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Paradise Dropped

Remember, Republicans: Some lie you heard or repeated in church last week about Donald Trump’s fake victory in 2020 is almost certainly going to inspire the next Timothy McVeigh. I hope it doesn’t, but if it does, and people die, including children, ask if it had anything to do with your cowardice, ignorance and pride, or your inability to separate morals from identity (and your always amazing inability to know the difference).

It’s a week of false equivalencies: When right-wing rioters infiltrated the U.S. Capitol to stop the certification of the presidential election results, and Main Street conservatives at home said it was no big deal because Black Lives Matter protests last summer led to looting and rioting in American cities. We should remember that BLM was fighting against racism. Its doctrine was not violence. There are plenty of videos showing activists condemning the looting. The movement in essence asked that the Constitution to live up to its promise.

Right-wingers, on the other hand, were trying to destroy the Constitution by overturning a fair election. Very different.

But there are practical reasons for these false equivalencies: If you can brand your opponents as baby killers, looters and rioters, you no longer have accountability for anything you do. You’ve given yourself permission and broad template for any moral transgression that suits you, including death threats against public servants, violence against public health defenders, libeling of rape victims, … for your past support for illegal foreign invasions, torture, and now, evidently, even against treason against the U.S. and its form of government. Conservatives do not care about baby killing (see Sandy Hook) or civil disorder (see the Bundy standoff). They do, however, like the power those words give them to pursue their selfish interests. It’s a gateway drug to the sociopathy they refer to as freedom.

Dear Conservatives

Could it be that you’ve started to build most of your belief systems around every utterance of a cult leader, a man who just tried to overthrow the U.S. government, a man accused by 26 women of sexual assault, because most of your other beliefs up until now turned out to be too fragile and poorly thought out to hold onto in the first place? You’re starting to fit the model of the people who joined the NXIVM group a little too closely.

Ted Cruz In Hell

Thoughts on Ted Cruz’s attempt to protest the certification of electoral college votes that would put Joe Biden in the White House, using a specious argument that since Republicans don’t believe in the truth of the votes, there must be an alternate reality:

There is no third option when you’re pitting truth against non-truth, Ted Cruz. There is no compromise value between a fact and a lie. Those trying to fix reality to incorporate their lies are living in their own hell and asking us to burn with them.

Bring an Open Mind to a Broken Heart

Salon de la Guerre’s 25th album, Bring An Open Mind to a Broken Heart, is now available on Amazon, iTunes, Spotify, YouTube, and other platforms where music is still sold.

The project started as an experiment–to see if I could use country music instruments to play microtonal music. In other words, I wanted to meld Gram Parsons and Harry Partch. I even bought a lap steel guitar to try out my hypothesis that something new and wonderful might result.

As I progressed, I learned a couple of things: One, instruments associated with country music such as the banjo and lap steel guitar can hurt your ears if sampled and played in rapid succession. And then I was reminded of a golden rule of music, which is that you shouldn’t let a bunch of fuzzy sound effects get in the way of a good song.

The result is an album of arty country experiments sitting jeek by chowl with a number of more conventional country numbers and lap steel performances. It’s not exactly what I’d intended, but I still think a lot of it came out sounding fresh and new. I hope you agree.

As always, the album was composed, produced, arranged and performed by yours truly. That’s me playing the lap steel guitar, banjo, acoustic guitar and keyboard, while Apple GarageBand’s software provides string, bass and drum backup.

The cover art work was created by my longtime friend Corey B. Sanders.

You hold up the window to capture sky
You hold it to capture blue
It’s somebody else’s morning there
And it’s getting ahead of you

The night still moans her labor
As she put in her e-string
Her menopause is moody
And her bones are brittle things

And her calories she’s counting
And she does another plank
And the morning is a picture
That you keep inside a tank

And you’re going to finish that novel
But the words just won’t come out
It’s about a boxer who’s beaten
They knocked his molars out

And you could either take the stimulants
Or hear that country song
You know when you take either
That you’ll feel just how you want before long

She said when the old song touched her heart
She felt again like a child
And it made me smile to set her free
And see her feet turn wild

Cause the purest love I can think of:
When we set each other free
And each of us ask the hardest question:
“Will I ever come back to me?”

Caffeine Headache

My head and pencil neck

                Hang longingly over the

                Syringe-like highway dividing lines

Speeding past; morphine

                Nightmares; an ominous windshield

 

I’ve been wearing black

                Socks in the morning

                The coffee I cuddled

In my tonsils

Gropes around

                Like the failure of alcohol

 

I’m going on furlough up north

Up away from pedestrians

                And pederasts,

Just above the street corner

                Cymbal music, a cut

                Above the freon suffocation

 

To the fake pastoral fields

                Away from my siblings

                Away from the church

To the fake pastoral fences

In a car with a passenger

                I don’t know

                Away to anywhere

 

I took the white hot pills

To ensure that before I reached

My destination I would not fall

Asleep on the road, killing us both

 

But this time they made

                Me ache; as my foot

                Dips into the combustion

 

I squeeze my eyes

                I’m awake and more in pain

                And acutely aware

That I’m as fragile as glass.

 

–Eric Rasmussen, 1990

My 24th album, Hot Tears, is now available on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, YouTube and other platforms where music is (still) sold.

This is my first and so far only album dedicated to jazz. Most of the eight songs are cool and modal jazz in the Miles Davis-John Coltrane vein, though I’ve added a couple of ringers: a Louis Armstrong takeoff that was meant to accompany my short film Scrabble Rousers, and a fusion rock piece that owes more to Frank Zappa.

My reasons for doing jazz might seem obvious: I’ve played alto sax since I was 12, and I love postwar American jazz in particular. But there’s a sillier reason: I needed a jazz song for my film, and I don’t like leaving single stray songs lying around unattached to albums. So I wrote seven more to make “Scrabble Rousers” less lonely, less likely to fall through the cracks.

In the age of streaming, I understand that, sadly, the format of full-length albums is dying. And yet those are the formats I love. I love sequencing groups of songs, seeing if their different moods take you on a journey. While I wouldn’t call the Beatles’ White Album my all-time favorite, it’s one of the albums I’m most obsessed with, because I don’t know how you make a long work like that with such a chaotically wide variety of styles and yet still somehow make the whole thing seem cohesive. So assembling albums–trying to yank the listener through as many wide-ranging emotions as possible without losing them to alienation or befuddlement–is a hobby I enjoy almost as much as making the music.

Having devoted myself to an entire jazz album this way, for the dumbest of reasons I concede, I was also curious to see how well my saxophone playing has held up. Although I played it in high school, I put it down for almost 30 years while I pursued a love of rock music and its main sonic vehicle: the guitar. But I picked up the sax again for a couple of songs on my 2015 album Clam Fake, mostly to see how the instrument would sound when sandwiched next to alternative guitar tunings, since guitars tuned Sonic Youth-style tend to sound like horns as well. I figured something interesting would happen.

But now that I’ve tried a whole album of improvising on this, my first instrument, I must say I’m pretty proud of the results. Aside from one tweak of two bad notes and some edits on “Scrabble Rousers” and “A Picture of Lori Looking at the Sky,” the sax solos you hear on Hot Tears (not counting the introductory melodies*) were not heavily chopped up.

I don’t know if I’ll do another jazz album soon (yesterday, I sent the saxophone back to the company that rented it to me, so right now I am sax-less). But after you’ve heard me churn through a few more styles and experiments (I’ve got a country rock coming out next week), maybe I’ll try this again someday.

As always, I composed, arranged, performed and produced the album by myself. I hope you enjoy.

*I should have added for clarity and full disclosure that the opening sax melodies on “Glitching” and “A Picture of Lori Looking at the Sky” were put together from fragments of saxophone runs for the sake of recording speed and simplicity, though only the middle solo on the latter song was edited together from two different improvised takes. I also forgot that I had to piece together the solo on “Scrabble Rousers” from two or three takes, something I should have mentioned in the first draft of this blog post. My apologies.

My New Jazz Album

Within the next month or so, Salon de la Guerre will be releasing two new albums. One is best described as an “art country” album. More on that later. The other is my first album dedicated to jazz and it’s mostly in the Miles Davis-John Coltrane mood, though there are a couple of curveball songs.

Why did I do this? Why do I keep straying from the garage rock that is Salon de la Guerre’s main order of business? Well, there are a few reasons. One is that playing around in different genres helps me innovate and come up with new ideas. Next, I had built up a collection of melodies that didn’t really fit into pop or punk or rock songs very well. After enough of them piled up, I decided to do the right thing with them.

Then there were a few mundane, practical reasons. As regular readers know, I’ve made a few short films; for years, I have had to hide one of my student works from 2006 because I had put a popular Louis Armstrong song on the soundtrack. It was going to be a huge burden to pay for the rights to this song every year, and so I tried to think of a way I could capture the spirit of the piece and make my own jazz song to save the film, “Scrabble Rousers,” from oblivion. I took a huge risk and tried to score it using my own saxophone playing (something I’ve done only a little of since high school). Once I had the sax in my hands, I thought I might as well go all in and record an entire jazz album.

Sorry for the long-winded explanation. The upshot is that I’m fairly proud of the result, which is called Hot Tears.

Attached is a song from the album, which is almost completed.

I just restored one of my student films from 2006 to YouTube with new music by Salon de la Guerre. The song was made specifically for the movie, but it will also appear on an album of jazz tunes I hope to release this year called Hot Tears.

Enjoy the movie … or the music … or both!