Illustrator Brian Walsby on the roller coaster that is Self Empunishment

 Self Empunishment by Brian Walsby, to be released on Pelekinesis October 10th 2020

In a series of 34 interviews, illustrator and musician Brian Walsby gives us a glimpse into the world of being a self employed artist in modern times.  Walsby, being self employed himself, makes a living,  among other things, drawing images and selling them on tour with rock heavyweight band the Melvins. He has illustrated t-shirts through Bifocal Media for the Melvins, Jeff Pinkus (Butthole Surfers), and Redd Kross among others. In his spare time he has written 7 volumes of his book Manchild, a series that reads like a comic book about musicians and musical experiences.

The book is 476 pages with interviews of artists Walsby met on the road while touring with the Melvins, folks he’s met over the years attending concerts and through his own musical endeavors as a drummer for quite a few bands in Raleigh and Simi Valley. In addition to his career as a cartoonis, Brian is an excellent drummer and he performed in bands Scared Straight, Wwax, Snake Nation, Willard, the Patty Duke Syndrome, Double Negative among others.

Many of the interviews read alot like conversations with Brian providing interesting dialogue. One such exchange comes in an interview with Alice in Chains singer and guitarist William DuVall, who also played in the 80’s punk band Neon Christ.

Walsby: I wasn’t a super fan of Alice in Chains but I liked Dirt alot and to this day maintain that the band has a unique sound…that is the band’s own and they maintain it seamlessly as they did with their late lead singer Layne Staley. What was it like to slot yourself in there musically with Jerry?

William: The harmonizing was always pretty easy from the start. All you have to do is listen. I will say that on our records a lot of attention is given to phrasing and pronunciation. Whichever one of us writes the lyric usually sings it first in the studio. The the other guy has to match the phrasing EXACTLY, even down to the slightest variation of vowel sounds. 

For those aspiring to be in the self employed status, Self Empunishment provides a realistic and sometimes enlightening look into what is needed to start working for yourself. With 35 different perspectives on the topic, one picture becomes clear, that of not giving up. Walsby discusses a point in his life when he wasn’t drawing as much as he was previously in an interview with fellow illustrator Chris Shary. Shary called him up and asked him what had happened to him, and according to Walsby this is a big part of what inspired him to start drawing again.

Walsby first illustrated for zines like Maximum Rock and Roll and has drawn fliers and comics of bands and music, which encouraged him to work in two careers that competed, as an illustrator and drummer. He describes that the drawing won out. 

The book contains a few themes that he discusses with a few folks he interviews. One theme revolves around parenthood. With both Dale Crover (Melvins, Redd Kross) and Lou Barlow (Sebadoh, Dinosaur Jr.) Brian discusses what it’s like to be an artist and a parent. He hit’s on something that I certainly relate to, waiting until your child has gone to bed and trying to pick back up the inspired for something you thought of several hours ago. Barlow claims that he started getting the hang of parenting on his 3rd child, which makes me a bit nervous as a new father of a 5 month old.

Another theme that might be obvious to those who already follow Walsby’s work is that almost everyone in this book knows Buzz Osborne and thinks very highly of him. I mean, I certainly do, and his interview is really interesting and fun as he discusses running his business of the Melvins like they’re going out of business in the next 6 months. While Dale Crover’s interview is quite funny, Buzz seems like someone who’s figured out things on a whole different level than most. The idea is discussed that being out on tour can actually allow more time at home with family than working say a 9-5 job when things are all said and done. After all, there are quite a few months out of the year where work is needed to be done on recording new material and this isn’t done on the road. 

While in the interview with Crover, he and Walsby cover the point in time when Crover played in Nirvana and how he decided not to continue to work with them and instead to move to San Francisco to follow Osbourne. To touch on the topic of self-employment, Crover and Osbourne recount working briefly but then in a sense going out on a limb to work on the Melvins full time and despite the odds being stacking against them they simply worked hard and it’s lasted well over 30 years now. They probably say it way better that it would be possible to describe our write about so it’s alone a great reason to buy the book.

There are plenty of OG punk rock community in Self Empunishment including Bob Bert (Sonic Youth, Pussy Galore, Lydia Lunch Retrovirus) Bill Stevenson (Black Flag, Descendents), Keith Morris (Circle Jerks, Black Flag) Mike Dean (Corrosion of Conformity, Snake Nation), Milo Aukerman (Descendents), Jeffrey Pinkus (Butthole Surefers, Melvins, Helios Creed), Steven McDonald (Redd Kross, Melvins, Sparks), Lori Barbero (Babes in Toyland) and well as OG Metal folks Michel Langevin (Voivod) Monty Colvin (Galactic Cowboys) and Steve Shelton (Confessor, Loincloth).

As amazing as all of the interviews with musicians are and I can go on naming names, Eugene Robinson (Oxbow) and Dale Flattum (Steel Pole Bathtub- note: his isn’t actually an interview but more of some words he wrote and sent to Brian in case he wanted to include it in the book). The musicians’ stories are all unique and fucking great, it’s the folks I’m less familiar with like Toshi Kasai (Sound Engineer for the Melvins among others) and Tom Hazelmeyer (U-Men, Amphetamine Reptile) that round out the book, showing many different sides of making a living from one’s own artistic endeavors. Rebecca Severin (Frightwig) tells some rad stories of what it was like to be the costume designer for Gene Simmons and Bob Hannam (The Colossus of Destiny, A Melvins Tale) recounts his time working sound for Neil Young and Crazy Horse as well as what it was like working the tour of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.

Another theme that seems noteworthy in this book is that drums are cool. As previously mentioned, Walsby is a drummer. He is claiming to be retired from working as a drummer, but  being in a group part-time with Mike Dean means that drums aren’t something he doesn’t do anymore. Also, a chapter entitled An Essay on Drums is the illustrator’s own self history from the days he played in the band Scared Straight all the way to his most recent group Davidians.

Slated to be released on October 10th, 2020, on Pelekinesis Self Empunishment is an opportunity for music enthusiasts to delve into the world of free lance artists. Great read.

Top 50 concerts of the decade

I had a hard time getting down to my favorite 10 concerts of the decade, imagine that

  1. Al Green, The Fox Theater, Atlanta May 3rd 2019
  2. Deltron 3030, Stern Grove Park, SF June 30th, 2013
  3. Black Star, Fox Theater, Oakland September 13th 2017
  4. Lee Scratch Perry, Moe’s Alley, Santa Cruz September 4th 2015
  5. Bad Brains, Catalyst, Santa Cruz August 23rd, 2010
  6. Magma Slims, SF April 8th 2014
  7. Redd Kross, Great American Music Hall, SF August 8th, 2012
  8. Sun Ra Arkestra, SF Jazz Center August 5 2017
  9. Fred Frith performs Gravity, Slims, SF August 25th, 2012
  10. Atomic Bomb Band, Warfield, SF May 6th 2014
  11. Iva Bittova Paolo Angeli, Palac Akropolis, Prague, CZ June 21st 2016
  12. Terry Riley with Kronos Quartet, SF Jazz Center, June 27th 2015
  13. The Residents, Rio Theatre, Santa Cruz February 28th 2013
  14. This is Not This Heat, Big Ears Festival, Knoxville March 23,2019
  15. Royal Trux, The Chapel, SF November 1, 2017
  16. The Specials, The Warfield, SF March, 23rd. 2013
  17. Yeah, Yeah, Yeah’s, Rio Theater, Santa Cruz August 16th, 2013
  18. Hieroglyphics, Hiero Day, Oakland, September 4th, 2017
  19. Off and Thee Oh Sees, Burger Boogaloo, Oakland, July 6th 2014
  20. Louis Sclavis, Le Triton, Paris, France September 20th, 2018
  21. Chrome Catalyst Club, Santa Cruz, July 14, 2015
  22. COC and Bl’ast, Catalyst Club, Santa Cruz, August 29th 2014
  23. Blonde Redhead, Rio Theater, Santa Cruz,  Sept. 6th 2013
  24. Peter Brotzmann, Kummbwa, Santa Cruz, Nov. 14th, 2013
  25. Public Enemy, Regency Ballroom, SF August 22nd, 2011
  26. Camper van Beethoven, Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk,  July 19, 2013
  27. Raphael Saadiq, Hopscotch Festival, Raleigh, Sept. 7th 2019
  28. Rangda, The Chapel, SF February 23rd, 2013
  29. The Necks,The Lab, SF February 18th 2017
  30. Solange & Flying Lotus The Greek Theater, Berkeley, Oct. 20th, 2017
  31. Fly Lo, Thundercat & P-Funk The Fox Theater, Oakland, Sept. 16, 2016
  32. Robert Glasper Experiment, The New Parish, Oakland, March 8th 2013
  33. Seun Kuti and Egypt 80, Catalyst, Santa Cruz, June 15th 2014
  34. Alabama Shakes and Kurt Vile, The Greek Theater, Berkeley,  Aug, 13, 2016
  35. OM with Sir Richard Bishop, Don Quixote’s, Felton, February 19th, 2013
  36. Black Flag Catalyst, Santa Cruz, July 16th 2013
  37. Fury 66 Catalyst, Santa Cruz, September 10th 2011
  38. Death, Oakland Opera Theater, October 31st 2015
  39. John McLaughlin, The Warfield, SF, December 8th 2017
  40. MGMT & Black Bananas, The Warfield, SF August 28th 2013
  41. Fishbone Outside Lands, SF, August 11th 2013
  42. Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Transfigs, Asheville, August 24th, 2019
  43. Ornette’s Prime Time, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, SF Oct. 8th 2017
  44. Eternal Tapestry, Trans Am and Wooden Shjips Independent, SF December 13th 2013
  45. The Rain Parade, Cafe Du Nord, SF December 20th 2012
  46. The Skatalites, Moe’s Alley, Santa Cruz, August 14th, 2015
  47. Flipper, Bottom of the Hill, SF, October 10th, 2015
  48. X, Slim’s, SF, March 21st, 2013
  49. Ty Segall with the White Fence, The Fillmore, SF, January 18th 2013
  50. Open Mic Night at Bogobiri, Lagos, Nigeria, December 30th 2016
  51. King Crimson, Saratoga Mountain Winery, Saratoga, June 15th, 2017

Strangeblood’s Best of 2013
This year had some surprises and alas I decided to make a list of the top 15 records of the year.  Maybe I still left  a few great ones off but I believe there’s some great artists on here that help me want to get up, get dressed and start my 50 minute commute (where I listen to alot of the records I end up hearing). Enjoy, and bring on 2014.

1. Bill Orcutt and Chris Corsano-The Raw and the cooked – Palilalia records

2. The Thing- Boot- The thing records

3. Electrophonic User’s Guide- Bits and Pieces- Electrophonic Users Guide records

4. Red, Hot, and Fela- Various Artists- Knitting Factory

5. The Dead C/ Rangda- Split 12″- Ba Da Bing Records

6. The Men- New Moon- Sacred bones records

7. The Strokes- Comedown Machine- RCA records

8. Sister Iodine – Blame- Premier Sang records

9. Kurt Vile- Wakin on a Pretty Daze- Matador records

10. Magik Markers – Surrender to the Fantasy- Drag City records

11. Bilal- A Love Sureal- eOne records

12. Robert Glasper Eperiment- Black Radio Vol. 2- Blue Note Records

13. Ty Segall- Sleeper- Drag City Records

14. Henry Kaiser Requia and Other Imrovisations for Guitar-Tzadik records

15.Bl’ast- Blood- Southern Lord Records