Thursday, December 6, 2007

Fresh-Fallen Snow, The Personal Surreal...

I am currently sitting in a rural New Hampshire public library, on a couch in front of a gigantic brick fireplace that looks like it hasn't been actively burned in over a hundred years. The elementary school that I attended is a couple miles down the road, and this building looks like it was built around the same time-period, possibly even by the same architect. A trip to the building's bathroom was particularly strange, as it seemed almost identical to those on less used (and thus less modernized) floors of the school. I saw a mini-van driving around town yesterday with a bumper-sticker that said "I got checked out at..." with the name of the library and a silhouette of the building. I have to find one of those stickers. What is mundane for some (as this all would have been to me a few mere years ago) takes on hints of the surreal when coupled with personal association, and I've definitely been experiencing quite a bit of this over the last few weeks.

Freshly fallen snow, after living in the desert for a piece of time, for instance, has a sort of perplexion to me that, growing up in New England, I never would have thought that it could possess.

Drastic changes in scenery over the past few years are beginning to lend me very different eyes as an artist.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Continuation Of a Destructive, Yet Affirmative Cycle; Upon Putting Down 'Ulysses.'

I’m seriously considering having book-plates printed. Something with my name and a distinct design to slap inside the cover of books that I’ve completed reading and adorned with my scribbles. Some sort of insignia to claim authorship for my notes, to take credit for my marginalia. If my literary career-path proceeds as planned, this sort of thing may seem some day relevant.

I have just set down a hard-cover copy of a seminal masterpiece that all educated students of Literature are often assumed to have a working knowledge of. Most seem to claim to, and nearly all have read segments. As I pored through the work, however, I wondered more with every page how many of the members of the Literatcia that claim to have read or understood the book had actually completed reading it.

My copy of James Joyce’s “Ulysses” is battered, beer-stained, crumpled with dried coffee, and blackened through with ink. It’s been with me for more time at this point than I would like to admit; more time than it’s EVER taken me to read a single book. (This is predictable, of course… this is, after all, the book regarded by even those who know nothing else about it as ‘the most difficult book you’ll ever read.’ I was skeptical of this appellation when I began, and part of me hates voicing a regard that merely complies with the cliché upon completion.) It’s been with me as I dealt with some of the most severe lapses in motivation of my relatively short adult existence, and has proved a sort of support-structure through those time-periods, sitting steady beneath my shaking hand to remind me that “good” (or, rather, maybe “meaningful,” “worthwhile,” or “relevant”) Art and Literature CAN be, or more importantly, fundamentally HAS to be purposely difficult and challenging, HAS to, in order to deserve those titles, make you as reader WORK. Since I graduated from college, Joyce has been there to be my “rock” (I may as well continue to play with and mangle clichés) that assures me that rocks aren’t always solid, or maybe that there doesn’t even have to be a rock at all. Or maybe that the only “rock” is the one that artists create for themselves. And sure, in all of these regards, “Ulysses” is a perfect choice for that sort of “rock,” or no sort of “rock” at all.

Flipping through the physical pages of the book, which still sit stinging a bit from the abuses that I administered upon them, I can’t help noticing that my scribbles say as much about me and the place that I was personally at while writing them as they do about the printed text that contains them and was intended as their subject and inspiration. This seems, of course, in predictable posture for a critic writing in a post- Post-Modern era about a pivotal work of High Modernism. What is probably less predictable is how much I see in common between the ground that Joyce stood on and the ground to which critical thought has proceeded and, more importantly, could presently proceed further to. It seems almost fitting, for example, in regards to both the potentials of future scholarship and the critical ideology of the work in question that, rather than write another book about the book and fill it with one authors ideas about another authors ideas (which, don‘t get me wrong, is an interesting idea that definitely has its place), that a critic’s scribbles, notes, and thoughts in the margins of the original work might be reprinted and published in such a form, so that the readers of each (ideally the same reader) might be able to actively witness how the two works (and two authors) interact with one another.

The white-space at the end of the book proved a welcome silence after the book’s ending, a forty-four page marathon unpunctuated mental rant by a woman that I, at many points, wished to scream at to shut the hell up. In this gap, while still possessed by the post-traumatic headache that I feel fairly certain was much of Joyce’s intention at the end of the work, I jotted the following words-

“A reaffirmation, continuation of a destructive, yet affirmative cycle. Devotion comes in strange forms. Identities are constructed out of conflict/ conflicting conceptions.”

If you’re among what I’m guessing to be a small minority that has actually finished the book, you might know what I mean and to what it refers. Then again, you still might not. After all, my notes, and my personal understanding of the text, has as much, if not more, to do with me than it does with anyone named Bloom, Dedalus, or Joyce.

I’m open to suggestions as to what to print on my book-plates.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

...Ice Metal In Retrospect... "The Perfection of the Hideous"...

"Searchers after horror haunt strange, far places."

Yes, that's me, "Bernie Vulture," apparently dressed as a zombie in a snowbank. I played guitar ("Rhythm and Lead," according to the liner-notes of "The Virgin Forest...") in (Ashes of) Frost.

"For them are the catacombs of Ptolemais, and the carven mausolea of the nightmare countries."
Kate "The Ice Queen" Kirby. Vocals.

"They climb to the moonlit towers of ruined Rhine castles, and falter down black cobwebbed steps beneath the scattered stones of forgotten cities in Asia."

Johnny Scarecrow. "Rhythm and Melody" guitar, bandleader.

"The haunted wood and the desolate mountain are their shrines, and they linger around the sinister monoliths on uninhabited islands."

Mac "The Bass Barbarian" MacDougal. Bass. Obviously.

"But the true epicure in the terrible, to whom a new thrill of unutterable ghastliness is the chief end and justification of existence, esteems most of all the ancient, lonely farmhouses of backwoods New England;"

Sir Nathaniel Ward. Synth, keys, sequencing, sampling, noisemaking, etc. I think at one time we called him "Dr. Doomsday"?

"For there the dark elements of strength, solitude, grotesqueness and ignorance combine to form the perfection of the hideous."

Nick Drouin. We had all sorts of derogatory nicknames for this kid, mostly out of harsh respect for the fact that he was WAAAY too good for how young he was at the time. Child, Princess, Nicky-poo, etc... sorry Nick. Drums.

"Of the hideous... Of the hideous... Of the hideous..."

The first flyer that I made for Frost. I was told that it was "too punk-rock" and that I wasn't allowed to make any more.

(The quotes in bold above the proceeding pictures are from the introduction to H.P. Lovecraft's "The Picture in the House," which we used an audio-rendering of, read with an expert-level of spookiness by Dark Dave, as the introduction-sample to most of our sets. I wish that I knew how to host and post audio, so that I could put that track up [it's featured on the "Complete Ashes of Frost" disk that I referred to in the last post] because it's quite excellent and entirely worth hearing.)

A later flyer; I believe that this is for a show that got re-routed to the Icy Cavern Of Death with the entire crowd in tow; I think I sprained my ankle, most of the band drank alot before we played, and alot of other strange things happened...

A flyer for a show with one of our favorite bands to play with, New Haven Connecticut's organic trip-hop darlings Tarmak... I miss that band quite alot...

The insert cut-outs for an extremely low-budget cassette compilation that we released/ were featured on...

A newspaper clipping, with my boots.

The rest of that picture. "Bernie Vulture of Frost goes Hard Core in Manchester." Hilarious. Press-kit fodder from near the outift's end...

This has been a presentation of Battleaxe Promotions, New Hampshire. Whatever that means.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Ashes of Frost, 7 Years Later.

Fall and early winter in New England is the sort of setting in which well-written heavy metal makes the most sense to me. Maybe it's because, then, that I'm back in New Hampshire at this particular time of year that, of all the bands that I've played with in the past, one in particular has been a recurring theme of conversation in the last couple of weeks.

At this time seven years ago, six of us were crammed into the extremely cold and dank basement of a colonial farmhouse on a hill in Candia, New Hampshire. It is apparent now that the music that we were creating there was intrinsically influenced by our surroundings and sensations at the time that, years later, that still proves to be the element that the music skillfully speaks to.


My first encounter with the band was as a spectator. I was requested by Johnny Scarecrow, the guitarist and band-leader, to attend their first show. Although the band that played that show was very different than what Frost was to become (the band was called merely "Frost" until very near to its demise, when the "Ashes of" was added) I was captivated by the vibe that they created. Within a week, I had been brought on to play guitar for the outfit, at the same time that the band was working on making a couple other post-first-live-experiment changes, like adding synthplayer Nat Ward to the fold. (I'm oversimplifying quite a bit and very knowingly leaving things out; If I were to relate all of the anecdotes of this act and time period that I personally find relevant or entertaining this entry would be a book.)

Within less than a month of Nat and I joining the band, we were working on our first recording, attempting to go it ourselves in that cold basement that, by this point, had adopted the snarky name "The Icy Cavern of Death." What we recorded during that time-period became (originally) a cassette-tape titled "The Virgin Forest is the Devil's Last Preserve..." (a quote from Arthur Miller's 'The Crucible'). That recording undoubtedly has some sonic "issues" (we were dealing with a VERY loud six-piece in a VERY small concrete box; I distinctly remember sitting with Scarecrow by the fireplace upstairs with headphones on, trying to get the mix right, exchanging scared looks and shrugs), but it could be argued it also captures the frigid atmosphere of our songs and our mindsets better (or more succinctly) than our later recordings. The last two songs on the music-player above, "Witchhunt" and "SMDR," are taken from that early cassette (that I have since done a bit of remastering to).

Later in the band's career, a second EP was recorded, in something closer to a "real" recording studio. This record was titled "Mysts of the Iced Morn," and was definitely a more "competent" recording, if not quite as "cold"-sounding as the first (I tend to think recording in the summer was part of that. I think others might lay blame also on the band beginning to decline and lose its focus by this point.) The EP was never officially released, but the first two songs on the player above ("Lullaby" and "Nightmare") are taken from it.

A disc containing both records, in addition to remixes, outtakes, and samples used in our live shows, labeled "The Complete Ashes of Frost," has been sitting on my shelf since shortly after the band's demise, and I still don't quite know what to do with it.

I think I'll post more pictures tomorrow, as while packing my car for the recent drive across the country I found a briefcase stuffed with promotional materials from several of my past bands, much of which I found to be quite hilarious. In the meantime, visit the retrospective Ashes of Frost page on Myspace.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Ignite Poetry Magazine, Volume 2.

The second issue of Ignite Poetry Magazine (a poetry publication from Arizona State University at the West Campus) is now out!

It is available in PDF form (both readable and printable versions, as is Volume 1) at Ignite Online.

Go on over and take a read; I have a poem published in the work entitled "A Present Middle Path" (it appears on page 21, which is the centerfold in the hard-copy chap-book edition.)

This time around, I'm listed as "Honorary Editor," as I'm an alumni rather than a student, and my appearance on the editorial staff is apparently a bit dubious in terms of University technicalities... As "honorary" refers to "deserving of honor" and I'm not sure how true that is, though, I'm wondering if the title is a misprint of "Ornery Editor." I'm thinking that that appellation would have been a bit more justified.

I got my hard-copy of the book in the mail yesterday and it looks great. It features work by a handful of West-campus poets that figure among my favorites, and Editor-in-Chief Chelsey Kissling and her staff did a great job of putting it all together. Overall, I find the book to be a thoroughly enjoyable and thought-provoking read.

Also, while you're checking out the book, don't forget to add Ignite on Myspace.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Photos and Notes From the Road...

We'll call this entry a photo-journal, of sorts. Basically, I'll relate anecdotes with pictures, pictures with anecdotes, and otherwise ramble multi-genre-ously in general.

Toward the beginning of the trip, I was taking pictures of basically nothing, to demonstrate to Miss Hysteric that there was basically nothing to take pictures of. Ironically, some of these photos of basically nothing turned out sort of interesting.

A sunrise out my window, splattered in bugs.

Steamy sunrises in Tennessee.

These sorts of views made driving through the night completely worth it.

I reached these mountain lakes at just the right time.

I've been told that these foggy images look like they could be used for Opeth records.

I can see that; the music fits the mood of these shots quite well, in my eyes.

In fact, this segment of the drive made me realize why I was such a lukewarm metal fan during my time in Arizona. Dark orchestral music is so much better matched to the chill of the late-year in the east than it is to the desert. I think I'm beginning to understand dark music again.

My cross-country car in the fog of sunrise.

The purple reflections in puddles of clouds. Definitely something that I missed.

Trucks on a bridge in a foggy sunrise. This picture somehow captures where my mind and feelings were at through most of this trip. Stare into the fog for a bit and figure it out.

A tugboat on the Tennessee River in Chattanooga, early in the morning.

Someone told me that they liked willow trees...


The first snow of the season. Somewhere in Pennsylvania... I think...?

Returning to fall as I remember it, in Bristol, Connecticut, just out of the Catskills.

As strange as this may sound, it's so good to see a sky that's gray instead of blue...

I'm back in New Hampshire now. More images and updates should soon follow.

There are more of these photos in my photobucket account, in the main album, and in the one subtitled Vagabond.