Monday, July 11, 2022

An interview with musician, writer, artist, Iftakhar Khan

An interview with musician, writer, artist, Iftakhar Khan
Iftakhar Khan is a musician with his psychedelic band Schroedinger's Cat.
Iftakhar Khan is also a writer with his online magazine the SpaceZine.
Here is an email interview with Iftakhar Khan.

1. What do you remember first attracted you towards music?
My parents had a big record collection also of artists that weren’t that time famous in Germany. I was born in 1966 and that time my dad and my Mom already been together some time and they listened to Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, the Stones and the Beatles, but my Dad also listened to Ravi Shankar and other Pakistani and Indian artists. I loved songs like Yesterday but also Paint it black. I wanted to learn original drums. But my parents were not amused. In 1976 they got divorced and I came to a boarding school which laid at the Lac Constance very close to Switzerland.

There were some people who already played guitar and other instruments and I first heard the American Band Kiss in my life. Via Kiss I came to Alice Cooper and Led Zeppelin, even though I knew Led Zeppelin before I knew Kiss lol. I only had no clue that Stairway to heaven was by Led Zeppelin lol, I used to hang around often with older schoolmates around. The ones in my age listened to Boney M, Abba, The Bay City Rollers and other stuff like this, it was that time short before the Discomusc wave started. As usual such things started in Germany often with a big delay. For example the Hippie movement was in America already turning into a commercial nightmare in Germany it had started there almost in the beginning of the seventies. After that school-I had left in 1977 I lived some time at my Mother’s place before I had moved in 1978 to my Dad. While living at my mother’s place I also went to a different school with school meals and so on and lessons in the afternoon and such crap. 

All my classmates except for two were minimum two years older than me. So I came in touch with Pink Floyd-the newer ones I only knew The dark side of the moon and Meddle before-ELP and so on. But as I always wanted to be different I told everyone that I only like Ludwig Van Beethoven. (one classmate was totally surprised when he found out fifteen years later that I was playing rockmusic lol and more surprised that I told him that all the bands he listened to that time were well-known to me :) )
then I moved to my Dad’s place as I had serious troubles with my Mom who couldn’t understand that I didn’t want to go back to that school as often I was bullied by the others.

In 1978 one day after my twelfth birthday I had found a guitar on a rubbish hill, with two broken mechanics. As I knew my Dad wouldn’t be amused I hid it in the barn of a friend and that tube radios of the sixties became my first amp. I had no clue what to play or how to tune it, we just wanted to produce some noize and for this it was perfect :) also here my friends were older so a lot of them taped Black Sabbath. ELP, King Crimson and other progressive bands for me, I also listened to public radio stations that time. The place where I lived-in the north end of the black forest- you could get two rock radio stations in the radio and so I often also taped complete radio shows. In Mono tho.
At this time I also found out how to tune a guitar and I also found out how to play chords. There was no internet so a lot of friends came around and showed what they could play and so I learned on one  side how to play guitar-on the other side I also learned a lot of things about the history of rock as the DJs that time often told stories along with the songs they had played.

I left the house of my Dad and came into some home for kids who were victims of violent parents. There I started to learn how to play the guitar properly, but more Classical and Flamenco and also the first gigs started within friends of course. Until Kozfest 1 in 2011 I had always fear to enter stages. 

Schroedinger’s Cat started in Autumn 1988 in Italy, first as Crying Rain we changed the name into Schroedinger’s Cat on November 13th, 1988. In the beginning in Rome, we merged some genres into one so in the beginnings, were two more Jazzers, two more Bluesers with a big touch into Folk, too, and myself, a Folky and classical and Hard Rock-based musician. In the beginning, we had more than fifty gigs in Rome mostly and the nearby smaller cities which weren’t too much abroad. Thru the circumstances I had to return to Germany, and in the beginning of the nineties, I gave up looking for other members (I did quite a few  jam sessions with a lot of Germans these days) and I had started to record the first albums on my own. In 1995 I released a movie with Fractals, named Fractum for which I needed two years, after I saw some animated fractals in a new program on VHS-Videotape format. In 1998 I had a concept in my mind and found some guests for the Armageddon Rock series. The only album which is still available of this series, is Acid Flight and I still think it was one of the most psychedelic album of the early years. An Album on which my old friend Dragan Vulevik sang.

2. What artistic projects have you been working on recently?
 Well, I had a break between 2019 and 2022 where I haven’t recorded any new stuff except for the stuff I had played in the park which I filmed with a cam on a tripod. Recently if it means for example since the comeback in 2011, it is easy. Or not.  Ehm I think I have guested a lot of bands on electric sitar. I have started to learn how to play the sitar also like usual in autodidactic way in 1991. The Bulbul Tarang I have started in 2002 when I first saw one in India on my way back from Japan, where we had played six gigs. I was completely amazed by this instrument. Also by a Tanpura and by the Sitar too. I used to play them more as an effect to the normal music. As Schroedinger’s Cat was always a band where I tried new things. 

So I also moved in the end of the nineties for some months to Morocco to learn the basics of the mighty OUD.  I think these times were good ones. I love to learn. So since 2011 it started with Kozfest 1 where Aurora dedicated two songs to me on their first set and persuaded me to play with them in their second set on Sitar. I really tried everything not to lol as I said I had fear to enter stages. And I was not very convinced by my ability to play Sitar. Lately it was the right thing, within three months Schroedinger’s Cat was back. On the comeback gig in the southern end of the black forest I met some French friends I haven’t seen for ages and we formed together also a side-project named Alien Intelligence Vosges France, that was based on a joke I did at that party about aliens landed in the black forest and as the vosges are on the opposite side of river rhine I said ok for sure they landed also in France… that band split in 2017 after the last member except of myself , passed away. The lineup was solid but there are less recordings all members of this band also played with Schroedinger’s Cat even mostly the tourings over France and southern europe between 2012 and 2018. Parallel to this I also had an English lineup which were mostly members of the Spiral Navigators and also here we formed a side Project named The Liquid Space Druids. But here we had some recordings but all were live. Also an old more synth-based sideproject named *Spherical Noises * was revived , also another Project from the nineties named LavaSpaceDream, and I also decided to record some solo stuff as Lord Iain Hawk. Most of them were more instrumental except for Schroedinger’s Cat and my solo project Lord Iain Hawk. 

Actually, only Schroedinger’s Cat, Indian Kozmoz, Spherical Noises and a hidden project are still alive. All in all In had maybe 18 own bands in my life and guested so far Live and on albums maybe 60 more bands the most after 2011. (Aurora, Sendelica, The Spiral Navigators, Tanglemist, Tarana -just to mention a few) In 2019 I had another project which never got a name to do an album for the Hambacher Forest as a charity project. It never was finished because I had a big crash in 2020 and over 32Terabytes of files went to hell and only 24TB could be restored again. So I also decided to see it as a bad Omen and stopped it. You know which project I mean, eh? The one for A requiem for a forest? These last three years without music were bad years for me as a lot of friends, family members and band members have passed away, also before a lot of band members and so I needed that time to refill the inspiration chamber inside my mind. It is always hard when someone dies I had loved and I only play music with people I love I cannot open my heart to music while I am on the stage with people I do notlike).
Actually are more than 24 albums in Progress, but some are old ones I had never ever released for the one or other reason. ( I wasn’t satisfied with the mixing or the sound or the lyrics -whatever)
I also had some side projects with Sendelica named Dragon Hawkmoth and the Moongeezers and one that was called Trancedelikatz, which was also with Sendelica but more the jazzy parts of the session. And also another one named KatZenZahn which had been Sonic Trip Project and myself even that time two members of Sonic Trip Project also played with Schroedinger’s cat for some time (eight albums long) so you could say it was indeed half the cat and half STP. These projects happened when they visited me in my house and we played some music together. Before the Brexit often British bands were around on tour and often they have visited me for some curries and some wine and some jams and nice chats… Except for one who was a Brexiteer all are still welcome to come again.

I also do Animations and often I use them for older cat albums for Youtube or I do videos for other artists, but also a lot of 3D arts , mostly with the program Bryce 7.1. and I also work actually on a video about water in filming the little streams in this village-we have seven small ones here. Ok small ones under normal circumstances in 2018 they were really big when my area was hit by a flood disaster. But it is more short clips I merge into each with a little delay so they run into the next. The soundtrack I will compose when the film is finished, even I am not sure if I should ask others if they would be interested to do the soundtrack still not sure about this. I also wrote a book about England-more a funny one how to survive there if you weren’t born there… the proofreading is finished but still trying to sort the pictures for it. It will be published when I have completed the pictures for it in an issue of maximum 25 pieces as books (hardware) and as PDF. It is the sixth book I have written in my life.

And I also run once a year the Progressive-Spacerock Zine SpaceZine, but in English only. Meanwhile I don’t write all on my own anymore as I also found two other writers who love to write articles or interviews. The actual one is in progress, but still waiting for the hardware as I do it with a program that runs only under windows 7 and I cannot afford one for windows 10 and the PC had some hardware troubles. Thru the Shenzhen lockdown it was nearly impossible to get parts which I needed for this, even I was sure they still had the stuff in stock.
Sometimes I also draw crazy animals or shapes and forms on the walls of my house in the inside like for example the butterfly with a broken wing inside my studio.

3. Which artistic medium is most fulfilling for you?
A tricky question as my polyneuropathy and my arthrosis inside my thumb joints prevent me of doing the things I really love for example playing music – especially for the mighty Sitar and the Celtic Harp but I still think it is still music but also to create arts in 3D and also writing and filming things or creating videos I think music is on rank 1, then arts, then filming and animations, then writing books and then last not least the SpaceZine. My health prevent me of playing more music so often I stick in writing or creating arts. Actually I plan to start drawing. 

4.What are some of your favorite creations?
I think the videos I did once for Sonic Trip Project were not the worst of all. I only took them down as normally the deal was I send them to them that they can upload them on their own, what they never did.
Of the Schroedinger’s Cat albums- 333 up to now (July 2022) I think the Hexalogy World of Lovecraft are good ones, also the first trilogy of the double trilogy (hexalogy) of Floating. Some of the Atomic Sun -series were also not the worst, also not for some of the Magick Rainbow World series (especially the albums Fireworlds which were dedicated to my son who passed away too early, and Iceworlds, which had been dedicated to all my band members and friends who went too early home to the stars. In the past, present and future times) and also not some of the Universal Elements series. With the other projects I like also the stuff I did solo some years back, mostly only guitar and vocals, but they are gone now and I won’t record them again or re-release them. The lyrics were more critical to my government and how it is to live at the edge of society. Germany will never ever let you live as an artist, if you play your own stuff without covering famous songs of other artists. I also love two of my books I wrote in the last five years. One was with lyrics and the story behind them and one is not really finished now and it is about England, the way to survive there if you weren’t born there. Watch my space it is named Stop Moaning – The habits of the hobbits a lot of people heard I wrote this book and unfriended me on Facebook without knowing anything about it. I always said it is disgusting but in reality it is more a funny way to have a deeper view to England and some of their worst habits. It was more written to sort Brexit but originally it wasn’t about Brexit in the first time, but the original script also went to hell with these crashes in 2020 so I had to write it new and meanwhile, Brexit happened and not to pull some of these topics into it, would have been wasted inspiration. 


5. In your fantasy, which artist, living or dead, would you most want to make an album with?
I’m realist so I would tell you with which alive artists I would like to make an album . With Paul Sax and Sonja Kristina Linwood, both of Curved Air, John Simms and Maxine Marten, both of Clear Blue Sky, With Pete of Sendelica (even I did this already), with Nik Turner, with an old friend of mine Michael Vuckovac of Aubrey’s Dance, with Gregg McKella of Paradise 9 and also with  Nik Nimbus, The Ex drummer of Here and Now & Paradise 9 and last not least with Garry Masters of The Magic Mushroom Band; of my ex-band members I still would like to work with there are some like Rob Tarana or with Daniela and Rainer Neeff – both of the Pancakes. And with Thomas Schmerda and Wuschel of Moloko Plus and Deutsch-Nepal. In my deepest Fantasy with Jean d’Auberlaque. And with Bernd Hock, who is a very old friend of mine I know now nearly 40 years. I just have to add all are brilliant musicians. Often I do not work with German musicians. Them and myself are often not compatible. It is seldom enough that you find German musicians inside my bands but actually I have a Lady in the band (Antje *the ant* Ihm) who plays often the drums and adds also guitar, synths, flutes, voices and other instruments.

6. Which artist, living or dead, would you most like to interview for the Spacezine?
That is easy :) Donald Buck Dharma Roeser, Eric Bloom, Syd Barrett, Dave Gilmour, Roger Waters, Pete Bingham, Lutz Rahn, Tim Jones, Jean d’Auberlaque, Jimi Hendrix, Robert Plant, Donovan, Sonja Kristina, Arthur Brown, Nik Nimbus, Keith Bailey, Gregg McKella, Stephen Smith, Detlev Schmidtchen, Frank Bornemann, Vince Cory; at least there are lots of more but I have decided to stop the SpaceZine after issue 4.2. Even tho I have interviewed Nik already, I would like to do it again.

Nik Turner, Deke Leonard, Bernd Kistenmacher, Dave Anderson , Edgar and Steve Broughton, Chris Karrer and Dieter Servas I have interviewed already, even most of them except for Nik not for the SpaceZine.

Of the graphical Artists I would like to interview Steven Barber, Ed Unitsky, Roger Dean and H.R.Giger. Of the authors are also quite a few but I would like to interview Michael Moorcock one day.

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

An interview with artist, writer, and musician Sheila Foley

 

Hello! Here we have an interview conducted via email with artist, musician, writer, Sheila Foley.

Sheila is the founder of the Stoneham Writers Group. Full disclosure I am a member.

Without further ado here we go:


 You work across multiple artistic disciplines, which is your favorite? Which is the most challenging and why?


First, thanks for considering my work blog-worthy.  Yes, I practice a number of art forms, or dabble in some of them. Visual art became my career. From teaching the subject to illustrating books and magazines, to creating commissioned fine art and live painting at weddings and events, art has been my bread and butter.  I'd love more time to actually paint what I want rather than try to please a client, but it's always helpful to be compensated for your work.


What artistic genre appeals to me most?  I think it depends on the day, my mood, and what I want or need to say.  Some things are best expressed visually.  Others need words or music to speak their truth.


Why do I feel the need to do “art”?  I could probably write a book to answer that question.  And still not explain it sufficiently.  I guess it boils down to the fact that the arts are the only way to go deep. To express thought, make other people think or feel or question. Inspire, amuse.  A million reasons. And in sharing this “art” I discover more about myself as well.  What makes me tick and possibly why.


When and why did you first start writing? What do you hope to accomplish as a writer?


I started writing in junior high school (in the dark ages before middle school was invented).  I had two good English teachers. They taught me to appreciate poetry and literature.  In eighth grade I was that kid who loved writing assignments and looked forward to feedback.  We were rare. In high school I  had another great English teacher who called songwriters poets. Now we're talkin'.  


Since being a visual artist was almost born in me, I had never thought of being a writer.  One February in the early 80s, I was upset that I didn't have a date for Valentine’s Day.  Even worse, that holiday was so overblown in magazine ads and on TV.  Just to get my anger out, I put pen to paper. For fun I sent the few sad paragraphs to the Boston Globe.  The gall!


I had no idea how to submit a piece of writing. No surprise, it was rejected outright. Then I tried the Boston Herald.  They replied that it would be published on the Op-Ed page.  I didn't know what Op-Ed meant, but sure. Imagine my surprise, and delight!  People even responded to my piece by writing letters to the editor. Weird.


Shortly after that, I started writing short stories and even a novel (unfinished still).  I joined writers groups, wrote articles for magazines and newspapers.  Small time local stuff. Minimal pay, but I enjoyed it.


When and why did you begin playing music?


As for music, I took guitar lessons as a teen.  I learned to read music and to play basic chords. My teacher told me I'd be the next Joan Baez, probably because I had long straight hair, not as dark as hers though.  I didn't keep up with the guitar much after college but I discovered the penny whistle or tin whistle.  It's an incredibly easy instrument.  And so portable.  I played it for my own amusement back then, never with anyone else.  I took up violin in 2002. Much too old! I was working (volunteering) at an arts center and the violin instructor needed one more student for her class to run. Oh my, was that a difficult instrument!  It still is, but definitely worth the effort. I'm still a hack but I discovered Celtic music and there's no turning back. I'm addicted.


Whistler is your favorite painter. Who are some of your other favorites? How do you think they influenced you?


My artistic influences are numerous.

Visual art:  James McNeill Whistler is my art hero.  Then there's John Singer Sargent, Winslow Homer, Howard Pyle, NC Wyeth. I tend to learn from any art I see, but these were the top influencers.


Writers/Poets: Robert Frost is far ahead of the pack here. He says so much with few words. Henry David Thoreau is also wonderful but I discovered him later. I've been a Frost fan since high school. Hmm, maybe locals who write about nature and deeper truths are my faves.  I like F. Scott Fitzgerald, especially Gatsby, but I can't say his writing has influenced or informed mine.


Musicians: Too many to mention but my fiddle hero is Jay Ungar. I still think Joan Baez has a compelling female voice. My first guitar love was Glen Campbell.  I saw him in concert way back when he had a TV show.  Great performer. So yes, folk music, rootsy stuff, historical, Celtic. Anything you can get together with people and play.  Music is more communal than the other art forms. I LOVE playing music with people.  It's my absolute favorite thing to do.



What's next for Sheila Foley?

What's next?  We shall see. Whatever it is probably won't be too grandiose. I've turned into a less is more type.

Sunday, May 22, 2022

 Cat Out of Hell


It's no big surprise that the incredibly purlfic Cat Temper would be back with a new album. It's not out yet but here's the bandcamp link to where it will be popping up. Yes, I was lucky enough to get a sneak peak into the musical cat awesome!

What is a surprise is that it is most likely now my second favorite Cat Temper album! Just behind Henry. Considering how many meowtastic albums Cat Temper has, that is no small paw job. 

Yes, if you hate cat puns, stop reading right meow.

Cat Out of Hell is already a top contender for my favorite albums of 2022. I really dig the way Cat Temper distills the best 80's sounds into a fun mix of up beat instrumental madness. This should be the soundtrack to Stranger Things! This should be the soundtrack to every arcade.

There's also a felinetastic video for the song Purradise by The Dashboard Light 

The video is a lot of fun and if it doesn't hit your 80s sweet spot right away check out the end with an Atari/Twin Peaks fun fest!

Cat Temper is the best temper!

Cat Temper furrever!


Yours in pawesome tunes,

Count Robot

Saturday, March 19, 2022

An interview with Laura and Robin Clifford from Reeling the Movie Review Show

 An interview with Laura and Robin Clifford from Reeling the Movie Review Show

Reeling the Movie Review Show has been produced by Robin and Laura Clifford at the Malden, Massachusetts cable access television station, MATV, since March 16, 1991 and is cablecast throughout Massachusetts and beyond (ME, CA, OR, MI, GA) as well as being available on Vimeo. Their reviews appear on the Rotten Tomatoes website and they are designated Top Critic at the Movie Review Query Engine. -From the Reeling Website

Full disclosure, I have been a volunteer crew member for Reeling for roughly about a billion years and I don't regret it at all. 

What follows is an email interview with Laura and Robin Clifford about their show.


1. Do you feel being married gives the show a different dynamic than other movie review shows?

Laura: Well, when you live with someone you know all their likes, dislikes, quirks, etc., so that is bound to influence how you interact.  There is also the matter of influence in that we are both exposed to the other’s preference in films on our ‘off hours’ more than say, a couple of critics paired together on another show.

Robin: Well, yeah. We get the chance to express our opinions – that we have at home – for others to agree or disagree with.

2. At one point in time there were many movie reviews on TV. Besides your own, there are probably only a few left running. How does that make you feel?

Laura: Sad, in that the theatrical experience of movie going has been splintered into so many streaming niches that there is less of a communal experience in discussing a film.  There is also the Rotten Tomatoes influence, which has turned film criticism into an aggregation of positive and negative with no room for what can be intriguing gray areas.

Robin: With the advent of the Internet, the dedication and work that goes into our reviews has been replaced with “opinions” rather than reviews. You know, cogent reasons for liking or disliking a movie. It is a whole different world from when we started. 

3. What keeps you doing the show?

Laura: Insanity? Habit? Passion? Family?  All of the above?

Robin: I won’t speak for Laura but I do it because I am a guy who loves movies and this gives us a conduit for our opinions, like ‘em or not.

4. What is your favorite part of doing the show?

Laura: Gathering with our crew to socialize once the shoot has been completed.  I always feel a palpable sense of relief when another show has wrapped.  We shoot every other week and the intensity builds over those two weeks and resets to stress free right after we shoot.

Robin: Being with friends who have been helping us do what we do – for 31 years!

5. Do you feel that the internet has made movie criticisms more faceless?

Laura: If by faceless, you mean anonymous, no, not really.  Unless by ‘movie criticisms’ you aren’t talking about critics but, say, message boards and the like, then the answer would be yes, but that applies to the internet in general.

RobinOh, sure. The anonymity that the Internet allows takes away from the critics.

6. How would you define the role of the movie critic?

Laura: It is two-fold.  On the most basic level, you are acting as a consumer guide, but at a deeper level you are analyzing a film not only to point out why it works or does not but to place it in perspective against the filmmaker’s other work, the zeitgeist, etc.  Then there is the art of writing itself – there are some beautifully written film criticisms which are enjoyable to read even if you do not agree with the critic’s conclusions.


Robin: I think it is to show folks what movies are out there and what we think of them, and encourage our readers/viewers to think about them, too. 

7. How do you separate yourself as a fan from a critic?

Laura: Any critic who is not a fan of film isn’t a critic worth following in my opinion.  Everyone has prejudices, one must simply be honest about them and be conscious of them so as not to allow them to unduly sway an assessment.

Robin: I AM a fan and a critic so I don’t separate them.

8. What movies would you watch purely for fun, and why?

Laura: Movies that I have seen before and liked enough to make part of my home library are like old friends you can let your hair down with.  Occasionally I’ll watch something I know will be trash just as a lark.  

Robin: Generally speaking, I will sit down happily and watch a documentary pretty much about anything if it educates, entertains and informs. 

9. If you could convince people to see any one movie, which would it be?

Laura: That’s a tough one and I’d say it would have to depend on the person.  For example, I knew someone older than me who had never seen “The Wizard of Oz” – I’d try very hard to convince him that he really should see it and why, but that’s not a film I would generally be promoting because almost everyone has seen it.  Averse to subtitles? A specific genre? A specific subject matter?  A certain actor or filmmaker?  I’d try to find the best example of something someone would reject out of hand, and try to convince them to try it.  Unless I agreed with them

Robin: For 2021 films, Spielberg’s “West Side Story” with the proviso that you watch the 1961 original, too. 

10. At times you are at odds with other critics. Why do you think that is?

Laura: All critics worth their salt are at odds with other critics at times.  I would be very suspicious of anyone who always sides with the majority as someone who doesn’t trust his/her own opinion, a ‘herd follower.’  If everyone thought the same way, life would be boring indeed.  I always loved something our long-time director, Chris Zell, said about us – ‘Even when they agree, they agree for different reasons.’

(Bloggers note: Sadly Chris is no longer with us. He was a treasure and a wise ass and I miss him.)

Robin: I think it is about taste and opinion – mine, not theirs.

12. How well do you feel that you've grown and developed on the show?


Laura: I now have an incredible sense of timing! I can set a kitchen timer for 15 minutes, be in 

another room, and get up to check on what's cooking and find the timer at 14:58 when I walk

into the room - do it all the time. But that's from the producing angle. I'm a lot more at ease

on camera, although it hasn't made speaking before an audience any easier. That said, I also

recognize my weak spots and try to compensate for them - I always tend to ramble on the first

movie of the show, for example, so I allow a bit more time for the first review until I get into

the rhythm and focus. And while we were well versed in film when we started, we have easily 

seen and reviewed well over 5,000 films since. There's something to be said for experience 

and historical perspective.


Robin: I have seen thousands of movies since we started riding in this rodeo three decades

(that sounds scary!) ago. I hope I have gotten better over the years of experience. (You tell 

me.) 


(Bloggers note: Yes, they both have gotten better overall.)


13. Reeling has had many long term folks on the studio crew. When you first started out, did you think about the impact that the show would have in making a network of friends behind the scenes? What do you think about that social circle that has developed around the show?

Laura: No because I never expected it would go on as long as it has and because we largely began with people we already knew. That has changed over the years and been a delightful surprise. And while some of the people who have joined in initially did so because of movies, I find it interesting that movies are far from the main topic of conversation when we get together.

Robin: Truthfully, having our friends get together ever two weeks to help us do this thing we do is the #1 reason for me – and I get to see a sh*tload of movies for free

Monday, February 21, 2022

A review of Rock 'n' Roll Head Case – A book by author Lee Widener

  What can one say about a book where the main character has Alice Cooper's living head stuck on his hand?

Did you ever imagine that scenario? I hadn't, but gifted Oregon author Lee Widener not only envisioned it, he turned it into a novella.

In the interest of honesty, Lee and I have been virtually acquainted for a number of years. 

I've read one other book by Lee, Under the Shanghai Tunnels which is a collection of marvelously madcap stories, yet none twist so surreally as Head Case.

There are some other fun gonzo books out there, Joe R Lansdale's Drive In series being a good example. Head Case is more gonzo than most any gonzo book I can recall reading, yet it's coherent.

Chaino, the main character, isn't just a witness to the strange events, they are a part of him and he has choices to make which drive the narrative, and talk about a character transformation!

Chaino is told, “Life has no boundaries” by a guide, instead of just passively listening, the main character engages in a brief, but engrossing philosophical debate. There's a nice arc to Chaino as he isn't quite what we think he is, all the time.

If you like the surreal and often wondered what it would be like to spend time with a talking head that's attached to your wrist, here we are, this is your book. Also, this book may contain one of the creepiest characters to ever live in a shoe house.


You can get the book here

Sincerely yours,

Count Robot


Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Sal's Show

       Episodes of Sal's Show often started off with the line, “Sal's Show is your show” and it felt true as Sal welcomed any performer to be on his TV show, or most anyone to host an episode. Sal Khan was a fun and very nice guy. Sadly, Sal recently left this planet. Goodbye and good luck Sal.

       Our musical weirdness, Astro Al, had the good fortune to play on Sal's Show a number of times. Here's our last appearance on Sal's Show. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YhM0xmBf3Vw

We had discussed doing an appearance with our friend Tim Mungenast, but sadly that will not come to pass.

Here's a band we dig, Space Heater, who also appeared on the show.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h-azepU0-E8&t=892s

Thanks for everything Sal.

We miss you.

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Count Robot's Top Three Albums of 2021

Count Robot's Top Three Albums of 2021 Here's Count Robot's three favorite musical releases of 2021. The song, “That's What Love Is” from Wanda Jackson's Encore gets my vote as tear jerker of the year. Best sad song of the year. Thank you Wanda, I sincerely hope you enjoy your retirement. 

3. Expanse meets The JMDE Quartet: Scope Not the mouthwash, the psychedelic music wash of experimentalism that floods your ears. I've only listened to this album in it's entirety a few times but each time its reminded me of all the fun experimental music performances I've seen, encapsulated in one CD. It flows. It is it's own thing. It's one song that stretches out for 1:10:46. Yes, it's a gigantic cosmical jam. It's strange and strangely fun. Trumpets, drums, a basket of rocks, Christmas ornaments, a sax, and a heck of a lot of other sounds sources do their thing all over the place. The performers take care to listen to each other rather than just step all over each. They build together, they rise, fall, float, and create as a functioning ensemble. Bells chimes with echos of Miles Davis getting strange with a Sketches of Spain melting soundscape. Melodies leap about with pulsing percussion assaults. A gem of a jamscape! 


2. Cat Temper: Furbidden Planet A concept Cat Temper album! Cats in space. What is there not to like? There's some cool cat artwork here too! Meowtastic ridiculous pun filled synth pop in lo-fi/hi-fi outer space. How can you not adore an album with the opening song title, “Catstronauts Are Go”? This story album about space bound kitties and their fur raising discovery is an aural treat. Cat Temper slings out lots of albums, this is more than just another album, its a sonic treat. There's some great neo-80's synth sounds floating in every track. In all seriousness, I think fans of late 80's Tangerine Dream will dig this album deeper than a litter box, which by the way, this album should never belong in a litter box. It's a great album! Easily one of the best in the Cat Temper catalog. 


1. Black Sky Giant: Planet Terror Whenever I listen to this album, it feels as though it was made just for me, just like the movie Grindhouse does. Also of note, one of the segments of Grindhouse is of course called Planet Terror. I'll have to ask Black Sky Giant someday if that's where the title came from. Well, none of that describes why I like this album so much, except in an inept way. This album has some of the most exciting sampling I've heard in a long time. It reminds me of Ministry's classic The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste with the creative wall of dialogue sampling. Black Sky Giant increases that here, using stock music samples as building blocks within some of their instrumental songs. The production is really smooth, yet powerful. The title track kicks off the album showcasing you the black light infused instrumental fuzz style that you will be treated to throughout this well sequenced series of tunes. One of many things that endears me to this album, is that it's over so fast, I can never get bored of it. There are just seven songs on this mighty slab of musical muscle. There's a great interplay between then electric guitar and the bass. Ulameth (endbringer) is the centerpiece of the album for me. The deep tones of the guitar and bass really rumble along with spaced out synth pads and ah those wonderful samples! The Phantom Gun closes out the album in a grand style and introduces a raucous wild western motif of sounds and samples. Black Sky Giant, you did a fantastic job!