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Friday, July 31, 2009


No, really! What's on your mind? Are you picking up what we're laying down in our not-so-spare time? Or laying down what we're picking up? Let us know - we're not going to be updating Ill With The Composition again for a week or so, and we'd love to hear from you. All of you! Seriously.

ILL RE-BRANDING PANGS: Is It Too Late to Rename This Blog?

This song should be paying rent in my mind, this week; it's got me seriously wondering whether I should re-christen this blog "Ballin' Ain't A Problem." (HT to Nah Right.)

Thursday, July 30, 2009

ILL AMERICAN IDOL FOLLIES: Kara DioGuardi Survives to Judge, Annoy for Another Fucking Season of "Idol"

It's possible that someone, somewhere, reading this post really enjoyed Kara DioGuardi's stint as an American Idol judge, earlier this year. You - the royal "you" - felt that she brought a touch of gravatas and sassy spice and music-biz insider heft to a judges' panel consisting of a curmudgeonly (if consistently on-the-money) grump, a vapid, catchphrase-recycling fool, and a pop has-been whose diction is increasingly labored and robotic, at best. Perhaps you were charmed, during the eighth season finale, when she got on stage with Bikini Girl and ripped off her dress. (We were not charmed. Rather, we were chagrined. Perhaps we're just old.) It's possible that you were driven to sympathy as audience shenanigans and between-judges sniping in the press rattled the former aspiring songbird and songwriter. Maybe you said some prayers because you'd heard that Kara wasn't coming back to Idol; more likely, you popped open a bottle of Carlos Santana champagne. Well, she's back, snitches - and, meanwhile, Paula Abdul hasn't re-uped her contract. Which pretty much portends a totally unwatchable American Idol Season Nine, in our (admittedly jaundiced) view.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

ILL ESOTERICS: A Fingernail Sale


A few weeks ago, my wife, noticing that I had not trimmed my toenails in some time, suggested that I sell them to Macy’s for rich, old ladies to use.


“That’s what I used to do in middle school to make spending money, except that was fingernails, not toenails.”


She told me that she sold her fingernails to Macy’s—not just shreds and clippings, but inch-long segments, trimmed off at her fingertips by qualified Macy’s personnel. Macy’s would pay her a pittance for these keratin-based cleavages, and shape and re-sell the nails to those who could not or would not grow their own.

So there were these women, I imagined them sipping champagne at cocktail parties, wearing fur coats, and, more absurdly, a twelve-year-old’s fingernails.

The fingernail.

grow at a rate of approximately 0.1mm per day, four times faster than toenails, although the exact rate of growth depends on numerous factors, such as nutrition, the age and sex of the individual and the time of year. Fingernails grow faster on young people, on males, and in the summer.

See? Look closely.

Oh wait, look at this one—on a right-handed person, the fingernails on the right hand grow faster.

"For three days after death, hair and
fingernails continue to grow, but phone calls taper off." - Johnny Carson

Fingernails do not continue to grow after death—that is an illusion caused by the dehydration of the body after death—the skin pulls back, revealing more nail.

In their 1984 book, ‘
Rumor!’, Hal Morgan and Kerry Tucker debunked a 1960s urban legend that Revlon was paying ten dollars for nails over an inch long. My wife notes that she was paid nowhere near ten dollars a nail. Similarly, the Urban Legends website claims that the fingernail sale rumor has been debunked. Has it now? Well, my wife debunks their debunking. So there.

Body brokers, often working on the grey market fringes of funeral parlors, crematoria, and willed-body programs, 'disarticulate' acquired bodies and sell their parts to medical equipment corporations, pharmaceutical companies, and surgery training programs.

One such body broker, Allen Tyler,
sold surplus body parts from the University of Texas Medical Branch's willed-body program. Over a period of three years, Tyler sold more than a thousand body parts belonging to the university—heads, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes—and earned upwards of $200,000, according to the FBI. Between November 1999 and August 2001, from fingernails and toenails alone he made at least $18,210. Tyler received $4,005 in one such transaction—payment for 232 fingernails and 35 toenails at $15 each, according to Tyler's records.

After reading that, the title "Department of Human Resources" gives me the creeps.

Macy's neglected to respond to my queries regarding history and prices of
their fingernail market, and my wife suggested that the activity may not have been sanctioned by corporate Macy's policy, but may have represented a shady local underground.

So there is a supply, but where is the market for human fingernails? An Observer article from November 2002, in discussing the human body parts trade in London, references the use of fingernails and toenails in making voodoo poisons. In a related story, I recall my mother cursing my father when he forced her, as his new bride, to clip his toenails. Well, in all fairness, although toenails were not specifically cited in their marriage vows, she did promise to love, honor, and obey. Had my mother been familiar with voodoo practices, no doubt she would have subsequently used my father’s toenails as an active ingredient while making the meatloaf he forced her to cook.

(Interesting note: You can donate your hair to make wigs for people who’ve lost theirs to chemotherapy, but you can’t write off the donation on your taxes, as the hair itself is considered value-less. However, the person buying your hair-wig can write it off as a medical expense. In summary: hair itself is not a commodity, but a wig made from hair is. I venture that there is no commodity version of fingernails.)

Then, there's the biggest nail sale of all—in December 2000, world-record holding creep Shridhar Chillal sought to
sell the nails from his left hand, which ranged in length from 40 to 52 inches, to a total of 226 inches. Even if Revlon’s rumored rate was ten dollars an inch rather than ten dollars for ‘over an inch long,’ and assuming they had any use whatsoever for Chillal’s horn-like nails, he would have brought in only $2,260 for his forty-eight-year effort, which calculates to an annual accrued income of $47.08, about half a cent per hour of growing time—far, far less than he earned as a photographer, or through appearances as a professional freak. In fact, Chillal felt that his due was two orders of magnitude beyond the ten dollar an inch asking price. Reportedly, he wanted to sell his wares for at least $200,000 (a mere $4,167 per year, or 48 cents per hour—a relative bargain). So far, no eccentric millionaire has stepped forward to purchase Chillal’s clippings to place in his collection of famous body parts. Surely, he could sell them online ...

In fact, fingernails do
apparently pop up from time to time on murderabilia sites like and supernaught—auction sites for collectible ephemera associated with serial killers and other famous murderers. If someone, or rather many people, were to trip over Chillal's nails, fall down a flight of stairs and die—perhaps then he could get some return on his investment. A shame, but sometimes you have to work a little harder in a niche market.

Now, I've never killed anyone. Maybe a spider or two, but I don't think that counts. Could I sell my fingernails?

I checked eBay's policies and found that they
prohibited me from doing so: "Humans, the human body or any human body parts may not be listed on eBay." Oddly enough, just under this, it says: "Virtues: eBay does not allow persons to offer or list human virtues such as their virginity or companionship on the Indian site" (italics mine—emphasis presumably theirs).

So no eBay, but there's nothing that prohibits me from selling my fingernails at a live auction.

<bang bang>

"Anyone want to buy my fingernails?"

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

ILL E-LIST INFLATION: Kevin Federline Is Crazy Huge

Hugely popular, that is! Among TMZ reporters, the delusional, and back-up dancers who aspire to knock up pop princesses. Wait, what did you think we meant?

Monday, July 27, 2009

ILL SUSPENSION OF DISBELIEF: Somehow, We're Missing Rick Yemm


As even casual Ice Road Truckers viewers will admit, Rick Yemm is an exceptionally easy guy to loathe. He's cocky. He's confrontational. He's arrogant. He habitually refers to himself as "Ice Road Rick" - with declarative, defensive emphasis, so it comes out like "I'M ICE ROAD RICK!!!" - a sobrequet he probably employs, shamelessly, as a pick-up line. Now, admittedly, hauling massive, oversized loads over slick, icy roads and frozen-yet-melting oceans requires a certain degree of self-confidence and ego; the men and women featured on this show are all slightly cracked. But most of them are able to keep their insanity in reserve, interacting easily with the paternaturally mild-mannered managers and supervisors whose jobs depend on their ability to coordinate the transport of trailers and humongous tires and machines as big as a McMansion through snow squalls and windstorms. Rick Yemm, on the other hand, drives these overseers to uncharacteristic fits of pique and violence - which might help explain why we haven't seen him on the current season of Ice Road Truckers. This season, the producers have shifted the action from far-flung Canadian ice-oceans to treacherous, winding mountain roads in Alaska; they've brought back gruff polar-bear Hugh and wisecracking salt-dog Alex (who was sidelined by medical issues halfway through the previous season) while introducing several new drivers. What this season really lacks is an anti-hero, an antagonist, some rancor. (Danger isn't enough; the show makes sure to drive home the point that these drivers are liable to slide off road and die in a cataclysmic fireball at any moment.) Ice Road Truckers needs Rick Yemm, if not a qualified substitute. Rick Yemm taunting cooll-hand-luke Jesse, chatting up thrill-seeker tomboy Lisa, swearing at hapless mechanics, freewheeling recklessly down dangerous grades, and just being the hardheaded jackass we love to hate.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

ILL MP3: Apes In The Aviary Would Like To Tell You An Amusing Story About A Cowboy

When Ill With The Composition editor-at-large Thom Hawkins and old pal Tim Cunningham write songs and perform together, they call themselves Apes in the Aviary. The duo were kind enough to contribute the first entry in our IWTC Original Pop Series. Click here to download/listen to "At The Rodeo"!

Friday, July 24, 2009

ILL MUSICAL MADELEINES: New Order, "Subculture" (c. 1998-1999)


My undergrad senior year was an emotional horror-show on more levels than I can accurately articulate now, a decade-plus after the fact. I went for long, brooding walks, at all hours, because I rarely slept. Really, where to begin with that year? The scabbies plague? The crushing, immobilizing lethargy? The relentless loneliness? The all-encompassing certainty that I was destined to flunk Logic (a math requirement, Philosophy-major must, and graduation get-out-of-college-free card, all wrapped in one)? The very-real fear that four years of liberal arts education, most of it wasted on campus publications no-one read, would not lead to gainful, satisfying employment? I wanted out of academia, in the worst possible way - didn't seriously pursue graduate programs, didn't even begin to cram for GREs - but was terrified of what awaited me beyond that tantalizing tassel-flip. I went for long, brooding walks, at all hours, because I rarely slept. I'd been entrusted, that year, with editorship of The Collegian, an almost-monthly features magazine; very few had any interest in writing for the thing, let alone reading it, and its six 1998-1999 issues were essentially glorified versions of the irreverent, sardonic zines I was still cranking out at the time that nobody read, either. (I still have nightmares in which I'm back in that particular editor's chair, somehow armed with everything about life and journalism that I've learned since, fully cognizant that I'm dreaming and yet bursting with ideas that will make my Collegian do-over totally fucking rad and unfadeable, award-winning, triumphant. Then I wake up, and I'm all, "that was too real.") My Philosophy thesis - some bullshit about Michel Foucault and how the power of cigarette makers is made manifest by the effects of smoking on the bodies of smokers - crashed and burned, so I settled for a minor in that discipline, sweated out long English essays, listened to The Slim Shady LP waaaay too much, took a lot of dangerous walks alone, procrastinated ruthlessly, climbed trees, skipped a record number of classes, wrote quixotic newspaper columns, re-read Ellis' Glamorama over and over, skipped Dining Hall meals because underclassmen's general la-de-da cheeriness drove me even deeper into the depression that, unchecked, threatened to consume me whole. I went for long, brooding walks, at all hours, because I rarely slept. I was in a non-zone. All of my close friends had graduated already; they could relate to what I was wrestling with, but consoling telephone conversations can only accomplish so much. Those friends who remained had more pressing concerns. I went for long, brooding walks, at all hours, because I rarely slept. I went for long, brooding walks, at all hours, because I rarely slept. I went for long, brooding walks, at all hours, because I rarely slept. Paul Cox put "Subculture" - the non-gospel choir version - on a mixtape that he sent to me as part of a mixtape exchange project, meaning that I was supposed to listen for a month prior to sending the tape to somebody else. But I didn't do that. I held onto the tape, which also included Talking Heads and Sugarsharp songs, for months, and quite literally let the tape rock until the tape popped. The details of that period, beyond what I've laid out above, are hazy. Thank God for that. And Paul? My bad.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

ILL RANT: Musicians, Quit MySpacin' and Facebookin' and Step Up Your Web 2.0 Game Already


There's no nice way to say this, so I'll just say it: MySpace is not enough, and if you are at all serious about making music and serious about building an audience of fans/listeners (be it 500 or 5,000 or 50,000 or 5 million) - and by "you," I mean rappers, rockers, noise dudes and dudettes, twee-pop imps, dulcimer soloists, 17th wave punk upstarts, vegan/freegan hardcore nihilists, beardo folkies, classically-trained cellists, scatters, R&B hopefuls, beatboxers, and everybody else besides, too - you've gotta think bigger than MySpace. Launching a MySpace page to rep yourself, your scene, or your set should represent a mere component of a larger online promotional strategy - it shouldn't be that strategy's alpha and omega.

Look, I totally get why musicians love MySpace! It's free. To a degree, you can customize your page. It allows you to keep up with friends and fellow travellers, and you can plug in your upcoming tour dates, stream mp3s and YouTube clips, accrue admirers, and allow random strangers to relentlessly plug their wares/shows in the comments. (Which, admittedly, has led yours truly to some significant discoveries.) It's a pretty awesome tool, Rupert Murdoch property status aside - I'll give it that.

But, like, relying on a MySpace page as the sole portal for one's art on the Internet is weak sauce. It's sort of like finishing medical school and pitching a pup tent on an empty lot and inviting patients in for appointments. Here's the thing about MySpace; MySpace is a social networking service that is accessible to people with decent, unfiltered Internet connections. But a lot of people - including me, to be honest - aren't able to spend long stretches of time on unfiltered Internet connections. Employers and libraries unfailingly block MySpace. This means that those of us who want to learn more about what a given artist has to offer can't find out much if we don't have a home net connection or have absolutely no time to explore MySpace while at home (being a parent/spouse/homeowner will do that) or if your mp3s aren't available on a non-MySpace page. Bottom line: MySpace-only representation is fucking lazy.

Buying a domain name and fronting a dime bag to an HTML-savvy pal in exchange for him/her throwing discography/sample mp3s/bio/pictures/live sets/etc. up on the page won't cost much, and it'll up your visibility and cachet considerably; it'll demonstrate that you mean it. (No need to get into a bunch of Java-enabled bells and whistles; that's distracting, wasteful, and stupid.) Or, if money's an issue or that's just too complicated/time-consuming, starting a
basic blog or Last FM (muso-oriented social networking that's way less likely to be restricted) is free, lets you stream tons of songs, and (provided your name/content isn't crude) democratic, allowing Internet café users worldwide to find out what you're all about. Lo-fi examples about: check out Swanshit, Jay Reatard, or NYC's Religious Knives for examples of what I'm talking about.

Just some food for thought, okay?

ILL MUSICAL MADELEINES*: L7, "Andreas" (c. 2004)


It's July in Charleston, South Carolina. J. is at work and I am hungry. He is a chef, but keeps no food in his apartment. I take a shower and walk to the ABC store to buy a pint of Heaven Hill vodka for $2.69. When I return to the apartment, I take another shower to cool off and then mix the vodka with some stale pink lemonade mix I find in the cupboard. A. calls and invites me to visit. I drive drunk for the first and only time in my life. When I get to her apartment, she is listening to L7's 1994 Hungry for Stink album, which I had bought when it was released, but had long since sold. We decide to walk down Broad Street to Gaulart & Maliclet's Fast & French. We take chalk with us and write on the jersey barriers blocking off a construction area. I write "E=mγc2--don't break the laws of physics." At Fast & French, we sit in the kitchen window and eat for free. I have lemon leek soup, which I enjoy, but am never able to find anywhere again. Memories of Charleston are hazy after that ... more showers ... stepping on palmetto bugs on the way to the Piggly Wiggly ... a curator with dirty shirtcuffs at the Karpeles Manuscript Library ... drunk at a Japanese restaurant, I draw 11011213211011 on a napkin and show it to the girl next to me--she turns away and starts a conversation with someone else before I can tell her about the special powers of the number nine, describe why the inside of the letter O can make a paranoiac anxious, show her how to knife-fight, or any of the other things I do when drunk ... sober at 3am at another bar ... driving a fully-loaded Cadillac Escalade alone through Charleston to get back to J.'s apartment, sleeping, then driving back to pick him up from R.'s house ... my mother drags her toes on the sidewalk, trips, and falls.

*"And suddenly the memory revealed itself. ... The sight of the little madeleine had recalled nothing to my mind before I tasted it; perhaps because I had so often seen such things in the meantime, without tasting them, on the trays in pastry-cooks' windows, that their image had dissociated itself from those Combray days to take its place among others more recent; perhaps because of those memories, so long abandoned and put out of mind, nothing now survived, everything was scattered; the shapes of things, including that of the little scallop-shell of pastry, so richly sensual under its severe, religious folds, were either obliterated or had been so long dormant as to have lost the power of expansion which would have allowed them to resume their place in my consciousness. But when from a long-distant past nothing subsists, after the people are dead, after the things are broken and scattered, taste and smell alone, more fragile but more enduring, more unsubstantial, more persistent, more faithful, remain poised a long time, like souls, remembering, waiting, hoping, amid the ruins of all the rest; and bear unflinchingly, in the tiny and almost palpable drop of their essence, the vast structure of recollection." -Marcel Proust, Remembrance of Things Past

Monday, July 20, 2009


So, clue us in, folks: what song(s) best describes the state of your life at present?

(Personally, we're in the weeds on this one. Hard to pin things down with just one tune, though we kinda can't get enough of Trey Songz "LOL :)" right now despite the fact that we're neither literally smiling or laughing out loud as we type this.)

The floor – er, the comments section, rather - is yours, dear readers.

*Kudos to my wife, Alecia, for finding the Hasselhoff picture. Dude is bonkers.

Friday, July 17, 2009

ILL REDUNDANCY: Harvey Danger Would Like To Remind You That They Exist To Announce That They're Breaking Up

Really, Harvey Danger? Seriously? You couldn't have just pulled the tried and true "slow fade ever deeper into one-hit wonder obscurity"? No, you couldn't have, because 90 percent of the potential audience for your alt-rock pep isn't even aware that you exist in 2009, let alone that you tour. So you went and wasted your poor publicist's time - girlfriend had to cobble together and fire off an email press release that I can't even believe I bothered to read - not to mention unfathomable nanoseconds and amounts of energy that might have been more profitably spent switching CDs or emailing friends or doing actual work that scores of music writers (and didn't some of you used to be music writers? Thought I read that somewhere) wasted absorbing, deleting, and forgetting said missive. I mean, yeah, I still heart "Flagpole Sitta" as much as, like, anyone. But, c'mon. Everybody already wasn't missing you. Now we're still not missing you, but most of us kinda think you're tools.

ILL SUMMER FLOSSIN': Clipse feat. Pharrell, "I'm Good"


Diet Coke, fat-free frozen yogurt, Tab, heart-friendly spaghetti sauce, light cigarettes, low-sodium hotdogs, many other reduced-risk options-qua-substitutes besides: this is how our society wimps out in cases where we want to over-indulge without guilt or health-impairing consequences, because we lack the intrinsic self-discipline to consume in moderation. So with our supermarket-sweep goods, and so with Virginia coke-rap duo Clipse. "I'm Good" is, in essence, Clipse-lite, Clipse without gratuitous drug-talk and gunplay, Clipse defanged, Clipse embracing compromise at long last: if you wanna ship impeccibly-honed-yet-soulless odes to hustling that white in mass quantities, you've gotta make a few concessions that betray your core competencies. Ergo Pharrell's self-congratulatory adlibs and a barrage of candy-coated Baretta synths, ergo "Today was a good day/Ice cubes on my chest," ergo dumb jokes about "girls" who "cut they eyes" being samurais. Also: Pusha T's just-chillin'-on-the-ave swag tapdances all over Malice's I'll-answer-this-booty-call-whenever-I-get-around-to-it arrogance, while neither rapper's professed zen rings true given the duo's storied 00s travails. But Clipse have always been honest, if only in their own minds; why stop fronting now, a few months prior to make-or-break third album Till The Casket Drops, when every other pre-release single has come and gone with little to no ceremony? If they're lying, they're dying: fair enough. Here, they're barely trying, letting the beat do all the work, gambling that by pretending not to care they'll expand their rapt cult enough that all those riches, all that bubbly, and all those cars they rhyme about become actual.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

ILL Q+A: Jason Crumer


Oakland, Calif's Jason Crumer may well be the Grace Kelly of noise music, crafting careful stretches of intricate animus that surreptitiously segue from dead silence to intense chaos. Power electronics are a core ingredient, but oftentimes, recordings of extracurricular acts figure into the Crumer stew; for example, 2008's Ottoman Black necessitated "my friend Joe and I stabbing chickens, punching sandbags, running in place, crushing fruit, and throwing lumber around."

In late June, Ill With The Composition interviewed
Crumer via email about his writing and recording process, how he keeps body and soul together, and what's he's been reading lately.

Ill With The Composition: You've had an extensive, storied musical career thus far, having been part of almost a half-dozen projects aside from your solo, eponymous work. What experiences - in terms of influences, experiences, and otherwise - first drew you into recording, compos
ing, and performance?

Jason Crumer: My dad was adopted by a black family and thus I grew up as his "first blood relative" and in a black church. Watching the old black men and women sing hymns on a weekly basis was probably the best possible introduction to sacred and spiritual music. As a smaller than average white in a fully black culture, I was also introduced early to isolation and boyish loneliness. I was constantly alone and deeply under-stimulated. I took to music very early. My first musical output was embarrassingly - but not surprisingly, considering the circumstances - rap. I'd generate the beats by the old 'pause/record/rewind' process and rap over them in the air through two boom boxes. Thankfully, none of this material exists now. At the time, my dad installed cable for a living, so when MTV came out, we had it. It opened up an entirely new world of music to my 8-year old brain that was previously unavailable; it didn't matter that it was 'bad music.' I asked for a toy guitar for Christmas in 3rd grade to add cheesy hooks to my bad rap music as well as look cool while doing it, and my dad got me a real guitar and decent Marshall practice amplifier. The next year - 4th grade - Christmas brought me a radio-shack mixer and stereo realistic microphone, and chance brought me Glenn Jackson. I randomly found a lost paycheck on the ground and showed it to my dad, and it turned out to belong to an old friend of his. He encouraged me to bring it to his house, and told me that Glenn had a studio in his basement. I gave him the check and asked if I could use his studio. He - amazingly - took me seriously (I was 9) and said I could use his studio, but only after I took some guitar lessons with him. He drilled into me the importance of 'meaning it' and 'paying your dues' in a militaristic fashion that completely scared any popular culture or rap influences out of me and, I think, ultimately set me on this course.

Ill With The Composition: Interesting, your background. I'm African American, and my paternal grandmother runs a Baptist church in Baltimore City. There's definitely a very intense, emotional religiosity about the experience of those services; I can totally see how that - and rap, too - carries over to the force of the music you make now. When you're writing or composing, do you flash back to those early years - to learning from Glenn, to church?

Jason Crumer: If I am trying to make a particularly angelic part, maybe I'll summon a vague idea of 'church' or 'religion' or 'deeply important on a fanatical level,' and there is no getting around where it comes from. When I attempt to generate something "evil" it's very clear where my ideas of "good" came from. The answer to your question though, is no; those are just the experiences that shaped the raw materials, influences to build on. My age was the reason for the large impact of the influence.

Ill With The Composition: As your career has progressed, your records sound increasingly refined; I think part of the reason Walk With Me (Misanthropic Agenda) hit me as hard as it did when I heard it was because it seemed, to me, so restrained and sculpted and almost orchestral. What Is Love? felt pretty raw - though it was rawness with a clear purpose - and last year's Ottoman Black had a considered feel to it too, but Walk was just on a totally different level. What were you going for with Walk, in terms of how it was composed and the underlying themes?

Jason Crumer: On all my records, I have a set of goals or objectives or 'scenes' that I strive to include in the pieces, and then struggle to put them together. These are the product of several months of fantasizing before any recording takes place. It takes a long time for me to find inspiration to record the first seeds of an album, but once it hits, they are recorded very quickly - within a span of two to three months, usually. Then it's piecing them together, which is what takes the longest. On Walk With Me, I tried to solve a lot of personal problems regarding composition and was a little more loose with the editing. Editing is hard for me since what was played and written with passion must be looked at critically, corrected, extended, and condensed to fit the form. I sometimes have to go against my instincts and be merciless - destroy things that were written with love and inspiration. In the past, I was careless. I didn't realize the importance of critical examination of the original sketch. For this reason, my older work was loosely held together with the seams always showing. Walk With Me is an attempt to fix this. While recording Walk With Me, I came to the understanding that my music will never make good examples of form. I can fix what is wrong with my inherent musical nature through editing, but I can't change it intrinsically. I know having specific scenes in my music is as possible and absurd as trying to make it say "good morning" or "good night," but it's the only way I can get things going mentally. It's a big reason why I've had a harder and harder time with live performance: I don't get to set the context, and it feels like meaningless spectacle.

Ill With The Composition: Do you find the process of collaboration more freeing than writing by your lonesome?

Jason Crumer: No.

Ill With The Composition: What's the most frustrated or confused a piece of music has ever made you?

Jason Crumer: Burning In Hell was the hardest thing to record due to it's physicality. It was the only recording I've ever made that I began to wonder what I'd gotten myself into. To record a marginal / back-up track for nuance or a simple thickening element required a huge physical effort. With Ottoman Black, I hated the amount of great material I had to throw away. The fight scene was a real pain to edit as it was generated digitally from hours of "in series" recordings of my friend Joe and I stabbing chickens, punching sandbags, running in place, crushing fruit, throwing lumber around etc. The ambient parts of Ottoman Black could've made an album but were demoted to marginal nuance or completely eliminated in order to fit the parts that did make it. Collaborations are much harder to do than solo works. My collaborations are true collaborations, the middle ground between two people's work. I can't just say "make the album about this..." so they're naturally a lot less specific. I hope they carry their own personal charm, and I tend to collaborate with people whose music I respect or whose process fascinates me.
The collaboration with
Roxann Spikula was frustrating because of various reasons; mostly, if you started to get ideas based on the sound you had to take 15 minutes and make a cassette loop with something resembling what you originally thought. It made it very hard to gain momentum. It has a detached sound that I am not capable of producing myself and I suppose that's the middle ground. Suppression in The Third was recorded on borrowed gear, made using only someone else's laptop and a boom box with loop tapes. The laptop owner deleted the entire album - at least what we had, to that point - and forced us to rely on a cassette of the material featuring older mix downs and questionable overall recording quality. That was frustrating. Trying to be appropriately 'grateful' for the allowed use of the machine while completely pissed off. Frustrations and annoyances during the recording process, simply put, make the record.

Ill With The Composition: A while back, you mentioned wanting to cut back on touring. Why is that?

Jason Crumer: It's more satisfying for me to see something really come together than to entertain a group of people. It always blows my mind that people who identify as some sort of misanthrope travel the world showing people a good time. facedowninshit played literally thousands of shows and it burned me out; completely burned me out. Music was always an escape from reality, a fantasy, and the more shows you play the more it becomes 'your reality.' What do you do then, to escape your reality? If you are of the mind that can never live in the moment and can never be part of what is actually happening, requiring for your sanity to keep a decent-sized buffer of bullshit between you and the world, the hyper-social world of touring is not for you. I have a reputation with certain people because I can't be around more than two of them at a time without consuming drugs and alcohol. My time is better spent still and sober.

Ill With The Composition: For a lot of artists, especially the anti-social ones, touring is - in large part - more a financial proposition than anything else, I think.

Jason Crumer: The amount of money people make is rarely high enough for that logic to make sense. I think some people truly love touring, I'm just not one of them. I do like (non-musical) traveling though.

Ill With The Composition: The thrill of new places and experiences, without the burden of having to be any particular place at any particular time for sound check?

Jason Crumer: I love Nature, capital N. I'm not a real camper type, but I can look at a rock formation or the ocean all day, walk in the woods all day. When I'm in Oakland, I spend at least a few days of each week in some sort of natural environment. I love California for it's absurdly tight pockets of wildly differing natural beauty. I feel at home walking into truck stops and eating road food. I like regional accents. I like travel for probably the same reasons anyone else does.

Ill With The Composition: What are, for lack of a better phrase, the tools of your trade? Are the electronics and sound generators you use in the studio different from the ones you use on stage?

Jason Crumer: Recording, I just use whatever I need to use, mostly microphones and acoustic things or things that make a loud sound in the room, that is, not a lot of line in. The answer to your question about both live and studio sound generating is "it's always different." I love to record small sounds and make them loud in the studio, something you can't do live so much due to feedback. I like acoustic and naturally harsh sounds more than electronics, but when using electronics recently I enjoy when they come out dead, dull, and as pure as possible. Lately, I've been getting into tape loops. It really always changes, and I'll never be able to answer this question.

Ill With The Composition: Is there anything in particular that you've been listening to for pleasure, lately?

Jason Crumer: Cold Electric Fire In Night's Dream We Are Ghosts CD, Michael Jackson Thriller LP single, instrumental side, on 16 speed, Led Zeppelin II on 16 speed, Ray Price various collection, Learned Helplessness Older Women tape and waiting for that Hank Snow LP Roxann has been promising me - hint!

Ill With The Composition: Can you tell me about how you created "Home Wreck," from What Is Love? To me it sounded like you actually got hold of a wrecker and were literally trashing a house.

Jason Crumer: Unfortunately, it's just a field recording of a house being destroyed. There is some personal symbolism behind it in relation to what was going on at the time, but yeah, I didn't actually destroy a house to make that track; would rule if I did, though.

Ill With The Composition: Are you reading anything in particular right now?

Jason Crumer: Lives of the Great Composers by Harold Schoenburg. My granny lent it to me.

Ill With The Composition: Are you able to make a living at music? If not, what do you do for a day job?

Jason Crumer: I make almost no money from noise but sometimes I do, and it rules when that happens. I can't make a living at anything I do, so why try?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

ILL ESOTERICS: Peeling Bananas


Yesterday, I came across a post on Lifehacker about how to eat a banana like a monkey. I immediately saw the advantage--often, when I peel using the stem, rather than the stem breaking, the back of the peel splits, resulting in a messy extraction. Here's the video (the monkey boxer shorts are a nice touch):

Later that evening, I was reading Good Night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann to H., and when I got to the last page, I noticed the banana peel on the bedspread appeared to have been opened from the base.

I flipped back through the book to confirm that the mouse does appear to have tied the string to the stem of the banana, so it really was opened by the base.

The next day, I asked my sister about this trick, and she's been opening bananas from the base since 1995, when her friend's boyfriend (possibly a chimpanzee--I never met him) showed her. She went fourteen years without telling me! Unlike in the video, she digs her thumbnail in just above the base, and then pulls the skin over and down.

Of course, all this flies in the face of the otherwise logically flawless "Atheist's Nightmare" video:

ILL PRODUCT: "Java Time" brand coffee


The growers and the suppliers don't care. The foremen suspect. The wholesalers are pretty sure, but not conclusively so. The middlemen? They've got no clue. But the founder, the CEO, you, and I all concur:
Java Time is a startlingly insipid name for a brand of coffee. It's like calling your electronic noise duo Fuck Buttons; like making a movie about a soul plane entitled Soul Plane; like being Microsoft and christening your Google-slaying search-engine Bing!.

I haven't done any research on this, but whoever's behind Java Time knows that Java Time is a horrible name, in the same way that the owners of coffee chains like Brew HaHa and Fol Sol Latte know that their customers are secretly laughing at them, oversized earthtone cups perched on lips. But that's part of the scheme. Dumb product/shop names aren't just dumb product/shop names - they're conversation pieces that, by way of their very stupidity, subtly encourage you to buy in by leveraging gray matter acreage. I'm going to say "car insurance." If the first car insurance company you thought of wasn't Geico, and you have, on more than one occasion, been amused by a Geico ad staring waspy cavemen or an amiable gecko with an Australian accent, then you're a liar and I will not lend you money.

None of which matters, because Java Time is a great, mellow coffee: a smooth, agreeable sip that contrasts sharply with Starbucks' bitter brew and Dunkin Donuts' less-harsh-but-still-bracing one. Maxwell House? Can't compare. Folgers'? Ninja, please. Java Time is easy like Sunday morning, like remedial Geometry, like Super Mario Brothers III with a Game Genie assist. Java Time is the only brand of coffee that my wife, my mother-in-law, father-in-law, and I can all agree on. Java Time is nightmare economy-friendly - only $3.50 a bag at Big Lots, which is half of what you'd pay for most known brands. Java Time is such a wonderful brew, in fact, that I've broken my own rule, that I wouldn't post anything here until early October, which was meant to be the Ill With The Composition Grand Opening, so I could prattle on about how fabulous Java Time is, like a compensated endorser or a Dilbert zombie, though I am, in fact, neither of those things.