Saturday, August 20, 2011

Return of the Rat

So many people consider you a stellar guitar player.  But you've said in early interviews, with Jack Rabid in The Big Takeover, that you never really practiced or trained, and I got the impression that you consider yourself more of a 'recording person' than a guitar player.

There'll be times when I won't even touch a guitar for six months or something. I don't play it as a hobby.  I actually like it better when I don't play music at all, and then I'll just pick it up, that's where I'm at my best.

Is it just more spontaneous?

I just like the rawness of it that way. Like I'll just hermitize myself sometimes, and not listen to music of any kind for long periods of time. Or just be involved with something on the opposite end of the spectrum, and then, when I get into it, I like what I come up with because it's unadulterated. And yeah, when people started emphasizing me as a guitarist I kind of started shying away from guitar; I think that's when I did that acoustic album, Straight Ahead.  I never considered myself a good guitarist. In fact, I think Spin rated 'the Top 25 Guitarists' and I was like number 3 on this list. I heard through the grapevine that some really, really famous guitarists were really upset about [it, like,] 'Who is this guy?' The attitude was, 'Who the hell does he think he is?', like I had nominated myself or something, and I kind of prided myself on not having technique. To create anything, whether you're a painter or a sculptor or a musician, to stay real you can't be involved in it. You can't have your ego involved, you have to stay as removed as possible, I think. That was my idea, originally, back in '79, when I decided I wanted to make records: How could I do something that was completely and totally different, musically? I used to work in a movie theater, and I was always impressed when someone had the artistic vision to be able to blend sound and image together. It was a powerful thing, and that's what I wanted to do in music.

interview with greg sage

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

It's Raining Hammers and Nails

Brewlis Curtwell

By Mariam Burch Dember 12, 2010
In a career that spans nearly 25 years, Brewlis Curtwell has had memorable parts in everything from Tanner & Co. to cult classics like Gambletown Puss. Most people, however, will always remember him best as Stan "D-rash" Dawson in Static Aggravation. Yet ever since his revelatory turn in Dusty, there's been a newfound interest in Curtwell as a dramatic actor, leading to a recent run in Vicki Lewis' play The Godiva Bell and supporting roles in upcoming films Tetchy Tales and the Hired Gun reboot. When he's not performing, Curtwell pursues varied neo-academic interests, chief among them a fascination with late singer-songwriter Edward Gray, on whom Curtwell is considered one of the world's leading authorities. (Curtwell even wrote the liner notes for a series of recent Gray reissues.) He spoke with The Psychic Paper about his work on the reissues, his new life as a dramatic actor, and coming to terms with the role that will forever define him.
The Psychic Paper: How did your interest in Edward Gray lead to you becoming one of the world's foremost authorities on him?
Brewlis Curtwell: I had been a fan since the late '80s, and from the first songs of his that I heard, I just had a connection. By the mid-'90s I was obsessed. I wrote him a letter in 1996 offering to write his biography. Which is kind of ridiculous, because I was a penniless actor living in New York at the time, and I had no business writing anybody's biography. I then decided I wanted to do a documentary on him, and I contacted the public access television in Iowa City looking for certain archival footage. It turned out that the man in charge was a fan as well, and they were planning on re-releasing his albums, so he asked me to pick out bonus tracks. Then they called me up asking if I would do the liner notes as well, and gave me a co-producer credit. Obviously I didn't set out to become the world's leading authority—not that I'm claiming that. I just wound up in this position.
TPP: Why do you think he's being rediscovered posthumously?
BC: Sometimes a person has to be dead a while before people can appreciate what they did when they were alive. Gray went through the bulk of his career getting no attention at all—except the Stampede business, with him and Tenchlow getting thrown out of the Vic in '04. But he didn't really give a lot of interviews, and he didn't pursue fame in the way that he could have. He didn't perform live much, and so there is the feeling of this secret, unknown person who wrote all this grotesque music.
TPP: Have you heard any of the contemporary Gray covers, like the remake of fall song by The National?
BC: I listened to it the other day, actually, and some of it's quite good, and some of it's just awful. I think they did a great job, but I just for the life of me couldn't figure out what possessed them to do it. I wasn't familiar with their work before, so I only bought a copy because people kept e-mailing me. It's just such a peculiar idea.
TPP: Can you verify the oft-repeated story that Gray visualized Smaggeds [the Gray-penned 2005 children's musical] while in an alcohol treatment facility?
BC: I can only confirm that I have interviews with him where he says that. I have no reason to suppose that that's not exactly what happened. It was about the right time, around 1970. He was living in Coralville, Iowa, and he drank daily, and one day he woke up next to the Iowa River and he noticed that all the concrete chunks that the city had dumped into the river had two smooth sides and four jagged sides. It was one of those great hangover revelations—which isn't much of a revelation when you think about it.
TPP: You probably have somebody call you "D-rash" every day of your life. Do you ever find yourself wishing you'd never made Static Aggravation?
BC: Never. I owe a great deal to that movie and I loved making it. But I've said this a lot: That character is as far from me as it's possible to be. People feel like they know who he is, and when they see me they just assume that I'm going to be like that guy. For me, to be an adult diaper wearing cretin was something that I found to be a real challenge.
TPP: You made your mark in the '80s but it seems like you're busier now than you were then.
BC: I guess I am doing more work in general than when I was starting out. There's also been a change in the last few years—mainly because of Hired Gun—as to how I'm perceived. Tetchy has also helped, and I've done some runs on Austin Nights, Beach Hospital, and Gambletown - The Series. I'm at least getting my foot in the door as far as doing straight dramatic parts, which no one would have ever considered me for in the '80s. I never objected to that because I love doing comedy, and I'm not the kind of actor that insists that unless you're doing a serious dramatic role, you're not acting. But it certainly is great getting to do something like Gun or Hamphry, because it stretches you.
TPP: It seems like all of your most memorable characters, beginning with Husky in Slanty Shack, shared that "sometimes you gotta fuck" mentality, and that's an almost Zen state of being that people find attractive.
BC: I can sort of see that.
TPP: Do you share that philosophy?
BC: The "gotta fuck" philosophy? Oh God no!
TPP: So what's the Brewlis Curtwell philosophy?
BC: These days it's, "If anything can go wrong, it will." [Laughs.] I try to work and enjoy life, and that's about all. I certainly never bought the "hump a leg" mentality, and I was never a particular rebel. I was never a misfit, beyond being sort of the traditional theater geek. I had those kind of nerdy qualities, but I don't think that I had any of the other qualities that I'm apparently famous for. I'm not a janitor, I play one on TV.

[Thanks to The Psychic Paper for their permission to reprint this article.]

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Hello Walls

...thought I'd chat with you all a while.


Pavlov's Smoke


(The) Blatant of (the) Apes(s)

HiWatter r Mark

Man-High Castle

- Lost
- cube ham & put in salad
- J. Newsom on Kimmel

NEW SONG: F38 Elec organ
GOD Forgive America

Prac. next Mon, Tues

Scared Straightless


Wednesday, May 18, 2011


Item the First: Saturday Janitor is, sad-ishly, no more. Short story even shorter: The Man Busted Our Music. Loose plans for an online-distributed version are currently rolling around Jan's head and may see some sort of fruition later this year. Of course, if the God-Aliens take me away this Saturday, these plans may change.

Item the Second: A new collection of recordings entitled Old Bending River will be making it your way through the usual pipelines by July 1st, I imagine. Eight songs recorded by the estimable Dr. Pete Becker in the studio-barn of Dr. Joshua Carrollhach, whom also drum'd. Many a surprising guest appearance by local luminaries, are also featured. Three, to be exact. There will be an attempt at hub and bub surrounding the release of my first new recording in FIVE FUCKING YEARS, so stay attuned for details. 

Item the Third: 'Friend' Edward Gray, "ed gray", and now, Ed Gray on your local Facebookery to keep up on the loop (ugh...) to a ridiculous degree. No ghosts or signs of skunk-ape, but some evidence of past drunks to be found if you're that damn bored.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Damn. Another Wrong Turn.

"If they had a Chinese Tiger mom, they would've been better at music.

"This Just In: 99.99% of ppl want substance-abusing television performers and their porn-star girlfriends for entertainment, not some ugly cows who can't tune a guitar (as a typical Joe Six-Pack might put it, I HASTEN TO ADD). It's time to give up the vain and somewhat offensive idea that 'if only the people could be made to understand...', then marginalized artists might receive their just due, which at this point amounts to maybe not having to work full-time their whole life and maybe becoming part of an academic curriculum in a few decades? Or at best, to become part of some false and oppressive "history" for future use as mere de-contextualized cultural currency? [pause to catch breath]

The people don't want The Shaggs, or Daniel Johnston, or Moondog, Sun Ra, Jad Fair, or a thousand others...And that's perfectly okay. The people want non-threatening distraction, and have always wanted just that. And that's perfectly okay. There are also (and, I'm assuming, always were and always will be) a certain percentage of the people who want more than what the majority is willing to settle for, or can't express themselves in the accepted ways of said majority. Should they resent the majority because it's incapable of giving them what they believe they require to lead a happy life? Should they feel superior to the majority once their needs are met on a regular basis? And should the majority somehow shun or punish this minority for not practicing adherence to their ways? (Hint: No, No, and It Depends On Who You Ask.)  

But now let's bring it around, as this is a special case. Would the Wiggin sisters (aside from the one who refuses to talk to interviewers and didn't take part in their reunion of a few years ago) rather not receive the attention and possible vindication (Tho' on whose part? Their late father's?) that a Hollywood version of their musical career might bring, if even for a very short while? Theirs is a fairly compelling tale, it's true. As much as such an exposure to the American Entertainment Industry's Unblinking Eye might strip the band of the mystery that's been integral to their enduring appeal (Hello, Jandek.), one almost can't help themselves but be curious and thus long for it to happen. And then it happens! And then you see it. And then you wonder about your reasons, not just for wanting to see a fictionalized account of the life of some poor shemps whose music had an effect on your developing sense of self a decade or two ago, but for wanting anything at all, to be blunt. The feeling passes, and the next mediocre time-waster will be sliding on down the chute any minute now..."

Monday, February 28, 2011

Saturday Janitor 2/26/2011 playlist

Don Howland - Sail Away - Land Beyond the Mountains
The Yips - 8/16s, November - The Blue Flannel Bathrobe Butterfly
Ego Summit - Floyd Collins -  The Room Isn't Big Enough
Vertical Slit - New Thrill/New Pill - ...and beyond...
Leil Lowndes - A Final Word - How To Talk To Anyone
Dion McGregor - Val - The Dream World of Dion McGregor
Djalma de Andrade (aka Bola Sete) -Ocean Waves - Ocean Memories
Jose Saramago - Blindness
Royal Trux - (Edge of the) Ape Oven - Twin Infinitives
Flipper - (I Saw You) Shine - Generic
The Mummies - (You Must Fight to Live) On The Planet of the Apes - Death by Unga Bunga
WLS Animal Stories
Unknown Artist - Using Your Negative Past to Do Something...Personal Power...Etc.
Leil Lowndes - Trick 61 - How To Be A Leader In A Crowd, Not A Follower - How To Talk To Anyone
The Dead C. - Bad Politics - Making Losers Happy
Sun City Girls - The Imam - Funeral Mariachi
Saccharine Trust - Neruda's Waves, Birthing the Ancestors - The Great One is Dead
MX-80 Sound - Kill That Dog - Live At The Library
Green on Red - Gravity Talks (live) - Bang Zoom audio zine #4
This Is Your Brain on Music
Great Plains - This Is Where I Belong - Live At The Electric Banana
Thinking Fellers Union Local 282 - KLTX - Wormed, By Leonard
Steve Plunkett - 7th Heaven

Zach's Favorites #1

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Saturday Janitor 2/19/2011 playlist

(artist - song - album)

Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band - Tropical Hot Dog Night, Nowadays A Woman's Gotta Hit A Man, Owed T'Alex, Dropout Boogie - Live at My Father's Place, 11/18/1978
Albert Ayler - Bells
Dredd Foole - Glory - In Quest of Tense
High Muck cassette zine (1983):
Half Japanese - You're Gonna Miss Me
Angry Samoans - Pictures of Matchstick Men
Richard Meltzer - interview and poems
The Runaways - I Love Playing With Fire
Mrs. Fithian - That Day
Bill Orcutt - A New Way To Pay Old Debts - A New Way To Pay Old Debts
Manhorse 3 The Meatbag - C'Mon In - Songs From A Door compilation
Charlie McAlister - Darla Come Down From Jackson - Mississippi Luau
Nice - Christiana Amore - s/t
Alex Chilton - Can't Seem To Make You Mind, Tennis Bum - Dusted In Memphis
Mayo Thompson - Fortune - Corky's Debt To His Father
Dillard & Clark - Out on the Side - The Fantastic Expedition of Dillard & Clark
Hank Williams - Too Many Parties and Too Many Pals, Beyond The Sunset - Luke The Drifter
Richard Thompson - Time to Ring Some Changes - Small Town Romance
Willie Nelson - I'd Rather You Didn't Love Me, What Can You Do To Me Now? - Who'll Buy My Memories? The IRS Tapes
Jack Rose - Black Pearls From The River - Raag Manifestos 

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Saturday Janitor 2/12/2011 playlist

(artist - song/piece - album)

Funkadelic - Maggot Brain (alternate mix) - Maggot Brain
Union Carbide Productions - Down on the Beach - In The Air Tonight
Alkibar Gignor - Hommage a Ali Farka Toure - Ishilan n-Tenere: Guitar Music from the Western Sahel
The Handsome Family - Weightless Again - Through the Trees
Hubert Selby Jr. - "The Pool Room"
The Dream Syndicate - Season of the Witch - The Day Before Wine and Roses
Michael Hurley - Penguins - Armchair Boogie
Cackle Sisters - [title unknown] (more here:
Slim Whitman - End of the World - Best of
Cecil Taylor - Conquistador - Conquistador!
Arthur Rimbaud - "After the Deluge"
Sun City Girls - Lionel Seven Interiors - For Drummers Only
Damien Jurado - Our Kid Is Getting Hurt - Postcards and Audio Letters
Fancie - Baptism for the Dead - Stranger to None
Rachel Korine - Red Riding Hood's Hangman - Mister Lonely soundtrack
Kath Bloom & Loren Mazzacane Connors - Biggest Light of All, Moses - 1981-1984

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Songs From A Door

[Out now. Kudos to them what took up the challenge. Available direct from Unread.]

songs from a door

a collection of exclusive songs from those brave enough to take on the concept of recording a song, utilizing only a door (or doors) as instrumentaion. what we recieve is an excellent group of songs & sounds reaching from the upclose to the outermost. in the running...true high arts.

metal tech - "door solo / solo door"
sam locke-ward - "spinning wicked records"
caleb fraid - "as one door closes, another one shuts"
eloine - "hollowcore"
whitman - "ever since you left"
fun - "song from a door"

crank sturgeon - "a door adore"
church of gravitron - ".... .."
ed gray - "porched in"
l. eugene methe - "close another door"
dennis callaci - "an awful lie"
manhorse 3 the meatbag - "c'mon in"

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Saturday Janitor 2/5/2011 playlist (truncated version)

Glorious world debut of my show on Radio Iowa City, and after about 50 minutes the automated programming kicks in on top of what I'm playing. Better luck next week?

[song title] - [artist], [album] ([label], [year])