Tag Archives: Book

Book Review: Tranny: Confessions Of Punk Rock’s Most Famous Anarchist Sellout – Laura Jane Grace with Dan Ozzi

I wasn’t always a fan of Against Me!  In fact, I was turned off by the idea of that band in the early 2000s.  I refused to listen to them.

This was due in part to a group of obsessed punk kids I sparingly partied with at Kent State who played them over and over nightly, declaring they were the greatest band of all time.  I never gave them a true chance.  I was just annoyed I guess.

It was not until I caught Against Me! live at a small club that I started to appreciate them and realized those little punk kids were actually on to something.  Soon after that show, I declared myself a fan.  I have been ever since.

For years, I would catch them live any chance I could and even was lucky enough to shoot some of their shows at Warped Tours and also at the House of Blues in Cleveland.  Being up close and personal while they played was always a treat for me as not only was I taking photos of a band I dug, but also really got to take in their stage presence.

Hell, Warren Oakes (Against Me!’s former drummer) used to smile directly at me every time I pointed my camera at him.  That right there was just great.

I thought Tom Gabel was the coolest and not only loved the band he started, but enjoyed his style and swagger.  I once tried to emulate him of sorts by buying shoes and black jeans like what he rocked. I still have the shoes today, but me in those black jeans are not anything anyone needs to see.

I had always hoped to catch him before or after a show where I could strike up a conversation with him and we would become fast friends.  It was a typical fan expectation that never happened and I’m not mad about it.   I am just grateful for the experiences I had being able to shoot Against Me! as they played songs I adored.

The last time I saw Tom Gabel play live, he had grown his hair long.  Never in a million years would I have guessed his reasoning behind that.  Soon after that show, Tom Gabel was gone, and Laura Jane Grace emerged.

Tranny: Confessions Of Punk Rock’s Most Famous Anarchist Sellout is an memoir by Laura Jane Grace, with help from Dan Ozzi, that tells the whole story.

Props to Grace for spilling her heart out to anyone curious to know about her life and all the shit she went thought to get there.  The book takes it all the way back to a young boy with a broken family, a kept away secret, years of rebellion, and of course the start of a band.  Throughout, Grace fought with coming to terms with a feeling embedded in her mind and made it a reality no matter how difficult the outcome would be for herself and others.  She also talked about how the anarchist DIY punk band sold out and the hell endured trying to make it big.

Reading about the life and times of Against Me! from Grace’s first person point of view was fascinating enough, but learning about her coming to terms with her gender dysphoria was even more interesting, especially while building up a band and touring the world.

I cannot imagine how tough it has to have been for her to hide all of the feelings and essentially have an affair with herself, secluding the truth from everyone she loved including her wife and bandmates.  With great detail, Grace shared memories of when she realized she felt she was a she and not a he.  This wasn’t something that just happened overnight.

I do not wish to ruin anything for anyone who has not had the chance to read this book by going into great detail, but will say this:  Some of the stories are funny, some are haunting, and all are honest.

Memories with the Rancid, Blink 182, Har Mar Superstar, and even Marilyn Manson really kept the pages turning for me.  I smiled and even laughed out loud while reading some chapters while during others re-read sentences just to make sure I fully understood what had just happened.

It can’t be easy for a band who’s trying to make it big with the major labels while knowingly losing their fan base because of it.  Add on top of that a member who is struggling with their gender identification and at the brink of giving it all up,  I’m shocked the band didn’t just implode.

Fueled with drugs, depression, anger, and also love, Grace’s road to accepting herself was nothing short of futile.

It killed me to read how miserable she and the band were at times when they played in front of their fans, including me.  It never occurred to me the facade all of the band members put on for the sake of their fans.

The triumphant moment within this biography, when Gabel turned into Grace and started telling others the hidden secret, was built up so well thanks to Grace’s recollections and Ozzi’s sorting out the years worth of journal entries.

The epilogue might have been my favorite part of the book as all of my previous questions I had while reading finally were answered.  It was amazing to read that James Bowman was still happily around.   I learned what really happened to Oakes, where Andrew Seward went, and what they all really thought of Jay Weinberg.  I also found out what happened with the marriage and more importantly, what happened with their daughter.    The last few sentences in the memoir put the biggest smile on my face.

I learned a lot about Grace in the book.  I truly have a great about of respect for her in how brave she was to release this chronicle of her life.  I am sure this was not an easy thing to do, but sharing her story is inspiring to me and I am sure tons of other readers.

Everyone owes it to themselves to read Tranny.  It won’t hurt you, I promise.  In fact, it’s probably one of the most interesting stories I have ever read about someone.

Book Review: NOFX: The Hepatitis Bathtub and Other Stories

NOFXI distinctively remember the first time I heard NOFX in the 90s.

I was a friend’s house who told me there was a band I had to hear and before asking who, he immediately played NOFX for me.  The very second that music hit my ears, I turned into a fan.

I loved their crass style and catchy songs to the point I went out that same day and bought a handful of NOFX cassettes where I proceeded to memorize all of the songs.  I would listen to I Heard They Suck Live daily and even unsuccessfully looked for a pair of NOFX shorts as seen on White Trash, Two Heebs, and Bean album cover.

In 1996, I got to see NOFX for the first time live at a Warped Tour that was held on a gravel parking lot.  There is so much to this story I do not care to get into, but it was pretty much the day that I knew I would be a fan forever.

Last Spring, NOFX released a tell all (and  mean tell all) autobiography titled NOFX: The Hepatitis Bathtub and Other Stories.  With help from Jeff Alulis, the band all took turns telling stories of how they all came to be without holding back anything.

Chapter one started with a confession of the drinking of urine.  From there, the autobiography was everything  expected from to hear from the boys, but there was so much more that I was not ready for including the personal hardships, the suicides, and especially the murders that were revealed.

I loved how the book was split into various chapters by previous and current members.  Sometimes the chapters complimented one another’s recollections, while others were random for a moment and then touched back on something else said.  Where they were not exactly in chronological order, they followed suit enough where I never was trying to connect the dots.  It was almost like I was just hanging out with everyone in a room listening to random stories.

The content was funny, serious, and scary as hell at times.  Where a lot of the band spoke on the good times being in NOFX and touring the world, a lot was spent talking about severe drug abuse and the insane adventures they were involved in.  Reading various memories from original members and current members really encompassed all angles on the story of NOFX.

I loved reading about the bands they saw as kids and the bands they toured with.  Hearing them talk about Rancid and the Offspring signing to major labels while they held their own was interesting.  I was shocked to even learn that NOFX almost signed to a major label but collectively changed their minds and did things their way.

Of course the part where they all talked about playing at Eric Melvin’s aunt and uncle’s house in Aurora, OH stuck with me.  I grew up next to that city and wished to hell I could have seen them play outside in a suburban neighborhood.  Truth is, I was probably a bit too young then, but the best part about this story is that I actually became friend’s with Melvin’s cousin.  She introduced me to his parents once (if you’re reading this, hi Suzanne!)

Reading about Smelly’s heroin addiction and how he eventually overcame it was just intense.  At first, his stories were humorous and chaotic, but soon became almost uncomfortable to read, especially the ones he told as a full blown junkie who hit rock bottom.  One of his stores that had me laughing out loud though was about a stolen van and a kid who turned out to be Billie Joe Armstrong.  When the pieces came together a few chapters later, I lost it.

Fat Mike kept things unfiltered and entertaining.  I know more about his sex life now than I ever cared to, but I made sure I read all of it.  I was mostly surprised to read that he was not the biggest embarrassment early on (sans his singing).  It is crazy to have finished this book knowing that shortly after its release, he decided to chill out on things and go for treatment all because of his pal Tony Sly.  Fat Mike say seem like an a-hole on stage, but he is a family man and a loyal friend.  I really enjoyed reading his story from start to finish.

El Hefe had me cracking up many times with his stories, mostly when he first started the band, but the one thing in the book that I will never forget was the photo he shared with himself and Tori Amos.  If you read the book, I am hoping you know exactly what I am talking about.  I also appreciated learning how he grew up and became the man he is today.

The fact that the band members dropped their own moments of truth to one another in print for the first time just made this book so much more real to me.  Kept promises were broken and made public because they needed to heard and the autobiography was the perfect place to release.  The admissions clearly would open up healed wounds, but were probably never meant to be hidden forever.

Reading how they went from learning about punk rock at an adolescent age to becoming one of the most prolific bands in the punk rock community and beyond was just perfect.  Sadly, the road they traveled for 30 years to get there was not a smooth ride and not easy to read at times.  I especially appreciated not only learning about NOFX, but also other avenues by the band including Smelly’s motocross company, Melvin’s coffee shop, and El Hefe’s hot mess of a nightclub.

You really don’t need to be a fan of NOFX or punk rock for that matter to enjoy this book.  Their stories in this book will suck you in and Jeff Alulis did a great job putting it into print.

Granted it took me a little longer to finish this book than I wanted to, I will tell you that I read almost half of it in just two nights as I could not put it down.  I can honestly say I finished the last chapter with a smile on my face and even a bigger appreciation for the band who I’ve been a fan of now for over 20 years.

If you are just looking for a group of dudes telling you true stories from a punk rock, drug fueled life, NOFX: The Hepatitis Bathtub and Other Stories is a must read.  For the record, you will learn about the bathtub and it is a little nastier than you might think.

 

Photographer Ryan Russell To Release New Book Via No Sleep Records

Ryan RussellChances are if you are fan of music and photography, you may know the name Ryan Russell.  This humble photographer has taken thousands of photos of bands and scenery in his career.  Russell has worked with bands like Death Cab for Cutie, Against Me!, Mastodon and his photographs have appeared in such periodicals as Rolling Stone, Spin, Esquire, Playboy and New York Times.

No Sleep Records has partnered up with celebrated rock photographer Ryan Russell to release a new photo book titled “Continental Obscura: From Birmingham to Bellingham” this coming fall/winter 2013.  The title is derived from his recent departure of his long time home to a new city all the way on the other side of the states and will showcase photos taken by Russell prior, during, and after his move.

I am really stoked to see this book.  I have been a fan of him, and his dog Ava, for quite some time now.

Fans are invited (if not already doing so) to follow Russell’s journey via his Instagram account http://instagram.com/ryanrussell where he will be posting daily photos over the course of the trip with the hashtag #continentalobscura.

The Girl’s Guide To Rocking Making A Stop In Cleveland

This post right here is proof that Brokenheadphones.com caters to everyone including our future musicians.

A Chicagoan by the name of Jessica Hopper reached out to me recently letting me know about a pretty cool little event going on this week.

I did a little research on Jessica just so it sounded like I knew what I was talking about on this post.  Seeing on how I wanted to talk about her book I felt the need to talk about here too and honestly I learned a lot about her making this even more of an interesting post for me to create.

Jessica Hopper has been in the music scene for quite some time.  She was involved in the Riot Grrrl movement, played in numerous short stinted bands, acted as a touring bassist for a couple bands, was a tour manager, and even published her own ‘zine at a young age called Hit It Or Quit It.  She was in fact a teen feminist and was outspoken at that.  She was (and still is) a punk rocker that has an open mind and loves to share.

Recently she wrote The Girls Guide To Rocking, a book aimed at the young ladies from ages 10 to 16 who want to know about how to form a band, book shows, record their music, and other musical tidbits to ensure a better start off into the world of being a musician.

Truth is from the intro I read so far, the book can be a useful read for any girl, boy, woman, or man who is looking for a hint on what ingredients are needed to cook up a band.  I actually hope to get my hands on a copy soon so I can read the entire thing.

The book has been getting a lot of national attention (see links below) and Jessica has actually been touring around the states reading excerpts from the book and at times is being joined by folk rock music artist Katie Stelmanis and her back up singers The Ghost Bees.

Jessica emailed me to let me know that this week she will be at Visible Voice Books in Tremont on 8/20.  She will have the book even from about 7:30pm and then the party will move to a place I seem to have been frequenting a lot, the Happy Dog, located on W. 58th & Detroit Ave.  At about 9:00pm Katie Stelmanis and The Ghost Bees will put on a show to add to the event that usually is together.  I would assume that due to space restrictions at Visible Voice Books the event had to be split up.

It looks to be a great time on Aug. 20th and I am sure the little ones out there who have dreams of being the next rock star will love it.  The show is all ages and I encourage any of you parents out there to take your kids to this.  School is right around the corner and me thinks this would be a great way to put a nice little end to your children’s summer vacation.  Who knows, maybe they will learn a thing or two and so will you.  (please note I can not be held responsible if your family turns into a Partridge Family, you are on your own there folks…)

For more information about The Girl’s Guide To Rocking please visit http://www.girlsguidetorocking.com

Here are some links in regards to the book/ Jessica Hopper:
The Plain Dealer
LargeheartedBoy.com
BitchMagazine.org
AfterEllen.com

Jessica Hopper also has her own blog but it’s intended for a more mature audence…

Danger Mouse And Sparklehorse Team Up With David Lynch

Are you scratching your head about this?

David Lynch, Sparkle Horse, and Danger Mouse
David Lynch, Sparkle Horse, and Danger Mouse

Danger Mouse has teamed up with Sparklehorse and David Lynch creating an album that may never be officially released.

Still scratching that noggin’?

Just listen to the album then already streaming in its entirety on NPR.org.  The head scratching will stop some.  This is a really interesting concept album of sorts.

Read on about this interesting idea of an album:

From NPR.org:

May 15, 2009 – When the first cryptic bits of news about Dark Night of the Soul began trickling in earlier this year, it all sounded too good to be true. Though the whole project was shrouded in mystery, it appeared that Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse’s Mark Linkous, two of the most inspired artists making music today, were collaborating on a new album. That alone was enough to get our geek gears spinning with excitement. But there was an unusual twist that few of us at NPR Music could make sense of: Director David Lynch was somehow involved.

It all started back in March, at the South by Southwest music festival and conference. A number of us on the NPR Music team had noticed strange posters around downtown Austin, Texas, that read “Dark Night of the Soul.” They looked like movie posters and had David Lynch’s name on them, alongside names of some of our favorite artists, like Danger Mouse, Sparklehorse, Vic Chesnutt, Jason Lytle and more. We wondered if it was some sort of musical film.

Soon after our Austin trip, NPR Music received copies of the mysterious posters in the mail. No return address. Someone was messing with us. I tried to find out more, but had zero success. Then, weeks later, I finally got a note from a publicist with all the details we’d been waiting for.

It turns out Dark Night Of The Soul is an album and the songs were written by Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse, though the myriad singers featured on each track also had a big hand in composing and producing the work. The album was initially going to be packaged with a book of photos taken by David Lynch. But now there’s word that the music may never be officially released at all.

An unnamed spokesperson for Danger Mouse says that “due to an ongoing dispute with EMI” the book of photographs will “now come with a blank, recordable CD-R. All copies will be clearly labeled: ‘For legal reasons, enclosed CD-R contains no music. Use it as you will.'” When contacted, EMI declined to comment and wouldn’t confirm whether the label is even involved in the project.

You can order the book, sans music, from the official Dark Night Of The Soul Web site. In the meantime, you can hear the entire album here on NPR Music as an Exclusive First Listen.

I’ve listened to the record all the way through at least a dozen times, and can confirm that Dark Night of the Soul delivers in every way you’d hope for. It’s beautiful but haunting, surreal and dark, but sometimes comical and affecting, with ear-popping, multilayered production work. It just gets more mesmerizing with every listen.

In addition to Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse, other artists appearing on Dark Night of the Soul include James Mercer of The Shins, The Flaming Lips, Gruff Rhys of Super Furry Animals, Jason Lytle of Grandaddy, Julian Casablancas of The Strokes, Frank Black of the Pixies, Iggy Pop, Nina Persson of The Cardigans, Suzanne Vega, Vic Chesnutt, David Lynch, and Scott Spillane of Neutral Milk Hotel and The Gerbils.

Check out the Dark Night Of The Soul official website where you can pre-order the book associated with the release full photography and a blank CD-R.  The blank CD-R is there for you the reader/listener to add whatever music you see necessary.  Freedom of choice.  I like that.

I would rather see this entire album be released but that shall be determined.

For now head over to NPR.org where they are streaming Dark Night Of The Soul and see what the fuss is all about.

Track Listing:
1. “Revenge” (featuring The Flaming Lips) – 4:52
2. “Just War” (featuring Gruff Rhys) – 3:44
3. “Jaykub” (featuring Jason Lytle) – 3:52
4. “Little Girl” (featuring Julian Casablancas) – 4:33
5. “Angel’s Harp” (featuring Black Francis) – 2:57
6. “Pain” (featuring Iggy Pop) – 2:49
7. “Star Eyes (I Can’t Catch It)” (featuring David Lynch) – 3:10
8. “Everytime I’m With You” (featuring Jason Lytle) – 3:09
9. “Insane Lullaby” (featuring James Mercer) – 3:12
10. “Daddy’s Gone” (featuring Mark Linkous and Nina Persson) – 3:09
11. “The Man Who Played God” (featuring Suzanne Vega) – 3:09
12. “Grim Augury” (featuring Vic Chesnutt) – 2:32
13. “Dark Night of the Soul” (featuring David Lynch) – 4:38

UPDATE:  Looks like EMI bitched out and canceled the two videos below that I posted.  I swear if this album is not released then fingers should be pointed at EMI for reasons why the music industry is struggling.  I listened to the stream 3 times now and think the album is brilliant and may be one of my top 10 for 2009.

Do yourself a favor and check it out before EMI sucks harder and pulls the stream from NPR.org.

NOT an official video, but still pretty entertaining:

I also found this interesting site that I will not mention what it is about but it may interest you.  I am not sure how long it will even stay up…