a renewable resource. If you just keep going back to it, it’ll be there. Leonard Cohen took eight years to write “Hallelujah” with sixty-four verses that nobody even knows what they are. He did vipassana, which is where you immerse yourself in silence. And he did that after “Hallelujah,” go figure.
I’m a huge proponent, I want to get into this in my day-to-day life, teaching kids how to meditate, because I feel like we’re at a boiling point with mental illness in the country and so much of it is kids not knowing how to communicate, exist, deal with their pain. That’s why so many kids get into fights, that’s why so many kids judge and bully. In California, they’ve implemented meditation for half the public schools and the grades are skyrocketing. These are public schools; it’s a wide, diverse range of kids, all different backgrounds, deadbeat parents or affluent parents who are negligent. There’s this whole spectrum of kids out there who are severely missing out on their life.
What would you recommend as a starting point to someone who wants to try meditation?
It depends on what kind of brain you have. For me, silent meditation is torture, because I become obsessed with whatever sound is happening around me. I feel like for the ADHD mind, which is the majority of us now, we’re super impulsive. Having something to root you while you’re meditating, a mantra, would really help.
You can look online, there’s all these Sanskrit mantras that represent different things, but the important thing for me is not knowing what the Sanskrit means. For someone with an ADHD mind, you latch onto the meaning of the word, and it takes you out of the conversation. What a mantra does is gets the mind to focus on a word that has no meaning to you, so you’re just hearing sound. That’s why “Om” is such a popular mantra that people get started with. Om doesn’t really have a meaning, it’s just a universal vibration.
Now, it’s become a cultural thing, so it’s important to find a word that means nothing to you and don’t even look into it. Look up a random Sanskrit phrase, and try it. For people who are already a bit more centered and focused, try silent meditation. Just focus on breathing, because it might even be anxiety caused by learning how to breathe wrong or the myriad of ways in which you could learn something wrong. Breathing is something we all learn how to do wrong, in my opinion. I would say, for artists and musicians, because we’re already so tightly wound and scatterbrained, I think it’s hard for them to stay organized. Having a phrase to review is really helpful, so if you go online and start with Sanskrit mantras, start with that.
Give yourself time to get into it, too. Give yourself five minutes to calm your mind, open your eyes, close your eyes. Actually, I’m selling a [mediation zine] out there that I made, it teaches you how to meditate.
What’s the name of it?
It’s “A Personal Guide for Meditation,” and it’s kind of tongue-in-cheek at some points, but, directly in the center of the zine, there’s “Here’s How to Meditate.” If you have any questions, I put my email in the back. Just trying to help my fellow musicians.
Thanks to Eric Slick and Kari Leigh Ames for this thoughtful interview. Have a listen to Eric's new record, Palisades, below.
Meet Herb Williams, our artist of the month! Herb uses thousands of crayons to create giant, colorful sculptures, and is one of the only individuals in the world to have an account with Crayola. His work has been featured in many different countries, famous galleries, museums, even The White House. Along with his imaginative sculptures, Herb creates art and murals around town on buildings he loves. You can find his famous multi-colored animals on the walls of Old Made Good, the Gibson-sponsored mural on 4th Ave downtown, and his newest work-in-progress on the side of Yazoo Brewery, plus others.
Read our interview with Herb on his art, advice for young artists, thoughts on Nashville's art scene, and what he's working on now. We even ask him to choose his favorite crayon, a difficult task. Check out herbwilliamsart.com to find out more and visit the Rymer Gallery downtown to view some of his new work.
Old Made Good Fawn.
Who are you and what do you do?
I'm a good friend of Jeremiah Johnson, and I've come down from the mountain for a little while. I take risks, and try to have as much fun as I can making strange and mysterious artwork.
When did you first become interested in making sculptures?
I'm from LA (lower Alabama) and there was a good bit of red clay in Autauga County. After a good rain, the clay was soft and I would spend many days of my summer as a boy carving animals, spaceships, and monsters into the cliffs.
When did you incorporate crayons into your art?
I spent years making artwork out of every different kind of material I could think of—terrible work—then, I took a trip to Manhattan and visited Red Grooms' studio and bought him lunch. He said many profound things, one of which legitimized play in the process of making artwork. That led me to rediscovering crayons and experimenting with how to use them in a different way.
What do you like most about them?
There's so much—A friend of mine who's a curator at the Smithsonian said, "They're a gateway drug." I stole it and say it all the time now—the scent, the design, the pure pigment in the stick doesn't leave you feeling unfulfilled when you put it to the paper and the color is somehow diminished.
What’s your favorite crayon?
That's like trying to pick your favorite child. Carnation Pink makes me pretty happy when you use a few thousand at once.
Which crayon has the best name?
Midnight Blue always gives me a sense of power and mischief when I use it.
Your resume is pretty incredible, from having your art in galleries all over the world to being featured in the White House. Growing up, did you see yourself making a living as an artist?
Never, I thought I would be a jet-fighter pilot, until I learned my eyesight wasn't good enough for that. Then I dreamed of being an animator of my own cartoons, until I learned how repetitious that can be.
Did you ever doubt this career?
Absolutely. It's not all glamour and good press. It's a huge risk, and the whole "starving artist" slogan came from a very real place. Very few artists can afford to continue to create art. Unless you are born rich, or have a Sugar Momma, it's not for the faint of heart. The materials cost more to create the art than you can usually sell the work for. Keeping food on the table for my kids, and a roof over our heads is a constant and daily struggle.
What made you continue pursuing it?
I can't do anything else. I love it too much. It's all I think about.
What’s the biggest challenge you face with your work?
You are only as good as the last work you made. I am usually deeply, madly in love with whatever I am working on at the moment. But it is incredibly hard work to constantly try to find the next new, original, relevant idea to do next. I fail more than I succeed, but I keep trying. I don't sleep much, and I surround myself with folks who are smarter than me.
Can you tell us about your mural in Printers Alley?
The deer dissolving into butterflies is the second largest mural I've made next to the giant Glitchmule on the side of the Family Wash Building.
Dissolving Deer Les Paul on 4th Ave.
Glitchmule on The Family Wash.
Newest work-in-progress on Yazoo Brewery.
How did you get involved with the Nashville Wall Project?
Brian Grief brought all of these incredibly famous, internationally successful artists to Nashville to create murals for the Nashville Walls Project. Several of my heroes like Mars 1, ABOVE, and Curiot now have enormous walls just a block away from my studio. A friend of mine introduced us, and Brian was gracious enough to invite me to help him curate a wall for locals to paint for the project. Gibson sponsored the wall, so their only stipulation was that the artists could paint anything they like inside the silhouette of their Les Paul. I reached out to the local muralists I knew and found the best fit for the five artists with Sam Dunson, Zidekahedron, Emily Miller, and Brandon Donahue.
How long did this take you to paint?
We finished the entire wall in about a week, working around the clock.
What’s the significance with animals throughout your work?
I love using animals as metaphors for showing our conversation and disconnect with nature. I try to tag walls around town of places that I enjoy going to. I've been very lucky not to have any of the animals painted over. However, with all of the development, I've lost two just to having the buildings knocked down or redeveloped. There are more cranes than animals that I have painted around town now.
Describe your process. What’s the best part?
I love traveling and just getting behind the wheel going to a place I've never been. On the drive, I usually find the time to let my subconscious work out what I can't. Then, I come back to the studio and I will usually make a sketch, or a small painting. Then, I will create a stencil and make a graffiti painting. Then, I will carve or sculpt out of clay a form that I will then have to coat in fiberglass, then paint. Then, I and an assistant will cut thousands of crayons that we will then attach to the form.
Which works are you most proud of?
Oh, most of them still make me smile when I see them. The most ambitious and risky are my favorites though. The Wildfire Project, which actually melted down in the Texas heat. The Blues Room where I got to invite all of my friends to dress in blue and then I'd take Polaroids of them in the space. The Plunderland Installation my friends helped me drive and install in Manhattan will forever be epic. The artwork that took me to the Inauguration in '08 was life-changing, I met so many established artists that really opened my eyes to how you can make a living creating things that only make sense to you.
You’ve lived in Nashville for a while, almost a couple decades, has there always been a pulsing art scene? Has it changed?
There were always talented artists living here in Nashville. The scene has grown exponentially with the Watkins grads making work here. The gallery scene has grown quite a bit, and that has helped establish more of culture of going out and seeing new artwork.
What’s the greatest thing Nashville is doing for the arts in our community?
I think the Metro Nashville Arts Commission engaging with local artists and giving them classes and tools to prepare them for entering into larger social and civic projects is one of the best things happening here locally. The Nashville Walls Project bringing so many famous artists here and putting up huge walls of art overnight is doing the quickest job of building our city's public art collection. We have to have more artwork in our public collection by famous artists in order for anyone to take the art scene in Nashville seriously.
If you could have dinner with three of your idols, who would they be?
What would you ask them?
To Ai: How do you find the courage to create work that may eventually get you killed by your own government? To Anish: Where do you find your inspiration to create such large scale important works? To my Dad: I think I would have all kinds of questions for my Dad, he died when I was 8.
Any advice for young artists?
Risk as much as you can. Think as big as you can. Take some Art History courses. Find artists in the past who you love, or would want to carry on some kind of a dialog with your work to theirs.
How do you respond to people who don’t believe in federal funding for the arts?
It's less than .001 percent of our budget. If they knew what most of our budget was actually going toward I think they would grab the pitchforks and torches and go after our elected officials. Most of the folks who don't appreciate the arts have never experienced, or grown up with art, as any part of their collective culture. Our own American history is so young compared to Europe where there is so much public art surrounding them. There are so many things we need to rethink as to who we value in our country—celebrities, athletes, rock stars. I'm not saying that I don't value Willie Nelson, or Tina Fey, or Bo Jackson, but it would be sweet if we placed even a little respect in our public school teachers, local artists, and listened to a street corner poet every once in awhile. We are losing so much to the shiny and wealthy that unless we protect that which can't support itself, we will lose it forever.
What are you working on now?
I am working on a new series of crayon sculptures that are modeled after all of the most iconic and priceless treasures throughout history. I am going to assemble and install them all in one exhibit space and dress as a cat-burglar and title the show Masterpiece Heist. I think it will be a lot of fun to see everything that we've seen only in other museums or books all under the same roof.
Where can we see more of your work?
I have a studio on North Third Avenue next to the backdoor of the new 21C Hotel and across from my mural in Printer's Alley. The Rymer Gallery on Fifth Ave has a few of my new works on display right now too.
Anything else you’d like to say?
If anyone ever wants to come by and see my studio, I may have you cut a few crayons while we hang out. Oh, and bourbon, always the right thing to bring as a studio-warming gift.
FOUND is a monthly series by Original Fuzz Magazine. We aim to discover visual artists from every corner of the world, no matter the background or creative vision. We believe it's not just what you do, but how you do it. All art is as important to our culture as music, words, news, science, even religion. FOUND celebrates the visual and those who create it, serving as a platform for the creative pioneers who embody Original Fuzz and our products.
A Place To Bury Strangers and The Black Angels kicked off the Death March Tour together right here in Nashville, surrounding the release of The Black Angels' new album Death Song. A night of psychedelia with explosive, swooning, and haunting guitars, plus a three hour light show of lasers, projections, and strobes, both beautiful and at times seizure-inducing. I'm still seeing the rainbows of color bouncing through the thickest walls of fog. Photos from the sold out night at The Basement East are below. Words and photos by Emily Quirk.
Jessica Tonder was born in Baltimore to parents who are of Peruvian and Croatian descent. She moved back to Peru with her mother when she was a small child, shortly after her father had passed away. In light of the terrorism happening in Peru at the time, Tonder and her mother eventually landed back in the states, in south Florida. Tonder grew up singing in church. As her attendance tapered off, she still felt a desire to sing and a need to connect to the world through music. She sang her first song at three years of age to an audience of over two hundred people. She knew, at that moment, a life in music was her destiny.
Jessica's rich vocal performance is laced with haunting, soulful sounds deeply rooted in an Afro-Peruvian, folk heritage. Read our interview with her below on her art and check out her album A Rise of Peace on SoundCloud.
Who are some other artists you identify with?
Well, I'm influenced by sensibility, the dramatic and vulnerable artist that also hits you in the stomach and makes you want to curl up with your mother, or that make you laugh uncontrollably and fill you with so much joy. All of the most extreme feelings brought out by humanity. Nina Simone was one, Maria Callas another. Both for very different reasons, but, mainly as I said earlier, more than the artist, I identify with feelings and emotions.
What kind of work do you most enjoy doing and why?
Writing songs for film. I enjoy creating cinematic music. Mostly, I describe them as sonic films—lyrically and stylistically emphasized in range and color, very dynamic, sweet and soft and then very evoking and powerful, sometimes uncomfortable, but always beautiful to listen to.
What materials do you use to create?
Usually, it begins on the piano and I proceed with melody and lyrics until it becomes revealed to me what it will be. It's always either a small idea that is difficult and tedious to finish, or the entire piece is done within the hour.
What do you dislike about the art world—or the world of your work?
The tasteless ways they are imposing their idea of "good work" onto the artist for financial reasons. I believe the reason we create is for freedom, and because we have to as artists. Many times it is to work out emotions we may have that have been tied-up deep within us and to share in humanity. Being tied down to the market is not being free. These days, everything is judged by technicalities and whether or not your work is deemed marketable or profitable. It discounts your abilities, your potential, and dismisses any chance you may have of actually allowing yourself to be heard creatively and also make a living doing it.
How do you get ready for a performance?
I first imagine it and dream it. I watch the whole thing in my mind before it begins. I think up the order, and transitions, and what I shall do in between—the costumes and the fantasy and how I will sing—how I will deliver the songs, how I will connect. Once I'm on stage, it usually all goes out the window. I never really know what I do once I'm there, but I do know I have to feel it deep inside my heart or I don't do it at all.
What is your dream project?
Creating a space where I can write the music and have sets built with ornate and dramatic costumes, like watching a gorgeous live film with a filled orchestra pit in an old-world opera house.
What is the best piece of advice you've been given?
If I am not for me, who will be? If I am only for me, what am I? If not now, when?
Professionally, what is your goal?
I feel it more as what is my purpose? And that's something I work towards everyday, to give the best of what I have to others.
The Five Minutes With series is brought to you by Stephanie Nicole Smith, a visual artist and make up artist in Los Angeles, CA. You can find her work at stephanienicolesmith.com and follow her @stephanienicolesmith.
Bemo Prince is an unusual character in the unraveling, worn tale of country music and its stars. In the 70s, Nashville grew into the hottest, little town, bursting with sequins, smiles, and steel guitars. It shone bright, west of the smokies, with honky-tonk tunes echoing miles away. It's always been an attractive place, a music mecca for artists who've tasted fame and want more.
Bemo Prince was the hungriest. Read our story on Bemo's journey to Music City and his fall from grace of not quite reaching center stage—that is until now. Has Been That Never Was: The Bemo Prince Story is by David Travis Bland. Parts of this story originally appear in Jasper Magazine.
Bemo Prince got together a dollar and some change and headed out of Eau Claire, South Carolina, passing the floating Coca-Cola sculpture that topped the bottling plant at the edge of Cottontown. The North Main Street line ran straight to his destination—the movie theatre in downtown Columbia. Your Cheatin’ Heart was on the marquee. The poster promised, “unforgettable moments of the immortal Hank Williams.” Hank’s tunes held Bemo in his seat with a force he’d never known. He hid away in the aisle to see every showing that day, waiting with a throttled heart at each final scene, when the crowd stands up to sing “I Saw the Light” at the pronouncement of the extolled country singer’s death.
“I really had a change of my life, a purpose, if you will,” Bemo says, thinking back to that day in 1965 when he was fifteen years old living outside of the Palmetto State’s capital. “It was a strong moment for me, where my point was on music.”
Bemo Prince is sixty-eight now. A fellow decked-out in aviator glasses and a beard, who prefers to wear various shades of black, aside from the pale snakeskin boots from under his dark, crisp denim. He likes fresh coffee from IHOP on Assembly Street, a main thoroughfare in the heart of Columbia. The State House’s corinthian columns and copper dome rises just outside the diner’s windows. Bemo looks, and drinks the hot brew like a worn troubadour. Despite his seasoned appearance, it’s not a wild declaration to say most people haven’t heard of a Bemo Prince song, but Bill Anderson’s name has reached ears. Writing country chart-toppers since the late 1950s and joining the Grand Ole Opry the next decade, Bill Anderson transcends Nashville Cat status and enters the realm of the town’s legends. The Music City hit-maker had some advice for Bemo Prince when they met in 1976.
“He said I had tremendous talent but that to succeed in this business it takes about ten-percent talent and ninety-percent persistence,” Bemo says.
Bemo held onto that idea for sixteen years throughout the late 60s and into the 80s, staying true to his determination to be a singer-songwriter. He made steps toward success, but always found some nagging hindrance halting his ambitions. Then, in 1984, an opportunity came that he knew would make good on his persistence, that all the years of working and waiting, filled with a stubborn hope, would pay off. Bemo found that in the music business, sixty seconds can change everything.
“Opportunity is there sometimes, and you don’t know it. All of a sudden, that little fluke happens and bam,” he says, “Then, it’s hard to get it back—hard to get it back.”
Growing up in Eau Claire, South Carolina, an early suburb on the north-side of Columbia, in the 1950s and 60s, Bemo had a bit of a reputation for being odd. The son of a preacher, left-handed, and with the name Bemo Prince, “It’s kinda hard to be normal at that age,” he says. He started working early, around twelve years old, getting dollars from a paper route and spending that dough exploring downtown. His fateful trip to the movie theatre, coupled with an infatuation with smirking country-songwriter Roger Miller, ignited a new idea about the career that would keep Bemo on the up-and-up. He decided on a life of guitar chords and down-on-your-luck lyricism.
“At sixteen, seventeen, doing Roger Miller stuff that no one heard, I was the man,” he says, smiling as he recalls how he’d impress people in his old neighborhood.
His impersonation and resolute air must have been pretty good because about a year later he was hitched, both him and his wife eighteen years of age. Then in 1968, Bemo cut his first forty-five. A song called, “Wondering What My Whole World’s Coming To.” His world became music.
“My dad was a big supporter of what my dream was and wanted me to succeed at it,” Bemo says. “The challenge I had was just to be in the mix and part of that environment.”
Columbia might as well have been Salina, Kansas for a person with Music City ambitions. But, with a new wife and the grind of scratching-it-out at the end of the month, Bemo was stuck in his hometown. Despite circumstances, his optimism was strong in those days.
“I just loved the lifestyle. It was such a rewarding moment when you would cross paths with someone like Dolly Parton or Porter Wagoner—I was there in my mind. I was living the moment.”
Bemo started pitching songs to Nashville artists and publishing houses, trying to get backstage to play his tunes to any country star who would come to the Township Auditorium, Columbia’s oldest venue. He played folk tunes at hotel gigs to earn some scratch, despite his country leaning; yet, music couldn’t keep his two daughters fed, not even close. Bemo took up various jobs, clerking at gas stations, becoming a nightclub operator, then driving a truck for Marietta Bread.
“I had a purpose, a sense of who I was. I had an identity,” he says. “I’m not a route salesman. I’m a songwriter.”
Slinging loaves wouldn’t do, he was a songwriter and kept finagling his way to the greenroom of the Township, until one night Bemo found a sympathetic ear with Bill Anderson.
“I never got that connection,” with people who could help, Bemo says. “[Bill Anderson] said ‘I got time between shows. When do you want to do it?’"
“He shot a lot of my songs down but one song, ‘I Wish I Had You Off My Mind,’ he said, ‘I think we can do something with that Bemo.’”
After befriending Anderson and getting a good word in Tennessee, calls started coming in, asking him to perform on Nashville showcases. Rumor had it that one of Bemo's songs was on Glen Campbell's short list, and Anderson got Bemo to shake hands with the heads of MCA Records and Tree Publishing, a premier country song-house at the time. The company’s VP, Don Gantt, one of the movers-and-shakers of 70s Nashville, saw a serious contender in Bemo.
“One time [Gantt] said to me, ‘Bemo, how old are you?’ I told him, ‘Twenty-eight, but I feel forty,’” Bemo says sipping his coffee. “He said, ‘You’re going to be real successful in about ten years.’ Those words I didn’t want to hear—I wanted it now.”
“I thought, ‘Man, I just want one song,’” he says, wrapping his hands around his cup. “I just want one song.”
Bemo needed that one song more than ever. He was separated from his wife and kids, living in Atlanta and working up to ten hour shifts at a service station for sixty days straight at times. As he convinced his reluctant spouse to come to Georgia, he found some stability with a new job—another route driver position, this time with Borden Ice Cream. With his life floating in this damning circle of failure and unsatisfying jobs, Bemo doggedly held onto his music; but when the 80s came around, even his once supportive father began to doubt him.
The 80s also brought Bemo the shining gift of a chance—a shot at being seen on 20 million television screens and the potential to land a deal with MCA. It was 1984, in Nashville, when bars on Broadway were brimming with talk of You Can Be A Star, a TNN television show that brought songwriting hopefuls on air to compete for a recording contract. The show would later help launch the careers of Trisha Yearwood and Alan Jackson. Bemo sent an audition tape and was picked for their second season.
“Everybody was just on me. My last opportunity, my last chance was this [show].” Bemo packed up the wife and kids, Mama too, and headed to Tennessee.
“Here I am and I’m going to prove you wrong. I’m going to prove my Daddy wrong. I’m going to prove my Mama wrong. I’m going to show my wife that I am capable of achieving this dream I’ve been dreaming since we’ve been married. This is my moment.”
Ten minutes of audition time with the band, some rearrangements to his song, and Bemo felt good, confident, like fifteen years of working was about to break him from the realm of foolish hope and land him in a new reality. He waited for showtime.
“When I walked off from [the rehearsal stage], you could hear talk in the studio, ‘Did you hear that guy singing? That was his song.’”
He got the “Go” sign, the band hit the first chord and Bemo took to the stage, strumming and singing in his twangy croon his song, “Wondering What My Whole World’s Coming To.” The cameras and American households focusing on him. After thirty seconds, the song crumbled; Bemo stammered on the lyrics while the band marched over him. He tried to catch up, but the best he could do was hum a wordless melody. He never got back on beat.
“When I walked backstage, I couldn’t get eye contact with anybody.”
Bemo asked the stage manager if this had ever happened before? “Not in the 104 episodes I’ve tapped,” he said and put back on his headset.
“It was a moment that I did not recover from.” Bemo found himself plummeting to depths he never imagined—decades of hope undone in a minute.
“I came back to Columbia and self destructed,” he says. “My identity was no longer there. I didn’t know who I was. Everything in my life has been temporary until I made it in music.”
That lack of purpose hit his work life like a twenty pound sledge hammer. After nine years of driving a truck for Borden, his depression-induced apathy got him fired. His wife stayed with him, but he lived with the guilt of not being the provider he always wanted to be. The only thing that kept him sane was a new stint at the South Carolina State Museum building exhibits. A job Bemo found, that for the first time, gave him a minimal sense of accomplishment. He fell into your average working man’s drudgery, a routine that kept him busy for over a decade, while his guitar sat in a closet gathering dust—but life wasn’t done kicking Bemo in the ribs.
The job he credited with keeping his sanity in tact got swept up in a series of layoffs. Two years after the new millennium, and then in his mid-fifties, Bemo found employment opportunities for a man his age weren't exactly flush. The heart attack came only a couple years later and they kept coming over the months. Instead of ridding him to the bed, Bemo found his mind wandering to things he’d left unfinished.
“None of us have as much time as we think we do,” Bemo says leaning into the table. “The health issues caused me to realize that my grandchildren had no idea of my pursuit of music. That’s what kind of shook me up.”
It took a little time, but through a family connection, Bemo eventually hooked up with Daniel Machado of The Restoration, a history-focused musical collective based in Columbia. Bemo shared some demos of his old songs with Machado and the Columbia musician was hooked, ready to produce a full length, making the album Bemo always wanted—that is, if his ticker would let him.
“In my condition, I did not think I was capable of recording an album.”
Bemo believed in a line Machado gave him, “Don’t let your songs die with you.”
Knocking off the dust and diving into the memories, “More bad than good,” he says, of his old songs, Bemo found himself pulling up to the studio for the first time since 1968. He thought nerves had him short of breath, but when the sticks clicked the tune in and playback came through the headphones, he forgot all about his rattling chest. In two days, he laid down the songs he’d tried to record for two decades.
Has Been That Never Was came to life, a title from an elbow-jab his wife would frequently say that he took with a bit of pride. And that trouble breathing he had outside the studio, his doctor let him know that was a minor heart attack that his internal defibrillator caught.
“Everything that happens from this point out is just icing on the cake. Everything else from here on out is just something that I never did imagine.”
Inching toward seventy years old, Bemo’s still hopeful for that one song to break the Top 10 country charts. He might not be there yet, but he feels damn good about what he’s got.
On January 14, Bemo took to the stage at the Congaree Room in South Carolina’s State Museum, the same place that laid him off more than a decade ago. With Machado and a group of eager musicians, Has Been That Never Was officially entered the world. He stood in front of a crowd of about 300 friends, family, and potential fans. The feeling in that room is one he’ll never feel again. When he leaned into the mic to sing, “Wondering What My Whole World’s Coming To,” he joked with the audience that the song ruined his career. Bemo got through it just fine. He turned what was the most heart-shattering moment of his life into the pride that always eluded him.
“If you watch the original tape [of You Can Be A Star], at the end of it you’ll hear me say, ‘Wondering what my world’s coming to’ then I say, ‘after this,’” he says laughing. “That’s not part of the song.”
With tunes laid on tape for his family to hear for years to come, and for any others who dig for music, Bemo has a different story to tell, one that doesn’t end with trashed pride and a busted heart; instead, he found what Bill Anderson said he would need all those years back—persistence—the stubbornness to believe his songs and the life that went into them, can last longer than a gravestone. With his heart trouble, Bemo sees the place the stone marks. Before he goes, he has a new song he hopes to write.
“I’m so aware of death that I’ve grown to accept it,” he says. “When I buy a tube of toothpaste I wonder if it’s my last tube.”
“I feel completed. I feel like I was in a time warp and all of sudden now I’m here. Here in the past six months, melodies, and lines, and words are just flowing in my head at seventy, wanting to be creative again. It’s just that dream being realized.”—DTB.
I'm sure there is one thing we can all agree on: we are ready for summer! I made this mix in a swell of nostalgia for the 90s and early 2000s hip-hop favorites I used to listen to all summer long. Listen loud with the windows down...
Our LA friend and Five Minutes With contributor, Stephanie Nicole Smith, knows music. We met her in Brooklyn when she booked bands for Glasslands, back in the day, and dig her style. So, we let her pick the music.
Austin Scaggs joins the pod to discuss sixteen years of Dylan Fest. Dylan Fest is a two night celebration of Bob Dylan's songwriting that first started in the East Village in New York City on Dylan's 60th birthday. Austin founded Dylan Fest with his partner Alex Levy and their band The Cabin Down Below band.
In the beautiful, northern highlands of the Andes Mountains, rests a bustling, historic city, Cajamarca, the largest in the region, and home to an association of indigenous women weavers. Our Peruvian fabric liaison, Carrie Campbell, visited these women to learn more about their work, process, and way of life. We're humbled and honored to work with these weaving warriors in our creative journey. Read Carrie's story below on this group of women and learn about their historic process of creating, dying, and weaving textiles into your favorite Peruvian guitar or camera strap.
In a provincial town in Peru’s northern highlands, most residents are transplants from small villages in the nearby hills who have come seeking educational and economic opportunity. Among the weavers in the association, all but one of the women has come from a small village, and only one has an email address and steady job. No matter their background, all of the women appreciate the opportunity to make money through this weaving tradition.
Tucked away at one end of town, about nine blocks from the handsome plaza, with its mix of pastel-painted buildings, wooden balconies, and hodge-podge of commerce—including, a bank, a pharmacy, and a couple of restaurants that don’t seem to keep regular hours—lies the rustic workspace of the weaving association. A heavy, aged-wooden door leads into a private, little outdoor space beside the turquoise stucco building. A delicate spiral staircase leads upstairs to the weavers’ “taller,” where two rooms house a chest full of yarn, some work tables, and some old donated sewing machines which are not in use.
The studio space, given to the weaving association thirty years ago by the municipality, provides a legitimate working and gathering area for the small association that was originally formed decades ago. It was born from a rich knowledge of natural dyes and hand-woven textiles, with some help from the local church to nurture and keep the craft alive by inviting women to participate and practice weaving.
On this day, eight women gather to welcome my visit and talk about the new order for handwoven straps. These women are active association members, they are also part of a consortium with another weaving association, an hour away, who work together to complete orders for Original Fuzz. As we meet to discuss the order and how the work is going, their hands are busy untangling freshly-dyed yarn and carefully winding it back up into balls of yarn ready for threading their looms.
Each woman brings her own weaving knowledge, experience, and way of weaving passed down through her family, and through the essence of her personality. Collectively, the weavers bring the spirit of cooperation, collaboration, patience, and ability to work hard, even under new conditions brought about by our culture asking them to perform to design standards, measure precisely, and meet deadlines. The women have no previous experience working this way. Each new order teaches them how to organize in new ways to get the job done. Each new order also brings something else special: shared time among the women with opportunities to laugh, and form bonds with each other, through a shared, common goal and purpose.
In these fabrics, there are many special ingredients woven into the fibers. It’s not just the yarn, and the hands of the woman who spent hours spinning it, or the botanical dyes plus time spent collecting plants, starting a fire, and boiling large pots of water. It wasn’t just the hours of exposure it takes for the sun to bring out a new hue in the freshly-dyed yarn, or the patience and dedication of the women who spend time preparing the yarn to be washed and dyed, untangling it after the dye bath, and then translating the design to the thread in their looms. It’s not the care of the quality control team who work together to measure and cut each strap and prepare packages for shipping—there is more than all of this woven into their fabrics.
Each textile harbors the spirit of collaboration, sharing an opportunity, and helping each other find the way to produce a special request. It shows the desire to work, and the will to weave, even when they are recovering from illness or a recent C-section, or when they stay up late at night after they have cooked for their families, and when their babies are finally asleep, to advance in their textiles. Each textile weaves in the magic of nature, with colors that vary as the weather changes and depend on the sun to shine through.
As the women in Cajamarca continue to weave and work together, their hands are the conduits for all special ingredients that go into each textile, just as a musician’s hands bring the magic to a song, far beyond simply playing the notes. The women of the Cajamarca association are very grateful for the opportunity to work with Original Fuzz and hope that the people who wear their fabrics always continue crafting and creating.
It's the newest issue of our magazine!
Inside, you'll find a brand new episode of our podcast on the late Chuck Berry. Listen as we remember the musical genius and inventor of rock and roll with Nashville DJ and King of Honky Tonks, Heath Haynes! Flip through our SXSW photo essay by Emily Quirk featuring some of our favorite fresh-faced bands: Bleached, White Reaper, Las Rosas, Daddy Issues, The Nude Party, and more! We've got a new Five Minutes With interview, this time with LA's Mike Edge on his dreamy new EP coming out May 12th. Read our interview with photographer and musician, Scout Paré-Phillips, on using her classically trained voice and autoharp skills to find new meaning in her newest record, Door Left Open. Check out our new artist of the month in the latest FOUND interview with graphic artist, Olivia Throckmorton. And we've got Volume III of our mixtape, with an ambient theme inspired by Chairlift's Caroline Polachek's recent release, Drawing The Target Around The Arrow.