Category Archives: Music

It turns out the Village People recorded a punk song in 1981

I came across this punk rock masterpiece on one of my very favorite blogs, Dangerous Minds.

Now, look, I’m going to warn you: it’s the longest 2:27 of your life, and the video is sort of the ancient progenitor to a looping .gif, likely due to budget constraints, and the possibility that the band involved wasn’t particularly into recording a punk song because the band was THE VILLAGE PEOPLE.

Yes, those Village People.


Dangerous Minds says:

“Food Fight” is an anomaly in the Village People’s oeuvre: a first and last attempt to cash in on the punk audience from a band clearly grasping at straws, willing to try absolutely anything to stay relevant.

Musically, one can hear the best elements of DEVO, as well as The Dickies, and Hodo’s nerdcore vocals sound remarkably like Weird Al.

“Food fight” plays out like the music you’d hear in an early 80’s teenage T & A movie where there’d be some marginally “punk” band playing on the beach in wrap-around sunglasses and clam-diggers, while a bunch of girls in string bikinis did robot dances in the sand. Yes, it’s that good. The subject matter would seem to indicate the Village People’s new target demographic was middle school children.

I’m super conflicted about it, because on the one hand, it’s pretty epic … but it’s also pretty horrible, and it feels like ten minutes of repetition to me.

But, still, the fucking VILLAGE PEOPLE recorded a song that would have been perfectly at home in Valley Girl, or Night of the Comet, or Midnight Madness, or even on an episode of CHiPs, if they did something about the way old white people thought punk rock and new wave kids acted in 1981.

What do you think?

panorama ephemera mashupa

I made a thing, which I believe is best experienced as ambient background noise, projected onto a bare brick wall. This is not something that you sit down and watch, the way you’d watch a movie or a TV show.

This work was created by combining audio and visual works obtained from the Internet Archive, at The visuals are from Panorama Ephemera, which was found in the Prelinger Archives. The audio was remixed and processed in Audacity, and comes from several different sources, also originally found at the Internet Archive.

Everything used to make this video is in the public domain, or is licensed for remix and reuse.

This video is released under a Creative Commons attribution non-commercial share alike license.

the audacity of derivative works

Anne and Wil Wheaton 1920s outfits
Click to Embiggen

This weekend, my friends hosted a 1920s occult party. There were tarot readings, Ouija boards, and a seance. Everyone was encouraged to attend in appropriate attire, and we sipped absinthe while movies like The Golem and Fantomas were projected on the walls.

Anne and I got our clothes from Unique Vintage and Clockwork Couture. While we were getting dressed, Anne said, “I kind of love that I’m cosplaying with my husband,” and I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming.

I had this idea to track down some 1920s music to play during the afternoon and evening, leading up to the party, so I started by looking on Amazon. I didn’t see anything that I liked, so I checked the Google Play store, and then iTunes. Again, I couldn’t find the original recordings that I was looking for, and as I was about to give up, a voice inside my head sort of kicked me behind the eyeballs and said, “Hey, stupid, music from the 1920s is in the public domain. Go look on the Internet Archive and I bet you’ll find more original recordings than you know what to do with.”

People, you should always listen to the voices in your head, because they know things. They know things that you don’t know. THEY KNOW THINGS THAT THE OTHERS DON’T WANT YOU TO KNOW AND GREAT CTHU–

Sorry. I got a little carried away, there.

So I went to the Internet Archive, and I found a treasure trove of incredible recordings.

Here are a few of them:

I grabbed them all, because that’s what you can legally and ethically do with the Internet Archive, and I made playlists that I shuffled through our Sonos to fill our house with the sounds of the Roaring Twenties. By the time we left for the party, I was ready to hop in a plane with Lucky Lindy and fly to New York to watch Murder’s Row in action.

So the party was fantastic, and everyone there looked incredible, but that’s not what I set out to write about this morning. What I wanted to write about was this thing I made, using free (as in speech and beer) tools, to create something where something wasn’t before.

Within one of the collections I downloaded, there was a jaunty little tune called JaDa.

I enjoyed it, and I had this idea to slow it down and completely transform it into something that sounds very, very different.

Longtime readers may remember that I freaking love the ambient music of the early 1990s. Well, I loaded JaDa into a free and open source audio editing program called Audacity, and I played around with some of audacity’s effects to turn this three minute jazz tune into nearly an hour of sinister dark ambient that was directly inspired by the occult party we attended. When I finished it, I was happy with what I’d made, and I wanted to share it with the world. So I put it on SoundCloud. While I was uploading it, I saw that I could add some sort of album art. Keeping with the theme of transforming existing public domain works, using open source tools, I went back to the Internet Archive, and found a page of a 1927 seed catalog that had some bright strawberries on it. I captured part of that image, loaded it into Gimp, and applied a bunch of filters to it, until I’d turned an image of luscious strawberries into something very different, that I thought matched the mood and tone of the audio I’d created.

Here’s what I made:

I’ve talked a lot in the past about how I believe this is a really great time to be a creative person, because the tools we need to make things, as well as the ability to get those things out into the world, are never farther away than our keyboards. I hope this inspires some of you to Get Excited and Make Things.

Episode Seven Jitters

When we visited Stoopid Buddy Studios earlier this season on my show, Seth Green showed me some works in progress, including this song about Star Wars Episode VII:

The Wil Wheaton Project moves back to 10pm tonight. I love this episode a LOT. We have Kevin Smith, Sonequa Martin-Green, and Skeletor.

wil wheaton project tickets, music, tabletop, rampart

A couple quick things before I leave for work:



midnight highway

The second song on the Kill Bill Volume 1 soundtrack is a fantastic rockabilly number called That Certain Female. It has this great thick guitar riff with a lot of echo and delay and, for me, it conjures up images of Route 66 under a new moon, windows down and radio blaring as a ’58 Chevy puts miles between its mysterious driver and Chicago as fast as he can lay them down.

This music fills the dark and bug-spattered spaces between Amarillo and Tucumcari, staccato white lines flashing by in the headlights, the smell of exhaust and old tobacco swirling with dust.

Is he running toward something or away from something? Or is it a she behind the wheel? What’s in the trunk? What’s in the backseat? When we see the driver’s eyes in the rear view mirror, briefly lit by the glowing cherry of a cigarette, are they determined? Resigned? Afraid? Tear-stained? Vengeful?

Maybe they are all these things.

The road goes on.



mona lisas and mad hatters

When I was little, like, really little, before my brother was born in 1976, my parents were really into Elton John. One of my earliest childhood memories is sitting in the living room of our tiny house in the valley (where it was still all farmland), listening to Captain Fantastic and Goodbye Yellowbrick Road and Madman Across The Water while I sat on the yellow shag carpeting, and my parents sat on the black and white checkered couch.

When I was that little, I didn’t know the words, or what they meant, or anything, really (I was 4, after all), but sometimes, I play those albums, and Caribou and Honky Chateau, and I have this sense memory that feels like a security blanket that I can’t see, or touch, but is there nevertheless.

Tonight’s been one of those nights.

Marian Call’s new album is out!

My friend Marian has released her new album, Sketchbook!

This is a collection of new songs from Marian Call — and it comes from the heart, from home, from the road. These are not fancy polished studio tracks, they are simple, clean, imperfect, transparent, all about the music and the words. ‘Sketchbook’ is very small and focused in scope, deep like diving.

The songs are about love, lightning, time, birds, and hope.

This album was recorded all across the country, mostly in homes, in the bedrooms of friends, neighbors, and house concert hosts — people who probably never anticipated that they would be producing part of an album in the back room for a wandering musician.

Sometimes the art comes and seizes you and shakes you and demands to be let out. So you let it out. “Sketchbook” is a collection of little sketches from the road, pieces that would not wait any longer, pieces that have blessed me and left me raw from the honesty. I’ve ripped pages from my journal because I thought you needed to see them.

I hope you enjoy these songs, I hope the simplicity is refreshing, I hope one of them speaks to you sometime when you need it.

Remember — you can make music and art anywhere, anytime. Just do it.

Give it a listen, and then give her your money so she keeps making records:

And while you’re at Bandcamp, you can download the first chapter of the audio version of Just A Geek for the low price of free! Yay!

woob – repurpose (plus a guide to ambient)

I woke up before the sun, and flew in a lawn dart from ORD to IND on a little over five hours of mostly-restful sleep. As I walked through the airport, I heard the muted voices of gate announcements echo off the walls, and it reminded me of the Pink Floyd song On The Run. The similarities took on a surreal, dreamlike quality when I ended up in a tunnel, on a moving walkway, under rainbows of neon tubes, surrounded by fellow travellers in various states of running to their gates.

A few hours after I landed in Indianapolis, I checked into my hotel, fed myself, and came back to my hotel room to do some maintenance work on my blog. While working, I listened to the entirety of Dark Side of the Moon, followed by Echoes from Meddle.

That’s when my arm began to itch. This has been going on for months, and nobody knows why, but I get the worst itching in the world between my elbow and wrist on the top of my left arm. It feels like it’s coming from my nerves, doesn’t respond to scratching or topical creams at all, and sometimes itches so badly it feels like I’m being pricked with tens of thousands of tiny needles. It sucks, and the only thing that helps at all is benedryl. So here I am, a little loopy on not enough sleep and two benedryl, listening to Pink Floyd like some kind of throwaway joke character in an HST pop-up book for children, when Echoes finishes up and this album called Repurpose by woob starts to play.

And this is what I set out to write in the first place, which I suppose could have just been a link on Twitter: woob is one of the essential ambient acts, and the (relatively) new album Repurpose lives up to expectations.

Here, take a listen:


If you’re intrigued, and want to know more, you may be interested in the following, which I wrote in 2008, referencing something I wrote in 2005:

I’m always happy to share this type of music with people, and if I have an opportunity to turn people on to music that really opened my mind (without the assistance from any chemical or mind-altering substances, I always feel compelled to add) I always seize it.

I’ll point those of you who are interested to a portion of a post I made in 2005 (my god, how is it that it simultaneously feels so long ago and so recent to me?) about ambient music. The “it” I refer to is an ambient song I made in GarageBand called Lakeside Shadow:

If you like it, you’ll probably like some of the artists who influenced me over the years: Woob (especially 1194, and especially the track strange air) Dedicated (especially Global Communication, also called 76 14), and Solitaire (especially Ritual Ground). Also, Instinct Records (still alive) andSilent Records (sadly, tragically, defunct since 1996) released an amazing number of genre-defining ambient discs in the 90s. And now, just to prove how hardcore I am, I’m going to throw out Pete Namlook, and the FAX Label, but their stuff is far more experimental than the rest of my list, and isn’t what I’d use to introduce a new listener to Ambient music.

Finally, if you can find it, Silent Records put out an incredible record called Earth to Infinity (I think in 1994) which was pulled shortly after it was released, due to some sampling issues. I think it’s one of the greatest ambient recordings of all time, and don’t ask me for it because I’m not going to jail for you, Chachi.

I think I could have said “incredible” a few more times. Allow me to emphatically pulverize this dead horse deep into the ground: if you only get two ambient records in your whole life, they should be 1194 from Woob and Earth to Infinity (holy shit there are two available from Amazon). If you can only get three, add 76:14, and thank me before you touch the monolith and journey beyond the infinite.

Okay, as I said in 2005, most of my ambient CDs are from Silent, Instinct, and Caroline, and I have a metric assload of FAX recordings that I don’t listen to very much any more. If I were to expand on the artists and albums I mentioned three years ago into a list of essentials, I would add Pelican Daughters‘ breathtaking record BlissConsciousness III (or Lunar Phase) by Heavenly Music Corporation, and the 2295 compilation from em:t.

If you’re intrigued, and want to know what some of this stuff sounds like without waiting, please go directly to Magnatune, and fire up their ambient mix. They’ve got artists over there, like Robert Rich and Falling You, who make truly incredible music. (I really think I need to say incredible and really more. Really.) Soma FM has magnificent downtempo and ambient streams, as well. Groove Salad and Dronezone rarely disappoint.

The thing to understand about ambient, though, if you’ve never heard it before, is that it’s slow and deliberate. It takes its time. It doesn’t work in the car, and it doesn’t work if your brain is cranked up to eleven. It’s best enjoyed when you can relax, and let it fill the room around you as you slowly sink into it and out of yourself, like you’ve stepped into a giant gelatinous cube.

Hrm. Maybe that’s not the best way to describe it. Go ahead and fill in your own: “______________.”

Yes, that’s it. That’s it exactly.

This is not the first time I’ve talked about this album, but it will be the first time I’ve linked to woob’s newest album, Have Landed, which is brilliantly described as “The soundtrack for every classic sci-fi movie that should have been made.”

Have another embedded player:

It should come as no surprise that I encourage you to go buy these albums and give woob your money so he/she/it/robot/angel/devil/sentient fungus/ makes more music for us. I hope that, if you’ve come this far, you’ll go a little farther and dig beneath that one tree by the wall to find what’s there.