Monday, October 30, 2006


Sometime back when I used to write for this mag called BadAzz Mofo, I’d go to these conventions and there’d always he some loud crazy wildin out negroes at this one booth, always with dope beats coming out of their warped stereo. They did a comic magazine called Hood. This was back when Giant Robot was first doing its thing for Asian Culture and there was still an open sense about the comic book game. These cats always had love for any black face they saw and their comics portrayed the same love for hip-hop culture. But you knew you were at an underground comic expo If Hood comics was there. At the time I was working at a comic book store and always knew the hood readers when they walked in the door. They weren’t thugs, they were just street geeks. They’d pick up their Shadowhawks and incredible Hulks, but they had to open their hood comic in the store just to get the little chuckle it promised.

Time went on and I got semi-grown, catapulted into academic worlds and the like . Naturally I still read comics but I forgot about some of the underground stuff I used to pay attention to. I ran into Age Scott, H.I.C (Hustler in charge) of Fambooks, the company that put Hood comics last week at the first Hip-hop comic book day I’ve ever heard of and we chopped it up about the industry, beefs, and the future.

ME: How’d you get an idea for Hip-hop comic book day?

AGE: At these conventions we …, hip hop comic books were getting crapped on extremely hard. So I figured we’ve got to make our own lane, our own convention so that the folks could, you know come on out to.

AGE: Fam books is official been around for ten years. Been doing it for years! We gonna do for comics wheat hip-hop did for music.

Me: What’s that mean?

AGE: Keeping your shit. Owning your shit. Using it as a barter system. You know like one book may go major and keep everything else underground. We got a plan.

ME: It’s like a studio mentality.

AGE: It’s all Hip-hop! When we do a hip-hop comic, it’s not spoofing hip-hop. We do it from ground up. I’m talking street teaming, dropping consistently when no else know what you doing. Like a Tupac type work ethic. Cats ain’t ready for this. Me alone I’m on my 50th book. These streets of Berkeley, they know me for my shit. By myself. The team, Captain, he’s on fire. We’re in a good way.

ME: I was talking to Jerry over there and I was asking him about his book and he was all just buy one of these other cats books and you get one of mine for free. IS that the way you all roll?

AGE: That’s core Hip-hop! We’ ain’t fucking with no non hip-hop type shit man.

ME: Ok but what kind of Hip-hop? You talking Flava Flav hip-hop, you talking Will Smith Hip-hop?

AGE: That’s the beauty of it, we’re talking Flava flav and Will Smith and MF Doom and Kayne West and Jay-z and Supernatural and Busta Rhymes and dead prez and Outkast and Aseop rock, and lprd, buck down, no limit, Suge knight, papoose, scarface. The whole thing. It’s no bullshit. It’s the real shit. It’s not no flash in the pan. See comics are like hip-hop. You got all these flash in the pan people out there doing hip-hop comics.

ME: Whose a flash in the pan?

AGE: Name drop?

ME: Give some names son!

AGE:I ain’t gonna beef with no artist individually, but I’ll tell you the label. FUCK IMAGE!

ME: For real Fuck image?

AGE: Fuck Image up they ass. I ain’t beefing with no artist cause I understand you gotta eat, but I’m gonna beef with your label. Fuck Image. They don’t want none.

ME: Is this personal? Something they did to you or…

AGE: Look, it’s all competition, it’s all fair. It’s all love. Me, I ain’t gonna pull straps and buck you down. I’m just needing an idol to beef with, an Image to take down.

What’s the future hold for Hood? Well it’s official that they’ve got a phat ass distribution deal with Last Gasp. That means their local scene is about to go national. Plus I got it on the under that they might be reprinting some Hood magazine stuff in graphic novel format. After that, with these cats on the grind, the sky’s the limit.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Here it is...Blam!

After announcing that my book had won the 2006 DIY Book Award, folks wanted to see the cover, know more about it and find out where to purchase it. If you live in the SF Bay Area, I'll meet you and you can get a copy directly from me for $10. (9 bucks plus tax). If you are anywhere else in the US, the book will cost you $11 (8 for the book and 3 for shipping). Overseas? $16 US.

If you want it, here is the address to send your check or money order to:

GhostMonkey Massive
P.O. Box 20312
Piedmont, CA 94620


Also, here are a couple of reivews (from the back cover):

Shawn Taylor is a foul-mouthed preacher and a ghetto philosopher whose work has us acknowledging some deep truths about ourselves while we're laughing our asses off. This book contains powerful essays and twisted thoughts on sexuality, fathers, and violence. Shawn's daring at telling the truth about himself at all costs is spellbinding. He puts himself on display in order to get us to reexamine our relationships, our values, and ourselves. Few people have the guts and brilliance to pull off the emotional high wire act that Shawn traipses across effortlessly.

—James Cagney Jr., author of The Ebonic Plague and Breakbeat Jesus

I learned things about my husband that I didn’t even know…but was happy to find out. In Big Black Penis, Shawn Taylor is both vulnerable and hilarious. This unapologetic account of his life invites all men to be honest with themselves, question what has shaped their masculinity, and seek an authentic sense of self. As he reveals his reflections on being raised without a father, defining strength, confronting homophobia, and forming relationships, Shawn also exposes the hate and the fear that American society has harbored toward Black men. Through this vital text, Shawn Taylor exemplifies what it means for a man to discover his inner beauty while affirming his virility.

—Janet Stickmon, author of Crushing Soft Rubies

Monday, October 23, 2006

Don't touch that hat!

Ever hear of Stagger Lee? You have. I know it. With at least thirty different versions recorded, the song is like an unconscious thread winding through the musical tastes of the United States. Artists from Sidney Bechet to Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds have done the song. What makes it special is that the events in the song, one black man shooting another black man over a hat in a saloon, actually happened. Interesting, right? So what do you do when you hear about something this quirky sort of interesting? Tell your friends around the water cooler? Google it maybe? Writer Derek McCulloch and artist Shepherd (Shep to his friends) Hendrix did a freaking graphic novel about it. And guess what? It’s Hot like Fia!

I got a chance to sit down with the gents last week to dialogue about what the hell was going through their heads when they put this work together. It’s the type of graphic novel your hip anthropology professor would assign so discuss the notion of the meta narrative, but the guys who generated it are chiller than a polar bears toenails in December. After I found out Derek used to work at the same comic book store I did, I knew I was in good geek company.

ME: How did you come to Stagger Lee?
DEREK: I can show you. I came prepared. The one prop I brought. (He pulls out a book.) Mystery train by Greil Marcus. I bough this book in 1998 or 1999 and it set around on my book case. One day I was flipping through the index and I came across a notation for Stagger Lee and I guess Nick Cave’s Murder ballads had just come out recently and I was kind of puzzled that he had this song called Stagger Lee …and I guess I couldn’t reconcile the Nick Cave version with the Lloyd Price version I knew as a kid. So when I saw it in the index and I saw it I had to read it. He (Marcus) basically tells the whole story of Lee Shelton and how it was based on an actual murder. At the time I was thinking of different stuff to do to get back into comics. I’d been out for a long time. I didn’t know quite what a comic about Stagger Lee could be but I knew there was something there.

ME: And that was ’95?
DEREK: 99 I’d say. It took me about four or five years of research. Before I started writing the script. First I tried to find out as much as I could by collecting songs. I collected every version of Stagger lee I could find. I compiled this tape, yes tape not CD, of every version I found. I’m a techno illiterate. I had this idea that if I could fill up a two hour tape of Stagger Lee’s that could be my soundtrack on continuous loop while I was writing. I got old blues versions, 50’s rock and roll versions. Fats Domino, Neil Diamond. Neil Sedaka. Neil Young hasn’t done one yet but we’re waiting. Neil diamond’s is the worst. It’s not quite bad enough to be so bad that it’s good.
ME: I will be using that as a quote. (To Shepherd) What was drawing this piece like?
SHEP: Well, It got a pretty good start. I was working a day job at EA and at times I’d come home and work on it. Then there was a time when I think I just gave up on it for a little while to keep up with the day job. At that point we were still thinking about self publishing it so there wasn’t really a deadline. It was more like when do we think we’ll get it done. Eventually, Derek talked to Image and they expressed interest. When that happened there was a deadline which meant I had to start working. At that point, I’d finished up with EA and worked specifically with Stagger Lee. What we’d do is just turn it over in increments. At times I was doing a page a day, pencils and inks. That’s really really fast. I finished it on a collapsed lung. In fact I didn’t know I had a collapsed lung until it happened.
ME: Gotta give up the smoking.
SHEP: I don’t smoke!
ME: How do you guys know each other?
SHEP: 86!
DEREK: Shep was one of the first people I met when I moved to California.
SHEP: 86 was the first year I got into comics. I was studying commercial design and it was dull. One my instructors said that I had a lot of comic book tendencies and gave me Steve Leialoha’s number, with whom I ended up working with later.
DEREK: Back then him, Tom Orzechowski, and Trina Robbins…they all lived in this house Steve owned in San Francisco. They mentored a lot of young comic people back then.
SHEP: I started going to conventions that year. San Diego went there for the first time that year. I went to a local convention in San Mateo in a dumpy hotel; I think it was tri-con. That was the first time I remember meeting you (Derek). That was the first time I heard the Pogues. Irish pirate music I was listening to. I was like what is this?
DEREK: The Pogues are my favorite band in the history of civilization. I came across this bulletin board online where the lead guitarist was posting and I sent him this private messages saying “Hey I’ve done this book called in Stagger Lee. Would you like to see a copy?” And he said yes. So the big dream now is to get a Pogues version of Stagger Lee out of this.
ME: Is this the first time you guys have worked together?
DEREK: We’ve tried repeatedly to get something done or off the ground. We did finish a short story in the eighties. We can’t remember what happened but it never saw the light of day. It was a Zombie story. We were telling this story about these pages at a signing and Joe Keatinge from Image came over, you know those guys are all about Zombies right now (See Walking Dead). He was all about it. He hasn’t said anything about it since so I don’t know what’s going to happen.
ME: What do you do when you’re not doing Stagger Lee?
DEREK: Wishing I wasn’t doing my day job. I’ve been working at an engineering firm for the past 15 years…ok more like twenty doing word processing. I first worked there after I quit Comic Relief. Stagger Lee has been so well received and has so much potential I see so much happening with this book I can’t help but think…There’s got to be money in it somewhere.

ME: What’s your deal with Image like? You get paid up front or….
DEREK: Nah, Standard Image deal. We get paid off the profits.
SHEP: That’s after Image takes their piece off the top and we pay our publicists…
DEREK: Depending on where you’re at, it’s a great deal. They give a much higher percentage of profits than anyone else plus you get to retain all the rights to the property. The trick is you have to sell enough for there to be a profit.
ME: Who was your target audience for Stagger Lee?
DEREK: One of the things I love about Stagger Lee is, not just the book but the whole thing is that it has cross over appeal into a lot of different areas. There’s a potential for so many different audiences to find something for them in the book. Stagger lee…is the progenitor of the gangsta. There’s an audience there. Then there’s the dusty old folklorist audience. It’s a book made for KMEL and KPFA. It’s just a really good story.
ME: I really like the way you kept going back to the song as the Rosetta stone of the book. It would’ve been easy to get lost in the narrative you created.
DEREK: That's what fascinated me from the moment I read about it. The departure from history to myth. This real story that became its own thing that went off and did its own thing, all in the lifetime of the main character. So he survived to see his own story become something bigger than himself. That’s the essence of what attracted me to it.
ME: That reminds me of a Joseph Campbell line. He said remember that the cult of the hero is the cult of the dead.
DEREK: That would’ve been a good quote.
SHEP: I hadn’t heard the song until I was an adult. And that was the Lloyd price version. And I was interested in the name. Stagger Lee. OK, so does that mean he was drunk or something? How did the Stagger come about? When Derek handed me the script my initial interest was “I’ve always wondered who Stagger Lee is?” I was intrigued by the history. It wasn’t really a story I would’ve considered drawing. I’m more of a science fiction, a little fantasy, but I didn’t really think of drawing a period piece. It was challenge. A 205 page challenge. I’m not sure what struck me to draw it because it wasn’t something I thought tons of people would flock to. But it’s something that may not appeal to someone, but may be it should. It’s a folk hero. Someone wrote a song about a murder and it’s been going on for this long.
ME: Whose idea was it to do the Sepia tone?
SHEP: Rafael Navarro brought it first to us.
DEREK: It was a group decision. Charles Brownstein, the head of the C.B.L.D.F., he threw it out first. He hooked us up with Image. He suggested it and we thought maybe but it’s easier to do it the Black and White, normal way. But towards the end Richard Starkings of Comicraft pointed us to another book they’d done Gunpowder girl and the Outlaw Squaw
SHEP: Done by another brother.
DEREK: They’d thought it would be a really good idea for us.
DEREK: We vacillated about it for a few days then we said just go for it. When I first saw it, the book, was at a bookseller convention and I was struck with panic. I couldn’t figure it for a second. But then I saw it and it was really good. So I relaxed about it. I’m really glad its sepia. It gives it uniqueness about it. It’s right for the material.
ME: (To Shep) Are you happy with it?
SHEP: I don’t know why I didn’t think of it.
ME: What do guys listen to aside from Stagger Lee?
SHEP: I’m not keen on a lot of modern stuff, like the last twenty years. I listen to movie soundtracks, soul, classics, rock. Derek got me into the Pogues. I recently bought a CD of Sea Shanties. I like to listen to comedy. Richard Pryor. Jeff Foxworthy if you can believe it.
DEREK: I mentioned the Pogues. Shane Mcgowan, I’m also really really into Tom Waits.
ME: You know he’s got a three CD set coming out. I’ve heard one or two tracks. It’s beautiful, old school Tom.
DEREK: Closing Time is my favorite thing to write to. If I had nothing else but Pogues albums and Tom Waits albums I’d be happy for the rest of my life. My favorite thing with both of them is the storytelling. I was not into the Blues at all before Stagger Lee. But the process of unearthing the versions…I wouldn’t just listen to the Stagger Lee on an album I’d buy, I’d listen to the whole thing. In the process of writing this book I became a huge blues fan. My favorite is Mississippi John Hurt. His version, live from some folk festival revival, a version of Stagger Lee with a brief spoken word intro, that’s my favorite.
SHEP: What I listen to cycles. There was a time I listen to a lot of Leonard Cohen. My life is just about drawing. I’m a very insulated person.
ME: Do you listen to music when you draw?
SHEP: Sometimes I watch movies. Just put it on, it’s all about the ambience. Sometimes I put some Red Drawfs' on. I listen to a lot of comedy. I listened to the Stagger Lee tape when I was drawing the book.
DEREK: I always think of you as the only Gordon Lightfoot fan.
ME: “If you could read my mind love?” Gordon Lightfoot?
SHEP: Yes!
ME: And you’re going to defend that on record?
SHEP: Yes!
DEREK: Actually the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald is a great song.
SHEP: My aunt had it when I was 6 and it was still fresh. I was on a road trip with her and I remember it. Music reminds me of different times and space. If I want to be in a certain mood it puts me in the mood. I don’t have a lot of Lightfoot in the collection but I know it. I’ve been listening to a lot of Henry Rollins. His spoken word.
DEREK: (To Shep) You ever listen to Cowboy Junkies? I bet you’d like the Cowboy Junkies.
SHEP: I tend to come into things way after everyone else…
DEREK: This would be a great time to come in. Get the trinity sessions.
ME: I love the trinity sessions. Great storytelling. What do you guys read?
DEREK: I buy things on impulse like Mystery train then stick then on my shelf. Then I have this line of things I should read that I read based on when I bought it. Right now I’m reading Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy. The only reason I bought it….because of that Monty python sketch. For thirty years I’ve had the first line of that novel memorized because of that Monty Python sketch. I thought maybe its time I read the rest of it. Writers I come back to again and again, Elmore Leonard, George MacDonald Frazier. Joseph Conrad, Steven King. I span high and low. You know who was weirdly influential in Stagger Lee? Gore Vidal. Try to connect those dots.
ME: (Scratching my head like a chimp) Live from Golgotha to Stagger Lee?
DEREK: Yeah. No, his series on the presidential America... I think the first were Burr and Lincoln. I think his last was the Golden age. The way we wrote the dialogue for educated people of the 19th century is how I loosely based the dialogue for the educated people in Stagger lee. I figured “Who the hell knows how people talked in the 19th century? Hell maybe Gore Vidal’s old enough to remember.
ME: I always think of the iambic pentameter of Deadwood. I think that’s how people really talked.
DEREK: Yeah, the script for Stagger Lee was written and done long before Deadwood hit the air. But I did see some kinship.
ME: You read comics?
DEREK: Hardly any. When I was a kid I grew up on them. But when I first published my own comic, I was twenty. I was part of that major black and white movement in the eighties. I was part of the group that didn’t make any money at it…I’ve worked on every end of the comic line. I’ve been in publishing, retail, distribution. There’s something about having such a comprehensive view of the industry. It’s like working for KFC. You don’t ever want to smell chicken again.
ME: That’s another quote.
DEREK: I come back into comics every now and then. The only things I’ve read in the past ten years was FROM HELL.
SHEP: I pick up things here and there. I read myself to sleep. It takes me a while to get through books. I’ve read a lot of Steven King. But lately I’ve been reading a lot more research. I’m writing my own story called Prospect. It’s 1492 in space. It’s Christopher Columbus in space. It’s like imagine all the bastardized European cultures, Indian, African, wanting to go back…not totally back to the roots, but their lives are a lot more simple. The sponsoring thought is if I could create the world anew, what would it look like? But I’m not trained as a writer, so it’s taken a lot longer than I’ve thought. So putting all together means I’ve got to read a lot of cultural stuff. Older cultures, the ways people used to live fascinate me. The way people used to view life, a lot of it…The way we live now just seems so superficial.
ME: You ever read Guns Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond?
SHEP: I’ve read another book by him. How societies choose to fail or survive. A lot of books. Under the banner of heaven. That’s a scary book. I always thought the Mormons were nice people. I mean I guess most of them are but…
ME: So what’s the dream project for you guys?
SHEP: Prospect.
ME: Sounds awesome I’d love to read it.
SHEP: It’s a lot of things I’ve learned over time. Like I took a class on how to build earth homes. So I’m incorporating stuff on that. It’s world building for me. I’m taking all the science fiction stuff I love. I was Star wars/Star trek crazy. I love drawing ships. So I’m taking all the stuff I love and incorporating culturally interesting things in this. It’s taken me a long time to do it because I’m not as comfortable with writing.
DEREK: He’s been working on this since I’ve known him. I’d have to say my dream project was Stagger Lee.
ME: So you’re done now?
DEREK: I’d say yes but it’s not true. It’s just hard to imagine anything else that’s going to be as all consuming. Stagger Lee was a project that required such a large personal investment. In a lot of ways, mostly superficial it was life changing. Like it turned me into a blues fan. Not a big thing, I know. But still, it’s rare that things like that come along.
SHEP: Wow, I’m glad I could help you with your life’s dream.
DEREK: Yeah. I’ve got eight other next projects in my head and I don’t want to sell any of them short, but Stagger Lee was special.

Sunday, October 22, 2006


Fuck the man! Don't give THE MAN his taxes Wesley! You're not an American, You are an African born in America! SHHEEEIIT! No black person in the U.S should have to pay taxes all the fre labor our people been giving! Not to say I don't keep all my shit on lock, so fuck you IRS! I do mine's very well. But yeah, once again Welesy is my fucking hero!

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Interview with the dopest electropop massive, JAHCOOZI

10:45 I’m at the spot and there’s a relatively few people around. This is not a proper build up for what I consider to be one of the most hype elctropop bands on the planet today. While the cute ambiguously ethnic Dj is rocking it with classics and new slightly grimy drum and bass tracks, the hipsters with leather arm bands and capoeira moves set an all together different tone than what I’m expecting for Jahcoozi. The problem with Hipsters is that they’re too gourmet and not enough gormound. I could feed each of them a steak sandwich for a week and watch them get skinnier. You know you’ve got a problem when the whole crowd looks like it needs a happy meal. They’re not big enough to cause any problems, but they’re mobile enough to be distracting. For example, why do a handstand in the middle of an empty dance floor? I think this is a night where I’ll get progressively drunker. Then I realize the drinks cost $7.00 a pop.

The whole crowd looks like they just mad best friends with Tina. Two platinum blonds with big titties wander in and quickly realize they’re in the wrong crowd. Maybe it’s that Afrika Bamabatta is on the ones and twos. Or maybe it’s the wrist bands. There are two women now, who may or may not know each other rocking the Sheena the She-devil leather arm bands and doing the wavy dancy thing. Either way, the blondes can’t take it and leave with a quickness. I’m about to do the same when the girl in all black starts doing ballroom dancing to a Goldie track.

So it’s a godsend for me when Jahcoozi finally does make an appearance. They’re late having overslept but they reek of authenticity and a desire to please the crowd so I can forgive anything. I know I’m in the right place when I see Koch, bassist extraordinaire setting up with what I believe to be a Yamaha qy-100. It’s a mini music production piece that all the bad asses from the UK trip hop scene at least knew about. Tricky did a few remixes with it. Before they even get started I ask Koch if that’s what he’s using. “No.” he responds with a happy German glee, “It’s a qy-70”. Same diff. He’s all excited someone else knows about it. I’m getting the happy feelings.

Stock beats get played for a minute or two, and I get the feeling Oren is warming up. He’s running Ableton Live off a Mac along with a MIDI hardware interface I can’t quite see. But he twisting the appropriate knobs back and forth, rocking just as hard as the dj’s had previously.

After a few fits and starts, mostly with the lights and the sounds Sasha, dark skinned Sri Lankan with British accent GOODESS that she is, takes the stage. Ever see a performer change into shorts to perform? I have. Of course, the shorts were only the beginning of the ensemble. She rocked a tan safari hat with the same colored poncho like get up, exposing only her long strong legs.

“Could we have some louder beats?” Sasha demands from the sound board woman. “We just came all the way from Berlin!” It doesn’t help but it does explain the problem. Its 1:30 in the A.M, they’re tired as all fuck and trying to give it their all. Jahcoozi are ready to make a splash on their first U.S tour. 1015 Fulton isn’t ready for them. And as I look around at the wanna be capoeiristas I realize, S.F isn’t quite ready for them.

The first five minutes on the stage Sasha says the bands name fifteen different times in ten different ways, never truly repeating herself once. I’m in love. Halfway through their set Sasha tries to find a date, jumping off the stage and dancing into the crowd. They play the hot stuff of their limited catalog: Fish, Black Barbie, Shake the doom, the stuff you’d want to hear if you’d heard the albums. Then they rock stuff I’ve never heard before. A little more edgy. Less polished sure, but isn’t that what a live set is for? It tells me they’ve been doing new things and not relying on the fattest underground release of 04-05. My favorite is the “Pop your pussy like this” song done with a polka beat. Only problem is out of the sixty people at the show, maybe ten of them knew who they were listening to. It breaks my heart. So while Oren fucks up 1015 with the laptop and the MIDI controller I sneak into an alley that calls itself a backstage to have some face time with the coolest woman to ever blow a trumpet and Robot Koch.

ME: Didn’t you guys just come from Australia?
Love of my life aka. SASHA: We were playing Singapore and Malaysia two weeks ago…We’re a bit jet lagged.
ME: How do you like playing in the States?
SASHA: It’s nice. I was thinking about drinking red bull but then I was thinking why should I drink red bull if there’s no alcohol anymore (It’s twoish in the morning and S.F has bullshit laws about not being bale to buy alcohol after a certain time. I’m wishing I brought the party treats I thought of before.) I mean what am I going to stay awake for?
ME: That’s kind of sad.
SASHA: I know I’m just joking. What I find shocking is I’ve never been to a city that I’ve seen so much in film…I’ve been to the states as a kid but not as an adult. I know its going to be the same in L.A in New York. I travel a lot you know? But not to places where it’s like everything is in films, yeah?
ME: I know you’ve got a day between here and L.A. You gonna chill in S.F or in L.A?
SASHA: We don’t have a day anymore. We’re playing at Decompression.(It’s where the burning man nobs go to lament the passing of their sacred space, in a nob like fashion.)
ME: You guys ever heard of Burning Man?
KOCH: Heard of it sure…
SASHA: It’s where people sit on top of buildings waiting for UFO’s saying “Take me away”, right?
ME: So you’re ideal crowd, what is it?
SASHA: Mixed I’d say. We do really well in France for some reason. You know they listen to everything from Punk to Dub to everything. I think its just crowds that are open minded and want to dance. Girls too. For some reason Girls like our music. I don’t know why.
ME: Boys don’t like your music?
SASHA: They do, it’s just they stand in the back like this (She crosses her arms). While the girls are up front all winding and interacting. I don’t know man.
ME: What’s the secret origin of Jahcoozi?
SASHA: I can try and make something up right now. Let’s see…We always tell people Koch was in a strip bar and I was on the pole and I say “You know I’m really tired of stripping for a living.” So we decided to make a band and we thought how could we complete this ethnic look of you know, a Sri Lankan and a German? A Jew! Then we went to Jewish web forums where people just had their upper bodies showing and we found Oren. Then we thought this is like Benetton. And since then we’ve been trying to get Benetton sponsoring but no luck as of yet. But we’re still hoping. We’re looking to get our pension paid by them, you know?
ME: You guys get a lot of bookings because of the international multiculti feel or do you think it’s just the music?
SASHA: It’s a mixture but I think it’s mainly the music. I mean it's not like we’re so mainstream that everyone knows us and we’re on the cover of every magazine…
ME: Give it time, I have faith in you.
SASHA: Benetton.
ME: I’m there.
SASHA: There’s obviously a lot of press you can get out of it. We tend to get a lot of questions about it. Like mainstream press was all “You’re like a musical Zadie Smith” and I’m like that’s an insult to Zadie Smith. I mean I’ve read her stuff and she’s all well versed and I’m an indie pop art artist. But no, it’s not the only reason we get bookings, it’s mainly the music. It’s the right time for the music.
ME: Let’s talk music for a second. Trumpet? How long have you been playing?
SASHA: Since I was 11 or 12 until I was about 16. I hadn’t touched it for years though. Very lazy about it. I play on stage but you won’t see me practicing at home.
ME: It looked like you knew what you were doing.
SASHA: We always make the joke, Sasha plays trumpet but only over slow dubby beat. As soon as something fast, like Ska comes along my lips just go numb.
ME: what about singing?
SASHA: Jahcoozi’s the first band I’ve ever been with. I think its gotten better from when we first started. Plus the music we do, its not really melody music, right.
ME: (To Robot Koch) what about you? How long have you been playing bass?
KOCH: Years, I played guitar first. Bass I added about ten years ago for production, mostly.
ME: So tell me about the qy 70. How long have you been fucking with that?
KOCH: It’s the first MIIDI instrument I bought. I thought “Oh great, a computer and an instrument and I just sort of bought it randomly thirteen years ago. In Singapore, I think. Actually I just used it for fun stuff for years. But then we had the idea to do a polka cover of the Kia song then we finally used it and it found its destiny. It’s a good machine it looks good and it has a fat sound.
SASHA: The depressing thing is that people love that song. They love it more than the music we make.
ME: Maybe it’s just more recognizable.
SASHA: Yeah, it’s like why don’t we just make a whole album with that thing and be done with it? That song is my mother’s favorite song but she can’t understand a word of what I’m saying. She’s all “What’s that song called?” The one about the donkey mom?
ME: Do you guys play mostly queer venues?
SASHA: What you mean like all Batty?
ME: When we say queer here it means anything not straight.
SASHA: All right, Nah we play some commercial stuff. Like we played in a festival a couple of weeks ago where Public Enemy played, Peaches played, The Rapture played. Ok, it’s not Madonna but you know we have range. Sometimes we play art exhibitions where we have terrible light and a quiet room at nine in the evening. It’s just weird you know, because we have these older people. But they get into it. I think it’s because we just have fun on the stage and that’s contagious.
ME: So what’s next for recording?
SASHA: We’re recording a second album now. If we can stay at home for a bit we’ll get it done faster. It’s gong well though.
ME: Does it have the same sound as the last album?
SASHA: Well the last one is quite old actually. Black Barbie is really old. That’s a really low fi sound. We did it all on home computers. Now we’ve got big fat monitors, so there’s been a progression.
KOCH: It’s always different. The first one was made over a longer time. Two to three years. It was a bit wild like let’s make a dub track a ska track, you know? This one is also a bit weird. A bit more vocals, we’re a bit more together.
ME: How do you guys record? One on lyrics, one on beats, one on production?
KOCH: Sasha writes all the lyrics. She comes down to the studio with some basic beats over it. Then we add vocals, a bass line, you know...
SASHA: I tend to get the beat at home and work it out there. I’m not a brainstorm type person. I like to write in peace.
ME: So the lyrics. You want to be adopted by Eskimos and taught how to fish? (I’m not being random. It’s a line from the song fish.)
SASHA: That was one of the first songs I ever wrote. I had just got my degree and I was like “What am I going to do with my life?” and that’s literally what it is. It had a different title before…it’s was like where’s the instruction manual you’re supposed to get when you’re born? I just write about things that I want to write about. I feel really lucky that I get to make songs about whatever I want to write about. No ones like “What’s that?” There are a few “What’s that?” but…
ME: You think content is going to change with the new album?
SASHA: I don’t know. It’s hard to predict. Like we have some racial connotations in Black Barbie or like Asian Bride magazine, and I want to include that as well but I don't want it to be a must. I don’t want to have albums where it’s like you have to have one track about them and one track about them. That’s not what I’m about. Either it comes in a way where I want to do it or it doesn’t come. I think it would be terrible to produce like a machine and be all there’s the cutsie track about whatever, know what I mean? Like we wrote a track about Berlin. Actually, you must have noticed our live set is so different from the recorded stuff.
ME: Yeah there was stuff I hadn’t heard before…
SASHA: But you wanted the familiar stuff, didn’t you?
ME: I was totally forgiving after I heard how they did you on the sound. (To Koch) Any new sounds for the new album?
KOCH: Well people’s ears are always changing you know. So you can’t stay the same. We’ll be doing some new things.
SASHA: I think we’re going to be a little more clubby. Not so low-fi. The first album was luck. Black Barbie was the first track we did. Back then we had no expectations. Now we’re expecting more. I think we’ve got a healthy development.

We parle for another twenty minutes or so about this and that. Goddess Sasha has traveled in my adopted home country of Morocco. I’m officially sprung. LA and New York had the benefit of Jahcoozi. Next time they come to the states, or if you’re in Berlin or anyplace else they play, DON”T SLEEP! P.S: I think I want to marry Sasha.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Darryl Hunt

Certain things make, what my grandma called “Not a lick of sense”. More than that, they’re fundamentally wrong. Any black person with even a hint of street in their family or social line, knows that the police sometime, nah let’s be real, often, do dirt. Not because they’re evil (though some of the boys in blue really just have some issues they need to work out. The departed is closer to truth than most care to admit.) but because it’s easier to blame an innocent than actually go out and find the guilty. Case and point: Darryl Hunt. Here’s one of the most chill mellow black men in the world accused of raping and killing a white woman in North Carolina. See, now any black man who is either from or has lived in the South knows right there that’s your ass. Problem is, if you’re not the black man who did it, that means there’s another crazed rapist murder out there. But you have to figure even by racist standards, if a black man in jail refuses a plea saying he’s innocent in exchange for time serve, then maybe you might want to start looking for the real guilty person. And hell, if there’s another woman out there, raped and attacked in the same manner, not two fucking blocks from where the original attack happened, maybe you might want to look into it. Or hey, how about this, suppose you take semen samples from the victim and the man you’ve had in jail for nineteen fucking years and see if they match? And if they don’t match, let the man go. Instead they did the test and when it didn’t match they still kept the black man in jail. AARRRGHHH!

Look, I had an awesome weekend in service of this blog and I promise the rest of the stuff I post soon will be more light hearted and fun. But on my word, take every white friend you have to peep The trial of Darryl hunt. If they don’t walk out that flick crying and angry, drop them. They don’t get it and they never will. Those are the types that if you ever get arrested for no good god damn reason will say some idiot shit like “Well what did you do to deserve it.”

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

My Book Won An Award


LOS ANGELES (October 10, 2006) _ Shawn Taylor’s “Big Black Penis: Misadventures in Race and Masculinity” was named DIY Book of the Year, and Annick Press of Canada was DIY Publisher of the Year for the 2006 DIY Book Festival, whose results were announced today.

Both author and publisher will be honored along with other winners in a ceremony to be held n Los Angeles on Sat. Oct. 21 to cap the fifth annual DIY Book Festival, which honors independent and self-published book on the cutting-edge of literature.

Taylor’s “Big Black Penis” is an audacious and unapologetic account of his life, philosophies and interpretations of the world at large. Its strong and vibrant voice won over the DIY judges, who awarded him the festival’s $1500 first prize.