Friday, December 12, 2008
Friday, December 5, 2008
Says my friend Ian Anderson, "We have all been outraged at the awful atrocities of the last week and were forced to take the decision to suspend the Mumbai concert in the light of the Taj Hotel siege which, at the time of cancellation, was still ongoing. In the light of today's new India terror warnings and airport alerts, we are all understandably a little nervous about the show but hiding under the bed is not really an option."
Tonight's Billion Hands charity concert will feature Tull's Classic Rock and acoustic music as well as specially written new material for the collaborative set with Anoushka Shankar.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
You don't see this as the creative interpretation of art? I know, spray painting graffiti on a Matisse canvas is not creative interpretation, it is an act of defacement. I agree, and the cover of this CD is not defacement. It is making a point. Most importantly, the colored version of the work without the title CAGED plastered over the mouth is on the third panel of the insert; with muzzle in place, however. Are you referring to that as well? Because the version with the muzzle represents certain aspects of Cliff's story, as well as better fitting to other contours of the work; it is simply more appropriate than the original. Where is your respect for the evolution of art as a tool for contemplation?
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
More Dave Gutierrez art from Billboards pictured here. I can't wait to see this book.
Monday, November 24, 2008
And you can order one, too.
Friday, September 19, 2008
Visit their website and download a track, then play it a few times. If you don't find yourself halucinating, I'll send you a mushroom.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
My friend Moshe Goldsmith from Itamar, a beautiful settlement in Israel, just informed me of a distressing story you won't see on CNN.
This past Shabbat, a terrorist infiltrated the nearby settlement of Yitzhar and stabbed a nine-year-old boy after setting fire to a house in the community. Thank G-d the boy survived the attack [despite] having been stabbed numerous times in his back.
Today, some Arabs set fire to the Itamar forest intending to burn down some of our houses that border the forest area. The army verified our account of the story. This of course did not stop the media from bad mouthing us as usual... This year alone, tens of times the neighboring Arabs have fire bombed our fields and caused fires in our community's surroundings.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Monday, August 25, 2008
Sunday, August 3, 2008
Pictured below: Mrs. Meth's boy Clifford with Peter David, Joe Hill, Steve Niles, David Lloyd, Jerry Robinson, Al Feldstein, and Jim Steranko at San Diego ComicCon. Not pictured: Nelson DeCastro and Billy Tucci who, when last seen, were fishing their room keys out of a beer bottle at Dick's Last Resort.
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
You can read a recent interview with Mark here or see one here.
Meth, Colan & Other Theologians is in the July Previews for books shipping in September. You can reserve the book now with your local retailer or order the signed edition here.
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
SNAKED (IDW Publishing): In this cleverly concocted political horror-thriller, Bill Timmons is born with scales and a latent ability for bloody outbursts. But when he makes it to the high-profile political scene, he finds it’s his co-workers who are the real snakes. In fact, his straight-laced principles make him, according to one slithery colleague, “almost inhuman,” setting up an analogy charged with the power of today’s most popular politicians. After being framed, fired and cheated on by his wife, Timmons goes on a bloody rampage that jumps out in stark red against the book’s dramatically dark and grimy palette. Snaked features sharp writing, a fun crude streak and an innovative plot encompassing a volatile backdrop of far-fetched, reality-based political intrigue you have to read to believe. Incredibly entertaining! JULY $17.99
Thursday, July 3, 2008
“I first found one of your books in Chile (of all places) where I was living at the time,” writes Gonzalo Baeza who just bought MethO.D. “I've acquired all of your other books in the last 3-4 years but I was missing this one. I can't believe the ‘big’ publishing houses haven't decided to publish an anthology of your stories. Then again, it's not as if they know what they're doing and you'd probably not have the freedom to say what you say in your stories…”
MethO.D. was my last offering from Aardwolf Publishing. My next anthology, One Small Voice, was published by IDW Publishing—not exactly a “big publishing house,” but certainly not small press. TOR and others have asked for my first novel, but that assumes I’ll write one. For the nonce, short-fiction still wets my whistle.
Fiction in the works:
- Billboards, a novelette illustrated by Dave Gutierrez with an introduction by Robert Silverberg (IDW Publishing)
- Meth, Colan & Other Theologians -- reprints Perverts with two additional stories and new forewords from Marv Wolfman, Mark Evanier, and Gail Simone (Aardwolf Publishing)
- god’s 15 minutes: deluxe edition – new French, Hebrew, and English language editions of my 2003 collection with additional stories and an afterword by Harlan Ellison (Mahrwood Press)
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Let's not confuse my own adoration and wholesale gratitude for a country governed by law with the question: How does a Jew, of all people, volunteer to defend a Nazi's 'right' to hurt Jews? It wasn't the government who provided Collin with a public defender in '78; it was the ACLU, which was under no obligation to offer those shitballs aid. And if they were, if I've misread their charter, if the ACLU's raison d'être mandates that every sick fuck no matter what their intentions must be defended by their donations-supported organization whenever so-called civil rights are in question, then the Jew who was offered the pulpit should have STEPPED DOWN, claiming conflict of interest.
But it wasn't a conflict of interest for that lawyer. Which begs the question, "If I am not for myself, than who shall be for me?"
Even in the U.S.--the greatest country in the world, the solar system, the whole universe--even here, a Jew need not feel obligated to put a light bulb in his mouth when someone comes to turn his head into a lampshade.
The Nazi-Skokie story opens in late 1977 when Frank Collin, head of the National Socialist Party of America (Nazis) in Chicago, applied to the Skokie Park District for a permit to hold a rally in a Skokie park. The Chicago suburb’s population at that time was 66,000, about half of them Jews; many, survivors of Nazi Germany. The park district required Collin to secure a huge liability insurance policy to cover possible damages. So Collin responded by saying his followers would march, in uniform, in front of the village hall on May 1, but the village's lawyer obtained an injunction to block the demonstration. The village board also enacted three ordinances: Requiring insurance for demonstrations, banning persons from parading in "military-style" uniforms or displaying offensive symbols, and banning distribution of hate literature.
A lengthy series of court battles ensued after Collin obtained Jewish counsel from the Illinois Division of ACLU. Both the injunction and the ordinances were declared unconstitutional. Here’s Federal Judge Bernard M. Decker expressing the principle in striking down the Skokie ordinances: "It is better to allow those who preach racial hatred to expend their venom in rhetoric rather than to be panicked into embarking on the dangerous course of permitting the government to decide what its citizens may say and hear…The ability of American society to tolerate the advocacy of even hateful doctrines…is perhaps the best protection we have against the establishment of any Nazi-type regime in this country."
When Collin’s court victory was announced, thousands of Jews were mobilized by Rabbi Meir Kahane, z"tl. I was among them, a 17-year-old street fighter bussed in from Rockaway, New Jersey. The Nazis might march in Skokie, but we’d be there to meet them. The slogan Never Again has often been misinterpreted as meaning never again will there be a Holocaust. That’s a mistake. The slogan meant never again would we stand idle while Jewish lives were threatened. The slogan meant that our generation—the post Irgun Jew—understood with the greatest simplicity that there are causes worthy of the ultimate sacrifice. Especially when the enemy is making it.
Was Collin victorious? No. There were too many of us. The band of several dozen brown-shirt goons were no match for what we'd brought to Chicago. Hell, they'd have been no match for my friends in Rockaway. Forced to change the site of their march from Skokie to Chicago's Marquette Park, these Nazis were clandestinely transported in U.S. mail trucks then protected by nearly five hundred police—mostly mounted, in full riot gear—who had been imported from multiple Chicago suburbs to protect these thugs. Protect them from thousands of men who had come to twist them into swastikas.
One sad note: If the ACLU had not agreed to represent Collin, he would have lost in court. "Skokie would have prevailed," said David Hamlin, the director of the Illinois ACLU in a later interview. "There's no question about it. The Nazis couldn't afford to hire a lawyer, and even if they could have, I don't think there is a lawyer who would have taken the case."
Sunday, June 22, 2008
The shooting occurred 12 hours after the official ceasefire in the Gaza.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
On the home front, Gene is feeling better but is certainly not out of the woods. Medical tests are inconclusive and a biopsy is forthcoming while my friend is functioning on only 10% of his liver. Nevertheless, he reported a healthy appetite yesterday and got out to enjoy the weather now that the heatwave has blown by. Gene attributes his "improving health" to the love and devotion fans and peers have shown him these last six weeks. What a guy!
In an unrelated story, a minister from Pequannock, NJ, was reportedly struck by lightning yesterday in my town and lived to tell the story. "The lightning burned a hole in my hat, entered through my head, exited through my left ankle, and blew off my sneaker," the 47-year-old Rev. told reporters. My son Jesse and I heard the report on 1010 WINS this morning. "I don't believe it," said Jesse. "You think the radio's full of crap?" I asked. "No," said Jesse, "but I don't believe that man." Now that I think about it, I'm not sure it's fair dinkum either. Hard to imagine a man my age who can't tie his sneakers well enough to keep them on, rain or shine.
Don't forget to order Meth, Colan & Other Theologians: Click here for details. You can still get The Gene Colan Treasury signed/numbered by Gene - only a few remain - click here. Finally, if you're looking for some great Silver Age comics at reasonable prices, click here
Sunday, June 15, 2008
The news has been encouraging in the Colan home with the addition of a new doctor.
Adrienne Colan, Gene's wife, shares her recent letter to Dr. Nancy Bach at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York:
I'm generally so focused on and attending to what is wrong with Gene that it just occured to me I can share one thing positive for sure with you tonight: There is no question since under your care that Gene has made a 1000% return to better stamina than I've seen on him for a very, very long time. Even a year ago, he was falling asleep in the middle of conversations, in the middle of dinner, even if it was at a restaurant. We didn't know what was wrong. This week, it is so evident that he is awake and alert and even back to drawing his beloved comic books (he's currently drawing Captain America). So tonight, Dr. Bach, you are the superhero. I can't thank you enough for your remarkable devotion to trying the best you can to restore quality to Gene's life.
And don't forget to order Gene's new book: Click here for details.
You can still get The Gene Colan Treasury signed/numbered by Gene - only a few remain - click here.
Thursday, June 12, 2008
[Meth's] writing is dark, relentless and always in your face. It doesn’t make for easy reading, but it is highly emotional and makes you pay attention, which is the best thing a writer can do… You might even turn away from some of his twistier concepts, but I don’t think Clifford expects otherwise. He writes from a place others won’t walk [and] forces you into some queasy speculations that make everything you just read even creepier. Clifford’s strength is that he makes your imagination work overtime, again one of the best things a writer canYou can order the signed/numbered limited edition NOW; send $20 plus $3 shipping via PayPal to: email@example.com
Friday, June 6, 2008
We're also just weeks away from Septumus Orion's debut CD Caged, which was inspired by my story “Queers". The CD's cover art (pictured) is by Dave Cockrum and Christian Krank. Band members include ex-Celtic Frost drummer Reed St. Mark and J.R., former front man for the hardcore horror-metal band Rosemary’s Babies. In addition to the trippy, musical experience around my reading of "Queers," there's a half-dozen other tracks by this extraordinary ensemble.
Thursday, June 5, 2008
Bill writes me this morning with, “I see everyone has a quote on your page except me.” Then he proceeds with what people in Buttfuck, Michigan apparantly regard as high praise:
“In public, Clifford Meth is the ‘anti’ Bill Messner-Loebs. He is opiniated [sic], swaggers, glories in grudges, sneers at his enemies and takes no prisoners. His work is about the dark side of life, as if he were sculpting beautifully realistic statues while working exclusively in blood and excrement. And then setting them on fire. But the real Clifford Meth has saved my life a couple of times, so I am probably biased… and I’m also a huge fan. I read him mouth open and giggling, stunned, amused and aroused. Clifford Meth is my pornography.”
Opiniated? As in full of opin? No—that can’t be right. Messner-Loebs is an educated man. He knows his diphthongs from his dipsticks. It must be a typo, I thought all atremble, before I swaggered on to the next subject.
Monday, June 2, 2008
And there's an interview with me at Westfield comics.
And the Gene Colan Benefit Auction continues with new items.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Second (should really be first) sincere thanks to my friend, artist Michael Netzer for the gift of this blog's logo. I always wanted a logo I could call my very own.
Third (should be a fifth, but I'll drink one on the plane) thanks to each of you--artists, writers, collectors, friends--for supporting the Gene Colan Benefit. Gene and Adrienne would like to thank each of you personally but can't--however contributors to the auction should expect some form of communication from them in the future.
Last, please support my new projects: The Snaked trade paperback (IDW Publishing) is due out in June (intro by Gene Colan, art by Rufus Dayglo and Dave Cockrum, coloring by Christian Krank). Then there's Meth, Colan & Other Theologians from Aardwolf Publishing (intros by Marv Wolfman, Mark Evanier, Gail Simone, and the late Steve Gerber). And you can still find my recent One Small Voice (also from IDW, cover painting by Neal Adams; art by Gene Colan, Alex Toth and many others) discounted from numerous booksellers on the web. Or if you want it signed or personalized, get it from me (email firstname.lastname@example.org).
Thursday, May 22, 2008
I'm on my fourth attempt to find the words to express my gratitude to you. Our gratitude. Our current challenges are dwarfed by your generousity, love and respect for Gene. It means even more to be coming from men and women of great accomplishment in their own right. You've all enriched our life throughout Gene's six decades in Comics. Thank you all dear friends.
Adrienne for Gene
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
I plan to start posting items, with minimum bids, this weekend. If you see an item that you want, email me the bid and the highest bids will be listed at the end of each day. Winning bids will be posted and winners will be notified.
Bids will not include shipping costs.
Friday, May 16, 2008
You can help right this minute: Order Meth, Colan & Other Theologians -- the full proceeds will go directly and immediately to Gene. For details, click here.
In addition, numerous artists and writers will be contributing drawings and/or signed books to help Gene and Adrienne Colan with their mounting medical costs. Items will be auctioned by ComicLink.com
This list will be updated regularly. So far, it includes (in alpha-order):
Neal Adams, Daniel Best, Doug Braithwaite, Norm Breyfogle, Randy Bowen, Ed Brubaker, Adam-Troy Castro, Ernie Chan, Paty Cockrum, Peter David, Rufus Dayglo, Tom DeFalco, J.M. deMatteis, Tony Dezuniga, Pat DiNizio, Harlan Ellison, Garth Ennis, Mark Evanier, Neil Gaiman, Sam Keith, Joe Kubert, Erik Larsen, Bob Layton, Jae Lee, Jim Lee, Stan Lee, David Lloyd, Tim Mandrake, Leah Moore, Albert Moy, Michael Netzer, Josh Olsen, James A. Owen, Tom Palmer, Greg Pak, Mike Pascale, Richard & Wendy Pini, Jim Salicrup, Bob Shreck, Dave Simons, Gail Simone, Walter and Louise Simonson, Joe Sinnott, J. David Spurlock, Jim Starlin, Roy Thomas, Juan Torres, Andrew Wildman, Marv Wolfman and Ash Wood.
Aardwolf Publishing, Harris Publishing, IDW Publishing, Marvel Comics, NY ComicCon, PaperCutz and Vanguard Productions have also stepped up.
And please keep spreading the word!
In a warm conversation this morning, executives at Marvel offered Adrienne and I some of the many things that they plan to do for the Colans to provide immediate and long-term relief. I will provide the details soon.
For now, I thank all of you for your encouragement and assistance in this matter. Please continue to support the auction and book sale.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Just this morning (and it's only 9:30) I received art pledges from Jim Starlin, Michael Netzer, Juan Torres, and Walt Simonson who writes, "I see a Beta Bill Ray vs. Iron Man in my future!" For the full list of contributors, click here.
I'm sure Marvel will join us soon in helping one of the pioneers who built their empire.
Pictured: Iron Man #1 by Gene Colan
Monday, May 12, 2008
I think what's particularly worth noting is that Marvel has been asked for help. Colan played a key role in creating and developing the two properties that happened to launch both phases of Marvel's major movie-making history: Blade, in his Tomb of Dracula run, and his work on those Iron Man comics. There's no reason on earth why that company shouldn't spare what will probably amount to a single cash payout during a single quarter to a single board member to someone that paved the way for that success. I hope they come through.
COLAN c/o Clifford Meth
179-9 Rt. 46 West
Rockaway, NJ 07866
Items will be auctioned off at ComicLink.com (details, dates, etc. TBA)
Sunday, May 11, 2008
I've contacted a number of writers and artists this evening asking for a few signed items to auction on the Colans' behalf. Stan Lee, Neil Gaiman, Mark Evanier and Peter David immediately pledged their support. Many more will join the list over the next few days. Not sure which outlet will be used to auction these items yet, but we'll get to that soon enough. For now, if you're a pro reading this blog, please contact me and pledge a few signed books or a drawing. If the rest of you would spread the news to your own blogs, that would be enormously helpful, too. Let's get this ball rolling and give Gene and Adrienne a quick boost.
Saturday, May 10, 2008
Two weeks ago, Gene approached Marvel with a plea for help. We've all been waiting to see if that help is forthcoming. In the mean time, I know of no organized efforts to help the Colans so let me start with this: Purchases of any of my books or comics will be earmarked for Gene's benefit. I will also seek help from my peers and inform all of you regarding those efforts and how you can help.
Friday, May 9, 2008
While it's the director's call, I've suggested certain songs-sequence tie-ins, including the credit roll, that I believe are ideal; one is the brilliant "In the presence of a new god" by The Dictators. I phoned Handsome Dick Manitoba (pictured with the other 'Tators) to give him a heads up and we ended up talking about Iron Man and Steve Ditko. If you haven't heard this band in a while, my droogs, you owe it to your ears.
Sunday, May 4, 2008
After Shabbos, my boy unwrapped the box. From all appearances, he’d received an expensive gift. He peeled away the bubble wrap, then worked his way through several layers of fine orange tissue paper to find a 13x9x2-in. perfect-bound, four-page, acrylic hardcover with expensive fabric endpapers and a woven bookmark hand-sewn into the lining. Sporting all the detailed production values of a high-end limited edition from Subterranean Press, this publication was glove-fit into a substantial Lucite shell with a laser cutout that allowed the book’s custom monogram to peek through, while the Lucite itself was custom-inscribed with my son’s name.
My boy examined it. No, not a book. It was an invitation to a classmate’s bar mitzvah in Livingston, New Jersey. The entire production must have cost at least $30-$40 apiece to produce. Perhaps more. It weighed just over 4 lbs., as described on the bill of lading, and had come all the way from Los Angeles courtesy of Creative Intelligence on Venice Blvd.
While I may not have been bred among the blueblood of Livingston, where new money (apparently so new it still smears) grows on trees, neither was I raised in a pumpkin patch. Regardless, in all my born days, I don’t believe I’ve seen a more garish, vulgar display of conspicuous wealth. We’re talking about an invitation, folks—something you read once, then toss away. The event it heralded was once holy to Jews. This one would take place at New York City’s Pierre. A black tie affair. I allowed my son to watch me throw the 4-lbs. epistle in the garbage.
Oscar Wilde referred to fox hunting as the unspeakable in pursuit of the inedible. Never mind the environment. Never mind that the invitation for this “Jewish event” had been sent for specific overnight delivery to arrive at one’s home in violation of the Sabbath—I could chalk that up to ignorance. But the idea that moneyed Jews would throw away such money on unabashed, unblushing, unconstrained frippery frankly made me wanna womit. Only several weeks ago, there were all too many families in our surrounding communities—both mine and Livingston's—who lacked food for Pesach, and here’s my son staring at an invitation that cost over $100 each when you add in the overnight charges ($15 extra just to get it to us on Shabbos). Multiply that by 200 or 300 (or 500) invited guests. In a Lucite, custom-engraved shell no less. I can only imagine the pompous punctiliousness in store for everyone at the Pierre.
I have regretted sending my children to the Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy since it left its modest dwellings in West Caldwell some years ago and moved to the palatial Livingston. The fig leaf of Torah Judaism they provide these days, after a king’s ransom in tuition, hardly seems protection from the pandemic ostentations that their Conservadox crowd find themselves helplessly, hopelessly addicted to. But this school's administration, like Herson's Chabad, like Ramaz, like any institution preying on the uninformed, knows instinctively like a good confidence man to pander to its wealthiest patrons; that at the end of the day, the business of business is business.
Does the presence of this bar-mitzvah invitation among the eggshells and tunafish scrapings raise the value of its neighboring contents in my trash can? More importantly, will there be anything even remotely Jewish about l'affaire à la Pierre? These are uncomfortable questions for terribly comfortable Jews.
Friday, April 25, 2008
For more information go to http://www.officialsmithereens.com/
NEW YORK, NY--April 14, 2008--KOCH Records is pleased to announce the newest album by rock band The Smithereens. "Live In Concert - Greatest Hits and More" features music from The Smithereens' four-night stint at The Court in New Brunswick, New Jersey, a musical home away from home for the group, which took place January 30th - February 2nd, 2008. The band, all hailing from surrounding Central Jersey towns, played the Court Tavern often at the start of their career.
The album features live recordings of two brand new songs, "Any Other Way" and "Since You Went Away." The set also includes Buddy Holly's classic (and a big influence for The Smithereens) "Well Alright," and the ripping interpretation of the "Batman" theme, a live staple for the band.
For the past 25 years, The Smithereens have toured non-stop, recording and releasing Gold and Platinum albums that spawned Top 40 radio hits such as "A Girl Like You," "Too Much Passion," "Blood And Roses," "Only a Memory" and "Behind The Wall Of Sleep." But at the beginning of that long and successful road, the loved group spent many sweaty, rock filled evenings in the damp, close quartered basement of The Court.
Live at The Court takes us back to that hallowed ground and brings back the energy and edginess that was present at the beginning of The Smithereens' career. The club was packed for every performance, and the love and energy for the Smithereens is evident on each track. This album features the Smithereens in their natural habitat, playing great music for their hometown fans. It shines a light on the love of their fans, and what the group is about.
I visited the DMV yesterday, one week before my driver’s license and automobile registration were set to expire. Anticipating long lines, bad air and the sub-par service this machine was reputed for, I’d brought along Brendan Behan’s Borstal Boy, which I was only 50 pages into, another 300 pages to go. Expected to finish the book before I emerged, sweat-drenched and dysfunctioned by bureaucrats.
I was wrong.
I was in and out of the DMV in less than ten minutes. I repeat: TEN MINUTES! The clerks were polite and plentiful.
So my sincere apologies to those who deserve it. And my condolences to those who don’t.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
“Does that look like Steven Spielberg?” I asked my one of companions.
“Nah. Looks like someone trying to look like Spielberg.”
I took another gander. “You think every Spielberg look-alike hugs Leah like that?”
I got up and asked Leah for an introduction... and Steven was as nice as can be.
Also ran into Josh Olson while having coffee at CAA. Does that count, Josh?
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Meth’s film noir-esque, combative spirit energizes his writing. “Turn the other cheek: The battle cry of the slapped,” he writes. The meek may inherit the earth, but Meth inherits the legacy of writers such as Vonnegut in his clear-eyed take on life, love, and god, if there is one. Meth’s writing seems perfectly suited to the short format used in One Small Voice. Longer exposure would be overwhelming. Meth in small doses acts like homeopathic medicine, poisoning you just enough to make you better and stronger.
There's a lot more to the review which you can read here.
Of course the danger in accepting a reviewer's praise means I must also consider taking the guy who called Snaked "a dead platypus laying in the middle of the road" seriously, too. Right, doctor?
Mr. Meth, I see our time is up.
Monday, April 14, 2008
Meth: Tell me about playing with Paul McCartney.
DiNizio: Gary Talent of the E Street band, who was a friend of ours, gave me a call and said he was the music director for the annual Buddy Holly Celebration that McCartney puts together every year. This time it was going to be held in NY City at The Lonestar Roadhouse to herald the debut of The Buddy Holly Story on Broadway. I remember the date vividly—this was Sept. 4 of 1990 and I was getting married on Sept. 1 in Chicago. I asked Gary if there was any chance that Paul would be there and he said most likely; that whenever he does one of these annual Buddy Holly events he’s usually there. I thought, well, if he’s ever going to be there, he’ll be there for this event because he owns the Buddy Holly song catalogue and he’s obviously going to push the musical. So we changed our honeymoon plans—we delayed our honeymoon by a week and eventually we went to Japan. I just had the feeling that Paul was going to be there so I went. And for me, as one of millions of kids who saw the Beatles the first time on The Ed Sullivan Show, and who dreamed of nothing else but being in a band like The Beatles, it was a dream come true. I actually found myself later in the evening on stage with him and the rest of the musicians who played that evening—it was sort of an All-Star band that was thrown together. I played bass and Paul sand “Lucille” by Little Richard, a great, old rocker. It was one of those moments when you wished that someone had snuck in a video camera because there were no cameras allowed for the event and very few people had video cams that were portable back in 1990. About a year later, I went to pick up the mail and I opened the mail up and there was a videocassette with a little note that said, “I thought you might like this.” And it was whole event on video.
Meth: Did the rest of the Smithereens play that night, too?
DiNizio: No, just me. I played because I had written a song on Smithereens 11, an homage to Buddy Holly, a tribute to his early relationship and his widow Maria Elena. The song is called “Maria Elena”. I had sent her a copy and met her and her daughter and we all became friends. She was there, as well, and they asked me specifically to come and sing that song because it was obviously part of an album that was doing very well for us at the time.
Meth: I’m just feeling your place here, Pat.
DiNizio: It’s a good feeling, Clifford. It’s quiet.
Meth: It reminds me of my old Fraternity House. We had a big, old house in Dover, New Jersey.
DiNizio: So you used to go hang out at The Showplace.
Meth: Yeah. My band played there several times. It was a big deal for us because the Ramones had just played there that weekend.
DiNizio: We couldn’t really secure a gig there. It was too far from where we were based and we didn’t have a fan base in that area. But we’d go up there and pay them a fee to do some recording. We’d get up there on a Monday night when nobody was around. We’d hook up a reel-to-reel tape recorder and get a live board mix. It was a very live-sounding room, which I liked about it. We used it to record early demos—we’d do live backing tracks without vocals at The Showplace and we’d come home and transfer that tape in a recording studio and we’d add vocals. It really gave it a dynamic sound because we hadn’t figured out yet how to bridge the gap between the live sound of the band and what would become the studio sound of the band. They are two distinctly different things. Other bands make the mistake of trying to sound exactly like they sound live, but smart bands don’t make that mistake. There was a studio Beatles and there was a live Beatles.
Meth: What do you prefer?
DiNizio: I enjoy the immediacy of a live performance—I enjoy the immediate feedback that you get from an audience; you know whether you are on your game or not, whether people are enjoying it. It’s thrilling to play live and we still put 200% into everything that we do. But the studio is also fulfilling on another level. It’s more difficult to get to the point where you can say I enjoy listening to it because it’s a building stage. You’re starting with your basic tracks and you’re adding guitars and you’re layering and you’re putting your vocals on and you’re mixing. You don’t know really, until the eleventh hour of the project whether what you’ve done has any merit at all. In other words, it’s a longer process. The only real moment of enjoyment is when you’re listening to the final product and you know you’ve done a good job. And hopefully other folks might find enjoyment in the recordings you’ve created. But for me, going in the studio is very difficult. I don’t necessarily enjoy the process. I appreciate it. I’m happy to still have the ability to make records. But it’s not fun.
It was fun in the early days, when we hadn’t yet made records, but it was always pressure. It was thrilling. It’s still thrilling. I still get that tingling, that sense of excitement whenever we go in the studio, but there’s nothing about it I take for granted. It’s extremely challenging and stressful because I really work at it and I want everything to be the best that I can get.
Meth: How involved are you in the production?
DiNizio: I would say that on all The Smithereens albums, although we’re not credited, we certainly co-produced those records. There’s so much input of ours on everything.
Meth: You don’t get on the board?
DiNizio: I sit behind the producer but I don’t operate the board. I think my energy is best spent on thinking of good, creative melodic ideas and arrangement parts, not worrying about the technical aspects of the recordings. I leave that in the hands of the professionals. It’s a blessing when you find yourself in the studio with someone who really does get it, who really understands what the band is all about. That was a process of elimination in the early days. Our first demos were done with individuals who, while well-meaning, didn’t really understand the band, you know? They didn’t really know how to capture the sound of the band in a recording studio.
Meth: Who did you want to sound like, other than The Beatles?
DiNizio: I don’t know that we were really going for a sound. I think it just happened. In fact, the band today stills sounds very much the way we sounded when we first sat down and played together in my dad’s basement right here in Scotch Plains in March of 1980. It hasn’t changed that much except, perhaps, the songs have grown and matured. Some of the first songs I wrote, while charming, are not great compositions. It’s someone learning how to write songs. Yet some of the songs—in fact my first composition, “I Don’t Want to Lose You” wound up on Especially For You and a lot of folks like that song. “Elaine” was song number two and it wound up on “Green Thoughts.” So you never know. It just took a long time to get to that point—to actually sit down and attempt to wrestle with that beast. Understanding how songs work, the mechanics of songs, having to dig deep inside and come up with melodies that are memorable... The hurdle that I had to get over in terms of my live performances—it dawned on my on stage one evening at Kenny’s Castaways, that I was singing original material that contained lyrics that revealed a lot of my inner life and my personal life, to complete strangers.
Meth: Standing naked in front of strangers.
DiNizio: Exactly. And I felt uptight for a little bit but I eventually figured out that this is the job, this is what I do, this is the situation that I’ve put myself in. So I have to deal with it. After I came to terms with it, I started feeling comfortable because I realized that if the song lyrics were well written, then other folks would live through them as well.
Meth: Did you know you had a hit when you wrote certain songs? Songs like “Blood and Roses” for instance?
DiNizio: The only time that I had the feeling I had a hit was when I wrote “Girl Like You,” which was written for Cameron Crowe for his film “Say Anything.” And after a minor argument with the producer James L. Brooks, we decided to take the song back and save it for ourselves. And that being said, obviously I had a feeling at the time that it was a hit or we would have given it to them. We decided to save it for ourselves because it might have been released on a soundtrack album and got lost and then it would have had no meaning later on, on one of our records. But my feeling with that was based in part on the fact that the first album was a hit, the second album had a #1 rock radio single…we were on a roll and it was likely that radio would receive a song like this from us. I had that feeling. I didn’t know if it was a hit but I remember my wife at the time saying, “It’s a good song, but it’s not your best song.”
Meth: What did she think your best song was?
DiNizio: She never spoke of that.
Meth: How about your daughter?
DiNizio: She doesn’t have a favorite but she’s finally gotten a chance to come to some of the live shows, which is a big thrill for me, that she’s old enough now to attend the concerts and actually see what her dad has done for a living for the past 27 years. I remember while writing Smithereens 11 playing a demo of “Blue Period” and my wife Mary saying to me, “Did you really write this song?” Not saying how good it was but inferring that it baffled her that I was able to come up with it.
Meth: “Blue Period” might be my favorite.
DiNizio: Mary was also of the opinion that songs like “Blue Period” should have been hits. They weren’t. They were handled improperly or perhaps they were out of time. They might have hit in 1966 or 67. There were always problems on every level, with management, with distribution.
Meth: It’s been a long time since you’ve had a record contract. How did you end up with Koch?
DiNizio: It’s not really a contract. We’ve licensed this new recording—we own it and we’ve licensed it to Koch. It’s sort of the new model for 2007.
Meth: Let’s talk about this album, “Meet the Smithereens.” Without knowing anything, my guess was the seed for this disc was planted when The Smithereens did “I Want to Tell You” for Songs From The Material World (A Tribute to George Harrison).
DiNizio: No. Not at all. In fact, I was very much against recording that because the arrangement for “I Want to Tell You” was absolutely perfect as it is on Revolver and I couldn’t imagine any way that we could improve it. In fact, in terms of our history, for many years we were asked to do cover songs for movies. We did a version of “Time Won’t Let Me” for “Time Cop,” the Jean-Claude Van Damm film, and it was an okay version. Mr. King, who wrote the song for the original Outsiders, who recorded it in 1966, said that it was the best version of the song that he ever heard. So we got the vote of approval from the guy who wrote it, which meant a lot to us. But there’s not too much you can do with it. So I was very anti doing cover songs unless we could absolutely make them our own. Somehow, we did achieve that with “I Want to Tell You”—it’s a little different.
Meth: I’m not saying this because we’re friends or because I’m sitting in your kitchen drinking your bad coffee—
DiNizio: You don’t like the coffee?
Meth: —but it’s the best track on that album, by far. Most of those tracks weren’t repeatable—not Bill Wyman’s, not John Entwhistle’s.
DiNizio: The track works well because it’s kind of like The Who meets The Beatles meets The Smithereens. And it sounds like us. So I was pleased. I came and I did my vocals and split. But we have a lot of covers—some are good and some are not so good. I remember when they were making this Christian Slater movie when he was a big star in the early ‘90s called “Kuffs”—they wanted The Smithereens to record a version of The Who’s “Shaking All Over” from “Live at Leeds”—but they wanted it to sound like The Talking Heads. And it’s like, “What are you, dreaming? We’re The Smithereens, not The Talking Heads.” So we did a version of it and it’s okay. We did “Wooly Bully” for “Encino Man” and a version of Ringo’s hit “It Don’t Come Easy” and then I didn’t want to do anything that we couldn’t improve on. But that being said, when it came time to record our most recent studio album, which was also for Koch, “God Save the Smithereens” (1999) I felt strongly that based on the theme of the record, which was originally about Apocalypse 2000. There was a tremendous amount of concern and fear and loathing surrounding the millennium, as you recall, Clifford. And I had been listening to a lot of short-wave radio, picking up a lot of weird signs and signals from all over the place, and the album was really for me, initially, about the end of the world. So “Gloomy Sunday” was one of my favorite songs, which Billie Holliday originally recorded. The song was infamous for having inspired people to kill themselves. Whether what was true or not, I don’t know, but they pulled it off the market at a certain point and stopped playing it on the radio because it had this terrible effect—it was just so depressing. We did a version of it that ranks with anything, I believe, that anybody ever did in terms of covering that song. We did it Smithreens-Beatles style; we took the beat from “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and we really did make it our own. I’m very proud of that particular recording. That’s when I realized that we could take a cover and do something totally different with it and turn it into something that sounded like we wrote it... In the case of “Meet the Smithereens,” which is our song-for-song recreation and interpretation of the first American release by The Beatles on Capital, we follow very closely the structure of the songs while maintaining our own identity as The Smithereens.
Meth: Often when I’ve seen you play, even in your solo performances, you’ve often thrown in a Beatles song.
DiNizio: When we first started playing…we all learned from the masters, from The Beatles, The Byrds, The Beau Brummels. We learned from newer groups like The Jam about live performance. The Stranglers. These were contemporaries of ours at the time, but you take different things for different sources. What we were trying to achieve with Meet the Smithereens was to capture the subtle background sounds of The Beatles and not lose our identity. Come on—let’s play a couple tracks.
© 2007, Clifford Meth
Sunday, April 13, 2008
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Thursday, April 10, 2008
Harlan has asked me to drop this topic. Now I ask each of you to do the same.
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
I received my shodan (1st degree blackbelt) directly from Grand Master Richard Lenchus, founder and O'Sensei of the Legend Shotokan System, a worldwide syndicate of dojos based on traditional Shotokan plus Lenchus' own inimitable style of kata and kumite. A Legend blackbelt takes anywhere from seven to ten years to achieve. Unlike what's found in American Tae Kwon Do and many other U.S. dojos, rank in the Legend system cannot be bought--it must be fought for, on every level. Information on Sensei Lenchus and "The Legend" is available all over the web, including numerous articles that it has been my honor to pen.
My Sensei trained with and received rank from Kawanabe Sensei in Atsugi, Japan in 1958. I have had the good fortune of corresponding with my teacher's teacher, who is regarded as a pioneer in Shotokan.
Kawanabe Sensei received his training and rank directly from the legendary Funakoshi Sensei, the founder of Shotokan and pioneer of modern-day Japanese martial arts. Funakoshi Sensei's legacy rests in a document containing his philosophies of karate training now referred to as the niju kun. These rules are the premise of training for all Shotokan karateka and are published in The Twenty Guiding Principles of Karate wherein Funakoshi lays out 20 rules by which students of karate become better human beings.
I currently hold the rank of Sensei in Legend Shotokan but am no longer actively training nor teaching. I also have a blackbelt in Tae Kwon Do as well as training in Ishin Ru and American Combat Karate.
My two oldest sons, Avi (20) and Benjy (18), both trained in Shotokan and Tae Kwon Do as children. Each of them are accomplished wrestlers, too, and actively training in Brazilian Jui-Jitsu schools within the Gracie system (the top of the food chain). Benjy, whose wrestling record was 21 and 2 his senior year, recently took first place in his very first BJJ tourament--an invitational in Haifa, Israel.