Category: music


from Heavy Metal Performance Art Quarterly, Vol. 3, No. 4

The Heavy Metal Woman sat on the lumpy bed holding a can of off-brand, lemon-lime soda, a half-smoked cigarette dangling from two fingers of her left hand.  Her motel room was one of those soggy and efficient numbers that turn up in sparsely visited towns.  She was there to see a mid-level band play a rarely used local amphitheater on a date near the end of their tour.  I’d arrived slightly early for our interview and as she opened the door, she’d squinted against the morning sun, still hungover from the previous night’s Millers.  I started our conversation asking about her history.

HMPAQ: When did you first know you wanted to be The Heavy Metal Woman?

HMW: It was more of an event than a knowledge.  I wasn’t sitting in my chair and thinking about it. I was just in the middle of a place, a sidewalk.  And then I knew it had already settled on me.

HMPAQ: The whole identity, aura and glamour?

HMW: The whole bowl of nachos.

HMPAQ: Did your decision to legally change your name upset your family?

HMW: My previous name was prissy and had an oppressed heritage. I felt myself stepping away from that, but not falling into something similar. If I was going to be The Heavy Metal Woman, I wouldn’t hide from it. My mother didn’t understand and my father said that he understood, but I knew he really didn’t.  He later died in a truck fall.

HMPAQ: Do people call you Miss Woman?

HMW: (snort) People who know me personally call me Heav. People who don’t know me call me The Heavy Metal Woman.  People who don’t know me and might want to know me call me ‘babe’. People who don’t know me and don’t like me or what I stand for call me ‘that pale stupid metal chick’ or other things.  On instant messaging forums they call me THMW.

HMPAQ: What do you eat for breakfast?

HMW: Cigarettes, raw oatmeal and stale beer.

HMPAQ: Is the heavy metal woman a dying breed?

HMW: It never was a breed in the sense of a pedigreed amalgamation of genetic traits. But in the sense of a wild stallion-like expression of femininity at the edges of existence, you could call it a breed.  There is a kind of gentrification of heavy metal women that my practice attempts to critique.

HMPAQ: I read in a fan forum that you sometimes like to ride skateboards in the nude?

HMW: Fans say a lot of stupid shit! (snorting)  I did that in Barstow. I wanted to show that city how to open up to a new expression.  I also was really hot in terms of thermometer reading. Later, I bought a T-shirt at the Family Dollar.

HMPAQ: Is there room for just one Heavy Metal Woman?

HMW: In this motel, there is.

HMPAQ: How about in the world?

HMW:  At one time, I wanted to be a role model, but then I woke up and smelled myself. Who died and made you princess hot shit? If people want to imitate me, like, be a Heavy Metal Person, or be Heavy Metal Questioning with capital letters, they’re welcome to it, but I’m not out here on a recruiting mission.

HMPAQ: Is salad a heavy metal thing?  Can you eat watercress or kale?

HMW: Heavy metal came from the ‘burbs, and I eat ‘burb food. I ‘burb it up. I keep it ‘real’. I use a lot of mayonnaise, mustard and potato chips. Also beer.

HMPAQ: Can French people listen to heavy metal?

HMW: My philosophy is, no.  I don’t think about French people, but I can answer your question without thinking.

HMPAQ: Why don’t you think about French people?

HMW: They don’t exist on the heavy metal horizon. When Napoleon came and invaded France, they didn’t rock out and destroy, they just submitted. I want to shred the memories of submission, wherever they manifest.

HMPAQ: Napoleon didn’t actually invade France.

HMW: I don’t think about France.

HMPAQ: Have you explored the Swedish heavy metal scene? I hear it’s really dark and extreme.

HMW: I explore it in a way that doesn’t involve travelling to a country that’s not the United States. When a band comes to my country, I take them under my arm and wrap that band around me, and roll in them. But if I have to leave the soil that permeates me, that gave me my metal roots, I’m not cool with that.  I don’t want my metal roots to wither and decay while I’m on some un-American soil.

HMPAQ: You have your own fans that come to the shows, sometimes to see you as much as to see the band. Do you ever feel like you’re detracting from the main event?

HMW: No one can tell you what the main event is, because you have your own brain. (Pointing at the interviewer’s brain.)  Whatever happens in your brain doesn’t happen in anyone else’s brain.  There’s a metal song about that. I once knew a girl that tried to do what she thought happened in other people’s brains, but she lost her job.

HMPAQ: Five quick questions. Which fictional character do you find most terrifying?

HMW: Mary Poppins.

HMPAQ: What’s your position on keeping chickens in closely confined quarters?

HMW: As long as they’re not around me.

HMPAQ: Vladimir Putin?

HMW: I would go to their show.

HMPAQ: If you could be a playwright and write a heart-rending drama of staggering dimensions, what would it be titled?

HMW: Cleo in the Tidepools.

HMPAQ: Do you use underarm deodorant?

HMW: Does the Pope wrestle pigs?

HMPAQ: Thank you for your time, Heav.

HMW: Rock on.

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A dark and gritty work by the heavily-bandaged German composer Horst Schrillefrau that’s a prime example of the subgenre opera medium rara.  As the curtain rises, Hansel, a bald and overweight butcher with large teeth and wearing only a blood-stained white apron, is badgering a frightened elderly lady in the aria Bratwurst is Not a Plaything (Bratwurst ist kein Spielzeug).  Distressed, the woman runs out and a lugubrious Hansel sings of his diminishing customer base while gnawing on a pig knuckle.  Suddenly, Chief Inspector Blutbauern storms in, holding the bloody corpse of his pet dachshund.  He demands to know Hansel’s whereabouts on the night of August 10. Hansel sings the brooding aria Dachshunds Have Always Taunted Me (Dackel haben mich immer verspotte).  Just as Blutbauern is about to arrest Hansel on suspicion of dog slaughter, three lusty whores, wearing provocative sausage jewelry, dance into the butcher shop.  They bewitch the Inspector with their mocking trio, Will You Interrogate Our Sausages?  (Werden Sie abfragen Unsere Würste?).  The Inspector laughs lustily and chases one of the prostitutes around the butcher shop with a decapitated pig’s head.  Hansel, driven mad with frustrated desire, pulls a large premium cut of venison out of his display window and prances about crazily on a countertop singing his mad song, Who Will Bring the Wafers? (Wer wird der Wafer zu bringen?).  The Inspector’s assistant dashes in and, mistaking Hansel for an escaped zoo animal, shoots him five times in a vital region.  The carefree whores play a game of ‘toss the sausage’ as Horst lies dying on the floor singing his delusory death aria, That’s Why Little Girls Love Butchers  (Das ist, warum junge Mädchen Metzgereien liebe).

The Eclectics

The former hosts of KCRW’s Morning Becomes Eclectic are gathered for their weekly Sunday brunch at an upscale Westside bistro.  Schnabel, Douridas and Harcourt sit at a patio table, enjoying their meal.

 

                                                      SCHNABEL

                                       (putting down his champagne glass)

This is one of the best tomato-mushroom omelets

I’ve ever tasted.

 

                                                      HARCOURT

                                       (slumped in his seat, eyes closed in pain from

                                       a nasty gin martini hangover)

Eggh.

 

                                                      SCHNABEL

But I’m torn between whether this or the Black Forest

Omelet is my all-time favorite.

 

                                          DOURIDAS

                                       (leaning back and staring up at the awning)

The menu here is so eclectic.

 

Suddenly, BENTLEY runs in from the sidewalk.

 

                                                      BENTLEY

Guys, I’ve got a hot tip from underground progressive

house DJ Glass Electrode.  Crystal Beat Smack is being

held at gunpoint by a Guadalajaran drug trade posse.

 

Schnabel cocks his ear as a new song plays on the sound system.

 

                                                      SCHNABEL

What an intriguing fado.  The vocalist reminds me of

that great Guatemalan timbruja singer, Felicidad Conhuevos.

 

                                                      DOURIDAS

Raul Campos first turned me on to Crystal Beat Smack. 

Loose, organic beats pulsing under a haze of vocal distortion.

 

                                                      BENTLEY

Exactly.  If we don’t move now, we’re talking the loss

of a major electronica artist.  Guys, this is a job for the

Eclectics.

 

                                                      HARCOURT

                                       (mumbles)

McCartney cover.

 

Harcourt’s slumps forward, his head falling into his plate of beans-on-toast.

 

                                                      SCHNABEL

                        Guadalajara’s gorgeous this time of year.  I once spent a

                        memorable weekend there with a Latin jazz vibraphone player.

 

Douridas nonchalantly lifts Harcourt’s face out of the beans.

 

                              DOURIDAS
This café gets worse and worse.  This is three weeks in a

row some vagrant’s come in and crashed our brunch.

 

                              BENTLEY
Chris, that’s Harcourt.

 

                              DOURIDAS
Who?

 

                              BENTLEY
The Third Eclectic.

 

Douridas wipes some beans from Harcourt’s face with a napkin.

 

                                                      DOURIDAS

I didn’t sign off on him.

 

                                                      BENTLEY

You were in a haze.  Guys, we need to get moving.  Only

the Eclectics, with our combined knowledge of the musical

underground, can find Crystal Beat Smack before his

virtuoso knob-twirling fingers are sliced off by the

corredors.

 

                                                      SCHNABEL

If this mission involves violence, it’s entirely against my

ethical code.  Also if it involves staying up after eleven,

fast running, excessive perspiration, feedback, so-called

indie rock, unpleasant smells or anything that requires me

to raise my voice.

 

 

 

                                                      HARCOURT

               (wiping a bean from his nose)

Live, in-studio set.

 

                                                      BENTLEY

So this is going to be like all of our other missions?

I do all the work while you guys sit here and lounge.

 

Douridas perks up, ever so slightly, spotting a woman sitting down at a nearby table.

 

                                                      DOURIDAS

It’s Canadian neo-folk chanteuse Greta.  I’m going to ask

her to autograph my postcard.

 

Schnabel sips his champagne.

 

                                                      SCHNABEL

If only Wayne Shorter were here.

 

                                                      BENTLEY

I warn you.  The next time this happens, I’m ditching you

all and starting the Electronicas!

 

Bentley stalks off as Harcourt falls out of his seat.

When Allensford knocked on Thankless Joe’s door, he had high expectations.  Allensford had woman trouble and Thankless Joe was known far and wide for his songs about gritty love affairs and for the numerous encounters with notorious women he’d met on his hard-partying tours.  Women who’d been seduced by his gravelly blues voice, his surly, large-bodied sexuality and his frank, deep, heavy-lidded gaze.  Surely, Thankless Joe would be a fount of valuable advice on the tribulations of love.

            Allensford knocked again on Joe’s door when the first knock went unanswered.  Then he knocked yet again.

            After several more tries, and a near bite on the shin from Joe’s gray, flea-bitten mongrel hound, he walked around to the backyard and peeked through the kitchen window.  Through the dirt-smeared pane of glass, he saw Thankless Joe’s large, bald head lying on the kitchen table, his hands splayed out in front of him, one large, hairy thumb twitching aimlessly.

            Clearly, Thankless had spent a long night rocking some rough-hewn, seedy downtown juke joint and was exhausted.  It was only two in the afternoon and Thankless was nothing if not a night owl. 

Allensford tried the kitchen door and finding it unlocked, he went in and grabbed a soiled dishtowel from the counter.  Soaking it in cold water, he slapped it over Joe’s sweating head, taking care to first remove the half-empty bottle of Jack Daniels from the table so Joe wouldn’t knock it over.

            Thankless Joe shuddered into motion, his body jittering.  The large expanse of flesh that made up his stomach and arm fat jiggled and fluctuated.  He threw the wet towel off his head with a surprisingly vigorous motion and shuffled back in his rickety chair, the kitchen floor creaking.  Joe looked around wildly, his small black eyes blinking in the glaring afternoon kitchen light.

            “What the fuck?   Who the fuck. . . ?” Joe cried.  His voice was hoarse and harsh, ragged from a long night of screaming.

            Allensford was used to Joe taking time to gain a full awareness of his surroundings.  There were days when he visited and Joe was not completely coherent until shortly before Allensford took off at sunset for his night job at the Four Lips Motel.  “It’s Allensford, Joe.   Had a long night?”

            “Jesus Christ, you freaking fuck.  What are you doing in my house?”

            Allensford laughed an indulgent laugh.   Joe was nothing if not authentic, a truly gritty, down-home, plain-spoken, roots-music man like they didn’t make anymore.  “Remember how you told me that if I ever needed some advice, no matter when, no matter what the problem, I should come by?”

            “I say a lot of stupid shit.”  Joe looked around with narrowed eyes.  “Where’s my whiskey?”

            “Well, I’m having woman trouble.”  Allensford gave a self-conscious rueful laugh.   “And if there’s one man I know who knows a lot about a lotta women, it’s you, Joe.”

            “I gotta take a piss.” Thankless Joe stood up and stumbled toward the bathroom.  He tripped over an empty bottle of schnapps and banged his head on the doorframe.  “Goddamn!”

 As the sounds of Joe using the bathroom filled the kitchen, Allensford outlined his romantic situation. 

            “See, I’ve been dating this woman, Alicia.  You’d love her, Joe.  She’s smart, wears these totally cool glasses, makes an awesome patty melt.  Just a real classy, all-around authentic girl.  Totally authentic.  From Idaho.  The problem is, I can’t stand her taste in music.”

            Allensford started to take a seat at the kitchen table, then noticed the unidentifiable green stains on the chair and thought better of it.

            “You know me, Joe.  I’m a roots music man.  It’s gotta be real, or I won’t put it on my stereo.  But this Alicia, she listens to nothing but electronica!”

            Joe emerged from the bathroom and took off his black, tattered T-shirt.  “Where’s the refrigerator?”

            “Right here, Joe.  By the oven.”

            “Goddamn.  Over there.  Hand me a beer.”

            Allensford grabbed a can of beer and handed it to Thankless.  He took a good look at Joe’s face.  As expressionless as it was, as unfocused as his eyes were, as soggy and shapeless as his lips looked, Allensford knew that in that unique head little shards of lyrical greatness were stewing.  Bits and pieces of undeniably powerful, primitive roots-music melody and shards of poetic, hard-luck phrasing were cooking that would soon bubble up from Joe’s mouth, spew out and coagulate like chili in a bowl into a new Thankless Joe song.

            Thankless took a gulp of beer and stared at Allensford.  “Who let you in?”

            Allensford shook his head in amazement.  “When you’re brewing up a new song, nothing distracts you!  Amazing.  But seriously, Thankless, what should I do about this girl?  This electronica chick.”

            “You ever see my chuggy dance?” asked Thankless, his mouth gaping.

            “Only a thousand times.”  Allensford grinned at the memories.

            Thankless did it again.  He stepped forward, shook his belly, stepped back, shook his belly again, and then repeated the whole process, doing two steps forward and back, then three steps, then four.  During the whole dance, he kept up a blubbering beat with his lips and slapped his hands on his bare belly.

            Allensford played along, chanting ‘chuggy, chuggy, chuggy’, just like the grizzled fans always did at Thankless Joe’s gigs.

            Thankless shook and jiggled for a good three minutes, then took another gulp of beer.

            “Is that your answer, Thankless?”

            Joe narrowed his eyes.  “You been at my shows.  You know what it’s all about.”

            “I do.  I do know what it’s all about.  It’s all about the roots music, that’s what it’s all about.”  Allensford shook his head.  How could he have been so shallow?  “I see what you’re telling me.  In your poetic, musical way, you’re telling me it’ll never work out with me and Alicia.  How could I ever trust a girl who listens to electronica?”

            For an answer, Joe slapped his belly again and fixed Allensford with a bleary look. 

            “It’s like you say in that song, Joe.  ‘She left me like the squaw left the papoose.  She left me and she went on the loose’.”

            Joe bit his lip.  “Jesus, some of ’em are just that tawdry.”  He walked into the living room, slumped onto the dusty brown sofa, tossed some dirty undies on the floor and grabbed the TV remote.

            “I’m glad I came by.  Joe, thanks so much for listening.  Really, thanks.”

            “Don’t need to thank me.  That’s why they call me Thankless Joe.”

            “So right,” said Allensford.  A truer statement, he thought, had never been made. 
           “Why don’t this remote work?”