Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Sound of the Day: THE FUCKIN' FLYIN' A-HEADS

One of the heaviest guitar bands of all time only made one record, and it's a 7-inch single released in 1980. It's a good thing they didn't put out a full-length, because anything longer might have torn a hole in the universe. Even though I love it, I'm not sure I could listen to 15 or more minutes of it at a time. The band was from Hawaii, they were called The Fuckin' Flyin' A-Heads, and their sound emitted a serious dark power from deep inside, with the added tension of them not seeming to care or even know... which means it could get worse at any moment. Even on the punk rock surface it's a pretty mean record, with a mad profane Hawaiian dude named Eric "Sep" Ishii snarling "I've got a SWISS CHEESE BACK" while his bandmate Howard Nishioka plays seemingly constant torrents of ludicrous metallic noise guitar. Side two "Watching TV" is even more profane and nihilistic, and it's faster too. Come to think of it, I would love it if "Watching TV" went on for 15 or more minutes. This band, however briefly, and even with their depraved lyrical content, is one of the few that has approached the unreachable sonic nebula of Les Rallizes Denudes. "We tried to have punk attitude, jazz abilities, blues' soul, acid-rock's freedom, and bohemian sensibilities. I still believe in it, I hope others do too." --Howard Nishioka

The 7-inch has been reissued exact repro style by De Stijl Records. Buy it here, and while you're there, read some great reminiscing about the band from Howard Nishioka and Eric "Sep" Ishii.

Tony Rettman interviewed the A-Heads drummer Dan Garrett for Viceland. In the intro, Tony describes an experience with the single a lot like the one I had: "Was this at the right speed? What kinda drugs were these guys on? This single made Flipper sound like Uriah Heep. I pondered more and more on it as I spun it ad infinitum."

SIDEBAR: Just before he embarked on the heavily psychedelic/industrial/punk/improvisational "fun piece of terroristic art" that was the Fuckin' Flyin' A-Heads, Howard Nishioka recorded and self-released an LP of cracked and funky Pacific Island electric folk & blues called Street Songs. Read about it and listen to it here and here... it's a fine companion to the FFA single... not anywhere near as outwardly heavy, but damn near as weird!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Song of the Day: FIGURES OF LIGHT "It's Lame"

Yesterday I was out driving around, checking out the radio... WNUR had a snoozer of a Northwestern U. baseball game on but WLUW had guest DJ Miss Alex White of White Mystery spinning some of her own 45s on the Minimal Beat show. Everything she played sounded good... the Beatles' "Paperback Writer" sounded heavier than ever to me and I'm guessing it was because of the vintage mix and mastering job on the old-and-scratchy 45 she brought in. I guess I've really only heard it on CD, or on FM radio via CD. She also played Status Quo "Pictures Of Matchstick Men," which always sounds good, a little more so when it's not by Camper Van Beethoven... a newer band from Calgary, Canada called Myelin Sheaths that sounded pretty cavernous... a song called "Pepperoni Eyes" by that band Personal & the Pizzas (I chuckled)... but the real head-turner was a skeletal yet blasting mid-set garage punk number with a distinct psychedelic edge, sounding surely pre-1980 and maybe even pre-1970, just two chords with some sort of dubbed-out pause after each chorus, minimal backing, and the singer snarling about how "Your life, it's just a dream, about as real as a bowl of steam!" He says that in two different verses! When I got home I ran to the stereo and tuned in the station, just in time for Miss Alex to back-announce what she'd played, and learned that the band in question was called Figures of Light, which led me to the internet and the further knowledge that not only had the song in question, "It's Lame," been released on a 45 way back in 1972, but that the singer I had just heard snarling those words had gone on to be my film professor at the University of Nebraska some 25 years later! Go get 'em Wheeler! He was certainly one of the more mind-blowing professors I encountered at UNL, and, because he was a still a bit of an old-school self-promoter, I knew he used to hang out at The Factory, was good friends with Gerard Malanga, and had made a ton of independent films. And yet, somehow, I had not been aware of his proto punk musical endeavors. Seems the band was formed in 1970 to accompany a Rutgers University multimedia happening in which they drove a motorcycle onto the stage and destroyed 15 television sets (or was it 27?). I wonder if any future Plasmatics were in the audience...

UPDATE: Download an archive of this radio show here!

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