Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Scott Byrne, Instant Death

l to r: dave dreiwitz, me, scott byrne, cartoon characters
Scott Byrne was a fantastic drummer and composer and electronic musician. I met him at a Barbecue Bob gig. He was a working drummer, meaning he played out up to 4 days a week with different bands, but he worked primarily for Bob and on his own project "Instant Death."

He studied a lot to be a great drummer. He had been studying the drums his whole life. In his teens he became a fan of John Bonham, who was a great influence on his sound. He also went to the Percussion Institute in California and studied percussion at Rutgers University. What made him a great drummer, other than having great swing and great time, was that he would play the notes of the song on the drums and cymbals.

He was able to feature that talent and his songwriting in his bass-drums duo, "Instant Death" with Dave Dreiwitz. Dave is such a great bassplayer, I kissed his hands once. And I don't like touching people.

Here they are doing one of their most popular songs, "The Enabler."

Scott and I really connected because we were both mellow people who shared a sense of the demented. If there were any two people who could just walk through Manhattan and laugh at almost everything we saw, it was us. And we did it all the time. We also connected because I thought he was a genius of a certain level, and I believed in his career. After we got married, I didn't ask him to go into something "more stable" like the family business because I wanted him out there, playing, where people could hear him.

Things went downhill, for a hundred reasons the way marriages can. The job situation sucked as well, and we were both in and out of shitty jobs. I tried all kinds of remedies, including having us move out to his sister's house in Pittsburgh.I wanted him to be out playing, I wanted the marriage to work out. I guess the whole thing just wasn't meant to be. I feel bad that I pushed us to move out of town, away from our friends. At that moment, it seemed like a fresh start would help us stay together and accomplish our goals. I was wrong.

Everything tanked as soon as we moved out of town.

We split up in 1998. He died in July 2005. When he passed on, I felt like people wanted me to say things...I was still angry and not ready to say them. I feel very sorry for that too.

Scott was a fantastic drummer and composer and electronic musician. He was a working drummer....

You can learn more about Instant Death and their ties to Ween and the Fab Faux here:

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

From Rock n' Roll Tribe to Rock n' Roll Mayor

Home Depot, Manhattan
I have been enjoying rockandrolltribe.com, a social network for veteran rockers. It has smaller groups, discussions, it's own mail. The people on this social network are very knowledgable and involved. I asked for help in composing a sleazy playlist, and have received about 20 replies. Every time I want to think the discussion is over, someone has uploaded an mp3 or youtube for a song. If you love rock, I strongly encourage you to join.

One of the discussions is whether New York City is cool anymore. I think the cool factor has severely declined under the leadership of Michael Bloomberg. Since he's started, he's done is best to move in people like him: the very rich. This has not only driven out the middle class, but the artists and musicians as well.

I am not going to lie and say I haven't enjoyed a few things since Bloomberg has been in office. When I lived on the Lower East Side in the early-mid 90s, there were no stores there, except for a few drug fronts. When you needed something, you had to leave the neighborhood. Now there are plenty of stores, restaurants and bars. The chocolate and wine bar seems a little swank for me, but I guess a lot of the customers live in the neighborhood. It must be what people who pay $2000 and upward for a walkup that is constantly filled with grit from the traffic on the Williamsburgh Bridge like. At least it's in Manhattan.

NYC 1980 and 1972. By Arlene Gottfried.
From New York Magazine.
Other than some new stores and more people to spend money on them, things have gone  downhill. The interesting people that these rich people wanted to rub shoulders with are gone, taking their "scene" with them. There are plenty of public arts projects that cost thousands of dollars, but they seem out of touch with the city or any deeper meaning or politics. People wonder why they are there. Probably the last great city art project was the dung thrown at a brick wall painted with Giuliani's face.  The air of lawlessness and Gotham craziness has been replaced with the air of homelessness, as spending has gone up on police protection, and gone down on keeping the insane institutionalized and properly medicated.

Mom and Pop stores are mostly gone, and have been replaced by mall stores, especially in Manhattan. It was okay to have a few of these mall stores in the city. Every once in a while, hitting "Home Depot" may be necessary. The Mom and pops gave the city a homey, neighborhoody, down-to-earth feel. They knew their customers and were stable in their community. Now nothing seems stable. Stores come and go every time the landlord feels he can raise the rent. And so do store owners and employees. This also takes the anchors out of the neighborhoods.

There is very little in the way of authentic New York neighborhoods anymore. Little Italy is probably about a block and a half now. Chinatown has expanded down the N,R, and Q lines into Brooklyn, and keeps moving that way. The East Village and much of the coolness of St. Mark's Pl. has moved over to Ave. B, but it is broken up at Clinton St. That is where the swanky places begin.

I could go on and on with examples, but the main answer is to elect a much cooler mayor for a few terms. Joey Ramone would have made a great choice. According to people who knew him, he could balance a budget. People would have recognized his name and elected him. You may think I am being funny, but I am dead serious. Rock n' roll is part of the establishment now, and I think the freethinking, nonjudgmental values of rock n' roll are more important than ever, and are more needed in New York City than ever. If you want proof that rock n' roll is establishment, I just saw a Disney film with my son in which the soundtrack was made up of AC/DC. You can't get more establishment than that. We're awakening kids to those values, and adults are enthusiastic about that.

There have been musicians in politics before, the main one I can think of being Alan Greenspan, who was a bebop guy. And there were lots of drugs in bebop bands. Though I don't think drug use (or not) has entered into New York City politics much.

A rock n' roll mayor is certainly what this city needs, as this city's character follows that of its mayor so closely. I hope someone will step up to the plate.

Friday, November 5, 2010

50 Reasons I Love NYC

50. NY1--24 hour news station, just for 1 city
49. The Doll Man who hosts NY1 in the mornings. Fascinating

48. Great overheards like, "Shut da fuck up! I'm watchin' da fuckin' fireworks!"
47. Watching Tai Chi classes in the playgrounds and parks
46. My kid is fully aware of world news because he has 2nd gen Chinese and Arab friends
45. You can find at least one other person with at least 5 of the same interests as you.
44. Great dates. Dinner/theater/dancing--all in the same night
43. Seeing the people from CW TV shows eat yogurt on the streetcorner
42. Wild life on Coney Island in the summer

41. Wild life in Brighton Beach all year round
(these are in Gravesend Bay, but we check them out on Brighton Beach too.)

40. Rich white kids with Jamaican accents from their nannies
39. You still see Bobby Steele from the Misfits around.
38. You realize supermodels look scary in real life.
37. There's always a new bar or restaurant to try but...
36. the people at your regular deli always remember you and what you like
35. Taking naps with other hungover office workers in Central Park in the summer
34. Just because you have a degree in English doesn't mean you have to be a teacher: publishing companies are here.
33. Delivery liquor...and pretty much anything else
32. The Joe Strummer Memorial wall
31. Poem installation in the Times Square station (see it on the beams?)
 (tx deadprogrammer.com!)
30. You can pay a dollar and get into the Metropolitan Museum of Art or the Museum of Natural History
29. European tourist couples in matching outfits.
28. The sheer number and different flavors of all the playgrounds. Your kid will never get bored.
27. If you get in a fight with a lover you can cool off with a free, hourlong ride on the Staten Island Ferry
26. No inspirational posters as art in offices. Ever.
25. Rockabilly night at Otto's Shrunken Head aka Bettie Page night, b/c many, many women dress as Bettie Page.

24. Vegetarians can order a main course at most restaurants.
23. You don't have to buy a fashion magazine to make sure you are up to date and looking good. Just look at the people walking down the street.
22. Post-punk, post-protestant beggar signs, like "Gimme a dollar--I'm a drunk"
21. You don't have to know where you are going to be somewhere interesting.
20. My kid has been to so many museums, zoos, etc., he just wants to scrabble up and down the granite rocks in Central Park.
19. A good excuse for being late back from lunch is that you got lost in Central Park.
18. You can get lost in Prospect Park for about 2 hours, and not see or hear a car.
17. You can take the A train out to Rockaway Beach, rent a board, find an instructor, and learn to surf.

(Yes, that really is surfing in Rockaway Beach in NYC. Yes, if you are there long enough, you will find there are surfing gangs.)

16. If you don't like the scene at one bar you can walk a few blocks away and find a completely different scene.
15. If there is something you want, there is probably an entire store in Manhattan devoted to that specific item:, cigar store, chess set store, sex toys, dollhouses, cowboy boots, etc. but...
14. If you are in a pinch, you can run downstairs to the corner pharmacy, and they'll have everything from bed bug spray to cheap clothing.
13.Deep fried Macaroni and cheese croquettes at that Japanese automat on St. Mark's Pl. I've never had one. Just glad they exist.

12. If you are not standing next to someone who did something pretty amazing, some pretty amazing things happened right where you are standing in the last 100 years or so.
11. Annual film fests at Film Forum: B movies, noir...foreign, no matter what you like, you can probably see it on the big screen there once a year.
10. There's a full blown, working farm on Staten Island, with pumpkin picking and hay rides and historical buildings from the 1700s, proving NYC really does have EVERYTHING.
9. At McDonalds the other day, every table there was a conversation in a different language.
8. The excitement and costumes in the long lines opening night of science fiction movies.
7. Great conversations with strangers that you will never see again.
6. Someone you know always has a plan, and is working on implementing it.
5. Someone else you know has a completely insane plan, and wants your help with it.
4. I really can't say about the women. But the men here are intelligent, talented, fascinating.
3. Public sex. Anyone who says they haven't done it in NYC is either lying or not trying hard enough.
2. You know you are living "where it's at"--the cross roads of the world. All those people keep staring from the tour buses so it must be true.
1. Knowing that you are part of the backdrop of someone else's New York.