Plan B Magazine #4
I was researching my Nirvana book in Seattle while this issue was being put together. Frances was thrown into the deep end on this one: she was responsible for the entire production. Not sure she entirely appreciated the random way it happened. But it was a great learning experience for us. The cover stars came about simply because I happened to see Smoosh play live while I was there. Or perhaps I read a story on them? Or something. I don’t know. David MacNamee had already interviewed them for Careless Talk Costs Lives, so we had form. I was blown away by the music, and proud of the interview, and the research done on the story, and the fact we had Charles Peterson taking photographs for the story. It seemed like a statement as well – but although that’s important (to me) that’s always secondary to the music. We had any number of possible contenders – and great writers to back the contenders up, too. Dresden Dolls. The Research. I got to interview one of my…I never like to use the word hero… inspirations, Lydia Lunch. Bright Eyes. Deerhoof. Roots Manuva.
I’m not talking up the subs enough, or the section editors. Hopefully, someone will come in and do a guest spot or 20 while this series runs, and correct my failings.
I’m not sure we had an alternate cover mocked up for this one. Andrew was already asserting himself.
Here’s the editorial. The Loose Lips Frances is referring to in her part of the editorial is, of course, the truly excellent Gullick/Chick magazine Loose Lips Sink Ships, our sisters in crime. And, as ever, the download link for the PDF for Plan B #4 is at the bottom of the post.
I’ve been away for a few months in Seattle, researching a book on Nirvana.
Spent last night hanging with Lou Barlow. He’s in town to promote a new solo album, Emoh. He was partly inspired to try a different approach after hearing M Ward’s Transfiguration Of Vincent, moved by its simplicity and richness of tone. His songs are as heartfelt and slyly humorous as ever: ‘The Ballad Of Daykitty’ is my particular favourite, a playful chant lamenting the feline tendency to disappear ‘til feeding time. He’s still typically self-deprecating: commenting wryly at his in-store at Sonic Boom Records on the appropriateness that Emoh should be released the same day as the brace from Conor Oberst, publicly chastising himself for being too worried what critics will make of it. I kept wanting to yell out, “It’s only one person’s opinion”, but I knew he would’ve engaged me in dialogue. It seems weird he should still be so insecure about his art, but of course that insecurity is what feeds it.
Later, we drank beer and cats lined up to have their tummies tickled while I turned him onto The Gossip – “Now, that’s what I call Riot Grrrl,” he excitedly remarked – the minimalist, dance-laden grooves of C.O.C.O., and Bettye Swann’s sweet soul serenade. Of course, we both love Phil Elvrum’s Microphones/Mount Eerie: so fragile, so human, so imaginative, such a deceptive mastery of sound.
If we sound like geeks it’s because we are geeks.
The night before I had the great privilege of seeing Calvin Johnson perform: a man who gets mistaken for a geek but is anything but. His songs are rich with leopardskin magic and the art of seduction, and the knowledge that mystique is all: a new habit acquired of reading out news items or drawing out seemingly trivial statements for every ounce of humour offsets the darker moments wonderfully. He cracks himself up. His laconic drawl is a language in itself: “Can We Kiss?” he asks, all dangerous, dark-eyed Huck Finn pseudo-innocence as he sings of a heart fuelled by rabbit blood. He still casts a very long shadow indeed over Olympia.
If I sound like a fan it’s because I am.
A few nights earlier, I saw local band Pretty Girls Make Graves stand at oblique angles to one another, and thrash their instruments with fury and determination – songs sprawling out in weird directions, singer Andrea inspirational as she shimmied around in her lace and jeans. They played like each note was their last, that music was the most important force in the world to them.
And sometimes that’s enough.
And sometimes that can see you through.
And sometimes all you want to do is dance.
Or cry. Or make shapes. Or listen to the sound of girls being seduced. Or sit around drinking beer with an old friend, stroking cats until they writhe with pleasure, chatting about all the great new sounds coming from Sweden and the Pacific Northwest and Japan and England – hey, and this is a big shout out to The Long Blondes and The Diskettes for making my stay out here way more pleasurable than otherwise. It’s more than I can do sometimes to keep from bursting with pride when I regard this magazine and all the fine work Frances and Andrew and Sarah and Daniel and Grace and Chris and everyone have done in my absence. (I had no part in putting together this issue.) Enjoy issue 4.
I know I’m looking forward to reading it.
Here’s me, trying to interview Ben Chasny, aka Six Organs Of Admittance, at the 12 Bar last night.
I’m flustered and freezing cold; shadows under my eyes and a head like a very messy Plan B filing cabinet. I’m sitting opposite a guy who’s armed with his nth beer and what appears to be a fearsomely quick wit. I look at him, wary.
“I love your music,” I say. “But I can’t think of anything to ask you about it.”
The batteries on my minisdisc run out.
“Ahhh, shit, OK, let me change those…” I mumble, getting the ones out of my Walkman and replacing the minidisc one.
The new batteries run out too, about a minute later.
Ben Chasny shoots me an owlish glare.
Uncomfortable laughter all round.
“OK,” I say. “So what are the six organs of admittance anyway? In order?”
Fuck it. My brain has turned to mush; I will ask the stupidest question I can think of.
He takes my pen and writes in my notebook.
You’ll have to wait for the next Loose Lips to find out the answer. Suffice to say, it was a delightful answer, and I’ll listen to his music with a deeper spiritual understanding from now on in. Really.
Bad interviews aren’t so bad sometimes. Forgetting to switch the mic on for my first Careless Talk assignment was probably the best thing for both me and my readers, on account of it being an interview with the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and all. As a result of this, I always tell contributors just to go with it, work with the situation in hand, improvise, man. I have no idea what they think of this, mind, apart from Doug Mosurock, who once told me, “I never jam” – and his precise, passionate words on Arthur Russell are tribute to the other approach. I just know what works for me.
Chasny’s Six Organs set, appropriately, nudges the edges of chaos and throws up sweet, intelligent, ramshackle constructions, shelters built of drifwood and ideas. I also tell writers to write like the music sounds: luckily, this music sounds utterly lovely right now. Problem solved, then. In theory.
Everett says he hasn’t had much to do with this issue. This isn’t true. He phoned me up a fair amount, often as I was trying to move house. (“Hey Frances…Can you get this Swedish band for the next issue? Their PR’s…Oh. It’s…I think it’s this…Look, I have to go out now; I’m doing a gig with Pete Bagge and Calvin Johnson…”) He chose and wrote the cover story – and what a cover story. It’s the most sideways, unlikely and, in some ways, brave cover we’ve had yet.
But this issue of Plan B really belongs to Sophie Heawood. She let me edit most of issue 4 from her living room, after I got made homeless recently. I can’t thank her enough. She rules.
Frances May Morgan
You can download the fourth issue of Plan B Magazine (#4) for free at this link.