25 QUESTIONS BEFORE WE SAVE THE WORLD with~ Ash Wednesday!

ash-wednesday-website-4-of-34pp_w950_h633

I think I know Ash Wednesday through fellow rapper Lamon Manuel. It’s through Twitter, though, definitely~ we went back and forth #OnThere trading Drake lyrics, mostly from 2015’s What A Time To Be Alive. And I saw them do a sweet 16 on Instagram once! What a time to be alive, and they booked me and the amazing MFn Melo for the show tonight at Township.  Come see a set tonight from someone with naturally good taste in fun shit! The Ho Ho Ho Show w/ Plus Sign, MFn Melo, Squeak Pivot, Ash Wednesday, M.U.T.T., Hank McCoy, and DJ Stepchild. 2200 N. California, Chicago, IL;  doors 8 PM show 9 PM $10 @ door!

THE INTERVIEW

What’s your favorite color? easy, green! 
Who is your favorite athlete? although he’s technically retired I have a long standing love for Marshawn Lynch

What is your favorite poem and why? I’ll give it to HOWL by Allen Ginsberg. A sprawling work! It was my first foray into wildness as art/life/choice/being and it stays with me
What is the name of your fictional autobiography? ASH IS A FAST CAT 
How tall are you? 5’4
What is the title of the earliest work of yours you can remember? My first EP was called “Part & Parcel” – released in 2013. I googled briefly and am happy to report it’s not online anymore haha 
What is the title of your most recent piece of work? “Show It Around”; an unreleased song 
Tell me about it?  It’s about knowing what you’ve got and showing it off. Confidence, self-possession, drive, no fucks to give 
How did this show Thursday come about? My buddy Hank McCoy got the 12/15 date at Township to celebrate his homecoming from Europe! Hank has helped me throw shows in the past, so I jumped at a chance to pull this bill together!
Where is home? near Central Park and Belmont
What is home? home is where i keep my bicycle 
Who is home? no one b/c I don’t trust anyone enough to keep my bicycle 
Whose home are you? I am the home to many microorganisms !
What is your favorite plant? tree(s) 
Who is your daddy and what does he do? Bradley; he’s a business man
Who are you? Ash Wednesday 
What do you do? project manager slash rapper 
Who would you like to collaborate with? I’d love to get Joseph Chilliams on Show It Around! I dug those recent features on Noname’s Telephone and Saba’s Bucket List – go listen if you haven’t! #pivot! 
Where are you going? ALL THE WAY UP
Where did you just come from? I just came from Chicago on an airplane; so magic 
Where are you right now? I’m at an office in NYC right now @ Madison Ave & 52nd street; swanky right?
Who is Vashti Bunyan? I don’t know! I had to google her. I learned she’s a delicate sounding songwriter/performer who in 1970 put out a record that didn’t sell well. She gave up music after this, but by 2000 people were feeling that record! She released 2 more studio albums (2005, 2014) and is now ~70 years old. Vashti reminds me this life is circuitous
TELL me some impressions of the other performers? 
MUTT – his rap name stands for “Music Used To Transcend” and it’s true; experimental, expressive! His “deep self” definitely comes thru in his music 
MELO – a sweetheart! can i say that? he’s doing it for the music, he loves his people; i see the drive! MFN Melo what it look like!?
HANK – raps like a beast, hairy like a beast, a mans man, and bookers love him!

PLUS – i love the vibes. i’m ready to see some queer shit pop

squeak: squeak has got it! so polite, great swag, great look, and he knows droogs by anderson paak is a hit even tho it sounds unfinished

stepchild: jack of all trades in the iridium jersey. dj, live beats, host, swear i heard him freestyle for like 10 min straight; energy crazy

Why are you still performing? I (still) perform because I like to show it’s possible to do unconventional behaviors
What does a free world look like to you? a free world is a world free from pre-fab box-like expectations 

25 QUESTIONS BEFORE WE SAVE THE WORLD~ with MFn Melo!

mfn-melo

MFn Melo is one of the warmest people I’ve ever met, perhaps the warmest. His voice is warm, his dreads look warm,  his beats are warm, I’m telling you. I get to perform with him again for the first time in a long time at Township on December 15th. We’re sharing the bill with one of his PIVOT homies DJ Squeak Pivot (PIVOT = Melo, John Walt, Saba, Joseph Chilliams, and more. PIVOT = a lot of melodic, jazzy raps and versatile lyricists), Ash Wednesday, M.U.T.T., Hank McCoy, and DJ Stepchild. 2200 N. California, Chicago, IL;  doors 8 PM show 9 PM $10 @ door!

THE INTERVIEW

What’s your favorite color? Red
Who is your favorite athlete? Kobe
What is your favorite poem and why? Roses are red. It’s a legend
What is the name of your fictional autobiography? MuhfuckinMelo: What it looks like.
How tall are you? 6’1
What is the title of the earliest work of yours you can remember? “Call me Melo” sampled “umma do me” remix by Rocko. Rick Ross first line, it was “ima true baller bitch call me Melo” lol
What is the title of your most recent piece of work? MeloDramatics 
Tell me about it? It’s my first solo project I’ve been working on forever. Maybe one day I’ll put it out
How did this show Thursday come about? Ash Wednesday is thee homie. She asked and I’ll never tell her no
Where is home? Burb life
What is home? My room
Who is home? My nephew
Whose home are you? Depends on who’s looking for shelter
What is your favorite plant? Cannabis
Who is your daddy and what does he do? He retired
Who are you? I’m Muhfuckin Melo
What do you do? I take care of my nephew and write about my thoughts in my spare time
Who would you like to collaborate with? NoName
Where are you going? To the top
Where did you just come from? Studio
Where are you right now? Studio
Who is Vashti Bunyan? Google say she sing. Ima check her out in a minute
TELL me some impressions of the other performers? Ash is T’d. Energy always high. Great person.

+ is an amazing person as well. Helped me out in ways he’s unaware of. He that nigga

Riki cool as hell. Vibes go crazy

Why are you still performing? Cause that shits fun. Best part of being an artist. To know that people connect with me while I’m up there makes me feel. Feeling is cool
What does a free world look like to you? Papa doc and nem

the homies blog//INTERVIEW: talking with transqueer author H. Melt about their new book “The Plural, The Blurring”

h.melt bio photo

Photo by Kiam Marcelo Junio

H. Melt is my friend. It feels really good to say that! H. Melt is also an inspiration and role model to me as an activist and queer person and human being. Their new book The Plural, The Blurring – out November 20, via The Neutral Zone & Red Beard – exemplifies a lot of the things that make me love H. so much. There is the craft of their words, the memories, sometimes shared, that are weaved throughout the book, and the progressive, startlingly impactful documentation of their work writing to institutions for better treatment. Theirs is an intimate kind of activism, one they identify with the Chicago school of poetry writing, and one I have taken to heart as a queer revolutionary. Reading and being with H. Melt makes me feel excited, it makes me feel sad, it makes me feel the spectrum of emotions but knowing that H. Melt is out there, anywhere, just makes me feel safe.


THE INTERVIEW

The Plural, The Blurring largely focuses describing a very specific place and time. What’s the significance of having that setting at the center of the book?

The book is about Chicago’s queer arts scene between roughly 2012-2014 and how the art and activism going on in the city during that time coincided with my development as a trans writer. The book is largely about place and community, the ways in which they can influence an individual’s sense of self. For me, that period of time is when I am meeting and forming relationships with other queer and trans artists for the first time. I’m starting to take myself more seriously as a writer, as a trans person, and end up writing and publishing about the people, performances, and spaces that are most influencing and inspiring me. I’m also starting to grapple with queer loss and trans death, the ways in which loss can impact a community.

How have you been changed by the loss you’ve experienced and the gains you’ve seen achieved? Do you feel weaker and stronger at the same time?

I think that loss is inevitable. Sometimes it’s necessary. Sometimes it’s painful and unexpected. The queer community is not stable, I don’t think that any community is. There will always be people leaving and spaces closing down.  This can open up room for growth, for new spaces and new relationships to form but at what cost? What’s being lost? I think the people mirror the changes going on in the city and vice versa.

In your review of the trans & genderqueer poetry anthology Troubling the Line (included in The Plural, The Blurring), you write about your roots in the Chicago tradition of poetry and how that has affected your own work and what you tend to relate to as a reader. Have you found other queer poets who similarly embody that tradition?

I have never read a book of trans poetry by someone from Chicago. That’s part of the reason that I wrote the book. Many of the queer and trans writers that I’ve connected to most are not based in Chicago. While Chicago is a very literary and even poetry focused place, I don’t feel like there’s a queer poetry scene here. A queer arts scene definitely exists, and that’s very present in the book. But something about the literary scene hasn’t always facilitated a place for queer writers. My writing community and queer community are more separate than I would like.    

Where does the inspiration for the essays and letters to institutions you include come from? Are you still writing those?

Yes, I’m still writing essays. A lot of them came out of feeling powerless, especially the ones directed at specific institutions. I actually sent or performed most of the pieces in the book about specific places directly to people who work or spend time there. That’s part of my practice. In some cases, those writings actually sparked real change, new relationships, and projects. For example, there is now going to be a trans poetry category at the Lambda Literary Awards and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago has improved their trans healthcare and now has a student-led group called the League of Extraordinary Genders. In other words, the essays and poems are part of a larger movement to create more access to resources for trans people. To help keep us alive.

“Part of your practice,” can you talk more about that?

The letters and essays felt more urgent–they were tools as part of my larger vision and hope to make more space for queer and trans writers and artists–by critiquing institutions that could be more welcoming to us, and reviewing exhibits, books, and plays that had some relationship to myself and the larger community. That’s really what I see my real work as–supporting other queer and trans writers and artists.   

The Plural, The Blurring is now available for pre-order.

the homies blog//FEATURE: imani jackson &mick jenkins

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jaywalking in chicago

For better or worse, [the city] invites you to remake it, to consolidate it into a shape you can live in. You, too. Decide who you are, and the city will again assume a fixed form around you. Decide what it is, and your own identity will be revealed, like a map fixed by triangulation. Cities, unlike villages and small towns, are plastic by nature. We mould them in our images: they, in their turn, shape us by the resistance they offer when we try to impose our own personal form on them. In this sense, it seems to me that living in a city is an art, and we need the vocabulary of art, of style, to describe the peculiar relation between [human] and material that exists in the continual creative play of urban living. The city as we imagine it, the soft city of illusion, myth, aspiration, nightmare, is as real, maybe more real, than the hard city one can locate in maps and statistics, in monographs on urban sociology and demography and architecture. – Jonathan Raban, Soft city

Imani Jackson’s Jaywalking in Chicago.

Continue reading

the homies blog//VIDEO FEATURE: the passion of davey dynamite

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photo by Kevin Henry Sawa Brawlins

Davey Dynamite is a punk singer with a heart of fiery gold. His everyday disposition is mild-mannered and unassuming; when he is playing and singing a ghost overtakes him, making his voice ragged and forcing jerk into his bones.  He stomps and wails, and on the other side you can see something flying.

We interviewed Davey about his new album WAITT — We’re All In This Together, a spiritual stance as much as a political one — and he blessed us with songs. Many many thanks to Kiam Marcielo Junio for filming and Joseph Varisco of JRVMajesty for editing.


You can find more of Davey’s work at his bandcamp page.

the homies blog//THREE POEMS: h. melt

photo by Kiam Marcielo Junio

What is normal is what urgently needs serious and radical inquiry and profound re-consideration. H. Melt’s SIRvival in the Second City: Transqueer Chicago Poems is a guide and lightning rod; a contestation of every border imaginable and a celebration of the necessary and ingenious spaces created by the public presence(s) of courageous Trans & Queer people(s) engaged in the construction of new culture(s) and identities for us all. – Kevin Coval

 


When I read a poem from H. Melt, I often feel terror. Sometimes it’s looking into a mirror to a runny nose and eyes wet and red from throwing up; it’s a body trying to take care of itself. It’s -survival- and beautiful at its core in what it wants for all of us. These are the effects of fighting an ill state of being- to be riding with, and reading H. Melt is a treasure.These poems do not appear in SIRvival: they are fresh produce.

photo by Amos Mac


MAKING OUT WITH WES PERRY & FRIENDS
Upstairs gallery, 3rd Wednesdays of the month

Wednesday nights
up a steep second floor
stairwell in Andersonville

Wes Perry
is making out
with friends

making music
with a two piece
band in the corner

making laughs
with Super Human
all female improv troupe

making comedy queer
stopping straight mouths
from snickering at us

making intermission
long hallway line
for the bathroom

making me squeeze
next to strangers
stay the second act

making me dance
between bubbles
Kiam & Janie

making me trip
over Mister Junior’s
red heels & chest hair

making everyone
share their stories
a suggested donation

we all can afford.

***

ARE YOU A LESBIAN?

in high school
in the H hallway

my home base teacher
struggled to make us shut up
during the pledge

no one ever stood
or faced the flag

Precious sat behind me
on the black side
of the class room

straight white boys
nerds and jocks
sat on the Other

one morning
Precious turned around
her pierced tongue hissed

Are you a lesssssssbian?

I froze
awkwardly
answered no

wondered if
that was a lie

because no body
taught me trans
in high school.

***

FEAR OF A GAY PLANET

Queer people exist in multiple worlds. We come out at night. Like the moon. We are most visible at night. Most vulnerable at night. Most active at night. We walk fast past straight bars. We stay awake searching for each other until the sun comes. Then we disappear into our corners. The streets where we don’t blend. Can’t blend. Need to blend. Need to bend back. Keep the blinds open and the lights dim. Who’s watching. My back bend.

They didn’t teach back bending in school. They taught math and science and grammar but I don’t remember any of it. I wanted to learn what they weren’t teaching. So I taught myself. Found people to teach me what I didn’t realize I needed to know. I want to ban straight only education. I was raised straight and cis and still came out queer and trans. I was taught by mostly straight white women but never wanted to be them. I love them still. Sleep next to them still. Am treated like them still.

I can’t go anywhere without seeing straight people. They are everywhere. So are we but they never see us. We come together in small groups. Congregate around small stages. If there is a stage. I will always share the stage. Break the stage. Step off the stage and watch from the side.

I am sick of being watched. Questioned by my own people. I don’t feel safe or understood on planet gay or trans or queer. They all have their own set of rules. We have created our own universes out of necessity. Our own bookstores, magazines, films, gayborhoods, health clinics. This is only a temporary solution. What does building our own separate institutions teach other people, outsiders about us? It is not effective to create more outsiders.

I fear a gay planet. I fear that creating our own worlds, thriving and hiding within them avoids the reasons why we need those spaces in the first place. It does not transform those people and spaces where we feel unsafe when we avoid them altogether. We need to be there. We need to be places where we are uncomfortable and leave when it’s too much to handle.

I do not want to live in a queer utopia. It’s not easy living in a mostly straight world. Being present in one allows us to witness the problems within, to confront them and figure out a way, ways to do better. For other people to do better. We can’t fix every ignorant schmuck but we can’t ignore them either. Most people don’t even realize their wrongdoings, our pains and joys.

We can’t abandon the world we live in. we can’t keep dying in it either. We need to live in it as ourselves. There are times when we need to escape but we must always return. We must always return.   

// You can purchase H. Melt’s SIRvival in the Second City here. They will be appearing at The Encylopedia Show: Origin of Life tonight. Find more
H. Melt everything at hmelt.tumblr.com.

the homies blog//FEATURE: the solitary romance of ibid.

AN INTERVIEW

“[ibid.’s] work bears the mark of a budding audiophile. . . As if getting a brief, fogged glimpse into the world of someone with very different eyes than you.”


ibid. is the creative moniker of Gabriel Mathews, an experimental musician based in Portland, OR and Los Angeles. I wrote the opening quote during 2011, discussing ibid.’s piano-based ambience-filled EP India Ink. There were creaks and raindrops,
 long heavy notes, and dark, tender songs. ibid. has shape-shifted across his
art since, remaining ever distinct and powerful into his most recent album
Gaols (2012). Gaols is composed of distorted bass, the haunt of Mathews voice, found sound percussion, and is one of my favorite, most affecting albums of the past year.

 



THE INTERVIEW

thb: Your releases take markedly different approaches between them. From India Ink to 2011’s This Could Have Been A Warmth to Gaols I’d say the only link I find is your voice (both your physical voice and I suppose a consistent tone); are you actively endeavoring to engage different influences when you change like that? What would you say guides such change?

ibid.: Hm, yeah. That’s definitely going on, the shifting, though I wouldn’t necessarily say it has anything to do with influences.  It’s more about my process, which for whatever reason tends to start with lyrics, followed almost immediately by overall sonic conceptualization. So, with Warmth, I was like, “This will be an acoustic guitar album with live drums. The voice will be panned to one side while the guitar is to the other. There will be organ on the first half and feedback on the second, etc.” And then the arrangement of Gaols came about similarly, though I’d say it was probably even more thoroughly set before I started writing or recording the music.

thb: Why so with Gaols?

ibid.: No idea. I kind of just one day, and I don’t even remember when this happened relative to the writing of the lyrics, but I was like, “This next thing is going to be distorted bass chords. And it’s going to have percussion made from foley samples.” I think the only sonic element that I thought of relatively late in the game was Ava [Mattaliano, backing vocalist on Gaols]’s singing.

thb: Did you feel like something was missing before you decided to add her? I think it’s very very powerful.

ibid.: Um, so she’s been a friend of mine for a long time, since freshman year of high school.  And I’ve always known she had an amazing voice.  And I don’t really know when I made up my mind to try to pin her down to sing (Which was ridiculously difficult, by the way). And I don’t know if I necessarily felt anything was missing. But, I think it ended up being a pretty important thing for the album. I feel like on an album pretty much about loneliness it was important that I not be totally alone.

That might be a totally retrospective thought, though.

thb: Where does “Gaols” come from? Why that spelling? Aesthetics?

ibid.: Yeah, I think it’s mainly aesthetic. Before I had even written most of the lyrics, I think, I was writing the word out as it appears on the cover, in notebooks in class and such.
But I also just like something about the old-fashionedness of it. I think a lot of the sentiment on the record is sort of old-hat. (Unfortunately.)

thb
: “Old-hat” is a good, encompassing way to put it, from the images of “Bather” to the use of the Laocoön figure, and that’s interesting especially in the context of an aesthetic concept that is so modern. Yet, I guess feels ancient and appropriate in its simplicity. the technical/technological aspect of it enhances the solitary, simple mood or, focus, if you will.

 ibid.: Sure, I think. I don’t know how conscious any of that was, though. But I’ll take credit for it, ha. Laocoön came about mainly cause I think that sculpture is fucking incredible. And then his story is great, too. And then “Atreus” was like, “Oh, let’s continue this Greek mythology thing.” The House of Atreus is also really awesome to me.

thb: Talk about the House of Atreus; how it appeals to you?

ibid.: I guess I just think it’s really cool, in a way, this completely cursed family. The things that led to their cursing (Eating their own children and such). I think it’s the sort of fucked-up we don’t get much of anymore, no matter how much other fucked-up shit we get.

thb
: Have you played live as ibid?

ibid.: Yeah, a few times, though none of the Gaols material yet.

thb: If you were to play from Gaols would it be just you and a bass?

ibid: And a laptop for the beats, yeah. I have a sort of dream of getting Zack Levinger, who drummed on Warmth and with whom I played a house show doing some of those songs over a year ago, getting him to reinterpret the Gaols beats for a drum kit. But I have no idea if that’ll ever happen.

thb: Did he have any creative input on the drumming for Warmth? Would you ever loosen up the creative reins with someone else in general with this project? Ava is credited for coming up with some of her own parts.

ibid.: Yeah, the drum parts on Warmth were hashed out over Skype, but I guess I’d say he really wrote them. I’d give him some direction, he’d play something, I’d tweak it, etc.
The parts Ava came up with were largely a product of her knowing much more than I do about singing and melody and such, same with Zack on the drums.
 As for general loosening of the reins, I think ibid. is probably the name I’ll give to anything where I’m the principal creative, but I wouldn’t mind at all if it ended up having more members, and I’d also be down to work in a more collaborative band of some sort.
The main issue there is just that I kind of know nothing about music, I can’t jam cause I can’t be like, “Okay, yeah, I’ll just play a progression in B now.” I can jam with drummers, that’s about it.

thb: Do you have intentions of learning more about theory or anything like that?

ibid.
: Ha, man, I tried. I took intro to music theory my freshman year and it was gone from my head the moment the class ended. I can’t seem to internalize any of it. But I wouldn’t complain if I could, haha.

It’s funny, there were moments on Gaols where I’d be trying to take this bass part I wrote (This definitely happened with “Brother”) and put a beat under it and I was completely stumped because I’d managed to create some bass riff in some ridiculous time signature that I couldn’t figure out. So I had to have my more musically inclined friends tell me what count I was playing in.


thb
: Haha, ah. Do you have a favorite off Gaols?

ibid.: Um, I have a few that I don’t like as much, but most of them I still think are pretty good, which I can’t necessarily say about Warmth. Up there would be “Brother,” “Atreus,” “Gelding.” I’m also fond of “Colors.”

thb
: So do you feel differently as time passes about a release’s success?

ibid.: On a level or two. At the same time, I really believe in putting things out when they seem to be basically finished. There were things that I definitely didn’t perfect, on all of my releases, but I wouldn’t really have wanted to, if that makes sense. They now capture whatever was going on at the time they were made.

thb
: Are you conceptualizing for a future ibid. release now?

ibid.: As a matter of fact, I am! I’m working on a six-song EP called Good Works, which will be arranged for mostly baritone guitar (Pretty much the best/most underrated instrument available to rock and roll), and which will be punky and fast and loud. I’ve been listening to a lot of Drive Like Jehu.

And then there’s lyrical material for another EP, which will be called Ortho, and which will probably be sort of similar.

thb
: How do you feel like you’ve grown into these releases from your past work?

ibid.
:  Honestly I’m kind of hoping they end up being a little bit less mature mature-sounding. But I think my vocal abilities and style have changed and improved and gotten me to a point where I feel comfortable doing a bit more shouting, which is the plan. And I’ve also just become a vastly better guitar player since Missive.
.
thb: There’s a hook on Warmth where I heard you shouting and it felt like your potential as a punky singer was really intriguing.

ibid.
: Is that on “Speakeasy”?

thb
: Yeaah.

ibid.
: Ha, yeahhhh. I actually wanted to do more shouting on Gaols but it never fit.

thb
: Do you have a time frame for either those releases?

ibid.
: Not really. I’m hoping to have real live drums on both of them, so things hinge on that, sort of. Hopefully at least one will be out sometime in the summer.

// Please please please find more ibid. at ibidibidibid.bandcamp.com.