Friday, April 11, 2008

Lots to talk about

So I want to expand a little beyond what I've done so far and
still keep plugging away at promoting these friends of mine.  
I'm still looking how to imbed music in my own blog (don't worry; I'll figure it out)
but in the meantime I'm going to start linking to specific posts I've found on other sites
in the hopes that some of you will check them out and enjoy them as much as I am.

One of the first I'm going to suggest linking to is
a great post at Bag of Songs
of Bruce Springsteen and & The E Street Band doing 'The Ghost of Tom Joad'
(please note Nils Lofgren's accordion playing)
with guest Tom Morello
(from the incredible activist group Rage Against the Machine & Audioslave
and as a solo known as The Nightwatchman) playing in Anaheim, CA this last Monday.  
In case you are unfamiliar with Morello, he truly is an incendiary guitarist
who pushes the edge in so many ways and
has opened up a new approach to guitar playing that is truly mind boggling.
Just listen to his second solo at the end of 'Tom Joad'.
I just got my copy of the latest edition of Guitar Player in the mail yesterday and
happened to read a lengthy article on Morello's technique.  
I had also read of his playing with Springsteen recently and
was tickled to see a link to a YouTube posting of them playing together.  
You gotta check this is truly a magical moment and
DO make sure you listen to Morello's solos, BOTH of them!
Click here for the treat!

Speaking of guitar players who shake up convention,
I have to mention my friend William Nowik.  
I've known William for over thirty years
ever since we both lived
in the Park Avenue neighborhood of Rochester.  
He was clerking at a Liquor store and I was buying.  
We began a friendship that has seen a lot of changes for both of us.  
William has been around the world a few times and I have not,
except in my fevered mind. However, he has the fever, also.
Here he is, too close to the flame as usual.

He has, as of late, returned from Afghanistan,
where he spent most of 2007
exploring and actually playing music in clubs.  
I sent him a whole bunch of CDs to take with him to listen to and share wherever he chose.  
They liked the Ry Cooder and Manuel Galban CD the most.
Not the usual place to go tour, to be sure, but William is not
one to ever be considered normal in any sense.  
He enjoys confounding expectations, confronting convention and confusing perceptions
most of us hold sacred for reasons we can often times not explain when pressed.
Most of my musical friends are reluctant to let him share a stage with them
because he is so unpredictable.  

I understand completely.  
I have occasionally booked myself using the label
'up close and uncomfortable music'
because I tend to perform in-your-face songs that force listeners to pay attention or leave.  
I'd rather get THAT reaction some times instead of passive acceptance.  
I guess I really honed that skill doing hour long presentations at drug rehabs
singing songs to confined addicts that made them laugh, cry and think
(and maybe just entertained them a little).
Like me, William has skirted the edge with drugs and alcohol
with varying results most of his adult life.  
But more importantly, he has flirted
with the edge
of existence  spiritually 
(He studied to be a Wan Buddhist monk in South Korea 
at one time but got pissed off when they locked him in his room once too often and left)
through his writing, art and music.  

I've described him as a one-man Pink Floyd,
but that would be a pitiful excuse for what he does musically.  
He wouldn't bristle at a comparison to the late Chris Whitley
and to tell the truth they are similarly drenched in darkness.  
But that's not fair to William either.  
His legacy will include forays into psychedelia, country blues and
modern progressive pop and still I struggle to nail down a picture
that flies away every time I get close.

Recently someone somewhere found a copy of his 1974 LP,
locally produced in Rochester entitled
Pan Symphony in E Minor
andoffered it for sale on eBay.  It was going at $50 or $75  
when William e-mailed me in amazement, not quite believing
that something he had done so long ago and seen nothing for
was now drawing interest.  
I wrote back that he hadn't seen anything yet,
prices being what they are for
obscure low run regionally produced psychedelic-progressive music from that era.  
He flipped when the seller's reserve price of $250 wasn't met
despite bids well in excess of $150.  
I had to explain that that's the way it is now
that the better known LPs from that era have all been harvested and reissued.
(There are more of them available for sale on eBay now.)
William's one of the only people I know from that era
who actually got it together enough to put something out
that really isn't embarrassing to listen to now. 
Maybe Pan is caught like a fly in the psychedelic amber, 
but it isn't an insipid pop bubblegum 
cheap shot at commercial product.  
No, it is every bit truly and uniquely William Nowik 34 years later.
Ten, almost fifteen years ago now I helped him produce a CD
that accompanied a novel he had written and illustrated
with his drawings and photographs.  Did
War Access Display Room 
contain clues as to he really was? Or is?  
I still don't know. 
All I know is I love and fear him
and welcome his presence in small doses which thankfully are all I get.  
In 2004  someone finally paid attention to him and gave him a chance
to do some thing up to date and representative of his talent. 
Man, did he step up and do it!

You can listen to tracks from 
Notes From The Underground 
Here and HERE.  
I really like his originals which certainly put me in mind of Peter Gabriel's work IMHO,
but you may want to start with his interpretations of
Dylan's 'Mr. Tambourine Man' or the Rolling Stones' 'Moonlight Mile'.  
They will at least give you a taste of his kimchee. 
Hmmm...maybe I can even find you a copy if you want it that bad. Let me know.

I appreciate his relentless committment to his muse.  
I don't think he can help being who he is and though
I know he turns a lot of my friends off,
but I still enjoy hearing him play.  
He claims to have conquered his playing space finally,
mostly as a result of attempting NOT to get noticed
by the local Mullahs in Afghanistan.  
I'll believe that when I DON'T hear him blasting at an ungodly
(an appropriate adjective for him)
volume in a small room,
one of his beautiful you-gotta-see-this-one guitars plugged into a loop station,
two delay units, a distortion stomp box and
various other boutique compressors,
vibratos and tone modulators
cycling through the air. I love the unfettered indulgence of the whole deal.  
Just plug in,  turn it on and play you son-of-a-bitch!

Maybe it's that 'ungodliness' I favor.  
Probably;  I have so many friends who toe a safer line than William.  
There's something reassuring about knowing someone who doesn't play it safe
and is still moving about freely these days.  
I'll bet he did more for U.S.-Afghani relationships than George Bush did last year.  
Some times I don't think anyone can get any respect anymore.  
I admire his determination, but I guess he often suffers from his decisions.
Sometimes the best you can do is the worst you can do at the time.
I can relate, you know?  
I've been there, though not down the same path.
I've got my own.  
I wouldn't insult him by saying any less or by phrasing anything I've said less honestly.
I think his intentions are good...but maybe not.  William? 

1 comment:

hew said...

hi duncan, i couldn't find an email addy for your site so i'm hoping you will read this in the comments. i posted a link to the harlem hamfats disk w/ garbage man on it in the requests and contributions section of visit me in music city. hope that is what you are looking for. enjoy