Friday, February 26, 2010

"Oh, but that's all superstition."


Numerology. Used to be into that. So, here we are at the 13th entry in this auto-Guy-blogrophy. And the subject of the number 13 being unlucky reappears in the poster art for the 13th anniversary of the show. If you think I've abandoned this thing about numbers, you might note that the 8th entry in this series was the poster for the 8th anniversary of Space Pirate Radio, done once again by my artist friend Mike Merenbach. Just to clarify, my first entry had the 20th anniversary poster pictured, and images for anniversaries 9, 10, 12, 15 and 16 have yet to appear. So there's not a consistent numbering poster relation thingy here.

The 12th anniversary poster and party and celebration and stuff was really a terrific event. A real highpoint for the show. Everything went well. Turnout was extraordinary. I could go on for pages with images of the entries with all of the artistic invention and listener turnout that happened in Santa Barbara at the Zelo club. And all post-KTYD. After being with KTYD from 1973 to 1985, I thought I could never top the fun of what had gone before. I did find I could lose quite a bit of the pain that came with KTYD because there were definite highlights and low lights, and a love-hate relationship that went on for years due to the transient and ever-changing face of radio ownership and management. As an aside here, I find it ironic that doing a show that was based on discovering new and (proud to say it) progressive music, as well as trying experimental and innovative sound theatre...that over the years, Space Pirate Radio remained consistent while the radio stations I worked for were inconsistent in their formats. Disco here, heavy metal there, Top 40, AOR, Easy Listening. Now, to me, that's weird. Because where I thought Space Pirate Radio should be broadcasting, which is in a freeform radio format, was not where it always was. As this pattern emerged, I became aware of more of the Cosmic Giggle, which is...that doing what I used to think was a very conspicuous radio program could actually (like some cheesy 50s sci-fi movie) inbreed on any radio station imaginable. This would actually continue to play out in later years. But that's another story. Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment? Well, that's another story too.

So anyway, after the success of the 12th, with things going as well as they were, and the next year being the 13th, we would have to play up on the possibility that it all could go wrong. So I suggested to Mike that all the images of bad luck should appear in the poster and he did a wonderful job creating the other-worldly image of the Space Pirate Radio Captain sailing his ship into a mirror image of himself. The broken mirror, a symbol of bad luck, with shreds reflecting other images of superstition. Quite cool and a job well done by my artist friend.

Fortunately for all of us, the 13th anniversary was a success and there were still greater nights to come. Looking at the poster now, I notice how I pulled in artistic support from the community when it was still vibrant, and that ultimately and unfortuantely this model would turn into the Live Nation image: the soul-less, corporate model that I think I could see coming in my crystal ball. Could you imagine Space Pirate Radio's 36th anniversary poster contest sponsored by Budweiser/Citibank? Now that would be unlucky.

Monday, February 22, 2010

"But I won't go into exile, see?"


Long before the collapse of Soviet Russia, it was not a fashionable thing to satirize or use ironically the art and images of communism. In the 70s, after having released my first nun logo image on t-shirts for Space Pirate Radio, I was seized with the idea to do one that seemed flagrantly pro fellow traveller. I came up with a mock image of the Soviet flag, yellow letters on a red background. Instead of hammer and sickle, I made it a tone arm and sickle with vinyl record. Revolution through music, eh comrade? In the 70s, when the first batch of shirts came out, it was an act of courage or foolery to wear one. A few of my listeners recounted stories of verbal abuse, "hey, commie, go back to Russia," not getting the joke at all. To me it was a giggle. We import freaks loved the ads for Rasputin Records in the Bay Area, and when I hooked up with Rockpile Records in Goleta, I liked to call them "Stanislaus Pro Ruskie Rekord Shop." Where else can you buy new single by Polizei State featuring Stingski singing "Roxanne, you don't have to call out the Red Brigade"? But I digress.

When I celebrated my 10th anniversary with Space Pirate Radio, I redid the shirt in 1984 as a commemorative issue. You can see in picture beautiful blonde Ukrainian boy modeling same with a Mr. Thomas Dolby of "She Blinded Me With Science" fame. As you can see, I am dazzling him so much, he has to wear sunglasses. He just happened to stop by to visit radio show. Oh, how we make so many friends in old country. That was nice visit. But I digress again.

Ironically, over years playing so much experimental music from countries around the world, Russia was never one to pop up a lot in import bin. Fortunately, that was rectified in post-2000 shows when I was contacted by Russian electronic composer, Artemiy Artemiev. His father is Edward Artemiev, masterful soundtrack composer of great Russian movies, including Andrei Tarkovsky's original Solaris. Artemiy is a very gracious person, an electronic composer from the school of Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze and early Vangelis. I'm not sure if he would enjoy the comparison, but one is quick to think of him and his father in the same way as Jean Michel Jarre and Maurice Jarre, except that I think there is a real love between father and son, rather than the estrangement between the Jarres. Either way, it was extremely flattering for Artemiy to contact me because of the show and sent me the incredibly varied work that he has been doing on his Russian label, Electroshock Records. Although I have not met the man, it is heartwarming to be invited by him to visit him in St. Petersburg for his collective efforts in bringing the electronic music community together. I appreciate his enthusiasm and graciousness and the personal greetings that he sent, saying "Thank you for your support. From Russia, with love, Artemiy."

So with Stoli in hand, I say best wishes to all the utopians.

Monday, February 15, 2010

"Green is the colour..."


Late Sunday evening. Loaded up in the 1976 Datsun B210 with music and materials for tonight's broadcast of the show. Leaving my Chapala Street apartment, I turn right on Pedregosa Street to turn right again on State Street. I'm on my way to the Granada Theater and the 8th floor home of the radio station KTYD.

I've got the music, but no real ideas for the comedy bits. What should I do? What happened today? What's in the news? What can I make fun of? These thoughts tumble around as I make the turn on State Street. Then there it was on the left side of the street. The Travelodge motel. But what caught my attention was the neon sign outside the building. It was lit. It was on. And it was green. Just the one word. Motel. In green. The neurons clicked. Motel. Green neon. Green Neon Motel. Zounds!

Green Neon Motel. I like how it played off the tongue. Green Neon Motel. Like Humbert Humbert saying the name Lolita. Lo-lee-ta.

And what kind of establishment would the Green Neon Motel be? It would be the only true Surrealist Motel. It would have to be in the heart, or rather bladder, of the San Industrial Valley. You know that area, don't you? In Southern California. The City of Appliances, California. Located near those other towns. Pneumonia, Comatose and West Comatose, Asphysxia, Half-Wittier. Near the colleges of Cal Toxic and Mount Anxiety. The fabulous Green Neon Motel. Located on 1949 Linoleum Blvd., that really long street that heads southwest to Liquid Bleach, California. Conveniently near many exciting businesses, such as Madame Rhumba's House of Certain Pleasures and the always steamy Screaming Beaver Theatre.

So the Green Neon Motel would become my home away from home away from home. Run by congenial front desk man Grungie Steinberg, the place is home to many guests and long term residents. The most well-known is Chef Bruno Languini, of whom I will speak more later. There have been so many guests, it is hard to remember them all. I hear the echoes of names like Oscar B. Chow, Scotty McTissue, Gorgo and Spaz, among so many others. It was a wonderful place to stay. A visionary place, it saw the brilliance of Ed Wood's "Plan 9 From Outer Space" long before anyone cared. There were always plenty of scabby towels and a never-ending supply of Complimentary Anxiety Coffee.

And did you know that the Green Neon Motel is a AAA approved? It's not. I lied.

Monday, February 8, 2010

"O, I am fortune's fool!"


Playing The Fool #01


When one is younger, everyone has a favourite holiday. In my late teens, being a Pagan Scientist (my personal religious cult...err...denomination...pamphlets are available in the lobby), I celebrated the four witches' sabbaths (which is true *hehe*) which were Candlemass, Lammas, Roodmas and All Hallow's Eve. Those disappeared in active memory and were replaced in the 70s by a love for April Fool's Day. We had a wonderful time with both the radio and print to enjoy the sanctity of that one day to extol the fine art of the massive put-on. At KTYD on April 1st, we became a screaming Top 40 radio station. Everything that we thought as a cool freeform, album oriented station, we were not. I became my AM alter-ego, the Real Don Robot. The super-hyper talking AM DJ fueled on elicit white substances, espresso coffee and Vicks Vapor Rub: "I was ready to rock!" I came on at 5pm for one or two hours of madness. The station at that time broadcasted on both AM and FM. Now, if you were an AM listener and you were driving in your car at that 5-6pm hour, and say you were driving on Highway 101, you would probably notice as you were zipping around the curves that your AM signal would start to fade out and you might begin to hear the sounds of some Mexican station interfering on the same frequency. The driver would at that moment perhaps rather irritably try to retune the station to keep the original signal. Knowing this, I made a recording of Captain & Tennille singing "Love Will Keep Us Together" announced the record, started playing it and about 30 seconds into the song, it would kind of distort out into pure static and then fade back in with the very same song (Captain & Tennille's "Love Will Keep Us Together") sung in Spanish, because we happened to have that album. I'm not sure if the effect was truly felt by the hapless car listener. But it seemed like conceptual art to me and therefore, worth the effort. Anyway, with bogus commercials, screaming tirades and "let's take a trip down Whittier Boulevard" by The Midnighters, it was all great fun.

"None of the hits! None of the time!"

Other April Fool's were celebrated with the announcement of the appearance of Barb Wirey & The Maulers and Poops & The Midols at the Santa Barbara County Beach men's room (standing room only) (photo to come). In print, the Santa Barbara News & Review became a parody of the local daily newspaper, entitled "Not The Santa Barbara News Press."

Alas, those days are gone. We just used April 1st as justification to put one or two over on the powers that be that ran the establishment. Believing myself to be a satirist with some desire for social change, during that time, just about every day was April's Fools.

"Get thee to a nunnery."


What is it with me and nuns? It popped up a lot in my early work. My mother says that when I was born, the first thing I saw in hospital was the nuns in attendance. I'm not sure. I do remember nuns in an emergency room. Perhaps in Oklahoma after getting food poisoning in Texas. Or maybe it was in Michigan after being sunburned to a crisp in Florida (I do know that event probably turned me into being nocturnal...only moontans for me from that moment on). I think perhaps it was an early viewing of Audrey Hepburn in "The Nun's Story." Later it was Peter Cook and Dudley Moore in "Bedazzled." And after that, Peter Sellers in "The Magic Christian." Oh well, it doesn't matter. Except that I decided to go drag in Catholic for the logo of my production company called Graven Images.


Being the Hermes obsessed, Mercury ruled Virgo that I am, I wanted to use the image of the 9th card of the Tarot deck, the Hermit. I identified with the Hermit card, Diogenes searching with his lantern, etc. But I didn't totally embrace the commonly identified view of the Hermit. Especially in terms of women. Being the ambivert, I chose the cloistered garb of some secret order. So back to the nuns again. Probably closer to those in Ken Russell's "The Devils." Definitely not Rosalind Russell in "The Trouble With Angels." And for sure, not Debbie Reynolds in "The Singing Nun." And no way Sally Field in "The Flying Nun." Blue Nun...yes. Lots of German white wine in the early days. Definitely fueled the photo observed. And even today, so many years after that first photo session, I'll discover a lost gem of Eurotrash in that genre, known for good or bad, as nunsploitation. Even my long suffering wife, was understanding enough to grace me with a copy of Joe D'Amato's "Images In A Convent." Bless her.


"And over here are the nun's quarters. As you can see, they have about $2.25 among them."

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

"Whenever I hear the word 'culture,' I bring out my checkbook."


Over the years, one of the great joys doing radio, print and stage has been the collaboration of working with many fine artists. It has been a real kick to hatch so many comedic schemes with like-minded individuals who have the abilities to share your vision in forms that I could not accomplish. Illustrators and photographers became friends, working together on the agreed upon goal of creating a cosmic giggle. It is a pleasure to think of those collaborations.

Dave Fontana, or David Fontana or Banana Fontana, was a dear friend of mine who did much of my initial artwork. Dave is a talented musician. It ran in the family. His father was Elvis Presley's drummer. Dave had multiple talents. A musician of varied styles and very low key and humble about his dad. I was impressed by his illustrative talents. Dave was a surrealist, which I dug. He did far out ink drawings at the drop of a hat. I still have some of them and hope to dig them out of the Charles Foster Kane archives and share them here. He did the RKO-like painting on my Space Pirate Radio album. His brother Paul Fontana did the cover photograph. Dave Fontana worked with me on my play Casanova's Lips. He did all the psychedelic artwork on the program. The artwork also appears on the book version of the play, including the artist's lovely self-portrait in the letter C: the artist as a banana moon. And the photograph of Casanova and his Hugh Mingus lips ("the jazz great Hugh Mingus? He was really big wasn't he?") was again taken by Dave's brother, Paul. I am very pleased with the final results of that endeavor. Dave went on to many career successes, including playing experimental music in Germany. At one time, when Daevid Allen of Gong was not as busy as he is currently, I believe he slept on Banana Fontana's floor. Daevid Allen spent a period of time in Santa Barbara and I remember all of us drinking wine at my apartment. A pleasant bohemian memory with friends. Thanks Daevid, but especially thank you David for making it all happen.

Mike Merenbach was my longest running artist friend. I met him through a sci-fi fan publication and found a talented comic book artist screaming behind a retails clerk job. He took my ideas regarding the mythical Space Pirate character and turned it into a series of comic book illustrations. He had a wonderful understanding of the history of comic book art and was able to adapt that style to the concepts of Space Pirate Radio. We started with the 8th anniversary (pictured) and then worked together on a series of poster contests for significant following anniversaries. I hope to also share them here. The 10th anniversary poster was quite evocative, but the 12th anniversary was probably the most satisfying. Each anniversary was unique, relating to the year in question. The 13th anniversary poster spotlighted superstition and bad luck. Again, it will be easier when you see them upcoming. I will come back to this subject again because so much was involved in the poster contests for Space Pirate Radio. Mike also did cartoons featuring some of the characters from Space Pirate Radio, including the Green Neon Motel featuring front desk man Grungie Steinberg and Chef Bruno Languini. Great stuff. It was fun to work with him for so many years.

My final poster art (which you can see on the first entry) was done by a young comic artist named Autumn Turkel. I met him through my comic book store contacts and was impressed with his new take on the genre that was happening at that time. I hired him and the poster for the 20th anniversary was a fitting way to wind up the tradition. Again, more on this to come.

Finally, a word of thanks to the many other photographers that I worked with, mostly on outlandish ideas for the local papers. The Brooks Institute in Santa Barbara was the home of many struggling students who wished to become professional photographers. Quite often their assignments included photographing people of a certain profession and it was through this serendipity that I met many individuals who could combine their assignment with doing something off the wall. Gary Alessi was one of the first people that I met from that school and he did the back cover photos of my record album. There will be many examples of their work upcoming in these entries of delirium. My thanks to all of them.

Monday, February 1, 2010

"Gordon, can this music be turned off?"


On Space Pirate Radio, I loved playing the newest music possible. The shows in the 70s had an emphasis on all of the European bands that had been inspired by Pink Floyd, but hadn't been heard commercially. Germany seemed to have the most variety, initially. My favourites were Amon Duul II, Can, Tangerine Dream, Ash Ra Tempel, Klaus Schulze on his own, Embryo, Popul Vuh, Guru Guru, Kraftwerk, Cluster (or Kluster), Harmonia, Neu, La Dusseldorf, Faust and a myriad of artists either doing solo or offshoot projects. Or almost any release from certain labels like Kosmiche, OHR, Brain, Sky and so on. France had Ange, Heldon, Atoll, Mona Lisa, Magma and Malicorne. Italy had Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso, Premiata Forneria Marconi, Le Orme and Acqua Fragile. Spain had Granada, Triana, among others. In Japan it was the Sadistic Mika Band, Far East Family Band, Kitaro (in bands and solo) and later...Yellow Magic Orchestra with all of its side projects.

In the 80s, new music got a little odder. I would pick up albums by bands simply because of who produced the album or who the guest musicians were. I discovered the Police only because Sting and Andy Summers had appeared on a very eccentric album by Eberhard Schoener. This is what lead me to Siouxsie And The Banshees, Thompson Twins and (gasp) A Flock Of Seagulls--they had Bill Nelson of Be Bop Deluxe working with them. They had to be cool, didn't they?

So a lot of these artists were initially interesting due to their freshness, connection to other artists and release on independent labels. One didn't expect the commercial success and changes that happened to many of them: Depeche Mode, Human League, Yazoo, Erasure and the twisted mutation of Genesis.

Oh, so the picture. That's Richard Butler of the Psychedelic Furs. I think we're announcing our engagement there. I can't remember. Seriously, though. I thought "Love My Way" was a cool song and Richard was a very smart, friendly and charming guy. None of the showbiz-y pop star affectation. We got along really well. Had a fine interview. And he seemed sincerely grateful and child-like when I told him that he had the talent to be as successful as David Bowie, if he wanted to.