October 20, 2016
Steven Bickmore is a professor of English at the UNLV College of Education (formerly of Louisiana State University) and a specialist in Young Adult literature. He pretty much singlehandedly forced King Dork into academic legitimacy through his graduate program and articles, including this one, which is definitely the fanciest thing I've ever been in, unless you count a couple of cowboy shirts. According to this he discovered KD via a google search for "books like Catcher in the Rye." So, this internet thing does work sometimes. I've been telling you it's gonna be big one day.
perfectly filters the essence of the great Ray Davies’ most inspired moments of the very early ’70s through Dr. Frank’s distinctive lyrical and vocal style
And if Ed or anyone who has read this were in doubt as to whether or not I would quote it in full, now and till the bitter end, well then, they don't know me very well, do they?
This is the second single from the Mr. T Experience’s first release in 12 long years, and it perfectly filters the essence of the great Ray Davies’ most inspired moments of the very early ’70s through Dr. Frank’s distinctive lyrical and vocal style.
He sets the tone with a wistful delivery of “To anyone with eyes, it’s plain to see / That high school is the penalty / for transgressions yet to be specified / The sentence begins as soon as they’ve got you inside” to the tune of what sounds like it could be an actual school song.
But the sentence doesn’t end there. As Dr. Frank notes in the following verse, "One day you’ll graduate, but you will find, my friends / That high school never really ever ends / The haves will still be hounding the have nots / Though they smile at you while they’re hatching their plots.”
It’s a brilliant arrangement, effortlessly navigating several different musical motifs with unerring pop sensibilities. And it stands as the musical highlight, for me, of “King Dork Approximately,” a companion piece to (Dr.) Frank Portman’s second young adult novel (a sequel to “King Dork,” which in turn started life as an MTX song, re-recorded here).
What really needs to happen now is for someone to take this album and this book and build a big-screen musical around the two.
I second that emotion, Ed!
A coupla other links:
-- Paul Silver capsule-reviews KDATA the album on Jersey Beat.
-- I am interviewed in the current issue of the horror zine Body Count. That's a buy link for the physical zine. I'm told it may be posted on line at some point.
October 19, 2016
Tony & Bette
October 18, 2016
King Dork Approximately the Cover that Might Have Been
(This was also posted on the Sounds Radical blog.)
Frank Kozik is one of the greatest poster artists in the history of rock and roll. His work revolutionized the "rock concert" poster in a fundamental way, and whether you realize it or not, if you've been a rock and roll person over the past twenty-five years, you've seen his stuff, especially perhaps in San Francisco, where he moved (from Austin) in the early '90s. Even if you didn't know anything about the man himself, one of "those" posters meant the show it advertised was real and significant; these images were an integral part of the show-going experience (and are often the thing I remember most about shows I've been to when I think back) Of course, my dumb little band never did the kind of show that would have warranted that sort of treatment or attention: our poster style was, find a picture from a magazine, photocopy it with added text, and tape it to a pole.
But in the pretend rock star parallel fantasy world that lived in my mind alongside the actual one, every show had a Kozik poster, because of course it did.
So I was indescribably excited, overcome with emotion in fact, when I learned that Krista, my editor at Random House, and Angela, the book designer, had arranged for Frank Kozik to do the cover of my new book King Dork Approximately. I wanted to kiss them. It was such a perfect idea. It was amazing that he agreed to do it. Also, it was the realization of a lifelong dream.
Plus it was just great art. He'd read the manuscript and come up with a terrific King Dork-ization of the Judas Priest Screaming for Vengeance eagle (which plays a big role in the book.) The original sketch looked like this:
"Well, Doctor," I said to the face in the mirror, "they can't take this away from you." Except, they could.
It's a long, complicated story, but publishing a book is never a simple matter. There are many considerations, and hundreds of people involved in considering them. Folks who hadn't been through the same rock and roll wringer that I'd been through, for whom this artwork was nice but not, perhaps, the realization of a life-long dream, wondered whether people would "get it." We looked at other options, as you do. And in the end, due to circumstances beyond our control, the cover was scrapped, new approaches investigated, release dates delayed, tears cried, teeth gnashed -- the standard procedure in every human endeavor. The hardcover book was published with the yellow cover you know, and life went on.
Well, in publishing, a paperback release is like a second chance. And as you may have been able to tell, I've put a whole lot of energy into making this particular second chance as special and second chance-y as possible, with new cover art, a new album, singles, videos, shows, T shirts, lunchboxes, cookies, etc. etc. So when Chris of Sounds Rad and I started to discuss ways to make our rock and roll KDA specialty packages as cool as possible (and remotely signable) we decided to reproduce the original cover, book sized, as an insert for me to sign instead of the usual bookplate. Pretty cool. Welcome back, lifelong dream.
October 17, 2016
I Don't Know What Kind of Business You're In, But I'm in Show Business
Just a quick show update here. The new things are (a) the kind of last minute Las Vegas evening show on the flier at the Golden Tiki, and the "Lookouting" at Gilman. (Advance tickets for the Saturday night at Gilman sold out in four minutes or something, but they've reserved a good amount -- like, really a lot -- at the door so it should still be possible to get in if you're willing to stand in line for them.)
Sat - Oct 22nd: Dr. Frank solo/acoustic, Windmill Library, 7060 West Windmill Lane, Las Vegas NV, 1 PM. Free, all ages. It's a book event, so I'll be talking about the book and maybe reading but it'll probably mostly be songs and goofing around, knowing me. Facebook event page.
Then later that same night, if you're 21 or over, join me at the Golden Tiki, 3939 Spring Mountain, Las Vegas NV, free, 21+, doors at 8, show at 9. It'll be a good time if I have anything to say about it.
Sun- Nov 13th- Los Angeles, CA at Redwood Bar with Toys That Kill +?? Buy tickets.
Thurs. Dec 8th: Dr. Frank solo/acoustic, at the Westchester Public Library, 10700 Canterbury Street Westchester, IL 60154 708-562-3573. Free all ages. Details TBA. Will probably start at 7PM.
Fri- Dec 9th- Chicago, IL at Reggies, with Nobodys and the Reaganomics. SOLD OUT!!!
Sat- Dec 10th- Green Bay, WI at Lyric Room, with Nobodys, Rev Norb & the Onions, George's Bush. Buy tickets.
Saturday, Jan 7th, 924 Gilman St, Berkeley, with the Smugglers, Pansy Division, Brent's TV, Squirtgun, Potatomen, Kepi Ghoulie. All ages. Show of the century folks:
There will be more to come if nothing goes wrong.
October 16, 2016
Like a Tree with a Microphone Stuck to It
It took some doing, but this nearly 60 year old guitar is finally resurrected and back in my arms again. The guy who sold it to me 25 years ago told me its previous owner had been Johnny Guitar Watson (which is a cool enough pedigree to stick with, true or not.) It was my main guitar from around '91 through '97 and I put it through hell during those years, subjecting it to more, I'm sure, than JGW ever dreamed of doing. It started out a bit funky (and not in the good way) and by the time I was done with it, it was barely playable, an elegant, largely useless wreck. Now, thanks, to Steve Streit (of Streit Stringed Instrument Repair in Berkeley) it is playable.
And man, what a great guitar it is. Leslie West famously described the Les Paul Jr. as "a tree with a microphone" and I know what he meant. Just a big solid hunk of wood with a screaming P-90 unceremoniously stuck on it. Even strumming it unplugged you can feel the resonance spreading through your body with every chord you hit. Partly the design itself, maybe, but mostly I guess it's the 60 year old wood. I noticed this when I first got it, playing it dolefully in my apartment trying to figure out what to do with my life. So many questions, but at least this thing was something I knew I could feel, deep down in my chest and heart, all the way down to the floor. Oh, yes very little has changed, except now it's possible to tune it properly. And then you plug it in and a giant wave of noise crashes over you. And everyone else. It's quite the machine.
I credit this guitar (and the Marshall half stack I acquired around the same time) with sparking the songs that were to start a pretty productive run of writing and recording. You know how that happens? You get new gear and it "takes you somewhere"? I wrote "More than Toast," "Swallow Everything", "Dustbin of History," the instrumental that became "Bridge to Taribithia", "Martyr" etc. in that smelly Oakland apartment with this crazy guitar and that amp, the downstairs neighbors banging on the ceiling with a broom handle and the hippie down in the garden yelling "play the blues motherfucker!" (I think he was yelling that at me, but it could have been just something he yelled, generally.) And me thinking, well, probably that's the extent of the audience that will ever hear this stuff, glad I'm annoying them at least. Like I said, some things don't change that much. Sorry, neighbors upstairs. You seem very nice and you did nothing to deserve any of this.
October 14, 2016
October 13, 2016
October 12, 2016
Somewhere Halfway between the Ramones and AC/DC
Just a few links from the past week.
--This review (by Julie River) of King Dork Approximately the Album appeared on the punknews.org site. I've been covered in one way or another by quite a few big, important publications in the mainstream media over the years, but I have to say that this is probably the most thoughtful, cogent, and (dare I say) serious review I've seen of anything I've ever done. A lot of journalism is mainly about personality, image, and stuff to do with the supposed economic or cultural impact of the bits of art being covered; articles that specifically address the content of the thing being written about in any extensive way are surprisingly rare, even when it comes to ostensible reviews, so much so that it's a bit shocking when you come across one that does.
(To be honest, many reviews these days seem to be written by people who haven't actually read or listened to the thing being reviewed. You know I'm right about this. And Julie River actually took the time to read the books before referencing them and discussing them -- it's shocking, perhaps, that I'm so impressed with this, but it really is quite unusual.)
So kudos to you, punknews.org, and thanks: I didn't know you had it in you.
(Of course it doesn't hurt that the review is favorable, or that it contains the phrase I pulled for the title of this post and will no doubt be quoting all the time, till the day I die. It almost beats this one, from a guy on twitter: "it's kind of like if Robyn Hitchcock was in Green Day." Now, that's quotable.)
-- Ed Masley kindly included "Cynthia (with a Y)" on his list of 20 best September singles. Thanks, Ed!
-- on the subject of videos, don't forget about these: "Cinthya (with a Y)"; and "King Dork Approximately. "Cynthia ..." was premiered in Paper Mag with a nice write-up by Alex Scordelis; while "High School..." was premiered by the AV Club with this writeup. Also, I've got to mention Tom Breihan's post on "Cinthya..." on Stereogum, because he once referred to King Dork as the "best punk rock book ever" in the Village Voice: you don't forget the names of the people who give good quote like that.
-- For the Love of Punk is doing a contest/giveaway of a copy of the book/album.
-- Here's a punk books display at the Windmill Library in Las Vegas, where I'm appearing this month (on 10/22.) Steven Matview, the librarian who arranged for that, also runs Punks in Vegas, and here's his "book club" review of King Dork.
Okay that's all I got right now.
October 11, 2016
I met Kat at our show at the Blue Lamp in Sacramento over the weekend. Fun girl.
Note to people outside the USA who want King Dork Approximately the Album
It is ridiculously expensive to ship the physical book (which is the "gateway" to the album download) but you can buy the Amazon Kindle version and access the album from it. (I believe it will work with any form of the ebook as well.) That means you can pay $9.99 and get the album as soon as you have downloaded the ebook. (I confirmed with our friend Maria Surfingbird: it works, all the way from Russia!) It's at the back of the book, and it is listed in the contents menu as well.
Of course, this is something people in the US who want the album instantly can do as well, though the Sounds Rad package offers a bit more for your money. And, while we're running down the options for getting the album right away, buying the book from a store always works (plus it makes the store think it's worth stocking my books which isn't bad.) You can also order the physical book from Amazon or any other outlet that stocks it and ships to your country of course.
Also, when you buy it, if you like it and wouldn't mind, leave a review on the Amazon page. It couldn't hurt!
Bradley Skaught is a true blue singer-songwriter and rock and roller, something that is pretty hard to sustain long-term in this day and age. I first became aware of him because my old bandmate Aaron plays bass in his band the Bye Bye Blackbirds. He writes subtle, flawlessly constructed pop songs suffused in rock history; and the band always manages to punch well above its weight. If you've ever been in a band, you probably know how hard it can be to sound "real" like that. It's a gift, really.
(If you want to buy a book and take a picture of yourself pretending to read it -- and who wouldn't? -- you can get it Sounds Radical or Amazon. Sounds Rad sends it out with extra stuff, plus the accompanying album can be downloaded instantly from the site.)
October 10, 2016
I met Alana at a public library visit in Nashville last year along with her dad and brother. Cool kid, looks good with a book. Her dad is a writer and does the band Vista Blue, who did this song that continues a tradition of a sort (Syd Barrett => Dan Treacy => Dr. Frank):
Michele (with one L) is the regular co-host of the great rock and roll podcast Long Gone Loser and is a top gal and all around good egg. Only met her just recently but she's already one of the "regulars". Welcome aboard, L.
(You can buy the book/album here, from Sounds Radical.)
October 07, 2016
Kevin Seconds is the best example I can think of of a punk rock guy transitioning successfully and elegantly to an authentic, credible role as a singer-songwriter qua singer-songwriter. (Not that he's left the punk rock behind, necessarily -- but it's a thing many have tried and few have managed quite as well.) He's a great writer and terrific guy as well. You know those songs where you hear them once and everything snaps into place and it feels like they were always there, somehow? He's got those. It's not so easy to come up with them.
My first ever solo acoustic show was at the Bottom of the Hill in 1999, on a bill that included Kevin, whom I didn't really know at the time. Playing solo is nerve-wracking and scary the first few times you do it. I was almost literally petrified, couldn't feel my fingers... my memory of it is still a blur of anxiety, and when I think of it now my main thought is still, man, glad that's over. Anyway, because of that I kind of feel like Kevin Seconds was there from the beginning of my clumsy trip down the road he travelled more deftly. Here's to many more great songs.
Yes, these are real. Only at shows (for now at least.)
I was on KPFA today with my old pal (and "retired punk rock mailman") Last Will and the legendary Kris Welch. I'm used to a very casual, shambolic, deliberately sloppy approach from years of college radio, which is a big contrast to the adroit, skillful, quintessentially professional way she steered the interview. Yet, she was also spontaneous and funny, and very "real." Her impromptu reading of the opening paragraphs of KDA was some of the best reading-out-loud I've ever heard.
We played a couple of songs from the record, I talked up the book and the album, and I played "The History of the Concept of the Soul' (because it's Will's favorite.) A great time.