Sunday, March 27, 2011
Another rock & roll passing just this last week: ZOOGZ RIFT. His death went largely unnoticed, likely due to the fact that his musical profile was sub-underground back at the "peak" of his popularity in the late '80s, and since 1993 had largely given up music to pursue a career in professional wrestling. Not actually as a wrestler himself (something he had done previously), but in a backroom role. For a few years in the mid '90s, he was even the Vice President of UWF (Universal Wrestling Federation). He released a slew of LPs on the SST label in the latter half of the '80s, though that was hardly the beginning of his life in music: his first LP had been self-released back in 1979. I had a couple of his records in the last year of high school, and would often torture those around me w/ his music, if the occasion ever arose (it rarely did). A man whose music, and music persona, was heavily inflicted by the sights and sounds of Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart, it was an aquired taste, to say the least. Whilst heavily derivative of its obvious influences, it filled a gap in my brain which needed it. Put it this way: being a child of the '80s, his two main influences were either retired from music or should've been. That left Zoogz to fly the freak flag alone. Let's face it: had he not recorded for SST, I likely wouldn't have bought any of his records back in the day. Perhaps in the intervening years I would've, but it also likely wouldn't have made much of an impression on me. I didn't actually own any Zappa or Beefheart records in high school - they were in my peripheral vision but probably struck me as too "adult" at the time - so Zoogz was the man. Between the years 1991 and 2005, I don't think I played a single song of his once. I revisited his albums about 5 years ago, mainly because a friend who had a couple of his albums in his collection (and was amazed to find someone else on earth who'd heard of him. Of course I'd heard of him!) gave them to me, figuring he'd never play them again. I spun them for a month or two then filed 'em away. They're still there. I really should play them, but like I said, Zoogz's music is "difficult". I'll get back to them one day when I'm in the mood. He died last week from diabetes complications, aged 57. Check out the clip above, from Peter Ivers' great New Wave Theatre cable show in the early '80s, for a glimpse of the man at his best.
Once you've done that, have a read of this article: it's a piece by Duff McKagen about seeing the Bad Brains play recently at the South By Southwest festival in Austin. Duff made his fame and fortune via Guns 'n' Roses and, more recently, the shitawful Velvet Revolver. It may seem hard to believe, but G'n' R actually had some "hip" cache for a time. "Sweet Child O' Mine" used to get played constantly on community radio down here, and I'm not afraid to admit that I was quite a fan of the song. G 'n' R seemed a million miles at the time from most music I'd want to listen to, that being American hardcore and its offspring, though in retrospect that wasn't entirely true. Duff himself had been an active member of Seattle's punk scene as a teen, playing in bands such as 10 Minute Warning and The Fartz. When he moved to LA in 1984, he worked at a restaurant w/ SST staff photographer, Naomi Peterson, a job apparently hooked up via the 'Flag guys. In the late 1990s, he even played in the band, Loaded, w/ Dez Cadena. I can't vouch for them being any good (they never recorded, so far as I know), though I still regret not having seen them in San Fran in '99: they played the first night I was there, but I piked due to jet-lag. Guns 'n' Roses began to eat shit pretty soon after they became famous. In 1991, a friend forced - and I mean it: he wouldn't take no for an answer - me to borrow his copies of the Use Your Illusion double LPs, so convinced was he of their genius (his musical headspace was elsewhere). I gave them a perfunctory listen out of politeness, despite the obvious fact that I had negative interest in the band, and quickly concluded them to be a bloated pile of horseshit. Despite generally finding the appeal of 1980s LA cock-rock completely negligible at the time (as it has always been and still remains), I could at least credit Appetitite For Destruction with being the product of a fresh-sounding band (certainly within its genre, at least) who sounded like they could "rock", but the Use Your Illusion albums merely sounded like a group of layabouts who taken too many drugs and flunked around recording studios for way too long. I read an interview w/ Duff once in MOJO. He spoke of catching a plane back to Seattle in 1991 whilst listening to an advance copy of Nevermind he'd procured from an employee at Geffen. He predicted its likely impact on popular music, thought about the imminent release of the Use Your Illusion records, both of which he thought to be both overcooked and underdone, and figured his band would likely be considered irrelevant pretty soon. You could say there's some truth in that. In that regard, I'll hail him as "the smart Gunner". Anyway, none of this is particularly interesting, though his piece on the Bad Brains is. I can't say I'm likely to talk of his music career much again in this lifetime, but I'll credit him for not being an asshole... and for writing a passionate article on a band worth getting passionate about.