Monday, November 12, 2018

Five questions with... Simeon Coxe of Silver Apples

A little background...

I found a copy of Contact by Silver Apples at a garage sale on the south side of Des Moines last summer, pulling it from the usual collection of grandma’s dusty old Herb Albert records. I’d never heard of the band, but for a buck I threw it on the purchase stack assuming I’d found yet another generic and forgotten rock record that might have a decent song or two on it. Was I ever wrong.

From the moment the needle hits vinyl, Contact is some seriously unique and weird shit with primitive synthesizers taking the lead over timid, almost apologetic vocals, discordant banjo, and percussion that is odd only in its normalcy among the chaos. It’s hypnotic and almost impossible to stop listening to once it begins. And, despite (or because of ?) the weirdness, it’s incredibly listenable and provides new discoveries with every repeat play. From the first listen I knew this was one of my all-time great garage sale finds. 

Silver Apples consisted of two members: Danny Taylor on percussion and vocals, and Simeon Coxe on vocals, oscillators, and banjo. Simeon and Danny (who had previously played with Jimi Hendrix) started off in a more traditional rock band, but Simeon discovered the audio oscillator and started incorporating it into the band’s performances until shit got so weird that everyone but Taylor just walked away and left them to whatever it was they were doing.

What they were doing, incidentally, was breaking new ground and establishing the framework for new musical genres to come — EDM, Kraut Rock, underground dance music, and indie rock

Simeon Coxe at work on The Simeon synthesizer. 
The backbone of the Silver Apple’s sound came from The Simeon, a homemade synthesizer that Simeon has described as “consisting of  12 oscillators, an assortment of sound filters, telegraph keys, radio parts, lab gear and a variety of second hand electronic junk.” 

Simeon and Danny parted ways after Contact, the follow up to their 1968 self-titled album, following the collapse of their record label (Kapp). An unauthorized CD issued by a German label in 1994 that contained both albums helped rekindle interest in the group. The pair reunited in 1996 and performed until Danny’s death in 2005. Simeon released Clinging to a Dream under the Silver Apple name in 2016, and has continued performing around the world. 

I reached out to Simeon to thank him for creating such amazing work and he agreed to do a “Five Questions With...” interview for The Bigfoot Diaries.

Silver Apples, 1967, first live show in Central Park.
 30,000 people were in attendance.
1. What is the best way an intelligent being from another planet or dimension could make contact with us?
“By decorating its message with confusing emojis so we get so hung up in trying to crack the code that we forget to guard against their attack.”

2. What is your all-time favorite sound?
“The sound of my own tinnitus because only I can hear it.”

3. How did you first discover the audio oscillator that you began incorporating into your music?
“A friend of mine in NYC had one that he used to play along with Beethoven after drinking a pint of vodka.”

4. Was it madness or genius that led you to create The Simeon Synthesizer?
“Definitely madness.”

5. What are you currently working on or have plans for in the future – musically or otherwise?
“I am currently basking in the joy of doing absolutely nothing.”

Bonus question: What is the strangest experience you’ve ever had?
“That time, remember? When time stood still, and everybody on earth had to reset their clocks, but no one could agree how much. That was strange!”

If you only listen to one song: A Pox on You

All photos from courtesy of Simeon Coxe

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Five Questions With... Ted Nugent of the Amboy Dukes

If a 13 year old kid asked you to hand him any album that would change his life forever, what record would you hand him? 

Music is truly a force to reckon with and has a power unto itself, including an element of universal communication. I don't believe music unto itself has enough meaningful impact to actually change a person's life, though it could be a fortifying soundtrack to upgrade if accompanied by intelligent, sincere and loving direction and guidance. As part of an overall message of being the best that you can be, there is a lot of music out here that inspires.

What do you say to people who attend your shows that don't want to hear about your political views... Who just want to hear your music?

I don't have to say anything to a person smart enough to know how incredible my music and band are, they already know how killer we are.

Side 2 of the first Amboy Dukes album starts off with a song called "Let's Go Get Stoned." What is your position on the legalization/decriminalization of marijuana? 

That was a great old song by Bob Dylan that some of my band mates actually believed in. And of course, unlike old clean and sober me, they are no longer around because of it. Dope destroys lives and everything and everybody around it. I am very much opposed to its legalization on any level.

What memories of any do you have about playing in Des Moines, Iowa? 

Many a glowing memory shine in my overwhelmed memory bank, and they are all wonderful! Intense people love intense, soulful music and our connection represents all the best elements of music and a united appreciation for the best of the best.

Do you still have the spandex pants with the suspenders that you feature on the cover and the back of the Double Live Gonzo! album?

No, I donated them to a charity and believe they have been hung over someone's home to keep away evil spirits and hippies. I understand they do so flawlessly. I last wore them around 1985 at an event where we buried disco.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Papa's Got a Brand New Bag of Tricks: GHOST plays Ames 11-4-18

As the moonless sky raked across the heavens Sunday night, I ventured into C Y Stephens Auditorium in Ames  to check out this latest incarnation of Ghost, the mysterious and ever-changing Swedish metal band that unabashedly courts Satan through it's horror church persona and infernal, godless lyrics.

Ghost takes the stage. Photo by Troy Church

My first intro to this band came in about 2011 when I was working part time as a line cook at a local restaurant. A co-worker, Nick (from Black Market Fetus) had taken it upon himself to burn off a few CDs to pass along, and Ghost's first full length album Opus Eponymous was among them. 

"Give it a listen," he said. "Let me know what you think."

Right away I became enthralled. By the music certainly, but maybe more by the way Ghost conducted their business. It was fascinating to me that a band could exist in the internet age and maintain such a masked level of anonymity. While it's since become known that the front man of the group is Tobias Forge, the identity of the rest of the band members remains unclear. 

One interesting theory at the time, and another factor that piqued my curiosity, was that the band was actually an alter-ego of the Swedish pop band The Cardigans, who'd shed their wholesome image for one of Satanic majesty, with inverted crosses, black papal robes and a darker, heavier image. (This rumor dispelled quickly while members of the Cardigans were spotted in Sweden while Ghost toured North America in late 2011.)  As members of Ghost have gone on to become ex-members of Ghost - I mentioned that they are ever-changing - their identities have become known. The identity of the current roster however, remains shadowy.

Cardinal Copia. Photo by Shanna Von Fumetti Wylie

Because of that first album and the mysterious nature of the band, I have remained a fan of Ghost, though admittedly I hadn't sought out any of their music since Opus Eponymous. I've kept tabs occasionally, knowing that Forge would change his persona from album to album, encrypting a new image for each new "concept," taking on a different Papal personality with each new release. What I didn't realize was that Forge had discarded the Satanic Pope image altogether to become Cardinal Copia for this latest incarnation. On this tour, he dons makeup but without complete facial disguise. 

I got the sense after seeing him perform that I might recognize him if I saw him on the street. I also got the sense that I probably have seen him on the streets, and that he looks nothing like what I'd expect somebody to look like who sings in a Satanic metal band. At the risk of pushing the envelope too far, I also got the sense that he resembles somebody who might actually be a member of The Cardigans. 

Sunday night was the first new night of Daylight Savings, and to my time-warped brain, it felt much later than 8:00. I was tired and not sure what to expect. The auditorium, while mostly full, seemed subdued and tired as I took my seat. I only sat there for about two minutes before the lights went down and the curtain dropped. Instantly I became aware that my preconceived calculation of the crowd had missed the mark, a thunderous clap erupted as the stage revealed itself to the auditorium.

Nameless Ghoul. Photo by Shanna Von Fumetti Wylie

The stage consisted of a marble stairway and terrace that sat atop a black and white checkerboard floor. Two platforms book-ended the terrace, one housing a guitar station and the other, an area where the keyboards were set up. Unnamed Ghouls took residence on each of these platforms, as well as on the stairway leading up to the terrace. Behind everything was giant set of cathedral windows with stained glass imagery. Front and center, in the middle window was a depiction of Papa Emeritus, the original Pope played by Forge on the band's first album, depicted much like you would see a once-living Pope exhibited on a window in a modern Catholic church. Smoke erupted from each side of the stage and the band held a long droning minor keyed note to set up the launch into the first song. As the song permitted, Cardinal Copia entered the stage to sing the first lyrics of the night. The crowd, already thunderously loud, erupted even louder.

At this point I should probably admit that I couldn't tell you the name of a single song by Ghost. The only CD I ever owned was one that was burned for me, and like on most burned CDs of the day, song listings weren't attached to it. I was running with blind expectations but it was enough for me to believe that  I'd enjoy the show. (That and the fact that my girlfriend is a big fan and accompanying me was everything I needed to put my ass in a seat.)

I'd seen the mockery of the band on social websites, but hadn't given it much thought. I understand that a band like Ghost isn't for everybody. Personally, I was still on the fence. I went in with blind expectations but when the curtain dropped, I knew I was in for a helluva night.

A highlight of the show was when the two front guitarists, both of whom exchanged lead parts throughout the night, participated in a battle. After a couple bouts of chasing scales, each scale a bit more complex than the previous, the battle ended when the one guitarist played a very sloppy intro to "Stairway to Heaven." After about 12 notes into Stairway, he stopped and waved his hands in disgusted defeat. It was a light moment but effectively funny. 

Photo by Shanna Von Fumetti Wylie

Another highlight was when, during a particularly intense guitar solo, Forge appeared at the top of the stairwell in full Pope toggery and accompanied the guitarists with an impressive sax solo. Forge would was constantly leaving the stage and reappearing.  Sometimes he'd be dressed completely differently, but damn if he wasn't always dressed immaculately. The way he flounced upon the stage gave the impression that he's well versed in Shakespearean play acting. Delicate and calculated, he seemed very aware of his every motion.  At times throughout the night, he gave the impression that he is a diva of sorts - In fact, his stage presence and theatrics are very similar to those of Geoff Tate's. 

Of course the band was fully disguised, wearing black robes and chrome plated devil masks. The masks didn't hinder the ability to play at all; Ghost is a well-oiled machine. Every musician was spot on, and while it was obvious that they were working hard, it also appeared that the band was legitimately having fun. Humor apparently is a mainstay throughout a Ghost concert, another quality I wasn't necessarily expecting. My experience when a band puts on a Satanic metal concert has always been that it's serious business. While Ghost was serious about putting on a quality concert, it was apparent that they were all having a blast. 

Usually when a band is having a blast, the audience is as well. 

Thursday, November 1, 2018

"Reynolds Pamphlet” back for one last show

The Hamilton Parody calls out Gov. Kim Reynolds for everything she’s done to the state.
Remember a few months back when Hamilton played for what seemed like 40 consecutive days at The Civic Center of Greater Des Moines? No one could shut the hell up about it. I’m sure it was good, maybe even the best thing since sliced pizza like everyone seemed to think. Still, I just couldn’t muster up a single fuck to give about it.  

But, when I learned the play had inspired a parody version, “Reynolds Pamphlet,” that skewered Gov. Kim Reynolds, and that the musical powerhouses of Rae Fehring and Madison Ray were involved, I perked the fuck up. 

Named after one of the numbers in Hamilton, “Reynolds Pamphlet” features eight musical pieces that shed light on educational defunding, stagnant wages and a litany of other shit that Iowa is currently getting wrong under Reynolds “leadership.”
It’s not all a downer though. The play also highlights some of the things Iowa should be proud of: historic court rulings for racial and marriage equality, and a time not too long ago when its schools were well-funded and among the best in the nation. And like its source material, “Reynolds Pamphlet” intelligently employs rap, humor, spoken-word, and justifiable outrage to get its message across. 

And, as you’d expect from anything involving Fehring and Ray, it’s edgy, pulls no punches, and is entertaining as hell.  

Fair warning though, the website states that “Reynolds Pamphlet contains explicit language that may not be appropriate for children, and exposes extreme policies promoted by conservatives that may not be appropriate for anyone.” 

What more could you want? 

There is only one chance left to catch “Reynolds Pamphlet” — just in time to get motivated for Election Day.  

WHEN: Saturday, Nov. 3rd, 7 PM (Doors at 6 PM) WHERE: Sheslow Auditorium at Drake University; 2507 University Ave, Des Moines, Iowa 

Tickets and more information at 


Today on the slagheap is a real stinker from Barry Mahon. 

The movie Musical Mutiny is one of two "lost" rock n roll movies from this producer/director. Although the poster above is apparently for a double bill of Musical Mutiny and for a movie called Weekend Rebellion, the movie we're discussing for your edification is Musical Mutiny.

Barry Mahon produced and /or directed many films and many of them in the "Youth culture exploitation" style. He was a fighter pilot in WWII. He joined the Royal Air Force and flew in the no.121 squadron, which was composed of American volunteers. His tally as a fighter pilot was 5 confirmed, 2 probable, and 3 damaged. He was shot down and captured. He escaped twice but was recaptured and finally freed by Patton's 3rd Army in 1945. He actually worked on escape tunnels at Stalag Luft III made famous by the movie The Great Escape, Hilts "The Cooler King" was loosely based on him.

After the war Mahon became the personal pilot for Errol Flynn, and then his personal manager. Mahon then went on to produce some movies for Flynn. Mahon's film making journey was quite a trip, and it's kinda weird that it led to this kind of thing. 

What you get with this film is a kinda weird flick that goes best at a 3a.m. veiwing. The movie is kind of bad even by bad movie standards. Meaning that there are movies that are bad, yet they are very entertaining in various ways, often times it is the bad variables that make the films entertaining. And then there are some movies that are just bad, as in not very entertaining to watch. If you have the inclination, watching this celluliod atrocity is not a complete waste of time, but it's pretty close.

Not exactly Black Beard is he?

The premise is that a pirate ghost appears at Florida's Pirate World amusement park. He starts to spread the word about a mutiny happening at Pirate World. The word gets spread and all the hip youth are game to show up and check it out. The ghost pirate convinces the guys working the gate to let the kids in free. So the masses of hip youth culture show up. 

The so called "mutiny" is Iron Butterfly playing live. Yet they do not play live in this movie but instead pretend to play and sing to the tracks. The dubbing is rather crappy  and I wonder why since they had the band and the stage set up, they just didn't have them play live. (I think the band actually was playing a concert there any way so there was probably some budgetary reason for this). The band play two songs and then the owner pulls the plug because he can't pay the band if the kids don't pay up. Kids start playing their own music in various incarnations around the park then. Bands like The New Society Band, The Fantasy, and some others.

A hippie comes up with the money so Iron Butterfly can come back. They do and pantomime a performance to their biggest hit In-a-Godda-da-Vida, along with some less than stellar psychedelic effects. There are a few subplots and not all of them really get resolved, but that's the kind of thing you sometimes get with low budget film making.

Unless you are an Iron Butterfly completest, it may be hard to see the point in watching this film. But rest easy kids, there are a few things that make this at least mildly entertaining. 

First off, the film isn't that long, so it's not like your wasting much of your life seeing this.Next thing is the acting. Thespian excellence is nowhere to be seen in this thing, but often bad acting is satisfyingly entertaining. I find this to be the case here. The guy who plays the pirate ghost is surely in need of a few lessons at the local acting school. Although the guy throws around a few pirate terms (i.e. matey,etc) he does not use anything that comes within light years of a believable delivery. I  guess he comes from the school of "less is more." 

This guy is not only not mailing it in, he left it on the table when he left for work in the morning. 

It is that bad... and that good.

The film also exudes that weird, low budget je ne sais quoi that goofs like me really find life affirming in some strange way. But, let me tell you the best part of this thing in my humble opinion: There are a number of bands playing songs in this movie. There is a part where a guy is playing an organ and a girl is singing. It is absolutely BAD ASS!!! The organ sounds tough as the guy lays out a kind of delta blue riff and the girl delivers the lyrics with one heck'uva powerful voice. This tune destroys anything I ever heard from Iron Butterfly period. I have no idea who they were (I think they were part of a band that get together at another point in the film) but I wish just those two would have cut a record. I would buy it right now!

So if you get a chance to see this thing and you don't have to spend much, or better yet, any money, to check it out then go ahead if you got some time and brain cells to kill. You could do worse. 

Well maybe.