Today I’ve got more tributes to SPOT’s legacy, more sad news, Make It Stop tour info, and some exciting personal news.
Last weekend SST legends Jordan Schwartz and Dave Markey went on KXLU’s Stray Pop to celebrate SPOT’s wide and diverse legacy. It’s definitely worth a listen but I’m not sure how long the link will be active so don’t sleep on this.
Steve Appleford of Los Angeles Magazine penned an in-depth tribute to SPOT with new quotes from Keith Morris, Mike Watt, and others. I had breakfast with Keith last week and he left our meeting to meet with Appleford. (Small world and getting smaller.) The purpose of my visit? To ask Keith to sign my print of SPOT’s photograph of the infamous show at Polliwog Park on July 22, 1979.
RIP Dix Denney
Saddened to hear the news that legendary LA punk guitarist Dix Denney of the Weirdos has passed on that great helium bar in the sky. The Weirdos were immensely popular in LA and set the bar for in-your-face intensity and outrageous talent. The Weirdos never got to the level of the Ramones, the Sex Pistols, or Black Flag, but in LA they were a hit and they stayed a hit long after they stopped playing.
Go to any punk show in LA and you’ll hear “We Got the Neutron Bomb” on the house sound system. It’s a timeless classic with pop hooks, savage sarcasm, and the howling fury of a generation convinced it would be blasted to smithereens. “Solitary Confinement” is one of Keith’s favorite songs to cover but for me “Helium Bar” is where it's at. A rumbling, one-chord Dadaist dirge performed with deranged vocal stylings. Nothing about its components suggest it’s a punk song but put together it’s a jittery anthem for a generation with nothing to look forward to.
Make It Stop Tour Dates
Before I get into the tour dates I want to clarify something. The release date for Make It Stop is April 25, which is two weeks later than originally planned. The change was made when the printer couldn’t guarantee it would make the earlier date. But have no fear books will be available at the SD and LA launches on the 11th and 15th—even if the publisher has to supply them. If you pre-ordered Make It Stop, you may be seeing delivery dates anywhere from April 25 to April 27 but if they get the books sooner, they will ship them to you.
My suggestion? Pre-order a book for a friend (or three) and then get a signed copy (or seven) at one of these events:
4/11 Book Catapult in South Park in San Diego at 7pm with Patrick Coleman
4/15 Skylight Books in Los Feliz at 5pm with Bucky Sinister
4/23 Los Angeles Times Festival of Books
4/26 Book Soup in W. Hollywood at 7pm with Terese Svoboda
5/3 Wednesday at Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale, AZ at 7pm with JD O’Brien.
5/4 Thursday at Wooden Tooth in Tucson, AZ with JD O’Brien
5/12 Friday at SubText Books in St. Paul, MN at 7pm*
5/13 Saturday at Exile in Bookville in Chicago, IL at 7pm with Joe Meno*
5/14 Sunday at Black Saddle Bikes in Madison, WI
5/15 Monday at Lion’s Tooth in Milwaukee, WI
5/17 Wednesday at Small’s Bar in Detroit, MI
5/18 Thursday at Two Dollar Radio in Columbus, OH
*Unofficial pre-OFF! performance.
I’m still filling in readers, times, and more dates. I’m also wondering where I should go from Ohio. Keep going? Go home? Disappear into the Cincinnati triangle? You tell me!
Embracing the Mystery
Something weird and wonderful happened to me in LA last week. Ever since I got back from Seattle I could sense that I was getting close to finishing my work-in-progress. I put all my spare time into it and kept getting closer and closer but wasn’t quite there. Maybe today, I’d think when I got up in the morning and go to bed with more work to do. After my visit with Keith last week I went to a coffee shop across the street and got to work. After a few hours, everything clicked into place, and I finished the book.
Many years ago my friend John (Hi John!) had a short story published in a literary magazine and for his bio he wrote: John is a “writer” “working” on a “novel.” It’s funny because it’s true. Writers aren’t architects. We don’t work from plans that account for every page, paragraph, or word. We thrive on speculation and ambiguity. What is a novel? What does it mean to work on one? Who fucking knows?!
For the most part we have no idea what we’re doing. We write books because we’re called to do so. We learn by doing and while some of us are hyper-focused on craft (I’m not) when it comes down to how ideas translate from the stuff in our head to language on the page it’s all a big fucking mystery. My solution?
Embrace the mystery.
I have written books where I had no idea what was going to happen from one page to the next and books that I meticulously outlined. I have learned the way that works best for me is to have an indication of where I’m going but to allow room for improvisation. When I was sitting in that coffee shop in LA, I was making changes right up to the final chapter, changes I didn’t see coming. I knew what I wanted to happen in that chapter, but I changed the point of view at the last minute. How did I know to do that? What exactly did I know?
I can’t articulate that. I just know that I wanted the ending to be memorable. I wanted fire. So I gave those words to the character who was most capable of delivering them.
In a few days I’ll go back and see what I’ve got and start mapping out a strategy for revising it. I’ll nail down the story, think deeply about the characters, and pay close attention to the language. This project requires that I play very close attention to the setting. I’ve got a lot to do and a long way to go before I’m “finished” but holy fucking shit, people, I wrote a book!
Thanks for reading. Next week I’ll be sharing a new piece in the LA Times and (finally) some book, movie, and music recommendations. In the meantime have a safe and happy St. Patrick’s Day.
April 11th 🙌