“Johnston’s songs were fragile in a way that could disarm even the most cynical of us. His enthusiastic yip and uncanny knack for soaring choruses was undeniable no matter the fidelity. The music could feel silly and sincere, diaristic and voyeuristic, sometimes even in the space of a single line.”
We lost two totemic Texan weirdos this year with the passing of Roky and Daniel. Both suffered from terrible mental disease and mistreatment (even hero worship from non-treatment) but both men somehow turned such suffering into comforting music. In my many hours with their music growing up in Texas, I certainly didn’t understand the ramifications of such fandom, but the one time I saw Daniel perform, it was evident that it was an uneven relationship in a way that was troubling. But it really took seeing the doc The Devil and Daniel Johnston to realize the true ramifications of his suffering.
The genius of “True Love Will Find You in the End” and “Walking the Cow” deserve all the reverence though and they border on being hymns; it’s not hard to imagine them lasting for generations. I also find sweet comfort in the echo between Roky’s “Starry Eyes” (which I now sing as a lullaby for my daughter each night) and Daniel’s line about “Lucky stars in your eyes.”
Daniel Johnston Was a Hero for the Wounded for Vulture.
“I was doing what I loved to do, working in the studio and create. That’s where being a woman in the business really became real to me. I felt like if I had been a man, it wouldn’t have happened in that way, not being called for work. I had to kick the door back down. I felt like I was being a girl, that’s the way it goes.”
“Music is the Answer,” but the question is who created one of the first house tracks? And why don’t more people know Yvonne Turner’s name? A case made for Yvonne Turner at Pitchfork
Happy Release Day for Mort Garson’s Plantasia, which sees official release on Sacred Bones Records today. I had the honor of penning the liner notes for this rhododendron-friendly synth jammer and waxed about the plant consciousness of everything from Swamp Thing to Invasion of the Body Snatchers. True roots music. Pick up a copy here and let your mind sprout.
“He was possessed, so vivid and mesmerizing. His voice was so sharp and cutting — sometimes he’d get lost in his screams.”
It’s hard to fully explain just how vital a figure Roky Erickson was for all the weirdos growing up deep in the heart of Texas. Not just as an acid casualty, of someone who went out too far and never quite came back, but just as someone who had to cope with the suffocating conservative culture of Texas and America at large by making gloriously weird music. Has anyone but Roky ever written this many insanely catchy, tangy songs about the Devil? Maybe I didn’t quite understand it then, playing endlessly my cassette copy of You’re Gonna Miss Me, which compiled all of his post-Elevators insanity, or the heartbreaking fragility of Never Say Goodbye, which my friend Craig released at the end of the ’90s (great write-up of that set here), but his life and art –in addition to the capturing the darkness that exists alongside such searches for enlightenment– tells us more about America’s brutal repression of its artists and visionaries than almost anything else.
Roky Erickson remembrance, for Vulture.
“There was frustration and anger and at the same time, that is provoked by consciousness. You’re on the edge because you’re conscious of the fact that things are wrong. We live in a time like that now. There’s a thin line because people are frustrated and unhappy [with] the way that things are going and there’s a very strong sense of neglect. Education is crumbling, health care and economic survival, fascism, racism, we’re right there and it’s washing over us everyday.”
Neneh Cherry on her lifetime of making music amid broken politics, for Vulture.
Recently, The Believer digitized their archives. Which means you can now read about a three-month trek through Thailand, Laos and Cambodia I took back in 2008. Under the influence of the Sublime Frequencies label at the time, I was in part preparing for an interview with Sun City Girls’ Alan Bishop, one of the label’s co-founders. That interview is here and has been anthologized quite a few times. At the same time, I also went in search of molam myself, to slightly disastrous results. Follow along on the map.
“There’s lots of talk about how short life is. And [my song] is how life never stops, how big it is. I have a strong spiritual core, but not that really religious thing.” The Circle Game