Thursday, July 9, 2009

Jason is Still Too Sexy for His Bike

Haikus to My Cell, My Liver, and Myspace, (and now Facebook)

By Brian Polk

"My Cell"
Ringing, oh ringing,
Talking and texting, enough!
I must kill my phone.

"My Liver"
Liver, I'm sorry
For the booze, if only you
Knew how fun it was

"Myspace"
I'm a little too
Old for all of this nonsense...
Comment me later?

("and now Facebook")
Facebook is Myspace
But for some reason it's fine
for grown ups like us.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Ways To Deal With the Total Implosion of Capitalism

By Nathaniel Albert Stone, Certified Financial Counselor


Concerned about the economy? Of course. We all are. What with massive house foreclosure, collapsing banks, rising unemployment, and a completely frozen international credit market, it’s hard to see how things can get much worse. Sure, we could devolve into a series of primitive fiefdoms, ruled by the strongest amongst us and forced to feast on the raw flesh of our neighbors in order to survive, but that’s a good year or two off. In the meantime, here are some ideas that can help you and your family weather these tough times:


1. Build an apple cart from wood stolen from abandoned loft construction sites. Sell apples. People can’t get enough apples. Pick out a jealously guarded street corner for your business, stabbing anyone who encroaches on your turf with a sharpened stake taken from a decaying McCain-Palin yard sign.


2. Grow out a rattail. Stroke it for reassurance every time you have to stand in line for unemployment benefits.


3. Become a 21st Century hobo, riding buses for free by dropping onto their roofs from highway overpasses, wandering from city to city looking for free wifi for your Nintendo DS, which you keep charged with homebrew batteries made from onions and vinegar.


4. Build a gigantic dam, creating thousands of jobs and millions of watts of energy while showing that fucking water who’s in charge around here.


5. Join the zombie army after they conquer Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma in early 2010. They have an excellent health p­lan and a really flexible comp time program.


6. Grow up a child of privilege on the East Coast but lose full use of your legs after an early battle with polio. Run for president and invent the modern social welfare state.


7. Put everything you own in a mattress. Stuff the mattress in a coffee can and bury it in your backyard. Have your house foreclosed on and lose your yard. Get shot by the National Guard when you try to sneak back into your condemned suburb to dig up everything you own.


8. Ask Congress to cover your bills.

9. Start practicing a folksy Midwestern accent and staring off into the dust-blown distance with nobly weary eyes. Learn how to play guitar. Write a lot of songs about “rambling,” “hard times,” and “punching a child in the throat to get the last bowl of soup after waiting in line for six hours.”

(Many more suggestions will appear in The Best of The Yellow Rake Book, out August 28, 2009)

Saved My Life

By Drew Smith

Suburban Home Records: Surviving the Record Industry’s Hardships with Grace


By Brian Polk

It’s hard to remember the last time anyone penned a success story about the flagging record industry. Aside from all the “vinyl comeback” articles that the major media outlets were all too eager to gloat about, any news over the last decade has been very bad news for most recording companies.

But despite the consumer’s dwindling interest in songs that aren’t free, there are exceptions to the downward trajectory of recorded music.

“Somehow, despite how shitty the industry is, we’re doing really well,” says Virgil Dickerson, owner of Denver’s Suburban Home Records and it’s online counterpart, Vinyl Collective. “The past year was the best year we’ve ever had in our 15-year history.”

Which is good news for at least someone in the business. But even though things may be rosy now, much like the overall picture of the rest of the industry, Dickerson’s professional life hasn’t always been so encouraging up to this point. “It has constantly been a roller coaster up and down,” he admits. But through it all, the 33-year-old, life-long punker somehow managed to never lose sight of why he started the label in the first place: unrelenting appreciation and devotion to the culture of underground music.

If you told the 20-year-old Virgil about how successful his label would become, he probably would have never believed you. Partly because it’s impossible for a college punk rocker to envision himself in his 30s, and partly because he was too busy putting together the first incarnation of Suburban Home, which was in the form of a fanzine.

“We put out the first issue of the Suburban Home fanzine on September 1, 1995,” says Dickerson with the obvious nostalgia it takes to recollect the exact date. “We first distributed it at a show in Denver at the Aztlan Theater. It was the first time I saw Pinhead Circus. I think they were playing with Mandingo and Schleprock.”

It was this show that he met a lot of the musicians that would impact the Denver punk scene for years to come, including members of The Facet and Pinhead Circus—bands that would wind up on the Suburban Home Compilation, Punk, It’s all about the Orchis Factor.

But Dickerson didn’t start releasing records until a year later, when he discovered the Raven, a small, all-ages club on Welton Street (that has since become the Climax
Lounge).

“For a time there, the Raven on a Friday night would have three or four hundred people. At that point—I don’t feel like it’s so much so now—there was such a big family of the bands and fans. Everyone would party and hang out together. I never thought I’d have a job doing anything like this, but I knew I wanted to be involved some way. That’s how the fanzine started. And that’s how I started Suburban Home Records.”

Initially the label was a testament to ‘90s style pop-punk, releasing Screeching Weasel-influenced bands like Overlap, the Fairlanes, and the Gamits. The aforementioned compilation even featured the likes of Digger and Blink 182—the latter of which, of course, went on to sell millions of records.

But in the early 2000s, when the popularity of pop-punk waned, Virgil’s musical tastes broadened beyond four-chord progressions and songs about girls. It wasn’t until he befriended and eventually signed the alt-country super-group, Drag the River, that he broadened both his musical tastes and the primary focus of his label. Though he didn’t know it at the time, adding the band to the roster would eventually open the door to signing much bigger acts, like Tim Barry, singer of the quintessential Richmond hardcore outfit, Avail.

However, “preceding that,” he says, “we had some difficult times.”

By far his biggest hardship occurred in March 2007, when sluggish CD sales in the pre-vinyl boom days nearly bankrupted the company. Dickerson downsized his staff and moved the operation into his actual suburban home. It got so bad he pleaded with his customers to help his struggling company by buying anything they could. “Then we just got so much support from people all over,” he says. “It helped us get through a
really tough period. Somehow after that it slowly got better.

“Coincidentally,” he continues, “working with Tim Barry and Drag the River and starting the Vinyl Collective was a whole new chapter for us. Since then every year has been better than the previous year.”

It helps that Suburban Home has been buoyed by the rediscovery of a long-dead music format and releases by more notable acts. However, it’s doubtful whether his company would have reemerged so successfully without the friendship-first, business-second approach Dickerson takes with all his bands.

“For me it’s really important that our relationship with our bands is strong,” he says. “Other labels treat it as purely business and don’t look at the personal aspect at all. But for most of us that get into this, we don’t do it because of money, we do it because there is that connection personally. It’s hard-wired into our DNA. I love all the bands we work with—not just musically, but as far as people go.”

It has been a long time since the owners of record labels have talked about putting the love of people and music before money. Similarly, it has been awhile since they were able to say the things that Virgil gets to say, like, “We’re going to put out more albums next year than we have in the past five years.” That’s also probably why there has been such a dearth of good news to report about the record industry in general.

Of course, when people like Virgil, who are in it for all the right reasons, have better years than money-obsessed phonies, the bad news might not be such a bad thing.

The White Man and the N-Word

By Brian Polk

The white man is angry. Somewhere along the line of historical and cultural evolution he lost profound rights and entitlements. No longer can he discriminate based on race, gender, or sexual orientation in the workplace. No longer can he preserve separate but equal restroom facilities. And worst of all, no longer can he use the n-word, despite its ubiquity in rap lyrics, stand-up comedy and popular sketch shows on Comedy Central. Oh white man, whatever will you do in such an unfair world?

So Fox News-viewers and right wing talk show hosts just can’t seem to fathom why they, as white men, don’t get to spout off hate-filled diatribes whenever they get the urge to do so, which I can imagine is quite often. These right-wingers claim that since the n-word is open game for African Americans, it should be open to bigoted white folks as well. After all, they’re only trying to create a fair and balanced society, right? They must have the noblest notions of equality in mind when they promote this issue, don’t you think?

I have to say, I have my doubts about their intentions. To me this issue isn’t about leveling the playing field, or granting equal opportunity for all; it’s more about a bunch of old white guys finding it increasingly difficult to hide their prejudice in a society of burgeoning tolerance. They’re tired of feigning open-mindedness so they yearn for the good old days when they could be much more public about their racism. In other words, they’re ideas and attitudes are becoming extinct, and boy are they pissed about it.

Also, I don’t think it’s unfair for edgy pop cultural shows like Chappelle Show or hip hop albums like Straight Outta Compton to make gratuitous use of the n-word. White people may have invented that word, but the black folks took it back. (Kind of like what the gay queero did with the words "gay" and "queero.") It is no longer a part of the dominant race's vocabulary. Whitey wins some and loses some, right? (Okay, mostly wins some.) But the white man lost this one, and I say good riddance.

But that's because I have never even considered using the n-word. And not saying it is no big deal really. It’s not like it was hard for me not to utter hate-filled remarks about an entire race of people. I made no concerted effort not to be an racist jerk. But there are still white guys that want so desperately to use say those words. Oh they want it so bad! But I suppose that’s really a personal problem. Socially accepted racism is going the way of the dinosaur, and only a real douche-arino would feel bad about that.

And no matter what anyone says, this is not a first amendment issue. No one is going to jail for being a backwards redneck. Some ignorant white guy may have a hard time finding a job because his views don't mesh well with those of open-minded folks, but that has nothing to do with the constitution (and everything to do with with the fact that no one wants to work with an asshole).

At some point in his life, the white man—and every human of every race, nationality, etc.—would surely benefit by realizing that it’s okay not to be racist. Some rights just aren’t worth having.

Jason is Too Sexy for His Bike



Fun with Haikus

By Brian Polk

Great God in the sky
You made humans to laugh at
Comedic genius

3:33 AM

By Drew Smith

I remembered my eyes / A stilled comfort
In cries / Inside the deep cuts that
Bled me dead / I said
I’ll miss you forever
I’ll see you tomorrow
That’s me in black
In the shadow left out back
Closer to you by time / Dragging me across
That line / Even after I’m reaching for
You in last night’s dream / And it drains
All over this evening / I know
I’ll miss you forever
I’ll see you tomorrow
That’s me in black
In the room I’ll leave dark
For when I’m silenced / for now / for how /
I carry me in my arms / This one’s lost
In your charming/ and smile / and shining
Your eyes / I’ll glaze over and
I’ll miss you forever
I’ll see you tomorrow
That’s me in black / the detached
Failing all over and over
Again/ My best friend / Again 3:33 AM

Because Bathing is Important



By Nate Stone

Deconstructing the Convenience Myth of Modern Culture: Adventures of a Great Degenerate in the Penal System

By Stephen Polk

A great degenerate hooligan strikes again.
Oh the depravity!
Oh the horror!

Wait a minute folks,
Just wait one minute.
A science of sorts is fermenting
In the mind of the deprived mastermind
Of a deleterious breed of human…

A cop
Oh yes, a cop of all cops…
A cop of science!

She has thrown away all
Of the archaic forms of
Humans past who have
Studied the past actions of
Humans
Into the trash.

Her mind is governed
By an almighty covenant
That dictates her actions…
A dictatorship of thought and action.

As she laboriously studies
The crime scene through
Her microscope of truth
Painstakingly examining every
Shred of evidence
In her state funded laboratory…

Our Great Hooligan’s
Mind Is Now Corrupt
Deprived Of Action
In His State Funded
Cell…
A Degeneration Of Thought And Action

The Horror!
The Depravity!

The one who Brought the World Back

By Drew Smith

Wasn’t for spite. Wasn’t to be the hero. It just came to him. From birth you could tell he was misplaced. He wasn’t supposed to be here. He wasn’t meant to feel this pain. He shouldn’t have to watch these people lie, manipulate, steal from, take advantage of, Hurt or Kill each other.

What the hell kinda place is this? Watch money become more important than life. Watch the T.V. tell them it was okay to be this way. Watch them become obese whilst consuming, consuming, consuming. Anything they get their hands on turns into MINE. Getaway. Give me yours.

And there aren’t any decent people left. Records show the last one died 81 years ago. The same day was born the one who Brought the World Back.

Through childhood troubled, picked on, and abused. And it made him stronger. Through adolescence tortured, alone and starving. And it made him think. Through adulthood grieving, lost and broken. And it made him hopeful. Now frayed, hopeless and fearful. 81 Years of a most unfortunate life.

With only one thing left to do. He raised his cane and struck it to the ground. While in the most compassionate voice he whispered, “Mother, let me in.” He fell into her arms, past time and beyond.

As a new piece to the earth, as sprouts a new tree. We are captured in our faith when surrounded by our Mother’s beauty. When we sit to the tree in grass high as knee, we hear the compassionate whisper, “Don’t forget me.”

I look to you all. From me you see. The most thankful tear this boy will ever weep. Down my face, it falls to the ground and with a hug to the tree. For there in my silence, I made my own special pact. With the one who brought the world back.

Stations of the Cross

By Jason Heller

Punk and radio always used to be at each other’s throats. Or rather, punk gnawed at the ankles of radio with puppy-force ferocity while radio marched on, pretty much unphased. Joey Ramone crooned “We Want the Airwaves,” and—like everything else the Ramones sang about wanting—it sounded like a joke. But it wasn’t. And they never really got those airwaves, at least not on the scale they’d wished for. (Though to their credit, I suspect most of them wound up sedated, sniffing glue, good boys, someone’s boyfriend, being well, living, not walking around with you, and having something to do at some point in their careers). Stiff Little Fingers’ “You Can’t Say Crap on the Radio”—for reasons as obvious as the song title itself—never shattered any chains of censorship or oppression. And the Clash lashed out against corporate media in “Capital Radio,” and again later in the aptly named “Radio Clash”—by which time they’d already had a top-40 American hit. And weren’t even really punk anymore.

Ironically enough, that Clash hit, “Train in Vain,” might have been the first remotely punk song I ever heard, even if it did sound more like a Stax tune. And I heard it, of course, on the radio. But to this day I wonder: What kind of frame of reference would I have had if I hadn’t grown up, hand on the dial, enthusiastically scanning stations for a chance to hear punk traitors like Billy Idol and the Go-Go’s and pretenders like Joan Jett and, um, the Pretenders? I mean, if “My Sharona” hadn’t been stamped on my forebrain since third grade, would “Going Underground” have resonated so deeply? I never used to think so, but the fact stands: the Jam is just a way, way better version of the Knack. Hardcore, of course, is another matter entirely—but 7 Seconds did do that kick-ass rendition of “99 Red Balloons,” and even Minor Threat covered the Monkees.

It might sound like I’m building up to a defense of punk rock on the radio in the 21st century. And in part, I guess, I am. After all, there will be those precious few kids listening to shit like Sum 41 who will wind up discovering, through these gateway punks, music much more subterranean and substantive. But I really don’t care. I barely listen to the radio at all anymore. And when I do, there are only two stations I can stomach: AM 1430 and 92.5 FM. KEZW and KDJM. “Your station for memories” and “Jammin’ oldies.” In other words, the easy listening station and the classic soul station, music for old folks and black folks, respectively. As a whippersnapper honky, I am plainly neither. And yet, these stations—this music—gets me. And I get it. On one hand, you’ve got Sammy Davis Jr., the Carpenters, Peter, Paul and Mary and Sergio Mendes. On the other, you’ve got the Gap Band, Donna Summer, Al Green and Al B Sure. Punks, as Aaron Cometbus once observed, have a lot in common with both old people and Jews. Similarly, 1430 and 92.5 appeal to me not just as a person, but as someone who loves punk. It’s way less commercial. It’s bound tightly in nostalgia. And it all sounds the same to the outside listener. And, like punk, cheesy ‘50s pop and slick ‘80s R&B have way more depth and sophistication than most people realize. Just listen to Eater or Bing Crosby or Cameo. Listen close. You’ll see.

But it’s more than just the music that attracts me to these radio stations. For one, the commercials don’t scream at you. In fact, there are way fewer commercials period, maybe because advertisers assume that their young/middle-class/white target market is tuning in to the anemic “modern rock” on KTCL, the smug, limp junk on KBCO, or the same Dire Straits song over and over again on the Fox. Even the DJs are better. On 1430 and 92.5, there’s nothing remotely resembling a shock jock. The on-air personalities are warm, friendly, almost soothing—and they know their shit about the music they play, rather than being picked out of a graduating class of broadcasting students drilled more in speech and marketing than any true passion for music.

But both of my favorite stations have something else in common, something that unites their seemingly disparate listening constituencies in a profound and fundamental way. I woke up this Sunday morning to the sounds of neighborhood kids yelling, lawnmowers humming—and Jesus. You see, I’d left the radio on KEZW as I fell asleep last night. And on this day of the lord, they decided to transmit the most wretched choir music, just like the crap you hear in big churches, with Jehovah’s holy light streaming in through the stained glass, conveniently looking past the groping of alter boys in the confessionals.

Pissed, I quickly spun the dial over to 92.5, hoping to clean that horrible taste out of my mouth with some Chic or Chaka Khan. But no. Instead, they were playing gospel music. And not good old gospel like Mahalia Jackson, but that slick, parody-of-itself gospel that makes the Blues Brothers sound like the Funk Brothers. As the praise reached a brain-frying crescendo, I slammed my hand down on the radio and returned my room to relative silence.

I was shattered. My two favorite radio stations—the ones that I’ve long ago reconciled and then proudly attached some essential part of my musical identity to—have more in common than just me.

It made me wish like fuck that I had some Crass handy.

The Bus Costs $1.75

By Charly “the city mouse” Fasano

As I wait at my bus stop I watch a hippie pray for peace in front of newspaper headlines while his dog shits on the sidewalk.

A less than clever con man is trying to sell a stolen car battery in front of a bicycle shop.

I see the 15 Limited straddle rush hour. I jumble through my pockets for bus fair.

It’s a hot day. The driver is out of transfers. The bus is packed. There’s no close like this. Passengers stand hip to hip, canned in transit up and down Colfax Ave.

We rattle past hotels with signs that lie about having clean rooms and cable TV.

Past the Guardian Angel headquarters that’s never open.

Past a hooker wearing a Broncos football jersey, sweatpants and running shoes. Only cops look like prostitutes in movies.

Home is getting closer.
The bell rings just before my stop on Downing St.

I swim through commuters toward the back door between excited junkies right after a methadone treatment.

I step over an ex con wearing court ordered jewelry around his ankle. He’s hitting on the lady sitting next to him. He’s trying hard to act like a free man.

I trip on an oxygen tank hooked to a man bitching about the price of cigarettes.

Down three steps
Out the back door
To the street.

How I get place to place is filthy. Jerky motions and smells tested me until I got here.

Times like these should never cost more than a dollar fifty.

Life's a Party: Salesman

I was on Air America with Janeane Garofalo

By Jason Flores-Williams

I was on Air America with Janeane Garofalo. The Republicans were coming to New York City. Our generation was giving birth to a new activism. I went off about the need to hit the streets. Next morning I woke up to 60 emails telling me that I should grow up, that I had no credibility and could go fuck myself. I was used to hate mail. Throughout the Summer I averaged ten a day from the Christian right. (Wild stuff about how I was going to burn in hell.) But these emails were from liberals. I talked with other activists about it and they weren’t surprised. Turns out that whenever there’s a whiff of movement in the air—liberals try and suppress it. The left starts to mobilize and a division appears between the progressives willing to fight for change and the flaccid liberals who would rather die than make a real statement.

I understand pulling back. This world beats the hell out of us and sometimes the best we can do is order Chinese and watch five hours of TV. But why would people unhappy with the Bush administration get bent out of shape with people trying to protest the Bush administration? I’m not only talking about hate mail. There was an article on Salon where allegedly noted liberals went out of their way to try and chill the RNC protest movement. More than once I turned on NPR and heard people dissing us.

The liberal complains that American society is apathetic, says the Bush Administration is disgusting, claims to recognize that there are profound systemic problems, but does nothing. The liberal stands by as people get beat up. They say they wish it wouldn’t happen, that the bully disgusts them, that the world has lost its way, but turn their back. Making this worse, if someone steps in and tries to stop the beating, tries to fight off the bully, the liberal analyzes the situation with big words and finds a way to criticize that person for taking action. The liberal defines the American left. These are the professors, the publishers, the main writers, famous artists, politicians, and hip professionals with money & access to the machine. Any time progressives rise up and manage to bring attention to our issues, these liberals immediately set out to marginalize us. They characterize us as angry and not to be taken seriously. They condescend to our grassroots efforts until a strategy works, then co-opt it for their own purposes. They condescend to our books and music until there’s some money to be made, then claim it as their own. The same applies to gentrification. The progressives add art to the neighborhood and respect the community, then the liberals move in with their money and sanitize out families who have been there for generations.

The accepted wisdom is that progressives have no choice but to serve as a kind of stepping stone to the liberal agenda. Our community building will always end up serving the Democratic Party. Every time we move into neighborhood like Williamsburg or the Mission District we can count on liberals taking over in five to seven years. The bombed out buildings we make into community art space must always become restaurants that only they can afford. I don’t think it has to be this way, but we can only protect progressive politics and culture if we recognize it. We are second-class citizens in this country. The liberals have cool careers in publishing and the arts. We work temp jobs and wait tables on them. The liberals make their money in politics, we go broke through our activism.

Our art, our convictions, everything we do dooms us to a life of frustration and struggle in America. Yet it is from progressive politics and culture that the best “liberal” minds are sprung. Progressives should recognize that they have different lives and make different choices than liberals. Progressives should stop identifying themselves as a subclass of the liberal establishment and more as the working poor.

This isn’t pie in the sky talk, this applies to the gentrification issues going down in Williamsburg. Acknowledge that there is a substantial difference between the progressive artist-activists who have made the neighborhood what it is and the wealthy liberals set to take over the waterfront development. I was living in the Mission District on 18th and Folsom in the early 90s. It was a great hood. Latino culture was thriving, there were community gardens, murals, and soccer games. And then the Silicone Valley boom killed us. The liberals moved in with their soul patches and SUVs and turned it into a white playground. They talked a good game about community and respect, but their words didn’t mean anything. The system was on their side. They weren’t about to do anything that was going to threaten their status. And as time went on, I saw that they were downright condescending to our beliefs.

The liberal hate mail I got during the RNC protest was a product of this division that has gone unspoken for too long. Liberal maintenance of the status quo—under the guise of us all being on the same team—has had too much input into the progressive fight. They’ve ruined our communities, watered down our culture. The point is to stop handing them everything on a silver platter, stop serving them dessert while they talk politics and ignore us standing there. The liberal loves to view everything from a safe distance. Revolution is supercool as long as it’s 90 years ago. Che Guevara is totally sexy as long as long as he’s played by that cute Mexican actor (and good and dead where the CIA buried him). Civil unrest is sooo necessary as long as it’s in an Eyes On The Prize documentary (and it’s not us but the blacks getting their asses bitten off). Latino culture is really awesome; go see Frida and Like Water for Chocolate (but get rid of the Mexicans from the neighborhood.) Those progressive activist artist people are so cute and edgy (but the waiters have such bad attitudes!) Orale, maybe it’s time we get in their faces a little bit. Start getting down with what’s going on right now.

Join the Posse

Stories that Someone Should Write Sometime

By Stephen Polk

A story about two old women who embezzle thousands of dollars by scamming their church bingo tournament over the course of 24 years in order to fund their healthy habit of pot smoking: Will they be allowed into heaven?

Lesbian puppy dogs and the epic journey to save their souls: Is our lascivious culture corrupting the once incorruptible?

The sexual adventures of a trucker, a nun, and an urban hippie in the backseat of your father’s new Ford: Who is filming behind the bushes?

Civilization: Who needs it?

Suburbanites struggling to find meaning beyond their material goods: An evolutionary miracle?

Sometimes I wish I were born a woman.

A woman tries to find a light switch in the dark but only finds a ham sandwich and is infinitely more satisfied … Is ham a nighttime meat?

Chickens and Roosters together at last: What is the fucking deal?

All’s fair in love and grade school sloppy-joe wars in the cafeteria: Is the lunch lady pregnant?

One man’s lust for “freedom” and the people who die as a consequence: Why does capitalism suck so much?

The domestic disputes of Jesus and Mary Magdalene: Can anyone argue the fact that marriage really sucks, almost as much as capitalism?

The disastrous, yet surprisingly humorous, follies of five guys who thought it was a good idea to stick their thingies in a hole in the wall: Would you do the same?

“The ‘Nutty’ Professor and His ‘Hard’ Working Students”: Is there educational value in pornography?

The Yellow Rake Number 16


Here is a mighty fine review from Profane Existence:

Link_to_profane_existence

ACRASSICAUDA: Sounds from Iraq


By Dave Paco

I came across a website one night while surfing around on the Internet that boasted Iraq’s only heavy metal band! I wanted to know more about the band and their background so I got a hold of them we did this little interview via email.

You call yourselves Iraq’s only heavy metal band. Is that a true statement and, if so, why? Is there much guitar rock in general happening in Iraq?

Yes, we are for now. There are a lot of guitar players but they have not got the chance to make a band because of the what the war left in Iraq.

What is your musical background and influence? What got you into metal?

We got into metal because we want to tell the world that there are people in Iraq and we still have a life and not all of us have the wrong idea about the world. Our background and influence is life and what we see every day and for sure the bands we like... All the band members have their own best, but I will say Slayer, Death, Slipknot, Metallica, Megadeth, etc.

What kind of venues do you usually play? Do you play outside Iraq?

No, we haven’t played outside of Iraq yet and the shows we make in Iraq are on our own. No one helps us do it and we do it because it’s the only way to express our anger.

Does Iraq have a strong local music scene or is most popular music foreign?

Iraq has that strong local music and that’s what really makes it harder for the rock scene.

Can you give me a description of your lyrics or tell me what some of your songs are about?

Our songs are all about the daily life in Iraq and all what we suffer from the war.

Many Americans are disgusted by the war in Iraq and don’t trust our president’s intentions. Do you feel Iraq is on the way to democracy and freedom or do you think America will retain some control of the government to protect its oil interests there?

In some ways Iraq is better now, but before we were afraid of one guy and now we are afraid of everyone. Before if you say any thing bad about Sadaam you will be dead, but now say anything bad about anybody, you will be dead...and it’s kind of funny.

Are you religious as a band or as individuals?

We are not extremely religious as individuals and one of the members is Christian. Also as a band the music we play deals nothing with the religion.

Do you feel that the current tensions between world religions could result in another world war?

No, not really.

Do you ever encounter discrimination because of the type of music you play?

People think what we do is devil worship but we don’t think that the people understand what it is really.

The World Wide Web has made many changes in communication and media. For instance, that’s how I became familiar with your band. Do you think these changes will greatly affect the music industry? How do you feel about people downloading music illegally?

For sure [the Internet changes the music industry], and people download music illegally. I am one of them because as you know not everybody in the world can buy a $25 CD just for listening. No, they shouldn’t [download illegally] but in cases like we have here in Iraq we don’t have a credit card or any way to pay off the internet so I guess the people who own these music stores or web sites, they SHOULD come and open music stores here in Iraq so we can pay them!

Do you trust the media in Iraq? Is there much connection between the local media and powerful companies or politicians?

No, I don’t think so but we don’t trust them because there may be some connection between the local media and terrorists.

Heavy music has long been controversial because of the sound and content. Do you consider heavy music as a positive or negative force in the world today? What has it done for you?

We consider heavy music as a positive force in the world. And it does give us that kind of space to express our mind.

Is Acrassicauda a full time project or do the band members also have day jobs? If so what do you each do for work?

It’s not a full time project because we have to work to support our families. We have every day a different job. I do work in a computer store and some of us don’t even have a job except playing music.

Is there anything you'd like to tell the readers?

We love rock and we think that it is that music that can change the world in many ways, so keep rock and be safe.

The band members:
1. Firas . bass player
2. Fisel . vocal
3. Tony . lead guitar
4. Ahmead . lead guitar & rhythm
5. Marwan . drum player

Our we site is: www.acrassicauda.s5.com
and the band email is: acrassicauda_metalband@hotmail.com
acrassicauda_metalband@yahoo.com
My Space: www.myspace.com/wwwacrassicaudas5com

(Originally published in the summer of 2006)

Who is This Ben Kronberg and Why is He So Funny?


By Brian Polk

Inspiring as much hatred, silence, and outright confusion as he does uncontrollable laughter, Ben Kronberg is rapidly emerging as one of Denver’s most promising stand-up comedians. With subject matter ranging from fast food and bodily discharges to angel abortions and testicular massiveness, the comic won the Comedy Works New Talent Contest as well as several other competitions not really worth mentioning. The love and dedication he invests in his craft is second only to the affection he feels towards his own penis, which is huge. Just don’t ask him what the phrase, “Through the trunk,” means … trust us on this one.
Recently, Kronberg agreed to an interview with The Yellow Rake, but refused to make eye contact or acknowledge our writers’ existence in public. Therefore the interview was conducted by his agent via the “Interweb.” We hope you enjoy it.

What type of psychological make-up must an individual possess to become a stand-up comedian? How did you get into comedy?

You have to be very repetitious and be able to constantly come to terms with the realities of comedy over and over again. The realities are: Every time is different, every crowd is different, you are different—even if you are saying the same thing you said last time. I think if you don't recognize the change in yourself then you might become a stale version of yourself. I got into comedy through music and music open mics. My mom bought me a guitar my last semester of college and I started making up songs. At that time, the songs were about terrorism and war and I parleyed my political songs into songs about poop, pee, semen, and McDonald's.

A comedian and a musician? If you were a candidate in an election year, you would be branded a “flip-flopper.” What gives?

I never set out to do comedy, but the natural flow of my creative juices happened that way. I still play "serious" songs, mostly by myself—to be serious by yourself is okay, but to try to be funny by yourself is sad. You need to be interacting with people to justify funny thoughts. You talk, they listen. You write, they read. You make, they watch. Joking with yourself is like masturbating in front of the mirror: Sometimes it's hot. Plus it's nice to see how you would look while having sex. Whenever I jerk off in front of the mirror, I pretend like I'm having doggystyle sex cause I'm standing up and that makes the most sense.

Do you think there’s a part of the brain that makes you want to become a comedian?

I think funny things might happen in the brain, but I think people who are really funny have it in their soul, just like people who like to kill—it's in their soul. The most extreme parts of any human are in the soul. So yes I would still be funny, ‘cause I'd be drooling and pissing and shitting myself. Retarded people are really good at slapstick.

Ever since you won the Comedy Works New Talent Contest, you’ve been doing unhealthy amounts of blow, jumping from one groupie to the next, and walking around like you own this motherfucker. Even though it must be nice to be a Mile High Comedic Celebrity, the chaos that has become your life can’t possibly make you happy. Could you please expound on your inner-emptiness?

You always want more: pussy, blow, peanut butter—there is never enough. The more you have, the more you want. I think not being satisfied is one of the keys to success. The emptiness that I feel lets me know that there is room for more stuff. I Love to eat, and when I indulge and eat a lot and feel really full, that's when I feel the most empty.

You also won the Denver’s Meanest Person Contest, which strikes me as odd, considering other Denver comics who are much bigger assholes than you (ahem, Greg Baumhauer, ahem). Are you a closet dick that only shines when the occasion calls for it, or what?

I have a dick side to me, and unfortunately it has nothing to do with my dick. I keep my hate for other people secret and repressed. Those other cocksuckers like to rag on people most of the time, which clears them out. So when my dick comes out, it can really shoot a big wad of angry semen.

Are your obsessions with McDonalds and poop directly related? Or are they separate entities each suitable for their own respective discussions?

I like things that are salty, and those two things are the saltiest things I know of. I would gladly humor any discussion about either of those topics separately or together. What I would really prefer to do is eat McDonalds with someone and then go poop next to them in a McDonalds, (If you know anything about McDonalds you know they only ever have one place to poop, no paper towels, and a scratched up mirror so the tandem poop wouldn't be possible. I’m a dreamer’s dreamer). And then we would talk about McDonalds.

I saw you almost get your ass kicked by a member of the crowd who happened to be a Mexican Veteran (perhaps you could expound on this). Obviously some of your comedy is offensive. Is it in a comic’s best interest to remain conscious of the line between edgy and distasteful? Or do you just go with what’s funny regardless?

Funny is usually the focus. Edgy and distasteful are ideas that get projected on the things we do/say. I've done most all of my material in front of my mom, and if she can take it but a Mexi-Vet can't, there is definitely something wrong with him. I think and believe that it is more important to do your comedy in front of people who aren't going to like it. It helps you grow and it helps them grow. I want the ideas behind my jokes to be bigger than the laughs they get. So even if no one laughs, they can't say that was a stupid idea.

Does rocking the Casio keyboard during your set make you Avant-garde or just badass?

I'll take the Avant-Garde over the badass. But if they are both up for grabs I think that would benefit me the most. A lot of comics will dismiss the use of an instrument as a prop, but then those same comics will say, "I have this idea for a song; I think it would be funny." And I'm like, "Yeah, totally," ‘cause I'm a nice guy.

(Originally published April 2006)

The Hirsute Herald of Happy Hooliganism: The Outlandish Antics of Comedian Chuck Roy



By Brian Polk

It’s 12:45am, Wednesday morning. A vast majority of Denver’s citizens slumber through the darkness in the comfort of familiar beds, blissfully unaware of the city’s burgeoning energy that refuses to subside. As the night thrives, so does its minions: strippers expanding g-strings to make room for dollar bills, cabbies waiting for their next fares, clubbers dancing to get laid, and of course, Chuck Roy verbally abusing every last patron from the stage of the Squire Bar.


For Chuck the night isn’t so much about comedy as it is hanging out with friends and socializing with his comedy peers. After spending the weekend at Comedy Works, opening for nation touring headliners, or closing the show himself, he needs time to relax. Unlike the open-mic comics, Tuesday Night at the Squire means nothing to him—it’s a peripheral grain of sand in an hourglass of comedy. He doesn’t come to this bar to improve his act; he comes to unleash his fury on unsuspecting alcoholics who wanted nothing more than to get a drink.


Although Roy’s open mic set would make any champion of political correctness cringe, the comic has a brighter side. A veteran of comedy, he spent the better part of his twenties chasing his dreams in Los Angeles, which resulted in an impressive resume: routine performances at Hollywood’s world famous Improv, several national tours, a two and a half year stint as the warm-up comedian on Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn, and guest appearances on the hit sitcoms Will & Grace and 3rd Rock From The Sun.


After several years in the industry, however, an embittered Chuck left Hollywood for greener pastures. Settling in Colorado, the comic eventually found a home as a featured performer at Denver’s Comedy Works and host of Film on the Rocks at Red Rocks Amphitheatre, as well as writer, producer, and emcee of his own comedy shows, Stand-Up Comedy Battles, and Yell Fest.


The Chuck Roy with a list of accomplishes a mile long in comedy, who habitually insults customers at the Squire Lounge, is a drastic departure from the Republican businessman of his earlier days. Working as an intern for Pat Buchanan’s 1996 presidential campaign, Roy began his political career as an eager, wide-eyed East Coast conservative. Though, after he helped successfully deliver the New Hampshire primary to Buchanan, Chuck’s desire to contribute to a blatantly homophobic campaign at the time when he was coming to terms with his own homosexuality diminished.


“That’s one of the reasons I got into stand-up comedy,” says Roy, who used the craft to purposefully distance himself from his Republican past. He never again became involved with politics.


Roy spent the next few years perfecting his new act in New England comedy clubs before following his dreams to Los Angeles. The move proved to be premature for the fresh comedian, who, “Went out as a kid and couldn’t stand it, so I turned around, went back to New Hampshire, worked on my act, worked in the Boston comedy scene.”


Not long after relocating back east, however, friends of Chuck convinced him to return to California, a move that would ultimately prove successful for the comedian. His accomplishments didn’t come overnight, however. In his first few months in Los Angeles, he routinely found himself in the audience rather than the stage.


“I came back just two weeks after [Will & Grace] started shooting their first season,” he says. “I would go up and watch rehearsals. I would go up and watch tapings and just sit in the audience. That’s where I learned how to do warm up by watching their warm up comedian.”


He didn’t last as merely a spectator for long. After playing a small role in a PlayStation commercial, Roy was recognized as a legitimate actor for hire and gained the attention of Will & Grace writers.


“Eventually Michael Patrick King, who was a writer on the show, had just heard enough about me and for some reason just wrote this part of popcorn vendor for me,” Chuck explains. “The script calls for three facial reactions and one line. And I told them I didn’t think the line was funny on the first day. And they told my friend, ‘If Chuck were to ever say that to another executive producer he’d be fired.’ And I told my friend, ‘Well if you going to hire a comedian, you might want to find out if the comedian thinks it’s funny.’”


Despite his defiance, “They stuck with me. I added a line and we shot. And the next week I was sitting back up in the stands, watching them tape. I never was one trying to push being down on the floor. Eventually I would make it down on the floor.”


Once he appeared on the sitcom, work came easy to the comedian. Managing the nearly impossible task of landing a television appearance without any representation, he acquired the Gersh Agency as his management company immediately. Almost overnight, he was meeting with casting directors and traveling from one audition to the next.

“It’s a process of where you get used to hearing ‘no,’” Roy admits of the seemingly endless auditions.

But he persevered and landed another guest spot on the show, 3rd Rock From The Sun, where he played the dull-witted son of Kathy Bates. And even though he was a virtually unknown actor featured in a guest spot on a hit television show—a blessing for any comedian—Chuck still took it upon himself to show up to rehearsal late and hung over. He eventually walked into a room with a conference table surrounded by increasingly impatient actors.


“Everybody’s gushing over Kathy Bates,” describes Roy. “Everyone was a little bit like, ‘When are we going to start?’ And when I come in, Kathy Bates yells out, ‘This must be my son.’ The trigger word for my character was, ‘Mama’ — this little retarded guy going, ‘Mama,’ all the time. So I went like, ‘Mama,’ and I gave her a big old hug and people laughed. We sat down. I’m next to Kathy Bates with Newman [Wayne Knight] on my right. Lithgow is on the other corner. Across the table is Jane Curtain.”


With acting experience under his belt, Chuck focused on his stand-up, performing regularly at Hollywood’s world famous Improv. Ultimately the comic would reach the crowning achievement of his career in Los Angeles as the warm-up act for the Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn, a job that led to his disillusionment and eventual departure from the west coast scene.


“Every one of my friends, especially in the business, especially comedians from back east had been calling me for months telling me, ‘Get the hell out of LA, you sound miserable. You sound horrible.’”


With a destination in mind, Roy planned to leave California in the fall of 2001.

“I flew home [from Denver to LA] on September 9th, 2001,” remembers Chuck. “On September 10th, I went to Kilborn, told the makeup artist, who’s my friend and Craig’s advisor, and told her I’m quitting. And I was going to tell him today. And she said, ‘Wait ‘till Friday. Craig doesn’t like that kind of news on a Monday.’”


After that Tuesday, however, Chuck never had the opportunity to talk to Craig about quitting. In fact, the events of 9/11 forced the weary comedian to remain in Los Angeles.


The same people that told him to leave LA, “Were calling pretty much right after 9/11 going, ‘You have to stay in LA. Keep your job. The cruise ships have shut down. All kinds of comedians are coming home. Any of the touring shows are gone.’ So I had to stay in LA for another year. It was the worst year in my life. Staying at this shitty job with this asshole star.”


Finally in late 2002, Roy left California for the Mile High City, an environment not necessarily conducive to comedy. Although he doesn’t audition for sit coms anymore, he seems comfortable in a town without an established entertainment industry. Since the stand-up scene is largely underground, it allows him the creative freedom to write and produce his own comedy shows. Roy also helps young comedians establish their own open mic rooms—even if his open mic sets are little more than cavalcades of incessant insults.


“When I first got here there wasn’t anything like that,” Chuck admits about the underground comedy. “All the old guys were pretty tired and negative about the way the industry was going and the scene. And I was like, ‘It’s coming here. They’re going to start coming so you better shape up.’”


Sacrificing the momentum of his career and snubbing the opportunities of Los Angeles, Roy enjoys his current situation. Not only has he rejuvenated the city’s veterans, he directs its novices, playing an essential role in the rapidly emerging Denver underground comedic community—a function the comedian no doubt finds satisfying.


"It was referred to me this week as DIY comedy: Do It Yourself comedy," Chuck says about the Denver stand-up community he helped create. "Hell yeah, that's what I'm about."


(Originally published March 2006)