It is with tremendous pleasure and pride that I announce the publication of Raw Spewage, the first volume of posts collected from this blog. Raw Spewage can be purchased through Amazon by clicking on the cover image above. Please note: if you search for the book directly on the Amazon site, you will need to search by my name, not the title.
Many thanks to Amanda Higgibotham and Shane Charanias for seeing the potential in this project and making it possible.
I listen to a lot of music that a lot of people would consider vile. For that matter, I read and watch a lot of vile things, too. If what they say is true that we are what we consume, does this make me a vile person, or, as I believe to be the case, someone with a fascination for the darker aspects of life? If I were to write down a fraction of the darker thoughts and images that pass through my mind, or worse yet, sublimate these thoughts and images into a work of fiction or extended exercise of the imagination, would that make me in any way guilty of a crime? What if that work happened to inspire someone else to commit a crime that I would be incapable of committing myself? This is actually an extremely troubling development that is happening in the hip hop community, where certain rappers are being charged with murder on the basis of lyrics depicting the gang violence that comes part and parcel with the War on Drugs and life in the inner city. It’s one thing to commit a crime and then recount that incident in explicit detail in lyrics written for a song, which amounts to a confession, but quite another to depict realistically the various aspects of crime and violence that are an everyday fact of life on the streets in our inner cities. It’s not enough that our institutional racism and increasing income inequality in America tends to perpetuate and worsen these conditions, but convicting rappers for their lyrics is the equivalent of killing the messenger, which does nothing to solve the underlying problem. Such convictions demonstrate how scarily prescient sci-fi writer Philip K. Dick was when he envisioned a future where a person could be arrested for merely thinking of a crime before actually committing it.
Whenever I need a sure shot of inspiration, I can always count on the music of my formative years, the punk rock of the 80s. There are several reasons why this particular genre and era of music speak to me so intensely. First and foremost, the music resonated with the anger that was my constant state of emotion in my adolescence, and continues to resonate with the frustration I feel about society today. Punk also upended the notion that one had to be a competent musician to make music. The bands I listened to in those days had varying degrees of talent, but they all tapped into a kind of primal feeling that as a teen I was rarely able to articulate but knew when I felt it. It was akin to that heady rush one gets after a few beers where you feel the percolating prospect of something momentous happening, but you’re never quite sure what it is. Most times that feeling fails to materialize into anything, but that never stopped me from chasing it, because that feeling was potential at a time in my life when there seemed to be anything but. Seeing and listening to this music convinced me that any time I wanted, I could pick up an instrument and start playing. (That didn’t happen in actuality until much later, and by then it wasn’t realistic to become a real touring musician.) Ultimately, the bands that were making incredible music and giving my life purpose were made up of people just like me. We were kindred spirits through our perceived “outsider” status, and while my favorite bands were actually living the rock and roll dream, I was content (mostly) to experience their way of life and the music that came from it vicariously. It’s astonishing how great new music brings that feeling instantly back, and it has been rekindled anew by reading the super fun oral history of notorious Trenton, NJ music club City Gardens in the book City Gardens: No Slam Dancing, No Stage Diving, No Spikes.