I got ordained today. Somebody was talking about how she’s supposed to officiate at a friend’s wedding – apparently, you can be temporarily ordained by a Justice of the Peace to officiate at one wedding – and I mentioned that it’s actually really easy to be ordained. Anybody can do it. I pulled up a website and in a few minutes, I was ordained. I didn’t order my official certificate because, while the ordination is free, you have to pay for the paperwork. I would’ve but I blew my last paycheck on electricity and child support. But even without the paperwork, I am ordained and can perform weddings. And I will perform: if anybody is willing to cover travel, food and lodging, plus a nominal fee, I will officiate at their wedding and I’ll play at the reception free of charge. I’m totally serious. I don’t care if you’re straight or gay, just trying to get citizenship or anything. I’ll marry polyamorous covens on peyote in a nudist camp – actually, I’ll waive the fee for that.
Officiating at weddings is only one of the services I am willing and able to provide, only one of the many things I can do for you. As a deeply spiritual person, I am always looking for opportunities to contribute something positive to the world we live in.
Anyone reading this surely knows about the hours upon hours of noisy (not Noise), experimental, mostly improvisational and frequently difficult music that I have made available, much of it totally free, none of it priced at the ridiculously high rates charged by the mainstream music industry scum. You may also know that I have taken the Vow of the Bodhisattva and that I will, therefore, remain voluntarily in the cycle of death and rebirth, forsaking the incomprehensible bliss of Nirvana, until all sentient beings have achieved Enlightenment, at which point there will be no one left except a bunch of Bodhisattvas standing around saying “no, please, after you”. If you need a koan, I can provide you with one. If you are so close to attaining Enlightenment that all you need is someone to whack you with a stick or shout “katz!” at you, come on over. (Occasionally I pass a Wal-Mart or I see someone wearing an Insane Clown Posse shirt and I think about how many incarnations it’s going to take for all those assholes to be Awakened and I get kinda bummed out. I took the Vow – now I’m kinda stuck with it.)
If you’ve been following this thing for a while, you may recall that I once announced that I was starting a shamanic advice column. I got only one query from a snarky little barista, which I responded to with all due respect, but the advice column still stands. Send an email, letter or hand me a note and I will solve your life problem(s) right here in this space.
These are a few of the services I will provide. There are others. For example, if you ever need a B-side or a track to submit to a compilation – possibly a comp I am organizing – send me one of your songs and I’ll do a dub version. Actually, I don’t need the whole thing, just the drums and bass. If your song doesn’t have drums or bass, that’s fine. Just send what you have and I’ll do an alternative mix.
Need art? I got that. Need cover art? Well, by golly, let’s talk. I do a lot of the cover art for BDSR – if the label is willing to do it, I’m usually happy to let them – and I would be happy to provide cover art for you. Unless you are Insane Clown Posse, in which case I won’t.
Handpoke tattoos: $20/hr. I used to do them for free, but then I got tired of doing them. Another thing I used to do for free that I now charge $20/hr for: explaining why I don’t like your poetry.
Also, I’m a shaman. I shamanize. Usually, that takes the form of organizing and participating in performances, but I do other shamany shit too. For example, if your community is experiencing drought or if your usual food-animals have disappeared from the hunting grounds, I would happy to take care of that for you. I would, of course, require the complete cooperation of your community and payment in advance. Provide me with the details – estimates are free.
I admit that I am not as skilled as some at diagnosing and treating physical ailments. I have not focused much attention on this aspect of the shaman trade. I can witch your warts away, sure, that’s easy. If you have a lump on your testicle or bloody diarrhea, go to a fucking doctor. I will attend to some cases involving mental disorders, but I gotta tell ya, those can be tricky. Some things, situational depression for example, are relatively easy to cure; others can’t be cured at all. Certainly, a hearty helping of shamanic ritual can break through the psychological barriers that prevent an individual from locating their own hidden resources, which can completely eliminate some conditions and can make others much easier to deal with, but I would never advise anyone to substitute shamanic medicine for SSRIs or any other form of pharmacology. In general, I advocate psychiatric treatment, including medication as prescribed by the attending physician, as well as active spiritual development as the best possible treatment for mental disorders. As your Espresso Shaman, I would be happy to assist you in dealing with your fucked-up brain.
Obviously, I am able to facilitate vision quests. I prefer to host, as my spirit animals are happiest here in the oldest mountain range in the world. I can travel, but that’ll cost ya. A vision quest is not a camping trip. There will be no Iron John-style men’s movement New Age bullshit. You will not have fun and there is no guarantee that you will have any kind of vision. Basically, you will pay me to take you out into the woods, get you lost, tell you to sit someplace for a day or so with no food and almost no water, without sleeping, possibly enduring some additional hardships which I will make up on the spot, all in the hope of experiencing some sort of vision or hallucination or esoteric wet dream or whatthefuckever and if you don’t get what you’re after, tough shit. Also, you will have to sign a waiver so your family can’t sue me if you die. You could just do it yourself, though I would advise doing a bit of research first. If you do hire me to facilitate your vision quest, I will help you figure out what you experienced, if anything. That’s really the crux of the whole vision quest thing. Anybody can go sit in the woods and be uncomfortable for a few days and almost anybody who does so will have some sort of noteworthy experience, but if you don’t know how to separate the wheat from the chaff and make sense of it, it’s nigh impossible to put it to any good use.
Musical instruction is not part of the shamanic trade, but I don’t feel the need to be bound by tradition, so: shamanic guitar lessons. Whether you are an accomplished shredder or a rank amateur, I will teach you to slough off “the right way” to play guitar and access your own personal style of making sounds come out of a guitar with no regard whatsoever for how “good” or “bad” those sounds are. The whole (spirit) world of shamanolodics will open up before you, beckoning you to strum your way in.
Honestly, though, it really is easier to teach people who don’t know anything. If you’re one of those, I will teach some basics – you really do have to know a little bit before you can launch off into inner space. I don’t mean sight-reading or transposition or any of that useless shit; I mean I’ll explain standard tuning so you’ll know what to avoid, how to annoy the shit out of people with perfect pitch and what to feed your wolf tones. If you don’t have a guitar, you can use one of mine until I locate one to sell you.
If you do know how to play, I’ll still work with you, but I’ll be a lot more abusive. It’s for your own good.
What else? I can explain Finnegans Wake, extract teeth, paint fences… really, I’m wide open. As I said, I’m constantly looking for ways to make the world a better place, constantly looking for ways to be of service.
How may I help you?
- I was hanging out down town with the Spotted Opossum, looking at flowers and bees and talking about flowers and bees and some guys were trimming the shrubbery around the Methodist church. They had gas powered trimmers. One guy, nearer to us, was keeping a steady buzzing drone. The other guy, kinda behind the shrubs, was fading out, stopping and powering back up. The trimmers were barely out of tune, off by a few cents, which created a wonderful effect:
Binaural beating: DROoOoOoOoOoOoOoOne
It was awesome. I really enjoyed those trimmers. There is so much amazing soundage going on all the time. I have no idea why people listen to the shit they listen to.
The Flying Burrito Brothers?
Fuck that. Gimme power tools or crickets anyday.
- The hardest part of fasting is remembering you’re fasting. There’s food all over the place and it’s all too easy to pick something up – a piece of candy, to take an example that caught me off-guard today. It is certainly preferable to maintain the fast, but a little bite is nothing to fret over. We are, after all, merely human. Resume the fast and try harder.
- The title of this blog puns on The Varieties Of Religious Experience by William James. I considered “Vagaries Of Religious Experience”, but a Google search showed that many people had already used that. “Vulgarities” makes more sense for my purposes anyway since part of what The Big Drum In The Sky Religion is about is blurring the line between the sacred and the profane, not to profane the sacred, but to sanctify the profane. We believe that everything is sacred. Fuck. Shit. Piss.
- What’s behind the mask? Imagine a face that is equal parts Lance Henrikson and Steve Buscemi, but with Walter Mathau’s nose. Got it?
- People outside Harrisonburg might think that The Big Drum In The Sky Religion are hometown heroes. Nothing could be further from the truth. It ain’t that the locals hate us; it’s that they don’t give a shit. We aren’t attractive, we don’t go to the right parties and we sure as shit don’t play indie/alt post-punk math-rock or any form of metal. Mark 6:4 seems relevant here. King James Version, as always.
- This Espresso Shaman regularly and enthusiastically supports the ELF, which means there is no fuggin’ way I can participate in any of that shit. I have a small child and an arrest record; it would be foolhardy and reckless for me to get involved with any kinda domestic terrorist organization, no matter how righteous it might be.
Nevertheless, I support in intangible ways. For example, I would encourage people who do not have the complications I have to get involved, after learning a bit about security culture. One cannot be too cautious with that kind of thing.
Same holds true with the ALF.
- I don’t like being touched. I don’t mind shaking hands and I can handle the very brief semi-hug and cheek-kiss that happens when I see my Mom or Grandma, but beyond that: don’t like it. Obviously, I don’t mind general contact with women I’m sleeping with, but at this writing, I’m not sleeping with any women nor am I particularly interested in any. My daughter is the exception: she likes a lot of physical contact and I enjoy it with her.
I used to think the fact that I don’t like human contact meant there was something wrong with me. Then I just accepted it. There’s no reason for me to try to make myself enjoy hugging everybody or having people do that thing they do where they touch your arm when they’re talking because they want you to know they’re warm and caring people. Fuck that.
I did a Google search once on “i don’t like being touched” and discovered that it’s actually a thing: Tactile Hypersensitivity Disorder. I reject that. I have my share of disorders, but that ain’t one of ‘em. And I’m not hypersensitive. I just don’t really like people touching me.
Also, I think mayonnaise is disgusting.
- Check out this great idea for an app: fuzzbox. Yep, an app that makes all audio sound like its being run through a distortion pedal. I’m thinking old school fuzz, real simple: an on/off switch and a dial for turning the distortion up and down.
I’m not sure how to move on this idea. I have an old flip phone and no intentions of upgrading to an iphone or smartphone or whatever anytime soon. Apps are something I hear about but have no serious interest in or knowledge of. I would like to cash in on the trend, though.
I guess I’ll start shopping it around, sending emails to various companies that make distortion pedals.
- Awfsome (ôfsəm) adjective: Something so awful that it is awesome.
Around here, this word is frequently used to describe movies. White Comanche, featuring William Shatner as a pair of identical half-Comanche/half-white twins who hate each other, is awfsome. Actually, pretty much any movie starring William Shatner is going to be awfsome. Other awfsome movies: Journey To The Planet Of Prehistoric Women, The Killer Shrews, Bride Of The Monster, The Born Losers, Billy Jack, The Trial Of Billy Jack, Billy Jack Goes To Washington, Orgy Of The Dead, The Brain That Wouldn’t Die, Vive La Muerte, The Beast With A Million Eyes, Them, Godzilla Vs. Mothra (“Godzilla Vs….” pretty much guarantees awfsomeness), Finis Hominis, If Footmen Tire You What Will Horses Do, The Burning Hell, I Will Walk Like A Crazy Horse, El Barón Del Terror, Zombie, And God Said To Cain, Slave Of The Cannibal God….this list could on and on.
I generally watch awfsome movies with my laptop handy so I can research what I’m watching in real time. If one is watching, for example, Manos: The Hands Of Fate, it’s good to know that John Reynolds, the actor who played Torgo, was wasted on painkillers and that he blew his brains out after the film was completed.
It’s hard for me to come up with examples of awfsomeness outside of movies. The Black Death was awfsome. I can’t think of anything else off the top of my head.
- Great quotes by me:
“There is no justification for bad animation.”
“I am willing to accept morality as the price I have to pay for sanity.”
“I don’t want to be the best me I can be; I want to be the most me I can be.”
“You mess with the tiger, you get the horns.”
“Most people won’t fuck you over unless they have the opportunity to do so.”
“The wise warrior may choose not to fight, but the warrior who never fights is a poser.”
“Choose your battles and fight to the teeth.”
“If you lead your nation to victory, you will be celebrated as a hero and remembered for ages. If you change a baby’s diaper, no one will remember, not even the baby. It is better, therefore, to change diapers.”
“Turn to religion, damned sinners, not that it may save you, but that you may save it.”
“Today is the last day of your life.”
Howdy, friends. It’s a rainy Monday here in the valley of the Shenandoah. I painted some porch ceilings this morning and don’t have anything I have to do until later when I gotta show up for a meeting at the collectively-owned, democratically-run restaurant where I occasionally cook, but mostly wash dishes and complain about the godawful music the hip(pies/sters) have on. I’m trying to get back into the habit of thinking about this thing and actually writing a piece once in a while. It’s not a hardship or anything, but I do tend to fill my schedule to overflowing and there’re always a bunch of creative pots simmering so getting one more on can be tricky.
I’m also listening to the current BDSR project – one of the current BDSR projects – Twin Infinities (Feel God About Your Body), which will end up being a goddam double cd release. This one consists of shorter pieces, individually titled, sort of like songs. It’s a radical departure from our usual method of structuring cd’s as one giant, ridiculously bloated track. The impetus for the change was BDSR’s entry into the Bandcamp arena, which was in turn inspired by our desire to release a couple things – Tohu Wa Bohu and The Theatre Of Infernal Music – that nobody was interested in. After signing up with Bandcamp, we realized that we couldn’t put either of those up there because they’re too fuckin’ huge, so those are available through Internet Archives along with a lot of great movies. The fact that we had signed up for Bandcamp and hadn’t used it then led to the creation of a handful of tracks specifically for that venue and another handful because doing shorter tracks and releasing them immediately has some instant gratifications that are pleasing and then it started seeming like a good time to start putting together an actual release and “Twin Infinities (Feel God About Your Body)” had been on the list of possible titles for a while. Doing short tracks is kinda fun, but it won’t become the norm. We’ve got a couple poor quality live recordings which we’ll try to fix up and overdub into something listenable and those will eventually be some of a release to be titled Nevermind The Brahmins, Here’s The Big Drum In The Sky Religion, which will either be three or four longish tracks or one longerish. Also waiting to see the light of day are three that were recorded last year: Fear Of A Sacred Planet, three tracks; Sweetheart Of The Ashvamedha, two tracks; and 666th Century Schizoid Shaman, a grotesque and inexcusable bit of bloated cacophony in one loooooonnnnnggggggg, unlistenable track. There was a netlabel up around DC interested in that one – interested in hearing it based on our synopsis. We sent it and now those guys won’t answer our emails, so it’s unlikely they’ll be releasing it which is perfectly understandable. That we are still planning on putting it out there is testimony to our commitment to commercial failure with naked people cover art.
Actually, let me state here and now that we will release 666th Century… in a week. I don’t know the exact date I received the inspiration for The Big Drum In The Sky Religion, but it was about the middle of April, 2007, so we call 15 April BDSR’s birthday. 666th Century… will be our 7th anniversary release, reaffirming our undying dedication to bringing you, both of you, the very best in shamanically inspired musical self-sabotage. BDSR will never have a hit, we promise.
This is on my mind at least partly because we just passed the first weekend in April, which in Harrisonburg, VA, means MACRock, the Mid-Atlantic Conference of Rock, when a shitload of unknown bands and a shittier shitload of hipsters converge on our otherwise sleepy town to pander to each other, the bands all hoping to get signed to a label so they can be the Next Big Thing. It’s kinda like SXSW, but smaller. We, the locals, view it as an opportunity to separate fools from their money. The restaurant where I work was a venue. We had hardcore bands. One of my co-workers was pretty delighted; the others, the ones who enjoy Ani Difranco, were horrified. I found it somewhat boring. The hardcore bands were certainly hardcore enough, but I didn’t hear anything that I hadn’t heard before. I talked with some of the band members and they seemed like good folks. I was glad to run into a young lady who I met a few years ago when her band played with BDSR. Hardcore can be fun; I’m just not especially moved by it anymore, especially when it is happening in a context of such blatant suck-uppery.
BDSR might play MACRock. If they contacted us and there was money involved. I’d rather get paid to play a MACRock show than wash dishes at one. But BDSR will never try to get a MACRock show. The whole process of sending a demo and bio and all that shit to get a show to possibly impress some label guy and hopefully get fucked over just doesn’t make any sense to me. Commercial success is artistic failure. No one succeeds in music without selling out. No one can serve both God and mammon, and BDSR serves God/gods.
I should mention Tom Waits. Tom Waits is the only currently active musician I know of who is commercially successful and worthy of my respect. I haven’t liked much of what Mr. Waits has released in the past decade, but I do believe that he is following his own course, though heavily indebted to Cap’n Beefheart. Waits is famously contemptuous of the music industry. He has likened it to swimming in shark-infested waters. That he can continue to navigate it without being eaten alive just shows that our suspicions were correct: Tom Waits is not human.
That aside aside, I ain’t saying BDSR will never work with a label. Obviously, we’ve worked with many micro-labels, here and abroad, and will continue to do so. Micro-labels tend to be individuals burning cdr’s in their homes, running off covers at the local copy shop. That’s the label version of what we do. The deals are done without contracts and I have no choice but to assume the labels are motivated to put out our music because they like it and believe it has value. Certainly, I hope they recoup their investment, but I can’t imagine anybody is making any money. BDSR sure ain’t.
I haven’t gotten any emails from bigger-than-micro-labels, but I have thought about it. If some medium-sized indie label expressed an interest, I would consider it. The switch from “we” to “I” is because it’s my decision, not ours. BDSR is not a democracy. I, Brown Hat the Espresso Shaman, aka browny, received the inspiration, seven years minus a week ago, and I have the only vote. Of course, I take into consideration everything the other participants have to say, follow their leads in performance, take the chance when they have ideas and generally welcome their input, but I always have the power to veto. I haven’t had to exercise it much. Mostly, the people who get involved are on a similar wave, but it has happened that I had to say “no, that doesn’t fit BDSR”.
I would consider working with a larger label. I want people to be able to hear BDSR. I think the music is good and the message behind the music is better. I am trying to alter the world with sound, after all, and it would be a lot easier if more people heard that sound. But I would have to have a lot of control over all stages of the process: the recording – where, when, how – the production, cover art, tour support, if any, probably not because I got shit to do around town and going off on a tour seems like work. I suspect that my demands for final say-so at all levels would cause any hypothetical label to say “no, thanks”. I’m fine with that. If the sharks won’t play Marco Polo according to my rules, I’ll stay out of the water.
That said, as I mentioned, there’re a few titles ready to hit the shelves, so if you wanna put ‘em out, drop a line. Twin Infinities (Feel God About Your Body) sounds great so far. It’s about ¾ finished. If you know the albums that title refers to, you are an old punk.
Brown Hat the Espresso Shaman
The pun is always intended.