Not So Worthless, Not So Reclusive: On Jandek

by Ben Arzate

In 1978, a mysterious album called Ready for the House, credited to The Units, was released by a new record label calling itself Corwood Industries. The front cover was a poorly lit picture of a brightly decorated room with no text on the front. Despite the name implying a band, the album was clearly done by one guy with a guitar.

Everything about the album was strange and off-putting; from its oddly mundane cover, to its lo-fi sound, to the seemingly out-of-tune guitar playing, to the strained singing of abstract lyrics. Even its final song, the most conventional sounding one on the album, cuts off in the middle of a verse.

The music could probably be best described as about what The Residents doing their own version of Nick Drake’s Pink Moon album would sound like. All the songs are a simple acoustic guitar and voice arrangement, except for the last song “European Jewel,” which uses an electric guitar.

It’s little wonder the album only sold two copies between the years 1978 to 1980 according to a representative from Corwood Industries. It did, however, catch the attention of another band called The Units who sent Corwood a cease and desist. After that, the first album was reissued with a new band name. It and all subsequent albums from Corwood are now credited to Jandek.

Eventually, radio DJ, music journalist, and outsider music connoisseur Irwin Chusid discovered the album. He wrote to Corwood Industries and received a phone call from the representative, Sterling Smith, shortly after. Smith was reluctant to talk about his personal life or even to refer to himself as Jandek. The advice and encouragement Smith received from Chusid was apparently enough to continue the Jandek project. Corwood released the second album, Six and Six, in 1981 and has been regularly putting out albums since.

Sterling Smith has continued to be very protective of his privacy and little is known about his personal life. For the longest time, he avoided interviews, though a few “off the record” ones ended up being made public. In some of these he revealed things like that his guitar tunings were intentional and it was tuned specifically for each song, contrary to the rumor that he didn’t know how to tune a guitar. He also revealed that name “Jandek” came from having a phone conversation with someone named Decker while he looked at a calendar in the month of January.

The music of Jandek has evolved over the many releases, adding drums and bass and sometimes going in radically different directions. Given how radically different the music already is, that’s really saying something. One example of this is his trilogy of a capella/spoken word albums, Put My Dream on This Planet, This Narrow Road, and Worthless Recluse, released between 2000 and 2001. I won’t lie, I haven’t been able to get through any of these albums despite some of the very poetic turns of phrase. Another example is The Song of Morgan released in 2013. This is a nine CD set with over nine hours of solo piano music.

However, not all Jandek’s work is difficult or inaccessible. For example, 2012’s Maze of the Phantom is a soothing, vaguely Eastern inspired album that fans of ambient music will certainly enjoy. 1982’s Chair Beside a Window, while still pretty erratic, is like a more lo-fi version of an early Velvet Underground album from the gentle and beautiful song “Nancy Sings” (one of the few times a guest artist is credited) to the pounding, angry version of “European Jewel,” which starts off where the incomplete version from Ready for the House cut off.

Jandek has become less reclusive over the years as well. While they still keep to themselves in regard to their personal life, they began making live appearances, the first being at a music festival in Glasglow, Scotland in 2004. Since then, they’ve done regular live performances as well as recorded live albums and DVDs. In fact, since 2014, all Jandek’s releases have been live albums and DVDs. They even starred in a short film which aired on PBS in 2014, credited as The Representative.

Jandek really is in a class of their own. Even as weird as many of their releases are, there’s an obvious passion and care put into all of it, they’ve gone through many creative phases, and there’s nearly nothing else that sounds like them. They’ve been putting out music for over 40 years and they don’t show any sign of stopping anytime soon. I eagerly anticipate seeing the direction Corwood Industries will take after the current live performance phase.

Paris Street Rebels – I Don’t Wanna Die Young/Freakshow AA Side – Music Review

by Bob Freville

I had largely given up on Punk ever since pop-punk acts like Avril Lavigne and Good Charlotte co-opted the label and bastardized it. But every now and again, I come across an artist that puts things right and calls out the many wrongs of the genre.

In recent years, acts like The Scrags and Whispering Sons have reminded me of why I loved Punk growing up. Embodying all of the cultural upheaval and working class outrage that made bands like The Clash and Fear so powerful and important back in the day.

Paris Street Rebels is one such act, a 4 piece outta Ballingfry, Fife, Scotland with enough chops to decimate a hibachi grill. Mashing up masterful melodies with snarling indignation, they bring the listener to a place where the forsaken meets exaltation.

Each towering track of disgust and unrest paints an indelible picture of the erstwhile misfit at odds with his own image. Whether they’re ruminating on the unfortunate role suicide plays in the collective rockstar mythos or reminding us of the true Punk ethos, Paris Street Rebels thrash like we haven’t heard many bands of recent vintage thrash.

“Freakshow” starts off deceptively familiar with standard brand riffing, but when Grant Malcolm and Kevin Murphy, Junior launch into their vocals we know there’s going to be something more in store. A schizo anthem meant to shed a light on mental illness, it reveals the imperative of being true to oneself even in an era in which artifice is rewarded and authenticity shunned.

As the band writes on their Soundcloud wall, “In a year you can complete your payments on that top of the range television set you always wanted. You could, if so inclined work your way towards social media saint hood or convince your employer you are appropriately obedient and inoffensive enough to be granted that 60p payrise unfairly withheld from you many times before.

“Over the last 12 months we chose another way. Bleeding over drum kits, mourning unused choruses and unfulfilled revolutions. Pacing relentlessly ‘Travis Bickel’ [sic] style in smoke filled council houses, contemplating violence. We did it for the glory, and weren’t in it for the money, which is a good job because there was none.

“We started this thing not to be accepted we couldn’t give a fuck at this point. We just knew we couldn’t live with keeping our mouths shut any longer. We are Paris Street Rebels this is Freakshow.

“Buy that television , earn that pay rise, if that’s who you are……but if it’s not….don’t pretend that you mean it.”

Lash your lobes to the sound of Paris Street Rebels here:​​​​​​

Beating on a Hollow Log with a Bone: A Conversation with Indie Rock Veteran BillyDave Wammo

By Bob Freville

In 1997 I was fishing through a used CD bin at my local record store when I came across an album with song titles like “Homage to the Ramones,” “This May Sound Kind of Weird” and “Children of the Corn Nuts.”

As a lifelong Ramones fanatic and fat little weirdo, I was immediately drawn in, both by the song titles and the wild cover of a snarling, bearded face emerging from the chest of a boy in a Batman costume. The album was Fat Headed Stranger and the artist was Wammo.

The bizarre and relentless melange of indie rock, thrashing guitar cords, wild verbosity and general dissonance had my head spinning over and over again. It got to the point where I wore my CD out from having it in constant rotation.

Alas, the Fat Headed Stranger was the last time I would hear from Wammo for quite some time. It wasn’t until years later when the Internet grew into the encyclopedic behemoth that it is today that I got another taste of the man and his maniacal brilliance.

Thanks to platforms like the once-great Morpheus and then YouTube I discovered Wammo’s other projects. As it turned out, Wammo had continued to churn out a variety of raw jams with the aid of Asylum Street Spankers, an Austin rock band that blended blues, folk and other weirdness into a humorous stew.

In 2011, they were honored with the 10th Annual Independent Music Awards’ Gospel award for God’s Favorite Band, a title whose irony couldn’t have been lost on Wammo and Co. The band released 16 albums between 1995 and 2014 before Wammo called it quits.

Since then I had gone searching for the Fat Headed Stranger on YouTube and similar sites, but the most my searches yielded were a few clips of drunken live performances, each of which made my black heart yearn for more of the man behind Faster Than the Speed of Suck.

Fortune smiled upon me when I recently punched his name into Soundcloud on a whim. My bloodshot eyes were met by a strange sobriquet…none other than BillyDave Wammo. What awaited me on his page made my fat heart swell to the point where I had to pop an extra Metroprolol with my mid-afternoon lager.

The Fat Headed Stranger was, indeed, alive and well, kicking out the jams like they raw dogged his best friend’s sister. There are so many saucy tracks that I don’t even know where to start (“Smokey & the Band Itch” obviously), but I’ll lead with this—BillyDave Wammo is muse-sick at its finest.

“I Couldn’t Be Happier” finds the songwriter losing his shit over his inability to choose a stripped down approach to crafting a simple song. In it the listener gets all of Wammo’s trademark manic energy along with a humble tribute to the musical greats of old.

“Trash” is another example of proto-Wammo weirdness with an acoustic intro spazz-out that segues into electronic Gonzo, eventually delivering some of his smoothest vocals to date.

“I Never Liked Bob Seger” recalls his debut album’s meditation on the superfluity of Charles Bukowski while “I Got Your Pipeline Right Here, Pal” evokes Beck at his early, crunchy best. It is also one of his trippiest and most savage joints since Fat Headed Stranger.

The refrain of “More me and less of you” perfectly sums up the agenda of America’s leadership. “BURN ALL COPIES” is equally weird and relevant in its send up of our times.

There is something decidedly bohemian about Wammo even while he lampoons the bohemians and the bureaucrats alike. His lyrics and spirit drip with a good-humored sarcasm that seems to betray a very authentic patriotism.

The austerity of the songwriter is evident in his choruses, especially when you crank “Smokey & the Band Itch” and he jaws about the simple things in life, like knockin’ boots with ice cream sandwiches.

Whether riffing on the golden age of blues or the syrupy sounds of Sly & The Family Stone, Wammo takes us on a thrilling trip through the Great American Songbook with attitude and humor to burn.


That attitude and humor is a mainstay with BillyDave, an awesome cloud that never lifts even in conversation. As I noted when we finally sat down to shoot the shit, Wammo is always fired up.

Bob Freville: So first things first, I fell skull over skater shoes for your album “Fat Headed Stranger” when I was a teenager and it’s one CD that was on such constant spin that it literally scratched itself up, as if to tell me to take a break from your particular brand of madness. Would you say the spirit of that first album is a through line in all of your music to date? I feel like your Soundcloud track “Trash” is definitely cut from that same cloth.

BillyDave: First of all, thank you for listening to my work. In this age where everything everyone creates (or even anti-creates) is so instantly accessible, it means a lot that anyone is paying attention to what I do. The roots of “Trash” date back to my old band, Clang, that performed around Austin in the late ‘80s.

Don’t look for any recordings. We cut a 4-track demo once but I don’t think you can find it anywhere online. There was another band called Clang that showed up later. Maybe they have some recordings you could listen to and think of me.

As far as Fat Headed Stranger being a “through line” for all of my music, I don’t have the foggiest notion. Making that record was such a strange experience. The head of the record label was constantly and aggressively trying to edit my writing throughout that process. I love that record but I had to make quite a few compromises and cut some of the songs and/or poems that I thought truly belonged there. That doesn’t take anything away from the finished product, I still dig that album.

Obviously you were part of the 90s music scene in Austin, a place that’s still recognized as an aural hub today. When did you decide to leave that scene and why? I understand you live in Pittsburgh now.

I left Austin in 2011 because my wife (at the time) had a business in Pittsburgh and my band had broken up. Now she and I are split but my daughter lives here, so here I stay.

How does the music scene in PA differ from Texas? Is it better or worse in any ways?

There is no local music scene in Pittsburgh, as compared to Austin. It’s pretty much impossible to make a living in this town as a musician, unless you work for the symphony. It’s very much a sports town. That doesn’t mean there aren’t some cool bands from this town, it’s just that most of them aren’t getting paid shit.

I knew you as Wammo back in the day, but now you go by BillyDave Wammo. Was there a conscious rationale behind the name expansion?

Yes, there was…

Another of your more recent tracks that stands out to me is “I Couldn’t Be Happier.” It seems to be the one Wammo song, save for your Batman tribute from years ago, that really serves as a tribute to the musical greats of yesteryear. How did this song come about? I’m very curious to know more about your creative process, especially as it concerns a song that’s so self-deprecating about that process.

I belong to an online songwriting group, we get a prompt once a week and we use that prompt in a song. It’s a lot of fun. That piece came from the prompt, “looking for a fight,” plus you got extra credit that week if you screamed. I recorded all of the vocals for that piece in my car.

I was in a CVS parking lot when I got the email containing the prompt, so I improvised all of the vocals right then and there, sitting in the driver’s seat. The funny thing was, there was a cop standing outside the drugstore. He was looking right at me while I was screaming like a maniac into my phone. I thought I might get busted for being a lunatic. He looked rather concerned.

Some of your newer stuff is a little darker and more savage than your earlier work. I’m thinking of “I Got Your Pipeline Right Here, Pal” and “BURN ALL COPIES.” Is that just symptomatic of the age we’re living in or was it a choice you made to mix things up?

Everything I create is a reflection of where I am at a specific moment. I don’t do a lot of editing. I make choices on the fly. Pretty much everything I do stems from improv. I am very much a “lightning in the bottle” kind of guy. Burn All Copies came from a collaboration I did with my buddy, Bruce Salmon, who played guitar in Clang. He’s the one who got me into the songwriting group, then we collaborated on “Burn All Copies” for that group. See how things come full circle?

I know you’re big on impromptu performances, having caught a couple of your live gigs on YouTube. And your music has always smacked of a certain spontaneity, but you also strike me as a dude who’s way too smart for that not to be at least a little bit artifice. Do you really sort of riff and freestyle or does your music take time to incubate?

First of all, fuck you for making me look up the definition of “artifice.” This is the part of the interview where I would write “LOL”, if I did that sort of thing.

I improvise a lot. When I actually write things down, the words usually come to me in a flurry. I very rarely edit my work. Usually I am taking dictation from some twisted voice in my brain. As far as writing music goes, I have quite a few different processes. Sometimes I’ll get an idea and sing it into the voice memo app on my phone. Sometimes I’ll open up GarageBand, record something real quick and set it aside for later. Other times I’ll start and not stop until the deed is done.

What is the worst gig you can remember? Please describe if you can.

Dude. There are so many. Listen to “Gig From Hell” by my old band, Asylum Street Spankers. I wrote a major chunk of that piece.

As a fan of your diss tracks where you take people like Bukowski and Bob Seger down a peg, I’d love to know who you think would win in a cage match – Hunter S. Thompson or Ted Nugent?

My friend and fellow poet, Danny Solis and I used to play that game all of the time. “Who would win in a fight between Godzilla and 50 foot tall Shelley Winters?” As far as Gonzo vs. The Nuge goes, it really depends on what they are allowed to bring into the cage. If firearms are allowed, it’s pretty much a dead heat. If they are armed with only a pen, I’ll take Thompson by a mile.

As far as “diss tracks” go, I usually don’t give a hard time to anyone who’s work I don’t respect in some form or another. Sure, I might give Bob Seger some grief but I also dig some of his songs. I really took the piss out of Billy Idol on Fat Headed Stranger but that’s because it was the punk rock thing to do. In my generation, it was uncool to express admiration for any artist that made obvious moves to gain commercial success.

Don’t get me wrong, that first Generation X album kicks ass. It still holds up as a great rock ‘n’ roll album. I just couldn’t say that after Billy became a solo hit on Mtv. Check out the Gen X album, BBC in Concert (11 May 1978). Man, they sound like cousins of The Damned.

I can talk about it now but there was a time in Austin where everyone was so punk rock, anything you were excited about was treated with disdain by your peers. You couldn’t say, “I love Black Flag” or “I hate Black Flag” or even, “Fuck Black Flag.” You could only say, “Black Flag.”

You’re one of the most colorfully literate rock songwriters I can think of. Would you say literature is as important as music? Should millennials be grabbing an eBook of “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” instead of downloading Yeezy’s new album on iTunes?

I haven’t read that book and I’ve never heard that artist’s music, so I am at an extreme disadvantage to that comparison. That being said, both music and literature are equally important. There really is no way to measure one against the other. They flow together and fight and make love and piss each other off and make up again.

There has always been someone trying to get attention by pounding rhythm on an instrument and there has always been someone trying to get attention with whatever verbal bullshit they can come up with. You know there had to be a caveman, who was trying to get a cavewoman to sniff him out by grunting whatever syllables he could muster and at the same time, there was another guy beating on a hollow log with a bone, vying for the attention of the same cavewoman. Of course, it might have been the guy painting on the cave walls that ended up winning her burning glance.

Are ice cream sandwiches really one of life’s simple pleasures? Are they enough to sustain life?

I don’t know if one can live on ice cream sandwiches alone and I don’t think I want to try but they certainly are a wonderful invention.

What would you say your proudest moment as an artist has been?

That’s a tough one. Once I brought a child into the world, I experienced pride in a different way. There are so many incredible moments I have experienced as an artist, it’s difficult to say which has affected me the deepest. Some that come to mind are: coming 0.2 of a point from winning the first National Poetry Slam I ever attended, finishing the two-year recording process that became Faster Than The Speed Of Suck and receiving an award for a drawing I made in second grade called, “The Meanest Man In The World.”

What have you got going on right now? Are you putting out another album or doing any interesting collabs at the moment?

I’m doing a lot of acting at the moment. I just finished a play here in Pittsburgh and I will fly out to LA to do a TV show in January. It’s really difficult for independent musicians to make a living nowadays. Music is essentially free but that’s not gonna stop me from making it. I play and write music every day and probably will continue until I die or go deaf.

I make a lot of visual art but I try to keep that out of the public eye most of the time. It’s really personal to me, which strikes me as funny. I have no problem making an ass of myself or bearing my soul on stage but when I paint, it’s usually just for me.

Thanks for flappin’ jaws with the Motorist, BillyDave. I’m diggin’ the new stuff, brother!

Thank you for listening.

Like and share this post and your future will be full of ice cream sandwiches.

How Krimzon X Gets into Character for Halloween

By Bob Freville

It’s October 31st, 2012 and the rapper [then] known as King Krimzon is out on parole. After refusing to pay a ticket, the law catches up with him…at one of his wicked stage shows. The police arrive in Halloween costumes and promptly arrest the Maestro of Murder Rap. As he’s led off in cuffs, the crowd mistakes the whole thing as part of Krimzon’s performance and applaud accordingly.

It’s the kind of confused hysteria that seems to haunt Krimzon, a hysteria that he seems to thrive on. For a lot of people, it would appear that King Krimzon was born from the hysteria surrounding his appearance on Dr. Phil in 2017, but the Detroit musician has actually been touring for years and slowly building a rabid fan base.

After the British prog rockers King Crimson served Krimzon with a cease and desist over the use of the King moniker, King Krimzon died. But from his ashes Krimzon X rose like the mighty phoenix and today he’s ready to rip doors off their hinges with a host of forthcoming music videos and loco-as-fuck live events.

The man behind the music is an anomaly; on one hand, he’s a face paint-wearing Juggalo-baiting B boy, but on the other he’s a preppie dude who rocks UGG hats, vests and khakis. This marriage of the macabre and the mundane has caused many to cringe which might upset a lesser artist, but Krimzon X is very much in on the joke.

In fact, it could be argued that the cat behind “Trap Rap Killaz” is actually inverting the joke by dismantling the gangsta rap image and effectively laughing all the way to the bank. This is a man who trademarked #CringeGang after all.

Having signed with Houston-based hip hop label Dope House Records, Krimzon X is poised to pulverize the indie music scene with some of the slickest and sickest “black majik murder musick” this side of the Necropolis.

I hit Krimzon up to chop it about our favorite holiday and find out what the founding member of the Cringe Gang has to say about his infamous HellaWeen shows. Here’s what he had to say about how he gets ready to step out on Samhain (that’s Halloween for you white bread types).

“I usually take 10 hrs setting up stage show along w 2 hrs prep time for my outfit and makeup and i try to come w a scary style look w my contacts along w my own preppy grunge style.”

“I design my own props on drywall stilts so i have 8 foot monsters on stage walking w huge faces and creature hands and a stage show that fits the music.”

It’s this kind of DIY attitude that has set Krimzon apart from similar acts on the underground rap circuit. Krimzon’s roll-up-your-sleeves work ethic and attention to detail doesn’t so much recall Twiztid or Wu-Tang as its does Rob Zombie or Alice Cooper.


I ask him what song of his he would choose for a Halloween playlist and why. He responds without hesitation and his answer shows a humble side to the hellacious hip hop star, one that isn’t stingy with props for his fellow artists.  “Twiztid featuring Dayton Family,” he says. “‘Sex, Drug, Money and Murder.’”

But just because he’s humble doesn’t mean the man behind “You Don’t Know Me” has gone soft. On the contrary, he can prop himself up as much as his peers. When I ask him why Halloween is important to him, he says, “Halloween is my favorite because I bring the wickedness to Halloween and bring in a great Halloween show.”

That’s the truth, Ruth. And if you have any doubt, just peep his official YouTube channel or lash your lobes to the murderous lyrics of his music on Reverb Nation. In joint after joint, Krimzon proves that he’s more than just the purveyor of cringe. He’s also a stone freak with a satchel full of fire.

This holiday season, keep things spooky and sick with some of Krimzon X’s premo musick. And follow him on social to find out when he’ll be haunting your hood.

Like and share this post or we’ll steal your soul and sell it on the Dark Web.