Saturday, April 25, 2020

Review: Far from Perfect: Life Inside a Global Pandemic

Text © Robert Barry Francos / FFanzeen, 2020
Images from the Internet

Far from Perfect: Life Inside a Global Pandemic
Directed by Lenny Schwartz and Nathan Suher
IM Filmworks
142 minutes, 2020
Available on Amazon Prime

First of all, props to whomever designed the poster/logo of the Earth as the Corona Virus. Brilliant.

Even for those not directly affected by the Covid 19 virus, we are all mutually suffering through it. For some, it is being locked away and sequestered like Rapunzel, and others it’s a tantrum reaction to being told to stay inside so they bring out their misspelled placards and guns. But if you are talented and involved in the arts? It can be an opportunity to spread those butterfly wings (okay, not literally…).

Michael Thurber
The East Coast has been hit hard, and what’s a New England writer for film and theater supposed to do to take up the time? Well, if you’re Lenny Schwartz, you write a screenplay about the sitch. Plus, thanks to the Found Footage style genre, use of Skype, Snapchat, WeChat and now especially Zoom (among others), combined with a culture of selfies, artists who are used to being in front of the camera, even if it is their own, can still work from their locus. Then with Nathan Suher, you turn that into a visual work of art.

Lenny wrote a long screenplay that fits in 117 actors as characters, many from his local New England part of the world, and has them leapfrog each other; or another way to see it is as a game of Tag-team. As one quick story end, usually lasting a minute or two, it concludes with them describing someone like their neighbor, friend, spouse, parents, “essential workers,” etc., and then we meet them. It’s like a railroad apartment of actors, going from room to room sequentially.

Jamie Lyn Bagley
Each has a different story, possessing its own tone, with quite the wide range. It can go from hysterically funny, to tragic, to a “yep, that’s what it’s like for me” moment for the viewer. We see people who are loving, fighting, depressed, really getting into the separation, and so forth (and scooby-doo-bee-doo).

As I indicated, the cast is mainly actors, directors, and crew of independent film and local theater troupes. For example, there’s Michael Thurber who runs the Theater Company of Rhode Island, Scorpio Releasing film director Richard Griffin, and a whole menagerie of actors like underrated Jamie Lyn Bagely (who is also a mindfulness/yoga instructor), Samantha Acampora (also a Rocky Horror Picture Show reenactor), Chad Kaplan (also an film animator), Sheri Lee (who was wonderful in the short film Doll House), and a host of so many others, all worth mentioning but… who has the time? Go look it up on IMDB. Or better still, watch the film. Anyway, as I was saying…

Richard Griffin
There are a lot of really smart moments, such as the teen girl who sells her engagement ring and goes to party on a beach in Florida, or a couple who wake up their marriage by robbing from closed stores. While some of it sounds a bit fantastical, most of it is a realistic montage of moments of pathos and joy, sadness and surprised bliss, and the occasional just plain wackiness. Some find inner peace; others find their fears.

Samantha Acampora
One of the aspects of this whole event that it touches on indirectly is that people are losing their minds over two-three weeks of isolation. How do survivalists plan to – err – survive for months in seclusion in shelters? Speaking of survivalist types, despite it’s length I really would have liked to have seen more representatives of the extreme right wing (like those maroons protesting with armor that they want haircuts and to dine in restaurants – talk about White Privilege) and religious fanatics that believe Jeebus will cure all who believe. I am, however, happy how little the President, who holds much responsibility for what is going on that triggered this film, is mentioned (he would love that).

Sheri Lee
When all is said and done, even after the quarantine is lifted and life goes back to relatively normal work-eat-shit-sleep, this will remain as possibly an important time capsule of what it was like “in the time of the plague.”

From beginning of the concept to the final editing took a total of three weeks, and many characters mention being locked up for two weeks and going stir crazy. I have been home for a month now, and I gotta say as much as I would like to go out, it has not been that bad. The house is clean, I have seen some really interesting films like this one, kept in touch with friends and relations, and done quite a bit of writing. Perhaps when the second wave hits, as it is supposed to happen around the beginning of the New Year (Happy Holidays everyone…), just when we hopefully usher in a new President, we may see volume two? I am not wishing for it, just curious, as I would concerning a sequel about after the whole megillah is over and done.

There is no trailer, as of yet.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Two Ways Computers Have Changed Employment and Job Searching: Research and Telecommuting

Text © Robert Barry Francos / FFanzeen, 2020
Images from the Internet

Of course, computer use has had a drastic impact on both the workplace and home, especially since the 1990s; in some cases, both at the same time.

For most people, an increasing amount of what is done online is considered research. Here is an example of how research has changed with the Internet:

I have a friend who, in the 1990s, worked for a major law office near Rockefeller Center in Midtown, New York City. The company’s files were kept in a warehouse in New Jersey, just over the Hudson River, probably no more than 10 miles away. When a lawyer needed some information from a file box, he would contact my friend, who was the company’s Records Manager. My friend would then look up the box number and call the warehouse. They would locate the box, put it on the back of a truck, and bring it into the city where it would be delivered to him, and he would have it brought to the lawyer. After the lawyer was done, the lawyer would phone my friend, who would have the box brought back to his office. He would then call the warehouse who would send the truck back into the city to pick up the box, and it would be stored in its place on a shelf. This was a three-day process from beginning to end. Now, the lawyer would type onto the computer, and retrieve the .pdf scanned file in seconds.

Introduction of a technology does not change any singular thing; it changes everything in a culture. This is incredibly true for methods of research. If you are looking for a job, that’s research. Until recently, you would explore the newspapers’ Employment section for the Want Ads; now there are dedicated websites which fall into three categories that are much more efficient.

The first category is known as a clearing house, where a company needing to fill a position will contact the website and ask (or pay) to have the job posted on their site. The second is a search engine, where the website looks for jobs on company websites by using key words, such as Construction, Administrative, or Purchasing Manager. An example of a Search Engine is Indeed. The third is more direct, such as Craigs List or Kijiji, where the employer directly puts the ad on the site. With the latter, however, there is no oversight so be sure to research the companies asking for employees.

Research can also be getting directions such as before an interview, the schedule of the mass transit from your house to the organization where you are going, and using Google Street Maps to see what the front of the company looks like beforehand when you go there.

An especially important aspect of research is finding out about the company, especially when you are called in for an interview. It’s good to know where various offices are located if it’s a large national or multi-national corporation, the name of the CEO, who your boss may be if it is listed, what the company does, and especially its Values and Mission Statement, which can usually be found on the company website. It is not necessary to memorize the Values and Mission Statement, but it is a good idea to be able to paraphrase it, at least. It is becoming more common during an interview to be asked, “What is our Mission Statement?”

Researching a company through their website or social media such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Wikipedia can be helpful to learning the company’s corporate culture and footprint.

First of all, a bit of clarification: telecommuting is when your place of employment is in one location, and where you physically do the job online in another, such as at home. This has both good points and less favorable, but which is which may depend more on your own personality as much as the logistics.

One of the benefits is that when it is a stormy or bitterly cold day outside, you do not have to leave the comfort of your own personal space. It also means that there is no footprint left behind from your commute, such as exhaust from your car or money for gas or public transportation. You also do not have to spend the time commuting. When I lived in Brooklyn, it was 70 minutes to work in Manhattan and the same back. Sure, I used that time for reading, but with telecommuting, one does not need to rush around due to transportation schedules, as one is already “at work.”

Here is the part that is more of a personal choice and work style. For some people, working from home is a boon in that there are less people trying to take up your time chatting, and with less external distractions, it is easier to work without interruption. For example, hearing other people make phone calls from the same room in an office is a major distraction for me.

For others, it is the opposite: When at home, it can also be easier to be distracted by that pile of dishes that need washing, the dog that needs walking or the cat that crawls on your lap while you are at the computer. Also, if you’re more of a social animal, it can get a bit lonely staying at home all the time (just look at what the spring of 2020 taught us about the possible loneliness of self-isolating).

Here is another aspect to telecommuting. While you don’t have to go out in bad weather, it also means that there are no snow days, or transit strikes to impede your work. Most people find themselves working even when they are sick since they are already at home and there is no coworkers to affect. Historically, it has been shown that people also tend to work past the hours they would normally do so. For most, work starts at 9 AM and then you leave the it all behind at 5 PM. But when you are working from home, people tend to turn on the computer when they wake, and work past supper. For those that get paid a flat yearly fee, that decreases the amount per hour you are paid, as there is no overtime. Even with an hourly wage, people tend to want to finish projects if it’s an hour or two longer, though they don’t get paid for it.

Depending on your personality type, being an introvert or extrovert, telecommuting can be a  great boon, or not. It is, however, becoming more the norm. A company I worked for used to have 15 employees in the office. Now they still have the same work staff, but only three on location, with the others scattered over the United States. They all do the exact same job, but they do it in the relative ease of where they want to live, including Seattle, Minneapolis, Southern New Jersey, Delaware, and so forth.

Telecommuting can be an excellent way to get work done and get into a zone of production, and you could find yourself being more productive and efficient. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

MARC BOLAN and T. REX: Manchild of The Glamrock Revolution

Text by Nancy Neon Foster / FFanzeen, 2020
Images from the Internet

As I unwrapped the gift, the album cover radiated a golden glow. The photograph was of a figure playing guitar in front of a gigantic amplifier. The guitar player was surrounded by an electric halo. There was something reverent, even religious about the image. Now, I would call the cover of T. Rex’s Electric Warrior iconic. The cover was designed by British art group Hipnosis, based on a photograph by Kieron “Spud” Murphy.

The mystique of this album cover art and the poetic rock’n’roll seduction within changed me and my life forever. I had recently turned 14, but I was still a sheltered child until T. Rex thrust teenhood upon me for the very first time. T. Rex brought color, sparkle, fun, and glamor. Before Marc Bolan burst out, fully formed majestically from his own brow, rock’n’roll meant Elvis Presley and the Beatles, seemingly safe-as-milk music that your mother and grandmother could love. T. Rex was the private territory and personal property of teenagers.

There were no Glamrock boutiques in Greensboro, North Carolina, in 1971, so, I had to use my imagination and creativity to remake myself from a little antisocial nerd-bird to the first glitter girl on my block. I pincurled my hair, wore rhinestone earrings and necklaces borrowed from mommy’s jewelry box, put together strange ensembles from vintage finds, and changed from a Coco Baroque or Too Too Bamboo-lipped mod doll to candy apple-lipped glamrock vixen. At concerts, grown ups called me “acid queen,” although I had barely kissed a boy (a birthday kiss!!!) and I had not touched any drug! When a sweet, innocent former Girl Scout hears T. Rex, there is no turning back.

“Bang A Gong” hit the US airwaves in July 1971, and that was T. Rex’s only Top Ten hit in the US. It sounded like sex, even if I didn’t know exactly what sex was. Those "dirty and sweet” power chords and the explosion of the percussion’s primal boom shot through my head, my heart, and my body.

“Bang A Gong” was often referenced by many bands over the decades, most notably on the first Oasis single, ”Cigarettes and Alcohol.” The single sounded like Johnny Rotten fronting T. Rex, a perfect amalgam for me in the Britpop ‘90s. This proved how much staying power T. Rex had, and when you hear the song today it still sounds fresh and exciting.

Some of my other long-time favorites like Paul Weller of the Jam and Bobby Gillespie of Primal Scream count Electric Warrior as among the greatest. Weller said it is “one of my all-time favorites. The guitar playing is really unique – you know the sound instantly.” Gillespie said “’Bang-A-Gong’ is one of my all-time favorite pop songs. When I was growing up, singles were an art statement. T. Rex was changing all the time. As a fan, you wanted to know what they wore and whether you could follow them to that new place.”

With Electric Warrior, I was hooked. So, I started delving into the past for Bolan treasures and searched for the key to the alchemy that helped create the beautiful and perfect man-child with celestial curls, with his Les Paul as an integral appendage; the fact that Bolan compared his love interest to a car was no small part of the attraction. Bolan conjured lyrics that were equal parts cosmic poetry and rock’n’roll heart.

Marc Bolan’s roots included joining a psych rock group that dressed all in white called John’s Children, with an album and several singles, including “Desdemona.” Next came the folk rock psychedelia of Tyrannosaurus Rex that recorded four albums between 1968-1970. Bolan was on acoustic guitar with first Steve Peregrin Took and then Mickey Finn on percussion The band’s first single, ”Debora,” was released in 1968, and was included on their first album,  My People Were Fair and Had Sky in Their Hair But Now They’re Content to Wear Stars on Their Brow, was released in June 1968. Bolan’s warble was so exotic that the producer, Tony Visconti, thought Bolan was singing in a foreign language. T. Rex, released in December 1970, was the first album under the T. Rex name and bridged the gap between the folk rock psychedelia of Tyrannosaurus Rex and the power chord orgy and hysteria-inducing T. Rex.

Although this was six years after Dylan was booed by folk purists for going electric, Bolan experienced his own “Judas” moment when long-time supporter and personal friend John Peel dismissed the electric phase of his musical career as being a “sell out.” Like his hero Dylan, I doubt Bolan ever did anything to sell out. Bolan, from the earliest age, wanted to be a teen idol. Whatever Bolan did, he did it on his own terms and to fulfill his vision of his ideal self. Bolan, who was always assured of his impending superstardom, was an iconoclast who sought to please himself and his fans. In July 1972, The Slider was released. By this point, it was clear that Bolan was trying to concoct some magical, alchemical sound and spectacle for fans who knew about Presley, the Beatles, and Hendrix but were too young to experience them live. The rock’n’roll cocktail Bolan served up with splashes of Presley, Chuck Berry, Eddie Cochran, Beatles, the Who, and Hendrix, shaken not stirred for the coolest, most iconic superstar potion, like the visitor from Lord of the Rings reimagined as a Dylan coiffed vampire troubadour who rocked a Les Paul, not a lute. Such perfect pop, but so deliciously strange like a sweet drink with a bitter, yet addictive after-taste.

Was this really 48 years ago?! Bolan’s songs retain power and relevance, and have even more resonance for me today despite their being close to half a century old. Right now, we have the bad orange man failing to lead during a worldwide pandemic and we need songs like “Metal Guru.” It is comforting to me, imagining a futuristic extraterrestrial with corkscrew hair serenading me, freeing my body like Presley, and freeing my mind like Dylan. “Mystic Lady” seduces. “Buick Mackane” takes you by force. “The Slider,” ”Baby Boomerang,” ”Spaceball Ricochet,” “Telegram Sam” and “Baby Strange,” and the rest, are all a part of me on a cellular level. Every nuance of every song is in my DNA.

Tanx was released in January 1973, and was described as “interstellar soul,” which I believe influenced David Bowie’s Young Americans. Some wonder if there ever would have been a Ziggy Stardust had there been no T. Rex. I feel Bowie – as well as Prince – owe debts to Bolan musically, fashion- and image-wise. “Born to Boogie” and “Life Is Strange” stand out on the 1994 CD version of Tanx, along with other greats like “Children of The Revolution,” ‘Solid Gold East Action,” and “20th Century Boy.”

Zinc Alloy and the Hidden Riders of Tomorrow released in February 1994 was celebrated by neither fans nor the critics. “Teenage Dream,” which reached #14 was Bolan’s last hit until “New York City” in 1975.

Light of Love was a US-only album in 1974, with 3 tracks from Zinc Alloy, with eight songs recorded at Music Recorders in Hollywood that would end up on Bolan’s Zip Gun, released in February 1975. Ken Barnes wrote in a Rolling Stone review, ”Bolan’s vocals still retain the amphetamine amphibian warble, but at times his snarl is tough enough to rival the Seeds, a considerable achievement.”

Zip Gun was Bolan’s tenth album. Bolan continued in an R&B-influenced vein, joined by Gloria Jones of “Tainted Love” fame. Futuristic Dragon brought a return to form in January 1976. “New York City” is a blast and ushered in the moment where Bolan reinvented himself as the “godfather of punk.” This phase saw him promoting punk era bands like the Jam, Generation X, Eddie and the Hot Rods, and  the Boomtown Rats on his television show, “Marc.” Moreover, Bolan booked a sellout show in London with the Damned.

Dandy in the Underworld, the eleventh album, was a swan song of sorts, about six months before Bolan left this mortal coil due to an auto accident just short of his 30th birthday. Great title, great photo, great songs-helping fans keep a little Marc in their hearts. Sadly, I never saw Marc Bolan live, but I asked a friend, Binky Philips of the Planets what it was like to experience the splendor of T. Rex in the flesh. Binky said, “I saw T. Rex at Carnegie Hall on February 27, 1972. I was crazy about their singles they had put out and I was intrigued by how Marc Bolan was a one-man Beatlemania in the UK. I’d been an Anglophile since February 9, 1964. So, I was well-versed on all things Brit. The Carnegie Hall show might have been the most exciting first ten minutes of any gig I have ever seen. The band hit the stage with every stage light blazing. Marc was wearing a satin jacket over a white t-shirt that had his own face covering his entire torso. I was just dazzled by that over-the-top ego trip. They launched into my own top five favorite T. Rex song, ”Cadilac”(no typo), a track relegated to a B-side and not on any album. I thought that was fantastically ballsy. The whole audience felt like it was on the verge of screaming like 13-year-old girls, the opening was so strong that Marc and Mickey and Steve and Bill just could not sustain the excitement. But T. Rex made a delicious ungodly noise that I can still hear in my mind’s ear.”

The delicious ungodly noise is what got T. Rex inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year. I voted for the band and was excited more than any induction before. The event was supposed to be held May 5, but because of the pandemic, the festivities were rescheduled for November 7, 2020. Congratulations to drummer Bill Legend, the only living member of T. Rex. Congrats to Bolan’s son, Rolan, and his mother, Gloria Jones, and all the band’s family, friends, and admirers. Congratulations and thanks to Mark Feld Bolan, who is still the prettiest star.

I believe Bolan is grinning down from his “armor plated chair” (throne?) on the astral plane and there is an angel polishing his “hub cab diamond star halo.”

Friday, April 10, 2020

Review: Planet of the Gorilla Suits

Text © Robert Barry Francos / FFanzeen, 2020
Images from the Internet

Planet of the Gorilla Suits
Directed by Richard Griffin
Scorpio Films Releasing
Appx. 40 minutes total, 2020

What do you do when you’re an independent filmmaker, and you can’t gather your cast due to a worldwide pandemic? Well, the answer for the collective at Scorpio Film Releasing, under the direction of indie maestro Richard Griffin, is to make a “science-fiction homage of the [radio] serials of the 1930s-‘50 that’s filled with action, romance, danger and cheap special [sound] effects!” (in his own words).

Of course, I’m not old enough to have lived through those bygone days of yore, when people gathered ‘round the tube radio to listen to adventure stories, but I have heard serials on cassette tapes. I even stayed at a Bed & Breakfast (yes, I’m one of those people) in New Hampshire that had it’s own radio station, and they broadcast old serial shows. Point is, I’m somewhat familiar with the Flash Gordon and Perils of Pauline style of broadcasts. Heck, there were even serial versions of Superman and Batman back in the day.

For the format of the serial broadcast with Planet of the Gorilla Suits, which is broken up into 10 parts (that’s why it’s serial, not cereal… sorry), averaging about 4 minutes per episode, the cast is seen on multiple screens (Skype?) reading from their respective homes, keepin’ it real – and safe.

The basic premise is that a group of scientists, the astronaut Rhett and his young brother Bucky (there was always one of those high-pitched voice comedy relief guys in these serials, and in 1950s sci-fi films, often with nicknames like “Brooklyn”), are sent to Mars because rays from the planet are causing auto accidents on Earth. There, they run into a humanoid race living underground (including one in a bikini and an evil “Ming the Emperor” type leader called Lepton the Lethal). Above ground are the titular “Gorilla Suits” apes who are apparently being driven mad by the results of our atomic tests.

This sci-fi ‘cast has it all, like giant spiders and scorpions, killer robots that you know are going to look like Robbie the Robot in your mind (or perhaps the one from “Lost in Space”). I do find it interesting that the leaders of the humanoids and the gorilla suits are women, and both are out for blood.

Written by Guy Benoit (who wrote the excellent film, Exhumed), if this sounds goofy, it is, and it is also hysterically over-the-top funny. For example, one of the “sponsors” of the show is Asbestos Cigarettes, which is promoted by “9 out of 10 doctors on iron lungs,” and good for anyone “8 to 80.” I wish there were more of these kinds of ads throughout, but I’m being picky.

There is no doubt that the story is silly and attached by a string of WTFs, but if you did listen to any other original serials, this is actually quite accurate, while being a loving jab at them at the same time. It kept me smiling all the way through, and even had a few LOLs thrown in.

I love that this troupe is doing this, because this is perfect for sitting around the house day after day, week after week. This serial was released over a two-week period, but honestly, I waited until they were all done to binge watch/listen (my style), rather than “tune in next time for…” as the cliffhangers (did you know that expression was named for the Perils of Pauline serial, much like “jump the shark” was for “Happy Days”?) rolled on by. I’m impatient to find out what happens “next.”

What’s even better is that this is only the first of the serials, with new ones to be starting shortly, each of a different type. I believe the next will be a romantic comedy. I’m looking forward to when they do a Lights Out kind of horror thing, but will enjoy what they throw my way in the meantime.

The first episode is linked below, and they will flow through and jump to the next as you watch them. Have a blast!

Planet of the Gorilla Suit, Episode 1:

Sunday, April 5, 2020

The METAL MIKE SAUNDERS Interview [1978]

Text by Gary Sperrazza! / Big Star fanzine, 1978
Introduction by Bernie Kugel / Big Star fanzine, 1978
Introduction © Robert Barry Francos / FFanzeen, 2020
Images from the Internet

This interview was originally published in Big Star fanzine, issue #3, dated Spring 1978. It was written by Gary Sperrazza!, who passed away in 2016 (but his exclamation point lives on). Thanks to Bernie Kugel, the fanzine’s publisher, who kindly granted permission for this reprint.

Metal Mike Saunders is a name that was a much larger known West Coast punk personality than in the East, but he had quite an influence through his early punk rock journalism at both national and fanzine levels, and later with hardcore bands like VOM, and especially the Angry Samoans (who have been touring again in the last couple of years). However, his biggest claim to fame that no one seems to remember is that he is credited with coining the phrase “Heavy Metal.” – RBF, 2020

* * *
In the early ‘70s, Mike Saunders was one of the leading and best writers around, especially when he was writing about the topics most near and dear to him: heavy metal and punk rock of the ‘60s, in such diverse publications as Flash magazine, Phonograph Record Magazine and Buffalo’s own lamented Shakin’ Street Gazette. He also was partly responsible for the legendary Brain Damage mag, the great one-shot parody of the big fanzines a few years back. He was also one of the guys initially responsible for the quickly-becoming-legendary West Coast rock critic punk band, VOM, even though he seems to have stepped back from taking a major role in the band, preferring to just “churn out heavy metal riffs.” Some of the classics he’s written over the years includes such underground hits as “Got a Dagger for You Jagger,” “Just Killed My Dad,” “Getting High with Stephen Stills,” “Gary Gilmore is my Friend,” and many others which will hopefully find their way to vinyl in one form or another, eventually.

Lester Bangs [d. 1982 – RBF] recently told me that Metal Mike was truly “ahead of his time.” So to satisfy the needs of all the Metal Mike fans across the globe, we present this little interview recently done by Big Star West Coast Editor, Gary Sperrazza! – BK, 1978

* * *
Big Star: What have you been doing lately?
Metal Mike Saunders: Well, from 1973 through mid-’75, I worked a 9-to-5 office job here in LA that truly inspired me to go back to Arkansas and get a second college (degree) so I could become an accountant. I saved a lot of money those two years. A lot for what I was making, but… so now I’ve got the degree, got suits in the closet, my hair is cut short, (and) I’m hunting for that first accounting job. I guess my goal is to have $100,000 in the bank at the age of 35. That’s really sick, you know! But accounting is a vehicle through which to achieve that goal, and it’s (a) great profession, besides. Do you really think anyone cares about this trivia, outside of my mother?

Big Star: Not really.
Metal Mike: So let’s talk about something interesting. How about the Dodgers?

Big Star: What about ‘em?
Metal Mike: Well, what it amounts to is that in this town (Los Angeles), the Dodgers are bigger than rock’n’roll, TV, and movies all combined. They’ve run these surveys showing that 71.7% of all males (females, 54%) over 18 listen to the Dodgers games on the radio or TV. And the team is amazing anyway… manager Tommy Lasorda is a bona fide future legend in the making. What it amounts to is that in LA, the Dodgers kill any current rock’n’roll phenomena with the possible exception of KISS.

Big Star: KISS???
Metal Mike: Yeah, I think they’re the ‘70s Beach Boys. The best American rock group, hands down. I love their records.

Big Star: Care to elaborate on that assertion?
Metal Mike: No, not really. KISS are just the commercialization of heavy metal that I was really waiting years for. Plus, they got the most and best riffs of any band around. Like, “I Stole Your Love,” man – any of you MC5 fans who can’t get into that, I’m having your record collections repossessed tomorrow! Or “Love Gun,” to stay current – that’s as good a 45 as anything.

Big Star: Anything else you like in the current rock scene?
Metal Mike: ABBA are really, really great; they’re the only other group whose albums I’d pay four bucks for. Aerosmith are OK, Rush and Starz ditto, Ted Nugent, eh… I really liked all those rock’n’roll Top 40 singles from the past year: Boston, Foghat, KISS, Steve Miller, ELO, the Bay City Rollers’ rock’n’roll singles; paid 99 cents at K-Mart for all those groups’ 45s. Basically, I’m just a heavy metal purist. AM radio finally caught up with heavy metal guitar via Boston – so my taste now is really mainstream. Don’t ask me about New Wave, I hate that stuff. “God Save the Queen” was a great record, both sides, but otherwise… Limeys can’t do anything right, y’know. The Ramones albums literally make me ill. Their 45s are neat though – I bought “Sheena is a Punk Rocker.”

Big Star: Any other hobbies or fandoms you like better than rock’n’roll?
Metal Mike: Oh, yeah, I’ve been back into wargaming since 1975. It’s a great hobby… a couple nights a month, anyway. Baseball is really the king, though.

Big Star: Tell us about R. Meltzer and VOM.
Metal Mike: Gregg Turner came by one day and mentioned that Meltzer wanted to do a group; he was really serious about forming a band. So I said, “Okay,” and the next time I plugged in the fuzzbox to write some metallic riffs, I did a song tailored to Meltzer’s voice, “Getting High with Stephen Stills.” Then a couple days later Turner came by with a lyric he had called “Too Animalistic,” and I wrote some Fred Smith/Wayne Kramer riffs for it, and it was obviously a VOM song! So it all took off, and the concept of VOM has been expanding ever since.

Big Star: Which is?
Metal Mike: Sort of a cross between heavy metal Fugs and the first Stooges album.

Big Star: Who’s gonna be in the band?
Metal Mike: Three friends of Meltzer’s on guitars and bass who’ve knocked around in bands, we’re auditioning drummer, myself on anything from guitar to drums to vocals, plus Meltzer and Turner handing a plurality of the vocals. So things as of this date (10/77) are in that embryonic stage of finding the right musicians, then rehearsing for a couple months.

Big Star: So what’s the musical genre?
Metal Mike: Various levels of heavy metal, because that’s all I write – Black Sabbath/Stooges, mutated ’66 metal, or whatever level of tightness is attained, but with Meltzeroid lyrics and stage presentation. Heavy metal Fugs is really a good description. Unless it’s both stupid… and funny... then we’re not gonna do it.

Big Star: You have a really big backlog of songs of your own, don’t you?
Metal Mike: Oh, yeah, around 300-350 from over the past eight years. I love making up riffs; it’s like working algebra problems. Quick and easy, (in) 10 minutes ya got it, another song. It’s like permutations – 10 different basic chord changes in 10 different sequences, 10 different tempos. 10 x 10 x 10… a thousand songs. You’ve just got to know the basic riffs really well, like very good punk rock or heavy metal record ever made. I think Paul Stanley of KISS is really one of the best riff-mongers ever; his output is just great.

Big Star: What’s your personal experience in rock bands?
Metal Mike: The mid- and late-‘60s, as a drummer and guitarist in a lot of garage bands back in Little Rock, Arkansas; some real megatonic heavyweights like the Rockin’ Blewz, the Living Endz, Society’s Outcasts, among others… A Standells member I wasn’t – by the end of high school I was a real basket case stage-wise… a walking time bomb capable of blowing a chord change at the worst possible moment. Like the chorus of “Talk Talk”… or the intro to “Louie Louie.” My position with VOM as musical director/dictator and utility infielder is really ideal… I only have to play on the songs I know I’m not gonna blow. All three of them…

Big Star: Back to rock writing –
Metal Mike: Rock what?

Big Star: Rock writing; magazines…
Metal Mike: Boy, ya got me. It was just something I did in lieu of working at McDonald’s during my college years, you know.

Big Star: Any writers you like?
Metal Mike: Oh, yeah. Nick Kent of NME was amazing during his hot period. Charles Shaar Murray is amazing. Max Bell also of NME has done real well at times. Over in this country you had or have Lester Bangs. All the rest of us turkeys were a good six notches below Bangs and those first two, I think you’ll agree. Like, I mean, Lenny Kaye for example had a couple great moments, but… Like Circus is really the best commercial American pro-zine at this point – don’t you think that kinda says it all?

Big Star: Compared to NME, yes. Any comments on Mark Shipper, Flash, or your Brain Damage fanzine from 1974?
Metal Mike: No, not really. At this late date it’s just all water under the cesspool… Let bygones be bygones. Who cares, y’know?? I’m still gonna let the air out of Shipper’s tires someday, though!

Angry Samoans: Metal Mike on far left
Big Star: Anything else about VOM?
Metal Mike: Yeah. At the first VOM business meeting, Meltzer was really drunk, knocking over things. We got into an argument on how you write songs, me being used to patching lyrics onto riffs I make up, and then he called me a folkie. I really wanted to deck him. But I calmed down… so Turner and I went into his brother’s bedroom, locked the door, and plugged in the guitar and took a couple of Meltzer’s finished lyrics, “Electrocute Your Cock” and “I’m in Love with Your Mom,” and I made up riffs for them. Good ones, right on the spot. So when we came back out in half an hour with finished songs, Richard saw we weren’t kidding about being just what he needed musically…. He’s going, “Hey, Blue Oyster Cult takes six months to write a riff… this is all right!” And it’s been easy working with him ever since; we write together when we can in the same genre, lyric-wise, so it’s a real songwriting mill. All that Meltzer needs is someone to crank out the music; he’s got the best lyrics around. “I Live with the Roaches” is hilarious – I can’t believe BOC [Blue Oyster Cult – RBF, 2020] wimped out on recording that! All that has to happen is for the group to attain a reasonable level of competence and keep up with the quality of material that’s gonna be coming out.

Big Star: How about records?
Metal Mike: Aw, that’s the best part… for records, we’re gonna bring in Ross Friedman [Ross the Boss, at the time in the Dictators,– RBF, 2020], that kind of thing. They’ll be real heavy metal 45s. I’m the musical Dictator of Vinyl – so they have to be, or they won’t happen. Back Door Man Records will have their first big chance to break the 1,000 sales mark… maybe even 2,000!

Big Star: Sounds Interesting.
Metal Mike: Well, y’know… heavy metal Fugs… I guess it beats watching the San Diego Padres on TV… unless they happen to be playing the Dodgers, that is.