Babel Magazine Interview with RC EdringtonThis interview was conducted in four parts during 2003 by the editor of Babel Magazine, Victor Thorn.
White Text (Victor) Gold Text(RC)
(c)2003 Babel Magazine (a Sisyphus Press Publication)
1) You've said that some people call you arrogant in your views toward the small press, while I see your honesty as a breath of fresh air. So, to begin part one of this interview, tell us why you've almost given up on the small press.
I am arrogant because I will only send my stuff to publications that have writers and editors I have some respect for as a reader. I am arrogant because 90% of all journals I have read lately suck. What pisses me off the most, though, is that these shitty journals are allowed to define modern poetry to the masses, thereby assuring that since I don't write in the school of "rhymed verse" or know the secret handshake to the academic "isn't our stuff deep" clique, my stuff goes un-read. If all I was exposed to was this shit I wouldn't buy poetry either.
I have given up on the small press because someone long ago sold the small press on the idea they were not permitted to profit from or market their publications. Once this concept was adapted, quality went down the tubes and distribution went to zero. Having your own publication is cool, but if the only ones reading it are its contributors ... then it's just one big circle jerk. And while it may be fun, what's the point?
2) With a continuing trend toward consolidation among the big publishing houses, a sense of even more exclusivity results. What affect does this phenomenon have on the majority of writers out there with literary aspirations who don't have, as Bradley Mason Hamlin calls it, the "inside handshake"?
Face it, writers need to get real tired, real fucking quick of banging their heads on doors that just won't ever open. Hell, I have never even bothered to bang the door to the big guys. I am a realist. But what the small press and its authors need to understand is that there can be a viable existence outside the doors. I like to use the analogy of the early punk rock scene, mainly because I am old enough to be a first hand casualty. Anyway, when bands like Black Flag came out, they didn't waste their time trying to get a major label deal. Their competition wasn't Pink Floyd or the Rolling Stones. Black Flag cut their own albums and tapes and then toured like motherfuckers promoting and selling them. They never got rich, but fuck man it beat the 9-5.
The small press needs to take a cue here. First, publish quality writers and present to the public stuff they can't get anywhere else (everyone has to decide on their own what that is), and 2) Produce a physical journal that can be promoted. No one is going to spend hard earned pennies on photocopied journals. You aren't taken serious by the general public who does judge a book by its cover. No bookstore is going to display this stuff either. Give a writer a well designed journal and I bet he/she will promote the hell out of it.
3) If a person hopped on Google and did a search for online literary magazines, what would they find in terms of quality?
You would get 10 million web pages of rhyming love poetry, and a few sites offering to publish your rhyming love poetry if you buy the anthology of rhyming love poetry for $50. As I said before, this type of poetry is defining what the common person thinks poetry is. Someone a hell of lot smarter than me once said something like, "those who control the words control the society." Poetry isn't taken serious in our society, and therefore it won't be read. It's our responsibility as writers and publishers to fix this misconception. We can't just sit back and languish in our relative circle jerk.
4) Writing has the power to dramatically impact a person's life, and also to bore them senseless. What can an author do to change your focus on life, or to make you want to read more of their material?
I gave up long ago believing in universals truths and reality. Society doesn't function like that. However, I feel my life can be enriched by personal truths. It's like stumbling in a dark alley at 3 a.m. drunk off your ass, then coming across a rose bud sprouting up through a crack in the cement. At that instant that rose is the most beautiful fucking thing on the planet. I read writers that are capable of drawing me into those moments, because not only do I learn a little bit about them ... but a little about me at the same time.
5) The influence of grant money is, in my opinion, one of the worst influences to ever hit the publishing industry because it removes the capitalist element from the equation. In other words, why should a publisher pound the pavement and try to move books when a large portion of the upfront money was given to them, and more will surely follow? It essentially removes the hunger from the publisher and makes them complacent. What are your views on this situation?
First off, the government has no place in the arts - be it censoring or supporting it. Period. I am so fucking sick of seeing news stories about some artist’s work being censored, only to find his exhibit was put together by tax money. You sleep with snakes, expect to get bit. More like, you sleep with snakes, you deserve to get bit. Artist that rely on tax dollars have zero motivation to actually sell their stuff. Some people say money has no place in the arts. I say bullshit to that. Look at the artist of the past who worked as contract painters to royalty. Just because we call it fine art today does not take away the fact that DeVinci and Michelangelo were contractors. Today our government gives grants (like royalty of old), but doesn't expect anything in return (very unlike royalty of old). I think a publisher on grant money should be required to at least recoup the initial investment ... or no more grants. I am certain that statement suddenly caused numerous publishers to red mark "rejection" on my stuff. Fuck 'em. Just once I would like to see a small press get some grant cash, turn out a decent publication, spend some of that grant money on promotion, and sell the fuck out of it.
6) Likewise, these grant money, state-sponsored academic writing cliques become arrogantly pretentious and have essentially KILLED this art-form because no one outside their little incestuous clique is allowed in. Worse, nobody outside of these groups wants to read their ivory tower crap. Tell us more about the damage being done to the writing field by these people.
Again, these people are allowed to define our art form and our culture. Instead of rallying against it in a cohesive movement, we muddle along in our own little cliques unnoticed, hoping one day the poetry gods will smile upon us and let us in the club. I don't want in that fucking club anymore than Johnny Rotten wanted to be lead singer for the Rolling Stones. The damage is simple; the common man does not spend money on poetry books because his scope of poetry is limited to the boring old school academic poetry cliques. Therefore, he assumes all poetry is the same and has no use for it. Face it, that shit is irrelevant. We need to bring relevancy and a newness back to poetry to wake people up.
7) Slam readings seem to be the "big" thing today on the poetry scene, yet many see it as an excuse for wannabe theater majors to perform, or for the media whores to ride the coattails of the hip-hop rap craze. You've even gone so far as to say: "I wanna puke when I see these people on HBO representing poetry to the masses." Give us more of your ideas, especially relating to the force of Henry Rollins, who was doing this back in the 1980's (and much better, for that matter).
One of the earliest defining moments of my life came when I ran into Henry Rollins sometime in the early 80's. He gave a "spoken word" performance that was even more powerful and energized than anything he had done on stage with the band Black Flag. The guy fucking melted your socks off with the intensity of his "poetry". Anyone that saw Jello Biafra back then will say the same thing. No poetry slam I have seen since comes close. These people aren't poets, they are failed rappers. They attempt to make up in "performance" what their words lack. I used to give poetry readings once a week at this cool cafe that served booze. It was fucking cool. You had a bunch of poets from all walks of life totally unrelated to each other in style or substance spouting their stuff. This diversity was cool. Then the "slammers" began showing up. It all began to sound like the same old teen or black angst bullshit you can find on pop records. I stopped going, as did a lot of the other "written" poets. If I wanted to perform I would have joined a fucking band and did an Iggy Pop and pissed on stage.
In the case of HBO, they latched onto the coattails of rap and started promoting this slam shit. I watched about 10 minutes of this shit and thought here we go again, instead of academics, its rappers that will now represent poetry to the masses. It's not the "slam" style itself that pisses me off, it's that they are all saying the same tired thing.
But the small press needs to take notice. Poetry is and can be marketed and sold like any other art form. If you won't do it, someone else will, and you have no one to blame but yourselves for this "mainstream" shit.
8) One of the characteristics of the small press that you've identified is the "liberal" effect where many publishers tiptoe along with the party line and don't have the guts to rock the boat. Why is this occurring?
Conservatives go to school to make money and buy the world. Liberals go to school to make art and change the world. That’s why it's called "liberal" arts. They have no concept of what it takes to earn a buck in the world. They learn to live off government grant hand-outs. The idea that the government exists to meet your every need is a well established "liberal" ideal. While most people were earning their Fine Art degrees I was working my ass off on 12 hour shifts in a fucking copper smelter. I don't regret a second of it. The people I worked side-by-side with were the fucking heart of America. They had never heard of Bukowski and thought poetry was for wimps. Once I turned them on to some, they couldn't get enough. That's why I know there is a market for small press stuff. We have to rip poetry from the liberal hands of limp dick academics and put it back in the hands of the common man. We need to start defining "poetry". People will buy what they deem relevant to their lives.
9) If the small press took more lessons from the punk rock do-it-yourself scene, where do you think it would lead them?
First of all, I think the small press took the worst aspects of the punk rock scene and threw out the good stuff. They got it backwards. While they managed to copy the cheap do-it-yourself publishing style, they forgot the marketing aspect. Punk rock was about marketing. It was about bands getting together and promoting themselves collectively. If you were in an East Coast band, you promoted tapes of West Coast bands at your gigs and vice versa. This cross promotion allowed these bands to tour, thereby bringing in more fans. More fans equal more tapes sold. This is what the small press needs to learn. We need to cultivate our audience. You can't have the same 10 people be the only ones buying poetry books. I firmly believe if you produce a quality journal and promote it outside your own little circle, you can turn a profit. And fuck man, editing a small press journal is the worst job on the planet. You people deserve to earn a dime ... but once you earn a dime, toss me a few pennies.
10) What do you think the leading factors are that contribute to the small press not being more relevant to a larger audience, and likewise, unable to more adequately reach them?
I think the small press can be relevant to a larger audience. I just think the audience has closed its doors on the small press due to pre-conceived ideas they have about it. We need to find a way to kick a crack in the door. Bukowski was able to do this for whatever reasons, and an entire small press movement should have rushed right behind him tearing off the door, but all we got was a bunch of disorganized, scattered little zines that were happy (and still are) to live in the shadow of Bukowski and not make their own name. The talent was there. Lyn Lifshin may be the best poet writing today. She should be our poet laureate. Ron Androla kicks some serious ass himself. Yesterday, I looked for a compiled collection of Androla's work, but none exists. Why? Where is this generation of writers, City Lights Books? Wake up, we need you.
The bottom line is; you don't make a dent in the publishing world by publishing 3000 unread poetry journals. You make a dent when one press stands up in a call to arms, then circles in a bunch of other small press journals. They pool their cash together ... and go for it. The Beat poet scene is not only a working model ... it worked. You don't need to reinvent the wheel.
11) When we think back on 20th century literary forces that have radically changed the way we see the written word, we can all identify certain individuals and movements that were instrumental. What type of force do we need now to do the same thing?
I think the force already exists. I think we have writers writing today that are extremely relevant to our culture. That's not the issue. The issue is there is not a unifying force behind them. It's not that there are too many small press publishers. It's that there are too many doing the same thing for so long they have become redundant. If about 10 or so of the top small press journals out there started working together as a collective and pooled resources, they could turn out some seriously kick ass books and journals that the bookstores and book reviewers couldn't ignore. An artist needs a decent canvas to lay his art on. Writers need quality produced books and journals to place their words in.
12) You mention that the Sex Pistols' energy and sense of chaos made them a great band, yet the entire scene became routine and a parody of itself when other bands copied them. How can we prevent ourselves from falling into this same trap?
The small press has already fallen into the trap. There are thousands of small press journals that look the same and contain the same writers. These journals lay around unread and un-subscribed to. The question should be: how do we get out of the trap? Simple - promotion and design quality. There are some seriously talented artists in the small press. Let's give them a full pallet of color for book covers. Let's invest a little in distributing and cultivating an audience outside traditional boundaries. And most of all; lets push these rhyming love poems back into the corner I thought Walt Whitman already kicked them into so the common person is given a new definition of poetry. Then let them decide if we are relevant or not.
13) Explain how poets such as Walt Whitman and the Beats brought writing back to the common man, and how, somewhere along the line, we have seemingly let their accomplishments slip away.
In my opinion, the Beats and Whitman wrote about things the common everyday man could relate too, and they wrote it in a way the common everyday man could understand. They spoke not in the language and metaphors of the elite class, but in language and metaphors you didn't need a decoder ring or Master in Fine Arts to understand. Their works were relevant to common people everywhere (in the case of Whitman), or to a generation. While there are many great poets writing in this tradition today ... the audience has drifted away. It seems it became more important to get published in certain journals, or hang out in certain cliques than it did to put the effort out to make sure your work was getting to the common man. A guy that works his ass off 12 hours a day isn't going to come looking for you. You need to go looking for him.
14) A couple of years ago Publishers Weekly reported that 33 writers comprise about 75-80% of all fiction book sold in this country. From your perspective, what can be done to alter this situation?
First, we need to stop butting heads with the majors. Fuck 'em. Let them do their thing. The small press needs to focus on selling our own publications. Once the majors see there is an audience, quality authors, and viable publishers they will take notice. It's not any different then the music industry. The Clash said, "Selling is what selling sells." Show the majors you have a niche market and watch how quickly they swoop in.
15) One of the most sinister tactics that local newspapers use to prevent the small press from getting more recognition is to say that they have a policy not to review self-published or small press offerings. Give us your view on not only how pusillanimous the corporate print media is, but how they are also used to maintain a quasi-literary caste system.
There is no such thing as local media in most places. Most of it is corporate owned by some media conglomerate. We do have a small weekly paper here that tries it's best to give non-mainstream publications a fair shot, but they will tell you themselves that they don't want to rock the boat of advertisers that pay their bills.
What needs to happen is: we need a high quality small press magazine dedicated to this stuff. There are unlimited advertising dollars untapped for a venture like this. If I had thought of it 10 years ago I would have ran with it. The bottom line is; we need to create our own press. We need to buy advertising and we need to promote each other.
16) I'd like to ask you a few questions about your "Small Press Poetry Rant" that appeared in Babel # 96 on March 16, 2003. The first thing you said in reference to most everyday writers in the world is: "The major publishers and presses do not give a damn about your poetry!" You continue, "Your chances are ZERO making it to a major publisher." Tell us the reasons why.
I remember two things happening the week I decided to write that article. The first was when I heard a favorite press of mine was finally shutting down in print form after over a decade of bringing me some of the best small press stuff being written. It pissed me off. Then I realized all I had ever read were contributor copies. Then I wondered how many of the writers in the journal had only read their contributor copies. It was obvious that if even half the writers this press supported through publishing had actually subscribed, the journal would be still going. The article was a shout out to my fellow writers.
Then earlier in the week, this 15 year old kid sent me some stuff for an online journal I edited at the time. While it wasn't the greatest stuff, I saw some serious potential and e-mailed the kid that I would use one of his pieces in an upcoming issue ... figuring I had made his day. He mailed back asking how much he would get paid. The kid learned a real quick lesson in the small press publishing world. I explained to him how it worked. However, he was right. He deserved to get paid. This "be thankful for the exposure" shit has gone on way too long. I sent the kid a $25 check out of my scotch fund and drank cheap vodka that week. Now don't get me wrong, I am sincerely grateful to any editor that has put their time, energy and money into publishing anything of mine. I think you are all saints. Let's work together and figure out how to get both of us paid so we both can quit our shitty jobs and do what we are called to.
But back to your question, Major Publishing is a business. The goal of business is to make money. Poetry doesn't sell (for reasons I have stated throughout this interview). Therefore the Majors have no interest. So unless you are someone like Jewel who is already in the media spotlight, or a whore of academia that has prospered on government grant money all your life, you are ignored by the majors.
However I do feel if enough small press publishers got tired of the relative obscurity and decided to treat their own publications like a business, they could act as a feeding ground for the majors. I don't think a person has to compromise his writing integrity to make a buck. I think writers and publishers need to break with the notion telling them poverty is some artistic goal.
17) Let everyone know how the small press has always been a refuge for poets and writers who don't fit into the "formula" mold.
I didn't want to be a writer. It is something that happened. It is an addiction harder to kick then heroin. I don't write for other poets, and I certainly don't write for editors. I write for myself. My poetry deals with very personal issues I may not deal with if I lacked writing as an outlet. However, tucked away somewhere there is always that need for communication. It's like reaching to someone and saying "hey man, look what I found ... can you use it?" The small press has provided me a forum for this communication. For that I am grateful. The strength of the small press is that if you look hard enough you will find a place where your voice will be heard. On a personal level the small press has achieved a very noble goal. The refuge is there.
I think another example of how the small press can be a refuge is if you look at the artist that did pulp covers in the 50's. These artists made a living on these small presses and gained exposure. Now some of them, like Varga, have moved on to "fine art" galleries.
18) I could name so many people that I've met throughout my life who have NEVER read a book since getting out of school (and don't ever plan to again). What is wrong with our culture that we have allowed this to happen?
We have a culture of speed freaks. We want instant gratification and we want it now, and we sure as fuck better not have to work for it. Why do you think crack cocaine and meth has replaced heroin as the top street drugs? Why do you think if you don't fit into this consume or be consumed society they want to stick you on Prozac (which has a similar chemical effect on you brain as does speed)? A guy can't work 80 hour weeks and pay over 50% of that in taxes and still find time to read a book. This big technological revolution was supposed to bring us more leisure time, instead it has pretty much destroyed the traditional family because now mom has to work to make up the money dad loses in taxes. That means kids are raised on TV and video games. What is wrong with our culture is that we have no culture. Hell, back in my day, even on the streets we had a code of honor. No more.
19) You've said that every poet should read other poets, if for no other reason than to improve their own craft. What things have you learned along the line from this practice?
I learned from Whitman that my personal experience has some value outside what society may wish to place on it. I learned from Ginsberg that my language is my language. I learned from Trocchi that if you look hard enough, beauty and truth will reveal itself to you in the darkest of places. I learned from Lou Reed that the streets have a voice all their own that deserve to be heard. I learned from Bukowski to do my own thing and fuck the critics. I learned from Lifshin that free verse can have a heartbeat and melody much stronger than metered verse. And finally, I learned from Kerouac that self-exploration is a purpose for living in itself.
20) Last but not least, tell everyone why they should support the small press. I mean, this is our last hope. If we don't rally to help ourselves, the mainstream certainly isn't going to come knocking on our doors.
If anyone has read this interview and can't answer this question for themselves, go to the top and start again.
1) On one of your website writer profiles, it says that you "currently pride yourself on being a bum, and long ago gave up on the 9 to 5 slave cycle." Tell us what factors led to this decision.
I have had responsible high-paying jobs. I operated a state funded program designed to assimilate "mentally ill" adults back into the "mainstream". I didn't have a fancy degree or academic credentials. All I did was bring working class ethics that I learned from working four years in a copper smelter to a system that was ineffective because it dealt in theory and not reality. I was successful because I related to my "clients" as individuals and ignored the dogma of the "psychological religion". I had the new home, the new cars, the new wife and the trips to Vegas every month. My life sucked. I had gotten away from what kept me grounded to myself ... writing. I had taken on the trappings of success not defined by me, but by the society around me. Needless to say, one day I looked around and said fuck this ... and left it behind. I had achieved the "American Dream" and found it to be unfulfilling. I think our society is so fucked up because most people have found themselves living someone else’s dream and have no clue how to get out of it. Most people would consider me a bum because I have no stable source of income. My lifestyle doesn't require one. I don't accumulate material shit because it doesn't really interest me. I have been there. All I do is meet my basic needs and write. This leaves me an enormous amount of time to do things that bring some type of quality to my life. I read at least 5 books a week and try to process as much experience through my bloodstream as possible. Work is something to be done to meet needs and should never be an end in and of itself. Today people work, create needs; then have to work more to meet those needs. I find it absurd.
2) Explain how being a member of society requires people to sacrifice a piece of themselves (i.e. giving their proverbial pound of flesh).
In order to be considered a constructive member of society you have to ignore your personal morals and ethics. You are supposed to keep your mouth shut, produce, and consume. I have no interest in being considered a part of this society. It's a sickness. Look around you at the hypocrisy. A simple example: We spend billions of dollars a year buying overpriced name brand tennis shoes produced from slave labor. We laugh, giggle and tell jokes about an America president that lied to a grand jury under oath. I don't find humor in this, nor can I just shake my head and say oh well. It's your fucking world ... you deal with it. But don't get on your fucking moral high horse and tell me how fucking religious you are, or how great your nation is because at 6'3" 225 lbs I may just have to shove a boot up your ass and make you take some personal responsibility for your petty little lives.
3) My definition of the "Good American" (ha ha) is someone that watches TV and shops at Wal-Mart. What more could you add to this characterization?
The good american is a lemming. But at least lemmings don't stab each other in the back on their way down.
4) Thomas Jefferson once said that we need a good revolution every generation or two to keep those in power on their toes. But in this day-and-age, the thought of REVOLUTION absolutely horrifies people. Why have we become so passive and so afraid to challenge those who are manipulating us and definitely have THEIR own best interests in mind, not ours?
The american government has done a great PR job over the years painting any dissent as coming from communist, or militant right-wing wackos. Dissent isn't taken seriously by the media, and therefore the american public are taught not to take it serious. Revolution in this country can never happen because everyone is too busy putting in 80 hour work weeks. The government has reduced the middle-class to a slave class. The slave class tends not to have idle time to think about things like quality of life.
5) If you could list the best thing about American society, and also the worst thing about American society, what would it be and why?
The best thing about America is that if people got off their complacent butts they could produce a meaningful change in our society through the vote. Democracy only works if the common man participates. That isn't happening. What would our social landscape look like if voting was mandatory as a condition of citizenship and we had 100% turn out? Most of these idiots would be out of office. The bad thing about america is people let the media define their reality. We have stopped questioning our leaders and just sit back and watch scripted TV news. The media tells us how to think.
6) Please elaborate on this famous quote by George Washington (paraphrased): "Those who are willing to give up some freedom for some security will end up with neither."
When the constitution was written it had extremely limited authority over citizens. The writers feared a centralized government. That's what they fought a revolution over. In fact, the constitution grants no rights. All your rights are assumed "self evident,” and the Bill of Rights and Amendments are simply intended to list the areas the government had no authority. So when someone says, "I have a right to own a gun because of the 2nd amendment," they are wrong. They have the right to own a gun because they were endowed by their creator with the right to self protection AND it is "self evident". The government knows this. They know the power is in the hands of the people. So then how did the government attain so much power ... and where does all the authority to pass laws come from? YOU. Every law the government passes for your benefit allows them to take a little bit of your freedom. Want protection from terrorists? Then let the government pass laws that take away parts of your civil rights. Eventually the society will become so dependent on the government they will have no personal freedoms.
7) What would you say is the single biggest difference between you and the majority of people walking past you on the sidewalk each day?
The main difference is I chose to take full responsibility for my actions and accept the consequences. I never bullshit myself, and I always say what's on my mind. I have very little use for most people because they are so full of their own bullshit and pathetic soap opera lives. I accept no "role" in society and I tend to piss people off.
8) I've written at length about the invisible, unspoken "class system" that exists in this country, and also how various institutions (especially schools) are used to "keep people in their places." What are your views on this subject?
The goal is to create a slave class that can be controlled. Kids are not taught to think for themselves, they are taught to memorize what the teacher wants. If the kid has a problem with that, they stick him on medication. You have the government, the education system, and the medical community working together to create carbon copy cut-outs. No wonder kids are walking into schools and opening fire. The number one cause of depression is the inability of the individual to express themself in a creative way and be understood by those around them. Depressed people tend to act on suicidal or homicidal impulses. Next time a kid walks into a classroom and open fires ... look in a mirror.
9) When you say you're for the "politics of the individual," what precisely do you mean?
Freedom is a state of mind. Therefore I only concern myself with changing how I view or think about things. My revolution is internalized. They can put me in a cage for the rest of my life, but that would have no effect on who I am or how I interpret reality because I currently don't interpret myself in terms of society's reality. They can take away the paper I write on, but they can't take away my thoughts. The political system outside of me has no bearing on my reality because I never bought into their concept of what reality is. The economic system is meaningless because I long ago learned to live outside of it by choice. I live by my own ethics and moral code. I find honesty with the self to be a higher calling.
10) Please talk a little bit about the following quote: "One thing I learned from the punk days was that if you show people you don't give a fuck they'll leave you alone, even though you really care more than they ever will."
Society is fucked up. I know it and the people around me know it. However, if you as an individual attempt to point this out, you get gang-fucked by society. If you show people you care about certain things, they will use those things against you. So I copped the attitude that I don't give a fuck. People then can ignore me and leave me alone. I become somewhat of an enigma to their thought process because they can't define or categorize me. Since most people are programmed robots, if they can't label me ... they don't know how to respond to me. I become dangerous because they now have to deal with me on my terms.
I remember talking to a cop after a TSOL gig back in the early 80's. He asked what the hell that "slam dancing" was all about. I told him we figured if we had our own riot and beat the shit out of each other ... that was one less thing the cops could do to us. No one can take anything from me that I don't allow them to. Therefore I offer nothing for them to take. I want to be written off as a useless piece of shit by those around me because then they will just leave me alone and let me do my thing.
11) What do you think its going to take to really get people pissed off enough about the world around them that they'll finally stand up and start yelling like that guy in the movie, "Network" - " ... I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it any more!"
It isn't going to happen. Let's nuke the fucking planet and let evolution start over. We have failed as human beings ... experiment over. I MEAN WAKE THE FUCK UP PEOPLE! Gas taxes. Sales taxes. Income taxes. Taxes taxes taxes. The average american pays about 50% of their income in taxes. That makes you a slave. You waste 1/2 of your productive working life for politicians. If this doesn't give you cause for revolution nothing will.
12) The great rock n' roll writer Lester Bangs said that having heroes was a complete waste of time (even though Lou Reed was his all-time hero). What do you think about heroes?
Lester and Reed are two of my favorite people, but I wouldn't call them heroes. An anthem popular in my younger days was: Ignore Heroes. Fuck Authority. Live Your Own Life. I'm not into heroes. While I certainly have respect for some people, or may be influenced by someone ... to make them a hero would run counter to who I am. While an individual can be defined by their strengths or accomplishments, I think it's their flaws that flesh them out and make them real. I think too many times in our culture we airbrush people and worship them. In doing this we strip the individual of who they really are. It isn't fair to them, and it isn't fair to us. Maybe I am arrogant, but I am more into living my life than admiring the life of someone else.
13) In our popular culture, who would you consider to be the modern day outlaws?
Good question. I think a modern day outlaw is someone that isn't afraid to stand up and speak their mind or take a stand on something they believe to be right. I think it is someone that exists outside of society, yet is somehow able to make an impact on that society.
14) We watched (again) the Sex Pistols' documentary the other night - "The Filth and the Fury" - and were amazed by how truly original and REBELLIOUS the punks were in the late 70's. Where has this spirit of outlandish rubbing-against-the-grain gone?
Punk sprang up out of sheer boredom and nervous energy from the first generation of kids in history that weren't expected to achieve more than their parents. The industrial revolution was ending, the 60's revolution had gone corporate, and the economy of the 70's was in the tank. Suddenly you had a generation that didn't fit into the American or European "dream" and had no futures. Punk became a celebration of the apocalypse. Rebel against everything. Have a good time. Pass out. Wake up and do it all over again. If you don't wake up ... oh well. There was no point in a revolution to try and change the world ... as we felt the world wasn't worth saving.
15) "I fought the law and the law won." Agree or disagree?
When I was younger the law always found a way to win. Today I live outside the law. No, I am not a criminal or anything ... I have just found a way to live that allows me to fly outside of the radar.
16) Please give your thoughts on these two institutions: organized religion and the court system.
I could write a book on the destructive nature of organized religion throughout history. Jesus Christ, whether a character in a book, a historical figure, or the messiah (you chose), is probably the classic outlaw archetype. He didn't appear on the scene to create a religion ... he came to show how fucked up the society and the laws they lived by had become. They had all become hypocrites, and he stood up, shoved their faces in the mirror, and said look what you have become. His philosophy was simple: treat others the way you want to be treated and everything will be cool. The religion came from Paul and the Romans ... and had little to do with any teaching by Jesus. It became a new control system to replace the old control system.
I think about organized religion and my blood boils. The Catholic Church has institutionalized pedophilia, and the people in this society have not spoken out. They are raping your fucking kids, people! How long are you going to ignore it? Quit padding their coffers until some of these scumbags get jail time. Your silence on this issue is support of this system. I hold you just as guilty as those that do this shit.
As for the court system I could ramble for hours on the difference between common and maritime law. I try to stay out of the system and not deal with it. I recognize no laws; however I believe it is counter productive to my existence to call attention to myself and flaunt it.
17) Although this is a difficult, ever evolving question, please let us know what your favorites are in each category:
- rock n' roll group/performer: The Clash - "the only band that mattered"
- CD: X – “Los Angeles” (this is who influenced my early writings)
- female singer: Johnette Napolitano - Concrete Blonde (the haunting, yearning, bluesy voice)
- movie: “Lost Highway” (the only Lynch movie I like)
- actors/actress: I've wanted to bang Judy Garland ever since I saw her in that OZ flick
- artists: Baptiste, Dali
- living artist: Ora Tamir, very surreal
- male author: Alexander Trocchi (Henry Miller who?)
- female author: Lyn Lifshin
- fiction book: anything by Michael Connelly. I dig pulpish detective fiction
- non-fiction book: “The Earth Chronicles” by Zecharia Sitchin
- TV show: I watch little TV
- play: King Lear
18) How can creating illusions make a person or institution dangerous?
Reality is all about perception. Sadly, most people’s perceptions are defined by big media. Today big media could sell Hitler as an angel. I mean, look at how the left wing media almost succeeded in making Saddam appear the victim prior to the Iraqi war.
19) If you could interview any one living public personality, who would it be and why?
I have no use for "public personalities". However, I wouldn't mind sitting down with author/philosopher Robert Anton Wilson and bullshitting about whatever came to mind. The guy has a unique take on reality and how our perceptions are created, or how we use our perceptions to create reality.
20) Likewise, if you could go back in time and meet one historical figure, who would it be and why?
The one person in all of history that I have had a fascination with for as long as I can remember is Tesla. The inventor ... not the band. The guy was a sheer genius. I would like to talk about his life work that was seized by the FBI the day after he died. I think just to be exposed directly to his thought processes would be interesting as hell.
21) Finally, if you had sixty seconds on the CBS Evening News and the entire nation was watching, what would you tell the American people?
I tell them to look in the mirror before they closed their eyes and went to sleep each night.
1) Whenever we look at the 'official' media/government version of 9-11, and then the reams of alternative information that is available; a huge disparity exists. Nearly two years after this tragic event transpired, what do you really think happened?
I don't find it that difficult to believe that a group of terrorists could plan for years, hijack a few planes, and ram them into American symbols of power like the Trade Center Towers and the Pentagon. Hell, terrorist groups like the PLO have been hijacking planes for years. However, this was the first attack of its kind on American soil and I did expect a more thorough investigation than what the American public received. There are numerous unanswered questions that the media seems to be ignoring. The main one that comes to mind is why Air Force jets weren't scrambled to intercept the other hijacked planes after the first plane crashed into the Trade Center.
What also bothers me is that after I sat in shock and watched the planes hit, I then witnessed the towers just slide to the ground. It reminded me of how demolition experts implode buildings to bring them down. Till this day I don't grasp how a plane hitting a building could make a building drop straight down so cleanly. The government’s explanation of jet fuel melting the steel girders just doesn't cut it. Again, the media didn't investigate this either.
The media simply isn't doing its job. Conspiracy theorists can speculate as to the why, but I don't care too much about the why. I care about the facts, and the facts say tough questions weren't asked. This in itself should cause a person to wonder what really happened. All I do know is that a large scar was left on this country on 9-11, and while our president felt it was worth going to war over, our media didn't think a full investigation about the incident was needed. There is something odd in this picture. I think your recent book raises some important questions that need answered.
2) When historians write about secret societies, one of the keys to their perpetuation is 'secret knowledge'. From your perspective, what IS this 'secret knowledge'?
It would be real easy to get abstract here and start talking about arcane secrets held for centuries by a handful of people. Books have been written on these "ancient secrets" and "rituals" ... from the claim that the Holy Grail is really the royal bloodline of Jesus Christ to the claim that we were created as a working class by aliens to mine gold in the Middle East. I have studied everything from ancient Sumeria, the myth of Atlantis, the Barvarian Illuminati, the Knights Templar, all the way to the Olmecs and the Mayan culture in South America. While all of this is fascinating as literature and may be sprinkled with a few truths, I really don't think it is all that relevant to what the "power brokers" are currently up to in the world. The use of ritual and the guarding of ancient knowledge has long been one of the most effective ways to bond groups of people together in a common goal. Look at the Catholic Church. The power brokers operate under a similar cloak. So it doesn't really matter what their exclusive secrets or rituals are, what matters is they are "exclusive".
3) The core of control in our current society is the creation of money, specifically by the international bankers and the Federal Reserve System. Explain how money is used to enslave a nation.
Money creates a servant class. Any time you create a debt, you have control over the person that is indebted to you. The private bank, called the "Federal" Reserve, loans money to the American government. To pay this money back the American government has to tax its citizens. A cycle of dependency is created. The fact is, as an American citizen you are merely a servant of the Federal Reserve. You pay taxes on everything you do. Even the land you live on incurs a yearly tax, or a "sharecropper" fee.
Why do you think credit cards are so freely handed out? People with bills have to keep working and don't have a chance to get out of the debt loop. This also keeps them distracted from what is really taking place in the world. Keep producing little slave so we can live off the fruits of your labor. In biblical times charging interest was called usury. Today it is an accepted business practice. Perception is everything, and those that control the instruments of perception (the media) controls the people.
4) One of the most glaring examples of political/media deceit is the JFK Assassination. If you had to fill in some of the gaps not covered in the Warren Commission Report, what would they be?
I don't have a dump truck big enough to fill in the gaps left behind in the Warren Commission report. I think most of the American public realizes by now that that report was useless. Numerous theories have been presented, and instead of the government or media attacking the facts presented, they attack the person presenting the facts. They figure if you discredit the source you discredit the facts. Basic forensic evidence has proven that the assassination didn't go down the way the Warren Commission claimed. But until the American public cries out and demands the truth, the government has no motivation to give them the truth. You want to know who killed JFK? Look at who had motive and who had the most to gain. Better yet, look at who had the most to lose had he remained in office. This little wrinkle in American history went down about 40 years ago. Why is it relevant today? If they can kill a president, what can't they do?
5) Why do you feel that it is so hard for many people to accept the fact that there is a monied-elite working behind-the-scenes (i.e. a conspiracy) which is serving THEIR best interest and not ours?
I don't like the term conspiracy. The media has redefined that word to represent kooks and whackos with paranoid delusions. However, there is an elite class and to think they don't band together to work for their own goals and interests is absurd. To think they don't use every tactic available to them, which does include media manipulation, to obtain their goals is even more absurd. If the mass media decides to take parts of language and redefine it for their own purposes, I certainly am not willing to propagate their language manipulations. So I don't speak or write in abstract words or concepts. I write and speak in a simple language the media can't manipulate.
However, most people are happy living out their lives of quiet desperation and their daily routines. It has become so ingrained in them that the thought that it was all for nothing would shatter them. People are basically selfish. If they are given the material things they want in life they could careless about anyone else. Again perception of reality is the issue. You take a wild bull and put him in a 1/2 acre pen, that bull is going to fight like hell to tear that fence down to get free. You put that same bull in a 10 acre pen and he will think he is free because his vision doesn't allow him to see the fence surrounding him. Eventually the rancher can day by day decrease the size of the pen until the bull could be standing in a 10 ft square pen and believe he is free because his perception was slowly manipulated. Americans are the bull in the big pen, and only a few of us have taken the time to see the fence slowly closing in.
6) When one studies the global power system, they come to realize that world government is nothing more than an intricate organized crime syndicate with those at the top of the control pyramid involved in drug trafficking, money laundering, embezzlement, and violent retribution against certain individuals who threaten to expose their dirty dealings. When you think about it, these people make the Mafia pale in comparison. Please comment.
What's to comment on? I think your question summed up the reality of the situation fairly well. However if anyone doubts the dirty hands of our government, then please explain why within months of the U.S. taking over Afghanistan the price of street heroin dropped 30% because the market suddenly became flooded. Can I prove a direct link to the U.S. government? Nope, but I think it is a safe assumption considering that the Afghani's had no way in hell to produce and ship opium with the U.S. controlling the country. So, you tell me who was doing it. I don't deal in theories. I deal in fact, and at the very least plausible fact.
7) We seem to suffer from the "Pax Americana" syndrome where most Americans feel we will never be knocked from our perch as king of the hill. Yet historically, every dynasty prior to ours has fallen. Do you feel the USA is in danger of this happening in the near future?
The history books tell us Rome always falls. While a lot of researchers and authors can put forth numerous reasons why the U.S. is set to fall and have China take its place, I disagree. The power brokers created the U.S. For the first time in history a ruling class created a system so perfect the peasants were unable to realize they were peasants. Everyone in the U.S. thinks they are free and control their own lives. The U.S. constitution was set up so that no ruling class or dictator had to rule the populace by violence or war, but by giving the citizens enough rope to enslave themselves. The citizens are doing this by exchanging personal liberties for security. The citizens are doing this by sucking the tit of big media, and in their complacency disregarding anything that runs counter to what they have been conditioned to believe.
The power brokers have the perfect system to prosper under. As long as the citizens believe they control the government they have no reason to revolt. So now, the main goal of the power brokers is to create little USA's all over the globe. I think China will fall to a power broker controlled "democracy" long before the U.S. will be written off by these guys as no longer worth using. The USA is the power broker’s crown jewel. I think the U.S. slave system has become the standard by which all countries will be ruled.
8) The AIDS virus - whether as a government created disease or a cover story to allow tens of thousands of people to die on a daily basis - is our current age's Black Plague. What is your take on this situation?
There is no doubt in my mind that AIDS was created in a laboratory. I can't think of the source off the top of my head, but I do remember reading a 1960's government proposal for researchers to come up with a biological warfare agent that could kill a targeted population. The requirements for the government’s "hypothetical" agent described AIDS perfectly. I don't believe in coincidences. I mean; 20 years later we now have the same type of biological agent described by the government killing entire populations. Need I also mention that AIDS has become a billion dollar industry?
9) The Nazi's, Russians, and CIA have done extensive research into mind control for decades (i.e. MK-ULTRA, etc), then in later years carried it out on cults, prisoners, and mental patients. What do you think they have discovered as to how human beings can be controlled en masse?
I think they have found that 90% of the population is scared of free will and taking responsibility for their own actions. Everyone needs something to believe in. I think they have learned that they can exploit this basic trait to their advantage. People like to be told what to do. Organized religions have used this technique for centuries. It's easy. I don't think mind control is all that difficult to accomplish. People will do and act as they are told if they are constantly fed a diet of propaganda.
10) If the average American citizen had a chance to look into the Air Force's deep dark Project Blue Book files, what do you think they would learn about the subjects of UFO's and alien intelligence?
I have never seen a UFO or a little green man. However, I think it is fairly absurd to believe that as vast as the universe is that we are its only inhabitants. I have certainly come across enough credible evidence to suggest something is going on in our skies.
But like I say, I am not good at theories. All one has to do is look at some of the recent technological jumps we have made in the last 50 years to understand that we haven't made these jumps on our own. I mean technological advancements are made in small researched steps and follow a quite orderly process of research and development. Fiber optics technology came from nowhere to a fully developed technology in a very short time. Is it a coincidence that people who allegedly saw the Roswell crash saucer up close described the saucer as containing control systems similar to what we now call fiber optics? And this was in the 1940's when no one had any concept of, or a need for, fiber optics.
The mass media would have you think that the only people to claim the existence of UFO's are crackpots and nut jobs. Hell, maybe some of them are. But that doesn't change the fact that numerous high ranking former military personnel are now coming forward and beginning to uncover the veil of secrecy. This doesn't change the fact that perfectly normal and respected airline pilots have reported seeing them.
I don't know if we have little green men anywhere, but I do think it isn't out of the scope of reality to think we may have a few crashed UFO's somewhere and we are back engineering them to come up with all of our recent technological leaps. The problem with any issue that involves some speculation is you have extremist on both sides of the issue clouding the facts. I think the truth is in there somewhere.
11) Please elaborate on how education (from kindergarden through college) is used to assure that citizens will be docile, 'proper thinking' cogs in the societal wheel.
In the elementary grades kids are taught that they must act like every other kid in class. If they can't or won't their individuality is dulled out of them with medication. As for thinking, kids aren't taught to think. They are taught to feed back to the teacher word for word what they want to hear. When you get to high school the goal is the same: stifle individualism. The same goes for college. Memorize what your professor says is true and you will pass. Mix in your own take on something and you fail. The sole purpose of education is not to promote free thinking and individualism, but to create robots that see things and interpret things the way they have been told. The average kid comes out of high school, if they make it through high school, so demoralized and beaten down they can either go with the flow or just say fuck it. We have more kids under 18 in jail than in our entire history. Is this really cultural progress?
12) Most people don't realize it, but war is nothing more than one elite class using their poor people to kill the poor people of another elite class. Why are we so historically gullible to fall for this ruse, especially when it comes to wag-the-dog patriotism?
Again, people are too caught up in their own lives to look at the world outside their subjective selves. They have the right wing preaching to them in one ear and the left in another. The truth lies somewhere in between, but no one is willing to take the time to figure out what it is. It is much easier to just jump on whatever bandwagon looks good at the moment. The right wing flag waivers are no better than the left wing peaceniks - neither one of them takes the time to sift through the bullshit rhetoric and find the truth, and the Truth is they are both on the same side.
13) I've heard from many people who have researched the above subjects and said that after their eyes had been opened, they realized that almost everything they've learned (or been conditioned to accept) has been a LIE. What reaction did you have when you tore open the veil of illusion and saw that it was all bullshit?
Fortunately, my illusions were shattered fairly early in life. I was sent to Catholic high school, regardless of the fact I wasn't Catholic, because my parents felt that was the best shot I had for a decent education. They were right. I learned real quick what hypocrisy was all about. I learned real quick how people said one thing, then did another. I learned that the Vatican was the richest institution on the planet, and while they preached of helping others all they did was acquire more wealth. I learned that if I wrote a certain article for the newspaper my priest-teacher could withhold it from the paper for no reason at all. I learned just because someone was in authority didn't mean you had to give them authority. My high school experience was just a microcosm of the world.
Somehow during that time I stumbled on a few books by Robert Anton Wilson that dealt with reality and our perception of it. It's kind of funny, back then I thought I was this hip "punk rock" rebel and was totally disgusted by the sell-out of the 60's generation, and it took an old hippie like Wilson to "illuminate" me. Truth is found in places where we least expect. It's sad that most people are too blind to see it when they stumble upon it.
Besides, I think most people like the veil they live behind. Most people don't have the moral character or intestinal fortitude to live an ethical life. If the system is corrupt, they figure this gives them permission to be corrupt. Corrupt is easy. For once I would like this government not to do what they are entitled to or have the right to do, but stand up and do what is right to do. There is a difference.
14) Please give us your thoughts on the two-party political/corporate system, Votescam, fund-raising, and special-interest group "donations" to politicians.
The only system we have in this country is the money system. Those with the money get the power. The Democrats want to treat us as inept peasants and enslave us in exchange for a few social programs. Republicans don't have much interest in social programs and figure they can make us slaves by having us compete economically on an un-level playing field. That way if we lose they can say we didn't try hard enough. Both parties are fucked. Votescam and special interest influence are just symptoms of the disease. They aren't the cause of it.
15) If you were in a position of power to make definitive decisions in regard to the Middle East debacle, what would be the first steps you'd take?
Damn Victor, this Holy War has been going on for thousands of years. In addition, our U.S. foreign policy has done nothing but worsen the problem in the last 100 years, and you want me to figure it out and fix it? The bottom line is the Mid-East and its various cultures were once the foundation of civilization. We still have yet to decipher the Sumerian text, which most agree to be the father of modern language. The cultures in this area should be the proudest and most advanced in the world. Instead they bought a ticket on the religion thing, and after a few evil fucks corrupted what was once a beautiful text (the Koran), their culture has de-evolved into a bunch of murderous bastards bent on suppressing women, wiping the Jews off the face of the earth, and sacrificing their children to their blood thirsty god.
We need to stop our country’s need for their oil by developing our own sources and investing in alternatives. Once we make that our main goal, and there is no doubt the American industrial mind can succeed in doing so given proper funding, we pull the hell out of there and let those fuckers kill each other. Arabs will not be happy until every Jew is dead. Period. No amount of negotiation is going to change that fact. I was all for killing the Joseph Stalin inspired Saddam. The world is a much better place with him out of it. Now pull our troops out and let the fuckers forget about killing us and let them kill each other to see who gets the power.
Our policy towards the Middle East should be real simple ... fuck with us and we fuck back harder, but we have no intention of trying to negotiate your battles with the Jews or playing cop. If they send terrorists over here, we send bombs over there. They attack our embassy; we bomb an oil well. These terrorist are like rabid dogs. You don't try to tame a rapid dog. You shoot the fucking thing in the head and move on. As for the bleeding hearts that whine about the innocent casualties this policy may affect, get real. No one is innocent. All have fallen short of the glory of Allah. Now go hang with him and start banging your promised 40 virgins.
As for Israel, if the Palestinians (who have always been a nomad culture and booted out of just about every Arab country for being zealots and trouble makers) want their own country they can settle in the West Bank and shut up the fuck up. There are currently 1 million Palestinians living in Israel as productive citizens and suffer no persecution. Israel is a democracy, you idiots. But the truth is the Palestinians don't want a country. They want Israel abolished.
16) One subject that very few people talk about is how we don't make things in our country any more. In other words, our entire manufacturing base has been transferred to China, Mexico, and other third-world slave-labor locales where the workers make 40 cents an hour. My question is: what detrimental affects have treaties such as NAFTA and GATT had on this country?
While the obvious effects are that U.S. companies are now moving their factories outside the country for cheap labor and a small bottom line, thus forcing workers in the U.S. to take low-paying jobs in service areas (servants for the ruling class). A not so obvious by-product is that mom and pop stores are being run out of business by huge generic chains like Wal-Mart because they can't compete with cheap, shitty made products from foreign sources owned by American big business. This has an effect on society in that our choices are now limited in the types of things we can buy. If we want something Wal-Mart doesn't carry, we can expect to pay out the ass. This also kills the American dream in that it limits who can succeed in business in our society. Former store owners are now Wal-Mart clerks making non-unionized wages.
We used to have a bookstore here that not only sold bestsellers but also carried the most arcane and weird books anyone could want. Their in-store stock was the best I have ever seen, and I have been in tons of bookstores. When I want a book I don't want to wait for it to be "special" ordered, I want it on the shelf. This store even carried small press and self published books. Anyway, when the book giants like Borders started moving in, this little store could not compete with the prices and had to close its doors. The major bookstores weren't interested in carrying small press stuff, nor were they too happy when you asked them to order it. If the average book buyer doesn't see a book on a shelf, they have no idea the book, or books of its type even exist. This is an economic form of censorship.
I guess what I am trying to say is whenever economics alone dictate a market of any kind and service and community expectations are ignored ... the consumer suffers. Our society grows more narrow-minded, and narrow minds are easy to manipulate.
17) The more I study the corporate mainstream media, the more I see the dripping pathetic cowardice of the rank-and-file reporters in refusing to stand-up and tell the truth. With that in mind, how can we better get the word out to everyday Americans as to what is really going on in the world?
I don't think everyday Americans really care what is going on in the world. Sad but true. There is an alternative media out there for anyone willing to look. The major media by definition cannot provide any truth that may reflect badly on the corporations that own them or the advertisers that support them. It won't happen. I think the last bastion of free media left in this country is AM radio, but then your average American doesn't listen. The small press is a last bastion of freedom, but it mainly preaches to the converted and doesn't reach the common citizen that could benefit from it.
18) Taxation = slavery! Give us your insights.
It's real simple. If you work you should be entitled to 100% of your earnings. The constitution was never set up so that the government could levy an income tax on its workers. Sales taxes are understandable to a degree because you as an individual decide what you do or don't purchase. When it comes to your wages, if you are not receiving 100% of what you earn then you are a slave working for the person taking a cut out of your check. It has been estimated that the average American pays about 50% of their income in various taxes. Of course people don't realize this because most of it is taken right out of their checks before they get paid. So my question is; if you work eight hours a day but only get to keep four hours in pay ... aren't you a slave?
19) If you could list the three biggest historical fallacies that are still being taught in our school books, what would they be?
1. In 1960 Nixon, not Kennedy received the most votes in the popular election and Kennedy only won the electoral election because of underhanded tactics in the vote count in Chicago. Moral: get over it Al Gore and you liberal whiners. Getting fucked is part of life.
2. The main cause of the Civil War was not slavery. Why do you think there were blacks fighting for the south? You don't get the answer to this one kids ... do your own research. Hint: $$$$$$
3. Okay, this last one isn't in the history books yet, but were you aware that this new Palestinian leader - Mahmoud Abbas - who Bush seems to think the Israeli's should negotiate with, once wrote a book claiming the Holocaust never happened?
20) Finally, if you could stare into your crystal ball, what do you envision happening to our world within the next 2-3 years?
I think we will have more terrorist attacks in this country that will make 9-11 look like a picnic, and I think we will still have a "peace keeping" force in Iraq. The Jews and Palestinians will continue to sacrifice their children to their bloodthirsty gods, and Americans will still be sucking the tit of big media on wide screen TV's not realizing more and more of their wages are ending up in the coffers of a government run wild. AIDS will continue to kill millions, the Yankees will win a few more World Series, priest will continue to fuck children, and my poetry will continue to go unread.
1) Most people never write; others do it as a hobby; while for the last remaining few it is as vital as breath itself. What function does writing serve for you in terms of artistic expression, catharsis, and a form of therapy?
Writing has always been a grounding wire for me. There were times in my past when days ran into weeks, and I was so caught up in the moment that I lost track of who I was or who the people around me were. My writing began as just notes to myself. When you are young and running the streets you focus on the moment. Where am I going to crash tonight? Where's the next party? Where can I get some good dope? Yesterday slides away, along with the relationships and events that defined it. Writing forced me to remember these faces and places that defined who I am. A lot of my writing now is an attempt to figure out where the hell the last 20 years of my life went. There is nothing artistic about it. To me it is like sifting through a dumpster trying to find something I can use to get me through the day. If anyone can find value or meaning in the trash I pile up ... cool.
2) Was there a single defining moment that you recall from your past where you said, "This is it - I have to write!"
I have kept a journal for as long as I can remember due to the fact I had a fairly shitty childhood and therefore sought solace in my head where no one could reach in and fuck anything up. I never really sat down and thought: "Yeah man, I’m gonna be a writer". I guess I realized that in the late 70's and early 80's there was somewhat of a cultural revolution going on with the punk thing, and it was being ignored and scoffed at by the mainstream media. One day I woke up and realized I had more friends dead to suicide and dope than I had alive. I felt I needed to make some sense out of what was going on around me for my own sake and sanity. The punk generation left a lot of dead teenage bodies in dark alleys with syringes hanging out of their arms. I thought I could somehow bring meaning to all of it through being there to document it. I learned later that the only thing we can really document is our own bruises and scars. After reading Trocchi, I also realized the value of first person dissection of the self, and that this honesty in itself went far beyond "literature". I would have to say that while I always wrote, it was Trocchi that made me believe what I wrote may have some value outside of my own mind.
3) In a recent bio you wrote that you've "only recently mustered the stamina required to send your stuff out for publication." Please elaborate.
I never really get much of a hard-on seeing my stuff in print. I realize that the people that need to read my stuff and could relate to it don't pick up small press poetry journals. Therefore the effort to type up little packets of my stuff and send it out in the mail to little poetry journals (no one but lame poets read anyway) was kind of like jacking off into the wind. I like to fuck ... jacking off is boring. The more time I spent trying to get published was less time I had to actually write. Besides, there isn't much new poetry I am impressed by, and there are even fewer editors I could give a fuck about. Now with Internet journals everywhere, it is easy to find a few journals I like and e-mail my stuff off with little effort on my part. I am a firm believer that writers should spend more time writing and less time trying to get published. Recently I have decided to make some effort in sending more of my stuff out, but it still remains a small priority.
4) Describe the differences that you see between academic poetry and that which originates from the streets.
I would like to get something clear: I don't write poetry and I am not an artist/author. I am into reality and honest self-exploration. The stuff I spit out on paper is just little snapshots of my world and the people in it. People call my stuff poetry because of the line breaks. I think each piece I write is like a tiny pulp fiction novel, except it is non-fiction. If someone can find something worthwhile in it ... cool. If not, who cares? I write for myself. My writing forces me to be truthful with myself and gives me an outlet to examine how fucked I am or how fucked up the world around me is. I’ve spent too many years bullshitting people, and in the end only bullshitted myself. I have no use for being "hip" or "cool" anymore. Writing makes me strip away everything. I write from the streets because that's where I have been. The style I use is simple and as real as a heartbeat. My lines are short and broken because any audience that would have interest in my stuff was raised on 2 minute rock songs. Academic stuff is just that ... academic. It is nothing more than mental masturbation whose sole purpose is to show someone how big your literary dick is. My literary dick is small, but I can certainly fuck a page breathless.
5) I'd like to ask you a few questions about Lou Reed, who I still think is the coolest, most fucked-up/decadent rock star of all-time. First of all, explain how Lou was among the first songwriters - along with Dylan and John Lennon - to bring literature and poetry to popular music.
I was never a big John Lennon or Beatle fan. I much preferred the Stones. I think “Gimme Shelter” is the best damn rock song ever written. That flowery peace and love Beatle stuff never struck a chord with me, so I can't comment too much on it. Dylan's lyrics are cool. It's like he paints a canvas, but instead of putting everything where it is supposed to go, he just scatters it around like a surreal jigsaw puzzle forcing the listener to figure out what the hell he is singing about. To me the best line from any song I ever heard is, "the ghost of electricity howls in the bones of her face" from Visions of Johanna off the “Blonde on Blonde” album. That line is sheer genius.
Lou Reed defines cool. He lived what he wrote. His lyrics yanked you buy the shirt and shoved your face into the scene he was singing about as though you were a part of it. And he always somehow managed to toss some kind of small truth into the picture ... not some universal bullshit truth, but a fragment that could make the moment make sense. His stuff was literary in that it was much more than words or chords. It was a moment in time and you were there first hand ... and he demanded you respond to it. What more can you ask of an artist?
6) Even more than the two artists listed above, Lou took us to the down n' dirty streets with transvestites, drug abusers, deviants, and crazies. What kind of 'trigger' or an opening of Pandora's Box did this have for later performers and bands like David Bowie, the New York Dolls, Iggy Pop, and the early punk rockers?
Without Lou Reed and the Velvets none of those bands would have known how to cop a street hip posture. That includes Bowie. But to Reed it wasn't a posture, it was the real deal. When he sang about Heroin he played and sang like a syringe was tied off in his vein. The old saying is, "write what you know,” and Reed wrote what he knew. He refused to cover up everything with pretty little images and fluffy lines and gave you street reality straight-up on a razor blade. I guess his biggest influence on the bands to follow was his insistence that music didn't have to be flowery love crap, but could be about real life and real people. Reed was the master of "the flaw". Airbrushed reality is boring. Reed gave you the blemishes.
7) This may be a curve-ball question, but talk about Lou's ultra-cool mid-1970's phase where he was speeding his brain-pan shiny and making albums like "Rock n' Roll Animal," "Sally Can't Dance," "Metal Machine Music," "Coney Island Baby," and "Street Hassle."
I was a kid in the mid 70's. But the way I see it the "cult artist" status was wearing thin and almost became a self-parody for Reed. So what is Reed's response? Instead of going off to some rundown dump and OD'ing he decides to do his own fucking parody of rock stars and cock rock bands and shove it back in their face. The funny thing is; Reed was good at it. "Rock n' Roll Animal" was an awesome album. People that bitch and moan about the "rock star" styling miss the point. He proved he could play rock star and do as much speed as anyone else and didn't have to hide behind the artistic bullshit. In doing so, I think he proved the artistic stuff wasn't bullshit or a pose.
8) On a different note, I'm going to throw a mish-mash of potpourri your way and let you wade through it. First, is the pen really mightier than the sword?
The pen is only mightier than the sword if the people the pen influences also have access to the swords. A line from a Clash song asks:
"When they kick in your front door
how you gonna come?
With your hands on your head,
or on the trigger of your gun?"
That's a good question, but it is kind of a moot point if you as a society have already gotten to the point where gun control has taken your guns away.
9) What would be your favorite literary quote or phrase of all-time?
Wow. I already mentioned the Dylan line. Let me think ... I guess my favorite quote is by Trocchi, and I use it on my website to assist in defining what I am all about:
"No doubt I shall go on writing, stumbling across tundras of unmeaning, planting words like bloody flags in my wake. Loose ends, things unrelated, shifts, nightmare journeys, cities arrived at and left, meetings, desertions, betrayals, all manner of unions, adulteries, triumphs, defeats ... these are the facts." - Alexander Trocchi
10) Please give us your thoughts on the following literary icons (I could give you a hundred of them, so I'm trying to temper myself):
- Ernest Hemingway: Papa Hem was like Jesus to the money changers in the temple. He overturned and tossed out all the flowery crap and imagery of the Victorian era and replaced it with a lean, mean, stripped-down style that placed more emphasis on action rather than academic reflection.
- Sylvia Plath: I think her first person violent imagery of suffering and madness is what has left the biggest impression on me. She demands you view the world outside of your male ego, and it isn't a pretty picture. I mean, how would I react if society insisted all I do was cook, raise kids, cater to my spouse, and that I could have no life outside of that domestic prison? I would start shooting people or myself. I think her stuff is a good picture of a person battling against societal expectations and constraints and the search for identity in the mess.
- Franz Kafka: Funny, I never read Kafka until some old man in a library I worked at saw me reading a Phillip K. Dick book and told me to check Kafka out. I dig Kafka mainly because of the stark narrative and lack of imagery. Kafka's stories take place in your head, not in a pretty scene. I think anyone that reads Kafka should read Dick and vice versa.
- William Burroughs: You would assume he would be one of my favorites. To be honest, I never "got" him. He reminds me of James Joyce. I mean, there is something really cool going on, but I have never been able to put my finger on exactly what it is. Do I lose points in the "hip" category?
- George Orwell: Just about everything the guy wrote about has come to pass. We have video cameras on street corners, PC thought police, and the media redefining our language.
- Vladimir Nabakov: I refuse to read Nabakov based solely on the fact Sting mentioned him in a song. Sting is a pretentious wanker I would like to kick the shit out of. Sting is a pussified rock star. Actually, I just haven't got around to reading Nabakov. He is on the short list though.
- Alexander Trocchi: The master of first person narrative - probably the main literary influence on me. Nothing I say can add to the force of his writing.
- Hunter S. Thompson: Irreverence is bliss. He reminds me of a Court Jester. He was funny enough not to be taken seriously and therefore deemed not to be much of a threat, but he was smart enough to use that as a tool to write some seriously biting commentary.
- Ann Sexton: I haven't honestly read much of her stuff. When I started to get serious about reading poetry, Lyn Lifshin was the female perspective I could most relate to.
- Charles Baudelaire: I figure any writer English majors sit around in Coffee Houses babbling about should be avoided at all costs.
- J.D. Salinger: Should be required reading - period.
- Tennessee Williams: I never had much interest in his stuff. To be honest I couldn't name one thing he has written.
11) Who do you think was the most under-appreciated author that, for whatever reason, never quite received their proper due?
Besides me? I have always thought Trocchi was overshadowed by Henry Miller. I think Trocchi was the best author to come out of the "Beat Generation". Ginsberg and Kerouac get all the publicity, but I think “Cain's Book” is the best book that generation produced by far.
12) You said that your writing was compared to Charles Bukowski before you ever even read Bukowski. What are your feelings on this turn-of-events?
Bukowski wrote much more in a narrative form than I do. Reading his stuff is like sitting in a bar and bullshitting over a scotch. He was the master of what he did, but the truth is I get pissed when people credit him with being a major influence on me. I know who my influences are. Comparing me too Bukowski nullifies who I am and is a total disregard for my personal experiences. My life has nothing to do with Bukowski, and my writing has even less. My style wasn't concocted in a classroom, nor was it discovered at some "hip" poetry reading over a stack of Black Sparrow books. My style came about while sitting on a piss-stained mattress in an abandoned warehouse with Black Flag blasting from a boom box. When I began writing I had no use for literature or poetry because it never hit me on a personal level. Bands like the Velvet Underground and X did. Friends tell me I should use the Bukowski comparisons to my advantage. But that would run counter to who I am. My writing is about truth and knifing through my own bullshit. I would be a fucking liar if I pretended that I was some expert on Bukowski and he was a major influence. I mean, take or leave me for who I am ... some asshole scribbling shit that would be better off in a rock song than a poetry journal.
13) Tell us about your dream of going on a Greyhound/hitch-hike cross-country poetry tour.
I always thought it would be cool to hook up with a bunch of writers and editors scattered across the states and then do a massive road trip to party with them and give readings. In fact, my first stop if I ever do it will be Happy Valley. Just make sure Lisa doesn't call the cops on me for wandering around outside.
14) Compare these two scenarios: 1) discussing writing with a bunch of artsy-fartsy intellectuals; versus 2) sitting out in the desert with a jug of wine writing poetry with a few people who are jamming to Joe Strummer's "Love Kills."
I don't associate with artsy fartsy types, and when I go to give a reading, the fact that I am 6"3" 225 lbs and look more like a biker than a pussified poet, I tend to intimidate these literary people. Besides, communication is only capable among equals. I have no respect for these people, and I make damn sure they know it. I hate pretension in any form, and I can smell it a mile away.
Wine? Now you’re talking brother Victor. Let's get drunk all night, crank up the tunes and bullshit about poetry, literature, and music. I am into real people talking about real stuff.
15) Explain why your poetry publications are so far and few between.
People don't understand: I am not a poet and I don't write poetry. I am a note taker scribbling notes 24 hours a day. Once I have a notebook filled I read through and pick out stuff I like ... or maybe a line I wrote will remind me of something that will lead me into writing something else. At some point the idea for a cohesive piece comes to my mind and I pull stuff out of my journal to use. Like I said, it's like sorting through a dumpster. I also spend a lot of time editing and trying to trim the fat. I can't just sit down and write a poem on command. I may write 50 poems one day ... toss out 49 of them as crap ... and the next day I might write nothing. Who knows? A friend of mine told me my writing was like the baseball player Dave Kingman in that I either hit a home run or strike out. I am my toughest critic. If I don't like something I won't just send it out for publication for the sake of publication.
16) You talk time and again about how we have to get our writing out BEYOND the typical small-press literary scene where everything revolves around the same circles. Please give us your thoughts one last time on this subject.
My writing will never appeal to the academic poetry circle or clique. If I had a target audience (which I don't), the people that would most like my stuff hang out in used record stores buying Lou Reed stuff. I somehow need to figure out a way to cross the boundary without having to pick up a guitar. I have no doubt it can be done. I just need to rearrange my priorities. I think this new BHP project may be the vehicle that works. Poetry has to be pushed as a legitimate aspect of popular culture. I don't want some pretentious artsy fartsy type reading my stuff. I want the kid doing flips on a skateboard to have a copy of my stuff in his back pocket.
17) What was contained in the journals that you kept during the height of west coast American punk rock during the early 1980's?
Mainly obituaries. Depressing odes to friends the world would never get a chance to know because as kids they decided to check out much too soon.
18) Even though libraries aren't used as much nowadays because everyone just logs onto Google or other search engines, what are your recollections of working in a library and how cool they are?
The best fucking job I have ever had was working in a library. Where else can you meet chicks that share a common interest like reading? I also met a lot of old men that were always great for a story or two, and I met people from all walks of life (including Tony who slept in the bushes behind the library and had a penchant for Doc Savage books). He also claimed he could change into a wolf at the tap of his walking stick, and thus earned the title "wolf" from then on. No day at work was ever the same or boring.
Working there I also had first access to new releases and donations. One day the boss sent me back to the donation room where people dropped off used books and stuff to be sold so the library could buy new books. I hated the donation room because it was like a big closet with no windows and therefore severely cut down my chance to interact with the public that made the job cool. Anyway, I was sorting through albums (I thought I was gonna puke looking at so many album covers of Doris Day (man I would like to have tied her up ... but that's another story) and I came across Bowie's Ziggy Stardust. I had never heard of it. The album cover looked cool, so I put it on and wham bam thank you ma’am my life was changed. Man, I could talk for days on my library adventures and the weird people that populated them.
19) You also worked once as a psycho/social rehabilitation counselor, but left because "the people you worked with ["the mentally ill"] were less ill than the general population who claimed a grip on 'normalcy'." Please give us more on this scenario.
Shrinks like to sell people on the concept that if you as an individual cannot fit into the accepted constraints of society, then you as the individual are fucked up. The more I talked and worked with these "patients" the more I began to ask myself whether or not these people were the ones who were fucked, or maybe society itself was fucked. I have talked in previous parts of this interview about my views on society. I think psychology has become a new religion to ensure individuality is medicated out of the person.
20) One of the most satisfying aspects of art is that ability to create entire worlds right at our fingertips. In an ideal world, what would you create?
In my ideal world I would be the only person on the planet and therefore wouldn't have to deal with the petty bullshit of interacting with people who are of no interest to me. I would pick a few people I could tolerate and let them live on opposite ends of the planet, and they couldn't visit me unless they were invited. I would live in a massive library with an intense music system where I could read all day and listen to tunes. It would be cool to have a female companion there that could not only fuck like a dog, but was much smarter than me and could serve as editor for my stuff. I have always placed more value and trust in a woman’s sensibilities and instincts than I have a man’s. I would also have on hand a few of the CIA's best agents to cultivate my poppy fields.
21) Likewise, what percentage of your art do you think arises out of dissatisfaction with the world?
I think 100% of my stuff is a result of dissatisfaction with the world or myself. I think any art that isn't a result of some type of turmoil is fairly lame and uninspiring.
22) An article recently appeared in Newsweek magazine which proclaimed that "poetry is dead." How would you respond to this author?
Poetry is dead. I think when any art form or medium falls out of tune with, or is no longer able to impact a culture, it becomes useless. Basically there are two types of poetry being written today. The first is the academics that solely exist to receive government grants so they can form elitist clubs and sit around sipping designer tea. The second is the small press that is broken up into numerous fragments and only exists for other poets to read and to feed the egos of people that should be denied paper and ink. Only a small percentage of stuff being written today has any value, but since there is no audience to read it, that value in and of itself is meaningless. Why write it if no one reads it? Therefore, unless you are writing for yourself, don't bother writing. I write for myself. The fact that poetry is dead or not is not relevant to me. To me writing is like breathing. It is just something I have to do to get through the day. If more authors wrote for that reason, maybe some life could be breathed back into the corpse of poetry. But what the fuck do I know?
23) What is the most powerful theme or concept that you've ever read in a novel (example: Ahab tracking the whale in Melville's "Moby Dick")?
It comes from Kesey's “One Flew over the Cuckoos Nest.” Throughout the novel everyone thinks the main character RPM is this great heroic figure because he rebels against the institution he is in. The truth of the matter is the guy felt he wasn't risking anything because his stay in the institution was limited. It’s easy to be a rebel when you don't have anything to lose. When he found out the institution could keep him there as long as they wanted, regardless of his original prison sentence, everything changed. RPM no longer was concerned with playing rebel or helping to break the other patients out of their self-imposed imprisonment. He became interested in saving his ass and escaping. He was no longer the hero. The true hero of the book was the "Chief" who took everything in stride and waited for his moment to rise above the bullshit and escape.
I guess the theme is that heroes are useless in and of themselves unless they can inspire action that causes others to become heroes and not merely followers. You apply that to the story of Christ. His heroic death in the New Testament is meaningless and non-heroic because he knew he was going to arise any way (he had nothing to lose), and secondly he was unable to inspire people to action to live the life he called for. Both books are about failed heroes. RPM bread the heroic Chief. Christ bread the Catholic Church.
24) Lastly, if you met someone for the first time and they wanted you to describe your writing and what you wanted to "do" with it, what would you tell them?
Usually the fact I am a writer is the last thing a person learns about me. If someone asked, I guess I would tell them my main goal was to write so that people could relate to the world I live in, and that maybe by looking through my reality with my eyes they can learn something or become inspired to take a piece of it into their own reality. Mainly I just write to say ... this is me ... this is who I am ... who the fuck are you?