Dear Friends, Please Help Me Spread The Word

Me, Myself, and this blog,Music — Sean Bonner @ 10:24 pm

Two things I’m not terribly good at and very uncomfortable doing: Talking about myself & Asking for help. Especially when there are so many other more important things to talk about these days, but this is me attempting to do both.

A little over a year ago I started talking about an art & music project I’d been working on with some friends called Cross My Heart Hope To Die. Almost non stop since then I’ve been working on physical art pieces – photos & sculptures – that I’d hoped to show off publicly in a real art world setting. That went from a crazy idea to a goal to a plan to a reality – the gallery exhibition opens this Saturday July 26th here in Los Angeles. Admittedly this project has been very hard for people to really wrap their head around – a band that makes physical art? An art collective that releases music? Treating music like photos? Treating photos like songs? It doesn’t make immediate sense to people looking to categorize it in the context of something else they are familiar with and I’ve been immensely lucky to have a handful of friends who believe in my crazy ideas and have been helpful and supportive of them. This wouldn’t have happened without them, for-fucking-sure.

This gallery show is 2 years in the planning, and I can’t even begin to tell you the sweat and stomach acid that has been generated putting it together. And on top of that, at the opening on Saturday we’ll be performing publicly for the first time ever as a band.

I’ve put on tons of gallery shows, but I’ve never been in one. Certainly never a gallery full of work I created.

I’ve put out records and toured with bands, but I’ve never been the one on stage performing.

I’m super excited about both of these things, and at the same time horrified. Not that people won’t like it, I’m completely confident in the work and what we’re doing, I believe in it 1000% – I’m scared I will have spent all this time and all this money making this work and no one will see it. I know that is fairly irrational because a lot of my friends will be there for sure, but still. I’m scared. And here’s the asking for help part – please, pretty please, help me get the word out about the opening and help me get people there to see the work and the performance.

The details:

The exhibition is called “Vita E Morte” and is being held at SUBLIMINAL PROJECTS gallery,  1331 W. Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90026
The public opening is Saturday from 8pm until 11pm and the live performance will probably be around 8:45 and should last 30 minutes or so.

Here’s some more info and images of some of the works in the show – it’s not everything, but it’s a lot of it. Full images will be together soon, in the meantime hopefully this gives a good idea of what we’re up to. It’s very high concept, so much happening behind the scenes for each and every piece, but I trust it’ll make sense when you see it all together. And I trust that the whole project will make more sense after this show. Some people see it as a band doing some weird art thing on the side, I’m confident this show will illustrate that it’s so much more.

Also we have a new record coming out next week too, you can hear some of the songs already on Soundcloud, and it’ll be up on the pirate bay soon too. Amazon and iTunes too I guess and we’ll have CDs at the gallery opening, but only 100 of them.

But seriously – if you are in Los Angeles and can come out that would be amazing, and if you can pass the word on to your friends and audiences and anyone you pays attention to you, that would mean the world to me.

Thank you.

 

I’m holding on

Me, Myself, and this blog,Music — Sean Bonner @ 2:30 pm

I often say that music has been and continues to be incredibly important to me. All of the crucial moments in my life have a soundtrack, either what I was listening to before they happened or what I turned to after the fact to help me get through them. Music has been my rock and my salvation. It’s the only thing I could always count on – no matter what. Lots of people say music is important to them, but without a doubt music changed my life. No, fuck that – music saved my life. I can say with full assurance that if it weren’t for discovering a handful of bands in my early teenage years I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I might not even be here today.

I’d always liked music and as early as 3rd grade I can remember recording songs off the radio with my tape deck so that I could listen to them repeatedly, though admittedly those songs were probably just catchy musically but lacking in substance. Getting a “Weird Al” Yankovich tape for my birthday one year got me listening to lyrics. Before that I think I’d just thought of vocals as another musical element, but trying to understand all the references and jokes “Weird Al” was making made me realize the depth of the content that could be there as well. Discovering Run DMC, Beastie Boys and Public Enemy would take that interest in lyrical content to an entirely new level.

But there was still a disconnect in that those people were rock stars. What they were talking about was obviously important to them, which made it interesting to me. And educational on many levels. But there was always a bit of voyeurism because I could tell from their lyrics and photos that these people were from totally different worlds that I was, and lived very different lives. I didn’t know anything about parties or girls or global politics. I moved around a lot so I didn’t have many close friends and my family didn’t have a lot of money. And as a kid too young to get a job, I had even less. Which is probably why discovering punk rock a few years later was so powerful for me. These people were not rock stars. They didn’t have gold chains, fancy cars, airplanes.. they had jack shit. Just like me. And they often talking about how important friends were, which is something I wanted so much to believe in.

My list of “influential” bands would take days to read though (in fact very early version of my old website had a soundtrack section that listed out just a few of them) but the ones that really grabbed me, changed my world view and pointed my in the right direction is probably three. Three bands. I could easily make that ten. Or twenty without much effort. But if I’m honest about it, really honest about what were the watershed moments, which songs really made a earth shattering difference to me, there’s three of them. Of course that those three existed inside of an ecosystem absolutely bursting with awesomeness helped a lot too.

I’ve written before about trying to kill myself when I was very young, and made references to a whole host of things that kept me mopey and depressed for solid chunk of my childhood. I don’t bring that up to get all emo, but to make the point of just how much impact a few kids in garages out in the world putting words that ment something to them to music, and risking humiliation sent them out into the world could have on me. (more…)

CMHHTD

Music — Sean Bonner @ 3:47 pm

“Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in…”

I’ll save you the epic backstory and just say that when I walked away from the music industry in the late 90′s one of the many reasons I chose to do so was because, frankly, it had gotten boring. People (and bands) were just running through the motions. They were executing a prescribed set of actions because that’s just what you do. I missed the days of people doing things because they loved them. Because they thought they were awesome. Because they wanted to be proud of what they were doing. Doing the same thing that you’ve already done, that everyone else has already done, over and over again, isn’t at all fulfilling or interesting to me.

So I left the music world and went to work at this exciting new place, the internet. The music industry had a lot of perks, but it never had lolcats. In the years since then I’ve helped a few friends out with the occasional music project here and there, but I’ve always kept things at arms length because on some level it was the same old thing. It’s was a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.

These frustrations were echoed in a conversation I had with a few friends last year. We went on to ask ourselves, what does success mean, or even look like if it’s not just living up to someone else’s metric? Obviously if we were going to spend time working on something we want it to be successful, but maybe more importantly we talked about how we wanted it to be something we were proud of working on. If the absolute worst case scenario is that we spend some time working on something we think is awesome, how bad is that? And anything above and beyond that is even better. So, thinking about a music project from that perspective, what would we want to address? What would we want to do differently?

Turns out, a lot. (more…)

Discovery

Music — Sean Bonner @ 11:10 pm

Used to be there was something exciting about discovering music. It was a challenge, and an accomplishment. It was something exciting and to be proud of. I’ve been talking about this a lot, and telling these stories because it’s something that actually means a lot to me.

Growing up in Florida and being into punk rock, finding the new stuff that I would be into wasn’t easy at all. Or rather, it became easy through a set of practices but at face value was next to impossible. I live in Bradenton and if I wanted to buy records in person there were exactly two stores that I could consider. Daddy Kool (which was in Bradenton originally but moved to Sarasota pretty early on) and Alternative Records in Tampa. Both of these were an hour away all things considered. Take into account that at this time I was also not yet driving, so getting anywhere relied on organizing a ride with someone else. Anyway, once I actually got to either of these places – ideally on Tuesday as that’s when new records came out – I’d start flipping through records. Labels were a huge part of this. They were almost curators. You could generally be safe picking up a record by a band you’d never heard of if they were on a label that had some bands you knew you liked already. If Revelation put out a new 7″ I’d buy it without ever hearing it and know that I wouldn’t be disappointed. But so would everyone else, so that was obvious.

What was less obvious and often the source of some real gems was thanks lists. Every record came with liner notes – lyrics, credits and a thanks list. In punk rock you would get no where if not for your friends and the way to repay those friends was a mention in the thanks list. In fact not mentioning people could be seen as a real diss. (There are records that I’m not thanked on that I’m still bummed about.) So if I liked a band I’d read their thanks list and see what other bands they thanked. These were likely bands they had played with or bands that their friends were in. Maybe bands they lived with or shared a practice space with. I’d write down the names of those bands and then go to the folks at these record stores and ask them to track down any music by these bands. They’d make some phone calls, and in 2-3 weeks – if I was lucky – a 7″ or cassette would show up with some songs from one of these bands. Sometimes those songs would be amazing.

After that I’d make mix tapes of new stuff I’d found and give them to friends, asking in turn for mix tapes of stuff they’d discovered. Some of the most influential bands in my entire life I learned about from these mix tapes. Knowing about the new stuff meant you’d get the records first, and in the world of limited pressingings due to limited budgets, if there are only 500 copies of a 7″ made ever – you might not have a second chance to get something. And if you heard that a band was good but couldn’t get the record, you might never get to hear those songs. It took me 5 years to get the first Shudder To Think album – I hunted for it relentlessly – and I’d never once heard the songs on it. I knew I liked the band, I knew the record existed, but there was no way to hear the songs unless I had the record. It was incredibly rare and I didn’t know anyone who had it. When I finally got it and got home and pulled the record out to listen to it, I don’t even remember how many friends had rushed over to hear it for the first time as well. A lot for sure.

So it was a big deal to know about new stuff. Hip hop and death metal (the soundtracks to my youth) were similar. And there was some serious feelings of ownership when you found something first and then got to be the one to introduce all your friends to it. There was some real skill and value in being that guy.

Now, any band we talk about you can hear online in seconds. There are a million options. That impossible to find Shudder To Think album? It’s all over YouTube. Anything you want is within reach. Which is great, but also not so great. The thrill of finding something new and awesome is gone. The sweet payoff of finding something you knew about but had never had access to is gone. Everything is available.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently. How that excitement has been lost, and how it could be regained. How it could be exciting again. How it could be special. I’m not sure I have the answers, but I have some ideas…

Punk Rock: A History of Political (In)action and Social Response

Music,Philosophy — Sean Bonner @ 9:02 pm

Earlier this evening a friend tweeted:

“Punk Rock: A History of Political (In)action and Social Response.” This is a class I would attend. Any teachers out there?

And my head instantly exploded. Because obviously this should already exist, yet for some reason dosen’t. Which means I have no other course of action then to try and rectify that.

One of the main draws to punk rock for me when I was going up was that here was a group of people who by all accounts had been rejected by the society around them – they were the freaks and the weirdos – yet this small group refused to sit still and was going to actively play a roll in shaping the world around them. This was incredibly appealing to me on so many levels, and shaped much of my world view going forward. I’ve never questioned that a small group of dedicated individuals could have a huge impact on whatever they set their sights on, and I’ve always scoffed at the people who assume individuals can’t make a difference. (more…)

Upgrading MP3s with iTunes Match, or Adventures in Cloud Syncing

Music — Sean Bonner @ 12:19 pm

I heard about this little hack that will upgrade old low quality MP3s you might have hanging around your iTunes library and thought I’d give it a shot. Basically iTunes Match gives you access to any song you have in your library, from any of your devices. It can do this because they have a huge archive of songs and just match up song titles, the trick is that all the files they have are in 256 kbps quality. (more…)

It’s not just in my head it’s in my heart…

(pic H2O soundchecking, 2/6/11)

I haven’t been to many shows in the last few years, certainly not that many punk / hardcore shows. I’ve seen some bands play here and there but there’s quite a difference between standing in the audience bobbing your head to a catchy tune and maybe tapping your toe if things get really bouncy, and jumping and clawing to get to the front of the room so you climb on top of someone and scream the lyrics that you know by heart into the mic that the singer of a band is holding out into the crowd. There’s quite a difference between a band thanking the people in the room, their fans, for coming out, and a band rattling off the names of half the people in the room, expressing their love for them, and treating everyone there like brothers and sisters, like family. I’ve been to a lot of the stand around and get thanked shows recently, but not so many of the jump around and get hugged ones. This is only really noteworthy because I spent probably 5 nights a week at those kinds of shows until somewhere around ’98.

I quite working at Victory Records in ’98 and when I walked away from that job I walked away from a group of people that meant more to me than I can ever explain. If you grew up in the punk and hardcore scenes than I don’t even have to try because you already know exactly what I’m talking about (I started going to shows when I was 12 – my formative years revolved around this world). I didn’t realize I was walking away at the time, but in hindsight that’s exactly what I did. The problem for me was the music that I loved had become fused with a job that I hated. My feelings for one spilled on to the other and rather than think of shows as places were all my friends were and where I’d be surrounded by people who knew me, loved me for who I was and would always be there for me, I began to think of shows as places where I might run into that someone from that band that said that thing in that one magazine or who went with this label instead of that one, or whatever. It became a nest of business politics instead of a positive comfort zone. I let that happen without realizing it, and when I had the chance to get out of the business I left the scene and the people behind as well.

Not one of my better decisions I might add.

Sure I’ve been to a handful of real hardcore shows over the past 13 years but mostly friends bands, and I mostly just stood around to see them and support them, and soaked up the mellon collie of what used to be but no longer was. I missed it, but it was the past. That’s kind of how I think I felt about it, without having actually consciously been thinking that at the time.

Twitter has helped me reconnect with many old friends and I’m glad they still remember who I am and want to talk to me from time to time. Over the last year I saw that Toby from H2O was talking about a new project of his called One Life One Chance – something like motivational speaking, but for kids in schools, and really more of a sharing stories and trying to set a good example. I often talk about things I’m doing in my own life, knowing full well that most people won’t change their lives because of it, but if what I have to say inspires a few people to change their lives for the better it’s worth it. Toby’s project was like that but on rocket fuel. By talking to school aged kids he was really reaching out to people who it might really make a difference to.

There’s no question to me that punk and hardcore, and straight edge specifically, saved my life. No question at all. I was a pretty depressed kid with a fairly bleak outlook on life. I didn’t see much of a future for myself, and didn’t get along with most of the kids in the schools I went to. I tried to get along with them, but for whatever reason it just never clicked. I was trying to be something I wasn’t, and it was obvious to everyone. And then I found punk rock and a group of people who didn’t want me to be anything other than me. I found hardcore and a group of people who treated me like family and I knew I could count on for anything. I found straight edge and realized that every day, every moment was a chance to do something positive. These things changed me forever and I’ll never forget that.

Lately I’ve been feeling old. I’ve been wallowing in missed opportunities and failed attempts. I try very hard to be positive and sometimes that is easy, but sometimes it’s harder than others, and sometimes the weight of the world gets really fucking heavy.

Toby has been doing OLOC for a year know and spoken at a ton of schools. Looking at the videos and photos of the students he’s talked it, it’s pretty clear he’s making an positive impact and I think that’s amazing. Some schools can pay to bring him out to talk, but others can’t afford that, and those are likely the ones who can use this message the most. When I heard H2O was going to play a benefit show for OLOC I paid for a ticket right away, without even seeing if I’d be in town when it was happening, just because I knew it was a good cause and I knew that was money well spent. Turns out I was going to be in town and as the date got a little closer I saw Toby put out the request for some people in LA to give “testimonials” on film for a mini doc they are working on about OLOC. He was looking for people who had positive things to say about how hardcore impacted their lived. I offered and was asked to come in and, I said yes right away.

The day of the show, as I was driving in for my scheduled filming time I was thinking about all of the above and all the great things I could say. I could talk about directions my life could have gone without it, I could talk about amazing friendships I’ve made thanks to it, so much I could say. But then I got in front of the camera and blew it. I froze, totally blanked, and likely gave the worst testimonial they have recorded yet. I don’t even remember what I said, but I think I spoke for about 20 seconds. Maybe. It was bad.

I’d been trying to channel the positivity so much but it just happen. Which was kind of a bummer. The dudes said it was great, but I knew they were just trying to be nice.

Does it sound like I’m feeling sorry for myself? Well, just you wait.

With recordings done and sound check out of the way I had a few moments to walk down the street with one of my super old friends from the hardcore world. I hadn’t talked too him much in many years and that sucks, so I was really happy to catch up with him a little bit. But it reminded me, hell kind of smacked me right in the head with the reality that there are a ton of people out there who I really care about, an entire scene of people I really care about that I had been completely out of touch with for a really, really long time. This is simultaneously a good and bad thing, bad because I feel like I missed something I shouldn’t have, and good because now that I’ve identified it I can try to correct it.

When the first band played, I saw them and the kids who came out to see them so filled with everything I remember once being filled with. At one time I would have felt perfectly at home in that crowd, but I felt like an outsider. I didn’t know the band, I didn’t know the songs, and I didn’t recognize a single face around me. This used to be my briar patch, but now it was kind of jabbing me where it hurt. I felt out of place, and after the stellar performance on camera earlier I thought maybe I should just go home. I stopped myself when I got to the front door and thought about it a little more.

If I was going to wallow and feel bad for myself, I could do that anywhere, and if I went home now that’s certainly what I would be doing. Or I could stay and see what might happen. Hell, I have PMA tattooed on my wrist, it’s there for a reason. It’s a reminder and I needed it right then. I reminded myself that giving up was a guaranteed loss. If I stayed I at least had the chance of turning that around.

So I stayed.

Toby showed some footage before the H2O set of previous OLOC talks at schools and it was inspiring. I could see the kids it was inspiring, and I could feel it inspiring me. This was a good thing that was going on, and this was a good thing to be a part of. Through out the set there was constant talk, both in the songs and between them, about the positivity, support and friendship that makes up the hardcore scene. Seeing Toby, now 40 years old, thanking his wife sitting off stage, and his 6 year old son standing right there on stage really hit home for me. I thought about how I’d been feeling so old before, and who I’m turning 36 this month, and how my own son Ripley is turning 1 next month, and how not only does this world which means so much to me not have to be just a part of my past, it can actively be part of my future. I just have to make the decision for that to happen. I was kind of floored by that revelation. And a bit ashamed it wasn’t obvious to me before this.

I didn’t go to this show to be inspired. If anything, I just went to say hi to a few friends and show some support to a cause I thought was a positive influence for other people. Turns out it had a pretty positive influence on me too. I realized I was smiling when I was walking back to my car to head home. I liked how that felt.

Die Antwoord – $O$

Me, Myself, and this blog,Music — Sean Bonner @ 12:00 am

Die Antwoord - $O$

I wrote a longer post about this on Boing Boing but I’m excited to show off the sekrit project I’ve been working on for the past month or so. I designed the new Die Antwoord album which will be released next month. Super fun project with super creative and inspiring people. Woot!

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