Yeah, it’s another story about James Turrell, this time for Vegas/Rated. It’s much more compact than what you may have read in M Life magazine, so for you ADHD folks out there, it’s a much easier read.
Archive for June, 2009
I will freely admit that for most of my late teens/early 20s, I was an asshole. While it’s not something I’m proud of, not only am I self-aware of this major, yet temporary, character flaw, but I am reminded of it every so often, as if the universe is constantly reminding me, “Hey, Peej, you’re pretty awesome now, but remember, you’re only one step away from being a total douchebag, so WATCH IT.”
I was reminded of this again this morning when, doing my routinely obsessive detailed assessment of web stats for this site, I tracked back a search result for “pj perez + vegas” through Google and found a Yahoo message board thread from 2000 with the title (and I wish I was kidding here) “PJ Perez sucks.” Apparently, I’d incited the Las Vegas goth community — a lot known for their self-confidence, sociability and amazing lack of drama — after writing something about the ever-struggling goth scene in an issue of the CityLife. I must have written something honest, because it really pissed off these kids.
If you do a little hunting, you can find a few of these from that era, a number of which also claim that I was singlehandedly responsible for the downfall of favored Vegas goth band Morgana Athena, just because I happened to be in the band when lead singer/songwriter/co-founder Chris Naser decided to break up the band and pursue a career DJing. But the combination of my role as the band’s producer/publicist/manager and my legendary (NEW WORD ALERT) assholism somehow attracted the blame to me.
It’s funny to me, because I think most people consider me a pretty nice guy at this point. I mean, sure, I’m sarcastic and sometimes brash, but generally I’m awesome, right? Right? Even to the point I’ve been accused of being too positive? But to this day, I’ll run into people who I haven’t talked to in like a decade, and their first response is “Oh no, not this self-centered prick.” Seriously.
But really: I was a poor, struggling adolescent male trying to be a rock star in a scene full of faux-vampires, alcoholics, junkies, manic-depressives and social misfits. Come on, being a dick was practically required.
I guess my point is: I am genuinely sorry to those of you who may have found yourselves in the path of Evil Pj, and I promise, if you’ve been avoiding talking to me for years because of that, I am now as cuddly as Barney the Big Purple Dinosaurus Lovemachnius. Really.
And if you’re still of the mind that I’m a “failed musician” or anything of the sort, might I remind you: I made a career out of the thing I took on (journalism) after allegedly “failing” as a musician, and, OH YEAH, still play music in a band that has thus far done financially and critically better than any before. I hope everything is working out for you, assuming you didn’t die of a crystal meth overdose, finally kill yourself as promised or cannot access the internet because your parents finally threw you out of the basement in which you hid from the sun and society for all those years.
(OK, so maybe I’m still a dick. A little bit.)
We’ve looked at the genesis of my not-quite-musical capabilities leading up to the failure-to-launch career of The Jason Only Project and the mentally challenged exploits of all that is Baug. Now, as we continue this wordy journey through my noise making evolution, we return to a band which I’ve discussed here previously, Rahne.
I was at a rehearsal studio recently to interview local band Cherry Hill for the Las Vegas Weekly. These guys have been around the Las Vegas music scene as long as I have, so we shared a number of common experiences with venues, gigs, studios, etc. from back in the day. I figure some of those remembrances are as good a place to start as anywhere.
As I mentioned in the last post about Rahne, the band was plagued by issues from the start, beginning with the, um, lack of stable band membership outside of yours truly. Despite only releasing approximately less than 15 songs publicly across two cassette-only albums (“Beautiful Sadness” and “Dead Air”), one cassette single (hell if I remember the song) and one live cassette (“The Anti-Goths Live”), I actually wrote and, for the most part, recorded about 50 original songs during the 18 months or so that Rahne existed. The original demo tape I handed to first drummer Phoenix Ladd must have had 15 songs on it by itself. I guess my point here is that I spent a lot of time writing and recording, but not so much building the band, networking or rehearsing. And I think that project never reached its full potential because of it. Well, and because of other factors …
When Rahne was just a two-piece group backed by a tape machine, we could practice anywhere. Usually it was in the University District apartment I shared with best bud Jason Feinberg, which also doubled as headquarters for the multi-band collective to which we both belonged, Still Hour Productions (itself a story for another blog post). Sometimes it was at bassist Sterling’s cinder-block-walled apartment a few blocks away. But when Brian Pfiefer and Ryan Couevas joined the band on drums and second guitar, respectively, we had to find a new place to practice.
We bounced around various hourly rehearsal studios, including a stint at the Noiz Factory, a ramshackle space in Vegas’ warehouse district. It was there that Sterling’s drug problems became more of a problem than even before. The weathered musician had some issues — I recall him always having to borrow bass gear because he often had to pawn his stuff, presumably to pay for his habits — and by the time the full band was paying for practice space, he’d waste our time/money by showing up … and then passing out. After a while, we brought our friend Dru Broils, bassist of Morgana Athena, to rehearsals with us, where he’d often fill in on bass when Sterling was incapacitated. This was some mild foreshadowing, of course, because eventually that group of musicians — in a different configuration — would comprise four-fifths of Morgana’s lineup a year later.
Not much new material was debuted in the four-piece Rahne lineup. All of our music, up to that point, was developed in one way: I wrote and recorded songs, and then gave them to the guys to learn. It was very Smashing Pumpkins in that way. But once the final lineup was in place, we really only “wrote” as a group one new song, “Asphyxiation,” which was this quasi-metal thing that came together during a jam at our pal Dave Taylor’s grandparents’ house, and I think we only practiced it that one time before debuting it at a show. Otherwise, I delivered one more song to the band during the fall of 1996, “Salvation,” for which Ryan came up with about the most awesome Church rip-off guitar riff ever, and one day, I’ll grow the balls to ask him permission to use it again.
We only played a handful of shows throughout the end of ’96 and beginning of ’97, culminating in a tech-problem-plagued spring show at Cafe Espresso Roma in which we played with Morgana Athena. At the end of the show, I pretty much declared the band “dead.” At least one or two of the other guys were going to quit anyway, so it worked out, and of course, there’s some minor irony in the fact that Rahne broke up after playing its first show with Morgana Athena, after which the latter essentially swallowed the former.
Admittedly, I was going through some personal issues at the time that didn’t help things, and after a fairly major life adjustment a few months later, the next chapter of my musical journey was ready to unfold. But that’s for Part Four of this series. Until then, I leave you with a live performance of one of Rahne’s earliest songs, “Jesus Hitler,” from our show at Backstage at Boomer’s in December 1996. When Rahne started, all of my songs were about either religion or Nazis, so this is pretty much the apex of combining the two. As raw as it is, I kinda think I was at my peak lyrically (I rhymed “wants” and “cunts,” come on!), so, you know, try to sit through all four minutes of it (there’s a pay off at the end):
We’ll be getting around to talking about my stint as guitarist with Morgana Athena in a few weeks here on the ol’ Bleeding Neon, but in the meantime, here’s a photo from 1998 of the band chilling on a couch inside dearly departed Cafe Espresso Roma on Maryland Parkway in Las Vegas. That skinny goateed mofo on the left is, of course, me, followed left to right by Dru Broils (bass), Chris Naser (vocals), Ryan Couevas (keyboards) and Brian Pfiefer (drums). I think this was the last show we played together, a weird hodgepodge gig where we started to explore different sounds. If I recall, we did a sit-down acoustic set, a full-on electric set and a few experimental tunes in which I switched off from guitar to bass and then drums. So I guess that was my public debut as a drummer, more than 10 years ago. Huh.
There’s not much to say about the opening pages of the new chapter of The Utopian, “Special Interests,” that can’t be said in this one panel:
So things are going pretty well with the strip. I’ve been getting some great feedback from so many readers and traffic to the site has been growing weekly, so I can’t complain. Next up is the plan of attack for San Diego Comic-Con. As I won’t have a table for Pop! Goes the Icon at this convention, it’ll just be me running around the San Diego Convention Center with a bag full of Utopian sampler issues and some free swag. I’m doing a very limited run of the 16-page “issue zero” edition, maybe 50 copies, so if you’re interested in getting one, you’ll have to track me down in San Diego, because there won’t be any left otherwise.
I have a few great artists potentially lined up to do covers for both issue zero and the official first print collection of The Utopian that will be dropping in the fall, but I am definitely still looking for more artists interested in working on covers or pin-ups — if that’s you, hit me up on the ol’ e-mail.
Otherwise, I am somewhat considering moving from posting two pages once a week to one page twice a week. That way, there’s a more even spread across the week for traffic and people aren’t waiting so long for new material. It also reduces my stress levels. On the flip side, well, you still only get two pages a week. Any thoughts?
Thursday: Went to see Anthony Cools at the Paris Las Vegas Hotel & Casino, home of the world’s largest Eiffel Tower that isn’t the Eiffel Tower. Cools is one of those stage hypnotists whose shtick is making allegedly hypnotized audience members do lewd and ridiculous things on stage like disrobing, performing faux sex acts and generally acting like asses. However, despite the predictable and questionably authentic antics, I couldn’t help but actually enjoy myself. And worse, I believe I acquiesced to “going back” at some point after leaving the show Thursday night. What.
Friday: Opened escrow on a house. No biggie.
Saturday: Attended the Vegas Magazine Sixth Anniversary Party at Pure nightclub inside Caesars Palace. I have gone to the Vegas mag anniversary parties every year since 2006, and until this year, they were always held at large, outdoor venues: Green Valley Ranch Resort’s pool in 2006, Mandalay Bay Beach in 2007 and the Palazzo Hotel & Casino’s pool in 2008. These events were typically massive gatherings, involving (at alternating times) daredevil motorcyclists, a live scorpion pit, go-go dancers inside giant floating bubbles, a graffiti wall and, sadly, an American Idol finalist.
But perhaps as an indicator of our weak (but recovering? Right, Obama? Yeah?) economy, this year’s fete was scaled back considerably. First, it was in Pure, which I typically despise. But apparently it’s not such a horrible place when it’s filled with people you know and like as opposed to wall-to-wall d-bags. Secondly, there were no death-defying stunts, pools or annoying singers to be found anywhere. But there were models in fluffy pink wigs, Pussycat Dolls dancing and, supposedly, Vegas mag cover girl Heather Graham hiding somewhere among the masses.
Most importantly, thanks to an equally scaled-back guest list, there were plenty of easily accessible bars serving free drinks and, well, within a two-hour period I may have had more than my share. OK, so a few of us had more than our respective shares. And I may have stumbled out of the club, past the throng of waiting suckers–er, clubgoers–and had to be driven home due to a certain lack of brain-body coordination. But I guess that’s to say, “Thanks, Vegas Magazine for getting me sh*tfaced. Happy anniversary!”
Sunday: Band practice. Working on a cover of Helmet’s “Unsung.” Realizing how bad of a drummer I am. The rest of the band ran through the song without me and they sounded pretty good. Then I came in on the drums and OH MY GOD WHO LET THIS MAN JOIN A BAND DOING ANYTHING OTHER THAN PLAYING THE SKIN FLUTE MAKE THE NOISE STOP PLEASE HELP.
Later that night, as if to destroy my fragile musical ego even further, we headed to the new Joint inside the Hard Rock Hotel, Casino & Den of Debauchery Even On a Sunday to check out “Supernatural Santana: A Cash Grab on One Man’s Lifetime of Music Featuring Unknown Singers Performing his Greatest Hits.” Yes, Santana is the first rock band to hold a residency at the Hard Rock’s revamped venue, and … hell, it’s Santana. Carlos and his band churned out the songs we all know and love — “Oye Como Va,” “Black Magic Woman,” Maria Maria,” etc., etc. — as well as a few lesser-known tunes that surely only hardcore Santana fans know from one of the man/band’s 36 albums. But despite the music — and band’s — age, Santana poured as much passion into this material as if the songs were days old and not decades old. Sure, the imagery of doves, pivotal moments of hope throughout the last century and the changing face of Carlos Santana was all a bit schmaltzy, but even Carlos’ occasional mini-speeches about love and God and whatnot couldn’t break the rockin’ vibe inside the Joint, even if at times it felt like a church revival.
Oh, and assuming last night wasn’t a lark, the verdict’s in: The new Joint is a goddamned better venue by leaps and bounds than its predecessor. I mean, I already reported on its improved visual appearance, but after actually experiencing a live performance there, I can honestly say that the Pearl (inside the Palms Resort & Whatever) has sonic competition — though the Pearl’s seating arrangements are still far superior.