Thursday, April 20, 2006

Holding Out For A Hero

A wonderful update on my friend Dax!

Subtle's Rebuilding Year
Keyboardist Dax Pierson is partially paralyzed but fully determined to keep his avant-garde pop sextet both technologically and emotionally adept.
By Rob Harvilla

Def Leppard: Majestic English hair-metal titans offering robustly shrieked odes to woe and libido. Subtle: Panoramic Oaklandish avant-pop weirdos offering cryptically rapped odes to (just guessing here) woe and libido."

And never the twain should've met. But a pair of horrific car accidents has linked the two in terrible tragedy and (just hoping here) glorious, improbable, and technologically aided recovery and rebirth.

Rick Allen: Def Leppard drummer who lost an arm in a hideous New Year's Eve 1984 Corvette wreck, but, aided by a Tron-caliber space-age drum kit, has fully recovered and kept (robotically precise) time on five Def Lep albums since, including 1987's mighty Hysteria.

Dax Pierson: Subtle keyboardist paralyzed from the chest down in a February '05 tour van wreck, but, aided by a Matrix-caliber fleet of computer equipment, appears well on the (dauntingly long) road to recovery and will valiantly appear on every Subtle album to come, including this summer's quite possibly mighty for hero: for fool.

Rick, of course, has gradually lapsed into a mire of corny balladry and domestic violence; Dax is on a tougher but purer path. Journeying to Slim's in SF on a recent Friday night for Subtle's first show in a great while, it's a bummer that the crowd's dreams of a Triumphant Dax Sighting — would he descend from the ceiling in a pink wheelchair, or wheelie gleefully down the length of the bar? — go unfulfilled, but the band's reinvigorated intensity suggests its ailing comrade has much of the same.

"Dax is back," crows Subtle frontman Adam "Doseone" Drucker — the most prominent name/voice in the East Bay experimental hip-hop Anticon crew — from the back of the house as the night begins with a solo set from his bandmate, Jel. "Motherfuckin' machines," the rapper and drum programming maestro laments with a laugh as his gear momentarily craps out, while Doseone raves about the way those same machines have turned Dax into a high-tech force on wheels. Though limited to shoulder and biceps movement, he's making the most of it with a cadre of braces, computer mouses, and production software like GarageBand. He also has taken up beatboxing.

"He's really lucky," Doseone admits. "You frown on technology, but when you see Dax, you're like, 'Holy shit.'"

A full recovery is not guaranteed but not completely improbable — the Official Subtle Anecdote for 2006 recounts a recent night in the studio when, listening to playback of for hero: for fool material, Dax announced that, for the first time since the accident, he'd moved his finger. Just then. "He started to move his thumb," Doseone reiterates. "There's always hope, man."

In the interim, though, there's years of arduous therapy and, despite a continual outpouring of public support (especially flowing from Dax's day job at Berkeley's Amoeba Music), plenty of financial strife to contend with. "One million dollars will get spent," Dose says, between the tech and constantly necessary 'round-the-clock attendants. His triumphant recovery and rebirth has begun, but don't expect to see Dax onstage anytime soon.

His five Subtle bandmates, however, are back on tour and in unsubtle, tremendous form. First, after Jel's set, comes Fog, aka Minnesota weirdo Andrew Broder, best known for warped bedroom hip-hop laments. Andrew is frequently amazing and invariably bizarre — he dedicates a tune to Dax and then delicately croons the opening line: You know what they say/About doing laundry on your birthday. Profound.

Subtle itself is even more harsh, bizarre, and menacingly delicate, even without a partially paralyzed beatboxer in the mix. All five dudes — mostly manning live drums, a drum machine, cello, flute/sax, and Dose's vox and keyboard action, respectively — are clad in blood-red outfits, with Dose additionally wearing some sort of black-and-white-striped mink stole/bath towel he dramatically flings off within two minutes.

The sound itself is dense, apocalyptic, and occasionally quite beautiful, when a cello or flute line can rise above and sharply contrast with the snare- and keyboard-banging cacophony. Dose, meanwhile, unleashes a torrent of nasal, rapid-fire, well-nigh-inscrutable verbiage — he's the only guy who earnestly describes the progress on his next album by saying "I'm a thousand words into it." As the collective inches deeper into its first full decade of existence, Anticon remains notorious for this avant-garde, robo-Beefheart surrealist sound, but Subtle seems to be sheparding its evolution, still intimidating but slightly warmer. Most of Dose's flailing stage antics and loopy banter doesn't exactly project sincerity, but he pauses once to note "We've been through some heavy shit, and we've made some beautiful things with it. I want to dedicate every last scrap of what I have left to Dax Pierson."

for hero: for fool comes out later this year, and though you can expect plenty of Anticon/Subtle's gleeful abnormality, don't be surprised it's a bit more reflective and emotive as well. "No matter how aligned you are, you can always be realigned," Doseone explains. And no matter how broken you are, there's always the possibility that a combination of love, science, and willpower can fix you. —

illustration by Norman Dog

Originally published by East Bay Express 2006-04-19
©2005 New Times, Inc. All rights reserved.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Dicky Ducks Out... Involuntarily

Indie 103 is a radio station in LA that makes it usually safe for me to listen to radio in LA. Dicky Barrett, the morning show host, recently left the station... supposedly because he was working full time on his other gig as announcer for the Jimmy Kimmell show or soemthing. I'm not a fan of morning yap-yap shows, nor was I a fan of Dicky's band - the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, but I really did enjoy Dicky and his pals and their intelligent, bawdy humor and rockin' good tunes.

So now the story is Dicky got fired for talking politics. Not just politics, but abortion. Here are some choice bits from his press release:



The station was built to fuck with KROQ (Infinity) by people from KISS-FM (Clear Channel); it was just supposed to be a short lived pain in the ass that that took away a few ratings points, and talked some shit about KROQ. Inadvertently (and you can credit Steve Jones and the other celebrity DJ's) it became good, and got a lot of national attention, and credible press (''the coolest station in America'' rolling stone etc. ) At that point, the FCC said Clear Channel who operated Indie 103.1 out of the Entravision offices could no longer do so. All business ties on paper were severed. It became a full Entravision property... But the hard right leaning Clear Channel program director and station manager (along with a lot of the behind the scenes technical employees) were already firmly in place.

It is in Clear Channel's best interest that Indie 103.1 exists - the PD, Michael Steele (who brags about ''breaking Britney Spears'') and the station manager, Dawn Girocco (a long time radio sales woman) are believing their own hype and considering themselves radio geniuses who masterminded the Indie 103.1 phenomenon, so it's now time to implicate their superior ''radio wisdom'' and conventional ''radio strategy'': #1) Morning shows need to be musically formatted and the music needs to be heavily rotated - #2) All guests must be approved by Michael Steele (Dawn Girocco really, she's Dick Cheney, Steele's George Bush) ''no guests controversial to soccer moms listening in the a.m.'' There were other things that were more annoying, then actually detrimental to the show... ''say the time, and call letters till your blue in the face''

I reluctantly, and unhappily against my better judgment, went along with all this for about two weeks, hoping they would come to their senses. During this time, they brought in a longtime radio guru, to consult (he also worked at one point for Clear Channel). His assessment was the show was ''really good'' and I was a ''legitimate talent and a potential radio star." Not the information these people wanted me to have. When I made an on a r remark about not liking the new overplayed Morrissey track, I was marched into the President of Entravisions' office (Jeff Lieberman, a fan of Mighty Morning show. In front of me, Jeff told Dawn he was not prepared to ''strip Dicky of his opinion,'' she was obviously and visibly embarrassed. Then he asked her if she gave me the book about morning radio that he gave her to give to me... ''no, it's at home'' she said. ''Why the hell, is it there?'' he asked, she looked humiliated.

This was the beginning of the end for me, and the writing was most likely on the wall. Two weeks after that I had a substantial, unauthorized, pro-choice conversation on the air with a South Dakota disc jockey and a few callers, the straw that broke the camels back. This is not the direction supporters of the current administration want the station going in.

I was fired that day.

I loved doing the show and loved the people who loved it.

Thank you,

Check this out for more dirt. Tragic.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Donovan Dissed

My roommate works at the Roxy, an old famous club on the Sunset Strip. I never go to the Sunset Strip. All the clubs cost to much to get into, almost always have shitty bands, require some sort of drink minimum, and you generally have to pay a whole lot to even park in the vicinity. So I never go. Besides, the people who hang out there are weird.

Anyway, my roommate works at the Roxy. Currently the club is hosting a run of the musical, "Hedwig & the Angry Inch" starring Donovan Leitch. A couple nights ago, the club hosted a "celebrity" night so that semi-famous people could see the play without being bothered by non semi-famous people. In other words, it was a private party for Donovan and his pals. My roommate opted not to work that night, but had this gossip to report:

"I guess I didn't miss a whole lot at Hedwig last night. Jackie said that Paris Hilton was there, was on her sidekick half the night and then left. And a lot of B list celebs were there and talking really loudly at the the point that Donovan said "I must be missing a good party back there" ... how rude. I swear it's those b and c list ones that are the worst. I would have liked to seen Scott Weiland and Mark McGrath who were there.. and Juliette Lewis and the boyfriend from Mean Girls was there too.. oh and Nicky Hilton and her man..but I don't care about them. But overall, no one terribly exciting."