Archive for the 'Chicago' Category


Six Reasons You Blew It On The Chick-Fil-A Argument

Mitt Romney saying corporations are people

(Above: Mitt Romney assures us that corporations are people. Not pictured: Millions of liberals agreeing.)

The 1st Ward community that stopped Chick-Fil-A from opening its 1,600th restaurant was 100% right to do so, had the legitimate power to do so, and in no way cost anybody their freedom of speech nor of religion.

Because a business is not a person.

Chicken CEO / bigot Dan Cathy is not Chick-Fil-A. Chick-Fil-A is a legal construct distinct from any person.

I expect libertarians and mainstream national politicians to get this wrong, funded as they are by corporate boardrooms who directly benefit from this now-classic ruse.

But watching so many liberals knee-jerk against the Alderman this week on the basis of “free speech” and “government overstep” has taught me a few things, none of them good news for the average liberal’s state of civic literacy.

I have learned:

  • That a whole lot of people have never seen up close what it looks like when a business asks for permission to open.
  • That it’s news to a whole lot of people that it is no longer 1830 and commercial entities have to ask permission to open in a densely populated area, and that it’s a very good thing that they do.
  • That lots of people apparently believe any community should allow any legal business to open in their backyard because being legal is the only standard that exists, everywhere.  Even though a perfectly legal business can legally kill and sicken its neighbors for decades.
  • That Chick-Fil-A is already in business in Chicago, yet somehow I keep reading over and over about how Chicago banned it.
  • That the right of the 50,000 residents in the 1st Ward to petition their duly elected representative to shape their area’s economic life is called oppression, while opening a 1,600th restaurant over the wishes of the locals is called liberty.
  • Most disturbingly, I’ve learned that lots of people can mistake the sacred and monumental protections a CEO has for the things that he says and believes with some kind of weird magic protection for the things the CEO’s business does, such as occupy land, use access, obtain tax breaks, use city services…and of course, discriminate, exclude, and fund hate groups.

People who I respect have actually fallen hard for this nonsense, countering me by pointing out I wouldn’t support a community blocking of a permit if a business pronounced pro-gay tendencies. To which I reply something I once thought was obvious: If a proposed business had announced it preferred to hire gay people, and had been in court repeatedly because it puts its employees and franchisees through tests to make sure they were gay enough, and had funded psychos who deprogram sexual preference — which is the only set of conditions that matches what Chick-Fil-A does — you’d better believe I would tell my Alderman that such a place and its practices was not welcome in my neighborhood. and that the Alderman would lose my support next election if he didn’t reflect my view.  The central issue is corporate practice, not a CEO’s idiotic, discriminatory views nor LGBT equality per se.

Truly, this is a post-Citizens United world when we can get it this wrong. We laugh at Mitt Romney when he stands on a 18″ hay bale and sneers “corporations are people”, but when we mistake chicken bigots (protected) for their corporations (not protected, and subject to our standards), we have no right to laugh at Romney — we’re loudly agreeing with him.


1989 Interview With Record Producer Iain Burgess

Iain Burgess 1953-2010

I learned last Friday that Iain Burgess, friend, colleague and giant of rock record production passed away following a battle with cancer.  Founder and proprietor of France’s Black Box Studios and staff engineer at Chicago Recording Company, Iain was a central fixture in Chicago and midwest punk rock.  His work in the 1980s on hugely influential records by Naked Raygun, Big Black, The Effigies, Rifle Sport, Didjits, Poster Children, Ministry, Rapeman, Breaking Circus, Tar, Defoliants, and Bhopal Stiffs was only one decade’s worth of trademark huge-sounding, high-impact vinyl.  He followed that up with stints around the world behind the board for Jawbox, Mega City Four, Les Thugs, 18th Dye, Cows, Pegboy, Poison Idea,  Shellac and many others.

The way Iain lived and the way he heard music were both huge. A bon vivant extraordinaire, his generosity and enthusiasm for the Chicago punk rock community of bands was legendary and instrumental in a scene willingly disconnected from national industry support.  To this day, his profile is  lower than it should be, even as much of his work has deeply influenced the course of rock music.  A search today for his name on Pitchfork comes up criminally blank.

A tutor and major influence on Chicago engineer Steve Albini, himself well-known for capturing towering drum and guitar sounds, the familiar Burgess imprint on a mix was that of an impact crater.  Capturing every calorie of power in the drum performance was his signature during a decade where the mainstream production techniques trended toward the opposite –  fussy taming and gating of drums. Every drummer who played like they meant it wanted to work with him, and the feeling was mutual.  In his mixes, aggressive and ingenious use of aural space followed, as guitars and bass amps were close and far miked, filling in the giant area, cashing the checks written by the titanic drums.   To Iain, loud was natural and noise was beautiful.

I first worked with him in 1987. WNUR radio had invited my band, The Defoliants, to contribute a track for their Hog Butcher To The World compilation, which Iain engineered.  The experience was so positive, we asked him to remix a 7″ EP we had recorded that year, and signed up to record our first LP, Grrr with him.  How he got such a huge sound out of a trio with a drummer playing essentially a jazz kit, I still can’t figure out.

Here’s a demonstration of Burgessness from that LP: Jack The Ripper, our cover of the Raybeats cover of the Link Wray song.

The Defoliants – Jack The Ripper

(If you appreciate a 128k MP3 file, now imagine it coming off of vinyl played on speakers the size of dinner plates).

In 1989, years after the Chicago punk scene as documented in the film You Weren’t There had faded away, Iain was still in Chicago working with young bands like my own.  In our case, he was doing more than working, he was evangelizing.  He got a record label in Berlin to do what no label in the states would: release our LP.  For good measure, he came along on our tour of Europe in December 1989 to do house sound.  What, didn’t everybody have a genius / patron saint / ally like that?

That year, I thought I’d try and return the favor somehow.  My friends in DeKalb, Greg Dunlap and Dan Grzeca had been publishing a cool zine in the late 80s called THIS.  21 years ago, when I was 21 years old, I interviewed Iain Burgess for THIS Magazine.  Thanks to the scanning help from Greg, here is that interview. Enjoy.

Accident Prone

A chat with lain Burgess for THIS by Rob Warmowski

I don’t care how many fey East Coast music writers will line up to bleat otherwise, fact is, the most powerful and intense American records of the eighties came from Chicago and the Midwest. Many of these records were produced and engineered by this infectiously jolly native of Weymouth, England who has called the 312 area code his home for fifteen years. It is difficult to imagine what those records would sound like had they not been attended by lain Burgess during their birth in the studio. Among people who pay attention, the mere mention of the name conjures up sonic images of the most concentrated, appropriate and well-crafted orders; he makes everything but the music. I got him to tell how. Sort of.

THIS: Rob Warmowski, intrepid interviewer.
IAIN: lain Burgess, future citizen of West Berlin.
M: Muttley, World’s Dumbest Dog.

THIS: I suppose the first thing we ought to address here is the fact that THIS readers, for the most part, pay close attention to records while not all of them know what a producer does. How would you put it?

IAIN: I think it varies from person to person. There are a lot of people that are hired basically to arrange songs, rehearse the band and that sort of thing. I work a little differently than that, in that getting involved with rehearsal is useful, and seeing the band live is useful, but mine is more of an interface role between the machinery and the band … trying to get what the band’s concept of what they should sound like and how the song should come across on tape and then back the other way … And sort of being and extra voting member of the band, for the period of the recordings. In general, unless the producer is hired to do the other sort of production, I sort of like split it in half. Where one way, you’re more hired to be the big cheese, and in the other way, you’re working with people where everyone’s opinion is equally weighted.

THIS: Have you ever been hired in the big cheese capacity?

IAIN: Yeah, more in Europe than here. In Europe I don’t actually engineer anymore. Like with Mega City Four and Les Thugs and some of the other stuff I’ve done for Vinyl Solution (London label.) I mix it, but I haven’t actually been the recording engineer for the project

THIS: Why do you think that is?

IAIN: They’ve got a different concept of what it is producers do. It does work the same way here, but I would say that’s more of a major label way of doing things … hire a guy who comes and sits in a chair. I don’t notice it much here.

THIS: Do you see the European approach as a part of the fact that there is less of a division between “independent” and “major” market music over there?

IAIN: Yeah, I think so. I don’t know if I’m right about making that distinction, but it feels that way to me. Maybe it’s just in the states, I’ve always engineered everything. And in Europe, when they book and hire me, there’s always a house engineer.

THIS: You get paid and so does he, so it would seem that the budgets for each independent project on the average must be higher there.

IAIN: Also, it’s up to me whether I use him or not I’m still not really comfortable with the “Sitting in the other chair” role after 20 years behind the console. It’s a little difficult. keeping your hands off stuff and not look over the other guy’s shoulder, like wondering (slips into Edward G. Robinson impression) “Yeah, where’ s the EQ on that bass drum?” That’s a little strange for me.

THIS: You’re receiving a lot of acclaim in Europe for your work with Mega City Four, Les Thugs, Bolt Thrower, etc., and you’re going to be moving to Berlin before ’90 is up. As a result, you’re going to be leaving Chicago to a lot of hacks, leaving behind a void as the default producer for the best bands in the tri-state area over the past six or seven years. What are the motivations behind your move? Simple economic reality?

IAIN: It’s not a matter of economics, it’s more mental than anything else. Like you say, having been here a long time, doing basically the same thing, working with different bands every week of every month is what makes it interesting. It’s partly a result of having been born in Europe and always having felt that it’s home as well as Chicago. Having spent eight months of this year working here, it’s driven home that it’s actually possible for me to have a choice of moving back to Europe and working for a while. For the first time in my career I have the opportunity to do that and actually survive. Whereas before I don’t think I could have …it’s honestly hard to pass up. It’s not like I’m completely and utterly bored living here or anything, it’s just that anytime you’ve been doing the same sort of thing this much but continue producing and engineering, it’s hard to say no. It’s a good mental challenge, and it’s a good time of life to do something like this.

THIS: Before ’85, before Throb Throb and the Big Black work, did you solicit projects yourself or did you find the bands coming to you more often?

IAIN: I suppose I probably solicited a bit more, bit I can’t actually remember doing the hard sell thing to a band.

THIS: Well, you may have never done a hard sell but.. ..

IAIN: A lot of it came across by accident. Accidental meetings with people, meeting people from bands at clubs when another band is playing, that’s where a shitload of my contacts came from.

THIS: Do you get impacted by live shows easily?

IAIN: (laughs) Less and less I think. I think just because I’ve been to so many. I dunno if it’s just being jaded, or if it’s familiarity or what it is …

THIS: The best of your work has been, arguably, with bands that take a “midwestern underground” approach. Not that I see a big banner for those bands…

IAIN: I don’t use any labels…every band is individual.

THIS: Yeah, but there are certain threads which connect a Big Black with a Breaking Circus with a Naked Raygun etc. And I don’t mean surnames exclusively.

IAIN: 1 agree…especially from that era when those bands were doing their first records.

THIS: When you were behind the console, or hanging with those bands or whatever, what did, you run into repeatedly? When you had to get nose to nose with those songs to get them happening on vinyl, what specifically, as a producer, did you observe in terms of similarities?

IAIN: Those guys were all well organized and everyone knew what they were doing. 1 would say that in that group of people, in terms of skill and understanding level, it was pretty high. Between some of the guys in Raygun, definitely with Steve (Albini) from Big Black, and Dave (Riley) to some extent. Steve Bjorklund (Breaking Circus) was always pretty much aware of what was going on. Just ummm, everybody had pretty concrete ideas about bow this was gonna happen, and (those projects) were more of the “joining of the band” role for me. None of it was particularly difficult, it was just there.

THIS: When, for instance, Steve bjorklund would say, “I want it like this,” would he use the jargon or…

IAIN: Oh god, that varies. Steve (Albini) was the only person skilled enough at using real jargon to where he and I could talk as equals about engineering. The other guys, a lot of times, we would use idiotic phrases, (laughs) … colorful language.

THIS: And it got the message across?

IAIN: Oh yeah, there were never any real communication problems. There were disagreements, but no real diffIculties…but 1 think that comes from-being somewhat older and having done it a while. 1 mean, Steve (Bjorklund) had been in bands before with Chris (Bjorklund), Strike Under; so he had recorded before. Raygun had been in the studio before. Steve (Albini) obviously had recorded his own record before. So just the grouping of that set of people…

THIS: What about the Effigies, how do they figure into that?

IAIN: The Effigies were an oddball thing…that came about after the original band had basically broken up, they weren’t doing anything, then they got a new guitar player (Bob O’Connor) and the whole sound of the band altered tremendously.  I mean when you split with a guy like Earl (Lettiq) who has a sort of a trademark, recognizable guitar sound, that’s been on what…four records, maybe five. I mean, that’s kind of difficult. And they got a lot of heat for the change in musical direction to some degree on the latter two albums that I worked on, Ink and Fly on the Wire.  I think both of which have some really fucking good songs on them, and some are, well, in my opinion, just not all that marvelous. I think John (Kezdy, singer) would say the same thing. I’m sure he likes all the songs, but some of it we could have done better.

THIS: The bulk of what you’ve done in the past six years has been at the Chicago Recording Company. For people who aren’t aware, CRC is a Cadillac. 24 track, full commercial multi-million dollar installation, easily one of the top studios in the country in terms of state-of-the-art equipment and design, not to mention smart teak paneling.

IAIN: A luxury.

THIS: Some producers don’t settle, center themselves around one studio…you have. Why? Do you find that you have an aversion to more “primitive” conditions?

IAIN: CRC was, again, an accidental thing. I was working freelance at the time at a studio in the suburbs who were 24 track also, so I’ve always used 24 track, save for small excursions in the past. I think how it came about was that someone (from CRC) called me and said (slips back into Edward G. Robinson,) “Yeah, you’re doing a lot of work, see, we’re wondering how come you don’t use our facilities.” So I said, “Well, I dunno. I always thought you were too expensive.” (laughs) So I think what happened is I actually went down there and spoke to somebody and basically told them, look. This is marvelous, but we don’t have this kind of money.

THIS: And?

IAIN: Well, they just cut their rates and allowed me to charge bands a lot less. I just said, if you expect us to work here, there’s no fucking way we’ll be able to pay 85 bucks an hour.

THIS: And that’s basically the same reason CRC sessions make up the bulk of the better records in the Midwest?

IAIN: Well, we talk about this three times a year, at least, and I say the same thing I said six years ago. The market hasn’t altered.  95% of the bands in this town have no money at all, and it’s a struggle to get the stuff done for the amount of money we have available. My point (to CRC management) was that it would be marvelous to get in here, but you guys just cannot expect me to bring in these projects with 25, 40 thousand dollar budgets. It just isn’t going to happen.

THIS: Generally, the lain Burgess Production is instantly recognizable, if one is paying attention whether its…

IAIN: People have said that, I really don’t see it that way, personally…

THIS: Well, that’s because you’re nuts.

IAIN: I don ‘t PLAY it the same way other people do.

THIS: It’s probably a similar situation to a musician’s, where you cannot listen to the whole, only the pieces, but trust me, be it the drums or the guitar or the aural space between them, the experienced listener knows it’s you without having to read the liner notes. Who do you immediately recognize?

IAIN: I recognize (Steve) Lillywhite’s stuff. I still like some of his stuff, although he’s working now with the Talking Heads and the Rolling Stones, which means he’s making a shitload of money, which is OK. But I mean, the old shit…


IAIN : Yeah. You listen to like U2 …some of the drum shit on there is pretty good. Umm, some of the old Big Country shit – ya may not like the band, but the drums sound out of this world. Fucking huge. Bob Clearmountain too, who did a Rezillos album that was hysterical.

THIS: I had heard that on Naked Raygun’s Throb Throb LP, the basic tracks included John Haggerty’s economy-sized guitar being miked down a stairwell … the opening chords to “Rat Patrol” being a perfect example of the aural space I referred to earlier.

IAIN: You can hear it more on the final chords of some of those songs. What that is is the bathroom on the second floor of Chicago Trax, where the basics were recorded. The amp was in a stairwell with a mike in front of it and a mike above it, and there was an open mike in the bathroom, which was at the head of the stairwell, and when the guitar cuts out at the end, all the decay that you hear past him muting the chord is all from the bathroom. That was a cool thing, and accidental.

THIS: Aw come on. It’s not accidental when you come up with the idea of ‘lets mike this down a flight of stairs,” and it turns out like it did…

IAIN: Well, the room was the size of this living room  (picture NW Chicago bungaloid-sized living room) and there was no possible way you could put the rest of the band and John in the same room, so it was more of a like, “what are we gonna do with it?’.   The placement of the amp was more of an isolation thing, whereas the placement of the bathroom mike was one of those oddball things like, “Hey, lets stick one here.” I miked a toilet bowl once for a lead guitar solo.

THIS: Who? Which one? Wha?

IAIN: At Hedden West we put the amp in this little closet space, a little bathroom, again for isolation cause the guy was so loud … so I thought, “Fuck it, just stick the mike in the toilet bowl.”

THIS: Now hold it, which band? Who?

IAIN: (laughing) Aw, I don’t remember. Some rock and roll thing in the seventies I suppose … Toilet Bowl Guitar …

THIS: So it turns out that particular stunt on Throb Throb, which was one of the first and most powerful aural impressions I heard from that LP, was at least half accident?

IAIN: Oh sure, a lot of it is halfass. The classic example of the “accident” was “Passing Complexion” off of (Big Black’s) Atomizer. That was completely by accident, Santiago’s guitar with idiotic high harmonizer on it, bouncing along on the top of the guitar line. That was when I plugged something in the patch bay in the wrong place (laughing) and all of a sudden, Santiago’s guitar goes screaming through this harmonizer at like, full volume. All of us keel over and Steve (Albini) goes, “Don’t move it. It’s great.” And there it was, all from plugging something in wrong.

THIS: What are your thoughts on the fact that everybody and their brother is lining up for an lain Burgess Production? For instance, why do both God’s Acre and Tar feel they need to make albums with you? Do you view yourself as a potential connection in approach between bands that are as different as the two I mentioned?

IAIN: Well, I don’t think that it really is that a band come together and says, “Yeah, we gotta get this guy.” Tar came about because I knew John Mohr (singer/guitarist) from old Blatant Dissent days. And the God’s Acre thing .. .I had talked to Peter (Haupt) god, four or flve times over the past couple of years about doing something and it only happened now because their new drummer, Brenden, had worked with me before.  I don’t know. A lot of people I’ve worked with the last couple of years, I’ve worked with for the first time, but there are a lot of people I’ve known for a long time. A lot of work I do is really related to friendships and that sort of thing over a long period of time. Personnel in bands change, a lot of people here in town will go from one band to another, and there aren’t too many altematives I suppose. I mean, there’s a lot of studios and-guys working them, but Steve (Albini) is the only other one in town that) producing and engineering. I mean, a Phil Bonnet (Service, Watchmen, Precious Wax Drippings,) definitely deserves his rightful place in the scheme of things, but since he’s working in the suburbs, probably longer than I realize, although I’ve never met him…

(It was at this point the tape ran out and I discovered that Panasonic Corporation’s design corps failed to build a “The Tape Has Run Out” click into their otherwise extra kickass microcassette recorder.)

THIS: What was the first Chicago band you worked with that relates to the kind of music you specialize in today?

IAIN: Sport of Kings. Thermidor (long defunct label) did the EP, the first single they did themselves, ’80 or ‘8Lthen through Lou, their guitar player, I met Al (Jourgenson,) and did the first Ministry thing (“Cold Life”) which went over pretty big and is basically ancient history at this point.

THIS: Who haven’t you worked with here in the US that you would pick up the phone for?

IAIN: I always wanted to work with Die Kreuzen. We talked about working together for like three years and it never happened for one reason or another. Well, plus they’ve got Butch Vig, who is another person I’ve never met and we’re leaving out of this conversation, who has done a shitload of really good stuff (Laughing Hyenas, Killdozer.)  I always wanted to work with them, and every time they came to town I would talk to Keith about it..but obviously they were working with someone they liked and I it never happened, which is kind of disappointing, I always wanted the chance to work for them. It would have been I really fun to work on some of the old Effigies stuff when I Earl and the boys were still together. I didn’t know them I very well then, and I’d see John (Kezdy) once in a while, but I didn’t know him as well as I knew some other people. I’d like to work with Rey (Washem. Ex-Big Boys/I Scratch Acid / Rapeman current Helios Creed drummer.) As temperamental as Rey can be, he’s a fucking superb drummer, and to date I don’t think I’ve ever heard his drum kit recorded properly. That’s not saying that I can do it and somebody else can’t, it would be a challenge. I know the name of the band he’s playing with, but I haven’t heard them, so I don’t know what they’re like. Just as a player, Rey is really difficult to record, and he’s really really picky about how stuff sounds, but it would be interested to get a shot at working with him at some point.

THIS: Why is he really difficult to record? He seems to be one of the most consistent hitters as far as SMACKING the drums loudly and consistently…

IAIN: He’s just incredible, and he has a tremendous dynamic range in what he plays, from real soft to like…flying loud, in the space of one breath. And that’s a I tricky thing. It’s like a guy with three stacks of Marshalls , right? You know, three hundred watt heads sitting on top and the guy hits a big barre chord, and its like … wow. How am I supposed to translate that through microphones into a recording console and onto tape, and still have the guy walk into the control room and say, “Yeah, that’s what I hear out there.”  It’s tough. The closest I’ve ever come, at least in terms of that HUGE thing, is probably with John (Haggerty, ex-Naked Raygun guitarist)…he and I got pretty damn close. At one point, we had really worked  together enough where he would just plug in, I would put the mikes up and it would go straight to tape with almost no EQ. A lot of that Naked Raygun stuff has no EQ on the ! guitar at all, it was just a case of the guy having THE fucking sound. Translated beautifully, and that’s rare. Amazing too, because his shit (guitar amp rig) was always falling apart.

THIS: You moved to the states in … ?

IAIN: 1965

THIS: And to Chicago?

IAIN: Middle ’70s sometime…

THIS: What made you seek out the music that wasn’t being marketed, the more subterranean bands or clubs?

IAIN: Again, purely by accident just like being hired by CRC was purely by accident. Sport of Kings were doing a single with another engineer, who was basically saying,  “This is complete shit. I don’t want to do this anymore, fuck off. The guitars are too distorted, too this, too that..” which still happens today, you get the same story.  These I guys came out to talk to me because I was assigned them by the studio. And I didn’t care about them playing loud, l or using a Roland drum machine saying, “Okay, we’ve got I seven guitar amps, and this Shure Vocalmaster PA, and we want you to run the kick drum through this bass amp and mike everything separately,” and I was like, “Yeah, okay. Why not?” I didn’t have any problems with this. And I’ve never understood why other producers or engineers do, other than the fact that they don’t like the music.

THIS: Given that the period between ’82 – ’86 contained the bulk of your best work, and was what many say was the most prolific time for a genre of midwestern music that was fairly closely connected, what are your thoughts on the observation that ~ a group, the output has died down? What are your thoughts on the possibility of another peak in activity?

IAIN: I don’t know about a peak in activity .. .! don’t really see it to be honest.

THIS: How come?

IAIN: There’s … there’s just not things like that around anymore, not that whole group of people. That group has now spent a lot of time dealing with labels, years of dealing with indie labels and getting nowhere, and never I’ making any money at it. and realizing, “My god, I’m 27. Maybe I should think about doing something else.” And a lot of people have done just that.

THIS: Do you find that any of the musicians that you have to do with who are 21 – 22 now are of the caliber of the bands that were that age four or five years ago? I mean, I know you are working with younger bands.

IAIN: Yeah, there is a whole new set of bands to do with me. The Bhopal Stiffs (now defunct – eds.,) the Poster Children, Tar, the Defoliants .. .it’s unfair to say there’s nothing. What I’m thinking about in terms of the stuff around Big Black and Raygun and Breaking Circus and Riflesport, some of which is still going, I’m not sure that there’s the same sort of…! dunno if camaraderie is the right word, but you know what I mean. A lot of the people are still around and dabbling one form or another, but it’s not quite the same, and I don’t really know why. If you said it was because there aren’t any good bands, the answer to that is no, because there are lots of them, good ones. It’s just a personal thing I guess. It’s hard to answer that. There’s just a different feel about this time period, compare to the on that you mentioned which is different And I’m not saying that it’s better or worse. That time period was the peaking of a lot of those people and those bands, after their initial bands and forays into the local circuit I think what we’re in now is sort of an upswing again, with younger bands and stuff, having done their first gigs and first small tours and first records, and having everything more figured out. There’s a potential peak, sure, in the next twelve months or so. It’ll be interesting to see what happens.

THIS: And you say you’ll still be a part of it.

IAIN: Yeah, where I live doesn’t make any difference. It’~ like I was talking to Steve (Albini) the other day and he was saying, “Well, why not? You’re living here and l working in Europe, why not live there and work here?”

THIS: Relating to your European move, who are you going to be primarily hooked up with? I know about Angry Fish (West Berlin) and Vinyl Solution.

IAIN: Yeah, them and a guy named Mario in Italy, and I just hooked up with a band in Paris who wants me to do a band in France but there’s a core group of people that I’m already working for in Europe :hid I hope to expand that as much as I can.

THIS: Even though some of them are French, you’re getting along with them?

IAIN: Oh yeah, I get along with people, not much problem with that. What I’m hoping to do is to continue contacts here and continue working with the same people I am now, and try to come back home a month at a crack … and do like two or three projects. It’s going to be a little hard to coordinate.

THIS: You could always go the Martin Hannet route.

IAIN: Be a heroin. addict? Yeah, I could do that.

THIS: Well, just have yourself flown in and propped in front of the board …

IAIN: Nah, I’m not rich enough to be able to pay my own airfare all over the world, but if I could get a month’s work back home … what I hope to do is, if there’s something like airfare involved, is to split the cost with the bands. Like if there’s three projects here, we split it four ways. That’s the fairest thing I can think of without going broke.

THIS: Speaking of bands in Europe, are there any groupings, or movements, or regions that perhaps could be analogous to the Midwest in the middle ’80s that you might be in the middle of?

IAIN: Yeah, there is a little bit of one, it’s centered a bit about bands like Mega City Four, that are doing this sort of hard driving, what people would call pop I suppose.  There are a group of bands doing that sort of stuff, and there are a couple that I’m going to work with. One’s a band called Prefect Days from London and a bands callediJoyce McKinney … so yeah, there is a little “thing” going on at the moment, and Mega City Four are probably at the top at least at the moment..mostly because they just tour their asses off.

THIS: So they’re all English?

IAIN: Yeah.

TIDS: Europe has been going through some intense shit lately …

IAIN: The big thing is the changes in the East Bloc. There are good bands there. I heard a tape of a record that a friend of mine bought, a blank record with no credits or anything, just a cover, in Poland. The production on it was outrageous, sort of a fast speed metal thing …it was fucking outrageous. I don’t know who did it but I’d sure like to find out. That’s a whole different thing. Being based in Berlin, this is going-to be one of the exciting things for me personally. Now there’s going to be the opportunity to work in places where no one has ever been before …

THIS: Places where Western music has been non-existent from the word go.

IAIN: And a lot of the bigger guys aren’t going to be· interested in doing it because there’s no money in it, it’s not big time, and it’s not real popular. I don’t give a fuck. If somebody calls me and says, “Can you go to Warsaw for two weeks? But we have to pay you in Zlotees … ” I mean,.its gonna be a bit dodgy but I’ll fuckin get on a train and go tomorrow … that’s just the way I .

THIS: Have you wanted to tailor yourself as the antithesis to the L.A. poodle haircut/coke mirror school or…

IAIN: Nah, I just am. There’s nothing I can do about it. If I tried to do it, I’d be a dismal failure and just look really stupid doing it. If I ever looked like that, I think I’d be laughed out of town. I’m just hopeless at it. All that stuff…self-promotion, money, business…utterly useless. If I have to deal with like … a major label, I’d have to hire somebody.

THIS: What size satin jacket do you wear?

IAIN: I don’t know. (laughing)

THIS: More studio stories!

IAIN: There’s a guitar slide on a Naked Raygun song that’s Pierre (Kezdy, bassist) in the control room going “bvvvvvv” with his mouth …

TIDS: Which one?

IAIN: I have no idea, I can’t remember (Pierre says it was “I Remember.”) We forgot it.  We were in the middle of the mix and we were about to drop it onto quarter-inch and somebody says, “Fuck, we forgot the guitar slide.” And we didn’t have a guitar and amp in the studio so Pierre says, “Right, I’ll do it.”

THIS: Unreal.

IAIN: On Racer-X (Big Black’s third EP,) Steve is talking into a small kid’s toy with a microphone that records your voice and then plays it back on one of those cheesy little disks on top, like a handheld turntable. That was pretty funny. On “Dad” on the Didjits record, Rick is singing through the pickups of his guitar, kinda holding it in front of his face. That was pretty hysterical …

TIDS: What about before you moved to the states? What were you listening to then?

IAIN: Oh god, all the electronic shit, I still have some of it.  All the old Tangerine Dream stuff…

TIDS: Oh dear.

IAIN: Old Kraftwerk, the really ancient shit, before Autobahn, long before they got popular, like ’71 or ’72. The old Power Station album, Ralph and Florian…really crazed shit. Nobody ever bought it, 1 think I was the only person in my town who ever bought that shit.


South Side Represent: The Baffler Is Back

RW370 is as South Side as Lem’s Barbecue, Ben’s Auto Sales, The Chicago White Sox and The Haggerty brothers.  So when a long-lost institution returns to claim its rightful place in Chicago’s southern cultural counterweight, WordPress is fired up with a quickness and the hosannas fly.  Welcome back, Baffler.

The Baffler magazine — which punctured egos and provoked, which irritated New York Times editors and Hyde Park intellectuals alike, which was rooted in Chicago and became a smart, abrasive must-read during the 1990s, which predicted our economic future, then burned down (quite literally) — has returned. It’s been four years since the last issue; the new issue, slowly working its way into bookstores nationwide (and recently mailed out to patient subscribers), is only its 18th issue.

Its 18th in 22 years.

The staff was so slow and often distracted by other non-Baffler-related jobs, said former managing editor Matt Weiland, they would refer to the magazine as “a quarterly publication that only came out once a year.”

“But see, thing is,” said Thomas Frank, the founder and editor, from his home in Maryland, “I never had any intention of going away. I would get e-mails that said, ‘Too bad you guys are gone.’ So I would write back: ‘Don’t give up on us.’ Because we need the Baffler more now than ever. That contrarian attitude toward culture, that scoffing attitude that people associated with us — the plan now is to revive it.”

Shouldn’t be hard.

In the 1990s, the literary journal made its name as a fearless, equal opportunity deflator of conglomerate-orchestrated alternative rebellions, a muckraker that found its targets in the co-opting of cool and breathless hyping of killer apps. It swung to the left, but the piety of any ideology was never outside its crosshairs. Or as Frank put it, the real target was “the bubble of the moment.”


April 1975 Kraftwerk Radio Interview From Chicago’s Triad Radio

Triad Radio, a Chicago underground music institution so ancient it predates myself, recorded a very rare interview with Kraftwerk’s Ralf Hutter and Florian Schneider way back in April 1975.  The interview cuts off abruptly, but is a must-listen for electronic music fans everywhere and everywhen.

The Triad Radio Interview with Ralf and Florian from Kraftwerk

For context and completeness, bracket the band’s history with an equally rare Ralf Hutter interview from 2009 at Pitchfork.


Dec 15th: Letters To Santa 24-Hour Benefit At Second City E.T.C.

The modern portrayal of Santa Claus frequently...

Little Haley is too polite to mention Santa's halitosis.

The blindingly popular, mom-pleasing Jeff Tweedy! The backwoods gentleman stomp of Robbie Fulks! The aching balladry of Nina Nastasia! The earnest perspiration of Horatio Sanz! Chicago, can you take 24 solid hours of world-class music and comedy entertainment? No. No you can’t. But you can show up and catch what you can, because it’s for needy kids and will run you a mere fifteen clams at the door. The 24-hour schedule and info:

The Second City is proud to announce the 8th annual event: “The Second City That Never Sleeps: Letters to Santa” – 24 consecutive hours of improvisation by Second City performers and alumni featuring a variety of special guest artists – a tradition that provides presents for needy children during the holiday season and this year wraps up a weekend of events around The Second City ‘s 50th Anniversary.

Doors will open at 5:45pm. The show will begin on Tuesday, December 15th in The Second City e.t.c. (1608 N. Wells St, 2nd Floor of Piper’s Alley) at 6:00pm and will conclude on Wednesday, December 16th at 6:00pm.

An ensemble of Chicago’s best known improvisers (along with alumni of The Second City) will take the stage for an entire 24-hour period. Improvisational games, scenes, songs, monologues and random acts of weirdness inspired by sleep deprivation will accompany performances by such artists as Robbie Fulks, Jeff Tweedy, UCB’s ASSSCAT, Bonnie Prince Billy, The Mountain Goats and The Blisters.

Listed below is the current performance schedule. For schedule updates, visit

Performance Schedule:

12/15/09 – 7:00pm

Jeff Tweedy

12/15/09 – 10:00pm

Robbie Fulks

12/16/09 – 12:00am

UCB’s Asssscat with Matt Walsh, Horatio Sanz and Chicago friends

12/16/09 – 3:00am

Flash-mob Marching Band

12/16/09 – 6:00am

Bonnie Prince Billy

12/16/09 – 7:30am


12/16/09 – 12:00p

Nina Nastasia

12/16/09 – 2:00pm

The Mountain Goats

12/16/09 – 4:30pm

The Blisters

Tickets for “The Second City That Never Sleeps: Letters to Santa” are $15.00 for the 24 hour period and can be purchased at the door. The event is open to all ages. Alcohol will be available to those 21 years and older from 6:00p-2:00a and from noon-6:00pm.

In addition to raffle prizes offered during the event, there will also be an auction to win a private performance with Jeff Tweedy.

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The 2016 Olympics Mascot Will Be Full-Breasted With Many Feathers

Carnaval at Rio 1 Feb 2008

Congrats to Rio De Janiero for acing out Chicago for the 2016 games. Check out a new humor piece on True/Slant: 8 Reasons Chicago Lost The 2016 Olympics

I saw a video clip this morning where a stunned Jesse Jackson interviewed in the downtown location of the embarrassing non-party lamented that we had “sent our A-Team – the Mayor, the Governor, Oprah” yet it made “no difference.”

Yeah, I bet it made a difference.


Robwatch: Now Blogging On Chicago Foibles At True/Slant

Looking north from the North Michigan Avenue B...

Not pictured: my new office

I’ve been offered a gig blogging on the subject of Chicago-area foibles for True/Slant, also known as the online home of Rolling Stone reporter (and co-founder of the great Buffalo Beast) Matt Taibbi.  Check out the ruckus, assuming there is ruckus.  (Note: there may be more hubbub than ruckus.  In fact, there’s probably going to more tumult than ruckus, hubbub or hurly-burly.

In a while, I’m going to be experimenting with some humorous multimedia content focused on Chicago politics and civics; grab the RSS feed at the True/Slant page to stay on top of developments, or take your chances that I scrupulously update RW370. Ha.  Ha-ha.

And if I may, let me make a statement here about what I thought was obvious (but might not be) about RW370.

This is a personal blog, not a goddamn brand.  I’m not a brand, so neither is this place. I do appear on some places that handle themselves as brands, and that’s fine for them.  But I do not do that here.

That’s bad media policy today, I am fully aware. It’s poor career handling, amateur eyeball wrangling.  And I don’t care.  You don’t want to read this? You don’t want to follow the feed?  You don’t want to pass along a link from here? I can’t even begin to express how okay I am with that.

I’m fine with that because I know that not everything is for everyone.  And by that I mean there’s nothing in the world that guarantees that you are qualified to be here. You might not get it.  Or, you might get it and not like it. These are fair outcomes, and not at all my problem.

My problem begins and ends with three tasks.  I have to:

  • figure out what I think about stuff
  • find out what happened when stuff happens
  • write the above down here and elsewhere

The way I see it, if you need anything past this, you’re in the wrong place.

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Great Moments In Complete Bullshit: Potatogate

47534758 On June 26, Chicago Police who were on duty during the 1968 Democratic Convention riots will hold a convention of their own. “It’s just a get-together for guys who worked together 40 years ago,” says Mark Donahue, President of the Fraternal Order of Police, the convention’s organizer.  “Nothing more.”

All I want to know is if the convention will include breakout sessions with discussion topics focusing on specific aspects of the CPD’s handling of the protesters and of the media surrounding the riots.  Will one such session focus on total fabrication of details and demonization of the activists?  Is there anything to be learned from past mistakes in that regard, one such mistake shown in this picture (Chicago Tribune archive photo)?

Here, a CPD sergeant gingerly holds a potato which has been adorned with razor blades, an alleged weapon presented as proof of the lethal force demonstrators were willing to use against the cops.

Of course, as Sergeant Spud here clearly demonstrates, if a protester were actually to throw this potato, the act of gripping it might cause his severed fingers to fall to the ground around his sandals.  This “weapon” is about a fraudulent as the Gulf of Tonkin incident itself, which was used to begin the US-Vietnam war that put the protesters on the streets in the first place.

It’s an old fight, I know, but Great Moments In Complete Bullshit don’t fade with time.  That’s what makes them Great.


A Year In David Mamet’s Marketplace

David Mamet at the premiere of Red Belt at the...

The playwright, wrong

(Presented here is my first contribution to Huffington Post!)

One year ago today, playwright David Mamet wrote of his personal transformation from a “brain-dead liberal” to one more person who sees the country mainly as a “marketplace”. The author of Glengarry Glen Ross — the ultimate drama of visionless American capitalism — announced one year ago “a free-market understanding of the world meshes more perfectly with my experience than that idealistic vision I called liberalism.”

While I remain a great fan of Mamet and hold his many works in the highest esteem, on the anniversary of his screed I can’t help but ask: how’s that free market working out?

In the time since, the economic meltdown has served to tear away a great deal of conservatism’s camouflage, revealing the “marketplace” conception of this country as sorely wanting. In reality, the country resembles far more closely a fiefdom, not something so pleasant as an egalitarian arrangement of buyers and sellers, but rather a brutal exercise in naked class antagonism.

Hyperbole? Hardly. In one year of Mamet’s marketplace, the fraud of laissez-faire economics has simply and expensively died. Trillions of public dollars have been appropriated by the dominant class of business interests via no such quaint mechanism as competition. Competition — never the preference of the wealthy to begin with — has been cancelled. The fittest along with the unfit banks and corporate giants live on in the commons, our togetherness no less real for having been denied so forcefully by the conservative party line. Shameless panhandling imposes profoundly on all of us. No invisible hand picks our pockets — rather it is plainly attached to a piggish body, arm stretching from Wall Street through Washington, wrist adorned as ever in Patek Philippe.

To the surprise of nobody who saw through the “free market” canard from the beginning, the overarching theme of conservatism today is to heap blame for the sinking vessel anywhere but upon where it belongs — itself. To do this, the very language and the meaning carried by its words is constantly sacrificed on the altar of cheap PR flackery. It is in this aspect that Mamet’s abandonment of progressivism hurts most, because his gifts as an artist are plainest in his dialogues, and these depend utterly upon the integrity of the words they employ. If there are two camps, Mamet has regrettably chosen the one least ethical with language. No modern conservative ever met a word he couldn’t happily debase and weaponize, as any summary of their vocabulary shows:

Repeating “No Child Left Behind” is how conservatives have destroyed public education. Repeating “Big Government” is how conservatives have destroyed law and regulation in the financial markets and created an unprecedented privatization golem in everything from prisons to airport security theater. Repeating “Liberal Media” is how cultural conservatives pretend that college professors, and not corporate boardrooms, determine what is presented as news on television. Repeating “Tax and Spend” is how conservatives have pitted the people against the government, and therefore themselves. Repeating “Socialism” is how conservatives deny the barest notion of a public interest. And now, repeating “Obama Recession” is how conservatives will pretend that thirty years of laissez-faire deregulatory free-market worship never even happened, let alone are responsible for the coming months and years of crisis.

When it comes to foreign policy, Mamet has long indulged the conservative’s peculiar penchant for semantic warp. His call for government to “get out of the way” pulls up regrettably short at Washington’s billions in military aid to Israel. The latest result of this support has been nothing to pat one’s self on the back about, for in the past year the US-armed IDF have indiscriminately killed and wounded thousands of Gazan civilians while strangling that urban hellhole of basic staples. In this, who was Mamet’s chosen villain one year ago? Unbelievably, NPR. In last year’s essay, Mamet mentions National Public Radio’s liberal reporting bias (“National Palestinian Radio”) in his decision to repudiate liberalism. If he was offended by hearing the human cost of lopsided, gratuitous force before his transformation, what will be the fruit of his outright embrace of the neocon worldview? I’m having fevered visions of a one-man Broadway show entitled Wolfowitz! that I can only hope are absurd.

We may not see David Mamet return to the progressive cause, nor even expect him to cease conflating it with utopianism. Though we will no doubt see and admire his works. They will as always make us think, and uncover ways of being. If he finds something of value in conservatism, I will continue to presume there is something in it I have missed. But to his new ideological pals, I warn: he is one Hollywood (former) Liberal who is far too thoughtful to make much use of on the national stage. For that, stick with the Limbaughs, the Palins and the Jindals. Keep them loud and up front — and thereby hasten the day that Mamet finds your brand of brain-death less appealing than our own.

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Touch And Go Records Ceases Distro


"It's just a rising tide of / Mediocrity"

Venerable Chicago record label Touch & Go has announced it is ceasing distribution operations to focus on its label operations.  This is horrible news for the many small labels distributed by T&G as well being a huge blow to the future of the independent artist’s work appearing in chain stores alongside the tons of calculated careerist drek on their shelves.  Every such story removes another avenue for the Best Buy shopper to take when their tastes rise out of the slop.

I realize this economic news isn’t as sad as hearing that Mitt Romney had to sell off two of his four mansions, but I’m an American, and we each suffer in our own way.



rob [at] warmowski [dot] com

@warmowski on twitter

Rob’s Bands

Rob Warmowski entry at Chicago Punk Database
1984-89: Defoliants
1991-94: Buzzmuscle
2001-05: San Andreas Fault
2008- : Sirs
2008- : Allende

Rob at Huffington Post

August 2020