SEAN CARNAGE: NOISY AND GAY RIGHT FROM THE START
July 5th, 2009
Sean Carnage has done so much for L.A. music that there had to be a movie made to help document it—40 Bands 80 Minutes!, now recognizable as early home to much of the most vital actives still performing in the city. He’ll be celebrating four years of DIY shows (across six venues!) all this month at Women during his traditional Monday night residencies, and he’ll have the official Sean Carnage birthdayversary spectacular on July 27.
The first time I attended a Sean Carnage night was at Il Corral—Is that where it all began?
That’s cool that you were there! Il Corral was really special, and that’s where Monday Nights began—on August 1st, 2005. I covered the back story of the Il Corral and the atmosphere of the times in my movie 40 Bands 80 Minutes!, so I’d recommend checking that out. Il Corral was everything a Rust Belt kid like me hoped California would be—wild (but still innocent) punk rock fun. Stane (Il Corral co-founder) installed a rope swing in the music area, so that gives you an idea of the venue’s play zone atmosphere. I was really lucky to be able to host shows there. A high proportion of the performers who played there were bona fide geniuses, and for once in my life, I realized what was going down as it was happening and turned on the video camera. People doubted my selection of performers for 40 Bands 80 Minutes! when it came out over two years ago. (Including L.A. RECORD—LOL!) [LOL @ us—ed.] But damn near every person who appears on the screen in my movie has gone on to do important stuff. The Los Angeles artistic and musical community is something to be proud of.
How did you get started?
I love underground music as a style and as a craft, and I had been involved as a musician, promoter, writer and fan for about thirteen years in Cleveland, Ohio. I moved to L.A. to retire, but couldn’t shake the music. So I started booking again after taking about three years off.
Did you know when you began that it would last this long and be so loved?
Derek Hess did Mondays at the Euclid Tavern for 8 years. Speak In Tongues also lasted 8 years. I knew if I could bring regularly scheduled music into the D.I.Y. and all-ages realm, it would work.
What was Speak in Tongues? I’m researching Pentecostalism and speaking in tongues for my thesis right now, so I have to ask…
Speak In Tongues—and the guys who lived there—changed my life. It was all-ages D.I.Y. for eight years—an amazing run. I learned that you don’t need to do shows in bars. You can strip away another layer of mediation and do it yourself. Not an original concept, but it was new for me in the mid and late 1990s, and it informs everything I’ve aspired to since. SIT hibernates at http://www.speakintongues.com
It seems that at any location—Il Corral, Pehrspace, the Smell—you create a space that fosters a family of bands that might not have otherwise had any place to play, or at least not any other place where they’d feel quite so at home. Was this always a goal of yours?
I was seeing a ton of excellent shows around L.A. in the early 2000s and that was tremendously inspiring. So I just started asking bands if they wanted to play my night. All the attendees of those initial Mondays were way turned on by the energy of it all. When we moved to Pehrspace in 2007, it only got better.
Which bands did you start out with?
The first show was Haircut Mountain Transit, FM Bats, Buko, Ugly Shyla, Szandora… and Jell-O shots. Jon San Nicolas and my boyfriend at that time, Richmond Tan, helped me so much. We were noisy and gay right from the start! Now Mikhai Tran helps me tons with the shows—taking photos and weaving our distinctive bracelets, which are unique for every show.
How political is your programming process? By that I mean, how much—if at all—do you concern yourself with representing or attracting a certain group?
A lot of the people behind Mondays’ success are gay, and I’m proud of that. It’s emblematic of a new non-political phase of the gay rights movement. Young people can now be themselves and not worry what people think about their sexuality. That said, I bring up sexual orientation because with the passing of Prop 8, we still have so far to go. I suppose this is preaching to the choir—musicians are usually pretty progressive—but Mondays have been my modest way of saying ‘we’re here, we’re queer,’ and building something positive and constructive that every music fan can enjoy.
Is there is a unifying factor among the Sean Carnage bands—in terms of genre, style, or scene? If not, what is it that you consider when choosing bands to book?
I’m looking for the best music. I don’t pay particular attention to style. I listen more for general musicality. And the execution is important. I really cherish the Monday audiences so I am always trying to find new ways to thrill them. What’s nice is that most of the bands are already friends, but because they operate in different areas of the music scene, my shows bring them together—often for the first time. The other unifying factor is the between-sets music of Kyle H. Mabson. Kyle’s become my partner in the shows since I met him fall of 2005. I feel like Kyle’s really changed how underground music is experienced. He brings the dance party and that amps everything up.
Who are some of your favorites right now?
I love the new Amazements album. I like American Gil and the Major Dudes a lot. Certain performers like Billygoat, Birth!, D. Bene Tleilax, I.E., Whitman, Nicole Kidman, Moment Trigger… they’re all Monday superstars.
My best friend and band-mate, Geoff—Pizza! and Big Whup—and I just made a compilation that includes tracks from both American Gil and Nicole Kidman. We love them!
What is it about those Inland Empire kids that makes them so amazing?
Haha—good question! It astounds and humbles me the people from the I.E. drive so far to attend shows like mine. I don’t 100% understand the local culture there, but I’ve always gotten a good feeling from both the music and the personalities of the Inland Empire folks. Maybe there’s something about living in the 909 that is similar to living along Lake Erie? I’ve always related to people with backgrounds that are similar to mine, but for lack of scientific evidence, I can’t really say much else except: I like what I hear.
Tell me the craziest-best-worst-funniest-most-miraculous-most-tragic Sean Carnage night story. Please?
This past Monday, people were freaking and beating each other with pool noodles on Women’s front lawn for 20 minutes after the music ended—that was pretty crazy!
I heard the police came a few weeks back and threatened to shut down Pehrspace—have there been any recent developments in that story?
I don’t have anything new to report, but Pehr is continuing to host a small number of weekend shows, so please support them every chance you get.
How are you getting by in the meantime?
I’m proud to be hosting at Women. They’ve given me the space to do some really ambitious programming, like the four-week 60 Watt Kid residency in July which features a ton of new bands.
Is there anything we—as Sean Carnage and Pehrspace fans—can do to help in this struggle?
No matter what venue you see live music at, be mindful of the neighbors when you are outside the space. It’s hard—I’m trying to inspire people to be free, but on the street you have to be low key.
What will you do if you can’t continue booking there?
I’ve been lucky to have done Mondays at Il Corral, Pehrspace, the Smell, Zamakibo, House of Vermont and Women, so if I have to find a new home I will. I figure that after 200+ shows in a row, I’ve earned some vacation. So I’m taking this August off to prepare the new Monday home and I’ll be back the first Monday in September.
Sounds like a good plan… And finally, I’d like to say CONGRATULATIONS! What are you doing to celebrate your anniversary?!
On Monday, July 27th I am hosting some truly amazing bands—60 Watt Kid, Shirley Rolls, the Seizure, Mikki and the Mauses and Single Mothers. Then I’m going to take August off and figure out where the heck Mondays are gonna live in the fall. Then I’ll be back on Monday, September 7th with… I.E.! I will be keeping everyone updated through www.facebook.com/seancarnage and www.seancarnage.com.
Download Sean Carnage’s Mondays mega-mix.
By the fall of 2002, Erie transplant Sean Carnage had been in Cleveland for over a decade. He had some good times, although dropping out of Case Western Reserve to hang out at the Euclid Tavern and listen to underground rock groups like Craw and the Jesus Lizard wasn’t a career path most advisors would recommend. He’d played in bands, written about music and booked shows at the funky DIY venue Speak in Tongues. He helmed local monthly music magazine U.S. Rocker for a year before it folded in late 1998, using its pages to promote noisy, obscure music and to stir up trouble, including a feud with the Cleveland-based Alternative Press.
Then he took a good look around Cleveland and realized that it probably wasn’t going to get any more exciting than the job he had with the now-defunct Ohio Lawyers Weekly. So in October 2002, he headed west to Los Angeles, hoping to find work in publishing and maybe break into TV and video.
Carnage ended up getting more excitement than he bargained for. Shortly after landing in L.A., he responded to a newspaper ad seeking an assistant to the editorial director of a “top men’s magazine.” Carnage, who’s a mutant, was hopeful it might be a magazine about men for men. It turned out to be Hustler, but the job suited him anyway. He wrote about pirate radio and mother-daughter erotic photographers Suze and Holly Randall before moving on to handle marketing and PR for Hustler Video.
“We released eight movies every Tuesday,” he says. “Roger Corman, eat your heart out! People lament the loss of old Hollywood, but it hasn’t gone anywhere. It’s in adult films. It’s a life of constant insanity.”
After 18 months, he left to produce Queer Edge with Jack E. Jett and Sandra Bernhardt at Queer Television. “It was the most exciting job I’ve ever had,” he recalls. “I’d never worked with all gay people, and we felt we were on a mission.” But others had different goals. “It turned out that the higher-ups were doing a Ponzi scheme, bilking elderly gays out of money. So I was unemployed on and off for over a year. I worked on some other TV productions. But nowadays everything is reality shows. I was like, fuck it. I thought [TV] was what I wanted to do. In reality, I was a production assistant or working in the licensing department – totally uncreative.”
Through it all, Carnage’s love of music sustained him. In August 2005, he launched Monday Music Nights, a tribute to the weekly concerts held at the Euclid Tavern in the ’90s featuring underground, way-out-of-the-mainstream artists. The shows are now held at Pehrspace in Glendale, which he describes as “very freewheeling, like Speak in Tongues minus the residents and the animals.”
“L.A. has an absolutely incredible music scene now,” he says. “People like No Age, who played my place recently, are starting to get a lot of attention. Other bands have been following in their wake, and a lot of them got their start at my Mondays, bands like Health and Abe Vigoda. The bands tend to be indie-rock bands, but the biggest component is more like party noise – noise bands but almost surreal, eccentric.”
A few years ago, Carnage joined his love of music with his video expertise and produced a film called 40 Bands 80 Minutes, which documents the underground music scene. In early 2007, he returned to Cleveland and screened it at Parish Hall.
Occasionally sex and rock ‘n’ roll would intersect in Carnage’s job — like his working relationship with punk-rock porn princess Joanna Angel (he handled publicity for her website, burningangel.com). Then, in 2007, his “dream job” materialized: managing Unzipped.net for the world’s largest publishing company of gay men’s adult magazines.
Unzipped is about as far from Ohio Lawyers Weekly as Carnage could ever imagine. The only man in a suit you’ll find on the site is Portland, Oregon, Mayor Sam Adams, who was recently busted for having an affair with teenage intern Beau Breedlove (apparently his real name). The hot, breaking story is lavishly covered on Unzipped, with photo galleries of both men. Last week, Carnage posted a challenge to Breedlove, issued by the publishing group: “An official invitation … for a cover story and a full nude photo layout in the pages of one of the Unzipped Media properties.”
While waiting for that photo spread to hopefully materialize, Unzipped.net visitors can preview Breedlove’s assets as he poses in skimpy trunks or check out such features as “Eye Candy: Walk Softly and Suck on a Big Stick” and “Big Pole Friday: Plaid Explosion,” in which dewy-cheeked college boys are shown both with and without plaid shirts. (A partner site, Unzipped’s Below the Belt, features the uncensored photos.)
“All my heart and soul is going into it,” says Carnage of the site. “I’m so proud of Unzipped.net. It’s such a labor of love for everyone involved.”
Guerrilla Party: Sean Carnage Monday Nights at Pehrspace
By Dana Poblete
Photo by Oscar Zagal
New Angeles Magazine
On any given Monday night in Los Angeles, you can see Randy Randall (of No Age fame) play in a No Age cover band; you can watch satanarchic short films; you can dance all night to Alice Deejay or Eve 6. Thanks to an iconoclast named Sean Carnage, this all transpires at Pehrspace. In the darkest corner of a sleepy Echo Park plaza, $5 grants you a personally finger-crocheted wristband and access to Carnage’s otherworldly experience of experimental music, performance art, and the occasional vegan pizza.
Let’s go back to January 1991. Cleveland, Ohio. Euclid Tavern. Derek Hess, a young line cook and aspiring artist, began booking bands in exchange for the opportunity to design show flyers. A Case Western Reserve University student named Sean Carnage frequented this unusual music night, known as Euclid Tavern Monday Nights. “There were these musical mutants that would come out,” says Carnage, “both in the audience and on stage.” Hess hosted unknown bands like Helmet and The Melvins that found success later in the decade. Carnage was inspired by the unconventional performances and awestruck by the talent that Hess managed to unearth on a weekly basis.
Carnage migrated from the bar scene when his friends started an all-ages performance space called Speak in Tongues. This was revolutionary for Cleveland’s underground music scene, and Carnage was at its epicenter for eight years. He finally relocated to Los Angeles to experience big city life, but still craved that same irreverent, D.I.Y. experience. He discovered this in West Hollywood at Club Screwball, a Tuesday night ritual hosted by Nora Keyes and his old friend Don Bolles at the Parlour Club. Bolles became a father figure for Carnage, and for two years he never missed a single Club Screwball, relishing the friendship and experimental music. The club is now located at Hyperion Tavern under the moniker Club Ding-a-Ling.
In 2005, Bob Bellarue started a D.I.Y. performance space called Il Corral, allowing Carnage to host a night. Carnage chose Mondays as an homage to Hess. At the first show on August 1, 2005, the artsy 30-somethings he befriended at Club Screwball were instant fans, but the idea of an alcohol-free all-ages venue eventually stunted their interest. Carnage ended up replacing his extended family with an unexpected crew.
Youngsters from all over Los Angeles flocked to Il Corral to witness the insanity that was unfolding there every Monday. They came to see acts like Robin Williams on Fire, Captain Ahab, and Health, all now pioneers in the experimental/noise scene. “These kids just blew me away with their enthusiasm and their talent,” Carnage muses. “I reached out to a new audience that I never knew existed. And now I know all these wonderful young people that I never would have otherwise met.” One of them was Kyle Mabson, who took over sound at Il Corral in October 2005. “He was the smart-aleck kid who came in and told me I was doing everything wrong!,” says Carnage. “Then he kept coming back week after week after week to make it right, and now he’s my roommate and my best friend.”
As Sean cultivated Il Corral’s scene and bonded with its patrons, there was no better time for him to document what was going on in L.A. underground music. Based on a touring noise show called 10 Bands/60 Minutes, he decided to make 40 Bands/80 Minutes, a documentary featuring 40 of L.A.’s most exciting musical acts. The March 2006 filming happened to coincide with the demise of Queer TV Network, where Carnage worked. With a crew of out-of-work, anxious co-workers at his disposal, he filmed 52 bands in a few short hours, capturing a scene that was, in his own words, “overflowing with talent.” Abe Vigoda, Health, Anavan, Wives, Bipolar Bear, The Amazements and others gave visceral two-minute performances to a congregation of local music lovers.
In December 2006, Bob Bellerue moved to Portland. “It was clearly the end of an era at Il Corral,” says Carnage. Financial disarray ensued in the following weeks, so he searched for a new venue. As a favor from Dustin Krapes at the new D.I.Y. performance space Vermont House, he was able to transition for one week there before the move to Pehrspace. The low-key Echo Park art space proved to be the perfect venue for Carnage’s Monday Nights, with its progressive owners, the quality of sound, and its intimate size. Though less “punk” than its previous home, the community-oriented haven for artists and musicians fit perfectly with Carnage’s vision. “I feel that Sean Carnage has definitely carved out a niche for himself in the local music scene,” says Pehrspace owner Darren King. “His Monday night shows are an important contribution to the L.A. underground music scene.”
Over a year after its move to Pehrspace, Sean Carnage Monday Nights are still a fiercely popular event. Slots to play are now so coveted that most shows are set up through pre-existing relationships. Regulars come to watch repeat performers like John Thill, I.E., Whitman, Kyle Mabson, and an amalgam of their side projects. Carnage still works hard to expose patrons to new L.A. acts and touring bands. Elijah of emotronic duo e & e says of Carnage’s Monday Nights: “They support bands like us, when no other venues do.” Lauded sister venue The Smell—also a regular hangout and outlet for many Pehrspace denizens—has experienced a similar explosion in recent years. “It seems like The Smell is getting all the hype these days, and I love the Smell, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t other awesome all-ages spaces in L.A.,” says Chris of Whitman. “I can honestly say that I’d rather play a Sean Carnage Monday Night than anywhere else in LA.”
The communal quality draws in a heterogeneous crowd of individuals who find a common bond through music and performance. One might expect an aura of pretentiousness at such an avant-garde venue, but Monday Nights are quite the opposite. The basement party/sideshow ambiance is always infused with Carnage’s appreciation for popular culture, making it totally accessible and enjoyable for those with more conventional tastes.
Carnage is planning another showcase for L.A.’s underground music. His new film, Friends in Other Dimensions—which he produced in conjunction with L.A.’s Retard Disco Records—features energetic performances by 25 veteran and up-and-coming L.A. bands. The Mae Shi, tik//tik, Foot Village and Juiceboxxx all participated in the September 2007 filming.
“[Sean Carnage] is a believer in the youth and the way they can change the face of music,” says friend Margot of I.E. August 4, 2008 marks the third anniversary of Sean Carnage Monday Nights. He’s got something special lined up, with performances by his new and old favorites—a retrospective accented perfectly by the forward-thinking nature of the D.I.Y. scene in L.A. Surely it will be as memorable for the audience as Euclid Tavern Monday Nights are for him. If history repeats itself, Sean Carnage’s endeavors will inspire his protégés, and experimental music will always have a home, whether at Pehrspace or beyond.
MUTANT FINDS HIS MUSE
Ex-Clevelander, with a career fueled by porn flicks and indie bands, screens rockumentary here
Sunday, February 25, 2007
By John Petkovic
Plain Dealer Reporter
Cleveland just wasn’t doing it for him anymore. Indie-rock provocateur and filmmaker Sean Carnage wanted something different, a new kind of energy, a new scene.
Hello palm trees. Hello porn stars. Hello Larry Flynt?
“My first job when I got to Los Angeles was working at Hustler,” says Carnage, who bolted for California in 2002. “It was an insane experience.”
And not because Carnage had never before served under a porn peddler.
“I learned about making movies,” he says. “The adult-film world is really no different than the mainstream.”
Maybe not when it comes to stamina. Carnage, who became Flynt’s go-to guy in Hustler’s adult video division, had to oversee the release of eight porn flicks a week.
“The actors don’t have clothes, but everything else is the same,” he says. “You have to organize a crew, do a budget, edit, market the thing – everything.”
Carnage put the experience to good use.
He has just released “40 Bands 80 Minutes!,” a high-speed rockumentary that features 40 bands each playing two minutes of music. Carnage will screen it Thursday at Parish Hall in Cleveland – one of a dozen or so stops on a cross-country tour.
Background in art, heart in rock
It isn’t just a screening, of course. After all, Carnage is a flamboyant showman with a knack for orchestrating multimedia parties.
For the screening of “40 Bands 80 Minutes!,” he’s persuaded defunct art-punk outfit Proletarian Art Threat to re-form for the bash. The band will be joined by Clan of the Cave Bear and musician Tony Erba, who will do a spoken-word performance.
In the mid-1990s, Carnage dropped out of Case Western Reserve University after less than three years to follow his artistic muse.
“I came to Case to study art history,” he says. “But then I started hanging out at the Euclid Tavern on Monday nights and realized that the underground is where it’s at: It’s a more powerful and efficient way to art ideas than going to class.”
So Carnage pursued a degree in artistic experience, on the ground.
He produced U.S. Rocker, a music ‘zine extolling the virtues of underground bands like the Jesus Lizard. He played in bands such as Razak Solar System, The Divine Invasion and Sean & Ian. And he organized events at venues like Speak in Tongues and Invisible City.
By 2002, he realized that he’d graduated from the scene.
“I’d rather embrace a lot of styles, especially when music is so disorganized,” he said in an interview with the Plain Dealer before his departure. “It’s more interesting when you’re all over the map.”
He landed 2,300 miles away, in Los Angeles.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” says Carnage. “And I had no idea what working at Hustler would be like.”
Well, it was a little like “Art School Sluts,” which proved to be a very different kind of education for Carnage – even if he wasn’t directly involved in the action. The porn flick was one of a number of titles he oversaw while at Hustler.
“It became a cult hit because it wasn’t your typical adult film,” says Carnage. “It appealed to women and men alike and started a new genre known as ‘alt porn.’ ”
“Art School” exposed Carnage to alt auteurs Eon McKai and porn star Joanna Angel.
“Joanna, in particular, is a very shoot-from-the-hip rock ‘n’ roller,” says Carnage. “Most porn stars lead boring lives, living in some normal house in the Valley, but she’s into music and going out and part of the music scene.”
Working with both gave Carnage a new take: “I saw how music and movies could come together and I was to become part of both scenes.”
Carnage decided to create his own scene, booking a weekly series at a club called Il Corral on Mondays, as an homage to Derek Hess’ Euclid Tavern Monday punk series that inspired him.
He also quit Hustler to work for Queer Television. Queer Television, the gay cable network?
“Exactly,” says Carnage. “It was this rising cable network that hardly anyone got to see.”
The “network” was nothing more than what is known on Wall Street as a “pump and dump” scheme – the shell of a company that floods the market with shares to stay afloat. Its stock traded at 0.0001 cents a share last week.
“I was hired to produce music and other segments; I worked on 60 hours of live television in three months,” says Carnage. “Except that the company was a scam and the network never got proper distribution.”
He knew something was fishy when paychecks never arrived. He knew the whole thing smelled when the entire staff was let go.
But where others would see ruin, Carnage saw an opportunity.
“I had this whole TV crew with nothing to do,” he says. “So I put them to work.”
Capturing talent on film
Rather than craft a script for his rockumentary, Carnage adhered to a strict strategy.
“I’ve always hated rock movies that try to take you backstage, into the lives of the musicians,” he says. “There’s nothing more banal than the life of a musician – I mean, look at Pink Floyd. They’re these boring guys who happened to make interesting music.”
Carnage went so far as to avoid leaving his own personal fingerprints on “40 Bands 80 Minutes!”
“I’m not really a director, per se,” says Carnage. “I’m just capturing talent on film; I want to be transparent, not visible.”
Kind of like a porn flick, where the script and direction are, well, let’s just say a bit minimalist?
“I appreciate the video production process,” says Carnage. “Because I’ve learned a lot from being around it.”
And from being around, as Carnage calls him, Mr. Flynt?
“He never really gave me any advice,” says Carnage. “He’s like a sphinx who gives you answers to questions you haven’t even asked – except his answers are always misleading.”
In those twisted words, Carnage sees words of wisdom.
“His constant irreverence is inspiring,” he adds. “He’s a hell-raiser’s champion who proves that, no matter what, you should do what you want to the maximum of your abilities.”
the il corral is an all ages venue in los angeles that frequently hosts some of the most mind-blowing music ever made. amazing artists ranging from the wistful folk of whitman to the dire noise of toxic loincloth can be seen rocking the house on a nightly basis. a small unassuming brick building draped in vines, it is also the site of a new movie called 40 bands 80 minutes, created and produced by sean carnage. i sat down with my computer and conducted the following interview with mr. carnage. enjoy!
although the title is rather self-explanatory, could you give a brief description of your new movie?
40 bands 80 minutes! is the story of one night in hollywood when over 40 cutting-edge bands came together and played two-minute sets on shared equipment. it’s was a life-changing experience, and we filmed it all for your pleasure. the 40 bands 80 minutes! dvd has 52 los angeles bands and performers, as well as commentary tracks, a photo gallery, and two behind-the-scenes movies that i put a lot of care into. i love live rock and noise, and i have not really ever seen these genres portrayed properly on screen. so i made my own movie.
was this completely your idea? if so, what possessed you to come up with something so insane? (in the good way)
this was a massive team effort, for sure. last winter, i was joking with stane from il corral (where the movie was filmed) about staging a concert with forty bands. i told him about 9/10/2001 when this tour called phi-phenomena with “10 bands in 60 minutes” rolled into cleveland. i also told him about an album “100 of the worlds most beautiful melodies.” that one has 42 one- and two-minute tracks of improvised weirdness. it’s pretty inspiring. so stane loved the idea but he wanted to have the bands play right after one another—fucking cool but not at all feasible in a place that holds 62! that’s when i hatched the idea of a movie. that way we wouldn’t have to all be there at the same time…
how did you go about selecting the bands to perform? were there any that you wanted to play but couldn’t make the cut because of logistics/time/etc?
i’ve been curating a cutting-edge music series every monday night at il corral, so i already knew a lot of the bands. as far as bands not being able to do it, i knew from the beginning i wouldn’t be able to get every great l.a. band because they are busy. silver daggers, knight rider and mika miko would be fun to video. maybe someday. but the main factor in choosing the bands was this: i was not planning to give mainstream alternative lifestyle writers and people who don’t actually care about music the “name” bands they were expecting. popular bands generate their own press, why not try to film something really fresh and spontaneous and new? that’s what i love about live music. it’s always new every time you see it.
are there any performances that stand out to you?
all the musicians played the best ever that night, which is what makes the movie: great performances. certain people surprised me—mainly because i had not seen them perform live too much: bizzart, unwrinkled doctor, dog shit taco, faux for real, slutty knuckles and bacon tears up business. but overall, i’d be hard-pressed to name favorites. they were all amazing.
what was it like on the night of filming? any problems?
well, we had a huge problem right off the bat: there was a massive thunderstorm at 5pm and we were scheduled to start at 6! california roads get so slick in the rain, i was worried about musicians crashing on their way to the show after work. fortunately, we only had one crash (the dude was okay). with 150 participants and 200 audience members involved it could have been a lot worse. fyi, we ended up starting at 6:30pm and we somehow got back on schedule and ended at the pre-designated time. it was a fast moving seven hours and we were done!
if 40 bands 80 minutes was a saturday morning cartoon, which one would it be?
captain caveman. 40 bands 80 minutes! is sorta like him—a megalithic joking doofus running around with a club, continually pulling outrageous objects out of his fur. it’s constant excitement!
has the public/press (the public who is unknowledgeable about the il corral) responded to 40 bands 80 minutes? if so, how?
the response has been overwhelmingly positive from nearly all corners. the national press and l.a. weekly are kinda like, “huh?”—they didn’t see this coming and now their pride is hurt and maybe they don’t wanna acknowledge it. or maybe they are afraid of music movies. i can’t say i blame them for that—it’s a dubious genre! or they are just moving really slow. or maybe these writers don’t look at their mail. that’s been a reoccurring vexation.
do you see this as a gateway to more films? if so, would they be more “rock-dox” or would you make a foray into fictional cinema?
i’m already planning a new movie called how to be bad: an l.a. to z guide for 2007. it’s gonna be another live event/movie hybrid with bands and artists illustrating all the ways you can be bad in l.a. i’ll leave the rest up to your imagination for now. narrative cinema… i’m gonna do it, but it would be nice to have a little budget, so we’ll see what i can hustle. i’m not a big fan of awkward “indie”-looking movies. if i made a narrative movie—even if i only had a $1000 budget—i would try to make it badass and dangerous. i like alejandro jodorowsky. somehow he did that. it takes planning.
what do you do when you’re not making amazing films?
haha i’ve only directed one movie! i’m always working on some project, even if it’s just a plan to go out and eat dinner somewhere tasty or whatever. i’m not a person who rests… even after i’m undead, i probably will keep scheming.
talk about the il corral
thanks to bob bellerue, christie scott, stane hubert and william burgess, l.a. has one of the freakiest and most amazing all-ages art/performance spaces in the world. they struggle constantly to keep that place going. it would really blow your mind if you saw what they go through on a weekly basis. so, go to il corral often. support them. and don’t forget to bring five bucks ‘cuz we can’t pay the rent with your empties. we’ve tried.
THE PEOPLE’S NOISE
By Natalie Nichols
LA CityBeat 11-09-06
All the maniacs: Il Corral’s Monday-night crowd
Ever browsed the club listings of your friendly neighborhood weekly and wondered about all those bands? How do they dream up their wacky names? And what the hell do they sound like? Watching the new documentary 40 Bands 80 Minutes is a bit like cruising the listings, with audio: It offers two-minute bits by a wild array of L.A. underground acts.
Director Sean Carnage captured it all on one night – Monday, March 6, 2006 – at East Hollywood performance space Il Corral. A longtime aficionado of experimental, noise, and just plain weird bands, he’s been hosting Mondays there since August 2005. The film – which premieres on November 19 and comes out on DVD two days later – features acts like Abe Vigoda, Veer Right Young Pastor, Creekbird, Toxic Loincloth, Bipolar Bear, and Christ With Braces, among numerous others. Perhaps most amazing, Carnage and his crew stayed right on schedule, rolling digital video cameras at 6:30 p.m. and wrapping up at 1:24 a.m.
“The movie is like a hologram, a reflection of all the different rock scenes I’ve been a part of over the years,” says Carnage, 35, who moved here from Cleveland in 2002 and almost immediately connected with L.A.’s avant-noise community after seeing free-jazz/improv guitarist Nels Cline. Our conversation reveals two surprising things: Carnage is a true believer in average people baring their souls through musical expression, and he grew up in Erie, Pennsylvania, same as me.
He’s proud that 40B 80M showcases a variety of styles – noise, punk, jazz, folk, and hip-hop – but if you aren’t at least willing to tolerate, ahem, often dissonant abstract sounds, you may not dig it. Otherwise, it’s bizarrely enjoyable to watch these youthful performers. They evoke ancient art-damaged styles like No Wave, free jazz, and noisecore, joining (unwittingly or not) a continuum incorporating such groups as the Velvet Underground, Sonic Youth, and Japan’s Boredoms. (And the Shaggs and Chicks on Speed, too.) A few have what most people think of as songs – including Erebus Nyx & Styx’s “13th Shovel” and a hilarious medley by new-wave-ish Faux for Real – but the uninitiated ear may strain to discern coherent melodies or even consistent beats. Never mind; that’s not the point.
As the chaotic parade – Bacon Tears Up Business (one-man funky electro), I Heart Lung (featuring guitarist Chris Schlarb, whose Sounds Are Active company is putting out the DVD), Slutty Knuckles (literally thrashing punk), on and on – rolls by, it reminds me of something … an attic far, far away, where college students make an unholy-yet-cleansing din on found instruments. A young man yowls, and suddenly the noise becomes the garage-rock classic “Louie Louie” – twisted nearly beyond recognition. These people, my friends, called this endeavor the Electric Ferrets. Years later, it was a real group (long story); back in the early ’80s, however, it wasn’t a band at all but a living entity of the moment. Ferret music was art, entertainment, rebellion, and don’t forget fun. It was a kind of happening – exhilarating to scary, but always cathartic. I could say I was more spectator than participant, but in truth no one merely watched the Ferrets.
Not unlike Carnage’s film. It’s Ferret music, outta the attic and into the crowd. Audience roils into band and vice versa, as the space overflows with bodies in motion. It’s anarchic, but friendly: As frenzied as the feedback and vocalizing get, the prevailing mood is giddy abandon, not growling anger.
Throwing off the bonds of convention is liberating indeed – if somewhat daunting to do in public. “These bands were really brave,” says Carnage, whose day jobs have included stints with porn companies and reality TV. In fact, colleagues from a defunct gay TV network contributed the professional video and sound work. “I couldn’t believe it when watching the footage – all these bands turned in some of their best performances that night.” (The DVD extras offer even more in the short 10 Bands 20 Minutes.)
Now busy promoting his movie, he hopes to continue celebrating underground music. “It’s a quintessential American art form,” asserts Carnage, who estimates the Il Corral scene at between 200 and 400 people. “There’s no other movement like it, where people are just regular Joes, bonding together communally to make art.” He even envisions a weekly TV show. (Reality television, indeed.) But for now he’s happy with his contribution to boundary-pushing. “I am pleased to be bringing all the maniacs together,” Carnage says. “Music just has gotten too normal.”
The intensely abrasive and experimental and wild 40 Bands 80 Minutes was directed beautifully by Sean Carnage.
We were lucky enough to have him hand over a Top 10 list that’s creative and insightful, and dare we say a little inspiring.
TOP TEN ANGELENOS THAT INSPIRE ME TO BE “BAD”!
After filming L.A.’s most talented musicians for 40 BANDS 80 MINUTES!, I want to push things further with a new movie—HOW TO BE BAD: AN L.A. TO Z GUIDE! It’s going to be an anthology of all the crazy and naughty things L.A. underground people do to keep their art flowing.
The following L.A. people inspire me to be BAD-ASS and to never, EVER give up:
1. Xin Sarith Wuku – Xin’s like the Picasso Bruce Lee of YouTube. Xin’s got real renegade style—a true artist who couldn’t come from anywhere but Southern California.
2. Treiops Treyfid – Treiops made baffling, futuristic D&D sounds with Pitchblende in the 1990s. Now he’s in L.A. and channeling the art scene, so watch out!
3. Retard Disco – Alex and Andy and their DVD/record label are superheros of everything young, hip, queer and ROCK!
4. Margot Totally Mag! – L.A. most inspired zine editor. Just when you thought nothing new could be done with a celebrity-worship magazine, Margot turns it all upside down with Totally Mag! Joyful and cheeky.
5. Ron Athey – Art becomes the body. An icon of the underground, there should be a statue of Ron in Downtown L.A. for all he’s done for artists and faggots and everyone else who detests the status quo.
6. Damon Packard – L.A.’s most compelling filmmaker. He’s filmed an underground movie inside Disneyland by sneaking and filming a little bit with every visit. Fucking incredible!
7. Nora Keyes – Nora Keyes’ witchy music is the soundtrack of L.A.’s seedy underbelly. She was once the singer of a critically-lauded band (the Centimeters), but her rotten aesthetic sensibility has only become more defined and pungent since going solo. With so much new music sounding so dreadfully normal, Nora stands apart.
8. Richard Hawkins – His radical zombie-head paintings are the apex of everything that’s hot about boys AND zombies.
9. Jeremy Scott – My boyfriend Richmond turned me on to Jeremy Scott’s designs. This guy’s a phenomenal, iconoclastic visual artist in his own right, and his fashion design asks permission from NO ONE.
10. Dennis Cooper – Bad-ass writing with boys, cyberpunk, and sleeze thrown in. Pure pleasure.